Cold chillin’ in winter Itaewon

•November 11, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Korea in the winter’s shaping up to be a fun, if not jaw-droppingly cold affair. For real, though, this country’s slid in the past 30 days from ‘elDiablo covered in gasoline on the surface of the sun’ to ‘Sub Zero cruising low rider polar bears around Hoth’. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to freezerfest 2012.

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“Underfloor heating in the apartment, you say. I’ll take it.”

It’s cold as a bastard in this place right now, man. But the living’s still easy, even though it ain’t summer time no more. October through the beginning of November’s been a jam. Late last month, I finally put myself on a train and hightailed it across the country to Busan to visit some friends I have out that way and see the sights. We found this awesome foreigners pub in the city where the owners had set up a braai on the roof. Tricked out with steaks some godlike party goer rustled up from what I can only assume was the freezer of a benevolent deity, we set about drinking Hunters and looking down our noses at the milling throngs of non braaiers passing by in the street below us.

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South African booze: turning expats into snobs since Bob showed up earlier with a sixpack.

Heading out into the world at large later on, we found a table outside a CU (Family Mart), drank makgeoli and soju, and were treated to the most bizarre chemistry lesson I’ve ever heard concerning the transmogrification of the fancy-brand soju with the olives in the bottle into olive oil if you put it in your cupboard for 6 months.

We fed beer to the guitarist from a Metallica cover band, who would later go on to make a complete ass of himself by shouting down the other members of the band halfway through Master of Puppets. We danced a funky dance at some funky clubs. I impressed Korean women by being able to click the click in Xhosa and crawled into bed after sunup,

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Last week saw me in nearby Bupyeong, getting introduced to the great Korean art of Noraebang for the first time since I’ve been here. Noraebang, for the uninitiated, is renting a private room for Karaoke with a group of people. It’s incredible, and I’m incredible at it, and I think it’s just better for our relationship if you don’t ask any of the people who watched me do it if that’s true.

Now, for the naysayers in the audience who’ve complained about me never getting out and doing something without a party theme: this Friday past, I took to the Suraksan mountains for a hike with my Hagwon coteachers. Aside from the ridiculous notion of waking up at 6 in the morning to go out and do things (and believe me, I wrestled with this problem on levels of rage and self-directed misery previously unknown to me)…

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“This is bullshit.” – Duncan

I had a great time. We hiked 200 meters up into the mountain at a pace roughly as brisk as a glass of Burt Reynolds’ aftershave on a cold winter morning. Arriving at a clearing, we dropped our picnic blanket and broke out the dried squid, fancy bread and makgeoli. We followed it up with a slow walk through the woods back to the foot of the mountain, and some old fashioned Korean barbecue.

More soju. An hour or two on the subway, some taxis and a trip through to Itaewon last night for a birthday party that wasn’t, and you’re all up to date on the life and times of me. The novel’s looking tight (I’d put the full length first draft at about a month and a half from now). School’s going well. I’m also, for some reason, the only expat I’ve met in my time here who is gaining weight on a Korean diet, which is disconcerting, but tasty. Oh, and I took a bunch of pictures of some of this stuff, which I’ll attach after the break.

Happy trails, friends.

Continue reading ‘Cold chillin’ in winter Itaewon’

Coolin’ on the Bupyeong, like a horse in a stable

•October 7, 2012 • 1 Comment

So, I’m beginning to think I ought to rename this blog “Fistful of Neglect“, but I think that domain’s already in use for Britney Spears’ parenting blog.

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 And Reyneke returns to the field with a sick burn.

Yeah, it’s been a busy couple of weeks. Last weekend saw my introduction to Korean public holidays, with Chuseok, or Korean Thanksgiving. The holiday, formerly known as the archaic Hangwai, sees Koreans traditionally taking a much more pastoral approach to the popularly-American-annexed custom of giving thanks, in that they actually give thanks for the seasonal harvest and don’t take part in some mass delusion about not having cheated a native people out of their land, livestock and grain.

For some reason, though, people give each other a lot of SPAM.

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 American processed foods and the seasonal harvest. Just like mom used to grow.

I stayed in. For like, five days straight. And wrote my ass off. Yup, Incheon’s favourite holiday came just in time for me to grind out some serious word count on my novel. It’s been one year since I tried to write 50000 words in one month for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and failed dismally. Luckily I managed to stick with it, the exact same novel, and a year, three cities, and 34000 words later, I made 50k earlier this week.

I did manage to sneak off to nearby Bupyeong for an evening, just to (finally) check out one or two of the expat bars in the area. What I discovered was basically Asian Vegas.

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Step right up and prepare for unending rows of flashing neon signs and short, elderly Korean men in nice suits!

How could I have missed this plethora of insanity, wedged into the countryside, a mere 20 minute train ride away from me? Everywhere I turned was another 16 year old girl in bunny ears and a hello kitty mini skirt throwing up the peace sign under a Baskin and Robins sign. More foreigners, shouting loudly and pointing up and down the Pandora-glow antfarm streets. Electricity cables strung from one corner of the street to the opposite, dangling precariously over taxi cabs, kimchi buckets and, as always in this country, jailbait as far as the eye could see.

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26 or 16: that’s for you and a jury of your peers to decide

Bupyeong’s fun. It has two major expat bars, Goose Goose and Woodstock, as well as a bunch of others I couldn’t find because of the Christmas light blindness. It’s the first opportunity I’ve had since I’ve been here to just mission out alone and actually end up somewhere with people who understood more than 10 words I said.

Goose Goose is one of those wood finished, lodge bar type places, with lots of draped flags and facebrick walls and whatnot. It wasn’t too busy when I arrived, so I just grabbed a Cass (Korean beer) draught at a table and soaked in some old school 90’s hip hop bouncing in from the PA.

Winding my way down the street (and past some dude with a twirly, colonist moustache, a coat with tails, and a pipe, walking his dog through the milling crowd (no, that’s not my imagination running away with me – that freak is still out there)…

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I like the nightlife – I like to boogie

I came out of a sidestreet to find Woodstock, the other nearby expat bar. Woodstock’s much smaller than Goose Goose, but, as one might guess, also a little more intimate. The bartender was also the part owner, and she was feeding the other owner, a burly dude whose name I can’t remember, GimBap and sandwiches and soup from what seemed like a magical, neverending treasure trove of snacks and Korean treats under the table. I stayed a spell and chatted with the pair of them, before discovering perhaps the most awesome treasure of the entire night scrawled on the wall behind the bar:

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You can’t really see it on there, but it says “Geniet Julle Gatte Uit – 02, 03, Rhodes University – Where Leaders Learn.” I managed to travel 13065 kms across the world, wander out into the led light glow one night, and find a message from the past, scrawled by the drunken rabble of my former Grahamstown university on the wall of some ridiculous little pub.

Nobody there understood the stupid grin on my face, but people here enjoy hearing Afrikaans, so I read it out to a couple of the patrons and beat a hasty retreat out into the street back, then home again.

I’ve been back since, and I could write about that too, but I’ll save it for my next post. I might even tell you kids about the time I visited a jimjilbang (Korean bath house) and spotted the Michael Jackson zombie out behind the hard punk club with Roger.

In the meantime, I’ll drop some more pictures here from my recent misadventures. Love, peace and chicken grease, y’all.

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This woman mans the counter at the nearby C.U./Family Mart. She’s the coolest.Image

I got through a whole lesson, let the kids out, and only realised how awesome what I’d written on the board was, once they were gone.Image

There’s a name for these things, but I always forget it. Still – LOOK! Canned Silkworm Chrysalis, baby.Image

This is the walkway near my school at night.

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How cool is that? It’s this river near my place that’s got these exact lights on every night of the week.Image

Yo, what’s up, dawg? We heard you like sushi, so we put sushi in your sushi, so you can sushi while you sushi.Image

One of the centrifugal force death rides people in this country flock to while drunk because of the fun times and near-certainty of dismemberment.Image

This is Bupyeong, as seen from the subway station.

ImageFor some reason, these cigarettes have pictures of cartoon cats dressed as Wolverine, Batman and Spiderman. That is all.

A night out in Seoul

•September 13, 2012 • 1 Comment

I’ve been promising to do this for about two weeks now, so let’s talk about Seoul, y’all.

More to the point, let’s talk about the ridiculous things Westerners do when they go out drinking in Hongdae.

Y’all.

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Somewhere in this picture, some guy in Khaki shorts and a peak cap has his wang out.

(I’ve left out everyone else’s names because I don’t know how they’d feel about being written about).

After about a month of pottering around the modern streets of suburban Cheongna, I managed to synch my schedule up with some friends from Seochan who were heading into Itaewon, then Hongdae on a party mission for the one dude’s birthday.

Now. If none of those names rang any bells with you, it’s because they’re all weird. No, that’s not true. They’re just weird to your Eurocentric sensibilities, Mr Internet reader. It’s time you woke up to the world of rapid-fire, consonant-injected LIFE!

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 !LIFE!

So I consulted Google maps, got on a couple subways and hit Yongsan station to connect with three backpack-totin’ men who, within twenty-five minutes of finding me trying in vain to find free wifi with my stupid South African cell phone, taught me the coolest thing I’ve learned since being here.

You can drink ANYwhere in this country. And it’s not, like, sensible people looking the other way because of some archaic tradition – they don’t give a shit. It’s phenomenal. The government has basically put the responsibility into the hands of the drinking public to not be an asshole out in the streets if you’re going to chug an Asahi lager in public in Nagwon. You just drink it, and make sure you put your can in the right recycling bin afterwards, dude, because of the explosive importance of the environment in  a country where 80% of the people around you in line to process payments at the bank are drunker than Merlot-Judas in a confessional. 

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 Be green – knowah’I’mean?

After spending some time inspecting the station’s shopping center’s pet show (I’ll talk about the lame living conditions of pet store pups some other time), we boarded a train for somewhere I missed the name of which, as it turns out, was about a stone’s throw from the infamous (to me at least) Nagwon arcade where I went in search of a guitar three weeks ago. The idea, I would learn, is to find a cheap hotel and have everybody split the costs on a couple rooms.

What we found was basically the Korean Bates motel.

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Which is, in this case, to say it was cheap and nastier than that thing Snooki’s been trying to wash off her lip since the second season of the Jersey Shore. It was rad, though – cheap wallpaper everywhere, even cheaper bathroom fixtures, and actual, genuine, true-to-life hotel porn TVs, complete with boxes of tissues on top of them.

No, I’m not kidding.

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As featured in that story you’ll probably want to avoid telling your children one day. (actual picture from the night)

So we got ready, us four, in two separate rooms we’d picked up for some paltry sum, and headed out to meet some more people at a restaurant in Itaewon. Itaewon is an area pretty much overrun with Westerners, from one end to the other. It’s an antfarm of gorgeous women and beefy okes wandering up and down between pubs, restaurants and 7-11s. The main street area’s basically on top of a nearby  military base and, from the time I spent outside on the pavement tapping my feet and drinking Cass out of a can, the atmosphere is pretty much relentless.

Eventually, we got let in and occupied a table alongside the people we’d come to meet. Ordered some food. Talked about baseball. Got the bill and made like flubber out to our next stop: a nearby club called ‘Dojo’, where one of the group’s mates was DJ’ing. Hauling 12+ people’s worth of ass down the road, it was clear that one of our fray was on his way out, as he’d basically started the day by cracking open a Guiness. Arriving at the underground (no, not by name – this was a basement club) club, I discovered about two-and-a-half to three hours worth of gin and tonics, bar nuts, and, admittedly, pretty sick music.

Outside, a little later, I got introduced to a local D’nB sound guy / organiser / artist / dual-wielding entertainment multiclasser by the name of Tong, before jumping in a taxi with two new friends and the guy who was crashing earlier on the street (who was now thoroughly crashed). We took off at an unnatural speed for our next destination: the party / indie / alternative sprawling Circus Circus of Hongdae.

Arriving to find the rest of our compatriots in a comparatively shabby state of dishevelment, we took to the park, finding massive milling crowds of people who had all apparently also discovered the drinking regulations earlier that day.

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“In the STREET. No, I’m serious as shit, dog. (actual picture from the night)

After discovering the horror that is one of the public toilets in this place (and relegating myself to the dumpster around the corner for the rest of the evening) and seeing off the crashed-guy in a taxi with another friend bound for home and a mattress he could sleep away his bad decisions on, we made our way to the last club of the evening – which you could actually see from where we were standing this entire time.

This place’s name is Exit.

Now, I’m not sure if this is a regular club during any other time of the year, but I have to figure they were having some kind of Duncan-warming ceremony on the night that I went, because it was a street party. The crowds outside of this club, a one story thing apparently made out of the hollowed out remnants of some unlucky bastard’s billiards room, were as big, if not larger, than some of what I saw inside. It was wall to wall foreigners chatting up, getting chatted up, defending their girlfriends against, and getting lost in a milieu of Korean dudes and the now-ubiquitous hot Korean girl.

We danced. We drank screwdrivers until they stopped serving them. We chatted, got in cabs, wondered around the streets looking for Family Marts, stomped, wondered past a temple where people were praying, and eventually wound up in our beds at the end of the night.

The hangovers the next day were not flattering, but the evening was a resounding success 🙂 I’d add more pictures, but they’re mostly blurry snapshots of the Bates motel stairs and this place where one dude threw up in Itaewon as we were leaving this one club.

And there you have it 🙂 A night out in Seoul.

Admin and poofloors in Korea

•September 11, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Last night my toilet backed up and overflowed.

I’ve been living on my own since I started varsity, like five years ago. I have lived in precisely four houses where my parents aren’t around to save me when shit goes pear shaped. I’ve learned to wash my clothes, cook my meals, watched movies with girls, friends, drunk resmates, siblings and the like in houses that were actually mine in someway or form.

And I have never, in my life had a freaking toilet back up on me. Did you know what that looks like?

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…no it wasn’t this bad, but still.

It was four in the morning when I got up visit the kimchi bowl and, against my better hindsight, proceeded to flush the chain. 

Unleashing

hell

on earth.

No, it really wasn’t that bad, but I got to learn why there’s a plunger conspicuously placed next to my can. The john backed up to the brim before I started plunging. As it was draining, I flushed it again (idiot) and it proceeded to basically turn my bathroom floor into a papier mache art project from the very worst dreams of Clive Barker himself.

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Dude, that’s…that’s just messed up.

Anyway.

I got it sorted. Because I’m a survivor, and Korean toilets ain’t shit, yo.

*ahem*

Otherwise, life’s been chilled on this end. I got paid on Monday, then proceeded to discover the frustration and anger and murderous intent that is trying to get a Korean bank teller to help you make credit card and bank account payments. I also, I guess, discovered the automatic guilt reflex that comes with realising you’re an English speaker, at a desk with a Korean guy, getting frustrated with him for speaking his own language, in a city full of people who speak that language, because it isn’t your language.

But I…I just…could he just have not sucked for five seconds while I did important expat things like pay my bills?

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Yeah. I get it. This is me.

Anyway, I’m heading in tomorrow with a set of handwritten Korean instructions for this man and his little computer and that stupid money counter of his.

We’ll see.

Anyway, that’s all I got time for right now. I’m still going to update on my latest mission out in Seoul, but I’ll do it when I’ve got a second or two to be descriptive as hell with it 🙂

Later!

This would be a Good City in which to Fall in Love

•August 26, 2012 • 1 Comment

Before I write about my first night of making an actual effort to go out in Korea (a month in, I thought it was about time), I need to let everyone know I didn’t take any pictures. I’ve done a lot of stuff since I got here, but I’m leaving getting a new cellphone contract until after payslip #1. Any of the snapshots you’ve seen up here were taken on my old South African phone, which dies. Because I don’t charge it. Because it’s a brick-glorified-2-megapixel-flashless-pocket camera that does nothing else at the moment.

Anyway, it was dead last night because, for the umpteenth time, I forgot to charge the damn thing.

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You bastard.

At around 2 PM yesterday, I threw my hands up in the air, hit pause on season three of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and decided to make a mission to check out this guitar shop a friend of mine told me about in Seoul. The idea is that, next month, I’m going to need to get some strings up in this place (after nearly a month of not playing, my fingers feel like Michael Cera’s cheeks – soft as Justin Timberlake’s baby ass).

I live in Incheon, which is maybe 26 kms from there. So, drawing responsibly from a Family Bank ATM, picking up a plastic easter egg lego man from a vending machine down the road and hailing a cab, I missioned out to find the world. Or Seoul. Which is as big as the world, if not bigger.

Lesson the first in this trek au Korean is that taxi drivers don’t understand English at all. Which is ridiculous in that I need them to be able to speak English if I’m going to get anywhere here except for the Family Mart and that whisky bar where I’m pretty sure the waitresses are all underwear scowl models. 

I managed to get him down to Incheon bus stop eventually, where a bespectacled little dude in an actual tweed jacket helped me figure out the situation getting a ride to Seoul. After about an hour and a half in traffic and not a single street sign in English, though, let me assure you, even the twinkliest of ancient little strangers starts looking like a scheming villain who just burned you for a laugh.

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You evil bastard.

From Seoul, it was that scene in every Vegas movie where the country bumpkin arrives on the strip and he’s wandering around with his mouth hanging open, staring wide-eyed at all the buildings and the lights and the beautiful Asian people all dressed like Westerners. As the next twenty minutes pressed on, though, I realised Seoul is too big to just land up at one end of it and hit wherever you’re looking for quickly or easily.

So, it was time for the subway. Which, if you’re a South African who’s used to Cape Town’s set of maybe thirty train stops and the additional BRT route nodes as a an example of an extensive public transport system, is terrifying.

Ladies and gentlemen of the South African jury, I present to you, the Seoul subway map:

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It’s like the city planners snorted crushed up crayolas and sneezed onto a piece of map paper.

Turns out, ask enough Korean shop owners for directions to a train station and somebody’s going to know, though, so, one encounter with the first homeless person I’ve seen since I’ve been here standing next to the ticket machine, and about a half hour’s worth of jostling with people getting onto and off of trains that all looked disarmingly similar, I managed to find my ride, seconds before the doors closed.

Two connecting trains later (there’s a new experience for you), I managed to make my way to Euljiro Sam-Ga station. Which, I need to stress, was a lot more tense at times than it sounds, man. Those tunnels are long and dark and you’re mostly going on directions given to you by more little old Korean men who you’re still sure are not to be trusted. Trains take off at warp speed, and every station looks completely different to the one you just hit, it might as well be two time zones ago. Every one you get on is a little further from home, borne only on the feeling you’ve given yourself that you actually know what it was you just did to get here, so you can retrace your steps later. It was such a joke at times, man, on my own surrounded by an ant farm of scurrying commuters. A couple of times, my honest-to-god thought was “Shit, well, you’ve gotten this far – turn around, tell this story, and ain’t nobody gon’ say nothin’ about it.” It was 6 in the evening, by this stage – I didn’t even know if the shop would be open, let alone willing to put up with my pug little Westerner face barging in there, making like a real life musician.

But come on 🙂 What kind of man would I be if I gave up at this point? Arriving at Euljiro, the next mini mission in the now-computer-gameish-story-of-my-life was getting out of the station to the world above. Underground stations look a lot like the underground mall in Cape Town, if anyone from there gets the reference. Kinda dingy, with lots of flourescents and vending machines and lost-looking travelers dragging too much luggage for the trip at hand around with them. After figuring out the exit strategy for this particular station and navigating the neverending flight of stairs out of there, I broke free into the outside world.

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To find a landscape even more festooned with incomprehensible symbols and neon lights than the one I’d left behind in Seoul-central-Vegas. Still, not to be beaten at this late stage in the game (that old fighting spirit), I torqued about 8 sets of directions from the unyielding Korean populace of the area and wandered the streets until I found…

The most uninspiring music shop you’ve ever seen in your life. This building, for which I’d headed out with starry eyes and mussed hair, I found was a Marshall-licensed, two floor little building with about as wide a selection as Port Elizabeth’s MusicLand, or your city’s equivalent of a store with enough, and no more than that. Doing my due diligence, I walked both floors for a bit, ran my hands over some of the guits (admittedly, some of them were pretty cool – Koreans have a big thing for SGs rocking three sets of humbuckers apiece, something I’d previously thought only existed in Tarantino movies), but left after about fifteen minutes, underwhelmed.

“Still”, I thought, “you made it”, ignoring the fact that the sun was now setting and there wasn’t a taxi or bus anywhere in sight, and I didn’t know how to get back home in the slightest. I took a sharp left out of the shop doors and found a miraculous thing:

Nagwon Arcade is a flea market, at the very least on some Saturday nights. And it’s freaking huge.

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Hmm? Oh, yes, giant flea jokes. Very funny indeed.

There were people everywhere, left to right, ambling down an endless cobblestone corridor, buying multicoloured everything in the muggy evening heat. It was awesome, and I figured I had at least a couple minutes to wonder around before the sun went down and I desperately needed to get out of there and home somehow.

Then a kid walked past me with a pair of drumsticks. From the opposite direction to the shop I’d just come out of. Could it be that…I put it out of my head for the time being, focussing on the electricity of purchase and wide brimmed hats buzzing all around me. Dudes were selling bootlegged LPs, hair scrunchies, food of every colour, books, tshirts, vinyl prints, and ice cream marshmellow waffle sandwiches that basically looked like the colour pink got diabetes, covered itself in whipped cream and died in a Milky Lane sponsored coffin.

Restaurants had their kitchen windows open to the street, where dudes in chef’s jackets were handing people deep fried and flattened squid while they sang (they sang to them!) under a darkening sky, surrounded by paper lanterns and 8 or 9 different music sources coming from different directions.

And still, as I walked, more and more kids would pass me, coming towards me with violin cases slung over their shoulders, guitar tuners in boxes in their hands. It was eery, when you looked at it, because it seemed scripted as hell. Like the evidence was just too overt, and it was everywhere, every couple of beats. There was something else going on here.

Arriving at the end of the arcade, I turned around, all star struck and loving the energy of Nagwon, but, sadly, needing to go home. I walked briskly back through the crowd to where I’d first met disappointment at the Marshall shop and passed, on my way back, a side alley, at the end of which was something called the Nagwon Music Mall.

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We had the translation wrong the whole time. It’s not a shop – it’s a MALL!

That’s right – three stories of music stores, each, I’m supposing, specialising in one type or brand or size or colour or whatever of music instrument. I say “I’m supposing”, because, by this stage, it was closed as hell. I sat down on a concrete step across from it, bought some chicken (I’m hoping) on a stick and a Long Island Ice Tea in a bag from the two vendors directly next to me, and just looked at the thing for about twenty minutes, all the time thinking one thing:

“I am going to shop the shit out of that mall the next time I’m in town.”

After that, I found my way home just fine. Turns out you can catch a train all the way from Incheon to pretty much that exact street corner, and get a much cheaper taxi home afterwards. The ride home wasn’t too exciting, although I did get to see the Korean version of the vendors who climb onto Cape Town trains and try to sell you superglue or (one time) a doorknob. It was weird, though, seeing this dude as he climbed on, as South African vendors are always homeless and / or impaired somehow, like they’re blind and can’t make money any other way. This guy was selling toothbrushes, right, but he was also wearing a blazer, and a nice shirt, and he had a haircut and everything. Just odd, I guess.

I was a South African fiend before I became teen.

•August 24, 2012 • 5 Comments

So yesterday I found out what teachers here do to kids who take fat chances at school. Now, before I start this, for all of you fretting this’ll be going down an abduction / beating / razorblade whirligig route here, relax, silly – South Korea’s got similar, if not identical, laws to the rest of the West when it comes to disciplining kids and whatnot. Which kind of sucks at times, as a new teacher, because it’s hard to know which of the kids are aware of it, and which of them are just energetic and generally otherwise. And, either way, what do you do if one kid out of the dozen’s colouring in his neighbour’s face with permanent marker and his buddy John (there’s a John in EVERY class) gives you his Prada cell phone at the beginning of the class, only to pull out an iPhone minutes later?

What you do, it seems, is kick into Jeff Probst mode.

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Today’s lesson was brought to you by Tall, Dark and Khaki

This kid, last night, excused himself from the one teacher, Hannee’s classroom to take a call from his mom. Twenty five minutes later, Hannee realises the kid isn’t back yet, so she goes out to look for him. The dude’s in the passage, behind the school, making Korean doe eyes at his girlfriend, who came to meet him from her school, which is downstairs. Hannee freaks out, brings him inside to the office and starts shouting at him in supersonic Korean. 

At which point, I promptly left the staffroom to do other things, because screw that. After about fifteen minutes in the computer room with Alice, working on my diary and awkwardly clicking around random Wiki articles, I get back to a now quiet staffroom – to find the kid standing there with his hands in the air.

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Waving them around, like he just didn’t care.

It turns out, instead of having ‘encounters’ with kids and potentially going to jail for years and years, Korean teachers have figured out the Survivor challenge method of punishment: a kid really transgresses things around the classroom, and he gets to stand like a two-handed Shiva statue, quiet and welcoming the sun, next to their desk while they mark papers. This kid was taller than anyone in that office, and he looked pissed  🙂 It was delightful. 

Like I keep telling my mom, though, every time a kid acts out, my first instinct is “Somebody’s getting tossed off the roof.” Luckily, they’re pretty much uniformly respectful and nice. Thing is, though, after I get past the initial shock of being called out by one of them, it’s hard to get past the poetry of my situation, having been one of the talky, sneery, teenage angsty kids for so many years. I suppose, somewhere right now, my high school English teacher, Mrs Van Der Walt’s irony senses are tingling.

Anyway, no other news from me. This weekend makes it a month I’ve been here. I’m still laying low on the party-party front, at least until I bring in my first payslip. The novel’s nearly halfway done. Comics are being read, en masse. Plans to head into Seoul this weekend to go check out some guitar shops and whatnot.

For the moment, though, I’m off to work. Enjoy your Friday, everybody.

Cheongna hitting the corners in them Low-Lows, girl

•August 14, 2012 • 2 Comments

This morning I applied for my alien registration card. It’s the Korean equivalent of an American high school’s hall pass, I suppose, in that if there’s any shit and you’re caught in the middle of it, they can check you against the multitudinous scores of other expat teachers and make sure you aren’t packing a clown suit and a crawl space full of abducted Korean teachers’ bodies. The process was pretty straightforward – the immigration office is much the same as you’d expect from any other country’s, South Africa included. Bustling, a little crowded, lots and lots of agitated-looking lost boys sitting in front of glass dividers running their hands through their hair while women in neatly pressed uniforms shrug their shoulders, exasperated and hand-tied. I think the immediate reaction for South Africans (and, in its own way, rightfully so) is to assume our government’s oft-referenced ineptitude has rendered all of their offices completely inefficient, but the truth of that matter is, anywhere with a lot of people all vying for stamps, seals, approvals and transfers from a dozen different plexiglass windows is always going to be an antfarm. 

Other than that, after two weeks there isn’t a whole lot to report on. I’ve been teaching kids for about seven days now, and it seems to be going well. The kids range in age from 11 to 15, 16, and are all super keen to learn. Which is impressive, because by the time they get to my classes from 2:50 to 8:50, they’ve all been at their regular daytime classes from 9 in the morning. Korean education is no joke, and the kids who are sent to Jungchul (the academy where I work) are being pushed hard. So I tackle the workload with them as efficiently as possible, given the assignment, and then try to engage with them personally. Rote learning, especially when it comes to languages like English, might get results on paper, but can’t ever really produce any kind of meaningful understanding. I want these kids to remember their classes, and really learn, so I take the plan offroad where possible to really try and get down to the usefulness of what they’re learning.

I’m trying to get in touch with nearby expat bars in Cheongna so that I can get out and see the city something proper without having to mime, “Shimmy shimmy, your beer sucks, let’s go grab some burritos and take a stroll along the boardwalk.” It’s not that it’s hard having to slow down and speak more simply to get what you want day to day, like at the Family Mart and whatever. I’m an outsider, and I recognise that I need to interact as such, but I know there are other aliens wondering around these very first world streets who could probably show me more of my neighbourhood than the walk to school. I guess it’s just a matter of time, and, to be honest, I’ve been seeing plenty. Just wanna get my finger a little closer to the pulse of whatever’s happening here.

Weather’s cooling down, food’s still a little weird, tomorrow is Independence Day, and I’m off to class in an hour. We’ll catch up soon.

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This massive spider I found with Duk, sitting in the city centre at this chicken place. Skylines and ridiculous arachnids. Image

It’s nigh impossible to get a buddy coke in this city, but look at the adorable little cokelets and fantalings!Image

Generic Cheongna city shots.Image

Generic Cheongna city shots.Image

Jungchul, my school.Image

Generic Cheongna night time city shots.Image

Generic Cheongna night time city shots.Image

Generic Cheongna night time city shots.Image

Everything is a freaking cartoon of itself 😛 This is like the bus that Goku’s hair designed.Image

The cell shops have these weird animatronic ladies outside all of them that bow and greet people walk past.ImageImage

How intense is this anti smoking ad by the lifts in my building?Image

Look at his little cheeks!Image

The one in the front with her head down (who might be Julie, I still need to check every time I talk to her) has massive front teeth and a lisp. And a flower shaped wristwatch. Image

These are some of the older kids, at an evening class.Image

Look how bad my hand writing is? It’s all the ramen giving me the shakes.Image

These guys are loud.Image

Ramen, baby!Image

Brown rice, green tea. Cold water, of course – god, can you imagine?Image

Vitamin town. Who knows that the hell all this stuff is.Image

Kids writing a presentation for class.ImageI think front-and-left is on to my game.