Elwood 5566

Boring Boryeong and 'Waygukin Wankers'

Posted in bathhouse Ballads, Blogging, Comparative, Entertainment, Westerners by 노강호 on August 29, 2010
Korea-Boryeong Mud Festival

Spot the Korean

Let me get my disclaimer out the way to begin with! Yes! there are plenty of decent, thoughtful and interesting waygukins in Korea and some may very well have visited Boryeong, but this post isn’t about them. This post is about the other types of waygukin, the ‘waygukin wanker’  types who generally ignore other westerners,  have no significant Korean friends, have boarded the bus to Boryeong,  and like to moan about Korean people and culture about which they like you to think they know everything.

I occasionally ‘rant’  about the unfriendly nature of many waygukins in Korea, it’s one of my minor idee-fixe. Two weeks ago, I had this idea to start a ‘waygukin wanker of the month,’ post in which I’d feature a photo of one of the numerous wankers around Song-So who will totally blank you if you pass them. I’ve lived in the building next to one for almost two years but even if we pass on an empty street, shoulder to shoulder, he will ignore me. I said hello on one occasion but he simply diverted his gaze to the floor and mumbled inarticulately. So, on one hot Friday afternoon, I stood for an hour waiting to get his photo but unfortunately he failed to turn up and missed the chance to be immortalized on my pages.  I haven’t seen him for two weeks and am beginning to assume he must have gone back to wherever. Good riddance! However, there are plenty of other candidates to replace him.

 

Courtesy of Roketship (link)

Maybe ‘waygukin wankerism’ is a disease, possibly contagious, and if so, one of the most potent sources of contamination has got to be the Boring Boryeong Mud Festival.  Bogland is full of boring accounts written by waygukin who assume they know all about Korea once they set foot on Korean soil and whose search for the spirit of Korea, it’s traditions and an understanding of the Korean psyche, lead them to splash about  in a bit of dirt chucked over a sheet of plastic on one of the only holidays of the year. If I had a list of a 100 things I want to do in Korea, the Boryeong Mud Festival wouldn’t even be on it. Even one of my closest Korean friends, who is 25, said it was disappointing with watered down wishy-washy mud piped onto plastic sheeting. But, he was impressed with the army of waygukins as he felt they provided the festival an international atmosphere.

Lovely plastic sheeting

 

Boryeong is as typically Korean as the Costa del Sol is Spanish or, Tijuana is Mexican and any place which attracts an army of waygukins should instantly loose its appeal especially because it’s the sort of ‘safe’ crap you do on a 18-30 cheapo package holiday to some place with bags of sun, sand, sangria and bouncing tits. It doesn’t attract interest because it’s Korean but because it’s the hip place for waygukins to go and which can be blagged about to mates afterwards. Those who like Boryeong probably find appeal in the likes of: Ko Phi Phi Le, the Costa del Sol or Costa Med, and Ibiza and other shitty destinations catering for the unadventurous, en-masse.   I find it amusing how so many foreigners will cue to take the bus to Boryeong yet are terrified of a trip to the local bathhouse which will provide a far more rewarding insight into Korean life.

Talking to a waygukin or two is fine, except most can’t talk, and having a beer with one is even better, I desperately miss the sense of humour, but slopping about in diluted mud with a million of them!! No thanks! I came to Korea to escape wanky-ways and in particular wanky British culture,  which doesn’t mean I don’t want talk or socialise with English speaking westerners per-se. I’m always on the look out for new friends but finding a western human who will talk is difficult. The last waygukin I swapped phone numbers with, declined an invitation to the cinema because he believed Koreans would perceive two men together as gay.

Boryeong should be towards the bottom of the ‘to do list’ but I suppose Korea is now such an easy country to live in, bilingual signs and menus, tourist information booths,  a wealth of information on the internet that didn’t exist 8 years ago, a modern international airport, all the major fast food chains, etc, that gone are the days when only the more adventurous risked coming here. It’ll soon be time to move on!

 

Too many westerners! YouTube link

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‘Waygukin Wanker’ Hub

Posted in Comparative, Westerners by 노강호 on August 29, 2010

My post: Boring Boryeong was in the pipeline for almost 3 weeks and I hesitated to publish it as I wasn’t sure if the lack of communication I have in Korea with other waygukin was something to do with me. Then I read a post in Hamish Nelson’s, Bongdam South Korea and I realise other waygukins notice it as well. For all the interaction I have with fellow westerners, I might as well be back in Britain because you are ignored there, too, except back home you expect it! When you only pass a couple of westerners a day, a little politeness would be friendly. The irony is that often when I do get an unfriendly waygukin to speak, they then moan to me about how unfriendly Korean culture is….boh-hoo-hoo, wanker! Go home!

I am now going to add links to any posts here, which deal with the subject of unfriendly westerners.

Thanks Hamish! Your post is first! I will now hit the publish key!

POSTS FOCUSING ON UNFRIENDLY, SLOVENLY  WESTERNERS.

The Supplanter – Sept 2010

Bongdam South Korea

Link to Roketship

 

 Roketship is an excellent source of humour on the experiences of living and working in Korea.

Prestige Korea . Don’t Greet Other Foreigners on the Street

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Danger! Donuts!

Posted in bathhouse and jjimjilbang culture, Blogging, Comparative, Westerners by 노강호 on August 19, 2010

Bathhouse

I enjoy reading other westerners accounts of the bathhouse experience as so often, and to varying degrees, they highlight how ‘fucked up’ we waygukins are. I’m just as ‘fucked’ as everyone else, though probably in a different way, as I only have a problem with nudity and changing rooms if I am in the west when I find they ooze a hostile atmosphere that seems a juxtaposition of hyper masculinity and homo-eroticism. And I am further ‘fucked’ because I now find semi clothed far more sexually appealing than totally naked and in you face.

I stumbled upon  a commentary of a guy’s experiences in a bathhouse that was both open-minded and yet humorously exposed some reactions to the stranger observations bathhouses provide. Quote:

much nicer

We then had to soap up and shower down. An old man saw me struggling and helped me adjust the temperature of my shower, and even got me a fresh cloth to lather up with. After cleaning, we chilled in various hot tubs and saunas for about 30 minutes. Contrary to what I had heard from a female friend, nobody stared at me because I was a foreigner. This might be because men don’t give fuck about seeing other men naked. Personally, I got over seeing other men naked thanks to hockey change rooms, which can desensitize you to male nudity pretty quickly. I was feeling good about remaining unperturbed by this excessive nudity, because my colleague was worried I would not be able to handle all the male genitals/being naked in front of a hundred men. Then I saw a man doing push ups naked beside a man doing disgusting stretches I will never describe to anyone. At that point, I emphatically informed Mun-Gi I was ready to go.

I had to laugh because, as stark and to the point as it is, his comments capture some significant cultural differences. Unfortunately, the author of: I’m In Seoul but I’m not a Soldier, returned to Canada this month.

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Uncle Ernie's Daegu Antics Prompt a Rant

Posted in bathhouse Ballads, Education, Korean children, No Pumpkin Category, Westerners by 노강호 on July 21, 2010

Uncle Ernie’s been at it again, this time in Daegu but he managed to escape to Japan before the police caught him. A little jigery-pokery in the pants of a few students and suddenly every one ‘loves’ kiddies and starts baying for those accused to be tortured, brutally beaten, executed or incarcerated for life. It’s basic, Witch-hunts and Pogroms for Dummies.

Twenty years ago the word ‘paedo’ didn’t exist and even today many people can’t spell the word and constantly use it incorrectly, often conflating pederasty with paedophilia. Of course, I’m on dangerous ground as  the baying often insists that anyone not whipped into a raging frenzy and demanding draconian punishments for offenders, must be a paedo themselves. The parallels are obvious, Krystalnacht, the Salem Witch Trials, McCarthyism and the Spanish Inquisition.

Ernie at work in one of his guises - lovely hat

Fiddling with kids is bad and crimes involving rape and violence against children are terrible but get real! First, ‘fiddling all about,’ Uncle Ernie’s favourite pastime, usually committed at bedtime, is only a recent concern. Twenty years ago no one really gave it much attention. I can certainly remember a time when the media often reported cases of teenage boys who’d been fiddled with by ‘sexy’ housewives and reported in a manner which implied it was a wholesome, fun-frolicking experience that every boy fantasized and in which every dad could be proud that at the very least, their son wasn’t ‘queer.’  The Catholic Church, the ideal religion for committing a range of offences, including Ernie’s favourite, but additionally more heinous ones like buggery, violence and murder, are still trying to pay it as little attention as possible. If you want to commit crime and be happy and guilt free doing so, the Catholic Church provides a suitable ideological package and  joining their club provides some lovely hats and costumes.  Many of the world’s most notorious crime spots are countries where Catholic sentiment run rampant.

Secondly, touching a kid’s todger or stroking their bottom is far less offensive than allowing them to die of starvation, lack of sanitation and water. Globally, we tolerate the death of 20.000 kids every day which over a number of years amounts to significant holocaust and many die at the hands of weapons manufactured in  west. The US and UK are two of the world’s leading peddlers of kiddy death. Sensing some of the emotive guff written by those responding to pervy teachers, one might be led to belief we actually care about the welfare of kids. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. I call it ‘guff’ because the responses and their nature are largely orchestrated via the media and popular politically correct sentiment, a form of peer pressure.

Global perversion!

You want to castigate a child abuser, start with the ones who do it on a global scale and make mega bucks doing it. Arms dealers and manufacturers and their political lackeys are perverts of the highest magnitude and then there are the politicians and political systems which put profits before people – a perversion most people are happy to tolerate.

Perverts in arms - probably just leaving or entering a church

And changing the subject, how did Ernie manage to get his kids to undress? I can’t imagine for one moment my kids just stripping off if I told them to, let alone trying to undress them myself. Maybe he spoke fluent enough Korean to order them to do so but even then I would imagine you’d need to provide a motive and I’ve met few English teachers with such a capable command of Korean.

Ernie must have gone to school that day with both a prepaid passage to Japan and his letter of resignation and of course, knowing exactly what he was going to do.

I’ll frotage a few buttocks, stroke a couple of wieners, hand in my resignation, make a dash for Inchon and be in Tokyo in time for tea!

And he’s married with children? It’s probably true but fantastical enough to suspend any witch-hunt!

Being totally cool-headed and rational – it’s a pretty minor offense! If I had kids and I had to choose between one being squashed by  a bus, blasted to pieces by a landmine, starving to death or being touched by Ernie…….well, only a fucking idiot would choose anything but the latter. Ernie’s fingers are definitely offensive but a far greater catalogue of atrocities exist and are endured by thousands of children every day – and most warrants not the slightest concern and can be intellectualised away via political and economic theories or simply deemed naive.

Real perverts have the power to define perversion

Hype aside, what remains to call for chemical castration, execution and all sorts of inquisition-style punishments are vague.  The guy is possibly mad but in the small selection of emotive guff I’ve read, I’ve yet to see terms such as ‘mentally ill,’ or ‘crazy.’ Paedo crimes are currently of master label status and as such carry the verdict of guilty the moment even tainted by the label and  sadly, even if subsequently proved innocent the association will remain. Shouldn’t such a predicament, comparative with other historical events, raise alarm bells?

Victim of a cluster bomb - a product of perversion and a contributing cause of around a million Iraqi deaths

I didn’t enjoy writing this post, ranting comes very easily to me and has probably lost me a number of friends and on this site I have a policy of avoiding blatant rants. The world is a depressingly sick place and our apathy contributes towards it. Paedo-paranoia is part of the bread and circuses hype which detract attention away from the real axes of evil!

Labour Party Turned a Blind Eye to Iraqi Casualties (Guardian UK. July 2010)

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Beach Bum Teachers

Posted in bathhouse Ballads, Comparative, Education, Westerners by 노강호 on July 2, 2010

I took a walk around Keimyung University, Daegu,  and  passed a couple of  plastic professors one of whom wore a three piece suit and the other, white trousers, jacket and a Panama hat. True there were a few casually dressed waygukins kicking about but I assume these to be students so as not to spoil my myopic view of the world.

Keimyung is a beautiful campus and supposedly, one of the ten most attractive campuses in Korea. I was lucky enough to have attended Essex University in the UK, and indeed own a house only 15 minutes walk from the campus. As a first year student in halls of residence, my room looked out over Wivenhoe Park which was the subject and title for John Constable’s 1816 painting. I never really appreciated the importance of beautiful surroundings and university campus life until I subsequently studied in London where the University probably owned one tree – everything else being brick and tarmac.

For a year, this was my view as I ate breakfast

Swanning about in a boater or three piece suit with a dickie bow, even if you’re professorship is plastic, is so much more sophisticated with a beautiful campus as a backdrop. True, Oxford and Cambridge aren’t set in beautifully rural settings but the sense of the numinous imparted by ancient architecture is just as effective and maybe more so.

Keimyung traditional architecture and the distant city

Traditional and modern typify Keimyung campus

Two miles down the road from Keimyung, in Song-So, there are no boaters or dickie-bows. When you’re teaching in a haggwon a three piece suit is an overstatement. Around Song-So’s haggwons the predominate form of dress for teachers is casual  and hence cargo shorts, shorts, flip flops, vests and all manner of clothing suitable to a Thai beach, building site or the set of a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, are common.

Traditional architecture

Now, I come from Britain where the weather is notoriously shitty and where you can generally wear the same type of  clothing  all year. The same thickness of jeans material will  suffice throughout the year but may be a little warm in summer but the need for three types of clothing, basically, winter, summer and spring/autumn, as in Korea, is not necessary. However, in many parts of  Canada and Australia, and definitely the USA, the summer temperatures and even precipitation are not a lot different to that of Korea. I used to play in a military band and have marched through Calgary, Canada, in a temperature of 44 degrees and I wore full ceremonial uniform and not a pair or cargo shorts and flip flops. I remember Washington DC being very uncomfortable and air conditioning, something of a domestic rarity in the UK, was a necessity. What I didn’t see however, were Americans or Canadians going to work, certainly not professional work, dressed like beach bums.

I get annoyed seeing westerners going into schools dressed like they’re on vacation and see it as a form of racism and symptomatic of cultural ignorance. In my high school, and in haggwons in which I have taught, the dress code, set by co-workers, certainly wasn’t beach wear. Eighteen months ago, we hired a Canadian gyopo (교포).  He had never lived or worked in Korea and spoke little Korean but would turn up for work wearing torn jeans which he wore so far past his hips his boxers were constantly on display. Meanwhile, his hems were worn away from having been constantly walked on. Dressing like a shit-bag puts immense pressure on haggwon bosses and while some, like bosses everywhere, are tossers and deserve it, many are decent and well meaning. Neither is it fair on Korean co-workers  when foreign staff dress for a beach party while they dress, like professionals,  for work.

If I were employing a waygukin, I’d certainly want to see a photo and I’d probably want to ask: what they would intend to wear to school? If they can get themselves to school via the shower and shaver, and if they piss it up every evening? But then I’m inclined to fascism! Easier, I’d probably employ waygukin’s with professional teaching qualifications beyond the month long TEFL, ESL certificate and who’d actually had real jobs to both  check out references and as a means of assuming they will be acquainted with what to wear to work, and how to behave in work. You read so many gripes about westerners not being treated fairly and while a lot are genuine, many will be the result of waygukins who treat working in Korea as part of a backpacking holiday. It is disrespectful, even racist to treat your host culture with less consideration than you would you own culture, regardless of your personal opinions,  more so when there is little or no difference between them in terms of work place etiquette and its associated expectations.

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When 'Gay' is 'Gay!'

Posted in Comparative, Gender, Korean children, Westerners by 노강호 on June 21, 2010

 

Not suitable for Pumpkin people

How do you know if another boy is gay? I asked some 15  year old boys.

1. A gay boy stands close to other boys

2 A gay boy strokes other boys

3. Gay boys likes to hold your hand

4. Gay boys kiss other boys

5. Gays hug people

As for gay girls, I’m told: you can’t really tell if a girl is gay because all girls hold hands with their friends.

So! It would appear most Korean boys and many men are gay!

 

'No Regret' (2008) Korean gay movie

The  use of the term ‘gay’ in Korea is fairly new to me and I certainly don’t recall it being as prevalent in the past as it is now. However, the term is only ever used within the context of ‘homosexual’ and doesn’t carry the broader western  connotation, ‘bad,’ ‘crap,’ ‘shit’. etc, which can be applied to anything.  In Korea, you won’t find any ‘gay’ books, or ‘gay’ movies and unlike my last UK school, where even chairs had  ‘gay’ graffitied on them, there are no ‘gay’ objects. Though they might react differently if they someone were gay, their use of the word  lacks all nastiness. I imagine that the idea of someone really being gay, is so alien that the the term can be used without emotion.  That someone could be ‘gay’  is as likely as someone being  a ‘martian.’ In the west, when kids use the word as an accusation its purpose is very often  to  assert an appearance of heterosexuality, the rationale being if you want to appear heterosexual, simply behave in a homophobic manner.  When ‘gay’ is used as a derogatory term in the west, it’s never simply spoken and is often heavily invested in emotion  even to the point of being spat out with hatred.  The Korean use of the term ‘gay,’ by comparison, is the most naive and innocent I have ever heard. Indeed, Koreans use the  term ‘gay’ in the gayest of ways. Of course, for Koreans in the closet, derogatory comments are as insulting as they are in the west and that they seem to be voiced in the absence of malice probably symptomatic of the success with which society has oppressed/suppressed same sex relationships.

 

Skinship by Hee Chul and Sung min

Most of my classes are co-ed but a few weeks ago, as we were trying to group abilities more closely, we were left with one class which is solely boys.  I’ve read a few posts by teachers who get annoyed at displays of skinship during lessons and have to admit, since the girls left, the amount of petting and pawing has increased. The class consists of 5 boys , divided into 2 groups (3;2) and which are very tight peer groups, that is to say boys who attend the same school, same classes and in many cases will have been friends for a long time. Both groups are inseparable and are by their own definition ‘dick friends.’ (고추 친구). In Korean culture, between men or boys, one cannot count a friend close until you have seen each other naked, eg at a bathhouse, at which point you become ‘goch’u ch’ingu,’ (고추 친구). The last thing most western lads want to see is their mates dick and any interest expressed in this direction would be a deemed ‘gay.’

 

Korea, camp minus gay

The main protagonist of the skinship is Mark, a boy of about 15 (English reckoning). While the other boys sit in the same seats, all the front row, Mark seems to change seats each lesson and will paw and fiddle a different lad correspondingly. Stroking hair, massaging shoulders, holding hands are all common but on two occasions he has also kissed other boys on the cheek, albeit as a joke. His friends tell me he claims to be ‘in love’ with a different boy each day and accuse him, in the nicest and gayest way possible, that he’s ‘gay’ – on two occasions this has been the point he has kissed the current object of his interest.

As for the list supplied by the boys:

1. A gay boy stands close to other boys – in the school office this afternoon one boy was laying on top of another one (aged 12)

2 A gay boy strokes other boys – in every class boys fiddle with each other

3. Gay boys likes to hold your hand – that means all my best friends are gay. And yesterday in the bathhouse I actually saw two boys, most likely brothers aged around 12 and 7 respectively, the older boy of which was sat on the side of the pool holding his brothers dick as he talked to him and when the younger boy went to run off the older boy pulled him back with a tug.

4. Gay boys kiss other boys – I don’t see this often but I have had Korean male friends (certainly straight) kiss me.

5. Gays hug people –again, my male friends have hugged me.

Perhaps a more pertinent question might be how do you tell if a Korean man or boy is ‘straight?’ Any insights into Korean homosexuality warmly welcomed!

K-pop - Kamp-pop. And are the lads eying each other up?

 

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Song-So in Transition

Posted in Daegu, Diary notes, Westerners by 노강호 on June 19, 2010

E-bente-tang (이벤트탕)

In the Ebente Tang (이벤트 탕) today the additional essence was pine (솔입). It was slightly busier than usual for a lunch-time and I got talking to the westerner who isn’t afraid to bend over. It’s actually the first time I have sat with a westerner, naked in a bathhouse, since I visited Korea a few years ago with a friend. I passed another westerner on the way in;  I was taking my shoes off as he was putting his own. He didn’t want to talk, I could tell, and he was a dirty looking backpacker type with grungy looking clothes and a month’s stubble. I almost  let him escape then said, ‘hello,’ after which he had to exchange some conversation with me. I’ve not really seen him around before but of course, he’s lived here for a few years, which means probably 13 months.

I’ve had a few drinks. This evening, as I left work, I felt like a stroll down to where my old school  used to be which involves crossing a large cross-road near the Lotte Cinema. I  hardly ever go Keimyung University side unless I want some Baskin Robbins ice cream.  The cross-road forms a barrier, an asteroid belt between my realm, a few blocks, and what is basically another universe. I usually experience a sense of adventure as  I cross it and begin journeying where I haven’t been before.  Of course, I probably have been in this location before but the transformation of the buildings and businesses occupying it generally make me feel passing them is a first encounter.   I’d started the journey from my bank and half way towards my old school, as it starts to rain, I realise my umbrella is in the bank foyer. It’s pointless turning back and beside, this is Korea and the chances are very high it will be there when I return.

Song-So in 2000 from the top of E-Marte. This area still had patches of farmland all since developed

2010. Same location

The businesses towards my old school, a hideous factory in which I worked for 18 months, have changed. KFC has gone – the first pace I ate on my own in Korea, so too has Lotteria burger bar where I’d hang out in the most humid part of summer because contracts back then didn’t include air conditioning, and where a bedding shop used to be I’m treated to a reminder of life back home  in the form of a Tesco’s Home Plus. Not content to have invaded every corner of England, they are now starting to terminate all small businesses in Korea. My old school is no longer Di Dim Dol but some other school, still run by a money grabbing businessman boss. On the huge poster on the third floor,  some round-eyed western kiddy stares out at Korea, pen in hand, looking studious. Of course, the truth is most western kids couldn’t give a fuck about English and the native language skills of both Britain and the USA fall behind that of Korea, which for all its faults, has one of the most successful education systems in the world. My old Taekwondo Academy has gone and so too has the Pizzaland underneath it.

This entire stretch of road used to be the most affluent part of Song-So but since a mega cinema complex, known as Mega Town, was built some 6 years ago, opposite where I currently live, the money has moved into the next block. It was an obvious transition; near the Cinema is the E-Marte supermarket and surrounding it are buffet restaurants, pizza restaurants, coffee shops and a Dunkin Donut. Further down the road towards the university, the area in which my old school used to be the atmosphere is  now slightly shabby and deserted. When I cross the large crossroads and venture into the unknown I often feel guilty of being lazy but nowadays I just remind myself I rarely come here as there isn’t really much to see.

Sea squirt (멍개)

I end up eating dinner in an Oyster restaurant where I know the owner. It’s one of the hardiest local businesses. The first thing he says to me is that I have put on weight when indeed I have lost it. Not a good start to the evening especially as my favourite food here was oyster tempura. Ten years ago this restaurant was a North Korean restaurant  and was where I regularly used to meet my friend Cherie, currently my boss after she quit Di Dim Dol Factory School. The owner is really pleased to see me and wanting an excuse to drink, plies me with plenty of ‘service’ in the form of beer, makkalli, sea squirt, and sliced jellyfish.

If you’ve ever wanted to know what its like to eat a boil, Sea Squirt (멍개) is a close approximation. I’ve eaten them before and never found them delicious. Sliced jellyfish (햅아리) however, I like especially if in a sauce. The specialty in this establishment is oyster. My home town in the UK, Colchester, has existing oyster pens built when the Romans occupied Britain. Indeed the oyster trade dates back 2000 years. You wouldn’t really know this as oysters are probably no more visible in Colchester than in any other town especially as they cost about a pound a shot – approximately 2000 Won each. My basket of delicious Oyster cost 20000 Won (£10) and there are probably 30 oysters – enough to make me feel a bit sick. And this is where I have to laugh because they cost the same price back in 2002!

I left the Oyster restaurant feeling a little sick and pissed and on the walk home passed a restaurant in which sat a group of around 6 waygukins. I stopped for a moment and spied on them. They were all young and shabby, the men unshaven and clearly back-packer types with a touch of goth about them as they were all mostly dressed in black and drab colours. One dumb-ass  had a tea cosy on his head and sat next to him was the guy I met going into the bathhouse today. No wonder he didn’t want to talk as he obviously has a gaggle of mates to chat with.

I ended up back at the bank where my little sojourn had begun and there, where I had left it, was my umbrella.

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Toss English

Posted in Diary notes, Westerners by 노강호 on June 17, 2010

I should have known better but after a hard day’s work, feeling clammy and tired, my brain wasn’t functioning. I ‘d stopped to take a photo of one of the school’s mini buses which was parked on the sidewalk, doors wide open to vent the heat before being crammed full of students. I’d no sooner got my camera out of my bag when a waygukin came around the corner. Being caught with your camera out, a sure sign you are a white belt waygukin, is embarrassing and the equivalent to being caught tossing or picking your nose. Like most of the boring western tossers in Korea, there was an avoidance of eye contact and a reticence to acknowledge another foreigner lest it taint their air of being a waygukin who thinks they’re either Korean or the only westerner in Korea.. I’d passed another two in exactly the same spot earlier in the day – one I’d nodded at but behind his dark glasses he totally ignored me. The other was walking into his school wearing a pair of Bermuda shorts that made him look like a  tosser and then there were the flip-flops. I find it a form of racism for waygukins to go and work in a school dressed like they’ve just sauntered up from the beach as it demonstrates a complete lack of any understanding of or sensitivity to Korean culture and short of working for Mediterranean Beach Club 18-22, you wouldn’t dress as such back home.

The minibus I am photographing belongs to Toss English Academy and ‘toss’ is a British-English slang term for ‘masturbate’ or ‘crap.’ The school has been in situ for well over 10 years and I often smile when I see one of their buses passing. You’d really think companies, especially the big ones and ones which teach English, would ask a native speaker to check their  English so as to avoid making such gaffes! Other alternatives conveying the same sense of meaning and range of nuances would be: ‘Wank English Academy,’ Masturbate English Academy,’ and  ‘Shit English Academy.’  And for some examples:

Going for a toss – to have a wank, to toss off

tosser – a wanker or masturbator

to call something ‘toss’ – to state it is ‘rubbish,’ ‘shit,’ or ‘crap.’

a tosspot – a stupid person, an arsehole or a boozer.

As I’m taking the photo the driver comes up and asks me why I want a photo. I’m sensitive enough to gauge how appropriate it is to tell him what ‘toss’ means and even assume he might find it amusing and as he’s approximately the same age as I am, I go ahead and explain.  My pronunciation of ‘wank’ is impeccable as I’d heard it so often in my last school, a boys’ high school  as whenever you asked a student  any question about what they did, are doing, or might do, someone would mutter, ‘wank.’   Now, initially I assumed the driver understood me because with a little look of surprise on his face, he reiterates the word, ‘wank?’   I repeat myself and point to the word but suddenly he is looking  a little annoyed and walks back to the little group of drivers from which he had initially emerged.

Poor guy has probably been driving one of those mini-buses for ten years and then discovered from a stupid waygukin that  ‘toss’ means ‘wank.’  That’s a mighty kick to a Korean ‘kibun.’ I should have kept my mouth shut! I explain my faux pas  to a friend  who sees nothing wrong or offensive in my comments and the context they were made in but suggests he may have been worried about ‘company’ image.  However, as I replay the event through my mind  I am beginning to wonder if he understood what I meant by ‘wank’ but misunderstood the rest of my Korean. If such were the case then they guy probably thinks I’m a weirdo. Maybe he thought I was after a ‘wank’ in his bus or maybe he thought I was suggesting I ‘wank’ him. Now I’m going to have to avoid that stretch of road to by-pass the Toss Buses and their drivers.

Creative Commons License

©努江虎-노강호 2010  Creative Commons Licence.

Toss English went bankrupt in 2012.

June 2010

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Nancying in the Powder Room. Bathhouse Ballads

 

 

A Bathhouse Ballad

In this particular bathhouse (목욕탕) you can sit in the ebente-tang (이벤트탕) and watch the men and boys nancying about in the little ‘powder room’ that are provided in all bathing establishments. This particular ebente-tang doesn’t have any added aromas  or coloured water and you might be forgiven for wondering why indeed it is even called an ‘ebente-tang,’ until the pool starts frothing and chomping quite crazily. The jets of water from inside the pool, should you be unfortunate enough to be sat over  one as it starts and you fart, are powerful enough  to  administer a surprise enema.  As I’m being buffeted by the jacuzzi jets, I’m busily watching  three middle-aged men in the ‘powder room.’  All are stood, independent of each other and two are in straddle stances, or in what martial artists would recognise as a  ‘horse stance.’

 

A 'wushu' version of the 'horse stance'

Traditionally, this stance is used to strengthen the legs and as a position from which to practice  various blocks and strikes. As a combat stance it is redundant as it renders a male a potential gelding should a strike to the groin be forthcoming.  Don’t forget, the men in the ‘powder room’ are totally naked. Rather than blocking and striking, feet rigidly anchored to the ground, both men are drying their  sack and crack with hairdryers. I’m thinking they must have studied at the same school because despite all the variations of horse stance,  both are in identical style, technique and positions. Most likely it’s a taekwondo derived stance as it is much higher than in the Chinese version above yet not as high as the one featuring Bruce Lee (이소룡), below. This version is in-between.

 

이소룡 (Bruce Lee) practicing the sack 'n' crack stance.

The accompanying arm movements are identical: first the dryer is held pointing at the sack ‘n’ tackle before being swung  between the  legs to windy the crack area.  The latest event in the tub, an eruption, has quelled and I’m chuckling to myself as a third man in the  ‘powder room’  demonstrates his technique. Clearly, he has been trained in a totally different school.  After fiddling with one of the big fans on the long dressing table, angling it into the required position, he turns, get into a straddle and bends over, parking his exposed  butt in the fan’s stream.  The technique is very different but the stance is identical to that of the other two men and with head almost touching the floor, the fan is probably capable of drying his sack ‘n’ crack all at the same time.

Jeez, Korean men are such ponces! That’s why I like them. Back in the UK, a room such as this would terrify most westerners not just because you nancy about in it naked, but because the purpose of the room involves preening oneself. Actually, I much prefer the safety of the ebente-tang to watch how different men occupy themselves in this task. I never stay long in the ‘powder room,’ not because I don’t like being naked in front of other men, but because I don’t like being naked in front of myself, and like most ‘powder rooms,’ the walls are covered in mirrors.

All the flaws of being western are magnified in the array of mirrors and bright lights. Our skin tone tends to be more varied; my face is slightly ruddy, my buttocks lily white, my forearms as tanned as any Koreans and my neck brown. The rest of my body is whitey- pink, like a giant maggot. Then there’s the hair; back hair, chest hair, arm hair and leg hair and it’s all different in colour, texture and shape. My arm hair is smooth, my chest hair a little coarser and the hair on my back is somewhat like the hair on the backs of my arms, long and straggly and the sort of hair a neanderthal might have. I can’t stand looking at myself in those mirrors and always find the ‘powder room’ a little stressful.

 

All that hair. Yuk!

I touched on the subject of body hair several months ago, in relation to living in an environment free of carpets. It’s only in this type of environment that you realise just how much hair we shed. I am not especially hairy and I sweep my floor everyday with one of those magical wipes to which hair and fluff adhere. Despite this, I find hair everywhere. I’ve found them in the fridge, freezer and only a few days ago I was eating a slice of water melon when what I thought was a little crack on my plate, was in fact a pubic hair. I’m 54 and have a full head of hair non of which I see anywhere, but pubic hair, chest hair and those unsightly, straggly back of arm and back hairs, get everywhere. Korean bodies are so much nicer, more alike in proportions, colour and apart from having pubes that are long enough to perm and which often seemed to be straight rather than curly, are usually pretty hairless. Hair, its antediluvian and barbaric! As I get older I notice my eyebrows becoming wilder and if I don’t trim them I start to develop antennae. Nasal hair is a bugger but is kept at bay with regular burst from a cigarette lighter. And I dread getting ear hair as that looks especially alien.

 

No hairs in his fridge!

 

In the ‘powder room’ a couple of men and a boy are preening; an old man is methodically combing his hair with a brush from the selection  of brushes and combs which are always available.  I’ve never seen any hairs on brushes and assume they are cleaned regularly and in many ‘power rooms’ are small steam boxes similar to those used in doctors surgeries and dentist, to sanitize such items. A boy is cleaning out his ears with cotton buds (q-tips), an item as standard as towels and soap. On the long dressing tables, there is always a collection of face creams, hair gel and skin brace.   As with everything in bathhouse and jjimjilbang culture, no two places are exactly alike.

 

Fat is Here

A Bathhouse Ballad

In the ebente-tang, the aroma of the day is lavender (라벤더). I’m wallowing while I see some guy stood in the cold pool snot-up into his hand and casually just wash it off – into the pool water. Filthy twat! I occasionally take in a mouthful of that water, I guess most people do and, I open my eyes underwater! Pissing in the baths is one thing, at least you are unaware of people doing it, but if you’re going to snot up, be discrete! The snotting incident made me wonder if the water is filtered. It is certainly changed on a regular basis and probably filtered. Neither is it chlorinated but as most people shower before entering the baths this doesn’t bother me. I can remember seeing a few turds in British swimming pools but despite the chlorinated water, I wasn’t going to swim anywhere near them! Often I notice children, usually unaccompanied, get straight into a bath without showering. Last Thursday, which was the eve of Buddha’s birthday, and a public holiday, there were about 10 teenagers running around. Usually, adults get irritated by raucous behaviour but the atmosphere was jovial and I noticed several men lounging in surrounding pools watching them and smiling. There was a definite holiday spirit; they held the door shut to the ice room door trapping friends inside and threw bowls of freezing cold water  at each other. For almost an hour the bathhouse, the noisiest I have ever heard it, despite it not being very busy, resonated with their laughter.   Then a fat guy walked in and I started thinking…

At one time, when there were few other wayguks around, I used to be the fattest man in Song-So and one of my companions, a woman from Australia, was probably the fattest woman. Though she was excellent company, I hated walking around with her. A fat person, especially one who is 1.95 cm tall, attracts attention but two fat people together, well, the assumption is they are a couple and that all western wayguks are fat. Two fat wayguks together loose their identity in the conflation that reduces them to, ‘they’ and ‘fat.’  If you’re sweating, unable to buy clothes that fit, if you’re seen eating, if you don’t like walking up four floors to your place of work, well, it’s all because you’re fat! And eating an ice-cream in public! No wonder you’re fat! I happen to take size 14 (UK) shoes. You can’t buy them in Korea, apart from perhaps in Seoul. And the reason my feet are so big, despite being the leanest parts of my body?  I’m fat, of course!  When Koreans see a fatty or a fatty couple, this is how they probably think, and I assume this, as in the west, it is how we think. Even if I see a fat person eating an ice cream on a hot summer’s day, even if I am eating one myself,  my immediate thought is, ‘go on a diet, fat arse!’ Two fat people with backsides like hippopotami, holding hands on the beach front promenade, and wobbling like jelly…  ‘gross! The contradictory nature of my thought, doesn’t even sully the flavour of my ice-cream.

Maybe I’m paranoid, but when my fat female friend and I took a taxi, along with two petit Koreans, and her and I ended up sitting on the same side of the cab,  it was clear what caused the problem, and it wasn’t paranoia! The window on our side of the taxi looked directly onto the tarmac while the opposite window framed the full moon. After a hundred meters and a few grating sounds from some part of the vehicle now in contact with the road, the taxi driver evicted us.

In  2000, and probably until fairly recently, I was the fattest person I ever saw in a bathhouse. Even proportionately, no Korean ever came close to my dimensions. This isn’t because I have the girth of Jabba the Hutte, but because Koreans were, and to some extent still are,  smaller than westerners. My diary pages from that period provide several references to there being a distinct lack of fat people. In the school at which I taught there was one fat boy, I even remember his name, Jack; a photo of him hangs in my bedroom bathroom, back in the  UK. In my taekwondo school was another chubby. Neither boys were particularly fat and today, just ten years later, would be classified as fairly normal.

I need no helpers for this size portion!

In the last few months, I have noticed that on almost every visit to  a bathhouse there are one or two Koreans proportionately the same size and sometimes fatter than I. Very often, other fatties are kiddies. Burger bars, fried chicken, Baskin Robbins, Dunkin Donut and plenty of other western style fast food outlets have proliferated, and the price Korea is paying, especially their youth,  is the bulging waistline. Ten years ago I went into a Baskin Robbins in downtown Daegu. I was with a Korean friend and her daughter and when I arrived at their table with a tray containing  three, what I considered ‘normal’ size ice creams, they starred in amazement. One tub, they told me, would have been enough for all three of us but to me, they were the sort of size you would buy yourself back home. In the ten years interim, I now have two Baskin Robbins within a 7 minutes walk of my home and occasionally I will treat myself to an 11.000Won (£5.50), pot of ice cream. I think it holds about 5 scoops. I can easily eat this and could also finish off one of their  larger buckets. Even if I buy the smaller pot, smaller than a Macdonald milkshake cup,  staff will ask how many spoons I want. Shame prevents me from replying’ ‘one’ so, pondering in thought for a moment, as if counting the number of people back home waiting for me to deliver, I reply, ‘four.’

Along with the western fast food diet, fat has finally arrived in Korea

Korean proportions are always piddly and I’m not really into the act of sharing my food, especially ice cream. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a Korean meal, even at a buffet restaurant, and left feeling properly stuffed, stuffed western style where you can’t breathe properly and feel you’ve mutated into an enormous maggot. In the west, there are countless times I’ve gone for a meal and reached the point where Mr Creosote, in Monty Python’s, The Meaning of Life, cannot eat another chocolate wafer. But in the midst of a Korean public,  usually much skinnier than I, being a fatty fills me with guilt and curbs my glutenous instincts. The fatties I now see around me  at the bathhouse, and who attract more attention than I because, they are Korean and fat, which is novel, and not wayguk western and fat, which is common, certainly know what it feels to be ‘stuffed’ and all I am left pondering, as I wallow in my scented bath, feeling  more like a warthog than large bottomed hippopotamus,  is how do you pig out on Korean food? Fat has finally arrived and the blubberier it becomes, the slimmer I feel.

Link to Crazy Fat Korean Video