Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Goodbye Letter to Hambak Students

Well, today is officially my last day at Hambak. In classic Korea style, I have no classes, but have to spend the whole day here anyway. Why not one last reminder of the cultural differences? Haha.

But really, it's a sad day. I had some terrible experiences at the academy during my first year. But since coming here, I've learned that professionalism actually exists here in South Korea. I was fortunate enough to find something that is more of a career feeling, rather than just a contract gig.

I posted the message to my colleagues a couple days ago. I also wrote one for my students. It says something similar to that of my colleagues.

I'll miss everyone here. It's off to new adventures at Liquor Burger! Here's the letter. So it goes ...

이제까지 저는 2년동안 함박에서 일했습니다. 계약이 끝나니까 여기서 끝이네요.

이번 시간은 완전 좋았어요. 학생을 가르치면서 재미있었어요. 함박학생들은 한국에서 제일 좋은 학생이었어요.

저는 함박에서 많은것을 배웠습니다. 학생들도 계속 많은것을 빼워야대요. 그래서 질문이 있어면 애런샘한테 문자를 보내주세요!

이제 함박에서 끝나지만 한국에서 계속 살거예요. 그래서 이거는 영원히 안녕은 아니에요. 나중에 또 봐요.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Goodbye Letter to Hambak

Today I wrote a letter to the Hambak staff, and Ridia corrected my mistakes for me. It's basically just thanking them for making my time at Hambak so enjoyable. Here it is:


이제까지 저는 2년동안 함박에서 일했습니다. 계약이 끝나니까 여기서 끝이네요.

이번 시간은 완전 좋았어요. 학생을 가르치면서 재미있었어요. 동료들도 진짜 좋았어요. 함박선생님들은 한국에서 제일 좋은 선생님이었어요.

저는 함박에서 많은것을 배웠습니다. 한국 문화와 미국 문화는 교육 스타일이 다릅니다. 처음에는 힘들었어요. 하지만 부인이랑 동료들때문에 저는 더 쉽게 지낼 수 있어요.

이제 함박에서 끝나지만 한국에서 계속 살거예요. 그래서 이거는 영원히 안녕은 아니에요. 나중에 또 봐요.


P.S - 앞으로 같이 놀아요! 010-3305-8367.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Half Korean! (Sort Of)

Jeong Mi and I do have some huge news. As of Dec. 26, my F2 Visa status will be official! Getting closer to my dual citizenship. For now, we're very happy!

End of an Era, Big Parties and Big Things Ahead

As December 31 quickly approaches, one thing is happening without a doubt: My time as a teacher at Hambak Elementary School is coming to an end. Now, my teaching in South Korea isn't done, as I've had offers for part-time work with private individuals, small companies and even a substitute teaching gig at an international school.

So here we are. It's been an interesting three years in South Korea. From the absolutely terrible working conditions at my first academy, to my wonderful two years at Hambak and all the adventures in between, South Korea has become a great second home to me.

As far as Liquor Burger goes, things have been going really well. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner at which we hosted 53 people. We almost didn't get the food, because the Koreans who work at the deli at the American military base failed to tell me that I need a base pass or escort upon my arrival in order to get the food.

I was in an argument with the kitchen staff for 20 minutes because they insisted they told me I need a base pass. When, in reality, they only asked me if I had a car and if I could come to the base. Apparently, those things are all the same in their mind.

Fortunately, we were willing to find a GI who escorted us in and out, and we are very grateful for him for that.

Besides that, we've been really successful thus far in expanding our business and getting our name out. Obviously, a lot of it is through social media and the Internet, but we've been fortunate enough to have word of mouth really work for us.

We're really doing what we can to help everybody, besides just giving them a fun place to drink. We've helped a few people get cell phones and bank accounts and we teach free beginner Korean lessons every Sunday.

We've also established ourselves as an interesting place among western bars. On most nights, our ratio of Korean to westerner is right around 50/50. Now, on a packed Friday night, the westerners outnumber the Koreans. But on a normal night, we have a great ratio. It's really refreshing to have a place where these different cultures can come together and just hang out and be buddies. It's awesome.

We've also established a very nice relationship with an international school in Songdo. They brought a busload  of people the night before our Halloween party, and turned it into a Halloween weekend. They also recently celebrated the end of Movember by bring 45 people over. We give them a good group deal on alcohol, and they bring a bunch of people. It's a lot of fun, and has even established some great contacts for me and my life after Hambak.

So what's next for us? Well, we have our poker nights on Tuesdays and are starting our trivia nights on Thursdays. Our first trivia night is tonight and we're super excited. After that, we have our Christmas dinner on December 24 and our New Year's party on December 31.

There is so much stuff going on right now, and I'm incredibly tired. But losing sleep is a small sacrifice for what will be my life after being an every-day teacher in South Korea. It's weird to think that I'm leaving the system that brought me over, but I'm sure it won't be a final farewell.

So here we are and here we go!

For more of our Thanksgiving pics, go here:

For more of our general Liquor Burger pics, go here:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Scary Drunk at LB Halloween

We had two amazing Halloween parties at Liquor Burger. I was worried about one being a success, considering every bar in Korea had a party. But the place was packed and so much fun.

On Friday, 45 or so teachers from an International School five minutes away made us their first stop on a Halloween bus tour. They were at our place for about an hour and 15 minutes. We gave them free Jello shots and Soju cocktail shooters for hanging with us. Their costumes were great, and most of them were visiting us for the first time.

On Saturday, we held our official party, and it was monumental. Only about a third of the people wore costumes, but there were a ton of people hanging out and having fun. To make it even more fun, a bunch of the guys from the International School joined us again.

So not only did we have two great parties, but we got to spread the word about Liquor Burger. It was just an incredible weekend!!!

Check out all the pics here!!!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Farewells and Happy Birthdays

We're finding that our niche -- besides being a comfy, neighborhood bar -- is throwing parties for our regulars and friends.

After the success of the 80's Night birthday party last week, we were really excited for this Saturday. We threw a big party to celebrate the birthday of our friend Lisa and the going away of our friend Isaac.

We had kind of a slow Friday, so we were a bit worried. I am constantly worried, of course. But Friday has generally been our big night, and Saturday is slow.

Fortunately, it seems that Friday was slow because everyone was planning on coming Saturday.

All of Lisa's, Isaac's and our friends came out on Saturday and we had a massive bash to celebrate our friends.

I'm going to write a big entry soon on how the bar is going so far and how our lives have changed in very significant ways. Until then, enjoy our pics.

Isaac and Lisa's Party

Liquor Burger Random Fun Pictures

Monday, October 17, 2011

80's Night at Liquor Burger

We had our first 80's Night at Liquor Burger to celebrate the birthdays of two of our buddies. It was a ton of fun.

Check out a bunch of pics here!

I promise I'll update a bit more when things settle down. Between the two gigs, however, I rarely find time to sleep, let alone blog.

So it goes ...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Terrace Trouble

I guess things were just going too well for us at Liquor Burger. The crowds have been nice in size and personality. Business has been going well. Besides me being tired, everything has just worked out for us so far.

But as of Monday, that all changed. On that day, some government workers from the district office came by to tell us they've gotten complaints that our patio is too loud. They didn't give any empirical evidence or dates or times. There's no data or facts. They just got some complaints.

So they told us we couldn't use the patio for seven days. SEVEN DAYS because of a couple complaints of noise?

Well, Jeong Mi and I went to the office Tuesday to discuss the issue. They claim our lease only covers what's inside, so we have no actual rights to the outside, despite being told otherwise by our landlord.

We also found out that there is ONE person who is complaining. ONE PERSON!!!

I'll be the first to admit that people can be loud when they're drinking. But our friends and customers have NOT been. The patio isn't seen as a place to party. People out there eat dinner, have a couple drinks and have nice conversations. We don't even have speakers out there.

There are bars, drunk Koreans, gaming rooms and students coming out of academies late at night that are way louder than we are. There are other bars and convenience stores in the area that have outdoor seating that are louder than we are. Yet it is Liquor Burger that is now facing off on a noise complaint.

Now, they told us people can be out on the patio for short amounts of time. They said the patio could be used for smoking, or getting fresh air, but there can be no food and drinks out there.

The problem is not that we are clearly being singles out (though that is frustrating), it's that I can't believe one person saying we're loud is enough to take action. There was never any check of any kind. There's no decibel meter reading or drop-ins by officials to monitor noise. One person says we're loud and that's that.

We're not done with this fight yet. We put money into the patio to make it look nice and we promote it as a big part of the comfort of our bar. People really enjoy relaxing out there.

Our next step is to go greet all the people in the apartments by us and ask if there are any problems. I also will request that if there is a problem, they call us directly and not whine like little dirty-diapered babies to the district office.

The office employees said as long as there are no complaints, there's no problem. But when I already know our friends and customers aren't being loud, what are the chances the person won't complain of a noise problem again?

Keep checking back for updates. If you're friends and family back in America, I wish you could be here to hang out. If you're living in South Korea, stop by Liquor Burger sometime for some food and drinks. We've expanded our menu to include the sliders, tacos Johnsonville cheese-filled hot dogs and a Frankenwich that combines all three.

Check us out at!

See a bunch of great pics here!

Three Day Weekend

We get Monday off, as it is a Korean national holiday. I've been here for three years now, but haven't really taken the time to understand all the holidays. I just know the major ones, and happily accept my days off for smaller ones.

Monday is National Foundation Day, which celebrates the founding of Gojoseon -- the first state of the Korean nation -- in 2333 BC.

Here's a Wikipedia page that list all the major national holidays with a brief description of each. If you're an old vet here, you might know them all. But if you're a rookie, or are just interested, learn something new!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Liquor Burger So Far So Good

Liquor Burger has been a resounding success so far. We're only 6 days in, but the response from the foreigner crowd in Yeonsudong has been really encouraging.

Like I've been saying, there just isn't a bad with this atmosphere in Yeonsudong. We're just filling in a void, and it's been met with good results so far.

I'm under no illusion that things will be bumping every night. And we understand that when there's nice weather on a weekend, a lot of people will go to Bucheon, Bupyeong or Seoul. But we can offer a great neighborhood bar during the week. And if people are around on the weekends, we hope they come here!

We're having our grand opening on Friday and our first beer pong tournament on Saturday. We're still looking for bands and dart players for our league.

I have to go back to work tomorrow, so Popper's girlfriend, Jong will be our part-time worker from Sunday through Thursday nights. I wish I could be here full time already.

Our customers have been friendly and fun, and I really think they feel a connection here. I certainly feel a bond to them thus far.

So it's back to Hambak for me tomorrow, and our big party begins on Friday. Here's to Liquor Burger!

Check out our pics!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Arsenal Signs Korean Player

Arsenal just finished the transfer of Park Chu Young. I used to berate everyone here for being a Manchester United fan simply because of Park Ji Sung. But this works in my favor. Now, EVERY Arsenal game will be televised here. Awesome.

Multicultural Korea

The Diplomat discusses Korea's multicultural future.

A link from a Korea story on CNN took me to a story on The Diplomat about Korea's multicultural future. I think the article makes a lot of good points about what the country might need and where it's going.

Some of the responses -- as usual -- are just ridiculous and even infuriating. Again, I'm not telling you to bust your ass and learn Korean. I'm saying that if you want Koreans to accept you as a member of their society and respect you, you'd better put forth the effort. You can get by here without Korean, but you'll never earn any respect or acceptance from the people.

Anyway, here is my response on the article's forum:

Let's get this out of the way right now. Considering all the times the Korean peninsula has been invaded or occupied over the last few hundred years, to really think Korea's "one, pure blood" myth is real is either stubbornness or a terrible case of naivety. Unfortunately, that idea still does exist.

I am an American who married a Korean girl and have lived in South Korea for three years. I plan on living here for a few more years because we're opening a small business together.

While I agree that the average Korean can be unbelievably cold and unwelcoming, it would be wrong to group them all together; just as it's wrong to think they all have 100 percent Korean blood.

My wife and her immediate and extended family have been as welcoming and loving to me as anyone in my whole life. I'm as close to them as I am to my own family. I also have a large group of Korean friends that welcomed me immediately without flinching.

Here's the issue. We, as foreigners, look at Korea and think that they owe us the same politeness we give people back home. That's not how the world works. Of course the government sets up a language test before you can get permanent status.

Why should a whole country that speaks Korean be so catering to people who speak English? I understand that English is the current international business language, but there are millions of Koreans who only need it to understand some K-pop songs, commercials and nothing else.

You know what will help you become a part of Korean society? Learn the language. From the day I got here, I studied Korean. And there is nothing about that effort that has been wasted.

Complain all you want, but if you are married to a Korean, have lived here for two years or more and still can't speak Korean, then you're a waste of a human being.

My wife spoke zero English when we met, and only knows some now because I help her study. But our language of communication is -- and probably always will be -- Korean.

While there is institutionalized racism at companies, anyone who is truly skilled is a prized asset. If we have kids, they could run this country in the future. They'll be as fluent as a native speaker in English and Korean. If you look at a lot of schools and companies, the amount of "teachers" or "English speakers" who speak both languages fluently is surprisingly minimal.

I'm not telling you to throw away your own culture. I hold true to a lot of things I learned back home. Though I attribute that less to being an American and more to having good parents and a supportive family.

Hold onto your culture, but you have to make a concerted effort to learn about Korea. That includes language and culture. Even the weird stuff like fan death is something you'd better know about, even if you laugh about it openly.

Want to be accepted? Set yourself up to be in that position. Only after that can you truly know if Koreans can handle a multicultural society. They totally accept anyone who puts in effort at being a contributing part of their country and society.

So give that a shot first, and see how the reaction to you being a foreigner changes from disdain to thanks and awe.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Colin's Wedding

Our good friend Colin Beaton tied the knot yesterday. He and Suki have been dating for a long time now, and this was all in the making for awhile.

They held the ceremony at the Grand Ballroom in East Incheon. It was a wedding hall-type ceremony, but not quite as 80s as the others we've been to. They did, however, have smoke coming out of the walkway.

Either way, congratulations to Colin and Suki. I'm sure they're going to be very happy together.

Check out the pics here!

Liquor Burger Is Ours!

Another big move in our lives is in progress. Jeong Mi and I are opening a bar! While our stress level has increased by a million percent, it's really exciting and scary.

We already signed the papers and put down the deposits. We're now working on our interior changes. The bar was a foreigner bar three years ago, but was most recently a hostess bar. That means the interior is ugly, terrible and all black.

We also have to strengthen the stage and take out some shelves, as well as adding a hot water dealie and tiling the kitchen floor.

We're really only spending as little as possible for the opening. It'll be just enough to change the color of the walls, and do the necessary things first. Once we get rolling, we can make other changes as we go.

We're looking to open Chuseok weekend, and then have a Grand Opening the weekend after. Everyone get ready for Liquor Burger! We'll have events, specials, cheap beers, mini-burgers and a patio!!!

Check out some early pics before renovations. @LiquorBurger

Bryan's Bungee Birthday

Bryan's birthday was celebrated in big style as we went bungee jumping in Bundang. It was only 25,000 won per person and it was a blast. It was my first time bungee jumping.

While Pel, Popper and I all brought our girls, Jeong Mi was the only one who jumped with the three of us. It was just a great experience.

All the fun pics are here!

Marriage License

It's official and there's no turning back! Jeong Mi and I went to the American Embassy in Seoul and filed for our marriage license. It takes a few days to go through, but all should be well by now.


Pictures are here.

Vietnam Honeymoon!

This is a long time in the making. We've been so busy with out latest adventures, that I've had zero time to blog. I'm going to keep the writing short on this one, and let the pics do most of the talking.

We went to Vietnam on Aug. 13 for five days, and had an incredible time. Vietnam is very welcoming of foreigners, even if the motor scooter culture is slightly terrifying. Seriously, there are so many scooters buzzing around that I had a dream I was driving one on the first night.

Our first day started out ominously, but things turned up. It was raining and we couldn't find a travel agency because the one we planned on going to didn't exist anymore. Once we found Saigon Tourist, we were all set.

It rained almost every day for at least a couple hours around dinner time. It was little more than an annoyance, but that adds to the stress a bit when you're just trying to tour around.

In Ho Chi Minh City, we stayed in the district with a lot of shops, restaurants and hotels. As far as HCMC goes, we didn't leave our district very much. We didn't have a ton of time there, and we really had everything we needed right there.

On our second day, we went to the Cu Chi Tunnels. It's an area of Vietnam that has proud people who held off the "crazy devil" Americans as they tried to push north. They did so by making elaborate, excruciating traps and popping out of tiny tunnels in various locations to mow down troops.

While the day-long American hate fest was a bit uncomfortable, it was a really interesting experience to hear history from the other side.

On our third day, we took a great trip to the Mekong Delta. The guide on our car ride spoke English really well, and we had a great conversation about the country. When we arrived, we switched off to a local tour guide. She took us on a variety of boat rides to the various islands.

While there, we rode on a horse cart, went to some local villages, saw a bee apiary and ate some awesome honey. The day wasn't even close to over then. We also saw some traditional Vietnamese singers, are a lot of fruit, saw them make coconut candy and were served a traditional meal of fried fish, meat and fruit.

The jungle was just beautiful, and it was interesting to see how a lot of these people live their lives. They really do depend a lot on tourism, but would probably just go on the same without it.

We spent Wednesday and Thursday on the east coast at a beautiful resort. The ride was about 5 hours each way with traffic that appeared to have no rules. We really went through some incredibly poor areas, though they were rich in propaganda.

The resort was awesome. It's right on the beach, and only a ten-minute drive from a natural phenomenon. It's a red sand desert that is sitting right next to the beach. It's stunning to see.

At the resort, we just relaxed and took it all in. There was the beach, a pool, great food and cheap drinks. There's nothing wrong with any of that. It was a perfect end to a wonderful honeymoon.

Even though the plane ride back was quite bumpy, we really had an unforgettable vacation. It lived up to anything I could've imagined as a honeymoon.

We have so much more to do now that we're back. Back to work!

Check out my pictures here.

And check out Jeong Mi's pictures here.