Lost my voice

Something strange is going on with my voice.

Or my brain, I’m not sure which.

It all started in Busan–I was out with Hostel and a nice couple from the UK. At one point, Hostel and I decided it would be hilarious to imitate their accents. (Only David’s British, one. I have no idea what he was saying when he went Scottish.) And it was amusing for a solid three hours.

But now I can’t stop.

Every time I talk to someone I automatically start imitating their accent–Korean, Australian, Canadian, American, British–I can’t stop.

I hear a different voice and my brain registers that as MY voice, somehow that is the sound I should be making when I speak. I don’t do other accents particularly well, either so most often my voice comes out in a slurred mash-up of mangled English no one is likely to understand.

It doesn’t help that other people, mostly waygookins, are starting to notice. Something is seriously wrong with the way I’m talking.

I feel like Ariel did when she lost her voice, it’s just when my voice comes out it doesn’t sound like my voice at all. Is this normal? Is this a side effect of culture shock? Where did my voice go? I miss my Utahccent.

It’s really fucking annoying listening to yourself talk and hearing someone else’s accent, especially for 7 hours a day.

I’m hoping a nice long Skype chat with my sister, my twin of sight and sound, will fix this. I just want to sound like myself again. ‘Cause right now I sound like this guy’s sister after she drank a few too many vodka jello shots.

(Anyone else think he should thank Seth McFarlane for about a quarter of those voices?)

Advertisements

Cookies in Korea

And the wonder of imported goods costing so much less when they come from Europe. Now I have a new taste for crappy cookies from Italy.

I’m sure these cookies I love to munch on between classes are giving me cavities and thick thighs, but I don’t care. They are light and flaky. Plus some of them have a delicious cream filling–vanilla, lemon and chocolate. Oh, how I love their dessert-y goodness.

As for their Korean counterparts, I just can’t quite figure out them out. They’re sweet and crispy, but missing something…I think it’s the butter. The richness of the cookies is low. And the chocolate, oh the chocolate, it’s always chalky and low quality on the sweet treats. I can’t wait for the day Korea has a food revolution and someone starts making high-quality chocolate.

Until then, it’s me and my Vicenzi.

A Sunday kind of morning

The lovely weekend was a rush around Seoul for most of Saturday night complete with kebabs, Long Islands and salsa.

I met Jennifer and her crew in Itaewon for a lovely sushi dinner at Rollin’ Japanese. We had a lovely time talkin’ shop and discussing all the changes hagwons are constantly experiencing. I ordered a rainbow roll and California roll, more excited about seeing my two favorites on the sushi menu then really focusing on whether or not they were the kind of rolls I wanted.

In that wonderful way of being in Korea, the sushi rolls came out completely different than I expected both were stuffed with crab meat, carrots and cucumbers then topped with the ingredients that determined the rolls name. Each roll was delicious though I think they would benefit from less crab meat and mayonnaise in the future. The entire experience has me wondering what sushi is like in Japan.

After dinner we checked out Baskin Robbins for some ice cream. I ordered the caramel cheesecake on a regular cone. For my inaugural Basin Robbins visit, it was a poor choice. The caramel was much too sweet and overpowered the cheesecake ice cream. The whole thing left me wishing for real cheesecake more than appeasing my appetite for ice cream.

Next we settled on Caliente. As far as I know, the only salsa club in all of South Korea. We hung out for a round of drinks. I ordered a Long Island that came out far too strong and far too watery. It was shocking to see Korean men and women out on the dance floor showing off their best Latin-inspired moves. I was sufficiently intimidated after the first song and remained firmly in my seat until moving on to Hongdae where I met up with the Chungju EPIK gang.

I first met up with John, Hannah, Sarah and Ken in BEF–Best Friend. The bar is trendy, cool and modern. Yet another Hongdae haunt going for the industrial warehouse re-imagined vibe. The bar was nice and quiet, a great place for a second dinner of chicken and coleslaw. We played a couple of drinking games as I introduced Hannah to cojingmek which is apparently called cosomek as well.

Around 2 a.m. we made our way to a nearby club joining up with the complete EPIK posse. Even Karlie came, despite having moved to Seoul just a few days before. I helped myself to a free beer and jumped on the dance floor.

Just as I was gettin’ my groove on with Sonia I was asked, “Hangukin?” As in “Korean?” Only it wasn’t me the older Korean man was interested in. It was Sonia. I replied letting him know that we are both American, “Migukin.” He nodded, turned around and left. I had no idea it was so easy to turn men away.

Not too much later, we found ourselves catching up and winding down at another club. I have no idea what the bar was called, but it looked like the kind of place you could smoke a joint. If you could get weed in Korea.

We sat around drinking beer discussing teaching, Korea, relationships and all the usual  conversation before heading back to Chungju at 6 a.m. Just the kind of night I love that makes me never want to live in a place where bars close at 1 a.m. (Ahem. Utah!)

The super sweet bartender even let my drunk self talk to him in Korean. I’ve been needing someone to encourage my efforts at hangeukmal. He answered my questions in Korean, spoke slowly and asked me questions too. It was practically a whole conversation–short and basic, but still I’m going to hang on to that accomplishment all week.

At some point after the kebabs on the slow walk to the subway, the group shrank from everyone to just Scott and me. It was nice to reconnect with my old neighbor as we took the subway and bus home through the breaking dawn.

By the time I made it to my comfy bed at 9 a.m. I was more than happy to crash out for the next eight hours.

Just another Sunday in the ROK.

Korean food blog love

I’ve been in a Korean food funk lately.

Unless I’m eating kim bap, bibim bap, kimchi jiggae, bulgogi or galbi tang, I’m probably not eating Korean food. (There’s a lot of eggs and toast going on over here.) I miss cooking so much, I stare at these blogs and drool. I think it’s time I get inspired to get cooking or at least expand my food horizons when ordering Korean food.

Korean Food is no longer updated, but has a great archive of recipes and information on traditional Korean food. I’ve got more than one idea for future food adventures from this site.

Maangchi pretty much has me praying I end up in New York so I could take an amazing Korean cooking lesson in English. Also her measurements are in American, not metric, so I can actually visualize the recipe before I try it out.

Life in Korea has a little food section that I adore. Every recipe leaves me inspired to try it out in my own little kitchen.

Korean Food Recipe doesn’t seem to update very often, but there are a few easy to follow, easy to do recipes I would love to try. I’m especially excited about the sesame leaf kimchi. I know I’m going to love that one.

Digging through the archives of My Korean Kitchen is also promising some tasty recipes and future food experiences to come. I’m a little sad to say this blog is also now defunct. Is there some sort of three year blogging curse no one’s warned me about?

I hope you feel inspired to try out a few Korean dishes too. Good luck in your kitchen.

Everything is…dyslexic

I have dyslexia.

It’s a new thing for me this confusing letters and directions. I don’t have this problem most of the time. Just whenever I leave my house.

You see, I’m reading-challenged in hangeul. I do just fine in English–throw any text my way and I will read the shit out of it. My pronunciation may not always be perfect, but I’m perfectly sure of each letter I am looking at.

The same cannot be said for 한굴. My biggest problem letters are ㄴ,ㄱ, ㅗ, ㅜ, ㅂand ㅁ. Individually the look clear and distinct, easy to tell apart, but mix in a couple other lines and suddenly I’m not sure if I should say “n”, “g”, “u”, “o”, “b” or “m.” (I’m not even going to go into other waysㄱ and ㅂcan change their sounds.)

The painfully slow way in which I carefully work through each syllable block of hangeul stresses me out. I get especially nervous when I’m somehow reading in front of someone, even my youngest students.

It’s like a switch goes off in my head that suddenly I cannot do this. I cannot read letters that I haven’t been poring over since I was three. When I’m alone walking down the street, I make a game of reading the signs I see, much like I did when I was seven years-old. It seems to be helping slowly. The trouble is I’m now learning that much like Roman letters affect one another depending on the order they appear in a word, so can Korean letters.

For example take the word “pomegranate.” In English the word is pronounced “pom-i-gran-it” neatly ignoring that rule about how e after a consonant makes a vowel say it’s name.

The word for pomegranate in Korean is 삭류. I look at that and I want to say “sak-ru.” But I’m pretty far from being correct. The actual pronunciation is closer to “seongu.” So even though I thought I could read Korean a little bit, I’m starting to feel like I can’t at all because even when I do read the syllables I say them wrong, not recognizing how the letters affect one another. Recognizing I know a language at a less than kindergarten level only acknowledges that in Korean I am illiterate.

In my American life, I am far from illiterate. I would venture to say people may even describe me as articulate, well-read and intelligent.

In my Korean life, I am babo (바보). Often I am a fool for not knowing the most basic Korean. I want to learn Korean. However  I struggle  to increase my knowledge. I’ve hit a brick wall when it comes to learning on my own. Unfortunately there are no Korean classes offered at the universities in Chungju.

The worst moments come when I am overwhelmed by the amount of Korean  I don’t know–someone talks too fast, the sentence is too long or the conversation too detailed–my brain just stops. The panic sets in and it’s all over. I know it’s bad when I stop trying to fill in the Korean I don’t know with Spanish or Konglish.

I may only be dyslexic in one language, but is sure makes the simple things in life, like ordering lunch, more difficult.

Any suggestions for how I can “cure” my dyslexia?

Career, travel and cocktail dreams

The future has been on my mind a lot lately.

Several of my waygook friends are on their way out of Chungju, gone from Korea and on to the next stage of their lives. It’s got me thinking about how I have absolutely no clue what comes next.

Initially I thought I would pursue career goals after a “gap-year” of teaching, but I love living in a foreign country. I’m not sure I want to give that up.

Korea is a good place to be, but I could go somewhere else.

Increasingly I feel like no matter where I go, even Salt Lake City, will require I start all over–new friends, new apartment, new job, new everything. If I have to start all over again, it may as well be in a different country, right?

When I think about jobs that I want, I focus on things related to my major like television and film production or journalism. However many of these jobs require experience. My own experience seems limited and too closely tied to my university to really count for much in the pile of resumes companies must receive. I do not have the “real world” experience it seems most employers are looking for.

In the meantime, the evidence is piling up that I am apparently unemployable. I’ve been applying for jobs since January. I have applied for over 30 positions at various companies around the US. I clearly indicate I will be available for employment in July or as early as two months from now. I’m always willing to relocate, even at my own expense. And I do my best to sale myself as an amazing rock star production assistant who is organized, flexible and capable.

So far I’ve heard from no one. I can’t get a job. Anywhere.

I even got rejected from a blogging job where I would blog for FREE! I got rejected for a non-paying job. How is that possible? Do you know how shitty that makes me feel?

That kind of success rate has me thinking I don’t want to go back to the US and join the struggling economy.

By comparison getting another teaching job seems so easy. It took just two interviews and a couple of months for me to get a teaching job in South Korea. Sure I don’t like teaching. I hope to never face another classroom again as a teacher after this contract ends. But it seems schools are hiring ESL teachers at every turn and with a year of experience in the US and in Korea almost anyone would hire me. The only trouble is I can feel the ulcer forming already when I think of a future including classrooms, students and white boards.

My dream is to freelance full-time. I’m constantly pursuing new freelance work, however it seems highly unlikely I would be able to pay my student loans and cost of living from this revenue. As I currently struggle to meet my goal of $500 a month. (Just so we’re clear my student loan payment alone is $800 a month.)

This is the point where I always come back to working in the restaurant business. The only solution I can think of is to try and get a job waiting tables in the UK, New Zealand, Australia or somewhere else. Even then, I’m not sure that’s something I want so much as it’s the only plausible next step I can think of.

*sigh*

There are only two things I know for sure; I’m going to keep writing and I will go home for a visit.

What would you do next? Any suggestions or advice?