Saturday, May 31, 2008


As I was walking home yesterday, noticing the lack of mountains (to be seen) and feeling the sting in my eyes and throat, this was what was happening:

That's right baby! Nearly lethal levels of Yellow Dust! My nose is clogged today and my eyes are still grimy.

Friday, May 30, 2008

sCRAPs get flushed

Please feature the vocal stylings of Elvis the Prophet as I recount 2.5 strikes

1) The crap abstract I sent to Fukouka was rejected. I think I blogged this. I had a good abstract on my computer at work, but the deadline was on one of the three-day weekends on which the school was locked down. The abstract I recreated included an imaginary reference (no such author) and a bunch of unfocused crap at the end.

2) The good abstract I sent to Malaysia (by "good" I mean I made up a brand new 'critical' word) was also rejected.

3) The piece Ed and I were working on for Education About Asia was semi-rejected, although a reworking might be possible based on editorial comment.

Ah well, it can't all be beer and skittles and I will rework the Fukuoka piece for a conference here in Daejon in 09. Probably rework the EAA piece as well. The Malaysia one is probably a sign I should hunker down and work on Kim Yong-Ik, which I have foolishly abandoned.

The rest of my day was splendid, however.

Went up to school early to take photos of the Culinary Arts Program's "Food of the World" final exhibit (including thoroughly ridiculous and entertaining dioramas that I will post tomorrow). Then off to Japanese Studies where I was bushwhacked.

Get in there and there's all this weird computer gear.

Whatever.. there has also been two pair of running shoes and three pieces of cooking gear in the corner for three weeks.

I lay out the last week of the course, before the final.

One of the students says, "teacher, what about the movie?"

The movie had been planned for two weeks ago but usurped by the fact that the JS students got the whole week off for a freshman sports event. I mentioned this.

Shoulders went down all around.

About two minutes later another student says, "Teacher, you promised!"

I restate the fact that we have to study for the final. These students, who pretty much ALL got 100% on the pre-final example test I gave, slump their shoulders again.

One minute later, "Teacher, you said there would be a movie."

I pull my trump card, "I don't have one."

Shoulders ALL rise triumphantly, "Teacher, we brought one!"

So that's how I ended up watching the first half of "Jumpers" with my Japanese Studies kids.

Man, I love that freaking class!

Then it was off to Korean tutoring and an attempt to walk home. I didn't have my map, but had a general sense of where I was going, and the signs to the Train Station are always reliable, though they never indicate distance. I crossed the river and finally came across the 220 bus line. I was in work shoes so I walked a few more bus stops and grabbed the bus.

This was good because it turned left on a ramp that went over the train tracks, and I'd never have guessed that.

This was bad because I was really only 15-20 minutes from home and it sucks not to close the walk out. It's like slappin' the ho, killing the snitch, or any of myriad things we pimps (thanks MAF!) do - it really should be completed.

By the time I got home I was comfortably exercised and ready for my evening liver-laving with soju.

Which is where I am now.

Making them Caligula Pimplans....


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Full of Scrap

Several things of no particular import.

1) This morning, to my surprise, I achieved my first year weight-loss goal for Korea. Just a shade under 9 months early. This allows me several options.

a) Go on an enormous eating and drinking binge and get about half of that weight back so that I can be challenged, again, to lose the weight

b) Stop worrying about it. “Mission Accomplished” as a far greater man than myself once noted.

c) Adjust that target down a bit more.

Since I am still technically a “Jelly-Filled Fat Fuck” (thanks HYS), I think I shall adopt the third strategy

2) There is another job-opening in administration here at BPU and some administrators are suggesting I go for it. It’s more money, but it is a 9-6 gig, which would completely eliminated the excellent schedule I have that allows me to roam around like a rabid dog. It might serve me well in a job-search in the States (it is something like a dean of student services) but it would be a fall-back position behind my plan to become a world-famous editor and critic. I think it’s too early to be working on fallback plans.

It is tough to not know what you want to do when you grow up… and you’re 30 years beyond growing up. ;-)

3) I was contacted by a University up North, that probably wanted to hire me AND the OAF, but had to bow out due to my contract with BPU. Amusingly, two days after I sent my email saying that I could not accept the job, it popped up on Dave’s ESL Café.

4) Another reason I don’t particularly want to take the admin job (did I mention it supposedly pays substantially more money?) is that I’ve just figured out a couple of aspects of my teaching style that needed fixing and have begun to fix them in this semester. I’d really like to have another full semester in the classroom to get this stuff cemented in my head (fight cement with cement?).

BPU tossed us into the fray so quickly that I didn’t really have a chance to thoroughly check out the textbooks (a different one for each class). They also wanted a weekly lesson plan, so, for the first 10 weeks of the semester, I was pretty much cloning the first one I came up. In the short weeks following the mid-term I took a longer look at the books and decided what in them was useful. Most of them contain pretty pointless skill-n-drill, but each also has a bit more.

I also decided I will scale back the money system next semester, using it only for in-class participation. Finally, that look at the books set me to re-evaluate my blackboard style. I had been using the style – essentially outlining the topics to be taught and modeling one or two sentences – of the guy who developed the money system. It didn’t work that well for me, so I had strayed away from using the blackboard for anything but random points and explanation of things that came up.

Looking in the books I noted that I could extract things in terms of vocabulary, grammar, and meaning and those things would outline the lesson in a more useful way (as well as leave theoretical and practical models on the board for students to study). This seems to have worked much better, and I plan to continue it next semester.

Finally, I did a few things that made the class more interesting for students. I added some competition between the men and women and broke long slogs through exercises with brief spelling games (which the students both love and are good at), and in general tried to break the monotonous pace. This also included adapting some things in the textbooks to be more local. If the textbook had an exercise that requested my students “brainstorm all they knew about Rome,” that brainstorm would last all of 1-second in their heads, as they ransacked them for anything they might know about Rome, and then it would last for 5 agonizing minutes as no one could come up with anything and no kind of prompt I offered would help. So wherever these popped up, I made a “Korean” version, trying to focus tightly on Daejeon. This seemed to help some.

Heh.. all of that will become part of my analysis of my teaching plan, if they ever get around to asking me to do that.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Incheon Ceramics festival, day two...

The next morning we headed off to the festival proper. We had a GS-mart breakfast: I had one of the weird three-half sandwiches (each half a different kind of sandwich and all crusts neatly excised) and the OAF had some hunks of Gouda cheese, which she was happy to report actually tasted like Gouda cheese. Most Korean cheese is pretty tasteless, and makes pasteurized, pre-sliced, individually-wrapped junk from the US taste pretty darn good. Everything tasted better to a man who still had his digital camera!

We got a cab and hopped up to the place. After returning home the previous evening we had mapped out a plan of attack which was simply to go counterclockwise around the place. We had also been told that at noon there would be a performance of traditional Korean music, gongs and drums, and this stuff is always strongly rhythmic, duh!, and quite interesting.

So we set off towards the Art Museum directly on our right. It was surrounded by gardens, one of which commemorated the war dead (Korea and Vietnam) of Icheon. Then it was into the museum, which charges a measly 2 bucks, and two floors of Korean art, one piece of which I have snapped here.

Then it was up to the Ceramics Museum, on the way to which we passed a house that seems to be made out of nothing but ceramics and which reminded us of something that a hobbit would live in.

The Museum had one room of Korean exhibits, one room of Modern Chinese exhibits, and one room of ceramics which had been awarded international acclaim. In that last room we began to see sculptural works, and works with whimsy and/or political content. This was really grand and we jotted down the names of a couple of artists so we could check them out on the web.

All of this was stunning, but a strict no-photography ban was in effect. As we wandered the grounds we heard traditional musicians playing here and there, but we also heard a cascade of tinkling bells. When we headed out of the museum and down to the music performance we discovered the source of the bells – it was an enormous sculpture-tree, whose branches were covered in ‘leaves’ of bells. A really nice piece.

Rocking the Bells

Below it was a sculpture garden in (literally, “in”) which kids played contentedly.

We watched the traditional musicians play and then it was off to the food court for lunch. Two dishes of bulgogi dam-pap, one coke, and two beers, all for 15 dollars. Festivals in the US might want to explore this whole, “affordability” concept that the Koreans seem to have down. Then we wandered to the crafts pavilion where Yvonne made (with the help of a professional potter) a vase. For 15 bucks you make the vase on the wheel, take it to another table to decorate, and finally leave on a table. The ceramics folks then take your work away and glaze it with a semi-celadon glaze and mail it to you. This was a truly nifty little scheme and, again, the price was right.

I really love (as anyone idiotic enough to have had me shoot their wedding knows) the hand shots. Even without the rest of the body they have a kind of intimacy.

We wandered through tent after tent of ceramics on sale, almost all of it stunning. My favorite piece was a vase that was NOT celadonic, or red with white (these were the main approaches). It was also interesting to note that we didn’t see one piece of sculptural ceramics work for sale.

We also walked through the Icheon City Museum, which was a bit bland compared to the other two museums, although it did have some nice picture of Seolbong Mountain Fortress which persuaded us that we needed to come back and have a go at it on some other weekend.

Tuckered out (well, me, the OAF kept agitating for us to try to make it up the hills to the Fort), we sat by the lake and watched some Royal Marines practice their falling out of boats.

Then it was back to the bus station, ice-cream for the OAF and ham cheese toastuh for me, and a ride back to Daejeon.

Which we now both agreed was boring. ;-

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Great Ceramics Fest Must Wait!

Since I went out and visited the OAF today and we took a big sweaty walk up to a temple-like resting place on the hills. Then, as I walked back from the "World Store" (I was picking up some decent beer for a meeting later with TSR, the God of Garbage chose to shine his benificence on me, and so I walked home from the Bus Station with a small tea table and a backpack full of 15 pounds of beer.

The table was rather grotty and that first picture of it is as it sits in the bathroom waiting for me to join it in the shower. Once there, I stripped down (I imagine you all have a mental picture of this) and cleaned it rather extensively.

Then I cleaned myself rather extensively.

It dried in a few minutes and looked absolutely wondrous in its new role as "Piece of furniture that ties the entire room together."

Soon it is off to Academic Writing, and then a quick return to have dinner with TSR. And also pick up, if he has completely downloaded it yet, the complete discography of Queen (I am currently downloading the complete discography of Elvis Costello).

Home early, alas, as I teach at 9, and with days waning in this semester, I can't eff up (student evaluations are just around the corner!)

BTW.. Yvonne's apartment pics should go up soon at her new blog:

Monday, May 26, 2008

Finding Icheon; Losing my Camera

So this was the weekend to visit Icheon, which I had narrowly averted missing the previous weekend as I traveled up to Incheon to pick of the OAF. OAF came over about mid-day on Saturday and watched me frump around and not get much done towards moving in the direction of the Bus Station. Finally, with some sub-nagging, she got me going, and we headed to the office to get my long-lens, to the bank to get some big bills, and to the barber’s because I was beginning to look like some kind of hideous savage. The barber ajumma was asleep on her couch and it took a couple of seconds to wake her up. Certainly something unlikely to happen in the US. She gave me a pretty nice haircut and then a post-haircut shampoo in cold water. Because it was over 30 degrees outside, the cold water served as a tonic for this troop.

Then it was back home to pack our stuff up, and a taxi-ride to the bus station. The bus was scheduled to leave at 2:20 and we made it with at least 10 minutes to spare. We both napped a bit on the way up to Icheon, and as we finally pulled into town I could see the Hotel Miranda, which is the “western” style hotel in the town. “Western” style typically means that you pay more than three times as much as you should. We got to the bus station and bought our return tickets for the next day, just in case there should be a stampede of people returning from the Ceramics Festival to Korean Home Town. Then, it was out the back door of the bus-station and on that street, as is normal, there were a fistful of hotels. We went to the HillPark and got an adequate room for 40 bucks.

There had been no maps or information at the bus station, but I suspected the Hotel Miranda would have some. We tried to grab a cab, but the cabbie gestured to the other side of the bus station and when we walked around it, lo and behold, the Hotel Miranda was three blocks away. We walked over, past 5 barbeque joints, including at least two whose specialty was bulgogi. The Hotel Miranda is also a water park, so on the left side of the Hotel entrance there were families of Korean sitting on the sidewalk eating lunch and drinking beer. We went into the hotel and, as I had hoped, there were tourist maps and pamphlets.

We grabbed one of each and then headed back for an early bulgogi meal. This was the first time that I had ever eaten bulgogi without the BKF and I felt like even more of a cheater when I ordered a lovely icy bottle of soju to wash the thing down. There was only one bad moment, when the OAF ate a piece of garlic and hollered, “oh, that was terrible onion!”

The garlic was such a terrible piece of onion that the OAF sat, stock still, for 5 minutes, sweating and trying to will herself to vomit. It was one of her oddest restaurant performances, and I was lucky enough to be present. In a few minutes she was back to OK, and since it was still early, suggested we head out to the farthest-away site on the tourist map. We grabbed a taxi and headed to Icheon Ceramics Village. This was half-closed, but still had plenty open. We wandered in and out of shops and bought a few gifts for folks in the back-home.

Then we walked back towards town until a taxi could find us. There was still daylight, and the OAF was keen to explore, so we decided to go to the lake. The lake was also the front of Seolbong Park, which contained the Ceramics Festival and a couple of museums. We hied hence to the Festival and wandered around figuring the layout, watching the “make your own pottery” site, and then back to the traditional Korean kiln that was on the right side of the entrance. It was in full flame and I took some pictures of the mouth of the thing. This required me to lay full out on my stomach, and when I got up and brushed off my shirt, a man walked up to me and waved me over to a table surrounded by other Koreans, a few in traditional kit. He offered me a cup of Makgeolli, and I’m never one to turn down a drink. I had read about this drink, it’s just a bit above beer in alcohol content, so it was good to taste it. We sat around and talked about the kiln, ceramics, and Icheon in general, until it was time to go back. It was a good thing the OAF had us drop by, as the next morning the kiln had been shut down to cool the ceramics inside. Since one of the reasons I had come to Icheon was specifically to get a shot of a functioning kiln, this would have been a bummer.

Not as big a bummer as losing my camera with the chip inside. Which was what I immediately proceeded to do!

We grabbed a cab to the Bus Station and got out to wander around. I wanted to take the OAF to see a building with lit sailing rigging. So we walked over to it, but there wasn’t a good spot to take a picture. Finally, all the way around it, there was a break in the trees and I opened the backpack to get the camera….

…. Which of course was not there. Logically, of course, since I had left it on the back seat of the cab. ☹ Wonderfully, I had no identification on the camera or (and I only figured out that I should do this right at that moment) file on the camera-card saying how to contact me.

I had this crazy thought the cabbie would swing past the place again, looking for me. So we headed back towards the Bus Station and, a little bit down the way, both realized that we hoped

a) The cabbie had got into the cab queue at the station (once in, you can’t get out until you pick up a ride) and

b) No buses had arrived.

We got there and searched all the cabs in the queue… about ¾ of the way through the line (which I idiotically did from the back of the line) the OAF said, “don’t look in that one, the cab was white.”). And this made things quicker as I ran up the queue and only looked in white cabs.

None of which had the camera.

But the time saved.. ah.. the time saved. ;-)

The cab stuck at the traffic light, turning left? It was our white cab and two Korean guys and one very confused cabbie were trying to figure out how the hell they would track down the stupid Waegukin who had left the camera in the cab. The guy in the front seat spotted us and started waving the camera out the window. We rushed up and grabbed it, exchanges some heartfelt Kahmsamneeda’s and parted.

You get 200 Koreans together and god knows what you’ll get – it could be a party and it could be an anti-free-trade riot. As a group Koreans will believe most anything: Say, fan death, or Mad-Cow in the streets. But any individual Korean (or group small enough to make a conscious moral decision)? You will have some of the most honest people in the entire world. This is the second trip I’ve tried to lose something quite valuable (passport and money two trips ago) and in each case it was returned to me. Try being that forgetful in the United States (or any of the countries BAX has put his camera down only to find it gone in a trice).

In celebration of the loss of the loss, we headed to the WA bar where I had two San Miguels, the OAF had a coke, and we shared a lovely plate of iced peaches and orange slices.

Which left us with one more day at the Ceramic soiree.

Friday, May 23, 2008

But of Course....

Synthetic Positronic Unit Normally for Assassination, Nocturnal Gratification and Efficient Learning

Get Your Cyborg Name

Rounding Up the Week..

I've been an uncertain blogespondant this week. With the OAF landing and the first five-day work week in a few, I've been kind of busy.

I'll start with that photo over there on the left. This is courtesy of Koreabeat. It is a picture one of many low-income elderly couples, who were too poor throughout their lives to afford a wedding ceremony. So this week, in Seoul, they were given free wedding ceremonies. Couples had to be at least 65 and married for at least 20 years. Weddings in Korea are expensive and have a lot of mandatory "procedures" and these folks couldn't swing it.

Nice photo!

As to me, Monday was "Senior English Test Day" at BPU. BPU claims that all it's graduates can speak English, so at the end of their tour, graduates must take the test that proves it.

That the test is 5 minutes long (that is our upper limit) and contains such questions as, "what is your name?" is irrelevant. I did my time and it was ok. The Korean professor I was working with was a good guy, and he completely stone-faced the one or two students who tried to ask him about the questions I was asking in English. The unspoken rule of this test is, of course, you absolutely cannot fail someone and I was lucky enough to be working with Korean students who, despite being clearly scared, could work out reasonable answers.

A couple of the kids were even gamers. We asked them a question like, "what sports are absolutely horrific?" Not a single one knew the word "horrific," but about three of them figured out that all they needed to do was fit a sport into their answer ("I find soccer horrific.") and they'd be good.

Other English Profs had the students being fed answers by the Korean profs, and at least one English Prof failed multiple students. An unwise approach, and I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop on that. Some English Profs (EP from now on) here are unable to lose the model in their heads of English in musty halls contained in brick buildings covered with ivy. This is NOT what the Korean education system is about. The English requirement is largely a symbolic one (this result is a tangle of Korea's conflicted interest in English, it's focus on test scores as rubric for achievment, and the fact that Korea does not target those students who need English, rather it tries the shotgun approach).

Anyway, all my kids passed and it made me so happy that on Thursday I tried to teach my students some things. This resulted in my re-working my blackboard style.. mostly successfully... and that will be the topic of my next post..

.... after I take a quick shower.

In beer and soju!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Which video, besides its complete awesomenosity, is there because I have purchased a wireless router and consequently have the web at home. I will now slump into a completely productionless search for bits of the good porn on the intarwebs. It's ok at the moment as I've sent off my last bit of writing, a piece BKF and I did on proverbs in education (yeah, a slender reed, but it might get published, so...). Next step is, I suppose, to buy the second hand TV that TSR is flogging.

I should note many things, but probably won't.

OAF is in town and that is a happy event. We're a bit separated by the entire town, but anyone who knows me knows I don't hew close in most cases anyway. She is doing well (day 2, of course) and her apartment is in a part of town that reveals my neighborhood as the slum it is. We have figured out the good news that there is one bus that pretty much runs door-to-door from our houses.

We have each had a major walking expedition to each other's house, the only difference being she found mine and I got rather majorly lost and then, just as I was about to get home, saw the bus I KNEW went to her place running by me. With my stupidity sorted out, we now know the trails.

I should also note that my optimistic analysis from last Saturday, that the OAF had been picked up by her director at Daejeon Station, was... well.. optimistic. Even though I ran through the place twice, I didn't see the OAF and neither did her director. So he headed to every other train and bus station in the town.

One of the charms of Korea is its comprehensive public transportation system, and this is partly (as is every thing else here) the result of many nodes. So the OAF was in the train station (dwarfed by her luggage, I believe) for several hours as I and the director swept past her.

They finally got her, and the word is she works in a lovely hagwon..

I have been through the farce that is "Senior English Exam" as well as the "Sports Festival." I hope to blog both of these in the next two days, but this weekend it just may be off to Icheon (and there is a story of my epic stupidity in that, as you know) for the ceramics festival. Sunday looks to be the key day of the month, and both the OAF and I should be off on that day.

My last note is that I caught myself, with the iPod on, walking down the hill hollering Led Zeppelin lyrics and smiling. It occurred to me that this was an unlikely scenario only three months ago. I am still convinced that life is useless, the 49ers may not win another Super Bowl in mind, and that palliatives are weak. Eventually it will come down to a hammer and a knitting needle with a wire attached to a bare light-socket. It always does.

Til then? It's nice to be singing on your way home. ;-)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bones, Borders, Korea and Korean Literature. Being Part Two.

So you get to Korea and you notice something odd. Everything social/political/national/ethnic is demarcated. There are sides, and if you are on a side it is your social responsibility to take that side and take it hard. Koreans are, the classic “one handed economist” that Harrry S. Truman prayed for. And associated with all these borders, like train tracks in the Sierras, are ecotones (a lovely word given to me by James Turnbull down in Busan – from whose "Grand Narrative" I have also stolen the picture/text format for this thing) and the skulls one associates with them.

This is an obvious thing to say politically. The 38th parallel lurks above Seoul as the ultimate proof that even the most homogenous country in the world cannot be unified. Beyond that, Korea sees all of its enemies and allies as, well, enemies.

When I took the tour of Cheogdeokgung it was a tour for English speakers. The guide quickly ascertained that no on among us spoke Japanese and we spent the next hour and twenty minutes listening to a reassuring (for we older anglos) series of attacks on the evils of the imperialist Japanese.

I was reassured for about 5 minutes. Unfortunately, in a break in her presentation, I wondered what the Japanese tour would sound like. I guessed it would be quite similar – beginning with a conspiratorial inquiry that we were all Japanese and then a quite different tour, perhaps focusing on China’s depredations on Korea. Sadly, the temple substantially predated United States’ involvement so Korea’s biggest straw man could not be poked at. Perhaps, somehow, Mad Cows could be brought to bear?

Korea is homogenous, xenophobic, neo-Confucian, or racist, depending on whom you ask. As I note the xenophobia of Koreans, I’m not trying to blame them for it. Instead I’d point out that Koreans have every good reason in the world (and are skilled at inventing bad ones) to distrust the rest of the world. A short primer on history suggests why this might be so. Historically, besides China now and then, Korea has had nothing but enemies.

So there is an enormous and continually defended border, constructed in law, attitude, and culture, against the other. Koreans believe themselves to be just plain, well, different (by which a Korean usually means superior, or more refined). There is an amusing and perceptive, but somewhat alarming, passage in Shawn Matthews’ book, “Korea, Life, Blog.” Shawn lands at his Hagwon and is instructed in, among other things, how to sit down..

“I … followed Mr. Kim to the living room. “Sit here,” he said, pointing to
the green vinyl sofa. Incredibly, he demonstrated how to sit down and stand
“I’m from America,” I said. “Not the moon.”
“TV,” he continued, ignoring me. He turned it on and off several times with
the remote control. ….
“On, off, on, off.” He handed me the remote. I set it down. He picked it
back up.
“He wants you to try,” said Mrs. Kim.
“But it’s in English.”
“On, off,” repeated Mr. Kim.

I can’t say for certain, but I imagine that if a Korean adopted this kind of approach with another Korean, it would be considered daft or insulting. I’ve had similar experiences with the most friendly, and in at least two cases brilliant, Koreans assuming that I was utterly helpless in the face of Korean society/reality. In these two cases I also know that this was an absolutely heartfelt desire to make sure that I could navigate Korea. Similarly, if you do manage to do something that Koreans believe can only be accomplished by a Korean, you become one of two things: You are either “almost Korean” or “more than Korean.” This is the reverse of the frog ecotone on the railroad tracks – Instead of being trapped inside narrow boundaries you can never exactly land within them. The boundary is 3d with super-repulso power. ;-)

Part of this reflects a reality. I won’t ever be “100% Korean,” whatever that might mean, because I will never know the language well and have to the land far too late. Nor do I aspire to being “fully Korean.” But the phrase “fully Korean” is one loaded with borders of race, culture, skin color (which does not always work entirely as you might expect), education level, age, religion and language. To which I might add the comment that I know ethnic Koreans in the United States who are “fully American” and would be thought of as such in most of the United States (I’m not naive enough to think that people and areas would be resistant to any Asian being “American”)

With all of these Korean borders you’re going to find your metaphorical ecotones and skulls. In the next couple of weeks, as I discursively follow this, I’ll talk about some of those skulls. Expatriates, Mad Cows, and I swear, down the line, how this affects Korean literature and its translation.

Or not.

I’m a fickle bitch. ;-)

NOTE: And as I type this some yahoo at the WAPO actually says, proving racial essentialism and stupidity are no foreigners to the United States, this about Obama (whose father fought in WWII):

It's about blood equity, heritage and commitment to hard-won
American values. And roots.

Some run deeper than others and therein lies the truth of Josh Fry's political sense. In a country that is rapidly changing demographically -- and where new neighbors may have arrived last year, not last century -- there is a very real sense that once-upon-a-time America is getting lost in the dash to diversity.

We love to boast that we are a nation of immigrants — and we are.
But there's a different sense of America among those who trace their bloodlines back through generations of sacrifice.

I hereby invoke Godwin (and it's "loser" corrolary) on this crazy biatch... and note that the "last century" she so nostalgically invokes is just 8 years past. And, hey, them Injuns should be running things if it's all about the longest bloodlines... Absolute stupidity and insanity...
I hate everyone.....

Double Godwin - that first word in that Korean advert is, in fact "Hitler."
Text is "Even Hitler could not take over the East and the West at the same time."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

WTF? Flashbacks Already? Mentor....

Part of the induction process at BPU is that you get a “mentor” whose job is to chaperone you through the difficult parts of acculturation and help you figure out the administrative and practical steps of teaching at BPU. My mentor was Philip the Great. He was, unfortunately, greatly absent when I landed. He was off on vacation, if you can call getting married a vacation. I think of it along the same lines as I think of that classic old Dead Kennedy’s song “Holiday in Cambodia.” But that’s just me.

On my third day, or so, in town, I received a message from the BPU office that my mentor was looking for me and wanted to have lunch with me. This message arrived at about 11:45 so, even if it was precipitate, it was timely. We went out to a lunch during which we discussed very little of work, and a very great deal about expatriates. Phillip’s wife, who was a Russian teacher, and not coincidentally Russian, showed up partway through and completely silenced the group of Russian students next to us (Global BPU baby) by speaking to them in their native tongue. Like me, they presume on their own incognitology.

The Mentor had a car and this was the best thing ever. We ran to several stores and purchased a crap-load of needed things. A pillow, for instance, and another comforter in case the swine at BPU felt like stranding me again in some cold, unheated place. The comforter purchase was interesting. The comforters were in piles and I chose the one that had the fewest emasculating cartoon figures on it. As we walked away with it, a store clerk buzzed up to us. Any store of any size in Korea has more store clerks than you can shake a pointed stick at. It’s a service economy (premised, I think, on extremely low wages) and I have already taken to not shaving and having my iPod plugged into my ears every time I go into anything larger than the corner store. Otherwise, I am pestered nearly unto justified homicide. Anyway, this clerk was nearly overflowing in Korean and we stood, for about 5 minutes, at the escalator unhappily not communicating with each other. We wayguk decided just to go and check out, and the clerk retreated, obviously unhappy. Phillip noted that and decided to call a friend who spoke Korean and could, over the phone, translate. It, apparently, all boiled down to this.

1) Korean beddings are only sold in complete sets
2) Unless the clerk wraps the individual piece in a large bag BEFORE you get to the register.

It seemed fairly nonsensical, but after the wrapping the clerk was happy we had done it the right way and I was happy to get out of the store with another comforter. About a week later, walking randomly around Daejeon I discovered at least 3 small stores that sold comforters individually and for about 2/3 the price.

Mentor also took me to the “old” downtown by the river, which included a traditional Koran market of alleys and umbrellas. Particularly to one alley in which you could purchase “traditional” US items that seemed to have come over the barbed wire fence at US army bases in Korea. This was a hodge-podge of weird things. US candy, canned food, even an 8-pak of Vaseline in plastic. This latter item gave me pause to wonder what exactly the US army thinks its men are doing in Korea. Either getting very chafed, having lots of children, or using unsafe lubricants.

We also picked up a case of bottled water and a few other heavy things.

After this useful bit of shopping I was dropped off home. About 45 seconds after I collapsed into my icy-cold room, there was a pounding on the door. My Mentor stood outside with my “training” manual. He said goodbye and then said, “Oh, they’ll give you an evaluation sheet on my mentoring. Give me high marks.”

I never saw him again and when I got the evaluation sheet I saw that he had basically done nothing he was supposed to do. I had no idea where my classes were, the layout of the two campuses, how to get copies made, how grading went, well.. anything.

Still, I had food, clean water, and a nice warm comforter.

I gave him an excellent evaluation. ;-)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Landed - the sequel

The trip up to Incheon was uneventful other than for the fact that I almost took a trip up to Icheon, which is a different place entirely (As the MAF-Despised Wikipedia notes, "Icheon is a city in Gyeonggi Province, South Korea. It should not be confused with the much larger Incheon Metropolitan City"). I found the Dong-bu bus station exactly where it should be, and wandered up and bought a ticket to Incheon. The gates were right behind me, and glancing at my ticket I saw that I was loading at gate 6. After a few minutes of waiting, the bus pulled into its slip and I hopped onboard. A rather ratty bus. I began watching the other passengers and noticed that no one had boarded with any luggage. This seemed mickle weird, as at least some of them would presumably be leaving Korea and they’d at least have to have, on them, enough kimchi to live through the external experience. I looked up at the schedule on the inside of the bus and it said,

이전 rather than what I would have guessed, 인전

(I’m sure I screwed something up in the second syllable there, but this was not where the problem was going to occur).

I pondered on this for a second, balancing the likelihood that the bus company would make a mistake on its own busses (in Korean, that is) against the off-chance that I was big retard. I made a provisional judgment that the bus company was in error.

Just to check that, I looked at my ticket which, lo and behold, said 인전 was my destination. This substantially increased the chance that I was a big retard, and when the driver went by I held my ticket up and asked him, “Incheon airport, neh?” and was answered with a big old “anio.” I was on the wrong bus. I had three minutes to spare, however, and did make it to the correct bus. Then a 3 hour ride up to the airport, about an hour waiting there, and once OAF had landed, about another hour waiting for the bus and a 2:40 trip back down.

We got to the pad and decided we needed something to drink and some toilet paper. So we headed across the street to the store and at the table in front of it were two other waeguk from BPU, sitting at the table and finishing of their “third or fourth” Korean 52-ouncer. It was the drunken Aussie and my mentor, both of whom are quite entertaining. We exchanged national insults and BPU gossip for about 45 minutes and when the bottle was empty, we departed.

Of course I forgot to pick up the toilet paper.

Got back to the apartment and the OAF unpacked some things. Including a rather alarming pile of nasty rubber novelties. When preparing to leave for Korea the OAF had headed to Planned Parenthood to contraceptive up. PP told her they could only give a prescription for 3-months. The last I had heard, OAF was going in to argue this, since she was going to be out of the country for a year.

When she told the PP woman she was going to South Korea, the PP woman said, “Omigod,” and pulled out 12 months worth of generic birth-control pills that she said she could give away without prescription. But she also tossed in 5 strips of condoms, each with a Canadian maple leaf on the wrapper and the motto “PROPER ATTIRE Required for entry.” For ultra-safety she also included two packets of the Plan B “day after” pills. In case I suck in bed, there are also two packets of water-based lube.

As Major (King) Kong said in “Dr. Strangelove” “A fella could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with this stuff…”

All I could wonder were two things. First, what kind of reputation does South Korea have, and why, with Planned Parenthood in the United States. Second, what in the world would have Korean immigration have made of this spectacular contraceptive over-planning had they opened her suitcase?

Anyway, if any of you get into any unprotected sex scenes in Korea, give us a call just before or just after (you know, at the point you’re either still clothed or re-clothed) and we have the shite to fix you right up.

The next morning we set out on a tour of the local environs and ran into a couple more BPU-ites, ADAM and Thumper McStomp (twice) who were heading out to photograph cranes. At the last minute TSR answered his phone and so we jammed uphill for some quick coffee and tea. TSR had some good, and reassuring, advice for the OAF[1]. TSR’s all around “good-guy” quotient is appallingly high, and I’m glad he’s leaving Korea![2]

Then it was packing the OAF into a cab to Daejeon Station, with me following on foot just in case there was any problem (I didn’t want to arrive with her – we’ve decided the Hagwon shouldn’t know about me unless issues arise). By the time I got to the station, OAF wasn’t there. So either the cabdriver kidnapped her, or the meeting went off well.

I walked back to the Bohemian Love Pad, where I type these notes. Contemplating a quick trip to the PC Bang and then maybe inviting TSR out for some courtyard bulgogi at one of the local patio restaurants. If the OAF comes free from her director tonight, and gets in touch, she’ll come along as well.

The next couple of months should be fun!

[1] Something along the lines of, “keep your powder dry, damn the torpedoes, and dump the fat guy.”
[2] “sniffle…”

Alien Landed

After seeing that Korea, too, had tarpits of pain, the alien came over...
And will visit with her Hagwon director this afternoon. More info once I can shake her!

All you really need to know is that I had my typical Spartan breakfast of noodles and a carrot, while she had the typical Korean breakfast food, cake!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Collecting Bones, Korea and Korean Literature. Being Part One.

First, I have to admit that this computer teases me. Old number 10 at the PC Bang always starts up trying to load its "Hamachi adapter."

But it always fails and the sushi is never mine!

O cruel fate...

Anyway.. here's the beginning of a 1 to 5 part thing on borders, korea and its literature. 1 is if I get bored. or distracted..

Hey, is that Rain?



Somewhere in “Snow Crash” Neal Stephenson notes that, “interesting things happen along borders – transitions – not in the middle where everything is the same.”

Which is, of course, why I am in Korea.

Many years ago I collected skulls.

This began when my mother and sister moved far up into some ridiculous mountains for which they should have been issued lisps, stalks to chew on and banjos to play whilst contemplating the sodomization of lost flatlanders. I would visit, and on one visit – lo and behold – I found the skull of something.

As a suburban lad I was shocked and secretly pleased. I grabbed a stick and used it to carry the skull, which was not entirely cleaned by nature, back to my mother’s house.

People shrugged.

Sheep skull.

Sheep were herded in the meadow I had travelled. At the spot where, beginning to walk up the surrounding slopes, I had found the skull, ecologies collided. Wolves skulked in the trees and any sheep unlucky enough to wander out of the meadow risked a brief and lethal interaction.

Food chain.

Still, I was obscurely proud of having found the skull and began collecting animal bones.

I have also always been a fan of trains. I’ve ridden them, legally and illegally, for years and as an inveterate walker have worked out that they work as something like trails. In even the most rural or urban environments you might expect to find some train tracks to walk on. And so I do. I would find the most interesting things there. The tracks in Soda Springs often contained, between them, the creosote-covered bodies of dead frogs. I never quite figured this one out. I guessed the frogs got between the tracks (there were safe watery havens on each side of the raised tracks) and then, in the mid-day heat, could not quite navigate their ways back out. How they got creosoted is still a mystery to me. It had to have something to do with the trains that passed above their corpses, but I could never tease out the exact thing. Possibly, they were quite aware of the tracks they had to hop and were optimistic about how the whole thing would turn out. Right up til that unfortunate moment the… (“whatever”)…. creosoted them.

I wish I could get some kind of grant to explore this phenomenon.

It occurred to me that the railroad tracks were a condensed microcosm of the meadow and the hills and that what I was seeing was the interactions of the borderlands. On the train-tracks, ecosystems collided on a razor-thin border. Train tracks being one ecology, the three yards on either side of them being the next ecology, and then the “normal” world beyond.
In the big city, where I primarily lived, dogs and cats would die, or be disposed of, on the tracks. Occasionally a school child or drunk would be harvested by trains, but I was never allowed to get close enough to this event to win a skull.

Still, I thought “border” and, less charitably, “food chain.”

When I lived in Newark California I frequently found dead chickens on the tracks. This was a different kind of border. These chickens were losers (Other than the “SuperChicken” animated comic of my youth, I am at a loss to point to many times chickens have been winners). Hispanics in the neighborhood had cock-fights and knew they couldn’t toss chickens out in their garbage or they’d be turned in. So they looked for the next ecosystem and tossed their loser chickens there. Once I found some fish that had been tossed out and had resolved to nothing but their cartilagineous and bony cores. I still have on of those fish on a kind of art-thing that I put on the mantle of any home I inhabit. I think everyone should have a little “Yorick” thing in their homes. Just a reminder.

Then I moved to Korea and found the mother of all borders. A land that had no land – it was all borders.
(continued Monday)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Homesick Day - I Yileded to it..

Today I felt the twinges..

not for the US per se. As a country Korea is fine and as a town Daejeon is also fine. But all the ethereal voices I now deal with on email and blogger seem.. insubstantial.

Eating shrimp on the beach, coffee (ok, booze) in a boite, bookstores that have books in English, real mountains and red wine, basketball (as it should be played) games, quesadillas.

Today all of that appeared at my table like Banquo's ghost.

I should have had more chairs. ;-)

I should also note that each of those things I miss seems to be about places and things, each one is tightly associated with a couple of you.

So there you materialists!
Instead, I shall adopt that strategy that Montgomery's have succesfully adopted across generation, centuries, and epochs.

I'm gonna get drunk.

That pic at the start was my initial answer to the fact that my stove won't allow the heat to be turned down below a certain point. Instead, I raised the pan.

First I tried to get a wok (pace MAF), but I'd need to walk downtown to get that. So I temporized. I finally realized that, if I'm cooking only one thing, that gas cut-off valve will allow me any level of gas I want ("I'll have the Treblinka, sir").
Finally. One good thing about living in Korea is that choices are reduced. I don't have to decide between delicious, delicious chocolate and the lure of booze and weed....
I can get all Crunky!
Man.. I love this place..
Homesickness is officially over...

Teaching English in Japan: "Spare Me My Life!"

This is.. uh.... odd?

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Adam, who is a relentless photographer (he had already gone out into the hills behind BPU in the morning) gave me a call and politely bullied me into going out to the haunted city I had discovered. Here we crawled in and among the wreckage and took a bunch of photos.

I’m glad Adam called, or I would have sat at home drinking beer, which would have been a waste of a perfectly good Saturday afternoon. Well, except for the part about sitting at home and drinking beer. So we walked over by the river to the fenced off bits. We clambered over this and that, occasionally becoming the object of interest of wandering Koreans who couldn’t figure out what the silly Waeguk were doing, and the one who wanted to invite us to church.

What struck us both, and I’m not sure if you can see it in the photos, since the trashing and junk is so predominant, is that many of the houses were once quite nice. This wasn’t a slum of squatters such as might have been condemned in Seoul in the 60’s and 70’s – these houses were multistory brick ones with substantial rooms, western toilets (in most cases – there was the odd outdoor WC), and yards. This looked like a neighborhood that should have had enough political/economic power to put up a fight, but the place was trashed. I’d love to find someone from the area who could explain what had gone down here. The electricity was still hooked up, but no juice was running through the lines though we spotted evidence that a few people might still be surreptitiously living in some of the flats. Oddly, we didn’t see any rats or cats.

It felt a bit ghoulish to be walking through the tatters of someone’s busted lives. Adam found some kids collection of balls and that hutch I picture here still has its table-settings inside it. Whoever lived there got out so fast that they couldn’t or didn’t take all of their belongings.

We’ll be going back to document whatever it is that goes up here. I need to find a nice high perspective around the place to get a picture. I wonder if I could see this from the tower at BPU?

The whole shooting match is up in a webfile at

Alla this was so interesting to me that when a guy from the Gwangju Times solicited articles for next month I was all hepped up to go off on some kind of uniformed tangent about Korea destroying its cultural history.

Which, sadly, I know nothing about. ;-)

I was all rushing online to find something to say, to cobble together with these pics and some article I saved from the flight magazine and then realized.. hey, I'm and idiot!

I have an article..

So I am pimping my marketing piece as a 4-5 segment thing to run for the next couple of months.

This wasp picture looks computer generated to me, but it is actually one of the few living things left in the Condemned Zone...
Spooky place..

Walking by Braille?

Here's my boy!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Marketing Abstract


After leaving all my articles locked up in my inacessible office (BPU is closed due to a three-day weekend) I had to kind of fake the rest of my abstract together as today was the deadline for application. This is what I get for dicking around. It isn't what I wanted, but down below is what I sent in. As soon as I hit the "send" button I regretted including the final paragraph - it is trying to do too much and I'm not sure it is as relevant as it could be. Also, the "research" I mention is barely begun so if I'm accepted there will be a shitstorm of emailing and computering to do.....

Oh well...

International Tourism Opportunities in Korea: Opportunities for Autocatalytic Emergence

This paper will discuss Korea’s increasing tourism deficit in the context of international brand-creation and the particular opportunities that Korea’s current lack of brand gives the nation. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (2006) calculates that in 2003 International tourism accounted for roughly 6 per cent of exported international goods and services (as measured in U.S. Dollars). When focusing exclusively on service exports, this number jumps to an astounding 30 per cent. Korea, unfortunately, has not been able to take advantage of this market.

According to data from the Korea Tourism Organization (2008), Korea’s tourism deficit not only continued to climb as Korea entered 2008, but it topped $10 billion (on an annual basis) in 2007. Korean travelers overseas spend $15.8 billion dollars while foreign visitors to Korea spent a mere $5.7 billion dollars. This problem is not a recent one, although its scope has dramatically increased (As recently as 2004, the deficit was a ‘mere’ $3.8 billion). Worse, Korea’s market share of Asian-Pacific tourism has been dropping. From 1990 to 2005 Korea was one of only three Asian Pacific countries to lose market share (Mongolia, which is statistically nonexistent, and Indonesia were the other states), going from 7.7% of the region to 4%. (UNTWO, 2006)
This problem has not escaped the notice of Korean politicians, policy-makers, and those in the tourist-dependent industries. New Korean President Lee Myung-bak has promised, “We can no longer leave domestic tourism unattended. I will come up with measures to develop the tourism industry into a future growth engine of our economy.” These promises follow on several decades of similar promises that have been without successful issue.

This deficit is the result of a handful of historical and social realities. First, Korea has not forged an international brand. Attempts at branding have been inconsistent at best, frequently having little or no impact on potential tourists. Part of the difficulty in effective branding stems from a deficit in, or perhaps a lack of, appropriate market research. Lacking understanding of what potential tourists desire, Korea is consequently unable to develop campaigns, symbols, slogans, or even advertisements, that appeal to foreigners. The inconsistent nature of Korean branding has left Korea with no ‘image’ in the international community. In comparison to neighboring countries, Korea is an international unknown. Secondarily, Korea has not fully addressed what Gi-Wook Shin (2003) calls its “paradox of globalization.” That is to say it has not fully reconciled its desire to extend itself to the entire globe with its sometimes contending desire to remain homogenous.

Using a theoretical framework borrowed from Gunn (1988), particularly focusing on notions of ‘organic’ and ‘induced’ images of potential tourist destinations, this paper will discuss some aspects of Korea’s historical inability to achieve appropriate international tourism results as well as the startling opportunities that this now leaves for Korea. Some of this discussion will center on original research which indicates that Korea has an undefined international brand and has sometimes misjudged its market’s tastes. This research includes a survey of travel-agencies, analysis of Korea’s position in “image-making” travel publications, and surveys and interviews with Korea-bloggers (that is, people who have extant knowledge of Korea).

With no existing international image, Korea finds itself in a rare position – it is first in line at its own palimpsest. Korea has an opportunity to create the initial conditions for the autocatalytic emergence of its own international tourist brand and success. These opportunities are focused around 8 related initiatives that can be loosely grouped into three categories:

• Branding Korea.
• Staying on focus.
• Involving citizens of targeted countries in developing branded materials.

• Working with overseas ‘destination makers’ to extend the brand.
• Promoting Cultural Exchange at all levels of culture, not just the academic.
• Focusing on two kinds of tourists – Tour based tourists and ‘seekers’.

• Creating a comfortable experience for international tourists who do visit Korea.
• Understanding that driving tourism is not just economic but also cultural.

Finally, this paper will briefly analyze other tourist destinations (e.g. Hawaii and Japan) that have been successful at creating linked organic and induced images that now function autocatalytically on the international level. By applying the lessons learned, it should be possible for Korea to reverse its unfortunate trend in balance of tourism.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Around about here is where I live..

The neighborhood here isn't the greatest in the world. Bad, I suppose, but nothing like a ghetto. Korean society is still too cohesive to have ghettos (oh what brave new worlds globalization will bring!). BPU is in the old neighborhood and Korea being what it is, the newer neighborhoods are grander and more sterile. Bee's nests in the sky.

We have an old Ajumma who cruises up the street each day at about 6:30 or so and each day she's on a collection mission of some sort. I haven't quite sussed out how she decides what she is collecting, but some days she is collecting flattened cardboard and on some other days she has a box and a bag of something on her cart and she fills it with ???? something. She's either working pretty late in life, or work has prematurely pushed her to a pretty late state in life, or one-million other possible things that I couldn't possibly understand. I will say, women of her generation (whatever that might be) seem to have a rather staggering amount of widow's humpage (that sounds just terrible, but you know what I mean). It looks like a generation that didn't get enough calcium. Perfectly possible if you think that they came through WWII, the Korean war, and the rather poor patches immediately thereafter.

OTOH, while I was taking that picture of her there on the upper left, a guy came staggering down the street and reminded me a phrase that an old friend, Thea, used to use... "driving by braille." This guy was walking by ping-pong braille.. Soju, it's a hell of a drug! Anyway, I can't tell here from the PC Bang if the swf below works. I hope so, but if not it's a fix for manana (that's Korean for "when I have a hangover")

The Birds, however, are more suspicious

I'm waiting for my man

Hey, white boy, what you doin' uptown?
don't you holler, darlin' don't you bawl and shout

Im feeling good, feeling so fine

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

I sometimes make light-hearted fun of BPU for the way it teaches things, particularly EFL. But I can proudly say that BPU's character building mission is a profoundly serious (you can turn that around and be just as vacuous - "a seriously profound" one). For evidence I can point to it's determined, steadfast, and obstacle-overcoming commitment to.. CANCELING CLASSES THAT I TEACH!


Just like that (the little note in my box saying that a class is cancelled for some kind of 'athletic'* festival) my character is fucking built. Built my droogs, built. And out of the same rotted planks, diseased mortar, and uncertain foundations it was ever built from: Drinking, sleeping in late, and not working until mid-afternoon.

Tomorrow morning's class is cancelled and this means I don't have a class til middle afternoon. Weather permitting it will be a day for a longer walk then yesterday and a fuller exploration of empty town (BTW - for those of you who don't look at the comments, do look at the comments from my previous ghost town post. MAF has an excellent link from a few years ago about an intrepid woman on a motorcycle who photo-journalized the dead areas around Chernobyl).

On other notes, the weather has been freaking spectacular - hottish (upper 70's and lower 80's) and clear... not even any smog to mention. Also, of interest to my mottled self, I learned today that doctors here do laser mole-removals for about 13 bucks, including totally superfluous unknown injection into the buttocks.

WTF? How cheap is that?

It's like, not socialized medicine, but also completely without any threat of a lawsuit. And, it isn't corporatized.

Do we have a model here people?

And then, the OAF got all of her paperwork done and will be arriving here in about 10 days. YAY! My presumption is that the move here will be like it was for me - a lovely way to get out of a crappy job and get that palimpsest scraped clean yet again. I hear rumours she can be allowed at dinner tables with settings! I intend to try this rumour out after I re-try a couple of other things out.

You gotsta have priorities

*This is an oxymoron. As I'm sure I've covered elsewhere, BPU students are shockingly un-athletic. I set me this yearly physical goal that I should surpass in the first 4 months here. Then, then, I will buy me a basketball and unleash my ghetto skills on these foos'.

No, really. For this place I would have ghetto skills. And I'd be a decent soccer player as well. I don't get this part of things here. It probably awaits my closer analysis of BPU, college status, and students?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Ghost Town that's the Most Town

Took a 1.5 hour ramble along the fetid creek and came across some Urban Redevelopment sort of near my neighborhood. Whenever you see this kind of fencing you know that something old is being torn down and something new put up. This area is gigantic, probably 6-8 of the gigantic Korean 'blocks' run through with alleyways. I have no idea if the folks who lived here were adequately repaid for their land and homes, but given recent Korean history, I kind of doubt it.

Anyway, the area is still accessible by a few roads, and I was alone inside it except for an ajeoshi who seemed to be glaring at me. Perfectly reasonable as there was no reason for a fat white guy in a purple football jersey and black nylon shorts to be wandering through.
I'd like to get back in there when the sun is coming in at angles.. probably some great shots as well as my inevitable arrest.

On the way back, I spotted this little spring-like thing in a concrete box on the culvert. An odd flash of life in a grey little area.

The other shots down there below are of various ghostscapes in the place.. it might even be cool to go there at night, with a full moon, and do some long exposures.

Might have to get me a tripod.
And a lawyer!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Got up and luck was with me. Even though Changdeokgung Palace is supposed to be closed on Mondays the fact that it is Children's Day means that it will be open. I noticed folks queuing up as turned the corner towards the subway station and quickly altered my quick escape from Seoul plan. Grabbed a cup of coffee from the cafeteria (which mysteriously serves no food - just a small selection of appalling looking candies). I have toured this before, but it was on a Korean tour and in the middle of a freezing winter. In addition, many buildings were closed and I'm hoping that is not the case today. The only bummer so far is that they are out of brochures in English, but my scheme is to get enough pictures to create my own brochure and so this should not be a problem. There are several specific pictures I want (based on memories of the last trip) so I should keep the tour nice and slow ;-)

Today is glorious - dead blue skies and a slight wind cutting the heat. The tour is a half-an-hour away and so far I don't see many waeguk, though I suppose it is foolish to assume that they all plan as incompetently as I do. They might even have known the place was open, and the time the tour begins.

The dinner with Ms. Shin was excellent, in a grill in the Marriot and we chatted for about three and a half hours, even though I never was served my wine. Turns out she feels responsible in some way for the collapse of the "Yi-Saeng" translation and no amount of explanation seemed to convince her that I had fun through the entire process and that just having done it gave me cred at the conferences I was going to. Shin is nicely honest (at least with foreigners) and we talked about the "status" of BPU (which is more or less negative) and she said, "well, you know, I’ve never even heard of that school." I laughed and did my best to explain what BPU was up to (as far as I can tell). Her thought is that after this first year, with the kind of other things I am involved in, that I should try to work as a "visiting lecturer" which is in some way better than the position I have now. I'm not sure how, but Ms. Shin was certainly convinced.

We parted about 9:30 with the promise that when the OAF lands we will come back up to Seoul and eat dinner at Mrs. S's house. She asked me, "do you like Korean food?" and I answered in the strong affirmative (while snickering inside about the OAF's stance on that cuisine – it could be a long night for the OAF!)

Perhaps it's time to totter down to the sidewalk and see if anyone is serving any ick-on-a-stick, since I am pretty hungry. Then try to get that rare shot of the place with no one in front of it.

That latter never happened although I did procure a lovely breakfast of whole-fried potatoes (boiled first for extra-delicious softnosity!), but the tour was outstanding. The guide-woman checked to make sure that no one was Japanese in our tour and then talked trash about them for 80 solid minutes. Highly entertaining.

Got out of the Palace and took a hard right to go to the Buddhist Art Museum. This was rather sparse, maybe 40 items in all. They kind of made up for this by comping me three postcards, but that only kind of made up for the lameness. I suppose I should be happy there was anything in a Buddhist museum – it could have been eternal nothingness and I wouldn’t have had grounds to complain. Then there was the fact that I was the only person in the whole place and so until I noticed, when almost done, that there were no-camera signs in the place, I did take pictures. The most interesting of which were the Golden Buddha and the rowboat mysteriously constructed out of pencils. What in the world this has to do with Buddhism was entirely opaque to me, but then I am far too much of this world.

Then it was into the subway, off to Seoul Station, and onto the train, which according to my computer should have departed a minute ago, but according to my rough physics, is not moving (relative to the earth). I didn't realize that seats were assigned - duh!- but thankfully the confused person whose seat I had taken spoke excellent English and it all got sorted before I had to come to blows with all of Seoul. I'd have taken them. No doubt!

And then home with no incident, and to IMs that I had tragically missed