torek, 19. april 2011

Iwanuma

To boldly go where no man has.... errr.. where no man won't... Ah well, who cares. We go. Probably because we're no men at all, just baka gaijin and proud of it.
Just yesterday I was friendly scolded by a dear friend that reading my blog or FB posts really doesn't look like we're going to do nothing but drink beer all the time and have fun. Till now it was like that, but from today on a little voice in my head stopped whispering and started shouting. It's the tiny voice that I keep hearing and for the last month it was saying the same things: Don't you dare to go there! You don't want to go there! You don't want to do that!
And the voice is right, the voices in your head are always right (except when the voice tells you that God is speaking and commanding you to kill all your neighbors). I don't want to do it. I'm even scared - not of radiation, not of anything of that sort, I'm scared of what we'll see there.
But I just have to do it. Not because I said I will do it but because a month ago I was very close and now I'm here.
I keep thinking about the words of Lama Shenpen Rinpoche when I told him that a Korean shaman helped me find my past. He told that now I have to think why in this life I was born where I was born. That I have things to do there that wait for me. I can't argue with wise men like him, I can't tell he's wrong. But I have a much more important question: why then I was shown the way to Asia where I found home and helped my son to find one?
If on this trip to north I will be of any use to those who suffered so much... I will know why I came here first two years ago. It will be worth. I won't be pathetic saying that it will give a meaning to my life because it will not. But maybe... there's always a maybe... it will give a meaning to someone up north.
It was a long and exhausting day in front of the computer - I spent 10 hours searching for informations since all of the relief organisations, involving foreigners, keep posting that nobody wants volunteers there, especially gaijins. But we don't give up so easily, we've come to Tokyo not for fun, it was just a stop on this long journey across Japan. After finding some promising phone numbers we asked at the reception of the Khaosan Samurai if they can help us contacting them and after three calls (they didn't even charge us for long distance calls) we knew everything. Yes, come, anyone is welcome, the more the better, foreigners welcome, just tell us when so there will be someone that speaks English. You can sleep in the park in front of the volunteer center, shops are open. But we had to prove our will. The last message was find how to find us and when you have your travel schedule call us back to confirm. They could easily tell the way there - it's not that we will have to travel on horseback or climb mountains - but it was a sort of test. We (well, the guy at the reception desk) called back in an hour with all bus and train schedules - and yes, THAT I found by myself, without any help. I found also the exact dates when public transport between Tokyo and Sendai was resumed. And the train departures from there to Iwanuma. Once there we'll just have to find a park full of tents ;-)
Maybe there will be no posts for a long time, I just have no idea how bad is still there. So just be cool, you know that no harm can come to me. And you know that I will not let any harm to come to my Japanese friend.
If you think that praying is helpful, please, do it. It will help YOU, not anyone of us there.

ponedeljek, 18. april 2011

Sayonara Nagasaki!

It's been a long week, made of long nights. Even the night when we left for Tokyo was long, it was 14 hours by bus.
Nagasaki was great as ever. It's just a place where you keep coming back. I don't know who's to "blame" for this, maybe great folks at Akari hostel, maybe Kentaro-san and his bar, maybe the liquor shop next door to the hostel, the red light district... Maybe even the guy who every morning at 4AM started his van and we were laughing from the bridge. Maybe Matsumoto-san who just asked if it's us that keep drinking all night long on the mentioned bridge. Maybe all of them, working together and keeping Nagasaki such a nice place.
And yes, OK; I have to admit it, it's also all the pretty, beautiful and extremely beautiful girls we've met.

Yes, we found the heart-shaped stone near the Spectacles bridge.


First some blossoms...

... and later some SAKE-BON! Even for Kentaro-san was the first time to see it.

That's how Kentaro-san hopes to see you soon.

Snowwhite and the seven dwarfs...

More blossoms, in a temple.



The WHAT????

Matsumoto-san: Are you the guys who spend all the time drinking in front of Akari?

Kentaro-san and his assistant performing on keg guitars.

In the next door liquor shop. They nearly started to cry when we came to buy the last beer and said our goodbyes.
At Akari they didn't cry, they were just laughing when they saw us with beer... again.


Night bus from Hakata to Shinjuku, Tokyo. 14 hours.
Tokyo, finally. Cocoon Tower in Shinjuku.

nedelja, 17. april 2011

torek, 12. april 2011

Baka gaijin N.2 comes to Japan

It's been another long journey by the sea, but I survived and landed in Hakata. Looks like I'm a lucky guy with ferries. I always get the ticket just when I walk in the Busan Ferry Terminal. Others, with whom I spoke to, all make reservations since at it happened to all of them that they were stuck in Busan for a day or two, waiting. It happened also to my Japanese friend a month ago.
At the end I wasn't alone on the ferry. There were maybe 50 people and, lucky as I am, I was the only gaijin. That's good, you know. Nobody's telling you how great are the States and how shitty are Japan, Korea and Asia in general. And most of the passengers were retards.. em, sorry, it was a typo... were retired. And that in Asia can be pretty bad because, you know, respect the elders, elders first and all that stuff. Well, I can be also polite and respectful to elders, but when they are so bossy and arrogant I just want to kick their ass. I'm not mean, I won't do it, but I would like to watch your face when you will be pushed away all the time by tiny grannies. And let me tell this: they do it for fun. There was more than enough place on the ship, it's made for 500 passengers. So at first I thought that this is maybe some pushing game but noticed that they do it with a wicked grin, not with a smile. Maybe is payack time for them, for being pushed all their lives.. but WHY ME???
I ate my cup ramyon for breakfast and changed my clothes. I now that travelling with a backpack is huge drawback for sneaking easy through Immigration and Customs, but I found sort of antidote for that. A nice clean shirt will do miracles. It worked when I came to Korea in February and for the first time nobody discussed my right to stay there for three months. It helped this morning, too, Im sure of it. They wanted to search my backpack, no mistake. You know, a backpack is stil a... backpack. Sort of suspicious item. But the way it was searched was more on the funny side. I could have been smuggling just *anything*, except a dead horse. And when I said that my travel purpose is hanami, the search was over. Have a nice time in Japan! Arigatou gozaimas!
Confident in my memory, knowing exactly where and how to go I almost died in my first minute in Japan. OK, I'm beeing a bit of a drama queen... but it could have happened. Yes, I was confident about returning to Japan, so confident, that I forgot where I am. How to cross the street. Looked left and proceeded, just to jump back in terror on the sound of breaks. I bowed, looking like a guilty sheep, to the driver, who wasn't leaning on the horn and cursing but just bowed back and waved me to just go on. Thanks man, you saved my life today!
I messed up again going to the bus terminal. My Japanese friend told me that The Hakata Bus Terminal is way closer to the port than the Tenjin Bus Terminal. So I decided for the closer and went there with a map of Hakata in my mind, but with memories of Fukuoka in the memory. So at one point I found myself lost, more or less somewhere between the two terminals. And I tried my luck asking for directions. I didn't specify which bus terminal I was looking for, in hope that I'll be shown the way to the nearest. And I was shown. I suppose the guy speaks no English, but he understood my question and just waved in one directions. Thta's gonna be crap. Asking at every corner and look where will be they pointing. I made maybe 100 meters in the way he showed me and I was in front of the Hakata JR Station. The bus terminal is just behind it, so much for my sense of orientation!
Yesterday evening on the ferry I saw in the Japanese news that *another* 7 M hit in Tohoku. Just hours after sirens and tears marked one month from the first hit. Now here's my request for all you out there that believe in gods, angels and stuff. Please tell them that doing this is flogging a dead horse. This is kicking the beaten guy lying on the ground. Tell your God that he is an evil bastard. And don't try to go on with some bullshit like bad karma or negative vibes. If you believe in gods and angels... well, it's THEM to blame for this. And more to it, it's YOU to blame for believing in such wicked creatures that come comfy just when you want them to.
As I said it was a long night, but Japan welcomed me with a warm smile this time. And this time it's the rest of the world that makes me pissed. So I will just forget everything and enjoy in the cherry blossoms.

petek, 08. april 2011

Hit the road...

Time to hit the road. Today left Eomsa for Seoul, tomorrow Jinbu, Monday Busan, Tuesday Nagasaki. Yep, Japan. And Nagasaki is the right place to meet a man that was born in the year of Chernobyl and then go together to Fukushima. Somewhere near, anyway, in the Tohoku area and try our best to help there. And please, for fuck's sake, do NOT leave any comments (or even worse: mail me) about the dangers of radiation. I've got enough of it. Mainly from folks that have absolutely no clue what a Sievert is and never heard that we actually all live in a radioactive environment (Natural radiation? What are you talking about? Radiation is only in bombs and nuclear plants! Period!).

I am concerned only about the moronic Japanese laws. To volunteer there you need a working visa. UK and US citizens must have a special volunteer work visa. Two weeks ago tons of material couldn't be delivered to the damaged area because foreign volunteers were not allowed to use fork lifts in Japan. You need a special habilitation, Japanese of course. Japanese workers were too busy somwhere else. An international team of medical doctors was not allowed to give help, because they didn't have Japanese medical licenses and they could perform only basical stuff, less than nurses (no offence meant for nurses, to be sure!). Little things that just drive you insane.

Why do I go there if it pisses me of so much? I don't go there to help the government. I don't go there because I love the Japan with the false smile and the pretty lie and the bureaucracy from another galaxy. I hate that shit. But there are not so many smiling faces in Tohoku these days. I know that a fucking smiling sararyman, working for the government in his nice office, can be so stupidly and stubbornly proud of his country, that he can forbid foreigners to help. But a man, that has lost his smile with his home and maybe with his beloved ones, will he refuse the help given? I go there because of this man. And that woman, too. There's many of them. I can help some. And even if I can help just one... well, even that will be enough.

Oh yes, there was sort of funny episode with WWOOF Japan... that pissed me of. As all current and ex members of WWOOF Japan I received their mail, concerning the earthquake with a call for help. Anybody near, please help and blah blah many hosts have their homes in ruins so they cant accept nobody and so on but they are all alive and on our website there is a list of hosts that can still accept willing workers and need your help blah blah. I tought That's so great and it comes in the right time! so I mailed to WWOOF Japan, asking for the list of the folks in need of help - their website is accesible only to members that paid the annual 5000 yen fee. Next day I received their answer, that my warm mail made them happy and for this they will give me a 500 yen discount for the annual membership. My reply was polite as ever: Go fuck yourself.

Back to the present, on some lighter note. In the last two days we did some blueberry planting. So I was mixing the peat moss with rice husk (ten shovels of moss, three shovels of husk) and the three years old bushes were planted in that mixture. Not exactly, as I found later. The first day my job was just mixing the stuff, but the second day I started to carry it all across the farm to help with the actual planting. And there I had just to mix the mixture, already done, with rice husk (ten shovels of mixture, three shovels of husk). Huh? Ehm, may I ask why is it mixed two times? Because it is easier so. Could be (in fact, it's not), but it's time consuming! I bit my tongue before saying it. Damn, did you forget you're in Asia? It doesnt matter the ammount of work done, but the time it takes you to do it. The longer, the better. Even so I started doing it my way, but without saying a word and only when nobody saw me. We finished too early. So I could learn some hanja characters. Chae Hak asked me if I know any. I started laughing and he laughed too, because he guessed which one I already now: one, two and three. Respectively 一 (일), 二 (이) and 三(삼). Then he told me that the Chinese letter for mountain literally means three peaks (the day before we were talking about Slovene mountains and Triglav) and it looks like 山 (산). And we started a guessing game. What is this? 木 (나무) Man? No, it's wood, don't you see that it looks like a tree! And this? 林 (임) Maybe two trees? No, it's a forest! And also my family name, even if now is pronounced differently. OK, next, what resembles this? 水 (물) Hmm... I have no idea. It's water, it looks just like a stream! The hard part was finding out how to write it on the computer. I found out. No copy/paste from the web involved, just hit F9 and hangul blocks will be converted to hanja.

Yesterday I was cooking again for all the family. Instead of learning how to cook some Korean dishes it always turns out that I teach how to cook spaghetti. Or how to make stuffed mushrooms.


It rained all day long, so no work. Spent most of the afternoon at the library and finally, as if he sensed that it's my last day, the network admin approached me. And asked me what I'm doing. It was hard not to burst laughing out loud, but I controlled myself and said that I'm just checking my mail. Yes, I see that, but how are you doing it? I look at him with an innocent face, pretending that I have no idea what is he talking about.

The story is that to use the computer in the library you have to log in through an interface that requires your ID number and of course I don't have one because I'm not a Korean citizen (yet). So the first time at the library I spent some time finding a way to quit that stupid application and use the computer and found out that just running it in safe mode does the trick. But then in the admin's view there was a computer virtually missing. Virtually yes, but in real life mode he could see that the missing computer is still running and a foreigner is happily surfing the web. Not only that, I installed the Chrome browser and also uTorrent. Next time I came to the library with my usb key with a live session Ubuntu system on it and I ran the computer from the USB (the BIOS was not protected; even if it was, but so was faster). Again, a computer is missing from the network, a happy foreigner is using it and the GUI looks so strange... I noticed the guy kept walking in the room and stopping just behind me, peeking over my shoulder but I pretended not to see him. Few times he wanted to say - or, more probably, ask - me something, but he never did. I started to pity the poor fellow. But what could I say him? Dude, you suck and this protection sucks, I'm no hacker, just a power user and I can do whatever I want with your computers. Does it sound nice? Of course not, so I kept my silence as he kept his. Until yesterday. I finally explained him that I run a live session of Linux and in this way I need no registration. He didn't get it. I pointed at the USB, closed all the windows and tried to show him that I'm using a different OS. He didn't get it. I rebooted the computer without the USB (skipped the safe mode option) and got stuck with that stupid login interface. He got this. Another reboot, with USB in this time (I didn't want to do it the first time to show him that his precious XP were still installed on the PC) and he looked at me in horror as the Linux session was loading itself. He just didn't get it. He kept asking how it was done. I didn't feel any pity more. How can he be pretending to know anything about his job? I almost said him that he sucks. But I felt that something else could be much more appropriate. I looked at him with a very very evil grin and almost whispered It's magic! And shut down the computer with a terminal command. The look on his face - priceless!

sobota, 02. april 2011

Mistaken, again

Still in Gyeryong, of course. Precisely, in Eomsa - myun. Not that it makes any difference for you who read this, but anyway.
I decided to skip the family ritual. Nobody of the family was giving me strange looks, but I felt I would be an intruder. I just don't feel as a family member. Not that I'm not comfortable with Chae Hak or the others, just the opposite. He is so cooled down that is almost unbelievable. To be polite I will say that he and his wife are not really youngsters - but she is so elegant and charming that for the first time in my life I don't wish her be younger but regret me not being older. And when she dresses all in pink for working in the fields, she doesn't look foolish at all. Just... cool. And she has such a sweet voice that gives me shivers. Today, after lunch, we were talking about food and cooking, my favourite subjects. Upon listening to my recipes, she complained, that her husband never cooked for her. He looked at her with a sweet smile and said: "Dear, but that is because I love your cooking!" So I promised I will cook tomorrow.
Chae Hak is a walking library of knowledge on Korean history and tradition. Yesterday afternoon we went to visit the home - museum of one of the most important Korean Confucian scholars, Kim Something, don't ask me the name.



As a devout Buddhist Chae Hak doesn't really like Confucianism, but since it has been shaping - and still is - Korean history, he knows almost everything about it. The funniest thing he showed me was the Confucian version of dice game. They didn't use real dices, but hexagonal prisms with cuts on the edges, from 1 to 6 and used them just like dices, for moving pawns on the gameboard.



Now, the gameboard is the fun. No, the game in itself is fun, from my point of view. Because they moved their pawns through government offices. The start was at the lowest and the winner was the first who reached the office of Prime Minister!
Probably there were some other rules, like stabbing in the back the opposition, poisoning the current Prime Minister and so on... no, wait, I'm making this on!
Later we went to another Counfucian University, founded by a student of the above mentioned Kim Something. The writing at the entrance proudly states that this school was among the 47 that survived an edict from 1866 which declared abolition of the Confucian schools. I asked why they were abolished... and Chae Hak, of course, had the answer. Because the students (arrogant aristocrat perverts, that is) had such a bad influence on the common people living near the schools, that at one point the king just had enough of it and sweeped the schools away. There were more than 900, just 47 remained.
This is the study hall. I really wonder how they studied in winter.



And this is another famous Confucian scholar, who hardly ever studied (in winter, that is).



As I said, I skipped the ritual for ancestors. I went drinking in a bar instead. It was a good idea. First, some folk invited me to have dinner with them. Then a girl invited herself so I buyed her a beer. Then the waitress engaged in some deep conversation with me, in Korean. The more I was explaining her that "한국어를 못해요" the more she insisted. So I just patiently "listened" to her and kept ordering more and more beer. Then two guys saved me, inviting me to join them in drinking, one was already wasted, the other on the good way. We had some lively discussions and more than some dead ends in which we found the language gap way too big to fill with anything understandable. The only way to fill it is with a loud 건배! and find something else to talk about. Girls, for example. Or girls, to make another example. (These are the Koreans I know, not that morons I met in Daejon. Probably they were some foreigners disguised as Koreans. From the U.S. Or from Slobenia.) At some time - very early, in my opinion - almost everybody left the bar so I had another beer alone and decided that I'll be drinking in this bar again. When I approached my pretty waitress - not the very talkative one but the other, prettier and with some basic knowledge of English - for the bill. One beer. What do you mean, one beer? Yes, you have to pay your last beer, nobody paid it. Again: what do you mean, one beer, last beer, nobody? She finally got what is confusing me. Your friends paid all your beers. All? Even those that I drunk alone and the ones I bought for... hell, can't remember for who it was. Yes, all. I looked at her in total disbelief. She laughed cheerfully, gave me the thumbs up and said: Korean people, good!
I couldn't agree more.
I managed to fall in my bed at three in the morning - so much for the early goers...
And the next day, to add to my misery... I was mistaken for some military crap. What it hurts is that I surely wasn't mistaken for a Korean soldier and there's just one other country that has soldiers here. Made me puke.

STATISTIKA