Monday, June 8, 2009

Final posts from Korea

Our last few days in Korea were pretty fun but they also had some low points for me. The night we went to the DMZ was our last night and we had dinner with the students who had been with us that week and would be coming to PSU to study. It was a nice dinner; I sat next to one and Dr. lee. Jake and I learned later that Dr. Lee has a bit of a darker side, according to the other students. They told us that, while Dr. Lee was very nice and friendly when he spoke English, when he spoke Korean he got pretty strict and pushy. Not sure what to make of that; he’s always been good to us, but it does explain a lot.

That night our group all went out to do something that I probably should not explicitly state, but I will say that it was completely legal to do so for us in Korea and we all had a wonderful time. Or at least I think we did. I’m not one-hundred percent sure, while the rest of the group played “Kiss” (which is more of “truth” than “dare” if you want to compare it to an American game) I was singing Irish and Scottish love songs-Whiskey in the Jar, Whiskey You’re the Devil, Cod Liver Oil and the Orange Juice, and MacPherson’s Rant-not of my own direct choosing; I just started to lose interest in the game as I was not vital to the game that they were playing. Going home was a lot of fun, though I think we were kind of loud. No one paid much attention to me, so I went ahead and marched home, staying up front, with the people leading us home. We all made it home safely-though we didn’t go to bed right away (if Jake or ever gives me trouble, I’ve got a nice little video that’ll be some marvelous blackmail).

The next day we bid the rest of the group farewell, for they were going home. I guess we were still feeling the effects of the previous night, because our goodbye was much more civil and fond than I would have previously guessed. Jake then proceeded to go back to bed, while I busied myself cleaning laundry and preparing for our departure in two days. Around 1300 we met Yuri down in Itaewon, who took us to grab some food; though none of us were feeling too hungry we all tried to eat. We then left to go meet Swan, somewhere near the university, but she got lost somehow and we waited for a while.

We had a pretty good Korean dinner-can’t for the life of me remember what it is called; it’s some sort of noodle soup, but it was damn good (in the words of Hai-Xiao). Still not too hungry, we ate, but not much; which is a pity because I enjoyed it a lot. Then the girls took us to a night club that was having some promotional deal so everything was free. I got to see the Korean version of a “whigger” and it helped cement my disgust with the modern pop-culture. We left around 10, said our goodbyes and made our way home. I went to bed because the next day Mark was coming by to take me to his church-a bit odd, but I didn’t want to make things awkward between me and Mark and he seemed pretty intent on taking me there. Turns out, it’s the largest church in the world. No AC in there, but it was kind of cool because we sang a Korean hymn set to the tune of “Marching Through Georgia.”

Jake didn’t come, because he wasn’t feeling well and he wasn’t inclined to go to something he didn’t believe in. That may have been a bit of a mistake because we didn’t eat until dinner except for a snack I ate with Mark before church. It was this toast thing with eggs and jam and it was amazing. We went back to pick up Jake and then Mark dropped us off at the Korean War Museum. I thought the place was extremely cool and I’m a little disappointed we didn’t have more time; though Jake seemed to want to move on though. I really liked all the tanks and all the information it had; from a totally new prospective (the ROK’s of course); though it was funny read about how “ROK forces stopped the KPA and began pushing them back, aided by a landing at Inchon by Southern forces,” because I don’t recall hearing all that much about ROK Marines (though I know there were a few there), Inchon being a primarily U.S. operation. Not to mention Chicomm and Nork sources all say how they focused on fighting U.S. forces.

In any case, the museum was neat. We decided to go to Itaewon for dinner, because I was having a craving for Middle Eastern food. We were extremely fortunate because one of those street pamphlet people handed us one for an Arabian restaurant. We decided to go there and were extremely satisfied by our decision. The food was not bad; though Habashi House in KC does better falafals, but the kebab were decent. We got to smoke a bit of hookah and that was Jake’s first time. We had fun, then went back to our hotel to pack.

Jake did his laundry, but spent the majority of that night talking with Yuri on the phone, while I busied myself with my preparations and then getting into arguments with people back home because of my black mood. It wasn’t really a good night, but the next day we got up and Jake started to pack while I went out looking for some gimbap to grab for lunch. I found a cheap little restaurant, had a roll; bought Jake a bit and a little extra for myself later. We then went to the airport, the sorry details of which have already been recorded in my previous writings on this blog. But it’s totally bull how they charged us that fee.

In the end what did I think of Korea? Korea’s a difficult country for me to understand. On one hand, I had a really great time meeting people and I saw some really wonderful stuff. And I think from my previous blogs you can see what a wonderful time I have had and all the positive stuff. So I think I’ll have to look at the negative in this post.
On the other hand I’ve heard some things from others and I saw some stuff that hinted at a bit of a darker side in the relationship between the U.S. and the R.O.K. Some of the stuff I had kind of heard from Elly and I’d seen during anti-US protests. Beliefs that make me question whether the South Koreans really want us as an ally and the only reason they tolerate us is because they’re afraid of North Korea. Hell, from what I saw, some of them think they should work harder to build ties with North Korea while beginning to sever the ties with America. From what I hear about Roh’s presidency, that was his political philosophy.

I don’t think some Koreans really like Americans apart from anything other than our power. They respect that, but would be just as happy to see us all take a great running jump off a cliff if we didn’t have it. I suppose that’s the fate of a super power. No real friends and plenty of enemies (we’ll get on China later). The stuff I hear from even reasonable people makes me very annoyed. Of course they’re eager to complain about how the U.S. treats them, not really considering the benefits they get from the alliance-military security, nuclear security, an extremely favorable treat with regards to the U.S. camps in Korea, and a highly profitable trade (for both sides). Not to mention how poorly they treat smaller countries themselves-Philippines and Vietnam come to mind-and what bloody benefit do they bring to them? No security, trade agreements that are more unfair than the worst of the US-ROK ones (which are pretty even handed-what’s wrong with having the Koreans allow more beef in their country-which is safe-so that they can ship more cars to ours-how’s GM doing these days?)
Some of the stuff also just irritates me; “US didn’t unify the peninsula just so that they can sell weapons to South Korea.” OK…so 38,000 combat deaths and many more wounded just for arms sales? Let’s not forget that now the R.O.K. is not doing too badly for itself-K1A1s, not M1A1s… Or let’s ask the Chicomms and Norks how they felt about unification? Why the hell should we have risked World War III and tens of millions of lives (and probable nuclear war) to unify a peninsula with a population of (then) less than 40 million? Nichevo; can’t be helped. The fate of the mighty American grizzly: to life out his life alone and die alone. Teddy called it on that one: “The world will never love us. Fear us, maybe even respect us, but never love us. We’re to independent, strong headed, and a bit arrogant.”

Another problem is how emotional the Korean people are. When Roh was alive, he was facing charges of corruption that were beginning to look pretty accurate and the country was howling for his blood. He jumps off a cliff and now he’s a national hero? People condemned his presidency as a failure and him as (apparently accurately) a hypocrite crook. Now he’ll be remembered as one of the finest presidents Korea has ever had (not that he’s got all that much to compete with-military dictators and all that). So, I think this whole morning process was pretty much a whole hunk of bull. But, what can you do? That’s the natural culture. I’m sure that these negatives are related to some positive somewhere, even if I can’t quite see it; and Korea does have a lot of positives going for it. I’ll miss the country very much.

I think that’s enough for now. I’m almost caught up; I’ll try to get into Kazakhstan in the next few days.

Also, here's a few recipies from our time here.
Kazakhstan Recipies:
Alex and Jake's Totally Awesome Kazakh Stew

2 Carrots (one small one, one freakishly huge)
4 potatoes (cut up midway through the boiling process)
1/8 Salami Moscovskaya

Start by washing the carrots and potatoes. Cut the carrrots (but not the potatoes) and then put them into a pot of water. Bring to a boil. Realize that you need to cut up the potatoes so fish them out and cut them into smaller chunks. Put them back in-try not to drop them in, or you'll splash boiling water onto your arm and that sucks. Then realize that you need some more flavor, so slice up some sausage (Salami Moscovskaya is a good safe bet-best sausage we've had in Kazakhstan so far) and plop 'em in, adding a little salt for flavor. Once the stew stops smelling like dirt and the potatoes and carrots looked cooked, stop and enjoy. Add a little sour cream to make it authentically Russo-Kazakh. For a hardy breakfast, save the left overs and then drop in two eggs the next morning, while reboiling the stew.

Alex and Jake's Totally Awesome Kazakh Pan Fry:

1/2 giant carrot that you didn't use when making the Totally Awesome Kazakh Stew (TM)
2 potatoes
1/4 Italian Bolognia like sausage (Salmi Moscovskaya would probably be better, so if you have it use it)
1 tomato
Vegitable Oil

Slice carrots into small pieces and potatoes into small cubes or wedges. Slice Sausage and tomatoes. Throw some oil in a pan and start to cook the carrots. After they have had a little while to start, add in the potatoes. Once these have een browned and are starting to looked cooked, add the sausage. Feel free to add salt for flavoring anytime during this process. Once the sausage and the rest of the ingredients are almost cooked add the sliced tomotoes and cook them for a short while. Remove from heat and enjoy with Chili-Ketchup, sour cream, or even mayonnaise.

If you can; get some onions, garlic, or other spices. I'm sure this would be even better with more options. Our menus are a bit limited by what is in our fridge at the moment.

So Goodbye Korea, hopefully we'll see you again


  1. Alex, awesome blog. Mom put a bottle of Chipotle Tabasico sauce in the box she sent, so I can't wait to hear your new recipes when that arrives.

  2. Thanks Dad; I'm interested to see that as well. Hope it'll arrive soon...

  3. Glad you added the photos-- how about some of your "totally awesome" (TM) cooking? Have you received the lesson materials I sent by email?

  4. Yes, we did. We plan on going out today and getting some flour and trying a pan fry with some roux and a little bit of Kazakh beer for flavoring.

    Package hasn't come in yet; which kind of stinks, I may need another one-we have three classes of students and I've got a Korean flag in my flat but no American one. 4th of July is coming up. Did you get my message about the DVDs not working on any DVD player?

  5. Yes, not sure how I can help with the DVDs. do you want us to send some 4th of July stuff?

  6. I'm not worried about our DVDs; I mean for you guys, make sure you didn't get swindled. Some 4th of July stuff would be cool. Maybe a flag for our house?

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