Saturday, September 27, 2008


We had a Saturday lunch meeting with the boss today....more Korean BBQ and a side salad with octopi heads (cut in half) in weird sauce. Floor sit restaurants are quite the challenge for someone who has the flexibility of a 65 year old grandmother. I can get through 90 minutes of hot yoga without stroking out, but after only 7 minutes of sitting on a floor with my legs crossed (needless torture) I am ready to cry.

Afterwards Andrea and I headed down to Yongsan or Technomart as most people know it.... There is a giant ipark mall with floor upon floor of gadgets, cameras, computers, gps, and on and on and on.... I need to do some serious research as to what camera I want to buy as the salesmen's ability to help me is limited to "yess-e" and "ssal-e" and "ok ok". I am on my own. I went up another 2 floors and still could not see the other end of the camera section. It's going to be a bit of a mission.

I found a guitar store on the fifth floor and stayed there for a while playing bass...the sales guy and i fell into an impromptu Police jam, "Every Breath you Take"....hilarious!!. Out of the things i miss most in Canada...jamming tops the list! They had quite the selection of cute guitars fit for cartoony K-pop artists....they did however have a few Dean guitars (AND a 5 string Dean Bass)...pretty badass. Prices for new guitars are similar to home (The Dean was about 598). There is a used instrument market open on Saaturdays and I will be equiping myself with a small home set up pretty soon (before I kill myself!).

We hit a royal Temple yesterday and went on the hunt for the used music market...the temple was great! No luck with the weekend

As life in Asia soaks in, I have discovered my role as a teacher/tourist/illiterate whiteperson requires that I have more carying capacity on a day to day basis.... my pockets and Andreas purse wont due for cameras, phrasebooks, water, etc.... So... I have had to follow the lead of the local Korean men here and go in search of a "stylish-man-bag" for day to day use. I hesitate to use the word "man-purse" or "murse" as there are a few key differences in what I am looking for versus what the local is after. (1) A murse tends to be stamped or patterned leather and have "flair", which consists of brass or goldish buckles or clasps (2) A man-purse is usually a brand name like Coach or GAP or Tommy Hilfiger and the branding is super important to climbing the ladder that is high end korean fashion. (3) A murse strap hangs off the same shoulder and is carried much like a ladies purse or handbag. Since their is no "gay" in Korea...their is no pressure to find a "manly" bag. I lucked out and found a courier style sports bag with a long over the chest strap, it comes equiped with hourly testosterone injections and tons of storage for all that manly stuff I need (knives, nun-chucks, ninja stars, porn, beer-hat, etc).

While we were running out the door today, Andrea handed me a DVD and told me, "Put this in you're PURSE and lets get outa here"...... I am still waiting for my balls to drop.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Rainy Saturday

Laying low for the weekend..... It is coming down in buckets and I prefer to keep my eyeballs intact....100 000 Umbrellas and a tall guy with a big head don't mix....I thought walking down any Vancouver street on a rainy day was bad... I have been stabbed in and around the head/ face/neck and chest area 4 times in the last hour!! There is blatant disregard for personal space on a normal day, this is all out WAR!! In a nation where golf is an obsession, (golf) umbrellas take up all of the sidewalk and most of the street!! Please send a hockey helmet with a full face shield.

We are waiting for our Alien Registration cards to become official foreigners on this planet. Until then, no phone, no Internet, no bank account. We will be getting paid cash for our first pay day and the 10000 won note is the largest around. (How big a stack is $5000 in 10 dollar bills???)

I am sitting in the middle of a grand opening of a new local PC Bong (Internet cafe)... this particular one is called "EOS Greek Mythology" Here is their motto written all over the walls:

"The symbol expressing goddess who opens the morning simplified to be easily recognized by whoever and designed in order to give you a VIOLENT feeling by using the colour scheme."


The reading of random phrases on buildings and T-shirts has developed (for me) into more of an obsession than past time. Yesterday, a student of mine had on a t shirt that said:

GUMBALL MACHINE : Filled with Gumballs in the Shape of Balls

I told her I liked her shirt....she said "I don't know what it says".

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Weekend Warrior

I survived the work week only to run my self ragged on the weekend....I am burnt out....

This weekend is the Korean holiday; Chuseok, and is equivalent to say...thanksgiving. Koreans go to their Grandparents homes and spend quality family time honouring their ancestors. Andrea and i were fortunate enough to be invited by a local (Nakeung) to his home in West Seoul. I was imagining a small traditional Korean home with barely enough space for too many family members...(something my many years of M.A.S.H. watching probably programmed into my head somewhere in my youth)....what i got was a multimillion dollar condo/apartment in Seoul's tallest building complex. THIS PLACE WAS HUGE!!!...I mean it was a monster 4 bedroom complex on the 24th floor (of 64!!!)...heated bamboo flooring, wall to wall windows...easily a 2 million dollar apartment in Vancouver. We were spoiled with a traditional Korean meal; Kimchi, Squid head "sushi", and a mish mash of other small plates with names i could never replicate...course II was Korean ribs...tasted like slow roasted beef on the bone, followed by a rice and soup course and finally...Seong Peong (dessert)...a half moon shaped, steamed dough ball created by the ladies of the house with some sort of almond/sesame filling...all very nice!

Andrea and I poked around the city a little bit, but most things were closed and well, we realized we have been go since we got here and there was no reason to kill ourselves with an overload of activity since we are going to be here for a LONG while home for a crash nap. This is our apartment (top floor corner):

Yesterday was a packed day as we travelled to Changdeokgung Palace to see something traditional for Chuseok...I have attached photos...this palace is a rebuild of the original built in the 1400's..burnt down by the Japanese when Korea was annexed in the 1600's. After years of tour guiding I have gotten pretty good at making it look like the places in the photos are deserted and I have them all to myself. That is not the case here at all!! It was the biggest cluster of white people I have seen yet, probably 95 strong...all clamouring over each other for the perfect shot. Digital cameras have turned a whole generation of people into professional photo-journalists...(It's frustrating as I want to be the only one)!! If not hunting for the next cover of LIFE magazine...these tourists spend the 90-minute tour bitching about how they can't hear the guide or how there is "..never enough information on these bloody things!".

After an Korean/Chinese fusion dinner we decided to hit up another extremely Korean past time....The Jim-jil-bang, or for all those outside my immediate bubble; the Korean bathhouses.

Oh where to begin?!?!?.....

The Koreans love their bathhouses as they tend not to have much space at home to relax and unwind. Whole families tend to flock to the jim-jil-bang to unwind and enjoy each others company on their one day off. This particular spa was Andreas personal favourite on her last tour of duty so, she wanted me to have a great first experience to deter any possibility of me getting scared off by some dodgy seedy nude pool. (i think she is planning to be a regular visitor here)

It is 6000 won (6 bucks) to enter, and upon check in you receive your colour coded shorts and t- shirt ( Andrea calls them PJ's). You get an electronic wristband key for your locker which doubles as a scanner if you wish to purchase anything while in the spa. The options for up-selling are endless...massage, waxing, ping pong, comic books, food, beer and other assorted bevy's...a full body mud scrub, and my personal favorite; Dr. World Fish.

For 3 dollars we sat on the edge of an above ground wading pool loaded with brown fish. A school of at least 1000 small fish swarm to the edge waiting for you to place your feet inside on the rocks and within the reach of their gaping mouths and sharp little teeth! Absolutely terrifying!! The idea is for you to place your feet down on the rocks and the fish will EAT off the dead skin, and in a twisted symbiotic reciprocation, provide you with exfoliation and a "stimulating" foot massage........This may just be in the top three weirdest things I have ever done. It took me 3 minutes to get one foot in without screaming and 10 minutes more to be able to stomach looking at the little pirahnas attached to every inch of my submerged skin... Andreas experience is a whole novel on its own....lets just say she has a "Thing" with fish and this was harder for her than jumping out of an airplane. I personally pushed one leg in the water and the Korean attendant took liberties on Andrea to force her other leg in as well...If it were not for the towel jammed in her mouth, we probably would have been ousted for disturbing the peace with all her screaming!

My feet have never looked so great!

The rest of the spa experience involved many different themed coed saunas..... one is inside an amethyst geode (the walls are covered in a layer of crystal) others include healing clay and hanging herb bags, charred bamboo (or some other wood), and a cool down freezer (literally). My chi has never felt so invigorated. The bath portion involves some public nudity and courage to be the only hairy white man in the room. The Baths are thematic as well as I spent most of my time enjoying sitting on the bubbles in a giant steaming cup of green tea.As i stepped out of the bath to move about the room, I immediately grew wary of the young children and old men staring into the abyss that is my manhood with jaw dropping amazement. I decided to stay in the cup of green tea......

This is on the agenda for next week....Evil Dead: The

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

John is Day 5 in Seoul

Well the jet lag is finally wearing off and the culture shock is settling in.... Andrea and I moved into our apartment Sunday night after an 11 1/2 hour movie marathon...thank the jeez for Air Canada upgrades...we had our own personal screen and options to choose our own flicks... and FREE Heineken's (the 4 i pounded made the thought of deep vein thrombosis fade away with every sip...aaaaah beer!)

Our apartment has grown on us after a few days, The shock of moving into someone Else's filth was washed away with the minnows and crusty pile of old shrimp I found under the stove. There is a common colour scheme (as do most things here in Seoul) in our apartment has 70's floral black wallpaper accented with campfire marshmallow green walls. (We will purchase everything in pastel yellow and pink to keep the marshmallow theme alive).

Besides the colour, the apartment will be fantastic!! It is on the top floor of a three story building tucked away from the main drag. We have the corner 2 bedroom suite overlooking a major intersection. It is just far enough away to be quite quiet even at rush hour. Our landlord owns a flower shop down the street and we live above a popular lunchtime restaurant. We have 2 beds and 2 stools to sit on...the stools sit about 18 inches off the ground as do every seat I have had the pleasure to knees are at my ears!!

We live in an older part of old Seoul loaded with markets and Hofs (bars) and hundreds of restaurants. It seems like every alley you look down is another vibrant chaotic neon experience.....Andrea is a champion at reading and speaking Korean so we have been immersed in real Korean cuisine since day 1...I love it...Last night was Sam-gyeop-sal....Fried Bacon strips lay on a hotplate (we cook our own at the table). The plate is angled so the grease runs down into a trap at one end...The idea is to put all of your veggies and Kimchi in the avalanche of running grease, then wrap it all up in lettuce and hot sauce and throw it back....truly unbelievable... (definitely a once in a while type meal though as I am sure the calories are equivalent to at least 2.7 big macs). Generally, the food is quite healthy and very spicy!! I think I have tried something new every day.

I am in the land of "knock offs" and i see it everywhere, poor translations of popular brands and random t-shirts with random English phrases on them. The best so far has been:


and "Kiss my Amps!",

An 8 year old in my class has a cardboard pencil box that looks like a novel...A must read called "The Davinci COAT" by DON Brown....

We are one subway stop away from our school ans the commute takes about 20minutes door to door. Andrea and I are 2 of 6 "expats" working for AVALON ENGLISH+ Academy...Our classes start at 410 and end at 925 (we work 3 to 10)...I have an 80 minute break halfway through. The largest class has 14 kids...generally all the same age. Most are very scared of the giant white man standing in front of them...