Quote of the day

Mon Nov 17, 2003

Whenever I watch TV and I see those poor starving kids all over the world, I can’t help but cry. I mean I would love to be skinny like that, but not with all those flies and death and stuff.

Mariah Carey

What a wonderful prelude to today’s entry, where I intend to go on a bit about the rampant superficiality in society today, without a doubt my favourite topic! But first, a brief update. Brief, because I’ve just realized I’m very hungry. And no, I’m not trying to be psychotically ironic.

Once we again we had to all come in on Saturday for an Open house. This time, however, the kids were just the sweetest things… well-behaved, smart and seemingly eager to pick up a smattering of English before running back to their mommies. There were mostly five and six year olds but there was even one three year who was quite complacent (read: she was a vegetable). Nothing like the screaming crowd of young-uns we had last time when we were all frantically blowing soap bubbles in an effort to subdue them. Afterwards we all went out to lunch, courtesy of our very generous Won Jang Nim. The only thing about these outings is that the ‘crazy bus driver’ just adores his alcohol and you can just see Won Jang Nim cringing when he orders six beers and a few bottles of soju then proceeds to start boozing it up by himself! Well, he certainly is the life of the party, roaring away in Korean with his huge red face and judging by the laughter of the ladies, he’s quite a comedian. Amazing how men, without fail, will always dominate the conversation in this culture and the women just go along with it, no matter how uncouth the men’s behaviour, tittering discreetly with their hands in front of their mouths. I’ve been here for almost nine months now so it’s old news, but I’m still fascinated by it all.

Well, to continue along the same vein of thought, this morning one of our Korean teachers comes into work sporting this fancy new $250 jacket, lined with the fur of some unfortunate animal; a gift from her boyfriend. Now, I hope I’m not being judgemental saying all this, because I think it’s super-nice of her boyfriend to lavish her with gifts, but it got me thinking of another Korean propensity…. BTW I think I can safely add here that this particular teacher was quite frank in admitting that the number one criteria in her choice of a boyfriend (and as far as I know it was the only criteria) was that he be loaded…. In Korea, generally speaking (so hold the hate mail ok), it really does matter how much money the guy makes, now I feel sorry for all those artistic but poor dreamer types out there, but it’s true.

After all the ladies were ooooing and aaaaaahing over the jacket, I was playing devil’s advocate and teasing Sora about it, because her boyfriend is still in university. But she assured me quite seriously that he will be rich one day! Now it kind of makes sense because of the inequality that still exists here between the sexes, but the fact that there is a harsher economic climate here certainly has something to do with it I’m sure - there is no welfare, life is expensive, rent is astronomically expensive….all Koreans live with their parents until they get married, well certainly all the girls do, the ‘swinging bachelor pad’ just doesn’t exist here. And man do Korean guys shell out for their girlfriends, man oh man, it puts all Western guys to shame, the amount of money they spend on their girlfriends. And the courtship can last for years too. Personally, I’d prefer to be loved just as I am without the bank account attached, of course! you say, this is elementary stuff, but is this a luxury Koreans can’t afford, excuse the pun? It would be interesting to look deeper into it, this surface observation and commentary might be totally missing it’s mark. I guess the underlying concept that I’m trying to get at beneath this all, is that in the West I always dismiss superficial money-hungry girls as disturbingly shallow and immature, but here, even though on the surface it seems that girls are superficial, the mentality is different, the status quo is different and I can almost understand it because there are wonderfully mature, kind and intelligent girls here that insist that the guy makes a decent amount of money (certainly more than they make)… This means something else is at work here, as I pointed out, economic necessity or inequality or something like that…I don’t know, it’s hard to explain and I’m basically just rambling which I hate doing because now I’m leaving gaping holes in my ‘argument’ here but…

oops look at the time, got to go!!!

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