Monday, July 11, 2011

How I Spent My Summer, By Melody Lee, Age 19 1/2

Just sent off an application that asked me for a 500-1000 word writing sample about something I learned this summer. Not sure if this was really what they were looking for, but I copy-pasted it below for your pleasure.

Wherever you are in the Bryn Mawr College application process (ie. applying, accepted, or attending), you have two things in common: you were born female and you’re crazy. But don’t worry, this isn’t the mental institution kind of crazy (yet). This is the kind of crazy the world could use more of, you Bryn Mawr woman with your dreams and goals and ambitions, your desire to get out there and make something of yourself.

True story: My first semester at Bryn Mawr, I was going to be that one freshman who planned out her entire four years in one sitting and would never, ever deter from that beautiful schedule and graduate president of everything with a sparkly 4.0 GPA and please stop laughing, I was only seventeen and fresh out of a West Coast prep school.

Obviously, I’ve learned something since then. I’ve learned that in college, Honor Code or no Honor Code, whatever you leave in the communal fridge is going to get eaten (unless you lick it first! Um, not that I ever do that...); that no matter how drama-free you were in high school, at some point you’re going to wage social warfare against someone (only because they deserve it); and that despite what people tell you, you are truly the most intelligent person on the campus and everyone else is just dumb for not recognizing your genius (or your tortured and artistic soul, either works).

But this isn’t about what I learned in college. This is about the summer before my junior year, the most important year of my college career, the year I planned to take my LSATs and finish my major and start about ten million supercool projects that would no doubt make me the coolest, most socially active, awesomest person on campus. (Just like you!)

And this is what I learned. Brace yourself!

It’s okay to give up.

I know that’s antithetical to pretty much every inspirational movie since the 80’s. It’s the opposite of what your teachers and parents tell you, it’s what your instincts and pride tell you not to do, it is exactly what a Bryn Mawr woman isn’t. Who is this crazy person and why is she telling us to move into our parents’ basement forever and eat potato chips for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Is she saying that Hollywood and our parents lied to us?

Fear not, because even though potato chips are delicious, Hollywood would never lie to you. Your parents probably have. (I was raised on a diet of Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny, and sentient animal companions. The disappointment was pretty brutal.) When I say “give up,” I don’t mean, “I’ve been doing this for a whole two minutes and I’m bored and tired and this sucks,” because that, dear reader, means your face sucks and you should be ashamed.

But after you’ve put time and effort into something and you’re still not digging up any gold, at some point you have to sit back on your heels and ask yourself: is it really worth it?

Back up, it’s story time. Where did all this come from?

Well, a year ago, I decided to become a lawyer. The conversation went exactly like this:

FRIEND: Dude, we should become lawyers together.
ME: Dude, we totally should!

Somehow, I got sucked into international human rights, particularly in North Korea, since that country is where human rights go to get thrown into concentration camps and die. I signed up for a summer Korean language program in Seoul, laughed at everyone scrambling to find internships, and once the summer began, jetted off to the land of plastic surgery and soap operas.

I didn’t want to admit it, but I suck at school. Like, unbelievably so. I ended up in the hospital with migraines so bad I couldn’t see, I vomited in the subway bathrooms because the thought of going upset me so much, I didn’t sleep for three days straight and started contemplating stepping in front of a train. Some of it was because I am a melodramatic tart, some of it was because when I am sleep-deprived I am crazy like a serial killer, but most of it was because I was dying and didn’t want to admit it. That would mean giving up and giving up meant failure, and failure meant...

What does failure mean, anyway?

If you’re the only one pushing yourself to succeed, you have to know when you aren’t. You have to step out of that web of pride and insecurity and ambition, and ask yourself: what are you doing here? If you just get through this stage, will the rest pay off? Or should you move on somewhere else, where the talent deposits are richer and the fun quotients higher?

You’re the only person who can tell if it’s time to move on. I have friends who loathed playing the piano and now swear that it’s the best thing that ever happened to them. I have friends who loathed playing the piano and break out in hives when they see ivory.

If you’ll pardon the cheese: if you give up on ninety-nine things but finish the hundredth, then they’ll make an inspirational movie about how you just had to find that one thing you love. I promise, there is no spotlight on you except the one you put on yourself, so why are you focusing on your zits and stretch marks? Just breathe, do your best, and move on. Talent renders the entire idea of practice meaningless; if you truly love something, no one will have to force you to work at it.

Anyway, sorry for the epic radio silence on my front recently! I've scored an internship with Hanul Law, which is a Korean immigration law firm. How did I get it? Through the sheer power of nepotism, my friends. Nepotism is bad, except when I need it.

(Okay, they liked my resume, but they probably wouldn't have looked at it without someone to put in a good word for me, considering it was like two months after the deadline.)

Peace <3

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Photos: Gangnam

I went to Gangnam the other day, mostly because my dad has an office in the area. Gangnam (강남) is one of the most expensive areas in Seoul, and it shows. I saw people doing a photo shoot there once, and very awkwardly had to go through the middle of it, feeling very sloppily dressed and short compared to the model, but let's face it, so is everyone else.

Hilariously, whenever I go to Gangnam, all the men are dressed in very nice suits, including some men who look more like teenage boys. Sometimes they even ride mopeds down the sidewalk, helmets clamped over their gelled hair, skinny little ankles showing underneath their Armani suits. It is pretty much my favorite thing in the world.

Gangnam also has a lot of great shopping districts, though all ridiculously out of my price range. I repeat: one of the most expensive areas in Seoul.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Magpie and the Tiger: A Story of Childhood Stupidity Lasting Into Adulthood

New layout! Check it out!

Okay so if I actually know how to google for a pretty layout, why did I have that weird magpie + tiger combo up there originally?

The magpie and tiger are the only things I remember clearly from the first time I came to Korea, back when I was like 8 or 9 years old and thoroughly bored by the whole affair. When you are a fourth-grader, there is absolutely nothing more boring than traveling to the other side of the world with your parents to meet boring old people you happen to be related to. I'm the youngest in my family (the next youngest count as my nieces and nephews, and I'm only 19 myself), so back then, most of these kids didn't even exist, and I probably wouldn't have played with them anyway. My other clearest memory of that trip is watching The Princess Bride about twenty times in one day and falling absolutely in love with Cary Elwes (blond, sneering, flippant; my later infatuation with Draco Malfoy did not really surprise anyone).

If only Cary Elwes still looked like this.
Anyway, the point is that I ended up going to Jeju-do, a small island that the tour guide kindly explained to me as being Korea's "rabbit poop," since Korea itself is rabbit shaped and Jeju-do is located near its, uh, butt. Look, these are the things you focus on when you're a fourth grader.

I'm not actually crazy, you see it too, right??

At some point in time, we went to a museum where I was told that I should buy a pretty gold bookmark because the magpie and the tiger were lucky symbols. Over time, this became confused into a single magpie-tiger; half-bird, half-tiger, lacking the power of flight, and presumably subsisting off of canned tuna and birdseed, this was pretty much the ultimate expression of Korean identity that I could think of. It wasn't until I came here and googled this mythical magpie-tiger that I realized, ...oh wait, it's two animals.

Yeah. I'm dumb.

(btw, the magpie and the tiger are indeed lucky symbols. the magpie brings prosperity and good news, while the tiger brings luck. so, you know.)

Peace <3

Summer Goals

How did I let it get this long without updating?? I guess that's what happens when you don't have a set updating schedule for yourself...My deepest apologies. I haven't been updating because I haven't been doing anything - just lying around, taking way too many naps, sleeping at weird hours and drinking lots of caffeine while eating way too little. Bad habits all around, which I should definitely fix.

Anyway I'm sitting in my room in the dark like a weirdo, listening to cats screech outside my window. It's very mundane. I should shut my window and see if that helps me sleep any, but it gets so hot in my room that I can't take it. Korea is smack in the middle of monsoon season, which means I don't really want to go out or poke around, plus I don't have any warm clothes (like a true California girl, I didn't realize it rained in the summer until sometime last year. Why does this happen?? It doesn't make any sense, it's SUMMER.)

What are my goals right now? They're really short-term, all just for this summer, but here they are:

Source: Slim Bitches Unite

Exercise. I used to be so good about this - I loved going to the gym, I'd make time for it, sacrifice naps and sleep for it - but I started getting really lazy and unhappy about it around the end of the school year, and by now I'm completely sluggish and out of shape all over again. Luckily I gain weight slowly and lose it quickly, but even so, this is just not acceptable. (Actually, to be honest, I'm probably skinnier now than I was then, but it's all due to not eating enough.) I have the Insanity workout videos, but that's a lot more high-cardio than I really feel like doing these days, so I just want to wake up in the mornings and go for a very, very slow jog around the neighborhood. Now, let's see if I can find my inhaler...

Source: I Want This Body
So how do Koreans exercise? Well, jumpropes are available in pretty much all the convenience stories and grocery marts, not to mention your local Daiso, and I suspect workout videos and yoga are super popular, but my unni swears that Koreans mostly prefer to run and that there are in fact a lot of people who run in this neighborhood. I've just never seen anybody, so I'm a leeeetle dubious, but hopefully I'll wake up tomorrow and take that idea out for a spin and see. Either way, I'm super excited!

Photo by beethy
Dance. Not actually related to the above goal, though it certainly doesn't hurt. I've taken dance classes before and I really love it, even if I'm totally bad at it, and last year I got my butt into gear and signed up for my school's hip hop class next semester. Then I realized, uh, hello? I'm in Korea, there's no way they don't have dance classes! Have you seen all their crazy music videos?? Not to mention since I'm no longer going to regular classes, this is a great way to fill up some time and meet people. I've been looking around online to see if I can find a studio, and then I'm gonna see what I can afford and what seems best for my needs. (No matter how much I've danced, I'm always at the beginner level...I always have difficulty explaining how bad I am so I just tell teachers I have no experience at all.)

Why do I love dancing? I don't know! It's certainly not because I'm passionate about it or anything, since I'm not. I'm not talented at it, and I don't feel that driving need to excel or improve. So maybe because it's just a fun, chill way to relax and burn off energy, and when you're a good dancer, you look hella hot. That always helps, hahaha.

Source: Passion for Glamour
Style. The number one thing I struggle with when school is in session (besides drama, homework, teachers, and extracurriculars) is maintaining my personal sense of style! Not to mention how my style has been changing for a while, but I've been too poor/too lazy to update my wardrobe accordingly. No lie: I have clothes that I bought all the way back in freshman year of high school that I still wear/fit into. Are the fashion police going to descend on me for that confession? Hahaha or maybe everyone will just stop caring what I have to say about clothes.

I'm a big big believer in personal style and preferences taking place over trends, which is sometimes a bit tricky to navigate. Being abroad like this...why be stingy? The basic trendy look in Korea can be broken down into: a loose, baggy shirt, ripped up skinny jeans/leggings or shorts, cute flats/converses/super spiky stilettos. Colors run towards the monochromatic end of things, with lots of room for this pinkish pale beige that I just do not like, but tbh I see people wearing all sorts of colors all the time, so it doesn't really matter. Orange nails and lips are popping up everywhere though. And the easiest way to get away with any look? Be as cute and innocent as possible!

The shoe situation in Korea by the way? Is amazing. Ack I could die happy just trying them on! It's amazing how perfectly shoes fit me here. I have a lot of trouble in the US sometimes because I've got wide feet, but the high-heeled shoes were practically made for my feet. Fantastic!!

Source: We Heart It
Work. Omgwut, work on vacation?? But how else will I afford all of the above without some positive cash flow in my life this summer? Well, actually, my dad says not to worry about money, he'll buy me whatever, but that just makes me feel like a spoiled little princess, and not in a very happy way either. I don't have a work visa so I can't get a steady job or anything, but meeting someone once or twice a week to help them improve their English sounds to me like it could work out fine! I have no idea where to begin looking, so if you have any ideas/suggestions, please, feel free to email them my way!

Plus...maybe I'm just too American. I don't feel settled unless I have a job!

What else?? I want to be able to travel Korea and see more of it, I want to learn to stop drinking so much water every day (apparently water is an American thing; who knew?), I want to work on drawing, I want to write more, I want to come out fluent in Korean, I want to get hair extensions, I want I want I want...

Thinking about all this made me wonder...what do I want out of my life? I don't have a lot of ambition, I've come to realized; or maybe, I'm ambitious, but I don't have ambitions. I want lots of things but that doesn't necessarily mean I'll decide that they're worth working for. But I think I'd like to write for a magazine, live in a small and comfortable apartment, have a dog or a cat, go out drinking with friends on the weekends, be able to travel once a year, and always be able to find something that I want to take a picture of. Ahh...what an ideal. A lot of people want something like this.

What are your goals, for the summer or for beyond?

Peace <3

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Photos: Janghyun

Sorry for being away for a few days! There's been some big stuff going on with my life and things are getting shuffled around quite a lot... I'm dropping out of Sogang University because my health has been so bad, plus I realized when I came to Korea that there was a lot of stuff I wanted to do besides just study all day. I guess it isn't very stereotypically Asian of me to a) not want to study and b) give up, but there's way more to life than books and books, not to mention: how often am I going to be in Korea?? I need to make the most of it! But never fear, I'll still be self-studying Korean with the help of the textbooks and workbooks from Sogang, since that's more or less what I was doing on my own.

So now that I'm no longer a student, I've been looking for a casual, part-time job to help fund my love of shopping...sending out emails to craigslist all over the place. If anyone has better suggestions or knows anything, please feel free to email me or comment and let me know!! It would be GREATLY APPRECIATED.

Now, with all that boring life stuff out of the way, I felt kind of bad for being a bit here, have some pictures of Janghyun, aka my neighborhood. It's pretty far from Seoul! To get to Sogang, I used to have to wake up at around 6:30 and take the 73 bus for about an hour to Hwarang-dae (화랑대), and from there ride the line 6 subway to Daeheung (대흥) and from there walk about ten minutes to my can maybe see why I was less than enthused about going to school every day. Apparently this is really common but I guess I'm just way too American, or maybe way too American-colleged; I'm used to living five minutes away MAX from my classes!

Fun fact: the hospital right next to my apartment? Lee Min Ho once filmed a drama in it! OMG so exciting, I wish I had been able to see him! What a beautiful yet bitch-faced man...

Anyway, Janghyun (장현):

Ack in that last picture you can see Paris Baguette, it's a Korean/French bakery that is omfg amazing, their chocolate chip muffins are pretty damn orgasmic, not to mention super super unhealthy. I do my homework there sometimes while sipping one of their green tea lattes...and by the way, the existence of the green tea latte blows my mind. I don't know why!

And because ever since I came here I've been rediscovering my true and deep love of tonkatsu, here have another picture of tonkatsu, eaten at Misoya, a nearby Japanese restaurant! While I'm pretty sure the tonkatsu at that unknown place in Guri was THE BEST I have eaten so far, any tonkatsu is good tonkatsu!

Plus this one came with bonus sushi rolls! I don't really eat shrimp like ever though... Also there's something super delicious about tiny cubed radish kimchi. I don't normally like radish kimchi but when they're chopped up small like this, I can't get enough! Korean vegetables are so strongly flavored, it takes some getting used to. I'm used to eating vegetables in order to clear my palate (that sentence couldn't have come out any more pretentious if I tried), not as a full meal in their own right...but whatever, food is food is delicious.

My unni is a choco-holic so while we were waiting for our food she ran out and bought a chocolate drink. I don't know what it was called or where it was from, but it had these little shavings of chocolate inside the drink itself and it was so good! I'm not a huge chocolate fan but I took a couple sips because I just couldn't resist. *_*

Oh wait...the name of the place my unni bought it from is on the cup itself. Fail!

I feel like I should apologize for my bad, sometimes I just use my cell phone. So sorry, guys! This is not the blog for beautiful pictures of Korea. I should probably find a blog that actually has some and just put up a link to them. Let me put it this way...look at these photos and make them about 10x better looking and more exciting and you'll get an idea of what I'm looking at constantly.

Anyway I'm definitely gonna do a post soon about makeup so keep an eye out for that! Orange and this...weird pinkish beige color...are a big thing in Korea right now, I see a lot of people with gorgeous orange nail polish or orange lip gloss or orange blush. I'm burning to try the lip gloss out myself.

I've been listening to this song a lot recently. It makes me feel more upbeat and way sexier than I am, haha. Korea is definitely way less sexed up than the US, but I can't tell if that's a good or bad thing. Either way, both countries definitely fall into the Madonna/whore trap, so boo.

What have you been listening to?

Peace <3

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Serious Post, For Once

I'm considering withdrawing from Sogang University, just because my health has been so poor this summer. With the tuition money I'd move into Seoul proper and buy additional textbooks from the bookstore and self-study. I think I could do this, and I'd really enjoy it more this way, just because my Korean is so spotty and all over the place that going to class isn't helping me at all. I really don't enjoy attending classes, more so than the usual dislike. That I can usually push through.

Also, the early mornings really don't help. I don't know what's up with my body recently but I can't fall asleep before 4 or 5 AM no matter how tired I get, so when my alarm goes off at 6:30 AM I usually just ignore it and fall asleep. Plus my head kills me in the early mornings.

Who even knows??? All this depends on whether or not Sogang will give me back my tuition money, and how my dad feels about all this, since it is ultimately his money. My basic plan would be to wake up around 8 or 9 every morning, eat breakfast, study in my room until 1 or 2 PM, then go out and be a tourist and shop around. The one drawback that I can see is that it would be really lonely, since I wouldn't have any avenues to make friends, but I'm pretty okay with that.


Anyway I already sent the email off to Sogang asking about the tuition refund, so if they say no, I guess I'll just have to stick it through or find a better plan. Siiigh. This plan makes me really happy though, I really hope I can make it happen.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Links Everywhere, And Not A Post In Sight

Washing my hair for the first time since I applied the potato hair pack, the differences are AMAZING. My hair is so soft and silky to the touch, as opposed to its usual passable dryish frizz (yes, I take terrible care of myself). Google says to apply this sort of thing two to four times a week, depending on your hair condition. I have to buy one of these before I leave for America. I've been doing some Googling but I can't find it for sale online anywhere, but when I do, I'll definitely put up the link.

Anyway, today was mostly a homework day. Crazy, I'm really behind so I had to work super hard to catch up for tomorrow's class!

So, if you're trapped indoors like me, here are some links to make you excited about Korea and the summer (and sometimes both at once!):
  • I Love You, Korea: Summer Love Letters I've never tried the ojingo sundae, but it sounds perfect for seafood-haters like me. Look at how many times that sucker gets fried!
  • HUGE BB Cream Overview, Reviews, and Swatches If you're into makeup at all, you've probably heard someone raving about the wonders of Korean BB cream. No lie, as soon as I got to Myeongdong I ran into MISSHA and bought some for myself.
  • City Hunter: Episode 1 One of the biggest K-dramas airing right now, starring the incredibly gorgeous Lee Min Ho as the male lead. Swoon. The story is basically Korean Batman crusades while involved with a spunky female bodyguard who also knows judo. Read a recap of the first episode here, then head out over to MySoju or Dramafever to watch an episode!
Eep unfortunately that's all I've got for now. Stay tuned, I'll definitely scope out some more links next time!

Peace <3

    An American In Korea: Weirdos Everywhere!

    Observations about those weirdo Koreans, made by this weirdo American gyopo:

    No milk with rice or your stomach will explode!

    My unni told this to me last night when I was eating spicy pork with rice. I was thirsty and headed to the refrigerator. We just bought some soy milk for me and I saw the carton and thought, well, why not? Milk is good for spicy foods! But my unni called me a weirdo for drinking milk while eating rice. Pfft, doesn't she know that she's the real weirdo??

    30 C outside, better cover up!

    True true some of it is style (right now baggy shirts and tight pants/leggings are super in) but I'll be standing outside sweating like a pig and everyone around me will be fully covered from neck to toe in huge swathes of dark-colored fabrics. What gives? (For those unable to work Google, 30 C is approximately 86 F)

    But there is some basis to this! In dry desert heats, you want to wear baggy light-colored fabrics to help shade your skin and provide some relief. Except it does tend to get pretty humid here in Korea, not to mention that the emphasis was on LIGHT colors. So, conclusion? Weirdos!

    Vegetables? How do you want them, boiled or spicy?

    All the vegetables here are cooked, covered in spice, or both! I want a nice crisp salad sometimes but that never happens. Kimchi is the most famous Korean vegetable ever and I admit it, I do love some delicious radish kimchi served up alongside my rice and meat, but I miss even the crappy Fresh Choices of America... One time my aunt gave me raw cucumbers, and then gave me spicy gochujang sauce to dip them in. I can't win!

    I brought this topic up with some of my relatives and they just said, "맛없다~" or, to translate: "it's not tasty."


    And let's not even get into my burger cravings here...

    French fries with sour cream and onion powder

    America! Get on this! This is the most delicious junk food I have ever tasted! Mixing powder with french fries might be kind of a weirdo thing to do, but it's no different from chips, and who cares when the end result is ~amazing~.

    Clean, sparkling subways

    Sparkling might be something of an exaggeration, but the subways are amazing here. They're so quick and prompt and CLEAN. Speaking as someone whose only experience with subways comes from a few touristy trips to New York, I nearly had a heart attack when I saw how nice the subways are in Korea.

    Not to mention, a lot of the subways have little booths and stalls set up for you to buy food or clothes or bags or shoes while on your way somewhere. They're like mini-malls set up underground. We need more of this, stat!

    Any other weirdo things that Koreans do that should be added to this list? I'm sure I'll think of more tomorrow when I go back to Seoul, haha.

    Peace <3

    Saturday, June 18, 2011

    TUTORIAL: The Korean Lamb Towel Hat

    So today I'm gonna teach you all how to make the super famous, well-known, 100% adorable lamb towel hat. Does it have a catchier name? Yes it does! In Korean it's known as the yang mori (양머리), which translates to lamb head. But I can't think of it as any other way, so it's the lamb towel hat from here on out.

    My unni has graciously agreed to model the lamb towel head for us so that everyone knows what I'm talking about:

    Why do Koreans make this?? It doesn't help dry your hair and if you keep your wet hair in it too long, your hair will dry in a funny shape. I asked my unni, who replied...

    "Because it's cute."

    LOL silly me for not realizing that.


    Get an ordinary towel! It should be bigger than a face towel and smaller than a body towel. Lay it out on the floor and divide it into thirds, like so:


    Fold the bottom and top thirds into the middle! The end result should be a long, narrow towel strip.


    Roll up each end like you're rolling up the leg of your jeans. Try and keep the ends together so they won't fall apart! If it does, don't worry about it, just shake your towel out and start over.

    Each side should look like this:

    Hmmm that shape reminds me of something. It looks like a Jolly Rancher, or maybe a Tootsie Roll. I miss American candy.


    What're you waiting for?? Put it on your head! Pull the two folds apart in the middle to fit it snugly over your hair. If it's too small, gently work at both rolled up ends to loosen the middle, making sure to keep both sides even. If it's too big, roll both sides up a bit until it fits.

    Still not wearing any makeup...don't judge me too harshly! :)

    I've never taken photos of myself before like this so I kept missing my face or getting all but one ear. Or sometimes I just blinked at the wrong time or took the picture too soon. I have a lot of failed versions on my hard drive; the one up there is the least stupid looking out of all of them.

    Ahh what the heck, since I've just shown you my face, have a super dorky picture of me:

    My eyes aren't actually closed, they're just ridiculously squinty. Why was I laughing? Who even knows! Plus I forgot to turn off the flash.

    Ahhh that was fun. Is there anything else you'd like to see me try out/make a tutorial on?

    Peace <3

    Miniature Spa Day!

    Okay not really...I didn't leave the apartment, it was so hot out. And I don't know how to give myself a full body massage! But I'd been noticing how gross my hair was getting, all dry and frazzled and whatnot, so I asked my unni for some advice and she told me to use her hair pack to fix it.

    Hair packs, especially those using potatoes, have been around for a while, so it's not really a Korean specific thing, but I haven't really heard of anyone using them in the US. Or maybe it's one of those "secret" beauty tips. Anyway, I took a shower, let my hair dry a bit, then pumped that nozzle and dumped it on my hair. Only I got a little bit too enthusiastic, and put wayyyy too much. Oh well! Then I just had to keep my hair out of my eyes while I waited.

    So while I was at it, why not pay attention to my skin too?? My unni gave me this face scrub thing to use every week or so. It's super gross but your skin feels so gooooood.

    First make sure your skin is clean and dry. Well I'd just showered, so no problems there. Then apply it generously all over your face, keeping it away from your eyes. Then wait for five minutes or so, stand over a sink, and start scrubbing with your fingers! All this gross stuff comes peeling away from your skin with the mask. According to my unni it's all the dead skin and stuff that goes clogging up your pores and making your skin gross. Whatever it is, it's disgusting, but it's super fun to do, like picking a scab or something. Or maybe I'm the only one who thinks that's kind of fun?

    Anyway once that was all done, my skin was all soft and smooth and amazing. Plus, maybe this is my imagination, but if you pay special attention to any acne scarring or whatnot on your face, it seems to help fade it. I have one big one on my jaw that seems to get lighter every time I use this. Hmmm, I might do some research onto this face scrub peeling gommage pack thing and see for myself.

    Then when my unni came home, she had a surprise for me...I was going to get eyelash extensions! I'd mentioned wanting some the previous day and my hyung-bu just kind of rolled his eyes at us ridiculous women and the things we want, but my unni had them and she liked them, so why shouldn't I get them?? We went to the salon across the street, Lee & Feel again. They charge 40,000 KRW for the procedure.

    Because it was a surprise I didn't take any pictures of my eyes before the process, so here, have an old picture of me making a silly face. I think it's from back when I was in high school...

    Pictured: Not enough sleep, too many webcams
    As you can see...I have no eyelashes. Now look below! I'm not wearing any makeup, not even concealer to hide the huge bags beneath my eyes.

    Whoo! It's like wearing false eyelashes! Only I don't have to bother with eyelash glue or anything, which is good because I've never worn false eyelashes except for prom, and even then my mom's friend applied them for me. I've never had visible eyelashes before, except for when I go overboard with mascara. This is super exciting!

    Some downsides to the eyelash extension thing...I have to be careful when I wash my face. Maybe I'm like the least girly girly girl ever but I just kind of throw some water and cleanser on and scrub like crazy before scrubbing my face again with whatever's closest, usually a towel. But with these I have to be really careful about my eye area otherwise the eyelashes hurt and fall out. Oh well, it's probably good for me to slow it down a bit.

    Beauty secrets of Asia! Come to me! What're the beauty things you've tried and loved (or not)? How crazy are you willing to get?

    Peace <3

    Friday, June 17, 2011

    An American In Korea: Korean Beauty and Body Image

    Inspired by Gala Darling's post on body image in fashion blogging over here. She's way smarter and cooler than me so if you haven't heard of her (gasp!) what are you waiting for?? I'm definitely not going anywhere, haha. It seems to be a multi-parter kind of thing so check back tomorrow for more.

    Anyway, Gala Darling has a lot to say about the world of fashion blogging and how appearances are coming into play in a way that's kind of sad and somewhat contrary to what's so amazing about fashion blogging in the first place. I agree with a lot of her points! Fashion blogging is particularly inspiring to me because you get to see so much more personalization and style than you ever would in a magazine or on TV, and because you get to see how a normal person dresses and uses a particular item over and over in so many different and creative ways. I follow a lot of fashion blogs but my all-time favorite would probably be Sal of Already Pretty, even though my personal style is really different from hers. But Sal's credo of feeling fabulous every day without going over budget and her super useful everyday tips and advice let her reach people of all body types and all styles, because her blog really is about recognizing that you are already pretty, you just need to bring it out. This is something I've always tried to emulate in every way possible! I never buy or wear something that I don't feel comfortable in and look fabulous wearing.

    America has this huge sweeping movement to accept your body the way it was made and to love yourself. You're not a size 0 blond girl with legs three miles high? It's okay! You're made the way you're made for a reason and there's nothing wrong or ugly about that. It's okay to have a muffin top or love handles or bat wings or whatever the cutesy terms are right now. You're not plus-sized, you're curvy or goddess-shaped. I don't agree with every instance of this kind of mentality (have you Googled goddess? they're all hangers with boobs!), but I do support body acceptance and prioritizing health over size.

    So, coming to Korea was a bit of a shock.

    Before coming to Korea, a friend and I watched this amaaaazing drama called Dream High, following the lives of six teenagers who attend the prestigious performing arts school Kirin Academy. Naturally there are love triangles and rivalries, but the surprise show-stealer was seventeen-year old IU who played sweet, talented, fat Pilsuk.

    Pictured: The stuff of Korean girls' nightmares
    Despite possessing a voice amazing enough to stun the judges into silence, Pilsuk ends up being dropped into the bottom class and told she has no hope of ever signing with a talent agency. (According to the rules of drama, the kids in this class are by far the most musically talented in the school.) She's told that unless she loses approximately two hundred pounds, she will never succeed, and though she tries, she just can't do it and wants to quit. It isn't until her love interest (Jason, played by the amazing and adorable Wooyoung) overhears people saying that without beauty success will never arrive and encourages her to keep trying that she really starts getting down to business.

    This is what she ends up looking like:

    Someone, somewhere, looked at this girl and thought: she should play the fat girl
    How does she do it??

    She asks one of her teachers for help, and gets told this:
    There is no such thing as ugly people, only lazy people.
    My reaction: YES YES YES.

    Asians get a lot of flack from Americans by talking about their weight constantly. I used to stand around in dressing rooms with my friends and we'd pinch our belly fat and talk about losing weight. In a group of Asians who are unfamiliar with each other, the conversation will inevitably turn to wanting to lose weight and reassuring each other that you're beautiful and don't need to, but oh my god look at this fold in my stomach I am so fat! I'm a pig! To an American or someone who isn't used to this sort of conversation, it comes off as neurotic and obsessive, but it's really not; it's just a way of making conversation, a sort of universal topic that's safe and makes you feel good.

    But the above quote demonstrates the core of the difference between American and Korean beauty philosophies: Americans promote acceptance, while Koreans promote self-discipline. Don't get me wrong, there's definitely overlap between the two (both assume that the beauty is already there, you just have to get all archaeological and hire a team of fitness professionals, plastic surgeons, and gay stylists to excavate the shit out of it. Or, if you're like Pilsuk, stop eating bread and start jumping rope).

    When I came to Korea, I already knew that I was going to get some flack for my weight. I'm a European size 28/29, and I'm naturally pretty heavily built for an Asian. One of the first things my dad said to me at the airport was: "Oh, you're not as fat as I thought you would be." The next day, he and my aunts decided that I needed to lose about twenty pounds by the end of the summer to reach an acceptable weight.

    That didn't annoy me; I was expecting it. What really annoyed me was all the comments about how I never exercised and ate nothing but sugar. Not true! I eat a lot of vegetables and fruits, and until I started getting complications with my health, I spent from an hour to an hour and half every day doing intense cardio workouts. My great indulgence was probably bread and rice, which while high in carbs isn't exactly a terrible thing, since I burned off an average of 800 to 1000 calories per workout session. I was big, yeah, but not a whole lot of it was fat.

    The Korean ideal body, known as the S curve, achieved with some spine twisting and a padded bra
    If the dark side to American beauty philosophy is the risk of laziness leading to over-indulgence and obesity, the dark side of Korean beauty philosophies is the lack of room for body types and different metabolisms. If you're fat, then you're lazy and eat badly; if you don't, then how can you be fat? It's this ultimate democracy that can be frustrating and make me long for America's obese, greasy shores. Weight means so much in Korea. It says a lot about you as a person, and strangers feel like they're allowed to comment on your weight in public (I was out with my cousin's husband and he saw an extremely overweight girl and started shaking his head and tsk'ing under his breath; once an old woman sadly told me I was wasting my face). I can't even claim to be totally exempt from it - every time I see someone fatter than me on the streets, I want to take a picture of them as proof. Once I was frustrated and pointed out one of these people to my dad, who just told me that she was a special case, special clearly implying not allowed for my daughter.

    It shows up in other ways too! The current clothing trend is huge baggy shirts paired with leggings, tights, or skinny jeans. I have big shoulders and stubby legs, so both of those look terrible on me, but after I moved in with my unni, she went through my closet and then decided nothing was acceptable and took me out shopping. Some oversized shirts I can pull off, but skinny jeans are pretty much a no now and forever. But not wearing these clothes gets some fairly derisive looks; being a "fashionista" is super important.

    So is this really all that okay? I don't know! I love the idea that you and you alone are responsible for the way you look, but the idea that there is only one beautiful body type bothers me so much. Maybe I'm just too American, or maybe Korea needs to open its eyes. No one has to be ugly if they don't want to be, but there shouldn't only be one type of beauty, one type of body. We're not all built to the same template.

    Human cloning at its finest. Also, are those rollerskates?
    What do you think? What about other cultural beauty standards?

    Peace <3

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    10 Out of 10: Chicken Cheese Tonkatsu for Lunch

    Today my dad and aunt met me at noon for lunch. (I know, I know - why don't I have friends to do this with?? Well, my relatives pay for me...) I really wanted chicken tonkatsu but didn't know what it was called in Korean, but I had eaten it before with my unni who called it "chicken cutlet."

    But my dad and aunt had noooo idea what I was talking about, so we drove around and I looked at pictures on the sides of the restaurants. Most of them were closed though because apparently Koreans like to eat chicken while drinking beer during dinnertime instead of at lunch. Boooooo. Hungry tourist needs to be catered to!

    But we found a place and it was delicious.

    With a display like that I couldn't help but go in, hahaha. They served tonkatsu, sushi, and spaghetti. What a weird combination.

    The inside was actually super cute though. They obviously wanted to attract the young, broke crowd, cause the decorations were all fun and light, plus the prices were incredibly low. The restaurant had this stencil on the wall:

    Apologies to the random Korean ajumma for the unflattering picture
    I kind of want something like that for my dorm room when I go back.

    The menu basically featured tonkatsu, tonkatsu, and more tonkatsu:

    All the pictures seemed exactly the dad just told me to pick whatever, because they were all the same. Everything was about 8,000 KRW or under, which is amazing. That's like $7.50 for a big lunch. I never get used to how cheap things are here...except for the fruit, the fruit is so expensive.

    Anyway, my dad and aunt both ordered the Wang Tonkatsu (왕돈까스) which basically means King Tonkatsu, or maybe Tonkatsu King. I got the Chicken Cheese Tonkatsu (치킨치즈돈까스), which is considerably less intimidating looking.

    Chicken Cheese Tonkatsu

    Wang Tonkatsu
    I was so hungry when my food came that I started eating before remembering that I wanted to take a picture of it! My dad got kind of upset when I wouldn't let him eat his food until I got a picture of his too, but he thought it was funny that I was going to put the pictures online. Who's interested in pictures of food???

    Well, me.

    You can't tell from the picture but the chicken cheese tonkatsu had this delicious melted cheese layer underneath the crunchy breaded part. Plus both came with all the banchan (반찬) that I love, except for the weird green stuff. That salad they always provide is amazing though, it tastes like cardboard and yet is somehow incredibly addictive. I ate EVERYTHING, I was practically licking the plate. I guess that's what happens when you skip meals.

    I was dumb and forgot to write down the restaurant's name, but it was so good, I hope I can find it later. It's in Guri (구리) which is where my aunt and dad live.

    Hmmm what should I eat for dinner? I love food. When you travel, does weird food freak you out, or are you super adventurous?

    Peace <3

    Materialism, Consumerism, and Tourism, Oh My!

    I met this girl named Jeannie (지니, or maybe Genie) in my class and it turns out she lives near the real Coffee Prince cafe. Too exciting, because that drama is my favorite drama ever and what got me started on this whole Korea craze. We went together and I took some super shitty cell phone pictures of the outside. Sadly, there were no cute window drawings, and the servers looked more like normal people and less like this:

    One of those boys is a woman.

    We didn't go in because we'd just had lunch and weren't in the mood for coffee, and anyway I find the whole coffee situation in Korea to be highly suspect. Interesting fact #12350594: yes, Starbucks has made it to Korea, but they do not have venti sizes. The biggest I've seen anyone carrying around is in fact a tall.

    Afterwards, we hit up Myeongdong (명동) which is a super famous shopping district. Salesladies are super pushy in Asia, we got physically dragged into stores at several points. But the real attraction for me was all the tiny little booths that sold ridiculous things. I bought silly Grumpybear socks for Andrea, a bread-shaped keychain for Carolyn, and a little camera purse with a picture of the Eiffel tower on it for Susan. So all of my three best friends get dumb tourist things! Excellent~ I'm keeping an eye out for stuff that would appeal to my mom and other friends.

    I got mistaken for being Chinese all the time; random Chinese people would speak to me in Chinese or hopefully gesture for me to enter their Chinese stores and Korean salesladies directed Chinese salesladies to me.

    At one point we were dragged into a makeup store. I can't remember what its name was but it sold these amazing smelling lotions and things in cute little fruit-shaped cups. They also sell this slightly terrifying lotion that boasts Live Snail Essence, which I googled and turns out to mean 80% snail slime. A saleslady took me hostage, told me this was their one day only annual sale, and then smeared it all over my hands. It moisturizes and whitens! Because, as her look very clearly said, I am very very dark for an Asian. Another saleslady took my other hand and applied whitening product to that too.

    Yesterday I ended up wandering around my neighborhood a bit and bought a sparkly green nailpolish from the local Daiso. It was super super hot out so I also ducked into an airconditioned salon and asked them to get my hair cut, though "asked" is a bit of a strong verb; I really just kind of mumbled the word "hair" in Korean and gestured at my head and was like, "It's very hot!" The hairdresser smiled and nodded and was like, "Ah, I understand!"

    Also, Korea is a country full of hairdressers that understand that no, I do not want volume added to my hair. My hair already has volume. If you add more volume, I will in fact have an Asian 'fro, and in fact did used to sport one and disguised it by putting my hair in a ponytail at all times. This was before I learned what conditioner was and why you should use it. It was beautiful.

    Hilariously though, they gave me this haircut:

    This is the haircut Bubbles Salon completely failed to give me and that Lee & Feel achieved within fifteen minutes. My hair's a bit curlier than Eun-Jung's but when it's straightened, it looks exactly the same. Unfortunately, I am neither as pale nor as pretty as she is, but it's all right, it still looks good.

    My 언니 has a trip planned to Jejudo sometime soon, I don't know when yet. But I'm looking forward to it! Unfortunately the only thing I remember about that trip was that I saw a fountain in the shape of a man peeing. No guesses as to where the water was coming from.

    PS: Totally just tried to find a picture of that statue. Completely failed to do so, apparently tourists just aren't into that sort of thing, which is ridiculous btw.

    I cannot believe I've actually made it to Korea. It's been hard and rough but I'm having so much fun. I've never been outside of the US before this, aside from one trip to Korea when I was in fourth grade that I can barely remember, and I've been doing almost everything completely on my own. I live with relatives so I don't have to pay rent or anything, but I'm left to fill the hours after class however I want, and sometimes things are just overwhelming - but in a good way, like when you sit down to dinner and realize there are four courses left and every single item is delicious.

    I'll need to start carting my camera around and be super tourist-y and take lots of pictures. I'm no photographer, but pictures of food are always super exciting.

    Peace <3

    Friday, January 21, 2011

    One Small Step

    In the famous words of Neil Fucking Armstrong: "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."

    In the less famous words of this blogger: "COUNTING MY EGGS TOTALLY PAID OFF, BITCHES."

    Guess who's going to Sogang University this summer? THAT'S RIGHT.


    This whole "I want to be in touch with my cultural roots" thing only works if I can actually speak the language. I'm currently learning Chinese and plan to pick up Japanese, but alas, my college does not offer Korean. If I learned those two and failed to learn my own language, my Korean ancestors would cross the ocean to call me a blood traitor. That's right - we're purebloods. We're the Blacks. (Are Harry Potter references outdated yet?)

    See you in Korea!

    Peace <3

    Saturday, January 15, 2011

    An American in Korea

    This summer, I'm going to Korea! Everyone cheer!

    Okay okay so none of it's confirmed yet, because I have yet to even send off my application. This is something commonly known as "counting my eggs before they're hatched"...hopefully it won't backfire on me. I'm trying to be a part of Sogang University's summer semester, since I won't be doing any study abroad programs my junior year. Boo!!

    So some stuff about me:

    I'm Melody and I'm a sophomore at Bryn Mawr College. I'm a Korean-American born in sunny California and until recently, I had no interest whatsoever in Korea! Shaaaame. My parents were so disappointed in me, though they got used to it. But recently I've been all about connecting with my roots (so cliché) and getting super into learning the Korean language and culture. So this blog's going to be all about that, with lots of information about applying to Korean language programs. Hopefully I'll get into Sogang and you won't have to read a bunch of posts about me applying to different language programs over and over again, hahaha. I'm super pumped, though, fair warning, I'm definitely not an expert in anything.

    Peace <3