It’s been two weeks since I returned from Thailand and I still miss it. Among the top of the list includes:

From city to country these shrines are ever abundant across the landscape of Thailand. Behind it you can just make up the pick up game of soccer by all the boys wearing sneakers in a dirt lot.

1. The laid-back mentality and generous hospitality of the locals.

2. The amazing cuisine (I definitely prefer the fresh vs. fermented style of authentic Asian cuisines which was a huge difference between Korea and Thailand), I’ve always enjoyed Thai food back home but it pales in comparison to the amazing variety and richness of the local dishes while there. Not to mention the dirt cheap prices. Example? Roasted Sea Bass and deep-fried Morning Glory with hard-boiled eggs.

If you can judge something by its lowest common denominator then let me just say this "Even the mall food was Good!"

3. The warm temperature in the 80s spent beach/pool side and some (but not all) of the cheap yet fairly decadent hotels I stayed at.

Catching some rays and reading some Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay with a Tiger Lager in hand. Oh yeah, those are waterfalls coming off the arches on the far end...

Instead of providing a full recap, my posts on Thailand are going to be focused upon two of the real highlights of my trip (which coincidentally I managed to actually take some photos of). The weekend market at Mo Chit in Bangkok and the island of Koh Samoi in Southern Thailand.

While I used to frequent the farmers’ market in my college-town of Bellingham I was in no way prepared for the daunting size and spectrum represented in the weekend market here. For example, at one point we became slightly lost in between the pet section and the florist section. Both were indoors and easily over an acre in size. The flora section was a nice break actually after the fauna section, not just because of the far more pleasing aroma. While it was nice to see so many dogs that I rarely see in Korea (Black Labs, Newfoundlands and German Shepherds to name a few) it was slightly depressing to see the size of the cages they were all enclosed in.

Leave a trail of bread crumbs when you enter...least you never exit the labyrinth of the indoor section of the market.

Immediately upon walking in I snagged a young coconut juice (best cure for the celebratory Christmas Eve night prior) for a mere 65 cents. This nectar of the gods has the same pH level of human blood and, fun fact of the day, was used as a substitute for saline when supplies were low during WWII. This was one of many different forms of juices you could purchase here, ranging from the familiar, Lemon, to the exotic, Rambutan, options were plentiful.

"Wait, so which one is the best to mix with snake's blood, the original Red Bull and Samsung?" Samsung is Thai Whiskey not the Korean company and Red Bull is from Thailand but has a different recipe here, syrupy and kinda feels like it has amphetamines in it...

Food was great as the small noodle/curry stalls operated on every corner. I gained quite a bit of respect for them right of the bat when I noticed that the basil, green onion and cilantro was all still alive, growing in vases in the center of the table. These as well as the green beans, cabbage and bean sprouts, were definitely taken advantage of while I feasted right next to other, Thai, American and Japanese, customers at the small plastic tables provided. Oh, did I mention the abundance of LIMEs in Thailand?! This delectable citrus is one of my favorites and I had developed a craving something fierce the prior. Add on to this that some stalls had small, mobile garden patches nearby and the atmosphere was superb.  Needless to say my hunger was sated and then some.

BANGARANG!

Sa-wat-dee kraup Green Thumb.

The diversity found at the locale was also amazing to me. You would see an Australian family on holiday, all drinking some Singha lager (Granny included),   shoulder to shoulder with a family of Sikhs on vacation from the subcontinent. The cacophony of different dialects and languages coming at you from all directions (megaphones, hawkers, conversations right next to you) was slightly disorienting at first. But much like a lot of the discordant music I like (definitely thinking of one of my favorite bands, Converge) after some time you fall into the groove of it and appreciate the harmonies therein.

Seoul is rather limited in comparison when it comes to cultural diversity. There is and immigrant population but it is by no means a real tourist destination. While the foreign district Itaewon and my area of residence may be exceptions, in terms of a large variety, the majority of non-natives you see here fit two types. American GIs and English teachers from one of the English dominant countries with Americans and Canadians being the majority here in Seoul.

The region I call home, Youngdeungpo-Gu, actually has the highest concentration of immigrants in the whole city. These are Chinese workers, if you look around closely the signs alternate between Hangul and Chinese characters. Some blocks are completely lacking in Neon signs and Hangul and are 100% Chinese. As my good Korean-American friend told me “It’s like I was magically transported from Seoul to Beijing.”

Did dabble in a little budget commerce myself, though they were all undoubtedly knock-offs I was pretty satisfied at what, for me, was quite a bit of shopping. For around $15 I purchased a pair of Chelsea home match trunks, RayBan shades, Diesel sandals and decent board shorts. Not too shabby for someone who abhors the mall and shops rarely to never. I was baffled at the Arabian gentleman who purchased a large quantity of Thai high-end cutlery and china plates and whatnot. Figure they must offer some shipping options. Personally, I wouldn’t want to try to hauling that through the packed, bustling crowds to get out.

More packed than a Seoul rush hour subway. No easy feat.

One thing I was glad we didn’t encounter across the vast yet cramped expanse of the market was the rather large cock-fighting section. Muay Thai matches with potential broken bones? Sure, they are volunteering for that. Animals eviscerating each other with razor blades? Not my bag. The tourist tuktuks smashing their way through the crowds with loud music out of low-quality speakers also wasn’t the most impressive.

Nonchalant as all get out. These kids were killin it.

On the flipside there was a multitude of singers and musicians busking on corners. From older gentlemen playing traditional drums to the groups or solo young boys in vibrant attire playing these wooden, almost Peruvian wind-pipe reminiscent, instruments. All in all I had a wonderful time and would definitely recommend this stop to anyone visiting Bangkok.

If the hotel we stayed at the first night seemed somewhat stark, dingy and antiquated we were in for quite the surprise upon arrival at our next lodgings. “The Guest House” (actual name of business) just opened up for business in the past two months and was fully furnished with a very modern (two separate computers for guest use) and trendy look to it. We slept 4 people to a room in separate bunk beds. The beds were comfortable and the layout of the room was quite convenient with individual lockers and a large closet for clothes and luggage. Not only was there on site laundry for your sandy, sea-smelling beach attire but they had a fully stocked kitchen and provided breakfast free of charge, though conversation for me was slightly limited.

Korean frosted flakes? Order Up!

Lively conversations around me are a reminder that I need to focus more on my Korean conversational skills.

I really enjoyed the charismatic and goofy owner/manager of the property. The first night there my coworkers decided to go to the bars immediately after the beach. I for one am more of a shower and change kinda guy, don’t really like sitting on a bar stool with the feeling of sand in my shoes and in my clothes. Due to this I hopped on the subway for a little evening transition time in between festivities. On a related quick tangent I feel like a true expat because I now have not one, but Two Korean subway cards! One Seoul Metro linked onto my bank account and one Busan Hannaro card.

Haha, back to the story… I arrived at the guesthouse after a quick stop by the store for some Mekju (beer), ramen, soft tofu and green onions. After a quick shower I fired up the elements and started crafting a little curry ramen stew. While talking to my new friend Peter who was a student/soldier (all Koreans over twenty must serve for a little under two years in the armed forces) I pulled out my trusty bag of culinary tricks and added a little complexity to my dish. Many of my friends will tell you that I can’t eat without my assortment of condiments and I packed accordingly for this vacation. My coworker from Philly likened me to a culinary Felix the Cat and his magical bag of tricks.

Peter saw the meal and the mekju I pulled out of the fridge and seemed to be a bit inspired as he produced a bag of rice balls stuffed with kimchi and boiled potatoes and ran down to the 7-11 to purchase some beer of his own. Around this time the owner came out of his room/office smelling the curry in the air and looking curiously at the dining table. Upon seeing my dish he let out the often hear “WOW!” and asked if I was a chef. I laughed and told him my Dad had spent some time in this occupation but that my brother was the cook in the family and I just learned some tricks and enjoyed the hobby.

We sat and chatted in simplified English for a bit and then Peter returned with some beer. Food was traded and beers were clanked together held by two hands and the utterance of “Gombey” which is the traditional Korean cheers. Do not accidentally say “Kampi” or you will look like a real ass…

The next morning the same WOW was uttered a few times by Peter and the manager when I made a little breakfast omelette. I felt a happy and somewhat proud sense of Deja Vu.

Sprucing up the finished product with a little Sriracha, garlic salt w/ parsley, basil and a drizzle of Chili oil.

Breakfast of Champions!

The manager was so impressed he asked me to give him an English name. First time I have given a grown man a namesake. Cheers to you Ethan of the guesthouse and all the gracious and fun-loving other Korean guests I met there!

And thus you were named!

Big Ups to my Guest House peeps!

Lunch was had across the street at the Shinsegae department store. The sushi was really good in the food court with a nice tuna roll wrapped in that crazy purple rice they have here in Korea. It was pretty similar to most of the department stores except for the fact that….IT’S THE BIGGEST ONE IN THE WORLD! Haha, yeah, movie theatre, spa, Romanesque fountains with alabaster sculptures, an ice rink and a giant Guiness seal of authenticity on the front it was a little overwhelming.

If you go to the website you might even get to see the testimony “webmercial” video testimony he filmed of my review to try and coax other waygookins into his 21st story guest house of wonders.

Finally got a moment of respite from the marathon teaching that was last week. This is shaping up to be a great work week as we had Monday off for Korean independence day, some of you may have taken note of this is you saw Google’s homepage giving props to the flag. Thursday and Friday all my afternoon classes have the singing contest so no real intensive classes then and on Friday all morning classes have the pajama party, my kindergarten coteacher and I are in charge of cooking classes so we’re teaching them all how to make  canapés for the entire session.

Enough about SLP though I still need to recap my Busan vacation at the beginning of this month. Our (I was accompanied by 4 of my coworkers) train going down to Busan actually left at 10:30 instead of 9:50 as we originally thought so we made it to the departing station in downtown central Seoul in no time. We were riding on the KTX and I had never ridden on a bullet train before so this was quite a novel experience.

To travel from Seoul which is near the Northwest corner of Korea all the way down to Busan on the opposite end of the country takes only about 3 hours including the numerous stops at stations to pick up more passengers along the way. You really don’t comprehend exactly how fast you are moving as you look out onto the landscape in the distance. Then you focus on the scenery passing by in a closer proximity to the train and suffer a wave of vertigo as everything just becomes a blur of movement.

Upon arrival we hailed a cab and cruised out to our hotel. This is peak vacation season and we had just managed to snag one of the last hotel rooms available. The price was really cheap but the hotel was located in an odd spot of town where very few foreigners visit. It did kind of feel like I was in an odd ’80s communist era hotel but the beds were comfortable and the AC was efficient so I can’t complain.

We spent a total of three nights in Busan. During the day we hit up many beaches including the most popular beach Haundae. This was by far the most crowded beach that I have ever been on in my life. A sea of parasols and beach mats covered most of the available square footage and the always present lifeguards on jet skis not letting swimmers past 6-7 feet deep roamed the waters like sharks waiting outside a reef. The sound of families, soju intoxicated college kids and fellow expats was a constant drone. While exciting and spring-breakesque this wasn’t really my idea of the perfect beach.

Vacation seaside frenzy.

In comparison to this the next day was quite a difference as we went out to Songjeong beach and had another day of soaking up some rays. This beach is far more family orientated and much less crowded. Had some decent nostalgia stirred up upon seeing all the kids making moat-encircled sand castles by the water line. I decided to invest in one of the intertube rentals for $5 and was rewarded with a nice cool vantage point mostly above water gently bobbing in the sea. Spectacular.

One other great thing to note about this beach is that it was the only one I saw with an area roped off for surfing and had quite a few amateur Korean surfers trying to catch the small breakers coming in. I flashed a “shaka” but think this hawaiian greeting was lost in translation. I was kinda tempted to go hit up the surf shack on the other side of the road to rent a board but it wasn’t destined to be as we didn’t discover this part of the beach until nearer to sunset.

Bobbing on the intertube with my shades on was vacay bliss.

The next day I was feeling like I had my fill of beaches and decided to enrich the cultural aspect of this trip by visiting one of the local Buddhist temples. Haedong Yonggungsa is a unique temple to Korea in that it is the only Buddhist temple in this country that is located right on the coast. I had originally planned on visiting Beomeosa which is one of the “5 great temples of Korea” but its isolated location up in the mountains in Northern Busan and associated 1.5-2 hour one-way transit time was kinda discouraging. I didn’t regret my decision to opt for Yonggungsa the moment I stood at this tranquil viewpoint with the ocean breeze caressing my face.

The only seaside temple in Korea.

This is the first large Buddhist temple I have ever visited and I was quite impressed. The only one I had seen before this was the very small and quaint temple located within Boramae park two stops away from my hood. This temple had numerous sentinel-like sculptures leading up to the entrance to the temple steps once you finally made it through the long alley of stalls selling everything from sweet red-bean pastries to Buddhist amulets & bracelets and even iced apricot tea (I was intrigued).

A long set of steps followed leading down past small alters with old wax encrusted pillars and stonework lanterns cut from a white rock. A few smaller outdoor side shrines branched off until you reached a vista point and all of the sudden you could all of the sudden perceive the main temple complex pictured above and the panoramic sea view pictured below.

The sun was strong but the setting so serene you didn't notice the sweat.

Finally doing some culturally enriching sightseeing instead of just beaches and bar debauchery!

While here I felt a strong sense of fulfillment and pride. My father raised me Roman Catholic (no longer practicing) but always strongly urged me to visit as many temples, synagogues, cathedrals and mosques to truly gain an appreciation for the cultures that created them. The stories concerning the origins of this place as well as the values reflected in the architecture, layout religious artwork truly seemed to impress upon you some empathy for the civilization that created it.

This was the main one out of many different buddha statues. Some were small stone ones with rub-worn stone bellies due to generations of hands searching for good luck. Others were giant ebony totems right by the breaking ocean waves.

The general mood of the people was a joy to behold. From the old, stoic grandmother making her practiced bows in the inner shrine, to the sightseeing tourists soaking up part of their own culture and snapping dozens of photos  every few minutes, to the small children running around smiling and laughing everyone seemed very at peace. No one was rude or pushy in the lines like at the subway stations. Everyone just seemed to appreciate where they were and the moment they were living in.

Dear blog,

Sorry I’ve been neglecting you so much. I know, I know, you are my Hermes carrying messages back home and promoting my exploits here in Korea. Yes, I know, in twenty years when I am much more tied down and think back to times of wanderlust you will be a testament of inspiration for adventures of yesteryear. It’s just that I lost that camera cord and really wanted to upload photos so that the text wouldn’t stand alone. This last week especially has been really hectic at school as we’ve had two new teachers show up and they’ve been observing me so I’ve had to really put my game face on. That paired with fact that it’s been the last week of the July session and I’ve had an increased classload has given me virtually no free time for blogging at school.

I’ll make it up to you by promising to put this and two other posts up this week. This first one will be the recap of mid-July and Marine Week in which our protagonist ventured out to the Aquarium at COEX with his awesome young linguists protegés the Cheetah class and battled the ocean/elements and made more expat friends from around the world at the Boryoeng Mud Festival.

First off, the aquarium was a complete blast! My kids were in high spirits and I had a delightful time watching them ohhh and ahhh at all the sharks, sea turtles, tropical fish, crocodiles and more. The AC was pumping out a cool flow and the humidity was low. Facilities were very modern and the fact that cost of entry is My aquatic buddies.usually $30 on the weekends made me thankful the school was picking up the bill on this one. Another one of my patented beaming smiles was let loose upon seeing the sea otter exhibit. I DIG SEA OTTERS in a big way. The way they sinuously move in the water makes me envious of a prowess at swimming I will never posses. Their features always seem to be mischievously smiling and mates hold paws when they sleep so that they don’t lose each other out on the open sea. There is no marine animal I would rather be than the carefree sea otter.

Cheetah class humming Under the Sea.

Boreyong was a blast. Our bus left Seoul at 7:30am and Noksapyeong is a good 45 minutes away via subway so we had to leave the apartments by 6:20 to play it safe. I pulled myself out of bed at 5:30 am to make a huge breakfast scramble consisting of 12 eggs, one zuchnni, two yellow onion, 4 Korean chili peppers, 1 orange bell pepper, 1 potato, basil, oregano and some Boulliard’s Louisiana hot sauce and Sriracha Thai chili sauce. A little power breakfast to help with the beginning of the forey. The bus ride was uneventful but I was filled with a lighthearted joy upon leaving Seoul for the first time since arriving.

I loved zoning out on road trips and just soaking up the passing scenery of Washington as a child. This trait is not lost to me as an adult and South Korea’s countryside had a lot to offer. From mist shrouded mountains clad in verdant tones of green fauna unfamiliar to me to terraced agricultural hills and small clusters of skyscrapers indicating small towns (everything is compact here, which I dig since I abhor suburban sprawl). After this panoramic ride of 2 1/2 hours we arrived at Boryeong at around 10:30.

We lucked out and our room was ready so our crew of 6 unloaded backpacks an threw on some trunks in the room. A mini-fridge, small stove, pile of bedding on hardwood floor and separate bathroom was definitely the smallest room I’ve shared with a group this size. After assessing the facilities we headed down to the beach. Our neglect to put any sunscreen on is shown in the peeling skin currently on my shoulders and the pink, new skin showing on my nose. The water was warm and the beach expansive with a chain of islands of varying sized reminding me of the San Juan back home. I dove in and made a cross-stroke beeline for the nearest buoy 50 yards out. At 30 yards I was jarred out of my rhythm by a Korean coast guard member on a jetski waving me back to shore. Guess they’re a little phobic of tourism fallout if some intoxicated waygook (foreigner) drowns during the festivities. Fair enough.

As for the actual mud festival section of the beach we didn’t spend a ton of time. $5 purchased entry to all the events like mud wrestling, mud slides and mud obstacle courses. Unfortunately this was the first day of festivities and the lines were lengthy so the only one we did was a slip and slide style race. I challenged my British buddy and had a glorious victory after a thirtyish foot long slide and scramble to the end. He claimed I had a false start, sore loser…haha. We painted ourselves with the provided cosmetic grade mud to help lessen the intensity of the sun but this proved to be in vain as Monsoon season rain reared it’s head and showered away our protective coating.

As the sun set we grabbed out bottles of cass, took a fortifying shot of Johnny Walker black label (they sell it in 7-11 here…) and changed out of our now filthy, smelling of the sea shorts to go grab some dinner. The bibimbap hit the spot and we meandered down to the beach to meet some Irish friends and their blokes. The opening night fireworks were phenomenal and I was very impressed with not only the size of the arsenal but the variety. Back home we don’t have shells that separate into a multitude of hearts or smiley faces on the horizon. Good times were had by all.

The next day we were tired of sand in our shorts and decided to go to the waterpark by the bus stop. My favorite ride was my first. However, I wasn’t used to the protocol and just thought it worked just like “Wild Waves” the Six Flags water/amusement park back home. I grabbed the bar and propelled myself down the tube. Bad move, here you are supposed to slowly lie down and let them push you to initiate the ride. I smacked my forehead on the top of the entry (good thing I’m thick-headed) but still managed to fly down the tube on the rushing water.

This tube did four consecutive circles (dizziness ensues not helped by blow to the noggin) and then spits you out into a large bowl. If you have ever seen the fundraising device where you put a coin in and the velocity makes it go around and round the bowl before dropping through the hole at the bottom you can picture this ride. I had more momentum than most due to my size and exuberant take off at the top so was spun about 4 times before falling through the hole into the pool at the bottom. Unbeknownst to me there was a life guard with a floatation device at the bottom who helps grab you and escort you to the exit. Makes sense considering the vertigo inducing dizziness of said ride. I however almost freaked out and started swinging when two hands grabbed me under the water, haha.

Mini panic attack and forced leave of the park was averted when I noticed the red lifeguard attire. Upon exiting two lifeguards were waiting questioning my state of health “Are you ok? Are you sure?”. Seems the lifeguard at the top had noticed me hit my head and had radioed her fellow employees bottom-side. I was laughing like a little kid and reassured them my condition was strong.

Many other slides and hijinks ensued and I also was pleasantly surprised to discover the sauna at the top which had around 70 separate water massage stations for your back, legs, shoulders and chest. Pretty savvy concept. The shoulder massage had a very strong flow and felt good to my muscles but extremely harsh on my sunburnt skin. We were all pretty burnt by the time we hopped on the bus back to Seoul. Koreans take extra precaution against sunburn and exposure to elements so the next day at class all my students were pointing and yelling “Red Teacher”!!!

Well blog, I hope this is a good start to making it up to you for not corresponding for some time. Tonight is another going away party in Itaewon for the last of the departing teachers finishing their contracts and leaving for home this Summer. A total of 7 teachers have concluded their time here and left for home since I’ve arrived. It’s been a little surreal just arriving and seeing so many people I’ve just met depart, also a little odd being considered the “veteran” amongst the new hires.

The going away party isn’t for another 7 hours so I think I’m finished with this post, ready to sign out of Facebook, watch one last video on Pitchfork TV and leave the “Interpark Soo” PC Bang (motto: The moment when after many years of hard work and a long voyage you stand in the centre of your room, house, half-acre, square mile, island, country, knowing at last how you got there, and say, I own this.) and go see some of Seoul. I think Boramae park or wandering around the grounds of a buddhist temple seems like the perfect idea right now. Cheers!

Went on a few pretty awesome adventures in the last couple days. My stomach is pleased and I’m feeling a little more on the ball as a result. This week has not been the most spectacular assortment of food offered by the cafeteria at school to put it lightly… Since I’m here for almost 10 hours a day (including breaks) and there are no real options nearby my hunger has been growing as each day passes. Add on to this that I’m still setting up the new apartment and don’t want to really create any dishes to clean and you start to see the epic proportions of my appetite at mid-week.

Based on this I convinced the Texan (coworker) to accompany me on a sushi mission and Hampton ended up cruising with us after we knocked on her door. Our first stop was at the sashimi place where a few of us had gotten the all you can eat tuna feast a month ago. Unfortunately they didn’t offer rolls just the all you can eat different cuts of tuna which wasn’t what I was jonesing for and more expensive than I wanted. We decided to venture on to Guro Digital Complex where Texas had seen a sushi place a while back.

The walk was fairly interesting because instead of taking the often traveled path towards Daelim station and then following the station we decided to trek through the heart of Chinatown. It felt like we had left Seoul. Samguypsol places were replaced by fried chicken and lamb joint and all the bright Hangul neon lights were replaced with Chinese characters displayed in a manner not necessitating electricity.

When we finally arrived I was pretty shocked. Guro is big and packed full of a plethora of restraunts, hawkers, bars and various other establishments. It felt like being near Sinchon or Konkuk University area. A lot of places to go and a fairly younger crowd. Not a lot of foreigners in this area either.

The first sushi joint we found looked great. Unfortunately it seemed loved by many as it was packed past capacity. There were tons of rolls and a beaming sushi chef pouring shot after shot of soju to boisterous patrons. Next time I’ll definitely check this spot again but it wasn’t meant to be tonight. Traveling further into the heart of Daelim took us past street vendors selling everything from ice cream out of smaller coolers and waffles to the ubiquitous dried squid and fish. We went by hilarious misnamed in Konglish spots such as “May B breakfast and brunch” that was open at 10pm to “Donkey Fried Chicken”. Hilarious.

Next to Donkey Fried Chicken was a small sushi spot we ended up spying from afar. Hangul looks quite different that Kanji so these spots stick out down the brightly glowing neon corridors of Guro Digital Complex. This small hole in the wall was quite the successful destination. Texas ordered a tempura shrimp roll and I asked for some a Unagi (Eel which tastes like BBQed chicken) roll. Both were quite umami (Japanese for delicious and the term for the fifth category of

Forgot my camera but this image is identical to what mine looked like.

taste buds) . Washed down with Miso soup and all for only 6 a piece and I was sated and feeling at ease with the culinary world.

High off of this sushi feast we decided to walk back to a foreign style bar that specialized in import beers. It had the common budweiser and Hoegarden on draft but also Heiniken. I had a bottle of Belgian Leffe Brown and a Becks Dark and Texas partook of some Pilsner Urquell. Quite enjoyable all in all.

Thursday night I met with a friend from Bellingham who is a paragon of generosity here in Seoul. I say this because she not only gave me an extra cell phone she and her boyfriend weren’t using but a toaster oven and two cans of black beans. This amiga knows exactly what gifts to give to have a kemosabi for life. Owe them both a ton and have been brainstorming on a truly epic way to pay them back. To celebrate these newly acquired goods we went and met up with some of her friends at Yaletown in Sinchon.

This spot had beer pong and the intriguing nail in a cross-cut log game. You take a nail for each person playing and drive them in an equal distance. Using the claw end you must be the first of the group to successfully drive the nail all the way down in the fewest hits. This game paired with inebriated college kids would never fly in the states. One thumb gets partially severed and ensuing lawsuits would spell extinction for bar and game. Good thing Korea has a system of law that has many differences…good and bad.

Liability issues aside my nachos with jalapeno, Tabasco onions and fresh guacamole hit the spot. Love me some jalapeno and the only spot I’ve found to procure them has been the Quiznos in Itaewon (which I systematically take 1-2 small to go condiment containers from). Giant pitchers weren’t too expensive and the troves of college kids kind of made me feel like I was back in Bellingham again.

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/

*This is an earlier post that has been sitting in my drafts. The tribulations of being a veggie in this country is an ongoing story so I’ve updated it with the most relevent previous experiences and posted it. Sorry if the chronology seems a little skewed…

Some of my fears about keeping with my veg diet have been significantly abated in the last week (week ending 6/4). I have actually felt fully sated and uber-full for the first time since my arrival in Seoul. Not only this but I had my first outing with the Seoul Veggie Club which I connected with via facebook.

Pineapple Fried Rice with Seitanesque Soy Steak.

The restaurant is called Everest and the dish is their Nepalese set. A set is synonymous with combo over here in Korea. If you wanted to get a burger with fries and a coke you would ask for a “Burger set”. This particular dish was all sorts of awesomeness. The riatta was smooth with just the right potency of yogurt culture to mellow the fiery spices of the other items. The green soupy concoction in the largest bowl/chalice had some dal and greens in it and it was paired with the spicy potato and chili dish in the middle and an amazing pea and paneer dish.

All of this cost $11 dollars and tasted phenomenal.

I am constantly amazed at how I always forget the delicious simplicity that is the taste of perfectly cooked basamati rice until we are reunited again. I took my time and had numerous breaks during this meal to page through The Story Of A Ship-Wrecked Sailor by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. If you’ve never read his world-famous epic One Thousand Years of Solitude I would strongly recommend you do so next time you are hankering for a complex yet whimsical tale of a people, a region and a family therein.

By the time I had finished the set I had a slight amount of sweat on my brow, fire on my tongue and gratifying weight in my center. I have not felt starving at any point in Seoul but rice and kimchi are not really the type of food that feels satisfying full in your belly. Perhaps this is why I was relishing the sensation so much I ordered two samosas with both red and green sauces and an order of channa masala to go. I was able to only finish one of the samosas and happily took it home.

Mmmmm...samosas for two bucks.

Since this feast I have dropped by Everest one more time on a personal solo mastication mission of epic flavor bud proportions (6/17). I had the Dal Makhani accompanied by a huge plane of Naan and a Cass 500cc draft. It was the perfect way to start a great night of dancing @ Mama Gorillas and GoGos, playing darts at 501 Darts in B2 of Hongdae (across from Zen Bar) and having some outstanding conversations with amigos old and new.