Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years

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

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'.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Morning AFter


Last night was a full on stupid fest.

The day started off with meetings In Seoul, then after dinner became all about 삼차

Not sure how I was able to crawl outta bed this morning to make it to the train, but I did promise to take the fam to the mountains today.

ok go home

Friday, March 14, 2014


Today I came into town and had lunch with my significant other.

We ate pig.  It was delicious.

The only blip was the pair of adjumma sitting across from us: one was trying to convince the other to join her church.  She said her preacher was touched, as he could see the evil in others.  Most Christians were deluded and easily led astray.  You should join my church and sign all your assets over, as this will be the only way to save your brood.

It was pretty messed up.  When June asked me what I thought, I talked about sheeple and how easily people are led to believe: seek contentment!  This is the true way to a healthy life!  For me contentment is for those who give up on life, or for those who have not imagined more than their home town as the center of the world.  And the broken, especially the broken.  People who try to sell you contentment are actually telling you to stop living, to give up striving, as you basically give yourself a pass for not moving beyond broken if you know you are.

For some reason, on the way back to work I bought another bass. I was passing the store, stopped, went in, and within five minutes walked out with a new bad ass bass.  I didn't question or think; it just seemed the thing to do.  Equally, I could question why I've been listening to this album over and over, as I know it will soon lead to Black Sabbath, a lack of morals, and Satan.  But no matter: bass!  Rockgoddom here I come!


Time for bed.  But first, maybe one more beer.  It's only 3AM after all, and tomorrow is pretty light.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


Waeg is out visiting an old friend.  He used to laugh at them for being too kangaroo, expecting money from their families despite being in their 30s with good education and children.  But the call he received was to be celebratory, as they'd recently received a prize in design, the second one in so many years.  They were moving up.

Waeg!  It is so good to see you!  How are you?  Good?  Good!  I've got to tell you, I should have received first in that contest!  Sure, sure, second is great, and I know I'll get many more contracts now, but I can't help but feel like Kim Yuna!  I should have been first.

Waeg pauses.  In his mind, Kim Yuna gave up the gold.  She could have earned it, but decided it just wasn't worth it.  In Korean society, if you always get gold, there will always be more than a few hundred thousand who will constantly scrutinize everything you do, and expect you to consistently be the best at everything.  As a Korean coworker told him years ago, you don't want to be at the top, since then you will be expected to do so much only to receive so little, with so many eager to see you fall.  Best to choose the middle of the pack.  Best to be mediocre. Best to simply incrementally add to trash and never suggest what should be done to improve.  Also, best of the best is to let yourself be beat by a waeg at a waeg rigged event, as you can coast easy street for years to come in Korea, as you'd been robbed by the awful, awful, waeg world.  Admittedly, Waeg has only extrapolated this last about the coworker based on said coworker's rants about living in the US, which does take into consideration that said coworker is generally considered a complete asshole, who has obviously spent little time thinking about Nietzsche and ressentiment. Waeg doesn't say any of this, he just asks and listens: so what happened? How was it you were robbed?

Oh, they just asked people who couldn't understand what I was doing!  They brought in people who only looked at the impossible promises made by the 'winner'.  When it came to the pure blend of design and environment I proposed, they chose instead the design that cannot even begin to be fulfilled!  Sure, the first place design was more daring, but the fact that it could not be done while mine was far more artistic is the true robbery!  None the matter!  This second mention certainly marks me as established!

Waeg congratulates, as he knows that this is true: his friend has represented. He raises a glass, and drinks.

Monday, March 3, 2014

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.

Today around the water cooler several colleagues were commenting on my new hanbok.  I actually like to wear them often, prefering more modernized cotton ones; I find them more comfortable and easier to take care of.  Some were joking about how I was becoming more and more Korean, when Mr. Nam laughed and said:  Mr. Waeg! You are Hamel!

A silence descended on the group as they seemed to sense that some boundry had been crossed and a storm was just over the horizon.  At first I thought Mr. Nam had said Hammington, but luckily for him I understood quickly that he was refering to the Dutch sailor who had been shipwrecked off Jeju island in the 17th century.  I felt my eye twitch as I asked:

Why Mr. Nam, do you say that?  Why do you think I am like Hamel?

You know Hamel?  You live in Korea and do like Korean, you are working for us!

Yes I know Hamel, I'm a nerd who often loves to read a lot.  So do you think I am a slave in Korea, working on Sejong's farm, being forced to stay away from my family and make muskets for the Hermit Kingdom?  Should I be planning my escape?  

Escape?  Haha no you will be here forever Mr. Waeg! You have good life and beautiful wife. 

Before I could stop myself, I felt myself say:

Well, that all may be true, Mr. Nam, but I am surprised you choose to see things that way.  You know, over the years, I used to laugh when people said I looked like Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, or some other famous movie star; this is the first time I get compared to Hamel, so that is something new, thank you!  Still, I find it interesting that when I read many Asian American websites, many writers chose to subscribe to a cult of victimhood, complaining how society in general forces them to fit very narrow ideas of Asianess, which demonstrates a lack of true understanding and overeliance on stereotypical views, limiting their ability to develop true agency and self identity.  But isn't it the same when you say this kind of thing to me?  Hahaha, no I choose not to think of myself as a slave here, not like Hamel, as I'd rather understand that I'm here because I choose to be, and that most Koreans understand this fact and do not see me as simply a charicature of whiteness. Why can't I just be waeg?  How would you feel if I called you Bruce Lee? Hahahaha

When I said this last, Mr. Nam became very indignant: Bwuce Lee? Bwuce Lee??! 
I think he may have been mad at how I compared him to a Chinese dude, or was perhaps upset that I knew who Hamel was, thus stealing his thunder by avoiding a lecture on how I should understand more about Korea, but I digress.  Before anything more could be said, break time was over and we went back to work.  But Mr. Nam is definitely still sore at me.

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?