Pages of Euphoria
Life and Times
Due to the fact that I really don't have any saucy stories to tell that you guys haven't already read in the Pages of Euphoria, I will instead share some still life captures. I would love to ramble off a lengthy soliloquy/personal narrative of mi vida loca here in Korea; however a full day of teaching children of the corn has left me feeling a little lazy. I will however offer cute commentaries on each picture though (there is absolutely no order or theme to these pictures, they all simply just made the cut):
This was a fine fellow by the name of Big Ern. We were both reflecting upon the social advantages of owning a "grill," especially one created from the hands of the peoples champ himself, Paul Wall.
This was around 6am during half time of the Korea v. Switzerland world cup game. They should have been violated for this party infraction, but at the time I was so disoriented due to lack of sleep that I didn't know where I was or my own name for that matter...
This is the fearless leader of the learning institute where I teach. His Korean name is Moon Gwon Kwon, but simply goes by Mr. Moon to foreigners. His good looks and winning personality have carried him far in his life of luxury. He is a walking used car salesman metaphor, and even though he has been extremely nice to me, I cannot tell if his hospitality is genuine or if he just looks at me as a money sign. He is fairly perverted, (especially with foreign women), rules the Korean teachers with an iron fist, insists on the school mascot being a fighting cock (chicken), and I absolutely love every ounce of him. Additionally, he is a Korean embodiment of Bilbo Baggins, physically speaking at least.
I am not going to provide information on this picture, who the deranged woman was, or wtf was in her hand. Whoever supplies me with the funniest description of what they think is going on will receive a healthy supply of Soju from yours truly when I return state side. (Soju is alcohol that literally every Korean man above the age of 18 consumes like water, is fairly poisonous, and works double time as a nail polish remover)
This is my mer-man friend John aka the manchild. There is only a few inches of sand separating our ungulating bodies, but all I can say is that love conquers all boundaries.
Every time I look at this picture of Gaucari (below), I seriously loose control of my bladder. The look of absolute bliss and pleasure on his face says it all. The facts: He is wearing a silk shirt. The unknowns: is the red "double pronged" object in his hand an adult device, or an innocent noise maker for sporting events. I assure you all, this picture was not staged. My camera lense now follows this photogenic individual at all times. (sidenote: Gaucari and Tamara have a wealth of incriminating pictures of myself as well)
This picture (below) stands as a testament to one of more bizarre nights I have had in Korea. Mr. Moon took Alicia, Ashley (she is taking the pic) and myself out for dinner, ice cream and beer, and live entertainment in the form of a one man band belting out Korean love songs. At one point I found myself dancing with two other older Korean women in front of a sizeable crowd. It was a little embarrassing but I felt alive. Our last minutes of the evening with Mr. Moon were spent taking a scenic drive, listening to him rant like a madman not to flatulate in his pimp mobile, and watching him almost fail a breathalizer test. Truly, the kinda stuff dreams are made of.
This gem was taken in a club in a region of Seoul called Hongday. I was just dancing with these kids, tearin the club up as usual, and before I knew what was happening, they had wrapped my head in a towel and shoved a G-unit fitted on top. It was one of the more amazing nights that I have ever had. If I had a collar to pop in this pic, it would have been popped.
I hope these pictures and captions have been a sufficient update of the last two weeks of my Korean adventure. Honestly, I thoroughly enjoy writing the descriptions/commentaries for these cherished pictures of mine. I apologize if they come across annoying/offensive/or immature. I know from writing about them that I am having just a little bit of fun over here. If I could find a career writing captions for audacious pictures I think my future would be secured. I don't mean to toot my own horn......but beep beep.
Busan or Bust
My Korean life is not unlike living in the eye of a tornado. There is honestly never a dull moment, never a moment devoid of mental or physical stimulus. The Lazy days in Seattle full of rain, and multiple movie viewings, where a trip to HSAC (my premiere and beloved workout facility back home....r.i.p.) to get swole was enough to make a day productive; frequenting the same bars and
clubs, driving on the same roads, being seduced by the small home town feeling of E-town.....comparing the memories of those days with my adventures in Korea is an exercise in absolute futility. The difference is night and day, black and white, ebony and ivory (in the words of Sydney Dean from the film "White Men Can't Jump").
To illustrate this extreme contrast of life pace, I will try to sum up my recent cross country trip in few words and more pictures. Here are the necessary details: Crew consisted of Johnny Blaze, his girl Jazmine, Cheech aka Alicia (a mutual name shared by both us) and myself, Joey Seattle the numba one stunna. (I welcome any comments on the degree of my nerdacity) Destination: Busan, the second biggest city in Korea, home to the biggest port in the country and arguably the most popular and attractive beach, Hay Un Day. ETD from Pyongtaek: 11pm. ETA in Busan: between 3 and 4 am Saturday morning.
Getting maybe 45 minutes of sleep on the train due to a fierce yet lackadaisical (due to tiredness) round of Gin Rummy made the initial hours of my Busan experience seem dream like. Wandering around the beach, strolling through a 24 hour sea food market, and grocery shopping at a convenience store with a vat of silk worm larvae next to the register between the hours of 3 and 4 am felt like it was all a drug induced hallucination. All thoroughly enjoyable and memorable. We finally got to
our hotel room and were coppin Z's by about 5 am, after closing the blinds like vampires to deflect the light of the rising sun.
After some decent R&R my team awoke refreshed and full of spunk; in the proceeding 15 hours or so, there were absolutely no prisoners taken and I can say without a shred of doubt that Hay Un Day beach and Busan was taken by storm.
The Beach: Architecturally speaking, I thought I was on Mars. So different from what I am used to, but I loved it none the less. Comically speaking, my beloved friend John came equipped with about 5 inches of bathing suit. That combined with him having the grace of an elderly crippled rhinoceros resulted in a never ending string of giggling. At one point he immerged from the sea like a proud mariner in his mankini, strutting his stuff only to trip and eat sand a second later. (John is the more self respecting individual in the pic at right who avoided wearing an animal print speedo). Fun and the enjoyment that was had: beach
volleyball strait out of top gun, wanbaan (frisbee), swimming in my familiar old friend the Pacific Ocean, and soakin up some rays all culminated in an amazingly fun and relaxing afternoon. Like a jackass I of course did not use enough sunscreen and am suffering as I write this from a pretty good sunburn. I definitely turned my familiar shade of lobster. Once a Fryberg always a Fryberg.
The Feast and Celebration: We bussed about 25 minutes into the heart of Busan to experience the main seafood market of the city. A virtual maze of endless tanks filled with writhing and wriggling aquatic life waiting to be butchered and served raw to willing and hungry customers. Eels, squid, octopus, baby sharks (I don't know
what kind), shell fish, the list goes on and on. After we selected our meal, which was prepared and served to us in a timely manner, I wasted no time in sinking my teeth into perfectly raw fish, squid, and portions of enormous clams that bore a striking and unfortunate resemblance to parts of the male anatomy. At one point I know that I had a severed, completely intact fish head between my teeth. And of course it was all washed down with a steady flow of mekju and soju. The dinner was made even more romantic (than a main course of raw anything can be), by flattery and compliments on my looks from who else besides Korean men. The men in this
country apparently find me irresistible. If that peeled my banana I'd be the happiest man on the planet, but it sadly doesn't and all I can offer up is an embarrassed laugh and pray I don't meet the complimentary Koreans in dark alleys at night. Again, I have written a damn novel and need to cut myself off. Of the rest of my adventure, all I am going to offer is what happens in Busan stays in Busan. I leave you all with a favorite movie quote of mine and hope that it makes someone smile: "May the wind always be at your back and the sun upon your face." Fred Jung: "And may the winds of destiny carry you aloft..." George and Fred Jung: "...to dance with the stars."
Rockin in the free world
(Pics are coming)
A core nucleus of peeps have definitely formed over the last 9 weeks. The usual suspects include a combination of the following: Korean John, Gaucari, Tamara (my camera buddy) Keith, Hillary, Alicia and myself. (Side note: I have numerous pet names for John, including Johnny boy, the manchild, Korean Barbarian, and most recently Johnny Blaze...in case anyone wanted to know) Recently the inner circle has been comprised of G, T, A and I, as we not only work together but play together as well. For example, we have roughly 6 hours a day of English instruction, five days a week. Our playtime consists of frequenting Kareoke rooms, various dance clubs of hedonism, and dive bars with pool, darts, mekju, and Bon Jovi tunes. We honestly see so much of each other its absurd.
Will everyone get tired of eachother? is there a friend saturation point? I think there is but this situation is special. Quiet simply, we're all we got. These friendships take on a higher importance seriously bordering on family cohesion. From G & T's taco night feeding frenzies (where they make vegetarian tacos from scratch that we inhale) to having my random wounds and battle damage cleaned and dressed by momma T (when I get a little too wild and require medical attention) to random things like re-aligning each others spines. The desire for freshness and seeing new faces is growing but I don't know if I can wean myself off these magnificent human beings.
Staying true to my addiction to these friends o'mine, we set out together for Seoul on Friday night (6/9). Due to our late finishing time at the bog of eternal stench aka the school where I teach (referencing the movie "labyrinth" at any time is extremely fun) we didn't get on a train until about 10pm. It was 11:30pm before we were getting situated at our first night spot of the evening/early morning in an area of Seoul called Hongdae. I knew the night was heading in a good direction immediately as I was thoroughly entertained from just walking around Hongdae. Everyone knows the freaks come out at night, but due to the fact this night was also hosting the first game of the 2006 world cup tournament, there were droves of human spectacles out and about.
We found our dance club of choice after none too long of a search, and in preparation, some of the more refined ladies of the group pulled disappearing tricks with cans of HITE beer and broke city ordinances of public urination. The first few minutes inside this club were a little intimidating. We were literally the only non-Koreans there, making up a population of 7 foreigners to roughly 500-600 Koreans. At first glance of the main dance floor I was somehow able to avoid sustaining a massive coronary that any fire code inspector would have suffered having looked at the same room. It was absolutely packed to the brim with kids. After about 30 seconds my urge to do all that is amazingly fun kicked in like clockwork and I was pushing through the crowd (which parted like water) to get to the highest focal point of the dance floor. My friends and I found our perch and we got our respective grooves on. Rockin out atop this stage, surveying all the people beneath us on the floor, dancing interpretively to some amazing dj named Doong Doong Hay, all got me one step closer to truly realizing what it means to be a rock star. I am sure I looked like Elton John or Boy George to the Koreans below but I honestly felt like I was Zach De la Rocha or MCA in the middle of a concert. Such an amazing vibe at this club.
Not too much later, the next barrel of monkeys was happened upon by Hillary. She had found a smaller room playing tunes that I can only describe as "hard core" but "get together" at the same time. So we're all cuttin it up in this room, Gaucari is dancing like the one black dude in all of Dave Chapel's skits doing the robot, and before I know it, a faucet/sprinkler in the ceiling (fit in size for the hand of Zeus himself) turns on and everyone is immediately drenched to the bone with H20. I felt like a convict getting sterilized for the first time with a fire hose. It was absolutely fn ridiculous, and completely mind blowing. At one point I got so riled up from dancing in this giant public shower that I lost balance and went flying into a stage (that definitely took a little outta me, hence the need for Momma Ts medical attention). I felt like Chris Farley in his prime. Momentary losses of body control combined with sudden impacts is becoming more and more my style, and never, ever, not going to be funny. (maybe it will stop being funny with an onset of internal bleeding). The night ended around 5 am when we got to Johns parents apartment. In a room full of people dressed in pajamas fit for a Richard Simmons aerobic video, sleep found me quickly and painlessly. Yet another weekend toppling the shear epicness of the last in dramatic Korean fashion. My mind is full of memories of these times that shine like trillion cut diamonds.
Top Ten Funniest: 10-6
I had to make a list of the top ten funniest things that have happened to me in the last 7 days. These rank from a few chuckles to hernia inducing.
#10. Discovering what my phone # was after hitting the two month mark. I was pretty proud of that streak. More cool than funny.
#9. Being the only adult wearing a full on bib at a dinner table. Kinda cute.
#8. Young female students inquiring on whether or not I have a website. Can you imagine what would happen to my upstanding reputation of moral integrity at ECC if students knew what I was writing on this blog?
#7. Burning my hand cooking spaghetti and hotdogs. Completely gourmet for this kid.
#6. Getting fondled by toothless vendors selling flowers. Mentally picture where you think her hand is. I told her I was going to slap her with a lawsuit.
Top Ten Funniest: 5-1
#5. Seeing this girl dance. I thought I was watching Elaine Bettis. (she actually dances just fine. Alicia u know I luv ya and this is retribution for the emotional trauma you caused me in your many comparisons of my outfit selection with that of a tourist)
#4. Partying with this girl. I dubbed her Alberta Einstein the mad scientist/drunkard.
#3. Going to dance clubs populated with V.I.Ps like these:
#2. Serisouly asking a portly yet famous female resident of Songtan if she was in fact "Songtan Sally." (Songtan is a place known for Juicy girls which are pg-13 prostitutes)
#1. Joseph Greenberg is serisouly teaching English to Korean adults and children. I am working on setting up a live video feed into one of my classrooms.
(The true #1 funniest event that has occurred in the last 7 days must be omitted due to moral and ethical reasons).
Late Night Reflections
Another one of those nights....where sleep is impossible to find and your mind paces endlessly. Hopefully melatonin will be the answer to the occasional insomnia that seems to afflict every foreigner. All I can seem to think about is how insane it is that I am in South Korea. Can someone tell me again how this came to be? How this recent citizen of little Edmonds, WA (average age 65) is in Pyongtaek, spreading the word of English? After two months I still get hit with random waves of shock that I am half way around the world, teaching English in the "land of the morning calm." I find it so entertaining asking myself "seriously, what the hell am I doing here?" I also find it extremely entertaining thinking about how friends and family feel about the fact that I am in South Korea. Do they think I am out of my gord to make a decision like this? Would they avoid this peninsula like avain flu? Do they envy my experiences in this strange land? Questions that provoke many thoughts of mine.
Last weekend I spent some time with one teacher from a different school named Jonathan. He is coming to the close of his second year in Korea, and his Korean wife is nearing the end of her third trimester to yield their first child together. I didn't ask him, but I wonder if he came to this country on the similar whim that I did, just looking for the next bag of tricks, the next barrel of monkeys. What a sobering thought....one minute your just a college graduate looking to perhaps extend the college lifestyle a little longer by teaching in foreign country...and the next you are married to a Korean wife with a bun in the oven.
Sometimes I feel like I am being swallowed alive and completely intact by my Korean life. Specifically devoured by the teaching portion of it at least. I am coming very close to perfecting a routine and developing decent skill in class room instruction and management, but still there are periods of full out mental battery and total stimulus overload. Trying to plan for eight consecutive classes while drowning in a neverending string of Korean words from the conversations around me is quite a task. My ipod has become an extension of my body in how much I use it. I have to say that Jimi Hendrix thus far has been most effective in blocking the outside noise pollution. Now do not think that I am getting discouraged. The extreme difficulty in this job has provided me with perhaps the most challenging experience of my life. The kind of challenge that absolutely demands personal growth. I also am drawn to and thrive off people or experiences with extreme natures....they are simply more interesting.
When I get bored, especially late at night and there are not enough sheep to count, I think about the future. I try and determine how this experience will fit into the grand scheme, how my time in this place will impact what happens down the line in my life. Will it have a concrete impact? Should I even think about an experience in terms of how it will better my future or how much I will gain from it? These questions plague me because like many peers my age, I still really don't know what I want to be. Up till now I have just operated with a quiet confidence that I will simply discover my calling when it presents itself to me. Maybe worrying about that rather large ball of wax is just unproductive at this exact point in time. (I apologize for the random and disjointed nature of this entry) I know how my future will be impacted by this experience in one facet at least, and thats with the people I have met. Whether they become distant acquaintances, or life long friends, I know that one far off day there will be reunions over some beverages (alcoholic or non), and these times will be looked back on with a fierce zeal, admiration, and longing. Im out.
ps. After researching on google, I have realized that I lost a wager on the fact that South Korea is the second most expensive country in the world to live in....second only to Japan. Someone please supply me with contradictory information so that I don't have to pound a pint of Soju.