četrtek, 29. december 2011

Another Goodbye

Also the Japanese friend left. Almost a week earlier than planned, but it was the only option to get to Tokunoshima in time, ferry tickets sold out for the holidays. So he'll be spending a few days in Nagasaki before going to Kagoshima.
But I supposed you weren't fooled, he's no Japanese at all. He's my son. And he's Japanese in the way that I'm a Korean. We may not have almond eyes, we can't speak the language, but our hearts and souls are Asian to the core. And soon we'll also be speaking.
All in all ended well. He had a farewell party, too. Actually he had two. The first one was supposed to be just a normal drinking party. We went to a restaurant with some friends and then in a bar to eat more. I mean to drink more. And there it started. Few rounds of beer. Next step was somek (soju and mekchu, beer), the Korean screwdriver. It was not enough, so we did a few rounds of somakmek (soju and makkoli and mekchu). Bad idea. My drinking challenger was in the mood and he announced that it's a perfect day to have our contest, he went to buy beers and we went to my house. On the way home Ramon raised the white flag, he threw up all the alcohol to the last drop and he looked pretty much like a piece of crap. No more drinking for him. The yoga master quit even earlier, but not by his will - his wife forbid him to drink so he actually joined us just for a few drinks and later drank only tea. His doctor friend was already wasted which left The Challenger, The Poet and Sangpyeong to drink with me. And Sangpyeong had enough of beer so he brought soju and some other alcoholics with him.
Now, I'd be very happy to write that I won the drinking challenge. Hell, I'd be proud to write that I lost to such a man like my challenger. The sad point is, nobody knows what happened that night. Who gave up first? Nobody can remember. When did we fell asleep? Nobody knows. I woke up at noon and found that I have bruises on my arms and painful ribs. Did we have a fight? Nobody remembers. I couldn't have fell from the bed because I sleep on the floor.
It was then that Ramon found out it's his last day here. A farewell dinner was organized in a hurry, Sangpyeong offered him a lift to Busan and we started drinking.
Sangpyeong cooking
The Challneger

And his cute daughter Jin
The Doctor
And his cute daughter

Eventually we couldn't stand really a lot of beer. We returned home early and spent the last hours together like father and son, reading together the manga Evangelion. Then we watched Puchi Eva - Evangerion Atto Sukūru and before sleeping also the final scene from Evangerion Shin Gekijōban: Ha

Now he's gone. The room seems so big.
Have a safe trip, my loved son!

nedelja, 18. december 2011

Why Am I So Boring

Tiziano Terzani is an Italian journalist and writer who spent most of his life in Asia. In the late sixties he spent some time in North Korea. At the time he was correspondent of the German Der Spiegel and he wrote a long article about N. Korea. I remember the beginning, it went something like this: While the rest of the world is still struggling in the year 1969, people in North Korea live in the future, they are 15 years ahead in time. (If you don't get the point, do some quick adding, how much is 1969+15?) And on he went with descriptions of happy people marching for the glory of the loved leader and other similar crap. When translations of the Spiegel article arrived in North Korea, Terzani became the most loved foreign journalist by the government officials. They paraded with his article, bragging that he's the only foreigner who can see the deep truth of the communist system. Terzani was quite ashamed with the situation, but not for long. Someone decided to explain the meaning of irony to the officials. The very next day he was expelled from the country.
Irony is a very hard thing for most Asians, be it Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, you name it. It's a totally alien concept and I think it's because of the deep roots of Confucianism.
My posts used to be full of irony, if not sarcasm. Probably you noticed it's not so anymore. I'm afraid I can be taken seriously like it happened to Terzani. I'm afraid someone could be offended. It doesn't really sound like me, does it?
I fully realized what is happening to me just a few days ago. On FB I have a profile picture with the little chap on the bamboo stick. I took it the very last day the family was still here before moving. So, few days ago a friend commented that it's a nice picture. I replied saying that the pic is nice just because the chap is so cute and that I miss him so much since the family moved. And then it hit me. No, it struck me. I miss people that go. It's me who is staying. Transforming my home in a computer junkyard. Preserving vegetables, cooking jams and juices to stock them. Looking where to hang the 2012 calendar.
And last week I had a phone chat with the little chap, he is missing uncle Dag.

sreda, 14. december 2011

Mountains! Mountains!

A trip to the Hwagmaesan last week... with unfriendly wind.
Hey, I can see our car down there!

And later dinner in a fancy restaurant.

A snapshot of how a Korean winter morning looks like...
And how my fridge looks like...
Yesterday's trip - Mosan.

It almost fell down! If it wasn't for me to save the day...

Our yoga master friend just loves scary places to meditate.

četrtek, 08. december 2011

The Second Overseas Reunion of Iwanuma Volunteers

The last week has been somehow crazy. Crazier than usual, I mean. Few days before leaving for Seoul I found a nice spot to have a break on the way home from the nearby village, where I usually go to buy beers. I sat on the rock, the day was beautiful and warm... and when I wanted to go back home I had no more beers and I almost fell from the rock.

The next day I was bragging a lot about my computer hardware skills. And I got two broken PCs, some really good configurations, 3GHz processors, 2GB of DDR3 RAM memory each, Radeon graphic cards, you name it. The challenge was, if I'm really so good at repairing computers I will be able to make a decent one for my teacher (who really needs a new one) with the spare parts. What's actually wrong with them? One doesn't start at all, the other keeps restarting. I knew the second one will give me some headache. And I got also an old monitor, I can't work without it! And my room turned in a workshop.

As I suspected, the first one was easy. Reset the BIOS and turn it on. Works like a wonder. The next step broke my heart. I had to format the hard drive. Previously it was working on Ubuntu. You have to know that Linux users are a rarity in Korea. And when I found a PC running Ubuntu... I had to format it. But it was another challenge - am I able to install and tweak the Korean version of a M$ operating system? Oh, the hell I am able! Well, the installation part was easy, I could do it blindfolded without a keyboard, I've done it so many times I'm sick of it. Tweaking the bastard was easy also, because I cheated. Command lines are the same in all language versions...
I know, the picture sucks, but it's an old monitor...

I finished with the computer the evening before I left for Seoul. Once in Seoul I started drinking. And I drank a little bit more and went to sleep. When I woke up next day I was still drunk and i was almost late at the airport to meet a Japanese friend who was in Europe and on his way home he stopped in Korea. He stopped here with a good reason - to meet me. We worked together in the ruins of Iwanuma. I was shocked when I saw him. I barely recognized him. I know how popular is plastic surgery in Asia but this guy has gone too far. He did so much of surgery that he doesn't look Japanese any more!

I was waiting him with beers. I know I should have been there with some Hite, Cass, Ob or Max beer... I had Sapporo. I know what he likes. And not to mention that Sapporo is... The Legendary biru.

We continued drinking together for two days in Seoul and left for Wonji. Where we bought more beers and froze our asses waiting the bus for Gahoe. From there was easy, I called a friend to pick us and we were home. With absolute delight I saw smoke from my chimney, Yong Ran was obviously informed of our arrival and she was heating the floor in my room. But noone of them was home so we just drank all our beers. They arrived around 10 PM and we started drinking with Sang Pyeong - drinking my brother's homemade poison, a special gift from Sveronia. The shit has some 60% of alcohol, probably more. We emptied the bottle. And that was really really bad because next morning I woke up late. I had Korean lessons that day. So I grabbed the computer and ran like hell. I was still almost 15 minutes late and the worst thing is that I was still drunk. Heavily drunk. I felt like shit and looked much worse - she noticed immediately that something's wrong with me so I just apologized and told her the drinking story. She acknowledged that doing anything in such a state would be a total waste of time. Instead of studying I went to work, there was a heating system to build, the Japanese friend with me. In a way we were happy that we already have some work to do, it means that we will stop drinking and be useful.
Such a nice dream it was... Yes, we indeed were working all the day, but we were drinking all the time, too. Soju, beer, makkoli - you name it. I realized how drunk I am only when I left one hour earlier than the others, I invited everyone for dinner so I went cooking, and Sang Pyeong gave me his car to drive home. Luckily I survived. The dinner was a nightmare of fun. In the end we were in 18 in my miniature room, laughing all the time because even the most skillful yoga master was hitting his neighbor's chopsticks with his knees, I was in pain all the time and everybody was taking pictures of this mess. My camera was in the opposite corner of the room, to reach it - Mission Impossible. The soju, beer and makkoli in daytime wasn't enough - folks that I saw first time brought some sweet raspberry wine, supposed to be the Korean fuck wine. At least so the folklore goes.
Next day I woke up still drunk. Yeah, I know, this post is so boring. But this day we were safe - or so we thought - because the guys finished the heating alone. It was a nice boring day, then evening came. And the invitation for dinner to celebrate the finished work. Dinner? It was a fucking party. Two boxes of soju and two of beer. Barbequed bamboo sticks stuffed with meat and kimchi. A lot of toasts and quaffing. I was done. Next morning Korean lessons were waiting for me.
Ah, more about copmuters. I bought a "wifi booster", a USB antenna to have a better reception here. It works smooth, but I had to install a program to make it work. In Korean, of course. Well, not really. If it was Korean, it would take me some time but everything would be fine. In this case, it wasn't showing the Korean characters. It was the hardest decision in my life...

And I got another computer to fix (or to use for spare parts). Only this was so dirty that I had to disassemble it outside and it was such a funny picture with the cows and hens staring at me that the Japanese just took it.

sobota, 26. november 2011

The Lousy Spy

Have I told already that Korea is the land of magic? Miracles happen all the time. The last was my miracolous healing, unbelieveable.
After the wedding I started to feel really bad, I tought I've caught some nasty fever because I was shivering all the time. I was freezing and I felt comfortable only in my hot bed. It went on for two days then in the morning of the third day I saw little Guryun playing with something shiny in the yard. It was a big piece of ice. Ice? Where from? You really don't know? It's already three days we're getting way sub zero! I instantly decided to stop wearing sandals, India style hippy trousers and T shirts and to put on some decent warm clothes. A miracle! I was healed in a second, I felt absolutely no cold! It's a land of wonders, I tell you!
Now, about the title. It's me, I am the lousy spy. I was discovered to be a North Korean spy when we were making ginger tea. Kyong Hee spotted me immediately. While everybody was picking the ginger at a slow, comfortable pace, I rushed through the field like I learned when picking radish. Then she assumed that the communist former Yugoslavia had strong ties with N Korea and all the rest was obvious. I had no other choice but to admit everything (only later I found out that the real NK spy is Sungbae, you know, Tiger, but that's another story).
Two days ago we were planning the study schedule with Eun Shil, my teacher, and she mentioned that on saturday she's going to be very busy making kimchi. Now I know how enlightenment must look like. Of course I offered my help, I always help her to thank her for her time and effort in teaching. Only this time it was with a more selfish motivation. To see the way she is making it. To find out if she uses any secret ingredients or techniques. Informations are power. I was sure it will be like with the heating systems, every master of a trade has his secrets.
So this morning I merrily fed the cows, hens and dogs, skipped breakfast, took my camera and was ready for the mission "Kimchi". In front of her house the cabbage, cut in halves, was rinsing. She uses a different way to make it tender, not like the one I know from Gangwon-do or that you find in every web recipe for making kimchi. But before we started I had to make some Italian coffee and over the cups we engaged a technical discussion on kimchi making. When she started talking about the "sauce" or the "filling" or call it whatever you want, I almost fainted. It was all already done. Some ingredients were made months ago. Yesterday she cooked another few.

Ehm... so what are we gonna do today? How what, we'll be making kimchi today!
And so it was. Fill the cabbages, put them in the big clay jars outside and before lunch we were done. Maybe it's childish but I was sort of proud when she left me for making lunch to work unsupervised. We had some freshly made kimchi with lunch and I took some home. It tastes... like a fairy tale. I really love it fresh but I was advised to eat it as fast as possible, it will remain deliciously tasty for one or two days more, then it will become unedible for the next few months when it will be finally ripe and delicious again.

I didn't learn any great secret but eventually I found out how Korean cabbage looks like. I mean the real, the really Korean one. Today we used three varieties of cabbage. Two were the sort of the now popular and known in the west as the napa cabbage or, more commonly, Chinese cabbage. In a way I understand why this name is pissing of Koreans. They don't care that the scientific name is Rapa pekinensis (= from Beijing) and they swear that it's Korean cabbage. sadly they don't even know how the real Korean cabbage looks like. At first I didn't want to believe it's cabbage, it actually looked more like leaves of raddish or some huge dandelion leaves. That one we didn't taste yet. I can't wait till it will be ready!

nedelja, 20. november 2011

Wedding Day

Yesterday it was, today is hangover day. A nasty cruel hangover after all the beer, the soju and the so-mek, the soju-beer screwdriver. But hey, I had to drink twice as much as I would normally do - it was a double wedding! Two friends got married, 경희 and 동순. Here they are with the grooms, all still unmarried, but not for very long.

Girls ready to pave the way of the newly wedded with flowers.

With families:

And then came the food and streams of beer and waterfalls of soju.

Too much drink? Here they look just like thinking "My God, what have I done..."

Actually there was too much drinking. When I went out for a smoke, 경희 came to call me because it was time for "beating the drum". I swear I tought it's gonna be some musical performance, I just love drums, but when I entered I saw that the "drums" are the fresh husbands, neatly tied on the table, and the people fighting for the stick as who's gonna be the first to beat them on the soles. By the way they were whining I could guess it must hurt pretty much. Maybe I should reconsider my dreams about a marriage in Korea.

Probably the soju and the pain were enough to drive him crazy. I wonder if his wife was proud of him, but for sure everyone was having fun when he was dancing on the table.

All the soju also had strange effects on me. I ended playing football with the kids. Seriously, I'm not kidding you. Yes, I was playing football. And had fun, too. I guess this is why today I woke up with a headache and a very upset stomach. I fried some kimchi to tame it and went back to sleep till lunch. I don't know how I will survive a drinking contest that will be held here next month. I was challenged by a friend, first to drink soju but I gave up when I heard he can drink 4 liters. I will try to beat him on beer, he can do "only" 10 liters.