Archive for January, 2011

Well, One More Month

Posted in Uncategorized on January 31, 2011 by kingcal

So, shit should start getting interesting here soon. Later this week is Chinese New Years, which is a three day holiday. Buldang completely closed down for the whole week, so we can’t hold classes. Mr. Lee originally said I could work from home (not that I was going to do it in the first place), but then I was told last night I’d have to come in and work from 9-6 PM. That shit was obviously just not going to happen. I’d made plans already. So I just turned the ringer off my phone and slept in, then went to Songtan with Steve. I got an e-mail from my latest co-teacher, Mia, and she said that Mr. Lee isn’t happy and said he won’t pay me for two days. Like I give a shit.

I sent him an e-mail, in which I explained the reasons why I wasn’t coming into work. I don’t feel like going back to copy and paste it here, but I basically said because of recent working conditions, the fact that I’ve never been paid for the extra work he gives me, and the fact that he remains uncooperative when it comes to supplying me with the documents I need to find a new job and transfer my visa, that I no longer feel responsible to do extra work that he assigns me.

Also, I have an interview for a job at 11 AM tomorrow. It’s in Cheonan. I believe it’s working directly for a hagwon, 10-6 PM. It’s a bit closer to the downtown area, where many people I know live, which is good. I looked at the job placement website’s page for the school, and it seems pretty nice. No more than ten kids per class room. Maybe 6 teaching hours a day, which is one more class than I already have, but since teaching and being around the kids is the best part for me, I’m not really sweating it.  In my e-mail, I told Mr. Lee that I have an interview, and if things go well, I wanted to officially request my release letter. I don’t necessarily need my contract, since I may not have to extend my visa, and I’d only really need a recommendation letter for a public school job. A release letter effectively terminates the employment with my current employer and makes it possible to have a new employer sponsor my visa. I’ve given Mr. Lee two weeks to provide me with a release letter. I didn’t say what would happen if I didn’t receive in that timeline. I’m still not completely sure what I’d do. If I am not given a release letter, then it forces me to go back to the States and apply for a whole new visa. Not ideal, but not the end of the world. Hopefully, if I do get a contract, and worst comes to worst, they’d understand it’s out of my control because my boss is being irrational, and perhaps they’d even be able to help me obtain the letter.

Anyway, this whole week I’ve essentially got off now. Today I went to Songtan to just walk around and browse with Steve. Had some decent Turkish food for lunch. The only thing the rest of today is study group and dinner. Downloading The Fighter now to watch when I get home. Tomorrow, of course, I’ve got my interview at 11 AM. The guy on the phone sounded nice. It certainly can’t be a worse situation. Haha. Right now, my biggest priority is just staying in Korea. Even though it’s a job teaching elementary, and maybe even pre-school, the first thing I want is just to stay and know I have a job. Next time around, after experiecing everything I’m going through now, I know how to handle a situation better and in a more timely fashion, so hopefully next time it would go much better for me.

After the interview, I’m going to bum around a bit. Maybe do a bit of grocery shopping. I expect most places will be closed on one of the two huge holidays in Korea, and I remember how hard it was finding places to eat on Chuseok. At 10 PM, I’ve got a meeting with a friend in Seoul at Hongdae. That’ll be fun. Unfortunately, from what people tell me is that trains for around the holiday have been sold out for over a week. It’s a huge travel holiday. I’ll probably just end up taking the subway. It seems like a good time to figure out the express subway. I’ve heard that gets to Seoul in around an hour, which isn’t much longer than the KTX, and would only cost like 3000 won.

I’m also meeting someone in Hongdae on Wednesday around 5 PM. I’m not sure if I’ll just spend all day in Seoul, or if I’ll come home and go back. I guess it depends on the transportation situation and how rowdy my Tuesday night gets. After that though, I don’t really have any plans for the rest of the week. Thursday is generally my day to have dinner with people and play pool. Friday will probably be spent in Dolce as usual. Saturday, for lack of a better idea, I’ll probably go back to Hongdae again. This is going to be an expensive week.

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Sex in South Korea

Posted in Uncategorized on January 21, 2011 by kingcal

Well, it’s something I’ve mentioned repeatedly before, but the sex trade in South Korea is simply rampant. It doesn’t take very long after you’ve come to Korea to realize this. It’s very easy to spot the business cards for what are essentially prostitutes in any busy bar district. You become pretty able to spot a regular motel from a “love motel” that will rent rooms in blocks of hours rather than for a night. But it still takes awhile for everything to really sink in.

I had dinner last night with a large group of people. It was on the house, too. A high school student who attends the language exchange has a father that owns a restaurant, so to show his appreciation for helping his son learn English and talk with foreigners, he hosted like 16 people to eat at his restaurant for free. Pretty generous. It’d take a lot more than that in America for some restauranteur to open his doors to 16 people on his own wallet.

Anyway, after dinner, I went out for some drinks to just relax with some of the other guys. I’ll leave their names out of the discussion we had. It’s not really bad stuff, but then again, no one needs to know what we’ve been talking about. We were in a Wa Bar, which is a chain of “western” bars. “Western” means lots of tables, dimly lit, and very over-priced for anything but Korean beer, and even that is a little over-priced. Also, Wa Bar, is a Korean pun. The pronunciation of Wa Bar, can me “come and try it”, but it is also commonly used when two guys are picking fights with each other like “Yeah, I’d like to see you come and try it, bitch.”

It was three foreigners, counting myself, and a Korean, and we had been talking about women in general, and the Korean said he thought the way we talked about women was naive. At first, I thought he meant because of our age, though one of the foreigners is very close to his own, but he was referring mostly to the difference between how American men go about meeting and picking up women, and what Korean guys do. In Korea, if you’re looking to meet a Korean girl in the natural fashion, there are all these manners and politenesses that you have to go through, just because of the entire “polite” culture of South Korea.

The difference, lies in the fact that if one doesn’t want to fuck around with all the formalities, Korea is the best place for getting around that. There are a myriad of options awaiting the shrewd customer. Let’s just start at the bottom and work our way up.

A “barber shop” is as far as I know the cheapest available option in Korea. These are fairly easy to recognize as well. Everyone knows exactly what a barber pole looks like. In Korea, when one sees two barber poles directly next to each other, not like on either side of a door, this means it’s a “special” barber shop. Now, if you just walk in and don’t say shit, they’ll give your ass a haircut and kick you out the door. However, if you’re in the mood, just ask “아가씨 주세요 (Agassi juseyo)” which is literally “Please give me a lady.” And they shall deliver.

Now, if you’re looking to bang on a budget, sir, this is the place for you. A nice little 아가씨 will only run you as little as 50,000 won, or so I’m told. This translates to about $40 US, or just a little over. Keep in mind, you get what you pay for. I’m told these ladies are not what we would consider “classic beauties”. I think the phrase my Korean friend used was this was the place to go to if you just wanted to “push your dick in something”. Not real romantic. He also made a joke that they cover your face with a hot towel while she works her magic. Not a great sign, if true.

I believe the next step up is also a step backwards in a way. It’s very common around my downtown area especially to see advertisements for 키스방 – kiss rooms. I had always kind of assumed that these were just very pale fronts for prostitution and hadn’t given it much thought. One advertisement I read said that the women offered “confidential conversation”, like guys were only there to get some shit off their chest.

While a price wasn’t discussed, I learned more clearly what a “kiss room” is. It’s actually anything but sexual intercourse. Apparently, guys do go in there to talk, as well. I guess older guys get lonely and just want someone to talk to. And a blowjob. Not a bad business model really. I can’t really say how expensive it is, but considering you see them face-to-face, though sexual intercourse is not part of the deal, it’s probably more expensive than a barber shop.

Next, we’ve got 안마 (an-ma), which literally just means “massage”. There are regular places  you can go and get a massage, but a lot of the 안마 are really just a massage, then the boom-boom. We didn’t talk about it last night, so I’m just comparing what I’ve heard from other people’s first hand accounts. I’ve heard anything from 180,000 won to 230,000 for a massage, and the more expensive one is what has been recommended to me. I guess they give you full service there. Massage, shower, and then the boom-boom. That’s pretty much all I know.

Once you progress past this, they have places simply called 방 – room. When translated into English for whatever purpose, they generally become something like “luxury room”, and these can be found in any KoreaTown in America. Here, the game changes a little. Depending on the area, you pay several hundred thousand won for a room. This can be done by yourself, or in a group of as many as four men, if you want to split the cost and get a discount. The “basic” rate comes with some liquor, a couple beers, maybe a plate of fruit, and then women brought in groups of five for you to choose from.

Now, the money you pay up front is only for the room. How things progress from there is up to you. These girls are not at all required to sleep with you. They’re there just to drink and chat and maybe do some light “playing”. Koreans love the word “play”, and they often use it in strange contexts. Anyway, if you so desire, you can offer to pay for sex and they’ll take you to a “second room” and you can go get it in. However, if you’re a smooth guy that knows how to win over the ladies, you can simply convince a girl to sleep with you for free. It’s like all the fun of prostitution and gambling combined.

These rooms are pretty much the top of the game. I was told about a famous establishment in Seoul called 10 Percent. Because the women that work there are the most beautiful 10% of women in Korea. They are extremely picky in who they hire, and the price reflects this. This is not a place for an average Joe to go on a weekend to paint the town red. Each room starts off at a whopping 3,000,000 won, nearly $3000 US, and it’s customary to tip each girl another 1,000,000 won for her trouble. Once again, sex is also not a set part of the deal, and my Korean friend said the price to take these 10 Percent girls to a “second room” is “enough for a car”, I’m assuming the down payment. Still, the girls that work there are pretty hot. Apparently, one was “picked up” from the business by a recording company and has become a pop star.

I guess, lots of girls go to work there, mainly for exposure, if you’ll allow the pun. The fact of the matter is, the only men that can afford to go there are CEOs of companys and kids that have inherited their money from papa’s hard work. They’ve just got a good chance of impressing someone important there, I suppose.

Of course, I’m sure there are many other routes, but last night was a particularly eye opening experience. I’d never heard it really broken down as far as prices and services rendered before.

Also, interestingly enough, throughout the first part of the conversation, we were sitting next to a table of two girls and two guys. The girls were there by themselves when we showed up, and some guys came later. How I was seated, I didn’t have time to really check them out or anything, and I thought nothing of them. As soon as they left, my Korean friend told me that they were some ladies of the night that the two men had made an appointment for. They wanted to drink a little bit before, because it’s still a bit awkward, so they said they’d meet at the bar. I guess the overall body language of the girls not really enjoying themselves, coupled with the much older men (they didn’t seem that older to me, but I didn’t look carefully) was enough to make my friend 100% sure that they were just there to take the edge off before finding a nice cozy 방 to go to.

It caught me completely off-guard. I had never really even given thet slightest shimmering of thought that the women we were sitting next to were prostitutes. I’ve got a very hard-set image in my mind of what a prostitute should dress like, behave like, and the places they should be seen. And they just did not fit any of those things. It was really shocking. I couldn’t believe it at first, honestly.

Anyway, there you go, in case you were wondering. Now I’ve gotten to thinking… What’s the STD rate like in Korea?

Coming to America Soon…

Posted in Uncategorized on January 15, 2011 by kingcal

I’ve been on a bit of a roller coaster the past couple days. I recently posted that I believed I’d have no other choice than to go home after my contract. It sounds strange, but initially, I was very unhappy about that. It honestly felt harder coming to terms with leaving Korea than it was leaving America. Much harder. It all kind of boiled down to an existential crisis. It sounds a little stupid to put it like that, but it’s true. The fact that I have a “decent” job, in the sense that I get good pay, is a huge factor. Here, I’ve got money, paying back loans, traveling, having fun, learning a language, having a lot of new experiences. Going back home, I’d be just another college graduate that can’t find a job. It would be a huge step backwards.

I’m generally a laid back person. I used to be more pessimistic and cynical than I am now, particularly in high school. I also have small, intense periods of worrisomeness that I’ve inherited from my mother. So, when I first started really accepting the fact that I’d be going home, I took it pretty hard. There were maybe two nights in a row I was just super depressed about it. Yesterday I had lunch with an ex-co-worker, and I was kind of talking about it with her. It really helped. Just thinking out loud helped me work through it. I feel a lot better about it now. Going into Saturday, I kind of had the worst case scenarios going through my head. I was afraid I’d go back to America and something bad would happen and I could never make it back to Korea. Silly, I know. Even though I knew objectively I was being crazy, it didn’t make getting it over it any easier.

Then, when I was talking with her, I just worked it out. I still have enough time to find a job that would start in mid-late April or early May. If I get a job before I leave, then I’d only be back for a couple weeks while I got my visa processed, since I’ve already got all the necessary and time consuming documents ready. I’d get a nice little “vacation” at home, be able to see friends and all that good shit. Even if I leave Korea without a job lined up, I’ve got experience, which is really helpful in finding a job. Most jobs start in March/September, so maybe there wouldn’t be as many jobs at the time I go home, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t any. Worst case scenario, I end up staying until August or September. While that’s much longer than I want to be back in America, I’m still pretty comfortable with that. I remember how fun Columbus is in the summer, so I wouldn’t totally be upset about staying a couple more months than I want to.

The only thing that’s left to come to terms with is that in all probability I won’t be coming back to Cheonan. That’s perhaps the worst and hardest to overcome. It’s hard to really explain, but I’ve just become really personally invested in this city. I spent a lot of time and energy making this city my home, so leaving it is hard. It’s kind of strange, because I’ve never been a “homesick” or particularly sentimental person when it came to location. I guess being in a foreign country kind of makes it different. In reality, when it comes down to it, as long as the city is bigger then Cheonan, it’d probably be a good move. As far as friends in Cheonan, traveling in Korea is extremely easy. I can always visit on weekends, or whatever. Things like study groups and hapkido classes are always available, especially in the bigger cities, it’s just a matter of finding them. The foreign and Koreans interested in meeting foreigner scene would be better in big cities. I guess it wouldn’t be so bad, but still. I guess it’s like ripping off a band-aid. I don’t really want to do it, but I have to, and it’s probably for the best, so I gotta just deal with it.

So, long story short, TL;DR, etc… I should be coming back to America sometime around March 18th or 19th. Keep your eyes out.

In other news, the weather has been insane here lately. It snows literally every day. Not necessarily a lot, but every day there’s snow. Apparently this is not normal for Korea. It’s also cold as balls. Yesterday, my friend told me it was supposed to be the coldest day in Korea all year. It got down to -20 C, which is around 0 F. Shit was cold. I drove my scooter to meet her, but it was dark when we split up and it was so cold my bike wouldn’t start. I looked really cool riding the bus with a motorcycle helmet. It’s going to be awhile before I can drive it again, I think. It’s snowing like a motherfucker right now. Roads are a mess.

Uh, well, there’s not really much else to say.

Looking Forward to Next Year

Posted in Uncategorized on January 12, 2011 by kingcal

Well, It’s been awhile since my last update. Mostly because there’s been nothing worth writing about. Last week was my vacation. I literally did nothing. I laid in bed and watched movies and read comic books all day. Literally. I started with The Walking Dead since I loved the TV series so much. Read all 80 issues in about three days. Then I moved onto Sandman. Pretty badass.

Also, another reason I haven’t written much is because work has been so stressful. I don’t want to waste time boring people with details or spend a lot of time whining, but it’s really becoming ridiculous. My boss wants me to work on Saturdays for January and February, which is completely unacceptable to me. The reason being, my vacation week, and a long vacation in the first week of February cuts the time table short. Our program is meant to be taught in four weeks, and he is adamant about it coninciding with the months, so he wants us to basically finish each four week program in three weeks by using Saturday as an extra teaching day.

With all of the outside of the class work I do, all the stress that’s been piling up lately, adding a sixth full day to my work week for two months would kill me. I sent my boss an e-mail saying as much. Two, actually. In the first, I tried to persuade him it was a bad idea. We tried one Saturday school before the winter vacation, and nobody showed up. Kids don’t want to come. Parents don’t want to send the kids. It’s a waste of time. Even if kids do show up, then whoever doesn’t will be missing a lot of work. Sure, kids are absent sometimes, but if they don’t come one Saturday, they won’t come any Saturday, and missing 1/4 – 1/3 of a class means it’s probably a huge waste of their time and money.

He never responded, and I hoped that he would change his mind. Monday, Mia, the newest co-teacher of mine (Make that my 8th co-teacher in 10 months), told me that Mr. Lee was still planning on giving us Saturday classes. Tuesday morning, I sent an e-mail flat out saying “I will not teach on Saturdays. It’s too much work.” We got the new schedule printed out today and brought in, and I notice that it’s only set up Monday – Friday. Either he changed his mind, or realized that I simply wouldn’t do it, so it would be impossible. Either way, I don’t care. The mood I was in Monday over that and Tuesday morning, I wouldn’t have cared if he said I was breaking my contract by refusing to do what he said. I’d have told him to fire me, knowing full well it’d be damn near impossible to replace me before my contract ends, so he doesn’t really have that option. He’s kind of stuck with me at this point.

It might kind of sound like I’m being a dick and bending the guy over a barrel. Maybe I kind of am. But up until this point, I’ve been extremely co-operative. I’ve done all the bullshit stuff he asked of me, even when others refused. It just got to the point where it’s obvious I can’t do what he asks. It’d literally kill me.

On a happier note, things outside of work are going well. No personal drama to speak of, which is definitely a good thing. Hapkido class is going well. Last night was a pretty tough class.  I only lasted about 45 minutes before I just had no strength left in my arms to do more tumbling or falling. For instance, after about 45 minutes, we practiced jumping up a couple feet in the air, then falling so we land on our toes and forearms. Instead of holding myself up on my arms, they just gave out and I would land on my chest. Just too tired.

Still, they said they can tell I’ve lost a lot of weight, even since I started just four months ago. That’s always nice to hear. I haven’t been on a scale in awhile, but the last time I got weighed, I’d lost around 20 pounds, and that was maybe 2 months ago. Also said that maybe in 3 weeks I can get my next belt. It’s either red or purple. I can’t remember. I thought they originally said this specific kind of hapkido only had six belts, but then recently they said my next belt would be purple, the would come red, then black. Whatever, it’ll be nice to change.

Also, I sent in a resume this morning for a job in the next city over, Asan. It’s not ideal. I’d love to stay in Cheonan. Asan is on the same bus and subway line, but if I go out for the night, a taxi ride home would be pretty pricey. My recruiter sent me an e-mail saying she heard that the Asan City Schools would be hiring 25 people to come teach in their public schools, at the elementary, middle and high school level. That’s close enough for me. I practically live in Asan already anyway. It’s only a 10 minute drive from my place.

Anyway, just about any job would be fantastic. Just as long as it’s not this one. I’m still a little unsure how things will shake out with my visa situation. It runs out March 5th, but my contract is until the 17th. Technically it’s illegal to continue working, but you’re given 2 weeks to leave the country, so it’s not a huge deal. My recruiter thinks that extremely small time between when my job ends and my window to leave ends could affect how I re-new or apply for a new visa. I mean, other than the absolute worse case scenario, like I go back home and die or something, the most probable worst case scenario is that I’m forced to leave the country and find a new job and re-apply for a visa.

What I wouldn’t mind is finding a new job before I go home, which would be flexible enough that I could go home, apply for a new visa, and return after only 2-3 weeks at home. Hopefully, we can work that out. Of course, I can always hope that I can work something out with my boss where he could possibly let me leave early, and I could make some concessions in pay cut or something, which would allow me to simply renew my visa and stay in Korea without leaving, but I think there’s a snowball’s chance in Hell of that happening.