Monday, October 30, 2006

Hail hail...

So it turns out that the girl I met up with Saturday is a "Christian." I have no problem with "Christians" but here in Korea a "Christian" is closer to someone who is Pentecostal than say, and Anglican. What I mean is that "Christians" are kinda serious about religion and it's not like back home.

She had to go home relatively early because she had to go to church in the morning.

And in January she's moving to San Francisco for two months to live with her Aunt and Uncle. He's a pastor and he's been studying scripture for something like 20 years on scholarships. Wow.

So I've met two "Christian" females here (not counting teachers at my school, but they don't count) and one was kinda crazy (the girl who said "I love him, he loves me, but no sex! I don't understand") and the other one is really involved in her church.

I just find it strange when I see young people who are actually involved with church, but I'm thinking maybe I should just start going myself. It's probably a good place to meet women.

Here's the best picture I took this weekend.

There were girls all over the street with those "Free Hugs" signs. I dunno why they were giving away free hugs but it seems like a decent idea I suppose.

But more interesting is the old white guy in the photo. He had two megaphones attached to a long pole that was attached to a sign that said something like "Jesus died for you." He was going up and down the street passing out flyers and giving people a calming smile.

I think he was trying to pick up girls too but didn't wanna go to church to do so.

So after I left the Insadong area I decided to stop into the Gundae area (I dunno how it's spelled). I stopped into a bar I regularly frequent and then went to a few others bars that I've never been to.

One place was called "The Wall" and I was expecting the place to be cool and Pink Floydish but instead I walked in and they had a Barbara Streisand concert playing on the TV. I've always wondered who but Streisand albums and now I know.

The bartender spoke some English and he gave me a really cool Jack Daniels lighter.

I dunno why he gave it to me. I guess I deserved it for some unknown reason.

It was at this moment that I realized a regular rum and Coke is about 5000 Won, but Bacardi 151 is only 7000 Won.

Bacardia 151 is 75% alcohol.

So I started drinking these and soon headed off to another bar. I can't remember the name of the place but there were only a few people inside. Actually, there were more bartenders than customers so the service was exquisite. These Korean dudes kept going "cheers!!" but I was drinking 151 so if I drank at their pace I would've probably died.

They were drinking Bud.

I decided to try to get one of the Korean dudes to try my drink so he'd understand what I was trying to communicate to him and after one sip he got it. Then him and his buddies all got a 151 and Coke and with that the frequency of "Cheers!!!!" dropped rather quickly.

It was getting late by now so I decided it would be best to grab a taxi and head home.

On my way to the main street the congruity of the evening showed her face once again on some sign that made little sense to me besides for one word.

I then looked up and this is what I saw.

I tried to go in but the door was locked.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Very good for health...

Tonight I went out with the "Men's Club" at my school. This is just the male teachers and maintenance staff. We went to a restaurant near my school and ate some pork called twaeji-galbi which is delicious.

The only problem was that instead of drinking regular soju the principal kept ordering this brown stuff that was a mix of soju and ginseng. It tasted pretty bad and it kinda grossed me out a bit. I intended to go out tonight but I'm not feeling up to it now, or I should say my stomach's not feeling up to it.

Whenever something tastes bad here the Koreans tell me "Very good for health." Whenever I hear that something is healthy now I'm very skeptical and usually expect it to taste like crap. I even joke around with my co-teachers about this and when they say "Very good for health" I usually respond "So it tastes really bad then?"

But besides my stomach, all is well. I'm going to go meet one of the Korean girls I met last weekend tomorrow although I don't know if it's a "date" or not. Talking to Koreans on the phone is a rather confusing thing, especially when they are walking down a busy street and you can barely hear what they are saying. I was attempting to make it a date but I'll have to wait and see I guess.

I also don't know the ins and outs of going out with a girl here so my confused state is probably for the best anyways.

Besides, there's nothing like solving a good mystery.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Not much to say these days. I'm in a good groove with work, although I'm a little busier than I want to be because of the after school classes I have to teach. Those extra three hours, plus an hour of planning, really eat away at my time. I find myself having to catch up on lesson plans because they want everything typed up. It's kinda ridiculous but there ain't a thing I can do about it.

I went out for dinner with the grade five teachers yesterday and got to know a few more of the young teachers. One girl is only 22 years old and she's a homeroom teacher! We went to VIPS and had the buffet salad bar which was awesome.

Today I went to an imports grocery store with another teacher. The place was small but they had things such as french fries, cans of (normal) soup, chicken nuggets (which were 25 bucks a bag so none for me), frozen lasagna and many more things. The prices were outrageous but I still came home with as much as I could carry.

And today was also payday so now I gotta figure out the cheapest way to send money back to Canada so I can pay off the loan I got for this computer, pay off my Roger's phone bill (I been waiting nearly 3 weeks for an email from them bastards) and if there's any money left after that, I'll probably waste it on Ebay.

Gotta love Ebay.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The fun ratio...

Last night takes the prize for being my most fun outing since I've arrived here in the R.O.K.

I left work with Dong-sik (my male co-teacher) and went to Seoul National University of Education to meet some of his friends. This university pumps out 500 elementary teachers a year it is solely an elementary education university.

Me and about 10 of his buddies went to a restaurant and ate some pork. We then headed to the university to watch the guitar clubs annual performance. Dong-sik and his friends played one song.

Because the university is only for elementary education, the females greatly outnumbers the males so well over half of the performers were females.

It was such an entertaining show to watch even though I didn't understand anything the MC said and 90 percent of the songs were sang in Korean. They were mostly Korean pop songs with a songs with only guitar.

Nearly all of the songs were performed by at least eight people, some requiring a dozen players. Bass, two acoustic guitars, two electric guitars, a drummer, keyboards, back-up singers, a lead singer, and a couple of random percussionists. Like I already said, most of these people were girls so that made it even better for me.

The music was usually upbeat and happy and it was exactly what I thought typical Korean pop would be. One of the male singers was so into it that I was nearly busting out laughing the whole time, and many of the Koreans sitting around me couldn't hold in their laughter.

I think most of the musicians were beginners, or maybe just really nervous because much of the playing had very little soul. I like my music to be loose, but this was quite the opposite. All I can say is that the gigantic smiles of most of the musicians kinda evened out the lack of feel.

All in all though, a great show that was run very smoothly and everyone there had a great time.

When the concert ended, everyone headed to a nearby bar for drinks and once the Koreans finally loosened up, due to English Juice (AKA alcohol), I had no trouble finding people to talk with. Everyone there was either a university student or a recent graduate so they all studied English for their degree and many of them had an impressive grasp of the language.

I met so many people got the phone numbers and emails of many, many people, though mostly girls who could speak English. Most of them were typically very interested in talking to the "foreign guy" but their brains can only handle so much English before need a break. Thinking and drinking are not two things that mix very well, and in order for them to talk English I believe it requires a great deal of concentration.

So after a while I decided to keep my conversations relatively short and keep moving from table to table. I also met a lot more people like this and I didn't give people English exhaustion.

I drank A LOT of booze last night because with every new table came new people, and new people meant more shots of soju. I was down with this and I think a lot of the Korean dudes (the few that were there anyway) were quite impressed with this white boys drinking skill. It pay to be a Newfy.

Another thing that helped me, and everyone else there, drink all night is that food keeps getting brought to the tables throughout the night. The were bringing sausages, cold spicy spaghetti, corn chips that have a fishy flavor, boneless chicken pieces with a delicious hot sauce, and a bunch of other shit that I decided it was probably best for me to stay very far away from in order to avoid having to go toilet hugging.

I had so much fun that now I only want to hang out with Koreans and I'll probably tag along with Dong-sik quite often from now on. At the end of the night things got a little confusing though. Korean culture showed her face and I was in the middle of it.

Dong-sik tells me he's going to meet some of his tae-kwon-do friends and he says I can go but I wasn't really interested. I was much more content to go where ever his other friends and all the girls were going. So myself, Dong-sik, and another Korean dude take a quick run to a convenience store and the other Korean guy, who I think said his English name was Josh misunderstood the situation.

Josh is older than Dong-sik so the whole hierarchy and respect thing is just a part of the way they interact and Josh thought Dong-sik was ditching me. Dong-sik was trying to explain that I was fine to go on without Dong-sik but Josh thought this was really rude or something. The two of them are arguing in Korean for about five minutes while I stand next to them drinking my bottle of water.

After they finish their conversation Dong-sik says he will stay with me but I'm like "No man, you go meet your friends and I'll just go with the flow here. I'm fine."

Dong-sik was well aware of this but I think Josh thought I needed to be babysat by Dong-sik. I explained that I had been out many nights in this city and I can manage on my own. There's nothing to worry about... blah blah blah...

This takes another five minutes and finally everyone is in agreement, at least I think we were. So we walk around the corner and head back to the bar and everyone is gone. Dong-sik's phone was dead so he had no way of calling anyone so because of this whole "Don't ditch Richard, you must take care of him" thing I missed out on the extension of the party.

I was kinda pissed and jumped in a taxi and went home. The cab only cost 10 bucks though (the Korean's predicted 20 bucks) so by the time I got home I wasn't angry because I was feeling pretty shitty anyway

Judging by how terrible I felt today, staying out any later definitely would have a been a really really bad idea.

And this brings me to the fun ratio.

Last night I would say was about a 9/10 in terms of fun. Great supper, great concert, a load of girls (this is very important to the fun ratio, maybe the most important criterion actually), a great bar, lots of drinks, lots of English speaking, made some new friends, and got a cheap taxi ride home.

But the problem with the fun ratio is that a 9/10 only leaves you with one "fun point" remaining for the next day. The fun ratio lasts for at least 12 hours, so when I woke up this morning (well, this afternoon really) I only had one fun point in my pocket. What I'm trying to say is that this morning I was had about 1 out of 10 points for the fun department.

My head hurt and my stomach hurt because, yes, I had much too much fun last night. And everything in this world eventually evens itself out so I had to slowly restock my fun point potential.

Oh and one more thing I forgot to mention about why last night was so great. I never paid one cent for anything. The Koreans wouldn't take my money even though I offered.

So although the Korean culture ended my party time short, it did save me a bit of cash in the end.

Once again, things even them self out.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Um, thanks...

This is gonna be a quick one. It's 11:30 at night here and I'm half drunk (well, I'm fully drunk) and I gotta work in the morning.

I left school at 1:00 to attend a lesson observations. On the way home, it turns out we weren't on the way home. We pulled up at a restaurant and the entire school staff was there (teachers, office admin people, maintenance crew, etc.).

Got inside and they called me and Kim Dong-sik (my 25 year old male co-teacher) up to the front and the principal said a short speech and presented us with a cake and a 1 Gig USB card. Here's the cake.

Turns out it was a big dinner meeting because the school just finished the school evaluation by the district, so they decided to welcome the new teachers as well.

Then we ate some bulgogi (I still have left over bulgogi in my fridge) and it was delicious. I also drank my fair share of soju with the meal, more than anyone else.

Then I got a ride home and figured I couldn't let the booze I already had in my system go to waste so I headed to the Konkik University area (known as "gun-day" in English pronunciation) and drank some beer with a few Koreans I don't know. Here's what the neighborhood looks like.

Now I gotta sleep because I gotta teach the morning.

Good thing no one understands me anyway so if I'm totally hungover it won't even matter.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Banana kung-fu...

Just when things are starting to seem normal in a foreign land the simplest concept, such as a street merchant selling fruit, can totally weird you out.

I got home from work and went to the local butcher shop and bought myself some bolgogi beef (thinly shaved beef) .

Next I bought some peppers from a guy selling vegetables outta the back of his truck in his usual location on the corner outside the bank. Him and three of his old buddies were hanging out as usual and he scammed me into buying way more peppers than I needed.

Well, it wasn't really a scam because I got them for a fraction of the grocery store price.

I got seven shiny, fresh peppers in all for 3000 Won (2 red, 3 yellow, and 3 orange). At the grocery store it costs the same amount for one green and one red.

I only wanted to buy three peppers and the price was 2000 Won but then his buddies started saying some shit I couldn't understand and he put four more in my bag and only asked for another 1000 Won.

It was easier to just buy the peppers than to say no, then take them outta my bag, and then try to explain to him that I didn't wanna take advantage of the incredible deal he so generously decided to offer to some comical white man. They all seemed rather excited and pleased with themselves after I pulled out the extra 1000 Won.

Next time I shop from them they'll probably try to sell me everything on the truck, and if the deal's good enough, I might just buy it.

Here's what I cooked with all those peppers and beef.

The picture doesn't do it justice. Seriously.

But I'm off track here. This post isn't supposed to have anything to do with the purchasing of peppers. Banana's are the plant that I was intending to so gloriously shine the spotlight upon.

So I'm heading home to begin cooking some supper and in the distance I can hear what can only be described as "kung-fu" noise. It's kinda hard to write them out here but I'll try. "Yah... Tow-Gee-Dah... Un... Yea... Ah... Oh... Yah... Tow-Gee-Dah-Shin-Ya..." and so on.

These sounds kept getting louder as I walked toward my apartment building and by now they were really starting to puzzle me. I get to the cross walk and I'm waiting to cross and the noise is very near me now. Let's just say I was hot... Hot... HOt... HOT on the trail.

I spot a street merchant across the street with the back of his truck loaded with bananas and nothing else. It sounded like the noise was coming from his truck but it couldn't be. It just made no sense. Why would a banana merchant be using kung-fu noises to sell his fruit of choice?

The light turned to the little green man signaling that it was time for me to cross the street and approach Bruce Lee and his banana bed truck. Sure enough the sounds were blaring from the cab of his typical Korean Hyundai and I was baffled.

Truly baffled.

I even attempted to ask a Korean what the banana truck was yelling but he didn't understand English and was of no use to solving this monumental mystery.

After I ate I went out intending to walk by the banana blare with my digital camera to record the sounds and share it with my Korean co-teachers in hopes of becoming enlightened, but sadly, the yellow yelper had already my trail and had left to go to a safer refuge.

I can't figure this one out. Not even a clue. If anything, the annoying sounds would only serve to repel customers to a more quiet, relaxing shopping atmosphere. Any ideas?

I just pray that when I eat breakfast tomorrow, the banana, which will be lying next to my peanut butter and jam sandwich, doesn't decide to jump out of its skin and kick my sorry little ass.

Monday, October 16, 2006


I went to Hongdae Saturday night. I've been up there a couple of times but not on the weekend. That is the place you go to party in Seoul. It's near a University and the clubs don't close until there's no one buying drinks.

I went to a bar called Tinpan 1. Tinpan 2 is right across the street. The place was small and it was packed but it wasn't hard to get a drink. Service is great over here, whether you're at a restaurant or getting one of your co-workers to call your cell phones provider for you. In Canada, it takes 30 minutes to talk to a real life Roger's representative. Here, you call the number and within 30 seconds there's a real person on the other end of the line.

Anyway, this Tinpan place was pretty crazy. The place was full of foreigners and Koreans and everyone was getting along. The place seemed a little more inviting than Itaewon which is crawling with American soldiers, many of whom are out to simply kick some ass from what I've been told. I have to admit that all of the US soldiers I've came across thus far have been right on, and I met a few on the subway last weekend and we got each others phone numbers. I've heard they have a store on base which sells many Western goods so hopefully they'll eventually hook me up.

But back to Tinpan.

I've never really seen anything like the place to be honest. The bar is one room and it is divided in two by really long table that is maybe 15 feet long. This table had people dancing on it all night long, and the few side tables also had people up there dancing. Those things must be sturdy.

It's also cool because there was no cover so you can leave, go walk around, do some bar hopping, grab some food, then pop back in for a few more drinks. It wasn't really my type of scene but I still had a great time and there were a few English teachers I knew from orientation there so it's always a bonus when you go somewhere knowing more people than you expected to.

The drinks were also really cheap compared to Itaewon and Gangnom. Just a little over two bucks for a beer. Hard to beat that. It's just too bad the beer was Korean and tastes like water.

One of my fellow SMOEzers who was there lives on my side of the city so I was able to split a cab home with him and his Korean wife. She was a hard partier but I'm not gonna get into that now. The cab home was only 20,000 Won and we split that so it was much cheaper than I thought it would be.

I planned on waiting 'til 5:30-6:00AM for the subway to start running but by the time 5AM came I was ready to head home so I gave in and got the cab.

I think I made the right decision for once.

Maybe I'll get sick...

I've been slack with the blogs as of late because I've been busier at work now that I have to teach some after school English classes to the staff. What this means is that I don't have time to be messing around on the net at work anymore.

I've also been trying to catch up on a lot of boxing so I've been watching a lot of fights when I get home from work and this leaves me with less time for blogging.

I've also discovered this amazing program called TVU Player that is just like having cable TV on your computer. It's nice to be able to watch sports highlights in the morning while getting ready for work.

It has ESPN, the NBA channel, the MLB channel, ABC, NBC, CNN, Fox, and it even has a sports channel that shows a few NHL games. Too bad the time zone difference makes it nearly impossible for me to watch any games during the week. Mondays really piss me off because just as I leave to go out the door to work NFL games are just about ready to start.

I do have 15 sick days I can use and there's only 16 games during the NFL regular season and week 6 or 7 is approaching so maybe I'll get to watch a few games if I "get sick."

And the World Series starts any day now...

Friday, October 13, 2006

You got me confused...

I had a very strange encounter with a Korean woman the other day.

I was sitting outside the Family Mart (convenience store) at a table having a beer and reading a book. I usually do this most days on my way home from work. It is quite common to drink outside of stores here and they even have patio furniture set up for their customers.

A girl comes out of the store and starts cleaning off the tables around me but she isn't a worker. She's quite cute and she comes over to my table and asks me why I'm in Korea. I get this question a lot. We talk for a few minutes and every is quite normal. It's 5:45 and she tells me she has to work at 6:00.

Then she informs me that she is 27 years old, used to work at Lotte World, and is a Christian, yet she is smoking. Here in Korea it is very rare to see a girl smoke in public (seriously, I've seen less than 10 girls smoking in public since I got here) and unlike back home, being a Christian means that you don't smoke or drink and they're kinda serious about it.

Next she tells me that her mom wants her to get married next year so I ask her if she has a boyfriend. She says yes and tells me he's a Christian too.

Then she asks me for a sip of my beer catching me very off guard and I say sure. She takes a mouthful and makes sure her lips don't touch the can. Very courteous indeed.

Up to this point I'm finding this girl very hard to read and quite funny. It was the next thing she said that was really, really odd.

She says "My boyfriend is Christian and won't have sex. I love him. He loves me. But no sex?? I can't understand this. Makes no sense."

I start to laugh after she says this because she was so blunt and this ain't something a person wouldn't usually blurt out to a total stranger. So I tell her maybe she shouldn't be a Christian and she says "Yeah maybe."

Then she talks about her boyfriend some more telling me he works with computers doing after service (whatever that is). She shows me his business card and then writes her email and phone number on it and gives it to me.

She had this toy butterfly attacked to her purse and she takes it off, shows it to me, and tells me it's a gift and I can have it. She says when it unfolds its shaped like a heart.

6:00 comes and she heads off to work at some restaurant in my neighborhood.

I'm sitting here now tryna decide if I should call her up and potentially ruin her marriage and her mother's hope of getting her daughter outta her house.

I've never had a mixed message like this in my entire life.

But then again, maybe this is totally normal in Korea. I've been told that girls often attempt to "upgrade" their boyfriends.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Northern lights...

I've always had an interest in North Korea because its amazing how such an isolated, non-globalized nation can exist.

Here are few things I'd like to share about this messed up country.

Look at the picture below. Its a night-shot of North Korea, South Korea, Japan, and a small part of China. Look how dark it is in the North. This shows how little electricity this country actually has.

The one place that is lit up is the capital city of Pyongyang. This is where the "Great Leader" Kim Jung-il probably lives and most of the light is probably from his house because I bet its pretty awesome. Supposedly he has a gigantic collections of Hollywood films and that one speck of light is probably his projection TV.

Next is North Korea's secret hotel. Its actually called the Ryugyong Hotel and its in the capital city. Its a massive, 105 story building and it dominates the city's skyline. Its referred to as the secret hotel because they don't like to acknowledge it because they weren't able to finish it.

They began building it in the late 80's as a response to some giant building a South Korean company built in Singapore.

Gotta love the Cold War.

In '92, they gave up because the country just didn't have the resources (electricity, materials, etc.) to finish it.

Gotta say the overhead view does look kinda cool.

It would be the tallest hotel in the world and the seventh highest building if they could just manage to finish the darn thing. If you got some money kicking around and you believe that high risk investments are the way to make big bucks, here's the opportunity of a lifetime.

Just look at how it mocks the city of Pyongyang and serves as a great symbol to everything that is wrong with this troubled country. From a distance all looks well, and apparently they even light it up at night, but in reality "The basic structure is complete, but no windows, fixtures, or fittings have been installed, presumably due to the high cost. According t0 Emporis, the concrete used in building the Ryugyong Hotel is of unsuitable quality and therefore unsafe; the building will never open as presently constructed. (Wikipedia)"

If you are lucky enough to vacation in North Korea (it can be done, seriously) your tour guide, who never leaves your side, will probably tell you they don't know where the hotel is located. I can see how it could be quite hard to find.

Here's a link to a page built page a guy who actually went to North Korea for a vacation. It's a great read. Go to the bottom of the page and start at the beginning because I can't link to the first page.

And if you wanna take a vacation there yourself, here's the site to check out.

I wanna go there someday if it doesn't end up gettin' blown to smithereens.

Come to think of it, I hope I don't get blown to smithereens either.

Every square meter hey...

You must have heard about North Korea testing some nukes earlier today. I heard about it from another English teacher and then brought it up to my Korean co-teachers. They didn't seem particularly interested in the whole thing.

When my male co-teacher got out of class, I asked him about it and he said he knew as soon as it happened about 10:30 this morning. He recently finished his mandatory military service and one of his friends sent him a text message informing him about the situation.

He is kinda nervous about the whole thing because if war, or even battle, breaks out he has to go straight back to the Army and fight.

He also informed me that North Korea has a "bomb pointed at every square meter of Seoul." This is a military secret so don't tell anyone alright.

I asked him what he thought would happen if the UN/US/Japan, or anyone for that matter, decided to attack. He said, very matter-of-factly, that both Koreas would be completely bombed and destroyed. That's kinda what I figured too.

Its strange because I'm not the least bit nervous about any of this, although it seems quite real because of the proximity. North Korea is only about 30 kilometers from Seoul. I was still in Canada when the North tested those long range missiles and this feels pretty much the same to me.

At our weekly staff meeting today we were informed that we will have a missile drill next week, or something like that. I guess its gonna be a lot like a fire alarm but you don't exit the school, apparently you just wait around?

I'm gonna hide under my desk.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Han River Boat Tour...

I also went on a short tour of the Han River that flows through the center of Seoul. Missed the long tour by 5 minutes so we settled for the shorter tour. Check out the gallery.
Got off the boat at Seoul Forrest. This is just a small area with a pond, stream, some trees and wild animals. There were deer running around inside and you could feed them through the fence.

Unfortunately, I didn't have any kimchi in my backpack.

Seoul Tower...

Here's the last gallery I'm going to upload tonight. The pictures are from Seoul Tower which used to be called Namsam tower. The view of the city is amazing from up there but dusk was approaching so my pictures aren't great.
The tower is on top of a big hill or a small mountain, I'm not sure which. We took a cable car to the top of the hill where the tower is located.

In the gift shop they had a postcard with all of the great towers of the world. Its funny because they include the height of the hill into the total height of the tower. Maybe the criteria is based upon height above sea level or something?

They even have a small picture comparing the various towers (CN, Seattle, etc.) and they have the hill drawn in at the bottom of Seoul Tower.

At least they're honest I guess.

Gyeongbokgung Palace...

This is another palace I visited this week. You can get some info on the palace at Wikipedia (the online encyclopedia of popular opinion).

Not much to say about it really. Just look at the photo gallery. Its much easier for you to look at the photos than for me to explain the place.
But first, look at this guy. I wonder how much he gets paid anyway? The poor guy has to glue a beard to his face and then put up with thousands of people taking his picture each week while he stands in the sun wearing hippy beads and a hat with a nipple at on the top.

Say cheese!!

Friday, October 06, 2006


During the last few days I've taken a lot of photos of temples and other random touristy things. But my favorite pictures are the ones I've taken of random people in natural situations.

I dunno if this is creepy or not but it sure makes for some great pictures. Check out the gallery called "People 1."
If I wore a watch, I'd definitely buy one from this guy.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Deoksugung Palace...

I just added a photo gallery to the right. The pictures are of Deoksugung Palace.

When we arrived we watched the changing of the guard. That's what those silly looking men with the beards glued to their face are doing. I even got my picture taken with a few of them. Check it out.

I also have a short video clip of the guards changing (no, not changing their clothes) that I'll post here when I figure out how to do it.

But anyway, here's what I can tell you about the palace (I'm copying it from a book).

Its one of the five royal palaces of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). It was originally the residence of Prince Wolsan (1454-1488), the elder brother of King Seongjong (Korea's greatest King... He invented the Korean writing system and it is said to be "linguistically ingenious"), but was used as the main palace by later Kings.

King Gojong, the next-to-last king of the Joseon Dynasty, remained there even after being forced to abdicate the throne by the Japanese in 1907 until his death in 1919.

Deoksugung means "palace of virtuous longevity."

And that's your history lesson for today. The quiz is tomorrow at midnight Eastern Standard Time.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Culinary terrorism...

Disclaimer: I am not a racist. I just have a wry/surly/churly sense of humour.

After I went to those palaces yesterday, me and a few friends went to Itaewon and ate some Pakistani food.

While we were waiting for our food we tried to order a few beers but the server informed us they were "...blah blah..." which my friend told me meant this place was hardcore Muslim, or Islamic, or something like that, and they don't serve booze because Muslims don't drink that stuff.

My friend then made a quick remark "Well, let's go to the Kwik-E-Mart and grab a few beer while we wait." Bad joke because the server guy was Pakistani, but I don't think he got it anyway.

So now I am going to warn you that the rest of this blog is going to be an untasteful politically incorrect rant. But I've been being so nice on this thing that I feel its about time to be a bit of a prick. So here goes.

I am not a racist, and I have nothing against people from the mid-East. But I do have a problem with Muslims. Not all Muslims, just the crazy ones who strap bombs to themselves and kill innocent people. The problem is that these fundamentalists seem to be getting stronger, and even the regular Muslims are too sensitive.

For example, the Pope had to apologize for saying that some of the Prophet Muhammad's teachings are "evil and inhuman." If you go back and read up about this guy its somewhat true, but the Pope had to apologize anyway because the Muslims are so touchy.

To me, they seem very sheepish and the average middle-Easterner seems to follow their clerics words as rules. People bash Christianity every minute of the day but you don't see all of the Christians rising up and getting in people's faces and threatening to start wars and demanding apologies. Muslims seem want a war just because someone says bad things about Islam. Lighten up a little already.

So back to the guy who was serving us dinner. I jokingly told my friends I wouldn't have eaten here if I realized my purchase of dinner was going to support terrorism (well, I dunno even know if I was joking). They didn't like the joke so I guess that means they wanna support terrorism too.

We talked about Islam and how all the other religions were also quite violent at one point or another, but I live in the world today and I don't appreciate other people's strong beliefs infringing on the Western world.

Remember that guy who made the cartoon with Muhammad a while back and all the shit it caused. Things like that piss me off.

There was also an episode of South Park where the writers wanted to show an image of Muhammad and Comedy Central wouldn't let them do it. South Park pretty much does what it wants these days but not allowing them to show some prophet of some religion seems ridiculous to me. Jesus is a character on the show, and they had an episode tearing apart the Mormons and another bashing Scientology, but you can't make fun of Islam because there is an actual chance that someone may try to kill you or blow you up.

With that being said, I don't think the server liked us very much. Finally our food arrived and it was delicious. I had something called Chicken Tikka with white rice (and good white rice, not the sticky stuff like the Koreans always eat). There was only one problem.

Two out of maybe ten pieces of my chicken was really undercooked. I ate the first piece because I had so much rice in my mouth with the chicken that I just said "to hell with it" and swallowed. I noticed the other raw piece while it was still on my plate and after a good inspection, I realized I had just been terrorized.

There are many forms of terrorism to be aware in today's world, and I know now that "Culinary Terrorism" is real and it is a true threat.

I will no longer be eating any middle-Eastern food until this war on terror has been won. You can mark my words on that one.

Now, to back up some of my terribly outspoken and likely unpopular views, read the following paragraph from an article I read a few days ago:

"With the same ardor as Communism, Islam treats generosity, broadmindedness, tolerance, gentleness, freedom of women and of manners, democratic values, as marks of decadence. They are weaknesses that it seeks to exploit, by means of useful idiots, self-righteous consciences drowning in nice feelings, in order to impose the Koranic order on the Western world itself. "

Here is the link to the full article. Very interesting.

The guy who wrote the above paragraph is a university professor somewhere (read the article if you really wanna know) who cannot even go teach his class because of threats. He has also had to leave Egypt, where he lives, and go to France to hide in order to avoid the 'wrath of Islam.'

Half of the reason I wrote this is because of my disappointment with Jack Layton and the NDP for wanting to pull Canadian troops out of Afghanistan. Stop being such a wimp man. I think we've lost under 40 troops since the battles began and we're fighting for I good cause, at least I believe so. This is a UN sanctioned battle and the Afghanis asked for UN support.

Remember those guys, um the Taliban? Well, they are getting stronger Jack and you sound like you wanna just let them win.

And another thing; the people who are against the Iraq war use the lack of UN support as a reason to argue against that war, but I hope these same people are not now arguing against the fight in Afghanistan. If we let these groups get more power, regional stability, and economic resources, its gonna blow up in our faces in the form of one great giangantic, big-assed jihad.

And no one wants that to happen do they?

So after experiencing my first terrorist attack, I now see the real danger of these Islamic fundamentalists and the power they have to brainwash the average Muslim, and I am rather upset about my culinary experience the other day.

But my stomach us much, much more upset.

And now, after seeing this special edition terrorist-bobble-head Muhammad, the Muslims are friggin' pissed!

And I, my friends, better watch my back.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Union dues...

I went to a couple of old palaces today. I'm not gonna write about them now. I'll do it later and post some pictures.

I just have to show these two photos. What's strange is that last night my friend said he was thinking about starting an English Teacher's Union here in Seoul.

I don't know if that's a great idea, and here's why...

Ghost town...

I went to Gangnom (again) Saturday night and hung out with some friends. One of the English teachers I know introduced me to a girl from Australia who lives kinda in my part of town. Actually, she lives even farther south (and out of the way) than I do but the main thing is that I now have someone who A. lives in my area, and B. I can split cab fare with if I wanna stay out later than midnight when the subway stops.

I'm quite happy about this.

That night we did end up splitting a taxi home and I was quite surprised that it only cost 13,000 Won from Gangnom to my apartment. That's cheap considering I had to pay 10,000 Won from a closer location last weekend. I think I got ripped off but all's fair when it comes to scamming foreigners. If I drove a taxi in Canada I would surely do the same thing to an unsuspecting Korean.

So I got home and decided to take a walk around my hood. I went to the store and bought a bottle of beer and I was off. I headed to Rodeo Street and I was amazed at what I saw.

I didn't see anything! The place was totally dead. I was the only person on the whole street. In the daytime this place is swarming with people and street merchants but once the stores close down, the place dies. There's nothing there but stores (and lots of them) so I guess it makes perfect sense but it kinda baffled me to be honest.
I then proceeded to some of the backstreets and the situation was practically the same. Although some small restaurants and HOF's (small bars?) were still open, there were no places where someone on a solo mission, like myself, could just go in and sit at the bar and order a beer.

I got so far down the road and saw a drunk man in a suit stumbling up the road. I decided to ask him to take a picture of me thinking that he was too drunk to try and run off with my camera. He looked at my funny but took the shot.

Gotta love being able to drink in the streets!

Run, Richard, Run...

On Saturday, my school had it's PE Festival, referred to as sportsday from now on.

I know I'm not supposed to work on Saturdays but the staff and students really wanted me to attend so being the nice guy that I am, I agreed. And remember, they did buy me a track suit so I couldn't really say no even if I wanted to.

I showed up at the field at 8:30AM and was informed that I had to take pictures all day. This was fine with me so that's what I did.

Unlike Wednesday when we had the sportsday "rehearsal," this one was the real deal and the whole park was packed with parents and a few vender's to keep them fed. Many of these parents shyly approached me and said the typical Korean English phrase "Nice to meet you" and quickly retreated back to the comforts of their native tongue. I did appreciate their gestures, I must admit.

The whole event was well organized and went off without a hitch and I was quite impressed with it all. There are a lot of students at this school (over 40 classes in all) and all of the teachers had their classes well prepared. The field was decorated with many flags, they had a sound man with a P.A. system, but they still didn't have enough water for the kids.

They also had a wide variety of events and performances, such as races, dances, games and a tae kwon do exhibition put off by some of the students. The were breaking boards and everything!

The parents also got involved in some activities such as tug-o-war and some races.

There were also some other games that would be too difficult for me to describe here but I'll post some pictures after the holiday (oh yeah, I get Tues-Friday off this week because of the Chuseok Holiday, kinda like their Thanksgiving which is the biggest holiday of the year in Korea).

The weather was beautiful and I didn't have a cap. My head is now burnt red and I have a farmer's tan on my arms and neck. I sometimes wonder about the sacrifices I make for these little Korean learners...

After lunch the kids played a traditional Korean game that was like a scavenger hunt, but instead of finding items and objects, they had to find a person who met the criteria on the sheet of paper that they randomly drew from a box. Once the kid found an adequate person, they both had to make a lap around the field and cross the finish line. Its a pretty cool game.

Here are a few of the things that were wrote on the papers.
-person in a suit...
-a soldier...
-person wearing black dress shoes...

They also had my name on one of these sheets of paper so I had to do a lap with a grade six kid, and I was much faster than him I must add.

I also had a camera in my hand and sunglasses, so nearly every kid who needed a person with a camera or sunglasses came running to me. I must have made about half a dozen laps by the time the game was finished. It was funny because many people complimented me saying "Richard, you run very well."

I guess I still got it, and yes, life really is like a box of chocolates...


I've been busy and I haven't updated. So here goes my attempt to remember all the important details from the last few days...