Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Please don't tell your friends

If you enjoy my blog, please do the opposite of what everybody else on earth tells you to do if you like their stuff: don't tell your friends! My friends here haven't volunteered to appear on the 'net and the only way it's okay, as far as I'm concerned, is if this blog is basically a blanket email to my friends, not a general post to the world.
Throwing some stuff against the wall:

At the urging of my friend Ray L. (big, friendly, warm, Christian, Hispanic guy- he will hereafter in this blog be called Ray, as opposed to Ray C., the small, older, progressive guy just transferred to the Manchon school to work with us and who will be called Raymond- got it?), I joined Facebook today. I quickly got in touch with a bunch of friends (16 in the first four hours). I'm tired of living my whole life locking myself in my room and wondering where everybody is. I'm coming out (not like that) to build and rebuild as many friendships as I can.

(If you're already on Facebook, find me!)

I strongly recommend Facebook, btw. And Skype. Also Krispy Kremes. But I digress.

The school has set up tickets for a concert by a famous Korean drum ensemble for a few days after Christmas. So if you want to Skype me, do it soon, while I can still hear.

Most Koreans take no notice of me as a foreigner, even though I live way to the east of downtown and all the other teachers and I rarely see other Westerners. But one day last week, a guy across the street from the bus stop saw me and shouted, "Hello! Show me the money!" And the little kids love to go, "Hello! Hello!"

I walked past a little family restaurant last week and saw two teenage girls working at the counter. No customers were ordering, but some were eating nearby. One of girls was leaning over the sink for dishes and vigorously brushing her teeth. (She was foaming like a cartoon mad dog.) Dunno what to say about that.

They have second- and third-floor shops downtown with neon "DVD" signs out front that I'd assumed were sales and rental places, but they're actually something new and clever: private theaters. You go up, rent one of a video-store-quality selection of movies, and get a private room, with couches and chairs and a giant screen tv to watch it on. I'm looking forward to it, as there's only been one movie I wanted to see since I got here (Quantum of Soulless) and I wished afterward I hadn't seen it.

Ray and I went to a little restaurant downtown called Italy and Italy. It was really nice; the seats are little two-person comfy couches, you pick your own pasta or pizza by checking off items on a slip, and the food is really good. It's also only a block from Hami Mami's, so all of the four food groups (pizza, pasta, French toast, and coffee) are right there.

Speaking of restaurants, on Friday night the school hosted a staff get-together at a little traditional Korean restaurant nearby. You take off your shoes at the door, pretend you're twenty years younger and hunker down on a pillow and stick your legs under Pippin Took's table, and watch as the staff brings fifteen tiny bowls of various mostly unidentifiable stuff to be shared and rice and soup for each individual. Then they heat up the grill on your table, wipe it down with fat, and throw pig (sort of in between ham and bacon, I guess) and onions and such on it. It was nice, aside from the pig smoke in my face.

I also had my first-ever shot of whiskey. (Yeah, I know. But I'm a beer and wine-- but not mixed together-- guy.) It was good. George brought his friends Johnny, Jack, and Jim with him (family names Walker, Daniel, and Beam), and I said hi to Johnny. Evidently George spent a long evening with all three friends; at work on Saturday he looked like he'd been dragged behind Ben Hur's chariot. If he had a cat, on Saturday morning he'd have been muttering for it to stop stomping around.

Which reminds me: Tug is turning into a furry purry housecat. (Dang, I wish he had learned to play; I could call him a furry purry flurry.) Last evening he jumped into my lap for the first time, gave my hand one of those little love nips (I hate that!) and licked my chin. I may train him to be more thorough with that so I can save on razor cartridges. Tiki is still super shy, but he has come out from under the couch a few times when I'm at the computer. Of course, if I sigh or shift my weight he's under the couch again in a nanosecond, but it's a start.

In conclusion, the Koreans and I don't see eye to eye on the whole bathroom thing. I can deal with the lack of euphemisms: they don't have restrooms, bathrooms, comfort stations, water closets, or loos; the signs all say "toilet". Fine. But.

In a lot of public bathrooms, the doors are open, or the urinals are in clear view of people passing by if anyone should open the door at an inopportune moment.

Many bathrooms have a bar of soap and a hand towel by the sink.

Some toilets make you buy toilet paper from a dispenser.

The cleaning ladies will walk in at any moment, without knocking, and start work, no matter who's in there or what his current activity.

Some of the older facilities offer you a kind of porcelain trough to crouch over. No railing, even. When I was ten, I wanted to be the Mets' first baseman. At twenty, I wanted to be J.R.R. Tolkien. Now my life's ambition is to never ever ever use one of those things, however long I'm in Korea. As we get older, we adjust our goals.

I choose my facilities by a process of elimination.

Sorry about that line; couldn't help it.
(If Larry King can make up a whole newspaper column of nothing but unconnected, irrelevant little snippets, I can blog the same way. I'd like to live to be 150, too.)


ace said...

As a local News-Journal writer would say, "...time for the traditional three dot column."

How much crossover is there between Japanese culture and Korean culture? If you know. I ask because your comment about the drum ensemble immediately brought to mind Taiko drums, which I love. I wonder if they are strictly Japanese.

One of the Rods

Stephen J said...

The Korean culture seems to be more in tune with the Chinese. (The subway signs, for example, are in Korean, English, and Chinese.) Historically, Korea's looked west to China; the long and awful Japanese colonial (criminal) invasion of Korea has left Koreans, at best, wary of Japan, though I don't think younger people feel the same way: there is one station on tv that carries a lot of J-pop (Japanese boy bands and Stefani wannabes.)