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.

torek, 08. november 2011

Brewed For Good Times

Kirin beer, of course. As I promised I went to Japan to drink a beer. Just to drive crazy the Nipp-otakus in other parts of the world. It doesn't matter that I really HAD to go to Japan (well, it could also be China, Hong Kong, Thailand, any nearby country for what it matters, but Japan is still the fastest and cheapest way. It was nice to be the only round-eyed on the ferry, I drank my beers before the ferry even left Busan and went to sleep, to waken up by the cleaning lady in Japan, all the passengers have already disembarked. It was my fastest trip to Japan, in subjective terms of time. Another good thing was that being the absolutely last there was no waiting in the queue at the immigration. I had the Immigration and Customs forms already filled and the lady officer was not at all surprised when she saw that I filled "Planned stay in Japan" with a zero. "You are here only to extend the Korean visa?" It was put like a question, but it was a statement. I wasn't sure if this was a good or a bad sign, but I confirmed. "Than fill it in on the "Purpose of visit" line, please." Just like that? And I put like that, my purpose of visit is to extend the Korean visa. "Thank you, sir, have a good time in Japan." Again, I wasn't sure if she was mocking me or it was just an automatism. But I didn't really cared much, I was already nervous about my return to Korea, if here was so easy the troubles are almost for sure waiting for me in Busan.
It was almost 8 AM, two more hours before check-in for my trip back. Since I travelled very light, no laptop this time, only my study notebook, socks and a shirt (and two boxes of cigarettes bought at the Busan duty free shop, a real deal, at almost half price), I decided to take a walk on the Fukuoka streets.
The weather there is a bit warmer than here, but the morning streets were in the same misty sadness mood as I was. Looks like the depression is still holding a strong grip on me, even if for most of the time I seem to function as a perfectly normal social being. Well, normal... you know...


The city was just getting ready for the day. Only few poeple on the streets, but the traffic was getting heavier by the minute. But so different from the not so distant Busan. Yes, Japan is another country, but is also another galaxy. The most impressive is the sound of the traffic. It's so quiet. And no honking, no impatient drivers. I wonder if attitudes like this are possible without all the other behavioral drawbacks that make Japanese so... different.
On my way back I went to visit some of my "friends" in the port. They have mostly already gone, only one was still sleeping.


The day brightened a little, so did I. And I bought that damned Kirin beer and drank in at 10 AM. And ate one onigiri, with tuna. My favourite, with one exception. But I suppose I will never again be called by a little girl to "please, come and take more of my onigiri". I wanted to go to Iwanuma, to Nagasaki, to Tokunoshima. At 11AM I boarded the ferry and went to sleep.



In Busan, to my great surprise, were no troubles waiting for me. And to avoid any troubles at the Jinju bus station in late evening, I decided to stay in Busan for the night, in my favorite hostel, The Blue Backpackers, conveniently placed just on the way to the Intercity Bus terminal. Few beers on the roof, some talk with a tourist couple from Poland. At first it looked like they are travellers, what not, with the last year spent in travelling in Laos, Kambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, China, etc... and they finally came to Korea, their last stop before going back to Europe. They asked me for tips where to go and I mentioned the nearby Gwangju with the tombs, Bolguk temple and Seokguram Grotto with the stone Buddha, National park Jiri san and the Hae In temple with the precious Tripitaka Koreana... and they were rolling their eyes "Please stop, no more Buddha, we've been in buddhist countries for the last thirteen months and we're sick of all the Buddhas!" Christ on acid, what's wrong with you? Next time you'll travel to Africa and ask for places where there's no black people? You'll go to the North Pole just to protest because there is too much ice? Tourists! But... let them be. They are far away from me, I'm home. Everybody was happy to meet after just three days, little Guryun was so happy that he bowed to me on his knees, but when I reached out with my arms he jumped in my hug.

sobota, 05. november 2011

Japan, again. Mudang, again.

The wireless is getting troublesome, looks like the one I experienced in Scotland - the signal's strenght was depending on the direction of the wind... yet another mistery for the geeks.
The ginger is finally over.

I wonder if the postman is afraid of the dogs or he just doesn't like the folks in our small settlement on the hill. Here is how parcels are delivered, something like 1 km from the first house. Yes, that thing on the ground -barely visible - is a parcel.

Few days ago I posted a scornful status on my FB profile about my trip to Japan. Scornful for the Nipp-otakus. This is my third trip to Japan this year and I go there just to drink a beer. Sounds nice, I go to Japan to drink a beer. And how does it sound if I say that I just hate such a waste of time, it will take me three days for that. And we have to fix the house for a friend that is getting married in weeks.
Back to the Nipp-otaku topic. I really laughed when I read the definition in the Urban Dictionary, it reminded me of... myself. And my son. How we avoided foreigners. Still, it was way way different (for me, I still suspect my son is true hardcore nipp-otaku). It was in Iwanuma, where else. There I didn't avoid just foreigners, I avoided all the "tourist volunteers" that came there just to show themselves. Mostly during the Golden Week. If I remember well it was the evening before the typhoon blew away half of the volunteer camp when we met some pretty Golden Week volunteer girls and we (Ramon and me) were introduced to them as Baka Gaijin and Baka Otosan, the crazy otakus from Sveronia. At the time I just gave up explaining that I'm no otaku. We've been there for almost two weeks, with only one proper bath in the time, so the pretty volunteers wisely decided it's time to intoduce us to their European friend, a true otaku from France. I don't remember if she is studying in Japan or working there, the point is that she speaks fluently Japanese and she knows everything about Japan. Probably more that the average Japanese does. She hated us from the first second. You dont speak Japanese? was her first question. You must be crazy to come here, was her first statement. At which we both laughed and Ramon showed her his shirt saying Baka Gaijin. She didn't understand what was so funny in our ignorance of the language, we knew. We've been working there, not conversating. She also didn't understand how we could came there only with a sleeping bag. We knew better, we have working hands and a will to help. Luckily we never saw her again. I tried to figure out how she felt. Like shit, that's for sure. You spend years in studying a language, you do everything possible (and sometimes impossible) to get to your dream country, you study (or work, I said I don't know) there and you do your best to be a Japanese more than they are - and then you meet two drunk idiots from Sveronia. That don't speak. Don't know how to behave. And are part of the community. That must be really frustrating. Oh, everyone was perfectly polite with her. She got all the respect for being a volunteer, even if only a golden week volunteer. Hm, not true. There were two volunteers who didn't respect her at all, but I guess we don't count. Does that make me also a Nipp-otaku? I don't think so. It makes her stupid, even more than her knowledge of geography (it was the first time I've heard that Austria is an Eastern Europe country).

Present time. Korea. It's summer again. Shorts and T-shirts, maybe something warmer in the evening. The insects also agree it's summer. Flies and mosquitos are swarming. Today I met another mudang, a Korean shaman lady. This one has no clue, she didn't realize at first sight that I'm a reincarnated Korean like the Gangwon do one did. But it was a nice session of astrology and fortune telling. Guess what, I'll be happy and will get married and have a house. Here, of course. As a mind reader she's a win, she told me just what I wish. For my health she was just a fail. As for my past... well, the sceptic in me keeps telling me that she gave so broad statements and general things that everyone could find himslef in. On the other hand the time limits she used weren't really that broad. Telling me the years when I was "out of my mind". Telling me when my relation broke. The ending win was when she told me that my ancestors were leading me to come here, first to Korea and later to this place. For me this was the aknowledgement about my reincarnation. For I surely know that my loved late father (and grandfather and so on) from Sveronia would prefer me being there and work the family vineyards, like my brother does. So it was my Korean ancestors that brought me here. Yet... maybe my dad changed his mind and he's helping me to be where I'm happy. I know he still cares about me.