Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years

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

Saturday, July 27, 2013


Friday night, Itaewon. After a long couple days of meetings, waeg is free and hitting the town with some of his favorite peeps. Food is on the mind, so he and a bud cruise up to some trendy Mexican hole in the wall to get some solid grub.

As they survey the menu, his bud muses out loud that there are no burritos on the menu.

Before waeg can respond, what appears to be a FOB SoCal gyopo decides to enlighten these obviously misguided waegs: no, he nearly sneers, this is an authentic Mexican restaurant: they don't serve burritos here.

Both waeg and his bud stare in disbelief. The bud is a NoCal native, having grown up around a lot of Latinos. When he states this fact to the interloper, he is met with nothing but a disdainful yet pitying gaze.

The two leave. The place is closing, and they have no time or garnishes for more orders. The pair walk down to chili chili taco and enjoy a decent meal.

Just remember: burritos are not Mexican. Mind, I'd have to agree with the bud who said this is akin to saying szechuan hot pot isn't Chinese food, simply a local speciality. While it is technically both, this knowledge won't help the poor burrito searching masses.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Today I sat around and did no work at all.

I spent the day looking at stoopid cat pictures on the internetz, and thought about as little as possible.

I used to consider this a coping mechanism: from time to time, you need to shut the brain off and not think too much.  Read some comics, play some games, look at cat pictures.  But these type of days have become too frequent.

An easy response would be: time for a change.  Stop doing whatever.  Get out of the comfort zone and live a little.

Save every time I've done that over the last year the results have been. . . dull.

I've got meetings up in Seoul on Thursday.  They'll work out that I'll be up in the evening in a nice hotel and then free most of Friday.  Maybe it's time to see if I can get my game back on.  Maybe I can find a cookie cutter wannabee who needs some encouragement. 

I'd say time for some Max, but I'm fresh out and the bottle of Jameson's calling my name has a camping schedule attached to it.

But then, not like I can't get another, and it does seem fitting what with that phony vid starring wannabee bog trotting mick bastards that's been getting the waegosphere all worked up the last couple weeks.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

You Tubin'

Any cursory glance at vids posted on this stoopid blog would see music tastes to be eclectic and varied.  Wouldn't want to disappoint:

Thursday, July 11, 2013


The youngest hasn't taken to first grade so well:  a while back she had what could best be described as an 'episode'.  She decided that what was going on in class truly sucked donkey balls, and when the teacher wouldn't let her do her own thing, she climbed out the window and took off.  One of the other dads happened upon her wandering and crying in the street, and when he brought her back the teacher at first refused to let her in the class: it wasn't her responsibility to constantly watch all 16 of her first graders, and since the youngest was proving too defiant, she would have to go elsewhere.

When I heard this from the dad (friend of mine), it was only thanks to June's pleading that I didn't immediately go down to the school and rip the teacher's head off.  June did have a point: if I went in and demanded an explanation, the youngest could find herself in a much bigger world of hurt.  I still can't get how a grade one teacher who has only 16 students can't find herself responsible for watching over her charges for about 5 hours a day, but I'm guessing it probably has to do with me not trying hard enough to understand her culture.

The youngest has always been a handful, always busy, always on the move.  Reminds me of myself, the dude who has the dubious achievement of getting kicked out of kindergarten for failing naptime.  I did once pick the lock on the bathroom door when the teacher was inside taking a dump, but I'm sure that had nothing to do with it.

When I was a kid I constantly needed new things, new challenges.  At the time, the term ADHD was just beginning to become trendy, so I was stuffed full of Ritalin, placed in a Montessori style class, and proceeded to 'adjust'.  I was lucky that my parents encouraged me to do many kinds of after school activities, and they probably saved me from a life of (serious) crime.  They also didn't keep me on the meds for long, as they didn't like the change in personality they saw.  So keeping the youngest occupied has been our focus for some time, but the vice principal of the school still insisted we get her tested.

The result?  Supposedly she not only has an IQ of 137, but is ADHD.  The doc recommended drugs and the equivalent of mild shock therapy.  When June showed the pills to me, I immediately squirreled them away and said a big NO to any type of therapy.  My view is that generally most ADHD diagnoses are horseshit: yes, some kids do need therapy and maybe meds, but they are generally the exception and have other problems.  It's just one way of talking about a certain personality type that is excessively active; prescribing too much medication will only cause more harm than good and is the easy way out.  If the environment the kid is in won't allow them the attention they need, move em.  Meanwhile, get the kid out running, swimming, focused on the diverse interests they have.

I said all this to June, the need for more diverse stuff to focus on and a more hands on approach to education in general.  If the teacher is a knob, we'll just have to try and limit the damage she can do, and make sure the youngest has enough to keep her attention.  She doesn't need all that stuff.  June finally accepted my view after attending a workshop in Seoul last weekend where they basically said the same.  Still, she is extremely anxious about the whole thing, and has recently started going to a more charismatic type of church, since it 'makes her feel happier than she ever has'.  Great.

This has been hard on both of us.  June has been bearing the most of it, hanging out at the school most mornings, just so the youngest knows she's there.  When I've secreted myself away from work to go, the youngest has been nothing but an angel.  Guess she knows that while daddy can be pretty fun and cool, he has a much lower tolerance for stoopid shit than mom does.

So the dilemma: the teacher insists one of us always be there, which of course is difficult at best.  June is talking about sending her to a Waldorf school up in Yongin; they'd move up there while I either found new work or stayed in the Wonj solo.  This does have some appeal, but then I do know the youngest would benefit more from having me around more of the time.  I'm wondering if maybe it isn't time to vacate Korea and head back home, as I know schools and teachers there are better trained to work with students who need different types of focus and attention.

The only up side so far?  I've got a nice prescription for Ritalin.  After talking to June, the doc figured I could probably use it.  I've been taking some for shits and giggles, but now have quite a number of extra doses.  They are certainly fun when camping.

Time for some Max.

Monday, July 8, 2013

American Dreamland~~!

The Dream of America!
Not too far from the Wonj is a depressing little theme park called American Dreamland.

It's been around since at least the 70s, and is a perfect example of the shift in tourism that has occurred in Korea: years ago, places like this would be seen as entertainment Meccas, since Koreans had very few options and a lack of perspective. The majority could not leave the country, so heading out to places like Chiaksan for a long weekend was considered a truly awesome experience.

This was made easier to swallow for most Koreans as they were generally brainwashed to think that the best apples come from Chungju, the best rice is from Icheon, and the best sunset in the entire universe can be seen rising over the East Sea. Why would you need to go anywhere else when the best of EVERYTHING can be found right here, right now??  If I were an apologist, I could say I understand the motivation of leaders to have people think that way, as domestic consumption needed to not simply be encouraged, but obligatory, in good mercantilist fashion.

With the opening of the country's borders in the late 80s, places like American Dreamland didn't stand a chance: why spend all that cash for a weekend at Chiaksan when for near the same price you could head off to the Phillipines, Thailand, or China, even if the place promised to give you a happy dream of that land of milk and honey, America? The end result is that dotted throughout the countryside are parks and tourist zones that are either closed, or look stuck in the 70s.  Even places like Everland, one of the most popular theme parks in Korea, have a kind of dated feel, stuck in a more golden profit time.  Despite that feel, we will go to Everland since there aren't many other options, and the youngest has been after me for more than a year as many of her friends have already been several times.

We went to American Dreamland many years ago and swore never to go again: at the time, not only did it look completely run down and unsafe, but the zoo it boasted was one of the more depressing examples of the human mistreatment of animals I'd ever seen.  Not only were the cages basic concrete slabs with rusting bars, but quite a few of the kids kept throwing all kinds of garbage, rocks, and instant ramen at the animals.  I got mad and started yelling at the kids, which didn't earn me too many friends among the parents, and we were asked to leave.

The girls and I decided to check it out last weekend due to a recommendation from a coworker: it seems that it has been trying to reinvent itself by not only improving the lot of the zoo animals, but by expanding the zoo idea into an English Village. Basically, piles of waegs are bussed in on the weekends to work the rides and generally walk around speaking English, thus giving little Minsoo and little Jiwon the opportunity to practice their English.

Not sure why the owners thought this would work, as every English Village in the country has been bleeding money since the get go. These types of villages were supposed to stem the flow of cash overseas, as tens of thousands of students leave the country every vacation to study overseas. Conservative figures I've heard place the amount of cash flowing out for education at 3-4 billion US dollars a year.  The figure is probably at least another 1-2 billion more.

Most of the workers were students who come up every weekend; many of them seemed nice, cool, and Russian. Not that it really matters as long as they can speak English, but also that the place was nearly completely empty.  They seemed generally surprised that a waeg was there with kids.  Maybe I was more surprised that we had actually come.

Where is everybody? Probably in America.
While I will admit the new facilities for the zoo animals are an improvement over what I saw many years ago, the zoo was still pretty sad. We did see several varieties of chickens, venison, and dogs, with even a monkey and a couple bears. The lioness was probably hiding it her cave, which seems reasonable as it was ridiculously hot on Saturday.

Most of the rides seemed unsafe, but we did go on a few which was enough to entertain my elementary school aged children. This was made more OK by the fact that since we were waegs, we didn't have to pay for admission or tickets. Or so they said at the front gate.  Whether this meant only for general admission or the rides as well was unclear, but I was more than happy to say to all the ride operators we were told it was free.  No one said a word about it, so the whole day cost us 5000 won: 3 waters and 2 face paintings.

We only stayed a few hours then trucked it back to the Wonj. Despite being free, I don't think we'll be heading up again any time soon. 

Time for coffee.

Friday, July 5, 2013

So many kinds of wrong

This week: how to edition!

So many kinds of wrong


Monday, July 1, 2013


Tonight I came home a bit earlier than usual (8:00 PM), to be greeted by June trying to push me into drinking a granular chocolate flavored gloop.  This will help you slim down, and quit smoking, and quit drinking!  It was created by Nobel prize winning scientists!

I looked at the container: "Mannatech!  With Ambrotrose and essential glyconutrients that will improve your quality of life!"

With that kinda pseudo-scientific babble, I had to do a google search.  It took me all of 3 minutes to sort out that it was a pile of malarkey, that the company had suffered huge losses from multiple lawsuits, that the company relied on pyramid sales to push their product, and that no independent scientific studies had proven increased cellular communication through the use of plant sourced saccarides.  I mean, just look at the former CEO in the pic: how could you trust anybody with a forehead that large sporting that cheesy insincere smile??

Apparently June got three containers of the crap for 12000 won, so it's not a huge loss.  But when I told her all this, she just said 'well, just wait and see if I become healthier!  Then we'll know for sure!'

So, um, despite what I've told you, you're still going to keep using this stuff even though it may actually cause you more harm than good?  But I left it at that, as I do indeed smoke and drink too much.

I got ready to get my rant on about how Koreans will buy any old crap if it has pseudo-scientific babble attached to it along with the words NOBEL PRIZE, but I remembered my grandmother: she constantly bought crap like that in the belief that it would help her lead a healthier life.  She also constantly went to a chiropractor, despite how often she could barely walk after coming back from a 'treatment', and ended up needing to use a wheelchair.  I always thought she really kept going because the 'doc' was a pretty good looking guy, and when you're old and sleep in a separate room from your spouse, human contact from anybody is appreciated.  Still, it did piss me off that she blew so much cash on stuff that was obviously not helpful.

Guess I should keep a more watchful eye on what kind of crap June brings into the house. 

Time for some lemonade.