petek, 24. junij 2011

Blood, sweat and tears

I admit it, I'm being sort of "drama queen" giving the post such a title (or posting it on FB) and leaving up to your imagination what could have happened. But isn't such misleading the most interesting way of using FB?
And in the end it was all true, just like I wrote, blood, sweat and tears. We had some fighting here. Ko, a young Chinese, is the first Asian I met that actually fits the stereotype about weak drinkers. All the others I've been drinking with are normal or heavy drinkers that would put to shame many proud western drunkards (like it happened to me). To Ko is enough a pair of glasses of soju and he goes crazy. Not that he becomes drunk - like I wrote, he goes just crazy. I suppose that was the main reason for whatever happened. I can only suppose because at the time I was with Matthieu in our private cyber cafe in the nearby village.

When we came back first I heard a Chinese woman crying, then saw the Korean guy with cuts on his hands. Maybe they had an argument while playing cards, maybe some old issues, maybe just soju but Ko grabbed a knife and started being an asshole. Even if he had a large knife he was drunk and one against many so he had no chance. And his head ended shaped slightly different that it was, he packed his stuff and left. Seemingly with not much hard feelings from both sides since if I understood well they sent him away just for one week, to cool down a little bit and the guy who was assaulted was the one who drove him to the bus station in Yeong Am.
Oh, I forgot about the sweat. Since summer started also here, I was sweating like a pig after walking under the sun from the open air cyber cafe.
Second day of summer and it seems the rainy season knows the calendar. It rained all night long and it still didn't stop, it's almost lunch time. No work with radish. Cabbage yes, because they are packed in nylon nets, but radish goes in cardboard boxes. So we're not making money and we're bored insanely. With the pouring rain I can't even go to my wifi spot. But again something funny happened even if we're staying at home watching TV. Korean dramas or the Chinese channel. It was dramas this morning so at the amazement of all the crew in one moment Matthieu appeared on TV. Few weeks ago he got a chance for a well paid short shooting for a somehow popular drama and that episode was aired more than a week ago, but today was re-aired. In a second everybody was shouting "mechu, mechu" and we tought they all want beer. They just can't pronounce his name so they call like beer is called in Korean. So now Mekchu is a sort of celebrity for them - hell, he was on TV! And he was payed for it! The major puzzle is for them to figure out why he is picking radish now. Maybe the boss will start advertising that in his crew a TV star is picking radish...
This radish business is may harder than the cabagge one. For ten tons we work something like 14 hours with breaks just to eat breakfast and lunch and immediately back to work. And I move something like 25 tons of radish or so. First we do the picking and since I'm slow with it I pull out maybe two or three tons of radish while the others do it double. Almost half of the radish remains on the field for not being the right quality. Then we start packing and there I move again a ton or two in the boxes and here I'm the slow one again. When less than half is packed the loading starts. First I load the pickup on the field and we move to the road where the truck waits. So all the radish goes through my hands twice and a part of it four times.
Next day. No rain but cloudy and windy and too muddy to work. Tried to connect from my usual spot, but no luck. The wind was too strong. I know it doesn't make no sense what I just wrote, but that's what it is. I remember that when I was in Oban, Scotland, I could get a good free wifi connection only on days with wind from the east, otherwise not. Go figure why. Maybe it's the same thing here, sitting on the same bench, computer oriented in the same way, but the signal too weak to make any useful connection. So with Matthieu we just bought a few beers and that was it. And a bottle of soju to drink after dinner like a sleeping pill, we never know if next day we work or not so it's better to fall asleep early and be ready to wake up at four.
More about stereotypes. If you didn't know, Koreans spit everywhere all the time. If you say for a Chinese that he spits everywhere all the time you're limiting him in space and time.

nedelja, 19. junij 2011

Gipsy Caravan

I changed the crew and the vegetables, now it's radish that we pick. We look just like a Gipsy caravan when we move. Few days ago we finished in Jindo and moved a little bit to the north, somewhere near Gwangju or so. It doesn't really matter to me. In the evening we started loading the two pickups and a van with just everything that was in the previous (rented) house, including the fridge, kitchenware and TV. And working gear and food (mostly kimchi, of course) and blankets and so on - we left the house totally empty. And we hit the road and I couldn't stop laughing while looking at the huge fridge on the pickup in front of us. Now we're settled in an empty restaurant that by the looks probably closed a long time ago. With this radish team the accomodation is spartan and in no way crappy. And I sort of like my team mates. Again, mostly Chinese (two of them of the female persuasion), but also Koreans and a French. The boss is a tipical boss, shouting all the time and noone really cares about him. And after he spent all the day shouting and nagging and complaining how slow we are and that he will fire all of us on the way back to base he stops in a store and happily buys beers for all the crew. I started to imitate the Chinese guys, when the boss is complaining about something they just look blankly at him and smile and sometimes start speaking in Chinese. When he realizes that all his shouting is vane, he goes away. I have the feeling that the guys also like me (not the boss, he doesn't like anyone). When the Chilean guy gave up because the work was to hard for him, the Chinese came worried to me and asked if I'm going away with him. We had to drink a bottle of soju celebrating my will to stay.
And I learned some scarry facts about this vegetables picking. About safety. Clearly we wear gloves, that's absolutely usual everywhere in Asia, no matter what work you do. Just wearing gloves meaans you're working. But everyone also wears long sleeves or the working sleeves. I needed an interpreter to realize why the boss was first to firmly insist that I must - not should - wear them, too. Because when cutting the cabbages or pulling the radish (same shit everywhere) you slightly and slowly bruise the skin on your arms, which is not a problem in itself. I bet no boss gives a shit about your beauty skin treatments, the problem are the chemicals that are sprayed on the plants. Tons of them. Yeah, this is no organic farming, it's a mass production and I don't do it for fun.
To make the time pass away the guys play cards for money. Actually the women too. And the TV is always on, even by night. I try to do nothing, just rest. I found a spot with some free wireless in twenty minutes walking distance so I try to go there as often as possible, to the great amazement of my coworkers who just can't get why I'm doing it. Well, they're from another planet. One Chinese guy saw a Coke for the first time in his life only two days ago. I was surprised that actually still exist places on this globe that are safe from such shit products. Maybe I should learn Chinese, ask the guy where is he from and permanently move there.

sobota, 11. junij 2011


And my true hobo experience started. If everything will turn out like now is beng told it could possibly be the best job ever. A hard one, but well worth the effort you put in. In theory we get paid 50K won (each) for a loaded five-ton truck in a crew of four; if the crew is of five, we get 40K won. Simple mathematics. And two trucks daily is a required minimum and the average. Here and there you're required to do the third truck or the trucks are seven to tentoners and the mathematics is quite different then.
We're talking cabbages here. Picking them, stuffing them in nets and loading. First all the cutters attack the cabbage field with sharp knives and when half of the field is done, usually one cutter remains to finish it and all the others start stuffing the cabbages in the nets, three in each, so even loading isn't a heavy work. And there's the fun part, too. We have almost all the day free to do whatever we want. Because we start working at 5 AM, have breakfast at 7 and with two trucks to do we're over just before the real heat starts, we're back at the base for lunch. Yesterday we were back at 1.30 PM but it was a really slow day because it was raining. And when it wasn't raining it was pouring. But the market doesn't stop because of rain so neither we can.
Another good thing in this work is that you can work all year round. It's a moving job, we're supposed to finish in Jindo in a month, then we move to Gangwon-do and later to Jeju island and in winter we do polytunnels. I say "we" in the hope that everything will go smoothly (talking about money) and that I'll be good enough for the boss to keep me. It should be no problem if I disappear for a week or two to Japan or any other country and upon return I can continue the work.
As I said, that's the theory. For now I did just the training, the second day I'm here we're already off. So in the afternoon we're going to meet in Jindo with folks from other crews to have some beers and I'll grab the chance for free wifi, I found some spots the moment I arrived in Jindo. Crew members are mostly Chinese and the boss is Korean. In every crew there is a nuna that does the cooking, but with my luck I ended possibly in the only crew without a woman so the food is plain boring. I got spoiled in one day, the first day I was with another crew with a nuna that was a great cook and she mainly uses stuff she picks near the working fields. Yep, vegetarian diet. And it's hard to imagine in how many different (delicious!) ways you can cook cabbage!
The accomodation is more than spartan. It's crappy. But I don't mind and I don't complain. As Felipe, a Chilean coworker pointed out, now we're street dogs and our only goal is to survive. But even street dogs can bite. Luckily we're supposed to be paid every two weeks so this is the time to wait and find out how do they run this business. Eventually I can crash some heads with absolutely no remorse. I will pretend that I'm a reincarnation of some ancient Korean buddhist warrior monk (which is an oximoron in itself) that proudly slaughtered Japanese invaders in the name of the loving Lord Buddha. Or the reincarnation of Admiral Yi (which I already mentioned in a previous entry), that is watching the straight between the mainland and the Jindo island.

In this straight he defeated the vast Japanese fleet with just a few vessels in a masterpiece of strategy. My strategy will be to wait patiently for two weeks to see the outcome and then continue working or kick some ass and walk away. Maybe not only kick, they trained me to use a large sharp knife... Hope for the first option, sounds much better.

torek, 07. junij 2011

A step closer to the south

June 7th, evening
Finally I managed to sleep under the stars, after longing for it so long. The nights spent in the tent in the Iwanuma park just don't count.
In the late afternoon I was walking through a small village and was stopped by the elders of the village, three of them, a woman and two men. They were sitting on the ground near the road and they waved me to stop. Even after finding out that I don't speak nor understand Korean, I had to sit with them for a while and engage in twenty or so minutes conversation, of which I just have no clue what was it about. But it was fun. The only fact of which I'm sure is their age because they wrote it on my palm with their fingers. The oldest is 98, the lady 88 and the youngster is 72. As it is they were first attracted y my beard. Of course they had to touch it. The next amazing thing were my hairy hands and the next moment they wanted to check my chest. Funny guys. I left them and they were bye-byeing me for almost a kilometer, every few steps I turned just to see them still waving their hands so I waved back and so it went for a time. Almost until I disappeared in the woods. And found myself a nice graveyard on a hill and started coking my dinner. Since I'm almost pennyless I was ready for a sort of ascetic trip to the south, but this country surprised me again. With prices. Yes, I do know how Seoul is expensive, compared to the countryside. But this much? In Seoul an onion is some 1000 won average. Yesterday I saw it for 300 won. The cheapest ramyon? 370 won. Batteries? Four AA pieces for 900 won, I just had to buy them. A small pot for cooking ramyon? 1700 won. Ridiculous. So I also bought kimchi, seaweed, fresh hot peppers and some other stuff for almost no money and had a Gargantuan dinner (same goes for the breakfast).

Oh yes, and a bottle of soju. It's a must if you sleep on a graveyard, I always live small offerings of soju to the dead. And I lied down on the sleeping bag, just breathing and just looking up in the darkening sky. Very shy, the first star became visible, the others followed in their millenary performance, just like every night, careless about me, about you and about just everything. That's why I love them, they are there just to shine, to be admired. Then... the first falling star. And another. And two more. Frogs in the valley, a soft wind through the branches of pines. Then the mosquitos came. Also ants. It became pretty cold and dew wetted my sleeping bag. At six in the morning I woke up and felt like a truck ran over me and the truck driver burried my corpse in the ice to hide it. But you should see the smile on my face. Again a small fire, breakfast, coffee, backpack packed, sun is shining and I'm sweating and let's hit the road, that's what it's all about!

Korea, the hitchikers paradise! Just don't dare to come here, once they will start see hichikers at every corner it will probably become a hell like England. In few hours I came to Gwangju and I really had to refuse to have the third lunch with the third driver. How rude of me, I know, but I was just about to explode from food!
Luckily from Gwangju I called my friend to tell him I'm arriving in the evening - he was not at home but in Gwangju! Yeah, let's go around, visit here and there and so evening came and the beers also. Go to drink another one on the porch. The stars are again on.

sobota, 04. junij 2011

Running out

Running out of time, that's it. And have to run, to move, to do. Leaving Seoul tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. I'm just waiting for a call - no, for a mail - to see when it will be. Should start working pretty soon, if not this Monday then next weekend, but I'm hitting the road in any case. Ramon is flying tomorrow for Helsinki so I suppose we'll meet again sometime near the end of this year, hopefully. He's already packed, I can be in 15 minutes if I'll be in a hurry. Heading south, towards my work destination.
Today another afternoon out, first a ride to 명동 (Myeongdong), a crowded shopping district of Seoul.

On the way back we stopped again on the banks of the river Han for a beer in the shade of one of the many bridges and enjoyed the view of floating dead fish in the brownish water.

Can you imagine how crowded is Seoul on a Saturday? If you can, then double the people in your imaginationa and you're half of the way to the real stuff. But... there are some quiet quiet corners, like a ghost station... not to mention that it's situated near the seoul Cemetery...

Is there anybody alive? Hallo?

Oh yes, there is someone!

The crowd makes me nervous, but the huge and empty halls of the subway give me the creeps.
Have no idea when I'll come online next time. Maybe in few days, maybe in weeks. Maybe with some good story to tell, finally!

sreda, 01. junij 2011

A blog about my blog

Funny thing indeed. I just checked at some statistics about the access to this blog. And here is the statistics by country for the last 500 entries.
44.80% Slovenia
43.00% Japan
7.00% Korea, Republic Of
1.80% United States
0.80% Finland
0.60% Germany
0.40% Macedonia
0.40% Romania
0.40% United Kingdom
0.20% Czech Republic
0.20% Croatia
0.20% France
0.20% Sweden
Since I know that many "clicks" counted on my blog are results of weird searches on google, I took a look on the Recent Keyword Activity that showed this:
31 May 22:52:08 dag kleva blog
31 May 22:00:19 azijski spisi 2
31 May 20:20:00 spis ura je prekratka
31 May 17:55:06 spisi o življenju
31 May 14:09:50 azijski spisi
31 May 12:50:17 Co je to kimči ?
31 May 11:51:47 dag kleva
30 May 20:21:31 Lama Shenpen Rinpoche
29 May 13:59:53 presenečenje je uspelo spis
27 May 22:58:22 skice aziske sobe
27 May 09:17:41 iwanuma onsen
26 May 23:19:31 gojenje ingver
OK, some of you knew exactly what you were looking for. Others... well, some want to grow ginger. Others want to know what kimchi is. Someone needs a sketch of an Asian (misspelled) room. Most are lazy students that are looking for templates for their essays (Azijski spisi in Slovene means Asian essays). How disappointed must have they been!
But there has been a search that gave this blog as a result and of that I'm fu***ng PROUD:
24 May 16:01:23 岩沼 テント村 村長
And now, the really funny part which made me write this entry. It's the statistics of downloads. Not real downloads (probably there were some), it counts as a download even when you click on a picture to enlarge it. I wasn't at all surprised (and again very proud of this, too) when I saw that the most viewed picture in the last month was this:


Go figure about the folks who read (look at?) my blog...