Friday, February 20, 2009

No Fear

I was taking an online questionnaire yesterday to entertain myself and this one question popped up, what do you fear most: #1. giving a speech #2. meeting the president of your company #3. taking a long road trip with a stranger #4 being alone in a foreign country without speaking the language.

I felt kind of proud. I have been terrified of all of those things to the point of near insanity. No joke. I used to turn red and almost poop just thinking about talking in front of a group. Now I've given some speeches and speak in front of people for a living. And then just two months ago, I crossed two more off the list. I had to ride in the car for eight hours with the president of our company who I had just met! And flip, the last one is an everyday occurrence. I felt pretty good about myself after reading that.

Then today happened. I had to get my physical for my alien registration card. I hate going to the doctor. I hate being touch and examined. But what I really hate are the machines that can see right through me. I can compose myself for the most part for people but the computers know when my heart is beating fast. The computers know if I have been eating bad. That's the stuff I don't want people to know.

Everyone stares at me, which is hard to get used to, but having everyone stair at me while holding a cup of pee is really hard.

I lived. I like that I am conquering my fears.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I don't know if it is a fault, I think most Americans are this way, we like our privacy, our individual space, we like to be left alone. I am extremely that way. I am a private person. It is nearly impossible to live that way in Korea.

I joined a gym today. I did this so that I will have something to do in the evenings. So after work I went to my new gym. What I wanted to do was put my ipod on, run on the tread mill and space out but it didn't work out like that.

When I arrived, I saw that one of my Korean co-workers was also there. I told him that I had joined this afternoon and he had went and joined too. A work out buddy! A woman trainer greeted me on the way in and she used my Korean co-worker to translate. She told me all about the gym. Now honestly, these were my thoughts: I've been to a gym before, let me work out in peace. Before I knew what was happening her and another man were pulling me to a scale, measuring my body fat, hooking me up to a computer to see my muscle mass and vital signs. I was dumbstruck. So much for my space out time.

I am a fat flipping old guy now and when the computer spit out my health chart, she giggled, telling me that I needed to loose 14 Kg. I didn't need a computer to tell me I'm a fat ass. So after that station, she pulled me to a stretching chart and we did stretching together. Then we were carted off to the bike where she set the timer and speed for us and pushed my back in so I would sit up straight. I'm not going to fight it. What's the use, I'm part of the collective. When the bike timer went off she whisked me off to the tread mill and, same as before, set all the settings for me. When I had jogged for a good half hour, she took me over to a strange vibrating machine. I stood on and it just vibrated my guts out for five minutes. I could feel every fat roll on my back jiggling. It was amazing.

Off to the showers.

I'm not a shower in public sort of guy. Here in Korea people bathe together for fun. So I'm in the locker room with my co-worker and I know I am being awkward but I have to pretend I am cool being naked in a locker room full of young buff Koreans who I know are staring at me. I know they've never seen a guy with red pubic hair. A guy comes up to me half naked and sticks out his hand. "Hello, nice to meet you," he says. I shake his hand. I shower and get dressed. When I am leaving a young guy follows me out and says the same thing, "Hello, nice to meet you." His name was Jahoon. I have to remember that for tomorrow when I see him again.

I prefer to be a loner, but you know, the alternative isn't that bad. I love the Korean people.

Monday, February 16, 2009

There and Back Again

Well I am back in Korea. I got in early Friday morning after over 24 hours of air and bus travel.

It was surprisingly easy traveling this time thanks in part to the virtually empty plane I was on. I had a whole row of seats to myself.

After clearing customs, I headed outside into the cold. I lit up a cigarette at the bus station and guarded my mountain of luggage. Was I really doing this again? I just couldn't believe that I was back in Korea.

After a five hour bus ride, I finally arrived in Pohang. It was after midnight. My new workmates picked me up and wouldn't you guess, took me to McDonald's. Afterward it was off to see my new home.

I have two roommates. One is my boss, a twenty six year old Korean-German American, the other is young Korean guy who speaks maybe a word or two of English. Both really nice guys.

I did almost cry when I saw our apartment. It is so small and I have never had real roommates before. I'm sleeping in a twin size bed. The first time I have done so in over 15 years.

With no friends and nothing to do this past weekend, I took another five hour bus ride north up to Seoul. I visited my old neighborhood and learned a sad lesson. I got off the subway and there I was, as if I had never left. Janghanpyeung. I walked by my old work, past my old apartment, past the GS 25 food markets. It was all there but it was different somehow. It was just as weird and strange and backwards as ever but my buddies weren't there to understand the weirdness with me. I do have two buddies left there and as I waited over three hours for them to show up, I couldn't help but feel as lonely as I ever have in my life. It was like being Holden Caulfied from Cather in the Rye--everything just looked so sad and lonely.

I realized then what I have realized before. You can not go back to happy times. You have to create them constantly and that is life. Maybe not the purpose of life but a reality of it. When I went back to Bellingham the same thing happened, except less extreme. The place was the same but the people were gone, or different. I was different and there was no going back to college.

There is no going back to those times in Seoul.

Once I met up with Brandon and Laura, we met some new people and had dinner and beer. Then it was cool.

It's all about the people you surround yourself with.

Today was a great day. The sun was shining and I took a long walk on the beach. Pohang is a beach city. I have a feeling when the weather warms up I will be spending my mornings on the beach with a book--if I can find an English bookstore.

So yep, here I am. Korea. My last year in my twenties. It is going to be a good year. I'm not scared, but I do know how long a year really is.