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