Category: America

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.



I’ve Got a Date

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By , September 10, 2012 9:18 am

Yes, a date.  I’ve been saying I’m home to the USA next year and decided I’d just go ahead and buy a ticket. No turning back – unless I want to forfeit the cash on the non-refundable ticket.

I leave on Wednesday, February 13th.  I’m not flying to DFW, however.  I’m flying into Phoenix, AZ and I’ll spend a couple of days with my friend and former roommate Mark. He lives in Prescott and has offered to drive me to Dallas later. But first a little decompression and visiting and maybe some sightseeing. Prescott is not far from the Grand Canyon, so I hope we’ll get a chance to drive up and see that.

Expect me in Dallas sometime later that week, but no schedule has been determined beyond landing in Phoenix.


Some family time

By , April 21, 2011 8:27 am

The vacation was great. Nearly six weeks of just hanging out with family and friends. That much time off makes it hard to go back to work, but I have.  Within just a day of beginning a job search I found a nice little gig. Princeton Review got a big contract to offer English courses at the enormous Hyundai Motors factory here in town.  There are numerous small classes with mid-level managers and executives either during lunch time or around dinner time. Since the factory operates 24 hours a day, some of the workers are 2nd shift. Anyway, I snagged a few courses and will make almost the same amount of money for about 1/3 the number of hours I worked as a full-time teacher at a private school.  I also picked up a couple of hours of teaching at another private school near home. So far, I’m scheduled for a whopping 13 hours a week.  Not all

Almost as good as Greek Theater Masks, one girl is happy, one is sad. Common occurence

contiguous, of course, but I can fill the time between courses easily enough.  Throw in a few hours each week of driving back and forth to all these classes and a boy could get really worn out doing 15 hours. 🙂


I’ve thrown a number of my vacation pictures up on facebook, but it’s always good to have some spread around. I thought I’d post a few here as well.

Spending a good portion of my time as Jessie’s so I could with the grand-babies was wonderful. Nothing like a little drama to liven things up. Ah, kids.

I took far too many pictures to include them all. So I’ve taken a few of the family shots and posted them below. Click on a photo to see the large size.


Thankfully, we did not have to endure another Sears Photo session and try and fit everyone in the entire extended family onto the canvas.

To see more pictures, check out the big-ass family photo album I posted on my facebook page. Gotta be a facebook user and gotta be a friend, though 🙂


Sharing Video

By , April 17, 2011 12:14 pm

The first video I want to share from my vacation in America. These are my granddaughters, Jillian and Jenna.

I was babysitting the two and gave them a snack. It was only a short while, but it didn’t take long for trouble to brew. I gave them “Goldfish” graham crackers in non-spill cups.  Then we turned on the DVR for a few minutes of their favorite TV show by far, The Wiggles. While I tried to get the girls to dance, Jillian eats a few of her goldfish and gives the majority to the dog.

Sure, that’s sharing. That’s nice. But when she runs out of goldfish and mean, old Papa Marty won’t give her any more – that’s the real sharing.

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.



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.

Thinking of Home

By , August 30, 2010 10:01 pm

I had a nice talk with my school director today. I told him that at the end of my contract I would go back to America for a few months – longer than he’d be able to do without a native English speaker – so he’d have to find a new teacher come March 2011.  I’ve written in the recent past about my plans here on these, but that was news to him. Not devastating news, as he’s been thinking of downsizing his school anyway. I think if I were to stay, he’d keep his operation going. Without me, he’d downsize to just a “cram school” or Ip-shi hagwon as they are called here. It’s not that his school would fail without me – I’m not so full of myself to believe that malarkey – but there’s a certain amount of cost and red-tape associated with getting another foreigner to take my place and I think he’s ready for less hassle.

This next part isn’t public knowledge at the school yet, but this blog is not read by my Korean co-workers, so it’s probasbly safe to post here: his sister, Young Sook, who is currently the manager and runs all of the class schedules, etc., is ready to move on, too. So, with her potentially leaving and my leaving, its almost a sure thing the school will transform into something other than a full English academy. Hiring both a manager and foreign teacher would be daunting. Not impossible, just difficult.

So, having gotten that part of things squared away, I feel better about it, especially know Young Sook’s plans. If she were leaving before I left my remaining time on the contract would be difficult. She’s a great friend, but new managers always like to shake things up.

Meanwhile, in my own head, things have taken a turn for the surreal. But first, a little history here.

My lovely wife, Myeong Hee, is the daughter of a fisherman. A poor fisherman, but one who was able to put his two sons through college and his daughter through cosmetology school. They lived in a little fishing village on the outskirts of PoHang.  Myeong Hee has always proclaimed she’s a country girl. Having been to her family’s home, there was never any doubt. But when she declared that because she is a country girl and she likes American country music I was a little skeptical. Korean country music bears little resemblance to American country music but when I bought her an MP3 player two years ago I loaded it up with all the country music I have in my collection. That wasn’t much, as most anyone who knows me knows that there two forms of music I least enjoy: one is country and the other is western.  I downloaded a few more than I thought she might enjoy. Her list of favorites include Kenny Rogers, Brooks and Dunn, Roger Miller, Toby Keith, Tammy Wynnette, Alan Jackson and Willie Nelson.  Go figure. So, over the months, she  listened to country music on her way to and from her hair shop.

Sometimes, we’d listen to country late at night while laying in bed. We’d hold each other and she’d ask me what the songs meant. Her English has gotten much better, but discerning lyrics at two-step speed is asking a bit much. She would sometimes have an idea of what the song was about and sometimes she just liked the beat and  melody. Of her favorites she didn’t fully understand I would explain the concepts of cowboys, pick-up trucks, horses and Texas, among other things, while doing my best to translate who left whom, who was crying for whom, who left in their pick-up and who went boot-scootin’ and who came runnin’ back to whom.

And here’s where the surreal part comes in. I’ve already mentioned I’m coming home next year. By then it’ll be four straight years in Korea with only a few short trips to the land of apple pie and mom. I’ve been missing not just my family and friends, but America. But then to be engrossed in discussing what I’ve come to realize is a music genre that is uniquely American has caused me to turn a corner in my mind. I actually enjoy listening to country music.  I’m not about to start wearing a Stetson, boots and a dinner plate for belt buckle, but I like country.  But the surreal part is not the music so much as the lyrics.  There’s not another form of music that so succinctly describes for me America, American places, American activities  and American values. When I hear some of the songs she plays I can get pretty nostalgic about coming home. In particular, the ones that mention places like Chatahoochie, (no, I’ve never been there) or vague references to American history like Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town, (never went to Vietnam) or even dancing like Boot Scootin’ Boogie (which I cannot do) I get the I-Wanna-Go’s and be a part of the country that raised me.

When it’s music I want, country still isn’t what I turn on. But it’s great for when I want to get all warm and fuzzy about America again.  It’s just fun to enjoy something with my wife, albeit we both enjoy it for sometimes different reasons.

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.

One down, three more to go.

By , March 8, 2010 12:57 am

One puppy went to a new home last night. A couple of English ladies took the biggest male, the one we’d been calling Gulum. They are calling him Davie. He’ll be fine. They’ve been very excited for weeks since they decided they wanted a pup.

MyeongHee cried a little when the puppy left last night. Just for a few minutes. She’s fine today. But the dog that went was her least favorite. We’ll see how it goes with the others she likes much more.

Three more should go this week. The mostly brownish male will go to MyeongHee’s nephew’s girlfriend. And two others will go to one of her hairshop friends. That’ll leave us with just one pup, GaMyeon (mask) the smallest of the puppies. She’ll take her to the hairshop with her and then home every night.

The mother, SaTang, on the other hand has turned into quite a problem. She seems to be having control problems. For 3 years she’s done well about going outside for her potty business. Lately, she’s been scratching at our bedroom door early in the morning to be taken out. But as soon as the bedroom door is opened, she’ll pee. A lot. Last week, it was poo, and I hurried her out to the back veranda rather than downstairs and across the street to the park. She left some poo, but seemed rather upset about it all day.

Today, she scratched at the door and I immediately got up to take her out. She made it outside to the veranda without peeing and I left her there for about 3-4 minutes. When I went to check on her, as soon as I opened the door she came into the hallway. THEN she pee’d – a lot – in the hallway in front of our door. Why she couldn’t have done it when she was outside and she waited until she was semi-inside? Beats me. I’m trying not to beat her.

There’s some dog psychology at work here and I’m not sure what’s going on. Talking to the vet here will not be possible unless I get MyeongHee to do the talking. I still suspect that even a conversation in Korean won’t help – Koreans have a different take on pets than Americans do. They have a different take on psychology, too. It’s subtle, but psychology isn’t among the issues that comes up with pets. No surprise, as psychology isn’t an issue they’ll discuss about people, either. Going to a psychologist is still considered an admission of weakness, or worse, craziness.

Any insight any American readers have on what my dog is dealing with would be appreciated.

An Eye on You

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By , February 24, 2010 3:25 am

NASA has an eye on you. Maybe not you personally, but an eye. I get a weekly email with their Image of the Day. Sometimes, they’re very interesting, sometimes not. Last week was Dallas, TX.

I liked their photos, although it highlighted the part of Dallas I didn’t like, indeed hated: sprawl.The two images are from 1984 and 2009. The change in Dallas over those 25 years was amazing, although no surprise to one who has lived through it.

When I moved there in 1975 it was even smaller. The city had undergone tremendous growth prior even to my arrival as a teenager and continued through the 70s and into these photos.  It seemed that no matter what time of day I’d drive I’d run into traffic congestion. No matter how much the construction went on, it never ended. There was always something, particularly roads, under construction. I wondered if it would ever end. It still hasn’t ended, despite the economic woes of the nation.

Anyway, I liked it. I thought I’d share since not everyone gets a weekly email from space.

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