Sunday, May 31, 2009

Going to the Country

For all of you who are curious about who I've been hanging out with lately, here's a picture of me taken today in the Korean countryside with a new group of friends. Sonny invited fellow classmate Chantalle and myself for a day at the home of one of the dedicated volunteers who give up their time so that us pasty white folks may one day speak the Korean tongue.

No lessons took place, just a lot of good food and socializing. We also played Frisbee and badminton in his substantial yard. I got to meet Sonny's rambunctious child as well, who is cute enough to get away with all sorts of hilarious antics.

Cheers! for all the epic hospitality in Korea that never seems to run dry!
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
Chantalle falls asleep on the couch, until my camera click wakes her up.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
The whole gang out front.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
Our venerable and generous host.

Boshintang with Friends

I made it back to Changwon in time for Boshintang with friend and colleague Lee Soon Jeong and her husband. The three of us had been planning this for quite awhile, but our schedules never quite messhed well enough to arrange the outing.

Bonshintang is a traditional Korean soup dish made from dog meat, and translates to something like, "invigorating soup." It is indeed quite delicious and quite invigorating, and more often eaten in the summer months. In recent years however, its become less and less popular due to perceptions about eating dog meat (What would the other G 2o nations think?) and unfortunately seems to be on the wane.

Nevertheless, I'm quite happy they showed me this delicious restaurant, and will no doubt be returning in the near future.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

More Ridiculous Scavenger Hunt Pictures

Well, here we go again with more ridiculous scavenger hunt pictures. My first batch of them was obviously not enough, as the loony nonsense of that day went on for quite some time. Here are some examples of the things we did all day. There were over a hundred different things. Here's a few. I'll be loading more shots later into my Picasa Album as I feel like it.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
"#47. Take a picture of someone with a baby on their back."
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
"#35: Take a picture of someone giving a team member a backrub.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
Our team. Go team. Krista on the left. Jannell and Amy from the right.

Samgyeopsal & Terminator: Another Long Day

Another long day for me. Fortunately the weekend is near and I'll have time for some sleep. Almost immediately after work, the Daebang MS teachers held a dinner party at the local Samgyeopsal Bistro for the student teachers wrapping up their short term practicum program at the school. No less then 4 were English teachers.

I had a great time laughing and joking around with all the English teachers there.

But I'd also committed to watching Terminator: Salvation a week ago with some friends from my Korean class. I finally managed to watch the new movie this week, and really enjoyed it. While the film wasn't perfect, it was quite good, and a great flick to watch.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Why I Can't Stand Soccer

The only spectator sport I have much interest in is American NFL football. I can watch a good basketball at times, and have been following the Denver Nuggets in the playoffs this year, but I'd rather watch mildew grow on my bathroom floor than soccer or baseball.

I can't remember where I heard it said, but some sports commentator once penned something like this: "Soccer is like caviar. It doesn't go down well, and nobody really knows why anybody likes it." Soccer is the kind of sport that's meant to be played rather than watched.

Well, today on the Fail Blog, I found an even better explanation for my disdain of the sport. Allow me to present this short clip of these two soccer playing buffoons:Seriously dudes, what is the matter with you two? Could you be any more, stupid, transparent, fake, pathetic or immature?? First of all the guy was asking for it because he gets all up in his face about something that was no doubt as dumb as what eventually transpired. Then the guy second guy barely touches him and acts like some victim who got headbutted. Come on! Man up already and quit acting like a testosterone deficient, insecure, underdeveloped 7th grade bonehead!

In all fairness I must concede that these types of monkey-house antics are not limited to soccer, as the NBA has its fair share of prima donas and hot heads. But I've never seen anything in sports quite as stupid as this. The sad things is, I the few soccer games I have been unfortunate enough to watch I've seen enough of this kind of thing to turn me off to the sport for good. What a complete lack of personal integrity. How these guys can look at themselves seriously in the mirror after nonsense like this is beyond me.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

On Robots & Terminators

I've been doing a really cool lesson recently about robots. They had this passage in our textbook at Daebang middle school they wanted me to use. They had these silly robots that look like pet dogs and this text tells how they "can read newspapers to old people." So I spiced it up a bit with a whole bunch of military UAVs and cool pics from the latest Terminator movie, in a desperate bid to hold the attention of 14 year old boys.

I think they had a fun time, with the kids later drawing robots and writing up sentences about what their robot "can" and "can't" do (I'll let you guess what the target sentence was that day). But while the kids seemed have fun, all it did for me was make me want to see the new Terminator flick that much more, (hopefully this weekend).

Anyways, I found this interesting article from a guy in Slate Magazine speculating on whether evil robots could ever take over the world. Some interesting facts gleaned from it as well: Apparently there are already 12 thousand unmanned ground vehicles already in Iraq and Afghanistan (a scary thought) and over 7000 UAV's. I'm surprised that the article didn't touch more on the Aegis combat system and the integrated and increasingly automated digital networks that already are, and will increasingly be managing targeting and fire control for all the services (and eventually the UAVs and robots).

The author also claims its only a matter of time before military robots are fielded that will make autonomous decisions about engagement.

Gaming the Robot Revolution, by P. W. Singer

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Video Quote From the Most Interesting Man

Today's bit of wisdom comes from the most interesting man in the world. Who knew such enlightened sagacity could be found in a 17 second beer commercial? I like this dude as well. This is how I see myself in 30-40 years.

New Climbing Album from Back in the Day

I've been meaning to post this album up for awhile now. Back in the late summer of 2001, my friend Geremiah Jeronimo Gentry, "Miah" and I scaled a big ole' granite crack up on Prescott's Granite Mountain in Arizona.

It was a great climb and a great day, despite the monsoon rain we got in the afternoon (we got soaked, but by that time had finished the day's most difficult pitches). We got out on this knife edge ridge at the very end. The ridge stood up about 250-300 feet off the deck and was wildly exposed. See the album below.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Carolyn Hax on Problem Relationships

My all time favorite advice columnist has to be Carolyn Hax. She often tackles the toughest of questions and always has a clever way of reducing complicated interpersonal issues into easily understood metaphors, making the thorniest issues obvious. She also does this and usually manages to save face for the people who write in to her.

Carolyn Hax on relationship problems: "If your boat really is leaking, I wouldn't suggest blaming it all on the ocean."
From Italy & Belgium

Sunday, May 24, 2009

After the Storm

After what was the busiest, most hectic weekend in months, the hurricane speed of life during the last couple of weeks finally abates and I have an evening to myself. I should be planning for classes tomorrow, but I'm not productive. I can barely manage to cobble together this blog entry.

For the first time in awhile, I find myself... lonely, melancholy, and lethargic.
From Northern Arizona, 2002

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Scavenger Hunt & Music Festival in Daegu

Went to Daegu to visit my new friend Krista Lee. She invited me to her town to see some big music festival/shindig thing that was going on. So I boarded a train on the other end of Changwon and went up North to Daegu, Korea's third largest city.

I had no idea what to expect, but apparently some organization of foreigners was running a scavenger hunt event that is apparently quite popular in the city. As it was only myself and Krista (we wouldn't meet up with her friends till much later) we had to join another team, where we met Amy and her friend.

Anyways, from the pictures below, you can guess that the scavenger hunt was absolutely bananas.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dinner with Jo Sung Chan's Family

My new friend Jo Sung Chan, another teacher at Daebang MS, invited me to his home Friday evening for dinner. After a short tour around Gimhae, I got to meet his family in their lovely home. They took me out to eat what was the spiciest and most delicious Chinese food I've ever eaten.

He has two very cute daughters as well, who were both tons of fun. His older daughter spoke English quite well, and was super eager to teach me Korean, giving me the names for dozens of items and objects in the restaurant.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Korean Alphabet Game

A good time killer. Here's a Korean Hangeul script game to practice learning the Korean letters. There are a couple of them and some more games I found but this is the one I played the most. I can waste a little time playing this and pretend its educational can't I?

Seriously though, its great practice. Unfortunately, I'm wishing I'd found this a few weeks ago when I started seriously learning the language. I like that it isn't at all connected to Romanized Korean, which is a crutch that's easy to fall into.

Korean Alphabet Game 1

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

English Teacher Quarantine

So the Korean government is put some English teachers under quarantine when someone tested positive for H1-N1 "swine" flu. Apparently a whole group of them had met up for some meeting and then they gathered the whole bunch of them and put them under quarantine for some wackiness.

Read a blog from someone inside:

An English Teacher Under Quarantine

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Graduation Speech: A New Tradition

Well, it appears Barack Obama, the new president of the United States is giving his first graduation commencement speeches. First at ASU and now at Notre Dame. I suppose its time to trot out this graduation speech from a little while back.

Its corny and cheesy I know, but I liked it and this is my blog, so if you don't like it you can go take a hike.Obama's Notre Dame Commmencement Speech

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The View From Jinhae's Trails

Went hiking again. This time with a new friend, Yoon-Ji, who is doing a student teaching program at Annam Middle School. After taking the bus to Jinhae, a small, coastal principality to Changwon's South, we started ascending a ridge that runs East and West to the North of Jinhae, separating it from Changwon.

We had a great time. You can see the rugged mountains, the bay, and the little city in the pictures below. Sometime soon, I'd like to hike along the whole length of this ridge to the West of Jinhae, just to see how nice the views are.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Star Trek & Italian Food with Friends

Well, readers, it looks like I've fallen off the wagon. After 9 years of vigilance, the 12 step program, and the help and encouragement from patient family and friends, I've relapsed once again. That's right folks, I went to see the new Star Trek movie. Like the addict who can't stay away from his vice, I succumbed to my curiosity to see what they'd done with Trek.

People who have known me for very long know that I've forgotten more about Star Trek than most people could ever dream of knowing. I've been to conventions galore, once owned all the spec manuals, Next Generation VHS Episodes, and a good number of the action figures. I faithfully watched every episode and movie, drew pictures of the enterprise while I should have been studying something, actually liked Deep Space 9, and attended conventions where people spoke Klingon to each other. I distinctly remember meeting William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, Majel Barrett Rodennberry and even the actress who played that cute 'Dabo girl' at Quark's bar whose name I've long since forgotten.

I thought I'd gotten over it finally and was on the path to recovery and coolness, or at least some semblance of respectability where folks wouldn't snicker about my favorite television show. That was, until they decided to "re-invent" the franchise, just like Hollywood's recently done with Batman, James Bond, and other gold plated cash cow brands.

So, together with my new friends Roger, Vicky, and Su-Yeon, we met up at the Lotte Cinema and paid our 8000 Won (about 5-6 USD) to see Star Trek on opening night. Fortunately, I managed to get through the whole evening without mentioning this embarrassing past of mine, as none of them seem the wiser.

As for the film itself, I liked it but was a slight bit disappointed. Perhaps I expected too much, as all my friends gave it rave reviews, but thinking back, I kind of feel two major flaws prevented it from being an absolutely fantastic movie.

First off, I felt the story was kind of weak. While the characters, themes, and minutiae of Classic Trek were re-imagined and well executed in innovative, hip, and sexy new ways, the story and plot was not. A rogue Romulan named Nero terrorizes the galaxy in a huge, giant spacecraft. Almost exactly like another Trek movie I think. Spock and Kirk time travelers creating...alternate realities, and a super powerful weapon capable of destroying a planet. Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise get rewarded for their insubordination. If it all sounds familiar, you know what I'm talking about. I've seen this in the last 9 Star Trek films alone, to say nothing of the TV series!

This latest Hollywood trend of "jump-starting" old franchises seems to be making lots of moviegoers happy and a few people a lot of money. But I remember director Christopher Nolan commenting on his successful reprise of the Batman series: it all starts with a good story. All pretty trimmings and great presentation do not replace the meat and potatoes of a meal. In both Batman begins, and The Dark Knight, the re-imagined and newly hip characters work their way through great stories, replete with a complex tapestry of fascinating themes.

They might have made Star Trek cool for a bit, and delivered wonderful new visions of a now more fascinating Kirk and Spock, but the story was just somewhat lacking. At times they hit on themes and ideas about sacrifice and duty or hope in the face of adversity, but nothing was really fleshed out, and not in any well thought out way.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sports Day, Galbi-jim and Cell Phone Repairs

Springtime has arrived. The trees turned green. The weather grew hot and muggy. The kids changed into their warmer weather summer uniforms. Daebang Middle School also held their field day today, or sports day as they preferred it. All the kids gathered outside on the soccer field for races and games. Kids sat on the bleachers and cheered their classmates on, pounding drums and chanting songs and cheers for their friends competing on the field.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
Here's a few of my fantastic students at Daebang Middle School. The students left shortly after lunch. Sports day and then the afternoon off.

Could life get any better? Evidently so, as Bae Sang-Im was gracious enough to help me get my cell phone fixed, even driving me down to the service center. I was anticipating a 2 week to 2 month waiting period and costs approaching over 200,000 Won (160-190 USD). Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised when it costed 13,000 won and the whole thing was taken care of in about 10 minutes. I even got to watch the super dextrous repair technician break my phone down into 2800 different pieces and put it back together before I finished a cup of tea. Go SKY!

Galbijim planned again tonight for dinner. This time with Bo Hwe. In case you've been living under a rock all your life, galbijim is the greatest type of food. EVER.

Now if the Denver Nuggets can humiliate the Lakers in the NBA playoffs, everything will be just peachy. But perhaps I shouldn't ask for too much.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Korean Samulnori Percussion

My friend and co-worker, Bae Sang-Im is always eager to introduce me to some new aspect of Korean culture and society I may not have previously been aware of. So I thought I might relay to my readers her latest introduction to capture my attention: the unique percussion instruments and musical style known in Korea as Samulnori. The musicians use different types of two sided drums and cymbals.Fast paced clattering melodies on the cymbals and equally energetic rhythms collide and dance in a frenzied, syncopated duel. Although uniquely Korean, Samulnori does bear some resemblances to other Asian percussion styles such as taiko drumming.

I'm definitely going to have to be on the lookout for some Samulnori events to attend and see.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Long Slog Ahead

Got a lot of work ahead of me to learn Korean. Its still sinking in. I've come a long way, but I know how much farther I must go.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Obsession with Advice Columnists

Dear advice columnist,

I have a problem. I'm hooked on reading advice columnists, as I never fail to read the daily and weekly newspaper, lifestyle features from Dear Abby, Carolyn Hax, and others. Half the letters I can hardly stand to read, particularly when you publish public service announcements telling people how to prevent diabetes or asking people to donate to the Irritable Bowel Syndrome Research Foundation, or some other inane matter that's only important to your market segment.

Yet I can't keep from spending inordinate amounts of time reading the advice you dish out to clueless, thickheaded dolts writing you for help with their all too often obvious problems. I love the way most of you throw the problems right back at the writer, yet I wonder if these people even ever recognize the problem in themselves?

It wouldn't be such a problem except that it saps my productivity when I should be doing other things, like filing my tax return form, studying a second language, working out, or writing in my blog. What should I do about this?

-Advice Column Addict in South Korea

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Buddha Figure Garden

At the temple, there was this area with thousands of tiny little Buddha statues and figures in all sorts of various poses and depicting the Buddha in various ways. The eeirie garden of figurines is the result of a custom I'd previously never witnessed. Patrons purchase the figures and write their names and short prayers on the underside of the porcelain and metal icons, to be left in the garden.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
At temples in both Korea and Japan, I'd seen prayers written on sticks to be burned in ceremonies, but I'd previously never encountered this nor heard of it anywhere. Unique to this area? Time will tell as I learn more about Buddhist customs and traditions in Korea. Buddhist laypeople and the monastic community seem far more active, vibrant, and visible in Korea than Japan, so learning much more over the coming year(s) seems likely.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~

Hiking with Yang Suk Soon

I went hiking on Sunday morning with Yang Suk Soon and her husband. We had a good time climbing a peak near Masan. The peak gave us wonderful views of Masan, its bridge and its enormous bay, filled with STX shipyards and complexes to assemble their enormous engines.

Here are some pictures from the summit:
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~

Buddhist Temple with Yang Suk Soon

In addition to hiking, I visited this Buddhist temple with Yang Suk Soon and her husband this day. Both were eager to show me around the vibrant community of Buddhist followers at Changwon's large, active temple nestled in the foothills South East of town. Monks played music and many people came to see and enjoy the blooming flowers.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
Most Buddhist temples in Korea boast striking vibrant colors, with deep reds, blues, and greens woven into an intricate woodwork below a top heavy roof with round red tiles.

Bike Problem: Resovled with Hacksaw

Well, I finally got my bike home after paying a taxi driver to load it up. Then I remembered the little old hardware store near my school and purchased a hacksaw and three extra blades. I taped up my frame near the areas where the saw might move so as to avoid scratching the paint job.

Then I quit all my stalling and went to town on a big metal lock. Took 40 minutes to an hour to get through. I think if I had to do it again I could manage it in less time. I imagine a practiced thief could get through a similar device in just under 30 minutes. Not very promising I suppose, but I don't have a whole lot of better ideas besides not owning a bicycle.

You can see clearly from the picture how I locked the bottom part on wrong, and cannot get the key into the keyhole.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
I seriously hope that this day marks the end of my bike troubles for a long time to come.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

House Party & BBQ at George's Place

After the tour, many of us went straight to the home of George, who was hosting a house party and BBQ at his 3 bedroom home. George is a very generous guy, one of those classy dudes everyone should be privileged enough to know. He's also a great dancer. Some pictures of some new friends.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~

Another Tea Festival in Boseong

From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
Another beautiful tea plantation and accompanying annual festival, this time with my Korean language class and new friends. After leaving Naganupsong, we headed to what is now my second green tea plantation, this one in Boseong, in Chollannamdo Province.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
A short hike takes one through a bamboo forest and then up to a steeply terraced hillside growing endless meandering rows of green tea. Fantastic.

Later that day our crew stopped by a tea house for the delicious beverage, where I had one of the most delicious, yet subtle teas I've ever had the pleasure of drinking. I'm not exaggerating either! This stuff is good if you've got the patience for its weak aromas. We posed outside the tea house, where we could get a view of the ocean and a tiny inlet.

Roger caught this other picture of me talking to this old man. I guess a gaggle of 20 foreigners is still a bit of a novelty in the Korean countryside, as this wide eyed old man came up to introduce himself to us. He tried to speak a few words in English, and some Japanese before trying to correct himself. The look on his face when I responded in Japanese and started asking him questions was priceless. Of course, he promptly peppered me with all sorts of questions.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
As Japan invaded and occupied the Korean Peninsula in the early 20th century up until just before their surrender in World War 2, most Korean folks of my grandfather's generation still speak Japanese, as the Korean language was banned by the Japanese colonial government at the time. This man undoubtedly grew up in that period.

Naganupsong: Castle, Fortress, Folk Village

Early Saturday morning, my Korean language class all piled into a big coach bus and headed out West on the tollway towards Chollanamdo Province's Naganupsong, an ancient walled city and citadel dating back over 800 years.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
The traditional thatch roofed, buildings inside the fortress walls are all protected for their cultural value, having stood the test of time, and yet a real community lives and thrives within the stout curtain wall encircling the sprawling agricultural hamlet. The local palace is no longer in use, but remains preserved for the tourists it draws to the area.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
Our class had a lot of fun touring the buildings, and I made a few new friends. Sonny really got into the spirit of things, with... white war paint. Krista jumped for joy at the sight of the castle entrance.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~

Friday, May 08, 2009

More Bike Security Misadventures

Loyal readers now know that my never ending saga of bad luck with bicycles takes another interesting turn on Friday night. What should have been a pleasant evening trying out some new restaurant and procuring a respectably strong bike lock(s) to deter thieves and lowlifes became a humbling lesson in paying attention to the task before me.

I purchased 2 new bike locks. One of which is a thicker, more robust version of the cable variety, something thick, but not too thick. A portable, yet beefy steel cable that wouldn't give a way the goods without a bit of work on the part of the thief, of a size roughly between what I can comfortably carry on a commute around town and the monstrous thread used to suspend chairs on ski lifts.

The other bike lock I purchased was of the U-shaped solid metal variety, the kind that requires A LOT of work on the part of a thief if he wishes to get in. I was gambling that this might be the key to protecting my assets from the lowlifes for the foreseeable future. I'm hoping that one of three things will happen here: 1. The thief will be too stupid to know how to get past it. (a real possibility since he most likely steals bikes to support a drug or alcohol habit). 2. He's too lazy to get past it (why take a hacksaw to this leviathan when there's another bike nearby with ONLY ONE SMALL LOCK?) Or 3. He has to spend a very conspicuous amount of time with a hacksaw, and will therefore more likely get caught if 1 and 2 don't stop him.

The lock is a super solid hulk of steel, as only a machinist in a country known for shipbuilding could think up. It weighs like 7 pounds. And I'm sure it would be super effective. Tragically, it has one critical design flaw that I discovered upon using it for the first time: it wasn't designed for doofuses like me.

I took the U shaped bar and threaded it through the wheel spokes and bike frame. But then I took the completely detachable locking gate and threaded it up the wrong end of the U-shaped bar. With the keyhole flush straight up against the bike frame. Leaving me unable to put a key in upon my return. Meaning the lowlife who has to spend the better part of a day with a hacksaw is now me.

I called a couple of friends to help me, but neither were available to drive me and my bike back home. So I walked home for 40 minutes, leaving my bike down by Sangnamdong, a local commercial office and busy entertainment district. At least I'm confident it won't be going anywhere! Unfortunately, as far as my bike is concerned, there isn't much else to be happy about.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Mark Twain on Ambition

From Colorado Trail

Hadong Tea Festival Part 2

From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
Bo Hwe's pics of me from the tea festival in Hadong. She kindly sent them to me shortly after we returned. Unlike most photographs of myself, I can actually stomach the looks of me in these. We also visited a folk village museum near Hadong later that afternoon. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera up there, so we'll have to wait for another installment of pictures soon.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~

Monday, May 04, 2009

Bike Stolen

Well, another setback. Some jerk stole my bike (same jerk perhaps?) This time though, I'm a lot angrier and pissed off about the whole thing. Came outside this afternoon to go for a ride to the local track to get some running in and found the lock cut through and the bike (surprise, surprise) conspicuously absent.

This, after hardly been a week since someone entered my home while I was sleeping and took money from my wallet. While I'm angry about the crime now, whereas I was disappointed before, I'm still even more angry at myself about the whole thing. A friend expressed condolences about being robbed of my money a few weeks ago (something I'd never experienced) specifically citing how violating it feels.

Strangely though, I don't feel violated at all. I feel like its a personal failure on my own part. Have I failed to correctly judge the character of the people and the neighborhood around me? Am I simply too trusting a person and making naive mistakes that should have been avoided in the first place? This whole mess with crime has got me questioning my own efficacy, whereas I SHOULD be angry at the perpetrator committing these crimes.

Its has been clear to me for awhile that I both grew up in an extremely sheltered environment (the burbs), and spent my formative years in places where I was either extremely lucky or places with little to no petty crime at all (Japan & Kuwait). But while I never really came to grips with my sheltered upbringing until I started seeing the world, I never considered myself a dunce before. Should I?

I could outsmart pickpockets with the stickiest of fingers in Rome and Cairo, but in less than a month I seem to have become the quare dunce who's little more than a white toilet seat for petty crooks. The luxury of my own guileless naivete is obviously something that doesn't exist for me here in Changwon. This is of course somewhat ironic, as one of the things I like about living in other countries is the perception of relative safety and the lack of crime compared to my own country.

Without going into technical details (as I wouldn't want to provide criminals with specific data with which they could counter measures I'm now taking) I'm clearly going to have to develop a whole new set of habits and invest in some (potentially expensive) anti-theft devices. Some of these new habits are going to be somewhat inconvenient (perhaps even very inconvenient). I'm going to have to develop and keep these habits consistently every day. Perhaps some insurance would be in order. Moreover, my bike was quite nice, so perhaps I need to rethink whether I should even own nice things around here.

Mostly, these are things I know I should do (like bring my bike into the house at night lest someone cut the cable) but seem to have grown careless about as I indulged my own delusions of safety and security.

Further exacerbating this feeling of incompetence is its perceived relation to another interpersonal problem I'm dealing with at the moment (one I probably won't describe here). I feel I've struggled my whole life with interpersonal relationships. Every time I feel I've been kind, trusting, generous, and forgiving with others, I feel I get walked on like a doormat. The only way I almost ever seem to feel people respect me (or at least treat me decently) is when I'm guarded, cold, overly assertive. In essence, I feel like I don't have the social skills to function in the world without being a bitter, overly guarded, self centered asshole.

And then almost every time I try to be trusting, kind or live life in a positive way someone takes advantage of me. I'm not sure that makes much sense to any but a few people I've ever talked to about this matter, and perhaps this is something that requires more introspection on my part. I don't know that I can express it all properly here, but this is just adding more evidence to the assertion that nice guys finish last (something I believe, and a thesis I'll defend in a later post).
But I hope it isn't hard to see the parallels between these two struggles, whether it be dealing with criminals here or dealing with other people.

Hadong Wild Green Tea Festival

So my good friend Bo Hwe came up with a plan to visit Hadong, a small country town in South Central Korea famous for growing Green Tea. Like other Asian countries, 'Ryokcha' is an important and distinctive part of Korean food and cuisine. So on Sunday, we made the long trek out to the remote hamlet of Hadong to get some tea and take in the festivities.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
Anyone wondering where wild green tea in South Korea comes from and what it looks like before its in a steaming cup can wonder no more. Endless rows of bushes cling to rugged, steeply terraced hillsides yield the leaves that make my favorite morning beverage. Hadong tea is very delicious as well. Several vendors at the festival in the town's market offered samples. Unfortunately, it tastes so delicious that vendors priced it right out of our budgets, and we only went home with small packages of the exceptional leaves.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
We also visited and hiked to the remoter parts of Ssanggyesa Temple, a large temple and active Buddhist monastery in the region dating back to 840. It looked as though they were cleaning up after the previous day's Buddhist festivities.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
To be continued...
Bo Hwe: I should have your pictures in a day or so.