who ... moi?

a social butterfly: scared of much, but not of many. never lets the truth get in the way of a good story. not a fan of acronyms, snakes and angelina jolie. a HUGE fan of Fathead.

this blog is black for ENERGY-SAVING reasons.

thanks for your understanding.
if it's too dark, put your glasses on old one.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

a pinch of old friendship

last year, when i told a work friend that i'd be resigning and moving to south korea, she immediately said that she'd make a plan to come via sk on her way to japan.  at the time i thought she was spicing (she does make one hell of a biriyani, afterall).  it turns out, she was entirely serious, and true to her word she popped in to see us last week.

the day she arrived, it snowed (obviously) and then pee'd down with rain for the next few days - but good ol' sabiha didn't let this get her down. 

we were working during the week so i recommended that she go visit gyeongju (you'll remember this post with the night ponds and tombs and temples?).   she spent a couple of days there, which she really enjoyed ... so i was rather relieved that i'd managed to point her in a worthwhile direction!

once she was back in the city, we managed to meet up with her in itaewon.

unfortunately for her, this was the weekend of  st. paddy's celebrations ... and you know that Fathead and i hate to party in irish pubs.     so, with the rain threatening to wash out the st.paddy parade, we dragged her to the smoke-filled wolfhound pub ... where she had to endure a full day of drunkard irishmen wrapped in their flags, painted face and green beer a-flowing.

despite the fact that sab's was surrounded by booze and no-halaal pub meals, she was her usual trooper self.  it was just like old times, back in the G2 bar after work ... ciggies and tipsy tales, wobbly old men and loud sing along tunes ...

the next day the sun made a guest appearance, and to repay sabs for her patience and tolerance of the irish debauchery she witnessed the night before, we took her for a daytime tour of our neck of the woods.

we started at snet with a tour of our palatial abode and the surrounding school.   she even got to ring the "forbidden bell" (apparently installed for purely ornamental reasons and to collect yellow dust) ...

then we went for a peaceful sunday stroll around yuldong park.  along with the sun, came a korean families in their hoards - with two wheelers, three wheelers, baby strollers, walking canes and traditional kites in tow.

look at me with my widdle fwuffy ears ... could i be any cuter?

...and then, of course ended up in the "city centre" where we dragged her ass into another pub - to join our team, the social livers for our weekly sunday quiz night at dublins.

it was a brief time with an old friend ...  and it felt as if we were saying goodbye to her as quickly as she had arrived.  still, it is amazing how someone's presence (albeit fleeting) can bring with it, a sense of home.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

hiking in seohyeon

the area surrounding our school promises to be quite beautiful (once the snow faks off long enough for the trees to attempt some greenery).

we try (whenever it is humanly possible to withstand the outside temperatures) to explore our surroundings ... and have done a pretty good coverage of it, so far.

a few weeks back, (also read "a few snowfalls ago") we decided to make the best of the sunshine, and headed out to explore the mountains next to our school.

it was so good to be outdoors again - the crisp air cutting through our lungs, leg muscles burning.  walking through the trees, it's hard to believe that just a 5min taxi drive away, you'll be in the heart of seohyeon's city.  we are really lucky with our location here.

anyhoo, these were the first pics i took with my new camera - so although a hike isn't exactly post-worthy ... i had to make up some kind of excuse to share the virginal shots, right?

footie and minx

maya and Fathead

i tin ari

in the three months that we've been in south korea, we've managed to save our targeted amount (to date) and seem to be on track.  it's been pretty challenging - and at times we've had our wobbly days where all we've wanted to do is break out and indulge in something that would bring us a bit of home comfort.

so it's taken a considerable amount of self-restraint, partner-restraint, sacrifice and season's of how i met your mother to achieve our budgeted target. 

anyone considering an adventure like ours, should be warned that it's not all snowflakes and cherry blossoms:

our living environment is ... intimate ... to say the very least.  we sleep one floor above the 200-odd children that walk through our doors every week.  on either side of our 3 x 5m bedroom, lives another two people in their own 3 x 5m space.  the kitchen is four floors down, communal and lacks the general convenience of one's own kitchen. so for this reason, and to save a substantial amount on food costs, we eat in a canteen, along with our colleagues / friends / foes / neighbors / children / management - and not only is the food canteen-quality ... but it's korean-canteen-quality.

the days are long when we work a night shift - but most of the time we view this as a positive way to make the time pass faster.

if you're a whiskey lover, i've got some bad news for you: scotch is so expensive here that there is no way you could indulge your taste buds and save the money you need to.   you'll have to switch to the local "beer" which is ... alright ... if you like the taste of synthetic fibers.

if you enjoy a good steak ... i'm afraid there's more bad news on the way.   meat is fairly pricey here (compared to back home) and the "meat" in the "food" at the canteen is not the kind you're looking for.  trust me.

but all this aside, if you can suck it up for a few months - you can save the funds you need to.  and when you do that, you could do something like this:

the F@head itinery:

south east asia
on june 26th fly out of seoul to hanoi (flights booked and paid for).

during july, travel down the length of vietnam and by august, cross the border into the bottom of cambodia, and travel up the country for three weeks.

once at the top border, cross into laos. spend september exploring there, and then enter thailand from the top.  
** at some stage, meet up with Fathead's sister and family for their holiday. 

travel all the way through thailand for the next month and a half, then cross into malaysia around mid-november.

meet long lost friends from varsity in kuala lumpur and spend 10 days with them as you island hop from langkawi.   use the remainder of november to move through malaysia, cross the ocean to indonesia and end your south east asian tour in bali.

on the 10th december, catch a flight out from bali (flights booked and paid for), to sydney.  from there, road trip through aus (to brisbane) to spend december and christmas with the Fathead clan.

sound rad?

... yep, i thought so.

s'no more disappointment

i'm sure you're supposed to give up something around easter time?  well, anyway - i've decided to give up being disappointed.  i know this sounds a little melodramatic - but you try spending three months willing spring to arrive, and have your hopes and spirits shattered on a weekly basis with the unexpected, unpredicted, unwelcome arrival of snow.

we're now at the end of march (the very month they said spring will start in), and just last week we were minding our own business, going about our daily routine when BAM!  the biggest, heaviest snowflakes came flitting down out of nowhere ... it was like they just fell from the sky (sorry ... bad joke).

anyhoo, the flakes fell for around 5 hours straight - leaving everything in its path under 15cm of white powder.

in the beginning, the novelty of snow was enough to make Fathead and i wet ourselves with excitement.
now, not so much.

i've found myself tormented by the fact that every time it snows, spring moves its ETA out to yet another later date.  and while snow is pretty and makes all your photos look like postcards - when it melts, it mixes with car-grime and turns to a slushy grey muck.
exhausted trees literally fall out of the mountain side.
it leaves everything wet, and brown.
oh, and the temperatures stay at tourette degrees. 

what, you may wonder, is "tourette degrees"?

well, it's quite simply the name i've given to all temperatures below zero.  these are so cold that when you step outside, you' re suddenly overcome with a bad spell of tourettes - exclaiming words too foul to be uttered infront of children and the elderly.

but i digress ...
this past week, when the snow popped round - something strange happened.  i'm not sure if it was collective cabin fever that drove us all to madness ... but out of nowhere, chaos erupted.

i can't remember how it started, but someone threw a snow ball ...

and the next thing we had built a fort on our balcony and were fielding an attack from the opposite building's roof.

the battlefield expanded to the open-air theater we have on top of rooms, which morphed into a baseball game,

which later saw us sledding down rocky slopes on plastic garbage bags.

by the time we were done, 3 hours had passed and night had fallen.  as we returned to our room to defrost in a piping hot shower, i decided that i needed to see the days of snow as a time to remember, rather than time to wish away.

the snow had given us a spontaneous "bonding session" with our colleagues.  it had halved the average age of the entire group and brought us all down to an equal level of simple playful beings.

it let us collapse in the kind of laughter that comes from your gut and had given us some of the best fun in months, for free.

i was done with being swept away by the false-alarms of spring, which would only set me up in hope and anticipation, and then crush me by plummeting into tourette degrees again.

from that moment on, i would just go with the flow, and let spring come whenever it intended to.
so there it is - my commitment to abstain from being disappointed. 

(but just to be safe, i also removed the "snow effect" from the F@head files)
tee hee.

happy snippie snaps

meet the newest member of my day pack - mr cannon d450.  

he was an early birthday present to me, from Fathead and was purchased at this insane electronics market in yongsan

well, actually that's not entirely true - you see, we went to yongsan to find the market, but got stuck in the enormous 7-story mall that sits atop the subway station. 

 courtesy of ian lawrence

we had every intention to leave the building and visit the market, i swear we did.  but y'know what Fathead is like with gadgets, and well ... we found this one floor dedicated entirely to cameras, we bounced from stall to stall, negotiating one deal better than the next - and eventually managed to agree on a package and a price (which was less than half of what we would have paid at home).

so now we can capture pics like these:

some might say i'm in my element.

Monday, March 22, 2010

the post for implaceable pics

sometimes you see something that tickles or intrigues you - so you take a photograph, and for years thereafter it sits in your "unsorted" album - with no place to go, no folder to belong to.  you never delete these pics, as they are a reminder of that moment in time ... yet, you seldom share them as they have no real "post-worthiness".

today, i've decided to change this. i dedicate this post to the pics of no place, and to honor them, have invented a new word, too.

let me welcome you to the post for implaceable pics:

just in case you were confused on how to behave in a bar, you can refer to this articulate banner which hangs high and proud in the middle of the vudu bar in gangnam. 

elsewhere in vudu bar, the "bitch is back" graffiti inspired this ridiculous photo

mcdonald's (the empire of evil) uses the ancient and spiritual culture of the east as a theme for it's mcmarketing.  kind of makes this poster as tasteless as their "food".  


a sign outside a salon in gyeongju

pretty hand-painted motif which you see repeated on all temples


rubber strip curtains hang outside the parking lots of "love motels" to hide the cars (and their owners) from the street.  these motels are frequented by many married businessmen and they playmates for "out of the office" meetings.

when we can't face another canteen "meal" we make the trek (three floors down) to this - cooking class by day, communal kitchen by night.  

this is the back wall of one of the classrooms.  by day we use the broadcasting studio to simulate a newsroom environment - by night, we play ping-pong, get tipsy and use the world map to take silly photographs like this one.


we see this poster in quite a few bars, and for no other reason than the fact that I love it  - it has a place here.


however ugly some parts of the city may be, i am always touched by the effort that koreans will make to disguise an eyesore with some form of creative-cover up.

one of my favorite areas in seoul is itaewonthere are many reasons to like this part of town, one of these being that there's a more adventurous architectural spirit that is expressed here.  this is the 70's style arch of kitschness that welcomes you to itaewon.  it's an arch i'd like to remember driving under.  so it too gets a place on the list of implaceables. 

also in itaewon, this building regularly changes it's 3-D on-building accessories.  it's like a giant fridge with interchangeable magnets.  pretty cool.

another reason to love itaewon is for this hole-in-the-wall:  a turkish take away joint called ankara picnic. they serve "kebabs" which are actually wraps, similar to our shwarma places back home.  you can have lamb, chicken or soft serve ice cream - all for 4,000 won. apparently the due of charming young men who run it started out in a street stall.  now they have a small restaurant complete with an entertainment system which blares turkish-styled electronic remakes of popular tunes.   oh, and it is undoubtedly the most outstanding meal we've had in south korea.

funky bottle display in wa bar.  oddly enough, we had no idea what the pattern "said", until after i took the photo. 


 footie looks over the menu outside a restaurant in gangnam.
it's weird how koreans will leave their laptop outside while they pop into a convenience store, and know with 100% confidence that they can trust everyone outside to leave it be - but they won't trust you with toilet paper.  almost every bar or restaurant you go to has tushy tissue waiting for you at the door, which means that you have to let the entire room know that you intend to go to the toilet, and (based on how much you help yourself to), exactly what you intend to do while you're there.  

this one carries an inspirational message (for those of you who look to your toilet paper for a pick-me-up):
no need to speak: i always felt that the great high privilege. Relif and comfort of friendship was that one had to explain nothing

 well there you have it. go forth and pee in peace.

(for those who don't know - this is Fathead's father's first name). 
i suspect that we were behind a sign that actually read "sugna" but that's not the point now, is it?

electronic darts, people!
that's right.  
the board is automated with an electronic magnet that holds the dart to the board.  when contact is made, it sends a signal to the animated screen above - which works out which player's turn it is, what your score is, what your next shot needs to be, your average throwing speed, strike rate and other utterly useless stats.

one of our local hangouts has a pyromaniac bartender.  he likes to burn stuff.  mainly alcohol, which he sprays from his mouth - setting the bar a blaze. 

he's rad.


footnote graffiti on a lamppost at our bus stop. 

so herein ends our first installment.   i know the pics are random, and at times a little schizo in the way they flowed ... but i did warn you that they were implaceable.