:: Saturday, August 31, 2002 ::
:: Tuesday, August 27, 2002 ::
Korea, Day 75
A typhoon ate my umbrella.
Or more specifically, it chewed it up and spit it back out at me. It seemed to be mocking me, humiliating me for buying that cheap $2.50 umbrella the day before with the realistic expectation that it would last at least 2 weeks. The typhoon made sure my umbrella didn't see more than one sunrise. I guess that teaches me for buying an umbrella made with metal-coated twigs.
Sentient storms aside, yesterday was my last day at school. I spent the entire day with my classes playing a special edition of Jeopardy with "Insult Jacob" and "Jacob's Cat" as special categories. Of course, the goal of this game is to get them to make perfect English sentences. The content of the sentences is not that important. One of my favorite questions in the "Cat" category is, "How cute is Jacob's Cat?" Any answer other than "Jacob's cat is very cute" was counted wrong.
I took pictures of all the kids that were in class that day. A lot of them were absent however since some public schools started their first day yesterday, and they were forced to go to orientation. I also received a few gifts. One kid gave me some cookies. Another gave me a handphone accessory. In one class, every student wrote me a goodbye card. I really wasn't expecting this amount of affection from the kids, and it kind of took me off guard. So much so that I became depressed and defeated the whole day. I really was sad to have it be all over.
There was also a pay dispute the day prior. They gave me too much money the previous month by their own incompetence, and now they wanted it back. Why they put this off until the end of the month, I cannot say. I tried to claim I was worth the money. I tried to get angry. I threatened and I blackmailed, but in the end, I realized that I had no cards to play since I was at the end of the job and nearly the entire foreign staff was changing hands. Not that the money was a big deal, but working in this kind of environment makes you hyper-defensive. In the end, a simple "I made a mistake" and "Please" from the Korean management was all it took to convince me to not press the issue. It's amazing what simple shows of respect can improve the attitude of your foreign employees.
On Monday I'm going up to Seoul to visit a friend. Before that I'll try to do some partying since I haven't done that in almost a month. I also need to take a trip to the immigration office to see if I can get a one day extension on my visa. My plane ticket is for the day after my visa expires.
:: everist 1:17 AM [+] ::
:: Monday, August 26, 2002 ::
Korea, Day 72
I had a dream the other night about a consumer village. This was something like a retirement home crossed with Amway. You lived and breathed marketing, and you had discipline probes attached to your person that shocked you whenever you thought impure thoughts such as saving money. I was trying to convince somebody that they should leave the consumer village, but there mind had been so manipulated that it was futile to argue with them. This is probably a manifestation of my growing frustration with the malleable minds people have. Also, with my recent discovery that Amway exists in Korea.
I don't know much about Amway per se, but I do know that they're one of those companies that depend on salesmen to utilize their friends and family and spend their life savings to initiate capital. I do recall that Amway got busted for a pyramid scheme in which only the people at the top got rich and everyone at the bottom lost money and their lives were ruined. So Amway's sleezy business practices had to be legitimized in the States, but no so in Korea. In Korea they have fresh, gullible minds that they can strangle with their seminars, focus groups and guest speakers-- for which they charge a fee of course.
Amway is a lot like the Church of Scientology in which they fish for fragile minds as a source of revenue. They manipulate these people, make them think they're doing the right thing, add peer pressure, water and a pinch of guilt, and you have a willing working grunt who will turn over their time and savings to the company.
I'm just afraid that Koreans are going to get hit harder than the Americans were since they haven't had as much time to develop a well-trained bullshit detector as they did in the West. Why, the other day I heard about a scam in which children entered their parents' credit card numbers to accessorize their instant messengers-- accessories which cost essentially nothing since they're virtual items. Don't ask me how this works since I didn't care that much to research it.
Now some more pictures.
This is typical Korean countryside as seen from the bus on the freeway. Everywhere there is untouched hills surrounded in a sea of rice fields. Apparently, all hills are owned by the government which is why none of them have been developed as someone's summer cabin.
A misspelling on a CD stand at a rest stop on the freeway. You see lots of misspellings and incorrect grammar in Korea. You also see a lot of English that makes absolutely no sense. I saw a shirt yesterday that said, "Oh she is so where."
In Icheon, we visited the pottery villages. Korea still has a large market for handmade goods, and this town is packed with small shops owned by individual artisans. This is a particularly fancy one.
Also the same shop, but showing very unique pottery that was very expensive. This pottery was made by one guy who is the only one in Icheon that does it. His work sells from 1.5 upward to 3.5 million won per. I wish I could have bought one, but the price was just too high and the pots were so big that I could not have safely carried them home.
A smaller quainter shop that specializes in more common things. This one has a lot of personality.
The same shop but inside. Notice that the shop is packed and stacked with pottery of all kinds.
:: everist 10:17 PM [+] ::
:: Thursday, August 22, 2002 ::
Korea, Day 70
This weekend I was sick, again. I swear that I've been sick more times over 2 months in Korea than I've been in an entire year in the States. First I got some version of the flu that incapacitated and made me dizzy. That lasted for 3 days. Then I got a bout of diarrhea that lasted 2 days. Then I contracted an annoying rash that spread over my body and gave me a mild itch. That lasted about a month. Then I got more diarrhea this weekend which lasted about 3 days. What could cause so much sickness in such a short amount of time?
Probably sanitation is to blame. Although Koreans are generally clean and live in a clean environment, I'm not always certain that the food would meet minimum sanitation standards in the States. Another thing to blame would be the tap water. Although I don't drink it, I wash with it. Plus, most drinking water is purified tap water. One can only speculate on how well the purifiers work. Then there's the streets with their open sewers and nasty smells. I don't think I've come in physical contact with sewage, but the sewers might be a breeding ground for some kind of airborne microorganism that could cause annoying illness when contracted.
Despite all this, it is my last week of classes before I'm done. I'm kind of glad that it's almost over. Even though I have about 17 more days after I quit before I go home, I'm kind of anxious to return to the States and continue my work in academia. I'm also anxious to see my cat.
Before I get on the plane, I want to travel to Seoul and see the sights. I've never been up there, and I'd like to see a town larger than Pusan. My Korean might be considered provincial!
I had originally toyed with the idea of going to China while I'm nearby, but I've already gone over my allowed expenditures for my last trip. Any more and I'll be in the red. I'm going to break even on this trip between my expenses and earnings. I made just enough money to cover this entire adventure. The true cost of the experience was only the opportunity cost of lost money not made in a summer job in the States and lost time not spent doing something else. Not a bad deal!
:: everist 5:25 AM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, August 21, 2002 ::
Korea, Day 67
I had a dream last night that I came back to America and went to my parents house and saw that they had got 4 more cats. That's 4 on top of the 4 they have already which equals 8 cats. A couple of them had 2 tails and did not like to be pet. So I had to learn all of their names and figure out what their personalities were like. What makes this ironic is that my parents said that they didn't want any more cats and even refused to babysit my cat while I was away in Korea. I think this is my mind's idea of playing around with me since I've been thinking of my own cat a lot lately.
I gave out my test today. I didn't realize it, but I made it a lot harder than the last one. My last test was multiple choice, but this test had no multiple choice. To top it off, I disallowed having the story during the test which might have aided them. To be fair though, all the questions were pulled directly from the homework. If they didn't do the homework, then they I would find it very difficult to complete the test. I also provided extra credit to those who could answer questions about the story that were not in the homework but that we talked about in class. I also photocopied a picture of my cat into the test just for fun. I have yet to grade the tests.
I finally have some pictures.
This is the round bed in my room at the sleezy hotel in Jeonju. This was the fanciest place I stayed at however. If you look closely, you'll see curtains. These cover the window into the bathroom!
This is a picture of Jeonju bibimbap. Jeonju is supposedly famous for its bibimbap and this dish was 9000 won. Very expensive as far as bibimbap goes.
Jeonju is also famous for fans and this a picture from the fan museum/store. These are the traditional designs.
These are an alternate more practical design. This one happens to be very beautiful, so I took a picture of it.
:: everist 10:16 PM [+] ::
Korea, Day 66
My day seems to be endless string of events sown together with intermittent madness. The toxic excitement of Korea seems to be wearing off, and I'm drifting into a hallucinogenic stupor. This happens to me sometimes late at night and prevents me from sleeping or doing anything productive. It does not prevent me from writing however.
Thousands of helpless monsters run down a road, never straying from the destination, determined to reach the end. All the while they are constantly shelled and mortared, pounded to death by turrets and towers built by me. I am killing them. And I am doing this for fun. When they die by my hand, I get money. With the money, I buy more turrets and kill more monsters. It is a vicious cycle.
This is a custom game for Warcraft 3 that I've been playing a lot lately. Playing Warcraft is not a rational action, but a mindless consumption of media drivel. I have found that my impulses tend to play the cooperative, modified games and tend to stray away from the one-on-one action that is most popular. Something about me does not like confronting human beings without some kind of moral support. This is why I like playing the cooperative games against the computer. Those mindless monsters walking down the road, being pounded to smithereens by my towers of death, bring some measure of satisfaction to my impulses, but does not eleviate my boredom. You could consider it a lot like chain-smoking. Once you finish one game, you have to play another.
Speaking of which, maybe I should take up smoking. Whenever I sit down in the PC bang, they always place an ash tray next to my mouse. The tray has a piece of paper that is purposely wetted to make extinguishing the cigarette and absorption of the ash much easier. I never use it. But the ash tray is calling to me. It says, "Make me dirty."
It is late in the PC bang, and there are far fewer people. Some guy at another desk is playing some very loud techno music. Periodically his buddy over the webcam voices the lyrics himself while dubbing out the song. A truly surreal event when you're in the type of mood I'm in.
I just got done watching a movie called, "Breakfast of Champions". I had never heard of it before, but it was playing on television with Korean subtitles. Bruce Willis was the star while he had more hair and before he became an action symbol. The movie drew me in because it had absolutely no coherency. The characters were talking past each other, lost in their own worlds, barely aware of each other. They were caught in their own autopilot, frustrated, afraid and lost while things got more and more out of control. It was quite enticing, and I soaked it up like a sponge.
Oh God! The techno has turned into some remix of "Oops I did it again". Please no webcam singing! Nooooo!!!
I am walking up the stairs. I am determined to reach my destination. A stumbling, half-drunk Korean man is ahead of me and opens the secret door that leads to the bathroom. I ask myself, is he aloud to use that bathroom? Does he half permission? Does he live here? Why would someone put a bathroom there?
The lyrics sound something like, "Ziggy Bounce, Ziggy Bounce". I remember this from the DDR machines in the arcade rooms. Right step, left step, center step. Right foot and left foot together, jump 1 and 2. "Woot there it is!" Does this music never stop? "Nah, nah , nah. Can't get you out of my head"
I don't know what I'm going to do tomorrow in class. The kids finished the curriculum that I had planned for the entire week today. I have Thursday empty. Friday is a test and a game. I don't know what game I'm going to play either. Tomorrow I can do review, or I can do some sort of plan where I talk about myself all day. Of course, Thursday is not a good time for new vocabulary since they're already overworked by the Korean teacher and myself combined. Friday they have a test with me and a test with the Korean teacher. My curriculum is a lot harder than hers, but she does a lot of grammar teaching while I work on reading comprehension and conversation. We read very hard stories and then we do worksheets on them. We pick out new vocabulary words and study them. My test will consist of questions copied directly from the worksheets. I'll add a few extra credit questions of my own design at the end of the test.
I must sleep now. Here's a picture of my cat.
:: everist 8:22 AM [+] ::
:: Monday, August 19, 2002 ::
Korea, Day 65
My New Zealander friend approaches the counter after we've ordered our pizza. He clears his throat and adds, "One more thing." He abruptly puts his forearms together to form an "x" sign, and says firmly to the Korean standing behind the counter, who barely understands English, "No Corn!" This is the scene that repeatedly makes me laugh whenever I think about it.
I only went to get pizza with him twice and both times he did this. However, we went to Dominos both times, and they don't put corn your pizza unless you order it, unlike all other Korean pizza parlors. I think it was his adamant disapproval of corn, and his repeated insistence that it not be on his pizza that makes me laugh. It's too bad I haven't seen him in several weeks.
I've also been meaning to get the photos up on the web, but it's a painful process to do. I don't have my own computer connected to the internet, so I have to use other people's computers. I have to get my photos onto the computer using a Smart Card reader. It also only works on those that have USB ports. Then I have to use an image editor such as Photoshop to resize them from their gigantic 640k size, to a more manageable and downloadable 10k. All these steps and the varying circumstances for each computer makes it a complicated and arduous process. I promise I will publish some soon.
:: everist 1:23 AM [+] ::
:: Sunday, August 18, 2002 ::
Korea, Day 64
Hello, my name is Jacob.
:: everist 10:02 PM [+] ::
:: Saturday, August 17, 2002 ::
Korea, Day 63
I got home from my vacation yesterday and am settling back into my life in Pusan. School this morning was just like a typical Monday except I was a little more tired than usual.
I totaled it up yesterday, and I calculated that I spent approximately 750,000 won on my 5-day vacation trip. This includes bus fares, food, motels, and buying stuff.
To continue from yesterdays story, I was in the small folk village of Hahue, and I just found a place to stay at a "minbak" or homestay. The main occupant was an old lady of about 70 or 80. She did her best to keep us comfortable and offered to serve us dinner or breakfast for a small fee.
The room I stayed in was a pretty traditional room with only a floor and no furniture. The blankets were laid on the floor and a mosquito net placed over the blankets. This was quite handy to keep out the bugs since there were so many of them in the countryside. The bathroom was simply an outhouse 10 meters away from the home. The bathroom consisted of a hose and buckets that only ran cold water. There was a small, old-school television in my room, but it only received one channel.
The entire village is basically a completely preserved traditional village. All the houses have been around for at least a hundred years with only replacement repairs. It's a lot like a theme park except that there's real people living in these houses. Basically, the village of Hahue has been designated a Cultural Treasure and the people in it, Human Cultural Assets. This means that some people receive government stipends depending on what their value is to the Korean people.
The entire town is under a lot of laws too. The people cannot make modern modifications to their property. They have to preserve their property as well as their lifestyle. This also makes for some very interesting economic situations. Like I said yesterday, nearly every house in the village rents out rooms to tourists to make some money. People also run some restaurants, small convenience stores, and souvenir shops. Their economy is also very dependent on the season since their are hardly any visitors in the Spring or Fall, but many in the Summer and Winter.
The town also suffers from a lack of youth. All the people that live their now, are descended from or were living in the village when it was designated a Cultural Asset in the 70's. Most people in the town are very old people, mostly women. There are a few young people but not many. This makes you wonder what will happen in 20 years when most of these occupants die and their property passes on to their children who live in Seoul or some other big city. Are they even allowed to sell their property? As you can imagine, I think the government keeps the residents' hands tied, so they have no way of improving their economic conditions.
One of the most ridiculous things I saw while I was in Hahue was the house of a famous family. I don't remember the name, nor did I find out why the family was famous, but I got to tour the house, along with hundreds of other people. The funny thing is that the descendants of the family were relaxing and eating dinner while people were walking in their yard and taking pictures. I took a picture too, and the ridiculousness of it is something that should be seen.
The whole reason Hahue came under government protection is their mask drama. Hahue, for centuries, performed a play for the villagers using the exact same masks since around the 14th and 15th century. The reason this is unique is that in most other mask plays in Korea, the masks were subsequently burned after they were done. These masks were not.
The masks were sent to the museum in Seoul. The drama was reconstructed from elders who still remember its last performance in 1928. Finally, the entire town and its inhabitants were declared a cultural asset. One of the main economic actvities of inhabitants of Hahue is making replicas of the original masks. Some are very small, some are very big, some are made from the original alder, while others are made of more practical pine. Most are handmade, but some are manufactured. There are several stores dotted all over Hahue with masks made by many different artists.
One of the pecularities about the artists is that the elders are barely known and the younger newer artists have the reputation. This is partially because of the relics of the class system from the Josung Dynasty. Artisans were all low class and therefore were worth nothing. The old artisans never put their name on their masks because they didn't consider themselves worth promoting. The young artisans later decided that it might be a good idea and started gaining a reputation while selling masks at obscene prices. It's kind of sad that the old, experienced elders become forgotten while the new generation gets all the credit. But when you look at it, they're all just copying the original masks. There is no room for innovation or creativity, so these people can be considered in the same category as scholars of Confucian classics, slaves to the past and hostile to anything new.
I also had my favorite Korean dish, Andong Jimtak at Hahue village. It tasted a lot like it was homemade, and it was since it was served at someone's house converted to a restaurant. It wasn't as spicy and didn't taste quite as good as it does in the restaurants in Pusan. This is surprising since Andong is where Andong Jimtak came from. But I suppose the poor facilities in Hahue can be partially to blame.
:: everist 10:23 PM [+] ::
:: Friday, August 16, 2002 ::
Korea, Day 62
The cheap motel room I was talking about 2 days ago turned out to be a very uncomfortable experience. Perhaps my brooding over all the shortcomings and the lack of ventilation contributed to my feeling of claustrophobia. The room was pitch black at night and the air was stale. I was worried that if I fell asleep, I might die from asphyxiation or something. It also contributed to a feeling of loneliness and depression that was difficult to shed. The television in the room was an unexpectedly welcome friend.
After waking up very early at 3am and lingering until 7am, I left to catch my bus to Andong. I had one destination in Andong and it was Hahwae village about 25 minutes out of town. When I exited the bus terminal in Andong, I had an offer from a taxi driver to take me to Hahwae for the low low price of 22,000 won. It was quite preposterous, so I elected to take the periodic bus. I had about an hour until the bus came, so I strolled around the streets dragging my luggage behind me.
One Korean city looks much like any Korean city. You have the same shops, the same market peddlers, taxis, buses, and the same multi-story buildings. When you're walking around the town carrying luggage and looking like your going somewhere, you get a lot of eager honks from taxi drivers wondering if you need a lift.
The use of car horns is very utilitarian in Korea. In the States, it is usually a means to express rudeness or one's displeasure with another driver. In Korea, it is used as a means to call attention to oneself. Bus drivers commonly honk to pedestrians or other cars in the road to let them know that they're passing through, and they should be wary of getting hit. It's not rudeness, but courtesy.
So the bus came and took me to Hahwae village. The first thing I did was watch the Andong mask performance that started at 3pm. This is an old play involving music, dancing, and acting. It's a satire criticizing the class system in the Josung Dynasty, among other things. The whole thing was in Korean, so it's difficult to follow what's going on without help. The best part is when the dancing cow comes out, endowed with a huge penis and testicles, walking around the arena and periodically pissing on the audience. Every character in the play wears a traditional mask, and each player dances in a particular fashion that is very fitting for the character. I will have to show pictures of the masks later.
After this, I went into the village which charged an admission of 3000 won. Strange is it not? I immediately became suspicious of what this place really was. The first thing that happened to me was I was hounded by an old woman of about 70 or 80 asking me if I needed a place to sleep. I turned down her offer since I didn't want to commit to anything when I just got here.
I later learned that there are a few people in this village who get referral fees if they find a tourist to stay at a person's house. Homestays are called "minbak" in Korean and the town was full of them. The first priority was to find a minbak to stay at and drop off the luggage. So I aimlessly wandered through the village until I was off the beaten path, found a house that advertised minbak, and asked for a room. The price was only 20,000 won, but I paid 25,000 won to get the larger room.
Sorry, but I have to go now to catch my bus back to Pusan. I actually missed the first bus by standing at the wrong stop, so I've been killing time in PC bang until then. I'll finish my description of Hahwae village in my next installment.
:: everist 5:38 PM [+] ::
:: Thursday, August 15, 2002 ::
Korea, Day 60
This morning, waking up in Icheon, I took the bus to the Moga Buddhist Museum just out of town near Yeoju. This place was really out in the middle of nowhere. Lots of countryside, rice fields, and old buildings. The buddhist museum was basically a large courtyard filled with numerous sculptures and a large 4-story building containing more interesting statues and artifacts, along with a fully stocked souvenir shop.
A lot of the exhibits were contemporary crafts made by the owner or several of his associates. There were many old-style crafts but also a lot of contemporary art which looked a lot more like postmodernism than religiously-motivated art. Of course, there were a couple shrines, one of which was devoted to the father of Korea, Tangun. It's common with temples that you are not allowed to take pictures inside. This is unfortunate for me since I'd like to show you what they look like.
The museum also had its own restaurant which sported Buddhist monk cuisine. Again I had bibimbap, but this kind was made mostly of mountain vegetables instead of the lowland vegetables I'm used too. I also ordered a traditional alcoholic drink called dodongju. It was actually called kogcha on the menu which literally means "crop tea". Apparently this is a purposeful subtlety because drinking alcohol is not allowed for monks. Instead they called it tea, so they didn't feel so guilty. The drink itself was a lot like rice milk except it had a sweet alcohol taste to it that was quite good.
It was bound to happen and it did. Some of my pottery broke yesterday in transit to the yeogwan I was staying at. Specifically, a tea cup and another tea accessory. I could be partially to blame, but probably most of the blame is on the person who sold it to me. The lady wrapped the pottery in newspaper instead of any kind of good insulation, so it was only a matter of time before something cracked in transit. This accident has prompted extra measures to protect the rest of the pottery. A towel and pieces of my clothing have been added to the insulation, and those that could safely be done so, were laid safely to rest in my luggage. Those that were too fragile for my bag remained in a gift bag that is carried around separately.
Perhaps the logistical problems in transporting arts and crafts around Korea in buses only occurred to me periphally when I started out on this adventure. However now, I am realizing that a car would have made my life 10 times easier and allowed me to buy much larger things. But I just don't trust cars enough to do so. A couple of things today somewhat vindicated my sentiments.
When I was standing at the bus station, waiting for my bus to arrive, another bus began pulling into the parking spot that I was standing in front of. I was standing on the sidewalk, feeling very safe. However, the bus was coming in at around 15mph and showed no signs of slowing its approach. So I instinctively began walking backwards afraid that the bus was about to hit me. The bus went from 15mph to 0 in less than a second and stopped a little over a foot from where I was standing. The front rim of the bus was well over the spot that I was originally standing at. Imagine yourself standing on a train track leading into a stone wall. You have 3 feet behind you to the stone wall and a train is swiftly approaching you. Now imagine that train stopping an inch from your face right before it squished you against the wall, and that's how I felt.
I finally saw a traffic accident today. This is the first time I've ever seen a traffic accident in Korea. It was not pretty. It involved a normal sized car and a moped driver for Dominos Pizza. As you can imagine, the moped driver got the short end of the straw in this gamble. The man was simply lying on the street, motionless, while the occupants of the other car patiently waited for presumably the police or an ambulance. I didn't know if he was dead or not, but there was no blood on the street, the man was still wearing a helmet (a rare sight among Korean motorcyclists), and the man was lying only 2 or 3 meters away from where his bike was wedged under the car that hit him. I only saw this scene briefly from the bus I was in, so I'm only describing this from 5 seconds of observation.
Finally, I've arrived here in Chaechun, an intermediate stop on the way to Andong. There were no direct buses to Andong from Icheon, so this is where I'm staying for the night. I'm catching the train to Andong in the morning. I'm actually staying in the cheapest place I've ever been in. For only 15,000 won, I get a small room, with a bathroom and small tub. Barely cleaned, no bed, the blankets have funny stains on them, the toothbrush from the last tenant is still available for my reuse, no fridge, no airconditioner, and more importantly, no ventilation. So the room's air is pretty stale and the smells from the bathroom carry into the sleeping room. These are the kinds of places that US immigrants stayed in the early 20th century in New York. Whenever there was a fire, the results were disastrous. Many of the occupants died from suffocation before they ever saw the smoke because of the lack of ventilation.. Exciting is it not?
:: everist 4:47 AM [+] ::
:: Monday, August 12, 2002 ::
Korea, Day 59
I've been on the road a couple days now. I left Pusan 10:30pm Tuesday night. I headed for Kwangju and didn't get there until 3 am. The reason I went to Kwangju was not for sight-seeing, but I needed to go there first to catch the bus to Tamyang.
The weather was pretty rainy and motels were nowhere in sight. I brought my new REI luggage case which was actually very large and cumbersome. It has wheels, but I forgot that there was an extendable handle beneath one of the zippers. As a result, I was pulling the thing around while hunched over to keep it on its wheels. Needless to say, this was very uncomfortable and doubly so because it was raining.
The first yeogwan found was the one I stayed at. It cost 30,000 won for one night, no bed, and lots of blankets. It was a fairly fancy place even though it was small. The price was a bit inflated, but I suppose that's all you can find this close to the bus terminal.
I hopped on the bus in the morning to Tamyang, a city famous for its bamboo. I came here specifically to see the bamboo crafts and buy some good quality bamboo stuff. I took the taxi to the bamboo museum which coincidentally had the only bamboo market place in town. There were lots of traditional crafts and antiques in the museum, but there was nothing of real value in that museum. Nothing that was over 100 years old anyway. The shopping was far more exciting. There were lots of things ranging from bamboo rugs, cups, and beating sticks. There was actually a wide variety of sticks used for violence. One type was used in the Buddhist temples by the monks for students who fall asleep or doing something wrong. Another is typically used in schools. These sticks are actually called "Love Sticks." I bought a couple and thought I'd take them to my class on Monday to see how my students react :).
After shopping and getting soaked, I hopped on the bus and headed for Jeonju. This is a town famous for bibimbap, a vegetable rice dish that I'm quite fond of, and fans. It was also the host of some World Cup games, so the place is a fair tourist town. Arriving in the evening, I partook of traditional bibimbap, did some walking in the lotus garden park, and finally fell asleep in a sleezy love motel. My room had a round bed, a continuous porn channel, a free selection of porn videos, a giant mirror on the wall, and a huge window into the bathroom. This too was only 30,000, and it was certainly a much better stay than the previous yeogwan.
In the morning, I went to a traditional folk village transformed into a tourist trap. There were shops there that were actually crosses between museums. They displayed crafts of all types, some of which were for sale, and some of which were not. It sounds like a great marketing strategy. There were a couple shops devoted to fans which had absolute masterpieces for only 2,000,000 won and cheaper, smaller, quainter imitations for only 5,000 won. Fortunately, I was self-restrained enough because I already bought a couple fans in Tamyang. I didn't needlessly waste my money.
It was around this time that I realized that my travel luggage had an extendable handle which improved the quality of my vacation by 4-fold. I no longer had to hunch over when walking with my luggage.
After Jeonju, I headed off to Icheon, a town famous for pottery. I got here around 3:30, found a yeogwan for 25,000 won, and headed off to the pottery village. There is actually a section of town where only ceramics craftsmen live and sell there works. I believe they sell almost exclusively to tourists, but I find this very difficult to believe since there were so many small shops scattered about the village. Because the quality and beauty of the pottery was quite startling, and the fact that anything like it in the States would be 10 times the price at half the quality, I quite literally lost control and spent almost 80,000 won on varied pieces of pottery. Unfortunately I had to settle for smaller, cheaper pieces of pottery since some of the more amazing pottery is upwards of 3,000,000 won and the size of half my body. Transporting this back to the US via plane can be a dangerous, stressful, and frightening experience. I had no choice but to avoid the large pottery.
Luckily, I walked off the beaten path of pottery stores and found a good store that sold similar pieces to all the other stores at half the price. I was able to get some Goryo Dynasty style pottery for only 34,000 won. Equivalent pottery in just about every other store would cost 70,000 won.
So I bought an obscene amount of ceramics, and I'm wondering if I overdid it a little. Pottery is still cheaper here in Icheon than it is in Pusan. So I feel justified in buying all the little things I did.
Tomorrow I go to the Moga Buddhist Museum which is about 30 minutes away. I'm not sure what I'm going to find, but maybe I'll find some more collectible crap there too. I really hope not though.
:: everist 5:03 AM [+] ::
:: Sunday, August 11, 2002 ::
Korea, Day 57
I wrote up evaluations on Sunday, distributed them Monday, and gave the Korean translations today. Normally, report cards are only sent out once a month, and the foreign teachers only have a minimal involvement in the process. I felt it was necessary to give my own evaluations 2 weeks early since I wanted to see my kids improve, and I wanted to see them do it while I was still their teacher. Next week is my last week, and if I waited until the end of the month to give report cards, the effectiveness of those reports would seriously be damaged.
So evaluation consists of 2 grades, followed by my own comments. Let me give you a couple examples. (Note:The English nicknames have been changed to protect the privacy of the students.)
"Natasha is a good student and good at doing work, but she seems very unhappy and unenthusiastic in class. I have a difficult time getting her to participate in class, so her listening and speaking skills are not as good as they could be. She is good at written work, but not good at following the conversation in class. If she paid attention a little more in class, her skills would greatly improve."
"June is a good student and well motivated. However, her test turned out unexpectedly poor. Judging from her performance in class, I believe this is only a fluke and that the next test will be substantially better. I am not worried.
"My main concern however is June's inability or unwillingness to speak loudly. I have a difficult time hearing her in class. She needs to be able to speak louder otherwise communicating with foreigners will be virtually impossible. English is not a soft-spoken language, and Betty needs to learn to speak with more conviction in her words."
"Ted has a difficult time doing his homework and studying. He also does not pay attention in class, so his ability to speak and listen seriously suffers. Franklin's listening and speaking skills could improve if he put more effort into his studies.
"Ted does not focus in class and is very disruptive to the other students. I have had to discipline him numerous times for disrupting the class. He also persists to make rude comments to me in Korean. This behavior needs to stop."
Tomorrow is the start of a 5-day weekend, and I'm taking the opportunity to tour around Korea. I plan to do a lot of gift shopping on this trip, so I'll keep you posted.
:: everist 10:42 PM [+] ::
:: Thursday, August 08, 2002 ::
Korea, Day 56
Still raining. In fact, it's become quite cold. So cold in fact that I woke up with my blanket completely covering my body and shivering a bit from the fan. Of course, it's still a bit warm, but it's drastically more comfortable than it was a week ago.
I've become quite used to taking cold showers. When I first moved into my yeogwan, the water was intermittently warm, but now it's always cold. I wonder if they gradually turned it off on purpose to conserve energy. Of course, the American in 201 can't complain since he doesn't speak any Korean.
I don't really mind though. On those warm summer days when you're sweating up a storm, taking a cold shower is actually quite nice. It's a terrible relief from the sickening heat. This morning however was excrutiatingly cold. It's been cold and raining for almost 6 days now and that has drastically reduced the temperature of the water. So this morning I felt like I was skinny-dipping in glacier water. It's amazing the capacity one has for shouting a continuous stream of swear words while dousing one's body with frigid water.
:: everist 10:50 PM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, August 07, 2002 ::
Korea, Day 53
It's been raining now for about three days straight. Consequently we've received some much needed relief from the blistering humid heat. It's actually starting to feel a lot more like home back in Oregon. There we have lots of rain and lots of cold weather. I'm quite at home here, although I still don't think I could use my trenchcoat because I'd still end up sweating in it.
I'm administering tests to my kids today. It's actually a very difficult test, but there's no reason why the majority of them don't get at least 90%. I basically took questions right out of the homework we've been doing for this week. I even told them that I'm giving a test based on the homework. Sadly, my average is about 70 with a few outliers scoring 10%. The people who get low scores are the ones who did not complete their homework enthusiasticly. "Enthusiastic" was actually one of our vocabulary words that about 75% of my kids got.
I basically have 10 questions, each of them 10 points each for a total of 100. 7 are multiple choice and 3 are fill in the blanks. Most students were smart enough to attempt every question, but a couple students left half of the test blank which severely hurt their score. One or two students managed to get the wrong answer with amazing accuracy and consistency in nearly every question.
I'm worried about my last class though since, as a whole, they scored the lowest on the homework. They are my next class, and they still need to take the test. Yesterday they did so poorly, I took advantage of extra time to review the vocabulary words with them. I hope this will help.
Of course, one of the factors that works strongly against my efforts is students' peers. The amount of friends and distractions in class seems to be proportional to the rate of a student's performance. My class with the least amount of students performs the best while the large classes tend to suffer more. A couple students tend to be catalysts for disrupting the whole class. They don't do much by themselves, but they elicit behavior from the other students that tends to really compromise class focus.
So now I have to figure out what I'm going to do with these scores. The scores in and of themselves are not that useful. I have to wield them in such a way to encourage, inform, and motivate my students to do their best. How do I best go about doing this? I have some really low scores, and I'm not quite certain how to handle failure. I really don't think students deserve to fail per se, but I believe that they could do substantially better than they did. So how do I approach this delicate issue with 5th and 6th grade students?
:: everist 10:46 PM [+] ::
Korea, Day 52
In my English classes, kids always want to play games instead of studying. Although this may sound selfish, Korean kids generally study several hours a day, and asking them to do homework is not really possible. They first get instructed by the Korean teacher for an hour, then I step in and instruct them for an hour.
A foreign teacher's hour is seen as a time to not work as hard and play around. Over the past couple weeks I have been giving them extremely difficult assignments to do with very little game playing. They whine to me nearly every day, but I've been told that's a good thing since they supposedly respect me as a teacher.
I have this one class that has gone to great lengths to convince me to play a game instead of studying. The first thing they tried was tell me that it was one of their birthdays. Since that didn't work, they tried to claim that it was my birthday and that we should have a party. They've pressed me on this issue for several days. On Tuesday they decorated the room with birthday signs and gave me a paper present with a card inside that said happy birthday. Of course, I didn't budge on this either and they were disappointed. Yesterday, they brought balloons and threw them in the air when I walked in shouting "Game Day!" Today they didn't do anything except whine a little and do their homework. However, they finished much earlier than I anticipated and we spent the rest of the time playing Scrabble.
With nothing better to write about, I thought I might show some pictures.
This is a standard issue eel tank in front of a restaurant. These guys spend most of their time hiding under each other until they get put on the cutting block and filleted.
This guy is biding his time, waiting for his date with the frying pan.
I also got paid on the 1st. This is my monthly salary of 2 million won. 10000 is the highest denomination bill and people always get paid in cash here. No checks and no bank transfers. Now I have to figure out what I'm going to do with this money until I go home.
I also discovered a newer improved version of Dance Dance Revolution called, Para Para Paradise. The distinguishing feature of this is that you can also use your hands as well as your feet. These kids were going through these elaborate dance moves that they must have learned on television. The moves they were performing looked very little like what the machine was asking for. Strange.
This is one of the movie theaters in Seomyeon that I went to. Every movie theater I've been to is fancy and expensive looking like this and they're always in a mall. Here I watched Minority Report.
Finally, I thought I'd show you a picture of yours truly. This is me sitting in a bar after I had a couple drinks.
:: everist 10:34 PM [+] ::
:: Sunday, August 04, 2002 ::
Korea, Day 51
Okay, it's like 10pm now and I'm wasting my time away in the PC bang. Just a second ago a Korean voice jumped on everybody's computer speakers and said something unimportant. Quite eerie hearing it reverberate throughout the PC room from different speakers at different volumes.
Right now I'm debating whether I should order some ramen or just skip dinner altogether and go to sleep. I'm up later than I usually stay. At 10pm I usually go to sleep, but right now its 10:11pm. I just started writing this entry, so I don't know how long that will take.
Today I helped a poor newbie Briton adjust to life in Korea. He may end up working at our hogwan full time, but right now he's a temp. It's kind of fun actually. It makes me feel like I've come full circle. I've gone from the naive foreigner from America to the savvy street-smart English teacher. Really, there's nothing fancy about it, but it makes me realize how much I've learned since I got here. I can read Korean, speak enough to get around, consume Korean food without puking, and survive without wasting my money on morsels of Western food.
My mornings are becoming increasingly more difficult. I set my alarm for 7am, but I never get up at that time. I always reset my alarm and sleep just a little longer. Every morning, the "little longer" gets longer. This morning I slept until 8:30 and my first class is at 9. I simply threw on a shirt, skipped breakfast and a shower, and hopped on the subway. Quite pathetic actually, but I'm afraid it's going to get worse and worse. I have no desire to wake up in the morning. Things have ceased to be interesting enough to look forward to. Now I have to fool my body with promises of cereal and bread in the morning. Albeit, false promises since my bread got moldy and I ran out of corn flakes.
Starting next Wednesday, our school has 3 days off followed by the 2-day weekend. That's 5 days in which to do something exciting. I have a really cool vacation planned where I'm going to tour the country. I've made a strong resolve to avoid tourist traps and resort towns. Instead, my tour has been based on visiting towns famous for one particular craft or another. I plan on purchasing and collecting a sample of the craft from each particular town.
3 towns I can remember off the top of my head are Andong, Ichun, and Tamyung. Andong is famous for its mask festival and masks. They have a show every weekend, and I plan to arrive around that time. I also want to buy a couple masks if I can. There's some stupid imitations here in Pusan that they hand out for free, but I want to see the real deal.
Ichun is a town famous for pottery. I'm not sure if the pottery there is any better than the pottery you see in the traditional tea shops in Pusan. I want to bring back some pottery and it would be cool to say that I got this pottery from Ichun, a town famous for its pottery.
Finally Tamyung is famous for its bamboo. There's a number of things that I could get here like fans, bamboo rugs, and other things bamboo that I haven't thought of yet. The fan I have right now is made from low quality bamboo. I hope to remedy that.
2 more towns that I can't remember off the top of my head are a place famous for its bibimbap, a rice-vegetable dish that I'm quite fond of, and another place famous for its fans.
I was originally going to go to Uljin and Kumsan famous for amethyst and ginseng respectively, but then I asked myself, what am I going to do with amethyst and ginseng? Amethyst is easily bought in rock stores back home, and ginseng I wouldn't know what to do with. Koreans use ginseng, but I just don't see the point. Besides, if I really wanted to buy ginseng, there's a ginseng store close to where I work.
:: everist 6:11 AM [+] ::
:: Saturday, August 03, 2002 ::
Korea, Day 49
August 30 is my last day of work. My plane leaves on September 17. I have approximately 16 days in which to fill. Hopefully I can plan on doing a bit of traveling. Last week I investigated the possibility of traveling to North Korea, but alas, it was not to be.
I had hoped to visit one of the last few true Marxist states and tour under the watchful eyes of the government. I wanted to see the other half of Korea that's been in isolation for 50 years. Sadly, North Korea is not issuing tourist visas to Americans at this time. What with Bush's "axis of evil" and all, this is a bit understandable. If I was Canadian or Australian, I probably could get a visa.
Tours in North Korea are very interesting. At all times, you must be accompanied by a guide. Foreigners are not allowed to wander around aimlessly. They do their best to answer your questions and make sure you don't get into trouble. If anything does happen, its not you that gets into trouble but the guide himself. An interesting shift of responsibility that I don't quite understand.
You also cannot disrespect the late Great Leader Kim Il-Song or his son, Dear Leader Kim Jong-il. These guys are elevated to god-like status. They are superior to everyone and everything and will not bear criticism. In fact, all citizens of North Korea are nothing, and if you attempt to compliment them overtly, they will get offended or even afraid because they are nothing in the shadow of the Great Leader. Did you know that Kim Il-Song is the greatest man in history?
So now that North Korea can only be observed from afar, I must turn my eyes to other vacation opportunities. I want to visit Seoul for a couple days then I think my next destination will be China. However, I'm a little overwhelmed by the size and opportunites of China and the very little time I have. Where should I go? What should I do? If you only had a week in China, what you spend it doing? Should I see the Great Wall? Should I visit the Yangtze? Should I go for a cosmopolitan adventure in either Beijing or Shanghai?
:: everist 10:17 PM [+] ::
:: Thursday, August 01, 2002 ::
Korea, Day 48
It was a hot and humid Korean summer day. I had extra bottles of water since I was loosing about a liter of water an hour in sweat. I stood there waiting, fanning myself vigorously, coming to the realization that my escort to the plane crash was not going to show up. In fact, it had been 30 minutes since our appointed time at the subway station, and he was no where to be found. I had been stood up by a New Zealander.
A wave of disappointment came over me, quickly followed by a wave of relief. The temperature was about 33 degrees and with these humid conditions, it would have made my life very difficult hiking up the mountain to the plane crash. In fact, I would say that there could have been a serious risk for heat stroke, so I was not really that disappointed at all. I'll just have to find some other day in which to go to Gimhae mountain on my own.
On Friday, I went and saw a doctor about a rash I have on my body. You don't make appointments in Korea. Instead, you merely show up at the office and get in line. Fortunately for me, the line was not very long and I was in seeing the doctor in a few minutes.
The Korean doctor sat behind a desk in front of a computer. He spoke excellent English to me. In fact, it was more academic English than conversational English, so his choice of words were very big and sophisticated. He must have studied somewhere in North America for medical school. I looked around the room and did not see diplomas on the wall like you do with Western doctors.
He asked me questions and typed into his computer as I gave answers. I felt like I was taking a survey. Fortunately, he decided what I had with only a quick examination. Pityriasis rosea is a mildly itchy rash that goes away over time. I was relieved that it wasn't something serious like an allergy or hepatitis. He prescribed me an ointment and I was on my way. The entire visit cost me only 10000 won which translates to $8 American. Super cheap! I asked him to write a letter to my insurance company, but I now think its pointless since $8 is far below my deductible.
The health care system in Korea is very interesting. You have pharmacies, doctors, hospitals, and Chinese medicine. If you have something simple like a cold, diarrhea, or a headache, you go to the pharmacy and describe the symptoms to the pharmacist. The pharmacist will then prescribe you a number of things and sell them to you. Often times it's a Western medicine or 2 combined with a Chinese medicinal remedy. Never mind that there's a conflict of interest since the more things they prescribe, the more money they get.
The aformentioned doctor was a dermatologist who spoke excellent English and was familiar with Westerners. However, Korean doctors have a reputation among foreigners of not telling you anything about your diagnosis. If you question a Korean doctor about what he is doing, this could be construed as questioning the doctor's ability to do his job and a loss of face. So generally, I've heard that Korean doctors won't tell you anything about your case, even if you're dying and have only a few weeks to live. Of course, I've never actually experienced this since the doctor I saw even opened the textbook and showed me the page on the skin disease he believed I had.
So here I am, itchy skin, sweating profusely, and I missed my chance to go see the plane crash. I'll have to go next weekend when hopefully it will be a little cooler.
:: everist 6:25 PM [+] ::
Korea, Day 46
I am quite excited today. I discovered something really interesting that I'm going to see tomorrow. I'll give you a hint. What happened April 15, 2002?
On April 15, a China Air plane was making its approach towards Gimhae Airport near Pusan. Instead of hitting the runway, it slammed into the side of a mountain with 166 people onboard. Only 30 odd people actually survived the crash and a few people were never found at all. After several days of looking for survivors and bodies, the search was finally called off and the site was abandoned.
For almost 4 months now, the wrecked plane has sat their on the side of Gimhae mountain next to apartment buildings. No one has come to collect the parts or clean up the place. In the States, every piece of wreckage is confiscated and a 2-year investigation begins to discover the cause of the crash and how it can be prevented in the future. In Korea, I suppose they don't have the budget for such nonsense. So the wreckage stays where it lies.
One of my temporary co-workers actually lives in one of the apartments close to the wreckage and tomorrow he's promised to take me there. I've never been to a plane crash before and I plan on taking lots of pictures. Maybe I could even find a souvenir such as an inflatable seat cushion or maybe even somebody's finger!
Of course, the possibilites are floating around in my head that I could start selling plane parts on Ebay for obscene prices, but that's probably more trouble than its worth. I think I'll just be content with taking some awesome pictures. I'll write about it tomorrow and show you the pictures if I can. This is one of the opportunities you get while staying in Korea I suppose.
:: everist 10:29 PM [+] ::