Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years

Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years: Version 2.0!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Becoming Adjusshi!

Living as an expat can be trying for even the most hardy of adventurers.  As a good expat on this most finest of peninsulas, I've worked hard to integrate and understand the pure mind of my most kind and generous hosts. It isn't always easy, and sometimes the learning curve can be steep. But it is a question of manners after all, and as my mama taught me right, everyday I strive to become more adjusshi, since a man does what a man does.

Still, sometimes I mess up a little.  This morning on my way to work is a good example: I was a bit late and driving a tad too fast and blew through the Hipass at well above the recommended 30 km/h. As I had the speed, I cut in front of a BMW on the way into my exit. Mr. BMW was obviously quite annoyed, as he flashed his lights repeatedly at me; every good adjusshi knows that the person with the more expensive car is always given the right of way in this most excellent of nations. I thought it best to speed up, to remove myself from the sight of Mr. BMW; I climbed to 160 and blew past a bunch of traffic to do so. However, Mr. BMW was having none of that and obviously felt that I needed finer instruction on the ways of this most pretigious land: he quickly caught up and tried to cut me off going 170+.

Now this to me was quite shocking, as he was endangering his car. This was not in keeping with true adjusshi, and it was obvious he needed my help. An opportunity to pass him in the traffic presented itself, and as I've seen this kind of situation several times before and knew what needed to be done, in true adjusshi fashion I blew past Mr. BMW then slowed down to about 80 to run parallel with a truck. He obviously was needing the time to calm and slow down, to stop risking damage to his very nice car. I gave him the time to honk and flash his lights repeatedly, then at the last second veered off onto an exit. While he did try to slow down to also get the exit and continue his instruction, he was unable and I was gone.

I know I could have handled the situation better, by yielding to his obviously higher economic and social status, and while I do try my best to meet the expectations based on keen observation over the years, I know I still have much to learn. But really it's what should be done. As it has often been said: when in Rome, do as the Koreans. One day I know I will get it right.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sewol: Blame 'Development'

When a disaster occurs elsewhere, its easy to say that it's a shame, a terrible thing, just awful that it happened.  When it occurs much closer to home, words don't carry the same impact, seem meaningless, as the lives of those you know are affected much more profoundly.

The Sewol ferry disaster is beyond simple words of sympathy or expressions of anger.  So many young people losing their lives because of the inaction and indecision of a few who were supposedly trained to deal with situations that occur at sea renders such statements hollow in a way.

Still, the anger did rise in me today when around the water cooler Mrs. Cho went on about the sickness in Korean society, all due to excessive rapid development; in the process core Korean values were lost and forgotten, since money and fierce competition destroyed the value of life.

I kept my mouth shut for once.  I couldn't get into it, since watching the news unfold that over 300 mostly kids died pointlessly struck home as to how vulnerable we all are.  Still, this tendency for some Koreans to point to some illustrious, idyllic past, where everyone lived in harmony and helped one another, in contrast to the bustle and inhumanity of modern life, all caused by following the western plan to modernize and develop, really gets on my nerves as well as demonstrates a true lack of historical perspective.  Korean society has always been cutthroat from my readings of it, with the majority of the population constantly having to eat shit all the time: the caste system, the Nobi, a general lack of concern for life and welfare, have long been features of all civilizations, and Korea is no exception. Life in the lower classes in Korea has long been brutal and unforgiving, yet some like Mrs. Cho think otherwise. Yet to use this tragedy to grind her political ax was beyond the pale.  I generally avoid talking to her, since, well, idiots, and life is too short to spend time engaging them all; I wish I had done the same today. Next week I wouldn't be surprised if she or someone else went on about how the Sewol being built in Japan was somehow responsible for the disaster.

But enough.  Well wishes for those who have lost and suffered is the best answer.  Stop thinking about morons and their lack of empathy and understanding. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Camping 9.621: Bad Drone!

Today I skipped out of work shortly after lunch.  The tech guys were still messing with my computer to make it compatible for the new system, so I felt it best to take a little me time.

I'm out at one of my favorite camping spots.  It took me a couple hours to set everything up, but I did have some time to collect a few mountain vegetables.  It's still a bit early for many of them, but the younger ones are usually a bit tastier.

I'm 2 bottles of chiaksan #1 world best rice wine in.  The fam should be showing up shortly, and I've got a nice fire going.  It'll serve nicely for the grilling of delicious meat and marshmallows.

Time to crack that third bottle.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cart Man Part II

Im sitting in my office looking at Gmarket when a coworker comes in. Its all small talk and pleasantries when he says: you know, people are just so selfish all the time.  It really sucks that human nature is just so grim.

I look at him. Its obvious hes having a bad day and not making some statement about my character flaws. Without really knowing where Im going, I say: yeah I get that dealing with other people is a trial at times. But I cant think that people are so selfish all the time. They cant be. Like this old guy that I see every morning on my way to work. He must be 70 years old, and no matter the weather I see him out, pulling his cart and collecting cardboard and recyclables.  His cart is all blinged out with lights and Taegookis and stuff; hes got this awesome hat that I really like, looks like a fishermans hat. Ive seen him for ten years, out there, smiling, while he hauls his load to the recycle center.  Hes kinda famous in town; word is hes actually quite rich, he just does it because he wants to keep doing something, to give to the community, even though he could be sitting back on a beach somewhere. Word is he spends the money he makes buying lunches and dinners for the other old folks out collecting, those who arent rich and either dont want to bother their kids for money or cant. Whenever Im having a bad day, I think about that guy. He doesnt lie down and die. Life can really suck at times but lying down isnt an option, you have to keep going since thats all you can really do.

There is a silence then he says: thats an interesting story.
You think so?  You know whats really interesting about that story? Its totally not true. That guy doesnt exist, but you believe the story anyway.  Why?  Because you know people are out there, doing this kind of work, youve seen them, and maybe youve heard rumors how some of them are rich, and do it for the reasons I said. He is kind of a composite of every one of those people youve seen in your life. But you believe the story because you want to believe, you want it to be true and have your faith in humanity restored, to know that in a sea of indifference and hostility there are nice people who do nice things. We need these kinds of fuzzy wuzzy stories to remind us that there is hope and things can always get better.

A deep silence settles in while we sip our coffee.  Then: I get your point. I am just having a bad day, what with my problems and all. I liked your story, thanks.  Ill catch you later.

He leaves and I turn back to my computer: Gmarket beckons. But then I stop: he thinks I was telling the story for him, and I was, but it was also for me, a reminder that even if life isnt going the way youd hoped, you have to keep on living, striving, and becoming. It is good to remember that from time to time. I close the browser and head out for a walk.  There is a big world out there after all.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

When in Rome. . .

The morning starts like most others these days: ignore the first alarm at 5:45, consider dragging ass out of bed at 6:15, finally crawl out at 6:45.  Once in the bathroom it's time to light up and spit repeatedly, all while looking at porn on the smart phone while sitting on the throne.  It is all about becoming adjusshi after all: middle aged man, trying to understand how he became broken, knowing full well the remedies that worked in the past no longer apply, as I'm not about to abandon my kids to strike it out once more, as this is really what would need to be done, but then so few adjusshi have ever had the idea, and the single friends he has mock his inability to do so now.  Embrace mediocrity and learn how to live being dead inside!  But: porn.

That business taken care of, a quick shower brings things into focus: it's Thursday.  A bit of a light day actually, but then you never know.  The jerkoffs in manufacturing or sales just might screw something up, as is their nature.  But still, the day is looking pretty smooth.  As was that hot little Vietnamese number.  Maybe it's time to trade in and have some more kids. . .

Waking the kids up this morning is not such a chore: they went to bed early and so quickly respond.  There is also Nutella for breakfast, a wonderful way to induce sugar dependency, but let no moms at the school say there is no doting on children in our domain!  Hugs and kisses, out the door.

The van was left in the middle of the thoroughfare in the parking garage last night, parking brake off.  The dinner last night hadn't gone too late, but there were still no spots left.  As the day usually starts early, there is no issue with simply leaving the van in the thoroughfare, as if need be any schmo can simply push it out of the way: this is the adjusshi way.  The typical scenarios play out as I walk to the van: it can be entertaining when some ijit leaves their parking brake on, and calling them up with righteous indignation gives opportunity to check out their wives, as they are generally too lazy to take care of it themselves; but this is not adjusshi and should be struck from the record, as it represents the thoughts of a much younger man.  However, if the man actually shows, this gives a perfect opportunity to glare reproachfully, as any noob knows not to fix the parking brake. I don't give a fuck how drunk you were last night, but I do understand your special situation, so hurry the fuck up and move your car.  But nothing of the sort this morning, which gives a mild sense of disappointment, since when your life sucks this can be ignored momentarily by making someone else feel even worse.  But then I haven't succinctly stated the subject: as adjusshi, if you're not rich, or even if you are, your life sucks, since everyone is expecting you to sacrifice it all for family and country, and you do, sort of, and learn how to make it work for you by embracing the martyrdom in a manner that supports room salons and gold trips to Pattaya.

Musing on just how long it's been since I've left the confines of this most jaundiced of peninsulas is interrupted near the expressway toll gate: some jackass tries to blow past at 120 to cut onto the expressway ramp.  Honking ignites the other driver's indignant angry adjusshi mode, which prompts him to slow down and try to force me to the shoulder.  It's a fairly easy thing to work it, and there is the temptation to forgo the adjusshi pleasantries by simply blowing past him through the Hipass first, as opportunity presents. However, this could well result in a good 100 km chase on the expressway as no adjusshi will be denied the chance to scold, chastise, make someone feel smaller than they already know themselves to be. . . so I let him pull alongside and lower the window: like peacocks rustling their feathers, there is much hollering about questionable ethics and parentage.  This momentary distraction does do wonders to mitigate having no one to bark at for a parking garage violation, as I got the upper hand by not apologizing and drawing attention to just how many laws and civic codes he violated, so let the warm glow of righteousness envelop for at least a short while.

At the exit to work, I need smoke.  As there are no parking spaces available, simply pulling up in front of the GS25 and flicking on the hazards is the way to go.  As I walk slowly to the shop, it is great fun to simply ignore the angry honking from irate drivers that have been inconvenienced by this manoevre, since fuck them if they can't be patient. What a bunch of self centered wankers! It'll only be a few minutes, and a man needs his smoke!  Their honking is disturbing so many people, don't they have any respect or sense of civic virtue?! This is the adjusshi way mothafucka!

As I get back into the piece of shit I drive for a car, while living the normal piece of shit life I'm expected to live as a 40 something male in this piece of shit sticking out of Asia's asshole, I see him: the cardboard man.  70 something at least. I know I've probably seen him 100 times before, but this morning I'm more than impressed by his amazing hat, something that you'd expect a sport fisherman to wear.  The cart he uses to collect piles of cardboard and recyclables is decked out in flashing lights, ribbons, and Taegukkis.  Word is he is rich, he does it as he knows it needs to be done, and fuck those who think otherwise.  He stands up and represents.  I know that most of the older folk who do, do so from necessity, and get maybe a couple hundred a month.  This guy does it because he knows it needs to be done, and you give back what you can as that's what a person does, until they can no longer.  I get that, and I abide.

Fuck you Mr. Adjosshit

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Camping 8.3!

meatGreetings all, Waeg here reporting from the wilds of Gangwon province!

In keeping with good waeg tradition, I'm out camping with a bunch of peeps from work. It's been a great time so far, with much hiking, grilling of animal flesh, and the imbibing of fermented grains by yours truly. Spirits are high and the mood congenial as we share war stories and tuck into some good food.

As I run the defacto camping club at work, and the old tent I bought at Costco a few years back is about to fall to pieces, I went out and bought a new one. I felt compelled, as the Kovea store in Wonju was having a massive blowout. OK, OK, it was only 25% off, but still! It sleeps ten comfortably and will serve well next winter, as the material is good quality. It did rain a bit, and it was nice watching the water just slide right off that bad boy in nice even sheets.

June was pissed when I came home with this massive canvas monstrosity, and I can understand her trepidation: I did spend over 1.3 million won, even with the discount, scooping up another bench and carry all bag in the process. While I will continue to sleep alone in the foreseeable future, no matter since: what a tent! I reminded her that generally when I do camping club activities, I charge the participants 30 thousand won each for gear rental on top of the other fees for food, site rental, firewood and the like, so after a year at most the tent will pay for itself. I won't have to deal with renting gear, which is time consuming and not always reliable, and I'd get to know the tent well. Her anger was somewhat assuaged when I gave her the cash for this weekend, which was almost a third of what I spent.

Back to it. Sadly I'm guessing there will be few mountain vegetables to pick as it is still a bit early in the season, and there is snow in the high mountains. I will be coming out again next weekend and at the end of the month, so I can wait for delicious durup and the like.

Time for coffee.  Here are some tunes I'm listening to on this glorious morning while waiting for the others to crawl out of that new awesome tent:

Tuesday, April 1, 2014



Friday, March 21, 2014

Another Week in Paradise!

Monday morning, 5:30 AM: waeg's phone rings. Glancing at the number, waeg sees it's from overseas so he quickly answers. It's his dad:

Waeg, it's your mother. She had an aneurysm and just got out of a 6 hour surgery. The docs say she isn't out of the woods yet, but she is responding fairly well. Good thing I was home at the time, or we'd be having a different conversation.

Waeg promises to call again later. Once at work he looks up how much time he could get to go back in case of the worst, and sees he can get a week. Hopefully he won't need to go right away. After reading up on aneurysms, he knows his mom is lucky to be alive; but then she always has been strong.

After lunch he collects his mail. There is a notice from the police, saying he owes over a million Won in old fines dating back to 2003. Waeg is perplexed, as he has always paid his speeding and parking tickets in a timely manner. After 4 calls and three hours, it is determined there was a computer glitch, and while waeg won't have to pay the interest on the fines, he still owes over a million Won. Waeg muses how he has contributed to inflate statistics on waeg crime, since these unpaid fines would have added to the numbers.

On Tuesday Waeg cruises into work early. He notices that the electrical in the van is acting up; the same thing happened a few months back just before the generator cut out on him. He checks his schedule for the week and sees he has a window Wednesday afternoon to bring the car in, and plans accordingly. He receives a call from the public relations department: a client is upset that they had not received a response from waeg to an urgent request. It turns out that over the weekend the email program had been updated, and all his email had bounced. After contacting the IT department and sorting out the problem, waeg sees a flood of 300 emails suddenly appear in his inbox. He hunkers in and starts through the lot. He is briefly interrupted by a call from his wife, but for some reason she is unable to hear him when he speaks and she hangs up in exasperation. Waeg has a brain fart and plugs in the headphones to call her back. Sure enough, the speaker on his phone is busted, and he briefly wonders when he'll have the time to take it in to get fixed.  His wife tells him that the youngest's teacher wants to have a meeting to discuss the youngest's use of vulgar language towards a boy that had started a fight. Waeg briefly smiles, but agrees to meet Thursday evening.

On Wednesday, waeg skips out after lunch to bring the van in to the shop. The mechanic tells him there is no way to know for sure where the electrical problem is until it gives out, that the van is old and he should just buy a new one, and he should come back later. Waeg explains he is quite sure it is the generator, that he does not have time to come back later, so they promise to check it out as well as replacing the cracked windscreen. He goes back in a couple of hours and picks it up: the mechanic is nowhere to be seen, and the bill is only for the windscreen. He has no time to wait, as he has to also get the van inspected. Everything seems fine during the inspection, so waeg goes home; but he knows the electrical problem is still there, and hopes it doesn't give out at a bad time. That night he calls home: his mom hasn't been able to breathe on her own yet, but the prognosis is overall positive.

On Thursday he heads into work as the snow starts falling in thick heavy globs. He has planned to go camping on the weekend with a coworkers family. He decides he'll go even if the snow continues. The day passes fairly uneventfully, during which he spent some time calculating the cost per month of a new van; his feelings are conflicted, as the idea of having a new car is nice, but thinking of paying it off over 3 or 4 years causes a knot in his stomach.  As he gets ready to leave work the van won't start, as the electrical has indeed given out. He calls his insurance provider to send a wrecker to give him a boost. After an hour it shows up. At this point waeg might just make the meeting with the youngest's teacher if he hustles. The driver he knows well, as he has come out to help waeg more than a few times. He gets a boost and sees that the power is still not working properly, but luckily there is a 24 hour car shop near the expressway toll gate. Once there, the mechanic tells him he needs a new battery, which he quickly installs. However, when he checks the power, he says Oops. . .my bad. It isn't the battery, seems it might be a faulty generator, but you should be able to get into town OK. That'll be 130000 Won please. For a moment, waeg considers entering full on asshole mode and demanding his functioning old battery be reinstalled, but he has no time. The power levels seem OK for now. On the way into town, the power is obviously slowly draining as the lights dim and the heater din changes in frequency. Just as he pulls into a parking spot at his favorite car shop, the engine cuts out. No one is at the shop at this hour, so he locks it up and rushes to the main road; he can still make the tail end of the meeting with the teacher if he can quickly find a taxi. Of course, there are none, and after 20 minutes waeg texts his wife to explain and goes home. His wife's computer is screwed, so he spends an hour cleaning out a host of trojans and malware. As he turns on his computer, he sees some of the same problems.  It seems the girls had been visiting some game site and installing all kinds of crap on both computers. He finishes around one and goes to bed.

On Friday he gets a ride into work with a coworker. The car won't be finished until late afternoon, and will cost a little over 300 000 Won to fix.  With the new windscreen and battery, waeg is down 700 this week on the car.  He had planned to leave at 5:30 to go camping, but that will have to be postponed until tomorrow.  At around nine he is informed that he needs to completely reschedule and replan a major project, as crucial information from manufacturing had been incorrect, an error on their part, but waeg knows this will require a good 2-3 hours of frantic application. 

Just before lunch he takes a breather and goes for a short walk outside.  As he wanders somewhat aimlessly, he muses on when the fantastic life of milk and honey he was promised for coming to Korea will kick in.  He knows he's simply being cynical, as his story is really no different from any other average person's, and that entertaining the idea too much will only lead to rage and invective; his slice of paradise comes from knowing things he never would have known if he hadn't become waeg, gaining a perspective on the human condition that would have remained unknown if he had stayed in his little town.  Still, for a moment the thought creeps in that sometimes ignorance is bliss, especially if you can regularly buy decent beer, cheese, and bacon.  He laughs, tosses it aside, and heads back to the office.  There are more TPS reports to fill in after all, and fresh coffee to drink.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


waeg had worked the formula several times: if all variables held, the experiment would work.  He would finally move beyond his corporeal frame.

As a good scientist, he turned over all what he could become: with no attachment to fallible finite human affairs, could he still entertain benevolence?  He was only anticipating that after the transformation, if his attention were drawn to the ball of mud that gave him birth, his revulsion towards the insect like species that infested it would cause him to eliminate, despite how he could not be without having been so. . . limited.

It won't happen.  I'm sure once the process is complete, there will be no impetus to acknowledge origins, since such a minute focus of understanding would no longer be attainable. In short order, I will know the importance of fostering life in all its forms.

He was ready.  It was time.

He put the crystals in the machine.  It had been a bargain at 39.99 on Ebay.  He was ready to transform into pure energy and become a child of the universe.  His finger hovered over the button for perhaps a second longer than it should, but then he pressed.

The shock flung him against the wall and knocked the electrodes off his head.  Thoughts scrambled and disjointed, vision impaired.  Colors were more vivid, more attuned to the violet shift that would occur when time no longer mattered, and perception became true. . .   He saw the stars, then beyond, to the white white heat, until the pure essence of what is came to be known. . . it was brilliance, it was purity, it was light. . .

It was the bubbles in the paint in the wall that he'd smacked his head.

The instructions on the box had been clear: do not attempt during misalignment.  He figured it was still worth a go, as the next proper alignment of constellations was a good 300 years off. He'd done the calculations, downloaded the proper manuals from the internet, knew it was not only a question of will and grinding the right crystal, but knowing that the right vision and flexibility were yours, if only you committed. . .

When his mind cleared he got up and got a beer from the fridge.  On his way back he threw the machine in the trash.  Once secured in his bubble of a room, he picked a random book from the floor: Spinoza's Ethics.  He flipped to a random page, and for a second wondered what he could have neglected in the process of becoming 'enlightened'.