Saturday, December 31, 2011


At the beginning of every class, I take roll.  Each student answers with their choice of "yes," "here," or "hello."  If a student is absent, I choose a student who is present to run a registry slip with the absent student's name, the date, my name, and the class to the office on the fourth floor of our building, so the ladies who do all of the administrative work can immediately register them.  At our school, we call the administrative area info.  The Korean students call it "eenpo."  Among third and fourth graders, taking the absent slip to info seems to be a job that is in high demand. Even if it only takes a minute, or two, the younger students seem to be excited about getting out of class, and doing something different.

I always know which students will be absent before I ever call roll, because as soon as I walk through the door to enter a classroom, the students will proclaim, "Teacher!  Teacher!  So and So is absent!  I want go to eenpo!"

Then all the others would chime in, "Teacher!  I want to go to eenpo!!  Teacher!  Teacher!  I want to go to eenpo!"

I would then have to establish order, "Okay, okay, okay!!  Let me take roll first!!"  I would then call the first student's name louder than the others, "Such and Such!!"  The students normally calm down after the first name is called.

As soon as roll would finish, all the students would continue, "Teacher!  I want to go to eenpo!!"

When I first started, I tried to avoid being accused of playing favorites, so I would hold a mini paper rock scissors tournament, but they would sometimes get out of hand, and take up too much time, so two months into it, I cared less about it, and would simply choose a student.

Now, upon completing roll call, whenever someone is absent, I usually choose a student who I feel hasn't taken the slip in a while.  I normally walk to the chosen student's desk, place the slip on it, and give him/her the instructions, "Such and Such, write So and So's Korean name on the slip."

Upon hearing me say the chosen student's name, the entire class, in unison, would give me a big, "AWWWWWWWWWW!?!!!!"

Then some would chime in, "Bad Teacher...  Mean Teacher..."  I can't help but laugh every time I hear it.

"Teacher... You only like Such and Such!  You always choose So and So!"

Sometimes the "You only's" can get pretty funny, "Teacher...  You only like students who are small!!"

"Bad Teacher...  You only like new students!"

"Mean Teacher...  You only like students who are tall!"

I laugh everytime I hear the latest, "Teacher!  You only..."

But in reality, I choose the quietest students more than the others.  For some reason, I've never heard, "Teacher!  You only like quiet students!!"

They crack me up.  Teaching can be a lot of fun.

With that being said, I would like to wish all of you a happy new year.  I wish you many blessings in 2012, and may it, up to this point, be the best year of your life!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Differences in Korean and Japanese Women

I would like to start by stating that I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas, and I hope all of you experienced the love of Christ at some point during the season.  After all, isn't that what we are supposed to be celebrating?

My mother sent me money this Christmas, instead of sending me presents.  I took it as an opportunity to take a trip to Seoul, and complete my winter wardrobe.  I left on the Friday before Christmas.  I did most of my shopping in Myeongdong, the largest and most prominent shopping area in the city (to my knowledge).  Myeongdong has a Polo store, a North Face store, an authorized Apple dealer, and countless other stores that sell brand name items that Christmas shoppers would be inclined to purchase.

The most prominent group of shoppers in the Myeongdong area during my visit seemed to be the Japanese.  To the untrained eye, "all Asians look the same," but after being in Korea for over seven months, it's rather easy to distinguish the difference between them and Koreans.

Korean women are rather elegant in their dress.  They prefer to wear modest tops, as they never show even a hint of cleavage.  They prefer short skirts, dresses, and high heels, which is rather attractive.  During the winter, they still love wearing them, so the preferred article of clothing used to keep warm are navy blue pantyhose.  They are attractive, feminine, and apparently warm because of their thickness.

Most Korean women are rather modest in the application of makeup, as they choose cosmetics that make their faces appear whiter.  They are also modest regarding the alteration of the color of their hair, as the only color they seem to dye their hair is dark brown.  Korean women have a variety of hairstyles, and many seem to include bangs.  The shoulder length perm is also quite popular, and is rather nice to see.  Korean women are extremely feminine in their hair accessories, as many wear bows and clips of all types, as well as hair bands.

As I've stated earlier, to the untrained eye, "all Asians look the same," but that is definitely not the case.  Generally speaking, there are two differences in facial structure.  Japanese women tend to have a slightly different eye shape, as their eyes seem to be slightly rounder.  They also seem to have a rounder more compact facial structure than Korean women.

Regarding eye shape, many Asian women go to great lengths to make their eyes appear rounder and larger.  Some wear color altering contact lenses, along with other applicable accessories.  Many even have plastic surgery, called double eyelid surgery.  Many Japanese women are known to come to Seoul to have such surgeries, because of the lower rates, and that may be a contributing factor to this particular difference.  But nevertheless, Japanese women seem to have slightly rounder eyes than Korean women.

Japanese women wear more makeup.  This could be another contributing factor to the notion that their eyes appear rounder.  A theory that I have is that while the goal of Korean women, when applying makeup, is to make the face appear whiter, the goal of Japanese women in the application of makeup seems to be to make the eyes look bigger.  They seem to apply eye liner much more liberally than Koreans, and they seem to wear eye shadow, a cosmetic that not many Koreans wear.  And if it is worn by Koreans, it is done more conservatively.  Japanese also apply pink blush extremely liberally to their cheeks, while it is rare to see Koreans wear it.

Japanese women are more liberal in the alteration of their hair color.  Many had a hair color that was a much lighter shade of brown than what I would ever see on most Koreans.  The hairstyles are also noticeably different.  It's difficult to explain, but they seemed to be less elegant, and traditional than Korean women.  Japanese women seemed to go for a more "modern" look with their hair.  Japanese women seemed to prefer not to wear hair bands, bows, and other feminine hair accessories that Koreans wear.

Japanese women definitely have a different fashion sense than Korean women.  In Myeongdong, they seemed to be slightly more casual.  Their sense of style in the winter seemed to be geared more toward comfort, while still maintaining an elegance.  It was difficult to find the attractive combination of miniskirts, navy blue pantyhose, and high heels on Japanese women.

My Korean friends, along with western friends who have visited Japan, tell me that Japanese women take a more individual approach to their sense of style, while Korean women tend to follow the latest trends.  I definitely noticed that while in Seoul.  Many Korean vendors display pictures of Korean celebrities wearing a particular accessory, or article of clothing they are trying to sell.  Korean women tend to prefer the classic look, while Japanese women are more likely to to take risks regarding their style.  The goal of Korean women seems to be to appear more elegant, while Japanese women seem to want to appear more hip.

Another way to tell the difference between Koreans and Japanese is by listening to the language.  Japanese seems to be a little more rhythmic.  It has sort of a cuteness to it.  And nowhere is the cuteness more evident than in how they say Mcdonalds.  Koreans say, "Macdonardsu."  I can't quite explain it like my Korean friends, but Japanese people struggle with pronouncing consecutive consonants, so they say, "Magudonarudo."  It's endearing, and I laugh every time I hear it.  Saying it is as addictive as smoking cigarettes.  For the past week, I've been unable to stop saying "magudonarudo."

While in Myeongdong, I wanted to stop some Japanese people, and ask them, "Do you know where the nearest Mcdonalds is?"

I would have done so only to hear them answer, "Magudonarudo?!?!"  I sat in front of the Mcdonalds in Myeongdong for around ten minutes hoping to recognize a Japanese person for the soul purpose of hearing them say "Magudonarudo."  Isn't it funny how when you are not looking for something, it seems to be everywhere, but when you need it, and begin to actively search for it, it seems to be nowhere in sight?  That's how it seemed when I wanted to hear, "Magudonarudo" from the "horse's mouth," so I had to settle for hearing it from my Korean friends, which was still funny.

Generally speaking, I find Korean women to be more attractive than Japanese women.  Korean women are more elegant and feminine in their style.  I prefer women who embrace their femininity and wear things such as dresses, skirts, cute hair accessories, bows, and pantyhose.  And Korean women definitely do that.  While Japanese women may embrace their femininity in a different way, they seem to do so less regarding their personal appearance, and their sense of style.

If you haven't noticed, the last two posts have been on Japan.  The reason for that is that I find Japanese culture to be more exotic simply because I was never around them in New Orleans, while I was always around Koreans, so naturally, I am fascinated by Japan.

Update:  Please Read

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Observations on the Views of Koreans Regarding Japan

Lee Myoung Bak is the president of Korea.  I've gotten the impression that most of the people from Gwangju adamantly dislike him, and his policies.  My students, especially my 6th graders, are particularly vocal in their distaste.  In order to get a pulse on how the people of Gwangju feel about him, I assigned the essay topic, "Do you like Lee Myoung Bak?  Why or why not?"  The political views of most sixth graders are merely a reflection of their parents, so I knew that these essays would provide insight on the views of many of the citizens of Gwangju.

The students wrote well, and unabashedly displayed their sentiments.  I assigned the topic to two of my upper level sixth grade classes, and every essay, with one exception, began with this statement (There was slight variation in wording.), "I dislike Lee Myoung Bak for many reasons.  The first reason I don't like him is because he is from Osaka, Japan."  

For those of you who are unaware of Korean history, the Japanese occupied Korea for several years prior to World War II.  Koreans were treated horribly, and many of the atrocities were unspeakable, so naturally, Koreans have a strong hatred towards Japan.  A question on a writing test for my fourth graders was, "What place would you not like to visit, and Why?"  

Around half of the answers were some some form of, "I don't want to visit Japan, because I hate Japan.  And I hate Japanese people."  Many of my Korean friends, in casual conversation, have told me that they hate all things Japan.  I get the impression that this view is fairly widespread throughout Korea, so the accusation from Koreans of their own president being Japanese is a fairly strong insult.

Korea is now a thriving economy, much like Japan.  Korea has Hyundai, and Kia.  Japan has Toyota, Honda, and Nissan.  Korea has Samsung (Did you know Samsung manufactures cars?), and LG.  Japan has Sony, and Panasonic.  The rivalry is fairly evident.  Soccer matches between the two nations receive high television ratings.  The most replayed sporting event here in Korea seems to be Korea's victory over Japan in baseball to win the Gold medal in the Beijing Olympics.  I've seen that game numerous times.

I sence sort of an inferiority complex from Koreans towards Japan. Nowhere is that more evident than in the dispute between Korea and Japan over Dokdo, a small Island off of the coast of Korea.  Both Japan and Korea claim the island is theirs.  Koreans hold fast to their sovereignty over Dokdo, not because it's an island of abundant natural resources, but because they absolutely refuse to give in once more to their Asian rivals.  One of my sixth graders said in her essay, and I paraphrase, "Lee Myoung Bak is from Japan, and he became president to give Dokdo to them."  Sovereignty over Dokdo is a major issue for Koreans that fuels their hatred towards Japan.  I've yet to meet a Korean who has taken the stance that Dokdo should be under Japanese sovereignty.

The earthquake and tsunami in Japan cooled Korean sentiments slightly, and I emphasize the word, "slightly."  Make no mistake about it, many Koreans possess an inherent hatred towards Japan.  It's both sad and fascinating.  America is one of the most multicultural societies in the world.  As an American, I, along with most others, don't have an inherent hatred towards a particular nation.  Different ethnic groups may dislike, and maybe even hate each other, as racism does exist.  And many Americans possess a slight allegiance towards the nation of their ancestry, in addition to their allegiance to the USA.  Korea, on the other hand, is the other extreme.  It's one of the most homogeneous societies in the world, and obviously the pain and embarrassment stemming from Japanese occupation of Korea has transcended generations, because the feelings are obviously strong even in the children.