15 June 2009

Signs of Progress

This is a pretty crummy picture but what it represents is a bit of a milestone for me. Since I had the surgery my condition has improved dramatically and Yujin and I went on a long walk with mild exertion on Saturday and a long hike with serious exertion on Sunday (up the cable car and over and down the other side and back up to Seokbulsa, the temple carved in stone) and neither time did I suffer even mild symptoms. It wasn't very hot though, which is the true test. It was great to be able to get out and do some hiking.

I have completely lost the tourist attitude and I forget sometimes to even bring my camera along. I actually took pictures at the South Gate while I was out yesterday but I was so blown away by the temple I forgot to get it out. I sat for a long time in the temple. It was so quiet and peaceful. I would like to go to that place again.

We had left my scooter at the gate of the park where the cable car goes up but after we hiked all the way down the other side of the mountain and then half way back up in another place to go to that temple we only had three hours to get all the way back up to take the cable car down again to the scooter. I know there was probably a short cut to the top from the temple but as you know nothing is marked and I couldn't risk a descent in the dark if we missed the last cable car down at 7pm and Yujin was wearing Brikenstock's which she always does but the descent to the temple was basically "bouldering" and she wore out her little toes and although my balls were fine my knees were not and I was already into the Advil.

So we walked down further from the temple (still on the wrong side of the mountain) and came to a little noodle shack at the end of the paved road up from the other side. There was a taxi parked there with nobody in it and I asked a guy sitting there where was the driver and he said he didn't know (Yujin was in the bathroom) and I sat there and here comes this guy drunk off his ass and he goes over to the taxi and tries to get in and it is locked of course and he starts kicking the door and cussing. He then tried the doors of all the other cars. I am just sitting there watching all of this.

When Yujin came out of the bathroom the guy and his wife I had been talking to said they would give us a ride but it was a delicate situation given the belligerent nature of the drunk so we hiked down the road a way and when they finished their noodles they picked us up. They dropped us off very near the scooter and it was a minimum cab ride to the pick-up. We thanked them profusely and I gave them my two hiking apples. Home and then to the Bali Sauna and Jimjilbang for a scrubbing, steam bath, and massage chair. I slept soundly.

12 June 2009

Cheap Sunglasses

Why, in a country where an umbrella can be purchased for W5000 ($3.50), is it so hard to find a good pair of cheap sunglasses? I lose (or break) sunglasses at a rate which precludes purchasing an expensive pair. The ones I see at HomePlus and the like are cheap, but they are priced at W30,000 and up. Someone somewhere is getting rich off sunglasses. The same goes for watches. The plain analog Casio's I see everywhere being sold for W70,000 are in the dollar store at home. I am also frustrated by the price and selection of clothing my size (biggish). I am still wearing what is left of the wardrobe I brought with me a year ago. It is wearing thin. An uncapped pen and a rainy struggle over a taxi claimed two shirts. Most of my t-shirts have lost their former shape as a result of the humidity and the clothes line. The situation is becoming somewhat critical.

The price of some things seems almost punitive. Kitty litter is W12,000 for 10 kilos. Is it imported? If so, this makes sense. I didn't really think about it until I arrived here but this country is essentially an island. There is no land route. Everything that they don't have must be imported. I guess kitty litter is one of those things. And it is heavy. So is peanut butter. A rice cooker will set you back a pretty penny. So will a new laptop.

Food is the best value. It is so cheap to eat out here that it is actually less cost effective to eat at home if you factor in waste. Factory farms with products bio-engineered for shelf life have apparently not hit the market here. Tomatoes look like the ones we grow in the garden at home and taste like tomatoes, but they go bad overnight. I have taken to buying all my veggies from the bulk bin one or two onions at a time, other things as I need them.

I have formed an addiction to the fresh tuna shops. At W20,000 and up they aren't the cheapest place to eat, but how can you put a price on heaven? The price is graded according to the cuts you get, but I always get the cheapest for the same reasons I will never fly first class: a. I can't afford it and b. I don't know the difference and c. I don't want to know: it would make Coach unbearable. Sitting up at the bar you can watch as the sashimi chef carves off cool chucks of fresh raw tuna: the tartar-looking head meat, deep red cuts from the fillets, and, holy of holies, the fatty tuna belly. The leaner cuts get a dip in sesame oil infused with crushed garlic and sea salt. The fatty tuna belly only needs a touch of soy sauce and wasabi. I like to wrap them in the nori provided. And they keep giving the stuff to you until you say quit. Then they bring you some more stuff: a small baked daggerfish, tiny spicy-tuna rolls, huge crab and salmon hand rolls. Top that off with some delicious beverages and you can roll. Heavenly.

One thing that has changed since I moved is that I now have a TV. I told them to take it away at my first apartment. I have become a soccer junkie so this time I kept it and it is a blessing and a curse. It is nice to be able to watch FIFA matches without going out, but I am a chronic channel flipper. I have discovered, however, that although I will sit flipping through the channels for three hours, I will not walk across the room to turn the thing on. As a result of this I now keep the remote sitting on top.

Let's see... what else was I going to write about? I guess the biggest change lately has been the arrival of the scooter. It has made getting around almost too easy. I think that I am gaining weight. This might also have something to do with the elevator. But there is no denying that it is fun zooming around town. I bought a second helmet, a flat black unit in the style of a WWI German brainbucket. It offers mimimal impact protection but it is cool (temperature-wise).

We are getting ready to begin monsoon season here: hot and wet and hot. The mosquitos are out, carrying god-knows-what. I burn coils at night but that doesn't help my hack. My blood alchohol level usually makes me unappetizing anyway.

I finally got some credit into my Skype account so if anyone back home gets a phone call from a very strange number it might be me. Later.