Old News

I know I took this in North Korea, I just don't remember where. I think it was Guryong Falls, Geumgangsan. It almost made the cut into my initial 37 pics.

Me and Saito Kazue (of Japan), a Loyal Visitor to the Site and a Former Guest at Golden Pond Guesthouse, Where I Was a Staff Member

When me and Mijung went to Gangwon (the east coast) we saw this dock. This site is almost completely devoid of Gangwon pictures. Unfortunately, because of that thief in China, it probably always will be, because those pics were on my USB drive. :-(

July 11, 2007
It's time for an update. Because YOU deserve it.

I thought I'd post a couple of old pictures that I'd never posted before. Ever since that thief in China stole my flash drive, I've been unable to conveniently upload pictures to my PC. I'll get a new drive eventually, but first, I'm going to try to compensate by posting old (but unused) photos.

I had my CELTA English teachers' training course today, and taught a lesson for 40 minutes. It was mainly stuff about collocation and English small talk.

During the group evaluation, everyone heaped on constructive criticism for like 20 minutes, but then at the end, in the last 30 seconds or so, Mr. Forrest complimented it, said I'd done a good job, and handed me my sheet that shows a "to Standard" rating. So I passed. I'm happy, that's two passes, now.

I helped Carina, from Austria, find a hasukjip room today. I'll be helping move her in tomorrow evening.

There's been no word on the Reverse Polish Notation programming contest. They haven't even bothered to confirm whether my entry was received or not. What's up with that?

Well, it's late, and I need to get to bed. As I'm sure you're all quite aware, the journey I must make from Shinchon to Dunchon-dong each day is a long one. We're counting down the days until the class is over. This class isn't meant to be fun. Mr. Forrest said that it's boot camp, and that's absolutely true. We laugh our asses off occasionally, and it has its moments, but I look forward to finishing it.

I had a really great idea, all of a sudden. I think it'd be fun to have an air raid party. You get a bunch of friends together, rent a soju tent, and party right up to the air raid drill -- it'd be like a New Year's party. You could have video cameras and get the whole thing on camera, including the sirens and the police telling you to seek shelter underground. That'd make a cool YouTube video. What do you think?

July 8, 2007: UPDATE 2
I finished my program and sent it in. I don't really expect to win, but in order to put the necessary effort into it to win, I'd need to sacrifice a bunch of other things. I need to do my lesson prep for the lesson I'm giving tomorrow at the CELTA course, which while only 20 minutes long, will take me a while to prepare for because it's my first lesson ever.

Furthermore, Carina, my friend from Austria, comes today. I linked to her website, which she just started.

As for the program, well, here's the synopsis: it does little beyond the required RPN calculations. It looks nice, but considering that the competitors' programs are around 400 bytes, so they say, it's very, very bloated (over 2,000 bytes). The reason that it's so bloated is that it's fairly graphical. There's the screen below (the computation screen) as well as a title screen, which has a picture of a TI calculator saying "I WANNA BE AN HP!" complete with a speech bubble. The program itself is fairly Spartan. All it lets you do is enter numbers and signs (and make calculations), in addition to allowing you to see the stack (it pauses every three entries so you can see everything in the stack). You can pick full screen (eight lines of calculations) or split screen (four lines of calculations with the nice graphical directions at the top). There's also an option to start a new problem (clear the stack) but I expect everyone's program to have that.

If everyone else's program is one of those 400-byte, skeletal programs, maybe I'll win, but it'd be pretty easy to blow my program out of the water with an RPN program that had, say, a built-in RPN quiz game, or the ability to take an RPN expression written as a string and calculate it.

Oh well, I learned some new math (not that I like math, but sometimes things you should learn aren't things you're going to like learning). I learned to implement that math on a computer, which may help with a future computer science course. I also learned how to write my own stack, in case one isn't provided by the programming language. Even if I don't place in the top three, I've won from the standpoint that this has been educational. That may be kind of lame, but oh well. As soon as the competition is over (or as soon as I've read the rules over well enough to make sure it's okay) I'll post the program in the Programs section, with a couple of screen shots. If you need to do RPN calculations, it's useful. For the other 99% of us out there, it's useless, but it's cool.

There's a funny anecdote about this program that I want to share. I did not use a real TI-83 series calculator at all to test this program. I think it'll run fine on one, but I tested it completely with emulators on my computer (two of them, so I'm fairly sure it'll run on the real thing). However, writing the code was the most difficult part, not running the program. Korean Windows XP just WOULD NOT cooperate with TI Graph Link, the program you use to write TI code on your PC. It kept trying to display the programming symbols as Korean characters, and when I saved a program, the symbols would be turned into question marks. I tried running the program in all different modes, and nothing seemed to work. It looked like I was doomed and couldn't enter the competition. Then I had a wild idea. I decided to download DOSBox (a PC emulator) and install Windows 3.1 (yes, the OS from 1992) on it, and run TI Graph Link on the emulated Windows 3.1 machine. It worked. Me and my old friend, Windows 3.1, worked together and wrote 100% of I Wanna Be an HP's code. It may be an ancient, 15-year-old operating system, but it did a better job than XP could.

Here's my RPN calculator being emulated by VTI. It's solving the CalcG.org problem:
9 3 5 3 + 3 5 - 2 * / + -
= 9 3 8 -2 2 * / + -
= 9 3 8 -4 / + -
= 9 3 -2 + -
= 9 1 -
= 8

Not only does the program get the answer right, it's also pretty -- it runs in split screen mode with 3D-looking graphical buttons. I don't know if it'll win the competition just for that, though.

July 8, 2007
Well, it's July 8, which means I'm done with my first day of CELTA. It was okay. I have a lot of lesson prep to do before tomorrow, and I will do it, but I'm trying to balance my time right now between CELTA and the programming competition, which ends tomorrow morning at 10:00 AM (COMPETITORS ONLY HAVE 48 HOURS FROM START TO FINISH). That's what this post is going to talk about.

CalcG.org is having a competition to program an RPN (Reverse Polish Notation) calculator that runs on a TI. Such programs already exist, but there are very few of them, and I've just succeeded in writing one. Here's a short synopsis of RPN: RPN was invented in 1920 by a Polish guy with an extremely long last name that I don't have time to memorize. It's an alternative to algebraic math. It uses no parentheses, and uses postfix notation instead of putting the signs between the numbers. It's like the Korean of mathematics. The important stuff goes at the end of the expression. Furthermore, it uses a "stack" for computations, which means a list of numbers onto which numbers are "pushed" on or "popped" off.

Programming this has been quite a challenge, as before yesterday, I didn't even really know how Reverse Polish Notation worked, and I had to read up on it. I'm not a math person, but fortunately, I do know something about stacks and computer math, so I managed to understand it. By early this morning before I went to bed (a little before 4:00 AM) I had succeeded in getting it to push two numbers onto the stack and add them, but there were still serious glitches with the stack that prevented it from adding, say, three numbers correctly.

Today, I spent a bunch of time writing stack code, and am ecstatic to say that I now have a working RPN calculator with division, multiplication, addition, and subtraction. If the stack is too small, it will tell you to enter more numbers instead of just crashing. It's a fully functional RPN calculator, kind of like the Hewlett Packard calculators. Therefore, I am tentatively naming it "I Wanna Be an HP."

I have typed in the math problem provided by CalcG.org and it computes perfectly, as does the example problem from Wikipedia. I have also tried out a few problems of my own, so I think it's pretty much bug-free right now.

Now the only thing I need to do is add some bells and whistles and other features to make it stand out against the other RPN calculators.

July 7, 2007
Well, since waking up about 13 hours ago, I've accomplished a little bit, but it's been a leisurely day overall.
I did a bunch of cooking and other food prep. I'm no chef, but I can make a few things. I made French toast, and I've learned to operate the rice cooker (people had showed me a gazillion times, but I had to do it myself to prove I knew how), so I had some curry and some jjajangbap, and I've packed some rice and jjajangbap for tomorrow's lunch and am leaving some curry out for tomorrow's breakfast. I went shopping at Grand Mart today for some ingredients. I got some mechuri eggs. When all is said and done, mechuri eggs are cheaper than chicken eggs, unless you're buying in major bulk. I got some sesame leaves, too. Those are a deal: a bundle for 250 won. Of course I stocked up on a curry pouch and a jjajang pouch (each 490 won). I do believe I'm getting pretty good at eating economically! I think it's a completely realistic goal to eat on 4,000 won a day. That's what I've been doing for the last week, and I actually have a surplus!
I got my textbooks for CELTA.
I read Chapters 1, 2, and 4 of how to Teach English. I still need to read Chapter 12 and complete the assignment. That'll keep me up for another hour or two.
I shaved off my beard! It had a nice run, but I'm trying clean-shaven again. It was useful for having people perceive me as older, but I'd rather go for "professional" right now. Someone recently asked if I was a Lord of the Rings fan and said that I "seemed" like one. I have a hunch it's the red, dwarf-like beard. That look is not a chick magnet.
I watched at least half an hour of Korean TV. Having this television is great. I think my listening is already improving after just a few days of rabid watching. Cartoons are totally making sense now. Sometimes dramas are, too. There's still a lot that evades me, though. Still, just one year ago, I really wondered if I'd ever make it to this point. I'd still like to get better, because my current level won't get me into university, but I am getting better. I just hope I haven't completely plateaued. That's my biggest fear.
I learned that actually, this place DOES have warm water. They just turn off the water heater by default to save on the bills, I guess, but you can turn it on if you need it. This may mean no more unwanted sponge baths!

July 6, 2007: UPDATE 2
Well, guess who's wearing the stupid helmet now! I miscalculated the start of the TI programming competition -- it begins tomorrow at 10:00 AM, not today at 10:00 AM. I signed onto the site and was like "Am I missing something? It's already July 7th on the east coast, but I can't find what the topic is..." and the administrator (at least I think he's the administrator) came back with "It's only July 6th on the east coast right now. The challenge will be posted at 8:00pm tonight."

Oh well, silly me, I guess I'll have to wait. However, I'm not going to have as much time to devote to this competition as I'd thought. It turns out that "orientation" for the CELTA course is over eight hours long. It's really just the first day of class. Even so, I still plan to compete in the TI programming competition.

I went to Kyobo Bookstore today and got my textbooks for the class. They were 50,000 won total. At least I have them now, so I can stop worrying. I guess I'll spend today doing the preparatory assignment, watching TV, and cleaning up this joint.

July 6, 2007
I don't mean to sound melodramatic, but I've been waiting for this day since 2004.

A programming competition is being held for TI calculators, and I finally have the free time to devote to such a competition.

The competition is held by CalcG.org, and this is the rule: within the announcement of the topic, competitors have exactly 48 hours to get their entry in! This is rapid application development at it's finest.

I don't have a TI calculator to program, but that's probably going to be okay. I have emulators and nine years of TI programming experience. Wish me luck. For the next 48 hours, I will be a monk with no social life.

July 5, 2007: UPDATE 3


It's fucking amazing -- I haven't even lived in the US in over a year, and Fairfax schools are still finding a way to screw me over. Today I went in for the THIRD time to take my Lifetime Fitness and Wellness exam (a required course for an online degree from Northern Virginia Community College) and it turns out the fuckers only sent Yim Bang-wool the password for Exam 3. I still need to take Exam 1.

I've visited the testing site three times now and have yet to take the exam. Even if it works the next time, I just don't have time to, for every exam, walk to Yonsei, only to have this happen. A standard course load means 20 exams per term. If I walk to school in vain 60 times a term, that's just not worth it.

This is hurting my grade in the class, as well. I am supposed to take the exams four weeks apart, and finish all of them by August 13. There are three exams. This is obviously impossible, so that means a definite grade penalty.

I think I'm just going to drop that stupid class. I just simply don't have time for this. I'm willing to study and do assignments, but all these stupid administrative pieces of bullshit like getting my textbooks sent overseas, finding a proctor, getting the proctor to try three different times to enter the password for a single exam, etc. -- it's just too damn much. I need to just drop it before it hurts my GPA. I'm sure if the stupid system would actually let me take the exam, I'd do okay, as I spent several hours reading the material. Of course, this isn't about studying, or other conventional school things -- this is about trifling over petty details.

I'm going to try to stay enrolled in my other class, SDV (Student Development) 100, though. It only has one exam, which should be a lot easier to complete than the three exams of PED 116. I need to follow at least one course through to its conclusion so I know how the system works, but PED 116 is killing me.

July 5, 2007: UPDATE 2
I've got to say, I'm not really liking Linux. I'm not having any driver issues, which are common -- actually, it recognizes my internet, graphics, and sound just fine. The problem is installing programs.

Everything seems to be done through this stone age program called "Emelfm" or through the command line. This Emelfm program seems to be more primitive than Windows 3.1 File Manager. I can't even seem to move files with it.

What's more, I can't get any plug-ins to work with Firefox. I have tried so many methods to install Flash player so I can do YouTube. None of them work. I can't get Korean to work on here either. I live in Korea and go to a Korean university -- sorry, if your OS can't do Korean easily, it's just no good for me.

I'll probably tinker around with Linux some more in the future, and it was a fun experiment, but Windows has come a long way and is a lot more stable than it used to be (actually, I've had a number of freezes with Linux today alone).

Microsoft may have had some bad years (1995-2000 were particularly atrocious) but their OS is really pretty damn stable these days, and USER FRIENDLY, which Linux isn't. I don't want to unzip a tar file, or a tar.gz file from the command line. I just want to double-click a file and install it. I don't want the root of my hard drive buried in /mnt/hda1/. This update is actually kind of difficult to type because Linux can't keep up with my typomatic rate.

As much as I hate to say this, I think I'm just going to buy a legitimate copy of Windows XP, and reinstall it about every two weeks, to get rid of spyware. It's troublesome, but no more so than doing my laundry or cooking. Reinstalling Windows every two weeks is better than all the crap I have to deal with with Linux. This will probably be my last update from Linux.

July 5, 2007
Well, it's early in the morning, and I'm doing this update not from Windows, but Linux. I have long been not very impressed with Linux, but I'm giving it a try as a way to avoid adware. These days, anti-adware programs just don't cover everything. The only way to truly avoid it is to use an OS that doesn't support the vast majority of adware.

My Linux distribution is DSL (Damn Small Linux). It's a 50 MB distro that runs completely off of a CD. What this means is that adware CANNOT be installed to the drive where my OS is, because that drive isn't writeable.

The drawback is that I can't seem to install any plugins for my browsers. They try to install to Firefox's directory on the CD, which cannot be written to.

If I solve this problem and can get support for Korean input/output and can install Flash Player, I may just make this my regular OS.

July 4, 2007
Happy Independence Day! I guess that in the country where it matters, it's still the 3rd, so I'll leave it at that.

Today I booted up Linux inside of an emulator on my windows desktop and took a picture of what this website looks like running in Dillo on Linux:

July 3, 2007
Man, I'll tell you, EVERYTHING has to be this EPIC, MASSIVE, UPHILL STRUGGLE. The latest manifestation of this is my online exam for PED 116. I had to find a licensed teacher in Korea who would proctor it. I found her, and she's been great so far. We agreed to do the test yesterday afternoon, so I came in and tried to log in, but guess what? Someone (either my online college or Yonsei) has BLOCKED the site that you need to go to in order to log in. So I asked if we could postpone it to today. She said sure. Today, I used web-based proxies to get all the way into the system, even successfully logging into Blackboard. Then Yim Bang-wool came and we were about to key in the password, when it gave an error -- that part of Blackboard doesn't work through a proxy. That's just swell.

I fiddled around for literally hours trying to find a proxy that could access the online test that I need to take. Finally, I decided to leave the KLI building and look for internet cafes or copy places nearby that could access the site without a proxy.

I found a copy place so close by, it's closer to Yim Bang-wool's office (perhaps) than the sixth floor computer lab of the KLI. Great! However, the owner didn't want me to surf the internet on the computers! I argued and argued with her. She said it was just for printing. I was like "okay, I happen to have a 200-page document to print. Do you mind if I surf the internet while it prints?" She said it would not be allowed. I asked her if I could just pay her some exorbitant amount of money, like 20,000 won an hour, and she said no. I just kept on hanging around and bothering her, and EVENTUALLY, she caved. I was like "what if I come in really early in the morning?" She thought about it, and then said that web browsing would bring in viruses. I was like "but I'm taking the test on my university's website. University websites don't have viruses." She said that if I came tomorrow morning at 8:30 AM, before the rush of Yonsei students with their theses, I could use the computer for an hour.

I ran up to Yim Bang-wool's office and asked if she'll be busy tomorrow morning at 8:30 AM. It turns out she doesn't come to school until 8:40 AM, and wouldn't be available to proctor a test until 9:10 AM.

I ran to the copy shop and asked if that was acceptable. No, it isn't. However, 9:10 AM on Thursday is okay.

I went back to Yim Bang-wool and asked about 9:10 AM on Thursday. Score!

So in theory, I can access the test and take it on Thursday morning at 9:10 AM. However, there will no doubt be some other complication that'll keep me from doing it properly.

All these huge hassles with attending a US-based online college from Asia are pretty irritating. While in theory, I could get my associate's degree completely online from Asia, I can't imagine going through this same damn test-taking process 20 times per term.

July 2, 2007
I studied until after 2:00 AM last night in preparation for the Lifetime Fitness and Wellness online exam, but my rush to cram all that stuff was in vain. When I went to Yonsei to have Yim Bang-wool proctor the exam, we went to the computer, and the page just wouldn't load up. It was so frustrating. I eventually gave up on trying to log in. I can picture these exams becoming a big, big problem in my near future, because I figure the average course has about four per term, and they all need to be proctored, and a full course load is five courses, so that's 20 exams each term for which we have to go through this hassle!

I can't really expect Yim Bang-wool to proctor every single one of them, so I'm going to have to get some more proctors approved. If you're interested in doing so (I'll pay you), step right up!

As for other news, I finally got the key for my hasukjip today. Now I can lock the door when I go out. That feels a lot better.

Today, I plan to visit Mijung, because I think she's scared that I won't ever visit now that I'm in the hasukjip again. I fully intend to go and hang out at Golden Pond a couple of times a week -- I'm just tired of living there, that's all.

I love my new hasukjip room(s). I get multiple English channels, including the Discovery Channel, MTV, and some other random English channels that I've never heard of. Maybe I'll get some photos up on this site of the new arrangement.

July 1, 2007
Well, today I moved into my hasukjip! It's very nice. It's furnished with furniture that doesn't look salvaged from a trash heap. The price is 310,000 won, but I decided to pay 10,000 won a month extra so I can get free rice from the rice cooker whenever I want it, as well as free kimchi and free trash removal (no need to buy bags). I can't see doing those things anymore cheaply on my own without spending vast amounts of time.

I have an exam tomorrow for my online required Lifetime Fitness and Wellness course. I hope Yim Bang-wool remembers. I'll send her an e-mail tonight, though I don't think it'll have much effect.

I just finished Chapter 1 and got an 80% on the assessment, which is good enough. I don't really care about this course beyond passing it. I have two more chapters to cover tonight.

Well, I'm pleased with my new pad and look forward to living here for a long time. The reason I left the old place (besides Mijung offering me free room and board) was that I didn't want to give money to the ajeosshi at the old hasukjip because he was an ass about fixing the internet. Really, it was a nice hasukjip, and I somewhat regret ever moving out of there in the first place. Therefore, my goal is this: never see the bad side of this hasukjip ajumma. If something goes wrong, I'll try to fix it myself. I don't want to ask her, only to find out that she's a stubborn asshole about it. Stubborn assholes mean that I have to change living arrangements. As long as I'm ignorant of the owner's stubborn asshole status, I'm mostly happy with my place. This ajumma may be a perfectly kind and reasonable person. I'll just distance myself from her, so if she isn't, I'll never find out and feel the need to move out because of that knowledge. If my internet is out for extended periods of time, I'll just subscribe to an internet service of my own. As long as I can believe that I'm handing money over to a good person, things will be fine.

June 30, 2007
Well, I'm back in Korea. On one hand, I'm happy to have gotten back in without having to show a plane ticket out. It seems every single airline ticket vendor's website was glitching yesterday. I spent literally hours trying to buy one, only to discover some error that prevented me from buying one on just about every site. This includes Korean Air, All Nippon Airways, and Japan Airlines. Finally, Asiana let me buy a ticket, with much effort, but then my payment was marked as "pending." So I didn't have a ticket, and I was crossing my fingers they wouldn't ask me, and they didn't.

On the other hand, they only gave me 30 days to stay here when I entered, sure enough. Those IDIOTS at the Shenyang Korean consulate had no idea what they were talking about, what did I tell you? Did I not see this coming? Well, I'll just have to apply for an extension to my stay, and I may or may not get it, and it may not be for as long as I want.

I just woke up from a nap because I slept in Dalian airport last night, on a bench, and didn't sleep very well. They actually closed up the entire airport with me lying on the bench. When I woke up, I was seemingly alone inside of a deserted, silent airport. It was so weird! However, when I walked around, I found out that some of the staff sleep on tables and so forth in there.

Well, I'm back in Korea, and tomorrow, I move to the hasukjip and don't have to deal with the madness of sharing the guesthouse with a million people anymore. That'll be a relief.

June 29, 2007
Well, thank God, I'm going back to Korea tomorrow.

Yanbian was okay, but really, I could have totally skipped Shenyang, and Dalian was only useful to meet Drew. Now I'm in Dalian again and this time Drew isn't here, so since I'm not going everywhere with a buddy, all these annoying people harass me. For instance, this morning, when I was really tired from this train, this idiot kept on following me around trying to find me an overpriced hotel room so he could take a commission. I said "okay" reluctantly, and he failed to get me two different ones. At that point, it'd been like 20 or 30 minutes, so I was like "I don't want it." This guy, despite me saying over and over "I DO NOT UNDERSTAND CHINESE" (in Chinese) would just not stop talking to me in Chinese. You know how the Koreans will keep talking English to you even when you really, really want to speak just Korean? Well, the folks in this part of China are the opposite. When you want English (or if they can't speak it, silence) they just keep on talking, talking, talking. He just kept on following me around. I gradually got more and more irritated. I think my body language and tone of voice were conveying perfectly that I DID NOT WANT HELP. He just didn't take a hint. Finally I just started yelling at him in English (in the Ugly American fashion) to bug off. He seemed to bug off for a while, but then returned after about 10 minutes! Geez, when your potential client is yelling at you, isn't it good business sense to find another business client?

Then there was the old woman near the hotel that I finally found who tried to seize my Pepsi. I grabbed it back. Thanks for asking.

Tomorrow, I go back to Korea. At least in Korea, I have my own room, and people on the street don't constantly BOTHER ME.

Today, I still need to buy a plane ticket out of Korea (to show the border guard in case he asks, when I arrive in Korea). I guess I'll go for the cheapest refundable ticket, since hopefully I'll be refunding it. I'm hoping I'll actually get the 90 days I was promised by the Shenyang Korean consulate.

June 28, 2007
At seven minutes after midnight, I will get on a train and go to Dalian, where I will wait until my flight on the morning of the 30th. The train was more expensive than expected (I figured that since it would only take six hours and the last one took 15, it would be less than half the price, but the prices are almost the same). This, combined with the fact that someone slipped me a counterfeit 50 RMB note mean that I needed to make another ATM withdrawal. I'll go about $100 overbudget for this trip. That's mildly frustrating. I can never seem to keep within a budget. I mean, I seldom FLY outside the budget (say, spend twice as much as I'd planned) but I tend to set my budgets just too darned low.

The budget for the next "phase" is going to be really high, and I sure as hell hope I don't exceed THAT. I mean, tuition for the CELTA course alone is 2,150,000 won! If I have to make all these visa runs to other countries outside of Korea because I can't stay for more than 30 days at a time, that'll REALLY run up the bill. If things don't go the way I'd like them to, I can see EASILY going through $5,000 over the next three months.

Education sure is expensive. Not only do you have to pay for tuition, which exceeds daily living expenses by thousands of dollars, but the amount of time that you have to work is either diminished or completely obliterated, decreasing your income.

June 27, 2007

What the hell did I come to Shenyang for?

Yeah, that's right, my trip to Shenyang has become entirely pointless. Shenyang has a Korean consulate, and I came here to get my visa for Korea. I'm allowed to enter without one for 30 days (I know this for certain) but I need more time than that, so I tried to get a visa. It turns out they couldn't have it to me before July 4. I already have my plane ticket back (it arrives on June 30). Therefore, that's out.

I asked them what to do. They said I could enter Korea and stay there for 90 days with no visa at all. If the Visa Waiver Program were in effect yet, I'd believe them, but seriously, I don't buy that. Americans only get 30 days. It says it everywhere. So I asked them to check again, and they came back and said 90 days, without a visa. I hope they're right, but am pretty sure they aren't.

Maybe Korea went ahead and gave Americans 90 days as a gesture of goodwill because it wants to be included in the Visa Waiver Program more quickly, in an effort to stay on schedule to enter the program in 2008. While that's possible, I find unlikely that Korea would ever be lenient on a visa issue. They seem to have no problem turning away gazillions of Joseonjok Chinese who speak Korean PERFECTLY. Hell, these folks at the Shenyang consulate actually MURDERED several North Korean escapees with their bungling ineptitude. The Chinese ended up in possession of those North Korean escapees, who were sent back to North Korea and presumably killed.

So really, I don't believe for one second that the folks in that consulate are in any way competent. I know I'm right, that I only get 30 days. If I stay longer than 30 days without permission, I just KNOW I'm going to be in trouble. I mean, it says right on the embassy website that you only get 30 days if you're an American. I guess I'll just have to enter Korea and hope they'll extend my stay when I get there.

So basically, I'm in Shenyang with nothing to do. Is this city famous for anything? Is there anything to do here besides KFC? I guess I'll just spend long hours at the internet cafe watching Malcolm in the Middle. Maybe I'll catch up on my e-mail and see if there are any online course assignments that can be done without a textbook. Seriously, why the hell did I come to Shenyang?

June 26, 2007
Every few days for the last couple of months, I've swung back and forth regarding moving to Yanbian. I'll probably swing back and forth several more times until I've mastered Korean enough to enter university.

Right now, I'd prefer to stay in Seoul. Yanbian is essentially a very cheap version of Seoul, but has a number of disadvantages. It seems to me that the only advantage is that it's vastly cheaper. I could live lavishly here, but in Seoul, I'm just scraping by while I go through college.

I don't really care about money that much. I'm happy scraping by until I graduate, as long as that's not a problem for dating.

Even though people here can tell by looking at me that I have made 10 times what they may ever make, I haven't been mobbed by crowds of women who treat me like a movie star. I met some cute girls and got a phone number, but that happens all the time in Seoul, too. Based on the few days I've spent here, I don't think money has as big an effect as I'd previously guessed. Besides, even if it did, is that really what I want? Do I want to be attracting girls who are just into me because they can siphon off some of my first world money? Is it really an achievement for a guy from a first world country to pick up women in a region with an income of under $1,600 a year? Besides, even if I do find love here, and even if I can ignore that voice in my head that says "it's only because you were born in a rich country," I don't plan to live in Yanbian long-term, so that "love" would be cut short.

So basically, right now, this is how I feel: Yanbian just isn't worth it. It's cheap, but it has so many aggravating problems. Less than half the population speak Korean, so I say "ni hui bu hui shuo han guo yu?" like 100 times a day, at very least. That gets really aggravating, and unless I learn Chinese as well, this problem isn't going to go away.

Furthermore, I doubt I'll ever get internet access from my house, and even showers don't seem to be standard in houses. I have to go to a public bath house every time I want to take a bath. Guys occasionally stare at me, because mine is like 5x longer than theirs. Guys at those places act so gay. I mean, they give oil massages to each other while they're both completely naked, and yesterday, I saw this guy showering this other guy while the guy being showered was bent over. It was so weird. I realize this is probably normal in Asia, but in Korea, I don't have to see it, because I can take a shower privately, in my own home.

Furthermore, at both places I've stayed, I'm not even in control of my own key. The system in Yanbian is that the landlord controls the key, so if the landlord isn't there, you may not be able to access your room. Like that won't cause problems.

Furthermore, the "Korean" food isn't any good unless you get it from Kimbap Cheonguk, which is pretty expensive by Chinese standards, plus you have to pay for the water (because tap water is not safe), unlike Korea. The result is that you pay about $2 for a meal at Kimbap Cheonguk in China and about $3 at Kimbap Cheonguk in Korea. You can go for stuff from other restaurants, but it's going to be really weird, like ordering ojingeodeopbap and finding out that it's basically just a big thing of rice with soy sauce on it and a few bits of squid here and there.

So basically, my assessment right now is that Yanbian is only the place where you want to study Korean if your funds are extremely limited, or if you have some special reason to study there. It's clearly inferior to Korea for studying Korean, unless money is a major object.

I have an application form for Yanbian University and a booklet, but I am kind of doubting I'll apply. I have until July 30 to decide, so I have plenty of time. It just doesn't seem like a great idea, right now.

June 25, 2007
Well, no more pictures for the near future. I guess that'll make this site technically easier to update (creating tables and uploading and resizing photos takes time). It's just after noon now, and I went to Yanbian University and got my application form and a booklet outlining how to register (in Korean). Apparently I have to pay an 800 RMB application fee. That seems kind of high considering I might not even get in...

I can't preview a class because they're taking their finals tomorrow, and there's no real class to observe because of that. So all I can really do is look at their textbooks (available in the Haneohagwon) and look around the classrooms. Going to this school is going to be a gamble, I suppose.

I'd rather not jump into something without some kind of preparation, so I guess I should ask them about their refund policy. If they have a decent refund policy, I'll feel much better.

Aside from that, I went to Kimbap Cheonguk today and had a pretty good conversation with some dude and found out that the average Yanbian worker makes about 1,000 RMB a month ($1,574.64 a year). This places Yanbian below the national average income level. However, Yanbian really looks pretty nice considering that. There seems to be lots of infrastructure and few homeless people.

I also had a good conversation with some ajumma last night who was running a restaurant. I asked her if one could secretly cross the Russian border which is nearby, just because I was curious. She said that in the past, it was easy to cross, but there's a certain kind of valuable vegetable that is abundant on the other side (the "gosari") and people used to illegally cross the border all the time to pick gosari, so the Russians secured the border. Now it's very dangerous to cross. Her restaurant sells a dish with gosari in it. I want to try it!

June 24, 2007: UPDATE 2
Well, I'm sorry to report that thanks to some motherfucker with no morals, I will not be able to upload any more pictures of China until I get back to Korea. That asshole stole my USB flash drive along with the SD memory card in it. I left the internet cafe for like 15 minutes, and then remembered that I'd forgotten my flash drive. I returned there, and it was gone. It'll probably only take about $20 to replace, but I'm a little bit pissed, and the remainder of the pictures will have to be taken on my cheap disposable camera. The quality may be horrible. I just don't know, yet. It's not a Kodak like the one I brought to North Korea -- it's a much cheaper one. Anyways, just remember: if you ever catch a thief, beat his ass within an inch of its life. Because he deserves it.

Little Girl with Gun (Kimbap Cheonguk Restaurant)

The flags of the UK, China, and North Korea in front of a hotel.

The Bridge Over the River in Yanbian at Night

One of the franchises in Yanji is a Kimbap Cheonguk (a popular chain in Korea).

This is a picture of me, taken by the obviously bored gun-wielding girl, when she was forbidden from shooting her gun in the store, and after she'd tired of shooting it at cars in the road. :-)

June 24, 2007
Today I didn't hear my alarm, but still managed to get up roughly on-time, and headed over to Yanbian University. Unfortunately, the right person wasn't there, so I couldn't register today. I'm going to have to act very quickly tomorrow. I intend to apply tomorrow and get in, if at all possible, then sit in a couple of hours of class if they let me and see if it's worth my money. If it is, I have until July 3 to send the payment for the class. I'll probably wait until the afternoon of July 2 to do so, because I need to think this over carefully.

I wandered around today and saw a lot of Yanji. From what I've seen, they have the following three foreign franchises. They may have more, but this is what I've seen so far:
KFC (of course)
Kimbap Cheonguk (a South Korean chain with affordable regular Korean meals)
A Playboy Store

After walking around, I was really hot, and needed a shower badly, not just because I was hot and sweaty and physically miserable, but because I literally hadn't bathed for several days. You might say that's gross, but none of these hotels in Yanbian have a bathing area. So I went to a public bath for the first time. It wasn't as weird as I thought. Actually, it was kind of nice and refreshing. The other guys there didn't stare. There was a sauna and a pool of cold water and a pool of hot water, and showers all around. I got clean. It was 5 RMB.

This afternoon, if I can get a clean pair of pants that I haven't been wearing for like two weeks straight, I will go into some English schools and drop off my resume and stuff like that. Then I'll wake up early tomorrow and do the Yanbian University stuff and continue job hunting.

June 23, 2007: UPDATE 2
Well, this place just keeps getting better and better! I discovered the following things, which are strongly encouraging me to come here and study instead of Korea:
Once you get into the upscale downtown area, the many people DO speak Korean (and usually natively when they do). Furthermore, they're usually not hard to understand at all. I went to Yanbian University and asked the first cute girl I saw to tell me where the Korean language building is, and she ended up guiding me around for like a half hour, and we had quite a lengthy conversation while walking, which I had no more trouble understanding than if she were from Seoul, and then she gave me her phone number and kept reminding me to call her! Then on the bus, I called out "does anyone on this bus speak Korean" so I could translate to the woman gathering the fares that I needed an alert of when to get off. A Korean ajumma said that yes, she spoke Korean. We talked for a while -- once again, almost no different from Seoul dialect.
Right across the street from Yanbian University are SEVERAL English schools. I walked into one and the boss seemed interested in having me if I could teach morning classes. However, she said I'd have to teach morning hours. I said I couldn't do that, but then she said she meant 6:00 AM to 7:40 AM, which I can actually do (because class starts at 8:00 AM right across the street). Of course, I may find a job at a totally different place. We'll see. There are lots of them, and as I have not yet seen a single white person, I'm assuming that English teachers are hard to come by, here.
Then I found another hotel room priced at the same price ($2.63 a night) but REALLY CLEAN and with a nice, flat screen TV! It's a smaller room, but way nicer.

I'm going to go Yanbian University tomorrow at 9:00 AM and ask questions and decide (probably by Monday) if I'll attend their school or not. Things are looking GOOD. People speak Korean natively (I don't mean that second language crap, I mean real Korean) and it's CHEAP. Seriously, I think I could eat, sleep, and access the internet for $5 a day. To top it all off, I just found an internet cafe WITH AIR CONDITIONING that only charges $0.20 an hour for internet instead of the usual rate, $0.26! Now, I need to walk around this place more and think more about it -- hasty decisions aren't good, but you have to admit based on my description, things are looking good!

As if there weren't enough good news, I just received notification that NOVA has approved Im Bang-wool to be my proctor for the online exams!

Star Trek Shuttle Pod-Like Car with Only Three Wheels (Dalian)

Me in Dalian (Taken by Drew)

My Water Bottle (Dalian)

View Out the Window of the Train from Dalian to Yanji

My Super Fancy $2.63 Hotel Room

June 23, 2007
Well, so far, I seem to be on track! I met Drew Guest the day before yesterday, reached Yanji on the train, and though I have exceeded my budget slightly, Yanji is DIRT CHEAP so I'll be able to compensate pretty easily.

Here's a breakdown of the last 24 hours or so:

Drew and I hung out until about 6:00 PM or so, and then I had to go to the train station and ride to Yanji. I heard the ride was about 20 hours, so I prepared provisions accordingly and bought a lot of food, a lot of water, and even a bottle of emergency beer.

I got on the train and was very pleasantly surprised. I was on the top bunk, which was quite clean. Actually, the train looked just downright first world! There was even a fan blowing cool air onto me. The ticket was only 159 RMB ($20.87) for a very long journey. Unfortunately, after about an hour, the fan just stopped, but the cabin never got unbearably hot. I finished Dolores Claiborne, that Stephen King book about a woman on an island that kills her husband for molesting their daughter (not the kind of book I normally read -- I picked it up hoping it'd be a thriller, because isn't that what Stephen King normally does). Anyways, I don't really recommend that book. The second half was okay, but it was pretty boring overall.

I also got a good night's sleep, more or less. At about noon the next day (a little bit after) we arrived in Yanji. Now I'm going to talk about Yanji.

I have only been in Yanji for about an hour, now, but have already gotten a lot done. First of all, I found a hotel. It's incredibly cheap -- only 20 RMB a night ($2.63 a night). It has a color TV and two beds, and that's about it, but wait a minute -- if I can rent a hotel room for $78.90 a month, I can save a lot of money if I teach English here! I also found an internet cafe that only charges 2 RMB an hour ($0.26, seems to be standard in China).

Of course, what you're all wondering is this: do people really speak Korean? Well, the answer is, the majority don't, but some do. For example, the hotel staff only speak Chinese, but the ajeosshi at the restaurant next door speaks Korean. When I needed to find an internet cafe, I asked some people if they could speak Korean, and they couldn't, but they brought me to the pharmacy a couple of shops over where the women spoke Korean. When I entered the internet cafe, the staff didn't speak Korean, but there was a guy using one of the computers who could speak Korean and interpret. So there are Korean speakers if you seek them out, but at least in the part of Yanji that I'm in (near the train station) you have to make a little bit of effort to find them. This may be okay. If I live here and teach English, as I can just frequent businesses and make friends that speak Korean.

A Goat in Shuishiying

Me and Yang Long, the Dude from the Copy Shop

This type of meat bun is about $0.04 a piece.

Supposedly this table is where the Russians surrendered to the Japanese in 1905, altering the balance of power in the region and dramatically shifting world events.

Don't we have one of these in Fairfax?

June 22, 2007
At 2 RMB an hour ($0.26 an hour) I really have no problem getting on the internet everyday. Maybe when I get to Shenyang or Yanbian, it'll be more difficult, but I'm really pleased so far. The connection speeds are good, too. I downloaded Firefox on this computer at a speed of well over 100 kilobytes per second.

Yesterday morning, I got up, read some of Stephen King's Dolores Claiborne (I thought I'd try a Stephen King book, but I'm trying to give this one a chance and it just doesn't seem very good -- I'm on page 200 right now), and then checked out of the hotel.

I went down the street and found a sign written in Korean! Naturally, I just had to investigate. The sign read "Goryeo Gaesaenggogi" or something like that ("Korea Dog's Fresh Meat"). I went inside to see if they had anything besides dog to eat, and sure enough, they had lots of good stuff. I ended up ordering kimchi boggeumbap for 6 RMB and a beer for 2 RMB. So basically, I got a full Korean meal AND 500 mL of beer for about $1.05. I asked if anyone in there spoke Korean. Only one guy did, but that was good enough. He said he was from Yanji, and we talked for a while, and I had few problems understanding him. So so far, the Yanbian dialect isn't looking that difficult. He offered to get me a taxi, and we found one -- but the driver wanted 80 RMB to travel to Shuishiying a half hour away! I thought this was ridiculous, but the Korean guy told me in Korean it's expensive simply because it's far away. I ended up getting there for 75 RMB. You might think this is outrageous, but consider that gas here is almost 5 RMB per liter. Therefore, a gallon ought to be about 20 RMB (similar to what we pay in the US). Actually, when you do the math, it's still an outrageous price, never mind. Another taxi driver quoted me almost the same price for the same ride though, so either they're ripping me off at the same rate, or taxis in China are just expensive.

So I got in and we drove to Shuishiying, where Drew and I planned to meet. I showed up several HOURS early (I wanted to come out early to make sure I could find the place, and over-succeeded). I decided to find an internet cafe to bide the time. There was an internet cafe, but due to the language barrier, I couldn't figure out why they wouldn't let me use the computers for 2 RMB an hour like they said was the rate. Later, I realized that I needed to buy a 10 RMB membership card, which required a Chinese ID. Later on, Drew and I would just pester the woman at the counter into plugging hers in. Anyways, I digress -- I was still looking for a computer, and came across a copy shop with a computer, which they said I could use for 20 minutes FOR FREE! Sweet! Unfortunately, the power went out, and all my work was lost. At the copy shop, I met this dude named Yang Long who spoke some English (this seems to be rare in Dalian). By the way, my Chinese is almost non-existent now. It's really shameful. My friend, Drew, has never lived in Asia, yet speaks Chinese way better than I can. I have no doubts that six years ago, I could have handled this a lot better, but I've forgotten most of my Chinese.

Me and Yang Long bummed around for a while. Yang Long wanted to practice his English. We got some buns with some kind of meat in them for the awesome price of three for 1 RMB (about $0.04 a bun). Then he took me to his "house" which was actually his mom's hairdressing place, and I met his wife and his mom. I sat around and ate buns while they kind of interviewed me.

Eventually, it was time to meet Drew, so I went to Shuishiying Meeting Place. Unbelievably, we had both arrived without a hitch and met roughly at the agreed upon time of 3:00 PM. Drew is the same old Drew!

It turns out that Drew never attended middle school or high school -- he basically stopped going to school halfway through fifth grade, and even though he never got a high school diploma or anything, he was able to get into university based on his SATs. He's going to school in England now, studying photography, and built his own dark room. He wants to teach English in China after finishing his photography program so that he has adequate training to get the most out of the experience.

Anyways, we found out that there's a bus back to Dalian and hitched a ride -- 4.5 RMB a person. Yeah, that's right, like 1/20 the cost of the taxi. We shared the cost of a hotel room, so we got to economize, and went and hung out around some street stalls and got some beer and squid and so forth.

Drew's trying to get in touch with his mom to see if she'll subsidize him going with me to Yanbian. If she doesn't, I guess I'll be going to Yanbian today, on my own. Otherwise, we're going to have a kickass time in Yanbian. I can't wait to whip out my Korean again. It's not really very useful in Dalian.

Well, today, first thing's first: finish using the internet and find out the price of the train to Yanbian. China has been cool so far, and it'd be even cooler if they all spoke Korean, which I hear they do in Yanbian. I must say, it's nice to get a beer for 26 cents, and we've been continually mobbed by girls the entire day.

Photographic Proof
June 21, 2007
I AM NOW IN CHINA! I got on a PC here before, but then the power went out. That's too bad, because the kind folks at the copy shop that let me use it said it'd be free. I guess I got what I paid for.

Right now me and DREW GUEST from White Oaks Elementary school are hanging out in an internet cafe in Shuishiying. The total bill for both of us was 4 RMB (about $0.52)!

By the way, I have completely forgotten my Chinese and can no longer even have a conversation. Xing Lao Shi would vomit with rage.