…everything put together sooner or later falls apart.
As incredible as it may seem I was actually starting to feel a little burned out on Itaewon. The wife was visiting family in the countryside and I was feeling more than little bored. What to do? Change my view! So I headed on down to Songtan.
I decided to take the bus from Nambu Terminal, something I’ve done before but never on my own. In the past I had always connected from Line 6 to Line 3 at Yaksu Station. These days I live near Line 4, but I figured I could do the 4/6/3 thing unless I found a better way. And sure enough there was one! You can transfer from Line 4 to Line 3 at Chungmuro Station and twelve stops or so later you arrive at Nambu.
As you can tell I was pretty pleased with myself for figuring that out. And yes, I am easily pleased.
I proceeded to purchase my bus ticket to Songtan (W3800) without incident and the bus arrived within five minutes. Unfortunately, lots of folks had made weekend plans for Songtan and the bus was full before I could get on board. Ah well, the next one arrived twenty minutes later and I secured a comfortable window seat. The last passengers were a mother and her two small children. Finding that there were not three contiguous vacant seats, she put her older child across the aisle and sat down next to me with her little girl sitting in her lap. I volunteered (technically gestured) that I would move and the mother responded in English “no, that’s alright”. Then the little girl offered me a stick of her gum which was pretty sweet of her.
It’s about a 50 minute ride to Songtan which I spent looking out the window. Upon arrival I did the ten minute walk to the Korea Hotel which is where I’ve always stayed when I visit.
Now, Jee Yeun has always been able to negotiate a discounted rate. I had my mind set on doing the same thing. It was touch and go for awhile but I was finally able to get a rate of $60, a whopping five bucks off the starting price. It was more about the principle than the money anyway.
Next I needed to prepare my stomach for a night of heavy drinking by ingesting some greasy food. The conveniently located McDonald’s did the trick. I then met up with my buddy Matt and we sat down for our first beers at a pub with outdoor tables. Later his girlfriend and her friend drove down from Seoul and we moved over to Xenis Bar for the Saturday night darts tournament.
I drew a local player, Terry “T-Money”, as my partner. I threw a little better than usual and T-Money filled in the gaps nicely. We sailed along until I lost the ability to throw bulls-eyes and we got knocked into the loser’s bracket. Fought our way back to play the team that had beat us earlier for the championship. We took the first match but still needed to beat them again when my partner advised he had a 1:00 a.m. curfew imposed by the commander at Osan Air Base. So we agreed to split 1st and 2nd place money evenly and everyone went home happy.
Well, I didn’t go home of course. Our group hit the street for some street food where I enjoyed some chicken-on-a-stick, a drunken delicacy if there ever was one. The womenfolk then went back to the hotel and Matt and I hit another bar or two for some late late-night drinking. I stumbled back to the hotel at 0330.
Woke up at 9:30 in a state other than refreshed, grabbed a sausage muffin and coffee at McD’s then hiked on over to the Songtan bus station for my somewhat
hungover triumphant return to Seoul. And I never even needed a taxi!
So that’s the story of how my weekend climaxed in Songtan. I’m glad I came! *ahem*
The world came together last night at Pub Dolce Vita in Itaewon. Looking around the room I noted the following countries were represented by patrons in the bar: Korea, USA, Philippines, Japan, Canada, Russia, and Mongolia. Not sure why none of the UK expats showed up given their fondness for the sport of darts.
So we had us a tournament and me and partner managed to make it to the finals. We were coming from the loser’s bracket which required us to beat our opponents in two best of three matches. And both of those matches went all three legs. In fact, it came down to both teams having a chance to win on their last dart. They missed, we didn’t. My share of the 1st Place money was W30,000.
It was well after midnight when we finished and I was tired, hungry, and a little drunk. And I had missed the last subway and bus home (why they stop running so early on the weekends is something I’ve never quite understood). Which meant it was catch a cab or rent a room. I opted for the former.
Now, the only real problem I’ve ever had in Korea is with taxi drivers. It’s a problem that only surfaces when my Korean wife is not with me. And it’s not a language issue so much as it is, well, I have to say it is racism. My experience is always the same and it happens repeatedly: vacant cabs slow down, see I’m a foreigner, and then accelerate away. That happened two or three times last night. I also had two cabs stop, crack the window to ask where I was going, and when I responded “Gireum station” they said “anio” and took off. My understanding is that it is illegal to refuse a fare, but the cabs do it with impunity. Finally a Deluxe Taxi stopped and let me in. The only thing that makes a deluxe cab deluxe is that they charge a higher fare. Last night the meter started at W5000 and was up to W24,000 and change when we arrived in proximity to Gireum (he actually dropped me about a block from where I wanted to go, but there was no point in arguing about it). The normal cab fare from Itaewon is between W12,000 and W15,000. So, that’s the price I paid for being white in Korea I suppose. I have heard it is even worse to be black in Korea.
Last year when Jee Yeun’s kids were with us in Las Vegas they had an ugly run-in with an American taxi driver. And while I felt bad for them of course, I couldn’t help but think now you know how I feel every frickin’ time I cab (alone) in Korea.
Anyway, it was a frustrating end to an otherwise pleasant night.
UPDATE: Kevin Kim makes offers some great advice for winning cabbies over in the comments. Give it a read! And of course, not all cab drivers are useless bastards. I remembered a happy Thanksgiving incident that I had blogged about a few years back.
So the Pew Research folks have conducted a survey and created a “political typology” that purports to better describe the mindsets of the American voter beyond the typical “red versus blue”.
According to Pew, I’m a “Business Conservative”. Take the survey yourself if you are so inclined.
(I found this all mildly interesting and I guess the BC designation fits me well enough. I rather dislike surveys that give you an “either/or” choice of “which best describes” your beliefs when it seems as often as not neither do. YMMV.)
So the other night Jee Yeun was visiting her mother and I ran out of things to do on the internet and got bored. No worries, I went downstairs to the GS25 store, bought me three tall cans of Cass beer and a bag of tortilla chips, pulled up a chair out front, and proceeded to loiter.
On the longish list of things I like about Korea, the ability to sit on the street sipping a brew and watching the
women people walk by is nowhere near the top. But when the mood strikes it’s a nice diversion. Most convenience stores have a setup something like this:
Whereas in the good ol’ USA you find this:
I reckon those two photos illustrate some of the unique cultural differences between the two countries as much as anything else might.
Anyway, about mid-way through my second beer an older Korean man joined me. We didn’t have a thing to say to each other in a common language but the enjoyment of the shared experience translated just fine. The only downside was the lack of a public restroom. Luckily, I was able to duo-purpose the parking lot I wrote about previously and I relieved myself Korean-style.
Is this a great country or what?
It’s been awhile since I’ve used the “oh, THAT liberal bias” tag. It’s not been for a lack of ample evidence that the Fourth Estate skews consistently to the left. Hell, they don’t even really try and hide it much these days. Still, I came across a couple of glaring examples this morning and for what it is worth (nothing I suppose) I felt compelled to point them out.
The first case deals with Wisconsin governor and potential presidential candidate Scott Walker. Now, Walker has done some pretty amazing things as the Republican governor of a blue state. Naturally, this makes him a threat to be neutralized. A Democrat prosecutor has been trying unsuccessfully to bring an indictment on campaign funding issues for a couple of years now, but two different judges have deemed the charges bogus and chastised the prosecutor for abusing the system. What, you didn’t read about that? Ah well, I suppose that news was a local issue unworthy of the attention of the national media. Now, the prosecutor’s office has unsealed the repudiated indictment and guess what–it’s big news! Except the news didn’t report that the charges were found to be without basis by two judges. They are reporting the unfounded accusations as if those charges had some merit. The politics of personal destruction would not be possible without the complicity of the liberal media. More details on this fiasco at Althouse.
The other example is less obnoxious but just as telling. Those virtuous folks at CNN (home to the infamous Candy Crowley) hosted a Town Hall with Hillary Clinton featuring star reporter Christiane Amanpour. Now, this was billed as a straightforward news event. So, why was the audience coached on when and where to cheer? A small thing perhaps, but another indication that the media is in the agenda-setting business. Making news as opposed to reporting it.
Maybe we’ll have a Republican in office come 2017 and the press can once again return to its role as government watchdog.
Via Althouse comes this interesting post concerning the original grammar Nazi, Ben:Jonson. I mean, he even had the cojones to criticize Shakespeare! I guess it would be fair to say he wrote the definitive book on grammar. Or at least the original.
Now, as regular readers well know when it comes to grammar I lean to Kelsey. And given my libertarian tendencies I hold fast to my right to punctuate as I damn well please (provided of course than no one else gets hurt in the process). Given my laissez faire attitude towards the conventions of proper written English one may wonder why I’ve chosen to blog on the topic. The fact of the matter is that I couldn’t resist the temptation to use “A pause for two pricks” as the title for a post.
UPDATE: It occurs to me that if you don’t click through to the Althouse link you’ll miss my joking reference which is: Jonson called the colon “a pause or two pricks”. Now two pricks in a colon sounds mighty painful, but it does give one pause for thought. Ok, I’ll stop now.
Someone sent me the video below and I found it quite funny. It’s in some archaic language that only Kevin Kim will understand; but no worries, there are subtitles for the rest of us.
That seems to be the point of this piece in the NY Times concerning North Korea. I’m no expert but I do tend to agree that any short term pain associated with a reunification would be well worth it on both economic and humanitarian grounds.
Which is why China would never go for it. The have no desire to see “Asia’s Germany” as a competing power. Indeed, I think it more likely that at some point in the future the entire peninsula will be little more than a vassal of the power mad Chinese. That’s pretty much been Korea’s fate throughout history.
Well, maybe not so little these days.
Today is the day we celebrate Father’s Day in the USA. All that remains of my father are the memories. To be bluntly honest about it, I spent my childhood mostly in fear of my dad. He had a hot temper and was quick with the hand or belt should I stray from the path of good behavior. In later years we argued loudly about politics and rarely saw eye-to-eye on anything.
But he was a good man. Smart, hardworking, and extremely talented in so many ways. He could do just about anything he set his mind on–woodworking was a special gift of his (sadly, that gene skipped a generation). He also loved gardening, camping, the sea, poetry–and in his own unique way–his children.
It’s strange the things that come to mind unbidden. The other day I recalled how my father served as my personal seatbelt back in those long ago days before vehicles were so equipped. During a hard brake, his arm would reach out to keep me from sliding off the seat and into the cold hard steel of the unpadded dashboard. It looked something like this:
I also remember he’d on occasion sing me a song as we drove along. I remember the lyrics as going something like:
Papa writes to Johnny, but Johnny can’t come home No Johnny can’t home Papa writes to Johnny but Johnny can’t come home ‘Cause he’s been on the chain gang too long
Oddly enough, I have never in my life actually heard this song performed. Until today when I found it on YouTube. Either my dad got the lyrics wrong or I’m thinking of a different tune, but the song was hauntingly beautiful regardless. And somehow fitting for the occasion of this fatherless father’s day.
[in my best Forrest Gump impersonation] Life is like a peach, sometimes it is sweet and juicy, other times it’s the pits.
Hmm, that seemed like an original thought in my head, but it sounds cliche when I write it. A quick Google search didn’t turn up that phrase (at least on the first page of results), so until proven otherwise, you heard it here first!
Yesterday’s visa run to Osaka via Peach Air was generally successful in that I am now legal in Korea through September 9. The fact that my return flight to the USA is on September 10 is somewhat worrisome, but I reckon I can finagle an extra day by groveling before the kind folks at the Korean Immigration Service. It worked before anyway.
I am happy to report that Peach Air graciously allowed the change from the name of my nephew Joshua who lives in Reno, NV to that of nephew Justin who was actually traveling with me, without incident or additional fees. Justin said something to the counter person in Korean which I suspect was along the lines of “my uncle is old and stupid, please forgive him”, but he denies it. Ah well.
I had never flown on a low-cost carrier before and it turned out to be pretty much what I expected. Peach Air features a one class cabin configuration and that class can best be described as “steerage”. Who knew you could cram so many seats into a little Airbus A-319? When I sat down my knees were firmly pressed against the seat in front of me. Thankfully, everyone on board seemed to have the common decency to not recline. Going over the middle seat next to me was empty so I appropriated that space to stretch my legs. No such luck coming back however. What got me though was that the seats were about as thinly padded as those on the subway. I could actually feel the knees of the passenger behind me in my back the entire trip. Well, the flight was only 1 1/2 hours and I figure a little discomfort now and then builds character, right?
I will say this about Peach Air, they are good at providing the limited service they offer. The plane was boarded by seat number (A/B/C) versus row number. I’d never seen that done before and it did seem to go quickly. On both legs the doors closed early and we departed on time. And the flight attendants were cute, even though their English was essentially impossible to understand.
Upon arrival, Japanese immigration asked where I’d be staying in Osaka. I said “the airport”. I couldn’t explain it any better than that, so he had me put my return flight down as my Japanese destination. The customs folks were similarly nonplussed with my answer to the question “what is your purpose for visiting Japan?”. I said “shopping”. They asked where I intended to shop and I responded “the airport”. The agent then asked incredulously “what are you going to buy?” and I said “cosmetics for my wife”. Which was the truth. He finally shook his head and let me in.
We now had six hours to kill at Kansai International Airport. Peach Air flies into terminal 2 which appears to be a re-purposed hanger. They are also the only airline using that terminal, so there is not much to see or do there. We took the shuttle bus to the main terminal, but it was frankly disappointing as well. I guess Incheon has spoiled me. Being hungry the first order of business was finding some food. I’m not big on Japanese cuisine so we settled on a place that served “individual” sized pizza and beer. And we had six of each. The shopping was also limited (I suspect the big duty free stores were beyond the international departure gates, which we couldn’t access since we were flying from the other terminal). Suffice to say, everything on Jee Yeun’s shopping list was unavailable in any of the shops I checked. So, we killed the remainder of our time drinking beer at eight bucks a mug.
As I mentioned above, Korea did not take issue with my same day departure and return and granted me another 90 days. So, sixteen hours after leaving my apartment I was back home dead tired but with the satisfaction of having accomplished my mission without incident. I’d call that sweet and juicy!
…off to Osaka. Well, I’ll be flying but it’s technically a visa run. Tomorrow will be my 90th day in this iteration of my Korea life. As a lowly tourist that’s the maximum I’m allowed per stay. So bright and early in the morning I’ll be catching the A-Rex (airport railroad express train) to Incheon where I’ll board a Peach Air flight to Japan. I’ll chill out in the airport for a few hours and then catch a flight back “home” late in the afternoon.
Never had the Peach Air experience before but I’ve got low expectations. It’s one of those “low cost, no frills” airlines and I understand it’s one of the first (or only) of that ilk flying out of Japan. And the online reservation process was a bit disconcerting. The quoted one-way fare from Incheon was something like W56,000. The cheapest return flight was about W90,000. And the fees and taxes brought the round trip to just under W200,000. And then they charged me another W20,000 for paying by credit card, which is the only way you can pay online. Bastards better not try and charge me for the oxygen I’ll consume on board!
And oh yeah, did I mention I suck at math? I booked my return flight to the states for September 10 to accommodate Jee Yeun’s desire to be home for Chuseok. Well, it turns out that July and August have 31 days (who knew?) so that means the visa I’m running to get will expire two days prior to my departure. Ah well. I do believe I can get a short extension at the immigration office by showing my return flight information. At least that worked before. Otherwise I suppose I’ll be a frequent flyer on Peach Air.
In other news, I submitted a resume for a contractor position on base today. Yes, it’s true that I can admit that I may have retired a bit too soon. Although it’s not really out of boredom that I’m applying for work. A dart buddy mentioned that his company would be hiring 15 people or so (contingent on getting their contract renewed) and he said the jobs would pay about $22 an hour with a housing allowance. That’s when my ears perked up. The fact of the matter is I miss those heady days of having a paid for place to live (not to mention commissary privileges) much more than I miss actually working. And that’s about the only way I can afford to live close to where I spend most of my time–Itaewon.
So, we’ll see. The work has something to do with HAZMAT remediation, not exactly my area of expertise. But the guy telling me about the job didn’t seem to think that would be an issue (he’d be my boss). I’m not getting my hopes up or anything, if it works out I’d be happy to give it a try. If not, well there’s always plan B. Which I might need to come up with seeing as how Jee Yeun is talking about giving up her green card to avoid being hosed in taxes by two competing governments. Apparently, the ROK will tax Jee Yeun like a foreigner on her property, and the USA will tax her on the key money she has deposited in the bank from that property. As usual, it’s a royal cluster fuck.
And finally, this photo from last night’s dart action (actually after darts action when I was dancing with glee over a second place finish) was posted on facebook:
Everyone’s a comedian these days.
UPDATE: In addition to being math challenged, I’m apparently just plain ass stupid. My nephew Justin is accompanying me on this visa run for the same purpose. I purchased both tickets. When I printed out the boarding passes Jee Yeun right away asked why I had booked the flight in the name of my other nephew Joshua. I have no idea what that particular idiocy is gonna cost me. Geez.
…but I suppose third is worse.
Actually I enjoyed a nice weekend of darts. Throwing about as well as I can and honestly when someone throws better to beat me I can live with it. When I’m throwing chump darts and beating myself, not so much.
So, those friendly folks north of the border (and I’m not talking about Canadians) have detained an American tourist for unspecified “hostile acts” against the regime.
Why in the fuck would any sane person voluntarily go to North Korea in the first place? It strikes me as morally questionable to provide the hard currency that allows a corrupt government to oppress it’s people. But as Jeffrey Fowle learned a bit too late you also make yourself subject to the whims of a nation that has a long history of taking hostages for the purpose of blackmailing for concessions, aid, or propaganda. Unless you are Dennis Rodman you visit North Korea at your own peril.
Now I admit it would be somewhat interesting to see how the other half lives but given that the tours only allow you to see what the NORKS want you to see, what’s the point? And I’m quite certain if I ever did go I’d run afoul of the authorities the first time they asked me to bow down before the statue of Kim Sung-il. It ain’t worth it folks.
Blog buddy Kevin (aka the Big Hominid) posted yesterday about a hamburger he mostly enjoyed at one of the on-campus eateries at the university that employs him. Now, it was not just any hamburger mind you, it was an egg-a-burger!
I’ve been a fan of this particular culinary delight ever since my first purchase from a street vendor one long ago (and drunken) night in Itaewon. And now that I’ve acquired a Korean wife I can enjoy them in the comfort of my own home. Like today for instance. When Jee Yeun asked me if I was hungry I immediately thought of Kevin’s post and responded “egg-a-burger!” Through the miracle of the internet you too can partake in the creation (although sadly not the consumption) of this special treat.
Thanks for the inspiration Kevin!
Almost everyone in Korea is not working today. I asked a Korean gentleman what was going on and he told me “it’s erection day”. At least that’s what it sounded like he said. So by my reckoning we’ll be celebrating Children’s Day in just about 9 months.
Is this a great country or what?
…and it feels like it’s raining all over the world.
Up bright wet and early this morning for a follow-up visit with Dr. Yoo at Soonchanhwang Hospital in lovely Hannam-dong. I guess the good news is the Lipitor has brought my cholesterol down some. He gave me the speech about making some lifestyle changes while I still can. He ended the appointment by saying he could recommend “10 things that would improve my body shape”, but he was only going ask me to agree to do one–no eating after 8:00 p.m. I of course agreed to give it a try.
Now, by my reckoning most folks go to bed around 10. I’m usually up until 1 or 2 in the morning. So what I think the good doctor meant was stop eating two hours before going to bed. That’s more doable at least.
UPDATE: Oddly enough, Jee Yeun found a Doctor Yoo video on Naver.
…you would brag too if it happened to you.
Or maybe not, but I’m paying the rent around here so I’ll post what I want!
I guess all I really wanted to say is I had an outstanding day of darts yesterday. Played two Seoul Sunday Singles League matches and took them both. In the first match I played Sungbae Choi, the top rated player in the league, and came away with a 12-7 victory. It took my best darts to beat him and I had them–including two 9-marks (3 darts in a triple score in one throw–that’s as good as it gets in darts). I won the second match 14-5, but in less impressive fashion as I had been
drinking throwing for several hours by that point and I was drunk tired.
Have I turned a corner? Well, I have my confidence back at least. Hard experience has taught me that the only consistent part of my game is my inconsistency. So I won’t let one good day go to my head. Other than this post.
Still, his imminent departure set me to reflecting on the transience of the expat lifestyle. I’ve spent most of the last 9 years living in Korea on and off and each time I return there are fewer and fewer of the old familiar faces. That’s to be expected of course; the military does it’s normal churn and English teachers tend to burn out after a few years. Even some of the old timers still residing in Korea have tired of the bar/darting lifestyle. Nevertheless, when I returned this time after a 13 month absence I was astounded at just how few people I actually knew.
On the other hand, three months into this iteration of my Korea life I’ve met lots of new folks whose company I enjoy. I’m still playing lots of darts just like I always did, the beer is as cold and wet as ever, and I’m generally living a satisfactory and happy life. Which is why I keep coming back I suppose.
Of the group above, I count three I’ve known for more than five years. But the new faces will one day be the old faces I suppose. The circle of life and all that.
The other disconcerting change I can’t help but notice is that the new faces keep getting younger and younger (or perhaps I’m getting older). I jokingly told Jim last night that one of the things I like about Dolce Vita is that it is one of the few bars where I’m not the oldest person in the room. Of course, I hope to continue growing older (given that the alternative really sucks) but I can’t help but wonder how much longer I can live the lifestyle I’ve come to know and love. Somehow I don’t see myself climbing those notorious steps up to the bar (and drunkenly navigating my way back down) in another ten years when I’m pushing 70. Geez, just writing that made shudder. Well, I’ll ride the wave as long as I can manage it I reckon.
Re-reading this post just now I expect the reader’s reaction will be along the lines of “brilliant insights, Captain Obvious. Things change, time passes. Thanks for enlightening us!” Well, yeah. But as Mary Chapin Carpenter sang long ago: “the more things change, the more they remain the same.” So there.