Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Anticipate Tomorrow's Headaches

Ha ha ha. I was going to post the lyrics to the Bluetip song "Slovakian" instead of a blog post, but I can't find the lyrics and Rhapsody won't let me play it because I'm outside the United States. I guess you'll have to make do with this crappy iLike link for now. Cheers.

More Bluetip music on iLike

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Day... Wait, what day is it?

I believe I am now in my fourth day in Korea and my third day in orientation, although I have to admit with the change from Eastern time to Far Eastern time the exact flow of the days has gotten a little mushy. I think the first shock I experienced in my first time in a foreign country (excluding trips to Toronto or Tijuana, neither of which I think really counts) was that it wasn't very shocking at all. Yes, I couldn't get the payphones to work at the airport because I couldn't figure out how to buy a calling card or how to ask for 100 won coins in change for a 1,000 won bill. (A word of advice to travelers to Korea: when shopping for a prepaid calling card, either buy one with a magnetic stripe, if you can find such a thing, or bring at least one 100 won coin and make sure your calling card has a toll-free number starting with 080. Most pay phones either take only mag stripe cards or require a coin deposit to get a dial tone.) But all along I had half-expected to land in Korea and suddenly be overwhelmed by the insanity of moving to a country where I don't speak the language to perform a job I've never done. What actually ended up happening, as I was waiting in line to board the EPIK bus to orientation in Jeonju, was that I realized the following two things:

1) If the job sucks, I can quit and come home. (I'm not actually going to do that because I would be out a lot of money, unemployed and possibly barred from re-entering Korea if I didn't quit following the terms of my contract, but it's not impossible.)

2) This is basically just another temp job, like all the millions I've done before, except this time I'm actually getting some training.

We were spirited away by bus from Incheon to Jeonju almost immediately after landing, so all I've really seen of Korea so far is the area surrounding the Jeonju University campus and what I could see out of the steamed windows of the bus on the way here. I have, however, observed a few extremely awesome things:

- Somewhere not too far from Incheon there's a Niagara Hotel. I believe it was a Best Western. This makes me laugh because I'm from Niagara Falls and therefore Niagara Falls is no longer a romantic notion to me in any way. I actually went to Niagara Falls before I left to look for souvenirs to bring as gifts, and the American side was literally a ghost town, other than the Seneca casino. When I told my Mom I would be driving to the Falls past 5PM she acted like I would be driving through Johannesburg or Port Au Prince . The whole thing was just kind of sad.
- They have 7-Eleven here. It was the first place I managed to get a working phone card and film. God Bless 7-Eleven.
- They must have pizza here because we passed a Domino's truck on the way to Jeonju and the pizza that was pictured on the side was just INSANE.
- We also passed a pink Mary Kay Hyundai Sonata. God Bless America.
- Today on the way back from Lotte Mart (which is kind of like Korean Super Wal-Mart) I was passed by a blond Korean gentleman taking a sharp corner on a motorbike. He had no helmet, was smoking and was steering with one hand while talking on a cell phone with the other. God Bless Anime.

Currently in Jeonju we're going through orientation, which consists of speeches, events, lectures, "Survival Korean" classes and Korean Movie Night every night at 8:20. (Last night's selection, "Le Grand Chef," was not really on par with great Korean films such as "Dragon Wars" and "Attack The Gas Station!") It's also apparently consisted of a lot of beer and soju consumption, although so far I've managed to sleep (or watch a lackluster movie) through every night's madness. Socially, certain aspects of orientation have been a little awkward for me. For example, every meal has been like lunch on the first day of high school. The only difference is that there's at least 500 people here (which is a lot more than we ever had in the cafeteria at the same time in my high school) and since I know I'm probably never going to see most of them ever again (unless they end up in Gyeongsangbuk-do) I don't feel especially motivated to get to know all of them. Meh, it'll pass. Plus, it's nothing that a little beer and soju won't solve. Gotta run, the pack of rowdy Westerners is on its way out for the night...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

On The Road To Find Out (part 2)

As I’m writing this I’m somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. (Unfortunately I won’t be able to post this until I land. Apparently the modern miracle of WiFi on planes has not quite reached Asiana Airlines’ trans-Pacific flights yet. Not that I’m complaining—it’s pretty amazing that any airplanes have WiFi. Internet in the air! What a country!) I have no idea what time it is, although my watch is still set to Eastern time and the video display in front of me is flashing the current times in LA and Seoul on a regular basis. Time is kind of relative when you’re on a red eye over the Pacific.

I had a great time in New York. Got to hang out with a lot of old friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in years. (Even some of the ones with kids! They don’t all get out much, you know, on account of the kids.) I remember one of the last times I visited New York, I got off the subway at Grand Central some time around rush hour and thought, “Man, I don’t know if I could ever live here again.” Once you’ve been gone it’s hard to imagine jumping back into the crowds, the expense and the long subway rides. This time around the town seemed a lot more… manageable? Amicable? I’m not sure. Probably it all had a lot more to do with my state of mind. It’s easier to enjoy any place when you know you’ve got a good salary coming and you don’t have to squeeze every dime until it screams. (Not that I was on a spending spree or anything, but you know how it is, New York has a way of getting into your wallet.)

It also probably had a lot to do with the last year and a half in LA, which was not a fun time to be in the film business in California. I’ll admit, I’m going to owe the city of LA an explanation for all the trash I’ve been talking about it if I end up back there. I mean, there’s things I like about LA… the weather, the Dodgers, absurdly large, sloppy hamburgers (I’ve probably enjoyed that aspect a little too much), running into random directors at movie screenings, the lax speed limit enforcement on the I-10 going west between the hours of 10PM and 5AM, and of course all the friends I’ve left behind. An increasing number of my New York friends are actually moving out west as of late. Unfortunately, with the lack of decent work and the broken government it’s hard to focus on the good things instead of the other things: the traffic, the persistent layers of dust from the air pollution, the fact that the whole city acts like it’s made of sugar every time there’s a light rainfall, Beverly Hills snobs who cock-block West Side public transportation (no offense to my very reasonable friends in Beverly Hills), Orange County Republicans, liberals who care more about chickens than civil rights, people from Ohio who move to the desert, build giant strip malls and still insist on watering their lawns (to quote the late, great Sam Kinison, “YOU LIVE IN A FUCKING DESERT!!!”), going to bars where everyone seems to be more worried about looking good than having a good time, anyone wearing anything by that fucking Ed Hardy designer… I think it all boils down to the fact that I hate living in a place where it seems like most people’s aspirations are to look good, show off, smile for the camera, stand in lines and spend the most money on the least important shit, and the people with decent aspirations and dreams just seem to end up getting trampled underfoot.

That said, I’m trying to keep in mind that everywhere looks nicer when you’re a tourist. I mean, I hated Buffalo when I was growing up there—it was boring, it was economically depressed, and there just didn’t seem to be much for anyone with any sort of ambition to do there. Now that I’m older and I’ve seen a little more of the world, it seems a lot nicer. We’ve still got an NFL team (barely), the people are notoriously nice and friendly, and since the housing bust completely missed Western New York because the housing values never went up, everyone my age there is taking advantage of the new federal tax credits and buying houses. Sure, it’s still boring, but sometimes as you get older your priorities change. I mean, for an $80K house and a job at M&T maybe I could give up on Pho, decent Mexican and Major League Baseball…

All this coming from the guy who’s on a plane to Korea. Sheesh.

At any rate, I guess I should be glad that I’ve had the opportunity to take on this amazing job opportunity, as well as travel across the country and say “so long for now” to so many people. So in closing, I hope you’ve all enjoyed my mostly unedited rant, and I’ll see you again as soon as I get some vacation time or they fire me and throw me out of the country for some reason. Maybe I should use the time I’ve got left to start reviewing my scant notes on how to speak and read Korean…

Friday, February 12, 2010

This is what I've been reduced to...

OK, so actually I took this photo before I had to add one more suitcase because I figured out both my suitcases were at or exceeding the airline weight limit. Better to know you're getting charged for one bag and have some flexibility than end up with two overweight bags at the airport, right? Right? But my point is, I could live out of the trunk of a car right now if I had to. The only keys I have on my right now are for the locks on my suitcases. Kind of a strange feeling.

So, stories from the road... What can I publish now that my family has this blog address...?

I'm happy to report that I believe this is the first cross-country car trip I've ever made that didn't end with a major auto problem or a major storm, or both. The storms on the east coast did slow down my friend I was staying with in Nashville, but I did have an enjoyable evening with her boyfriend that I'd never met before. Seriously, it was fun though. Chicago was good, although I'm a little disappointed we couldn't get in to the hipster metal burger joint that names all of their burgers after metal bands. (I did get to peek in the door... Do they really have whiskey on tap? Is that possible?) The three days I spent in Buffalo were productive, but a few things did end up getting left by the wayside, and it would have been nice if things had been a little less stressful. Hopefully New York will be a little more laid back... and I'll still be able to finish the last few things I need to do before I leave. Like finish the pre-orientations classes. And learn Korean.

Party Saturday night in Astoria--check Mark's Facebook page.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

On The Road To Find Out (part 1)

Writing this from a Motel 6 in Rockwall, TX, just east of Dallas. Good trip so far. Highlights include:

-Getting the hell out of Los Angeles
-Having an excuse to drink coffee and listen to music for twelve hours a day (iPod on "Shuffle by Album" is a nice little trip down memory lane.)
-Visiting Sherwin, Mitch and Amy in Las Cruces
-Getting tagged at 12 MPH over the speed limit in El Paso and getting off with a warning (Thank Christ it was El Paso Police and not the highway patrol. I've heard stories about those guys and anyone with out-of-state plates.)

The last four days in LA were crazy. On one hand, I got to spend some quality time with friends watching Lost, getting dim sum in Arcadia and fighting a Slinkee in the Bradbury building. On the other hand, it took me two more days than I had planned to get out of my apartment and into storage, and I ended up having to make at least two unscheduled trips to storage to retrieve stuff or get rid of stuff that didn't fit in my car. On top of that, I've barely had time to touch EPIK's pre-orientation material (which is apparently due by the first week of class instruction) or the ESL class I signed up for (which is not required but would really help me do a better job at performing this job.)

Had to divert to Dallas instead of Oklahoma City due to the weather. Revised plan for the next few days appears to be: Friday night in Nashville, Saturday lunch in Louisville, Saturday night and Sunday in Chicago, Monday arrival in Buffalo. Still haven't decided exactly what to do about the Albany/New York leg of the trip.

Now, better get on some of those classes...