Korea, Random Rambles, USA
Comments 20

Return to the Scene of the Crime

I went through the wrong gate at Beijing Airport on my way back from the States, and instead of being released into the toxin bath of the Beijing night, and somehow locating my $50 hotel, was funnelled into the hermetically sealed wasteland of the cavernous departure lounge.

Air Travel is Good for the Soul

Air Travel is Good for the Soul

There was no escape; it was a long 14 hours. But after three Carlsbergs and the worst Chinese food I’ve ever eaten, I found myself oddly relaxed. It was quiet, mostly, the bathrooms were magnificent, and the ranks of machine-gun-toting goons you might expect to find at Beijing Airport were nowhere to be seen. I noted that Facebook could not be accessed via the heavily censored internet and très crappy wifi — probably for the best.

On Wednesday morning, after an hour or so’s sleep, I was enjoying the awe-inspiring crapper one last time when a fellow passenger let fly with the most tremendous hack-and-spit. Then another, and another. Unmistakably a Korean, and he was wisely getting it all out before we boarded our flight — ugh — “home”. Even Air China, whose attendants fling meals at passengers as though they’re slopping hogs, probably has rules against the hack-and-spit.

Stepping from the plane onto the Busan tarmac, I resisted the temptation to faint in the appalling heat, and the interior of the shuttle bus smelled like a garlic-harvest festival. Within an hour I’d experienced more garlic breath, prolonged public make-up application, copious tobacco clouds, nerve-shattering phone conversations and the much-missed homicidal Route 21 bus driver.

Home, sweet home.

At least my bed felt good — I’d be seeing a lot of it over the ensuing couple of days. Thursday, mercifully, was a holiday, and I looked forward to seeing “my” dogs. I’d asked Chloe, who’d contacted me after reading of their plight on TGTW, to check on them during my nine days in Upstate New York, and they were apparently doing fine, considering. I got up before dawn (breaking later, though it’s still hot as hell)…

Dawn over the Daecheong

Dawn over the Daecheong

..and stumbled, still jet-lagged, up the creek road with bones and water.

The dogs were gone. So were their kennels:

Kennel Site, Deserted

Kennel Site, Deserted

May Ann's Chain, Kibble Pellets & Nurseries

Mary Ann’s Chain, Kibble Pellets & Nurseries

I was dumbfounded. Shocked — but not really, as this was the scenario I’d often told Kate I dreaded. I wavered, unable to comprehend it, pacing back and forth. Gone and…dead? Just relocated? Why move the kennels? The whole area was a trash pile; over here, people generally let things lie when they’re no longer needed.

I was at once flooded with rage and the most profound grief. It sounds pathetic, but those mutts — Kate and I had christened them Ginger and Mary Ann — were the closest things to real friends I had here. I’d been visiting them daily for months, increasingly blatantly, with food, water and affection.

Here they are the day before I left for America:

Mary Ann & Ginger Demonstrate Sitting Perfection

Mary Ann & Ginger Demonstrate Sitting Perfection

I’d taught them to sit before meals — it had only taken two visits. Many hot nights I would take a beer up there and sit with them a while in the dark. Their joy was so spontaneous and overwhelming, the big British pointer leaping onto her back legs, lunging at me with her front paws with such force that I feared she’d break her neck on her chain; the little Brittany setter, wheezing with the worms apparently constricting her heart, yapping with delight when I produced the bones, standing to “embrace” my leg, or just settling her head on my lap as I sipped my beer and went over and over my plans for their liberation.

Because — yes — that’s what Kate and I had been discussing for months: me freeing them one night, walking them to a vet where they’d get their rabies shots, then taking them on a monthlong adventure up the coast and back (there’s a 30-day minimum between the shots and taking dogs into America), putting them on a plane and transporting with me to Kate’s place and a life and freedom they couldn’t imagine. I’d been agonising over the details and the hazards for so long, and we’d walked through the plan at such length, it seemed a fait accompli.

With the dogs gone, there was no good reason for me to be here.

Just behind the kennel site, among even more weeds, trash and desolation, a miserable white pup, which they used to keep chained back behind the plant nurseries my dogs were “guarding”, was now imprisoned, apparently their replacement. The poor beast, nervous and wary, was not even granted a kennel in the searing sun:

Koreans, a Dog-Loving People

Koreans, a Dog-Loving People

I sleepwalked a hundred metres up the road, past two more pairs of permanently chained “guard dogs” (a service station and another nursery)* and stopped again with another jolt of not-quite-shock. The whole hillside had been razed:

"Coming Soon: Yet More Convenience!"

“Coming Soon: Yet More Convenience!”

Again, I’d predicted this. The red flags that appeared in the weeks before my departure…

A White Flag Would Be More Appropriate

A White Flag Would Be More Appropriate

..presaged more enviro-genocide.

Believe me, I’ve seen a lot of red flags over here, and they always signal approaching excavators and men in hardhats. If my guess is right, a new road and perhaps yet another bridge will soon adorn the doomed Daecheong. A lot can happen in Korea in a week and a half.

So I’m lost. I feel like giving up and splitting earlier than the December 31 conclusion of my contract. Right now I’m alternating between depression and murderous rage towards that rat-bastard owner and the whole fucking country. I know, I’ve always been like that here, but this is far worse. Anyway, I’ll see how I feel after school resumes next week. My judgment at the moment may well be clouded by the oppressive heat, disrupted sleep patterns and inevitable comedown following a fantastic stay with Kate.

Meanwhile, some happier news that will rock the world of lowbrow literature: I’m blogging again! Obviously. I needed that break, what with the busted laptop, my secret trip to prepare for, and THREE consecutive “English camps” (Konglish for vacation English fun for selected students and unfortunate ESL teachers). Here I am enjoying the final one, the day before my flight:

Some of Us are Born to Teach

Teaching for Me is a Calling

It was a draining six-and-a-half months for Kate and I. During that time we skyped every night and about a dozen ass-dragging weeks ago commenced our countdown. I went via Fukuoka and Honolulu and the two 5,000-mile legs across the Pacific did not do any favours for a recurrent back injury that flared up right before camp #3. We did a lot of driving through northern New York State and each time I’d step from Kate’s van unable to stand straight.

Despite that handicap, which is just about mended, we had a fabulous time. At a cost of $650 I got this machine repaired at the Apple Store in Albany (apparently carrying a laptop in your pack in heavy rain is bad for computers — news for me) and I am now bloggable. I have dozens of potential posts pre-America in the to-do pile, plus some unfinished sagas (Seoul; the previous New York trip, etc) — but look forward to six or eight or 10 American posts starting soon.

Highlights of the trip included:

~ Kate’s Place ~

Echinaceas in Kate's Backyard

Echinaceas in Kate’s Enormous Backyard

~ Kate’s Badass Cat, Moecifer ~

Moecifer, Striped & Stunning

Moecifer: Stripes & Sunlight

~ A Family Dinner ~

Kate with Her Brothers The Dude & Ed

Kate with Her Brothers The Dude & Ed

~ Numerous Delightful Breakfasts (& Lunches & Dinners) ~

What a Breakfast

What a Breakfast: At the Good Morning Cafe, Ballston Spa

~ Strolls in Historic Parks & Gardens ~

Yaddo Rose Garden

Yaddo Rose Garden

~ Peaceful Battlefield Rambles ~

Saratoga Battlefield Monument

Saratoga Battlefield Monument

~ Numerous Graveyard Peregrinations ~

A Schuylerville Headstone

A Schuylerville Headstone

Kate Models the Latest Graveyard Attire

Kate Models the Latest Graveyard Attire

~ Some Forest Ambling ~

A Short Forest Stroll

An Hour to Find, 10 Minutes to Walk!

Near the Hudson Canal, Saratoga

Near the Hudson Canal, Saratoga

~ Return to Wing Road Farm ~

Wing Road Farm, Greenfield NY

Wing Road Coneflowers, Greenfield NY

Dude, Trouble, Kate, Doug, Graham, Kristen & Pouch, Wing Road Farm

Dude, Trouble, Kate, Doug, Graham, Kristen & Pouch, Wing Road Farm

~ Tons of Photography (Whittled Down to 850 Shots So Far) ~

Tons of Photography (Whittled Down to 850 So Far)

Me & a Friendly Bucket, Wing Rd Farm

~ Kate’s Sister & Brother-In-Law’s Place ~

Henhouse, Kristen & Doug's Place

Henhouse, Kristen & Doug’s

~ A Killer Adirondack High Peaks Day-Hike ~

Pouch, Nemo, Trouble & Dude at the Trailhead

Pouch, Nemo, Trouble & Dude at the Trailhead

A Magnificent Adirondack Day-Hike

Magnificent & Unseasonal Adirondack Weather

Trouble is a Matter of Perspective

Trouble is a Matter of Perspective

~ A Return to Woodstock ~

Beer & Mexican, Gypsy Wolf Cafe, Woodstock NY

Beer & Mexican, Gypsy Wolf Cafe, Woodstock NY

Non-GMO Flower Children Showing the Dangers of Pesticides, Woodstock NY

Non-GMO Flower Children Showing the Dangers of Pesticides, Woodstock NY

~ Fantastic Beer! Not a Hite or (C)Ass in 10,000 Miles! ~

I Have Quit Drinking Now the Good Beer Days are Over

I Have Quit Drinking Now the Good-Beer Days are Over

Honestly, leaving Kate, our excellent friends and her family, her dashing feline, cosy cottage and sunny, ramshackle garden, was hard. Throw in the most delightfully unseasonal — almost autumnal — weather, great food, excellent coffee and beer, shops and the greenness, charm and cleanliness of the mountains, parks and streets and forests of New York, and you can imagine how hard it was to return to grungy, in-your-face Korea.

I started this post, this return to blogging, angry and vengeful and tired and miserable. I miss those dogs so much and am wracked by guilt that I couldn’t save them and perhaps even (by my feeding runs and the unwanted attention I may have brought to them) caused their disappearance. But reviewing these American pictures, and having interrupted my writing for another skype with Kate, I’m excited about my post-Korean future and looking forward to writing up my little adventures over there.

Oh, and one more thing I must get around to covering:

~ But Wait, There’s More… ~

I Guess I Have Some Explaining to Do

I Guess I Have Some Explaining to Do

* Korea enjoys an almost comically low crime rate, yet these sadistic dickheads think their precious pot plants need guarding.

The Handsome FamilyAll the Time in Airports:

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote


  1. oh no, I’m devastated. What has happened to them? Did they howl and moan that you were gone? Did they just die because no one else was feeding them? Did the construction people report them? So so sad. The photos are too. Lovely photos of Kate and the family. I love all the photos of the two of you together. Perfect for each other.

    • Sue, there’s no way anybody over here would ever report them. Dozens or more walk past them every day without a glance. The fact that this arsehole would tether them a metre from the road in full view while they were obviously starving and ill shows the prevalence of the contempt in this country for animal rights.

      I went up this morning and they’ve now tied the white pup in the same place the big black pointer used to be. Very sad, and still no doghouse. I am tempted to take her/him some of my leftover bones but am frightened about where that might end! My guess is that the shame/outright bastardry angle is still the most likely explanation. It’s very hard not knowing. I don’t know much about heartworm but I’d be surprised if the setter would last a year without treatment. And both of them have very severe chronic diarrhea from the other worms they have.

      On a happier note, thanks re: Kate and I! We both feel the same way. Sometimes it takes half your life before you chance upon the right person…

    • I assume you mean back in the blogging driver’s seat and not back in the Republic of Korea, Barb! Assuming that is so, thanks a lot! I’m quite pleased, though it takes up so much of my time. Yesterday’s post, for example, consumed the greater part of a Sunday. I had to miss church!

  2. Nick Carding says

    Good to see you back. I returned here a short while back after a long break of my own – only to find you gone. A sad thing, but it’s better now.

    Regards, Nick

    • Thanks, Nick. I really needed that break. I wish I’d come back in a happier frame of mind, but my pictures from my trip and hundreds from before will keep me busy. Lucky, as it’s too damned hot and humid to do anything outside except in the early morning and at night.

  3. rivron says

    I’ve been taking a break, too – or almost. Eye-problems (now sorted out) meant I restricted myself to essential close-work only for a while. Just been mountain walking in Scotland for a day or two – so I better get blogging about that.

    The pink flower in the graveyard reminded me of the Necropolis in Glasgow, where I’ve just been. There’s a stone angel there which is traditionally left holding a pink flower (just google image search glasgow necropolis angel flower).

    • I have a lot of catching up to do with other people’s blogs, Dominic. Way, way behind. I don’t know about you but I feel quite refreshed in the blogging department after that break.

      Scotland sounds fantastic to me right now. There’s a light rain forecast for this afternoon here and I can’t wait!

  4. Good to have you back.
    Too bad about the dogs. Do you have any way of finding out what happened?

    Speaking of garbage and development, we were up on the Niigata coast for a couple of days this month. TV regularly tells us of all the pollution that washes up there from either China or Korea, and on-the-spot reporters show us all the detergent bottles etc with Korean labels, and what-have-you.
    Well, there were tonnes of flotsum and jetsum washed up on the rocky coves, and I found a grand total of 0 (that’s right) items that could be confirmed as not being domestic waste. The Mrs. claims to have seen one or two items with Korean labels. One or two.
    When the natives go down to the beach with their frigging tents and tarps (‘coz you don’t want to get sand on you), prop it between the speaker poles that are piping radio prgrams onto the beach (WTF??!!), and leave half their garbage behind when they leave… I want to do dark things.

    I’m back to work this morning. And classes start in two weeks.
    May the Force be with us.

    • My only hope seems to be that pastor. Meanwhile the white one has been chained up in the same place the big black one was in before. Seems to be the lot of most large dogs over here — the little over-bred ones are more like toys or accessories for a lot of people. They really have a long way to go.

      That’s almost funny about the “blame it on the Koreans” attitude to trash. I remember some disgustingly degraded beaches in Japan as well. The tents and tarps sound all too familiar. Apparently “camping” as recreation has only recently caught on over here – and you can imagine what the term means here. Huge Coleman-type tents with all the trimmings, tarps and grills and ice boxes and fold-up chairs –and all a short walk from the car. The idea of hiking somewhere and camping is virtually non-existent here. And yes, more often than not a pile of refuse will remain after the happy family has driven off. “Leave No Trace” here means “Leave No Trace of Nature”

      I’ve also assumed the position at my Desk of Despair. Actually I came back here on Friday, following orders, to a deserted school and an almost empty staff room. Today is more of the same. I’m quite pissed about this as I bailed from the USA four days early only as I was told I had to be back on Friday. Another thing they don’t get here is leave without pay. The only positive is I brought in my laptop so I can work on pictures all day.

  5. A seriously good post, Goat! You are back with a vengeance. Privately I doubted whether you would be away for long. Blogging gets one like that.

    But, oh dear, those dogs.

    • Thanks, SW. Sorry I’ve been a bad blog-reader as well as a sorry blogger of late. Will attempt to redeem myself this week, new-term chaos at school permitting. On the good-news front, they have moved me full-time to my main school after things deteriorated at the bad one to the point of no return. Yippee.

      Yes, the dogs. With that development plus the awful heat (my weather app yesterday said “35C but feels like 40C”), life here has lost some of its sparkle.

  6. NOMADICLES says

    Mr. Goat, are you now turning into a Korea Hater? 🙂 So sad to hear about those dogs. The timing of it is quite disturbing. Aug 17th is a traditional “dog eating day” for some cruel people in Korea. I sometimes dread traveling to Asia because of the way some of these countries treat their dogs. You end up coming across these outrageous scenes. But believe it or not, Korea is on the milder side.

    Those were beautiful pointers. Bless your heart for giving them love and sustenance. So glad that you were there for them. And that they experienced kindness despite such horrible conditions they endured. Just reading your fantasy plans to rescue them makes me feel a little lighter. Be careful though…regarding the white pup. The owners might already know that you come by.

    • Well, in response to your first question: not really, since you’ve probably noticed that I’ve never been much of a booster for the Republic of Korea! But I’m sure they’ll manage just fine without me in their fan club. It’s difficult to sum up my feelings towards this place in one glib phrase or sentence, but yes, it would be safe to say that overall they’ve leaned towards the negative. I think I reached my most positive point around the time of my multi-day walk up the coast last year. But even that came after a few months of feeling very bitter and out of place here. I felt that doing that walk brought me a measure of peace in my ongoing internal war with the ROK, a conflict almost entirely silent and inward-focused, and exacerbated, no doubt, by a very unpleasant stint in the school system here.

      If I’d been a lot smarter, I would have quit as planned at the end of my first year. My lingering impressions would no doubt have been kinder. However, who knows, maybe the second year gave me a more accurate impression? This year has seen a lot of dark times for me, but perhaps that hasn’t come across sufficiently in the blog as I am conscious of the need not to Korea-bash all the time, not to get readers down too much, and have often published posts about walks, flowers, insects etc in which I’m almost euphoric — but it’s a euphoria built in part on a lie, because the camera does indeed lie, and I’ve been a willing collaborator.

      Of course Korea couldn’t care less what I have to say about the place, and why should it? But if you aren’t travelling/living abroad critically, you are just another passive consumer of experiences, and what would be the point of that? I’ll have more to say on this issue as I start to wind up my affairs here…

      • NOMADICLES says

        Hi there, reading this made me realize that my question might have oversimplified your experience in Korea. When my parents brought me here (US) from Korea, I was only eleven. As an adult looking back, I realize that it was an excruciating adjustment that I had to make as a kid. I was too young to understand how difficult the cultural and lingual shift was even as I was going through it like a baptism by fire.

        Korea is extreme and extremely different. It’s amazing to me that people are adventurous enough to travel from another extremely different country, and actually “live” there. I’ve met a handful of English teachers like you who spent a number of years in Korea, and their opinions vary drastically. It’s great hearing about their experiences, good and bad. It’s strange, because I feel like I’m talking to Koreans when I talk to them. So, in that sense, it’s really intriguing to read your blog, because there is a certain level of understanding for where you are coming from, what you’ve seen, where you’ve hiked.

        It really sucks…about those dogs. And that too, is something that I can relate to, because I’ve seen worse when I was a kid there. After the ’88 Olympics, things have improved, though, obviously, not good enough.

        Enough on that sad topic. Have a great day!

      • No worries, Joy, thanks for your input and insights. I hear you about oversimplification. Very hard to sum things up in a blog, hard enough even when you have more words and space at your disposal. I sometimes think it won’t fully sink in till long after I’ve gone.

  7. Sad to hear about the disappearance of Mary Ann and Ginger. Sweet photo to remember them by.

    What saving grace that you and Kate were able to spend some more good times together recently. Thanks for posting the photos from your trip. In such stark contrast to Korea, although you have shown us that there is beauty to be found in Korea as well as distress.

    Lovely photo of Kate with the three lively young kiddos.

    Good to see that you are posting again.

    • Cheers, Am! Now I really must catch up on some blog-reading, including yours. That last post took about eight freaking hours not counting the photo-editing! And I’ve edited about 95% of the shots from that American visit and reduced them to around 550, but that took a LOT of goofing off at work!

      The dogs issue took a heavy toll. I am still stricken with despair about them and there’s at least one point every day where I get really, really down.

      Kate and her kids are disgustingly photogenic. I try to keep myself out of the frame — it would be too confronting a contrast!

  8. I am sick about the dogs. I think perhaps a book or series about the dogs (drawn from your posts) the would be a great memorial. And revenge for their ill-treatment.

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