Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Insane market in Bankok's Chinatown

When you arrive in a new place at such an early time in the a.m., your dreams tend to be inundated with questions of the unknown. What's this place like? Will I get sick? Will I get wicked lost? As a typically ill-informed American tourist (shocking right?) The facts I had were few. Bankok is densely populated. Stuff is wicked cheap. Thai food is dynamite. It only took a short few hours to confirm the aforementioned.

Bankok, a city of 8 million people, sits not far from the equator. As such, the climate can be most easily compared to somewhere between the heat of a hot muffler and your balls after basketball practice. Seriously, it's hot here. The night might get down to 75; the days anywhere between 88 and 94. We're in the winter here folks. I can't imagine what the summer would feel like.

The "tuk-tuk" - the even more affordable taxi alternative

The air thick from dense humidity and the harsh pollutants of buzzing two-stroke engines, we weave our way through the streets. Used to the picturesque characters of both the Korean and Japanese languages, Thai looks more Arabic then anything else. Though this matters not because I'm illiterate in all three. First task of the day; food. Not one to linger in terms of cultural immersion, I jump right in.

Breakfast - red curry, shrimp and coconut milk over jasmine rice

After breakfast, we make our way down to Chinatown area for some sightseeing and shopping. The temples are spectacular so much so that all one can think about is the countless number of people that have tithed in order to erect them. The shopping you ask, well now I know where Walmart Inc. does their wholesaling at. There is everything a guy or gal could want down here. Since we were wearing shorts because it was 90 some degrees we had to purchase pants to enter the temple. 2.75 cents later we were in the temple. Light airy shirts to combat the stifling heat; 3 USD. It's all here and available for a price, actually it's available for a mutually agreed price that you and the person in which you are bartering/charading to agree on. As far as food goes, we dined on a fantastic little concoction called "noodle soup" to the tune of 22 baht, or 66 cents.

Noodle soup - The poorman's Japanese tongkatsu ramien

This cat dined along side of us

After we were shopped out and saw the sights in which we need to see, we headed back to base camp in East Bankok. East Bankok provides no glitz and glamor of the down town district. Besides Sputnick at my side, we saw one other tourist. It's dirty, it's gritty, it's fucking real. I've been to several Asian cities with over 4 million people and, well, Bankok definitely has some personality. Seoul wants to be Tokyo, Tokyo wants to be the moon, but Bankok doesn't care. Bankok is Bankok . Scooters sift their way through traffic at stop lights and cabbies drive with surgeon-esque precision amd a monk-like zen to get you to your destination at a price about 4 dollars per half hour. Business suits? Well I have yet to see any and that's just fine with me. There isn't any pushing and there isn't any shoving. Today at the insanely busy Chinatown district we likely encountered 20,000 people within a three feet distance. I was bumped into or shoved exactly zero times. Had I been in the same situation in Korea, I'd have to ice my bruised shoulders. It's a delicate symphony of harmonious anarchy and I'm enjoying every note of it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The arrival

Philosophers have pondered, poets have written, songbirds have sung but they've all arrived at exactly the same assertion; there is absolutely no way to prepare for 19.5 hours of flight.

After some confusion, a narrowly averted Korean visa disaster that would have landed us indefinitely, some begging, and eventually some more begging, we made it to Seattle and our long awaited flight. Our total luggage can best be summarized as one suitcase, two white-trash duffel bags, and 2 carry-ons. Of course, these are supplies for more than just our Thai excursion. If it were up to me, I'd wear only my board shorts and let the chips fall where they may. But it wasn't, and sadly there is work and colder temperatures waiting for us on the other side.

But enough about shitty possessions. People used to be excited to fly places. Travelers would wander, friends would visit others friends, and men would visit mistress but it seems most of the appeal has been lost. I blame the Totally Spineless Amoeba's. You may know them as TSA. Whilst being cattle guarded, I looked around and noticed the blank expressions on people. I wouldn't have a problem with the premise itself, disarming militants from dropping planes out of the sky using a bevy of dangerous weapons such as pocket knifes, nail files, and gasp, more than 3 ounces of shampoo but Dateline, or the cable equivalent, did an expose where ten times out of ten they were able to sneak bomb making materials past the aforementioned "security checkpoints". Pay close attention but more often then not the glassy eyed, overweight blob checking the bags looks like any of characters from the movie "Wall-E" (This isn't a dis on Wall-E himself. I'm actually quite inspired by the little fella's work ethic but that's another issue). As far as the security checkpoint people who go about collecting their paychecks, some 70 years ago, near the water coolers around the SS station, I'm sure the expression "jaa, but at least it's a job" ended and began more than one conversation. But until I become part of the solution, then I reckon I'm smack dab part of the adhesive of this problem. Until I put the finishing touches on my Geo Metro making it an amphibious transcontinental vessel, ill sentiment will remain ill sentiment.

SEA > SFO > SEOUL > BANKOK -> Immigration. After that there was the cab driver who staunchly refused to turn on his meter so a 8 dollar taxi ride became 15. Beyond tired at this point, I relented and chalked this extra expenditure as an "American tax"

We retired into our 20 USD hotel room at 3:30 a.m and drifted quickly into slumber, knowing that the following days in Bankok would provide us with great adventure and possibly a "ping-pong show".

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Adventure: Redux

Come one, come all! Resisting the urge to use a lame cliché such as "ice being back for a brand new edition", I'm indeed, for all intensive purposes, back in the writing saddle. You're back because you are a) family b) enrolled in Stanford University's English 302 - Creative Literature c) a glutton for punishment with yet to be named mental disorders or d) prisoner at San Quinten's State Penitentery who happened to stumble upon a hole in the internet firewall. I include this preface because the critical reviews for "Some Call me Waegook" have been trickling in and Siskel and Ebert were sporting less than two stubby thumbs up.

"egotistical, yet self-loathing"
- Sean Keighley - Great Falls, MT

"keep your feet well-manicured for when you put your foot in your mouth"
- Dead Garrett Hohn's Aunt - Tempe, AZ

In the event that you've forgotten why you love or, more aptly, hate this publication, let us take a convoluted memory lane.

Chapter 1: "Ho brah! You like beef, hawley?!"
Chapter 2: "Vie are im Deautcheland! Isn't that veird!"
Chapter 3: "Untethered, unmotivated, unemployed: The poor-man's Wall Street Journal"
Chapter 4: "Some call me Waegook (others call me "Asshole American")

After "Some Call Me Waegook" ended, I returned to Montana, putting the pen down all the while rejoining life as an average swingin' dick. Trading in the urban sprawl and public transportation for miles of rugged terrain and an old 4 wheel drive truck, was refreshing yet strange all at the same time. And after time, I came to the realization that "home", being while being comfortable, beautiful and hospitable has a shelf life at this juncture of my life. The solution was simple; another adventure.

Follow my wife Alla and I (did I mention I got married?!) as we head to Thailand (Dec 15th) for a couple of weeks followed by another stint in South Korea. Ladies and gentleman, I'm excited to offer you my, Garrett Hohn's, newest writing venture - "Oatmeal & Porn : Cherished Gift from Abroad".

This t-shirt really doesn't have anything to do with anything. I just thought it was deserving of a caption.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A hiatus

I'm back in the US and will be taking an approximate 2 month break from writing. In the interim, I've made an E-book addition of "Some call me Waegook" available for purchase for 5 USD through Paypal. The link is on the left of the page.

My E-book includes;
1. 5 never-before-posted blogs - including my last blog from Korea
2. A "preface"
3. Portable and printable format (PDF) - take "Some call me Waegook" on the road
4. 64 well designed, easy to read pages
5. Print out a copy to leave next to the shitter. Helpful for those stubborn bowel movements.

My goal is to raise enough money to buy a beer and a lap dance with the money levied. That should get me over my last Korean head cold. Until the next adventure ... Thanks for reading, Garrett

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pro's and con's

Researchers, educational professionals and whacked out high school guidance counsellors tell you that on a test, your first selection is more times than not, the correct selection. While I don't think I jumped the gun on coming home earlier (I have my reasons), I slept on it for a solid two days and then changed my ticket to come home. Nevertheless, all the reasons in the world still make it hard to look back and think, "Am I doing the right thing?" I had two instances within the last week or so that reaffirmed my decision to pull the fuck out and five words that just had me shaking my head.

"Con" one:
Imagine you are me. It's Saturday and I was lying it bed half asleep. I think it was 8 am, and since my window was open all night, I could feel that that day would be particularly sticky. Aside from that, out of the middle of nowhere, a siren began to blare. Keep in mind this siren comes less than 2 weeks after North Korea detonated an underground nuclear bomb on May 25th. The siren blares and a man begins speaking in Korean. I started to think about airports, highways and ferry terminals shutting down. Yeah, I've got enough food for a couple of weeks but that means nothing as I might as well stick my head in a microwave before the other radiation gets to me. Luckily, the siren stopped and I would later be told at school several days later that the siren was a remembrance for the national memorial day.

"Con" two:
Imagine you are me. Half way through one of your classes a siren goes off, someone starts speaking an incomprehensible tongue over the intercom. Five words into the message your students start screaming, they hit the ground and scurry under their desks. A few students hurry to the windows and doors locking them in position before they slide under their desks. You spot your best English speaking student from across the room and ask the 11-year-old, "Um, what's going on?" Through the stress and confusing, he battles to find the English words, "Umm. six point five ... earthquake!" At this point you think, well I didn't feel anything but perhaps there was an earthquake elsewhere triggering a tidal wave heading for your little coastal town. Another thirty seconds elapse and the intercom voice continues, the children stop screaming and the boy says to me through his heavy accent, "Teacher, six point five earthquake ... um ... practice!"

You're probably thinking, "Garrett, we have these drills all the time back home." It's true but I've come to the painful realization that while I'm landlocked here without family nor do I have possession of the native tongue, I'm very dependant on others for safety. With that said, if shit hits the proverbial fan, in Korea's eyes, how high on the list do you think English teachers are?

"Pro" one:

As my work weeks have quickly trickled into work days, and as we approach the final stretch here in the land of Oz, it's become movie showcase cinema in my class. Because I hold my co-worker brethren in high esteem here at the country school, beforehand I asked Jinsun if it be ok to show the kids "Wall-E" for my last two classes. You know, to take a breather from the blitzkrieg teaching pace I'd paved months previous. She obliged and according as such, the students are even more so excited for English class - no work. Since the students have known for about three weeks that I will be leaving, they have given me random hallway hugs and written me goodbye notes. A group of four boys went as far to try and physically restrain me from leaving the classroom. Perhaps what I was most caught off guard by were the prepared English statements, with help help from the Korean English teacher, said to me as a as I walked out the classroom door following our final class together. To this point I've heard, "We'll miss you!" and "Have a safe trip back!" but the one that I heard 10 minutes ago takes the rice cake.

In Korea, classes begin and end with "insa." The class captain will stand, say a couple of words in Korean, and then the class will bow silently as one. After Wall-E, and true to form, the class captain of my third grade boys class rose accordingly just like he has for the previous eight months. With the captain standing and the other 38 boys seated and quiet, a rouge student tried to steal the groups thunder by personally delivering me the message that they had rehearsed with the Korean teacher a few days previous. "Thank-you for TOUCHING me!" he said proud as a peacock. If you could have only been there. I roared with laughter and the Korean teacher smacked herself in the forehead with her palm as she chuckled. "We practiced that some many times! Thank-you for TEACHING me," Hyun Gung said as she then offered them an explanation to them in Korean as to my mania. As you could imagine, the 15 year old boys thought it was one of the funniest things they'd ever heard and I'm sure that student won't hear the end of it for quite some time.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Olivia Newton John?

As you know, I've been teaching adults English at Masan City Hall two times a week for the previous three months. What you might not know is that it has easily been the most rewarding professional experience I've ever had. So when our class captain, "George", asked me to partake in a performance in front of his constituents and other second language learners, I gladly obliged.

What you might not know, because I hadn't posted the blog labelled "Testicle Festival" (available, as are 4 other never yet seen blogs, in my soon-to-be released "Some call me Waegook: The E-book addition"), is that this wasn't the first festival I've been a part during my stay in Korea.

A few Tuesday's back, the class said that they wanted to have a fun sketch in which they were going to preform a song. They asked if I knew of any American songs that would be easy to sing. My brain raced and the first three that came to mind were "American Pie", "Friends in Low Places", and of course, "Family Tradition". Though I figured no one had heard any of these songs, I sent out Mp3's (for educational purposes RIAA, relax) to each student to perhaps jog an aging memory. I mean, Koreans know "MacGyver" surely they've heard "American Pie". Nope, not even close.

After my suggestions for a song to performed were quickly vetoed, the class mentioned, voted and confirmed that they would sing a song that I had never heard before. This literally all went down within 20 seconds. My question to you is this. What song better typifies the west and the English language than ... "Let Me Be There" by Olivia Newton John? I honestly associate this Britain-born, Australian-raised singer-actress with tight spandex and jumping jacks way before anything Americana.

The performance went very well. If you didn't pick up on the Korean dialogue the first act is me asking directions from the Koreans, who by my presence were absolutely petrified (this isn't far off). The second act showed the very same Koreans after they took an English speaking class. As far as the song is concerned, many of the men in the back are reading the lyrics taped to the necks of the women standing in front of them! Boyyoung flawlessly performed her part and the chuckle from the crowd as I stood speaking in front of the mayor of Masan was due, I presume, to the fact that he doesn't speak a lick of English. Or perhaps I commited some type of Korean faux pass.

Our post-concert celebration was held off sight at a Korean restaurant. The beer and soju flowed like, well beer and sujo and the speeches came fast and furious. It's apparently tradition when a group of colleagues go out, that when sufficient booze has been imbibed, and the situation is right, the each person will take a turn to give a short speech. I ended up giving three because, well, I had a lot of appreciation I needed to express.

Tuesdays and Thursdays just won't be the same. I'm going to miss them!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Rice or bread?

There are certain preferences, so staunchly ingrained in upbringing, that they become comical to defend. Boxers or briefs? Blonds or Brunettes? Top or bottom? Never in a million years did I ever think I'd be on trial for my love, of all things, bread.

Early in my tenure here, I tried my best to finish my rice as it is considered mandatory to do so for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack. Being the sole, never mind self-appointed, cultural ambassador to overseas class, I do my best to maintain international harmony. But sometime in February, and somewhere between the puffy belly and the post-lunch carb comas, someone dropped the kernel that broke the waegook's back.

Actually, I remember the incident vividly. I'd figured, since I had tried a variety of strictly Korean foods -- dog, live octopus, eel and rotten fish (which is just as terrible as it sounds), I thought I had procured enough leverage to introduce the Koreans to something from the West. I was sorely mistaken.

Korea has many "Western" products. Perhaps, more accurately, Korea has many products it has severely bastardized from the West. Relying on smell, touch and taste to deduce what it is exactly you are sampling, will leave you shaking your head. The bread here is sugared beyond belief. Coffee, or "copy" as pronounced proudly by the locals, is about a 2 ounce shot of chocolate milk (think 4 parts sugar, 1 part bean). Calling Korean beer "piss" would be quite the compliment. I had a store brand pasta sauce by the name of "Tesco." Had I been blind-folded and asked to guess what the product was I would have guessed dog shit long before I chose the right answer of spaghetti sauce. Yes folks, it was that bad. Some of these products are recognizable by name only.

On one of my many days off, I brought in some of my fresh, hand-crafted olive bread to share with my fellow teachers. "They probably won't like it," I told myself. (Being born a Hohn, close cousin of the fictitious and family name equivalent "Munson," I've become used to rejection and ostracization and have used various forms of self-talk to ease potentially crushing blows to my esteem. This isn't pertinent to "this story" but moreso to my "life's story".) Fresh out of the oven, I brought the bread to school with some of my home-made hummus. Mr. Kim, along with two of his 50 year old lapdogs, tried the bread but then didn't go back for seconds, thirds, or fifteenths as everyone else I have introduced it to. I didn't think too much off it until Monk, another teacher at the school, came in, looked at my bread and said something to Mr. Kim in Korean. Mr. Kim translated to me that he said, "that stuff will make you weak."

That stuff will make you weak? THAT STUFF WILL MAKE ME WEAK?!?! Really?! Last time I checked, white rice wasn't the Mt. Everest of nutritional composition. In fact, it is so nutritionally devoid that it is illegal to sell white rice in the United States without vitamin B1 and B3 fortification. Take this, however, with a grain of salt as I've heard it's now illegal to take a dump in the US with your wiener tucked between your legs on Tuesdays. Just what I heard. The irony about white rice is that it's refined to remove the germ, husk and bran. This process essentially removes all nutritional components. For many years, white rice was considered the rich man's food because the refined product was fiscally inaccessible to the common man. In addition, like raccoons and eagles, it turns out that humans like shiny things. White rice is then polished givin it its glorious luster at the expense of life saving nutrition. Brown rice, however, was for the credence. It's interesting that this bass ackwards engineering wasn't recognized by the people, however ill-informed. To be fair, experts say General Motors has been guilty of this crippled engineering for decades.

Without fail, and seemingly without hesitation, every week a fellow teacher will ask me through translation why I'm not eating my white rice at lunch. Because it's generally Yuna that gets asked this question, I feel a small obligation to spice it up a bit with a creative answer. The first couple were my more canned diplomatic responses and the latter few - snide retorts:

"I'm not hungry."
"I'm not hungry because I had too much delicious kimchee."
"It makes me sleepy after lunch."
"I prefer brown rice."
"I like bread much more."
"White rice is only calories. There aren't any nutrients, only calories."
"I look good with my shirt off. I intend to keep it that way."

I'm not sure anyone sees the humor in the last two, nor should they as it, the previous two statements, are indeed the truth. But, at least at this point, I really don't care. As much as Koreans think Americans are all fat (most are), I do see a fair share of dark-haired people running around with little pot bellies.

Now for the clincher. A couple of months past, after the "bread will make you weak" comment, Monk walked by me at the cafeteria, stopped and began talking to me in Korean in a visibly agitated state. I didn't necessarily need translation at this point to understand where he was going but I wanted to know exactly what he said. "What did Monk say?" I asked Hyun Mi. "He said eat your rice!" she replied. I looked at him and then went back to my lunch tray picking at the vegetables and meat, completely ignoring the heaping portion of untouched white rice. Monk walked away in a huff.

Call it 'East vs West' propaganda. Call it 'cultural pride.' I find the whole thing interesting because I've never really had to justify what I eat or what I don't eat (save for maybe when you were four years old and you were told to eat your cauliflower "just because." Though the satire of the situation is your parents didn't much care for cauliflower either. It just happened to be that they were stoned out of their skulls for most days out of the week and cauliflower quelled their munchie urge without breaking the piggy bank). Don't get me wrong. I've got absolutely nothing against the shiny little death kernel. In fact, for a majority of my life I've been horrifically ambivalent and apparently startlingly myopic about the issue until recently spurned to make an an action by initiating inaction. Truth be told, I still won't be attending any "anti white-rice" rallies fanatically waving about a sign that emphatically exclaims "death to rice" all the while looking to exterminate the life of a rice practitioner who is looking to cleave husks from hulls. "Just doing my job!" says the little man in the little white surgical coat. Quite simply, there are bigger fish to fry and the "White v Brown" one ain't one of them.

I don't much care for McDonald's either but I'm not going to back-seat quarterback someone as they jam a Big Mac down their throat. As I type this, I realize that my sister, mother and I are all guilty of shaming my father while he commits the aforementioned act. I suppose the only thing we are guilty of is caring. My father is convinced that he will die wrastlin' a bear much like the way Tristain did at the end of the movie "Legends of the Fall." We imagine a much different scenario in which we discover him two steps outside of his Ford 250, crippled face down from a heart attack in a lukewarm pile of "two all beef patties, special sauce, letuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun". While alarming, vile and generally repulsive, the act isn't mine to govern. Here is an interesting find that may best sum up the situation altogether. While doing research to write this blog, two of the first four entries I tried to look at when I searched "white rice beriberi" (disease caused by diets based nearly exclusively on white rice consumption) were blocked by the Korean Public school's Internet filter. Coincidence?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sure, people mistake me all the time for Brad Pitt.

Stereotypes are a funny phenomenon. Students are shocked to know that I'm American because I don't weigh 150 kilograms, yet at the same time, strangers will ask "American?" if I'm approached at a cross walk, grocery store, and of all things, a urinal. Over the past six months, I've been told I resemble certain celebrities. The conversation usually goes as follows.

Korean person: "Hi"
Me: "Hi"
Korean person: "You (insert celebrity name here)" or if the Korean processes advanced English skills it's "You look-a like-a (insert celebrity name here)"
Me: "Really? Thanks."
Korean person: "BYE!"

Here is the list of the ones I can remember. I've heard some Korean's say that all white people look alike. This statement also comes from the same race of people that believe in fan death.

Wentworth Miller (Micheal Scholfield on "Prison Break" - yeah I had to look this up too.)

Matt Daemon - this is a give me.

David Beckham (because of the hair or my mad soccer skills I presume)

Brad Pitt - Seriously, stop laughing!

Mark Wahlberg (Max Payne) - I'm guessing it has something to do with the fact that I'm always look pissed off when I'm at school. That's probably because I am indeed pissed off when I am at school. Here is where things start to get absurd ...

"Kevin" from Home Alone

Kevin from Home Alone? The whole scenario was ridiculous. This 10 year old boy the first day of class in March started pointing at me saying, "Kevin! Kevin!" It was right about then that the Korean teacher (the time she came to class within the last 6 month) said, "He thinks you are Kevin from Home Alone movie." Anyways, If you exclude Macaulay Culkin from the list, I think it's pretty good company.

Here is perhaps the most humorous one of all. Barrack O'bama. Ok, ok, not in the looks department but because a student said that our voices are similar. Having a hard time picturing the similarities? Perhaps this shocking photo will help you.

Barrack and Garrett

See it now?

Ok, if I had to compare myself to another celebrity, it would be Nick Lidstrom. Obviously no one within 5,000 miles of Korea has heard of him but it's an honorable mention. In fact, I like to think of myself as the "poor man's Nicklas Lidstrom"

Nicklas Lidstrom
1. Born in Sweden
2. Has a lot of money
3. Plays hockey really well
4. Had an iron man streak of 228 straight playoff games
5. Has a really hot wife

Garrett Hohn
1. Born in the United States
2. Is broke as a joke on coke
3. Plays hockey about as well as Forrest Gump thinks
5. Had an iron man streak of 526 straight unemployed days
5. Masturbates constantly

So yeah, as you can see about the only thing we share in common are our boyish good looks and mutual love of the winged wheel.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Teacher's Day

While on vacation in February, one of my two vacations in February, I received an e-mail from Yuna. It stammers as follows;

"Hi, I'm yuna. How have you been? I wonder you stayed very well in your house during vacation. Let me know about your time schedule,but it is not sure. Actually I have to tell you the most important things of all my saying. today I got a call from a officer in masan city hall. She told me that they wanted to have a Englilsh coversation from you.They have two hours class every Thuesday, and Thursday. If you want, they will give 30000won per hour and 10000won as a trnasportation fee. Totally you can get 70000won for one week. Is it possible to take a class in Masan city hall? I want to get your e-mail as soon as possbile. I have to answer to a officer tomorrow. See you again."

Obviously, something as well written and precisely conveyed as the aforementioned passage raises more questions than renders answers. I had about a billion questions for Yuna and the only answer she could give me was that she would have Boy Young, the best English speaking student in that class, give me a call to discuss the details. Boy Young did call that day but I was able only to procure interspersed fragments of information via the phone call. This was partly because Boy Young's English was limited and I wasn't doing us any favors while being balls deep into a bottle or two of soju and delicious nagchi chil pan (spicy octopus) with fellow couchsurfer Garrett on my first trip to Seoul.

Through the booze and the convoluted wording, I was able to establish a meeting with Boy Young back in Masan a few days later to pick up a textbook for my soon-to-be new students. The students, according to Boy Young, were "old adults with very limited English" but were very eager to learn. This, of course, was a welcomed departure from the "monkey boys" I have at my city school, whom I'm pretty sure under my tutelage have regressed in terms of English speaking capability.

I met with Boy Young, and after shaking off the rust (I've spoken with someone who has went fifteen years without speaking English. The rust shakes off quicker than one would imagine), was pretty easy to converse with. We went to the book store and after navigating the countless shelves of books dedicated to English education, I found one I felt was worthy. Boi Young called the director and asked for permission to use this book but my choice was vetoed because, get this, there "wasn't any Korean in the book and the students would be intimidated by it." I pressed for the book and the director finally caved.

I was told that there would be 53 students in class. I walked into the first class on March 3rd to 46 well-dressed Korean adults with with the blankest of poker faces and bone chilling silence. I nursed through the first class with a brief introduction of myself, some no-fail, confidence building out loud reading and a ice breaking activity to get them up and talking with one another. All-in-all a very successful first day.

Since then my enrollment numbers have trickled from 46 to about 20 in three weeks. I chalked it up to one of those natural trends that accompanies a new, albeit difficult, change. Think of the packed gyms after January 1st, and by the time you reach February 1st, you're likely to hear a pin drop over the blaring Britney Spears. To reaffirm, one need look only as far as the first day of class at any university and then revisit only a month later though some Korean friends have suggested that the withdrawal of students might be age-old Confucianism hard at work against me and my junior status.

Can you spot me in the crowd?

Regardless of my standing, or general lack thereof within the social standing that Confucianism governs, I have a solid core of 18 or so students that attend class week in and week out. Over the past two and a half months, I have been meeting on Tuesdays and Thursdays with city hall employees for two hours each day. We also meet for dinner before class on Tuesday, and every so often, a student says "fuck it, let's go to the bar instead of English class." Well, not exactly but you get the idea. Over these two months, I've had the opportunity to see those old blank faces turn into genuine smiles and excitement to see me as well as to learn English. The Koreans are known for this. At first, it's like looking at a stone wall but after you develop a relationship with them, they will do anything for you and will do so with a hardy smile.

I kind of feel like I look like Alladin.

May 15th was "Teacher's Day" and my students surprised me with Korean traditional garb called Hanbok as well as letters from each student thanking me for all I have done for them.

Masan City Hall - Thank You Letters (PDF)

As we took pictures for album, the men were telling me to give the women "western treatment (hug + kiss)." It's all quite touching. In fact, you might need a tissue. A definite departure from the Day 1 stares :) I think one of my students might have a crush on me. Can you guess who?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Balls Deep: The "what's chapping my ass" post!

They say that everyone has a honeymoon period when they move to another country. I've tried to be as even keel as possible, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. "Little high, little low will you let me go home" to quote the late great, and really ridiculously gay, Freddie Mercury. It's difficult to ride in the middle of the emotion road when living aboard seems to put you through more mood swings than a pregnant lady. I'm not going to lie and say that days 1-60 were easy. Now I'm starting to feel like I'm getting it down (that or I've been systematically desensitized).

I want to be clear that I am indeed enjoying my time out here but the longer you stay in a place that isn't home, the more certain things are bound to chap your ass. This is simply a cumulative diary of things that have pissed over the course of the last 6 months. Drum roll for the bitch-fest please.

1. Fucking post office tries to deliver my package one time while I was at work and they sent it back to the States? WTF? I bet they tried to deliver it at some ridiculous time like 2 p.m. "Rich man gets off work, then buys stereo. Not after fucking brunch!" - Mooj, "40 Year-Old Virgin"

2. Fucking co-teachers are always asking, "You look really tired. You have bags under your eyes. Are you ok?" Shit, I'm fine though I'd probably sleep a hell of a lot better if I didn't have MTV spring break 08 walking under my apartment window at 2 a.m. Also, what the hell is with the 6:15 am construction? On a side note, I'd probably look a little more refreshed if my face was on the business end of a puddy knife and some drywall spackle like these ladies, but as a man, I don't have that option.

3. Fucking dudes pulling there girls in tighter when I walk by. Seriously? Do you really think us "western men" want to have sex with your girlfriend? Assuming I did, with the hours I teach at school, and my refractory period, I couldn't possibly have sex with more than 25% of the girls here in my free time. And if we are being candid, as I think we are, I'd probably start with your dead-ringer for Margaret Cho last.

4. Fucking dudes talking about me in the locker room. It sucks. I want to know what they are saying, but since there isn't a straight across Korean translation for "donkey penis", I gave up trying. But that stopped after the first month.

5. Fucking dudes NOT talking about me in the locker room after the first month. WTF? First I was big shit now I'm old news? I just don't get it. What am I doing wrong?

6. Fucking Christians accosting me! I'm done being nice about this whole thing. Now if someone asks where I am from on the street, I ask them if they are going to try and convert me to a specific religion and, if so, this is the end of our conversation.

7. Fucking no one tells me anything over here when it involves pertinent details! "Hey Garrett, want to play guitar at a festival?" what they failed to mention was there would be well over a thousand people there!

8. Fucking Korea is devoid of Mexican food. Perhaps I should rephrase. Masan is devoid of Mexican food. Anyone want to send me some cilantro and black beans?

9. Fucking pick a side of the sidewalk to walk on. What the fuck? My personal favorite is the complete obliviousness when it comes to space surrounding them that some Koreans have. In Japan, people line up on the left (left hand drive country like the UK) and the people that want to walk up faster simply move to the right to pass. This, and I believe most people would tend to agree with me on this one, is a really efficient method to moving large groups of people in an orderly fashion. In Korea, however, this is a difficult concept to grasp as people are just strewn about the escalators with some facing backwards for whatever reason.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tune in Tokyo

In February, a couple of my foreign friends announced they had a school sponsored holiday in April and that they were planning on a long weekend in Japan. The sheer fact that they had three days off in a row is considered a minor miracle because they get the dogshit worked out of them though my definition of "having the dogshit worked out of you" and most people's version vary significantly. With that said, it was much to my surprise that I didn't have this special holiday off from my public school gig. Like any individual not wanting to be excluded from the fun, I did what every cheeseburger eating, labor union touting, flag waving, red-blooded American would do. I asked for the day off.

I saw this exact sign at the gates of Dachau concentration camp.

Somewhat surprise when I posed the question, Jin Sun said that we'd, well she'd, have to wait and ask the principal the next time we saw him. Since this was during my second vacation towards the end of February, I'd have to wait until school was in session. I even had a chuckle about the situation thinking that while I was on vacation, I was asking for more time off down the road. Having a good feeling about getting the green light on the day off from my beloved country school, and being continually pressured by my foreign friends, I booked a partially refundable ticket for April 10th.

Two weeks later, Jin Sun said that I indeed had permission to go to Tokyo. I told her that I was really grateful for the time off because I'd already booked the ticket a couple weeks previous. Don't worry folks. I'm doing my best to make sure that us American are, and always will be, regarded in the highest esteem.

We also made our way up Tokyo Tower to take in the monstrosity that is Tokyo from 150 meters.

It was going to be a quick Friday to Sunday trip though the trip was made even more terse by a flight malfunction. In between sitting on the ground for an hour, and NWA's inability to find us another flight, our original departure of 11:30 a.m Friday was shifted to 4:40 p.m with a reroute to Seoul and then Tokyo. By the time we made it into Tokyo after the 1.5 hour Subway ride from the airport, it was midnight.

Saturday saw a full day of sight seeing in which we travelled into the center of Tokyo (we were staying in Korea-town, go figure). If you go to Tokyo, you better have a pocket full of Yen. It's quite expensive. In Shinjuku, 4 bottles of Sake, a round of fish heads, and 3 plates of sushi came out to be 12,000 Yen (120 USD). I know I'm going to become a lightening rod for ridicule on this but I found the sushi in Hawaii to be much tastier than the stuff we had Saturday at about a fifth of the price.

From the baseball game - Bent over, Asian and wearing a backpack. Does this photo remind you of anything? All I could think of was this clip (check out 2:05)

Patrick and I really, really wanted to take in a sumo match but we caught sumo during a non-tournament time. At least the baseball team was in town though misfortune would rear her ugly, busted, head once more. Because a) baseball is really popular in Japan and b) the Hanshin Tigers, Yomuiri's nemesis, was in town. Having an actual seat was out of the question but they were selling standing room seats for 1,000 Yen (10 USD). People were atleast five people deep, and at some places it was closer to 10.

Be sure to check out my Youtube profile for some videos too

* giggles *

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Every guy has it though most aren't aware of its existence until the skill is called on a shockingly frequent basis. It's basically the sixth sense you didn't know you had. It's the "someone is staring at my dong" sense.

I've grown accustomed to the stares in the gym and the jimjil bangs. In terms of penis, to the readers of this blog whom hasn't seen my penis (I think 10 have, 5 haven't), I've really got nothing to write home about. "Average western dong" is the term used most often by women who, in various moments of weakness and extreme vulnerability, were gracious enough to sleep with me. But my American made 1980 standard drive penis equipped with DUHC (Dual Under Head Cojones - for the non-gear heads) penis is the equivalent of a Mustang Shelby out here in Korea. Most of the time, the dudes out here operate with the "catch and release" credo when it comes to glances at my unit. Look at it, "catch" about a seconds worth and then "release" eye contact. I'm cool with this. I kind of have to be because if I wasn't, I would have left this peninsula a long time ago. To return the favor, I'll glance back and 100% of the time I'll think "sucks to be Asian."

So whilst at the bus station bathroom, when a man locked on with his peepers from three urinals down, I paid little mind. But then the seconds began to tick in my mind. Three seconds became four, four became five, and as if an eternity had lapsed twice, a full eight seconds had ticked off my internal clock. "Really?!" I thought to myself. Sick of being sexually objectified (I now know how it feels ladies and I am currently writing a form letter to mass apologize to any and all women I have wronged with merely my glassy stare), I did what any irrational western man in my situation would do. I stared right back

Much has been made of how to react in these situation. Typically, it never goes this far. Most times the slightest movement will send the perpetrators eyes back to neutral non-threatening grounds. Assuming that doesn't work, making eye contact is the defacto coup de grace.

I slowly turned my eyes, which were looking straight ahead in case anyone is looking to brush up on urinal etiquette, straight into his eyes. His eyes, both of which were intently gazing at my dong, made their way up my torso and finally to my face for which they stayed for an agonizing five seconds.

Try to stare at someone's, anyone's, genitals for a full 8 seconds. I dare you. It's excruciatingly long. Don't believe me? Rumor has it the movie "8 seconds", in which Luke Perry starred in the 90's, originally wasn't about bull riding at all. Nay, the movies initial premise was staring at a vagina for 8 seconds. Perry refused and a major script rewrite ensued. If you watch an old 90210 episode, and take careful notice as to how Dylan looks in Brandon Walsh's eyes, you will realize why Perry backed out and the awkward meet ups at the "Peach Pit" will make a lot more sense. But seriously, even if it's your best friend from cub scouts, your youth pastor, or the stripper at "Jiggles", it's really terrifying. Now imagine it's a complete stranger, in a foreign country, at a dirty bus station bathroom. The way this man stared at me you would have thought he was the sole witness to the Lochness monster climbing out of the Han River.

A bit on the shaken side, I shook off and zipped up and made my way to the sink. Thinking the situation was all but over, I relaxed and began to wash my hands. The pervert followed suit and walked to the sink next to me. While my hand were occupied with the soap and the running water, trying to cleanse my soul starting first with my hands, the peeping Tom made the boldest of bold moves. His hand ever so slowly made its way to my ass and began to rub it! I couldn't believe it! This time I nearly gave myself whiplash swinging my head left in order to make eye contact. It's probably to no ones surprise that he was displaying the most perverse and mischievous of grins. "NO!" was the only word that came out of my mouth. I tucked and ran without drying my hands. Only in Korea.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Whenever the Koreans say or write something that is considered to be of poor English, they'll shrug and simply say "Konglish." Before I came here, I'd read blogs and forum posts about the ridiculous sayings that people would wear on t-shirts or shorts (I'm still in utter awe that native English speaking women would wear shorts that said "Juicy" across the ass). I was skeptical as to the level of their absurdity. I'm now a believer. The joke amongst my native tongued brethern is that any native speaker over the age of six could spot and subsequently correct the linguistic faux pas. The irony is that apparently no one does.

I'm not really sure about this one.

Well I wasn't before sweetheart but now that you mention it ...

I'm sure these guys would fix up your car real nice.

"Fuch's Lubricant" - tried and true.
Still makes me laugh when I think about this photo. Is still looking to dethrone "Balzac Coffee"

The single car in the back alley makes this photo.

Because "Tour de France" was taken?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Seoul, South Korea

I'll be honest. I haven't necessarily been chomping at the bit to go up to Seoul. My thoughts are a city in which 14 million inhabitants call "home" offers me little more than heightened blood pressure, a stabbing headache, and perhaps most damning, a wicked case of the Asian bird flew. With that said, I know I'd be the source of ridicule if I were to leave Korea without atleast one visit to Seoul, or as I like to refer to it, "the big crazy."

I have many talents though navigating huge cluster-fucked metropoli is not one of them. When I heard a Korean friend was taking the KTX (Korean 300km/hour train) to Seoul, I knew I had to seize the oppurunity to have atleast a portion of my journey go off without a hitch.

After Hani (Korean friend) showed me how to buy a Seoul subway ticket (yes, I'm litterally like a 3 year old when it comes to executing citycentric tasks) she went onto her sisters house and I continued to Shilim to stay with my couchsurfing host, Garrett. When you're not expecting it, waves and waves of black hair coming at you through narrow corridors can be quite daunting and intimidating. Not that I didn't before, but even moreso now, I have a great respect for our boys hunkered down in the trenches for WW2 and the Korean war.

Garrett took me to his favorite bar in Seoul. The bartender busted out a guitar and we swapped songs back and forth. The bartender and song Korean dude joined in for an inpromptu trio.

Nothing recharges the batteries more than a restful five hours sleep under your winter jacket on a hard floor. Up and at 'em at 9 a.m, I made my way to a very Korean breakfest of Kimbap (think california sushi roll) and then further to the bus station to finally reach the subway for a day of sight seeing. First on the list was Gyeongbukgung palace. It's Seoul's, if not Korea's, largest palace.

After Gyeongbukgung, I worked my way over to Namsam, otherwise known in English as, Tower of Seoul. The cable call up to and down from the tower was w7,500 and the views of the city were spectactular. Calling Seoul "enormous" is the understatement of the century. If you're in Seoul, Namsam is a must-see.

In this video, you can see about a third of densily populated Seoul, South Korea.

Craving a little taste of home, I made my way to Itaewon. We, the U.S, have a military base there (although it might be easier to list off the cities in which we DON'T have a military base), and, as indicative of military themed towns, Itaweon has quite the reputation for foreign goods and generally debachery. On that particular day I was not in the market for mischief, mayhem, or prostitutes, but I did have a hankering for food I couldn't get back in Masan (affectionilty reffered to as the Alabama of the U.S because of it's rural and conservative ways). Obviously there were the western staples such as TGI Fridays, Bennegians, Burger King etc .. but on my way out of the subway entrance, out of the corner of my eye, I stopped a kebap resturant. Suffice to say, I endulged in the spiced lamb and sweet tazikied goodness.

At Oktoberfest in Seoul

A few weeks ago I hosted a Korean woman named Heeson and her German travel company named Axel. They were so much fun to have in Masan. So much so I invited myself to their digs in Seoul. Axel, a German beer afficiando, recommended that we go to Oktoberfest bar in Seoul. He explained that he was skeptical as well but the beer was indeed good. The DunkelBeirre certainly didn't dissapoint and I loved the Asian themed traditional beer wench garb. Axel said no one under a D-cup had any business wearing the get-up, but that's his thing.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Party-time, excellent

It happens regularly around here. The boss determines that the staff needs to congregate for one reason or another and then when the no-holds-barred Soju-styled wrestling begins. Because I'm willing to stake my liver's still functioning areas for Korean immortality, I abide and tip back with my superiors.

From left to right (the So Jun crowd .. city school): Yuna, Ju Yeon, Hyun Mi, Yong Mi, Me-me

Around the horn from left to right (Sam Jin ... country school) Hyun Gung, Jin Sun, Ju Yeon, Garrett

Mr. Kim and I drinking makoli

I like this photo because I showed it to a friend and they said, "you look so happy!" Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. I was goded into allowing Mr. Kim to feed me with his chopsticks. What isn't visible in the picture are my insides seething with fiery rage.

Monday, February 2, 2009

MacGruber conquers bread, booze and a board game.

Remember McGyver? Who doesn't? The Korean's do that's for sure. I can't tell you how many times I have heard a "McGyver" reference out here. His character name, as well as the words "delicious", "hello", and "O'bama", are deeply entrenched into the Korean lexicon. What's more impressive, and somewhat unbelievable, is all Korean's know that Richard Dean Anderson played MacGyver. Yes, the same guy that pulled a German tank over a crumbling bridge with a roll of 12 pound test fishing line and a can of cheese whiz is still very alive and very active, though is operating in a different part of the world and under a different moniker long after the show hit rerun status on TNT.

Do you believe me now? Tiger, the man pictured, was printing off some sheet music for the church band.

While I normally operate under the guise of your "average swingin' dick", or often times the "village idiot" depending on the amount of idiots relative to that particular village, I've been constantly surprising myself of what I'm made of in the gray matter department. My all time favorite Jerry-rig moment is when I used a rock and several wood shims to replace a broken alternator bracket that the dealer wanted 60 dollars to replace. Spending 60 dollars for a bracket on a 150 dollar car didn't make much sense then, nor does it now. So when I wanted some homemade bread out here in Korea and scoffed at buying an overpriced oven, I knew I had to be resourceful.

"Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought." - Jonathan Swift

They, everybody, mocked me when I said I was going to make pita bread in a rice cooker yet they would turn out to be the same ones who sung my praise in between bites of fresh, light, wholesome goodness.

Soon-to-be bread.

The pita was a success but I knew there was going to be a sizable learning curve when it came to producing a delicious loaf of olive bread. Using the same rice cooker the next day, I opted for a basic bread recipe though I made some simple modifications including the addition of chopped olives, a little garlic and some basil.

Bread rise-ith

What do the internet and sex have in common? No matter what harebrained idea you come up with, it's already been done, and with that said, has been recorded and posted online. I took direction from the countless other derelicts who have successfully cooked bread in their rice cookers. My favorite "derelict" has to be this Japanese cook. (I'm not sure what makes me laugh the most; the angry narration, the 70's synth-jazz-fusion backing music, or the Heaven's gate suicide coat the cook is wearing)

The finished product. Mashita! Had it not been for the fact that I gave two pieces away to neighbors, I would have eaten the whole loaf within 4 minutes.

And the most creative use of a condom goes to ...

While I am a moderately experienced beer brewer, what use are skills if you aren't constantly trying to expound on them? Since I was unable to find balloons at Lotte Mart to hand craft an airlock, I called the philandering Englishman upstairs and scored an undersized Korean condom. Move over Boons Farm, there's a new wine maker in town!

From right to left (most simple to most complex): Strawberry wine, Asian pear wine, Asian pear and apple with a brown sugar sugar base.

Now we've got food and alcohol but what about entertainment? A couple of weeks ago a foreigner busted out a Twister game that she had brought from Canada. It was a huge hit amongst the ex-pat crowd but I thought we could go a step further. One game of Twister isn't nearly enough to go around a town the size of Masan. Here is my w3,000 (USD 2.75) equivalent.

Required materials:
1. Non-carpeted flooring
2. Four rolls of tape (much better than the board as the board tends to shift)
3. Something that plays Mp3's or CD's

Alexa and I have had in depth conversations about optimal Twister dimensions. She is a tall glass of water at 6'1, and sinewy as all hell. Consequently, she opts for a more conservation, stretch based mode, whereas I play more of an aggressive, power based game. While fundamentally different in how we approach the sport, we've had great discussions about how to adapt the game to the small apartments in which we reside (we're both very passionate about the game if you couldn't tell). We used a live game at Collin's house (how there were 26 people in a 350 sq ft size apartment with a game of Twister in full swing is beyond me) as proving grounds and determined that widely spaced squares are a disadvantage to the exceedingly short folk, so much so that they bitch incessantly about it. In addition, the largely spaced board was like hockey on an Olympic sized sheet of ice. Basically too much finesse with not enough body contact. At "Hohnplaza" however, the stars really aligned and we really knocked it dead with the layout. Think of the playoff intensity and the overall intimacy of the diminutive Montreal Forum, minus the overturned cop cars following a Game 7 loss. For those wondering, we've determined that 20 cm squares with 10 cm in between squares work best. The first test run included a homemade spinner but this provided to be unreliable as the paper clip affixed to the pen attached to the cardboard tended to be not so random. If I'm only known for the following contribution to society for the rest of my life, let it be this; instead of a manual wheel to determine "left hand - green," I recorded the 16 possible twister combonations in audible form followed by 20 seconds for player movement and made them into Mp3's. I then put them on a USB drive and loaded them in Windows Media Player and put them on shuffle mode. We now have an efficient, 100% non-bias, 100% sober Twister move announcer!

I understand that these brainstorm sessions aren't going to necessarily challenge electricity or the internal combustion engine for invention supremacy but it sure beats the shit out of my college buddy, who in a pinch, used Bag Palm as an anal sex lubricant.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Your money is no good here

I've mentioned before as to how the seemingly routine can become the exponentially frustrating in terms of day to day living in a foreign place. Take for instance, your own health. When being constantly subjected to new food, it's difficult to assess the different ingredients and micronutrients present in each food. While this may be of little or no importance to most, I feel it's pivotal to know what I'm ingesting. While only one example, and a weak one at that, there are far greater issues then knowing whether or not the soy sauce I purchased at Lotte Mart is of the low sodium variety.

God forbid you come to South Korea and require general health maintenance while you are in Korea. While the care is inexspensive to say the least, communication can be difficult if not impossible at times. No fault to the Koreans mind you because it's my responsibly to learn the native tongue, though I'm not sure I'd be comfortable making dental decisions, let alone major medical decisions, with any less than 10 years language mastery. "Oh, I can't remember if the doctor said take 10 pills each day or five." They, the doctors, disperse pills out here with reckless abandon. I have a desk drawer full of medication to substantiate these claims following my week long hospital bender to usher in the western new year. So when another foreigner says that they had a good experience with a doctor that speaks passable English, you tend to take note.

Annilee, my upstairs neighbor from London, pointed me to the direction of a doctor that met the aforementioned bill. "Third floor," she said confidently, "can't miss it." She went on further to explain that I didn't need an appointment. This suited me well as its been a while since I've been to the dentist and I tend not be much for the advance planning. So yesterday after a nice little workout session, I waltzed in there midway through a busy little Thursday. Since Korean architecture tends to be quite bland and homogeneous, I walked into an office, literally the first one I saw, on the third floor of the instructed building, I was met with blank stairs by the girls at reception.

Here is how I found the dentist yesterday. This is pretty much an action by action recount of how my wandering Korean adventures transpire.

Me: Ahn yung hay say o! (Korean "hello")
Reception girl: Ahn yung hay say o!
Me: (hand cell phone to girl with Korean word for "dentist" displayed"
Reception girl: "Aneo ... (insert more Korean I can't understand)"
Me: (shurgs shoulders and smile until reception girl smile backs)
Reception girl: (walks me like the small child I am to my correct destination)

I've noticed that the women around here take special pity on me. It could be their motherly instinct or perhaps my radiant blue eyes, but they are more then always willing to help. Even though it's nice to always have that ace up my sleeve, at the same time, it's severely limiting the amount of Korean I have, want or need to learn.

As the one receptionist hands me off to the next one, I made the charades gesture that I would like a teeth cleaning (it's the one where you are picking at your teeth while making a scraping noise). The women asks with a single word, "pain?" I reply, "No miss (in Korean)" and pull up the cell phone dictionary English-to-Korean entry for "cleaning." Some what puzzled she walks to the back of the office, grabs a dentist and returns to the counter. I then give the same pitch to the dentist and she replies in English, "oh, do you want a scraping?" "Yes, a scraping!" I said with a certain amount of relief. Sampsonite, I was way off!

As I was reaching into my pocket to produce my insurance card, the dentist asked, "Is your name Garrett?" I replied quickly and a bit on the surprised side none the less, "Yes, it is. How did you know that?" "Both my son and my friend Mr. Kim said they had a teacher that had blue eyes, was tall and very handsome. So I guess you." she said as if it were common Korean tradition to effortlessly pluck needles from half-million straw hay stacks.

The "scraping" was pretty uneventful save for the fact that they hygienist that cleaned my teeth did so sans gloves. To her credit, she washed the hell out of her hands both before and after the session. Back at the reception area I spoke to the dentist at mild length about Korea, the United States and So Jun middle school. I then asked her, "well, how much money for the scraping." She started to speak, then paused and said, "you teach my son English, you do not pay me. free scraping for you." I of course offered to pay again, and when she held her ground, I thanked her profusely. The whole exchange left me laughing on the inside and shaking my head a little bit. I think the following quote sums up the exchange far better then I ever could.

"No Mary. I couldn't possibly accept that. Not after all we've been through"
- Lloyd Christmas, Dumb and Dumber

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A river runs Je-ju it

(This post contains talk of testicles and theoretic ejaculation. If this bothers you, perhaps you should read this instead)

This is harubang. It's Korean translation means "grandpa"

Korea is a proud country. Show a picture of a topless double amputee midget swimming in a kiddie pool of green jello in front of Times Square to a Korean, young or old, and they will excitedly say "LG! (or any other Korean based companies logo that is visible in the picture)" It's becoming clear to me that when your country is a peninsula the size of Indiana, you have North Korea as your only land based neighbor, and you're generally regarded as a minor blemish on history's ass, you tend to take pride in what you do have. With that said. it comes to me as no surprise that Korea's island of Jeju, situated about 120 miles to the south of the mainland, is highly touted as "Korea's Hawaii". I had to exercise punctuated deference in calling "bullshit" immediately when I heard this the first time.

When I think of gorgeous places, and when I try to determine if they are indeed gorgeous, I think about this simple saying; "_______ makes me wanna squirt." Are you having difficulty following my pattern of thought? I don't blame you. Here is an example; Hawaii is gorgeous. It makes me wanna squirt. Innsbruck, Austria is gorgeous. If I saw Innsbruck right now, I'd probably squirt. On a good day, I could probably muster out a three-roper squirt for Portland, Oregon. If I could have multiple orgasms and didn't have the refractory period of an 80 year old man, Northwest Montana would make me squirt several times. Are we on the same page?

You're probably wondering how a guy who knows roughly twelve Korean words could a) jump on a plane b) navigate the island c) go horseback riding d) be someone's "lapdog". It will all make sense in a bit.

Buddha and I throwing back some swill.

During my last day of "Winter Camp" at So Jun (city school) and a mere hour after talking to him about "A simple misunderstanding", Mr. Kim asked me if I wanted to accompany him, as well as other staff and students, to the beautiful island of Jeju-do. He said that all I would have to pay for is my plane ticket (W120,000) and my transportation, soju, lodging, food and soju would be picked up for by the school district. Yuna said afterward that Mr.Kim must really like me to invite me on this special trip. I, of course, agreed.

It was as cold as it looks.

A chartered bus picked us up at So Jun middle school at 8:30 a.m Monday morning. We arrived at Gimhae airport and boarded the plane. The plane ride was an uneventful 35 minute journey but I had the idea of reopening the "I want to nail a flight attendant .. there I said it!" blog and making a small amendment such as "I want to nail an Asian flight attendant .. !", but I've since thought better of the idea. Truly the women that adorn these plains are quite beautiful. The thought of taking a picture of the stewardesses raced through my feeble mind but that, even for me, felt a little sleazy. According to lore, Korean flight attendants must complete 3 years of schooling and apparently it is pretty rigorous considering some of the job's duties are passing out peanuts and demonstrating how a seat belt works. The women, sorry boys - no stiff wristers on these 747's, all have to meet strict physical qualifications regarding height and weight and must have a certain "look" to them. I reckon it's like the free wheeling '60's before the dreaded feminism movement, or for what I like to call it, the "end of fun". Just kidding. That last bit was for giggles, albeit slightly off topic.

Ju Yeon cutting up some sort of seafood feast.

When we landed and walked out of the front doors of the airport, all I could think was "that John Denver's full of shit." Korea's Hawaii had snow on the ground! This of course angered me to no end but I was thankful I left the speedo at home and opted for the goose down jacket instead. After slight grumblings under my breathe, I jumped on the bus with the other troops.

The bus driver drove us around the island and then up the mountain. We stopped at varying sights to snap pictures and do some general sightseeing. The further up the mountain we traversed, the colder and more snow filled the air became. Like I said, full of shit.

One of the activities we engaged on Tuesday was, all of things, horseback riding. At first, the horses walked us around the track for us to become comfortable with them. After that, they ran us around the track bouncing all along the way. I don't know if it was the stiffness of the saddle, the bouncing of the horse, or the fact that it was so cold that Pancho and Lefty we riding high and tight but at the end of the day, my balls were wicked sore. Fellas, if you are having difficult imagining this sensation think of a fun Saturday night with the mistress ... without release.

The safety orientation was incomprehensible to me seeing as I don't speak Korean. As as result of this, when the thousand pound beast situated under my ass started to get agitated, I kind of panicked. First, the bastard steed dropped to one knee twice resulting in elevated blood pressure for me. While the other horses walked lazily down the well defined and groomed trail, Eeyore made it his goal to brush me up against every tree and thorn bush this side of Busan. I think he picked up on me vexing him because the jackass had one last trick in store for me ... leaving the beaten trail. As the horse and I left the trail (his doing not mine), the other Korean teachers began yelling "Left-a, Left-a!" I wanted to turn left to get back on the trail obviously, but not being privy to the information dispensed at the safety rundown, I didn't know which gesture was the kill switch and which was the rocket booster. All of the Korean's yelling at my horse must have lit a real fire under his ass because he then began to run. At this point I was left with two options; bail off and hope not to pull a Christopher Reeve or hunker down and ride it out. I opted for the latter and after a brief full on run through the thick wooded terrain, the horse came to his senses and slowed his pace.

The three day mini vacation consisted of a lot of driving and a lot of horse back riding. Basically, the perfect storm for a sore ass. After we flew back to Gimhae and during the bus ride to Masan, Mr. Kim invited me to visit him in Seoul during our Spring break. "Garren, I'd like to show you Seoul. While it might not be proper, you can stay at my spare apartment in Seoul," he said to me. And that's when I officially became a lap dog.