Us Soaking Our Feet in the Fish Pool


My Feet Being Sucked

May 18, 2008
The notable event for yesterday was going to the "fish bar." What is a fish bar? A fish bar is a bar where you go and order drinks and soak your feet in a tub where fish nibble at your feet.

I went with a Canadian, an Australian, and two Dutch to a fish bar last night. The name of the bar is 나무그늘 (The Shadow of a Tree) and claims to be the very first of its kind in the whole country.

Having your feet sucked by numerous fish is quite a ticklish experience indeed. I wasn't able to establish what kind of fish they are (our waitress didn't know, in fact she'd never soaked her feet in the pool because she thought it was "scary"). All she was able to tell me is that in the wild, the fish don't suck on other mammals, but simply eat plankton.

It costs 2,000 won per 15 minutes per person to use the fish pool, and you have to buy a drink first. In my case, I got the cheapest thing on the menu that wasn't coffee -- a 245 mL can of Coke for the OUTRAGEOUS price of 4,600 won.

It was a unique experience and I'm glad I did it. I doubt I'd go back again, though. The pool is really small (more like a bathtub sunken into the floor) and the drinks are ridiculously overpriced. Even so, accumulating unique experiences is a hobby of mine, and doing this once is something that I don't regret.

So if you ever come to Hyehwa and you have about 7,000 won to blow, you might want to try the fish bar known as 나무그늘. It sure is an interesting concept.

May 14, 2008
For over the past week, I have been on an extreme NOVA assignment/test blitz. Basically, I had fallen behind in both my classes because I was concentrating on Level 6 and other things. Now that the midterms are over, I have been concentrating on getting caught up with my NOVA classes. I have taken my History of Asian Civilizations final exam, the second exam for Human Anatomy and Physiology, and written two papers for History of Asian Civilizations, all in the past week. I already got a grade back for one of those papers -- a 96% for my Confucianism paper. I have no idea why a paper that I wrote over a 48-hour time span in my goshiwon room and at an internet cafe got a higher score than my Tsushima project, which involved taking an optional international trip, but hey, it's a 96%, so I won't complain. I'm pretty sure I'll get an A in that class unless I either bombed my third paper or the 300-point final.

I was excruciatingly tired today from studying for the third and fourth Human Anatomy and Physiology exams, so I skipped school. I simply couldn't get out of bed. I tried to get up, and felt so MISERABLE that I thought "I can just take those tests tomorrow morning." So I skipped. I'll need to skip tomorrow morning, too. I really shouldn't be doing this when I'm already failing this class and still have a chance to pass, but the alternative is to fail my Human Anatomy and Physiology class, which is, quite frankly, more important right now, since unlike Yonsei Level 6, that helps determine whether I get my associate's degree this summer or not.

Speaking of getting my associate's degree, I have renewed my interest in going to Taiwan with my associate's and my CELTA and teaching English. I didn't think I could make it work with my time frame, but then I found out two pieces of new information:
1. I can finish my summer classes at NOVA early (well before August 9) and have the teachers post the grades early.
2. I don't need an Alien Registration Card for Taiwan until AFTER I have gotten my work permit, so that won't hold me back in my time frame.
All this stuff combined will save me about 30 extra days that I didn't realize before that I had. This means I could have a job teaching English in Taiwan at the age of 21, and be out of there and onto Japan (having successfully completed a one-year contract) at the age of 22. I think the year of experience in a first-world country would also POSSIBLY (only possibly) help me place out of teaching screaming children once I hit Japan.

Therefore, with renewed interest in teaching in Taiwan, I will once again strive hard to get my associate's degree.

As for other stuff, today, I walked into a Kimbap Cheonguk and asked for Chamchi Jjigae (Tuna [and Kimchi] Stew). Once again, they asked that annoying, condescending Korean question "but it's hot! Can you really eat it?" or something like that. That used to really annoy me before I learned that Koreans often have trouble with sweet foods. Anyways, normally I'm just like "yeah, just cook it like you would for a normal person," but today, I wanted to return the condescension. I proclaimed:

COOK IT SPICIER THAN YOU WOULD FOR A KOREAN!

They did, and it was spicy all right, but I ate it all. At the end, they asked if it was too spicy. I said "it was only a little spicy, but it was delicious. Next time, please cook it a little bit spicier." In reality, my nose was running because it was so hot. It was probably the hottest Chamchi Jjigae that I've ever had, but I won! :-)

May 8, 2008: UPDATE 2
Well, despite the stupid blunder that I made in regard to the graduation trip that I will regret for years to come, I have taken my Bio 141 test (and got an 81% if you count the extra credit quiz) and stayed on track. As much as I will regret not going on the graduation trip, I will regret it far more if finish my associate's degree late.

I also filed my FAFSA form today, for the purpose of getting some government loans. So see, today wasn't really wasted. I doubt the graduation trip would have been that wonderful anyway. I don't have a single friend at the KLI anymore. They all graduated last term or the term before. I've been too busy to socialize with people this term. We have no group cohesion anyway, or at least that I can see. To my knowledge, we've never had a class lunch or gone out drinking. If they have done those things, I wasn't invited.

I'm waiting at the guest house for Rebekah to show up.

May 8, 2008

SHIT!

I absolutely cannot fucking believe it. I just did the stupidest thing.

I came to school, not knowing that today was the day of the graduation trip. My teacher had waited for me. I simply CANNOT go. I simply can't. It's not possible.

Had I known in advance, I probably would have canceled the four engagements that I have that conflict with the trip -- but I hadn't heard it would be today (or it hadn't registered), and I hadn't bothered to look at the syllabus to verify what day it was. I thought it was later in the term.

The teacher said I could go (even though I'd arrived late and didn't have any stuff), but to go at this point would mean postponing another Bio 141 exam (and possibly being withdrawn from the class), losing approximately $167.33 on something else, and not being able to meet Rebekah tonight on one of her extremely rare visits to Seoul (and possibly the last time I'll see her). So, I had a choice between going on the graduation trip, or saving $167.33, staying safe in my Bio 141 class, and meeting Rebekah, possibly for the last time. Not a great choice.

In the few minutes I had to think it over (I literally had to make a decision in like three minutes) I decided that:
1. I might not actually pass Level 6, so I might have another opportunity for a graduation trip.
2. Even if I don't have another opportunity, they're going to Seoraksan, and I can always go there on my own.
3. It's not like I'm going there with all my buddies. Since I took two terms off, none of my original friends still go to this KLI. So I'd know basically no one on the trip anyway.

I need to choose logically here. I can always go to Seoraksan later on. Unfortunately, passing Bio 141, conserving money, and meeting my friend Rebekah at the agreed time on one of her rare visits from Yeosu takes precedence. A graduation trip and lots of memories is great, but if I fail Bio 141, that would be horrible. Failing Bio 141 could literally mean finishing my associate's degree (and possibly, due to the ripple effect, my bachelor's degree) a whole semester later. I already have to take the last two exams on Monday. If I didn't take this one today, I'd have to take three exams for the same class on one day. That's not really possible.

I'm still in shock. The graduation trip is a big thing to miss, and if I'd just kept my eyes open, I could have rescheduled these things so I could have gone. Oh well...

May 3, 2008
I'm finally moving out of Mijung's apartment. I plan to move into my new place tomorrow.

I went hunting for a home today. I found a place. I would say it's approximately 30 square feet (6' x 5'). It's really tiny. The length is slightly more than my armspan, and the width is about half an arm's length less than my armspan, so I figure about 30 square feet. It's pretty cool for being so small, though. It has a little bed set against the wall, a bookcase with a television in it and a little tiny refrigerator. There's a little bit of space next to the bed. That's about it.

It's less than $240 a month (240,000 won a month), and it's only one minute away from Shinchon Station.

I'm looking forward to maximizing my space. Fortunately, there is a ceiling-mounted beam to hang my clothes on on clothes hangers, and the bookcase has numerous shelves. So I can arrange things just right so I have all my stuff in 30 square feet and not feel cramped.

I think that as long as I obey the rules, I won't have to deal with an asshole landlord, because there is no food provided (of course not at that cheap price) so no one can complain about how much I'm eating. Of course I do consume more power, no doubt, then the obedient little Korean tenants, but since there are literally like a hundred rooms, I doubt they really interfere much on a personal level unless there's a serious problem. It's a cold, impersonal, business-like place -- no "friend" in the form of a nosy landlord, that I can tell. Which is good. I'd rather choose my friends.

I'm moving in tomorrow at around 7:00 PM. So I'd better get packing my stuff!

May 2, 2008: UPDATE 2
It's a shame that interesting news comes in rapid succession, and that there are then long droughts of news -- it means some of the interesting news gets pushed down in the queue so no one can see it. Oh well.

I had some questions about the Han River, and I couldn't find the answers anywhere on the internet. The Han River was important to me for two reasons. First, I wanted to rent a room near the Han River so I could go swimming in the hot summer, and second, I really wanted to go on a multi-day trip in a rowboat to Incheon, possibly with friends (some people were interested). Kind of like a college road trip, except substitute a river dividing two countries for the road, and North Korea and South Korea for a bunch of boring states.

I had seen a place that appeared to rent dinghies and canoes for use on the river near Dangsan Station, and had wondered about it. So today, my first free day in a long time, I went there. This is what I found out.

First of all, they don't rent boats to ordinary people. Their facility is called the 해양스포츠훈련장 (Maritime Sports Training Center) and they are a facility for a special youth group, somewhat similar to the Sea Scouts in other countries. HOWEVER, they were REALLY EAGER about answering my questions. So I got a lot of answers. The following could serve as a guide to anyone planning a trip on the Han River:

  • A Zodiac-style boat of the configuration that they have runs about 2,000,000 won ($1,982) if you buy it used. Obviously rental is cheaper.
  • Even if you're simply operating a small rubber boat, you need to be registered to sail on the Han River. Their boats are registered. The Han River is controlled to the extent that you can't even swim in it (it's patrolled by the 해양겅찰, the Maritime Police). This busted up my idea of renting a room near the Han River during the hot summer and going swimming every evening, unfortunately.
  • If you can rent a boat (not through them), it IS possible to get to Incheon, but it would be very difficult to do it in three days. The reason for this is that the currents on the Han River fluctuate. If you just rowed on days when the current was flowing toward the ocean, you could do it without any great difficulties, but if you want to make it in three days, you'd be hard-pressed, because you'd be rowing on days when you'd be rowing upstream. He said it wasn't impossible, but that it would be very difficult. If you went on a longer trip, you could just put down anchor on the days with the bad currents and wait until they changed, but that wouldn't just be a trip that you could start on Friday and finish Sunday night.
  • There is no law saying that you can't operate a registered boat in the part of the Han River that forms the border between North and South Korea. As long as you are registered and stay near the ROK side of the river, you are not breaking any laws.
  • Rafting trips of the type I'm talking about are possible, especially in Gangwon Province. However, due to the nature of the Han River currents, the guys at the Maritime Sports Training Center don't think boat rentals for journeys like that are offered on the Han River.

    So it looks like I'll have to find some other extremely cool expedition to do...

    Level 6 Midterm Scores:
    Speaking: 81.2% (B)
    Speaking consisted of the following small assessments:
    [Newspaper] Article Presentation: 14.7/20
    Interview Survey: 33.5/40
    Debate ("Should sex offenders have to wear electronic bracelets?"): 33.0/40

    Listening: 55% (F)*

    Reading: 55% (F)

    Writing: 80.9% (B)
    Writing is composed of the following smaller assessments:
    Essay on a Newspaper Article of Your Choice (I chose the import ban on parrots): 8.5/10
    Essay on Whether Sex Offenders Should Have to Wear Electronic Bracelets: 7.0/10
    Essay on my Feelings on [Maybe] Graduating: 8.5/10

    Overall: 68% (D)


    * I found a problem with the grading and the teacher is going to bring it up at the meeting. This might bring my listening score up to 58%. Because I need every point I can get!

    May 2, 2008

    The Level 6 Midterm: Good News and Bad News

    The bad news first. I failed two midterms (listening and reading).

    Now for the good news. It is possible to redeem myself. I didn't fail either one by very much. I got a 55% on the reading (a BRUTAL test, I might add) and a 55% on the listening (however, a possible error was found in the grading of my test, which my teacher says she'll bring up at the meeting, which might get me up to a 58%).

    I would normally be extremely worried (and I am at least a little bit worried). However, here are some quotes form our teacher about how easy the final test will be (roughly translated):

  • "It will be very easy."
  • "It will be as easy as lying on the ground and eating ddeok."
  • "Of course it will be easy. We can't have everyone failing, can we?"

    I asked the teacher how many people failed the midterm in listening. She said that in our class of 12, seven people failed (58% of the class). So if the final isn't considerably easier, probably about half the class will fail the level, so I find it highly unlikely that the final won't be easier.

    I wouldn't bet my life on it being easier, so Mom and Dad, don't buy plane tickets to my graduation because it might not be happening yet, but I'd say it's more likely than not, given the teacher's comments, that I will graduate from Yonsei University Korean Language Institute on June 11, even if it's by the skin of my teeth.

  • May 1, 2008
    Wow, I can't believe it's May already (just after midnight right now). I just took my reading and listening midterms for Level 6. The reading midterm seemed ridiculously nit-picky and reliant on things not taught in the class or memorization of stupid details. There also wasn't enough time. I don't think I did well on it at all. All I ask is that I pass, and hopefully with a clear enough margin that I won't have to worry (70% or more and I'll be perfectly satisfied).

    The listening exam seemed easy at first, but got harder. Still, I think there's a pretty good chance that I passed it. I guess we'll wait until Friday when I get the results to see.

    Tomorrow is the last remaining test, the writing test. Last term this was quite hard -- my lowest score of all, as I recall, and I barely passed it last term. So this term I've taken meticulous grammar notes and worked with Yumi on translating all the idioms. Which brings me to a new thing: I am making a text document with my translations of dozens of Korean idioms and sayings from Level 6. Good, some more original content for the site.

    Click here to see Yonsei KLI Idioms and Sayings for Level 6!

    Study these, and your Korean might sound more natural/sophisticated. Maybe.

    April 19, 2008
    Well, let's see, I might as well summarize my week. The highlights were:

  • Studying for hours and hours for a Human Anatomy and Physiology test that I didn't even end up taking because I realized on the day of the exam that one of the chapters I had studied was a wrong one. Fortunately, my proctor let me substitute another exam instead, so I took the History of Asian Civilizations I exam. I felt more than qualified to do most of the exam, except for the map labeling section. I have no concept of Indian geography beyond where the Indus and Ganges Rivers are, and a few other basic things like that. Actually labeling cities was tough. Oh, and ancient Chinese capitals. That country has had so ridiculously many of them. Still, I'm sure I passed, and I'm probably being way more pessimistic about it than necessary.
  • I did a newspaper article presentation at Yonsei. I was caught by total surprise -- the teacher was like "Charles, it's your turn" or something like that, and I didn't have one ready! However, fortunately, I had dissected a newspaper article just for fun after the Level 5 final exams (because it looked interesting) and had just HAPPENED to upload the complete article, summary, vocabulary list, etc. to my website. Good thing I did. I was prepared. She let me present it, but at a grade penalty that will lower my term grade roughly 1.5%. Still, at least I had SOMETHING. Otherwise, it would have been worse.
  • I got an MP3 player! Of course, at a time when I'm trying to conserve my money, I'd never pay for such an extravagance, but it was a freebie from Gabi -- she'd gotten a new MP3 player and said she didn't need this one. Thanks, Gabi! It's really cool. It's a Chinese-made MP3 player made by a company called "Onda." It's sleek and small and plays not only MP3s, but videos and the radio, too.

    Not really too much else to mention. I've been working hard, but it's just been a lot of uneventful studying and stuff I don't want to talk about (not bad, mostly).


    We Are The Sperm Cells
    April 15, 2008
    Hahaha...

    Remember that Japanese musical troupe that came and stayed at Golden Pond? I finally found a copy of their musical's program in the trash somewhere.

    Turns out the name of their musical is "We Are The Sperm Cells." To the left is a scene from their musical.

    Actually, I'm not mocking them and don't consider them my enemies. They apologized and their leader called me a "good protector of women." That took guts. Their play even looks kind of revolutionary -- I wish Korea would get its head out of its conservative ass and have more comedy like this.

    As for other news, my shoulder hurts from bashing into a door that a Golden Pond guest opened just as I passed by...


    You can see nine pictures like this one of North Korea (that you've never seen before) if you click on the link to the right.
    April 12, 2008
    One year ago today, I set out for North Korea. You thought I'd uploaded all my photos from the trip, didn't you? Well, I hadn't!

    I recently discovered nine additional ones on the CD I'd received from the photo shop after developing my photos. I want to get rid of that CD to free up clutter, but before I do that, I'm posting all nine previously unseen photos on this site.

    ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS CLICK HERE.


    This is my new ID, which looks a lot more convincing (for student discount purposes) and actually scans to allow me in at the Yonsei library so I don't have to talk to a staff member every time I want to gain access.
    April 11, 2008
    Whenever I have a lot of work ahead of me, I make an update on this website. It's a pattern of procrastination.

    Yesterday, for the first time in about three years, I took a science test. It was a test for Bio 141 (Human Anatomy And Physiology I). I studied really hard and got an 89%, which was over 14% more than the class average. So I was pretty happy, though there was a period of time when I was scared because it appeared in the grade book as though an error had occurred and destroyed my results. Fortunately, one had not, and the 89% had registered, so I was just fine.

    I also got my new student ID issued this week, as you can see on the left. This replaces my old ID that was originally issued in June, 2006. I'm really glad to have a new one -- it looks much more official not to have my photo glued to a paper card. I can scan this one at the Yonsei library so I can go look at books without asking the permission of a library staff member like with the old ID.

    I have to prepare an interview project today in which I interview five Koreans. It has to be ready by 9:00 AM. I plan to do it on a topic that I can ask late-night Korean employees who work at convenience stores or Kimbap Cheonguk, since those are 24-hour and they won't be that busy at 4:00 AM. Maybe I'll do something on the Korean working class or something. I don't know.

    By the way, that mega photo essay on Tsushima I wrote, titled "A Summary of My Trip to Tsushima with an Emphasis on Korea-Japan Interchange," in which I actually went to Japan to do the project, got a 95% (A). So my efforts have been validated! :-)

    April 6, 2008
    Today (okay, technically yesterday) was just another ordinary day, basically. My first scheduled event was meeting Hyejung (flight attendant woman) for a muffin at the local coffee shop.

    Let's see, there's was also my gadgetry coming to the rescue. Mijung's DVD player wasn't working, so she couldn't watch Desperate Housewives -- the image was flying all around the screen and you couldn't really see much. I recognized the problem immediately -- someone (the Chinese guests who had used Mijung's room) had reconfigured the DVD player to PAL. Unfortunately, this problem would be nearly impossible to solve without hooking up a Chinese (or other PAL) television. Mijung was MAD at those Chinese guests (they'd already left, but it didn't stop her from cursing at them a little bit). It is true, it's such a rude thing to do. They changed the on-screen display to Chinese, screwed up the video system, and didn't change it back, so if we'd just been an ordinary household, we would have had to call in a repairman or something.

    Fortunately, I had just the thing -- a secret, hidden-away Chinese TV. Talk about having the right tool at the right time! Actually, the TV was not a TV at all, but a TV tuner for my Game Boy Advance that I'd ordered from Hong Kong and actually regretted at the time. However, it allowed a PAL signal to be received and displayed on the Game Boy Advance screen. So I figured I'd try hooking up the DVD player to the Game Boy Advance. Oh no! The power source for the Chinese TV tuner is 120 volts!

    Fortunately, I had the other necessary gadget stored at the guesthouse -- a 240 volt to 120 volt step down transformer. So I got that, plugged my GBA into it, plugged the DVD player into the TV tuner, and soon, I could see the Desperate Housewives main screen on my Game Boy Advance. That was a first for me. Then I reconfigured the signal to PAL. Then we were able to read the Chinese characters enough to find the place to switch the OSD back to Korea.

    One of those problems that would have been very difficult to solve had I not HAPPENED to have a Chinese-style PAL TV (a relatively useless item around here) on-hand.

    April 2, 2008
    I keep telling myself I need to get in shape. I mean, my super awesome coat that makes me look damn good (technically on loan from someone else) is great and all, but when it comes off, I'm a skinny guy, and that's just going to hurt more when summer rolls around and I'm hanging out at the beach half-nude, just WISHING I had something to show off to the bikini-clad young Korean women.

    Furthermore, in light of the fact that certain "nationalistic" Koreans are highly volatile and have assaulted me pretty much out of the blue twice in the last year, I have realized the need to look more intimidating. As one of those bastards said in loud and clear English when I asked him why he had to assault me, of all people, he yelled back "HAVE YOU SEEN THOSE SOLDIERS? THEY'RE HUGE." So basically, I could have prevented that incident by looking just like a big badass.

    So it's killing two birds with one stone to work out and get fit. Sure, I'll have less free time, but soon, I won't need as much sleep either, apparently, so the hour or so a day that I spend working out will be compensated with a lower sleep requirement. Awesome!

    So when my Swedish friend Gabriella informed me that she'd joined a gym, this great idea came to me (or more like a "duh" idea) -- I should join one, too. If I join one, say, this week, and start exercising, that will mean three months of hardcore workouts before hitting the beach in July. So I went to two gyms in the Hyehwa area (both introduced to me by Gabi) and here are their pros and cons:

    POP'S GYM


    Pros:
  • They offer classes for building muscle for free, included in the membership fee.
  • It's where Gabi goes. So I have a friend who goes there, for what it's worth.
  • It's very, very close to my place of residence, so when I'm coming home from a late night workout, the likelihood of getting assaulted is lower. Actually, in light of the fact that the other place is in the same building as the supermarket in front of which I was assaulted in June, this is a BIG advantage for POP'S GYM.

    Cons:

  • It's expensive. One month is 110,000 won.
  • AD fitness club

    Pros:
  • It's cheap. It's only 80,000 won a month versus 110,000 won for POP'S GYM. I'm not going to pretend that I have all the money in the world right now.

    Cons:

  • There are no muscle training classes. I would need to go through a trainer for that. Which is 30,000 won. Since there are no classes, I'd be tempted to just say "too tired today" and not go.
  • It's near where I was assaulted last year, and it's a farther walk from home and near several bars, so late at night (when I'm exercising), it could be dangerous to walk home from that place.
  • I don't have any friends (that I'm aware of) that go there.
  • So really, this isn't one of those super debatable situations like which Korean school to choose. I mean, except for cost, POP'S GYM totally wins, and I think POP'S GYM makes up for that because I'd need to pay a trainer at least 30,000 won to show me how to do the stuff I need to do. So in the first month, it would be exactly the same cost. It would only be after that that AB fitness center could THEORETICALLY be cheaper.

    So it's pretty much settled. I'll give myself a night to think it over, then I'm heading over to POP'S GYM, shelling out the 110,000 won, and joining for a month. Let's see if I can be beach-ready in three months!

    April 1, 2008
    Well, yesterday (it's just after 1:00 AM) I had my first day of Yonsei Level 6. It's the last level until graduation. If I graduate, I will have been in Korea for a mere 14 days short of two years. Will Level 6 be survivable?

    Well, the big alarm today was the news at orientation that there is NO RETEST. That's right, if I fail the midterm and the final averaged together, rather than being allowed to retake the failed subject a few weeks later (like with Levels 1 - 5, not that I ever had to do that), I will have to retake the entire level! Isn't that dumb? So I hope I pass it on the first try!

    As for my class composition, it's very diverse, with not only the usual Chinese and Japanese, but a Mongol, a Vietnamese, a Pole, and a KYRGYZSTANI NATIONAL.

    Sure enough, there's a US military dude in there, who I can already tell is better-looking than me. Damn it. I really need to hit a gym. I decided I'm going to join one. I'm going to look tomorrow. I have heard from Gabi, who researched this, that there are two in Hyehwa that look promising, including one that offers three months for 180,000 won. I need to get in shape, then maybe I can compete with these military dudes who are stealing my women all over Asia!

    We read the first page of Sonagi today in the reading class. Sonagi is an actual piece of Korean literature, not some concocted bullshit. It's very well known. Everybody knows about it (well, everybody in the Korean world, anyway). It doesn't seem too impossible so far.

    I had to cut out an hour early for top secret reasons. I don't think my reading teacher was terribly happy (though she didn't get THAT mad). I'm sorry, I had to go. If my reading teacher is irritated and if I've caused a bad impression, it really, honestly, doesn't matter at all. Only one of my four tests can be seriously influenced by my teacher's opinion of me, and that's the speaking test, and I got an A in that last term. So honestly, while it's too bad I had to give her a slacker impression, it can't really hurt me, except for the material I missed last period. What else? Well, lots, but I'd better go to bed now. Life will be grueling, but at least it should be well-organized into a routine.

    March 30, 2008

    HERE IT COMES!

    Level 6 starts tomorrow. It's the last level. Pass this, and I can call myself a Yonsei University Korean Language Institute alumni, for what it's worth. Pass this, and I won't have to fill out simply "high school" for my highest educational attainment on forms anymore -- I can write "Vocational college." Pass this, and I'll finish all the Area Studies: East Asia major requirements for Excelsior College. So I really hope I can pass it, and I'm sure if you've read this site for any length of time, you're aware of that.

    Actually passing is another matter. I barely squeaked by in Level 5 with a D in two subjects. One of them was the result of not bothering, but the other, listening, is a genuinely difficult thing I don't know if I can improve.

    If I fail, I can retake the test for the subject I failed, and the level, if necessary. Since I don't care about getting a job in Taiwan before my 22nd birthday anymore, I have a second chance if I need it.

    So I'll go to school early tomorrow, get my books, and try to set as good an impression as I can (even though I can't attend last period due to a prior engagement from which I tried to escape but can't).


    See lots of pictures like this in my photo essay on Tsushima!
    March 25, 2008
    I have posted a 1,800+ word photo essay on my trip to Tsushima, complete with 24 pictures taken on a decent-quality camera. After getting it revised by an online tutor, I plan to submit this as my HIS 253 Special Project.

    A Summary of My Trip to Tsushima with an Emphasis on Korea-Japan Interchange

    March 23, 2008
    Well, I'm back from Japan. So what city did I end up choosing? What was my trip like? Well, I have an hour or so to kill, so I might as well write up the basics.

    Basically, I decided on the cheapest ticket available that would permit a mere two-day trip. So I decided on the Sea Flower, which goes to Tsushima Island. I landed in Izuhara, and knew I'd have to find some way to the other side of the island, to Hitakatsu (a two-hour drive, according to the woman who sold me the ticket).

    The ticket was dirt cheap -- before taxes (and there were barely any) it was 104,000 won with my student discount. You read that right, a round-trip ticket to Japan and back for only $103.58!

    Like last time, I didn't get as much time on my own as I'd hoped, but it wasn't all bad. Pretty much as soon as I got off the boat, this dude approached me and asked me in Japanese if I had a hotel reservation. I actually understood him, because the word for "reservation" in Japanese is almost the same as in Korean. However, after he started asking lots of questions that I couldn't understand, I asked him if he spoke Korean, and it turns out he IS Korean -- a Korean tour guide who gives tours on Tsushima Island to Koreans, because the island was so important to Korea-Japan relations.

    Well, before I knew it, the tour guide, whose name is Hwang Jong-in, wanted to give me a tour of the island. Which was actually okay with me, because I am doing a project for my History of Asian Civilizations class that I had really hoped to do in Japan (to avoid being Korea-centric all the time), and I knew having a tour by a tour guide (especially a free one) would help. So we went to several different places. We went to some jinja (places where the Japanese gods are supposed to be), a temple called Seizanji that is currently also youth hostel and that used to be where Korean Ilbontongshinsa (the "communications men to Japan") would stay. There has been a great deal of interchange (교류) between Korea and Japan through Tsushima. We visited Goryeomun (고려문) which is a gate of friendship between the Koreans and the Japanese. Apparently, these "communications men" came from Korea to Japan in groups of four or five, generally, and studied in Japan, starting around 1607.

    We also visited the gate of a castle that had been reconstructed in 1990, known as Kaneishi-jo. It was a cool gate and will no doubt be a nice picture when developed, but there wasn't much else to the castle. I had wanted to see Kaneda Castle's ruins, but Jong-in informed me that unless I took a 3,000 yen taxi, the distance would be too far, and it would be dark before I could descend from the mountain it is on.

    I also geeked around a supermarket for a while and got a good look at the prices on things (closer than I'd been able to in Fukuoka). Some things are ASTOUNDINGLY cheap compared to Korea, like milk and nattō (no big surprise on the second one). I also checked at a geshuku (the Japanese equivalent of a hasukjip), and asked the owner how much it costs per month. He said it's 75,000 yen a month (almost exactly $750), but with meals included. Still, ouch, that's a lot more expensive than Korea. Still, I don't think the cost of living in Japan is as high as reputed -- I mean, if $750 will get you your own place to live and two meals a day, that ain't that bad.

    So what did I think of Izuhara and Tsushima in general versus Fukuoka? Well, Izuhara is very, very calm. It's very quiet, and there aren't many cars. In fact, according to one billboard in Izuhara, there has not been a single traffic fatality in over 1300 days.

    When I say that Izuhara is clean, I mean that not only is the city clean, but you go through the TUNNEL and even that is clean. It was pretty incredible. They have these huge fans inside the tunnels that I guess help scrub the air. The walls aren't even covered in soot.

    The cheapest lodging I could find for last night was at a minshuku (minsuk in Korean). It was 3,000 yen ($30.14). It was pretty nice. The room was very clean.

    The preceding night, I stayed in Busan, at a jjimjilbang (public bath house). I'd never tried this before -- when people said "sleep at a jjimjilbang," I always pictured some bum crashing naked on the massage table in front of a bunch of naked guys -- not a pleasant thought. However, I was informed that this isn't the case, so I decided to try it out -- after all, it's only 7,000 won a night. It turns out people borrow pads and pillows and just sleep on the floor -- men and women sprawled everywhere, which seemed kind of weird since Korea is normally so prudish. I got some sleep that way. I'll probably do it again -- you can't beat $6.97 a night for lodging in Korea, I'm afraid.

    Well, soon I'll be getting back onto the Express Bus for Seoul. While I'm glad immigration let me in for the fourth consecutive time with tourist status, I'm also saying "DARN IT" about leaving Japan. I was actually half hoping I'd get refused entry to Korea and be "forced" to find volunteer work in Japan for a few months through WWOOF. However, Busan Immigration chose not to make that decision for me! :-)

    March 21, 2008

    TOMORROW, I WILL BE IN JAPAN!

    Unfortunately, I only plan to be there for about 24 hours. Then I'll come back to Korea. It's basically so I can get another 90 days on my tourist visa.

    I don't even know what city I'm going to, yet. Basically, I'm just looking for the cheapest journey possible, so a youth hostel should be in the city, if possible. I'll decide at the ferry terminal which tickets to buy.

    Once in Japan, I have the following objectives:

  • Find a place to sleep.
  • Keep myself fed and out of trouble.
  • Find a good cultural site to photograph and study, for my HIS 253 (History of Asian Civilizations I) class' special project.

    Now, since this will be my fourth consecutive entry into Korea with tourist status in the last year, immigration may give me trouble. I am not breaking any laws as far as I know by doing this, but a theoretical legal right on a piece of paper doesn't mean much to a foreigner in this country, to be quite honest. I could be barred from reentering. I just don't know yet.

    So to prepare, I'm going to bring my 학생예정증면서 (the document that proves I'm registered at Yonsei), and maybe print a bank balance, as well. I need to prove to that border guard when I reenter Korea that I have a valid reason to return for the fourth consecutive time.

    If I'm barred from entry, that actually won't be the worst thing that ever happened to me. I'd like to finish Yonsei Level 6, but if prevented from doing so, I'll refund and go on with my life, maybe returning another year to finish the program. I'm not sure where Korea would send me if they prevented my entry. Would they send me back to Japan? If so, I'd be happy to WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) on a Japanese farm for a few months for my room and board while trying to find a job in China via ads on Dave's ESL Cafe. I talked with someone who WWOOFed in Japan, and she gave me the information for two good hosts. So if I get sent back to Japan after trying to reenter Korea, I'll just make the best of the situation (and I'll call Yim Bang-wool and get her to refund my tuition). I'm sure I'll have a nice spring/summer in Japan if that happens.

    The worst conceivable thing would be if I tried to enter Korea and they barred me and sent me back to the US. I can only hope if they do this that they pay for the trip. If I were sent back to the US, once again, I'd try to find a job in China pronto and be back over in Asia before you knew it.

    I'm going to prepare the stuff in my room just in case: I'm going to put all the essentials into a pile, so if I'm barred, Mijung can send that stuff to me. Well, I'll let you all know sooner or later how Japan was. I'll be on the bus bound for the Busan Ferry Terminal in less than 20 hours, and I'll be standing on Japanese soil by the 22nd unless something goes wrong. Then I'll be back in Korea in time for dinner on the following day, if all goes according to plan!

    March 16, 2008
    I am sharing my apartment with four Thai girls. No joke.

    They came to see some Korean Hallyu (Korean Wave) singer, and they only booked one bed. Then, like clowns coming out of a clown car, four of them showed up. Fabulous. So Mijung gave them her room in her apartment, and she's sleeping on Ganghwa Island tonight. So basically it's just me and the Thai girls. I know this sounds hopelessly erotic, but believe me, I'm not enjoying it. They're annoying. They're total bourgeoisie. They're all minors except for the oldest, who is 22, so it's obvious they're squandering their parents' money to see this Korean singer.

    As for other news, on the 14th, we had an air raid drill. I got a nice video, but due to Samsung's crappy connection software, I can't upload the video from my camcorder phone to the PC. I'll work on doing this later. Aside from that, not too much has been up. Well, better get to bed.


    This is a view of the urban/mountain combo visible from Bongsudae, a place I hiked to with a friend, recently.
    March 14, 2008
    Well, it's March 14, officially, which is White Day. In Korea, this is the time when men give chocolates and shit to their lovers who gave them chocolates. However, no girls gave me chocolate or valentines for Valentine's Day last month, so I'm sure as hell not giving chocolates to anyone. What's there to reciprocate?

    I've been pretty busy lately, but I don't really want to talk about most of it, since a lot of it is top secret, or would violate other people's privacy. I've gotten so fed up with MTH 173 (Calculus with Analytic Geometry), I think I'm just going to drop it. This will mean I can't work in Taiwan given the schedule I had planned, but it's not the end of the world.

    Quite frankly, working in Yanbian (no degree of any sort required) will enrich my life far more than Taiwan will, and the only drawback is decreased income during one year (which I can make up for by tutoring when I reach Japan in 2009).

    I saw "My Blueberry Nights" with a friend at the Atreon theater on the 12th. Seriously, one of the worst movies I've seen recently -- a God-awful boring romantic comedy (read: chick flick) with all the actual comedy removed. What I found strange was that all the producers and directors and so forth appeared to be of a Cantonese background, and yet, all the actors and actresses were Caucasian. Isn't that strange? I guess it was Hong Kong cinema, except for the absence of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Chinese. I guess I'm glad I saw it, though -- at least now I know never to see it again! It was only 7,000 won.

    Mijung went to Jirisan and brought back a jug (probably about a gallon) worth of water extracted from a tree that only has such a quantity of water in it for about two weeks per year. It tastes like sugar water. I consumed the better part of a cup full with Mijung, Hyunjin, and their friend. Got a picture, but due to problems connecting my phone to the PC, I don't know if I'll ever upload it.

    Well, I'd probably better get to bed.


    Poster from the Ministry of Tourism, Tweaked Slightly
    March 7, 2008
    Well, the last few days have been pretty good. Too bad I can't talk about them, because it would violate people's privacy (including mine).

    However, I was shocked to find out that BIO 141's textbooks cost FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS. I'm not kidding. A four-credit community college course that costs a little over $300 has $500 worth of textbooks. So obviously I'm dropping that course and swapping it for something else, if possible. That's about it.


    One of These Dangerous-Looking Vehicles, Finally Caught on Camera
    March 5, 2008
    Have you ever seen a Sasquatch, a UFO, etc. and been disappointed that you didn't have your camera along to take a picture to show everyone? Well, I had a similar experience.

    It wasn't a Sasquatch or a UFO -- it was one of these vehicles that you see plying the streets of Seoul, that looks so absurdly dangerous, you want to burst out laughing because it's actually kind of comical. Normally, I don't bring my digital camera for these occasions, BUT I have a camera phone now! So when I saw one, I RAN after it, and fortunately, the guy driving it got a red light, and chose (for once) not to run the red light (an exceeding rarity in Korea, the guy must have been a careful driver).

    So I got a picture on my camera phone that shows it all:

    at least ten gas canisters, held together by what appears to be a big rubber band, sitting in the open, backless bed of a three-wheeled vehicle (converted from a motorcycle).

    Now that hopefully you too have had a laugh about this guy, who seems to be thinking "safety sucks and is for the weak," on with the rest of the news.

    First of all, I may not be taking a trip to Japan, after all. I need to save money, and it may be possible to extend my visa back to a D-4. I'm thinking of going to the immigration office today and asking. Of course, they love to be wet blankets, so they'll probably say "no" because I will, at that point, have less than two weeks left on my tourist visa. Still, I should try. It could easily save me $200. I guess I'd need to ask Dr. Clevenger for approval on a new project, not Fukuoka Castle, but heck, it'd still probably be his only project coming in from actual Asia (I'd just have to go to a site in Korea, instead).

    I'm also having Mexican food tonight (at least I hope), for the first time since God-knows-when. As for who I'm going with to have dinner there, well, I'm sure she wouldn't want her name broadcasted on the internet -- but if she does something awful like walk out when I'm in the bathroom and leave me with the bill, I'll be sure to let you know who she is. With photos. :-)

    Aside from that, things are far too hectic to be updating this website, but a guy needs a break sometimes, and that's what this site is for.


    Sooner than I'd expected, I will cross the Han River (above), go to the 고속터미널 (Express Terminal), catch a bus for Busan, and take a brief trip to JAPAN!
    March 3, 2008
    Well, it looks like I'll be taking my visa-related trip to Japan earlier than expected!

    I talked with YIM Bang Wool, and she said I have to let her know by March 28 whether or not I'll be attending Level 6. I had originally planned to leave Korea on that day for my Japan trip. The trouble is, if I come back on the 30th, it will be too late to inform YIM Bang Wool that I'm not attending Level 6 should I be prohibited entry to Korea, which is a possibility since this will have been my fourth consecutive 90-day stint on a tourist visa (or without a visa, period). So I'm preparing for the worst and going to Japan earlier.

    I'm not sure exactly when I'll go, but I have a date in mind. I'm pretty excited to being going back to Japan! My itinerary for Japan currently stands as follows:

    Day 1:

  • Get on the Express Bus and go to Busan.
  • Get on the New Camellia.

    Day 2:

  • Arrive in Japan in the morning.
  • Check in at the Khaosan hostel (JPY 2400, the cheapest place I know of in Fukuoka).
  • Get to Fukuoka Castle. Why am I going to go to Fukuoka Castle? Well, I don't want to waste my one day in Fukuoka vegetating around the hostel, and I have a special project for HIS 253 that involves going to an Asian cultural area, and Dr. Clevenger has approved Fukuoka Castle for this purpose.

    Day 3

  • Get on the boat and get back to Busan.
  • Get on a bus headed back to Seoul, assuming the border guard lets me back into the country.

    So, pretty rock-solid plan, eh? If anyone has any other ideas of fun things I should do in Fukuoka, let me know. I've been there once, and the beach (Momochi Seaside Park) was great, but I doubt this is nearly as much of an attraction in the spring.

    In case my fourth consecutive entry (making a whole year as a "tourist" should I stay the full 90 days) is refused, I need to prepare a backup plan nice and early. I can't bring all my possessions with me, because there are just too many. So I'll separate everything I have in my room into two groups -- the stuff I don't really need sent to me, and a small pile of essential items. If necessary, Mijung can send those to me when I'm in another country. If refused entry to Korea, I'll probably go back to Japan. With a 1,480,000 won refund from the KLI, I will have enough money to survive there for a while and get a Z (work) visa for China, which is where I'll head next if refused entry to Korea.

    Of course, let's hope it doesn't come to that. To my knowledge there is nothing illegal about repeatedly entering Korea and leaving, even for a series of years. I mean, my tourist visa says I'm good for another four years, at least. Lots of people leave and re-enter like this. I just need to be prepared in case things have changed from before!


  • Thanks to the guesthouse being safely accessible again, I can scan and upload pictures from my camera phone. My camera phone has a rotatable lens, so I can photograph things without anyone knowing -- it looks like I'm just texting. For example, here is an illegal salesman on the subway who has no idea he's being photographed in his God-awful annoying act!
    March 2, 2008
    Today is a very special day. The 17-person Japanese musical troupe has left the guesthouse. This is a new era.

    Actually, impressively enough, they apologized to me through Mijung, and said that I was a good protector of women. Well, actually, when the incident happened, I would have stuck up for Mijung had she been a small, shy guy, as well, but I appreciate the musical troupe apologizing. The scary thing was that they said they'd stay at our guesthouse again if they came to Korea...

    I guess this is because Mijung made so much of an effort to end on a good note. She brought them presents and wrote them a letter in Japanese that she'd learned off the internet.

    I guess I kind of understand why she did this. I guess this way nobody has to be super bitter for the rest of their lives.

    However, I'm still very relieved that I can safely come and go from the guesthouse now. Even though I have an internet computer here in my room, the guesthouse has a scanner. I can now get pictures from my cell phone onto this website, as well. So expect to see all these great covert shots taken from my camera when no one was aware.

    Copyright (C) 2008 Charles Wetzel. All rights reserved.