Tag Archives: Chuseok

Lights Out!

28 Sep

Leave it to Korea to let me know where I stand in the scheme of things when I’m riding high. Everything was going so well.

I come back from Seoul, sans hangover and dreads freshly twisted, and I walk into my apartment to perhaps the most god awful stench known to mankind–worse than the shit that invades my nostrils why cruising the streets of Busan. Worse than one of my fat students’s kimchi farts after lunch. It was downright horrible.

After thouroughly checking my apartment for a dead animal carcass (which took no time at all considering my place is a studio), I go to flip on the lights and nothing happens. What the fuck?  The shitty electricity went out.

I dropp my bags at the door and brace myself as I open the fridge. Big mistake. The smell of rotting chikcken, pork and a small assortment of veggies (luckily I was already out of milk) was enough to send me rushing to the bathroom dry heaving my life away.

I immediately call my co-teacher who says she will call the bulding manager and get back to me. Mind you my co-teacher is in the countryside somewhere visiting her folks for the holiday, so I’m skeptical about how much she can actually help. Before hanging up the phone she lets out a small chuckle. At the time–and even now–I fail to see what is so funny. Here I am sitting in my apartment with a fucking pillow case wrapped around my head, trying to escape the raw sewage smell that has come upon my tiny apartment like the like the plague, and she’s laughing as if I’m calling to share a funny anecdote.

Normally I can handle this type of shit. I live in an old building. The electricity seems to go out everytime it rains or the wind blows. Usually I just head over to the circuit box, flip the breakers and the problem is solved. Only when I do as such this time, nothing happens .

My co-teacher calls me back and tells me that the buildng manager is out of town (of course he is) and that the electric company reccomends that I try flipping the circuit breakers. When I inform her that I’ve alrealdy tried that, she tells me to do it again, as if magically the shit will work now that she is on the phone. Nonetheless I do it, and surprise! Nothing happens.

She calls the electric company back and they show up 30 minutes later, walk in the apartment, glance at me (pillow case head and all), tap on my circuit box with a screw driver and then leave. I just about loose it. From my window I watch them return to their truck and sit for a while before pulling off.

I again call my co-teacher and tell her that the electricians left without doing anything.
“I’s your electricity back on?” She asks.
“No”
“Oh well I heard they need to go and find a key to locate the switch that will turn the power back on in your apartment.”
“What?”

Stop me if I’m not making sense, my dear readers, but why the fuck would she ask me if my power is back on if she knows they have done absolutely nothing? I love my co-teacher, I really do, but at this point I’m seriously contemplating downing a bottle of soju and and letting the obscenities fly. And I still can’t figure out why the hell she keeps laughing before hanging up the phone!

Finally I get a text from her saying I need to call some random number at eight o’clock to meet the guy with the mysterious key that will open the mythical door that leads to a land where the power switch to my apartment is. I kept imagining Frodo showing up with his Lord of the Ring homies, a few elvish hookers, and a bottle of rice wine ready to get shit faced.

I call the number at eight and wouldn’t you know the guy speaks no english whatsoever. I hang up the phone, call my co-techer back and explain what happened and she happily informs me–after chuckling again–that he already showed up and turned my power back on.

Now two days later I have washed out the fridge twice and still can still smell a faint whiff of rotting food. I love Korea.

Ciao,

Kimchi Dreadlocks

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Celebrating Chuseok in Seoul

26 Sep

My apologies friends for not posting in a while. I took off to Seoul for a week in honor of the Korean holiday Chuseok. I hesitate to say it’s the Korean version of Thanksgiving, but that’s probably the western holiday it most resembles. Koreans head back to their hometowns to be with family and exchange gifts. There’s also seems to be a lot of free cultural events that happen in and around major cities (all temples and museums were free during my stay, for example, and there were many cultural performances going on all around the city). At any rate, my school gave me the whole week off so tossed some clothes in a bag and made a dash for the capital.

My thoughts on Seoul? Madness.

For all of you that don’t know, Seoul–a city of over 12 million people–is one of the most populated cities in the world. I don’t know how you teachers who opt for Seoul do it. I’m not saying I don’t like the place, but I’ll be damed if I ever had to live there for a year. Hell, I’m pretty sure spending just five days there shaved a good four years off my life expectancy. Here’s a few highlights:

Itaewon
The district of Itaewon might as well be called foreignerville. It has got to be one of the only places in Korea where you will see more foreigners than actual Koreans walking down the street. On one of the first there, we decide to to venture into a pub to meet up with some other teachers from Busan, and the only Koreans in the joint were the bartenders and one of our group leaders from orientation. At one point, as I’m trying to enjoy some overpriced bourbon, a drunk white girl stumbles over to me and offers to make out with me for five seconds if I give her a cigarette. I contemplate dumping my drink on her before I remember how much I payed for it. Instead, I toss her a cigarette and nudge her to the side hoping that she will stumble in front of a dart being thrown by one of her British cronies.

Later, we manage to find a hip-hop club (finally) and I’m again disappointed by what I find. I don’t  mean to lecture, but if you are a gang member back in your home country, don’t bring that shit to Korea. It pissed me off to see people throwing up gang signs amongst others who were simply there to have a good time. You fuckers are the reason hip-hop gets a bad rep overseas. Enough said.

I guess you have to take the good with the bad. Yeah there’s far too many westerners in Itaewon, but the area also has some great restaurants AND I found a hair shop that could tighten up my kimchi dreadlocks. For any of my readers who are in Korea (or are coming in the future) with dreadlocks or any other natural hair style, drop a few lines in the comment section and I’ll pass along the info on how to find the place.

Hongdae
You want to go out in Seoul? Go to Hongdae (Hongik University area). Every month there is a club night where 15,000 won gets you into a bunch of participating venues. On one of our last nights in Seoul, we go and bounce from bar to bar (the problem with going out in a big group) in search of the crazy party scene that everyone talks so much about, and we  finally settle into club called Cocoon. Now there are plenty of clubs in Busan, but I’m quite sure none of them can match the magnitude and shear pandemonium of Cocoon. Multi-leveled, two bars, a massive stage and enough laser lights to trigger a seizure at any moment, Cocoon is a place where you need to be prepared for a long night. You think you’ve only been there for an hour until you step outside for some air and realize the sun is about to rise. It is here that I decide to test what I now call “The dreadlock factor.”

Club Cocoon

Basically the dreadlock factor is what I employ in Korea when I either need an ego boost (which I would argue we all need from time to time) or I want to take the party to the next level. Heres how its done:

Step 1:
Head to the stage or the dance floor.

Step 2:
Remove your hair tie letting your dreads fall.

Step 3:
Shake the hell out of your dreads while dancing. Headbanging is accepted.

Step 4:
Brace yourself to be damn near attacked by a drove of Korean clubbers looking to join in on the fun. For whatever reason, they love it.

My advice about “the dreadlock factor?” Use it wisely and be careful. I did it in club Ghetto in Busan and almost didn’t make it out alive. A friend of mine had to pull me out of the crowd when my dreads were almost ripped right from my scalp, scary shit indeed. The result was comparable when I did it in Cocoon, but I managed to scurry behind some friends dancing on the stage, thus avoiding any serious injuries.

The Sights
Besides the partying, there are is also some good sight seeing to be had in Seoul. I’m reluctant to place a “must see” stamp on anything because the truth is I’m not hard to please. A few markets, a couple of temples and a museum and I’m happy. We pretty much walked everywhere around the city and managed to hit most of the popular sights whilst munching on street food. While the elaborate  Gyeongbokgung Palace is beautiful, and the areas along the Cheong-gye-cheon stream are good places to people watch, I probably enjoyed hiking up to N Seoul Tower the most. In the observatory up top we caught views of  the entire city at sunset, right as everything lit up. I won’t go on and on about how to get there and how much it cost (there are plenty of K-blogs that do just that), but I will say that when you make it to the top, there’s a corn dog stand that shouldn’t be missed. Like I said, I’m not hard to please.

Seoul treated me well and I will be back to further explore, but Busan is still the better city in my opinion. After all, I didn’t see one beach in Seoul.

Ciao,

Kimchi Dreadlocks

All About the Benjamins

15 Sep

Earlier I planned on dropping a few lines about my recent addiction to Korean barbeque, but I’ve decided to change it up. Why? I’ve been hit with a bit of a dilemma and I feel it might turn out to be the first rift in the relationship between myself and the school administration. For any of my readers considering coming to Korea to teach, take note. You quite possibly will have to deal with a similar situation.

Yesterday after my morning classes were finished I asked my co-teacher when I would be able to receive the 300,000 Won settlement allowance (as well as my first month’s salary) the school owes me . Naturally, after having set up three Korean bank accounts, I figured they could easily deposit the money in just a few days. This may not exactly be the case.

Before thanking me for bringing it to her attention, my co-teacher tells me she just needs to file some paperwork on my behalf with the school administration and the money will be deposited soon after. I got the feeling I would’ve been completely assed out had I never brought it up. No problem though. I return to my desk to watch football highlights before taking off for the day.

Today, however, after barely making it through five-mind numbing lessons with a group of sixth graders who couldn’t give two fucks about comparative adjectives, the story changed. My co-teacher now tells me I will have to have a sit down with her and the principal to go over, and officially sign, my employment contract before any money can be sent my way (mind you I have already signed the same contract three times with various entities). A bit of patience is lost, but alright. Sign the damn thing and get paid right? Wrong! 20 minutes later my she again appears at my desk and informs me that the school administration apparently will need several other documents; namely my resume and a copy of my college diploma–of which I already submitted to both my recruiter and the EPIK staff during the orientation. In fact, when I originally signed  my contract with EPIK, I specifically asked if I would need to hold on to bring either my diploma or transcript to the school I was set to work at, and they assured me that they would forward all documents to the Busan Metropolitan Office of Education and that there was no need. This is precisely the type of run around I was hoping to avoid during my time here.

Now I wrote before how I understand my low social standing as a native english teacher here in Korea, but all this misinformation has me feeling like I need to perform a damn shuck-n-jive just to get what’s owed to me. Maybe I should do a full out minstrel show where I eat fried chicken and loudly explain how much I love watermelon. “Aww massa, I showls wish I had me some watermelon to snack on why I wait for my scraps!” Hell, I’m already singing and dancing for several hundred students per week. What more do they expect?

To be fair, my co-teacher seems like she’s doing her best to help me out, but she’s caught in-between  my needs and her loyalty to a system that thrives on bureaucratic red tape for anyone who’s last name Doesn’t end in Lee, Kim, or Park. She claims she will make a call to the Busan Office Education first thing tomorrow morning to sort everything out, but my fear is, with Chuseok approaching next week (I have the week off and am heading to Seoul), this shit may not get resolved until after the holiday.

I’m going to hold off on blowing my lid. I don’t want to jeopardize the good standing I have with my co-teacher, but if I walk in tomorrow to another fairy tale about what I need to do to get paid, shit might get a bit ignorant. Mama didn’t raise no fool, and she for damn sure didn’t raise no punk.

Ciao,

Kimchi Dreadlocks

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