Tag Archives: South Korea

Radioactive Rain?

7 Apr

Korea has been all up in a fuss about the radioactive rain that was supposed to hit the peninsula today. Schools have closed down, kids have been banned from going outside and citizens have been generally  pissed off because they were initially told by the Korea Meteorological Association and the Korean Institute of Nuclear Safety that there would be no radiation coming into the country from Japan. They only admitted to the possibility after other foreign institutions did. Not that it mattered anyway. The trace amounts that were previously found in the air as well as the amount that was expected to fall with the rain were said to be so minuscule that it would have no harmful affects on the human body. Still, with the Korean media blasting information about even the possibility of radioactive rain, many locals are taking extra precautions.

However, as it turns out, all the scare is for no reason. The rain is nothing more than springtime doing its thing.

Honestly it doesn’t surprise me that the nation freaked out for a couple of days over this–even after being told it would cause no harm. Koreans seem to be good at working themselves up for little or no reason. We’re talking about a country that damn near shuts down on spring days when the yellow dust from China blows in (as it does in most of  the southern part of Asia). Likewise, During the winter Busan had snowfall that barely covered the ground, but many schools in the area were closed or had late starts because of it. I strolled into work that day only to find out that classes would be delayed nearly 2 hours–time I could have spent sleeping. A Korean friend of mine (a grown man) told me his mother had called into work for him because she didn’t want him to catch the bus; y the roads weren’t safe enough (which was probably true, but had nothing to do with the snow and everything to do with how crazy Korean drivers tend to be).

Personally I was hoping to get a couple days off with the coming of radiation infused rain. It would have been a great start to my weekend. No lie, when I showed up this morning I was halfway expecting to be sent right back home. In my head I was planning out the rest of my day just in case it happened. Nope. Even without the false alarm, I would have still taught my taught my usual lessons and had to tend to my normal desk warming bid.

So just like that, the possibility of radioactive rainfall has faded, and with it, my hopes of growing webbed feet in time for Busan’s beach season. Dammit.


Kimchi Dreadlocks

P.S. Links here and here in case you want to read more

*UPDATE: So I guess there was some radiation found in yesterday’s rain, but still not enough to create any interesting mutations or provide super human powers.  Now all we have to worry about is the possible radioactive  yellow dust sandstorm.  Great. Just great. Big ups to The Marmots Hole for the links.



N. Korea Gangsterdom

23 Nov



Photo taken from Yonhap News Agency

It’s always a treat when I’m able to get breaking news from Facebook.

Looks like North Korea has gone gangster again as local news organizations are reporting that Kim Jong Il and his cronies have fired  rounds of artillery onto the S. Korean Island of Yeonpueong near the highly disputed border.

According to S. Korea’s YTN television, at least two people have been injured, with one S. Korean soldier having been killed.

Yonhap News Agency, citing a spokesman for S. Korea’s Joint Chief of Staff, says S. Korea has since returned fire with some 80 rounds of artillery and has scrambled fighter jets to the island.

None of this is good, but I guess it’s pleasing to read that at least the S. Korean military aren’t acting like a bunch of pussies when it comes to retaliation, especially considering N. Korea has developed a new uranium enrichment plant which the U.S. is doing nothing about, aside from what it always does: “talking” about the possibility of more U.N. sanctions.

The big question: Should expats (here on teaching contracts or otherwise) be concerned?

Fuck if I know. Popular K-blogger Robert Koehler over at the Marmot’s Hole, usually claims that he couldn’t give two shits about the North’s actions. Judging from random Facebook and Twitter banter, some seem a bit concerned while others seem content with posting links about it and poking fun at yet another N. Korea provocation. If you really care to read it (an no doubt bore the shit out of yourself in the process) here are some initial reactions from supposed N. Korean  experts regarding the attack.

Me? I picked up a jug of beer and a can of  sour cream & onion Pringles on my way home from work. I plan on taking in an episode of Deadwood while reports continue to roll in.

Don’t worry though. If shit gets serious, I’ll be sure to duck under my dinner table while covering my head with both hands.


Kimchi Dreadlocks

3 Things I Don’t Get About Korea (and 3 Coping Methods)

4 Oct

I’m not real big on lists these days, but I’ve been lazy lately and this will clear my head of several blog post ideas that I’ve been harboring for over a week now. Let me mention, however, that this list is not at all complete, and I don’t intend to finish it. There’s a lot of shit about life in the R.O.K. that makes me pause and ponder (like why the hell the electricity keeps going out in my apartment), but if I spent my time writing about all the weird crap that goes on in this country, I wouldn’t have any time to actually enjoy it. I picked these three anomalies because they’re the ones that–despite encountering the most–continue to perplex the hell out of me. Feel free to drop your own Korean oddities in the comments section.

#1. Eternal Traffic Lights
I live next to a five street intersection that I cross every morning on my way to the bus stop. If I time it just right I can make it to the corner just as the light changes allowing me to cross without breaking stride. If I time it wrong however, I could end up standing there for nearly 10 minutes–I shit you not. I don’t get it. Why the hell should a man be late because of a traffic light? I’ve literally watched three busses pass me by while I wait, stranded on a concrete island, held there by the menacing Don’t Walk sign. People on the bus stare at me from their moving oasis as if to say “look at this idiot. He should have left his house earlier. And what the fuck is up with his hair?”

Needless to say, I do what any normal schmuck would do and J-walk on to salvation. But this method has consequences; mainly in the form of dirty glares form the old Korean women hawking produce and milk on the corner. They look at me as if I’ve just committed murder in broad daylight. What the fuck do they expect me to do? “Sorry Mr. Principal. I was late to work because your country’s dumb ass traffic light wouldn’t turn me loose.” Fuck it. I live life on the edge.

#2. Lunatic Bus Drivers
Yes, all Koreans seem to drive crazy, but in my book, bus drivers are the worst on the peninsula. On my way to and from work I catch the smaller buses  that go up and down the hills that surround Busan. The drivers whip around blind corners as if they’re in a high-speed chase with the kimchi police. Why, my friends, must I fear for my life during my morning commute?

The solution? Bus Surfing. A girl from back home taught me this one: stand in the middle of the isle facing the front of the bus, extend your arms and spread your legs apart for stability, then ride that sucker balancing like a pro until A: you make it to your stop (provided to you don’t get punched in the face by an angry passenger), or B: the driver takes a sharp turn that sends your dumb ass flying into the side of the bus (the latter happened to me on the last of two attempts). Bus surfing uphill sucks, but coming down it’s pure adrenaline.

3. Poo Paper
Koreans don’t like to flush their toilet paper after making the swipe. Instead they toss it a trash bin next to the toilet, which if not emptied regularly has the effect of making the entire bathroom smell like boiled port-a-potty stew. In most cases (especially in subway stations), there’s not even a lid on the poo paper bin! So along with the smell, you get to see Mr. Kim’s shit streak plastered on a small white canvass.

The reason for this madness? I’ve been told the Korean sewage system can’t handle the extra task of flushing paper along with floaties, but I don’t buy it. I’d expect this in a place like Costa Rica or some other third world country, but Korea is pretty advanced. Hell, their hand dryers are more powerful than most American built cars. I find it hard to believe that they can’t develop a system that can handle our disposable butt rags.

In some bathrooms the toilet paper is either non-existent or even outside of the stall. Imagine making that discovery after dropping your load. You’re all set to clean up and get on with your life when you realize there’s no paper to wipe your fanny with. You walk bowl-legged out of the stall trying desperately not to let your drawers touch your soiled bum until you locate a dispenser (which hopefully you find), only to hobble your shitty ass back to the safe zone to finish your deed. I pray I’m never caught in this situation.

Avoid the poo paper dilemma by either keeping a stash of it on you, or by securing some before entering the stall; and unless you’re at your own apartment (where you can dispose of it in whatever way you choose) or the apartment of a friend who fears havng a clogged toilet, flush that shit straight to hell.


Kimchi Dreadlocks

Disconnected in Busan: A Post Past due.

31 Aug

So I must apologize at the onset of this post. I’ve been in Busan since last Thursday, started teaching on Friday and ever since have been trying to navigate my life in a new city despite being without two amenities I’m so use to having right at my fingertips. Namely a cell phone and the internet. Now still without both, I’m sitting inside McDonald’s inside of a grocery store with my laptop looking crazy. Even having purchased a value meal, my welcome is running thin. The things I do for the love of healthy blog stats. Anyway here’s the scoop.

The ride from Jeonju University was about four hours and of course I had the bubble guts from too much cheap Korean beer the night before. The closing ceremony of the orientation was hardly necessary, but at least they gave us our medical exam results, something we would later need for an Alien Registration Card. More on that later.

For the entire bus ride I just kept looking at the map of Busan starring at the new district which would become my home: Dongnae. It’s not as close to the water as I hoped (actually it’s not close at all) but with it only being one stop away from the Pusan (Busan) National University area, and a 10-20 min train ride to just about anywhere else in the city, I’m more than happy with my setup. Well, almost.

When our bus arrived downtown Busan (Seomyeon) we were shaggy looking but eager to meet our new co-teachers, the people who would be both our co-workers and “handlers” for the next year. Some are better than others, but ideally these are the individuals who help you get situated into your apartment, help you find your way to your school, and generally help you navigate through your time on the peninsula.

After sitting in yet another hot ass auditorium, our districts were called out one by one and we walked through the crowd with our name tags on looking like lost puppies waiting for their owners. It was tragically beautiful. Now some people get as many as six co-teachers at their school. I was lucky enough to land only two. For the sake of good taste (something I almost never care about) I won’t post their names, but both of them are quite pleasant. Even when they are interrogating me on my take on everything Korean. No problem though. I was more than ready. On the way to my apartment they asked me questions on everything from alcohol intake to what I think about Korean women, to how much I like spicy food. And of course there’s the inevitable:”Do you like Kimchi?” I kindly gave them the “appropriate” answers and was sure to smile like a good little school boy awaiting his praise for a job well done. Why start out with a bad impression if you can avoid it right? Besides, these women are gonna be key when it comes to getting comfortably settled.

As we pulled up to a dingy looking building, one of my co-teachers informed me that this would be my apartment. “Great!” I say. Its on a major street, next to a post office and a three-min walk to the bus stop. No worries. My place is on the sixth floor (thank god for elevators) and is about what I expected: a larger studio apartment with a separate bathroom that also serves as a shower. That is, the shower head is connected to the sink and is hung up towards the ceiling in a corner. I can literally take a shit and a shower at the same time. Something I’ve been dreaming of since, well, never. I have a small gas burning stove, and the last occupant was kind enough to leave me a rice cooker, and a coffee maker that doubles as a toaster oven–something I didn’t even know existed–an iron and a blow dryer.

I look around and realize my co-teachers are staring at me waiting for my reaction. “I love it” I say. Again, Its less than the truth, but at least its clean and has a modern nice-sized bed. I’ve read tales of teachers moving into rat infested scum ridden slum pads stocked with nothing more than a few dirty sheets and a squishy toilet seat. That being said. There is one major flaw: Roaches. I’ve only seen a few, but anybody who knows about roaches knows, where there is even one, there are many more.

Already I know some of you are wondering why the hell I didn’t throw up a fuss right away and demand a new apartment. First off, to put it plainly: This is Korea. As a foreign teacher I’m at the bottom of the totem pole. I need to pick my battles wisely. I cause a ruckus now and I could end up having my vacation days mysteriously disappear, or I may run the risk of alienating myself from my co-teachers and principal, the people I will need the most help from in the coming months if I don’t want my life to be hell. I dropped by the local Mega Mart, spent 30,000 Won on some bug traps and spray and have been sleeping soundly ever since. I take more extreme measures later.

After dinner at a random Korean pizza joint (yes, Koreans Like pizza ) my co-teachers left me to my business in my apartment and told me I would need to prepare an introduction lesson for the next day. Now to be clear I was told I wouldn’t even be going to the school until the following Monday, and that I wouldn’t start teaching until the Sept. 1st.  What really happened? I taught five full lessons (including a power point introduction) the day after my arrival. Again, no complaints here. Koreans don’t seem to plan very much so neither do I. I let the frustrations roll off my back and did the best I could with a big smile on my face. Fuck it. The kids however, are great. I have third, fourth, fifth, and sixth graders, and all of them are just as curious about me as I am about them. The questions they asked tell it all:
Student: “Are you married?”
Me: “No.”
Student: “Were you born with hair like that?”
Me:“I wish.”
Student: “Are you worried about North Korea?”
Me: “Are you?” And,
Student: “Do you know any rap songs?”
Me: “What kind of bullshit ass question…..I mean, yeah. I know a few.”

All the lessons went well and afterwards, one of my co-Teachers took me to the immigration office to sign up for an Alien Registration Card, basically a foreign I.D. that is my ticket to everything–new bank account, cell phone, internet and cable TV (not that I want it). Also, I needed to change my visa from a Single Entry  visa (meaning once I leave the country for any reason, it’s void) to a Multi-Entry visa ( meaning I can come and go as I please from Shanghai to Kyoto). Didn’t know that shit was gonna run me another 50,000 Won, but whatever. I need to be able to travel outside of Korea. I gave it to the man behind the glass and cursed him under my breath.

If I sound as if its all been less tan admirable since I arrived in Busan, let me put things straight: It hasn’t all been bad. Last weekend I hopped the subway to three of the top districts in the city for a night of drinking and socializing with other expats and EPIK teachers who were at the orientation in Jeonju.

I headed towards the Kyungsung area–another university district–and met  up some other teachers to drink a bit of booze I haven’t set my lips upon since I left home, namely Maker’s Mark and Jameson. The shit was golden. I ducked in to some club called Ghetto, and after having enough of the Korean gangster kids sucking on lollipops, I went to a nearby pub where I lost in a game of foosball to a couple of French dudes (my partner was Canadian. That’s my excuse). The rest is a bit hazy from there, but I made it home safe

Saturday a bunch of us dipped off to the outskirts of Busan for a Indie music festival that was really nothing more than a crazy DJ, a few mediocre bands and  giant water fight. Enough said. That night we headed back to Seomyeon for  some BBQ chicken and bar hopping. Less Crazy than the night before, but still good fun.

Sunday? I Spent it with fellow EPIK teachers at Gwangalibeach trying to keep sand out of my dreads  and taking in the gawking Koreans while sipping down cold beer.

By the time Monday rolled around, I had a great lesson planned for my classes, an outfit ironed out to impress the (retiring) Principal and a good nights rest with no roaches in sight. I still don’t have internet or a cell phone, which still makes me feel like an isolated bum, but at least Korea is Wi-Fied up the ass. I even get a signal at the post office. Beat that America!

I’ll try to post more soon. My brain can only retain so much and I’m pretty sure I will have to at least purchase an ice cream cone to make up for the two plus hours I’ve been in this McDonald’s. In the meantime, keep the comments coming and I’ll do my best to respond.



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