Friday, December 31, 2010

spy bar itaewon russian girls

Time for the final post of 2010. This post is record setting. This is the 60th post on NES/NAS this year, thus beating out 2008’s 59 for the most prolific year in the glorious history of this space.

As an unemployed drunken malcontent living in a crack house in a freezing foreign country, there’s quite a lot that I could shake my fist at right now. I feel like I’ve done enough of that lately though, so today I’m going to write about my favorite subject - this very blog. Way back in October 2008, Dr. Kickass wrote a post about silly stats related to this blog. This is a sequel of sorts. Keep in mind, Google only keeps stats back to May of 2010, so these are the only numbers I have.

Our most popular post, and by far, is my "Korea Vacation photoblog" from last August. I have no idea why it seemed to hit so well, but it is nearly four times more popular than number two, which is July’s "Breaking up with myself". In fact, 3 of the top 6 are related to quitting smoking. Number 4 really surprised me - It was "Indecision Clouds My Vision", a rerun from my old Myspace blog. Particularly interesting here - I (re)posted it in 2009, before Google’s current stats started tracking this, so this means everybody reading it was reading it well after it was posted. All of the comments are also clearly made via Google Translate, so I guess non-English speakers dug that one.

Internet Explorer users make up 45% of our audience. Since I don’t know anybody who actually still uses Internet Explorer, this stat pleased me, it means people I don’t know are reading. Speaking of people I don’t know, the country breakdown is pretty cool too. No surprise that America is number one with a bullet, and that South Korea is by far our second largest market. Canada is three. Again, no shock, I know some people currently living in Canada, and I make a lot of Canada jokes. After that, things get weird. Number 4, with only 6 fewer page views than Canada is Germany. Germany! Who knew this was the Hasselhoff of blogs? Danke schoen. I don’t know anybody in Germany, and none of my friends have been to Germany since this blog launched in the summer of 2007. Following Germany, the Czech Republic. At 8 and 9, logically, are the Ukraine and Latvia. Latvia was always my favorite Baltic. Russia rounds out the top 10. If the Soviet Union still existed, it would edge out Canada for the third spot. Spasiba, comrades.

Finally, sources that direct people to this site make for fun stats. Beyond the usual suspects like Google and Facebook, we’ve seen some traffic from Cryn and teetotaledattwentysix.blogspot.com, which, of course, I appreciate the hell out of. Two keyword phrases people have used to find this site are two of the truest statements possible: “nintendo is right” and “i hate missouri.” Other search phrases that I like are “love hotels in namhae” and “4 camera sitcom.” My favorite of all has to be one that was used just today, the namesake of today’s post, “spy bar itaewon russian girls.” That alone makes the countless hours put into his puppy worthwhile.

That wraps up NES/NAS in 2010. Thanks for reading. Now, as they say here, I’m going to take a rest. I’ll re-emerge soon after a hiatus in the gutter with all the rage, self importance, misspellings, and dick and fart jokes that you’ve come to expect. Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Immi

The Korean immigration office is baffling.

To be fair, in any nation, immigration offices and all other bureaucracies can be baffling. Also, thus far, all of the immigration agents that I’ve personally dealt with have been very nice, much nicer than your average DMV worker.

When I first came to Korea in 2006, one needed an original diploma, sealed transcripts, and a passport for an E2 visa. Simple enough. Of course, the first time I changed jobs, I needed these same materials again. Diploma and passport, no problem, I had the originals. However, I needed new sealed transcripts, had to have them sent in from the states. Why? Was there a chance my college grades would change years after I graduated? Of course not. Regardless, I got more transcripts, this wasn’t a difficult matter.

When I returned to Korea in 2009, things had changed. I still needed the original documents, but now I also needed a criminal record check from a state-level agency, and it had to be appostilled and notarized. I still don’t really know what “appostille” means, and my computer spell-check doesn’t recognize it. Basically, I had to go down to one specific cop shop in the Baltimore ghetto, fill out some forms, get fingerprinted, mail everything off somewhere, wait a couple weeks for my record check, then drive it down to Annapolis to have a lady in the secretary of state’s office staple something to the paper I already had. Now I was almost legal to get an E2. Upon my arrival in Korea, I had to get a health check, which was basically an AIDS test and a drug test.

In the summer of 2010, when I was renewing my visa to work at the same job that I already had, visa regulations had of course changed again. Now, my transcripts (I brought a stack with me this time) and diploma were no longer valid. No, now I needed a notarized and appostilled copy of my diploma. The reasoning, from what I understand, is that people were forging diplomas and transcripts. No surprise. I’ve been to Bangkok. Anybody can buy a fake Harvard degree from any number of shysters on Khao San Road. Then again, I’m sure these same guys started selling fake appostilled copies the day this law went into effect. As I was in country and dealing with my university (during summer vacation no less) would take to long, I had another option - verifying my degree through a Korean agency that specialized in this matter. Of course, all this agency would have to do to verify my degree would be to call my university and say, “So, this Jaehak guy, did he really graduate? Oh, he did? Cool.” For this service, I paid $60 and waited nearly 2 months. It turns out I was one of the lucky ones - this agency became so backlogged by others like me that they had to shut down.

Now, it gets worse. State background checks are no good anymore. Now, for an E-2 visa, Americans have to get an FBI background check. It will likely take 6 months to get done. I spoke to Immigration today, and they are being cool about it, they understand the time and know that I can’t just hang out for 6 months before I get a job. However, this makes it especially difficult for anybody back home looking to get a job here, as they now have to start planning 6 months in advance.

Also, like the transcript thing, I have no idea why I would need a current American criminal record check. Since my original CRC in 2009, I’ve been, um, in Korea. How could I have possibly committed any crimes in America during that time?

At least they’re easing up on the AIDS tests, at least in theory. The “E” class of visas in Korea are employment visas. Mine, as noted, is an E2, which is used for English teaching jobs. E2 visa applicants are still required to take a test, but having the HIV may not, in some circumstances, preclude somebody from getting a visa. In its infinite wisdom, Immigration has fully stopped testing E6 visa applicants. What is E6 for? Technically, it’s an “entertainment” visa, used for TV talent, musicians, dancers, and such. In practice, the vast majority of E6 visa holders are Filipina and other Southeast Asian whores, finding jobs as “singers” or “dancers” in the country’s many brothels. That’s Immigration logic in a nutshell. English teachers are a menace and a risk to spread AIDS amongst the pure-as-the-driven-snow local populace. Prostitutes, on the other hand, have no chance to spread any sort of social disease.

A final odd note about Immigration - the English. I called Immigration earlier this week and went there today. Both women that helped me were very kind, and their English was passable, though broken and far from fluent. I went to H&M in downtown Seoul to buy a couple things yesterday. The guy who rang me up seemed to speak fluent English. The guy that works at the convenience store down the street speaks fluent English. I don’t understand why it is that I can frequently run into random Koreans working $7 an hour jobs that speak perfect English, yet the government agency in charge of dealing with English speakers on a daily basis rarely puts English speakers on the front lines. I suppose it makes no less sense than my former school, an ENGLISH school, where none of my bosses spoke a word of English.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Apateu

My apartment is fairly awesome. I like to call it the single best E-2 (a Korean visa status) apartment in Seoul. I have a sweet couch, a queen bed, a microwave, a toaster, all of the cookware and bedding anybody would need, a monster air conditioner, lots of shelf space, and several closets. I have a crappy TV, but a solid cable package with over 30 English channels, including my beloved CNN International. Lots of my E2 cohorts have dorm-sized refrigerators, I have a real one. Up until recently, that fridge and my cabinets were always full, often with Costco products, the epitome of high-end in Korea.

Time is running short for this abode. In theory, I’m supposed to be out of here on Friday. In theory, my former job is also supposed to pay me before Friday. As A depends on B, it looks like I may have a little longer here. Lets just say I haven’t packed my bags yet.

The apartment has, of course, begun its long and sad decline. The road to crack house begins with a lack of food. I ate pretty much the last things that qualify as “food” today. Sure, there’s some oranges, half a pack of spaghetti that I bought a year ago, a can or tuna, some hard candy, 2 partial bags of stale Korean chips that I didn’t like, and of course condiments. However, I think it’s fair to say that major dinner operations have ceased.

Friday, December 24, 2010

What will your greatest weaknesses be in 5 years?

Disregarding natural disaster, famine, disease, war, and that kind of thing, there’s likely nothing more awful in life than a job interview. Bad dates are better. Doing taxes is more fun. Even the baseline for everyday awful - a trip to the dentist - certainly beats out a job interview. At least I don’t have to wear a suit to the dentist. I’d imagine a big reason that so many people work in their current positions is to prevent further interviews. Better to spend a year or two at a shit job than to go sit down with a random HR robot for 45 minutes discussing “goals.”

Full disclosure - I don’t interview well. I’m nervous, fidgety, and I’ll sweat in any room that’s over 61 degrees. I put on a tie twice a year or so, thus my interview day always begins watching a “how to tie a tie” Youtube video. When I’m out having beers with my friends, I’m as quick witted as they come. When meeting new people, I’ve been told (true story) on more than one occasion that I was boring, the dullest person in the bar, hey, I’m done talking to you, I’m gonna talk to anybody else. Me! I’m a guy who’s been to 25 countries, slept in 5 star hotels and in the gutter, and have both jumped out of and on to moving cars. The random people are right. I can hold court and crack up my buddies, but when I meet someone new I’m generally as interesting as a parking meter. The interviewer is, of course, always someone new.

My hatred of the job interview doesn’t exclusively lie in my social anxiety issues, of course. It’s the interviewers that really strudel my squirrel. I should really have cards printed up to hand the interviewer at the beginning of the chat: “My greatest weakness is (insert your choice of cliche strength here, ie, perfectionism, ambition, laser focus, too big of ideas, etc etc etc). In one/five /ten years, I plan to go to grad school in a field related to this job. Next question motherfucker.” Maybe I’ll leave out the motherfucker part. Yet, if the HR toadie is asking these same questions that I got asked at my interview at McDonald’s when I was 16, the motherfucker part is apt.

Over here, all the interviewers ask why I came to Korea. Never mind the fact that I came here in 2006, so this is really neither here nor there anymore. At this point, I should just say, “For the same reason that I own more than one pair of pants - pussy and money.” Either that, or “I used the same logic for choosing my university over Harvard. I couldn’t get in to Japan.”

One interviewer discussed the notion of roundeyes coming to Korea to party. He said that the bar for entry into the Korean ESL world is fairly low, and that lots of people come for reasonable pay and free housing, and that the job is secondary to the life. He asked what I thought of this phenomenon. Imagine, people have the audacity to come here to work to live, rather than to live to work. I pretty much rejected the entire question. I told him that this logic could be applied to most everybody in the world working most any job. Do bus drivers love their jobs? Do insurance salesmen? Do clerks? Do customer service reps? Do waitresses? Do railroad brakemen? Of course not. These people aren’t doing the job for the job, they’re doing the job for the other 128 hours of the week. I enjoy my job here, more than most I’ve had, but I don’t have any illusions about it. I wouldn’t do it for free.

Well, back to the job search grind for me. I’ll put in another two hours of emailing resumes and applications before I get into the whiskey. After all, now I’m a free agent, and my home is my office, so it’s high time for an office Christmas party.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Decision Point

I often hem and haw when I go to my local McDonald’s. Keep in mind, my local McDonald’s is 60 feet from my house and I usually end up there twice a week. Obviously, I have the menu memorized at this point. Yet, when I walk in, I have to consider what I want 87% of the time. If there’s a line, it’s even worse, as I’ll choose then reject a number of possible meals. At a Korean restaurant, I’m even worse. I often spend over an hour at the grocery store. When I talk to girls, I can never get over all of the girls that I’m not talking to.

I avoid making decisions whenever I can. The path of least resistance has likely been what’s lead me to where I am today.

Fortunately, I had a plan. Sure, this plan would force me to choose between a Quarter Pounder and a McChicken from time to time, but the overarching narrative was set. I had a home and a job set up until the end of the summer. At that point, I would go on a 6 month road-trip that would both allow for time to smell the roses along with forcing me to cross great distances in short time. Following that, another year in Korea to recoup my inevitable massive financial losses from the trip. I’d (likely) go home in the spring of 2013. I could avoid major life choices until then. Plus, there was always the chance that I’d get malaria or get eaten by a Komodo dragon before I got to that point.

Well, as I’m sure you’ve figured out by my use of the past and past conditional tenses, things aren’t going to work out that way. On Tuesday, with eight and a half months left to go on my contract, my school shut down.

There’s never a good time for this sort of thing to happen, but this time it’s especially bad. If the school would have shut down a couple months earlier, the weather would still be decent, and it would have only altered my travel (and forthcoming life) plans by a month or two. If the school could have held on for another couple months, I would have saved up enough cash to call an audible and start my trip early. As it stands, I’m jobless now and homeless in two weeks. Also, it’s really fucking cold out. Good times.

So now, I have to make a bunch of choices, and I have to do it now. Here are a few of them:

A - Find a quickie job that starts in January. The best short-term financial choice. On the down side, I haven’t seen too many jobs that start in January, at least any I want to take. I don’t particularly want to be on a January contract either. Starting the Megatrip in January of 2012 isn’t too appealing. I couldn’t take the boat to China as planned, because China would be to goddamn cold. I’d have to fly to Southeast Asia or Australia to kick it off. If I didn’t do the trip, then I’d eventually have to return to the U.S. in the dead of winter. I already tried that in 2009. It was a bad idea.

B - Find a job in March. Because of the Korean academic calendar, there are a lot of good jobs available in March. March is also a better time to start the Megatrip or to return to the U.S. The downside of this, of course, would be the fact that I’d have to spend two bitterly cold months unemployed. I have places to stay, but none involve a couch. Plus, I’ve been unemployed two days now, and I’ve already gotten pretty bored, and that’s with a liberal degree of the drink. If I went the job in March route, I would also most certainly make a trip to Thailand or the Philippines to get out of the cold, and that would cost money. I could afford to do it, but it means I’d have to considerably lower my budget once I’m working to pay for the Megatrip.

C - Move back to America permanently. But I don’t have enough cash to do that. I don’t know what I’d do. I don’t know where I’d live. Total non-starter. This is why there’s never a “C.”

D - Go back to the States temporarily. I could take a vacation back home, find a new job at my leisure, and have the new job pay for my flight back to Korea. I could, of course, see family and friends, and this would be awesome. The downside - America is expensive. I’d have to fly around to a lot of different places, and I’d have to pay for a plane ticket home to begin with. I’d most likely end up spending more than option B. Plus, outside of the portion of the trip that I’d spend in Florida, it would be just as oppressively cold as Korea.

E - Move to Taiwan. It’s warm there. They have better food than here. Like here, they have Costco. It would be an exciting new experience in the way that none of the other options are. Flights to Hong Kong and Southeast Asia are shorter and cheaper. North Korea is no longer a threat, though China is. On the downside - it would be a hard reset. I don’t have any friends there. Because it would be “new and exciting” I would definitely save less money there, making the Megatrip less likely after a year. There’s no Taco Bell. I don’t speak a word of Chinese, and learning to read (unlike in Korea, Japan, and Thailand) would be impossible.

F - Move to Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, or elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Awesome food, killer beaches, low cost of living, easily some of my favorite places in the world. Downside - I’d make 900 bucks a month or less.

These choices, of course, all have choices within them. Options A, B, and D requires choosing a public school, a private academy, an adult academy, a university, or a corporate gig. Also, I’d have to choose if I should stay in Seoul, move to the burbs, move to Busan, move to a lessor major city, or move to the sticks (doubtful.) Option C involves a choice between Kansas, Florida, Maryland, Chicago, New York, LA, San Francisco, Seattle, and other places. Option E requires choosing a school type and a city in a place that I don’t know much about. Option F is mostly academic, but it would require these same sorts of choices.

Of course, there’s always the Peace Corps.

This sucks, but I’ve seen worse. In December 2006, I lost my first Korean job. It was freezing cold, I was new to the expat life, North Korea had just gone nuclear, I had thousands of dollars in credit card debt, and my social network here was essentially nil. I didn’t have internet at home or a cell phone. Yet, I managed to land in a better situation with higher pay, a bigger apartment, and cooler co-workers, and I spent part of my unemployed period partying in Hong Kong. I’m sure I’ll land on my feet.

Now, to get a Quarter Pounder or a McChicken? Fuck it, I’m hungry, I’ll get both.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Shaking my fist at the Facebook (users)

In honor of child abuse being 100% eradicated from the world forever as a result of people changing their Facebook profile images to cartoons for a few days, it’s time for another rant on stupid things people do on Facebook.

Keep in mind, if I end up make any references to anything you may do online, it’s completely accidentally except for when it’s on purpose.

Here are some status updates that I’ve grown tired of. I’ve been down this route before, but what the hell...

-Mysterio shit. Stuff like “wow, that was a close one!” or “Best. News. Ever.”

-Using. Periods. After. Every. Word.

-Anything regarding the weather. Unless you are actually updating your status from the interior of a tornado, nobody cares. Sometimes the weather changes quickly. Sometimes it seems to stay hot or cold FOREVER! Shut up. Stop.

- Countdowns. These might be the worst because they go on so long. Even worse, when they are attached to mysterio shit. My Asia megatrip starts in 264 days. If you people don’t stop with the countdowns, I’m gonna start. 264 days of annoying status updates. Think about it.

-Chain updates, i.e., “97% of people won’t repost the fact that they think cancer and Nazis are bad. I’m one of the 3% who did!!1! Aren’t I awesome?” 3% of people are into bestiality too. YOU just happen to be where those Venn diagrams cross.

- Any update that is attempting to get me to buy something. That’s not word-of-mouth sales, that’s spam. If you want to sell cosmetics on your Facebook, get a separate account for it.

-People that #have to #use #the pound key on #everyfuckingthingtheyevertype so that #Twitter might #trend #what #theyhavetosay. This is the trap that I’ll most likely fall into one day, but until that day comes, it will annoy #themostawesomepersonwhoeverlived #me.

-Speaking of Twitter - people that use FB status updates like it’s 2009 Twitter, i.e. “Just got back from the gym” or “Out of tampons, heading to the store.” This doesn’t bother me so much anymore, but only because I’ve blocked every Facebook friend that does this.

-People that post anything about that Alaskan woman. Even if you’re making fun of her, you’re still giving her free press. Ignore her, and she’ll go away.

-Farmville. Again, this doesn’t matter to me anymore, since I blocked you a long time ago.

-Sick people. Not mentally, of course, but physically. Nobody cares about your cold. Drink some orange juice and get back to work. Obviously, this doesn’t apply if you have a real ailment. but EVERYBODY catches colds now and then.

-People that take and publish multiple quizzes per day.

I could finish off with the predictable self-deprecating barb, i.e. “people that always post their lame blogs,” but I won’t. I’m perfectly comfortable in my own douchebaggery.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Insomnia

In my old wireless retail days, I spent a few months working in the deep suburbs of Chicago. I was 25. I worked with the usual retail collection of young kids like myself, lifers that had obtained middle management positions, and guys in their 30s that were positioned to move up in the company. Then there was Scott. At most every retail spot, there’s a Scott. I really should change his name for the purposes of this blog, but I don’t keep up with anybody from those days, so I know there’s no way this could get back to him.

Scott was old. In reality, he was probably in his 40s, but the years had not been kind to him. He looked 60 at least, was divorced, maybe even never married, bald, fat, had white hair, and was an affable fellow though quite territorial about his sales. Scott had worked at the store for a year or two. His sales competition, as mentioned, were kids in their 20s, up and comers, and vets that knew the ropes. Scott was a key holder, meaning he could open or close the store without a manager as he had his own key. It was clear that this was the highest Scott would ever rise in the company. In the 6 months I worked with him, I went from working below him to working at the same pay grade to being promoted higher than him. When I was promoted, I also moved on to greener pastures, to the shallow El-connected suburbs. Some time after that, I caught wind that Scott was fired. I can’t say I was surprised.

I liked Scott. I could talk to him about Led Zeppelin and titty bars. Scott was an expert in both fields. Scott taught me some of the ropes of Sprint, and I got Scott more than a few sales (as I wasn’t a salesman at first, I acted as a point guard of sorts).

In a lot of ways, Scott, or the Scott archetype at a million other shitty jobs that I’ve worked, is a major reason that I write this blog. He’s the reason I’m in Korea. Scott is also the reason I can’t get to sleep at night.

Scott scares me to death. Maybe worse. I think I’d rather be hit by a truck in 10 years then to become Scott in 20.

Working at a shitty retail job with a bunch of dumbass 22-year-olds when I’m 48 or 55 or 61 or whatever is pretty much the worst thing I could imagine. It would be all the worse if I, like Scott, end up going home every night to an empty apartment on a boring side of town every night to sit and watch cable while drinking cheap Gin. Scott was a photographer on the side as well, but if I knew Scott at all, I’m certain he never made it.

The world is full of Scotts. Shockingly, even the Korean ESL scene has its share. I hope I never join the club. I think I’d prefer getting gunned down by Kim Jong Il. As I’ve already established that as a near impossibility, it looks like I’m going to have to win some other way.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Don't Panic

Lots of people have called or sent me Facebook or email messages regarding my likely eminent demise at the hand of artillery and/or the Korean People’s Army. While I appreciate the sentiment and the rare calls from America, there’s really no reason to worry.

First off, the North probably won’t invade. Haiti and Wikilinks have already made the Northern aggression yesterday’s news. An aside - lots of shocking news here. Haiti is having a messy election? That’s so unlike them. WikiLeaks revealed that the US doesn’t know much about the inner workings of North Korea, that American diplomats think that Putin is still really in charge in Russia and Medvedev is a puppet. Apparently, we also don’t like Gaddafi. Oh yeah, and the U.S. is worried about Shari'ah hardliners gaining influence in Turkey. Didn’t we already know all of that?

Next, I don’t live in an area with any military targets. The nearest army base is at least 12 miles away.

Third, (obviously, this is why I’m not lettering these points) I live in a pretty strategically solid place, should shit go down. My building has 4 sub-basements, my office has 5. Even better, there’s a mountain 5 minutes from my house. I could camp out on it’s south face (since mathematically, that would be a really difficult place for northern shells to hit. Angry Birds proves me right) and be fine for awhile. There are mountain springs up there, and people can go weeks without food (although I presume I could do some looting on my way there.)

Fourth - you know me and the geo-nerd stuff. I know Seoul better than most locals. I guarantee I know the back alleys and underground passages of Seoul better than every North Korean. If I have to make it from my house to Gimpo airport by foot to evacuate - well, I consider that a usual Saturday afternoon (outside of the evacuation part.)

To sum up: A) The invasion isn’t going to happen, and B) if it does, the only way I’ll go down will we through bad luck, like if a first-strike shell hits my apartment while I’m asleep. I have better odds of getting killed by a crashing plane that was struck by lightning as I scratch a jackpot lottery ticket.
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