Musica


Well, I’ve been packing all day and getting things in order around the apartment. I need to head over to the subway station no later than noon tomorrow to hop on the airport shuttle to take me to Incheon. The subway takes roughly the same amount of time (40 minutes to 1 hour) but considering I’ll have to luggage bags to check in I’d rather just pay the 9 dollars for the direct transportation and not have to worry about transfers or getting glared at for taking up too much space on a possibly crowded train car. Last minute errands such as grabbing a refill on my contacts and picking up a lot of crunky bars and other assorted candies have filled my day. I’ve loaded a ton of movies on my iPhone for the flight and researched what I can bring through customs to the states. This part was kind of undefined, vague to say the best.

My friend in Arizona has a foodie amigo who had requested I bring in some kimchi. I got the processed kind in the sealed bag so hopefully that’s fine. I also couldn’t figure out what the limits on Soju were, a friend said he brought 12 of the small bottles and a few bokbanjoo’s (Korean raspberry wine, whose spelling I’m probably butchering) and some Chongha (sweeter little sister to Soju usually favored by the ladies). I’m a little more cautious and am just bringing four of the plastic bottles and a single of bukbanjoo. I guess worst case scenario they take a couple of the two dollar bottles away. No big loss, I’m not a huge fan of the stuff but it’s nice to bring some form of local beverage for the friends back home to experience.

This last week has been a stutter between killing time at my apartment and rushing around town saying goodbye to friends. Friday was a real treat when my good Canadian friend from Ilsan and I went to the Jeju Rock and Resistance Show in Hongdae at Freebirds. Ten dollars got you entrance to see all ten bands. My buddy’s girlfriend was one of the volunteer coordinators for it, she usually does a lot of work promoting awareness of the Korean “comfort women” who were sex slaves used by the Japanese during World War 2. This makes particular event was to raise funds and awareness of the ongoing opposition to the proposed US Naval base being installed on Jeju Island. The area in question is the site of much natural beauty which has earned it a UNESCO placing and also Gangjeong Village. From what I heard there it is an amazing area and the people are strongly resisting displacement, many also said that it was not the US Navy who was pushing for this exact location but Samsung who is a partner in the site construction/development. For more information check out this link.

Powerful speakers and killer bands really delivered a strong message for this cause.

The bands were quite varied in both genre and skill but all in all I think most everyone was quite happy to have come out for the show. I was pleased to actually hear my first reggae band perform and, wonders never cease, one of the musicians played the rarely scene mellodica which is kind of like a small handheld keyboard you blow into while you play. Awesome! My favorite band of the night was an instrumental trio of two girls and one guy. The gent played a small traditional wooden flute, acoustic guitar and did some synthwork using a Macbook. The girls were both playing their hearts out on their respective traditional instruments I had never seen before. The first was a Haegeum and the other was a Geomungo. This was a mesmerizing performance and it was great to see these amazing ancient instruments creating such powerful and resonant music. I was also quite happy because it took me back to my childhood when I used to play with the miniature Japanese variants of these that hung from our Christmas tree. My father had acquired them during his stay in Japan as part of a high school exchange. Oh yeah, Seoul’s belly-dancing troupe did a performance. I was impressed at their grace and art. I was also cracking up at seeing many of the guys there getting elbowed in their ribs by their girlfriends when they outright gawked at the performance with open jaws. I always try to watch respectfully but was glad to be single at that particular instance, haha.

Saturday I showed the two new hires (a couple) to my school around Itaewon and Haebanchong foreign areas of Seoul. They have only been here a couple weeks and have taken a liking to Korean food but really appreciated breakfast at Wolfhounds and a trip to the High Street Market to see their selection of comfort foods from home. The same friend from Ilsan and my Korean buddy who I’ll call London because of his strong accent after studying their came out and we grabbed a bite to eat and some drinks at Phillies Pub which I highly recommend. One of the new hires was from Philadelphia so he got a kick out of the namesake. Ilsan and I went to a quick show while London showed the duo around Itaewon. It was one stop past Itaewon in the opposite direction of Noksapyeong in a small DIY concert space setup under a coffee house and adjacent to a small bar. It was titled an “Experimental” show and was definitely quite original. From discordant thrash like Christfuck, to the ever building/looping/cascading waves of sounds of the band Ten (recently back from Japan) to a unskilled drummer/kazooist who invokes a sense of Andy Kaufman style humor “I am sorry I not so good, the trumpet player Kenny G is in England tonight.” It was, well, an experience.

Not much happened after this except making new friends with a bunch of EPIK (public school) teachers just out of orientation, last call at Sam Ryans and an after hours party back at Phillies Pub some of the regulars invited me and Ilsan two. Amazing how many new friends you make right before you leave for a while. Irony!

Well, I need to get back to packing before heading out to one last samgyeopsal (BBQ pork) meal and Winter Hof night with the coworkers. The next post will be a photo blog about my trip yesterday to Insadong and Gyeongbok Palace but right now I don’t have time to upload all those photos. Until then, Syonara my friends!

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This month is off to a good start. We’ve had a few sporadic snow flurries (nothing sticks and it is minuscule amounts falling at best) but it has been very cold in the twenties at night and extremely dry. Hand and face lotion as well as chap stick are items I rarely use back home but over here it is a necessity. On the plus side these shorter days a lower temperatures are really making me look forward to my approaching vacation in Thailand. Nothing to increase the anticipation for the warm, sunny beaches of Koh Samoi like the onset of Seoul winter.

Anticipation rising!

The month started out a little somber as some of the friends I spent the most time with departed back home. My friends Jacob and Mary left for a week’s vacation before returning to Portland to reenter their lives there. I was acquaintances with Mary while attending Western and we both laughed as she left that it was our experiences in Korea that really solidified our friendship from being people you said hello to friends who knew the backgrounds and value of each other. Funny how being in an expat community can do that to you.

Ahhh, my futbol watching partners in crime, your presence will be missed over here.

Her boyfriend Jacob was probably my numero uno amigo over here. I will sincerely miss Yahtzee nights at the low-key Irish bar Madigans in Hwagok every Friday and talking smack while playing pool and darts with Ratatat playing in the background. He also had weekly appointments at an area just past my stop so we frequently got together in my hood every week on Tuesday or Thursday and would talk for hours at a local hof or outside the Cultwo Mart. We didn’t know each other in college but through our stories of our time there discovered a plethora of shared friends and adventures.

It’s a surreal feeling talking to a friend you’ve met in Seoul and piecing together that you were both at the same crazy, uber-granola house party in college. Unlike many friends I had to say my farewells to I look forward to future adventures in Portland and Seattle this upcoming Summer. So many of the people you meet here you know you will probably never see again outside of Seoul. It’s good to get the ones where you can already anticipate enjoying epic times in the near future back home.

A similar goodbye was my coworker Dallas. After 3 years at our Hagwon he was ready to try a different style of workplace. Though he will be back in January I do already miss our weeknights out. Not really being one to go huge on the Weekend nights outside of our neighborhood he was surprising keen on having good conversations/watching high-brow or less main stream movies and sharing a drink on the weeknight. An appreciation for these things is fairly lacking  in term of my other coworkers so the notable lack of entertainment on weeknights has been in strong contrast to last month.

Now that my friend base has significantly decreased I’m already hitting up quite a few more shows. Feel like I may have to go to some of those social mixer events to up the networking a little more. This weekend I attended a pretty good show at club spot with quite a few metalcore and some grind bands and then followed it up by attending the monthly spinning at Roots Time in Hongdae. Won a dollar (harhar) from my coworker because I encountered some “Fresh from Incheon” expats who just arrived last weekend at the Little Travelers’ show from the weekend before.

I had told them to check out Roots Time and my coworker had said there was no they’d cruise all the way back up from their base in Suwon to see somebody spinning vinyl at a hole in the wall. Turns out he underestimated the yearning for Reggae in a K-Pop fanatic culture, easy money…

The Little Travelers show featured 6 clubs and over 20 bands with all proceeds going to nonprofits for women with AIDS in South Africa. Nothing like rocking out to a good cause. While I was winning money and dipping my head to the tracks at Roots Time I also ran into my buddy from Finland who is a student at Yonsei University nearby. Libations were had into the wee hours and I gained a healthy respect for the Finnish ethanol tolerance.

Tuesday was also great as it was a good friend’s birthday. We had dinner at the Peruvian joint Cusco. The food was great. My Arroz con Pollo was excellent, I was tempted by the fusion chicken dish but Latin American curry seemed like it might be hit or miss so I went for the standard fare. One friend ordered the octopus ceviche and I must admit, for the first time eating raw tentacles it was really good. I even enjoyed the stringy seafood that adorned the dish along with the marinated red onions and hearty South American corn (bigger kernels and much starchier with a real chew factor). The birthday amigo and his girlfriend split a bottle of Chilean wine branded with El Diablo and spirits were high.

Arroz con Pollo Peruvian style was a great gastro start to the night.

We left there to get a nice cocktail at Lucky Strike up the block. My first month here we pulled this same itinerary and it was kind of surreal feeling my first case of Seoul nostalgia. After 7 months it still feels like I just showed up last week. I stuck with my classic Manhattan and felt like a Advertisement Exec baller as always. Lucky Strike is based on the cigarette which leaves for a lot of retro decor and a cool funky feel. It has a take out window on the side and interesting caricatures of alcohol etched into the windows. Rum is a guzzling pirate and Gin is a lidded, urban socialite. A swarthy Russian Vodka with the stereotypical Moscow tall hat and a bottle sticking out of his pocket while still ordering 1 more with a gloved had accompanied by a passed out Tequila with a droopy stache and a large sombrero complete the quartet.

Proof once more that nothing is trademarked in Korea.

Drinks are well made here and perfectly stiff. However the cost is a bit much (my Manhattan was 10,000 Won) and after already having splurge we went next door to Rock and Roll bar for one last drink before ending an earlyish night out. This was just one more example of how you can walk into a random divey looking basement bar here and be completely taken by surprised. The atmosphere was great, the drinks modest in cost, the help courteous and fluent in English and there was even a huge fluffy cat that walked like he owned the place. Excellent. I ended up having an extra drink of Red Rock (Korean made, fairly decent Amber Ale) on tap due to finding an unspoken gem like this. A brief spate of worry over the approaching midnight hour (average subway cut-off time) was solved by the ever helpful foreign helpline. Just dial 1330 and a friendly Seoulite who speaks English will help you with any inquires from “How late does the two-line run from Hapjeong to Daelim?” to “where can I find a pool with a diving in South East Seoul?”. Thank you Seoul, another successful night!

I’m sure most of you have heard of Rockabilly. Born in the early 1950s in rural America, specifically the Southern states. This blues and western swing influenced genre gains its name from the blending of Rock and Hillbilly and the term Rockabilly was originally an insulting term brandished against the early pioneers. Like many such slurs (think Yankee) it was embraced by the very people it was supposed to slight. I was a big fan of the Living End, Tiger Army and the Reverend Horton Heat back in my high school days but had thought those days of fandom were behind me. I was wrong.

This newfound appreciation was due to one epic catalyst known as the Rocktigers. This Korean outfit has even coined a new name for a subgenre within Rockabilly known as Kimchibilly. They play fast, vibrant tunes and the charisma blazing during their stand up bass solos, furious behind the head guitar riffs and wailing tunes of their lead singer truly gets you caught up in the moment. It doesn’t hurt that the charming frontwoman Velvet Geena is mischievously beautiful and quite willing to talk to any fan with a contagious enthusiasm.

I’ve been to two of their shows so far and always have a good time. Sometimes it takes putting a whole new spin on an old favorite to rekindle the love affair, but I’m glad to be a fan of Rockabilly once more. I just had to travel halfway across the globe to find some savage Asian musicians who were fed up with Kpop and ready to blaze a new trail by making inroads to a somewhat forgotten style of American Rock.

First off, a big apology to all of those that read that last blog entry. Apparently I did not properly log out of my blog correctly on Monday so some of my coworkers took the liberty to go in and make some minor changes to my Author and The Blog pages. Then they uploaded a new post. I was think about leaving it up to give you all a taste of their sense of humor but it was kind of annoying me each time I saw it and the graphic depiction of death and lack of remorse might shake the sensibilities of some of my family members who read this. Definitely got some concerned emails…

I would have taken it down but they also changed the email address and password thus effectively locking me out. Very effective on their part. Needless to say I was not as amused as they were, I’m more of a laugh with you or well-meaning shit-talking amongst friends king of guy. Not the real laughing as group at one member in particular variety. Enough about that though and back to the positive vibrations playing out here during the Chuseok holiday!

The main events were two shows and one epic hiking trip up in the mountains. The first show on Friday night was a fairly uneventful local show of a rock duo (guitar & drums) and a progressive jazz trio (bass, keyboard & drums). There were probably only 8 other people there and I was the only foreigner in attendance so was definitely an intimate showing. Saturday night Gold Panda put on an epic show in Seoul. First band from abroad I’ve seen in my time as a resident here and they definitely brought the epic tunes with them from NY. The show was at Rolling Hall which is definitely the most legitimate venue I have been to here. The occupancy seemed like anywhere from 3 to 4 hundred. Felt like every hipster in Seoul was in attendance. Lots of dancing and running into recently acquired fans made for a great evening!

Sunday was just some festivities around the foreign district with my coworker from DC and watching a little of the Ireland vs. US in the World Cup for rugby. Later that evening we attended a Chuseok party thrown at a small house overlooking the Itaewon are near Namsan tower. The Korean and German guys hosting the shindig were outstanding hosts and a bevy of food was offered, much cooked on the barbecue on the grill outside. A large hookah offered a various assortment of shisha to partake in.

Tuesday was the end of my 4 day workweek so I celebrated by hitting up the mountain (Bukhansan) with my friends who are a couple that attended the same university I did. The weather was great and even though there were trove of people trekking up the mountain the holiday enthusiasm made for beaming smiles and a jovial atmosphere on the peaks. This marks a full month of me hitting up the mountains for multiple kilometer hikes and I couldn’t be happier. My skin is the olive tone I appreciate, my energy level is higher and I feel great overall! Highly encourage anyone who has some high altitude topography nearby to get out there and enjoy it this fall. My condition is strong.

Standing tall on a mountain!

A common trend of mine seems to be blogging about events a week or two after they happen. I’d like to thing that is because I’m organizing in my head exactly what I want to impart. Letting the thoughts take shape and crystallize into the perfect coherent and eloquent form to express my life here in Seoul. Sadly, I fear this is more due to the fact that at heart I’m somewhat of a procrastinator and don’t get around to writing posts until I realize the memories are starting to fade from experiences and sensations/thoughts in the moment to mere cliff notes.

This entry is about my elementary kids and the awesome prowess they possess in serenading the judges (other teachers) into giving them pizza. The song contest took place two weeks ago and was a blast. Two of my classes came in first place and one in second. To be honest I was kind of rooting for the team that came in second the most. Their rendition of “Somewhere over the rainbow” covered by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole was pretty cute. Not precisely all-city choir quality but I was cracking up at seeing them sing, especially the initial “Oooooo  oooooo ooooooo” part which they had trouble delivering with any flexing of their range. Picture one long monotone Oooooooooo *pause* ooooooo….you get the picture. They really tried hard and put their all into it.

I was feeling so motivated for these guys to score well I dropped by the local craft store and made them streamer flags that they could wave. I bought five different colors of streamers and attached them to similarly colored hard-foam poles. As they swayed them back and forth it kinda looked like a rainbow on stage. Kinda. Regardless anyone who knows me well knows arts and crafts aren’t really my forte so I was feeling pretty proud of even this small props-crafting.

Luckily enough 2nd still gets a pizza party, just not the SLP dollars (used on market day) or badge/pins that some students proudly have adorning their backpacks. They were beat out by one of my other classes with their cover of “World’s Greatest by R Kelly. They chose the song in that class…Me being a huge R Kelly fan and all (read the sarcasm…) you can see why I was rooting for Somewhere over the rainbow.

Here’s a shot of one of my older classes who won with “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers. I tried to convince all of my classes to do some mild form of dancing (read pantomiming the lyrics) but they all balked. This class even refused to lean against each other during the chorus which urges this action.

Lean on Me takes the gold.

I was fairly vindicated by the surprised look on my coteacher’s face when they won. I choose the song and she had been fairly adamant about how it was too hard for them.

I’ve easily been to over a hundred shows in my life. Though I won’t know when I hit the thousand mark I’m looking forward to it. That being said the three shows I went to on my week of vacation were unlike any I have been to back home. Not as much in terms of the type of music but more so because of the environment and my own vibe during the shows.

There is this interesting sensation of surrealism upon walking into a show here and being the only Caucasian in the club. I have never felt so distanced from the “scene” as I did at my first show at Sapiens 7 club in Hongdae, Seoul. Everyone is chatting casually in Korean. Then the music starts and it doesn’t matter what your native tongue is, just the appreciation for heavy music (thrash, hardcore, metal, etc.) and the vibrant bellows and shrieks of the lead singer backed by the righteous riffs, barrages of double pedals and savage, resonant bass lines of the instruments.

During the set breaks you are wrenched out of your comfort zone when the lead singer cracks jokes and tells stories in Korean. Other than his/her tone of voice, body language and the reactions of the crowd you have no idea what message is being broadcast. I caught the part where one lead singer thanked us for coming to this show instead of going to see Incubus that night at the Jisan valley Rock Festival but the rest was decidedly over my head.

Bands ranged from emo-influenced, melodic hardcore to Southern style Panteraesque metal, to a band in the vein of the Brazilian behemoths Sepultura. I befriended a German metalhead who was visiting a friend for a month and a Canadian fellow expat teacher who was the only waygook who played in any of the bands that night (bass in one of the opening acts) and accompanied them to the after party with a few of the bands at a Korean BBQ house. There is a service here where instead of taking a taxi home or drinking and driving you pay a driver to shuttle you back home in your car. I waved goodbye to a series of guttural, victorious shouts and “goodbye Nathan!”s as their van headed back to their rockin domiciles.

After this I snagged some tater tots with my new friend and fellow metalhead from Germany Ollie and his friend Karina. We had some libations and enjoyed deep-fried starchy goodness until about 4am when Ollie informed me his flight left at 9am that morning. I laughed and told him to go home and snagged a taxi back to my apartment on the other side of the behemoth waterway that is the Han river.

My next installment in this series will feature my new favorite Korean band The Rocktigers and their own unique genre of music kimchibilly. Stay tuned and as my 7 year olds say after a speech “thank you for listening!”.

First full paycheck is in the bank! Last week I received my ARC (Alien Registration Card) which is kind of like a green card in South Korea and was able to open up a bank account. Now I just need to register my cell phone and I’m back on the grid! Being without a cell phone, car, bank account or computer for a month and a half was a rather surreal time, haha.

This last weekend was uneventful for the most part but quite enjoyable. Friday night I stayed in Daelim with some of the coworkers. The guys all met up at the indoor screen golf establishment across the street from our apartment building. Screen golf is interesting, I mean it’s definitely not the real deal and the fake plants and piped in birdsongs add a certain faux chesseyness to it but all in all I was kind of impressed. I was allowed to bring in a cheese pizza from the local “Pizza School” (much more tolerable if you add fake bacon bits, oregano, hot sauce and garlic powder) and some Chongha (kind of like Soju but less alcoholic and not as harsh tasting). I didn’t play this eighteen but enjoyed the spectating and smack talking. A pyramid of empty Cass cans at the end of the night was our testament to not worrying about crashing the cart.

Using my paycheck I was able to pay for two epic upcoming events in the next month. The first of these is the Boryeong Mud Festival on the South East Coast here in Seoul. Featuring tons of mud-wrestling, jousting and the like it draws a rowdy crowd of foreigners and Korean for one outstanding weekend of debauchery. I’m going with my coworkers and we reserved a package with a group that is renting out a ton of buses with complimentary beers and has reserved three entire hotels just for people who are part of their group. $100 bucks seemed like a score for the accommodations and busing.

Fingers crossed for sunshine.

This was until my coworker totally outdid herself by making the travel and housing arrangements for Summer vacation. Four of us are traveling down to Busan mid-week of our on week vacation in August. For the total cost of $179 we are taking the KTX (traveling at over 300+ km per hour it is the second fastest train on the planet) and staying at a swanky hotel the first night (Tuesday). The next two nights we have a sweet guest house with full amenities and four bunk beds right near the beach for easy access. The ride back will be a little longer in the commuter train but I know I’ll be so tired it won’t even register past my earphone aided power/recovery nap on Friday back to Seoul.

Add onto all this that I moved apartments on Sunday from the lowly fourth four surrounded by Koreans to the 7th floor which is all SLP employees. I managed to luck out with this because the previous tenant left a ton of stuff which I will definitely utilize in my time here. Now I just need to get over to the lighting store and get some paper lanterns to add a little ambience to the place. Once I have it outfitted to my taste I’ll post some pictures. Until then enjoy this video courtesy of Gold Panda.

http://pitchfork.com/tv/#/music-videos/970-gold-panda/

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