Japan, Korea, Urban Walking
Comments 12

Lost Dragonflies / A Beer in Cafe Africa

Hey, all. It’s been a while, eh?

Well, first the bad news (with me, you always get the bad news first): my significant other is no more. Relax, not Kate — we’re doing fine! At least, we were last time I checked. No, my once-trusty MacBook Pro bit the dust yesterday, a crippling blow to the world of medium-quality blogging. She just up and died after a mere three years of (admittedly heavy-duty) service. Suddenly I feel like the Lone Ranger without his Native American trusty steed.

I think I’ve tracked down an Apple service place in Busan, and if I can find it (last mention of the joint online was in 2011!) tomorrow after work, I hope to find out if it’s just a battery problem or similar, or whether I’ll have to hold out till I visit Kate in August to throw yet more dollars at the poor starving urchins at Apple Inc.

I’m trying not to get too depressed, but it’s my photo editing that’s really going to suffer — and with it my major form of relaxation each evening, especially since I hit the wrong one of the 275 buttons on my remote, rendering myself happily TV-less. Since upgrading my editing software, I typically play with images for 2-3 hours or more each day — on my recent Seoul trip I returned with almost 500…

Luckily I use Apple’s automatic backup to a hard drive, and my photo library lives on another external drive. In fact I got super-paranoid a few weeks back and backed up the photos and the tens of thousands of songs in my iTunes library to another drive. It pays to listen to your inner paranoid.

So I was getting ready to face a photo-free blogging future when today as I rambled past the greenhouses near Hell Skool I remembered the iPad…and the cheapo iPhoto app I’d never used before today. It felt weird, but kinda fun taking a few snaps with the Pad as I strolled in a light rain. Koreans love using their tablets as cameras, but holding the thing is fraught with peril. Still…fun.

So, what else can I tell you? It’s exam time, which is great news for teachers like me — the kind that would really rather do anything else but teach. I fled when tests concluded at lunchtime, enjoying the dark skies and slightly lower temps, though there’s a lot more sticky moisture hanging in the air of late than manages to make it to the ground. The greenhouses — roses, mostly — were silent and practically deserted, just the odd lonesome farmer on a bike or stately ajumma taking shelter beneath a stadium-sized sun visor. And me, brandishing my tablet, my camera hanging unused at my waist beneath the flimsy shelter of a dragonfly-motif bandana.

I lost the bandana — a cool souvenir from Tokyo circa 2003 featuring my fave insect, the ubiquitous tombou (“tom-bow”) — for a while but found it again after much scanning of the muddy lanes. Me and losing stuff, you know my history. As well as sunglasses I’ve lost at least three lens caps over here — including one that was tethered to the camera. In Seoul I lost another, a really hard-to-replace one for the fisheye adaptor. When I get in these walking reveries, a lot of stuff falls by the wayside.

Seoul? Yeah, I called in sick last Friday and jumped on the first bus of the day at 6:45. Four hours and a mere $30 later I was in a city with more people than my entire country, neither a care nor a plan in the world. It was hot up there but I loved it, and the theme turned out to be water. I walked the Cheonggyecheon banks for the third time through the heart of downtown, climbed Acha-San with its ancient hill fortifications, and spent Saturday and Sunday having a blast on the banks of the Han, walking miles and miles, passing under dozens of cool bridges and over a couple as well. It felt good to sweat, and to be free, and knowing the crippling fear of “doing the wrong thing” could have kept me, utterly miserable, in that awful school for another long Friday.

Can’t wait to share some pictures when the technology cooperates.

And then a few hours ago I made it, pretty thirsty, to Cafe Africa. My quest for the perfect — or at least a decent — coffee house continues. This place was a decent find — hipster-quality red armchairs, cute knick-knacks and the manager’s propensity for playing cocktail jazz and Frank Sinatra — for HOURS ON END. It gets tiresome after you’ve heard the same LP three times in a row and it’s still playing next time you drop by, but it’s infinitely better than the wailing spewk and numbing tweeek of K-pop played in every other cafe in Korea. I swear they all share the same CD as well as the same menu.

Africa’s latte is the second-best in Jangyu, but the cup size is tiny and the price is outrageous: $5 a pop! I paid less than that in New York City among the genuine hipsters!

Today I got myself a beer since I can almost smell the upcoming weekend, and it cost me FIVE DOLLARS for the cheapest on his (crappy) menu: a Budweiser! You can buy one in a convenience store for $2! The price of solitary hipsterdom.

That’s the other weird thing about that joint: I’m always the only customer. Always. And even though I’m the only loser keeping the guy out of the gutter, he still acts pissed off to see me darken his doorway! He’s never been remotely warm. I’m starting to suspect the place is a mafia front…

I started this interminable post there, and sometime during the fourth run-through of ‘In the Wee Small Hours’ the manager said, “Excuse me, we closing in five minutes,” — and I was thrown out of Africa and into a soaking rain.

Now I’m back here in utterly unhip So Pung, where the coffee’s good but the music is ruinous to the soul. Ask Kate — she has to put up with it too whenever we skype.

As for the other Katies, 1 & 2, they’re doing pretty well, considering. I now cook them breakfast most mornings — pasta or rice, mackerel or minced beef or pork, eggs, vegetables — and toss them bones and/or dessert afterwards. They usually have no water, and it’s really hot of late. They’re desperately bored and also seem to have worms, so I’ve ordered some treatment from the States. Apart from all that, I believe they’re looking better, and I really love them. Taking care of them is the best thing I do each day.

Finally, I’ve started working on a book, a walking memoir/adventure novel based on my time here, after a lot of encouragement from Kate and my old friend Chris Lynch. I’m really excited and have a ton of ideas. Very early days, but it feels like it might end up somewhere in the marshy literary no-man’s land bordered by On the Road with less driving and more punk rock, Roads to Sata (see my Armchair Hobo page) with more rage, John Muir with less God, Bryson with more truth and a WWII escape novel with less digging and (arguably) fewer Nazis.

I have a hell of an ending in mind, an outrageous caper and an adventure more excellent than any I’ve had in this country so far. Now all I have to do is live it…

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote


  1. Phew, jolly glad to hear it’s the Mac and not not Kate that is no more. Glad to hear you are still looking after those poor mutts. And as for the news about the book, woohoo (technical term)! Now don’t tell us any more about it until it’s written, or you’ll never write it.

    • Yup, the book mention was so I’d have another reason not to give up when the going gets tough: public ridicule! I’m pretty motivated with this project, in part as I’m going to have a lot of free time to fill next year when I retire from this game! I once wrote 80-something thousand words of an aimless, drifting novel about the Appalachian Trail, just to see if I had the stomach for it. It was largely ridiculous, but had its moments.

      But not another mention from me — you’ll be seeing me on Oprah soon enough…

  2. I feel you on the iPad. I took my LPs with me to Amsterdam, where I was doing research in the archives (leaving my computer at home). At first I was really embarrassed to take any photos with it…I quickly got over it (though never stopped feeling like a capitalist-class douche). In the end, I did get a few gorgeous images from the dumb tablet.

    Good luck with your writing! 🙂

    • Thanks, Melissa! The iPad images always look nice as you’re taking them — that huge screen — but I found processing them on that clunky iPhoto app pretty annoying and just rushed through them where normally I’d spend ages tidying up a shot. Actually, writing that post on the iPad via the super-clunky WordPress app was pretty draining as well. I don’t understand why this major platform has such a weak, user-unfriendly app for phones and tablets — very buggy and tons of annoying, pointless messages every time you hit “preview” etc…

  3. Sue says

    Oh no!! Taking photos with a tablet – that is so not stealth. We need some more dog pictures though, I’m sure the dogs won’t mind it. This is very exciting news about the book… it will be excellent I’m sure – and funny.

    • All my stealth has flown out the window, Sue. I still take some pictures the old way but they’ll languish till I sort out this laptop business. Took a few shots and some vid of the gals with the iPad this morning. I do believe they’re looking better — when I say they’re eating better than me, I’m actually not joking. I often go without dinner, etc, and I’ve been eating the same sandwich for lunch for 16 months (it’s a big sandwich)!

  4. So you were so immersed in the experience of photography that you took an artisans view of an abandoned cloth, wandered off, got drunk, only to later realise that the dragonfly bandana was your own, and is now lost. Have I correctly interpreted the subtext here.

  5. I’ve never had a Budweiser before. Is it that bad? Surely it’s not worse than XXXX? That stuff should only be used for detergent.

    It’s good to hear Korea has given you some story ammunition. A comfortable life might be relaxing, but it makes for a bloody boring book.

    • I’m enjoying working on the book — still totally embryonic, working out how I want to approach and organise it. Certainly won’t be short on material though!

      Budweiser: it may not be a great drink, but it’s certainly a cheap drink in these parts. And one rule I’m sticking to is never touching Korean beer. I can’t trust a drop called HITE or CASS.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s