Archive for March, 2008


Posted in Culture, Expat life, Korea, Personal, USA on March 30, 2008 by Elephant Talk

I should start a series on conversations I have with Koreans. There are some real odd ones, especially when it involves students. Take, for example, this exchange…

Walking down the hall toward my office, I come across five students who bow to me and say hello. Two are my students, the others are not. One of the others wants to know if she can ask me a question. Of course, I say. They all sort of surround me in a half circle as I stand against the wall.

“Are we, um…”
(they whisper to each other in Korean, then one says the word “ready”)
“Are we ready?”
“Ready?” I ask. “Ready for what?”
(more Korean whispering)
“Yes, soldiers. War?”
“I don’t understand.”
(again with the whispering)
“Are… soldiers ready… for war?”
“Uh… you mean U.S. soldiers or Korean soldiers?”
“I have no idea.”
(they all laugh hysterically, say thank you, then say goodbye, smiles all around, and continue on down the hall.)

I told this to one of my Korean colleagues and she couldn’t stop laughing. I asked her what that was all about and she said she didn’t know, then kept on laughing.


Gayasan and Haeinsa

Posted in Culture, Expat life, Korea, Outdoors, Personal, Travel on March 27, 2008 by Elephant Talk

Haeinsa Temple

Fifteen miles out of Seomyeon, someone said it: “Hey, this is my first Korean road trip.” Oh right, we’re on a road trip! Cool.

We were too late in getting our shit together to take a bus, so we piled into a friend’s car with a road atlas and headed out into the mountains. It took us just over two hours to get to a tiny town outside of Gayasan National Park. Mountain towns in Korea are not unlike those in America, except for the signage and the people. There was one nuribang (a requirement for any town), some convenience stores, and a few small, uninhabited restaurants, all lining a single street. It took us some time to find a place to sleep, but we eventually got a nice deal on a “yeogwon” I think it’s called – 40,000 won for four people.
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White people love San Francisco

Posted in Culture, Personal, USA on March 26, 2008 by Elephant Talk

I’ve been holding off promoting this site until a moment when it hits close to home. It’s done that a few times, but it finally, literally, hit my home: San Francisco. This quote in particular was dead-on:

The City of San Francisco has a very multicultural population that ranges from white to gay to Asian. Within white culture this [is] known as “ideal diversity” for its provision of exotic restaurants while simultaneously preserving property values. The presence of gays and Asians is imperative as it two [sic] provides two of the key resources most necessary for white success and happiness.

However, it is important to be aware of the fact that regions outside of San Francisco feature many people who are not white, gay or Asian. They are greatly appreciated during the census, but white people are generally very happy that they stay in places like Oakland and Richmond. This enables white people to feel good about living near people of diverse backgrounds without having to directly deal with troublesome issues like income gaps or schooling.

Too funny. I kinda feel the same way about Santa Cruz, but even more so.

While I’m on the subject of San Francisco, here’s a pretty awesome map.


Posted in News, Politics, USA on March 24, 2008 by Elephant Talk

I’ve returned from Gayasan refreshed, alive, and with a memory stick full of photos. But I’ll get to that later. For now, I want to post this so the dozen or so people who will stumble upon this blog today can have a look:

Someone said in a comments section somewhere that it would be a real shame and a missed opportunity if this guy doesn’t become president. That’s exactly how I feel. You don’t only vote for issues with a president, you vote for a person. He is so monumentally different from Clinton, and exhibits such wisdom and common sense, I really believe you’ll see a change in mindset in the United States.

“…bridge to nowhere…” That actually made me laugh.

Edit: I just realized I forgot to title this. So you get “Obamansense,” which is really dumb but I gotta run…


Posted in Culture, Expat life, Korea, Outdoors, Personal, Travel on March 21, 2008 by Elephant Talk

For some reason, the concrete, glass, and urban throng of 4 million people have felt a little more oppressive than usual. It may have something to do with the glorious weather we’ve had lately. Mix the two together and it’s time for an escape to fresh air and trees.

So I put out the emails and the text messages and got a small contingent together to join me. It’s always funny throwing out ideas like that. A dozen people may say hell yeah, but when it gets down to it about half chicken out. I don’t know if it’s laziness or the inertial glue of daily life that keeps people from following through.

Anyway, we leave this evening for 해 인 사 (hae-in-sa), described thusly:

Haeinsa Temple was originally built in AD 802 by two monks, Sunung and Ijong, during King Aejang of the Silla Kingdom’s reign. Despite many fires and subsequent reconstructions, the temple remains one of the most beautiful in Korea set in an idyllic location deep in Gayasan National Park. It eventually reached its present-day size during the mid-10th century. The temple is famous for housing the Tripitaka Koreana – 80,000 wooden printing blocks carved during the Goryo Dynasty (AD 918-1392), which, together, make up the oldest and best-preserved collection of Buddhist scriptures in the world. The temple also houses a great number of artifacts that have been designated national treasures including the Seated Stone Buddha, found at Cheongyangsa Temple, and the Stone Pagoda at Wolgwang Temple.

I’ll be sure to post an update upon my return.

Stirring the pot

Posted in Expat life, Korea, Music, Personal on March 20, 2008 by Elephant Talk

I’ve been discovered. Last night I went out to do my regular Wednesday night jam session. While up on stage, I saw several of my present and past students come in. They all seemed very surprised to see me there.

I get to campus today and, sure enough, word had spread. One of the Korean professors said “I hear you played last night.” A student who was there came up and talked to me about my playing. And one who was not there said she wants to see me play.

I suppose this is all fine. But I like to keep my university life and personal life separate. It’s not easy here. Students are very curious about me anyway — the strange creature from another world — so when they find out something new, word spreads. They’re very sweet, and I get a kick out of them. But I’m not sure I want them coming around every Wednesday when I’m hanging out with friends at the bar.

In unrelated drumming news, I’m finally getting around to learning brushes. It’s not like sticks, not at all. It’s kind of like learning paradiddle coordination all over again. But this time I’m sweeping and tapping instead of hitting. I have trouble remembering where the One is. But it’s gotten better. My breakthrough was starting with a basic pattern and drilling that into my head. My starting hand position remains the same regardless of whichever motion I use. This way I’m always aware of the One and no longer get lost. The next step will be getting better with the left hand lift to do a dotted eighth note. Every time I lift my left hand, there’s a dropout. I understand the right hand has to keep the sweep in that situation, but I can’t quite get it down.

Practice, practice…


Posted in Korea, News, Politics on March 17, 2008 by Elephant Talk

Uh oh.

“Soaring international grain prices will further worsen North Korea’s food shortage and encourage more North Koreans to flee the country. This will very likely lay a big stumbling block to North Korea’s opening and create instability for Northeast Asia as well.”