PhotosAugust 19, 2007
A Stone Lion in the Midst of the Lotus Flower Festival in Bongwonsa
August 18, 2007
August 13, 2007
NewsSeptember 16, 2007: UPDATE 2
I estimate I'll be heading out in less than 20 minutes. Bye-bye, Seoul! See you in three days!
September 16, 2007
This is mainly going to be a fact-finding mission to find out firsthand what Japan's prices are like and whether it would be a good idea to move to Japan in late 2009 and teach there instead of Korea (in addition to the original purpose of getting a visa for Korea). Well, I have to pack now.
September 15, 2007
I'm logged on at Yonsei. My home computer has once again appeared to bite the dust. Basically, for fear that it would never boot up, I was always leaving it on. Today, the ajumma made a big deal about the power bill again (in this way that's kind of like "the power bill has been going up -- I'm not saying that it's you [though the meaning is only thinly veiled]." So I decided that to appease the ajumma, I'm going to have to start turning it off, because I don't want to either get evicted or get my rent raised. I realize that I use a lot of power, since I'm a home body who sits at home all day to save money (which means the lights are on, the fan and computer running) but isn't that my lifestyle choice? Oh well, I just don't want the ajumma to become evil, so I turned my PC off for once. Then I couldn't get it to boot into Windows again. So it looks like another dark age of using crappy old DSL (Damn Small Linux) on my old Pentium II PC.
I simply can't buy another copy of Windows XP, nor do I intend to. I legally own Windows XP even if I don't have the CD, because I bought a computer with a legal installation on it. Since Microsoft has decided not to give me the CD, I guess I'll just have to exercise my right of an archival copy and get it from BitComet. Because I'm not paying $99 for an operating system that I legally own, that has simply crashed on me. Fuck you, Microsoft.
So anyways, back to my trip. I'm going to bring my bathing suit with me. Who knows, Busan and Fukuoka are supposed to be warmer than Seoul, and about one month ago, the water near Seoul was still swimmably warm. Maybe it still is in Busan and Fukuoka. I've even thought about getting an underwater disposable camera for underwater pictures. That'd be really cool, if there's anything to see. However, I'll buy the camera when I verify that the water is swimmable.
There's not much else to report. I'm craving some structure in my life. It seems like life is always either 50+ hours a week of structured activities (too much) or none whatsoever, which is boring. I wish I could keep it at a stable 32 hours every week. I think that's the perfect number of work/study hours.
Is there anything else to mention? No, not really. I'm progressing somewhat in my Chinese course. I've handed in a few assignments. They've all been completion credit, so far, so I have an A so far. I haven't really learned a whole lot.
I really want to sign up for some tech classes this term, as well, because I want my major to be in computer science or a related field. I've recently discovered that 36 credit hours of Korean won't work for a major, because a Foreign Language major is actually a "Foreign Culture" major -- such majors often require history classes, culture classes, etc. So I don't think I can get a major in Korean, as if that'd be that useful in the work world anyway. So I'm reverting to my middle school dream of being a computer science major. I'm still early enough in my academic career where this is fully feasible without postponing graduation or that kind of thing. Deep down inside, I still have that desire to professionally program games. I'm sure teaching English will be fun for the few years that I'll inevitably be required to do it, but after a few years of that, I'd like to get into my lifelong passion, which I have enjoyed since I was 10 years old. Wish me luck.
September 13, 2007
Sunday (9/16): I will get on a train heading to Busan. I will hopefully be able to catch the ferry that night. I can sleep on the ferry.
September 12, 2007
As my readers may be aware, I've had difficulty hearing, especially out of my right ear (which is, ironically, the one without the hole in the ear drum).
I'd been looking high and low for a hospital specializing in ENT (ear, nose, and throat), but hadn't seen one, until I checked Severance Hospital, which is, ironically enough, located on Yonsei Campus!
I went in this morning to set up an appointment. I asked a volunteer for help. She was probably in her 60s, but spoke very slowly and clearly, so I could understand her Korean despite elderly people normally being very hard to understand (I guess this is a virtue at a section of the hospital specially intended for people who can't hear very well). We went to the section of the new hospital titled ぴぁたがぴそとぐEぴそとぐE� ぴぁたがぴそとぐE� ぴぁたがぴそとぐEぴそとぐEぴそとぐE� ぴぁたがぴそとぐE獣� ぴぁたが祝ぴそちうE� (Studying Abroad and Visa Body Examination). They had me fill out a couple of papers and told me to come back at 3:00 PM.
I decided to kill the remaining time by going to McDonald's. I ordered fries for 1,000 won and a bacon cheeseburger for 1,500 won. I asked the cashier if the burgers would get cheaper because of the recently re-allowed US beef (thanks to the Korea-US FTA agreement). She said it would get cheaper, but she couldn't say when. Go figure, cashiers never know anything. I can't really blame her, though. When you're a cashier at a place like that, all you care about is customers not going off like bombs at you -- caring about things like the future prices of cheeseburgers just ain't the first thing on your mind. So I completely forgive her.
I still had time, so I went home and got a shower. Wouldn't want to be smelling for the doctor, especially if the doctor made me take off my shoes! I didn't really know what kind of a checkup it'd be, or if they'd make me lie on a table or that kind of thing.
Well, I started walking to Severance Hospital, and then, guess who I ran into on the street -- CARINA PÖLL! She was looking for the Yonsei KLI building, to find out some information about it. So I guided her there. It sounds like her new class is boring, but will be an easy A. That's good.
I ran back to the hospital, afraid that I'd be late for my 3:00 PM appointment. Well, I reached the hospital in time, but had completely forgotten where the relevant office was, or even which building it was in. Severance Hospital is truly a labyrinthine place. So I asked one of those pretty little nurses in the light pink with the hair net where I needed to go. She kept on talking to me in English as we were walking. It's a somewhat abrasive habit, but I've learned to tolerate it. She had the funniest accent. She sounded Japanese, not Korean. I asked her about it -- it turns out she grew up in Seoul and is most definitely NOT Japanese, and was very curious as to why I was wondering whether or not she was Japanese. She asked if she looked Japanese. Well, in truth, she kind of did, but I said something like "I can't really tell. If you see a German person and a French person, are you able to know the difference?" She didn't seem offended or anything, just kind of surprised and curious. Her accent DID sound Japanese, I'm telling you. Japanese women have this way of talking that's a little bit like Kermit the Frog. It can be very comical to hear.
Anyways, I ended up waiting for a while to see the doctor. A cicada kept on scurrying around on the floor. This wasn't a traditional cicada, but one of those new ones that has migrated to Korea from another country, and that doesn't have any natural predators yet. The cicada kept on narrowly avoiding death from the shoes of passersby. Me and the woman next to me watched the cicada intently, amazed as it cheated death time and time again, missing the shoes of about five people by about an inch. Finally, the inevitable happened, and a carelessly placed foot squashed the life out of the brave little bug. The woman next to me sighed "ohhh." I replied "the cicada has returned [to heaven]."
Next, that woman's relative/friend (probably relative because she appeared a bit older) was wheeled out in a wheelchair, having just finished her appointment. They discussed the freshly-slain cicada. The woman who had watched its death explained "they are not from our country, they are from..." and then I was pretty sure I heard "America." That is, of course, a blatant error. I said, in Korean, "yeah, cicadas like that come from Guangdong, China. Where did you think it came from?" She said something to the effect of "oh, I thought they came from America. That's what they teach the children in the schools." I thought that was hilarious. I laughed out loud and said "I have not seen a cicada like that even once in America." Go figure, that's how Koreans operate -- first, blame something like a pesky cicada on foreign countries. Then, when getting specific, blame it on America. I couldn't stop grinning.
Anyways, it was time for my appointment. I went in, and there was the doctor. She looked in my ear. She tried to remove some wax with a metal instrument. She got quite a bit out, but eventually gave up, saying that the wax had been accumulating for months or even years, and would need to be softened before it could be removed. She couldn't see past it. So basically, that was it -- a 57,870 won appointment just to tell me that I needed special prescription ear drops. Wow, that's wonderful.
So I went and paid for the appointment, and then took my prescription card to the ぴぁたがぴそとぐEぴそとぐE出鉦厩 (University Pharmacy). Wow, the ear drops were expensive too! Splendid! I shelled out 9,900 won for them, and then picked up 800 won cue tips from the convenience store on the way home. I love how it takes a grand total of 68,570 won just to get my earwax softened enough so it can be extracted and so the doctor can tell if there's a real problem or not.
So I have another appointment on the 20th (in eight days), and at that time, I'll see the ear specialist. The problem may be serious. The general ENT doctor said it could be serious. She said she couldn't even see in to ascertain whether it was serious or not. Wonderful. I love how my ears are always perfectly healthy.
So, in short summary, I'm about 70,000 won poorer and still don't really have any answers. Marvelous.
September 10, 2007
The centerpiece of today's productivity was completing an application for the mail clerk job at the US embassy and turning it in. Allow me to explain this. Basically, Korean law won't let me get a working visa to do any job ON KOREAN SOIL. However, the US embassy isn't Korean soil! It's American soil! Therefore, at least in theory, under the concept of extraterritoriality, I can work at the US embassy without breaking any Korean laws! Recently, the embassy announced that it was going to start hiring for the mail clerk position, and guess what? I meet all the requirements! So I applied for it. This was an arduous process:
Wish me luck! If I am extremely lucky and land this job, the pay will be over $25,000 a year, and my issue of making money legally in Korea will be solved until I can get my bachelor's degree!
I also quizzed myself on Korean today a bunch of times, and cemented a lot of my Level 4 vocabulary. I watched a couple of episodes of Chrno Crusade. I mended my pants. That was important because I couldn't go into my potential future employer looking like a slob. I have no idea how long this mending job will hold up.
Let's see, what else did I accomplish? Well, I spotted a gazillion dentist's offices on my way to and from the embassy. There's practically one on every street corner. The one that sticks in my head is the one near the Mulan Chinese restaurant. I'm glad I've found some, because I have some cavities that need fixing, and I've already let them go way too long.
I didn't see a single ear, nose, and throat doctor, though. My ears are still giving me problems. Mijung looked in my ear today with some kind of a scope and says I literally have scab material in my left ear, and black wax in my right ear! Eww! Apparently my right ear is so severe, she can't even see inside to see whether it's infected or not, but it sounds like it is. I really need to find an ear, nose, and throat doctor, and quick. It'd be so awesome if my hearing suddenly improved. Maybe that's why Korean has been so frustrating lately -- because I have two simultaneous cases of swimmer's ear (that's what Mijung thinks it is from looking, anyway).
Well, I'm quite tired now, and should probably go to bed. My day has been so long, I've actually gotten back onto an acceptable schedule!
September 5, 2007: UPDATE 2
I finally got a few more stars in Super Mario 64, THANK GOODNESS. I was really getting frustrated. I discovered a stage that I'd ignored earlier that has these GIGANTIC goombas, and got one that way. Then I went back to the course titled "Mulbadamaeul" in the Korean version ("Water Sea Village") and used Luigi to run through a metal net and get a star, which unlocked a new challenge (collecting five silver stars, easily done with Bubble Mario). So now I'm up to 69 stars -- 11 more and I can fight Bowser for the last time! Yay!
September 5, 2007
I had been thinking about going to Japan today to get my visa stuff taken care of. However, I've decided to wait until the last possible moment. Knowing how *wonderful* Korean consulates are, they'll probably tell me "you don't need a visa" like they did last time (when I went to Shenyang) and refuse to issue me one. If I go later, then at least I can stay until the end of the Yonsei term if I'm allowed a 60-day extension at the Immigration Office, like last time. If I go now, I may need to make another visa run before the term ends. You just have to prepare for the worst, stupidest things with those consulates.
Junhyeong heard my Shenyang story, and said she was going to put me in touch with a newspaper reporter to get my story! Wow, wouldn't it be awesome if my story was the one that finally brought those murdering bastards to justice? In my case, all I lost was several hundred dollars, but many North Korean refugees that the Shenyang consulate hasn't wanted to deal with have been sent back to their deaths in North Korea due to the Shenyang consulate's treachery. So the worse I can make that consulate look, the better. Therefore, I plan to talk with Junhyeong's reporter friend and shed light on that abysmal place. Maybe this'll be the straw that breaks the camel's back. I mean, the chances are pretty low, but I'm so bored, it's not like I have anything else to do.
I am, once again, behind on my Korean studying. It's frustrating. There are just so many distractions, and the studying is so boring. I wish I could cover new material instead of reviewing old material. I've been continually distracted by Mario 64. That game is getting frustrating, as well. In the original version, you only needed 70 stars to finish the game, but now, you need 80. This should, theoretically, be fine, as there are many new stars to unlock. Unfortunately, all the new stars require you to unlock characters like Luigi and Wario to get. So if you can't unlock them, the game is just plain harder. Those last 10-20 stars are KILLERS. I mean, I'm trying everything. Despite hours of playing today, I haven't progressed past the 66th star. The most infuriating level bar none is the desert level (Course 8), because there is so much random SHIT that happens to you constantly. Dust storms sweep you into the air. The vulture steals your hat. Those flying red things pelt you with fireballs. Then you slip and fall into a quicksand pit. Seriously, that level sucks!
As for my website, I think I'm going to start putting posts like this into a "Journal" section and only put up very important things under News, or things with nice photos. I'm concerned that I'm boring my readers too much. However, it is fun to log in once or twice a day and write quick journal entries. If I split the two up, everyone would be happy.
Furthermore, I want to build a new site when I get to Yanbian. This site will still stay on the internet, but I would like to start a clean, new site on a new server, to signify that I'm living in a new country and kind of turning a new leaf. My new site will have a lot more Korean on it -- maybe I'll write the whole thing in Korean. I plan to use a free host instead of paying for space. If I need space, I can just hot link from this site, which still has over 400 megabytes free. I don't want to be billed $4.95 a month for two sites ($9.90 a month -- too expensive), so that's why I'd rather go for the free site on the second one. Yet it has to have its own sub domain so the URL doesn't get too long. The worst thing on earth would be to make people go to http://www.geocities.com/charleshenrywetzel/yanbian.htm. That'd just be too long, and one thing I've learned is that non-native speakers of English make a TON of errors when typing English URLs, so you can't confuse them too much. The URL needs to be as short as possible.
The new site will also allow me to exercise new techniques in HTML and other web languages. I plan to sign up for a web publishing course sometime in the near future, and maybe the new site could have a nicer layout and be coded more professionally.
September 3, 2007
I had this inspiration to cover my pants with the ripped-out fly, my shoes that have holes in them, and a cheapo T-shirt in duct tape. In addition to looking cool, it would rejuvenate these items. In the US, people often coat things with duct tape. Evidenced by Mr. Forrest from CELTA using "duct tape" as an example of elision in the English language, duct tape isn't just an American thing -- the British know about it, too.
I decided to first find out how to say "duct tape" in Korean. I described it to Bona -- she said I should call it "cheongteipeu" ("green tape"). That refers to the type of tape they use when moving. She thought that the technical word for duct tape in its purest form would be "eunteipeu" ("silver tape") but green tape is more ubiquitous in Korea.
I went to several stores this morning that sell tape. They all carry cheongteipeu. It's everywhere. The official brand name is Cheong Myeon Tape.
It's the same stuff, from the standpoint of how it's constructed. It's also a durable fabric tape. It's not quite as shiny, but definitely serves the same purpose. At the local GS-25 Mart, it's a mighty 1,600 won a roll! Whew, that's pretty expensive!
Unfortunatley, though, it's just not the same as duct tape. Functionally it is, but fashion-wise, it isn't. If you cover your clothes in duct tape, you look like a trendy spaceman. If you coat your clothes in Cheong Myeon Tape, you just look like, well, green. You look like a leprechaun.
So I guess I'll have to either import some duct tape, or maybe divert some from the Army base. I bet they have some at the commissary -- too bad I can't shop there. I wish I had a military friend. They're all in and out of here so fast. Jessica was in the Army, and she was done with Korea in just a few months. I guess that's what she wanted, but it was fun having her around.
Well, there is still hope for duct tape. If I go to Costco, I bet they'll have it. Korea has several Costcos. I really need to get over to one. Unfortunately, transportation costs money, and you need a membership for Costco, as I recall.
September 2, 2007
In preparation, I've been spending my break reviewing the massive vocab lists from Level 3 and 4. At the very end, I'll do a quick review on Levels 1 and 2 (along with the stuff I did in the US). I figure I'm less likely to have forgotten the elementary stuff, so that'll go quicker.
Most importantly of all (though the least quantifiable) I need to be doing listening comprehension practice. I know I keep saying this, and then I never get into a steady routine of doing it. So I guess I'm going to have to be very rigid this time and set a specific list of listening tasks. Let's see how the following works:
Really, studying right now is quite important, even if I'm not going to Korean university anytime soon. This is because I may well be at a Korean peak that I may not reach again for another couple of years, depending on where I go to teach English. If I'm in Guangzhou, I doubt I'll practice my Korean much at all. If I'm in Yanji, I'll practice it all right, but since I'll be speaking it in real life and not studying out of books most of the time like I do now, my test-taking ability will diminish. So I really should pass the KLPT Level 4 this time, because if I don't, I may never be able to do so again.
I want to pass that test with a 4 for my resume, primarily. To a lesser extent, I want the score 4 so that someday, when I've gotten my bachelor's degree online, I can come back to Korea and get a decent degree from a school here -- either another bachelor's, or a master's. The word count for passing with a 4 isn't that exorbitant. They expect you to know at least 5,000 words. The last test certified that I knew 3,000-4,000, so logically, the last test certified that I was between 60% and 80% of the way to a 4. However, I'm also worried that last time, I just got really, really lucky. I wonder if I'll take it again and get a lower score, simply because I lack the luck that I had last time (and I WAS lucky last time). The test only has 100 questions, so getting lucky is a completely possible phenomenon.
What else did I do today, besides study? Well, I met with Junhyeong and we had quite a short meeting. I didn't have much to ask her. I mainly asked her about words related to the Korean draft. She was also able to give me the four military ranks, in order, that conscripts are able to reach. That's kind of impressive. I guess this society is pretty militarized. Ewha Women's University, her school, also has a special deal with the military where graduates from Ewha can assume high posts in the military, so maybe that's why she knows about it.
After getting home, I played some hardcore Super Mario 64, and got my 61st star from the world where it's always snowing. I had to find eight red coins, two of which required melting blocks of ice using Yoshi. It was pretty tough. From here on, the game is getting a lot tougher, because I've unlocked all the worlds and gotten all the easy stars. I basically just have the hard ones left. I'll tell you, if you want to economize on your living, get a few video games! If you're in the house all day playing video games, you aren't out spending money.
Oh, one more thing. A day or two ago, I was at Grand Mart, and they were handing out free samples of a new beer -- Korea is always on the cutting edge! The beer's name is: MILLER GENUINE DRAFT. Oh, and there's this other beer called "Miller Lite" that just came out as well! Well, you suckers will have to wait for these wonderful beverages. :-)
August 31, 2007
Today, the ajumma made curry again. I'm sick of curry. It's the low point of our week when we have curry. I think what really turned me off of curry forever was when I lived at the other hasukjip, and I was cooking for myself, and I'd constantly buy curry pouches for 490 won because they were so cheap. There was curry and jjajang sauce. So I alternated those two things all the time. I don't think I'm as sick of jjajang as I am of curry, but I could stand to go quite some time before eating either one again.
Gaming-wise, my day has been very rich. First, I got to 60 stars in Super Mario 64. Therefore, I'm relatively close to the end of the game. I started out in the low 50s this afternoon when I woke up, and just got on a roll! However, my biggest gaming accomplishment for today is beating River City Ransom EX (a Game Boy Advance game). That's what my next paragraph is going to be about.
I've played River City Ransom EX for almost two years, but never been able to finish it, because every time I get to River City High School to have the showdown with Slick (the gang leader), I can't get in the front gate. It turns out there's a boss called "Ivan" who is supposed to open the gate, and he only appears when you go back in the game to Sherman Park and defeat another boss. Well, I did all that, got into the high school and finished the game! While I thought River City Ransom was somewhat mediocre in terms of fun, it had a lot going for it. It was a fighting game but with heavy RPG elements. There are several stats that you can level up -- some to 128, some to 255. You can permanently learn various techniques that you can save to a file. Most stats are enhanced by buying items at stores with money that you get by beating up gang members. The game felt a lot like a really old, 2D version of Shenmue -- a fighting game containing RPG elements (stats, money, etc) with lots of exploration of normal towns, urban and suburban areas, factories, etc. It wasn't the most fun game on earth, but it is an interesting concept game, just like Shenmue.
August 30, 2007
I mainly took an ultra-long nap today, and that's about all I've accomplished. We had kimchi jjigae with toufu in it at the hasukjip. My online Chinese teacher graded one of my assignments, so I am ahead of schedule with the class and so far have a perfect score (which I darn well should, because I studied Chinese before).
I talked to Dang li on MSN for the first time in a long time, today. We chatted in English! She claims she isn't taking English classes, but I think that she has some kind of English regimen, because she seems to be a lot more competent in English than the last time I talked to her, and her typing speed has increased notably. She's currently taking a vacation in Xi'an to visit relatives, and her work in southern China has finished.
That's most unfortunate, because I got a job offer in Guangzhou which I'm still definitely considering taking. The offer is for 6,000 RMB a month with free apartment and a 6,000 RMB completion bonus (so the pay for one year is a nearly tax-free $10,322.21 complete with free apartment). I need to do my due diligence on the employer, but so far, it's looking like a great job, and it only requires 20 teaching hours a week! I look forward to getting off of work and taking a 75-minute ferry to Hong Kong. Getting my exams proctored will be dead easy. I can just go back to my old middle school in Hong Kong and ask some of my former teachers to proctor for me. Hong Kong is visa-free for Americans, and my teacher's Z visa counts as a multiple-entry visa for China, so basically, I can take a trip to Hong Kong just as easily as a Virginian could take a trip to Washington, D.C., so I'm really psyched about this.
August 29, 2007: UPDATE 2
I went to the Ewha Women's University Shinsegye Building and met Junhyeong and we language exchanged. She had some grammar questions. They were mostly of the "you must memorize this, this is a collocation" sort. For example, there was a question in which one answer (the "incorrect" answer) had "a half" and the correct answer had just "half." Neither answer was incorrect, but one was a little bit unnatural. She has these questions all the time, and I hate to always say "you just have to memorize it" every time, but if she wants to score well on these nitpicky tests like the TOEFL, that's unfortunately her only option. Fortunately, I was able to help her differentiate between "restore" and "rennovate."
Usually, I just ask about vocabulary. Sure, I could learn vocabulary words from the dictionary, but I like trying to explain what I'm looking for in Korean and then get the word that people actually use. I asked some RANDOM things today. I learned fishing terms -- fishing pole (nakshidae), fishing line (nakshijul), and fishing hook (nakshibaneul, literally means "fishing needle"). The one that was really challenging to explain to her was the "bobber." It was difficult because she's never been fishing before, so she had no concept of what a bobber was. I described it as "botong peullaseutigeuro mandeun weonhyeong" ("a sphere that is usually made of plastic"). I drew a very detailed diagram. I didn't realize that she didn't know the word for it in Korean, either, until I asked her if she'd ever been fishing, and she never had. At first, she thought I was talking about a lure -- she figured that the bright-colored plastic thing was meant to attract fish. She finally looked it up in her dictionary -- it's "nakshijji." Oh, and by the way, "lure" is "mikgi."
I guess it's no real surprise that she's never been fishing. I think that Korean kids miss out on a lot of things like that. Apparently most (or at least a large number) of Koreans can't swim, because it's not something that they're customarily taught from a young age like folks in the west.
I've been having trouble hearing Junhyeong lately. I'm wondering if I have an ear infection in my right ear. I really don't hear very well at all through it, especially lately. I hate to bring you in on the gross details, but every time I use some cue tips, I get a SHOCKING amount of wax out of there. I think I need to go to the doctor and get that checked. This sucks, because I'll need to go to the doctor again in a few months for my mandatory pre-China checkup (so they have a certificate saying that I don't have AIDS or syphilis or anything like that). Man, that sucks, but my hearing is important. If I can't hear during the next listening exam, I can't very well be expected to pass it. Even though the hearing tests that I take at the doctor place my hearing in the range of normal, I think I've always had bad hearing. That makes sense, given that my ear drum literally BURST OPEN when I was young, and needed to be repaired (the repair was unsuccessful). I wonder how much better my Korean listening comprehension would be if my hearing were better. Maybe a visit to the doctor will at least take care of the recent problem.
Here's another story that I haven't told yet. When I was in China, I stayed at a hotel in Yanji in which the owner was Chinese, but spoke Korean that was conversational (she wasn't an ethnic Korean joseonjok, but had probably taken some classes in school). I had the volume on my TV up at a level that she thought was too loud, so she knocked on my door, and told me that it was too loud. Of course it wasn't too loud. It was at a strictly normal volume. She insisted that I turn the volume down to 3 notches. I told her that "the thing inside my ear exploded when I was young." I went on to explain that I'd gotten surgery for it more than once, but it failed. She replied "you have to go to a Chinese hospital! They can fix something like that!" I love the absolute faith of this woman in her country's medical system, but I have to be a little more skeptical.
Anyways, today, I need a game plan, or I'll just waste it like all the other days. This hasn't been a very productive vacation. I usually just spend all day on the internet. Before I went to bed early this morning, I did manage to research some college-related things over the Skype phone (found out more precisely what Charter Oak State College requires -- it's a little bit harder than I thought). I also got an e-mail back from an English school that I e-mailed in Guangzhou. Apparently you DO NOT need a bachelor's degree to teach in Guangzhou, which is GREAT news. Basically, in March of 2008, I could be living right on Hong Kong's doorstep. Plus, Guangzhou wages are relatively high.
China is a confusing place to work because every province is different. In terms of visa laws, China isn't really one unified country, but a confederation. If you want to teach in Jilin, requirements are very, very lax. If you want to teach in Beijing or Shanghai, requirements are tough, and you must have a bachelor's degree. Hong Kong, while technically part of China, requires its own visas for work, and the requirements are higher still than anywhere on mainland China. Therefore, China is a confusing beast when it comes to finding out laws -- every time you research a new province, you must start over from scratch.
So, what am I going to do today? I'm going to:
Anyways, better get to work!
August 29, 2007
What I found may shock you.
Keep in mind that these are rough calculations, and cannot be taken as scripture or anything. In both calculations, I assumed that the English teacher in China/Korea is not paying taxes (usually their salaries are tax-free, and they don't need to pay US income tax if it's under about $70,000 a year). I also based my figures on the following assumptions:
With those numbers in mind, and using the online IRS tax tables, I calculated the following:
Actually, my calculations didn't even take into account things like paid airfares, move-in bonuses, etc. that many Asian employers offer. Oh, and in China, food is vastly cheaper as well.
So in short summary, I can save about the same amount in China that I can in Fairfax. When I get my degree and can teach in Korea, I bet I will save MORE than I could be saving in Fairfax. Money isn't everything, but it's nice when the place where you want to live also allows you to save more money!
August 25, 2007: UPDATE 2
Today, I'm going to the Kyobo Bookstore. I won't be buying a book -- my plan is to stop in there about once a week and freeload -- just sit in the huge, busy bookstore and read a Chinese textbook for my class that I'm too poor to buy. I know I should buy it, but I'm not breaking any laws by doing this -- just being an annoying customer. The publisher has a generous portion of the book in PDF format on their website, so I should be able to get quite a bit out of that, as well, and I found a word list of the words in the book available from some Hong Kong site. It's not a very expensive textbook, though. If worst comes to worst and I have to cave and buy it, it's not the end of the world.
August 25, 2007
Just a little while ago, I was talking with two other Americans at Golden Pond Guest House, and we were being loud. One of my fellow countrymen was being VERY loud -- he seemed to be lacking the ability to control THE VOLUME OF HIS VOICE. He went off to bed, but just after he left, a man walked into our guest house.
I asked why he came (in the polite way, saying "how did you come?," using honorifics, because I had a hunch he had entered because of the noise). In the past, we have had an ajumma walk in here and become verbally violent, and an ajeosshi who argued with Peolpeol loudly out front of the guesthouse, so I was going to tread carefully. Neighbors in Korean can be VERY confrontational, despite all this "avoiding confrontations due to Confucianism" bullshit that you read in travel books.
Well, this guy could have potentially become confrontational. He asked where the "ajumma" was. I said she was sleeping at her house. However, by that point, this ajeosshi had decided that rather than pick a fight or argue, he was going to get a free English lesson. It was a little bit awkward, but I'll take giving an English lesson over yet another altercation any day.
He let me in on the full details of his life. Apparently he, too, went to Yonsei University -- back in the 70s. He was born in 1945 and had been a soccer player. He had very big muscles, and gave a very firm handshake. He talked about his muscles. He wanted to make sure we knew he was muscular. Okay, point taken. Apparently he has a regimen of language study -- he studies English, Chinese, and Japanese, devoting one day to each each week. His English was pidgin English, but it didn't seem so bad. I understood him, at least. He's going to New York and Los Angeles pretty soon. Apparently his son is 23 right now, and off in Iraq. His son is part of some Samsung division.
He sat there for like an hour and talked to me and the other remaining American. He enquired about the Starcraft channel we were watching on TV.
Eventually, I kind of wanted to stop talking. I'll humor someone and talk with them for 10 minutes or so, but an unknown person just inviting himself into my friend's house is kind of weird, and I'd prefer to keep such a volatile situation as short as possible. So I turned on my quiz program and started quizzing myself on Korean. He looked at my word lists written on paper and was very impressed. He continued to get his English lesson.
Eventually he left. Me and the other American agree that he was rather intimidating (for 62 years, he was muscular, and he'd just let himself in), and while it was an interesting cultural experience, it was a little bit strange. However, I'll pick giving an English lesson over a fight, or even a shouting match, any day.
August 23, 2007
So as you can see, punctuation marks can actually be a highly entertaining topic if approached the right way. Sometimes, the way Koreans say something is just so outlandish, you burst out laughing.
Here's a link to the full list of punctuation marks:
What else have I been up to lately? Well, I signed up for five credits of Chinese! I know it's well beyond my financial means, but if Yonsei lets me work off half my tuition for Level 6 (legal, because I'm not actually receiving money, but just earning back the tuition that I paid) then I'll be fine. So pretty soon, I'll start learning Chinese through NOVA. It's an online lecture, which isn't the best way to learn a language, but I care more just about having a structured curriculum and getting credit for it. There are a ton of Chinese people around here who would LOVE to be my language exchange partner, so I can get plenty of exposure to Chinese that way while doing the class. I need to know some Chinese before I go off to China. I have over a month before Yonsei classes begin. Maybe if I'm efficient, I can completely finish the Chinese class by then.
I designed a new quiz program for Korean that is far more efficient than the old one I was using. Rather than randomly picking words out from the list, it reads the list into memory and swaps entries in the array (up to several thousand times), then goes through the array sequentially. The result is that it doesn't repeat a word like three times in a row, and covers EVERY word. It's far better for covering small vocabulary lists. It also allows you to type in your answer rather than writing it out on paper. If your answer doesn't match the computer's, it allows you to override. For example, the computer shows the word "number" and I type "sut-ja/beon-ho." That's correct, but the computer was only looking for "beon-ho." So normally, the computer would mark me wrong, but I wrote an override into it. Using this new quiz program, I can quiz myself on words at least twice as fast! I'm thrilled!
Finally, I started watching an anime called "Chrno Crusade" that's set in the roaring 20s in the US (interesting setting for an anime). I first saw a couple of episodes in Korean on Toonami one night while practicing my Korean, and thought it was pretty cool, and discovered that a lot of episodes are available on YouTube.
Anyways, I'd better get to work on my Korean, and do some other stuff... Therefore, I'll sign off now.
August 20, 2007: UPDATE 2
I just got into my hasukjip and was climbing the stairs, when this old woman came out into the hallway -- WEARING NO SHIRT AND NO BRA. I'm not kidding you -- old, withered, 60+ year old teats. Wearing nothing above the waist.
I saw this and I think I literally jumped back! I mean, it was just so WEIRD. And then, as if that wasn't weird enough, she totally didn't have any reaction whatsoever. She just kind of stood there like she was a normal person going about normal business.
And then here comes the weird part -- as I ascended the stairs, I looked back, because I just couldn't believe what I'd seen. The topless ajumma came out of her apartment and picked something off the ground! It was like she wasn't aware that she wasn't wearing a shirt or bra!
She didn't seem quite old enough to be senile, but acting like that, you have to wonder if something's wrong. I'm going to have to place that in my top five weird experiences in Korea.
August 20, 2007
Today, it's not a firebombing by nationalistic students, or an attack on a white person in the streets of Hyehwa. It's not a deal of three Koreans beating up a South African teacher with an ironing board and his own shoes. Today, the racism is more institutionalized.
Deciding to thank America for liberating Korea from the Japanese, and then liberating South Korea from the oppressive dictator of North Korea, Korea has decided to repay me by refusing to issue me a student visa until I make an arbitrary trip to Japan and back. They say I don't have a visa right now, so they can't do it. Never mind that my Austrian friend had no problem converting HER non-visa status to D-4. They say it's because Austrians don't use visas. Well, I don't either. Shenyang's Consulate (another Racial Hygiene Bureau responsible for actual murders) told me I didn't need one, and refused to issue me one. So I came to Korea, and extended to 90 days. So what really makes me different from an Austrian person with 90-day visa waiver? In my opinion, nothing. The Racial Hygiene Bureau just feels like harassing a white person, because they're bastards.
So I'll go to Japan and apply for my visa. Then I'll come back. What this will accomplish, besides harassing the yangnom, I have no idea. I guess it'd just be too much to bear if people who aren't from the magnificent Han bloodline could stay here for extended periods of time.
So I'll go to Japan, and I estimate it'll cost me about $300. Maybe I can afford it. Maybe I can't. If I can't, there are always credit cards to bail me out. Maybe I can sell my blood. Oh wait, the bloodbanks probably want the blood of the Superior Han Superman, not the inferior blood of a yangnom.
This has actually been the case for quite some time, but I haven't really openly admitted it on my website: I don't really like Korea that much. Korea is like the ugly girl who wears a shirt that says "OUT OF YOUR LEAGUE." The Immigration Bureau sets up these laws that are more fickle than even Japan -- even though 10x more people want to go to Japan than Korea. The result is that people don't come to Korea, so Korea has no foreign talent. Therefore, Korea is always technologically behind other countries, and always becomes a political pawn because it has no military might.
I can't stand for a culture that's xenophobic to the point of utter paranoia. Will I go back to the US? Hell no. I don't particularly love the US either. However, I'll tell you, China and Japan are looking SO MUCH more appealing right now.
August 19, 2007
I posted five additional pictures in a NEW PHOTO GALLERY. If you click on "Photos" on the navigation bar, you will now notice that there is a new photo gallery (2007: July 1 - Present). All the pictures are there. If you don't see the link, refresh your browser.
Alternatively, you can
New Invasive Species Infests the Streets of SeoulIf you look at the picture on the right, you will see a very blurry picture that I took of a lycorma delictula white, a type of cicada that was discovered in Korea recently, and since it has no known natural enemies in Korea, has been multiplying rapidly. They look kind of grayish unless their wings are open -- then you can see their red backs. One ran into my head today. :-(
According to a Korea Times article I read today, this bug originally came from southern China, and then spread to Beijing, and now it's in Korea.
August 18, 2007
I've decided to look into the British education system a little bit more, because British bachelor's degrees only take three years, not four. I need a bachelor's degree as quickly as possible and as cheaply as possible, so three years instead of the four that we use in the US is a huge advantage.
I did some research and here are my findings:
The Open University in the UK is a three-year bachelor's degree-granting university. Its tuition fees are quite high (400 pounds for a 10-point class [300 points are necessary to graduate]). Therefore, it's far too expensive to be practical, unless I can complete almost all my credits at NOVA and Yonsei and transfer them. Then it might be reasonable.
The other idea that I researched is WILD! There's a distance learning university in South Africa called "UNISA" (University of South Africa) that also uses the British three-year system. South Africa uses a system of "modules." You supposedly need 30 modules to graduate. Each module in the subjects I'm looking at (computer science) are 740 rand, as far as I understand it. Each module also has a 580 rand fee tacked onto it if you're foreigner enrolled at their university. However, upon converting the currencies from rand to dollar, that still comes out to a mere $179.11 per module, and $5,373.30 for a full degree. That seems OBSCENELY cheap. I just can't believe that right now, so I have e-mailed the school asking for further clarification. What if University of South Africa is actually that cheap? I guess I'll have to wait for their e-mail to find out.
August 16, 2007
August 15, 2007
For instance, last night, I went to the kitchen late at night to watch Korean TV to practice my listening. I ended up watching the movie "Silent Hill." It was so awful at times, but it pulled me in. You know how something really morbid can just make you want to watch on? I had my finger on the channel button pretty much the whole time. However, in some ways, it was really good. I want to try the video game now. The dilapidated, rotting, paint-half-peeled scenery really reminded me of the hotel I stayed at the first night in Yanbian. So if you want to know what the hotel near the train station in Yanji looks like, just watch Silent Hill!
All I've done today is jump from 45 stars to 50 stars in Super Mario 64. I recently found out you only need 70 stars to complete the game, not 105, so I'm a lot closer to the end than I thought. Considering this game was originally only 8 megabytes, it's massive!
I ought to study some Korean now, as ungratifying as that has become...
August 14, 2007
As for other news, I met with Junhyeong today. Oh, and I was notified that a package for me has shown up at Golden Pond -- probably the television tuner that I ordered that will allow my Game Boy Advance (and possibly Nintendo DS) to receive television both through the airwaves and through the cable that goes into my room. I have a handheld TV already, but it's very flawed -- its screen is tiny and it cannot easily receive cable.
August 13, 2007
I was 90% sure that I had, but there was that 10% of doubt. Now I have the letter to prove it. Time to update my resume and brag to people about it.
Benefits of CELTA:
I also paid my Yonei tuition today. Yim Bang-wool seemed all frantic about me not having a visa. She doesn't think I can extend in-country. I was like "don't worry, if that's the case, I'll just go to Japan and come back." She still seemed kind of frantic. I realize that she's worried about my being able to continue studying here, and while I respect her, I don't think Koreans know anything whatsoever about the Korean visa system. I know I sure don't know a darn thing about the US visa system, and conversely, they don't know about their own system, either. I bet I can extend it, and if I can't, there's probably some low-cost solution to get around it, like going to Busan, getting on a ferry, going to Fukuoka, and coming back.
August 12, 2007
Basically, I just did my calculations today and thanks to Asiana Airlines refunding the airline ticket that I didn't use (kudos to them), I theoretically have enough money to put myself through the next eight months without going into debt, until I get to China and start working again. I'm happy that Asiana Airlines did what they did -- it took them a while, but they came through.
However, in order to afford just about any luxury, I'm going to need to sell something or find money on the street. Do I want to go eat dinner with my Yonsei classmates? That'll mean selling a few Super Famicom cartridges in Yongsan. Do I want to buy a new bar of soap? It may entail working pay phones for change using my top secret method. I think I have enough inventory to keep myself going until China if I'm very, very careful about doing this.
In the worst case scenario, I'll have to use my credit card to buffer me. That may sound dangerous, but my card's limit is simply too low to allow me to really screw myself over. Alternatively, instead of using the credit card, I could stop living in the hasukjip during my last month, and go back to Golden Pond, or camp out on public land (something I recently found out is LEGAL). However, at least in theory, I need not take any of these measures -- if I am very, very careful, I can continue to live in my beloved room AND still have a few dollars left in the bank. Don't worry too much, even if things don't go according to plan and I end up penniless and overseas, at least the US Embassy gives loans for one's plane ticket home. Not that returning to the US is going to solve my problems when there are at least three countries where I can work that are closer.
This is actually a pretty good day for me, because now at least I know that it's possible to make it to my goal. Before, I wasn't quite sure how I was going to do it. CELTA really cost a lot of money, and threw a monkey wrench into my plans (even though I believe it will be worth it in the long term), but most of the things related to that are settling themselves out.
August 11, 2007: UPDATE 2
I did a bunch of studying, as usual. I did a ton of looking up of words that we were required to learn in Level 4. This is one place where the KLI program pisses me off, as does the CELTA method (I should be careful, I haven't even received my certificate yet). There seems to be this prevailing idea that students should define the words for themselves, rather than being given the definitions. Sorry, I have to disagree. I think that's stupid. All the students are looking up the words in their electronic dictionaries, which all use the same software dictionaries. Therefore, making students look up the words is basically like saying to the students "We won't give you the definition. Go to your YMB Si-sa-based dictionary and memorize that definition, which is, by the way, the same definition all the other students will be spending their time looking up." This seems like such a waste of time to me, because if you have a class of 12 students, composed of Chinese, Japanese, and English speakers, it will take them 12 man hours to find the definitions on their own, presuming that each one spends one hour finding the definitions. Since they will inevitably just go to their dictionaries and find the words, it seems like such a misallocation of resources. Why not have the words pre-translated in the textbook? I especially hate it when the word is so obscure, it isn't in any dictionary, like dongjisa (archaic word for "diplomat") or sonmae ("feeling of the hand"). Then I have to contact my language exchange partner and ask her.
Aside from my continuing futile struggle to learn this impossible language, well, let's see... I went to McDonald's today and got a cheeseburger and fries, because it's been forever since I had western food. Then I talked with a couple of Mormon missionaries. Unlike that weird Heavenly Mother cult that operates outside of Sogang and has tricked me into coming into their building twice, the Mormons are much more passive and seem to be more interested in converting people by setting a good neighbor example. I think I've mentioned before that I like the Mormons. The particular dude that I was talking to probably spoke better Korean than me, as well. He'd been in Korea for about the same amount of time as me, as well, but those Mormons spend several hundred hours studying the language before coming. I think they spend about 250 hours learning the language before coming, if I understood what he and his buddy were saying correctly (four hours a day of language study for two and a half months, which I believe is six days a week). I've heard other Mormons say it's more. In any case, you've got to hand it to the missionaries. I've met lots of missionaries from the west (almost exclusively Mormon, with one exception) and they all speak pretty good Korean.
There's not much else that made today particularly remarkable. I went over to Paul's, briefly. He's considering moving to Yanbian, as well. He is thinking about studying at Yanbian University. I had dropped by the booklet and application form and a map of Yanbian, but I guess he found better information on the internet, so he returned that stuff to me. It'll be good to know at least one other foreigner in Yanbian.
I'm a little bit spooked about my SDV 100 class because she hasn't graded the final exam yet, even though she's graded assignments that I turned in a number of days after the exam. It's probably nothing to be worried about, but it's a little bit weird.
I've come up with a plan to finish my bachelor's degree by the end of 2009 instead of the beginning of 2010. It requires a course load that's slightly bigger than average (if you consider average 15 credits a semester) but I think I can handle it. Here it is:
Well, there's not much else to mention. I installed SETI@home to aid SETI in the search for sentient extraterrestrial life, but the packets they keep sending me are so huge, I think it would take my computer about a day just to finish one packet, because I'm using a Pentium III 550 MHz, not some multi-GHz monster like everyone else. Well, that's about all for today.
August 11, 2007
I also watched Korean TV on my computer for over an hour and a half today. I mostly watched a documentary about searching for intelligent life in the universe. My goal for this break is to spend an average of one hour per day watching Korean TV. I know I make up these kinds of goals all the time and never follow them, but I barely scraped by with a C last term in listening comprehension, and really need to beef up my listening comprehension before the new term starts.
What else did I do today? Well, I finished two "projects" for my SDV 100 class and sent them to my instructor, in addition to one boring assignment. One of the projects was to make a PowerPoint about why students should take SDV 100 early in their academic careers, and the other was a paper about Chater Oak State College, a finishing university. I am now done with 100% of my SDV 100 work and the course is now over. I hope I get a decent grade -- if I do, this'll be a major first for me -- first class that I've ever completed completely online. Since I'm planning to get an entire degree online (much faster than waiting until my Korean is good enough) this will be a major first step. I'll tell you, I'm sick of people constantly saying this, but technology is great. Five or ten years ago, completing one's degree online while living overseas would probably be impossible or near-impossible. Now I have lots of choices of where to take the classes online, and it's a feasible thing to do. In this day and age, any American who's just graduated high school and has a few thousand bucks in seed money (earned with summer or part-time jobs -- in my case, mainly 7-Eleven) can go overseas and put themself through college by teaching English in a place with low requirements like China or Vietnam. It's amazing.
Of course, I wouldn't be a normal young person if I didn't talk about music a little bit, so I'll say that I've just gotten into a mode where I'm listening to "Panama" by Van Halen over and over again. I read about it on Wikipedia when reading about the US invasion of Panama, and how the US military played this song nice and loud to flush the former Panamanian dictator out of the Vatican Embassy. The best part is that it's allegedly about a car, because someone accused David Lee Roth of only singing about partying, sex, and cars. He'd never sung about cars, actually, so he decided to do so. However, the song is actually about sex (a stripper). I found this kind of comical. The story of this song is perhaps better than the song itself...
Oh, and here's your Korean word of the day: jjokbari -- a not-so-nice term for a Japanese person. None of my friends seem to know the etymology of it, but since "samyeongbari means "crab lice" I think the "bari" has a "louse" meaning. Any ideas? I asked the Korean who taught it to me, and she said it's a viable theory. Unfortunately, the word is a native Korean word, not a hanja word, so you can't dissect the syllables and see what it means. I actually like Japanese people, so this isn't a word that I intend to use, but slurs and slang like this are the real meat of a language. Yangnom is what they used to use for white people, since we're on that topic, but I hear people don't use it much these days. I wonder what the etymology is of that word. I can think of two. One is "yang" being a corruption of "Yankee" which the Koreans still think is a derogatory term (but actually hasn't been for about 200 years). Another theory is that it's from "seoyang" ("the west"). I don't know. Well, although I'd love to research etymology endlessly, I've been awake for a while now and ought to get some sleep.
August 9, 2007
I got a pool pass for 2,500 won and then went to the Yonsei pool. In theory, I could have been there for about an hour and a half. However, I stayed way less than that.
Part of the problem is just that I'm really out of shape. It's been months (close to a year) since I did multi-mile walks to my school or workplace. So I couldn't do a bunch of laps in the pool. I had come in there with all kinds of idealistic visions of things like jumping into the water and swimming a mile, or at least a kilometer, the way I did back when I was a middle schooler.
I won't tell you how many laps I succeeded in doing, but I didn't reach a mile, or even a kilometer. It was so tiring. I'm not fat, I just lack any sort of stamina whatsoever, I guess. Plus, they made me wear a "swimming hat" in the pool (my hair is like less than one inch long). And my teeth collided with some other dude's head.
It's really a pure sports swimming pool. There were just a bunch of guys swimming laps. There weren't any families eating pizza on the side, or people standing around and chatting. You enter the pool for exercise, not for socializing or enjoyment.
I like the beach a lot better. The swimming pool is closing on August 14, but I won't be missing it!
I'm going to go over to Golden Pond in about an hour or so. I just need to finish two short papers and some minor assignments for my SDV 100 class, and that class will be finished. Other than that, things are pretty boring. At least I'm not too stressed right now.