Yang Yang Up The Ying Yang

Joshy had been talking about this hippie dippy surfer enclave that pretty much straddles the 38th parallel on the east coast, called Yang Yang, for forever and a day.  Only he pronounces it like you’re pronouncing it if you live in the west, only it’s really supposed to be pronounced like they pronounce it in the east, like YahngYahng, but we’ll just keep pronouncing it like YangYang because it’s more fun that way.

Anyways, enough with the pronunciation lesson. Like I was saying, he’s been wanting to go FOREVER, but when his brilliant plan got thrown into road trip motion he went into mini freak out mode like OMG WE DON’T REALLY NEED TO GO. But we were getting the F out of Seoul, and we were utilizing that international drivers license that Dusty boy procured whilst Stateside.

So, after a minor hiccup and foreigner free pass at the car rental place, we rented our Hyundai and joined the swanky Sonata club of Korea.

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Of course no road trip is complete without a playlist, and my 7th grade crush’s recently dropped hit provided just that. Sean Sahand errrbody…while I crawl inside myself.

As much as everyone was enjoying the jam and the J’s, instead of the suggested 3 hours allotted for the journey, it took us approximately 7 hours to reach the glorious beaches of YangYang, and we forged through all types of weather to get there. I’m not kidding. We thought we were going to reach the beach and head right to the mart for hoodies and sweats. There is no shittier feeling than being dressed for summer in the middle of winter atop Mt. Seorak. But there we were, umbrellas turned inside out and eating piping hot hotteok to keep us warm.

They behaved for the photo, thankfully.

They behaved for the photo, thankfully.

Good thing we had our optimistic giant in tow, who knew the sun would come out tomorrow, because as soon as we hit the coast, the sun surely was a glistening. That was about the time we reached the vicinity of our beloved YangYang! Only we overshot it a bit, but that’s ok! We found the absolutely stunning oceanside temple shrine Hyuhyu-am and took a wander. It was so beautiful and magestic! You do not get to see these blue skies in Seoul, THAT’s for sure!

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Broing out.

When we finally got to YangYang, it took us a hott minute to find the pension that Veny took the reigns on booking after Joshua had booked a single bed in jumbled Korean for 4 of us. We love each other, but not that much. We didn’t mind the momentary confusion though because we were so obsessed with all the personality, tattoos and hairstyles in wild abundance. It felt like we stepped out of Korea for a weekend. Everyone was tan, and no one, NO ONE was sitting on their cell phones whilst in the company of another. It was wild. 

After dumping our belongings in our room that was the size of a California King bed (and that’s being generous), we took to exploring the oceanside town.

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This marks the first time I ever tried samgyeopsal. Couldn’t turn down pig from sweet ajummas. That’s a rarity. 

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These mushrooms looked quite phallic. So obviously I documented.

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Veny posed beside her unsuspecting fashion icon.

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Dusty boy got down ‘n dirty with his ajussi squat.

Joshy tried to shoot down a stuffed bottle of Cass with arms, to no such luck.

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And I hopped a fence (without falling) to sit on the wine cork looking things that break the waves on the dock.

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It felt amazing to breathe the fresh air and get that salt and sand between our toes.  And even though it was a sad realization that this was one of our last weekends together, I was so happy to be spending it with the ones who became my greatest family these past 3 years.

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That night we enjoyed each other’s company over some Sean Sahand serenades, some very strong beverages, some sparklers on the beach, and some cheese balls.

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We left a nice gift of cheese balls on the terrace for the next visitor.

Before hopping  back in our swanky Sonata back to the big city, we worked on our pasty city “tans” one last time, and enjoyed the gaggle of fully dressed Koreans enjoying  a day in the sun.

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To all those wishing to get the heck out of the landlocked concrete jungle of Seoul, I wish I had more solid directions than ‘just drive East’ to give you. But unfortunately I don’t because I didn’t drive, and I’m a moron with a map. While Veny was playing navigator for our Daddy Dustin, I was taking pictures of a sleeping Joshua in the backseat.

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If you get a chance, hit up YangYang. It’s definitely an unspoken about gem that’s more than worth the weekend jaunt.

 

Happy Birthday Buddha, With Love From Gyeongju!

I sit here a week after returning from a very much anticipated long weekend jet out of town with a visitor I just couldn’t wait to be in the same time zone and touchable space with for the past 5 months. A very digital age meet-and-greet story short, Jerry came back to the Koko on a very big leap of faith after we spent a Valentine’s Day in the airport, and many a month Skype cavorting. Well, Skype doesn’t always translate into shooting stars, but I think a snarky and oftentimes brutally honest friendship came from a southern boy’s internet stalking efforts.

I have been wanting to get the heck out of Seoul for a bit now, my lungs have been pretty desperate. Top of my list on the main land has been Gyeongju, which was once the capital of Korea, and is where you can learn about the Shilla Dynasty of Korean history past. It is the cultural epicenter, and where you go if you want to walk in Korean history, not to mention, breathe glorious fresh oxygen.

So, as soon as Jerry Berry arrived from Shanghai, we hitched a KTX train ride down south from Seoul Station to Gyeongju, with a quick transfer to the Mungunghwa slower train. I love train travel, and we wanted a little longer jaunt on the way down. On the return we came direct from Singyeongju station, which is slightly more out of the way from Gyeongju, but has a direct KTX line to Seoul.

I had never stayed in a love motel (which is exactly what it sounds like) since being in Korea, so I booked us a room at the swanky Sugar Motel on the sexy love motel street. Since we were planning to be total tourists on this getaway, we took the free pick up from the train station that was provided, and the lovely Miran fetched us upon our arrival. Ajumma visor modeling was provided on-the-house from the backseat.

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We were greeted with elevator Astrology. Are Aquarius and Libra compatible? I guess we were to find out.

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After settling in and finding horrendously disgusting Korean ramen slurping-esq porn on the tele (which we watched for far too long), we went out for a nice long wander around town, where we mocked the giant political poster-men, noshed on a snack (which he fucked up and needed assistance), and inhaled some dakgalbi. We also enjoyed a heaping serving of miserable couples not talking to each other all around us. Jerry was very happy to be back in Korea.

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We had one full day in Gyeongju, so the next morning we had a leisurely sleep in, and went off to rent some bikes for a couple hours. I think I always mention that biking in foreign places is one of my favorites ways to see a city, and this was no different, except that there are people EVERYWHERE in Korea, and add a holiday weekend. So, there was lots of swerving. I even saw a woman plummet straight for a curbside lunch. For once I wasn’t the one eating shit, and Asians suck at driving in all its forms.

Gyeongju is scattered with these spectacular rolling green hills which are actually tomb mounds, and they’re all over the city. They are stunning! We visited Cheonmachong, meaning Heavenly Horse tomb, which is believed to house one of the Kings of the Shilla Dynasty. This particular tomb was named for the horses that were found painted on a saddle that was found during excavations in the 1970s.

It also proved to be a spectacular setting for selfie-stalking (or as Selena Meyer would say “Ussie” stalking), which also happens to be another of my favorite pastimes in the country of narcissism.

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We stumbled upon some gangsters who were climbing a trail up to the top of one of the mounds, and just as I was about to shlep our asses up there, the ajussi police came and ran them off. So instead of rebelling, we biked some more in search of a park that we soon realized was far too far for our little bicycles. So we forded a river and followed this little lady down her alleyway. 

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I also found what resembles a massive menorah downtown. L’chaim!

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That night, after getting a tad bit lost, we got a jeongsik (정식) dinner, which is a meal comprised of a bunch of sides. It’s super delicious and usually comes with soup and tons of plates to cover your table. Our first one happened to be a baby jeongsik. I believe this one cost around 5,000won/person! Not too shabby.

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After stuffing our bellies, we oriented ourselves and walked across town to Cheomseongdae Observatory, which is claimed to be the oldest observatory in all of Asia. Glory glory Korea! I wasn’t super impressed, but I did read that this observatory is built of 361.5 stone slabs, which is equal to the number of days in the Lunar calendar. Ok, so some scientific thought went into the construction.

We took this horrendous selfie as a souvenir.

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And this one of these people with their asshole arm extender.  Then we peaced on out to Anapji Pond, which disappointingly enough, we got there too late to see in its illuminated glory. Sadface.

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Tuesday was actual Buddha’s Birthday, so we got up at the crack of the morn and hit the road to make the most of our half day before shlepping back up to the ol’ concrete jungle. Before hopping a bus, we needed to caffeinate, and he needed to continue documentation of the horizontal stripe phenomenon in Korea for the mind-blowing science project that he’s conducting.

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Stripes taken, we popped on a bus headed for Bulguksa Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is about 35-40 minutes outside of the city center. We took this ussie where Jerry continued to practice his smile.

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Bulguksa is beautiful, and there were some prayers and speeches going on while we wandered the grounds. I think all temples in Korea look the same, but they’re still quite perty to see. I especially love the lanterns they use to adorn during Buddhist holidays.

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We made some friends.

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This Jew is always trying to find beauty in a Buddhist symbol turned disgusting.

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I stalked a bit, per the usual.

IMG_3370We were going to head out to Seokguram Grotto, but alas there was no time. Seokguram was also recently declared a UNESCO site, so I’d like to see that at some point.

Our last meal in Gyeongju was another jeongsik, this time much bigger and with a lot more variety. We were actually on a sardine cramped bus headed back to the city center when we passed it, jumped off and bolted across the street. This place was really cute and traditional, and we got to sit in our own private little room on the floor instead of standing pressed up against the man’s farting ass next to us.

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I really really loved Gyeongju and am so glad I finally got to visit. It’s so quaint, and I’d say one of my favorite places I’ve visited during my time in Korea. Living in Seoul, it’s so easy to get swept up in the big city life where things can become mundane and sort of easy once you get the hang of life, even while still being in a foreign country. However, this weekend I felt like I was out of my as-of-late element for the first time in a long time, and I needed that in a bad bad way.

Have you been to Gyeongju? Any must see places or tips should I take another wander down yonder? Let me know!

 

A Pause To B*tch

I apologize in advance for the negativity that’s going to out pour in this here post, but I’ve had to get it off my chest in a documented fashion for a few days now. Though, however negative it may be, hopefully in reading this back down the line I’ll get a good ol’ hearty kick out of my Korean aggression!

On with it now. I don’t know if I’m just going through a phase of “Koreans can suck it!” or my tolerance is just outgrowing my welcome, but lately I have been so unbelievably anti-Korean and I’ve really begun to notice it in my actions and thoughts way more than the usual average everyday annoyance.

Or, maybe Andria passed her torch onto me when she departed this tiny crazy weird country. Love ya mean it toots. Smooch smooch.

Whatever it is, I find some semblance of comfort in supposing such feelings are normal whenever you live somewhere other than your native country for any extended period of time.

Well, my time is now, dammit! And, well, I’d like to invite you on the journey of my rage.

About a month ago now, I was transferring from line 4 to line 1 to meet Jee for an unlimited bomb diggity sushi go-round dinner. I’m standing on the platform waiting for the train to come, and some old ajussi (Korean man) with his fat ass designer hiking backpack equipped with double hiking sticks jutting out on each side, decided he didn’t need to open his eyeballs and observe the human being standing directly in front of him. Instead of making the conscious effort to be mindful of his surroundings, he side-swiped into my human body as I stood there, leaving his 2nd hiking stick to trail behind and gash straight across the left lens of my spectacles, which I actually use to SEE THINGS WITH.  If it weren’t for the plastic protection of my glasses, I surely would have gotten my eye poked out, or at the very least been rendered blind. A lose-lose situation if you ask me.

Of course the man just carried on his way, unaware (or uncaring?) of his attack on my seeing apparatus. So, with the fire boiling in my belly, I lunged and smacked the back of his backpack to spark some, ANY, attention, while shouting some expletives in his direction. Of course he turns around, and gives me the most blank stare you ever did see. Oh, I’m sorry man, did you not notice when you plowed into another human being? Don’t give me that look! Needless to say, the lone foreigner made quite the stink on that platform in front of line 1, my second least favorite line in this city, just to top it off.

To anyone not living in Korea, you’re probably thinking “WHOA DANIELLE! Why’d you hit him?!” But, I can wholeheartedly say I am not alone in the hit-back.  Sometimes you just really need to stand your ground in a country that likes to relentlessly save face and basic societal manners are lacking, and that’s the only way to be heard. This kind of stuff really drives me mad, because it’s not even a matter of living in such a densely populated city that makes shoving and walking into people acceptable. I mean, yea, there are a CRAPton of Koreans, but I’m sorry, there are a CRAPton of Japanese and New Yorkers but they don’t act as if you are as invisible as the air they’re breathing. They’re not walking into walls so they shouldn’t be walking into me! Or maybe they are, and if that’s the case, I should poke your eyeballs out and let Darwinism run its course.

Oh, and as a nice souvenir of the altercation, I have a long, beautiful hairline scratch on my left lens now. Which by the way, will not come out, and yes, is annoying. My lenses cost more than my frames, I’m that blind, and now a little more blind.

End rant 1. Begin rant 2.

As most know, I moved out of my old apartment at the end of August. When I moved, my maintenance man had prorated my gas and electricity bills and tacked them onto the monthly maintenance bill, which in retrospect still seemed a bit higher than I usually paid. I usually got those two bills sent directly to me so I paid the companies on my own separately.  However, since I moved out earlier they said they’d divvy up the money if I just included it with the monthly maintenance fee.  After calculating, maintenance man told Jee to have me wire all the money in one lump some, which is what I did. He literally harassed her about this while she was helping me move out, so there is no way we f’d anything up.

Flash forward 3 months (almost 4!) later, my horrendous excuse for a landlord decides that the maintenance man miscalculated the bill and didn’t factor in the gas and electricity bills. 3 MONTHS LATER! Which um, he clearly did, because what the hell else was he adding to my bill if it wasn’t that? And the big elephant in the room, why are you just now “noticing” this miscalculation 3 months down the line? Is it because you are incompetent? Or because you didn’t fill the apartment yet and thought “Oh! I’ll trick the impure foreigner into paying it!” Whatever it is, I’m not buying any of it. You will have to pry my bank information from my cold dead hands before you get the 14,000 won you are arguing over.

Yea, 14,000 won.  The equivalent of $14.

But that’s not all. She didn’t call with just 1 story, not even 2. But 3 stories with 3 different amounts of money she was claiming me to owe. First it was the electricity bill for August. Then it was electricity AND gas from June, which is a crock because like I said before, I paid those separately to the companies themselves. Third it was for water (which I never paid for in 2 years) and an elevator fee. AN ELEVATOR FEE?! Should I have paid to breathe in my apartment as well if I was being charged for each time I stepped on the blessed elevator?

Of course this was all funneling through Jin, who at first was hearing her out, and then got more and more fed up with her and started getting snappy and ignory (mostly at my advising). She felt weird at first yelling back at this woman because age is the end all be all in Korea. It doesn’t matter if you are old and a moron, or young and brilliant. If you are old you are right, if you are young you are wrong. Anytime Jin snapped back at her, the landlord had some condescending tone with her, and even had the audacity to tell her that she doesn’t know anything about paying bills because JIN’S NOT MARRIED.

Jin ended up blocking her number, but clearly that didn’t matter because the landlord CAME TO MY SCHOOL last Thursday. Unannounced and completely inappropriate, she took a day off work (and 70,000won worth of a day’s pay) to come and argue over 14,000won that she was not going to get. If I was not at school, with children coming in and out of my room and running in the hallways I would have surely given that landlord a verbal cutting, but instead I completely ignored her, dashing in sprinklings of biting words and devil eyes whenever I saw fit. Jin said the lady was most definitely scared.

I have seriously been so outraged, especially because just a few days before she showed up, I read a blog posting about another foreigner’s horrendous experience in Korea. Her foreigner status was completely used against her and her boyfriend by the Korean system, and it totally disgusted me. It’s not uncommon for Koreans to completely take advantage of foreigners simply because we are not Korean, and then we are made out to be these awful, dirty, lying thieves.

So in the end, it’s 14,000won that this woman is fighting over, which is petty change, and she could have gone to work that day instead of harassing me at school and gotten her 14,000won. But it’s the principle. I sent my bank statements showing everything that had been paid and she STILL keeps telling Jin “make her understand the situation”, even as Jin has told her innumerable times “SHE UNDERSTANDS PERFECTLY AND WILL NOT PAY!”

I don’t normally hate on Korea, aside from the general “this place is f’ing weird”, but lately little things, and bigger things, have really been digging at me. GRRRR. I’m sure I’ll be back to lalalalalaDanielle soon enough, but I had to paint the dark side of the moon for you.

In happier news, mark your calendars, diaries, sundials ~ whatever. I will be home for a 2 week visit from February 14-28.