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Monday, May 16, 2016

Inexplicable: More Signs

Many of the things I laughed and laughed at 3 years ago, I don't even notice anymore: the ubiquitous work gloves, arm sleeves, and ajumma visors; twig brooms; prancing, etc.  But I still find things that catch my attention and make me laugh as I continue exploring and learning about this culture.  Enjoy these with me.

In a coffee shop.  At the most popular surfing beach in Pohang.
Where no elk has ever, ever walked, let alone strutted with some baseless self-confidence.
(Google tells me this is part of a set sold by a Japanese interior design company.)
At a pet supply store.  I don't even know what this is, let alone which "goog frinds"
I might give it to.

I know that "canola" is also called "rapeseed."  I know that.
But COME ON, FOLKS!!  A rape blossom candle?  NOT OK.
(Amidst my horror-noises, the redundant "scented aroma" cracked me up though). 

This Busan Aquarium sign delighted me - its tone is so much warmer than
the objective, scientific tone of signs at U.S. zoos and aquariums.
But, of course, POOP is included in the drawing.  Ah, Korea. 

On the front of a dentist's office in Busan.
Not exactly the catchiest logo I've seen
(and it's impossible to memorize because it makes NO SENSE).
Fishing line. With a jaunty cartoon Duck Fisherman.  And a random band of cartoon fish.
I don't have a clue what this is about.

This sign on a university department's office door was a real problem for me
until I worked up the nerve to ask my beloved TA about it.  This was before I knew
of Kakao-talk friends and so I saw the drawing from the perspective of my
own sex-saturated culture. And I'M SORRY but in NO WAY did this look like a respectfully
bowing bunny with his bowing green friend.  Nope.  It sure looked liked a porno cartoon.  And how that related to manners at the office I could NOT imagine. Oh boy.

This special was featured right on the front of our Pizza Hut menu.
We selected another option.

Just in case you thought that was a typo in the previous picture, here it is again
INSIDE the menu. With a bizarre explanation of how many people
are ALSO topped on the pizza.  Which is rather horrible.
And also un-memorizable.

Well, dear reader, that's today's batch of signs.  Do you have a favorite?  Comments or explanations?  Write in the space below!  :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Is it me? The culture? Or are these people crazy?

Today I present you with four short stories of Weird Stuff that I have a hard time explaining. :)

(1) A Korean woman mentioned to me that her one-year-old likes to visit her in the bathroom. He enjoys pushing the buttons on the bidet because they make such fun noises. And that is too much information right there, folks.

(2) On a warm sunny day at the Bukbu beach boardwalk last fall, I saw a Korean mother stop with her young daughter, take off the girl's plastic sandals, and put rain boots on her feet before allowing her onto the sand. Wait, what? I have no place in my mind for fun time at beach = rain boots. Nope.

(3) Many (most?) Koreans are painfully shy about their English abilities and try to avoid talking to foreigners. Many times we have seen staff at restaurants, clothing stores, and even the orthodontist argue about who has to deal with us (sometimes resorting to the Korean version of rock-paper-scissors to select a "winner.") So having an older Korean man shout at Elisabeth and I while we were walking along "stream street" (a car-free shopping area downtown), took us rather by surprise at first.

Man: You American? From America? You English teacher?

Me: Yes, hi. Oh - you must be Tailor Joe. I have heard about you from other foreigners {the guy has a reputation for approaching ex-pats}.

Joe: Yes! Tailor Joe! You hear of me? I fix all your clothes! I make you new housecoat! Comforter set! Matching curtains! I make very cheap! Many American military like me!

Me: Um, ok, thanks.  That's good to know. I don't need anything right now, though, but thank you.

Joe: I very cheap! Want to come see my shop - very close! I can fix anything!

Me: Well... ok. {I'm a sucker for adventures like this.  We walked several blocks, Elisabeth's eyes getting larger and her hands clinging tighter to my arm as the neighborhood quality quickly descended from glam to ghetto.}

Joe (who never stops talking): So maybe you need new housecoat? I do embroidering - any design! How about you need a sexy lady thong?  You married? I make thong for your husband, too!

And so it went until we entered his smoky "Oriental Secret" shop, filled with barely-clad mannequins sporting silky dragon-embroidered robes along with various, ah, shall we say, "leather goods." Well. Well. I refused his offer of coffee and tea, and we escaped quickly, never feeling terribly unsafe but certainly feeling rather unclean.

(4) Last week I stopped at our hardware store to get a hose for the community garden. Perhaps I've mentioned "our" hardware store before - once you choose a store and get to know the owner over several visits, a certain trust/loyalty builds up. We have come to love "our" hardware guy, who always stops whatever he is doing when we show up (normally, he throws down his cigarette), says OOH! in a happy voice, and greets us with a smile.

Anyway, Tracey and I were so greeted (OOH! plus drop-and-stomp cigarette routine) and we explained what we needed. His English is better than our Korean and we quickly selected the hose. He measured out the 20 meters we wanted plus 3 meters of "service" (pronounced "saw-bee-suh" and meant to convey "free stuff I give you because of our mutual loyalty"). Then, quite out of nowhere, he asked if we needed a husband.

Whoa. Now that was a whole new twist to the hardware store routine. Um. Well. NO, neither of us needs a husband. But he insisted. This was weird. No, no husbands! We are married. We backed away a little nervously, wondering what crazy world we had entered and what we had agreed to by accepting those extra 3 meters of hose. He sighed with some exasperation, stalked down a tiny aisles, and returned with a clamp. A hose clamp. AHA! A HOSE BAND! ahahahaha! Well, that sure was awkward.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Wall Art: Happy Public Life

Traditional Korean villages were walled and although most people in cities now live in high-rises instead of homes, you can still find little alleys (and villages) with 5-10 foot cement walls surrounding houses and their dooryards.  Those walls are for family privacy and for securing one's drying peppers, laundry, tiny garden, and kimchi pots.  At first, the walls make a neighborhood look unfriendly (and darn hard to drive though, as they were designed with walking in mind.). But increasingly we have noticed that many walls are regularly painted with brightly colored depictions of nature, people, traditional village life, etc.  And I have come to love exploring new areas to see what public artwork they might hold.  Here are some examples.

From Yeongdeok, a coastal city 45 minutes north of Pohang, known for its fishing (especially crabs).
Happy crabs. 

This appears to be an angry whale confronting a crab at dusk.
With a mountain village and rainbow on the next wall. 

This is probably my favorite Korean wall art ever.

These artworks are from Jukcheon-ri, a tiny nearby village which decided to feature the "Kakao Friends" emoticons from KakaoTalk (the Korean version of Skype; photo credits to Sam Lantinga):
Here we see Neo (a blue cat), Muzi (rabbit?), Tube (duck), Frodo (bear), and
APeach (which is, well, a blushing butt). 

In case you're interested, APeach (The Butt) is quite popular and has been marketed on socks, car fresheners, pencils, etc.  Butts everywhere.  

On a rather different wall in Jukcheon-ri, a gorgeously rendered but rather confusing message about war and peace:
Dove + olive branch + Kevlar vest.  

And some from a tiny alley of coffee shops off "stream street," a pedestrian mall in downtown Pohang.

A nice combination of fine art reproduction, a cheesy "Photo Zone" directive, and other artwork.

Did I mention "and other artwork"?  Ah, yes.  The grossly overestimated allure
of using English to attract the sophisticated coffee drinker....