Archive for April, 2010

Korean Currency

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 28, 2010 by kingcal

So, this post is the long promised post in which I post pictures of Korean currency and talk about it a little.

First of all, the Korean currency is called won. It’s on par with the Japanese yen. This is mainly because of the Japanese occupation of Korea, but more on that later. The conversion rate for won to dollars is roughly 1100 won to one dollar.

This is a sip won — ten won — coin. It’s about nine-tenths of a cent. Essentially useless. I thought it was the lowest coin available in Korea, because in almost two months here I hadn’t seen anything lower, but Wikipedia informs me one and five won coins are available. If someone gave me one of those I’d probably slap them. That shit can’t even be worth the metal it’s minted on. The smaller coin is the more recent version, but bigger ones are in circulation still. On the front of this coin is the Dabotap pagoda. Apparently only four were ever erected, beginning in the year of 751 A.D., but only one remains. It’s located in Gyeongju, and is designated South Korea’s 20th national treasure.

Here’s the osip  won — fifty won — coin. Nothing particularly interesting about this coin. It’s worth roughly 4.4 cents. On the front is just a stalk of rice. Boring coin.

Here’s the baek won — 100 won — coin. Worth just about 8.9 cents. On the front of the coin is Yi Sun-sin. Yi Sun-sin was a famous naval commander that won a great reputation for his battles against the Japanese navy in the 16th century. When he was shot and killed on December 16th, 1598, he was quoted as saying “Do not let my death be known”, because he didn’t want his men to lose their morale. Certified badass.

This is the obaek won — 500 won — coin. Worth just about 44.4 cents. On the front of the coin is a bird called a Manchurian Crane. I don’t know what specific importance of this bird is, and I don’t particularly care to do that much research.

Here is the cheon won — 1,000 won — bill, which is 89.4 cents. On the front is the Confucian scholar, Yi Hwang, who lived from 1501-1570. In the background is Seonggyungwan, which was Korea’s highest educational institute in the 16th century. Yi Hwang was one of it’s most notable scholars. Also pictured are some plum flowers. On the back you see a painting of Dosan Seowon, which was an institute founded four years after the death of Yi Hwang for education and the memorialization of sages. The painting was painted by Jeong Seon (1676-1759), who was a painter that was notable for having departed from traditional Chinese-style, as well as the fact that he wasn’t born to a noble family, but achieved his court presence through recommendation after his work was discovered.

On the obverse of this bill, the ocheon won — 5,000 won — bill, which is about $4.47,  is Yi I (1536-1584). Yi I was a contemporary of Yi Hwang and a certified child prodigy. He was writing Chinese calligraphy at three, composing poems at seven, had completed his studies on the Confucian classics at seven, and by thirteen had completed the Civil Service literary examination. He served the government by writing on his wide knowledge of Confucian and Taoist philosophy and politics. Behind Yi I you can see Ojukheon Museum in Gangneung, South Korea. It’s named for a special kind of black bamboo that grows in that part of Korea. Unfortunately, Wikipedia has no information on what Ojukheon Museum has.

On the reverse of the bill, there’s a painting of watermelons by Shin Saimdang (1504-1551), painter and mother of Yi I. Shin Saimdang is a nearly legendary figure in Korea. She was one of the first women that was taught to write, because at the time it was a woman’s place to tend the home, not to obtain an education. She also symbolizes many desirable traits for Koreans: respect for her parents, selflessness, and being a good wife and mother.

This is Korea’s man won — 10,000 won — bill, which is $8.94. On the obverse of the bill, one can see Sejong the Great. Sejong (1397-1450, r. 1418-1450) was the fourth king of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897). Sejong the Great is only one of two kings posthumously honored with the ‘the Great’ title. Sejong the Great was the inventor of Hangul, the Korean writing system. Until the creation of hangul, only the most educated could write, and it was in Chinese. Sejong the Great created a phonetic system, entirely based on the shape your mouth makes when you make each sound, which anyone can learn in a matter of hours. He was also credited with strengthening Korea’s military and several technological advances, but hangul was by far the most important. Also pictured is a special kind of screen made just for Joseon-era kings, and text from Yongbieocheonga — Korea’s first piece of written literature.

On the back is the globe of Honcheonsigye, the only remaining astrological clock from the Joseon Dynasty, national treasure #230, and Cheonsang Yeolcha Bunyajido, a 14th century Korean star map. National treasure #228, the work shows over 1000 stars, 260 constellations, and ecliptic and equatorial lines.

This is the oman won — 50,000 won — bill, which is worth $44.68. On the obverse of this bill is Shin Saimdang, mother of Yi Hwang. In the background is Chochungdo, national treasure #595, which is a folding screen embroidered with flowers and insects. On the reverse, just bamboo and plum trees. Pretty plain.

Well, that’s a lot of information to digest. To be honest, it was mostly for me anyway. It was super interesting to learn about some Korean historical figures. I wish I could’ve done it at home so I could spend more time reading and not just copying. I guess I’ll have to do that reading on my own later. It’s also worth noting that all the bills are slightly different sizes. The larger the bill, the larger the paper. It’s not super noticable unless you have all the bills stacked on top of each other, but it’s enough to give me a headache because I’m super OCD about all the bills in my wallet all being lined up perfectly together so the folds are in the same places on each bill.

I’ve got the language group tonight. Sometimes I find it super hard to study Korean outside of the group, particularly vocabulary, which is what I need to work on the most right now. Friday, I’m heading out to another Cheonan City FC game. Hopefully it’s warmer by then. I spent some time researching, and Cheonan’s in the middle of a tough set of three games. They played Incheon last Saturday, Busan Tuesday, and Yongin City Friday. Those are the top three teams in the league right now, and in Cheonan’s two years of participation in the league, they haven’t finished better than tenth, so it’s a real rough stretch. Getting the point against Incheon was great, particularly after the bad start, and Tuesday they lost the match to Busan 0-1. Hopefully they can get three points against Yongin on Friday and come out of the three game nightmare fairly well.

Saturday it looks like I’m probably going to Bucheon with Dave to see one of his friends. Bucheon is almost exactly in-between Seoul and Incheon. He says it’s a lot bigger and more happening than Cheonan, and it has a sizable foreign population. I guess it’s one of the cities like Cheonan that was only recently developed, but it’s a couple steps ahead of Cheonan, so there’s more shit to do. I’m honestly just ready to have a weekend that isn’t either slow as hell or a hectic runaround like my weekends end up being. I’d enjoy just a nice night on the town and a guaranteed place to sleep.

New Purchases and Delicious Food

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2010 by kingcal

Sunday I spent an assload of money.

I went to an Adidas store very close to my apartment and got these bad boys. The first pair of shoes I picked out only had one pair in stock. These are size 300, and fit great. The girl who helped me was really helpful. It only took maybe five minutes to buy them. Ran me 51,000 won.

After I went home, I changed and hoped to find someone playing soccer at school, but the field was empty. On a whim I went about bought this beauty. Included was a lock. I got it for 123,000 won. I rode it all the way to the library we usually have our meetings at (but won’t anymore because the location isn’t great for everyone). Riding there was like 30 minutes, and twice I had to get off because the hills were too much for me. Let me tell you about the last three times I rode a bike. Spring junior year of college: After hanging out a friend’s, I was walking home and found a bike someone ditched. I got on and rode it, but the front wheel was bent, and I could barely go faster than I could walk, so I decided it wasn’t worth it. Freshman summer of college: Drunk as hell and walking someone home that had brought a bike, I briefly rode it around the street.

Before that was when I was fifteen and in Germany. My host partner’s father asked me if I wanted to go on a bike ride, to which I agreed. Little did I know that his father rode in marathons for a living. We went on like a 10 km ride, which is around 6.2 miles. It was awful. Before that, I don’t think I had ridden a bike since elementary school. As a kid, I could never seem to keep a bike. Either they were stolen or I lost them.

Anyway, on the way back, I was better about going up the hills, but still had to get off and walk up one briefly. The ride back was much quicker though. Maybe only 20 minutes, since most of it is downhill or even at least.

Sunday night I went to Lotte Mart with Chang-ki and bought some random shit. Iron, belt, sandals, candy for the kids (small bags which have already run out, so I’ll have to go to E-mart tonight on by bike [hopefully it won’t rain as it’s been threatening all day]), milk and bread and such. That ran about 80,000 won. All told, I spent around 250,000 won Sunday. For dinner, I had ramyeon — Ramen in English.

Teaching is pretty boring right now. It’s the last week with the books and almost all the classes have finished all the bookwork, so I’m left with pretty much nothing to do with them except play games. I’ve taken to punishing the kids who come late to class with aegyo. Aegyo is pretty much the act of being cute. Girls might do it to get something from a guy, or friends may do it together because it’s funny. But being forced to do it in front of classmates is terribly embarrassing. I don’t make them go crazy with it, just say “I’m sorry I was late” and rub their hands together (a pretty standard motion for Koreans asking for forgiveness), but it seems to keep kids from being late, and the rest of the class gets a kick out of it.

The only other thing left I want to talk about is the delicious food here. Let me introduce you to tomato kimbap:

Now, there’s nothing particularly tomato-y about this place. The other kimbap place I go to is called kimbap cheon guk — Kim bap 1000 Soups, and there’s barely any soups on the menu. It’s just a name. Tomato kimbap serves mainly guksu and mandu. Guk is soup, su is noodle, and mandu are dumplings. So, noodle soup and dumpling joint. And it’s fantastic. You can see that on the outside there’s a little plastic porch, which has its own “to-go” menu that’s different from the regular menu. Inside there’s only enough room for five people to sit down.

The mandu are steamed right in the shop:

When I get all steamed up, hear me shout…

Take off my top and eat my delicious steamed pork dumplings!

From left to right: bibimguksu, some weak broth with bean sprouts for drinking, angmandu, soy sauce for the dumplings, some sweet pickled turnip I’ve been told the name of a dozen times and can never remember, and ggakdugi.

The pork filling inside the massive angmandu. There are tons of types of mandu. I just picked this particular one because it was the cheapest, and you get two massive, doughy, pork filled dumplings for 1,500 won.

The fantastically delicious bibimguksu. Bibim simply means “mixed”, so put it together and you get ‘mixed noodle soup’. The first time I got it I wondered if they had mistakenly given me bibimbap, because there was no broth. Hard to be soup without broth, but instead of rice there was vermicelli noodles. In Korea, every restaurant makes everything differently. There’s a general method and definition for things, but they’ll all serve different banchan and they may have their own personal twists on each dish (the first time I had bibimguksu it was in a spicy, thin red broth with just noodles and no vegetables).

The bibimguksu properly mixed up. Best of all, it’s a cold dish. For some reason, the combination of cold and spicy has always been a favorite of mine. Unfortunately, there aren’t many dishes that combine the two. I usually had to settle for leftover buffalo wings the next day to satisfy that specific craving.

Actually, perhaps bester of all, the women there who cook the food are fantastically friendly. At Kimbap Cheonguk, the friendly atmosphere is a bit lacking. I don’t know if the woman there doesn’t like foreigners, or she’s honestly just one of the grouchiest people ever. In seven weeks now, I’ve literally never seen her smile or hear her laugh once, and I go there almost every day.

At Tomato Kimbap, they were fantastically impressed with my ability to eat Korean food and gave me extra red pepper sauce for my bibimguksu, since they could tell I like extra spicy food, and quickly refilled the banchan when they were gone.  I got to talk to them a little, and they asked: Maeweoyo? Referencing the bibimguksu (Koreans never say more words than they have to), asking if it was spicy. Ne, joahaeyo! Mashisseosseoyo! — “Yes, I like it! It was delicious!” I had to go back a second night in a row and have the same meal just to share it with you all. I’m seriously considering going back and working my way through the entire menu.

Well, I’m going to head off for E-mart soon. Hopefully the rain will hold off a little longer.

P.S. On a fantastically unrelated note (I know I used ‘fantastically’ a lot in this post. Word of the day?), check out this blog for a great post about Korea’s native transsexual pop star — Ha Ri Soo: http://speakingkorea.com/?p=1821

In South Korea, I’m Kind of a Big Deal

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on April 25, 2010 by kingcal

So, right after I wrote the last post, I dropped my computer at home, got my camera and headed out to the soccer game. I got there just about an hour before kick-off, so I had plenty of time to walk around and explore.

Approaching the stadium from the road behind it.

How pretty. Just call me Diane Arbus. If you know who that is, ten cool points.

Same fountain area. No, those aren’t real birds. When you’re going to a sporting event in America, you don’t really expect to see any beautiful scenery, but it’s normal here, I guess.

I really like the tree in the background. Very Tim Burton-esque.

The complex from the road out front. In a country as small as this one, I think having a vast open area of nothing is just kind of a big pissing contest. “SEE? We’ve got so much money we just don’t give A FUCK!”

A proper shot of the stadium from the front.

Taken from the top of the stadium. The thing is a giant complex with lots of tennis courts, soccer fields, baseball diamonds, basketball courts, volleyball courts, etc… This is just a small portion. It seemed like a pretty happening place to be for the physically active minded Koreans on a Saturday evening.

Here’s the stadium. Capacity is only 30,000. So about 30% of what Ohio Stadium can hold. Tiny in comparison. Also, soccer fields look a lot bigger on TV.

The flag in the foreground is the official National League flag for the soccer league. Now, when we hear “national league” we assume it’s professional, but these guys are more like the Columbus Clippers of South Korean soccer. In the background, I’m not sure of the left flag, but the middle flag is South Korea’s flag and then Cheonan’s flag.

Kind of an Olympic torch thing at the north end of the stadium.

Pretty lame scoreboard. Just about 40 minutes before kick-off.

West side of the stadium. Absolutely no one is here yet.

The valiant Cheonan City FC warming up.

The dirty, mildly retarded Incheon Korail. They’re actually sponsored and mascoted by a train. Even their uniform colors match the trains. How lame.

Pic from my seat. Exact middle of the field, second deck. Not bad for a free ticket. Technically, I didn’t even get a ticket. Just walked in. By the time the game started, there were a couple hundred people there. Not a super rowdy environment, but about what I expected. BBQ. Even the pro league soccer stadiums don’t fill up. Here baseball is the crazy passionate sport.

Mr. Moon came out early. I’ve never understood why you sometimes see the moon during the day, and being an English major, I probably never will.

The Cheonan City FC flag.

XFD THEIR MASCOT IS A FAGGOTY TRAIN, WHAT A BUNCH OF HOMERSEXUALS

Here’s the scoreboard during pre-game intros. This is Cheonan’s “playing coach”. I have no idea if that means the coach or some kind of physical trainer or what.

This is the die hard Cheonan City FC cheering section at the north end of the stadium. After each Cheonan player/coach was announced they’d scream their name and beat on their drums. I’m thinking of sitting there next time.

Pre-game ceremonies. The guys in maroon, yellow and gray unis are the Cheonan City FC. All white unis are the anencephallic (look it up) Incheon Korail. The kids are just random kids in taekwondo unis. At least some were from Incheon.

The cheering section at its largest. I never saw them actually throw the toilet paper. I spent more time watching the game than them though. Unfortunately, taking this picture I missed kick-off.

Disaster strikes four minutes in. A sloppy pass back to the keeper leads to an Incheon goal.

Half an hour later, an Incheon striker streaked up the sideline, got past the defense and blooped one right over the keeper’s head when he came out of the box. Down 0-2 at half, it’s looking bleak for the fighting Cheonan City FC.

At halftime I bought this candy bar. I’ve seen it everywhere, so I gave it a try. Nothing special, but for a dollar it’s about what you’d expect. BBQ. Also, shortly after this picture was taken something really amusing happened. I was totally zoned out, not listening or thinking much, but I was sitting right in front of the announcer’s table. He was talking in Korean and I didn’t understand any of it, so I was just staring off into space. Then I suddenly realized “Hey… He’s speaking English right now.” I missed the first part of what he said, but here’s the rest: We’re honored to have them at our game tonight. Please welcome and support them with thunderous clapping of hands.

I figured perhaps a local celebrity was in attendance, but then I realized that everyone was looking  at me. They were honored to have foreigners at the game. I wasn’t the only white person there, I saw maybe five or six others, but they were down in the lower bowl, so I was the only real visible one. I got a kick out of it. It wasn’t what I’d call thunderous applause, but it was polite. In South Korea, I’m kind of a big deal.

Just four minutes into the second half, Cheonan City FC scores on a PK. A breath of life came back into the crowd as the comeback started.

Success! Half an hour later, following some inspired footwork and a perfect cross, the goalie prevented one shot, but we got the rebound and fired and absolute laser into the net.

The last fifteen minutes of the game were really intense, and we controlled possession almost the entire time, but failed to score again. We had three or four really good opportunities in extra time, though. In soccer, extra time is generally awarded. Partially to make up for any lost time due to people constantly “getting hurt”, but also, for another reason. Particularly in a close game, they don’t want to prevent a legitimate scoring opportunity because of an arbitrary time limit, so they play on a couple minutes to see if someone can end it.

I think a lot of the reason people in America don’t have the same appreciation for soccer is because of the often frequency of ties. I think Americans need there to be a winner and a loser in sport. In major American sports, ties are either impossible or laughably rare (I’m looking at you Bengals and Steelers). Still, a tie can be a great thing. It’s still one point, and it’s all about the tone. Being down 0-2 in the first half, escaping with one point is a great accomplishment.

After the game, I ran to try and catch a bus stopped at a light. Whether or not he would’ve let me on is up for debate, but it’s academic at this point. Just as I got to the bus, I reached forward to wave and try to get the driver’s attention. This happened just as the bus started driving away, and I simultaneously misjudged the curb and stepped off into nothingness. I biffed it real fucking hard. And right in front of some Korean on foot and a bus full of them on a busy ass street.

The damage:

I ended up just walking home, since it was only three bus stops. No reason to waste money and time waiting around. Got some bibimbap at a different Kim Bap shop, since mine closes early on weekends. Walked to school hoping to find some soccer going on, but it was deserted, so I found a ball and just kicked it around until 11 PM when the night watchmen that lives in the school shooed me away because the place was closed.

I went home and started flipping through channels, and there was an old American movie playing. I didn’t recognize it immediately, and it was in black and white, but it was in English with Korean sub-titles, so I watched it. Then I realized “Holy shit, this is Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho!” It aired completely without commercials, too. The only weird thing was that they blurred the knife. I guess they can’t show violence on TV. I’d somehow escaped all my English and film classes without ever seeing Psycho, so I was really happy. Like I said before, South Korea is a country of surprises.

When the movie ended at 1 AM, they advertised the showing of Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times which will air next Saturday at 11 PM. I guess it’s a weekly thing. Makes sense since it’s the educational channel. The national anthem played (shit was like five minutes long) and it was paired with super patriotic South Korea FUCK YEAH footage. Then the station turned off. I’d literally never seen a TV station turn off before. Other stations were on, but I ended up going to a PC Bang for like an hour to see what was going on in the rest of the world. I watched a lot of K-pop music videos. Mostly to avoid listening to the female vocalist’s cover of “Don’t Stop Believing” that was on repeat the entire goddamn hour and a half I was there.

Sunday is going to be a laundry and shopping day. About to go home now and start laundry, then check the athletic shoe store close to me to see if they have anything in my size I can use for hiking and soccer. Then I have to go to E-mart. At the very least I should get an iron and a new belt. Possibly a new tie.

I live for Cheonan!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on April 24, 2010 by kingcal

Here’s the “big hill” I mentioned climbing once before. It’s really hard to see, but you might be able to make out some kind of building at the top of the hill. Also, it was an absolutely beautiful day. Mid-60s, light breeze, sunny as hell. I actually expected there to be a ton of people hiking there but I only saw a couple.

This jovial character is right outside a Western bar called Adonis. He always struck me as a cross between Woody Guthrie and John Wayne.

Construction on the street corner. But whatever could they be building?

A giant structure connecting all four corners. It’s a pretty big intersection, and ever mindful of public well-being, Cheonan officials have decided to put a nice fancy walkway above the road.

Near the bottom of the hill, there are lots of these little farms. Old people, generally women, tend them. They own the land. They may be just for their family, or they may sell them on the street. It’s also pretty common to see old women picking wild vegetables.

A Korean scarecrow. Actually, since I’ve been here I haven’t seen a crow. Perhaps they don’t have them here. But my students know what they are.

The first set of stairs up the mountain. They don’t look great, but compared to Taejosan, they’re fantastic. As I was taking this picture, my water bottle fell off the post and started rolling down the hill. It came open and I lost about half my water before I could catch it. Right in front of a mother-daughter pair too. Put it to Benny Hill and it probably would’ve had them in stitches.

A view from the top of the stairs. If you look super, super close you can see a black E on a yellow background in the very center of the picture. That’s E-mart, about a 40 minute walk from my house.

Just a little gazebo atop the hill. It’s what I saw that got me curious enough to climb it in the first place.

Some of the construction going on.

If you peek between the parallel branches in the very center, you can see my school. My apartment building is hiding behind it. The hill is too small and covered with trees to be scenic, like Taejosan, but it’s still a really nice walk.

Once you’re at the top, should you feel the need to go Rocky all over South Korea’s ass, the equipment is provided. Parallel bars, 20kg dumbbell, some chin-up bars, benches on which to do sit ups, and in the very back left, little round things to stand and swivel on to stretch your back.

These are Korean graves. I’d seen them a lot on the sides of mountains on the drives to Daejon and on train trips, so I finally asked Mr. Lee about them. Cemeteries as we know them are literally non-existent here. Only super rich people can afford to be buried on flat ground. However, land on a mountain is much cheaper. Families own this ground and bury people on the sides of mountains. Pretty much every mountain is dotted with at least a couple graves. Lots of people are cremated, too.

The grave marker is all in Chinese. I couldn’t even begin to tell you what it says. Chinese is unintelligible to me. The only worse language I’ve seen is Georgian. It looks like gobbledygook. Interestingly enough, gobbledygook is apparently a dictionary word, according to Firefox. I always thought it was a nonsense word that meant nonsense.

On a hill of predominantly evergreen or dead trees, one refuses to be bland.

These signs are all over the mountain. San bul josim — mountain fire caution. Much like California, wildfires are a problem here too.

Through the trees you can see Y-city. I mentioned it before. It’s a large shopping mall and apartment complex. The buildings are connected on the first four floors for shopping areas and then have the large spires for apartments.

If you’re not the type to go Rocky all over someone’s ass at the top of a mountain, perhaps hula hooping is your prerogative.

Atop the winding stair. Christ, I just referenced a specific chapter of The Lord of the Rings. I feel like such a turbo-nerd. You can’t even see the bottom from the top.

At the bottom, 180 steps later. I’m glad I catch it on the way down, because going up 180 stairs would be a kick in the dick.

The paper lanterns are in preparation for Buddha’s birthday. It’s sometime next month. I’m hoping to go to a traditional temple to check out whatever festivities or ceremonies may be going on. It’s one of the rare days off that I get.

I’m not sure who the bosom-y woman with the lotus is, but this rather drab building is a Buddhist temple, modern style. If you look at the sign it says hanamsa — Hanam Temple.

The nice thing about apartments here is that they always tell you the neighborhood’s name. This is Weolbong. Chang-ki actually lives in this complex. Building 207, I think. He says a lot of new couples and foreigners live there because they’re older and cheaper. Still, they’re nice on the inside, and at least four times the size of my apartment.

About a block away, if you look straight down the street, you can see Nasaretdaehakgyo — Nazareth University. It’s a Christian university. I know one girl that goes there, from the language group. I imagine a lot of the foreigners in Chang-ki’s apartment complex work there.

A much nicer garden area.

An extremely old woman tending the garden with a big ass rake/hoe type thing.

I see these signs all over Cheonan, and I recognized “I” and “Cheonan”, so I used my handy-dandy Korean-English dictionary in my phone to complete the phrase. Salmatnaneun Cheonan — means “I live for Cheonan”. Of all the things to be, it’s a bus advertisement.

Just a couple blocks from home I found this restaurant. It tickles me pink. I suppose here BBQ doesn’t stand for barbeque, or perhaps they’re making a terribly clever pun. However, it’s not even a BBQ place. Everything on the menu is some variety of fried chicken. Still, “Best Believable Quality!!” amuses the hell out of me. I can imagine a conversation between two patrons who’ve just started eating.

Man: How is it?
Woman: It’s okay. Not great, not bad.
Man: Yeah, well it’s only six bucks.
Woman: Yeah, that sounds about right.

Not the best quality, but just about as much as one could expect.

All told, the trip was about an hour and 45 minutes. Maybe a fifteen minute walk there, 45 minutes to climb the mountain and reach the end, then a 45 minute walk home. Maybe next weekend I’ll go to a mountain a little further away. I walked to it once and discovered something completely bizarre, so I want to take some pictures.

I’m saving this and posting it later. Just a ploy to keep views high and boost my ego. Now I’m off to the soccer game for more pictures.

More Random Pictures

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on April 23, 2010 by kingcal

I’m just making a quick DnD stop before my “big hill” climbing for the day. Mostly because I’ve got a random assortment of pictures that are all really unrelated, but I want to share anyway, and they won’t fit with the pictures I’ll be taking soon. I’ve also got my next three blogs pretty much planned out. Lots of pictures, so I’ll have to split them up to make it readable. One post for the “big hill”, one for the soccer game, and one for South Korean currency. I’ve finally finished collecting all the different bills and coins so I can photograph them and research a little about them.

If you can’t read the cursive at the bottom: Maple Sugar for U. hey! welcome to our space. we love you. can you love us?

This was in a package of index cards I bought to make flashcards for Korean. This was the only one that had English. The rest were in French, go figure. I have zero skill in French, so I couldn’t tell, but I’m sure it was really horrible French. This isn’t bad, but just hilariously South Korean and kitschy.

This is what I do before work. Practice conjugating Korean verbs.

Recently, Mr. Lee has been asking me to help him revise some of his textbooks. It doesn’t take terribly long and it keeps me busy at night so I don’t mind. Then he said that he’d pay me extra money when I get paid, so I mind it even less.

Thursday, a couple of my students all had balloon swords. I asked them where they got them thinking there was some kind of fair or festival or some such nearby. One of them pulled a bag of balloons out of his book bag and made me this dog. Pretty sweet. I learned how to make a dog once, but not this well and I’ve completely forgotten it now. I’ve always been too nervous about popping the balloon to man-handle them much.

Let’s play I Spy. I spy something red and white!

It’s not the restaurant sign. It’s not the tape around the garden. It’s not a tail light on a car. Give up?

It’s a swastika!

Now, before you go thinking that Nazism is still alive and strong in South Korea, there’s something you should know. The swastika is actually an ancient symbol that has been traced as far back as 6000 BC. I was used occasionally in ancient Western societies, but after World War II it became extremely stigmatized in Western society, for obvious reasons. In Germany, it’s illegal to display the swastika. In America, you might see it, but you’d immediately think it was distasteful and extremely racist. Here in South Korea, it’s simply a common sign for a Buddhist temple.

Some foreigners I’ve met, talked to, or read their blogs have expressed some displeasure over seeing the swastika here in South Korea. They think that it’s still racially insensitive to display swastikas here. However, considering South Korea is made up of about 99.5% South Koreans, there’s almost literally no one to offend. To them, the swastika is just a Buddhist symbol for Nirvana and heavenly balance.

Teaching this week was all right. The first three days were really boring for the kids. Just reading the stories they already know by heart. I switched it up Wednesday and just typed some of the sentences from the stories in Word out of order to see if they could actually, actually read or were just associating phrases with pictures in the story. Most of them did very well. Thursday, literally all I did was play Bingo. Or, at least, attempt to. I spent all of my first grade class on Thursday just trying to get them to understand how to make a Bingo sheet. A couple caught on quick, but most were clueless. So I assigned it for homework. Friday, nearly none of them brought it to class, and none of them finished it anyway, so we just read. The older classes understood perfectly, though.

My habit of speaking an extremely tiny bit of Korean in school is coming back to bite me in the ass. One of my students, Diane, in E class (third best of the day) almost completely refuses to speak to me in English. I like her a lot. She’s a fun kid, and she reminds me of someone I’ve seen before, but I just can’t place it. Still, it’s annoying that she will ramble on in rapid South Korean to me. Friday, she was trying to explain the word for “cousin” to me, but she kept saying it in Korean. When I didn’t understand, she just said it slower and louder. So I loudly and slowly responded “I. Don’t. Speak. Korean.” At least the kids got a laugh out of it.

Also, Jessica who I mentioned a couple times before, has dropped out of the E class. Her father has apparently got her going to five hagwons now, so she’s got literally no time for English. I don’t think it’s normal for kids to have that many hagwons. She’s just one of the craziest busy kids. It’s a shame because she’s one of the few kids that actually really, really tried to speak in English first, and usually found a way to express herself without resorting to Korean.

The only other notable thing is the sense of entitlement a lot of kids have. In my G class, last and “best” of the day, I have lots of trouble. The boys are extremely loud and hard to control. And while I’m getting a handle on them, the girls end up just drawing in notebooks. Thursday I took a couple notebooks away from girls so they’d pay attention to me, and one of them got extremely pissed at me. Her name is Kelly, and she’s one of my favorites in the class. She’s just not a fan of me right now. Friday I said she couldn’t go get a drink of water, but I wasn’t letting anyone, because I knew they were just asking so they could waste some class time.

She just sat down and looked daggers at me. At the end of class, I told them to write ten sentences starting with “I want to…”. Fridays are usually speaking practice about that the kids want to do on the weekend. This Friday I spent all day explaining to each class the grammar of the “I want to…” phrase. Kelly just wrote “I WANT TO GO HOME” in big letters that took up an entire page and showed it to me. I just said “Ten” and she got more mad. Haha. Man, being a kid here is tough. The bottom line: Kids here can get really pissy if you offend their delicate sense. Usually the grudges don’t last too long, but sometimes they do.

Last thing: Last night I had dinner at Chang-ki’s apartment. Got to meet his wife. When he invited me, he said there would be “no delicious food”, just rice. I agreed anyway, and brought some of the ojineo I’d bought before and some kim that Mr. Lee bought for me. When we got there, his wife was cooking keoredeopbap — curry covered rice. It’s not nearly as spicy as Indian curry. Actually, it’s not spicy at all, but it has the great curry flavor. It was a really good meal, and we had some of my kim and ojineo with dinner.

Afterward, I went to E-mart with Mr. Lee. He insisted on buying me some groceries. So, I got eggs, cooking oil, a pack of Ramen, a couple slices of beef, and frozen dumplings. He tried to buy me more, including some clothes, but I refused. I’ve tried explaining that I don’t like people paying for things for me, but he doesn’t get it. I figured out that here my shoe size is 305. They measure it in millimeters here. The largest size at E-mart was 275. It was possible to squeeze my foot in, but it was as tight as a vice and really uncomfortable. I might be able to shave off a couple millimeters since my Chucks are a little bigger than they have to be, but 275 just won’t cut it.

I caught up with Lawrence and Dave and had a pitcher of beer, but then went home. I got some soju and watched a Korean comedy. It’s titled Nangman Jagaek — Romantic Warriors/Assassins. There’s nothing really romantic about the movie. It’s just a story about five assassins that are completely incompetent that piss off some ghosts, so they have to avenge the ghosts to pay them back. I think even without subtitles it’d be hilarious. A lot of very physical comedy. It’s also very low-brow. Some of it is actually censored (extreme language and frontal male nudity). It’s an absolute riot. If you’re interested, drop me a line and I can send you the necessaries to download it.

Trash Furniture Afficianado

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2010 by kingcal

This week in Trash Furniture Afficianado: A lovely, Korean one piece combination breakfast, lunch, dinner table and night stand.

You can see I’ve already put it to good use. You can see the Korean textbook I bought Sunday night, my Zune, my phone charger (white cord), Zune charger (black cord), and the entirety of Aesop’s Fables (I’ll explain).

It’s shitty quality, but it shows just how low the table really it is. It isn’t nearly high enough to use comfortable from the couch (plus it’d totally mess up the chi flow of the room [and I’d probably fuck my shins over on bathroom trip in the dark]). In all probability, it was probably a Korean family’s dinner table until they threw it away. When I saw it in the trash, I figured perhaps one of the legs was broken or something, but aside from a little wear and tear on the finish on the table, there’s nothing wrong with it.

Monday I didn’t do much in any of my classes except talk with them about their weekend and my weekend. I’m technically not responsible for anything other than teaching them the program, but I really want them to get better at natural conversation rather than just regurgitating what they’ve memorized from the stories we use. Ultimately, I think it will help them with learning the programs more easily, but I can tell most of them hate it. I really have to push to get full sentences out of them. I told them about my trip to Yeouido and showed them some pictures from the blog. David, ever the quick one, immediately recognized my name in the title of the blog and asked me if it was my website. I said yes, but didn’t let him see the URL. He wouldn’t be able to understand what I write for the most part, but one never knows what kind of pictures I’ll post, so maybe one of my fourth graders knowing the website isn’t a good thing.

Today was another slow day for the kids. I went through and made all my classes take turns reading and then I’d ask comprehension questions. One of the big problems I have is getting the kids to think about what they’re reading and not just repeating without thinking. A lot of times they can read the sentence “The boy goes to the store” perfectly well, but if I ask “Where did the boy go?” they just stare at me blankly. I might be slightly sick. When I wake up there’s a little twinge in my throat and I had to yell a lot today. It doesn’t really hurt, but I can just tell something’s not right.

One of the big reasons I’m not really upset about being here six weeks and not having Internet in my place is the opportunities that being in DnD for a couple hours every other day or two affords me. I walked by on my way to dinner and saw Julia in here. I went to the Kim Bap place nearby and had a quick meal of bibimbap. I hadn’t had it for awhile because I’ve been trying a lot of new stuff. I almost forgot how delicious it is. I came back to DnD and Julia was still studying with a friend of hers. Next Friday, all the kids in my school have a big round of midterms. On Monday, when I asked what they did on the weekend, about 90% of the kids said that they didn’t do anything except study. The other ten percent went to grandma’s house.

While I was sitting here just reading through my various English teachers in Korea blogs and downloading some Korean learning stuff, I was biting my nails a lot. Julia got my attention and said “we are the same” and pointed at her fingernails. Then she said that she even bites the skin off her fingers sometimes and concluded “I am a hand hunter.”

When teaching or talking to Korean kids, you have to be ready for quick topic changes. A lot of times when I teach I’ll have at least some basic plan for what I want to be talking about, but a kid will pop up with something completely off-topic, but usually much more interesting. Plus, I never want to shoot down a chance for them to practice speaking unscripted English. So right after we finished the hand hunter conversation, Julia’s expression changed really quickly to a really sad one. In a kind of round-about way, she asked why Lawrence was her English teacher and not me, because she likes me more. Ain’t that just goddamn adorable. She said it made her angry and sad (her facial expression looked more like frustrated than anything else). I had to explain that I taught after school, so she’d have to ask her mom to put her in the program, and then I’d be her teacher. This is literally something Mr. Lee has asked me to do. He said I should hang out around the bang bang (lit: room room, but it’s the bouncy room near my apartment named after a bouncing sound) and make friends with the kids and tell them to ask their parents to enroll them in his program. I haven’t gone that far, but I actually do wish that Julia was in my classes because she’s a great kid.

I forgot my camera at home, so I went home real fast to get it, then came back and took a picture of Julia and her friend (Julia is on the right).

I’ve said it before, but she’s just one of those kids with a great energy about her. It’s one of those intangible things. It’s really hard to explain, but she’s a really awesome kid.

Actually, when I came back, I guess she’d done something to piss off her mom, because they were arguing and her mom kept slapping her on the hip and back and stuff. It was pretty comical. Didi (Julia’s mom) explained that in America if I saw someone hitting their kid I’d call the cops, but in Korea it’s completely normal for a parent to hit their kid, in public even. And it is. I think it’s part of the reason why Korean children play so roughly.

About Aesop’s Fables: Sunday night, Chang-ki picked Dave and I up. We got Dave a blanket and pillow, which Mr. Lee said he’d reimburse me for. He couldn’t do it himself because he was very sick. After we dropped Dave at home we went back to Yawoori and found a big bookstore in the main mall. I looked around and found a nice looking Korean textbook in just a couple minutes. We ended up staying there for like half an hour more because something caught my eye. American fiction and classics. Specifically, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. Actually, I thought it was a pretty long, boring book (I read it on the recommendation of a girl – go figure), but I had tried explaining the phrase ‘catch-22’ to Chang-ki on a couple occasions (I still don’t think I’ve done a particularly good job of it), so it was relevant to the company.

The American fiction was crazy expensive. At least $20 for each book. Some of them were really great books, like The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien or Light in August by Faulkner, but not $20 good. I’ve already got those at home. They did have a decent selection of Penguin Classics, though, which were much more bargain priced. I kept fussing over them and couldn’t pick one before someone came along to tell us the book store was closing soon. Instead, I kept explaining things like Aesop’s Fables, what Middle English is (I read a passage from Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales), the basic plot of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, and that I liked reading Russian authors like Dostoevsky and Tolstoy because they write such thick books (you really get your money’s worth). Chang-ki took a couple pictures of the books I was talking about, then Monday he brought me Aesop’s Fables. He printed them off at work from some website he uses to find e-books.

One last humorous DnD event before I leave:

As I was writing this, a couple middle-aged Korean women came in and sat next to me. From the body language and how one of them was holding their phone, I was suspicious that they might be taking my picture. After awhile one approached me holding something and asked me if I liked the candy. I opened it, and from the smell I could tell it was made of kim — seaweed. I like seaweed, particularly with rice, and ever willing to try something I popped it in my mouth. The first thing I noticed was that it was extremely tough to chew. I guess one is supposed to suckle the sweet seaweed-y-ness from it. A moment later, one of the Korean ladies explained “Tomorrow you will go poop poop good. This candy cleans your colon.”

Bueno. That’s just what I need. Some seaweed flavored Colon Cleanse. I just laughed and thanked them, and kept eating it. A couple times it made me choke a little. The longer it was in my mouth and the more impatient I got with it being there, the more I chewed it and the worse it got. It’s gone now. I don’t think I’ll eat the other piece they gave me. Mayhap I’ll find another poor foreigner to try it out on.

A Seoul (Mis)Adventure

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on April 17, 2010 by kingcal

I’m not quite sure how I’d classify my Saturday in Seoul. I think I’ll know by the time I finish writing this. Let’s get to it. First of all, I got a couch Thursday night. It’s got ripped upholstery, so someone threw it away. It also came with a matching chair that was in better shape. Lawrence got the chair since his place is smaller, and I got the couch.

You can see most of the damage in this picture. It’s comfortable as hell though. And it gives me a place other than the floor to toss my shit.

Eight in the morning Saturday I got a call from Mr. Lee saying that the new teacher would be arriving at 11 AM. Eleven rolls around so I give him a call and find out he’s not arriving until 12:30 PM. We run some errands to buy a bed and blankets/pillows, etc… then go to Yawoori to pick Dave up. Not only is Dave from Ohio, but he’s actually an OSU grad, same class as me. Spring ‘o9.  It’s pretty fantastic having someone from Columbus. We had a pretty lengthy conversation just about the different pizza places in Columbus. Dave actually got to Korea Friday night, but after buses stopped running, so he stayed at a guest house. I guess that’s like a hostel. He didn’t sleep more than three or four hours though, so he was tired as hell.

We took him to his apartment, which is about a ten minute drive from my place, since he’ll be teaching primarily at Oseong (previously misspelled as Osang). I asked him if he was down for a trip to Seoul, and despite his weariness, he seemed enthusiastic about the trip, so I had Mr. Lee drop us off at the KTX station. An hour later we were in Yeouido and trying to locate Sid. Instead, we found this:

We could hear this guy about four city blocks away because of the massive sound system. I assumed it would be something to do with the Cherry Blossom Festival, but it was actually something quite different. Notice all the red head bands? Communist rally. A couple moments after taking this picture I found some students with Communist literature either for sale or to give away, I’m not sure.

Lots of fucking people. Also, they all got kindergarten carpet squares to sit on. I have no idea where they came from.

It’s hard to tell from this picture, but all of those flags are being held up by people sitting on the ground.

After backtracking to the subway station, we met up with Lawrence and Steve (a foreigner from the language group that teaches in Pyeongtaek, a couple subway stops from Cheonan). Then Sid came to get us and take us to the festival. She was upset because she lost her camera on the bus (this is important later).

Unsure of exactly how to get to the festival, we followed the crowd.

This unfortunate girl was standing on a corner by a big gas station. I didn’t notice the shoes until I re-sized the picture. Right after I took the picture she gave a really lame wave. I’m also pretty certain there’s no possible way she could be drinking that orange juice, but just held it there.

This is the Han River area. I recognized this part of the river from a Korean horror movie titled Gwimul — The Host (2006). The movie starts off with the nasty American coroner telling his Korean underling to pour several hundred bottles of formaldehyde down the drain, which ended up in the Han River. The result? A big baddy that eats people whole. The monster shows up like ten minutes in and the whole movie is about the main character trying to locate his daughter whom the monster took into the Seoul sewer system. Really good movie.

These are silkworms, served steaming hot. The silkworm I had was cold, thankfully, and it was bad enough. I’m normally very reluctant to say something from another culture is bad, but honestly, this is fucking disgusting. Not only does it look and taste awful, but it also smells pretty much like shit. Looking at the picture actually made me smell it again. And there were people every couple hundred feet selling cups of these things as snacks.

Getting closer to the festival.

If steaming hot silkworm doesn’t tickle your fancy, there were much more traditional fair foods available. Here’s some cotton candy. Also to be had: corn dogs, grilled corn on the cob, Korean popcorn (bigger, white, and slightly sweet), the Korean equivalent of an elephant ear, and more.

This twenty foot tall dog was at the entrance to the festival. He’s made completely of recycled gum boxes/cans.

Walking down the middle of the street at the festival. Left to right, Dave (blue sleeve), Stephen (curly hair), Lawrence, and Sid.

Guy doing a portrait of a little girl. He actually looked a lot like Johnny Depp, a la Secret Window, but Asian.

This guy was telling jokes, and apparently fucking hysterical, but it was lost on me. I got him looking directly at me, too. If you move his eyes follow you. Creepy.

Trees. I was actually told this year was a bad year for the festival as far as the cherry blossoms were concerned. Winter lasted a lot longer than it usually does, so some of the trees weren’t fantastic looking, but there were plenty of nice ones.

A recycled cardboard chicken.

This guy reminded me a bit of Bender. I’m sure it was completely unintentional, but I enjoyed it.

Recycled cardboard ship.

Not long after this picture we left the festival. Sid’s Korean co-teacher had called the bus station and they had her camera. Honor system is big in Korea. I consider myself a fair individual, but if I found a digital camera on the bus, my ass just got a new digital camera. After a little discussion, we decided Lawrence and Sid would hop on a bus and go to the central station to get her camera, and Dave and I would get on the subway, go to Sid’s neighborhood and hang out until they came back, then we’d drop our stuff at her place and head out to the clubs. Stephen went off on his own to Itaewon to meet some people for a going away party for a co-teacher of his.

Dave and I got to Chang-dong (Sid’s neighborhood, the extreme NE corner of Seoul) all right and spent some time walking around, admiring the street food and I showed him E-mart and some normal Korean stuff. Around 9 PM we began to wonder where Lawrence and Sid were, so I called them. It took a lot longer than planned to get the camera, and they were too far away to make it to Chang-dong by 10 PM when all the subways, trains and buses stopped running. Bottom line, Dave and I were stranded in Seoul with no place to sleep.

Sid’s place, unlike 99% of the apartments I’ve seen in Korea still uses a key to unlock the door, rather than a number pad, so we couldn’t get in. The other teacher in her building left for the night to drink and didn’t have a phone so we couldn’t get a hold of him. I tried calling Mr. Lee to see if he knew anyone we could stay with, but he didn’t answer. We sat down to a dinner of fried chicken from the street. It was pretty good, not great. It wasn’t seasoned at all, but the chicken itself was good. After that we got some soju, snuck it into a PC Bang so Dave could contact his family, etc… and waste some time while I figured something out. Eventually I just decided that we’d hop in a taxi and tell him to take us to a jjimjilbang.

I’ve mentioned these places before. They’re basically businesses that have public baths, pretty much jacuzzis, which one bathes in nude, and also sauna rooms, some food, and sleeping areas. I didn’t tell Dave about the nude part, since it wasn’t really relevant. We got in a taxi and I was in charge. Dave speaks literally no Korean. Not hello, goodbye, thank you. Nothing. I asked about a jjimjilbang, and the response was “Where?” Well you tell me, Jack. I could only say “I don’t know” and hope he could find one nearby.

After a couple minutes he pulled up to a sauna, and I had to say chago shipeoyo — I want to sleep, because I was unsure if a sauna would have a sleeping area like a jjimjilbang. He immediately understood and ended up just rolling the window down and asking people on the street for directions. One was close by, and it only ended up being like a six dollar cab ride. He asked why were going to a jjimjilbang to sleep, and I said we didn’t have anywhere else to go. This gave him the giggles. Chuckling fucker. Anyway, he was really helpful, and we went into the jjimjilbang.

As with any Korean establishment, the first thing you do when you walk in is take off your shoes and put them in a locker. It was only 8000 won for each of us, so less than $8 to spend the night, which is much cheaper than any hotel would’ve been. They give you a nifty little sauna uniform to be worn anywhere other than the bathing area. Then you get a bracelet to wear with a number and key to another locker for your clothes and anything else you have on you. Also, you use it to buy things. They just look at your bracelet number and write it down and you pay when you leave, before you get the key to your shoe locker back.

Right when we walked in, I looked around and to the left I saw a chubby, completely naked Asian man. Just walking around. I wasn’t checking him out or anything, but this guy wasn’t packing much heat, so to speak. I’m not saying that to make fun, but just to point how completely unashamed Koreans are to be nude in public. Dave saw it and just looked at me and said “What did you get us into?” We went to change into the uniform immediately, then found the sleeping area. It was basically a balcony above a room that one could enter saunas from. Just grab a mat and lay on the floor. There were probably thirty or forty Korean people doing the same thing. It’s completely normal to spend the night at a jjimjilbang. I don’t know why the taxi driver found it so goddamn funny.

Even on a mat, using another mat as a pillow, it wasn’t too comfortable. I only got three or four hours of sleep. We got there around 11 PM, then left at 4:30 AM to get to the train station early and catch a ride to Seoul Station and take a KTX home so we could get back still pretty early and maybe sleep some more. We stopped in a convenience store to use the ATM and ask the guy where the closest train station was, and he gave us some directions, but eventually we ended up just getting in a cab and splitting the cost. It was about a half hour ride to Seoul Station.

Let me introduce you to the best McDonalds in the world. Just to the right is a Korean McDonalds equivalent called Lotteria. It’s got burgers, fries and fried chicken. Not only is the McDonalds open 24 hours a day, but it only serves the breakfast menu. From 11 AM to 2 PM you can get a Big Mac, but other than that, just breakfast. Fucking genius. This needs to come to the States. I got a Sausage McMuffin, the first I’ve had in months, and it was just like home. After a hard night, it really picked me up. I hadn’t been to a McDonalds here before this, and I didn’t particularly miss the lunch menu, but the breakfast menu was a Godsend. Ambrosia from the Elysian Fields (look it up, I don’t have to explain everything) has never tasted so good.

This is my Korail ticket. It’s not as fast as the KTX, and it made three stops on the way, but it only took 20 more minutes and it was 5000 won cheaper, so it was a perfectly good option. The teller quite helpfully circled the date (perhaps I looked unaware of what day it was), the departing time, the city we were in (Seoul), and the city we were going to (Cheonan). Also worth noting, it tells us the number of the train, our car and seat numbers, but most importantly, the track number is missing. For some reason they never bother printing the track number on tickets here.

These are the 14 tracks of Seoul Station. Figuring out which track you need with the only useful information given to you being the departing time isn’t super hard, but I still checked with an attendant to make sure we were getting on the right train.

Also, I’m 22 years old. I’m a grown ass man. Yet, it’s 100% impossible for me to be in Seoul Station without very quietly saying “Seeeeeeeeeeeeeeoooooooooooouuuuuuuulllllllllllll TRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIN” to myself in a  high pitched voice and giggling like a little girl. Seoul is generally pronounced by Westerners exactly like ‘soul’, but natively it’s pronounced ‘saw-ul’. Still, I get a fair amount of enjoyment out of the silly pun.

We got back to my place a little after 8 AM. I’d had a couple cups of coffee and it’s impossible for me to sleep once it’s light out, so I let Dave crash on my bed, and I came to DnD to write this. I’m heading back soon. I’m going to spend the rest of the day watching Korean movies and relaxing. Perhaps calling Chang-ki later today to go buy a Korean textbook. Maybe seeing Mr. Lee to eat dinner and drink soju with Dave, as well as buy some of the necessities for Dave’s apartment.

In the end, it wasn’t an awful time. The initial shock of not having a place to sleep was a pretty big kick in the nuts, but it wasn’t terrible. It was made more bearable that I had Dave with me, so I wasn’t alone. At the same time, I felt pretty terrible having dragged him along on no sleep and then having a rather unfortunate night. Kind of a shitty start to his year here, but he was a good sport about it. It’s an interesting story, and I learned some stuff. I proved I can take care of myself. I got to practice my terrible Korean. As bad as it is, when contrasted with Dave’s complete lack of knowledge of Korean, I’m almost completely self-sufficient. At least enough to spend a night in a different city.