nedelja, 29. maj 2011

Hanging Out In Seoul, pt. 2

Part 1 was published on Facebook, to see it click here.
We woke up early in the morning, like every day - around 2 PM - and had some great food, homemade this time. Fish kimchi stew, tofu, fried green onions and zucchini, tofu.

And then a ride on the subway to the Traditional Village.

Lix, here you can learn how to tie loudspekar's cables - see, it' so easy, a knot solves everything!

Then coffee time at Starbucks

For someone it was nappy time in the Namsan Park.

And let's go to the top... but not with the cable, not follow the road... let's cut through the woods! Funny and fast. The funniest part was when we arrived on the top and we had to climb the fence with a crowd looking at us. And almost everybody was laughing when they saw me. Well, my tee shirt.

The story about my shirt is an interesting one. It says 나 미국사람아니에요. I'm not American, that is. And I think it's funny. That's why I made it in the first place. And also it's true. But in Korea people find it not funny - it's something extremely hilarious! They burst into laughter the moment they read it. Some almost choke if they drink or eat at the moment I appear. I love making people happy but I really really wonder why this is so much fun? One possibility is that they think I do not know the meaning and that I am American. So it would be a good joke some their korean pals played on a stoopid American. That's cool even for me, even if it makes me the retard. But actually nobody is making fun of me - they laugh at some stoopid American! And that's ultra cool!

nedelja, 22. maj 2011

Busan by day

First a stroll through the Jagalchi fish market

Not so interesting as I tought it would be. But if you have time it's worth to take a look.
Next spot for pretending to be a tourist was at the Lotte Aqua Mall.

Impressive tecnology!
Next, Busan Tower.

And Busan Tower with the Korean hero of all times, Admiral 이순신, one of the few commanders all over the world and through history that never lost a single battle.

In the park was held a religious ceremony. Don't know exactly what kind of, but for sure it was a mix between a Buddhist and a shamanist one. And a beautiful one, for sure.

And then it was the same again, like all the time on my travels... spotted by the local TV, just a short interview, please, thank you. I wonder if this happened because of my shirt which says 나 미국사람아니에요. Many people found it extremely funny. A shop assistant in a supermarket almost chocked on herself laughing.

And then another Iwanuma Volunteer came from japan and in the evening we had to meet a friend from Busan. We were waiting her at the Starbucks near the Lotte in Seomyeon for 30 minutes, then decided to call her. Where are you? At the Starbucks. Which Starbucks? Near Lotte in Seomyeon. No way, I'm there and you're not. Oh no, it sure goes the other way!
Guess what? There are two Starbucks near Lotte in Seonmyeon.

četrtek, 19. maj 2011

A piece of my heart stayed in Iwanuma

Even if I'm already in Korea, in the country where I really feel at home and belong to, I can't stop thinking about Japan. But not Japan generally, just about a place I learned to love and a bunch of people I started to respect, admire and love.
Fair is fair and now that I know that my blog is being read also in Iwanuma, where a piece of my heart remained, I must admit a thing of which I'm ashamed. I never liked Japanese people. I liked Japan, of course, it's such a beautiful country that is breathtaking, but I never liked the people. On Tokunoshima yes, they are way different, but on the main islands I found them so.. weird. But that was no problem when I decided to go to do volunteering. I didn't care. A person in need needs help, it doesn't matter I like him or not. As I said many times, I do not pray, I just do.
I can never be grateful enough to Saito san, the young man who literally picked Ramon and me on the Sendai station, without knowing us or our purpose. We just painfully copied the kanji for Iwanuma and tried to find the train to there, when this smiling guy approached us and asked where are we going. And he helped us to buy the tickets and showed us the way and said don't worry to miss the station, I go there to, I live in Iwanuma. And how amazed he was when he heard that we are looking for the Iwanuma Volunteer Center, his smile became even broader when he explained that he is working there and he called his mother so she picked us at the station and drove us first to the Center and then to the park where volunteers are camping. And we met the next morning and for the rest of my life I will never stop to be grateful to him. I know that folks from Iwanuma were and are grateful to Ramon and me because we were long term volunteers and we did lots of hard work, but I'm even more grateful to them and the volunteers from all over Japan, because they helped my change my mind and gave me a chance to make a new opinion about Japanese people. There I met a man that I respect way more than my father. Sorry dad, but it's true. And I suspect that the same goes for my son. And if it's true that even he respects Tanaka san more than he respects me - well, than I'm even more proud of my son!
I have loads of heartwarming memories of Iwanuma, but the highlight was one day when in the afternoon I was going back from the Volunteer Center, I was alone, I don't know where the rest of the crew was, I was limping, drained of almost all energy, the street was absolutely empty, only blooming trees and me, I just wanted to quit everything that same moment when I met an old lady going the opposite way. By my outfit she instantly recognized me as a volunteer and she greeted me with a warm "Otsukare sama deshta". Instantly I straightened up, forgot the pain in my leg, smiled and loudly and proudly replied "Otsukare sama deshta!" And I kept going on with that smile, working and drinking, working and drinking, day by day and I never felt better in my life.
And there I found Jinen san, with his poor English but a heart bigger than Japan itself. Jinen san, I'm sorry I was drunk all the time so I really don't remember you procalimed me your second father and Ramon your brother. Only when you cried at our farewell Ramon told me about it. But even if I was drunk I loved you and I still love you like my son.
And there I met Hiroto san, so full of energy and will, so nice and ready to help.
And there I met Okano san, so strong and so gentle.
And there I met Oohashi san, so funny but so serious.
And there I met Takeno san, who shared his loneliness with everyone feeling lonely.
And there I met Imai san, Takahashi san, Niwa san, Kazuki san, Yamaguchi san and so many of you that I just don't remeber your names, of some just nicknames like Green Man, The Firefighter, Chainsaw Man, Shitty Glasses, Manga Man, Zero Alcohol, Dynosaur, The Snack, Photographer, Little Neighbour. And of so many of you I remember just the faces but it doesn't stop me from loving you all. I know you all remember Baka Otosan from Sveronia, but I was one and you were plenty.
This morning when I was boarding the ferry in Hakata a man started a conversation with me because of all the crazy stickers I had on my jacket. And when I showed him my back that says "Iwanuma Volunteer 4/21 - 5/15" he bowed and thanked me for helping Japan. He was a Korean.
I bow to Iwanuma Volunteers.

ponedeljek, 16. maj 2011

The End

Day 23
Eight earthquakes so far, hurricane wind during the Golden Week, yesterday evening a typhoon. I'm tired like I have never been in my life. I walk like a cripple since I tore my leg muscles and my back is nothing more than a collection of pains. No problems with that. But today was the day of the Graveyard Shift.We requested it because we tought that it was involving moving tombstones. It wasn't. You think that all Japanese are cremated? I thought so, too. Luckily there were no fresh bodies, they were removed long ago. Our job was the usual, mud shoveling and rice straw removal. But no forks or shovels this time. Do it with hands. And do separation of straw, glass, wood, metal and... bones. Probably you think that for work like this there are special teams. I bet there are, but here is just so much work to do that it looks like a neverending story. My story will end in two days. We go togheter, five members of the Hard Cocks Team. All three of them have been here longer than Ramon and me.
It's party time every evening, not the usual drinking but we started with farewells early. Have you ever been proclaimed unanimously a Japanese by a bunch of Japanese people? I was, yesterday. And it broke my heart that I had to correct them. I'm Korean. It looks that even Asian people can't really tell the difference between them.
I go to drink now. Again someone brought sushi and beers for the volunteers. Maybe tomorrow I will be in better mood. Just no Graveyard Shifts anymore, please.

Day 24
Ninth earthquake in the morning, when we were waiting in the Volunteer Center. A long one this time, the tension among the people was palpable, if only one had started running out everybody would have moved like one. It was just a short break between laughter, shouting, cheering and similar retarded behaviour. We - The Team Hard Cocks - started in the morning with a competition who will have the team sign in a more stupid place. Now we have signs on boots, shirts, jackets and facemasks, on arms, fingers, fronts and asses.
This Team Hard Cocks stuff is like a snowball. It started as a stupid joke one drunken night and next day six of us were the founding members. We were nine same day in the afternoon. When folks from the Volunteer center saw the moral of our group - we always requested the hardest jobs and we were laughing all the time - they started joining us in the evening drinks in the park and one by one became members of the team.
Today we hit the jackpot. We got the hardest job possible, assigned to us by our Hard Cocks infiltrators in the Center. We had to move 15 tons of rice back in the cleaned warehouse. And there was no queue for us. When job assignments started The Dynosaur (our member at the Center) simply shouted "Team Hard Cocks!" and our bunch of morons moved forward. Other volunteers (hundreds of them, it's Saturday, mostly new faces) looked at us in astonishment. The briefing was memorable. Saito kun (another member from the center) started the orientation but The Octopus stopped him and started like all orientations start, asking if someone is here for the first time. Fifteen hands up. Laughter. Shouting. People waiting becoming more and more puzzled. Saito kun explains about the 15 tons of rice. More laughter, more shouting. Team leader Ramon. More and more laughter. We're so pumped up that we could stop the tsunami in that moment. We do our job so fast and so cheerily that the farmer is shocked. He starts asking about our stickers (and writings on the skin) and after hearing the story he wants to become a member. And he's fucking proud when he gets the sign on his arm.

Day 25
Tokyo. Waiting for the night bus for Hakata. Tired, sleepy, hangovered. And sad. It's the end of a beautiful story, a story of challenge, rage, fight, laughter, romance and tears. So many tears yesterday evening and this morning. Tanaka san cried when Ramon and I thanked him bowing on our knees. Okano san cried when I gave him a leaf from the Boddhi tree. Jinen san cried when I hugged him. A lot of people came yesterday evening for our farewell party. People I've never seen but they heard stories about the Team Hard Cocks and read a story about two gaijins on the Iwanuma Volunteer Center blog. They brought food and beers. An older man - never saw him - brought two sixpacks, specially for Ramon and me. And I was crowned as King of Japanese Beer, this time by a Japanese. Yes, the old guy did it. It was great. Because I knew that there are still a few hours to spend with the best people on this planet.
I laughed loudly when the farmer (of the 15 tons of rice) came with a box of beers to say goodbye.
This morning again lots of people came to say goodbye. Haruka chan came to Sendai to hug Hiroto san for the last time. And Ramon, Hiroto san and I hopped on the shinkansen for Tokyo. With beers. Since it was my third beer in the morning I managed to spill it on the train. Hiroto tried to catch my can and he spilled his beer. And drinking our last beer together in Tokyo, on Shinjuku Station, we coined a new slogan: Give your beers to the volunteers!
In Nagasaki. May 16th. I received a mail from Iwanuma today.
アッコです!今日で最後の皆さん、本当にお疲れ様でした。それから村長さんはじめ、テント村で暮らしながら私の故郷、岩沼を助けてくださっている皆さん、本当にありがとうございます。私は23日に岩沼を発つまで、ボランティアセンターでお世話になっている予定です。見かけたらぜひ声かけてください。それからFacebookをやっている方が居ましたら、AkikoSchaetzle で検索していただいて、ぜひお友達にしてやってくださいね。
Dag & Ramon,
Thanks again for helping my hometown Iwanuma! You guys are our legend at Iwanuma disaster volunteer center!!! We will miss you guys and hope you both come back sometime in the future to find stronger Iwanuma residents, and beautiful land scape. Have a safe trip to Korea. If you do Facebook, please find me and friend me and keep in touch. I will stay in Iwanuma until 23rd, and will go back to Alaska where my husband and kids wait for me to come back home.

Cracks on roads
Takeno san posing
Oohashi san admiring
Rahman san and Ramon kun
Free hugs from Haruka chan
Okano san very happy
The Graveyard Shift

Helping local kids
The oyabun cooking
Part of the Team Hard Cocks
Last day of work
The farmer wants team signs

After the last charge
Playing with kids in the park

Iwanuma Volunteers 4/21 - 5/15
The last party
Crowned as King of Japanese Beer
Last time for "team sign" in Iwanuma
Beer on the shinkansen