The Seoul Train bravoing my life...

Hippos and Nasal Polyps


I sent the following letter to my father today. He was recently forced to take several days off from work to recover from a minor surgical procedure. He is a man who takes his work very seriously; I'm not so sure 'sick day' exists in his professional vocabulary.
This note is an attempt to lift his spirits. My earliest memory of going to the zoo is associated with an image of my brother and me standing outside the hippo tank with my father bending down to tell us how his favorite animal in the entire animal kingdom was the hippo. I still don't know if he was serious at the time, nevertheless he has since adopted the animal as such for the sake of good story telling.

Dear Father,
I hope that your surgery went without complication. I am sure that your young age and good health will quickly see you through the mending process in no time at all. I am also sure that you, being a physician yourself, are adhering to the doctor's orders to a "T". It is with this in mind that I craft my letter. In order to provide you with a distraction from both post-surgery aches and the boredom associated with prolonged prostration, I would like to share the following story with you.
As you know, two weekends back, I spent some time in Japan. On the second day I met some friends early in the morning to head off into the mountains to enjoy a relaxing bath in hot spring waters. Several hours later, soak concluded, I exited the springs in an utterly relaxed state. So relaxed, I might stress, that I could not even be bothered to carry on much conversation; I was quite content to bask in my stresslessness and let the world wash on by for a while. My two Japanese friends, much more used to the pleasures of hot springs and consequently less susceptible to their powers, took the social excursion reigns and directed us back down into town for an early evening riverside walk and a bit of window shopping. We progressed through the pristine city-scape of bustling urban Japan, at one moment losing each other in crowds of hustling business men and women, and at another point finding ourselves utterly alone in the tranquility of hand-groomed Shinto gardens, which, in any other country, would seem very much out of place at the heart of a metropolis. We walked amongst young stylish hipsters with hair and clothes defying description. We bought warm canned coffee from vending machines. Eventually we paused for a simple dinner of warm sake and raw fish. My numb trance of relaxation giving way to the warm buzz of rice wine; the sun was setting red and there was a salty breeze to remind me of the ocean nearby.
It was then father that I came across them! Two rotund, amphibious mammals, so out of place yet seeming so very much within their habitat!! I froze in my step, glancing again, able to think only of the Sedgwick County zoo and a murky, dark green tank.

I quickly documented the urban beasts before they disappeared beneath the stone paved Japanese streets. The following two photographs represent the highlight of my trip. Had you the opportunity to be traveling with me, I'm confident that you, like me, would have fallen victim to the same irrepressible glee.

The first photograph, snapped in haste in order to document the pair before their resubmergence:

As it turned out, the hippos were so acclimated to their urban environment that my posing with them for a picture did not faze them in the least:
I wish you a speedy recovery. Take care, we'll talk soon.



Not really sure what it means but it is a great visual image. From Harry Pearson's sports blog:
"The Portuguese midfielder's footwear was the source of some consternation to Clive Tyldesley, because one was black and the other red. "If this catches on buying your son boots is going to be even more expensive," Tyldesley announced in that unique emotional yelp-chuckle of his that sounds like he's gargling tar while listening to the patriotic speeches of Winston Churchill and trying to free his toe from a rat trap."
Oh, and on another note, here is a picture from my trip to Japan. Everytime I think of the word "recycle" I now see this:



I am considering changing jobs. Here is the essay I submitted to determine how much I get paid.

CDI Instructor Candidate Essay
"If you had the power to change any event in history (outcome of an election, who won a war, etc.), which would you choose to change, and why?"

Nearly four years ago to the week, the American Secretary of State Colin Powell presented the Bush administration's case for the invasion of Iraq to the UN security counsel. In the face of lackluster foreign support and a suspecting American public Powell's convincing testimony proved to be the watershed for America's entrance into Iraq. It also marked the beginning of a muddled military, political and financial quagmire for America and her allies. Powell was the only cabinet member at the time capable of galvanizing both domestic and international support. If Powell had the foresight to say then what he is publicly asserting now- that America should not be involved in Iraq-, all parties and peoples involved would be immeasurably better off.
Powell's speech to the UN in March of 2003 had a unique and decisive effect on America's involvement in Iraq. In the months leading up to this event, despite the Bush administration's incessant and widely publicized accusations of Hussein/Al Qaeda connections and Iraqi weapons stockpiles, all significant parties remained skeptical. Powell was in a unique position to break this skepticism. He had, up until that point, maintained an indelible public persona, had successfully commanded America through the first Gulf War as a four star general and, most importantly, was regarded as an outsider within the Bush administration because of his ideological orientation. With such overpowering credibility, Powell single-handedly persuaded the American public to believe spurious weapons allegations, which, not even two months into the Iraq conflict, were proven false. Contemporary critics may be concerned with degrees of deception: was it Powell being deceived by the CIA and administration insiders or was it Powell et al. deceiving everyone else? Finger pointing aside, what does matter is the unique power possessed by Powell at that time; if the tone and content of Powell's speech had been altered, the multifaceted deterioration that has accelerated over the past four years would have been avoided.
The consequences of Powell's UN address have left an indelible stain on contemporary politics. The most outstanding effect remains the current status of the Iraq occupation. After four years of bloodshed and billions of dollars, either spent or squandered, the Iraq conflict is not only, not nearing a conclusion, it is being escalated. Additionally, the atmosphere inside the country is more fractious than ever, barely escaping the definition of civil war. Sunni and Shiite parties have made little to no progress towards establishing a functioning democracy. Sunni suicide bombers still battle Shiite death squads, the former receiving support from Saudi Arabian mosques while the latter reap the financial and arms benefits of the Iranian government. Unfortunately, the billowing consequences do not dovetail at the Iraqi border. There was the derailing of the Israel/Palestine peace process and the subsequent war between Israel and Hezbollah, a terrorist organization funded by Iran through Syria. Both events are widely acknowledged as being indirectly related to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. Beyond the region the consequence are less overt but potentially more damning for American interests in the long run. International support for all other ventures on the American agenda is at an all time low; this is manifested most poignantly in Iran's defiance at the UN in pursuing nuclear capabilities. Finally, America has unquestionably suffered domestically. The public is only now coming to terms with the deceptions of their elected government. How much better off the world might be if Powell had address the UN in a more appropriate manner.
Novelist A.E. Barr's quip, Foresight spares afterthought, may be the most significant reflection for a now contrite Colin Powell. No man can ever bare sole responsibility for a democracy's decision to go to war, yet, in this instance, it is hard to imagine said country being able to pursue the war without this man's decisive oratory. From a more encompassing perspective, Powell's speech only reflected the orientation of the Neo-conservative steeped Bush administration. Even a speech imbued with an adequate dose of foresight may not have prevented the current conflict in the Middle East. Nevertheless, both the American public and the international community would have retained their initial skepticism and maybe, just maybe, that would have been enough.

At the Pioneer Cafe


An excerpt from Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children. The protagonist (who does not like to think of himself as a protagonist) has the following vision while ill:
No colors except green and black the walls are green the sky is black (there is no roof) the stars are green the Widow is green but her hair is black as black. The Widow sits on a high high chair the chair is green the seat is black the Widow's hair has a centerparting it is green on the left and on the right black. High as the sky the chair is green the seat is black the Widow's arm is long as death its skin is green the fingernails are long and sharp and black. Between the walls the children green the walls are green the Widow's arm comes snaking down the snake is green the children scream the fingernails are black they scratch the Widow's arm is hunting see the children run and scream the Widow's hand curls round them green and black. Now one by one the children mmff are stifled quiet the Widow's hand is lifting one by one the children green their blood is black unloosed by cutting fingernails it splashes black on walls (of green) as one by one the curling hand lifts children high as sky the sky is black there are no stars the Widow laughs her tongue is green but her teeth are black. And children torn in two in Widow hands which rolling rolling halves of children roll them into little balls the balls are green the night is black. And little balls fly into night between the walls the children shriek as one by one the Widow's hand. And in a corner the Monkey and I (the walls are green the shadows black) cowering crawling wide high walls green fading into black there is no roof and Widow's hand comes onebyone the children scream and mmff and little balls and hand and scream and mmff and splashing stains of black. Now only she and I and no more screams the Widow's hand comes hunting hunting the skin is green the nails are black towards the corner hunting hunting while we shrink closer into the corner our skin is green our fear is black and now the Hand comes reaching reaching and she my sister pushes me out out of the corner while she stays cowering staring the hand the nails are curling scream and mmff and splash of black and up into the high as sky and laughing Widow tearing I am rolling into little balls the balls are green and out into the night the night is black...

Skype me, yo.


My entertainment for the weekend was derived from watching my television. On Saturday afternoon Mili and I ate some food and then bought DVDs. In Korea, as in other places all over Asia (and probably everywhere else outside of the US), people sell pirated movies for about 3,000 won a pop (a little more than three dollars a piece). No one cares about the copy rights infringements- the cops never bother these vendors- and I certainly don't care; I bought five that day and plan to buy many more.

The DVDs I purchased:
The Good Shepherd

The Departed
a Japanese animation movie. The main character's name sounds something like "Na-oo-she-ka" (A virus ate my Korean Language program, I am currently unable to type in Korean...)

The Good Shepherd was quality. But, I would have liked to know what happened to the wife and son at the conclusion of the movie. Crank = crap. The scene where the main character had to engage in public intercourse with his girlfriend in order to keep his adrenalin up so the Chinese poison wouldn't kill him left a bad taste in my mouth. Babel was good, but difficult to watch with Korean subtitles over the English translations for arabic, japanese and spanish. Blast!
The Japanese movie was terrific! Giant Ohm bugs and Naoosheka stole the show. I almost watched it a second time.
The Departed, the movie I was really looking forward to see, did not work. Technical difficulties with the pirating I guess. I will be going back to the pirate tomorrow after work to secure a working copy.

I also watched the Manchester United vs. Liverpool game. For 95 minutes of the 98 minute long game (considering the extra time added at the end of each half) the game was scoreless. Liverpool was playing at home and were, having beaten Barcelona at Camp Nou in the champions league a weak earlier, beaming with confidence. They were just hammering the league leaders. I believe Liverpool had 11 shots, Manchester United 2. Liverpool had 14 corners, Manchester United had 2. Additionally, Manchester United were reduced to 10 men with about 15 minutes left to play- that is why it was most improbable for Manchester United to score three minutes from time, eventually winning 1-0. Being a some-other-team-besides-Chelsea fan, the goal sent me into a backward somersault away from the TV across my bed, pillows and bed spread sprawling. My yelp laced fit of euphoria caused me to miss the replay.

Today I met my private tutor and ate Dalk-kal-bi. It did not stop raining all day.

And, this evening I have been messing around with Skype, the wonderful program that allows you to make long distance phone calls for free. I have it set up so I don't have to hold my damn phone anymore when I have conversations, see picture:

Now I can set my phone on my desk in front of me, speak normally and the output sound flows through my speakers. It really is like I am talking to my computer.

My readers unite! Get Skype and talk to me through my computer!

This picture is not very flattering but it makes me laugh every time I see it. This is right before Natsko embarrassed me the racing video game. I blame it on me not being Japanese and choosing the wrong car to race with. I should probably add general video game ineptitude to the list of reasons why I lost.
So, I am back from Japan. All in all it was a wonderful trip. I was able to make it to the hot springs that I planned on attending. I love rotating through the various baths: luke warm to the sauna to the ice bath to the nearly scalding bath and then over and over again. The numbing feeling one gets from the ice bath is truly a unique feeling for the human body. Each time after exiting the springs I was so relaxed that I had difficulty holding my own in benign conversation.
I was able to meet up with my friends in Japan. I spent all my time with either Etsuko, Natsko or Andy- all acquaintances I had previously met in Fukuoka or Kokuro City. I also met some new friends, mostly foreigners, from various walks of life. I return from Japan hoping that I will one day have the opportunity to live in Japan and study the language. Every time I travel there I am more and more impressed with the culture and its people.

I stayed in last night because I was feeling a little sick and exhausted from the week. Today I will meet Mili and later watch the Liverpool vs. Manchester United game with Seb and Siamak.

Additionally, Nick M. from Carleton- currently living in Beijing- has invited me to the Jejudo frisbee tournament at the end of April. I will be playing with the Beijing Ultimate team, a team that I traveled to Hong Kong with during my studies at Nankai University during college. It will be great to see him and other long lost friends again.

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