Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Travel List

In three weeks, I will have been in Korea for ten years.

When I go home, or talk to family, they occasionally raise the question, "When are you coming home?" The easy answer is, "Well, I just went home X years ago (at the moment: less than one)." Of course, that's not really the answer to the question they were asking.

For whatever reason, they don't seem to understand the more complex answers to the question. I wouldn't have understood it myself until the last few years. Yes, I do enjoy living in Korea--it's a cool change of pace. But I suppose San Fran or Austin or NYC or Oklahoma City would be, too, compared to semi-rural Georgia.

And, I suppose it's not fair to say, "Well, I can't possibly abide being under the dominion of the Circus-Peanut-In-Chief!" After all, when I came to Korea, Barack Obama had not even been elected yet. Also, it's not fair to say Korea is particularly more liberal or welcoming of foreigners or anything like that--hell, abortion is illegal in this country...

Still, I have a pretty good gig, where grading papers (the bane of my previous existence as a "real" teacher) just isn't a thing. Sure I work hard planning lessons, creating materials, trying to improve the educational outcomes of my students, as I always have done. But at 4:30, I'm finished, and get to have my own life. Surf around the blog to see what life for me is like here.

But the coup de resistance, the thing Americans--who have probably never even been to the Grand Canyon or the Gateway Arch (neither have I, BTW!)--don't get is the ready availability of travel for me. I'll go tomorrow to get my Korean visa renewed, and then Wednesday to get a visa for my upcoming two week trip to China. It'll be my fourth trip there. "Travel List" is the name of the post, and here it is (remember to click to see the full size if you can't read it):

I just have to shrug and say, "Livin' the dream."

Today, in furtherance of getting my visa for my upcoming China trip, I had to take a side trip to Immigration to get a copy of my "Certificates of Entry" for the last 12 months. Never had to do that before ... on three previous trips. New regulations are making tourism to China untenable--apparently, they only want to make American dollars by selling poisonous shampoo and substandard melamine.

Anyway, gather round. So, I took the side trip to get these documents--by the way, nothing was mentioned on the website about this requirement, or the photocopy of passport ID page, or copies of hotel bookings (none of which were needed in the past)--and found the only document that Korean Immi provides is a complete list of all your entries and exits. For 2,000W, chump change compared to the 200,000W China wants for my visa. I'm getting side-tracked …

I decided to verify the list I provided above, which was mainly based on blog posts and memory, and found I have left off two trips, and want to set the record straight, as follows:
August, 2013 -- Thailand, Koh Samui
April, 2017 -- Cambodia, PP, Kampot

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Korean Fast Food

Of course, Seoul being a very modern place, there are loads of fast food restaurants like KFC (first to blanket the country), Subway (world's largest fast food chain), Burger King, Mickey D's, and even Quiznos. But Koreans have had their own version of fast food for centuries, including street vendors carts called pocha 포차, short for pojang macha 포장마차 (meaning covered wagon).

But today I got my lunch from a newly opened place across from my building. It's not technically a pocha, since it's in a building, but the term has come into use for such places, as long as they offer the usual fare. Among the items they sell are o-deng, or fish spam, which I don't much care for, and sundae 순대, or pig blood sausage, which I do. Like so many pocha, ddeokbokki 떡볶이 is a staple. It's a kind of rice cake stewed with spicy red sauce, slivers of o-deng and a sprinkle of pa 파, spring onion.

Pictured is the "double set", which is technically for two people at 9,000 W. But I wanted a full load of sundae, there in the middle, with steamed offal--yum! On the right is a fried sampler of batter-fried stuff, 튀김, including crab (probably imitation), sweet potato, mandu 만두 dumpling, and kimbap 김밥 or seaweed roll.

맛있게 드세요!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018


People between jobs do piecework. They do any number of things, apparently one of them being handing out flyers in front of subway station entrances.

As a foreigner, most of these hawkers don't bother with me, which is fine by me--unless they're handing out something useful like candy or those packages of moist towelettes. One time I got a pair of socks. But usually, they are selling something mainly Koreans are interested in buying: new apartments, rubbish miracle cures, restaurant openings.

Today, outside Gayang sta. the young lady was quite persistent in trying to get me to take her flyer, so, a bit grudgingly, I took it. I glanced at it once inside the station, looking for a recycling bin, and understood why.

That translates as "Skinny Gym". I kept it anyway, I'm not sure why.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

My Saturday Night

It's easy to see I don't blog very much anymore, and I feel generally that that's because I've pretty much said everything I have to say about living in Seoul. Most posts nowadays are about my vacations. I'm still enjoying my life in Seoul, however, so I decided to do a little photo essay about my Saturday evening. There's not much to it, but here it is.

Dinner of "bone-in hangover soup" 뼈해장국, at one of the favorite restaurants of mine in the neighborhood that specialize in it. This place is a postage stamp of a restaurant, with only six tables. The name reads in English "Deungchon station potato soup experts"; it's called potato soup, even though it will probably not contain potatoes, because the bones are said to look like potatoes.

Some people just take off the meat from the bones as they eat, and others, myself included, strip all the bones and toss them into the bone can that you can see at the end of the table. It is fairly low-fat meat from next to the backbone of the pig, and very flavorful.

After that, a stroll down the restaurant row to my favorite coffee shop, Caffe Bene, for my regular order and weekend indulgence, a caramel frappe, which is more or less coffee ice cream.

By now, it's 8:30, so I head home to polish off the evening by polishing off some beers, accompanied by, well, this post, and maybe some YouTube.

Saturday night in Seoul.