Old News

This is the roof of Golden Pond, where studying can be done without interruption, because no one else wants to climb the ladder to get up here.
April 28, 2007
Well, midterms start on Tuesday. You know, because I don't have enough big, important tests. In relation to other semesters, I'm behind on memorization of the words, but I'm ahead in terms of the amount that have been fed into the computer and that are ready for quizzing. I have crammed quite a few words today, but still need to cram a lot more. Still, I feel like it's at least theoretically possible to cram them all. The tapes are going to be difficult. In Level 4, some of the tapes are read by some ajeosshi in a style of speech that is just a little bit too close to real life for comfort.

Well, I'm packing in the provisions. I won't be going out much, so I got a loaf of bread and some SPAM (actually, a SPAM rip-off called "leonchi-miteu"). Right now, I'm on a short break from studying, which I intend to use to get my laundry done, and play some Phantasy Star II while I'm soaking the laundry in the basin.

April 27, 2007
This page's background was made on an emulated TI-83 Plus.

April 26, 2007
Well, nothing really made today particularly remarkable. The midterms (gee, it seems like last week that I took the finals for Level 3) start on Tuesday. That means that counting today (which is almost over) I have five days to prepare. As usual, I'm behind where I'd like to be, but at least more than 90% of the words that we've learned this term are fed into the computer thanks to the far more efficient computer program that I wrote that allows the user to input words via notepad instead of my slow, custom, DOS-based IME.

Random Trivia:
I did really crappily on the listening exam today, but then, so did a lot of people, and besides, last term, when I got something in the 50s for the practice exam, I took the real thing and got a 94. Maybe it'll be like that this term, too.
My friend and former neighbor, Paul, is missing in action! I've tried dropping in on his pad twice, and the entire wing appears to be sealed off, so I think both rooms in that wing are vacant. Where did Paul go? Did he go to China? Did he get deported? I should e-mail him and find out.
There is this hot English-teaching chick who taught English in Japan staying at our guesthouse. She wears a sexy black thong. I saw it several times because her pants don't completely cover it.
Only idiots buy cans of tuna. Mackerel is WAY cheaper per gram. Like, you can get 400 grams of mackerel for 990 won, but only 250 grams of tuna for that amount of won. The taste and smell are almost the same. I don't think I'll ever go back to tuna.
The CELTA course at the British Consulate -- I still don't know whether they'll have it or not. I called yesterday and they said they'll know on Monday. I want to get English-teaching certified at that center (or should I say "centre"). I want to plan my summer (or should I say, "summre"), so I would really like to know if the course will be offered or not!

Well, I ought to be doing something more constructive with my time, so I'll sign off now. This site can be fun, but for the next week, Charles needs to keep his priorities straight!

Oh, come on, admit it, you wanted to see more pictures with colorful lanterns.
April 24, 2007
Well, today I tried to get some good pictures of a temple near the guesthouse, because it's roughly Bucheo Oshin Nal (The Day that Buddha Came). I don't remember if it's already happened or if it's yet to happen, but either way, I figured I'd get some pictures, because I recently discovered that my camera lens was covered in dust, and now that I've cleaned that crap off, the pictures I'm taking aren't coming out as hazy. As for other news, I went to school and did some catch-up work (like, not overdue assignments or anything, just words I should have looked up earlier), and that's about it.

I never found the temple that I set out to find, but I got a couple of distance shots of another one. Midterm exams start next week, by the way, and I need to get cracking on those.

April 22, 2006
Well, I just finished the KLPT test. When I came out of the room, I was in a somewhat good mood (I figured "all I need to get a Level 3, my goal is a 250/500, and there's a reasonable chance [50/50] that I got that"). Then I logged onto the KLPT website and saw that you actually need a 300/500 to get a Level 3. So I really, really doubt I got a Level 3. I had a good idea on how to answer about 1/3 of the questions, so that's a 165 right there. Guessing randomly on the questions where I had no idea would yield about 25% on those questions, so that's 248.75 (about 250). Therefore, I'd say the chances of having made a Level 2 are about 50/50. Quite frankly, after almost a year in Korea spent doing nothing but learning Korean, both a Level 1 or a Level 2 would SUCK. I need a Level 4 for PROBATIONARY university entrance. This is very, very uncool, and I'm just going to have to resign myself to the fact that if I'm going to get the necessary 350 to get into university here, it's going to take A LONG TIME, and probably a new study method, because my biggest problem on that test was VOCABULARY. Oh, sure, I know about 4,000 words, but they apparently aren't the right words. Yonsei University fills me up with stupid, worthless words, to the point of total, utter saturation, so I'm unable to memorize any more more useful vocabulary.

If I were still on the "get a Level 4 by the end of the Yonsei program" track, I'd be very, very, very depressed today, but I threw away the "university entrance by early 2008" in favor of "university entrance someday."

A picture of me standing in front of a giant rock gaudily engraved with Kim Il-sung's name and some slogan.
April 19, 2007


Yes, that's right, I finally uploaded the pictures. I haven't finished writing the photo essay yet, and there are 37 pictures, not 40, but I figured that if I keep putting this off, they'll never go live, so here they are:

I will sincerely try to write up a photo essay and captions for these photographs. I had originally wanted to flesh out Part VII with more photos (two more). Part VII covers the return to South Korea across the DMZ and/or any souvenirs that I still have on-hand. However, I just couldn't think of anything else worth taking a picture of for Part VII, so I'm leaving the Part VII picture count at three instead of five.

I just wanted to get these photos live, because with the KLPT in (holy shit) three days, this could way of the kongnamul soup video and get postponed into oblivion.

April 18, 2007
I'm feeling much better today. Yesterday, I barfed TWICE. I wanted to go to school today, and woke up at 7:00 AM and felt pretty good and decided to go, but Mijung did not approve. Since she spent all of yesterday doting over me, I don't want to piss her off, so I'm staying home. I have almost 40 pictures of North Korea assembled and ready to upload -- I just want to hit 40, and then I'll upload them (I divided my North Korea photo essay into seven sections, all with five photos a piece, except for the Guryong Falls, which is exquisitely beautiful and gets 10).

I officially tried acupuncture (Mijung is a certified acupuncturist). For those of you who know me well, you know I HATE needles, but I was in a lot of pain last night because of this fever/vomiting illness. Mijung told me she could fix the problem with one needle in one finger, so I finally agreed after thinking it over for a while. However, it wasn't just one needle -- she kept on saying "one more," until she'd done three, then I basically told her I was not going to keep going until she gave me an accurate count -- she said "eight." So I chickened out and quit at three, much to her dismay. Seriously, though, I hate needles. One shot or blood test is bad enough for me. She said that the three might have an impact -- not as profound as eight, but they might make it a little bit better. I am, indeed, a bit better today. At least I tried it. I don't think I will try it again in the future, though, unless it's a serious health problem and western medicine has failed. I am, however, drinking her stomach remedy, which she claims is just made by boiling dry rice.

This picture has a story to go along with it. I have a lot of stories.
April 15, 2007


Let's just say I have so much new content, it's worthy of it's own site. I'm tired right now and will post in the coming days/weeks.

April 12, 2007

I set out for North Korea (DPRK) tomorrow.

I will not actually reach North Korea tomorrow (that happens Saturday morning). First, I have to get to Gangwon province, where the tour starts. Anyways, I'm charging up my camera batteries (takes like 13 hours, so one must plan ahead) and getting ready to go. I can't even remember if we're crossing the DMZ on a bus or if we're going to North Korea on a boat. If it's a bus, I'll ask the authority figure if it's okay to take a video of crossing the DMZ, although I bet I know what the answer will be.

Fortunately, I managed to crack up the whole class today on several occasions, and the teachers too, in most cases:
The teacher asked if anyone knew the honorific term for "grandfather" and I replied "hareubang," which is actually a Jeju Island dialect word referring to the stone grandfather statues you see everywhere.
We were going over the Chinese four-character proverbs and one sounded like it might be similar to "to add insult to injury" (seolsanggasang). I asked the teacher about it like this:
Me: In the west, we have this expression called "to add insult to injury." For example, your parents die, you're fired from your workplace, and then your pet fish dies. Is seolsanggasang like this?
Everyone was laughing so hard, it actually took like 10 seconds for them all to contain themselves. It turns out that seolsanggasang cannot be used this way. Seolsanggasang means that the final problem is equal to or bigger than the previous problems. In order for the fish's death to be seolsanggasang, it would have to be equally dear to you as your parents or your job.
Finally, we came to a proverb called "maksangmakha." The teacher asked me to read the definition. I read the whole thing, which was written at a ridiculously advanced level, to the point where the definition would not be, in the least, helpful to Korean learners. Then, at the end, it had a parenthetical reference to another saying (nanhyeongnanje). I was like "oh, nanhyeongnanje! Of course!" The teacher looked very surprised, not having understood my sarcasm. She said "do you know it?" I said "no, I don't know it," and that cracked everyone up again.
At some point during the class, we had a proverb called "ilseokijo" (one stone, two birds). It's a special proverb that only exists in the COREAN language (not English) that means when you can accomplish two things with one action. I used the example of having a Korean girlfriend, and using her for both love and learning Korean. The teacher asked me if I'd done this. I said "often, almost every day" and that cracked everyone up.

Well, those jokes were funny if you were there at the time (and understand Korean). Otherwise, I guess they're pretty stale. Still, my approval rating totally shot up today.

I'll make sure to take lots of good pictures in North Korea on a total of three cameras just in case. I plan to buy two disposables in addition to the digital one I already have, because this is quite possibly the coolest trip (in terms of bragging rights) that I've ever been on, and I'll be damned if I can't bring back sufficient proof that I was there.

You'll never guess what I wrote my initials with...
Yes, that's right, this is the season in Korea where male ants (the winged type) fly around in swarms. Our guest house got so many, I started grabbing them and using them to make a pretty little piece of artwork -- my initials.
April 11, 2007
Summary of Today:
Went to school.
Went to the British Embassy and got information from Mr. Bowles on the CELTA class. Found out that the class may be offered in July, and that you spend NINE HOURS A DAY IN CLASS. In other words, even though the class is only one month long, I get at least 180 hours of intensive English-teaching instruction. In fact, sometimes it goes over nine hours, so I'd say closer to 200 hours. I may take a term off of Yonsei to attend this class, because if I don't take it during the summer, the next time it will be offered is in 2008. The Korean Language Institute, on the other hand, is year-round.
Took a nap that exceeded five hours.
Woke up, got swept into a massive communal drinking binge where I had plenty of beer and makgeolli.
I called my credit card company and got my credit limit raised by $300 -- never know when you might need more credit.

April 7, 2007


This country is so damn futuristic. As for other news, for newcomers to Korea, I made up a chart showing how to go about answering a visa question with the Immigration Office. I hope it's helpful.

April 5, 2007 (Update 2)

Okay, World, I'm willing to teach English at some point.

There, I said it. My attitude on English-teaching has officially changed. When I first came to Korea, I told myself that I wouldn't do it, because I didn't want to be associated with the vast majority of English teachers here. I'm still not interested in teaching illegally -- but if I can do it legally, I'm now fully willing to teach English. Here's why:
Just because a lot of English teachers are carpetbaggers who come to Korea, slack off, drink extensively, and don't learn Korean, I don't have to be like that. Look at Joe, the moderator of the Korean forums at paperwindow.com -- he speaks good Korean, and he's an English teacher.
I think I'd be good at it. I've spent literally over 600 hours watching Asians learning a language. I've also spent those same 600 hours learning Korean, so I know exactly what difficulties Koreans will have when learning English, because I know what difficulties I've had when studying their language.
Just about every famous white person in Korea has taught English at some stage, even if that's not what they're famous for now. Look at Brian Barry, a famous Buddhist monk who paints taenghwa -- he originally came here in the Peace Corps, but later taught English for a while. Look at Stephen Revere -- he has his own Korean language TV show and has graduated from the Yonsei Korean teacher training academy. He taught English for a while. Even that former American who got Korean citizenship (another Peace Corps guy) taught English at one point. Everybody does it -- it's unavoidable.
I'm not being a carpetbagger by teaching at a hagwon. You make more than the average Korean with the same level of education, but not vastly more. It's not like teaching privates.
Even if I find another line of work, like telemarketing or data entry, it still revolves around my ability to speak English, so I'm not proving some amazing point about how some Indonesian laborer can survive here. I admit it -- for an immigrant for a third world country, living here is almost impossible.

According to a rumor that I heard (and have semi-confirmed with the Korean embassy and consulate in America), I can teach English with an associate's degree in English and a TEFL certificate. So I'm strongly considering doing that. Because I need money, and I'm no longer against English teaching -- over nine months in Korea have worn down my resistance to it.

April 5, 2007
This is going to be a short post, because it's almost 4:00 AM. Thanks Ngaire, you really, truly boosted my self-esteem with your recent Facebook entry and its accompanying caption.

By the way, I think it was actually a snail.

April 3, 2007
Well, I just finished my second day of Yonsei Level 4. Quite frankly, it's little different from Level 3, or Level 2. I know the game by now, so there aren't any surprises. My teachers have been able to tolerate me so far, so that's good. It's starting to feel kind of like when I had been working at 7-Eleven for a long time -- I didn't particularly love it because the institution and the system were flawed, but I knew how to "play the game" and earn the paycheck (in this case, pull in the passing scores). I've had the crap scared out of me so many times (and passed every single time) having the crap scared out of me doesn't mean anything anymore -- yes, Korean, in reality, is a tough language, but almost 10 white westerners graduate from Level 6 every term, and unless I pass the TOPIK/KLPT early, I'll probably be one of them.

I am in high spirits right now, because I took a practice listening exam yesterday last period, and I got a 65. Why is a 65 a cause for celebration? Well, that listening exam was a past TOPIK Level 3 listening exam, and I passed it! Yes, back when the exam we took yesterday was an official test, a 60 on the TOPIK Level 3 meant a passing score for Level 3. If I can go into the test center at Kookmin University on April 22 and unleash similarly formidable performance, I will be within ONE LEVEL of college entrance (you can get into a few schools on a Level 4, although you're often required to continue studying Korean for a little while). I'm also happy about this score because four people in the class did worse than me, and one person tied me, so I'm almost in the middle of a class completely composed of Asians (except me, of course)!

Okay, so really, I don't get it. I cannot understand the news, and I cannot understand most TV dramas very well. Yet I'm apparently only one level away from entering a Korean university. Why do they set the bar on the exam so low? This is very fishy. I think that when I finally do enter a decent university, I'll spend my first semester taking things like physical education classes, math classes, etc., because quite frankly, I don't believe I'm university level, and need to take a few bird classes to test the waters. I want to take German, as well -- there's a class that I think I'd excel in relative to the competition. The Japanese have been beating me at Korean, but can the Koreans beat me at German?

March 31, 2007
Okay, I'm trying to make a video about how to make kongnamulguk (soybean sprout soup). I have all the necessary pictures and clips, I've recorded an introductory video, and I've done all the recording. All I need to do now is sequence the video and export it to a format that people can watch. However, Microsoft Movie Maker is making this supremely difficult. I have three different copies of Windows Movie Maker: two on my computer and one on Mijung's computer. One of my computer's copies is fine, except that it won't save. The other one won't allow me to check precise clip lengths to make sure everything's set up properly. The copy on Mijung's computer quits prematurely with great frequency. So I have three legal copies of Microsoft Movie Maker, yet none of them work, and all for different reasons. Isn't that so Microsoft? I am going to try my luck on some other computers, later. Until then, gaze at one of the scenes to the left.

March 30, 2007
Well, I'm at the Korean Language Institute right now. They had their class assignments out unexpectedly early. I am in A Course Level 4 Section 9. I was in Section 10 last term, and Section 10 the term before that. Therefore, if the term numbers mean anything at all about my ability level, they indicate that my ability level hasn't shifted (relative to other students) much from level to level. I guess that's a good thing. Or maybe the section numbers mean nothing. Unfortunately, there is no one in my class that I know from before. The KLI is a big place, but wow, that's kind of unlucky.

This is the ethnic makeup of my class, as well as I can guess it:
- 4 Japanese
- 4 Chinese
- 3 People with Western-Korean Combination Names (most likely US gyopos)
- Me

So, once again, it looks like I'm going to be the only white guy, but if Level 2 and 3 were indicators, they'll move some military cock-blocker in on the first or second day (who isn't on the roster right now), so that the Japanese girls go for him instead.

Today, Mijung showed me how to make kongnamulguk (a spicy soup with soy beans in it). It's tasty stuff, and very cheap to make. I will post a video later on how to make this stuff -- you can spend just five minutes making it if you're efficient. This is part of my campaign to learn to cook cheaply in Korea (cooking western food is too pricey). Once I master a few more dishes, I can be assured that when I move into my apartment, I can cook cost-effectively. Man, I want my own apartment. If I put down $5,000 in jeonse, I can have one for just 280,000 won a month. However, food isn't included, so I need to learn to do that cheaply! I can cook a fair amount of simple western things, but western ingredients are expensive here (like milk, for instance, and the cheapest loaf of bread here is still more expensive than the cheapest loaf of bread sold at my US 7-Eleven). I want to teach myself how to make my own cheese, too, because us "norinnae" (westerners who eat a lot of dairy and stink of it) really get ripped off on cheese, so the unfortunate result is that we seldom eat it.

March 29, 2007

I have encountered a series of crappy epiphanies, but I have a plan!

The last week has been an extreme reality check. I learned the following three things this week, which basically put a huge dent in my plans:

1. Permanent residency in Korea is a sham. It only exists in theory, and the only way you can get it in reality is to marry a Korean (or being racially Korean). I called a lawyer about the clause in the F-2 that says you can get it after seven years in Korea. He said that you can apply for it after seven years, but he thinks it's hardly ever granted. He didn't know anyone who's gotten it this way (we're talking about like the only law office in Korea that deals with visa issues). Therefore, while in theory, I could get an F-2 by living here for seven years, I'm far more likely to get to that point and be turned down.

2. You need a bank account of $10,000 to study in Korea at a regular university (AFTER paying your tuition) -- not $3,000, like I'd thought. Yes, that's right, $10,000. I figured it was $3,000, like when you're studying Korean language, but no, it's way steeper. This puts a dent in my plans, because I may not have the necessary amount of money when I finally master Korean properly.

3. The KLPT/TOPIK tests are going to be HARD. I had gotten the wrong idea when I looked at a KLPT sample on the KLPT website -- which was quite easy, but I'm guessing that they mistakenly uploaded the B-KLPT sample, because I looked at some KLPT/TOPIK prep books, today, and it looks INSANE. It's as if studying Korean has made no difference. If I take that test, I am afraid my scores are going to be no better than if I just picked answers randomly (except for the Level 1 and 2 questions, which are pretty easy). I really wanted to get a Level 3 when I take the test in April, but I highly doubt that'll happen.

Okay, so it's time to solve these big problems.

1. Actually, the fact that there isn't a permanent residency system is kind of liberating, because now I don't have to give a shit about continuity -- I can leave Korea and come back whenever I feel, and since I can't even hope to get permanent residency, there's no continuity to break. The only perk I'd lose by repeatedly leaving and re-entering would be my Certificate of Alien Registration, which allows me to get Korean health insurance. I could get that again just by spending a few months in Korea, though. If I get health insurance through another source, then there's no reason to have that card, because even though you can theoretically use it to access Korean websites, none of them accept a foreigner number.

2. Shit, coming up with $10,000 before entering regular university is going to be a big challenge. I have more than that right now, but I can't live for free. Going to Yonsei costs a lot of money. Incidental expenses, most of which are relatively beyond my control, are frequent. I'm going to have to figure out some way to make money legally, or else figure out a way to live extremely cheaply. If I went back to telemarketing, I could call the US, be employed by a US employer, and not break Korean visa laws, but make enough money to get by. If I moved to Busan and studied there, the tuition would be less than 61% of what it is right now. Or, I could cut down my class hours per week (take an evening course instead), meaning lower tuition. I've often questioned the benefit of four hours a day in class -- it seems excessive -- maybe it's time to shake things up.

3. If I can't get a Level 3 on this next test, how am I supposed to get a Level 4 when I take it again in the fall? Well, it looks like learning Korean is going to take longer than I anticipated. I may be learning Korean for the full duration of my two-year D-4 visa. I may be learning it beyond that. Well, now that I know I don't need continuity, I can leave Korea and come back on a tourist visa and pursue other options -- take Korean at a cheaper, non-accredited hagwon, do lots of free language exchanges, etc. I could study Korean for less than half the cost and still get most of the same instruction. The major drawback to this method is that I'd have to take out private health insurance, which would cost way more than the plan that I'm eligible for right now because of my D-4 status. The independent health insurance could be comparable in cost to attending a Korean university! In other words, attending a Korean university might be worth it just for the national health insurance benefit!

Of course, none of this would be a problem if Korea had a progressive set of visa laws -- like the ability to work and support yourself while attending language classes on a D-4 visa like mine.

March 24, 2007
Well, it's Saturday morning. Yesterday, I went to Yongsan and bought an old Visor PDA, the cheapest PDA I could find that allows hangeul input. I am just imagining how this will increase my capacity to learn Korean. In the past, this was my process:
1. Take notes on paper.
2. Go home, look up and verify all the words that I'd written down, and correct them on paper.
3. Feed the words into the computer, which would take a long time.
4. Organize the words on the computer.
5. Use the painstakingly transcribed word lists to quiz myself -- if I still had the energy, which I often didn't, because of the lengthy hassle.
From now on, my process will be super streamlined. Just take all the notes on the PDA, organize the word list as I go (since it's on paper, I can do inserts, copy & paste, etc. with ease). When I get home, I simply upload the word list to the computer and quiz myself a gazillion times instead of spending all that time doing the transcription, etc! I'm psyched. Level 4 will be harder, but maybe the extra hour or so I save each day will offset this difficulty increase.

I'll take a picture of the Visor displaying hangeul and post it, someday.

March 23, 2007
Well, I got a picture of some anti-Korea-US FTA protesters. I disagree with them, because thanks to them, I have to pay way more for my food. If trade barriers on food from the US were eliminated, cheap US produce would mean lower food prices. Well, look to the left for a good picture of two of the protesters.

Today I'm meeting Junhyeong, one of my language exchange partners. Or maybe not -- she often reschedules, but then, so do I. Personally, I don't care, because I already live with Koreans. She's pleasant enough, though.

Mrs. Jeong on the Last Day of Level 3
March 21, 2007
Today was important for the following reasons:
It was the last day of Level 3. I got my transcript for this level back (84% with straight B's in all four subjects). I am now a Level 4 student, and went to the bookstore and bought my books.
Mijung made the reservation for Geumgangsan, today. Because we booked late, she had to book for April 14 instead of April 7. The point is:


This site is now one year old! Yes, exactly one year ago, I uploaded the first files that would comprise the "Korean Keyboard" section of this site. This section is still visible by going to clicking on Programs, scrolling to the bottom of the page, and clicking "Keyboard Font."