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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Post 2

Now I'm in Kuching, in Malaysia's largest province, Sarawak, on the island of Borneo. Brunei is also on this island, as is some part of Indonesia. And the world's largest caves and some of the biggest primary (ie never cut) rain forests remaining. Man, I hardly even knew this island existed until a few days ago.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

First blog post from the road!

I have safely arrived at the equator. In the Singaporean Region. So muggy and swelterin'! But don't worry, I have my special pants that make you feel like you're not even wearing pants. Which happens to be one of my favorite feelings.

Enjoy your winter, suckers!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sorry, I am in a bit of a hurry and don't have time to resize the picture properly. Just click on it for a full view! And then chuckle.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The sum of all my korean knowledge

As of yesterday, I completed my final book of Korean studying. In total, in 2 yeas, I went through:

-"Teach Yourself Korean" (purchased in the USA")
-"Korean through English 1"
-"Korean through English 2"(this series was real crap, so I never used 3, though I bought it)
-"Korean for Foreigners: Elementary 2" (Having already finished 3 books, I skipped Elementary 1)
-"Korean for Foreigners: Intermediate 1"
-"Korean for Foreigners: Intermediate 2"
-I've also made good use of my "Korean Grammar for International Learners" book, which has some sweet intensive grammar stuff, but the workbook is pretty boring, so I only use it as a reference.
-I've dabbled in "How Koreans Talk," that book of expressions, less than 10 of which I've set up to randomly generate on top of the blog.
-I've also dabbled in my bilingual versions of Sarte's Nausea and Beckett's Waiting for Godot.
Just some quick calculations lead me to the conclusion that I covered 153 chapters over 100 weeks. Assuming each chapter took an hour (usually they don't take that long), that's 150 hours of studying in 100 weeks, or 90 minutes of studying a week. Once I started the "Korean for Foreigners" series, I started inputting the words and grammar into spreadsheets on my computer, so that I could access them with a flashcard program. The program statistics tell me that I have added over 3000 cards, which I'm guessing are about 90% vocabulary and 10% grammar. That means I have managed to absorb some 300 grammatical formations as well as 2700 or so words. However, that's not counting all the more basic words (personal pronouns, prepositions, foods, fruits, places, items, etc) that I had learned before I started the Korean for Foreigners books, as well as other stuff I've learned since, but which I haven't included in the spreadsheets. So, estimating upwards, maybe I've learned about 375 grammar forms and 4000 words. Over a period of 700 days, that means a new piece of grammar every 2 days and about 6 words every day.

Having done these calculations, next time someone asks me why I wasted my time and put so much effort into studying Korean, I will happily tell them that they probably spend more time watching TV and movies in two months than I have studying Korean in two years.

Other things I can think of that take about 90 minutes a week:
-cooking and eating breakfast
-walking around the store because you don't know how to ask where the bathroom is and can't bear to ask via charades, or when you want someone to make color copies instead of black and white, or you want your tuna kimbap with no mayo, etc etc etc
-those times when for some reason or other you have to converse with Koreans who can't speak English, so you wind up spending an implausible amount of time just to figure out that they saw you at the grocery store one time a few months back.

Please submit other meaningless or bothersome experiences that take up a similar amount of time. I'm sure all of you exceedingly clever people can think up some other stuff that will help me feel vindicated.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tall clams and onomatopoeia

I really wish I had brought my camera with me to work today, because I happened to have a pretty good time with some of the adult students after finishing class. Lately we've been going for coffee after class on Thursday nights, but tonight one lady said she really wanted some fried chicken. I, however, had been a fairly successful vegetarian since Saturday - eating only a few bites of chicken and whatever fake meat is found in dumplings and kimbap - so I asked if we could get something else. We wound up going to a 조개구이 (jo-gay gooey, grilled clam) restaurant. I was kind of excited to try something new, and happy to continue my ovo-pescetarian streak, but I wasn't too sure what to expect.

We went to the restaurant - 4 of us, at first - and ordered a 40 dollar helping. They came out with a tray about 2 feet in diameter, covered with different kinds of clams, with one half of the shell torn off. There were some small ones that looked just like I expected, some small ones that were a little more on the odd side, and then some really big "tall clams," the likes of which I had never seen. You set them (in the half shell) on the grill, meat facing up, and let them roast/boil in their own juices. Then you use the tongs and scissors to cut them up, after which you can dip them in red pepper paste or soy sauce and wasabi or just eat them plain. To be honest, I didn't like it as much as I hoped, but I was happy to have a nice night out without eating vile bi/quadriped flesh.

The coolest thing was that one of the huge clams came with a mountain of red pepper bean paste and chives on top, which, when grilled, cooked down to a really awesome sauce, though maybe it was just awesome because it covered and obscured the little appendages and organs that were ligamentally attached to the clam meat. Anyway, I feel a little remiss for not having taken loads of awesome food pictures here - you know, squiggly octopus, chicken feet and anus, sea penis, chicken kalbi, samgyeopsal (korean bacon), etc - and this meal was visually pretty impressive, especially with all the clams sort of shriveling up in their own shell over the fire.

The onomatopoeia comes in because somehow someone mentioned some sound or something. Maybe clams sizzling in their own juice? Anyway, an odd confluence of events occurred over the previous 10 days or so: 1) a conversation with my Korean-speaking WU alum friend Chris about Korean onomatopoeia; 2) a borrowed book from my friend, called "have you ever seen your poop?" which had lots of onomatopoeia and mimetic words about poop sounds and shapes; 3) a section in my study book about such words, though not so foul; and 4) a long-standing interest in such words in Korean, since they almost invariably have the odd habit of repeating the same sound over and over again (whereas, in English, we have a tendency to alter just one vowel, e.g. clickity-clack or pitter-patter). Korean O and M almost always take up 4 syllables, as well. Quite weird. I'm working on a list now, which I may post to the blog in the coming days.

Anyhow, sensing a good segue opportunity, and having mostly finished eating (and having downed a bottle of soju each), I pulled out the poop book, illustrations and all, showed it to the Koreans, and then translated it for George. It starts like this: "I am the poop professor. There's nothing I don't know about poop. Have any of you ever taken a close look at your poop? If you look closely, you'll notice: several smells, several colors, several shapes." The book goes on to describe diarrhea, watery poo, healthy poo, and constipated poo, with lots of nice, colorful, childish illustrations.

Beware, no segue for the next part:

And something interesting about eating the clams: being small creatures, with the organs and the meat all attached, you couldn't really separate them into "clean parts" and "dirty parts." Whereas when eating (pig/cow/chicken) meat I usually can't help but think about farm conditions, animal pain, and environmental effects, while eating the clams, I experienced a much more natural, stress-free feeling. It was almost like awe, looking at the little dudes, seeing their whole little being bubbling away in the shell, how it all fit together, and how nutritious and painless and (hopefully) rather harmless on the environmental-impact scale it all was.

So, despite all the talking about poop, it actually turned out to be a pretty wholesome night. Hurrah!

Just over two weeks left? But I'm having such a good time! ㅠㅠ

Monday, November 10, 2008

It's the little things,

like this silly little elevator conversation I just had, that make my life in Korea so fun.

The scene: 10 minutes ago, just around midnight. I had returned to my apartment from the gym and came upon two folks (no relation) in their 60s waiting for the elevator.

Old lady, before I made eye contact: Hello.
Me: Oh, hi. You think we can all fit in? (Motion to my bike)
(Elevator comes. Dude and lady go in.)
Lady: Yeah, come on in. What floor?
Me: 13 please.
Lady: Ah, you live on the 13th floor.
Lady: Were you drinking before you came? (Not accusingly, actually in a pretty friendly manner)
Me: Huh? No I was ..uh..ex...ex...exercising. (Stuttering because of the oddness of the question, but also worried that the stuttering would make it look like I had been drinking)
Lady: Hrm. Smells like booze.
Man: Oh. I guess that's me. Cracks a smile. (I smell the booze now.) Chuckle chuckle.
Lady: Ah, so the old man has been out drinking.
(The elevator stops and the man leaves. Then the woman on the next floor).
Lady: (Some weird dialect I can't understand)
Me: Uh...goodnight.

Despite the banality of the conversation, there are two things that made me feel like it was a sort of special event. First is a little twinge of success - it still hasn't worn off - that arises after a conversation with a stranger in a foreign languages goes off smoothly. More importantly, though, was the good-naturedness that pervaded the whole thing. I think, in another time and place, I would have been likely to take her comment as a sort of affront, an intrusion into my little private realm. But Koreans have different ideas about personal space, and I've found that they're less likely to worry about bothering others or being bothered by them. If you don't know Korean, it's obviously easy to get really defensive about this, and I bet most foreigners don't appreciate it. But, if you give yourself a chance to get acclimated to it, it's actually really pleasant. Plus, the old dude had such a wily grin on his face. What an awesome guy.

Another example comes to mind. Just a few nights ago, I was returning home from somewhere, at I can't quite recall what time of night, and a middle-aged couple walked up to me. The conversation started with them saying "wow, that's a big lock you have on your bike," and ended with them inviting me over to their house to meet their 20-something daughter and have dinner together. If they hadn't broached the religion topic in between, and if they hadn't invited me to their church, and if I had more than 3 weekends left to spend with my friends, then I might have actually taken them up on it.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Mecca's Autumn Mountain Trip (메카 가을 산행)

The pictures and accompanying commentary are up on the picasa site, accessible via the link to the left. Or, if you're too lazy for that, just check out the little slideshow over that away.

Background info: "Mecca" is the name of the little social club comprised of us squash-playing guys and gals. We have on official meeting a month - on the fourth Thursday - where we either go to some normal Korean restaurant to feast upon meat (and soju) or go to a bar to feast upon bar side dishes (and beer). Additionally, once in the summer and once in the fall, they/we do a little mountain hiking excursion. There are about 15 members: myself, 10 dudes, and 5 ladies. I'm the youngest, and the oldest is probably 40 or so years young.

The day began with a nasty wakeup at 6:30 in the morning - about 4 hours earlier than my usual rising time. I cleaned, scarfed, packed, and dressed (donning for the first time much of the new travel gear that I've been accumulating over the past months), and then met in front of the gym (5 minute walk from my house) at 7:30. We bummed around waiting for the stragglers, then boarded a little 15-seat bus that apparently belongs to a friend of one of my Honorable Older Sisters, who must have arranged the trip.

12 of us rode the bus, and a husband-and-wife pair (in Korean, "booboo") followed in their car. On the bus, one of the HOS (that's my new acronym for Honorable Older Sister. Get your mind out of the gutter!) gave us all a little bag of pear juice and then passed out about 50 rolls of kimbap, some of which we ate and some of which we stuffed into our bags for later. There was also a tupperware filled with delicious Korean pastries, cookies, and the like, some made of rice and some made of sweet potato. So we snacked and carbo-loaded all the way up to the mountain, which was only about 30 or 45 minutes away.

Once we got to the mountain, our hike started along a normal paved road. We had to walk past some parking lots and food stalls before we got to the real start of the hiking zone, where we took a little break to plan the trip. Some of the dudes also thought it'd be a good idea to have a little pre-strenuous-hike cigarette.

Then we started up a little brick road, which was fairly interesting, since on the left side there was nothing but bamboo trees, whereas on the right, there were lots of other trees with real fall foliage. Of course, just as I decided to ask one of my companions what the deal was, everything suddenly changed, the trees were all mixed everywhere, and I looked like an idiot.

We finally got off the brick road and started the real hiking, which was not exactly intense, but still enough to get us all sweaty, even in the cold. The HOBs (Honorable Older Brothers) had to help the HOSs out at the steep areas, and frequent fights of mock-indignance/indignation broke out when a HOB helped a HOS, only to refuse to help out the other HOB right behind her. Other mischief included some childish trickery, wherein one HOB would ask another HOB for a hand up, and the lower-placed HOB would just yank the higher one down from where he was standing - truly perilous, and the source of many a scuffle! And a hiking trip is never complete without the "pull a tree limb forward as you pass it, then let it snap back and hit the dude behind you in the chest" gag.

Somehow surviving all our immaturity, we made it up to a clearing with a picnic table, where we briefly paused to dispose of some apples, pears, tangerines, and some of the remaining tupperware treats. This was about 9:30, I think. Then we continued onward/upward, alternating between pestering and pranking one another and appreciating the serenity and the beauty of the mountainside. I managed to get into the following argument with Joon-geun HOB:

JGHOB: Isn't this beautiful?
Me: Yeah, it really is.
JGHOB: Korea's the most beautiful country in the world.
Me: Eh, it's pretty nice, but every country has lots of places as nice as this.
JGHOB: No way.
Me: Korea is so tiny - how could it possibly be the most beautiful?
JGHOB: Where else is beautiful?
Me: Well. Italy was beautiful. Sicily was beautiful. Thailand was beautiful. Japan was beautiful. America's pretty beautiful.
JGHOB: Yeah, but only Korea has seasons like this.
Me: What are you talking about?
JGHOB: You know - spring, summer, fall, winter. Only Korea has all 4 seasons.
Me: That's completely not true.
JGHOB: What do you mean?
Me: Countries really far north and south, and others right in the middle, don't have 4 seasons, but lots of countries have all 4.
JGHOB: America doesn't have all 4.
Me: Yes it does. Have you been to America?
Me: Have you been to any other countries?
JGHOB: Uh, no.
Me: Hrm. I've been to 10 or so. How did you hear about this season thing?
JGHOB: Someone told me.
Me: Another Korean person who hasn't ever left Korea?
JGHOB's wife: bursts out laughing.

Arguing in Korean is hard, because when you get all flustered and sarcastic, your grammar and intonation suffer. Nonetheless, being that I'm always right, I clearly whomped him.

We continued up the hill in that awkward post-argument silence, pausing for some photo ops etc. We followed the trail up to some vantage point, scoped it out, then got back on the trial, walked to another clearing, and stopped to eat again. It was 11AM and I was having my 4th meal of the day. We set out a mat and everyone brought forth the snacks they had brought with them - muffins, fruits, kimbap, rice, garlic and peppers, etc. After 45 minutes or so, with heavy bellies but light packs, we started off on the long leg of the trip, a 5 kilo path that would eventually take us back to a rest stop.

There wasn't too much drama on this section, except for one extremely wussy girl who kept getting her foot stuck or screaming or doing whatever other shenanigans. This worked out well for the Honorable Treasurer, who was trying to put the moves on her and needed an excuse to hold her hand. Anyhow, we continued along the trail, resting every now and then to munch on some fruit, and after about 2 or so hours we finished the trail. A van from the restaurant met us at the rest stop, so we all piled in and were taken to eat our 5th meal of the day, before 2:30 PM.

The first course was smoked duck meat, and the second was grilled duck meat, all with the ever-present sides of lettuce, soybean paste, grilled and raw onions and garlic, spicy wild-green salad, kimchi, and plentiful cola, beer, and soju. Koreans are very fond of something they like to call "bomb alcohol," in which you dump a shot or two of soju into a small glass of beer. I'm not sure I like it but...it's growing on me.

After consuming copious amounts of everything, several of our members fell asleep on the floor, but the strong among us went out front to play "chok-gu," which is a totally awesome combination of volleyball and soccer. Due to the bombalcohol, little sleep, a long day of hiking, and general soccer ineptitude, I let my team down and we lost our games, and then we mixed the teams up, and my team lost again. Then we did it again, to no avail, and so I was banished from the court, but stayed on as the ref.

After an hour or more of gaming, we went back to the restaurant for, yes, more food. This time, Chicken "baek-sook," which means white something, It's chicken in broth with jujubes and is a little bland but pretty good. What I liked much more was the chicken porridge, in all its boiled-ricey glory. It is a really good recuperation drink - unless, of course, you are with a large group of Korean men, in which case its recuperative effects are mitigated, or rather vanquished, by the soju consumed alongside it.

Finally, the time came to pay the bill - a solid 428 dollars. Not too bad given the quantity we ate. We managed to talk the waitress down to 400 dollars, since we paid in cash and promised to return again for our next excursion. Then we piled back into the owner's van, and he gave us a lift back to the gym, at about 7:30 pm or so.

I was stinky and tired and tipsy and wanted nothing more than to go home, wash up, and pass out. But, it was a friend's birthday, so I instead took a bus down to some other part of town, found the Outback where they were dining, took an emergency hand-soap shower in the Outback bathroom, then met everyone and tried to control my stench while they ate. I didn't order any food, since I'd already eaten about 7 full meals that day, but I scavenged upon my friends' leftovers. Then we went for a relaxing evening of card-playing, and they taught me some game named "Yennef." For some reason, you're forced to assume a Jewish name while playing, but they wouldn't let me choose Alexander Portnoy. What a bunch of party poopers.

Phew! The end.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

More international politics

I wonder how these two russian fellas would vote, if they were allowed:

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Dinosaur Comics!

So, there's a comic I read at called Dinosaur Comics, and it's totally great, and the deal with it is that the pictures are ALWAYS THE SAME AND COMPLETELY UNRELATED TO THE PLOT. Yet it somehow manages to be extremely hilarious, nearly without exception. A while ago, browsing the site, I found out that a teacher in Japan once did a project with his kids where he took the text out of the comic and let the kids, bless their little hearts, try their darndest to make up a story in a language they don't know to match up with pictures that don't make too much sense. The results: mostly muck, but a few gems as well.

Seeing that, I of course decided I would need to do the same. So I bid my time, waiting until Halloween, and then sprung the project on my kids and coworkers. Our kids are generally ok at finishing work and answering questions and even forming sentences according to models in the book, but as you'll see, even the best ones can't make it through 6 frames without some sort of grammatical error, and some of the kids are really terrible, though they've been studying English for 5 or more years. While part of me feels quite guilty for taking advantage of this in order to get some sweet comics, the other part says, well, at least I got them to try writing something in English that they didn't just copy out of a workbook. And at least I have some sweet home-brewed DINOSAUR COMICS MADE BY KOREAN PREPUBESCENTS! Better than all the Halloween candy in the world!

Follow the link above to see some of the more interesting comics. I've included some commentary, which, in my humble opinion, was totally hilarious and fun to make. I hope you enjoy. You can even print them out for use as Christmas Cards or something. I'm pretty sure that Korea doesn't enforce copyright laws - maybe it doesn't even have any - so go ahead and stick it to Hallmark without fear of repercusssion!

Also, I promise, soon I'll actually write about being in Korea. Tomorrow is Mountain-climbing-trip day with the middle aged squash players club, and I'm going to get all decked out in my hyphenated pants and new travel shoes, and will hopefully take beautiful pictures of Korean Foliage and also middle aged men acting like teenagers, screaming and chucking rocks at each other and who knows what!

Also, T-1 month until I leave. How time flies!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween pictures! Maximal cuteness. (And I'm not talking about myself.)

Actually, I didn't post the pictures yet, I just needed a snazzy title to ensnare you in this post that is again about - uh, politics. Sorry.

The pictures will be up soon though. Go check.

This post is inspired by the global electoral college page from the economist magazine online. While an average poll in America might put Obama up 52-47 in the popular vote, and 350-190 in the electoral college, the economist's thought experiment imagines what would happen if, in addition to 150 million Americans (just assuming half of the country votes), another 3 billionish people from around the world were eligible to fill out a ballot on Nov. 4th? Doling out electoral college votes to other countries the way the Constitution apportions them to states, the result is apparently that 9,053 votes go to Obama and 185 go to McCain, so far. Of course, the only people whose votes are counted are people who can and want to go to the economist's website, so the sample is hardly accurate and the results aren't necessarily meaningful.

Nonetheless, the idea has fluttered across my mind more than a few times and kind of freaks me out. Recent years have brought on an ever-increasing need for nations to coordinate policies and actions - whether we're talking about military efforts, humanitarian aid campaigns, financial regulations, economic policies, or the rules of war. In all of these cases, we realize that each country, and America in particular, can have have huge effects on others, and that we need some way to monitor, mold, reduce, or offset such efforts. But what American action affects the rest of the world more than the choice of a president?

I'd be willing to bet that as a college-educated, upper-middle class white male, my future is relatively secure. (Not to mention the fact that if you speak English as a native language, regardless of your other qualifications, you can probably live your whole life without truly worrying about unemployment, if you're willing to travel.) Or at least that, no matter what goes wrong, it probably won't hurt me as much as it hurts anybody else. Immigration policy will surely affect any number of Mexican citizens more than it will me, and trade policy will help or hurt more Chinese or south-east Asians than I'm comfortable thinking about. Not to mention military policy. Of course, in principle all of this could be said about any country, since no single country contains a majority of the world's population within it. (India and China each have about 17% and 20%, respectively, and the US is next with a paltry 5.) But it's especially true of America, the influence and consumption of which are grossly disproportionate to its size.

So, what gives me the right to vote for the American president? If the idea is that some politician is supposed to represent me, why is it me that s/he should represent instead of someone that needs more help? In fact, the reasons I chose Obama over McCain are hardly related to self-interest in the first place. For one, I'm simply disgusted by McCain and Palin's social policies (in this arena, my above argument falls through, since surely an American abortion ban would a more likely affect me than it would any citizen of another country), religious affiliations, militant nationalist bravado, deceptive campaigning, tendency to appeal to people's basest instincts, and annoying speech habits. While those are all kind of personal things, they're only related to self-interest insofar as I'd be happy with someone I could respect being in office. The reason I prefer Obama to McCain is that he strikes me as more altruistic, more inclined to cooperate with other nations a little more, to think about what we do to them when we make whatever choices and decisions we do. He seems more cognizant that America is not really some great nation of great individuals with a great destiny, but rather, as all countries always have been and as they will all always be, a work in progress, only as good as the policies and lifestyles and lives of its citizens and representatives. Of course, this is all self-serving in the sense that playing nice now may pay off later, but that kind calculation doesn't really run through my mind when I think about whom to vote for.

So, to go back to my question, why me? Given that my voting is already an attempt to help out people other than myself, people I'll never meet living in places I'll never get to, why not skip the middleman (me) and just let one of them pull a lever somewhere? Just because I happened to be born in California? A hundred years ago, or even fifty, your birthplace was probably pretty highly correlated with the role of that country's government in your life. But what if that's no longer the case? Especially given the universalist tone of the Declaration of Independence - you know, unalienable rights, government by consent of the governed, etc - there seems to me to be, logistics aside, a compelling argument for letting people in other countries vote, considering that the status of being "governed" by any given government is pretty hard to pin down without the help of circular logic. Isn't it conceivable that someone in Iraq is more "governed" by the President than I am? Or at least that, in the rest of the world, any given 20 people are?

I realize that there are of course enormous logistical difficulties, as well as difficulties in deciding exactly who is so affected by American policy that they should be granted some share in directing it. But surely someone could have voiced the same worries in 1775, right?

Sorry for the rambling. I couldn't really figure out how to organize my thoughts.

Don't forget to look for super-cute halloween pictures!

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Apparently a Candian writer named Christian Bok published a pretty interesting book in 2001 and it took the BBC 7 years to write an article about it. The book is called "Eunoia" and is noteworthy because each chapter makes use of only one vowel!!!

Normally I'm a little suspicious of gimmicky stuff like this - I hate the idea of choosing a style that deliberately limits your ability to express yourself freely, since for me the purpose of writing and reading (literature, poetry, drama, etc) is to tap in to some relevant human experience. An a priori imposition of certain stylistic restrictions can only hamper that goal, right? I suppose I don't thoroughly feel that way, and I wouldn't support the argument in all cases, but it flashes through my head whenever I hear of something like this.

Even more the case when the article points out that "Mr Bok believes his book proves that each vowel has its own personality." As if we're in some Dr. Seuss book where each letter has its own hat and socks, color schemes and preferred flavors of cheese. However, just reading the excerpts of the book that make up the above BBC article, I really do get a weird feeling that the guy is right. It's almost a truism to say it, but each vowel has a certain set of sounds, and more particularly, related consonant combinations, that all add up to give a certain eerie feeling about each piece. I haven't spent enough time on it to really be able to explain the bizarre synesthesia that results from the passages, but try it for yourself. It turns out that I really don't like the letter A too much, and that I kind of love E, and U is unusually suuthing.

Note that the author doesn't cheat like me.

Just for fun, of these two little guys, which one would you name "Kiki," and which one would you name "Bouba?"

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

On the way home last night

I went downtown last night for open mic night at a bar for foreigners ("Commune's Lonely Hearts Club"). Happened to run into a friend I hadn't met in a while, and on the way home, we share the following conversation:

Me: You know I'm leaving soon?
Medium Mike: Oh? You gonna throw a party? [the open mic also served as another friend's goodbye party]
Me: Nah. I'll just make sure to see everyone I want to see one last time before I go. I'm not really into parties.
Medium Mike: What, you don't like being the center of attention?
Me: Not so much, no.
Medium Mike: Are you human?

Thanks, Mike.

Also, a third Mike was sitting in the back seat. Also, there were 4 other Mikes at the bar. So really, my blog name would be pretty ambiguous were it not written in Korean.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A little oddness

I was just reading a little morning news article from the BBC about senator Ted Stevens, who was apparently found guilty of accepting bribes. More surprising than that fact - after all, who's surprised when a politician takes a bribe? - was the following line: "And there is no rule barring felons from serving in Congress, so if he wins [his upcoming re-election bid] he will be allowed to stay in the Senate. "

Is this absurd or what? I'm pretty sure I learned in 10th grade government class that felons lose their right to vote. Is it really possible that under our system, it's possible to strip someone of the right to wield a measly amount of power by voting, while still allowing them to wield an immense amount of power by holding office???? Anyone who has studied this stuff a little more than me, please respond and tell me that the BBC is just making stuff up about the American legal system. This is one of the very few instances where I would be truly delighted to be wrong.

That's the stupidest thing I've heard since last night, when I saw some videos of a Kenyan Pentecostalist witch-hunting preacher casting demons out of Sarah Palin. Palin also apparently believes that during the endtimes, people are going to come flocking to Alaska, since God has designated it as some sort of refuge. Huh?

Hopefully, in 10 days or so, that will be over and I'll never have to hear a word about Palin again.

In the meantime, the following article should cheer me up: Man's arm trapped in train toilet! Ahahahaha!

Friday, October 24, 2008


Alright, well, I haven't posted in a little while, though nothing too exciting happened this week, but I did finally take care of something that had been hanging over my head for a while: voting. All in all, the process wasn't too tough - download some forms, fill them out and sign, email some photos, get the real ballot, then send it all together in one package to the county registrar.

My inner skeptic tends to come out around voting time. This because, uh, I still can't think of any good reason to vote. It was pretty easy not to worry about that in St. Louis, when my voting location was Bartmer Elementary School, just down the street. Even if my vote was inconsequential, so was the amount of time and effort it took me to cast it. This time around, though, I had to go through a bit more of an ordeal, and in the end, I wound up having to spend a whopping 15 dollars on airmail. This was because the ballot has to be turned in By Nov 4 at 7pm, and I sent it on Oct 21st, and standard mail can take up to 2 weeks. So, despite not considering my vote too important, I wound up deciding to spend 15 hard-earned dollars on it. I can buy dinner Monday-Friday with that much money! Anyhow, I'm glad it's done with.

I wouldn't have informed you of all the above boring errand stuff if it didn't lead to something a little more interesting, which is: George Carlin. When he died, I obtained a set of his HBO specials and have been watching them on and off since then. I found his early stuff OK, with some interesting takes on the way we talk and the oddness of so many of our phrases, but his later stuff is getting really good - lots more socio-political commentary, with some anti-religious stuff thrown in. And then also some weird stories about his pets. But he makes it work. Anyway, I happened to come across the following schtick (profanity/crudeness warning). If you don't wanna sit through it all, I'll transcribe the highlight:

While all of it is hilarious, I think he makes a pretty good point in the third section.

"I don't vote because I believe if you vote, you have no right to complain. People like to twist that around, I know. They say "well, if you don't vote, you have no right to complain," but where's the logic in that? If you vote, and you elect dishonest, incompetent people, and they get into office and screw everything up, well YOU are responsible for what they have done, YOU caused the problem, YOU voted them in, YOU have no right to complain. I, on the other hand, who did not vote, who in fact did not even leave the house on election day, am in no way responsible for what these people have done and have every right to complain as loud as I want about the mess you created that I had nothing to do with."

I guess, according to that logic, I actually just spent 15 dollars (and several hours of my time) to divest myself of the right to complain. George isn't around to do any more complaining for me, but I suppose he did enough in his lifetime.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The 100th Entry!

Or probably only about the 80th, if you discount all the entries that consisted of me saying "uh, I did some cool stuff this weekend, and I'll write about it later."

Anyway, a little Korean phone number zaniness I just learned about from the book I use to study. It's kinda cute. In all these examples, the last digits of a company's phone number, when spoken quickly, remind the listener of some aspect of the business. I assume it's a pretty good mnemonic device. For instance:

Moving companies often end with 2424 (ee-sa-ee-sa), because 이사 (ee-sa) means "moving."

Railroad stations often end with 7788 (ch'eel-ch'eel-p'al-p'al), which is close to the Korean onomatopoeia of a steam-engine: 칙칙폭폭 (ch'eek-ch'eek-poke-poke)

Real estate agencies often end with 4989 (sa-gu-p'al-gu), because 사 (sa) means "buy," 팔 (p'al) means "sell," and the particle 고 (go) and its alternate pronunciation 구(gu) mean "and." Buy and sell and...

Other companies which offer some service or other often use 8282 (p'ar-ee-par'ee), which sounds pretty close to the phrase 빨리 빨리 (bbal-lee bbal-lee), which means "quick, quick" or "hurry up."

Korean is pretty cool in its ability to generate this sort of word play. In all of my amateurity, I hypothesize that this is because: 1) Korean syllables are more discrete (and therefore less discreet???) than English ones, by which I mean that if you see a word in Korean, it's immediately obvious how many syllables it should have and where they start and stop. The effect of this is that it's easy to pull a word apart into its constituent concepts. In English, though, if you take some random word like "homogeneous," if you don't know the Greek etymology in advance, there's no reason to break the word up into homo-gene-ous (same-group-full) instead of ho-mogen-ous (indecipherable).

2) Korean, though atonal, takes a large percent of its vocabulary from Chinese, which is tonal. This means that while some word like "sa" might have 4 meanings in Chinese, all differentiated by rising, falling, or stable tones, they all sound the same in Korean.

Thus, because of 1) it's easy to break Korean words into proper segments, each of which has some meaning; and because of 2), each of those segments will likely have several meanings. So if you're willing to be lenient and creative, there are lots of possibilities inside any one word.

Two of my Korean buddies - Julio and Dylan - showed me a little something like this this morning, actually. A bus passed by, and one of the stops listed on the placard was "gwan-eum-dong." They asked me to guess the meaning, but, knowing only that "gwan" is a part of the word for "relationship" and "eum" is related to sounds and the mouth, I had a pretty hard time coming up with anything. They told me, though, that I had the wrong "gwan" and "eum" in mind, and said that these characters meant "darkly" and "watching." I forget which was which. Anyway, this "malevolent watching" they mentioned, according to the dictionary, is "voyeurism." I'm pretty sure this was a dirty trick on their part, and that nobody actually lives in a place called "voyeurism district," but who knows?

I think this is one of the things I like most about Korea, and about living abroad in general, and it's something I expect to miss when I leave. Here, I get to think about this sort of stuff all day long. Even when I'm just hanging out with my friends and having a good time goofing off, there are lot of opportunities to learn quirky and interesting stuff about language(s). How stimulating!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

And now, for your edification,

I will do my best to translate the Korean version of this song. You may recognize it. The Korean title is "I'm OK." Or maybe, "I'll be OK."

Caveat: I won't try to be too artsy with the translation. I'm going for bizarrity, instead.

"If you leave, I'll be left behind
to pass the night without tears
you probably believe me and you're probably sorry
but I'm ok
don't give me your sympathy
I'm ok, I'm ok

Don't think that time meant everything to me
No matter how weak I look, no matter how young I look
I'm ok
I won't collapse
I'm ok, turn around and go.
I don't want that love that resembled love
no matter how beautiful, no matter how dreamy
if for all eternity it can't change.
I'm ok
I I'm ok.
I I'm ok
I I'm ok

Don't look at me with those eyes
I don't need that kind of sympathy
I'm going to forget you
I'm going to forget everything [this is a fudge, the grammar's confusing]
I'm going to do it for sure, I'm going to erase you away
Just leave like that, don't turn around and look at me
Don't make me any more miserable
Everyone, one time or so, suffers a separation
I'm ok"

And then cue the chorus a few more times.

Hope you enjoyed it!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Question from Jamal: Do You Like Chekhov?

I'm still pretty ambivalent about Chekhov. I think what I appreciate most is his ability to make a story with some emotional impact without using any of the usual tropes or keywords writers tend to use for that effect. Then again the emotion conveyed is usually some kind of bleakness or fatalism, so maybe it's not so impressive.

The other thing is that, except for when people die, his stories never really conclude. In this sense, his stories are more realistic than many others, which all end at some point that's non-arbitrary, i.e. at the culmination or resolution of some strand of the plot. In Chekhov, on the other hand, this cohesion seems to be lacking. When you read a story like that, it's a little discomforting - but should this make us question the author or our assumptions about how stories ought to begin and end and proceed, and what they're supposed to do for us? In this sense, Chekhov reminds me of a bit of a painting (Rothko or Yves Klein or Duchamp, or Schoenberg in music) that makes you ask, "is this really art?"

The reason his stories are so boring is because there's little, if any, "morality" to them. No heroes, no victors, no villains, no great loves or great revenges, no grand schemes or speechifying. Of course, I've only read about 120 pages of stuff, so I'm generalizing. Nobody gets any comeuppance, no worldly justice is served, blah blah. Everyone just goes about their little lives, with their little happinesses and little pains and little troubles, and that's that. Not exactly the most exciting reading, but it seems to me to be a more accurate, if disillusioned, depiction of the way lives go.

So, do I like Chehkov? I don't really get any pleasure out of reading the stories. But they do express a certain take on the world that's interesting, even if not completely agreeable. Then again, I've long been sort of a literature-masochist. If it hurts to read, it's probably good for me. Unless it's written by Joel Osteen or Rick Warren. Then it's just bad for the planet.

A quote from Virginia Woolf, who's much smarter than me, so much so that she got herself put on the Chekhov entry in wikipedia (my ultimate aspiration):

"But is it the end, we ask? We have rather the feeling that we have overrun our signals; or it is as if a tune had stopped short without the expected chords to close it. These stories are inconclusive, we say, and proceed to frame a criticism based upon the assumption that stories ought to conclude in a way that we recognise. In so doing we raise the question of our own fitness as readers. Where the tune is familiar and the end emphatic—lovers united, villains discomfited, intrigues exposed—as it is in most Victorian fiction, we can scarcely go wrong, but where the tune is unfamiliar and the end a note of interrogation or merely the information that they went on talking, as it is in Tchekov, we need a very daring and alert sense of literature to make us hear the tune, and in particular those last notes which complete the harmony"

Monday, October 13, 2008

Relearning Economics

So I've taken up the habit of reading the newspaper when I'm out to dinner during the week, since it's not bad for studying and anyhow it's infinitely more interesting than whatever soap opera or slapstick show playing on tv.

Originally I just read the section for English-learners, which consists of a dialogue and a translation. The horoscopes (according to the Chinese zodiac and the year you were born, not the Greek zodiac and the month-ish period) are on the same page, so I started reading those and asking the restaurant bosses about stuff I don't know. Actually, trying to understand a word you don't know through description in another language is a pretty good learning process. So, now, the boss always asks me, "Mike, did you see your horoscope today? You understand"?

I've now moved on, though, to a little learn-econ-through-comics strip. It's a little tough to understand, but it's in the "learning" section of the paper, so it's nowhere near as tough as a real article, which would surely destroy me were I to get near it. The strip is a little odd, and has the kind of pictures you might imagine if you've watched any japanimation - characters with big eyes, close-up shots of them screaming, sweat beading on their heads, oddly over-reacting to things other characters say. But it's accompanied by some pictures and graphs, so it's possible for me to follow along, even if some of the words are unclear.

What this all leads up to: I learned yesterday about the reason for the freakish drop in the value of the Won. I had said that I'd expect the opposite to happen; as people shift their assets out of dollars and into more stable currencies, the value of the dollar should fall. But, according to the article, on the whole, that's not what happened, because: in order to have enough cash on hand to survive bank runs, American banks had to buy back a lot of dollars from abroad. In buying loads and loads of dollars, the banks apparently pushed up their price. Voila!

I am hoping none of my former econ professors are reading my blog. The shame!

On the other hand, for any humanities professors out there: I tried to start reading Ulysses but it's really difficult. So I switched to Chekhov.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Travel Update!

I have finally purchased my plane tickets and most of the other materials necessary for my upcoming wander-thon. The backstory:

Last week, I went downtown one morning to travel agent alley, which is allegedly near city hall, though, having wandered around there a bit, I have yet to find said 시청. Anyway, Korea has an odd (or maybe not so odd? I don't know) habit of having streets dedicated to certain trades. For instance, Daegu has a jewelry street, eastern medicine street, tool street, car part street, carpet street, travel agent street, and, yes, a "culture street."

I went to the travel agent street with a description of the itinerary I was hoping for all written down so I wouldn't have to labor through explaining it at every travel agent I went to. Nonetheless, I wound up having to labor through explaining it at every travel agent I went to. Like a geezer in a riddle told by a sphinx (huh?) the trip has 3 legs: Korea-Taiwan, Taiwan-Singapore, Bangkok-Korea. The whole going-on-my-own-from-Singapore-to-Bangkok seemed to confuse everyone quite a bit, and a number of agents even told me such travel was impossible. Others said that the plane fares for December hadn't been released yet, so they couldn't help me this far ahead of time. One agent also claimed not to be selling plane tickets that day. Other people shot me down because it was lunch time. But a few did give me estimates (the best, about 1.4 million won, the worst, 1.9), and a few others took down the details and promised to email me. The best offer came in at 1.08 million won, a good 300k lower than the next best one, and when I went in today to seal the deal, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the tax had actually fallen and the ticket would now cost only 1.03 million won, or about 800 dollars.

(Actually, I was too pissy before to note that one benefit of this exchange rate madness is that it makes Korean stuff seem really cheap in terms of dollars. Thus, though the actual price here has stayed the same, my dinners have dropped from 4 or 5 dollars to about 3. Not that it matters - it's just that thinking about stuff that way makes me feel a little better.)

Also, I've been stocking up on some travel gear. It turns out a friend of mine(whom I met at the gym, who just graduated with a BA in engineering, and got a sweet job with Hyundai)'s dad owns a "mountain climbing" (much less strenuous than what we think of when we hear the phrase. It's more akin to nature-strolling) supply shop, so he gave me a nice 25% discount on some sweet light-weight, fast-drying, sweat-wicking, ultra-hyphenatable pants and a similar shirt, which is apparently slightly less conducive to word-play. I had also been shopping for some travel sandals, but they're a bit hard to find because of the season, and so I wound up buying some sort of sweet meshy shoes that seem like they'll be good for rain and/or muck, but also good at preventing pesky mosquito bites on my toesies. I still need to find a backpack, but there are 2 northface stores downtown, and my friend's dad's shop also stocks them.

In other news, I finally met up with Kait and Ace, who are pretty much just like me but in reverse. By that I mean, they went to the same place in Thailand to take the same course that I'll be taking in a few months, and then they moved to Daegu to work at a hagwon. They seem like quite nice folks - even mentioning me in their blog, hooray! - and had nothing but good news about the course and about travel in Thailand. So, I've got two friends here vouching for Cambodia and Vietnam and two others vouching for Thailand. Now, if only I can find someone who can vouch for Singapore, Malaysia, and Laos...

Ahhhh I'm getting quite excited about the trip. On the other hand, once I have all the planning and shopping done, and once the Obama-McCain mudfest ends and one of them is in office and there's not so much blasted news to read anymore, I don't know how I'll spend my mornings and afternoons.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

환율 고민 ㅠㅠ

(or, Exchange Rate Woes)

Not being a homeowner, not having many assets, and not living in America, I didn't think this whole financial crisis fiasco would hit me too hard. Little did I know! When I came to Korea, the exchange rate was about 930 won to the dollar. So, if I wanted to buy a 1,000 dollar laptop, I would need 930,000 won. Up until about 3 weeks ago, the rate was about 1,100 won to the dollar (1.1 million won for the same laptop), which was still annoying, but since it had taken more than a year and a half to move up that far, I didn't think much of it.

But now! Oh, Christ! The exchange rate is now 1,430 won to the dollar. The same laptop that would have cost me 930K won a year ago now costs 1.43 million! That's nearly a 50% increase in the price. So, while my salary has stayed stable in won, in terms of dollars, in the past week it's dropped between 20 and 30 percent. Not only my salary, but all the money I'd saved up over the past year here.

My original goal when I came here was to send home the maximum amount permitted by law, 10 million won. Not to belabor the point, but up until few months ago, that would have been worth just a little less than 10k dollars. Now? Hardly 7k.

Slightly less frustrating is that I have no clue why this is happening. If the American economy is hurting, people ought to choose not to hold their assets in dollars - i.e. they ought to want to sell their dollars. When they do, dollars flood the market, and the price of a dollar drops- other currencies (like my Won) should become stronger. So, world, please conform to my economic theories and, more importantly, give me my money back, dang it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I just watched about 20 minutes of Sarah Palin interviews here. Not a good way to set the mood for my day! Her inability to talk about anything other than opportunities we "cannot afford" to miss and to conceive of a scenario where things don't go exactly according to her(/God's) plan is breathtaking! Not in the magical pixar way, but in the "I've somehow been flung into outer space and the cold, heartless vacuum is sucking every ounce of life out of of me and I hope it's over soon because the pa[l]in is just that unbearable" kind of way.

She also apparently can't mention a single detail about any of her policies:

"Couric: When President Bush ran for office, he opposed nation-building. But he has spent, as you know, much of his presidency promoting democracy around the world. What lessons have you learned from Iraq? And how specifically will you try to spread democracy throughout the world?

Palin: Specifically, [emphasis mine] we will make every effort possible to help spread democracy for those who desire freedom, independence, tolerance, respect for equality."

Could you be less specific, please? HAVE YOU NO SHAME? It reminds me of the lowly sophomore (myself included) squirming in their seats trying to answer questions in Prof. Liebowitz's "H201 Intro to Modern Lit: Darwin and the Modern Ache."

But I digress:
"Couric: ....Why do you believe additional troops, U.S. troops, will solve the problem there? [Afghanistan)

Palin: Because we can't afford to lose in Afghanistan, as we cannot afford to lose in Iraq, either, these central fronts on the war on terror."

Huh? Troops will solve the problem because the problem needs to be solved? (Also, a "Central front" is a little oxymorinic, right?)

There was a similar moment regarding the bailout, but I can't find it in the transcript. The question - what will happen if the bailout fails? Answer: we can NOT afford for the bailout to fail! Ergo...er...huh? Is there some correlation between something being bad and its being impossible that I've missed out on all my life? Perpahs that's a corollary of believing you're doing God's work?

Please send this link to any of your friends who are terrified and not planning on being in the US come election day:


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

And the answer is: 은행나무!!

Extensive research has revealed to me that the old people are kicking "eunhaeng" trees. That happens to be the word for bank (the faltering sort, not the aquatic one), but in this case it means GINKGO BILOBA! I know that word from pharmacies and healthfood stores. Apparently doctors here tell old folks to eat somewhere between 5 and 20 ginkgo nuts a day, and they can be a little expensive, so people beat on the trees.

Unfortunately, it's illegal. I think maybe I'll go tell the police to do a little 6AM stakeout. That's what old people get for expecting me to insert honorifics and humilifics into my speech.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Something you've probably never seen

Last Friday, after finishing work at 10:15 PM, I went downtown to meet my friend Ashley/Insuk and some of her friends for her birthday party. The party was fun and we had a good time and yada yada yada, and I took a bus home at about 5:30AM. The bus dropped me off at about 6, and I was faced with about a 15 minute walk home. I wasn't particularly looking forward to the walk, given my utter exhaustion, but then something totally, unbelievably, life-alteringly awesome happened.

What happened was this. 6AM is apparently geezer-hour, when all those who have forgotten how great it is to sleep in decide to go out and walk around. Thus, I was weaving my way between grammas and grampses when I noticed that a select few were...uh...jumpkicking trees! For real!

Unfortunately I didn't have my camera on me to record the brutality in all its splendor, but, I kind of felt like I was in a David Lynch movie. Just imagine, a pudgy, scoliotic old Korean lady, with light puprle pants and a flower-print blouse, walking along with her cane, wearing some weird sun visor that makes her look like some lego spaceman. Now imagine her stopping for a moment next to a tree. You expect her to rest against it for a minute, or maybe just enjoy the dawn. Then, she grunts and delivers a roundhouse (the more incapacitated just looked like they were trying to kick the tree in the shins) blow to the little trunk. And then, imagine that you are walking home from a bus stop at 6 in the morning and you see 6 or 7 elderly warriors, each standing at successive trees planted along the sidewalk, alternating between kicking and panting. I am pretty sure that even if I were to take a bit of LSD, I wouldn't likely see something so whacky.

I am pretty sure I know the reason for this, but I'll let you folks make some guesses before I divulge! Maybe tomorrow, if I can manage it, I'll try to wake up early and do some stealth filming.

What fools!

Long-time readers of my blog may remember that I used to complain about the tribulations of procuring precious avocados here. Problems include: 1)costing 3 or more dollars each; 2)instantly transforming from rock-hard to mushy-rotten 3) coming in packs of 5, and therefore being impossible for me to consume without waste; or 4) just plain absence and blank stares from store employees when I ask them where last week's supply went, as if they had never heard of the fruit.

But this morning I struck gold! There's a discount produce rack at the store, for stuff that's bruised or poised to go bad. Usually the stuff's not worth buying, but because Koreans have no clue when an avocado is ready to be diced and then masticated upon, I got a pack of perfectly ripe orbs AT HALF PRICE. That means: today is officially a Good Day.

Two Photo Updates

I just added two new albums to the photo site. The first:

1) A few weeks ago, my friend Dylan finally graduated from university. He called me on a Sunday night at about 8 pm and asked if I was free. I was just sitting around the house, so I took a bus downtown to meet him. He was with two of his friends, and we all hung around at various restaurants and bars until about 2AM. Then we went to gyung-sik's house, since he lives close to downtown, where we continued chilling, listening to music, and chatting until about 5. Then we all crashed on the floor (gyung-sik doesn't even have a bed, he just sleeps on a blanket), woke up at 9:30, and headed out to school. Some random guy gave Dylan a suit to put on, and someone else gave him his diploma. There were no deans or shakings of hands or any other official ceremonious stuff. Just guys in suits, girls in dresses, and people carrying around flowers, mortar boards, and diplomae. After taking some photos, Dylan's parents took us out for lunch. Then I grabbed a bus home, caught up a little on sleep, and went to work.

2) About a month ago, my good friend Yuk-gi moved to Seoul. Back in March, he started taking some conversation classes at our academy, and, along with two girl students, grew to be good friends with me and George. He was in between jobs for a long time, so when he finally got a job (as a "Life Consultant" for Samsung, a pretty estimable job), we were all quite happy for him. After giving him a while to settle in to his new apartment and job and such, 3 of us (me, George, Ella) decided to go visit.

We took the train up to Seoul on Saturday afternoon, met Yuk-gi at a subway stop, and then went to dinner at the Lotte Department Store. Lotte is a huge chain in Korea, which dabbles in everything from Choco-pie snack cakes to amusement parks. Lotte, Samsung, and Hyundai combined probably account for about 60 percent of Korea's GDP. We had an awesome reunion dinner at a Bulgogi restaurant up in the department store, complete with purple rice served in golden bowls.

Next, we headed downstairs, outside, walked for 3 minutes, and found ourselves at the Lotte World Adventure Park. I had yet to visit a Korean amusement park, so I didn't know what to expect, but given that it was indoors, I imagined there wouldn't be any rollercoasters. Contrary to my expectations, it was totally gigantic. There were about 6 levels - starting with a food court and ice-skating rink at the bottom, then the entrance level, then 4 levels of rides and games and such.

We went in a bit late - about 7:30 or so - so admission was only 13 bucks. We wandered around a bit, played stupid dress up in a hat shop, and then made our way to the "French Revolution" rollercoaster. I have no idea why that was the name, but it was - again, contrary to my expectations - a decent ride. It was still disappointing, as it was much shorter and more compact than a typical american coaster, and there were some pretty cool parts where you're in a dark tunnel with no idea that a surprise drop is about to unsettle your stomach.

After that, we rode the "conquistador," one of those coasters where a viking-style ship swings back and forth, never quite going upside-down, but still freaking you out a fair bit. With all due respect, Koreans are apparently total sissies when it comes to this kind of ride. Aside from me and George, only about 5 of the 50 people on the ride took their hands of the safety bar.

Next was bumper-cars, where we split into teams and talked a bit of trash. Naturally, George and I crushed Yuk-gi and Ella, executing some super entrapment moves and just generally embarrassing them in front of their kinsfolk. Then off to "desperado," a game where about 30 people sit on mechanical horses, grab nintendo-style guns, and shoot at bad guys in the screen. The computers track your hits and score, and I wound up getting 3rd place after 4 or 5 rounds, due to the fact that I shot several rascal-varmint-scallywags in the face. We then went on one more ride, but it was pretty lame, so I'll spare you the details.

We made our way out of the amusement park, drove back to Yuk-gi's apartment, then went out for the entirely typical bar-songroom-earlymorningstroll routine, finally turning in for the night at about 4 AM. The 4 of us managed to sleep for a few hours in Yuk-gi's one-room studio apartment, then we woke up and headed over to the Hyundai department store, where Ella helped Yuk-gi shop for ties while George and I tried on 500 dollar Paul Stuart suede and velvet jackets. They also had 300 dollar umbrellas and 400 dollar suspenders. I never knew it was possible to spend 1 month's salary on a single outfit. 2 months' salary, if you want cufflinks...

After lunch at the department store Italian restaurant (extremely disappointing), we drove home. It was about a 3.5 hour drive, and I got to see lots of the Korean countryside, which I hadn't seen too much of before. It mostly consisted of mountains covered with thick, green forests. I taught the word game Ghost to the others, which we played in the car for a good while. I of course rocked everyone. Perhaps one could chalk that up to the fact that, of the other 3 players, only 1 was a native speaker, and he had never heard of the game before. Or one could chalk it up to exceeding cleverness on my part. I'll leave that for you to decide.

Monday, September 15, 2008

David Foster Wallace

apparently killed himself a few days ago. I've only sporadically read some of his stuff, but what I have read, I have really liked, and what I haven't read, I've always sort of felt like I would really like. Poking around some obituaries tonight, I've found a couple really nice pieces of his. One comes from an essay on Kafka:

"That the horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle. That our endless and impossible journey toward home is in fact our home. It’s hard to put into words, up at the blackboard, believe me. You can tell [students] that maybe it’s good they don’t “get” Kafka. You can ask them to imagine his stories as all about a kind of door. To envision us approaching and pounding on this door, increasingly hard, pounding and pounding, not just wanting admission but needing it; we don’t know what it is but we can feel it, this total desperation to enter, pounding and ramming and kicking. That, finally, the door opens . . . and it opens outward–we’ve been inside what we wanted all along. Das ist komish."

Apparently the German at the end means "that is amusing."

I had never thought about Kafka in quite those terms, and since Kafka is so difficult to grasp and evaluate, it's a really useful analysis, as well as striking me as fairly accurate and beautiful in and of itself.

He also did a pretty nice commencement speech at Kenyon College in '05. I don't even remember the speech or speaker from WU, but I don't think I would have forgotten this one so quickly. Does anyone else happen to remember who it was, or what he talked about? No researching!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Materliazing plans

I mentioned previously that I was considering doing some traveling on the continent - hopefully starting in Singapore, then passing through Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam - after which I would go back to Thailand to get a CELTA teaching certification. The second part of the plan is now relatively in place. After sitting on the application form for about, I don't know, three or four months, mostly because of one bizarre question written in New Zealandese, and because the Brits apparently say "referee" instead of "reference," I finally got my act together, submitted the form, did a Skype interview, and was accepted into the program, all in a period of 2-3 days.

I was actually pretty pleased with myself, since I answered all the grammar and teaching methodology questions on the application form without recourse to any of the textbooks they said would almost certainly be necessary. I suppose I have Mrs. Turner, my 9th grade Latin teacher, to thank for that. When I submitted the application, I got a foreboding email about some 50 minute interview, but when I finally skyped with "Barry," after about 2 minutes he said my application was good enough that he wouldn't take more than 10 minutes to talk to me, and after about 7 minutes, he offered me a spot in the program. Pretty sweet, eh? On the other hand, I'm paying for the course, so I'm not too surprised that they want me and my $$$$$.

Details: The course will be held in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I think I'm going to do the "deluxe program," which means you pay some money on top of the tuition fee, in return for which you get to stay at the Nugent Waterside resort, with catered Thai food thrice a day, fice a week. The course actually happens at the seminar rooms at the resort, I'm told. I'm not sure what all to expect from the course - it has a reputation for being really intense, but then again, some 98% of people pass, and, then again again, whatever, I can handle it. I mean, I sit around and study Korean grammar just for fun (I'm now nearing halfway done with the Intermediate 2 book and am starting to have a little success with newspapers. I read my horoscope at dinner most days, and have the cooks clarify anything I don't understand), so how hard can it be to think about English? Maybe this cockiness will lead to comeuppance; we'll see.

I haven't paid the deposit for the course yet, since I got verbally accepted yesterday, got some paperwork today, and the banks are all closed for Chuseok, "a major harvest festival and a three-day holiday in Korea celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar Korean calendar." Sorry for the links, I just plagiarized that from wikipedia.

Speaking of the holiday, I have a nice 4-day weekend, but it's actually a little disappointing. Chuseok happens to fall on Sunday the 14th (so I don't know why the wiki article says 15th...), and traditionally, the days preceding and following the day are public holidays. Thus, optimally, Chuseok will fall on a Tuesday or Thursday, to maximize time off. In fact, if I ran the government, I would redefine Chuseok so that that would be the case. Unfortunately, we got boned this year and were granted holidays on...Saturday and Sunday. But the academy decided to give us Tuesday off, as well, so I can't complain too much.

What will I do during this holiday, you ask? Well, Friday night I met a friend. And Saturday (to) night, I am planning on meeting several friends. On Sunday, I will once more meet some (other) friends, who will bring some of their friends, and then, if all goes well, we will all become friends. On Monday, some other friends will come to my apartment, since I've promised to introduce them to burritos, as my local humongoid store has begun stocking tortillas and non-single cheddar cheese. (Still no cilantro, and Avocados are apprently out of season). I don't know exactly what I'll do on Tuesday, but I can guess.

The only other newsworthy item is that, for the past 3 weeks, I've been doing yoga. Or rather, I've been seated on a mat in a room while some lady does awesome yoga andsome other ladies do so-so to pretty-good yoga along with her. They are generally pretty encouraging, even though I am really terrible. They promise that I will quickly become fantastic, but...I mostly just get sweaty, which is a little embarassing, since there's no running or weightlifting involved.

Anyhow, once the banks open up next week, I'll probably send in my deposit money to the Thailand training center, after which I'll start hitting up the local travel agents and trying to get my visas for my trip all set up.

Oh yeah, the program is from February 6 (or so) to March 9th (or so). After I finish, I'll probably come back to Korea for about a week to pick up some junk (I'm planning on traveling as light as possible), and then I'll head back to the good old US of A for a bit.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A diary entry

Not from me, but from one of my students, an elementary schooler in 3rd or 4th grade. Hopefully I'm not violating any copyright or confidentiality laws by posting this....

"Mr Mike is old. He is my Eiglsh teacher. He is tells funny jokes. He is small (스마일) We are like Mike Teacher But He is sometimes boring ㅋㅋ"

What she wrote in Korean there indicates that she wanted to say "smile" but didn't know how to say it. Also, the two little doodads at the end mean laughing.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Tokyo Photos

have been posted. 100 or so. look for the accompanying stories in the next few days.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Fine Evening

I had a nice little night out tonight, fairly wholesome and rather lacking in madness, but that's alright, since it's Sunday night, after all. George and I are about go to on vacation (to TOKYO!), after which George will have a month off between contracts, so we had a little get-together with some of our favorite students/friends.

First stop was a restaurant called "Gang-book (region name) PhD Duck," where we had some nice roast duck meat, veggies, raspberry wine, and bibimbap (see pictures). Next we went to a pool hall, where we played a best-of-7 8-ball match, which my team unfortunately lost 3-4, mostly because George is insanely good and I'm slightly terrible. I did have two terribly kickass shots, one of which George happened to record, but getting him to fork it over so I can boast to the world may take a bit of work. Anyhow, after pool, we went out for a few more drinks - plum wine and bamboo-tube wine - and some snacks before heading home. Do have a look.

Regarding Tokyo, we'll be working a normal day (until 10PM) tomorrow, then around 1:30 or 2:00 AM we'll head down to the bus station, sleep through a 5-hour bus ride to the big international airport, then take a 9:15 flight to Narita. We'll have from noonish on Tuesday until Sunday afternoon to galavant around, and then next Monday, it'll be back to work as usual. I don't have any special plans for Tokyo and I've sort of been avoiding planning, because when you go with a plan, you feel a little too much pressure. The one thing I'm really set on doing is taking one of the days to go to Mt. Fuji. Other than that, I'm sure we'll go to some sushi shops, some hyper-malls, some clubs, some temples, some palaces. whatever. I'm sure it'll all work out fine, as long as I don't totally bug out over the insane price levels.

In other news, we got two new coworkers (two old ones left), and they're both pretty awesome, though in different ways, so the atmosphere at work is pretty fun. Nowadays the kids have vacation from school and are using their free time to come get taught twice a day instead of once. So I'm working 11:30AM-1:30PM and then again 3:30-10:00. The schedule's a little rough, but the kids are a little better when they haven't been to school for 8 hours before coming to see us, and I mostly like them anyway. This workaholic madness will end in the middle of August, after which I will have about 3.5 more months of the easy life, during which I will have to plan and save up for my Southeast Asia escapade.

Anyhow, look forward to some Japan pics. I'm all excited about my new camera (8 megapixel, 4x digital zoom, large screen, massive memory card, and many other features I'm too lazy to figure out, hurrah) and its ability to store photos in different folders according to the date. Check back in 7-10 days.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Taxi Poem

This is not a poem about a taxi, as the title may suggest, but rather a quick rendering of a laminated Korean poem hung on the seat of a taxi I was in the other day. Mostly I was just happy that I could read it (though in retrospect, it is rather simplistic), but I also found it to be a little more accessible than other Korean poetry, which from what I've seen is comparable to Japanese haikus in terms of descriptions of nature and (for me) emotional impotence. Enjoy.

There was an empty bowl.

Some child came and
put water into the bowl.
So it became a water-bowl.

But then some other child came and
put garbage into he bowl.
The bowl instantly became a garbage can instead.
One day, some child took out the garbage and
planted a beautiful flower in the bowl.
The bowl became a beautiful flowerpot.

That's how it is.
Depending on what is put in, the name of the bowl changes.

Think about it quietly.
What do we need to put in our hearts?

I think the comments section on this one should be dedicated to answering that last question. I sense some good joke potential...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

다시 어려지는 것

I had a bit of a heart-to-heart with THE CHAIRMAN last night at the gym after a disappointing squash performance. We decided that going to bed at 4AM and waking up at 12:30 was no good, and that 남자들이 규칙적으로 살아야 해! (Men need to live by rules/in an orderly fashion). I won't bother you with the details, but you should know that I woke up at the entirely reasonable hour of 10:30 and have been incredibly productive since then. Hurrah. I'll have to buy him an ice cream tonight. Soy milk for me, though.


No, I'm not going back on my threat about the toe. Rather, I went to the post office to cash in my rebate, and I was turned away because the ID number on the check didn't match the ID number on my card. We called my boss and he promised to take care of it, assuming he had just put the wrong number on. On the unfortunately, the number was right. The mistake was my name. The rebate was actually intended for some guy who worked for us about a year ago. So, no dough for me. Good thing I didn't go on a shopping spree.

Brace for the toe picture.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Sweet day!

A while ago my boss told me her accountant had said I might be getting a tax refund of about 5 or 10 bucks. I told my boss that my taxes were already really low (3.3%) and that I would be surprised to get anything back, especially since (assuming Korean taxes are at all similar to American ones) I don't have any dependents and didn't really want to bother trying for any exemptions or anything. I also told her she could keep the cash as a birthday present, or even just forget about filing if that was an option. Then, today, I got a government money order for $103.80. Sweet action! That's like a month and a half's worth of taxes! I immediately canceled my offer to let my boss have some, though the other boss started begging me to pay for the next company dinner.

In other news, Donny and Dylan, two of my friends just graduated college and are going to be moving to different cities - one to Seoul (score!), one to Ulsan (lame!). So, I'll either be taking some weekend trips in the future, or I'll be finding some new friends.

Also, I think I'm getting an ingrown toenail. If I don't get comments from at least 5 different people, I'm going to post a picture. Take that!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

I should know better

Despite a year of actually starting to do interesting stuff (my first 6 months here were a little more on the reclusive side), I have still apparently not learned that if I don't write about stuff immediately, I won't do it at all. Argh. Sorry about not writing about my sweet hiking trip. I actuallythought of lots of sweet stuff and genius insights, but never jotted them down. In the future I will either:

a) blog promptly
b) not make silly promises

Sorry for the absence lately. I haven't really done anything too interesting, though I did put up another album on the photo site. Had a girlfriend for a while, spent a lot of time hanging out downtown, broke up, spend a lot of time hanging around my friend's college area, and that brings you up to speed about the past month and a half.

Mom's in Korea now, with a friend, and they've been having a good time. I've been informed that they did lots and lots of stuff in Seoul (I was still here in Daegu working), and they'll be spending the next week touring around a little sub-tropical Island in the south, then working their way up the east coast, then they'll come to Daegu next week. I'm sure next weekend I'll post some nice pictures.

Also, in less than 1 month, just after Mom heads back to the USA, summer vacation will roll around. From Tuesday, July 29th until Sunday, August 3rd, George and I will go scope out Tokyo. We've got our plane tickets and hostel reservations, though we don't know exactly what we're going to do. We're staying in Shinjuku, which is supposed to be a pretty happening place, and I'm really hoping to spend a day climbing Mt. Fuji. I know I said I wouldn't make any more pointless promises, but...I swear I'll put up some pictures!

Also, I'm thinking that in December, I'm going to do a sweet little tour of Southeastern Asia. I'll fly into Singapore, work my way up through Malaysia, and then hit up Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. I think I'm going to spend a month grabbing a CELTA certification while I'm there, though I don't know whether I'll do it in Chiang Mai or Ho Chi Minh City. Either way, I'll travel from December until early January, then take the course until early February, then head back to the US for a while. If any of you want to join me for some of this stuff...that'd be cool.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

My 10 Korean Staple Foods

I realized after the last post that most of my food commentary here has so far been limited to complaining about things I can't find or describing the odd things which I'm often compelled to eat. So, I'd like to present you with a little list of foods which I hope you will one day come try. An approximate exchange rate is W1000=$1. The foods below are ones which I am likely to
eat on my 30 minute dinner break, not the best of what Korea has to offer.

Staple #1: Kimbap. Literally "seaweed rice," this is a little bit like sushi in shape. The ladies selling it have all the ingredients pre-cut into perfect-length strips. Eggs, fake crab meat, fishcake (made from broken down meat, bones, and scales, maybe???), yellow radish, ham, carrots, zucchini or something, and some other nameless vegetables. W1000. For W2000, you can get some tuna, seasoned ground beef, cheese, or red pepper paste inside.

Staple #2: Kalgugsu. Literally "Knife noodle." Thin, flat noodles in a chicken or vegetable-stock broth, with carrots, squash, and a few potatoes. You can throw in some spicy paste too. After you finish the noodles, you can also dump in rice to eat with the broth. W4000

Staple #3: Dolsotbibimbap. Literally "Stone oven mixed rice". I haven't watched this being made, so I don't know the order exactly. I think, though, they heat a up a thick, stone bowl on the stove, then dump in a little sesame oil and throw a bed of rice on top of that. Then they throw some vegetables on top so that it looks like a wheel-of-fortune board. Lettuce, carrots, bean sprouts, shrooms, and 2 or 3 other mystery veggies. An egg yolk in the middle to make it a bit prettier, and then, most important, the gochujang (red pepper paste), which gives it a little kick. You wait for a while for the rice to get crispy - it winds up tasting a little like popcorn - and then stir it all up. So splendid. W3500-5000

Staple #4: Kimchibokkumbab. Literally "Kimchi friedness rice." You can pretty much imagine this one. Onions, kimchi, some tiny slivers of beef, etc. Not too different from American-Chinese fried rice, except it's totally red and has a slightly sour flavor. W3500

Staple #5: Saeubokkumbap. Literally "Shrimp friedness rice." Fried rice with some shrimp, veggie slivers, etc. Also comes in beef, squid, octopus, and plain varieties. W4000

Staple #6: (MwoMwo)Teop-bap. Literally (blahblah)mixed rice. A basic but crucial dish consistint of plain white rice with some meat, veggies, and sauce. It changes at every restaurant, but usually you can get beef, chicken, or seafood, along with mushrooms, carrots, green onions, and other vegetables. Pretty similar to a stir-fry or something. W3500

Staple #7: Yuk-gaejang. Literally "meat-(unknown)-soup." A spicy soup with a red-pepper broth, filled with some little slivers of beef, some bean sprouts, and some other drippy, leafy vegetables. When you finish eating all the solids, you dump a bowl of rice into the broth and eat it. Maybe the spiciest food I've had in Korea aside from raw peppers and spiced chicken anus. W5000.

Staple #8: Manduguk. Literally "dumpling soup." A chicken or vegetable-based broth with some carrots and green onions, some ricecake (not puffed rice. It sort of has the consistency of hard-boiled egg whites), and either plain or kimchi dumplings, boiled in the broth. As always, if you have broth left at the end, you can dump in some rice. W4000

Staple #9 (summer specialty): Kong-guksu. Literally "Bean noodles." One of my favorite foods in Korea, though actually the taste is fairly bland. Noodles in a broth made of powdered beans and grains, I think. Comes with some ice cubes, a hardboiled egg, and a dish of salt to sprinkle in slowly. Depending on the restaurant, there can also be cucumbers and tomatoes. W4000

Staple #10 (summer speciality): Naengmyeon. Literally "cold noodles." Another nice dish when the temperature and humidity both hit the upper 80s. Some thin noodles (like Italian angel hair) in a slightly sour broth with crushed ice. Comes with some slices of beef, cucumbers, a hardboiled egg, and sometimes pear slices. W4000-5000

There are lots of other foods available, of course, but these are my main ones. I generally avoid meat-based and fried dishes except when eating socially (i.e. except on the weekends), so that's why many foreigners' favorite food, Don-gas (a deep-fried pork cutlet, which comes in plain, cheese, pizza, and kimchi varieties), has no place on my list. I'm pretty sure it's of Japanese origin. Other Korean foods I don't eat too much include ramen (cheap but nutritionally worthless), plain noodles (insufficient), things based around the ricecake (too chewy), and dumplings (only the fried ones taste really good, and the steamed/boiled kind don't form a complete meal).

Next time I'll mention some of the more special meals, the kind of stuff I eat when I go out to restaurants with friends. Maybe I'll also do a post on Korean bar food. Mmmm.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

One Thing I Hate about Korea

In response to Laura's latest post about the lack of Mexican food in London: http://harwiginlondon.blogspot.com/2008/05/things-i-miss-about-american-part-ii.html

My biggest culinary misfortune by far is certainly the lack of even sub-par Mexican food. While Korean food is truly awesome and the variety is enough to keep me from getting bored, I sometimes suffer from extreme guacamole cravings. And salsa cravings. Burritos, tacos, choripollo, enchiladas, chimichangas, you name it. Unfortunately, there are no Mexican restaurants anywhere around me, though I'm pretty sure that in the seedy foreigner zone of Seoul - which I mentioned before in conjunction with fake watch salesmen and transvestite hookers - there are some authentic hole-in-the-wall places. Too bad that's about $100 in train tickets away.

As dismaying as the lack of Mexican restaurants is the lack of ingredients. My supermarket has cheese, but it's all Brie, Parmesan, low-quality cheddar singles, and terrible ground pizza cheese. Limes are unheard of in this country. Avocados cost 2 or 3 dollars a piece, and nobody knows how to sell them. In America, I recall that in the supermarket, after enough squeezing, you could always find an avocado ready to use at dinner time, or one that would at least be ready after a day or two. The 'cados here are all rock-hard in the store. They stay that way for between 1 and two weeks, and when you finally open them, they're just all stringy inside. And flavorless. Admittedly, I could get them from costco, but 5 plump av's are just too much for one dude to handle.

Even if I could get my 'vocad's though (I think I've now broken the record for pet-names for avocados in one post), I wouldn't be able to whip up a decent guac. Limes are unheard of in this country. As is cilantro. I happened to find some at a vietnamese restaurant, and it was fantastic. When I asked the Korean name, in the whole building, only one person knew. And if I go anywhere else and ask if they have it, nobody has any idea what I'm talking about. They assume that I'm misspeaking. But really they're just food dolts! In addition to cilantro, coriander, cumin, and cocoa powder are missing, so there's no enchilada sauce to be made. No refried beans anywhere. And, perhaps most surprisingly, the garlic powder here is really lousy.

So, the best Mexican food I could whip up on my own with ingredients from my local superstore? A quesadilla made from some likely lousy tortillas and some definitely shoddy cheese singles. Ugh. No wonder I find myself eating chicken feet, eel, dog, silkworms, and the like.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Sorry for the noisy title. But people have been (silently, to themselves) clamoring to see photos of my new domicile, so after nearly 4 months (I moved in around New Year's), I finally gathered the necessary energy to spend 5 minutes taking pictures.

As Laura so astutely pointed out, it's been more than a month since my last post. She failed to mention, most likely out of courtesy, that the previous posts, also few and far between, were largely vapid and insignificant. While I suppose that's better than numerous lengthy, vapid, insignificant entries, I still offer my sincerest apologies.

I haven't really done any sightseeing sort of stuff lately, and while I'm still enjoying myself here, there's not a lot I'm doing that I feel is really post-worthy. Anyhow, I'll give you a rundown of my last little while.

A few weeks ago, (April 4 I think) a friend of mine had a birthday party. You will know this if you've logged into facebook recently, since I'm pretty sure it's always watching me. We started at 4 in the afternoon with a BBQ, some drinks, music, party games, and a Wii. During the party game (Mafia, if you know it), I befriended a korean guy named suk-joon, since we were both cast in the role of detective. I translated a fair deal for him, and he said my Korean is awesome, which is pretty much true. Anyway, the party continued late into the night (you will also know this if you've scoped out the facebook pictures), and we made several stops including a bar where the mugs are made of ice and when you finish you get to chuck them at a target. If your aim is awesome, you can win some free nachos. Luckily for the owners of the bar, you have to finish a mini-pint before you get to chuck the cup, so the success rate is pretty low.

The next week was pretty mild. Study or read or sleep in the mornings, work in the afternoon, gym in the evenings, home by midnight or 1. On Tuesday, George and I went out for some drinks and grub with our adult class, since Wednesday was a holiday (voting or something). We've been doing that a lot lately, as the higher-level adult class has finally reached some critical mass where we have enough people to keep a conversation going for a while. On Friday, George and I probably played pool, as is our habit, and he definitely whomped me, because he's ridiculously good at it. After that, we met two korean friends and went for some grub and drinks. We ordered the skewered meat platter and I successfully avoided eating more chicken anus, though I did unknowingly consume some eel. It tasted like smores.

Saturday, George and I went out to meet Suk-joon, the Korean guy I had befriended earlier. We went to an area that was new to us, the North Gate of a college not too far from here. The area was really cool, much younger and livelier than the suburb I'm in, and we went to some cool restaurants and bars. The two Korean guys that we met (the second was named dae-joo), despite not being much scrawnier than me, couldn't handle their soju and literally fell asleep in a bar at 2AM. There was a girl with us, whose name I can't remember, who somehow managed to get the two boys home, I assume. The night still being young, George and I proceeded to go downtown and shake our booties in a club called "Frog" until closing time (6 or 7AM). If you stay long enough, you can always count on hearing "soulja boy," about 5 songs by kanye west, and a smattering of naughty by nature and beyonce. Probably pretty typical. Some random foreigner I was talking to accidentally stabbed me in the hand with his cigarette. It hurt much more than I expected. If you watch the longer of my two apartment videos, you'll see the wound while I'm pointing at some Chinese characters.

Sunday I of course rested, and on Monday, though I had been invited by Suk-joon to go down to the North Gate again, I opted out so that I could go to the gym. He was persistent, though, and finally at about 12:30 in the AM, after playing squash and lifting for a little more than an hour and a half, I caved and went to meet him. I hung out with him and some of his friends until 4. It was a really bizarre evening involving an extremely odd conversation with a late-night radio dj-voiced taxi driver, a love triangle (I wasn't involved, just watching and trying to understand as best I could), a dead friend who was an organ donor, and who knows what other mayhem. It culminated in me going with Suk-joon (but not with Dae-joo) to Dae-joo's apartment, where we ate some awesome spicy ramen and then slept on the floor. I took a bus home the next day, rested a bit, freshened up, and went to work.

Wednesday of last week, some of the coworkers wanted to go out. We have a new receptionist with whom I've been to busy to socialize, so I agreed. We all went for some grub at a western-style bar, where I enjoyed some delicious chive pancakes. Then we went out to another restaurant, specializing in a certain rice-alcohol called "Makkoli." That restaurant had some truly awesome potato pancakes, but I do not recommend the Makkoli. It's much stronger than it seems. And it doesn't taste that great in the first place. Even when you mix it with 7-up, which is what the new receptionist suggested. After that, we went to a singing room, and George and I disgusted the coworkers with our terrible rendition of Eye of the Tiger.

Thursday morning I was feeling pretty lousy on account of the Makkoli, but I got a call from one of the middle-aged men at the gym in the morning, and so I agreed to let him buy me some delicious lunch. It was just me and him and grub and Korean for about 90 minutes. Not too bad, eh? The food, called Shabu Shabu, is one of my favorites here. They put a large bowl of broth in front of you (everyone shares it), and you just dump in some meat, eat that, some veggies, eat those, then some noodles. Then they make fried rice for you. It was splendid.

Thursday night was monthly meeting night at the gym, so in lieu of exercising, we went up to the roof-lounge and had some grub. Unfortunately the only choices were pig feet and nasty steamed pork fat, so I just grazed on lettuce and kimchi, despite much heckling from my elders. I abstained from drinking with the dudes, also despite much heckling, because the Makkoli had still not finished taking its toll on me.

Friday I went to work, then went to play pool with George and another Korean friend, Chanhyeok. Another dude, Yook-gi, came and met us later, and we went out for some gru band came home around 3.

Saturday (yesterday - the post is almost over, as I'm sure you'll be relieved to hear), I didn't do much and then went downtown around 9 to meet a certain lady I had befriended in the club the previous week. I helped her and her friend with some English assignments in a coffee shop, chatted for a bit, then we went for some grilled meat. Originally they had planned to go home around 11, but apparently I just make people want to dance. So we went back to Frog (after a brief stop in Monkey, another club in the vicinity), where we spent about 1/3 of the time dancing, 1/3 hanging out on the roof, and 1/3 wandering around either looking for each other or just trying to find the bathroom. That finished around 6AM as well.

Now I'm at home and I have to write about 50 report cards. Dahhhhhh.

I know that post was a little long and self-centered. By the way, the korean word for "narcissistic" is wangja-byung, which means "prince-disease." Pretty sweet, eh? Next time, I'll try to go a little more Bob-and-Laura style, mentioning something about Korea I like or hate. Maybe something that will actually give you a little insight into what it's like to be living here. Just maybe.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Most of you are probably aware that Friday, 3.14, was Pi Day. In a stunning betrayal of my dorky roots, I sort of forgot about it. I just learned that I'll have a chance to make up for my transgression though. That's because July 22nd is pi approximation day! Hooray!

Monday, March 10, 2008


Click the photo link to the left. I put up photos from Thailand (4 albums) and from a dinner I had with my gym pals.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


I'll write more later, and hopefully post some of my Thailand pictures in the coming days. I just wanted to inform you that I did finally try some of those steamed silkworm pupas. They were given to us at a bar on a plate which also contained some little shredded-lettuce salad, some popcorn, some biscuit things, and maybe some other stuff. When an old woman is selling them out of a tub on the street, it's pretty easy not to eat them. I mean, you have to go through the process of talking to her and then she has to put them in a paper cup for you, and I'm not a big fan of wasting stuff where it can be avoided. However, at the bar, they were just given to me with no extra effort expenditure on my part, and not eating them would've been a waste of food as well as of an opportunity. So I went for it.

The surprising result: it tastes and feels like you're chewing on dirt. It's not so bad that you need to throw up - though the smell alone is almost enough to get you there - but there's nothing pleasant about the experience other than that the critters are small and you can just swallow them whole if you want it to be over ASAP.

Also, congratulations on your wedding, Jamal.