Sunday, March 28, 2010

Jebu Island pics link

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Last night I got a haircut and I am still trying to figure out what happened at the barbershop. I have a Korean Culture book and it mentioned a Korean barbershop and it is a unique experience. I tried it out last night, the first time I got a haircut in Korea it was more of a hairdresser then a barbershop; it was the first thing I could find. The haircutting part of this trip went as expected. ( I use trip because it was anything but normal) The barber put on these huge yellow gloves and shampoos my hair. The yellow gloves are like the industrial ones one would use to do some cleaning with. He massaged the hell out of my head, it was rather uncomfortable; this was just the beginning. Then came the clean shave part, around your neck, sideburns, and FOREHEAD, I did not know what was going on but I figured it would not kill me. Most young Koreans have really hairy foreheads, I figured he could tell my forehead does not have any hair. Some of my students literally have hair all the way down to there eyebrows; it is really weird. As they get older I guess they start shaving it. I remember when I first noticed this, it freaked the hell out of me. I told my co workers about this discovery and they were also in shock. Back to the trip, after the shave the barber put more cream or whatever in my hair and (this is when it got awkward) had these huge brushes that he held tightly to my head and he hit a button and these things started going crazy on my head. It hurt, it was uncomfortable and I could not stop laughing because of the situation I was in. (If I was in the USA I would of told the person to stop but since my culture book told me I would be in for a surprise I let it continue) I could only imagine what this guy was thinking about me. I was literally laughing out loud and my face showed many signs of pain, I almost asked him to stop again but I couldn’t, it was too funny. That ended and I was hoping I was out of the woods; I was not. I tried standing up and in English he said “sit down” I was surprised he knew those words, but it is basic for a barber to know these words. The same procedure happened again, this time it was a little more then the last, which means more faces of agony while laughing. Then it was all over; costing me 8,000 won; not bad at all. $8 to wonder what the hell just happened to me and a nice looking haircut

In class Friday one of my students forgot his book, so as I was about to leave class I told my super hyper student to draw on the board so he would not be running around when I came back. This idea went wrong when I got back. He drew a picture of me, he is a hell of a drawer. My other teacher told me he was a good drawer so I wanted to find out. He drew me as an alien because I always show him my alien registration card because he is in awe of it. The alien drawing was awesome. As I look down he decided to add a penis. It was pretty funny, actually it was really funny. I held my laughter in because I am supposed to be the teacher. They could tell I thought it was funny, and they all start laughing. I quickly erased it and on went the class.

Friday night another teacher and I was going to meet up with some Korean girls and bring them to a bar we have not been to in quite a while, the Korean girls have never gone there. We love this bar, they did not. We did not even have the time to sit down and they told us they wanted to go to a different bar. It turns out it was to traditional for them so we had to go to a more modern bar. It was pretty funny because I love that bar. I have written about this bar before, it is always empty and you can go on stage and sing with the workers, it is really a fun place; there is just no customers. We went to a different bar and none of these girls speak good English so it made for a interesting time. I went to bed early because of my trip to Jebu Island the next morning.

I Got directions to Jebu island from the internet and they instructed which buses to go on, the only hard part was after about an hour fifteen minute bus ride I needed to switch and this trip ended in a dirt parking lot. I had no clue where I was supposed to go. I walked to the nearest bus station, got some water and a powerade because I figured I would be lost for a while. Luckily I walked for about five minutes and found a little bus stop and two minutes later the bus came. As I got to Jebu Island the weather was bad but it did not put a damper on the day, this was actually my favorite day since I have been in Korea. I saw the ocean for the first time in what seems to be years. Jebu Island is on the yellow sea across from it is China (which you cannot see) There are tons of mountains around the area. The coolest part it getting out to the island. You can only go at certain times of the day depending on the tide. The paved road is covered in about five feet of water at high tide and remains high for 6 hours. It is pretty cool. I walked around the island, I was the only white person there and it had one nice beach, the rest was all mud. It had some really cool views of mountains in the oceans, cliffs, and of course the ocean. The size of the mountain is about a half square mile. As I got to one side which seemed to have all the excitement there was a row of restaurants and each restaurant had someone dressed in a cartoon costume trying to wave people into there restaurant. It was a pretty funny site. I stopped to get lunch, ( had every kind of clam you could think of, man was it good) During lunch I got invited to join two older Korean couples and I spent the rest of the day with them, they asked me to walk around with them and what not. They were about 7 bottles deep in soju, it was pretty funny because they were super drunk. Each couple left for about 30 minutes at a time, one couple told me they went to throw up, which I thought was pretty funny. It was around 2 PM. They basically rented me for the entire day, at one point another Korean couple asked to take a picture with me and I thought there was going to be a brawl. The other group seemed to get really mad. We went back to the beach and a group was playing soccer and for some reason we ended up playing with them. The one guy told me it was for exercise. Now, if I am in this guys position; after drinking, eating, and throwing up the last thing I am doing is playing soccer but he wanted to so I did it. After that we went to another restaurant where the owner invited us in, they were having a party in memory of the former South Korean President who committed suicide. I stayed there for about an hour, I wanted to stay over night but the weather was not good and it would’ve been a waste. I walked the road back to the bus and headed home. My day was complete and it was easily the best day I had in Korea so far basically because I got to see the beach. I hope to go back soon when the weather is nice and spend a night, they have ocean front hotel rooms for $70 a night, not bad. Jebu island was a cool place, there are no ATM’s on the island, I was told the population is around 1,000, and there are no stores other then restaurants.

Something funny about the culture of Korea and me; in Korea no one does anything alone, it is against every culture rule. Everything is based on doing things together. This is when I step in and break this culture rule. I always get asked why are you alone, why do you not have a girlfriend, are you married, you should be married, where are you friends, etc….I travel alone because it is easy, I can go where I want and when I want and do not have to wait for anyone, plus no one else gets up early on a Saturday morning. Korean’s still do not understand why I travel alone, but it definitely works our better traveling alone because it is just so much easier.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The grocery store always seems to have something exciting, Tuesday night was no exception. I went in to get some milk and toothpaste and when I was in Homeplus the song “when you happy and you know, clap your hands” came on. All the females that do the marketing, by looking good and standing in front of the products did the dance, the whole place was dancing. Imagine about 20 Koreans doing this dance in a crowded grocery store (in just about no clothes.) It was funny because they all came out one by one to do this dance and you could tell none of them wanted to do this and it was the “Happy when you know it” song.
Two students I had today cried, that was a lot of fun. One cried because she tried attacking another student and I made her apologize and the other girl bit a page in her book and ripped it. She them blamed it on me and cried for the next 30 minutes until class ended. It was a lot of fun, especially when she whacked me with a coat hanger when I was putting her jacket on. I am hoping she has a memory like a goldfish and will forget about this tomorrow, crying 6 year olds are always a treat. It is Tuesday night and I am getting excited about this weekend of March Madness. It will be awesome, going in early Saturday and getting myself a huge Western breakfast at the bar. ( Remember western breakfast hardly exists in Korea.) and then watching basketball from about 10 AM till 10 PM, life does not get much better then that.
Sunday March 21, 2010
The western breakfast was everything I dreamed of. Man was it good; it’s funny I am 24 years old and I am writing about eating pancakes, bacon, and toast. This should be an ordinary thing for someone to eat, but not in Korea. It absolutely takes it toll after a while. I want to talk about the setup of restaurants in South Korea. They could not be any different from Western standards, unless of course you go to Itaewon. Korean restaurants are small, very small, you do not tip, and most you take your shoes off and sit on the floor. I absolutely hate because I am so tall and a knee surgery also does not help. It just is not comfortable, the heated floors are nice; that’s about it. The restaurants are really small, probably no more then 15 customers in a traditional Korean Restaurant and that is a high number. You really notice how small they are when you go to Outback or TGI Fridays because they are up to western standards. Some restaurants have you pay right after you order, some will bring you the bill right after you order, and you do not pay at your table, you have to bring it to the hostess. It is pretty unique. The part I find really odd is when you are ready to order you do not wait for the waiter to come to the table, rather you yell out “yogi yo” that is definitely spelt wrong but that is how it sounds. It means here, telling the waiter to come here because I am ready to order. I find it rude, but that’s the culture.
Saturday turned out to be a fun day and night. I went to Itaewon to watch March Madness and man was this frustrating. The Canadian bartender was not in, so it was up to the Korean staff to run the TV. All the games are from the internet and are streamed to the tv. To put it nicely, they had no clue what was going on. Then some boob ( a customer) decided he was going to randomly change the game and the tv went out for about 30 minutes. Everyone heckled him and he left about 15 minutes later. It was nice to see some games and then later in the day one of my English Teachers came to visit and she brought me to an Irish pub for a Saint Patrick’s Day party and man was that bar fun. Too bad the trains stop running at 11.
Another English teacher and I bought a badmitton set today and man is that game difficult. Koreans love it, and they are really good at it. I made an ass out of myself playing that for a while but got my revenge later in the day playing basketball. Later in the day we were sitting in the park and I ran into one of my students, it was pretty funny. She took the role of the teacher and was teaching me Korean. When a student sees a teacher outside of class they go absolutely crazy, it is pretty funny. A little later in the day I saw another student of mine as we were walking to get some food; it took us a moment to realize it was a student and we already walked passed him so we only got to wave to him. I am guessing his mother is wondering why we did not stop and say hello.
Weather is still rather cold here, which makes for not the best of times. Hopefully it will warm up soon!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pics- Nothing too great

It is starting to get quite amusing the amount of Koreans that will come up to me and start talking with me; whether it is walking down the street, waiting for a train, sitting at a bar, playing pool, etc. Most of the time it is a positive experience, they tell me something unique about Korea, things to do, some history, they say how much they Love the USA but have never gone, but it is a dream of theirs. It is totally insane, a dream just to touch the land of the USA; It is really tough to realize how special a place the USA is. Think about it, just about everything the USA does is among the best in the world, and the Koreans are in absolute awe of it. One of my teachers from London summed it up pretty good “When the USA sneezes, the whole world gets a cold.” It is pretty amazing, especially currently being on the outside and seeing it from a Korean perspective. Anyways, enough of that; but I thought it was pretty interesting. Sometimes when you get a Korean coming up to talk to you it is painful. Mostly they want to just have a conversation to practice English and it takes forever to get one sentence completed and to understand what they were talking about. When I first got here I thought it was pretty funny and I still do but it does wear on me. I still sit there and try to hammer out what they are trying to say out of respect to them. Another cool thing is when you walk by a kid 5 years or younger, their eyes light up and then when the parents notice they turn and say hello a million times and get their kid as close to me as possible, just to get their kids introduced to the tiniest amount of English as possible, I also think they want them to see an American just as much to hear a tiny bit of English. Another interesting thing about Koreans, when they see a white person the white person is automatically from the USA, ( I think this is the case with most Asian countries, which we all know simply is not the case. So for all the good or bad a white person does the USA tends to get the credit or blame, whether they are American or not. You have to remember that Korea is almost all Korean people, there just are not many blacks, whites, etc, just basically Korean’s.

Here is one of the most random stories that anyone will ever read about. A few weeks back I was talking to my mom on Skype, she got a phone call and it happened to be from the University of San Diego. They were calling to get donations and my mom simply responded that I was in South Korea, and the girl on the phone (USD student) said her sister was in South Korea, who happened to be living in Suwon ( I live in Suwon) I was on skype the whole time so I was listening to the conversation. This girl also happened to be going to visit her sister the next week in Suwon, and she also went on Semester at Sea. Last Wednesday we all met up and went out to dinner and played some pool, it was a fun time but the story how this all happened I thought was pretty interesting. Speaking of interesting, the cab ride to meet up with this girl was real interesting. We planned on meeting at a police station, well the cab driver brought me to the wrong police station, I had the place written down and everything. Going to the wrong police station made for an interesting time, I told the guard that I was meeting a friend and she then thought my friend got arrested and I was looking for him, it got pretty amusing, after a few minutes I cleared up the story and the police officer told my driver where to go. It took about an extra 40 minutes ( good thing I planned on getting there about 20 minutes early, in a cab I tend to plan on a screw up like this) Small World. When we were playing pool (a group of maybe 8 of us) I noticed about five minutes in that our pool table was the only one with pockets. It threw me for a loop, wondering if my eyesight had left me. I guess they also play pool here with no pockets, I have no clue what type of games they play but it is interesting. After playing for a while, two Korean men came over and played. They knew some English and they wanted to play pool with us, they turned out to be pretty good also. Korean men are very interesting, these two were no different. They loved to drink, make a lot of weird noises randomly and they really get into what they are doing. Maybe it is one of those things you have to see but it is pretty funny. Around midnight I was heading to bed and I said to the Korean men bye and he was not too happy about me leaving and then someone said the word Kimchi and he tried dragging everyone to a street vendor to eat Kimchi together, and he did this for about 10 minutes and he was pretty adamant about it. I do not think anyone went; I just took off after a while with a good laugh.

Saturday March 13- It has been about four days I have not known the date and many random times throughout the day I have thought what day it was but never took the time to look. I finally found out and it is the lucky 13th. Today I finally found some stuff worth buying as souvenirs. I went to Insa-dong, this place is pretty cool. It is a huge street market of all traditional items. A lot of nice Korean ceramics and other cool things, it is also another great place just to watch the crowd. Today I think I was in the biggest subway station in the world. It easily took me ten minutes to get to the exit from the train and it was not because of foot traffic. It was just so big, it was quite amazing how big it was. I accidentally walked into a few Buddhist temples today, they are awesome. All the designs and colors are the same and they are designed pretty cool, the colors being with a pleasant background to look at. I looked at one sign and it said no pictures unless you pay a small fee, well this sign was about five pictures too late and no small fee was paid.

I have been here three months, it is weird; sometimes I feel like I just got to Korea, but most of the time it seems like I have been here for ten years. Don’t take that the wrong way. I am enjoying my time here. But when you go out traveling a country every weekend you see a lot and experience a lot. It is basically non stop. I am looking forward to March Madness when I find myself at a bar and watch college basketball all day and not do much traveling for two weeks other then traveling to the bar. It will be a nice resting point. Then after that the weather will be nice and it there will be the Han river cruise, the DMZ (which seems to get a little more creepier every passing day), and a trip to the west coast beaches.

Sunday March 14-
It rained today and man was it boring. There is not much to do here when it rains, especially in this small apartment. I purchased my MLB subscription so I can watch the Red Sox, Can’t wait for opening day….

Sunday, March 7, 2010

New Pics

Older pics

I really wish I was better at taking pictures, but I am not; I like to be part of the moment rather then taking a picture of the moment and missing it....

There is something to be said for teaching two classes of six years olds that know no English. Not a word, it is pretty funny. They look at you like you are from another planet. Being the first day of the new semester there are some kids who are scared and will not show any emotion, (none of my kids cry, thank God) and then you got the kids who are so excited to be in school for the first time they will do anything for attention and tend to pick up small English sayings rather quickly, just enough to so they can laugh. I am on my second day teaching these kids and sometimes you feel like they are learning a word and most of the times they are learning nothing. I tried teaching them boy and girl today to no avail. So basically what I do is play with them. When you play with them they get comfortable with you and they also pick up on the random words you say and see it in action so they learn rather efficiently for a beginner. The best part is hearing songs from when you were a kid. I find myself singing them as much as the kids are. On my schedule for these kids every Thursday is to teach the kids math. I do not see this happening. My administrator told me where the book was and told me good luck. I went in the class passed the books out, opened one up and realized it was not happening. I shut the book and just played with the kids for the next 30 minutes. Hopefully in a few weeks I will be able to teach them the basics of math, but first they need the basics of English. I really enjoy these new classes; it is amazing how easy it is to get burnt out by kids in a class, sometimes it just gets boring. So the new classes bring a new excitement to teaching which is always good. I also got lucky in the classes I really liked to teach in the afternoon I somehow kept. This weekend I plan on waking up early Saturday and ignore every Suwon English teacher and stay in. It is amazing how many teachers here have not been to Seoul or traveled at all. They are happy with what they are doing. How could they not be, they just party till 6 in the morning every weekend and have a blast. So good for them, I am heading to Seoul National University for the second time, hopefully I go to the correct place this time.

A few good things happened this weekend; I found Seoul national University, I got myself a new watch, watched some basketball in Itaewon, and got a new pair of shoes, I also got a new nickname. Friday night I went out with the intention of laying low and waking up early Saturday and traveling all day, and somehow I managed to do it. Friday night I went to Suwon Yuk. Got some dinner and headed to Lao bar. I went with another teacher I work with and we got some BBQ meet and called Galbi and some “:bacon” called sum gip sa. I put bacon in parenthesis because it is not close to bacon back home. It is just pork which they think is bacon. The Galbi is unbelievable though and real cheap. It is beef that has a lot of flavor which you should easily pay 25,000 won for but for some good reason it is only 9000 won. Lao bar is an interesting place. It is a basement bar ( always the best kind of bars) and it is loaded with Military (mostly army), teachers, and Koreans and everyone gets along really well. There seems to be a group about as big as 20 people that are very friendly with each other and makes for a fun time because someone is always up to something and everyone tends to join in on the celebration. Friday night a kid in the army got promoted, which is always nice so that was the party for Friday night. The tradition that these kids follow if quite interesting, who ever gets promoted has to get punched in the chest and can not flinch. I heard it happen once and turned around and it did not look fun. Then another kid who got promoted had to do it too. These are pretty big kids punching one another in the chest, but hey it is tradition right. My new nickname was given to me by a group of Korean girls that we have been hanging out with recently. They call me smiling man. Pretty self explanatory, but it is pretty funny when it is said with a Korean accent. I watched the fire show at 11 which is increasingly becoming more and more entertaining as the weeks pass because they are not the best at this. Often the bartenders are dropping stuff while in show. I am going to bring my camera next week and take a video of it. After that everyone went on to the next place to celebrate the night. I went home; I stuck with my plan to travel the next morning. I ended up making a good decision.

Saturday, as I got up it was quite comfortable outside and I was headed to Seoul National University. I finally made it after going a little astray my first trip. The school itself was pretty impressive, a lot more impressive then the first time I saw it, or thought I saw it. This university actually looked like one. It looked like a typical nice university in the States; the background had plenty of mountains. There were some buildings that had some very cool designs and the mountains really gave the campus a nice feel. Being about a ten minute walk from the city was also nice because it was so quiet and so close to the city. There was a cool arch at the entrance to the campus which gave a pretty cool scene upon entering the University. Overall a pretty nice campus, and of course once you head inside the brick buildings the technology really stands out. I went into the college of business administration building to check it out. After walking around the campus I saw a baseball game going on so I went and watched a couple innings and this game was not too impressive, the talent level was really low, I am pretty sure it was just a scrimmage between Korea University and Seoul National University. Either way, not too impressive, anytime someone got on base they would steal all the way too third base with not even a throw that is how weak the catchers arm was. After the game I headed to Itaewon got some Mexican food and watched a basketball game. After getting off the train at Suwon Yuk I decided to walk around before heading to bed. This is always fun to do in Korea, walk around at night. The Suwon Yuk area is always crowded and the funniest thing to see is the men in the 40’s absolutely dead drunk off soju. It is awesome, these guys are stumbling over the place, passed out in the area where no cars can go, it just basically a blocked off street with bars, hofs, shops, etc. You will always find throwup, you know it is coming because of the smell; it is just really funny to see middle aged men in this condition and it is nor a rarity. The arcade area is pretty cool, filled with games, batting cages, shooting ranges with bb guns. ( if that is how you spell that), and the newest thing a stack of think bricks you get to punch and see how many you can break. I guess you can karate chop it too if you want. I watched a few people do it and it was worth a good laugh. I got home around midnight and went to bed to wake up early again on Sunday to begin an adventure that I did not see coming.

This adventure I went on was finding a pair of shoes, it was not too efficient. I went down to Suwon yuk where there is a six story mall and I walked all around it only to find that every shoe in the mall was too small and too small by a wide margin, not too mention amazingly overpriced. It is amazing how overpriced some items are and then how cheap other items are. Any type of clothing seems to be rather expensive because the brand names here tend to not be created in Korea. Gap, is easily twice the price in Korea then what it would be in the states. Another thing that does not help is that all the malls in Korea tend to be geared toward the upper class, you will not find department stores where you can find low priced clothes on the clearance rack. After not finding any shoes I went back to the restaurant I went to Friday night and got some more galbi and it was just as good as it was Friday night. After grabbing a cab to head home I got dropped off at the usual spot, Ingadong Homeplus, a five minute walk to my apartment; I decided to go in there to find some shoes. This place has just about everything and it had shoes, I am hoping the shoes that I bought will break in and become a little more comfortable so I do not have to go into Seoul and buy a bigger pair. I also bought a new watch because the last two I had stopped ticking and I do a lot of traveling and depend on being somewhere at a certain time. I can not believe I went on Semester at Sea without a watch because it makes every thing so much easier when traveling, but I was also traveling in groups so I guess it didn’t matter, someone had a watch. This was a low key week in terms of entertainment but it was a real fun weekend. The weather is warming up so I should be doing a lot more new traveling, I am planning to go to a beach soon. I live near the west coast which is across the pond from China. And the Koreans hate it, China ( I am convinced there is not much good coming from China) gives Korea a lot of pollution; most of the water is so dirty because of China so therefore the west coast is basically not traveled to. A thing called yellow dust comes from China, which is basically all the pollution sent to Korea in the air which gets pretty heavy in the spring and rumor has it, this yellow dust even reaches Suwon creating very hazy skies. The markets in Asian are awesome, this might be the only part of Korea that I will truly miss. As I walked around Suwon Yuk today I was just amazed at how many different foods there was laying around in the markets. They just have tons of fish either sitting on ice or in small buckets of water, chickens lying around, and every vegetable you can think of. It really it a pretty cool thing just to walk around and experience all the sights and sounds of the markets in Korea or any part of Asia.