Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mexican Night in Korea

Living in Korea is amazing in a great number of ways, but there are also aspects of it that … well, they kinda suck. When you've got a craving for international food, for instance. Korean food is easy to find, cheap, and delicious, but international food, not so much. Knowing this would be the case before I left the US a month and a half ago, I made sure to have an ample supply of taco seasoning in my backpack.

My first month back in Korea was great, food-wise, as I knew it would be. I hadn't really eaten Korean food since I left the country in September, 2011, and by the time I returned, I really missed it. So I ate it for lunch and dinner every day without thinking much about other types of food. Then, one day, I had a sudden craving for Mexican, and with a pound and a half of taco seasoning languishing in my cupboard, I went to the grocery store with a mission: tacos. Here are the ingredients I ended up settling on, and I use the word 'settling' with an intentionally negative connotation.

Ground pork.  Ground beef is available, but costs something like four times as much as pork.  Pork is huge in Korea, and especially on Jeju.  These two packages totaled about 600 grams (1.3 pounds), and set me back about tree-fiddy ($3.50).  It would have cost me about $12 for an equivalent amount of ground beef.

350 grams of "Pizza Cheese."  I think it is just mozzarella, but I don't really know for sure.  Set me back about $5.  Variations of pizza cheese / mozzarella are the only type of cheese (of which I'm aware) you can get pre-shredded here.  The options available for block cheese aren't much better, and are prohibitively expensive.  Also, I've been looking for a cheese grater since I arrived, and have yet to find one.

The only ingredient I ended up with that I don't really have any qualms with.  Average tortilla chips at only slightly inflated prices - about $3, I think.

Ugh.  Crappy salsa.  They have "Pace" as well, but  I seem to remember it's fairly mediocre as well, and costs $6ish for a jar of the same size.  This was about $3.

I don't think a professional chef could do too much to save me with these ingredients.

Disappointment, thy name is Purchasing Mexican Food Ingredients in Korea. It's a long name, but appropriate. With my mediocre ingredients purchased, I returned to my perpetually-freezing home and changed into my fuzzy socks and dead-sexy matching fleece pants and top, as I do every night in my apartment (because it's perpetually-freezing and expensive to heat). Then I cooked. Results below.

Nice outfit.

Ground pork kinda looks like ground beef once you've cooked it.  Similar texture too, and since the flavor you're getting is more from the seasoning than anything else, I'm not too sure you actually lose too much by using ground pork instead of beef.  I'd love to try them back-to-back in a blind taste test.

NOT the most appetizing Mexican food anyone has ever made, but good enough.  That'll do pig, that'll do.  (Get it, because it's made with pork?!  Nice, Glenn.)

Hm. Ground-pork nachos / shell-less taco-y things with pizza cheese and less-than-delicious salsa. Not exactly the result I was hoping for, but good enough. The good news is that since I made this Mexican mess, I've met a couple people in the building who have a fairly regular Mexican night, and I'm hoping that with our combined powers and knowledge, we'll be able to get better ingredients for more enjoyable results.

And if not, oh well. There's always Korean.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An exciting weekend in Jeju!


I'm not too sure about the legality of this, but you probably have to be 18 to see this post. Why is this post not safe for work? Go ahead and scroll down if you need to know immediately. But I recommend that if you are reading this at work, or where someone might glance over your shoulder and form an opinion of you based on what's on your screen, you hold off until you've got a little more privacy.

Let me begin by saying, whoops, I lied in my last post, when I said that [this] post would deal with “go[ing] back roughly a year in time to talk about some of my past adventures that haven't yet been mentioned here.” Unfortunately, I haven't yet dealt with the necessary Photoshop work to post anything from Thailand, Cambodia, or Vietnam (January - May 2012), and the more I think about it, the more likely it seems that it will be another couple months.

But I have no shortage of things to write about from life on Jeju, my new island-home. For instance, this past weekend, November 17th and 18th, I was visited (again) by my friend Katie, who lives on “the mainland.” She landed at Jeju International Airport at 2PM on Saturday, and I was there to pick her up on my new motorcycle.

And thus the derailing of my stories begins. I purchased a new motorcycle less than a week ago!

A stock photo of a 2003 Hyosung Comet 250.

Me riding my new bike just outside my apartment.

I didn't realize how small the bike looks with me on it until I saw this photo.  I can't imagine how silly I must have looked driving my previous bikes.

It's a 2003 Hyosung (shockingly, a Korean company) Comet 250. While those of you reading this in America might laugh at a 250 cubic centimeter (cc) engine, this is actually double the displacement of any motorcycle or scooter I've owned, or for that matter, driven. So to me, it feels like a 1000cc Kawasaki Ninja or some such thing. Bikes with engines over 125cc are pretty rare in Asia. In fact, I only know of one other foreigner on Jeju who has a 250cc bike. There is the occasional Harley Davidson, but they're extremely rare.

I suppose the ownership of small-displacement bikes generally makes sense. Most people who drive motorcycles or scooters here use them only to get around town, where traffic speeds are low, and steep hills aren't terrifically common. I knew; however, that I wanted a bike that I could drive around the whole island, which includes a lot of steep, mountain roads, and highways, and I wanted to be able to do it with a passenger. Additionally, I'm pretty sure that on my summer vacation, I will do a trip around the mainland. Neither of these goals would have been realistic on a 125cc bike. So after doing a bit of research, I ended up purchasing my new baby for 1.1 million Korean Won, or almost exactly $1,000 US. For reference, my previous 125cc bikes cost ~$350 and ~$250 in Korea and Vietnam, respectively. The nice part about this purchase is that, unless it is stolen or destroyed, I should be able to sell it to someone else for nearly the same price when I finish my contract and depart Jeju. So the thousand bucks is pretty much just a deposit.

Back to the main story. At 2PM on Saturday, November 17th, I picked Katie up at the airport, and we returned to my apartment to listen to some “Gangnam Style” and get ready to go on an adventure. After bundling up in a rather absurd amount of warm clothing, we were on the road at 3 or so, and intended to drive down “Mysterious Road,” a road I'd been wanting to check out since I first saw the sign for it, a couple weeks ago. But first we needed some alcohol for after the drive. I was (and always am) all for soju – cheap and dangerous Korean rice liquor – but Katie wouldn't have any of it. We were going to have whiskey, or nothing. So we stopped at Lotte Mart, which is basically a Korean Wal-Mart minus the horrible labor-history, and picked up a bottle of Jameson's. By the time we'd finished shopping and found Mysterious Road, it was within maybe half an hour of sunset. The sun sets here at about 5:30PM in mid-November. We decided to at least cruise a few kilometers up what appeared to be a peaceful 2-lane road through a forest of deciduous and coniferous trees.

Within about a kilometer of leaving what I would describe as “town,” we saw a big, fluorescent sign for “Jeju Secret Love.” I'd heard of “Jeju Love Land” before, and had also heard that there were competing attractions elsewhere on the island. From what I'd heard of “Jeju Love Land,” it was something like a theme park, but dedicated to sex. Curious, we pulled into the parking lot and saw what, from a distance, seemed to be a botanical garden decked-out in Christmas lights. Katie was overjoyed to see something Christmas-related, so we decided to pay the 9,000 Won (~$8) entry fee, and wandered in. Rounding the first corner in what still appeared to be a Christmas-themed botanical garden, we found this 8-foot tall statue waiting for us:

Yup, it's a big statue of a flasher with a huge erection.

Upon closer inspection, the statue was of a flasher, and across the path from this … monstrosity? … was a statue of a woman, shocked by the sight of the penis. There, I said it. Penis. Get used to it, because you'll probably read that word another hundred times and see another ten of them before the end of this post. Katie's immediate reaction to seeing this statue was to start laughing so hard I thought she was going to hyperventilate.

The whole thing seemed so out-of-place in Korea. It's a very reserved society, especially when dealing with matters of sex, so an eight-foot statue of a man with a raging hard-on is not something one expects to see in a botanical garden, which of course we were now discovering, “Jeju Secret Love” is most certainly not.

We took some obligatory silly pictures with the flasher statue, and then stood on the side of the path and waited for Koreans to round that first corner so we could observe their reactions, which were comedy gold. Katie came up with the brilliant idea to return here some day in the summer with lawn chairs, beers, and a video camera, and spend a few hours taping the reactions of Korean tourists seeing, for the first time, a giant, stone statue with a rock-hard (get it?!) cock that I literally couldn't get my hand around.

Katie hyperventilating from laughter.

Katie shocked!
Well, that settles it.  I'm not running for political office.

The path continued along, weaving through trees beautifully covered with hundreds of Christmas lights and statues of transvestite centaurs with huge, exposed breasts and giant horse cocks. Weird. Then there was the bridge with arches on each end that had to be walked under. The first arch was the lower half of a man, with each leg forming one side of the arch, and, of course, a huge erection. The second arch was the same concept, but this time, it was the lower half of a woman. It was strange, because it was obvious that at the time this statue was made, her vagina should have been as visible as the man's penis. But it seemed that at some later time, a bikini-bottom was painted onto the woman. So the vagina was still carved into the statue, but it was just painted over. I still have no idea why there were so many penises and so few vaginas on display. For the duration of our walk through “Jeju Secret Love,” we were leapfrogging a group of 5 older (50ish) Korean women, and their reactions and the photos they took here were priceless.

There was a gift shop at “Jeju Secret Love” that sold Jeju-themed keychains (non-sexual), dildos, miniature horse sculptures (non-sexual), sexy outfits, candy (non-sexual), and anal beads. Back outside the gift shop, there was a statue that can only be described as a case study in racial insensitivity. There was a hall of sexual positions that was downright pornographic, and I'm not really sure it's cool for me to post the pictures I took there as-is, so I edited them a bit. And finally, there was a naked-from-the-waist-down Santa.

Korean hilarity.

Did you think I was joking about the transvestite centaurs?

Don't want to miss that shot.  Katie's work iPad has been tainted.

There is no caption that does this photo justice.

Racial insensitivity at it's finest.


Still wow.

Still still wow.

Thanks for ruining Christmas, Jeju Secret Love.

Abs sore from laughing so much, we finally left “Jeju Secret Love” shortly after dark and drove back to my neighborhood in the cold. We stopped for dinner at one of the two restaurants within walking distance of my apartment. The ambiance was nice – it was built around an old-fashioned wood-burning stove that filled the air with the smell of … description fail … a wood-burning stove. If only the owners were as enjoyable as the environment. The food was good, but the couple who ran the restaurant seemed to resent our being there. We were the only people there, but it was early, so it wasn't like they just wanted us out so they could close down. Whatever. I guess even in a place where everybody is friendly, there will be a few who aren't.

Back at my apartment, we pregamed with Jameson's and sah-ee-duh (sound it out: cider - that's what they call lemon-lime soda here) with a side of the prior week's South Park. Then we headed out, by taxi, to a pedestrians-only street where I hoped we'd bump into some other native English-speakers, or Koreans eager to practice their English. Neither happened, but we did find a dance club that was playing “Gangnam Style” both in- and outdoors. We stepped in for a few seconds, realized how out-of-place we felt, and then returned to the outdoor speakers and danced “Gangnam Style” until the song came to an end. The other highlight of the night was grabbing a ginormous crab out of an outdoor tank at a crab restaurant and chasing Katie around with it making scary alien noises. I was then encouraged by an employee at the restaurant to return the crab to it's temporary housing.

The next morning, after checking that the weather would remain pleasant (i.e. no rain) for the rest of the day, we hopped on my bike and returned to “Mysterious Road,” which, according to my Jeju map, would ultimately lead us to Seogwipo. Seogwipo (pronounced Suh-gwee-po) is the second largest city on Jeju island (but is actually much more a “village” than a city) and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Korea.

The drive was amazing – perhaps the best I've been on in Korea. Mysterious Road snaked it's way up from sea level to 1,100 meters through a primarily deciduous forest. At lower elevations, many of the leaves were still on the trees, although they were often beginning to turn brown. The road sometimes would split into two one-way roads, each taking a different, curving path, and separated by enough forest that the vehicles traveling in the opposite direction couldn't be heard. It was a beautiful drive. The road reached it's highest elevation at 1,100 meters, where the temperature was considerably colder, and we found ourselves continually engulfed in and / or surrounded by clouds. Any colors that had survived the coming of fall were muted by the clouds, and the landscape, perhaps because of the limited visibility, was gorgeous, in a rather apocalyptic way. There was a rest stop here, and in danger of losing our fingers and toes to frostbite (not literally), we stopped for long enough to enjoy a cup of coffee and go on a short walk before getting back on the road to Seogwipo.

The second half of the drive was even more beautiful than the first, largely because the weather cleared up a good bit, and we found ourselves in the sun almost as often as not. A few kilometers outside of Seogwipo city, we discovered a science museum with a massive satellite dish. We stopped for some photos and because science is awesome, and I let Katie drive my motorcycle around the parking lot, which was empty, because, unfortunately, the museum was closed. But it was still cool, since there were some sciencey (I know this isn't a real word, but if it were, would it be spelled sciencey or sciency?) contraptions outside that we were able to play with.

We then got back on the road which we thought would take us to Seogwipo city, and if we had stayed on it long enough, it may very well have done just that. But we again found ourselves sidetracked, this time by a large Buddhist temple called Yakcheonsa Temple, which according to, “measur[es] an impressive 30m high and span[s] a total area of 3,305 meters squared, [and] it is the largest temple in the East.” Not too sure how either “temple” or “the East” is defined, but regardless, it was very impressive. After having lived a year in Korea, and visited a number of temples all over other parts of Asia, it's possible to come to a feeling of “if you've seen one temple, you've seen them all.” Yakcheonsa, however, didn't abide by this rule; it definitely felt quite different from many of the temples I've seen before, especially others I've visited in Korea. And as a nice bonus, it was free to visit! Here, have some pictures:

Yakcheonsa: the main temple.

Inside Yakcheonsa Temple.

Lots and lots of crows.

By the time we left Yakcheonsa it was after 4PM, and neither of us had eaten since the toast we had at my apartment that morning. So we found a Korean barbeque and had Jeju black pork, which I've talked about in an earlier post. Before this meal, I'd never seen (or eaten) meat that still had hair in / on it. Obviously, the pig we ate had been shaved, but it's outer skin was still on, so we could see the follicles of the black hairs that differentiated this pig from it's mainland cousins. It was delicious, and the only reason I knew there were hair follicles in my food was because I'd seen them. If I'd eaten here blind, I'd never be able to tell you it was any different from any other Jeju barbeques.

The service was quite slow here, so by the time we were done eating, it was probably 5PM or so. I had hoped to be home before dark, because I didn't really want to drive my motorcycle on an unfamiliar highway with a passenger after dark, but things didn't work out in our favor, so that's exactly what I had to do. Fortunately, the highways on Jeju (which have a speed limit of 80 kph) are in incredible shape, so the drive back wasn't nearly as stressful as I was worried it could have been.

The next morning, I had to have Katie to the airport by 7AM for her 8AM flight. I got her there no problem, and then went to my school, where I slept on the sofa in my office until I had to go to my first class. It's a tough job. All things considered, it was an awesome weekend, and it has me really looking forward to warm weather. I think Jeju will be an amazing place in the late spring / summer / early fall.

One more time, for old-times sake: Penis.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Six Short Stories

One more Korea blog before I go back roughly a year in time to talk about some of my past adventures that haven't yet been mentioned here. My posts have been pretty long lately, so I'll try (likely unsuccessfully) to keep this one shorter. Rather than sharing one big story, I'll just share a few short stories about things that have happened to me in the two or so weeks I've been on Jeju.

Story One: I was at E-Mart (one of Korea's own versions of Wal-Mart) the other day. There are enough foreigners in town that the sight of a “waygook” (foreigner) is not particularly exciting to most Koreans, but to some children, a tall, bearded white guy is still an amazing sight. As I was riding the moving walkway up from the basement to the ground floor, there was a mother and her three children, aged something like 1, 3, and 5, in front of me. The two youngest children were seated in her shopping cart. The oldest, a little boy, was standing next to his mother. He hadn't seen me get on the moving walkway initially, and when he turned around, he was obviously startled by my … existence? After overcoming his initial shock that such a tall, bearded white person could possibly exist, he smiled and said, “Hi!” I smiled and responded, “Hello!” He tugged on his mother's pants leg, and they briefly spoke in Korean. The boy then turned back to me, smiled again, and said, “Opa Gangnam style.” I replied, “Opa Gangnam style,” did a brief horse-dance, and then, upon reaching the end of the moving walkway, we each carried on with our lives.

Story Two: There's a stereotype about “bad Asian drivers.” One of the first times I was in a car with a Korean driver, s/he drove the wrong way down a clearly marked one-way street (I could tell it was a one-way, and I don't speak Korean, and therefore can't read signs) for several minutes, ignoring the oncoming traffic's horns and flashing headlights, only to turn onto another one-way street, again going the wrong way.

During another ride, my driver decided to do a U-turn in the middle of a 6-lane (3 lanes each way) road. See the fantastic diagram below, which showcases the awe-inspiring Microsoft Paint and Adobe Photoshop skills I command. While it would be illegal to attempt this with no oncoming traffic, it would at least be possible to complete such a maneuver. However, there was a car parked in the furthest of the lanes opposite us at the exact location we'd otherwise have been able to complete the U-turn. The driver must have been aware of this at the onset of the attempted U-turn, but paid it no attention. So within a few seconds, we found ourselves parked perpendicular to the now-oncoming traffic. Rather than putting the car in reverse and doing an admittedly-awkward 3-point turn, we waited for the parked car, whose driver was at a walk-up ATM on the side of the road, to complete his transaction, get back in his car, and drive away. It was weird. This drive was completed by back-to-back failed parallel parking jobs. As awkward as all of this was, I must admit I never felt unsafe, because the speed of traffic on city streets is quite low, and the patience of drivers is quite high.

I kick so many asses at computer graphics programs.

Story Three: One evening, as I was walking through a park en route to my bus stop (I don't yet have a motorcycle, damn it), I found myself walking behind a mother and her middle-school aged son. The mother had apparently just bought her son some type of toy, and he was tearing through the packaging as I walked behind them. After breaching the outer layer of packaging, they both slowed down so the boy could further examine the inner packaging. He then casually threw the outer box on the ground. The mother said nothing and they carried on their merry way. Then, upon getting through the inner packaging, he threw it on the ground. It wasn't like there weren't other people in the park, either. They just didn't care. The mother said nothing and they continued on their merry way. It reminded me of the scene in Anchorman where the Channel 4 News Team walks through a park in San Diego and casually throws their corn-dog remnants and other trash on the ground. You stay classy, Korea.

Story Four: I suck at cooking. How is it even possible to fuck up steamed vegetables? Well, frankly, the answer is obvious. You boil off all the water and end up with smoked vegetables. Don't do this, unless you are a fan of smoked vegetables with a metallic taste.

Story Five: General disorganization of the Korean workplace continues. When I was here in 2010 – 2011, I had a good number of “WTF?! This is happening in my workplace?!” moments. All such incidents were simply the result of poor planning, such as being told on a Thursday that there would be some kind of mandatory workshop on Saturday. Annoying, but you learn to roll with the punches. As I've since been told, “T.I.K.” - This Is Korea. I have had a couple such moments already on this tour of duty. Example one: being told at 8:50 that I would be teaching a 9:00 class.

Example two: I was taken to an “International Festival” for children on Jeju. I was obligated to attend because of my employment through EPIK (English Program In Korea – the federal government's English-education department), but no one knew what was going on. I was dropped off at the festival, and basically told to figure it out. There were a hundred stands, each manned by people I didn't know (I'd been in Korea for one week at the time of this festival). I eventually found a festival tent labeled “North America Corner” or something similar, and found that the other workers at this tent were North American EPIK teachers. So I talked to them for the next couple hours and did nothing. Pretty much a waste of time, but I guess that's part of the deal.

Story Six: Katie, my amazing friend and fellow ESL-teacher with whom I spent 3 months traveling in Nepal, and who lives in Geoje (a 45-minute flight and a one-hour bus ride from Jeju), came to visit me last weekend! It was awesome! Our travels in Nepal were cut short so unexpectedly that the last time we saw each other, almost a full year ago, we each thought we'd be seeing each other the next day. You can read about it in my “Tidbits and Tragedy” article from December 7, 2011. Anyway, it was awesome to see such a great friend on such short order after my arrival here. Made me feel like I was back home.

That's all. Go Broncos! The end.

Friday, November 2, 2012

An exciting introduction to life on Jeju

My first Friday in Jeju was weird, and more memorable than I thought it would be, if for reasons I hoped it wouldn't be. Read on for details.

I'm going to do a separate entry about the school I will be teaching at for the next year, but I guess it's worth providing a few details now, since they're mildly relevant to the story. I work at the biggest middle school on Jeju island. Something like 2000 students attend the school. The English department consists of maybe 10 Korean teachers, and 2 Native English-speakers, myself included. My Canadian native English-speaker co-teacher, who I will for the duration of this email refer to as Co-teacher #1, is going to be a good friend of mine. I can state this with certainty, based on the unusual bonding experience we shared on Friday, October 26th. There's also a male Korean English teacher, which is pretty rare. Almost all Korean English teachers are women. I will refer to this teacher as Co-teacher #2. A few years ago, he quit his previous, high-paying job as an international translator for his current job. They both seem like good people that will be fun to hang out with in the upcoming year.

Co-teacher #1 has a little car that he bought for 1.2 million Won – something like $1100. I may very well follow in his footsteps and purchase a little car to get around here. Because he has a car, he was assigned to help me move my stuff to my new apartment on Friday afternoon, once he was done teaching. So at 2:30, Co-teacher #1, Co-teacher #2 and myself got in Co-teacher #1's car, and drove for about 20 minutes, mostly on a highway, to get to my apartment. Because of the distance from my school (and the town itself) to my apartment, I'm probably going to end up moving. It's a 10-minute walk just to the nearest bus stop. Ugh. Also, there are only two restaurants and one little 7-11-style corner store within walking distance of my apartment. It is cool in one way though – it's a building with 16 apartments, and each of these is occupied by an English-speaking public school teacher. I haven't figured it out yet, but I could see this place kind of being like the mid-twenties dorms. At 30 though, I may very well be the old man of the bunch.

Upon arriving at my apartment, we had to wait a while for the cleaning crew to finish getting my apartment into move-in condition. I had to sign a few papers, and then I moved in. My room is much nicer and bigger than the one I lived in when I was in Tongyeong a year ago. Probably something like 1.5 times the size. And it's pretty nice, frankly. Here, have some pictures.

My front door and entryway.

My gigantic house.  Yes, that is roach spray in the corner, because I once saw a terrifyingly-large cockroach.
I took this photo at night, but in the day, this series of confusing glass doors leads to a semi-enclosed balcony with a nice view of  Hallasan, the highest, now snow-covered mountain in South Korea.  It has an elevation of a whopping 1,950 meters.  I'm gonna go climb it one of these days.

My bathroom has the rarest of commodities in Korea, a bathtub.  A bit luxurious for me, but I'll take it.

After moving my stuff from Co-teacher #1's car to my apartment, we got back in the car and went on a thirty-minute drive to the restaurant where my school's English department was holding a goodbye-old-teacher- / hello-new-teacher-dinner. It began, I believe, at 5 PM. Retrospectively, I should have known that any celebratory event that begins at 5 PM and entails irresponsible quantities of alcohol consumption could only end badly. At this amazing dinner, I enjoyed another delicious, traditional Korean barbeque dinner while being pressure-drinked like a mofo by a Korean co-teacher who spoke almost no English. Apparently the English department is not limited to people who have some grasp of the English language. It is worth noting that pressure-drinking-co-teacher wasn't drinking alcohol himself, but did have the courtesy to drink either water or Korean Sprite with Co-teacher #1, Co-teacher #2, myself, and Co-teacher #3, the fellow Coloradan English-speaker who had just showed up, and whose job I will be taking over.

Delicious pork, beer, and soju were all consumed, not necessarily in this order, in unhealthy quantities for the next couple hours. Korea is kind of funny, at least when viewed from an American perspective, in that for men, drinking oneself stupid is not viewed as irresponsible, or even, necessarily, in a negative light. And while I maintained a respectable degree of perceived sobriety throughout this dinner, Co-teacher #1 ended our dinner, somewhere near 7 PM, at 10 PM-drunkenness.

The rest of the English department gradually bid adieu to Co-teacher #1, Co-teacher #2, Co-teacher #3 and myself, and we subsequently took a taxi to the Shi-Jung (City Hall) area of Shi-Jeju, which translates to New Jeju, and which is the area of town in which all the happenin' night spots lie. It was a 10-minute cab ride from the restaurant, and it was during this ride that I learned an interesting but previously-unknown, and now-obvious bit of international-travel trivia. It's well-known that many Americans who travel around the world and act politely tell people they meet that they are Canadians in order to avoid any unpleasant experiences with those who hold anti-American sentiments, which are, unfortunately, many. Frankly, while I don't typically prescribe to this behavior, I understand it, if only from the perspective of trying to avoid unnecessary conflicts. But on this cab ride, I learned that obnoxious, drunk Canadians sometimes claim to be Americans in order to shift the blame of obnoxious, drunk Canadians to “Ugly Americans.” Thanks a lot, America's Hat.

Our next stop, which lasted a whole 5 minutes, was at “Island Stone,” a small bar that draws a large expat crowd. It being only shortly after 7, we were the first ones to roll in. We were immediately handed a drink menu … on an iPad. This is irrelevant to the story, but a small detail possibly worth sharing, if only to give some perspective on the state of society on Jeju. I pointed out that since it would probably be hours until anyone started showing up, we might as well save our money by drinking outside a corner store. This isn't a viable option in America because of the whole illegality of it, but here, it is legal, encouraged, and awesome.

We left the bar, wandered a block off the main street to a “CU,” which stands for “See You.” CU is a common corner store on Jeju island. I'd say there's a decent chance I'm going to spend some significant time getting drunk at CU for the first time since 2006. (The hilarious joke, for those of you that don't know me, is that I graduated from the University of Colorado – CU – in 2006. Someone once told me that jokes are extra funny when they require a separate parenthesized explanation.)

Co-teacher #1, Co-teacher #2, Co-teacher #3 and myself spent a couple hours at CU drinking mediocre Korean beer before Co-teacher #2 announced that it was time for him to return home. He's in his mid-thirties and has a wife, so without calling him a pussy too many times, we let him go, and shortly thereafter, returned to Island Stone.

The next few hours, which we spent at Island Stone, were fun, but frankly, forgettable. I met probably 30 Jeju residents, mostly native-English speakers, but a few Koreans, Japanese, and people of other nationalities as well. Everyone was really friendly, and having met these people, I have no doubt that I'll be able to have an enjoyable year here. At around 2 AM, Co-worker #1 (Co-worker #3 had disappeared a while before this) told me he was going to go home. I was thinking of leaving too, so we walked out the door together. I guess now is as good a time as ever to mention that Island Stone, the bar we were at, is on the second floor of a building, and it is accessible by a concrete staircase. I mention it now since it now becomes extremely relevant to the story.

For reasons I cannot begin to comprehend (but I actually can … drunkenness), Co-worker #1 decided to take a shortcut down the first half-flight of stairs by tripping and flying head-first down them, rather than the traditional method of, you know, walking. The next few minutes, while not as “slow motion” as a stereotypical near-death story, do stick out more clearly in my memory than most of the preceding hours.

I stood at the top of the stairs and, with hindsight being 20/20, regrettably laughed casually at the situation, with the bouncer, about Co-teacher #1's clumsiness. I shouted something to the effect of, “C'mon, (Co-teacher #1), get your lazy ass up!” Co-teacher #1, I noticed, after a short while, was a remarkably good actor. Remarkably good at acting to be seriously injured. At this point, I broke off my conversation with the bouncer, and wandered down the half-flight of stairs that led to Co-teacher #1's disturbingly unmoving body. Then I noticed the eerily movie-like pool of blood that was slowly spreading from his head. The bouncer had followed me down the stairs, and realized at almost the exact moment that I did that this wasn't the joking matter we'd been making it out to be less than 30 seconds earlier, and ran up the stairs to call an ambulance.

My first thought was “[Explitive] [explitive] [exlitive]! [Explitive!] [Explitivingly-][explitive!]” I immediately checked Co-teacher #1's pulse and was, to put it mildly, relieved to find a strong pulse. Not really knowing what to do, and in fear of making a bloody horrible (pun intended) situation worse, I gently pulled Co-worker #1's body away from the wall, propped his head up on his own sweatshirt, that I had somehow come to be in possession of, and tried to slow the bleeding with one of the sleeves of this same sweatshirt. My under-qualified check-out of Co-worker #1 told me that the only obvious injury here was an approximately 1-inch cut on the top of his skull that looked deep, but not life-threatening.

A few minutes before the ambulance arrived, Co-worker #1 came back to (semi-) consciousness. In a more slurred voice than could be attributed to simple drunkenness, he elicited to me his curiosity about what was going on, and even more than this, he made it clear to me that he was sorry. You know what I mean, right? Drunk people love to apologize. That tendency is even more exaggerated in drunk people suffering from considerable blood loss and head-wounds. I let Co-worker #1 know that no apology was necessary, he just needed to follow “Rule Number One: Sit still!”

Over the course of the next couple hours, which were spent in an ambulance and a hospital, I had to tell Co-worker #1 to “...shut up and follow Rule Number One!” on more occasions than I would have preferred. There was also more otherwise-awkward male hand-holding occurring during this time than I'd have been comfortable with in other circumstances. But these weren't other circumstances. These were these circumstances, so, even though I knew that the gays were about to be responsible for Tropical Storm Sandy (this was before all that went down), I went ahead and held hands with a man.

I didn't take this picture because I didn't have my camera with me on the night of this particular incident, thank god.  But this is about the size of Co-teacher #1's head wound.  He later claimed he was Frankenstein for Halloween, a frankly brilliant idea.

A couple hours passed. Co-teacher #1 had an MRI that revealed no damage. He also had the joy of having a nurse walk up behind him, stapler (visually identical to a stapler you'd find in any school or office) in-hand, and tell him, “this will hurt,” prior to having his no-longer-bleeding skull literally stapled shut. The tense-ness wore off after the first 30-minutes, and we both just realized that the situation, memorable as it might be, basically sucked. Eventually, we were allowed to check out.

After Co-teacher #1 paid his $75 dollar hospital fee (yes, you read that correctly. An ambulance ride, a thorough examination, an MRI, and staples-to-the-skull costs a grand total of $75 in a first-world country with awesome, socialized medicine), we took a taxi back to Co-teacher #1's house. I volunteered to sleep on his floor in case anything went horribly wrong during the night. Fortunately, nothing went wrong, and late the next morning, we both wandered down the street – one of us under his own power for the first time in 12 hours – to an amazing Korean restaurant where we enjoyed a brunch of what is literally translated to “Hangover Stew.” We both needed it, but one more than the other.

Here's looking forward to another year's worth of hopefully less bloody, but equally amazing adventures.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Back to the grind, back in Korea

EDIT: This is being posted one week after I wrote it.

I'm writing this in Korea. In a cheap hotel on Jeju Island, Korea (Google maps it) to be more precise. I'll be spending the next year here (although hopefully not in this hotel room...), working as an English teacher. While this is not the first time I've done this, it is my first time on Jeju. I spent a year teaching English to elementary- and middle-school students in Tongyeong (Google maps it, too), from August 2010 to September 2011. Why am I back in Korea?

Well, after dabbling in more “career paths” than I care to admit, teaching English in Korea has been the best option I've thusfar been able to make happen. Probably not the best based solely on financial gain, but certainly the best based on the combination of financial gain, quality of life, and opportunities presented. I made a bit more money as an Engineer, during my brief tenure as one from mid-2006 to mid-2008, enjoyed my day-to-day job more as a lift operator in New Zealand during the winter of 2008, and had more free time as a waiter / handyman in Australia in 2008 and 2009, but none of these jobs have provided quite the net personal benefit that teaching English did during my last adventure in Korea. So during the five months I spent back home in Colorado, from June through October, 2012, I spent a considerable amount of time looking for new teaching opportunities in Korea, hoping to quasi-replicate the amazing year I had here previously. And the fact that I've only worked for about three of the last 13 months and have been broke, living rent-free in my parents house (I'm now 30, by the way) while back home meant it was time to get back to work.

I landed at Incheon International Airport, one of the world's busiest airports (it lies just outside of Seoul), on the afternoon of October 24, and had about three and a half hours from the moment my flight touched down until my next flight would take off – from Gimpo International Airport, Seoul's other international airport. During this three and a half hours, I came to remember a few things that I loved about Korea. In order to get from Incheon to Gimpo, I had to (1) collect my checked baggage, (2) pass through customs and immigration at Incheon, (3) find my way to the inter-airport subway, (4) take this subway / rail line – a ride of 35 minutes, (5) collect my boarding pass at Gimpo, (6) go through security, and (7) get on my next flight. Would this have been doable in the United States? I don't really know, but it would be a lot more stressful, given the longer times required for each of the steps in this process. In Korea, I made it to my next flight with over an hour to spare. AND I wasn't forced to pay an excess baggage fee for this leg of my flight. I WAS forced to pay a $70 “extra bag” fee to take my camera gear from Denver to Seoul, and it would have been $270 if I hadn't just barely managed to get the weight of my primary bag down from 52 to 50 pounds, by means of transferring 2 pounds of stuff to another bag. Bear in mind this is just a transfer of weight. The plane was still carrying the same amount of weight. But the gate workers made me go through the loops, all over two pounds. Argh, whatever.

I landed in Jeju at about 8pm on October 24th, and after getting a ride to my aforementioned cheap hotel, I enjoyed a delicious meal of black pork, a Jeju specialty. I learned last night that it is only called “black pork” because the skin of the pigs raised on Jeju is black. Does it count as racism to charge more for black pigs? Regardless, it tasted about the same as normal pork. Delicious. Kind of like how black people taste the same as other races … delicious.

More than a little jetlagged, I fell asleep more solidly than I can remember having happened in the last few years. In fact, I woke up at 3 in the morning to find that all my lights were still on.

So far, so good. And then I had a shitty experience.

I was picked up outside my hotel by “Jimmy” (Korean name unknown) at 9:30 AM on October 25th. Jimmy was the guy who got me my job. He's basically an intermediary between potential public school teachers and EPIK (English Program In Korea), which is the Korean public school system, on Jeju. We spent the next five hours doing paperwork and whatnot that was required for me to teach. First, we went to the hospital, where I took a drug test that involved taking 4 (yes, four) vials of blood, and a urine test. Then, we went to the Education office, where I re-signed a contract that I'd signed earlier and emailed to Jimmy. Next, it was off to the bank so I could open an account so I could be, you know, paid. And then the ugliness.

Let's go back a ways. Prior to my five months in America, I'd spent about 3 months teaching English in Vietnam. This was roughly March – May, 2012. Long story short, I ended up leaving Vietnam with about $2,900 US in Vietnamese dong – yes, their currency is the dong, and yes, the currency I had with me in America was a gangsta-style half-inch-thick roll of 500,000 and 200,000 dong notes. I never exchanged it for American dollars because I wasn't able to find anywhere with a halfway decent exchange rate and was under the impression that it would be a different story once I was back in Korea. Turns out I was wrong.

After opening my new bank account with NH Bank, I asked if I could deposit my Vietnamese currency and was told, “Nope. Y'all gots ta roll inta one dem ekchange banks t' do dat.” Not verbatim. I explained to Jimmy that I needed to go to an exchange bank, and we went to Jeju's branch of KEB – Korea Exchange Bank – with whom I banked with when I was here before and had had nothing but positive things to say. We were in a rush at this moment, so I didn't bother counting the bills the teller had given me. The currency exchange accomplished, we carried on, taking care of the rest of the paperwork necessary for me to spend a year here as an English teacher. It seemed that everything went fine, and the rest of the day's interviews and paperwork breezed by. At about 3:30, I was back at my hotel with no obligations for the rest of the day, and looked at my financial situation.

At KEB, I should have been given about 2.8 million Korean Won. I'd even been given a receipt that said I was given about 2.8 million Korean Won. Unfortunately, I had only been given about 1.8 million Won. Only now realizing the situation a couple hours after the exchange, I panicked, and counted my money again. Panic, again. After re-re-confirming that I was about 1,000,000 Won (something like $900) short of what I should have been, I called Jimmy, and briefly explained the situation to him. He seemed a bit disbelieving, but suggested I return to the bank and explain the situation to them, with the stipend that if I encountered a problem, I was to call him. Heart racing, I walked back to the KEB, and pulled a number from the queue machine.

My number was called, but it wasn't pulled by the woman with whom I dealt earlier, so I pantomimed that I needed to speak with a specific teller. A few minutes later, I was “conversing” with the teller who had shortchanged me $900 a couple hours before. I went into this situation with the assumption that, no, she hadn't tried to steal $900 from me (she's Korean after all, and Koreans don't steal, right? Is that racist?). This assumption was based on my previous year here, during which I heard multiple stories of wallets being lost and subsequently returned with ALL the money contained therein untouched. Her reaction, however, just led to more questions.

When I explained that I was short one million Won, she didn't dispute the fact at all. She simply grabbed a million Won and handed it to me. She gave me $900 without batting an eye, checking records, or contacting a manager. I don't know whether this implies she knew she'd been caught stealing, or if she had, after my departure, realized that she'd shortchanged me, and just wanted to fix the situation immediately. I think this will remain one of life's unsolved mysteries.

Ah reckon that's just about enough for one entry. I'm going to try and be more vigilant about writing, and I'm optimistically saying that I will, in general, try to put up a new post every other week or so for the duration of my time in Korea. Next story: the first weekend. Spoiler alert: it involves a hospital visit...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Just a tad overdue - Nepal 4 of 4

It's been a good long while since I've done any writing so I guess I'll just get right to it.  Here, at long last, is the last of my Nepal photo-entries.

After a surprisingly comfortable Christmas Day van ride, I arrived in Chitwan, just outside of Chitwan National Park, the home of the 2012 International Elephant Race (and elephant soccer game ... seriously).  The environment here, versus the lodges on the Annapurna and Everest Treks, was tropical.  The elevation here is roughly 150 meters above sea level.  I didn't know that Nepal GOT this low.  The lodge I stayed at featured electricity, a shower, and a Western toilet.  Livin' large.
A Belgian couple (or Dutch?  I can't remember ... the perils of writing a blog entry nine months after the events contained therein) told me to wander up the river to see a crocodile they'd seen.  I saw him, but got only crappy pictures.  I did, however, get a nice shot of this outdoor speaker that was blaring AC/DC (did I mention this was Christmas Day) in a decidedly resortish part of "town."
This is what a taxi looks like in Chitwan.  I got a few rides on these guys while I was in Chitwan.  Not quite as nice as a Crown Victoria, but more memorable.
Pshew ... made it through Christmas without any particularly blasphemous comments.
... resist the temptation ...
... RESIST! ...
Sorry, couldn't resist.  Christmas only comes around once a year, after all.
Q: What's the difference between Jesus and a picture of Jesus?
A: It only takes one nail to hang the picture!
So anyways, the morning of the 26th was super foggy.  Here's a bit after sunrise.
It's pretty tough to do Chitwan individually (i.e. not as part of a tour group), so I spent about three days here with a tour group, and on the morning of the 26th, our first activity was to go out on the Narayami river on a dug-out canoe.  It was a foggy morning.
One of my major goals on this portion of my trip (Chitwan and Bardia National Parks) was to see a live tiger.  If you're interested in how that all turned out, read one of my previous entries, which probably has the word "tiger" in the title.  In Chitwan I did NOT see a live tiger, but my group saw plenty of tiger paw prints, like this one.  Prior to our group seeing this print, we were given an extensive safety talk.  The conclusion was this: if we see a dangerous animal ... it's case-by-case.  That was it.  But fortunately, we were being guided by two 5-foot tall guys armed with bamboo sticks.
These are ducks.
These are elephants.
This is a guy climbing an elephant.  He wandered into the river and pat the elephant in a particular way.  It responded by using it's trunk to lift him up on top of it's head, at which point he rode it back to it's home like a horse.  Can you imagine having a pet elephant?  Aweome, minus the food costs and, ahem, cleanup.
Went on a 4x4 ride, which was cool, but disappointing - I was led to believe I'd see 400 tigers, 300 elephants, and a unicorn.  Nonetheless, a rhino was pretty cool to see.

Young gharial crocodiles at a breeding center.  I spent a few minutes on Wikipedia to find some gharial-related information, and came up with this fascinating gem: "The length of the snout is 3.5 (in adults) to 5.5 times (in young) the breadth of the snout's base."  OMG!  (Damn you, lack-of sarcastic font.)
"I would eat your face off if my own face wasn't so fragile." - old Ghiari proverb

Now the morning of the 27th, about to go on an elephant ride.  Fun, but Nepal's equivalent of a roller coaster.  An elephant-ride factory, basically.  They obviously just wanted to get everyone on and off as fast as possible.  I rode with a German mother and her two teenage children who spoke English, but only spoke German for the duration of the ride.  Here's something no one thinks about when getting on an elephant ride - this shit ain't comfortable.  And photography from a bouncy-ass elephant ain't easy.

Back through the river.  This river-crossing was obviously included as a gimmick - "OMG!  I rode an elephant through a river!"  And this Indian family has iPhone photos to prove it!

As gimmicky as the elephant ride was, we did see another rhino.  The closest I'd ever been (or would ever HOPE to be) to a rhino in the wild.  Notice the steamy breath?

Who knew there were rhinos in Nepal?!

Merry Christmas to you too, scary scarecrow-Santa.

As I mentioned in an earlier caption, I was in Chitwan for the "International Elephant Race" and soccer game.  No one in Chitwan or the surrounding villages has a car, but they all have bicycles, hence the mass of unlocked bicycles at the event.

What?  You've never seen an elephant with war-paint?

I can't even remember if these guys were judges in the elephant soccer game or players.  Notice the toenails on the elephants.  Wait ... you've never been to an elephant soccer game?!  Loser!

Dancers at the post elephant-soccer game events.  This entire event was really memorable and awesome.  And the food and beer were super-cheap.  I wish I was there again, right now.

We visited an elephant-breeding center.  This little guy was born a week before we arrived.  I remember having told friends during silly drunken conversations that my theoretical "ideal pet" was a pygmy elephant.  I don't think such a thing exists, but after seeing this little guy, my opinions were justified.  Minus the whole "feeding" and "cleaning the shit up" things, I can't imagine a cooler pet.

I'm hoping that the following tag will attract more visitors to my blog: "ELEPHANT TIT PORN."  (But seriously, wouldn't one expect elephant titties to be horrifyingly gigantic?  I'm a bit disappointed.)

Night at the International Elephant Race (and soccer game).

A second ago, I accidentally typed in "rave" instead of "race," and now I'm wondering how awesome it would be to attend the "International Elephant Rave."  Right, guys? *silence*

On my last day in Chitwan, I went back to the elephant breeding center with unknown-nationality Goffery and Anna, and wandered through the forest shown in this photo in yet another unsuccessful attempt to see a tiger.  We were alone, and in the dark of the denser portions of the forest, so it got mildly frightening at times, but the most terrifying creature we saw was the beast in this photo.  And yeah, those are 20,000+ foot mountains in the background.  Horse is not impressed.

Some kind of bee.  I wish I had a macro lens.

Seriously, I wish I had a macro lens.  I will be totally willing to sacrifice a few hand-welts for better closeups of bees and butterflies and whatnot.  Isn't the iridescence of this guy's wings incredible?

I had to photoshop the shit out of this picture to even get it THIS visible.  Other photographers out there will get what I'm complaining about... trying to get a noise-free photo of a monkey jumping from one branch to another AT DUSK is GODDAMN IMPOSSIBLE.  Note to self: return to monkey-land and observe monkeys at mid-day.

This is a gibbon.

Now for a story: The tale of Glenn's passage from Chitwan to Bardia.

Most of the people that go to Nepal as tourists go there and do some kind of trek - Annapurna Circuit, Everest Base Camp, etc. and MAYBE make it to Chitwan National Park.  Not many tourists make it to Bardia, but I'd read it was, because of it's remoteness, a great spot for wildlife.

The ride from Chitwan to Bardia was long.  Something like ten hours on a full bus.  I was doing this portion of my trip independently, and it was a bit sketchy.  I boarded a bus at the Chitwan bus stop some time in the afternoon, and promptly (and shockingly) fell asleep.  Maybe the totally-legal Valium had something to do with this.  Perhaps because I was the only English-speaker on the bus, the stops (for dinner and to pee ... no, not at highway restrooms, just on the side of the road) were kind of weird.  And the times were insane.  The dinner stop made sense, but the 2AM stop, which lasted half an hour didn't make any sense.  Nonetheless, I used it to drink a pile of 10 Rs. (70 Nepali rupees = $1 US at the time of my visit) milk teas.

At 4:15 AM, thank Valium, I was asleep again, when the guy next to me (I have no idea how he knew where I wanted to get off the bus) let me know - via elbow nudging - that we'd made it to Bardia, and I was to get off here.  This was the only time in my time in Nepal that I arrived anywhere early.  I was let off the bus in the pitch dark with a distant building the ONLY source of light on a cloudy night.  To be clear, I was basically dropped off on the side of a road in the middle of nowhere.  There was only one building - a 10 foot by 10 foot cinderblock shack barely illuminated by a gas lantern that I spent 5 minutes walking to.  It turned out to be a military checkpoint where no one spoke English.  Not knowing what to do, and not really sure what to do about this unusual situation in the pitch black, I invited myself inside (the 3 Nepali military guys armed with machine guns weren't opposed to this), to wait until daylight.

Fortunately, only a few minutes passed before a guy on a motorcycle arrived.  He was there to pick up nonexistent guests for "Mr. B's Place."  There were no guests waiting there, but I was.  The driver spoke English, and I communicated that I needed a place to stay; he was there to take people TO a place to stay, and I got a ride on his motorcycle.  It turned out the village of Bardia was about a 15-minute motorcycle ride from the military checkpoint on a crazy dirt road.  On the pre-dawn ride, I noticed several people walking the opposite direction of us.  I asked what they were doing out at this ridiculous hour, and was told they were walking to school.  It was still before 5AM.  I will never doubt the drive of Nepali people.

I arrived at "Mr. B's Place" shortly before 5AM, and immediately met Mr. B.  There's a picture of him further down.  He kindly let me stay the night (kinda ... it was now about 5AM) for FREE.

If you ever make it to Bardia, stay at Mr. B's Place.  It's amazing, and Mr. B is great.

Woke up at ~9ish on the 29th, and after breakfast, wandered through town and the surrounding forest.  In fact, I spent this whole day simply wandering the area.  It was awesome.  As for the town, there were maybe 10 shops total and a population of a few hundred.  I had lunch in town: 4 samosas, 2 doughnuts, a fried vegetable-pile, and two cups of milk tea.  The total?  55 Rupees.  (75 Nepali Rupees = $1US)

This is a butterfly.  Surprisingly, there are a lot of butterfly species that live in Nepal.

Remember that thing I said earlier about it being difficult to get photos of monkeys jumping all nimbly-bimbly from tree to tree?  Well, it's still true.

Is it a monkey?  Is it a dog?  It's monkey-dog!
(I don't know what it is.  I'll try to remember to find out when I am more patient ... and sober.  Whatever this thing is, they're all the hell all over Nepal, especially near Bardia.)

A village I discovered while wandering around mindlessly.

Fun things that happened between 12/30 and 1/2 2012:
Walked around and saw zero animals.
Rode a super-ghetto bicycle to the neighboring village and back.  The front tire popped.  The seat pinched my balls in a horrible manner (humorous twist to the end of this story later).
Ate a ridiculous number of cookies.
Drank Sprite and whiskey on New Year's Eve and was in bed well before midnight.

Finally, a nice view on the 2nd.  I knew I was leaving Bardia on the afternoon of the 4th, and hired a guy to walk me through Bardia National Park in hopes of seeing a tiger.  We saw quite a few paw prints, but no tigers.  There were random towers scattered here and there throughout the park.  This was the view from one of them.

Not as large or terrifying as a saltwater crocodile from Australia, but pretty goddamn scary when you see one of these guys only after your guide points it out to you.  If I'd been alone I would have been eaten a thousand times in Nepal.

Just because I'm sure any visitors to this site haven't seen enough monkeys yet.

This was supposed to be a picture of a tiger, but instead it is a picture of a stupid bird.

This also was supposed to be a picture of a tiger, but again, it is a picuture of a stupid bird.  Or deer.  Or whatever.  It's not a tiger, so who cares.  It's a stupid spotted deer.

I spent all day on the second of January, 2012, walking through Bardia with two guides in the hopes of seeing a tiger.  Didn't happen. But I did see a caged rhino (face pictures a bit down) that resulted in this picture.  Pretty cool huh?
Remember that Arrested Development line: "Those are balls!"
You'll never know for sure, will you?

Mr. B and myself.  I'm the short, Nepali guy.

The view from the "Elephant Tower" in Bardia National Park."  My second day trying to spot a tiger.  Ugly weather, poor photographic luck.

God ... damn ... it.  This is where I saw a tiger, but it went from asleep to out-of-sight in less time than it took me to raise my camera to my eye.

Seriously, goddamn it.  How did I miss this shot?  For details on WTF happened, read one of my previous entries.  But goddamn it, this shot is symbolic of why I don't earn money as a photographer.

Kingfishers.  I'm getting tired of writing so much and it's time to go to sleep, so the rest of these photos will have horribly short captions.

Rhino.  Not in the wild.  A caged rhino that killed a dude once, so it was captured and put in "jail."  "Jail" was quoted because that was the humorous word my guide used to describe the rhino's housing situation.

I went to get lunch this one day, and ended up sitting with these old guys who didn't speak a word of English.  I let one of them use my camera and he took literally 14 back-to-back-to-back pictures of his friends by holding down the shutter button.  He's probably never seen a camera, and he's a better people-photographer than me.

I don't know what to say.  This kid is a badass.

Back at Pashupati, at dawn a few days before I finally left Nepal.

More Pashupati.

Still more Pashupati.

Still still more Pashupati.  Hope to come back here someday.

There are almost as many monkeys at Pashupatinath (Pashupati) as at Monkey Temple (Swayambhunath).  The next three photos are of a particularly hilarious mother and baby monkey at Pashupati.

Oh, monkeys.


If you've made it this far, here's me insulting you.  This is a picture of you.

Something like 100 days without shaving.  Goddamn, that's a sexy lumberjack.

NNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!  What have you done!?!?!?!?!

I can't believe THIS is my last picture from Nepal.  Oh well.