Archive for April, 2009

Underthrow

Posted in Expat life, Images, Personal on April 27, 2009 by Elephant Talk

I never played darts before I came to Korea, but it’s a fixture in the foreigner bar scene here so I’ve picked it up recently. I told myself I’d never buy my own set, mainly because I’m not good at darts. I lose just about every game I play. There’s the added pressure aspect as well. If you approach a board and whip out your own set, people will expect that you’ve got some game. I do not have game.

But I tried this here set of Japanese Prisma Azda darts just for kicks. First throw, I hit a double bullseye. Second throw, I hit another bull. They felt great in my hand and I figured it was a good sign. They weren’t cheap at 79,000 won, but what the hell. I spend a good chunk of my social life playing, so why not?

prismadarts

So, how did I do in my first game? I lost, came in third among three people. Second game, lost again. For the third game we had four players. Lost again. So I still suck. And I look like an idiot. And I’m out 79 chon. But they’re so pretty.

New phone, new TV

Posted in Culture, Expat life, Film & TV, Images, Korea, Lost, Technology on April 24, 2009 by Elephant Talk

This is my new TV. It’s also my new cell phone…

samsungSPH-W6450

I haven’t owned a TV in over two years, ever since I moved to Korea. When I finally get one, it winds up being an accessory item. Technology is weird.

The picture quality is outstanding for such a tiny little thing. And it’s easy. I plug in the antenna, flip up the screen, hit the TV button, and cycle through channels. It’s got about 10 channels and the broadcasts are free. I don’t watch it very much though. Korean TV leaves a lot to be desired. It primarily consists of three types of programming — melodramas, news, and variety shows. If I’m able to figure out how to get Lost and Lotte Giants games I might watch it more.

So why did I get it? It was free. It’s Samsung’s brand new product (the SPH-W6450), and from what I could understand through the translation, Samsung wants to get it out there for people to see. So with a 2-month contract I walked out without paying a single won. I think the list price on it is 650,000.

There seem to be a lot of buried features that I haven’t figured out yet. The camera is great, but I’m still tweaking with the settings. It also does video calls, but I haven’t even touched that yet. One thing I do not like about this phone is that the battery lasts for about two days. The screen is so big and bright (even on lowest setting) that the energy gets sucked out of it pretty quickly.

The feature I am excited about is the Bluetooth capability. I finally figured out how to connect it to my MacBook. The problem is it took about 5 minutes to bring one solitary mp3 over to my phone. That ain’t gonna work, but maybe I’m doing something wrong. Tweak, tweak, tweak…

Clutching the short straw

Posted in Expat life, Personal on April 14, 2009 by Elephant Talk

Easter? What’s Easter? I didn’t even know it was happening until the morning after when I got an email from my mom. I blame it on the whirlwind of events lately. Yeah, I said “whirlwind.” Whenever life becomes jam-packed with deep thoughts and deeper goings on I like to use that word even though it doesn’t mean anything.

On Sunday, Easter as it turns out, I moved from my old apartment in Yongho-dong to my new one right smack in the middle of campus. I lived in the old pad for two years and I had some really fun times there. But I will not miss election time, which is marked by incessantly repetitive, insanity inducing, badly mediatized noise. Fact is I didn’t want to move. But now that I have, I’m really taking a liking to the new place. Its glaring drawback is the low ceilings, which I hate. But the horizontal breadth makes up for it. I have a much wider living space now, a lot more light, and the place is all newly remodeled.

I’m also completely preoccupied with my future. My desire to stay in Korea has expanded into a new dimension as of late, so it’s taking up a lot of thought and conversation. The problem is that as this desire increases day by day, my options are collapsing one by one. I’ll probably go ahead and grasp the remaining straw even though I’m not at all happy about its size. I’ve been spoiled; I can afford to dine on a little humble pie for a couple seasons.

Anyway, the Spring always makes me feel alive so I’m going to try and present myself firmly in the now and stop thinking about things I can’t control. Moments like this particular now, sitting in a clean apartment at 2:30 am, listening to the rain outside and writing random, pointless thoughts.

Naeyeonsan and Bogyeongsa

Posted in Culture, Expat life, Images, Korea, Outdoors, Personal, Travel on April 8, 2009 by Elephant Talk

dsc010071The cherry blossoms are in full bloom, and the unusually long winter has finally run its course. Time for a trip to the mountains to take in fresh air, green hills, a temple, and some village life. I know that when I leave Korea, these trips to the countryside with friends will be my best memories of life here. So I try to escape the concrete and crowds of humanity as much as possible.

This journey took us to Naeyeonsan mountain and Bogyeongsa temple. It’s an area about a half hour drive north of the east coast city of Pohang, itself about a half hour north of the popular tourist destination, Gyeongju. Seven of us left Friday evening around 8:30 and arrived in Pohang, where we meandered in search of a place to stay. We found a hotel and crashed out early.

It’s difficult to get seven people motivated in the morning, so we got a late start. It took a bus ride and a couple of ripoff taxi drivers, but we eventually arrived at the mountain village around noon. We quickly found what must be the coolest minbak in South Korea, with tons of character, huge open windows letting in light, a balcony overlooking the main drag, and a piano in one of the rooms. We unloaded our things and went downstairs to gorge on homemade kalguksu.

After lunch, we headed down the cherry-blossom-lined road and entered Bogyeongsa temple. It was a fairly humble complex, set in open land, with no real discernable identity to it. This was probably the shortest temple visit I’ve done. But the day was beginning to grow old and we had other, more important destinations in mind — namely, the series of waterfalls along the trail up Naeyeonsan.

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In heart, in mind

Posted in Culture, Korea, News on April 2, 2009 by Elephant Talk

As we get closer to North Korea’s missile launch, Japan becomes a more interesting player. The thought of Japan preparing for a North Korean provocation begs several questions: Would Japan really take an aggressive stand on this? Would Japan ever go to war with the DPRK? And the bigger one: If they did engage fully in war with the North, what would South Koreans think of that?

Korea is split ideologically. But this is only a 55-year-old split for a “people” with a 5,000-year-old history. Koreans ultimately see themselves as Korean, regardless of north and south. All Koreans, it seems, share a collective dislike when it comes Japan. In some it’s stronger than others, but I think it’s there for everyone. It’s a kimchi pot that the north loves to stir up now and then. Why not throw Japan into the mix to confuse things that much more? I love the quotes coming out of the DPRK, full of drama and posturing:

Should Japan dare recklessly to intercept the DPRK’s satellite, its army will consider this as the start of Japan’s war of reinvasion more than six decades after the Second World War.

So if it came to such a war, where would the hearts and minds of the people in the south side? If Japan scored an impressive naval victory, sinking a few DPRK battleships, or destroyed some ancient temple in the north, how might people in the South feel? Conversely, if the DPRK landed a few missiles in Tokyo, or took control of Dokdo island, would there be a little tiny squeal of collective joy from the south? I asked a couple Korean friends this recently and one admitted, laughing, yeah, maybe a little.

The south would find itself in an interesting position of being ideologically sided with the capitalist/democratic lifestyle they seem to enjoy, while feeling strong kinship with their race. It would be interesting, not to mention tragic, to see how that would play out. Let’s hope it will only ever be a matter of conjecture.

As for the launch itself, it could happen as soon as the day after tomorrow. If it happens then, I won’t know anything about it. I’m heading off to the mountains this weekend with a good group of friends to take in fresh air and green trees.