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One day my friends and I were frolicking about the Nampo-dong area of Busan, when we came across this section of used bookstores. Amongst them was this fantastic place - a sweet little cafe that looked like it belonged in the most bohemian part of New York City. To our surprise, the cafe was more than just eye candy ... It was located in one of the most dense arrays of used books we had ever seen, it was filled with gorgeous black and white photography, it had mismatched and unique furniture, hundreds of cool records, great coffee for 1,000 won (1$) and the most inspiring South Korean woman that I have ever met.

Moon Ok Hee or "Oki" introduced herself as the owner of the magical cafe and sat down next to me with coffees for two. Immediately we began talking, and to my surprise, it was the most enlightening conversation that I had ever had with a Korean.

Before Oki dedicated her life to her cafe, she was a gender-studies professor at Pusan National University.

This raised so many questions; how does a Korean woman come to teaching gender studies and women's studies? What does gender studies entail in a country like South Korea? A country where, before I met Oki, I thought most women's priorities were marrying rich and keeping up in fashion. I made a real effort to get to know the Korean women at my school and in my surroundings, and I have found that, for the most part, their ideals and interests did not at all match up with my own. So, why is Oki different? I simply had to find out.

Oki's Story:

Oki grew up experiencing first hand the real hard truth that men and women are treated differently in South Korea. "I had two brothers and two sisters," she said. "My father didn't know who was better, he just thought that sons should study and daughters shouldn't think as much as sons."

"My brother didn't want to go to high school and my father wanted him to go. However, my father didn't want me to go to high school and I wanted more than anything to study ... My father said it wasn't important."

Because High School cost money, Oki's father was only willing to pay for the boys in her family to go to school. Thus, from the age 15 Oki studied and worked at the same time. "That time was a very hard time for me in my life," she said. "I felt like nobody wanted to help me, so I helped myself. I worked for a textile company and after one year I moved to Seoul to make clothing."

After working for three years, Oki entered high school at age 18. While she was in high school, she worked as a nurse's aid. Later, she got her aiding nurse license and took a job in a Christian Baptist hospital. At age 22, she began studying theology in University and it was then that she first became interested in Gender Studies and Feminism.

"During theology studies I felt very confused, I didn't feel good and I had many questions form in my head about gender." Oki found that the more she studied, the more her studies would focus on how different situations are for men and for women in religion and theology. "My friends worked at many churches but I didn't want to work there because in the churches the work is very different for women and for men. Before, I felt that religion was very gender-equal ... but with more studying I found that this was not true."

In Oki's university there were no women professors, only men. "In religion, men are dominant (superior) to women ... male students want to be priests in the future but female students want to be priests' wives". Even if they are better students than the male students they still only want to be a priest's wife." Oki did get to know one female student that became a priest. "Now she is a priest but she is not married, she is alone ... but the male students are all priests, and they are all married."

Oki finished university after four years with a degree in Theology. She then went to Germany to study German but came back to Korea after only one week to marry her husband and the owner of the bookstore where her cafe now resides. She had two children within three years of being married, and when her youngest son was only eight months old, her husband fell very ill. "He has been sick for almost ten years," she said.

Oki found herself sad and depressed; she was looking after two very young children and a husband who was very sick. "How can I life?" she said. "So I think of my life and what I want and how I can do what I want with this time in my life ... I wanted to do what was in my heart and that was to study more. I wanted to study Gender Studies."

Nobody was supportive of Oki's decision to go back to school for women's studies, however her mother helped her with her children. "My mother didn't want me to study because she wanted my life to be very simple and have good clothing and a good house." The only person who encouraged Oki to continue was one theology professor from her past. "He called me many times to check up on me and see that I was ok. He told me that the wanted me to study more. He was very supportive. He was very conservative ... but very liberal with me in our conversations and our thinking."

Oki's thesis was about mothering and specifically about mothering handicapped children. "This has many meanings because of my sick husband and because of my relationship with my mother ... [our relationship] is not good because we have very different lifestyles and mindsets, we don't understand each other ... Mothering to me is a big question. How can I be a good mother when I have two very young children and my husband is very sick?"

Oki looked at mothers of handicapped children and how they dealt with the handicap of motherhood. "I wanted to learn from them and understand how they think and feel ... I felt that my own situation was difficult but when I interviewed these 12 mothers ... I thought that their situations were more difficult than my own."

Women and Gender Studies in Korea:

Women's studies and Gender studies has been in Korea since 1987 when it was introduced in Eva Women's University in Seoul. "Korean gender/women studies is very influenced by Wester culture," said Oki. "Korean professors almost all studied women's studies in the USA ... so the ideas and theories are all generally western ... that is where it started." However, Korean women's studies professors and students are trying to create new innovative theories and ideas. "My professor believed that practice is very important ... he asked questions to women such as: What is more important to you?"

Oki said that the introduction of women's studies in Korea has changed the country; she said that she knows this because she herself was changed after studying women's studies. Yet, she said that she has never witnessed a change in her students.

"When I taught for the first time in University, I thought, I can influence students to change their minds ... I tried so many ways but changing their minds is very difficult. It's almost impossible."

When I asked Oki about feminists in Korea and how she would describe a Korean feminist in relation to western feminists her answer was: "Feminism is not simple, it is many things ... It is up to the person asking the question," she said. "What is a feminist to them? It depends on their idea of the word as the word has many bad meanings as well as good meanings ... so my answer is not simple."

"I think that humanism is feminism," said Oki. "After I studied women's studies I felt that I could better understand people. With women and men the differences are not what is important, the inside is what is important. The inside is the same, so why are we defining ourselves by men and women? That is what is sometimes very foolish. I want to be equal ... Balance and equality."

Busan We Go Hard...

“You mean Korean girls don’t give blowjobs!?” Rachel shouts loudly in Starbucks one day …
Saying inappropriate things (sexual, racist, offensive) in public has become a bit of a normalcy here in Busan, S. Korea amongst the general foreigner population.
There is something calming and almost charming about being surrounded by chatter that you don’t understand. “blah blah amnida” here and “ya ya juseyo” there… The Korean language is more pleasurable to listen to than not, but there are the occasions when I feel tormented by it. For example, the high-heeled specimen squealing at her boyfriend with an indescribable tone or pitch that is perhaps the most obnoxious whine I have ever heard … Or when I am sitting at a table at lunch time surrounded by other teachers who are all speaking Korean together, and suddenly I hear my name, or I hear the word “Canada” and I hear laughter, and I know they are talking about me, but what they are saying is unknown.
However, I know I am not sin-less when it comes to language abuse in this country. I have time and time again taken advantage of my assumption that nobody around me understands anything that I am saying. Furthermore, I have blurted out some of the most private thoughts and secrets to friends while in subway trains, taxi cabs or various rooms full of people – simply assuming that nobody understands. I’ve said negative things about people in front of them (for example, the store clerk who wouldn’t let me try on a sweater) and I’ve made stereotypical judgments about “Koreans in general” while sitting next or across from them.
Is this a problem? As a Korean English Speaker, have you heard foreigners say inappropriate things while in your presence? What about getting into the habit of speaking our minds out loud – will us foreigners still be so uncensored when we go back to our native countries? Will we have to be conscious of our outspoken nature? Are we conscious now - or perhaps a better word is conscientious – should we be?
I don’t know about you, but there is something almost thrilling, extreme or “hardcore” about loudly discussing sex-partner numbers with a girlfriend while being surrounded by strangers. There is something rebellious and almost “punk rock” about putting down the man in front of him in a language he cannot understand… Perhaps this gives us a sense of false security and a fictional advantage over the “other”. It would be naïve to assume that everyone around us doesn’t understand English, as Koreans have obviously made a large investment in learning this language – so in a way this is saying that we don’t care either way. We simply don’t give a fuck.

This weekend...

So every time a foreigner gets sick in Korea now, the schools go CRAZY and say it is Swine Flu!

Michael had to just get tested for swine flu in Seoul ... and now my friend Jason might have to get tested too... and then might just end up in quaranteen for 10 days if he is infected... and if he is infected than I am infected! AHHHH!!!!!!

I'm actually not worried about it at all. None of us have been to Mexico. And Koreans like to be a little over-dramatic about stuff.

My open-class went really well last thursday... And I had a really nice weekend in Busan.

This week has been mondo-busy... hanging out with some new friends. We might start a band! lol

As for this weekend, I'm just goig to take it easy and enjoy it at the beach!

I found out that this summer I only have to do one week of summer English camp! Which means I get almost a whole month off!!!!!!! And ten days of that I get to spend out of Korea! How great is that!?? I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet... I might go to China and I also want to go to Jeju Island... so we will see!



Video Post #4

Hey Guys!

Thanks SO MUCH for your support and nice words during my homesick lonely days.... I'm feeling MUCH better now....

Here is a new video post! Hope you enjoy....



Now I know why I've been so sick...

SO I've been ridiculously sick the past three weeks or so... have had non-stop un-normalness in my digestion (which is all i'm going to say) and lots and lots of stomach pain. Just recently I was hit wiht another cold where headache, sinus ache, swollen glands and fever sprung... I missed two days of school and so the school wanted me to prove that I was really sick by taking me to the hospital (they want teachers to teach first, be sick second... as in, come to school sick and spread the germs to everyone!!! blahhhh)

So... i went to the hospital at 1pm yesterday with my co-teacher... and lo and behold the doctor poked me in places where I've never felt such pain in my life... Then he sent me to do an ultrasound... where the lady asks me "Do you know "Appendicitis"? And I'm like.... oh shit.

So I start balling when I find out that I have to get my appendix taken out IMMEDIATELY... i mean... do I trust these foreign doctors? I just want to go home!

By this time it's like 3:30... I go do some more tests, x rays all that stuff... go to the washroom and cry for a bit... come back... "oh you have 20 minutes before your operation"

WHAT! Like I can't even think!??

"It's an emergency!"


SO after trying to call people and not really getting a response from anyone, i finally call my mom (it is 4 in the morning her time, 5pm here)... and she is okay with it... so I feel better. That's when my co-teacher starts to ball.... "she must be so worried about you!" My co-teacher is the sweetest woman alive.

So I get on the drugs... go through the operation, still crying for some reason. Just extra home sick I think.

Come out... do some more crying. Feel the most INTENSE PAIN of my life!

And now I'm stuck here for like 3 days... My friend Alicia came to visit last night... and today my Irish friends are supposed to come and perhaps my friend Sean... who knows who else. My phone is dead right now so there is not a lot I can do... and I have 5 minutes of computer time left before my money runs out.

Yes................................. okay I love everyone.

It's alex's birthday today (April 25) so wish him a happy one if you talk to him!

love love love


4th video update - very short

Here is a short update from Busan:


He's with me in my apartment now! I missed him SOOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH!

New Video from Busan...

Here is my third video post from Busan S. Korea...


Video #2

So I posted another video on my facebook profile if you guys want to check it out... This may be a direct link:


But of coarse it may not work either... We'll see!

Life in Korea has been treating me very well as of late... Made dinner for my co-teacher on Friday night, her and I are getting along splendidly... i really love her! I'm so lucky that I've been placed with such an excellent co-teacher.

I should be getting my Alien Registration Card soon which means that I can finally get a cell phone and do internet banking and stuff like that... I can't wait!

I'm REALLY poor right now... I have about 15$ to my name... but this is okay because I will be paid on WEDNESDAY!!!

In other news, I am going to EPIK's (English Program in Korea) second orientation on March 26 (Thursday) because I missed the first orientation... (If you all remember my super frustration about this)... That should be REALLY fun! So I'm going to be in Seoul this week from Thursday to Monday! I will be seeing Michael and getting my little dog Charlie back!!! YAYY!!!

I miss Charlie SOOOO MUCH I have NEVER been away from him like this before... But Michael has been doing me SUCH a HUGE favour by keeping him for me... I really should get him an awesome present to thank him for this.... maybe some really nice face products or something since he likes that stuff :) ... Michael is a saviour. Thank god he convinced me to come to Korea ... I am actually having the time of my life.

So this has been a wonderful first month in Korea with only ONE bad experience (which I talk about in my video post)... I've made a lot of delightful friends... Including a lovely Irish couple that I will be chillin' with later tonight (they live in the building next door to mine!).

I miss everyone though! Please stay in touch!!!!!!! I will be sending mail very shortly! Send me your address if you haven't already!

<3 loooove,