Monday, August 18, 2014

5 Clever ways Koreans ask if you know Jesus Christ

Photo credits: [HERE]
Let’s face it, any non-Christian foreigner living in Korea will have picked up the bible, read a few sentences and made a shit load of misinterpretations of it at some point of their prolonged stay. They could have done so out of pure curiosity but for most individuals, including this blogger, it’s an involuntary affair. Some people go on to like what they read and some end up being very bored indeed.

Now don’t get me wrong; I do have a lot of close individuals who are devout Christians. I have spent time with their families, gone to church and celebrated Christmas and Chusak together. That’s all well and good.

However, the once being stated here are the weird guys who follow you around the street asking if you know Jesus Christ. But since foreigners are not stupid and guess where that’s all heading to, these “messengers of God” sent from God and no one but the God himself have devised clever ways to stay one step ahead of the game. And they are really good at it.

The “Element of Surprise”

Often when you see some stranger smiling at you for no apparent reason and coming straight at you, you know what to expect. While most Koreans shy away without ever making an eye contact, these guys are just the opposite. They approach you with such swagger that it’s really hard to ignore them and walk away.

Usually these guys are fluent in English. They are well trained to what to say and how to say it. This is quite the most direct approach they can take but sometimes they bring out the element of surprise to spice things a bit.

This one time, while I was minding my own business, a twosome came and started saying something in Korean. Since the word Jesus was apparent, I politely interrupted them and said that I couldn’t speak a word of Korean at all. I thought that would do the job but instead I got “Oh great! We were hoping you would say that! Now where were we?”

And that was not the last time. Next time someone started to come near and preach about the almighty, I just acted plain dumb and used some sign language to ask him if he can use that language instead. Works like a charm.

The “Thesis”

“Excuse me? Can you help me with this experiment?”
“Oh sure. What’s it about?”

“My graduate thesis. You see, I need some foreigners. Would you please mind helping?”
“Great.. What can I do?”
“Lets sit down for a while, shall we?”

Its only after a while that you realize you have just done yourself no favors by reading out the first line of the bible from a printed A4 paper.

The “Dropping the bomb”

Freshman year in Korea, especially the first semester, was as confusing and problematic as it could possibly get. In one of the community based programs I attended, I met this women who took a liking of me and we started talking. She said she finished her Master’s in the US and so forth, understood how it felt to be in another country studying in a language you don’t get shit.

So she started inviting over for dinners where she would be this really good listener and give these advice on to solve the issues at stake. It was all going smooth at this point and she asks me if I could meet her once a week. I had nothing better to do so I said yes.

It was perhaps in the third week that she dropped the bomb.
“I want you to read the bible with me”

“I said, I want you to read the bible with me”

“I am sorry but I can’t”

“After all I have done for you?”
“Come one, give it a try,” she adds, “If you like it you can continue, if not you can just drop it”
Classic you have a choice but you don’t have a choice situation.

But she did have a point. She had been very helpful for the past month or so and I just couldn’t say no. So I said yes.

“Call me sister. I will call you brother”

After three weeks of intensive bible misinterpretations which included she telling me that the bible time and our time scale were different (which made everything else messy and even more confusing), I dropped the bomb on her. But not in person.
“I can’t do this”

“You can’t quit now”

A plethora of useless discussions followed which ended by her telling me to never see her again, to which I gladly complied.

The “Knock on the door”

When people come knocking at your door asking if you have time to discuss issues that need to be discussed immediately, it’s hard to say no. Especially when you come from a culture where you respect people who come in front of your doorstep asking for something.

But cultures change and I have grown accustomed to asking people to come the next day for the next 30 days.

The “Are you HAPPY?”

One of the most difficult questions people ask themselves is the question of happiness. It’s not something quantifiable but some individuals who call themselves messengers of god have found a way to somehow rate them on a scale of 10.

“8” I wrote on the survey paper they had just provided me and after giving a answers to quite a number of questions, I handed them the paper back.
“Wow excellent. You seem to be content. Now what do you think you should do to make it 10?”

“I really don’t know. Maybe Arsenal needs to win a cup (they hadn’t at that point)”

“Don’t be silly, come one, give me something”

“Don’t know”

“Maybe, just maybe reading the bible might help”

I pretended to get a phone call, excused myself and off I ran. I was later sharing this story to a friend of mine, who also had a similar story to share. But instead of 8, he wrote down 10/10 under the heading “Happy”

“Wow, 10! That’s perfect, would you mind sharing your story with our church members on how to become as happy as you. They would love you!”

There you go again. 

The Busan Diaries: DayII

The next day started real early as I made my way out jumping on top of sleeping Koreans. The rain gods didn’t seem to be favoring the travelers but I did manage to stay dry with a makeshift umbrella I bought at the store. I wanted a nice view of the ocean while enjoying my breakfast and after much looking in the rain, found out a beer/chicken place with a misplaced beach view which oddly had fried rice on their menu. Very interesting indeed.

Finding Nemo
Ideas were popping up as quickly as the tummy was getting filled up and I decided to make use of one of these discount coupons I had. For a Nepali who hardly got to see the sea, let alone sea animals, going to an aquarium seemed to be as exotic as it could get. I remember watching these creatures like a kid in a candy store, sampling and savoring every bit of flavor that was oozing out from behind those transparent glass walls. I guess my favorite memories of the place includes the otter feeding, the hyper, on drugs dolphin who kept moving in clockwise circles in top speed (and made everyone’s head turn accordingly) and the very slow-mow chill sharks who all seem to not care about a rather tasty Indian delight at the other end of the glass. When I say Indian, I mean actual Indians and not me. There were these bunch of them who kept asking me where the exit was which almost made me feel as if I was their guide.

Give me break, will you?

Having now woken vodka, I made my way to, apparently, the biggest departmental store in the world; The Shinsegae Departmental store at Centum City. It covers a mind boggling 293,905m2 of space equivalent to an area covered by 41 football fields. That’s something isn’t it? You need an indoor taxi to go around in that space.

“Hey Ajashi, can you take me to the nearest H&M store please?”

While I did get my hands on a couple of T’s at H&M without having to board an imaginary one, I wasn’t there for that. Supposedly the 4D hall was amongst the attractions that made the most noise on the internet and so I thought I should give these moving seats and water sprays a try.

I would have preferred to watch this instead
But like all important attractions, they had one last seat remaining. Since it was obvious that two people couldn’t fit in one, we decided to choose a more traditional 2D movie which we later regretted watching. badly. It was perhaps the worst of the worst of the worst movies we had ever laid our eyes on, with the story swinging from one point to other overdosed by over acting with tons of other bull shit on the side menu. Having to think about it, all those horrible nepali and hindi movies that I have spent not-so-quality-time on all those years feels surprisingly better now. Zero Theorem is highly, highly recommended because every movie you watch from then on is going to feel amazingly better.

HQ: got better as the afternoon wearied out
Post-horrible-movie-hangover needed some time to recover, so we headed back to beaches of Gwangan again, opting to re-initiate code PUB CRAWL but a lazy one instead. The newly opened HQ was a bit difficult to find but once we got ourselves locked on it, it wasn't long before we were sitting down beside this gorgeous view of the beach, the sea and the famous busan bridge(not sure what’s it called). Dare I say it rivaled the same laidback experience I had at riverside Shanghai when I just sat down besides good company, drinking good brew and devouring the scene ahead. Exactly what I had imagined my trip to be.

stamina boys!
After the busan boys (this guy and the other guy), joined the table as well, we decided that it was finally time to try some of busan’s famous cuisine. The eel-like delicacy was a local hit here (the boys kept saying it was good for stamina. And then they kept adding it was for boys. You get what I mean) and I could really see why. The meat(?) was almost soft and buttery, and with a helping of typical BBQ servings, the whole experience was as good as it could get.

With that done, we focused on witnessing what the beach had to offer. And there was tons of it. You could either sit down with a bottle of makalli and anju and get a close up view of the bridge or sit down watch a musical or watch a live, rather impressive acoustic performance. We did it all except for that part where the makalli and anju was conspicuously missing.

Galmegi Brewing Company
But things were not over just yet. We still had to check out Galmegi’s new outlet and after some searching, ended up with a square table with perhaps the best brew in Busan. The CEO and headbrewer was even kind enough to show around the brewery where you couldn’t help but smell all the chocolaty malt they had been wanting to use on their next batch of driftwood porter.

Of course, my worries now turned to finding a place to spend the night in and after saying my goodbyes to the busanites, I went straight to Spa Land at Centum City. Having heard so much about it, and rated highly as a must-have-experience in Busan, it made sense to at least dip into what they had to offer. Unfortunately for me, I missed out on the point that they actually closed at midnight and so had to drag my ass back to the beach where I found a round the clock sauna to get some rest. It was a rather old one but I had to catch the train to Seoul in the next four hours anyways.

And before I knew it, I was back to my report writing ways at the lab.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Busan Diaries: Day I

Day I: Thursday. Arrival time 6pm.

I had never imagined standing up for an hour and a half was going to be this difficult. Holiday season in Korea often forces travelers to ride trains without seats and here I was doing the same. I won’t deny that I didn’t have several half chances to grab a seat for my sorry ass but there were passengers from 1930’s who hadn’t had a seat too and since I seem to have some level of humanity in me, I didn’t bother. My leg issues weren’t as big as theirs.

The city I was heading to was Busan, a port city at the south east side of South Korea. It is perhaps most famous for its bikini clanged beaches, sexy accent and most importantly, food. I had longed to be there and empty my wallet but unfortunately, just managed to make a four hour short trip of the city last summer where I literally got to see nothing. Besides the beach of course. You can’t miss that.

This time though, I had about a day and a half to spend (have work on Saturdays too) and had made some vague plans to do this and that, however, had no clue where I was going to spend the two odd nights in. Motels and hostels were all packed, homestays had a big “FULL” sign on their websites but I didn’t bother. Brilliant ideas always come up when you are drunk at the beach.

Having now arrived at the station, I headed straight to the tourist information center and tried to become as touristy as possible. Armed with the Haps, a local English magazine whom I had flirted around with several times before, a giant Korean Busan map (which annoyed everyone on the subway when I tried opening it… I mean, who carries maps these days?) and a couple of discount coupons for some attractions, I made my way to Gwangan, where, after meeting vodka, initiated code PUB CRAWL and went about sampling every pub on the neighborhood.

But it was not until we took the subway and arrived at the Booth at Haeundae Beach that I really started to acclimatize to the place. The pub had a fantastic balcony seat which provided a perfect platform (literally) for goofing around and talking nonsense. The view didn’t have the beach but did include a myriad of redundantly lit buildings, restaurants and semi-drunk people down below. We were just too busy talking shit that we hardly cared.

Having drank a share fare of Seoul’s stout, we headed back to the streets which led straight to what is perhaps, Korea’s most celebrated beach. After trying to find a place nearby and failing so miserably, we decided to call it a day and off went vodka on a taxi. For me now, it was finally time to think worry about sleep.

One thing that has grown on me these days is the love for Saunas. Getting naked in middle of an all-out staring competition is still a hard one to swallow, however, with my glasses off, that’s hardly an issue. I could also argue that the uniform they make you wear is quite the un-fit, but given that everyone looks hilarious on the outfit and nobody cares, it all sums to be just fine. The fact that you are there for the sauna and some sleep and not for a fashion show seems to be obvious to the owners.

That's the exact place I went to

The sauna that I did managed to pick for the night stayed true to what I said above but in a much larger scale. The place was massive, with almost a matching number of transient residents on mats snoring and talking in hushed voices. I found a small space besides this massive window and off I was dreaming about things I can’t possibly allow myself to write it down here.

Some privacy please.

Day II, tomorrow. Gotta go now.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Human Rights Violation Buster's Super Weird Interview

Lights. where's the question?

Writing a blog post is perhaps at the very bottom in my list of priorities right now but I have this itchy-tingly feeling that I cannot seem to get rid of. It’s that same itch you get from having a massive mosquito gang rape post-midnight, however, its also an itch with a twist; I have to scratch my way to abysmal bliss through writing, mind you, and not through the traditional means of physically nailing a psychological itch.

It’s actually about an interview I took today (or yesterday, or a week before..depends largely on when you read this). I have never been a huge fan of being queried although I have done the reverse as much as I have got drunk and sang horrible tunes in Karaoke Bangs to a really annoyed mass of deaf-acting people. And trust me, I have done that more than the number of times I have gone to the restroom this month.

Anyways, as I was saying before, I have never been a big fan of being interviewed. Yes, I have prepared people for interviews whether that’s job related or likewise but, ironically, never prepared myself for just that. I know it sounds horrible but it’s sure as hell easy to teach someone to tell the interviewer what they want to hear about rather than you sitting down on the hot seat and doing it yourself.

But honestly, nothing could have prepared me for this one.

With three inquisitive cameras pointed straight at my face, I was getting my shit together to answer a rather strange looking contingency of Koreans each strikingly different in appearance. Nothing about them seem to signal the slightest hint of someone who advocates Human Rights. The only person in the room who actually seemed to act like one was Jose. Was it not for her calming presence and omnipresent nod (even though I had no clue what I was babbling about), things could have gone very differently indeed.

The whole process of an interview is, as you know, a pretty straight forward affair; the interviewer has a set of well tested, pre-determined questions to which the interviewee has to give answers to. Plain, simple, back and forth questioning and answering. Well, this one was ET material.

With the cameras rolling, and everyone getting into position, it felt almost as though I was the one questioning and taking my own interview instead. It wasn’t actually fair because I wasn’t allowed to ask questions like “How many pieces of pizza did I swallow up last night?”, or “what’s the price of Mo:Mo right now?” but had to ask some serious questions like “Have my Human Rights been violated in Korea” or “Did anyone [Koreans specifically] do something to me in the bathroom?” kind of stuff.

Now look, for a guy who has a massive report to write and then a competition final presentation to present, these were probably the very last thing on his mind. The right question they should have reminded me to ask myself was:“Am I violating my own Human Rights?”

“Am I getting enough sleep?” No
“Am I drinking my beer?” No.
“Do I have time for recreation?” No
“Am I getting MoMo’s to eat everyday?” NO. that’s human rights violation right there my friend. While the rest of Nepalese back home gnaw on orgasmic momos, I am left with pizzas? Not fair man, not fair.

Unfortunately, my answer to those “serious” questions were largely not what they wanted to hear. I had absolutely no violation of my human rights whatsoever. I had no “pick up the soap” incidents in public bath [If that’s what they were trying to ask indirectly], no assaults or insults on public transports, no color or racial abuse, no nothing, No Korean doing shit on me, nope.

I said I actually had a better life here to which my three stranger-friends started to look rather frustrated and agitated. My life being seemingly better here did not bode well with these Human Right Violation Busters who clearly seem to have an agenda for the whole thing.

“You see,” one who spoke rubbish English started to explain,” we are trying to produce a newsletter explaining how foreigners here are segregated from the Society.”

Good for you, I thought. Clearly, they had the wrong foreigner.

“Any specific case you want to complain?” he added.

I almost felt bad for them that I had nothing to complain. I had to come up with something..

“Oh yeah! I do” I smiled. Why was I feeling relieved? Am I even supposed to smile?
“These so-called Christians, the once who are always waiting for you and asking if I know Jesus [As if I have him enlisted in my phone book to say “hey Jesus, whats up? I have this competition you see..”] and forcing me to read the bible with….”

“Wait a minute,” cut off the guy behind that excellent looking camera, “you can’t talk about religion”

Well how about that eh? You just violated MY human right my friend..freedom of speech or whatever…AND get me my god damn MOMOs will you?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

8 Reasons why I am glad this World Cup is over

1. Germany won the world cup. What better way to placate your post-World Cup sudden existential crisis than to keep reminding yourself that the team you vouched for..won! And that the same people who called Germans chokers choked.

2. No more of Korean commentary. You can argue that my Korean skills wouldn’t have allowed me to understand shit but you don’t need to pass level 6 of Korean to understand things like “ Goaaaaaaaalllll입니다”, which is quite appalling to listen to.

3. And regret later on when the pub owner puts K-pop in the background instead. Conversational watchers would then have to figure out how on earth the score had suddenly become 4-2.

4. No more of having to watch Neymar hug every soul that was in front of the camera.

5. No more of having to wait for the game, drink pints after pints and then characteristically pass out just when the game’s about to begin.

6. Then decide to go all early bird on the bed only to wake up after the game was over. 5am kick offs were so not worth it.

7. No more of running for your life from angry, bottle clutching Dutch. Not supporting Costa Rica again.ever.

8. No more of laughing at Brazilians who came over for summer. I felt genuinely bad for them to be honest. When the world’s vector was all but turned to the samba nation, they decided it was the right time to go all Kimchi.