From the brief (and rainy) glimpse I got of Osaka yesterday, I do like Japan. While not remarkably different than South Korea, the subtle differences were significant enough for me to appreciate and recount:

-I didn’t get stared at nearly as much as I do here, and the stares I did get were more of the intriguied glance variety than the intimidating glare variety that occurs here.

-Everything was much cleaner than it is here, most noticably the air and the streets.

-It’s much more pedestrian-friendly. Pedestrians are generally not given the right of way in South Korea, and the crosswalk signals are hard to come by and usually not long enough for one to make it all the way across the street. In many places there are no sidewalks, so one is forced to ostensibly share the road with the cars. This was not the case in Osaka.

-I actually saw signs prohibiting the use of cell phones in some restaurants. This policy would never occur to South Korea, and it wouldn’t be adhered to if it was attempted.

-More than anything, though, there was a distinct pulse to Osaka that is hard to come by in Seoul. A strange, almost tangible excitement of a country that is, in many ways, the future. Blade Runner, and all that.

I amend these observations by noting that I was only in central Osaka for about four hours. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention that Japan is ridiculously expensive, prices are about twice what they are in Seoul. So while I’m still happy here in South Korea, and am convinced that it’s a much better place to make and save money (and to eat), I can’t wait to visit Tokyo.

It worked.

Wow. It worked. I got my long-term tourist visa in Osaka today with almost unsettling ease. The only problem I had was at departure customs in South Korea, where they hassled me a little bit because I had stupidly overstayed my original thirty day tourist visa. Only hassle, no fine — I can deal with this.

So, I am now free to find as much part-time work as I can stomach, and thus hopefully make more money than I can handle, or at least enough to pay off most of my credit card. Illegal work, yes, but one does what one has to do. Shh.

I thank you for your prayers, good vibes, what have you… they worked.

do what you do

So, tomorrow I fly to Japan and find out whether I will be able to stay in Korea for (at least) the next three months, or if I will have to leave in four weeks. I have hope, but there’s too many variables for me to be confident. All I can do is to control the variables that I am able, and let the rest of the pieces fall where they may. Pray for me, send me good vibes, do what you do…

I’ll post the results when I get back tomorrow night.

What’s wrong with my brain?

I realized about an hour ago that for some reason I’ve been thinking that it’s February, instead of March. Actually, I’ve known it was March in every way except in terms of my current job, which for some reason I assumed was ending next month instead of this month. I even wrote a post from this skewed perspective, and I’m surprised that nobody called me on it.

What’s wrong with my brain?


Last night was a blur.

Started at Patrick’s housewarming party, which was loud and involved a barbeque grill on the patio. I drank lots of wine and ate chicken, macaroni salad, deviled eggs, black olives, broccoli, a hamburger, and a round Korean pastry thing. People from all over the world, and a surprisingly high percentage of Americans — two from Iowa, one from Seattle, one from Utah (not a Mormon), one from Tennessee, and one from Ohio. Korean dog show on the television — some of us betting on which dog would win. At one point a neighbor Korean girl shows up with a huge styrofoam container full of strawberries, which are gone in less than fifteen minutes, leaving the Korean girl looking around uncertainly. “Koreans don’t have house parties,” someone says as explanation for the stares we’re getting from the building across the way. Eventually a neighbor complains, and the party is forced to subdue itself.

I end up sharing taxi to Itaewon with some of the party people, and upon arrival meet Dan and his girlfriend (Mee-Hee) at a wine bar. They are drunk when I arrive, as am I, but the bottle has already been opened so there’s no choice but to finish it. We finish it and become drunker. Dan and Mee-Hee take a taxi home, and I head to another bar to meet up with the party people I taxied with earlier.

The bar is surprisingly crowded for 3:30 in the morning, and I run into even more people from the party than those in the taxi. I think twice about that drink, and end up in an argument with a guy about whether money actually does make one happier — he argued that it does, I argued that it was a fleeting and unsubstantial happiness. There is talk of going to a singing room, followed by the realization that I am very drunk and tired, and the decision to go home.

A short taxi ride, a call to Becky from a pay phone, and bed.

I remember more than I should.

pre-departure pictures


I finally got around to developing the last two rolls of film-film I took, revealing a combination of pre-departure pictures and post-arrival pictures. I have posted the pre-departure pictures here today, perhaps I will post the rest tomorrow. Click on the photo above, or down and to the left.

I found out yesterday that the Korean woman who lives in this apartment is moving out next weekend. This is good news, as I was thinking about moving out because of her. I won’t go into details, but she’s essentially just a remarkably unpleasant person to live with. I’m also getting a bigger room and a bigger bed out of the deal, as Dan is moving into her old room and I am moving into Dan’s current room. Hopefully we can find a new roommate who doesn’t scowl at us.

in limbo

So, I’m essentially in limbo here until I go to Japan next Tuesday and find out whether I get a three-month tourist visa or not. If I don’t get the visa, I’m not sure what I’m going to do — I may be out of options. If I get the visa, however, I’ll be free (albeit illegally) to come back and find more jobs here, and hopefully will soon be able to start breathing again.

In the meantime, I wrote another article for The Seoul Classified last night, this one on Cleveland. I know for a fact that I’m my own worst critic, but I also know that this article is not good. I cringe to think that I may see it in print in a week or so. But, then, I am getting paid to write this stuff, so that’s something. It’s difficult to write a short article about a town I’m so familiar with — it’s difficult to even know where to start.

working illegally

I called the Korean Embassy in Osaka today, and was told that I could get a C-3 (three month, multiple-entry tourist visa) as an American. I’m not wholly convinced, as I didn’t mention that I have a cancelled work visa in my passport, and I’m not sure if the embassy there would have access to bad things Mr. ___ may or may not have said about me, but this does give me hope.

I also talked to the director’s assistant at work today (Karen), and she told me that while the school would still pay for my trip to Japan (probably next Tuesday), they had also decided that it was highly unlikely that I would be able to get a work visa from the school — for whatever reason. So, as immigration now has the school’s address and my name on file, they’d decided that it’d be best for me to stop working there at the middle or end of March. This is completely fine with me, as I am working illegally now, and the fact that immigration knows where they might be able to find me working illegally is a bad thing. I’m also happy that I’ll be free to find new jobs closer to where I live, as the hour commute to work each day is beginning to wear on me. So, if I’m actually able to get this C-3 visa in Osaka, things will work out relatively perfectly.

I also got assigned another article for The Seoul Classified — the Cleveland piece that I’d started but stopped in lieu of the Jerusalem piece (which fortunately appeared in the print version without the spelling errors of the online version). They need it by Wednesday morning, so I’d best get working.