Also, Hanging It Is How I Know Where My Home Is

Yashica Mat 124-G In The Sun With Me

Sat in a Korean convenience store with my new Yashica Mat. Sipped on a drink and enjoyed the cooling air-conditioning on a 33 degrees Celsius day. Took a picture.

Note the sweat stains on the cap. That cap has gone through so many hot summers with me that it has become discolored. The metal pegs in the logo have corroded to an off green. The white is now an off yellow. The brim has been recolored by the salts in the sweat. There is a very obvious tidal line for how far the sweat was absorbed. That is a lived-in cap. I hope to be buried in it.

Ode to Joy(ce)

     – Foorrreigner! He bellowed out, the beer sloshing about his skull as he stopped his long distance phone conversation. He teetered forward, a drunkards smile upon his face.
     The Foreigner stopped and smiled at the young man who he was meeting for the eighth time. The conversation remained unchanged each time and the Foreigner had it down to memory. Next He would be asking the Foreigner if they had met before. The Foreigner put on a patient smile and replied.
     – How are you doing? The Foreigner put his body at an angle. The Foreigner wanted to be ready to brace himself in the chance that He collided with him in his stumbling approach. The Foreigner wasn’t fond of drunks but knew they needed to be treated gently.
     – Have we met already? He asked as he checked his advance and reversed to his start. The Foreigner smiled his fake smile. He wrapped his camera strap tighter around his wrist.
     – Yes. Many times. I think this is number eight.
     – Was I drunk?
     – Usually.
     – Lynn! He bellowed into his phone. I’m talking to a foreigner. Where are you from?
     – Canada. The Foreigner looked about him. The haze of the Chinese pollution in the pre-dawn light made Korea look greyer than normal. The day still too cool for the cicada to awaken and screech its existence to the world. Only He and the silence were loud in the Foreigner’s ears.
     He started to stumble forward again. His hand extended to grab the glasses off of the Foreigner’s face.
     – Look at your glasses! The Foreigner stared as He reached towards his eyes. The Foreigner had hoped his expression would be enough to deter the grabbing. He changed his mind inches away and patted the Foreigner on the shoulder. He stumbled back to his starting position again.
     – I hate Canada.
     – Thanks for telling me. Look, you better get back to your friend. She’s probably getting bored.
     – Don’t look at me with your judgemental eyes. Lynn, he’s looking at me with his judgemental eyes.
    The Foreigner smiled again and began walking away. Smiling over his shoulder at the young man he had spoken to many times now. This meeting wasn’t going to be remembered by anyone but the Foreigner.
     – Be careful getting home. See you.
     – We’re talking on FaceBook. It’s free to talk on FaceBook for a long time.
     – I’m sorrrryyy! He yelled out into the quiet of the Korean dawn after the Foreigner had traveled a block. Lynn says I’m shameful. Sorryyyyy!

Sunday Morning Rubbish

Sunday Morning Rubbish

Some of the trash on the Gunsan streets after most of the partiers have gone home.

Not the worst I’ve seen by any means. I’d say Suyu-dong and the Hakata side of Fukuoka were on par for the filth that filled the streets after the bars closed. Gunsan just lacks the population to get really grubby. But I tell yah, those glossy sheets they toss on the ground as a form of advertising? Break your freaking neck on them since they get so slippery in the rain.

There ought to be a law…

Odds and ends while I wait for my laundry

I’ll list these in Korean so I can use that as an excuse to post a link on the Korean blog FaceBook groups.

하나

Missy Elliot’s Work It was the soundtrack to my dream last night. I think Lick Shots is a better song, so here it is.

Yeah, my dreams have soundtracks. It’s weird. Most of the time the song comes straight out of some deep part of my memory since I hadn’t listened to it in years in some cases. But if I could understand my own mind, I could probably understand yours as well. Then you would be my plaything.

I think I may have mentioned that I’ve been considering the idea of hiring a model to go stand in front of the things I’m taking pictures of. I was thinking about where that came from and I realized that it wasn’t just a cynical plot to lure other men into looking at my images by presenting them with pretty girls. (As my good pal Shaun (who really needs to up his web-presence) once said, “Ah! The reason guys get into photography.”) It was also because I was feeling photographer envy of this fellow (?) I’m following on Flickr who handles Chinese street life and glamour shots with equal skill.

Then I started thinking that it’s 2014 and if I’m going to use pretty people to make people overlook the weaknesses in my photography skills then I can just as easily hire a male model. Then I realized that maybe I should just try to get better at what I’m doing now instead and save the money.

It’s kind of weird that “D’oh!” isn’t in Firefoxs dictionary. I mean, if any nerd-written browser would have a healthy command of Simpsonisms, you’d think it’d be Firefox. Chrome has it. I just checked.

Like Flavor Flav, I'll tell you what time it is. 11:24.

Like Flavor Flav, I’ll tell you what time it is. 11:24.

It’s hard to come up with big meaty things to write about life as an expat. You run out of pictures of food to share, and “Isn’t this thing they do here outrageous?!” stories for the folks back home. The tedium of life here sets in and you come to terms that you’re a working stiff just like would be back home. Sure, a small handful do position themselves beyond the concerns of worrying about their next paycheck, but pointing to them as examples of what your life will be like if you say your prayers and eat your vitamins is like pointing to Niki Minaj and saying, “You too will be famous if you get butt implants and try real hard.” Sorry, the nature of the human pack mentality means that there’s not enough room on the top floor for every alpha personality with big bum.

I think my metaphor got away from me there.

Anyway, my point is that this entry is filler. I’m writing it in an authoritative manner in the hopes you don’t notice that it’s as shallow and as full of empty calories as the Chilsung Cider (Korean reference #2) that spilled across the table at the galbi(3) place.

It’s called “Blogging”. I was doing it before it was cool. After it was cool as well. You better act like you know.

다섯

So why am I sitting around my apartment, bullshitting on the internet blogging and doing my laundry instead of carpe dieming the hell out of my time here? Cuz I’m in my forties, get tired easily, don’t want to spend much money, and I saw what Korea has to offer a decade ago. Gunsan being small and off the main transportation routes is also a problem. Everything is a multi-hour bus ride away.

I’m bored and can’t find anything to change that. Perhaps this is what they call “Ennui”?

I’d like to think that I’d make the most of a long weekend but my current job, despite the excellent work hours, has a pretty shitty holiday situation: I have to take my vacations on the same days as the elementary schools do. I alternate between two schools each day and if they don’t plan their vacations in synch, I’m s.o.l.. My summer holidays as a result are work, day off, work, day off, work.

I do get my contractually obligated vacation days. Just not in a way that makes them useful. It’s one of those sneaky things they pull here in the Korean ESL industry in order to get as much work out of your imported ass as possible. Like telling you you’ll only be working forty hours a week. Then neglecting to mention that those forty hours only mean class times and not the office work you need to put in. And, oh! since you’re under the forty hours so you have to work on Saturdays, or in the mornings, too. I’m not suffering from that nonsense now, but the memory of it pisses me off to this day.

These sorts of shenanigans wouldn’t be such a problem if the contracts and the laws weren’t geared towards giving the guest worker as few options as possible while allowing the visa sponsor an exceptional amount of power over the guest worker. I guess what I’m saying is that you should work somewhere else if you have the option… or F Visa your way out of these problems like those silly, shameless F Visa-holding narcissists did long ago.

Which you should obviously do just so you can earn the right lampoon expat stereotypes and the silly attitudes that get displayed. Seriously: Who the hell do you think you are mocking your betters, you E Visa-having plebeian?

"I swear, these E-2 Visa holders get younger every year!"

“I swear, these E-2 Visa holders get younger every year!”

여섯

Laundry’s done! I guess I have no excuse to not go out so I can bike around Gunsan and not take photos.

ツクツクボウシ

The humidity embraces you like a long lost memory of being an infant. Or is it like stepping into a sauna? Perhaps it’s more like how the track hits your eardrum like a slug to your chest? However one wishes to describe it, summer in East Asia is a physical presence. Omnipresent. It fills all of your senses. From the sweat trickling down your back to the sounds of the cicada chorus ringing in your ears. To me, a summer without the drone of insects isn’t a true summer.

This corner in Miyakonojo always made me think of summer for some reason.

This corner in Miyakonojo always made me think of summer for some reason.

Years in Miyazaki without an air conditioner acclimatized me somewhat to this type of weather. I became quite comfortable with just a fan and an open window. My apartment facing south, free of the glare of the summer sun during the day, was a great help. Summer in Canada is too cold for me now. But it’s a low-activity sort of environment, the subtropical heat. That warm embrace saps ones energy. Outdoor activities that don’t involve the beach or a pool become unappealing. The bicycle sits in the corner of the apartment, waiting for October to come. Sometimes a trip to the grocery store happens just to walk slowly down the frozen food aisle. The tedium that is the shopping mall becomes the most interesting place on Earth thanks to their always-on air conditioning.

It makes you want to rest.

Hot and sticky, like your mom. BURN!

Hot and sticky, like your mom. BURN!

Korea’s ESL mines afford you no luxury of rest in the summer. In the off chance your employer does allow the air conditioner to be turned on, it won’t be set to a comfortable level. And due to the idea that a free child is an annoying child, most ESL teachers are waking up early to do summer intensive classes. That’s something they never tell you about when you sign up to come here. “Oh, by the way: All August you’ll be working twelve plus hours a day with barely enough time for lunch in a sweltering classroom with kids who will be forced to do the same instead of playing in the sunshine with their friends.” There’s a lot of stuff about ESL in Korea they neglect to tell applicants but you can understand their motivation for withholding. Recent grads could stay home and get a McJob if they knew that’s what they were getting here.

Dear noobs in Korea, you’re doing fine…

whackoffsmall

Image source: Domina no Do!

Have you read this? Probably. While there are dozens of K-Bloggers out there, we’re the only ones reading what each other wrote so the odds are pretty good that you did. It’s an incestuous collective after all. Yes, it’s tongue in cheek. But it also exemplifies the attitudes of a lot of Lifers here and I feel those are the sort of attitudes that need poking with a sharp stick.

A little something about the permanent residents of Expatlandia, my newbish targets of a lampooning: If they’ve been living in a foreign nation for a very long time, it’s because they’ve pretty much trapped themselves there. Either by marrying someone who can’t bear the thought of leaving the homeland behind, by their lack of marketable job skills back home (Oh! My ears are burning!), or by the insurmountable cliff-face they created along the sides of their comfortable ruts. Odds are pretty good that they’ve successfully distanced themselves from your “Temporary guest-worker” reality via marriage and/or citizenship. Letting any long-timer tell you that your experiences and views are meaningless is akin to letting some rich asshole on the other side of the counter tell you how to be a proper barista because you didn’t get him his burnt-tasting sugar coffee fast enough*. If they act like your criticism of a country/ culture is an attack on them for some reason, well… It’s like people who continue to buy Apple products no matter how often they get screwed by it. There’s no talking to them.

Having said that, let me as a long-timer tell you “What is” in regards to South Korea. What is, is that you’re doing great.

The truth of the matter is that you can get the reality for guest workers here down pat within the first three months. Maybe it’ll take six if you’re fortunate enough to have a Korean partner who can shield and comfort you when reality intrudes upon your wee Cloud Cuckoo Land. You are an expert by month nine because there isn’t a lot to figure out aside from how you’re going to deal with your frustrations. And while it’s just good manners to not talk down to others, you should never be ashamed of pointing to your scars and spitting on the memory of your enemies.

These boats are metaphors

These boats are metaphors

You do understand Korean drinking culture quite clearly: Everyone is a drunken sot and if you want to spend life looking at the bottom of a bottle, this is a good place for it. The subtleties of Korean drinking culture extend only as far as not telling your boss that you don’t want to visit a whorehouse with him, how to belt out some Trot at the noraebang, and where you can find bottles of Bauchus F already chilled. The rest of it is just as loud, stupid, and prone to violence as the bar culture back home.

Do get a guitar. And some sweet tattoos. Do hang out in Haebongchong (or even Hongdae!) if that’s your thing. Do try to use all of that youthful vitality to gain popularity with the opposite sex. You’re probably in your twenties, for fek sake, when will there be a better time to sow your oats? Let me tell you right now: It sure as hell ain’t when you’re in your forties. The only think you’ll be doing then is waiting for a doctor to sew your heart bypass shut. And really, are you going to let some middle-aged guy in a necktie tell you that you’re being conformist? Seriously? Laugh at anyone who tells you that with the other musicians at the musician orgy.

These judgmental-looking robots are also metaphorical.

These judgmental-looking robots are also metaphorical.

Play the Foreigner Card as often and as freely as you’d like because if you don’t you’re going to be saddled with all of the cultural horseshit the locals can’t escape from. Such as working fourteen hours unpaid overtime without complaint just because everyone else is and you don’t want to stand out. Or having to listen to some drunken asshole ramble on and not letting go of your hand just because he’s older than you. Sure, learn the language as much as you need to given your circumstances. That only makes sense because it may help you protect yourself at some point. But never be afraid to wave that Imma Ferriner! card because it’s your high-speed ticket away from stupidity.

Seriously though: Don’t blame Confucianism for anything that doesn’t involve eating the shit of your employer just because he’s your employer. Sewol? Not Confucianism. That was Capitalism left to babysit itself. The taxi/ bus/ delivery driver nearly killing you at the crossing in their hurry to get to the next destination? Not Confucianism. That’s also capitalism being left to babysit itself. Always put the blame for bad things where it belongs: Unrestricted capitalism and the irredeemable monsters that promote it.

tl;dr – Keep on keeping on. And by that I mean: Keep on until you get out of here and to somewhere that doesn’t allow you to be so drunk all of the time. I’m worried about you.

* To put it another way: They have bad taste and you just want to get through your day without crying in public.

Mountains dark and dreary be

(Mirror post)

mountains dark and dreary be

More of Nova Scotia in the spring, because I know that you’ve grown tired of looking at an attractive woman in a miniskirt.

This was taken with the Pentax KX when it was in a less smashed up state. As you might be able to tell by a few recent shots, I started using the lenses I got with it on a digital Pentax. It’s a bit fiddly, but it works well enough.

Weirdly, and I don’t know what’s causing this thought, I’ve been starting to think “Sharpness, sharpness, sharpness.” when using a digital. It probably has something to do with all of the pixels looking the same.