Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I Think It's Officially Rainy Season

It's slowly, but surely been raining more and more here in the busy metropolis of Seoul. And this can only mean one thing... monsoon season has arrived.

Okay, well, I think it technically arrived a few weeks ago when we had torrential rain for about three or four days in a row, but then it magically stopped and was sunny (and hot) every since. But now it's starting to get cloudy and spit out rain again, which means we're heading towards another downward slope with the rain.

I personally love monsoon season.

Call me crazy, but I love falling asleep to the sound of rain outside my open window. I love staying in all day with the front door open and the rain (finally) cooling down the apartment. I always wear my hair curly, so I don't have to deal with the crazy frizzy, wants-to-curl-but-won't-completely mess. I love getting dressed up in my rain boots and trapezing around the city. (And purposely jumping in puddles trying to splash all the fussy girls around me. Hehe.) Rainy season in Seoul is really not that bad. Of course, having rain boots helps.

I like to think that I was one of the first to jump in on the rain boot trend here. My friend and I scoured the city last summer, looking for two pairs. We saw girls walking around in them occasionally when we went out, but we could never figure out where to find them. And whoever we saw wearing them always seemed to disappear before we could ask where they found them. Finally, we found some at Muji, but they were nearly 50,000 won and had a very small selection of sizes and colors. Of course, this didn't matter to us. We each found a pair that we liked in our sizes, forked over the cash and then proceeded to wear them whenever we could. (Which included cloudy days... The forecast may have said 20% chance, but we didn't want to risk it...)

Of course, this summer, there are rain boots on every corner in every color, every design and every size... and I'm having the hardest time keeping myself from buying a pair in each one. Of course, I technically don't need more than one pair... but Seoul has so many wonderful rain boots this season! And I can't wear the same pair of rain boots every day, can I?

I admit, I'm not a very trendy person or a fashion slave. I'm happiest in jeans/shorts and t-shirts. I don't even buy shoes a lot. (Thank you self-imposed shopping ban.) But I think I'm edging closer to a rain boot addiction. I really want another pair, even though I don't really need one... and it doesn't help that they're everywhere... and so cheap...

But I digress. Well, not really, but I'm sure I've talked enough about rain boots...

So, basically, it's monsoon season again, which means it's time to put up the Converses for a few weeks, and perpetually carry an umbrella. I also love how monsoon season coincides with rock festival season. The two main festivals this year fall right towards the end of rainy season. Meaning there is guaranteed to be at least one or two days of rain for each festival.

And you can bet I'll be there... in my rain boots...

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Saga of the Nosy Landlady

I’ve never rented an apartment in the States, but I’m fairly sure that it’s customary for landlords or landladies to call before popping in to take care of things.

Apparently not so much in Korea.

I assumed that for some reason it was just my landlady, but I asked a co-worker and she said that it was pretty normal for landladies to stop on by whenever or not to call beforehand, since they see their rental property as an extension of their house.

But do they have to do it in the morning? When I’m trying to sleep?

I suppose in their defense, I do sleep in late (about 10 or 11 am) but mostly because I work a night shift and often don’t get home until 11pm and in bed around 1 or 2 am. But, I have lived in this apartment for nearly two years now, and for about the last year, I’ve had this schedule, you would think they would learn to come on my day off in the afternoon by now instead of banging on my bedroom door trying to wake me up at 8 am.

Most of the time, they do only come over when something is broken and I call for them to come fix it. But even then, they don’t come right away and they never tell me when. I just have to sit there and wait patiently. Or get woken up the next morning. And sometimes the washing machine breaks, they have to rush over to turn the water off. At 7 am.

Honestly, a simple call involving the words ‘mul’ (water) and ‘setaki’ (washing machine) would suffice. I know how to turn the water off. And then another call giving me fair warning that they are on their way up to fix the water would be great, so I could at least have the chance to throw on some decent clothes before they are pounding down my front door (or sometimes my bedroom door if I’m sleeping particularly heavy that morning).

But today. Today was the most uncomfortable experience.

At 7 am, I am woken by the sound of pounding on my bedroom door. I throw on something decent and rush out to find my landlady sopping up water in the laundry room. She starts saying something about water and such and pointing at the machine. After about 10 minutes, she leaves. I debate whether I should stay up in case they come back to fix the machine, but sleepiness wins and I crawl back in bed, figuring the knocking on the front door will wake me up again.

Just as I’m about to enter dreamland, about two hours later, there is another knock. It’s the landlady’s husband with a new hose for the washing machine. He works on it for about 10 minutes and then explains the problem to me. I step back to let him leave, thinking if he leaves now, I can still get another hour of sleep in.

Of course, he doesn’t leave.

Instead, he digs through my fridge and pulls out some plume wine that’s been in there since April and drinks it. (This was fine as neither my roommate nor I touch the stuff.) At this point, I’m washing dishes, trying to keep busy while he’s there. He peeks in the cupboards, checks out the bathroom and checks the drain, deeming everything ‘good’. Then he sees the grill on my stove and says ‘not good’. He then proceeds to take my stove apart and scrub them in the bathroom with our bathroom cleaning brush that we use to scrub the floors. He’s at it for about 20 or 30 minutes while I bleach the entire kitchen area, including my coffee pot, toaster oven and fridge.

Once done with this, he checks around the apartment some more. Tries talking to me about random things. And then, after an hour, finally leaves. My landlady and her husband are very nice people, but I hate that they always come over unannounced. Some of my other friends here don’t seem to have the same problem, but I suppose their apartments aren’t old and falling apart like mine… Ugh…

Seriously… all I ask for is just one phone call…

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Greenplugged Rock Festival

Why must I start to get sick right before my busiest weekend ever? I seriously hope my throat starts feeling better by tomorrow, otherwise the slough of celebrations going on this weekend (Bliss Anniversary Party, Co-worker Birthday Party, Korea Game 1 in the World Cup Party) and the not so fun (working on Saturday and Sunday) will be slightly unbearable. I blame it on the heat and the fact there is no air conditioner in my apartment...

But anyway, on to more fun things...

I love many things about summer in Korea.

Yes, it gets stifling hot and humid towards the end after rainy season, but there are tons of events and festivals to fill up those steamy summer days.

That's right, it's rock festival season. And I didn't realize it until this year, but there are tons of rock festivals in Korea, which is interesting considering that the country itself is typically a K-Pop, electronic/trance/house music country.

My friend Angela and I hit up the first rock festival of the season, Greenplugged Rock Festival, on May 22 at World Cup Stadium Park and it was quite a good start to the season. It was mostly indie bands, but there were a few big names there. And a lot of the indie bands were quite good.

I got to catch my friends, Phonebooth, play first thing in the morning and it was nice seeing them on a bigger stage with a nice light set-up. They mostly played new stuff, which rocked. The crowd wasn't too big since it was the first in the line-up, but they still got everyone rocking. (Sidenote: I just found out from them that they will be playing on Saturday at Pentaport Rock Festival, July 23-25 in Incheon.)

Next we went over to check out a band that I hadn't heard before, but Angela said that they were pretty popular and would be at some upcoming festivals.They were called Gukkasten (국카스텐) and had a unique sound to them. I know the lead singer sounded similar to someone I've heard before, but I can't seem to put my finger on it. For being one of the early shows, they had a pretty good crowd. And definitely had a lot of stage charisma. I liked what I heard and I'm looking forward to catching more of them at future shows.

We decided to hang out around the main stage for a bit and found a good spot to sit. The next band described themselves as a modern rock band called Buiret. The lead singer and bass player were girls and the guitarist was this guy with crazy blonde hair. They were good, more of a power ballad-type group with the singer having something of an Evanescence-style, however it wasn't quite as powerful. It was interesting because the sound of the music didn't quite match up with the image on the stage. The way they dressed and jumped around, I almost expected more of a punk, Nana-esque sound (props to you if you know that manga/anime/movie). Again, it was good, but probably not something I would listen to all the time. (By the way, my apologies for the shoddy camera work... it's my iPhone and I was too lazy to stand. Besides, I was filming for the music, not so much the image.)

The next band we listened to was probably the oldest band there. Buhwal (부활) has been around for about 26 years and I didn't realize this until we listened to them, but they've written some of the most famous, influential, memorable songs in Korea. As the crowd started singing along with them, I found I recognized them, mostly from remakes by current pop bands or commercials. However, the lead singer was new and younger. Angela said that the group changes their lead singer every few years. I'm not sure why, but may have something to do with keeping younger generations interested. They were fun to watch at the festival, but I'm not sure I would rush out to buy any CD's. They're classic Korean rock, but I like my classic rock more like the Beatles, Billy Joel or Elton John. Classic Korean rock still sounds too "poppish" for my taste.

Of course, there was the usual wandering around the festival grounds. We found a face painting booth and decided to get our faces painted. We then sat down and watched a band called 3rd Line Butterfly. They were okay, but the lead singer wasn't that great. That's about the time that it started raining. Of course, we didn't let that hold us back. We just picked up some panchos and opened our umbrellas and continued circumventing the festival grounds, pausing at stages when we heard something we liked.

Even though the stages were fairly spread out, it was nice because there was no overlap sound-wise and the lay-out of the park made it easy to move around from one section to another. Plus, because there was so much room, it allowed for more stages (about five) which allowed for more bands. It only sucked if two or more bands that you wanted to see played at the same time. However, each stage had a little different time schedule, so you could catch a lot of shows. Also, even though there were a ton of people there, it never felt crowded.

Anyway, after getting some snacks, we settled on a hill near the Sky stage, where they had started in on the hip-hop acts. They had a fun b-boy group onstage when we got there, but the main attraction was a group called Supreme Team that came on after them. They are fairly new, I think the first time I had heard of them was last summer when I went to the Asia Song Festival. Their most popular song 'Super Magic' was used in a Nate commercial and I had been looking for it for months before I discovered it was theirs. They put on a good show and had everyone on their feet dancings and throwing their hands in the air. It was quite interesting from where we were sitting towards the back.

We left soon after that. I wanted to stay and watch Clazziquai, but we had been there for about 6.5 hours at that point, with about four of those hours being in the rain. I was wearing flip flops and my feet were getting cold, as was the rest of me since I didn't bring a jacket. Plus at that point, we had to wait another hour and a half until they took the stage. Angela and I had decided that for Jisan in July we're packing our rainboots just in case. Even if it only rains a little, the boots will help with the tons of mud that always seems to appear at rock festivals. I don't think I've ever seen my feet so dirty. Fortunately, that was easily fixed with a water fountain before we walked down to catch the bus. Unfortunately, I lost my voice the next day, probably as a result of standing out in the cold and rain for multiple hours.

A couple down sides: The location was a little difficult to get to and find. World Cup Stadium Park is huge and actually split up into two parts. We ended up missing about half of the first set even though we gave ourselves plenty of time to get there because there weren't any signs at the entrance to the park as to where we were to go. Also, we only found out as we were leaving that there was a shuttle bus that went from the festival to Hapjeong and Mapo Stations. Would have been a huge help to know that beforehand. Again, a lack of communication in Korean and English, as Angela is Korean and even she didn't really find a lot of info on the shuttle from the website.

But, it was a great start to a fun festival season. Some other bands that played: Crying Nut, Super Kid, The Koxx, Windy City, YB, Outsider, Vanilla Unity, etc. I think there were seriously close to a 100 bands over the Friday and Saturday of the festival. While a bit pricey (55,000 won at the gate for one day, 88,000 for two) it was totally worth it with the sheer amount of bands there... and all the free stuff they gave away. (Free Vitamin Water all-day... plus face-painting was free, and everyone got a gift pack with a free Starbucks mug, pancho and water.)

Up Next: Report on Time to Rock Festival from June 5 and Jisan Rock Festival (July 31- August 1)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Eat for the Camera!

I just realized that I never did write that blog about the filming… and now I have a blog about the Greenplugged Rock Festival that I want to write as well.

I guess first things first… the filming…

I have to admit that filming the travel show was a lot more tiring than I thought it would be. And I still don’t quite understand why, since we didn’t actually do a whole lot of on camera work. For me, it was mostly walking around and asking what things were and wh

at people were doing and then eating… a lot. And yet, and the end of the first two-day shoot, I was utterly exhausted.

Day One: Jirisan

I started my first day at 4 am. I had to meet the crew at 6 am at my office to head out to our destination and since I was up until 1 am working on a radio script, I decided to just get up early and pack instead of staying up later. Needless to say, as soon as we set off on our four-hour drive down to Jirisan, I passed out. As did my translator, Jun-soo. Of course, not before chatting a bit and getting to know each other some.

Once at the mountain, the camera guys made us get out of the van on the two-lane highway so they could get some shots of the van driving up the road and a pretty little creek. We then arrived at the little restaurant/lodging house where we were filming. The first hour or so involved a lot of just me walking up the little road to their house and looking at the scenery around me. (I was told to look excited… not a whole lot of excitement to be found in staring at trees.) And then I got up to the house and had to ask the couple in Korean what were the giant swatches of leaves spread out on the ground and what they were doing with them. I had no idea what they were saying, but the director told me to just nod and say things like, “Ah,” and “Creyo,” and such. This went well, until the woman said she would make me lots of good food in Korean. I had no idea, and they didn’t know she would say it, so my response was, “Ah.” There was a couple seconds of awkward silence before someone yelled, “Kamsahamida!” from behind the camera. We all started laughing and went through the shot again, this time with me being more prepared with my responses.

After this, we waited for the food to be prepared and then moved to a large living room where a table was set up. I was a little nervous about them filming me as I ate, since I tend to be a bit of messy eater, but it turned out to be okay. I was told to focus on the food and the couple, so I didn’t notice the camera to my right side. It was kind of awkward. I had to ask them questions about the food (sannamul- basically leaves from the mountain that are used as side dishes and in bibimbap) in English, then my translator would yell it in Korean from behind the camera. They would answer in Korean, then she would yell it to me in English. And then they had the woman feed me several of the sannamul. At first it was okay, but then she fed me a couple of lettuce wraps and put a little too much food in it. And of course, I had to eat bibimbap… which to say the least, is not my favorite Korean meal.

After the eating wrapped and the crew got a chance to eat, we headed up the mountain so they could film me collecting sannamul with the couple. They told me to chat about how it reminded me of my mother’s garden when we lived in Oklahoma. (I hated it. Mom made us weed.) Then, we were done and back on the road heading to the next town where we would stay for the night. We stopped and had some delicious bulgogi (I think the area is famous for it) which was very welcomed after a lunch with nothing but leaves. Once at the pension, Jun-soo and I bid everyone good-night and crashed in our room, despite the producer trying ever so hard to get us to stay up and drink with him and the crew.

Day Two: Seomjin River

Our second day of filming dawned bright and early… at 7 am. We all got dressed and packed the van up, only to realized as we started down the road that someone left the back of the van open and my backpack and some other bags were now strewn about the highway. Once we got that cleaned up, we headed to a maesil village that sat on top of a really big hill and looked over the river. It was really quite beautiful to look at early in the morning. There was more walking and looking around at the trees and flowers. Then walking through a maze of kimchi pots full of fermenting maesil (maesil- a small, plume-looking fruit that is green. It’s suppose to help with tummy problems… ended up upsetting mine…).

After that, we headed down to the river where they filmed me talking to a fisherman who scraped the bottom of the river for jaechap (jaechap- tiny, little clams/cockles). It was a lot more interesting being on the boat and I naturally had a lot of questions to ask the man. The camera guy definitely didn’t have to tell me to look interested this time. And I was use to the translating arrangement by now. The fisherman even let me try getting jaechap… though I kind of sucked at it.

After this, we headed up to a restaurant to film me eating jaechap. Jun-soo and I ended up taking a nap while waiting for the food to be ready. This time went much quicker and easier because I didn’t have to ask questions. The ahjumma at the restaurant just talked about all the food and pointed at dishes when she wanted me to try them. Then I had to say how it tasted and if I liked it (which for the camera, I did). I honestly didn’t really like jaechap because it was too fishy-tasting for me. The director said it was because I’m foreign. I said it’s because I don’t like fish… and most foreigners like fish.

After this, we drove about an hour to a different part of the river. There sat an oyster boat with an oyster diver. I knew immediately this was going to fun because as soon as we were introduced, the diver was teasing me in Korean for not being able to speak Korean. We filmed more shots of me walking up to the boat and asking what he was doing. Then he invited me on board and for the first time the whole trip, I understood what he was saying and responding accordingly in Korean.

We all got on the boat and he told me about diving and the oysters (which were called cherry blossom oysters). I asked a lot of questions. Then he dove in and proceeded to stay under for a couple hours while we all sat bored onboard. Jun-soo and I discovered that little crabs were getting sent up with the bags of oysters, so we began chasing them around the boat and throwing them back into the water. One of the camera guys thought this was entertaining so he followed us for a bit. Then we watched the diver’s assistant for a bit while he cleaned up the oysters and packed them up. He fed us a couple of raw oysters, which were good, but a lot more salty than I’m use to. Jun-soo said that they just went out of season, which is why they didn’t taste as good right now.

Eventually, the diver came up and we filmed talking a bit more. Then I had to eat another raw oyster with him. After docking, we loaded up and headed to his house, where there was going to be a full blown party. None of the restaurants in town were serving oyster, so he said for the show he would invite several of his friends and co-workers over and have an oyster-grilling party. Again, tons of fun. The best way to eat grilled oyster is to wrap it in kimchi. Sooo tasty. Of course, there was the necessary feeding of me and then me shouting, “Masshisoyo!” I think about five or six ahjussis took turns feeding me bites of oyster.

After this, we loaded up into the van and began our long, four-hour drive back to the city.

And the next day I got food poisoning.

Day Three: Gongju and Flower Gardens

The following weekend, we set out for one more day of filming. We were headed to a flower farm in South Chungchong Province. However, upon arrival, the owner wasn’t there, so we headed over to film in the city of Gongju where there was a group of famous tombs from the Baekje Dynasty.

Of course, there was more walking and looking around. We went into a museum and they filmed me looking around the artifacts, then walking around the tombs. We then headed over to the flower farm again.

This time, we did food first. By the time we got back, the food was all spread out on the table. I felt like I was looking at a series of centerpieces, not my meal. The owner explained that eating flowers was very healthy and he got the idea from hearing about restaurants that served edible flowers in Europe. Now, Koreans are really into eating flowers. It was interesting to find that each flower had a very distinctive taste. One tasted very citrus-y, similar to a lemon. While some were pretty bitter and others tasted like lettuce.

I ate peonies and gladiolas in a salad and on a dessert sandwich with a jam made from flowers and nuts that tasted really sweet and similar to peanut butter. We then had… more bibimbap. It was better than the sannamul, but still not a fan.

Afterwards, I walked around the garden with the farmer as he explained the different kinds of flowers and had me try them. He was really funny and kept me entertained. Once we were done, we loaded into the van and headed back to the city once again. I finished off the night eating Chinese food. I wasn’t hungry at all, but I still ate. I came to regret this the next day when I woke up with yet another massive stomach ache…

All in all, a fun experience. My episode airs on June 22 on Arirang TV. I’m anxious to see it, but a little nervous at the same time. I saw clips of it while doing voiceover work and it was a little embarrassing seeing myself on TV…