Sunday, August 31, 2008

What I Did On My First Day

1) Woke up about 8:00 in my new, very sweet flat, watched Korean TV for a while. The program appeared to be similar to Star Search. They need to keep looking.

2) Fielded blog responses, added a couple of pics to "Here I Am" post, using my webcam.

3) About noon, tried to walk to my school, but wasn't sure how many blocks to go before turning west, so I ended up wandering the neighborhood for a few hours. I am two blocks away from Korean Air headquarters. The most common stuff in my neighborhood includes car mechanics, pork or seafood restaurants, retail shops of every variety, and huge apartment complexes. Mok-dong is pretty cool.

4) I came home around 16:00 to relax and shower and shave before going to dinner with my boss, Mr. Hwang.

5) Promptly at 18:00, Mr. Hwang appeared at my door. We went to dinner at the "galbi" restaurant in my building (he lives within a five minute walk). The waitstaff set out about ten side dishes--panchan--followed by a heavy metal pot of coals that goes in a hole in the middle of the table. A grill is put on top, and strips of beef put on to cook.

You grab a piece of lettuce or other leafy green, use chopsticks to put two or three grilled beef strips (this is also done with pork) in it, add some of the panchan, wrap it up, and eat it. Not only is it delicious, the chiggae (soup) that comes with it is awesome.

We ate and talked for nearly two hours, sitting on the floor in stocking feet; I feel very positive about it. He will pick me up at 7:30 tomorrow and show me the route to Young-il High School.

6) I went upstairs and changed, then went to one of the three "hofs" downstairs for a draft. In addition to the usual Korean version of beer nuts (see photo below), this one gave me a small plate of sauteed corn and red bell peppers. More deliciousness.
slightly sweetened beer snacks, Korean style
7) I came upstairs, using the stairs, and began this blog post.


This is the Korean equivalent of WalMart, as I mentioned. This one has four floors and sells just about everything, including wall adapters. I needed one, otherwise my computer would be useless--even with the pirated wi-fi.

The coolest thing about it is the free food samples. On the corner of practically every aisle an Emart employee has an electric skillet going, and a supply of plastic toothpicks. You might not make a meal out of it, but it's definitely good for a snack. Ready for a quick dessert? Wander over to the produce section for a few grapes, apple slices and a little bell pepper dipped in ranch dressing.

If you're really hungry, the food court has Korean and Chinese food, plus a Popeye's Chicken, Burger King and Baskin Robbins.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Here I Am

Well, my friends, I have arrived in Seoul, seen my school, met my boss, moved into my apartment and bought a bought a six pack of beer--which is chilling in the freezer as I type this. The area I will be living in is called Mok-dong.

First, my school: Young-il High School (website at has about 1400 students in years 10 through 12. It has three buildings and a large sand playground with soccer goals and a basketball court. My classroom is No. 5 on the second floor of the new building. It has two large radiant heaters and a free-standing air cooler. There is a computer running Windows XP pro that is connected to a projector; it also has an audio system with four wall-mounted speakers, an amp and a microphone.

Next, my apartment: compared to what I was expecting, it is spacious. It is about 12' X 24', but it has a LOFT! It has beautiful wood floors, and is clean and white. And the shower stall has a glass door. There is also plenty of hi-speed wireless around, so I'm hooked up right now for free.
view of bed and window
view of hallway and bathroom
You should see my door key--it's a little plastic stem with what looks like a watch battery on the end. You hold it against a little round depression in the lock mechanism, it whirrs and clicks and then unlocks the door--as Arthur C. Clarke said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

This building is 20-odd stories, but I'm on the third floor. The bottom floor has about 10 restaurants, a Family Mart (convenience store), hair stylist, portrait shop and some other stuff I don't recognize.

Directly across the street is an E-Mart, the Korean version of WalMart. It's a very developed neighborhood with tons of stores. In a few words, I've fallen into the shit here, gang!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Day 4 Begins

On Monday night after the last evening session ended at 21:00 (Koreans use military time, so so shall I), I ventured forth with a couple of fellow trainees closer to my age than most of the recruits here. We walked down the hill to a small mom-and-pop store with a few tables and chairs outside, and drank a few beers. I am happy to have made a few friends with whom I can keep in touch while in Seoul. Steve is from Indiana, but has been teaching in Korea for four years. Gavin is from Australia, and has spent eighteen years abroad doing ESL from Malaysia to Oman.

After the last training session yesterday afternoon, I came back to my room for a short nap before dinner. Turns out my roomies had the same idea--this was about 17:15. I actually woke up again at about 22:30 to find they were both still sleeping. I guess we were tired. I went back to sleep.

Needless to say, we were all up bright and early this AM, which explains why I'm posting at 6:00!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Breakfast of Champions

I awoke this morning at 7 AM local time, showered and went down to breakfast. I would have taken pictures to post, but I must have left my camera on the bus that brought us to the center.

Anyway, breakfast was rice, seaweed soup, beef, hot chili and potato stew, egg custard with chives and peppers, and something else that looked too dangerous to eat. Afterward, I bought a couple of bottled drinks, one of which was corn tea: It tasted like liquefied corn flakes without the milk.

Our first meeting is at 14:00 this afternoon (Koreans use military time), so I plan to go into town and seek the correct plug for my computer transformer.

So far, most of the fellow recruits I met have been very nice folks, and I have been surprised by the variety--kyopos (foreign-born Koreans), Aussies, Canucks and Americans. Several of them are my age and even older.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Evening in the Land of the Morning Calm

Well, I am in Korea, at the Hyundai Training Ctr, a two hour bus ride from Incheon Airport. Free wi-fi in the Internet Lounge.

Here is a pic as I said farewell to 150 Boone for the last time:
Buh-bye house
Here's a photo of the plane, loading up at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport:
Korean Air Flight 036
The flight was right at fourteen hours, made easier by the wide selection of movies and such on the personal monitors on the seatbacks. Very cool. I watched The Graduate (One word: plastics), Son of Rambow (which was pretty cute) nd I don't remember what all. It also had a screen with flight information. Here's the view a few minutes before landing:
Monitor showing flight information
My first purchase in won was a Diet Coke--er, Coke Light (1,300 W--a buck and a half):
Coke Light, 1300 won
More later...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I Hear the Fat Lady Singing

Well, it's all over now but the packing. Alan and I made a list of what needed doing (a full page) on Monday, and I just crossed off the last item (set out ant traps--had to wait on the carpet cleaners, of course). My favorite thing? Why, cutting the grass for the last time! So long, Murray! Farewell, 150 Boone, it was fun!

After three attempts with Korean Air, I finally got my e-ticket, even though it did go into the spam folder. Printed it off at the library (fifteen cents) and tucked it safely away.

I ate my last Waffle House patty melt plate, scatteredsmotheredandcovered, for dinner, and I'm ma-shillin' some maekchu as I sit here typing on my sweet new laptop.

Next, I will pack my suitcases (using compression bags) and load them, along with the last few items to go to storage, set the alarm and go to bed (I'm waiting on the dryer to finish). My flight departs at 1:15 Saturday afternoon, but I have to return the rental to Enterprise. If I leave by 9:00 AM, it should be no problem, but 8:00 would be better. The buzzer just went off on the dryer ...

As the DJs say, See you on the other side.

UPDATE (8/23/08, 1:55 AM): Bags packed, my world is about to change forever--for the better?
All my stuff that's going to Korea!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What A Day!

This morning I took care of most of my remaining business affairs: address changes (to my mail forwarding service), got my traveler's checks (no, I'm not saying how much), and the last of what I need to make the house ship-shape before the For Sale sign goes up. I made arrangements with Servicemaster to clean the carpeting on Friday, and with buddy Chris to take the truck to CarMax on Thursday afternoon.

I also carried virtually the last load to the dump and the last load to the storage unit. Here is a photo:
Storage unit nearly full
We also cleaned the garage (some nasty oil stains) and did the touch-up painting and little fixes. Then we went to buy my new laptop. I got a pretty good deal at Circuit City on a Toshiba Satellite w/17" screen (USD 650, marked down from 800). I got a wireless optical mouse, too. Here is a picture:
My new laptop-P305D-S8828
Since I got a better price than I budgeted, we went next door, to Home Depot, to get Alan a window air conditioner that I noticed him looking at on one of the five thousand trips we made there during the painting, fixing, etc. When we came out of the store, I got an ugly shock. Someone smashed my rear quarterpanel and drove away! Fucking bastard. That will knock 500 to 1000 bucks off the sale price. Yes, I called the police, and will get an incident report in 3 to 5 business days (once I am already in Korea, and once I have already sold the truck!) Fat lot of good that'll do me. Arrrrgggghhhh! Here is a picture of the damage:
What some asshole did to my truck today!
There is, literally, nothing I can do. So I did nothing--well, we went to dinner at Shane's Rib Shack then carried a load of stuff to my brother's place. Now I'm back in my empty home, blogging about it. What a day!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Overdue Update

An amazing amount has happened here at 150 over the past week.
1) The storage unit is nearly full
2) The hedges, trees at front of driveway, privet have been trimmed, all debris chipped and used as mulch
3) Every interior ceiling and wall has been painted, except for 1 1/2 bathrooms still to go and some trim
4) Most of the remaining contents of the house are in three piles in the garage, ready for a trip to its final resting place: storage, trash or my Dad's
5) There is no #5
6) I had two termite inspections (one arrived an hour before the other, so both guys were here at the same time). Neither found evidence of termites. What I need is a "termite letter" stating that--one offered it for USD 45, the other would only provide the letter if I got a termite treatment (for USD 1078). Company policy.
6 1/2) Guess which service I chose
7) I got the second dose of Hep A+B and started the typhoid oral vaccine (four pills, one every other day)
8) E-ticket, however, has not arrived ...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Busy Signal

I'm typing this as my brother Alan is still painting in the hallway at 2:55 AM. The tasks are nearing completion, thanks to his help! All major yardwork done, house half-painted.

I'm too tired to list what all we've done the last two days. Come by and grab a brush.

Monday, August 11, 2008

What A Great Party!

I have been feeling ... delicate ... most of the day today. My eyeballs felt jiggly. In an attempt to discover the source of my malaise and splitting headache, I traced backward in time until a pattern began to emerge:

Sun, 3:22 AM - cracked open about my twenty-somethingth beer
Sun, 3:21 AM - laughed at length with Randal about Mark's last-minute fishing competition rules. There was no way he could win, being down 7 to 3, all catfish; so he declared the winner was whoever had caught the most brim, resulting in a tie. Brilliant tactical stroke, even if marginally unethical
. . .
Sun, 2:34 AM - Randal opens a 5 - 0 lead in the fishing tourney as I open about my 18th beer
Sun, 2:33 AM - Brittain disappears into the cabin and "goes to sleep"
Sun, 1:35 AM - on-going hilarity during early stages of fishing tournament
Sun, 12:30 AM - Les goes to cabin, goes to sleep
. . .
Sat, 11:12 PM - The JB Posse departs. We are still having a great time, being together. I start, oh, my twelfth brewski or so
. . .
Sat, 8:29 PM - Several people on the deck/dock over the pond and on the bridge (the pond has a gazebo on a little island in the middle) chatting. My seventh (maybe) beer is opened
Sat, 6:00 PM - people start arriving, even though I'm on my third or fourth beer. Jeff and Dave are among the first
. . .
Sat, 4:21 PM - Greeted by Rod, pop my first beer.
Sat, 4:20 PM - I arrive at Les's cabin for my farewell party. It will be a lot of fun, I can tell. We will laugh, reminisce, share and enjoy another time together--"making memories."

Admittedly, some parts of this description are approximate. Participants should feel free to add corrections, other perspectives and so on at the Comments link below.

Anyway, so I figured out the cause of my headache--right there at Sat, 4:21 PM, that was simply one beer too many.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Good Bye Ruby Tuesday's

1) Well, damned if my passport w/ visa didn't arrive today, as promised. The only thing remaining on their end is the e-ticket to Incheon, scheduled to arrive one week in advance. I don't have time to talk about what needs doing on this end, much less actually do it.

2) I forgot to mention one of the "discoveries" I made in packing, a $25 gift certificate to Ruby Tuesday's--not a card, it's so old it's a piece of paper. But it didn't have an expiration date, so I took it to town today. (I found a Rich's card, too, but they don't even exist anymore.)

I chose a rib eye steak, more of that American beef. Well, the crazy cow might not kill me, but the sodium content was damn near lethal. It was perfectly cooked to medium rare, but the strong saltiness of the seasoning accumulated until it was practically inedible. Amazing.

I will admit to being salt-sensitive--I almost never add salt to foods. One exception would be fresh corn-on-the-cob. Yes, the Montreal seasoning I love has plenty of salt in it, but loads of other flavor-enhancers, too. The broccoli was completely unadulterated (not even a smidge of butter) and the mashed potatoes were very good. But I'm not "paying" for potatoes.

3) If it weren't bad enough that some US cartographer inadvertently placed an extinct volcano called the Lioncourt Rocks under Japanese control, A Chinese government website is now trying to swipe an insignificant coral atoll named Ieodo or Suyan Rock--the Koreans have demanded that they email it back: Korea Herald.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Murray Lives!

Les came over this morning and accomplished two big things:
1) Fixed the lawnmower. I was quite sure it couldn't be the solenoid, since I had just replaced it last year. Well, it was the solenoid--a bolt had shaken loose and needed to be tightened down onto the frame to "ground" it. Totally unrelated to stalling out. Hopefully, this is the last you'll hear of the Murray saga.
2) Helped carry to storage all the big furniture that I couldn't handle alone--and he brought a trailer with a ramp, so there were no tailgates to get over! Les is a wiry bastard, stronger than he looks, and maybe smarter.

You discover some things while packing up:
* I wondered where that heavy duty flashlight had got off to! (It was behind the big TV in the entertainment ctr.)
* I gave up trying to find my plaque from the 1995 State Championship team when I moved into the AD's office (it was inside this little cubby in my early 70s Mediterranean style console radio/phonograph--no IDEA how it got there!) Fortunately, I had enough memorabilia, certifications and stuff that the wall looked okay. IMHO.
* Amid the disgraceful clutter of my desk, the best Chinese fortune ever: You have inexhaustible wisdom and power.* A bunch of keys. Actually a bunch of bunches of keys. I don't feel right throwing away a key--I may need to get inside again, even if I don't know the lock it goes to. (Remind me to tell you sometime the story of the key deposit and the free sofa.)
* A shadowy nostalgia lurks behind every picture frame, underneath every piece of furniture--oh, nevermind, that's the original color of the wall, or carpet, shielded from eight years of grime and dust.
* Beyond the dustballs and spiderwebs, I wonder if I am doing the right thing? I'll know in three and a half months, I guess. Still, I plan to make a go of it, what with my inexhaustible wisdom and power, and all.

In blog news, I have been added to I find myself continually returning to read the adventures and hardships of those who travel abroad.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Peachtree Street Shuffle

Okay, so I finally made it to the consulate in Atlanta, after my original plans were delayed by the Murray incident (not Murray the Cop from The Odd Couple, no, but you knew that). There was no specific appointment and no great hurry, as I did not need an interview (I suppose because it's an SMOE job), and was told by every source the process should take a week.

I found a parking lot with spaces three blocks north of the embassy building, International Tower, in a huge plaza on Peachtree Street, about 30 feet from a MARTA subway stop. I am ashamed to say in never occurred to me to use that method. To be fair, I would have to drive 10 or 15 miles to get to a bus stop, which an hour later would get me to the south terminal subway station.

So I was stuffing the parking box with money when two young guys walked by, staring at me. Turns out to be one of my favorite old students and his younger brother--one of the hellion twins during that era at my old, old school. Small world, huh? Yeah, as I always say, but I wouldn't want to paint it.

Blake has graduated from law school and on his way to an Army reserve appointment--one of the top five or so students I've ever taught, as a total package. Got a 5 on the AP Enviro Exam the second year it was ever offered (first time I taught it). I'm kicking myself I didn't think to give him the blog address.

I make my muggy, sweaty way along the city streets to the International Tower, fifth floor. A few other people were sitting in the office waiting area, at least two of which had to be fellow NSETs; they didn't seem to want to chat, so I filled out the form, etc.

There is some little difficulty over the SASE, self-addressed-stamped-envelope, that I brought. The young lady I talked to on the phone did not mention that it needed to be a Priority Mail envelope. Well, turns out I didn't even need to bring one, since she had one right there, in exchange for USD 7.50. This might not be the case at all consular offices. Eventually got it all squared away.

She tells me they'll send it out tomorrow. We shall see, eh? After it was clear all I had left to do was leave, I said chong mai kam-sa-hamnida, which drew a smile from the girl behind the glass and delighted laughter from an older couple who had come in behind me. I asked them if I got it right, and the man answered, "Yes. Perfectly." Of course it's just four words.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

My Hat's in the Ring

On a humorous note, I just washed all my baseball caps, and have been taking them in turn to dry on my head. And thereby enacting my own version of that Bugs and Elmer short where the Acme Theatrical Hat Co. truck accidentally sends a bunch of hats, helmets and headgear a-flyin--as each one lands on a character's head, he takes on the traits it represents, a helpful scout, a tough-as-nails GI. Bugs and Elmer end up at the altar rather a lot, if you catch my drift.

Right now I'm wearing my Montana Mule cap (defunct local pub), so I'm suckin' down some brewskis; my Ireland FA cap had me using ma wee accent; Walker Concrete (We dry harder) and GA. Wool & Sheep Growers Assn. made me want to spit, and scratch myself; Airport S. Forklift makes me want to hire someone to do all this moving; but First Bank leaves me cold.

"Bugs' Bonnets" - Directed by the inimitable Chuck Jones, I see.

!&@#$% Murray!

A good battery-charging recharged the battery to full, but failed to improve its status or behavior in any other perceivable way. As I found out when I returned from carrying a load to storage.

I've been on the phone trying to sort out my next steps--but I'm not going to put another USD 200-300 into this machine. I may spend some money on a crew to come out and do the heavy-duty landscaping stuff that needs doing, but not on just keeping Murray limping along. He is seven years old, after all.

Aggravating, though it simplifies things, I guess. Just in the direction of higher costs to me.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Parable of Murray, the Riding Lawnmower

Ah, the joys of being a homeowner! Three-quarters through cutting the grass, the mower stalled while going through the thick patch in the drain field (much as I loved her, I have to differ with Mrs Bombeck--the grass is greener over the drain field, not the septic tank), and wouldn't restart. Hopefully charging the battery will fix 'er right up.
View of less than half of front yard, as seen through my study window
Cutting the grass is a one and a half hour item at 150 Boone, plus trimming ... plus, it turns out I don't really enjoy doing it, but I'm too Scottish to pay someone else. It was a fairly expensive model, a Murray 12.5 HP, 40" cut, but I've replaced a lot of parts, had USD 300 work done on it, and it still leaks oil. On top of that, it was leaving a rut as it cut, though I tried to adjust it.

Funny thing is, it has simply sat in the garage since exactly two weeks ago, when it did a bang-up job--pretty flat, consistent, not seeming to lack in power ...

I wish this were some kind of little fable like the story about the birds on my porch (be sure to read no tail's comment and my response), but I think it's just whining. Still, ruminations on the allegorical value of the Murray are welcome.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Politics is Inevitable II

Bush's upcoming visit to S. Korea isn't really a big headline, unless you know how intense the fears of USA-imported crazy cow have been, how massive and on-going the civil protests have been. Still, there seems to be little to report so far, protest-wise: Korea Times says hundreds were involved in protests yesterday; Korea Herald has nothing about actual protests, but reports that police are prepared for riot duty.

I'm no revolutionary or anything, but I have attended a few protests, some of which include a counter-Nazi rally in Skokie, IL, anti-Nazi /KKK protests (this was 1980-81), pro-Solidarnosc marches, walking past the Horseshoe and booing as R. Reagan received an honorary degree from USC, honking and flipping the bird at skinny-tied fundamentalists condemning me to Hell from the sidewalk with megaphones, wearing my PeaceFire tee-shirt to the park ... where was I? ... but I didn't make it my business. Among other reasons, it's not easy to know whom you need to be protesting, exactly.

Koreans didn't know exactly whom they were protesting, either, back in the day--the whole of the eighties, pretty much. What they remember is that protests got them what they want: the announcement of Korea's first democratic election for national leadership was just in time to make the Seoul Olympics of 1988 a hit. Tuttle, your Humble Narrator has been voting in national elections longer than any Korean alive, O my droogies.

What is curious to me is the degree of resistance to a leader (Lee Myung-bak) popularly elected only a few months ago on a platform that included the very actions for which he now is criticized: a closer relationship w/US. I wonder if Koreans see the totality of who/what they are electing, if they so quickly move to drop his approval rating to 21%.

I know of another president whose numbers are in the basement, but mainly that's because he didn't do the things he said he would: when given the chance to cross the aisle, or to unite the country, he chose divisiveness, partisanship, secrecy and denial at every turn; but, was still re-elected.

So ... where was I? ... it took US six years to catch on--I don't know if Korea jumped the gun in Lee's case, or caught on to his shenanigans in record time, but I'll admit it's tricky sometimes to figure out who's got our interests at heart. Click and Clack The Tappet Brothers (TM) had a great line today, as improved by me:
Politicians are like diapers: both should be changed regularly, and for the same reason.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Tuttle News Wrap for Today

It rained off-and-on today (it's raining now) so I didn't carry anything to storage. OTOH, the rain did not prevent the so-called Visa package from arriving today via FedEx. It contains my official Notice of Appointment (not apostilled--so we see which side the bread is buttered on, eh?) and two copies of my countersigned contract.

I am to keep one copy, and carry the other with me to Atlanta, next week I hope, to the Korean consulate to apply for a visa--major roadwork in that part of town, so I'm dreading it. Still, I've been lucky with the paperwork, to this point: this document was scheduled to arrive "in August" so it's a day early. My passport came lickety-split, too.

I went shopping, and visited the last major store I hadn't tried--Belk's (it's next to WalMart). I shopped at Belk's stores regularly as a yoot just discovering his best-dressed self, but nowadays I get most of my clothes from LL Bean. Well, Belk's was having a sale of sales (literally, everything on sale was 50% off its sale price): I got five shirts (2 Van Heusen, 2 Columbia, Chaps) w/ a tag value of $193 for 83 bucks--it's also a sales tax holiday, today through midnight Sunday. I've never had a Columbia shirt before, but I have had a jacket and a pair of walking shoes, both great.

As an aside, many people think the term "blog" derives from the blah sound of blah blah blah that is the boring minutiae of most weblogs. This is incorrect. In fact, blog is a portmanteau word (French for "little helper") comprised of boring and logarithm (which is some math thing, so you can tell right away it's going to be pretty boring just by itself). HTH,HAND.