Category Archives: korea

“Faking It”

A few days ago I gave my first performance at “A Guide To Visitors: Storytelling in Seattle.” While I’m pretty comfortable writing stories, I had never before stood up on stage and performed one in front of an audience. To top it off, I couldn’t use my notes. Nerve-wracking, no doubt, but I think I made it through my set relatively error-free, and I got a good reaction from the crowd. Definitely a lot of fun and I hope to share more stories in the future. Below is a written version of the story I told, based off the theme of the night: “Faking It.” Check it out below.  

There is an old proverb that says, “A turtle only travels when it sticks out his neck.” I know this because it was written on a card given to me by my sister, right before I left the country for 15 months.

It was a couple years ago. I had just graduated from college and I was struggling to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.  All I knew was I that wanted to see what else was out there. I wanted to experience something new. So after giving it a little thought, I did what any rational person would do: I packed my bags, said goodbye to my friends and family, and flew to the opposite side of the world: South Korea.

 I had signed a year-long contract to teach English at private language academy in a small farming town called Seosan, an hour and a half southwest of Seoul. I’d be teaching kids and adults. It was just what I wanted. A change.  A challenge. It was going to be great. I couldn’t wait! There were, however, a few minor details that I may have overlooked in my rush to find a way out Seattle, namely, that with the exception of Canada, I had never traveled outside of the country…And I had never traveled anywhere alone before…And I had no teaching experience… And I didn’t know a word of Korean… And I knew absolutely no one who lived or had lived in Korea. I could barely use chopsticks. I was woefully underprepared, but I had made up my mind and my plane ticket was non-refundable. I was going.

 (The Rest of the Story After The Jump)

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Holga Shots

I was looking through some old albums and it just occurred to me: I’ve never posted any of my Holga pictures on this site. I took most of these several months ago while I was still in South Korea with Kodak 400 film and a Colorsplash flash. Check them out and let me know what you think.

 

 

 

 

Korea Update

Some of you dedicated readers out there (read: Mom and Dad) may have noticed that I’ve been a little lax in the blogging department as of late. Well fear not. It’s not that my interest or affection for life in Korea has waned, it’s just that I’ve only got 12 days left here in the Land of the Morning Calm, and I’m doing my damnedest to enjoy every last minute of it. In between running errands and tying up various loose ends, I’ve also been trying to spend as much time with my friends out here as possible. That means lots of day trips, darts games, and trips to the Galbi Tent a.k.a the most glorious place on the planet to stuff your pie-hole.

I’ve also been hitting the gym and running a bit more in preparation for my upcoming bike ride which I’m super stoked about. I fully intend on blogging the trip as much as I can (because it’s probably going to kick unparalleled amounts of ass) but seeing as I won’t have a computer or an internet connection readily available, I probably won’t be able to update as frequently or as in depth as I would like. That being said,  I plan to branch out a bit into the interweb and use my high-fallutin’ Twitter account to post short updates whenever possible (note: I signed up before Oprah). If you’re interested, you can follow along for the ride at SinkorSchwim. Yes, social networking sites are slowly taking over my life, but I’m doing it all for the fans (again, read: Mom and Dad).

Anyway, I still think I have a few good Korea posts left in me. Even after 13 months there is still no shortage of things to write about, only a shortage on time. So keep your eyes peeled and make sure you stay tuned for the next adventure.

Related Viewing: “Final Countdown”- Europe

Gob would be proud.

Compartment Country

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Tee’d Off: Jon hits the virtual lynx

With so many people and such limited real estate, frivolous use of space in Korea is out of the question. To make things more efficient, Korea has developed into a country of compartments. In addition to the endless numbers of apartment blocks in which most Koreans live, there are is also series of rooms (called “bangs”) for nearly every interest. There’s the PC Bang for playing Starcraft and other soul-sucking games. There’s the Norae Bang (song room) for belting out aweful karaoke jams. There are video rooms to watch new releases on huge flatscreens. There is the “Jim-Jil Bang” designed for sitting and sweating. I even found a room specifically reserved for playing ping pong.

Recently a few friends found another room to add to this compartment culture: screen golf. Now I can’t play golf to save my life, but the technology in these places is pretty impressive even to an outsider. It’s got hundreds of virtual golf courses, variable wind speeds, self-adjusting putting surfaces, and even soothing bird-chirping sounds for when you shank your ball into the water hazard. Best of all, it shrinks massive golf courses into the siz e of something just larger than your living room.

With space being so scarce, I can foresee a future in Korea where all outdoor recreational activities will be condensed into some sort of virtual form. People will go on virtual treks in the Hiking Bang, fly down virtual slopes in the Skiing Bang, and then head to the Fishing Bang to catch some virtual tuna. While many city planners would look Korea’s density as an intimidating  barrier, to Koreans, there is always room for growth.

Related Viewing: “Everything in It’s Right Place” – Radiohead

Korean Culinary Mishap: Mother’s Finger

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As a kid there was nothing I liked better after a long hard day at school than sitting down at the kitchen counter and chompin’ down on a Mother’s Finger. So good. They are kind of like Butterfingers, except more cannabalistic. Seriously, does this make any sense at all?

Folk Village Pics

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Here are some more pictures from my recent trip to the Korean Folk Village located in Suwon. It was a pretty enjoyable day-trip with a lot of interesting performances and cultural exhibits as well as some oddball “only-in-Korea” kinda stuff. If you’re in Korea and you’re looking for a leisurely way to spend an afternoon, head on down. You might actually learn something while you’re at it. There’s more information at the official site.

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This guy could slack line like nobody’s business, plus, being a consummate showman, he did it in his Ronald McDonald pajamas for added effect.

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I think working as a historical character at a tourist attraction would have to be one of the most surreal jobs a person could have. All day you pretend that you’re living as someone from the centuries old Chosun dynasty, and then when your shift is over, you walk into the parking lot, get into your minivan, and wind your way through traffic in one of the biggest, most modern cities in the world. That would totally mess with my head.

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Corn on a wire

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These girls were getting some serious air off the ancient see-saw. I tried this once way back in my elementary school days and, well, let’s just say that my friend’s collar bone has never been the same.

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“Could someone please turn on the gravity machine?”

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To be fair, this guy lost his dental coverage after he was laid off at the circus.

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If you look closely on the right hand side, you will see that there is now a receptacle where you can discard your annoying family pet. Meanwhile, the left hand side is reserved for people throwing away normal garbage, and also for people who have given up on juggling.

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This is an accident waiting to happen, but a pretty decent photo opportunity nonetheless.

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After touring the Folk Village, we went to the amusement park that was located on the other side of the park. However, the word “amusement” should be used lightly. A better choice would have been “the place where fun goes to die.” All the rides were empty, there were only a handful of people on the grounds (most of whom looked lost), and the employees, who were forced to wear red cowboy hats, all looked as if they were contemplating taking their own lives to end the sheer boredom of their jobs. Also, whoever thought animitronic animals were cool should be put in jail. They are scary and they haunt my dreams.

On the bright side, there was this cute bunny who smushed himself against his cage:

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I named him Cubez.

Farming Fail

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WTF? I went to a replica Korean folk village just outside of Seoul last weekend and that’s where I found this doozy of a sign. I’m not exactly sure what this crop is, but I don’t I’ll be asking the farmer to find out. No sir.