Monday, December 21, 2009

한반도 비무장지대 (The DMZ) or "Freedom Is Not Free"

The DMZ (or Demilitarized Zone) which serves as the border of North and South Korea is a pretty crazy place. It runs all 155 miles across the Korean peninsula (cutting it in half along the 38th parallel) and is the most heavily militarized border in the world.

Our tour, lead by American military officers, was scant on history but we were allowed into places many tours aren't permitted. Only about 40 minutes from Seoul, we first headed to Panmunjeom (home of the JSA, or Joint Security Area) where all negotiations and meetings between officers of the United States and South and North Korean armies have been held since 1953. We first went into the United Nations meeting room, half of which is IN North Korea. (I've been to North Korea!) Our "tour guide" Officer (Sergeant? Lieutenant?) Pearson was adamant that we not gesture, point or blow kisses toward North Korea.

After leaving Panmunjeom we went to a museum located next to a North Korean-dug "Third Tunnel of Aggression" dug to invade Seoul (five of which have been discovered since 1953). First, we watched a propaganda-filled film about how the DMZ fosters incredible wildlife and the U.S. Army is almost single-handedly responsible for protecting the freedoms and people of South Korea. (Ahem.) Then we went into the tunnel, 500ft below ground. A pretty incredible experience. Unfortunately, like many places throughout the DMZ, we weren't allowed to take photos in the tunnel. Don't want to go all Laura Ling on you people, I couldn't cut it in a work camp for 5 seconds.

North Korea is a pretty messed up place. After driving through one of many "peace villages" ( had a very twilight-zone feel to it...) inhabited by the "best marksmen in the Korean army," we went to a viewing area/point.  Kijong-dong, a North Korean "peace village" (known as "propaganda village" to the rest of the world) it is the only settlement in North Korea within direct eye and earshot of the DMZ and essentially, the West. A giant radio tower serves to block out ALL communication from the outside world. Famine and malnutrition are widespread. There is a nationally-mandated dress code. Most people live on about $1 a day. If you speak against Kim Jong-Il you will undoubtedly be killed. Like I said, messed up.

Over all, it was enlightening experience if not particularly educational. Did I mention it was about 20F? Just how I like my North Korea.

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North Korean soldier (freakin scary).
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Blue buildings are UN sanctioned, part of the JSA. The small gray building to the right is the "North Korean Rec" Building, this building holds no gym equipment however.
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Matt is proving to be a very good sport about having his photo taken...Jasmine surely warned him.
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Helen rivals Jon in photographability.
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Peace, nature and harmony is just a Stalinist dictatorship away.
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Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Room With A View

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5am shot from my new apartment window. The mountains are one of the many reasons I love Seoul. I'm shamelessly lucky.


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A good day for a walk along a frozen river.


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I had an idea for taking photos of all of my friends against this white wall. Said wall is now covered with a Phish poster.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

EPIC Fail.

I realize, upon Mr. Jarmon's watchful eye and scrutiny, that its been a while since my last post. If I were a better, more dedicated photographer, I would have no excuse not to lug my 2lb camera around with me everywhere, but I'm not. I will admit, its been cold. I just checked the temperature - its 19F, that is -7C, folks.... Granted its midnight, but where I come from, that is unheard of. Until yesterday I have been layering under my fleece...but lucky for me, my mom sent my HUGE SubZero parka yesterday. I promise I will take a picture in it. I look like the Jet Puffed Marshmellow Man. Alas, I am tougher than I thought.

Korea is rather gung-ho on the Christmas deal, as in America, a consumer holiday. I don't see much in the way of churches putting up mangers, but they do have those annoying Salvation Army guys in all the subway stations. My kids have all seen A Christmas Carol and know the words to "Jingle Bells."

Photos will undoubtedly be posted in the next few days and weeks. This Saturday I am going to the DMZ (Demilitarized border of North Korea). Pretty pumped. In two weeks I am visiting my good dear friend David Marshall Stout in Vietnam for my winter vacation. Though I'm pretty sad about not being home for Christmas (it will be the first in as long as I can remember that someone in my family won't be there) and the NATIONAL FREAKING CHAMPIONSHIP ROSE BOWL GAME, being on some of the most beautiful islands in the world will help ease the pain.

Miss you all. Happiest of Holidays.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Jasmine's New Jacket

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Roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, mac & cheese, bread, wine, cake...and best of all...not having to excuse myself from the table from listening to my family bash "liberal left wing" politics. A good Thanksgiving. I am thankful for all y'all, I miss you. Oh, and HOOK EM.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Drugs Don't Work. (They Just Make It Worse...)

I've been bad about posting the past few weeks...I've been pretty sick. A death cough (aka bronchitis?) and a sinus infection. Doesn't help that daily temperatures are hovering around 28F. Apparently Koreans don't believe in anti-biotics. After being told on two separate occasions by the same ENT "it is not very serious I think," receiving pills that do absolutely NOTHING, and scaring most of my students into believing I have Swine flu; I went to a Oriental Medicine doctor.

Apparently Oriental medicine is actually more like magic or something because the "doctor" (with the Rolex), put his middle and index finger on my wrist, took my pulse, gave me 18 bags of herbs and told me to mix them with hot water three times a day and I would be cured. I feel Billy Crystal is about to jump out any moment with a fake nose.

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"Goodbye Annie and Brandon...See You Tomorrow!"

Annie and Brandon are leaving and we are all really bummed. All of the staff went out for a pretty great Goodbye Dinner....which resulted in a pretty drunken Goodbye Party at Metropolis. We are gonna miss you, but you'll be back. They always come back, muahahaha.

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Annie, Clara and Brandon

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Clark and Kelvin do the "Love Shot."

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Clara gifts Annie and Brandon with "couples" pens.

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Now I get to be the second best dart player at CDI. When Clark leaves, I'm number one baby.

The "men" of Junggye branch, hah. Love you boys.

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Andy was feeling eeextra generous with the Jack Daniels last night....

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


It's hard to believe I have been in Korea for three months already. It's flown by, but when I look back on all that has happened, it seems like its been ages. Here are some photos from the last day of Fall Semester and some of my favorite kids who I probably won't have anymore.

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Lacy (a very very good girrrl) with Michael, Tom and Hance looking on

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Anna Banana and Hangman

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Anna, Jessica, Hyo-ree, Ben, Billy and Chris

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thin Cigs or The Night Jon Dressed Up

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Please please please please come back :(

Hell In A Bucket

She's here!! Roommates for a week, yes!

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Dark Was The Night

first flurry from my window.

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Friday, November 13, 2009


The youngest students who are least familiar with English at my hagwon are in the "Seedbed" level. When I walked into school 5 weeks ago and was told I would be teaching a Seedbed class beginning that day, I started to cringe. Not that I don't love little kids, but the idea of starting phonetics with 5 and 6-year-olds after I have been teaching kids who read, comprehend, think objectively and have conversations with me, well, this was going to be a challenge.

I received four new students. Julia, Tad, Ted and Zion. So, not only could they barely read/speak English, but they didn't understand the rules (No Korean!, No Food!, No Hitting!, etc) and I couldn't very well explain them. Julia, Ted and Zion had at least some basic understanding of the ABC's and even knew some of the sounds those letters made. Tad was another story. Couldn't understand a thing.

To paint a bit of a picture of how my Tuesdays and Thursdays look with this motley crew: Zion has these outrageously stinky farts (he bombs the class no fewer than 3 times a day), Julia whines, eats the whole time and acts bored, Ted has a lisp and cries/curses me every time he gets a bad grade and is usually hitting someone, and Tad (who's name we recently changed to "T-Rex"), well he is the reason for this post.

Last week we were working on the sounds the letter "c" makes: soft "s" (as in "city") or hard "k" (as in "cat"). I gave them a list of words and had them separate them based on what sound they made: "Cycle, cease, cell, circle go in column A. Camel, cry, camp, call go in column B." But when it came to the word "cent" T-Rex unknowingly thought it was a hard "c" and shouted "CUNT!" I couldn't help cracking up for the rest of the class. How can you stay mad at that?


Sunday, November 8, 2009


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No, not a swastika. Don't think there are too many Nazis in South Korea. Symbol for a Buddhist temple.

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The People's Champ.

Gecko's + Bedlam

Saturday made for one of the strangest nights in a while. Gay bar fight and a mugging. Things got weird.

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Pirates of the Han River

We ventured on a "Han River Cruise" on Saturday. I think we were anticipating something a bit more exciting but hey, I guess we shouldn't have expected much more to look at than apartment buildings and bridges. But we DID get to go on a Pirates of the Caribbean boat...ha.

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So many hilarious things I could say about this. Guess I'll have to keep it PG and not aRRRRRRRR.
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Seanalicious came to haang.

So Futuristic.... (뚝섬유원지역 aka Ttukseom Resort)

At Ttukseom Resort stop (on the Han River) they are building some crazy alien spaceship train tunnel. That's not the technical term (I don't think) but it sure had me singing F>I>G>U>R>I>N>E.

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

할로윈 (Halloween)

My favorite day of the year. I found $80 on the ground of a club. I had a net of +$5 on the night but that's because I am a very generous drunk :)

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Robert Downey Jr. incarnate.
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I was Skeleton Boy (inspired by this Friendly Fires video). Needless to say, I got some funny stares in the subway.
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Uncle Tom's Cabin or something....We were the only ones there at first...
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Shark's got my conjoined twin fetus!
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so Downey.
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...and then it got crowded.
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I made him come and he had so much fun (I think).
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Jane's Groove.
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My Frenchman, Antoine.
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I was totally photo-stalking this guy. Couldn't just go and talk to him. That's not creepy or anything...
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I met this guy a month ago at Culture Exchange and can't for the life of me remember his name.
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My good fortune landed us at a bomb hof.