Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Great Gatsby

great gatsby

In the grand scheme of things, I was incredibly late to the book The Great Gatsby. It was only when a friend literally threatened to withdraw his friendship if I didn't read it, that I finally decided to. And I am so thankful that he did. Since the day I've finished it, I've forced it upon others, as if it had been a life long aim of mine to convert people to Gatsby fans.

The film was announced before we'd even left to go to Korea, so it feels like a long, long time that I've been waiting to see it. Baz Luhrmann is one of my very favourite directors which made the wait feel even more longer, although I was sure that it would be worth it.

Then the reviews started to trickle out and they were all but average. I wasn't sure whether that was just because the film was awful, whether people wouldn't like Baz Luhrmann's style layed on top of the classic novel, or whether the book was just cherished too much by people that Luhrmann could never do right. Maybe it was a little mix of everything. So, I went to the cinema a little apprehensive and I am so glad I did now.

Natasha and I went to see it last Tuesday afternoon, a bit of an extended celebration of her birthday. Going to the cinema is so cheap here, in comparison to back in the UK. Being back in a cinema did make me miss my unlimited card that I had at home though. Rainy afternoons spent watching 2 or 3 films back to back. Sigh.

Having little to no expectations of the film only made me love it more. I loved the characters and the casting, Leo was perfect for that role, I adored Lana Del Rey's addition to the soundtrack, and I thought the flamboyance of Luhrmann perfectly complimented Fitzgerald's image of Gatsby's lifestyle.

My very favourite scene is when you see a flicker of Gatsby's insecurity come through as he prepares to meet Daisy after so many years apart. You know that every choice he has made was to lead him to that moment, yet he blows it so disastrously. It's uncomfortable and unrefined, the opposite of how he wanted it to be, and so ridiculous when they're surrounded by mountains of macarons and flowers.

Up until the pivotal scene in the hotel room on the hot Summer's day, I thought the film was perfect. From there I did find it a little slow, but I guess it reflects the waiting and the tension that ties the characters so tightly together. I loved how it portrayed Daisy and Gatsby's dance with nostalgia and Gatsby's time consumingly constructed visions of how things could be.

Overall, despite Tasha falling asleep part way through the film, I have to say that I did like it. It was different from the book, but I liked that it came with Lurhmann's stamp on it too. It was wild and wistful, tragic and unvarnished all in one sparkling cocktail.

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Monday, 27 May 2013

The Colors of Korea: Pink!

I mentioned last week that I was taking part in a project which celebrates how colourful Korea is. Mimsie from Seoul Searching got a group of bloggers together, told us all to pick one colour, and explore what the colour symbolises in Korea.

I decided to go with pink. Since I agreed to do this project, I've been noticing pink everywhere. One thing that I really started to consider was how 'cuteness' is really valued in Korea. In some cultures it's good for girls to have manly traits, in others it's important for them to be outspoken, independent, homely or wise, but in Korea I think there is a particular emphasis on beauty and cuteness. I also see this reflected in the guys too,  who are all very well maintained and wear cute slogans across their tshirts and cartoon style hats, so it's no wonder that pink is a popular colour here.

But there is more depth to pink in Korea, here is what I found.

1.Pink sky at night.
Chunghon Tower
This is a photo I took of Chunghon Tower last September as the sun was setting. Chunghon Tower was built to remind people of everyone who lost their life in the Korean War. It's placement on the hills in the South of Busan is significant because many people had to flee their homes and come to Busan to avoid the North Korean malice, and the mountains around Chungon Tower were the homes of many refugees at that time. Not to mention that once you're at the top, you get a perfect view of Busan, reminding you what they were all fighting for.

2. Lanterns

As soon as 석가탄신일 (Seokga tanshin il), also known as Buddha's birthday, is on the horizon the whole of Korea seems to come alive with lanterns that bob around in the breeze. Buddhism is the most practised religion in Korea and this is a national holiday for most people. This impressive pink tower is erected outside of Busan Train Station a few weeks before Buddha's birthday. There's something really welcoming about seeing the lanterns, especially when they're glowing at night. They also reminds me that although Korea can seem quite westernised at times, that it still has it's own long standing traditions.

3. Hanbok

Here is one of my naughtiest students wearing traditional Korean dress called Hanbok. Now-a-days Hanbok is semi-formal, worn for special occasions, or for festivals. The younger kids at school have a special day every few months where they wear their Hanbok and are taught ettiquette. Apparently a pink Hanbok signifies women who are engaged or just married. I think this little lady has a long way to go until she'll be wearing it on her wedding day.

4. Cherry Blossoms
Candy Floss

It only comes but once a year, and lasts just a week or two at most. It's cherry blossom season, when the pale pink petals bloom on the trees and descend down onto the roads like pink snowflakes or confetti. People cluster to the spots that are lined with these pretty trees. Along the sides of the roads, street vendors sell fluffy pink candy floss and roasted chestnuts, so people can snack while they take photos and make the most of the charm of the delicate flowers until the following year.

5. Hello Kitty Cafes

Themed cafes are very populat in Korea. I've been to the Charlie Brown cafe, cat cafes, puppy cafes but the epitome of pinkness has to be the Hello Kitty cafe. Hello Kitty is really popular in Korea (Along with everywhere else in the world) and last year on a trip to Seoul I got to visit the Hello Kitty Cafe to feast my eyes on the pink wonderland that is the mouthless kitten's cafe. They served amazing cakes and coffees, each one somehow stamped with her personality. I had a pink Hello Kitty shaped mousse and a coffee where her silhouette was sprinkled into the froth.

Find out more about the other colours by looking at the links below.

Red at Lost in the ROK
Yellow Seoul Sate of Mind
Blue at Kimchi Bytes
Orange at Seoul Searching
Purple at Mapping Words
Green at Johanne Miller
White at Evangeline Story

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Thursday, 23 May 2013

♥ Cute Korea: DIY Craft Kits

Korean crafts
I love the DIY craft sets that I see in lots of Korean shops. I couldn't resist this when I saw it hanging on the shelf of one of our local tat shops. Tash and I call them tat shops as they're packed to the brim with stuff that you don't really need, but as soon as you see it, you find yourself searching for an excuse to buy it. Usually they sell cheap stationary, bags, jewellery, sweets and knick knacks. Hours of my life have disappeared while I look around these shops and drool over everything. I'm surprised that I haven't been bankrupted by these shops yet!

So anyway, when I saw the DIY phone dangles that were coupling winged-poops, I couldn't resist, I'd saved it for months and eventually last week when I had a bit of time, I decided to make it.

The pack came with felt, beads, stuffing, thread, needles, ribbon and something to hang them with. Unfortunately the instructions were all in Korean, but it was still pretty easy to make by just referring to the pictures.

I was pretty happy with the end results, and can't wait to give Nick his new gift, and see him display it with pride...or not!
Korean crafts
Korean crafts

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Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Korean Make Up Trash, Treat or Stash: Tony Moly's Red Apple Hand Cream

Trash, Treat or Stash. The products I've discovered are better off in the bin, the ones you should treat yourself to every now and again, and the ones that are so good that you should definitely make sure you have a stash of them.
Tony Moly Red Apple Hand Cream
Tony Moly Red Apple Hand Cream
It's almost like companies in Korea are unable to make a handcream that doesn't come in some specially shaped or themed jar. It makes me want to try them all. This time I thought I'd talk about Tony Moly's shiny Red Apple Hand Cream.

Cost: A tub of this costs ₩9,000 for 30g. That's about £5.30 – not too bad for a hand cream but also not amazing, especially in Korea. Usually you can grab a handcream for about ₩5,000 or even less.
Prettiness: I do like how the apple shaped jar looks, and I can't help being reminded of DKNY's perfume whenever I see it. It's shiny red and looks good enough to eat. It also smells amazingly fruity and fresh, it's not sickly or too sweet! I can't stop smelling it!
Usability: I hate hand creams that linger on your hands for hours and make them feel really greasy and dirty. But this one is really light and absorbs so quickly. Plus the smell makes me want to use it more and more. After using it regularly for a while I have noticed a difference on my hands. I think it helps that the smell makes me want to reapply it again and again.


Overall: I love this product, I might buy it again, but I do think that it is quite expensive for how much you get, and the fact that the smell is so addictive, means that you reach the bottom of the pot very quickly. There are so many different hand creams to try in Korea that have equally as quirky packaging and at a lower price, that I think this will be a one off for me.

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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Our Weekend: Namhae Island for Buddha's Birthday

I hope that everybody had a great weekend! We had fun on Namhae Island, which is also called Korea's 'Treasure Island', but it was a little bizarre at times.

High Points of our trip:

Being far away from work with friends.
Being surrounded by greenery.
The delicious food we managed to make, BBQ skewers two nights in a row were amazing!
The homemade banana makeolli went down well.
Celebrating Tasha's birthday with a delicious cake from Paris Baguette.
Being given free baked eggs by a mother and daughter on a beach. They were tasty.
Meeting some lovely new people who happily wore coupling hoodies.
Our pension was really nice, clean and snugly fit all eight of us in. Plus, it was right next to the GS 25, meaning that we didn't have to make the half hour trip back into town for more provisions.
Seeing Munns, whose movements after a few drinks is more like a felled tree rather than a popstar, dancing to Gangnam Style. I have video evidence to prove it!

Low Points of our trip:

Travelling around Korea's roads on Buddha's Birthday turned out to be as bad an idea as travelling around England on a bank holiday. A two hour journey was doubled because of everyone trying to go on mini vacations.
I am very happy that we didn't go with an organised tour to the festival that was being held where we stayed. There was noone there, it had a bizarre atmosphere of drunken waygooks and old koreans. I would advise other people to steer clear of the Wineglass festival if it runs again.
The weather being a little gloomy and wet at times, but it soon tried to make up for it with the sun popping up every now and then.
Giving myself a horrible burn whilst eating Ramyeon after the first night out. Ouch.

I feel like due to the traffic, we didn't really get to see the best that Namhae has to offer. Although, if I don't get the chance to go back and see if it really lives up to its 'Treasure Island' name, then at least I saw the eerie festival and the bizarre German village in the middle of nowhere!

Wall Art

Not the sandy beach we had planned

Busy Festival

Our koala mascot for the weekend

A civilised time was had by all

Wineglass Festival

Preparing the BBQ

Making BBQing look even better

Our Pension

Namhae Korea Pension View

BBQ Couple

BBQ Kebabs

Paris Baguette Cake

Birthday cake time

Oull your most attractive face

Free Baked Eggs

View from the beach

German Village

Sausage at the German Village

BBQ day 2

Ramyeon finger burn Day 2

Coupling Hoodies

All of us together

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Thursday, 16 May 2013

Teacher's Day in Korea

I remember when I was younger and it was Mother's Day or Father's Day, I would always moan to my mum that it was unfair that parents each had a day, but children didn't get one. She answered that the reason was because every day is children's day, which cut that argument short. But here in Korea, everyone's celebrated on their own particular day.

There's Parents Day, Children's Day and this year I discovered the wonder of Teacher's Day on May 15th. Teacher's Day is the day when students give thanks to the ones that teach them. Apparently lots of middle schools and high schools close after lunch time, so students can go back to their old schools to see the teachers that made an impact on them when they were only a couple of feet high with their hair in pigtails.

It was nice to see all of my old 6th graders around school yesterday, as they ran up to their old homerooms.

To make things even better, our current students showered us with gifts, including a basket of grapes and cherries, apple juice, sun cream, Lancome make up and chocolates!

One of the gifts from the 1st graders had a little hand written note calling me sir, then thanking me for my 'well-taught'. So cute!

Last year I didn't receive anything, and I was told by my co-teacher that the higher grades tend to only give things to their homeroom teachers, so it was really nice to receive a letter from one of my 6th graders this year. It's nice to know on days when you feel like you're talking to yourself while the rest of the class get on with their own business, that someone appreciates it!

I'm off on my travels tomorrow morning, so I hope that everyone in Korea has a great long weekend!

Korean Teacher's Day

Korean Teacher's Day

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