Monday, October 26, 2009

Gay Sports Pork Party!

I get lots of email I can't read. Usually running it through google's translator will give the basic idea of the email, if not the finer details. Sometimes not so much:

2. 명랑운동회 삼겹살 파티

Goodbye, Hotel

I'm checking out of the hotel and moving to a temporary apartment somewhere in Suwon. I don't really know where it is or anything about it. I've been informed that the bed I would have received upon moving to my permanent apartment will be provided. I have been informed that I will need to have things like dishes. I take this to mean that major appliances will be provided, though there is a fair bit of gray between a bed and dishes.

All in all, I'm glad to be leaving the hotel. I doubt I'll really unpack or settle in the temp apartment, but I'm kinda tired of the hotel (even with the Karoake room on the first floor). Maid service just makes me kind of uncomfortable. I really don't need a new towel everyday and I'll never understand the point of making the bed. And the randomness that seems to dictate whether they will leave me a washcloth is a bit odd. Mostly, though, I think I just like to be left alone when I'm going home. I don't want someone at the desk to greet me every time I walk in or out.

I understand that they're just being polite, but I always feel awkward and like I need to explain to them where I'm going or something. I would guess that for the most part, the hotel employees are kind of amused by the t-shirt wearing American who's been holed up in the hotel for going on a month. I even got a laugh out of one when I got on the elevator with a couple of guys in business suits after a quick trip to the convenience store for Pringles and an MGD (doing you proud, America).

Anyway, not sure what the internet situation will be like in the new place, so I might disappear for a little while. Figured I'd drop this note to dispel any fears that too much birthday soju was to blame for my absence (though, I will credit it for the worst hang over I've had since a bad decision involving some boxed wine many years ago).

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


PumpkinHead and Squidy Welcome you the Mysterious Island Ulleungdo!

Despite the fact that leaving the island is a dicey proposition, Ulleungdo may be my favorite of all the places I've been to in Korea. It's hard to get to, harder to leave and lacking in cuisine, but it's definitely got it's fair share of scenery. And squid.

The weather was nice. There was lots of hiking. I skipped out on a couple days of work. I didn't have to pay for anything (thanks prof K and university). Getting stuck an extra day just resulted in more sightseeing w/o missing any more work, which would have undoubtedly resulted in an unpleasant encounter w/ HR.

There are only like 10,000 people on the whole island and apparently 90% of what they do is directly involved with squid. It's really pretty ridiculous. Everywhere you go, squid are hanging around drying. Along the harbor? sure. In front of shops? why not? The gas station? yeah, throw some squid over there. On your porch? yeah, God forbid we not be able to see squid carcasses from any vantage.

Not enough squid? Don't worry, it keeps going.

I usually like squid. Sashimi, bulgogi, all good. But dried squid is where I draw the line. It smells like a dead sea creature and has the consistency of a dog toy. Other than that, though, I can totally see why this island is dedicated to the desiccation of squid. Or cuttlefish, I'm not 100% on the difference and don't feel like typing things into google.

Still not convinced that it's worth a 1.5 hours on train, 3 on a bus and 3 more on a ferry to get to there? Well, there's also an inexplicable monorail, quite a few lighthouses, incredibly blue water, and (as the tourist brochure points out) lots of stone. You can also take another 3 hour ferry to see Dokdo. And if you're really lucky, you might get to ride some awesome farm equipment (I'll post the video once I get a hold of it).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ullruengdo, Day 3

I was supposed to be headed home right now. Instead I am still in Ullruengdo using the only functional computer in the resort's business center. Tomoro, I will wake up, have breakfast of cabbage salad, rice and possibly hot dogs. During this time I will learn whether or not the ocean gods have been satisfied and will let us depart.

Today, Posideon was angry and no ferry made the journey from Pohang to come and pick us up. This was not a big deal for me b/c I live in a hotel and really have nothing going on. Just another day to hang out with the crap ton of drying squid scattered around here. Any more delays, however, and I will be missing work. Given that I've only been working there 3 weeks and took off Thur & Fri to come here, missing more days is probably not the best idea. Then again, surely my boss will understand that I am trapped on an island in the East Sea.

Aside from the fact that it might not be possible to leave Ullruengodo, it might be the best place I've been in Korea. I'll explain and post pictures sometime later, but thought I'd begin documenting my plight should I forever remain here.

Friday, October 9, 2009

2:5o- I get in the elevator at the hotel and push the 12th floor button.

2:51- The elevator stops on the 3rd floor. I noticed while approaching the hotel that lights on the third floor, which is where the restaurant and bar are located, were off. A man gets on the elevator. He's wearing a jogging suit and holding a towel and a pair of slacks.

2:52- The man smiles embarrassedly and bows politely. He looks to select a floor, but it turns out we're both heading towards 12. I pretend that this is totally normal.

2:53- Elevator stops on the 12th floor. The man, graciously gestures for me to exit first. I reach my room at the end of the hall. The man is two rooms back. He calls to me, in a friendly tone, asking if I'd a lot to drink. I tell him, yes, I'd had much to drink. I go in my room.

This is where I currently live.

Group Meeting

So shortly after arriving, my research team got transferred to another group (group being just above team in an escalating hierarchy that I know very little about. Since I don't really know much about the company structure, this didn't really mean much to me beyond the fact that I have to go up a few more floors in the building to get to my cubicle.

Since our team is new to the group, though, we were expected to give introductions at the latest group meetings. As per usual, I received no advanced warning, instead just being told to come to the group meeting as everyone else heading to it.

Our team was a bit late, so I got separated from the other team members taking the few remaining chairs. Without anyone to translate for me

group head: blablablabla
somebody else: blabblablabalb
group head: blablblabl
team member1: (standing up) My name is...blablblablab
me: (crap, they're going to want me to talk)
team member2: (standing up) My name is...blablablbalbl
everyone: (laugh)
team member2: balbalbalblal.
me: (crap, it's more than just 'hi, my name is', they'll want me to talk more)
team member3: blbablabllababjl
team member3: Brandon, introduce yourself.
me: anyeonghaseo (smiling)
everyone: (laugh)
me: (glad they're amused by my attempt at Korean, b/c I've no idea what they expect me to say) English: My name is Brandon. I work here now. I don't know what you expect me to say because I don't understand your language. (sit down)
team member1: Brandon blablblablabl
me: (apparently I did not sufficiently describe myself)
team member4: I'm blbablablbl
group leader: blablblablblabl single?
team member 1: (gestures at some team members, me included)
me: (stare confused)
group leader: You're single?
me: Oh, yes (kind of amused that this is brought up in the course of a group meeting at work)


group leader: blablablabla Brandon blablablab
me: (I look around curiously)
someone: blabla Brandon balbla
me: (I look around some more)
someone: We hope you learn Korean
everyone: (laugh)
me: I hope so too (confused laugh)


otherpeople: blbalbalblabl
group leader: blablablalb Brandon blalblbalbal Some Name blablablab
everyone: (laugh)
girl in cubicle next to mine: (blush and look embarrassed)
me: (seriously? I don't think I even want to know)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Donkey Punch

I just came across the phrase " The Donkey Punch" in a power point at work and it's pretty much made my day.

Is this just some random mistranslation? Or a joke? Or maybe I'm in for a whole lot of surprises about what goes on around here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fun with HR

One of the joys of working in Korea (or, quite possibly, anywhere you don't speak the native language) is learning when to really try to understand what's happening and when to just let it all slide and hope is works out. After my summer, I've concluded that in matters concerning HR, it's almost always best to proceed with less than perfect information and assume that if a real problem (that I can actually do something about) is occurring someone will find a way to let me know.

For instance, when HR gave me an address to ship my belongings to, I figured it's just easier to send them there and hope for the best rather than try to find out where I was actually mailing things. However, upon arriving in Korea, I began to worry about the distinct possibility that I would never see my possessions again.

So, I broke down and asked HR where I had sent all my stuff and how I would be notified when it arrived. I learn that I have apparently mailed my belongings to an empty apartment. Not one that I will be living in, mind you, just an apartment. I'm unable to convey my concern that mailing packages addressed to me to random empty apartments may not be the best way for me to received said packages. I decide I will have to bring a 3rd party into the fray in order to express this concern.

Back at my office, HR has recognized my concern and sent me a message inquiring if I had given the delivery company HR's phone number. I had not. HR asks how will we know when the packages arrive. Exactly.

HR suggests I find out who the delivery company is. I say I will call the USPS and ask who they hand packages off to upon arrival in Korea. That night USPS informs me the Korean Postal Service will deal w/ the stuff once it's in Korea.

The next day, I inform HR that what the USPS told me. HR stares at me blankly. I stare back, trying to remember how to say post office in Korean. I try to explain again, confused, since HR seems to understand what I mean when I say I sent the package via US postal service, but does not seem to understand Korean postal service. I wonder what the translation of their postal service is if these two entities do not equate or if the USPS is just wrong and there are many potential postal services or something.

After a while, HR says, "You must mean the Korean National Postal Service". I stare blankly.