The Choice

The Choice

coming back

Happy Halloween. Boo, and shit.

There is no Halloween in Korea, with the exception of a handful of club parties for foreigners to go and get drunk at. I went to no parties this weekend, as I have been feeling slightly unwell since the mayhem of Wednesday night. It has started to get chilly here, and when it starts to get chilly the pollution seems to hang lower over the city, which makes many people sick and gives me a fairly perpetual sore throat. Halls makes a fortune here, I reckon.

I bought my plane ticket home on Friday. I am flying to New York City on December 12th, spending a few days playing with my friends there, and then I’m planning on either Amtraking or cheap flighting it home to Cleveland on Thursday or Friday. I bought an open-ended round-trip ticket — at this point I’m planning on returning to Korea sometime in the middle of January.

Yes, I’m coming back to Korea. I don’t feel like my life here will be “done” in six more weeks, and I’m not yet ready to begin to force a sense of closure on my time in Korea. That, and the won to dollar exchange rate has gotten significantly better in the last three months, and I want to travel some more, and potential grad school won’t start until the fall. So on, so forth. So, three more months and then hopefully back to the Middle East.

sunset in Gangnam


do you know pink print?

On Wednesday night I finally went out with my Korean co-workers from my Wednesday hogwan job. We’d been talking about going out since I started working there in mid-September, but it wasn’t until last Wednesday that our schedules finally complied.

Seven of us — myself, five teachers, and the manager/owner — ended up going to a pork restaurant for galbi (marinated pork) and soju. The pork was good, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I have in the past — the law of diminishing returns, perhaps. The soju flowed like soju, and before long everyone was drunk and full of pig and rice.

Three of the Korean teachers spoke fairly fluent and confident English, one spoke mangled yet confident English, another spoke fluent yet wholly unconfident English (she didn’t speak), and the remaining teacher and the manager spoke no English at all. This combination made for a strange and confusing language situation, with lots of translating and miscommunication and soju.

The teacher who spoke mangled yet confident English, a man about my age, leaned over to me at one point and said “Jef, do you know pink print?”
“Pink print?” I asked.
“When your boss files you. Pink print.”
“When my boss files me?”
“Yes. Pink print. Do you know?”
“Umm… I have never heard of pink print. I don’t think I understand.”
He sighed and said “pink print” again, in case I’d missed it, so I smiled and said “pink print” again, just to make him feel better. It took a while, but eventually we figured out that he meant “When your boss FIRES you. Pink SLIP.” After we figured it out, he immediately and confidently said “pink slip hypertension!” I held my tongue.

A bit later he decided to try again, so leaned over and said “Jef, do you know crapsman? Fixing the copy machine?”
“Crapsman? Are you sure?”
He sighed again. “Yes. Crapsman? Crapsman. Crapsman? When copy machine is broken you call the crapsman.”
“I think you mean the copy repair man.”
“Yes, copy repair man. Crapsman. Is same.”
“I’m not sure what a crapsman is…”
This one turned out to be “craFTsman,” and I explained that we don’t call copy repair men “craftsmen” in America, we call them “copy repair men.”

The dinner and drinking continued. At some point we lost two members of the party, due to what was probably a combination of fear and confusion. I was getting quite rambunctious in my inebriation, and when this happens I tend to either confuse or amuse others. Those that remained seemed amused by me as I shouted in broken Korean: “The next stop is: Jef. This is Jef Station. You may exit on the right.”

When eleven o’ clock struck, I mentioned that I should be going soon because I couldn’t miss the last train. “But Jef,” said the mangled yet confident guy “don’t you want to go to dancing party?”
“Dancing party? Where is the dancing party?” I asked.
“Dancing party is very close. We can go together.”
“Um… I’m not a big dancer.”
“Do you want to dance?” he asked, while pouring me another shot of soju.
“Uh… how will I get home?”
“Manager will pay taxi fee, ok? We go to dancing party?”

We all left the restaurant, and while the manager and the other English teacher were in the bathroom the two guys approached me. “Do you want to go to a dance club now?” the fluent speaker asked me.
“As long as I can get home, I’ll go to the dance club. Yes.”
“Because we are trying to… how you say? Make happy?… with the manager. You understand?”
“Yes. Make happy. I understand.” I wanted to ask how they were both planning on “making happy” with the manager, but I left this question in my head.
“Make happy, yes! You understand make happy?”
“Yes,” I laughed, “I understand make happy. Make happy like this:” I gyrated my pelvis.

At the club the doors were promptly opened for us as we approached, and a greeting of some sort was shouted by the doormen. They gestured/herded us towards the elevator, and even pushed the button and smiled at us as the doors closed. The elevator took us up, and when the doors opened again there were two more men smiling and gesturing/herding us towards the club.

The club was set-up more like a theatre than a dance club. It was one huge room with about 100 long tables arranged in perfect allignment around the room, and at one end of the room there was a big stage/dance floor with lots of lights mirrors and so forth. The dance floor was relatively covered with people dancing to loud Korean pop music, while an unseen DJ shouted instructions of some sort over the din. We were ushered towards a table near the dance floor, and as soon as we sat down there were three attendants standing by waiting to assist the five of us. The manager ordered something, and the attendants quickly disappeared.

Let me step back a moment… When we sat down at the table, I did my best to try and help the two guys sit next to the manager, so as to help them in their effort to “make happy” with her. I failed, however, and it almost seemed as if the manager was trying to sit next to me. She sat quite close to me, actually, but I was too drunk to notice until a bit later.

As quickly as they’d disappeared, the attendants reappeared. Two of them were carrying many bottles of beer and glasses, and one had a giant, four-story, silver fruit platter that he set right in the middle of our table. The manager poured me a glass of beer and handed me a banana. We all toasted (“gambae!”) for what was probably the fiftieth time that night, and then proceeded to get even drunker than we already were. The two guys wanted to dance, but neither of the women did — they tried to get me to dance, but I declined repeatedly. So, the two guys went up and danced together for a while, the two women spoke to each other in Korean, and I sipped my beer and wondered how in the hell I ended up in this situation.

A bit later the fast songs ended, and the DJ put on a slow Korean love song of some sort. The two guys came back from the dance floor, and everyone started talking together in Korean. I sipped my beer and stared confusedly at the banana. The conversation ended abruptly, and everyone proceeded to encourage me to dance with the manager. The manager doesn’t speak any English, but she seemed to be asking me to dance in Korean. I looked over at the dance floor — it was sparsely populated with Korean couples slow dancing. “I have a girlfriend,” I lied.
“I have wife,” the fluent guy replied, “but she isn’t here now.” And, with that, I was pretty much pushed onto the dance floor with the manager.

So now I’m remarkably drunk, and I’m at a nightclub in a suburb of Seoul slow dancing with the manager of the Korean English school that I work at. It was a very strange circumstance, both at the time and looking back at it now. I tried to talk to her, but she spoke no English at all, so she could only smile at me in response. Then she would try to speak to me in Korean, to which I kept responding (in Korean) “I don’t understand.” It was awkward. I didn’t even, and still don’t, know what her name is… but not for lack of asking. Perhaps her name is, in fact, embarassed smile. She is not an unattractive woman, but I really don’t need to complicate my life any further by getting involved with one of my bosses. Luckily, the song ended rather quickly, and we went back to the table and sat down. It was then that I noticed how close she was, and had been, sitting to me.

The drinking continued. Memories of the night get cloudy at this point.

There was a bizarre show on the dance floor — two guys came out wearing wolf masks on their heads and did a choreographed dance routine which involved (among other things) standing on chairs and pretending to howl at the moon. Later these two guys would take off their masks and perform a strip-tease of sorts until they were both only wearing g-strings. I found this all very confusing.

At one point I took the banana and pretended to be using it as a telephone, and then I started to flag down attendants to try and get them to do the same. A few of them did, and one of them seemed to get more upset than my harmless action merited — he yelled at me in Korean, handed me back the banana, and walked away in a seeming huff.

I don’t remember when we left the dance club, but I remember being in the street looking for a taxi with the manager and her friend. I remember the taxi ride home, but I’m not sure how I ended up at the Seoul Pub with Desiree and Vanessa. I remember desperately wanting to tell someone about my night, perhaps that was it.

Before I got in the taxi, the manager asked me (through her friend) to send her a text message (with my cell phone) when I got home safely, which I did. The response I got from her read: “HAVE A NICE DAY.”

"climate of violence"

Iraq death toll ‘soared post-war’ — Poor planning, air strikes by coalition forces and a “climate of violence” have led to more than 100,000 extra deaths in Iraq, scientists say.



Dispatch Bush

Daily Reason to Dispatch Bush.

Real Peace

“War is an option whose time has passed. Peace is the only option for the future. At present we occupy a treacherous no-man’s-land between peace and war, a time of growing fear that our military might has expanded beyond our capacity to control it and our political differences widened beyond our ability to bridge them . . . Short of changing human nature, therefore, the only way to achieve a practical, livable peace in a world of competing nations is to take the profit out of war.”
–Richard M. Nixon, Real Peace (1983)