Archive for May, 2010

The Cheonan Chronicles

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2010 by kingcal

So, I’ll use this post to catch up on a little of recent events, as well as put up the last of my pictures from the weekend.

Thursday and Friday night I spent a lot of time at the Banana Bar in Yawoori playing pool. Thursday I actually stayed until the bar closed just after 4 AM then waited for a bus that started running at 6:20 AM. I had a couple other options, but I was mostly just punishing myself for thinking staying out that late with no cash for a cab home was a plausible idea. I can’t even really remember what I did Friday afternoon. Must not have been terribly exciting.

Saturday I woke up and finished laundry then began the journey to Gunsan. I got to the bus station around 1 PM, but the next bus for Gunsan didn’t leave until 3 PM, so I went to the bookstore and bought Robinson Crusoe and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (mostly because I’ve got a couple students that have read Sherlock Holmes and know who Arthur Conan Doyle is [he seems almost more popular here than in America]) to treat myself and have something to do while I waited. Got on the bus and listened to music and read Robinson Crusoe pretty much the entire time. Robinson Crusoe is an interesting novel to read while abroad. I wouldn’t exactly say I’m isolated and alone. I’ve got a decent group of friends that I see regularly, but a lot of my time is still alone, and I think someone that never feels a little isolated, at least a little, in a foreign country has something wrong with them. Anyway, pictures from the trip:

Still in Cheonan at this point. Whoever this man is, his supporters had a much more intricate dance than the women in the other picture. I’d definitely vote for him, given the chance.

Sorry for all of the repetitive mountain shots, but I can’t help it. Come from the part of Ohio that’s as flat as a table I’ll probably never get used to seeing mountains everywhere. I wouldn’t say I’m breath-taken by them, but they’re still fascinating to me. It’s amazingly more picturesque than any place in Ohio. Towards the end you can tell it started raining, and it didn’t stop all weekend.

In Gunsan, it behooved me to buy an umbrella — usang in Korean — since I was in a t-shirt, shorts and sandals (it was quite nice in Cheonan when I left). I met a guy named Jason whose blog I’ve linked a couple times. We met his friend Leandra, who comes from South Africa and has been here just a little shorter than I have, for dinner which was nice. Then we separated and Jason and I watched a movie called Black Dynamite, which was hysterical. It’s a 2009 spoof kung-fu spoof of the 70s blacksploitation films. I highly recommend it. After that, we met back up with Leandra and just chilled in some empty Korean bar. I liked it though. Good conversation, plus the bar was cool. It was cheap as hell, and you helped yourself to the beer you wanted and then just brought the bottles to the counter to pay.

I also had my first experience with ojineo-ib. Now, I’d had ojineo before, and quite liked it, so I figured whatever it was couldn’t be much different. My dictionary told me that ib means mouth. Squid mouth. So it comes out, and it looks pretty much like eyes. But apparently that’s just how squid mouths look. Jason, Leandra, and their late-comer friend Bryce refused to touch them. They weren’t bad, particularly dipped in gochujang, but there were some little black things in there that were hard to chew, so I had to keep spitting them out.

Afterward, we left for another bar, which was packed with GIs from the local army base. Gunsan is actually much smaller than Cheonan, but the bars were all packed, which is a hard thing to find in Cheonan, because of all the army dudes. We stayed for a drink, then Jason and I went to get some spicy chicken, and I had my second bottle of soju which was just enough to get me over the edge. I remember paying to leave the last place, but not anything after that. Cut to 10:30 AM Sunday morning.

Take a taxi to the bus station, then realize that the 10,000 won bill I assumed was in my wallet was gone. So he had to go to a bank so I could get cash, then take me back. I could tell he wasn’t happy about it. Particularly because I heard him mutter shilba — which is kind of like the blanket big boy curse in Korea. It’s translated in movies as anything from shit to fuck to damn to hell, etc…

One the bus ride back, I read a little more Robinson Crusoe, but also watched the latest Community (my giggles from the back attracted many a curious stare), and then a documentary about meth. It wasn’t the cheeriest movie I ever watched. Got home, then went to Chang-ki’s to chill before the Sunday meet up. We ended up watching the movie Daybreakers. Not fantastic, but at least it was working on a different premise than all the other vampire movies.

The Sunday meet ups are less about studying Korean and more about just hanging out, so we just had dinner with some people, then hung out at Ruth’s place. I taught the Koreans how to play Spades, but we didn’t finish the game before people had to leave. I had the sneaking suspicion that they weren’t loving it.

Monday was business as usual at school. After work I skipped the language meeting to watch Korea play Japan in soccer at Chang-ki’s. Korea won 2-0, which was really cool. They’re looking good going into the World Cup, but they’ll still need a small miracle to make it out of the group stage.

Tuesday morning I had a meeting with my principal and he just told me about all the extra work I need to be doing. I didn’t mind it terribly, since sometimes I honestly feel like I don’t have much to do with the kids. Then I went to each class and told them that if they would continue to misbehave, I’d have the principal call their parents. I don’t know how effective this was. All of the kids that are really cool and obedient were horrified, but all the trouble makers just kind of laughed about it. Damn.

After work Tuesday was another Cheonan City FC game, and as far as rankings were concerned they were favored to beat Daejon, but they ended up losing 0-1. It was super frustrating. Two chances were definitely goals, but one shot beat the keeper but not the post, and another shot that was flicked half-assed in was chased down from behind by a defender and cleared out. The last 20 minutes of the game was a constant barrage of shots at their goal, but none could make it into the net. Still, Cheonan is still in first place, so all we have to do is win the last two games. They control their own fate, so as long as they don’t lose again it’s all good. Next up is Mokpo, the second to worst team in the league, which has only won one game all season, so far. Hopefully they won’t be much of a struggle.

Tonight will be a quiet night of Breaking Bad, Colin (the British zombie made for around $70 that made it to the Cannes Film Festival), perhaps a little Korean studying. Tomorrow, I’ve got the language exchange. I haven’t even begun thinking about the weekend yet, as far as plans, I just know that I’m ready for it to be here. Mostly so I can sleep. I didn’t get a ton of sleep this weekend, and waking up at 8:30 AM every morning murders me.

Early this morning, I had two separate dreams about oversleeping. The first time, I woke up and it was like a quarter to three, which would’ve made me about two hours late for my first class, but I didn’t even care. I was so tired I rolled over and went back to sleep. The second time I woke up thinking it was some time around five in the afternoon. I didn’t feel amazing, but I worked up the courage to check my phone and it was actually 15 minutes before my alarm was set to go off. Technically a good thing, not missing work and all, but I always hate waking up with less than 30 minutes left before my alarm.

There are some big current events right now, as far as hostile North-South relations, but this is already pretty long, so I’ll save it for next time.


Pictures from Gagweonsa

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

There’s a bunch of pictures here from Gagweonsa, but I went alone, so I couldn’t learn much while I was there. Mostly just take pictures. Most of them will speak for themselves, so not much writing in this post.

Just says gagweonsa — Gagweon Temple.

It’s a little to see just how high it goes, but it’s in the neighborhood of 190 steps to the top to get to the Buddha statue.

One of my favorites from the bunch. I’ve noticed that Koreans tend to favor the child-like Buddha, as opposed to the morbidly obese Chinese Buddha.

The temple complex from above.

Lanterns are pretty and stuff. You could buy these and write your own little message on the paper hanging down from the lanterns.

Korean family for scale.

This is the second largest Buddha statue in Korea. It was enshrined in 1977 to pray for the reuniting of North and South Korea. It hasn’t worked so far. It measures 15 m (49 feet) tall, 30 m (98 feet) in circumference, 175 cm (5.7 feet) long ears, 30 cm (1 foot) long fingernails, and weighs 60 tons.

Some ladies selling paper lanterns to write shit on.

A smaller temple on the edge of the temple grounds.

A shrine to bobble heads?

Same room. I enjoy the fluorescent light coming out of the dragon’s mouth. Half-dragon, half-lightsaber, all badass.

These were small tiles you could also buy to write things on. There were literally thousands all over the temple grounds.

The main temple from just in front of it.

A huge paper lotus in the foreground, and in the back a monk leading a prayer session.

The main shrine to Buddha, et al.

Some of the detailed work above the shrine.

Dragons ‘in sich.

Two smaller satellite temples.

Tons of little Buddha graven images. God is going to be so pissed when he finds out.

Sorry lady, but bad timing on your part.

A little courtyard in front of the main temple.

Giant paper lantern.

Since I couldn’t ask anyone, I’m assuming they’re patron saints or something.

Another of my favorites. A child Buddha in a lotus on an elephant.

Just some structure near the courtyard that had a big bell on the second floor.

The main temple from afar beyond yon courtyard.

The angle was as such that I couldn’t really get the bell and the striker, so this is the best you get.

On the walk back to the bus stop, I saw this. It says ssamba noraebang — samba singing room. Apparently they cater to Shinto priests and hand-maidens.

On the bus ride home, I saw this. Today, Sesame Street is brought to you by the number three. Actually, there are elections for mayor of Cheonan and the Korean equivalent of Senators on June 3rd, so every busy street corner is peopled by women like these. They blast Korean pop music and have choreographed dances. I feel terrible for these middle-aged women. I suppose someone has to do it.

So, this was my Thursday. Afterward, I spent about seven hours playing pool at the Banana Bar, then got home at 7 AM after waiting for a bus home. Friday I just hung out, then went back to the Banana Bar again, but not nearly for as long as Thursday. Saturday I went to Gunsan. I took some pictures on the way, but it started raining quiet heavily just before I got there, and didn’t quit, so I don’t have many pictures. I’ll get those up whenever possible.

More on the rest of my recent news later.

The Best Week at Work Ever

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 19, 2010 by kingcal

I know I spent my last blog bitching about a couple of my students being extremely rude on Monday, but it’s actually been a pretty good week. The only other bad thing was I lost two hours of work I did on my textbook when a file refused to save for some reason, but other than that it’s been pretty smooth. Coming in at 9 AM is less than ideal, but I don’t mind working on the textbook. It makes me feel a little more productive and I get some time to myself.

It wasn’t just the two students who would be gone camping all week either. The entirety of the fifth and sixth grades in my school are all going camping. That means two of my classes are canceled all week, which gives me a free hour during the day, but I’ve been using it for textbook work. I should be able to finish it tomorrow. My last class is reduced to just two third graders and a fourth grader. I could play games with them, but they don’t particularly like any of the games I have to offer at the moment, so the past two days we’ve just watched Happy Tree Friends online. It’s an American cartoon series of all these cute woodland creatures being injured and maimed in the worst possible ways. The kids love it. I introduced them to Wile E. Coyote today, too.

Tuesday it rained all day, but I still went to a Cheonan City FC game. They defeated the Ulsan team in good fashion, 2-1. Ulsan scored their goal with 15 minutes left to make things interesting, but they couldn’t equalize. Cheonan moved to second place in the league. This is the second leg of the season, and the winner and runner-up from this leg will play the winner and runner-up of the first leg in the playoffs. Cheonan’s only been in the league two years, and the best they’ve finished is seventh in the league, so even making the playoffs would be huge. There’s only four games left in the season, and we should be heavily favored in all of those games. Three are against the three worst teams in the league, and one is just a middle of the pack team.

Not a ton else to talk about, really. The Internet is being incredibly fast today at DnD, so I’ll be able to catch up on my stories tonight when I leave. On the home Internet front, Mr. Lee said the Internet company won’t let him open anymore accounts because he has too many open right now. Chang-ki said he’d look into helping me get an Internet account. I haven’t posted pictures in awhile, but I’ll be going to Gakwonsa on Friday, then Gunsan sometime on the weekend, so pictures will abound next week.

New Slang

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

I hope I didn’t mislead you with the title, but there is no actual slang in this post. At least, there isn’t meant to be. I just used the currently playing song for a title since I was drawing a blank.

Anywho, Sunday was pretty good overall. I woke up around 9 AM, but through sheer power of will, managed to fall back asleep and doze until around 11 AM. Got up and put in my laundry, then biked to E-mart and bought candy for the kids and new sandals for myself, since the old ones were in really shabby shape. Came back just as my laundry was finishing, hung it to dry and had tonkasu for lunch. It was actually the first time I had it in weeks. I used to have it every couple days, but I’ve been much better about going to new places and just ordering random things off of the menu. Afterward, I chilled online at DnD for awhile, went home and watched a movie, but I still had a lot of time before meeting people for Robin Hood, so I ended up biking back to E-mart. I bought a sheet for my bed and a mouse for my notebook. I literally have been sleeping on a bare matress since I got here, so last night was the first night I got to sleep on sheets for over two months. I didn’t realize how much I missed them.

Went to Yawoori, and of course, I was the first one there, so I just sat and listened to music for awhile. Then a guy I recognized from the group came up and just started talking to me. I felt bad for not knowing his name, but it had reached the awkward point to ask, so I went on the rest of the night not knowing. Chang-ki and his wife showed up, then Ruth and two of her Korean friends. We bought our tickets in advance so we could all sit in a row, then went to Ruth’s and had some pizza. We ended up getting back just as the movie was starting. Now, I don’t want to ruin the movie by any means, but it was pretty different from what I expected. Mostly because instead of being about Robin Hood it was more about English-French conflict politics. Still, it was a good movie. It was no Gladiator, but I don’t think many movies could come close. Visually it was very impressive, but I can’t speak to any of its historical accuracy. Also, there were some parts that just seemed completely unnecessary, but I’d still give it an 8/10 so it’s definitely worth seeing anyway.

After the movie, Chang-ki, his wife, the other Korean guy, one of Ruth’s friends and I all piled into a car (Chang-ki’s car is surprisingly spacious) and we dropped everyone else off. I didn’t really say much, except once when I overheard the Korean guy say chingu eopseoyo — lit. friends don’t exist. So I just asked “no friends?” and all the Koreans were amazed. Koreans in general seem really impressed by my level of understanding. When we were ordering the pizza, I noticed Chang-ki asked his wife something and she just kind of shook her head no, so I asked if she wasn’t eating — an meokeo? — which surprised the hell out of her. She seems to be impressed with anything I say though, and laughs like it’s hilarious that I can express whichever thought, no matter how simple, in Korean. I don’t really talk to her that much because I know she doesn’t speak much English, and she’s embarrassed about it, so I do my best not to make her feel any worse.

There’s really no good place for this bit, since I meant to mention it early, but never remembered, but I made my first joke in Korean on Thursday. It sounds silly, but I think it’s pretty impressive. It was right at the end of a meet-up. Dave was leaving and Chang-ki asked him how he was getting home. Dave just said that he was going to ride the bus. Now, I’m not going to say that this was super clever or anything, but all I said was beoseuna tal geoyeyo — I’ll ride the bus or something. I literally just repeated what Dave said, but it had Chang-ki in hysterics. I had actually just learned how to say “or something” in Korean, so it was relevant, and I suppose it just hit his funny bone the right way.

Actually, Sunday night I didn’t say much of anything, really. I was in one of those more pensive, listening moods. Of course, I’d respond if people asked me stuff, but I have the tendency when I’m in a group of people to just sit on the edge of the conversation for awhile. I don’t feel uncomfortable or out of place or anything. Quite the opposite, that’s just how I prefer to spend my time. Sometimes I think it makes people feel like I am being anti-social or I feel awkward around them or don’ t want to make conversation.  

Anyway, Monday was pretty routine except some small drama in one class, but I’ll get to that later. Before class, I just spent the morning working on the textbook that Mr. Lee asked me to make. Not really a hard job, just a lot of time goes into it because all I’m really doing is copying and pasting lines from the story into the template he uses for all his books, and sometimes coming up with sample sentences with vocab words and phrases. Dave is working on some kind of weird project I don’t know a ton about. Basically, he’s got a bunch of topics for varying levels of English that he’s supposed to look up. The categories range from culture to art to food, etc… It comes in an Excel sheet, and it has little titles for each section. These titles are possibly the most hilarious instances of Konglish possible. He hasn’t e-mailed the Excel sheet to me yet, but let me just list a couple from memory:

  • Gay? I think that’s disgusting!
  • Who should pay? I? Or my girlfriend?
  • Fat People, Fat Pets
  • Why did Hitler kill so many Jews?
  • Fat Teenager Agony
  • What!? There is something translate what my dog is speaking!?

Technically, I mean, some it is perfect English, but I think it’s the tone and nuance of it that make it Konglish. They’re things that no English speaking person would say. After lunch, I had a hard time working, because I just kept reading these over Dave’s shoulders and putting myself into complete stitches. Once he e-mails it to me, I’ll probably post a couple a day, just for your enjoyment. There’s literally like three hundred of these titles, and they’re all gems.

 Teaching was fairly normal for the first couple hours of the day. My first two classes just practiced reading. The older classes practiced speaking. I’d ask them about their weekend, then use the Speaking portion of our program, which lets me choose which character’s dialogue to blank out, and the kids have to fill it in. It sounds pretty easy, like they can just memorize the story and do it, but it’s a lot harder for them than you’d think. A lot of times they’ll have all the right words, but they put them in the wrong order or forget particles like “a” and “the”, so it’s good practice for them to just speak from memory.

However, when I got to my F class is when shit hit the fan. My F class is the class with the two girls that really despise me. I honestly don’t even know why. I have the feeling they just don’t like teachers in general. They like Lawrence, but they also never see him. I know for a fact that they don’t like me, they didn’t like Jane, and they’ve come close to saying some very disrespectful things about Diane. Anyway, I was going about class normally, asking them what they had done over the weekend. One girl, instead of responding to the question, told me that she was in a good mood because she would be camping Tuesday through Thursday and wouldn’t have to see me. She actually said that to my face. It wasn’t what pushed me over, but it got me pretty close to the edge. They continued having a real bad attitude with me, listening to their .mp3 players (they literally sit in the first row right up against my desk) and being generally disrespectful by talking to each other while I’m trying to teach. I ended up moving one to the back of the room away from her friend, then kicked the friend out of class a minute or two later for even more misbehavior.  When I went to take away a girl’s .mp3 player, she hurriedly put it away:

Her: It’s expensive! It’s expensive!
Me: So?
Her: I’m rich.
Me: Good for you.

That’s really all you need to know about her. She’s one of those kids that thinks her shit doesn’t stink because she’s rich. Just a rich, spoiled brat. Later I took her book away because I had told all the kids to close their books while we did the Speaking exercise. She comlained that she was doing homework, and I just responded “So do it at home” and took the book. Then she asked to go to the bathroom and I wouldn’t let her, so she sat there and pouted and cried for like ten minutes until I finally let her go. While I had the one girl sitting outside of class and the other was in the bathroom, I asked for their Korean names. That’s the great thing about teaching kids here. There’s never a lack of kids that will gladly sell the other students up the river. I asked one boy what their names were, and he didn’t know, so another girl that actually seems to be good friends with them told me their names. I e-mailed Mr. Lee and asked him to call their parents and tell them what kind of problems I’ve been having with them. Hopefully he will, but at least for the rest of the week I won’t have to see either of them. I feel kind of bad pretty much just shit talking these kids, but I’ve honestly never seen two more disrespectful little kids in my life. I’d expect it from someone in high school, but not fifth grade. My last class, G, is usually the worst of the day, but they weren’t too bad today. I’ve been making the really bad boys stay later and clean the room after class, which has drastically improved their behavior and gotten them to participate a bit more in class, but they still spend a lot of time jabbering on in Korean, but that’s the least of my worries for the most part.

After work was just my language group as usual for Monday. I worked with Mi Suk again, which I’m conflicted about. She’s nice and all, but I always find myself questioning what she’s telling me. I actually corrected her Korean today. Like, we had a small argument about it, and she asked the Korean girl next to her about it. She just kind of looked at her like she was retarded and said I was right. Teaching her English is pretty easy though. Today all we did was help her with commands she can use for teaching yoga. Mostly body parts and verbs like bend, touch, point, raise, twist, etc… Afterward, it was raining, so there were tons of Koreans either under umbrellas or hiding in buildings. I was just wearing a dress shirt and shorts and sandals, but the rain was super light, so it was okay. Ate at tomato kimbap, which was fantastic as usual, then came to this PC Bang to waste some time.

The rest of the week should fly by, hopefully. Last week seemed to drag on forever, which is pretty rare. Time usually goes quite quickly here. I’ll just be working on the textbook in the morning, and then deciding about ten minutes before I start teaching what I’ll be doing for the day. Mr. Lee is always give Lawrence and Dave shit about preparing to teach, but I don’t think he realizes how little I prepare. He’s always telling me he thinks I’m a fantastic teacher, too. He actually said he recommended me to someone for a language camp one Saturday in June. It’s just off the coast of Incheon, and apparently I could make 400,000 won for one day’s work. Friday I get off because it’s Buddha’s Birthday. I’m going to be taking a bus up to a nearby temple that has the second largest Buddha statue in the country. At some point, either Friday night or Saturday I’ll be heading to the town of Gunsan to meet a fellow blogger and spend some time outside of Cheonan, since I’m feeling a bit bottled up after spending the last two weekends really slowly.

More Korean Oddities

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 15, 2010 by kingcal

This post is going to be half oddities, half news, so let’s get down to it.

  • I’ve mentioned it before, but prostitution is gigantic here. How gigantic? Speaking Korea reports that annually it makes more money than Korea’s entire agricultural sector (
  • Not only is prostitution prevalent, but it’s goddamn ball-sy. If you go to any part of a city with a couple bars, it’s quite common to see the ground and parked cars covered with business cards with naked women and numbers to call. The going price seems to be generally around 90,000 won (about $80) for one girl, or 120,000 won ($110) for two girls.
  • Not only are business cards readily available, but they also broadcast the building’s existence quite plainly. If you see a building with one barber pole, then it’s just an ordinary barber shop. If you see two poles, it’s a whore house.
  • Despite how laughably easy it would be to shut these places down, it seems to not be a very high priority for the police here.
  • In a conversation I had with Chang-ki, he mentioned that due to mandatory military service for all men in Korea, the proportion of men that have “experienced” a prostitute is quite high. This actually contradicts a large reason for anti-American sentiment here in Korea. Many Koreans believe that Americans bring or attract crime, and while prostitution is very common in cities with large military bases, they’re everywhere in general.
  • Friday, I pissed off a couple students in my F class because I wrote their names in red marker on the board. I wrote everyone’s name, but two girls in particular took offense to it. In Korea, when someone’s name is written in red, it means they’re deceased. They kept trying to erase it, and kept saying “We’re not dead!” It was the only marker I had at the moment, so it was irrelevant. They got mad and wrote my name in red pencil on two pieces of paper and held it up to show me. I said “good job” and gave them a thumbs up and my best “I don’t give a shit” look. I don’t really like these two girls.
  • Another piece of Korean superstition: I learned today from Mr. Lee that it’s a normal superstition in Korea to think that whenever you hear a crow cry then it means that someone has just died. Like, that exact moment. I can’t speak to what proportion of people actually believe that, but apparently it’s a thing.
  • Korea has a “why” culture. Koreans are always asking why. Sometimes it’s a little aggravating. Mr. Lee will wake me up and ask if I was sleeping. “Yes.” “Why?” Motherfucker, why the fuck you think? I’m fucking tired. When he saw me with my camera on Sports Day: “Camera?” “Yes.” “Why?” Riddle it out, Sherlock. Methinks I want to photograph something.
  • It extends beyond this, though. A lot of times when I call a kid in class, they respond “why” and not “what”. This isn’t a translation mistake. It’s just a cultural difference. Koreans use “why” to respond to tons of things. One day, Jane actually asked me why I kept saying “what” instead of “why”. She was genuinely surprised that Americans use “what” instead of “why”. “Why” in Korean is wea — sounds like ‘way’ — and if you listen to any Korean conversation for more than thirty seconds, you’re bound to hear it.
  • Old people here are much more spry and independent than in America. I learned from my students that there are old folks’ homes here, but I’ve seen Koreans that look like they date back to roughly the Neolithic era hiking mountains, pulling carts loaded down with shit, and generally being active, independent individuals. I think it’s something in the kimchi.
  • More linguistic differences. There are couple words that Koreans use a ton, and usually incorrectly. They use “can” like “did/do” and “make” like “get”. It’s not a translation mistake. It’s just how they say things in Korean. Mr. Lee asks me on a weekly basis if I have “made” a girlfriend yet. They also say things like “I made a cellphone” etc… They also say things like “How can you know, how can you remember” etc…
  • Saturday here is Teacher’s Day. While I’m told students usually bring a wide array of presents for teachers, all I got was a decorative bar of soap that one of my students’ mom made. It smells really great, but I feel like I have no reason to ever use it.
  • I’ve mentioned it before, but I get stared at a lot. Pretty much by everyone, but especially by young children and babies. I’d always thought that children were born without any concept of race, and that ideas of what race were generally learned from the parents. However, I now know this to be untrue. I’ve had babies under a year, completely incapable of communicating, much less learning about the social implications of race, stare at me intently. They can tell I’m different from everyone else. I’m strange to them.
  • I think I’ve finally experienced discrimination. Of all things, it’s from bus drivers. When I’m on a bus, if a Korean is running to catch the bus, the driver generally stops and waits for them. However, if I’m running to catch a bus, wave my arms as I may, bus drivers don’t stop for shit. Bastards.

I spent about eight nine hours with Mr. Lee today. We went to his hometown Gongju. Gongju was actually the capital of ancient Korea because it sits on a large river. We went to Gongju to meet his mother and have lunch and plant some pepper plants. His mom lives in what I’d call the Korean equivalent of a trailer home. It’s not really a low class thing like it is in America. It’s just a five room aluminum box that’s specifically geared towards the elderly. After lunch, he told me to just walk around and take a look around. I found a couple ducks, then walked around a corner and found a dog in a cage.

It was immediately apparent that this was not the charmed life of a household pet only momentarily locked up while his owner was away. This dog is fucking food waiting to happen. He looked goddamn miserable. I stood there for a couple minutes just looking at him and feeling pretty depressed, then walked away. For half an hour, it really bothered me. The state of his cage was pretty goddamn deplorable, which is what upset me most. At first, I thought “okay, you can eat him, but at least treat him with some goddamn decency so his life isn’t utter shit.” Then I realized that even that is impossible, because just showing an animal more than the bare minimum requirement for care invests some emotional input, and it’s going to be way too hard to butcher it later. You can’t be taking this thing for walks and giving it baths and shit and then kill it. You kind of have to treat it like a wretched piece of food for it to be even possible.

I asked Mr. Lee about it, and he told me that you don’t actually eat the dog or butcher it yourself. You sell it to someone and they kill it and sell it. He said it would be “too savage” to eat the dog one has taken care of personally. It doesn’t really make it okay, but I understand it a little better now.

Not too much later we spent an hour or two planting pepper plants. It actually went a lot faster than I thought it would. Afterward, we had some fruit in the tin can along with some roasted peanuts. He said his mother really appreciated my help. I guess I proved myself to be worthy, because she said I should come back some time, so I offered to come back and help pick the peppers when they were ripe.

On the way home, Mr. Lee and I stopped for dinner at a kaegogi restaurant. That’s dog meat. Ironic, considering not more than three or four hours before I was struck with an ethical dilemma on the same subject. Up until that point I’d actually been bugging Mr. Lee about when he’d take me for kaegogi because  I was really curious about it. Even after my experience with the dog, I certainly wouldn’t turn my nose away from it. The meat was kind of purple, really fatty, but super tender, too. No particular flavor, but it came with a really good spicy dipping sauce. Ate until I was stuffed. I actually spent most of the day eating, with the small break for planting peppers in between.

Mr. Lee tried to get me to go to a jimjjilbang with him, but I politely declined, so he dropped me at home. Tomorrow I’m meeting up with some people to see the new movie, Robin Hood, which I’m pretty stoked for, so I’ll be happy. Tonight will be a quiet night of Korean movies and maybe Aesop’s Fables.

Mr. Unclebig — Pride of South Korea

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on May 12, 2010 by kingcal

I meant to write this blog yesterday, but Chang-ki dropped by the DnD while I was uploading the pictures, and we ended up discussing a Sunday meetup. Then he noticed some guy sitting a couple tables away had an iPad, which is pretty intriguing since they won’t come out in Korea for three or four more months at least. He just went right on over and asked the guy if he could take a look, and we spent maybe half an hour dicking around the guy’s iPad. True, it does look and function a lot like a really big iPhone, but it is pretty nifty, too. I mean, not $600 worth of nifty, but I’d mess around with someone else’s if it was laying around.

Anyway, I had decided a couple days in advance that Tuesday I’d be taking a bike ride to Mr. Unclebig’s and taking pictures for the blog. You’ll understand when you see the burger, but I justified the trip by biking there. I could’ve easily ridden the bus, but riding a bike around here is fun, when it’s not terrifying. The ride there is almost completely uphill the entire time, so by the time I got there I was sweating pretty badly.

On the way, though, there were some interesting things. First, I found an intersection with no crosswalk, which is pretty rare in South Korea. I needed to cross too, since it was at the bottom of one of the few downhill sections of the trip, and I wasn’t in the mood for backtracking up a long slope. It was a six lane road, and had a grass median about half a block down the street, so I waited for a break in traffic, then pedaled like hell to the median, got another break, and finally made it back onto the sidewalk. I don’t go out of my way to be dangerous (driving here is bad enough as it is), but I’m also not so wimpy that I’d waste time going out of my way just because something is a little risky.

Then, a little further on the ride, I found this gem:

This felt even more amusing after having recently read this blog:, which has a picture of a James Dean bar. This bar promises The Beatles. Live even! Screw the moon, Area 51, or some underground bunker. I’m sure if you look long enough in South Korea you’ll find a bar that Elvis, Tupac and Biggie will all be at.

This is Mr. Unclebig’s. The first time I saw it, I mistakenly thought it was Mr. Unclebi. Anyway, the picture is bad because of a couple circumstances. I was across the street, and traffic was getting in the way. Plus I could tell the women at the window were staring at me as I took the picture, so I felt really uncomfortable, and didn’t take my time like I should’ve.

Once I got inside, where it was pretty crowded, all the Koreans gave me almost shocked looks. They couldn’t believe an American was in Mr. Unclebig’s apparently. The place is run by a middle-aged guy, and sometimes his kid is there to help out. I wanted to take a picture of them in their paper hats, which just looked like big coffee filters sitting on top of their heads, but I was too shy. I just ordered and waited for my food. It always takes awhile there. There’s generally a couple people in there, plus there’s only one guy cooking everything, so it’s not super fast service, but it’s worth the wait.

After perhaps 20 minutes of waiting, this parked itself in front of me:

Actually, the burger came first, but I exercised more will power than you can imagine to wait for the fries for this picture and the sake of completeness.

These fries are among the best I’ve ever had. Actually, the first time I went they were even better. They looked more like tempura battered than what fries normally are. They’re still expertly fried and seasoned though. Plus it comes with combination ketchup and mayonnaise with a little something else in the mayo, which is fantastic.

On to the main attraction:

Oh my god, look at that fucking burger. It’s got a veritable cacophony of flavor. I tried to tell what all goes into a Mr. Unclebig’s bulgogibaican chijubeogeo — grilled meat bacon cheese burger — but it’s nearly impossible to tell outside of the obvious from looking at it. It’s got tons of cabbage, tomato, a slice of sweet pickle, bacon, a slice of cheese, the meat patty, and a slice of fried egg on the bottom. The sauces a little harder to figure out. Mayonnaise and ketchup, for sure. Possibly mustard or a barbeque sauce. Still, there’s something I can’t place about it. Whatever it is, it’s delicious. I’d guess crack, but I don’t think they have that here. Like, at all. Anyway, it’s literally the best burger I’ve ever had. America has nothing on Mr. Unclebig. The man can make the hell out of a burger.

In other news, Monday I went to the language group and worked with Chun-hi. She read from a textbook for a conversational English class, and it was all about how dangerous driving in Korea is. Apparently, South Korea has the worst accident rate of any industrialized country. Around 21 people die a day on Korean roads. The article said that Korean people are just much too impatient and reckless, and nothing the cops do gets people to drive more safely. She said everything is pretty true.

I’ve got a lot more work to do now, too. I’ve been going to work at 9 AM every day this week, which blows. I actually haven’t had much down time either. I’ve been pretty busy revising textbooks. Actually, Monday I only taught my first two classes, and Dave covered the rest while I revised textbooks for four hours straight in a room by myself with no music, just staring at a computer screen.

I’ve also got to make new textbooks entirely. The stories are already written, and mostly revised, but there aren’t any exercises or what not. It sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but it won’t be terribly bad. I can just copy and paste an entire book and then spend a couple hours copying and pasting things from the story to replace all the things that don’t fit. Just a huge pain in the ass and a time waster.

Other than that, work isn’t too bad. The kids have actually been pretty well behaved this week, for the most part. Today I made a couple boys from the last class stay late because they ran out early yesterday. Sometimes, I actually let the kids misbehave, just so I have a reason to punish them. Telling them “no” only goes so far. Eventually,you have to let them do something bad and suffer the consequences.

I’m in the DnD and Julia is here, but being super weird. I think she wants to talk to me, but is shy because I look like I’m busy with my buds in and typing super fast. I haven’t seen her much lately, and when I have she hasn’t seemed herself, so I think once this is done I’ll talk to her and see what’s up.

The only other really funny thing just happened a couple minutes ago. There’s one boy who asks me for money after school every time he sees me, and he’s not even a student of mine. Friday he asked for money and said “saranghaeyo! I love you! I’m gay!” I laughed and asked him how he knew that word, but he just laughed and ran. He came into the DnD while I was sitting here and after he got his doughnut he came over and tried to extort money and my notebook away from me (“That is mine! You steal!”) so I just told him “naga! Get out of here, Gay Boy!” I mean, it’s not super tasteful, but he either didn’t care or just didn’t make the connection. Anyway, he didn’t seem offended. His friends were trying to talk to me in Korean, but I said I didn’t understand. I asked him his name, and it’s something like Kim Jon Hyun. He kept trying to correct my pronunciation, but I wasn’t getting it, and I could tell his friend said something like “It’s okay. Not bad for an American.” When I asked if that’s what he said, they just laughed and left. Must not have been far off.

Biking, Hiking, and Picture Taking

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 9, 2010 by kingcal

So, today I went biking and hiking with Chang-ki. We opted out of a mountain top picnic, and instead he chose to take me for sundaegukbap, pig intestine soup. I rode my bike to his place and then we biked to the restaurant. Not only do you get sundaegukbap, but you also get the ingredients to make bibimbap for yourself. Fucking score. Two of my favorites in one place. And the kicker? It’s all you can eat! Best of all, it’s only 5,500 won. So we had a fantastic lunch, and I can’t wait to go back. The only catch is that you have to eat everything you take. If you don’t finish all your food you have to take it home with you. Which isn’t really a bad thing, but when your main mode of transportation is a bike it makes it hard to carry things. Still, it’s a great restaurant. I feel like every week I’m here I find a new favorite restaurant.

I’m not entirely sure of the mountain’s name that we climbed, but I want to say it’s wolbongsan. Mainly because I’ve heard my students talk about it and it’s a mountain in the wolbong neighborhood.

A view of the western scenery from the top of the mountain. It’s not particularly high, but it’s got some good places for pictures. Growing up in NW Ohio, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to seeing mountains in the distance. It’s unbelievable every time.

This mountain, conveniently enough, comes equipped with its own clock and thermometer. The clock is right, the thermometer is not. If it was, it’d be somewhere in the neighborhood of the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth. Also, aside from normal exercise equipment that mountains usually have, it also had lots of random chairs. Dinner table chairs, school desk chairs, office chairs, plastic lawn chairs… A really random collection that I’m assuming people bring and leave for others.

The large green construction is a driving range. These are all over the place in cities in Korea, because space is a premium here. There are lots of cultural differences here that simply stem from the fact that Korea is a geographically smaller country. Still, though, I thought half the fun of a driving range was trying to nail the poor kid that was retrieving the balls.

These are all pictures from the eastern slopes, including a very nicely landscaped grave site, and Chang-ki giving into peer pressure and flashing the Victory sign.

This is the real special treat, though. At the very end of the path is a traditional Buddhist temple.

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that 2010 is the Year of the Rooster.

All of these statues made up The Museum of the Twelve Gods. I’m particularly fond of the Rabbit. Mostly because I’m a Rabbit, but also because I’m so used to seeing it portrayed as a white, pussy-ass rabbit, so seeing a kickass black rabbit brandishing a spear is cool as hell.

The corner of the temple. You can really see some of the amazing detail and color here. I think traditional Buddhist temples are probably the most colorful things on Earth.

Some paintings on the side of the building, the decorative dragon rain gutter, and Chang-ki walking across the face of the building. When I went to the temple the day before, I really wanted to go in and take a look, but I was completely uneducated about the etiquette, or if I’d even be allowed to go in, so Chang-ki asked if we could go in, and then if I could take pictures, which were allowed.

It was really dark in the temple, and I was reluctant to use my flash, so you can’t see it in great detail, but there were a bunch of these dragon things all over the inside of the temple. You can also see how crazy detailed the painting in the ceiling is.

Two of the three main shrines. Middle is obviously Buddha. The other I’m not sure of. Perhaps the recently deceased Dalai Lama or perhaps a notable monk from this temple.

Buddha shrine picture is shit because of no flash.

This picture is a really great example of all the crazy detail that goes into Buddhist temples. I think this is the Dalai Lama, but I can’t be sure.

Chang-ki showed me how to pray like a Buddhist and told me about some of the normal etiquette, then we refilled our water bottles and took off. I did learn that the temple was named mansusa — Mansu Temple. Temples generally give out food and have ceremonies on Buddha’s Birthday, so if all else fails, I can go here for something cool, but I’d prefer another temple I heard about close by that has one of the largest Buddha statues in the world.

On the way back, we ran into an older Korean woman that was tending a garden. She asked if we were going to the climb the mountain, and Chang-ki said we already had. Then she turned to me and said something about “lots of exercise”, probably referencing how sweaty I was. She asked if I understood Korean, then rambled on for awhile to Chang-ki, and all I grabbed from it was ‘student’ and ‘school’. When we finally said goodbye, I asked him what she had been saying. He said she told us to be careful climbing the mountain because recently a high school student had some kind of heart attack on the mountain and had to be taken to the hospital by an ambulance. Koreans are the damned nicest people.

On the ride back, Chang-ki explained to me how the gears on my bike work, which makes it a lot easier for me. I had a bare understanding of how it worked, but never having a multi-geared bike before I wasn’t sure which lever adjusted which gear and what it was for. Now I understand pretty well, and hopefully the chain will stop coming off. I guess, the good thing is that I got pretty good at putting the chain back on my bike.

When we departed, Chang-ki asked my plans, and said he will call me later, so we may be hanging out again. If not, I’ll probably just be chilling at my place and studying Korean or watching a movie. I’ve enjoyed riding my bike this weekend (even to the consternation of Chang-ki who thinks I ride too dangerously [but it’s so exciting!]), but my gooch can only take so much. After two and a half hours of biking over two days I need a little rest.

In recent news, I mentioned that there are new Korean teachers, but I don’t think I ever actually explained that Jane and Annie both quit. I found that out Thursday morning when I went into work. Nobody ever tells me shit. It would’ve been nice to have a little warning. Actually, Thursday ended up being a pretty good day for me, so I wasn’t too upset about it.

Monday I have to go in at 9 AM to prepare for class stuff. I honestly don’t know why I have to be there at 9 AM. Mr. Lee said the Korean teachers and I have to divide up which parts of the book we are going to teach. I honestly don’t see why that can’t be done in the hour and a half after lunch, but whatever. It’ll just result in me doing half an hour of work and then sitting around a computer until lunch, then more sitting on a computer.

Oh, also, I saw Iron Man 2 yesterday. In Korean, it’s aianman 2. That’s ‘ah-ee-ahn-mahn 2’. I get a kick out of the Koreanization of English words. Sometimes I don’t even know why they do it. Like, I know for a fact that these words exist in native Korean, but they choose to use strange Koreanized English. I’ve got a little treat planned for the next post, so stay tuned.