September 20, 2009

“In Heaven, the police are British, the cooks are French, the engineers are German, the lovers are Italian, and everything is organized by the Swiss.  In Hell, the police are German, the cooks are British, the engineers are French, the lovers are Swiss, and everything is organized by the Italians.”


Last week, the School Festival was held at the new fine arts building.  It began with a show by a B-Boy group.  If you’re wondering what a B-Boy group is, imagine a boy band  crossed with break dancing.  Some of it is synchronized, like a boy band, but there is also a lot of individual improve.  It’s not Mozart, but it’s impressive, and apparently a popular part of Korean pop culture these days.  The group, Extreme Crew, has done several advertising gigs including a beer commercial (there was a clip from it during their introduction video).  They put on two shows, with a break-dancing lecture in between.  The lecture involved bringing students up on stage to try out some steps, and, as you can imagine, I was forced to join.  If you’re the only white boy in a crowd of Asians, you will be singled out at some point or another.  So, I had a good laugh with everyone, strutted my stuff, and won a box of cookies.

While onstage, they asked me where I was from.  Their first guess – like everyone’s first guess – was New York, and I think I disappoint the Koreans every time I have to deny this charge.  I decided to play it simple and say “Atlanta.”  At least Atlanta brought several rappers into the light of day.  Gainesville’s only claim to fame is having taking millions of chickens “out” of the light of day.

Part Two of the School Festival was karaoke.  Two to three hours of it.  I remember one guy who did a funny kind of song with some hand movements that were copied by the two silent backup performers in red aviators.  Everything else was a sappy love song.  Kudos to the Principal though for getting up there and singing.  He was briefly assisted at points by the music teacher, who has quite a good voice.

Part Three was synchronized dancing.  Five hours of synchronized dancing.  This whole thing went on till 6pm, which is an hour after school lets out on normal days.  The dancing was mostly covers of Korea Pop videos, but the dance team did a B-Boy show.    Check out the video: Indian Boy, on Youtube sometime.  Again, props to the Principal for getting up on stage with the kids.  He gave everyone a good laugh, and increased my hopes of getting lenient office hours during winter break.

On Saturday, I fed the soul by recovering my lost Spanish music via Itunes.  My favorite hit, Tocarte Toa, was nowhere to be found, but I can always find it on Youtube.  Neither was Chile’s big hit of Summer 08, Incomprendido, available.  However, everything else I had was up there.  I just added some Mana hits and picked out some Samba to remind me of my week in Rio.

I took a 2-hour bus to Gangneung, the party-town of Gangwon-do, for an expat gathering at The Warehouse.  My mission was to get to the most recognizable landmark in downtown: McDonalds.  Instead of getting a taxi from the bus terminal, I opted to take my luck with a bus line mentioned in Lonely Planet.  LP said it ran from the bus terminal to the train station.  I don’t think we ever went near the train station, but we went all the way out to Lake Gyeongpoho.  Luckily, an English-speaking Korean dropped out of the sky and asked the driver to drop me off at some stop with a name I can’t remember for the life of me.  I got off, and there was McDonalds right across the street.  In a minute, a white guy rode up on a bike and sat on the curb.  As I guessed, he was part of my group meeting at Mackey-D’s.

Don’t worry, we didn’t eat there.  We found a cheap grill nearby.

The Warehouse is a dim, mostly wood room on the second or third story of a building not far from McD.  The bar is well-stocked with Western hard liquor, and the shelves running along the windows are adorned with many a conquered liter of Jack Daniels.  Saw many familiar faces from orientation and the Pyeongchang County dinner.  Got a salsa dance from a woman in a red dress.  Eventually, the repetitive electro/hip hop/b-boy whatever started to grate…so we went to a Noraebang!  So we could at least grate our ears with our own voices.  It seems that every night out in Korea ends in a Noraebang.

My hosts ended up being a Canadian couple, Abid and Dorina, who have the best apartment for expat teachers I have yet seen in Korea.  The living room/kitchen was massive: something like 20’x8’, and made of shiny new finished wood (or faux wood; it’s hard to tell when the faux wood isn’t curling up against the walls as it does at my place).  Their bathroom was a palace compared to my lowly hovel with its rust-brown tiles, cracked toilet, moldy ceiling, and tape-covered damage in various places.

We stayed up till sunrise that night: sitting out on the screened-in porch watching the sky over the sea gradually turn orange.  Abid and Dorina’s place is high up near the top floor, so the view was exactly what you would imagine from a sea-side hotel.  For breakfast (or lunch rather), we ate like kings: fresh apple slices, croissants and toast, scrambled eggs and Dorina’s tofu with soy sauce, garlic, and wild onions.  All washed down with real coffee made from grounds.

Back in Pyeongchang, I made Seom Gyeop Sal and decided it was time to write in the blog.  Next weekend: Sokcho Film Festival.