Michael Jackson, in many ways, is like a Korean Cherry Blossom. He is dead and was very pale when alive. And you really didn't see him very often.
Okay that's a bit tasteless but it's the only way to tie in a day of hiking with this picture.
At Geumsansa (Gold Mountain Temple--I could recognize all the Chinese on my own! Woot!) many of the blossoms had already fallen but in the flickr link please see those that hadn't. Most notable are a striking pink and white tree next to each other and a green tree. The subtle differences in color aren't noticed most of the time and the white/pink ones are beautiful but there's something about them together. There was also a cute
Then, walking around Jeonju, we had two women unfurl a Taegukgi with Michael on it. It read "Justice 4 Michael, Korea will always be with you." Cha Won, who is Korean and speaks Korean, translated. For some reason these women were collecting signatures to send this flag-thing to Los Angeles to get Justice for Michael. I get the feeling the fact that it seems to make no sense is not due to language barrier so much as sheer irrationality. So, while I normally ignore people who want me to sign something, I jumped on board with this one. They were kind enough to even email me the pic the next day.
There is no feeling like having old men who were entirely skeptical about your existence and asked "did he hit one?" be told, by other, more optimistic old men "he hit two" and thinking maybe you actually belong on the shooting line.
Poem (you can't use random words and horrid grammar in conversation, but there's one place it's welcome):
눈오전에맞 / 사대에서 봤지만 / 꽃샘 같이도 With cold spring winds I / from the shooting line saw hits / before the snow fell. (Lit: before the snow fell, hit / from the shooting line saw but / together with the cold wind also)
Before coming to Korea I never would have considered some things "pluses."
Things like "she usually chews with mouth closed."
Or "she does not wear high heeled shoes to the park or hiking."
Or "she does not seriously expect me to believe she is a 32-year old virgin."
But after a year here, each of those are rare traits. And while I have met women who do not do those things (save one woman who was in her late 20s and may well actually have been a virgin) and they are generally my friends, these women, if looking around and talking to other friends is any indication, are finds.
For example, my coworker explained to me that it is important that his wife lie to him and he believe it. They married at 27. They *ahem* before they were wed. But he was the first man she ever kissed. Mmm hmm.
The shoes thing will never cease to amaze me. Six-inch stillettos? Perfect for a day at the mountain! Why? To look like you have longer legs! And men seriously go for this, I guess. I would slap anyone who did that.
Fortunately today, meeting a few friends from my yoga class I did not have to slap anyone. (Funny how "yogachingu" (yoga-friend) and "yojachingu" (girlfriend) are so similar, but I Freudianly digress.)
The cute nurse who speaks pretty good English wore converse-like shoes. The kicker? She had makeup on, which she usually doesn't at yoga. And even then, she didn't look that different.
I think I'm in love, which just goes to show how standards change (let's not say "are lowered") in a new culture.
To not push the envelope, I'm going to wait a while to ask the "ever kissed a man" question. And I'll try not to laugh nomatter what she says. I'll just hope she doesn't ask me back.
One of the kindest and eldest men in the club insisted I be given a name. Not just a Korean name (which I still lack but we won't get into) but a Korean archery club nickname, which everyone must have. Coincidentally he and I didn't meet again until my fateful return-to-the line day.
He began with "mi" (미), taken from miguk, "Beautiful Country," as America is known in Korea thanks to the Chinese thinking it was beautiful a really long time ago.
He then offered me the choice between five second characters, ranging from "peace" to "house/floor" to "instrument." The aforementioned bilingual explained that two or three were traditionally girls' names and suggested I go with ... the three I just managed to remember. I settled on "peace" because it wasn't "instrument." Music is a part of my soul but it ruled me too long. Also I had never heard that name before but I thought I'd heard "beautiful peace."
And now, I am mi-sung (http://www.koreanwikiproject.com/wiki/index.php?title=%EB%AF%B8 for mi, http://www.koreanwikiproject.com/wiki/index.php?title=%EC%84%B1 for peace (accomplishment)). Please refer to the Chinese characters for the true writing.
But I must say my peace is not beautiful.
I WANT TO HIT THE DAMN TARGET. Not the grass. Fortunately now they tell me my arrows must be too heavy ... that surely must be the problem.
Before I left Wonju, the archery Sabomnim (teacher) told me something. He said:
"In Jeonju, there is Ch'eongyeongchang, a very well-known archery club. Go there."
He also said:
"Practice before you go there, I don't want them saying I'm a bad teacher."
Well, it was cold when I left Wonju, so I did one of those two things. In my defense I did shoot at least once a month--snow or no--but that's not exactly regular upkeep, especially for someone who's just learning, who hit the shed and broke an arrow their 'jip kung' (first shooting ceremony).
But fast forward. Three or so weeks ago I found the CYC (I'm not typing all that again). I introduced myself, brought beer and my bow, and asked for--by name--the instructor.
Well, he retired. He was now making the bows, which I guess is what instructors do sometimes. After numerous broken conversations, he called my former instructor, and I was let in the club. I was told my bow had been poorly cared for (a month in storage unattended) and they tried to repair it. I shot from the line and hit ... the grass.
There is sand by the targets, if you're wondering.
Incidentally, at CYC they don't drink beer until they are done shooting. It is not a social club. It is an archery club, where the Chairman of the Korean Archery Association resides, where the instructor can hit 39/45 at 145m with an unbraced unsighted longbow, where nearly every shooting spot is full at 4 pm on a sunny ... weekday.
Not that Wonju's not cool, and that the sabomnim there can't hit over 30/45, just that, well, Wonju is a smaller and warmer town. If it rains you put your bow up and drink maggolli and if the rain stops ... you may as well keep drinking maggolli, so what it was a good day.
In any case, several of my most frustrating moments, days, weeks followed, mostly involving me snapping my left forearm with 44 pounds of pressure, repeatedly, leaving bruises that would take weeks to heal (and torn skin on top of those) as I demonstrated that I had forgotten my technique.
When I asked for help, I was told "change your shirt." I wore a dress shirt. I should've worn a polo. But in Korea they call polos "t-shirts" because ... I don't know. Unsurprisingly, being told to change my shirt did not prevent me from snapping my arm the next three out of three shots and, following suit, I nearly snapped at the instructor (who is the highest ranking one can achieve in a country that regularly produces Olympic gold medalists) but thankfully didn't.
So when I came back in a tee, I was told, by someone new (this time, the aforementioned Chairman), "change your shirt." By this time--two weeks later--my arm hurt less (a bilingual had corrected my technique, a subject the instructor steered clear of) and I was more willing to go shopping.
I returned today, having spent weeks shooting an arrow tied to a rope, determined not to waste time despite invitations from my seniors, with a cheap polo.
Because I was shooting off the line.
And I hit the grass three times and the sand twice, but my arm not at all. And my direction was good on all shots.
Dear Gangwon-do Ministry of Education and Ministry of Justice (Immigration Department):
I know you will not read this as it's not in Korean, and that's my fault. I'm as fluent in Korean as you are in English and that makes it very difficult for us to communicate. I apologize.
But you owe me an apology. You owe every hagwon teacher in Gangwon-do an apology.
Your training was abysmal.
I attended, legally mandated, your province-wide training for hagwon teachers on Saturday, one of my days off, my next-to-last Saturday before I leave Gangwon-do. You didn't bother to educate my employer about their legal duty to pay me for training (at least not as much as you taught them about how they'd pay a fine if I didn't go) and we are still in negotiations over that fact. But I showed up, and my director paid you--PAID YOU--to let me into your mandated training.
And for one hour, I listened to things I already knew. Rather, for a half an hour. Since the Ministry of Justice couldn't be bothered to send a bilingual presenter, a translator from the Ministry of Education had to interpret. But worse was the fact that the presentation began with a discussion of Japanese tourism in Korea, proceeded to explain the requirements for an E-2 visa (which we all already had), and had interspersed bits of shameless foreigner-blaming for social problems in Korea.
That would be bad enough, but I'm told that the MOE didn't even want you there. That they, being slightly less oblivious than you, told you that presenting how to get an E-2 visa to E-2 visa holders would be a waste. To quote the translator: "Most of you already know this, so if you have any friends wanting to come to Korea, tell them this."
So when I stood up and asked you why increased foreigner background checks were required to prevent crime (specifically, molestation) when the E-2 visa holder crime rate (0.6%) is 1/5th of the Korean crime rate (3%) and foreign criminal records for sex crimes are not immediately expunged after 5 years, like Korean criminal records (which allow Korean molesters to keep working and raping), I did not expect an answer.
When I asked what the relevance of Japanese tourism was to us, and the room laughed, I did not expect an answer. But you told me, through the interpreter that the relevance was "Japanese spending" and "they don't require a visa, but you do," which stimulated a second round of chuckles.
And finally, when I asked why there was a prohibition on volunteering, you explained that "it was a mask for illegal private tutoring." Ignoring the fact that there is volunteerism beyond English teaching by English teachers. Ignoring the fact that the poor, like the rich, may need education. When I asked the translator if you had statistics supporting your assertion he didn't bother to translate. I can't blame him.
Let my specifically addressing you end.
MOE: Who from the publishers of Let's Go is sleeping with and/or running the MOE? Maybe it's just my background in being sensitive to capitalization but an hour and a half of a captive audience staring at your logo costs money where I'm from. And I stared at the Let's Go logo for 90 minutes in the middle of this mandatory "training" and contemplated your admission that they were scheduled to present later, but showed up early, and so were allowed to present early, I began wondering who I needed to have sex with to compel a paying-yet-captive audience to stare at my paraphernalia.
Other beefs abound. If you won't inform the hagwons of their obligation to pay us for attending your joke of a training, at least encourage them to pay our entrance fees. Other hagwon owners made their employees pay transit and entrance costs. There is law in Korea, like it or not, and quite frankly ... it doesn't like you.
I'd love it if this article, that begins by claiming that volunteering is legal, cleared that issue up. But it ends shortly after this quote:
"But if foreigners who stay in Korea want to engage in the repeated and continuous volunteer activities, those foreigners are recommended to take counsel with Korea Immigration Service. Because the repetitive and continuous activities possibly could be included in the case which needs the permission from the Ministry of Justice."
And before it is this:
"It is possible not to get any permission from the Ministry of Justice if foreigners who stay in Korea want to engage in volunteer activities, for example, a public organization, an orphanage, an international exhibition, an organization which supports foreigners and international events which are temporary volunteering and are not for pay[.]"
Um .. great. Thanks for clearing nothing up. Orphanages, international organizations, or ATEK (and that last one was a fight) ... gee what if I want to help Koreans that aren't orphans? Too bad Korea.
Roboseyo, eat your heart out. Or explain how that idiom came to be. I've never got it.
Rob O. (Roboseyo blog) started a gathering called "2S2" for "Second Saturdays at 2 (pm)" in Seoul as a way for expats to meet and greet. Inspired by him I suggested (notice credit theft occuring here) to co-worker Danielle (Wonju Wife; tuesdaysborrower.blogspot.com) that we make a 2s2 in Wonju. We (she) did and it went swimmingly. She blogged about it, so I won't, because I'm lazy
So if you're bored in Gangwon-do on the 2d Saturday, come by. I'll be gone come February but Danielle, I suspect, will be full steam ahead. (Also if you're bored, join ATEK, we need people to take over Gangwon-do operations, not that much work but a lot of coolness, trust me.)