Published: November 5th 2005November 5th 2005
This candy wrapper outside of the subway station appears to be in deep contemplation of everything. That's how it looks to me, at least.
Ahem...Is...Is this thing on?
Well, folks, it's been a little while. I've received several inquiries as to the status of my blog, and my life here in Korea, and I know some of you may have been ardently awaiting a new entry. What have I been doing with myself for the past month or so? "Not working on your blog, that's for sure," I hear some of you muttering. Yes, I can hear everything you say, even before you say it. Not much, is the short answer. That's really the reason behind the lack of bloggage - laziness, pure and simple. The long answer is that I've been busy, have had some personal issues to work on, and have made a few excursions, but nothing I have felt was warranting an entire blog entry. Plus, I have discovered Minesweeper on my computer at home, which has kept me shut in as I plug away at my Advanced personal best time. But, due to popular concern and interest, I have decided to return to my forum for navel-gazing, much to the delight of anyone who has gotten one of my bloated, digressive emails as of late. So here goes...
Tykes on Bikes
My school had a field trip to this parking lot near Sajik stadium, where they rent bikes. The kids all wore their matching sweatsuits, and everyone learned a lesson about sharing. Or was it a lesson crashing bikes into other bikes? Whatever, it was fun.
is going pretty well. I have only been punched in the nuts once in the past month (yesterday, as a matter of fact), the levels of "dong-chim," which I believe literally translates to, "poke the teacher or friend in the butthole in order to produce a squeal" have reduced dramatically due to my agility training and watchful eye. I can smell a dong-chim coming a mile away, like so many fingers after a dong-chim. I am not making this up, this is really something the kids do here, and if I find out who taught them this, that person will be requiring a hospital visit as the result of what the news papers will call a "savage dong-chim attack by a deranged foreigner." The madness has got to stop. Save the children.
Teaching continues to be rewarding, and I can really tell that some of my students are understanding and speaking a lot better since I've been here. It may have more to do with their rigorous studying than with my presence, but it makes me feel good, anyway. And I'm speaking Korean well enough at this point to deliver a stern lecture about ball-punching or dong-chim to any
On the Way to Daegu
Nice trip out there, lots of mountains and fields.
who try it. "Dong-chim. Anio," I say. This translates as, "Dong-chim. No." I can also say, "Don't hit," "Don't fight," and "Stop what you're doing [that is irritating to the teacher]." ("Chi-ji-ma," "Ssa-u-ji-ma," and "Ha-ji-ma," respectively.) Honestly, I feel as though I've made some progress, and I'm happy that I am able to spend some time here, doing what I do, and getting paid what I feel is an exorbitant amount of money to do it.
My study of the Korean language ("Hanegul" or "Han-gug-aw") is progressing, although I can't say I spend much time studying. [see Minesweeper, above, for an explanation] I still meet with my language exchange partners, and am up to saying, "I can," "I am good at," and "I cannot," for about twenty activities for which I have memorized verbs. With any luck, by the time I get back to the U.S, I'll be speaking Korean like a slow eight-year-old, as opposed to a just verbal one-year-old. I'm actually understanding a lot more of what I hear, which is a really interesting experience, and a little frightening, because I can understand maybe ten percent of random conversation if I listen very hard, and that
Screwing around in Sinpyeong
I don't know what this big screw does exactly, but it's pretty cool looking.
ten percent allows my imagination to run wild with the other 90 percent. For instance, if I hear, "[..................] pig[..................] horse meat [..........................................................] happy [.................]" then I can fill in the blanks as, "[Look at that] pig. [He probably eats] horse meat. [I sure will be] happy [when the foreigners stop being so ugly]." The fact is, the "horse meat" ("mal-go-gi") could very well be. "malgo. Gi-" So the statement could be as harmless as, "[I bet that goddamned American] pig can't speak [the language here. I sure will be] happy [when the foreigners stop being so stupid]." Ahhh, the wonders of learning a new language. It's been pretty fun, so far, though, and some day, I hope to understand a solid fifteen percent of the random conversations.
My free time has been consumed almost invariably by three activities, enumerated here.
1) Minesweeper, Solitaire, and Hearts. I don't buy video games because I think that I'll waste my time with them, so instead I waste my time with the games that I didn't have to buy.
2) Playing guitar. I've played nearly every day since I got my guitar, and I start jonesing for my
The Nakdong River
On your lower right, you'll notice a dead waterfowl. Please don't feed the animals.
guitar on days that I haven't played, which makes for a little bit of embarrassing conversation, such as last night, with a woman I met on the internet and who is trying to form a band, which I will audition for, hopefully.
"I'm not really that tired, but I want to go home and play guitar. I haven't played at all today."
"Oh, you practice every day?"
"Yeah, I love playing guitar."
"So it's like a boy-, I mean, girlfriend?"
"Umm. Yeah, like a girlfriend, I guess. I named her, actually. My guitar's name is Mary."
"Wow. That's a good name."
It's only really embarrassing to me because part of the reason I don't get out that much is my deep infatuation with my guitar, and I feel like I should be better at something I love so much. I'm still not that great at guitar, frankly. But I can now strum along with a lot of songs, and do some bluesy solo stuff that I couldn't before. And once I go electric, watch out. I will be that much louder, and still fair to okay.
3) Social engagements. By far the
Enjoying the Mountain
Taking a rest on my short hike in Sinpyeong.
least frequent and what I've put the least effort into. Luckily, my internet ad is working a little better as of late. I posted an ad on the local foreigner-run website detailing my love of music and my wish to attend live shows or play with other people. The first response I got was from a guy who told me he was, "against the system," and "a rebel," the kind of thing that makes me cringe, because what the fuck does that mean anyway? I failed to ask the guy why or what system, which was my bad, but he failed to explain further, which made me think that there wasn't much more to explain.
A brief message to all you freaks out there who hate the system: go join a frigging commune, stop living among the rest of the culture, and irritating the rest of us who have to get up in the morning and go to our jobs. The system is the system because it works for the majority of the people most of the time. It wouldn't be the system otherwise. Hating the system is assuming a mantle of victimhood that is counter-productive. It's as effective
I asked this butterfly to hold still for a photo, and after twittering around for a while, and several more requests, it complied.
an option as hating the color blue - hating it won't make it go away, just that much more irritating. I used to be just like you. "Yeah, the system sucks." That's because I was a lazy bigot. There were some things about the way things are done that I didn't like (waiting in lines, having to go to work, among other things), and so I blamed "the system," prejudicing myself against anything that might be good about "the system," like food, shelter, the ability to communicate with people thousands of miles away without having to travel that distance...the list goes on. No one likes work all the time, but I bet subsistence farming and hunter-gathering can get monotonous, too. Do what you want, but stop bitching about what makes other people happy, and doesn't directly oppress people. There are problems with anything worth doing, that is the nature of life. The system has its flaws, but the only way to be effective in changing them is to be a part of the system. By the way, I need to hear this as much as anyone else, which is why I typed it. That is all.
Some of the
On realizing I hadn't captured its brilliant red tail very well, I asked this dragonfly to hold still for a photo, which it had been doing for several minutes, and it flew away. Butterflies are way nicer than dragonflies.
more recent responses have been the aforementioned woman with half a band (she has a bass player, and is looking for a drummer and a vocalist) and a guy who has already expressed concern that I am going to beat him up because of his comments about my musical tastes. (I explained that I'm not much of a fighter, and that as long as his comments were relegated to the topic at hand, music, and didn't stray to, say, my mother, he is perfectly safe from my ire.) Hopefully my social life will be the excuse for my next lapse in blogging, but I sort of doubt it.
I took some trips out to a couple of places, and took some pictures of those places. The pictures will explain my trips more vividly, but here is a short list of some of the places I've gone, and what the reasons and results were.
Daegu: I went to visit the army base there to meet some friends of some friends I met in Seattle. It was neat, there was a security checkpoint and everything. They had a commissary and a mini-mart PX, where I purchased some Halloween-themed
Jagalchi - Inflatably Delicious
I wasn't lying about the inflatable sea creatures. Did you think I was? Shame on you. The people in the foreground are watching the food prep show.
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (I'll include some more Halloween related stories next blog, when I have the pictures), and a National Geographic, a Blender, and a Celebrity Skin magazine. Blender is a fairly bad American music magazine, sort of a slightly edgier Rolling Stone. Celebrity Skin is a really bad American (or British) soft-porn magazine, which essentially takes still frames from films and arranges them around horrible double-entendre puns regarding specific actual, skin flick, and porn flick celebrities. If you don't know the difference between a skin flick and a porn flick, watch Cinemax late at night, then watch the Spice Channel, and you will understand. If you are offended by the discussion of such materials, well, you probably got off the bus back at "dong-chim," but for the record, I don't mean to offend anyone. I stood up for about an hour and a half of the three-hour bus ride back because the bus was full and, try as I might to steel myself against the hopeless looks of the standing passengers, when a woman got on the bus with her child on her back and stood right next to my seat, I conceded defeat to my compassion and
Jagalchi - Back Problem-Inducing
There are some seriously bent-over old people here, and I now know why.
spent the rest of the trip making idiotic faces at the cute baby. Daegu itself, isn't much to see, from what I saw, but there is a fin-de-siecle (second time I've used this word today, if you don't believe me, ask my Grandpa) style pleasure garden near the bus station that is rather pleasant to walk around.
Sinpyeong: This town isn't much to see, either, being that it is an industrial dyeing factory town, but I actually had a really good time there. I went for two reasons - it is the end of the subway line - I wanted to see what the "Train for Sinpyeong" meant - and it is close to the Nakdong river, where I was to, on the advice of a friend, throw some rocks. After about an hour of wandering around the industrial district, the acrid and weird smells of industrial dyes and a thousand chemicals I probably will get Alzheimer's from wafting about, trying to figure out a way to get across the freeway and beyond the barbed-wire-laden fences lining it, I finally found the river, which is right next to the freeway. There I stumbled across a old, bleached-boned carcass of
Jagalchi - Art and Pragmatism
The way the fish arranged is beautiful, but probably has more to do with being the best way to do it without fish falling off the plates.
a bird, which I thought was the perfect place to throw stones. I got some pictures of the seagulls and herons flying around, and left the river feeling peaceful. After some more wandering to find the subway station, I took a detour up a small mountain, almost got a really cool shot of a red-tailed dragonfly against some red gas-can-style water containers, and found that where the trail ends, the adventure (and probably the trespassing) begins. I walked around a small subsistence garden that I think belonged to the nearby temple, and carefully around some mounds in clearings that I can only imagine were burial mounds. Tired and hungry, I went back home.
Jagalchi Fish Market - I went there to take pictures and see what people had been talking about when they asked, "Have you been to Jagalchi?" Now I can answer, "Yeah, it was pretty cool." For all of you Seattlites, imagine Pike Place market. Now imagine that it's actually on the docks. Now imagine that instead of earthenware, jewelry, decorative shawls, flowers, and bongs, it is all fish. ALL FISH. Not a "for tobacco use only" smoking accessory to be found anywhere on the main drag.
Jagalchi - Fish Frenzy
Note the visor on the woman on the far left. This type of visor is referred to as the "ajuma visor" (by snide foreigners) and is worn by a good majority of the women over 30 here.
The other cool thing is that any idiot (i.e. me) can walk right out onto the dock where they are unloading fish, bumble into the path of forklifts, watch women sort and pack fish into crates, and see some sort of food preparation contest (I think). Oh, yeah, and there were giant, inflatable sea creatures. I think I really only saw the tip of the iceberg, not having ventured into any of the buildings around, but the open air market is something to behold on a sunny day.
There. Whew. Now I've just got about an hour or two more of uploading and cleverly captioning pictures and this will all be complete. I probably ought to have separated this out into sections, but I've never been one for moderation.
There are more photos below