Category: Travel

Almost Christmas

By , December 19, 2012 10:43 am

Our tree is up, but so far no presents beneath it. Nothing unusual for this house, or many others in Korea. Presents are just not a big deal. Still wrestling with whether to buy a gift for MyeongHee or not.  I bought both her and DongHyun a gift last year, but neither bought anything for me.  Not a big deal as I don’t need anything and, in fact, have been conducting The Great Purge and relieving the household of all things I won’t take with me or have shipped home.  No need to add another item to pack.  And she doesn’t need anything, either.  I might get all Christmassy yet – I have a week – so we’ll see.

Earlier this week, MyeongHee put a deposit down on another apartment. I haven’t seen it yet, but she tells me it’s ok. Not great, but ok.  I’ll only live there for 2 weeks or 3 weeks, so I’m not real concerned. If she’s happy, then it’s fine.  The latest news is that her mother will move in with her. She just turned 76 this week and while she’s relatively healthy, she’s lonely in her little house on the coast and MyeongHee says she would be lonely herself. So, for 90% of the time, they’ll live together and 10% she’ll be tending her small plot of crops in the country.  Seems like a good idea.

In other news, my writings have somehow started getting some attention.  I sold a few copies of Internal Strife this fall. I keep hoping the right reader will pick it up, generate enough buzz and interest in other folks and it will turn into a Hollywood blockbuster. And then I usually wake up and get a cup of coffee, the cost of which is  about the same as the profit I’ve made from the book’s sales – a whopping $5 per month this quarter.   It makes me want to go back and finish my second book but I’m having too much fun writing applications for smart phones, which ultimately will be far more profitable for me if I can get a full time job doing so when I return to the USA.

Last chance, by the way, for anyone interested in a personal tour guide of South Korea. I understand there’s a bit more interest in the place these days with “Gangnam Style” song and video making it into the top of the music charts in American and England and other places.  January will be cold, but I’ll have time to escort you to the more interesting places in the country – both of them. A couple of my part time jobs have completed with the end of the year this week and not sure I’ll replace them.  I may just coast into the trip home with a few hours of teaching per week.

 

 

Hello Blog. Nice to Meet you (again)

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By , February 21, 2012 2:14 pm

It’s been a while since I wrote here.  I used to write several times a week and then it got to be just once a week.  Seems like that even went south as I haven’t written since well before my trip to the USA.  Sorry. My Bad.

But it’s not like I have been using the computer this blog sits on.  I pay hostmonster.com  a few bucks a month for the privilege of having a computer always on the internet.  I figured I should use it for more than just blogging…..so I do. And I did.  Just before leaving for America I started a technical resume for myself.  Everyone has one. Artists and photographers have something else, though  – a portfolio.  I wanted one to show off my techno-work.  So I made one. I put in the bare bones but spent a lot of time getting the programming right since my portfolio is also one of the things I programmed.  Check it from my front page  you can click on the computer for my technical work.  Or go directly to the computer image and the portfolio and see what I’ve done.  That’s a short list, but now that I have it all I have to do is add in a description of each piece of work I’ve done. I’ve got a dozen or so more to add.

But wait, there’s more!  One more piece of work I have to complete but is nearly done – TriOminoes.  I bought a wooden set of TriOminoes while in Thailand and really liked the game.  Everyone I’ve played with liked it, too.  So I decided to make a TriOminoes game for smart phone. Each player has a board and pieces to play and this computer at hostmonster.com does the phone-to-phone data communication.  In other words, if you play the game, your phone talk to this computer. When I play, my phone reads what moves you made from this computer and then your phone reads what I played.  Sounds slick?  It was way more complicated than I thought, and I’m still working on a few nasty techno-issues, but I WILL prevail and TriOminoes will be out and available soon.

I started the just three weeks before my vacation and it’s been two weeks  since. That’s a total of five weeks but will be six when done. I had to design a lot of stuff from scratch, but my next game, because I’ve already got the basics done for this game, will go much faster. I just don’t know what game I’ll do.

Why all the games?  We’re back to that portfolio again.  I’ve been teaching English for a living and would like to get back into writing computer programs. The portfolio and the games and things for the ulsanonline website are all just resume builders.  Oh, and I like doing it, too.  It’s fun to program and make computers do my bidding. But there’s money to be made, too, and I intend to get back in that saddle and ride.

As for home, well, it’s was great. I really enjoyed seeing everyone. I wish I could have spent more time with people.  Wish I could have seen a few more friends but that’s fine. Plenty of time later.

That’s all for now!   TTYL!

p.s. for all you Android users….I hope to play TriOminoes with you soon!

Christmas

By , December 28, 2011 10:35 pm

Another Christmas in Korea – certainly not the worst Christmas I’ve ever had.  I really wanted to come home but a lack of vacation, high airline prices and it jsut wasn’t gonna happen.  I made the best of it and MyeongHee and I went to Dee’s house for a Christmas pot-luck feast.

I’ve probably babbled on in the past about some of the benefits of living overseas. Forgive me if you’ve heard this before, but one of the cool things about being here is all the other teacher’s I’ve met from other parts of the globe.  Native English speakers are in high demand in Korea and they come from the USA, Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and probably a few other places I can’t remember. Anyway, this Christmas since it was a pot-luck dinner I got some grub that is traditional Christmas fare in other lands.  Nick is from England and made yorkshire pudding. I’d heard the name before, and I would have thought of it as like any other pudding we eat in America. Not so. It’s really a biscuit – a light and fluffy biscuit – that is then ladled over with gravy until it’s “sogified.”  That was awesome.  Arielle, another Brit, made Christmas figgy pudding. No figs, but various dried fruit. It was almost like a fruit cake, but wetter, more alcoholic and way richer. Especially after it was drenched in brandy and lit on fire.  Kimberly brought Scottish stuffing. It was good, but I like Mom’s stuffing better.   Dee made lots of roast chicken, gravy and potatoes and I brought bbq sausage for a little Texas flare.  Everyone brought a bottle of wine and we spent the day eating (all day, literally) and drinking.

It wasn’t a fabulous Christmas being away from home, but it was made a whole lot better with the good friends I have here. Despite being 10,000 miles from our various homes, we  made a family holiday a lot of fun for us.

Once home, I tried to call everyone, but apparently so did everyone else. I use Skype, a computer based program that let’s you call for just pennies a minute over computer networks.  I tried several times Sunday night and early Monday (late Sunday morning back home) and I couldn’t get through. Luckily, Jessica figured things out and called me on her mom’s home phone (no calling card – must’ve been expensive) so I got to talk to my girls.

So now that the big holiday is passed, I learned that I do get some vacation after all. I’m taking vacation on January 20th, which is just before Lunar New Year, another big Korean holiday. I’ll add those holidays into my vacation and get a whopping two weeks to come home.  I’ll arrive home on Saturday the 21st of January and won’t have to go back until Sunday morning on the 5th.   Not as good as last year’s six weeks home, but two weeks paid is a good deal.  Flights are much cheaper then, too.

Not much else to report, so I’ll sign off.

See you in Dallas in January!

Is it October Already?

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By , October 3, 2011 10:38 am

Hello! Hi there! Long time no see.

Sorry I haven’t written much on these pages. Sometimes there just isn’t anything fun or funny or interesting to write about. It’s been heads down work and not much else these days. And there’s not much of anything that’s fun or funny or interesting about that, either.

Beyond working on version of my smartphone app, Teacher’s Pet, I’ve also been working hard on redesigning my website, Ulsanonline.com. That site has been put together over a period of months and years and much of it clashes with itself – multiple fonts on the same page, boxes of content don’t align with each other, borders collide rather then mesh, constants aren’t, variables, won’t – the usually litany of technical drugdgery. I’ve even gone so far as to hire a graphics designer to help out with a new logo and artwork for the site.  I hope to have that work done in a week or two. As for Teacher’s Pet, we’ve sold still somewhat less than 50 copies, but as I’ve previously mentioned, the experience of programming will be, I hope, worth far more than the revenue stream it’s producing.

And my teaching jobs remain fluid. I’m currently working two jobs – a series of after school English classes at elementary schools and adult English classes at night. The after school job is far less about teaching than it is about making money for the program owner; books are read and new books sold to parents whether the kids can read or understand them or not.  All my jobs are part-time, and there are no lack of opportunities. If one doesn’t fit, I can move on to another. I’m about to change jobs again in a week or so – this one ought to be different. I’ll be teaching French kids to speak English. There are a lot of engineers and managers from around the world that come to Korea for the shipbuilding business. Apparently, one company has provided education for their employees’ children as part of the deal to bring them here. So, I’ll be teaching English to French kids in Korea. How’s that for a twist?  The hours are only 10 per week, but they’ll pay me as much as many teachers get for a full time job. I’ll probably still fill my week, however, as I also try to fill my bank account.

We do get out and have some fun sometimes. This past weekend we went for a drive in the mountains west of Ulsan. Fall is a fabulous season in Korea and although the leaves aren’t turning yet, the skies are blue, the air crisp and the countryside beautiful.

 

MyeongHee stands in front of the lake near Miryang.

Me too, but MyeongHee isn't tall enough to snap the picture over the railing and get the lake in view

This last picture I snapped while driving through the valley as we came out of the mountains. Miryang is famous for apples and the valley was carpeted with apple farms and apple trees. Koreans keep the trees fairly pruned for easier picking – none of the apples would require more than a large step-stool to reach – even over a grove of them it’s still easy to see the farmer beyond.  These trees, although difficult to see here, were heavily laden with fruit. And all around the villages farmers were selling boxes of apples they’d already picked. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many apples in one place.

Apples, apples apples

Today, Monday, October 3rd, is a holiday here in Korea – Armed Forces Day. We had a three day holiday in September and now another single adjacent to a weekend. That doesn’t happen often – seems like the last year or two the holidays fell on the weekend and well, that’s your holiday.  I plan on spending my holiday relaxing and programming stuff.  And maybe taking my dogs for a walk in the warm afternoon sun.

Hope everyone is doing well.  Ta ta for now.

 

In Case You Missed It…a Video

By , September 5, 2011 11:26 am

I posted a a small blurb earlier last week on facebook, but I know not everyone reads that junk. It’s getting less and less interesting and more full of crap than is sometimes worth it. But anyway, I digress. On to the reason for this posting.

I posted a video on my other website, Ulsanonline.com, that is a how-to video for driving in Korea. Having driven in this land for several years (wow, time flies – years, he says!) I’ve seen it all. I thought driving in Mexico was crazy, but the people in this land are certifiably insane when they get behind the wheel of a car.  Wearing body armor while on the motorcycle is not a terrible idea as it’s just plain dangerous.

I started the video with all the intentions of making it an “angry-man-blusters-at-the-Koreans” sort of theme. But half way through editing, I took another tack and decided that satire would be better. Since that website is very popular with the foreigners, I worked in the satire with the new comers in mind. Every summer and spring we get a new crop of teachers coming over for a year of teaching English and this year we seem to have a bumper crop. Some of my partners have been writing along the theme of “getting acquainted with Korea” and thought I’d structure my outrage in the same way.  However, my humor apparently works for newcomers and old-timers alike. It’s gotten quite a few plays and several people have commented on how much they laughed.

There are a half-dozen or so theories on why Koreans are such shitty drivers, and I could pontificate on a few on them. Probably not worth it, though, unless you’ve been bere, are here or are coming here. The Korean mindset is a curious thing that defies translation and sometimes description and must be experienced first hand to thoroughly enjoy – or despise – your choice, as foreigners tend to fall into either category.  Just check out the video and get a glimpse of the motoring madness that I deal with daily here.

More later. Hope everyone is well.

Monday Afternoon Fun

By , August 17, 2011 10:59 am

Monday, August 15th was a holiday here in Korea celebrating independence day from the Japanese in 1945. I took to the roads with some good friends and we made a motorcycle trip around the area.

Usually, Korea is a sexually repressed society. You won’t see skimpily dressed women – even on the beach they wear a t-shirt over their bikinis (mostly). TV is tame and is either blurred out for the naughty bits or perhaps just some breasts shown on late nights.  But when they have a passion to display things of a sexual nature, they let it out with both barrels of the shotgun.

Two places we went to were sexual in nature. The first was the Penis Cafe, a coffee shop way out in the boondocks where they can’t be seen by the little ones.  I wrote an article for the UlsanOnline restaurant guide. Click on the link to read about this crazy place. I think the owner has an obsession with the penis, or maybe just sex in general.

After that, we drove up to GyeongJu, about 40km away and visited the Love Castle. This place was a real museum with artwork dating back thousands of years all the way up to contemporary art – all of a sexual nature.  I wrote another article for that website and put it in the travel section.  Fun times.

I like writing for that website and being the famous “ulsanonline guy.” when meeting new people in town. New teachers come every fall and spring and they’ve all read the site before they get here (do a search for Ulsan on google and the site comes up pretty high on the list) and I get my 15 minutes of fame.  I do have a number of other people that write on the site and I pay them for their efforts.  And sometimes, I like to leave things anonymous, although looking through it’s not hard to put two and two together and see who wrote it.

Friend Dee - on a cock swing

After those two places, we decided a little mountain serenity would be good. Cruising through Korea’s mountainous countryside is really a joy. Once outside the city it’s a beautiful place.  We visited an ancient temple with one of the best (they say) Buddhas in all of east Asia. No pictures allowed, so you’ll have to take my word for it. But the winding roads through the mountains is a real treat on a motorcycle.

Then we went down to the coast at caught the sunset at the twin pagodas.

Monstrous things, it’s hard to imagine how the Koreans put these together without cranes as they are over 1000 years old.

It’s days like that that I really wish some folks from back home would come visit so I could share this place other than through pictures. The daily grind in the city is ok, and fun just because it’s so very different in so many ways from home, but the countryside is truly magnificent.  You should save your bottle caps and make a trip out east to come visit before the days comes that I decide to come home and stay back in the US.  You’ve got a place to stay while you’re hear, so all you need concern yourself with is a plane ticket. Come on over! I’d love to show you more of the place than just a few pictures.

Inferno

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By , June 24, 2011 5:59 pm

No, I’m not on fire. The inferno is the annual motorcycle photo scavenger hunt we do in June.  We had the Inferno last weekend and it was a gas!  Only 22 people this year, smaller than past years, but still just as fun. The idea is to go to as many predetermined points on the map as you can and take a picture of your team there before before time runs out. There are far too many to visit all of them, so planning, navigation and creative pictures count.

Last year, my team won First Place and got a second helmet. This year, I rode with rookies and we took 2nd place and got 75 bucks – way better prize!

Wish I had all the pictures, but the video will have to suffice. My good friend Dee was on the planning committee and she took everyone’s photos and video and turned it into a slick video. Check it out here.

I do have some photos to share. The first is the panorama shot taken at the starting point. Jason has a nice camera and does and automatic, motorized pan so a long line of us can all be in the same shot.

If you look closely, I’m in the photo on both ends. Jason started taking the photo on the left of the line (I’m wearing white shorts) and after he panned his camera past me I ran to the right side and got in for that part, too, on the far right. Who says you can’t be in two places at once? Click the photo to see the details.

This photo is my bike and Andy’s bike. Andy is my teammate and had never driven a car, bike, scooter or motorcycle anywhere in the world and decided to learn in Korea. Our scooters must’ve been separated at birth as the plates are one number transposed. What are the odds.  Ryan’s girlfriend, Rocy, shows a nice smile for the camera.

two bikes, almost one license

Anyway, it was a great day. Looking forward to more rides before the summer rainy season hits.

 

Love to all,

Marty

75mpg…10mpd

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By , June 15, 2011 9:17 pm

That’s what I get these days driving around town. And that’s good that I get such good mileage, because gas ain’t cheap here. I’m paying 1850won/liter, which works out to about $6.38 per gallon.  I’ve only got a 3-liter tank, so I have to fill up about every 100km (60miles) or so, and that costs me another 6 bucks, give or take. Of course, all that’s on my scooter, which means I have to deal with weather and crazy drivers. But that’s not so bad considering I’m paying very close to $1 per every 10 miles or 10mpd.

Just thought I’d do that math.

Have you figured what your MPD is? With gas prices in the US having risen dramatically this year I’m curious how much each mile is costing the average driver.

Let’s Go to the Beach

By , June 12, 2011 10:51 am

By bicycle.

Too hot for climbing and too nice to stay indoors, I decided to make a long ride on the bike out to the beach.

But first, I have to cross those bad boys in the distance

That’s Muryongsan in the distance with the radio tower on top. That’s a 400m (~1200ft) mountain – that doesn’t make it very big, but for a bike that’s no mole hill.

Up close, it doesn’t look so daunting, but then I’ve gained some altitude getting to this fork in the road. Cars and trucks go right, while bikes or sightseers go left. The old road is twisty and curvy and a relatively easy grade, although it goes higher than the road through the tunnel.

 

The new steep road goes straight up into the mountain and through a tunnel. I went left.

For most of the way up, I saw no other riders going my way, but many coming back down. At nearly the halfway point, I spotted a ride approaching from the rear and my competitive instincts kicked in. I had been riding rather leisurely and I stepped it up and left him in the dust. I saw him in my rearview mirror attached to my helmet trying to keep up. This old man was too fast for him.

Half way up there is a small spring where a guy can refill his water bottle.

And near the top of the pass is a stairway to Nowhere

The new road, goes through the tunnel which is on the far right of this picture. Although that road is not as high in altitude the grade is much steeper. There are remnants from the construction days still on the far left. Two sets of overgrown stairs go to what looks like nowhere.  Click on the picture for a full view of these Stairways to Nowhere, now covered in ghostly brush.

And just past this is the view to the far side of the tunnel and the mountains beyond.

At the top the altimeter on my smartphone says I was at 225m or about 700ft.

A swift ride down the east side of this ridge and I’m approaching the sea.

newly planted rice paddies fill the flat lands approaching the sea in the distance

The village at the edge of the sea

I made it!

On the east side of the mountain I was going too fast too look at much of the scenery. But on the way back up I was going much slower and had time to look around. This boat was perched on the side of the mountain on a set of logs.

Fish out of water

It advertises a bean curd restaurant just down the hill on a side path. There’s something about Koreans that have a propensity to place boats – even ships – on dry land.  This boat was half way up the east side of the mountain, at least 6km from any water. But if it were the only boat out of water it would simply be an oddity. Instead, it’s another of a virtual flotilla of boats in various places – except water – here in Ulsan. I did a pictorial for Ulsanonline last year on these fish out of water.

Overall, I rode close to 50km. Certainly no record or even personal best, but an interesting way to spend a Saturday afternoon. And it helps keep the fat off. All the pants I bought in America this spring are baggy on me now.

I run an application called “endomondo” on my phone. It tracks my path, times, speed, altitude, calories, blah, blah.  And then after I’m finished I get a nice chart of my ride including a graph of speeds and altitudes.

endomondo output

Over the Cliff

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By , June 8, 2011 7:44 pm

Yes, I went literally over the cliff.

Monday, June 6th was Memorial Day here in Korea. So I and a few friends went on a rock-scissors-paper motorcycle tour. Every so often, we would stop at an intersection and play rock-scissors-paper and the winning hand took the direction. It was a great way to see the countryside and we did indeed see some beautiful sights.

a badly stiched panorama of far northern Ulsan, Korea

We took turn after turn, sometimes ending up in small communities, sometimes farm roads and at least once, a gravel road up the side of a mountain. We emerged onto the mountain top overlooking a valley in far northern Ulsan. But before getting there, we hit that gravel road.

And that’s where I went over the cliff

I was going slow, but I hit a soft patch of gravel and my scooter spun to the right. The road was only a single lane and I still had too much momentum to stop before it went right off the edge of the road and down the mountain.

 

me, down the mountain about 5 meters, with my scooter

Luckily, the scooter caught on a stump or might have tumbled a long way down into the trees. Had that happened, I likely would have simply left the bike there to rot. But instead, the five of us scrambled down the very loose gravel and hefted the bike back on the road. Lots of sweat, dirt, gasoline and oil stains later and we’re back on the road where 100 meters later we found the panoramic view.  Should anyone be worried for my health, I was fine. Only a couple of minor scratches. Same for the bike.

 

Friends (from left) Rocy, Dee, Fin and Ryan

From there, we continued down the road to a historical marker of a long dead Korean hero. Been there, done that. But just up the road from that was a temple run by a German national. Most temples are all the same. But this one was so unique, and the monk and his wife so inviting we stayed and chatted for a long while. If you’re interested, I wrote a longish piece about the temple on my other site, Ulsanonline.com.

We ended up travelling on for another 150km (110miles) into the mountains, coastline, valleys and then back into the city to meet another friend who was buying his first motorcycle. We finally had lunch/dinner around 5pm on the coast followed by coffee on the beach.

Overall, the ride was totally pointless and without aim. But damn, it was fun.  Even the part about going over the cliff.

 

Fast Times

By , June 6, 2011 10:44 am

This weekend was both a holiday weekend and birthday weekend. Two friends, Andy and Ryan had birthdays on Saturday so a large group of us decided to take a short trip to GyeongJu and play in the go-karts.

GyeongJu is only about 40km north of here, but not everyone has personal transportation. We decided to take the train, which was outrageously cheap at only $2.50 per person. And being on the southern coast, when it’s time to go back home the roads are always clogged with traffic doing the same. The train was a nice change of pace.

Once in GyeongJu we started walking from the train station to the go-kart track. Bad advice, as it was several kilometers away. We walked maybe a mile or so without seeing any taxis or buses that could take us. Luckily two friends who decided to ride their motorcycles to GyeongJu met us along the way and ferried us, two-by-two, to the track.

Once at the track, I had to put the hard sell on MyeongHee to actually ride the karts. She was receptive when we talked at home, but at the track she wanted to just watch. No problem – I sold her on the idea and she rode.

As you’re reading you may be thinking that go-karts are fun, but come on – how passe’. How old fashioned. Even the times we’d gone to Malibu Grand Prix in Dallas to play they are fun, but pretty tame. I assure you, however, that this was not the case in Korea. These things were fast. Moreover, the track employees, used to dealing with the timid Koreans, were not sure how to handle us foreigners. That whole notion of not wanting someone to “lose face” played right into our hands, er steering wheels. Koreans don’t like to fuss at someone unless it’s a personal affront, so merely breaking rules it is a rarity to  have them call someone out and publicly embarrass them for blatant rule breaking. It was the Wild West, baby. Bumping, slamming, pushing were all, if not legal, tolerated. We had a blast!

I took several pictures of our friends – there were 15 of us total – but quite a few of my honey.  You can see the whole lot of them on my facebook photo album. My good friend Fin Madden took several more and are on his album. His photos show several mash-ups and crashes into the tire walls that MyeongHee didn’t capture.  Just a few of the shots are below. Click the pic for a closeup.

 

MyeongHee gets ready to race
Full-throttle, MyeongHee leans into the turns
My turn. One day, she will have to get serious about zooming the camera lense
On the way home, the countryside is filled with newly planted rice paddies that reflect the surrounding mountains. Well worth a click for a larger view.

 

Facebook scrunches pictures down too much and this one is a classic mashup. Click the pic for detailed view. I passed Dee Madden on a tight turn and she could not negotiate the turn in the space I left her. She slammed into the tire wall on the far left. I am on the far right speeding away and laughing

After we came back to Ulsan, we had dinner at a restaurant with a large open-air patio. The weather was perfect: warm but on the shady east side of the building with a slight breeze.  Sometimes I’m still amazed at how cheap things can be here: a full meal of grilled pork, soup, rice, numerous side dishes and several bottles of beer cost only about $11 per person. The equivalent meal in Dallas would be 3-4x that amount.

Sometimes frustrating, sometimes exciting, sometimes I’m homesick and sometimes I’m surrounded by good friends. But Korea is rarely dull.

 

And then it was back!

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By , April 28, 2011 11:47 am

Less than two days after the bike was stolen I got it back!  Woo hoo! I must be living right!

It turns out the thief sold it to a “friend” and the “friend” brought it to OMK Bicycle shop in Ulsan. OMK is one of several bike shops that know me, but these guys do all the mechanical work on my bike and are also my business partners on my other website, Ulsanonline.com.  They have been regular advertisers on the site and regular mechanics for me. It was no surprise they recognized the bike since a) I just had some work done on it last week and b) the seat was still raised high enough to accommodate a 6’1″ dude.  I’m betting the “friend” is the thief himself and unloaded it as quickly (and as far from my house – 5 miles) as he could. The bike shop owners convinced him the police would be looking for such a bike (they weren’t – I didn’t even call them since the thief had a mask and hat) and that it would be foolish to openly ride it around town.  They called me on Wednesday evening and I picked up the bike Thursday.

Honestly, I think it pays to be a white-face among a sea of Asian faces. Lots of Koreans know me because I look so different. But if I see them outside of the normal environment I have come to know them (i.e I see the butcher not at his store but at the park) I don’t always recognize them.  Back home in teh USA I’d be just another forgettable guy whose bike was ganked.

Anyway, as I expected, when I got the bike  the compact air pump was gone, as was the saddle bag with tools and spare tube. The thief also took the speedometer/odometer but he left the sensor on the front wheel so that’s useless.  All minor problems.  I immediately bought a hand-phone case from OMK BIkes (I love those guys) that will let me clip the phone to the handlebars and I can run Endomondo, a GPS-enabled application on the phone that will track my speed, miles, calories – an even better tool than a mere speedometer/odometer.  Now I just need another air pump and tool bag with tools and I’m set for the long rides into the mountains.

The only bad news from all of this is that my bike now lives in the apartment where we really don’t have room for it.  Even chained to the metal handrails on the stairwell outside the apartment offers no protection from a bolt cutter.

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

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By , April 17, 2011 10:35 am

And so on and so forth…

Getting back to Korea from my long vacation in the USA was no big ordeal.

Getting from the airport to home was indeed an ordeal, however.  In an effort to make the flight/airport time (i.e. time in a kennel) easier for SaTang, I tried to get the most direct route home.  I usually fly out of Busan to Tokyo and then on to DFW. For whatever crazy reason, even though people were avoiding Japan due to the radiation potential, flights through Tokyo were double the cost of fares to other cities. Flying to Beijing and then on to Busan was cheaper by half but far longer in time to be cooped up in a kennel. Same with Hong Kong or Singapore.  I chose to fly direct to Seoul and then use the trains get to the opposite end of the peninsula.

We got into Incheon airport near Seoul after a mere 14 hours flying time. Happy to have come through security and animal customs cleanly and avoided the Japanese radiation, I took SaTang out of her kennel and we headed for the train from the airport to the main train station. Trust me when I tell you that process is far easier for those who travel light. I had a rolling bag and heavy backpack and a kennel to carry through the numerous escalators and elevators to get just to the train was  a trek.

Once on the train, we had about 40 minutes to ride to the central Seoul Station where I could hop the fast KTX train to Ulsan. We got to the station and had to navigate our way through several levels upward to the station itself from the tracks. Getting into or onto a combination of escalators and very slow elevators with all my gear and dog was extreme. I hope to never have to do that again.

At the train station, I showed the ticketmaster at the counter the email with the ticket number MyeongHee had already purchased for me. Although she bought it almost two weeks prior, it was standing room only.  I would have to stand the two hours on the train. Furious, I told her to cancel that and I’d get another train. No dice – everything on Friday night out of Seoul was standing room only. I could have taken a bus home but that would be five hours more and I wasn’t up for it. I repurchased a ticket and waited for my ride/stand home.

While I waited, I tried to take SaTang outside so she could pee or poop. She’d been in the kennel for a long while and hadn’t done either. Outside the train station in Seoul is a virtual circus of humanity. More than a few drunks and derelicts expressed love and affection for my cute doggie and had to be literally beaten off before she bit them. Like myself, she was a little peeved and irritable from a long flight. I smacked one drunk to the ground and bundled up our stuff to get away from them. We had to go down the ramp rather than the stairs because of all I carried and that’s where the drunks prefer to pee since the ramp had waist-high concrete walls to shield prying eyes. I threw rocks at one drunk in our path who was peeing and finally got him to make way. SaTang got the hint, however, and decided this was as good a place as any to pee and let it rip.  I decided it would be better to wait inside where the drunks and retards weren’t so populous. I bought us both a hamburger at McDonalds and gave her the meat. I had to fight off a few more drunks and homeless who wanted my hamburger, the dog’s hamburger, me to buy them one or me to just give them the money.

Perhaps its the vast difference in price between planes and trains and buses, but I find far less drunks and derelicts in the airports. What a place.

Already up for almost 24 hours by then, I was waiting to board the train when someone asked me if I shouldn’t be getting on. My watch said I had two hours to go but it was actually 14 hours behind – I forgot to change the time from Dallas, CST.  I had mere minutes to get on the train and I ran (or more like hobbled) with SaTang, my rolling bag, backpack and kennel to get through two more escalators to the tracks. I missed my train by seconds and was left pounding on the doors as it pulled away. Arrrgh!

I got on the next train a half hour later and was finally on my way home. It was only a two hour ride from Seoul and standing was only part way. Once some of the people got off and various cities along the way I could take a seat and relax. MyeongHee picked us up at the Ulsan station at 10:20pm and we were home by 11, a whopping 24 hours of non-stop travel.

Now that I’ve had a day to relax and adjust to the time zone, it’s time to get busy here in Korea. Lots to catch up on, including this blog, but some photos to post, videos to make and, not least, find a new job.

 

 

Dodging Bullets

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By , February 20, 2011 10:49 am

We pulled a Matrix stunt this weekend while on a bus trip to the resort. Bullets, in the form of bus wheels, flew off. Near misses. No bodily harm caused but lots of fear.

The weekend ski trip is a pretty cheap deal here in Korea. For less than $90 you get a 4 hour bus ride there and back, lift tickets and ski or board rentals. Our trip started at 4am and I rode my scooter at 3:45 am to join my friends. Once on the bus, we chatted briefly and then we all leaned back in our seats for a snooze while we drove to the ski mountain. I had a hard time sleeping as I was sitting near the rear of the bus and kept hearing a strange harmonic “whop whop whop” sound and a slight shimmy.  I’m not bus driver so I didn’t worry too much about it. I figured the bus driver knows his bus better than I.

Less than 2 hours into a 4 hour drive I heard a bump and the driver pulled off the highway. I though we were stopping at a rest stop but the driver got out and started talking rapidly on his cell phone. Not a good sign. I got out to see what the matter was.

Where is our second wheel

It was still before sunrise and a little hard to see. But clearly, we were missing something here. Our bus was listing hard to the left and the rear tire was dangerously compressed. It wasn’t immediately clear what really occurred. A quick look at the right side showed us what it ought to look like:

There should be two wheels on the rear of the bus. This is the right rear side and the wheels and tires extend to the edge of the bus body. Then looking again at the left side it was clear what the shimmy and whop-whop noise was: We had a flat and the driver ignored it. He ignored the noise and shimmy for so long, in fact, that we lost the entire wheel. It must have worked itself right off the studs.

We went back on the bus to wait for a repair job. Then we learned that it would be a two hour wait for a new bus to pick us up and continue the journey. A new bus? Why?

It was after dawn before we realized the truth of what really happened.   Once the sun had come up enough to give us some light, this is what we saw.

both wheels are off the studs with one wheel completely missing

We had nearly lost both wheels. We clearly dodged a bullet. I think the final bump we heard before pulling off the road was the remaining wheel slipping off the studs and resting on the hub.  Metal shavings littered the hub, wheel and ground and left a trail for many meters back along the highway. Nowhere behind us was our missing wheel, which means it must have fallen off quite a while back.  Our bus had come very close to pulling a Fred Flintstone and simply rolling over on it’s side. Had that happened at highway speeds of 100km/hour (70mph) things would have gone very badly. Instead, the driver pulled over just before things got really frisky and our biggest headache was a two hour wait for a replacement bus.

Once we were on our way, we got to the ski mountain late, but just in time for lunch and skiing. Our package was for 9am to 4pm but the tour group adjusted the lift times for us (quite complicated here in Korea compared to the simple full-day or half-day prices back in the USA) and we skied from 12:30 until 6pm. We arrived back in Ulsan around 11pm.

On the top, the obligatory photo

We went to “High One” a resort in GangwanDo province. Not a very big ski resort by most standards, but adequate. Only 18 runs are placed around a mountain, the top of which is only about 1200 meters. There are just a few beginner courses, completely overrun with people and more of a roller-derby game than skiing. An equal number of intermediate and advanced and a couple of professional runs and snowboard technical courses dot the higher slopes.

I spent the early afternoon getting my ski legs adjusted. It had been a year since I skied and didn’t want to go too far, too fast, too soon. I’m an old man, after all.  Once I felt comfortable skiing and had my carving skills honed by dodging the thousands of beginners on the easy green slopes I took to the blues and reds.

Experts Only. But I did several of these

No hill for a stepper like me. I plunged down the “expert only” red slopes (in Korea, red is what American’s would view as a blue or perhaps double blue diamond run) and found them to be only steep and fast with almost no moguls (bumps). Of course, I felt a little studly going down the expert runs, but no serious skier would consider these expert only. If you’ve ever been to Taos ski mountain, these would be a difficult blue there. But at least I had the runs mostly to myself and I could ski with abandon. The easier slopes were too crowded with people.

Mountainous Gangwan province, complete with brown haze

Since we arrived late and our lift times were adjusted onward to 6pm, the slopes started to clear off after 4:30. Quite a few other one-day bus trips left at that point and the only remaining skiers were those spending the night in pricey hotels or, like us, leaving later. The higher slopes were shut down, but the lower, green slopes, although easier, were cleared of most of the people. Overall, despite the bullet dodging, not a bad day.

The Switch

By , February 6, 2011 10:32 am

Yesterday we got into a car accident. Not a big one and no one was injured. It was startling, though, and we were all shaken.

We were travelling back to Ulsan from a trip to Costco in Busan. We had a load of groceries in the trunk and were just dealing with the massive amount of traffic on the roads. This week was Lunar New Years and being Saturday, the 4th of a five day weekend, many people were heading home and the roads were jammed. We were on the new interstate between Ulsan and Busan and we weren’t going very fast – maybe 40km/hr (about 25mph) and were in one of the many tunnels that burrow through the mountains between the two cities.  Dim, yellowish lighting in the tunnel makes it difficult to see so all of the lanes are marked off with a solid white line, which means no lane changing. This being Korea, however, rules are rarely followed.  One man decided my lane was better than his and he decided he wanted to be in my lane. Unfortunately, we were still in it. He side-swiped us while along the right from the front passenger door to the bumper. His van was scratched from end to end. Koreans generally don’t (nor are they taught to) look in their blind spot when changing lanes (I berated MyeongHee about this for weeks when she first got her license) and this guy was no exception. Had he look, he would have seen us: we were just to his left when he careened into us.

No worries, though, as it was just a flesh wound to the car and everything still functioned. It was only a matter of getting the official things done.  MyeongHee called the insurance company who came out to the scene within 15 minutes or so. He inspected the accident, took a few pictures and then asked us to drive out of the tunnel and out of traffic (I’m sure we caused an even great backup while we sat in the middle of the tunnel) so he could take better pictures in daylight. We spent another 10 minutes there while he took our stories of the accident. He figured ti would take 2 days or so to fix our car and asked if we needed a rental. Yes, we told him, we would. He then suggested we follow him to a repair shop where we could drop off the car  and pick up a rental. We still had a trunk full of groceries and I thought this would be a long, drawn out trip through busy Busan traffic followed by a stack of paperwork.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

We drove maybe 10 minutes through heavy traffic to a repair shop, spent all of 2 minutes doing paperwork and then were on our way home again in a new rental, our groceries safely transferred to the new trunk. I thought that was pretty efficient, but that sometime this week we’d have to drive back down to Busan to pick our car from the repair shop. Wrong again. They deliver. MyeongHee gave them the address to her hair shop and they’ll drop it off when they’re finished and pick up the rental.  Although any accident is a hassle, this was absolutely almost zero hassle.

Say what you will about Korean drivers and their lack of blind spot checking, rule following or whatever. But the efficiency they have in getting things done, as experienced by this accident and by last week’s highly efficient apartment move, and we’re pretty happy campers.  By contrast, the last time I moved in America was from Plano to Farmer’s Branch and Circe hired a moving company to get it all. It took nearly all day and twice the price they quoted her (and 2X what we paid here.)  And the last car accident I had in America was an exercise in dealing with insurance company estimates, finding a garage, dealing with the rental agency and then returning said rental; a far from almost zero hassle experience.

One final bright spot was that this accident will also repair a nice long scratch on the car we got a month ago when we had our first snow storm and slid into  a parked truck. We were prepared to fix that on our nickel but this guy yesterday was nice enough to side-swipe us and have his insurance company fix it for us.

Coming Home – A Tentative Schedule

By , January 10, 2011 9:29 am

I called up American Airlines this weekend in search of deals. I have about 30,000 frequent flier miles built up from previous years trips back home and thought I might be able to use them. I had been looking on the websites like Travelocity for a way to get home cheap and even the AA site to perhaps get an upgrade. No luck in either course so I had to go stone-age and use a telephone.

Anyway, for the miles I have, AA has decided they can get me home for a mere $76 – all in fees and taxes – and 25,000 of my miles.  That’s a one-way trip. I’ll have to buy my return trip later, which will likely run around $600-800. But that means my stay at home is for as long as I can stand being away from my lovely wife, or as long as my money holds out.

I haven’t made it official, but will this week – I’m waiting on a couple of universities to decide I’m a great guy and offer me a job for the semester starting in March. I’m only giving them four more days as I have only five for the reservation I made to expire if I don’t buy it/mile it.  For $76, I suppose I can always change it to June when summer vacation begins.

Anyway, mark your calendars. March 6th at 9:20am I’ll arrive at DFW airport.

A Busy Two Weeks

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By , October 24, 2010 11:17 am

I’ve been remiss in writing here lately. Not because I don’t like or want to, but simply because I haven’t had time.

Two of Circe’s friends came to Korea to visit. Not me, specifically, but they made a side trip. Brandon and MJ, neither of whom I had met before, came to Korea to visit Brandon’s sister in Busan. Since that’s just down the coast from Ulsan they made a side trip up and spent the morning with me. I showed them my little Shangrai La and a little about the city. We ended up taking a short hike in the mountains for a quick visit at Paraiso Waterfalls, one of the 12 scenic areas of Ulsan.

Brandon and MJ at Paraiso Waterfall in the Yeongnam Alps near Ulsan

They were really nice people, which isn’t surprising being Circe’s friends. We had a nice time and they brought me some pinto beans and flavored creamer for my coffee – two things that just don’t exist here in Korea. I gave them a set of suction cups (medieval things, really, designed to suck the “bad blood” from a small area) to take back to Circe for her massage business.

Last week I was busy hosting a teaching course. Through my Ulsanonline.com business I advertised the course, registered attendees and secured a room. The course instructors merely had to show up and teach and I got about 10% of the fees.  That was a lot of leg work in running around getting things setup.

During that time, a pair of Italian journalists contacted me. They planned to come to Ulsan to do a story on shipbuilding and were looking for places to stay. Again, because of Ulsanonline, they contacted me and asked for help. There aren’t many English language websites (or anything else) in this city so a quick google for anything in Ulsan and chances are you’ll hit my site. Anyway, I pointed them in the direction of a hotel to stay in and helped them get access to Hyundai Shipyards. I didn’t know anyone at the shipyards, but I tried.

Things turned out pretty damn good, actually. I contacted YoungSook you was the director at my school. She has excellent English and I thought she could help translate Korean into English for them. She came out with MyeongHee and I when we met with teh jourmalists, Maria and Marco, and she called some of her friends to see if they knew anyone at the shipyards. After a few phone calls she a fairly high level manager – the husband of a friend of a friend – and he gave Maria and Marco an interview. That was interesting as YoungSook translated his Korean into English for Maria who translated English into Italian for Marco who then asked questions  back down the same chain.

Youngsook(l) translates English for Marco and Maria from the Korean of Mr Kim(r)

After an hour or so of sitting at a park near the shipyards and talking, we got a private tour of the shipyards from the manager. We were all blown away by the sheer size of the place. We were told no pictures, which really frustrated the journalists, but because this guy was not just some guy by apparently #3 or 4 in the place he allowed us a few shots.

The Guest House at the Shipyards

The guest house is where dignitaries stay when they visit the shipyards. They selling ships for a few hundred million dollars each and its not uncommon for some high level people to visit and see what they’re state funds are going for. Lesser accommodations for the ship crews who take possession of the ships are not quite so fancy. This nice house was right on the cliffs overlooking the ocean at the edge of the shipyard.

On the other side of teh guest house, looking back toward the shipyards, I was allowed to take a picture of the crane.

A massive crane that move sections of the ships are they are put together

These beasts hold up to 1,290 tons of ship as they move huge sections together for assembly. When they move, its not the monotonous beep-beep-beep of a tractor or backhoe, but the music of a carousel and they play a catchy melody as they slowly move on the rails over the assembly line.  They allowed Maria to take a couple of discreet pictures of the place for their book and magazine, but they were very cautious. Apparently, industrial espionage is rampant – they tell me that an engineering feat of shaving even a tiny fraction of 1% efficiency in a ship design can save millions of dollars in fuel cost.

Honestly, the sheer magnitude of the place was overwhelming. A place large enough to turn out about 70+ ships a year – that’s more than one ocean-going monster vessel per week. But each one must “dry” the paint, waterproofing, welding, etc for a period of two years before delivery.  We drove in the manager’s car around the area for nearly 40 minutes with our jaws dropped most of the time.

I stole a few pictures from their website just to give you a hint of the place’s enormity.

Aerial view of the Hyundai shipyards. The guest house is the brown hill in the center

So anyway, that was quite an adventure, made more exciting by the fact that I got to be in the middle of it someone else’s journaling. Maria and Marco spent another week or so here and YongSook helped again with translations. Since my role of putting them in touch with both a translator and shipyard contacts complete I didn’t get to go but apparently they got even better pictures in their 2nd and 3rd shipyard visit. Maria sent me a few links of their other work, most of which is about the shipping industry including an icebreaker trip and drilling platform. Their next journey is to Pakistan where they’ll document the ship graveyard – where ships are dismantled for scrap. Check out their work here:

http://www.letteraventidue.com/libri/016_grandeatl.html
http://periodici.repubblica.it/d/index.jsp?num=692&page=76
http://periodici.repubblica.it/d/index.jsp?num=632&page=46

Meanwhile, I’m back at home and making a pot of beans. Later, I’ll spice them up and ladle them over a plate of chips and grate some cheese over them for a bad-ass plate of nachos. Not getting this stuff very often makes it a special treat.

A Ride in the Country

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By , September 14, 2010 12:16 pm

MyeongHee and I have taken to short rides in the country on Sunday afternoons. We hop on the scooter and ride where ever things look interesting, which is just about anywhere outside the city. It’s mid September and the farmers are all expecting great harvests from the looks of things – lots of sun and rain this summer.

We stopped at two places this past Sunday that were worth a photo. The first was a historical marker of a nobleman who over 1000 years ago went on a quest to rescue the two sons of the King. One went to the far northern part of Korea, which some even claim is China, and the other was taken to Japan. This guy saved both sons but was tortured to death by the Japanese. The Koreans still revere this guy and have built a small museum around where his home was. All of these pictures link to a full size shot if you want to see more.

These two pictures are of the “living room”, which clearly has no front wall.

MyeongHee and I take turns posing at the front gate of the home.

Hard to see in just a few photos, but this time of years is awesome. Bright blue skies and warm days followed by cool nights. We made this trip just after 5pm and by the time we got up to this memorial the sun was casting long shadows and the air was growing quite cool.  Not cool enough to go home, however. We continued on up into the mountains to this very quaint Buddhist temple. Only an old nun, her head shorn as the women will do in the temples, was home. She was very kind however, and invited us back when the temple’s owner, a German, would return. Go figure. An English speaking Buddhist temple owning German in the mountains of Korea.

I have to remember to bring my real camera next time. My smartphone takes only middling grade pictures and this one of the brightly colored temple is a bit fuzzy

Everyone knows Marty likes garden ponds. This one was nice.

We especially liked the little baby Buddhas lined up like a small army below the Bodhisattva, most of them with yellow wool caps, but a few with bright red ones.

Next week is Chuseok – Korean Thanksgiving. We’ll see what treats that brings.

Hot Fun in the Summertime

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By , August 2, 2010 3:59 pm

With 50 million people in a country the size of Indiana it’s a little crowded. Toss in the fact that 60% of the place is mountainous and the crowding becomes even more severe.

MyeongHee and I had decided earlier in the week that’d go out on Sunday and have a picnic along one of the rivers. We started out early to beat the crowds, but apparently, everyone else had the same time at the same time. We left a little after 9am in search of a spot where we would wade in the cold water coming down the mountain but still find some shade out of the fierce August heat. Our usual spot about 30 minutes out of town was already full. SO was the next spot, and the next and the next. The roads were jammed with people, and sometimes, in typical Korean fashion, the roads were jammed with empty cars, the owners of which didn’t seem to care if they blocked or impeded traffic.

We ended up driving nearly two hours to find a spot that wasn’t overrun with people. But that’s not all bad. We ended up taking some roads we hadn’t travelled and found some interesting sights.

We took this twisting mountainous road which winds up the right side of this lake. While it’s not that far from home as the crow flies, its a long way since we had to drive around several mountains to get there.

This is pretty much what our little corner of Korea looks like once outside the city. There are a lot of mountains and not much else. There aren’t a lot of roads through them, and few, if any, homes tucked into and around them.  That’s always amazed me as I compare them with my memories of Colorado or New Mexico there are homes sprinkled throughout most places. For whatever reason, as crowded as the cities are, Koreans tend the leave the mountains to themselves. Sure, there are the very occasional mountain homes, and of course some Buddhist temples, but the majority of the buildings near the bases of the mountains, along the rivers.  In fact, one can find numerous “pensions” along most of the mountain rivers. Pensions are what we would call a “lodge” or “cabin” but are essentially the same – a rented building for a weekend getaway.

This was our “shady spot” we found. Not even a tree, but a weed that regrows every year and produces enormous leaves.  We picked this place at the base of the dam (visible behind MH)  in the previous two pictures. The water flowing from out of the damn was wonderously cool and refreshing. For our picnic, MyeongHee made samgyeopsal – pork with slices of garlic and red bean paste wrapped in lettuce leaves. Meanwhile, I relaxed in the shade and played with the two dogs while throngs of people played in the water away from us.

Next time, we want to go to “Ice Valley,”  another mountain valley with a cold running stream nearby. This one is famous for it’s summer (not winter) ice forming because of the strange thermodynamics of the rocks and wind.

Mudfest

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By , July 30, 2010 6:12 pm

Nothing like playing in the mud. I haven’t done that since I was knee high to a grasshopper.  Or something like that…

Anyway, there’s an annual festival on the west coast of Korea – the Mud Festival!   The city is just a small thing tucked into a bay that has some serious mud flats. They decided a few years back to capitalize on their geology by making the festival around the mud – some of which is used in making makeup and skins creams.

A group of my friends here all decided to make it a group trip so 22 of us crowded into a small bus for a five hours trip to the west coast. We left at 6:45am and spent the ride drinking and telling off-color jokes.  It rained the whole way there and was still raining when we got to the beach. Not that rain was going to matter – we were planning on playing in the mud, so what’s a little rain? By the time we got settled in our resort, unpacked and headed out to the beach the rain was just a slight drizzle but the air was warm.

Although there were quite a few Koreans there, this is probably a 70% foreigner attended affair. Lots of young people – teachers, engineers and more than few military.  The event had lots of activities including colored mud body painting, mud slides, mud mosh-pits, mud slinging areas and mud slathering areas. We liked the slathering area as it was more of a love-fest, rubbing gooey sticky mud all over each other. It turned into a mud slinging area when the army boys got there and got rowdy.

I had my camera in a ziplock baggie to keep out the rain and the mud – it worked pretty well, but it was cumbersome and a couple of the pictures didn’t turn out well.   I thought about posting them here, but it’s just too easy to post to facebook. I hope this link to my facebook album works for those of you who don’t facebook.

My facebook MudFest photos

Our resort was really nice. It was about a 30 minute walk from the beach but that was fine – everything near the beach is a 24 hour party and those of us who aren’t into that were happy while the others could make a short trip to party ’til they puked. They did and they puked. A lot.  The resort was less than a  year old and still had that new building smell.  We had a hot tub that got some serious use, too.  Although my pictures of the hot tub are fuzzy (probably a good thing) there was a significant amount of nudity.

Across the parking lot, there was a pool for the whole place. Lots of little kids and families. When we got in to play on Sunday morning, the Koreans all moved to one end and left of us to our end. We did a couple of experiments and slowly eased our group off the center and into “their” side, each time crowding them further and further into the shallow end. Whether it was fear or loathing, we weren’t sure. But the Koreans in general could be herded into a rather small area by subtly expanding our little circle. Fun stuff – someone should write a paper on non-verbal communication about it someday.

We headed back around noon on Sunday and by then the rain had finished and Sunday was bright and sunny and humid. Just in time for a hot bus ride home.

It was a much needed getaway from Ulsan. This week, I started a short, two week course at Ulsan University. They have a group of students who are going to spend a semester in Canada so they’re prepping them for living in an English-speaking city with a 4-hour/day intensive speakign and writing class. I’m working 4 hours in the morning and then  another 7.5 in the afternoon/evening at my normal school. For two weeks, I’ll feel like I’m back in the real world again working long hours and having to wake up with an alarm clock. It’s been a few years since I used one – other than vacation buses or planes.   I’d actually like to turn this short time gig into a full time job – and I might have a good shot at it. The head of the English department at Ulsan Univ, a Korean man, studied in the US – at the University of North Texas – same as me. We traded some stories of bars and restaurants in Denton that we’d both been to.  He’s a nice guy and I’m hoping our shared past might help me get into the University. We’ll see.

Scooter Inferno Shots

By , June 10, 2010 11:53 am

Just a smattering of photos from last week’s Scooter Inferno.

Me and my partner, Sam, with our Grand Prize winnings - a couple of helmets and goggles

The Bonus shot - Dancing Girls. Almost every store grand opening or big sale event has a pair out front

At Tohamsan Garden restaurant deep in the mountains between Ulsan and GyeongJu

At the monument to Canada nuclear engineers near the Wolsong Nuclear Power Plant. I think the radiation made me get a little crazy

The Sea Penis. I swear they look just like dicks in their tubs. Pick one up and it will pee

From left, Sam, Nikki, me, Scott, Dee and Wolfie. Two teams working together until the last 15 minutes

Lots more pictures, but some aren’t fit for publication. And here, also is a the video created for the awards banquet.  Check it out.

Anyway, that’s all for now.

Scooter Inferno!

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By , June 8, 2010 12:26 pm

This past Saturday was the 2010 Scooter Inferno.  Of course it had changed significantly from the last Inferno – of 2004.  This one allowed bicycles to play in the event. Essentially, it was a timed scavenger hunt, with the goal of taking pictures of your team at each of several scenic, historic or just relevant places around the province. Bicycles being the slowest, got more points per site and more for farther out sites than scooters and motorcycles. Motorcycles, being the fastest, got the least points but were able to get to more sites.  I was in the scooter class and me and my partner, Sam, won the event.

We rode almost 160km in 4 hours, stopping to take pictures at temples, restaurants, ports and statues. Extra points were awarded for photos of traffic accidents, nudity (yes, I bared my ass) and creativity.

The rules were:

1. Do not break any Korean traffic laws. Speed limits and traffic lights must be obeyed. If you are seen in violation of the rules, you will be deducted 10 points for each infraction.
2. Sidewalks are for pedestrians and bicycles. Do not drive on them. It is only acceptable if you are parking.
3. All riders must wear helmets on their bikes. A moving bike with a rider without a helmet (driver or passenger) is immediate team disqualification.
4. This is a fun rally, no tampering or fooling around with other teams bikes.
5. The race begins at 11 am and finishes at 4pm. Camera memory cards must be submitted by 4pm. Every 5 minutes late will be a 15 point deduction.
6. The same number of bikes must begin and end the race. If 3 bikes begin the race, the same 3 bikes must finish the race. If there is a mechanical problem, the bike must at least have been picked up by our emergency truck.
7, All team members, except the photographer, must be in the photo.
8. One ‘team’ camera per team. Please don’t put ‘point photos’ on different cameras.
9. One photo per site.
10. At least one cell phone per bike.

Scoring system

Bicycles:

Bikes Zone A Zone B Zone C
Bicycles 2 5 8
50cc 2 4 6
125cc 1 3 4
Open Class 1 2 3
  • Nudity Multiplier: Any photo taken with responsible nudity will give double the regular points. This is a PG event, please nothing disgusting.

And the locations and map:

Zone A sites Points Nudity Multiplier Check Nudity Multiplier
1. Ulgi Park Lighthouse 5. Hill Lake Valley Country Club
2. Daewangam Bridge 6. Geonguksa Temple
3. Ilsan Beach Pyramid 7. Tohamsan Garden Restaurant
4. Bangeojin Motorbike 8. Cheonbulsa Temple
5. Daegyung Motorbike 9. Woosung Nuclear Plant Park Statue to Canadians
6. Wolbongsa Temple 10. King Mumnu’s underwater tomb
7. Ulsan College Main Building
8. Wongaksa Temple Zone C sites
9. Pagoda at Hyundai Arts Park 1. Gampo Port Breakwater
10. Swimming Pool at Old Foreigner’s Compound 2. 3 Storied Pagodas at Gameunsa
11. Main Gate of HHI 3. Carved Buddha at Golgulsa
12. Ulsan Theme Arboretum 4. Twin Pagodas at Janghangsa
13. Bongdaesan Smoke signal station 5. Seokuram Grotto (not parking lot)
14. Jujeon Beach 6. 9th Hole of Bulguksa Golf Course
15. Carved Buddha at Geumcheon 7. Korea Advertising Museum!
16. Gangdong World Cup Training Pitch 8. Hwangnyongsa Temple
17. Fish Market at Jeongja 9.Family Sannak on Tohamsan
18. OkCheonam Temple on Muryeongsan 10. Gwaerung Tomb
19. Hyomun Station Bonus Points

Stop Sign
Photo with Cops
Kissing Ajumma
Sea Penis
Traffic Accident
4 people on a bike (parked)
On a boat
Jehovah’s Witness
With a Monk
20. Dogoksa Temple on Dongdaesan
21. Ulsan Motorbike
22. Ulsan Airport
23. Birthplace of Park Sang-Jin
24. Dongcheon Stadium
25. Peak of Muryeongsan
Zone B sites
1. Cheonsusa Temple
2. Mauna Luge Run
3. Mauna Resort
4. Mohwa Station

Teams didn’t get the maps and list of sites until the night before the rally. We had to plan out our list of sites to ride to carefully in order to maximize points and minimize time. With only 4 hours of ride time set aside, hitting all or even most was impossible.

I had helped with the publicity by posting the event on Ulsanonline.com and creating the registration pages, but the real organizers did a great job setting things up. The created T-shirts for the participants, collected cash donations from the motorcycle shops in town and setup a banquet following the race to award prizes (also donated from the motorcycle shops) with all-you-can-drink micro-brew beer and a buffet.

Sam and I stayed with another team for most of the day, as its more fun in groups than not. We only split up in the last few minutes of the race and capitalized on some dancing girl points and a nearby stadium nudity shot (I opened my shirt) to streak ahead and win the event. We pulled into the ending rally point at exactly 4:00pm the cut-off time.

Since the goal was taking pictures of you and your team at each site, the best part was watching the slide show of everyone’s pictures on the big screen at the banquet. There were some very artful pictures, funny pictures and just plain crazy pictures.

Having been here a few years, I had been to most of these places. But not all – there were a few sites that were new. My partner was a relative newcomer to Korea and she was wowed by most since she hadn’t had time to visit many places. Overall, it was a great event to meet new friends and get out and see parts of Korea that otherwise would stay hidden. The weather was awesome, no one had mechanical problems, no injuries (other than a little sunburn) and lots of beer at the end.

I might get some pictures up later, but my partner had the “official” team camera I’ll have to get them from her.

I’m looking forward to next year’s Inferno.

Travelin’ in Style

By , April 17, 2010 10:53 am

Since having bought the scooter, it’s gotten much easier to get up to the mountain to do some rock climbing. I’ve been up there the last several Saturdays and gotten some great climbing in.  I haven’t taken many pictures – seems like I have lots of pictures of people who asses from down below I can no longer recognize.

Getting there, however, is half the fun. In the car, SaTang just sat and watched the world go by, sometimes even sleeping as I drove. No more. Those days are over, baby.  She still likes going to the mountain and running around, chasing ground squirrels, barking at birds and begging for handouts from the Koreans who bring their entire kitchen when they climb.  If you want to get out and play, you’ve gotta make an effort. And she does extremely well sitting on the floorboard of the scooter.

SaTang rides in style up to Munsu Mountain

In case anyone is worried about safety, she’s wearing a harness and is attached to the bike via leash. If she falls off, I can yank her right back on without choking her. No worries about that, as she’s content just to sit between my feet and lean against my calves.

Never camera shy, SaTang gives the look

Sparky, one pup we decided to keep is too little (and too jumpy) to go up on Munsu. She’s cute as hell, but so far hasn’t proven quite as smart as her mama. Our climbing areas have a few meters of walking area between the cliff faces and the next drop-off, but I’m afraid she would just be too curious.  We might wait until she’s a little less puppy before taking her out and turning her into a full blown crag dog. In the meanwhile, she goes to MyeongHee’s hairshop where she’s fawned over by MH and her customers.

Sparky, still mostly furball, models her scarf

Another Year

By , March 28, 2010 11:36 am

This month I signed a contract for another year here at the school. It will take me through February of 2011.

And I dropped the bomb on MyeongHee.

February 2011 is when her son, DongHyun, will graduate from highschool and either go to college or off to the military. He must go sometime before he’s 28, although most boys do a year or so of university before signing up.

Either way, I decided it would be a good time for a change. I’ll have been teaching at this school for four years straight and another in 2004-05. Five years is about my limit, it seems. But the bigger bomb I dropped is that I want to go back to America. Probably not forever, but longer than the week or so I’ve been able to come back in the previous three years.  Who the hell knows what forever is anyway?  But the longest I’ve ever held a job is seven years and five seems close enough.

Lately, I’ve been feeling like I want to be able to experience America again – nothing so dramatic as the old Simon and Garfunkel song. Just the feeling of going outside and speaking English to a neighbor or chatting with the salesclerk in a store. Not that either of those happened very frequently in America, but when I see a Korean just having casual conversation it makes me miss that. One of the TV shows that really gets me is America’s Funniest Home Videos – just goofy stuff –  but seeing the homes, the yards, the kids, the sports… I miss my country and my culture. I’m probably idealizing to a great extent, but the fact remains that I miss my home country and despite my ever increasing Korean-language ability I am still an outsider here.

Of course, the bigger question is what would I do when I got there?  It’s hard to imagine what job I would qualify for after doing nothing more than speaking English for four years. And that’s if there are jobs to be had – given the economy that’s a big-ass what-if.

Other questions involve MyeongHee – she’s not interested in coming to America. She didn’t enjoy it much.  She’d rather stay. And leaving her hairshop would entail a great expense upon reopening should she come back. She’s happy doing one or two weeks visits but no more.

If I do come home, it looks like it might be just an extended month or two rather than years.  All of that is still a year away and a lot can happen between now and then. We’ll have to see how things go here and in the US. Stay tuned. More will be written as it becomes clear to me.

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