March 15th, 2011. Today I got my ARC (Alien Registration Card). This is a piece of photo identification without which you are powerless in Korea. While waiting for this little beauty to arrive I have been unable to get a cellphone, internet, television or paychecks. Being able to finally get a phone and internet (which I am going to shop for tomorrow with my co-teacher) is a huge relief. What is also a huge relief is that I got my passport back. In order to apply for my ARC I had to surrender my passport to the Korean government for about 2 weeks.
Being a graduate of Criminology, during these last two weeks I knew that I was in a dangerzone when I was statistically most likely to be sold into the sex trade. If the whole ‘teach English in Korea’ dream job was actually a clever ruse to lure me to Korea where I could be sold (presumably) into the Asian sex trade, then these delicate two weeks when I had no passport were the perfect time for me to be taken to a ‘cool party’ with some of my ‘friends’ where I would subsequently be forced to dance in front of several bidders and sold (hopefully) for a reasonably high price. Luckily for me (and the bidders who would have had to watch me dance) it looks like this whole ‘teach English in Korea’ thing is legitimate.
Dodged a bullet there.
I hear you ask: “So Tom, now that you are sure you aren’t going to be sold into the sex trade, what are you going to do?”
There are a few plans that I am toying with. First of all, I plan on joining an Ultimate frisbee team in Busan. I know someone from orientation who is on it and, as some of you know, I absolutely love frisbee. Another item on my tentative to-do list is to get SCUBA certified. There is a foreigner run diving school in Busan that offers the PADI open water diving course. During my youth I swam and snorkelled constantly and always wanted to get SCUBA certified. Since I’m here, on this grand adventure, why not now? Furthermore, after my first paycheck (on the 25th of March) I’m going to buy a tennis racket. There are courts everywhere and a buddy of mine from orientation is a tennis fiend who also has lots of experience coaching. In return for teaching me tennis I’m going to take him rock-climbing (which, despite bouldering once a week I am doing entirely too little of so far). So, frisbee, SCUBA and tennis. Coupled with hiking and my daily grind of teaching adorable little squirts such as Zerg, Genius, Person, Name and Genias (some of the 6th graders I met today) it looks like I have plenty on my plate for the moment. When I get internet I plan on starting a bit of research on travelling to nearby countries for my vacations (I am basically obsessed with seeing the Great Wall these days, and my urge to visit Japan is waning slightly at the moment).
In terms of my weekend adventure you will be pleased to know (or perhaps disappointed, depending on who you are) I passed on the usual drinking and partying last weekend in favor of hiking and exploring. Friday night I took it easy, as I had a big hike planned for Saturday. Saturday I undertook said hike, which brought me and about 15 other people to a fortress on a mountain called Geomjeong. Here is a link to an article about it:http://www.lonelyplanet.com/south-korea/gyeongsangnam-do/busan/sights/mountain/geumjeong-mountain
Basically we entered at the North Gate and walked along the old fortress wall (rebuilt in spots to resemble what it looked like hundreds of years ago) along the spine of the mountain range. Got some spectacular views from watch towers and the top of the climb, which I will share with you in a video soon. Afterwards about 7 of us went to a Jjimjilbang – a Korean bath house. We lounged about in saunas, steam rooms and baths of various temperatures for the better part of two hours. After the day of hiking it was absolute bliss to jump in and out of the alternating hot and cold pools. If you don’t mind copious amounts of full frontal male nudity then jjimjilbangs are an awesome and cheap way to relax and detoxify. After the jjimjilbang we hit up a korean BBQ and had a few beers.
Finally on Sunday I visited a Buddhist temple with a few people near Haeundae. It was really cool but very, very touristy. The crowds were thick and Buddhist nic-nacs and souvenirs were on sale everywhere you looked. In its defence it did offer great views of the ocean and some really awesome temply architecture and artwork, including a massive Buddha statue. Also there wasn’t a naked asian man in sight; a massive improvement over the previous day.
Thats all for now BNBers