Saturday, March 27, 2010

진해 벚꽃축제 Jinhae Cherry Blossoms & Friends

Once again across Asia, Cherry Blossoms pop out on trees and hearken the arrival of Spring. Which provides a perfect excuse for getting together with friends and enjoying laughter, merriment, and a day outdoors with no jacket on!I went to Masan, and picked up several friends, including Rachel, Jiyeon, Yoon-young, and Jihee. We proceeded to head to the other nearby city of Jinhae. Despite the overcast weather, I think these pictures speak for themselves. I had a great time, ate some Galbi-jjim (new favorite food) and enjoyed meeting new friends and catching up with old ones. A good time was had by all. Me, Jayeon from my Korean class, and Derek from my OTHER Korean class in Masan. Here's some other pictures of some new people. It was a pretty good day.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Johnny Cash

Driving around in Carlos' truck, I hear a lot of Johnny Cash on his ipod. Johnny Cash is one of those artists I'd heard when I was young and immediately dismissed due to his age and association with older generations. I wanted NEW music, from the 90's or when I was alive.

But, like brussels sprouts, spinach, or salad, I've now come to appreciate Johnny Cash, particularly his later stuff. Simple, unadulterated folk songs accompanied by a guitar. Like Cat Stevens (in his day) or Bob Dylan, the formula is profoundly simple, yet impossible to emulate.

Here is one of my new favorite songs: Hurt.

Johnny Cash - Hurt from kakofoni on Vimeo.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A new car :P

I have ineptly stumbled into car ownership (or stewardship, I should say more accurately). After my friend Carlos decided he didn't want to re-contract, he offered to let me borrow his Ssangyong Musso SUV. I've been contemplating getting a vehicle for awhile now, and now one has fallen into my lap.

The arrangement is great, and everybody wins. As Carlos plans on returning to Korea in a few months, he doesn't have to go through the headache of selling his car, and buying a new one (and all the annoying things that entails). With this, he can just add me as a driver on his insurance, and I get to use a car for a few months on my Intl. licence. (just long enough to go some places and do some things I've been meaning to do for awhile now.
Trouble is: Korea is not a great place to drive. On those few moments when traffic actually moves forward, people cut you off and invade your space to the point that your blood boils. (city buses, taxis, and motor scooter delivery-persons are the worst offenders). I've often beaten traffic on my bicycle in this city (but that isn't usually the norm).

Any small amount of time you do save over the bus or bicycle is negated by the time it takes to hunt for and pay for parking (which negates any savings as well). Its almost useless when I travel within a 6 kilometer radius of my home and I really only use it on weekends for day trips and stuff.

I'm not a huge fan of the Ssangyong Musso either. When I first arrived in Korea, I saw Ssangyong cars everywhere. Then someone told me they were going through the process of bankruptcy (apparently having only built SUVs and luxury town cars, the fuel crisis in the summer of 2008 pretty much destroyed them). I could never figure out why they didn't export them to the US. Carlos had raved about how great his truck was and how much he liked it. It was a diesel and sipped gas, and was super reliable. Why wouldn't they sell in the US?

Now I know why they don't sell them in the US. Ssangyong SUVs look alright, but they drive and handle like a 30 foot flatbed! I seriously feel like I'm driving an aircraft carrier on steroids down these obscenely narrow roads.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Korean Language Practice.

As I currently can't exercise my shoulder (doctor's orders), I've lately been doing a language exchange with a friend of mine, Ha Suyeon. We met at the Changwon Korean Class (,창원한글학당). As I'm incapacitated at the moment, I spend Friday evening's at her Piano Hagwon helping her perfect her English and cobbling together sentences in Korean under her tutelage while high school student pound away at Chopin and Beethoven.

Anyways, I'm supposed to practice these verb conjugations and some of the words. I hope they're right.

소설은읽줄알아요. 하지만 한국에는 소설 없어요. 그래서, 소설을 읽을수없어요.

다음주에 벚꽃을봐고십어요.하지만 그래서,아마도 다음주에 벚꽃을봐고없어요.

Are these right?

Quote for Chahārshanbe-Sūri چارشنبه‌سور

This Wednesday, millions in Iran will mark Chahārshanbe-Sūri, the Wednesday Feast. This ancient festival marking the last Wednesday of the year (on their calendar), dates to 1700 BCE, in ancient Persia's Zoroastrian Era. People build bonfires in the streets and dance over them. The fires are meant to struggle against the darkness and bring the sun's return in the early morning.

"کوروش کبیر گفت برای
جنگیدن با تاریکی آتش روشن میکنیم و با شادی و نور به سراغ دشمن میروی"

"To defeat the darkness we set the fire and face the enemy down with light and joy." -Cyrus the Great

My friend in Iran mentions this in the context of their struggles against their current government and their desired democratic reforms. Pray that those brave souls standing up to injustice can keep the fire burning until a new and better day arrives.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Better Teachers

An interesting article in the New York Times Magainze. Problems I suspect many educators and school administrators face.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Inspiration & Writers in Changwon

Having neglected this blog for nearly a year, I return again, this time with new found inspiration and motivation for elevating my prose. Encounters and exchanges with two recent friends over the preceding months bring me back here.

Yesterday (Saturday) I spent the better part of the evening with my new friend, who goes by the pseudonym Thomas Tye. While currently teaching English at a Hagwon here in Korea, Thomas is a true "Renaissance" man in every sense of the word. Sporting a burly black mustache and long, curly hair, he also manages to pull off a thick soul patch beneath his lips. Writer, film-maker, martial artist, musician, teacher and traveler, Thomas, his Kiwi friend and I spent the evening exchanging tales of our travels and adventures.

Thomas told me a wild tale of gallivanting around Asia and Europe on credit cards to finance a film project, that ended abruptly and tragically with a crazy story about an unreliable colleague embroiled in gang violence in Spain.

What really inspires me though, is Thomas' industriousness. I first met him last summer, as he promoted his self-published science fiction novel at one of the local expat watering holes. And so this evening, I finally opened to the first page of Finding Jack and began reading. The book is interesting, (to say the least), and I've only just started it, but already the possibilities of what I could possibly accomplish are there.

Thomas is also currently working on film projects for a Film Based ESL website. We both had a great time hanging out.

My other friend, Jack Cobb, is also looking to publish a book soon - a comprehensive guide for Westerners moving to Asia (and Korea specifically) to teach English. I've only read and offered feedback on his introduction so far, but he promises it to be a comprehensive guide to culture, customs, food, work habits and all other aspects of living in an Asian society.

His other project he's discussing is a screenplay drama/sitcom pilot. The basic concept of the sitcom is a foreigner/expat bar in Korea. He succinctly described it as, "basically Cheers meets MASH." It sounds almost crazy to me, but then Hawkeye once said, "Insanity is just a state of mind." Hopefully I can find the time to hang with Jack before too long. As I'm now single again, perhaps that will be more manageable.