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The Daily Mumble February 2003 Archive
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February 2003 Highlights part two: packing my bags, how to get upgraded to business class, a free first night in Seoul, meeting Dr.Evil's No.1, violation, the incredible Gyeongju, mini-bulldozer with a duck's head, passport to Pusan, back to the Big City: Seoul, dove vs. pigeon, another inter-continental decision, back to the UK for Tame...

Links: Map - where am I today? February Photos: Japan / Korea Guestbook
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Saturday 15th February 2003 - 11:57(GMT+9) My girlfriend's apartment, Koenji, Tokyo

It's now approaching midday. My bus to the airport leaves in three hours. I haven't started packing yet. Not that I really need to. I mean, I'm only going for four nights days.

Here's my provisional packing list:

 

• passport, tickets, money
• underwear, (one pair of boxer shorts and one pair of socks should last me! ...no, joke, JOKE! Honest!)
• one thousand woolly jumpers (-5°c in Seoul)
Lonely Planet Korea
• my diary
compass (for when I decide to take one of those famous "Tame Shortcuts" and get totally lost)
• two cameras (including film, charger and USB cable)
this laptop and charger (to download images from camera when it's full at the end of the day)
• scarf and hat
teddy (to cuddle at night)
• cosmetics (foundation, lipstick etc, a celebrity-in-the-making must always shine)
fire extinguisher (to rinse my mouth out after eating kimuchi/gimchee)
• hairdryer (to sculpt my golden locks into place)
electric blanket complete with rechargeable battery pack
• Japanese dictionary (50% of Seoul's population are Japanese tourists, others speak it having being forced to use it rather than their native language during the war)
my girlfriend Kae, far too nice to leave behind

Well, maybe I'm getting a little carried away now. In fact, I'd better stop writing about packing and actually do some packing, otherwise I'm going to be going nowhere tonight.

I guess The Daily Mumble will not be updated again until Wednesday the 20th of February now. However, be sure to check back then as I bore you silly with a billion photos and tales of a Tame Gone Wild in South Korea.

Annyeonghi gyeseyo!

("Goodbye" in Korean - and I thought Japanese was difficult!)

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How to get your seat upgraded to business class for free

It seems that I should have shut up sooner - I spent so much time playing about on Saturday morning that in the end I missed my bus to the airport - and the one after that, although the third one got me there with a few minutes to spare. Just before I left the house, Kae told me how once, when she was late for check-in, her seat was changed to one in business class as economy had been over-booked.

Although I was not at all late for United Airlines 883 to Seoul, I decided to hold back until everyone else had boarded the plane. As the last few people approached the gate, I joined the back of the line, where, to my delight I was approached by a UA employee who said to me, "Are you traveling alone? Here, let me upgrade your seat". My cunning plan had worked!

My hero!

Business class was sheer luxury! In addition to miles of legroom, I had my own little dinky TV, telephone (for all those important calls to the President), and a massage-chair! Admittedly it wasn't quite as good as those found in Japanese gadget superstores, but all the same it was very pleasant to have my back massaged as I lay back in what resembled a 6-foot bed rather than an aeroplane seat.

The highlight though was the most delicious airline dinner I've ever had. I tried not to gloat as, looking behind me I saw those folks in economy class opening their little cardboard lunch boxes and little cans of juice, whilst, in front of me, my tablecloth was laid out, a luxurious sushi meal presented and several wines from around the world offered.

Interestingly, it was the first time that I've experienced heightened security in an airport. Customs was the same as usual, but, just before boarding the flight, half of us were pulled to one side for thorough searches (including inside our shoes). Mind you, it was a United Airlines flight so I guess it was to be expected.

Arriving at Seoul International Airport: I like to know who's cleaning my toilet

How to spend your first night in Seoul without forking out for a hotel or hostel

Arriving at Seoul (Incheon) Airport, I thought it might be an idea to let Kae know that I'd arrived safely, and so bought a phone card from a vending machine for 10,000won. All very well and good - until I got to the phone box and discovered that the lack of English instructions meant that I was completely unable to use it - and haven't been able to since! Nevermind. The next challenge was getting out of the airport (which is located on an island one hour to the west of the city) and into the town centre. Finding the right bus wasn't a problem, but getting off at the right stop was! I'd decided that as I was getting in so late I'd simply stay up all night in a 24-hour shopping mall - but once on the bus there was no more English and it wasn't until we were heading out of the other side of the city that I realised that the mall was a long way behind us!

Not to be disheartened, I got off at the next stop and began the long walk back into town. The first thing I noticed was the smell, and the dirt. It's not that it was particularly dirty or smelly, but, well, compared to Japan..! It reminded me of Istanbul in a way, and continues to do so as I wander the narrow streets that are lined with markets that spread from makeshift tables onto the pavements, selling anything and everything, and always seem to be staffed by little old ladies who peer at foreigners with curiosity and smiles of yellow teeth.

After an hour or so I found the 24-hour shopping malls. It was there, whilst I was attempting to work out how the computerised coin lockers worked that I noticed the first real difference between Koreans and Japanese: Koreans are not so shy! Two young girls, on seeing my perplexed, soon came over and showed me how it was done. I attempted to thank them using Korean, but by the time I'd managed to pull out my little phrase leaflet they'd run off giggling.

My first meal in Seoul: should I have some incredilby spicy Korean Kimchi for supper? (No, I think I'll stick to pizza!)

Being a complete wuss lacking in any bravery in the foreign environment, I went to a western-style pizza place for supper. I must have sat there for about 2 hours, trying to decide how I was going to pass the remaining 6 hours before my early morning train to the South. In the end, I came to the conclusion that the only place to go other than this crazy shopping mall was Itaewon, the "Special Tourism Zone" which according to the tourist brochure "is ablaze the night through with karaoke and fancy disco clubs". I hailed a black cab (complete with white-gloved uniformed driver) and attempted to say "Itaewon ae kah-gow ship-sum-nee-dah" ("I want to go to Itaewon"), but only got as far as "Itaewon" before the driver said "Ok!" and pulled off.

An encounter with Dr.Evil's sidekick at King Club

Arriving in Itaewon I discovered, to my horror, that about 90% of the population were American soldiers on leave! Imagine that - what a place! It was essentially one big meat market, with the added feature of American Military Police searching all of the clubs at regular intervals whilst being chased by drunk bottle-wielding Korean lads shouting "F*** America!" Anyhow, feeling that I had little choice but to stay there for a few hours I sought out the first venue listed by Lonely Planet: King Club.

The exterior appearance pretty much summed the whole place up

Yes, well, I should have turned around the moment that I set eyes upon the place, what with its sexy scaffolding and failing neon sign, but no, being the fool that I am I went on in.

A sea of servicemen greeted my eyes, oh, and those two horrendously ugly girls on little podiums dressed in skimpy bikinis, failing miserably to have any effect upon me except evoke feelings of pity. Still, I decided to hang around for a while to see if the bloody awful music could get any better (it didn't). Also, I enjoy watching people, whether they be drunk or sober, native or foreign, young or old, customers or staff. Ah, the staff.. I was going to tell you about them..

Ok, so King Club has a team of six waitresses. They:

 
• wear obscenely short mini-skirts
• wear dirty white-collared shirts complete with bow-tie
• are all under 5 foot (154cm) in height
• are all over 65 years old

Have you seen any of the Austin Powers movies? Well, if you have, try to remember what Dr. Evil's female sidekick looks like, you know, Scott's mum, the old bag who was exceptionally nasty and evil with spikes that came out of the front of her high-heeled shoes. Ok, now multiply her by six, put a tray in her hand and stick her in a dirty pick-up joint in Seoul. There you have it - the staff of King Club. I tell you, it's not the Military Police those young army lads want to watch out for..

Anyhow, there I was, quietly minding my own business by the bar, when #1 (that's the leader of the old bag-brigade as described above) approached me.

"Hallo! Vaz your name?!" she demanded. Fearing for my life, I told her.
"Vell Josev, I fink you are zee nice guy. I vant to introduce you to Sovia. She's zee nice girl for you."

At this point she gestured towards the tall Korean girl to my left whom without a second glance I'd already guessed was a prostitute. I politely said hello to "Sovia" and her blonde horsehair wig, hoping that if I showed at least a little enthusiasm #1 would spare my life and even possibly leave me in peace. Thankfully she did. As she stalked off in search of more victims I emptied my bottle and made my excuses - I'd had enough of King Club!

Violation at The Hollywood Basement

My third (and final) stop in Seoul that night was The Hollywood Basement. I was a bit shocked by its entrance policy - no Korean Males admitted - the native guy in front of me was trying to persuade the doorman that he was Vietnamese - but, once inside there was a great atmosphere and the DJs, all three of whom looked like primary school children, played an excellent set. I danced and danced and danced, thoroughly enjoying my complete anonymity and complete lack of wanting to be with anyone (except Kae back in Tokyo).

After a while, an Ozzie girl, Sally, pulled me up from the bench where I was resting my granny's hip, and, having thrown a whole list of questions at me insisted that I dance with her. For some reason this really pissed me off, I felt violated, and told her that no, I didn't want to dance with her and that I was going to go to the toilet instead. She screamed at me as I turned away, and I avoided her for the rest of the night. I guess women must feel violated in much the same way a lot of the time.

A similar incident occurred later that night with a Korean girl. Some drunk guy was really pestering her, so I cut in and engaged him in conversation. At one point I thought that he was going to thump me, but I managed to steer the topic towards one that involved compliment after compliment in his favour just before he raised his fist. Anyhow, a little while later the girl sought me out. For some reason I really couldn't handle that, and so it was then that I picked up my jacket and made my way to the subway to catch the first train of the day. I know that walking off without a word of goodbye or "nice to meet you" wasn't a very nice thing to do, but I just felt very uncomfortable. I don't know why.. although I know that if I was to think about it I could come up with a few answers. But I'm not going to do that now, partly because that's the end of the story of my first night in Seoul, and partly because it's now ten past three in the morning and I really need to get to bed! Night Night!

p.s. I do not write the above for egotistical reasons. No, I simply record how I felt in that situation as that is a part of me, and after all, that's what The Daily Mumble is all about!

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Day Two: I knew I should have gone to bed earlier last night.

This morning I had to go through one of those awful wake-up-in-horror routines, you know when you find yourself with your alarm clock in your hand having turned it off when it rang and then having gone straight back to sleep, only to awake some thirty minutes later to discover that your train is due to leave in fifteen etc etc. Still, I just managed to make it to the station with seconds to spare.

Anyhow, to continue: Where was I? Ah, yes - at the subway station. I was so tired that once on the tube I had immense difficulty figuring out where to get off, despite an abundance of signs and announcements in English. As a result of that I missed my 6am train heading for the South of South Korea, and so spent an enjoyable hour watching the homeless crowds fighting with the station security as I fought numerous public phones with my World Call Card (still no success). Once finally on the train I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to get a feel for the Korean Countryside. However, as I hadn't slept at all for 24 hours my body had other ideas - I snored all the way to my next destination: Gyeongju.

Gyeongju, With a thousand years of wisdom and splendour, is breath taking!

Well, who could possibly resist visiting a town with a tourist tag-line like that?

I'd decided before leaving home that I would try to get out of Seoul as quickly as possible, in order to experience more of the "real" Korea. In many ways, not surprisingly, Seoul and Tokyo are quite similar: they are both big Asian capitals with lots of shops, people, traffic and all that comes with those things. I figured that I was more likely to discover what was unique about the country if I headed into the outback. Gyeongju, situated 5 hours south-east of Seoul, stood out when I was leafing through Lonely Planet, not only because it apparently had some fantastic examples of Silla architecture (what?), but also because it played host to a B&B noted for its friendly, helpful owner and great atmosphere. How true that was!

mini-me

in my traditional
Korean room

The owner of Sa Rang Chae was really very hospitable. Having welcomed me with a cup of tea, he set about offering advice on where to go and what to see - advice that was much muchly appreciated as I was still so tired that thinking for myself was out of the question. All I had to do was follow the route that he had laid out for me on the map provided.

Now, don't get the idea that I'm a temple freak, because I'm not. In my book temple freaks are just as bad as train spotters. Despite this, I do think that I know a good temple when I find one, and Gyeongju played host to quite a few that fitted into this category. Gyeongju's history dates back to BC57, when it played host for a thousand years to the capital of the Silla Kingdom (one of those "periods of rule" that all countries have. Imagine if The Thatcher Kingdom had lasted that long, or even worse, if the Bush Era does. Crikey, we'd really be stuffed)! Because of this there is now an unfortunate excess of museums containing prehistoric bits of pottery etc which I must say really don't turn me on in the slightest. However, the highlight of the area's list of Sights really is a highlight: about 30 minutes from the town centre by bus (and then one hour on foot from the bus stop due to someone once again getting off at the wrong place): Bulguksa Temple. This huge complex set on a series of rock terraces sports some incredibly detailed carpentry and paintwork - unlike anything I've ever seen before. I must have taken about 120 photos in the space of an hour. It was like being faced with some really famous building, such as The Leaning Tower of Pisa, that in normal life only exists in photos or on the television. When you're actually looking at the real thing it seems to be more of an illusion than when observed through a lens! That's how I felt when standing in front of Bulguksa Temple, as it was just so "perfect".

These digital shots really don't do the place justice - my 35mm films are currently being processed.

By the time I'd finished taking photos at Bulguksa Temple, it was time to head for home. Once again, I wussed out of eating any traditional Korean food and instead went to the 7-11for a few rice balls and a bottle of Coca-Cola!

Once in bed, in my room with it's under-floor woodstove-powered heating, I started to muse over all that had happened to me in the previous 36 hours. I laughed when recalling what I'd seen from the bus on my way into Seoul the previous evening: a sports shop named "The Athlete's Foot". Then there was the kind-but-suicidal bus driver who let me ride for free as I didn't have any change (and then proceeded to scare the hell out of me by taking corners so fast that two of the wheels almost came off the ground). The young chap who, upon seeing my confused state when I was lost in the middle of nowhere, offered to accompany me to my destination (the local railway station). The family in the park who had given me a few rice cakes completely out of the blue - I'd only wished that I could say more than a very poor "Thank you" in Korean.

The mini-bulldozer with a live-duck's head

As soon as my head hit the pillow that night I was off in the land of nod. I tell you though, I certainly had some strange that night - one even equals the bizarre vividness of last summer's Rocket-Powered-High-Heeled-Shoe-Car I believe. I was working on a construction site somewhere near my old school in Herefordshire. My job was to level a section of land using a mini bulldozer. Mind you, this was no ordinary mini-bulldozer, no. Instead of the usual shovel on the end of a pneumatically powered arm, my caterpillar-tracked vehicle was armed with a live ducks neck and head! The duck seemed to be 50% controlled by me, and 50% by it's own will. I spent ages trying to get it to shovel the soil out of the way using its beak - but it kept on misbehaving and trying to peck my nose.

Day Three: battles with buses

I'd had grand plans for my third day in the Republic of Korea. I was going to get up very early, walk a couple of blocks west of my B&B and catch a bus heading south for the famed Tongdosa Temple. Having admired the architecture there, I was going to catch another bus to reach South Korea's second largest city, Busan (or Pusan), check into a hotel then catch a third bus to a huge hot-spring complex in the middle of nowhere. All of this was to be done by 5pm.

Well, let's just say that things didn't quite go according to plan. At 5pm I hadn't got on a single bus (well,, that's a lie actually, I sat on one for about 15 minutes in the bus station before realising that it wasn't going anywhere until a couple of hours later, and when it did it would be heading in the wrong direction in any case).

It's not just Japan that has mad Engrish

Things had started out OK that morning, I mean, I'd got up pretty early as planned, and I had walked 2 blocks west to reach the Express Bus Terminal. There, I bought a ticket and waited for the wrong bus to depart as described above. By the time I realised my mistake the right bus had departed, and there wasn't another one for a few hours. My options were to either try and explain what had happened, in Korean, to the ticket clerk in order to obtain a refund, or simply walk out and head for the train station on the other side of town. Me being a wuss in a foreign land I'm sure you can guess what I did. However, upon reaching the railway station I was told that the next train wasn't leaving for another 3 hours, and it certainly wasn't going anywhere near the legendry temple that I'd planned to visit. I considered walking back across town to the bus station again, but pride got in the way as I mulled over what a complete idiot the ticket clerk would think I was for trying to change my ticket hours after first buying it.

So, I waited for the train. For three hours. In a smelly waiting room. With a guy who kept on trying to give me smoked sausages. It was very kind of him, and was typical of Korean hospitality towards strangers, but, well, they were pretty much just tubes of brown plastic. Sorry, sorry, I shouldn't be so ungrateful I know. I think it was just that by this time (2pm) I was feeling utterly exhausted from all that was involved in attempting to leave this town.

Once on the train I realised that I was on one of those local lines on which the train stops not only at every station, but also in the middle of nowhere between each station for no apparent reason. Still, it wasn't long before I was forcibly distracted by five high school girls, who, having giggled for 15 minutes finally plucked up the courage to talk to me. They were quite amusing actually, teaching me a bit of essential Korean whilst being rude about one another.

"Horse" is theone 2nd from the left

"This girl here - her nickname 'Horse' cause she got long face.
That girl there 'Rabbit' cause she got sticky out teeth."

Anyhow, I entertained them for an hour or so (mainly with my astonishingly realistic horse impression) whilst contentedly munching on the cookies that they'd given me. As the train pulled out from their destination station (after the obligatory photos) another passenger approached me. This time it was a middle-aged Japanese man who'd heard me teaching the girls a bit of his native language. He was a friendly chap; we talked about this and that for a bit before finally arriving, at 5.30pm, at Pusan station. Well, I was only 6 hours behind schedule..

It wasn't long before I'd checked into a cheap hotel recommended in Lonely Planet. I think it must have changed hands since three years ago when the book was published as when I arrived it was full of Russian blondes entertaining their customers until the early hours. Not only that, but my room came complete with a ghost that turned the TV on (full volume) whilst I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom.

After checking in there I went in search of the town's famous hot spring complex. Despite knowing nothing about the place but the name I managed to navigate my way across town (by tube) to the huge hotel/spa resort. Wow! What a place! Having stripped off I left the changing room and entered a vast hall which resembled a giant, domed tropical greenhouse, the kind you see in western botanical gardens featuring huge banana trees etc. Before me, in addition to lots of naked men, was a maze of baths, all unique in one way or another. You could have easily fitted 500 people in those volcanically heated pools, and still had room to swing a loafer.

Where to begin? Well, it seemed the most logical thing to do was to work my way around the collection of tubs in a clockwise direction. First there was the rosemary bath, then the camomile bath, then the lindenbluten bath - it was just like sitting in huge mugs of herbal tea. Very relaxing. Having then sweated it out in the three saunas, I sank into the murk of the mud bath, and it was there, whilst submerged in the gloop, that I met Chang.

A passport to Pusan

Chang, a Korean man from Seoul, was taking a short break from the stress of the city in his childhood home of Pusan. After chatting for a few minutes, we discovered to our surprise that we had a few things in common: we'd both lived in Japan, we both had girlfriend's back in Tokyo, we both spoke basic Japanese, and we both had no plans for the evening ahead. It was then that Chang very kindly offered to show me around Pusan's student area, which played host to the liveliest, cheapest and wildest streets in town.

Having stuffed ourselves with delicious Bim Bam Boolie in a very cheap student restaurant, we went on to a matt black bar tucked away on the second floor of a building that was no more than two metres wide. There, the local Korean Cafri beer went down very nicely as we watched the young hoodlams on the street below practicing their kicks and punches on the array of machines lined up outside amusement arcades. By this time it was getting pretty late; I had to get back to my "brothel" before the subway shut down at midnight, and try and get some sleep in order to make an early start for Seoul the following morning. Chang and I said our goodbyes with promises to meet up again in Tokyo.

It was interesting how, on my way home, I noticed that my attitude towards the people around me had changed significantly from how it had been a few hours earlier. Through my friendship with Chang and the resulting increase in my understanding of the culture, I had ceased to feel like "just another tourist". I was happy.

Back to the Big City

The following morning I went through that awful routine as described above, whereby you wake up only to find that the alarm clock went off 30 minutes previously; you'd turned it off and gone back to sleep. I ran like a Seoul Olympic's runner to catch that train, and made it with seconds to spare. After an hour or so, we stopped in the town of Taegu, where, although I was completely oblivious to the fact until later that night, someone had just thrown a lit carton of fuel into a subway carriage. Over 100 people died in Taegu that day. My heart goes out to all of the victims.

At Seoul Station, amidst the crowds, I somehow managed to locate Eun-Jung, a Korean friend whom I had met briefly last December in Tokyo. Eun-Jung had very kindly offered to entertain me that day, along with her friend Ji-Eun.

Eun Jung (left) and Ji-Eun

Lunch was of course top priority, and so off we went in search of a traditional Korean restaurant. It wasn't long before we were happily settled at a table covered in dishes full of all sorts of things that I'd never seen before. I was a little nervous as Korean cuisine is well known for it's spicy nature - I can handle curries, but a mouth full of chili peppers is not my idea of fun. However, I must say that it was absolutely delicious. I've been trying to recall the name of my dish - a heavy black metal bowl full of a thinly sliced beef soaked in a delicious stock - but alas, my memory is not what it was once was, either that or I'm just stupid. "Beef soup" would be an accurate description I guess. The side dishes were also really nice, although I gave the spiciest Kimchi - cabbage marinated in a thick chili paste and then left to rot for a couple of days in an earthenware pot - a miss.

After lunch we plunged into some of the busiest markets in Asia. It was staggering how many people there were bustling about in search of a bargain (and boy was I glad that I had a guide!).

1) This bloke dressed in red had been behaving himself until I arrived on the scene: as soon as I pointed my camera at him he started to stamp his feet and yell at me in Japanese!
2) I wouldn't want that blokes job - imagine the bad back you'd have at the end of the day!
3) Playing around on the beach

On escaping from the market, our route was cut off by a convoy of 12 cyclists, each with a flag attached to the back of their chariots. The leader had a huge loudspeaker strapped on to his basket, wired up to a great big battery pack. Classical music was sent blaring across the road. I asked Eun-Jung what it was all about. "Oh, they're just advertising a new nightclub" she said!

...ah, right, I should have guessed!

Well, I guess that's one way to advertise a nightclub...
Down by the Riverside

 

The International Goodwill Society

Every Tuesday night Eun-Jung and thirty other Koreans get together in the basement of the British Embassy in Seoul. On the 18th of February 2003 I was invited to join them as an honorary guest. I had absolutely no idea what it was all about, but decided to go along in any case.

Having made it through security ("if your name's not down you're not coming in"), I was led into a very nice conference hall situated next to a huge bar which seemed to have been lifted straight from a good old English Pub - these embassies have many hidden secrets.. I started to chat to Chris, the diplomat on duty - really nice guy - but stepped back when a courier arrived with a large package for him. I assumed that it was a stack of important documents relating to the situation in North Korea, but no, it was a pizza with ham and pineapple topping.

The "International Goodwill Society (IGS) was founded by Korean college students on the 5th of November 1960 as a key to English and a gate to friendship."

Proceedings soon got underway (marked by the thump of a gable (?) you know, one of those wooden hammers that judges use), and it wasn't long before we were divided up into groups to discuss the society member's performance the week before of "Come Blow Thy Horn" (an old Broadway hit). I was told by Chris that it had been a great show, and I must admit, judging by the passion aroused by the topic he can't have been wrong, a great deal of effort seemed to have gone into it. One thing that took me by surprise was the amount of praise and affection that flowed, in words at least. "You were fantastic in the lead role, so passionate. I loved you man!" This kind of comment between the cast was heard at times, and there was not a hint of sarcasm when it was heard. It was very refreshing to find myself in such an open, caring society!

Perhaps my surprise stemmed from the fact that in Japan PDA's (Public Displays of Affection) are strictly banned. In Korea however, 90% of girls hold hands with their (girl)friends in the street, whilst the lads often verbally compliment one another whilst giving a pat on the back.

Anyhow, after that little debate there followed the "presidential election business", such as reading the IGS Charter, nominating candidates etc. It was touching, if not a little embarrasing for a Japanized Joseph, to hear the nomination speeches. They were far more poetic than anything ever read in the House of Commons, with frequent use of such phrases as "upstanding character", "passion in their work" etc. I vote that world politics take on the IGS method of governing as it's far nicer and has a great "feel good factor" that I'm sure would vastly increase the audience of Prime Minister's Questiontime.

After the gabble/gobble/hammer had been hit for the last time that I came to appreciate yet another good side of IGS: PARTYING! Cunningly concealed in a basement just outside the impressive gates of the British Embassy was a little bar, serving huge pitures (SP?) of beer and piles of snacks. I wasn't used to the rules of Korean drinking (as soon as you finish your glass your friends are obliged to refill it for you), and so it only took about 15 minutes for me to get extremely drunk! Well, as the night went on so the food disappeared, and before we knew it it was time to catch the last subway.

I'd like to offer a special THANKYOU to Eun-jung and Ji-Eun who not only gave up their day to show me around Seoul, but who also, with IGS's help, enabled me to get just a little closer to the Korean culture and really see it at its best. My thanks also to all IGS members for a great night!

New friends relax with a beer!

Drunk IGS friends

The return home

Reaching the Airport Express Departure Terminal near Seoul Station the following morning, I realised to my horror that I didn't have enough Korean Won left to pay for the coach ticket. There were no banks nearby and in any case, the bus that I had to catch to make it in time for my flight was due to leave any minute. The ticket clerk shook her head as I offered her a credit card, so all I could do was show her what loose change I had left. She smiled, took all that I had and handed me a ticket. I thanked her profusely, and jumped onto the bus. On sitting down I was a little mystified by this sign attached to the seat in front. How was I supposed to not put on my legs? I mean, I couldn't take them off in the first place!

Alas, when checking in at the airport this time I was not approached by a kind man offering to upgrade my seat. Instead I found myself squashed into United Airlines' Economy Class, served with a manky little cardboard box which allegedly held food, although I was unable to find anything worth eating out of the rotten tangerine, the soluble white-bread sandwich containing rubber ham and the plastic tub of 100% unnatural orange juice.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time in South Korea. I found the people to be exceptionally friendly, often voluntarily attempting to cross the language barrier and make me feel welcome. I'll definately go back there sometime, even if it's just for the beer.

Thankyou Korea. See you next time.

Rraaaaaaaaa

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Tuesday 25th February 2003 - 10:16(GMT+9) My girlfriend's apartment, Koenji, Tokyo

It's time for a big inter-continental decision again.

Four days ago I visited a book sale here in sunny Tokyo Town. There were hundreds of bargains just waiting to be snapped up, but I resisted buying 3 copies of the New Pocket Oxford Dictionary, and instead, walked away with just one paperback under my arm.

Losing my Virginity. Richard Branson. The Autobiography. (For those of you who don't know who he is, Richard Branson is the chap who created the Virgin group; that's Virgin Records, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Megastores and Virgin everything else under the sun).

A good old spanking, that's what you need

A good old spank!

Having started to read on Friday night, I didn't stop until Saturday afternoon, by which time I'd completed the 595 page marathon. The effect it had on me was to give me a good kick up the ass, "Stop dawdling about Joseph and just get on with it. If he can do it, so can you. You want to be a writer? You want to be able to write in Japanese too? Well do it then!"

The next 24 hours were spent dreaming up plans for a book, which was to incorporate my views into a fictional story illustrated by either my photographs or drawings. Well, as the thought process went on, so my way of thinking shifted a little. I realised that to make this a reality, for a start I'd need to study Japanese, and for a second thing I'd need to rid myself of my debts - the returns on any project which involved publication would be a long way off, by which time the banks would be raiding my home to take the TV and video.

This then led me to consider university, and I set about scanning the internet for the best East Asian Studies departments within the UK. After a tip-off from a friend, I investigated the University of Sheffield, and got very excited and nervous at the prospect of signing up for the course.

Another 12 hours went by, this time spent discussing my decision with my parents and of course, my girlfriend. It was clear that if I was going to attend Uni (which would take four years) then that would be the end of Us. Initially I didn't really think about the consequences, but then I heard a voice in my head saying "Joseph, you've done this before and look what happened! Don't make the same mistake twice!" (Last year I left my girlfriend after 18 months together due to a fear of commitment stemming from a disastrous relationship with my ex-girlfriend in the UK. I later regretted the decision a great deal, and have since spent much of the last year in Italy, Japan and the UK trying to rectify the situation, in the process making myself unemployed for 7 months and enjoying the financial implications of the actions involved.)

I thought and thought and thought. What was the answer? How could I possibly weigh up such unrelated items as love, money and long-term happiness? It was like trying to predict the future. What was I supposed to do? Where was the answer book? It's all very well if one has limited choices and a specific list of "wants" and "don't wants" to work from, but I found with increasing alarm that the only limits there were to my choices were the limits of my imagination. I seem to have cultivated such a strong belief in freedom of choice that I now find myself presented with such an array of possibilities to choose from that I find it very difficult to reach a decision.

I've come a long way since the day when, as a twelve-year-old at school, I was shown a photo of the Acropolis in Athens, which made me think "Ah, I'd love to go there, but only other people can do things like that..." Now I find myself at the opposite extreme, overwhelmed by the realm of possibilities. I need to find a balance: I hope that with time I can find it.

Sorry, got a bit sidetracked there. I'll cut to the chase. I have decided that next month I shall return to England until late September in order to start to pay off my debts, and then, in October 2003 I shall start a one-year course at a language school in Tokyo (by which time I will also have permission to work in Japan, something that I currently lack). This way, I can start to pay off my debts (keeping the banks happy), I get to indulge in learning again (something I crave for), myself and my girlfriend don't have to split up (just another horrendous 6 months apart!), and, well, I'm kind of excited about rediscovering the UK. I haven't lived there for four years.

I'm shit-scared too!

And if you think that that will be the end of The Daily Mumble you've got another thing coming - I shall continue to bore you with more drivvle from the life of a Tame as he embarks upon an experimental temporary re-integration into his mother-culture.

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Friday 28th February 2003 - 00:57(GMT+9) My girlfriend's apartment, Koenji, Tokyo

Gosh. the excitment of normal life, it's almost too much to bear! Having made my decision to return to the UK I haven't stopped, so much to do. My priority is getting my application together for the language school which I'll be attending from October. This has involved three hours of phoning, faxing and emailing folks all over the globe. I even contacted good old All Saints Primary School that I attended for a few terms almost 20 years ago. The receptionist was absolutely delighted to be able to look me up in a huge antique book that dated back to about 1864, "These days they're all on computer dear, but I prefer to see it in ink. They tell me to transfer the records to Microsoft Excel but I just can't bring myself to do it, that would mark the end of an era!"

Anyhow, I now have documents whizzing their way to me from all over the place, and as soon as my application is submitted to the school here in Tokyo, I can leave.

It's called 'bark', and I like it.

It's called 'bark', and I like it.

Looking back on the decision-making process that engulfed me last weekend, I can now see how I unconciously set about trying to make the right choice. When I felt that it was too close to call, I allowed myself to make a temporary decision and then to experience the immidiate effects of that. I found that by casting all ideas but one to the wayside, I could concentrate solely on the consequences of that one decision. I could even begin to carry out the actions necessary to go through with the plan (such as phoning a few universities to find out what the entrance requirements were), but at the back of my mind I knew that I was still free to choose another path. The following day, having slept on it, I reasessed my choices with the added benefit of having the gut feeling attached to the temporary decision that I had made.

Although this method of decision making seems to work quite well, it can be very draining for those around me; one day I'm saying, "right, I'm off to travel Australia next week", and the next I'm talking about entering university in the UK.

My thanks to Kae, my parents and siblings for sticking with me despite my mad mental state!

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The Daily Mumble February 2003 Archive
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