Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 174: First Baseball Game

While I was in Korea, I went to my first baseball game with a few friends. It was surprisingly a lot of fun. Although it wasn't the actual game itself that was fun, but the cheering and chanting which I'll get into later.


The side we were sitting on was for the LG team. A sea of red. 

Almost everyone has these big balloon sticks and this one group was carrying a whole box of them. There were quite of few people still in work wear (like above) and came in big groups, so I'm assuming they were on company outings. 

Each team had a some sort of head cheerleader. It seems like the major part of games is the audience participation. Each player has their own song (which were popular songs tweaked to incorporate the respective player) so when they go up to bat, the song is played and the head cheerleader guy leads everyone into the song and the gestures that go with it. There are also songs/chants when there are hits, homeruns, etc. Everyone participates and are really into it so makes the whole atmosphere very infectious. I was throwing my hands in the air and chanting/singing along with everyone even though I had no idea what I was saying.

This head cheerleader guy was incredible. I was waiting for this guy's voice to give out. 

Another interesting part of these games were the girls in skimpy outfits. I think in the States, the ball boys are usually middle school/high school kids, right? Or usually they're younger dudes, I think? Well the "ball boys" here were girls (probably late teens, early 20s) in belly shirts and teeny tiny shorts. 


And the girl cheerleaders.


This guy was hilarious. He was so into it, bellowing out all the chants and songs. And every time the cheerleaders came up on the stage behind us to dance, he would go, "OOOOOH!!"

Breakdancing mascots.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day 166: Lotte World

I mostly got around Seoul using the train and occasionally bus. The taxis here are suppose to be ridiculously cheap, but since the train and bus are cheaper, I didn't get around to riding the taxis.


Anyway, I went to Lotte World with some friends, which is an indoor and outdoor amusement park in Seoul. It was pretty hot that day so we spent a good amount of time indoors. 

There was a model of the Trevi Fountain at the station.


It took me a moment to remember, but this is the ice rink they filmed some scenes for the Korean drama, Full House with Rain and Song Hye Gyo.


Where we waited in line, there were these kinds of writings all over the walls. I know the lines are long, but vandalism much?


If anything, the one thing I have to complain about Korea are the couples that come en masse everywhere I go. And they try to match too. It's like they somehow figured out what the last thing I wanted to see was and decided to shove it into my face, Costco-sized. 

Afterward, we went to a Korean barbecue place. ...It looks just like the ones I see in the dramas! :D

Every meal I had in Korea, there was always a lot of side dishes. No complaints though 'cos I love kimchi. :)

Sigh. Yum.

And of course, soju. And as all alcoholic beverages do (to me, at least), it tasted nasty.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Day 162: Korea - Arrival

Ever since I got back from Korea, I've only gone outside a handful of times. The weather's consistently been low-90s to mid-90s and every time I come back from outside, I'm a disgusting sweaty mess. So I've been huddled in my room sitting under the air conditioner. My host mom and dad have called me a hibernating bear since I've barely gone out. I'm going out tomorrow to run some errands. The bear is crying.


After I arrived in Korea, I had to take the airport bus from the airport and get off at the station close to my friend's house. I was suppose to get off at Sadang station but once I got on the bus, I realized that I wouldn't know which station was Sadang. I was going to rely on any signs in English but when the bus reached its first stop, I couldn't see any English signs. So I turned to the lady sitting next to me, pointed to outside and said, "...Sadang?" Add nervous laughter.

The lady first spoke to me in Korean. After I gave indication that I couldn't understand her (more nervous laughter and head shaking), she then spoke to me in Japanese. Being that Korea, Seoul in particular, is a popular traveling spot for Japanese tourists (especially after the Korean Wave), I wasn't too surprised. And then, she said something that I didn't understand. After I went, "Huh?", she then spoke to me in English. Then I was surprised.

She told me it wasn't Sadang yet; later when it turned out that she was getting off before me, she talked to the guy next to her and told me that he was getting off at Sadang as well, and she had asked him to tell me when the bus came to the right stop. When we reached Sadang, the guy gestured me to follow him to the front of the bus and asked me where my duffel bag was. I pointed to it and was about to reach for it when he grabbed it and carried it off the bus for me. At that moment, after coming back from the rude-fest that was Shanghai, I thought, "Holy crap, Koreans are hella nice!"

However, later that week when I met up with some friends and relayed this story back to them, they told me that actually wasn't the case and that I was just really lucky. Ha.

My first meal in Korea.
I thought this was amusing because I never saw someone eating on the job before, especially at a restaurant. 

I went to Lotte World, an amusement park in Seoul, with some friends from UoP a couple days later but I have a lot of photos from that day so I'll put them up next post. 

Before I finish, there was something amusing that happened in all my trips (or just my stay here in Asia) that I thought I'd share. When I was in Singapore, Shanghai, and Seoul, everyone assumed I was a local, and I still get it now here in Japan. Even back in the States, people normally assumed I was (and I swear it's in this order almost every time) Chinese, Japanese, and then Korean. Even Vietnamese people don't always get it right. When I first met one of my friends, she did a double-take when she overheard me talking to my mom on the phone, and later told me, "Yeah, I was thinking, how is this girl speaking my language??" While I was traveling, after realizing I wasn't a local, people's next go-to would be Japanese, and then blank stare. 

Back home, it never really bothered me how people kept confusing my ethnicity; since there are so many different Asians around, I could understand how it could be confusing. In fact, I actually take some pride in being able to identify who's who. But once I got to Asia, as naive and ignorant as it was, I guess I just assumed that the locals would be able to identify their own. Which actually brings me to another story.

When I was at the Expo, I was going around the little shop stalls they had in the African Pavilion and was surprised and delighted to hear the African shopkeepers speaking Chinese fluently. Even the Chinese were getting a huge kick out of it, going up to talk to them just to hear them say hi. Anyway, I was looking at some jewelry when a shopkeeper started talking to me in Chinese:

Me: I'm sorry, I can't speak Chinese.
Shopkeeper: You can't speak Chinese.
Me: Yeah, I'm not Chinese.
Shopkeeper: Why can't you speak Chinese?
Me:...Because I'm not Chinese. I'm American. 

I later came back to his stall again and he prodded me some more.

Shopkeeper: How come you don't want to study Chinese?
Me: ...Er, well, I'm not Chinese. I'm Vietnamese-American. 
Shopkeeper: But why do you not want to study Chinese?
Me: Wha- I'm not Chinese! I'm Vietnamese.
He then gave me this look like he didn't believe me, and I thought, 'Why would I lie??'

I remember in my Cross-Cultural Training class, they told us about the concept of Visibility and Invisibility when people go abroad. The concept being basically that if you're a Caucasian staying in an Asian country, you'll never quite blend in (Visible). On the other hand, if you look Asian and are staying in an Asian country, you'll blend in quite well (Invisible). It was naive of me to think otherwise, but it seems like no matter where I am in Asia, I'll always be invisible. But I've always thought some Asian countries have very distinct physical features (i.e. when someone says, "She has a very Korean face."), with there being exceptions of course. I guess I just have a rather ambiguous Asian face? 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Day 155: Expo

I got back from Korea on the 26th and my host family took me to Gifu for the weekend right after. After getting back from Gifu, I took the next couple of days to rest (read: vegetate and roll around in my bed) since all the traveling really exhausted me.

Anyways, I'm back but before I go into my Korea trip, I thought I should finish up on Shanghai by talking about the World Expo.

For those of you who don't know, the World Expo is like a huge fair where countries from all over the world build pavilions that represent their respective countries.

There was a crapload of people. There's no doubting that it was at the Expo that I really felt the impact of China's overpopulation. I did not appreciate it. Do people here not go to work?





China and Macao (the rabbit).


South Korea.


Saudi Arabia.


I didn't go into most of the big ones since the lines for them were absolutely ridiculous. The longest line was undoubtedly for the Saudi Arabian Pavilion. I believe they spent the most money on theirs so I guess everyone wanted to go see what they paid so much for. When I got there, the wait time was six hours. I heard there were days when it was ten.  Honestly, do these people not have jobs? 

Probably the biggest pavilion I was able to get into was France's, because if you eat at their restaurant (which was pricey), you can cut in front of the line. At night since there were less people (but the lines to get into Saudi Arabia and Japan were still three hours), I was able to get into the United Arab Emirates Pavilion. 

To be honest, as interesting of an experience as it was, I don't think I'd go to another World Expo. The entire event felt like one huge glamorized advertisement where countries try to show themselves off in hopes of boosting their tourism. This was especially flagrant when I went into the UAE Pavilion. After going inside, it was mostly them showing us a series of movies, which were honestly just really long commercials with camera-swooping cinematography and loud majestic music. Yes, I get it. Dubai has very pretty hotels. Thank you for reminding me that I will never be able to afford to go there. Unless they have a Motel 6 or Holiday Inn. 

I wouldn't say going to the Expo was a waste though because the one thing I really liked was the innovative and in most cases, amusing (Macao) architecture of the pavilions. I think my favorite was Morocco because of its simplicity; to me, it was just breathtaking, especially when I got inside.

Okay, I'm ending this post now because I really have to pee. I'll talk about Korea next time.