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Monthly Archives: October 2008

I was really bored today, and woke up to a heavy rain. Great. I had planned on re-visiting Dobongsan and outdoing my previous climb. I guess it just wasn’t to be.

I hopped on the train and headed east to the uniquitous TechnoMart that I’ve heard so much about. Anyone who knows me knows that technology is what truly drives me (among a select few other things).

On the way, I saw the stop for Sports Complex, which is the Olympic stadiums that were built for the 1988 Olympics (thanks Ben Johnson). There was a design exhibition going on. I would have gone and explored that, but the weather was just too oppressive. It was cold and damp. I was hot in my sweater due to the humidity, but cold in my t-shirt due to the rain. What a pisser. I snapped a panorama and took off.

I got to TechnoMart. It’s kind of like Yongsan station, except it’s easier to navigate. I am considering spending my Christmas break in Laos. If I don’t do that, I will buy a new digital camera; just a simple point and shoot, to make it easier (and less obvious) for me to shoot simple video. Having my Sony camcorder with me while trying to shoot Koreans in their natural habitat is kind of hard when everyone is running from my lens like I’m a Japanese during the occupation. But let’s not open THAT can of worms.

I ended up upgrading my MacBook to 4GB of RAM for a little over $50. I couldn’t say no. I have been doing a lot of heavier-duty Photoshop stuff lately, and I was starting to feel the limitations of my previous 2GB. Anyway, I was excited.

TechnoMart is like 14 stories high. The 10th floor has a movie theatre, which features a really nice outdoor area, with a nice view of the Han river. I took some pictures:

Click the images for bigger sizes. The really wide image with 2 bridges is actually 18 pictures side-by-side.

I’m not going to include a gallery from today because the pictures you see are the only interesting ones.

So, it’s been a boring and kind of depressing day. I’ve been sitting in my apartment for the last 10 hours, playing xbox and backing up some files. Yeah. I back up my files when I get bored. I learned my lesson from The Great Hard Drive Crash of 2007. And I only lost about 50 photos.

So, that’s all for today. As always, most of my Korean photos are available here.

Waygook roughly means ‘foreigner’.

I wrote this when I got up too early.

I don’t drink copee I take cha my dear
I like my kimchi old and strong
And you can hear it in my accent when I talk
I’m a waygook guy here in Seoul

See me walking around Itaewon
A subway map here in my hand
I take it everywhere I walk
I’m a waygook guy here in Seoul

I’m an alien I’m a legal alien
I’m a waygook guy here in Seoul
I’m an alien I’m a legal alien
I’m a waygook guy here in Seoul

If every white guy is American
Then I’m the hero of the day
It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile
Be yourself no matter what they say

I’m an alien I’m a legal alien
I’m a waygook guy here in Seoul
I’m an alien I’m a legal alien
I’m a waygook guy here in Seoul

Modesty, propriety can lead to notoriety
But it doesn’t matter in this town
Gentleness, sobriety are rare in this society
At night you can spend a million won

Takes more than English skills to teach these kids
Takes more than a license to drive here
Confront your directors, avoid them when you can
A gentleman will walk but never run

If every white guy is American
Then I’m the hero of the day
It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile
Be yourself no matter what they say

I’m an alien I’m a legal alien
I’m a waygook guy here in Seoul
I’m an alien I’m a legal alien
I’m a waygook guy here in Seoul

Surprised at how hung over I wasn’t, I decided to look in my Seoul book and choose a temple to visit. I chose Jogyesa because it is a newer temple, built in 1938. It is located in a very busy area called Insadong. I’ve been to Insadong many times, and I don’t know how I missed this temple.

When I got there, there was a ‘service’ going on, and I could hear the monks chanting from the sidewalk. The atmosphere was really full of energy. It was really moving. I’ve never experienced anything like it before. I was nearly moved to tears walking around the intricate art and statues while hearing the chants of the monks and the floor creaking under the constant bowing of the worshippers, the air sweet with incense.

I felt bad sneaking pictures during such a sacred moment, but the journalist in me prevailed.

Pictures of the temple here. As always, you can see all of my pictures here.

I also made a short video .

This train cruises at 300km/h.

So, my camera f’d up last night. It started taking some really funky pictures. This morning I reloaded the firmware back on my camera, and all seems good. Whew.

Last night was fun. I like Taejon. I’d consider teaching here someday. It doesn’t have all the crazy hustle of Seoul, but it has some nice areas. Luckily Min-Kyu (a new friend) has a car, and he was able to drive us around the city to see things. Again, no pictures because my camera was buggin’.

We went to an Italian restaurant and I had some pasta with crab. It was good, but when I explained that my sauce (and my dad and brother’s sauce) is better than the restaurant’s, they couldn’t believe it. I guess I will have to come back one day and bring some with me.

I got to sleep on a hard couch, which actually wasn’t as bad as you’d imagine. It’s pretty cool that this guy I just met let me and a couple of his friends stay at his place. He lives on the 12th floor of an apartment building with a really nice view of the city. I took a picture of one of the ‘apartment cities’ here. It probably has as many people in it as my hometown has. Pretty crazy.

I brought a bottle of wine from Seoul. It was a Chilean cabernet sauvignon. I gave them all a wine tasting lesson. I’m by no means a pro, but apparently I know a lot more about wine than they do.

One final thing I’ll say about Taejon is this: I like the girls here much better than Seoul. They actually smile back at you here, and seem much more friendly. I live in a very rich part of Seoul, and it seems the girls wouldn’t even look at me. I don’t really care that much, but seeing a few friendly smiles while walking around is a nice thing. Maybe it’s because Taejon doesn’t have as many foreigners as Seoul? Or maybe it’s because there aren’t any American forces stationed here.

Anyway, I really enjoyed my time here, and made some interesting friends. It just sucks that my camera bugged out, or else I’d be able to show you some of them.

I’ll be heading back to Seoul in an hour or so. I’m not moving till I get my coffee.

More pics here.

We took a field trip to Seoul Forest Park last week. It was a lot of fun, and we didn’t have to do any school work, which was a nice change. I got to spend the day with my kids and the other teachers. We had a really nice day for it. I love my job.

You can find a selection of the pictures here.

Another thing I’d like to talk about is grapes.

The grapes here are outstanding. They’re the kind of grapes we use in Ontario for making wine. You know, the kind where the skin holds the seed membrane. The skin falls away to the delicious bulb of goodness inside. Oddly, Koreans don’t eat the skin; they nip the outside of the grape and suck out the inside. They then spit the seeds into the grape skin. Blasphemy I say! My kids were shocked to see me eating the whole thing, seeds and all.  Maybe they’re afraid of planting a vineyard in their colon. Happened to me once, and it wasn’t pretty. The birds were picking at my ass for weeks.

Let’s talk about the picture above. Notice how they are holding hands. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am pretty paranoid about germs. My kids want to hold my hand and feed me food, and even kiss me. I simply can’t. The students drink from a set of about 5 cups, shared among 30 kids, on my floor alone. I nearly wretch every time I see it.

I asked the lunch lady if the cups in the lunch room (for the kids) were clean. She grabbed one and rinsed it under water, and told me it was clean. I ran away.

If I catch a student picking their nose, and they see me catching them doing it, they know to go to the bathroom and wash their hands. One time I suspected a student of having pink eye. I gave a lecture about what pink eye is, and how it is transmitted. My Korean helper at the time got a good kick out of it. I wasn’t laughing.

Tomorrow I will go to Daejeon, which is another major city here. It will be a 2 hour train ride by ‘mugunghwa’, which is the ‘normal speed’ train. It cruises at about 150km/h. If that’s sold out, I will take the KTX train, which cruises at 300km/h, and will get me there in about 1 hour. Should be a cool experience.

Of course, I’ll keep you updated.

Yesterday, my blog was hit for the thousandth time. As of right now, I have 1006 unique visitors. On September 27, I had 550. That’s a big jump in numbers.

Anyway I’d like to thank everyone who’s been visiting my blog.

And now on to some news.

I met with my conversation partners this weekend. I met them all through the Brock Unviersity IELP conversation partner program back in 2007. It seems like much longer ago than that. Anyway, 2 of my friends came from Daegu, and the other lives in Seoul. The friends from Daegu brought a friend who also attended Brock.

Here’s a picture:

Aren’t we cute?

Moving on…

I decided to go hiking this weekend at Gwanak mountain, but I couldn’t find a way up. I found a trail leading up a big rock, but didn’t have enough time to continue. I got pretty high up and got some nice shots of the city. I also met some really nice older Korean people who shared their fruit with me. They didn’t speak any English.

They vehemently refused to have a picture with me, but I could take a picture of them. I don’t get it.

They were just sitting on a huge rock on the side of a mountain. How cool is that? One thing I notice here is that, even on the bigger mountains, you will see people ranging in age from 10 years old to 80+ years old climbing the mountain. Even on the most difficult parts of Dobong mountain I saw really old people keeping up with me. It’s incredible.

More pictures from Gwanak here. And as always, all of my Korean photos here.

More to come.