Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years

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

Friday, January 31, 2014

Mustang Bubble Butt!

Destination: in laws.  Mission: eat rice cake and beef soup, watch inane tv while grandparents dote on grand kids.  Anticipate reprieve when we hit the coffee shop owned by June's sister, as this will mean a cup of decent Joe.

Current location: plodding along a ring road at 110km an hour in a 60 zone, while most bomb pass us.  One car in particular catches June's eye:

What was that car? It's going very fast


It looked so ugly.

Well you know how it is:  sometimes you see a girl in the distance and she seems fine, but when you get close it's like burn it with fire.  Sometimes she may look very plain but when you get close she's actually pretty fine.

We get off the ring road and stop at a light.  The car is in front of us, a new Mustang.

It is ugly.  It looks like it has a fat 엉덩이

Well I guess the designers know that a lot of young American guys like the booty, so they made the new Mustang with a bubble butt.

The conversation ends there as we pull into the grandparents' house.  Let the inane tv punctuated by idiotic infomercials begin.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

John Stone!

Being an expat is not for most, and often in the process of sorting themselves out in their new challenging environment, people will be in a manner that some would consider strange or odd; this is great for the long term salty waeg, as they have more than a few stories of the fucked up weirdos they've met over the years.

But John was not a weirdo.  To the contrary: he was almost Mr. Straightedge America, save for the button down fly, Oxford shirt, and sports jacket: Mr. Contractor with the USFK, good heart, great salary.  John did like to imbibe, this is true; but as is the case with many a waeg who comes to Korea, it was something learned in the environment as opposed to an innate quality.  John was known as the soft touch who'd buy a few rounds or six, tell silly jokes, and be ready to take the piss out of himself as a means to defuse tense situations.  More than a few bar brawls were avoided thanks to John making a mockery of everything he was.

Well one day it so happened that John met a girl, a nice girl, a sweet girl; she had spurned more than a dozen potential suitors, and more than a hundred jackasses who approached with good time lines of what they could get for 5 dollars.  'Ice Queen', 'Lesbo', 'Cocktease' were some of the more frequent unflattering labels some tried to affix, yet none seemed to stick as it was easy to dismiss the lower specimens that used them.  This Korean woman exuded confidence and intelligence, a sense of someone unassailable if this was your goal, which kept most of the unworthy at bay.  She didn't frolic, or ask you to buy her drinks, or giggle.  That is, until she set her sights on John.

Now John wasn't an idiot, no one would think of assigning him this moniker; however he did have a good heart, and was open to finding someone of the same ilk, which was at the same time his strength and weakness.

Over the course of several weeks, many marveled at how John seemed close to breaching the unassailable wall, as the pair kept company more and more frequently; days trips turned into weekends, and when pressed to share peccadilloes amongst the guffaws of his compatriots as to how he had learned to carve stone, John would simply say she wasn't like that, nor could she be.  He was truly smitten, and many drinks were bought for the man amongst swine.

Weeks turned into months, and eventually John and his paramour began planning for the future: one night the condom broke, and several cycles of the moon passed clear, but for John this was something that seemed meant to be.  She had admitted humble origins, but John found this all the more endearing, so plans were made for an autumn wedding.  When a popular bar came up for sale, John stepped forward with his savings to buy it lock stock and barrel, as it would be the first of many investments to secure a future for his brood.  Papers were signed, invites were sent to the printers, everything was set.

And then the hammer fell.

First it was that John's phone no longer worked.  This wasn't so odd: perhaps it was just spotty coverage.  But when John went home, his key no longer worked.  He couldn't understand the grandma who tried to tell him the house was empty, but she opened the door anyway: the panic began to set when John saw an empty house.  When he went to the bar, there was a posse.  It took some cajoling, combined with intervention from more than a few soldiers and the MPs, to finally let John in.  But John was met by stone, and disdain.

What was said between John and her is a matter of conjecture, although it soon became common knowledge that John had invested his money in her name, and she had chosen the now cook as her partner.  John seemed broken, lost, as the drama unfolded.  It mattered little that everyone knew the truth, as the law clearly stated that John was in the wrong: waegs could not own small businesses at the time, and as everything was in her name, she had it all.  Many tears were shed: the baby had miscarried, everyone should understand her situation, she was poor, had nothing, had come to love another man.  Everyone get out!  Everyone leave!  This is my house!

While the drama played out between the two posses, John retreated to a small couch in a corner.  There he lay and closed his eyes.  When it was apparent that police involvement would be the next step, much effort was made to awake John.  But he did not move.  Just let him sleep a bit, you owe him that at least.  She acquiesced.  So he slept.

Days became weeks became months, but John did not move.  It became something of a local attraction, a cautionary tale.  The bar was still popular, as all his buddies kept checking in on him to ensure he was OK, and money spent would serve to establish revenue.  He rarely moved, rarely seemed to eat.  She mocked him from the bar: that?  It is only a stone, the head the hardest.  As his buddies were transferred out, others came and heard the tale.  But still he slept.  She did try to chase him out a few times, but it seemed that as everyone knew exactly what had transpired, and he did nothing to cause trouble even when the place was closed, and the new couple lived upstairs behind locked doors, no one tried to move him.  He was unassailable: no matter how the young bucks would try to goad him, spill drinks, draw crude penises on his face, he slept.  The next day he would appear unmolested, as if the couch nullified any of the proceedings.  After a time, most people no longer saw him, as he became like any other piece of furniture in the place.  It was as if the couch in the corner no longer existed.

He slept for near two years.  One day, he got up, and walked out the door.  No one knows where he went, nor did anyone ever see him again.  Shortly after, she left, leaving the bar to the cook; the base nearby had merged with Osan and the once bustling  tavern became a shell.  The cook tried to run it for about a year, but then he too disappeared.  It doesn't really matter what happened to any of them, as a stone does not tell time, nor cares.  What only matters are those who remain to tell the tale.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


As I've taken the last three and a half days off work, I'm somewhat of a non entity at work.  This happens to all those who go missing for a few days from the regular routine in the ROK.

During that time, one of my colleagues in the logistics department asked an intern what they thought of me.

Waeg?  He's very famous for his irreverence and anarchism.

When he relayed this message, I was out cutting dead trees for firewood for when the fam showed up at the campsite.  I have amassed a nice collection of logs that I'd split at work when they decided to landscape last summer, borrowing the chainsaw from the maintenance crew, and buying an axe.  Most of what I've stacked are good acacia trees.  However, I'd only stashed 6 good logs in the van, along with three bags of standard Korean firewood (8-10 thousand Won per 10 kg), which is basically a step up from kindling.  I burned through the lot my first night.

I could have gone back to work, signed in at the gate, and picked up more, but I was a good 2 hours away, and I had decided that letting the fam sleep through what I had that first night wouldn't be the best approach to having them decide to harden the fuck up on their own.  It was damn cold: yes, my sleeping bag in the morning was covered with a thick layer of frost, thanks to the moisture from my breath.  This isn't unusual when camping in winter. But my main goal was to provide a more controlled environment for their first real taste of cold and a lesson in logistical planning.  That and not give fodder to June to bitch me out for it over the next few years.

I'd spent the evening before sleep ducking under the noxious cloud from the fire pit, learning quick that despite the openings in the canvas, the lack of a flue left most of the smoke inside, chocking you once you stood up.  Cooking and eating would be impossible.  I knew well this would give June much opportunity to bitch about my planning abilities a good long while, which would not serve my girls: they should not learn that the best approach to life is to criticize the mistakes of others when you've done nothing to contribute, but more that you can't contribute due to a lack of experience; what is necessary is to think more about what exactly you've signed yourself up for, and what that entails.  Chris Rock says 'keep your daughters off the pole'; I say keep em from asking dumbass questions about living in Korea on Dave's ESL cafe and, and learning how to not only sort out the best way to skin a rabbit and cut carrots, but take advantage of the biggest encyclopedia known to humans: internet!  By god, I'll have them translate that basic outlook into how to work an axe before the liver cancer gets me!  Which is why all of this is a massive digression, but in for a penny, in for a pound I've heard said. 

As the place I'd chosen also had cabins available for rent, the opportunity for the girls to see how easy it is to become too dependent on bitching others out for a lack of preparation and vision as opposed to figuring things out for themselves was somewhat mitigated, as June wouldn't be able to talk smack about my inability to consider the welfare of my dependents if I squirreled them away in a heated cabin with electricity and the internet.  Still, I figured let's collect some wood for the girls to have a campfire and roast some marshmallows!  When June confirmed they were on their way, I went out and bought a space heater that looks straight out of the 80s; it did nothing to meaningfully warm up the shelter, so renting the cabin from the grandmother was a must.  She was very kind and decent, and turned everything on for it to be hospitable for when my brood arrived. 

June seemed to find lack with the grandmother pretty much as soon as she arrived, as she quickly realized that I'd covered all the bases.  One thing seemed to draw her focus: the grandmother asked us not to use the bathroom in the cottage, as the pipes had yet to be attached to a septic tank, but as the nice new washroom for the campsite was less than a hundred meters away, and had hot water on demand, this to me did not seem an issue, as the cabin was nicely heated and had internet.  June persisted and asked if the trick I'd shown her of dumping a huge pail of water down the toilet would work at flushing the one in the cabin out.  The grandmother repeated that no, it would not, as the pipes were not attached to a septic tank.  Oddly, June was afflicted with explosive diarrhea about an hour later, and asked me to drive her the 100 meters to the bathroom.  Are you OK, what is the problem??  She was fine she said, but 15 minutes later suddenly felt forced to use the toilet in the cabin.  Anarchy in the ROK!  FUCK THE SYSTEM!  I'LL SHIT WHERE I FUCKING WANT!! 

June found she was unable to clean it out after, leaving a present for the grandmother when she would go to clean out the cabin.  Even more oddly was the call I received at 2.30 AM Friday night from the grandmother, which I wisely did not answer, but all of this is a massive digression from: am I an anarchist?

So, my colleague's Kakao message: an anarchist.  I doubt the interns really know what the term means, as it is an ideal social structure for small communities consisting of enlightened members.  I remembered my younger days, how the term was often equated with a more virulent form of social destruction; if you were an anarchist, you were only interested in destroying the social order, were a communist, a punk, a fascist, all the negative -ists and -isms you could imagine.  We need to bring down the social structure man!!! to create a pure order of freedom!!!!  Fuck yeah!!  Fuck you I won't do what you fucking tell me!!!  I'll SHIT WHERE I FUCKING WANT bECAUSE YOU DON't oWN me MAN!!!

Tired by the vitriol and lack of substance, I spent considerable time studying what all those terms mean, for shits and giggles, when I should have been compiling results and data from experiments, all long before Wikipedia made it so easy to gain a cursory understanding.  So as an official statement in the here and know: I have come to know anarchism to be largely irrelevant to most when thinking how to organize larger groups of people.  It really is about individuals who are willing and able to contribute to a community while developing themselves fully; glory, self aggrandizement, leadership, are all traps that distract from full self development and the development of the whole.

Sadly, most seek self worth and self affirmation, sometimes through power or wealth, sometimes through being a gadfly.  For the majority, it is about seeking some response, a clear and obvious statement of how awesome or shitaculur they are, or the trappings of power in terms of how it makes their individual life easier.  Anarchism does exist in the context of the global village: the small communities that form based on interest and will.  Let's all meet at Comic Con 22 dressed as Pokemon Furries!!!! Fuck yeah!!! But these induhviduals often lack impetus when asked to confront the larger biases of self identity, as most are unwilling to ask the hard questions they know will remove them from their comfort zone.

Am I an anarchist?  No.  Most people are not enlightened enough to make that kind of
system work.  Even many of the enlightened have no idea what to do if really confronted with a situation where people will work at making a community prosper without letting their individual egos get the best of them, nor are most willing to sacrifice to ensure that everyone is even capable of understanding it in basic terms.  There is a reason why we talk about people like Gandhi or Socrates after all; they are so rare.  It is more fun to lord it above them all, as opposed to seriously engaging those they interact with, as the latter is too tiresome and not immediately rewarding.

Most political ideologies do not encourage the level of self reflection required to make such a system work for obvious reasons, as someone needs to shovel the shit.  We don't really care if you are happy or not, just on whether you will continue to shovel that shit; I don't want to do it, so I will encourage you to think that you should, and how much you should like it. We are living in a Brave New World, and there is no shame in wanting to be a bus driver or date entry clerk, especially when you've been encouraged all your life to think that this is your fulfillment in life based on background and life choices.  Don't let me get in your way, or live my life as an example of what you could achieve!  What with all the doge memes to make, and cat pictures to look at, life is full and contentment is easily achievable, so shut up, turn on the TV, and have another glass of wine.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

It's Damn Cold!

Being a good drone, planning for days off when there would be the least disruption and the most contribution to the betterment of Korea Inc. has me in the wilds of Gangwon province with a head full of liquor tempered by a warm fire.  Mind, the fire is having to mitigate the Scotch Blue and L lager.

The spot I'm at is the standard camping park: son doesn't want to farm the land his parents made.  Dad is dead, but eldest son represented by providing a source of income for his mother, save he won't grow rice as he is too busy in Seoul.

I did invest in a new shelter, space heater, and a couple of solid winter sleeping bags; this is this is first time I invite the fam out into the first real taste of the 'wild'.  Really knowing what it means to be cold lets you appreciate privilege on more than basic terms,  something I wish I could talk more with the grandmother who has let her son turn this land into a campground.  This conversation would come to how most contempory Koreans can't understand Han, as they are fat and lazy; they have no idea what it is to go without.  But what do I know?  It's damn cold! And I digress.

My goal with my brood is to share how most nomads know you shouldn't sleep on less than cardboard no matter the temperature as your bones will become too close to the earth, but then I've only done that a few times.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Self Policing!

A necessary component of any established expat community is the self policing and self censuring done by it's members. Most long term salty waegs are well aware of the crazy ideas locals have about waegs and their ilk, and it makes no economic or healthy sense to constantly prove those ideas true.  Thus when a member of an established clique is about to do something crazy, like put the moves on the 'hot' 청소아줌마 at their school, he is reminded that he is a young man, that he can do better, and that the 청소아줌마s are generally reserved for drunk old harabojis to hit on.

That said, most long term waegs talk of how fragmented and relatively new the expat community is in Korea. Korea has not been a first choice for most waegs until recently, and in the past a vast majority of the population was transitory. This has changed, yet the self policing and more importantly the self reflection of the waeg community is still nascent, as is an established sense of place and belonging common in other expat communities that have more longevity in their adopted environment.

However, this creates a situation where waegs, despite knowing that they should behave better, and regardless of the many years in country or the connections to family they may possess, occasionally do something reckless or self destructive.  A simple explanation would point to the aforementioned lack of a sense of place and belonging, combined with the knowledge that full integration is essentially impossible; yet this ignores just how cool it is to sometimes be unfettered from most social obligation.

This is known as making the stereotype work for you, since if the locals are going to think crazy things about you, and remind you of what they consider 'typical' behavior of your group on a regular basis, it isn't unfair that locals should occasionally 'understand your special situation'.  Thus if the waeg is insistent on putting the moves on the 청소아줌마, despite warnings to the contrary, you give him his space.  Besides, it could provide ample fodder for mockery when he comes to his senses later.

More study is required on the disconnect between waeg psychology and the willingness / ability to assimilate within society, beginning with parallels between the waeg and other expats.  Investigation of the crazy ideas other majority groups have held about minorities, and how the minority group responded as the community grew should provide ample fodder for rumination, essential to any breakthrough for the community. The waeg is generally quiet, with only occasional bouts of insanity; however one area that requires examination is how waegs murder at a higher rate than locals, slowing the development of the community as these crimes are likely against other waegs, thinning the numbers. Research is ongoing.

Waegs do seem to exhibit a similar characteristic to other expat groups, in that they are quick to criticize the host group, while being more forgiving of foibles committed by their own who acted against the advice and collective knowledge of their peer group, since they were 'stressed out' and 'no one understands (them) me'.

Given time and focus, it is expected that the waeg will find a place for his shattered head, and see through the illusions, take off their blinders if you will; however, those who expect quick results should consider that most other expat groups in other countries still experience problems, despite their more established nature; to expect more from the waeg ignores that the process must be given room to play out to achieve fruition.  In the meantime, it is well to note that the waeg community is involved in self policing, albeit in a limited and somewhat disjointed way, reflecting the reality of the waeg's special situation. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Dirty Bird: Slide!

Dude!  You've got to come meet up in the twon!  It'll be the bomb mang!  I promise you a night in Klown prison and an STI!  What are you waiting for ya softcock!  Hands on socks lets go!

Dirty Bird's missive does not go unnoticed.  But Waeg is sleeping, distracted, staring at a screen while listening to drunk Adjosshis argue outside the screen golf across from his pad.

He slides.  STI.  After his first, he's never gone looking for one.  She was pretty fine at 16, and had been straight about having chlamydia.  He being all of 20, and with what little he knew telling him that at worst he'd have to get a shot or swallow some pills, took the plunge.

Dude!  Why U No Answer?!  You aint's dead yet!  ITAEWON!!

The second message comes quick after the first.  Waeg doesn't answer a lot these days, letting most things slide.  He hasn't lost anything, it's just simply . . . away.

He slides.  Wikipedia is bringing him the same pages he's read a dozen times before.  He edits a few and moves on.

WTF mang!  Answer!  Let me know when you land so I can meet!  

He thinks about a call he got some time ago:  a friend who wanted to come to the Wonj, but Waeg sent him to Andong to meet.  Waeg remembers how the perp bragged about riding the train free, shoplifting from local stores, dissing all things Klown in front of Waeg's wife the first time met.  Waeg knows he could laugh, but it was over the top and the call had an edge that seemed bad chemistry, and Waeg thought of his kids.  It worked fine that night on the plan to Andong, as Waeg had to kiss much ass at a company dinner, and couldn't get away sober to drive south.  But the fact that Waeg hadn't answered his phone was unpardonable to the chemical brother, who ranted and raved the same as when Waeg wouldn't lend him money: I'll pay you back don't you want free interest???  For Waeg, it was more wondering what had made the chemical brother forget how to slide, something shared.  They no longer speak, but Waeg knows they never really did.

Waeg's phone rings.  He looks at it for a minute, and not for an instant does he entertain where he should be, what he could have been; only what has made him who he is.  Not answering would be simple, easy, but Waeg has already booked the last train, and is ready to slide.

Dude, I'm on my way.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Chili New Year!

Greetings all, Waeg here writing from the bowels of Gangwon province!

New Years Eve 2013 was a blast: a few families got together with some potluck, a pirate's horde of liquor, and put on a talent show. All the kids did a performance, with my girls doing a flute and singing duet. I also pulled out the old bass guitar, with all the kids banging on various pots and pans for percussion. A good time was had by all, although I should have left when I originally wanted: I was getting three sheets to the wind, but the hosts insisted we stay another hour and a half. Things got sketchy, and the next morning I was in a world of pain.

As I have largely recuperated, today I decided to make some chili: it has been a while, and about a week ago I found a bottle of cumin I forgot I had. Homeplus now sells kidney beans, so I threw a pile of hamburger, onions, celery, beans, a bell pepper, stewed tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper, chili powder, cilantro and a couple of fresh tomatoes in a pot and simmered it for a couple of hours. When it was done, I warmed up some taco shells and we went to town. It is delicious, although not quite as spicy as I'd like since I didn't want to steam out the girls.  I put half of it in the freezer for later.  Over dinner, the eldest was confused as to the difference between Arsene Lupin and Auguste Dupin, as she thought the former was created by Edgar Allan Poe, but the book she was reading said Maurice Leblanc; I cleared it up for her while ensuring her that Poe's character was way cooler.

Tired now. June is going off to Jeju by herself this weekend, spending a few days in quiet solitude; it should do her some good. I plan on being somewhat of a vegetable, as next week I plan on going winter camping and ice fishing for a few days.

Time for some 7Brau.