Saturday, October 31, 2009


Halloween is celebrated a bit differently here in Korea. It's an American holiday...and almost NO Koreans celebrate it. Oh sure...some of the kids at the English academies celebrate it...but it is celebrated about as much as El Dia de los Muertos is celebrated in America.

Have you ever celebrated El Dia de los Muertos outside of Spanish class?


The costume selection is limited to what is found on a folding table at the local department store...

I was able to pick up some fangs and scare my students on our Halloween theme day.

Face paint is for sale...but its for sale year round at the stationary stores that are located on every block.

So instead of having a wild party in Itaewon (the armpit/foreign district of Seoul)... I chose to go on a cruise. The Cheonju dam that I found so unimpressive 6 months ago creates a long and lovely lake. The changing Autumn leaves makes for some beautiful scenery. But since it was Halloween...I also chose to wear some face paint.

While I don't blame the high school students for being a little scared here...I mean...if you were hanging out in the pre-dawn hours and you saw someone skeleton face paint on ANY OTHER time of might jump too...

(Oh...and I still think I make a more compelling Ghost Rider than Nichols us Cage does...but the picture is above so you can judge for yourself)

The cruise was relaxing...most of the foreigners stayed on the roof of the ferry admiring the view in what can only be described at typical Seattle weather (cloudy with a chance of rain). While on the first floor of the ferry, the ajimas and ajashis (old Korean Men and Women) danced their hearts out to the latest and greatest Korean pop songs.

After a hours the ferry returned to the dock and we went to a cave and a natural stone arch and returned back so Seoul.

Once we friends convinced me to stick around and enjoy Halloween with them in Seoul (as opposed to the outskirts where I live and which are my typical stomping grounds)

We started at a little place called "Ho Bar 3." and isn't what it sounds like...just as Dick's Drive It serves Hamburgers and Fries...a Ho Bar serves Budweiser and Guinness...the best part about the bar was the group of what had to be high school exchange students taking advantage of the lax enforcement of drinking age...

Clue number one that they were in high school...well they all looked 16

Clue number two....the boys were ordering shots of Baileys for themselves...

Eventually we moved into a more chill location...where we enjoyed the flavors of strawberry and kiwi smoke while we contemplated the questions "Who are you?" and "So you think you've changed, do you?" while giving out such advice as "Explain yourself." and "Keep your temper." and "One side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you grow shorter."

Because being 3 inches tall is such a wretched height to be....

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Wedding Crasher

Well...its been 8 months that I've been in Korea and I have been to a wedding yet. But I received an invitation to attend a friend's wedding at noon on Saturday. I've never been to a Korean wedding I jumped at the opportunity.

I had the afternoon free and I was going to be up near where I used to work, so I called up an old co-worker to she if she wanted to go hiking afterwords. It ends up she was going to the wedding of our co-workers later that afternoon. So, I accepted her offer to join her. Two weddings on the same day was a coincidence that I just couldn't pass up.

Then, I found out the really strange part...they were getting married at the same church.

It's a small, small world...

The wedding services were remarkably western. The grooms wore nice suits with white gloves. While the the brides were decked out in white bridal dresses with long flowing trains with white gloves. What can I say...they really like white gloves here.

Neither wedding had a groomsmen, bride's maids or bridal processions. The couple's mothers' wore a traditional Korean robe called a han bok. They are bright, colorful robes that are made from silk that are color coordinated depending if you are the groom's or bride's mother. Case in point...a mother of 7 girls (like my co-worker's mom) will only need to buy one wedding han bok for all of her wedding matriarcla duties...but a mother of a boy and a girl will require 2.

As for the sermon? Well I understood the words "Josh""Amen" and "Kiss" But sadly the rest was greek to me.

The reception consisted of a buffet that was in the church basement...the food...identical (as it was at the same church...) seperated by 4 hours. I gorged myself both times because let's face it...Korean food is delicious!!!

I spent working on my friends' English skills by making them describe what an actual Korean wedding is like. All I was able to gather is that there are han boks on everybody and people throw Chinese dates into a towel. You may think that's strange, but honestly, think about some of your traditions. I mean what other culture endorses throwing a piece of the bride's underwear at all the single guys...

The bride's boquet is not thrown into a pack of flower hungrey, wedding crazed girls can throw elbows for a fistful of flowers. The Koreans are much more devious. The bride hands the boquet to one of her friends the tradition goes...the recipiant must either get married within 6 months...or she won't be able to be married for 6 years...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Korean Drivers

I've wanted to write about I've held off writing until I got in a car accident...

not if...when..not was a matter of inevitability...


Korean drivers are nuts.

This car has the highest rate of pedestrians being hit by cars of any developed county.

I've seen a bus pull an impromptu U-turn in the middle of a main road. Been in a taxi that ran 6 red lights in a row. The buses run them too...but they stop...look both ways...then run the light. (and no that is not legal in this country either.)

If you're driving along and you don't like the was the bus is driving... go ahead and cut off the bus (on the 4 lane highway no less) and get out and rip the bus driver a new one. accident was a bus on bus fender bender...nothing serious...and no injuries. But still, it's an experience I've seen coming ever since I arrived here.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Socialized Medicine

So after about a week of sleeping 4 hours a day something strange happened to me...I caught a cold. Funny how that works. But due to my shunning of doctors (especially a certain dirty old Korean one that initially examined me when I first arrived...but that's a different story)...I let it go on too long and the cold moved into my chest and I caught a mild case of Bronchitis....

The first thing I had to do was find a doctor...

There are more clinics within one block of me than there are Starbucks in downtown Bellevue. There are 3 clinics on ONE side of ONE block going towards work. For the record, I'm out in the outskirts of apartment building is only 8 stories tall (as opposed to the 15+ that are standard in Haman...and they only get taller is Seoul).

I had my co-workers help me pick a local doctor that speaks English. In this case, it was the second clinic from the was pretty far away...I mean I did have to cross the side street and everything. After a 5 meter walk, I took the elevator, then I took a number and waited...and waited...and caught up on my Sodoku.

When the doctor saw me, I explained that I had a cough and an annoying rattle in my chest. He had a somewhat vacant stare Hmmm...while apparently he advertised himself as an English Speaking Doctor...his conversational skills were somewhat rusty.

Fortunately, I turned my head and coughed just then (into my sleeve the way I've been taught!)

His eyes lit up and he whipped out his stethoscope (I didn't even have to take my shirt off) and declared that I had chronic bronchitis... He briefly wrote a prescription and sent me out the door...

I walked up to the counter and the receptionist asked me for my insurance national run by the government know socialized medicine insurance card...she told me how much it was...thought better of herself...then wrote it down. It came out to 3500 won.

I couldn't believe my eyes! I had her check it again to make sure all the zeros were correct. My co-pay on my doctor's visit was less than 3 dollars. Curse you socialized medicine! I spent more on coffee that day than I did visiting my doctor!!!

I went downstairs to the pharmacy...and paid for the antibiotics...another brutal hit of 18500 won to my pocket book...however could I manage to spend 16 dollars on a week's worth of medication!!!

Man socialized medicine is awesome!