Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ten off the cuff nice things about Korea

10. Convenience of things. Let's face it Korea is pretty convenient for many things like places to eat, drink, and sing songs. The country is pretty easy to get around, if you can speak a little Korean, and since most people live in cities, many things are in walking distance.

9. Nice public spaces. This one kind of goes along with convenience, but in urban areas there are no shortage of parks, department stores, or just large places where people gather. Summer times in Jinju see congregations of old people just sitting around outside of city hall, just talking and saying how hot it is. In rural areas there is also no shortage of hiking trails on mountains with exercise equipment on it. The exquisite vistas in these areas are great as well.

8. Traditional things. Korea has some pretty nice traditional things. Temples, palaces, many things. Korea has a lot of traditional things.

7. Makeoli and Dong Dong Ju. I can't stand soju, so this rice funky cold medina is the perfect match to a fried onion pancake and good friends.

6. Kimchi. A bizarre food that tastes strange at first, but when you go with it for a few years and then go without it any period of time you miss it.

5. Building projects. Okay, so tearing down old buildings and then building huge white concrete eyesores, that has the word Hyundai stamped on the side can be quite annoying, but as I mentioned before, Korea has a dense population so the overuse of public spaces wears things out, so luckly new things are built all of the time. If you don't want to use the smelly bathroom in the subway station that has the soap on a metal pole, you can always find a new building close by.

4. The occasional Awesome Korean movie. Let's face it, Korean movies can be extremely violent, sappy, or just make absolutely no sense at all, and then some awesome movie will come along, and be the talk of the town. A Korean movie in a cinema can be a great experience, and if it is terrible it isn't Holywood's fault. I somehow felt responsible after I saw the "Watchmen."

3. Korean people. I was listening to David Cross talk about New York one time. He said that every twenty minutes in New York he has to make a decision between looking at the most beautiful woman he has ever seen, or looking at the craziest person he has ever seen. Korea has many handsome men and beautiful women, but it also has strange things happening all of the time. I took a stroll down a gun gang won street in a market one with my girlfreind. A gun gang won is a business that make various health broths. According to one of the signs there was a place that made cat broth for arthritis. We walked a little further and saw a white meaty thing that turned out to be a boiled dog's head. Aside from that I really like a lot of the old people here. I take a bus to school in the morning and share it with a bunch of ajumas who work in a bell peper packing facility, they are always very kind and try to talk to me.

2. The strange Korean experiences that stop surprising you: After seeing a boiled dog's head, a few weeks later my girlfreind and I had some guy arrested for killing a dog with a hammer in broad daylight, in the middle of a neighborhood. Later the guy claimed he was sick and felt he needed soup for health. It also turned out that he stole the dog. If you watch my Jinju travel series 2 video, you can see the roof tops on which we saw this action. (It is at 33 seconds, and is the green painted flat topped roof. )

1. Taekwondo: I wouldn't be here if it weren't for Taekwondo. It is really kind of a lousy martial art for getting into fights, but it can be great exercise and a lot of fun. My 70 year old Tae Kwondo instructor in America has lead a rich and interesting life, doing things as randomas Dancing with Pricilla Presly to judging international competitions, and so I went to his country to live a la vida loca as well.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Friday, March 27, 2009

On the Virtues of Having a Girlfriend who Works in an Agricultural Training Center that Imports Pollens for Strawberry Growers.

Korea is a country that has 45 million people all packed into an area of Indiana. In the twilight of my college years I had a Korean aquaintence who would always talk about how great Korean things were. He would always be like, "Hey Jim, have you ever had Korean apples?" I would say, "Yes." He would say, "They are great, aren't they?" I would say, "They are the same apples that you get here (In Kalamazoo, Michigan)." He would say, "No, Korean apples are better."

When I arrived in Korea, I found that many people had similar attitudes towards many things. Made in Korea equaled made in heaven. And while there are many fine products made here, this sort of nationalism can become quite nauseating in a hurry.

Nauseating is not the feeling, though, that I experienced when I tried my first Korean hydroponic strawberry. Far from it. It was about like eating the experience of having puppies cure all of the worlds worst diseases.

The strawberries came in a big white box. Big boxes are always great because they usually mean gifts. Even when big white boxes deliver things like medical organs, someone benefits. But in this case the big white box contained two separate packages of exquisitely cellophaned strawberries, all about the size of a small kiwi.

These strawberries were all thanks to my GFF who works in a company that imports pollen and soil substrates for Korean fruit farmers. Since she can go to straight to the farms and meet with the farmers, she can get the special quality fruits that usually go to Seoul to be sold in department stores for about $25 dollars for the small flat you see above. That only means that I could enjoy my strawberries without feeling the guilt of having spent $25 for a freakin strawberry.