election day

Today is election day in South Korea — they’re voting for their congresspeople, from what I understand. Because of the election, everyone gets the day off work and school, which (as expected) has a big effect on voter turnout — they’re expecting sixty or seventy percent today. In the last presidential election in the US, the voter turnout barely hit fifty percent.

Last night I went to a Seoul Classified staff party at the Hard Rock Cafe. It was kinda fun, and there was free food and drink, so it got more fun as the evening progressed. The owner of the company — a middle-aged Korean man with thick glasses — got tanked and made quite the scene on the dance floor at one point. Middle aged Korean men can’t dance. Unfortunately, I had to take the subway home, which forced me to leave just as things were getting interesting.

I slept in late today and woke up feeling unwell, after a night of the most confusing and unsettling dreams I’ve had in quite some time. One of my students invited me to dinner with his family out in Bundang tonight, so I’m trying to pull myself together enough to be an entertaining guest for them. I think maybe I drank too much crappy Korean beer and ate too many greasy appetizers last night.

I bought a bootleg copy of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in Itaewon yesterday, and I stayed up late watching it last night. Amazing film — I think it loomed large in my strange dreams last night.

A ride on line number six.

Following up on my subway comments of a week ago, I post for you a short video I shot in the subway here. I doubt it’ll stream, so I advise you to right click on it and save to your hard drive, then play it from there. I asked for comments as to whether my last video worked or not, but I only got two, so I’m going to assume that either it worked or that nobody actually bothered to try.

A ride on line number six.

I’d say that there’s not much to tell today, but I’m living in South Korea so there should never really be a shortage of things to write about. I read other blogs sometimes, and there’s people who are living in Minnesota who write like ten paragraphs a day about their dogs, or about the fact that they’re remodeling their living room — surely I can come up with a good two or three paragraphs about living in South Korea. Perhaps I’m just too lazy to bother writing tonight, or perhaps I can use the excuse of being in this smoky PC room next to a Korean guy who is way too into playing Starcraft (he’s doing stretching excercises between games).

I can tell you that I was supposed to start a new Tuesday/Thursday job today, but that the recruiter who got me the job never bothered to give me directions to the school. I called her about ten times but she never answered her phone, which makes me suspect that she’s a crappy and irresponsible person. I wouldn’t be surprised if she called me tomorrow and said “Why didn’t you go to the job yesterday?” I also wouldn’t be surprised if I never heard from her again.

Easter Sunday

Today is Easter Sunday in South Korea, too. This apparently means very little here — if I didn’t have a calendar I’d have absolutely no idea that today was a holiday.

Beyond that, I still have no internet in my apartment and my roommate is running a fever.

Olympic Park

Today I took the subway to “Olympic Park” which was (as you probably guessed) the site of the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. Parts of it are quite picturesque — the planners involved an ancient land barrier (see: hill) as part of the park, with beautiful paths running through and over it, from parts of which one can get quite the view of the park and of the city surrounding it. There were also lots of unusual sculputures scattered throughout the park — most of which were made specifically for the Olympics, but they’ve continued to add to the collection sparingly since then. And, yes, there were the venues that were built for the games and stand as aging monuments to them now.

The park is nice, and fairly well maintained, but there’s an unshakable feeling of past glory that lingers everywhere. Things that were left standing, like the tennis standings board, and relics that are still being used, like the “Seoul Olympiad” vans — are these desperate attempts to hang onto the past, or are they just oversights? The venues are rarely used anymore — how often can one find a good use for a fencing arena, or a weighlifting arena? The most common sport I witnessed was in-line skating, which was everywhere — it was almost dangerous to walk around some areas because of in-line skaters flying past. Strange that the only sport being “played” at the site of the Olympic Games is one that wasn’t even a part of those games.

So this makes me wonder about other former Olympic cities. Cities seem so desperate to lure the Olympics to them, but what happens when they’re gone? They’re left with a bunch of nice new sporting facilities and hotel rooms that will probably remain empty for many years, that will simply serve as reminders of the glorious past until they fall into disrepair and are eventually torn down. Yes, leave it to me to find the cynical underbelly of the Olympics, and the to make no real point with it.

My cynicism and pointlessness aside, I did take some photos for you to anticipate me posting on here. Be excited, but not too.

I may have to rob a Korean bank.

I just finished my last class at my Monday through Friday job (“Mommy & Me” the institute is called). I’ve been expecting to leave here for quite some time because of the immigration problems, but I’ve been returning their kindness to me by staying on here until they find a new teacher. All I asked in return was that they give me at least a week’s notice before my last day of work, which they repeatedly assured me they’d do. Yesterday, however, I was informed that my last day would be today. This wouldn’t be such a problem if this job wasn’t my only job that paid me every week — I have other jobs, and I’m finding more every day, but I don’t get paid for them until the end of the month. I may have to rob a Korean bank.

subway

Last night, I was talking about television with my corporate class, and someone brought up how in America programs are interrupted every fifteen minutes by a few commercials, while in Korea programs are interrupted every hour or so with many commercials. One of my students started explaining to me how the American format was better for birth rates, because if you are watching television with someone you love, more commercial breaks means more opportunities to make babies. He said there was a study done to prove this. I told him, and the rest of the class, that I had no idea how to respond to this information, and everyone laughed.

I’ve been running around Seoul today going to interviews and jobs and PC rooms. I’m spending a bit too much time on the subway, and I find it makes me feel like a hamster in an obstacle course of escalators, signs, stairs, and hallways. The subways here are typically Asian, in that they are often disturbingly crowded — sometimes there’s barely enough room to move your arms up and down. The seats are long benches that run along the sides of the cars, and everyone wants to sit, so if I’m not standing I’m often squished uncomfortably between two Korean people. You can see a map of the Seoul subway here — I live near Noksapyeong Station, on the Brown Line (#6), and right now I am very close to Sunae Station, on the Yellow Line (Bundang Line).

acting work

I got up at five in the morning today to play a role in a Korean television documentary. About a month ago I emailed this guy about getting some acting work here, and I’d almost forgotten about him until he emailed me last weekend with this job. So, this morning I met him (the casting director) at a subway station, along with an American woman who was also playing a part, and together he drove us to the location — a Best Western Hotel near the Airport. The documentary is apparently about the construction of the new Incheon Airport, and I played an American businessman who had a binder full of some sort of secret documents that the Korean airport planners wanted. My part was very small — I sat at a table in the hotel restaurant drinking espresso, a Korean airport planner arrived and asked about the binder, I briefly showed him the binder, then I quickly took the binder away and left. At times during the brief shoot, I felt like Bill Murray in Lost in Translation — the Korean director giving me long directions which were then translated into short directions by the casting director (“Look in his eyes when he is looking at the documents.”). All in all, though, it was a fairly surreal experience that I got paid a relatively good chunk of Won for, and which will probably lead to similar work in the future.

The show airs on April 30th — don’t worry, I’m working on getting a copy.

I drank one beer and lost two pool games

Tomorrow is a national holiday here in the ROK, although I’ve got no idea what holiday it is, only that I have no classes because of it. And today is a holiday for me and Dan, of sorts, as our evil Korean roomate is finally gone. Good riddance, I say… Dan was singing “Ding Dong, The Witch is Dead” this morning. She did take the internet service with her, unfortunately, so I am forced to surf from a PC room… we’re hoping to get new (hopefully faster) service in the apartment on Tuesday.

Last night I went to a party at my friend Courtney’s place… actually, it was at her boyfriend’s place, but no matter. Courtney is in the military, as are most of her friends, so I ended up being the only man at the party with hair touching my ears. It was a fun party though, made moreso by copious amounts of cheap wine, but when one a.m. approached the party broke up fast — all U.S. military personnel have to be back “on post” (home) by one a.m. every night. So, I took a taxi to Itaewon and met Dan and some others at a bar called “Cheers” where I drank one beer and lost two pool games.