give me a moment

Wow. It is December first — I will be turning thirty in three days. This is staggering information to digest, please give me a moment…

Ok. The nice thing (as I see it) is, were I still in Cleveland for such a milestone birthday, I would feel all sorts of pressure to make it a big birthday with all sorts of bells and whistles and monkeys. Celebrating it here, though, it’s like: I’m in Korea for my thirtieth birthday, any monkeys or whistles or bells that may come along will be sauce. Actually, if I somehow come across a monkey at some point during my birthday, it will be remarkable… bells and whistles, though, that’d just be ok.

Today I went to Seoul with Patrik & Eric, to the part of town near the U.S. Army base — Itaewon. There’s American chain restaurants and Korean souvenir shops, along with tons of clothing stores where you can buy custom made (wool & cashmere) suits and coats for $200 or $300. As you walk down the street, you’re constantly bombarded by Koreans trying to sell you something: “You want new suit?”, “You want jewels for your girlfriend?”, “You like watch?” It’s a bit nutty, and as with most things here, it’s all about the deal. We went to a popular Western restaurant for lunch (not a chain) where I had a cheeseburger, french fries, and a Mountain Dew… was like home for a bit, if not for the faint Korean taste to the fries.

devil Soju

Last night I ended up at Amit’s apartment drinking Soju and watching South Park until four in the morning. Was fun — there’s some pictures in the new people I know album. Alas, that devil Soju takes its revenge the day after, so today has been unfortunate.

Also in the people I know album are pictures from the Thanksgiving dinner I went to earlier tonight with Eric and Patrik. It was at one of the many Christian churches here in San Gok Dong, and was essentially put together for their English-speaking Fellowship and their friends. There were about fifty or sixty people there, out of which only about ten were (or appeared to be) non-Korean. The food was surprisingly good and accurate — turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy (alas, no gravy boat), stuffing, cranberry sauce, and even pumpkin pie. The atmosphere was refreshingly warm, which I suppose is something that I should expect from a Christian church, but I was surprised at how comforting I found it.

I’ve also added some photos to the Incheon and J.F.L.I. albums, for your viewing pleasure.

homesick

Today is Thanksgiving in America, and I am homesick. My parents are visiting my sister in San Francisco, and they called me this morning — I only had time to say “Hello. Happy Thanksgiving.” before I had to leave for my early adult class. From that point on, today was a constant struggle to push American Thanksgiving nostalgia out of my head — successfully and unsuccessfully. The farther away we are from a place/thing, the easier it is to idealize it all out of proportion. Not that being home for Thanksgiving wouldn’t be great, but what would about the day after? I can be realistic about it, but it doesn’t help — the loneliness and longing are still there. Tonight I have a bottle of Majuang Red, and I’m thinking of making some wake-up calls before I go to bed. Perhaps you’re on the list.

A student in my adult class gave me some oriental medicine with ginseng and elk antler in it. Ginseng is cool, but elk antler? It tastes terrible, and it is supposed to warm your blood and cleanse your organs or something, but it just gave me gas.

I'm a legal alien

I got my Alien Registration Card today (or ARC), which means I am officially a legal alien in South Korea. I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien, I’m an American in Incheon. I know that was stupid, but I couldn’t help myself — that damn song was running through my head all the way to the immigration office this afternoon. You’re fortunate in a way, as I was thinking of coming up with some witty Weird Al lyrics to go with my chorus switcheroo… you should be thankful.

And what a wonderful time to be thankful, at least in America (I’m told that Canada also celebrates Thanksgiving, but I refuse to legitimize such a blatantly co-opted venture.). Aye, Thanksgiving is nigh. Soon the streets of America will become slick with the blood of turkeys, and soon I will go to bed in Korea only to wake up and teach English to Koreans again. Turkey is rare here, but I may go try and score some at a church on Saturday with my Californian friend — Patrik.

I showed one of my classes The Indian in the Cupboard today — it’s the most (only) Thanksgiving related English film that we have at the institute. It’s a pretty horrible film, but it allowed me the opportunity to tell my students that we all keep Indians in cupboards in America, and then watch their faces not know whether to believe me or not.

gravy

Ever since my stress-related disgruntlement of last week, my job has gotten significantly easier. I’ve found a groove, if you will, and have learned the fine art of not caring so much. I teach some classes and I entertain others, and that’s the best I think I can hope for while I’m here. I’m still looking elsewhere a little, and I lie sleepless some nights wondering what I’m going to do after this… in the end, though, I’ve come to accept this experience for what it is — a relatively easy job that pays a relatively large amount of money and allows me to experience life in this Korea place.

The thing is: I’m still lost, I’ll probably always be lost, but at least here being lost is expected of me. If after I’m done here I can go back to America or wherever and feel just one iota less confused about my life, then my time here will all have been worthwhile… anything more will be gravy.

a retarded Korean child's urine

Today, while mopping up a puddle of a retarded Korean child’s urine, I thought: “If someone would have told me a year ago that in a year I’d be in Korea mopping up a retarded Korean child’s urine, I would have said they were crazy.” A year ago today I had just gotten laid off from my cushy job at American Greetings, and was about to start receiving unemployment checks… life was simple, relaxing, and far too easy.

dog meat

Vietnamese boy sold as dog meat

a little concernedism

So I got paid on Thursday, and then I proceeded to pay for my ticket to Israel. I’m beginning to be a little concerned with the fact that I’ll be on a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul to Tel Aviv. Is that the goal of terrorism? Making people like me “a little concerned?” Wouldn’t that be called a little concernedism? Har har har! I’m actually terrified. Har har har! Ahh, the world’s a big fun place to be running around in these days.

Drinks at the Goose Goose again last night — that place is fun, and then a little annoying. When people find out I’ve only been here a month, they inevitably start to fill me with the wisdom of their eight months, or two years, or one and a half months… people enjoy feeling knowledgable, I understand this, but please spare me. Also, I find guys who are absolutely fixated on picking up women a little unsettling, and there’s quite a bit of that going around at the Goose Goose. Cheap & strong drink, though, which helps one not notice all the minor annoyances until the next morning when one is writing in one’s blog.

I found out a coupla days ago that my former employer, Second City Cleveland, is closing its doors on January 3rd. This has been an inevitability for quite some time now — the producer defines incompetence, and has been running the place into the ground since it opened — but it still comes as an unfortunate surprise. That theatre was a good thing for Cleveland, and it was a huge part of my life there, and now it’s all over. I left town at exactly the right time, it would seem, although it would have been fun to be there at the bitter end… free drinks and all.