Monday, August 29, 2011


readers, annyeong.

this will be the last post in E In The R.O.K and it comes with an apology for there not having been more.

the last few months have been some of the most exciting, traveled and busy of my life and I have only this excuse for not updating the blog. The excuse, however, comes with great happiness - as these things are all positive and warmly welcomed. The time has been tremendous.

As has the year.

And I did do something like 59 blogposts - which was 59 more than I thought I would.

But I enjoyed blogging and I'd be glad to know if any post gave you a better introduction into what my life is like here.

Alas, though, things are coming to an end and I am leaving Korea in only 3 short days. Lots to do before that!

Perhaps my blogging career will continue - perhaps not. No doubt that my adventures will go on and be numerous and scattered, and if I have the means I would always wish to keep friends & family in the loop.

For now, just know the year has been absolutely amazing - in so many ways - in so many ways I can both explain and not explain. Just a dream. I am looking forward to being home to see everyone, but I will miss my life here.

So then, I leave with the "other" annyeong and say goodbye. I'll have pictures coming up and around facebook and other places for you to see - no worries on that.

Until the next adventure,


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Temple Stay

Okay. Haven't been great with this. Apologies, again.

This one may be short - but there's more to come.

The weekend after my mother's wonderful visit - my friend Zoe and I decided we needed to knock off a serious token on our Korean bucket list.

Korea has a long history of Buddhism and because of this, they have Buddhist temples new and old. Many of these offer a program to stay over at the temple and learn about Buddhism and they call these templestays.

Templestays range from a long time to just one night. The intensity relates accordingly - and since it was our first time, Zoe and I decided for a one-night stay. Our friends had done a templestay at this particular temple and had enjoyed their time there. We followed in their footsteps.

We arrived at the temple at noon on Saturday. Immediately they fed us some lunch (a vegetarian medley of all things cabbage, beet and lettuce-y........this would be the general meal trend for our time there).

After eating, we met some of the otehr templestayers - a few more Americans, and some other international people (the americans were teachers like us, the others were traveling around Korea for various reasons).

We then took a hike up to an amazing spot on the temple's mountain. The end result - the view - was spectacular - but it was a warm summer day and we sweat quite a bit getting up there. Worth it - but I hadn't brought any more clothes, so I stayed sticky and smelly the whole time.

We learned more about the temple throughout the afternoon and at night, after eating a 4:30pm dinner, we all practiced meditation. My one qualm with the templestay was that they had us sit down for a few hours to meditate, but didn't give any instruction or guidance. Just told us to "do it" essentially.

I've had some meditation pracfice from Madison and some in Seoul - so it wasn't much of a problem - but for others I imagine it was a bit more difficult. I was also curious about their technique and how it differed from what I had learned (the one aspect I did get was that they wanted us to keep our eyes open the whole time, something wholly different than my earlier practice).

We got to bed by 9pm. This was appreciated because the monk (our guide) woke us up sometime around 4:30 to start the next day. The day starts with the ringing of some bells and drums out front that they do daily. We got to see the monks-in-training there, a group of international people who have come to that particular Korean temple to study to earn their monkhood, I suppose.

Again, not sure how the whole process works.

The next day was some more meditiation. Another walk to another lookout point over the city. We left in the morning after all that and took some pictures which I'll post here.

Overall, it was a great experience - learning about Buddhism and the temple system and such. Really glad I got to do it and experience another part of Korean's culture.

- e.g.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mom's Visit

alright, only an 11 day gap. geeeeettting there.

this post may be unnecessary considering that im guessing my mother is at least half the viewership of this blog - but for those that did not give birth to me, this is a run-down of my mother's wonderful 6-day visit to South Korea.

My mother had never been to Asia and so when I came out here she decided she would do her best to come visit me. With the help of her brother, my uncle, she was able to plan a trip with him to come out here and also to see some parts of Asia. They settled on a quick four-stop tour, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Korea and Tokyo. Quite a trip.

So my mother and uncle arrived in Seoul on a Thursday night and I met them after the airport and after only a slight confusion (me not writing down the airline or plane# and going off the time my mom gave me.....she's usually EXACT about those things) we found each other. We had a nice long bus ride to catch up.

I dropped them off at the hotel and we talked about our meeting spot for Friday morning. I met my mom in the morning and brought her to see the wonders of my employment - Guri (Boys) High School. Friday was a good day for her because I have three straight classes in the morning and then nothing else. So she came to each of my three classes - after meeting some of the English teachers, seeing some exciting students and sitting down for a prolonged meeting with the Principal.

The three classes showed her both the variety and simplicity of my job here. I play games. That's it. Besides for some American Slang practice in the beginning, my teaching repertoire is practices games and - thank goodness for it - my school wouldn't have it any other way. So we played some games and took some pictures and I think she enjoyed getting to see what I do day-to-day here. Then we had a nice lunch with the principal, vice principal and a cavalcade of about 8 other English teachers.

They watched her eat intensely but she did well. We had burribop which is a mixed rice and barley dish with some veggies and things added in to it. A simple food but a good introduction.

After school, I gave my mom a quick tour of my apartment while I packed my things. We had an hour or so to kill before our train ride and so we went to Insa-Dong, a major shopping, tourist and souvenir area. Needless to say, my mother loved it there and picked up some much-needed (or much unneeded, depending on who you ask) Asian gifts.

Soon, we were on the KTX (fast train) down to Gyeongju, a smaller Korean city but one rich in cultural history and heritage. It was the capital of the Silla dynasty, one of the longest and most famous in Korean history.

So we get to Gyeongju sometime in the early evening and soon my cousin, Michelle, comes to meet us. She is a teacher near the bottom tip of Korea and so Gyeongu, being a southern city, was easier for her to meet us than coming all the way up to Seoul.

(that was a terribly constructed paragraph. meta, meta, meta....)

We had a quick and unimpressive dinner and went to get some rest.

The next day we woke up early and started into the city to see some sites. The sites were scattered all around - and it had been forecasted to rain heavily. Luckily we got great weather and with some help from the city's taxi force, we were able to knock out most of the major sites by early afternoon. This included the most famous temple, the city's museum and a large park with many tombs of both important and non-important people.

At night we saw a traditional Korean performance. And that pretty much wrapped up our Gyeongju trip (add in a few meals that did not go over so well with my mom and uncle).

The next day, with only a few things left to do in Gyeongju, we decided to take the train to the nearby metropolis, Busan. I had been there about 8 months before and it was, then, and still is, now, one of my favorite cities - certainly my favorite in Korea.

We switched our returning train tickets so we could leave from Busan and then headed out to the country's largest fish market (Busan sits on the southeastern coast).

We toured the fish market and had some lunch nearby and then headed out to the outer part of the city to let Michelle buy a bus ticket back to her town. Luckily, next to the main bus station is one of the city's most famous temples and, again with the assistance of a cab, we went up a large hill and were able to tour around the large facilities. Very cool.

We left Busan sometime around 5pm and got back to Seoul before 9. I was tired and had to prepare for school the next day so I left them and told them I would meet once again after school on Monday.

Monday was back in Seoul and I felt the need to show the visitors Galbi - the grilled meat that is so raved about - and for good reason. We got some beef and some pork adn I think they enjoyed this meal more than the traditional/spicy korean dishes. After that we went over Coex, a very large mall and overall nice for some walking around.

The next day I met my mom and uncle after school and we went to the Han River that divides the city and took a short cruise down it as the sun went down so they could see more of the city in a relaxing and fun way. Many pictures were taken and good times were had.

And then we had to say goodbye (after some luggage issues) and my mom was off again for a day in Tokyo and then back to the good old States.

It was great to see her after all these months and to get the chance to show her around my town, Korea and Seoul. Thanks for coming Mom!

Some pics at the top!


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Summer In The City

Hello dear readers,

Again apologies on the lack of updating. Life's gotten busy and for the better. I've made a vow to try and get in some blogging thisweek - especially since the last few weeks have been so exciting.

For now, I'm gonna touch up on some summer activities that I, and my group of friends, have found ourselves doing recently. Things we weren't able to do before - which makes it all the more exciting and new.

There won't be many pictures in this one - but my next blogposts - about my Mother's visit and about my recent Templestay - will have enough to entertain the photographic observers amongst you.

So then - on with it.

Korea is immensely proud of its 4 distinct seasons and summer has already separated itself from Springtime. I think it got up to 92 today with that ever-so-lovely Asian humidity factoring in. Yikes. So, Seoul has become a hotzone more or less and on weeekends the group has taken to looking for other options - beaches, hillsides, etc - anything outdoors that may not include the 20 million people that Seoul does.

The first of our adventures was to Chuncheon/Nami Island. I had heard about the former from some friends and learned it wasn't too far away from town. The country recently built a trainline to go out there so the group stayed near my on Friday night and on Saturday we headed out.

Chuncheon is famous for dak-galbi, for one. A spicy chicken dish - they have a whole street dedicated to it - and since its the dak galbi capital of the only country that eats dak galbi I deemed it the "Dak Galbi Capital of The World" and insisted we eat it at least once (we did twice).

Chuncheon is also a smaller city, so we trekked out past the International Mime Festival (that got real weird, real fast) and went to an island near the city. It's a smaller island, just in themiddle of a large river but one can enjoy themselves.

We started that island adventure with a game of kick volleyball (the korean name is escaping me right now) against some city government workers who were spending their saturday having a picnic. getting drunk. getting very, very drunk. so drunk, inf act, that after the game (they beat us - it was our first time) they gave us all of their leftover booze. think they called it quits.

We got some sweet tandem bikes and rode those around for an hour or so. Had some drinks on the dock and watched some friends do some watersports. Relaxing.

The next day we went to alarger island - Nami - and enjoyed some Swan boats, more docks and watersports and just general walking around a beautiful landscape far removed from the insane sprawl of Seoul. Nami is famous for being a couple's retreat and had many romantic scenes and settings - one of which Schofield and I playfully posed for the pic below.

The first weekend in June was a long one - the first Monday being a holiday. Again we looked to get out of the city and made plans to visit Muuido - a smaller island near Incheon Airport where we rented out shacks that were just big enough for 4 peopleto sleep and no more. And there we spent our long weekend, eating some seafood, playing a lot of beach wiffleball, drinking and enjoying the company of ourselves and the blazing sun. It was also the first time any of us had gotten even remotely tan since our SouthEast Asian campaign.

I could write more about Muuido but it was more of blissful nothingness than anything else. Just a retreat of relaxation and a side of Korea not often seen by us cityfolk.

Okay, more to come!



ahhh. ill leave a song for y'all. Madeleine Peyroux brings her jazz side to Dylan's "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go". I never take much away from Bobby - especially about a song on my favorite album of his - but a woman's voice does this song good...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Shanghai & Hong Kong

alright, this is overdue. i got back two weeks ago today.

and a fair warning for those who only look at the pictures (cough rosey mcadams cough) there won't be any of me in this blogpost. ill put up some that i took but i'll have to wait until my friend Quinn puts up some pics before I have physical evidence that I was actually in these places.

Alright, so my adventure started in Shanghai. I'll spare the story about the horrible start I got on there, but let's just say I would have been much better off going straight to my hostel instead of blindly exploring because I was restless.

Shanghai was a metropolis of marvels. It features the skyline of Pudong - the one you've seen if you've seen pictures (the disco ball building and the huge magnet-looking tower) but outside of that it just sort of has these remote buildings that jut up toward the sky. From the middle of the city - People's Park - one could see at least ten or fifteen skyscrapers all occupying their own space.

For the most part, the people were kind to me. I was by myself in Shanghai - and I was only there for 40 hours - but I made due. I got up before 6am on my full day and walked around The Bund (the boardwalk on the river that splits the city) and through the Yuyuan temple area and gardens. I stumbled upon some other temples and at one point I found myself in one, lighting incense and following the lead of several old women bowing in all directions. Sweet.

Oh, and the dumplings. The benefit of getting up so early was that I was there when a stand opened, or had just opened, treating myself to the freshest of the fresh product. I don't know the Mandarin word for delicious but if I did I'd throw it here in italics.

I must have walked around for something like 6 or 7 hours and I spent the rest of the afternoon between my hostel meeting some people, eating more food and hanging out in the large, central park. Unlike young koreans, chinese students actively approached me and engaged me in conversation to practice their english. I had only a few free moments at the park - but it was a great way of meeting locals and talking with people.

Randomly ended up in an arcade too - and if you don't know Asian arcades are perhaps the most intense centers of activity in the country, far more than casinos, far more than sporting events. They take it. Played some games, met some more people.

Grabbed a drink with a Swiss guy at a pirate-themed bar and called it a night.

Next day I did a museum, saw some more of the enormous park, bought The Little Prince in Mandarin and headed to the airport.

It was a really spectacular city and a very cool introduction into China and its culture. I couldn't analyze enough of the city, let alone the country, in those 40 hours to provide more than that, but I really enjoyed it. It's as large of a city as you'll find and stil had some great parts where it felt small and wholesome.

Some Shanghai pics......

Alright, Hong Kong.

I think Shanghai would have been more impressive if I hadn't gone to Hong Kong right after. Hong Kong is this sort of unbelievable mix of insane metropolynesia. just a massive dowtown and banking and shopping district on the main island and then this large span of culturally intact places on Kowloon - where we stayed - and once you get further out a sprawl of hills, mountains and beaches. It's a composition of islands and its a sight to be seen, I would have to say that no other city on earth is quite like it.

My friend Quinn was waiting in Hong Kong when I arrived - having arrived the day before. My friends Joanna and Chris were also out there - visiting Hong Kong along with family and friends. We met both for some fun around the city. Our first night, Saturday, (I didn't get to the hostel until around 8 or 9) we went to the popular area for ex-pats to go out. Naturally we were lost trying to find it and stumbled upon an Italian guy who was heading in the direction. Simon? Simone? Either way, he decided to be a kind host and show us a bit of the area.

After realizing that we knew nothing of the area, he decided to impress us and showed us a bar on the 30th floor of a building that offered a deck and an amazing view of the city. Joanna, Quinn and I stood up there for some time taking it all in and celebrating our vacations and lives. It was quite a spectacular moment to be in.

Besides for that, In Hong Kong we had some great food - dim sum, fried noodles - got to venture over the world's largest sitting buddha on a separate island and far outside the city. took a few ferries across the river, walked along the banks of it and snapped quite a few pictures of the rows of towers.

to get to the buddha we took a long cable car ride over some hills and greenery and had a great view of the outer docks of Hong Kong near the airport and just how much of a string of islands it really is (one can easily forget when near the downtown)

It was sort of non-stop action since theres so much to see and we didn't have too much time.

Quinn and I also spent the better part of our Sunday going over to Macau which certainly did not disappoint. It's been a while since I've been to Vegas but I've seen some pictures and Macau just simply stands above it. Although, purely on just size and money. Macau has nothing of Vegas' party atmosphere - it is almost comically serious. Few people drink at the bars, they are eerily silent and entirely populated with Baccarat tables full of Chinaman cursing softly to themselves. We got to see the Venetian Macau - the world's 5th largest building by some estimates - and some other ones that were equally as impressive.

Anyway, Hong Kong was great and certainly inspired some part of us to get rich and move out there - since there were plenty of expats working for large international corporations that get to enjoy the fruits of the city in their 20s (with a healthy, healthy bank account).

Still, I have no problem settling for life as I have it now.

Some Hong Kong shots....

I'll be putting most of my pics on facebook soon for all to see.

Updates on Korea soon.


Saturday, May 14, 2011


Wow. I have really let this thing slip. Apologies.

I'm going to do my best this week to update so much of what has gone on lately.

Most notably of these will be my recent trip to Shanghai & Hong Kong (with a splash of Macau).

For now, though, I just want to provide a bit of interesting information. The last few weeks here have been jam-packed with interesting and unique Korean Holidays. I figured I'd give you a heads up on them.

May 5 - Children's Day

This was the first of my days off from school (allowing me to take that mini-vacation). Children's Day (어린이날) started here almost 100 years ago and is annually celebrated to honor the children's importance in movements and culture. Honestly, it's probably just a relief for them not to have to get hounded by their parents for getting A- on tests. Plus, they get money to play computer games with - "good, teacher, good!"

Here's a picture of Seoul's Children's Grand Park - a huge expanse for little kiddies, featuring a zoo, amusement park, soccer fields, and several playgrounds. I spent yesterday there playing some football with friends.

May 8 - Parents' Day

Koreans got efficient. They combined Mothers' Day and Fathers' Day into one holiday - celebrating both parental units. On this day, always on a Sunday, sons & daughters meet with their parents and go out to lunch. The offspring traditionally offer a gift to their parents. Guess what the most common gift is? Money. Straight cash. "For their retirement," they say. Interesting. I wonder what my cash-strapped students did?

May 10 - Buddha's Birthday

I think this is an All-Asian holiday (celebrating across the Oriental part of the continent) because I know it was celebrated in Hong Kong (where I was), China (where I had been) and Korea (where I live). I was flying for most of the day so I didn't ge ta chance to celebrate but I understand many temples put on a show and festival to honor the old religious figure. For good measure, here's a picture of the world's largest sitting buddha in Hong Kong which I saw the day before his birthday - and of which I will put my own pictures up in my Hong Kong post.

May 15 - Teacher's Appreciation Day

Not sure why they chose to have this on a Sunday. Most schools celebrated on Friday, however. Our school had a one-hour ceremony planned which turned in to 3 hours. All the teachers got carnations. Many students brought in gifts of rice cakes, flowers and assorted candies. I ate cake and ice cream all day long - it felt exactly like Lindsey's birthday parties, only with 20 Asian women and many teenagers coming up to me to say, "Happy Holiday Day Teacher Eric". So, yeah, I guess a bit different. Anyway, it is still Sunday now, so I may go out to get lunch and tell them I am a teacher here, see if I can pry some free goodies.



Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday April 8

Friday was my friend Joanna's birthday. We got dinner to celebrate and had some drinks at a local noraebong (singing room) and sang our little hearts out - and although the group wanted to get a good rest (most of them were going on a bike trip in the southern part of Korea), we ended up walking some Seoul streets late into the evening.

Of course, we were in the one part of the city that you CANNOT get a cab late at night and the group had to abandon the plan to go to and sleep at a recommended jimjilbong (a large sauna/bath house). They tried to find another one. A closer one. Meanwhile, with my friend Quinn having to get up at about 6am and my not having anything to do - the two of us decided to pass some late hours with one of our favorite Korean past times - screen golf.

After searching for a bit - we had to call Seoul's English Help Line and they instructed us how to get to the nearest 24-hour golf zone. This also proves how valuable a service they provide...

We ordered some jajamyeon to our room (it's like a noodle dish in this dark black bean sauce - it's their "chinese food" and it's very popular here) and golfed. We left the 24-hour golf place around 6 or so and since it was so late I was able to take the subway home with the other zombies and the other people that were actually working that early on a saturday and got some rest.

Saturday April 9

Woke up somewhere in early afternoon and called some friends. Our plan was to go to the Seoul Racecourse (horse racing) sometime in the afternoon and so we met there. The race track was large, and in typical Korean style, was nice, large and surrounded on all sides with awkward English.

I'll throw a picture up so there's something nice to look at here. There's a pretty great city-view just over the course's bend.

Anyway, we stayed at the track for a few hours. We learned how to bet on the races with the Korean scoring card and a couple of us actually won. I came out down about 5 bucks but I won a few races and it was certainly worth it (entrance ticket was about 75 cents USD). It was a beautiful early Spring day and we were surrounded by cigarette-smoking Korean men who, depending on the race and the horses, were either mad enough to throw down their cards, curse in mangled Korean and spit everywhere or jump with great joy and hug anyone around. Noticeably absent were their wife and kids - although there was a large park in the middle of the racecourse - and we suspect they might have all gone there.

Koreans aren't allowed in their own country's casinos, so this may be the only place they can get the gambling going.

After the track we got some sushi in the city and were pretty exhausted. We found a DVDbong nearby, which I haven't explained is just a place that has rooms where you can rent movies and watch them. They have large selections of American and Korean movies and the small group I was with chose The Girl Next Door figuring it'd be familiar and we'd be fall asleep pretty easily. Not so. The three of us stayed glued to the movie and watched the whole thing. The room was nothing more than a very large bed and an even larger (relatively) television.

We went to my friend Nate's cousins open-mic night at a bar and listened to some cool freestyle music and hip-hop and drank some beer. Met up with some other friends and had a late night, but a fun night seeing some new places out in Itaewon.

Sunday April 10

Sunday I slept in and woke up and got some lunch with people around my town. A really good bulgogi galbi place (a combination of two good Korean things) and some great kimchi chegae (a spicy kimchi-based soup) and hung around and spent the day relaxing and eating more. Enjoying each other's company. Somewhere around 8 or 9pm we got a bit restless and someone, probably me but I don't remember, brought up the fact that there was a casino only 10 minutes away by car.

Two friends and I went. We stayed for a few hours. Drank free beer. Unfortunately, my two friends lost a little bit of money. I, on the other hand, came out with one of my best nights ever and take home more than a few hundred dollars. Cheers!

Got home a bit late, after have some celebration drinks and braved the cruel and cold world that is Monday at any school in the world.

Here's a pic of the casino we went to....

In other news I finally booked my ticket for my May mini-vacation. Doing SHANGHAI for a day and a half and HONG KONG for 3 days!! very, very excited. will tell more as that approaches.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

April Update #1

I've been terrible with this thing lately. Not that this thing - this blog - is fragile, it will still be here even if I neglect it. I should just remind myself to get to writing some things down here once in a while.

And so, in an effort not to lose my place, I'm just going to go through April chronologically - with some small memories of things as they've happened.

I'll start with April 5.

April 5 Tuesday

- my friend Quinn and I decided we wanted to take a bit of a break from the work week and each took a sick day on Tuesday. This just happened (funny how these things work out so perfectly aint it?) to coincide with the college basketball championship game. I crashed at this place and we woke up in the morning to watch the game with some Korean "fast food" (rice dishes and noodle soups) in our laps. The game was awful - anyone that watched it can tell you that - but we weren't discouraged.

It was the first beautiful Spring day in a while and so we got his frisbee and headed into the city to find Seoul Forest - a sprawling park, nature reserve and everything in between in the heart of the city. (as a fun aside, the SF's website says something like "New York has Central Park, London has Hyde Seoul has Seoul Forest - - - - - it didn't quite live up).

The place WAS pretty cool though. Very large, very flat and flanked on every side by tall buildings and reminders of a city of 10 million people. We found a large plot of land taht no one seemed to want to go on and through the frisbee around for an hour or so. The first signals of Spring.

After Frisbee we got some ice cream and ventured over the "Sports Area". It had a riding track for equestrians, which we watched and then a series of courts for all different sports.

We chose Croquet. We wanted to learn how to play and there were plenty of 65-year-old-plus people loitering about to show us. By the way, if this isn't sounding like the Korean Version of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" I can assure you it felt like it to us.

Through great patience on the part of students and teachers - we started to get the hang of the game. After a half hour or so, we had most of it down.

It should come as a doubt to no one that Koreans that play croquet take that playing seriously. The main man teaching us the game had an electric device on his armband that not only timed our game but also kept track of each ball. Those sitting on the sidelines, watching, were drinking rice wine (makkeoli) and eating kimchi and Quinn and I were invited and insisted to partake in both activities. We obliged happily.

After the Croquet match we found ourselves at the basketball courts and haphazardly begged a few young teenage kids to play us in a game. They were ecstatic to play white people. We played. Quinn and I both came out feeling pretty proud - until we reminded ourselves that we played against 14 year olds.

Later we got hamburgers and beer. We each bought a cheap jersey in Itaewon. Then we met some friends for good dumplings and noodle soup and some more beer.

Somewhere around there we both made executive decisions to take sick day #2 the next day. Not to hang - but to actually take a sick day. It's good we did - both of us got pretty ill. It was probably the rush of spring air - or just the exhausting day of sports with the young and the old.

No pictures unfortunately, but we're headed back to Seoul Forest this weekend for Quinn's birthday so I'll try to snap a few.

April 6 Wednesday

Sick day. Ran a few errands. Chilled.

April 7 Thursday

First day back after 2 days missing. Each student I saw told me he was worried. The other teachers gave me new tea - I was implored to eat more kimchi. Noted.

One school story...........I was doing a mini-unit on company names - some companies with English names that they wear or know and have no idea what they mean. Adidas got brought up. I told them the history. Then I happened to mention that growing up I had heard once, incorrectly, that Adidas stood for All Day I Dream About Sports (an acronym) and that we, jokingly, had a changed that last word into another "S" word that can occupy young men's minds as much as sports. The co-teacher laughed. One or two of the brighter students laughed. The ones that didn't spent a minute guessing "S" words (I didn't tell them - nor say the word explicitly), and right before I cut it off - one student just yells out "SOAP!" to which I burst out laughing and my co-teacher too - perhaps because neither of us could figure out how he came up with "soap" as his first guess.

Also, two students though KFC stood for "Korean Famous Chicken" . I think I ruined their lives.

Thursday night I stayed out later than I should have with friends around town. That's all you need to know about that. It didn't matter though - being hungover and tired (only a little, mom, i promise) went along well with the fact that everyone assumed I was sick.

AND I'll give the weekend it's own new post. I'll stop there.


"They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm"
- Dorothy Parker

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Teacher Retreat

A few weeks ago, my new co-teacher, (who wants me to call her Hong-O, because that what a barista once in San Francisco wrote on her coffee ticket. she's cool though - her self-designated "ideal man" was Billy Corgan), tells me that I'm going on a retreat with the entirety of the first grade and all 16 homeroom teachers (my whole office and the office down the hall).

We went to YongPyong - the same place that I went skiing at a few months back. Since ski season is over in Korea, and I knew YongPyong stays open all year for nature exploration, spas, and golf - I figured this would be an intensive outdoor retreat.

Originally thinking it was for a weekend, I got the good fortune - only days before we left- that it was going to be from Wednesday to Friday. No teaching. No work. Sitting back in the mountains. What could be better?

Tuesday, the eve of the trip, I am handed my schedule for the next three days. It is one piece of paper written all in Korean. Over almost everything are big red X marks and the only things not highlighted are the once a day slots for "Lunch" and "Dinner" and on Thursday one time slot says "Waterpark"

So on Wednesday morning I put on my gym shoes and my old, worn, rusted, crude Wisconsin Badgers 1999 Rose Bowl sweater and make the walk to school with a backpack on. All new experiences. I board bus 7 with my co-teacher and her homeroom class and we start making the trip for YongPyong.

Perk #1 about being a teacher in Korean - All the kids bring snacks. All of them. The three hour bus ride was something like a mobile Last Supper if Jesus only ate crackers, chips and chocolate bars. As a teacher, not only do I get a piece of any bar, bag or stick I want, I am actively offered it. They insist that I eat their snack. Perhaps they want praise for their (parents') trip to the Family Mart to pick them up that Ghana Chocolate Bar. I don't know. Either way, the first hour was more or less going through a stockpile of different Korean snacks and giving them a try.

Then I passed out. Woke up as we pulled into the resort.

YongPyong Mega-Resort. They have everything there. Noraebong (Karoake Room), Bowling Alley, Restaurants (tons of 'em), PC Room, Lotteria (fast food place), Ski Lodge, Four Hotels, Golf Course, Ski Slopes......etc, etc, etc.


All of it. Closed.

Wait, no.

That's not true.

Not everything.

The PC room was open.

Thank God Of Kimchi.

The resort was dead. It was too warm to ski and too cold to walk around or do any of the outdoor activities. I'm guessing my school got a nice deal for going this weekend - because it seems like they shelled out a pretty penny for it. Everything was paid for - I didn't spend a dime my whole time at the getaway. No one else did either. Not that there was really anything to spend money on. Minus the computer games.

So, we go to our rooms. Last time I went to YongPyong, 12 of us Americans piled into one small room - slept next to one another on the floor.

This time? Villa.

Perk #2.

We had a kitchen, a living room, a dining room (sort of), two bedrooms, two decks/patios and a view of some nice mountains in the background. It was a small hike from the main lodge (where we ate all of our meals) but nothing bad.

I roomed with the 5 guys (of the 17 total homeroom teachers) and the remaining women all split two villas between them.

The First Day

After lunch - we came back to our villa. One teacher - the youngest of the group - had brought his guitar and immediately started to jam out some acoustic Korean tunes. He knew some American songs too. He encouraged me to sing along. I didn't until I got drunk later. He had no problem singing to his own strumming though. His favorite American group was Mr. Big. They sing "To Be With You" from 1991. You know it. Believe me, you know it.

We sat around for a few hours doing nothing. One of the guys played some Starcraft game (i actually don't know what starcraft looks like) on his phone. Another guy wore this white goggles which made him look like a cross between Mr. Incredible and Kurt Rambis. I'll put a pic up.

Sometime around 4 or 5pm, while I was drifting in and out of a nap, the group told me (in the best English that they could) that we were going to the girls' apartment. "For what?" I asked curiously. "Drinking," they said. And away we went.

The school had been so gracious as to purchase the teachers an absolutely riveting amount of alcohol and food (including tomatoes and strawberries which are not cheap here). The equivalent of three soju bottles per person was brought for the three days. One teacher told us this sadly. It was more than enough. There were plenty of six-packs of (awful) Korean beer around too. This led to most people mixing the beer and soju togehter to make "So-meg". and by most people I mean the men. Many of the women did not drink.

And so we sat, segregated by sex (like we were in middle school) - the guys on one side of the circle and the girls on the other (i was next to my co-teacher, a woman, so i sat at the end of the men), drinking and making conversation with the person next to us.

every so often, a person would reach for a tomato.or a cashew. or dried squid. or one of these walnut bread balls that are so freaking delicious it's crazy.

some people were drunk by dinner.

after dinner, we drank more. the bro taht played guitar played guitar. the bro that played on his phone played on his phone. i mingled with some teachers. four more teachers had driven (2.5 hours) to the resort to keep us company and the three that weren't the DD got wasted and shared their life stories with me. One was a DJ - he loves Roy Orbison and humored me by singing a bit of "Only The Lonely" in his deep Korean voice. So awesome.

We passed out sometime around midnight. I hope I didn't say anything stupid - but even if I did, only a few people there would have understood. Perk #3.

I slept on the couch. Perk #4. the Korean teachers slept on the floor. they do this. all of them. it's actually pretty comfortable. and the rooms come with large comforters and sleeping bag type sacks.

i woke up sweating several times in the night. i took off some layers. i went to teh bathroom. i saw the thermostat. 26Celsius. I do the math fast. 78F. No, wait, that can't be right. IT was. 78 degrees.

I like to sleep in the cold. I've met people who like it colder - but on average I think I'm a sleep-in-the-cold kind of guy. 78? Noooo.

The Second Day

I went back to bed, afraid to change anything. I was woken up. "Breakfast," one teacher said. "We go eat."

They were all ready to leave. They woke me up at the last second. I put on the layers I had taken off. My hair was in seven directions. I'm as hungover as a hippo (does that work? it does now)

we eat breakfast. rice, kimchi, soup. same as lunch. same as dinner. yongypong food suuucked. we ate at the general lodge and all the kids ate there too and so we had what was essentially the equivalent of cafeteria food. except i like our cafeteria. didn't care much for this.

after breakfast, we come back to the villa. The teachers ask "Gondola?" and I say yes. Apparently, the gondola for the ski mountain was still running and you could go up and its a great view.

We walk. A few of them carry small bags. I don't know why. We don't turn for the gondola. We go inside a building. We into the spa. "Gondola?"I ask innocently. "First, sauna" one says.

Korean saunas. They're called jimjilbongs and involve quite a bit of nakedness. The other teachers stripped down. The little bags they wer ecarrying were their shower things. I strip down. We go in. It's a bunch of showers and 4 different pools - with different temperatures and one steam room. I go into the 37C one. Theres a 41C, a 50C and a 20C. I spend most of my time in there. The korean teachers go in and out of one or the other. We don't talk.

One time, as I get up to move, out of the pool. One teacher smiles nicely and says, "oooh, eric, nice-uh shape."

"Thanks," I say, laughing.

Other men in the room do pushups and exercises and then dip into the cold pool. Many men shower. We stay for a while. Eventually Ive had enough - it's tooo f'n hot and i dont know how long they are going to stay. I shower and go back in.

The proper manners at jimjilbongs deserve their own post. So i won't go much into them - but there is a proper way to act in there. Again, involving quite a bit of nudity and with no reserve for any one around you.

It did cure my hangover, though. Knocked that sucker right back into yesterday, what with all the sweat and everything.

After the sauna, we went back to the room for like 30 minutes. I passed out. One teacher did indeed take me up to the gondola and I passed out there too. We ate lunch.

Next, the waterpark.

I had told the other teachers that I wanted to go in. They didn't. Crazy, right?

But I had forgot my swimsuit. We tried to rent one for me. All they had were very, very, very tight and very, very, very short suits. "That's alright," I said. I looked into the park. ALL the students wore life jackets (required), they also all wore their shirts (not sure why). Half of the waterpark's slides were closed. The teachers got dippin' dots and chilled.

We went back. Hung. I passed out. We had dinner.

After dinner was the ending festivals. This was more or less a talent show where student/student groups could volunteer to go on stage and sing and dance. They generally just went up to make fools of themselves. A few sang well. The workers at YongPyong had some games too - one that involved a poor Korean girl smelling the students' socks to pick which smelled worst. Dozens volunteered to try out. The winners were a group of guys that danced around to a KPop song and ended it by taking their shirts off and wrestling. They won 40 dollars to the big cinema chain here. They nearly wept with joy.

Later, the teachers got together again with the girls for drinking. This time we had soups and raw fish (called "huey") for an extra meal

Got drunk. Talked with the other drunk teachers.

Woke up the next day terribly hung over once more and got my stuff together and we left. I got back to school sometime around 4:30 or 5pm and went to get dinner for my friend Nate's birthday but couldn't do much more than that. Too tired. Went home and passed out. And, like that, it was over.

Friday, March 18, 2011


hey readers - I'm just kind of killing some time before I meet some friends so I figured I'd update this. Nothing special, just some highlights from the previous few weeks.


Sometime last week I was heading over to get some dinner at my favorite Chinese restaurant for JaJaMyeong - a noodle and bean sauce dish that costs 3,000won (less than $3) and is delicious and filling. I usually top the meal off with a fat kimchi mandu (dumpling) from next door.

Anyway,I stopped at the ATM and to avoid some extra walking I just jaywalked across the street. As it happened, a car pulled up and happened to be a Korean police car.

Now, a bit of background.....Korean police is not much like American police. For one thing, there is no crime here. They are less needed, less seen and less relevant. They don't carry guns and, as we found out playing our scavenger hunt, they also do not carry handcuffs. Some carry BB guns, some carry those twist ties - most don't. They are there for traffic and civilian unrest.

But I had no idea what kind of penalty jaywalking involved so when they stopped and slowed down next to me I was a bit nervous.

I bowed and did my annyong haseoyo. The cop driving looked at me, insanely puzzled, and just said, "megook?" ("american?").

I nodded. They left.

Crisis averted.


So I started my new classes. I'm 2 weeks in now - the first week being introductions. This week has me teaching them a bit of slang (so they can now say "what's up?" to me) and playing a certain kick-ass soccer game that I invented that has new teachers abuzz. (parents also, since today was an open day - parents could come in - and apparently many had good things to say about me. understandably so, I wore my best blue shirt!)

Anyways, the introduction lessons are always fun, since the kids don't always know what they are saying and some are willing to say anything that comes into their minds. So, some observations and funny sentences put together in the last week....

First, the new grade of Korean boys are still perverted. Less than last year, but still so. Most classes had at least one student tell me his hobby was "adult movies".

Many classes asked how I old I was for my first kiss. I told them. Many of them haven't had theirs. Shucks. One student had enough bravado to ask "When This" as he simultaneously did the round squeezing motion with both his hands.

I didn't answer that one.

During the game this week, one student got up and said,

"I'm happy because I have a girlfriend" (he had to make a sentence with "because" - it's what the book has them practicing this lesson)

The very next student got up and said, "I'm sad because I am not the girlfriend" co-teacher and I got a big kick out of that and no one else even laughed. He meant to said he didn't have one - but the slip, mixed with the timing, was priceless.


My buddies and I have been as active as ever on the (simulated) links. Quinn and I are on an average of nearly once during the schoolweek and most weekends don't escape without a round. We now found out we can just play 3 or 6 holes, which could change everything - I'm sure much to the dismay of the girls in the group, who hate it when we aren't around (though they won't admit it).

I've gotten my handicap down, shooting somewhere in the range of 85-90, which hopefully will translate to the real thing once I get back to that. If they decide to start some operations in North america I may just have to jump on the corporate bandwagon.

As it happens, I am currently taking any and all suggestions for what to do when I am done with Korea. My cousin Neal was so kind as to provide me with 26 options which I am currently considering. So thank you.

But serious, send some suggestions my way. Anything but "get a job" will probably be met with consideration.

Okay. That's all for now. St. Patrick's Day celebration in Seoul this weekend. A bar has all-you-can-drink Guinness for about 40 bucks. If that's not bliss, I don't want to know what is.



Sunday, March 6, 2011

Teacher's Dinner Pictures

In Korea, it's tradition that, with some regularity, all of the teachers at a school go out for dinner and drinking. Usually this is once a month - but this month marked the leaving of some teachers and the incoming of new ones - both causes for teacher's dinners.

These dinners tend to be long, awkward and drunken. Very, very drunken. The reason is that this is sort of the social time for teachers and to loosen up they all drink soju, makkeoli or beer and insist that you do the same with them. Over and over again.

If the principal wants to take a shot with you, you take one. If an older teacher (see: any other teacher at my school) wants to take a shot with you, you take one. No questions asked. You don't even get to pour your own drinks - someone does that for you and strips you of any remaining control of sobriety.

My group of friends - most of whom left my school for other schools - tend to go to the dinners and then do our own thing after. This means drinking - sometimes singing rooms, sometimes sweet Korean foods and embarrassing pictures. I'll put up pictures of the big group to give you an idea and then some of the funnier ones that I took from the "goodbye" teacher's dinner event two weeks ago.

first.....from the actual dinner - with the whole school staff

next, just a few of my friends and I at a bar afterward....


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Slow Times at Guri High

I returned from Southeast Asia on Feburary 6th. It's March 4th now - and today (Friday) is the final day of my 4th week back at school.

Here, in as complete of a list as my memory will allow, is the nothingness accrued in these 4 weeks (during school hours).

- taught 6 classes (over the span of three days)

- watched Senior Graduation, Goodbye Ceremony for leaving teachers, Welcoming Ceremony for new teachers

- moved offices (from center first floor to the new wing on the 3rd floor; like going from first row first base side above the dugout to $4 bleacher seats in left field)

- gotten sick, faked sick, taken naps, woken up with drool on my face

- written something like 45,00 words (seriously) in the form of stories, blogposts, tumblr posts, emails and letters

- read: the 1926 Letters of Boris Pasternak, Marina Tsetayeava and Rainer Maria Rilke, Lorrie Moore Birds in America, Studs' Terkel's Working, Henry Miller's Tropic of Capricorn, a few dozen poets and a few hundred online blogs of various components, the BBC and New York Times daily, and anything anyone posts remotely interesting on Reddit.

oh, and damn near a dozen of Charlie Sheen interview transcripts

- watched: movies: A Single Man, The Visitor, The King's Speech, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Louis C.K's Hilarious, In The Loop; documentaries on, Westboro Baptist Church, Bill Hicks, Lenny Bruce....and more

tv shows: Portlandia (all 6 episodes), Bob's Burgers (all 5 episodes), all current episodes of How I Met Your Mother, The Office, 30 rock, The Big Bang Theory, Archer, Modern Family, Californication....and more

- eaten: loads of bibimbop and donkatsu - the two easiest things for koreans to order me....and since for 3 of these 4 weeks we had no students we have ordered in lunch everyday.

classes start tomorrow. this has to be the single most boring blog post you've ever read - if indeed you did read it all.

i'm sorry - but content equals sentiment, and I'm losing my mind with all this internet-ing.

a quotation:

"Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'"
— Isaac Asimov

(which is non-coincidentally how I've been feeling about america lately)

next: pictures from the various teacher dinner's I've gone on lately, those will be good. much better than this, yes, much better.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011


as promised, the long awaited conclusion to my southeast asian adventure.

and it only comes to you a month late - which in the scheme of grander things, is nothing.

so, then, as the koreans say "be-it-nom"

our foray into vietnam began with a boat ride - from Phnom Penh, Cambodia into Chau Doc, Vietnam. we went through both countries immigration stations, riverside (Mekong-side) and soon we were coasting into Vietnam by sunset. The same sunset one has come to expect from VIetnam - bloody and sunken, kind of low-hung and ancient.

In Chau Doc we got dropped off at a restaurant, where a group of mosquitoes must also have gotten dropped off since a group of ten dozen of them were circling a light above us.

We left to find a hostel - which Lisa (i think) had looked up before we got there. Well, we arrived at the (only) busy time in Chau Doc, as the market vendors screamed and the streets were stuffed with pedestrians and sale items. We found an older couple who recommended a cheap hotel but we decided to keep our adventure, big bags on our back and all.

We found the place we were looking for and it was booked. We asked for a different hotel, found that and checked in. I think we each paid 10 dollars for the night.

Chau Doc was small - right on the border and riverside. It also shuts down sometime around 9:30 and by the time we got dinner, the city was dead. No drinking life, not even a soul to speak wtih along the streets. We went back to the hotel and drank a bit and enjoyed each other's company.

The next time we woke up and got breakfast at a travel agency-ish type sort of place next to our hotel, who had a sign for englihs breakfast. we each paid liek 2 dollars and ordered an egg dish and an iced coffee. We grew a bit concerned about the eggs after taking some time and then a motorbike showed up wiht a few of the orders....they had ordered the egg dish from a restaurant nearby!

Well, half of us ate and hte other half waited. Somewhere along the line - either fromt he malted milk in the iced coffee or hte malaria pill I took on an empty stomach, I got sick. I had to throw up int eh hotel bathroom after we had checked out. And when the grew took bikes up the famous mountain in Chau Doc and got to ride sweet moped bikes up there, I had to stay at the hotel adn clutch my stomach and wait until I puked the sickness out. Glorious, huh?

We then hired a van to drive the 8 of us to Saigon, the final place on my vacation.

While, in the past, 8 people was enough to rent an entire van - here was different. We paid for seats on a larger van and along our way picked up some various Vietnamese, none of whom spoke English. Sometimes theyd stay for hours, sometimes only 20 minutes. We also picked up a large amount of boxes of pills adn piled them into the van (in hidden spots) and nothing was ever explained but they were deposited somewhere, thank goodness.

We arrived to Saigon without even realizing it. At some point they just pulled off the street to a smaller street and made us get out. "Saigon?" We asked. They nodded. It didn't look like a city. It didn't smell like a city. There was no one anywhere.

After some more confusion, we got the driver to drive us to a hotel we had found the name of. The hotel was booked - even though we had made reservations, but she was more than willing to take us to her "cousin's hotel" and walked us there. She found me quite attractive (a 60 year old vietnamese lady) and had no reluctance to let the whole group know about it. Solid ego boost, I guess?

We arrived in Saigon during the heart of Tet - the celebration of the (lunar) new year. the first and second night were the biggest celebrations, with fireworks and people taking the streets.

We had a blast during the festivities. Every person we met made sure to wish us a happy new year. People were joyous, the city was in a constant celebration and it was terrific to be a part of.

The only down side was that many things were closed during the day. We would read about things to see and get there and it would be closed. The city's giant market was closed the whole time we were there. Our friend who knows Vietnam quite well tried to take us to his favorite restaurant and it was closed (we settled for the "copycat" of it).

We got to see a few museums and the main independence palace and those were great, but we never truly got a feel for the real city since it was a holiday. It's hard to gauge how much Tet affected our stay in Saigon but it had an impact. I still wouldn't trade it for anything - it was a great time.

Our hotel had a nice balcony on the 4th floor and we spent time up there just listening to music and looking at the city skyline. We went up the tallest building in Saigon, on the world's second fastest elevator, and got another view there. MOstly, though, Saigon appears as itself from the vantage point of our hotel's balcony. Again, no complaints.

I have more to say about Saigon but they are just notes adn observations. Tons of wires. Tons of motorbikes. Beautiful city. Nicer to Americans than you would ever expect after we ravaged their country. Many things. But it's almost saddening to have to write about such an enjoyable time when it seems so long ago now.

Korea will have to keep its hold on my curiosities for now.

Next blog post will update you all on my new school semester which began today.


"We are here on earth to do good for others. What the others are for, I don't know."

- W. H. Auden


Patti Smith - Gloria


- oh, post script - i got myself one of those famous vietnamese conical hats. keep yourself on guard, america, it's coming home!