I have been reading this website called ILDA for a few weeks now. It’s a Korean feminism journal with a blog featuring all kinds of articles and news stories that are about women and written by women. There’s a section of the website that is all English translations, which you can check out here:
Anyway, I noticed they are asking for volunteer translators so I decided to shoot them an email. I was pretty honest about my abilities, so I was really skeptical that they’d write back positively, especially since they are looking for people with degrees in translation. But they wrote me back a really warm and welcoming email, and now I am officially doing translation work! It’s only going to be light at first, but I’m excited about the challenge, and the opportunity, and the experience. It’s one thing to read the articles and understand them, and it’s an entirely different challenge to translate that into sensible sentences that properly reflect the intended message.
I’m working on a series called “I Want to Throw Flowers”; it’s a 30-part-series written by a woman who experienced sexual violence when she was young. It’s been a real challenge translating the first article, but I know it will get easier as I go. And it feels like important work too, giving the author’s voice the chance to be read by a larger audience. After my first translation is available I will let you know. It will probably take a while, anyway.
I am really excited to have a reason to push myself, and also to be involved in something really worthwhile. I feel all tingly with excitement, that I’ve found something meaningful to do with my time outside of work.
School has been a whirlwind of chaos this week as we count down to the big Christmas show next Tuesday. As a foreign teacher it was actually quite a relaxing time for me (I can never admit this to any of the Korean faculty) because we didn’t have any regular classes. Instead we have been rehearsing non-stop. And because most of the rehearsal is led by the Korean staff, I’ve spent most of the time sitting down, watching, and twiddling my thumbs. And I’ve actually managed to get a lot of work done this week, somehow.
I can’t believe how complicated this whole Christmas show is. Last year we did our Winter Showcase at the church upstairs, which has a really nice facility and is obviously convenient for us to move props (and children). This year we’re shuttling everyone out to a hotel across town, we have more props and costumes and shit than I knew could be possible, the children will all bring changes of clothes, we have to coordinate when and where to go on and off of the stage… every minute detail needs to be considered. I am really really grateful that my class does not need any props for our performance.
This week was greatly enjoyed, due to several factors:
- 6-year-olds are NOT doing musicals this year (but Tristan’s class is). It’s just too much stress for them because the parents have such elevated expectations.
- My new UniQlo jacket – I finally learned the secret to happiness. Wear things that make you comfortable and fit your body! And I finally came to accept this year that nothing made for women is comfortable or practical. Putting aside the fact that nothing here in Korea fits me, women’s clothing is all impractically tight and impractically thin. You can’t find a jacket lined with fur that’s as warm as this thing in the women’s section. And since I’m living in Korea, no women’s jacket has sleeves that go past my elbows anyway. I’m so glad I discovered the men’s section this year. Buying this has made me the happiest teacher at my drafty kindergarten.
- Our humidifier – no more coughing myself awake in the night. Now we have some moisture in the air!
- Tea at work – I finally remembered to bring a box of herbal tea to work, so now I can enjoy tasty hot drinks at mere cents per serving instead of going to a coffee shop and spending $5-$6.
Writing about the jacket brings me to the other topic at large. Korea is not the country for me, ultimately. I couldn’t fit in less. My first year here I think I cared a lot about assimilating, caring about dressing professionally, being properly respectful etc. because I didn’t want to offend anyone. I can do that, living here, as necessary. But I’m very positive that it’s not for me. I like short hair. I like waking up and showering and having my hair be dry after a quick towel. I like wearing shoes that make sense so that I can walk around not falling on my ass. I don’t like being held to different standards of self-maintenance than men, and this city is just far to competitive as far as that expectation of women goes. Literally every women living on the southeast side of the river: wears heels every single day, wears makeup every single day, never wears pants. Even in below-freezing temperatures, mini-skirts abound. It’s just profoundly cruel and illogical. I just can’t accept it as anything but self-torture. And I also know that I can come across as a bit extreme when I say this, but it doesn’t change my feelings.
Spotted this photoshop disaster while waiting for our pizza. Check out those legs!
Below is a link to a great presentation on gender advertisements in the Korean context. Please check it out, it’s very interesting and there are lots of pictures too..!
The Grand Narrative
I don’t know if you’ve heard it said before, but Seoul is one of the plastic surgery capitals of the world. It’s a common high school graduation gift for a kid to have their eyelids ‘fixed’– both boys and girls, let alone all of the other procedures. I don’t know a lot about the statistics but it’s clear that our apartment is right by plastic-surgery-central.
The subways are plastered with ads for various surgeries and clinics, and if you walk along a certain road there are no joke 20+ plastic surgeries in sight at any given time. The ads are also incredibly horrifying, basically saying “you should stop being ugly and inadequate, and come to us! we will make you human for the first time in your life!” (not a literal translation)