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Bölüm II

Day two in Istanbul began with us thinking our flight was later that day. Thankfully, we had our days mixed up. Part of the reason for going to Istanbul was having the opportunity to see my, for all intents and purposes, first college friend/proprietor for joining my fraternity/mentor/that one amazing person you meet who changes your life for the best. His name is Michael Oghia, or Ogie for short.

Quick background on him, he graduated from UofL and went to school in Beirut. Lived there for a few years, moved to India and is now in Istanbul. These details are significant because he was my first friend to move away and attempt something much larger than himself. He has had an amazing adventure and whenever he would return to Louisville I did my best to see him. While we aren’t the best of friends, I believe we have a good relationship of checking in once in a while. Through my time with him in Istanbul we discussed the life abroad and the pros and cons that come with that territory. It’s a shame how difficult it is to express some of those emotions.

John, Ogie and I had a fantastic breakfast on a rainy day. We embarked towards the same area we were in the day before. We explored the bazaar a little more, picking up some gifts. We then took a boat across the Bospherous to the Asia side of Turkey in the neighborhood called Kadakoï. While venturing through these streets I walked into a shop. I was looking for a fan of sorts. As I exited the shop, my ears picked up on the tune playing. It was Cuban music. Pump. The. Breaks. What? Why? How? Huh? I was thrown off… Not two minutes later walking down the street I see a satirical banner with Hitler and a swastika. I snap a picture, look to the right and there blowing in the breeze is a banner with none other than Che Guevara’s iconic face. We round a corner and there is a Cuban bar. We had stumbled upon Communism central. Graffiti, banners, flags, posters. It was bizarre. Streets were near empty and fairly quiet aside from the Cuban music escaping the bar. Pretty sure I have some pictures of much of this – I’ll be sure to caption those photos when I upload them.

I enjoyed some baklava, although it was definitely not John’s cup of tea. The rain was a nuisance all day long and soon enough we made our way back to the Europe side. Let me take this opportunity to express how absolutely confusing the Turkish public transport system is. If it wasn’t for asking random Turks where our bus was, we would have been stuck there for more than an hour.

We made our way back to the apartment. I grabbed a Turkish hair and beard cut that changed my life – I learned how to properly trim a beard. Not sure if I already mentioned it, but Turkish men can grow some beautiful facial hairs. My beard was jealous. Numerous times I was asked if I was Scottish or Irish, and when I said American they laughed. One man told me I looked like a member of ISIS. Ruhroh. Needless to say, this prompted my visit to the barber. Our thoughts were – if they think I’m ISIS here in Istanbul, even jokingly, what would this mean in Jerusalem. My beard was pretty untamed, but I saw many more wild ones than mine both in Turkey and Israel.

One man told me I looked like a member of ISIS.


We had a beer with Ogie, his roommate Kenny and Kenny’s girlfriend, continued onto dinner followed up with some nargile. Nargile is hookah, and this was the best I had ever had.

The next morning, while snow fell upon Istanbul, we departed for Atatürk and made our way to Israel. As we found our check in gate, we were met with questioning. Nothing to out of the ordinary. We checked in, found our gate and waited.

There’s something to be said about a beautiful woman with a loaded weapon. Our Israeli flight attendants had looks to kill and “I will kill you” looks. I was writing in my journal on the flight and took a sentence pause to write,”Sorry, whoever is reading this sometime in the future, this flight attendant might be the most beautiful woman I have ever seen”. Prior to getting on the plane, John and I had been thoroughly impressed with the Turkish stock of women. Yes, I will take a second to sound like a pig, but really I am just complimenting them. I claimed Israel would be similar to some extent, while John claimed we’d see a bunch of nuns and hijab wearing women. We were both wrong.

The flight was pretty comfortable. I have to admit I was nervous when I arrived at the airport that morning, but after hearing other passengers speaking American English my nerves settled. Even on the plane, landing and walking through the airport in Tel Aviv, I can’t say I was nervous. More so excited to see what would be on the other side of the gate.

More on that shortly.

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Istanbul and Israel: Bölüm I

Honestly, I have spent so much time thinking about how to break this down for you, and I have little to no clue where to begin. First, let me just express how lucky I am. Thanks be to the big man upstairs for watching our backs in a somewhat stressful part of the world. Before leaving for Turkey, I was mildly worried about going to Jerusalem, but it faded quickly as I heard many other English speakers on our plane and around us the whole time. Not that you can prevent something from happening to you, but .. we’ll discuss that more later on in the story.

John and I had a rough start to the trip. We went out Friday night for some drinks and before we knew it, it was a little later than we had anticipated. When I went home, I knew I couldn’t fall asleep for fear of missing the departure, so I did the dishes, cleaned up and got packed up. The first leg of the journey was a connecting flight from Gimhae’s airport to Gimpo (in Seoul) and we hopped a bus to Incheon. Upon check-in we learned that the airline messed up, so we got bumped to business/first class. It. Was. Fantastic. I think I will have to pay for the space in the future. When your income is fairly expendable, it’s a luxury you can afford – right? I’ll just keep telling myself that.

Bumpy landing, but we made it to Istanbul. After passing through their ‘VERY RIGOROUS’ customs – cough, it was the absolute most lax routine I had ever been through – we were bamboozled by a swift speaking Turkish man into paying a lot more for a cab than we should have. But, how were we to know. There was no way to contact my friend or his flat mate. The ride was nice though. We passed over a bridge and were greeted with a lit up view of Aya Sofya and the Sultanahmet Mosque, better known as the Blue Mosque. Finally, my eyes rested upon what some speculate to be a Wonder of the world. Just as quick as they appeared, they were lost in the hilly terrain. We reached our destination and took a little walk around the area. Shops and food, Christmas decor, balloons, crazy drivers, amazing smells, well dressed Turkish men and women. It was a neat atmosphere – not really what I expected, but alas, not much of the trip was expected.

My brother Michael Oghia was currently in Bulgaria visiting a friend, so we met up with his flat mate Kenny. He showed us to the apartment and we went out for a couple of pints. Not the biggest fan of Turkish beer, kind of lower on the scale than even Korean beer. But, beer is beer is food. Having hardly any sleep at all, we headed back to the apartment around 1:30.

The next morning John and I woke up VERY early after being so very tired, so ready to hit the trail. We made our way to Haliç, or the Golden Horn. From there, we honestly weren’t sure if we were to go left or right. We saw a mosque way off to the right and went for it. It was about a 2.5km hike of very steep hill. (As I type this, I’m going back through our path to try and estimate how much walking we did this day… It was a lot.)

This first mosque was absolutely breathtaking. As we walk around the outside of Yavuz Sultan Selim Cami Mosque, we discover prayer just let out and there are literally hundreds of beards walking past me. My beard felt right at home! We weren’t sure what the protocol was for going inside, and at risk of being smited down by Allah we kept walking. By now we were pretty hungry and stopped a shop to have kebab – as if we would eat anything else. The young man working could speak English pretty well and was asking us where we come from. He asked us to guess his age. John guessed 27, expecting him to be older, and I guessed 23-25ish. He was 19. This man-child was shredding the meat off the skewer like a 30+ year old might do. We were blown away. He has one more year of high school and mentioned some of his friends have been to America. He joked that water in the US is $1 a bottle and here in Turkey it’s essentially 0.15TL or $0.06USD. He asked us why it was so expensive to fly there and we had not an answer.

We made our way towards the Blue Mosque. Insert several more kilometers. There is a picture I took from about where we were towards the Blue Mosque and upon revisiting that picture later I almost pooped myself thinking about how far we walked. We passed the Aquaduct of Valens and FINALLY, we reached the Blue Mosque. In all the glory, we were just agape. This time there is a sign outside explaining the process of entering. Proper dresscode, no shoes, no photos during prayer. We enter. Looking around, I notice…there really isn’t that much blue in here. Yep, you guessed it, this wasn’t the Blue Mosque. But, this was the first mosque we had gotten to enter so it was neat nonetheless. The Şehzade Mosque was quite spectatular. By now it was around 12:00. We made our way on and discovered the tomb of Suleiman the Magnificent. I have to admit, that was prettttttty awesome. The Süleymaniye Mosque is the largest in the city. It also had some captivating views through it’s courtyards. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYj1c7RFpZQ&list=UUjSah07LoaH6-t1XZWeJyLQ

From here, we discovered the bazaar. It was filled with literally everything. There was a store for various scissors, fake money, spices, toys galore, Christmas decorations. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gG2Kk3rtWmw&list=UUjSah07LoaH6-t1XZWeJyLQ&index=2 Creeping out above the streets was the Beyazit Tower, used as a fire-watch tower. We had another snack and continued onward. Coming out of the bazaar we got to hear our first call to prayer.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3pn3EwVy70&index=3&list=UUjSah07LoaH6-t1XZWeJyLQ   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oeiVvzmyRX4&list=UUjSah07LoaH6-t1XZWeJyLQ&index=4

And so finally, we found it. THIS really was the Blue Mosque, except prayer had just started so we couldn’t enter.  Would we ever actually see the Blue Mosque?!  Instead, we waited in line for the Basilica Cistern. It was an underground cavern with numerous columns (336). There was a shallow amount of water and fish were swimming. We didn’t use a tour guide or anything a single time, so much of the information I learned was from online research after we visited a site, or right now as I type this (heehee). It was built to provide water sometime between the 3rd and 4th century. The most interesting part would be two column bases each made from the face of Medusa. One is turned upside down, while the other is at a 90 degree angle.

We rushed to Aya Sofya because the museum closed at 4PM and it was roughly 3:30. It was unfortunate, but understandable, that almost 25% of Hagia Sophia was unviewable due to restoration scaffolding. Nonetheless, I was able to see several amazing mosaics and enjoy viewing one of the most significant seats of leadership in the entire world. We then made it just in time for the last entrance into the Blue Mosque. Luck was on our side. Admiring the BLUE ceilings and designs, this time there was no mistake where we were.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zf2LrtzJVnQ&list=UUjSah07LoaH6-t1XZWeJyLQ

We stuck around the area for a couple more hours so we could take some photos after the sun set. Finally we arrived back to the apartment, grabbed some dinner and hit the sack pretty early.

I guess I’ll stop there for now. I’ll continue on tomorrow. Multiple entries people, multiple entries.  I feel like I am forgetting things… We’ll see.

America needs an overhaul.

Good evening/day/morning,

It’s approximately 11:30pm.  I am tired, worn out, sick, and yet very content.  The past few weeks have been quite a lot to deal with.  I am not sure why, but even my coworkers seem to be frazzled.  There are days when I either don’t know what day it is, or what date it is.

I have bronchitis/sinusitis crap going on and I can’t seem to shake it.  I’ve gone to the pharmacy a couple times and each time it has cost me TOPS 5.0w ($5).  The medicine I would get in the US: a box of 100 Mucinex capsules costs $50.  If you multiply out the amount I am spending to equate my 10 Korean pills to 100 Mucinex, the cost is ROUGHLY the same, but alas it is cheaper.  Even more impressive was my experience today.  During my break at work I went to ask the front desk teachers what sinus was in Korean.  From what I found online 부비강 (boo-bee-gang) ((yes, I chuckled too – boobie)).  They looked confused, so I assumed I was off.  They say ‘Go to the hospital’ and I say ‘Class starts in 40 minutes, I don’t have time.’ ‘Yes, go go go!’ So one of the other teachers, Mia, takes me.  Start a stopwatch.  Walk in, walk to the desk, sign in, get my Alien Registration number, write it down, sit down, stand up, it’s the wrong number, we call the desk teacher, get the right number, sit down, stand up, meet the doctor, I say “Sinus pressure, throat, lungs, about 2 weeks” in reply to his broken English (THANK GOD HE KNEW ANY), Mia is sitting, he looks in my nose, throat, eyes, a 40 second process, he says ‘Bronchitis/Sinusitis’, I say ‘네’ (yes) because this is how I felt last year as well, he sits down at his computer, starts typing, talking to Mia, I’m checking out the nurse (duh), 20 seconds later stand up, walk out of room, I say to Mia ‘Uhhh no way’ ‘What, Nick?’ ‘Like…we’re done?’ ‘Uhhh yes?’ ‘Wow’, I pay for my copay FOUR THOUSAND WON, FOUR DOLLARS, we walk out, go downstairs, there’s a pharmacy, hand prescription, get antibiotics and a nose spray – the spray was 10.0w expensive….BUT it’s better than any nose spray I’ve ever had in the US, 3 minutes later they hand me a bag, I pay 15.5w, we still have twenty minutes before class.  So we walk to grab some food and make it back with time to warm up and eat before class.

Now, let’s recap really quickly.  On average, my copay’s at home would be either $15, $30, or maybe more – thank God we have a decent plan.  Other people pay much, much more.  I just paid less than the price of my favorite Taco Bell combo.

Mind blowing.

Today, I woke up really late because my alarm didn’t go off.  As I jump out of bed, I throw on a sweater, pants, jacket and my hat and run outside.  The sun is shining, but the ground is all wet like someone washed it off.  I’m so late I grab a taxi, but no taxi drives past.  I am frantic right now, but I notice the ground is still wet – is it monthly cleaning day or something?  As I look for a taxi, cars are driving by and I stop in my tracks.  On some of the vehicles passing by was a familiar white substance, no not meth – IT WAS SNOW.  It snowed!!!!!!!!! The whole taxi ride to work I was mesmerized.  Apparently the kids had a delay for school, and this doesn’t affect me in any way, BUT this means that MORE snow could occur down the line.  And it just made me so happy – but then I remembered it was 1:50 and I had to be at work at 1.  No harm, no foul because class doesn’t start until 2:40, I only get there at 1 o’clock for prepping and printing quizzes.

This past weekend John and I joined one of the Korean teachers at our hagwon for dinner and drinks in Busan.  He brought two of his Korean teacher friends who had very decent English and it was quite an enjoyable evening.  We went to a 갈비 (rib) restaurant.  Now, John and I go out to eat fairly often, it’s just quick, easy and roughly the same price of what we would make at home – except a restaurant’s food is way better.  The restaurant we dined at was the equivalent of say, Mussels and Burger Bar or Hammerheads.  A nice restaurant you go to on special occasions.  Except in Korea, these restaurants are along the price of Morton’s or Ruth Chris dot dot dot dot……… We ate like kings, and it was a blast.  Discussion ranged from our time in Korea, abroad, life in the states, stereotypes of different parts of the US, tv, movies, actors, and various phrases that the gentlemen had issues with.  These Korean men were very polite and a lot of fun to hang out with.  After dinner we went to a nice quiet bar, I couldn’t tell you where.  We sit down and say we prefer whiskey, so one of the guys orders whiskey for us and beers for him and the other.  Our Korean teacher friend was our dd – God bless him.  The waiter comes over and sets down a handle of Devil’s Share, a white whiskey from San Diego.  I look at John as though we were dead where we sat.  Bottles of alcohol in Korea are VASTLY overpriced.  But, we didn’t say anything.  To make a quick comparison for those of you who have tried soju, soju is very …unrefined, the alcohol we enjoy in the US is VERY refined.  This whiskey, was middle of the road refined, and it hurt.  I have no idea how long we sat there, but after we finished that bottle the 아저씨 (polite way of referring to an older man) decides we need a bottle of Jack Daniels.  I have a little bit, but I can’t handle it.  Around this point, I can’t remember…. I see glimpses of the rest of the night, and the best part was crashing onto my bed.  When I woke up I realized I had no phone, yet I had my credit card, bus pass and some other cards from my phone case.  An image flashed through my mind because the 아저씨 was making fun of my phone case.  So I took out all of my stuff and handed it to him trying to get him to get rid of it – I don’t like it either, it’s supposed to be red, but when I took it out of the box it was rose/pink… Yes, I get made fun of.  It turns out I left it in Mr. Kim’s car – and I got it at work today.  That was an awkward exchange.  Pretty awesome weekend, nonetheless.

Hopefully, this new medicine bounces me back to normal quick – I really want to get back in the gym.

Every where I go, I see or hear Christmas music. Now, don’t get me wrong – obviously, I am going to miss being home for Christmas, ESPECIALLY because the fam is going to Miami. Sorry, if that’s a surprise or something and I just blew it, but whatever. But, aside from the obvious, I am really excited to experience a Christmas on my own. I was thinking earlier today how I can go to church and then go to work (yes, I have work on Christmas), but I’ll also be playing Santa Claus at work. It’s going to be an exciting day, and quite a bit different than usual. It’ll be more fun to actually go GIVE Christmas cheer to my students and anyone who sees me on the street. The amount of Christmas music playing from stores is perfect – not too much, not too little, and it’s almost ALL holiday music I have never heard. Same text, different music. I like it!I continue to try and meet people, but the success rate is few and far between.

If I can find the time, more so the willpower to not indulge in video games, I’m going to be watching more Korean movies and maybe some TV dramas. If you have the chance, you should watch The Chaser. You can find it on YouTube with subtitles. It’s pretty intense and similar to something like The Fugitive or Lincoln Lawyer. Very neat!

I have a new affinity for Korean music, and oh my gosh, I’m in love with so many different singers.  I can’t say that I am understanding more Korean, but I am definitely recognizing sounds and words/phrases.  And that makes me really excited.  I hope I can start to really focus on that aspect of this experience.  There’s just so much to do, and only so much time!  It’s almost been four months and it feels like a couple weeks.I hope you all have a fantastic couple weeks of finals, school or whatever you might be up to!  I’ll probably write again in a week or two.  잘자~~ (Good night !)

And the history books forgot about us.

Good day readers,

How are you?  I hope you are well and staying warm.  In Korea, the temperatures are dropping.  Some mornings it’s 0 degrees (Celsius), but the day stays around 10 or so.  I love it.  Perfect weather in my opinion!

I haven’t written lately mostly due to not knowing what to share I suppose.

I have made friends!  It’s nice to receive texts and feel important.  I have a friend named Richard.  One of the most genuine people I have met, ever.  It’s so odd how quickly people here can make you open up – it’s as if I always knew him, or the several other people I now know.  There is transparency in who we are and what we represent and being able to share that with someone you just meet is very unique.

Last night we were at a bar and met some other guys.  Played darts. Won a round of beer, good times.  After this it was nearly 5am.  As we depart, they say they are going to continue.  Instead of going home, I decide to stay.  Two Korean guys, Richard (he’s Korean, also) and me.  We go sit at a restaurant, they order 4? bottles of Soju, some food, and we continue drinking and talking.  Well, I mostly just sat, listened and watched.  I am fascinated by Koreans.  These guys had no idea who one another were, but because they felt good vibes, they continued their night together.  I was asking Richard how is it that everyone seems to get along and his reply was, “You’re lucky”.  I am lucky to have met the right people.  Had these two guys been rude or something, we would not have been there, but it was awesome!  I didn’t get home until 6:30, but gee, I saw something pretty amazing.

In America, very few people are going to a restaurant at 5am to continue drinking and eating together.  Let alone four guys who don’t know one another.  The two Korean guys kept telling me I was very Korean and they liked me a lot.  They were a year younger than me and so they respected me as if I were Korean.  (Quick lesson:  Age plays a huge part in how people talk to one another/behave with one another.  If you are drinking with someone older than you, there are very specific things you are supposed to do [not at 5am, ha] and not do.  For example, you must pour a drink for someone older than you with both hands, standing. When you receive a pour you must hold your glass with two hands.)  When one of the guys was going to pour me a drink, I held my glass with two hands and they laughed saying I was older and didn’t have to.  I knew I didn’t have to, but I wanted to.  They got their way and I just held on with one hand.  Seriously though, real life.  That happened.  Things you don’t see in America – respect.

As many of you probably saw, I have lost a lot of weight!  I joined a gym and I have to say this week was a little longer due to the soreness, but my energy is way up and I’m very excited to start up Monday with a legitimate schedule (thanks, Reed).  Sundays will be reserved for hiking and hoooopefully going to church.  I’d really like to check it out and see what services are like.  More than anything I am still on the hunt for a choir.

Two weeks back I went to the music academy below my apartment to investigate music lessons.  I would really love to take voice lessons, mostly because now I am not required to do it.  Ironic?  Sure.  Unfortunately, the guy hardly knew what I meant by Classical music and offered me guitar lessons.  After thinking he was charging about 50000 for a month I said I wasn’t sure if I could afford that.  He dropped it to 20000 and I said awesome.  I had the lesson on Saturday and it was really great!  I actually played some chords! I’ve always failed at guitar so I thought it would be a good opportunity to get better and also, to have some form of music.  At the end of the lesson I discovered I had misread his handwriting and that the price was actually 120000.  I explained I couldn’t afford that and I guess I misread his offer so he gave me that lesson for free and said I could come practice whenever I want.  I now know how to play Am, E, and C.

Time continues to move pretty quickly.  I’m sure you are aware, but I have been gone for three months!  I am a quarter of the way through my contract!  I am so happy to know that I can move to the other side of the world.  I hope it makes for an epic bedtime story one day.

How to Grow a Beard 101 (mostly a post for dudes)

Welcome to class, gentlemenly dudes.

No Shave November is upon us, and unfortunately, my guide would have been more useful a month or so ago.  Regardless, I hope you enjoy this short guide to beard growing.

Let me start off with my personal journey along the way to full beardom.  When I was a wee lad, I would watch my father shave.  Mind you, he could grow a pretty solid mustache, but not too great of a beard (at least I’ve never seen him with even the semblance of one).  Around middle school age we all knew things were starting to change.  My hair began to grow in different places and it was just one of those things.  I guess the best way to put this is to phrase it as: my mom didn’t want to admit I was growing up.  So, they didn’t push me to shave my face, because once you start, you don’t stop.  For the rest of ever.  One day my sister was laughing and I asked her, “What are you laughing at?” “HA, you’re a wolf boy.” “What??”  It just confused me – why would she call me that, I’m not hairy?  I run to the mirror and basically my virgin sideburns, blonde wisps of angel hair, were very noticeable.  That was it, nothing TOO funny, but I had had enough.  So I told my parents get that shaving cream and the blade.  It’s time.

In high school, I would grow a goatee/soul patch, just because I could and my friends couldn’t.  Come my senior year, I earn the role of a king in the choir Christmas dinner and decide to begin to grow the beard.  I had no idea what would happen, I had never really let it go (can’t hold it back anymore) and just grow on its own untamed.

Somewhere in the recess of my mind, I told myself I had to believe in this beard.  That it would be glorious and everyone would love it.  I literally thought about my beard growing.  And by the time December arrived, the dude on my face was magnificent – for a 17 year old.  In all it’s ginger glory, which on another note – threw me off.  I guess I’m a strawberry blonde, but I digress.

Since that time, my face has been clean shaven for a job, but outside of that, basically bad ass.  I’ve tried different styles such as the “Franz Josef” while in Germany, the “Seoul Patch” on a trip to South Korea, the “Fu Manchu” in China, and the “Castro Beard”/”Guevara Goatee” while in Cuba.  I’ve done handle bars, stripes, half on half off.  It’s fun to see what you can do with it.

Now, onto the lesson.

I have my own philosophy on beard growing.  My biggest rule is no product goes into my beard unless I am in the shower.

The Primary –  The most important thing for you to do is believe in your beard.  You are about to bring another entity into this world and you must believe with every fiber of your soul that this will be an everlasting love.  Develop a mantra for your growing period.  Stroke your face as if you have your lucious dude already sitting there.  Begin to run through fields of wild flowers, drive with the windows down, play classical music, so that when the dude comes to full term, he is intelligent and cultured. As I mentioned above with the different styles, it’s important you show your beard you can have a fun time, and that you always have his back.  You do NOT want crustache/pube beard.  You need to take the necessary steps to ensure your beard develops as a dude and not a bro.

The Grooming – As you embark upon your beard journey, I highly recommend you train your face.  A concept that women use to elongate their lucious locks is cutting of the dead ends.  On a girl’s head of hair, it’s much easier to find where the hair dies.  For us dudes, well, the hair is going to be much shorter.  Begin by shaving your face with a razor.  I use(d) Nivea aftershave lotion.  Wait a day or so, shave again.  Wait 3 days shave again.  Wait 5 days shave again.

By this point, hopefully, you will see more hair on your face.  You can try to continue this ‘clean shave’ method, or you can switch to the electric trimmer if you are having some good progress.  If you switch to the trimmer, you don’t want to clean shave, you want stubble.  With the trimmer, your goal is to cut the very, teeny tiny end of the hairs off so as to let it continue to grow.

The Cleaning –  People constantly ask me, “Do you shampoo that thing?” And the answer will always be, “Uh…yeah, why wouldn’t I? I condition it, too.”   Invest in your favorite shampoo, and find a lovely conditioner you think your beard will love.  They say rinse, wash, repeat.  And that’s what I do.  I wash my hair and beard with shampoo twice, then condition it and I let the conditioner sit in for several minutes.  The most key part of this is the conditioner.  It keeps it soft so when the ladyfolk grope your dude, it makes their knees weak and you and beard can swoop them up before they hit the ground.  During the winter, skin tends to get more dry.  Beards do too, so to counter this, post-shower I like to leave my beard dripping for as long as I can stand it.  While you may think it will be funny to go outside in freezing temperatures with a wet beard, I promise you your beard will NOT like it.  Honestly, I believe the most useful information on this page is to believe in your beard and to actually, CONSCIOUSLY think “I am growing a beard” “There is a beard growing on my face” “I cannot wait for this beard to arrive”.  Think about the hair growing out of your face.  Meditate on it.  Listen to your favorite music and think, “Wow, this would be so much better if I had a beard to enjoy it with.”

If you are one who wants to try out different products and things, just make sure you know what is in it before putting it on your beard.  Generally, you want to stick to all natural ingredients (as with most things these days).

I hope you have enjoyed this short anecdote/beard loving guide.

Peace, love and more dudes, with beards!

World Championships

Friends!

It’s been a while. Last time I wrote I believe I was returning from Seoul. This time I write enroute to Seoul. I’M GOING TO THE LEAGUE OF LEGENDS WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS.

So, this, I feel, is a culmination of my childhood. I have been playing video games since I was three years old. Something that just dawned on me is that every part of my family has had influence on me and games. My grandma started me on SNES – Super Mario and the like. My other grandparents(or maybe my parents purchased, but the gift came from them) was an N64. Best. Christmas. Ever. Amiright? My cousin from my mom’s side introduced me to the drug that was World of Warcraft. All jokes/realities aside, that is one of the greatest games I have ever played. And alas, my cousin from my dad’s side. My homie. My best friend. How many Covenant alien scum did we destroy together? How many baddies have we killed in Tom Clancy games? We pretended to be gods among men in the game of Starcraft, but failed miserably. You can’t beat Koreans. At anything. Ever.

My most recent game has been League of Legends. It’s a free-to-play game that is now the world’s most popular game. The concept is pretty neat. You have troops (minions) who stream from your base every few seconds. There are defensive turrets lined up in three lanes (top middle and bottom) and both teams have these turrets and minions. Each team is comprised of five champions who have unique skills and abilities. There are something like…110? Champions with essentially 5 abilities each, along with the custom itemization. It takes a while to learn what could potentially happen, but once you do its just an intense battle of strategy and intelligence. I started playing last October. Much time has been devoted to this game, and I do not regret a minute of it (except for a plethora of losses haha). In North America, all the North Americans play together. In Korea, there is a Korean specific server that you can only download with a Korean phone number or SSN. I have seen the glory of playing with Koreans and it has actually increased my own abilities. When you play with people who are better than you, the learning gap closes really quickly.

This weekend I attend an event that many of my friends threatened murder over. “If you do not go, I will fly to Korea and murder you”… Yeah, it was a necessity that I attend. It might be funny to you “Why is he writing about some stupid game?” but then I’d say to you “Get your head out of the past.” Video games have come a long way over the past decade. They have led to many different issues, and resolutions as well. Addiction, health issues, and even death in some cases are all concerns to the extremist mind. But, games are also the complete opposite of that. There are games that provide exercise, games that EDUCATE YOU AND YOUR CHILDREN and you don’t even recognize it because in today’s society, digital media and what not are everywhere. Games are one of the best ways to learn problem solving, teamwork, and it can lead to a career in one of the greatest fields available right now. In my hagwon we just had a lesson on video game addiction. It’s a reality in Korea. But video games have been a lot bigger here for a few decades. When you have the fastest internet in the world, what can you expect?

The event I am attending is known as eSports. Similar to when you watch a football game, there is a pregame breakdown, in game commentary calling out what’s happening, and then post game interviews and all of that. It is a sport – in some facet. These competitive teams have a wellness trainer, lifetime coach and game coach. They eat well, stay social, get exercise and win earnings in the six figures. Like. What. Recently an American university started a League eSports VARSITY team. The kids are getting scholarship to attend school and play on the collegiate team. Other collegiate teams existed already, but they were RSO/club based. I figured with UofL’s budget, it could be something they could look into and be the first major university to set a standard. I mean, it’s only fair that kids who devoted themselves out on the gridiron get scholarships, just as the kids who devoted time on the fields of justice (League joke). Just an interesting thing and I wouldn’t be surprised if it gains popularity in the next few years.

Here’s a link for an example.

So. I’m rambling, but I can do that because hey, it’s my blog! Woo! This weekend is the finals. Two teams. South Korean and Chinese. I’m pulling for the Korean team because…well they are insanely good, but my heart wants the Chinese to pull the upset. Samsung White is the favorite by far. Only time will tell.

So. Over the past couple weeks I can’t say a whole lot has really happened. I made a Korean friend to help teach me Korean, but that’s kind of not happening? Confusing.. But I have some learning material and my students help me during breaks or before class. It is precious, as it always will be.

I began Scuba diving certification through PADI, the premiere company right now. It was awesome. I honestly do not know of any of my friends who scuba so if you do, let me know! In a couple weeks I have my open water test in the ocean. Crazy! It is going to be SO cold.

I started and finished a book called “Dance Dance Dance” by Murakami, one of the great Japanese authors right now. The book was gripping. And it lingered for days after I finished. Essentially, I think, it boiled down to loving everything or everyone you can while you have it so as not to lose it or lose yourself. Also, finished “The Quiet American”. There is so much to learn from books. And some things in those books that evolve not only as you read them, but also as you grow and reread. With this novel I started it on August 23. It is now October 18. Had I read it all at once I may have missed one of the themes. Or, is it that my mind can withdraw different ideas based on my personal life. I think it’s a little of both.

These books. I need more haha! I created a list of books to read based on where I may be going for winter vacation. Too bad Russians are such difficult people to work with…so cold. (It will happen eventually, probably next winter)

May as well share it on here, eh? Was going to go to Moscow for a couple days while on the way to somewhere else, but that’s not happening. Now we’re trying to figure out where else we could go enroute to see my fraternity brother Ogie in Istanbul. Yup. Going to Istanbul. And if I told you the possible new layover destination you’d probably say I’m crazy. So I’ll just wait until we know for certain. ;D

I finished HIMYM season 9. Dang. So sad it’s over. For me, it’s not a show I can go back and rewatch though. It served it’s purpose. Something’s to say about it, that I shouldn’t/can’t. I’m not a spoiler.

I explored Gimhae’s Royal Tomb’s with my friend Baylee. Beautiful. Just so neat! It was a great walk that culminated in my first homemade dinner for my friends. We had pasta, salad, veggies and this dessert I can’t for the life of me remember. It’s pretty nice to be settled in now. Not really anything unexpected happens anymore except for the Korean language.

Over the last month I wouldn’t say I have been feeling homesick (that has hardly happened, actually) but I think the realization hit where I’m going to be here for the foreseeable future. And the only negative thing about all of this is- that it is pretty lonely! Yeah, I have my friends, or see my students, but outside of that…it’s solodolo. But, yesterday, I had a really great day and I have no idea why. My demeanor with the kids has opened up a lot. We slow-motion box and fight, chase each other around the halls, make funny sounds, they teach me Korean, I teach them English, they pet my arm hair or beard or hair or point at my eyes and say blue, I flick water in their face. It’s a love love hate love relationship. After class ended I just smiled, it was a neat moment. As I explained it to John, his analogy was that I’d been trying to shift into fourth gear and it was just grinding and stuck and today went ker-plunk and off I went. And honestly, that is pretty accurate. So, we’ll see how the next few weeks go!

It’s hard to make friends, and yet somehow John and I have met the champion boxer of Gimhae, a member of the Yakuza, The Rock and Golddust, and last night I met Faker (a Korean League of Legends phenom). Now…the only one of these that is believable is the boxer – he was huge. I knew the guy wasn’t Faker, but hey, he was drunk, it was funny, and I’ll always remember meeting Faker. The Rock actually was the rock. “What’s your name?” “Darok” “다록?” “No, like Da Rock, Dwayne Johnson” “AHHHHH HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA” The English name he gave himself was The Rock. Easily the funniest guy I’ve met. It’s neat living here because so many people have stories abroad.

I need to sing you guys. This past weekend I went to Busan and met up with Coro San Benilde from the Philippines. Before I departed we sang through several pieces that I knew and IT WAS SO NICE. It was great seeing my brother from the other side of the world, Dino. And of course all the familiar faces I met at Sing n Joy almost a year ago. It’s crazy to think upon meeting someone “Wow, you’re from _______, that’s amazing – and I am so sad to see you go because…there’s like NO WAY I’ll ever see you again.” And wouldn’t you know… They were attending a competition in Busan. Their director Lorenzo, who, oh man..just an amazing guy, exudes love and happiness in every word and gesture. He has a blast with his choirs and was so very welcoming to me. It’s pretty neat having a friendship and professional relationship with someone around the world. They were all very interested in how my students are and what I do and just about everything. And it was so nice, just..so nice to be around people who care for you. *tear*. I can’t wait to go visit them! I might have gotten an unofficial invite to audition for their choir – along with a couple from Hyun Jung and Narae, haha. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see them perform, but alas, I got to see them and that’s all that matters. We went to mass on Sunday evening expecting it to be an English service, but it was very much Korean. Out of nowhere we start getting up because the priest wanted to bless them, and I was included. So sweet. Next step on my list is to check out some churches.

So. I guess that’s a pretty basic update. Lengthy, but basic. Hope you’re ready for a ton of gaming nerd pics, cuz they’re coming to a timeline near you.

One Month – Wait, what?

Happy Month-iversary, Korea. It has been a full month since departing from O’Hare. A full thirty one days of being solo. And boy, it’s been absolutely amazing. Buckle up, this is a longer one. Maybe go grab a coffee and come back, I’ll wait.

Ready? Leggo.

From the people I’ve met, even if for a single conversation, to the friends that I will continue this journey with, has it really been a month? Earlier today I thought about the haggard old Korean man who drove me to the Bus Express Station in Gangnam. Why? No idea, but he helped me – he was part of my journey. While I immediately want to think (as will you) “Damn, I haven’t seen my friends in a while, when do I get to see them?!” I have to steer myself away from that. It’ll be a long couple of years if that’s what I think every time a month passes. And to you, reader, I hope you are enjoying every second of your day because it’s important that you do.

One big lesson I’ve learned in a short amount of time is to be totally, wholly humble to what you have and work for. I was asked before I came here, “Nick, what if you just don’t like it? What if it’s nothing you imagined it to be?” To which my response was – I have an employment contract. I have an obligation to fulfill at the end of the day, that’s what it boils down to. But lucky for me, I could not be better off. I am so happy to be where I am and to have an idea of what I want to do for a couple years. My branch is amazing. My coworkers are so polite and helpful. I have a great job when I compare it to what some other teachers have. Get used to hearing how great this is, because….it is! And even if it wasn’t as great as it is, I’d suck it up and be a man. I’d get through it. But all the while, I would be respectful.

That’s one thing some foreigners seem to forget – respect. Koreans are one of the most hard working people on the planet and for great reason. Over the past week I’ve learned a lot about the history of Korea through some books, and more importantly several museums. I thought I knew some of the basics about the history of this land, but no…not in the slightest, and I still have so much to learn! My respect for Korea, as a whole, is greater than it was a mere 60 hours ago. Which I didn’t think was possible, haha. (3 minutes have passed as I sit here) I was trying to put into words the emotion I have regarding Korean history, but it’s just unattainable. I have a greater understanding of why some of my students take pleasure in certain assignments where they have freedom to talk about whatever they want. One boy in one of my classes, no more than 11 years old I believe, wrote a short essay on ‘people he wants to help’. He chose avenging Korean women regarding the terrible atrocities the Japanese committed against them. As I read it, my heart broke. I can’t imagine eleven or twelve year old me expressing something like that IN A SECOND LANGUAGE. It’s also disturbing when you consider that children all over the world may hold thoughts such as these towards past transgressors – including the U.S. because well, the U.S. is the good ol’ boy. Things to consider, people.

I am not a reader, at least not unless I was required to. Since I’ve been here all I want is to read and I find it SO STRANGE. Thank you, Geoff – I’m not done with the book because I’ve slow-rolled it so I don’t finish it, trying to make it last. I could have finished it on the plane, haha. I’m trying to start up a foreigner library/book exchange in Gimhae. There’s an existing one at the bar all the foreigners go to, but…it’s in a bar. Unacceptable. The problem is I can’t have a book sent to me because then I eventually have to bring it back. Same goes for purchasing books, to an extent. English books are hard to come by, but a place in Seoul called WhatTheBook delivers for free(I believe) all over the country.

Over this past week I was really tired. Every day felt so long and stressful in some manner. As I grow more comfortable with my kids, they are doing the same with me. How far can they push me seems to have been this weeks game. By Thursday, I was just giving X’s left and right. Three X’s equals front desk. Generally, their punishment is to stand facing the wall. Pending severity, they might get a cheek pull or hold their hands above their head (none of which I dole out, haha). It was a rough week overall. I’m looking to pick up strong this week. It’s frustrating when the troublemakers are getting the best grades. Or alternately, the one in lala land who lacks ability and needs to try, is lazy and non responsive. Outside of those two types, the others all participate and get so excited about it. It shall remain precious…for now.

STORY OF THE SCHOOL WEEK:
My kids were saying my last name. They read it as “Pehpeh”. One little dude, Tom, shouts “PEPSHI” and I almost fall over. Back in the great dynasty of the Shi himself, it was written that a Cardinal Singer received a Shi name appropriate for his or herself – from Shi. The Shi name bestowed upon me was Papshi. I make a formal request to the Shi for a potential name change. How could we not have thought of Pepsi (or as they say it Pepshi). Granted I prefer Coca Cola over Pepsi…but that’s not important. This is apparently what they are going to call me, after ‘teacher’. There is no more Nick – only Pepshi. How comical.

October 3rd we have a holiday break and apparently my branch manager is taking us to Busan for a company overnight. This overnight will consist of a lot of alcohol. Sounds great to me!

My coworker John and I are planning a trip for our winter vacation. More details on that….in the far future. We don’t even know what dates our vacation will be.

And I guess the moment you’ve been waiting for. My first trip to Seoul! EPIC. It’s going to be hard to put it into words, but goodness, it was the perfect rejuvenation I needed.

Saturday I woke up around 6:40 to shower and get ready, after going to bed around 2… Grabbed some breakfast and competitive-walked to the bus station. Online it had said the bus left at 7:35/7:40, and I got there at 7:42. The next bus would have only been a half hour, so either way, it was fine. Turned out the next bus was at 7:50. Good start to the trip. I also received the last seat on the bus. So it’s roughly a 4 1/2 hour ride with a 15 minute rest stop break(not the one Cardinal has stopped at). As I mentioned I’m on the bus right now and it departed at 6:50, just finishing up the 15 minute break (9:10), should be home around 11:15 since there won’t be any traffic – knock on wood. So I try to sleep, but it just doesn’t work. I’M TOO EXCITED! So so so so excited. Finally, arrive at the station that I said goodbye to a mere three weeks back.

Jung Hyun appears and I can’t say I’ve been any happier in the past couple weeks. Sweet baby Jesus, it was someone I knew! How many times tears came to the back of my eyes yesterday and today I couldn’t tell you. We grab a bus towards her apartment and go have lunch. She’s doing great, by the way. Her choir is going well and if you didn’t know, will be coming to California in a couple weeks! After lunch, we grabbed an amazing dessert – it was snow in a bowl. Simply amazing. Said it before, will say it again – Koreans are too cool. We then went to her apartment. Her mom moved up to Seoul, so I got to see her! So sweet, so so sweet. We weren’t there for long, grabbed her cousin’s car and headed toward the War Museum. En route I got to see the U.S. Embassy, Seoul City Hall, the familiar Seoul Tower, and Chungbok Palace, along with some smaller monuments. (See Flickr) The parking lot was full for the museum, so we went to the Seoul History Museum. Basically the history of Seoul itself. There was a large Catholic exhibit which was pretty neat. I’ll probably say this incorrectly, but Korea is one of the first self propagating Catholic centers in that *insert name here* went to the Vatican to be ordained, and came back and baptized everyone himself. Something to that effect. Not to say there weren’t missionaries and all of that. Even if I’m off point, it was interesting. The Pope was here a few months ago, which is why the exhibit was up or so we thought. While he was here he made some 120 appointments of saints and an even higher number of martyrs. (Numbers may be off, don’t judge – I have so much information floating around my short term memory right now.)

After the museum we made our way to the concert hall. This is when it dawned on me that this was an actual gift. The ability to understand music and enjoy it on a different level. It was like I had reached choral enlightenment. My soul (Seoul?) was parched for some live music and while the FaceTime concert last weekend was great, it just wasn’t the same. What a phenomenal concert. I’m sorry for all the concerts I’ve ever gone to and just didn’t appreciate. I apologize to all. This was one of the first concerts I have genuinely been excited for that was not my own or one from a favorite local high school (or those phenomes known as Kamer, King’s Singers, or Chanticleer) When you’re not in a choir, and have an opportunity to hear not one, but two, top Korean ensembles, it’s inspiring.

The concert was split into three parts. The first two parts were split between the two choirs, The Pilgrim Mission Choir and Collegium Vocale Seoul Ensemble. Maestro Lee. What a guy, man. What a man, guy. What a friend, pal. What a pal, friend. I loved the repertoire so much. His choir was very impressive. A bit missing on the bottom, but the women….oh God. Korean Altos (for both choirs) were just goddesses last night. The CVSE group was very fun to watch. And equally so, was their repertoire. Their conductor is another Yonsei alumna. Hyun Jung looked like a boss. Figures. I was so thankful to attend!! The Rheinberger though….Oh, dear. As I listened to the rep Cardinal had done in the past I couldn’t help but wander back to our concerts and place myself in the audience to hear us sing. Does anyone have a recording of The Spheres? Hook me up, please.

Afterward, we waited in the lobby. I kept seeing faces that looked familiar and sure enough, they were. I never had the privilege of meeting Seung Yong, but finally did last night. I remember seeing him the past several trips to Korea, but never had the opportunity to meet him. The Maestro was in the lobby and across all the other people in the room made eye contact and pointed directly at me and smiled, in that gentle way (if you remotely know him or remember him, you know). I almost fell over. Easy for me to remember him, but for him to remember me? I was floored. After he talked with some people and took pictures, he came over to say hello. “You’re one of the Louisville Cardinal Singers, aren’t you?” Score. What a score. So I explained how I am living in Gimhae teaching English and he mentioned how close I am to where he lives. I miiiiight try and finagle my way into attending a rehearsal.

I think it was very comical for Jung Hyun and Hyun Jung that I was in Korea. One of Hyun Jung’s first questions was “Why would you want to move here?” to which I was kind of like, “Why not?” It also reminded me of how grateful I am to know the Koreans I do know and how influential their values and way of life have been on me. We went to grab some dinner and catch up on everything. Once I get paid I might consider making bimonthly trips to Seoul to rehearse with her choir! If anything, maybe a couple times. The whole car ride I was smiling. Riding around Seoul with two of the brightest, talented ladies I know. At several points, I thought of you and how jealous you would be of me – and proceeded to cheese even bigger.

So the night ended with AJ and I watching Hidden Singer. A show where a number of singers are behind a curtain and one of them is the actual singer of the music playing. All participants get to sing a phrase and then the audience votes on which one they think is not the real singer. Lucky for me, one of my favorite K-Pop beauties was on this episode, Tae-yeon. What a babe…. (Hint: Look her up) Funny turn of events in the show? The audience voted her off in the first round. It took me a while to understand how the show worked, but finally, something I can watch without needing English subtitles.

Woke up this morning to an amazing breakfast. Did I mention how grateful I was for being allowed to stay at their apartment? Because I couldn’t say more. AJ had to leave pretty early for church with her choir, so I figured before going back to Gimhae I’d learn some things. It was sad saying by to Jung Hyun, but the fact that I will see her again very soon made it so much better. What a much better goodbye than the one in December after graduation! T_T

Before leaving me, she got me to a museum. I went to the Korea National Museum. I spent three hours traveling through time. I worked my way through the various periods of reign. Upon reaching the Gaya period I recognized a name – King Suro and I realized something. In Louisville, we all know basic facts of our city history. Founded early to mid 1800s, port city, flood, UofL, Ali, etc. But, what about when your city has thousands of years of history… It’s not that I hadn’t ever considered it, because I have, but surrounded by Korean history I guess it hit me in a different way. King Suro’s tomb is a ten minute walk from my apartment, and I haven’t gone yet. His kingdom was in the southern region and was the proponent to rice cultivation and iron production. Yet another ‘something’ to consider in my day to day musings. I continued through time and learned quite a bit about the Joseon period which is when Hangul (the modern day Korean language) was developed. The Joseon period lasted from 1392-1897. It wasn’t THAT long ago.

There was a special exhibit on artwork and the concept of utopia. Somewhat hard to explain, but I’ll give it a go. Some artists would compose scenes of perfection. In a perfect world, there is the right amount of nature and work and play. When I was growing up and up until today, some of those Asian art works I had seen prompted the “I wonder where that is, I’d love to see that.” Turns out, a lot of it is more of a desire. There’s the story of the Peach Grove where a man travels down a stream following peach trees and upon reaching the grove spends ample time there. When he tries to return, he can’t find his way out of paradise. Royalty and high ranking citizens used the art as an escape to refocus themselves. Instead of placing themselves in actual nature, they could go ‘into’ the art to find meditation. It was a really eye-opening exhibit and changed my impression of Asian art entirely. Not to say every painting is a mystical utopian desire, but it’s another way to look at the Korean (or Asian)love of hiking and application in every day life. As western influence grew, paintings gained more dimension – while art in the west took steps away from it.

The first floor alone took me nearly two hours. I spent my last hour on the second and third floor. These areas were mostly donated artifacts, but I did see some neat Buddhist works. They also had other Asian artwork including some Indian. (See Flickr – things may not be labeled because I’d rather not label it incorrectly than label it at all.)

I then made my way to Itaewon. It’s so much different during the day, sober. It was crawling with foreigners. But, I sensed a difference of the Seoul foreigner to the Busan foreigner. In Seoul, it felt more touristy whereas Busan felt more along the lines of an actual foreigner population. Either way, these people all lived there. It was more tolerable in my opinion. (man, I’m a stuck up foreigner :P)

I met up with Yuri and Morgan, friends from training! They teach in Gangnam and figured I’d try and meet up before heading back to Gimhae. It worked! We grabbed lunch at an Indian buffet. Delicious. They made me pretty jealous of their setup with all the food options, cheap bars/clubs and everything else. I hope to one day move to Seoul, mostly to say I did.
It was great catching up with them. They also teach the same courses I do, so our stories were pretty similar. Especially ones revolving around particular lessons or creative projects. After lunch we grabbed some honeycomb ice cream. Pretty neat and very sweet. (Flickr)

I was planning on leaving after lunch….then decided to go to another museum with them. We grabbed the subway to the Korean War Museum – the same place AJ and I were going to go on Saturday evening. What a great decision. The museum covered general war history of the country, but most specifically the Korean War. How intense… I guess my history teachers never got to the conflicts after World War II, because I just don’t know as much as I do about other wars. Maybe kids today are learning more about that, one can only hope. If you ever get the opportunity, check the museum out. It was all around fantastic. Dioramas, moving floors, very interactive, and obviously educational. A few times throughout my walks through these museums facts just didn’t line up – or not the whole truth was shared. Which, I understand, and yet why not? I had no idea how the actual control of the Korean Peninsula shifted so much.

So here I am on the bus home, with another hour or so to go. I cannot express any further how amazing this country is. You’ve got to be a pretty damn resilient people to go to hell and back, go to hell again and back, and do it a few more times. But, that’s also why this is one of the fastest developing countries and it’s very cool to be here for this microscopic moment of history.

Side note: at time of posting I’ve been back since 11.

Weekly Recaps:
I haven’t watched the game, mostly because it was FIU (harharhar), but I figure if I miss a game that’s not an ACC game, then it’s mildly excusable. On the note of Louisville football, Halloween is forty some odd days away. We have a costume party at work. I shall be none other than Teddy Bridgewater. Or to my students, an American football player.

Fantasy Update: 1-1 and 0-2. Riddled with injury, my starting lineups are 40% questionable 10% of the time. Matt Stafford has been putting the team on his back and with an excellent opponent to play, the Packers, Joquie Bell looks to rack some points up at RB. Teddy’s keeping the bench warm, though. As Arian Foster goes inactive, we grabbed a free agent in Jeremy Hill… We’ll see how that goes. Also, running double TE’s for the music league this week. “Hennessy Badgers Don’t Give A ****”s look to make an early run for a division lead before the first bye week. Peyton Manning looks to make better numbers in Week 3, and lead the “Beatin Your Ass from Korea” frat league to its first victory of the season. The Rams defense hopes to capitalize upon their stout O line, but have been having severe issues up to this point.

I wanted to start some sort of interactive thing through my blog. While I’m not sure what I want to do yet, any ideas? I was thinking something like ask me questions by Tuesday night and I’ll elaborate on one every week. If I pick your question, you’d get some sort of prize…which monetarily probably won’t work. BUT, if people come and visit me like they say they want to I can give them the goodies to return home with and thus, cut out the middle man postal service. Because we all know that a personal mail carrier is $1500 cheaper than just sending it in the mail. Let me know what you think!

<3

Expat

I’m an expat.  Totally fine with that.  If you don’t know what it means – an expatriate is basically someone who moves to another country for work, either temporarily or permanently.

I met a large portion of the Gimhae expat group on Friday night.  They seemed like some interesting people who enjoy their alcohol.  That’s about all I’ll say to that.  I don’t want to go into specifics on here, but feel free to message me about it.

I am okay with being the white guy with a beard in a small town in Korea.  But, if I am to be perceived as something I am not, then that bothers me.  One of my goals in coming to a foreign land was learning about the culture.  If I go out and drink, I’m going to make it a fun time regardless – but, I don’t ALWAYS want to hang out with the same people, which seems to be the case for my new acquaintances.  My mission is to make new friends and see what I can see, experience what I can experience.  These expats will definitely be my friends, but if I’ll be going to the same club/bar each and every night, then that’s not for me.

Friday was a great night.  I had a major miscommunication with my waitress and ordered a meal that was meant for three people.  Unfortunately, I was the only one eating.  While sitting there talking to this lady, trying my best to sort out what she as saying, the guy at the next table over leans in to assist.  He points to the first item (which I saw on another table and REALLY wanted to order) and says, “Uhmm… Spi-shi.  Uhmm…very hot.”  And I give a thumbs up, “Ne!”  I’m okay with spicy.  But, they seemed to think it would be TOO hot for me to handle.  He points to another item, “Delicious!”  Points back to first, “Spi-shi…uhmm delicious.  Spi-shi and delicious!  (Points to 2nd option)  No spi-shi, just…delicious!”  I end up getting the delicious entree – basically a cut of bacon 6 times too large…

Come to find out, the guy who leaned over was a very important dude.  Turns out he was boxer, the heavy weight champion of Gimhae, who recently took down the Changwon champ.  I’d imagine the next step is a regional/semifinal fight.  He was a very friendly guy who really enjoyed fist bumping.  He kept talking about his strategy – jab, counter, block.  When I said I was from Louisville, he started talking baseball.  Really swell guy!

My Saturday consisted of recovery and dinner at Baylee’s.  I can’t wait to have a functioning kitchen so I can cook them a dinner!  So nice to have a home cooked meal.

Upon arriving back at my apartment, I watched some Korean TV (super fun stuff) and waited for the football game.  How I would have loved to have gone to sleep…but I just couldn’t.  I couldn’t accept failure.  And it came to bite me the next morning.  On a quick note – here re some of my thoughts on the team.  Our quarterbacks are babies, they just don’t have seasoned experience yet and people are forgetting that.  Quick needs to wake up.  Will and Reggie both weren’t really looking around the field – it looked as though they they predetermined who they wanted to pass to and that’s why so many throws were batted down.  How many times someone was open near the opposite hash?  DOZENS.  It was just a real frustrating thing to watch.  Our defense is beautiful.  They gave it all.  And they’ll only get better.  Special teams.  When are we ever going to figure that out?  EVER?  It has been our plague for years.  Yes, we have some breakaway speed.  Yes, we make plays every now and then. BUT REALLY.  It’s annoying and I almost close my eyes for each of those plays.  Our O-Line sucks.  And I respect them, don’t get me wrong… but oh.my.god.  Did we really lose that much talent?  No, I don’t think so.  And everyone will get better as the season rolls on BUT SO WILL OUR OPPONENT.  My desire is to go .500.  6-6 and a bowl would be lovely.  Petrino will do more than that probably, but I won’t be greedy for my first year as an ACC spectator.  ANYWAY….it was an intense game to watch and one too many mistakes added up in the end.  Went to bed around 5am and woke up at 8:30.

Today I went hiking with John.  We grabbed some breakfast around 9 and made our way out.  It’s surprisingly really close to where I live and will be easy to return to.  I thought I was fully prepared for this endeavor… Quickly, I realized I was wrong.  He had mentioned it was a “medium” difficulty.  A “medium” difficulty that was more steep than our “medium” difficulty level climb up the Great Wall of China…  It was awesome, though.  Very, very challenging – and the view was unreal.  And hey, now that I’ve done that I can do it again and again.  Eventually, who knows what I could hike/climb.  I know Nicole would enjoy it, but I swear I almost died – don’t know if Mom could do it (hahaha).  Start working your legs out now and you’ll be fine.

Prior to this, John mentioned there was a gym on top of it.  In my mind, I’m thinking some building, seldom visited, and yet every day, there’s a super buff Korean guy who trains his followers.  The most similar thing I can compare it to is a Pokemon gym.  Think about it, climb up this mountain – battling Pokemon along the way, and then BAM, you have to fight a gym leader.  I thought it was funny.  So, when we finally reach the top, it’s not so much of a gym as an outdoor workout area.  In Korea, in parks and random spots around towns, there are various pieces of training equipment – calf raise, bench press, tri/bi pulls, dips, leg extension – you name it and you can find it.  We reach this summit and there are probably 30-40 Koreans GOING AT IT.  I’m seeing these people working out, and I’m ready to fall over.  It’s insane.  And I have to remind you what they hike in – long pants and sleeved shirts, hats, and some even wear winter outfits.

As we sat at the top, I somehow mustered this weird, excited energy and felt like I could do anything – I pretended it was some version of nirvana.  How many breaths did I take?  How much oxygen traveled through me during those few hours?  I could focus on the smallest thought.  Weird, I tell you.

And just as quickly as we seemed to have arrived, we began our trek down.  My legs have never shaken so badly.  One wrong move and certain peril.  At the bottom, there was a Buddhist temple and we took a peek inside.  Absolutely beautiful.  Ancient Korean architecture (and basically any other culture) is flat out impressive.  They built a hollow system beneath their floors, started small fires and fanned the heat through the tunnels to heat the floor.  Ingenious.  One other cool thing John showed me was this air pump that solely exists to blow the dirt off of your shoes…. Korea thinks of everything.

Grabbed dinner by myself and had 갈략 돈까스 – basically fried pork chop with garlic sauce, rice and a salad (kimchi and soup are a given) for 6.8 won.  A while back I had mentioned a girl I had met, Sumi.  A few days after meeting her, I was with my friends and we ran into her and she showed us where to have lunch.  That’s where I decided to go for dinner tonight and wouldn’t you know, she walks in.  We chatted for a few minutes and then she went to see her friend.  What are the odds?

Solid weekend.  I’m wiped.  Full week ahead.  Possibly going to Seoul to see 정현 aka AJ!!! :DDDD
Woo! And maybe Hyun Jung and Narae as well!?  Have a great week, all!

My First Chuseok

Chuseok is Korea’s version of Thanksgiving.  It originates around the Autumn Harvest similar to our own “holiday” – except not as dark of a history.

Last night for Chuseok, my friends held a potluck dinner at their apartment building.  As my first holiday from home, it was everything I could have asked for.  Great friends, ie my new family, amazing food, an excellent playlist and relaxation.  My contribution to the meal was beer and fanta because my kitchen doesn’t work yet.  There was a potato dish, chicken salad, rice with vegetables, salad, cucumber, crackers and for dessert – melon.  All so delicious.

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Tonight I was requested to get a picture of the harvest moon.  Unfortunately cloud cover eclipsed our view, but not before I got one photo.  Below are a couple pictures – one from my building, a couple of the outdoor area which is packed full every night and finally of the moon.

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Have a great week, friends! 

부산! Busan!

“Now only a happy and sweet drinks” – John Keats

 

The past few days have been, in short, epic.  

After work on Friday, all of my friends from training at the other branch (Baylee, Elaine and Schulyer) came out to Gimhae for the evening.  Along with the other teachers from their school.  We grabbed dinner and pursued the beverages.  I ended up not getting home until roughly 5am?  As seen in my previous blog post.  

Saturday evening I rode over to Yulha to meet Baylee, Elaine and Erica (one of their co-teachers).  We wandered through what was essentially a village of coffee shops.  As Erica put it, each shop had it’s own unique flair, something you would see at Ikea.  They all offer the exact same thing, but the aesthetics change with each shop.  We grabbed some flat-crust pizza for dinner, then walked around and got dessert.  The John Keats quote above was blazoned across one of the shops.  It was too perfect not to capture.

Night’s like that, and a few others I have enjoyed, help me to realize just how amazing Korea is.  One minute you can be in a busy intersection in the city of Gimhae with all its lights, and the next walking next to a stream with hardly a sound sans foot traffic.  

Today, I ventured to Busan with Baylee and Erica – Elaine was going to meet up later on.  I woke up around 8, left my apartment around 8:30, grabbed some kimbab for the road and headed to the bus depot.  Our bus left around 9:30 and we were in Busan by 10:05.  The ride was 3,300w (3.3w <- shorthand will be easier).  The first mission of the day was visiting one of, if not the best, spa in all of Korea.  Spa Land Centrum City is located in the world’s largest department store.  It was massive.  Seriously, they had an ice rink in there.

In my travels abroad, I have received a few massages here and there.  The best was probably in Vietnam – $25~ for what, a 40 minute massage?  I paid 15.0w.  FIFTEEN THOUSAND WON.  It was a four hour package which included around a dozen different saunas (each with their own health benefit, of course), an entertainment area consisting of dvds, tvs and the like, a bath area and an outdoor foot bath. For extra fees, you could purchase a plentiful amount of massages and numerous other pleasures.  

Let me breakdown my experience for you using a few key words.  Children, cover your eyes.  
Sweat, relaxation, sweat, hot (the good kind), sweat, massage, naked Korean men, body scrub, more naked Korean men, sweat, and relaxation.  
I do not know how I succeeded in maintaining composure through all of this, but I did.  And oh, it was worth every penny.  There is a coed area which we went to first.  Yes, mom(s), we were wearing clothes.  They give you these strange little pajamas to wear.  In the coed area, you can find the foot baths, all of the sauna rooms, snack bar, entertainment, restaurant and different massage parlors.  

We ventured into a room marked at 70.1 degrees Celsius.  In my mind, I tried to do the math, but it just wasn’t happening.  Just found out – it’s one hundred and fifty eight degrees. 158. ONE FIVE EIGHT.  No wonder it was so hot.  I actually burned my hand touching the ground as I pushed myself up.  Would I do it again?  In a heartbeat.  The other rooms were much cooler sitting between 35 and 60 degrees.  The couple rooms with scents were the ones we enjoyed the most.  

The girls decided to grab some massages, but I walked around.  I found a 15 minute massage chair for 2.0w.  Win.  That 2.0w massage chair was ALMOST better than the massage in Vietnam.  I continued to walk around and found this weird room of boxes.  I asked how much and for how long  40 minutes for 15.0w.  Done.  This box, shaped like a coffin, was intense.  I didn’t even know what it was when I got into it.  I expected some sort of water or something.  About five minutes in the Korean next to me says, “The box – it gets hotter over time.”  And that’s when I felt the heat.  I tell you the amount of sweat that came out of me today was record breaking.  Around minute 30, I am dying.  My arms were in the box – HAD to take them out.  My heart rate was a bit faster than the standard CPR compression rate.  When I finally got out, my pajama pants were entirely soaking wet.  Afterward, it was the greatest decision up to that point in my day.  

The next greatest decision I made was when I returned to the dressing room and found the cajones to walk into the bath room.  “Never have I ever seen a Korean man naked” – I would lose all my fingers ten times over.  It was so awkward being the only white guy in that room – the only white guy and the only beard.  I bee-lined for an empty hot tub and just sat.  I stared at the ceiling, I stared at the water, I stared at the random water fountains.  After a few minutes, it was like man was meant to be naked and bathing in the same room together.  There were a couple sauna rooms, but I wasn’t brave enough to venture into a dark room full of naked men.  Instead, I found the body scrub room.

I don’t know if you have ever heard of these body scrubs, but it was life changing.  It was like human car wash, buff, and detail.  I have to say it’s pretty good at making you feel vulnerable, but once you get past it – life changing.  I mean really, how many plops has this Korean dude seen?  TOO MANY.  That’s the answer.  Anyway, they pretty much scrub all your dead skin off, soap you down, wash you off, and give a little massage to boot.  This was 20.0w.  

It’s actually a pretty unique experience, mostly because American men would never do it.  And to think what my friends went through on the female side of it all – ha.  

After that we walked around looking for food, but everything was closed due to Chuseok – the equivalent of Thanksgiving dinner here in Korea.  So we grabbed a bus to head to the beach.  

Busan has a leg up on Seoul because of Haeundae Beach.  It was basically South Beach in Miami.  TONS of foreigners, lots of big stores and restaurants, tallest hotels ever (which differed from Miami) and street performers.  It was a blast!  Being a forty minute bus ride away is dangerous.  We walked through the market and settled for some pub food because we could.  Gimhae doesn’t have much foreigner food and after two weeks of straight Korean/Japanese/Moroccan(one day for lunch, yes) it was okay in my book.  At this point I realized I only grabbed one 50.0w bill and had to bum it out the rest of the day.  (Thanks Baylee, Elaine and Erica!!) 
After lunch we walked down the beach and up to this track of abandoned railway.  It was quite the exercise!  One thing I found really neat about walking all that way was how pure my sweat was.  After our intense sauna sessions, I didn’t think I’d have any left – but it was basically straight water.  The view from the tracks was incredible.  I have created a Flickr account to post my photos to (a link should be in the bar on the right under “about.me”).  We made our way back to the beach and sat down to await Elaine.  Planning ahead, I brought the book Geoff gifted me and nestled in for a nice read.  

After Elaine joined, we began the search for Pajeon and Dong-dong ju.  Pajeon might be tied for first place on my list of favorite Korean food.  It’s basically a pizza-like pancake with greens and seafood mixed in.  So. Delicious.  Thank you for the recommendation, Bomi!  Although we did not find Dong-dong ju, we enjoyed some Makgeolli – an alcoholic drink made from rice.  

Post dinner, we walked down the main street and found the bus depot straight back to Gimhae.  Had we stayed on the bus in the morning, we would have been dropped off a mere ten minute walk from the beach.  

Tomorrow we are celebrating Chuseok as a teacher-family putting together our own potluck.  Thank goodness I am only responsible for beer!

Hope you all have a fantastic Chuseok over in America!  Four day weekends still kick ass.