Thursday, September 3, 2009

Welcome back, Welcome back

I started with nothing but what I had in my bags and an air conditioner. For the first two days I was in town, that’s all I had in my apartment - no bed, no fridge, no washer and quite literally, not a pot to piss in (although fortunately there was a toilet, which is convenient since I’d never taken to pissing in pots anyway.) Not even hot water - cold showers the first couple days. Fortunately, I have all that stuff now, everything but a stove. Even free cable (for now) and other cool shit like a couch and a coffee table and more shelf space than I had in apartments 4 times my current one’s size. I even upgraded cell phones (thanks David!) and bought the NFL package - a little different than my arrival in Korea in 2006 when I was 6 grand in hock and had only Dan Brown, Shakespeare, and Madden 07 to fill my cashless hours.

A brief story on why Korea (and my immediate neighborhood) is still cool:

I’d learned the other day that at work, we had to stick around even if we didn’t have any classes left. Lame, I thought, but unlike before, the office has a wireless connection now so at least I can kill time on the internets. I went home, and killed some time on the internets. A series of Wikipedia clicks (there oughta be some sort of name for this phenomenon) led me to an uber-geeky airline message board. Before I got too into it (and it could have been hours, easily) I decided to go get a beer, since I’d have hours to kill online anyway. I bought a beer at the convenience store in my building (yeah, that’s dangerous, I can buy booze, smokes, and instant noodles without having to go outside) and started aimlessly wandering around the neighborhood. Within two minutes of leaving the convenience store, I ran into a buddy of mine On this block, it can be hard not to. He suggested going to Nowon, the closest bar district, a 20 minute walk away. Why not? I don’t work until 3 p.m. anyway. We hit up three bars in Nowon, ending at Metropolis, the new joint. Two other friends of ours were there. Plus, I met three girls, and ended up getting home at quarter to four. Not bad for a Tuesday night.

A brief story on why Korea (including every neighborhood) is still batshit insane:

My flight from San Francisco on Asiana (a Korean carrier) flight, was 97% Korean. Everybody in my line to check in was Korean. Yet, my row (an exit row, miles of leg room, totally made up for the sitting in the middle thing) was all whities, ghettoed to this one row. One was a fairly attractive girl, but I didn’t talk to her because it would have meant I would have had to “on” for a 12 hour flight, pressure I simply didn’t need. On a flight of that length, I need to be free to pace around, watch intolerably bad movies, and rip farts without offending any potential woo-ees. Anyway, once the plane crossed the international date line, the maps that they show on the monitors switched from the North American landmass to the Asian one. After another hour or so, they started marking cities on the map. Seoul was the first Korean city marked, not surprisingly, since it was the flight’s destination. The second? Dokdo, of course. Dokdo is a tiny, uninhabitable group of rocks in the middle of the Sea of Japan (or East Sea in these parts) that has become the singular focus to rabid Korean nationalism. Google it for the backstory. I don’t want to say anything else about it to avoid getting v&.

After the flight had landed, leaving the plane was slow going. I wondered why it was taking so long to deplane, and discovered the reason once I disembarked. In the jetway, a swine flu checkpoint had been set up. Guys wearing surgical masks and “Quarantine” baseball caps were checking every passengers health statements, and also sticking some sort of apparatus on everyone’s neck. I’m not sure what this contraption was, if they could somehow test for swine flu instantly, but nobody got pulled aside or anything so I presume they were either taking tissue samples to test later or that it was a totally swine flu-free flight (not bloody likely, as research shows that 100% of all people already carry swine flu and 98% of them will die within the month). It’s not only people flying in that Korea is worried about, however. In my first round of classes on Monday, the secretary came in and took every student’s temperature with an ear thermometer, and the kids told me they had a similar experience at their real schools. The poor bastard kids that happen to be running a one degree fever are basically lepers now. None in any of my classes though. Good to know, now all I have to worry about is all of those HIV positive ebola viruses setting up camp in my cancerous liver. That and not being able to make spaghetti on my non-existent stove.

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