The End

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I’m lying on the floor of my apartment on my sleeping bag.  Aside from my mammoth fridge and unstable washing machine that compete for the title of Loudest Whiteware 2011, this is all I have.  I’ve kept this blog for over a year and have managed to keep it positive, so I won’t go in to the details and explain why.

I say it’s all I have, but I also have a mess of things to fit in to a suitcase.  This has all made it a little bit more real that this experience is over.  It’s still kind of hard to accept but I guess time will help it.

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting and, without getting in to the cheesy ‘I’ve grown so much as a person” thing, I can probably get away with saying that this has been the experience of my life.

I’ve had an amazing time, met so many great people, met some “characters” (read: strange people), eaten some weird things and had some first time experiences.  Most of the memorable ones are things that aren’t new to most people here; I experienced snow, went on a subway and saw heaps of new animals like chipmunks, squirrels and snakes.

Teaching was an interesting experiment, but I don’t think I could work as a teacher back home, as fun as it was at times.

There are a bunch of things that I will miss about Korea, mostly the little things (I don’t mean the hunched over old people), but things like honesty, free stuff from shop owners and double hinged doors everywhere so you never get embarrassed by pulling when you should push.  Of course, these go hand in hand with things I won’t miss like spitting.

Top of the things I will miss list are the friends I have made here.  There have been lots of promises to see many of them again and I really hope it happens.  Thanks to you all for an amazing year.

Thanks for following this blog as well.  After almost 200 posts I can’t believe you’re still reading it.  I hope you haven’t been reading this whole time hoping for some thoughtful or inspirational ending that creates a nice sense of completion because I only have one sentence to end this with.

The red stuff is hot.

Nearly There

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Hello.  It’s been a while.  I haven’t forgotten about you.  I promise.

I’ve decided not to write about my week in Japan on here because to do it properly will take too long.  I’m daunted by the thought.

I’m keeping busy packing up my room, farewelling, and watching a doco series about a theory that aliens visited Earth and helped the Egyptians out with the pyramids.  I’m starting to feel convinced that the aliens will come in 2012 to check up on us.

368 days in Korea now and only 8 left.  It will be sad to say goodbye but a year was the right amount of time I reckon.

I lose internet and phone on Thursday the 25th so I’ll probably force one last blog entry before then.

See you soon.

Space Toilet

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I finally tried pressing some buttons on a space toilet.  It tickled.

Pretty sure one of them orders pizza

Jisan Valley Rock Festival

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I’m busy packing up my stuff so I probably won’t give this last weekend the write-up that it deserves, but here’s something at least…

I headed out of town on Friday to Jisan Valley Ski Resort for a three day rock festival.

A bunch of us crammed in to a tent pitched on a ski slope for a few nights of music from Chemical Brothers, Arctic Monkeys, Jimmy Eat World, CSS, Suede, Incubus and others I’d never heard of.  We managed to set up our tent on a reasonably flat part and we only got wet on Sunday night, but that was becuase I left the door open all day.  Dork.  Our friends next door had bigger problems with the only deformed tent on the whole hillside:

"Tard Tent"

It was a mud pit for Incubus, but it only added to the fun.  The rain was a welcome change from the heat of Friday and Saturday that forced Rach and I to nap on the floor of  a Lotteria fast food restaurant.

The main attraction was seeing Incubus on Sunday night- and they were excellent- but the Korean Beatles cover band were a close match.  Korean Silimon and Garbunkel were good too.

At some point I was on Korean news nodding my head in agreement.  This story would’ve been nothing without my contribution:

Mud, beer, blistered feet, cold showers, lack of sleep, good people and loud music- great weekend.  If you haven’t already skipped ahead to them, here are some photos in no particular order:

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Mexican Food, Saunas and Cat Man

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I have one month left in Korea so I’ve been thinking about the things I still need to do and also reflecting on what I’ve learnt from my experiences here.  Last weekend I travelled to Seoul to achieve a few of the things I still need to do and learnt something new to reflect upon: don’t trust directions from a man dressed as a cat.  Here are some happenings:

Aside from the occasional Old El Paso kits from PaknSave, I’d never eaten Mexican food until Saturday night with some friends.  After mispronouncing a few things on the menu to dig at Rachel, whose first language is Spanish, I ordered a burrito (not “BUR-rit-oh”).  All I’d ever heard about Mexican food from American TV shows is that it hurts your bum.  I guess if it does then you’re eating it wrong.  I ate mine with my mouth and it was great.

After dinner we went to a bar that made me realise that bars in Korea can be trendy (they had hammocks and sand inside) and expensive.  It was a foreshadowing of what it will be like to be back home.   They also had a taste of home on the menu- 42 Below vodka.  I ordered one not even really for the vodka, but because I hadn’t tasted feijoa in so long.

We decided to book in to a hotel rather than a love motel like last time we were in Itaewon, but there were still pubes in the bed.  It seems to be inescapable.  I’m beginning to wonder if it’s some kind of custom, instead of putting a chocolate on the pillow they place some curly hairs as a welcoming gift.

On Sunday Rachel and I went to the National Museum and saw lots of old stuff, some really old stuff and then some super old stuff.  I was impressed enough at books and things from the 1600’s, but then we saw some iron bells and huge iron buddha statues from nearly 1000 years ago.  I thought there wouldn’t be anything older but there were sharpened rocks on display from the paleolithic era.  That was when the early Koreans used to crouch around and cook whatever animals they could find on a fire.  I guess not a lot has changed in 700 000 years, probably just the invention of soju.

The other thing I still needed to do was go to a jimjilbang (bath house place).  It’s supposed to be one of the must-dos if you’re visiting Korea and seen as how I haven’t been to the DMZ or eaten dog, I thought I better try it out so I could say that I did.  Rachel had found a really nice one online and we spent quite a while looking for it.  Four of us walked for about an hour and asked policemen, Westerners and a man dressed as a cat for directions.  None of them proved useful.  In the end we found a different one that was way more expensive than usual.   When we asked the guy “Why is it so expensive?”,  he just shrugged and said “I don’t know”.  After such a convincing sales pitch we couldn’t say no, so we decided to pay it and go in.

In my mind I’d imagined them as smelly, grotty places with yellowed tiles half way up the walls and fluorescent lights.  It wasn’t the case at all.  After changing in to a 4XL tshirt and shorts, the first step was to go through a hobbit door to a sauna lined with purple crystals.  The guy told us to be in there for 10 minutes, have a short break, then do another 10 minutes.  It was stupidly hot.  Apparently the point is to sweat, but I’d already done a lot of that while walking around Seoul for hours.   I decided that I wasn’t that impressed with the idea of saunas and called it quits after 5 minutes.

Next were the pools.  This was the naked bit.  It was ok actually.  There were only two other people in the whole complex, but the miles of personal space still didn’t stop a Korean man from approaching me while I was in the pool, pointing at my penis and asking a question.  I shrugged my shoulders and he left.  Given the lack of people it probably wasn’t really the authentic Korean experience, but I can still say that I did it.  So there.

We caught a late bus home to Cheongju just as that Mexican food cliche came in to play.  I made it home though.  Thank Christ.

An old thing at the National Museum

This painted cloth was at least as tall as the old thing in the other pic

Everything Must Go!

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I have a bunch of things in my apartment that I can’t take with me so I’m offering them to you.  If something on the list interests you then please either call or txt 010-5702-6003 or email me.

I’ve decided to risk my chances of ever working as a copywriter again by putting the call to action at the start and then writing some poor quality blurbs about the items.  I was even going to use the cliché “It’s my birthday, but you get the presents”, but I decided that I still want presents.

Kitchen things:

Potato peeler.  Can also be used for other vegetables, fruits and scraping gum off your shoes.  It has never been used for that last one.  Promise. $0.00.

Stainless steel bowl.  This bowl is not only great for holding things, but when you put some water in it, flick the side with your finger and swirl it around, it makes a cool sound.  Dinner time has never been so musical.  It’s going for a song: $0.00

Very basic sandwich toaster.  Two sides clamp together and it sits over the gas.  One hinge is broken but you can still melt some cheese between some bread with it.  Mmm. $0000000.0000.  SOLD

Brilliantly big breakfast bowl.  Alliteration says it all.  The price? … Fantastically freakin’ free.

Two small sieves. One is normal, the other one is a bit strange.  I’m not sure how to use the strange one or exactly why I bought it.  Add some strangery to your kitchen for the strange price of $a(d*&o%.

Some tupperware.  Not the actual brand, but these small containers are still good for holding things.  Lid technology prevents said things from spilling out.  The only thing they won’t contain is your excitement at the price! $0.00!

4x glass tumblers.  Living by myself meant that most of the time I just drank stuff straight from the bottle, but if you’re the civilised type then grab these with both hands. I said both hands!  If you don’t use both hands then you’ll have to use the plastic cup.  Childhood flashbacks. Get your hands on ’em for nothing.

2 x large wine glasses.  Technically these are wine glasses but they are qualified to hold most liquids.  No reason to whine about the price either: $0.00. SOLD

Dead pot plants.  These have served as a great reminder as to why I shouldn’t own a living pet.  They can be your reminders for $3, but pending a parole board hearing I’ll give you a reduction for good behaviour, $0.00.

2 x plastic plants.  One is yellow, the other is purple.  They come as a pair.  If you separate them they’ll pine for each other.  They’re sure to brighten up any room with their vibrant colours and winning personalities.  Your companions for just two easy payments of $0.00

Cheongju’s pink rubbish bags.  Several.  Pre-paid for rubbish collection, but can also be cut down either side and tucked in to the back of your top and worn as a pink cape.  Be a superhero for a super price: $0.00.  SOLD

Food

Why did the ocean blush?… Because the sea-weed!  You’ll blush too when your friends find out you got a large box of laver (dried seaweed) for FREE.

Salt, mixed herbs, pepper, cinnamon, parsley, Rosemary and Basil.  Rosemary and Basil are herbs, not people, I just gave them capital letters because I can use CAPS wherEveR I liKe.  StoP tryIng to keEp me Down!  PriCe? FREE.  SOLD

Bathroom

Medicine Cabinet Mystery Box.  A random collection of expired medicines and creams.  I take no responsibility for any side effects should you choose to use these.  If symptoms persist or worsen then we have never met, ok?  No money involved in this drug deal, $0.00.

Tesco toilet cleaner.  Citrus flavour.  You’ll wee with excitement at the bargain here… $0.00.

Scrubbing brush for cleaning the tiles.  Can also be used vertically to scrub walls provided necessary council consents are obtained. Price, not including consents, $0.00.  SOLD.

Bathroom slippers.  A size smaller than whatever size I am.  They have ‘Booby’ written on them so great comedy value.  Have a laugh while you curse the fact that Korean showers make your floor wet and force you to wear these annoying things.  You can’t put a price on comedy, $0.00.

Miscellaneous

Stationery items: scissors, pens, tape, glue, brown paint.  I recommend gluing all of the things together and then painting it brown before selling it as art.  Profit to be made here all with the simple investment of $0.00.

Speakers.  Plug your mp3 player straight in to these and sound comes out.  These would blow a caveman’s mind, but in present day these ones pretty much just blow.  They’re still better than internal laptop speakers though. Listen to this bargain… $0.00. SOLD.

Lonely Planet Korean phrase book.  I bought this copy in Seoul and have used it a few times to look up a word in Korean that I have then mispronounced and then instantly forgotten.  I’ve also forgotten the price so you can have it for $0.00.  SOLD

Bicycle.  If you’re looking for a bike then please contact me for more about it, test rides and fuel economy data.  It currently has a flat tyre, so I will consider cutting in half and selling it as a unicycle.  50,000 won for the bike or 25, 000 each for a unicycle.  SOLD

010-5702-6003

Mud Fest

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Usually when people say they’re planning a dirty weekend out of town, they’re not referring to the the annual Boryeong Mud Festival.  Perhaps it was just as fun though.

Thanks to the organisational skills of Rachel and her friends, 40 of us boarded a chartered bus to the coast- about 2 hours west of Cheongju.  The rain took a break for the first time in a month just as we arrived and left us with great weather for the beach.  Not that rain would’ve mattered much given all the mud.

You could paint yourself in Rotorua-style mud and then pay about $5 to go in to another area with things like inflatable mud slides and muddy obstacle courses.  While in line for the obstacle course, I couldn’t help but notice that the guys behind me were obviously more than just friends.  I got through that course so damn fast.

Being muddy and wet meant that very few people risked taking their cameras so there aren’t any photos from Saturday, although there were heaps of Korean photographers so I might exist on a website somewhere.  However I have it on questionable authority that their pics would probably end up in private collections as the local photographers make the most of snapping women in bikinis.  Even just showing your shoulders is considered rude or slutty normally so bikinis must be pretty exciting.  (Probably an opportunity for a photography pun using the word ‘exposure’ here, but I haven’t had time to develop it).

It was good to finally see a beach again.  It had been 11 months since I’d seen the coast; a crazy amount of time for an Aucklander.  What was also crazy was the number of people.  I’ve never seen so many people on a beach and in the water before.  It looked like that scene from Titanic when everyone is in the water except with less drowning.  It was still nice but it made me grateful for places like Te Arai.  Even in the middle of summer you can have a good 20 metres between you- and that feels busy.

Saturday night was a good time with a fireworks display and some alcohol may have been involved.  Sunday was spent on the beach watching some bands play.

One of the highlights for me was someone taking advantage of the limited English of the Korean missing person announcer,

“Your attention please, David Smith is looking for Gay Focker”

Dirty and immature.  Sums up the weekend pretty well.

So many people

**Here’s an external link to the Sydney Morning Herald’s photos from inside the muddy part: Clicky clicky.

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