December 8, 2008
This will be the last entry on this page of news before I start a new page of news. Sorry about this page being so devoid of pictures. Sure, text is nice, but pictures spice it up, and this time, I only had one picture. When I start the new page of news, there will be plenty of pictures because I'm going to develop the film from the Busan/Fukuoka trip soon. There will be plenty of pictures from Taejongdae (park region), Haeundae (beach), and even a few taken in the street in Fukuoka. So bear with me while I finish up my roll of film, then I'll get those developed.

As you may have noticed, I have been on an anime binge lately. The latest anime I've watched has been Death Note. I finished the last episode (#37) today. *SPOILER ALERT* We know that Light Yagami was Kira, the man who secretly and remotely killed countless violent criminals using a notebook cast down from the realm of the shinigami, or death gods. We're supposed to ask ourselves whether Light Yagami was morally justified. After all, he was playing god and murdering people, but the people he murdered were criminals themselves, and the result of his action was a temporary worldwide end to war and a 70% reduction in violent crime. So is it okay to have a mass murderer go free if the world becomes a much better place for the innocent as a result? It's an interesting question, but simply being posed a question like that doesn't really bother me, it's how the anime does not tell us two important things -- 1) what happened to Light Yagami after he died (since people who have used the death note go to neither heaven or hell) and 2) what happened to Misa Amane? I suspect Light Yagami became a shinigami (since it's revealed that shinigami's internal organs have all rotted away, indicating that they were once alive, and possibly human). As for Misa, it appears from the ending credits that she jumped off a building to her death after her lover was killed, but did she really? We never saw her jump. So just like any other work of entertainment from Japan, the ending did not neatly resolve everything that went on -- however, I at least found the plot more comprehensible than other animes I've watched, like Elfen Lied. At least with this one, my questions are the same questions posed by everyone -- these things are not ambiguous because of a poor script, but because they're meant to be that way. In conclusion, it was a dark anime, and probably won't become one of my favorites because it was too much of a crime investigation show which isn't my favorite genre, but it provided a fair amount of entertainment value considering that I watched it for free on Google Videos. *END OF SPOILER*

As for other news, yesterday, it snowed for the first time this year, and a little bit actually stuck, but rain during the night cleared most of it away.

Now that the JLPT is done, I need to move my focus away from Japanese for the time being and move it to programming -- my programming classes are what will bring me to my associate's degree. Once I have my associate's in hand, I quite frankly have no idea what I'm going to do. It used to be a clear-cut decision of "stay in Korea" or "move to Japan," but with Korea's exchange rate devalued about 40% versus this time last year, staying here and earning my degree might be a hollow pursuit, since Korean won is worth so little in US dollars now.

December 7, 2008
I took the JLPT. I'd say there's an 80% chance that I passed it.

The vocabulary/kanji section seemed EXTREMELY easy and I felt like I didn't miss one. The grammar section was a little bit harder, but I bet I still got 90% or higher on it.

The listening section was hell. Not because the conversations were impossible to understand (I found them harder than what I had been practicing with, but they weren't insurmountable), but BECAUSE I HAD NO IDEA HOW TO FILL OUT THE ANSWERS FOR THE SECOND PART OF THE LISTENING SECTION! It was a really bizarre format, and I'm still not really sure how it worked, so I just filled it out randomly. So I may very well have failed the listening section just because of the ambiguous format, not because my listening is actually failing-level. I literally got so frustrated trying to figure out how to input the answers, I left the room! Then I realized that I should just pick random answers and that I still had a chance to pass, and came back in.

The 20% chance that I fail the JLPT hinges on whether or not you can fail the test for failing one section. Since I probably failed listening, if it's a deal where one failed subject means a complete failure, then I'll fail. However, the Koreans who were taking the test told me it's just the sum of all your scores. And since the listening section is only worth 25% of the final grade (and the pass mark is only 60%) I should still pass it. I'll probably find out in March. I don't think I expedited the test, so I don't think I'll find out until then.

December 6, 2008: UPDATE 2
Well, I'm writing this from the downstairs computer because my main computer is hacked and I still haven't reformatted it. If I log into GeoCities on that computer, I risk the password being compromised.

The JLPT is in less than ten hours. It's crunch time now.

I've given up on learning the complex permutations that numbers go through when they combine with counting classifiers. I will learn it eventually, but when I looked at some websites on the topic, it looks EXTREMELY complicated. So for now, I'm just going to act stupid like I don't know that 1,000 isn't ichi-sen. I don't think this stuff will be covered that extensively on the test anyway, because it's not in the official exam prep guide (except in examples).

All I'm going to do is quickly review the 727 vocabulary words and double-check my listening comprehension script. Then I'm going to make sure my vocabulary is okay by covering the vocabulary chapter in the book (which is basically just a practice test). Then I'll consider myself ready to take JLPT Level 4, except for the basic pre-fab expressions, which I'll review on the subway.

Oh, and I want to go over the kanji one more time. I'm not going to bother memorizing every Japanese reading for now (because Japanese assigns tons of readings to each character), but instead just memorize the Korean sound and meaning (much more uniform and easier to remember). I think this will serve me pretty well on the test, given the practice exam I took. Inevitably, I'm not as well-prepared as I'd hoped I'd be a month ago, but it's all right, I'll probably still do fine. At least I'll have done all the listening comprehension I set out to do.

December 6, 2008
Some fucker has hacked my Pentium III back home. I'll need to install Windows XP on it again, a full reformat. For now, I'm taking it completely offline (I'll still use it, but the internet cable is out).

The scary thing is that the hacker was obviously actively watching my computer. Facebook said my account had been hacked and reset my password. So I logged into Facebook and changed my password. Then, within a few minutes, Facebook notified me that I'd been hacked again. So the fucker was actually monitoring my computer and caught the new password.

Therefore I pulled out the cable and came to an internet cafe, where I am now. I've changed the passwords on Hotmail, Facebook, and this site.

The disturbing thing is that I don't know how long the hacker has had access to my information. I have this hunch they accessed my Woori America Bank account, because that has been locked up for a while. I don't think they could do anything with the account besides look at my balance, but it's still disturbing. So I'm going to contact Woori Bank soon and get it sorted out.

What a motherfucker, seriously -- some people can't do anything but cause other people problems. I hope the person who did this goes to hell.

December 5, 2008
Well, I'm pleased to announce that as of earlier this morning, I have finished the entire first JLPT Level 4 listening practice CD. Now if I can just finish off the second CD in time for the test on Sunday at 9:20 AM, I will have covered ALL of the material related to the test, and should do well on it.

I called the testing center and they said that the testing location is North Industrial High School (북공업고등학교). They told me to bring an HB pencil (not a mechanical pencil), an eraser, and a printout of my ticket for the test.

I think I'll pass the test, basically everyone says the Level 4 is a joke. However, I won't be motivated enough to study Japanese at this incredible rate of speed until I either move to Japan or take another Japanese test, so I should take advantage of today, tomorrow, and Sunday morning.

I would like to accomplish the following before taking the test, so I can get the best possible score and have the best possible Japanese beforehand:

  • Finish the second listening practice CD. I should be fine on the reading and writing because that can be replicated almost as well from a book as from a real class, but the fact that I've never been in a Japanese class is going to bite me in the butt when it comes to listening. So I need to make sure I've practiced with the CDs plenty. I'm treating them as dictation exercises and have transcribed basically everything from the first CD. I need to do this with the second, as well.
  • Review the vocabulary to the point where I can go down the list and know 95% of the words.
  • Find out the proper way to do counting classifiers. Like for example, "one" is ichi and "thousand" is sen. So logically, 1,000 would be ichi-sen, but it's not. It's shortened to issen. The counting classifier for animal is "hiki," but instead of "ichi-hiki," Japanese say "ippiki." I need to memorize all these irregularities in the counting systems.
  • I need to review basic expressions. I can put together some lengthy and nifty sentences, but some basic everyday greetings (especially when you first meet someone) escape me. So I need to review basic expressions.

    Aside from that, I think I'm basically on-schedule to take the test, and even if I had to take it today, I'd probably still do pretty well. Wish me luck. I will take it from 9:20 - 11:45 AM on Sunday (interesting time to schedule a test, isn't that when people are supposed to be in church).

    December 3, 2008: UPDATE 2
    I'm giving up the $1 a day diet after just three days, but you're going to be surprised why I did it.

    I didn't feel hungry at all. My stomach felt sufficiently full, and when it didn't, there was always enough money in the budget to eat more, provided that I used enough rice and kimchi. So I felt completely full.

    The food wasn't gourmet or anything, but the taste was okay, too. I didn't feel this temptation to go to Pizza School or Kimbap Cheonguk. The taste was good enough -- I used small quantities of meat and chopped them very finely so the dishes were still very flavorful and used plenty of kimchi.

    So what was the issue, then? SIMPLY NOT ENOUGH CALORIES. Like, I feel great, but according to my calculations, I ate less than 1,000 calories yesterday. I felt completely full, content and productive, but my calculations said otherwise. According to my calculations, I would literally be starving at the end of this month.

    With unlimited rice and kimchi, how is it possible to be starving? Well, let's put it this way -- kimchi only contains 33 calories per cup, and rice is only 168.9 calories per cup. So even if I ate two cups of rice at every meal four times a day, I'd only get 1,351.2 calories per day -- about 400 short of my bare minimum requirement. I would feel completely full (perhaps overfull), and would be unable to eat anymore, but I'd still be starving. Imagine trying to eat nearly two liters of rice in one day -- ain't gonna happen.

    So I still feel great physically-speaking, but I'm worried that if I keep this up, my body will enter calorie-restricted mode and my metabolism will slow down, making me constantly lethargic (without even feeling hungry). I don't want this to happen, especially around the JLPT tests, so I'm going to discontinue the $1 a day diet. It was an interesting experiment. The lesson that I learned was that even if you eat your fill (and in some cases, even when you eat despite not wanting to eat anything else), it doesn't mean you're getting enough calories to support your body's needs.

    So I think I'll change the diet to a $2 a day diet. That way I can still eat cheaply, but get enough calories. It's hard to get enough calories just from rice and kimchi, but add some extra meat in there, and no problem! One can of tuna contains 462.5 calories!

    This seems to be why there are so many starving people in third world countries. Sure, they can get completely full on grass and wild plants, but these things have no energy content! In order to get energy, you need things like meat that are very expensive.

    December 3, 2008
    Man, Korean men sure do fight a lot. I've seen three fights in the last week in which the authorities needed to be called.

    The first one was early Wednesday morning when some old Korean men got drunk on the New Camellia (the boat we were taking to Fukuoka) and the captain (or at least some high-ranking officer) needed to be called in to break it up.

    The second one was less than twelve hours ago, in the street. Once again, old Korean men fighting about God knows what. The cops came. The guys were fighting right where the #9 bus was supposed to arrive, so everyone missed their bus because of those guys. Fortunately, I was still able to get to my appointment on time by catching the bus after that.

    The third time was just now -- once again, old Korean guys. At least one of them was a taxi driver. The cops came, as usual, and instead of throwing the guys in handcuffs and taking them all into the station as they'd do in the US, they just embroiled themselves in the argument, doing their own fair share of pushing and yelling (which was also the case during the afternoon incident).

    I guess I understand why Korean men fight a lot. It's a hard life being a Korean man -- you spend two years in a brutal military where you get beaten up, then you work your ass off and get a 60-hour-a-week job just to impress some substandard girl. Then when you've finally gotten her, she complains that you're never home (and simultaneously complains that your income is too low, should it be under $30,000 a year which is wholly unrealistic in this country), and then she divorces you (because this country has one of the world's highest divorce rates). So then you're left with a boss that treats you like a slave, and you owe massive alimony. Or if your wife doesn't divorce you, she insists that you send her and her child to study in Australia, while you stay behind in Korea and foot the bill. Meanwhile, she's getting pounded by some Aussie. This phenomenon is known as 기러기 아빠 (gireogi apba), or swan father. Is it any wonder that these guys have pent up anger?

    Some people, especially on message boards, have accused me of "trying to be Korean." Trust me, I have no interest in becoming Korean. I might want to live here long-term, but I'm happy staying the foreigner that I am -- I'm allowed to act how I want and deal with relatively little ostracism. My life, though certainly precarious right now in my current situation, is still infinitely less cold than the life of the average Korean man. They have it HARD. And eventually they can't hold it in any longer and they get in fights.

    December 2, 2008: UPDATE 2
    I'll give myself credit, since coming back from Japan, my days have been more productive, and I've been much better about staying on budget. Nevertheless, I think I should plan out my day to make sure I'm the most productive I can be:
    1:40 PM: Wake up.
    3:40 PM: Make this schedule.
    2:50 PM: Study Japanese (listening comprehension) for one hour.
    4:50 PM: Get a shower.
    5:05 PM: Go to a "social engagement."
    8:00 PM: Come back from said "social engagement." Eat dinner.
    8:30 PM: Study Japanese listening comprehension.
    10:30 PM: Eat another meal and watch TV.
    11:40 PM: Study Japanese listening comprehension for another hour, followed by vocabulary review.
    1:40 PM: Usually my cognitive abilities suffer after I've been awake for 12 hours, so use this time to get my room cleaned up, do laundry, and otherwise have free time.

    Overall, it'll be a pretty leisurely day, but with a lot of Japanese study, because the test is on Sunday! That doesn't leave very much time, and while I think the test will be easy overall, I'm worried about the listening comprehension section.

    December 2, 2008
    I completed my first day on well under $1 for food. It went really well. I actually ate too much. My target was 1750 calories (trying to lose the beer belly) and I actually ate over 1,900. I had plenty of meat and flavoring. Seriously, if it keeps going this well, I might just make this $1 a day thing a regular thing. At this rate, I think I'll actually end the week with a food surplus!

    By the way, on an unrelated note, if you look at the CIA World Factbook, South Korea now has a higher life expectancy at birth than the United States! Incredible! This is not to say in any way that Korea is a better country than the United States, I was just a little surprised, that's all.

    As for other news, Rie's in Japan right now (her hometown is Kanagawa) so I'm kind of bored. And I talked with Trang today and she's going to have a birthday party on December 29 -- are YOU invited? She's going to play the song Feliz Navidad, and probably have the party at a restaurant, and invite all the old greats. Nothing else to report, time to get to bed.

    November 30, 2008
    I am going to drink a lot of makgeolli now. Why?

    Because for one month, I will be basically unable to drink any alcohol unless someone buys it for me, so I'm going to enjoy my last night of makgeolli access! Why can't I drink alcohol for one month? BECAUSE FOR THE NEXT MONTH, I PLAN TO EAT ON $1 A DAY.

    Yes, that's right, $1 a day in what is consistently ranked as one of the world's most expensive cities (by a bunch of retards)! My reasons for doing this are saving money, losing my beer belly, understanding starving children in Africa, and so I can feel happy if the exchange rate continues to worsen (since this will mean I can eat more delicious food, since $1 will buy more here).

    How do I plan to pull off this feat in one of the world's "most expensive cities?" Well, for starters, Seoul is NOT expensive if you're not a moron. You can eat here for $1 a day, as I'm about to prove. How? Well, a can of tuna is just barely more than $1 right now, and that, combined with free kimchi and rice, makes about three or four meals. So right there, you get veggies from the kimchi, meat and protein from the tuna (55 grams per can) and the rice gives you whatever rice gives you. So you don't contract scurvy and you don't become protein-deficient.

    Not only tuna, but also hotdogs are a great source of cheap meat. FIVE HOTDOGS FOR 68 CENTS! I KID YOU NOT! Tofu is also cheap.

    I can also make lots of baked potatoes and shop for discount produce that's past its expiration date (I recently got a head of lettuce for 13 cents). So I don't think there's anything unrealistic at all about my goal to eat on $1 a day for a month. It'll save me money and allow me to lose my beer belly. It's really gonna rock.

    I might also mention that my pedometer (as of 11:59:59 on Saturday) reads 63,337 steps, meaning that last week, I walked over 129,000 steps!

    November 26, 2008
    I'm back from Japan, on my seventh consecutive tourist entry! Once again, reentry came without any incident whatsoever. The border guard asked me how long I'd been studying Korean, and I said about three years, and she let me through. It was incredibly easy.

    I spent literally just a few hours in Japan and bought some presents for Mijung and Rie. Unfortunately I just had a couple of hours so they aren't very thoughtful presents -- just bowls of ramen and special Kyushu candy made from black sugar (but that's probably available all across Japan since the Lawson convenience store is a chain). I hope giving them these things isn't worse than giving nothing at all.

    So I spent a whole day, basically, on a boat, but it was fun. I met this Japanese dude named Naoki and we talked about Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy, and Dragon Quest for a while, and he gave me his e-mail address. And I met this woman named Hiroko who really took a liking to me even though communication was extremely limited, and she actually offered that if I wanted to learn Japanese in Japan, she'd let me use a spare room in her apartment free of charge! Isn't that incredibly generous? And then, even though I already had her telephone number, she faxed it again to the boat I was on. So I know she's serious. I doubt I'll actually do this should I come to live in Japan (living with someone free of charge has a number of drawbacks and a small room isn't all that expensive), but I appreciate her thought and if I end up in Kyushu, I'll still drop her a line.

    As for expenses since the last update:

  • 1,300 won: Subway ticket
  • 4,100 won: Makgeolli, soju, and shrimp chips, all intended to be consumed on the boat with friends -- and they were
  • 20,000 won: Japanese currency exchange
  • 3,500 won: Kimbap Cheonguk food when I came back
  • 26,200 won: Train ticket home on the Mugunghwa
  • 500 won: This computer

    So in the end, I went less than 10,000 won over my hoped 250,000 won visa run -- however, I must note that I did go over in terms of Japanese currency usage -- to pay the oil fee, I had to shell out some of my Japanese money from before. However, overall, it was a success financially.

    November 25, 2008: UPDATE 2
    Well, guess what, the Tsushima ferry isn't running today, and Shimonoseki would be too expensive. So to save money, I'm going to take the most ridiculous-sounding Japan trip ever! I'm going to take the overnight ferry to Fukuoka and sleep on it (and arrive at 7:30 AM). Then I'm going to take the ferry back at noon. So yes, that's right, I leave Korea, spend a couple of hours in Japan not counting customs, and then get right back on the boat and come back to Korea! All in the name of my visa! :-)

    It's all right, I'll have plenty of time to explore Japan if I move there, which is looking more likely since I no longer have a Korean girlfriend to tie me down here. Today I did some sightseeing in Busan -- Taejongdae (a mountainous region on Yeong Island which is scenic and has a temple and a beach) and Haeundae (a famous Busan tourist beach with relatively few people on it at this time of year). I've taken 15 pictures so far, so let's hope they turn out well.

    My expenses since the last update:

  • 1,300 won: Ticket from Nopodong to Jungang
  • 3,500 won: Jeyukdeopbap
  • 450 won: Wash cloth (because I forgot to bring one from home and the dead skin is falling off my face and it's looking really gross)
  • 139,200 won: Student discount price overnight ticket to Fukuoka and back (round trip)
  • 1,000 won: Bus to Taejongdae
  • 6,000 won: Disposable Camera
  • 1,000 won: Bus to Jungang
  • 3,500 won: Donggaseu from Kimbap Cheonguk
  • 1,300 won: Subway ticket to Haeundae (the beach)
  • 5,000 won: PC room time

    This totals up to 162,250 won (in addition to the earlier 41,700 won). So in other words, I have 46,050 won left to work with. I think I can do this. I think I can pull off the whole visa run for under 250,000 won (less than $170). YES, THAT'S RIGHT, I'M TAKING A TRIP TO JAPAN AND BACK FOR UNDER $170, INCLUDING MEALS AND ALL EXPENSES, AND I'LL BE DAMNED IF I FAIL!

    By the way, I've done a ton of walking since Sunday, and have logged 66,192 steps (over 40 kilometers in just two and a half days). I'm going to go ahead and reset the pedometer so it doesn't max out at 99,999.

    November 25, 2008
    Well, I just got about four hours of sleep on the bus. The fare has gone up to 34,200 for the late-night high class bus (the only one available at night). However, I was able to recline my seat, put out a heated foot rest, and sleep most of the ride. I'm now in Busan. Upon arrival in Busan, one of the cops checked my ID, even though I had not nor was I suspected of doing anything. That's a first in Korea. If I were a Dave's ESL Cafe poster, I'd rant about the horrible fascism, but the reality is that it isn't that bad -- policeman have the right to check foreigners' IDs because of illegal immigration -- especially since this city has a lot of Russians and a fully active Russian mafia. To the untrained eye in the darkness after 4:00 AM, I could look like a Russian, I guess.

    So I'm going to Japan today -- I'm hopping on a boat and going there. Here are my travel expenses so far:

  • 1,000 won: Subway ticket from my home to the Express Bus Terminal
  • 5,000 won: Kimchi jjigae -- served by two Joseonjok (Chinese citizens who are ethnic Koreans). I properly guessed that they were on H-2 visas, and they were very impressed. The Joseonjok ajumma took a liking to me and asked me questions for the entire meal. At one point, some ajeosshi was eating in the restaurant, and I couldn't understand him very well, so I tried explaining to the Joseonjok ajumma in Chinese why I thought it was funny and ironic that I could barely understand this born-and-raised-in-the-ROK ajeosshi but I had no problem understanding her, but she didn't understand. Then, to make sure he hadn't understood me, I asked the guy if he understood Chinese. To which he gave like a 15-minute answer that was somewhat emphatic. I didn't really know what he was saying because he was using a lot of high-level vocabulary and such, but the ajumma later explained that he had been expressing irritation at how Korea has pumped so much money into developing China, and how China has gotten all its technology from Korea, and now China is coming in with its lower wages and screwing Korea. Then he walked up to me and said "America, friend" and shook my hand. What a strange fellow.
  • 34,200 won: The bus ticket
  • 1,500 won: This internet cafe's "cover charge" for one hour

    So for the record, I've spent 41,700 won so far. Can I complete the visa run on just 250,000 won, or if I go to Shimonoseki, 300,000 won? I hope so!

    I might also add that air raid drills in Seoul have been very frequent. There was one on Friday, and then there was another one yesterday! Normally there are six months between drills, but I guess the authorities want to be extra cautious since North Korea is cutting inter-Korean programs like the Gaesong tour (this is a new development) and numbers of South Korean staff at the industrial park in North Korea (even going as far as to cut staff at Hyundai, a DPRK-supporting company, to 70%).

    November 24, 2008
    Well, I'd better be pretty concise here since my goal is to be out of the house by 10:30 (less than 30 minutes). I'm going to pack my stuff, get to the Seoul Express Terminal by 11:30, and catch the bus by midnight to Busan.

    I will arrive in Busan around 4:00 or 5:00. At that point, I will probably do what I did last time -- find the public bathroom near the Kimbap Cheonguk, get the key from the ajummas, and crash in the second stall from the door. The length of time is too short to justify a 7,000 won stay at the jjimjilbang.

    Then I'll go to the ferry terminal in the morning and catch either the Tsushima-bound ferry or the Shimonoseki-bound ferry. I'm guessing the Shimonoseki-bound ferry is already full since that's popular, so I'll probably do a cheap, 250,000-won visa run to Tsushima (the third time to that island, but it's an idyllic island, so it's okay). If I go to Shimonoseki, I'll allow 300,000 won so I can enjoy the place.

    I should return to Seoul late Wednesday night (if lucky) or Thursday (if a little bit less lucky). In a worst case scenario, the border guards won't let me in a seventh consecutive time, but let's keep our fingers crossed. If I can get in just one more time, I can extend to a student visa and never have to deal with the tourist visa hell again.

    To facilitate my easy entry back into the ROK, I'm packing clean dress clothes and documents proving that I'm studying at Yonsei University. So I'll be looking good and entering to attend a SKY school.

    I plan to buy a good disposable camera before I go, because with the depressed exchange rate, a camera should be like $3. Getting it developed should also be like $3.

    I hope I can go to Shimonoseki. That's the last Japanese city that's accessible by ferry that I haven't been to, yet.

    November 23: UPDATE 2
    Well, on the way back from Sungshil, I saw this hot young woman reading something that appeared to be English. So I asked her about it, and asked if there was anything she'd like to ask, since I'm a native. It turns out she wrote it, and it's an outline for a presentation she's going to give at the Sungkyunkwan University Medical School in favor of banning abortion (my thoughts, exactly). And then she gave me her phone number!

    Once she finds out that I'm just a loser who's attending community college online and doesn't have a regular job, she'll probably relegate me to "language exchange partner" status, but at least this is affirmation that I'm not a repulsive human being on the first impression.

    By the way, tomorrow I'm getting on a bus and heading out on a SPIRIT QUEST to the land of JAPAN! That is, if all goes well...

    November 23, 2008
    Well, I just woke up less than an hour ago, and the funny thing is, these delayed-onset breakup pains that I was predicting -- they're just not happening! I mean, I'm actually pretty glad.

    I don't need to rush as hard to finish my associate's degree. There's no girl who's on my case about getting a job, so why rush to the finish line at an unrealistic rate of speed? It's not that I couldn't finish those courses by March, but I'd go broke in the process.

    Yesterday, I smoked my first Cuban cigar! Yes, a genuine Cuban! And before I get a fine in the mail from the US government, let me tell you that it was a gift from Keith, I didn't pay any money into the Cuban economy for it, so there's nothing wrong with that.

    I also ran into Yonghan in Shinchon yesterday evening -- I have not seen that guy in OVER TWO YEARS. It turns out he took a year off and went to Shanghai and worked there, and now he's back. Then this crazy homeless-looking ajeosshi came up and started staring at us, which was really awkward.

    I did a lot of introspection yesterday, so I walked many miles from my home to Seoul Station, and then from there to Hyehwa. It took hours, and I have walked 75,421 steps this week (which doesn't even count a day when I forgot to wear my pedometer). I also did some hiking in the mountains, and calibrated 164 steps as being equal to 100 meters. The first time, I got 165, the second time, I got 163, so I'm figuring that the average of the two is about 100 meters. So there are 1,640 steps in a kilometer. Which means I walked over 45 kilometers last week, according to the pedometer.

    Today, I need to get my room straightened up, pack for Japan, go on a secret mission, and do as much studying as possible. So, time to start the day!

    I dated this girl, but am now relieved not to be doing so anymore. At least for the moment.
    November 22, 2008
    Well, Chung-hee dumped me. And at least for the moment, I'm glad. However, my experience with relationships is that usually you're glad for a matter of hours to a matter of days, and then things get really, really bad. However, in this case, I see this as being mostly positive -- she was causing me A LOT of headaches, and making me apologize unconditionally for things that were actually more her fault than mine. As those of you who can see my Facebook account could see, I was already writing messages on Facebook (which she can't see) about my desire to break up with her, I was just figuring I'd give her one more chance -- one more emotional blowout from her in a short time period, and I'd have dumped her. So she was on thin ice anyway, and today she sent me a message that said (translated from Korean): "Charles, it looks like I don't love you anymore. Please don't ask the reason. Please do not contact me. Goodbye." Well, I did contact her, but all I said was "Understood. Goodbye." and "I also have the feeling that we aren't right for each other."

    Then I decided that to eliminate any temptation of contacting her and being a beggar like I've been so far, I was going to delete all traces of her existence from my life, except for pictures (and make sure none of those are wallpapers, so I don't have to look at them if I don't want to). I deleted her phone number (which fortunately I hadn't memorized), all her text messages and call records, her e-mail address from MSN, and her Nate-On screen name.

    So now, short of stalking her by getting her information from Kimiko or checking out every Face Shop in Dongdaemun, there is no way I could contact her. And believe me, I'm not planning to do that.

    I'm glad she didn't want to be friends. Girls who say that after dumping you just want to show how many guys they can fuck while you're getting none.

    Quite frankly, I found our relationship extremely unfulfilling and was thinking of dumping her. Whereas on the second day, she had invited me to her apartment and we had slept in the same bed (not doing anything other than kissing, but still), after that, she backpedaled, which was highly frustrating -- we only met in public, and usually with her friends. I'd be lucky if we did anything more than a brief kiss at the end of the night. Maybe this is okay when you're in middle school, but I'm a 22-year-old western man, and that's not satisfactory for me. She made it seem like we weren't going to do anything at all until her brother went back to Japan, or even until I got a regular job -- which could be next summer. So let's just say, there are girls who are worth going out on a limb for, and Chung-hee wasn't one of them.

    The way we met was flawed from the start. I was only interested in her after failing with her friend, Kimiko, and she knew that. I was intoxicated at the time. Chung-hee knew there was no special reason I'd picked her. She asked me at one point and I made up a bogus list of 10 reasons, but I think it was pretty obvious to both of us that I'd just made out with her because she was the closest female and I was desperate.

    So I'll be alone this winter, and possibly for as long as a year or more, but that's just an unfortunate fact of an average-looking young man's life. At least my life will be more predictable now, and I won't lose productivity because I have to spend hours text messaging some 18-year-old with issues. My phone bill will go down. My restaurant bills will go down (even though we were going Dutch, even paying for myself was expensive).

    So overall, I'm feeling kind of glad and liberated, but some disappointment at the same time -- it's going to be a LONG TIME before I have another girlfriend, I'm pretty sure of it.

    I wish I didn't always meet girls in such junky ways. Both times I've (briefly) had a Korean girlfriend, it was because one or both of us was intoxicated and we made out, leading to a brief relationship spent just trying to justify the first meeting as divine providence when it's obviously not.

    To meet someone who's right for you, you should meet them in a wholesome setting in which the goal of the setting is not to set two people up. This rules out clubs, bars, booking clubs, and yes, drunken parties at the guesthouse. I have tried meeting girls in wholesome ways so many times. Rie was the latest example. We met and really hit it off, and hung out a lot and still do. I just really like her personality and find her a kind and uplifting person. Unfortunately she rejected my advances, as most girls who I meet in a wholesome setting do -- BUT if we ever did kiss and fell in love, there would be no need for me to even explain to her why I'd done it -- she'd know she wasn't just another girl at a party.

    The lesson to be learned by this? Cheap hookups and girlfriends who last for 20 days or less can be found easily at drunken parties and sogaetings, but quality girlfriends are found during the course of a guy's normal life -- and to seize the opportunity, a guy has to be ready at all times. So I need to continue my drive to get fit, so the next high-quality young woman I meet in a class, or at work, etc. takes an attraction to me as well.

    November 22, 2008
    Tonight, I met Rie Naka and we had a mini-dinner at McDonald's. We used her coupons to get a Coke (which we shared, and got infinite refills on, so we had a lot of Coke), and we used one coupon to get the Bulgogi Burger and also one Shanghai Spice Chicken Burger. I justified the second item by saying I'd never had a Shanghai Spice Chicken Burger before, and it was a unique Korean experience (we cut each sandwich down the middle so we could experience the sandwiches we hadn't experienced, yet).

    The verdict: the Shanghai Spice Chicken Burger is just another slightly spicy chicken burger, much like KFC's Zinger Burger (though not quite that good). I noticed very little original about it.

    Rie told me tonight that the way in which I speak Japanese is scary, sounds strict, and sounds like Japanese spoken in "old Japan." She also compared the way I speak with the way a stereotypical North Korean speaks. She seems distressed that I talk like that, but I take it as a compliment. My Korean is considered "cute." I don't want my Japanese to end up "cute," too. I'd like to be taken seriously. It sounds like I'm on the right path to sounding like some World War II hancho. She doesn't like the way I talk, but I don't know whether I should change my speech mannerisms to appease her or not -- she IS a native, but I'm not sure I want to change my speech mannerisms. If I move to Japan, do I want my English students to think my speech is "funny" and misbehave and talk and throw things, or perceive me as some kind of ex-marine and stand at attention whenever I enter the room? I WANT to be a little bit scary.

    I think the reason I talk like that is that I watch anime like Elfen Lied (just finished it this week) and I think the speech of the mad scientists, military commanders, and mercenaries sounds cool, so I tend to use those words (like wa-re-wa-re) more often, and my tone is lower than when I speak Korean.

    So I don't know, should I heed what Rie says and fix my speech, or am I going for the tone of voice of a psychopathic scientist that is trying to bring on the next phase in the evolution of the human race through a dangerous virus?

    Speaking of Elfen Lied, there was an INTERESTING anime, though really strange. I finished all 13 episodes in less than 24 hours. It sure is addictive, but was a little bit confusing until I read the episode summaries.

    *SPOILER ALERT* One mistake I made was that I saw young Lucy (a psychopathic diclonius [human with telekinetic powers]) and thought she was Nana (a basically innocent diclonius), because they were showing Lucy's childhood and Nana looks younger than Lucy, and they both look the same otherwise, so I thought it was Nana. So for the longest time, I thought all dicloniuses were psychopathic killers and couldn't understand why Kouta was befriending them. Now I have a better handle on it -- the message of the series was that the dicloniuses only wished to annihilate the human race because humans had assumed they would try to do so (since dicloniuses are superior to humans), and since dicloniuses were ostracized and put in labs with little human contact, they mostly became psychopaths. I found it odd that the series ended with the conclusion that within five years, the majority of human births would be dicloniuses, not regular humans. And who was that silhouette at the gate in the final scene, Lucy? I don't get how the main character, Kouta, could fall in love with Lucy, the psychopathic escaped diclonius AFTER finding out it was her who had cut his sister in half and decapitated his father when he was a child! This anime had even more weirdness though -- before falling in love with Lucy, Kouta is seen in love with and kissing Yuka -- HIS COUSIN. I thought this was really odd, but started doing some research and asking around, and it turns out that in Japan, it's normal to fall in love with your cousin, and it's legal. That's what Chung-hee told me, basically, but when I inquired as to whether or not this is practiced in Korea, she said definitely not. So what did I get out of Elfen Lied? Well, it was a fascinating story that kept me searching for more plot details in plot summaries because I wanted to know more, and it taught me that in Japan, cousins are allowed to fall in love and marry (eww) and immediately after watching it, my spoken Japanese got enough of a psychopathic vibe to it to make Rie notice. And might I add, what a gruesome and nudity-filled series. Still, I'd recommend it. *END OF SPOILER*

    November 21, 2008
    Yesterday, the won hit 1,500 to the dollar for the first time in 10 years (since the IMF crisis). It's funny how in the previous news reel, I was remarking about it hitting 1,200, and now it's at 1,500.

    I don't know what to do. I had been all cynical and made all my plans around it hitting 1,500, but never thought it'd actually get that bad -- and it did. So now I need to rework my plans for it hitting 1,700 or 1,800, I suppose. When does it end? Is this post-World War I Germany? No matter how much I scrimp and save and plan carefully, if it falls low enough, I'm screwed. I mean, if it goes low enough, I'll only be able to save a few hundred dollars a month, which just simply isn't enough. I think it's time that I go for another student loan -- at this point in time, I could literally survive here for a full year on the $4,000 that I'll get.

    I just woke up. Yesterday, Chung-hee brought me a cake with "I love Charles" written on it in frosting that she and her friends baked. She also brought two friends. I prepared steak, baked potatoes, lettuce, and apple slices, and we ate fairly well in my opinion, but I don't know if they were accustomed to American food or not.

    Steak has gotten much cheaper here. The ironic thing is that due to the exchange rate Australian steak is now the cheapest -- I got three steaks for 6,180 won (about $1.37 per steak). I guess I'll be eating more steak in the future. I can have two steaks for the price of one Kimbap Cheonguk meal!

    November 19, 2008
    Well, here's some good news: I got my Excelsior College evaluation for my NOVA transcript (which I sent like two months ago) back. They recognized every single credit from NOVA. Unexpectedly, they even recognized SDV 100, or College Success Skills, as a "Professional Development" class, so I ended up with one more credit hour than I thought I would.

    That one credit actually makes a big difference! Let me tell you why. Previously, after taking two C++ courses and 15 credits of introductory Asian languages to compensate for the credit that didn't transfer from Yonsei, I would have needed to take three courses in order to satisfy the seven-credit-hour gap. However, now it looks like I'll only need to take two, because there will actually only be a six-credit-hour gap! Yes!

    So these are the courses I'll take:

  • C++ Programming for Game Developers - Module I (taking it now, finished Chapter 6 of 9)..........4 credit hours
  • C++ Programming for Game Developers - Module II..........4 credit hours
  • Japanese 101..........5 credit hours (at this point, I will already have basic Japanese, and will just be taking the course to get easy credit)
  • Japanese 102..........5 credit hours (see above)
  • Chinese 102..........5 credit hours (I already know basic Chinese, but once again, easy college credit)
  • Game Mathematics..........3 credit hours
  • One More Three-Credit-Hour Course..........3 credit hours

    Although 21 credit hours may seem like a hell of a lot for the spring semester, 15 of those will be completely dead easy, since they will be nearly complete, utter review. I expect to zap through each one with no more than 24 hours of study a piece. That'll leave me with only six more credits to contend with! Under this plan, I can finish my associate's degree by March 8, have the transcript in-hand by May 8, and my associate's degree (which I've more than deserved since October) by June. Hopefully by the end of May, I should have a teaching job here in Korea, complete with a valid E-2 visa.

    Of course, as with every step of the way, it CAN'T be that easy...

    November 18, 2008: UPDATE 2
    Well, I've done two significant things today. First of all, believe it or not, I went ahead and paid 740,000 won to Yonsei KLI for another term. I know this totally goes against my principles after the way they screwed me, but it is by far the cheapest option to remain in Korea with some stability, plus Im Bang-ul says she'll proctor my exams again, which will save me hundreds of dollars in proctoring fees. So all-in-all, it's a move that I had trouble with ethically, but it made so much sense financially, I just had to do it. Continuing at Yonsei will allow me to get an extendable visa so I don't have to keep leaving Korea and coming back, and I'll get my exams proctored for free.

    I also went looking for a real apartment, not just a goshiwon. So far, I have loved my goshiwon -- it's only 240,000 won a month, the utilities are included in the price (even internet), rice and kimchi is free, and the ajumma never complains, BUT I cannot have any guests, and this bothers me.

    I'd really like to get a one-room apartment where who I can socialize with in my own living space isn't dictated to me, but today's search showed this will be financially VERY difficult. I mean VERY difficult.

    Right now, I pay 240,000 won. The cheapest one-room I could find was 490,000 won AND YOU CAN'T BRING IN GUESTS.

    I also spotted another one-room, and asked about the price -- 600,000 won! My dear God! Both prices are more than double my goshiwon price!

    A real estate agent told me on Sunday that I could get a one-room apartment which permitted guests in the fairly cheap part of Seoul called Guro. There, I could pay about 333,000 won a month for a one-room -- which is only 93,000 won more than I currently pay. But wait -- I would no longer get free rice and kimchi, I would have to pay utilities, and I would have to commute to Shinchon nearly every weekday. I'm guessing utilities would cost 50,000 won a month, rice and kimchi would total 50,000 a month at bare minimum, and transportation would be 40,000 a month (because right now, I can walk, which would no longer be an option if I lived in Guro). So basically, there is no way I'm going to get a guest-capable pad for less than 233,000 extra won a month. So I guess I'll continue to live in a goshiwon. Oh boy, that's romantic and professional.

    November 18, 2008
    Well, I finished watching the anime series Claymore. I'm not normally a huge anime fan, but occasionally one gets me in its clutches and I can't stop watching. That would describe Claymore, at least for the first half (I've been watching it for months).

    It seems that many entertainment products from Japan (both anime and video games) tend to have this certain cycle -- they are GREAT openers, and within a few hours, you are completely hooked and HAVE TO KNOW MORE. However, by 2/3 of the way through, they get very boring and tedious -- lots of poorly-animated, overly-lengthy battles and not enough real plot development. And then the end always involves a showdown in some ethereal realm where all the characters have somehow managed to become angelic super beings, and while this is generally kind of weird, it's intended to be that way, and kind of redeems the series/game from its repetition that occurred around the 2/3 mark. Claymore was no exception.

    *SPOILER ALERT* The ending for Claymore involves Clare (a half human, half yoma [demon] warrior), being able to kill her nemesis, Priscilla, who had killed her caretaker and the warrior who had saved her, Teresa. However, Raki, who has gotten to know Priscilla (who has "awakened" into a monster), knows that she is actually completely unable to do anything about her awakened state, and is actually still consciously a little girl who has to eat the guts of humans to survive, so he intervenes and convinces Clare not to kill Priscilla. Clare is able to revert back to being a claymore, or half-human, half-yoma warrior (whereas she had been seemingly irreversibly awakened) and now that she is back in her old form, she feels she has no more purpose in her life now that she cannot kill Priscilla. However, as she passes Teresa's grave site, Teresa's ghost comes to her and tells her "live as a human, among humans." Then we can presume that she takes Teresa's ghost's advice and lives as a human with Raki, and that they will hopefully be happily ever after -- but the main villains, Easley and Priscilla (although it's arguable that Priscilla is a villain since she doesn't know what she's doing, and only became a demon because she tried too hard to avenge her family, which was murdered by yoma), are never destroyed. It was an interesting ending, and definitely paves the way for another series since Clare, Raki, Easley, and Priscilla survived. *END OF SPOILER*

    In terms of other news, I was cleaning my room, and found these strange brown rice grain-like things all over one of my really old and especially disgusting trash bags. I figured that I had left a bowl of rice somewhere and it'd dried and fallen on the trash bag. Then I saw a fly fly out of one of them, and realized that these hundreds of little grainy things were like, little fly exoskeletons, or cocoons, or something! Disgusting! So I got rid of that trash bag. My room is such a pigsty.

    November 16, 2008
    Well, as of 11:59:59 PM yesterday, I had walked 64,029 steps in the last six days (and over 20,000 steps on Sunday). I'm keeping track on this website. So I'm going to estimate about 12,000 steps a day with some margin of error, because young Korean children sometimes have been known to grab my pedometer and shake it to see if it'll go up extra fast, and sometimes I accidentally sleep with my pedometer, or drop it, etc. Still, I think about 12,000 steps per day is accurate, because sometimes I forget to wear my pedometer when I walk significant distances, so that compensates for the factors that would cause it to overestimate.

    I did some C++ homework today, but since I was at the guesthouse from 9:30 AM I didn't get as much as I'd hoped done. About that -- Mijung and I talked and we agreed it would be better if I just came in once a week. I felt like being here constantly was too much, and she agreed. So now I'm going to just come once per week in order to hang out. This will free up a lot more time in my schedule.

    I need to make a Japan visa run pretty soon, because my tourist visa status will expire soon. If I can make it in just one more time, I can extend back to a student D-4 visa and not need to leave the country again until it's time to get my E-2 teacher's visa.

    Things seem to be going pretty well with Chung-hee, and I hope they continue to. We've been going out for two weeks now. She got a full-time job at the Face Shop, and has to work nine-hour shifts everyday, so we're both busy. At least she seems to be hard-working.

    I hope I still have enough money when January 12 rolls around to pay for all my NOVA classes. This is my plan to finish my associate's degree requirements (all over again) by March:

  • Finish two units of C++ (eight credit hours) before New Year's. 22 credit hours remaining!
  • Take 15 credits of introductory Asian languages at NOVA (Japanese 101, 102, and Chinese 102). These will be REALLY easy and almost certain A's with no effort, since I already know the material. They will knock out 15 credit hours. 7 credit hours remaining.
  • Take Game Mathematics (Discrete Math) and one four-credit-hour course of something else of my choice. 0 credits remaining, this should get me my associate's degree.

    November 14, 2008
    Well, I just knocked out an entire chapter of C++ in less than 24 hours! Not bad!

    Bongdo and Hyeongcheol stopped by. My girlfriend stopped by twice. She was looking really beautiful because she was dressed up for her job interview which she had (and she got the job). I believe she's working full-time at a department store, but I could be mistaken. I guess I need to find that out quickly, don't I?

    Tomorrow, I aim to memorize 100 Japanese words (although the vast majority I will probably already know) and complete half a unit of C++ in addition to my other two engagements which I'd rather not talk about on here. Oh, and not spend too much money. Other than that, I'm tired because I woke up at 8:50 AM and it's now after midnight, so time to hit one of the hostel beds.

    November 13: UPDATE 2
    Here's a newsworthy update to start my 21st page of news! I just ran into Hyeongcheol at Hyehwa Station Exit 4. This is significant because it means he's no longer in jail.

    Hyeongcheol got locked up about a year ago for fighting with a police officer. He is a friend of Mijung's. I wouldn't say that he's a friend of mine, just an acquaintance, mostly because I had the hardest time understanding him back in the day -- he speaks archetypical ajeosshi speak. However, this time, I was able to understand him much more easily -- perhaps my Korean has improved more over the last year than I was aware?

    Hyeongcheol has led a troubled life. He dropped out of middle school, and has been in jail multiple times. Let's hope this is the last time he offends!

    According to Mijung, he was let out at ten minutes after midnight. She had tried to meet him, but for whatever reason was unable to do so.

    On an unrelated note, a freaky thing just happened. A matter of hours ago, I was cutting an onion and I sliced my finger. Blood kept on coming out. I wrapped it in some toilet paper and tape and waited for a matter of hours, and now, the wound appears to have completely vanished! It's awesome, like being Wolverine from X-Men!

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