Invertebrates

mxheyhowyadoin

I’ve been thinking about the E2 visa situation here after catching wind of an editorial suggesting mandatory drug testing for foreign teachers.

While they don’t have that, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s on the agenda at some point down the line given the even-more-right-wing turn the country has taken since I was last here. Just to get the document that says that Korean Immigration will consider letting you into the country, you have to spend a lot of time and money “prove” that you’re not a criminal nor a child rapist. (I put prove in scare quotes since all it proves is that a child rapist/ criminal hasn’t been caught.) Once here you also have to prove that you’re not filled with AIDS. Then you can get a card that says that you can legally work here. You have to really love PSY to want to put up with that if you had other options.

Once here, if you have a bad job, tough shit. You’re better off leaving in the middle of the night with your latest paycheck than trying to move on like an adult. Other than putting a neon sign up in Incheon airport that says “Fuck off” I can’t see how they can be more clear about us not being welcome here. And while white skin/ passing for an American does shield most of us from the more blatant expressions of tribalism/ bigotry, that seems like a pretty thin shield to me.

You know… My last run through Korea ended because I was filled with anger from my collection of negative experiences over those six years. This time I think I’ll be leaving due to disappointment in humanity.

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The photo was taken at the Koagoshima City Aquarium. The low light meant that I had to leave the lens wide open which created a very shallow depth of field. Funny thing about fish is that they tend to be bad models with their constant fluttering about so my only shots were of things that tended to just sit there like the guy up above.

The Kids Are Alright

Crouching 'Brella, Hidden Expat

Watching the social interactions of people less socially awkward and geeky than me is always interesting. I had a chance to do so yesterday afternoon when a number of expats got together for coffee. I could tell there was a pretty sizable generation gap between us despite me being immature for my age. They all seemed to have their proverbial shit together far more than I did back then. Likely more than I do now.

There’s a lot of shit that gets tossed at Millennials (And in relation to Korea: Expat Newbies) by older generations. Seemingly far more by Generation X writers than the Baby Boomers and what’s left of the war generation. I’d hate to use the word “jealous” to describe the motivation, but I remember the scorn thrown our way by the forty-somethings back in the 90s over us daring to be so damned youthful. But the fact is that while we Gen Xers knew that we were inheriting the 20th Century’s pile of shit, Millennials have changed their behaviours around it. They’re also statistically less bigoted than we are as well.

They’re just generally better human beings than we are. They got their shit together. I’m still trying to figure out which shit is mine.

I’ll never forgive them for Justin Timberlake though…

Korean Foodstuff Reviews: Part One of Probably One Part

Korean food. It’s so good, isn’t it? All of those flavours! Mild gochujang. Hot gochujang. Super-hot gochijang! Kimchi with your meal. A meal with your kimchi. Paradox of choice? Is it ever!

Because I know you’re all spending your food money on hamburgers and onion blooms at Outback Steakhouse due to being sick as Hell of rice & kimchi, allow me to pick up the slack left by the highly-expected choking death of Fatman Seoul (Naver it) years ago and review some Korean foodstuffs.

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1. Don’t drink this.

yuck

The smell is in your pee too.

It’s like “In Korea, tea tastes you.”  I’ve had to brush my teeth twice so far and I can still taste it. Yes. I came up with this post just to complain about how much I didn’t like this beverage and the rest is just filler. What of it?

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2. Don’t eat any cup noodle here.

Not included: Vegetables

Not included: Vegetables

Seriously: If I ever needed another excuse to return to Japan, it’s the promise of a decent bowl of ramen. Though I suppose if you really love the taste of powdered chili pepper then the ramen in Korea will do you well. It’s not as if you’ll get any other choice in flavours.

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3. Do eat these fruit-flavoured gummy things.

gomph gomph gomph

gomph gomph gomph

I am totally addicted to these fruit gummies. I think I might even be buying them while I sleepwalk. I’m eating them now. I can’t poo any more.

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4. Totally drink this.

Because you can’t poo after eating those Frutips… and probably not after your second cheese dongatsu meal of the day. I doubt the coffee and muffins at Starbucks is helping you keep your pooper clear either since that stuff is 98% sugar and lard. I know the soju used to work for you but now that it has destroyed your lower intestine, that’s not working either. And really, even prune juice tastes better than soju so you have no excuse. If it doesn’t work then you’re probably dead and don’t realize it.

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And now you know what to eat and not eat in Korea. Next time: Some other random things I found in my fridge. Stay tuned!

Six

One Foggy Morning in Gunsan

I’ve passed the six month mark in my current jaunt in South Korea. What’s next? Six more months, duh.

Stuff. I have too much stuff. Where did all of this stuff come from? I’m sure there was a very good reason for buying all of it over the past six months. Now it’s just taking up room. My two little shelves are bulging and things are on the floor now. I’m thinking of giving it all away just because some other sucker should have all of this stuff. Also it’ll give me less stuff to get rid of when I move to wherever it is I go after this contract.

I find owning stuff to be a constant problem due to the temporary nature of ownership that comes with being an expat. I keep telling myself I’m going to chill on ownership yet here I am with stuff. Six months to get rid of it all. And not get more.

Yes.

G.P.O.Y. and The Secret to Increasing Your Site Traffic*

G.P.O.Y.

A hiatus hernia is kind of like a juice box with a straw in it. Lay it down on it’s side or squeeze it and juice humourously sprays in someone’s eye. Same thing pretty much happens with the hernia and your stomach. Except the juice is acidic enough to dissolve mob corpses and your chest is made of eyes. The stomach is good at handling as-strong-as-sulfuric-acid stomach acids. The esophagus ain’t, and that can lead to all sorts of nastiness down the road. While stomach acid inhibitors and careful eating do help me keep it mostly under control, I’m currently living in a country that can’t make a dish without adding the secret ingredient of “Makes a lot of stomach acid”. So going home and getting surgery is on my list of things I should do once this jaunt to Korea is done next spring. (Or sooner than that. You know how it is here in Hagwonland.)

Acid reflux, if it’s bad enough, can make you think you’ve having a heart attack. It also keeps you from getting a decent night’s sleep which is why I was up before dawn wandering around in the fog and taking pictures.

* The secret to increasing your blog’s traffic is getting people to click on a link to your blog.

Very Very Small

1.

Taxi Driver: “Excuse me, sir. Where are you from?”

Me: “Canada. Are you from Gunsan?”

Taxi Driver: “No. I used to live in New York City. For twenty one years. Gunsan is too small! I came back to take care of my mother. She won’t leave Gunsan. She’s one hundred years old.”

Me: “Oh wow! I’ll be lucky to reach sixty.”

Taxi Driver: “What part of Canada? Montreal?”

Me: “Halifax. It’s on the east…”

Taxi Driver: “Ah! I know! I went there many times on vacation. Citadel Hill. Ha! Ha!”

Me: “Heh. Small world. Oh! You missed my corner.”

Taxi Driver: “Oh, sorry sir.”

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2.

Student One: “Bill Teacher. You have wife?”

Me: “God no.”

Student Two: “Girlfriend?”

Me: “Nope.”

Student Three: “Why? Why?”

Me: “Hmm. Well. Hmn. It’s complicated to explain. Hmnn.”

Students One, Two, Three: “What?”

Korean Teacher: “Stop asking Bill Teacher private things.”

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3.

Me: “That’s what ‘one way’ means and what ’round trip’ means. So you go to Gunsan Bus Terminal to go to Seoul, what ticket do you ask for?”

Top Student One: “One way.”

Top Student Two: “One way.”

Me: “What? Why?”

Top Student One: “Gunsan is very small. Not fun.”

Me: “Well, yeah.”

Top Student Two: “Very, very small.”

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Doing Shots

Doing Shots

Golden Week in Japan is when a handful holidays fall within proximity of each other. If it’s a lucky year, they’ll straddle a weekend and you’ll get a nice looooong weekend. If you’re not working in a minimum wage job. In which case you’ll be at work over the weekend anyway because shit jobs are shit jobs no matter where you go in the world.

I started taking as many days off as I contractually able to by the end of my first year in Japan. I did this because, unlike Korea, I had the ability to take vacations. My current job is no different from the typical hagwon job in most ways. While I do have much shorter working hours than pretty much everyone else not working in a university ESL program (No seat-warming! Yay!), I also have the typical lack of days off I can choose for myself. I found that regular long weekends kept me happier than just about any other benefit I gained from the job.

It’s like working in a foreign culture in an industry that insist on doing everything as confusing and frustrating as possible for the students is mentally exhausting or something.

This picture was taken during one Golden Week that straddled a weekend. I was able to use up two of my vacation days on top of that due to there being no classes that week, giving me ten days off of work. I spent just three days in Fukuoka that week because I long ago realized that a full week somewhere as a tourist is too long. There’s only so many tourist spots that a person can visit in even the largest of cities. And when you’ve experienced them you’re in need of something else to go gawk at. This is when “tourist” needs to become “resident”. Residents get to find all of the interesting, out of the way places that might actually be far more interesting than the tourist traps. The crosswalk in front of the Abbey Road studios is rightly famous, but it’s still just crossing the street. There’s only so much that you can do with that before it gets boring. What else is in the neighbourhood? Or the next neighbourhood over? You don’t know because you don’t live there.

Asking the locals is of no use because they don’t think Ol’ Jim’s Fish Shop might be interesting to someone out of town because it’s Ol’ Jim’s stinking decaying Fish Shop to them. It’s background. Not the story. This is also the root of a lot of my lack of motivation here in Korea. Too much familiarity. I’ve been thinking of forcing myself to go photograph that familiarity anyway. But I’ve also been thinking that, much like how I’m not really a comic artist, I’m not really a photographer either since I don’t work through my lack of motivations in both mediums. See: The previous post.

I’m a dabbler. I dabble. I find people who become what they enjoy fascinating… and quite possibly insane. I wonder how I can get some of that in my head?

Unless not doing that is a form of insanity as well?!

The use of old memes makes me hiply ironically unhip.

The use of old memes makes me hiply ironically unhip.