Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Domo Arigato Nippon

Kelly and I took advantage of our recent Chuseok vacation and spent 6 action-filled days in Japan. I say, "action filled" because we travelled to 4 different cities in 6 days. This definitely had me wondering if we bit off a little more than we could chew. We went to Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, and Tokyo. Despite my apprehension of covering so much ground in so little time, I feel like our trip couldn't have gone better (except for my Karaoke singing).

We both really enjoyed Japan... but I must admit that after living in Korea for this long it becomes all the more difficult to find the unique and bizarre in a place that at first glance, seems so similar. With that said, Japan is different than Korea, and the 6 days spent there only had me wanting to see and discover more. Highlights included watching the Sumo championships in Tokyo, the sheer beauty of Kyoto, and the tranquil temples at Nara.

For some reason, the photos I are uploading are not the ones that I'm choosing from the folder. I am frustrated and going to bed.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Happy New Year?

Yeah, it was inevitable that I would stop blogging, at least for a while. Being relativley new to both Facebook and blogging, I didn't know how unbelievably self-centered and annoying these people of the world really were (though I had always suspected this), and I was completely turned off by the idea of blogging for sometime.. Granted, most of the people I am meeting while living and traveling in Asia are younger than me, yet I still find their, "I'm the most special and creative person that has ever walked the Earth" attitudes very annoying. While I skim through some of their blog posts on Facebook, it makes me never want to be witty or sarcastic or creative ever again. They do the opposite of inspiring me. I guess that would be uninspiring. They uninspire me.

Anyway, here's what's new with me... Kelly and I took a trip to Southeast Asia in the Spring (Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam). I have no reason to run back to Cambodia but I hope that I make it back to Vietnam and Thailand some day. It is hard for me to remember scenery more beautiful than those of Pha Ngan Bay and the islands around Phuket. And as the trip becomes more and more a part of the past, I am constantly reminded of the amazing food. Buying a $10 bowl of pho in Seoul just seems like a crime. Ho Chi Minh was a fantastic place and it made me want to see more of Vietnam... someday.

Teaching is still going well. I was approached by an official at Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education and she said she really loved how I teach and asked if I would be willing to transfer to "one of the best schools in Seoul" next semester. I'm not sure if I will because it depends on location and some other factors, but that's more of a compliment than I received in 6 years of MPS. So that was nice.

I am really looking forward to heading home for three weeks in August!

So, that's enough for now. I'll try to write more regularly, but if I'm sure I'll fall off the wagon again at some point. Apologies in advance to my thousands of adoring fans..

Friday, December 11, 2009

Oops, I Think I'm in a Male Strip Club

There is a place down the street that I've been wanting to visit ever since I moved into the neighborhood. Their walkway was lined with fake palm leaves and Christmas lights, and a Korean man dressed as Elvis was on the sidewalk trying to convince people to come inside. I once worked up enough courage to stick my head in the doorway, but couldn't make it all the way inside. I did hear some music coming from down the stairs and judging by the old, well dressed Koreans going inside I assumed it was some kind of Korean lounge.

Kelly and I had gone out for dinner and shopping in our neighborhood many times, but never to just have a drink, which was needed to have the nerves to see what was in the basement of that mysterious establishment... that is until recently.

We had a drink on the seventh floor of a club near Sindaebang Station called Luxor. It was very nice inside and the drinks were expensive. The price structures in Korean bars are often very different than they would be in America. For instance, the import beers were an expensive $8 each, but the martinis were the same price, which is reasonable. Unfortunately, most bartenders here don't have the first clue on how to make a good martini. After a couple of drinks we decided to go check out the mystery lounge down the street.

We nervously walked down the stairs and into a room with loud traditional Korean music, and I mean loud. A hostess met us at the door and immediately seated us at a table. The interior was very gaudy, like Wayne Newton gaudy. There were lots of people there, none under the age of 50, and we were of course receiving many stares from everyone. It was very dark and there was a stage where old Koreans would come up and karaoke traditional Korean songs that all sounded the same. The dance floor was packed with old people all dancing the same and seeming to be having the time of their lives. There were only two other people on stage, one guy playing the organ/keyboard and I'm not really sure what the other guy was doing.

When we sat down a waiter ran up and yelled some Korean words in my ear, I looked at him and slightly nodded, and he ran away. Oh boy, what have I just done? It was too late to leave now. We had been seated and I'm pretty sure I had just ordered something. Seconds later, three waiters hurried to our table carrying one of the largest fruit plates I had ever seen along with three huge bottles of Hite(beer). I thought this was really strange until through the smoke and darkness I began to notice that most tables had the same gargantuan fruit plates.

It didn't take long for drunk Korean men to start making their way to us. Buying us beer and squid and trying to get me on stage to sing. Beer and squid was fine but I wasn't going up on stage. The fact that it was way too loud to talk and that we don't speak Korean didn't assuage their efforts to communicate with us. As Kelly and I tried to talk to these men, I noticed that the music had changed. The music was from Phantom of the Opera and two young men started twirling around in huge and sparkled outfits. It was so strange... but not as strange as what happened next.

I was talking to a man with diamond studded Dolce&Gabbana glasses that everyone else referred to as "Captain" when Kelly began kicking me from under the table and motioning towards the dance floor with her eyes. I looked over and did not expect to see what I saw. The dancers had taken off all their clothes except for string bikini banana hammocks. They were still twirling around like before but now they were humping all over the place. They began going from table to table humping frontwards, humping sideways, and humping the ground. Some Koreans watched the dancers straight faced, others went about with their conversations like before, but Kelly and I were obviously the only ones that found it strange. We finished our beer and squid, said bye to Captain and his friends, paid for our fruit plate and we haven't been back since.

Below you see a picture of me outside of the lounge. Also is a photo that Kelly snuck of one of the banana hammock boys.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Promising Draws For USA and S. Korea

Both South Korea and the US should be optimistic with the Groups they were drawn for the 2010 World Cup. Both USA and ROK were lucky not to draw Spain/Brazil from Pot 1 nor Portugal/France from Pot 4.

USA find themselves in Group C with England, Algeria, and Slovenia. England should be the obvious favorite in the Group. England is not the strongest team from Pot 1 and usually struggle playing away from home. Many speculate that English players (as well as other Europeans) struggle in hot weather as well. It is hard to argue if you consider that no European team has ever won a World Cup outside of European soil. Although June will be winter in South Africa, hopefully a nice hot June 12th in Rustenburg will occur and play to the American's advantage.

Republic of Korea is in Group B with Argentina, Nigeria, and Greece joining them. This is a very evenly matched group. The obvious favorite to win the Group, Argentina, has more questions than answers. They easily have the most talent but with their disastrous qualifying round and the drug obsessed coach (Maradona), anything could happen with Argentina. The other three teams have an even chance to advance to the next round in my unexpert opinion. I'll be pulling for Korea myself (as for now anyway).

* My possible dark horse, Ivory Coast, drew both Brazil and Portugal. I'd like to take that one back.

* The host country, South Africa drew three teams ranked in the top 15 in the world(Uruguay, France, and Mexico). The host country usually plays well but it would be a near miracle for S. Africa to make it out of the first round.

Too bad we have to wait so long for the first game, which incidently is June 11th Mexico vs South Africa.

World Cup Draw In About 30 Minutes...

I'm staying up late tonight so that I can catch the World Cup Draw live. USA finds itself in what I would argue is the weakest Pot (2), which could prove unfortunate. Of course any team can win on any given day blah blah blah... but here is what I would consider America's best and worst possible draws:

Best possible: USA, South Africa, Ghana, Slovenia

Worst Possible: USA, Brazil, Cote d'Iviore, Portugal
or: USA, Spain, Paraguay, France

* Any team in Pot 1, excluding South Africa, I consider to be equally intimidating. For example, it would be just as daunting to face England, as it would Spain (especially after defeating Spain last summer). Spain is ranked #1 in the world but they have a poor track record in World Cups. I always find it difficult to not call Brazil #1.

*Ivory Coast is a team that could really make an impact at this World Cup, with an impact striker like Drogba and the "home field advantage" of being an African team... wouldn't be a huge surprise to see them make a run at it.

*South Korea is in the same pot so they face the same scenario as the US.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pigeons From Hell

I've had many work days where I don't teach. This is because the students are often testing and my school understands that, other than teaching my English class, I am worthless to them. So I have many days like today where I sit on my computer for eight hours or so. I have heard many people complain that they hate their jobs because it is "so boring" and all they do is "sit in front of a computer all day". Fine by me. I easily find ways to pass the time. Today, I watched live stats of football and basketball games in the US (lame, I know), Skyped with my mom for an hour, chatted with a friend for another hour, and read articles of interest on the internet.

One thing I researched during my internet surfing today was something I remembered from when I was young. I was about 9 years old and I was listening to my family talk about the book "IT" which led to discussion of the scariest books we had read and the most frightening movies we had seen. My dad talked about the scariest movie he had ever seen and it was called "Pigeons From Hell". I could tell from the way he talked that this movie had made an impact on him. He claimed he had attempted to find the movie but couldn't find a copy. He theorized that perhaps the film had been accidentally destroyed or misplaced and that no copies were in existence. I even recall him thinking that he should contact Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders because the lyrics "got in the house, like a pigeon from hell" (Back on the Chain Gang), must have something to do with the movie.

Well, thanks to the internet, people no longer need to communicate with British punk bands to solve life's mysteries. It did not take long to figure out that "Pigeons From Hell" was not a movie, but in fact an episode of the TV series, "Thriller". The episode originally aired on June 6, 1961, which would put my dad at 7 years old. The perfect age to be scarred for life by a well made horror flick! Thriller was hosted by Boris Karloff and ran for two seasons (1960-1962), airing a total of 67 episodes. "Pigeons From Hell" was episode #36 from Season 1. From what I could find, the original Thriller episodes have never been released on DVD, but I did find this link that gives some hope to those of us that would like to see that happen.


"Pigeons From Hell" was based on a short story written in 1938 by Robert E. Howard, the same author who wrote "Conan the Barbarian". Stephen King called it, "one of the greatest horror stories of our century" (apparently referring to last century). I've included a link to the short story if anybody is interested.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Not Much PC in the ROK.

I think I am becoming accustomed to Korean manners. This wasn't always the case.

A couple months ago when teachers at my school were gasping and asking, "Robert, what happened to your face!?", I was embarrassed. A few mosquito bites on my face and I was being treated like a circus freak. I replied by saying, "your country is infested with mosquitoes with superhuman strength that open doors and feast on me every night." My exaggeration was lost on them and they looked to be thinking, "mosquitoes can't open doors." The point is, regardless of the fault or blemish you may have, expect to have it pointed out by every single person you come into contact with. It's not considered rude.

Another example of, we'll call it bluntness, was during my first trip to the local gym. The first day I went to pay the fee and expected to work out for only 20 minutes because I had plans to meet some people. Kelly had joined a week earlier and failed to mention that I would have to go through a thorough physical exam after signing up. After getting my three page evaluation, the female trainer was nice enough to go through it with me. She said, "this is your weight, this your height, you have too much fat." Hello!! I simply replied, "thank you, that is why I am here." I suppose she made up for that statement later in the evaluation when she mentioned that I had "excellent balance". I assumed this was because I didn't fall over when she told me I was fat.

...Twenty minutes later when I was leaving she ridiculed me for leaving so soon. I hate that woman.

We went with some friends to a seafood restaurant in Sinchon this weekend. There are countless restaurants in Seoul with tanks of live seafood, we just haven't been to many because of Kelly's "condition" (As you may or may not know, Kelly has lied to her entire staff, claiming that she is allergic to seafood. This was to avoid being forced to eat anything she may not want to). Anyway, the experience was great. We picked a random variety platter that was on the menu, not sure of what was included. The waiters came with a wide variety of clams, scallops, oysters, shrimp, and other shellfish that I was not familiar with. They put hot coals in the pit of our table, similar to that of a galpi restaurant, and we cooked the seafood while it was still alive. Barbaric, I know, but I suppose it doesn't get much fresher than that. It was tasty, but more than that, it was fun. Actually the waiter poured an entire bowl of seaweed soup on my groin, which may have put a damper on the evening for some, but like the scars, my memory of that will fade with time.

I am looking forward to the DMZ tour on the 21st and Thanksgiving dinner in Gangnam... sweet! We are also hoping to spend Christmas in Shanghai. No, it wouldn't be like the beaches of SE Asia but it would be fun.