Work lingers hard.
According to Wikipedia, a dental cavity “is a disease wherein bacterial processes damage hard tooth structure”. Just call it what it is, a pain in the ass, and I was stuck with one — and the one place besides jail I really wanted to avoid visiting in Korea was the Dentist. In retrospect, four cups a day of vending-machine caffeine was probably a bad idea. So rather than continue chewing with just the right side of my mouth, I walked into the silent office above a PC lounge with no waiting room. “Korean speak”? the receptionist asked as she handed me some paperwork. Here we go again. Whatever the form was, it was in Korean, so I just wrote my name on the first line. She got the hint, and fetched the doctor, who thankfully spoke English.
“I have a cavity. Please help”.
“Do you have public insurance?” he asked.
“Probably not, but I have money”.
“Follow me,” he waved.
Not two minutes later, I was in the dreadful chair while the doctor charged up a needle of Novocain, and the nurse decided what drill bit to use. Seems like it should have been the other way around. The light went on as the chair leaned back, and it was all over in 15 minutes. Then came the fun part, paying. “Ee ship man wan,” the receptionist said. With both hands, I held out a pile of cash. Please don’t screw me over… Please don’t screw me over… The doctor waved with his hands and shook his head with displeasure.
“You are an English Teacher?”
“Yep, at <insert school name here>”.
“My son is <insert Korean name here>, he goes to that school”.
“Really? That is one of my students. What a small world”.
“Just give me 10,000 Won,” he said smiling.
No appointments, no paperwork, no waiting room, and quality service at an 80% discount. What sort of operation are these dentists running over here?
Relieved that the dentist did not give me (or my wallet) a root canal, we went out with a Korean friend to a “traditional restaurant”.
This was originally written in October of 2010 and never published. Here it is now.
So this is it, the afterglow; what I’ve been thinking about for so long has finally come — total relaxation and a time to really reflect on all those things really missed so much. And what did I miss the most? Not sure anymore — been back over a month now and it’s all the same as it ever was. Snapped right out of it. And whatever that feeling was before coming home, I miss it. Leaving was far more emotional than I ever thought. Looking through some of my previous notes, it seems I really did not enjoy teaching English at ECC. BUT, the overall experience was well worth the aggravation. Well worth it.
The trip home pretty much sucked: 4 hour bus ride to the airport, 2 hour flight to Shanghai which resulted in one fuck show of an International transfer that took us through customs and security (twice), 14 hour flight to New York, quick BLT in Ozone Park,1 hour flight to Boston, and finally… an ice cold Shipyard at my friend’s house where I slept for 16 hours on the couch. When flying around the world, never transfer in China!
There’s something to be said about teaching English in foreign countries as a form of cultural imperialism. Let’s use fashion as an example. For the longest time in Korea, I wanted some clothing designed with Hangul, but all the trendy shops ever had in stock were representations of the West; Coca-Cola jeans, Marlboro tees, Ive League sweatshirts — pretty much any emblem of bootlegged American pop culture one could imagine. You’ve caught me rambling again.
Polish up on yer chop-sticking, bow from the waist, and don’t forget to take your fucking shoes off because 2010-2012 is Visit Korea Year! That’s what I learned on our second trip to Seoul last year when we stumbled upon a very large, sugar cone-like plastic swirl across the street from City Hall. This turned out to be the beginnings of a lantern festival. Approximately fifty highly ornate paper lamps lit their way down the center of Cheonggyecheon Stream as the water calmly rushed beneath their plywood platforms. We were struck by how difficult it must have been to assemble and run power to these contraptions in the middle of the water. Maybe this happens every year around November 13th, or maybe we just got lucky. English brochures were not available. In memory of happy times, here are a few of the pictures we took. Enjoy!
The Korea Tourism Association’s official website has the coolest nighttime English map of Gwangju. This map dissolves well the largely spartan landscapes of Seogu and Sangmu, Gwangju — making it much easier to locate your apartment. It does not, however, help in navigating the narrow maze of hyper-commercialized chaos in downtown. Ask your local cell phone salesman if there’s an app for that.
If you are new to the self proclaimed “world photonics” capital, have look at this very helpful and up to date map for getting to know the area a better.
The map covers all of Korea, so search for whatever you are looking for on the South Korean peninsula and it should direct you pretty well.
Have you been to any business yet and heard the woman or man behind the counter shout “Service!” before giving you something for free? This concept took a little while to adjust too, but I’ve written a quick post about the meaning of service in Korea on Tripwolf. Check it out!
This blog has been getting a few hits a week now from people searching “haircut in korea” or something similar to. Probably they end up finding this blog because of a rant a while back about how awkward it was getting my first haircut in Korea. No doubt, when the stylist speaks little to no English, getting a haircut in Korea can be an awkard, nail biting experience. You can approach this a few ways.
1. Bring a picture and hope for the best. I go to a place called Hair Tokyo in Gwangju. They actually bring out a huge picture book of different styles for me to choose from. Most are over the top ridiculous, and I’d rather not look like a pointed, blond penis (G-Dragon).
2. Attempt to communicate with gestures and whatever Korean you know. This might work out great… Or it could be the poorest of poor ideas.
3. Have a Korean write down on paper what you want. I’ve been doing this for 9 months now without failure. If you don’t have any Korean friends yet, print this out and use it. It means, keep my current style and don’t go fucking nuts with the shears.
Drinking is a sport in Korea. Read about the rules on Tripwolf.
I finally learned how to say where in Korean which has brought limitless entertainment. Now when random Korean people look at me and say “waygook-in” (meaning foreigner), I turn my head with confusion and respond “Aw dee!? Aw dee!?” Nobody ever sees that coming.
Last night, we went over to the Gwangju World Cup stadium to watch Korea vs Uruguay on the big screen. The place was packed with screaming fans, face paint, and fried chicken. It was as close to a real World Cup soccer game that I’ll probably ever get, and it was free. Thank you, Korea.