Erin’s oh-seven destinations:
International – South Korea, Japan, Egypt, Greece, England
National – Portland, OR; Columbia, MO; Washington, D.C.
Travel Blog: Greece, Egypt and England
Monday, June 04, 2007 – Home sweet freakin home
Hey gang! I’m back in Portland and nursing a travel hangover, complete with jetlag, hayfever, and a general post vacation malaise that leaves me wanting to do little but lounge around staring at the walls in between bouts of organizing and reorganizing my photos. I got some wicked souvenirs, though, including a huka and a bunch of different kinds of flavored tobacco and a big ol’ bottle of French Absinthe. Should make for an interesting time, eh? I’m just glad I eeked through customs without any major issues. The trip home was a mission, though. We had the unhappy fate of flying through JFK airport the night they arrested those terrorism suspects who were trying to blow the place up, and we had to taxi on the runway for 5 friggin hours before taking off. In the end, we spent over 20 hours on the two airplanes and that is enough to make anyone lose it, especially when only 1 meal is served during that entire time. Guess it could have been worse… It would have sucked to have been blown up before I could get home to give everyone their junky little souvenirs and brag shamelessly about swimming in the Nile, playing with baby alligators, and making out with an 18 year old Greek guy named Yanni. (I thought he was 20, ok, so just drop it!) Anyways, it’s good to be back in the Northwest. Has anyone else ever noticed that we have the sweetest smelling air of any place on earth? At least here in Happy Valley. Yup, I’m back at home with mom. I think she’s getting tired of playing landlord to my lazy butt, but I’m off to school in 2 months anyway. So that’s about all I can think of for now. Latah.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007 – Cheerio!
Sorry it’s been so long since I last wrote an entry here, Egypt was super insane and we were busy from morning till night. We saw so many amazing sights… The Pyramids, The Sphinx, the tombs of the pharaohs, Islamic mosques… We swam in the Nile and spent a few days riding down to Southern Egypt in a felucca. Another highlight was riding camels through the Saharah. What made the trip was the incredible awesomeness of our group. We were 6 Americans, 3 Australians and 2 Canadians and, aside from one sourpuss, everyone was super fun to spend the week with. Our tour guide was an Egyptian man in his twenties named Hani and he has become our new best friend… We’re hoping to meet up with him in a few years for a trip to the Red Sea and Dubai, this time just as buddies, though. It was hard to say goodbye… Egypt has ousted Thailand and The Netherlands for the number one country spot. I love it so much there… The food is wonderful and the people are cheerful and openminded. I was rather apprenehsive about visiting a Muslim country, mainly just because of all the noise we get from the US media about the religion, but I’ve come to realize that we are the same in an infinitely greater number of ways than we are different. I had the chance to talk with a young Muslim teenager about her life and it blew my mind… She took a few of us from the group up to see her bedroom and talked about movie stars and her best friends and her hopes to go to college. And it hit me like a ton of bricks… I have so many negative stereotypes imprinted into my brain about Islam, and Africa, and the Middle East. Even being part Lebanese myself, I still find it difficult to escape them… I think sometimes it takes getting to the place to force those well hidden misgivings to the surface.
There are so many stories to tell… And tons of crazy ass pictures, but internet has been spotty and really slow so I’ll probably wait to upload anything else until I get home on Friday.
We’re currently finishing out our adventure in London. It is raining and quite cold, but we’re making the best of the crap weather. We’re staying with my British friend, Ian, in the neighborhood of Wimbledon, and we’re mostly just relaxing and resting at this point. The only shitty part of England so far has been these three nasty Australians that just moved into Ian’s flat. They’re in training for the olympics or some shit and they have the most atrocious manners ever. They’re really pissed that we’re staying with Ian and constantly swear at us and make demands that we do dishes and pay rent (we’re staying for 4 days, by the way), and they threw Ian’s wet launrdy on his bed and let it sit there all day. Happily, though, Ian is so pissed off at their rude behavior towards him and us that they’re getting kicked out this afternoon! Revenge! I love that shiaat.
It’s been a blast but I think I’m just about ready to head back to Oregon. Living out of a suitcase has lost most of its charm and it’s time to get home and get ready for grad school. I move August 1st!
Take care, everyone, and I’d love to see you when I get home. Give me a call, my cell phone should be all charged up by saturday!
Saturday, May 19, 2007 – Words from Cacophonic Cairo
- Nothing Refreshes Like Stella Beer!
- Get it? We’re Walking Like Egyptians
We’ve landed safely in Cairo… this city is insane! I’ve never been anywhere like this… so loud and chaotic and dirty and bustling with life and death. We got here just in time for afternoon muezzin (call to prayer) and all around our hotel, locals had gathered with their shoes off to pray to Mecca. It’s a bit scary to wander around by ourselves cause the men are quite, well, forward. Tons of catcalls and this weird creepy hissing noise follow us everywhere we go. We met with our tour group today and I think it’s gonna be a great time. And I just found out that we have the option to take a hot air balloon over the pyramids. That has always been a dream of mine… to cruise around in a hot air balloon, that is. Should make for some great photos. I gotta go, this keyboard sucks.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007 – Down and out in Meanest Crete
This dispatch is coming at you from the small town of Henia on the island of Crete. It’s just about sunset and I’m ready to pick up a few beers at the convenience store and wander around the old harbor. Get a little quiet time and ponder the baffling events of the last day. I am sad to report that the last 24 hours have marked the easy nadir of our trip so far… Big, bad crap started the minute we got off the ferry from Santorini to Crete at dusk yesterday and didn’t let up until we shot straight out of Iraklion as fast as our ghetto rental car would take us around noon this morning. It all started well enough… we met up with two cool sisters from California on the way out of the shipyard and decided to head into Iraklion together. Within minutes, we were flashed repeatedly by a fat, bearded greek man as we attempted to find a hotel that wasn’t completely nasty, which we failed at, by the way. The memory of those big, hairy Greek balls is burned painfully into my retinas as well as my psyche. Not good.
Not to be deterred, we decided to head out for a fun night of drinking with our new friends, but the evening ended in mad, scary disaster. Around 2 or so, we decided to head back, maybe pick up some food or whatever on the way… But several drunk Greek men started bothering us as we made our way home and we got pissed and mouthy and told them to get away from us. Then, before I knew it, Ashley had been backhanded and went flying into a stone wall. During the few severely traumatic moments I’ve encountered in my short life, I’ve often marveled at the way my brain seems to shut down and go into survival mode, and this was no exception. Weird thing is, I hardly remember the actual fight. The rest of the girls have trouble recalling exactly how it happened, as well, but together we’ve been able to piece together a vague picture of the shit that went down, and it’s this: some fat guy threw ashley against the wall when she told him to fuck off, I flipped out and attacked him, kicking him repeatedly in the balls and stomach, and Meggan jumped in, too, hitting him and breaking her beer bottle on his chest. Then his friends ganged up against us and everyone was kicking and throwing mad punches all over the place. The fat guy came after me a few times, punching me really hard in the chest and yanking my arm so hard I ended up with scratches and finger marks all down my forearm. After a minute or two of scuffling, someone shouted, “Run!” And we all took off down the street as fast as we could. By then, about 5 men were chasing us and we were all crying hysterically and running and I’m sure looking completely insane. Shittiest part is that a lot of people saw the shit going down and no one bothered to help us. Rather, it seemed like more and more men joined in the fight, or they just stood around laughing as we ran past. Then, someone else shouted that the men had our keys and so, realizing that we were totally fucked in every way without our room key, we stopped running, turned around screamed for them to give us our keys back. The fat guy started laughing at us as he dangled a set of keys above our heads. We then ran towards them. I vaguely recall screaming at the top of my lungs, “You fucking bastard, I’ll kill you. I’ll kill you.” Over and over, like my brain just got stuck on this incredibly hateful, violent repeat. I’ve never lost it like that before… Then, I think that we started kicking and hitting him again, causing him to drop the keys, which we picked up and took off running with. The men chased us again but the burst of adrenaline coursing through our systems kept us out of his reach. Finally, we made it to a taxi stand. By then, it was a major scene, with all three of us crying and hyperventilating and the fat man and his posse rounding the corner and beelining it straight for us. A group of Greek men saw the whole thing playing out and offered to help, but instead took the mens’ side, started laughing, and said we were drunk and should go home. Turned out that we’d ended up with fat dude’s keys in all the scuffle and confusion and so we threw them back and tried to get a taxi. Meanwhile, a group of African women sat on a bench nearby laughing at us like their sides were going to split. That fucking sucked the worst of any of it. Not a single person tried to help us, and probably 20 people witnessed the scene from start to finish. Finally, we got into a taxi and went back to the hotel, where we cried and slobbered and hugged each other and found ourselves stone sober without a drop of water and in mild shock.
Today dawned sunny and harsh and we couldn’t drag ourselves out of bed till noon. We’re feeling better after a day of cruising the island and some good food, but this has definitely put a damper on our fun. Violence fucking sucks. But what sucks worse is finding yourself in a place where no one will help you. Where men, and women, watch you get the crap kicked out of you and do nothing but laugh and say it’s your fault cause you’re drunk. That. Fucking. Sucks. A big old nasty bruise is rising on my chest and I’ve got finger marks and scratches around my bicep… Blah.
Sorry this was a downer of an entry. I’ll add that Santorini was amazing and almost everyone else has been wonderful. I think we just hit some bad luck with those nasty men. At least I got those ball kicks in… I’m sure he’ll feel ’em today. Asshole.
I need a Heineken. Oh yeah, go look at my new pictures if you need a pick me up, which you probably do after reading this diatribe… Next stop, Egypt. Let’s hope for better there.
Sunday, May 13, 2007 – Hellas de Santorini
- Beautiful Santorini
Hellas from the beautiful island of Santorini. It’s official. I’ve landed
- Little Building, Santorini
in a postcard. I’d just about venture to say that it’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, or at least right up there with Venice, Tulum and Northern Thailand. Shitdamn! The whole place is perched rather precariously at the tops of a million towering black lava cliffs and it’s all just whitewashed blue buildings and improbably beautiful sunsets and a zillion fat European tourists wandering around with their jaws at ankle height. We found a kickass villa for a steal and have been hanging out at the pool and relaxing. Last night we went out to some bars and clubs and, in between whiskey drinks, had a few interesting run ins with bizarre Greek men.
- Me with my Greek wine
Ashley is a consistent target for the affections of lonely Eurotrash. It’s quite hilarious, actually. This afternoon, we’re planning on renting a car and braving the mean, narrow streets of Fira. I’ve got a mild case of heat rash and I’m running out of sunblock, but I have few other complaints. I love and miss all of you. Go check out my new photos if you please.
Friday, May 11, 2007 – Ouzoboozo
- Paros Windmill
This won’t be a long post cause I’ve been frying and boozing in the sun most of the day and my brain is as mushy as warm tzatziki, but I did want to tell everyone that I’ve posted a few photos in the pictures section of my myspace page. So check em out! We’ve been behaving ourselves and so far everything is going great. We’re on the island of Paros, staying in a cute little airconditioned place with a balcony and sea views. We got it for dirt cheap (40 Euros) cause the high season hasn’t kicked in yet…
- Us in Paros
Tomorrow it’s off to Santorini. The highlight so far has been cruising around the island on little matching 4 wheelers that we rented out. Top speeds rarely exceed 40 mph and we’ve had a few precarious runins with crazy Greek drivers, but we’ve got our helmets and a few shady travel insurance policies, so not to worry… The food has been the other highlight. My recent foray into Veganism has gone out the window, and I must say I am enjoying my time off the wagon… lots of yogurt dips and feta cheese and even pizza. I forgot what real food tastes like! My hair looks insane from all the sun and sea salt and I’m slowly losing the pasty pallor I’ve accumulated over a long winter and spring in Korea and Oregon. We take lots of naps and drink lots of wine and enjoy socializing with the friendly locals. Greeks are amazing hosts and we’ve made friends everywhere we go. No hard partying so far, but I’m not as up for it as I’d imagined I’d be. It feels so nice just to take it easy and enjoy life. Hangover bangovers don’t mix well with heat and long ferry rides, anyways. Egypt looms like a sort of intimidating spector in the close distance, but I’m sure it will be amazing in a very different way. What else?? I’m teaching myself to read and speak a little Greek and that’s been fun. I’m also taking lots of pictures and doing some hard thinking about stuff. Nothing like a while away from home to help you gain fresh perspective. I’ve come to the basic conclusion that I love travelling, and that Europe really is like a second home to me by now. If you can believe it, this is my 5th time here! I’m an old hat, yeah. Any Europeans out there in the market for a marriage of convenience, drop me a line! I need that EU passport, and bad~
That’s all. Write me!
Wednesday, May 09, 2007 – First Dispatch from Athens
We’ve made it safely to Athens, Greece and let me tell you, it was a 24 hour experience… Actually, more like 25 by the time we stumbled in the door of The Student and Backpacker’s Inn in the Plaka at midnight last night. We’ve been eating tons of gyros and feta cheese and trekked it to the Acropolis this morning. Amazing! Hopefully, I’ll post some pictures soon. Athens had gotten pretty poor reviews from most people I talked to, but we’re really liking it here. It has a very old world feel. All the same, we’re headed out to the Greek islands this afternoon and should be landing on Naxos sometime after sunset. So far, we’re getting along great, enjoying each other’s company and the wonderful warm weather. This is shaping up to be the trip of a lifetime and my hopes are high for the next three weeks. I’ll write again soon. I love and miss you all!
- The A-Crop
- In The Plaka
Monday, May 07, 2007 – So long, suckers!
So… I’m off to Greece this morning on the first leg of my Euro-African adventure. Take care, everybody, and I’ll post a blog from Greece in a few days when I get bored of laying topless on the beach and drinking fruity drinks with little monkeys and umbrellas in them. Stay posted for pictures and some more retarded dispatches from wherever it is I find myself.
Travel Blog: South Korea and Japan
Tuesday, March 06, 2007 – Arigato, Mr. Roboto!
Well, I’m back in the states after my stay in Korea and subsequent visit to Japan… The highlight of Japan was definitely a day I spent in Tokyo with Keiji, a Japanese guy I met in Rome years back, when I was a ridiculous and much more self-assured 21. We’ve kept in touch in the time that has passed since, and it was awesome to see him. We spent the day sightseeing and bullshitting and reminiscing about our crazy days in Italy. Truth be told, I almost killed him, and myself, one night in Rome in a drunken mishap involving way too much beer, a rickety metal bunkbed, and my belligerent conviction that violently jabbing my feet into the bottom of his mattress was the most hilarious thing in the world… I’ve never seen a bunkbed simply just, well, collapse before… It’s one of those memories that seems to stick, but that is another story entirely. At any rate, I behaved myself this time around, and Keiji was nice enough to buy me tempura and subway tickets and even went so far as to compliment me on my horrible attempts to communicate in Japanese. Plus we saw a wicked sunset from the observation deck of Tokyo Tower. Duomo arigato, Keiji!
I passed a night in one of Tokyo’s famous capsule hotels. I spent most of my time in the pod getting drunk on weird, cheap Japanese malt liquor beverages, taking pictures of myself, and watching a Japanese television program about 2 sets of identical twins on a trek through the Japanese mountains in search of, well, I’m not sure exactly what they were looking for, but it involved lots of giggling, poking with sticks, and the fatter of the twin sets constantly rolling around in the dirt and shouting, “Chu-TA, chu-TA!”
I saw lots of oldass, vertigo-inducing temples, and a few smiling Buddhas.
posted by Erin @ 4:12 PM 0 Comments
Thursday, March 01, 2007 – Think You’re Smart? Think You’re Clever?
These three symbols are ubiquitous here in South Korea… Can you guess the significance of each??
posted by Erin @ 10:37 PM 0 Comments
Thursday, March 01, 2007 – Exactly Where I’m At
Well… The sun is setting on my last day here in Busan and I’m feeling just a little bit road weary. I didn’t sleep well last night on account of too many thoughts floating around my head about the excitement to come in the next few days… I was awakened repeatedly throughout the night by a nasty mosquito buzzing unceasingly around my head between the hours of 1 and 3 am, and then, later, a protracted series of drunken brawls playing themselves out in the alley below my window, and, finally, around 4 am, an incidence of loud and copious vomiting in the apartment next door. I’m ready for a little more living space, that’s for sure, but I suppose that Tokyo is the absolute wrong place to go for that. All the same, I can’t wait!! I’ve decided to try this adventure sans guidebook, just mostly because I’m cheap and lazy and the Lonely Planet Tokyo was out of stock at the bookstore down the street, but also cause I think I need to work on being more spontaneous. I always overplan trips and then end up not needing half of the crap or information I bring along with me. What can I say? I am the world’s most extravagant packer. I brought so much stuff to Busan that I’ve hardly used. I defended my decision to bring along my little blue Mexican guitar long and loud to doubtful friends and family members, and I must admit that I haven’t played it very much. I’ve worn about 2/3’s of the clothes I absolutely had to pack, and I am confronted each evening by a pretty row of unopened novels staring neglectedly down at me from the shelf by my door… I always just end up flipping on the tv and zoning out. In my own defense, you need a lot of down time in a place like Korea… So I don’t feel guilty. Onward to Tokyo! Or, as the Koreans call it, 도교… Here are a few pictures from my neighborhood!
posted by Erin @ 10:20 PM 0 Comments
Sunday, February 18, 2007 – Chinese New Years at Golgulsa Temple
Well, I just got back from spending Chinese New Years weekend at Golgulsa temple in Gwang-ju and it was one of the wickedest experiencs of my life… Golgulsa is a Buddhist temple that specializes in instruction in Sunmudo, an ancient traditional Korean martial art which combines strenuous physical movement with active meditation. Unfortunately, Sunmudo is rather obscure, and so there is as yet no information on it in English. Golgulsa Temple is composed of about 8 or 9 buildings scattered up and down a very steep mountain, so I spent a lot of time walking, among other things. This weekend was Chinese New Year, or Sol-Lal in Korean, so there were all kinds of special ceremonies and celebrations over the course of the weekend. I spent a lot of time doing Zazen, or sitting meditations, as well as several hours each day training in Sunmudo. Each morning, we woke up at 4 am to the sounds of one of the junior monks walking up the mountain, banging a little wooden bowl and doing the morning chantings. Then, we hiked the 15 minutes to the top of the mountain, where the main shrine is located, for morning chanting and prayers, plus our morning Zazen session. The rest of the days were filled with lots of little ceremonies, plus more meditation sessions and Sunmudo trainings. New Year’s day was Sunday morning, and we got to write our prayers for the new year on little pieces of paper, which were hung up in the main temple behind the ancestral shrine. The monks had laid out a table with all kinds of fresh fruits and rice cakes as an offering to the ghosts of their ancestors, whom they believe return to earth on such special days. Later on, the prayers were taken to a special spot and burned. What else? I feel this is a rather scattered account, but I’m still pretty tired and out of it… I guess I’d also say that I met some amazing people and saw the most beautiful sunrise of my life… Way up high above the main shrine, at the top of the mountain, there is a tiny little temple built inside a cave. It was carved out 1500 years ago by a group of monks from India and it was my favorite place to hang out and meditate. I climbed up there after morning prayers and watched the sun come blasting up over the mountains and I felt such a sense of peace… It was amazing. Other highlights included having tea with the grand master and performing the daily ritual of 108 bows. A “bow” consists of folding one’s hands in prayer, then bending down to touch your forehead to the floor, then getting back up and doing it all over again. The number represents the number of vices extant in the world, and monks perform the bows each day in order to rid themselves of such distractions. Especially diligent monks and laiety actually perform up to 3000. It might not sound like it, but the bows are actually quite a workout, especially if you don’t cheat and use your hands and arms to help you get up and down. I’m still having trouble walking after all that hiking and bowing and whatnot, but I am so glad I went… I met some wicked people and have cleared my head a bit. Since I spent Western new year’s eve on an airplane, I’m counting today as the beginning of 2007. Oh yeah, in case anyone was wondering, I prayed for 3 things, for myself and all my friends: health, wealth and that elusive peace of mind. I’ve got high hopes for the year of the golden pig.
Here are some pictures from Chinese New Years at Golgulsa Temple
Here is the first sunrise of the Chinese new year as seen from the cave temple.
This second shot is the temple from the outside.
This third shot is me hanging out with the grand master. Yeah, we’re tight.
This shot is actually from a nearby temple, Girimsa.
The second is a view from the cave temple at the top of the mountain.
This third shot is of a little shrine located nearby.
Here are a few scenic shots from Golgulsa Temple in Gwang-Ju, South Korea. The giant Buddha image carved into the rock is actually 1500 years old!
posted by Erin @ 9:35 PM 0 Comments
Sunday, February 11, 2007 – Pretty Words and Bemoesa Temple
The first of these pictures is of an alleyway in Nampodong, one of the shopping districts of Busan. The second picture is of a Korean man I met while wandering around there one Sunday afternoon. He is my new hero. Definitely.
Beomoesa Temple was quite beautiful, and even peaceful in spite of the swarms of Koreans milling all about everywhere. After awhile, you start to get used to the fact that any location in South Korea which you might choose for a foray into nature will already be clogged with a mass of humanity. Blame it on the overpopulation, I guess, but I had lots of fun just wandering around and snapping photos. Here are a few:
Thursday, Feb 8, 2007 – The Sweet Nearby
Damn, these days are long. By now, its after 6. In 15 minutes, I’ll have been at work for 12 straight hours. Add in the fact that there are no windows on our floor of the building and things start to get disorienting, indeed. I’ve got all kinds of thoughts twirling around inside my head this day, but mostly, it’s been all about Tokyo, and and my empty, hurting belly, and hopefully spending Chinese New Year vacation at a Buddhist Temple nearby. I still can’t eat anything besides bananas, rice, and soup, but at least I’m not projectile puking/pooing anymore. You gotta be grateful for the little things or you start to lose it, I guess. Nah, seriously. My students are also charming the shit out of me these days, which has kept my spirits high in spite of the near overwhelming workload I deal with here. My favorite thing is the English names. Some of them choose the most hilarious names ever. My students this month include:
-A bodybuilder who insists that I call him “Lion”
-A middle aged man named “Joy”
-A sort of chubby Korean university student who likes me to call her “Bear”
-Several men who wish to be referred to as “June”
It was even worse last year when I taught kids… Then, I had:
-A tiny 10 year old girl who wanted to be called “Lenny”
Friends of mine had:
And, my personal favorite, a Korean woman who worked as an English teacher at a nearby school preferred to go by the name of “Venus”. Try saying that one with a straight face.
Also, Ron is apparently an extremely cool name in these parts. Who knew?
I gotta go. Stay warm.
Sunday, January 28, 2007 – Words from the halfway mark
Ok, I know I haven’t posted in a million years, but I have an excuse– everytime I try to use this website from here in Korea the computer switches all the navigation buttons into Korean, I’m forced to navigate my way through them in order to write entries. I haven’t been able to figure out how to change it over to English, so half the time I try to write posts, I end up accidentally deleting them or inadvertently saving them as drafts, hence the newly posted, two-week-old entry right before this one.
I am sitting in a pc room on the outer fringes of Texas street. I’m a little confused as to the origins of the name, seeing as the neighborhood is filled with Phillipinos, Russian hookers, and a whole bunch of sketchy-ass looking darklit storefronts and alleyways. Plus a whole slew of Korean bodegas, selling outdated products and tacky, homemade lingere. Weird place. Why would a girl as proper and upstanding as myself choose to frequent such a disreputable locale at dusk on a sunday evening, you ask? I blame Julia. Well, not really, but…
I met my friend Julia in a creative writing class back at Linfield, but hadn’t seen her since graduation. She ended up taking a teaching contract in Seoul just a few months after I left, so when I decided to head back out here this winter, we agreed to meet up. She came down this weekend and we’ve been hanging out, doing random stuff like shopping, going out for beers with a few of my students, and hanging out at the Korean bath… We spent the whole day there today, hanging out with about 600 nude Korean women and children in every kind of sauna and bath imaginable…. Rose baths, pepper baths, mud baths, lavender baths, the list goes on… I also got a hardcore scrubdown from a Korean woman in her skivvies— definitely one of the most interesting and unusual aspects of Korean culture. You’re laying prone and completely naked on a table, and this old lady squirts you with oil, smears frozen cucumber paste all over your place, slaps you up and down, then puts on a pair of coarse yellow mitts and proceeds to remove the top 5 layers of your skin. It sounds weird and painful, but its actually freakin awesome. Trust me.
Julia’s train for Seoul doesn’t take off for a few hours, so we’re hanging around here, killing time. We enjoyed ourselves walking up and down Texas Street and found a very hilarious “adult” themed pickup machine, from which you could win such useful items as a universal remote control, a pair of men’s briefs, a power drill or a Conair hairdryer. But it’s too cold and creepy to wander around pretending not to look at the hookers anymore, so we’ve landed at the PC bang. The Korean girl next to us is shamelessly ogling photo stills of a naked Paris Hilton and the sky outside is growing dark. Tuesday marks the halfway point of my contract. Life is so strange…
I’m still enjoying the teaching quite a bit, although my schedule is set to get a whole lot crappier come Wednesday. I got lucky this last month, working a 9-5’er while most of my coworkers endured the dreaded early morning/late night split shift. Now it’s my turn to suffer: my first class starts at 7 am, while my last one ends at 10 pm. Balls. Good thing is I’ll have a lot of free daylight hours in between, so I’ll be able to do some sightseeing and hang out at the beach. I’m still going to the gym regularly, and the two Korean guys who work there are becoming fast friends. They are really funny and nice to me, and when I get nasty and sweaty and red-faced during a long workout and start to feel like a big, scary giant among all the tiny, delicately panting Korean women, they always make me feel better by giving me compliments, although some of them come with a few barbs… For example, they told me the other night that if I lost my “stomach fatness”, I would be “very beauty”. Gawd. Check my trainer out:
- My Trainer in Busan
I’ll post some pictures, soon. Behave yourselves, everyone.
posted by Erin @ 1:27 AM 0 Comments
Saturday, January 13, 2007 – Post Drinking Thinking
What a weekend it’s been… I was fighting a cold and working a buttload of extra hours all week, so I’d planned on taking it easy Friday night, but a few guys from work were heading out and so of course I gave in to temptation and met up with them. It was pretty fun, until this wasted Texan started bothering us. He was completely ridiculous– barely intelligible with a disproportionately large head, a dumb haircut and a whole lot of nothin underneath… Talking to him was completely pointless cause he was belligerent and very aggressive and took offense at everything any of us said. Plus he was astonishingly boring. I couldn’t resist egging him on a bit, teasing him and saying things I knew would piss him off, just cause he was so askin for it. Like how I wished Texas would break off into the gulf of Mexico and float away, etc, etc. but I guess I took things too far cause he flipped out and tried to attack me! Luckily, my friend Brian is like 8 feet tall, so he put his arm out and kept the guy from actually injuring me. Our verbal altercation continued, though, and I sort of lost it for a minute and ended up dumping my beer on his head. Or at least trying to… His precarious physical stated belied very fast reflexes, and so a good portion of the beer went on Brian, and the walls. It was ridiculous and I felt bad cause I’d definitely taken advantage of his drunken, idiotic state for a few laughs… Shit, man. I felt bad and so I took off at that point, but the taxi driver dropped me in a weird spot that I didn’t recognize so I spent another hour wandering drunk around Seomyeon. It gets pretty nuts around there come a lonely, drunken 2am, let me tell ya… All the neon lights start to blur and bend and the streets get so windy and labrynthine, and there is loud, bad pop music and hammered, rowdy Koreans everywhere, and you’re just too wasted to figure it out so you sway around with your hands shoved in your pockets and pick streets at random until a familiar landmark appears and you make your unsteady way home…
Saturday morning, I was rudely awakened by a pounding on my door at the ungodly hour of 10… Still drunk, with my hair sticking straight up, and braless in a tight t-shirt, I opened the door to find a guy from the Korean gas company standing there. He looked embarassed, but made a few desultory attempts at explaining his presence in Korean, which were way too far over my head, and so I just stood there and kept saying, “I don’t know. Come back later,” in Korean. He had a bill for 130 bucks that he tried to get me to pay, but that sure as hell didn’t happen… Anyways, he finally gave up and took off, but I couldn’t fall back asleep… I taught Korean teenagers all of Saturday afternoon and that was a treat, let me tell you… Nah, it’s not so bad. Well, actually, yes it is. I hate working Saturdays!
Saturday night, my work had a dinner to celebrate New Year, although I’m not sure if we we’re celebrating Western new year or Chinese new year, which takes place in February. It’s a mystery… We had a traditional Korean dinner at a traditional Korean restaurant, which means sitting at low tables on heated floors and cooking giant slabs of meat on little gas grills at the table. Brian and I are vegetarian, so we sat in the corner, ate a bunch of tofu and kimchi and called it good. I drank copiously, cause I felt restless and a bit uncomfortable. Thing about sitting on the floor is your buttcrack hangs out and it’s really annoying and embarassing! I drank a bottle plus of soju to myself and also had a few beers, so by the time dinner ended I was feeling rather toasty. We all made our way to a karaoke room afterwards and then the night really got started. There were about 20 of us, half Korean and half foreign, and the boss, Mr. Lee, was there, too, which was cool, cause I haven’t had a chance to talk to him much. He’s a cool guy… So everyone sang a whole bunch and of course we drank a shitload more soju and beer, plus 2 bottles of hennesey that Mr. Lee bought. I sang “Don’t Let Me Down” by the Beatles and “Paint it Black” by The Rolling Stones. The servers kept wheeling in these elaborate fruit plates and all kinds of random alcohol and food and we had a blast. The night ended around 1 and I decided against going out afterwards cause I wanted to be productive today.
Now it’s sunday, my one day off, and I’m wandering around aimlessly, fighting a mild hangover and thinking about trying to take some photos in a bit… I might head to the beach, as well, but I’m not sure…
So that’s all for now. Busan is a great city and I’m keepin busy and doing well…
Sunday, January 07, 2007 – A Little Asian Culture Shock
I am normally opposed to such things, but I feel compelled to offer a caveat with regards to these pictures… If you are squeamish or if the thought of eating dog causes you great moral indignation, distress, or upset, then you might want to skip this one.So, here they are. I’ve got more and worse but I’ve opted not to put the up here cause I don’t want to gross anyone out. If you like being grossed out, however, feel free to email me and I promise I’ll deliver.
Yesterday, I headed to Gupo Market, famous for it’s fresh dog meat. It comes in both the living and no-longer-living forms and one can often be found right next to the other. It was pretty wild– I’m not usually squeamish about food– I’ve eaten roaches, grasshoppers, and raw buffalo stomach, after all– but this had my stomach churning just a teeny bit. I want to elaborate, but I’m in the teacher’s lounge and this is kind of a touchy subject, so it will have to wait. In the meantime, check this shit out.
posted by Erin @ 7:17 PM 0 Comments
Saturday, January 06, 2007 – Washed Up But Certainly Not Out
- The View From My Window 1
- The View From My Window 2
It’s midnight in Seomyeong, Busan, and in the lopsided maze of buildings and roads that my bedroom window opens up to, the litany of nighttime sounds has begun again. My new apartment is near the top of the tallest building in this little cluster of houses and shops, and because of this, I see and hear most everything. Wandering the narrow alleyways down below, the noise and clamour of private life remain muted, subtle: the muffled octaves of a baby’s plaintive wail, the busybox chatter of an old console television, the smell of frying pork fat. From the sixth floor, though, these things become more difficult to conceal or ignore; up here, sound carries, perspective widens. Cause everything rises, eventually. Way up high, by the dim glow of the nightime moon, the true shape of my neighborhood emerges, and it is quite a sight, looking like a cross between the Casbah and some ragged, sprawling courtyard from the middle ages: incandescent, messy, and bloated with life. By day, the place seems peaceful and modest and rather reserved. But at night, when the control tower on the hill blinks on and the work day ends, when everyone starts in on the drinking and chattering and general mess of living, things get a little rowdier. My first night here, the yelling and the carousing and the high ring of soju bottles shattering against the concrete kept me up till dawn. I’m getting used to it, now, though. At the moment, two skinny puppies in the empty lot across the alleyway fight over a black plastic bag. An agassi in a black jogging suit carries on a conversation with a friend in another building 20 feet away, leaning out his bedroom and sucking on a cigarette. I watch the lit tip ignite and then dim with each pull he takes and ask myself for the millionth time how I am going to decide to feel about this place. About being back here. It’s certainly not where I’d planned to end up this winter of my 25th year. Not by the longest of shots. No doubt, my decision to return to Korea struck most of the people closest to me as inexplicable, but I was probably the most incredulous of all. I quit Korea in an indignant rage last fall, exhausted, exasperated, and short a month’s wages. I swore that I’d never return. That I’d had it with the pushy saleswomen and the bitter cold winters, the noxious pollution and the sweltering summers, the crowds and the lines and the litany of shameless stares, the perennial garlic breath and the spit and the puke and the incessant gum snapping. Had it, had it, had it. Seriously. And yet, here I sit in my pseudo-Casbah, a week deep into my second tour of duty as a fly by night English teacher. And the weirdest part is that it actually feels good. I feel slightly uncomfortable admitting that out loud. Like it makes me a flake or a hypocrite. The best part of me tries to believe I am neither, but it’s hard to define what I hope I am instead. It’s hard to explain myself. Even to me. Especially to me. Why did I come back here when my year in Seoul had me practically unhinged by its close? Please don’t misunderstand me when I write to you from Korea to tell you that Korea drives me nuts: I don’t ever want to be one of those people who moves to a foreign country and spends every waking moment complaining loudly about the fact that things are, gasp, foreign. Who resents the local population for failing to anticipate needs and desires that they simply don’t share or understand. I don’t need the world to think and eat and dress and talk just precisely the same way I do. I am also uninterested in positioning myself as a martyr, nor am I here to attempt the conduction of social analyses for which I am far under qualified; I choose to be here, and it seems to me that approaching other peoples and cultures with a permissive and indulgent chuckle is far more damaging and condescending than detesting them outright. I could tell you a thousand funny anecdotes that would compel you to join me in such a giggle: the women at the neighborhood yard sale who spent 20 minutes trying to figure out what in the world the unopened box of tampons I was selling were used for; the way my principal once claimed that eating pickled cabbage prevents the contraction of AIDS; how Koreans eat cake with chopsticks and put potatoes on their pizza and think for some reason that Brad Pitt’s name is Brad Peter and wear miniskirts in the winter cause shivering makes you lose weight. Yeah, the stories are kinda funny. But there is a danger in laughing too long or hard, and the danger lies in the proclivity to judge that such laughter can sometimes inspire. Does it sound weird for me to say that I feel protective of these people, of their sheltered and occasionally disingenuous ideas about the world around them? We’re caught in an uneasy sort of truce these recent days, Korea and I. I suppose that my saving grace is that I want to love it here, and in some moments I genuinely do. And yeah, I’ll say it. Effortlessly: today, I hopped on the subway near my place and found myself at the seashore just 20 minutes later. Most days in the Korean wintertime are cloudless, windy and very bright, and today was no exception, so I bought a can of beer and sat down on the boardwalk by myself, dug my shoes into the sand and squinted out at the container ships and the seaweedy waves. No one bothered me or cared that I was drinking in public. No one leered or laughed or poked at me. In fact, I felt more peace than I’ve felt in way too long. It was a quiet afternoon and I had all the solitude I could’ve wanted. An occasional brave soul shouted a hello over the wind, one man shyly asked me to take a photo of his family, but otherwise, it was just me and my thoughts. For lunch, I went to a local place, where I impressed the waitress to no end by ordering off the Korean menu, a simple task, really, but who doesn’t like to be praised for the little efforts? My meal was delicious and cost three bucks. I’m beginning to think of this place as a riddle I gave up on to fast. I ditched Korea last September like some half-worked puzzle that one abandons in bewilderment and disgust. And is drawn irresistibly back to, desiring to make sense of the muddle, to fill in at least one more perplexing corner. I’ve got a ways to go, no doubt, and I just don’t think I’ll ever stop wanting to implode when an ajuma sits next to me and starts snapping her gum in my ear. I’ll never really like most Korean food, and I doubt I’ll ever date a Korean man. But I am not too proud to say that maybe I was just a little bit too quick to judge before. And that bothers me some, makes me feel guilty and irrational and ethnocentric.But right now, at midnight, I can sit quiet with all of it, cause I am realizing that the contradictions might even reveal a complexity of character, both in Korea and in myself. That’s my best hope, at least, and it gives me peace tonight, as I watch the agassi takes one last drag and then flick his cigarette end onto the street below. He rises his head towards the moon like some feral wolf, opens his mouth, and howls out a noiseless stream of white smoke that drifts up towards the moon and the mountain and the blinking control tower and then disperses. Down in the courtyard, the puppies tear and gnash at the plastic bag until a sudden gust of wind whips down through the alleyways, filling the bag with air and forcing it violently upwards, out of reach of the barking dogs, over the fence and around the corner and out of sight.I’ve got to be honest– I don’t really get Koreans, or Korea. Yet. But I’d like to keep trying, and that’s why I’m here. Cause I want to understand. Cause I swear that I’m really, honestly trying. Cause the instinct to rise, to seek perspective, is irresistible, even if you’re just a black plastic bag or a plume of used up cigarette smoke or a sort-of-naïve and bewildered kid trying to make a life in a strange place ridiculously far from home. Cause, you know, everything rises, eventually.
International: South Korea, North Korea
National: Portland, OR
Saturday, December 30, 2006 – Return to K-Rock
So, I’m off to K-rock tomorrow morning. New year’s on an airplane…Should be interesting. Or not. I get to Busan, Korea on Monday and sart work two days later. My company found me an apartment which means my dream of living in a hotel will have to go unfulfilled. I am sorta disappointed, but I’m sure an apartment will be easier and better in most ways. Anyways, I think I’m gonna go back to posting entries on my regular blog (www.wordsontherun.blogspot.com) when I’m there so that I can put up picures and junk. Anyways, I got too much to take care of so I’ll end this. I swore I’d never return to Korea after all the garbage I went through last fall, but here I go in any freaking case… Wish me luck.
Sunday, December 10, 2006 – Post War
Weeeelll…. I took the GRE on Friday and ended up with an 1160. It’s not spectacular, but I scored a little above average and hopefully that will be enough to get me into my schools. The essay section hasn’t been scored yet, either, and I felt like I nailed that, at the very least. We’ll see, though… Now I’ve just gotta finish my apps before I head off to Korea… I pulled out my big blue suitcase tonight and started in on the packing. I’ve headed off so many times by now that it just feels normal to shove a bunch of crap into a suitcase and take off. Comforting, even. These days, wherever I am always feels just a little bit like the wrong place. I guess I’ll be in limbo until I know where/if I’m going to graduate school. Sometimes I feel really good about everything and sometimes I wonder if I’ll get in anywhere at all?? it’s so weird how your sense of yourself can inflate and deflate so easily. Our egos are fragile things and I guess no one likes to be rejected. I feel like I’ve been rejected in about a million ways this past year and I’m long overdue for a little love. Word!
Anyways, not much else to say. I feel like this blog is a wee bit boooooring, mostly just written for myself. I promise I’ll have more to say when I’m back in Korea next month. Everything is so strange and bizarre there that it’s pretty much impossibe for your daily life to be boring or normal. I’ve had a lot of fun just hanging out in Portland these past few months but the same thing has happened that always happens– I get all sluggy and comfortable and life doesn’t feel especially adventurous or extreme. My friend Ben suggested to me that perhaps wanderlust is an inability to be happy in the present moment, but I don’t know about that. I think it’s more of a craving to feel fully alive, to feel fully challenged and subsumed by the tasks that you are put to. And let’s face it– there’s nothing all too challening or fascinating or character developing about going to your favorite bar with people you’ve known 10 years, or buying a sandwich at the Fred Meyer deli, or washing up the dinner dishes for your mom. My life these days is pretty good and I keep busy with stuffs that interest me, but I’m just about ready to kick things up a notch. To get somewhere new and start finding ways to challenge myself and my perceptions about things in general. So I’m gonna.
posted by Erin @ 9:02 PM 0 Comments
Saturday, December 02, 2006 – Bad Luck, Good Luck, and One Gross Photograph
First, some good news. My tonsil growth is gone! No surgery!
Now, some bad news. I broke my baby toe and and still an invalid as a result.
Next, some more good news. I am almost done with the first drafts of my graduate school admissions essays!
Then, some more bad news. I take the GRE in less than and week and I am completely freaking out.
Finally, the big, good news.
I got a 2 month gig in Korea!!! I am leaving December 31st for Busan, Korea, where I’ll teach business English to adults at a fancy school until March. I am going to be living in a hotel across from the school, which is weird and intriguing at the same time. I am really excited to be escaping the states– I’ve been here almost three months and I’m getting really, really restless. I bought my plane ticket today and the very best part of it all is that I scheduled a 3 day layover in Tokyo, Japan, at the end of my teaching gig! I am very excited. I’ve been to Japan, but it was only for a 2 day visa run last fall and I’ve always wanted to hang out and be ridiculous in Tokyo. So that’s my news.
Check out my nasty toe!
At the Oregon Coast, Circa November Something.
posted by Erin @ 7:16 PM 0 Comments
Thursday, November 23, 2006 – The Weekiest of Weeks
I have a sad, sad announcement. Steel yourselves, folks.
I have a peritonsillar abcession, otherwise known as a growth on my tonsil. GROSSSSSSS~~~~ I went to the emergency room last night cause my throat had been bugging me a week or two and I walked out an hour later with a massive bill, the threat of surgery if it doesn’t go away in a week or so, and a whole buttload of steriods and vicodins. (yeah, silver lining, eh?) It’s not serious if you treat it early, but get this– it only occurs in .003% of the population. I guess I always wanted to be exceptional in some way. But I was thinking of a cool way, like that guy who can smoke 50 cigarettes at once, or this other dude I once heard about who ate an entire car over the course of a year by grinding up the pieces into little bits and swallowing them one at a time. Now I’ve been relegated to join the ranks instead of that misfortunate and sort of yucky .003% of the general populus who wake up one morning to find that a glorified pimple has sprouted up in the back of their throat. Again, GROSSSSSSSSSSSSS. Gross, gross, gross, I say!
I was warned by my doctor that the steriods might make me especially moody and agressive. I haven’t flipped over any automobiles yet, but we’re only on day two…
Otherwise, it was an unequivocably great week. I studied a lot, went to the beach for an awesome 2 days with Meggan, Corinne and Ashley, and hung out with this really cool kid I’ve just met named Davey. He makes me laugh and sometimes we hang out drunk in downtown fountains and pretend to hump statues when the MAX goes by. Good fun. Today was Thanksgiving, my first here in the states in 4 or 5 years. It was soooo much fun just to be lazy and high on pain pills and hang out with my wonderful family. They really are the coolest group of people and I’ve missed them like crazy. I broke my no sugar resolution and had a little piece of wheat-free chocolate cake, but it was all so worth it. Here are some pictures. Cause I love my family, and girls named Meggan that I’ve known since forever, and being drunk with people I’ve known as of last month, and the improbable, ephemeral and fully ineffable beauty of the Oregon coast. All is giiiiid.
posted by Erin @ 11:50 PM 0 Comments
Thursday, November 16, 2006 – Have you seen this man?
Have you? No? Neither have I.
posted by Erin @ 7:17 PM 1 Comments
Here in Portland it rainy rain rains. 12 days straight it’s rained. Fucking inveterate by now.
posted by Erin @ 7:12 PM 0 Comments
Wednesday, November 15, 2006 – This Except For That
Well, ehrm, it’s been something of a week. I can’t share most of the details, but let’s just say again it’s been somethin of a week.
On the PG rated front, I went with two new friends to see Frank Black play the Wonder Ball room and about crapped myself, it was so good. A lot of random acoustic stuff and a really cool version of Wave of Mutilation. I’ve decided that I want to see as many shows as possible this Winter. That is goal #1. Well, probably more like goal #5, but whatev.
Here are my Winter resolutions:
1. Cut sugar out of my diet. Sugar will be the demise of the civilized world, yet. It’s certainly been the early catalyst for my own.
2. Stop wasting money on beer. I’m rocking the hangover bangover like nobody’s business these days and it’s GOt to STop.
3. Go out on a few dates that actually work out. I don’t even need a boyfriend– just someone fun to hang out with who isn’t a total shit.
4. Clean up my shithole of a bedroom once and for final. I’ve been storming in and out of the country for a few years, now, and all that junk and general messiness has metamorphosized into quite a job.
5. Get a high score on the GRE when I take it December 8th. Shhhit, Yeah!
6. Use the word “shit” less frequently.
In other news, I’ve found a graduate program that I really like. The bad news? It’s in freakin Missouri! Yuck! I don’t know much about that lovely state but I’ve a sneaking suspicion that it’s far less hip and happening than dear old Portland. We’ll see.
posted by Erin @ 10:23 PM 0 Comments
Tuesday, November 07, 2006 – somewhere bound
Ain’t it so funny when things is happening, finally?
When you stop yanking and screeching and life gives you new and better stuff to wonder over? I used to wish my head was screwed on backward so I could sort through all those bitter pits and half finished somethings without the unwelcome hassle of a blind stumble forward and a kinky neck, besides. Seems, though, that so much looking behind gets your endings and beginnings all mixed up together and then you have to spend your life feeling bad for all those people getting squashed and trampled and kicked as you beeline it towards and on through them without noticing or caring, too preoccupied with the passing back-asswards glances at left loves and trod upon gravelly gravel and the shrinking horizons that pass inevitaby out of sight with all the rage and loneliness of sinking ships. Ain’t it funny to think of how the glary red horizon was never anything but an optical illusion that recedes as you approach it anyways, and ain’t it so funnier, still, when you stop grabbing at it, when you start to realize that maybe your horse don’t want to ride off into it with you just yet, cause that’s not the way it’s supposed to end. Even if it’s how you wanted it. How you planned. A horse eats weeds and snorts in his sleep and carries a few shameful dingleberries beneath his glossy tail, but he’s right about this one. Just trust me, cause I suppose what I mean to say is that I have on my own somewhat credible authority that new stuffs is waiting, and all those secondhand thinks are sometimes only just angry roots tripping you up on your way betterwhere.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006 – Fly Your Flag At Queasy Half Mast
Let me just say…
Food poisioning is a bitch. Especially when you give it to yourself. I guess that they really aren’t just trying to scare you when they say that you should thaw frozen seafood and meat out in the fridge as opposed to the kitchen counter. Last night was wicked awful.
Today, in a spate of nostalgia, I tacked a poster of the Korean Peninsula up above my desk. I did it, I guess, for two reasons. One, I want the time that I spent there to be a positive thing in the end, and it’s been hard to let go of my bad feelings about my job and the people I worked for. Two, it is a physical expression of the fact that I’m finally coming to terms with my choice to stay here till January. No big months spent down on the warm, clothing-optional seashores of Mexico and South America, working on my stone and my tan and just hanging out with the hombres and being a bummy kid for awhile. I’m schedule to take the GRE in early December and my life till then will be just mostly about studying, punctuated, of course, by frequent and sometimes protracted benders. Anymore, its been way too much of the latter and way too little of the former, but I’m trying to get it straight. Fuck, it’s so hard to stay focused. I don’t care what anyone says– we’re all ADD, and the hardest part about getting along in life, I think, is learning to hold your focus amidst immense temptation and distraction. I’ve been drinking too hard lately and spending too much money and things felt like they were sliding until I got smacked upside the head with the pukies last night. I awoke this sunny, brain jarring morning with new determination, and, in spite of my aching head and growly belly, I managed to get a shitload done today. So that’s that. No more skulduggery and acerbity… (GRE shoutout) And if all goes as planned, Natalie and I may roadtrip it down to San Fran or Mexico for a week after my GRE’s are finished. Just because we can. Around the first of January, it’s off to Korea for a month of ballbusting it at some winter camp or other that decides to hire me on. Anyone around here unemployed and looking for a way to make a little cash? Come with me. The airfare is paid and I know all the good bars.
posted by Erin @ 9:30 PM 0 Comments
Tuesday, October 24, 2006 – Whorgansimolecule
I wanted to announce that I have precisely nothing to say. Here are some words that I hate:
Here are two words that I like:
I have nothing else to say. Except that I’ve recently decided that I’m starting a new life and only nice people are invited. Just so you know.
posted by Erin @ 11:12 PM 0 Comments
Sunday, October 22, 2006 – Day Of The Crunk
Here are a few pics from the Lewis and Clark Halloween party last night. I was a Greek Goddess, Natalie was a Legal Secretary, Ashley was Cleopatry, Michelle was Heidi and Emily was a demented bumble-bee. I won’t reveal everything that happened over the course of the night, but some bad craziness involving red wine, a costume contest gone awry, and the lamentable theft of a tub of jalapeno-garlic hummus went down… What is it about Halloween? Perhaps the subtle sense of anononymity that a funny costume and a little bit of cheesy makeup affords brings out the worst/best in a person… I’m still not sure, but I do know that my friends are out of control.
posted by Erin @ 10:49 PM 0 Comments
Bang Bang in Anyang
I wrote this when I first got to Korea. I sort of forgot that it existed until now.
Bang Bang in Anyang Fall 2005
Gone to know the place I’ll live, trudge down across the Anyang bridge, the late of day, strutting my way, making my path past cola cups and piles of trash woman in flipflops sells mashed up chestnuts just outside of dunkin donuts’ children pass in dense formation, offering inspiration and asian eyed salutation, man on corner calls yobosayo short form hello then other things I can’t know, I walk I move my short strange form too odd to ignore I push my hair I pull my hat I sit I stand I walk past train tracked edge of land to hear the train cars humming like heartbeats drumming the big cold dark seoul night soon coming I stop for traffic, horn-blasted madness across these 10 lane streets thinking something to eat seconds ticking my feet click clicking way across now up again I stumble and then on past the prison and folks taking snacks at two hamburger shacks my insides screaming abuse and resistance irate at their mismatched and vulgar existence but what is this insistence at something other than consistence I left home to find home and what do you know, same yellow arched dreams, plastic coated and cheap in the seams, the same para siempre, so ok, it’s not what I thought or what I said I hadn’t said a word yet, you see, but something I knew right then already stumbling grim-shadowed down market town alleys all the strangeness and the harshness so gilded and lovely, me still young enough to grin at the twinkle of interstellar gleaming, kicking and screaming at the melodic agony of asian metropolitic byways the signs all lit their vicious colors so bright as shit, it blew my mind cause I wanted to let it, bang bang said the kid as his mom pulled him on, he bored his bored eyes straight into mine, looked left then made the pistol sign, things he knew too much about, cowboys and druglords and monsters, no doubt, a flashback running wayback a tribute to poison air, all of it from some picture from somewhere, but stop, I mean from anywhere, cause I am beginning to see that here is not really so different from there and so ok cause what else could it be, you get away but you can’t leave, not really, not ever, its just this world in all its greenery, all its switches, its machinery, that’s fucking life, I guess, sometimes it could make you cry to drop your bags and let yourself be anywhere long enough to see the truth (you haven’t actually even moved) my grandpa calls it misspent youth but where I’m sat its something else, its more than the comforts we offer ourselves when the news bleeds tears and the checks are all bouncing and the toilets are flooding and the bodies beg counting, more than the moment you up and say fuck this shit, I’m getting away, too proud, too proud, I had to, you might say, a brag aloud, its something besides this easy self satisfied perpetual and glazy eyed view of anything you think you’ve seen, fuck your sharply focused and cracking lens, your immense and intense and carefully constructed version of events, photo documentations, sidewalk sketches and self congratulation, right now, I could be anywhere, you see, this street a piece of anything, paris perhaps, or the gutters of calcutta, and it would be the exactly same. It would be a pain, so beautiful I could not cry. So ok, All just the same. I’ve left before I’ll leave again but I’m planting my feet in that which won’t change.
posted by Erin @ 10:30 PM 0 Comments
Sunday, October 08, 2006 – Portland Rocks My Socks!
Ooooh, ooooh, look at my Portland photos. Colin knows about pictures, so he helped me take the closeup of the full moon. The other one was shot from Lisa’s apartment window as the moon rose. This city is so freakin beautiful.
So the weekend is over… Although anymore most all days feel like sundays. It just occurred to me that I’ve been back in the States for almost a month, now. Weird. I feel like I’ve been stumbling through this sort of no man’s land of sleeping late and getting drunk and studying and doing lots of other random crap and the days are slipping away from me. The long slide into winter is just picking up momentum, but I keep busy so it doesn’t bother me over much. I also spent some time this week with a new friend, Colin. He’s cool, we laugh a lot and I think we’ll get into some good trouble together… But I am a clumsy girl and I fell down the stairs at his house after drinking too much whiskey and cheap beer and managed to give my tailbone a good crackin’. It hurts like all hell and I think I need to buy one of those terrible hemhorroid donut pillow things just so I can sit down! Argh! Anyways, here are a few fun pictures from the weekend. I went out saturday with Ashley, Kelly and Lisa and we became randomly entranced by the blacklight paintings in the hallway of Mt. Tabor Pub on Hawthorne. Unfortunately, they turned out to be the only redeeming quality of the place…
posted by Erin @ 10:19 PM 0 Comments
Friday, October 06, 2006 – Double Trouble
Early yesterday afternoon, my dad’s wife gave birth to a healthy pair of twin babies, which makes me a big sister two more times. It’s a little strange and surreal for me, but life in any capacity is a miracle. Here are some picture of me with my new baby sister, Jacquelin. Oh yeah, I bleached my hair. Again.
posted by Erin @ 4:04 PM 0 Comments
Sunday, October 01, 2006 – Kimchi Is The Devil!
Korean school lunches taste evil and smell like a skanky butthole. I was subjected to them every day for a year and I am resentful. Megan, you know what I mean.
The Aeroplane Over The Sea
I have a thing for attempting to take pictures out airplane windows, and I got lucky with my seat and the weather on the way home from Korea. This was a wicked beautiful sunrise that lasted forever on account of the fact that we were moving in an arc over it. Kinda pretty, eh?
Friday, September 29, 2006- Ends Up I’m At The Beginning
Welcome to blog number whatever………………………
With my harrowing year in Korea now safely behind me and a whole lot of something waiting just ahead, I figured it was as good a time as any to start a new blog. It’s a pretty fall morning and the time felt auspicious so here I am.
To start, I guess I should offer a cursory update for anyone who is interested.
As of today, September the twenty-somethingth in this wicked year of our lord, two-thousand and six, I am….
-back in my hometown of Portland, Oregon
-A newly christened 25
-living back with mom
-not the least bit interested in becoming gainfully EMployed
-officially retiring from the teaching profession
-applying to graduate school programs in Journalism
-finally ok with the fact that I am single
-pleased to announce that life is looking up
When I read back over my Korea blog (www.koreal.blogspot.com), I have to admit that I sound pretty down in the gutter throughout most of the last half of it. I guess that’s because I was. My breakup with Brian last May really kicked my ass and it’s taken me this long to get back on my feet… I think when a breakup is unexpected, you need a few months just to accept the fact that it happened at all before you can even begin to start getting on with things. But I feel at peace with it all by now, at least as much as is possible given the circumstances. Now that I am free again and have the money and the time, I’ve decided to head back to school. I’m scheduled to take the GRE at the end of October and am currently scared shitless over the math portion. I haven’t taken a math class since my junior year of high school and even then I got a D!! Assuming I pass, I’m hoping to get accepted into the Journalism program at the University of Oregon in Eugene, where I want to study News-Editorial or Magazine journalism with a concentration in Photojournalism. This is my dream job because it combines my three favorite things– (NO… NOT white licorice ice cream, poopy jokes and getting wasted, the OTHER 3, silly…)Writing, traveling and taking pictures.
Anyways, I’m not sure what’s going to end up on this blog, but hopefully I’ll be posting some pretty pictures and random thoughts. My trip to South America is temporarily on hiatus cause graduate school applications are actually a whole shitload of work, but I’m sure I’ll do at least one or two semi-interesting things this fall, and in winter I am heading back to Korea to work in the summer camps for 2 months, (yeah, I’m a glutton for punishment, I know) so I’ll have a few stories by then, if nothing else.
Ok, that’s all.
Monday, July 10, 2006 – Where I’m From
Ok, I wrote this when I was lonely and bored in Korea and feeling nostalgic for my home city. Admittedly, it’s a little heavy on the cheese, but, hey…
Where I’m From
Where I’m from it happens easy.
Where I’m from it’s six of one and half a dozen of all the others.
Where I’m from it’s always half past three on a Friday night.
There in my city, we’re all of us 24 going on five, wrestling the world from the edges of creaky barstools, stubbing out rollies and then just doing the whole thing over again.
Where I’m from it’s always only just finished raining.
Where I’m from the big buildings talk bigger games, all bendy and cowing highly
Slapped cleverly into form and scraping upwards, talked into a temporary obscure by pernicious cloud covers of some form or other, all those
Stratus seeming combinations of every none-shade of grayblue,
White puffs needling noiseless path across summer evenings
As if to dispel some thought of early Fall, fighting the shock of another gone away season.
September comes to my city always feeling uncomfortable much like waking up somewhere unexpected, astonished by the miles gathered at your back, like the crowded streets you stormed along in ridiculous youth only half knowing you’d been there at all,
You, then, a flower in vicious bloom, plucked and gathered close against the breast of the pavement, hard-hitting and infinestimal.
Where I’m from its just so downtown even when you’re up near the pearly latched West Hills or budging it through twilight-time Forest Park where all the old trees go to die, ageing roots reach up to trip you like an insult as you wander your way citywards and the air is just so right,
Ambrosial afterthoughts thinking themselves vapid along ever single city block most nights in summer just effortless and serene, little more than days fallen off to sleep in spite of themselves
I miss it hard sometimes-
-slamming the brakes Saturdaymorningwise along some Hawthorne side street to digest vapid clouds of skunky plume just so as to be nicely stoned for big hippie breakfast on the talkier streets, all oatnut toast and tofu-riddled somethings and fair-trade everythings.
And down 2 crooked blocks on Belmont, find the bigtalking harddrinking street kid with the lisp who likes to talk about God or yell We’re all hippies when we’re naked just to see the yippies in their duckies and their dockers stop and stiffen.
All of it like nothing else except the sore backed men gathering long into the morning to push red and black chips at each other across the top of the marble bound checkerboards down at Courthouse Square, where my parents once paid 15 bucks to get my name wrote on a brick. My name– wedged neatly inside a sea of bricks with names, indecipherable.
All of it just something true seeming and lion hearted,
Like the way it rains so big sometimes and in the gathered puddles diesel swirls itself into smeary rainbows so beautiful they half break your granola heart, make you want to buy a dog and learn to compost and maybe stand still with someone you haven’t met but just yet
Every time I land back here I picture it clear–
Us holding eyes or laughing long against the grain
Half turning to toss away the disappointments of twenty-some-odd years of this wrecked living, drowning the beerdrops back into just new, I would settle into him, and this would be my home again, for real this final time.
Where I’m from roads skip one from another all big eyed and full of life,
Every corner nothing but some art filled window or vintage game arcade
Organized chaos in the furthest sense, every bathhouse and concert hall dispelling slowly the myth of ground control, a story we told ourselves to break the uncertainty.
A mess, self-impressed and underdressed, a perfect display.
Where I’m from, finely done youth in thick rimmed glasses and black sleeve tattoos, all filled to the gills with cheap, lovely booze are shouting and yawning beneath dark purple awnings, too full of truth and regret and a dillion jillion nickel-cigarettes, they pour amber ale pitchers down to the empty and stand up to do it again but one street one bar one day over changing scenery only happy to be at all.
I miss them when I’m gone away, miss,
The smell of the big library where the bums go sleeping, like mothball sweaters or winter when I was six,
The co-op cafes,
the gravely gutter serenades
the hapless endless craptastic parades of everyone who felt like it
the anarchists and the hippies and the suits and the gutterpunks and the old dikes with their ties and their defiant hair,
however they are, just doing it fully,
The all you can eat Chinese joints squatted atop used magazine stores
All Paint peels and rickety-ticky-tac constructs
Looking drowsy in the falling light of half-afternoon,
Where seven bucks buy you solitude
And an hour among company as checkered as any plastic tablecover
Plate and plate again of wanton-hearted won-tons that taste of vegetable grease and hope.
Days spent there reading dimestore bits of cowboy lore and furious for the unassuming taste of powder-made icecream cones.
I miss the dusty dusky city
The good whores who go constant on parade
calling and shrieking and stalling their crooked, crooked way across the Burnside bridge, to the place where Benjamin, come straight up from Mexicali on a tilted stumble northwards, sits at dusk, getting drunk and mean, slapping asses and spitting pinches borrachas and que mas, que mas?
Miss streets winding down down to the belly of Old Town where they spit in your eye as you go howling a lonely path gutter-bound
Weeping like a wino all among the cattails and the big rocks,
While barges budge grudgingly by.
The flowers there, like flowers everywhere, really only just weeds we decided were pretty.
I miss the thing of it–
Seeking its opposite, I’ve found only mirrors,
Every single memory a teardrop in reverse.
Miss the big middle where the mighty muddy Willamette goes flowing,
East from there the suburbs rattle and reproduce in evermorediluted generations, shrinking bigger and posturing for rank, assuming everything about most things
Looking for reasons and converts.
Out there trains tumble clickety-clack down greased up tracks way out back behind the houses and the two buck taco shacks along the scrubgrass some hobo or other with his pack and his dreams and his can of baked beans squats aged and half-mean to tease a teepee of scattered twigs into fire as tires float lazy and gray down the whole green lay of that river, so seeming just to whisper, But what can you give her?
I miss it, I do, that sunny little funny little bummy-crummy city,
Honest and sure
Looking to me against all the rest of this world like the Jesus shadow cross some old gray row of dumpsters.
Travel Blog: South Korea.
Saturday, September 30, 2006 – Thoughts In Half Reverse
Well, since I never officially concluded this blog and I have a few spare minutes, I thought I’d offer up a few final thoughts on Korea.
I’ve been back home for almost 3 weeks now and it feels soooo nice to hang out in Portland again. I ended up getting most of the money the company owed me and I’m pretty much over the whole affair by now, although I can still work myself up into a lather if I think about Mr. Khang for longer than a few seconds at a time…
All in all, I am glad I went to Korea. With a little distance and perspective, it has become pretty easy to point to the myriad ways in which the experience helped me to grow as a person, and, for the first time since way before I graduated college, I’m not totally broke. Far from it, in fact. I’ve said it all along– there is a lot to like about Korea and if you are considering taking a teaching job, I’d say go for it, but keep in mind these caveats:
-As is usually the case, offers that sound too good to be true probably are.
-You will probably get docked pay or benefits somewhere along the way– be prepared for this, but…
-a weak, subserviant personality will get you into trouble in Korea. You shouldn’t go if you aren’t comfortable acting as your own advocate and insisting upon receiving what you are owed/promised. I’ve seen it a million times– Korea is a fast paced kinda place and the meek get trampled on.
-DEMAND PAYSTUBS!!!!! And keep clear records of all financial transactions, as well as any agreements or discussions related to your job.
-Seek out a job at a larger, franchised company. The hours are sometimes longer and the quality of work expected from you is of a higher caliber, but the job security you’ll get is definitely worth the payoff.
-Do your research, and don’t just take the first offer that comes along. Trust me, there are thousands (not an exaggeration) of jobs out there.
-If you’re not sure you want to commit to a whole year in Korea, consider working in the summer or winter camps (held, I believe, July-August and January-February). The companies will usually pay housing and airfare and you can get a taste of what a year in Korea really entails.
-Check out eslcafe.com and worknplay.co.kr for some great advice and job offers
-Don’t take a job outside of Seoul or Pusan unless you reeeeeaaaallly like the quiet life. Seoul, especially, is an amazing city and having so much to do and see at my fingertips really made the experience worthwhile.
-If you want to see Korea from the Korean point of view, and meet cool foreigners and English speaking Koreans while you’re at it, check out http://www.adventurekorea.com…. They offer all kinds of really fun and interesting weekend and day trips– everything from bungee jumping, skiing, ice fishing and kayaking to excursions into North Korea. The guides were always well-organized and friendly and they take really good care of you.
-DON’T GET A JOB WITH YEOLLIN GYOSIL IN ANYANG CITY!!!
-Don’t work for anyone named Mr. Kim or Mr. Khang… ha ha, a little Korean humor for you. There are something like 3 million Mr. Khangs and 5 million Mr. Kims in Korea.
-Above all, follow your gut.
I’m ending this blog here, but I’m thinking of starting up a new one to chronicle the aimlessness that is set to characterize the next year or so of my existence. I figure that perhaps someone out there might find the meandering and often cicuitous nature of life as it currently stands for me semi-interesting. I’ve got some big plans in the works, let me tell you, although I ditch them faster than I can make them these days. South America is a big question mark, now, cause preparations for grad school are really quite time consuming and may take longer than anticipated… anyways, that’s all I’ll reveal for now. I’ll post up my new blog address as soon as it exists. And come say hi to me on My Space!!
Thanks for reading! I’ll leave you with a joke, courtesy of my best friend, Lisa, who got it from a jokebook compiled by a guy named Frog down in Eugene:
Why did the toilet paper roll down the hill?
To get to the bottom!
Ok, I’m out.
posted by Erin @ 12:51 AM 0 comments
Tuesday, September 12, 2006 – Korea, Korea, Why Have You Forsaken Me?
Well, the sun has officially set on my last day here in Korea. And, true to form, things ended with quite the bang.
I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say, the office has done their all out best to make me less than sad that I’m leaving tomorrow. It’s too bad, really, that my final impression of such an interesting and friendly place has to be something as ugly and gutwrenching as getting jacked out of an entire month’s pay. Mr. Khang is either a total dimwit, or he was born without a heart. I’m not sure which, but we argued for 3 hours this evening over my final paystub, which was short about 1700 dollars. He was making up the most outlandish stories to explain the deficit– he’d paid me 2 grand in cash last September and I’d just “forgotten” about it. I didn’t work a full year. (My contract went from Sept. 12-Sept 11… ???) I secretly owed him money. It was the stupidest, most painful and frustrating conversation I’ve ever had the misfortune to suffer through. For 3 hours. When I was hungry and nursing the beginnings of the flu, and hadn’t even finished packing for my 8 am departure the morning next. I managed to stay relatively calm, but anyone who has been in a similar bind could tell you that it is next to futile to attempt to sort out a situation with someone if he/she has a stake in keeping things muddled and nonsensical. In the end, I persisted and walked out a mere 500 bucks short. Actually, that’s not quite appropriate– he is wiring the money to my US bank account tomorrow morning, so I walked out as empty handed as I walked in one year ago. The foreign guy who is supposed to take care of us teachers has promised me he’ll see that it’s done, but if that doesn’t happen for some reason, I will not hesitate to buy a plane ticket back here and show up at his door in all my as yet unexpressed rage. It would be cheaper than taking it up the ass, at least…
Moral of the story, kids? Life ain’t fair, and sometimes, as much as it sucks, people will screw you. And not in the pleasant way. I’m still glad I came here, but I’m about ten zillion times gladder to be leaving. My South America trip may have to be abbreviated, swinging the cost of grad school next year may take more doing, but at least I’m ending this year with my health, and most of my heart and mind, in working order. Merely existing has been strain enough these days, but I’m optimistic about what the future holds… At the very least, a long rest, a new haircut (faux-hawk, here I come!) and the newly appreciated company of all the folks I dig the best. I can’t wait to see you guys! Call me at my mom’s: 503-761-2248
So, here’s to the next step. And, of course, the inevitable balancing of dues otherwise known as karma…
posted by Erin @ 9:39 PM 0 comments
Friday, September 01, 2006 – T-Minus About a Week And A Half
I keep dreaming of faces from home.
Family, and friends who may as well be, rising up and materialize before me with these looks of pure joy and love, like they’ve just been waiting for me forever. Or a thousand years, at least, reaching out to grab me and pull me back into the nest. And I wake up wondering, how will I seem to all of them when we really sit down and start talking? Will it feel strange, or awkward? Will I sit uncomfortable on the edge of a barstool and wonder what even to say? And, if so, is there some imminent, stunning moment in which I will suddenly become myself again? Will it hit me with a smack some Friday night in a crowded restaurant, all the clocks banging out the lonely hour of eleven and me just halfway floating up off the chair, the whiskey and the endless progression of miniscule tragedies from this past year far from home—the clogged drains, the crumpled bills stuffed drunken into my back pocket, the spaghetti stains– just vaporizing back into nothing, ceasing to matter? Can I go back to the life I lived before?
Frankly, I doubt it. And really, I’m not sure what going home is supposed to mean. All the so-called experts seem to agree that getting back to what you left is infinitely more wrenching and traumatic than leaving what you left in the first place. Perhaps it is the crushing realization that what you’re coming back to hasn’t changed, but you have, your pegs squaring themselves so irrevocably much in the protracted absence of all those easy circles. Or perhaps it is the converse—things shifting so completely in your absence as to be unrecognizable upon return. Either way, it doesn’t worry me over much. I mean, if you stop and really think about it, you don’t really have to move to a country on the other side of the planet for your whole life to change. Sometimes standing still can feel like the fastest train of them all. Sometimes when you don’t choose, that’s the choice, sometimes when you feel paralyzed you are actually moving way too fast for your own good.
Maybe that’s why I came to Korea in the first place… why I took off for Thailand and got myself into that mess of messes, why I spent my 24th year wandering around Mexico. Maybe its cause ever since college I’ve felt a little jumbled and vague, wanting things to sort themselves out, wishing all the pieces of my newly christened adulthood would roll a little more effortless into their proper slots, like pennies and nickels and dimes dropped careless into one of those junky coin sorting machines you can get at executive gift shops. Wanting it to be easy like it was for my sister, wanting everything and everyone one to just hold the fuck on so I could think for a minute, wanting my grand purpose to unveil itself before me and then, perhaps, writhe in ecstasy at my feet, just begging for me to pick it up and get started already. Wanting that, but instead always drinking too hard, never having enough money, listening countless hours to my car rattling and wheezing its way across the traffic just to get to one of any number of jobs I despised. Overfed and underpaid.
How much is that is your run-of-the-mill, “it happens to all of us”, mid-twenties slump, and how much of it means I’d been doing something wrong? I’m not sure. What I do know is that when I’m far away from home, when I’m alone, when I’m awkward and confused and the only white person for miles, well, I feel safer, somehow, and not nearly so lost or precarious. Tangled languages and wary locals and ridiculously improbable public transit systems, I can do. Squat toilets and e coli poisoning and feet too big even for size extra-large shoes, I can do. Give me robbed, give me exhausted, give me a deserted train station at 2 am with the drunken hoboes closing in, and I’ll figure it out. But set me down on any street in my hometown and everything gets much, much harder. Tell me apply for a job at a temp agency and I start to sweat. Ask about insurance bills, credit cards, personal loans, long-term plans, higher education, and I’ll involuntarily retaliate by either going out and getting wasted or finding myself a good corner, sitting down, and rocking catatonically.
Is my preference for the non-familiar escapist? A lashing out against my sheltered upbringing? A refusal to grow up? I’d like to argue not. You see, I used to be afraid it was any one of those things, but not these days, mainly because of the fact that one of the first and most shattering thoughts that hits me each time I leave home again is that it feels like I’ve just woken back up. Like I’ve been sleeping dirt-hard ever since the last time I was gone, like I pulled the covers back up over my head some rainy Tuesday the September I turned 21 and still haven’t woken up. All of my days the shadings of some bizarre and elaborate dream that never ends and signifies nothing.
I don’t like that feeling, but about the only thing I like less is not feeling it, cause that often seems to mean that I’ve started to doze again. If I could have one single wish in this lifetime, I think it would be to wake up and not go back to sleep until I’m dead. And what I’ve found is that travel gets me close. It affords me a certain clarity of thought and purity of mind that is truly unimaginable when you’re just sitting on a couch back home eating a tuna sandwich, or cursing the rain, the bounced checks, the dead brown spots in your lawn. The days slip away here, too, don’t get me wrong. But they are rarely easy and never meaningless. They are victories, each and every one. They can’t help but be.
It seems to me that we are destroying and creating ourselves, and our chosen realities, constantly, no matter where we are. Putting on and discarding coats and hats of every color as we live out our lives, seeing what fits, feeling stunned or amazed at how right or wrong we turn out to be, watching those around us getting caught up in stories of their own, bouncing up against each other and then swimming away like helium balloons on an indecisively windy day. I just seem to create better versions of myself when I’m as far from home as I can get.
Truth is, I do think it’s easier to leave. All that empty space stretching ahead of you feels somehow limitless in the scope of its possibility. Everything you don’t know but will come to know spread out ahead of you, still a blank. No mistakes yet. No regrets, no bitter ends to chew over. Nothing. Yet.
I’ve never known a single other thing on this earth feels quite so terrifying, or so life-affirming, as the leap into your chosen abyss. Cause in spite of what your screaming brain is telling you, you don’t hit the rocks. You gaze into the blackness rising up to meet you and you figure it out; acknowledge the futility and the mystery and the impossibility of the whole thing, and then you find a way. I just freaking love that feeling. Perhaps I am addicted to it by now.
That said, I can’t wait to get home. It’s still a week-and-a-half away, but already my belly is a knot of excitement. Already, I’m packed. And, that said, in way, I’ve already half-turned to go again. And, that said, I must offer a warning in advance that, in spite of myself, I really can’t stay long.
posted by Erin @ 7:14 PM 2 comments
Sunday, August 20, 2006 – Thoughts From The Quarter-Century Mark
Today is my 25th birthday. So. Yeah. I don’t really know what to say with regards to that except I am more than ready to close the book on 24. I’ve got some high hopes for my last year in the 18-25 age bracket. At the very least, I’ll do some traveling and stuff, get back into writing on a regular basis, enjoy time with friends and family in the States and beyond.
It was a good day. I hung out with my new friend, John from Vermont. Although he’s often drunk and is prone to outrageously implausible claims about his home state, I still kind of like him. (Ha ha, just kidding on both accounts if you ever read this, John…) We ate spaghetti and pizza and wandered around Gangnam, a cool neighborhood in Seoul. I felt a sense of peace and happiness that has eluded me these past months. Things are starting to wind down for me, although life is simeltaneously getting more hectic as well as I prepare for departure. I am slightly incapacitated by all I have to get done and so I cope with the stress by laying in bed and reading romance novels, or giggling over the insipidity of any random reality television show. I suppose today is my birthday, though, so I can be forgiven, at least, for my laziness this one instance.
The end of this mini-era has me feeling a little philosophical and nostalgic. A lot of blank time is up ahead for me, and while that doesn’t bother me too much, I know I’ll miss the Korea bubble. Life is so incredibly difficult here, but it is also so unbelievably simple in other ways. The good always comes with the bad, but sometimes I guess it’s hard to see one for preoccupation with the other. I am resolved in the future to keep my eyes open to both, even when things get muddy. Although my job left too much to be desired, I’ve met some great people and learned so much about myself during my year in Seoul. A lot of that learning was bittersweet, but I know that I’m a wiser person for it, and how can that be bad in the end? My great insight for the year has to be that things never get easier– they only change– and if you can let go of wanting to become pure, or less flawed, or transcendentally wise, and accept instead that what all this endless cycling from good to bad and back again gets you is to simply be different, changed, stronger, then, well, you are on your way. We as humans are small and insatiable and sometimes painfully weak. We falter. We lie. We crave. We can’t be saved. But the good news and the grand secret is that it never fucking mattered in the least– we don’t need to be saved. We are perfect creations never the less– whole and entirely forgiven already. Upon realizing this all that remains is the mighty task of forgiving, and saving, ourselves.
posted by Erin @ 9:25 PM 0 comments
Saturday, July 29, 2006 – Gonna See The Folks I Dig
It’s implausibly early on a Saturday. As I write this, the monsoon season is coming to a dramatic and rather soggy close outside my window. 3 days straight it’s rained in sheets so heavy and thick that you end up soaked even with an umbrella and a jacket, even if you run. Behind me, I’ve got my luggage all laid out, a half-accomplished mess of clothes and hats and bottlecaps and seashells and liquor and a million other random souvenirs and artifacts from the last 12 months. In a half hour, I’m going to drag it all down the stairs and get a cab to the airport. I’m so excited for my visit to Portland, even if it’s going to be short.
The other news is that I’m not staying on at my job. Not for 2 extra months as I’d initially decided, and not for 6 extra months as I’d recently decided. I was unable to negotiate a deal with my boss and I think the remainder of my time here (a little over a month more) is going to be uncomfortable as a result. The company begged me to stay (mr. Kim literally got down on his knees and clasped his hands together in prayer fashion), offered me a bunch of pay/living incentives, then, after I agreed, developed a mysterious type of memory loss I like to call “greed amnesia”. Mr. Khang acted completely insulted when I asked for a 200$ pay raise (which would make my salary commesurate with what everyone else is already making ANYWAY) and an apartment that wasn’t an hour’s commute from my school. I felt that my requests were perfectly reasonable, but apparently I was in the minority. The whole thing was upsetting and frustrating and I’m feeling lost as to what the future holds. All I want is to work and save up some money for school or whatever it is that lays ahead.
At any rate, I am going to be back in beautiful, hopefully sunny, Portland Oregon in less that 24 hour’s time! I am so happy…
What can I say? I feel more lost than most these days but at least all the trouble and confusion are of the immensely interesting variety. Or so I try and tell myself. And how’s this for apt and dimestore novel cheesy? The rain just stopped. See a bunch of you soon.
posted by Erin @ 8:59 AM 1 comments
Wednesday, July 12, 2006 – More Photos from the Red North
Here’s me in front of a huge mural of the 2 Dear Leaders near the hotel. I got in trouble for wandering over by myself and ended up getting a red flag waved at me by a soldier with a sour frown and a big old gun. Right on cue, 2 hotel doormen/guards came sauntering over, took my camera away and proceeded to make me feel very very uncomfortable as they scanned through my picures, grabbed my butt, and forced me to stand in front of the monument for a photo op. This might explain why I look so pissed off in the photo. The other picture was in front of a toilet on Mt. Geumgeong. Apparently, it costs a buck if you have to pee, 2 bucks if you have to poop. I’m not sure how they enforce such a rule, but in a country as paranoiac and intrusive as NK, I’m sure they find a way.
posted by Erin @ 11:05 PM 0 comments
Here are a few typical propaganda monuments. You see these everywhere, and from what I can surmise from talking to our tour guide and my very basic Hangul reading abilities, they say stuff along the lines “Praise the Dear Leader Kim Jong Il, long live The Dear Leader Kim Jong Il”, etc, etc, and a bunch of other super Orwellian stuff. They are actually pretty massive, which I’m not sure you’ll be able to tell from the photos. You get fined 20 bucks for touching them or acting in an irreverent manner around them, and saying either of the Dear Leaders’ (former or current) names aloud is a HUGE NONO. I found out the hard way.
posted by Erin @ 10:56 PM 0 comments
Photos from the Red North
Ok, I know I promised an entry about my trip to North Korea, but life is insanely busy right now and my elbows hurt too much to type extensively tonight ( in Tae Kwon Do class, we are learning to use nun-chucks, or however you spell it, and I am a bit spastic and violent with them…) So I thought I’d at least post a few favorite photos. First off, here’s me with my ID badge. There was a laundry list of fines associated with badge misconduct. 20 buck fine for forgetting to wear it. 20 buck fine for getting it wet. 20 buck fine for bending it, etc. Weirdness. I was a little spazzy the day after getting home. I kept jumping up at random intervals, thinking, “Oh, shit, I’m not wearing my ID!!” A strange experience, among many strange experiences.
posted by Erin @ 10:47 PM 0 comments
Monday, July 10, 2006 – Back from North Korea
Well, gang, I’m back, and you are never gonna believe the weekend I’ve had. I need to go eat lunch so the full synapsis will have to be posted later, as well as some bizarre photos, but suffice it to say the weekend was easily, effortlessly the most bizarre and Orwellian event of my life. Imagine looking behind your hotel room mirror and finding a bug hidden against the wall that has been carefully recording your every word. Imagine stony-eyed, fully armed guards with red flags standing stock still around every corner, poised motionless along the roadside or atop small hills every 100 feet or so, waiting to raise their red flags and wreak havoc if you so much as make one false move. Imagine passing below massive propaganda slogans carved into rocky hillsides proclaiming undying love for the “Dear Leader”. Imagine hotel guards grabbing your butt, taking your camera away, and ushering you aggressively towards a giant mural of Kim Jong Il and his father, where they insist on photographing you. Imagine passing through the almost unbelievably tense border where soldiers sit behind prop computer monitors which don’t actually work, eyeing you suspiciously… Imagine being greeted by a frantically waving man in a giant bear costume as you take your first hesitant steps into the world’s last Stalinist stronghold. Imagine all this and you will start to get an idea. More later on today…
posted by Erin @ 12:03 PM 0 comments
Friday, July 07, 2006 – When Life Goes South, It’s Time to Head North…. Way North
Ok, gang, I’m off to North Korea for my weekend tour. There has been some general nervousness bouncing around with regards to the fact that The Dear Leader chose the week of my visit, of all possible weeks, to test launch his big, bad missiles, but I’ve been assured that I can trust the discretion of my tour leaders and I know the company well enough to believe that they wouldn’t land me or anyone else in a sticky spot. Besides, way I see it, if the poo hits, I’d rather find myself in the place where the missiles are being launched from than the place where they’re being aimed, eh?? Oh, that’s in poor taste… But take a second-hand think about it…. It’s kinda true.
I’m about to spend all night a bus and today was looooong as it is. Misfortune abounded at work– the travel agent I booked my ticket to Portland with pulled a fast one on me and my ticket’s gonna cost over double what she quoted. Yeah. I cried when I found out and my co-teacher didn’t know how the heck to deal with me all teary and swearing and inconsolable. Then, an hour later, a student became so upset at losing a game that he vomited. This is the THIRD FREAKIN TIME in less than a year. Why? WHY? I get stuck cleaning it, too, so you’d better believe I’m quick as a flash with that garbage can by now. I’ve developed puke-dar… anyways…. I gotta go sit for like a dillion hours.
Wish me luck! I’ll behave, I promise. Really, I will. Seriously. Hopefully, I’ll come back Sunday night with some strange photos and even stranger stories. And perhaps a few bottles of NK’s special blackberry liquor… Ok, I’m gone.
posted by Erin @ 9:31 PM
Hey, I just made up a joke.
Why did the sea sponge hate the clam?
Because he was shellfish!!!
Ok, forgive me, I am sitting home alone on a Friday night and amusement is scarce. Actually, I’d like to qualify that statement with a second statement: I am not a total social reject and I did have the option to go out, but I’ve decided to take a weekend, or at least an evening, off from downtown Seoul. Isn’t it funny how sometimes the prospect of passing an evening drinking, meeting random and often unsavory people, dancing, spending lots of money, inhaling 10 cubic liters of secondhand cigarette smoke and getting home at a completely ridiculous hour can sound so appealing, and yet at other moments you want nothing more than to stay home, watch bad TV and eat crackers in bed??
Life is all a game of balance, I am beginning to find, and I’ve tipped the scales practically over themselves with the partying, lately. Why is it so hard to be good? These past few days I’ve been fantasizing about living on a commune in India come the fall. Seriously. I want to wear tye-dye and give everybody 20-minute hugs and eat lentils and dig up weeds and just be ludicrous and joyful and free. Live my way towards something simple and true. Ah, well, Korea has her latent charms, and, really, the weekend’s only just beginning. Forget about next November, who the hell even knows where I’ll be by Sunday?
posted by Erin @ 10:25 PM 1 comments
Tuesday, June 27, 2006 – HI-YA!
So I have a test to move up to red belt in Tae Kwon Do in just about an hour and I’m feeling nervous, which reminded me that I never posted any photos of me and Megan in Tae Kwon Do class. These were taken a few months back when we were lowly white belts, but if all goes well tonight, I will be getting a red belt with my name embroidered on it by early next week. I’m pretty excited– we’ve been at this 4-5 nights a week for quite awhile, now, and it is looking like I may be able to get to black belt before I finish out my time in Korea. Anyways, hope you find these amusing.
posted by Erin @ 7:03 PM 0 comments
Monday, June 26, 2006 – I have seen the future… And it looks blurry.
So I actually managed to create something productive out of yet another sleepless night. As per usual, I found myself lying awake at around half past 2 last night, staring at the ceiling and listening to a drunken Korean couple fighting out in the alleyway next to my window. I have lately been somewhat unsettled by the fact that I have no idea what direction my life will take after I finish up here next fall. All the plans I construct for myself seem to crumble faster than a sandcastle back into the sea, but this one seems a little weightier and perhaps more realistic, if not a bit hectic and ridiculous. Here’s my general plan, subject to much change, of course:
-Attempt by some feat of mad human endurance to actually work 2 months PAST the end date of my contract in order to get a little more cash saved, thus finishing up here in Korea sometime around the first of November.
-Go on a month-long package tour around India. (yeah, yeah, call me lame and an insult to intrepid sensibilities, but I’m tired and I want to see lots of cool stuff while taking a break from being in charge for awhile.)Intrepid Travel has some great looking trips which have you all over the place and are incredibly cheap. After finishing said tour, stay till Christmas basking on the world-renouned beaches of Goa, India, a vegetarian, hippie-infested pseudo-paradise with crazy raves, white sand beaches, perennial warmth, and lots of good culture. Or so I’ve heard, I haven’t researched it heavily, yet.
-Head to Portland for a long holiday catching up with loved ones, and some of my family, too… that was a joke, by the way. I miss my family so much and can’t wait to spend some quality time. Also, head to Washington DC to spend some of the holidays with Ryann and Alex, plus his family, of course.
-January through May are currently wide open for whatever comes along. Yeah, it’s a huge hole which must be filled, probably with work or studying for the GRE, but let’s not think about that, shall we??
-May: Celebrate my little sis Ashley’s graduation with a backpacking trip to Egypt, Lebanon and perhaps Turkey and some of the Grecian isles. I always swore I’d get back to Corfu, Greece, at some point to relive my glory days as a toga-draped, ouzo-drenched derilect at the Pink Palace Backpacker Resort. This could be my only chance before I get old and it’s not so funny as it is sort of pathetic, you know. Just kiddin….
-Summer 2007: Head back to Korea and spend the summer working in the English camps to replenish my cash supply a bit.
-Fall 2007: Possibly attend grad school(I’m dreaming of the Applied Linguistics Program at Berkeley), but if that doesn’t happen, maybe head to Japan for a 4 month teaching stint at a University in some neon-riddled corner of wherever’s clever.
-December 2007: Emmmm….. Not sure.
So that’s a vague plan. I’m sure it will become completely obsolete by next week, given my proclivity for making outrageously declarative but rarely well-thought-out postulations concerning my future plans.
Who knows what life has in store for me? I just hope it’s fun, challenging, and not quite so riddled with twists and turns as this past year has been. I’m ready to kiddie-ride-it a little while, you know?
posted by Erin @ 7:06 PM 1 comments
Sunday, June 25, 2006 – Pass me the Quaaludes, would you?
So, sad news. Korea lost out to Switzerland in their third World Cup matchup. I watched the trainwreck from a beerstained blanket in the crowded pit of Anyang’s World Cup Stadium, surrounded by thousands of screaming Koreans. At 4am in the morning. It was pretty surreal and strange and I must admit I passed out a short while into the game and was only conscious for random intervals. What can I say? I’d been out all night and the cumulative effects of almost 2 months of no sleep are starting to catch up. I don’t know what my problem is anymore. I have wicked insomnia and am lucky to sleep 5 hours on those nights when I actually attempt anymore. But woe is me, it’s really all ok. I hear that the whiskey-eyed, hangdog look is back in this year. Ha ha, just kidding. Here are some photos.
posted by Erin @ 12:42 PM 0 comments
How I’m Doing
“Zurich is Stained” by Pavement
I can’t sing it strong enough
it’s that kind of strength I just don’t have
if you watch the lights change
don’t hold them hanging
you think it’s easy, but you’re wrong
I’m not one half of the problem
Zurich is stained and it’s not my fault
just hold me back or let me run
so what does it mean, a mistake or two
if it’s the kind of mistake no one can trace
to the fountain where we sold it
and held them hanging
you think it’s easy, but you’re wrong
I’m not one half of the problem
Zurich is stained and it’s not my fault
just hold me back or let me run
you think it’s easy, but you’re wrong
I’m not one half of the problem
Zurich is stained and it’s not my fault
just hold me back or let me run
posted by Erin @ 12:39 PM 0 comments
Friday, June 16, 2006 – Paranoia
In preparation for my trip to North Korea, I’ve been given a list of rules regarding my conduct during the visit. Thought they were sort of Orwellian and interesting:
Rules for Entry into North Korea
① Mobile phones and other communications devices are not permitted.
Cameras with telephoto lenses of more than160mm and binoculars with
zooming capabilities of 10 times or more are banned. All electronic
equipment must be checked at the Guemgang Condo before departing for
North Korea. This includes all cameras, battery chargers, PDAs,
video cameras, notebook computers, calculators & CDP, and MP3 players.
② Newspapers and magazines from South Korea aren’t permitted. You are
allowed to bring personal reading material but please take the subject
matter into consideration.
③ You must ALWAYS wear your ID (you will get this before you arrive in NK)
around your neck. You will be fined if it lost or damaged.
④ Must carry your passport and ID with you at all times.
⑤ You are not permitted to bring alcohol or other food items into North Korea.
⑥ Washing hands and/or feet is not allowed in the fresh water springs (fine is $15).
Also, please be aware of the NO SMOKING areas and do not leave cigarette butts on ground.
⑦ Do not take any natural objects(such as rocks)
⑧ Only US dollars and credit cards are accepted.
⑨ There are many large rocks with engraving done by the government. Do not touch
or lean on these rocks.
⑩ You may speak with the North Korean people that you meet, but you may not
take random pictures of them, including pictures from inside the bus. In addition,
please be careful of the conversation topics when speaking with North Koreans.
DO NOT talk about politics, diplomatic relations, economics and other such sensitive issues.
The paranoia is catching, it seems– I’m hesitant to write anything negative about NK on here, even. What if they read it and, labelling me a detractor and a threat to national security, whisk me away in the night? I had a nightmare similar to that right before I moved to Korea, actually. Hopefully it wasn’t prophetic…
posted by Erin @ 11:46 AM 0 comments
Wednesday, June 14, 2006 – DAE HAN MIN GUK!
I been thinkin…
It’s a funny thing, perspective. We view the world around us through a lens shaped and focused almost entirely by our physical location– where on this funny little planet we happen to have landed at any given moment matters so much in determining how we interpret life, and how we decide what is important. There is constant distortion. I mean, do you ever wonder what’s on the news in, say, Papa New Guinea? Or Timbuktu? What people are talking and worrying and wondering about there? Chances are, it would surprise you.
As many of you(excepting most of my soccer-dumb American brethren) must know, it is World Cup time once again. Korea, like practically every other country on the planet, has worked itself up into quite the frenzy in preparation for the event. Everyone– from 80 year old ajumahs to the prissy salesladies at my neighborhood department store– is decked out in all manner of red jerseys and bandannas all emblazoned with hilarious Konglish phrases such as “Korea fighting for our dreams” “Again Korea” and, bizarrely on a bartender I met last night, “Jack together Korea” (insert your own dirty allusion here, I know you were thinkin it…), It’s all my students can talk about. It’s all my boss can talk about.
The madness culminated in Korea’s first match yesterday evening. The hard hittin Reds beat Togo 2-1 (nevermind that Togo was laboring under the massive disadvantage of an absent coach– he quit like a week ago) and the victory was rung in with a racocous drunken jubilance the likes of which I’ve yet to witness much anywhere else. I had my place in the wave of seismic proportions, having spent the evening watching the matchup on a giant screen set up at a park in Suwon. There were a thousand people there, easy, and millions (not hyperbole, either, here) more poured into downtown Seoul to cheer the team on near city hall. It was great fun and I am really sort of becoming a soccer nut. I mention this with regards to perspective, though, because you scarcely hear a word about the World Cup in The States. I told my dad it was on and he seemed to half recall hearing mention of it somewhere or other. One friend responded to my mention of the World Cup with something along the lines of, “That’s soccer, right?”
A year ago, I wouldn’t have thought any such comments to be strange, but from where I’m currently at, they read pretty nutty. World Cup is literally all I see and hear about these days. Foreigners and Koreans alike are going nuts, painting their faces with red and blue swirlies, slapping those cheesy removable tattoos on all over the place, running all over town shouting “Dae Han-Min-Guk!”, this year’s victory catch phrase. No one is sleeping cause the time difference from Germany (where the cup is held this year) has all the games on late and of course everyone is constantly getting hammered, cause, let’s face it, sports spectatorship and beer guzzling just go so well. That, at least, seems to be a universal. Anyways, last night was a blast. I went with my new partner in crime, Gareth, and a bunch of his friends, and we had a rip roarin time which involved tons of bad craziness, lots of cheap Korean beer, and about 20 trips to the bathroom of a sushi restaurant across the street from the park. I’ll keep you all posted on Korea’s rank.
posted by Erin @ 7:06 PM 0 comments
Friday, June 09, 2006 – North Korea, here I come!
I’m going to North Korea! Last December, I visited the Demilitarized Zone that marks the neutral divison between the North and South, but this is so much cooler. Megan and I have found a real, actual weekend trip to the North and we are signing up today. I am so excited– I’d heard that Americans weren’t allowed into the country and so this is a real surprise. Naturally, any trip into the world’s last Stalinist Stronghold is going to be rather strictly coordinated, but we are going to meet some North Koreans and, get this…. Go see a circus. Talk about the world’s most surreal experience– watching North Korean acrobats twirl around a stage almost completely darkened by the symbolic shadow of unarguably the world’s most insane dictator. The list of rules for our conduct in the North is lengthy and reads like something out of an Orwell novel. We can’t bring any reading material from South Korea, or cell phones, or binoculars. We have to check all other electronics at the hotel and can’t venture outside unaccompanied. We can only pay with US Dollars. (I read somewhere that the government funds this huge counterfeiting operation. There are literally massive factories that do nothing but pump out fake US money. Isn’t that hilariously bizarre?)Anyways, I am stoked. I have to go be a teacher, so I’ll end this here.
posted by Erin @ 12:30 PM 0 comments
Wednesday, June 07, 2006 – The Art of Being Yourself
Here are a few more pictures from flowfestival. It’s interesting… the whole idea of the subculture is very new to Koreans and it’s still pretty rare to see punks or hippies, or even tattoos, unless you’re near a university. I loved this Korean guy with the mohawk– his enthusiasm and energy seemed so pure, somehow. All kinds of hippies and crazy-looking Koreans showed up at the festival and it made me lonely for the easy, permissive diversity that seems to define Portland. Freaks of the world, unite!!!!
posted by Erin @ 11:52 AM 0 comments
Karma to Burn
Once again, I’ve let a ridiculous amount of time lapse between my postings. What can I say, I am quite busy these days. The weather is warm and all kinds of stuff is going on here in Korea. Since I last wrote, I’ve gotten myself into all kinds of trouble including but not limited to:
-a 2 day templestay at The Lotus Lantern Temple in Onsu which involved lots of chanting, quiet meditation and 108 prostrations at 4 AM. The abbot was this amazing man who has only just recently emerged from a 23 year meditation. Seriously. 23 years. He took us for a walk in the countryside and on the way he made me a bracelet out of wildflowers and nicknamed me “Miss Ohm” in reference to the tattoo on my right arm. I also found out that I am forbidden to enter the Korean Buddhist Monastery as a nun because of my tattoos and ear piercings. Who knew? We had some great talks with the temple inhabitants about Buddhism and I feel like I learned so much. I am hoping to go back as a volunteer sometime, soon.
-A trip with Megan to Gangchon for camping and FlowFestival 2006, a teeny and very eclectic music festival with all kinds of DJ’s a a few very cool Korean ska bands. I got lots of great photos, danced like a fool for 2 days, and met a cool kid from South Africa. (Shoutout to Gareth– here’s to drunkenness and cruelty!)
-An arsekicker of a hike at Korea’s largest National Park, Seoraksan. Megan and I climbed Ulseonbawi (I’m sure I massacred the spelling on that one, but I am lazy and don’t feel like looking it up)which culminated in a mad scramble up this crazy rock outcropping that spit us out at the practical tippity-top of God’s green earth. Getting there was quite involved: we had to climb these endless sets of slippery and very steep metal staircases near the top. I had wicked vertigo and banged my shins up good, but the view was well worth it. Our Tae Kwon Do class had us well prepared, I guess, cause we weren’t even sore the next day. Funny thing was, this was one of the easy hikes…
Otherwise, I’ve been out a lot getting myself into funny trouble and meeting new people and trying to maintain at least a semblance of enthusiasm with regards to my job. I am going to try and stick it out 2 extra months here, just cause I need the cash and I think I could probably force myself to stand it just a little longer. I am hoping to spend some time in India before I head home, as well. Anyone interested in joining me? I found a great group tour (I’m feeling lazy and want someone else to plan everything for me) that looks cheap and well run and then I’m going to go hang out on the beaches in Goa until Christmas, at which point your collective dreams come true and I return to Portland for a long visit.
Well, I am supposed to be planning lessons, so I guess I should spend at least a fraction of my morning on that. Hope you enjoy the pics.
The oh-so-sick, “pick and flick”
On the busride home yesterday, it was my unhappy fate to be seated next to the world’s grossest man. Seriously, this guy deserves a freakin medal. Here is a list of the several crimes against decency he committed while seated next to me:
-The display started off with 7 minutes or so of nose picking. He picked with an astonishingly shameless gusto and didn’t seem to care that everyone within 5 feet of him was visibly revolted. Now, we all see people sneak a little pick once in awhile, especially during the cold season, and while it is invariably unpleasant to witness, I do give people about a 5 second grace period. You know, get in and get out, quickly and inconspicuously, if you really just can’t wait. I can deal with that. What I cannot deal with is a person who picks out of boredom. Like…. Oh, I forgot my book, my cell phone’s dead. Guess I’ll dig boogers out of my nose to pass the time. Cause that’s really what he was doing. He didn’t just pick and flick, but spent inexorbinate amounts of time examining the retrieved boogers, then rolled them between his thumb and pointer finger and finally flung them to the floor. Gross, gross, gross!
-When he had finally finished removing every possible speck of snot and booger material from his nasal cavity, he angled his body towards me and began to cough violently. Did he cover his mouth? No. Did he turn away so the bacteria-laced spittle would land somewhere neutral, say, the back of the seat? No. Did he apologize for spraying me with probably a dillion different germs? No. Instead, he farted. Or, at least I think he did, cause a horrible smell rose up from the seat and I thought I was going to asphyxiate.
-By the time this final atrocity had concluded, I could not keep the disgust from my face and was seriously struggling not to turn around and slap him. I mean, this was a fully grown, clearly competent man dressed in a nice suit. Not some mentally ill person who didn’t know better. Not a kid. Just a guy who… didn’t. Give. A shit. The worst part was that I couldn’t get away from it because I was sitting on the inside of the seat and to excuse myself would have meant touching him on the way out. Thank God he got off the stop before mine.
The moral of this story? People are gross. That’s really all.
posted by Erin @ 6:38 PM 1 comments
Monday, May 15, 2006 – I think I found the horn! Wait…
Ok, I have to err on the side of bad taste and post this picture. It’s a blow up likeness of a giant unicorn which kept inflating and deflating at highly pivotal moments of last Sunday’s Unicorns baseball game ostensibly, I am assuming, to rally the crowd into a frenzy of support and anticipation. I guess it worked, but all any of us foreigners kept wondering was how come the unicorn had a giant green tube sticking out from between his legs. I mean, come on…
posted by Erin @ 7:26 PM 0 comments
Early Summer Antics
Here are a few pictures from some recent nights out!
Here’s a picture of me, Tonya, Megan, and Blake, a random JAG army guy we met in Itaweon. The next is Eileen and I having a drink at the Rockssin in Anyang. The last is a photo of a bunch of us at a baseball game in Suwon last weekend. We were celebrating Tonya’s birthday. And get this– the team was named “The Unicorns”. Can you honestly think of a less masculine, less fitting name for a sweaty bunch of minor league baseball players? All the same, we had a good time drinking beers and enjoying the sunshine.
posted by Erin @ 7:17 PM 0 comments
…Not for all the Ginseng and grapeseed lotion in the world…
Well, I haven’t written anything in awhile, now, cause I’ve had a lot going on and haven’t really felt up to the task. As many of you know by now, Brian and I called it quits a few weeks ago. It wasn’t really my choice and so I’m pretty bummed. And surprised. Of course this isn’t really the place to get into it, but feel free to send me letters, gifts, flowers, and any other tokens of sympathy which you deem appropriate.
Moving onwards, today was Teacher’s Day and I am definitely adding this holiday onto the list of strange non-Western traditions that I don’t completely, really understand. From what my co-teacher told me, the majority of Korean parents have historically used this holiday to butter up teachers with lavish gifts of money and expensive goods, to the point where some teachers were recieving the equivalent of hundreds of dollars from enterprising mothers looking for a leg up. Although bribery makes the world go ’round here in Korea at most every level of society, the government deemed this too much and made it “illegal” for public servants to accept gifts. Many still do, and some schools have tried to combat the unsavory practice by cancelling classes on Teacher’s day. Did I get so lucky? Um, nope.
Considering the fact that the parents of my students are often very stand-offish (-one woman chewed me out last Friday for telling her daughter “good job” on an assignment when she had, in fact, made the egregious error of spelling “bowl” “b-w-o-l”. Silly me.)I didn’t expect any great shakes, but the ol’ “claw and brownnose your way to the top” spirit came through and I ended up with a large pile of random gifts on my desk by day’s end. The presents included a large box of sliced ginseng, several expensive lotions and soaps from designer department stores, an expensive skin treatment kit, a Korean good luck charm, flowers, candy, and socks.
On the way home, I asked my co-teacher what her haul had been. She politely explained to me that she didn’t yet know, because she had hidden the incoming presents from the childrens’ view and wasn’t going to open them until she was in the privacy of her own home. Apparently, this tradition cuts both ways– those mothers who don’t give gifts often later accuse teachers of favoring the students whose parents did grease the wheels. So I guess I messed up by making such an appreciative display of the presents, and I will probably hear about it later. Man. It’s so hard to figure out all this cultural stuff. I’m sure it’s just as confusing for Koreans who come to the U.S., cause all of these weird social customs happens so far below the tangible radar.
Not that I judge Koreans for their love of the craftily planned “gift”. I realized awhile back that the US is something of an anomaly in that bribes are not a widely accepted means of getting things done. Sure, it happens, but I’ll tell ya, the entire infrastructures of other countries, especially Asian ones, seem to verily depend on it. Even in Mexico, I always got stuck paying off the border patrol police for really dumb reasons. (IE, the woman who was supposed to stamp my visa on the way into Belize was smoking a cigarette and couldn’t be bothered to stub it out, so she waved me through and then I got chewed out on the way back in cause I didn’t have an exit stamp and had to toss the guy 40 bucks. lame!) Even in Prague, the cops showed up at the hostel I was staying in one night and began accusing all of the guests of smoking weed, and demanded hush money. (No one was, but these were some big, burly Eastern-European dudes and so we didn’t argue. I heard later that the Czech police force is like the 14th most corrupt in the world.) However, the gold medal would have to go to the Lao immmigration officials I dealt with after getting robbed in the jungle on Christmas morning. The path to my eventual and blessed crossing back into Thailand across the friendship bridge was paved with countless small bribes and tricks. I pawned a watch, paid a guy at the consulate 80 bucks for a two-sentence “letter of explanation”, which they insisted I needed and yet was never asked to produce for anyone, ever, and eventually had to pass 20 more bucks to the man working at the exit stamp window. I’ll never forget it… This guy, sitting there on the other side of the window in an ugly, olive-drab office, his blue shirt sticking to him in the tropical heat, a nickle cigarette hanging from his mouth. Right there on the counter, so close I could have reached out and grabbed it, was the little rubber exit stamp and accompanying pad. “Sorry, Miss,” he smiled. “Maybe wait many, many days.” And me, a 200,000 kip note folded awkwardly in my palm, smiling back and wondering aloud if there wasn’t “any possible way to get back sooner”…
As an American, I definitely approach the whole thing with a very small measure of ease and grace. It just feels so strange… And now that I’ve spent a day on the receiving end, I am even less sure of how it makes me feel. I will say, however, this is definitely the side of the fence I prefer…. Check out all the crap I got! I plan on spending the rest of the evening lathering myself with expensive soaps and lotions, chewing on ginseng slices, and planning ways to ignore the children whose parents were foolish enough to snub me this time around. (Rubs hands together wickedly.)Yeah, whatevah.
posted by Erin @ 6:11 PM
Saturday, April 29, 2006 – The Spice of Life
One thing I really like about Korea is stumbling upon the pockets of counter-culture that sprout up in the vicinities of Seoul’s unversities. I definitely hadn’t realized how conservative Korea is before I came here and it has been a little bit of an adjustment; I guess I’d thought I’d see more of that bizarre gothic-meets-Rainbow-Brite fashion made famous by the Japanese, all the pink hair and crazy makeup and bright colors that come to mind when you think of Tokyo street style. Korea is physically very close to Japan, but none of that stuff seems to have caught on, here and it’s left me feeling a little bored and on the edges. Everywhere you turn, It’s all tacky leather headbands and sweater dresses and gold heart jewelry. Gross. The city I come from is so embracing of diversity and I guess I really grew up around the idea that there are many equally valid ways of being, and of looking. The homogeny of this place is a bit unnerving for me and its always great to get outside the bubble. Today I took the subway out to Hongik University area to pick up a new belly button ring (in keeping with conservatism, I’ve only found one piercing shop in the whole of this massive city) and, after hanging out awhile in the piercing shop and getting some really cheap and badass body jewelry, ended up wandering into a street fair with some real… um…. unusual live musicians performing. The highlight of the day was watching a Korean guy with red dreadlocks and multi-colored layers of vintage clothing on perform some very inspired renditions of Korean and English songs. Most of it was indecipherable and invovled lots of shrieking, howling, groaning, and intense, almost compulsive repetitions of single lines. The audience was full of interesting looking kids, much more varied and colorful than the usual twenty-something crowd you encounter around the city. There were a few punks, tons of hippies, and many more young people whose hair and clothing styles transcended categorization. They didn’t seem to know what to make of the brightly clothed performer screeching and jumping around in front of them, but most seemed amused and entertained. It was a great show and I got some hilarious photos and video. Afterwards, I wandered around and enjoyed the beautiful afternoon. A good day among cool people.
posted by Erin @ 7:59 PM 0 comments
Sunday, April 23, 2006 – The Seashores of Old Mexico
Here are a few snapshots from my warmer days in Mexico. Just as I was uploading them, the clouds outside my window split open and started pissing down yellow-sand colored raindrops. Punishment for my betrayal, I suppose. Sorry, Korea. You’re nice, too, but I’m not getting the warmth that I need from this relationship. You’re as cold as a Fridigaire, and with only half the storage space. I just… need more.
posted by Erin @ 1:11 PM 0 comments
A lover’s quarrel, a case of the flu, and dreams of fairest Mexico
Right now, I am…
-in a fight with my computer, Juanito. I don’t know what’s up with him, but random stuff has stopped working, such as the “Go” button on my internet toolbar and the “save” function in Microsoft Word– two sort of necessary things and so I am not a happy camper. I don’t want to leave him, but it would appear that Juanito and I are teetering on the brink of an abusive relationship. I have to admit that I have physically lashed out at him on several occasions over the past weekend, but I swear that he is asking for it! If it weren’t for his mind games I wouldn’t be forced to retaliate in such brutal ways as punching him in the keyboard and bitchslapping him in the monitor. Besides, I only do it because I need him. Really. Ok, maybe this joke is bordering on very bad taste… But how many of you out there have unhealthy relationships with your home electronics? Come on, admit it. They infuriate you sometimes, don’t they? I think the problem is exacerbated here in Korea cause I have control of so little else that I really depend on my electronics to act predictably. When they don’t, I am liable to really lose it.
-recovering from the flu. I got super ill on Wednesday, but couldn’t call in sick Thursday or Friday cause that really just isn’t done here in Korea. It was brutal, I tell you. I took some flu medicine that the pharmacist near my school gave me but it made me all weird and stoned during classes, which wasn’t half as fun as it might sound. I do introductions and warm-up games at the beginning of class with a red rubber ball and I swear to God that when the students threw it back to me it felt like a massive, koolaid-colored wrecking ball was flying straight towards my nose. It made my head spin and once I actually fell over when I tried to catch it! Needless to say, I was stuck in bed all weekend. It was nice to relax, but I am getting a mad case of cabin fever by now. But every cloud has a silver lining– I have done quite well sticking to my budget this week cause I was too sick to eat much and shopping or going out was not even a remote possibility. I only spend like 17 dollars on groceries this week! Rock!
Oh yeah, I have a week off starting July 29th and… drumroll, please…. I am coming to Portland for a visit! It will be an extremely abbreviated visit, of course, and I will probably be spending most of it with my Grandma, my little sister, and mom, but I’d love to see a few familiar faces, so mark your calendars! I think I may have a little party for myself at my mom’s house. And guess what? She sometimes lets us have beer or wine in the house, now, so we can get WAAAASSSSTED! Just kidding, mom. I am also thinking about getting another tattoo when I’m in Portland, too, so if anyone can recommend a good tattoo artist, let me know.
It’s still rather cold around here. I dreamt all of last night about being back in Mexico, hanging out with Brian in the babypowder sand and paddling around the bathwater Carribbean. I think its easy to idealize most anything once you have given up, but this is especially true for the Yucatan. I had good reasons for leaving and I am still glad I did, but, man, sometimes I miss all that perennial warmth… Ah, Cozumel, things didn’t work out between us, but it was the best sun of my life. Hee hee…
posted by Erin @ 12:36 PM 1 comments
Sunday, April 16, 2006 – Beer and Pink Stars
One thing I forgot– at the end of the evening when we were getting ready to leave the club, I found myself waiting in line for the bathroom in front of a neon pink star. Megan and I became fixated with the star and started taking our pictures in front of it. While she used the bathroom, I made the momentary acquaintance of a rather intoxicated Korean fellow and got him to pose for a picture with the star as well. I thought the results were kind of charming in a fuzzy, random way and so I am putting three of the best shots up here. Hope you like.
posted by Erin @ 10:26 PM 0 comments
Here are some pictures from Megan’s birthday!
posted by Erin @ 10:20 PM 0 comments
Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon
It’s a sunny sunday afternoon and I am confined indoors on account of a wicked bad cough that I caught from my students, so I figured I’d make myself useful and post an entry about my weekend. On Friday night, a group of us went out to celebrate Miss Megan’s 25th birthday. We started with a dinner at TGI Friday’s and then headed out to Hongik University area (fast becoming a favorite place to go out… there are so many young and interesting people and fun clubs and bars around)for drinks and dancing. We ended up in a hip hop club that was playing really funny and super old school hip hop, including Kris-Kross. Rememeber them? The trend-setting duo from the early 90’s who wore their clothes backwards, shaved lines in their eyebrows, and enthusiastically commanded us to “Jump, Jump” ? It was good fun. One of the most heartening aspects of the evening for me was the fact that I got away with wearing flip flops and a light zip up hoodie and I wasn’t uncomfortably cold. The weather is definitely warming up, and not a moment too soon, if you ask me. I wore sandals year round in Mexico and it has been no easy task over the past 6 months to resign myself to wearing shoes that require tying. I just can’t be bothered with such trivialties, you know? Is that weird? I have always detested tying my shoes and can’t wriggle out from under the habit of yanking them off my feet in the evenings without untying them, which I know destroys the back of the shoe… Ah, well, I suppose I am incorrigible. And I refuse to change.
Today is Easter sunday, which I actually didn’t realize until my mom told me on the phone yesterday. It’s strange that Easter isn’t a bigger deal, here: there are fanatical Christians all over Korea, and so I’d thought Easter would have considerably more commercial clout, but so far I’ve heard little to nothing about it. No choco bunnies, no easter eggs, no nothin’. It’s weird how you can completely forget holidays when you’re outside of the environment in which you normally celebrate them. When I was in Thailand, Thanksgiving was a week past before I realized I’d even missed it. Christmas is a bit harder to forget, and even Halloween is usually at least acknowledged in most parts of the world. What I love is all the strange and unusual holidays you get to participate in when you spend time abroad. Day of the Dead in Mexico was pretty badass, and involved huge altars of food and flowers, plus a really yummy Mexican version of the fruitcake. Here in Korea, there was Chusok, much akin to the United States’ Thanksgiving. I was lucky enough to spend that holiday with my boss’ family in a small city in the Northeast, and all the elaborate food preparations, bowing and praying ceremonies and the rather arduous journey up to their family’s ancestral graves was so…. different. Another unusual holiday here in Korea is “Pepero Day” which is, as far as I can tell, a holiday completely fabricated by a company that produces these very popular chocolate filled breadsticks. The only thing the holiday seems to involve is everyone giving each other insane quantities of Pepero sticks all day long. I am very excited cause the Buddha’s birthday is coming up in a few weeks and there are supposed to be some really beautiful and unique celebrations. Megan and I are thinking about hiking up to the top of a mountain near our school to check out a celebration some local Buddhists are putting on up there. If anyone is interested in coming along, let me know!
Ok, have a nice Sunday. Happy Easter and all that.
posted by Erin @ 3:45 PM 1 comments
Thursday, April 13, 2006 – That’s A Pretty Nice Haircut
So… I got my second Korean haircut this afternoon and, I am happy to report, I left the experience considerably less distressed than the first time. It was actually an amusing, interesting experience. No, let me put that more colorfully… It was a wild, no, danger-fraught, no, hair-RAZING experience (oh my God, did I just say that? Don’t tell anyone…) full of strange encounters with mysterious and unusual denziens of the seedy underbelly of Korean hairdressers…
I must admit, though, that things got off to a shaky start. There seems to be a prevailing attitude among Korean hairdressers that your own opinion as to what sort of hair cut and style looks good on is completely irrelevant, and, most of the time, completely wrong, and I encountered this right away– Korean women don’t usually wear their hair short, maybe cause it’s too thick to look good real short, or maybe cause it’s not considered a feminine style, I’m not sure… But when the receptionist ushered the only English-speaking hairstylist over to where I was sittin, I could tell by the horrified look on his face that he wouldn’t be impressed by the tales I could tell about the crap I love doing to my hair– cutting it with dull scissors without the aid of mirrors, dyeing it within an inch of its life (wait, hair is dead, already, isn’t it?) and in every color of the rainbow, once using beeswax hair pomade intended for African-Americans for several months cause it only cost 3 dollars and smelled good (my mom and sisters will never let me live that one down– hey, guys, remember the time you made me cry cause you laughed at my Murray’s hair pomade? jerks…). I told him that I’d gotten a bad haircut a few months back and that I wanted something stylish and cute. He looked at me with a pained expression and told me to let it grow for two more months and then come back. Seriously, I thought he was going to refuse to cut it on the grounds that it looked too terrible already. Not exactly a winning business strategy, but at least he was honest. Actually, the conversation sounded more like this:
Me: I want a cut. Not too short. Stylish and like a woman.
Hairdresser: Ooooh. Why so short?
Me: 2 months before, bad haircut. No more hair. I look like a man.
Hairdresser: Hmmmmm Bangs– not good for you. Short hair– not good for you. I think. Come back 2 months time. Growing.
Me: I like short hair. But not too short. Will you cut it?
Hairdresser: oooooh. Yes. I will cut.
The haircut itself was quite good, hilariously amusing, and provided me with an unexpected and much needed ego-boost. The whole time I was in the chair, I was surrounded by a group of 4-5 hairstylists who just stood around smiling at me and offering my hairdresser advice about the cut as it progressed as well as asking me questions about myself through him. Their interest and curiosity was very endearing and it made me feel sort of like a celebrity. And– the best part– the whole time everyone was fawning over how “beautiful” I was. One woman insisted over and over that I looked like a doll. (My boss actually told me this last week, as well, except he was more specific and said I looked like… get this… a Barbie doll. I’m sorry, but I just don’t see the resemblance. Like, at ALL! Even more ridiculously, at the beginning of the year, I was compared frequently to… Julia Roberts!) The owner just kept saying “Ipo-da! Ipo-da!”, which basically means “cute”. They complimented my green eyes, my “big” nose, my eyebrows, my ear piercings, and I just sat there giggling to myself the whole time. I’ve never stood out much as a beauty back home, and it’s kind of fun to get all these compliments. Seriously, they should be motivational speakers, cause I left that hair salon feelin HOT with my new “Korean shaggy style” haircut.
Anyways, I will post a picture of the Korean shaggy style haircut.
posted by Erin @ 10:54 PM 0 comments
Heave ho! I’m a farmer, now!
Here are two pictures from the Farmstay– Me with my host parents and me plowing a smelly, dirty, dirt-filled dirt field. The ox urinated copiously moments before this picture was taken, much to my chagrin– I was wearin’ sandals. Guess I’m not a country girl at heart. I just don’t enjoy spending time in the company of things that smell like excrement. Call me crazy.
posted by Erin @ 10:41 PM 0 comments
Tuesday, April 11, 2006 – Rocks, an Ox, and That Garlic Scented Ocean
So it’s Tuesday and I have been meaning to post an entry about my visit to the south of Korea last weekend for a couple of days now. Before I start, though, a few random observations and happenings of the past few days:
-Climbing the stairs out of the subway this afternoon, I was witness to an unusual triumph of human ingenuity… a homeless man of the rather industrious sort had found a new use for his hollow, prosthetic leg: removed from his stump and filled with coins, it had become a combination begging bowl and percussion instrument. He held the leg in his right hand and rattled and shook it much like one might rattle or shake a pair of maracas. I thought it was clever, so I tossed some change in.
-ANOTHER kid puked in my class this week! Only those of you who know me and my phobia of barf well will appreciate the horror of it. To make matters worse, there’s no janitor! Good God, It’s a nightmare, I tell you. The past few days, every time a child so much as coughs, I leap up, grab the garbage can, and shove his/her face into it. I am so horrified!
-I am reading 2 good books: The first, 1776, is about the revolutionary war. It’s a great read and I am learning all kinds of stuff about the history of the ol’ USA and the men and women (well, no women so far, but I am optimistic that at least one will figure in with some prominence before I get to the end) who led our country as we struggled to gain nationhood. For example, did you know that General George Washington was impotent? It’s this kind of valuable and highly applicable information that makes reading worthwhile and just so darned satisfying. Also, I just picked up Hillary Rodham Clinton’s biography at the grocery store for five thousand won. (About five bucks) Nerd alert!
So anyways, onto the Farmstay. Last weekend, Megan, Lindsay and I went on a trip to Darangee village in Namhae island, Gyeongsangnam-do. (Like that means anything to most of you, but oh, well.) It was this adorable and very tiny sea village just sort of perched atop all these huge rocks and terraces that tumbled their way down into the Korean sea (or East China sea, or Sea of Japan, depending on who you ask. Then again, I wouldn’t. Ask, I mean. It’s a touchy issue.) There are garlic fields and cows everywhere and yet the air smells amazing. (I think after so much time in Seoul, though, it wouldn’t take much for my nose to rejoice. I think, in fact, if it had been able, it would have applauded… Ok, now I’m just being silly.) The village itself is actually a part of a marine park called Hallyo Waterway. The marine park has all kinds of crazy rock formations and it is just gorgeous.
There were around 60 of us foreigners on the trip, and we were divided up into groups of eight people and sent off to our own, private homestays. Megan, Lindsay and I stayed with a few other girls in a little house near the top of the village. Our Opa-nim and abu-nim (host mother and father) were very cute, although they spoke no English and served us the exact same traditional Korean meal everytime we ate with them. Also, several times they seemed to be ushering us, in the politest manner possible, out of the house in a way that suggested we weren’t really supposed to do much “hanging around”.
Highlights of the weekend included attempting to fish down on the rocky shoreline and screaming like sissies at the ugly, scary worms we had to use as bait then catching nothing, and going for a swim in the Korean sea, despite the fact that the sun had already disappeared behind the mountains and the water was a hair above “Freeze your nuts off”. Of the 60 on the trip, only about 6 were ridiculous-adventurous enough to go swimming. And, yup, Linsday, Megan and I accounted for 50 percent of that number. It was slightly insane of us, but I have a thing about swimming in every body of water I visit. Well, not every one… for example, I had very little desire to go for a swim in the canals of Amsterdam, but I like to dip my feet into the nice ones, at the very least. The terrible part was that there was a television crew from Arirang TV (a local English channel with tons of hilarous propaganda about how wonderful Korea is on it) who were videotaping us practically the whole weekend and they caught our whole swimming escapade on tape from several very unflattering angles. It was a nightmare– I don’t think most girls are thrilled about prancing around in a bathing suit when surrounded by a massive swarm of people who are all fully clothed and staring, and we all know that running into the ocean entails displaying your butt and the backs of your thighs quite prominently. Now imagine that a television crew is filming the whole thing. Nah, it was funny, but I am a little horrified at the thought that the whole of Korea may see me in all my goofy, stumbling, and entirely untanned glory. (Yes, the Mexican tan has finally disappeared for good.)Anyways, we were so cold upon emerging from the water that the only option was to quickly down a bottle of soju and a bottle of beer there on the rocks and get sloppy drunk. Afterwards, we trekked it back up to the top of the village and had dinner with our host families. Saturday night, we went to this weird, abandoned school yard with the whole group and drank alcohol, had funny relay races and a tug of war game in which the rope unexpectedly snapped, and then hung out around a campfire. Coolness: about 6-7 of us drunkenly (some more than others, though, and me, just a little) came together midway through the night and formed one badass song circle. We just started calling out the names of every song we knew well and then singing them all together. It was great fun, and probably really annoying to everyone else, but who cares? Though I fall short in the vocal talent department, I seemed to make up for it by way of the fact that I know the words to just about every song that ever existed. Not bragging, really, I do. So that was good times.
The next morning we got up and some Korean farmers taught us to plow a field with one of those super old fashioned wooden plows attached to an ox. It was hilarious, except I was wearing flipflops and sunglasses and so I looked like a real sissy when I was plowing, as the photo will attest. The cow seemed irate at being forced to plow the smelly dirt and she wouldn’t go where I wanted her to, but at least I got a good picture from the ordeal. Afterwards, we went on a deep sea fishing trip and also spent time combing the beach for pretty shells. Megan spotted 3 dead birds and only later did we start to wonder if it could possibly have anything to do with bird flu. Scary, so let’s not think about it, shall we? The deep sea fishing was a little disappointing cause all it really entailed was jetting out to a bunch of nets and watching the fishermen pull them up. We did get to pick fish up out of the hold and take pictures with them, though. When we got back to the dock, we filleted the fish and had fresh sushi and soju right there by the water. Yummy. Then we spent a little more time with our host families and headed back to Seoul.
The trip home was loooooong…. Let me reemphasize: loooooooooong.
That’s the only thing about this country– it has traffic like you have never, and I guarantee, NEVER, experienced in your lifetime. It is a tiny little country, but boasts the highest population density in the world. It took me just shy of 8 hours to get from the top of that village to my own front door when in all actuality, traffic nonwithstanding, I probably could have made it in 4 to 4 and a half hours. The rest stops along the way were wild, too– literally thousands of people cramming into the toilets, shoving, pushing and yelling, pounding on the doors if you are in there more than 10 seconds, etc. Megan, Linsday, myself, and several other girls were forced to form a barricade in order to hold our spot in line, and believe you me there were some very displeased ajumas behind us. I have a thing about cutting– I think it is engrained into us Americans from the time we are quite young: only complete assholes cut in line. I mean, I’m sure we all knew a kid in elementary school who was famous for cutting in line. Nothing infuriates a group of 8 year olds faster than a kid who cuts. I mean, they will really freak. Even adults get pretty irate, myself included. I’m sure all of you can recall a time during the past year or two when someone cut in front of you. It pissed you off, didn’t it? Like, a lot, right? That feeling is my daily reality. But I have been forced to accept the awful truth that here in Korea, as in Mexico, and, to think of it, France, too, and, well, maybe most places in the world, lines are optional and seem to act in the same manner as a funnel does– everything crowds into the top and things are spit out the other end in a crowded and very random order. And people are shameless about it! Thing is, they don’t usually mind if you do it back, but I think as a foreigner, I get pushed around a little more and am expected to complain about it a little less. There is a real concept here of the “non-person”: if you haven’t been introduced to someone, it is as if you do not exist, and people act accordingly. It has a lot to do with the hierarchical nature of society in Korea and the fact that many people have trouble acknowledging you if they don’t know where to place you in that pyramid. What terms should they use to address you? Is the polite verb ending appropriate, or will using it lower the speaker’s status? It’s too complex to deal with on a constant basis and so people just sort of…. don’t. As a result of my non-person statue, I’ve learned to use my elbows quite well by now and am not hesitant to give my neighbor a good, stern elbow in the kidney or ribs if the situation warrants it… Anyhoo….
Arduous journey home aside, the trip was a blast. I highly reccommend Adventure Korea trips to anyone who is interested. The website is:
I will post some photos as well. And, just so you know, an online photo album with all my Korea pictures is in the works. I will post a message with the website as soon as it is up and running.
Enjoy your week.
posted by Erin @ 10:11 PM 0 comments
Monday, April 03, 2006 – Punch, Punch, Kick!
This entry marks the blessed end of another Monday in Korea. Megan and I had our second Tae Kwon Do class this evening, and we learned some really badass punch and kick combos. Due to a communication failure between Megan and one of our Tae Kwon Do masters, we seem to have been placed in a class whose only other members are male and between the ages of 8 and 15. It is slightly embarassing and hard to be serious when you can see them all giggling at you as you practice your moves in the giant mirror. We did an interesting series of warm-up exercises tonight, several of which had Megan and I in very, shall we say, intimate positions. We both agreed that none of these exercises would have flown in US gym class, and some might have even gotten the teacher fired for being a TOTAL PERV. We also bonded over memories of the Presidential Fitness Tests that we were forced to suffer through in Elementary school. (Neither of us every got the stupid medal, or ribbon, or whatever it was they gave the kids who passed muster.) Other higlights included a frog-hopping relay across the room and me looking like a huge baby when I got a side cramp during situps and could only do 3! In my defense, they were weird side situps that were extremely hard to do. Seriously. They were. I am going to get a picture of me in my cool white uniform up here as soon as I remember to have someone take it for me.
To end, here are a few nice quotes I’ve run across recently:
“Look with favor upon a bold beginning.”
“Have no friends not equal to yourself.”
Captain Kirk: “Well, there it is– war. We didn’t want it, but we got it.”
Spock: “Curious how often you humans manage to obtain that which you do not want.”
“The whole world is about three drinks behind.”
posted by Erin @ 10:32 PM
The Sum of My Days
As a follow up to the most recent post, I’ve decided to put up two pictures. The first is a picture of the young lad who spat on me in class the other day. Can you believe he would do something like that? A boy who looks so sweet and well-behaved and innocent? His mother sure couldn’t…. To summarize, the first photo represents the outrageous abuse that I am forced to endure on a daily basis, the second, my coping mechanism. Ok, I am kidding here, mostly… Well, maybe. Like, as in, 50 percent. Ok, I guess, if we are being totally accurate, more like, 35 percent…
posted by Erin @ 9:15 PM 0 comments
Ain’t Nobody Humpin Around
Well, hump month is officially over in 2 short days… And when I say “hump month” I am referring ONLY to the fact that March marks the halfway point of my contract here in Korea, ok, sicko? Jeez.
It has been a rocky week, rife with hardships which included but were not limited to: pay disputes with the boss, health insurance expiring unexpectedly, the return of freezing temperatures and snow, a child vomiting in class, and another one spitting on my leg with more disgust and rage than I’d realized a first grader was even capable of mustering. It’s enough to make a person’s head collapse…
On a happier note, I have been productive in several areas: I’ve been visiting the gym every other day, eating lots of healthy food, and sticking to a very bare bones budget which will allow me to save even more money. I have also perfected the art of sleeping extra late and getting to work 20 minutes past when I’m supposed to. No one cares, really, and those extra minutes in bed are sometimes the most enjoyable moments of my days. Also, tomorrow, Megan and I are going to sign up for Tae Kwon Doe classes! Rock! I am so excited, mostly just to get to wear the cool white uniform with the “Korea” patch on it. Also, I am studying Korean again (the halfway point has forced me to admit that my Korean sucks terribly) and it is a lot easier than it was back in December, which was, sadly, the last time I opened my textbook. It’s funny– I can read the script really quite well, now, I just have no idea what any of it means… You’d be surprised, though, how many words are actually just transliterations of English words. I’ll be sitting there reading the package to whatever and in a blinding flash of understanding, I will realize that the cryptic characters actually spell out “Pa-na-na” or, one of my favorites, “I-su-ku-le-am” (“Banana” and “ice cream” if you are a bit slow to the draw…)
That’s all for now. I am posting a picture of one of about a gagillion Starbucks coffee franchises that exist in Seoul. This one is a bit of a rarity cause “Starbucks Coffee” is actually transliterated into Korean script. A rough translation? “Su-ta-puk-su-ko-pee” Say it quickly, aloud, and you’ll see what I mean. Take it easy.
posted by Erin @ 8:45 PM 0 comments
Monday, March 27, 2006 – Me and my Sailor
Ok, one last post and then I swear I’m done for the evening. Here’s Brian and I on the subway. Awwww…..
posted by Erin @ 11:04 PM 2 comments
My name means Ireland in Gaelic, you know
Ok, here are a couple of pictures of Brian and I Saint Patrick’s Day weekend. He went to one of Korea’s big outdoor markets to pick up his special outfit and I dug around my closet until I found green and white striped socks and a matching shirt. We looked badass! A sizable number of foreigners in Korea seemed to view the holiday weekend as the perfect opportunity to get Ho’d out (I’ve never seen so many green feather boas or short, plaid skirts) but there were also some really funny costumes. The hands-down most bizarre was this super drunk guy at the Saint Patrick’s Day party weating this weird, huge, puffy clown suit and a mullet wig. Strange times.
posted by Erin @ 10:45 PM 0 comments
This guy has helped me through some rough times
To quote Brian, “Where else in the world do they give away free booze on the streets?” The promotional deal for Soju, Korea’s national liquor, took place not far from my house and I walked away from the deal with several free bottles of the harsh stuff plus this funny photo. All you naysayers might jump at the chance to remind me that a regular sized bottle is only about a dollar in the convenience store, but it’s still cool, ok?
posted by Erin @ 10:23 PM 0 comments
Ok, here are a few pictures of some recent shenanigans in Seoul. The first picture is of Megan singing La Bamba to me at the last bar we went to on Sound Day night in Hongdae. She was, as is evidenced by the photo, slightly wasted, but we had a good laugh together. The second set of photos were taken Friday night out in Itaewon on Saint Patrick’s Day weekend. A lot of foreigners here in Korea think Itaewon is horrible and lame just cause it is very Westernized and full of would-be gangsters, Russian and Korean prostitutes, American and Canadian themed bars and weird Army people, but a good time can definitely be had there. Plus, when the night is over and you are stumbling out onto the street to catch a cab, tired and reeking of cigarette smoke and cheap Korean Co-logne that makes you wish you were A-lone (ha ha, love that joke), you can fill your empty, boozy belly with an egg and cheese toastie for only a thousand won. This night out, Brian and I were with our friends, Megan, Kyla and Linsday. Another friend, Eileen, was also briefly there but then she was lured to the heavy metal bar by a mysterious phone call and we never saw her again. (That night, I mean. Not, like, never, never again. That would be sad.) Read on to put these pictures in something of a context…
posted by Erin @ 10:18 PM 0 comments
Una Poca De Gracia
So, yeah. It’s been a few weeks… But I have a good excuse– my globetrekking boyfriend changed his schedule around and was able to come for a short but very sweet two and a half week visit and I pretty much checked out of reality during his stay. We caught up, (it had been 2 long and arduous months)had more than our share of laughs, and spent a lot of time in the city. Highlights of his visit included:
Tearing it up with about 500 other foreigners at a huge Saint Patrick’s day party in Seoul. It was all you can drink Guinness and Mai Tais and we had quite a night. The funniest part of the night was leaving the hotel and finding two completely wasted men half passed out in the parking lot, attempting to hail a taxi. They were nowhere near the road, or any traffic, and, in fact, the taxi they were trying to flag down was about 500 feet away and separated from them by a huge front lawn and about a block of parking lot. Guess booze really does affect depth perception, eh?
Witnessing a wicked crazy fist (and arm and leg) fight break out on the Seoul subway. (Not an every day event in these parts.) The story is, perhaps, too long and strange to tell here, tonight, but suffice it to say the whole affair was amusing, random, surprisingly violent, and involved about 6 disgruntled Korean men, several angry slurs of “Puck you! Puck you!”, one purse made of Italian leather, one flying coffee can, two miniature rubick’s cubes, and, as it appeared, copious amounts of cheap booze. Too much rice wine is never enough, eh? I actually have a video clip of the whole thing if anyone would like to see it. Just send me an email.
Having tons of fun watching Farscape episodes and drinking wine in bed.
Hearing good music and getting a buzz on at Sound Day in Hongik University area with random friends. The night ended with Brian chatting up some South Africans while a somewhat inebriated Megan taught me the words to La Bamba and passed out in my lap.
Eating tons of sushi and some very good Thai food.
Getting my present– a new IPod!! She is wicked cool (I named her Rosa Gordita) and can store pictures, play videos. Rosa’s got 30 kickin gigs of memory and I am madly in love with her.
What else…. Work has been a strain lately, but I comfort myself with the fact that I am over halfway done. At this point, I am holding out for my one year bonus and just trying to save cash. I am still serious about going to Chile next year… I need to get back to that nice, laid back Latin American environment. Que honda… I actually miss sleeping in a hammock lately.
Ok, I am going to find some pictures. Oh yeah, and my boss has dug himself quite a hole and needs to hire a teacher within the next couple of days. Any college grads out there bored and looking for a major and very sudden life change? If so, write me. You start next Monday. (I think they’d hire ANYONE at this point!)
Friday, March 24, 2006
The other weekend in Insadong, Brian and I were bombarded by a shy yet energetic group of college students working on their “practical English” skills…. This involved a sort of long and kind of weird interview about Korean film (a subject in which I am neither expert nor even all that interested) and the influence that American media has on the average Korean’s desire to continue watching Korean-grown movies. There is actually a law in existence that every movie theater in Korea must show Korean films a certain percentage of the time. There has been talk of throwing out this law in response to the public demand for more Western films, but diehards fear this will doom the Korean film industry to obscurity. Do you have an opinion on this? No? I didn’t really, either, but I made a bumbling attempt at insight, which Brian caught on film. So there you go.
posted by Erin @ 7:12 PM 0 comments
Monday, March 06, 2006 – My Shot at Greatness
So. I was thinking today about how all of us at one time or another in our lives hit a point where we start to question the contribution we have made or will eventually make to society and the world at large. Some people write novels that inspire entire generations into revolt, astonishingly profound treatises that overthrow oppressive social systems and clear the way for entirely new kinds of thinking. Some people take up political office and spend their days lobbying in the name of liberty and justice. Others invent objects that make our daily lives infinitivally easier and more interesting, such as the thermos, the pet rock, and the Craft-matic adjustable bed.
Alas, sadly, I have yet to contribute much, although Ryann and did come up with an idea for this really kickass grocery store trail mix dispensing machine once… I’d tell you more, but then you might steal the idea and then I’d have to kill you and eat your brain just to make sure the secret never got out. But I digress… I have been pondering my contribution thus far and I am coming up pitifully short.
And so, just for this evening, I have decided to make every effort to turn this one blog entry into a paragon of indispensable wisdom and unquestionable social significance… And what better way to do so than to provide readers (assuming there are any) with a few pieces of vital and interesting information, nuggets of wisdom gleaned from wherever that he/she may call upon and find useful at some unforeseen later date, in some unforeseen later circumstance… I can only hope that when such a moment arrives, I might achieve just a moment of immortality as aforementioned reader thinks aloud, “I read that on Erin’s weblog once…”
How to say “Cheers” in 33 Languages!
Albanian: “shendeti tuaj!” or “gezuar!”
Arabic: “fi sahitak!”
Bosnian: “zxivjeli!” (You’re on your own for pronunciation here, kiddoes…)
Chinese (cantonese): “ging jau!” or “yam booi!”
Chinese (mandarin): “gan bei!”
Czech: “na zdravi!”
Dutch: “proost!” or “gezondheid!”
French: “A votre sante!”
Greek: “Stin ijiasas” (When I was there, though, everyone just said, “YAMAAAASSSS!”)
Hawaiian: “okole maluna!”
Italian: “Alla salute!” or “Cin cin!”
Korean: “Chukbae!” (Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it “Gombae”?)
Polish: “Na Zdrowie!”
Russian: “vashe zdorovie!”
Welsh: “Iechyd da!”
-Next time you find yourself wanting to get from one part of Tokyo to another, remember that for trips of less than 50 minutes, the odds are good you’ll reach your destination more quickly if you go by bike than if you go by car.
-A “Jiffy” is, in actuality, a true measure of time and the lexical equivalent of 1/100 of a second.
-For those of you who are lazy about recycling, here’s an interesting fact: the simple act of recycling a single glass jar conserves the equivalent amount of energy needed to fuel 3 hours of television viewing pleasure on an average-sized set.
-Human poop is 75% water
-Cocaine is a 35 billion dollar a year industry
-3 out of every 4 living creatures on the earth are insects. (I had a lot of time to ponder this while living in my semi-walled hut in Mexico last year. Once, an inch long winged cockroach even flew into my mouth when I was brushing my teeth.)
-If you go to traffic court to dispute a ticket, there’s a statistical chance of one in three that you’ll beat the rap.
-17 dogs were arrested in Bangkok last year for panhandling.
-If you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, you’ll lose 2 teeth for every 10 years that you keep up the habit. Blearrrrgh! Soon, your teeth will be look like they’re in jail!
-The odds of you doing anything that leads to you becoming famous enough to get your name mentioned in a history book at some date in the future are…. Gulp…. One in six million.
Guess I’ll call it a night.
posted by Erin @ 9:17 PM 0 comments
Saturday, March 04, 2006 – Puppy: The Coolest Dog in Cozumel
Ok, because some of my friends here in Korea seem to think it is really funny that my best friend in Mexico was a stray dog named “Puppy”, I’ve decided to post a picture of him here on the blog. He was the coolest dog ever– street smart, cute as hell, and one tough little muchacho. If I walked home after dark, Puppy used to go with me most of the way, trotting 10-15 feet ahead on the road and growling and snarling viciously at anyone and everyone in my path. He was very protective and very sweet. I took this picture right next to Santino’s Pizza shop, a favorite hangout. Sometimes I’d buy us each a slice of pizza here and then we’d go down to the waterfront and sit on the edge of the boardwalk, eating our food and watching the sunset. It sounds slightly nutty, but he really was the coolest dog ever.
posted by Erin @ 2:39 PM 0 comments
Can I Make The Next Talking?
Just cause I feel like it, here is a list of funny things I’ve heard various non-English-speaking people say over the years:
-Marisol, my 40-year old Italian drinking buddy in Cozumel, Mexico:
“I saw him kissing other woman, and I sit alone with tears coming down my face. I had diarrhea for all the 3 days because I ate my drops.”
This particularly strange statement came one wasted evening in the middle of Marisol’s long and very emotional recounting of her failed relationship with an American real estate agent vacationing on the island. Did you know that eating your own tears can give you diarrhea? No? Neither did I.
-Miguel, a very flamboyant middle-aged Spanish man that I met en route from Northeastern Thailand into the jungles of Laos:
“Oh, I have so much dirt in the pussy! I need to clean my pussy!”
I was initially horrified and very confused when Miguel made this statement at the end of a dust-ridden and particularly harrowing 8-hour ride through the jungle in the back of a vegetable truck. At first I figured he was somehow referring to a neighborhood in the city we were headed towards that is known to the locals as “Phoussy Mountain”, which is worth a snicker in its own right, but he repeated the statement a while later while gesturing helplessly to his groin area and at that point I realized that he was either A: Severely confused about the lexical meaning of the word, or B: Severely confused about his own sexuality…. I should have corrected him, probably, but I was too embarrassed. And, yes, too amused.
-Simon, a strapping young Frenchman that Lisa and I met in Paris when we were sixteen:
“Yes, yes, American curses. I know these words.” (Then, gesturing to our youth group leader,) “She is fucking. She is a fucking woman.”
At the time, Lisa and I found this creative usage of the word “fucking” to be quite hilarious, and it still makes me laugh. What can I say, everyone sounds funny when they try to swear in other languages. Years later when I was living in France, my host brother, Timothee, and his cousins loved teaching me dirty words and laughing at the way they sounded coming out of my mouth. I often used them on the subway just to get a rise out of the perpetually crabby Parisians. My favorite slur, invented by Timothee himself, was: “Bordel de putes!” Rough translation? “Whorehouse of sluts!” Makes plain ol’ English cursing seem so uninspired, doesn’t it?
-Carlos, this sort of obnoxious pothead from Colombia who lived in The Flying Pig hostel in Amsterdam, as he leaned down over my dozing friend, Fiona, and buried his face in her hair:
“Mmmmwah, I loooove to smell.”
Fiona was a mad voluptuous blonde girl from London who spent the entire week I knew her lying around the hostel lounge in fishnets and a black mini-dress snorting lines of ecstasy. She opened her eyes only long enough to swat at Carlos and scream, “Get the fuck away from me!” Carlos skulked off to find the bong and Fiona returned to her catatonia. Hey, that rhymes…
Ok, that’s all I can think of for now. I’ll probably add some more later.
posted by Erin @ 2:35 PM 0 comments
The Real Size of the World
How many countries are there in the world?
Do you know?
Do you think you know?
I was curious and so I did a little research that I thought some of you travelers out there might find interesting.
The generally but by no means unanimously accepted number is 192. And did you know…
-Despite its push for soverignity, Taiwain is still recognized as a province of China and is not an individual member of the UN.
-Puerto Rico is not a country, and neither is Bermuda or Greenland.
-Sorry, folks, but Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and England are not, in fact, separate countries. Only the United Kingdom as a whole is considered a country. I was disappointed at this bit of information cause it brings down my number of countries visited by 2.
-There are 191 members of the United Nations: although the Vatican City is considered a country, it has chosen to remain independent for obvious reasons. It is also the world’s smallest country, really just a little chunk cut out of Rome. (Very pretty in the Wintertime, too, but don’t look at me for any tourist tips– you are reading the words of a girl who thought for 5 months that she had been to the Sistine Chapel, only to find out on second trip back that she had not, in fact visited the Chapel at all, and had, in fact, taken 2 rolls of film and spent 2 hours wandering awestruck around a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT MONUMENT… To my credit, it was a sort of similar looking one with lots of beautiful paintings on the ceiling. But this has nothing whatsoever to do with my original topic so let’s leave this painful chunk of my past for a moment and continue on with the facts, shall we?)
-If you were to visit 4 countries a year at a steady rate beginning in your 21st year, it would only take you till around your 69th birthday to do the whole loop. That’s feasible. Completely. And you’d have crazy bragging rights. Maybe even you’d get invited to be on Oprah. At the least, they’d give you your own travel show.
-Lastly, keep in mind that the nunber 192 is a number generated by the United States and its allies and reflects a specific agenda. There is some dispute of this number across the board…
Ok, kids, there’s your geography lesson for the day.
posted by Erin @ 11:01 PM 0 comments
Sunday, February 26, 2006 – Do I look Russian?
Ahhhhh, Sunday evening…. Once again, I am holed up in my apartment at my computer desk. (The one I found in the garbage the other week…. Such a score.) It was a low-key weekend after the eventful weekends previous, but a few interesting things happened.
I received several pieces of rather disturbing news. Walking to coffee in downtown Anyang with my friends Cora and Melissa, I commented on the warm, almost-Spring-like feeling of the air. The girls informed me that we are in for more freeze-your-nuts-off bitter-ass cold weather on Wednesday. This is extremely upsetting in several respects: To begin, Wednesday is my first extra day off in over 3 months. And more generally, it’s FREAKIN March, people! I am getting so annoyed by this horrible awful weather. A few people have told me that this winter is one of the worst in recent and maybe even not-so-recent history. I did not receive the news well. In fact, I became violently angry at the thought of being forced to endure the continued heckling of Koreans over how ugly and terrible my winter coat is. (It’s a Columbia Sportswear jacket, less than a year old, and elicits responses ranging from mild grimaces to questions like, “So. What part of Russia do you come from?” Seriously.) In fact, I want to know what you think, so I will post a photo of myself in said coat.
The second piece of upsetting news was that, all in all, come April, I may be begging for the cold again as I battle the annual season of dust storms. Word is the sand comes blasting over from the high, cold Gobi Desert in China, wreaking havoc on sinuses and dirtying any part of skin you are foolish enough to leave exposed when venturing outside your apartment. Ok, perhaps this is a slight exaggeration, but from the sounds of things, it is not pleasant.
Oh, shit, I’m being negative again. Seems these days I often tend towards the bitter, which is strange cause I don’t really even feel bad most of the time… I read somewhere that culture shock is the worst halfway through a stay abroad. In fact, I hit the halfway mark tomorrow, so please excuse.
In the spirit of posterity, let me try think of a couple of funny things to tell you….
-The owner of a white van that is often parked down my street has stenciled “Jesus Come Soon” on the back of his van in blue paint.
-There is a coffeeshop nearby whose slogan runs something along the lines of “Coffee and Herb. Full flavor. Full Sweety.”
-Last Thursday at dusk, I climbed this cute little mountain near my apartment to watch the sunset and write in my journal. I was sitting on a rock enjoying myself quite immensely when a Korean woman came hiking up the trail with her dog. For some reason, the dog took an, ahem, liking to me. He came barreling over and started jumping around me in a way which was slightly reminiscent of the pack of stray dogs that used to terrorize my street in Cozumel and so I quickly got up, petted him, and headed off. However, the dog had other ideas and I spent the next five minutes attempting to push him, and his nose, out from between my legs. It was so embarassing! He was very persistent and the Korean woman was so horrified that she wouldn’t even look at me. I just tried to laugh and walk off, but the dog wouldn’t have any of it and kept going after my butt. Finally, she got ahold of the dog and I took off down the trail…
This is sort of an embarassing story, but I am still going to post it cause I am, perhaps, not quite humble enough most of the time. Whats the old adage? “Do one thing every day that scares you.” How about one thing every day that makes you feel ridiculous? I think most of us accomplish this without even trying, anyways, but It’s good to keep the bar low, no?
On that note, I am going to end this and find a picture of me in my arguably hideous jacket… Ok, PS, I found it. This picture is of me standing at the border of North Korea. (Cool, eh?)In fact, the land behind is NK territory. I admit that my hat in this photo doesn’t do much to detract from the impression of Russian-ness… What do you think?
posted by Erin @ 9:36 PM 0 comments
Thursday, February 23, 2006 – Urine for it, now: Ajumas Gone Wild
Ok, I haven’t written in awhile… But I swear that it’s only because the piece I was planning to post here- a sort of social commentary thingy about attitudes towards marijuana around the world– has inadvertently become something much longer and more story-like, and I don’t want to put it up until it’s finished, which I forsee happening approximately sometime between tomorrow and the armageddon. It’ll be up here, though, so hang on, little tamales!
In other news, I probably beat all y’all out for bizarre happening of the week– someone attempted to urinate on me. Yeahhhh. I’m serious. I was unaware that there was even such thing as a malicious act of urination. I guess monkeys do throw their poo at you if you get them irate enough, and once a kid I was babysitting threatened to vomit on me, but, this…. This takes the proverbial cake. Now, some of you who know of my nasty habit of peeing in public, (I have a small bladder, hereditary condition, I swear I can’t help it) especially when I drink, may find the following story rather ironic. Yes, it’s true, I did once pee on a Mercedes in the Royal Crescent in England, and once in the hollow backside of a giant, gilded statue of an Eagle in Cozumel, and once off the side of a Mayan ruin in Tulum, and well, actually about 20 other places are coming to mind… And yes, I must shamefully admit that on one other occasion a certain friend of mine who will remain nameless (Natalie) and I did something considerably more wretched in a schoolyard in Switzerland (This may come as a shock, but eating nothing but falafel balls from the street vendors in Amsterdam for a week can actually cause digestive problems), but I do not believe than any of my behaviors up to this point warrant this brand of punishment. Perhaps it is my karmic just desserts, perhaps not… I’ll let you be the judge.
So here’s what happened: I went for coffee with my friend Cora last saturday afternoon and was thoroughly enjoying our conversation as well as a bluberry granola bar when the urge struck me. So I excused myself and headed out into the hallway to look for a toilet. (The Korean government decided that all public buildings above, I think it is, 3 floors, are required to open their restrooms to the general populous. Sounds nice, eh? Well, have you ever been forced to do something you didn’t care about? Have you ever protested your powerlessness by doing a shitty job of whatever it was you never cared about in the first place? It’s kinda like that with the toilets– they’re there, but that’s about it…) But I digress…. After a minute or two of wandering around the labrynthine maze of twisting hallways and poorly lit dead ends you find on the bottom floor of any such building, I finally found the small women’s restroom. The stalls were both occupied and so I stood in the small space between the stall doors and the adjacent wall and waited in line like the patient, mostly rational person that I am. A Korean woman came in, then, and got in line behind me. So there we were, being rational and reasonable and what have you, when suddenly the door to the bathroom slammed open (and yes, things can and do slam open)and a tiny old Korean woman came barreling in with a very pinched look about her. The mere sight of us seemed to cause her immediate and considerable distress and she turned to us and began to scream, letting loose with a harangue in nasty, spit-peppered Hangul. The both of us instinctively backed against the wall as her monologue concluded with an especially demonic-sounding chunk of syllables that I can only imagine were the Korean equivalent of “Get the fuck out of my way, prissy bitches!” Then she shoved the other woman out of the way so hard that we were both almost knocked over, rushed past, positioned herself about 6 inches in front of me facing away, and yanked down her hanbok, baring a huge, pink, and very wrinkly ass. Now in squatting position, she let loose with a garrulous and rather violent sounding stream of pee. All of this, less than half a foot away from the spot I was standing in. And right on the freakin floor, people!
Thanks to an instinctive jump backwards, I’d managed to escape being doused by the yellow cascade that was now spraying in every direction, including the wall. In terror, I fled the bathroom, the other Korean woman right on my heels. When we reached the middle of the hallway we both stopped, out of breath, and there was this strange and seemingly eternal moment in which we both just stared at each other, like we were going to say something. But what was there to say, really, even if we’d spoken the same language?
“So, yeah, how about almost getting peed on. Heh, boy, that sure was strange. So… You come to this bathroom often?”
Nah… more’n likely, she was embarassed that a foreigner had been witness to a display (People here are very sensitive about how their culture appears to outsiders, here. Don’t believe me? Mention to any Korean how scenic and lovely Japan is this time of year and see what kind of reaction you get) and I myself felt bad cause I couldn’t tell her, “hey, no biggie! We Americans have people like that, too. We call them hillbillies and, if this had happened in, say, Kentucky, the woman may well have peed standing up.” It just never would have translated, you know?
So we both glanced away and then made awkward starts off in our own respective directions… And I peed in the Walmart.
PS: To balance the scales a bit, I am including a picture of some of the many cute and funny ajumas that I have met here in Korea. Most of them are crabby and quite fiesty, but it’s normally kind of endearing. Just so you know.
posted by Erin @ 7:56 PM 0 comments
Off the Rails in Hongdae– Photos
posted by Erin @ 7:51 PM 0 comments
Sunday, February 12, 2006 – Off the Rails in Hongdae
oohhhhhh what a weekend. Friday, I went out with some friends to Sounday, a monthly music event that showcases local talent in various bars and clubs throughout the Hongdae neighborhood. (Here’s the link if you’re curious: http://www.sounday.co.kr )I drank lots and lots and heard some good music-everything from punk to hip hop, and probably a few in between that have been wiped from my memory by a copious amount of tequila, cheap beer and assorted cocktails. I also danced my party-lovin heart out and then, around 5 in the morning, passed out in the last bar we hit. Falling asleep in a bar is actually a first for me, so it has been a productive weekend.
Do you ever worry that you are incredibly annoying when you’re drunk? I vaguely remember becoming fixated on Einstein’s Cosmological Constant theory sometime around dawn and Megan says I was going off about it to anyone who would listen. What can I say– I am listening to Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything” on tape and it has me thinking more about that kind of stuff. (A great book, by the way. Highly reccomended.) I also remember getting really into my dancing, and we all know that drunk people look invariably silly when they try to dance. At the time, I thought I looked pretty hot, but booze is nothing if not a catalyst for boosting one’s self confidence to outrageous and sometimes irrational levels… Ah, well… The trek home at sunrise was a real bear– a long walk in the pre-morning winter chill, several subway transfers, and a bus ride which, in total, took about an hour and a half. It was funny, though. I found 4 half full water bottles in the pockets of my jacket plus all kinds of wadded up bills and a few bottlecaps. It is always such a disorienting occurrence to pass people on their way to work or wherever else when you haven’t even been to bed yet… I got a little pack of gimbap (rice and veggie rolls, basically) from an ajuma in the subway station and just sort of stumbled my way home. I have never been so happy to get to bed! I used to go out till ungodly hours in Cozumel, but it is a different thing when getting home requires only a 4 minute taxi ride and the temperature never drops below 50 degrees… Anyways, I am gonna put up some funny photos. I took– seriously– 110 pictures Friday night, and almost all of them are blurry or completely silly. At one point in the night, I apparently became fixated with a glittering disco ball because I have about 20 shots of it from different angles. The only sad thing is that I only have about 4 pictures of myself and I look insane in all of them. Alas, hope you find them amusing.
posted by Erin @ 3:59 PM 1 comments
Monday, February 06, 2006 – Back from the Temple!
As planned, I spent the last half of my week off visiting a Buddhist temple a few hours from Seoul. It was an amazing experience! The temple I stayed at, Jakwangsa Temple, is a Zen Buddhist temple created partially to promote Buddhism to Westerners and so its small group of inhabitants were very kind and helpful. The program I participated in is run by an American man, Matthew, who came, like me, for a weekend stay a few years ago and just never left. I was the only foreigner there, which was kind of nice.
The weather was well below freezing during my stay. The meager warmth emitted by the Korean space heaters did little to dispell the general sense of freezingyournutsoff, plus the hot water was out my first morning and so I had to dip my head in excruciatingly cold water, but all the physical discomfort sort of lent itself to the general austerity of the place. I spent most of my stay just being quiet, doing some meditating, helping out with chores, and participating in various daily rituals. At 5 each morning, one of the older monks would walk around the temple grounds hitting two bamboo sticks together while Matthew rang the world’s craziest, loudest, and hugest bell 30 times. Matthew explained the symbolism to me: The bell is rung in such a manner twice a day so as to call the demons up from the hell realm to hear the dharma, or teaching. It is a pretty surreal and unusual way to start the day. I’ll direct your attention, now, to the pictures. I’ve got a couple of the temple grounds at dawn and another one of said bell. I figured I’d include a few seeing as I about lost my fingers getting the shots in the predawn temperatures, and I want it to be for something. If you want to see more, feel free to email me and ask!
So anyhow, when the bell ceremony is finished, people would go up to the main Buddha hall and do their own meditation. Afterwards, we ate breakfast and then everyone scattered off to do their morning stuff. at 10:30 each day, there was another ceremony and meditation, then lunch and free time till 6, when a final evening ceremony was performed. I spent a lot of time drinking green tea and watching videos and reading books about Buddhism.
I feel like I’ve taken a lot of interesting ideas and insights about myself and the world at large away from my time there. Here’s where I am going to get all insightful on your wicked, sinful asses: I think it’s important to take time once in awhile to just be quiet, to remove yourself from your vices and spend a day or two just living simply. You realize, I think, how much less you need than you think you need, but also that happiness isn’t always such an elusive, frustrating process as we make it out to be. The people at the temple didn’t have much, they got up early, they ate simply, their clothes were plain. But they seemed so at peace. One aspect of Zen that is appealing is the idea of making each moment its own kind of meditation. Zen stresses the importance of mindfulness, of being fully aware of yourself instead of drifting off into dreams of the future and past, or hurrying through unpleasant tasks. I am working this week on mindfulness and also on a very simple, very difficult mantra: “Just be kind”. Try repeating this to yourself throughout the day. It’s hard to be nice, especially for me!
Ok, end of diatribe. The temple is in the process of setting up a small English school and Matthew has invited me to come and teach there once a month in exchange for free room and board. I will probably say yes, just to keep myself out of trouble, and cause I am very intrigued with this whole thing. In case anyone else is interested in doing a templestay in Korea, here’s the website where I arranged the affair:
posted by Erin @ 9:21 PM
Tuesday, January 31, 2006 – What a View!
Here’s what I see when I open my windows. I remember when I was staying in Paris, I could see the eiffel tower from the roof of my building. Last year in Mexico, it was lots of grass and flowers. This year, well… It’s rather austere, sure, but at least a good amount of light gets in.
posted by Erin @ 5:19 PM 0 comments
All this free time is killin me… Seems these days I can hardly drag myself out of bed before 11 or 12. It is nice to be lazy, though.
I figured maybe some of you might be curious about what my apartment looks like, so I just took a few random pictures. Here is a picture of my favorite piece of furniture: my miniature computer table. (I found it in the garbage. In fact, I have found almost all my furniture there…) I spend a lot of time sitting here, actually… I have tried to go with the Korean idea of keeping furniture low to the floor. At first it was really hard to give up chairs but I think my posture and lower back strength has definitely improved.
posted by Erin @ 5:07 PM 0 comments
Monday, January 30, 2006 – Tuna rocks!
I am posting this because I find it kind of hilarious– As I mentioned before, one of the biggest holidays of the year, Chinese New Year, falls this week, and it is customary for people to exchange gifts. So in the spirit of generosity, my bosses, Mr. Khang and Mr. Kim, gave all of the teachers these special gift packages. Yup, it’s tuna. 12 delicious cans of it. (I also have 6 other cans that one of the Korean teachers stuffed into my backpack cause she hates the stuff.) Now, don’t get me wrong– I do like tuna and it is expensive here and of course it was really nice of my bosses to get me anything at all, I just think it is a really funny gift. Koreans seem to be very practical people– a friend of mine got a costco sized pack of toilet paper as a housewarming gift from a person she didn’t even know very well.
So, happy new year’s to me! It sure beats the giant package of Spam that they gave me for Chusok. (I gave it to my neighbor’s dog.)
I attempted again today to get a haircut. No dice. Weird– Just when I finally decide to put a little more effort into my appearance…
posted by Erin @ 10:47 PM 0 comments
Sunday, January 29, 2006 – Wicked Bored at Chinese New Year
So I am officially retired from teaching English, at least for the next 8 days. I feel weird about being on vacation and not really making any plans to do anything… Everyone I know is galavanting around sunnier climates and I am all alone in Seoul. It is nice and relaxing, but a bit dull already and I’m only on day two. I just keep reminding myself that when my contract ends in September I can go on my 3-month whirlwind tour of Asia with Brian. It is going to be quite the trip– our list is narrowed down to China (briefly), The Phillipines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Burma. I’m sure we will have to whittle it down quite few names more, but for now that is the vague plan.
As for now, though, I will lay around on my heated floor and watch the BBC and miscellaneous trashy American television shows… It doesn’t sound too ambitious, so to salvage my reputation, I will add that I have made a reservation to do a templestay at the end of the week at a Buddhist monastery a few hours from here. I am really looking forward to it…
I had high hopes for today. I really did. I spent the morning psyching myself up to go out and get a haircut. How exactly I was going to accomplish this was tough to sort out– my phrasebook had a few useful words but my attempts to sketch out what I want done to my hair failed miserably. Not to be deterred, I headed over to Beomgye square armed only with my winning smile and clever wit. Everything was closed for New Year. Strike one. I did manage to find a couple of salons that were open but no one would help me. I got shooed out of 2 salons for no reason other than the fact that the ajumahs didn’t feel like dealing with a foreinger. Strike two. It hurt my feelings and so I came back home to drink soju and feel sorry for myself. Well, not really. But kind of. Yeah, actually, that sounds good.
The other night, bored and amped up from a green tea popsicle, I used my digicam to create a photo essay with the working title, “I heart Korean Television”. This is the technology capital of the world in many respects and I must say that I am enjoying all the bright colors and flashy lights, especially after my, ahem, austere situation last year in Mexico. Just the fact that I have heat and the cockroaches around my place are of the wingless variety has me pleased as punch. (When you spend a year living in a bungalow that doesn’t even have real walls, your standards tend to dip dramatically.)So I will post a few photos to give you a taste.
Ok, take it easy.
posted by Erin @ 3:46 PM 0 comments
Monday, January 23, 2006 – Vamanos!
Here we go again. It seems like everyone I know in Korea has a blog except for me and I’m starting to feel a wee bit guilty, so I am going to start something up. My goal is to update this thing at least once a week but we shall see how that shapes up. Vacation teaching hours have been kickin my butt, but I only have four days left so the excuses run out.
posted by Erin @ 6:37 PM
Sunday, October 16, 2005
Erin’s oh-five destinations:
International – Mexico, Belize, South Korea, Taiwan (very briefly), Japan
National – Portland, OR; Washington, D.C.
Travel Blog: Mexico and Belize.
Monday, March 14, 2005 – Belated Update
Halfway through march already… Cozumel remains super busy and I am meeting all kinds of, um, interesting people. The most interesting is Danny, an actor from London who ended up here by mistake and can´t go home for a month or two. He is really funny and we do stuff together a lot. My Mexican friend, Dania, took off, or so I´m told, cause she was tired of her jerk boyfriend. Its hard to keep tabs on people around here without an answering machine or cell phone, though.
Natalie is coming to visit in 6 days. I can´t wait!! My Spring Break is 2 weeks long and starts on Friday. Natalie and I are going to bum around the Yucatan and perhaps head into Northern Belize. Road trip!!! I can´t wait to have some new adventures. I don´t get out of Cozumel so much cause of the price of the ferry (20 dollars for a 2 way ticket. And the ride is only half an hour!!) I really need some time off. Teaching is really mentally taxing sometimes, but I am definitely going to do it again next year. I have been here long enough to see improvements in the kids´ English speaking skills and this is really cool. Especially the little ones… they are like sponges. To see them beginning to express themselves successfully in a language I am teaching them keeps me going. The older kids are still a challenge, but I am letting up on them and allowing them more input into what we study and that seems to help.
I lost my camera last week. Boo. The third one to go out the window in as many years. I am really disappointed, but Danny is lending me his so its not exactly the end of the world.
It gets hotter by the day, but I am told that September is really the worst month for all of it and I survived that so it should be ok. I am on my way to the home stretch…. after Spring break, I´ll be teaching for just 3 more months before I head off to Central America. Time is really truly flying.
Nothing else right now. Write me!
posted by Erin at 3:01 PM 3 comments
Monday, February 07, 2005 – The end of winter
It´s a busy monday on the island. I cannot believe the change that has come over this place since high season kicked in. It is another world, literally. The touts are even ´friendlier´than before and American accents can be heard everywhere. I am definitely meeting more interesting people. Tonight I spent awhile chatting with a woman who retired from 26 years teaching Spanish last week. She was very curious about my job and how I like it here. Sometimes I wish I was retired already, but I know this is just my natural inclination towards laziness shining through. Really, I am enjoying my job more and more. It gets easier over time in a lot of ways, although I have struggled mightily to get through to the older kids. I think it is more evident to them that I don´t really know what Í´m doing and they are at an age where pushing boundaries comes naturally. I think I take the brunt of it, but I try not to take it personally.
I have been doing a lot of thinking about my plans for next year and I think that I am, indeed, going to consider Korea. I like Cozumel, but priority number one is saving money and its not so easy to do here, where the cost of living is high and the wage is a bit low. Nothing is concrete, yet, but my tentative plan is to save money to go to grad school and get a master´s in teaching within the next 3 years. This would open a lot of doors for me and would allow me to choose if i wanted to teach in the states or abroad. Either way, the pay would be higher and I would be better at what I do. So. I will definitely stick to this path, but it is fast becoming clear that I need training.
Some funny stuff that happened recently…
I realized that one of my neighbors has 3 cows in the tiny patch of grass behind his shop. I thought I was having auditory hallucinations when I heard all the mooing and braying, but, sure enough, 3 heifers are chilling out in the sandy, weedy lot. I don´t know why.
The elections were this week, which meant that some unknown source very near to my apartment was blasting all this weird and kind of annoying political propaganda and music till 3 in the morning all week. Plus, last night people drove around honking incessantly till very late. I don´t quite understand why, but it will be nice when all the madness dies down.
Also, Carnivale is this week. I don´t understand much about the holiday, but I know it involves a lot of dressing up and some sort of float parade. I am excited to check it out. I have, luckily, brought a makeshift pirate outfit, but I don´t know if I have anyone to go out with. Maybe I will take my cue from the German Pirates and just don the outfit solo, but I don´t know. It is kind of silly.
Not much else to report… I still eat a lot of rice and beans and read a lot. Just finished Chuck Palahnuik´s ¨Diary¨. I reccomend. Also, Paulo Cohelo´s ´Pilgrimage¨. I am scraping the bottom of the barrel at the bookstore, but happening upon these two books was really cool. I think all that´s left is our Danielle Steele. Ugh.
Hope everyone is well. Lisa and Natalie, I am looking forward to seeing you both in the next few months. As for the rest of you, hasta augusta.
posted by Erin at 5:32 PM 0 comments
Monday, January 24, 2005 – Boo!
Well the weeks since Christmas break have been literally flying by. I have been busy getting myself back into the teaching routine and making some minor changes to the way I do my lessons, all of which keeps me on my toes. The kids are just now getting interested in lessons again and so I have been a bit fried, but nothing too bad.
Dad and Lannah came to visit me last week and we had a real good time cruising the island in a rental car, visiting Mayan ruins, and just relaxing at their resort. The next few months will be a flurry of activity for me. My friend Brian comes back from Africa to visit at the beginning of March and then Natalie will spend two weeks here during spring break. I dont know where we are going, but plans for a tour around the Yucatan or perhaps a return to Belize are in the works. And I just found out today that Lisa will spend a long weekend here at the start of april. Woohoo!! I have been a little bored lately, wishing for more friends. This last weekend I met a really nice couple from Asheville, South Carolina, but they have left already. More good news… My friend Charlie had his baby (well, obviously HE didnt have it but you know what I mean)a beautiful, brown 10 and a half pound baby boy. What else…. The mosquitos are still after me and I have seen several COCKROACHES in my apartment. They are soooo disgusting. I sleep in the hammock every night now cause when I try to sleep in the bed I just keep imaginging spiders and the like crawling up my pant legs, a fear that is well justified from the looks of my upper legs. Disgusting. But its really not bad, I just try not to think about it.
It has been positively chilly at night here, down to the late 50s, I think. A nice change, but I like it just a little warmer. The island is very crowded, now, with all sorts of tourists and it makes for interesting people watching. In general I am quite content, although I miss people and places from home. Write me!!
posted by Erin at 2:56 PM 0 comments
Saturday, January 08, 2005 – Belated Vacation Update
Well I tried to post entries from Caye Caulker a few more times, but I couldnt get the thing to work and besides, internet is insanely expensive there. Captive audience, I guess… My vacation was quite interesting, only minorly disastrous, and certainly one to tell the proverbial grandkids about. I spent my vacation staying at Natasha’s Hostel, which is actually run by Heidi, a cool woman from Canada who also owns the islands only sports bar. Her and her boyfriend, TJ, a guy who grew up on the island, were really good to me. I was good to them, as well, when the time came, but I am getting ahead of myself.
Mostly, I hung out on the beach, swam in the Carribean, drank a little rum, ate fresh fruit, and relaxed. The hostel I stayed in was dormitory style, which meant that all sorts of different types came through during my week and a half there. Some of the most memorable… John, an American guy going for his MBA at Vanderbilt and heading down to Costa Rica for a term abroad. Honza and Lukas, two guys from the Czech Republic currently attending college in NY. We spent Christmas together, cooking spaghetti, seashell hunting and lying around in hammocks.
They were really fun and became sort of like my brothers for a few days. A number of French people came through, who I consistently harassed with my own, slightly rusty French. It was fun to practice and I think a lot came back. Sarah, a Canadian girl on vacation from her accounting job. We had a lot of fun hanging out on the beach and just chatting about general stuff. She started to annoy me a bit in the end, but I think well keep in touch.
During my last week, these two German guys in full on pirate regalia showed up at the hostel, wanting to hang their hammocks in the yard beneath a couple of palm trees. I saw them and immediately started laughing and shouting and cracking up. Their outfits were something out of pirates of the carribean…. black courdoroy bell bottom pants, puffy white shirts, black vests with big buttons, red ties, and piratish hats. I couldnt stop staring or laughing but when I asked them why they were dressed like pirates, they got erally confused and told me, ‘We are carpenters’. Eventually, I realized that they are from a rural part of Germany where tradition holds that all young carpenters must leave home for three years and wear these outfits. ooops!! I think they were used to it, though, and we had a ton of fun together.
The day after Christmas, however, the hostel caught on fire in the middle of the night! Scary! I have never been in a fire before and I systematically managed to do every single thing you are warned not to do in all thse fire safety classes when you are young. I tried to turn on the light, I went back in about 4 times to grab things that I kept realizing I just couldnt live without, and generally only added to the chaos. My books and some other stuff got ruined from the water pouring through the roof, but we were all safe, thank god. Funny, though… On my third trip in to grab things, I noticed a lump on the futon. It was one of the germans, sleeping sound as a log in spite of the screaming and water raining down all over him. It took me a good 2 minutes to rouse him anyways, but rum will do that. crazy. So the damage wasnt too bad and me and the germans stayed around a few days to help clean up. They put their charity and their carpentry skills to work and had the roof and the wall repaired in a relatively short time. It was a disaster, though…
Heading home to Cozumel on New Years eve, I missed the last ferry into Cozumel and got stuck in Playa Del Carmen for the holiday with about ten dollars and my giant heavy backpack. It put me in a wicked mood, but I slept on the beach and was befriended by a sympathetic group of Mexicans who offered me beer and conversation just as the sun was rising.
Now I am back in school. It is tiring, but I think I just need to get back in the swing. I like vacations a bit too much….
I want to send you all a link to my photos and will certainly try.
posted by Erin at 11:38 AM 0 comments