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.




Twitter.com @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.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Getting Laid Off: Doesn't Feel Great

I've been quite busy lately, and with good reason. It turns out that the Hambak English Center will lose its funding from the district office at the end of the budgetary year in December.

The last we heard is that we'd be funded for one more year, so this was a surprise. It was also a bit of a wake-up call. As stable as I thought this job was, it just goes to show that nothing is set in stone. I was expecting to sign up for one more year at Hambak, and then look to other options.

But timing is pushing me in another direction.

While I am upset about this, I don't blame the school. They want to keep us. My contract ends in October, but they're offering me the option to stay on until the end at the end of December. So I'll be the last native speaker to have worked at Hambak English Center.

It's a nice gesture by the school for a few reasons. One is that I don't have to scramble to find a new place to live. Two is that it gives me two more months of paychecks and pension contributions before I'm cut off.

So really, as losing a job goes, this really isn't the end of the world.

To add on to the relief pile is that we'll finalize our marriage license on Tuesday, and then go about changing my visa to an F-2-1 from my current E2. As far as I can tell, an F-2-1 (spouse visa) gives me the opportunity to really do anything I want as a job over here.

And it turns out, Jeong Mi and I already have a plan. We are going to open a bar. It sounds like a strange idea considering there are endless drinking establishments here. But the options aren't endless in this neighborhood for places where teachers and other non-Koreans can go and feel welcome. Now, there are places we can go, but welcome is not always there.

I've been lucky to find a good hangout and friend in Radio and Woo Min. But he is trying to sell. He has been for awhile. We actually talked about buying his, but one of the required deposits is far out of our range.

But what we did find is a bar on the second floor of a building on the main drag. While that is sometimes seen as not good for business, this bar has an outdoor patio, which really boosts its appeal. It also used to be a foreigner hangout three years ago. Some of my current friends had gone to the old place, but turnover here is so high that most people don't remember it.

And while I was stressing about making sure we'd do enough business to make a decent living, I came to the realization today that with an F-2-1 visa, I'm not limited to one job. So I can teach English part-time with any company or do private lessons to supplement the bar. I could easily make enough teaching a few hours a day, three days a week to completely pay for the rent for the bar in any given month.

We also have some ideas to draw in enough teachers and other foreigners that are unique to the area specifically, and Korea in general. Jeong Mi will make these awesome mini-burgers as our specialty food item, and we'll have a variety of event nights throughout the week to try to turn our place into a good hangout. Of course, we're not forgetting our Korean brothers and sister, as we'll have soju and a few popular bar side dishes from which to choose.

So I haven't updated in awhile, but I think you guys can understand why. I'll have a more uplifting post in a week or so. Jeong Mi and I leave for Vietnam for our honeymoon from the 14th through the 18th. We're very excited.

So think good thoughts for us as we take our trip and come back to embark on a new career opportunity as a small business owner!!!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Songdo Resort

Right between my original neighborhood and my current one, and only about 10 minutes way by taxi, is a nice little slice of paradise called Songdo Resort.

Songdo Resort is a little man-made lake surrounded by sand, with terrifyingly unkempt amusement park rides and concession stands for good measure. I've been there many times. Just look back at my bachelor party pictures for my most recent trip there.

It's really a great place. It only costs 5,000 won to get in, and you can bring in any supplies you want. That typically means food, drinks, alcohol and even a tent if you're so inclined.

While we haven't yet camped there, Jeong Mi and I did go last Saturday with all our buds to grill, drink, relax and enjoy the summer in a place relatively hidden from the bustling city.

Jeong Mi and I took our tent. Bryan and Kim also brought one (which is identical to ours) and set it up next to us to complete our compound. We then broke out the grill and music and had a really great day.

Check out more pics here!!!