Thanks for not forgetting me

I’m glad you guys haven’t forgotton about me. I really have been having kind of a panic attack lately wondering if people back home will just move forward without me. Some of my friends told me they were a little jelous of me…but the honest to god truth is that they really shouldn’t be. One thing about being in a country where you can’t speak the language is the feeling of isolation you get. Sometimes it’s nice to get the attention, while other times its so disorienting you don’t really know what to do about it. If you are a loner back int he states you would be a regular hermit here. Im slowly starting to realize the main reason why I made so many friends at the orientation. Its because we all felt the same way. We all felt completely isolated in this strange country and we were willing to cling to anyone that was like us…and that pretty much just amounted to being able to speak English.

You do not know how hard the language barrier here is. Most of the people here know enough english to say hello but otherwise its hard. You don’t know how many places I’ve gone to wanting a meal, and because no one there spoke english and I couldn’t read basic hangul I resorted to just pointing at the largest picture I could find. Sometimes it works out…but last night I ended up paying about 9,000 won (about $9) for an appetiser I absolutly hated. Whats worse was that I thought it was authentic Korea food only to learn it was knock off Chinease. I could have even been ripped off and i wouldn’t know. Honestly it wouldn’t have been the first time. In order to pay for the services at this PC Bong I have to have the clerk write down the price on a spare sheet of paper. I remember today I walked through the halls and the kids actually tested me. Two girls said “Hello” as they usually do then the third one said “Anyo.” This was actually a sign of disrespect. While “Anyo” does mean hello, its a greeting you say to someone beneath you. The children are supposed to say “Anyohaseyo” to teachers and the students say “Anyo” back. I caught this and the other girls did and started laughing but I didn’t really know how to respond. Theres a fine line between repremanding and scolding and I honestly wasn’t entirely sure about Any vs Anyohaseyo at the time so I just continued walking pretending like I didn’t know what they were saying. One time before I greeted a child in the hallways and the conversation was going well until he suddenly broke into korean. I asked him to repeat it and even though I had no idea what he was saying I scoffed and walked off, pretending to understand. The kids know these weaknesses and they like to test you. They’ll push until they find a way to get around. Its really frustrating keep in mind I don’t have my first real lesson until Monday next week. I found all this out just wondering the halls aimlessly.

I’ve made some friends from orientation but until I get internet installed in my place (hopefully tomorrow) its hard to meet up and hang out. They make plans on the fly and most don’t have cell phones so they post up on facebook. I got lucky last weekened that I had a female friend with some pretty good connections. We were supposed to meet up with a small group of friends, but somehow everyone from orientation happened to be there and I JUST BARELY managed to hang out with this really hot chick I knew (Amanda ). For some reason she remembered me (I was the first person to talk to her off the plane and I was very creative about giving her my name but remembered her name very well) and she invited me to hang out with some of her friends. One day while I was showing Simon my apartment I walked down the hallway and saw Michelle. I originally met michelle indirectly through the same friend with good connections weeks ago and we went drinking in a group but barely talked. Now that she’s in my building I stop by her room frequently and when she was sick I brought her some food and a vitaminC Drink. A lot of other people I used to know pretty well have pretty much completely fallen off the map as I haven’t really seen them or heard form them since the end of orientation. Whats more…I should also remind you that these people will be here only a year. I might be here two so there is a good chance I wont see a lot of them next year. Now making native Korean friends is more difficult because some have their own biases on race and others as stated before just can’t speak my language.

Im sorry I haven’t posted up any photos or pictures. It’s hard to get all of my things into the P.C. Bong and plug them into computers. It took a little searching to find a place with a good price (about 1,200Won or $1 an hour after the first hour ) with unlocked computers that let me download movies and T.V. Series. When I get the internet in my apartment tomorrow I want to do a web chat marathon. It will start around 10 or 11pm until about Midnight your time. THAT MEANS TODAY! TODAY AT 11pm or 10pm to Midnight! I keep forgetting I need to specify the time and date. While you all will be probibly heading to work right now (friday morning) I’m going to bed (friday night).

Some people asked me about the sights smells and sounds…It’s hard to describe. Especially after being here so long. I know I haven’t been here for too long…but sadly things are all starting to meld together and some things seem the same. Also keep in mind I’m a little barred from going deeper into society because of language barriers and physically limited by time. I haven’t really been to many specific sites of awsomeness…hence why most of the photos from the last post were mostly just random bars and street corners. Everything is squashed here. There isn’t a lot of space. But it’s deceptive in that way. You’ll look down an alley and think nothing good will come of it and it’ll be where all the good cheap food vendors are with freshtreats wafting from their doors. You’ll see a nasty doorway with a bright shining neon sign above it and think it leads to some room where Jigsaw would want to “play a game”…but instead you’ll see the nicest bar and loungue with a bamboo bar and leather chairs. You’ll see a nice huge established resturaunt with large english fonts and go inside to see the price of all the food was jacked up and if you really wanted a hamburger and a bud light you wouldn’t have traveled thousands of miles to get it. Many buildings will be multi purposed. So I’m never surprised to see a Kindergarden, under a resturaunt, on top of an apartment building with a “Massage Parlor” in it. It makes for an interesting cityscape. The entire city feels like it’s encircled and pierced by mountains on every side. Huge towering mountains are always in the distance, even if they’re only tall hills obstructing the view of the real mountains. Honestly the place is so hilly every community park is built on a hill and it felt like they only did that because they didn’t feel like leving the ground.

As for the smells…it’s pretty bad. I mean it depends on where you go but I promise you…as you walk down the street the smell of rancid feces will smack you in the face atleast once or twice. It won’t last for more than a second and you’ll never figure out where it’s comming from but it will be there. Rememeber in Korea the food is different. You’ll have stomach problems the first two weeks. (Simon’s friend got an inflamed intetine and spent a week in a hospital…keep in mind though that he had a history of stomach problems, but it is still relevant information). The smell of rotting food is so revoulting that the city has a seperate waste disposal division set aside to collect food waste from regular trash. I should also mention they don’t flush used toilette paper they put it in a trash can to be thrown away. And yes, I mean used toilette paper, as in the stuff that has tire tracks on it. However, its not all bad. Street vendors line the streets and the food is so good you get to a point where you don;t really care what you’re eating. I liked sweet bean paste before…now I love the stuff. And the smell just drags you in from miles away. Sometimes I find myself stopping on an empty street after smelling some really good fried treat and everything around me is closed.

The people here are interesting. It feels good to be a black man of above average height in the city. I feel pretty safe in every back alley I walk though…and honestly considering a good portion of where I live is a series of back alleys I kind of need to. Its a little weird though. Everyplace feels so safe. Right now the time is 10:50 and 15 mins ago when I walked here I saw children playing on the playground. And I’m not talking 10-12 year olds, I’m talking 2-3 year olds with their parents in tow. I know there are gangs here and I’ll be honest I have been to places where I got the “What the hell are you doing here forigner” look and had to walk away from really fast, but I never really felt seriously threatened. I remember one night not too long ago where I saw two drunken korean men trying to have a fight and it was the funniest thing I ever saw. These two men would literally just hold an open smaking hand or a shaking fist in the air as if threatening to strike, but never was a move made. One mad would walk away thinking he was the victor and the other would grab the sleave of his coat, drag him back and show him the same vaguely threatening gesture. I stood and watched for about five minutes until I got bored and wondered off.

Korea is hard to describe as a country, and it’s even harder to describe as my wide optomistic eyes are half closed with the eyelids of reality. Hopefully I can say more if I can talk to you and everyone else later on (TODAY for you and TOMORROW for me.)

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20 Responses to Thanks for not forgetting me

  1. Deloris Hunter says:

    Ryan, good information in your blog. I guess you will learn to carry on basic conversation the longer you stay. Do you have a translation book? Find a routine Korean response to squelch such tricks that the girls tried on you. Glad to know you are being mindful of the environment and attitudes of the people there. Be every vigilant about where you are and your surroundings. Find a way to make contact with your friends and schedule meetings in advance as much as you can. Watch your drinking. I will be on line for the live chat at 10:00 pm tonight. Love you and keep the information coming. Love you, Mom

    • KoreaOrBust says:

      I’m sorry i wasn’t able to make the live chat, but I am glad that we were able to talk and you got a chance to see my tiny apartment. I’m trying to study the language, but on every level I am at best a beginner. The other da i taught some adult classes in english and they helped me out a little bit with a few words and phrases.

      I am starting to wonder now if it’s best that I can’t understand all the little jokes the kids throw out at me. At best they are a minimal distraction and I think really repremanding the students for them would actually derail the class and waste presious instruction time. The fact that I can ignore the comments without a second thought and the comments usually only get minimal attention anyway I don’t give much wanted attention to trouble makers. I just keep moving on. While I teach my native Korean Co-Teacher usually has my back and they are very good at keeping the kids in line. This wasn’t as big of a poblem as I thought it was initally.

  2. Marty says:

    This was a very informative post. Loved it. Used TP is thrown in trash and not flushed. They never tell that in the traveling brochures. lol

    • Jackie Brewington says:

      Hi Ryan, sorry I missed the chat time. Wow! It is a lot of things that we don’t imagine going on in another country because we have so much here even some may say different. Just thinking on the disposal of toilet paper…uhh. I pray for you daily and know you will soon learn the culture of Korea like the back of your hand 😉 Love you and KEEP YOUR HEAD UP!!!!!!!

    • KoreaOrBust says:

      There are a lot of things like that. I’ll make my next post focus in on cultural differences, since that seemed to pique a lot of intrest. Also i’m taking some photos to accompany the post. I’ll try to have it up by tonight.

  3. KiofNC says:

    I love your blog Ryan. I could envision everything you were talking about..your a really great writer! I’m going to look into Skype too. If there’s any specific information I need from you…please email it to me. I found an old PC camera in some stuff I packed away. I’m going to play with it and see if I can get it work. I’ll keep checking your blog to see when you’ll be on again. BTW.. I never heard anything back from my friend in Korea..I’ll keep you posted though!

    Love you Cuz!

    • KoreaOrBust says:

      If I can find your email I’ll send you my skype contact information. Im glad you like my writing. I just kinda vomit these things up and hope it helps everyone back at home. I think honestly I could write something much better. lol its not even spell checked. But I appreciate it. I’ll continue to write if you guys continue to read.

  4. randy p! says:

    Echo!!! I’m so mad I didnt get to hang with you b4 u left..man I saw the crazy stuff happening in japan and its crazy. Your posts are so well written dude. U gots skils. I actually felt like I was reading a column of some sort. My favs are mike wilbon and mike wise..both creative sports columnist who paint great pics with words. You do jus that,. I can imagine u jusn lookin at the two guys fighting..I woulda did the same thing! Lol. The no toilet paper story would drive me crazy!! But that’s how “they” do it. Skippin all around here.. kids will try and test you. Coming from someone who has dealt with them at all levels. They sense when an adult is not sure about something or if they show a weakness. I think ur doin a great job. Keep letting them know ur not goin anywhere and always show ur self strong, don’t forget God made u, and u are (from what I’ve noticed) incredibly intelligent, charismatic(did I spell that right? And is that a word english teacher?) Straight forward, funny as heck, and a child of His. Talk to God about those children and he’ll walk with you. I can only imagine tryin to tow the line between what the american way of life is, and what the korean way of life is. Ask God to give u discernment on how to handle all and I mean all your situations. Be specific. Okay enough preaching I know, have u spoken to amanda or michell anymore? Did you guys feel any effects from the quake at all? Don’t forget to do what ur dad told u. Have fun. Ur doing something I would have loved to do! I know sometimes u were back in the states, but take full advantage of this situation. Save ur money..and don’t forget to talk to the One who got ur there safely, and wakes u up in the morning. I am rambling so

    • KoreaOrBust says:

      Yeah I’m sorry randy. I really would have liked to spend some time with you before I left, but everything hapened so fast. I was on the plane before I knew it.

      In Korea we felt absolutly nothing from the earthquake. A friend told me they found a satelite image that showed where the activity was and it stopped right off the cast. I honestly didn’t know about it until my mom and a few friends tried to contact me and make sure I was alright. (I didn’t have any internet at the time and its a little hard to understand the news when its entirely in Korean.)

      lol and I’m glad you like my writing. I really just write whatever is on my mind, but apparently it must be something good if people keep comming back to read about it. I appreciate all the love and support Randy!

  5. randy p! says:

    Echo!!! I’m so mad I didnt get to hang with you b4 u left..man I saw the crazy stuff happening in japan and its crazy. Your posts are so well written dude. U gots skils. I actually felt like I was reading a column of some sort. My favs(colimnists) are mike wilbon and mike wise..both creative sports columnist who paint great pics with words. You do jus that,. I can imagine u jusn lookin at the two guys fighting..I woulda did the same thing! Lol. The no toilet paper story would drive me crazy!! But that’s how “they” do it. Skippin all around here.. kids will try and test you. Coming from someone who has dealt with them at all levels. They sense when an adult is not sure about something or if they show a weakness. I think ur doin a great job. Keep letting them know ur not goin anywhere and always show ur self strong, don’t forget God made u, and u are (from what I’ve noticed) incredibly intelligent, charismatic(did I spell that right? And is that a word english teacher?) Straight forward, funny as heck, and a child of His. Talk to God about those children and he’ll walk with you. I can only imagine tryin to tow the line between what the american way of life is, and what the korean way of life is. Ask God to give u discernment on how to handle all and I mean all your situations. Be specific. Okay enough preaching I know, have u spoken to amanda or michell anymore? Did you guys feel any effects from the quake at all? Don’t forget to do what ur dad told u. Have fun. Ur doing something I would have loved to do! I know sometimes u were back in the states, but take full advantage of this situation. Save ur money..and don’t forget to talk to the One who got ur there safely, and wakes u up in the morning. I am rambling so much now..no flow at all!!! I hope this doesn’t drive u crazy..I wanted u to have something lenthy to read from back home. Keep writing echo, can I call u ech-dawg? And can I have a cool blog name..nothin weird okay? Talk to u soon..
    Manwaitinonhisblogname

    • KoreaOrBust says:

      lol yeah you can call me Echo. I just took the name because of this Pa. Teacher who got fired because she called her students lazy in her blog. (I honestly am not too far from wiriting the same thing here lol). [you can find more information here : http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110216/ap_on_hi_te/us_teacher_suspended_blog ]. But Randy is a cool name. Maybe just take up “The man.” That sounds pretty hot.

      • randy p! says:

        Faster than I thought! I will stop replyin so much so u can tell us what’s goin on..btw.I might jus go with what u used to call me “randy-man”..goin to check out how to change it..

  6. Rajean (Your Niece) says:

    HEYYY UNCLE RYAN!

    • KoreaOrBust says:

      Hey Rajean! How are you? How is your mom and Rodney doing? How come they never write me replies like you do. You should guilt-trip them into writing comments on my blog. 😛

      • Rajean (Your Niece) says:

        lol. I Know! But You Know How My Mother Is. She Has This CricKet Broadband And Only Turns It On Occasionally.

  7. Jeanell says:

    Aww, Ryan this post made me feel a little sad. 😦 You’ll connect with more as time goes on. And in no time, you’ll master their language. Once you come back home, you can go with me to the nail salons!! (I know they’re not korean, I don’t think.) Love you little cousin!!!!

    • KoreaOrBust says:

      Thanks Jeanell. I hope I wasn’t too negative in that post. I was really just realizing what my actual situation is as opposed to my fantasies of comming here. Things are tough but it’s not all that bad. I have some bad students but mostly good ones. I have a bad apartment but it’s better than a lot of the ones I’ve seen. There is a language barrier but comparing the ratio of american citizens who can speak Spanish to the Korean citizens who can speak English I have the better deal. I’ll tell you more in my bext post. love you too big cuz.

  8. randy p! says:

    That’s cool and all..but u didn’t give me a blog name..so how bout torpedo, or echo.2 or manwhowants a blog name..? Jus something to make u laugh.waitin on the next post broham. Will def keep writing back to u, so u know ppl back at home thinkin bout u. Heck u might reply tonight!, or day there..

  9. Kelvin Brewington says:

    Yo ryan, wats up man!
    Its kelvin….Sorry this is my 1st time ever giving you some feedback, I have no excuse but other than the fact I’ve been lazy about getting up with you. It’s a shame it takes a near death experience for me to actually wanna connect with my friends and family, especially ones like you who I feel are important factors in my life. I can’t say how great it is to know you’re doin it big like this man. Over seas bettering yourself as a person just to educate kids like me. Between you, Brian, and Anton, I am really thankful that i have great role models like you guys. I feel like you guys are getting so much out of life right now and that just makes me wanna strive to succeed even more. Thanks for being such a great cousin over the years and stay safe while you’re over there in korea.

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