Friday, October 29, 2010

Because I don't have anything interesting to say

and these people do. And because they encouraged me to include this in my blog. Well, not just me, I guess. Anyone and everyone, really. And they made it really easy. So here ya go: Is Google a monopoly? Anybody's guess, at this point.

UPDATE: and.... Blogspot made it difficult. Stupid blogspot. Anyway, just click the damn picture and it'll let you see the whole thing, I promise. It is pretty interesting.

Is Google a Monopoly?

Research by Scores.org

Monday, August 2, 2010

Last published on April 17

Wow. I suck. Hm... not much has happened since then, I swear. Heh...

Teachers trip to Geoje-do and various and sundry other islands was fun. I think there are even pictures up here, so take a look. Yes, one whole island is a manicured garden. It's nuts. Also, we visited a Korean War POW camp memorial site, hence the plane. Also, and I can't emphasize this enough, Koreans love to drink and sing karaoke when they're riding on buses. The first thing that happened when we got on the bus (at 8am) was the vice principal pouring me a full(!) cup of soju. Keep in mind, soju is right around 20% alcohol... so half the strength of vodka, let's say. A full cup. And it was all downhill from there. The singing and drinking pictures all took place before noon. Good stuff.

Went swimming with my students one day in July, which was awesome. Sadly, there aren't any pictures from that -- sorry. But it can't be helped.

Caught a baseball game in June with Mi Sun and a few of her friends. Apparently, unlike America, here they don't really give a shit if fans get drunk and run around like idiots on the field. It happened not once but twice, and the second time they let the kid run from the right field fence all the way to second base. He proceeded to slide into 2nd, get up and go to 3rd, where he slid again. He actually made it across home plate before they escorted him off. And there was none of this tackling or chasing business either... they just waited till he got tired and then took him by the arm and led him off the field. This happened just a few days after that kid got his ass tased in Philly, which I think was why it stuck with me. There are pictures from this little adventure, it's just that I don't have them yet. This will probably develop into a running theme pretty quick here.

English camp just finished up last Friday, and I feel like it went pretty well, all things considered. There are pictures from this, but I don't have them yet. Will probably have to wait until school starts again next semester. Also, vacation!!! Right now, actually, and for the next three weeks, which is awesome. I'm planning to spend about 4 hours every day at the gym; we'll see how long I can keep that up, huh? No big travel plans, just a few small ones. Also, thinking about squeezing in a trip to Japan, finally. Can't believe I've been here for almost 2 years, and Japan is literally a boat-ride away (or an hour~ flight) and I haven't been yet. Gonna have to fix that.

Last weekend I went on a little weekend getaway with Mi Sun and her siblings. Brother/wife/2 sons, sister/husband/1 son, and me. Yay for family time! It was actually really nice -- we got this little pension, they call it, by a river near 양평. We spent a day drinking, barbecuing, and playing and fishing in the river. It was a quiet, relaxing weekend... more importantly, I'm pretty sure I made a good impression on Mi Sun's brother and sister, which will help things when I meet her parents. Right...?

I'm going golfing on Friday! Whoo-ee! First time in Korea. Normally it's absurdly expensive, but I guess we've got some kind of hookup so it's only gonna be like $50 or so... which isn't too bad, all things considered. I would love to link to the website of the golf course, but uh... can't seem to find one. Anyway, I'll try to take some pictures of my first (and only) Korean golf experience.

Finally -- this past weekend Mi Sun and I celebrated our 1 year anniversary! Crazy, right? I can't believe we've already been together for a year... it's amazing. To celebrate, we spent the weekend in Seoul -- got a beautiful exective room at the Millennium Seoul (got a helluva deal too!), did some shopping in 명동 (for a bikini, so that was fun for everyone involved), ate dinner at La Plancha, a Spanish restaurant in 이태원, and took a cable car up to the top of 남산, the central mountain in Seoul. We rode up to the top of N Seoul Tower, which is... I mean, great views, but totally not worth the hassle of getting all the way up there. It's like an hour and a half of waiting in lines for a 2 minute cable car ride and a 2 minute elevator ride and then you just look at Seoul. I don't know -- it was a nice view but doesn't compare to the experience of the Eiffel Tower or even the Hancock Building, where you can usually just ride on up and relax and have a drink. Definitely my least favorite part of the day, and I wouldn't recommend anyone do this on a summer weekend evening. Nonetheless, it was pretty much a perfect anniversary celebration, and I can't wait for the next one. Same deal about pictures though -- they're coming one of these days.

Well, I think that gets us more or less caught up. And now I won't have to see "Last published on April 17" anymore, so that's a plus. More pictures coming soon, and I'll post to update you when they become available.

Thanks for sticking with me, ya'll.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

It's been a great week

or however long it's been since I wrote last. But I'm talking especially about the last 168 hours. Ready to dive in with me? The water's warm. Here we go.

Last weekend, Mi Sun's friend Ji Sun got married. I caught a bus early Saturday morning and met up with the girl at the bus terminal near her village... we drove toward Yeoju and picked up her friend, whose name I've completely forgotten but was cute and very eager to speak her limited English with me in between catching up with Mi Sun. I guess they hadn't seen each other in like 7 years, so they were all chatty gabby on the drive. It took about 2 and a half hours to get to Gangneung on the East Sea (or Sea of Japan, as it's known everywhere else in the world. But trust me, don't bring that up to a Korean). The drive was beautiful. Fields, forests, rivers and mountains rolled past, unheralded, like an old-timey film turning to reveal each new scene. We arrived in Gangneung about an hour before the wedding, and it quickly became apparent that neither of my car-buddies knew where in the hell we were supposed to go. After many (many) phone calls and a couple stops to ask directions, we eventually found our way to the wedding hall. There were several weddings scheduled for the day, so it took us a while to find the correct chapel(? Actually, they weren't really churches. Just wedding halls. But anyway). After going into the bridal display room... I have know idea what it was called, but for hours before the service the bride has to sit on a couch in a little room while people come in to gawk at and take pictures with her. Then lunch. I don't recall the name of the noodle, but it was a plain noodle in salty broth, and is a traditional celebration food in Korea.

Next we went to the service. We walked in about 10 minutes after it started, and then stood in the back and chatted (well, they chatted, I just stood there awkwardly and smiled for some pictures and took others). Most people paid no attention to the service whatsoever. I asked Mi Sun if we weren't being rude, and she said "yeah, but it's really boring." I couldn't disagree. Anyway, after the service it was picture time for the bride and groom, then with both families (Moms wearing hanbok, Korean traditional dress... dads wearing suits), then with all their friends. I hung back to take pictures, and got to see Mi Sun catch the bouquet. Know, it's not at all like we do this particular part of the festivities. People say that Koreans acquired all of our driving laws without the etiquette or rationale to back it up -- red lights are mere suggestions, lane lines mean nothing... Korean behavior takes over when they're actually driving, regardless of the civilized laws that are supposed to govern behavior. Well, this was similar: they knew about tossing the bouquet, and they knew that it should have some significance. However, instead of the bridesmaid catfight we've all come to know and love, they simply decided that Mi Sun would catch the bouquet, brought her out in front of everyone, and then let the bride toss her the bouquet. 3 times. Because the camera guy screwed up once and then the bride threw it too far the second time. Cracked me up. Anyway.

After the wedding we went to a restaurant owned by a friend of the groom. Before entering, I got to witness a Gangneung tradition. Upon getting married, a guy gets his ass beat by his friends, apparently. So, before we went into the restaurant, his friends made him take off his shoes and then tied a giant pink bow around his waist. He was then put in a harness and tied to the back of a van. As the van started driving, he had to run along behind it while his friends sat in the back of the van and smacked his legs with long wooden sticks. I mean, it would have been brutal if it had continued much longer, but I think they only went around the block. So, back to groom's-friend's restaurant. This guy could throw down, and he wasn't screwing around. We had like a 5 course meal accompanied by beer, wine, soju, and several other liquors. Raw fish salad, chile-fried shrimp, pork that was coated in donut-batter and deep fried with candy sprinkles, plus a few other things that I don't even remember. At some point during the meal, the groom took off his shoes and socks and his buddy picked him up over his shoulder. Another friend recited what sounded like a litany of blessings while repeatedly smacking the bottom of his feet with another cane. Ji Sun, the bride, looked scared. Everyone else laughed. I joined in... what else could I do, right?

Next -- the noraebang. The best man decided on a game. After singing, you get a score from the computer; each person who scored over 90 had to donate 10 bucks to the pot... each person who scored under 90 had to be a backup dancer for the next person to sing. I only did one song (guess which one?) and I duly paid my 10,000won. A drunk guy fell on the floor; a drunk girl fell onto me, twice. I'd have thought she was sending me some kinda signal if I thought she had any idea what the hell she was doing, but sadly, there's no way that was true. Finally, we ended up at a raw-fish restaurant (we were on the coast, after all) for a shitload of fish, oysters, clams, crab, mussels, and several things that we don't have words for in English, but are all mostly just horrifying monsters anyway, so it's probably for the best. All raw, except the clams, which were delicious and in a nice brothy soup. I mean, everything I tried was good. Like sushi (sorta) without the rice, seaweed wrap, vegetables, or any pretense of being anything but raw fish. Also, there was soju; I think I mentioned that. That helps.

Went back to the hotel (with ocean-view rooms, according to the sign... although you had to practically climb out the window to see the water) and crashed. Next morning we went out for tofu soup, which is the other specialty of Gangneung... it's not bad. Just has very little flavor. Once you add soy sauce and chili paste, and eat a bunch of kimchi dipped in it, it's quite good. Had some coffee... walked to the beach, and took some random pictures while watching the waves crash in. There are lots of big rocks dotting the coast there, and some solid surf. So there were lots of those "ooooh" moments when a big wave crashed against a big rock and sent up a spray of white foamy surf. And that was the weekend. Highlight of the trip home -- Mi Sun was sleepy (from my snoring, apparently? shocked? haha) and let me drive all the way home. I succeeded. Even managed to negotiate a crazy Korean rest stop for cookies, chips, and coffee to keep me awake (also from my snoring, I have a feeling. It's a curse, I tells ya).

The rest of the week was tame: work, lessons, working out, dinners with the girl. She came over and cooked me this awesome like... meat thing last night. Not sure how to explain it: ground pork and beef with scallions, sesame oil, soy sauce, and diced mushrooms, all mixed up with salt and pepper and pressed into little mini-burgers and then fried. Served over rice with more sauteed mushrooms. It was awesome, whatever it was. I had the leftovers with a fried egg on a sandwich this morning, and also with rice for dinner tonight. Watched the Cards game today (Go Lopex! Grand Salami baby!) and went to the gym... tonight I've just been studying Korean and I'm going to bed soon. Actually, I think I'm gonna call my mom first. So mom, if you're reading this, it was (preemptively) nice talking to you this weekend!

A good night to all, and to all a good night.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

OK -- time for a little perspective

I realize that last post sounded pretty whiny and bitchy. Well, I guess I was in a bad mood. I definitely feel better since classes started this week. Not suffering under the soul-crushing boredom I'd been growing accustomed to. Yep, I totally just used the words soul-crushing. I like hyperbole. Deal with it.

I got my class materials for TESOL Certification. Should be able to rip this out in a couple weeks... once I download the test I have 24 hours to complete and submit it. I've always been pretty good at test-taking anyway... and also, it is entirely open-book. I could probably go ahead and do the thing right now and be ok. Meh, what the hell, I guess I'll spend a few days actually learning something first. I ain't got much else going on anyway.

Don't know if you guys are still reading this (or if anyone is, come to that), but congrats to Stu-dawg on getting accepted into 3 law schools thus far. I didn't actually talk to him or read the blog to find out if more are on the way, but 3 outta ... um, probably lots, but anyway, it still ain't bad. So way to go man.

This Sunday is White Day in Korea. On Valentine's Day I got chocolates from the girl, so this Sunday is my day to reciprocate. Apparently non-chocolate candy is the norm, but Mi Sun informs me that if I'm at all attached to our relationship, I will ignore this mandate from the masses and just buy the damn chocolate. So, chocolate it is. Other acceptable gifts apparently include white chocolate, white candy/mints, marshmallows (which I gotta say, I've never actually seen here... hm) and white lingerie. Also, apparently, it's considered cute to the point of hurling to buy a special matching outfit to wear when you're out on your White Day date. Well, it's not just for White Day. Korean couples do this all the time, but I guess even if you don't normally do it, White Day is like, a good day to start. Or something. It's like guys who never want to be seen buying flowers for their girlfriend in the States don't feel so self-conscious on V-day because everyone's doing it. Now, I know this sounds a little gay to you, and I totally agree with you, but I'm still fucking doing it. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to wear matching clothes with my girlfriend and not be mercilessly ridiculed. It's gonna happen. End of story.

I made an awesome chicken fried rice for dinner tonight. Orange and red bell peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, broccoli and chicken all sauteed in sesame oil, mixed in with rice in the skillet, and then hit near the end with soy sauce and eggs. Damn was it good. My regrets are twofold: I totally forgot to put onion in there (oops!) and I wish I would have used more broccoli. That was my favorite part and there just wasn't enough of it.

Just a short post today, trying to get back in the swing of writing more. Let's hope it takes this go-round. I gotta study my TESOL stuff now. Whoo-ee.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Continuing with my Awesome Blogging Schedule

In my head, when I typed that, I pronounced it "shedule." My uncle says it like that sometimes, to be funny. I usually don't. I guess you could say I'm feeling a bit homesick.

Really, I'm not sure what my problem is... On the surface, things are fine. My job is (and has been recently, especially) easy. It's also really boring. Not at all what you would call fulfilling. On the other hand, Mi Sun no longer works there and I spend an inordinate amount of time just reading articles online or watching American TV. I miss working with my sweetheart, what can I say? I'm sure there's a cure for this, which will be next week when we finally begin actual classes. However, the fact that I can only see the little lady for like a half-hour when she finally gets off work at 9:30pm isn't really cutting it for me.

I quit smoking a couple weeks ago... yes, for serious. It had been getting steadily worse for the last few years. 2007, I think, was the last time I made a serious effort to quit and managed to for about 4 months. So I'm pretty much riding the ridge of mental meltdown all the time right now. That'll pass, of course, but in the meantime, I'm feeling especially on edge, which makes everything seem a bit worse than it really is. I've also gained like 5 pounds in that time, which makes the whole easier breathing thing at the gym seem like less of a benefit than it really is. I mean, seriously, when I'm home, I'm eating. Probably doesn't help that the market down the street started stocking bags of tortilla chips and I've made it a point to buy more American foods the last few times I've been in Seoul. Yeah, burgers, bacon, salsa, burrito-sized tortillas, giant pre-cooked ham, pepper jack cheese, Kraft mac n' cheese, Valentine's candy... all those things are technically comfort foods, especially when living outside the US, but it sure makes for bad eating habits.

Just today, actually, I finally registered for an online TEFL class. I am... how should I put this... not excited about the idea anymore. Sure, it was less than $200 and it will mean I get an extra 100 bucks a month at my job after I finish; and yes, it will allow me to find at least a decent part-time job in pretty much any big city after I finish working in Korea... I don't know. Yay for semi-pointless career advancement, I guess, right? =) I mean, hell, I'm here, I might as well go ahead and do this, for the extra money if nothing else. Of course I should've done it a year ago. Still, better late than never.

What else is new? Um, the Olympics were awesome! Especially living in Korea... get this. Perhaps you noticed, but Koreans tend to excel in speed skating, especially the short track. So, for the first 10 days or so (basically until the figure skating happened and Kim Yeon A went all ballistic on history), whenever there were no live events on which is pretty often due to the time difference, they would replay the speed skating events that Koreans won. And I'm not talking about no once-in-a-while thing here either. I mean over and over and over again. The same race. I must have seen that Korean guy win the 500m like 45 times. It was absolutely asinine. I mean, I can totally understand making it a point to show the Koreans more often than everything else, but we would literally watch a portion of the race -- the people who finished in the top 4 or 5 followed by the winning Korean -- and then a minute later watch the same thing over again. It was... hypnotic and mind-boggling, all at once.

Although, from what I could gather of NBC's coverage, this might not have been so bad. At least I got to see some curling and hockey and ski jumping and alpine events LIVE! Not on a tape delay interspersed with feel-good puff pieces. So, there was that. Also, the Korean figure skater. Her name is not pronounced Kim Yoo-nah. It just isn't... in Korean it's 김연아. The pronunciation of 연 really depends on the speaker, but it sounds fairly similar to yawn if you don't drag it out too much. Rhymes somewhere between yawn and sun. And the last name is just "A." Pronounced ah. Like, ah, it feels really nice to stretch and yawn when you first wake up. Anyway, that's enough of that little rant.

OK, that's all I got for now. Peace, ya'll.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

One post in January... and now one in February. Hope I can keep up this massive pace.

Um, to follow up from last post, which... I dunno, I just got a comment on there requesting I go be on Korean TV, so, do me a favor while we're on the subject. Go look at the comments from that and let me know what you think. On the one hand, it sounds a little fake. On the other hand -- TV!!! So anyways, yeah, tell me whether or not you think that sounds legit.

Avatar was awesome. Especially since I'd heard a lot going in about how ridiculous the story was and to get any enjoyment out of it at all you have to pretty much turn off your bullshit radar and suspend disbelief and all that jazz... so I did. And it was freakin great. 3D. Beautiful scenery, intense action sequences... I had to consciously force myself to relax a couple times after I noticed myself squeezing the girl's hand way too hard. Anyway, do yourself a favor and go see it in 3D while you still can. And don't worry too much about the story, or you could easily get very annoyed with the movie and ruin it. So just relax and breathe deep and let that shit go man.

After the movie we went to a restaurant called Marche at 잠실역 (Jamsil Station) where they have this ginormous underground shopping mall. Several levels of shopping with restaurants, an amusement park, an ice rink... you name it. I think there's even a firing range down there. It's insane. Anyway, Marche (I just spent way too long looking for a link to the website, and failed -- sorry) is like an all-you-can-eat-in-2-hours restaurant. And boy, did we eat. Salads, soups, fried appetizers to start. Some sushi to cool off. A small pasta and risotto course, cause I didn't want to get too full. 2 courses of grilled meat with a few slices of roasted potato and sweet potato (pork and chicken... beef is too expensive in Korea to be giving it away in a place like this), then perhaps some steamed clams, bibimbap, and finally, at long last, desert. Which was cookies, brownies, frozen yogurt and some lychee fruit, which is actually kind of delightful. And that's saying something after like 90 solid minutes of stuffing your face. Also, a shout out to Mi Sun here: for someone who weighs like 110 at the most, that girl can put away just mind-boggling, jaw-dropping amounts of food. I think my portions were slightly bigger than hers throughout the meal, but she went back like 2 more times after I was writhing around in agony, clutching at my digestive system as best I could, you know, from the outside. So, other than those painful moments immediately following the consumption of roughly 3 times as much food as any human should at one sitting, it was a wonderful day!

A propos of nothing, I just found some really kickass FREE software to use with my Kindle. It's called Calibre. Go take a look at it. It works with any of the major ebook readers, converts files from and to (to and fro?) just about any format you'd ever need, includes its own e-reading software if you don't have a reader and just want to read on your computer (which I actually kinda hate, but it's there... whatever), and the coolest thing: you can schedule it to go online and fetch new articles off of about 200 different news websites. So everyday I'm now getting ESPN, The BBC, The NYTimes top stories, and (hopefully) the Onion delivered to my Kindle in some kind of device-optimized format. The Onion stuff I got didn't work today though, so we'll see if it was an aberration or if I have to cancel my "subscription." Anyway, this program rocks my world.

I just celebrated (actually, the celebration was pretty tame, but "had" sounds kinda weak) my 6-month semi-versary with Mi Sun. I'll wait for the cheering to die down before continuing...
...
...
I... oh, you're still going in the back there, ok...
...
...
That's enough!!! We'll never get through this if you keep screaming and clapping...
...
Actually, that's all I had to say about that. Go white boy go white boy go!

I didn't actually post any of those pictures that I promised you last time yet. I'm doing to do that like... right... now. Yep, I did it. You can find them here. Thanks to momma for providing most of those. I know there are some more, and I need to go back and find some pictures from the Frye family Christmas. Updates coming soon. Really, this time. I'm all over it. Like ugly on an ape.

Work is still boring, so we're not gonna talk about that. In fact, that's about all I got. Skiing (I really hope) next weekend. Or, actually this coming weekend. Whoo-ee!

And finally, as a present for reading this far, Happy Birthday Scottie! You're celebrating the Silver Anniversary of your 25th birthday today, so that's pretty exciting. Don't get too crazy... don't do anything I wouldn't do. That still leaves you kind of a lot of wiggle room, I guess. I dunno, don't do anything Mom wouldn't do? Haha... anyway, have a good one!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Well, I'm back...

in Korea. The trip home was awesome. A bit stressful, especially physically, but awesome. I had fun hanging out with all of you. Thanks guys!

And now, I'm back at work. See, last year we did this thing at my school where, if we didn't have class or English camp, I didn't have to go to school. Well, apparently GEPIK, the governing body of education in this province, sent out a missive to all its member schools and whatnot that all foreign teachers have to be at school during breaks, unless we specifically take a vacation -- which we get 4 weeks of every year. Basically what this means is that I've had to go sit in the teachers room at my school (not even the same office where I work the rest of the year, because the Global Center is all locked up tight for the winter break), and hang out with the Vice Principal and the 3rd grade teacher. Neither of whom speak any English. All. Day. Long. On the plus side, I don't have to actually do anything, so... I mean, I can't really complain too much. It's just awful boring. I suppose I can do there exactly what I'd do at home... play online, watch sports online, read on my new Kindle (thanks Momma!!!), although it is a bit awkward trying to watch porn. Something about it, I dunno... just kills the mood.

And that's about the extent of work-related matters. Oh! No it's not! Winter camp starts on Monday. I had kinda forgotten about it because thanks to the hiring of Mr. Other Foreign Teacher (Leland) I don't have to plan anything! I just gotsta show up and get paid... it's how I like to do business. So yeah, that's for the next two weeks, in the afternoons. Should be fun. I'll try to take some pictures or something. Ha!!! We all know how well that goes, huh? I suck.

But speaking of which, there will be some pictures from home posted soon, I promise! I took all the pictures off my mom's camera, so there's some Christmas, some family birthday parties, and whatnot. I'll try to sort through those and post some within a few days. "Try" being the operative word there, naturally.

Fun fact: it's actually colder and shittier in Seoul and surrounding area than in Chicago right now. Although yesterday did feel a bit warmer, especially in the afternoon.

Fun fact #2: I'm going to see Avatar today with Mi Sun. Well, assuming we can get in, I guess. One theater we looked at was entirely booked, at least to see it in 3D, until 11:30 tonight. At which time there were 2 seats available. She tells me she has a coupon from a different theater that is only a couple stops down on the subway, and it's supposedly a really nice one... so I'm guessing they're probably all booked up as well, but we'll see.

Fun fact #3: We're finally (a smidge) out in the open with this whole relationship thing! I mean, we told a few people that we used to work with till the whole Global Center fiasco forced them to stop, you know, working there. And since Mi Sun and I are no longer working together, apparently it's all copacetic now. Although I still don't think she's told her parents. Chicken.

Alright, that's all I got. I need to go get ready for this excursion to Seoul. Keep it real.

Oh, no, one more thing! I've been getting a lot of spam comments on here, so I made a couple changes. You'll now see one of those CAPTCHA things (possibly, I haven't actually tested it out but it should be there) before you can leave a comment. Please don't let this scare you. Also, if you want to leave a comment on posts older than 2 weeks old (and again, feel free. Go back and read the whole damn blog if you want -- it's good!), then those comments need to be approved by me before they'll show up. No biggie, just didn't want to scare anybody. Alright, peace.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Airport update

So I'm in Incheon Airport, waiting on my flight home(!!!!). I heard about this lounge here, run by Asiana, the airline I'm flying home. Sounded pretty cool, thought I'd get here early to check it out. Of course, that also served the dual purpose of forcing me to leave for the airport several hours early, just in case anything went wrong. Which, by the way, it almost did. I mean, not seriously wrong or anything, but just like a back pimple wrong. You know it's there, and it would bother you, but it's not gonna seriously mess up prom night or anything like that. Oh, speaking of messing up prom night, boy howdy. I almost left all my luggage laying on the curb outside the airport. Not even joking. When my bus arrived I was so preoccupied with getting my backpack off the bus and making sure I still had my passport and all the stuff in my pockets, and then finding my check-in point and so on and so forth... well, ha. I got my backpack, neglecting the giant bag and suitcase that I had stashed under the bus in Icheon, y'know, for safe-keeping and all, and headed on inside. Made it past the doors, was on my way to the information desk, when all of a sudden it hit me. Walking was waaaay too easy. I turn around and sure enough the bus driver is standing there, my bags laying next to him, looking bewildered. He was all set to just get back on the bus and head off when I came running up. Blushing profusely, I just kinda smiled, picked up my bags, and walked away. Woulda been a hell of a start to the trip, no?

Nevertheless, crisis averted.

Check-in, security, immigration, all that was a breeze. Seriously amazing airport they've got here. Literally 10 minutes from finding Asiana's check-in desk, which by the way had like 60 agents working and no lines whatsoever, I was all stamped and secured and on my way to the gate.

I had heard something about this lounge run by Asiana here, basically a business-class type lounge except anyone can go in. Sounded pretty cool. Thought I'd check it out. On a scale of 1 to Grey Goose, I give this place a Svedka. Not as hip or popular, definitely not too expensive, but convenient, cheap, good vibe and definitely gets the job done. So here's the skinny: $20 to get in. Yes, even though it's a Korean airline, operating in a Korean airport, she asked me for, well, to be perfectly honest, she asked me for 21 dollars, not 20. But still... that was weird. Good thing I changed some money before I left Janghowon. Had to take advantage of that exchange rate while the getting was good, ya know? So, I dropped her a couple dead presidents and I'm in the door. It's mostly comfy chairs and small round tables, with windows overlooking the ticketing area on the floor below us. It's a bustling, yet somehow soothing sight. Some kind of schadenfreude, probably, but watching other people stress the hell out from a comfortable vantage point brings its own kind of joy. Just the way it is.

Anyway, I sat down at a table and plugged in the ole trusty laptop. So far so good. I notice an espresso machine, grinning at me amiably from the counter. I go over to shake his hand, and like a maitre d' at a fine french restaurant, come away clutching an ill-gotten gain in my right hand. Complimentary cafe latte, all the way, baby. Giddy up. Feeling pretty good, right about now. Drank the coffee, surfed the web, and rubbed my hands together, grinning evilly like Donald McScrooge. Now feeling self-satisfied and alert, I took a better look around. 20 feet to my right is a little buffet table. I hadn't eaten since about 8:00 (it was, at this point, like 1:30 -- hungry-time, in other words), so I went and loaded up a plate. Paella (not great, but certainly passable), German sausage with mustard, mini spring rolls, finger sandwiches, fixins for bibimbap (mixed rice with veggies and chili paste), cream of potato soup... all in all, not a bad spread, and quite international in the spirit of my season. Sated, I turned my attention to the non-coffee drinks available.

There is a Coke fountain machine next to the espresso maker, and a fridge filled with juice and water and oh lord god there's beer in there. And what's that next to it? Is that, bottles of freaking booze, just sitting out waiting for anybody and their dog to get a drink? What the hell kind of Christmas miracle have I stumbled upon here? Sure enough, an ice bucket, emblazoned with the Dewar's logo, just sitting there all smug and shit, knowing what's about to happen. I mean, what could I do? I'd obviously already paid to be here. There's low-ball glasses, Jack Daniels, ice, and Coke all within a 10-foot radius. There was simply nothing else to be done at that point. At least, that's what I'm telling myself as I sip on an icy cold Jack n Coke and type up this here airport lounge review. You, on the other hand, can think what you like. I'm happy here, and that's all there is to it. I give it 2 over-enthusiastic thumbs up. And next time I leave the country, I am most certainly, definitely and without a doubt coming back here. I'd recommend you do the same, should you ever find yourself at Incheon Airport on a stopover with Asiana Airlines. Seriously, do it do it.

Oh, and also, I'm excited to be going home! First plans -- my little cousin's 14th(? wow!) birthday party later tonight, hitting up some old haunts to meet up with friends and catch the Bears game tomorrow, then lunch with Em on Monday, and then catching the train home to Marion Monday night. On tap for Marion: spending time with my folks, meeting Adam and Felicia's little girl (my adopted niece), family Christmases, meeting my real niece (and accompanying sister-in-law) for the first time, lots of relaxing, and who knows what else? The universe (or at least the hub of it) is my oyster.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

T- 4 Days and counting

Yep, I'll be home in the States on December 19th, at 4:30pm. After leaving Seoul on December 19th, at 6pm. I love the international date line. Time travel for the win.

Still need to pack, of course. And do laundry, and clean my apartment. And, maybe... buy just a couple more Christmas presents, although these are the type that I could find in an airport gift store if need be, I suppose.

Short post today, and boring. But I'm coming home! Exciting!!! See you soon, America.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Trust me?

I would apologize for not blogging more, but you know what? Screw you guys. I'm doing this for me, not you. Me, and posterity. And they're gonna read these blog posts all at once (like an episodic novel), without having to wait for weeks on end between updates. So there. =Þ

Yeah, I know how to use ASCII to make a smiley tongue face. Can you do that? I didn't think so.

So, Korean girl (who shall remain nameless, but you all know who I'm talking about) is really frustrating. Like, the same reason I like her (which is because she's so cute and dainty and girly and delightful) is the same reason I get all pissed off sometimes (because she's so flighty or flaky or fliggety-flammety). I mean, I totally understand that girls can change their minds, and I respect that, but come on. We had a date planned... don't tell me (and only after I ask, mind you) that no, you're not coming over in a couple hours so we can have dinner (or staying over for a couple hours so we can have dinner) together. And by the way, don't even tell me that. It's not so much about waiting until you're put on the spot. Have the balls (I really like parenthetical expressions, did you notice?) to tell me that you're feeling tired, before 6pm when you're leaving my apartment.

On the plus side, and apart from all that, things are good here. For our 100 day anniversary (which, by the way, I'm only using that term because there aren't any good ones in English, but seriously, they celebrate 100 days together here), she gave me this really awesome grey Reebok hoodie (which, by the way, is cool as shit here) that I have to fight the urge to wear every day. I gave her these kind of expensive purple gemstone earrings (that I thought were perfect for her skin tone, plus were totally trendy and gilten... is that the right word? anyway... she didn't like them, for whatever reason. oops). She's kind of an awesome girlfriend, but there are just some things that apparently are ok here that wouldn't fly back home (and vice versa).

Anyway, things are more or less good. I'm way into "Curb Your Enthusiasm" now, and "Deadwood," and "Breaking Bad." I think these things are making me more wordy than I deserve to be. They have great writers. I don't. Please forgive me.

I did, however, just find my tin of Burts' Bees lip balm, so I'm feeling cool as a cucumber at the moment, lip-wise. Yeah.

So, the other native English teacher here, Leland, just celebrated his birthday last week. Our Korean coteacher, Bo Il, gave him this awesome, poster-sized print of a photo he took while out on a trip with a photography club this fall. And when I told him (Bo Il, not Leland) how cool of a gift that was, he offered me one too. I accepted, because how ya gonna turn that down, am I right? So now I have this kick-ass framed print of a river lined by gorgeous red... flowers (not a botanist, though I do love a good parenthetical), and beautiful reflection of the sunlight. Hanging (well, not so much hanging, but sitting on the floor directly underneath the place where it will soon be hanging once I get the nails and hammer and such) on the wall across from my bed. That wasn't even a full sentence. What kind of English teacher am I?

Yes, I realize I never completed the story about the DMZ, or even started the Halloween storytelling (which was awesome), but both of those tasks will be completed in due time, I promise. Pinky swear, even.

Trust me? ;)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Silly hackers

Just got a message from an old friend on Facebook chat. Well, I say old friend because the last time we actually talked was probably in high school... and "friend" might be a little strong. I mean, I wouldn't punch him in the face if I saw him on the street, but I probably wouldn't invite him to my son's bar mitzvah, either. Anyway... I got no problem with this guy, but also no reason to believe that it was actually him messaging me. I vaguely remembered reading online about these things called Nigerian 419 scams, which are happening on facebook now.

Well, it turns out that like the first half of the conversation is no longer showing up in the chat screen. That blows. But allow me to summarize, at least from Mr. Haxxor's point of view:

Dude, please come online and help! I'm stuck in London! I got robbed at gunpoint! They took my phone! I injured my leg! I have a plane ticket home but I need $900 for my hotel and cab fare! Can you please Western Union me the money?!

Me: mostly stalling and making ridiculous observations about how hard this situation sucks for him. Finally I give in... which leads to "searching for WU locations," and this:
Sean

well, sorta. i think all the locations are actual banks, which are closed right now

i'm still looking. hang on man

7:37pmsilly hacker

ok

7:39pmSean

dude, the closest place is like 20 miles from here

7:39pmsilly hacker

ok

7:40pmSean

but I gotta take a bus to get there

it might be... an hour? can you wait that long?

7:40pmsilly hacker

ok

30 Leicester Square.
City, London
United Kingdom. WC2H 7LA

Name:Eric redacted

Allow me to interject here and draw your attention to how instantaneously he got this address in there. I mean, it followed about 3 seconds behind the "ok." Cut and pastey, time no wastey.

7:41pmSean

and what's your full name? i don't even remember your middle name man. sorry... that's kinda jacked up, but i wanna make sure you can get the money when it gets there

7:41pmsilly hacker

that's all the info you need

Gettin a bit snippy, aren't we? I mean, I am sending you almost a thousand dollars, here... jeez!

7:42pmSean

oh... if you're sure. will they give me a confirmation number or something to make sure it goes through? sorry, i've never used western union before

7:43pmsilly hacker
yes,

you will be given a confirmation number(MTCN#)

all i need is the senders name,and confirmation number to get the money.

7:45pmSean

ok, well you got my name. i'll let you know the confirmation number when i get it. will you still be online when i get there?

7:45pmsilly hacker

yes

7:46pmSean

or hell... you got a phone number where i can call you?

7:46pmsilly hacker

no

Ah, come on! It was worth a shot, right?

7:46pmSean

that'll be faster than waiting for me to go and come back

oh...

no public phone, hotel phone, something?

7:47pmsilly hacker
u can send me a mail (redacted.eric@yahoo.com)or +447024074948

that's the hotel number.

got it?

This is, I'm almost certain, not his real email address. I actually have no idea... but when I looked at his facebook profile page, this address wasn't actually typed in, if that makes sense. Instead, someone had posted an image file with this email address written on it. Sneaky sneaky, little hacker. Also, the UK apparently doesn't do reverse directory, and I don't really feel like calling this number from my cell phone. If anybody wants to skype it and get back to me, I'd love to know who picks up the phone.

7:49pmSean

yeah, i got it. alright man.. give me like an hour. i'll call you when i get it all worked out, cool?

7:49pmsilly hacker

ok

thanks.

7:50pmSean

any time...i mean, this must have been terrible for you

7:53pmsilly hacker

are you gone?

7:55pmSean

not yet. just getting better directions on how to get to this place

7:55pmsilly hacker

ok

7:55pmSean

what's up?

8:00pmsilly hacker

you can send me the western union details to my mail.(redacted.eric@yahoo.com)

I'll be waiting.

8:02pmsilly hacker

have you gotten a better description?

u still there?

8:04pmSean

yeah, i think so

where is the money being sent again?

i need to write that down

8:04pmsilly hacker

ok

30 Leicester Square.
City, London
United Kingdom. WC2H 7LA

got it?

8:05pmSean

what's the name of the place?

is it a bank, or ...?

8:06pmsilly hacker

it's a western union outlet nearby.

please you need to get going.

Haha. So far as I can tell, there is no Western Union outlet nearby. Also, are we really trying to send $900 "nearby"?! Don't you want it sent to exactly the right place? I don't have the most sophisticated software on the planet, but google (who very well might have the most sophisticated software on the planet... who knows?) came up with nothing for this address and Western Union. Or banks.

8:07pmSean

ok, i'm leaving now man. just hang tight

8:07pmsilly hacker

ok

I'll be waiting.

8:08pmSean

yep, you will. got no other choice, huh? haha

8:42pmEric is offline.

So I figured that was the end of it, but wait! While I'm gone to Western Union (which will take an hour, one way, on the bus, mind you) he comes back! I didn't answer, of course. Didn't want to ruin the illusion, but anyway, this happened:

Eric is online.
9:10pmsilly hacker

u there?

9:12pmsilly hacker

Sean are you there?

9:16pmEric is offline.

Any quick thinkers got any other ways for me to screw with this guy? I kinda figured if he thought he was getting paid and I wasted some of his time, I could keep him from targeting other people for a bit until hopefully Eric or his wife wake up and realize what's going on. Your advice is appreciated! I'll update if I have the pleasure of chatting further with this wanker.

Get it? Wanker? Cause he's in jolly old England... haha. Anyway, that was my entertainment for the evening.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

DMZ: The Prologue

So I went to the DMZ last Saturday. Here's my story.

Started off with an uneventful bus ride to Seoul after school. Read a little bit of my book, relaxed, and looked forward to the weekend ahead. Rolled into town around 7pm and jumped on the subway over to foreigner-ville, AKA Itaewon. I was supposed to meet up Tom, who planned the trip, and some other folks around 8 or 8:30. I called Tom and told him to meet me at the Wolfhound, a fairly well known Irish pub in Itaewon. I sat down at the bar upstairs, chatted with the bartender (who spoke really good English), and ordered an AlleyKat, which tastes sort of fresh and hoppy and may or may not be an IPA, but is definitely delicious. I start playing sudoku on my phone and get really into it. I finally beat this really hard puzzle I've been struggling over off and on for about 3 weeks. I have a couple of beers. I chat with some other American guys, Army guys I think, for a bit, and then look at my phone. 9:15?! Where is everybody?? I text Tom. The reply: "Wolfhound." Doh.

So I pay my tab and take a walk downstairs. Sure enough, there's Tom, Travis, and a couple of girls hanging out and drinking. I order another beer and we sit and chat for a while about how we need to bounce pretty early and get to sleep so we can make our 7am call at the USO Office. A couple beers later and we decide to order club sandwiches and potato wedges. Then this South African chick, Nomfundo, shows up and we get more food: steak and kidney pie or some such. More beers. Next thing we know it's like 1am and Nomfundo talks us into coming back to her motel. So, by this time the other chicks are gone and it's just the 4 of us. The guys figure we can all share a room for a few hours, so we decide to walk over there. And stop at the Family Mart, to buy more beer and some soju, naturally. Like, that wasn't even an option, for real. Anyway, as we're walking it begins to thunder and lightning, and then to rain more and more heavily. You know, we're not that upset, because we've got beer and the plastic bags that the beer came in to put over our heads. But as it turns from storm to raging downpour, we start looking for little eaves and awnings and whatnot to hide under. Then the kicker: Nomfundo can't remember where her hotel is! But no worries: She's got a business card! But wait -- the address doesn't mean anything to us, because we're not from Seoul! But it's ok because it's got a phone number! But hornswaggle -- we can't speak Korean! Idea: we'll find a taxi and make him call and find out where it is! Bullspit -- no taxi's will stop because we're not by a designated taxi stand. And soaking wet. I'm sure that didn't help...

After about 20 minutes standing on this corner waving and cursing at every cab that came by, we finally got one to not only stop, but also call the hotel, find out where it is, and take us there. Awesome: it's like 2 minutes away from that corner we've been huddling on. Even more awesome: it's smack dab in the middle of the Red Light District. Yep, on both sides of the road, just hookers. And not old dirty ones either... these girls were hot! I'm sure the cab driver was... well, probably not at all surprised that 3 white guys had found this particular hotel out of all the options in Seoul, but seriously: we're here to learn, folks! Not to make out with you! Billy Madison... anyone? Anyone? Ok, never mind. So yeah... we did take a quick stroll (in the pouring rain, mind you) to see what was for sale, because I for one had never been to a Korean RLD before, but it was strictly window shopping. Anyway, back to the hotel for about 3 hours sleep and then we're off to the DMZ.

Morning, hangover, quick walk, quicker cab ride, no breakfast, check-in, bus ride. Korean tour guide, Freedom Road (along the Han River, protected with fences to keep invading North Korean marine units off the freeway), and up to the actual De-Militarized Zone.There we receive a briefing at Camp Bonifas ("In Front of Them All") about the DMZ and expected behavior and such. Highlights? In front of the North Korean guards (whom we only saw from a distance): no gestures, no pointing, basically don't acknowledge their presence in any way. You can take pictures, but they will remotely scan any and all electronic equipment that you carry. In other words, don't make yourself a target and don't be a dumbass. Done and done.

And that's where the story ends for today, ladies and gents. Pictures can be found here.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Curiouser and curiouser

UPDATE!!! Link to Sports Day pictures is now working. So, go look. Also, costumes and such.

Actually, a more appropriate title for this would have been lazier and lazier, but that just doesn't roll off the tongue quite as well. So here we are. 3 weeks later and with a title that makes no sense. You're just gonna have to bear with me though. Or... not, I guess. I mean, I don't know if anybody's still checking this site for updates or not anymore. I hear the best way to gain readers to a blog is to actually blog consistently. So... failing that, I guess I could promise naked pictures of Megan Fox or miracle weight-loss techniques or a way to get your house clean without actually doing anything. So... yeah. If that last sentence doesn't draw in at least a few hits from google (hi guys! fooled ya!) then I don't know what this world's coming to.

So what's happened since last I wrote? Hung with out the teachers a few times. Samgyeopsal, kalbi, dalk kalbi. Lots and lots of soju and beer. Man those guys love to drink. We did sports day at our school, at which I took lots of awesome pictures which will soon be up on facebook and my google pictures site. And by soon, I mean later today. Once they're there, I'll come back and add the links. But, you know, I was finally in the mood to write something, and based on how rarely that's happened recently, it would've been dumb to delay it just to upload photos. But they're awesome. And they're already on my computer, just waiting to be captioned and rotated and such.

Went out with the rest of the Janghowon crew a few days ago for booze and chicken and noraebang. The karaoke is actually more fun with white people... I mean, it's fun with Koreans too, but at least with the westerners we all know the same music. So we can all rock out to Bon Jovi, Queen, and Sir Mix-a-Lot at the same time, without having to intersperse it with Kpop.

Went shopping yesterday with the girl. Bought a kick-ass UH Cougar-style (note: not actually a UH jacket; those are impossible to find in the states... the odds against finding one here are astronomical) red white and navy Puma wind-jacket-type thing for like $12 at the outlet. I must be losing weight, cuz as far as Puma jackets go, I can now wear a Korean size medium. Which is kinda ridiculous. Now, like in shirts and stuff, that's not true. But baby steps, ya'll, baby steps. Also, got some new weight-lifting gloves on sale at the Nike outlet and then hit up E-Mart for some groceries. Got pork 'n' beans, snack-sized snickers, arizona green tea, some more dill pickles, some crunchy peanut butter (which is still way too expensive here, but sometimes ya just gotta say screw it), and a big ole jar of sundried tomato alfredo sauce, which I'm using tonight. I'm doing a chicken, shrimp, and spinach alfredo over pasta, and I hear at one of the bakeries in town you can actually get garlic bread with no sugar on it (joy!), so I'm gonna hit that up as well. I'm excited! =)

Oh, and before shopping, we went and saw this god-awful movie that I hadn't even heard of until we got to the theater. "Fame," I believe it's called. Anyway, it has Kelsey Grammer and his ex-wife Lilith, whoever the hell that actress is. Also, the chick who played that obnoxious lady in Will and Grace, and uh... yeah. Anyway, it's terrible. It's like getting humped by a dolphin until you drown terrible. Because you can't actually drown. And, to top things off, I spilled my bucket of popcorn about 30 minutes in. It was actually kinda cool, because the way it fell, I guess there was some kind of centrifugal force on the popcorn. So, it pretty much all stayed in the bucket, which then landed perfectly open-side down next to my feet. So, at least I got to spend the rest of the movie trying to figure out ways to use the objects in my pockets to somehow salvage all but the bottom layer of popcorn and get the rest of it into my belly. My efforts were futile and made a gigantic mess in the aisle, but it was certainly better than actually watching that piece of shit movie.

Today is the end of the Chuseok holiday. Chuseok is like Korean thanksgiving, I guess. Family all gathers, there's lots of food, and then they all drive to their family's ancestral burial mountain to bow to the graves of their forefathers. Just like in America. So, tomorrow it's back to work, but today I'm gonna go look for new bedcovers. I feel like a change. And apparently, the really awesome soft ones I bought when I arrived here last year are like, a winter seasonal item. So they just arrived in stores again this past week. All the summer ones suck, by the way.

So, to recap, here are some links which for now, mean nothing, but soon will have signifieds and therefore become signifiers.

My Chuseok gift set can be found . . .
School Sports Day is moving in right over here!!!
Some other random photos including me dressing up in all sorts of fun and exotic costumes are here!!!

Stay tuned.

Peace.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Bullet points are my friend

Swine Flu
  • Currently not teaching; the Global center is on hiatus due to swine flu concerns. Not sure who's concerned, but somebody, somewhere, is really freaking out about this.
  • Instead of teaching, they have us doing other things. Grading papers, helping out the homeroom teachers, what have you. Yesterday, we weeded the garden beside the parking lot. I hope we can just go back to teaching soon.
  • We have a new foreign teacher. Leland from Minnesota. He arrived last Saturday but hasn't been able to come to school yet. He's in quarantine. Apart from that, he's a pretty cool guy.
  • Of course, they encouraged me and the other English-speaking teachers to help him out, hang out, whatever. And then, you know, come to school. Defeat the purpose much?
Food
  • Tonight Mi Sun and Mi Jin are coming over for Korean dinner night at my house. Mi Sun's cooking japchae. I'm excited!
  • We had an awesome cookout last Saturday at the school. Someone had shot and killed a wild boar, so we grilled that bad boy up. Lots of beer and soju and wild swine. At school, mind you. Awesome.
Travel
  • Less than 2 months till I get to make my visa run to Fukuoka, Japan. More information coming on this later.
  • A little more than 3 months till I get to make my vacation run to America. The more I think about this, the more excited I'm getting. More info etc. coming later.
Miscellaneous
  • Things with the girl are awesome.
  • I'm hungry.
  • Been spending more time listening to Korean music... especially riding in the car. I'm really tired of K-pop. It's like, I always kinda hated it. But it's just so damn catchy, that you end up singing the only 3 lines you can understand from a god-awful song for like 2 solid days.
  • I accidentally got some bleach/detergent spots on my green stripey polo shirt that I like when it was in the wash. Those spots are now exactly the same shade of sky blue as one of the stripes. Win. Too bad they're random and on the sleeve. Still, it surely won't prevent me from wearing it.
  • Don't call me Shirley.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I'm really hoping to get to 100 posts soon

Because that'll feel like an accomplishment, even though it's a pretty arbitrary number. You know, it takes 500 homeruns or 3000 hits to be a lock for the hall of fame. Well, it takes 100 blog posts to be a "blogger."

There's not really much going on here, it turns out. I've been spending a lot of the time with the girl lately, and that's going fantastic! However, due to a sensitive situation at the house of learning that employs her, she doesn't feel comfortable making things public around here. So... I don't know. Apart from that, things are really really good. She said she likes being my secret girlfriend. Of course, it's only secret here. In Seokcho and Seoul (where we're going shopping tomorrow, by the way) she's been plenty expressive. Just, around Janghowon... because it's so small and everyone knows everyone else... we're keepin things on the downlow.

Also, I watched the tail-end of the Bucs-Dolphins preseason football game, and after the game was over I got Friends and Seinfeld on whatever Fox affiliate this is. Awesome!

Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes -- it's nice to know people are still thinking about me! =) I feel like I've been gone a long time, but only a few more months till I come home to visit! Whoo-ee! And extra special super-duper thanks to Mom for the awesome care package: Some shirts, jeans, brown work pants (which Mi Sun said were all 예쁘다! handsome and/or pretty!), and... Miracle Whip, 2 King-size Paydays which I love, and 2 boxes of Kraft bluebox Mac & Cheese! It's the Cheesiest! Too bad about the bacon, but it's the thought that counts. =)

Also -- thanks for the postcard, Emily! I will send you one, I promise. Anyone else who wants one... I'm going to Seoul tomorrow so I'll pick up a stack. I do need addresses though, so anyone interested, email your info to seanmfrye@gmail.com. I'll get those right out to ya, promise!

Oh, and two months later, here's some pictures from that baseball game I went to back in June. Enjoy! Seokcho photos coming soon! Until then, I bid you adieu.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

생일 축하합니다

Yep, today is (or rather was, since I'm way out here in the farther eastern part of the world) my birthday. So, birthday = 생일 (sang-il). Congratulations (in its most polite form) = 축하합니다 (chookha-ham-nida). Happy birthday to me.

It was a pretty good birthday, considering I'm several thousand miles removed from my closest friends and family. Mom -- thanks for the package, and don't worry about the bacon-destruction-by-fire costs. I got it. =) It's the thought that counts, and I'm glad that you thought of me and decided that bacon was a suitable birthday gift. Apparently, I'm doing something right. Awesome. And for all the facebook and email birthday wishes, I'm very grateful.

So -- the party. Last night I went out with Bo Il, Mi Sun, Mi Jin, and Yu Sun. Most of the foreign teachers here either don't like me or were out of the country on vacation. Not sure... but what I am sure of is that it was their loss. We met up in Icheon, went to the sports bar (which, unlike America, does not show copious amounts of sports on big screen TVs). Drank, ate anju, drank more... played Titanic, an awesome Korean drinking game. Basically, you pour a glass mostly full of beer, then float an empty shot glass in there. You take turns pouring soju into the shot glass. The one who makes it sink (hence the name) has to chug the whole thing. Poor Mi Sun -- she was a trooper though, I gotta say. Also had these evil little cocktails, where you take a half-shot of coke in a shot glass and put it in the bottom of a beer glass. Then you take a half-shot of soju and put it on top of the coke shot glass. Then you pour beer into the glass until it's nearly full, while the two shot glasses (if constructed properly) should maintain structural integrity. Then you chug the thing. Good times. Like a Korean car bomb, I guess... although the name does leave something to be desired.

The sports bar also has a Wii, so we played some Wii boxing while all the other Koreans in the bar cheered us on. I kicked ass, in case you were wondering. Undefeated heavyweight champion of the wooooooooorld... and so on. Also played some Wii tennis, which was less fun, it turns out. I mean, still fun, but the rest of the bar lost interest at that point, and what's the point of kicking someone's ass if there's not 30 random people cheering you on? Exactly. We also played some darts. I was on fire the first game (and no, in case you were wondering, I'm not good at darts) but I was nailing bulls-eyes left and right. Won handily at 501. Then came round 2. Since there were 5 of us and only 4 players can play at a time, I got to play as a team with Mi Jin the second game. Now, I'd like to say that this cramped my style, but I was definitely the flat tire on the vehicle that was our losing team. I actually scored a 3 on one turn. Total. With 3 darts. And 3 ones. Ouch. Anyway, our penalty for losing was that we had to finish all the booze left on the table so that we could go bowling. Now, I know what you're thinking... and yes, losing is awesome. Maybe better than winning.

Bowling -- I'm sure you're curious, so let me clear this up. It's exactly the same as it is in America. They even have the computers that keep score for you. The only difference is, Koreans don't drink when they bowl. Which is totally backwards, because they drink at pretty much all other times. Weird. Anyway, I was the clear winner at this little competition. It took me a while to find my groove, and by the end of the 2nd game I was pretty tired, but even with those setbacks and using the house ball I managed a couple of games in the 150 range. Which I was pretty happy with.

Then, off to another bar. More drinking. Then home for sleep. Now then, a list of presents: I got a new Nike golf glove; a "massage stick" with a stuffed puppy on top (no... just no. Not like that); a box of seaweed soup mix; a kick-ass cappucino flavored cake with disgusting amounts of chocolate utensil-shaped thingies on it. My analysis -- the golf glove: very cool. Needed a new one anyway. Can't wait to go golfing and try it out. The "massage stick": at the time, Mi Jin told me it was a one-shot stick. "One-shot" is the Korean way of saying bottoms up. It means that everyone will chug whatever drink they're holding. I'm assuming that the stuffed dog stick is for beating people who don't comply. Which is way more fun than hitting your own back in some kind of masochistic massage ritual, I gotta say. The seaweed soup: this is a traditional Korean birthday meal. It's like eating ham and beans or split peas on New Years; it brings you good luck. So, I dutifully cooked myself a big ole bowl of seaweed soup and rice for lunch today. And it was absolutely delicious. We actually eat this fairly often for school lunch... and it is, I'm sure, much better than it sounds. You don't even really notice that you're eating seaweed. It's just a nice flavorful broth with green things in it, which also taste good and more or less like the broth. So yeah, I think most everyone I know would enjoy it (except perhaps for Gran and my little cousin Erik, but he doesn't count -- he won't even eat pizza). I'll keep you posted on the good luck.

Perhaps the best present of the day was the news my coteacher gave me. We're getting a new foreign teacher next week! An American guy, and that's all they know right now. What this means for me, however, is no more teaching after school classes! He's in charge of that mess now. As much as I love my kids, I'm pretty happy about this no more lesson planning thing. I assume I'll have to help him out for the first couple of weeks, but maybe he's like a teaching ninja and will totally rock the house -- more free time for me! Also, found out I'm getting a Christmas vacation this year! So *sings* I'll... be home.... for Christmas....

And I'll see some (most? all? who even still reads this thing after I completely flaked out on the updates?) of you in a few months! What a great day!

Oh... and today, the girl came over and we watched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I love that movie. I'm a dork. But it was really nice -- she just wanted to be here with me on my birthday. 고마와! 너는 최고!

And that was my birthday, Korea-style. I'm planning a little jaunt down to Busan and some of the surrounding countryside for later in the week. Updates on that coming soon, as well as pictures from my weekend by the sea in Sokcho. Don't be a stranger, and I won't be strange.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Last Weekend: A Prologue

This is another of the reasons I love Korea. Last week, I was walking home from the gym and texting Mi Sun when it started to absolutely pour. I had no umbrella, because it was all hot and sunny when I left the house. Naturally.

So, I'm walking home in flip flops and my workout clothes, trudging through the torrential rain, and realize that as I'm texting, the phone is probably getting a lot wetter than is good for it. Next I realize that the shorts I'm wearing are completely soaked through, so the pocket probably isn't a much better place for it. I resign myself to the fact that it's just gonna be wet, and kinda hold it against my belly under my t-shirt, trying to keep the water from literally running all over it.

When I got home, everything seemed to work just fine... that is until (maybe the next day, or the day after) I tried to make a phone call. And the person I called couldn't hear me at all. Thinking it was just a bad connection, I hung up and tried again. Same story. At this point I'm starting to freak out a little, making the connection between prior downpour and current malfunction. This phone was expensive! And while I didn't have to buy the original one, I'm pretty sure I'm on the hook for the replacement if it comes to that, ya know?

Well, I explained what happened to Mi Sun, and she suggests that we take it to the Samsung Service Center to have it looked at. Fortunately we were doing our grocery shopping at E-Mart in Icheon on Friday before the trip, and her friend Yu Sun knew of a Samsung place just down the street. So we go in there and give them the phone. Didn't even have to explain that this was completely my fault. Just told them, the mic's not working, no one can hear me. Please fix it. 45 minutes, they said. Took Mi Sun's number and said they'd call when it was done.

So, they call. We finish shopping (and ate some McDonald's... mmm, Big Mac) and drive back over there. Not only did they replace the mic, they put in a whole new keyboard unit because apparently the first one looked as if it might stop working soon. And, icing on the cake, this repair was absolutely, 100%, god-as-my-witness FREE. Yep, not a dollar, not a dime, not a single red penny did I pay for this 40%-new phone. Awesome!

So, on Friday I got 3 new cotton t-shirts, swimming trunks, McDonald's, a giant bottle of beer (for later of course!) and a newly-functional phone, all for less than 30 bucks. Great start to a great weekend! More updates coming soon, with pictures!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Since last we met

This past weekend I went on a little trip to Sokcho, which is on the east coast of Korea. It was a pretty tiring yet relaxing weekend, the way those little trips can sometimes be. We stayed in a "condo," which is Konglish for basically, a hotel-like resort where the rooms have little kitchenettes. Cooked several delicious meals. Went to the beach on Saturday and got pretty sunburned. Checked out an awesome Buddhist temple Saturday afternoon/evening. Sunday after breakfast we went and hiked Seorak Mountain. Then went down to this fishing area and ate... well, I'm going to tell you all of this in another post anyway, as well as put up some pictures, so we'll leave that part for later. =) My camera is currently in Mi Sun's car, so the pictures will have to wait. Also, she and her friends Yu Sun and Ji Sun (easy enough to remember, right?) got way more pictures than I did, so I need to do some consolidation. But rest assured, pictures will be up soon.

First things first, though: the English Camp I did at Buwon High School! This was, as you may or may not remember, an English Conversation class with 18 9th-graders from all over the Icheon city area. These kids were obviously smart, and for the most part really well-behaved. I had a lot of fun with this camp. It's so much easier to deal with kids who can understand most of what I'm saying -- I think I'd do much better in a high school setting than in my current job, but it's all about expanding my horizons, right? Anyway, back to the lecture at hand. The camp, first off, was crazy. Two weeks of English and Math. Apart from my class, they were mostly preparing for high school entrance exams, which will hopefully allow them to get into some of the more prestigious private schools around. So, from what I could gather, they would wake up around 5:30 every morning, have mandatory exercise and self-study time, then basically do English, Math, English, Math, lunch, English, Math, English, Math, dinner, English, Math, English, Math, self study, and in bed by 1 or 2 in the morning. Oh, and I think there was occasionally some golf thrown in as well(?). Sounds like an awesome way to spend your summer vacay, no? Well, the upshot of this was that my class at 8:30 in the morning frequently turned into nap time. I mean, I did wake them up and all, but I tried to be understanding about it. Two solid weeks of only a few hours sleep each night will take its toll on anybody I guess, but especially 15 year olds.

So, mostly we just played games. Amanda, I took your suggestion and busted out some theatre improv-type warmup games... which they inevitably complained about as being too hard. I also made them write and perform scripts for TV news-style interviews... that was pretty much a disaster. We talked about different types of events that are often covered on the news, either local (which I'm not entirely sure they even have here, to be honest) or national. Then the reporter was supposed to give us the facts (answering the "w" question words, of course) and then he/she would interview an eyewitness or two. I guess, it wasn't totally bad. One group covered the Harry Potter premier in London... another a Big Bang concert in Tokyo. One group reported on why the air conditioning wasn't working in our classroom, which was actually pretty funny. I think, perhaps, my expectations were a little high going in, and they actually did a pretty good job. And yes, I did just talk myself into that conviction, thanks for asking.

I also used a lot of conversation starter questions I found on this kickass ESL website to get them talking with each other. Made things much easier for me, as I could just kick back and observe. I mean, it was actually pretty easy.

I had meant to make this longer, but Mi Sun's coming over for lunch in a few minutes and I need to get ready. More updates coming soon, and this time I do promise. Come back soon!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Pink is my favorite color!

I do like Aerosmith, in fact, but that's not the reason for the title, in case you wondering.

I had promised some more Korean cultural oddities in a previous post, but this isn't it. This is just a hold-you-over, snack type thing till we get to the meat of the situation.

But seriously, Koreans really like pink. And not the girls, either. I mean, they like pink too, but that's sort of to be expected, right? I'm talking about the boys. In the past few days of summer camp (and judging by past experience, this seems to be the norm) I've seen pink polos, pink t-shirts, pink-striped shorts, pink socks, pink Converses, pink pencils and pens, pink notebooks, even pink calculators.

It's sorta weird, but Koreans are very flashy in some areas and extremely conservative when it comes to others. For instance -- the socks. Korean socks are awesome. They're largely pink or yellow, and lots of them have pictures of cartoon characters on them. The guys wear a lot of shiny suits, skinny ties, bright shirts and crazy-colored socks... while the girls seem to settle for more muted colors. Of course, they do tend to wear little skirts and tiny shorts over patterned tights, and ridiculously high-heeled shoes... but generally it's earthy tones, with maybe a purple or green here and there.

This whole randomly-conservative thing persists with cars as well. Basically, you get 3 "colors." Most of the cars you see in Korea are white, black, or silver. You see the occasional red, and lots of the work-specific trucks are navy blue, but for the most part the road is pretty boring when it comes to the colors. However, they make up for the lack of visual excitement in other ways.

Traffic lights in Korea, or at least in the rural areas, are completely voluntary. I can't count the number of times I've been in a car where the driver (a normally respectable Korean citizen, by the way) just decides to go for it. Red lights are more or less suggestions here. If there's no one (that you can see) approaching an intersection, it's perfectly acceptable to just hit the gas and burn through that red light. Actually, it's broader than that. It seems like anything that's physically possible in a car is also borderline legal. If you can pull off a U-turn on a crowded street, due to pedestrians blocking oncoming traffic or a school bus picking up passengers, that's definitely fair game. If you can scream through a crowded intersection without killing anyone, feel free! If you can slam the parking brake, spin the wheel, and pull off a 360 while flipping the car end over end blindly through a crowded market without landing on any small children -- well, not sure that actually happens very often, but if you can -- be my guest! And this is why I decided not to buy a motorcycle here. Well... I don't have license, either, but that's mostly why.

PINK! It's the color of passion!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

In case you're planning a Korean party...

I've eaten some interesting foods recently. Let me tell you about them.

First, and this ranks pretty low on the list of strange or icky or what-have-you: 쭈꾸미; in English -- jjook-goomi. Even more in English, spicy baby octopus. With carrots and some other junk. Freakin delicious. I've been to this restaurant 3 times already, and I'll probably be back soon.

Next -- and this was also way better than it sounds, I have to say: 닭발; talk-bal, which literally translates to "chicken feet." I would never have thought to eat this part of the bird, myself, but I know people all over the world do it, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Again, it's spicy, served with vegetables. This one is bar-food in Korea... 안주, they call it. Anju literally means side dishes served with beer or liquor, and you can pretty much find something weird to eat at any Korean bar. I've only tried it once, when Mi Jin ordered it... but I'd eat it again. It's just really really effin' spicy... so you've kinda gotta be in one of those pump-yourself-up-for-the-pain moods.

Let's see, moving on up the ickiness scale, we come to... probably the raw beef liver. It wasn't terrible... just velvety soft and with very little flavor. Again, raw, so it's a little chewy, but only a little. It's actually got a very mushy, unresisting texture. I think, if it were very lightly sauteed, it would be quite nice.

Next stop -- 순대 (soondae) and also the soup made from it, 순대국 (soondae-guk). Bet you can't guess what 국 means... :) Anyway, I ate this dish several times during the winter camp, and had it again last week. I guess I had never really asked what was in it, or maybe I did and then promptly blocked it out. But here's the fun list of ingredients for this traditional Korean specialty -- which I would eat again. Actually, the soup isn't great. But a dish of just soondae and side-dishes is pretty heavenly, believe it or not. But it's a "blood sausage-y" mix... blood (pig's, I think, although I'm not entirely sure on that), clear noodles, and barley or other filler... wrapped in a pig intestine and steamed, and then served in a soup with other various entrails, plus onions and potatoes and such. Also, you pick the soondae out of the soup with your chopsticks and dip into a sauce made of tiny (1cm, maybe?) pickled shrimps. Whole and uncooked shrimps. It gives it a really nice salty kick. Really tasty, but definitely getting up there on my newly-formed ick scale.

And finally -- the ick winner. Mostly because it tasted like complete ass, and also looked, smelled, and felt really just vomit-inducing. I don't know what the Korean word for it is, and apparently there is no English word for it, presumably because no one who speaks English has ever wanted to eat one. They were served in a big bowl of 해물 갈국수 that I had last week. That's hae-mul kal-guk-su, or seafood noodle soup. Now, this also comes with dried fish, shrimp with the heads on, and various and sundry other fun seafoods. The fish and clams were delicious, actually, and the soup itself was pretty rockin too. But then there were these... otherworldly alien things, in the soup. Kinda spiny, kinda squishy, yet still crunchy. Like, if you tap them with a chopstick, they make a noise. Anyway, Bo Il was eating them, or at least, I think he was and not just pretending to get me to put one of the damn things in my mouth. So, after letting it cool an appropriate amount of time, I chose the smallest, least-spiny looking of the bunch and chowed down. On the outside, naturally, it tasted pretty much like the soup. Not bad... then I punctured the shell, and all kinds of unholy hell-spawn gushed forth. I mean, this thing was like 11 different kinds of awful, all rolled up into one completely repulsive crunchy-shell-covered goo. And yes, this is the only thing on this list that I definitely, certainly, without a doubt will NOT eat ever again. Even if it does get an English name.

So, to recap: octopus < chicken feet < raw beef liver < blood sausage < unnamed demon-child of the outer deeps.

Bon appetit!