Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Today's program is brought to you by the word"sweat" and the number "33"

There is only one word that truly describes Taiwan: HOT! The temperature has not dropped below 33 C since I arrived, and the humidity has been hovering around the 98% range. Needless to say, I've been sweating my balls off. When I was packing for the trip, I was thinking as I stuffed about 25 t-shirts into my bag that maybe I'm over doing it a tad. After all, I'm only going to be here for two weeks. As it turns out, 15 shirts and about 20 showers later, maybe I should have brought more.

I was very adventurous the first couple of days. I ventured out during the daylight hours to be a tourist and hit the temples and monuments. Then I found out that that simply wasn't a good plan. I'd make it out for a couple of hours, see a few sights, and then be forced back to the hotel for a shower and a nap. I have adapted to the reality of the devastating heat by hopping from air conditioned place to air conditioned place during the day and going to see different places at night.

One thing I've discovered is that, unlike Thailand, Korea, or the Phillipines, there are very few places here to have a cold beer in the afternoon. Those of you that know me can well imagine my consternation. The area where my hotel is located is a popular spot for the young hipsters
to hang out, but the only bar that I've found is a TGI Fridays. Honestly, I didn't come to Taipei to hang out in a Fridays. You can buy beer at any of the convenience stores around, but I haven't seen anyone sitting around outside sipping on beer, so I don't really know if it's an acceptable practice. Plus it's too fucking hot to sit outside anyway. My friend did take me to a pretty cool place called Shannon's which is an Irish pub half way across town. Shannon's staff is friendly, speaks English, the food is good and the beer is cold.

The other interesting thing here is trying to find something to eat. I have a fairly adventurous palate, but the fact that all the menus and outdoor signs are in Chinese and don't have any pictures of the food makes things a bit interesting. I've been lucky so far because while I haven't always been exactly sure what I've been eating, nothing has been too bad. There are some interesting flavors here.

When my friend and I were heading to Shannon's Sunday night, we got into a taxi driven by a complete nutjob. This guy spent his time (even while driving) drawing pictures of people who were unfriendly or mean to him while is his cab. He then taped the pictures to his cab window to warn those people to not get in his cab again. To say that this guy, who might have been in his 50s, was not a great artist would be an understatement. He did however take pains to explain to my friend that people would be able to recognize themselves because he drew all the eyes differently. He was very big on the eye thing. It was very strange. To think I thought the "two bottles of soju for lunch" cabbies in Korea were bad.

That's it for now.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The "Monday Afternoon and I'm on Vacation Drinkin' Beer" Mix

1. Toni Childs: Walk and Talk Like Angels
2. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: From Her to Eternity
3. The Scorpions: Rock You Like a Hurricane
4. Johnny Clegg & Juluka: December African Rain
5. Corrosion of Conformity: Pearls Before Swine
6. R.E.M.: Sweetness Follows
7. Parliament: Bop Gun (Endangered Species)
8. The Allstonians: Can't Say
9. Toni Childs: Dreamer
10. Guadalcanal Diary: Kumbayah
11. The Kinks: Somebody Stole My Car
12. Pat Metheny: Every Day (I Thank You)
13. Warren Zevon: Jeannie Needs a Shooter
14. Tenderloin: Heavy Bong
15. Joe Pass/Oscar Peterson/Ray Brown: Blues for Dennis
16. Bad Religion: Sometimes I Feel Like
17. New York Ska Jazz Ensemble: Filthy McNasty
18. Iggy Pop w/ Kate Pierson: Candy
19. Orbital: Oi
20. Michelle Shocked: God is a Real Estate Developer
21. Hayseed Dixie: Back in Black
22. Husker Du: Broken Home, Broken Heart
23. Funkadelic: Electro-Cuties
24. John Mellencamp: Pop Singer
25. MDC: Radioactive Chocolate
26. Manu Dibango: From Congo
27. The Ramones: I Don't Want to Grow Up
28. Reel Big Fish: 241
29. New Model Army: 51st State
30. The Clash: London's Burning

Next on the Discovery Channel: When Waeguks Go Wild!

These photos were taken two weeks ago at Santa Claus during the opening festivities of the Daejeon Ultimate Hat Tourney. This was a great weekend all around, and certainly started off with a bang (or maybe I should say beer). Greg's girlfriend Hyun-suk was in charge of the camera, so I can't take any credit (or blame) for any of the photos.

To say that a few drinks were consumed is probably the understatement of the century. Needless to say, when the games started the next day, things were a tad on the fuzzy side for all concerned.

Kay & Michelle

This is enough to give you nightmares!

Drink? We don't drink!

Tommy, Greg, & Hyun-suk

Dan, Rob, Megan, and Edward

Laura & Hyun-suk

Damn that's a big rat!!

Greg and honorary Daejeon Groupie: Mr. Ho

Open up and say BLAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!

'Bout time Greg did some work!!

Beauty & The Beast.

Cheap Thrills

They're mighty friendly up there in Seoul.

Dan & Dr. Noh

Seoul Ulti players gettin down and gettin funky

Cute Korean girls.

Christina and Michelle. Such obscene gestures from such pristine young women.

Night of the Living Waeguk: Part I

Night of the Living Waeguk: Part II

Night of the Living Waeguk: Part III

Is that his DICK?!?

Erin & Michael

Mystery boobs

Group Grope: Christina, Michelle, Erin, and Emily

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Sleeping Between Cars

This is a story I wrote a few years ago. With the completion of the KTX bullet train and a ban on smoking on all trains, scenes such as this are, I'm afraid, a thing of the past. I hope you like it.

Sleeping Between Cars
By Eric Kruse

I'm all about the creature comforts in life. I don't camp. I'll take a hotel room with AC and a comfy bed anytime. Backpacking to me is a one day excursion to a steep hill somewhere with a bottle of water, an extra pack of smokes, and a six-pack. When traveling in Korea, I always get first class seats on the train, so I can ride in relative comfort (sure it costs extra, but we're talking leg room here). That said, some of my best experiences have come on the late night Mugunhwa train.

This train is the cheapest train available, and it usually is the last train of the night leaving from the major cities. It's primarily a commuter train and stops in every podunk town along the way. As many of you know, there are never any seats available on this train, so you end up squatting between the cars, usually half in the bag and wondering why you didn't follow the instinct to catch the earlier train you were supposed to be on. This is by no stretch the most comfortable way to spend two hours, but it offers a microcosm of Korean society that you can observe between nodding out and trying to listen for the announcement for your destination over the clack and clatter of the moving train.

The people you see, and at times talk to, are from all walks of life. There is the young college girl trying to study, who bums a light for a cigarette that disappears almost as soon as it is lit. There is the soju addled, blue collar guy who struggles to not fall in your lap while staring at you like you are from Mars. Or the close-cropped gangster with jailhouse tattoos on his forearms respectfully offering elderly passengers some of his food. Others include graying old men falling asleep while sitting with perfect posture, and the ubiquitous fashion disaster ahjumas in their lime green pant suits and dyed, permed, hurricane proof hair. All this makes for some pretty fascinating people watching.

There are those times when the space is filled with folks wearing the sullen, weary faces of people contemplating the prospect of a long, uncomfortable trip. However, many a conversation has been started with a tired but friendly smile and a request for a cigarette. Most of the conversations are of the "Where are you from?" variety and last the duration of the smoke. At other times you can get into a decent, if somewhat choppy, conversation that will last the length of the trip. Koreans in general are pretty friendly folks, and the conversations usually involve a few beers and a lot of laughter. Everyone is in the same boat, so you might as well make the best of it.

Kicking back and watching people settle in for the ride is also a fascinating thing. My favorite between the cars scene is what I've dubbed "The Laying of the Paper". On my last trip from Seoul, I watched three separate people as they laid out newspapers on the floor in nice neat squares, popped off their shoes and sat down as if they were in the comfort of their own homes. This ritual, which is done as naturally as breathing, has an aesthetic quality that I find immensely pleasing. Then you have the cell phone addicts who make the mistake of coming between the cars in the vain search for somewhere quiet to talk and end up shouting at the top of their lungs into the phone. Finally, simply watching the animated conversations of people not able to or interested in sleep, is a pleasant way to pass the time.

In the two years I've been here, there are many things that I have come to love about Korea and, of course, some things that I don't. Late at night, between the cars, is one of the former. It's not comfortable, but it offers a glimpse of Korean society that you simply can't get anywhere else.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Free at Last

Fridays are good days in general, but today is a beautiful day. It's pouring rain, but that doesn't matter. Why is it a beautiful day? It's because I am finished with the semester. I had my last two classes this morning, and I'm done. SWEEEEEEEEET!!!

I'm sitting here pondering the relaxing week ahead which will end with me hopping on a plane to Taiwan for two more weeks of R&R. Life is good. Is 11:00 am too early to start drinkin'?

The other good thing that happened this week was my meeting with the institute director to discuss my new contract. The new contract is sweet. There's a significant pay raise, a reduction in working hours, and a raise in the overtime pay. As an added bonus, the idiot in the FLEC office whose job it is to work with the foreign teachers and has his head so far up his ass that he talks through his belly button, is going to be let go. This might even be a better thing than the increase in pay.

All in all, I'm a happy camper. See y'all on the flipside!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

FLEC BBQ Party: 5/27/05

Every year the foreign language teachers sponsor a cookout for the students and staff of the Foreign Language Education Center at CNU. It's a great party, and this year was no exception.

Free food, free booze, music, and games. It doesn't get much better!

Two of my students enjoying the free food.

Some of my sports majors. These guys spoke more English in the few hours they were at the party than they have the entire semester.

Me and some of my favorite students.

Mark, Greg, and Matt getting pumped during the flippy-cup competition.

Ian doing what he does best!!

Givin' it all for the team!!

The power of positive drinkin'!

Ian doing his part to ensure a victory for the teachers. The squirt gun is full of lemon soju, which by this point at the party was pretty much soju with a splash. Mmmm-mmm good!!

Fine form leads the students to victory!

You GO, girl!!

Greg and his victorious "flippy-cuppers".