Grilled Rice

Monday, August 01, 2005

I am an awful blogger...

...but I did successfully make it to China. So I finished my last week of work, and while it was certainly sad to leave Korea and my friends there, I think Teddy and I are in for a pretty good time in China. I'll try to report on the happenings more frequently, but for now Im going to post all of the pictures that I have neglected over the past several weeks (my bad).

I'll start with my personal favorite...check out the second item down on the breakfast menu. Its "Outer Leaves Broth to Revive the Hangover." Usually Im trying to make the hangover go away instead of reviving it...but thats MY kinda breakfast!

A really famous (but now I forget the name) stone pagoda at Bulgoksa.

Hanging lanterns at the top of Sokeuram...unfortunately you couldnt take pictures of the really old Buddha (the main attraction).

I am a freakin genius. After the sunrise at Sokeuram (for which we got up at 4am) we had to wait until 6 for the park to open. The bugs were just absolutely insane...but I remembered that a trick to keeping mosquitoes away is to smoke cigarettes. After I chain smoked myself sick I decided to turn my gatorade can into an incense holding type device. And afterwards the bugs were kept at bay by a foul-smelling (and cancer causing!) incense smoke screen.

This is a park in the center of Gyeongju. The mounds in the background are tumuli, or burial mounds for Silla royalty. Theyre basically like earthen and rock pyramids with mummies and treasure buried inside. I was later arrested for trying to rob the graves.

The Westin Chosun Beach Hotel at night. I had no idea that the Westin's "thing" was the "Heavenly Bed" but it was absolutely the best bed I have ever slept in. Amazing.

Angie lounging on the beach outside our hotel.

The view from our hotel and the beautiful Haeundae beach at Busan...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Its OK that Im an idiot right?

Some of you may remember a previous post where I discussed my utter distaste for seaweed, and how I had eaten this godawful cold seaweed noodle soup. This was not a happy post. Not at all.

Somehow, about 5 minutes ago at lunch, I managed to select the EXACT SAME SOUP off of the lunch line. I really dont know how I did this. I also dont know how I didnt notice, go back and swap it for something...anything...else. What I do know is that I didnt do either of these things and I had to eat it. Or at least pretend to.

So the lesson for today is: If you are going to be a picky eater, fucking pay attention to what you put on your plate. Thank god for that orange I grabbed.

PS-I really do have a lot of pictures and some interesting stories from my vacation and Teddy's arrival...I swear I'll put them all up soon.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Lawd I was born a ramblin man...

Sorry for the distinct lack of posting recently...I havent had any easy access to an internet connection. Which means I lugged along my laptop for absolutely no fucking reason. LG decided to be awesome and give me a week of vacation so I could travel around Korea during my internship, so thats what Im doing at the moment. I just finished spending three painfully sunburned but otherwise fantastic days in Busan at Haeundae Beach. If any of you are in the Asia-Pacific rim and want to hang out at a beach I would highly recommend Busan. Haeundae beach is a really cool crescent shaped beach with small mountains on either side. Its also built up, but in a cool way. Lots of luxury beachfront hotels, casinos, restaurants and bars along the boardwalk (which is actually paved with flagstone, but I call it a boardwalk for lack of a better word). I have some really great pictures from there, but I cant think of an easy way to get them on to the PC bang computer so it'll have to wait until I get back to Seoul at the end of the week.

The people in Busan were extremely friendly, and we made friends with a student who was working part time setting up umbrellas and chairs and such. Not only a cool guy but he kept bringing us free drinks, cold towels, etc and also gave me a Haeundae beach tshirt when I stopped by to say goodbye today. We stuffed ourselves at a seafood buffet, which at KRW 35,000 was a bit pricey but worth every penny. Shrimp, king crab, salmon, roast beef, chicken and everything else you could imagine. This of course led immediately to the "meat sweats" (a la Joey from Friends) and an early bedtime.

Going to bed early was probably a good decision because I had decided to go drop a couple hundo in the casino that night. And from my general experience in foreign casinos, I literally mean drop, not risk. Ive found that playing at foreign casinos, for me at least, is a lot like playing craps at casinos at home. I put down my money. There is a flurry of action, words I dont understand, and then someone takes my money. Maybe they tell me I lose, maybe not. But they always take my money.

And then there was the time someone drugged and attempted to rob me in a casino in Argentina. But that's a story for another time (although its a damn good one).

But Ive successfully made it from Busan to Gyeongju, the ancient Silla capital, and I will be climbing Sokeulam in the dark to see the sun rise. Strangely? Im not even bitter about it. Perhaps I am mature enough now to enjoy things like sunrises and drives to look at cherry blossoms. Nope. Still think cherry blossoms are boring as shit. Sigh.

Its been a great vacation so far, and Im excited to be able to put up pictures. Teddy gets into Seoul tonight (I think) so he should be recovered enough from his jet lag for me to drag his ass out this weekend.

One final I was walking the boardwalk at night in Busan I saw all these old people hauling mounds of tourist garbage off the beach. It was night, but it was still hot as balls. They were sweating profusely and just generally looked weary and miserable. They were all wearing uniforms that said: "Haeundae Beach Summer Fun!"...and yet it looked like Haeundae beach summers kind of sucked for them. Ah, irony.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The DMZ Tour (and Angie is Dutch???)

Yesterday we took the USO tour to Panmunjom and the DMZ, and it was really a surreal experience. Being surrounded on three sides by North Korean territory and being just a few feet from a North Korean soldier was just a bizarre experience.

However, this experience was no less bizarre that finding out that Angie was from the Netherlands. Let me explain. Angie seems to have a problem paying attention to what is being said over the bus loudspeaker. We are getting to the checkpoint where they have to look at our passports and the guy says, "Ok, please raise your hands if you are NOT from the USA." Angie looks confused for a moment, and raises her hand. So I grab her hand and gently remind her that she is, in fact, FROM the USA.

So I am kind of laughing at this and the guy then (apparently reading off of a list of passengers)says, "Ok, which of you guys are from the Netherlands." Again, Angie looks confused and RAISES HER HAND!!! Really embarassed at this point, I grab her hand and explain that no Angie you are not from the Netherlands, you are from America. Then I simply say, "Angie, you are no longer allowed to raise your hand. You are definitely from America, and he is only asking about foreigners...see the pattern??"

"But," she protests, "I thought he said Maryland!" At which point I must remind her that SHE IS FROM VIRGINIA. Sigh. On to the tour itself.

The parking lot at Camp Bonifas (the only place where we could take pictures in the camp). It is the most forward military installation on the Korean peninsula, and the camp motto is, fittingly, "In Front of Them All."

A North Korean soldier guarding the line of control between North and South.

There you can see the line of control, represented by a 17-inch wide concrete slab and the North Korean soldier guarding it. You can also see that I am on the Commie side of the line. Dont worry, I havent defected...they cant get me as long as I am in the neutral UN building. But if I fall through that window? Please call the embassy.

A picture of me (wearing my cool UN badge) on the wrong side of the line. Thats right people, Im standing about 25 inches inside the North Korean controlled area of Panmunjom. Through the window you can see the North Korean soldier standing guard on the line. The building we are in is a UN building that straddles the line of control and is where all of the important military-to-military talks are held.

Angie and a ROK soldier, standing in what is called "ROK Ready" position. ROK Ready is apparently a modified form of a Tae Kwan Do ready stance that the South Korean army uses. Behind him (and the reason he is standing guard there) is the door that leads to North Korea. Run through that my bet is its a big ol shit storm (not to mention an international incident).

This is a picture standing on the steps of the South Korean side looking across the MDL (Military Demarcation Line) into North Korea. The guys by the blue houses in the grey shirts are Republic of Korea (ROK) soldiers. The guys in the distance in the green uniform are North Korean forces standing on the steps of a North Korean military building. You can also see North Korean soldiers standing along the 17-inch concrete slab that separates North and South Korea.

This, ladies and gents, is North Korea. I am standing at Observation Point Three, which is the most forward point in South Korea. It sort of bulges out like the tip of a finger and is surrounded on three sides by North Korean territory.

This is the "Bridge of No Return." It literally runs from South Korea to North Korea, and is so named because it was the site of the North-South prisoner exchange at the end of the war. The prisoners were released at either end of the bridge and given the opportunity to walk to the country of their choice. However, once they crossed the middle of the bridge they could never return.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Best directions ever...

So I was looking for the location of a restaurant, and decided to check out their website. "Oh great!" I thought, "The website has an option for english! This will be easy." Behold, the directions imparted unto me:

"Subway 5 line is lost in the fifth line subway, and it is two times of duty reverse-HaCha exits."

But I must say that Im sorry the Subway 5 line got lost...cause I take it to work every day.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I saw the sign...

I really did. I actually saw “the” sign. The greatest sign ever made. It’s here, in Korea. Come visit it. I went out to a bar called Beer Plus with Teddy’s brothers and some of their classmates from language school. I was curious about the name at first (Beer Plus what?) but I soon realized that Beer Plus Limited Bladder Capacity = Man I Gotta Piss.

I head into the bathroom and the first thing I notice is that there’s a condom machine, which is still kind of funny to me. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I don’t go to a lot of bars with condom machines in the bathroom. Nor do I think anyone I know would have sex using a condom that they purchased in a bathroom. But perhaps I am overestimating you bunch of savages.

Anyway, then I notice the sign on the condom machine. I am shocked, I crack up, I curse myself for not having my camera, I laugh some more and then I go out to our table and force EVERYONE (girls included) to follow me back to the bathroom to see this sign. The only camera in the group was a film camera (what, is it 1992 or something?), so it may be a while before I can post any sort of visual evidence of this sign, but I will try to describe it:

The main character of this sign is an unrolled cartoon condom. His head is, well, where the “head” goes and he is replete with reservoir tip and all. The condom is smiling at you, winking and giving you the thumbs up…cause youre totally getting laid! Now at the other end, the open part, there are two little smiling cartoon babies. What exactly is this telling you? That babies will grow in my used condom instead of inside of a woman? Cause this thought in really no less disturbing to me than the thought of getting a girl pregnant. And what are the babies smiling about? The whole contraption is designed so that they don’t exist. If someone told me that they were creating a latex device to eradicate my presence from the face of the earth, I sure as shit wouldn’t be smiling.

Here’s the kicker though. If the smiling cartoon nature of the whole thing wasn’t enough, the condom was holding a lollipop in his other hand (you know, the hand that he wasn’t giving you the “thumbs up” with). The lollipop, ladies and gentleman? The lollipop said “AIDS.” I tell ya, nothing makes me feel safer about trusting my birth control method than a eye-winking, thumbs-up-giving, baby-toting, AIDS-lollipop holding, smiling cartoon condom with a reservoir tip. So of course I bought one. And, no, I am not planning on using it.

"Stumpy," or "The Grumpiest Woman in Korea"

Yesterday I had the distinct pleasure of meeting someone who is surely the meanest woman in Korea. I was already tired and hung over and new I was in for Not A Good Morning. So I sort of walk bleary eyed down to the subway platform to wait for the train. Now, one of the things that I love about Seoul is that they have marked on the platform where the doors will be when the train stops…and they hit it like 99% of the time. Not like DC where you have a 3 hour delay on the red line cause some jackass Metro operator dropped his crack pipe and overshot the station. But I digress. So knowing where the doors are affords riders the opportunity to form a nice neat line (not like China where lines Do Not Exist. Don’t get me started. I’ll just point out that we had a chapter in our beginning Chinese textbook called “Zhongguo Ren Bu Paidui” or “Chinese People Don’t Stand in Lines”) on each side of the door to wait for the train.
People usually wait at a close but comfortable distance from each other, which is what I did on this morning. This is where Stumpy came into my life. I actually named her Stumpy before she was even mean to me, cause she was seriously just pushing 4 feet tall and was actually cube-shaped. People are often described as stocky or stout, but this woman stuck out in my mind because her body formed a perfect little cube. So this woman starts yelling at me in Korean (which I, of course, do not speak) and Im trying to figure out just what exactly the hell is going on. So a nice, non-cube-shaped woman tells me that I cut her off in line.

Lets dissect this for a moment. To be cut off in a line you NEED TO BE SOMEWHERE NEAR THE LINE. Not standing 10 feet behind it. Not resting your bag on the bench that is against the back wall. IN. THE. LINE. Not being able to adequately state my position in Korean I just kind of shook my head and let her in front of me. Whatever.

The subway is really crazy crowded during rush hour and everyone is smashed together. The train arrives and we get on and I can sort of see stumpy cause she creates like a divot in the incredible crowd of people (seeing as how she is so short and wide). So of course the train sort of jostles and moves and people bang into each other. And this woman keeps yelling at people who bump into her! I mean Jesus Christ lady…if you don’t want to get wet, say the fuck inside during a rainstorm! Pretty much everyone on the train was giving each other looks. Of course she gets off at my stop, too. But I was able to resist the urge to push her on to the tracks. So that’s nice.

Monday, July 11, 2005

BBQ Pics

James takes requests on the guitar.

Eating, drinking and being merry.

Other people may be cooking, but thats MY tent in the background.

Behold! The marvelous tarp palace!

International Flip Cup Ambassador

I have appointed myself the international flip cup ambassador for Korea, and I must say I am doing a pretty bang up job. And by bang up job I mean frequently complaining “C’monnnnnn, guyyyyys…lets play flip cup!” And usually having people ignore me. But I’m trying. And its not easy here because apparently Korea is averse to anything larger than a Dixie cup. Also to any cup not made of paper.

This past weekend in an effort to further my ambassadorial obligations I took a trip to Carrefour, which is this giant grocery store/department store/sporting goods store/home improvement center to look for several items for a BBQ we were planning, most notably regulation flip cup cups. So far as I can tell regulation red Solo cups do not exist here. The best I could do was these weak-ass half size plastic cups…but hey, they fill with beer and they flip (more or less) and that’s about all I personally ask from a flip cup cup.

The BBQ was slated to take place on our rooftop deck-ish area. I call it a deck-ish area because it has no chairs or anything and seems to be designed as a place to hang laundry more so than a place to cook food and get drunk. But we weren’t gonna let that stop us. Two guys in the building had bought some little portable gas grills, so I appointed myself to the duty of securing a table and chairs, and most importantly: shelter. Cause did I mention it was supposed to fucking POUR? So being a talented, manly, can-do kind of guy, I decided I would buy a tarp, some rope and tie together a tent for us. Nay, friends, not so much a tent but a canvas palace! So while at Carrefour I head over to the camping section and buy myself a big ass black tarp and some yellow rope. The plan was already well-formed in my head. I had been up to the roof deck exactly once, and remembered the layout in my head. I would tie one side to the top of the fire stairs, and the other side to the railing. It would be nice and high, and slanted so the rain would run off. It would be, in a word, perfect.

Now one thing I forgot to mention is that the one time I was up on the roof I was already ass wasted. And apparently my memory? Not so good. So I marched up to the roof armed with my tarp, rope and pocket knife that I won at the beach…only to find that the balcony I was expecting to use as the centerpiece of my makeshift castle was approximately two feet wide. Oops. So after some searching around the roof I finally figured that the best way to make this thing was to tie it to two of the air ducts and then to the railing. There’d *probably* be enough room to stand, right? Well, no. But you could more or less sit without brushing your head on the top. Sort of.

Anyway, I loved it. The others? Not so impressed. But hey, as my mom used to say, it’s important to be inner-directed rather than other-directed. So the cookout began and I spent the first part of the evening explaining to the arriving guests just exactly why there was a lopsided, sagging tarp tied over the corner of the roof. When I told them it was to keep us out of the rain they seemed to evince a strange mixture of confusion, amusement, and yeah, a little bit of pity. And certainly no faith in my construction skills.

Well we cooked, and drank and then James (one of my Excellentvill co-inhabitants) played his guitar, which is fun cause he’s like REALLY good. It basically amounts to acoustic karaoke. So the BBQ was a success and a fun time was had by all, until the next morning when all were miserable. And the kicker, friends? It didn’t. Even. Fucking. Rain.