Sunday, May 31, 2009

In Brief

What my blog would have said recently if I had twitter. Which I don't. And won't. Just saying...

I just got finished watching "Lars and the Real Girl." It's a damn funny movie.

I've stepped up the workouts -- feelin pretty good.

I think I'm going to splurge and buy some real ground beef (even though it's absurdly expensive) so that I can make myself a hamburger.

I'm almost finished with Unit 3 on my Korean thing. Only 1 more to go and then on to Level 2! Whoo-ee!

Things I can say in Korean now: I came over to visit my friends. I'm wearing a red winter hat. This milk smells bad.

Going to a Korean baseball game in June -- LG Twins vs. Samsung Lions! Summer's here, with the crack of the bat, smack of the mitt, beer and peanuts and hot dogs!

I can't believe the Cavs lost to Orlando. Bron-bron ain't arrived yet, is all I gotta say...

The post from last Monday, about Yeoju and all... yeah -- that was a date! And it was really good. And we're going out again this week. And I'm really excited! And I'm giggling like a schoolgirl...

I mostly just didn't want to finish the month with single-digit posts... so this is my half-assed effort to avoid that. It's finished now, don't worry.

I will, however, be posting soon about some fun Korean culture facts. I promise. I'm just doing a bit of research, which I'm a bit out of practice on, not to mention lazy... so yeah. Till next time. =)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Our Day in Yeoju

Well, first I wanna apologize if my life and subsequent blogging have been less than amusing. It's not that I'm not happy... on the contrary, things are going really well in general. It's just a quiet kind of happiness, is all.

Sunday, Mi Sun and I went to Yeoju. We had a lot of fun, and learned some stuff about Korean history while we were at it. Yes, I did say "we"... she'd never been to these places either, it turned out. First, we went and visited the birthplace of Korea's last empress, Empress Myeongseong. There's a little museum and a park there, and a bunch of buildings. Although, as it turns out, only one of the buildings is original -- the rest are reconstructions in the style of the period etc... But still, kinda cool. It's a pretty big compound, with lots of different houses for different generations, servants, separate ones for men and women even. And, even better, most of the captions and explanations are in both Korean and English. And this Korean family came up to ask us to get a picture of them... and, for some reason, they asked me. In English. And Mi Sun kinda looked at me, like... really?! Awesome. Maybe I just look friendlier. =)

Next we went to the tomb of King Sejong the Great. He's famous here; he invented their alphabet. Which is one of the UNESCO Heritage Great Accomplishments of the History of Mankind or some such -- anyway, suffice to say that Koreans are very proud and patriotic when it comes to this guy. Again, park, museums, and a garden with replicas of some of his other inventions. For example: a scientifically accurate rain-gauge, several different kinds of sundials, and some astronomical-type doohickies that allow you to measure the movements of the sun and moon and planets. Very cool, I gotta say. I think the coolest one was a sundial that sits in a shallow pool of water and uses magnets to align itself. You know, a sundial won't really work unless you turn it to the absolutely correct angle, which is probably a pain in the ass to figure out if you're travelling and want to say... watch reruns of the Drew Carey Show at 4:00 on TBS. Well, setting aside your obvious lack of taste, you could absolutely do that with Sejong's watery sundial. You just set it up somewhere flat and the magnets turn the whole thing to the right angle for you, and there you go! Bam -- instant comedy. Unintentional, sometimes, but whatever. We did walk through the park, past a lake, up a hill and up a few flights of stairs to see his actual tomb. Well, it's just a huge burial mound set way up high overlooking his hometown, but pretty neat. It reminded me of Cahokia Mounds; if you grew up in Marion you probably took a field trip there at some point. So, yeah, it's like that. But, you know... Korean.

Oh, another cool thing -- the first book written in Hangeul was there... well, no. These are copies, but still -- it's pretty awesome to see the birth of a new alphabet taking over an established language. There was an early dictionary too, with the new Hangeul letters and then explanations of their pronunciation and usage in Hanja (Chinese characters). It struck me kinda funny to think of Koreans having to explain how to write and say their letters using way more complicated and difficult letters to do it, but I guess they got their point across.

Next, we went to the Riverside Carnival. It actually is called that, but in Korean, you know. But yeah -- they had an archery range, bumper cars, cotton candy, little spinny and swingy and bumpy rides for the kids, and a Viking Ship -- you know, the giant ship that hangs from a center bar, and rotates back and forth, and so you go up and then freefall back down and around the other side, then fall backwards, rinse repeat. That was like, the worst explanation ever. Good thing it's the same in the States as it is here. So we did that, got some ice cream, and sat in a little park and watched the kids running around and playing badminton and whatnot. We walked down by the river, I tried to show her how to skip stones but it wasn't working too well (for either of us, actually) so we bailed and drove over to Silleuksa Temple. I guess she figured our funtime intermission was over, and back to the history lesson. Now, unfortunately, the World Ceramic Exposition is still going on, in both Yeoju and Icheon. You may remember that this is the most boring festival ever. Well, crap. And of course this is happening right next to the Temple she wanted to show me. We actually found a really close parking spot, I think because it was getting late and a lot of people were leaving. So we walked for a ways, down the street, through some trees and gardens, past a lake (yes, for the second time -- there are lots of little lakes around here, apparently), and we come to the gate of the temple. Now, at this point, Mi Sun says, "Oh! We have to pay to get in!" (Like, all surprised! I guess she didn't expect that.) "But there's really nothing to see in there... let's just leave." So... um, yeah. We left. Haha... it was probably for the best though, cause we were both pretty hungry by that time. We stopped at Mr. Pizza and ate some tacos and chimichangas, then headed back to Janghowon. I read for a while and went to bed early, cause I had to teach today.

For those of you who are wondering if that's a typo or some kind of Freudian slip up there... well, I's just seein if ya'll are payin attention. Of course we had pizza at Mr. Pizza. Duh...

And for those of you who just glossed over it without going "Wha-wha-what?!?" while your eyes bugged out a la Looney Tunes, well... haha! Gotcha! =Þ

Coming up next time, by request, some cultural phenomena and oddities and such. Come on back now, ya hear?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Korean (Food, Movies, Language)

Last night was round 3 in our little cooking triangle we've got going. If you remember, a while back, I cooked spaghetti for Mi Sun and Mi Jin. Then, a few weeks later, we did it again: this time, Mi Sun made bulgogi -- Korean marinated beef. Well, last night was Mi Jin's turn. And I gotta say, in all fairness to the last two meals, which both turned out really well, that this was probably the best of the bunch.

We went to the store, where Mi Jin bought some carrots, sweet potatoes, green onions, and a whole pre-sectioned chicken. Like, not in the normal pieces, but with the breasts and thighs cut into maybe 1.5-2" squares. Then we came back to my place, and I started looking for a movie for us to watch after dinner, so I didn't see all the preparations take place. The one thing I did notice was when she busted out a little tupperware container of chili-paste mixed with some other things, that she had made at home the night before, just for us! =) It was a pretty quick meal to put together, that's for sure. And we ended up with this really amazingly delicious spicy chicken stew. Yeah, that's what we'll call it. I mean, it even had most of the traditional stew ingredients, with a couple exceptions. We had carrots and onions; sweet potato instead of regular; chicken instead of beef (although my buddy Stuart does make a mean chicken stew, so that's even kinda familiar); and spicy instead of savory. Of course, we ate it over rice, but you shouldn't let that distract you. I'm not sure you can have a meal in Korea without it... unless you substitute noodles. Anyway, it was freakin good. Thanks Mi Jin! =)

Then we had cherry ice cream for dessert and watched the movie: Chugyeogja, it's called... or in English, "The Chaser." It's pretty violent, and depressing... but a pretty good flick none the less. It's about a detective who became a pimp, and his hookers keep disappearing on him. He tracks down the john who seems to be associated with each girl before she goes missing, and then, naturally, there's a good bit of chasing involved. Punctuated with punching and kicking. Then more chasing. Yeah, it's not a bad movie at all, but the girls kept getting scared at the gory parts and hiding behind my throw pillows. So, you know, I liked it. If you're a chick and uh... dainty, then maybe don't watch it by yourself.

Today has been another lazy Saturday. It rained off and on most of the day although it seems to have cleared up in the past hour or two. Tomorrow's supposed to be beautiful though, so I think Mi Sun and I are going to Yeoju to do some touristing. The tomb of King Sejong the Great is there, and also the birthplace of the last empress of Korea, and some other cool temples and historical sites... so we're gonna go have a history lesson, I guess. It's good for me, right?

Other things I'm interested in at the moment: my Korean is coming along pretty well. One of the teachers who came to the Global Center this past week was impressed. Also, the Cardinals have won 4 straight, including a really timely sweep of the Cubbies this week. (Whooooooooo-EE!) The NBA conference finals have had 4 straight nailbiters, and no team has won by more than 3 points while both series are tied at 1-1. So that's shaping up nicely. The French Open starts this week -- yes, I'm a tennis fan. I know, we're pretty few and far between, but at least my mom understands, right momma? =) Also, Ryan, the foreign teacher (the term used here for people like me) whose school came to the Global Center this week is a really good golfer apparently, so I think we're going to try to go to the driving range and hit some balls soon. Apparently, he's a scratch golfer, and is a member of the PGA and everything. Not the PGA Tour, mind you, but he is a golf pro -- like, he could work at a country club and give lessons and stuff. So, that should be cool. And, I found out I can go ahead and extend my gym membership for 3 months, and put it on pause when I leave for summer vacation. Finally, I just finished Steven King's "Desperation," which was awesome, and now I'm moving on to "Genghis: Lords of the Bow," the sequel to that other Genghis novel I liked so much.

And that's all, folks!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Market Food

Well -- I just wanted to add a quick food update.

Last night, at the market I bought some potatoes and some beautiful multi-cultural bell peppers. So, tonight, I found out that my gym membership is expired. And I could just renew it, of course, but there are complications. 3 months is cheaper than 1 month, but I'm going to be out of town for a while within the next 3 months, so I need to find out if I register for the 3-month membership, if there's any way of putting that subscription on hold during the time I'll be away. Anwyay, I didn't go to the gym today, is the point.

So, I came home instead, took a good long look at the veggies I'd recently purchased and decided to go to my old friend the internet for some advice on what to do next. Upon browsing the results of a handy-dandy google search for "easiest fried potatoes ever," I hit upon a plan. I'd make the easiest fried potatoes ever! But with a twist! So, I diced a potato, threw it into a pan with some oil, and let 'er go. About halfway done, I hit it with some sliced onion. And then, a couple minutes later, a beautiful orange bell pepper I picked up from this wandering minstrel. It may have had magical powers, I'm not sure. Anyway, I fried all of that up, and then as I was draining it onto a paper towel, I tossed an over-easy egg into the leftover oil! And there ya go, folks, a beautiful breakfast-for-dinner hash! And god, was it good! I left the yolk all runny, and let it drip over the potato and onion and pepper... mm-mm-hmm! And that's my post for th'evenin'.

Until next time, remember... The only thing worse than death is that you keep using that word, but I do not think it means what you think it means. Peace!

And that's it for today. I've still got plenty of potatoes. See what I cook up tomorrow!

Monday, May 18, 2009

2 tickets to Uijeongbu, please

What a weekend! Here it is, for your vicarious-living pleasure. =Þ

Thursday, went out for dinner with the teachers to have an early Teachers' Day celebration. We hit up this tofu restaurant over the river in Gamgok. This place, obviously, specializes in tofu! I realize that sounds... shall we say, less than exciting, but it actually was quite satisfying. We got 3 different kinds of jjigae, or... tofu/bean paste soup. Also appearing were tofu in other various guises, grilled pork and duck, several kinds of kimchi, braised cabbage (I'm really guessing on that one, but that's what it tasted like) and lots of soy sauce and chili paste. Naturally, this being Korea and all, two other things that almost always happen, well... happened. We ate the meat and toppings on individual lettuce leaves, all wrapped up like a mini lettuce burrito; and we also drank quite a bit. Soju, beer, and homemade makeorri out of a little ceramic pot, but drunk from little (obviously homemade, as they all varied in shape) ceramic mugs. I'm not a huge fan of the makeorri, or dongdongju as it's also called, but I had a bit just to be sociable. Good times.

Friday, after school we played games against some of the students' parents. The women played kickball! I totally wanted to play, but I guess that wasn't in the cards... oh, and the teachers got their asses handed to them by the moms. I mean, it was ridiculous. I think there's some kind of underground maternity kickball league going on or something, because those little Korean ladies could kick the shit out of the ball. It was awesome. Then the male teachers played choh-gu against the dads. We lost too, but it was close. We played best 2-out-of-3, each game to 15. It was a back-and-forth struggle, but in the end we lost the 3rd game 15-11. I started out in the back, receiving serves and trying to set up the people in the front. Turns out, I'm no good at that. So, during the 2nd game I moved up to the front row and things went much better from there. Not good enough, I guess, because we still lost... but fun was had by me. Yeah, I just used a ridiculous passive voice, and I ain't changing it.

After the games were over, we had a huge samgyeopsal cookout, with lots of candy, watermelon, and Korean treats... but the highlight was the (I'm just guessing here, but still) 25~ pounds of meat they threw down. I mean, just... awe-inspiring. Again, soju and beer played a big role, and it was fun getting to meet the parents and ... well, not so much chat really, but at least shake their hands and smile. I imagine it's fun for them to get to see their kids speaking English with me. I hope so, anwyay. After that, Mi Jin and I went out to HooLaLa for drinks. Now, she was a little nervous about this (we were waiting for Mi Sun, who usually helps to facilitate/translate our conversations) but we actually spent about an hour chatting pretty easily. It was way cooler than I thought she thought it would be. And nope, I ain't changing that sentence either. That's exactly what I wanted to say. Anyway, I'm sure the booze helped: it always seemed to make my Spanish conversations flow a little more smoothly... you know, when that inhibitive part of your brain shuts down and stops reminding you that you can't speak the language, wondrous things will happen.

Well, Mi Sun finally arrived and we had a really fun time at the bar. Left there and went across the street to the noraebang. I know I've said it before on here, but Mi Jin has an absolutely amazing voice. It's jaw-dropping. Literally... at one point both Mi Sun and I were just staring at her in disbelief. She could totally be on American Idol (ha! really, sean? not korean idol, maybe? anyway) if she wanted to. Really. It's that good. So, after a good hour and a half of singing, we parted ways, and I made fun of Mi Sun because it was now approaching 2am and she had to work the next morning. Unfortunately, I guess the joke was on me because I woke up for no discernible reason around 8 the next morning. Boo.

Actually, it turned out to be a good thing that I did, because I had really screwed up the alarm-setting attempt the night before. I was supposed to meet Moy in Icheon at 10. It's an hour-long busride on the (cheaper) city bus. And yet, for some reason, I set my alarm for 9:40. Not too sure what my thought process was (like, I wouldn't even have had time to make the 10:00 bus at that rate...) but I know there had to be one. It was late. Whatever.

Saturday, went to Icheon, then on to Seoul. Bought some new books: the sequel to that Genghis Khan novel I liked so much (Genghis: Lords of the Bow, by Conn Iggulden) and also Red Dragon -- the original Hannibal Lector story. Had lunch at Gecko's in Itaewon: an honest-to-god all beef cheeseburger. Dripping with grease. Crinkle cut fries. Real ketchup, lots of salt, and a dash of Tabasco. Dear lord in heaven, was I happy. But not as happy as I'd be later.

We eventually made our way up to Uijeongbu and Moy dropped off her computer for repairs. We went back to the Veterans' club, had a beer, and met up with Elena, our ticket onto the Army Base. She signed us on post and we went to a restaurant called Mitchell's. I had a ribeye. Medium rare. With corn and a baked potato. Butter, and sour cream. And a big ole salad, with ranch dressing. I realize these things don't have the same effect on most of my readers that they do on me, but when you haven't seen a steak in over 6 months, well... anyway, it was glorious. I had to make a conscious effort not to just pick that thing up and gnaw on it like a caveman, and I succeeded. But barely.

Later, more drinks... met up with Elena's friends Maria and Chris, and went to a massive succession of different bars and clubs. Vegas Bar: lots of "juicy girls." Attired in miniskirts, fishnets, spiky heels and not much else, they try to flirt with you and get you to buy them "drinks": $15-20 glasses of juice. Hence the name, right? Am I right? Ha... ok. No, no juicy girls for me. I can't even say I was tempted. I mean, come on, looking's free, right? After that... hell, I'm not even sure. We walked around barhopping (in the rain, might I add) for hours. Ended up, after hitting probably 6 or 7 other places, at a Korean bar called Tom's. It's worth mentioning that Tom's was the first place we went to that didn't play the song "Beautiful" by Akon. It thus became my favorite. We ordered some anju: dried squid jerky, served with mayonnaise, peanuts, and what I can only describe as Korean M&M's. And yes, I did try the dried squid. It's not terrible, but uh, how did I phrase it at the time? I don't hate it, I'm just choosing not to put it in my mouth ever again. Something like that. Once you chew on it a bit, it sort of rehydrates itself into this extremely fishy-tasting mush with the texture of a wet napkin. Although, everyone else at the table liked it, so maybe I'm the odd one out.

I'm not sure what time I actually went to sleep, but I'm positive the sun was coming out by the time I got back to my hotel. A brief nap, a hot shower, then back out to greet the day. Sunday was more relaxing. A cup of coffee, a spot of shopping, a bite of lunch, another cup of coffee, a stop by the library on base, yet another cup of coffee, a bus ride, a brief walk through town, a tuna salad sandwich, an hour of reading Steven King's "Desperation," an episode or two of "Party Down" (one of a handful of new TV shows I'm trying out, and pretty damn funny actually), and a whole lot of sleep. And that, my friends, is what we call a weekend.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

If we left it up to chance...

I didn't have breakfast this morning. And I don't have any classes to distract me from the gnawing hunger and unseemly growling noises in my belly. On the plus side, Mi Sun is sitting next to me and her tummy is growling way louder than mine. So that's funny. On the other hand, it's still an hour and a half till lunch. Boo.

I'm bored. I'm taking the day off from studying the Korean to kinda let the knowledge gel in my brain... I think if I keep adding new stuff it'll just push out all the old stuff that hasn't yet taken root. So, instead, I'm watching the Nuggets/Mavs game online... I really wish I could care about this game, but I just don't. I'm not a fan of Dirk "Stop calling me a Nazi" Nowitzki, or Jason "I only beat my wife when she deserves it" Kidd, or anybody else on that team really. As for the Nuggets and Carmelo "So what if I smoked a little pot" Anthony and Kenyon "Stay away from my mom" Martin... meh. I am a Chauncey Billups fan, in a small mostly-meaningless way. Really, the most interesting thing about this game is that whenever I watch Billups play, it always makes me think of one of my favorite fictional characters, Chauncey Gardiner.

First of all, if you've never seen the movie "Being There" starring Peter Sellers in his penultimate performance, stop whatever useless thing it is you're doing right now (get it? 'cause what could be more useless than reading this nonsense?!) and go scrounge up a copy. They might have it at the video store... I'm sure you can find it online if you look hard enough. Anyway, the story goes that after Jerzy Kosinski published his novel of the same name, he received a telegram from the main character, Chance the gardener. Probably after freaking out for a while and questioning his sanity, he opened to find a message from his (completely fictional) leading man, saying that he was "available, in my garden or out of it." When Kosinski called the number on the telegram, Peter Sellers answered the phone. Now, I've always loved Peter Sellers; his Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies is brilliant comedy. Do I sound British enough for ya? Anyway, he felt that Chance was the role he was put on earth to play.

The premise is simple: Chance the gardener is a man who has spent his entire life isolated. From everything. He's lived, always, in the same house, working in the same garden. With no knowledge of the outside world apart from the TV he loves so much, he is basically a blank slate. He is enchanted by the constantly moving images of the television, and he seems equally captivated no matter what is going on around him. He is a perfect representation of Martin Heidegger's concept of the Dasein, a complex and more-or-less incomprehensible philosophical notion. But the gist of it can be understood simply by the name itself, or (ha!) at least by its translation into English: being there. Heidegger went on from there into all sorts of mental gymnastics about Being-in-Time vs. Being-in-the-World, most of which I have almost no understanding of whatsoever, but Kosinski's main character Chance the gardener (later to be known as Chauncey Gardiner) is a wonderfully understated and beautiful portrait of the power and novelty of simply existing in the here-and-now, of letting all the phenomena of appearance and existence wash over you.

When Chance's (for lack of a better word) caretaker dies, he is forced to leave the house that was his whole world. His first experiences in the outside world are filled with a kind of sublime horrible cluelessness, as the audience realizes his precarious grasp on the situation while he remains blissfully unaware. He eventually ingratiates himself into the inner circles of political power in Washington, as time and again his passive acceptance and reflection of the personalities of the people he talks to leads them to misintepret the interaction. Every person he meets projects their own values and ideals onto him, and he never does anything to disabuse them of their own entrenched notions. Rather, he simply agrees with everything he hears. A better way to say it may be that acts as a mirror, letting everyone see and hear exactly what they want to, and what they want to hear of course is that they're right, they're smart, they're worthwhile. Chance (or Chauncey, as he comes to be known in the political circuit) eventually becomes so well-respected that he receives offers for a book deal, television appearances (I think -- I haven't seen it in a while) and a chance to become an advisor to the president. His views on economic turmoil especially struck me. If I remember correctly, it ran something like this (I'm paraphrasing, so bear with me): "In the spring we have many beautiful flowers, and in the fall we have delicious fruit. But we know that in the winter, there will be no flowers and no fruit. We just have faith that spring will come again with beautiful flowers, and later we'll have delicious fruit." Naturally, the economic thinkers are won over by his simple yet profound assertion of confidence in the economic system for which they're responsible, and Chauncey becomes known as a brilliant yet easy-to-understand authority on the economic climate. And so it goes...

Now, please understand that I've neither read nor seen this work since probably 2003, so I'm a little rusty on the details, and it's entirely possible that nothing I've said above is even remotely true. I may, in fact, have made the whole thing up. But the simple fact is that my imagination's just not that good, so you can come away from this with reasonable confidence that many of the things noted above are actually contained in either the book or the movie. Maybe both. Who knows?

Oh, and by the way, the Nuggets are up 8 in the 3rd quarter right now, and I almost care. Slightly less than an hour till lunch. A watched clock never ticks, or something.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

You try making a title that sums up what I just wrote!

Last Friday at school, we had sports day for the students. This Friday it's the teachers' turn. I have volunteered to play soccer and volleyball, I think. I'm not entirely sure who we're playing against, seeing as how there's only like 10 of us. I heard that maybe some of the kids' parents will be there and we can play them. We'll see, I guess. I'm a little scared about that... I mean, I used to have some kinda mad (or maybe... agitated? contrary? sarcastic? anyway...) tennis skills. And even though I hadn't played in years, I still at least knew what I was doing. But I was never that great at soccer, although I did play intramurals in college (and took a 1 credit hour soccer class junior year). And volleyball... well, that should be fun. Ha... Oh! And naturally, afterwards all the teachers are going to get their feast and drink on, so that should be actually fun. Yay!

I finally found a Korean language pack for that software I like so much! So, for the past 48 hours I've been non-stop studying my Korean. I really, truly, madly, deeply wish I had been able to find this about 6 months ago. I think by now I would be speaking Korean. Certainly not fluent or anything, you know, but I'd be competent, I guess. Well, there's only one way to find out, right? Grab my trusty time machine out from under the bed, dust it off, and fire that bad boy up! November 2008, here we come! ... That's not what you were thinking, huh? Whatever... that's how I roll. But seriously, I've got 6 months left here -- I'd like to be able to carry on a conversation, even a simple one, by the time I leave. And yeah... what good's it gonna do me once I leave, right? It'll make me feel like more of a man. That a good enough reason for ya? Jeez, get off my ass... I'm trying to better myself here just for the sake of it, and you're all hurling these practical rational glass-half-empty invectives at me... Screw it!!!

Wow... getting some demons out there Sean? Jesus... Oh, I'm laughing out loud now. Teehee...

So yeah, I'm uh, practicing Korean. Ha... that was the main thesis of the essay there.

So anyway, that's my week -- no class, sports day, study Korean. Weekend -- sports day drinking party, and then I'm hoping to go back to Uijeongbu and hang out at that bar with the cool Americans again. In case you've forgotten, we were hanging out at the "veterans" bar, so it's mostly older Army guys and some civilians, contractors and the like. Way more mellow and cool than all the rowdiness of the enlisted guys in Itaewon. So, maybe doing that Saturday! And that's the plan, stan. I'ma get on the bus, gus, so get out the way, ray.

Why do these so often dissolve into random tourette's-like rhyming nonsense? I do think that's my cue to wrap up the writing for the evening though. And like they always say, if you're using more than 3 pieces of tape to wrap it, your mother's a hamster. Or something...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Market Day!

Well, it's Saturday, and it's beautiful outside. I've just been doing my chores around the house, but now it's time to hit the gym and then the market on the way back. Need to pick up some fresh veggies, eggs, anything else I can find that looks interesting.

So, I guess there are a lot of pine trees in the surrounding area here. Like, all the little mountains, which pretty much crisscross all over Korea (and completely encircle our little farming valley) are covered in them. And I figure I've never really been around enough of them to notice how absolutely pervasive and annoying their pollen (is that what you call it? ha, botany. right...) is. I vacuumed our classroom out on Wednesday, right? Then, it was so nice out, we opened up the windows on Thursday during class, and after a couple hours the floor was coated in this thin dusting of yellow pine-tree mess. So, apparently opening up the windows in springtime isn't such a good idea?

Well, naturally i'd forgotten all about this by this morning when I went to hang up a load of laundry out on my terrace... window's open, sun's shining in, clothes are hanging up -- sounds like a happy and effective set of circumstances right? Well, that would be true, and gloriously so, if it weren't for the stupid pine-smegma floating all over the place, so now my freshly-cleaned clothes all have weird little patterns of yellow-stripes where they were hanging or pelted by wind gusts or whatever. Oops. I mean, it's not a huge deal. I'll just wait for them to dry and ya know, brush them off... it's just kind of a pain in the ass.

Brief nightlife recap: Wednesday night I went out with Brigitte, who found me via (google => this blog! awesome) the internet in janghowon. We met up after she got done at the hogwon, or private school, and had a few beers. It was fun yo -- let's do it again soon! Thursday night my coteacher took me out for a traditional Korean meal. I'm blanking on the name (it was pretty long), but roughly translated it comes out to "spicy little octopus grilled on a flat metal tray." With veggies of course -- onions, spinach (or more probably some sort of seaweed), garlic, and the leaves from some sort of daisy which get tossed on after everything else is mostly cooked and add a nice fresh herby bitterness to all the spice. It was really yummy actually, the grilled octopus has that chewy consistency but tastes amazing. I'd definitely go back. Oh, and of course we had soju with the meal and went out for a couple beers afterwards! Ended up talking about a lot of linguistics and educational theories and whatnot, but that was cool because I'm a huge nerd who likes that kinda shit. Shocking, right? Ha...

Last night I stayed in and finished reading Ken Follett's sequel to "Pillars of the Earth" (which is one of my very few favorite books... top 3, at least), "World Without End." I'd always felt a little sceptical about wanting to read a sequel. Well, it's complicated -- the first was so amazing that even though I've managed to lose myself in that world several times, I kinda just thought there'd be no way he could create something worthy of that book. It seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime kind of epic creation. I'm happy (or thrilled... no -- ecstatic) to say I was wrong. Freaking awesome. Stop-what-you're-doing-and-go-buy-it-right-now kind of awesome. Anyway, that was me last night. And I've already told you about today, so I guess we're caught up.

Now, in future news, we don't have any classes coming to the Global Center for the next couple of weeks! Which means I'll have lots of time to ... um, knit, or something. I mean, no, certainly not that, but I should find something more productive to do than screw around online all day. We'll see. Monday I still have classes at the elementary school, and Tuesday I have the after school classes. But Wed-Thur nothing, and Friday is sports day (Again?! Didn't we just do that? Anyway) and apparently I'm playing soccer and volleyball with the teachers. Or something. I'll have to check and get back to ya.

Finally, in more distant future news, the Cubs make the playoffs again but somehow manage to get swept out of the best-of-5 opening round series in only 2 games, setting a new standard in playoff ineptitude and all-around chokiness.

Wow, cheap shot to end it? Really Sean?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Ceramics rock my world? Ha... no

To begin with, I wanted to respond to a couple of recent comments. Brigitte, if you see this, thanks! I'm glad you're enjoying the blog. Also, email me at -- I'd like to chat or hang out sometime... you know, there being a dearth of English-speakers around here. Plus, one of my best friends here left last week and another is leaving on Friday, so that kinda sucks. Anyway, let's chat sometime. Thanks. =)

Also, Emily, who claims that it sounds like "I'm being repressed" by real life... that's not exactly how she put it, but the Monty Python scene jumped into my head right then for some reason: "Help! Help! I'm bein repressed!" Anyway, yeah, I guess I am settling into a routine. Real life blows. =Þ

So today I went to the World Ceramics Festival in Icheon. At first, I was absolutely blown away by the number of cars and people there. I was with Mi Sun, and we drove around Seolbong Park looking for a parking spot for like 20 minutes! Finally, we find one near a shuttle bus pickup. And then, right after she parks, we look up to see a line of well... several hundred maybe? A whole helluva lot of people anyway, waiting for this bus to arrive to take them into the festival. So she made a call and I made a call, both of us looking for someone who lived close who maybe had a parking spot available at their apartment complex. My friend Laura did, it turned out, but since we were in a moving car and the traffic was awful, I wasn't really able to direct us to her apartment with any degree of success. On the way there (or, at least, on the way somewhere) we did find a free spot and relatively close to the entrance, so that worked out ok.

We walked into the festival, which was free by the way. I think that's part of the problem. Maybe if they charged a hefty entrance fee they wouldn't be so overcrowded... haha. Um, so we walked in and immediately saw Laura and her friend Ryan, and then soon after were joined by a couple other people, Travis and Scarlet. So, we started to walk around, walking into some of the ceramic stalls which were grouped together under giant pavilion tents and whatnot. Now, even though Mi Sun grew up just a few miles down the road, this was her first time actually going to the festival, so she didn't know what to expect either. After about 15 minutes, we came to the conclusion that is absolutely positively the most boring festival in the history of festivals. I mean... it's just people selling ceramics. Lots of different people, lots of different ceramics. But... the overriding concern for me here is: who freakin cares?! I mean... they're ceramics. A festival -- really? I always thought festivals had lots of live bands, or different foods from all over the world, or maybe a bunch of drugs. Who knows? But ceramics... that ain't a festival, sorry guys.

We did get some food, and it was ok. They did have a place for kids to practice spinning (or throwing? is that the right word?) pottery on the wheels, and painting things I think. But for an adult with no kids (or alcohol or drugs) it was really quite lame. So we walked around for a bit, mostly just people watching and chatting. There were lots of groups of absolutely adorable children, all wearing little polo shirts and carrying matching backpacks, and holding hands with their field trip buddies. Some of these kids must have been 4 or 5 years old, and they were really, absurdly cute. And uh... yeah. That was pretty much the highlight of the festival for me, believe it or not.

So, we bailed out and Mi Sun and I went to E-Mart to pick up her watch that she sent away for repairs back in December, and then I helped her shop for a present for her nephew for Children's Day tomorrow. We ended up getting him this kick ass Lego crazy sword-wielding robot/alien halfbreed that I would have loved to play with, so I imagine her 6-year-old nephew will probably like it. Then we attempted to go see a movie but there was nothing good on, so instead she dropped me off at the bus terminal near her sister's house and I came on home. I made myself a ham and cheese sandwich with (let's see if you can guess... haha) mustard, tomato I picked up at the market on the way home, mayo, Doritos, and dill pickles. And yes, those last two things started out separate and eventually ended up right there on the sandwich with everything else. It's just more fun that way, what can I say? Also, a big frosty glass of delicious calcium-enriched chocolate milk. I effin' love chocolate milk, and I don't care who knows it. What?

And that was my Monday. Off again tomorrow, so check back soon to read up on my latest adventures. Real life, schmeal life.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Weekend update

As usual, I don't have anything really riveting or mind-blowing to report. Last week we had class on Wednesday and Thursday and only after-school classes on Friday. It was all just fine; as good as can be expected I guess.

No class on Monday or Tuesday of this coming week though, which rocks. It's "Children's Day" on Tuesday, which apparently merits a 4-day (or even 5, in some cases) long weekend. Hell, I ain't complainin.

I went to Uijeongbu on Friday night with this lady Moy that I met at the teacher training. I'm purposely using the word "lady" here, because she's probably in her... 50's? Maybe older, I dunno. Anywho, she's pretty cool, and apparently she used to live up there near an American Army base, and she was going to go out drinking with some of her friends and thought maybe I'd like to hang out with some Americans. So, I figured, yeah... why not, right? We missed the bus that goes directly to Uijeongbu and ended up going to Seoul (which took a while: traffic was bad) and then a train up north and finally a cab to the bar. It was mostly older people when we arrived... which, I suppose, was to be expected at a bar called "Veterans." Ha... anyway, they had Budweiser, Jaeger (and yeah, I did go down that road, a coupla times... yeesh), and an actual honest-to-god pool table. I drank a few beers, chatted with some folks, shot some pool. Good times were had by all. Moy ended up getting kinda really drunk, and disappeared at some point... so I just hopped in a cab and found a little motel, and crashed out.

Yesterday, I slept in. A lot. I think I finally got up around 11:30, met up with Moy and we got on the train to Itaewon. I'm not sure why ... something about a bookstore I think. Yeah, that's the ticket... also, the foreign food grocery store! I bought authentic "nacho cheese" doritos! I rock... Also, dill pickles, yellow mustard, hot salsa... and something else. Oh! Nesquick chocolate syrup! All the milk here just tastes a bit funny. It's not terrible, just not ideal. Anyway, now I can make it chocolatey.

Also, in Itaewon, we decided to eat lunch. I chose Mexican food. Damn right. Now, the place we went to looked about right, well, minus the prices. And the chips and salsa were pretty spot-on, but the burrito was a bit of a disappointment. I mean, let me put that in context. It totally hit the spot, especially being the first Mexican-resembling meal I've had since probably October, but it just wasn't quite right. The burrito was drenched, both inside and out, by some kind of veggie-dominant chili. Like, actual Chili. Kinda tasted like Wendy's chili, in fact, just without the meat. It wasn't an ideal combination, by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm certainly not complaining. It did wonders for the hangover too, I must admit.

Today it's been beautiful, but lazy. I got up this morning and watched the Bulls-Celtics game... that was a bad way to start day. Talked to my mom on the phone; parents are back safely from Vegas and it sounds like they had a really nice time, all things considered. Took a walk, enjoyed the sun and warmth a bit. Now I'm contemplating what to cook for dinner. I just want to go buy some lunchmeat and bread and make sandwiches with real yellow mustard and then mash real doritos in the middle and eat like 5 of them. With dill pickles on the side. And a big tall frosty glass of chocolate milk. In fact, I just talked myself into it. That's it... the glass is going in the freezer right now and I'm off to the store. Sorry for the boring-ness of today's post, but I'm just not feelin the groove this evening. I'll try again soon, though, don't worry.