Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Goodbye Korea! Hello...Koreatown?

Well, yesterday I made it to Los Angeles.  Not much to say about the flight.  It was long, I tried to sleep.  I watched the new Karate Kid movie.  (Not to be confused with the movie, The New Karate Kid).  Not a bad movie to be honest.  I did sit next to a nice looking girl.  Well, not a girl, she was 47 but she was fairly attractive.  And I did fall asleep and drool on myself at one point.

Finally, however, I got to L.A. and grabbed a cab to take me to my hotel.  As we get near I see a tall building that says "Shinhan Bank."  I couldn't believe it, I'd flown all the way here only to see my old Korean bank.  Then, I start to notice more and more Korean signs.  I lean forward and say to my cab driver, "Wow, there's a lot of Korean places around here."
"Oh yes," he tells me.  "This neighborhood is all Korean."
The man at the front desk asked me, "So, what brings you to Koreatown?"  Amazing coincidence?  Cosmic joke?

A note on the hotel.  It's a really cool place.  I wasn't sure what to expect.  It looked nice in the pictures, and it wasn't cheap--though not high-priced either.  And the neighborhood looks the same.  It looks fairly nice, but everywhere there are gates and fences.  Not nice looking white picket fences, but slightly intimidating keep-the-burglars-out fences.    So, I'm wondering what exactly I'm in for.  Then I step into the elevator to go up to the lobby from the underground parking.  Just the elevator told me this was a cool place.  Track lighting inside, black wood paneling on the walls, it's just cool.  Then I step into the lobby, which doesn't look like a hotel lobby, but more like a little lounge or something, and the guy at the front desk is wearing a Ghostbusters shirt with no sleeves.  I wanted to take a picture.  I wish I had.  Not only did he look totally hip, he was super polite.  It's an interesting vibe when a guy in a sleeveless nostalgic t-shirt calls you sir and Mr. Krieg.
The room is cool, too.  The view isn't much--I can see the apartment building just next door--but there's a nice TV and a desk and a bed like I've never slept on in my life.  This thing is like lying on a thousand bags of marshmallows.  It's wonderful.

After a shower I went to get some dinner.  Mr. Ghostbusters directed me to a place called H.M.S. Bounty.  It was exactly what I was looking for.  Think of Cheers, but with a 3rd of the light and a much smaller bar.  I got a turkey sandwich, which was so good.  And there were pickles.  Real dill pickles.  Oh god they were great.  I even had to ask the waitress for more.  But the best part was the beer.  Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.  That first sip was so amazing.  The hops in there, fruity, but like a man's fruit if there ever was one.  A little sweet, but bitter too and just so so good.  I ate and drank, then decided to park myself up at the bar to finish off my second beer.  I sat next to a guy who moved here from up in the bay area and wants to be a musician.  We talked a little baseball--the Dodgers and the Rockies were playing.  We talked about women and life and what to do with it.  Soon he had to go and he says to me, "By the way, I'm John Snow, and I'm going to be famous."  Now that's the way to end a conversation.

Then I was left with all the older guys who were talking local politics.  The guy on my right was named Bill and he's a left-wing lawyer, and the guy on his right is Peter, whom Bill calls a fascist.  Then there was Shin and some dude from Boston on my left.  They chat politics and law, and there's a bit of debating, but it's all good-natured, and I got to just listen and laugh for a bit.  Then Bill, the bleeding heart of the group turns into a total racist.  He starts telling me all about Koreans and what they're like and how he's never going to defend one again.  "I know what these people are like.  I've worked with them for 10 years," he told me.  Which left me with no choice but to try to defend the good name of Koreans.  Not sure if it really worked.  Bill was more of a talker than a listener.  But we also talked about where to live, what kind of jobs to get, going to court for traffic violations, stupid republican farmers, the good and bad of unions and so on.  And, after my originally planned one beer turned into four, I finally made my way back to my hotel to fall asleep amongst the marshmallows.

That's all.  I'll write about today once more of it has gone by.  But, here's a little teaser.  I had my first American breakfast.  Why does Walgreens smell like that?  And, I think I'll get some pictures up, too.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Final Day. The First Day.

This is it.  This is my last day in Korea, perhaps forever.  It's strange, it's sad, but it's good and I'm happy, too.  I'm glad to be going back to America, but it's strange to say goodbye to people when I know I probably won't see them again.  Some I think I will see, but some I'm nearly certain I won't.

I kept expecting something to happen.  For there to be some big feeling, like at the end of a summer camp or something.  But, really it's just me leaving.  Everyone else has work tomorrow.  I'm not sure exactly what I wanted, but I'm pretty sure that no matter what I would have this feeling.  It's just how life is.  Things don't come to a halt in order to mark a transition or a big change.  One just goes into the next.  One day you're in Korea, and the next you're in America, and the rest of the world keeps going on the same way it always has.

I'm ready to get moving, to get out of here.  I hate all the packing and preparing, especially when I'm leaving things for good.  I'm not good at cleaning up and to be honest, I have a ton of stuff I had to get rid of.  In a place where it's fairly common to see a drunk businessman pissing on the side of a city road--at times even as school girls are passing by--I get nervous about taking out my trash.  It's true.  Trash, recyclables, that stuff everyone has and everyone has to get rid of, I keep around for fear that someone will see me taking it out and tell me I'm doing something wrong.  So, through the course of this day and night, I've taken out bag after bag full of empty plastic bottles, and just all that little trash and junk that accumulates in the process of living.  But soon I will leave it all behind.  That's what I keep reminding myself.  If I forgot to do something or did something wrong, they can come to America and get me if it's that important.

Well, that first part was written several hours ago.  I got out of my place ok, though I did leave a bit of a mess.  Oh well.  Now I'm in the airport.  But, that doesn't mean there haven't been some issues.  First off, I wanted to take a bus from Pohang to Incheon Airport.  There is a direct bus, Ive taken it before.  Unfortunately I wasn't paying enough attention and got a ticket for the bus simply going to Incheon.  That's kind of like getting a bus to downtown Chicago when you ment to go to O'hare.  Plus, instead of being an express bus, it was a local, meaning we had to stop about 6 times along the way.  Really, though,that's probably for the better because I had to pee so bad the moment I stepped on that bus.  When I finally arrived at the Incheon bus terminal, the driver insisted on shouting at me--the only passenger left--three times "Incheon tuminahl!" Once I got off the bus, a taxi driver was quite willing to take me to the airport for the low low price of all the money in my wallet.  Unfortunately for him there wasn't as much in there as he was expecting.  Still it was a rip off.  I got to the airport in a timely fashion though, which was good because I had to locate the bank and hope that I would be able to transfer all my money home.  Thankfully it worked.  There is an actual bank in the airport and they handled things with no problems, though a bit slowly.  In another stint of good luck, or perhaps it's because of my charm, I was able to get my very overweight bag checked without paying the 230,000 won charge.  I was ready to pay if that's what I had to do, but the lady let me slide because my other checked bag was so light.  I just hope I don't get in trouble going from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Anyway, that's it for now.  I thought I had some deeper kind of stuff to say about missing Korea and going back home and all that, but really I'm just too tired.  Soon I'll get on the bus and hopefully sit next to a pretty girl so I can promptly fall asleep and drool all over myself.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Deal

Alright, here's the deal.

As you can see, I've decided to start a blog.  I have to be honest and up front about this.  I don't really know if this is a good idea.  I don't read blogs.  In fact, I generally think they're dumb.  There are enough people filling up cyberspace with their ranting and stupid stories and I'm not sure if the Internet really needs one more such person.  Yet, I am going to give it a shot, and here's why.  In a few short days I will be back in America and then I will start my travels from California to New York and back to Indiana with plenty of stops between.  Some people--basically my mother and some people who I assume have nothing better to do with their time--have expressed interest in wanting to keep up with what I'm doing.

That, and I always like to be the center of attention.  I reckon I have some good stories to tell, and certainly hope I come up with more in the next month or so.  And pictures.  Everyone likes pictures of stuff.

So, that's it.  I'm going to travel, I'm going to take pictures, and hopefully I'm going to write about what I'm doing and put pictures up for you to look at.  And we'll just see who loses interest first, you or I.