Sunday, December 20, 2009

Is anyone still reading?

I just got back from a 7 week vacation. Koreans havent changed. I was at the bus stop and a college kid was there and he:
1.was coughing without covering his mouth.
2. made a loud noise to cough up spit.
3. coughed up the spit.
4. ate a snack without closing his mouth.
5. Smoked at the busstop around others.
I wanted to kill him.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Please Mr. Kim...don't eat my dog.

Dog meat was eaten in Korea traditionally because Koreans were poor and need to survive. Then they came up with their voodoo-science theory, nay, fact that if you tourture the dog the meet with be more potent like some damned Rover Viagra.

Fast forward to the present day and Koreans are geeting slammed internationally for the practice, but are too proud to let the foreigners get them to stop doing something. It's like my neighbor...I ask him not to slam his gate, but he slams it anyway because he doesnt want me to control him. He could easily shut it quietly and it wouldnt take im more than a fraction of a second to do so (actually the whole damn family slams the gate).

So, they make it illegal...wink wink...and all around the country are dog meat restaurants advertising dog meat. I believe that they should just seriously enforce the ban as part of brand imaging. See...we are developed now. We don't eat dogs anymore.

My mother and my sister used to volunteer at a dog shelter in California and were told by the staff to be wary of Koreans looking to adopt larger dogs. Koreans need to step up and not be cartoon characters to the rest of the world.

Years ago there was a small market in Shindang. I happened upon it back in '95. I wondered around the market and it started to rain. I went down one alley way and there was a small cage with 2 large dogs inside. One dog had a tennis ball in its mouth. Through the tennis ball was a straightened out clothes hanger that was tied tight around the back of the dog's head. Blood and rain were streaming down the dog's face as the other dog licked his friend's wounds. The dog was in obvious pain and the look in his eye was frightening. I actually became scared and quickly left the market.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Koreans need to level up their manners Part 1: Pushing and Bumping

I decided to go to the War Museum today. I have passed it a million times and have spent some time looking at the planes, tanks, vehicles, artillery that are in front of the museum. I was approaching a side gate of the Yongsan Army base on the very busy street that runs in front of Camp Kim and the USO and down the street from the Samgakji intersection. As I began to cross in the crosswalk, I had my head oscillating back and forth like a fan. There were cars waiting to turn that I would need to pass in front of and cars could turn left and right in front of (or into) me; you know how Koreans drive.

So, I had plotted the course across the street and I was scanning the traffic from side to side. I see a Korean ajosshi coming out of the Army gate and he was on a collision course with me. I didn't want to change direction as I was certain that I could cross safely by walking straight. At the last second, I put both elbows up and ajosshi caught a Charles Barkley style elbow to the shoulder. I keep walking and he yells after me and then rubs his shoulder and makes a hurt face. Asshole. Watch where you are going.

Then I went to EMart because I wanted to get my drink on. On the way back, this Korean 20-something moron tries to walk from my left across my path. I would have had to stop walking in the intersection to avoid colliding with him. As he crossed my path, I threw a forearm at him like I used to do in high school football. He bounced off it and crossed my path, so I guess he won even though he took a hit.

I hate these "people."

Monday, October 5, 2009

I have never heard anyone ever say Koreans were sofisticated

I don't eat out often. Usually only on dates. Reasons include cost, lack of trust that the kitchen staff are preparing the food with a modicum of hygiene, and I don't like watching Koreans eat....especially the men.

Nyom nyom nyom nyom

It is bad enough that they do not chew with their mouths open. But that just gives me an opportunity to devote all my attention to my date. Koreans appear, all too often, to have a contest to see who can shove more food into their cakeholes and still carry on a conversation. You really can't get away from the sound.

I can still remember my mother's voice telling me to chew with my mouth closed...don't talk with your mouth full...don't use the salad fork for the main course (even that level of table manners is way over Koreans' heads).

Korean parents do not teach their children table manners...wait....what do they teach them? Not to throw garbage of the ground? No. Keep the noise down in public places? No. Don't slam doors and gates? No. Not run around in crowded places? No. Etc... ad infinitum. They do send them to 20 hogwons a week. That counts for parenting, doesn't it?

Back to the restaurant...the sounds they make when they eat really make me sick. Smack, smack, smack...nyom nyom nyom. And the sounds they make when they those two Pepsi ads. Then we have burping, picking their teeth at the table....I can't continue.

Ever been to a buffet in Korea? It's like feeding time. And they can stand hovering above the food, talking over it, minute particles of spittle falling on the food. Last time I was at a buffet (2001), I was going to get ice cream until the kid in front of me sneezed on it in the freezer.

That's it. Talk amongst yourselves.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The insanity built into the Korean Matrix

Remember in The Matrix when Neo is told about the first matrix and how it was too perfect that the people didn't believe it? What they failed to tell you was that there was a second matrix before the one where Neo, Trinity, and Morphus were playing about. You live in it: the Korean Matrix.
Instead of being too perfect, the Korean matrix is too imperfect. People running around, bumping into each other, expressionless and cold individuals, trying to cut away at their faces to change appearance or opting to leave the matrix via 15th floor balcony of their apartment that looks like every other apartment in every other city.
I get on the bus today. The bus driver doesn't great me, but greats the other passengers behind me. His programming tells him that all white people in the matrix do not speak Korean. It is 25 degrees Celsius outside. The bus driver doesn't turn on the air conditioner because he is programmed not's not that hot. The temperature in the matrix is always just a little above what is comfortable for us humans.
Every man has his legs spread wide out, airing out their little packages. Most people close their eyes, some talk into cellphones. Others look forward or out the window with a vacuous expression on their impassive faces. They are all, as Chuck Palahniuk wrote (about something else): "A copy of a copy of a copy." They all think the same way, the way they have been told to think. There is little original thought here. They all hold the same views on most things, especially about those who don't belong in the matrix...foreigners.
Foreigner have a round eye and high nose. Any foreigner darker than Korea is dirty. Chinese is a dirty Asian. Foreigner can not eat spicy food. White teacher spend a time in Hongdae for meeting the Korean woman. Have new Korean woman many. They cannot speak the Korean. They don't understand about the Korean people or culture.

Do you know Dokdo?

The man in front of me coughs at the window. I turn my head and hold my breath. Anger washes over me and I tell myself he is just a Korean and knows no better. The old woman sitting next to me is like jelly; as the bus jolts side to side, she repeatedly bounces off of me. She digs in her bag, elbow a few centemeters from my face. The man next to her watches TV on a very small screen.
I ring the bell with my elbow. Passengers standing do not want to move out of my way. I have to push them. A middle aged woman stands with her ass on the bus card machine. I slid my hand across her ass and swipe my ring on the machine. She barely moves. The bus stops and I get off.
Three university students are talking and not looking where they are going. I either step into the street or stand still. Unattractive university girl runs into me. She makes eye contact, but there is no glimmer of life in her dull brown eyes. No sorry, no was like she ran into a tree.
I wondered if there was not a glitch in the Korean matrix like the woman in the red dress. But in the Korean matrix, the glitch is public drunkenness. I look around and there are no glitches...unusual.
I start walking towards the store. Two women in identical black dresses, jackets, and white shirts with their hair up in buns stare at me. I smile. They stare back. A woman with a push cart is delivering a monologue as she pushed the cart. But maybe it was a dialog as she was answering herself. She liked the word 싶팔년 (fucking bitch). I couldn't help thinking she was the sanest person I saw today.
I get on the subway instead of the bus because from 4 to 8 pm everyday, several kilometers of the main street running to my neighborhood are all kinds of fucksated with traffic and driver retards. There is a three way intersection. Cars go north/south, east/west, then a left turn signal. Each and every time, more cars drive into the intersection that can get out, running the red light. This causes cars whose light has turned green to have to wait or drive around the stalled traffic. Then they block the intersection. Then those cars turning cant move and they block the intersection. EACH AND EVERY INSANE TURN OF THE FUCKING TRAFFIC LIGHT. A police officer watches, never taking out his ticket book.
The insanity of Korea never ends.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Putting New in front of something certainly makes it somehow better

I was on a bus travelling through Korea's Manhattan when I spied a brochure in the hand of a salaryman. "Chuncheon: New Siliconvalley". Apparently, Silicon Valley is now one word; better tell the folks in Northern California. Old Silicon Valley stands for innovation and progress. In Korea, these words apply only to how to tear down traditional buildings and put up the New Traditional building of Korea: dog box apartments.
It is in these New Traditional apartments that a real sense of community can form. You will become close to your neighbors like never before. 1600+ people jammed into a close space.
You will get to know the comings and goings of your neighbors with their frequent door slamming. Their children running and screaming down the hall will teach you to the joys of unrestrained, shrieking youth.
You can feel the pain and joys of your neighbors as they scream at each other in a loving argument or as Mr. Kim next door smacks around his wife, to the crying voices of his children pleading him to stop.
It is here that you child's greatest memories will be of riding their bikes around the car park in a endless circle or kicking a soccer ball against the wall with friends, screaming loudly after each goal.
The building guards control your heating. You can turn it off, but you still pay for it. They will lovingly keep a watchful eye out for you, hovering over you as you sort your recyclables, ever vigilant that you, as a foreigner, might make a mistake and put something in the wrong place. only exists in Korea, New Paradise.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Way to Keep it Classy, Korea!

When I lived in Uijongbu, I would walk alot in the countryside because I like to walk. On the main road to school was trash everywhere. There were very few places where you could see a meter without garbage. This wasnt a street people would generally walk on. It ran mostly through farms. No, gentle readers, this garbage came from people throwing it out of cars.
I dont know about where you come from, but in California, people....adults usually do not throw their trash wherever they want. Parents usually instill in their children that we need to keep our city clean and pretty. Korean parents obviously do not do this.
Last year, I was walking behind a father with two small kids with him. He, the adult, threw his popsicle wrapper on the ground. I yelled at him and told him in Korean that trash doesnt go there. He picked it up and say "solly." I told him sarcastically that he was a good father.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Do you remember?

September. Summer breaks in September in the Land of the Morning Sparkle. I don't care for the traditional definitions of the seasons, American or Korean. If it is hot and you sweat without exercising, it is summer.

If you are from California or have spent any length of time there, you know that the seasons are not predictable. I was at Disneyland two days before Christmas one year and it was really hot, short pants and short sleeve shirt weather. Summers in Northern California can be very cold. I miss the unpredictable weather.

This summer has been mild in Korea. Cold winds from the North blow blah blah blah...I couldn't care less the reason, but I am thankful for it none the less. Korea's weather is indeed predicable. Since inventing the four season over 5000 years of culture ago, the weather is enervating in its predictability. The monsoon season comes in June, July and August are unbearable with heat and humidity, January will be the coldest month. The air will be dry. Yellow sand will come in spring, heavy or not, it will come.

I love winter. I truly do. I believe that this stems from two factors: I would visit my grandparents in winter and winter meant skiing at Squaw Valley, site of the 1960 Winter Olympics. Squaw Valley. Vaurnet cat eyes. Mother Karen pullover. Jeans sprayed with waterproof spray.

"Dude, there is fresh powder all over Tahoe, lets go tomorrow." Leave the house at 5am, skip school, drive to Tahoe, get back at dinnertime. Parents would ask you how your day was at school and you'd reply "good," raccoon tan on your face.

My point is, gentle reader, I fucking hate summer in Korea. Summer is California is a fantasy world of cool people, the beach, a few brews, girls in bikinis, and it lasted forever. I remember one summer when I was working in Beverley Hills. I quit my job and hung out in Malibu at the beach. I would hang out at Zuma or Dan Blocker. There were these pretty high school girls who would invariably be there everyday. They took a lot of pictures of each other. I remember thinking how cherished those pictures and those memories would become for them. Beautiful girls growing up in the coolest place on the planet...California.

Monday, August 31, 2009

I'm looking for Mr. Kim. Would Mr. Kim please raise his hand?

These are the four fishermen who were just released by North Korea. Notice the wide and diverse range of emotions on their faces. Very expressive, no?

You're so fucking future, and you don't even know it

In 1994, bars closed at midnight. You couldn't get a beer at the store. Shady probable gangsters would hang out in the mouths of alleys asking if you wanted to buy a beer. Touts (비키?) could take you to closed illegal speakeasies around Shinchon. There were placing in Hondae, too (and probably everywhere else). There was one place halfway between the Methodist church in front of Yonsei and Shinchon train station (which is now a fucking department store with a movie theatre).
Halfway down an alley and down a set of stairs, it looked abandoned. There was no bell. You had to take turns banging on the door as hard as you could. Sometimes it would take 10 minutes to be let in. The door was metal, heavy like at Hitler's bunker, and it had professional sound absorption padding like they have in studios and at the ear doctor.
The door would open eventually, it always did, and loud American music would blast through the opening as a Korean beckoned you quickly to come inside. Once inside, the place was spacious and trendy. Foreigners, Koreans...we all came to party.
Once on our way there, we passed one of my students. I didn't even see her. My friend asked me if that wasn't her. She had a quick smile. She was a student at Ewha Womens (sic) University. She majored in Korean traditional dance and minored in ballet...or was it the other way around? She was with a Korean guy, a first date as I would learn (and the last).
Basically, we hooked up at the club. On the way out, we saw the guy drunk and dejected, sitting on the curb wondering how the fuck that just happened to him. We giggled and crept away into the night. I couldn't have cared less about him.
YJ was from Pusan. She wanted to be a model, but she was too short at 162cm. I did see her in a print ad for Samsung once. She was wearing a silver miniskirt outfit and standing next to a traditional looking old man. I haven't seen her since about 1996.
Back at the bunker another time, there was a big fight. There was a guy from Edmonton, stocky and looked like he could handle himself. He walked over to YJ as I was buying drinks. Upon walking towards the table, she pointed at me and said something to he guy. He approached me and began apologizing, saying he didn't know she was with me. Cool. Enjoy the party, brother.
Now, we didn't know at the time why the fight started. But I learned later when I saw the guy sitting down waiting for someone near the Methodist church. I asked him the reason for the fight and he told me that a guy in our group, a real wanker, was also from Edmonton. When the guy told him he was also from Edmonton, our wanker friend began badmouthing the city. The stocky guy wasn't having it.
We didn't know that though. Just one of his friends came over and said that the guy was pissed and we should leave. A friend of mine told him to fuck off repeatedly until he got punched for swearing in the guy's face. A couple of other punches were thrown and there was pushing and shoving and a lot of trash talking. The fight basically ended with me politely asking the stocky to take his hand off my shit-talking friend's neck. He did. He was a reasonable guy.
We did leave though. I walked YJ back to her boarding house then walked home.
(I have no idea why blogger will not save in paragraph form. I indented and left 5 spaces indented).

Friday, August 28, 2009

August 1994

It was the end of August 1994. I got off the plane from Kimpo and was met by a gentleman named Mr. No. We waited for two other English teachers to get off the same flight. One was a 49 year old former drama teacher and the other was an unintelligent woman-child who would later that year begin to bring her puppy into her classes at the hogwon.

Mr. No drove us in the minivan to the main hogwon on Chong-ro. It was to be our first, but not last, view of the way Koreans do things without consideration for others. The bags stayed in the minivan and Mr. No brought us into the hogwon for a cup of instant coffee and we sat there with him. He spoke almost no English.

After 45 minutes, we tried to ascertain why we were sitting there. We all had a long flight from California and needed a shower and dinner. Mr. No just thought we wanted a cup of coffee and awkward conversation. He eventually took us across the street to the YMCA.

I was to share a room with the older gentleman and the woman-child had her own room. This was fortuitous as she and I ended up sleeping together that night. There were three other new teachers for the hogwon that we met at the YMCA, and we went out for dinner in Chong-ro. I remember thinking this was the gay part of town as many ajosshis were holding hands. At dinner, the older gentleman tried to ask the BBQ ajumma in English if the meal was dog meat.

After dinner, the woman-child told the group that we were going to go for a walk and we parted ways with them. She was very pretty, with mid-back length brown hair and green eyes. We held hands and walked around for a while in the late summer heat.

Back at her hotel room, she asked me to give her a massage. I did and she took off her shirt. I countered by taking off her bra. The massage didn't last too long and we began having sex. Little did I know that she was to be my penultimate Caucasian paramour. We made love several times and slept well into the morning of our first full day in Seoul.

I would have never imagined that 15 years later I would still be in Korea.