Saturday, December 29, 2007

Last day in Korea

Here is a small list of things I saw and learned in Seoul

1) The Streets and Subways are insanely clean. but don't be surprised to find somebodys meal left on the floor or sprayed on the walls here and there, which leads me to number 2.

2) The Koreans can't hold their liqueur. and no wonder, since Its revolting. But they get drunk in order to get drunk most of the time.

3) Traffic lights for cars do not apply when turning right... it appears you turn right at your own risk.

4) Korean men spit more than a pack of Rabies infected Llamas.

5) You will always see people in a real hurry, trying to reach the subway train on time... even though every 5 minutes a train passes.

6) The T-money Card I was telling you about, doesn't have to be a card... it can come as a small plastic thingy you can attach to your phone, and also some other ways.

7) Playing computer and console games is a social thing. They go out at night, together, to a Pc or PlayStation room and just play together games. it's also really cheap

8) Just like London, if you're going on an escalator, stand on the right side or walk on the left side.

9) Even though they understand you don't understand Korean, they will continue talking to you.

10) Being an elder has its Benefits. Elderly people get a free ride on the subway or buses.

11) Rice has no taste here.

12) the most famous TV Comedian and entertainer is a guy who looks like the exact Korean version of Erez-Tal. He's on every channel, all the time.

13) TV commercials can last up to half an hour.

14) 75% of the dogs here fit to be carried in a bag.

15)Don't try the Kimchi... again...

Sitting Down for Dinner – A Conversation between 1 Israeli and 5 Japanese

It was just a few days ago that I’ve discovered that quite a few Japanese are residing in my hostel. I don’t know where they have been up until now, but it gave me the opportunity of brushing up my Japanese. Now, for the record, I DON’T know Japanese… One would think that 3 years of studying some obscure language in an obscure BA degree would grant me some Japanese conversational capabilities, but I can assure you that that same One would be dead WRONG. Me trying to speak Japanese is like an elephant trying to do a flip-flop - it’s just too painful to watch.
Thankfully, the Japanese are very patient. They were amazed by my two words vocabulary, and perhaps it was the trigger for them to invite me to sit down and eat with them a casual dinner. Of course, I was happy to oblige, since, after all, it was food. But I also wanted to converse with them about some modern cultural characteristics of Asian culture that I found somewhat intriguing. For example – while I was trying to calm myself down after eating some spicy stuff they gave me, I questioned them about the differences in Korean public display of affection to the Japanese one: I’ve noticed that in Korea, many of the couples are holding hands in public places, sometimes hugging, and even kissing in Bars and such. Now from what I’ve learned, it is not the same in Japan, and the friendly Japanese confirmed my assumptions. They explained that the difference is probably in the public shame factor… the Japanese rely on public reputation more than the Korean, and therefore they try not to shame themselves by displaying in public private emotions and affections.
Another question I asked was about the `V` gesture they do in every, and I mean, EVERY picture they take: I asked them if they know its origin, and when did it started. They didn’t really know, but they told me it represents the symbol of peace. Actually, I checked it out on Wikipedia, and the origin of the V gesture in pictures might be a 1972 Japanese commercial.
Many more questions were asked, and many answers were given. But I was not only the questioner, but the questionee as well. They had known virtually nothing of Israel, which is not surprising. If any of you had thought that everyone knows where Israel is because of the news and wars and such, is totally mistaken. They don’t care. But anyway, they asked me of my native language, and what did I do in the Army... actually, that’s about it. The only meaningful thing I’ve taught them about Israel is the quality of the Schnitzel... darn, I miss those Schnitzels.

The Adventures of the Soothing Moistener, the Christmas Cake and the Animal Cap

Buying presents is not my speciality. Usually I try to go by my own instincts, and I usually fail, but it never stops me from dusting it off and trying again.
Well, my lovely instincts went off right here in Seoul. Since I’m about to visit Japan for a while, I’ll be seeing Esti and Esti – one of them is having her birthday and the other one is my best friend and the accommodation proprietor of my future home in Kyoto. So I wanted to buy, well, stuff.
There were two things that had caught my instincts attention on the spot. One, was the variety of beauty and make-up shops that litter the streets of Seoul. Many of them are quite elegantly shaped and they offer many colourful ointments, serums, moisteners, skin brighteners, perfumes and so on. But most important, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, can be tested. And since I am a foreigner they usually stay away from me and just glare while I’m trying all sorts of stuff on myself. I can proudly say I’ve got less wrinkles in my eyes now. And my hands are very soft and scenty. But that’s beside the point.
So I got a hold of the first present. The second one was a bit more complicated:
I’ve had my eyes on the prize since day one, but didn’t know how to collect it. I saw it in a place called `Paris baguette`, which is a chain bakery all across Seoul. They had an advertisement of some hot chick and some lovely kids wearing some cute furry animal caps with paws. And in a teasing way, all the workers were wearing them as well.
I knew I had to get this cap, but didn’t know how. At first, I assumed that I would find a similar cap in the various markets and malls across the city, and indeed there were many caps of many animal shapes and colours. But it wasn’t THE cap. I think the paws had me...
Anyways, after giving up on finding the exact same cap as the store has to offer, I finally gathered my strength and confronted one of the `Paris baguette` peachy clerks. Now you must know by now that most of my intellectual conversations with Koreans consist mainly of pointing and growling at something, and I’m not talking about quantum physics. And so, as was explained, I `uga buga`d a little bit with the charming little clerk only to find out that in order to hold in my possession the notorious animal cap, I must purchase an 18$ or above worth of a Christmas cake, starting from the 21st of December (It was the 20th that day). Then, and only then, would I be getting the cap, and for free. `Great!`, I thought to myself, `now what should I do?`
And so, I slept on it. Not on the cap, nor on the cake... but on my imaginary pillow, pondering how silly it would be to buy an 18$ Christmas cake just to get the damn cap… However, it seems as though I’ve already made up my mind, even prior to the upcoming purchase. So that’s how it came to be, that on the 21st of December, I bought a damn Christmas cake for a damn furry animal cap (with paws!) just in order to ease my own mind, and to, hopefully, please my dear friend.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Getting to know your new friends or why nobody likes them Russians.

The feeling of loneliness can creep up on you in a heartbeat. One moment you hum the last Korean hit song and try to memorize the snazzy dance moves, and Boom, just like that, you find yourself staring out the subway windows at the passing beams scattered along those dark tunnels, face smeared on the windshield, trying to find some comfort hidden away beyond the overpowering masses of the crowd standing in the same compartment.
I never really thought about meeting other people than what one would expect in a certain country… In Korea, you usually find Koreans, and plenty of them. In Thailand, you find Israelis, and some other tourists. But never would I have guessed that my tiny hostel harbours such a diverse company, of which I had (and still have) the delight of mingling with.
Of course, the Chinese are the majority. All of them are either working students or… well… students who work. The Clerk here is Chinese – a 25 years old fella who finished a master’s degree in business something something and possesses a terrible agonizing longing for his Chinese girlfriends touch. But besides them, the hostel contains an Indian, Brazilian, Thai, Israeli (yours truly), Austrian, south Africans and more….
...Oh yeah, there are them Russians as well...


Most of us hit it off quite easily. You know how it goes – you wake up in the morning, meet at the kitchen and start the talking, and soon you find yourself screaming Christmas carols with your newly found buddies at the Karaoke Bar. …Well, except for them Russians.
And this is how you become addicted. You forget your loneliness, but you don’t forget how it feels, and so for the next ohh so many days to come, your itinerary becomes not the where and the when, but the who you are going with.
And then they depart, back to their countries, back to their families. And the only remains of this short lived connection between you and the once were complete strangers are some fuzzy memories, a handful of pictures, and despair... despair of knowing that you will probably never meet again.

...well, except for them Russians...



Dedicated to Dhiren, Marlyn, Alwin and Nuni

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Never Her

She was sitting next to me on subway, both of us swishing to the tilting rhythm of the compartment, bumping softly at one another, and the usual noise of screeching and metal clinging has seemed now louder than before. I was humming some tune that was being played on my mp3, and she was casually glaring at the tiny phone screen that transformed into a TV, submerged in her own world behind her earphones. From time to time I was pretending to worry about what station the train was stopping at, so that I could take a peek at her porcelain face, trying to catch a firm glance of her gleaming dark eyes. She was beautiful. I know I say that on almost every Korean girl coming my way, but she… she was something else. It was obvious she was all caught up in the protective shield everyone is wearing while on the subway. She didn’t even notice me staring at her and her phone. I knew I’ll probably never meet her again… so beautiful, and so strange to me. Maybe… just maybe I could start a conversation… who knows, maybe she would even understand English. This was now or never… who knows when and where she gets off, and the clock was ticking.
And maybe, just maybe, the conversation would lead somewhere… after all, I’m not such a terrible guy… I mean, there are worse out there, and if I played my cards right, she would even find me interesting enough not to shrug me off! And maybe, just maybe, we’ll get off at the same station, allowing ourselves to get to know each-other better. We could make our way, together, to the nearest attraction, and maybe sit somewhere to nibble a bit, and talk. Talk about her, and about me, shedding our protective shells to the benefit of the new person in front of us. We would even set up a date, scheduled on that same days eve, since she has to go back to her job. Perhaps I would kiss her goodbye, softly, on the cheek, smiling at her smiling at me. And perhaps I’ll dare her humorously not to be late while she walks away, her long coal black hair flying to the side as she turns her head and gives me one last desiring look… then she’ll disappear behind the brick walls of the buildings.


...Or was it behind the throng of the people on the subway?
When I woke up, the seat next to me was empty, and I thought I caught the last glimpse of her hair as the subway doors slammed shut. All I had to do was to hope for the next time. Maybe another girl… maybe another chance.
But never her.

Bad Santa and Tough luck (pics)

this is what bad workers get as a punishment from Santa on Christmas. instead of a present, they get to stand at the entrance of the store, while greeting and bowing to all who come in or go out with some elaborate Korean greetings. this is, my friends, a common job.

not only the living quarters of Koreans are a little crowded. these (live) crabs are can be seen throughout Seoul.

The Almost One-Way Ticket Tours – Day 2

I must say praise to the Israeli McDonalds. Forget the whole whimpering and arguing over the quality of the meat and the taste… at least we have we HAVE meat. It appears that outside our shiny lonesome McDonalds ivory tower, Burgers tend to suck. But I’m getting ahead of myself.


Today I travelled to what is known as the Olympic park. Built in probably around the time of the Korean Olympics in 1988, it’s quite the sightseeing resort, combining huge Olympic buildings scattered around an ambitious, well tended Park. The yellow grass and withering trees revealed a winter in action, but it was obvious that this is nevertheless a beautiful location for the neighbouring residents, who wish to get away from their mundane grey lives.


After touring the scene for a while, I moved on west-bound, towards the `Lotte World Complex`. Luckily, I’ve begun taking a compass to my journeys, an irreplaceable tool which is a must for all travelling idiots around the globe.Arriving upon destination, I had to take an outside picture of the `Magic Island`, the only part in Lotte world experience that isn’t caged under a roof (see pic).After getting tired of window shopping, I desired to quench my hunger by trying this `Lotteria` fast food restaurant. Now imagine a total rip-off of McDonalds, and thou shalt come across `Lotteria`. I guess I had to check it out. I surveyed the menu for the biggest burger meal they had, and wound up with… well, a big mac. It was tiny, petit, small to a microscopic degree, and I finished it after 4 bites or so… including the fries, or should I say, fry. Although my hunger was reduced a bit, I still felt disappointed. I was used to getting so full out of the McDonalds meals, that it felt like I was being robbed of that heart clogging feeling. So, defeated, I left the place with my tail wiggling sadly behind me, swearing for revenge.


I cheated a bit on my almost one-way ticket tour, and subwayed to the `Myong Dong` Market, located in the centre of town. It was Packed with people and noisy, but it was enjoyable. I even bought some underwear, but that’s none of your damn business.Later on that night, while at the hostel, I became hungry, again, and decided to try out the McDonalds near by… surely there I would be at least satisfied, perhaps even full!


Oh, the ACHZAVA… I got the same big mac, with even less stuff put on it, and it was more expensive. I had to buy some Doritos to quench my seemingly endless appetite, and once again, I was feeling defeated, longing for that distant double McRoyal I used to love so much. One must appreciate at times like these the simple truth that sometimes, well, Quantity is preferred over Quality.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Karoke Screaming!

this is my first uploade, and quite an embarrassing one

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRR3oVhiQpM

the real fun begins at 1:30 minutes.

Week 3: The `Almost One-Way Ticket Tours`, Day 1


In order to squeeze the most out of my time here in Seoul, I decided to, literally, walk all over it. The mission is simple. Each day I take a subway ride towards a certain destination And from there, I walk back towards my hostel, while stopping at various interesting spots.
Day one wasn’t what I had expected it to be. It was fun, and the things I saw were truly heart warming and interesting, but, well, I got lost… I couldn’t keep a straight line or even know if I’m going the right way… I don’t know if its me or the lousy map I stole from the hostel. But just in case, next time I’m taking my compass.
In anyways, I’d started today at a one way ride to Yongsan station, a good 12 kilometres away from Namsan hostel. In Yongsan, I’ve spent my time checking out video games and the free console games near the Imax cinema. I hooked up with a killer 6yr old whom I had one of the most intelligent English conversations I had so far with any Koreans. Most of the conversation was concentrated into single words, such as `move`, `kill`, `head shot` and so on, but all in all, I enjoyed his company.
Later on I decided its time to start moving, and so I hoppeti hopped out of Yongsan, towards my hostel.
…. 10 minutes later I returned to Yongsan, because I’ve found out I was going the wrong direction. And so I started again.

….about 30 minutes later I had realized I was, again, walking a bit less of the wrong direction, but still, a wrong one. But I’ve decided to make the most of it and, while I was in the neighbourhood, visit a small family park near Hyochang stadium.


On my way there I caught some kids playing at a mini arcade video game (see pic). Actually, there are quite a lot of these tiny machines all around the city, luring those inoccent kids to play them with their inoccent coins.
The park was beautiful. Winter have left its mark on the bare trees, and yet they managed to maintain a serene fa├žade, and it echoed gently through the park. T
here were mainly elders, either playing Japanese chess, or working out at the various workout machines built for their needs (see pic. notice the lady on the left learning how to steer a bus). Here and there were some muddy ponds, and at its middle loomed a small hill, which operated as a martyr shrine. The shrine was dedicated to some four Koreans who died as heroes while trying to end the Japanese occupation in Korea (see pic). What I mean by dying as heroes, is that one by one they tried to blow themselves up near the emperor, and failed. Afterwards they were executed, and became martyrs. Such a lovely story, don’t you think?
I moved on, heading towards the great `Lotte Mart`. I guess I had to check the Tuna prices there. What I found was a huge store which has just about everything. Two endless floors and an abundance of workers shouting at you to buy whatever they are ordered to sell you. As I was wandering around, I caught myself at the fruit section, staring at a 100 dollar fruit basket (see pic). It had only 2 avocadoes,
one Mellon, some 4 apples, a Pineapple and some other stuff. 100 bucks!.
After 40 minutes of eye-shopping, I headed back to my quest, and continued to what is called the City-hall. Seoul has many city centres, and you count the City hall as one of them. Anywhere I looked I could see, feel and smell thousand of Christmas lights hanging atop of anything that doesn’t move. Tens of thousands of Koreans were littering the city streets, walking to and fro with their Christmas
cakes and silly furry animal caps, smiling and chirping all about. At the midst of all the commotion was an Ice-skating platform, built only 2 weeks ago or so. Today, it was surrounded by dazzling Christmas lights and a huge shiny Christmas tree (see pic). A buzzing crowd was awaiting the Platform to open, and already all the tickets were sold out flat. I stayed there for a while to witness the Breakdance show, and after an hour or so, I continued my journey.
The end of my journey ended abruptly near Myong-Dong market. I got so lost that I’ve decided to finish my walking about in a good old subway ride home, but not before I toured the whole area, partly because I was lost… but it was worthit: the decorated trees and the Dongmyong gate were a sight for sore legs indeed (see pi
cs).


All well ends well, and I finally finished the first day of the `almost a one way ticket tours`.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Another One Rides the Bus, or Why T-Money Card is God

I guess I had to find out how it feels to ride one of the rickety looking Korean city buses, instead of just visualising it. Touring around with the subway is one thing, but to head off to the unknown with a sign language talking Korean bus driver gives a whole new meaning to the phrase `to boldly go where no white man has gone before…`
But I’m exaggerating of course. Plus, I was accompanied by my trusted Indian friend, Alwin the brave, who has had the questionable pleasure of riding these rigid beasts prior to that day. So, with an astute confidence, and after a phone call to one of his Korean friends just to make sure we are not making a horrible mistake, we got on one of the buses, numbered 1,4,4 and who knows how many more digits.
It looks pretty much as I expected it would be, considering its outer shell... the correct word I’m searching for is `crap`, but as I was about to elaborate my dissatisfaction to my Indian colleague, I was astonished to discover that the T-Money magnetic card reader is placed on the bus... yes yes, I’ll explain what it is:
The T-Money magnetic card is a simple yet sophisticated way of combining subway, bus and taxi fares all into one card, with a discount of course. Moreover, you can shop with it at various places. All you have to do is to charge some money into it every time, and it does the rest... you don't even have to get it out of the wallet, since the magnetic field is strong enough to sense it inside it. Think of it as a credit card without the insurance, because if you lose your T-Money card, you’re pretty much screwed. Later on I discovered that the T-Money card is used only in the big cities, such as Pusan, but not in the country side.
The charge doesn’t cost anything (except for the money you desire to charge), and you only have to pay a small fee for buying the card itself. Other than that, it’s free… I still don’t get how people are making money here… why so many things are for free in this country?!?!
Anyway, as we rode on towards our destination, my ears were bewildered to hear an installed GPS guided voice system which alerts every time the bus is approaching a stop.
Now, consider all this technology. And still, the buses look like a fleet of shipwrecks. I guess once again I’d been taught that things are not as they seem.

...still, they look like crap.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Starcraft, Food and christmas





on the 22nd I followed my geek hive insticts, which led me to the great geek starcraft championships finals!!! Me and some other 5 thousand nerds were cooped up inside a huge stadium, and it was, well, AWESOME!!!

I didn't succeed in getting a good shot that could portray how many people were actually there....




while waiting in the everlasting line for the finals, this cute little munchkin was so adorable I just had to take a photo of her... you can see that they start their infatuation with starcraft at a very young age... later on I gave her as a present a helium baloon I tore off with my teeth from the nearby santa booth :)

this... thing... was something I actually ate, and LIKED. it was a normal sushi but with fish-eggs, mayonnaise, some sorf of sea-food, and some more unrecognizable stuff...

I just had to do the dance with my fellow santa, he was moving like a drunk `village people` guy.



I wish you All a MERRY DRUNK CHRISTMAS!!!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Where the Beer is Piss and Israel is Just Something I Came Up With

The first time the owner of the hostel showed up was a couple of days ago, and acouple of days ago he invited us all to an all you can drink night-out. When I say night I mean 19:00 PM… Korea is pretty similar to England in their standards of drinking – its ok straight after work, no matter when.
Well, apparently, the owner is quite nice. Not only I really enjoy staying at this hostel, price and all, but the owner takes us to dinner for free? I love the sound of that, and I especially love the gurgling sound of some sort of ale flowing down my throat.
Now I know that some of you recall that maybe I’m not the ultimate drinking champion of Israel, but here in Korea, I reign supreme. Neither the Chinese, nor Koreans and not even the Japanese are in any way capable of handling their alcohol. Part of it is because their alcohol is piss. One of the famous alcohol drinks in Korea is called `Soju`, which can be smelled all over the subway after working hours. I tried it and I’m glad it’s over… it tastes like cheap vodka combined with radiator fluids.
But to my surprise, we had beer that night. I guess you could find here and there some decent European beers such as Heineken and Carlsberg, but its pretty damn expansive, so you reason with the beer called `Hite`, designed with the exact same fonts of `Sprite`. But hey, who am I to back away from free beer, even though it tasted like a very watery Maccabi beer.
And so, following the flowing of the beer, a decent conversation took off. Now, there was I, with 4 other Chinese and an indian, trying to get to know each-other. The owner politely asked where I am from, since he knew everybody else, and I answered that I come from Israel. Now most of you would have known the next question following the answer - `huh?!`
But to my surprise, the owner actually knew about Israel, unlike the other Chinese, who had found it difficult to pronounce the country name, or even guess what it is. Now, although I’m getting really used to people not knowing where in gods name is Israel, I really considered telling everyone that I come from Alabama and end once and for all this Sisyphean cycle of doom I’ve been going through. But, lo!, I was relieved of my explanation duty by the owner who took the matter into his own hands, and as I sipped my cold tasteless beer, I’ve heard him struggling but successfully describing Israel as the lonely Christian country surrounded by Muslims, somewhere in the Middle-east.
...well, at least he got it half right…
.....Luckily I was drinking beer, so I shook it off rather quickly and moved on to the main event, which was… well, drinking.
After 4 pints we all called it a night. Well, I drank 4 pints, while the others kept refilling my mug with their beer. Due to the quality of the beer, I barely felt woozy, while the others dropped like flies upon arrival to the hostel. Soon, the wooziness wore off, and I was left alone in the sleepy hostel… And I never forgot, that from now on, I come from that Christian lonesome country, called Israel.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fun-doing in Seoul or why you shouldn't touch the Kimchi

is this picture not enough for you to forget about trying the national... thingy!?
I know I know, I should have listened to my sister when she warned me about this stuff, but hey, I gotta try new things, and the Kimchi was one of them. its cabbage... cabbage with some hot spice in it and a smell that you will never forget, although you would dearly desire to...

So you know, having fun is sometimes a group thing. so Dhiren, Marlyn, Nooni and the cool cleaning lady from our hostel went to have some fun, including Karaoke

Me being taught to do the human heart position with Marlyn, while snowing


Don't be fooled by the pinkish aura of the place... I was actually buying... umm.... Biker stuff, yeah, baby!

Alwin and I during casual dining...


But then Alwin starts with the touching....

Week 2: The Koreans height or why Yossi Benayun is better than sign language

So I went to a Starcraft Contest. For those who don’t know, it’s a computer game dated from 1997 which has become the national attraction of geeks and hot chicks alike into one sizzling pot of game-mania. The Starcraft League is divided into some 12 teams sponsored by top leading companies, such as Samsung, MBC and so on, and they provide the conditions which allow the Starcraft players to play all day every day without being disturbed by trivial manners, such as making food. The league games are held inside a specially built stadium, the E-sports, located on the 9th floor inside the huge electronic mall of "yongsan station". The E-sports broadcasts live daily shows of Starcraft and other games matches on the Gamers channel on national TV.


...And so I went to a Starcraft Contest. By chance (or not), it was the semi-finals of some championship, and the players that were competing each-other were the no.1 and no.2 players of the world. So I guess it was interesting for a loser like me. I also cheer for one of them, but that doesn’t matter.
So there I was, half an hour before the match starts, and it was already fully packed. I pushed my way in, although it wasn’t that hard… apparently when you are a foreign, you get the `free distance range from everybody else` card… or maybe I really stink, but I wouldn’t know.
In anyways, while I was heading towards the front of the stage in order to actually see something, I was bewildered to discover that I actually needed to do that… aren’t the Koreans supposed to be short?!
Clearly not. Although it’s apparent that there is a huge difference in height between generations, I never would have thought that I would see so many teenagers towering somewhere around my height. Even the women are potentially higher than what I would have guessed. It seems as though the diet has changed for the best over the years of development since the end of the Japanese occupation. Have the Japanese grown in height as well? I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

I was trying my best to film some of the cheers and screams of the entire crowd, but I’ve found it quite pointless since the whole of the stadium was engulfed in dark red haze of fog machines and dazzling light effects, and my camera in these situations is rendered useless. While I was making some of the shots, naturally I would attract curious bystanders, usually teenagers who are thrilled to see a foreigner holding a camera. No sooner than I could say spicy kimchi, I was surrounded by a throng of young school boys who desperately wished to know where I am from. Only later I had realized that this question was amongst the only vocabulary in English the Korean people had and will ever know – `How are you?` `What’s your name?` `Where you are from?` And the last (and my favourite) – `you are handsome`.
Now I was raised properly, sort of, and so I answered politely that I am from Israel…

……
...They just stared at me.
……

After a disturbing 3 seconds of silence, one of them took the initiative and said: `OK!!!`, and relieved everyone else from the brainstorming they have just gone through. But I was not impressed. I would not expect from anyone in the world to know where Israel is, but I wanted to press the matter some more:

- you know Israel?
+ OK!
- so you don’t know Israel…
+ OK?
- I see… do you know Egypt?
+ Jypt?
- Yes!, Egypt…with the Pyramids?.. PY-Ra-Mids (with hand gesturing of a pyramid).
+ Yes! Jypt! PyMids!
- Yes! Good!... Israel!, Near!, Egypt!,(with some more hand gesturing of proximity).
+ YES! OK! JYPT!
- oh brother…

I almost gave up when divine assistance came from an unexpected source. One of the older boys was yelling something at me through the shouts and screams of crazed sobbing girls, and I only heard it after some repetition:

+ Binaun?
- huh?
+ B-Na-UN?
- Benayun?
+ Yes!
- .... oh Yes! Benayun! Soccer! Yossi Benayun! Israel!
+ AHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhh, BINAYUN, OK!!!!!!!

It appears I have found a new language (and a new name for Israel) with the Koreans in front of me. All of those who were conversing with me, some seven boys, began with the ohhhs and ahhhs of Benayuns fame, and it was not long before that Avram Grants name appeared and added some more ahhhhs to the noise. At the same time, the first match between these two Starcraft warriors had begun and it was not long before everyone were forgetting Benayun, Israel, Pyramids, and probably sex. All were concentrating on the duel appearing before them.

(btw – the guy I was cheering for got annihilated 0-3).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

first blog

Hello Everyone! welcome to my experimental Blog experience. Since I am not really sure that I'll have the stamina to keep on writing and updating this blog, I announce it as a beta blog, so don't get your hopes up. as a start, I'll post some pictures as to entertain you a bit.


1) me and Marlyn having some 3d fun at the spooky house at the theme park of "lotte world"
2) me eating some unrecognizable noodles with some black sauce... yummy!
Marylin is celebrating her fake birthday....
a christian korean, christian sri-lankan south african, Jewish israeli, Muslim/christian indian/new zealandi, agnostic korean/austrian and a christian indian south african walk into a kareoki bar...
Me having a thailandic breakfast of champions


Enjoy!



Sunday, December 16, 2007

Week 1 - To be alone or why the subway smells...

Only when I was sitting down for the first time on the heated chairs of the subway towards my hostel in South korea, have I realized that I was officially stepping into new uncharted land. That feeling wasn’t aroused in Bangkok, and with no wonder – half of the population are either Israeli or at least English speaking foreigners. But here, I was the only foreigner in the compartment… probably on the whole train itself, and I could feel for the first time what you can consider as solitude. Sure, there were other people, Korean people, playing with their transformer like phones or watching small TVs, but none of them would provide any comfort for this feeling. Even help with directions was a rare commodity, since most of the Koreans are clueless about any language other than their own. So there I was sitting, holding to the subway system map as if my life depends on it, thinking already that I know everything there is to know about the Korean culture, and only by the chill atmosphere hanging above the heated metal seats of the subway.

so I finally arrived at Namsan hostel. It only took about 40 minutes of subway changing and some 10 minutes of sign language conference with a cute clerk lady at a glasses shop. It took me a while, but I grew fond of my hostel. At first I was a little disoriented from the petit size of the room, but after a fashion, I began to like it. Sure, its small, and the walls are one inch thick and I have exactly 3 centimetres of toe stretching when I sleep… but hey, its home. Above all, it contributed to my understanding of some peculiarities concerning the the east-asian culture of small housing. I’m sure that, given the chance and money, they would buy big houses with tons of stuff inside, but they have adapted themselves to a metropolitan way of living, and the hardship that comes with it. This culture does not abide to our western holy crusade of a home sweet home adventure. They do not need it, since they rarely see their home. We can call it cruel, or a hard way of living, but it seems to be functioning. Instead of establishing their homes as a base of operations, they combine work and pleasure altogether, leaving their homes with the task of serving as a sleep station and a place of meeting the family from time to time. It is not really unusual since we can spot this same behaviour in other mega-cities all over the world. However, in East-Asia this practice has been perfected. Many workers are living in huge company buildings spread all over Seoul. It’s the same as living in dormitories. So they go to work in the morning, and come back at hours that range from 20:00-24:00 in the evening, and that is mostly because they tend to spend their time with their working friends right after work hours. And that is why the subway always smells like cheap alcohol from 19:00.

But hey, I got my own problems, and alone isn’t one of them.


(in the picture: one of many complex buildings belonging to large companies in Korea. there their workers are dwelling with their families, probably to be closer to work.)