Update

•January 5, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Thanks for visiting.

This blog was a documentation of my Korean experience. I moved to Seoul in early 2009 and stayed for just over three years. During that time I traveled, taught, wrote, documented, ate, appeared on TV/Radio… and best of all met my wife. I’d like to think I lived life to the fullest, gave the ROK everything I had, made a ton of friends and pissed a few people off. I was also plagiarized repeatedly. That’s success in my book.

We’re now back home in Portland, Oregon aka RIP CITY. Our Korean adopted Yorkshire Terrier is crazy as ever.

Go Blazers.

The bag says 도리토스 aka Doritos

•April 2, 2012 • 1 Comment

No, I’m not talking about American red bag Doritos for 6,000 – 8,000 won, found in foreign food markets in Itaewon or in the foreign section of larger super markets.

I’m talking about 도리토스.

Produced under license by Lotte, I recently purchased Frito Lay Doritos brand chips in Korea, I’m assuming made in Korea. The only English on the bag, lost in a sea of Hangul, is the word “Doritos”.

The Nacho Cheese version didn’t taste like the Nacho Cheese Doritos we’re used to in America. The cheese flavor was similar to the Black Pepper Jack Doritos at home. With those chips there’s really not much of a black pepper kick, mostly just what Frito Lay thinks monterey jack cheese should taste like.

The Extreme Barbecue reminded me of most other Doritos flavors. Many of them taste too similar to fully distinguish. The difference here was that the flavor was a bit more subtle, not as overpowering as many of the other Doritos can be, with their homogenous palatability.

Something strange I came across while doing a little bit of internet research on Doritos: Many Doritos bloggers and self proclaimed Doritos aficionados recommend licking and sucking the flavor powder off the chips before consuming them, to get the full flavor of the chips. Nice mental image there.

Iron Mic – Angel House Orphanage Fundraiser April 7th

•March 30, 2012 • 2 Comments

My friends at the Iron Mic Freestyle Session are having another fundraiser for the Angel House Orphanage. This time it’s at Genie Ultra Lounge in Itaewon on Saturday, April 7th.

Angel House helps disabled and special needs adults and children. This event is raising money for three of the kids who have recently been accepted into a school for children with special needs.

Last time they raised just over one million Korean Won. As that fundraiser was coming to a close, I wrote this piece that was featured in NEH Magazine, which gives background to how Iron Mic got its start, as well as the motivation behind what they do.

Since then, a few things have changed. The nature of jobs available to foreigners in Korea results in the transient culture which has influenced the regular lineup of contributors. That said, the idea has remained the same: Pretension free environment where anyone can sit back and listen, or choose to participate as much as you like.

The performances slated to take the stage at Genie Ultra Lounge for the fundraiser include:
WISECRUE
PINNACLE THEHUSTLER
YOUNGBLOOD
2TAK and 6is – BEATBOX CREW
OddEli
CJisINFINITE

In addition to the performances, there will be the open mic freestyle cypher that Iron Mic is known for, including rhyming for dollars where a small donation gets you your own personal roast from a couple talented emcees. Also, Wilfred Lee will be on hand providing his caricature drawing services.

Come give some money to a good cause.

Be Careful What You Win. Thanks SEOUL Magazine?

•March 7, 2012 • 4 Comments

Blogging has really taken a hit as of late. I’m in the middle of preparing to leave Korea, heading back home later this Spring. It seems I’m all consumed with networking for my next job, applying to jobs, watching struggling Trail Blazer basketball and spending quality time with my girl and my dog.

Something else demanding my time has been planning the last vacation in Asia.

A few months ago I posted We are Winners! – Thanks Seoul Magazine. SEOUL Magazine was “giving away dozens of prizes including a trip to the Philippines (courtesy of Jin Air) and an iPad (courtesy of KT).” In that post, I describe how I won that advertised trip to the Philippines.

What a nightmare that turned out to be. I learned the hard way that winning can actually be anything but.

The prize was two travel vouchers from Incheon to Clark Field in the Philippines on Jin Air. Ever heard of Jin Air? Ever heard of Clark?

Jin Air is budget airline with extremely limited flights out of Incheon. It flies to Clark a few times a week and only at odd times. Clark is merely a connecting airport, an old military base. There is not a damn thing to do there and you can’t seemingly grab a flight to anywhere else in the Philippines. You can bus to Manila and get to somewhere else in the Philippines, but now you’re talking extra time and money, so what’s the point? The only imaginable reason someone would find themselves at Clark would be to connect to another destination, not in the country.

Basically, in order to take advantage of this “trip to the Philippines”, we’d have to pay for another flight to a different location, not in the Philippines.

When we got the vouchers, they were about to expire. My contact at SEOUL Magazine explained to me that they were given to their boss, and then passed on down the line multiple times until it was decided they were going to be used as a “prize”. Clearly these vouchers were undesirable, considered next to worthless by staff at the magazine. I can see the thought process now, “Hey, I got a GREAT idea. Obviously nobody here wants these things. If we advertise giving away a trip to the Philippines we’ll boost our image in the social networking world by appearing to do something nice for a lucky reader, even if in reality we are totally inconveniencing the winner by getting their hopes up, that is until they figure it all out.”

We succeeded in getting the validity date of the vouchers extended, otherwise, there would have been no way to use them. Flights out of Clark are pretty cheap. It appeared we could still connect to another destination for cheaper than a direct flight out of Incheon. Unfortunately, that only resulted in us getting our hopes up over a three month period as we contemplated how to make the best use of the circumstances we were given.

When we finally decided to pull the trigger on a scenario that would allow us to connect into Hong Kong, and possibly other destinations, Jin Air told us that in order to schedule the reservation, we would have to pay the taxes on the two flights. Fair enough, I’ve heard of this scenario with prizes in the past. Looking online, the taxes on two flights from Incheon to Clark are under $50. Jin Air was asking us to pay close to $250 in taxes in order to reserve the two seats.

Between the added expenses of the “taxes” and the additional hotel stay that would be required in the Clark area in order to connect to another destination without spending most of a day in the airport waiting for the flight, wasting all of our precious vacation time, we were looking at a decent amount of money and a giant pain in the ass.

I’m happy to say that we dropped the whole headache and purchased our own tickets to Phuket. Less layover, wasted travel time and headache. Same amount of money, maybe less. No brainer.

To be fair, SEOUL Magazine never used the word “free”, but they did say they were giving away a trip.

I hardly think it’s fair for Seoul Selection to advertise giving away a trip to the Philippines when in reality it’s to a undesirable destination for a price of $300 + when taking into consideration the out of pocket expenses required just to utilize the vouchers being offered. That, and the only way to end up vacationing in the Philippines is to spend a lot more money and waste a lot more time trying to get anywhere.

I wrote to SEOUL Magazine last week. Not sure why. Maybe I hoped they would offer up another “prize”. Maybe I just wanted someone to acknowledge how absurd this situation was. Since I got nothing in return, I decided to share my story.

I don’t want to come across as ungrateful for having won something, but in reality, anything would have been better than the headache this has caused us, including winning nothing.

SEOUL Magazine, please take that into consideration when offering gifts and prizes in the future.

Relationship Status Changes

•January 26, 2012 • Leave a Comment

It’s amazing to me how much people pay attention to the little things when it comes to social networking. Admittedly, I’m a Facebook and Twitter junkie. That said, I find a lot of the commonly occurring behaviors a bit strange.

An example is the relationship status on Facebook, something I learned an awful lot about recently.

For the first time ever, my fiance and I changed our relationship status, the night of the big event. I didn’t leave a status update, a picture or anything else. I simply switched it from nothing to “engaged”. Then we went to bed. That’s it.

While we slept, Facebook went insane. The relationship status change had generated more “likes” and comments than any other Facebook wall post I have ever had, and I’m really funny and clever and always post really relevant things that people like (haha). In all seriousness, it was pretty crazy. By the end of the first full day, many “friends” back home in America as well as here in Korea had left their mark on my wall.

In my mind, getting engaged seemed like a good reason to change the relationship status. For one, the fiance pretty much told me I had too. But besides that, I do agree that an engagement is an appropriate time to publicly display the terms of your availableness. Almost as much as getting married.

But the real question is, why do people constantly change the single/in a relationship/it’s complicated type of relationship status? At times it seems like overkill, T.M.I., whatever you want to call it. Something to draw attention, positive or negative. Feel so great for me. Feel sympathy for me. To me, that status seems much different the the engaged/married variety.

I guess it all comes down to how much information you choose to share with the world. In my opinion, people should leave the extremely personal aspects of social networking to themselves. Instead, try sharing relevant information and making fun of other people’s opinions and physical downfalls and choice in sporting teams.

Student Cheating: Reasons and Consequences

•December 21, 2011 • 3 Comments

Why do students cheat in Korea? A major factor is the tremendous amount of pressure they are under to succeed.

I’ve heard a lot of disturbing things in my close to three years at the same hagwon in Korea. Kids will tell you anything. Their parents won’t let them out of the house. Make them stay up late studying. Deny them any free time to play outside with friends. No TV, no games. Only kimchi and rice to eat. Physical harm… I wish I was kidding about that.

One situation in particular has really bothered me. Frankly, it makes me sick.

In an all staff meeting not too long ago, while discussing troubled students, the topic turned to students who cheat. We went around the room, ratting out guilty children while my boss wrote down their names. When a certain little girl’s name came up, my boss said casually, “Her mother beats her. I know, she told me she does. She told me when she brings home bad grades, she beats [our student].

She got a phone call right after it was said and left the room. While she was gone, I asked the other four teachers in the room if that bothered them, how non-chalant our boss tossed that awful statement out there, as if it was no big deal. The only person to reply was the other foreign teacher, agreeing that it was messed up.

A week later, I caught that very student using a cheat sheet of paper to complete the answers on a review test in my class.

In that situation, what would you do? Turn her in, leading her straight into the lion’s den of heavy handed parenting? Let it slide? Address it with her, but nobody else? What kind of score do you give her on the test, knowing that a zero score would alert the parent? Do you tell your boss? What if your boss tells the parent?

The intricacies of teaching aren’t always fun.

Before I tell you what I did, let me reveal the results of a non-scientific poll I took on Facebook:

-That’s tough. I would have done the same as you but that’s a tough scenerio.
-Yeah thats really tough
-I would have done the same as you…boy that’s a tough one..
-Address on the side with the student but don’t inform the parent.
-You should also have a conversation with the student as well…keep it between you and her but let her know you are watching!!
-Give the kid an A, cut the moms break lines just before you head to the airport.
-I would have done the same, but would have let her know I caught her and she better NEVER do it again! Teaching is a tough job friend :)
-Beat the kids mom.
-A for Planning, C- for Execution of the plan.. Sounds like a smart kid, needs more practice.. Maybe an accomplice.
-Apparently I cheated in school “break” lines hahahaha
-Once i gave a lecture about how to cheat and that s what happend: they were shocked, they found it hilarious, no one ever cheated in that class.

I let the kid finish the test. After she was done, I calmly asked that she give me the piece of paper. Normally very defiant, on this circumstance she looked at me with the fear of God in her eyes, knowing she was caught, and handed it over without a fight. I did so fairly privately, so not too many of the other kids would see. I told her not to freak out, and we’d talk about it later.

The next day, I gave the cheat sheet to my boss and let her know who it came from. I also told her I was deeply disturbed by her comments regarding the actions of this child’s parent, and didn’t understand the relaxed attitude towards this kind of parenting. I let my boss know that I was leaving the grade as is (clearly cheating did her no good, the score was 58/100), as to not alert the parent because I couldn’t morally contribute the abuse of a child, regardless of her classroom behavior.

When it comes down to it, cheating is not OK. At times, it may seem acceptable in Korea, a necessary evil as a result of this overly demanding educational system, but it’s not. My boss sat the student down and let the child know we are aware of what she has been doing (other teachers have caught her before), and any more of this kind of behavior would result in a phone call to her mother.

Not sure whether or not that would happen, but please kid, if you know what’s good for you, do your own work from here on out.

Teaching conundrums like this make me sad.

Is it OK for a Korean to drop an N-Bomb?

•December 16, 2011 • 5 Comments

Recently, Pinnacle TheHustler confronted Korean rapper Snacky Chan on the air about his use of the N-Word in his song “You Da Man”. Pinnacle is the co-host of the Night Vibe radio show on TBSeFM 101.3 alongside Elliott Ashby. I tune in most nights of the work week between 10pm – 12am.

You can watch the video of this conversation here:

Pinnacle starts the conversation providing a straight faced, brutal historical context of the N-Word, while Snacky Chan fidgets nervously in his chair with an awkward smile on his face.

To quote Pinnacle, “This word came out of slavery times where black people were raped and killed and lynched, hanged by trees. A lot of times when they would get hanged, many times the mob that hung them would cut their genitals off, and put their genitals in their mouth. It’s pretty graphic right? Out of that, came the use of the N-Word.” He goes on to say that while some people believe it’s not acceptable for anyone to use the word, there are others don’t really care. He concludes with, “generally, it’s a conversation that black people have.”

After that, the question that he throws at Chan is, “Why do you feel that it’s appropriate for you as an Asian, in an Asian culture, that has no historical or cultural connection, or understanding to the use of the N-Word, why do you feel it’s appropriate for you to use that word on that album?”

Chan’s response consists of:
“I don’t really think it’s appropriate.”
“I haven’t ever used the word before.”
“I’ve actually been told in 2001 by another emcee, who’s African American as well, you can’t do that.”
“I guess I really didn’t think deeply into the consequences.”
“I remember hearing songs from other Korean rappers in the past, and they would say the N-Word, and I didn’t like it.”
“In this particular case, I didn’t really put too much thought into it, that’s what I wanted to say.”
“And to be honest, I use that word in my daily life.”
“I guess there’s no real way to justify using that word, but I guess that’s my explanation.”

Oh man, that explanation was weak, right?

My interpretation of what Chan said:
You haven’t ever used the word, you don’t like the word, but you use it in your daily life? I don’t understand. A black emcee told you not to use it, and his warning stuck with you for 10 years, yet you used it anyway. Other Korean rappers have used it, so what’s the big deal? Because you didn’t think about it too much, it’s not that big of a deal. There’s no justification, basically, you just felt like it, it’s what you wanted to say.

Pinnacle’s response:
“OK cool, I was just wondering”, followed by a bunch of laughs and an introduction into their song.

Hold on, that’s it? After the graphic historical context you opened with and your known disdain for the use of the N-Word? We heard you criticize Common recently for his use of the word, and he’s black.

Here’s the tweet from @iampinnacle:
I hate @common’s use of the N-Word n #celebrate. YOU r the reason I have 2 educate Asians on y u SHOULDNT call a Blk man a nigga. Thx Common

Not sure exactly what I expected, but definitely something other than, “OK cool.” To me, that implies that you’re OK with the answer, and I have a hard time believing that.

Perhaps asking him to clear up the flip flopping in his answer. Gain some insight into why he used it when he admits he was previously told not to, even saying he didn’t like it. Clarify how he used the word admittedly without even thinking about the consequences. Ask if he plans on doing it again. I don’t know, something.

Regardless, good for Pinnacle and Night Vibe for bringing up a controversial issue. It’s a great show, I tune in regularly, you should as well. Not everyone is willing to take on an issue like that. I would hope when a situation like that presents itself in the future, there would be more of a follow up, more of a journalistic challenge, rather than, “OK cool.”

 
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