Sunday, February 27, 2005

Not useful.

When you're not fluent in a language, you often come off as pretty blunt when trying to express your opinions. A funny example of this was this week when one of the kids had to describe a grandfather without actually saying the word "grandfather". So he said "This is not useful." Awww. Sorry, grandparents out there. Sure, our older fellow human beings are useful. Just tonight one closed the big window that was open for no reason at the restaurant we ate at. See, right there. Don't fear your kids having kids, you'll still be able to close windows.

If you're thinking of moving to a small Korean city and are white be prepared for some serious attention. It's something I'm getting used to. The majority of attention has been positive by far. But if you go shopping, you'll get long, lingering looks (I've gotten used to it). People will want to try to speak with you because they're eager to use their English (fine with me). Some friends will push their friends up to you to talk because they're too shy to speak (cute). Sure, you'll see people that you know are talking about you simply because of the color of your skin. I have to remind myself; it's pretty rare for people here to see foreigners. Kids are naturally curious. And if they've been studying English for hours and hours like tons of the children here, seeing a native English speaker is worth commenting on.

When I return home, I'm betting I'll miss the attention. Don't get me wrong, many people don't give you a second thought. But I appreciate the new perspective being the minority is giving me.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Misty Mountain Hop.

Pictures from around town and my meals yesterday. It's not even 8 and I feel like crashing. The sign of a good weekend... I guess?

Little did I know that 소머리 국밥 is cow's head soup with rice.

닭 갈비 (ugly romanization dalkgalbi) is my favorite Korean food, like I've mentioned before. Chicken, sweet potatoes, cabbage, onions, some kind of hot sauce... yum. Split three ways for less than $5 per person, with water and soda. Before cooking and right before devouring.

A neighborhood and a "skyline".

Not the best picture you'll see of the city, but gives you an idea of what my part of town looks like on a cloudy February day.

Friday, February 18, 2005


One of the fastest weeks of my life is almost over. I don't know why it was so fast, I remember waking up Monday and here it is Saturday already. A decent week of teaching and not much else. Trying to get used to working evenings again, and the weather was pretty crummy.

Remember Kris Lang from UNC? From a few years back... well he's one of the best players in professional Korean basketball. Gives you an idea about the quality of play here. I'd still like to go see a game though. So the point about mentioning Lang is that I found an article about the league in general and the language gap in particular. It sounds like the league is crippling itself by limiting the foreign presence. The NBA isn't too great today, but players like Nowitski and Gasol are obviously top-tier talent. I wish the KBL good luck, it's going to need it with a Japanese league starting up to attract foreign talent.

I know at least one person who might be interested in the random photo of a telephone pole close to my apartment.

And a piece of work from one of the many fine artists I have met since coming here.

Almost forgot... I play an English version of this in class... "일, 이, 박수, 사, 오, 박수, 칠, 팔, 박수".

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Inquiring minds want to know.

I get asked if I have a girlfriend more than where I am from. I've been asked about the quality of the dental school at the University of Michigan. I've been told Romania is spelled Lumania and Vancouver is spelled Bancouver. People are surprised that I've only been to LA once, even though it's on the opposite coast of where I've lived all my life until now. I guess I should consider it motivation to learn more about this country that I'm living in.

I read today the Magic turned downed a trade offer for Andre Miller, Nikoloz Tskitishvili and Voshon Lenard in exchange for Steve Francis. I'm not a fan of Francis... and apparently he's not playing as hard since his friend Mobley was traded away. It's good to read about the success of Grant Hill, at least... even though Duke isn't on my list of teams I pull for, either. I've watched some highlights from this season. Not too much to be impressed with the product the NBA puts out on a night to night basis.

My power bill was less than $12 for last month. Oil, on the other hand, is expensive. But still... $12. I dig out my pocket change tomorrow and the bill is paid.

More than 2 months in country and I'm still grateful that I decided to come here. Working here gets my recommendation for anyone who just graduated and wants to see a bit of the world. All the cliches apply: get a new perspective on life, have an adventure... etc. You can even save up a bit of money if you're so inclined. Just read up before you come here and know what you're getting into. Come with an open mind.

I look forward to some sunnier weather that will inevitably come. I'd like to take some pictures but 1) I don't want to get my camera wet 2) I'd rather take pictures on a sunny day. Point 2 might not be valid, any pictures are good. Some views of my environment would provide a nice diversion from my rambles.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


You should see this cell phone a student of mine has. It plays MP3s either through a speaker or headphones. It shows movies or pictures on the full color screen. It has a built in digital camera. Perhaps best of all is the phone's remote control option... TVs, VCRs, DVD players, radios... It's one fancy Samsung phone. Not sure it's worth the price of admission though. He didn't know how much it costs.

I'm cheating a bit to get this into Korean writing ( I got some help from a Korean educational forum) but this is the correct way to ask for a large pepperoni pizza to go when you walk into the store. "뻬 뻬로니 피자 대자로 하나 포장해주세요." You could substitute the Konglish "라지" in for "대자" to mean large... If you know very basic Korean like I do you can understand that, and if you just know the alphabet you can make out the words for pepperoni pizza. And if you're Korean skills are above my rating of pretty bad... you might be asking yourself, "What is he doing, trying to show off?" Please forgive, this is how I kill time to put off actually studying Korean seriously.

There are a bunch of good blogs out there by English teachers in Korea. I've gotten into reading some of them. Since I've only made Korean friends here so far, I find out about other foreigner's reactions to living here through their writings online. Good to know there are other people out there who agree with me about what I find amusing, interesting, and annoying here in the Land of the Morning Calm. I'm not going to link any in this post because there are so many out there and they're so easy to find. And I don't want to be responsible for one you might not like.

I've noticed I've been writing mostly as for an audience. I'd like to try to maintain somewhat of a journal style too in the future, we'll see how it goes.

We play a spelling game in class... one of the kids discovered the word "id". Man, is that a tough word to try to explain to kids who are just getting started with learning English. I didn't even know that word until late into high school.

I got a tape of the Super Bowl that I can watch... I'll let you know how who wins.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

뭘 했어요?

I didn't do too much today except work and relax and study... another average day in Korea I guess. I've got to say though I do appreciate having a computer to keep in touch with the rest of the world... not that I don't like Korea and my Korean friends. But the newspapers here are in Korean (!) and I'm not meeting any other foreigners (I'm not trying too hard, though).

I'm back working evenings again, 2:30 til 8pm. I like it, but will have to eat more dinners by myself now. I went to "I Want Pizza" (spelled in Korean 아이 원 비자 which makes it sound like "ai won pi-ja). Mildly amusing that so many things are spelled the same way with 2 different alphabets... sort of spelled the same way, anyways. So the pizza place is run by a man and wife team. It's cute that the baby is strapped to the back of his mom while she is working, but I bet the poor thing is hating the smell of cheese already. I'll need to take a picture sometime of a mom with the kid in tow. It's like a big blanket with the baby stuffed in it and the four corners of the fabric tied around in front of mom.

I was sitting in the pizza shop waiting for the box (that includes the pizza and... pickles) and I wanted to watch the TV that wasn't turned on. I completely butchered the phrase "텔레비 봐요?", maybe the wrong way to ask "Can I watch television?". But I was psyched nonetheless because she said yes... along with something I didn't understand.

Oh and to clear up any confusion... yes, the title Ramble On was taken from the Zeppelin song. No, I did not go 'round the world like in the song to find my baby. I came here because I wasn't ready for a regular 9 to 5 job back in the States.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

5 3 Bulgogi

So I've managed to spend all the time I was going to use to write a fascinating entry doing emails instead. The end result is an added blog link at the end of the page, Unity. Authored by my cousin living in Massachusetts, it offers a...

Sorry, tangent. I was thinking of saying it offers a unique look. But I don't like how that sounds. I was going to say refreshing... and maybe that would be appropriate but I don't want to say that either. In the end, I think it comes down to the fact that currently my writing skills are not adequate to express how I feel about the blog. And I'm not going to root around in a thesaurus because I feel like my writing is terribly unoriginal when I do that. Anyways, I like his blog, please go visit it.

And the tangent leads into a couple other points. Short point first. It's brutally obvious, yet I still struggle with this fact: the world is loaded with people, so there's no need for a coolness contest. Someone out there is going to like you for who you are. I can hear echoes of "dude this isn't cool" already. Again point isn't the right word, because I think point is better used when you're actually trying to say something semi-original. I digress... (haha digress, now that's an appropriate word for my writing today).

Ok, second point. You'll see at the bottom some links. One of the links is for my cousin's blog who I've been out of touch with for a while. He's a minister in a church in MA. Another one of the links is to a blog that I'd prefer my mom not read by a guy who by some accounts drinks entirely too much. So yes, there's a contrast there. I'm not quite sure where I stand with religious matters. For the past 8 years of my life or so I haven't been dedicated to church-going... and the friends I've made haven't been churchgoers either. We might not've often done the right things, but I don't regret any of the time I've spent with friends from both St. Ed's and Clemson.

So here I am going to church again regularly, just like when I was little. Should I be bummed that I am spending my time in church because of the friends I've made there just as much as because I'm assuming there's God out there? I don't think so... but I hope this isn't the point where people think in their heads, "Just keep telling yourself that." I'm grateful for some of the things I read by my cousin, and I'll be sure to point that out to him in the next email.

Yes, the inevitable religious post has occurred. No apologies here, I had to write about it. It helps clear my head... but then I start thinking about the great science vs. religion debate all over again. Ah well.

Oh yeah, in a weak attempt to show off my incredibly poor knowledge of Korean and speed my learning process, I'll be adding at least one most likely random and grammatically incorrect sentence in this foreign language to each of my posts. To begin, the classic... "아줌마! 오삼 불고기 주새요." Probably a better word for waiter out there... but I used 아줌마 because I'll never forget the grandfather of one of my students using that word repeatedly to get the attention of our waitress one night when he took us out to dinner.

Thursday, February 10, 2005


Vacation time... I spent most of Monday lounging around. Watched some Saturday Night Live episodes. The new stuff is horrible. Studied a bit of Korean, learned the important fact that bae / 배 means both pear and your gut. Yes, I think the average pear here looks like a big apple.

Tuesday and Wednesday were mostly spent with a family from school. Wednesday was great because it was the first day of the lunar new year. The family dressed traditionally. The grandparents were bowed to and they said happy new year, then the grandparents would give out money. The money should bring good luck. Then the people of the same generation bowed to each other and exchanged money. A pretty happy and relaxed time.

Later we went to Ojukheon. It reminded me of Sturbridge Village without the people.

Then we went out for my favorite Korean food...

Dalkgalbi / 닭갈비 is my favorite Korean food I've had so far. I always forget to bring my camera when I'm going out to eat it, I think some might find it a little interesting to look at. Chicken, thick noodles, sweet potatoes that aren't orange, and cabbage are the main ingredients. Some mild to real hot red sauce is added and it's cooked over a burner. Yum.

Yesterday I went out to Unification Park with some friends. The North Korean sub that "drifted" in South Korean waters in 1996 is on the left. I went in it... it seemed like it was Russian-built from the 1960s. That's probably not a bad guess; it was tiny and not exactly state of the art. And the huge boat is a retired South Korean warship. A relatively new ship, it was only the second warship I've ever set foot on. It was a stark contrast to the sub... no doubt to inspire confidence in the minds of the South Korean people. And hopefully the Captain has been spending more time with Abel recently.

We went to Jumunjin, too. The best scenery I've seen in the country yet. A jetty... and some rocks. There was also a cruise ship taken out of the water, placed at the top of a hill and converted into a nice hotel. We don't need to put our palm trees in winter clothes in Florida, though.

And I'll leave with a couple more. To the northwest, from the top of the cruise ship hotel. My new desktop, a cool piece of art.

Saturday, February 05, 2005


In an effort to make my blog seem like others I've been reading recently, here is a post with no purpose. But it won't be funny. With more time and practice maybe my writing style will become more interesting. I think it's called creative writing... something I've steadily done less and less of since grade school.

After this rough week is over I look forward to some home cooked Korean food and seeing what the lunar new year here is like. My first... I wasn't even aware of the fact that the lunar new year existed or that people celebrated it as a holiday.

Met a guy from New Zealand today... he was hard to miss. A white face with long blond hair on his head kind of sticks out around here. I guess the only person that would be harder to miss at the area we met at would be me. Random people I am meeting are telling me I need to go to two of these bars downtown to meet other foreigners... determined to get me drinking I guess. Not exactly my idea of a good time to go walk into a random bar full of people I don't know but hey. A fluent English conversation in person every once in a while can't hurt.

I know how to tell people that I am very hungry in Korean now so if some ajumma steps on my toes in the line at E-Mart at least I'll be able to tell her that my stomach requires food.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Negative ten degrees what?

Nobody knows Fahrenheit to Celsius or inch to centimeter conversions here (there's no reason they should). I get asked by my kids sometimes how tall I am and I reply in feet and inches... they give me a puzzled look and maybe go look up the conversion in their electronic dictionary. Anyways we went to Yongpyong / 용평 Sunday night just to have a look around and see the snow festival. I had more fun with the people I was with than actually being at the snow festival.

And it was -10 degrees Celsius, which is very cold degrees Fahrenheit.

Mediocre pictures pictures of the lodge and ski slopes were taken.

I'm in the middle of a 7 day workweek before 7 straight days off for the lunar new year. Meh.