Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year! Feliz año nuevo! Feliz ano novo! 明けまして御目出度う御座居ます!  新年快樂!新年快了 حلول السنة الجديدة ! Bonne année! Gutes neues Jahr! سال نو مبارک!

Before New Years Eve 2008, I'd been accustomed to making a blog entry that would serve as a summary of events of the closing year. This reminiscing on times past in the closing year would always occur an hour (at most) prior to the official start of the New Year. Having to stay at the workplace until 11:20 p.m. and having plans to mingle and be amongst fellow human beings has rendered that tradition a broken one. Instead, I am reminiscing on the past year today.

In January, I was still gainfully unemployed with intentions of returning to Japan--after nothing too promising had come from my Middle Eastern pursuits. With some Japanese English-teaching companies expressing some interest in my résumé--and even more having a copy of my résumé--some degree of progress was achieved. Then, I was offered employment in the first email--which included provided transportation and an apartment for which I wouldn't need to squander about 25% of my income--from a company recruiting English teachers to occupy its academy. Coolity. This academy is in Korea = oh. Never had I intended on living in Korea...nor had it ever been a country that was high on my "Countries to Visit" list. Nevertheless it was a way out of what was dormant state #23984273 of my life at the time.

February was a month of correspondence and what was a somewhat clandestine departure from the U.S.A.; only a few friends had been made aware of where I was to go next in my life. I underwent many fretful times due to the more more stringent prerequisites for obtaining a visa to be one of the fine purveyors of the English language in Korea, one of which included obtaining a criminal record. The company had been planning on me arriving somewhere near the 26th of February, and one must allow a maximum of ten days after proper documentation is provided to actually have the visa in his or her passport. Those plans to have me in Korea by the 26th were dashed to the ground not only by the seeming impossibility of obtaining a criminal record within my state within any time under two weeks but also by the fact that it would take an additional two weeks for me to retrieve my passport with the visa in it from the Korean embassy in my state. To the surprise of two who were to be my coworkers and me, we were to be flown to L.A. to obtain our visas. This required that we were to stay in L.A. for two days and one night, which was fine with me, as I was glad to have finally been progressing in something. While we had the luxury of gratuitously staying in a Korean-style hotel in L.A. for both days, we also had to bear the hefty sum required to be transported from LAX to the Korean embassy (the embassy being approximately 30 minutes from the airport). Tschüss @ 70 dollars.

Our visas were provided within three hours, so we had about a day and 11 hours at our disposal. It just happened to be my birthday that day (my 19th birthday, mind you), and we ended up meandering in Korean Town. At a temperature of 80 degrees, we weren't the most comfortable after having arrived in L.A. from 15-degree (Fahrenheit) weather, but the rest of the time there was amazing...what a relief from arctic cold. After having napped for a bit, the three of us went out...only to be disenchanted by what lack of things we could do with our rather limited wherewithal. So, South Park in the hotel room, the divulgence of a phobia against redheads, and beer it was. The next day, we all experienced conception-altering Hollywood before our farewell to Korean Town (and L.A.) for our midnight flight to Korea.

March: A month of snow, the first two of what were to be many fastballs pitched at us, and intrigued minds ready to continue in their English development. Arriving at approximately 6:30 a.m., we were greeted by the awesome recruiter who had been ensuring our smooth-as-possible arrival here in Korea: Hiro. Before being chaffeured for an hour-and-a-half in our own private van, Brian (one of the to-be English teachers that was on this L.A. adventure with one of my now-coworkers and me) was to teach at another, rather distant, branch. He was also to live in that area. My coworker and I were introduced to our apartments first, and I was relatively enthralled with my apartment because I hadn't had my own place since nine months prior in Tokyo. Keypadded door security system...the view outside my window. Heating and air-conditioning unit, which I found out later was actually just an air-conditioning unit...which just made my apartment room even colder. Anyway, these were the three things with which I was quite impressed. We then saw Brian's apartment (bigger than ours), and we had Korean breakfast in a little family-owned Korean restaurant; Dunkin Donuts followed. At some point that day, if I remember correctly, fastball number two came: We were to begin teaching the next day. Say what, you say? Yes. We were super-trained by our foreign boss who happened to be quite cool, if I may say so...and we were also introduced to some of the coworkers who had already been in Korea for some time longer than we had been. Korean division of labor had the one coworker with whom I had come over here and me separated, but we still communicated outside of work. The rest of March consisted of me becoming accustomed to more and more of Korea, making acquaintances and friends, teaching, impractical squandering of my allowance, and the rekindling of my relationshp with my Blogger account after two years.

I cannot recall much of April, but I do remember having attended a company trip to a mountain. It was a fun time, even if there were times at which I had thought that I would fall and die. I sported a great, pink flower in my hair, which just so happened to be a fitting accessory to the pink polo that I was wearing. Two coworkers had been lost, so they missed much of the mountain climbing and soju imbibition that transpired at the top of the mountain (surprisingly we didn't have to eulogize any of our coworkers on our way down the mountain). It was made known by one of my coworkers that I know how to write in Iraqi (which wasn't even Arabic, but Persian...but who's noticing?). All together again at last, we all partook in eating chicken that was layered with a sort of lacquer. It had been highly recommended that each of us take a pill that purportedly "protected us from the toxicity". This is all I really remember from the month of April--other than our first payday--but I'm sure that there were many Friday nights in Itaewon...and alcoholic consumption outside of the Family Mart under the officetel in which I live.

I remember close to nothing about May, but I think it was when I went to one of Seoul's zoos and various other places with one of my Korean coworkers who had been wanting to take me out for quite some time. I was still happy with how blessed I was for actually liking my job, those with whom I worked, and even some of those into whose minds I was instilling the Magical Language of Opportunity and Door-Opening.

I might have bought my first digital camera since the untimely demise of my first one in Tokyo, in May. I do know for certain that this was the month in which my best friend from high school married another former band member. I was unable to participate in the wedding because I hadn't already been working for this company for three months, a prerequisite for taking any of the 10 five paid vacation days.

June and July invoke memories of mostly festive times, spliced with new teachers, frustrations, fabrications, and a fight that resulted in collateral damage. We had two new teachers: One was to work upstairs with the middle school students, and one was to work downstairs with the elementary school students. Again, the division of labor is quite apparent at my company. While two new people were introduced to the company, one of my Korean coworkers had been deemed a bad apple by The Powers that Be...resulting in her being snipped. Fortunately, she had a birthday before all of this, in which many coworkers and I participated. Delicious food, plenteous sake (for me; alcohol in general for the rest), making the acquaintance of a Korean male escort who had been "seeing" one of my coworkers, an anal penholder, a first time at hookah, some lamentations, much photographing, and some time spent at Woodstock in Gangnam all made that night/morning a fun one.

One of my coworkers had two parties--one for his transferral to another branch, and another for his return to America. Both of these were celebrated in, where else, Itaewon. The first one was celebrated in a lounge, which was followed by idling in one of the other bars, in which we played pool and did a bit of dancing. The second was a more festive one: more people attended, though a rainy night in Itaewon it was. I arrived late because of some frustrations with an Iranian travel agency (explained below), and some had already left for the all-too-predictable Homo Hill. From the bar, those who remained left for a club called BricX, which is somewhat nicely designed on the inside, though another basement, back-alley club. Pole-dancing, more alcohol, pole-dancing competition, and the joining of others who had previously gone to dip into the crowd in Homo Hill, made the time there a fun one.

The night wasn't over, for a noraebang session was to follow. Some made it there; others, including myself, were not so lucky. A drunk Korean man (redundancy) felt as if he had been slighted because one of my coworkers had apparently been having tactile relations with his "girl". After much effort at an intervention, a push and a blow to my coworkers face by what turned out to be a pusillanimous little thing (one does not strike a person and then recoil timidly apologizing the second afterward), things were settled and each went his separate way. ---- We were cut short in our adventure to the noraebang by the same guy, but this time the Slighted One made a return and started asphyxiating me. Flabbergasted (and let's not forget, literally breathless), I had no reaction. Thankfully, my coworkers were just a few paces in front of me, and one of them saved what likely could have been my life. After having thrown the Slighted One to the ground, and after having inflicted some blows, the two were separated. I spewed some anger-saturated words at the Floored One, which included an apparently failed attempt to hurt his pride and tell him that he was not Korean. Lost Fail in Translation. What did seem to provide a stinging laceration to his ego was my fellative gesture suggesting that I would like to utilize him to placate whatever prurient pangs that I might have been having. His friends finally settled the otherwise Slighted Offended One, and my Korean boss told me that this had transpired because I was "thin, black, and with two Korean girls". I suppose that some are more concerned about the low birthrate and all the miscegenation and recombination in Korea. Failure on his part @ not noticing that he actually would have been my mate of choice...if this were actually physiologically possible. Anyhow, noraebang was not meant to be, and those who had been involved in and had borne witness to this ridiculousness just went home.

What a fun-filled weekend whose fun plummeted to the ground. Sure, those happen, but it was just one out of many weekends to be had here in Korea. Incorrect. Two weeks later, a coworker and I go to meet some friends there. Shortly afterward, I'm accosted by one of the boys who work there. He holds a picture of two people leaving the club, asking if I was one of the men in the picture. After responding affirmatively, I'm asked to leave the club. I turn this into a dispute, especially because of the horribly prefabricated account that I had touched one of the club's waitresses (whom he said was his sister, but we later found out that she wasn't actually his sister) in a bathroom. I was not drunk (or even so much tipsy) two weekends ago, so I remember exactly what it was that I had done that night...and that certainly was not among the things that I had done. Just to add to the fail at his prefabricated account, I informed him that I am a homosexual, which he said that he knew. Having been so confident that his pretext was just that--a pretext, I told him to have the girl tell this to the police, whom I also had him call. I sat down with my friends for a while, despite the fact that the little harpy was trying to interject with his demands that I leave. The police came and asked if we could go outside with the problematic bartender. There were exchanges of words, and of course there were two sides to the story. Nothing was settled, but it was decided that I (and from what I had thought, the coworker in the picture with me) was banned from the peon by one of its little peons. Moreover, my information from my registration was taken down by an officer. Two men tried to facilitate things for both parties involved; one of them was a disutility while the other was wholly bilingual but made the point that it was the peon who "owned" the club that night (in the absence of the club's true owner). The waitress who had "made this claim" was never contacted, and she had apparently quit for that night. I suppose that this was her way of going out in honor.

As the cherry on top, there was a fight that caused collateral damage at a bar called The Loft. I successfully separated the two groups at first, but I gave up after the shards of glass went a-flying and the flailing with broken pitchers in-hand had started. Some bystanders were hurt, and my flip-flop sandals had a shard of glass stuck in it, which pierced that groove in which the toe meets the toenail. The fight was rather bloody and destructive, and after this is when I had decided that I must retire from Itaewon. It was during Chuseok holiday, which is the big national holiday here in Korea.

Ending the month of July on a positive note, there was the Boryeong Mud Festival at Daecheon beach. This occurred at the beginning of July, but this seemed to be the most suitable place to mention it, to steer this entry at least somewhat out of the negativity. It was my first time having been to a beach in years, and it was an amazing time. I'm thankful to my coworker for having reserved my spot. Everything from the 8:30 a.m. bus ride to the journey back was fun: the mud festival itself, being enveloped in the mud, knowing that the layer of mud was actually healthy for my skin, the salinity of the ocean water, the vastness of the ocean (which left the mind to imagine venturing beyond the safety boundaries, the seashells that were collected, the dug holes, nighttime at the beach, the beauteous, studly ones from the braggadocio to the more modest, the relieving feeling of being kilometers away from all-too-urban Seoul, the feeling of the saltwater dried on one's skin and in one's hair, and the people with whom I shared these memories. Returning to Seoul was unavoidable, but I remember thinking that everything in general was just much better after that trip, even if my second digital camera in Seoul (10MP Sony touch-panel) was ruined on the trip; I even called my grandmother, and would have 'come out' to my mother if she had actually picked up the phone when I had called...the moment passed, though, for it was only slightly more transient than that high on which I had been for a few days.

Gosh, I wish that my memory card could have been salvaged.

I also made my first attempt to travel to Iran, but it failed after I had failed to progress in effectively communicating with the Iranian travel agency to obtain my visa. Three months was not a sufficient amount of time to have alloted for planning a trip to Iran. After having failed to go to Iran, I was rather disheartened and felt rather discouraged for a while.

Much of August consisted of me avoiding clubbing scenes and Itaewon and buying a pet turtle. I managed to save more, and there were a few rooftop wine parties of three during August, if I remember correctly. Also in August, I bought my first dSLR, which I'm most fortunate to have intact. It was on a rainy day, and such a purchase for some reason called for a Vietnamese meal. I also was introduced by a coworker to a few friends of his and a casino in which one may fatten him- or herself with copious amounts of alcohol and palatable dishes...whilst gambling one's money away. After that, we went to Itaewon, but that was only because I was more insouciant to where I was going due to the amount of wine consumed. An unfortunate collision eventually occurred with one of my previous infiltrators, made unfortunate by the fact that I had to deal with externalized histrionics. After having had to deal with this, I decided that Itaewon--now including Homo Hill--was an area to circumvent at most costs (especially after dusk). No more homo concern for bogus strike #2 with the 경찰 under more false pretenses.

September doesn't really bring back any memories in particular. Oh, there was a shift in the little hierarchy that my company has constructed: A coworker and I were moved downstairs, which left Keith as the sole foreign teacher left upstairs. It was something about which the three of us weren't happy. Again, September was boring. So I'll wake you up when September ends...which is now.

October: The month that marks what one may characterize as a recession in my social least that among those with whom I work. I bought an iPod Touch that I have seldom used at the beginning of the month. Also during this month, there was a call for mingling and teamwork via a company trip for which I was the apparent photographer. Ever since, I started wondering about people: the things I've been told, observations, reflections and piecing these all together have put my trust in people in question. The rest of the month passed, and the more distant I became, the less I invested. Halloween went uncelebrated this year by me, but that wasn't the first Halloween...and I bought candy for the students in one of my classes, anyway.

I forgot to mention Chris's birthday party. Chris, a cousin of my coworker's, had a party in Wangsimni, and it was incredible. Though there was tension between two of the attendees, it still turned out to be a fantastic time. I was introduced to beer pong, and I received a free drink. Many memories were captured on my Canon, and I'm still grateful for having been invited to the party.

November consisted of two hospital visits, two birthday parties, the sad death of my turtle, several excursions around Korea, and a Thanksgiving dinner. The first hospital visit was to a friend, Michael, whom I have mentioned in two of my previous blog entries. I stayed an entire day, and I cherished every minute of it. I'm terribly glad that I paid this visit alone because it was nice to be manumitted from tension, even if just for a while. I also archived this refreshing, visit in one of my November blog entries. Between that and the next hospital visit was an impromptu birthday party at a 삼겹살 restaurant. Having had plenteous adipose and the complementary alcohol, we helped make a coworker's birthday a fun one...until he needed to return home to regurgitate. After this birthday dinner, some of us proceeded to Woodstock for more alcohol, a dartboard, and the human jukeboxes. All of this was to prepare us for our hospital visit the next day. Being an obligatory check-up on our fitness as foreigners in Korea, the three of us who didn't flake out had to undergo many of the tests that we had undergone upon first arriving here. The difference is that we didn't micturate ethanol--thus compromising any results--in our first tests...well, we also didn't have our throats checked during our first tests. Fortunately, our attendance was rewarded with a company-paid lunch at Bennigan's, a little of which I ate because of the blood extracted from this obvious temple that is my body.

My friend Theresa and a coworker of mine shared a birthday party on a Saturday. I was somewhat skeptical about attending at first, but I'm glad that I did attend. It consisted of a studly fire twirler, bowls of alcohol (one would deem me a mere drunkard from the number of times I've mentioned alcohol in this post), dancing in Apgujeong, plenteous photos, a first-time offer to do E (which I of course declined), taxi rides across town, smoky bars, birthday cakes, more imbibition, lustful pangs for certain girls-of-interest (i.e. me, obviously ^ ^), and in-taxi competition for a woman who had decided to accompany us. Oh what fun it is to party.

A couple of days before Thanksgiving, I treated two coworkers of mine to a Vietnamese lunch. I am quite glad that we were able to spend that time together. Unfortunately this had to happen as one of them was to be leaving in roughly one month. I'm no ingrate, though.

Thanksgiving Day was lamentable: I had to work, as expected, but I also had to listen to others exchange their fulfilled and plans for the day. The utter lack of an oven (and many of the culinary essentials) and food redolent of a typical Thanksgiving Day just amplified said suckitude. However, I was blessed enough to have been invited to a Thanksgiving dinner on the Saturday after Thanksgiving proper by my friend and coworker, Keith. We even went to Costco on Saturday and bought everything that was to be consumed at the dinner. The dinner was prepared and subsequently consumed in a spacious apartment, and everything that was prepared was delicious. As I had said in my blog entry about the Thanksgiving dinner, I celebrated Thanksgiving in 2008 thanks to this awesome invite.

December was a month of consumption. The power of EMart, CostCo, and Kim's Club is compelling. Among one of my several purchases this month was this bundle of cutecute:

A solar-powered head bobber is basically what it is. However, it is a cute solar-powered head bobber. It served as my sole "pet" of sorts for a while, until I graduated to buying a real pet...with real entrails...physiological processes and everything.

This was also a month of social mingling, bon(s) voyages, and new faces to the company. A coworker whom I think of as a friend had a grand farewell party (along with the handful of Korean teachers who have made their sanity a priority, and its grandness was made obvious by the large turnout. From a pre-party White Elephant activity, to 삼겹살, to several rounds of beer pong, to a late-night at the noraebang...all photographed by me, Keith, and one of the new coworkers who happened to have been the newest foreign face to the company by just a couple of days. His departure was quite saddening, a feeling which I had made known numerous times to him prior to the night's conclusion. He wasn't to leave until days later, but I figured that I'd not be seeing him during any of those days. There was a meaningful notebook that I was going to give to him as a farewell gift, but I was dissuaded from doing so. He, like another foreign teacher and the Korean teachers, did receive a Seasons Greetings cards. After his party, though, social mingling wasn't over for me. I was invited by Keith to a buffet dinner at the top of a department store here in Seoul. Delectable dishes, ever-coming wine, new acquaintances that have become friends, and a particularly kind waiter. Following the closing of the buffet, we went to a bar to have a few more rounds of beer (for me, the wine that I had brought with me), and then we ventured into a noraebang and bellowed out Queen, K-Ci & Jo-Jo, Whitney Houston (I wonder who would have had the gumption to sing that 8-) ), &c. We found ourselves bound for Itaewon in a taxi (being with Keith and Meghan made it O.K. with me) to one of the many beer stations that was still serving to those willing to consume it.

Christmas Day is a holiday in Korea, so the Korean kids had a reprieve from the academy. Instead, the parents took their young ones to the bookstore to invest in books for their children's future--particularly in English. Christmas is also a day for couples to be out and superciliously about the city. I found Holly's Coffee, and it has ever since been a haven for spending time with my coworkers and watching TV shows on the internet on our respective laptops and deluding myself into thinking that I get things accomplished whilst away from my apartment.

Perhaps my Christmas wasn't filled with silver bells, carols, and presents, but my Christmas present to myself came after Christmas Day proper:

Remember when I alluded to having a real pet? There she beautiful little bunny! She has yet to be named because I am on a quest to find the closest-fitting, beautiful name for her (I don't want anything too cliché like 'Snow', but 'Lilac', 'Lily', and Indigo are the current runners-up). I had seen this cage of rabbits at Kim's Club several weeks prior, but a cashierwoman at the register informed me in Korean that I couldn't buy one of them. Due to the language barrier that's thicker than the DMZ, I left without answers as to why I was unable to buy a bunny. (Apparently, there is a separate "pet" section, and all transactions regarding pets are to be handled in the "information" section). This bunny was a great way to close the year of 2008 and start the year of 2009.

Here we are...coming upon the last stop in 2008: New Year's Eve. It was very much expected that we would still have to drill more and more English into the brains of our students, but this was a day on which working until 10 p.m. was the most regretful. These shifts running into the night might be the most regretful for those who had to remain until 11:15 (e.g. me) or later (a Korean coworker of mine who had to stay until everyone had left the building). I was to meet some friends and coworkers in Hongdae, and after the ten-minute wait for a taxi, sharing a taxi with a Korean coworker from middle school, and not contacting a coworker with whom I was to go to Hongdae until 11:45, I knew that the countdown was not meant to be. Therefore, at midnight, I watched a display of fireworks from my window. Yes, it was cold outside, but to have missed something that brings the masses together and lightens hearts is somewhat disheartening. That was quickly remedied by the rest of the night that came after midnight, though. A misunderstanding was even resolved and good relations have been restored! ^ ^

This is the end of the line, so please make sure you have your eyesight after reading this lengthy entry before you part from the blog. Thank you for riding through 2008 with me, and my blog hopes to see you again...even before the 2009 train that will take us into the second decade of the millennium. Last but not least, once again, Happy New Year!


Vacuous Girl

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Generalized text messages on the cell phone. Couples most gaudily exhibiting their newest fashion: each other. Consumption. These are what Christmas Day is about here in Korea.

Like much of mainstream fashion, however, nothing was particularly appealing. The male models for this 'love' fashion weren't even that appealing, contrary to what one would expect on such a gaudy holiday as Christmas Day--especially in as superficial a country as Korea city as Seoul.

Imagine an immensely underdressed Holly Golighty, sans the sunglasses and Danish pastry, avec a handbag tearing through her trapezius and rendering her clavicular snap imminent--wholly unimpressed by that which is being displayed in the window (or windows, rather). Better yet, factor in the trans-display window fleers, and you have the nightmare of Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl. This is much what going out in Seoul on Christmas Day has been...minus the nightmare part.

That was at COEX, but Seocho's multitude seemed to have congregated at where else other than...the bookstore. Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Studying? Having been temporarily oblivious of the fact that Korean parents try to turn their children into little supercomputers, I was surprised to have seen so many people in the bookstore (!) on Christmas Day. Dorks. 8-) Or who's the grander dork for being 70,000 won (= 0.70 USD) less rich (won)/ poorer (USD)?

Mission Accomplished--I bought at least one new book. On to Holly's Coffee: today, an otherwise barren franchise, save the patches of scattered couples and others who have dared to go out and about in Seoul garbed in their singlehood--some wearing it with grace; others wearing it like something from Old Navy...Sears...Walmart...something that is worn when one runs out of laundry, even. Wait, did I just mention Walmart twice? Apparently this is also the place where little trinkets of surprise drop in:

  • Two of my newest coworkers come in and stay for a while. It was a nice surprise.

Dear God,

Thank you for the internet. You are always here for me, and You're quite amazing.


Vacuous Girl.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

صديق هنا في الكريا.  ه'ذا يوم اليوم قبل الملاد و صديقي امريكيّ في امريك فأنا وحيد ه'ذا ملاد ولكن لا أعمل غدا.

من یک دوست در کوریا است. شب قبل کوریسمس امروز است و دوستم امریکای در امریکا است . من این کوریسمس تنها خواهم بد ولی فردا عمل ندارم.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008



Monday, December 08, 2008

Yesterday, there's a wonderful snowfall for a while. Today, it is in the 40s or 50s. Those of us who have free-flowing mucus, ailing throats, &c., will never be rid of it/them.

I did happen to find this awesome video yesterday, however, via a random YouTube (Korean server) Most Watched video search. There was one of Rain (비) performing at a ceremony (with him ripping off his shirt at the end, with his back to the camera) but the performance in its entirety...blew imo.

Friday, December 05, 2008

My, it's been a while since I've updated my blog. There has been very little about which I can blog right now...that I'd be willing to share with the one-member mass. I was blessed with the opportunity to have a Happy Thanksgiving, even if it was belated. On the Friday night following Thanksgiving Day, I was invited to a Thanksgiving dinner that was being held by one of my friends' and his girlfriend's friend at her new apartment. We were pretty excited about this, since none of us did anything special on Thanksgiving Day proper. With convenience and my Costco membership card on our side, we were determined to make the Saturday that was to come an amazing Thanksgiving.

So determined that we all finally convened at around 2:30 or 3:00 in the afternoon--instead of early in the morning, as had been originally planned--to go on a CostCorrific adventure. :D We had a great time in Costco nonetheless, and we probably would have bought even more if we had had a car at our disposal. Yours Truly Prodigal wanted to buy nearly every little trinket of saccharine goodness harbored in that fine purveyor of foreign products. Thankfully each of us was able to restrain ourselves...though we ended up returning some of the items that we had bought. We thoroughly embarrassed Keith by bellowing out "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music out in the seemingly teen weather.

After a navigational challenge, we found the apartment, and my what a spacious apartment it was! Had I been staying here in Korea for longer than a year, I definitely would have been painstakingly ransacking the internet for a girthier apartment...but this apartment was enough to make an otherwise intransigently "single"-apartment-only person consider bearing the burden of cohabiting with some...other. After a short tour, we headed back out into the puncturing cold to purchase some necessary items that were to help the dinner be an even more successful one--you know, such items as plates and cushions for our delicate asses. :) Being the consumption whore that I am, I spied a pair of Piglet and Winnie the Pooh slippers resting in a basket. Through my powers of influence, I was able to convince Kaitlin (the friend at whose apartment the fabulous dinner was to be had) to buy the other pairs of Winnie the Pooh and Piglet slippers--what facilitated this was the fact that each pair was only about 4000 won (= USD 4 x 10-234 or something).

On the way back to the apartment, there were flurries for all but one or two minutes. It was absolutely amazing for the short time that it lasted, though we had hoped that it would progress to snowfall, making it verisimilitudinous of a typical Thanksgiving Day (based on my image of a typical Thanksgiving Day).

Once back at the apartment, I was able to but my scant cooking experience to good use: I chopped carrots and cucumbers. The next thing you know, I'll be owning Chef Ramsay at life...chucking spade-filled dumplings at him and calling him a mediocre fag. :D Returning to reality...I didn't really do more than chop the carrots and cucumbers, for I socialized and frolicked about the apartment between sporadic yet sexy nose-blowings, tasting the hors d'oeuvres that I had helped make, and Keith's continuous attempts at gallivanting (it was fun harpooning him in his quixotic little heart, though) ㅋㅋㅋ笑ㅋㅋ. Kaitlin's roommate and her friend were pretty nice, and I hope that she'll make a great roommate for Kaitlin.

After a while, we enjoyed a feast of chicken (we had bought three, though we only ate two :/), dressing, gouda, bread, the hors d'oeuvres that weren't consumed, and copious amounts of wine. ^^ It was amazing, and I gave two toasts... dissatisfied with the first one. I was so thankful for having been invited to the dinner. This year thankfully did not pass as another Thanksgiving-less one, thank God. I tried to express this, but I failed at expressing even half of my appreciation. Perhaps it was the fact that we had been talking about abused children and other things for which we weren't actually thankful.

Ramsay, Amanda, and Joo Won arrived at a considerably later time, but that stopped not the merrymaking. Joo Won actually brought a delectable pumpkin cheesecake, and we consumed more wine after a vexing colluctation with the corkscrew on the 마주앙 wine bottle (not the first bottle of the brand to be problematic). From here, we were sprawled across the floor discussing various topics...which included the praiseworthy Failblog.orgz!! I was mostly imbibing what was being talked about--at a steadily decreasing rate, due to my increasing somnolence, which eventually led to a roughly one-hour nap...after which we helped slightly organize the apartment before leaving.

Last Sunday will be angrily censored.

On Tuesday, I was fortunate to have visit my friend Christian's apartment. We're coworkers, and he invited me into his apartment that night to see his [cute] dog and to stay a while. His dog has a beautiful face, and he was considerably inexpensive for a pure-bred dog. Seeing him totally inspired me to get a dog whilst here in Korea. I even went to Dongdaemun in hopes of getting a Miniature Pinscher, something on which I'll be expanding shortly. While I was at my friend's, however, he read my Tarot cards. It was pretty interesting how accurately he told me about myself and interpreted different aspects of my life. I'm a Christian, so I had some reserve at first, but I think that tarot card-reading may serve as some sort of general guidance...especially since your readings can and do change each time. So I felt justified in doing it and in appreciating some of the clarity that came from it.

The next night, I went to Dongdaemun to try to find a Miniature Pinscher, for I was told that that was one of the breeds that was sold there. This is the breed on which my mind was what if it has a proclivity for intermittent barking? That barking can be put under control through proper training. I was told that there is a quality veterinarian who is versed in the English language and located within a reasonable proximity. Of course there were many other factors which I needed to take in mind, but to truncate this paragraph, I'm just going to say that I was unsuccessful at finding any dogs being sold in Dongdaemun. :( What also made me wonder if this new pet was meant to be mine was the fact that my turtle died the next day. :( My poor Periwinkle died. My students said that I should bury it (where?) rather than flush it down to its blissful grave in the sewer, but I refuse to find some place in the ass cold that finely describes the most current weather outside.

Due to the freezing weather outside, I made a cup of plum tea (매실차) for most of the co-workers and staff at work...and that's the most up-to-date that this blog is going to get for right now.

I have pictures from the Thanksgiving dinner, but I haven't uploaded them to my computer yet. Once I upload them to Photobucket in about 29483794837 light years, I'll be sure to post them on here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Here it is, Thanksgiving Day. Due to the precipitation, it feels as if the temperature has dropped about 293487987 Kelvins. It totally doesn't feel like Thanksgiving, and it's one of the parts about being back in the States that I actually miss. I did absolutely nothing, and my hearty Thanksgiving meal actually consisted of nothing. I did get to spend Thanksgiving Day with the only three foreign teachers I like at my job the workplace.

In addition to having a job and wherewithal--some things that are not guaranteed--I'm thankful for having spent the day (working hours) with the three aforementioned...though it was sort of forced. I was also introduced to an application-game on Facebook that was worth joining.

I really didn't think about the facts that (a) today = Thanksgiving Day, and (b) it doesn't feel like Thanksgiving Day...but being at home in my apartment certainly had me thinking about these facts. The morbid depression.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What better way to say, "eat shit", to your mounting problems?

Squander what meager sum of your monthly wherewithal you managed to save for what had been a very much anticipated excursion...on little conveniences that could easily have been forgone.

This is exactly what I did. My little excursion to Iran has been delayed yet again. I had been planning to go in the end of December...most likely the last week that is to segue into the new year. I gave notice about this well-anticipated trip back in September, but it apparently wasn't archived in the boss's planner. One of my friend-coworkers had informed the boss of taking vacation time long ago, so it was already known that the company will be unfettering him during this time. However, another coworker managed to get January 2 (Friday) off, which scythed my five-day excursion at the patellae. Going on the 22nd of December was my Plan B, but that was shanked as well: I have to be present for the first week of the winter semester; my students-to-be--and what I'm sure will be, for some, students-of-old--need that extra week to "deal with" the ten-week shock of having the "라면"-haired, blue contact -lensed, "abysmally-nostrilled" 선생님...imported from Africa. Therefore, my journey to Iran has been postponed by yet another month. :/

من به ایران خواهم بروم!!! >:O

What this means is that I can tap into my hardly adequate-but-no-less-pecuniary resources to nourish what had been the somewhat ailing Consumption Whore, which has become an integral part of me. COEX very willingly acquiesced in providing me the environment in which to do this.

I bought a new coat...and I spent only one-sixth of what I had thought I was going to be paying for a coat. I did fail at getting a coat that is heavier than the one that I have already I'll still be freezing my colossal self off this winter. It was from a store called Roem--a store which sells apparel exclusively for women, whose name I'm hoping (though quite sure) isn't a flagrant, orthographic fail at "Rome". It took me nearly an hour to make the final selection, especially since I was concerned about the shoulder length, the overall form-fit, and whether it would come to my knees. The coat was 130,000 won (= USD 2).

Then, I went into a store called "Basic House", in which I had found another coat...but I also had found a sweater jacket, neither of which I ended up buying. The coat did not fit me to my liking, and the sales representative, aside from his making me exit the one fitting room they had after three minutes, refused to sell me the display sweater jacket because it was the last one of its color. I took this as a sign from God that I was not meant to squander in that store.

So where did I go? Linko, an office supply store. I'm sure I've blogged about my adequately requited love for office supplies and its purveyors. I made a pit stop to the book store. The only reason for doing this, however, was that there was a congregation outside of its entrance. My curiosity was sparked, and what to my wandering mind and eyne appeared, but a studly Sir in a sharp, blue dress shirt...looking like 99.9% of the Korean men that meet the eyne on the street, in the train, &c. However, this happened to be a book promotion; this stud is apparently a fitness trainer who, I'm supposing, is renowned in Korea. This was evidenced by the poster behind him, on which there was a picture of his well-defined body for the bystanders and bypassers to gaze at in awe and after which one must lust. On the ONE. DAY. that I don't bring my camera, he happened to be at COEX at the same time as I. >< x 23984237398.

I resorted to the popular yet lame snapshooting with the camera phone (my used cell phone is old). After a few minutes, he went inside the bookstore, and people continued extending their cell phones and taking photos. I went in the bookstore, and there was the book. *snapshot @ the sexy front cover* I had thought about buying the book while he may have been watching, just so that he could gratitude-fuck me (or, 감사함니다-fuck me) in return. :O @#($#@ :) ;) ;)))))) Worry ye not, for I knew that I had just had my head up in the polluted Korean clouds. I didn't buy the book, but I sure did contemplate it, in order to add it to those 29384 Playgirl magazines I have here in my apartment. :P (I own zero Playgirl magazines, and I'm not too sad about that.)

By the way, the illustrations were amazing, even though there was a female alongside him in many of the pictures. *forest green face*

After this, I went to Linko, an office supply store. I'm sure that I've blogged about my adequately requited love for office supplies and its purveyors. I bought even more notecards that I don't even use, and I figured that I might as well buy a larger capacity memory card for my camera...given that I was already well into the squandering spree. The 8 GB memory card was 39,000 won (maybe the equivalent of a penny in US currency), and the 16 GB memory card was 79,000 won (maybe close to two pennies). I couldn't decide which to buy, so I went with the cheaper one...only to have a volte-face in what apparently still was an ongoing debate in my head, at the check-out counter. I had forgotten about the fact that I take all of my pictures in RAW + JPEG mode now, which leaves me with slightly over 200 pictures to fit onto a 4 GB memory card.

A fattening under the aegis of Sbarro's, a fail at purchasing new shoes, finding out that I'm a size 8 (and not a 9), a purchase from Alpha (another office supply store), two pajama pants purchases, another pajama pants purchase, and a heater purchase (one of the main reasons for even leaving my very humble abode today) later, I'm back here at my apartment. Now, it's time for that party which I mentioned in yesterday's entry. Ruh-roh.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What a wonderful day to be Friday! ^^ There seems to be a relief from the seemingly intempestive cold that penetrated the bowels of Seoul three days ago. Clueless as to the longevity of this relief, wishful thinking has me imploring for an extension to January--or when my contract expires in March.

In addition, my Korean co-worker opened up and told me about the distress that accompanies the daunting task of parleying with nitpicky harpies whose joi de vivre seems to be instilling fear in our laboring souls, making us fearful of being sent to the vicious abattoir for employees--and in Korea, this fear is very much warranted. Anyhow, it was great that she shared this with me...even if it was under duress.

Of course, the fact that it is Friday just makes this day that much sweeter. I mean, it is the end of what is oftimes an abysmal week otherwise. With this unexpected warming, I may even have to make plans to go somewhere new this weekend. :O Your Local Recluse, however, has a party to attend this weekend--a party to which he had thought that he would not have ended up being invited. Hopefully it won't just result in me entropizing what will otherwise have been a perfect gathering comprising the perfect crowd of and the perfect chemistry between guests.

On a completely different tangent, I happened to come across this pulchritudinal, studly little gem whilst leaving a little trinket or so of my own on one of my friends' walls on Facebook:

Sure, China may be a cauldron of opportunistic fails (some epic; some not), natural disasters, and people...but it sure can produce some Adonic creatures. < / ludicrous reverie >

More amusing is the fact that my friend Greg caught me in flagrante delicto perusing the album of this beauty, in which there are pictures of him at nearly all angles. ;)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Yes! Not only do I have at least one reader from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mauritania, and Iceland, but also I have a reader! ^^ I am grateful that he has deemed my blog worthy of following! :)

Yes! I also found an article in which the word Schadenfreude was used! It's a wonderful word to have reserved in one's vocabulary bank, though a spoonful is a vast understatement...and it isn't limited to just parents. The spirit of Schadenfreude is very much alive and well in my classes here; rather than worry about themselves and whether they are fine, they tend to fixate (some to a greater extent than others) on the problems of others...many jumping at the opportunity to exacerbate those problems.

On a completely different note, the Korean soldier who had taken down my email address in Cheorwon emailed me a few days ago! ^^ The email was entitled "Hi, My Friend"! What a wonderful prelude to a message that you know is not unfiltered spam mail.

It snowed this afternoon! Thank goodness for the precipitation because it was obnoxiously frigid yesterday and Tuesday. Seeing the snow falling this afternoon reminded me of Day One in Korea; it snowed a few hours after one of my coworkers and I had arrived in Seoul. What I'm hoping is that it won't seem as if I'm living in Siberia or Ellesmere Island in Nunavut when February arrives.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I've resolved to share with you my pictures of this past weekend, though I do run the somewhat unhedgeable risk of having this good memory ruined. This last weekend was an amazing was one of my best weekends here in South Korea.

On Saturday morning, I was determined to go to 철원 (Cheorwon/Cheolwon), the northernmost area in Gangwon-do, a nearly three-hour ride from Seoul. Unfortunately, I didn't make it to the Express Bus Terminal in time to leave Seoul at any time before 11:40. I was a little vexed, because that meant that I was to arrive at Cheorwon after 2 p.m., at which point I would feel as if I had wasted the day.

I do, however, thank God for another beautiful deliverance from His Invisible Hand.

Simply marvelous.

Of course, there were pictures to be taken on the way to my destination. Of course, I fail at the "Think Fast!" game...thus many opportunities were missed. Then again, it's not fun when you have to be irritatingly painstaking when removing the camera from its case, remove the lens cover, turn on the camera, and wait for the camera to autofocus. Several cuts later, these are some of the pictures that made it to Photobucket:

This was not too far from the Express Bus Terminal at a more easterly location.

Looking back at the direction whence I came.

For the two hours that remained, much of what was to be seen can be seen in the following picture:

Then the scenery gradually becomes more interesting as one nears the destination terminal:

This could be a section of the Hantang River for all that I know. It's a downright shame that the red beam just had to be captured in the photo as well.

The sky even became more interesting and photograph-worthy as I neared the terminal:

Cheorwon: The northwestern-most province in Gangwon-do...inundated with military men sporting the military raiment and the armpiece-girlfriend. The ubiquitous PC-방 and Family Mart are found along what seems to be a main addition to the numerous Korean chains and local, familial eateries. Its northern border is the DMZ, which serves as a symbol of the seemingly perpetual schism between the two Koreas. This and other residual wartime landmarks were the two wherefores for my having set foot in this county.

Under the auspices of the Sun, I was able to orient myself. However, I knew neither how remote I had been from the DMZ area nor how I was to to get there. I accosted a Korean man who had just parted from a taxi, and I asked him about possible ways to get to the DMZ area. Between my rudimentary Korean-speak and his rudimentary English-speak, he managed to take me to a taxi haven that was approximately 50 m south...since it never would have occurred to venture anywhere outside of a two-meter radius. ><

Anyhow, we arranged for the taxi driver to take me to my destination. There I was, on my way to the DMZ. Alone with a taxi driver who was only versed in the Korean language. The gumption...the balls. Balls were enlarging at 293857π m3/s (or something).

However, after I had arrived at the entrance that would take me to Woljeong-ri Station (올정리역), we were stopped in our trajectory by a military man. Obviously he and the taxi driver were speaking in Korean, but I knew that I had been shanked at my invisible bulge once I had heard the "없어요s" and the "최송합니다s". After two seconds of awkwardness, a U-turn was made and we headed for the second site, which was an entrance for another landmark. Fortunately, this entry site also provided a passageway to the Station. I was a little hesitant at first, for I had been unsure as to whether we were supposed to access this area. Since I was with the taxi driver, however, I figured that it must have been OK. It was also at this moment that I figured that my taxi driver was indeed my designated tour guide. This is something for which I was immensely appreciative, for I thought that this was something that was rarely ever done.

"Here I am in the DMZ," I thought. I do know what the 'D' and the 'M' mean in the acronym D.M.Z., but what seemed like the dearth of a military presence past the entry point brought about some confusion. (As a matter of fact, I am still perplexed as to whether this is DMZ territory or not.) Due to this inconclusiveness, I'll not refer to this area as the D.M.Z., though this makes me want to do so! Either way, the taxi driver and I arrived at Woljeong-ri:

From the taxi driver's gesticulations, I inferred that this was some sort of a memorial.

...or the presence of this bodacious tank--along with the aforementioned gesticulations--could have induced that inferential process.

On the front, it says "Woljeong-ri yeok (station)" in Chinese characters, to which one refers as 'hanja' in Korean. This is was the waiting area.

This is an explanation of the train's/station's history. Due to the limiting dimensions, I'm sure that the sign is illegible in all three of its languages. It had been used as a transport between Seoul and Wonsan in North Korea, prior to its destruction in the Korean War.

This would be the inside of the waiting area.

Lo, for this is the sign of which you may have heard or read about via blogs or websites of those who have journeyed to this part of the country. It reads: "Cheolma (Iron Horse) wants to run", certainly having an additive effect to the perceived dereliction or standstill in the area.

This is what remains of a train at Woljeong-ri Station.

Behind all of this was supposedly some sort of observation point that was closed:

So, my taxi tour guide and I proceeded north until we arrived at the Cheorwon Peace Observatory Center:

The English translation is actually rather new, for it is not present in the older pictures that have been propagated through blogs and websites on the intarnetz.

It is from this building that one can scope out the southernmost region of North Korea in the area...via binoculars that cost a mere 500 won (US $0.0005). The taxi driver was kind enough to invest 500 won in me, for what was to be a 10000% return. Had I not had to be heavily Diazepammed and quick inter alia, I would have tried to get a picture of one of the North Korean houses which my eye had happened to meet. Instead, I settled for pictures from a distance:

At least you can see the mountains, which, I believe, are actually North Korea's; don't you dare quote me on that, though.

My camera isn't even powerful enough to zoom in and see the actual North Korean houses. That village-esque area that you see toward the left is not North Korea...I'm almost sure of it. My zoom is not as powerful as--not to mention superior to-- that of the binoculars.

Do you spy those lower-rising mountains more toward the background? Great, awesome, and everything. That's North Korea.

Of course, my pictures of the country in which I'm actually living turn out better :/ :

Inside the Observatory, there was a one-room museum, in which different relics and images of the Korean War may be observed...including one of the many reasons I'm convinced that I was indeed in the DMZ:

There was also a 3D map of the DMZ and parts of the outlying regions that may be found on each side (North Korea's side being the more limited, naturally). Due to basically no light, my photos of this encased map were blurry...even with the high ISO and white balance settings.

From this point back to the entryway, the photographs that I took were lamentable messes. The taxi driver was wanting to get back, and I was trying to economize as best as I still could at the time.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B (!)

However, I did take some quality ones:

"No, I'm not trying to take a picture at all."

A few zig-zags in the road back to the main area of Cheorwon later, I thanked the taxi driver, who reaped a 50,000-won benefit in addition to a 10,000-won tip for my appreciation. This taxi driver gives me an impromptu tour, which he totally didn't have to do. Furthermore, I had been able to forego any reservations, paperwork, and waiting...all of which are required whilst traveling as a group.

Side Note: Christmas decorations are now up at Express Bus Terminal.

The next morning, I decided that I was to return to Cheorwon. A number of sites had been missed during my taxi tour. Therefore I needed to return for some sort of closure. As always, there were little capture-worthy trinkets of South Korea that met the eye along the way:

That was the best picture of the chartreuse house that I could get; the view was abruptly cut off by the high-reaching lands on which it lay. The two houses of such unconventional colors evoked memories of the sprightly, colorful houses seen in the suburb of the movie Edward Scissorhands

As is always the case in situations which one has become familiarized with a place and/or a route, it seemed to take a shorter time to arrive at the terminal in Cheorwon on Sunday. When I did get there, though, it didn't take me very long to catch a taxi and head to the area with the Second Underground Tunnel.

Patience, patience, for the Second Underground Tunnel is a part of the DMZ. Of course, authorization is needed to see it. One must first head to the tourist building in front of the Goseokjeong Pavilion (고석정):

Yes, you must "apply" to enter the sites and attractions within the "Security Area" (areas which include the Second Tunnel and the places that I had mentioned earlier in this post. The taxi driver had thought that he would be my tour guide, but I wasn't going to invest another 70,000 won in a second tour (the price which the taxi driver had demanded)...when I could save 67,000 won by other means.

A very kind woman who works at the entrance helped this day be a successful one for me. From the websites that I had perused before going to Cheorwon, I had had the notion that there were accessible tour buses that one may use to get around the area. However, a "tour group" consisted of a caravan of...well, caravans...which visit each of the sites on the scheduled tour (i.e. you must have a car or a taxi). (Later on in the tour, I saw tour bases in front of the Cheorwon Peace Observatory [see above], so I'm guessing that there were just no buses at that time.) Anyway, the kind woman took me inside the tourist office to see if there were any available spots for upcoming tours that day. The next tour was to start an hour later, so she told me to take the back exit of the building to go see Goseokjeong Pavilion while she was to check for said potential spots in the upcoming tours. I was also to report back to the tourist building in half-an-hour, so I quickly set out to Goseokjeong Pavilion.

Immediately, I thanked God for what beauteousness met my very eyes:

These were taken without any white balancing effect. Or I could be lying. ㅋㅋ This iswas the true red color of the leaves, though. When I said that Korea makes one appreciate the autumn season, I meant exactly that.

This was taken with white balance, because the output without the white balance was not only dull, but irreflective of what one saw with the naked (or assisted, I won't lie) eye. E.g.:


That was taken without the white balance, for sure.

After descending a little, one would come upon this beautiful view:

It was around this area where a Korean family (one of the numerous) said hello to me, and the children were asking basic questions in English with as much alacrity as most other Koreans who love the opportunity to test out their English on a native speaker. What was nice was the fact that they didn't assume that I was from Africa--unlike some of the un-miseducated children in Seoul.

After further descension--down to the sand--here is what one can see:

Achtung! Avert thine eyne! Fugly Creature Alert.

Thanks, Camera Timer.

It wasn't until on my way back up to the tourist office that I saw the actual pavilion:

Apparently, Goseokjeong was where a man known as the "Korean Robin Hood" (Imggeokjeong - 임꺽정) used to hide back in the Joseon dynasty. This is the repaired version of it.

Back up on the street level:

This is a staue of Imggeokjeong.

Also on street level, in front of the tourist office, one can see select wartime aircraft on display:

By this time, I had to check in to see if I would be able to tour the area. The kind woman from earlier told me that there were no "spots" available; my only choice would be a taxi. However, a more aged couple serendipitously happened to be taking a tour. The kind woman spoke with them, apparently asking if they'd be so magnanimous as to allow me to accompany them. I totally would not have expected her to have asked this of them, being that I'm a stranger...and that touring with them would entail riding in their car. I was even more surprised when she had told me that she had asked them about this...and that they said that I could accompany them on the tour! I of course thanked God for this, and we headed off to the tour (after I was exhorted not to solivagate at any point of the tour).

Neither was versed in English...nor was I versed in few words were exchanged between the couple and me. They were very hospitable; any snacks that they had bought were shared with me. It's a shame that I had nothing to reciprocate such kindness.

Roughly ten minutes later, we arrived at the Second Underground Tunnel, at which we were greeted by a soldier who assisted us in obtaining what were to be indispensable helmets. Enough of that, though. Let us browse some of the pictures that were taken of this subterranean thrill:

The bud of my curiosity and excitement was nipped with that shearing phrase of "No pictures, please". :( So you may be as disillusioned as I was when hearing this, but I can only say sorry and regret that I hadn't placed my camera in my whomping camera case before entering. I'll tell you that hospitalization or death would have resulted if anyone had decided to dare the journey without a helmet. One low-dipping stalactite in particular left me a little askew for a few seconds. I'm glad I walked through the tunnel nonetheless. At the end of the tunnel, one was able to peer into the North's side of the tunnel--at least five meters of it, which was guarded by a soldier and a firm iron gate that read "No Admittance"...and passively by a miner's cart.

The ascension to the 'street-level' was no cakewalk if you're not an active youthful one. Once we did make it up the stairs, we proceeded to a small observatory that contained aged artillery and memorabilia from the wartime.

Another ten minutes north (via car), we arrived at the ticket area, at which tickets for the observatory presentation and monorail are bought. Still wanting to reciprocate the kindness, I offered to pay for the tickets of all three of us. Each kindly declined and my fail was all-too-obvious, as they paid for my ticket. I hadn't insisted too much in fear of offending them, so I just deferred to their insistence on extending their kindness even more to me.

This is a quick shot of the monorail just prior to having boarded it.

Here is a picture taken from inside the monorail. Yes, of course that is South Korea.

Lo! Subsequent to getting off the monorail, a slew of military men were marching toward the entrance door of the Cheorwon Peace Observatory. As you can see, I decided that it was alright to just photograph them, and I did so after they were at ease:

On the second floor, there was a presentation, and the presentation room had an open view of North Korean mountaintops in the distance...with the front lined with binoculars and signs sporting the ubiquitous clip art that prohibits photography. :( During this presentation, that aforementioned platoon poured into the area outside the presentation room...gazing over into the remaining DMZ territory and North Korea. This is what they had been doing until a few of them saw me. From the corner of my left eye, I felt the piercing glances of curiosity. I peered over there continually, waving at the soldiers congregating around the window to glance at me, for what an unforeseen Other I was (especially with cerulean bluish sunglasses on in cloudy weather). To my joy, these soldiers were bodacious enough to reciprocate the somewhat friendly acknowledgement! Even more surprising, this brought even more curious eyes peering inside the presentation room, anxious to wave at this spectacle. It was quite cute, if I may say so myself.

After the presentation, I scoped out North Korea through the binoculars for the second time. Then I proceeded to the little museum area again. In the following pictures, there is a wall memorial, remnants of the brutality of the Labor Party Headquarters, and a small emulation of the Second Tunnel, respectively.

Then, we went outside to take the monorail back down and proceed to the next site of the tour. However, a few of the soldiers confront me. They asked me about where I'm from and various other questions. As many Koreans are fans of baseball, one commented on the Chicago Cubs--as is always the case, since the White Sox seemed to be nonexistent to them. ㅋㅋㅋ Perfect.

Furthermore, they wanted me to take pictures!!!!11111 Of course I obliged, and I made sure that I took a picture with some of them. They were so amazingly kind, and one of them even called me his friend. Surely we all use the word "friend" so liberally, but it felt so (relieving?) coming from him; he seemed like a person with whom one--including myself--would like to be friends. (He's in the third picture.)

At this point, the couple with whom I was touring told me that we must head to the monorail, which would take us to the car. However, one of the soldiers asked me for my email address. The others cheered as if he were setting up a date with me or trying to romance me. I gave him my email for all that would like to keep in contact. Then I sorrily paced off with the couple, quite guilty for having put them behind the rest of the caravan of tourists (they had left about three minutes before; we had to wait for the monorail to come collect us and take us to the street level).

The couple was a little concerned about having been slightly they sped down the vacuous roads, asking various soldiers at sporadically placed posts about the location of the Labor Party's Headquarters. Approximately 10 minutes of relatively frantic searching (I knew where we needed to go, but I didn't want to come across as too assuming to these two, who had so kindly allowed me to share this experience with them), we arrived at the Labor Party's Headquarters:

One can walk around the perimeter of this building, but we didn't really feel like doing so. We left shortly after having arrived there, and I was taken back to the starting point of the tour, at which point I was given an email-less business card (which means that I can't email them the lovely picture that I had been asked to take of them). I only hope that I can one day repay them for that undeserved kindness that they had extended to me. Thank you so much, God, for people like these.

I just want to archive another appreciated experience of kindness. It was a tad cold outside, and the three Korean women inside of the tourist office kindly helped me get a taxi to chauffeur me to the bus terminal. During my wait, I was offered coffee and invited behind the desk to enjoy the coffee by the radiator. I didn't understand the topic of the conversation transpiring amongst them, but I just sat there smiling while appreciating and thinking about this, wow, undeserved kindness. Thank you, God, for leading me to find this gem of an area in Korea: Cheorwon.