Wednesday, March 26, 2008

And she is called Pepper.

There aren’t really a whole lot of words. I went to the Daegu Korean Animal Protection Society (KAPS) on Saturday. Which was probably a bad idea. I knew before I went it was probably a bad idea. The entire point was that I was just looking at the animals. I was not going to adopt a dog. That was not going to happen.

The noise was overwhelming, the dogs, all rescue cases, have various problems. They bark from their cages desperate for a new home, a place to be loved. They have been discarded because they got too big. Many of these are toy breeds as well. Malteeses, Cockapoos, Shitzus, Terriers, all of them tossed away for no longer being cute puppies. I have a little Shitzu that I took home from a pet store. I always felt a little guilty about it because I wondered what happened to all the little babies that didn’t go home. I felt guilty for perpetuating the system.

A number of my friends have volunteered at the animal shelter or are volunteering as foster parents for dogs and cats that have been abandoned. I’ve heard about the shelter left and right but avoided it for fear of going and taking home another dog. After much thinking on it, though, I decided a new dog would not be that big a deal. I convinced myself I was just going to look. I wasn’t going to adopt that day.

I walked in the door to see those poor dogs and walked up the youngest of them all. A three month old pointer puppy that had a huge lump on her head from a blow to the back of the skull. She was shaking, starved, a body too small for her big legs. She is a puppy and she is huge. She’s going to be a great big dog. I knew it looking at her and it didn’t stop me from wanting to see her, from asking for her to be placed on the floor so I could see her move. She was all shaky and skittish and the barking of the other dogs scared her.

I watched her and I knew I was totally screwed and I was getting a puppy. And that is what I’ve ended up with. She is partially blind, possibly fully blind, I’ll find out today when we go to the vet. She’s adorable, doglike, and getting happier by the minute. My other dog is not amused.

If you have an extra ten dollars laying around and wanted to help out some animals in Korea considering donating to the shelter. It is run basically on donations with a bit of grant money here and there. It's also the only animal shelter in all of Korea. They can use a hand. There are lots of stories about the rescues there and all of them are true.

**************Excerpt of a rescue story from the KAPS site:***************************

On 24 May 2005, one resident who lived beside Chongku Market saw and heard that I was caught by the man, and was screaming and howling from his cruel acts of beating my legs with a stick and searing with light of burning cigarette. However, the resident was too scared to approach him; therefore, he contacted KAPS for help. KAPS contacted Manchon-2dong Sub-Police Box, and the KAPS Rescue Team and police senior patrol Yun from the police box arrived at the scene together. While they were fighting with the man who was like a crazy guy, KAPS Rescue Team could hold me and get out of there.

The following day, Mr. Yun like an insane person appeared at the Police Box and making a disturbance asked them to return me. How grateful I was as they would not turn me over because I was already in protection of the KAPS. The police official barely soothed the situation by telling him “If you want to take the dog, pay a fine of 200,000 Won; otherwise, go to a mental hospital,” and made the man go back.

Read the whole story


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Watch the Master Work

I didnt have to be in to work until late so I took a nice morning relaxing and drinking coffee and basically chilling. I walked the dog, made a list of the things I needed to buy, and prepared to leave home around eleven for a shopping trip. Id felt a little bit sick to the stomach but otherwise none the worse for wear, so I said goodbye to the dog and headed out the door for the electronics district.

I was making a concise strike on the electronic district otherwise I would overspend. I know me, I know gadgetry. The shop I was hitting is hacker haven central. Parts for your computer that do things that are unimaginable. I was picking up splitters, connectors and headphone for my MP3 players for my classes. That was it.

After a few minutes of browsing around and making a gigantic pile of stuff on the shop counter I asked for the headphones.

Sa, sa, juesyo. I said to the keeper.

Cho-gi? He pointed out a set.



Andayo. Sa, sa. I repeated. I wanted really cheap and five bucks was not cheap enough. I was hoping to get twenty sets for about a dollar a set. He told me to wait a minute and ran to the back of the shop and then came back up with a pair.



An-day. Pi-san-ga. Sa ju-sey-o. I waited for a minute.

San-sang-nim. Ee-go, ee-chon-on, ju-esyo. Eee-ship, ee-chon-on. I want to pay two dollars, I said to him, I want twenty pairs at two bucks a piece.

He cocked his head at me.




He tossed the headphones in a bag and I was ready to go.

I ended up spending way to much money and buying things I dont need and left the shop loaded down with all sorts of gadgetry after spending an hour browsing. I must get out of here and get lunch, being that it was now tweleve. I wanted to be at work by two so that I could get some things done before my classes. I felt like a master negotiator though, having managed to pull of my trip to the market for only one hundred and fifty and walking out with at least two hundred and fifty dollars worth of gear.

I hit the department store across from the electronic district for lunch. Leaving I walked out the other side deciding that I wanted to take a cab to school. Since I was feeling like a master negotiator I walked up to the first cab driver told him where I was going and asked how much.

Twenty he said.

I wanted to pay fifteen.

Ee-mon-och-on-on I answer.

He looks at me, steely gaze through his sunglasses and says yeah, okay.

I hop in feeling all sorts of good about myself.

Until I realized that I had responded to his offer in Korean not with fifteen like I thought.

I said twenty-five.

Master negotiator, thats me.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I'll have what she's having.

There are lots of interesting things in Korea; so many in fact that after a while here everything seems rather normal and you stop noticing it. One of the favorite things to do here that at first seems bizarre but later just seems par for the course is the nori-bong. Nori-bong literally translates to singing room and it is a favorite drinking and sober pastime for many.

I’m a fan of the nori-bong regardless of my state of intoxication. The first time I went to a nori-bong was at my first school here. We went just after world cup soccer had happened to celebrate the leaving of Korea of someone who would become one of my best friends. We sat in that basement bong and belted out tunes for at least two hours.

The bong had a spinning strobe light, a big silver disco ball and a wall with a t.v. set it in so you could do your music karaoke style. It’s like karaoke but only on a small scale with friends. Inside while we sang we had beer and soju brought to us along with lots of anjou. Anjou is Korean for side dishes which typically include peanuts, dried fish, and squid. We ate our anjou sang our hearts out and had a great time. When you sing well you get points splattered across the board and can score anywhere from 0 to 100.

It’s a big challenge to go into the nori room and sing and manage to score 100 points. The microphones are wiggy and give your voice a strange echo. The music is elevator remixes of your favorite songs. The couches cover a whole wall and there are tambourines so your backup singers can keep a beat. In most bongs there are two microphones so you can have two singers at any one time. I’m not bad at the nori-bong and have scored a few hundreds in my time.

There was a bong I used to go to over in the other side of town that was really odd. Outside they had life sized replicas of Aliens from the movies of the same name. It was creepy to enter and you went into the basement down a long cold flight of stairs. The walls all the way down covered with plaster re-creations straight out of something by H.R. Giger. The room was cold and shallow. When you piled in with your crowd of people you were surrounded on all sides by the exploding angry humanoid exoskeletons bearing double sets of teeth.

It’s sort of a wild thing to be surrounded by when you are singing Shiny Happy People, but appropriate for things like What’s Going On.

Like many things in Korea a nori-bong is a cheap way to have a good time. Generally renting a room at a little bong will cost you about seven dollars and hour and you can pack in as many people as you can fit in the room. The bigger the party of people the larger the room, and the more surreal things can get. Something fun always happens at the nori-bong.

One of the features of the nori-bong used as a promotional tool is broadcasting singers into the streets so you can listen as you walk by and decided whether or not to go rent a room. I suppose the philosophy is you will hear someone singing and with your party everyone will agree that you can do a better job and down (or up) the stairs you will go and you will sing your heart out. The poor sap that is being broadcast into the street however does not usually have any idea that they are singing prime-time for the crowds of people walking by in the evening.

Evenings like tonight.

I walk after a quiet coffee with my friend Monolycus down the streets of Korea. It’s a bit chilly in the air as we walk. We are on a quiet side street and had paused a moment in our chatter when suddenly we heard what can only be described as the sounds of a woman in the throws of ecstasy. Either that or someone watching porno with the sound turned up full volume. I stop and as soon as I do so does Mono and we both look up and at the same minute the moaning girl is cut off, a rather cruel coitus interuptus for the listening audience.

“Was that…” I start.

“I think it was.”

“It was right?”



“No idea.”

I look up and notice the sign in Korean. Nori-bong. I look at the sign and look at Wolf.

“I think…”

“Oh, yep, that was exactly what it was.”

“Man, you think they would screen those rooms before they start broadcasting it into the streets.”

“I think I need a cigarette.”

“I think they are going to need one too.” We walk down the streets and shake our heads laughing.

Nori-bongs, aside form being fun places to get your groove on, also occasionally pass as cheap rooms for college students with curfews.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Boom Boom Okay with Me

It's the quest for legality that never ends.

Today it landed me in the Daegu Red Cross hospital for the final round of things that are supposed to mark me as a legal resident in this fine country that plays my home. Today I needed to get a drug test, an hiv test, and apparently a full physical. The drug test was mostly just looking for marijuana, and the HIV test is apparent. This is all part of the new visa regulations that have been passed for foreigners not married to Koreans. Trust me, every day I wonder more and more about marrying a Korean.

So with the new regulations I have to go do the Red Cross hospital. It all started out harmless enough, I walked in armed with letters in Korean to help facilitate the process. What I did not expect was to be handed a sheaf of papers that was more than half an inch thick, all in Korean for me to fill out. Right.

I speak a fair amount of Korean, I admit. I even read Korean pretty well. But there is a difference between reading a menu and figuring out hospital Korean terminology on the fly. The person in charge of processing the waygooks took me over to a large counter that I had failed to notice when I walked in. There stood a nice young man who looked entirely lost and a Korean gentleman. The nurse talked quickly to the Korean while I looked the nice young man up and down. I wasn't paying any attention to what was going on.

"You been here long?"

"About a week so far."

"Here for the health check?"


"And they sent you here all by yourself?"

"No, I'm with him."

I finally realize that the Korean gent who has been hovering in the background might actually mean something.

"Hi, hi, I'm John. Right. Okay, I help you."

I said "Thanks, that's great." I thought, fuck!

Fuck. Sometimes it is actually much better to be on your own in Korea with a limited ability in language and a desire to get things done. It's easier to accomplish because you don't have to be reasonable all the time. It has it's drawbacks as well as you don't always understand everything that is going on. But I usually manage to muddle things out in a way that works to everyone's benefit.

My new found Korean friend and translator starts taking me through the basics as I chat up the new teacher who has only recently arrived, and from Michigan no less. We talk about the city as I filter in the background John John telling me to write me name and my phone number.

He flips over to the next page, a short page, but full of questions in Korean. John John starts translating for me…

"Do you ever feel…uh…you need to No think, you just…you walking and you see and you buy/"

"Uh?" I'm wondering what this has to do with my physical health, but okay.

"Um, no, I don't think so."

"You ever sleep and then feel sleep again?"

"Nope, not usually tired without good reason."

"You ever have, uh, problem with ddong?" In Korean "ddong" pretty much translates to poop, slightly more polite than shit, but you get the idea.


"No, it's fast, like KTX?" KTX is the Korean high speed train.

"Um. It's not usually a problem."

"You're head feel crazy?"

I try not to laugh at this one. The surreal moments in my life, all the things I do on a day to day basis. Does my head feel crazy?

"Nope. Right as something not crazy."

"Right, okay. Uh, you pain, you know."

"Pain I know?"

"Pain you know?" He starts point to his stomach. The nice Mr. Michigan offers "liver?"

"Yeah, yeah," says John John. "How's your liver?" I think 'don't want to know.'

"Perfect health."

"Yeah, okay. Uh…"

The questions continue with such dandies as "you get sad no good" and "you sometimes eat when hungry" and also "you wakeup everyday?"

At this point both I and Mr. Michigan are rapt to find out what will come next on this bizarre question and answer form but suddenly John John's at a loss for words.

"Yes?" I offer helpful.



"Uh, you sex?" He blushes a bit, ear to ear, Mr. Michigan looks away choking down a laugh and turning just a slight shade of red. I turn a full on stare at John John which is quite rude in Korea. I'm very good at talking to people without making eye contact, a gift I've acquired from six years in Korea. However that last one caught my attention enough to really bore into poor John.

"Do…you know…like sex."

"Is she a virgin?" offers Mr. Michagan being helpful. I start choking on that one.

"No…no…but all the time not so much… but you like sex right?" He looks back at me. I try to puzzle out how to correctly answer this one without coming off as a nympho. I mean, come on people, it's sex. I get cranky when I have to go more three hours and I'm pretty sure that is not normal for the general population but that particular answer is probably not appropriate to the question.

"You know, you boyfriend, boom boom, sex?"

Boom Boom.

"Sex jo-ah. Kinchaniyo." I answer him in Korean, suddenly at a loss to explain 'sex good' in English.

"Yeah, okay, when?" Somehow this is a conversation I do not feel like having at ten in the morning in the middle of a hospital in Korea where I am being forced to produce blood and pee in a cup to keep my job.

"Right now?" I ask.

John John nearly chokes on his tongue and Mr. Michigan has the good sense to start chuckling while I smile a big broad 'girl who likes sex' smile.

"Yeah, okay," says John John. I watch as he circles numbers on the form. For most of the questions I score a one, which apparently means I'm not a sociopath obsessive compulsive liver damaged nympho.

As long as I end up legal at the end of the day what's the harm of a few little white lies?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Weekday Nights are the Weirdest

The night is impossible and I don’t want to go home. And I need to go home. And I’m trying to adjust to the fact that with the new schedule I have I now have three days of non-working a week. A boon surely, except that I just don’t know what to do with so much freedom, so I head to the bar on a Wednesday night to drink and make merry or to a least meet Mary if there is one about.

The bar is empty when I walk in, dragging with me a friend in the new teacher who replaced me at my old job. We both drink hard spirits and talk in the silence of the bar. I talk to H behind the bar who is spinning the music, afro-pop when we walk in, and a mash of other things. As the new teacher leaves H and I discuss the rhythms of our hearts.

He names a new band and we listen. I name a new band and he goes to find it. We keep this up as the bar suddenly is more full, people we know have started to funnel down. I feel rude but I keep up with my musical game because it is important to me. To us. To this space and time. But the tequila that is floating in my belly drives me eventually away to sit with friends who are going through various stages of their own lives.

I try to listen to the conversation. And I realize something as I do. I’ve truly come to dislike some young people. Hardly even thirty and already crotchety and set in my ways.

I reflect on this as I listen to the conversation.

“And than it was like, oh my god, you know.”

“Ya, I know. Then what.”

“Like, you know, whatever.”

Kill me, I think.

It’s not youth though. I can appreciate youth. H is at least six years my junior and I love his company. And there are others who are younger than I who I appreciate just as much. No, I hate insipidness. And there seems to be so much of it floating around these days. Maybe it’s the new visa regulations keeping out anyone interesting, anyone with a past life, anyone with stories. Now all we get are the brainwashed perfect groupies who are coming to Korea for a little cash and to travel around. I really dislike the new crowd.

I drink more tequila and decide I’m leaving when the Musician walks through the door. I give him a hug, my savior, a life line, someone I can relate to. We talk and drink together and finally we are joined by the Em who has come to wait out the long wait for family coming in from afar. The Musician has written new music and I give him cords to pair it with trying to think of something upbeat.

And he sings.

“There really is no one else, only twelve ex-girlfriends, the ex-wife and you….La la la la labia…”

Anyone who can work labia into a course is a brilliant musician. Em and I laugh and clap as the young girl who talked earlier of “likes” and “gods” becomes still and quiet observing us with the air one normally reserves for the patients locked up in the ward. She’ll make a fine Nurse Ratchet someday, I think to myself.

Em and I continue to laugh and clap and appreciate the Musician and his musical irony.

The night fills with more tequila and eventually the Russian stops by without his camera.

“You!” he exclaims.

“You.” I say back. He claps me in a bear hug and drags me to the bar.

“Tequila!” he calls out and it’s tequila all around. And around.

“Where have you been?” I ask him.

“Oh, you know…working. My friend here says I’m a spy for the KGB.”

“And are you?”

“No, no, of course not. I’m just busy.”

“What are you working on?” I ask him.

“It’s a secret, you know. I can’t talk about it.”

“So you are working for the KGB.”

“Bartender, tequila all around.”

And again.

And again.

It stays like that. Impossible to dissect, entirely probably, wholly Korean in the middle of the week.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

No Good Can Come of Three Nipples

It was the going away party that had me out till all hours of the morning. It started with a nice dinner that turned into having a team for quiz night. Considering we did quite well. It was the Geek, The Australian Chickie, The Rastafarian, and myself hanging out at the quiz held by Nipple3 with his boon companion.

All in all we did fairly well, missing the top spot by one point. The top spot being a tied quiz down between two other teams. Third place on this quiz was not so bad. Had it not been for the help of the Geek I'm not sure we would have made it that far. This is why Geeks are an important part of society. And also why I owe one a drink eventually.

After the quiz the party lead by Nipple3 insisted that we continue to roll. Being that it was his last night this is all perfectly understandable and so we rounded in on Crew Bar leaving the Lonely Hearts to themselves, and settled in for a game of pool. Crew had been overrun by a bunch of lawless noobs but we put our names up for pool and hoped for a game sooner rather than later.

Australian Chickie and I worked as partners on the board and managed to win the table fairly quickly but also managed to loose it just as fast when Nipple3 came up to play. That bastard really knows how to handle a stick and balls and regardless of his partners ineptness he was quickly in command of the table. We continued to drink and celebrate both a happy and a sad parting as the night wore on. It was closing on around four a.m. and we were thinking about where to head next or if we had to head out at all.

During the night it had been noticed that there was a piece of what can only be called CrazyPussy (CP) running around. There really is no better way to describe it. This girl was nuts off her rocker and throwing herself at every available man in the place. Poor Nipple3 got held up against the bathroom wall and had to pry her off. It was the exact opposite of a good thing. It was the kind of thing that made you want to grab your underwear and run for the love of God, Country, and waking up still an intact male. This girl was nuts.

As the bar started to clear out it was Nipple3' s party that was left hanging about, the Baron, and CP and a friend who theoretically knew her somewhat. After watching her continue to paw unsuccessfully I thought it my drunken philanthropic heart that I would take her aside mention that she was pretty wasted and that she might want to go home before anything that happened she might regret. Thinking about it now I might have given myself similar advice about talking to this girl, but I was feeling generous and motherly. Goodness knows I've played bar minder on more than one occasion with a fair amount of success and anticipated being successful now.

Instead, I ended up with a CP stalker. She was definitely not leaving and now she was going to get something she wanted. She wanted from what observation could tell me either a fuck or a fight. Since she was not getting the former she was going to through herself wholeheartedly into the latter. I was not that interested in fighting with her at first. At first. Then she started following me around the bar even though I was going out of my way to ignore her. I admit I started it by sticking my nose into it but as soon as I realized that she was full blown CP I retreated quick. Too late, always too late.

Finally as she continued to chase me around the bar I thought I might get some help from the guy who theoretically knew her and the Australian Chickie. Unfortunately as they both tried to help me, CP decided now would be a good time to push the Australian. Could things get any worse than that? Before I could finish my retreat I was back holding down the Australian while the nice guy was trying to hold down CP. Unfortunately that nice guy had pushed CP against the row of stacked bar glasses which she proceeded to pick up and start launching at the heads of myself and the Australian. Now we were in full on brawl mode. Nice guy tried to hold CP against the bar, another body came over to help, and we all wrestled with CP trying to get the last un-smashed beer glass out of her hand. It took four of us prying her hand to get that glass, and then CP went down freaking out.

The freaking out was mildly understandable seeing as how she had just been wrestled down by four different people. Then she started crying which immediately drew sympathy from the Australian who tried to calm down CP by hold her in a sisterly hug. CP responded to this by falling back on the floor.


At first we didn't realize she was faking a seizure but apparently this tactic was part of the game she had set up because as soon as we all stood back swallowing hard lumps in our throats about how we were going to get CP to a hospital she suddenly looked up with crazy eyes jumped up and pushed us all away. We stood between her and the bar to try to prevent more damage. CP at this point realizing she was outnumbered went for backup. The Baron, who at this point was oblivious to everything else that was going on suddenly found himself being dragged around by CP. Being a nice oblivious guy he started trying to sympathize and we all started screaming at him to put her hand down and back away slowly.

It took a few minutes for us to untangle the Baron and as we tried to explain what was happening CP faked yet another seizure at us, but always with the watchful eye. She shook and spat for a few seconds until she realized she had managed to untangle herself yet again from all help at which point she jumped off and as graceful as a gazelle dashed down the bar stairs and out the door. We cheered as she was finally gone.

The party at this point rejoined Nipple3 who was hiding out with his boon companion, which was probably wise. It was decided that we should all continue drinking, however it being six in the morning we had to find an appropriately open bar. Not too difficult in Korea. We ended up a beef/soju restaurant where we did our best to order vegetarian food from the menu. They were not thrilled with this but as long as we were getting something the watiers were fairly willing. We kept up the relvry until Nipple3 was finally abandoned to his train and 20+ hour trip out of the country. He will be missed.

In the meantime Australian Chickie and I hopped a cab back to my place where the dog was very happy to see us. She went to bed with the dog, I crawled into my own warm bed and promptly passed out. It was around 9am and I was arguably damned tired.

I woke up some time around 2:50 in the afternoon with a hangover that would have made Thor feel like a busy god. I had a liter of Gatorade. And water. And coffee. And more water. Eventually the Australian joined me and found her phone where we had some interesting messages about what happened after CP left the bar.

Her nice guy friend managed to follow her down the street for a while. Until CP found herself another waygook to harass. However, being that she was clearly established CP the new guy wanted absolutely nothing to do with her. Which she must have guessed at pretty fast as she reacted by biting him on the cheek and followed with dashing out onto the streets and into the early morning smog. She had yet to be heard from by the time we had crawled out of bed.*

I blame all the excitement on that unstable third nipple. It always gets people into trouble. Since Nipple3 has now officially left the country I suspect this kind of fun will not be more frequent. Since CP has not yet left the country it is hard to say. I guess we will just have to wait and see.

*She did show up intact at her apartment sometime later in the evening. Other news is not forthcoming.