Goodbye

First, a quick obit: Dakota Dunlap McKee is dead. He drove his motorcycle into the sea and forgot to get off in time. Oops.

Now that I am finally going the sadness has affected me. I spent the last three hours being very emotional and nostalgic on the couch of my hotel room. Reflecting can quickly turn into brooding under the right conditions.

I’ll start by sharing what my friend Jonny said last week; everyone on Jeju has an expiration date, and you won’t know necessarily until it happens, but it happens. And mine happened. It happened very definitively, I spent the last week or in state of semi-conscious floor hugging, not accomplishing very much.

You’ll know it’s time to go when it the moment comes. It has nothing to do with the people there. You just lose your sense of adventure, of purpose, of vigor. Maybe excitement most of all. The gas tank is empty.

Thirteen months is a long time. I have a lot of excellent new friends and writing material. Some people are welcome to come visit Albany New York, or wherever I happen to be (traveling within the next 2-3 months is a priority), but not all at once.

I’ll have plenty of time to reflect on what I left behind, but for now here some things I will miss:

*my poker posse, who gave me the gift of brotherly love and protected me from the full consequences of drunk belligerence. Jonny, Taylor, Bob, Ptolemy, and all the groupies. You guys take care of yourself, watch your diet, and things should be fine.

*Canadians. I’m probably not going to see another Canadian for at least several months, until I have my shit together and am ready to go mobile. Montreal is pretty close, there’s a nice casino there. On the other hand, you never know, Canadians can be so tricksy. They look and sound so similar, they could be hiding in the bushes outside my house and I would just think they were normal American creepy people.

*My other friends, the active social life in general. Back home, I’m going to have to drive a car, or jog five miles, just to see a person. I’m going to have to follow rules again, I have to remember that cops and business owners in the US speak English again. I can’t just sit down in a cafe and play their piano or take my pants off or do something like that. I’m pretty sure I’ll be longing for the college-party atmosphere by this weekend. Albany is…a quiet place.

*Sports. Nice weather. Properly portioned meals. I’m going to have to fight to stay both active and healthy back home. I’m going to be living again in a place where the every aisle of the supermarket beckons with goodies that will go straight to the thighs. Fancy cheese! Fancy cheese CURDS! Sugar cereal! Organic sugar cereal! Ben and Jerry’s ice cream! Corned beef! Corned beef ice cream! Bread.

BREEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD.

*Outback steakhouse-as-a-fancy-date-restaurant. Back home, the Outback is just going to be another shitty chain that inexplicably is packed on a Friday night.

*The lamb curry at Bagdad’s.

*The loud sex in my apartment. Back home, not only will there be only one occupant of my bedroom (1.5 if you count my family dog) but the only people who can complain about the noise are my parents and I won’t give a shit. Back in the states, the sex is very quiet.

*Speaking of which, I’m going to miss being able to dump on my landlord. My new landlords speak English, probably read the blog, and can deprive me of food and television if I’m not careful.

*My motorcycle.

Okay, to be continued. Next time with pictures?

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Top Ten Jeju Moments nos 1-4.

4. AARON’S BAD REPUTATION

Loud sex all night?!?!?! Ugh

My bad reputation makes

me feel lonely. *sigh*

 

3. RESCUING ONYA

I see a dog but

landlord sees who-the-fuck-knows.

I’m the better man.

 

2. UDO ISLAND ACCIDENTALLY EXTREME STUNT MOMENT

Car in the water!

Lesson: “don’t help your friends.” What????

Comedy gold? Yes.

 

1. HAIKU DEATH BATTLE

Ladies listen up:

I have a cape and scepter.

It’s good to be king.

Top Ten Jeju Moments Nos 5-7

7. THE BANK LOCK-IN

Trapped in a bank! Nooooooooooo.

I peed on a plant. Police

came and laughed at me.

 

6. SPORTZ

Ten volleyball games

Eight burritos, Captain Q

Fun times on the beach.

 

5. SHOW DOWN AT JANE’S GROOVE

It’s a hat! Who’s hat?

Mine! Don’t bite the hand that feeds you,

Bite the one that chokes.

 

In other news, I am going home in less than a week. I have had too much time on my hands to reflect on my experience here, some good, some bad.

I might make one more happy list after I finish this happy list.

My ‘big project’ for this week and the month of October, asides from moving on to the next adventure, will be to try to turn my year here/blog into some kind of writing piece, or many. Memoir/novel, play, tv show, etc. Will be fun. Maybe. Sometimes writing is fun, sometimes it is a chore.

 

 

Top Ten Jeju Moments Nos 8-10

As the reigning Haiku Death Battle champion, I think it may be appropriate to compose these all in haiku format. Here we go:

 

10. THE 500 WON POKER CHOKE-HOLD (aka my first fight ever)

I put my hand in

his money bag, he put his

hand around my throat.

 

9. DINOSAUR WORLD

A land forgotten,

By time, and developers,

I am a raptor.

 

8.  JEJU HANNUKAH PARTY

I cut potatoes

at 5 am, next day they

get fried. Thanks Charlotte.

 

C is for Cookie

One week left.

Yesterday was a very busy day. I played soccer, probably my last endeavor into competitive sports on this island. I didn’t hit the ball very much, in fact most of the time I felt like I was a spectator who was allowed to watch the game from inside the field and nobody seemed to notice.

I kicked somebody’s leg a few times and they collapsed and grabbed their shins like they do on the TV. I hate this. This is like when people make bad bluffs in poker. They saw professionals doing it on the TV so they think this is what you are supposed to do.

Professional soccer athletes get paid so much because they are exceptional actors. Also, they have big muscly legs and when they kick people it hurts. I don’t think I hurt people like that.

I will have plenty of time to practice my sporting skills when I get home, so in three years or whenever I am next in a location of sportiness I can make a better impression.

A contingent of Jeju soccer people will be going to the mainland in a few weeks for a tournament. I wish them the of luck. Have fun, experience the joy and magic that comes from teamwork and discipline, but don’t take things too seriously. You know who you are.

Later that day, there was the Airirang Radio “Wonders of Jeju Open  Broadcast.” I had accidentally committed to telling a story on the show. The theme was “family”, and while I love my family, I don’t have any short zippy stories about family on Jeju. I ended up just talking about when my parents visited and fudging some things to make it sound okay. Some dude who talked about his engagement ring won.

Everybody I think has a zany engagement ring story. Or a nutty wedding ring story. And you’re not allowed to not like them, because it is about weddings, or true love, or something.

Anyway, the highlight of the radio show were the K-pop groups who lipsynched sang at the concert. I don’t really have any comments about the music I heard.

It’s K-pop, it’s so fluffy and insubstantial that if you’re not paying attention you might not even realize a song is even playing. Unless it gets stuck in your head.

Where was PSY?

The first group was a girly quintet named “Sunny Days.” Somebody in the audience asked them who the girls thought was the prettiest out of them all, which is a stupid question. It was so obviously the center girl. A good follow-up would have been “line up in order of who is the prettiest.”

The Beatles used to do this all the time. There was that one day when John woke up hungover and unshaven and Ringo got to stand in the middle.

The women did not excite nearly so much as the “ELECTROBOYZ”, a Korean rapping trio of dubious authenticity. Here is their picture:

They all have pseudonyms: I’m not sure which is which, but their names are “Maboos”, “Chakun”, and “1Kine”.

These guys are hard core metrosexual rappers. They know that you can be tough on the street and still have time to gel your hair. Just because the city is a dangerous place doesn’t mean you can’t look pretty.

One of them-“1Kine”?-is from the US, and actually attended Maryland University, somehow squeezing that in between his stints in gangland. Or maybe that was his gangland; I visited that campus, I could totally see how you could get sucked into the wave of crime that hangs over Bethesda, MD.

My favorite exchange of the day (this is a paraphrase):

Joe Kim (host): “You guys look really great today.”

1Kine: “I’M NOT GAY!!!!!!!!!”

I hope this is just how he answers all questions.

“What’s is your favorite song, 1Kine?”  “I’m not gay.”

“What baseball team do you root for, 1Kine?” “I’m not gay.”

“What country does Dokdo belong to, 1Kine?” “I like women.”

Also, they ended everything they said with “YEAH!”

Personally,  I think Inner City Hello Kitty is a match for these guys. Their tough, but I’m tough too. Here’s a reminder:

 

Later that night, I had planned to sing a beautiful and touching song that reflecting my warm feelings towards the Jeju foreigner community. When it turned out that playing an instrument and singing is harder than I thought, I had to turn to plan b, which was…”c is for cookie.” Which at least is factually accurate.

Apparently I was so good at being bad that I spent the rest of the night explaining to people that, no, the whole thing wasn’t a pre-planned act, I really did want to sing a nice song before I didn’t sing a nice song. People thought I was channelling Andy Kaufmann. I guess that’s not so bad.

It’s nice to know that I’ve done such a good job here that even when I fail, I entertain. I’ll see how far I can push this. Next blog post will just be a string of random letters and words and I’ll see how many hits I get.

Freshly pressed indeed.

 

Dokdo Belongs to NO ONE

There is not much to report in the way of hard Jeju news, so it’s time to get political again.

I would like to draw reader’s attention to the situation to the plight of the people of the Dokdo islands. For those who don’t know, Dokdo is a land of great natural beauty and rocky cliffs, similar to Jeju and with a shorter, though equally rich, history.

First populated in 1991 1965, this fishing and natural gas paradise includes, according to wikipedia, a lighthouse, a helicopter pad, and a staircase.

The island was in the news when Park Jong-Woo held up a sign saying “Dokdo is our land” after a bronze-medal match with Japan during the Olympics.

When the media reported this, they presented this as a dispute between Koreans and Japanese. However, what the media forgot to do is ask the people of Dokdo how THEY feel about the situation.

The reality is that, as the original settlers of Dokdo have developed their own unique culture and lifestyle, they have a newly realized sense of independence and nationalist fervor. Dokdo probably has enough people for a national soccer team. The countries battling for control of their land are considered by the native Dodkonians to be great oppressors.

I took this photo of a native Dokdo boy to prove how this crisis makes them feel:

The innocent among you may ask, why would Japan and Korea be fighting for control over an island that just yearns for freedom? What is their stake in it? These Asian imperialists wish to exploit the abundant natural resources the island has to offer, as well as to permanently enslave the people of Dokdo in a cycle of subsistence labor while they reap the benefits of the islands.

So before you open your mouth again, Mr. Park, think about the little people Dokdo. Remember that they think of you as a conqueror, not a fellow national.

Also, although never a strong believer in conspiracy theories, I believe there is much these governments are not telling us about their true intentions behind taking control of the island. What is hiding underneath the Dokdo staircase? A stargate? 100 kilos of cocaine? A nuclear fusion reactor?

Whatever the case, it’s time Dodko had its own say. Like Horton the elephant, I have heard their voice and I implore Korea, Japan, China, Alaska, and all other interested parties to STOP THE VIOLENCE and allow Dokdo to participate in the chorus of nations.

In fact, Dokdonians would prefer if people started referring to the island as Xurc-duj-Xurc, which in the native tongue of the islanders translates to “island of infinite dreams.”

So Long, Oedungdong

Today I officially become a couch surfer.

I would like to end my time here on a high note, but filling the empty space during the week will be a challenge. It’s not as if I don’t have things to do. There is plenty of nature to be conquered by my feet. I have to plan for what exactly I’ll be doing when I go home, which is still up in the air. I have a bunch of writing projects I am working on.

I’ve been nostalgic this week about the year that was. I’m not sure what I have learned. I’ll have to really think about it. Probably, when I go home, I will arbitrarily make up life lessons to attach to my experience here. I will selectively remember my time on Jeju so that it fits in with some kind of life narrative.

The three books I was reading have all mysteriously disappeared. I will have to finish “Miss Dalloway”, “The End of Country”, and “Assorted NY Times Wednesday Crossword Puzzles” when I buy them back home.

I mentioned this on facebook, but I am fucking sick of 9/11 conspiracy theories. I’m not a true blue patriot or anything like that, usually I don’t care about days of remembrance; and it’s not offensive for that reason, really.

What separates the obnoxiousness of 9/11 conspiracies from equally dumb ideas about the moon landing and the JFK assassination is the tragedy of the moment, and yes other countries have had equally devastating catastrophes and yes Noam Chomsky shit went down in Chile but none of these things are mutually exclusive.

It’s a dishonor to the people who died on the planes to use the day to rehash crackpot pseudo-scientific (the towers were big, ergo they can’t have toppled without a big push) ideas. Most of this stuff is also surface-level ignorance; just like the moon landing, you can spend 20 minutes on wikipedia and read for yourself why most of the suspicious theories about the day are garbage.

Also, promoting stupid ideas like there was a massive government cover-up involving multiple countries and secret organizations and probably Jews too distracts from the REAL issues, such as government transparency and accountability.

For instance, does it really make any sense that the US government would stage a terrorist attack, blame a group of people from one country, to try and use it as a pretext for war in a TOTALLY DIFFERENT country? Kind of a stupid plan, right?

There are real questions that you can ask about 2001-2002 without needing a conspiracy theory to help guide you along. That year points to many problems that remain today. How negligent was the administration in ignoring evidence of a coming threat? Why did the media allow the administration to be so lazy with the facts? Why did basically everyone in Congress give authorization to go to war?

This stuff is still going on. Even in “biased” newspapers, they cover what happens in government. Page 32 of the front section is still “in the paper”, maybe people should read the whole newspaper instead of scanning the front page and then declaring that newspapers don’t cover what people need to see.

There is NO NEED FOR CONSPIRACIES because politicians and company can get away with almost anything right out in the open because enough people just aren’t paying attention. They are too busy reading about how aliens conspired with Elvis Presley and Rudy Guiliani to detonate building 7, which houses a portal to the eleventh circle of hell, but the laser shockwaves accidentally spread to the Twin Towers.

Until people pay attention to what is ACTUALLY happening in the world, and not what is happening in some fun-house mirror version of the world on the internet, democracies like the US will continue to be disfunctional.

Backpedalling to the Happy Place

Yesterday’s post seemed unnecessarily bitter and angry. So I take some of it back.

There are many good English teachers on this island. There are many people who appreciate good English teachers on this island.

I would also like to disassociate the concept of Korean hogwon teaching from the experience of living in Korea itself. Living in Korea has been a wonderful journey.

A more accurate and politically correct statement about teaching here would be to say that…..

Well, after staring at the computer screen the only thing I can do is make a promise to myself to include some more positive reflections, and there are many, as well as some final exciting adventures. The volcano hasn’t won yet.

Riddle Me Sexy

How is a hogwon like a brothel?

Too easy, I know: they both want to hire you for your body, not your knowledge or skills.

Actually I take it back. A brothel has more respect for the skills of its workers than a hogwon. This is a big reason why I am going home. At this point I would rather be a prostitute in upstate New York than an “English teacher” in South Korea.

I understand, I understand, it’s hard to convince someone that even though all you have is a bachelor’s degree, you have value and knowledge that can be shared. I mean, I did major in English, it’s a little baffling that a lot of schools here can’t distinguish between someone like me and the kind of knuckleheads who show up  on this island with no ability to construct a sentence other than declaring “Obama is a half-breed.” (true story alert-that’s a true story)

Anyway, maybe it’s time to get a degree in something so I can be an expert. Sometimes I feel like an expert even though I’m not. So if I get a master’s or a PHD, then I can feel like an expert even though I am. Or will be. This is a long time in the future. By the time I am an expert, Jeju island will either be underwater from sea level rising or destroyed when Halla awakens from its slumber. Maybe Dinosaur World Theme Park can be relocated to a different part of the world.

Some sad news on the weekend: it turns out I am not allowed back in Jane’s Groove dance club, now or ever. My working theory is that they are anti-semitic in there. Readers take note: “Jane”, if that’s her real name, hates Jews. Even in a country as tolerant as Korea, I’m just a killer of Christ.

What a negative post. Maybe it’s time for another happy list. I can’t do 100, here’s just five:

  1. Apparently I told someone to go home with the ‘right’ person on Friday night, but I can’t remember anything. EDITORS NOTE: I was requested to omit some things so out they go.
  2. The lamb curry at Bagdad’s Café is still delicious.
  3. There’s a coffee shop with a grand piano nearby my soon-to-be-evacuated flat. I have been playing there, taking advantage of the workers’ reluctance to kick me off outright. They don’t want me playing, that’s for sure, they say the piano is for “adults” and “concert pianists only”, the former of which I am, the latter which doesn’t make any sense since it’s a tiny café not close to downtown. Who the fuck is playing concerts in this little café? This place seats about thirty people. I think this is either bullshit or just another weird cultural miscommunication. In any event, I’m sure their boss would not be happy if they knew they were letting me play so I am grateful for their generosity. Thank you, kind ladies of Ludwig’s café. Even though you don’t turn the music down from the loudspeaker when I am playing.
  4. I have decided that I am not crazy. Ironically, I came to this conclusion when Jane of Jane’s Groove insisted that I WAS crazy. It’s amazing how uncrazy you feel when someone calls you crazy. I’m including this as a happy thing because usually being crazy is bad. Being eccentric and offbeat is good, but being crazy is a mental disorder. In fact, not only am I not crazy, I wish I was a little crazier. I wish I saw invisible people or talking trees or could speak in tongues. That would make my life more interesting, and would make me a more sympathetic person. Unfortunately, the only imaginary person who I ever created was my co-teacher “Brian”, and he was a nuisance.
  5. Last night I played my first role-playing game, and it was a lot of fun. We were in “gangster London” and my character bungled a drug heist, killed a cop, and fell in love with a granny. Then I went to play poker and nobody was there waiting for me. I miss poker. Koreans should legalize poker, they would like, they would be good at it I think. There’s a lot of math involved. If I ever get another hogwon job, I will teach my students how to play poker, and how to lie and cheat at card games so they win. But I won’t teach them how to steal. Because stealing is wrong.

Goodbye Onya

The trip to Daegu was short and sad. The new family seems nice.

I taught her many things. I house-trained her, almost completely by accident. I taught her how to do a high-five. Hopefully she will become an inter-species ambassador, demonstrating to people that a dog can be bigger than your shoe, and yet still somehow be cute and lovable.

She is going to grow up into a fine lady.

I wish I could tell you more about Daegu, but I was tired, and the downtown area was ugly. I went to a chain Mexican food outlet, a poor man’s “Chipotle.” The only thing I could of to do was go to the casino. Instead, I went home and ate grilled cheese sandwiches nonstop at Winnie’s Brunch. A much better choice.

I went skinny dipping at Oedelgae last night. It was pretty tame compared to the first I did this, about one year ago exactly. Last year I was drunk and couldn’t see anything and almost lost all my clothes. This year I was sober and could see “bio-luminescence”, whatever that is, and I found all my clothes, and someone’s bra as well!

Returning to old haunts is making me nostalgic. Is that a good sign or a bad sign?