More Culture Vulturin’

Should have stayed home today. I have been sick, and I stayed in all weekend to recover.

Yesterday, I realized that my sore throat might be worse because I haven’t been drinking enough water. And I also realized, it may also be aggravated by the unfiltered tap water I have been drinking at home.

So, I decided to locate and buy a Brita pitcher. Not all supermarkets carry them. My beloved Hanaro Mart doesn’t, Lotte Mart (also awesome, but in a more pretentious, nouveau riche sort of way) doesn’t…

The only supermarket chain I found that supposedly has them is Home Plus. For the record, Home Plus is also awesome. There’s two of them in Gimpo (at least circa 15 years ago, when I lived there) and I went there all the time. The ramen aisle at Home Plus is one of the greatest things I have ever been fortunate enough to experience.

Anyway, I decided yesterday that in spite of needing some recovery sleep, I would make a quick trip to Home Plus and get a Brita pitcher. First I wanted to eat something, and I didn’t want to eat at home, so I took the elevator down to the ground floor and walked around my apartment complex to see what was open.

I walked a hundred yards or so and felt dizzy, so I decided not to go. I got 3 two liter waters before I did, because like I said, I didn’t want to drink any more tap water, because I have heard you shouldn’t. To be clear, I am reasonably sure it’s actually ok to drink it, but filtered water tastes better.

I decided to try Coupang. Coupang is a super-fast, super efficient Korean delivery service that can bring you basically anything, and it’s always there by the next day, sometimes sooner.

While I respect the good people at Coupang and stand in awe of their efficiency, as a visiting foreigner I am personally opposed to the service in a deep and profound (or maybe I should say “shallow and ridiculous”) way, simply because being in a beautiful country like Korea, and furthermore being in (or right outside) an amazing city like Seoul, I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone wouldn’t want to go out exploring every chance they got, especially since people like me are not permanent residents. But I digress.

Long story short, after a lot of phone screenshots and Google translates, complete with getting locked out of the signup process temporarily for entering something the wrong way too many times (Coupang has fantastic security features), I finally managed to place my order.

Initially, the Coupang app told me my Brita pitcher would arrive the next day (Sunday), so I watched a few episodes of Divorce Attorney Shin on Netflix and took a nap. Some time later in the day, I got another notification saying my pitcher would be there that afternoon or evening.

It got there about 4:00 pm or so. I eagerly tore the bag open, impressed with Coupang despite my deep/shallow philosophical objections to it, a bit giddy even…

And the goddamn thing was busted.

Luckily, Coupang has a fantastic return system. You request a return, repackage the item as best you can, and leave it by your door. Within a day, Coupang will replace your item and retrieve the damaged one.

It’s really a great service. But as I said, personally, I would rather go and get whatever I want to buy, simply to have an excuse to go look around a bit.

My pitcher came with 2 filters, one that’s in it now and one that I will put in there in about a month. And I resolved to go out and buy replacement filters, instead of having them delivered.

Getting to the point, today I felt better. So I decided to make a quick, 2 subway stop trip to Lotte Mart to stock up on Taurin energy drinks. Hanaro Mart (which is in my neighborhood, no need for a subway ride) doesn’t carry them.

Well, I got to Lotte Mart and it was closed. Apparently they close every other Sunday.

So, as I wandered around aimlessly, bored out of my skull, I decided to find and go to a nearby Home Plus to see if they had Taurin 10 packs, and to make sure the nearest Home Plus had the right Brita filters for future purchases.

I got back on the subway and rode another 10 stops or so, making one transfer, and somewhere along the way — probably when I pulled out my wallet to get a thousand won bill to buy a bottle of water — I lost my T-Money transit card, which had about 20,000 won on it, roughly $20.

I had to tell the security guard that I lost my card (Google Translate is an amazing tool, in case I haven’t mentioned that) because you have to scan your T-Money card when you leave the subway, as well as when you go in.

I bought another one at the Home Plus stop (Hapjeong) and followed the signs to Home Plus… and it was also closed today.

So, I went into a nearby Starbucks and had a Caramel Macchiato, and typed most of this on my phone. I left because a good looking, well-dressed young Korean couple needed a place to sit, and I was sitting at a table designed for two people.

Anyway, I didn’t get any Taurin drinks, I don’t know if the Hapjeong Home Plus carries the right kind of Brita filter, and I lost a transit card with about 20 bucks on it. Gonna look for it on the way back, but I am not optimistic about finding it.

Shoulda stayed home. 🙂

The Culture Vulture, Part 3

This one’s gonna have to be short. I am in a crowded Starbucks near Seoul Forest. Not sure what that is, to be honest, a park of some sort, I am assuming.

I got here via the yellow line, which goes from Cheongnyangni Station to Incheon. I went to Cheongnyangni (I will check the spelling later on that one) this afternoon to sort of scout things out, because I want to make a solo trip out to Gangchon, an area in Gangwon-do I went a few times with friends years ago.

It took about 45 minutes to get to Cheongnyangni from my apartment, so I may as well figure on an hour traveling time, whenever I decide to make the trip. Might go tomorrow if I am feeling better.

Got kind of a light cold. Got it from coworkers.

Anyway, the train to Ganchon leaves from Cheongnyangni. I know it takes about an hour to get to Cheongnyangni, but it might take another hour to figure out where the right platform is, ha ha. I wandered around for a while there today and didn’t find it.

Matter of fact, I am here at Seoul Forest now because I was looking for the Gangchon train platform. I saw that the yellow line goes through Apgujeong — aka gorgeous Korean lady central — and I had originally decided to go to one of the 4-5 Starbucks there and type this, but when I heard “Seoul Forest” over the subway PA (in the English version of it), I decided to look around for a bit. Gonna finish my cafe latte and do that.

I walked all around Cheongnyangni Station. Like I literally made a loop around it. It’s a pretty big station, connected directly to a Lotte Mall.

The area around the station is more of an “old Seoul” area than anywhere I have been yet. I walked through an “open air” market where all sorts of stuff was for sale — fish of all kinds, kimchi, rice, as well as many different types of meat, many cuts of which still had feet attached to it — and it was a really cool place to walk through. I wore my mask the whole time — I’ve had it on all day, I have it off now to drink my coffee, but I am sitting alone — and I will wear it when I am looking around Seoul Forest.

The open air market is something every foreigner visiting Korea should experience at least once. What’s striking, aside from all the strange food items and interesting smells, is the way order seems to self-generate out of what could easily be abject chaos.

People walk every which way, in close proximity to each other. Buying, selling, carrying armloads of whatever they’re selling… and nobody bumps into each other.

Meanwhile motorcycles, scooters — the moped kind and the “rascal” kind, somebody on a rascal almost hit me but he yelled out just in time for me to move — as well as cars weave in and out of the mass of humanity… and nobody gets run over.

I mean sure, I am sure sometimes there are accidents. But they don’t seem to happen very often, considering how close everyone is to each other, in the purely physical sense.

It’s tempting to attribute this to “Korean people” and some unknown, exotic trait they must have… but I don’t think that’s it.

I think it’s cultural. I think that people in this environment learn from an early age to be considerate of other people, while still making their way through the crowds in a self-interested and even aggressive manner.

Everybody’s got somewhere to be, and they’re making their way there as fast as they can. But at the same time, nobody’s running into each other.

Try this in south Arkansas, and there would be fistfights every five minutes.

Here, everybody moves smoothly through the crowd, ajosshis sitting off to the side under canopies, eating bossam and drinking makgeoli or soju, ajummas arguing over prices, foreigners enchanted with the whole scene, probably sticking out like sore thumbs.

Anyways, I gotta go. Gonna go look around in Seoul forest.

The Culture Vulture, Part 2

So it’s Sunday now (March 26) and i am in another Starbucks in Seoul. This one is in Myeong-dong, another fashionable area, albeit one I ended up at completely accidentally.

I got on the 705 bus near my apartment after seeing “광화문” on the bus route.

That says “Gwanghwamun,” and it’s an area I am somewhat familiar with, though it’s been 15 years or so since I spent any amount of time there.

Anyways, somehow I missed hearing the stop for Gwanghwamun on the bus — I was half-asleep for most of the ride — and when I realized we had gone past there a couple of stops, I decided to get off the bus.

Almost immediately I saw a Starbucks. Then I saw another one, and another one. Often, there would be one on one side of the street, and another across the street.

I walked a little and ended up in Gwanghwamun, and I was really hungry so I looked around for some food, specifically somewhere I could go in and eat by myself without feeling too weird about it. Lots of Korean restaurants feature at-the-table grilling, and those places generally only let you eat there if you’re in a group of 2 or more… or maybe it’s not so much that they “let you” as it is just not much fun to eat at one of those places alone. Not saying I’m above it, not saying I’ll never do it, I just wanted something quick.

After I passed at least a couple more Starbucks (and assorted other chain coffee places) I saw a Kimbap Cheonguk, which is perfect for eating solo… but it was closed.

About this time I realized that I was on a street near Gwanghwamun that I wandered to last time I came here briefly a few weeks ago, so I kept walking.

I walked through the main intersection in Gwanghwamun, passed a couple more Starbucks, saw a few other foreigners on the sidewalk, feeling more and more hungry, and I saw a bookstore that sells stickers, so I went in.

The kids that I teach love stickers, and specifically Pokemon stickers. But I haven’t been able to find any of those yet, so I went in, and… no dice.

Went back out and walked for a minute and saw another Kimbap Cheongook across the street from me, but there was no crosswalk to get there. So I went down into the subway entrance to try and come up on the side is was on, and I ended up on the wrong side.

So I went back through and ended up on another side of the intersection I didn’t try to get to, and couldn’t find the place. So I kep walking, and next thing I know I am in Myeong-dong.

There’s lots of street food vendors there, and I got some fried chicken gizzards with hot sauce. They were very tasty, but not very filling. And when I was done, I was left holding a paper bowl and a wooden stick, with no trash can in sight.

Then, lo and behold, if you can believe it ladies and gentlemen, I saw another Starbucks, about the 8th one I have seen since getting off the bus.

I got a $6-7 cold chicken sandwich that tasted like shit, and a blonde vanilla double shot latte that’s pretty good. I scarfed the shitty overpriced sandwich, wiped my fingers off with the provided wetnap, then whipped out my Chromebook and started typing this.

Gonna go wander around Myeong-dong a bit more and hopefully take the bus home. I’ve seen a couple more 705 stops since I got off of it, so hopefully I’ll find another one.

I love riding the subway, don’t get me wrong, but riding a bus (obviously) you can look out the window and see the areas you’re going through.

And the area between here and my apartment is (in my opinion) among the most aesthetically pleasing areas in Seoul, and among the most aesthetically pleasing areas I have ever personally been to.

There’s lots of trees, and they’re just starting to bud out for spring. Gonna be hell on my allergies, but it’s pretty to look at.

And there’s mountains in the background. The straight lines of ultra-modern apartment buildings set against the backdrop of mountains is something I could sit and stare at for hours, especially on a clear day like today.

And I may do that until the sun goes down, if I am back in my neighborhood by then. No sense in going home yet, my bedclothes are hung up in my apartment drying with the window open, and it’s cold in there. Plus there’s no room, small apartment that it is, with a comforter, mattress pad, and fitted sheet hanging up.

Gonna get out of here, more people coming in with fresh coffee need to sit down.

Man, I love Korea. 🙂

The Culture Vulture, Part 1

So I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Apgujeong, a fairly fashionable area in Seoul, and I’m wondering whether I should call this blog post “The Culture Vulture” or something like that.

What it all boils down to is, I like Korea quite a bit. I lived here years ago (from 2006 to 2008) and almost from the moment I first stepped off the plane, I felt at home here. Like more at home here than from the place I left.

I don’t know how to explain it any better than that. It sounds dumb and cliche maybe, but there it is.

In case you don’t know me personally, I’m a white dude, I’m heterosexual, I’m cisgendered, and as such I am the beneficiary of all sorts of privileges, both back home in the USA as well as here in Korea.

I’m aware of things like that, and I don’t want to act in such a way that makes me seem like I’m not, or that I don’t take them seriously.

But at the same time, when I start writing anything like this, I feel like I might be venturing into “culture vulture” territory, like one of those people who appropriate other cultures and look like idiots.

So maybe it’s appropriate that I am writing this from a Starbucks. This is, no joke, about the 8th Starbucks I have been in since returning to Korea a little less than a month ago. And for sure, Starbucks here has a slightly different menu than Starbucks back in the US (I assume, there aren’t that many of them where I am from) but it’s an American chain, and so by virtue of that, I’m culture vulturing from a place that represents my own culture (such that it is) here in Korea.

Just to get to the point, man, I love Korea.

It’s such a great place.

Seoul is a huge, sprawling city, and it’s got one of the biggest metro train systems in the world connecting all the various districts together. Just about an hour ago, I left my apartment in Samsong and got on the subway. For about one US dollar, I traveled halfway across Seoul to Apgujeong, so I could sit in Starbucks, type this out, and steal glances at pretty Korean women.

See, here we go again.

White guy in Asia, talking about the pretty Asian women. Red flags all over the place, from a sociopolitcal perspective.

But what can I say? I like looking at pretty women. I can’t and won’t apologize for that. I’m not objectifyling anyone, I am just stating a true fact about myself. Pretty women come in all shapes and sizes, and for better or for worse, there are a lot of pretty women in Apgujeong.

There are a lot of good looking people in Korea in general. Fitness and “well-being” is pretty big here, and people (male and female) tend to take pretty good care of themselves.

Where I live — near Bukhansan, a popular hiking destination — there are lots of older people walking around decked out in hiking gear basically all the time. One of these weekends I’m going to hike Bukhansan myself. If not before, when one of my good friends from 2006-2008 comes to visit this summer. He, I, and another fellow partially hiked Bukhansan in 2007 (or maybe early 2008), but we started too late in the day. Plus I was in awful shape at the time, being more into the prominent drinking culture here in Korea than the also prominent fitness culture.

At any rate, man, I love Korea. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that.

I don’t believe in reincarnation, and I don’t literally think this next thing I am going to write, I just wanted to record it for posterity.

A while back, I got the idea for a piece of fiction, or a screenplay, or something, about an American who, somehow or other, discovered that in a previous life, he (or maybe she) was Korean, and in this previous life, he (or she) always wanted to leave Korea and go to the US, but he never got to.

Might have something to do with Pure Land Buddhism, where adherents pray to be reborn in a “Pure Land.” As a sidenote, many Buddhists consider all lands to be “Pure Lands,” it’s only our perception of them that makes it seem otherwise.

But at any rate, this person is reborn as an American, but ends up wanting to return to Korea.

And like I said, I don’t believe any of that stuff. But I was here last about 15 years ago. For many people walking the earth today, that’s their entire lifetime, or even more.

So, in a sense, I myself was here a lifetime ago, and I wanted to come back but didn’t until now.

And anyway, I’m enjoying being back.

Man, I love Korea. 🙂

Blah Blah Blah

I think it was “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” that did it.

In case you haven’t seen it, that show is a Korean Netflix drama about the (fictional) first autistic attorney in South Korea, named 우영우.

As mentioned, she is autistic, and the only thing she likes to eat is 김밥. And anyway, I guess it was watching that show that got me to thinking about 김밥, and at first it was like “oh yeah, I remember eating that stuff, it was pretty good” and then it was like “it would be nice to have some of that some time” and then before I knew it I was out and out craving the stuff.

I mean, when I was here before, 15 years ago, I ate it every now and then. It wasn’t (and isn’t) my favorite Korean food by far, but after seeing it on basically every episode of that show, I got to thinking about it, and how it’s basically a full meal wrapped up in seaweed, and how it’s delicious basically any time of the day…

And the next thing I know, I’m sending off documents and looking for another teaching job. And about six months later, here I am.

I’m not gonna mention where I work, or even where I live. But it’s a nice area, and I’ve been eating 김밥 like crazy since I got here. Over the space of a little less than 2 weeks, I have become a regular at the 김밥나라 closest to my work. It’s like a block away.

My apartment is about 2 miles away, and there’s a pretty nice walkway between my apartment and my work. It’s about 40 minutes one way, and I usually walk to and from work. I’ll continue to do that as long as the weather permits… it gets pretty hot here in the summer, so I may start taking the subway then.

There’s a subway station close to my apartment, and from there you can go basically anywhere in Seoul for a couple bucks, and get a ticket to basically anywhere else in Korea for pretty cheap as well. So I intend to do some traveling while I am here.

Anyway, 김밥 is delicious.


You know, I got to thinking, and I made a real breakthrough: wiping my ass is something I do primarily for other people’s benefit. And lately, it’s really been cramping my style.

I want to be free, dammit.

I don’t want to be constrained by your made-up “rules.”

You like following the rules, you go ahead.

Fall in line, sheep!

Me, I’m gonna make my own rules.

No more ass-wiping for this American. No sirree.

It’s boring, and I don’t like it. And I only do it so my ass won’t stink, and it’s my ass, so I don’t really smell it anyway.

You run a business? You say you don’t want people who smell like shit inside your business, because it makes the whole place smell like shit?

My freedom to smell like shit outweighs your freedom to have a business that doesn’t smell like shit.
Do you hate freedom?

If you own a business, and you go around doing what the government tells you to do, making people leave who smell like shit because they can’t be bothered to do something as simple as wiping their own ass, well, you’re a COMMUNIST.

Wiping is tyranny!

Think about it: if somebody never came along and TOLD you to wipe your ass, you’d have never started doing it.

Do you do what EVERYONE tells you to do, all the time?

And you call yourself an American? HA.

All you are is a robot, marching along in line with all the other robots, DOING WHAT *THEY* TOLD YOU TO DO.

What’s that? You say “doctors” and “scientists” say people should wipe their asses?

Don’t you know those same doctors and scientists want to CONTROL YOUR THOUGHTS?

Today, it’s “wipe your ass.” Tomorrow, who knows?

Give em an inch, they take a mile. I mean, they SAY that wiping your ass helps you stay healthy, but think about this:

Every person you know who died, ever…

Every one of those dead people WIPED THEIR ASSES when they were alive!

And just look at em now. DEAD.

Did you ever think about that? Of course you didn’t! You’ve been brainwashed, just like all the other sheep.

But it’s not too late. You’ve seen the truth, now you’ve got to decide…

Are you going to keep blindly doing what other people tell you to do, or are you going to blaze a trail of FREEDOM and stop wiping your ass like me?

Don’t give in to their control! Join me in the anti-wiping movement.

And when you walk into a room, and everybody smells your ass, and they’re like “oh my God what’s that smell?” you tell em it’s the smell of freedom.

And remember, that smell only smells bad to them because they’ve been BRAINWASHED.



Got a song I am working on, don’t know the chords or melody yet, not sure about the title, or where the hook is, or if it’s got one, or any of that stuff, in fact maybe it’s one of those talk-singing songs, where there’s like a story being told, then there’s a chorus, doesn’t have to be 20 minutes long, no 5-part harmonies, no audience sing-alongs with feelin, nothing like that, just a quick little anecdote about this one fella sitting there minding his own business, when this other fella walks up rubbing the side of his head. Now being a congenial sort, first fella asks him, “what are you rubbing your head for?” and the other fella replies “nother fella hit me in the head with his shovel” and the first fella asks him, “well what did he do a thing like that for?” and the other fella said “he didn’t like what I said to him” and so the first fella, being a curious sort, he asks the other fella “well what did you say to him?” and the other fella said “told him he was digging his own grave.”

[dun-dun-dun dunnnn, dun, dun-dun, doonty-dun dun dun…]

and there ain’t no moral or anything to the song, except that maybe what looks like a good thing to one person might not look the same way to somebody else, and maybe every great once in a while you might find yourself looking at something that you think is good and fine, and maybe somebody else comes along and tells you they don’t like it.

And maybe they’ve got a pretty dang good reason to not like it.

Maybe people have been not liking that thing for a while now. For decades now.

And every time they said why they felt that way about it, you just tuned em out.

And maybe you didn’t even realize you were tuning em out

But tuned out they got, and mad was something else they got

And you-uuuu, didn’t ha-aaaa-ve, to hit me with your god-danged shovel

When I peeked down into the hole you were diggin


WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: “Hey everybody there is a virus. It is very contagious. People catch it by inhaling droplets that come out of infected people’s mouths when they cough, speak, or even breathe. Which means, if everybody wears a mask, fewer people will catch the virus. We may have forgotten to mention that this virus can kill you. Did we mention it can kill you? It can kill you. Like, fast. So wear a mask, please!”

AMERICA: “[blares country music at top volume from open window of pickup truck]”

REST OF THE WORLD: “Oh wow, this is bad. And I bet older people and people with pre-existing conditions are at an even higher risk.”


REST OF THE WORLD: “Wow. So I guess it’s, like, inconvenient? But I mean we should wear masks anyway, because people could die?”

AMERICA: “[runs stop light at intersection, flings half-empty longneck Busch Light bottle out of the window, which hits a post and shatters]”

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: “[covers face to protect eyes from shattered glass] What the fuck?”

AMERICA: “[slams on brakes, slides to a stop]”

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: “Oh for the love of fuck what now?”

REST OF THE WORLD: “Shh just act like the glass didn’t hit you.”

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: “What are you– no! Hell no! America can’t just fling their fuckin’ Busch Light bottles all over the goddamn place–”

AMERICA: “[steps out of the pickup truck]”

REST OF THE WORLD: “oh shit oh fuck oh man oh fuck…”

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: “Well at least he doesn’t have a gun this time.”

AMERICA: “[Reaches behind seat, retrieves shotgun]”

REST OF THE WORLD: “oh FUCK oh SHIT why does he have that shotgun? Jesus Christ…”

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: “Don’t worry about what that lunatic does. [Puts on mask] Just put on a mask before he gets over here and starts spraying droplets of saliva everywhere.”

REST OF THE WORLD: “[Puts on mask] But don’t the masks protect others from us more than they protect us from others?”

AMERICA: “[kills engine, turns off radio]”

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: “Yes, but some protection is better than no protection.”

AMERICA: “You say something to me? Mr. High-and-mighty World Health Organization, with your fancy doctor book learning and your leftist socialismist ideology. Can’t be trusted.”


AMERICA: “Oh I bet you’d like that, wouldn’t you? You socialists are all the same. [spits tobacco juice on the pavement] Buncha communists and perverts.”

REST OF THE WORLD: “That doesn’t even make any sense.”

AMERICA: “What did you say to me? I heard you over there saying something, but I couldn’t make out what it was, because you got that fuckin’ mask on, like a little fuckin’ kid at fuckin’ Halloween. [shucks shotgun]”

REST OF THE WORLD: “[glares at America]”

AMERICA: “That’s what I thought. You little piece of shit, over there talking shit, and you can’t even back up your shit.”

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: “Now hold on just a minute–”

AMERICA: “Oh here we go! You gone tell me I gotta wear a mask, Mr. Doctor man?”

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: “That would certainly help the situation, America.”

AMERICA: “Well guess what, Mr. Doctor Man, where I come from, is a place called America. And we got, we got something in that country ain’t no other country got, and that’s freedom.”

REST OF THE WORLD: “(muttering) yeah ok but you also have the highest incarceration rate in the world.”

AMERICA: “[points shotgun at Rest Of The World] WHUT DID YOU SAY TO ME?”

REST OF THE WORLD: “I said, I like America, America is #1!”

AMERICA: “[lowers shotgun] Well, I guess a broken clock is right once a day. Twice a day. At midnight? But then if it was noon…”

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: “(whispering) look let’s just get the fuck out of here before he remembers he was pissed off.”


AMERICA: “…and we got a bunch of amendments to that constitution, and one of em says I can shoot this here gun at whoever I don’t like, and if you got a problem with that then you got a problem with freedom. And I ain’t talking bout what these self-proclaimed [coughs], these self-proclaimed Feminazis and Socialists is [coughs] tryin to ram down my [coughs] ram down my [coughs, hacks] throat, and they ain’t no more American than they is [coughs, sputters], than they is [hacks, coughs, hacks, sputters, drops shotgun, keels over]”