Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Uijeongbu Pension Nonsense

For posterity, allow me to document my experience with the Uijeongbu Pension Office.

It went about as smoothly as the Internet would indicate; however, either there's been a slight rules change or the official I talked to was a jerk. When I went, the clerk refused to take any of my bank information (SWFT code, address, account number) from me. She would only take it from a receipt from the bank...even though the bank receipt would be based on the same information she wouldn't accept from me. Uh, what?

She also refused to just let me cash it out; I could either wire it home, wire it to a Korean account, or set up a new bank account in the bank downstairs and transfer it there.

So I just sucked it up, went to the bank to send my money home, and came back with the bank receipt, and it was all good.

And icing on the bad service cake: despite working at the FOR FOREIGNERS desk, seeing my American passport, and hearing me fail miserably at Korean (stress + my crappy Korean = crappier Korean), she didn't use English with me at all until I broke down and gave a sad, "I don't know, I just need to send this money home," in English. And then perfectly fluent English. What.

It was not a pleasant experience at all, but I suspect it was mostly due to this particular government worker being kind of a bitch.

(as of 11/2012)

  • Passport
  • ARC
  • Proof of leaving (printed flight itinerary works just fine)
  • Receipt from a wire transfer at your bank with: SWFT code, bank name, bank address, account number, and bank branch number


From the new Uijeongbu Station/Shinsegae department store, take exit 2, towards City Hall. Go past the building with the THC 9 theater. Cross the street; "Wedding Palace" will be on your left. The Uijeongbu Pension Office is in the next building, "Samseong Sang Myeong." (NB: The name is only in Hangul: 삼성생명 or something similar.) Don't make any turns at all once you leave the station, just make a beeline out of exit 2. The Pension Office is on the second floor; you can take the elevators dead ahead or take the curving staircase to your left.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

On Saying Goodbyes: Foreign vs Korean

As I leave the country on Friday(!!), I've been saying goodbye to a lot of people. I've never been very good at goodbyes, in that I am kind of resistant to any kind huge change at all ever, so it's been rough (but I'm glad I took a month off to do it). There is definitely a different attitude, on my end, between saying goodbye to my other foreign friends and to my Korean friends.

My foreign friends here are all ~*~free spirits~*~, as in they put stock in traveling and seeing the world and so forth. They know there's a couch in Stockholm for them; it's not goodbye, it's see you later, as the saying goes.

My Korean friends, though, are mostly of an age where that traveling is more or less behind them. They have already traveled and done all of that and now it's time to find a career. Either that or they're of the aggressive and ambitious type who intend to get into a career as soon as they can; forget taking time off to travel. Those goodbyes are goodbyes. They sting. And while I intend to come back to Korea, who knows if I will. Who knows if time won't diminish our friendships.

I've been singing a lot of this recently. It definitely makes it on to my "Korea: Round Two" soundtrack. It keeps me sane to insist to myself that we will meet again.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Birdland Incident

There's a jazz club in downtown Uijeongbu. I had walked by it loads of times but never screwed up the nerve to go in until I had scant few months remaining in Korea. We all make mistakes; this was one I wish I hadn't made. I will miss it dearly when I leave.

I went last night with a few friends, two guys and one other girl. The guys and I are somewhat regulars, and in a country full of Koreans it's pretty easy to remember the weiguk sarams that keep coming back. The musicians always chat with us a bit, or say hello if they see us on the street. The girl with us, on the other hand, had never been before.

At the end of the night, I complimented the singer on her rendition of "Fever," a song I had requested a few months ago but that they didn't have.

"Thank you, I did it for you!"

Which warmed my heart.

Then she turned to the other girl. "You, I think you must be a good singer. Your face is so beautiful!"

Heart dimmed, just a bit.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Glorious Vacation: Day 4

Day 4 was Friday, which was when I was leaving Gwangju to see a friend in Busan. I had to do at least one May 18th related thing while I was in Gwangju (see my reason for choosing to visit it at all), so I decided the best one would be the May 18th National Cemetery.  I kind of wish I had done something for the April 19th protest as well, but truth be told there wasn't that much.

The bus that goes to the cemetery (and the surrounding cemeteries where I think other victims of the May 18th massacre are buried) is the number 518. 518. 5/18. I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE.

I totally spaced out on the bus and accidentally rode it to the end of the line, which is an old folks' home.

Putting the old folks' home next to a shit load of cemeteries? Really?

Anyway, I had an awkward little moment where I got out of the bus, sat at the bus stop and read for a few minutes, then got back on the same bus with the same driver, but whatever. Fortunately I hadn't overshot the cemetery by nearly as much as I thought I had, so it was all good.

I kind of lost it at the cemetery, y'all. Maybe it's because I'm a big baby, but it was an awfully sobering couple hours. I've been to war memorials before (trips to Washington, D.C. much?) which are in the same vein, but none of them have been as serious and real to me as this. Everyone who died in the May 18th massacre were civilians, or students (at least, everyone buried in this cemetery; I don't think the police officers or paratroopers who died are buried in this cemetery), which to me makes it entirely different. Soldiers are expected (sadly) to die; students are not. Especially not at the hands of their own government. Plus, so many of them would be my parents' age, about, if they had survived: all of these people would have been someone's father or mother, if things had been different. They could have been the parents of someone who would have been my friend. Not to mention even younger casualties: small children inadvertently caught in the crossfire.

In case it's hard to read:

Here in the National Cemetery for the May 18th Democratic Uprising lie the meritorious persons who fought and sacrificed themselves during the Gwangju Uprising of 1980 and those laudable victims who died in the aftermath of the physical or mental injuries they sustained.

The bodies of the victims were carried in garbage trucks and carts and  buried without official reognition in the Old May 18 Cemetery (the 3rd graveyard of the Municipal Cemetery).

With the completion of a 3-year conservation project (1994-1997), all bodies were moved and reburied together in this new cemetery. In accordance with the Act on the Honorable Treatment for Meritorious Persons of the May 18th Uprising, this cemetery, which had been managed by the Gwangju Municipal Administration, was promoted and renamed as the National Cemetery for the May 18th Democratic Uprising on July 27, 2002 by the Korean state.

This cemetery will function as an education center, promoting the conviction that injustice and dictatorship should never return to this country, so that the spirit of the May 18th may be engraved on the hearts of all people making this a sacred place for democracy forever.

Beyond  the "gate" is the cemetery proper.

English translation:

Oh, Gwangju! The Cross of Our Nation! by Kim Jun-tae

Oh, Gwangju! Mudeung Mountain!
Our city of eternal youth
that sheds blood tears
between deaths!

Where has our father gone?
Where has our mother collapsed?
Where has our Son died and been buried?
And, where does our Daughter lie dead,  her mouth gaping?
Where have our soul and spirit
gone, torn and broken into pieces?

Gwangju, which both God and birds have left!
Our blood-covered city
where decent people
are still alive, morning and evening,
collapsing, falling down, and rising again!
Ah, the phoenix, the phoenix, the phoenix
of the South Province full of wailing
that has tried to drive away death with death,
and to seek life with death!

When the sun and the moon nosedive
and all the mountain ridges
stand shamelessly high,
ah, the flag of liberty
that nobody can tear down
or take away!
The flag of humanity!
The flag, hardened with flesh and bones!

Oh, our city
where at times our songs, dreams, and love
roll like waves,
and at other times we are hidden in graves.
Oh, Gwangju, Gwangju
who carries the cross of this nation,
climbing over Mudeung Mountain,
and walks over the hill of Golgotha!
Oh, the son of God,
whose whole body is covered with wounds,
and who is the emblem of death!

Are we really quite dead?
unable to love this country any more,
unable to love our children any more?
Are we absolutely dead?

On Chungjangro, on Kumnamro,
At Hwajungdong, at Sansoodong, at Yongbongdong
At Jisandong, at Yangdong, at Kyerimdong,
And, and, and . . . .
Ah, the wind that blows over,
gobbling up our blood and flesh!
The hopeless flow of time!

Should we now
just collapse, fall, and cry?
Terrified of life, how should we
breathe a breath?

Oh, all those survive
lower their heads like sinners.
All those still alive have lost
spirit, and they find it difficult
even to face their rice bowls.
Afraid, they don’t know what to do.

(Dear, I was killed
while I was waiting for you,
waiting for you outside the door.
Why did they take away my life?
Though we lived in a rented room,
we were quite happy.
I wanted to live, loving you.
Oh, my dear!
But I was killed like this,
pregnant with a child of yours.
I am sorry, my dear!
They took away my life from me,
and I took away everything of yours,
your youth, your love,
your son, and all.
Oh, my dear! In the end,
did I kill you?)

Oh, Gwangju! Mudeung Mountain!
Our city of eternal youth
who breaks through deaths
and flutters the ends of white clothes!
The phoenix, the phoenix, the phoenix!
The son of God of this nation
who climbs up the hill of Golgotha again,
carrying the cross of this nation!

Jesus is said to have died once
and been resurrected,
and to live till this day or rather forever.
But our true love
that would die hundreds of deaths
and yet resurrects itself hundreds of times!
Our light, glory, and pain.
Now we will be revived ever more.
Now we become ever stronger.
Now we – ever more.

Oh, now we,
putting our shoulders to shoulders, bones to bones,
climb the Mudeung Mountain of this nation.
Oh, we rise up to the oddly blue sky
to kiss the sun and the moon.

Gwangju! Mudeung Mountain!
Oh, our eternal flag!
Our dream, our cross!
The city of youth that will get younger
as time goes by!
Now we are firmly united,
surely and surely,
we hold each other’s hands tight
and rise up.

To the one side there was an indoor photo memorial, with photos of everyone interred and either white or yellow artificial flowers. To the other was a "tree memorial," a rather nice, bright contrast to the dark and serious photo memorial. It's basically a nicely-manicured garden.

On the same side as the tree memorial was the May 18th museum, one of the more modern museums I've seen in Korea. Since the cemetery was dedicated in the early 2000s, its modernity makes sense. I would have gotten more out of it if my Korean weren't terrible, as they had short documentaries playing at every exhibit, but I did absorb as much of the English signage as I could. (I have to say, I don't think I could stomach an old school Korean version of a May 18th museum: those would be the bloodiest, most upsetting dioramas of all time.)

The one that stuck with me the most, for whatever reason, was a very small display containing wrist watches. These were the old fashioned kind that needed to be rewound, and since their owners were shot, no one rewound them after May 1980.

The whole time I only saw a handful of other people, which made everything even more serious, somehow; loads of families and shrieking kids would have taken away from the atmosphere.

That was the entirety of my day; after this I had a couple hours on buses before I got to my next destination: Kimhae/Busan.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Glorious Vacation: Day 3

I got off my duff and went to Soswaewon Garden. It was beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, but a bit smaller than I expected/hoped for. Nonetheless, I saw my first-ever bamboo grove! How cool! I've never seen bamboo in the wild before because I am a loser of a white person who lives in really urban Asia!

Then, it was a long bus ride back to Gwangju proper. Long. I figured out my bus wasn't going to the bus terminal near where I was staying, so once in Gwangju I got off at a stop to change to a bus that was, but it was still a nice ride. I like riding buses, I guess. I'm a weirdo.

I tried to find a park afterwards, to enjoy the nice weather and people watch, but the one I tried to find COULD NOT BE FOUND. Signs had me wandering around a rather sad and poor-looking neighborhood, which isn't entirely weird because the entrance to Bukhansan Park is exactly the same thing, except there was never any entrance; the indicated street just dead-ended, so I looked like either a lost white person or a douchebag class tourist. Annoyed, I went back to the terminal, had Jeonju-style bibimbap for dinner, and had a nice long soak in the sauna (where I was promptly English bombed).

It was kind of a dud of a day, but it was better than sitting in my motel room doing nothing, I suppose! And Soswaewon was really unbelievably lovely, an infinitely big version of it would be my idea of heaven. My pictures do not do it justice.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Glorious Vacation: Day 2 (Election Day)

I stayed in my motel room until dinner to watch CNN (HILARIOUS!!!), the concession and acceptance speeches. Overall, I was rather pleased with the outcome.

Buoyed by my smug liberal schadenfreude, I went across town to "Tteokgalbi Street" which is not as cohesive or as well-advertised as the Budae Jjigae Street in Uijeongbu. Frustrating! Nonetheless, I found a restaurant (not too skeezy, not too fancy) and gorged myself on tteokgalbi. It seems to be a regional specialty that I have also never heard of before! Before a few days ago, anyway, when I was casting about on the Internet to see what I should do/eat in Gwangju.

It was a bit of a shenanigans situation to find the place, but I did! On the subway ride over, an ajumma decided to dote on me. She offered to hold my bag (which, despite reading in my "Rough Guide to Korea" that this is a thing that happens all the time, WAS THE FIRST TIME A STRANGER'S DONE THAT EVER), and then when the seat next to her opened up she pulled on my sleeve to let me know the seat was open. After the first couple stops she dug into her purse and forced some candies into my hand. I smiled and said thank you, and put them in my purse for later (I seriously was going to save them for after my planned calorie binge of a dinner). Right before her stop came up, she also handed me a bag full of tteok! Aw! If she had gotten off at my stop I would have asked her to come to dinner with me. I had a couple right then because I was hungry and I also wanted her to know that I appreciated her gifts of food.

Gwangju is in Jeolla province, which is considered the bread basket of Korea. There is an astounding variety of food available and I will never get a chance to eat it all (especially because I hate going to restaurants alone and also because of my above seafood rule). Jong-min assured me I woud notice the difference if I ever went out to eat: "They'll have a lot more side dishes than they do in Seoul. They just have so much more food. They always have." At my tteok galbi dinner I had ten different banchan. TEN! The last time I'd had so many was when I got ssambap in Gyeongju. There were four kinds of kimchi alone, plus bean sprouts and daikon and anchovies (pass) and red beans in sesame oil. Not to mention a wide variety of greenery in which to wrap the meat, instead of just the usual romaine lettuce; the best was a very mild perilla leaf.

After I had sated myself on minced rib meat and garlic, I went back to my motel room and enjoyed a bottle of makgeolli before turning in early. Things to do the next morning, after all!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Glorious Vacation: Day 1

I realized I should probably document my glorious vacation as well as I can, for posterity and all that jazz. So: a belated account of my first day in Gwangju!

After an afternoon to rest up and dry off in my motel room, Day 1 of the Glorious Vacation was spent on a museum binge. The Gwangju Museum of Art, The Gwangju Folk Museum, and the Gwangju Biennale (some kind of international art exhibit; apparently there are Biennales in other cities but Gwangju is the first I've ever heard of one) are all next to each other, so I hit all three in one go!

The first one was the Gwangju Museum of Art, which I think I accidentally snuck in without paying the 500 won entrance fee. My bad! The three main exhibits were: a variety of Chinese artists ranging from standard to kind of modern/avant garde; three kinda weirder Chinese artists; a Zainichi (Japanese of Korean descent) artist named Lee Ufan who is THE MOST BORING ARTIST WHO EVER ARTED. I still don't get modern art, you guys.

A whole gallery full of that. I just...what? It would be neat wallpaper or fabric, but framed art? Seriously?

The best part of that exhibit was the little biographical placque about the fellow who donated most of these incredibly boring pieces of art. The highlight: "Hopefully, his honorable and admirable spirit everlastingly continues to radiate."

I LOVE KONGLISH, YOU GUYS. I love how dramatic and pseudo-poetic this sounds in English because I can pretty much guarantee this is a word-for-word translation, with only word order changed (for the sake of grammar). Occasionally when Jong-min translates snippets of Korean subtitles in American news stories back into English, they sound more or less like the above—and it's not because Jong-min speaks weirdo quasi-archaic English.

There were some really cool art pieces too, that appealed to my more conservative, representationlist tastes. I really liked one that included a link to their  blog right in the painting. How Andy Warhol of them!

Unfortunately, I'm going to have to get a Chinese-speaking friend to translate it for me.

Here's the painting in particular that I liked:

Someone can earn all of the gold stars by telling me what the character in the painting means/represents!

Alas, finding anything else online seems to tax the limits of Google Image Search. They will just have to stay burned in my memory forever! (Because I forgot to put my memory card in my camera, d'oh!)

I wandered outside the art museum and followed the signs to the Gwangju Folk Museum. I love the Folk Museums in Korea, they're kind of tacky (and frightening, if you include some of the badly-stuffed animals....somehow weasels get the worst of it) but they're still pretty neat. I love old school museum dioramas and a Folk Museum is always, basically, a giant diorama. The best part was a display of all the different traditional Jeolla dishes, which was adorable and also kind of redundant. If I had to summarize the provincial cuisine in four words, those words would be: PICKLE ALL THE THINGS.

Also (and I'm glad I still had my notebook with me wherein I noted the most hilarious/interesting/appalling things) there was a mat made from human hair. I can't imagine reclining on a cushion lined with hair from my own  head, but then people shed SO MUCH it would be a waste not to use it for something "back in the day."

I still had plenty of time to kill before typical museum closing time, so I decided to cough up the 14,000 won (expensive, considering the last two museums were 500 won each) for the Biennale. It was a mix between really cool concepts and a bunch of hyper-academic nonsense. There were two installations in particular that I really liked.

The first was by a Mexican artist named Pedro Reyes, called "Imagine." I guess it would qualify as performance art? He collected like 1,200 unused weapons and, working with a whole team of people, turned them into musical instruments, The installation had a couple of the instruments on display, as well as a couple movies running simultaneously: one being the construction of the instruments and the other being performances on the instruments. They did a pretty cool version of "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" and, of course, "Imagine." Here's the guys just jamming out:

pedro reyes: imagine - musical performance from designboom on Vimeo.

The other one was called "The Shoes Diary: Adidas Tragedy Series" by Agung Kurniawan, from Indonesia. He did a small series of reconstructing Adidas shoes (there's a pretty big Adidas factory in Indonesia, apparently?) to make them really uncomfortable (in addition to painting designs) and had people wear them. The discomfort was to remind the wearer of all the trials and tribulations that political/civil rights activists go through.  He expanded it for the Biennale; his whole space was set up to look like a shoe store, and a TV in the corner played a video of his original demonstration of the piece back in whenever. There were a few different violent political activism incidents made into a different shoe (Gwangju, of course, was one of them; Libya, China, Egypt, and Cambodia were included as well). Both the shoes and their box were altered, ie the Chinese  sneakers had the outline of a tank.


There were four massive galleries in all, so by the time I left it was near closing time and also definitely very dark. After a long, uncomfortable bus ride back to my motel, I scrubbed off in a jjimjilbang and had some ramen. Back at the motel, I had the worst time falling asleep because OMG ELECTION NIGHT OMG OMG, it was like going to bed on Christmas Eve except that you might end up with a whole truck full of coal instead of any presents. But hurrah, my anxiety was unfounded!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Glorious Vacation

I am safely arrived in Gwangju. The gods of good timing have been on my side so far, as I have caught every bus and subway I needed with minimal rushing or waiting.

It seems gauche to talk about miserable weather when many of my friends and family back home are still dealing with the aftermath of Sandy, but well, the weather has been miserable since Sunday. It seems the days I choose to stay in are nice, and the ones where I go out are rainy and cold. What's the deal, Korea? Do you not want my tourism money?

Tonight is simple itinerary planning; tomorrow will be the Gwangju Art Museum (a good rainy day activity) and finding a good daenamu-tongbap restaurant. Wednesday and Thursday are outdoor activities (gardens and the May 18th Cemetery), and then Friday I'm off to Busan.

Pictures will be forthcoming but probably long after my trip's over. I have a whole backlog already that needs to be fixed up; it's definitely going to be a while.

I also learned (the easy way, thanks to the Internet) that the transit card of choice down here isn't Tmoney but Myb (or something like that).

Thursday, November 1, 2012

So It Goes

Yesterday was my last day. It was even more bittersweet than one would expect, because Halloween is a school-wide "Market Day" at my hagwon. Instead of teaching, I just get to sell the kids snacks and toys for fake money they earn by getting stickers in class. Playing with the kids and just goofing off with them is always more fun than teaching, no matter how good they are as students. The older kids had presentations to give, where they earned real money, so I really did jack-all. I "taught" one and a half classes (the second class was interrupted mid-way for more Market Day), which consisted of watching "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" and playing speed quiz.

I moved out yesterday morning, because I thought the new teacher would move in after Market Day was over (like I did a year ago). You guys, I legit had a tearing-up moment as I shouldered my travel bag and went out the door. Which is dumb, I mean it's an officetel like any other, but I lived there, man! It was the happiest year I had in Korea and that was my home for it all. It's weird how you get attached to a living space depending on how you feel about your life: I had some pretty big issues at Sherlock and so when I left didn't give the officetel much thought; my apartment in Bundang was by far the "nicest" but I was so glad to be out of there when I left. When I try to mentally picture my other two living spaces, there aren't any feelings that hit me in the gut. When I think about this officetel, it brings on a lot of warm fuzzies.

Now I'm back at the love motel I crashed at during the two week gap between my job at Cassandra (aka The Gates of Hell) and this job in Uijeongbu. I have some errands and things to do until Monday, at which point I will have a miniature White Liberal Guilt tour of Gwangju and then over to see a friend  in Busan.

I heard that my neighborhood at home is without power for two weeks, though hopefully the power company is applying The Scotty Principle to this one. I think that was the worst of it, though; unless we got some basement flooding or roof leakage.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Post-Teaching Itinerary

My job ends on Halloween, as I might have mentioned before. But I don't leave Korea until November 30th; I'm giving myself a month of free time in the Land of the Morning Calm to chill out, see the sights, and just generally be a lazy bum in a country where liquor runs about $1 US a bottle.

So far my plans include going to Gwangju, Jeonju (bibimbap!!) Busan, the Dragon Hill Spa in Yongsan, the comfort women protests in Seoul, and a weekend trip to Jusanji (I think that's the name) Lake with my Korean friend Jenny. There's the foreigner Thanksgiving get-together at a pension my friend Leah wants to pull together as well, and perhaps a hike up Seoraksan.

Since I'm nominally participating in NaNoWriMo this year, all of this will have to be squeezed around me cranking out 50,000 words of young adult fantasy bullshit that will hopefully become something good.

I saw a great quote on Pinterest (I'm a girl, I have to, it's part of the new rules of the girls' club) which, in a stereotypically over-dramatic fashion, is, like, my life, you guys!! OMG!!!

Only, pretend that it says "goodbye" and not "goddbye."

I like to imagine a future where all of my awesome friends from Korea are still my awesome friends thirty years from now. I know that's not realistic, but, well, hope is the greatest of things and all that jazz. Coping with the fact that I will never see many of them face-to-face after I catch that plane in Incheon is already tough enough.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Last Multimedia Monday (On Friday): Singin' in the Rain

I finish my job at the end of this month, which means I'll no longer be on the hunt for supplementary videos to show. (I've peeked ahead in the textbook: not very video-friendly topics.)

So I leave you with this, instead.

My lowest level classes have been watching Robots. There's a scene that is most obviously a nod to the Golden Age of Hollywood classic (and one of my all-time favorite movies), Singin' in the Rain.

That's the only footage I could find, sorry.

Anyway, I found the scene from Singin' in the Rain and downloaded it, unsure if I would show it in class or not. In two classes so far I've decided to screen it. Before that, I asked the students if they remembered the scene and what happened. Once I got an answer to the effect of "Fender sings!" or "Fender dances!" or whatever, I rolled the Gene Kelly video.

All of my kids picked up on it as soon as they heard the musical cue, and also thoroughly enjoyed Gene Kelly's goofy antics (and masterful dancing) in the water. (Though one boy did complain: "Ugh! So dirty!") They don't make 'em like Gene anymore.

I could see using the song in a present prefect versus present simple lesson, or just showing the video to kill some time. Either way, let Gene Kelly play out your Friday evening:

Or for a lesson on comparisons, you could also show the Volkswagen Golf commercial from a few years ago:

Friday, October 12, 2012


Breaking my radio silence (I think I avoid updating because it reminds me of how little time I have left) to share this adorable student work.

Right now they're watching School of Rock, in which a very minor subplot revolves around the growth and development of Tomika, the black girl with an amazing singing voice and no self-confidence.
I think Tomika is very good singing voice. She is can sing. And she is not fat. She is cute. Dewey is true. Maybe, they will love her singing voice.
This student is new, so obviously I won't have her long enough to get to know her better. Sadface.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Obligatory Korean Tourist Spot #8: Suwon Fortress

You can take a bus from Suwon station to the fortress (and the palace), but it was such a nice day (and since I had forgotten which exit from the station put you in the right bus direction) I walked it. I also got English bombed by an ajosshi drinking makgeolli straight from the bottle at 2 in the afternoon. I HAD MAD RESPECT FOR YOUR RAMPANT ALCOHOLISM UNTIL YOU TRIED TO HOLD MY HAND, MR. AJOSSHI.

Because I walked, I also came upon the fortress by a kind of weird side way instead of from the "entrance." So you get a sideways chronological tour instead of a normal ways achronological tour.

The first of many, many stairs to be climbed, because it's a fortress and so naturally it's on a hill.

Nice view, though.

All along the watchtower...

The fortress walls enclose a lot of greenery.

At this particular pavilion I had a nice sit and read for a while. Despite the innumerable hordes of people there, I was alone for quite some time, maybe half an hour? It was a dead end off the main fortress "trail" so that's probably why. I pretended I was the only person in the fortress and tore through The Poisonwood Bible.

Close up of the sign on the pavilion.

After the pavilion I wandered down the wall on the other side of the hill and nosed around the palace.

Traditional Chuseok game that's kind of the opposite of a seesaw. You jump and try to launch your partner up in the air. Not pictured: doofy foreigners attempting it as well.

The wishing tree! I left a wish (in Korean!) tied on it as well.

My wish. It's secret, though! Otherwise it won't come true. (Not a Korean thing; that's my own superstition.)

Decorative roof tile.

Lots of bits of the palace seemed to be under (re)construction, as they were not painted or not fully painted:

I'm sorry Korea, but I kind of prefer your architecture without the salmon-colored walls. =/

The history behind this particular fortress and palace is that it was built to commemorate a dead king who was sentenced to death because his father thought he would make a terrible heir. The dead king's son (somehow this guy managed to reproduce despite vague "mental illness," I guess) had the palace built to commemorate his father.

How was the dead king killed? Buried in a rice chest.

I spied this going on in the corner of the main courtyard:

"Hm, what are they doing? Let's saunter over to look! There's an informative sign!"

"This looks fun!"



Nightmare fuel!

I'm trying to make the most of my remaining time here. This weekend is a fireworks festival over the Han, which I plan to attend with a few friends. At some point, though, a weekend will have to be devoted to packing (and shipping home what I can). Dislike.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Things I Won't Miss

I'm just trying to get myself in the mindset to be ready to get out of Korea and go back home. To find something wrong with my current setup, I really have to really nitpick.

So far, I've only come up with one thing I won't miss: living in a second floor apartment off one of the busiest intersections in Uijeongbu. It is nothing but a ceaseless parade of cars, obnoxious delivery motorbikes, and the not unoccasional drunk costumer customer  from the hof across the street. My previous apartments were on much higher floors and on much smaller streets, and about as quiet as my neighborhood in the states.

Oh wait, two things: my neighbors and their 24/7 love affair with television.

In other news, it's now October. My last month on the job. :(

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Speech Contest Lulz

Anna (of the Anna and Lina I mentioned earlier) is participating in an upcoming English speech contest. I've been helping her and the other students practice during my down time at work.

Anna's speech is about Dokdo. Yesterday she had a massive memory fail and closed her speech with these words:

"I want to let the world know clearly: Dokdo is Japanese territory!"

The resulting giggle fits could not be stopped for the next five or six minutes.

Happy Chuseok, everyone. I'm not going on any awesome trips because I work (half a day) on Tuesday. Off to see the Suwon fortress am I.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Obligatory Korean Tourist Spot #7: Take Me Out To The Ball Game

Korean baseball games are things of legend among American (and I guess Canadian) foreigners over here. Most people you talk to here have been to at least one ball game. "They're so much better than at home," is something you hear a lot.

Which is probably true. I haven't been to a ball game in the states since I went to see the Reading Phillies and left my copy of Foundation  under my seat (that's all I remember about the game), so I'm not the best person to compare the two. What's different? In a nutshell:

  • Cheerleaders.
  • Loads of potential IP infringement with reappropriated songs from Lady Gaga, Chubby Checker, The Beach Boys, DJ DOC, whoever wrote "It's a Small World After All," and probably others.
  • Extremely organized cheering.
  • I mean extremely organized cheering. Old news to people in Korea reading this, but for family back home: each player has his own cheer, which is some famous song with the lyrics altered and the player's name thrown in. There are speakers and a guy leading the hand motions and everything. You also only cheer (for the most part) when your team is at bat.
  • (From what I could tell from the Koreans around us) a lot less hate on the umpires.

Half the fun for me was watching everyone else in the stadium, less so the game. That said, we had pretty decent seats along the third base line so there was a good view of the action if I wanted to watch.

I'd go again—with a camera this time—but we'll see if I have the chance before I go home!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Division of Labor

INP has an interesting little write-up about Chuseok and men and food preparation, which got me to thinking about my own Busan (the Boy).

When we live together, the cooking gets divided more or less evenly, because the Boy is (praise be to the homemaking gods) competent in the kitchen. If anything, the Boy cooks dinner more often than I do. We each have our "signature" dishes, and whoever cooks is (well, partially) determined by what we feel like eating. Whoever doesn't cook does the dishes. Plus I gladly go on dessert-making binges that last us for weeks. Balance is maintained.

Of course, the Boy doesn't live in a country that expects its men to be the only breadwinners and works them 60 hours a week, so he has plenty of time and energy to learn how to cook. Also, I don't think his mom ever threatened to make a eunuch out of him if he set foot in the kitchen (a threat some of my male Korean acquaintances have gotten from their grandmothers wielding big fuck-off knives).

My running joke that if Sweden and the Boy don't work out, I'll come back to Korea, enter into a marriage-of-F6-visa-convenience, and open a 24 hour breakfast place. A marriage-of-visa-convenience only, note; the prospect of shifting from the kind of relationship I've had for approximately a million years to the kind I could expect with most Korean guys is a depressing one.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Multimedia Monday: Culture Shock

Usually foreigner-in-Korea blogs/"vlogs" make me cringe (like Eat Your Kimchi...seriously? seriously you guys?), but this girl doesn't make me crawl the walls, so that's a point in her favor.

Anyway, the topic in the book this week is "culture shock," which is a good one for conversation fodder. There were also a whole lot of foreigner-in-Korea videos about it, and all the assorted little things that are different when you come to Korea.

Speaking of "little things," it's too bad that I couldn't show them the infamous "Royale with cheese" dialogue from Pulp Fiction, but so it goes.

It seems Expat Kerri has a whole series of videos on this very topic. Normally I would write this off as an egregious and self-indulgent exercise in nihilism, but hey, it was good listening practice for my kids, so thanks Kerri!

Before I played this for them, I asked them two things:

1. What was confusing for her?

2. Why was it confusing?

This particular entry happens to be about the Korean expression, "밥 먹었어요?" but as I said, she has some other entries too.

It segued into a short little lesson about how in English we say "What's up?" or "How are you?" as a similar greeting: people don't say it because they necessarily care about the answer, but because it's become a convention among greetings. Likewise, I pointed out, if you're doing really bad, you still tend to say, "I'm okay" or "I'm fine" because you understand the person is just asking to be polite, not because they really want to know your sob story.

If you want to download this or other videos to use in class, I recommend using YouTube downloader HD. For other videos (some useful, some not), please check out my Multimedia Monday tag.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Student Profile: Lina and Anna

I haven't done one of these in a while, and as the end of my contract draws near I realize there's so many students I haven't talked about!

Lina and Anna go together because they are sisters. Because of the similarity of their English names, and Korean naming conventions, I assumed they were the rare case where the English name more or less resembles the Korean name. Wrong!

Anna is the older sister, by about a year. From what I can gather she is also the favored child: the one who will get perfect grades and be prom queen and basically be a flawless daughter. Anna is at the point where she's dropped a lot of baby fat, while Lina still has a bit of chub, especially in the face. I have no doubt that this is a sticking point with Lina and her parents (mostly her mother). Anna wants to be a doctor and cure Alzheimer's; Lina I have no idea.

Towards the beginning of my career here, Lina had issues with the other girls in class, mostly about feeling like they were excluding her. There were near constant complaints from her mom, and I tried to handle it the best I could, though I kind of rolled my eyes and thought Lina was being a bit more self-centered than was necessary. This was before I knew Lina and Anna were sisters.

There's no problems now (as far as I know), mostly because with a new semester the classes all got shifted around. After ten months of teaching, I've come to realize that Lina must play second fiddle most of the time—I get the impression she hears, "Why can't you be more like your sister?" a lot.  I go out of my way to give her some extra attention and affection because it seems like she doesn't have many chances to feel good about herself.

Lina and Anna were the sisters I met on the beach in Jeju, They are both cutie pies, and also just about the sweetest girls any parent could ask for. I had a blast playing with them in the water. It was all the fun parts of teaching without any of the stress—though meeting their parents was a bit awkward. They're both at a very high level of English, especially Anna, so I get to have some real conversations with them.

I've been thinking about these student profiles, and how there's so many more I want to write. Under normal circumstances, students like Lina and Anna would be my favorites, but their peers are just as interesting and funny and endearing as they are. This batch of kids has been outstanding, and I'll remember them all, but these two do stand out in particular.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What I've Learned From Editing Student Speeches

There is an English speech competition soon, and part of my duties as native speaker include editing (and later recording into cell phones) students' speeches. These contests happen periodically within school districts; this one is a national tournament, so far as I can judge from the poster in the hallway.

Here are some thing I've learned, whether about Korea or my students, silly or serious, from editing past and present speeches:

  • Pollution is basically to blame for every evil that befalls us in this modern age.
  • My elementary school students have more focused ambitions, dreams, and goals than I did at their age. Heck, they have more of them than I do now.
  • Hangeul is the greatest thing ever.
  • Except maybe for bibimbap, which releases poisons from the body and also cures asthma and diabetes.
  • Korea's brand of oriental medicine is the best in the world.
  • 동의보감 was put on UNESCO's "Memory of the World" register in 2009.
  • Korea should be one country again.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Multimedia Monday: School of Rock

I've been remiss on Multimedia Monday. I haven't been feeling all that inspired, I suppose.

Since August is closing out, I'm staring down the last movies I'm going to watch with my kids. The lower level ones get Robots; the older ones get School of Rock (which I know was used in one of the relatively recent intensive courses so I'm surprised to see it recycled). As a tribute to my new favorite K-blog, kikinitkorea, have this:

How I feel when Koreans don't understand the pop culture references I'm making:

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Differences in Parenting

I was teaching two classes the word "spoiled" yesterday. As part of my explanation, I ask them this:

"What do mom and dad say if you tell them, 'I want a new iPad! I want a Samsung Galaxy Tab! I want to go Caribbean Bay!' ?"

I was expecting a simple, "No." Instead, in both classes a student volunteered, "Shut up."

Sunday, August 19, 2012

I Just Met My 12 Year Old Self

On Friday, in my favorite advanced class, I asked about people's dreams. One of my new students, Vivian, said her dream was "hacker."

"But that is bad," another student replied.

"No, that is cracker. Hacker And I will have Swiss bank account. That is best."

I had to work really hard not to laugh. If she had started talking about black hats and white hats, though, I would have lost it.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Where does the time go? Intensives, student presentations, etc.

We just concluded our summer intensives session. Like the winter intensives, the extra classes culminate in student presentations. These are always my favorite because I get to see what my students are interested in. This time around it was:

  • Make-up artistry
  • Hamsters
  • Four Things (a series on the show "Gag Concert")
  • B1A4
A student also gave a presentation on the movie we watched. He did this for the winter intensives, too, so I don't know if he just really likes both of these movies ("Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium," "Tangled"), or if he couldn't think of anything else to talk about and hastily assembled his PowerPoint at the last minute.

I've been remiss on the last Multimedia Monday, because I feel like I've been a chicken running around with its head cut off (and because the latest two chapters in my advanced textbook haven't been video-worthy). I'm still here and I'm still alive, I assure you.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

More Weird Pop Culture Appropriations in Korean Fashion

You all recall the 5,000 won tank top I bought because it had the Reel Big Fish lyrics, right? Of course you do.

A few days ago I spent 28,000 won on this shirt and I regret nothing:

"You know The Magic School Bus? What if we combined that with The 27 Club?"

The cartoon renditions leave me a bit puzzled. I can pick out Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain, but everyone else I can only place by virtue of knowing who's in The 27 Club.

Is that supposed to be Morrison and Hendrix with Janis? If so, why is Hendrix white?! Or is the blond one supposed to be Brian Jones?

Kurt Cobain is driving, but I can't figure out who's supposed to be sitting shotgun. Is that Amy Winehouse? Why is she blonde? At first I thought it was Marilyn Monroe, but she died at age 36.

Also no comment on the "Foreven" destination, or "Too Young Too Die," or "Fan Sweat."

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Olympic Fever

I am, at best, apathetic about the Olympics. All I can see is: wasted resources! Cheating! Glorification of jock pageantry! And so on.

Never mind rooting for America. Why should I root for America? I didn't choose to be an American; there's so much about America I find alienating and antithetical to my very core that it's no wonder I never get homesick.

Yet as an expat in a foreign country, I find that I actually give a shit about the Olympics. I finally get what the appeal is.

Last Friday, my friend/former coworker Jenny (Yeojoo) and I went, as we usually do on Fridays, for a couple of beers and some anju. The hof we were at had the Olympics on, of course, and it was the men's archery gold medal match between South Korea and Japan. Everyone's eyes were glued to the screen. The hof patrons had temporarily coalesced into an amoebic hivemind of patriotism. Despite being only one beer deep, I had to resist the urge to yell, "Dae han min guk!" and pound the table appropriately.

There was no question for me: I wanted South Korea to win. I wanted that smug Japanese bastard with his douchebag sunglasses to eat shit. Not just me; we. An entire nation. Every arrow shot was another blood pressure spike towards a heart attack. We cheered when a Japanese arrow strayed (relatively) far from the mark for a paltry eight points. We let out exasperated sighs when a Korean arrow missed the bull's eye by what looked to be a mere neutrino of displacement. The idea of victory became more than victory: it became almost a cosmic, mystical sign. A mark from the universe or some distant deity that this country was blessed above all nations.

I found myself getting frustrated with the Japanese archer. Why was he so good? Why did he insist on making it so difficult for South Korea to win? Why did he just get another bull's eye?

Every Korean bull's eye netted a loud cheer from the bar. When the last one secured victory, the hof exploded with joy. One particularly drunk individual, too young to be an ajosshi yet, yelled what we were all thinking:

"Dae han min guk!"

Why does South Korea elicit drunken groupthink cheers from me, but not the US? I've come up with a few reasons.

First and foremost, in a lot of respects, South Korea is very much an underdog. I guess you could argue they're not, but the pervasive attitude I've encountered, among adults and students alike, is that South Korea has a reputation for being weak.

"People think South Korea is easy country," one of my students explained. "But in 2018 [Ed note: when the winter games come to South Korea] we will strike back."

And really, what's more American than an underdog story?

There's also great good guy/bad guy drama with the Korea-Japan rivalry. Korean participation in international sports has a built-in compelling narrative. (Maybe I'd be more patriotic if the US were still in the midst of the Cold War?) If America loses, so what? But if South Korea loses to Japan? Oh shit. Wailing. Gnashing of teeth. Rending of garments.

And, finally, South Korea is a place I chose. Everything that happens here is imbued with that choice; it reflects back on me and, ultimately becomes an extension of myself. Likewise I also root for Sweden in the Olympics, because Sweden is yet another choice.

Tonight (KST) is the bronze medal match in men's soccer football between Korea and Japan. This shit just got real. I'm holing up in my apartment tonight and avoiding what will either the celebratory or dejected throngs of people. Either way, they're guaranteed to be three sheets to the wind.

Dae han min guk! South Korea, fighting!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Multimedia Monday: Bollywood

The topic this week is Bollywood.

Yeah, I can't even.

Bonus points for English subtitles with the Hindi singing.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Obligatory Korean Tourist Spot #6: Happy August From Jeju!

I'm back from my trip to Jeju. I've actually been back since, uh, Tuesday, but between starting intensives (read as: extra classes) on Wednesday and losing my phone (in my goddamn apartment and the first person to make a joke about how I need to clean gets their clock cleaned because MY APARTMENT IS SPOTLESS) I haven't had the energy to blog anywhere about anything.

Well, it's the weekend, and the phone situation will be sorted on Monday, so here's my BIG FAT VACATION POST!

Day 1: Lava Tube, Shamseonghyeol Shrine, Jeju Folk and Natural History Museum

Okay, a lava tube is a type of cave. Unlike the vast majority of the world's caves (solutional caves), these aren't formed by water over millions of years; lava tubes are the remnants of flowing lava. In some respects they are a totally different beast than solutional caves. (At least, if you're the kind of person to distinguish between different kinds of holes in the ground. Like me.)

The one I went to is Manjanggul, and it is (part of) Asia's longest lava tube. The part you can visit is 1 km in length, the whole thing is 7 km. They have bats but I didn't see any, they hang out far away from where the people go. :(

The entrance to the lava tube.

I believe this formation is technicially known as rope lava. The formation has to do with inner, hotter lava pushing the cooling, more hardened lava around, but I'm not entirely sure and there is no Wikipedia entry on this!

Also the lights look like Daleks.

Lava stalactites!

The midway point.

Close-up of the midway point.

A lava column.

This was the second of two literally breath-taking moments (I audibly gasped at each one). The first was unfortunately impossible to photograph without things like a tripod and extra lighting, but I can try to explain:

For a long while, the lava tube isn't very high. Maybe about ten feet from floor to ceiling. Then you turn a corner and suddenly opens up into a much vaster, bigger room, maybe fifty or sixty from floor to ceiling. Even more. And on your left is a beautiful rockfall of black volcanic rock, with splashes of what the signage says is quartzite. Amazing and impossible to photograph for obvious reasons.

This second one, the lava column, marks the end of the lava tube open to the public. Every cave has at least one trademark formation that you see on all of the brochures and ads and whatever else; Manjanggul goes with this lava column. So here's a picture of a better picture of it that I snapped after the tour:

(If you're wondering, my cave's trademark formation is The Chapel/The Frozen Waterfall, and The Giant Ear of Corn.)

Leaving Manjanggul.

Then, I had to hightail it back home because my pants were kind of ruined (sudden downpour, wet cave). The day was still young after I got myself situated so I decided to follow the brown road signs to some walkable sites. (Convention in Korea is that cultural/historical/touristy stuff is designated by brown road signs instead of blue, though also you could tell from names like Samseonghyeol Shrine anyway.)

The whole grounds had a very cool garden/park vibe to it. I would have sat and caught up on reading/writing, but mosquitos just thought I was too delicious. None of the pictures I took there really captured that garden atmosphere, except maybe this one.

This is the hole in the ground from which the first Jeju-ers were thought to have emerged, at least as far as the Jeju mythos is concerned. It's been a designated shrine/special area for thousands of years; this is the closest most people can come to it. They have assorted ancestral/shamanstic/(maybe touristy?) rites on April and October 10th where apparently they...I guess walk up to it and do stuff? The signs didn't really say.

Where people still prepare for the aforementioned rituals; also this used to house a prestigious Korean Confucian school.

It's so weird (to me) to see these buildings my brain parses as "old and historical" used in a contemporary/modern context.

Shrines/altars to the three important shamanistic gods of Jeju, at least two of whom are sea deities, if I understood my time in the folk museum correctly. Again, note how it's roped off.

Once I had enough of being mosquito dinner, I decided to go to a nearby museum!

The pictures are mostly really boring, I guess. The most interesting thing to me was a video about the rituals the Jeju women divers still do early in the new lunar year to appease the aforementioned sea deities.

The women divers of Jeju are really important. Each city in Korea has its own cartoon mascot. Seoul's is Haechi, some Chinese monster that, like, judges your soul when you die or something. Uijeongbu has a girl and a boy in hanbok that I'm sure must be important but hell if I know who they are. The mascots for Jeju are a cartoon version of a woman diver and the "stone grandfather" statues all over the island, like this one:

So I don't have many museum pictures, and the ones I do have suck and are boring.

Afterwards I caught a cab to a jjimjilbang that a friend who used to live in Jeju recommended. I find the jjimjilbang water is really great for drying out mosquito bites and I was really suffering from my walk around the shrine. I also have an unofficial goal of visiting as many jjimjilbangs as I can in Korea, so two birds and one stone. I wanted to relax outside my motel room a bit, so I brought some reading and writing to the co-ed hang-out part upstairs...and promptly fell asleep at 10.30. I didn't leave the jjimjilbang until noon the next day. Oops!

Day 2: Love Land, Students at the Beach

Jeju is a popular destination for Korean honeymooners, at least in part because of a surprisingly obscene (and yet sadly heteronormative) art park called "Love Land."

Have a truncated, G-rated version of the park!

I sincerely hope my boyfriend never makes a face like that when we kiss.

"American Love." If I had been a friend of the sculptor, I would have suggested the name "Love American Style," but I guess they didn't have any American pop culture junkie friends.


Yeah, I dunno.

After Love Land, I decided to be a lazy bum and go to the beach. I picked a beach off the tourist map that looked the closest and after some minor transportation snafus, arrived in the early afternoon. I think I was in the middle of my second or third go-round splashing in the ocean when I heard a familiar voice: "Katherine teacher!"

Two of my students were going to Jeju with their parents during the same vacation break, but I didn't seriously expect to run into them. Small world! I splashed around with them for a couple of hours, met their parents in my soaking-wet, bathing-suited, not-wearing-clothes-on-top-like-Koreans-do, hairy-legged, state and waved them off when they eventually left. (I stayed on much longer to finish reading my book.) I camped out in a PC bang for a couple of hours to charge my mp3 player and catch up on life, and then I had a quick shower in my motel room (no hot water!) and zoned out with a documentary on Arirang about Samarkand and Uzbekistan and some famous Imam from Uzbek or buried in Uzbek or something.

I had forgotten how awful, twee, and stupid Arirang can be, because after this really interesting documentary came a terrible PSA for Korean liquor, involving a foreigner in a hanbok rapping (poorly) about the different varieties of Korean liquor and why they're great.

Because the foreigner community in Korea is big-yet-small, I'm sure I'm only a few degrees of separation removed from him; I might have even met him or been at a bar or party at the same time as him. Nevertheless: seriously, man? Have some dignity.

Day 3: Seogwipo: Yakcheonsa, Cheonjiyeon

There are two major cities on Jeju island: Jeju and Seogwipo . I decided one day spent on the opposite side of the island wouldn't kill me and got a bus to Seogwipo, where I planned to see Yakcheonsa Temple and Cheonjiyeon waterfall.

The entrance to Yakcheonsa Temple.

The main prayer hall, which is the largest Buddhist prayer hall in Asia (supposedly).

I wonder what English camp at Yakcheonsa is like...

For the first time on a temple visit (because it seemed so very touristy), I worked up the nerve to go inside the prayer hall.

I love temples. Even with so many tourists it somehow retained an incredibly tranquil atmosphere. If there is any such thing as reincarnation then I must have been some kind of monk in a past life because a life full of thoughtful reflection a temple like this, or even the sesshin I did years ago, is so appealing that if the Boy and I ever break up I'll just run away and become a nun.

Cheonjiyeon was slightly underwhelming in comparison.

It's supposed to have mythic healing properties (and is apparently rare in that it's a waterfall that flows directly into the ocean but I don't know how true that is?); I guess it's more of a mythology site than an aesthetic site. Speaking of mythology:

A Greek mythology museum in Jeju? Dafuq....?

Proof that I was in Jeju!

Apparently Cheonjiyeon also makes dreams come true:

The familiar stone stacks where out in abundance at Cheonjiyeon. Here's an especially nice one I found opposite the entrance.

I made one next to it but like the moron I am forgot to take a picture when I finished! Oh well. This one is much better, anyway. =P

These two trips more or less exhausted my reserves (I went on a nature hike near Cheonjiyeon but the pictures of that are kind of boring so just trust me when I say I did it), so I got a taxi to the bus depot and hopped on a bus back to Jeju-shi. Just in time, too, because when we rolled into the terminal at Jeju-shi it was dark.

Day 4: Baller Pants, Beach

I promised myself I'd buy certain things in Jeju: miniature stone grandfather (check), Jeju chocolate (got at the airport), one piece of clothing. Clothes from Jeju are a distinctive orange/brown hue because they dye them with persimmons (I think it's persimmons?) and I like "local" clothing for souvenirs (my sarong from Indonesia, for example). Lucky for me, there was a tailor's near my motel, so on Day 4 I worked up the nerve to try and navigate a complicated economic transaction in my mediocre Korean.

And I was successful! I didn't get them until the next day but they are amazing and they fit perfectly and it's a color palette I love.

All of my goals were accomplished so I decided to be a lazy bum and spend my last day at the beach.

I picked a different beach than the one I went to before, because while it was close, it was also crowded (meh) and not very picturesque (bummer). This one was more famous, more expensive (meh), but beautiful:

The only downside was that at low tide the designated swimming area (go beyond the buoys and people get mad at you) was REALLY shallow: I'd be out way far and in water that was only up to my knees, at a distance when my feet would normally no longer be touching the floor. The waves were also not much to speak of (that is, just wake from motor-powered rafts going back and forth beyond the buoys).

It picked up at high tide though, and I got some good swimming in. I love the water. Maybe I should be a swimming monk.

I also tried some Mount Hallasan Soju (Hallasan being the big mountain in the middle of the island I didn't climb because SCREW MOUNTAIN CLIMBING AT 30*C I'M GOING TO THE BEACH), which is the same as regular soju, but whatever. I was drunk on the beach and I didn't care. I dried off at the beachside bar with some beer and kimchi bogeumbap, the first not-from-a-convenience-store meal I had the whole trip.

I hate when Korean meals come with a fork because I never know if it's just what that restaurant does, or if they associate white people with chopstick failure. There were no Koreans nearby for me to spy on, either.

And some light beach reading.

Once the sun started to go down, I paid my tab and went back to my motel room to shake the sand out of myself and have one last night of exploration.

I found Jane's Groove, my favorite bar/club from Seoul that moved to Jeju years ago, but it was closed. I had a few more drinks at a nearby bar, Cult, and then called it a night. And a trip.