Korea, Random Rambles
Comments 16

Suicide is Painless

Greetings from Paris, readers!

The Paris of Gyeongsangnamdo, that is.

That’s in Korea, for that 100% of you who’ve never heard of it. The real Paris is way out of my league! Yes, I now call South Gyeongsangnam Province home.

That was such a weird sentence, I’m going to say it again.

I now call South Gyeongsangnam Province home.

Nope, still weird.

Anyway, maybe some graphics will help:

Perhaps a little more detail:

Man, those images took approximately .000000001 of a second to upload. There are certain things I’m going to love about living here.

I got here Thursday night, flying in to Seoul, nine hours or so from Brisbane, and a couple of hours later a local flight landed me in Busan, second-largest city in South Korea and about as far as you can get in this reasonably small country (the size of Iceland, if that helps!) from a certain Orwellian despotic dynasty an hour or so’s flight north.

That’s a comfort, though I must say nobody down here seems to give a damn.

I was met at Gimhae by the Englishman who recruited me, and two American teachers who’ll be working in the same district. We were put up that night in a hotel in Changwon, the provincial capital, and Friday morning had us at the Board of Education with “Mr Kim”, the high official who “interviewed” me by phone weeks earlier, going through various sometimes-painful administrative procedures before being entrusted to the care of our respective Korean co-teachers.

(“Mr Kim”, whom I’ll grace with a pseudonym in the expectation that I might be bitching about him a bit on this blog, pronounced that last word “cottagers”, and I kept imagining little old Korean couples tending their cottage gardens and manning a spinning wheel. That is where all humour ends with regard to Mr Kim.)

“Dorothy”, as she asked to be called, did a sterling job in taking me to my new school, a “middle school” (ages around 14-16) in Gimhae City, and introducing me to some of the teachers and the dignified female principal, who wore a fur stole. Only Dorothy and a couple of other teachers apparently spoke any English. I was still very, very tired from the flight and the weeks of hellish prep that preceded it. I almost passed out in my chair while various incomprehensible discussions were held around — and about — me.

Then we went flat-hunting. The government is giving me free digs, you see — but what I didn’t realise was that they hadn’t been chosen yet! Never mind, I was quickly shuttled with an agent to a succession of tiny “houses”; not apartments, Dorothy said — apartments are expensive! These would probably qualify as small townhouses back home, or “mansions” in Japanese English.

The first was a tiny dump with a skanky mutt tethered outside and was about five paces from my school!


The second was better, but something about the underwear (two uppers, one lower) hanging in the still furnished room told me I might have to wait for that one.

The third was great — and here I am, sitting on the floor and tapping at my beloved MacBook Pro which rests on an upturned box. My stuff lies in grotesque piles all over the floor.

How’s this for speed? I met the landlady, who lives next door, said, “I’ll take it,” and it was mine. I plugged in the laptop via the cable she handed me, but couldn’t get it to work. Dorothy took me out to get furnishings and stuff (the government buys me $500 worth of my choice) and while we were in the store, she got a phone call from “Mrs Yang”, the landlady (no English). Seems the guy from the internet provider was already there!

When we got back home I was connected. And did I mention that my super-fast internet is free? Please form orderly lines as you queue up to hate me.

It’s freezing over here and some of my $500 went on beautiful velour bedding and a nice electric pad to heat up the splendid bed the place came with. I was feeling a bit under the weather, sneezing like a banshee, and later that night there was a knock on the door. It was Mrs Yang, and she’d brought soup:

What else can I tell you? Too much for one post. I’d like to thank you all for sticking with me through those last few weeks of whining and sighing and the various mania I described to keep me occupied while I went through an incredibly stressful period of unemployment, soul-searching, and depression, followed by the hell of documentation, interviews, and the very worst of all: waiting.

I didn’t want to talk about my new plans on TGTW, or even to most of my friends, partly ’cause I just felt like disappearing, partly as I’m superstitious nowadays about revealing your hand before you play it.

I had big plans for this year, a six- or seven-country epic I was keeping to myself. Then I lost my job and it all went to hell. Korea seemed at first like desperation, but it wasn’t hard to adapt to the idea of a (relatively, for my profession) well-paid job, airfares, apartment and job security in — and this is the very best part — a country that is 75% or so mountainous with a huge hiking subculture.

I love it here already. Just stepping out of my sweet little pad is an adventure! I don’t know what’s going on! I don’t speak a word of the language, and I haven’t seen a western face in three days. I’ve already tasted some of those mountains, have pounded dozens of kilometres of dusty, dirty pavement (it’s called being lost) and I’m hungry for more. I needed this place a lot more than it needed me.

I’m really excited about documenting my unfolding (unravelling?) adventure on my blog. I hope 2012 is a great year for us all, and that you enjoy the newest phase of this weird little ramble I call Life.

And you can do the same thing if you please…

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote



  1. Korean Goat? Who would have guessed?! You truly are the the master of the ‘big leap’ when it comes to new adventures. I’m already jealous about your internet and that bowl of food is looking quite tasty. Hopefully I’ll get to read about a DMZ traverse which I don’t doubt you’re planning!

    It’s 40 °C here in Melbourne today, so I’m also envious about your chilly weather! Best wishes for the year and remember, don’t get too organised or happy or your blog might become a little mushy 🙂

    • Korean goat? Sounds…tasty. Actually I like the cold if it’s not extreme and if I’m moving. I’m freezing sitting here typing this — too tight to turn on the heat! But bed is lovely.

      Don’t worry about my being organised. I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING.

  2. Oh, I guess that’s why you haven’t replied to my text earlier asking for a coffee catchup tomorrow…..

    Well, happy new year and all that…. hope Korean hiking is kinder to you than Japan was.

    • Yeah, sorry it never worked out that other time we were going to meet up. I am not bullshitting when I say I had a hundred things to do each day, and when the job finished I didn’t go into town anymore.

      Japan and me are intertwined. I think about her all the time. We’re not through yet. And this year or next I will be getting a boat over to do some more hiking.

  3. Carlo says

    And how’s this for a bit of trivia – the Bell 47 that features in the MASH clip also hangs in the MOMA in NYC. Signing off now, Mr Copterspotter

    • Thanks, Copterman. I was talking to a woman yesterday whose father fought in the KW. I think this was just about the only corner where conflict didn’t rage – she said they really worked hard to protect Busan. But I know very little about the geography of the conflict so far.

  4. Barb says

    You finally got there!
    And I do enjoy reading your blogs….

    • Thanks, Barbara! Yes, it was quite an ordeal but now I’m here and it seems worth the hassle — but let’s see how the teaching part goes…

  5. Korea, huh?
    I hear they’ve got good hiking gear that is cheap.
    I’ve also heard mixed reports about working there (guess it depends on who you’re working for – and who’s working!)
    Good luck, and remember I’m just over a body of water whose name we’ll discuss some other time.

    • Andrew, there are many, many horror stories about working for hagwon — Nova-type schools, many of which are run by families and treat their teachers very poorly. I’m working for the government so my conditions are guaranteed.

      And yes, there are outdoor-gear stores EVERYWHERE! This is bad as I am meant to be saving… I have already seen a Mont Bell store, and a Jack Wolfskin, and dozens of general winter/outdoor gear places. I do love Mont Bell, and I do love Jack Wolfskin — damn it.

  6. Hope it all goes well for you out there!

    You know those daft, useless factoids we carry round in our heads? I never hear mention of MASH without remembering that the Catholic priest in the MASH movie is played by the same guy who plays Odo in Star Trek Deep Space 9.

    • Same to you, mate. Looking forward to resuming following my motley collection of blogs, including yours, as I get settled here.

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