Where is Mr. Toilet’s House?

Fittingly, I first heard about Mr. Toilet in the dingy, very crowded, bathroom adjacent to Hongdae’s famous Children’s Park—a name unsuited for a park notorious for public binge drinking and questionable street performances. It was a summer night in 2012, and the music of three separate bands played above the toots and whistles of the loaded bathroom stalls. And I was in line.

A line? For the Gentlemen’s Toilet? The crowd swelled on Saturdays, and I could only gaze on in tipsy wonder. Buffoonish drunks cackled and squealed in mirthful delight, whizzing at the urinals with one hand against the wall. I shook my head. And then a hand—from behind my left shoulder. It was a stranger of Korean ethnicity, one of the many weekend derelicts partying through the night. He wore a cheap trilby and a goofy smile and was intoxicated with the emotion of the night. He lunged at me, sticking out his swollen gut, which had grown plump as a rat on tallow.

“Go see Mr. Toilet.”

“What?”

He paused, for effect, and repeated, “Go see Mr. Toilet,” with heaviness.

I didn’t understand the meaning of the encounter at the time, and, perhaps, the stranger didn’t either. Yet, from then on, I would wonder about that night and of the identity of Mr. Toilet.

Months later, I was enjoying a caffeinated beverage with a friend outside of the city. He was preparing to leave the country, moving on to other adventures, as people do in Korea. The foreign population in Seoul is transient and fickle. Sets of friends are temporary—a natural symptom of life as an expat. The conversation took the usual turns—future plans, favorite memories, regrets. Ah yes, regrets. Missed opportunities. He had many, but as he swirled the dregs of his latte, he mentioned a name that perked my ears.

“I never did get to see Mr. Toilet’s House. Over in Suwon. It opened very recently.”

I sat up in my chair and set down my cup. “Did you say ‘Mr. Toilet’?”

“Yeah, the new toilet museum in Suwon. It opened this year. They call it ‘Mr. Toilet’s House’. The guy used to be the mayor of Suwon. He was obsessed with bathrooms. They converted his house into a museum.”

I swore to my friend, then and there, that I would carry this most heavy of regrets deep in my breast and would seek out Mr. Toilet and his glorious house, rendering his lament, vicariously, reversed. But my duty was long in completion.

For years after that moment, Mr. Toilet followed me like a whispered voice. I would hear a tale, perhaps from a student, of a glorious museum on a hill. “And have you been there, teacher?” Other times, my commute would be beset with quiet giggles on the night train from talk of a shapely bowl—a shapely bowl, indeed! The size of a house! The rumors and murmurs followed me, but they remained as such. And time flowed like a river.

Fast forward. May 2015. The present. I was on a field trip to The Korea Times, Korea’s oldest English daily, as the sponsor and leader of my school’s English newspaper club. The students were restless, complaining that visiting an English newspaper had little relevance to members of an English newspaper club. Inside the publishing office, our tour leader ushered us to a tiny corner office which served double duty as conference room and archive storage. While the guide began his introduction, I happened upon a stack of old papers to the rear of the room. There it was, in blurb form, on the top of the stack: Mr. Toilet’s House. Old promises flushed over me, and I vowed to visit this wretched museum. I would finish the journey that began nearly three years prior!

Now, I had several reasons for wanting to visit Mr. Toilet’s House. The first, and strongest, was my obsessive curiosity as to the state of the for-use toilets in the toilet museum. These bathrooms loomed mythical in my head. I had fiber loaded on prunes and health bars days in advance of the trip, ensuring an at-will bowel movement. To be safe, I gorged on Taco Bell the night in advance of the journey. My second reason was, of course, my unhealthy relationship with public toilets combined with an unwavering belief in confronting your fears. When I picked up that yellowed newspaper in The Korea Times, I knew the time had come. I set to planning the journey.

My companion for the trip, the Short Round to my Indy, was my good friend Yoo-kyung, who is short but not round. She showed little interest, at first, of visiting a toilet museum in the suburbs, but I wooed her interest with exaggerated overtures of Saturday adventure. Yoo-kyung currently lives and works in London but is home in Korea visiting her family and sorting out her visa situation. She returns to Europe soon, and I fed her guilt of leaving. We agreed to terms, including a clause that allowed her to refer to our destination as the ‘Loo Museum’, for comfort.

Yoo-kyung is a petite girl who looks quite younger than her age. She’s the kind of short and slim that makes strangers question her safety if seen in public with an adult male. We met on the subway platform at Guro Station on the edge of Seoul. From there, we would head south on the rickety blue line. I arrived at the platform first, and just as our train was arriving, I saw Yoo-kyung waving her arrival at me. I pulled her onto the train just as the doors were shutting, and I’m sure a few of the natives started looking up the abduction hotline number.

As the train rattled further beyond Seoul’s circumference, seats opened up, and we settled in for the haul. There was plenty of in-flight entertainment in the form of people watching. We were especially lucky to have a parade of mobile merchants march through our car. These hawkers are quite common on the subways in Seoul. They wheel their blue carts behind them, stopping in the middle of each subway car and giving their sales pitches in booming, practiced, tones. One such peddler was selling wrist and ankle pads for the infirm. He, himself, had a set of gnarled stubs on his right hand, the result of, one might guess, an encounter with rattlesnakes. Yet, he was an adept salesman, and he charmed a lady of age just two seats to my flank. She bought a pair of wrist pressure pads.

After a time, we arrived at Sungkyunkwan University Station about an hour outside of Seoul and just three stops north of Suwon Station. It felt like an outpost on the path to more important places. There was a single main thoroughfare that included the overpass of the train tracks. To the north of the overpass was a small collection of stores and cafes. Yoo-kyung quickly pointed out a small chain café/patisserie, noting her need for coffee—a desire she chirped about during the commute. We regrouped in the café with iced americanos, and I, being a feedbag, consumed two savory pastries.

At this point, Yoo-kyung and I disagreed at how to proceed to the museum. I had found a set of directions in the depths of the internet that instructed us to take the 64 bus to Dongwon High School from the stop kitty-corner to the train station. Yoo-kyung balked, writing my information off as unreliable. I smugly told her it’s not a problem unless you have a solution, which I once read on a tack board in an elevator. We were too far outside the city to employ the services of a taxi, so we finished our coffee and crossed the street to the bus stop.

Upon arrival at the bus stop, the electronic arrivals board informed us that the next 64 bus wouldn’t arrive for another 40 minutes, at which we both moaned in displeasure. Yoo-kyung pressed her finger against the timetable and ran it up and down, searching in desperation for another bus to Dongwon High School.

“Here! The 39! It stops at Dongwon!” And as if by divine intervention, a dark blue bus puffed to a halt in front of us with a gust of its airbrakes. The 39! It was beginning to feel like a trip of destiny. The bus, however, was completely empty, save the driver, and my elfin friend and I began to worry. She questioned the driver, unencumbered by other passengers, as to the whereabouts of Mr. Toilet’s House, and he confirmed our path was true but was unable to detail the precise location of the museum.

We disembarked, after a ten-minute bus ride, in front of a petrol station. We found ourselves on the southwest corner of an enormous 4-way intersection and saw Dongwon High School on the northwest corner. When planning the trip, I had assumed the museum would be clearly visible, with accompanying signage, at this point, but we saw no signs of a museum as we glanced in every direction. We consulted the internet directions which told us, vaguely, to turn right, which was completely useless information at a 4-way stop and no sense of orientation.

I saw a small convenience store 100 meters to the west and suggested we ask the shop keep for directions. Before Yoo-kyung could finish her sentence, hearing the word ‘museum’, the gruff owner thrust a hand to the west and told us to walk another 300 meters. We rejoiced, exited the store, and quickened our pace. The intoxication of journey’s end commanded our countenance. We smiled at each other. Mr. Toilet was at hand! The road winded teasingly, but after a short walk, the temple to washrooms rose glowingly around a final bend. O! Hark! Thou luxe edifice of porcelain thrones!

The museum itself was, indeed, a converted house in the center of a sprawling lawn. It wasn’t initially clear from the ground level, but the house was shaped like a toilet bowl, complete with a hole in the center. As we stepped onto the lawn, a statue of Toile, the eponymous mascot of the museum, cast his watchful gaze over us.


So here’s the deal. Mr. Toilet’s real name is Jae-duck Sim. He was—seriously—born in a bathroom on January 15th, 1939, which apparently was considered lucky in Korea once upon a time. Sim became the mayor of Suwon, a large suburb south of Seoul, in 1995 at the age of 56. He was a crusader for public health issues and almost immediately began beautifying the public toilets in Suwon. He became well known, in Korea, as a leader in preparing Suwon to host the World Cup in advance of the 2002 tournament. He was also, obviously, a devoted member of The World Toilet Association (the WTA), which is an actual organization which actually exists. In what can only be described as an act of pure madness, he decided to completely renovate his house into the shape of a toilet. Construction finished in 2007. Sim, sadly, died in 2009 and donated his house to the city of Suwon. The city converted it to the museum it is today. It opened in 2012.

The first thing Yoo-kyung and I explored were the lawn displays decorating the museum grounds. There were quite a few examples of historical Korean toilets, some more terrifying than others. The most horror-inducing of them all was a stone outhouse built above a hog run, which, historically, housed Jeju Island’s famous black pigs. People would defecate into a hole in the stone which led directly into the pigs’ trough, providing the hogs with succulent night soil on which to feed and completing a terrible circle of life. The display had very real looking fake pigs and a requisite pile of curling plastic poo.

The dynastic-era public bathroom was another popular display. The toilet was basically a pit about 5 feet wide and 2 feet deep that could scale to any length. The displayed example was about 15 feet long. 2 by 12 boards were nailed across the width of the pit, with spaces of about 1 foot between each board. The idea was to squat, with a foot on two separate boards, and crap into the space between the boards. This was a public toilet with boards for many people, and it wasn’t really a room. The only cover was a thatched canopy over the pit, much like a party tent.

It was, truly, the stuff of nightmares.

The inside of the museum was much more palatable to the senses. There were interesting exhibits on the history of toilets in Korea, restroom signs around the world, and children’s drawings of feces. I was expecting an exhibit of toilets from around the world but saw no such display. However, upon examination of the museum pamphlet, I discovered construction plans for the World Toilet Experience Center to be built on land adjacent to the existing museum. A return visit might be in order.

Now, at about this time, a mighty rumbling in my vitals swelled to a crescendo, and the heavy turd I’d been nurturing announced its intended descent. I glanced at Yoo-kyung and nodded, and she knew, with her feminine wisdom, it was time. We eagerly searched for a member of staff to direct us to the bathrooms. The real bathrooms. We found a young lady with a name tag. Yoo-kyung asked where the restrooms were, but after a few moments, I knew something was amiss when Yoo-kyung’s expression dropped.

“There’s a problem.” She winced in preparation, expecting my reaction. “There is no toilet in this building. We have to cross the street.”

My pulsing intestine was the only thing controlling the sheer outrage that boiled in me. “Come again? You, uh, mean there’s no toilet in the toilet museum?” I felt cheated. I felt tricked. Admission to the museum was free, but I felt like I overpaid. I looked straight at the employee and transmitted my loathing via eye contact but said nothing, as I am non-confrontational.

Actually, there was a toilet in the museum. Kind of.

Directly across the street from Mr. Toilet’s converted house there stood another building called The Toilet Culture Center. This building housed the bathrooms for public use. I suppose the TCC was also a part of the museum campus, if you will, but I’ll tell you I felt gypped. If the bathrooms were as majestic as I imagined they should have been, perhaps it would have redeemed the experience, but I am sad to report, dear reader, that the restrooms servicing the museum were only slightly above average. They were clean—very clean, actually—but that’s the best I can say. The only unique feature was a family stall with two side-by-side johns, one average-sized and one for children that was half-sized.

My anger was great, at first. Yet, as I stood in the warm sun outside the TCC waiting for Yoo-Kyung (who was just as curious about the facilities), I pondered Mr. Toilet and his legacy. Perhaps—just maybe—this is how he would have wanted it. He made his name by doing one thing very well. He built clean restrooms for the people of Suwon. Were they fancy, gimmicky, deals with interactive urinals and artist-designed sinks? No. They were clean, comfortable, bathrooms. That’s his legacy.

Yoo-kyung and I looked around the TCC hoping for more to see, but it was mainly office space and some displays for children. We basked in the beautiful weather and paced on Mr. Toilet’s lawn a time or two more. We were reluctant to say goodbye. But, as two flowers who feel the first grips of frost in the night, we silently acknowledged it was time to leave. We crossed the lawn and headed east to the winding road.

Suddenly, as we were about to pass the threshold of the first bend and leave the shadow of the museum, I turned back. I gripped the straps of my backpack at the shoulders and tilted my chin to the clouds. I thought back to that night in Hongdae in the Children’s Park bathroom. I thought of all those who had endeavored to pay their respects to Mr. Toilet at his glorious museum but never found the time. I thought of The Korea Times. A fat tear welled in my eye, but I choked it back with masculinity. I nodded a single nod, my promises fulfilled.

That’ll do, Mr. Toilet. That’ll do.


A stone outhouse used on Jeju to feed the black pigs


A public bathroom, circa The Joseon Dynasty


Kid’s Art


More Kid’s Art


International Restroom Signs

Posted in Korean Culture, My Life, The Journey, Tourism, Weird | Leave a comment

The DMZ

The DMZ. Where to start? What to say…? The experience of visiting the most heavily guarded border in the world stirred up many different feelings. Wonder. Confusion. Anxiety. Sadness. How do I begin? First, I suppose, you are interested in some background information. I’m not going to explain the history myself, but if you are interested, I would strongly suggest watching this overview of the Korean War. It’s one of the best, and simplest, explanations. One thing I will do, however, is explain some vocabulary.

The DMZ = The Demilitarized Zone. A strip of land about 160 miles long and 2.5 miles wide running across the Korean peninsula around the 38th parallel. It acts as a buffer between North and South Korea.
The MDL = The Military Demarcation Line. The line that runs through the center of the DMZ. Essentially a border – the point in the DMZ that cannot be crossed.
Panmunjom – The “truce village” in the DMZ where talks between the two countries are held.
The JSA – The Joint Security Area. An area in Panmunjom where talks are held in buildings that straddle the MDL. It is in this area that South and North Korean troops stand face to face every day.

I visited the DMZ on a guided tour, which, as far as I know, is the only way to visit Panmunjom and the JSA. Our trip actually included several different stops, but the JSA was obviously the highlight, so I am going to start with that.

PANMUNJOM AND THE JSA

It started when we arrived at Camp Bonifas, which is located on the edge of the DMZ. At that point, a soldier stationed at Camp Bonifas took over for our tour guide and escorted us for the rest of our time in the DMZ. First, we had a “briefing” at the visitors center. The soldier gave a brief talk about the history of the DMZ. Oh, and uh, then, we each had to sign a piece of paper that basically said if we got shot by a North Korean solider then South Korea’s official position will be, “Hey, man, don’t look at me!” The soldier also informed us that we couldn’t take any photos until we got to the JSA, so I didn’t get to take any pictures of the DMZ while we were driving through it.

The JSA is basically a South Korean building and a North Korean building facing each other, with smaller buildings straddling the MDL in between.


Well, here it is. We’re all lined up on the steps of the South Korean building, per strict instructions. Allow me to point out the Military Demarcation Line, the MDL, which runs through the center of those blue buildings and is represented by concrete slabs. In other words, across that line is North Korea. Can you see the North Korean soldier to the left of the door? Allow me to zoom in.

When we walked out, he started peeking at us through binoculars. I wanted to wave back and shout, “Hai!” – but we were told not to make any gestures towards North Korea, including pointing, waving, or any other jackassery. Also at this point, we were told we could start taking pictures because, as the solider said, “They’re taking pictures of you.” I won’t lie, it was more than a bit unnerving. The best part, however, was going in the blue building.

Heck yeah, we got to go in! The armistice that ended the fighting in the Korean war was signed at that middle table! And yes – it, too, straddles the MDL. Which means – you guessed it – I got to go into North Korea.





In that last photo, I’m in North Korea and the two girls are in South Korea. However, we didn’t really have time to savor the moment. The solider led us in, talked very briefly about the room, told us not to get within 2 feet of the soldiers, and said, “Okay, you have 5 minutes in this building.” Well, there had to be about 40 of us on the tour, and everyone was scrambling to take pictures.

The whole JSA experience, from waiting on the steps to going in the blue building and leaving, couldn’t have lasted longer than 20 minutes, but I won’t be forgetting it anytime soon.

DORA OBSERVATORY

Another place we went to, outside of the DMZ, was Dora Observatory. It was the best view of the DMZ and North Korea.

Yeah, look at North Korea, just beyond the wall! Oh, wait, you can only take pictures behind the yellow line. How annoying. So, you end up doing something like this:

The view really was incredible. You could clearly make out where the DMZ ended and North Korea began. You could also see the North Korean propaganda town across the border. Here’s a picture of it from a different point in the tour:

Apparently no one actually lives there. The soldier explained that they knew this because at night when the lights are on (which is apparently rare) in multi-level buildings, the light fades as you get closer to the bottom, meaning there are no ceilings or walls in the buildings. Also, that flag pole is apparently the 3rd tallest in the world, and the flag itself is over 600 pounds, according to our guide.

Alright, at this point, I’m realizing I have a ton more photos and I’ve already written quite a bit. I touched on the highlights of the trip, so I’ll just share and explain a few more photos.


Some North Korean liquor on sale at one of the gift shops. Why didn’t I buy that North Korean soju!? Stupid.


The other major stop on our tour was the 3rd tunnel of aggression. Long story short, the North Koreans dug tunnels under the DMZ to secretly invade the South. The tunnel was basically a long mine – it was small, wet, and cold. We couldn’t take pictures in the tunnel, so here I am near the entrance.


This was taken in Dorasan train station, the last train station before North Korea. The train hasn’t actually gone to Pyeongyang, the capital of the North, for a few years.


Our soldier guide and I near the site of the Ax Murder Incident. Yeah, the name tells you what you need to know. He explained to us that, at this area, we were surrounded on 3 sides by North Korea, as the MDL makes a “U” shape here.


This is rice grown in the DMZ by the South Korean peace village. It is the only village inside of the DMZ, with about 200 people. The villagers are guarded 24 hours-a-day. They also don’t have to pay taxes and their schooling is completely paid for. To live there, you have to have lived in that area before the Korean War or be a descendent of someone who did.

Look, I’m out of energy. That’s all for now.

Posted in The Journey, Tourism | 5 Comments

The Trick Eye Museum

Well, today I WANTED to go to Olympic Park, but it seems every time I try to go there, something stops me. Today, it was the continuation of the torrential rains we’ve been having the past week. So instead, I went to the Trick Eye Museum in Hongdae. It seems like a trip here is compulsory for every foreigner, so I had to go. There isn’t much to say about the Trick Eye Museum – the name tells you everything you need to know – so I’ll just commence with the dumping of the photos.

























Posted in Tourism, Weird | 6 Comments

A Korean Baseball Game

Ah, baseball – it’s as Korean as taekwondo or apple pie. It used to be the most popular sport, by all accounts – though that title now belongs to soccer – but baseball still enjoys an enthusiastic following here in South Korea. This past week, in the hallowed enclosure of Jamsil Stadium, I bore witness to the rollicking hordes and the modern gladiators of Korean Professional Baseball.

The Korean league offers 8 teams for the competition-thirsty masses:

The Doosan Bears
The Hanwha Eagles
The Kia Tigers
The Lotte Giants
The LG Twins
The Samsung Lions
The SK Wyverns
The Nexen Heroes

“Now, slow down, slugger!” you’re saying. “I can’t believe Seoul, the biggest city and capital of South Korea, doesn’t have a team, you scallywag!” Actually, it has 3 teams – the Bears, the Twins, and the Heroes – but you won’t find “Seoul” in their names, nor the name of any city in any team name. This is because the names of Korean baseball teams bear the names of the Korean companies (or, uh, business conglomerates) that own and sponsor the team. Weird. Can you imagine rooting for teams like the Google Dodgers, the Starbucks Mariners, or the Lehman Brothers Expos? Which companies would sponsor which teams…that’s a bar-stool conversation I want to have one day. Who knows, maybe America will one day adopt this practice. After all, naming stadiums after companies is already ubiquitous. That being said, here’s an ironic picture…

And yes, smart alec, the Korean in the picture translates to “baseball stadium”, not the name of the park. Seriously though, the stadium does have a name. Jamsil stadium.

Anyway, the game I went to was between the Doosan Bears of Seoul and the Lotte Giants of Busan. Now, based on my very scientific observations, the Doosan Bears are the most popular team in Korea, though my records show they’ve only won 3 championships in the league’s 30 year history. Regardless, they’re the most popular team in the biggest city – the Yankees of Korea.

Now, as the night wore on, I experienced many of the traditions of a Korean baseball game. Some of these practices have similarities to American baseball. The food, for instance, is an important part of the game. In the US, the ballpark wiener is a baseball staple. What do they eat in Korea? You guessed it – a bag of chicken.

Yes, it’s a just a bag of chicken. Seriously. Other popular options are whole pizzas, grilled or dried squid (of course), and Burger King. The food is cheap too. The bag of chicken was only about $8 (and it feeds at least 2 and comes with drinks). You could buy a can of beer for $2, as opposed to the loan you have to take out to by a beer at a ballpark in America. I ate well.

One major difference was the involvement of the crowd. To begin with, each team has their own fan section, so when you buy your tickets, you have to report who you’re rooting for so you’re seated in the appropriate section. The fans of the home team sit on the first-base side, the away team fans on the third-base side. The main difference, however, is how rowdy the fans are. Each section was chanting, singing, and taunting the entire game. This would be a good time to talk about this guy…

Him. He is responsible for leading the chants, songs, and taunts, and he was a dynamo – a charismatic showman thrusting his hips and prodding the crowd to be louder. He was backed up, of course, by the “cheer girls.” Don’t call them “cheerleaders”.

There’s no denying how crazy the crowd was. They were hanging on every pitch. Guffawing at every mistake by the other team. This was a shock to me coming from Chicago, where some fans buy Cubs tickets just to work on their tans.

Also, each team seems to have their own traditions and cheers. After the 5th inning, a bunch of guys started walking through our section to give everyone an orange plastic bag. “What’s this for?” I began to wonder. Then everyone started tying their bag off, leaving it inflated with air. What? Then, everyone began to place the bags on their heads, using the handles as ear straps. This is not a joke. The whole section wore the bag hats for the remaining 4 innings.

I’m still not sure how the bags related to anything. They were never used at part of a song or dance. I thought it would be fun if everyone popped them at once and screamed, “Bags!” Instead, at the end of the game, I used the bag to throw away chicken bones.

It was an experience, and even though I sat in the Lotte Giant’s section, I bought a Doosan hat.

Doosan lost.

Here are some other facts about Korean baseball:

-South Korea won the Gold Medal for Baseball at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
-The team names change as the ownership changes. Some teams have gone through several name changes. The Doosan Bears used to be the OB Bears
-The DH is used by the entire league. Pitchers don’t bat.
-In the game I watched, all the players were Korean except for 2 – both of the starting pitchers. The starting pitcher for the Lotte Giants was Ryan Sadowski, who pitched 6 games for the San Francisco Giants in 2009. His stats are here.
-Shin Soo Choo is a native Korean who is currently an outfielder for the Cleveland Indians. He is very popular in Korea, and many Indian games are televised here so Koreans can watch him play.
-Names the Nexen Heroes have gone through: 1982-85, The Sammi Superstars/1985-87, The Chongbo Pintos/1988-95, The Taepyungyang Dolphins/1996-2007, The Hyundai Unicorns.
-I’m for Doosan.

Well, there it is. I’ll end with what you’ve all been waiting for: more pictures of the cheer girls.





Posted in Events, Tourism | 4 Comments

A Bike Ride

Hey, you don’t have to tell me I’ve dropped the ball the past few weeks. I know I’ve been lazy with my postings, but look, I’ve been busy. I promise it might happen again.

This past Monday was Korean Memorial Day. We had the day off of school, and the weather has been perfect – low 70s, sunny, slight breezes. I took advantage of the weather and the day off by going on a bike ride at Yeouido, the park area next to the Han River. You might remember Yeouido from such adventures as the cherry blossom festival and the trip to the 63 building. Well, it has those things, but most of the time, it’s just a popular park down by the river, and when we went, there must have been a good metric gaggle of people.

We rented bikes from a stand near the subway station and rode all around the park.

There were plenty of bridges to ride under. This one is right near all the action, and the bike path runs right underneath it.

Here’s a good shot of me with windswept hair and Seoul Tower in the background.

There were certainly a lot of good photo opportunities down at Yeouido, and I wish I had more pictures, but unfortunately, my camera…well, let’s not get into that.

Anyway, Yeouido was great. We saw the fishermen along the river manning several sets of rods. We saw masses of people picnicing on the acres of grass. My favorite spot of all though…

…the shallow fountain being enjoyed by just about everyone, and as the day settled into dusk, there were still hordes of people wading through the water or sitting on towels near the edge where the cement met the pool.

The slight darkness in the sky as we left. The breeze. The laughing kids and the napping couples. It was one of those days.

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Communication Breakdown

In my school, we use a messenger system to communicate with other teachers and staff. It’s basically like a Korean version of AIM. A lot of the time, the administration or other teachers will use the system to send out mass messages. You know – memos, notes, announcements. Of course, all of these messages are in Korean. This isn’t that big of an issue, since my co-teachers generally let me know if one of the messages pertains to me, but all the same, sometimes I’m just flat out curious.

If I have a free moment, I’ll dial up Google Translate or Yahoo Babel Fish and throw the message in and see what pops out. Well, the output is always incomprehensible. Always. It’s like their using Navajo code talkers. Here are some messages I received just this week, as translated online. These just go to show you why human translators are superior, at least with the technology that exists now.

1. Informs from school lunch room. Is in the process of keeping the missing child. Today at lunch time in the teaching staff dining room entrance side table (the study microphone. As Deyo which does) running out and teacher trail to school lunch room (nutrition fact) the custody middle ear coming and to seek going, wishes. Will give to me strongly, does, in particular… Will be able to write and the place and will not be able to seek… Taking away certainly, fades.

2. Condition in the school between sports club tournament female dodge ball river prudent VS good books which participated yesterday and at the time in and the final game the new moon when wins a victory in interest of teachers interest entrusting which is many gives and encouragement entrusting where also the participation players are many ^^ where gives

3. About next generation age [su] user minute description education official document electrolysis. Wants a research study the minute when liaison lquor tax ^^ (me does not know to tell the truth well…. whereAlso the problematic now which is discovered from next generation age [su] becomes continuously the problem solving middle ear ^^ helps) good one day ^^

4. Evaluation method improvement excellent teacher recommendation ‘ Relation official document display managed. Until May 31st morning is an application.

5. The parents educational excellent lecturer recommendation request document displayed

6. *** today is educational society for the study activity work. ○ business trip and leaving early, remains in the school and controls teacher whom does to inform to the sanction of today and teacher log drawing up charge, does a business. Sanction and log drawing up charge teacher life physical education society for the study of ○ todayⅡ- Only market [ik] Social historical cultural society for the study – seaside [swuk] The cultural quest society for the study – the jade which will be Pak Natural search society for the study – craft child Performing art society for the studyⅠ- Weakness of mind [hwun] Performing art society for the studyⅡ- Really pure example Traditional cultural society for the study – beacon position Life physical education society for the studyⅠ- Emigration zero

7. Goodbye is! where The smallest which sends to say that yesterday the minute when does not receive a letter is, the place of service where the teacher maiden home father yesterday divides and 8 new village Severance underground 1st floor is room like being sad, staring route wishes.

Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…what?

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Busan

Well, I’m back.

I guess I should take a moment to explain the hiatus. The first week and a half of this month, my mother and sister paid me a visit. That began on May 1st, the same date the hiatus commenced. That explains the first two weeks, but last week, I was too busy, lazy, and in need of rest to summon the energy to post. But the entire staff is back to work now here at The Seoul of Wit. The interns enjoyed the time off, but it’s nose to the grindstone again.

So what have I been doing the past month? Uh…a lot. The week and a half my family was here was a juggernaut of tourism and food. We did so much, I’m not even going to try to sum it all up, and even if I did, some of the things we experienced have been covered on these pages before.

We did, however, do something that was entirely new to me. We went to Busan.

Now, before you freak out, they spell Busan with a “P” on this map. Hey, they also spell Jeju Island with a “Ch”! Why am I using this map, again? Oh right, because they label the sea between Korea and Japan as the “East Sea” and not “The Sea of Japan.” I once projected a map in class that labeled them the other way around. I was promptly told to find a different map.

Anyway, we went to Busan! This was a big deal for me. Besides my trip to Japan, I haven’t really been outside of Seoul. I mean, I’ve been outside the city limits plenty of times, but not very far. Here are some facts you might find interesting about Busan:

-With a population of a tad over 3.5 million, it’s the 2nd largest city in South Korea.
-Busan hosted the 2002 Asian Games and is making a bid to hold the 2020 Olympic Games.
-I prefer to spell Busan with a “B”, as opposed to the sometimes used “P”.

In Busan, we stayed at the Westin Chosun – a hotel on the famous (to Koreans) Haeundae beach. That’s me on the bed up above there. The hotel came highly recommended, and it lived up to expectations, but perhaps the most exciting thing for me was that the shower had a curtain and a tub! The sweet life…

There’s our hotel putting a nice exclamation on the end of the beach.

And there’s the rest of the beach. Our hotel would be just out of the left side of the frame in this picture. It was too cold to go swimming in the sea while we were there, but the weather was perfect.

We were only in Busan for the weekend, so we didn’t get to see everything we wanted to, but we did go to one of Busan’s biggest Buddhist temples: Beomeosa.




Busan was great. It definitely has a different feel to it than Seoul does. Seoul is a little grittier than Busan – not dirtier, but with more character. Busan was sleeker – it had a more modern feel in many ways. I would go back.

I’ll finish with one of the great things about staying on the beach: fresh seafood.

Along the beach, there was a big section of tented restaurants like this one. Walk in, pick the animal you’d like to eat, and they prepare it right there for you. Did we try it? No! We were full – geez.

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