Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years

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

Friday, September 30, 2011

Nazis!

One thing that has been written about extensively in the waegosphere is the semi regular appearance of Nazi-themed bars and TV commercials in Korea.

I was reminded of this when I read about a school in Thailand that recently caught international news for a weird rally featuring Nazi imagery.

Generally, justification relies on the over all aesthetic appeal of Nazi paraphernalia.  The obvious irony is that those glorifying the image are the same people who would have been forced to work in mines or used as guinea pigs under a Nazi regime.

You have to wonder just what is being passed off as education when this kind of thing happens.

My take?  I do believe Korea has come a long way is downplaying the extreme simplistic nationalism that used to be found at the core of education.  From what I hear, students are no longer being taught that the best apples come from Chungju and the best rice from Icheon, and that Korea is the only country with four distinct seasons.  This is all good. 

There is more of an acknowledgment of real Korean history, instead of regurgitating myths created by Japanese / Western educated Korean intellectuals involved in nation building back in the 1920s and 30s.

The country still has a way to go though.  Teaching a distinction between patriotism and ethnic nationalism would be a good first step.  But it'll take for the next crop of twigi kids to come of age and start demanding their rights as well as a dying off of the old school for it to happen.

As long as the world economy doesn't collapse and we don't see complete social disintegration that is.  If that happens all bets are off.

So Many Kinds of Wrong

Well I just don't.

probably NSFW, at least 6 and possibly 7.

So many kinds of wrong extended edition

Start with obligatory Rick Perry bad lip reading:













Thursday, September 29, 2011

Maintenance!

I'm part of the maintenance crew at the youngest's kindergarten.  Every now and then I go in to do some small  jobs around the place.

After work I scooted over to help a few of the guys put in some new ceiling tiles.

'Meadow Flower' the cat had climbed one of the book cases and clawed into the ceiling to hide her kittens.  It was pretty impressive that she managed it.

By the time I got there, some of the guys had already taken out the old tiles, measured everything out, and cut most of the tiles. We sat down and ate soup, rice and kimchi before getting to work.

The whole job took a couple of hours, but then we only did two rooms.  The other tiles are still in pretty good shape.

Some of the guys were going out for drinks after, but I passed.  I promised the girls we'd watch a movie together when I got back.  They're bent on watching The Last Airbender again.  I'm convinced you need to be under ten to enjoy it.  The sacrifices I make for my girls.

Time for some Max.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Home!

Tonight June and the girls are hanging out with other moms and kids at the youngest's kindergarten.  It's our turn to clean it, but the cleaning usually turns into a small social event.

June did give me a hard time for having not come out to clean in some time.  She says every father comes out to help clean the kindergarten when it is their assigned day.  I know this is pure bullshit: all the dads I talk to only admit to cleaning two, three times at best.  They show up the first two or three times to make an appearance when they start sending their kid to the kindergarten, then maybe once every 6 months at best after that.  This means I'm ahead.  I'm not sure how this reality translates into 'they come out all the time to help and hang out', but as far as I'm concerned spending three to four hours at the kindergarten eating and listening to kids go crazy while gossiping isn't my favorite way to spend an evening.

I mentioned I had to go do maintenance tomorrow night, so I'd be taking a pass.  Looks like we need to replace some of the ceiling tiles.  'Meadow Flower' the cat had another litter of kittens, and decided to hide them in the ceiling to keep them away from the kids and the dogs; in the process she ripped out a corner in the 3-4 year olds' room.  It was decided that replacing the lot was about due anyway.

Now I'm about to watch the latest episode of Breaking Bad while having a cup of rice wine.  I haven't had much time to myself lately, what with research and going to bed early the last couple of nights.  Work promises to be full on till at least early November, and there is Halloween to think about.

On with it.

Openness!

Just like my grandparents.  Sort of.
One thing that surprises me is just how open many Koreans of the younger generation are.

They have no issue discussing love interests, petty crimes they commit, true feelings for coworkers, spouses, or relatives, all at top volume in public locations.

I was reminded of this several times over the last few days: at the bank, a couple of women were talking about their wayward husbands, and how they were getting their own things on.  At a restaurant on the weekend, one woman was screaming at her father about what an asshole tyrant he is and how he has messed up everyone in the family.

When I first came to Korea, I was repeatedly told that Koreans were very private people who did not like to share personal details.  This was in tune with a social ethic that promoted harmony and cohesiveness.  It's kind of hard to feel at peace when you know too much information about Mr. Kang's vasectomy, Ms. Oh's feelings towards her neighbors, or how Mr. Jang and Ms. Chae are unmarried and shacked up.  In most cases, propriety and tradition held that it was best to just keep it quiet.

While an interesting aspect of living in Korea is how stated mores often bear little resemblance to actual actions and behavior, in my experience it would seem the willingness to share and be open has increased noticeably in my short eleven years here.  PDA, arguments, and fights, while an obvious example of the unique Korean passion, were far less common and didn't really stand out in the past.  Now they seem much more common place.

Dynamic.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Case of the Mondays

Not one of mine, taken from here
It's Monday morning and I don't feel like doing a damn thing. Instead of working, here's a fish story:

To preface, I got pretty hammered Saturday night. I stayed up late tending the fire and fishing in a lake that once was the Wonj's main water supply. This doesn't really have much to do with the rest of the story, except that it may have been what prompted me to stay up so late.  But what the hey, let's throw it out there anyway.

I caught a few chub and another half dozen sleeper fish.

First time catching goby. Weird fish. The guys next to me had 8 lines out between the two of them and caught nearly 60 fish. I started to get fishing gear envy, but squashed it as I'm not about to get into that whole scene of buying 200 manners worth of fishing gear to catch bottom feeders, but I digress.

I nearly fell and broke my neck at one point.  I figured it was a good idea to pack it in at that point.  It was around 3:30 am, and I was out of soju and nearly out of beer anyway.

Of course June and the girls got up at sunrise.  June was miffed that I hadn't kept all the fish so she could make soup.  The biggest sleeper was near 7 inches, but I gave em all to the other guys.  After spending so much time down by the water, I started to feel the smell that was coming off of it.  Rank age funk.  The raw sewage and copious amounts of algae added appropriate visual elements.  This smell permeated my clothes and stayed with me even when I got home.  Anything that lives in that shouldn't be eaten.  The guys were happy and shared some rice cakes and ramen with the girls.  I made sure we left before they cooked up the stew.

We did stop at a new awesome barley rice bibimbab place just outside of the Wonj.  For seven chonners it was seriously fantastic, and the restaurant was done up as a fairly authentic traditional Korean house.  Next time, I'll try their black hen medicine soup.

Once home and done cleaning out the car, I crashed pretty hard.  I woke up again around 11, then went back to sleep at about 1:30.  I dreamt of meeting folks back home.

Time for coffee.



Saturday, September 24, 2011

Camping 1.9b!


Today involved getting cursed out at hanaro mart, driving over hell's half acre to find a campsite, and boat rides.

Who knew that so many peeps would be out camping today? I eventually dragged the fam to a spot that was popular in the 60s and 70s before Koreans were free to travel overseas.

Time for some Max.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pizza!

Tonight was homemade pizza night.

Fantastic. June added some rice wine to the dough recipe instead of water.  It worked nicely.

She also made a nice tomato paste with chopped garlic and onion.  I topped it with old cheddar and brie, some sliced tomato, fresh basil, green pepper, ham and corn.  The girls love the corn. 

The secret is to let the dough sit for a day or two in the fridge before cooking.  Ten to fifteen minutes in the oven and it's ready to eat.

Delicious.

Good Drone!

This week has been insane.  I didn't really stop to think too much about everything that was going on, just stayed focused on projects and all they entail.  When I did take stock late this afternoon, I impressed myself with just how much was accomplished despite feeling yesterday that there was still much to be done.  A truly golden week in the conceptual design department.

Mind,  I have burned through bacchus, magic green potion, and coffee like there's no tomorrow.   I scared a couple of the interns after lunch with a crazy gleam in my eye that didn't really disappear until near quitting time.

Tonight I'm going to take it easy and watch a movie, read some boring stuff about some city in China where the company is setting up another branch office.

I'm thinking of taking the fam camping tomorrow and not going in to work.  Saturday is kind of an optional thing after all.

Time to make some homemade pizza and drink some rice wine.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

So many kinds of wrong

Late Thursday Edition!

So many kinds of wrong







Bonus: prophecy!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cold!

If truth be told, things between June and I have been on the rocks ever since my last trip to the casino. This is mostly because I refuse to be reconciled. 

She gave me a seriously hard time and rode my ass for near my entire vacation.  Time that should have been spent becoming reacquainted instead turned into her trying to make me grovel.  As soon as I went back to work, she tried to smooth things over.

Fuck that. 

I've spent way too much time groveling.  I've seen her waste far more cash on ill conceived plans coupled with a lack of will to follow through more than once.

The first big one happened a few years back.  I used to run study abroad programs for kids.  I'd take em back home, sort em out with a homestay, place them in various camps with waeg kids.  I did fairly well at these, usually covering all my own expenses for me and my family.  It was full on, but well worth it for my girls.

One camp June thought it would be a great idea to go a month earlier, giving her and the girls more time to become acquainted with the folks back home.

I thought it was a good idea, and showed great initiative on her part.  She was enthusiastic and excited, since at the same time she'd get an extra month with my mom helping out with the girls.

The youngest was still quite young, but I trusted June's judgement as to her capabilities and commitment.

Unfortunately, the flight included a stopover in Tokyo.  This seemed like a good idea at the time, since we'd shave nearly a grand off the fare.

When she got to Tokyo, June came to the conclusion that traveling on her own with two young kids and baggage was not cool.  Dealing with two kids on an hour flight was enough to pretty much seal the deal.  Going through the airport and transferring caused her to have a meltdown.  She turned around and decided that she was heading back to Korea.  She canceled the tickets and bought new ones heading back to Incheon.

The first I heard of it was when she landed on Korean soil.  She called, distraught, and informed me she was getting on a bus to Seoul and that I had to come get her.

I dropped everything, canceled an evening of lucrative classes, and rushed off to Gangnam where the bus was to drop her and the kids off.  I made it in record time.  I frantically tried to find where she was.

When I finally did find her, the eldest was off wandering the street someplace while she drank beer with some Japanese guy she'd met on the plane.  He had helped her find her way to the bus and the bar.  She was laughing, greatly relieved to be someplace safe.  She was miffed that I hadn't come sooner, but was a little too tipsy to let it linger for long.

Her whole jaunt cost us 300 manners.  I was angry, but I worked hard to not let it simmer for too long.  This was a serious trial.  I didn't want the girls to see or feel too much of that.

I'm at the point now where I'm saying fuck it.  I've sucked it up, worked hard at adapting and understanding this place, given over ten years to making a life for two very lovely girls and an ingrate drama queen.  I'm tired of dealing with her and her Korean soap opera bullshit. 

Hard to say where it goes from here.

38000!

38000 Won!
A common complaint from waegs is the high price of fruits, vegetables, and most food in general in the fine ROK.

While some may balk at paying 3.8 manners for 11 peaches or near 7.5 chonners for three apples, what they don't understand is the delicate and loving care Korean farmers give to growing the most delicious and well being crops in the finest soil in the world.

I've often heard peeps moan about how these high prices for rice and basic food stuffs is due to an overly protectionist market and the Korean givernments desire to preserve what remains of rural life, but really it's about the unique growing conditions and temperament of Korean farmers that make some of the best food in the world.


These same naysayers would have us believe that Korean farmers could easily diversify their crops, and start growing specialty foods that could be sold cheaper if produced domestically.

What they refuse to acknowledge is that geomancers and shamans have long ascertained, due to their close relationship with nature, the spirits, and the universe in general is that indeed the best rice comes from Ichon, the best peaches are from Wonju, and the best potatoes are from Gangwon in general.

So consider all this next time you're at the supermarket, and get to thinking that paying 4500 won per 100 grams of Korean beef is a might steep: you are paying for all this care and the deep connection with the universe that you will achieve when these mighty food stuffs slide down your gullet.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Books!

This morning I noticed a new stack of books in the living room.  It seems June ordered the entire Magic Tree House series for the eldest, along with some reference books. 

On the way home tonight, I need to go and find another bookshelf.  The ones she keeps ordering online are trash, so I'd rather go look and touch what I buy.

I've already promised I'd read some of The Magic Tree House with the girls tonight.

Good times.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Ignition!

For the last month or so, the fam van hasn't been starting on command. 

I'd be willing to bet the problem is with the spark plugs.  It has rained a lot the last while.  It has trouble starting when sitting cold for a day or two, especially when it's wet.

When I brought it to my favorite car shop, I was disappointed that one of the head mechanics started in about how that dandy was back again.

The dude I usually talk to was obviously distressed.  He knows I Korean fairly well. He is also the owner's son, and if my gaydar is correct, closeted.

Yeah, sorry I'd rather not take the time to sort this thing out on my own.  I guess you'd rather I not pay you to study how an engine works and not let you get dirty and figure it out faster.  Then, I know this is your province, the mocking of those who won't take the time.  But if you die, no worries, I've got it sorted.  I'm pretty good at figuring that kind of thing out. Sadly, my dad worked me over so I'd have a desire to not step into that family mold by encouraging me to study whatever I wanted at uni, as long as I finished it. 

I'm willing to bet it is something pretty simple, but I'd rather spend my free time looking at ridiculous memes on the internet, playin' the bass, and reading about the history of Moldova and Zimbabwe while drinking whiskey and beer.  Maybe this is part of the problem: I'm not doing enough with my hands besides banging on a key board and masturbating.  Ennui.  There's a word my dad wouldn't use.  But then, he is a steam engineer who works on warships.

It is weird that of all my male family members, I'm one of the few doing work not related to engineering or dealing with metal or wood. 

Instead I went for plastic.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Locked In!

Way back in the bronze age of my tenure in Korea, I had one of those great college jobs that are near non existent now: 12 hours a week, 5 months vacation, 2.8 million a month as base.  When I told one of my Korean coworkers that I was getting married to June, they laughed and said I'd be here forever.  

I remember at the time it pissed me off.  Yeah, how about you go fuck yourself I thought, not so much because of the staying in Korea part, but of the condescending haha you're totally fucked now dude attitude of the speaker.  Back then I still looked rather positively at the idea of marriage, what can I say.  Of course I merely smiled and jokingly asked where a good plot of land would be for my burial mound.

This came back to me yesterday while chatting with a bud over convenience store beers, and he started into the going home talk.

This is a conversation I've heard often from long term expats over the years.  In a vast majority of cases, it ends up being all talk, or at the very least takes years to come to fruition.  It isn't uncommon to see some of them come back to Korea after trying to make the jump, sometimes since they missed the life, the Korean spouse missed home too much, or they simply didn't sufficiently plan out the finances required to get resettled.

What's my long term plan?  Well, I do have a job I dig, and for it to see a good payout I need to put another 4-5 years in at least.  I'll send the girls home to study for 6 months to a year at a go until they hit middle school.  Once they hit that age, it's time for them to stay home for good.  I need to make sure I've got a solid nest egg, since by the time I go back the only real option for me will be as an entrepreneur.  I'll be too old to look for a regular nine to five.

So locked in?  Maybe, maybe not.  But my advice now to newly wed waeg / Korean couples who are considering leaving this fine peninsula is to get out sooner rather than later.  The longer you stay, the more it gets in your blood and the harder it will be to get things started back home.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Beautiful Helpers!

One aspect of life on the streets of Korea that the neophyte may find unusual or even unsettling is the frequent presence of beautiful helpers.

It would be unusual to see scantily clad nubile young women gyrating to upbeat dance music played at 10000 decibels while extolling the virtues of Kim's Sock Emporium or Lee's English Palace on the streets of most countries, and the more prudish may infer this to be a gross objectification of women.

What these naysayers don't understand is how this display merely highlights the warm and welcoming nature of the Korean people.

Koreans hold that social harmony trumps any concern, whether it be logic, propriety or justice.  The presence of beautiful helpers is a means to expedite happy feelings and social bonding.  Their presence is also to welcome waegs and to let the world know just how happy, egalitarian and free Koreans are as a people. 

So before you poo poo this sight, or think they only serve the role of eye candy, consider the role they really serve in maintaining the cohesiveness of Korean society as a whole, and advertising just how welcome waegs are in Korean society.

Goat Soup and Convenience Store Beers!


For lunch I met a bud at my favorite goat soup restaurant.

After, we wiled away the afternoon shootin the breeze in front of a nice family mart.

An afternoon well spent.

Friday, September 16, 2011

So many kinds of wrong

Another terrible commercial episode, with bonuses!

So many kinds of wrong









This guy is awesome:

Sugar!

When waegs first come to Korea, they love to learn everything there is to know about Korea and its 5000 years of history.  Most come over for only a year or ten, but the first few months living in country are about exploration, learning and making friends.

But as any long term expat in any country will attest, eventually you start to miss some things from back home.  Generally these longings can be abetted by buying overpriced imported food.

Now, the neophyte may be tempted to buy Korean made 'western' foods; those chips do look good, and that spaghetti sauce draws rumbles whenever you walk by it at Emart.  But neophyte beware!  Do not purchase these products unless eating refined sugar straight from the bag is your kind of thing. 

I'm not sure how Korean manufacturers came to the idea that 'western' food in general is so sweet.  Sure, cookies or chocolate snacks back home often will send those less used to a high sugar diet into a sugar high lasting days, but in fact most western food like Korean food often contains piles of salt.  Why is it that snack foods such as choco pie or cheese taste like plastic, while things like salad dressing, Kpop groups, or soups generally contain half a kilo of sugar?

My advice for the neophyte is to spend the extra one or two chonners and buy the imported stuff.  Your taste buds will thank you.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Great Blackout of 2011!

Where are these guys when you need them??
Shortly after five today, all the power went out.  This greatly perturbed me as I was surfing the internets looking at video of ijits to pass away the few minutes before it was quitting time.

I soon found out that it was country wide.  Whispers around the water cooler included North Korean and Chinese hackers, while cooler heads had already read the news that several power plants had been shut down for maintenance and the remainder had been overwhelmed by high demand due to abnormally high temperatures.

Still, the hacking conspiracy stuck with me.  I've noticed a marked increase in air force maneuvers the last month or so, so this made me a little edgy.  One of the joys of living on the peninsula is that you just never know when the crazies up north will decide to go completely batshit and do something incredibly stoopid.

When I got home the power was still off.  I opened a box of candles and set a bunch out.  I checked my phones and saw that the 3G was not working either.

As I realized that this would be evening without porn, my thoughts became more dark: how soon would society disintegrate if the power did not come back on?  Should I immediately go and start looting the convenience and grocery stores nearby?

Just as I was about to start organizing my riot and looting gear, the lights came back on.  I shook it off, blew out the candles and grabbed a beer as now there would obviously be an unending supply in the foreseeable future.

Still, always good to keep several dozen batteries, gas canisters, candles, and canned goods about.  And cigarettes.  Lots and lots of cigarettes.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Teaching English!

The right way!?!

Blonde, pretending to be dumber than you are, thinking you're hotter than you are thus you've got more chutzpah, with an internet site lined up with lessons selling from as low as an ohbegger (500 won) each!

I'm doing it wrong.  I need to take another trip to Russia and outsource this shit.  I could get the adjusshi market all tied up!  For the adjummas, I'll bring in some hung Russian studs, for whom we'll leak their homemade porn after they've become established.

I'm an equal opportunity pimp, what can I say?

Me and my Big Mouth

Sometimes people say all kinds of crap without thinking about it too much. 

This blog is a case in point. I just speak my mind, when I should just sit quietly.

These days, I feel I let too many things slide. I swallow so much bullshit that whenever I smell it I get all rosy and utter good belly laughs that frighten the intrepid and make those in the know nod and smile.

I'm wondering what happened to that uncompromising punk kid asshole who self sabotaged whenever a steaming pile of toolie was being served, but I digress.

Today was a solid three hours of I-don't-give-a-fuck, when it should have been the typical put that bib on and chow down, waeg.

Around the water cooler, Mr. Cha was waxing on about the virtues of Korean kindness. He said that Koreans were the kindest people on earth.  Then he asked what I thought.

I knew there was no stopping it when my eye started to twitch.  I just stood back and watched:

Yes, Koreans are very kind, if they know who you are. If you make a relationship with a Korean, they will share their last cigarette with you as the world is ending. They'll commiserate and take your side in any argument.  

But it seems they are pretty fair weather friends. Even related by blood does not guarantee that they'll have your back. If they don't know you, you are insignificant, unless you drive a nice car or have the right apartment sticker.  Generally they lack civic virtue.  They donate among the least of OECD countries privately and nationally.  They're willing to sell out cultural heritage at the drop of a hat, probably so it'll give something to complain about later.  They speak of fairness and equality and overcoming the tragedies of the past, yet act like spoiled children unwilling to share when it comes to treating the dispossessed within their own borders.  Fickle and capricious would be good words to describe Koreans at their worst, traits that are tolerated and considered understandable through common consensus.

There is no doubt Mr. Cha was severely taken aback by what I said.  He just stared incredulously, like I'd just pissed into the earthen kimchi jar on his ancestral homestead.

Now, I do believe that stupidity is a universal constant, and I'm hoping he won't hold a grudge against me and that his panties aren't in a knot about it.  From experience, these types of conversation never end well.  You can't win and its best to just smile.  When will I ever learn?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Camp Caesars!


The weather is not bad at all.

I'm out with the fam and a couple of cousins.

A good bud came out with his own tent.

When I told him that I'd grabbed a bottle of vodka, he showed up with clamato, spice, and pickled asparagus.

I've come to like the caesars with the pickled asparagus.

Tasty.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Home!

Today was mostly a stay at home day. We did go to a swanky new buffet restaurant near the new city hall building for lunch which was a little pricy, and then hit a hardware store to pick up some more camping gear, but apart from that it was a nap / play cards / watch TV kinda day.

At the hardware store I grabbed a 50 meter extension cord, shop light, and hatchet for the camping expedition tomorrow. June wants to bring the heating pad to lay down in the tent since it will be cool at night.

I'm like let's just bring out the heavier sleeping bags, but heating pad it is.

I tried to teach the girls how to play Sergeant Major. The youngest couldn't hold all the cards so it was back to crazy 8's. We played countdown which they really liked.

After cooking dinner and doing the dishes, I got into some red wine. It's been a while since I've enjoyed an evening with the red. Tonight's selection is a bottle of Valpolicella I grabbed at Homeplus a while back. I'm hoping the two bottles I have left will be enough and I won't need to get into the soju.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

EPIK!

Lately I've found that the new round of EPIK teachers seems a lot more sensitive than those that have come through in the past.

I can understand. What with the lack of job security that is supposed to come with working for the government, all the new lower paid Korean English assistants sniping at them, seat warming during vacations, a general feeling of being under appreciated and thought of as pond scum by peeps in the schools and in the media, this can lead any rational human to become somewhat defensive.

Combine that with the difficulties of adjusting to expat life and the generally antagonistic climate towards waegs that is found on this peninsula, you've got a recipe for rendering even the most stable into paranoid hyper sensitives.

Yes, I know that it is all situational, that some people have great gigs and no real problems with work or their life in general. Good for you. 

But to say that the climate is the same as it was back in the day I worked EPIK would be disingenuous at best.  Even then it was a bit of a crap shoot.

Here's hoping the Korean government can find a way to quell the naysayers who have been working to get rid of the waegs or make their time in suck.  In my experience, the biggest difficulties I faced with coworkers came from those who worked hard to schmooze the system, since they knew all the ass kissing and hole licking they did would one day get paid back to them from their subordinates.  If a bunch of waegs were accepted as equals, that whole system would be seriously undermined. And who would want to suck up to a waeg in a Korean public school??

Let it be known, my EPIK brothers and sisters, I feel your pain. Just don't let it dictate what you end up doing in the classroom. We don't need any more examples of bad waegs in the EPIK system, that's for sure.

Time for some Max.

Friday, September 9, 2011

So many kinds of wrong

Grab bag edition!

So Many Kinds of Wrong









To end on a light note, I love Russia.  NSFW

Single Malt!

I'm a big fan of single malt whiskeys. Back in the day I used to help organize whiskey tasting events and became quite knowledgeable about the different varieties and whiskey producing regions.

I once won a whiskey selling contest at a bar I worked at. The person who sold the most Johnny Walker Red would win a bottle from a list provided at the beginning of the contest. One of the bottles was the single malt Cardhu.

This was no small task. Selling Johnny Walker red is a hard sell any day of the week. The Green or the Blue is much easier.

But I won. When it came time to collect I was informed I could have some of the dirty shit but not the Cardhu. I ended up taking a bottle of Bells instead.

From that point I refused to push any Johnny Walker product. This went on until a coworker brought me back a bottle of Royal Lochnagar last week.

This is the stuff that makes the base for all Johnny Walker blends.

I've been working my way through the bottle.  It's not bad, and is a special treat.  And oddly I don't feel like that much of a sell out.

Must be getting old.

Time for coffee.

Typhoon!

Last week was gorgeous.  Nice sun, fairly warm but not oppressively so, cool in the evenings.

Would have been great camping weather.  Now that a vacation is upon us, word is a major typhoon is heading this way.  It's supposed to rain for the next 2-3 days.

Lovely.

I'm tempted to go out without the fam anyway.  We'll see.  I may just head up to the Big Smoke for a day or three instead.

This afternoon near everyone is heading out early.  A bunch of us intend to find a nice Family Mart and wile away the afternoon.  Should be a blast.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Chuseok!

Harvest is just around the corner, and today I found out that I've been pretty much given a bye for the festivities.

It would seem that the Bother-in-Law was unable to get a visa for his Chinese girlfriend.  They'll be coming next week instead.

That sucks.  I was looking forward to meeting her.  I hope she's aware of just what she's walking into: even I've picked up on the murmurings in the family about her intentions towards the only son, and I'm usually the last to hear anything.  He's pretty loaded and twenty years her senior.

I plan on warmly welcoming her.  The dude had a rough go during his first marriage and all the power to him if he's happy.

June asked me if my family ever said anything about her 'marrying up' when we tied the knot.  No darling, they didn't say a word.  Simple congratulations, that you were pretty and seemed very nice.

The only flak I caught was from several of my Korean acquaintances, who universally said I was making a mistake and could do better.

So it looks like a few days of camping are on deck.  We are going to a spot not too far from where most of the Inlaws live, so that the girls can at least meet up with their cousins for a day or three.

I plan on getting some hiking in as the trails around that area are pretty nice.

Time for some Max.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Morning After!

This morning I feel like ass.

I did get home at the fairly reasonable hour of 11ish, but then the idea to crack open a bottle of single malt a coworker brought back from Scotland seemed a brilliant thing to do.

I stopped at Mikey D's to grab Mcmorning for a pile of coworkers.  The grease still coats my gullet.

Funny that there was a time in my life where I would have reproached anyone for eating that shite.

But then Korea does seem a place where you learn to skew your moral compass.

Time for coffee.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Revisionism!

The pain in the ass thing about keeping a shite blog like this is how occasionally you need to go through and clear out old links.

I'm not talking about the 'So many kinds of wrong' category.  I'm mostly thinking of the 'I've posted this as Korean Culture, and somebody just showed me that this makes me look bad, so I should just change it 'coz I have no balls and wouldn't want to state things as they are because I've got a mincy cock' category.

That is a mouthful, but not nearly as much as the shits who have gone through and changed links deserve.

If I can say one thing about the West that is superior to the East, it has to be the solid commitment to self reflection in an honest way.

I refuse to discuss self help books here, since they are the province of peers who should just send me their bank information.

Yet there are way more ijits / scholars / retreads back home who will willingly acknowledge history for what it is. 

Over here, it's all about saving face and wearing pink shirts with murses.  And pretending what isn't is.


Nine Inch Nails: Survivalism (Uncensored) (2007) from Nine Inch Nails on Vimeo.

Night Out!

Today I was a fairly productive drone.

I burned through a dozen reports, finalized a couple of products, set up teams for three more.

By the time five rolled around, I was feeling pretty beat.

I was looking forward to heading home and hangin with the fam.  But then Mr. Na called me up and asked me to come out for a dinner.

When a superior asks you out for dinner, the only suitable excuse for saying no is that you are either near death or highly contagious.  This can be trying if you have six or seven bosses.

So now we're at a seafood restaurant.  I've been entertaining myself watching a couple of the younger women trying to dump their soju into water glasses.  All the while I've been listening to Mr. Na and Mr. Cho talk about baseball and government scandals.

I'm already half in the bag and there is talk of a second round.  I'm really not that keen on it as I've already engaged in the obligatory 'you use chopsticks well', 'you are so Korean', and 'Korean ginseng is the best' conversations, and figure I should be allowed a pass.  That won't happen, and as the mood is still rather light and innocent with lots of laughter, I don't think it'll get to the point where we start talking about Dokdo or the problems Samsung is currently facing.

But then you just never know what could set one of them off.

Not wanting to seem the killjoy, on with the soju and double entendres.

I hear the noraebang calling. . .

Pit Viper!

Taken from Here
This afternoon near the smoking corner I saw my first snake of the year, a pit viper.

Kind of odd that I haven't seen more; last year there were a quite a few more of them.  While camping during the vacation, I didn't see any.

This one was rather small, nothing like the Big Green Bastard, which is not a bad thing at all.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Roamin' with Dirty Bird!

Last Saturday night I got the following call from Dirty Bird:

"Dude!  Hey it's been a while!  What's shakin'?? Listen, we should hit the town hard!  I made a nice extra pile this month, let's celebrate!  I heard of this cool little room salon place that totally lets waegs in, what d'ya say??  It's top shelf mang!  Totally hot women, I tell ya, it'll be a blast!  Cmon drag that sorry ass of yours out of your shit apartment!  Hey when you gonna invite me over anyway?  I'd love to see your sproogs, it's been a while!  What, you've got three now right?  Two?  My bad!  Cmon let's go out!  I heard this place is the bomb!"

The last thing I really want to do is hang out in some trashy room salon, the memories of my last encounter with DB still randomly make me nauseous.  But I know there is no dissuading the DB when he gets it into his mind to drag you out with him.  I'm able to convince him that we should wait before hitting the room salon:

Yeah bud, ok, but we should hit this other place up first.  I heard that it's a rocking spot and I'm supposed to maybe meet some folks there.  What say you?

This is a bit of a stretch, as the spot in question was hip about three years ago, and my real plans for the evening consisted of watching Pirates of the Caribbean with the girls while eating popcorn.  I figure if I can get him to a quiet neutral spot for a bit, get him to drink hard, he may be easily persuaded towards more subdued forms of entertainment.

My master plan is quickly derailed when the bar is fairly packed. It seems the new crop of recruits for EPIK and the newest batch of hakwan teachers all decided to hit the town and congregate at this one bar.

Alright mang this doesn't look too bad! Let's get our drink on!

Dirty runs the bar, attaching himself to any female that he lays eyes on. When one gives him the brush off or he knows his chances are near zero to score, he moves on to the next.

Yeah mang it's really easy to tell if she's ready to go, you know? I can usually gauge it with ten minutes, and that's hard earned experience let me tell ya! I don't want to think about all the nights and money wasted chasing some skirt just to go home with blue balls! Damn!

My reflections are interrupted when DB comes over and loudly proclaims:

Dude this place sucks! It's all feminazis and fag hags! Let's get the hell outta here! That room salon is calling!!

My heart sinks when I hear these words; I'm having a fairly ok time, and DB is not nearly as drunk as I'd hoped he'd be. But the fact is the bar is mostly a sausage party, with indeed very few women milling about.  Before I can try to convince him to either stay or hit a different bar, a couple of big bastards corner us against the bar.

Friend what did I hear you say about my girlfriend? Did you call her a fag hag? That is completely out of order and you should apologize.

DB's eyes narrow and he looks through the two guys. I've seen the look before, and I know everything is about to go bad. I try to jump in and defuse before these two guys decide to mop the floor with us.

Hey, guys, no problem here. My friend just broke up with his girl of three years, she dumped him for some asshole who is a doctor running his own clinic, so he's a bit out of sorts. Let me buy you guys a drink, there's no ill will here. We're heading out anyway.

Once I mention free drinks the two guys become three. I'll buy three beers if it means I can get Dirty Bird and myself out of there in one piece. DB at this point thinks it prudent to say

Yeah mang no worries not your fault you're attracted to fat painted whore fag hags. Different strokes for different folks, right? Let's have a drink and be friends!

What ensues is somewhat comedic: pushing and scuffling, spilling out the front door onto the street.  There are maybe 9 of us out on the street, with me trying to flag down a cab while holding DB back.  Luckily no punches are thrown and a cab finally stops into which I bundle DB and myself.

DB is laughing What a bunch of softcocks!  Did you see the look on his face?! Hilarious!  Yeah, that's not a bad spot mang, think I'll head there again sometime!  Now, let's get to that room salon!

Once out of the cab we wander everywhere trying to find the room salon.  DB stops a few folks to ask them if they'd heard of it, but most of them either scurry off quickly from the drunken loud waeg or have no idea what he's going on about.  His attempts to call the people who had told him about the place are equally fruitless.  Guess they know better than to answer the phone when DB calls after 11.

Finally after about 40 minutes of searching I propose heading over to the Family Mart and grabbing at least a drink while we formulate our next plan.  DB is now sour, and starts drinking soju straight from the bottle.  I sip a beer and listen to him complain about life, the world, everything.

He polishes off a couple of bottles in short order and then decides it's time to head down to the train station.  I'm about to bow out and head home when he takes a couple of steps and falls off the raised platform we're sitting on and hits the ground hard.

Luckily his place isn't too far away.  There's blood gushing from the side of his lip; there will definitely be a scar there later.  Seems the world decided that since he didn't get a richly deserved punch in the face, it would find another way to leave its mark.  I help him wash it out and wonder if I should take him to the hospital as he may need stitches, but he drunkenly waves me off and passes out on the bed.  I take this as my cue and leave.

Walking home, I wonder why I bother answering when he calls, especially as I could have just as easily received a smack or three tonight.  Must be the vicarious thrill of seeing someone act completely free, without restraint or thought to consequence.  Must be nice to be forever 18.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Pseudo-Intellectual!

Yesterday I had a rather weighty conversation with one of the interns.  It started with education in the US.   

He asked whether it is true that Asians do better in American schools than Americans and whether Asians succeed better than Americans in the US.

It is common knowledge that that per capita Asian Americans do better academically, and generally hold good jobs.   They account for a higher percentage per capita for admission to most of the top universities.  They are considered a model group.

So why do you think that is he asked.

I'm sure there are many studies that take a go at answering this question; from this layman's point of view, I would assume it's due to culture and traditions that place more emphasis on developing strict study habits from a young age and not engaging in behavior that could affect the reputation of the family or group.

So why did Asian cultures stagnate for so long?  How come the west became predominant?

I don't think there is an easy answer for that question, but as a guess, the same aspect of culture that is a strength can also be a weakness.  Maintaining face and following the dictates of elders can just as easily result in stagnation.  Strict study habits are only useful for producing good results if applied to material that includes more salient 'knowledge' than how the best rice comes from Ichon or that Korea has four distinct seasons.  The rulers of yesteryear closed their borders and became more inward looking.  When those nasty westerners showed up and forced the borders open, the game plan changed.

So in other words the west has precipitated its own downfall by forcing Asian countries to become more like them, mainly so western powers could make more money?

Er, yeah that could be one way of looking at it.  But you also need to consider the whole "White Man's Burden" thing that was common at the time.  Even though it could turn out that less 'developed' countries at the time would probably come to hate the imperialist western powers, it was still considered in the best interest of humanity to forcibly bring about change.  Force in the religion, medicine, ideas, since in the end it would be the best thing.  The ends justify the means kind of thing.

He stared at me for a while.

So why are you here?

Ha!  Originally, I never wanted to feel fettered and tied down to a soul crushing job, where I'd have to wear a suit and tie and do work that was ideologically repulsive, so I cashed in and went walkabout.  But now I work under fluorescent lights wear formal attire and find myself shilling plastic for a living.  Funny how things turn out sometimes, and funny how you can justify all kinds of compromise so as to sleep easier at night.

He shuddered.

Then it was time for lunch and we left it at that.

Friday, September 2, 2011

So many kinds of wrong

Silver carp Edition

Yahoos, rednecks, with a hint of racism

So many kinds of wrong.





Ocarina!

When I got home, the eldest was in her room alone with the lights on.  I peeked in to see what was up.

Daddy!  Daddy, my ocarina is broken!

I bought a nice ceramic one for her last year.  She doesn't play it at school anymore, but still uses it for our impromptu concerts and randomly picks it up when the urge strikes her.

Let me take a look sweetheart.  Yeah, I can fix that.

I took a nice strip of tape and put it back together.  Good as new hon.

She asked me to play it.  She was amazed that I could play great classics like Mary Had a Little Lamb and Do Re Mi, as well as making up random tunes.

Whenever I play something random on the keyboard or guitar, she'll teach it to herself within a week or two at best. 

Maybe I should start her on some Sabbath.  She's already got variations of White Stripes and Velvet Underground and some random stuff I made up.

Time!

The old adage: there are only so many hours in a day.

I read a lot during my vacation, but it was mostly silly stuff like history and maths.

I did enjoy Young Ha Kim's Your Republic is Calling You.  I read it in English.

I did get around to reading some of the waegsosphere I'd been saving in faves; I'll take a pass on most of that repetitive "I'm First to Report!" mentality.

There are only so many hours in a day.  And I should spend more of them to make buckets of cash.

The balancing act is a tough one when you try to sell yourself as a jack of all trades.

What's the point?

I got home near ten after an intense day.  I baked some brownies.  I thought for about 20 seconds on my fantasy football picks.  I drank a bottle of scotch.  I read some stuff that I'd already read before, and thought briefly about whether I should continue growing my goatee.  I'm far from being a hairy SOB.

I know I have to get up at a quarter to 6.  I predict Thursday nights are going to be my best opportunity for full on in the near term.  I should visit the old hand who has found his way to a hospital bed with pneumonia.

What's the point?

Does there need to be one?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dinner Party!

Last night I made the mistake of going out to one of June's church things.  It was some kind of big dinner the details of which are still scant, but I decided in the interests of healthy familial relations and social currency to actually make a rare appearance.

Usually I can get out of these kinds of things because of work.  My excuses aren't really bullshit; I do indeed put in 70-80 hour work weeks.  I suppose if I really needed to I could go to more events, but I get invited to so many that it's best to simply express regret and not go to the majority of them.

We sat at a table with some 'professionals'.  I shouldn't condescend, but it does get tiresome to smile and thank them for noticing my amazing chopstick skills or my amazing proclivity for eating kimchi.  I also sometimes develop a twitch above my left eye when I talk about the relative strengths and weaknesses of Korea compared to my country for the hundred millionth time.  I've got it down to stock formulaic answers at this point which leave everybody feeling good; I can embellish or add details as whim dictates to alleviate boredom, but knowing that these are the kinds of things I'll be talking about over and over again is further impetus to just avoid going most of the time.

Last night's conversation was actually more terse than usual: one man was insistent that I explain in detail what I do.  He found it hard to believe that a waeg was actually head of a department at a Korean company.  How are your skills different from a Korean's?  I thought they only gave visas to waegs that do work Koreans can't?

I amazed myself at how calmly and evenly I responded to this prick.  Well actually, I'm an F5 Waeg, and as a resident I have the freedom to engage in pretty much any work I want, as well as vote in local elections.  As for how I got the job over a Korean, a lot of my work is technically in international affairs, as I deal with most of the overseas requests and do double time organizing meet and greets when waegs come to tour the company. This requires insight into customs and traditions that take years to understand.   Also, I'm one of the tokens you see.  The company believes that in a globalized world, having a more international workforce allows them to be more competitive than if your workforce all comes from Seoul or Kyungsando.

He seemed unconvinced, and even more surprised that I could vote. 

I thought it prudent to excuse myself.  I hit the john, had a smoke, and went to sit with some parents of former students.  It had been a while and it was nice to catch up and to find out how their kids are doing.  One of the moms asked me about teaching, if I knew anyone.  I gave her the number of a friend and moved on.

June was not pleased that I wanted to leave as it was only nine, but I'd had enough.  I apologized to her and the table, saying I had a Skype conference call first thing in the morning and needed to be fresh.  We rounded up the girls and went home.

At least now I won't have to do another one of those things for awhile.