Sunday, February 20, 2005

back from the Pu

Pusan (now officially "Busan," according to the Korean government) was bright, cold, and windy. I spent most of my time there with the inimitable Jeff of the excellent blog Ruminations in Korea.

I did not go to the university.

"WHY?" your vagina screeches.

Because I didn't reveal to you that I'd been agonizing about this Pusan thing for some time. The deal sounded sweet at the beginning: huge accommodations, great hours, great pay... but then I started to think about the potential problems of the job, and chiefest among them was teaching kids for six weeks out of the year.

"Bite the bullet and just take the job," is the advice I got from a couple colleagues at EC, but I have a hangup about teaching young'ns. I was also thinking about the whole business of relocating all my shit down in Pusan, a city I know nothing about. I also got to pondering the teaching load, which sounded sweet at first but, upon reflection, would have involved a lot of time, since the course material is largely up to the teacher.

And finally, there was this nagging suspicion that never quite went away: How could a university hire someone for that much pay, based on a ten-minute phone interview and a quick scan of my resume?

There were a lot of things that simply didn't feel right about that job offer. My university contact was very polite, and the teachers I spoke with over the phone seemed either neutral or positive about the program... but something still bothered me. A disturbance in the Force.

So on Sunday morning, I cancelled my meeting with the university, having made a firm decision to try my luck in Seoul. I'm hoping to interview with that educational publishing company soon, assuming I did well enough on their screening test.

I still had my tickets to Pusan and back, though, so I went on down. Having been commanded by Jeff to "CALL ME," I decided to send him a text message when I was in town. We met and ate at a local joint that served Filipino food (among other things). Jeff seemed to know all the staff, some of whom spoke Filipino-accented Korean. I had my first chicken adobo in years-- quite good.

It was a late lunch. Conversation ranged all over, from rumors about people back home to taking care of kids to movies to law to you-name-it. Much time was spent insulting George Lucas and his cluelessness, and I got to learn a thing or two about the politics of Kuk Sul Won, a Korean martial art in which Jeff has trained (Jeff holds black belts in Kuk Sul Won and hapkido).

We walked the length of Texas Street ("Pusan's Itaewon," says Jeff), which is right across from the train station and features plenty of Russian-language signs (and people who I assume were Russian). As we walked along, some of the foreign shopowners would shout "Phone card?!" at us. It was Itaewon, but far quieter.

According to Jeff, there's some unwritten rule that all Pusan visitors must see the Chagalchi fish market, so we spent some time staring at the gutted corpses of thousands of fishes, crabs, and molluscs (including some impressively sized octopi). "There are two kinds of food in Pusan," Jeff said. "Grilled meat and raw fish." Prepared raw fish was definitely in evidence at the fish market: we passed stands selling slices of still-quivering mystery meats alongside bowls of red pepper sauce, and Jeff pointed out a building whose every floor housed a raw fish restaurant. I found myself fascinated by a bucket full of living sea creatures that looked remarkably like animated condoms.

Every once in a while, a pretty young thing in a miniskirt would appear, much to Jeff's delight. I think I made some remark about how nuts such women were, but Jeff's ardor was undimmed.

A bit later, we met up with Jeff's brother Adam and walked over to Yongdusan, or Dragon Head Mountain, a mountain that does not feature dragons giving people (or each other) head. Yongdusan has a teeny-weeny tower, a bit reminiscent of the upthrust phallus atop Namsan in Seoul, but the W4000 cost to go up the tower was deemed "not worth it," so we contented ourselves with the hilltop vista. Not too many people were in evidence on such a blustery day; a few brave pigeons were begging for crumbs from some kids. Then, a jarring intrusion: we heard Billy Squier's "Everybody Wants You" blaring out the window of a restaurant next to the tower.

NB: For those who are wondering, Jeff's Korean skills are indeed excellent. I'd love to have half his ability, and maybe if I spend enough time here, I eventually will.

It was fun to watch the rapport between Jeff and his bro; kinda made me miss my own brothers back home. Jeff's bro lived in Marseille, and although we didn't spend time speaking in French, I got the impression he knew his shit.

And then it was time to take the 7PM train back. I have to apologize to Jeff and Adam for not having held up my end of the conversation very well; part of the problem is that I'd been awake all night and had slept only intermittently on the train. Sorry, gents.

I also fell asleep a few times on the way back to Seoul; my own snores woke me up whenever my chin dropped against my chest. I can only imagine what my fellow passengers were thinking. At least I didn't drool.

This week might be a bit strange. It's my final week at EC, though I might be teaching on Monday the 28th as well. I'm hoping to interview with the publishing company this week, and I hope to have a job with them if all goes well. If not... I might have to move to some cheap accommodations, then hop over to Japan and get reconverted to a tourist visa again. That would buy me 90 days; I could continue my job search. And in theory, I've got another month's pay coming early next month, so I won't be hurting for cash quite yet.

EPILOGUE: While standing in the Line 4 subway on my way to Sadang Station, I looked up and saw someone's possessions on the rack. Among them: an organizer emblazoned with the logo of the publishing company to which I'm applying. Let's hope that that's a good omen.


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