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.