…or maybe Itaewon. Although I suppose it could be argued that one leads to the other.
Speaking of being paved with good intentions, this week’s weigh-in finds me at 251 pounds. Down one from last week, which is exactly 1/3 of the previous week’s weight gain. I was a little sinful, having made a (sugar free) banana pudding. And then proceeded to eat the whole damn thing in one hellacious sitting. I reasoned that eating it all at once would be no different than enjoying the same amount spread over several days. That must have been satan talking, because I know better. So, now I have repented and have refocused on my efforts for a heavenly weight loss.
I’ve been watching the television series Arrested Development on Netflix and enjoying the hell out of it. It’s #16 on the list of best written television series. In the episode that ended season one the family is doing the low carb diet thing which made the jokes especially funny to me. Anyway, highly recommend this show.
And now I must get on the road to Aiken for a long ass day of
Seoraksan. No dragons in evidence. Some fog but no Smaug. I think you need to go to Yongsan for that.
Anyone up for a road trip to the
Leaving the traffic of Seoul behind and heading out to the country on Highway 6.
Most of the trip is two lane blacktop which is the way I prefer to roll.
You don’t so much go over the mountains as you do going through them.
A rest area where Jee Yeun refreshes herself with noodles and kimchi.
More tunnels. I swear the Korean people must be descended from Tolkien’s dwarves.
The long and winding road that leads me to your door…
…well, our beachfront hotel room door anyway.
A room with a view for about forty bucks thanks to Jee Yeun’s well developed negotiating skills.
One view from the room…
What do you do with a rainy day at the beach? Find a coffee shop of course.
Here’s one of the reasons Jee Yeun is so special. Most folks would be disappointed that it was raining at the beach. Jee Yeun said “isn’t it great to sit here and smell the coffee and watching it rain!” Even the butterfly (moth?) seemed to agree.
Me contemplating the wisdom of Jee Yeun’s words.
Like the Morton salt girl, when it rains it pours. But that’s alright.
As they say in old Mexico: sometimes life’s a beach.
Is there a worse job? Pity that Yi Seok was treated so unkindly by the fates.
Actually, I am in pictures. I made a video of the highlights of this trip to Korea. Watch it if you dare!
I started mine off right with a sweet victory at the Bull and Barrel tourney. The finish was just a few minutes past midnight, so that makes it a great start to a new year. Let’s hope it carries forward.
I split the W160,000 first place money with my partner Brandy.
I guess the big news is that Jee Yeun had her visa interview. For those of you who have been following along, I applied for a fiancee visa in January 2012. So, don’t let anyone tell you the wheels of big government turn slow or that bureaucracies are otherwise inefficient.
Our appointment at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul was at 0800 on what was the coldest day of the coldest winter in recent history. The night before I had meticulously placed the voluminous stack of documents in the precise order dictated by the Department of State. So I was feeling pretty confident when our number was called to approach the intake window. (I mistakenly thought the 0800 appointment was our own private time. Instead, there were 30 or so other folks waiting to be processed in turn).
Anyway, the gal at the window (appeared Korean, but had American-bureaucrat attitude) thumbs through the documents at an amazing rate of speed and starts throwing all the ones requiring signatures back at us with a blunt “sign this”. Now, my bad but when I see an indication that you are swearing to the truth of the document you are signing, it has normally been required that you sign in front of someone, like you know, after you’ve raised your right hand and all that. Anyway, no big deal, we signed and shoved them back.
Meanwhile, Ms. Friendly (not her real name) had found a problem with Jee Yeun’s police record. The problem as best as I could ascertain was that she didn’t have one. Our duly certified statement from the Korean National Police indicated that Jee Yeun had never been arrested or otherwise ran afoul of the law. The unfriendly Ms. Friendly said that wasn’t good enough. The document also had to say that the crimes she hadn’t committed had never been expunged from her non-existent criminal record. It took me awhile to get my mind around that one, but Ms. Friendly had tabbed the offending document in yellow and thrown it back at us, so that was that.
Next came the fingerprint scanning which went well seeing as how Jee Yeun had all ten of those in the proper places and order. Then she was given a two page document (written in Korean) to read. I asked what it was and she said that I have to be nice to her or she can call 911. I said, quit kidding around, what does it say? Turns out, that is what it said. I can’t beat her, abuse her, fail to feed her or get her medical attention, and that I have to make her feel loved. Or she can call the law on me. Is America a great country or what?
Finally, we were called for the long awaited interview. A blond-haired, blue-eyed, red-blooded American consular official with a surprisingly pleasant disposition had us raise our right hands and swear that everything we said in those documents we had signed earlier was true and correct. We did so swear. Then he asked a couple cursory questions regarding the circumstances of our meeting and the depth of our relationship. Apparently satisfied that we weren’t engaging in a sham marriage to defeat Uncle Sam’s notoriously strict immigration laws *cough*, he asked Jee Yeun if she had read and understood the paper she had been given. Jee Yeun said yes. He said that he wanted to be sure she knew that if I ever abused her in any way that she could call the authorities. He assured her that even as a non-citizen, she had rights. At this point he must have noticed the incredulous look on my face because he smiled and said, “don’t worry, you have rights too.” Well, ok then.
The consular guy then announced that he was going to approve the visa. But there was still the matter of Jee Yeun’s criminal record to resolve. He told us if we hustled down to the Jongno police station they could provide the double triple negative report required by embassy standards. Jee Yeun asked about the translation and he told her she could translate it herself. And so we cabbed out and back, translated and submitted the police report and we were assured Jee Yeun’s passport with visa attached would arrive within 3 to 5 business days by courier. WooHoo!
Last night I bartered and bargained with Delta Airlines for two one way tickets back to Columbia. Didn’t get the flights or the price I wanted. In fact, I pretty much got hosed. But, we now have tickets in hand and will arrive in South Carolina on the 17th of February. Or so I am led to believe.
Canada’s Globe and Mail thinks conditions are ripe for conflict on the peninsula in the new year.
“Some Pyongyang watchers expect yet another escalation as the regime of Kim-Jong-un tries to force itself – and its need for cash and food – to the top of the international agenda. Some predict North Korea will stage a spectacular military provocation, perhaps akin to 2010’s deadly shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, to force Seoul and Washington to pay attention to its demands.
And with South Korea’s hawkish mood captured by the presidential election victory of of Park Geun-hye – whose father was a former military ruler and whose mother was assassinated by North Korean agents – there are many who believe Seoul will punch back the next time Pyongyang strikes, sending the peninsula into an unpredictable spiral.”
More at the link. I do wonder just how much President Park would like to avenge her mother’s murder. Maybe she’s itching for a little provocation. But then again, I’ve always been astounded at just how much provocation the people of the ROK have been willing to tolerate in the past, what with sinking of ships and shelling of civilians and all. Of course, it seems to me the average south Korean just doesn’t seem to give a shit about much outside their own little bubble of the good life. For example, the general lack of compassion regarding the plight of their northern brothers and sisters has also been incomprehensible to me.
We shall see what we shall see. Call me a Rascal if you must, but ask me my opinion and my opinion will be, People Got to Be Free.
Although to be honest I doubt you’d find a place like this anywhere else in the world. The concept is shitty and the place is a dump. But if you are flush with cash and want to throw it down the toilet, take it from John, you won’t find a crappier place to do it. Yeah, my puns stink. Like I give a shit.
More photos like this at the link. Korea rocks!
No, I’m not talking about the fine Neil Young song. We made a weekend sojourn to Naksan Beach on the sea that is not of Japan but is instead simply East.
In the past I’ve always driven but seeing as how I don’t have a car here now, we took the bus. We had the Express direct to Sokcho and hopped another for the short ride to Naksan. About 3 hours total (not counting 50 minutes on the subway to the bus terminal).
We did make one comfort stop along the way. I was a little nervous when I saw that we were in “Gang Land” but I didn’t spot any Crips or Bloods, so it was all good.
As is our custom, Jee Yeun took charge of securing our beachfront lodging. Our regular place only had one room available (we went with another couple) and most of the places wouldn’t discount their prices (getting a cheap room is a matter of honor to Jee Yeun). Apparently, October is still high season at Naksan because of all the folks enjoying autumn colors at Seoraksan coming down to the beach to sleep. We wound up getting both nights at the place pictured above for W125,000, a reduction of W15,000 from the initial asking price. Score!
The view from the room.
The aforementioned other couple, Lonnie and Jaime.
And yes, here is the evidence that I was in fact on the beach. But not in the water.
Truth be told, there’s not a lot of nightlife in Naksan. So, we made our own–Korean style. Which is defined as drinking beer in front of the 7/11 store and watching the people pass by. It is actually more fun than it sounds.
There must be 50 places serving fresh seafood in Naksan. Three of us weren’t feeling fishy, so we found the one place that served samgyupsal. We cooked it up with garlic, kimchi, and onions and it was indeed a tasty treat. And no worries, Jee Yeun got her raw fish the next night.
Next morning we made the short hike up to Naksansa, the famous Buddhist Temple. You can read some history, including the tragic fire of 2005, at the link. The hilltop setting overlooking the ocean is really incredible.
It ’s probably bad form to take a photograph of Jee Yeun during worship, but I tried to be discreet. If I ever prostrated myself like that I’d never be able to get back up.
Jee Yeun also paid her respects to Haesugwaneumsang (Bodhisattva of Mercy), known as the goddess Gwanseeum-Bosal (no, I don’t know what I’m talking about, I lifted that from Wikipedia).
Did I mention how beautiful it is there?
Lonnie is the bald miguk in this picture.
Lonnie and Jaime pause to reflect on the beauty of their surroundings while contemplating the deeper meanings of life. Me, I was just trying to catch my breath.
The temple bell. Being the irreverent punk that I am, I couldn’t help but imagine how it would be if you put a man between the clanger and the bell. Talk about a nutcracker!
Naksan Beach as seen from the temple grounds.
Jee Yeun replenishes the water bottle for our trip back down the mountain. Or hill as that young whippersnapper Lonnie called it.
So, while Jee Yeun and I napped, Lonnie and Jamie taxied out to Seoraksan for more hiking. Later on we reconvened at the convenience store for some beer drinking. Up and down the main drag these horse drawn carriages hauled smiling Korean folk while blaring “Gangnam-style”. One time of that was more than enough, believe me. But what we saw was even more distressing. These were not even full size horses, and they were pulling heavy carriages fully laden with people. At a fast trot. That’s what got to me. I’ve done carriage rides, but at never more than a walk. With strong draft horses doing the pulling. These little guys were huffing and puffing, and in the two plus hours we watched they never got a break. Lonnie couldn’t take it anymore, so he bought a huge carrot which the horse pictured above surely did enjoy. Then it was back to work for him and we moved on to the beach to burn some
We were feeling the craving for some beer with pizza to wash it down, so we did that. I was also getting close to drunk enough for some…
…norebang! Ah yes, Saturday night is not complete without the traditional Korean singing room. I’m told that when I sing folks can literally feel my pain. Or maybe they just feel pain. One of those.
And all too soon our quiet weekend on the beach was drawing to an end. We caught the bus in front of the local K-Mart. It was not the express bus to Seoul, in fact it was the direct opposite. We crawled at a stop-and-go pace all the way over Seoraksan and down into the valley below. Once we reached the 4-lane things hadn’t much improved so the driver made an announcement in Korean which must have been “hey, hold onto your seats, I know a shortcut!” Lordy, lordy, we were back in some mountains and this time it was a one lane road. Which our bus amply filled. Fortunately there was not much traffic, but when we did encounter another vehicle they’d pull over as far as they could and we’d somehow manage to squeeze by.
Ah well, six hours later we were back in lovely Seoul. And so ends this tale of adventure from Korea. Stay tuned!
I applied for a fiancee visa for Jee Yeun in January. In June I was told more information was required, which I dutifully and promptly submitted. In August I got the good news that the United States Customs and Immigration Service had approved the application and the package had been transmitted to the State Department’s National Visa Center. Hooray!
On August 21 the State Department advised that my visa package was being transferred to the embassy in Seoul. The letter further advised:
“Your fiance will soon receive a packet with instructions from the consular section on how to apply for the K1 visa and what documents will be required.”
So here it is mid-October and said packet has not arrived. Today we journeyed out to the embassy complex to find out why. Arrived at ten minutes after eleven only to be told that the immigration office is closed for lunch until one o’clock. Must be one helleva lunch those folks eat.
We cooled our heels at the local Burger King (I had the Whopper set) and then reappeared at immigration at the appointed hour. Well, the first window that opened said they couldn’t help me and sent me to another window. Unoccupied and unattended as it were. I rang the buzzer and a young woman appeared. I presented her with the letters from USCIS and State and she advised that I had to schedule an appointment online in accordance with the instructions in the packet I was sent.
I took a deep breath and then another and said “the reason we are here is that we never received said packet in the mail”. And she said, “oh no, we don’t mail them, we send them via email.” Ok, well I never got them in my email either. To which she replied “maybe it went to your spam box’. Maybe so, but what do I do now that I’m standing here in front of you? She had to check and disappeared for awhile. When she returned she had a copy of the transmittal letter (which had today’s date on it) and asked me to confirm the email address was correct. It was. So, she said she’d send it again and told me to be sure and check my spam box. Okay, will do.
Got back home and sure enough the packet had come by email right after I left the embassy. Nothing in the old spam box though.
So, the long awaited packet with instructions requires certain actions (like a physical examination) and submission of documents (almost all of which I submitted in the original visa application). But alrighty, we’ll get it all done (again).
Unless I get killed jaywalking.
So, I’m crossing a side street near the U.S. Embassy today and I hear a whistle fervently blowing. Turns out it was a Korean cop getting on me for jaywalking. Who even knew they had whistles? I mean, all these years I’ve been dodging motorbikes on the sidewalks of Seoul and nary a tweet from the local constabulary.
So, selective enforcement or racism? Or both?
High School boys sneaking a smoke in the parking below our apartment.
Or so it seems.
Yesterday Jee Yeun and I had our semi-annual doctor appointments with Dr. Yoo at Soonchunhwang University Hospital.
Jee Yeun is doing fine and I’m still too fat.
When Dr. Yoo completed his examination of Jee Yeun I said “Doctor, Jee Yeun frequently complains of being bored. Can you prescribe something for that?”
Without missing a beat he replied “Viagra.”
Places I Go
John McCrarey: That's the plan. It