Old News

December 31, 2007: UPDATE 3
Ah, I've finally reached an even 30 posts! Yahoo!

This post is going to be about New Year's resolutions. Here are my New Year's resolutions for 2008, in order of importance:
Graduate from the Yonsei KLI.
Get my associate's degree.
Spend 10 hours a week, on average, on organized social activities in Korea -- attending a Japanese hagwon in Seoul, playing MMORPGs with Koreans on Korean servers, having more language exchanges, etc.

December 31, 2007: UPDATE 2
If you click on the Photos button, then on "North Korea (Geumgangsan) Photos" you will see that I have done A LOT of work on cataloguing the photos and making them more accessible. Whereas before, the photos were just thrown into a directory for people to have to search through themselves, I have now fixed up the North Korea section of this website in the following ways:
I have put all the North Korea photos previously available in the directory /images/Geumgangsan onto one page, for your convenience.
I've added captions to all the photos that serve as kind of a narrative of my adventures in the DPRK. I think you'll find some interesting anecdotes there that you haven't read before.

A Fossilized Piece of Life Approximately One Year Ago
December 31, 2007
Wow, can you believe that it's New Year's Eve already? Really, I don't have anything update-worthy right now, except a picture that Paul Rauh sent me. It's the one on the left.

That picture was taken over a year ago when I moved out of my first hasukjip. What is so incredible about the picture? Well, I managed to fill an entire ONE HUNDRED LITER trash bag with trash from my hasukjip when I moved out, as you can see on the left. Isn't that incredible? You can also see signs of me pinching pennies (no longer nearly as much the case) -- hair that hasn't been cut to avoid the 7,000 haircut fee, and my two-something dollar pair of pants (at that time, the only pair of pants I owned).

Well, maybe I'll add some updates to this site later today, in an attempt to get the post count for this page to an even 30 before the new year is upon us. Expect opinion stuff on the election of Korea's new president, New Year's resolutions, and reviews of a book or video game -- anything to get that post count up to 30, so I can start a new page of news. :-)

December 26, 2007
Well, with no classes going on, and in the dead of winter, there isn't a whole lot to report on. I'm mainly staying in and playing Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings.

It's an interesting game, and is different in many ways from any that I've played before, but it seems a little bit odd because of certain omissions of things that have been present in nearly every Final Fantasy game. For example, there only appears to be one shop (or rather, room with several shops) in the entire game, which is on the airship (the Calbana, in my case). So far as I can tell, you cannot use items in battle, and there is no MP. The only items are either equipment, Auracite (element used for summoning espers), or things that are forged into weapons. You can't even see your hit points during battle! Instead, you just see a small life bar. However, with the number of characters on the screen (in real-time), I can understand that this would be cumbersome. However, it becomes a hindrance not to be able to see damage dealt as a number -- you can't see if your new technique is truly dealing more damage or not.

However, there are lots of redeeming qualities to this game, too. I've never controlled a Final Fantasy this extensively with a touch screen before. It's also pretty cool to be able to control literally over a dozen allies at the same time (not sure what the limit is, but I frequently have 17 allies on-screen and controllable, at the same time). I think the atmosphere of the game is pretty cool, especially for a portable system. The save screen music reminds me of Chrono Trigger. The 3D, polygonal sky with its many floating islands ruled over by Feolthanos are nicely rendered, and it's nice to be able to cruise them in the Calbana. The floating islands do not lack variety -- in the last 24 hours, I have done battles on beaches, in jungles, and even in the ethereal realm of the Yahri!

Some of these positive qualities are drawbacks, though. I think my touch screen is already getting more scratched up by constant stylus action, which I'm already not a huge fan of. It's easy to misaim your stylus and get a huge group of allies to simpy move next to a group of enemies instead of attacking them. Then they sit there like dorks and do nothing, but get attacked.

Oh, and don't even get me started on the artificial intelligence. Of course, there is no way to control 17 allies manually in real-time, so allies are managed with AI that can be a little bit spotty. For example, a single character will take on, say, 10 enemies that are way stronger than the ally, and you command the single character to retreat, but he or she doesn't obey -- instead, he or she keeps on battling until the enemies kill him or her. This is especially annoying when it's your healer (for roughly half the game, only one character can resurrect allies, so when they're gone, it can be hard to win the battle).

Still, it's an acceptable game that I can foresee finishing in the next few days. I like the FMVs -- I've only very seldom seen FMVs on a handheld system before. The graphics are nice, but the sprites look like the early 16-bit era, especially when they magnify and get ugly, and this drags the graphics down a few notches below other DS games, like Super Mario 64 DS.

I'm going to give this game a tentative rating of 8/10, but that's subject to change. The last 10% of a game can easily shift that up a point or so if really well done. It's very interesting to see RPG and real-time strategy game integrated like this. Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings has battles in large areas in which you highlight several allies instead of just one and use the terrain, and you can even mine things and harvest things on the maps to replenish your HP or forge new weapons.

December 18, 2007
I finished my online Chinese course through ELI. Finally retook that damn exam that didn't submit properly last time. Of course, the most difficult part was actually taking the exam, not doing well on it -- I got a 96.5%. My final course grade is 97.4%.

I am now 34% of the way through my bachelor's degree, at least assuming that all my Yonsei and NOVA credits transfer. I bet I can get the degree in less than two years -- then I can essentially pick any country on the globe and get a job there, at least teaching English. It's nice to see my university credit count shoot up like it has over the past couple of weeks! Of course, as soon as I try to transfer my 33 Yonsei credits, watch them all get rejected by some xenophobic US university...

Far Left: Miyuki from Level 3
Second from Left: Mai from Level 3

Second from Left: Miyuki

Left: Choyeong, from Level 3

Choyeong Giving a Speech at the Graduation Ceremony

December 17, 2007

Pictures of the KLI Graduation Ceremony

Even though the KLI had its graduation ceremony five days ago, I didn't get these photos of the ceremony until later, from Kaori (my Japanese friend from the Korean literature class). Now I have them! Thank you, Kaori -- these pictures have a lot of my friends in them. Except for the one of Choyeong giving a speech in front of the KLI, they were all taken by Kaori/other people, not me. Keep that in mind.

Of course, I didn't graduate with my friends, because I'd taken a term off to do CELTA. So I'll have to wait to graduate. Still, I'm excited for my friends, and admit it, you won't complain about seeing high-definition pictures of young Japanese women in hanboks.

December 14, 2007
It's amazing how Virginia's schools manage to screw me even though we are separated by the core of a planet!

I swear, the guy or gal who made the Northern Virginia Community College website has an ass for a brain. I went in to take the proctored, long-distance online Chinese test yesterday -- Blackboard was down, so I couldn't take it. I wasted my time and a couple of bus fares. As soon as I got home, I discovered that it was back up again. So I thought "well, great, I can take it tomorrow." Well, I went in today and got Ms. Yim to log me in, and I took it -- spent about an hour and a half on it and did some hard work.

Then I clicked the "Submit" button. It churned for a while, doing nothing. Then an error page.


That's exactly what I yelled out in disgust. Yes, that's right, four days from the end of the term, I go in to take the final exam, I finish the whole thing, and then there's an error at the very end.

Well, I have four days to get this sorted out, right? WRONG. You see, the idiot motherfuckers running the Virginia school system have decided to do some upgrades on Blackboard.com for 34.5 hours. Yes, you read that, right, almost a day and a half of upgrades DURING FINALS WEEK.

So basically, all I can do is pray that either the test somehow made it through to my teacher anyway (unlikely) or that I'll somehow be able to take it on the 17th or the 18th (the last two days of the term). Given the FACT that errors occur more on NOVA's site than successful testings, I would say that means I won't get to take the final exam.

So basically, I will end up with a C for a course that I was going to get an A in. Seriously, this entire term, I have not gotten less than an A on ANY assignment in this class, but because of some SHITHEAD's stupid coding and ineptitude, it's going to have an impact on MY class (which I paid over $400 for) and MY GPA. Fuck.

I got bored on Monday's assembly and used two red paper tickets that they gave us at the entrance to make a little design, captured on some Chinese girl's camera...
December 12, 2007
I've been saying that I was going to go and check on Japanese classes at Japan Sisa for ages, but today, I finally went into the main office and did it! So I'm proud that I finally made some contact with actual human beings about learning Japanese in a classroom.

Basically, this is what I found out. My Korean is good enough to take the class, fortunately. The woman that I talked to said that the beginning levels teach fairly easy Japanese words, so the content of the class shouldn't really be over my head. By the time that you get to the advanced classes ("Native") your teacher is a native speaker, and the class is taught in Japanese.

The class that meets 250 minutes a week (every weekday for 50 minutes) is a whopping 520,000 won per month-long term ($563.16). Obviously, this is VERY expensive and translates to about $33.79 an hour of instruction! Holy shit, that's a lot for a class that isn't even accredited!

However, there's good news -- I don't have to pay upwards of $600 a month for part-time instruction, because they also have a Saturday class that is vastly cheaper, yet meets almost as much. They have a Saturday class that is a mere 90,000 won per month and meet for four hours every Saturday. Okay, so that's $6.09 per hour -- a lot more reasonable! However, there are some tradeoffs. It's not as serious a class -- there is no exam, and it's considered a pretty much for-fun class (you can sign up for the next level without taking an exam). There's a "Foundation" class, and then after that, there are just individual little subjects, like grammar, free talking, and so forth. The downside of this much cheaper course is that the classes are all taught by Koreans who just speak Japanese very well, except for the free talking classes.

So I plan to sign up for the Saturday class in February. I think it will be useful for several reasons. It'll allow me to see if I can take courses in Korean (that aren't Korean language) comfortably. It'll be good for social networking. I'll be studying something I find interesting with a bunch of Koreans. I'll be learning Japanese, which is something I've been telling myself I'll do for years.

I need to hedge my bets and learn Japanese, in addition to Korean, because I honestly don't know where I'll be when I get my bachelor's degree. I am always sitting on the fence between the two. Even if I stay in Korea, Japanese will still be useful for reading the text in imported video games and for picking up Japanese girls, who are, let's see, like 5,000 times more interested in me than Korean girls are?

I got a brochure, but I also talked to the woman at the desk as well as a native speaker teacher. I'm glad to have finally done some research into this.

As for other news, I passed my Chinese midterm with a 99%. I will probably take the final tomorrow.

December 11, 2007: UPDATE 2
Well, I finished my Chinese test, and I thought it was pretty easy. Who knows, maybe I got 100%, but since there were 41 questions, I was bound to get at least one wrong (especially the essays, since producing a perfect sentence, free of ANY error in any language is difficult). Oh man, I was almost wetting my pants, because the computer was so glitchy and I was afraid the testing window was going to close. Every time I downloaded a listening comprehension question, this weird Russian download manager program would pop up, with all these Cyrillic characters. There didn't appear to be any other way to download the listening files, so I just cooperated with the program, and as soon as the downloads started, the program would make the sound of a gun being loaded. I thought "great, I'm literally playing Russian roulette with my test, this program could easily crash the computer." Then, that crappy, made-in-Guangzhou QQ chatting program (installed by some Chinese student) kept on popping up. With all these spyware programs constantly popping up, and with errors happening left and right, I was really scared I wouldn't be able to finish the test, but I somehow made it to the end!

It was an easy test. It was more a test of my honesty than anything else, since the students using the computers on both sides of mine were obviously Chinese (browsing Chinese websites and using QQ).

I hope tomorrow's Chinese final exam goes well. Wow, I'll be taking a midterm and a final for the same class within a 24-hour period, how about that...

December 11, 2007
Today is significant for a number of reasons:
It was the last day of Level 5.
It was the day of the graduation ceremony.
I take my Chinese midterm this afternoon (it's an online course and I'm having it proctored by Ms. Yim at the KLI).

First of all, for the last day of class, we played a fun game in class where people write on the board what they think of dogs, cats, mice, coffee, and the ocean. These things are representative of yourself, your lover, your enemies, your sexuality, and your outlook on life, respectively. Of course, no one realized what the purpose of the game was -- they just wrote what they thought of dogs, cats, etc. Then the teacher revealed what they represent. It was pretty funny. I had written "이기적이고 내성적이다" ("selfish and introverted") for cats, which is apparently what I think of girlfriends/wives as generally being. This is apparently a drinking game. Anyways, we got our little report card thingies back -- I got a 74%, which is only 2% down from last level, BUT I got a D in listening, which is why next level scares me. However, I ended up with an A in speaking for the first time since Level 1!

What scares me just as much is that there was ONE person in the graduating class that was white. Yes, that's right, ONE. And she had black hair. Maybe she was half Korean and had a Korean parent to teach her Korean, growing up, I don't know. Isn't that scary? Anyways, the graduation was short, which was nice. I got to see a lot of my friends graduate and will hopefully soon have pictures if the people that I bummed cameras off of send them. However, I must say, these Yonsei assemblies are really dumb for two reasons:
Everyone STILL thinks it's really cool to yell "화이팅!" when this is incredibly cliched and lame.
There are always these ajeosshis in suits who apparently are KLI bigwigs, yet I've never seen them (or just about any males, for that matter) teaching a class. Like, I don't really care about the glass ceiling (I don't think it really exists in most cases), but if ever there were a glass ceiling, it's at the KLI! I mean, like 95%+ of the teachers are women, and yet, the three big execs at the KLI are men. Isn't that just a little suspicious? Anyways, it's not the possible gender discrimination that makes them so annoying, it's that they deliver these speeches about how great the KLI is, and I'm thinking "so yeah, why don't you go and actually teach a class for once?" Whatever.

I have a Chinese test at 3:00 PM, today. I had to turn down the class lunch because of it. I'd love to take the test later and party with my class (it makes me sad not to party with them) BUT I have this test to take, and I need to take it, or if there's an error, I could fail my $400+ Chinese class. This is because if there's an error, it could take NOVA a few days to reset it, and I only have until December 18 to take it, and I have ANOTHER test after this one. So I really have to take the test NOW. I'm sorry, Level 5 class...

Oh, one more thing, the teacher notified me that I was turned down for the scholarship because of attendance. I only attended 89.5% of class this term. I can understand this. It's okay, ever since I figured out how to make money magically materialize from thin air, I am not too worried about money. It's one fewer thing to put on my resume, but my resume is already pretty damn good for someone who just turned 21 less than two months ago, and it's only going to get better.

December 9, 2007
Today I moved everything into Mijung's apartment. My plans for today are to cover the fourth chapter of my Chinese textbook (and do all the related assignments), and maybe finish that Star Trek novel which is part of Mijung's library (books that guests have left behind). So there's going to be a lot of reading today.

I'm kind of worried about my Chinese course, not because it's hard, but because NOVA is dragging its feet on sending the passwords to my proctor here in Korea. What if there's a problem and I can't take the two exams for the course on Tuesday and Thursday? What if I need 48 hours to have one of them reset because of an error, or what if I can't access them from Yonsei, like before? I'm worried about this. I hope NOVA gets Ms. Yim her passwords, soon, so I can take those darned exams! It'd be such a shame if I failed the course simply because of that, considering that the material is so easy and this is a 5 credit course!

Oh, I moved all of my baggage into Mijung's apartment today. Man, I have a lot, and you know, it's amazing how inefficient I've been. I have three televisions (one big one, one handheld one, and one TV tuner for the Game Boy Advance), two desktop computers, a Korean-capable PDA, and a 17" monitor. However, one laptop with a USB TV tuner could serve the same purpose as all these bulky appliances in literally 1/100th the space (and probably would have cost about the same as all of those appliances cost if you combine their prices). If I'd only known in advance, I would have just bought a laptop. This makes moving so much harder. I think when I get back to Korea I'm going to sell a bunch of stuff before even moving into my new apartment, and just get a laptop. Mijung has a friend who works in the computer repair biz who she says can get me a used laptop really cheap. I think that might be a good idea!

Now that the term is pretty much done, I can read INTERESTING things and learn USEFUL words. For instance, I did a dissection of this "Texas Hammer" article -- it's about a hammer found in Texas that some people believe was made literally hundreds of millions of years ago -- long before humans were supposed to have existed. See, isn't that more interesting than some of the crap we read at Yonsei, like "Information-Oriented Society?"
December 8, 2007
Okay, I have completely moved out of my hasukjip. It was emotionless, as I had hoped. I tried to be friendly, and while the ajumma wasn't really friendly, she wasn't bitchy either. I cleaned my room out quite nicely (swept the floor and everything) and then she came by, and as promised, and gave me a 200,000 won refund. The stuff in my room literally filled up all of Mijung's car to the point where I couldn't ride, and had to take the subway to Golden Pond and carry my huge bag with me.

I thought I had had a method for avoiding disputes with the landlord. Going by my previous experience, I had decided (and even written on this site) that I WOULD NOT complain to the landlord about trivial things, so as to avoid any sort of conflict (even if it were the landlord's responsibility to fix it). However, this apparently isn't good enough. You need to not only not complain about things like the internet being down, but also remove any points of contention, like food, electricity, etc.

So how am I going to solve this problem, so my new dwelling, that I move into in January, has NO points of contention? Well, here are some ideas:
NO INCLUDED FOOD. This can cause controversy because the landlord might think I eat too much. Or there might be a problem with me using the kitchen late at night. So NO FOOD.
I WANT TO PAY MY OWN ELECTRIC BILL. If I'm paying it, how can my landlord complain about it? Furthermore, if I'm paying for it, I should come out ahead, because I can use my electricity more efficiently than other tenants, right?

So if I'm reasonably quiet (maybe I'll even get some kind of a decibel meter if they're reasonably inexpensive), I do not consume any public food, I pay my own electricity, and never complain about anything like the internet being down, what on earth can the landlord complain about? I can't think of anything that any rational landlord could complain about, but people are often irrational anyway. Maybe the landlord will one day start hating my red hair and start complaining. Or maybe the landlord will think I'm not studying hard enough. I have no idea why a landlord would care about these things, but people are irrational.

I'm going to try to find a one-room apartment. No more hasukjips, oh no. I'd go for a goshiwon (hasukjip-like room but with no food) except that that leaves me vulnerable to getting blamed for the electric bill, because you don't pay one at a goshiwon. If I get a one-room, that should afford me the most autonomy, but it'll cost more money.

December 6, 2007: UPDATE 2
Well, I got my finals back. I failed two of them by a narrow margin, HOWEVER, thanks to my halfway-decent midterm and very strong speaking scores (once again an A) I will be able to continue onto Level 6, and unless my participation grade is lower than a C, I will get a C in the class, meaning that I can count this class towards my bachelor's degree.

I find it highly unlikely that the teacher will give me less than a C for participation, as she took me aside today and told me privately that she's going to recommend me for a scholarship when I do Level 6! I feel a little bit bad about her making this recommendation, because I feel like I've been a primo slacker this term, and I know there are people from Cambodia and Mongolia that are far more disadvantaged than me. On the other hand, you have to take the good things that life gives you, because whether you're from the first or third world, life is rough all over.

So I guess this is what I'm going to do: I'm going to let her recommend me for the scholarship, and I'm going to take it and use it, and stick it on my resume if that's appropriate. However, later on, when I have money, I'm going to donate approximately that amount of money for the specific purpose of giving a Korean language study scholarship to someone from a poor country. That way, I get the benefit of the scholarship, but overall, my getting it doesn't mean that someone from a poor, third world country can't get it as well. Isn't it nice when moral dilemmas can be solved that easily?

Finally, I was LUCKY to have passed this level, I must say. In our class, THREE PEOPLE WHO TOOK THE TESTS FAILED THE TERM AND WILL NEED TO SUCCESSFULLY RETEST IN THOSE SUBJECTS IF THEY WANT TO GO TO LEVEL 6. I was not among them. Apparently, our class was better than average! So I'm estimating that in this bout of Level 5 carnage, about 40% or more of the students got an F. I'm happy to be in the middle, or maybe even the upper half, BUT it scares me how close I came to failing...

I continued to have big arguments with the ajumma this morning, and I really feel bad about that, but I also passed the midterms and was told that I was recommended for a scholarship. So I really don't know how to feel. I'm sounding like a chick!

December 6, 2007
I've had it, I'm sick of the hasukjip ajumma complaining, constantly. Today was a particularly ugly argument. She started off by complaining about how much food I was eating, and then the bitch who has complained about me making noise late at night came out and they started ganging up on me. I am so pissed off, I just went up there and said to the ajumma "okay, just return 140,000 won to me and I'll leave this hasukjip on the 14th and never come again." Seriously, I am SO TIRED of her endless complaining. I bet she weighs more than me, and yet, she claims that I eat too much, and that every time she comes to the hasukjip, I'm eating. Well, gee, sorry, but I'm not going out for every meal when meals are supposedly included in the deal.

As much as I'd love to annoy the bitchy girl on the floor above mine, I'm sick and tired of the ajumma complaining to me. She does it ALL THE TIME. She had stopped briefly, like for a week or two, but then today, she mentioned raising the rent by 20,000 won a month. I was like, "okay, so now that you're raising the rent, you aren't going to complain?" She was like "well, you still eat too late at night; you can only eat until 9:00 PM." 9:00 PM, are you fucking kidding me? You realize that I routinely go to bed at 3:00 AM or later, and EVERYONE else at this hasukjip does, too! If they have problems with (very low amounts of) noise and communal living, they should just go and live with their parents.

I'm not sure where I should move in January. I'll tell you, I'm frustrated, because no matter where I live, the landlord seems to be either a complainer, or if they aren't a complainer, the hasukjip is crap (the internet is never up, that kind of thing).

I want to find a hasukjip where the owner never complains. I'd love to get two meals a day and no complaints if I live normally (which I have been). I've never had any overnight guests, I didn't even own a pair of speakers until a couple of weeks ago, so I don't blast loud music, and I always pay my rent. I keep on pointing out to the ajumma that I'm thin, which seems to run contradictory to her idea that I'm eating too much.

So I think I'm going to pursue a new strategy and stop living at hasukjips. I need to move to a place where the landlords aren't constantly complaining, turning off my room's power without my permission, etc. Therefore, I think I need to move to a one-room apartment. Like, if I have my own bathroom, my own kitchen area, and I make my own food, what on earth is left for the landlord to complain about? I guess power consumption. I guess that's something that no matter how hard I try, some penny-pinching landlord could complain about. So what am I going to do about that? I'm not sure yet, but I'm sick of overly-nosey landlords.

I am going to kick myself for saying this, but I think the ajumma charges too little. That's crazy, right? There's no such thing as a room that's too cheap, right? Well, quite frankly, I have NO IDEA how she can afford to give two meals a day, a room, internet, and cable to someone for like $10 a day. Apparently, the only way she can do it is if the person never turns on their lights, eats only rice, and lives like a North Korean. In my opinion, she should either raise the (extremely low) price or stop bitching. Seriously, everyone (my teachers, Korean friends, etc.) agree that 280,000 a month is incredibly low. I'm getting what I pay for every time that ajumma comes and complains. So I'm just going to move into a one-room or something and let her do her thing to somebody else.

Do I think she's evil? No, not really. She helped me move when those asshole neighbors were making my life difficult. She gave me a good price and I know she hasn't ripped me off (not that this is that common in Korea, but it happens). She fixed the cable, eventually. However, she's neurotic. She leaves God-knows-how-many notes around the place constantly reminding everyone to make sure to close the door so the heating bill doesn't go up, to turn out the bathroom lights so the electricity doesn't go up, to do this, to do that, blah blah blah.

Over the next year, I am entering a new period of my life where I am not as financially strapped, so maybe it's time to use some of my green (and yes, a 10,000 won bill is green) to find a home that can be my castle.

Leif, Me, and Rebekah, on Pepero Day (taken almost a month ago)
December 5, 2007
Oh man, I took the last of the finals today. They both seemed pretty difficult, but there's a possibility that I passed both of them (however remote). There's an even higher possibility that although I failed them, they will average with the midterms in just the right way that I pass and can go onto Level 6. We shall see...

Whether I fail it or not won't actually make a huge difference, because I plan to fill the next year with Korean study in Seoul anyway, and if I have to repeat Level 5, that'll only mean that I end up taking the optional post-graduation course once instead of twice. However, I'd just like to pass it, for crying out loud.

I got a great quote today. I wrote a couple of sentences on the board in Japanese ("You all, it is fine. We won't die."). Of course, Sakai got a huge kick out of it. I had him translate the phrase into English to test his English ability, and he came up with the super hardcore "WE ARE FINE. WE WILL NEVER DIE!" So that's my new catchphrase. WE ARE FINE. WE WILL NEVER DIE! I wrote that phrase, in English, on the board, and drew a skull with a dagger through it and a lightning bolt to show how HARDCORE Sakai's phrase was! Then Saehan, the Mongolian girl, started drawing all these cutesy pictures next to my dagger skull, but was actually trying to make a mural on the chalkboard that INCLUDED my dagger skull and lightning bolt, and expressed irritance when I erased the dagger skull and lightning bolt. She then proceeded to draw a bull, but with a mysterious udder.

Well, time for some sleep, because I got about three hours of sleep last night.

My webcam is now operational (if I stand close to the ceiling) thanks to my new fluorescent bulb.
December 3, 2007
Well, first of all, I deleted November 30's post because the person who offended me extended the olive branch to me, so I'm reciprocating by taking down that post.

As for other news, the finals start tomorrow. I do my speaking exam at 9:08 AM (I'm the second person to go). Then I have a reading test. Basically, it's way too late to write up three monologues and memorize them for the speaking test (which is technically what we're supposed to do) so I'm just going to come up with three rough outlines and maybe practice them with Mijung, if she's willing. Then, to prepare for the reading test, I'm going to learn all the words in the four "세상 읽기" ("Reading the World") sections of our beige book. I'm also going to read "한국인과 호랑이" ("Koreans and the Tiger") and make sure I know all the words and "정보화 사회" ("Information-Oriented Society"). With those things done (hours and hours of work) I will consider myself ready for tomorrow.

The real challenge is, of course, always in the writing and listening tests. I'll try to learn all of the words from 5급 자료집 (Level 5 Source Book) and call myself "ready" for the listening final, and I'll do some grammar cramming with Mijung.

All I ask is to pass all of them. Since I've never failed a test at Yonsei, I think it is reasonably likely that I'll at least squeak past with a 60%+ score in each one of these subjects, don't you think?

Oh, guess what! I got my webcam working. I had already installed the drivers and got an image, but my room was so DARK I was unable to operate the camera properly. However, I recently discovered a new fluorescent light bulb just sitting on top of the refrigerator, and swapped my old one for the new one. My room is suddenly BRILLIANTLY bright, and if I stand on my cot, there is enough light for the webcam. So now I can start doing more of my blog as a vlog and less as a traditional text-and-graphics-only blog.

Time to go to Yonsei and fill out the Level 6 paperwork and withdraw enough money from the ATM to pay my rent tonight.

December 2, 2007
Okay, moving on to slightly happier posts now! Let's see, my weekend:
I paid the weekly visit to Golden Pond.
I hung out with Rachel, from England (who has been here for a while) and her very quiet traveling buddy. I also hung out with Jessica, a US soldier who just finished her post, and Tom and Marcia (a couple from the US, Tom is a self-employed Buddhist and was stationed here about 20 years ago, and Marcia is a prison guard).
I've never seen two women talk at length about firearms for so long as Jessica and Marcia. It was fascinating. I guess that's what happens when you put a sergeant and a prison guard in the same room! I really wish I could have gotten that discussion on video for YouTube or something.
I stayed the night, one of the main reasons being to go with the group bungee jumping the next day (though I planned not to bungee jump, just tape Mijung doing it and put it up on YouTube). However, due to someone (not Mijung, and not me) being too hung over, we decided not to go.
I stayed until the evening and then took a bus home.

Oh, briefly before going to Golden Pond on Friday, I was talking in the kitchen with Jaehun, a dude that I've never met before, who was watching the StarCraft channel on TV. Now I have a new buddy, and a new contact (well, it's how people think here, and so I've begun to think that way too, haha). Jaehun is a library science major at Yonsei's graduate school.

What am I going to do for the rest of the day? Claim to myself that I'm going to study, and then probably not actually study much. My tests start on Tuesday (speaking, followed by reading) and then continue to Wednesday (writing, then listening). I'm most fearful of the second two, but I think I've buffered myself enough to pass this level no matter what. I'd just like decent grades to prove that I can survive Level 6, THE LAST LEVEL.

November 28, 2007
Let's see. I have an appointment with a dentist, FINALLY. I didn't even make it. Jiwon, my classmate, made it for me, and then was like "I made an appointment for you on Tuesday at 6:00 PM. Is that okay?" Fortunately, there's no Korean literature class that day, so I can go and get some stuff done. However, that's also the night before the listening comprehension exam... Nevertheless, if Jiwon hadn't made that appointment for me, my teeth would simply just rot.

I went to the KLI today to take my Chinese midterm exam for my online Chinese NOVA course, but my favorite little proctor wasn't in, so I will take it tomorrow instead. I guess I could use the time to prepare better, but darn it, I'm so sick of postponing this. The Chinese class ends in less than a month and I haven't even taken the midterm yet! I'm so behind! I guess that as soon as Korean Level 5 ends, I'm just going to do a FLURRY of activity for my Chinese class, so I can take that final and get it over with. Then I'll see my total credit hours toward my Bachelor's degree fly from 27 to 41, pretty much overnight!

Test prep continues to lag ridiculously. At this point, I'm going to have a tough time even learning the words strictly related to the listening test (ignoring all other subjects, pretty much). I'd love to study for it more, but I have so much stuff I have to do outside of Korean class, especially trying to keep from failing my Chinese class (which is only one credit hour less in value than my Korean class).

Oh, possibly good news. I got a phone call from the woman I went out with on Saturday night. She's talking about meeting again sometime... Maybe this is a good sign, but I am too jaded to feel too happy about it yet...

Oh, how could I have forgotten! Our class had a "Roundtable Discussion" today. This is a part of our speaking grade. We debated whether or not young children (elementary and middle school) should be sent on study abroad programs (조기유학). Although I am really sitting on the fence on this one, I decided to sit on the "disapprove" side because it needed more people. The problem was that the other side (the "approve" side) consisted of two Mongolians and two Chinese people, and both Mongolians and Chinese people have ATROCIOUS accents. Like, the teacher has actually threatened to hold back the Mongolians if their accents don't improve, and Chinese people are well renowned all across Korea for having horrible accents. So it was really hard to understand anything they were saying and respond to it, so everything was just kind of a free-for-all. My reason for objecting was that although the kids grow up to make more money, and may have higher IQs and better jobs, they won't actually be happier, because once you've rooted yourself in two cultures, it's a "grass is greener on the other side of the fence" sort of deal. Which is a valid point. When I moved back from Hong Kong, I COULDN'T STAND living in the US. Fortunately, I got back to Asia, but now I have the issue of liking where I live more, but I don't have any legal rights because I'm not a citizen. Had I been raised in one country until I reached adulthood, I could be content, for the most part, with that country, simply out of ignorance. I used the Korean saying "모르는 게 약, 아는 게 병" ("things that you don't know, medicine, things that you know, disease") to justify my claim. Do I actually blame my parents for keeping me overseas for nearly six years? No, not really. Even if I'm not as happy a human being as someone who spent their whole life in some bumfuck town in the US, I can't blame my parents for what is essentially a super power. However, I argued the "ignorance is bliss" point because otherwise there wouldn't have been enough people on the "disapprove" side.

SBS in My Room with Good Picture Quality
November 26, 2007
I finally got cable TV. YES! Score!

I had mentioned it a few times to the ajumma when she had been nagging me about bringing up dishes or conserving electricity. Apparently she actually heard me. The ajeosshi came in today and installed it.

Maybe this marks a new era in good Charles/ajumma relations. She actually apologized about taking so long to do it, after the ajeosshi had installed it.

Therefore, I'll be more careful about bringing up dirty dishes and conserving electricity. Installing my cable is like the olive branch of lasting intrahasukjip peace.

November 25, 2007
Today was a pretty low-key day, even though I should be studying a lot more than I have been. I bought three things today. First of all, I wanted to buy a cot. Yes, like an army/camping cot. My reasons for doing so are that my bedding gets too dirty on the dusty floor (makes cleaning tougher, too), it wastes floor space (the cot is narrower and can have stuff stored under it) and the frame underneath the cot can be used to hang drying clothes (since there are few things to hang them on in this room and since we don't have a drier).

I had asked a vendor the other day who rested on a cot how much she'd paid for it, and she'd said 30,000 won. So I decided to shoot for that figure. I went to Dongdaemun and hit the flea market. At first, I couldn't find one at all. Finally, I found a place that could get me a US army cot, but it'd cost 50,000 won! What a rip-off! So I scouted around a little more and found a decent Korean army cot for 23,000 won, and went ahead and bought it, because I knew that was a reasonable price. I have set it up in my room and am sitting on it right now as I write this update. I like it a lot.

I also got some speakers. I have been able to use my Game Boy Advance as a speaker with a TV tuner, but its sound quality is really poor and it can't be fully plugged into the AC, meaning that I always waste batteries (so I have to charge batteries constantly). I thought that if I got some good wall speakers, I could save my hearing and not always be tied to the computer by a short length of headphone wire. So I picked up a three-speaker system for 3,000 won.

The last thing I got today were clothes hangers. 1,000 won. Now drying clothes and keeping them from achieving the "fermented clothes" effect in a dark corner on the floor will be easier.

I wish I'd done more work today, but at least I suped up my room a little bit.

November 24, 2007
Well, there are three kinds of dates.

There are the absolutely horrible kind, like the girl walking out of the restaurant while the guy is in the bathroom, sticking him with the bill. There are instances where the girl does something really provocative, and then when the guy tries to make his move, the girl shoots him down in the cruelest fashion. Dates like these can blow to bits any self-esteem you had, and completely disrupt the functioning of your life for several days. Dates like these make you hate womankind, and can create a dating dark age.

Then there are awesome dates, in which both parties are really happy with the date, and they agree to meet again -- seeking these out is obviously why most of us date, but unless you're REALLY a pro, these are the smallest minority of dates.

Then there are the so-so dates, in which there probably isn't much of a future for the two people who just went out on a date, but nothing extremely aggravating happened. I define one of these as a date in which we split the bills roughly 50/50, have congenial conversations, and don't dislike each other, but in the end, the prospect of a second date is unlikely.

I'd have to say the one I just went on was closest to the latter type -- a so-so date, but by no means the worst I've ever been on. I didn't have to pay for her. She didn't do anything cruel. However, since it won't really go anywhere, I guess I'm going to say that it's an evening of my life that I'd rather have back. I mean, it was pleasant -- we had things to talk about, we both had a good time, and everyone was humane, but in the end, it was basically "let's just be friends." So I got hyped up, was a little disappointed in the end, wasted an evening, and wasted, let's see, about $10. However, I'm not really mad at the woman (and yes, a woman, she's significantly older than me). I'll probably be fine tomorrow.

Picture of Me Getting Ready for Bed on Mijung's Office's Floor -- Taken by a Swedish Girl
November 22, 2007: UPDATE 2
Well, almost a day has passed since the last post. Yesterday, I went to the guest house to enlist Mijung's help in figuring out what the heck the essay I chose meant, so I could prepare my presentation for it. Well, as it turns out, Mijung's friend, who prefers to go by "Jenny," ended up being the one to help me wade through the super high-level text. We only got through a page, but I applaud her patience.

Basically, the essay's title is "낙엽을 태우며" ("While Burning Leaves") and it's by 이효석 (Lee, Hyoseok). It's about this guy (or maybe gal, it isn't quite clear) who rakes leaves, assembles them into a pile with a bamboo rake, and burns them, while reflecting on the leaf-raking experience. Then later, the same person talks about bathing, and thus the essay has two important elements: fire and water. During the essay, the leaf-raker reflects on the tasks of raking leaves and bathing. I've got to say, this essay wasn't really up my alley -- I kind of need a story or a conflict, and there wasn't really one in this essay, or so I could tell!

So basically, I had an acceptable familiarity with the first page and basically just a very rough understanding of the second page, but I still managed to pull off a 20+ minute presentation that the literature teacher was happy with. I managed to fill a lot of time by describing Lee, Hyoseok's life (information I'd gleaned from a Google search minutes before the class started). I had read that Lee, Hyoseok had been born in Pyeongchang, where Korea later failed to get the Winter Olympics, and then moved to Hamgyeong Province in present-day North Korea, living a life of only 35 years (1907-1942). During that time, he had become a policeman who collaborated a little bit with the Japanese, though he apparently soon quit this job. He majored in English literature and was somewhat pro-communist.

I seized upon the pro-communist element during my presentation and made the bold statement that Lee, Hyoseok was writing about a 노동자 (laborer), like maybe a grounds keeper, and that the scene outside when raking the leaves (portrayed as unenjoyable) was the hard-working life of the proletariat.

Well, the teacher was pretty happy with my hacked-together presentation, so I was very relieved. She said I was composed when I was up there speaking (probably thanks in large part to my CELTA class which conditioned me to things like this) and that I had done very well, especially with finding the symbolism in the fire and water (원소) elements. However, she said the person in the essay probably wasn't a laborer, but some guy just raking leaves in his yard, because it mentioned coffee, which was very expensive during the Japanese Occupation at the time of Lee, Hyoseok's life. She says he would have likely had to go all the way from Pyeongchang or Hamgyeong to Pyeongyang to buy coffee beans, as foreign imports like that were heavily regulated by the Japanese colonial administration.

Well, I went out on a limb and based a large part of my report on an unlikely idea, but she still obviously enjoyed my report and gave me a lot of compliments on it, so I think I did pretty well score-wise. At least I spent some time reading a real piece of Korean literature, which is what the purpose of the class is (and I've been slacking off otherwise, so this makes up for that in some small way).

On the way home, I was quite tired, but I decided to try to find a parking lot so that Jenny can park her car when she comes to Shinchon on Saturday, so I went to the front gate of Yonsei and asked the woman at the booth. It turns out that usually the parking lot can be used by anyone, but on Saturday, due to some examination, it's going to be closed, so she recommended that Jenny do her parking at Severance Hospital, instead. On the way out of the Yonsei front gate, someone gave me a hilarious brochure -- not so much hilarious in its own right, except for the fact that it was given to ME -- it was a brochure reminding me to vote in the December election! Wanting to get rid of unnecessary paper, I informed the dude that believe it or not, I don't have the right to vote! He still encouraged me to hang onto the brochure and read it anyway. Huh. Fascinating.

Really, the only two Korean political issues I care very much about are the ones that affect me -- Korea-US relations and immigration reform. For the latter, I know the 한나라당 (Grand National Party) is the best -- they want strong military ties with the US. However, I'm not sure who supports a fair and open immigration system the most (I say "the most" because none of them are saying "let's be like Canada and make it three years to citizenship").

Well, no matter what, by the beginning of next year, I won't have to constantly hear about 노무현 (No, Moo-hyun), because in December, someone else is going to win the presidency -- likely a far more conservative, pro-American political party. So at least I won't have to worry about as much stupid government propaganda playing up the US military tank incident that happened YEARS ago, or the No Gun Ri "Massacre" in which the US apparently killed all these South Koreans (though I think that's bullshit)...

November 22, 2007
The second sentence in the last post is now no longer true! HAH! My survey worked all too well...

November 21, 2007
Having any luck with Korean women? It's okay, neither am I.

Therefore, for my survey project for Yonsei Level 5, I decided to survey a bunch of random Korean men on the subway about things like their educational level, height, and income at the time that they met their wives/girlfriends. I figure that if I can mimic the exact median guy who has a girlfriend, I too can have a girlfriend! Good idea, eh? I asked LOTS of personal questions on the survey (obviously), and yet, the refusal rate was quite low -- the majority of the people to whom I politely requested were willing to take the survey.

Am I going to release the results on this site, for public viewing? Hell no! Do you think I'm going to give away for free the research that I worked hard to get, especially considering that this research reveals things like the best places to meet women, etc?

Some of the results, though, would surprise you, and I'm sure some of the things folks wrote down were fabrications or misunderstandings. For example, one guy reported having dropped out of high school, but he apparently makes 3,200,000 won a month ($3,488 a month). Sorry, I have trouble buying that, unless you're a pimp or something!

I'm sure as hell not going to broadcast on the web the best places to meet women in Korea (except to the respondents who gave me their e-mail addresses), but I can tell you this -- if you're hanging out at the club and thinking that's going to do you ANY good, THINK AGAIN! The number of respondents claiming to have met their girlfriends/wives through online games (1) was higher than the number who claimed to have met their girlfriends/wives through a night club (0).

Another epiphany that I had is that an English teacher's salary here in Seoul, which I had previously thought was relatively high, is NOT. Actually, for a man in Seoul, an English teacher's salary is on the LOW end (starting salary at a public school is about 1.8 million won, and 2.0+ seemed to be the norm for the men I polled on the subway). One guy with a master's reported an income of 5,000,000 won a month -- $65,400 in US dollars. So if you think "I can come to Seoul, teach at a hagwon making 2 million won a month and easily get a girlfriend with my huge salary" THINK AGAIN.

Overall, I'd say it was a positive experience. I learned that the vast majority of Koreans are willing to take a short survey if you ask nicely. No one was really rude to me. I didn't need to pay anyone anything. I guess being a foreigner must be REALLY helpful, because I see surveys all the time where they have to reimburse people to take them -- I have gotten free USB drives, drinks, etc. for taking surveys. If they just had me administering the surveys, they wouldn't have to offer compensation. :-)

Falling Snow in Shinchon
November 19, 2007
Snow started falling today! I figure that at least if it's going to be cold out, it ought to snow. The funny thing is, there's thunder and lightning as well. Huh, that's an interesting combination.

Today, I did a newspaper article presentation on an article I found in "Metro." It's about how in Korea, the percentage of elderly people who die due to car accidents is three times higher than the OECD average. I will also need to prepare for Wednesday's presentation, before which I need to poll at least 10 Koreans on something and present the results of the poll to the class.

I'm actually really looking forward to this project. I don't want to just poll 10 people -- I want to poll 100! Here is why. This is my plan. Basically, I'm going to poll men only -- basically, any male who isn't obviously with his mom, spanning all the way up to the oldest harabeoji (grandfather). The goal of the research will be to find out the correlation between education, height, and income, and how hot one's wife is. Surely I'll piss off at least a few people with the survey, but I think it'll be worth it for the results. It'll basically be like this:
What is your educational level?
How tall are you in centimeters?
What is your monthly income?
On a scale of 1-10, please rate your own appearance.
Do you have a wife/girlfriend?
If "yes," how attractive was she when you started dating?

November 18, 2007
Well, sorry, there aren't any pictures or nifty YouTube videos today. There just hasn't been a whole lot lately worth photographing. I did see a pretty funny sign on the way home that was written in paint on a concrete wall. It said "?萸소? ???034; That literally means "Feces/Urine Prohibited." It especially made me laugh because I've urinated on that very wall before (though closer to the tunnel and not in quite as plain site of cars). Apparently lots of people have had the same idea as me, and someone decided to make a sign. Well, next time I'll bring my camera and get a picture of that classy sign.

I've decided to start reading Star Trek: The Lost Years because I miss Star Trek so much. The book was available to me for free, so I figure I'll read it.

Let's see, what else? Oh! Saw "Beowulf" on Friday night with Mijung and Gyeongseok. Cool movie. I read Eaters of the Dead roughly a decade ago, so I kind of knew the rough outline of the "Beowulf" plot, though the movie was fantasy-based and CONSIDERABLY different from Crichton's book, which was meant to present "Beowulf" as a realistic historical event (Vikings clashing with Grendel and his tribe, which are actually some of the last surviving Neanderthals). In contrast, the movie had Grendel as a half-demon, half-human, and his mother was some ethereal creature that lived in the water, and the final battle was with a golden dragon. This may have been truer to the original story than Eaters of the Dead. However, I think the whole idea of Grendel having been fathered by the former king (and the golden dragon having been fathered secretly by Beowulf) was not in the original work, and while it was interesting and would explain a lot, seemed like kind of a liberal license to take with a millennium-old epic. Anyways, the movie was still good, and I loved the bawdy scenes at Heorot, the feast hall, where they drink mead (which is known in Korean as "??," or "bee honey liquor," according to the Korean subtitles). I mean, would you see a famous Korean hero battling a great foe in the nude? I don't think so! The movie was a refreshing look at MY heritage (I am approximately one quarter Scandinavian).

As for whether Mijung and Gyeongseok "got" it, I don't think they did as much as I did, but that's perfectly understandable, since I can't be that interested in old Korean epics, either. In order to enjoy the movie to the fullest extent, you have to know the original story, which I happened to know already from Michael Crichton's awesome book.

Unfortunately, after that, the night soured. We went with three guests to a couple of bars, and while the first one was okay, in the second one, things just kind of went south. Like, I'll live, and it wasn't anything I can't recover from, but seriously, I need to stop being tempted by others to go to bars.

Aside from that, I'm behind in my Korean class (large backlog of words) and I'm weeks behind in my Chinese class online. I have three presentations in the coming week. Two won't be that tough, but I'm worried about the presentation for my Korean literature class.

Okay, about that presentation. Basically, the teacher said "you can pick any piece of literature, even if it's not Korean, and present it." Well, as much as I'd love to present something like, let's say, "Beowulf," I'd feel really bad to do that. To be quite honest, I haven't paid attention worth crap lately in that class, and just because the system lets me get away with that doesn't mean I feel that's right, so I'm going to atone by getting Mijung to recommend a representative piece of Korean literature (from the modern era, to ensure against overlap with what we've covered in class) and I'm going to read it and make a GOOD presentation. I'd just feel really bad to sit in our poor teacher's class and do my homework for other classes and learn nothing about Korean literature. I'm going to get at least one thing out of it. At least if someone asks me what I know about Korean literature, I can cite one work that I know thoroughly.

The Grounds of Gyeongbok Palace

The Grounds of Gyeongbok Palace (2)

The Grounds of Gyeongbok Palace (3)

November 15, 2007
I don't have much to report today. I'm just making a post to display some pretty pictures I took at Gyeongbok Palace the other day. My camera is normally awful, but when the lens has just had the dust rubbed off of it, and when taking pictures outdoors, sometimes the pictures can turn out semi-presentably (as you can see from the pictures to the left). I just wish it took indoor photos and photos at night as well as it did during the day! One of the first luxury items I want to get when I first get money is a nice digital camera -- like, go out and spend $200 or so on a decent one. I'd like one with more vibrant colors (not washed out), better photo-taking ability in low-light conditions, and one that can take videos with sound, not just silent videos (because I can see a YouTube hobby budding).

My hasukjip room's fluorescent light has a problem -- the cord used to turn it on and off has snapped off. Therefore, every time I want to turn the lights off, I have to cut power to the entire room -- my computer, my cell phone charger, etc. This is inconvenient, but in the original spirit of being ignorantly happy about my living situation, I'm not going to say anything to the ajumma -- if she notices it on her own, fine, but otherwise, I'm just not even going to bring it up.

There isn't much else to report. I should probably get to bed, so I can get five hours of sleep. I think there's a huge performance difference between more than five hours and less than five hours.

Oh, one last thing. I am starting to hate the MSN Korea site that Windows has automatically set as my home page. Today they have a special on Indonesian tree people -- people with a bizarre skin condition that causes tree-like "roots" to grow out of their skin. They have pictures and everything, right there on the main MSN page. It's really, really gross. Seriously, dude, I don't want to see that! So I'm going to go change my home page now...

Me and the Doggaebi Mask I Made

November 14, 2007
Well, our class did a rather corny field trip today, but it was kind of fun in a throwback-to-elementary-school sort of way. We went to Gyeongbok Palace and made tal (탈, Korean masks). Mine turned out pretty well, I think. The teacher asked if I wanted to donate it to be hung at the entrance of Yonsei, but I declined, as I have other plans for it.

I took a lot of pictures and videos, and decided to flex my new YouTube muscle by making a video on the subject. If you watch it, I think you'll agree it's far superior to the Geumgangsan video technically-speaking: good use of overlays, better image quality, etc. The video is 2:33.

Saehan, Me, and Sakai at a Video Viewing in the ?諛??ㅤㅉㅝㄻig Lecture Hall)
Thanks, Gahaedo, for taking this picture.
November 12, 2007: PART 2
Today I barely managed to get out of bed and get to school. I was really tired. I hope not to repeat this mistake again tomorrow, but you know, I probably will. However, tomorrow will not be an ordinary school day! Our class is going to Gyeongbokgung (?繹?챕, a palace, for a "Cultural Experience" ("??화 체푭"). Expect lots of great pictures from that! I will need to charge my batteries nice and early (glad I remembered).

This morning, the Chinese guy (I'm amazed, I still don't know his name) presented an article on illegal immigrant workers unionizing and having demonstrations. This is a serious issue these days in Korea, as roughly 2%+ of the population of the country is foreign, and that number is increasing as illegal immigrants overstay their originally legal visas. I have verified this with my own eyes. Just eight days ago, I met a Bangladeshi migrant worker in Yongsan who works at a shoe factory, who has been in Korea for eight years. Of course, there's no such thing as a Bangladeshi who lives in Korea for eight straight years legally, so I KNOW he's an overstayer. I don't blame him, though -- his country has a GDP per capita of $2,270 a year. He can probably stay in Korea as long as he wants as long as he doesn't cause any serious problems, but if he wants to visit his own country, he's going to have to face a ban on returning to Korea -- so the life he's set up here all comes to an end the moment his mom or dad gets sick and he has to visit them.

At least he doesn't have kids, though. The kids of migrant workers here have it horrible -- they may speak Korean better than racial Koreans from the US, but it's the racial Koreans who get the F-4 visa that lets them work pretty much any job and live here as long as they want. That visa annoys me because I'll never get it, but it must be ESPECIALLY annoying to someone who has grown up in Korea with guest worker parents -- they therefore cannot go to public school, go to most hospitals, or engage in any form of employment legally, despite being 100% culturally Korean.

I realize that my country has the same problem with Mexicans, BUT at least my country offers a feasible way to get US green cards, so it isn't 100% necessary to be illegal. Korea is not like that. These guest workers come on three year visas, after which they are expected to say good-bye to Korea and go back to their poor home countries, even though their cheap labor has been a part of Korea's economic miracle.

I think that Korea has a duty to poor countries to let these guys in and treat them decently. Why? Because Koreans have done EXACTLY THE SAME THING for years! So is it okay for Koreans to work in Japan, the United States, etc. and send money home, but it's NOT okay for Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, etc. to do the same thing?

I think that one day, the guest worker program is either going to get phased out and they're going to stop importing their menial laborers, or the number is going to swell up so big, Korea will have to give those guys rights. Many decades ago, American people were trying to make sure that "America is for Americans" just as Koreans are also trying to maintain the racial purity of their country, but the reality is, as long as Korea is vastly richer than nearby countries, people will flood from those countries into Korea, and Korea will have to acknolwedge people of other races just as all the other developed nations have. End of lecture.

Anyways, where was I? Well, in terms of other things that are "up," we had a ??? ?ㅤㅎㅙㅌ??#034;Composition Test") last period. I chose the topic "Violations of Our Personal Lives" and wrote about the hasukjip ajumma and the incident in which I had been expecting a call from the US Embassy, and she'd cut the power to my room (by entering it and hitting the switch) while I was on a visa run, so my cell phone ran out of batteries, turned off, and now I can't know whether the US Embassy called or not. I also cited how she often "just lets me know" to turn out lights, blah blah blah, that I already do. I think it was a pretty good essay. It filled up most of a page. That will make up approximately 5% of my term's writing grade, or 1% of the term's grade overall.

What else is new? Well, the ondol (heated) floor in the hasukjip has been turned on. It's fun to sit on the floor now because it's so toasty. That's about all there is to say for now! I'll have to start making some new YouTube videos. I can predict this becoming an addictive and somewhat rewarding hobby...

A Good Portion of My Level 5 Class at Lunch at a Chinese Restaurant
Thanks, Gahaedo, for taking this picture.
November 12, 2007
Well, today (or rather, yesterday, as "today" just started less than an hour ago) was a nice, relaxing day. I got to sleep in past 2:00 in a bed (as opposed to the usual floor) because I had gone over to Mijung's to hang out with Mijung and meet Rebekah, a friend who lives in Yeosu (Jeollanam Province). Rebekah had come to Seoul to meet her friend, Leif. Both Rebekah and Leif are interesting ex-pats and I enjoyed hanging out with them. I've known Rebekah for several months, but I'd never seen Leif before. He's an English teacher in Mongolia who is teaching English there through the Peace Corps. He seems to enjoy it there. Of course, Rebekah was also as cool as she always is. She's a hippie, and I mean that in a really positive way (she lived on a hippie commune and makes sure to examine the trash piles when we walk past them to see if there's anything salvageable -- since I do the exact same thing, I think that's totally cool).

We took a walk to Dongdaemun, and between us, we consumed two bottles of Jinro soju. Then we walked home, and all went to bed.

In the morning, I mainly hung out with Gyeongseok because Mijeong had gone out to climb Manisan on Ganghwa Island. She treated to KFC. That was nice of her. She helped me with my Korean (some words I couldn't find in the dictionary, things like that).

The stray cat that Mijung's adopted ("Nabong," which is a silly corruption of "Nabi," or "butterfly") was a lot less aggressive today. That cat is normally insane -- he bites and claws at everyone. He was pretty pacifistic, though. I think it was the lack of people to get him all wound up. Mijung reports that she now spends over 8,000 won a week on Purina cat food for Nabong.

That's about all there is to report, except that 11/11 was PEPERO DAY (which has something to do with the 11/11 looking like upright Pepero sticks in a container). Copied from Japan's Pocky Day, Pepero day is a commercial holiday in which Pepero (chocolate sticks) are promoted heavily. Of course, as usual, Korea tries to make it look like they invented it and Japan copied them -- according to the Wikipedia entry, Pepero Day was started at a girls' middle school in Busan in 1994, while Pocky Day was started in 1999. I, however, am skeptical. I mean, gee, I wonder what the nationality was of the person who updated that Wikipedia article? Anyways, Rebekah, Leif, and I got a picture in front of a huge Pepero display, which I will upload as soon as Rebekah sends it to me.