Friday, October 02, 2009

Down and out in Malton



This is Korean girl group Sonyeo Shidae advertising for instant noodles. If you're wondering whether all Koreans are like this, the answer is an unequivocal yes.

So I am unemployed. I came back to Canada really just to look for another job in Korea, which takes about two months, give or take. When I am not answering 2 am phone calls that turn out to be job interviews, I expect to be reading (a high priority is to finish Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire), running and taking in the fall weather at coffee shops and jjigae dispensaries throughout downtown Toronto.

Two months of idleness seem really strange, but I did this for some seventeen consecutive years under the wonderful institution of summer vacation. It's a nice anecdote to life in Korea, where I answered 2 am emails from my mother while eating instant noodles of the sort advertised above, not reading Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and taking in lovely Korean weather of all sorts at jjigae dispensaries and coffee shops.

Looking for a job in Korea, I look at Korea from the outside, and it seems really, really funny, as the video shows. You have to understand that Koreans are easily the cutest people on this earth. Koreans who live overseas are just normal people, but Koreans in Korea are the kind whose cheeks you want to pinch and take them home wrapped in a blanket. It begins with their English, which is slow, deliberate and always punctuated by slight but comical mistakes such as "I went to churchy" or "I stayed at home and took some rest", or their inability to pronounce the letters V (boo-ee) and Z (jee). It continues with Korean miniatures, including dogs, babies, the elderly, cutlery and so on.

It's punctuated by seeing a well-dressed woman in her 30s take a phone out of her purse on the subway. The phone has a large stuffed animal attached to it. She will take some pictures of herself with the phone (there's a word for taking pictures of yourself in Korean) to make sure that she looks okay. It's also punctuated by the cafe down the street from my old apartment, which has a 7-foot-tall teddy bear on a motorcycle, or sometimes sitting at a table reading the newspaper.

If you still don't feel the same emotions in your heart that you might feel from this website, consider what I saw at the Palace of Versailles two weeks ago. The old royal courtyard was completely empty on this cold afternoon except for a Korean tour group huddled together in the centre. With perms, hiking gear and nothing but neat haircuts and clothing, they might as well have had the Taegukki stamped on their foreheads. There they stood, seemingly helpless, as the guide explained that the bathrooms were to the left, the chapel to the right, the gardens straight ahead, and so on. I thought that if the guide had abandoned them there, they probably would not have left that spot without intervention from the Korean military.

Or, there was the old Ottoman palace in Istanbul, where I ended up with some Koreans in a crowded room. A woman explained the exhibitions to the others with great enthusiasm, but not satisfied, she grabbed a small boy, who I think was German. She pointed to a model of the Kaaba and then to a wall-sized picture of the Kaaba in front of us and explained, in English, "see, this, big saee-JUH!" The others marveled at her English.

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