Archive for the ‘cheap travel’ Category

Internet Romeo In Colombia

May 18, 2014

My first date in Colombia was with Diana. I called the number she had given me a few weeks prior, via email.

“Is Diana there?” I asked.

“No, who is this?” replied a female voice.

“I am Brian and I met Diana online on Colombian Cupid.”

“Ah yes, this is a friend of hers, my name is Adriana. The name of my friend isn’t really Diana, it’s Lorena.”

“Oh, can Lorena meet me today at 12 noon?” I asked, not at all fazed by a few names changes by my potential date.

“Yes, we can.” (It was very unexpected to have a date with two girls)

“Ok, lets meet at Plaza de los Periodistas (The Journalists’ Square) at 12 noon and then go to Monserrate (a little church on 10,000 foot high mountain) from there,” I suggested.

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At 12 noon, I received a call from Adriana, “Hi Brian, we are at the entrance of Monserrate, but we can’t find you.”

“Well, I am at Plaza de los Periodistas, waiting for you guys, should I take a taxi to Monserrate, and meet you guys there?”

“Yes, we will wait for you here.”

So, I jumped in a cab that was actually being hailed by another person from my hostel who was also going to Monserrate. It was with a girl who wasn’t quite sure if we had met before or not.

“Were you with the people from the hostel who went to the club last night?”

“Which people are you talking about?” As far as I could remember, I hadn’t gone out at night anywhere in at least a week.

Before she could respond, my phone rang.

“Hi Brian, this is Adriana, we have decided that we will come to Plaza de los Periodistas and see you, there are too many people up here at Monserrate.”

I quickly explained to the taxi driver and to my newly-acquired backpacker friend that I was getting out of the cab. The backpacker girl asked why. I explained that my friends had said that it was too crowded at the top. The backpacker remained in cab and decided to go on without me. I jumped out and started walking back to Plaza de los Periodistas. By the time I had gotten to Plaza de los Periodistas, Lorena and Adriana were already there.

Lorena quickly explained to me that she had given me the phone number of her friend (Adriana) as a way to protect herself from strange people. Although she didn’t explain why her real name (Lorena) was different from the name she used online (Diana).

Still really not having any idea what was going on, I agreed to go for lunch with my new internet friends.

As we walked through Bogota’s old town, Lorena/Diana and Adriana gave me an informal tour. The description given about every building by Lorena/Diana was all the same. It was either “delicious” or “cool.” What a great start, we had picked the most delicious and cool place in all of Bogota for our walk. We finally arrived at a restaurant that was in the touristy part of town and looked to cost a lot more than my standard $3USD meal that I was spending on lunch each day. Against my better judgment, I agreed to eat at this expensive restaurant. So we went in and all sat down. While ordering, Adriana made sure to get three appetizers and beers for everyone. My mind started to calculate the price of the meal. According to my estimate, the price at that moment was somewhere between $60-$75, (nearly a week’s budget for my food). I tried to relax and started showing Adriana some of the photos I had taken during my first week in Colombia. While I was doing this, Lorena/Diana got up from the table, walked out to the restaurant balcony and started talking on the phone with “her mother.”

As soon as the food came, Lorena/Diana came back from the balcony and sat down with us. She informed us that after the meal that we were invited to come to her mother’s house on the other side of town to watch a soccer game. I didn’t feel comfortable with doing that but I told her that I would go with them. We then started eating lunch. As we were eating, Adriana asked me how old I thought each of them was.

It was a strange question, since Lorena/Diana’s age (29) appeared on the website. I could definitely tell that Adriana was a lot older. But I didn’t want to offend Adriana, so I said, “29 and 32.”

Adriana (the less attractive and heavier one) looked to be very happy with that number and started talking about the many boyfriends she had in life, thanks to her charisma and beauty. At one point in her story she went as far to say, “If you don’t like Lorena, you could choose me.” At that exact moment when she said that, I was cutting my hamburger into more manageable bites and nearly cut my index finger off. It was the equivalent of asking to trade a horse for a Lamborghini.

My only response, was just to meekly smile while I tried to think of how I had gotten myself into this situation. Adriana then put her phone up to her ear, to make a call. The call didn’t go through. She then tried again.

“I am trying to call a cell phone that has been turned off, do you mind if I use your phone?”

I assumed that I either didn’t understand her Spanish that well, (because her request made no sense), or, she just wanted to see my cell phone to try and size me up for how much money I had. It was at this moment I knew it was time to take action. I grabbed my camera and backpack and said, “I need to go to the bathroom, I will be right back.”

I went to the back of the restaurant and went out the back door. It felt great to have skipped out on the bill, leaving two scam artists to pay for an overpriced meal. As I walked back to my hostel, I wondered what I would do if either of them tried to call me. I decided to turn my phone off for a couple hours. Fortunately, I never heard from Adriana or Lorena/Diana again. Unfazed by this first date, I was determined to find a special lady friend.

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I Speak Colombian – The Book

When the country of Peru is mentioned, one imagines a peaceful scene of an Andean alpaca grazing along an Incan stone wall. When Ecuador is brought up, we imagine a rain forest panorama of frogs jumping off branches while butterflies mate in the background. When Colombia is mentioned, we automatically picture an overturned bus, being pillaged by men in ski masks. I think it is obvious, which country, a reasonable person like myself, would choose to go to in search of a beautiful Latin lover and a more fulfilling professional career.

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The 3-Hour Work Week: The Gringo Guide To Online Dating, Learning Spanish, Avoiding Deportation And Making Money In Colombia is designed to inspire people to maximize life experiences and escape an ordinary life. Inspired by the ideologies of the self-proclaimed “Internet Romeo/All-Star Budget Traveler/Worst English Teacher in Colombia,” it has been described as the holy grail for those who want to explore opportunities abroad and network with hot Latin singles.

This is the complete guidebook on how to relocate to Colombia and become an English teacher/freelance writer/actor. This book illustrates the many advantages (affordable health insurance, the lack of tipping in restaurants and affordable plastic surgery) that the gringo visitor can expect to find in Colombia.

Funny, fact filled and always informative, The 3-Hour Work Week provides the knowledge you need to make the most out of the Colombia experience, and/or makes a great coffee table book you can enjoy during the commercial breaks of the Jersey Shore. Jam-packed with practical information, The 3-Hour Work Week addresses all the concerns and taboos a prospective ex-pat in Colombia needs to know, such as finding the right job to tips on which people to filter out while surfing online dating sites. While other books focus solely on the tourist experience, The 3-Hour Work Week discusses the life beyond the typical gringo trail, providing you with an in-depth and often hilarious guide to Colombian internet culture, food, drinking, dating, health and relations with its socialist neighbor, Venezuela.

The 3-Hour Work Week is a true adventure story about a 37-year-old socially-awkward man who decided that the best way he could deal with being refused a job at Barnes & Noble was to go online and look for a girlfriend in Colombia, and then hop on a flight to Colombia’s cagey capital in pursuit of a woman he has never met.

Brian sincerely believed the trip would put him on a track towards a life of excitement, intrigue, and far from his increasing first world debt. Instead, he unexpectedly falls into a job as an extra in a Colombian soap opera, almost gets kidnapped during an eDate, has panic attacks, watches other gringos lose their marbles, and blows half his paycheck on bootlegged DVD’s. Along the journey, he chronicles his friendships, the deranged ex-pats he meets, and his struggles/triumphs, including one fateful night in a Israeli restaurant that would change his life forever.

Avoiding Death In A Korean Hospital

November 7, 2013

Before I left the USA to teach English in Korea, I got an eye infection in my left eye that lasted for 2 weeks. It was extremely painful and really scared me. I was told by my ophthalmologist that I needed to have my left eye removed because I was still at risk for getting more infections. When I asked him how much the surgery would cost, he said that I would have to call the eye center at UC Davis and get a price from them. I called them a few days later and they said the surgery was going to cost around $24,000. I didn’t have any insurance, so I would have to pay the full amount.

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I knew there was no way for me to afford the surgery in the US.

Seven months later, I was in Korea teaching English. While in Korea, I decided to find an ophthalmologist in Korea. One who was recommended to me by another ophthalmologist in Mokpo. I scheduled an appointment with Dr. Yoon over the phone. While I was on the phone with Dr. Yoon he promised to have one of his assistant’s waiting for me in the waiting room on the date of my appointment.

The morning of my appointment, I took a taxi to the hospital.

“What’s your major problem?”

I didn’t know where to begin. I wasn’t used to being greeted at the door of a hospital. I was a little unnerved to be asked such a direct question after I had only taken less than two steps out of my taxi.

“Dr. Yoon.” I replied.

“OK, follow me.” replied a young doctor who appeared to be about 25 years old.

We walked through the waiting room full of Korean senior citizens in varying degrees of decline. Some had walkers, others sat uncomfortably as if they were waiting for a flight that had been delayed for over 10 years. We walked up to the second floor to see another waiting room filled with aging seniors. The young doctor asked me to sit down on a bench across from the elevator doors. In less than two minutes he returned and brought me into an examination room. I stared down the barrel of his eye examination equipment and tried to focus on an air balloon that was lifting off over a narrowing highway. Before I could get the balloon in focus the examination was over and he led me into another room. There was another doctor staring into a computer screen as we entered the room, as soon as he saw us come in he cleared out without saying a word. I sat on another examination chair and the young doctor told me that Dr. Yoon would be in shortly.

The door opened behind me and I was greeted by Dr. Yoon. He apologized for arriving late, I glanced over at a computer screen and checked the time, 10:12 am. “No problem, I’m glad that I could come and see you.” I said.

His first question was to ask me if I wanted eye surgery just for cosmetic purposes. I then went into my entire life history of having been blinded in my left eye by a rooster. After saying the word rooster Dr. Yoon’s head cocked slightly to the right, a non-verbal cue that he didn’t know the meaning of rooster. I then stuck my elbows out and flapped my arms while bobbing my head forward and pointing my nose out. “Oh, ok.” Replied Dr Yoon, acknowledging that he was following the story. I then told him about the fact that I had a slight scar on the left eye that was prone to infection and because of this I had to get the eye removed to avoid infections in the future. I also had an envelope full of documents in Korean and English that gave specifics on my eye problem. Dr. Yoon examined the documents and asked me who referred me to him. Luckily I had brought the business card with photo of my doctor in Mokpo. Dr. Yoon was very happy to see the card and said that he had lived in Mokpo for 10 years. Perfect, we were hitting it off so far. He then asked what city I was from in the US. I said San Francisco, knowing how much everyone in Korea loves San Francisco.

“Oh really, I studied at San Francisco State.”

It seemed that half of the Doctors in Korea have studied in California.

“What’s the name of the island there, Alcohol?” asked Dr. Yoon.

“Ah, Alcatraz, yes, have you been there?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Wow, I have always wanted to go there.” I remarked, not sure if I was thinking of alcohol or Alcatraz.

“Can you put your chin on the bar?” asked Dr. Yoon.

I leaned forward and stared into another eye exam machine. Dr. Yoon asked me to look right, left, up and down. After the exams there were several photos of my left eye on his computer screen. I could clearly see the stitches over my cornea.

“Wow, that’s the first time I have seen the scars from my eye surgery.”

Dr. Yoon then started to explain about my two surgery options; Evisceration or Enucleation. Evisceration would be the cheaper option in which he would just basically suck the soft center of my eye out and fill it with a porous material (like draining the center of a raw egg). He’d then attach a prosthesis to the outside of porous center which would look like my original eye looked before my accident, 30 years prior.

“This option is what I recommend for older patients. For younger patients like you, I recommend getting Enucleation. Enucleation is the complete removal of the eye. You will also have to wait a month before the prosthesis is reinserted into the socket. The advantage of this surgery would be that you will have a fuller range of movement with the new eye but you’d have to wear an eye patch for a month between the first surgery and the final insertion of the new eye,” he informed me.

I didn’t much like the idea of wearing an eye patch while teaching my students, but at least I’d be in Korea. None of my friends back home would see me with my eye patch.

Dr Yoon pulled out a book of artificial eyes from a drawer. All the eyes were different shades of brown.

“Will I be able to get a green eye instead of a brown one?” I asked.

Dr. Yoon cocked his head to the side and sucked wind through his teeth, indicating that I had asked an extremely difficult question. Dr. Yoon quickly fired off some questions to his younger assistant, who was standing behind him with his arms joined behind him. The younger doctor then went foraging through another drawer that was filled with business cards. He found the one which belonged to the doctor who makes the prosthesis. He dialed the other doctor on his cell phone and left the room. He came back a few minutes later and confirmed the other doctor could make a green eye for me.

There was just one more minor impediment, I still didn’t have medical insurance in Korea. So, Dr. Yoon told his assistant to call my work and see when I’d be able to get insurance. Dr. Yoon then pulled out his 2010-2011 schedule. It was the size of a telephone. In this book was a list of all the surgeries he had planned for that year. I estimated that he did about 25 eye surgeries a month. He only did surgeries on Friday which meant each Friday he had between five and six surgeries. He looked like he was fully booked until January 2011 but he offered to open a window for me at the end of October 2010.

“That would be fine with me.” I responded.

Dr. Yoon then closed his book and looked at me. “You’re not rich are you?” he more or less stated it as a declaration and less like a question.

I said that I wasn’t.

“Maybe we can adjust the price for you. It still will be a little expensive.”

“How much?”

He pulled out a paper and starting totaling all the services I would need. First there would be an admission exam $90, second was the price of the surgery $750 and third was the price of the prosthesis $1,500, which totaled $2,340 without insurance. With insurance I’d only have to pay half that.

After I got back to Mokpo I asked my dermatologist Dr. Seung about Dr. Yoon.

“He’s a bad guy.” Dr. Sueng said after staring into his desk with his hands crossed over his forehead.

“Is he sleeping with a lot of women or is it a drinking problem,” I asked.

Surprised at his own forwardness Dr. Sueng became uncomfortable with the conversation.

“He was bad to his students,” replied Dr. Sueng, still in a state of discomfort.

“Was he having sex with them?” I wondered out loud.

“No, he was taking money. He was in the newspapers and he had to leave Seoul,” Dr. Sueng reported without elaboration.

“From the students? I asked.

Dr. Sueng couldn’t share any more information with me. I guessed it wasn’t so much a language problem, it was more of an etiquette thing, in which doctors generally weren’t supposed to engage in gossip about other doctors.

“I don’t know his skill,” was the last piece of information I got about Dr. Yoon from Dr. Seung.

I started to panic. Should I go through a surgery with a doctor who may be a perfectly competent doctor although he extorts money from his students? I walked home in a daze. Needing some advice, I called Jackie.

“There are two kinds of hospitals in Korea. The ones that rich people go to that are located in Seoul which are modern, clean and have qualified doctors. The other kind of hospitals are all the others not located in Seoul, where the poor people go. These hospitals are viewed by Koreans as roughly the same as going to India for health care.” Jackie replied over the phone. I decided I should go to Seoul for surgery since that’s where all the rich people went to be treated for their medical problems.

I talked with my dentist, who had a sister working in Seoul at Samsung Hospital and she booked me an appointment with a doctor in Samsung Hospital. While checking the Samsung Hospital website, I saw that Samsung Hospital was affiliated with Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles. I was also using a Samsung cell phone at the time which was pretty reliable so I decided this must be a sign. I arrived to Samsung Hospital at 8 a.m. Monday morning. There weren’t any doctors or interns waiting for me outside the hospital like my previous hospital visit. Samsung Hospital was huge, from the outside it looked to be at least 50 stories high. The inside looked like an M.C. Escher drawing, there were staircases winding in every direction. The information desk was unmanned so I decided to go to the pharmacy where there was one hospital employee hunched over her desk looking into a drawer. I showed her my appointment slip and she pointed at the opposite corner of the hospital. I wasn’t sure if she meant go down the hallway at the corner of the hospital or go upstairs. I decided to ask a guy who was dressed in a business suit talking on his cell phone. As soon as he saw my appointment slip he hung up his cell phone and we went on a mad chase around the hospital. We ended up in the International Clinic.

The first thing I saw when I got to this wing of the hospital was a stack of English language newspapers sitting on a table in the waiting room. There was one receptionist typing into her computer at the front. When she saw me walk in, she spoke loudly towards the back room in Korean. A minute later another receptionist came out from the back and started to talk to me. She looked at my slip and said that I needed to go back to the first floor where the Ophthalmology wing was located. I gave a heavy sigh indicating that I wanted her to carry me down there but she was already wishing me good luck and she walked back to the back room. As a means to further my inconvenience to her I asked if I could bring the stack of newspapers with me.

“They are for our patients,” she explained.

Darn it, foiled again. I receded back through the automatic doors and went to the Ophthalmology wing. I grabbed a ticket from the automatic ticket machine. After taking a ticket, the receptionist said to me. “Now closed, waiting.” I checked my Samsung cell phone and was pleased that it had only taken 35 minutes for me to find my appointment location. Promptly at 9:00 a.m. I was registered in the hospital and directed to another waiting room. 10 minutes later I was called to take an eye exam. For the thousandth time in my life they asked me to cover my right eye and read the letters and numbers off the board. I decided not to try and explain that I was blind in my left eye, I just said the number four about 17 times and the eye screener took away my eye cover to indicate that the test was over and I sat back in the waiting room. I then took one more test and by 10 a.m. I saw my first doctor. She looked to be about 17 but was very kind and didn’t seem to be offended in the least when I admitted that I couldn’t speak Korean. We chatted for about 10 minutes and she took notes on her computer about how long I had been in Korea and when I first started having problems with my left eye. She covered my right eye first with her hand and shined her light over my left eye to check to see if I could sense light. I felt relieved after this moment and started to relax. I told her that my left eye couldn’t sense light but I could see the light with my right eye through the cracks between her fingers. If I were to guess, I would guess that not many patients failed the light test. I was already setting records in my new hospital.

After our brief interaction, I was ushered back into the waiting room. As soon as I sat down another patient told me to put my jacket back on. I was too tired to put it back on and reminded me what month it was. I was too tired not to conform December rule of always wearing my jacket no matter what the temperature was indoors. I settled by draping it over the front of me and went to sleep instantly.

A few minutes later, I was awoken by another hospital employee and led into another room. This time the doctor was 20 years older and she had a team of medical staff working behind her. Her first question was to ask if I spoke Korean. I told her I didn’t and she then asked me why I didn’t get the surgery done in the US. I told her that I didn’t have medical insurance in the US. She then asked me if I had insurance in Korea. I said that I had just gotten it from my academy. She recommended that I get an Evisceration surgery which was less evasive than the Enucleation surgery. I told her that my last doctor, Dr. Yoon recommended that I get Enucleation surgery done. She asked why he would recommend that surgery and I got out my paperwork from Dr. Yoon.

“You have been studying about this surgery?” she asked, with a hint disbelief.

“Yes, I thought that the Evisceration surgery was only for older patients.” I replied.

She defended the Evisceration by noting that the recovery time was quicker and the results better. I was a little relieved that this doctor was taking the ball out of my hands and telling me which surgery I needed. We then discussed which orbital implant I wanted. I said that I wanted the Bio-Eye (made out of corral reef), the most expensive one they had. We made an appointment for surgery later the following month.

The night before my surgery date, I received a text message from Samsung Hospital informing me of all the things I needed to bring with me to the hospital: soap, bedding, slippers, water bottle, cup and a towel. The text message also said that I shouldn’t leave Mokpo until they called me and confirmed that there was a bed available for me. Ignoring the second part of the message I left Mokpo the day of the surgery at 6 a.m. I reasoned with myself that even if I got there three hours early and there was no bed for me, I could spend the extra time talking with my dermatologist and urologist who were also working at the same hospital.

As expected, I arrived to the hospital three hours early with no bed waiting for me. This was no problem since I still had to see my dermatologist before being admitted to my room. My dermatologist said he was prepared to operate on my backside to remove a cyst but said he would prefer to wait until I got my eye surgery, so we scheduled an appointment for the Friday after my eye surgery.

As soon as I went back to the ophthalmology wing, my room was ready. It was a double room and I could see that I had a roommate behind the curtain next to my bed. It sounded like he was sleeping, so I decided just to move my things in quietly and take all the extra layers of clothing off I had brought with me. The first thing I noticed about the room was that the bed had sheets and a blanket on it so it was unnecessary for me to have brought my sleeping bag along with me. Oh well. I moved the rest of my things into the room and decided to get a magazine out and do a little reading. The overhead light was burnt out so I rotated my body 180 degrees and used the light from the hall to illuminate my magazine. After reading for a half hour I decided to call one of my nurse friends working at the hospital. I had met her during my previous visit. She was nice enough to help me schedule my appointment, which I couldn’t do by myself because the person working in the scheduling department didn’t speak English. Inha answered the phone and surprisingly she remembered who I was. I told her which room I was staying in and she promised to visit me the next day. It was nice to have a friend working on the inside.

A few minutes later the charge nurse came in to welcome me. By this time my roommate was awake and he turned out to be another American who was from New York. His name was Stradlin and he said that he’d been living in Korea off and on since the 1970′s. He also had a heavily-bandaged head and a patch over his left eye from surgery.  In Korea, Stradlin worked as an actor in Seoul and was married to a very beautiful Korean woman. He was also finishing up the last four pages of his book in the hospital. I remembered seeing Stradlin’s name on the outside door of our room listed as, “Stradlin Izzy.” At the time I thought it was a strange name. I wondered why they had arranged his name to neatly fit with Korean-formatted names (last name before first name) but mine was still in the North American format. I guessed this meant that Stradlin had been accepted into Korean culture because they listed his last name first and his first name last.

“It was as if someone pulled a lampshade over my eyes. Two years ago the lamp shade was 25% closed, a year ago it was 50% and two weeks ago it was at 98%.” Stradlin quickly jumped into his vision history of how cataracts had slowly eroded his vision.

I didn’t really understand what he was talking about, so instead of replying to his initial thread of conversation, I started talking about Korea and how long each of us had been here. Shortly after we had started getting to know each other, I let the cat out of the bag and told Stradlin that I was working on a book about Korea.

“Oh really, I’m also working on a book.” Stradlin replied.

“What’s your book about?” I asked.

“It’s about a family living in a Post Apocalyptic New England town.” Stradlin answered.

“Oh yeah, like the movie that came out last year, The Road, did you see it?” I asked.

“What are you talking about?” replied Stradlin with a touch of anger.

(Awkward pause)

I decided to change the subject by asking him if I could read the pages he’d just written while in the hospital.

“These pages will be worth millions once your book gets on the New York Times Best Seller List.” I joked as I looked the pages over.

“Yeah, kind of like the original ten commandments.” he countered.

It seemed like we were off to a positive start. I was trying to make a connection with him so I wouldn’t have to worry about him going through my pants pockets while I was in surgery. The next few hours were a verbal pillaging of the soul of Stradlin. Who knows when was the last time he had the chance to speak with another American. He told me a story about a time he went to visit his blind cousin in Maryland when he was only six years old. “The only thing I can remember is that he was touching my face for a very long time, I think that’s the longest anyone has touched me face before.”

He then told me a little more about his book publisher who was living in Tokyo. “The guy’s an idiot, he’s 62 and has just had his 6th child with his 3rd wife. What kind of a life is that kid going to have?”

Stradlin’s idea of a two way conversation was verifying the name of the city where I was from every 15 minutes or so. “You’re from Chino, right?”

“No, Chico.”

“Is that near LA?”

Then we’d get into the same revolving door conversation about how Chico kind of sounded like Chino, but aside from the name, geographically speaking it wasn’t in Southern California nor did it have a famous prison.

My cell phone started ring. “Brian, it’s Young. How are you? Are you in Samsung Hospital?”

“Yes, I’m in Samsung Hospital,” I responded.

“Good, when is your surgery?” he asked.

“Tomorrow,” I responded.

“Brian, I am going to call my friend who is the CEO of Samsung Hospital and tell him that you’re my friend. I need to know which room you are in,” instructed Young.

I went outside and read the number off my hospital room door. “I’m in room 758,” I said through the phone to Young.

“OK, don’t worry. I will make sure my friend knows who you are. I will come with SooHee to visit you after your surgery.” It was the first time in my life that I ever felt happy to be getting surgery in a hospital.

“OK Young, Thank you. I’ll talk to you after my surgery,” I responded before hanging up.

After hanging up the nurse came in to install my catheter. As she was installing the catheter, Stradlin came over to my bed to take a closer look at the procedure. He noticed me gritting my teeth.

“What’s the matter, you afraid of needles? They don’t bother me, I can take a needle in the arm, in the eye, up the ass, don’t bother me a bit.” Then he casually took a stroll into the hall to call his wife on the cell phone. After the catheter was installed our American dinners arrived to the room. Stradlin informed me that each American meal would cost an extra $23USD on my bill. Or, I could have Korean food for free. I decided to change my meals to Korean after that. As I was eating Stradlin wheeled his food tray up next to mine.

“Are they giving you local or general anesthetic?” he asked.

“I don’t know.” I honestly hadn’t thought my surgery that far through.

“They gave me local anesthetic, I was awake the whole time. I watched them as they stuck a 4-inch (10.63 centimeters) needle into my eye. It was supposed to kill the pain, didn’t really work. Then they started cutting at my eye and pulled the lens out like a Chinese noodle. I watched the whole thing,” he reported.

“When will you get your vision back?” I asked.

“It will take months, the doctor says that I should come back in three weeks. I can’t shampoo my hair for another two weeks, I can’t drink any alcohol for another three months or have sex with my wife either.” The whole reality of what I was really here to do started to sink in.

The next morning the nurses woke me up at 6 a.m. and gave me my full ration of food, pills, IV’s and asked me about my most recent bowel movement. Surgery was still four hours away, but I guessed they wanted to make sure my body was still in good enough condition to carry everything out as planned. I spent the next four hours watching a slightly sound-delayed version of CNN. The voices of the broadcasters could never quite keep up with their lips.

Before I knew it the nurses came for me and told me it was time for surgery. They told me to take off my underwear and socks. I got back into my bed just in my gown. They wheeled me into the hallway and I started my journey to the elevator. We went one floor down and I was wheeled down another hallway through some automatic doors. My first conversation was with an anesthesiologist. He explained which drugs I’d be getting.

“Will it be general or local anesthetic?” I asked, trying not to bite through my lip.

“General” replied the anesthesiologist.

I wanted to give him a kiss. Instead, I signed the paperwork and met with another doctor who I couldn’t recognize because she was wearing a face mask, until I heard her voice. It was the voice of the most famous eye surgeon in Korea, Dr. Kim Duck (as well as the best name of any doctor in any country).

“Brian, I got a call from the CEO of Samsung Hospital. He wishes you a successful surgery,” proclaimed Dr. Kim Duck. It was one of the few times in life I felt important.

I was starting to feel more confident. They wheeled my through another set of automatic doors and finally I was in the operating room of the space ship. I had to transfer from my bed on wheels onto the operating table. I looked over at the operating table and noticed that instead of a pillow, there was a blue gel donut. I assumed it was there for either displaying bowling balls or more likely, that is where my head would lie while I was having surgery. I transferred my body onto the operating table and lied flat on the table. Something wasn’t right, I could feel my head wasn’t properly aligned with the gel donut, so I scooted down the table a few inches, then leaned my head back down. I still couldn’t get it on top of the donut. This went on for another six minutes. Finally all the doctors lined up around the table and gave me oral instructions on how to get my head onto the donut. Unfortunately their instructions were all in metric, so I had to do my best and guess how much distance three centimeters was. Finally I got my head onto the donut. As soon as I was in place, they pulled the sheets up around me and folded me into the bed like a mummy. Next thing I knew, they are strapping the gas mask onto my face. I waited for someone to ask me to start counting backwards. Nothing. Don’t they know that in order for the sleeping gas to take effect, you must count backwards or it doesn’t work? Is this thing even hooked up to the gas? I better start breathing through my nose, so I can smell if there’s gas in this coming in or not. All I could smell was the plastic from the mask. Are they going to warn me when the gas starts? Maybe I should just rest my eyes here for a second….

The next thing I know, I wake up back in my room. Stradlin is still watching CNN and my head is pounding. I ask Stradlin to turn the volume down while my three nurses try to get my body in the right position in bed. Stradlin turns the TV off.

“Pain killer, please,” I mumbled to the nurses as they were rolling me into bed.

The nurses instantly went scrambling out into the hallway to fetch my meds. I had a short conversation with Stradlin about my last experience with taking Vicoden after I got my wisdom teeth taken out. Before I finished the story, I was given a glass of water and some pills. “Probably not anything that going to make me feel too psychedelic but who knows,” I thought to myself. I popped the pills, made sure that the rails were up on my bed and took a nice nap. The next ten hours are spent sleeping, eating and listening to Stradlin talk to his wife over the phone while in bed. It sounded like she wanted to come over tonight to sleep with Stradlin, but he tells her to get her work done first and then come in the following day.

“I’m hoping the doctor will let me go tomorrow,” these were the last words I heard before falling back to sleep.

I wake up again a few hours later and Stradlin says he’ll be staying in the hospital for another two days. I tell him that it’s better to be in the hospital than at home in case something goes wrong.

“I don’t believe in over-billing my health care provider. I could have stayed in a one bed room but am trying to keep health care costs down. My whole stay is covered here in the hospital, I don’t even have a $25 co-pay….”

In mid sentence the doctor came in to take Stradlin’s blood pressure. “Aw Doc, I have something that’s called white collar hypertension, I get an elevated heartbeat every time a doctor takes my blood pressure,” Stradlin reached into his pocket to show the doctor receipts from the auto pulse taker from the first floor of the hospital, “See, 116 over 70,” he exclaimed as he put the printed receipts of his blood pressure into the doctor’s front pocket. “I’m still planning on losing some weight, I want to get back down to my college weight which was 190 pounds, I only have 30 more pounds to go.”

Sometime shortly after the doctor left, I felt the bandage on my face. It felt as if there was about 20 pounds of cotton packed into the bandage. The pain wasn’t that bad unless I looked to my left or blinked too much. I decided just to let my right eye stayed closed, thus limiting the movement of my other eye. Every twenty minutes I had a little tear drainage from my left eye.

I got my first visitors to the hospital an hour or so later. SooHee and Young came to visit me. I couldn’t really open my eye for too much time so I mostly just talked to them with my eye closed. While we were talking, Young held my hand and prayed with me in English and Korean.

“Brian, did Dr. Kim Duck say anything to you about receiving a call?”

“Yes, she said she received a call from the CEO of the hospital. He encouraged her to give the patient in room 758 a successful surgery.”

I couldn’t see Young’s face, but I knew that he was very pleased when he heard this news.

I was thousands of miles from home, but the CEO of Samsung Hospital knew who I was and was making sure I was properly taken care of. While they were in the room with me I would blink my right eye open for a second every half minute. That’s as long as I could keep my right eye open without causing my left eye discomfort. During one of the times I blinked my eye open, I saw that they brought me a box of fruit juices, a bag of donuts and a box of oranges. They couldn’t stay for too long but brought a week’s worth of food. I was happy to know I’d have some snacks around to break up the monotony.

The next day Stradlin’s wife came over and she was definitely very pretty and probably 30 years younger than Stradlin. They had apparently met on the set of a Korean TV show called Giant. According to Stradlin he had a semi-steady acting gig as a US Army Colonel on the program.

When Stradlin’s wife asked him how he was doing his answer was flawless.

“Honey, I’m fine. The only problem in my life at the moment is that my tenet who’s living in my house in New York is thinking about moving out of the house. He’s been there nine and a half years, he’s worried about his job security and wants to find a cheaper house,” Stradlin informed his wife.

“What time will you be discharged tomorrow?” Stradlin’s wife asked.

“I want to see the doctor after lunch and then we can leave,” Stradlin replied.

“Is there a reason why you can’t see the doctor before lunch.” trying her best to hurry along the process.

“Naw, honey, we already made an appointment, besides, I want to get a meal before I leave,” replied Stradlin.

“This is why the Korean health care system is in crisis….” she cut herself off before finishing. I decided to take a walk and let Stradlin and his wife brainstorm ideas about solving South Korea’s health care crisis.

The following night was pretty casual, the only problem I had while sleeping was that the pulse reader kept slipping off my finger and that in turn would set the alarms off warning the nurses that I no longer had a pulse. This of course couldn’t be solved by simply putting the pulse reader back on my finger, the whole machine needed to be reset. I had a nice night’s sleep aside from the pulse reader slipping off twice. I had another half day to enjoy listening to Stradlin and his wife discuss how much work she was missing by coming to the hospital and at what time she could go home. I secretly wondered to myself why anyone gets married in the first place.

Before Stradlin left he gave me his business card and repeated the name of the city where I lived in the US to prove he was paying attention. “Not quite, I live in a place that sounds like Chino but isn’t on the coast nor is it in Southern California.”

I thanked him for being my roommate and wished him a quick recovery.

Later that day, I was moved into my new room which had six beds instead of two. For the next four days, I would wake up each morning at 6 a.m., go in to have my vision in my right eye checked and then have a doctor unbandage me and look at my left eye. I would then go back upstairs for breakfast and pills. Four days later I was out of the hospital and looking forward to teaching one day of class and then going on vacation for another four days. I left the hospital with a backpack full of drugs and instructions to come back to the hospital in two weeks so they could do a follow-up exam of my eye. I ended going back to Samsung Hospital once in February and six times in March before I finally got my replacement artificial eye. When my new doctor, Dr. Park took his first look at my new prosthetic eye he gave me a look commonly given when you accidentally get egg shells into the omelet. It wasn’t very reassuring. I wondered to myself if maybe the new eye was maybe the wrong color staring down and to the left.

“Different pupil color,” apologized Dr. Park.

After a couple more moments of uncertainty, Dr. Park agreed to give me a mirror and let me take a view for myself. I half expected to have been given an orange wolf’s eye. Some of the doctors’ assistants came into the room and were smiling pleasantly at me over Dr. Park’s shoulder as I checked out my new eye. It was eerily similar to my real eye, so much so that it took a few seconds for it to sink in that the new eye didn’t actually have vision. As far as I could tell the color was almost exact, maybe just a half shade difference and the eye tracked to the left and right with the other eye. Dr. Park then gave me a bag with a tiny suction cup and a bottle of contact lens cleaner. We practiced together how I should properly remove and clean the artificial eye. While I was at the sink I squirted some red hand cleaner into my hand in preparation to clean the artificial eye. “No.” echoed Dr. Park as he rinsed the soap out of my hand and loaded my hand with a clear soap. “What’s the difference between the two soaps?” I asked.

“Thursday Dr. Kim Duck explain.”

We then continued cleaning the eye. As I watched my new eye swish around in my hand, I did a quick mental measurement of the exposed drain at the bottom of the sink. One false move and the eye would spill out of my hand and be sucked down the drain.

“No Miss,” I didn’t bother turning to his assistant to ask for a translation. Dr. Park seemed to be reading my mind. He clearly was imparting upon me the importance of not losing my eye down the drain of a sink. I still had a lot of questions to ask about my eye maintenance but my questions would have to wait until Thursday when I would meet with Dr. Kim Duck.

When I came back to Samsung Hospital the following week, Dr. Kim Duck explained that I didn’t need any special soap to wash my eye and that I should use eye drops if the left eye ever felt uncomfortable.

________________________

Everything You Wanted To Know About Teaching English In Korea But Were Afraid To Ask

There has been an exploding demand for native English speakers to teach English in South Korea. English programs and English academies have been spreading like wildfire all over Korea. And, due to an unpredictable economy, many university graduates, travelers, and people from all walks of life are packing their bags and taking advantage of the English boom in Korea.
Korean institutions are paying good money ($2,000-$2,500 a month) and offering excellent benefits (free housing, 30 hour work weeks) to Westerners who are willing to explore the unfamiliar, pack up their bags, and teach in thriving South Korea.
324288_10150780210710405_5010733_o
This is the complete guidebook on how to relocate to South Korea and become an English teacher. This book illustrates the many advantages (low taxes, high standard of living, friendly people, safe streets) and challenges (dating, language barriers, disciplining students, getting along with co-workers) that the first time teacher can expect to confront in Korea.
Funny, fact filled and always informative, “First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Into The Backwoods of South Korea” provides the necessary knowledge you need to make the most out of the experience. Jam packed with practical information, “First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Into The Backwoods of South Korea” addresses all of the topics and taboos a prospective English teacher needs to know, from finding the right job and negotiating a contract settlement to avoid eating dog while ordering food off of a menu.While other books focus solely on classroom experience,“First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Into The Backwoods of South Korea” explores life outside of the classroom, providing you with an in-depth and often hilarious guide to Korean culture, food, friendship, drinking, dating, religion, health and history are just some of the subjects discussed in detail.Last but not least,
“First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Into The Backwoods of South Korea” looks at the embarrassing realities of life abroad, offering pause for thought on such issues as learning how to pronounce Korean students’ names, a 15-minute golf lesson I got in Korean that increased my driving distance 20%, my interactions with my Korean co-worker “Kid” who confesses to me that he was accused by his ex-wife of burning down her house and the cheapest and best eye surgery I’ve gotten in any country. “First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Into The Backwoods of South Korea” will awaken readers to the transitional opportunities available in a place that shares few Western customs but many of the comforts of home.
Written by Brian Ward, a semi-qualified middle school teacher whose walked the fine line between sanity and a nervous breakdown in the classroom, “First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Into The Backwoods of South Korea” is an irreverent and insightful survival guide for anyone brave enough to try their hand at teaching English in South Korea or who just wants to have a laugh at author Brian Ward’s backwards approach to living in Korean culture.
This guidebook also compares teaching in the USA to teaching in Korea.
_______________________________________________________
Country Salary
(Year)
 Taxes (yr)
Yearly Housing Expenses Total Remaining
Korea $26,000 + 50% of medical bills paid       $780   $0 $25,220
USA   $35,000      $8,000 $8,400 $18,600
_______________________________________________________
“First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Into The Backwoods of South Korea” by Brian Ward, can be found on Amazon.com
Here is a chapter by chapter synopsis of the book:
Chapter 1
Dreams vs. Getting a Paycheck
This chapter profiles author’s friend Nick Lee, the hedonistic boozer surrounded by books, half-finished paintings and an old LP player — speaks in English rather than Greek or Latin. Prodigious nose, has been retooled as a heroic pretty boy. As Nick Lee’s life finally falls apart due to alcohol and lack of physical contact with women, the author decides to get on a plane to Korea. Upon his arrival to South Korea, he is taken back when he learns the true meaning of “Hair Shops” in Korea.
Chapter 2
Academy Owners
This chapter discusses the 4 major types of academy owners as well as which category I was working for. This chapter also discusses my “first contact” with my boss and Korean co-workers. This chapter reveals what a failure I am at teaching and includes the letters I received from Seoul which explained where I should improve. Introduced in this chapter is Carlo, an English teacher famous for drinking with Russians, getting bit by his students and his travels throughout Morocco.
In this chapter I get fired from my first job and start a new job. I am also forced to learn a little bit about Korean culture in order to be able to converse better with my students. Also introduced in this chapter is Jackie and the story of his dog “Blackie.” Also discussed is the Korean co-worker culture and what that entails.
Chapter 3
First Non-Monopoly Month in Class
I learn which class tattled on me for playing Monopoly every day in class. I also try different techniques for disciplining my students. I also discuss the advantages of talking with the students versus making them do exercises and what makes talking to the students so difficult. Also discussed is more of Carlo’s antics outside of the classroom. I finally get the bright idea of discussing the rules in class. I meet Carlo again out of class and we discuss the problems of his life; mainly how to deal with a belligerent student who happens to be the boss’ daughter in class.
Chapter 4
Bars and Churches
There are two types of English teachers in Mokpo, those who hang out in the bars and the other who hang out in church. Frankly I was getting tired of hanging out with the English teachers in bars. I decide to go to church instead. On my first day of church I discover that there is free orange juice and cookies served after each session. I meet Ms. Jung who explains to me why the street in Korea are so clean and how it affects retired Korean people. I also get my first private English student. Jackie’s house becomes haunted by a ghost and he reveals how to chase ghosts away. I go to my first baseball game.
Chapter 5
Modem vs. Router
I have my first run in with Korean modems and their downfalls. Jackie comes to my rescue and gives me some much-needed internet advice.
Chapter 6
Golfing in Korea
I meet my first Korean golf instructor who gives me best golf lesson ever using no English. Using my new-found golf skills I decide to golf a few rounds of golf with my new co-teacher George and his brother.
Chapter 7
English Meetings at Angel-In-Us Café
In addition to going to church, I join another group in Korea. This one is and English group that is run by my Korean friend Jackie. This group becomes a great way to meet new friends and discuss current events in Korea. Next, my former roommate, Carlo, gets taken to the police station and I talk to him before he gets deported from Korea. I also meet my replacement who’s teaching at my previous academy.
Chapter 8
4th of July in Korea
Author goes to a 4th of July party with his new-found church friends. He meets another English teacher named Tareck. Tareck is famous for kicking chairs across the classroom to get his students’ attention as well as living in the same apartment as his nudist boss.
Chapter 9
Kidman
Brian meets his first English-speaking co-teacher who goes by the name “Kid.” During their first time out for a hike together Kid confesses to Brian that he was accused by his ex-wife of burning down her house and that he likes dating Japanese women.
Chapter 10
Modem vs. Router
I have my first run in with Korean modems and their downfalls. Jackie comes to my rescue and gives me some much-needed internet advice.
Chapter 11
Golfing in Korea
I meet my first Korean golf instructor who gives me best golf lesson ever using no English. Using my new-found golf skills I decide to golf a few rounds of golf with my new co-teacher George and his brother.
Chapter 12
English Meetings at Angel-In-Us Café
In addition to going to church, I join another group in Korea. This one is and English group and is run by Jackie. I find another way to meet new friends and discuss current events in Korea. Carlo gets taken to the police station and I talk to him before he gets deported from Korea. I also meet my replacement who’s teaching at my previous academy.
Chapter 13
Lesson Plans
Brian reveals the most effective way to plan for his classes; by downloading lessons plans off the internet. Included in these lesson plans is  sample menu that is used to help the students role-play the purchasing of a hamburger in class.
Chapter 14
Dating in Korea
Brian shares four case studies of native teachers (males) who are dating Korean women. Included in these case studies are the reactions of the host-woman’s friends, families and social network.
Chapter 15
Surgery on a Budget
Brian get learns the difference between hospitals in Seoul (where the rich Koreans go) and all other hospitals in Korea. Brian finds the best value in Korea which is eye surgery which is priced at $2,500 in Korea vs. $28,000 in the United States. While in the hospital Brian meets an American man named Roman who’s been living in Korea since the 1970′s and publishing a book about a Post-Apocalyptic New England town. When Brian asks Roman who his book publishing agent is Roman replies, “The guy’s an idiot, he’s 62 and has just had his 6th child with his 3rd wife. What kind of a life is that kid going to have?”
“First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Into The Backwoods of South Korea” by Brian Ward, can be found on Amazon.com

I Was Thrown Out Of My Last Korean Gym

November 6, 2013

“Brian, did you join a gym in Korea?” asked my Korean teacher Ms Jung, covering her mouth as she laughed.

“Yeah, but I got thrown out of my last gym.” I answered.

“Why?” asked Ms. Jung as she leaned in for my answer.

Image

“I asked the owner to turn down the music. He spoke enough English to understand what I was saying but refused to adjust the volume. So, I waited for him to go into another room. Once he left, I went behind the reception area and manually turned down the music volume while the receptionist was busy text-messaging. As soon as I walked back to my exercise bike a middle-aged Korean lady walked behind the reception area and turned the music back up. She then approached me while I was on the work out bike. She started yelling at me in Korean. As she was yelling at me, I looked around for the owner of the gym to come and protect me, he was no where to be seen. So, I walked over to reception to ask the receptionist for help. She ignored me. So I stood there in reception while the Korean lady yelled at me. A few minutes later the owner walked out into the work out area sipping a coffee. I walked over to him and I explained to him that the music is too loud in the gym and it was giving me a headache. Before he could answer, the Korean woman walked over and gave him an ear full in Korean. After she finished I asked him whether or not he was going to turn down the music again. ‘You must understand the middle-aged Korean woman,’ he responded. ‘Are you going to turn down the music or not?’ I repeated. He answered my question by repeating the same phrase, ‘You must understand the middle-aged Korean woman.’ We were getting nowhere. I then made up a story saying that I was expecting a call from my work on the cell phone and wanted to be able to hear it ring. He wouldn’t let up on the whole middle aged Korean woman thing. Clearly we were discussing two unrelated issues here. I decided to cut to the chase, “Are you going to turn the volume down or not? Yes or No?” He then went into a routine about how the customers didn’t appreciate the fluctuation in volume.

‘After you turn the volume down 15%, you can leave it at that volume until 2014 without any fluctuation.’ I responded as I stood there waiting for him to walk over to the radio and turn it down. Instead, he just stood there looking back at me. I pointed at reception and asked him to turn it down one last time, but he wouldn’t budge. Finally I went back to my workout bike and pretended the whole thing never happened and finished my work out. Two days later I went back to the gym and the radio was at the same volume. When I checked in, I had a sticker on my gym key saying it was time to pay up for the next month. I went into the locker room, threw my towel into the sink and decided I would wait until leaving Korea before I went back to another gym.”

________________________________________________________

Everything You Wanted To Know About Teaching English In Korea But Were Afraid To Ask

There has been an exploding demand for native English speakers to teach English in South Korea. English programs and English academies have been spreading like wildfire all over Korea. And, due to an unpredictable economy, many university graduates, travelers, and people from all walks of life are packing their bags and taking advantage of the English boom in Korea.
Korean institutions are paying good money ($2,000-$2,500 a month) and offering excellent benefits (free housing, 30 hour work weeks) to Westerners who are willing to explore the unfamiliar, pack up their bags, and teach in thriving South Korea.
324288_10150780210710405_5010733_o
This is the complete guidebook on how to relocate to South Korea and become an English teacher. This book illustrates the many advantages (low taxes, high standard of living, friendly people, safe streets) and challenges (dating, language barriers, disciplining students, getting along with co-workers) that the first time teacher can expect to confront in Korea.
Funny, fact filled and always informative, “First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Into The Backwoods of South Korea” provides the necessary knowledge you need to make the most out of the experience. Jam packed with practical information, “First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Into The Backwoods of South Korea” addresses all of the topics and taboos a prospective English teacher needs to know, from finding the right job and negotiating a contract settlement to avoid eating dog while ordering food off of a menu.While other books focus solely on classroom experience,“First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Into The Backwoods of South Korea” explores life outside of the classroom, providing you with an in-depth and often hilarious guide to Korean culture, food, friendship, drinking, dating, religion, health and history are just some of the subjects discussed in detail.Last but not least,
“First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Into The Backwoods of South Korea” looks at the embarrassing realities of life abroad, offering pause for thought on such issues as learning how to pronounce Korean students’ names, a 15-minute golf lesson I got in Korean that increased my driving distance 20%, my interactions with my Korean co-worker “Kid” who confesses to me that he was accused by his ex-wife of burning down her house and the cheapest and best eye surgery I’ve gotten in any country. “First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Into The Backwoods of South Korea” will awaken readers to the transitional opportunities available in a place that shares few Western customs but many of the comforts of home.
Written by Brian Ward, a semi-qualified middle school teacher whose walked the fine line between sanity and a nervous breakdown in the classroom, “First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Into The Backwoods of South Korea” is an irreverent and insightful survival guide for anyone brave enough to try their hand at teaching English in South Korea or who just wants to have a laugh at author Brian Ward’s backwards approach to living in Korean culture.
This guidebook also compares teaching in the USA to teaching in Korea.
_______________________________________________________
Country Salary
(Year)
Yearly Taxes Yearly Housing Expenses Total Remaining
Korea $26,000 + 50% of medical bills paid $780   $0 $25,220
USA   $35,000 $8,000 $8,400 $18,600
_______________________________________________________
“First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Into The Backwoods of South Korea” by Brian Ward, can be found on Amazon.com
Here is a chapter by chapter synopsis of the book:
Chapter 1
Dreams vs. Getting a Paycheck
This chapter profiles author’s friend Nick Lee, the hedonistic boozer surrounded by books, half-finished paintings and an old LP player — speaks in English rather than Greek or Latin. Prodigious nose, has been retooled as a heroic pretty boy. As Nick Lee’s life finally falls apart due to alcohol and lack of physical contact with women, the author decides to get on a plane to Korea. Upon his arrival to South Korea, he is taken back when he learns the true meaning of “Hair Shops” in Korea.
Chapter 2
Academy Owners
This chapter discusses the 4 major types of academy owners as well as which category I was working for. This chapter also discusses my “first contact” with my boss and Korean co-workers. This chapter reveals what a failure I am at teaching and includes the letters I received from Seoul which explained where I should improve. Introduced in this chapter is Carlo, an English teacher famous for drinking with Russians, getting bit by his students and his travels throughout Morocco.
In this chapter I get fired from my first job and start a new job. I am also forced to learn a little bit about Korean culture in order to be able to converse better with my students. Also introduced in this chapter is Jackie and the story of his dog “Blackie.” Also discussed is the Korean co-worker culture and what that entails.
Chapter 3
First Non-Monopoly Month in Class
I learn which class tattled on me for playing Monopoly every day in class. I also try different techniques for disciplining my students. I also discuss the advantages of talking with the students versus making them do exercises and what makes talking to the students so difficult. Also discussed is more of Carlo’s antics outside of the classroom. I finally get the bright idea of discussing the rules in class. I meet Carlo again out of class and we discuss the problems of his life; mainly how to deal with a belligerent student who happens to be the boss’ daughter in class.
Chapter 4
Bars and Churches
There are two types of English teachers in Mokpo, those who hang out in the bars and the other who hang out in church. Frankly I was getting tired of hanging out with the English teachers in bars. I decide to go to church instead. On my first day of church I discover that there is free orange juice and cookies served after each session. I meet Ms. Jung who explains to me why the street in Korea are so clean and how it affects retired Korean people. I also get my first private English student. Jackie’s house becomes haunted by a ghost and he reveals how to chase ghosts away. I go to my first baseball game.
Chapter 5
Modem vs. Router
I have my first run in with Korean modems and their downfalls. Jackie comes to my rescue and gives me some much-needed internet advice.
Chapter 6
Golfing in Korea
I meet my first Korean golf instructor who gives me best golf lesson ever using no English. Using my new-found golf skills I decide to golf a few rounds of golf with my new co-teacher George and his brother.
Chapter 7
English Meetings at Angel-In-Us Café
In addition to going to church, I join another group in Korea. This one is and English group that is run by my Korean friend Jackie. This group becomes a great way to meet new friends and discuss current events in Korea. Next, my former roommate, Carlo, gets taken to the police station and I talk to him before he gets deported from Korea. I also meet my replacement who’s teaching at my previous academy.
Chapter 8
4th of July in Korea
Author goes to a 4th of July party with his new-found church friends. He meets another English teacher named Tareck. Tareck is famous for kicking chairs across the classroom to get his students’ attention as well as living in the same apartment as his nudist boss.
Chapter 9
Kidman
Brian meets his first English-speaking co-teacher who goes by the name “Kid.” During their first time out for a hike together Kid confesses to Brian that he was accused by his ex-wife of burning down her house and that he likes dating Japanese women.
Chapter 10
Modem vs. Router
I have my first run in with Korean modems and their downfalls. Jackie comes to my rescue and gives me some much-needed internet advice.
Chapter 11
Golfing in Korea
I meet my first Korean golf instructor who gives me best golf lesson ever using no English. Using my new-found golf skills I decide to golf a few rounds of golf with my new co-teacher George and his brother.
Chapter 12
English Meetings at Angel-In-Us Café
In addition to going to church, I join another group in Korea. This one is and English group and is run by Jackie. I find another way to meet new friends and discuss current events in Korea. Carlo gets taken to the police station and I talk to him before he gets deported from Korea. I also meet my replacement who’s teaching at my previous academy.
Chapter 13
Lesson Plans
Brian reveals the most effective way to plan for his classes; by downloading lessons plans off the internet. Included in these lesson plans is  sample menu that is used to help the students role-play the purchasing of a hamburger in class.
Chapter 14
Dating in Korea
Brian shares four case studies of native teachers (males) who are dating Korean women. Included in these case studies are the reactions of the host-woman’s friends, families and social network.
Chapter 15
Surgery on a Budget
Brian get learns the difference between hospitals in Seoul (where the rich Koreans go) and all other hospitals in Korea. Brian finds the best value in Korea which is eye surgery which is priced at $2,500 in Korea vs. $28,000 in the United States. While in the hospital Brian meets an American man named Roman who’s been living in Korea since the 1970′s and publishing a book about a Post-Apocalyptic New England town. When Brian asks Roman who his book publishing agent is Roman replies, “The guy’s an idiot, he’s 62 and has just had his 6th child with his 3rd wife. What kind of a life is that kid going to have?”
“First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Into The Backwoods of South Korea” by Brian Ward, can be found on Amazon.com

Jobs A Foreigner Can Do In Colombia While Drunk

October 24, 2013

In the last decade, many foreign companies have started to augment their filming operations here in Colombia. The reason for the increased presence of film projects in Colombia are many-fold; Colombia has many different shooting locations to offer in one country (jungle, the ocean, historic architecture and modern cities), Colombia’s weather allows for film companies to shoot during the whole year, the exchange rate to the US dollar makes filming in Colombia very accessible and the fact that security in Colombia has increased dramatically in the past decade (the US State Department has lifted warnings on Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena). The filmed productions in Colombia range from syndicated TV shows, to car commercials, to movies, such as the comedy El Paseo.

bogota zona rosa

If a foreign person is seriously thinking about making a career of working as an extra/actor in Colombian TV, then the first step this person should take is to register with as many casting agencies as possible. Probably the best agency in terms of prompt payment and the agency that is most enthusiastic about working in TV and movies is the Rudiger Kunze Casting Agency (send photos and contact information in Spanish or German to rudikunze@hotmail.com or call him at 301 662 0565). Once you get a relationship going with Rudi, you will likely be sent on casting calls for movies, commercials as well as have semi-consistent work as an extra.

The advantages of working in Colombia as a foreign extra are  numerous; #1) It is a job that is easily done (and probably preferably done) while drunk, #2) The foreign extra needs nothing in the way of work visas, a Colombian bank account or a RUT to work in Colombia, #3) Speaking Spanish is not necessary either and it is to the extra’s advantage the less Spanish he or she knows (the costume designer won’t insist that you try on the same size of pants that are two sizes too small fifty times if you can’t understand what he is saying).

Which foreigners will have the most success in movies and TV in Colombia?

“Foreign white guys who look like cops or ex-marines will always have a solid future in the movie and TV business in Colombia,” replied Irish actor Pádraig Victor Ciarán Sweeney.

Are there any foreigners who shouldn’t work as actors/extras in Colombia?

“Foreign white males with glasses, a concave chest and unable to grow a mustache have no business working as extras in Colombia,” replied the always candid Mr. Sweeney.

For those of you without a concave chest, once registered with Rudiger Kunze, you will receive calls that will be for anything from;

Extra roles in TV programs – The pay is $90,000 – $120,000 a day

Appearing in movies – The pay is anywhere from $300,000 – $600,000 a day

Recording commercials – The pay is $700,000 – $1,600,000 pesos for a day’s work

Modeling jobs – The pay can go up to $3,000,000 pesos per day

The typical casting call involves showing up at the location of the audition, trying to memorize lines and making as many false promises and embellishments to whoever is in charge of the audition as possible. This author can remember a time when he told the director’s assistant that he was friends with the guy who designed the Weinstein Company Logo.

“Oh really, I am trying to get work as an actress in the United States. Do you have any contacts in the movie business?” asked the director’s assistant, biting firmly onto the bait.

“Yeah, I have a few friends,” lying through my teeth.

“They are actors?”

“My friends work mostly in special effects,” making the fluid transition from reality into acting. “I have one friend who designs the animation at the beginning of the movies when the film’s logo appears,” I claimed, slowly reeling her in.

“Maybe I could take down your information and contact you when I get to the United States?”

After we exchanged information and the audition was finished, I accentuated my embellishment by saying, “Diana, you should definitely write me an email so you can get in touch with my friend in L.A., he says that he has a big project coming up soon.”

Since casting calls are very competitive and very rarely lead to real money, it is more sustainable to focus on work for extras. Information about extra work is sent out the night before via text messages and email. The information is usually pretty limited. A typical message might read: “Recording for Capo 3, tomorrow 9am, CARRERA 50#17-77.”

The roles for this type of work are highly varied, some common roles include; bouncer, cop, ex-prisoner, stripper, luggage handler, foreign businessman, embassy employee or ex-military. A former Dutch actor in Colombia had some timely advice for succeeding as an extra, “My best advice is; if you really want to do it (extra work) forget about any sense of pride, dignity and western critical thinking.”

Some of these minor roles will even include dialogue, “I’ve had basic lines, but nothing terribly complicated, a few in English and one time in Spanish. The pay for being a standard extra rarely gets higher than $120,000,” commented an Irish actor named Brendan Corrigan.

“The opportunity for dialogue seems to go up proportionally, the less experience you have at acting,” says a 56-year old German extra named Andre Tille.

“The text I was given was four sentences long. My character was a parody on how American businessmen conduct negotiations in Colombia. I was dressed in a business suit and given a briefcase to complete my character. My lines were comical. My first line was supposed to convey my impatience with my co-star’s poor English. ‘I am very annoying, I cannot know anything about business until the manager Ambres Perriera attends us,’” recounted Mr. Tille.

He went on by adding, “During my 20-minute rehearsal before my maiden voyage into acting, I was introduced to the two Colombian actors who would be playing opposite me and they seemed like quiet and normal guys. The kind of guys who would make great landscapers or employees at a car wash. Once the cameras started rolling, I realized what great actors they were. Each line of my dialogue sent them into intense fits of anger and contorted facial expressions. After our dialogue was over, our team of American businessmen were supposed to walk through the scene and off the set.

As I was walking off camera, I missed the door and rammed my knee into wall, almost toppling the entire set. The director loved my exit and almost fell down, he was laughing so hard. During the next two hours of filming, he would come up to me on the set and ask if I was free of pain. After eating lunch with the other extras, the director, (still chuckling to himself) asked me how much longer I would be in Colombia. He took my phone number in case he had any work for me in the future.”

The difference between being a foreign extra in Colombia versus being a Colombian extra is that foreign extras get paid $100,000 a day (and paid the same day) to work as extras versus Colombians who get paid $30,000 per day (which is paid to them 30 days after filming). The schedule for each TV program varies but usually lasts at least 8 hours. Foreigners will also have access to a lot more exotic work just based on the fact that they are in shorter supply than local actors. “Some foreign people have managed to get roles in the likes of National Geographic’s Locked Up Abroad, they seem to shoot in Colombia quite regularly. The pay and treatment in those is much better, but the opportunities are few and far between,” asserted Mr. Corrigan.

What is the typical day like on the set as an extra? Most of the day is spent standing in line waiting to be added to the time sheet, standing in line waiting for your wardrobe, standing in line for your food, standing in line to use the port-a-potty, you are then on camera for 20 seconds (opening a door for a Colombian actor playing a lawyer) and then finally waiting in line for your money at the end of filming. An inside tip for the more ambitious foreign actors; they should use the long hours of standing in line as a networking opportunity. It also wouldn’t even be a bad idea to print up some business cards with your photo, name and phone number to hand out to other actors as well as directors while you are on the set. The most stellar of extras have Blackberry phones which they can get the pins from other phones and receive the latest extra work info via their phone 24-hours a day.

The best way to start a conversation with another extra is, “Do you know the casting agent (insert name)? That guy owes me $180,000 pesos.” After chit-chatting with the other extras for a few minutes you can ask for their pin numbers and hand out your business cards.

Once you get a few key contacts of people sending you reliable work leads, you will have pretty consistent work in acting and extra work. Although there is no guarantee that this will lead to you being invited to pool parties with Colombian models, but you will most likely be able to cover most of your food and living expenses during your stay in Colombia.

…When the country of Peru is mentioned, one imagines a peaceful scene of an Andean alpaca grazing along an Incan stone wall. When Ecuador is brought up, we imagine a rain forest panorama of frogs jumping off branches while butterflies mate in the background. When Colombia is mentioned, we envision a post-apocalyptic city full of overturned buses, being pillaged by men in ski masks. It is obvious which country any rational person would seek to avoid while searching for an internet bride.

“48,000,000 Colombians Can’t Be Wrong” is a true adventure story about a 37-year-old socially-awkward man who decided that the best way he could deal with a life sentence of microwavable burritos and 10-hour Facebook marathons was to look online for a girlfriend in Colombia and then hop on a flight to Colombia’s capital in pursuit of a woman he has never met.

During his first month in Bogota, Brian falls in with two white, self-assured backpackers who the author describes as, “…not the kind of guys who pump the brakes before going through an uncontrolled intersection.” He is then nearly kidnapped during an encounter with a woman he met online, almost becomes business partners with a Korean man in the “diamond business” and is forced to sleep in the DVD room of his hostel due to lack of funds.

Brian quickly regroups after his first month and auditions for the part of “congressional aide” in a Colombian feature film called “Left To Die.” He then lands a job as a writer for an English-language newspaper where his first interview is with a “suspected undercover CIA agent.” Brian then gets thrown off a TV set for refusing to take off his shirt from under his police uniform. While Brian is not getting thrown off TV sets, he marvels at all the discarded construction materials Colombians throw into pot holes to lessen their depths. Because of this strategy, a bus going over one of these open trenches (full of construction materials) will occasionally sling a chest-high brick through a group of panic-stricken pedestrians.

Brian sincerely believed this trip would put him on a track towards a life of excitement, intrigue and exotic women, far from his increasing first world debt. Instead, he unexpectedly falls into a job as an extra in a Colombian soap opera, has panic attacks, watches other gringos lose their marbles and blows half his paycheck on bootlegged DVD’s. Along the journey, he chronicles his friendships, the deranged ex-pats he meets, and his struggles/triumphs, including one fateful night in a Israeli restaurant that would change his life forever.

To view the complete book, “48,000,000 Colombians Can’t Be Wrong,” go to …
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B015VWCXME?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Making Money In Colombia

August 13, 2013

In the last decade, many foreign companies have started to augment their filming operations here in Colombia. The reason for the increased presence of film projects in Colombia are many-fold; Colombia has many different shooting locations to offer in one country (jungle, the ocean, historic architecture and modern cities), Colombia’s weather allows for film companies to shoot during the whole year, the exchange rate to the US dollar makes filming in Colombia very accessible and the fact that security in Colombia has increased dramatically in the past decade (the US State Department has lifted warnings on Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena). The filmed productions in Colombia range from syndicated TV shows, to car commercials, to movies, such as the comedy El Paseo.

The words How to Make Money on a chalkboard

The words How to Make Money on a chalkboard

Perhaps, the most famous example of a foreigner “going Hollywood” in Colombia is Rudiger Kunze or “Rudi” as he is known to his fellow actors. Rudi has been in Colombia for the last 9 years and has appeared in several movies and TV programs. Included in the list are, “Mi Gente Linda, Mi Gente Bella,” RCN’s “Sin Retorno” as well as National Geographic’s, “Locked-Up Abroad.”

Rudi’s breakthrough performance in Colombian TV was a role he played as a homicidally-corrupt undercover cop. In his signature scene, he presses three Colombian hoodlums to get information about a crime that has taken place. While Rudi is interrogating them, he is simultaneously applying pressure to a deep wound in his left rib cage.

After getting no new information from the three thugs, Rudi quickly becomes frustrated with them. To make matters worse, Rudi’s partner is of no help to him as he sits and listens to an mp3 player with headphones on. After numerous attempts by Rudi to get his partner’s attention, Rudi’s patience runs out.

“The Russian mafia could sneak up behind you and drop and a bomb in your lap and you wouldn’t even notice you useless piss-drunk cop. Stand up you moron,” he states forcefully to the idle police officer.

Still no response from the police officer. Frustrated, Rudi pulls his sidearm out and puts a bullet in the other cop’s head.

“I guess it was just too hard to follow a simple command,” says Rudi after a hearty chuckle.

Seeing the declining state of Rudi’s regard for human life, the three thugs become even more agitated. They then ask Rudi, “What happened to your stomach?”

Rudi pulls up his shirt and shows them the damage. “I had a run in with some Korean gangsters, I guess they weren’t too happy about me dating one of their sisters.  They put a CD in my ribs and I couldn’t get it out.  Now I have a CD burner in my stomach.”

In a desperate attempt to escape Rudi’s demented peep show/Russian roulette standoff, they offer up their weapons at a discount price of a few thousand pesos in return for being set free by Rudi.

“Cheap price? For me, cheap means free. And besides, what would I want with a weapon that was involved in your crimes?” asks Rudi as he points his weapon towards the thugs.

“Don’t worry its clean,” replies one of the thugs, only half believing his own lie.

In the ultimate Jedi move of the century, Rudi offers to trade them the gun he just used to kill his buddy with for their gun. “I am doing you guys a favor by letting you go, now you do me a favor and help me get rid of this firearm,” he adds to cement the deal.

As they take the weapon from Rudi, they look down at the ground at Rudi’s dead partner.

“From now on, it’s time to dejar estos huevonadas (stop goofing off) and become men, thinking with a cool head,” Rudi tells them after they become the owners of his weapon.

Gracias señor,” two of them reply as they cover the weapon with a T-shirt. The third, clearly unhappy (and in the minority) about being roped into this fool’s errand, throws his jacket to the ground as they walk away with the tainted gun.

Not content with merely acting, Rudi has recently opened up his own casting agency and is busily casting foreigners in all types of commercials, TV shows and movies. Many of Rudi’s actors recently got a chance to showcase their talent at an audition here in Bogota for an American TV show about drug trafficking (What a surprise). Rudi chose his most convincing actors for the casting call because of their legendary ability to insert famous quotes from movies like Deer Hunter, Jacob’s Ladder, Dude (Where’s My Car?) and Cape Fear into their dialogue without others noticing. This particular scene is between two former American soldiers who are planning to export drugs to Africa. The following is an excerpt from their improvised lines in the audition:

Robert: No way man, this is way bigger than that deal we did with the Sinaloa Cartel.

Brad: Yeah, this is big. This is my ticket out of this mess. Remember, every man must go through hell to find paradise. We do this job and it’s going to be nothing but beach volleyball, girls gone wild and jello shots – permanent vacation.

To try and sell his buddy on doing the job with him, the character “Brad” now acts even more sold on this “job” and is breathing more heavily while scratching the side of his face as he waits for the second actor to deliver the next line.

Robert: Are you ready?

Brad: Ready to be born again. You better make sure you are ready, you errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill. And don’t go getting scared of dying on me. If you’re frightened of dying and…you’re holding on, you’ll see masked spirits tearing your life away. But if you’ve made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth.

This particular actor’s rendition of “Brad” was a gamble, and, unfortunately the part ultimately went to another of Rudi’s actors. Bad for him, good for Rudi. Thus, giving birth to Rudi’s second career as a casting promoter.

When the country of Peru is mentioned, one imagines a peaceful scene of an Andean alpaca grazing along an Incan stone wall. When Ecuador is brought up, we imagine a rain forest panorama of frogs jumping off branches while butterflies mate in the background. When Colombia is mentioned, we envision a post-apocalyptic city full of overturned buses, being pillaged by men in ski masks. It is obvious which country any rational person would seek to avoid while searching for an internet bride.

“48,000,000 Colombians Can’t Be Wrong” is a true adventure story about a 37-year-old socially-awkward man who decided that the best way he could deal with a life sentence of microwavable burritos and 10-hour Facebook marathons was to look online for a girlfriend in Colombia and then hop on a flight to Colombia’s capital in pursuit of a woman he has never met.

During his first month in Bogota, Brian falls in with two white, self-assured backpackers who the author describes as, “…not the kind of guys who pump the brakes before going through an uncontrolled intersection.” He is then nearly kidnapped during an encounter with a woman he met online, almost becomes business partners with a Korean man in the “diamond business” and is forced to sleep in the DVD room of his hostel due to lack of funds.

Brian quickly regroups after his first month and auditions for the part of “congressional aide” in a Colombian feature film called “Left To Die.” He then lands a job as a writer for an English-language newspaper where his first interview is with a “suspected undercover CIA agent.” Brian then gets thrown off a TV set for refusing to take off his shirt from under his police uniform. While Brian is not getting thrown off TV sets, he marvels at all the discarded construction materials Colombians throw into pot holes to lessen their depths. Because of this strategy, a bus going over one of these open trenches (full of construction materials) will occasionally sling a chest-high brick through a group of panic-stricken pedestrians.

Brian sincerely believed this trip would put him on a track towards a life of excitement, intrigue and exotic women, far from his increasing first world debt. Instead, he unexpectedly falls into a job as an extra in a Colombian soap opera, has panic attacks, watches other gringos lose their marbles and blows half his paycheck on bootlegged DVD’s. Along the journey, he chronicles his friendships, the deranged ex-pats he meets, and his struggles/triumphs, including one fateful night in a Israeli restaurant that would change his life forever.

To view the complete book, go to …
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B015VWCXME?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

I Speak Colombian – Words And Phrases That Will Help You Better Understand Colombia

May 30, 2013

Probably the best thing about speaking Spanish in Colombia is that you can don’t have to really learn the names of any Colombian men. Instead you can just refer to any man you have met on the street as maestro. In English, maestro is reserved for an artist who has their work displayed in many different museums around the globe or for someone who has been paid to conduct a symphony. Here in Colombia, you can call someone a maestro just because you like the quality of chips he is selling out of a shopping cart near the mini stop.

habloColombiano

An everyday phrase here in Colombia is, “Hay un inconievente” (There is an inconvenience). In English this phrase would be used if maybe the meal you ordered at a restaurant is going to take 5 or 10 minutes longer than expected to arrive to your table. The waiter would tell you, “Sorry sir, there is an inconvenience, the pork sandwich you ordered is going to take an extra 10 minutes before it will be ready.”

Good luck if you are in a hospital in Colombia and the doctor tells you, “Hay un inconievente.” This no doubt means that what they thought was just a little routine acid reflux really means that your kidneys have exploded and you have 3 minutes to live.

Also in Colombia, the customer is made to feel almost like royalty. This example is illustrated when you enter the small corner grocery store and the sales clerk says to, “A sus ordenes su merced” (At your service your mercy).

You thank the clerk for such a warm welcome and try to explain to her that really you aren’t anyone important. You actually just came in to buy $1,500 pesos ($.75USD) worth of that good Bocatto ice cream and are not worthy of being called “Your mercy.” To this the clerk will promptly respond, “Para servirle” (another cute way to say ‘at your service’).

Even the older gentleman with the fleet of dogs by the bus station is always asking “Me colabora?” (Would you like to collaborate with me?) Like we should get together and work on a project, just him and me. When I inform him that I really already have enough business partners in place and he should use the capital he was going to invest in my company to maybe buy some more food for his dogs. He then looks at me like I am the one who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

At home, I always hear my girlfriend Kary say strange expressions over the phone like, “Mommy, make sure to put all you books in your backpack for school tomorrow,” or “Mommy, make sure not to spend all your money on candy, save it for your lunch.”

I would then ask my girlfriend two questions,

#1) I didn’t realize your 53-year old mother was still in school and #2) Isn’t it a little strange to lecture your own 53-year old mother on how she should be spending her money?

“When I say Mommy, I am referring to my daughter, not my actual mother.”

“Oh ok, that’s clear,” I would reply.

Another strange occasion involving my girlfriend’s daughter arose when she showed me a text message she sent to her daughter, “Mommy, don’t let the other girls ride you in school.” (Mommy, no dejes que te la montan en la escuela).

“Ok, I understand the mommy part now, that’s clear. I am a little confused about your daughter being ridden around like livestock while at school. I thought she was going to private school.”

“No, te la montan, is referring to when the other girls pick on my daughter at school.”

A common occurrence when you are talking to Colombians in English is that they will start off telling you a story, for example; “I was at the quick stop and a large man with a gold chain, a leather jacket and many tattoos asked if I help him give his car a jump”….long pause….You then see, by the look of terror and shame, on your Colombian friend’s face that the needle has slipped off of his record. He politely makes eye contact with you and says, “The dove has left me” (Se me fue la paloma). This means that whatever he was going to say he forgot or isn’t sure of the correct way to express his idea.

Another widespread turn of phrase to be heard in Colombia happens when you are having trouble hearing the other person you are talking on the phone. And, to make sure that the line hasn’t been disconnected you ask, “Are you still there Jhon?”

Jhon then replies, “Sizas.”

Suiza? (Switzerland?). Are you talking about bank accounts?” you ask Jhon.

“No, sizas just means ‘yes’ in Colombian Spanish.”

Another expression that fascinates many foreign people is to hear a Colombian say, “Me saca la piedra” (It takes the rock out of me).

This is usually heard when a Colombian goes to the corner store to pay his water bill (via the online bill-paying teller, located at most grocery stores). As the clerk starts entering the billing information, the machine spits out a ticket that says “error.” The clerk reads the ticket and calmly informs the customer that his billing information still isn’t in the system even though the bill arrived to his house four days ago by mail, he will have to come back to the grocery the next day to see if his billing information is in the system. He then becomes angry and yells, “Me saca la piedra!”

It also works the other way for Colombians who are learning English. Most are very surprised to learn that in English, we don’t have a gender-specific way to say, “I have to go pee.” In Colombia, this isn’t an issue. Colombians here have gender-specific ways to express the fact that they need to go to the bathroom. If you are a woman you say, “Me estoy haciendo chichi.” If you are a man, you can say, “Me estoy haciendo pipi.” Needless to say, it is never possible or correct for a woman to say “Me estoy haciendo pipi” or for a man to say, “Me estoy haciendo chichi.”

The final vocabulary words, perfectly describe my buying habits when I am at the corner tiendita (mom and pop grocery store). Instead of paying $1,600 pesos ($.80USD) for the Tutti Frutti quality juices, I like to save a $1,000 pesos ($.50USD) and buy the lowest quality juice in the store which is Tangelo, which is the Colombian version of Sunny Delight, except with twice the preservatives and half the fruit juice.

When I bring the Tangelo “juice” back to my house and put it in the refrigerator, my girlfriend Kary always scolds me for being an incredible cheapskate. She says to me, “No seas chichipato (Don’t be cheap). Pay the extra $1,000 pesos and buy something that isn’t going to dye your stomach a different color.

“But honey, you won’t believe the price I got on this juice.”

Tu eres muy tacano. (You are so cheap). I don’t want this imitation fruit juice in my house.”

Even the names of certain countries are in limbo in Colombia.  Like English, there is more than one name for Holland.  It isn’t solely referred to as Holanda. But, the other name for Holland isn’t similar at all to Netherlands, when referring to this country famous for its coffee shops, Spanish speakers refer to as “Lower Counties” or Paises Bajos.  Even though it is only one country and it isn’t in the south of Europe.

My favorite time to marinate in Colombian Spanish is while listening to Colombian grandmothers talk to their grandchildren. They are all so affectionate towards their grandchildren and have invented a slough of loving expressions that really crack me up. To get a further explanation on how these grandmothers actually talk, my Colombian girlfriend Kary called her grandmother in Cartagena via Skype so I could hear first-hand this special vocabulary her grandmother uses with her favorite granddaughter.

“Hi preciosa (precious), How is my dulce cielo (sweet heaven), my nena (babe), my niña (little girl)?” asks Kary’s grandmother.

“Good grandmother, how are you?” asks Kary.

“Missing you, mi turron de azucar (my chocolate dessert). How are you feeling mamita (little mama), mi vida (my life), mi corazon (my heart), mi muñeca (my doll), mi chiquita (my little girl)? You aren’t too skinny are you? I hope you are eating well.”

“Yes grandmother, I am eating eggs for breakfast every morning and lots of fruits and vegetables,” responds Kary.

“Oh course you are, you are so beautiful. I love you so much. But please luz de mis ojos (light of my eyes), anda siempre por la sombrilla (stay out of dangerous situations). I am making you a beautiful dress for your next visit to Cartagena.

“Thank you grandmother,” responds Kary.

“Ok, mi preciosura (something more precious than precious). I love you so much and please don’t talk with strangers mi negrita (my little brown girl). Ciao.” (Sometimes, Colombians grandmothers have tendency to forget their granddaughter are no longer 8-years old.)

Even though this author had one of the top 10 grandmothers in North America in terms of love, support and advice, this author stills feels somewhat neglected by the fact that his grandmother never referred to him as “my sweet heaven” or “the light of my eyes.”

In any case, while in Colombia this author still has a pretty good chance that someday a Colombian taxi driver may actually refer to him as maestro.

When the country of Peru is mentioned, one imagines a peaceful scene of an Andean alpaca grazing along an Incan stone wall. When Ecuador is brought up, we imagine a rain forest panorama of frogs jumping off branches while butterflies mate in the background. When Colombia is mentioned, we envision a post-apocalyptic city full of overturned buses, being pillaged by men in ski masks. It is obvious which country any rational person would seek to avoid while searching for an internet bride.

“48,000,000 Colombians Can’t Be Wrong” is a true adventure story about a 37-year-old socially-awkward man who decided that the best way he could deal with a life sentence of microwavable burritos and 10-hour Facebook marathons was to look online for a girlfriend in Colombia and then hop on a flight to Colombia’s capital in pursuit of a woman he has never met.

During his first month in Bogota, Brian falls in with two white, self-assured backpackers who the author describes as, “…not the kind of guys who pump the brakes before going through an uncontrolled intersection.” He is then nearly kidnapped during an encounter with a woman he met online, almost becomes business partners with a Korean man in the “diamond business” and is forced to sleep in the DVD room of his hostel due to lack of funds.

Brian quickly regroups after his first month and auditions for the part of “congressional aide” in a Colombian feature film called “Left To Die.” He then lands a job as a writer for an English-language newspaper where his first interview is with a “suspected undercover CIA agent.” Brian then gets thrown off a TV set for refusing to take off his shirt from under his police uniform. While Brian is not getting thrown off TV sets, he marvels at all the discarded construction materials Colombians throw into pot holes to lessen their depths. Because of this strategy, a bus going over one of these open trenches (full of construction materials) will occasionally sling a chest-high brick through a group of panic-stricken pedestrians.

Brian sincerely believed this trip would put him on a track towards a life of excitement, intrigue and exotic women, far from his increasing first world debt. Instead, he unexpectedly falls into a job as an extra in a Colombian soap opera, has panic attacks, watches other gringos lose their marbles and blows half his paycheck on bootlegged DVD’s. Along the journey, he chronicles his friendships, the deranged ex-pats he meets, and his struggles/triumphs, including one fateful night in a Israeli restaurant that would change his life forever.

To view the complete book, “48,000,000 Colombians Can’t Be Wrong,” go to …

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B015VWCXME?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Korean McDonald’s and Konglish

April 24, 2013

The key to surviving in Korea is mastering a language I like to call Konglish. Konglish is a language like English but spoken with a Korean accent. Example: if you get in a taxi and say “McDonald’s,” the taxi driver will stare back at you blankly. You then repeat it slowly, “Mc-Do-nald’s.” You then go into a miming game where you say “McDonald’s” slowly while airbrushing an “M” into the air in front of him. “Oh! McDonald-zuh,” he’ll repeat back joyfully. In Korean no word can end with a consonant sound. So, all words, including the entire Konglish catalogue, must end with a vowel sound. Another note, all the “L” sounds and “R” sounds are reversed. Also, in Korean they can’t pronounce the “F” sound. Instead, they convert all “F” sounds turn into a “P” sound. So, instead of saying refill, in Konglish you say, “Leepilluh.” These are the three most important rules of Konglish.

Image

Konglish is occasionally frustrating, often confusing, and almost always entertaining. It’s one of the main reasons for misunderstandings between Koreans and foreigners. And for an English teacher, it’s a daily battle that will probably never be won.

Some English words have been adopted by the Korean language, just as they are, to mean the things that they, really mean. Example: Game, Sticker and Computer. These are a few that English teachers pick up when listening to the Korean students talking amongst themselves. However, for the most part, most Konglish words have taken on new meanings, so that they now mean something completely different than they do to native speakers. Or, even more confusingly, there’s only a very slight, subtle difference. That’s Konglish; English words, but with a new Korean meaning.

Here’s a partial list of Konglish words.

When they say…………….. they mean

Sharp………………………………mechanical pencil

(e.g. “Teacher, where’s my sharp?” This means, “Teacher, where’s my pencil?”)

Academy…………………………..private school attended after public school is over (Usually between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. They are also sometimes called “cramming schools” by English newspapers)

White……………………………….White-Out

Service………………………………Free (as in “it’s on the house!”)

Handphone…………………………..Cell phone/Mobile phone

(pronounced hen-duh-pone)

Apart…………………………………Apartment

(pronounced “ah-pah-tuh”)

Apartment……………………………Whole apartment building

Eye shopping………………………….Window shopping

One shot!…………………………….Bottoms up!

Hair rinse…………………………..Hair conditioner

Skinship……………………………Making out – kissing, touching

Fighting!……………………A shout of encouragement, like “Go team!” or “Let’s do it!”

Time…………………………………….Hour

(e.g. “I slept 8 times last night”…. “I slept for 8 hours last night”)

Let’s Dutch pay!……………………….Let’s go Dutch!

So-so……………………………….…..Boring, uninteresting

(e.g. “It was very, very so-so”…..”It was very, very boring”)

Pop song………………………………..Any song in English

Cunning…………………………………Cheating/copying work

Pronounced (“conning”)

(e.g. “Teacher!! John is cunning!”…”Teacher!! John is cheating/copying!”)

Overeat…………………………….…..Throw up, vomit

Dessert…………………………….…..Cup of tea after meal

The most frustrating time I had with Konglish was at the Post Office when I had to send off a letter but wanted to correct the address on the envelope. I kept repeating “White-Out,” but nobody understood. Finally I called a native speaker on my hand phone (cell phone) and he explained it to the clerk at the post office. Before the clerk hung up, he said, “Oh, white.”

“Shouldn’t he have been able to guess what I meant when I said ‘White-out.’ The words are pretty close?” I thought to myself. If you start to wonder things like this in Korea, you will slowly go insane.

______________________________________________________

Everything You Wanted To Know About Teaching English In Korea But Were Afraid To Ask

There has been an exploding demand for native English speakers to teach English in South Korea. English programs and English academies have been spreading like wildfire all over Korea. And, due to an unpredictable economy, many university graduates, travelers, and people from all walks of life are packing their bags and taking advantage of the English boom in Korea.

Korean institutions are paying good money ($2,000-$2,500USD a month) and offering excellent benefits (free housing, 30 hour work weeks) to Westerners who are willing to explore the unfamiliar, pack up their bags, and teach in thriving South Korea.Image

This is the complete guidebook on how to relocate to South Korea and become an English teacher. This book illustrates the many advantages (low taxes, high standard of living, friendly people, safe streets) and challenges (dating, language barriers, disciplining students, getting along with co-workers) that the first time teacher can expect to confront in Korea.

Funny, fact filled and always informative, “First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Guide to South Korea” provides the necessary knowledge you need to make the most out of the experience. Jam packed with practical information, “First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Guide to South Korea” addresses all of the topics and taboos a prospective English teacher needs to know, from finding the right job and negotiating a contract settlement to avoid eating dog while ordering food off of a menu.While other books focus solely on classroom experience, “First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Guide to South Korea” explores life outside of the classroom, providing you with an in-depth and often hilarious guide to Korean culture, food, friendship, drinking, dating, religion, health and history are just some of the subjects discussed in detail.Last but not least, “First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Guide to South Korea” looks at the embarrassing realities of life abroad, offering pause for thought on such issues as learning how to pronounce Korean students’ names, a 15-minute golf lesson I got in Korean that increased my driving distance 20%, my interactions with my Korean co-worker “Kid” who confesses to me that he was accused by his ex-wife of burning down her house and the cheapest and best eye surgery I’ve gotten in any country.  “First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Guide to South Korea” will awaken readers to the transitional opportunities available in a place that shares few Western customs but many of the comforts of home.
Written by Brian Ward, a semi-qualified middle school teacher whose walked the fine line between sanity and a nervous breakdown in the classroom, “First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Guide to South Korea” is an irreverent and insightful survival guide for anyone brave enough to try their hand at teaching English in South Korea or who just wants to have a laugh at author Brian Ward’s backwards approach to living in Korean culture.

This guidebook also compares teaching in the USA to teaching in Korea.

Country Salary
(Year)
Yearly Taxes Yearly Housing Expenses Total Remaining
Korea $26,000 + 50% of medical bills paid $780   $0 $25,220
USA   $35,000 $8,000 $8,400 $18,600

“First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Guide to South Korea” by Brian Ward, can be found on Amazon.com

Here is a chapter by chapter synopsis of the book:

Chapter 1
Dreams vs. Getting a Paycheck

This chapter profiles author’s friend Nick Lee, the hedonistic boozer surrounded by books, half-finished paintings and an old LP player — speaks in English rather than Greek or Latin. Prodigious nose, has been retooled as a heroic pretty boy. As Nick Lee’s life finally falls apart due to alcohol and lack of physical contact with women, the author decides to get on a plane to Korea. Upon his arrival to South Korea, he is taken back when he learns the true meaning of “Hair Shops” in Korea.

Chapter 2
Academy Owners

This chapter discusses the 4 major types of academy owners as well as which category I was working for. This chapter also discusses my “first contact” with my boss and Korean co-workers. This chapter reveals what a failure I am at teaching and includes the letters I received from Seoul which explained where I should improve. Introduced in this chapter is Carlo, an English teacher famous for drinking with Russians, getting bit by his students and his travels throughout Morocco.

In this chapter I get fired from my first job and start a new job. I am also forced to learn a little bit about Korean culture in order to be able to converse better with my students. Also introduced in this chapter is Jackie and the story of his dog “Blackie.” Also discussed is the Korean co-worker culture and what that entails.

Chapter 3
First Non-Monopoly Month in Class

I learn which class tattled on me for playing Monopoly every day in class. I also try different techniques for disciplining my students. I also discuss the advantages of talking with the students versus making them do exercises and what makes talking to the students so difficult. Also discussed is more of Carlo’s antics outside of the classroom. I finally get the bright idea of discussing the rules in class. I meet Carlo again out of class and we discuss the problems of his life; mainly how to deal with a belligerent student who happens to be the boss’ daughter in class.

Chapter 4
Bars and Churches

There are two types of English teachers in Mokpo, those who hang out in the bars and the other who hang out in church. Frankly I was getting tired of hanging out with the English teachers in bars. I decide to go to church instead. On my first day of church I discover that there is free orange juice and cookies served after each session. I meet Ms. Jung who explains to me why the street in Korea are so clean and how it affects retired Korean people. I also get my first private English student. Jackie’s house becomes haunted by a ghost and he reveals how to chase ghosts away. I go to my first baseball game.

Chapter 5
Modem vs. Router

I have my first run in with Korean modems and their downfalls. Jackie comes to my rescue and gives me some much-needed internet advice.

Chapter 6
Golfing in Korea

I meet my first Korean golf instructor who gives me best golf lesson ever using no English. Using my new-found golf skills I decide to golf a few rounds of golf with my new co-teacher George and his brother.

Chapter 7
English Meetings at Angel-In-Us Café

In addition to going to church, I join another group in Korea. This one is and English group that is run by my Korean friend Jackie. This group becomes a great way to meet new friends and discuss current events in Korea. Next, my former roommate, Carlo, gets taken to the police station and I talk to him before he gets deported from Korea. I also meet my replacement who’s teaching at my previous academy.

Chapter 8
4th of July in Korea

Author goes to a 4th of July party with his new-found church friends. He meets another English teacher named Tareck. Tareck is famous for kicking chairs across the classroom to get his students’ attention as well as living in the same apartment as his nudist boss.

Chapter 9
Kidman

Brian meets his first English-speaking co-teacher who goes by the name “Kid.” During their first time out for a hike together Kid confesses to Brian that he was accused by his ex-wife of burning down her house and that he likes dating Japanese women.

Chapter 10
Modem vs. Router

I have my first run in with Korean modems and their downfalls. Jackie comes to my rescue and gives me some much-needed internet advice.

Chapter 11
Golfing in Korea

I meet my first Korean golf instructor who gives me best golf lesson ever using no English. Using my new-found golf skills I decide to golf a few rounds of golf with my new co-teacher George and his brother.

Chapter 12
English Meetings at Angel-In-Us Café

In addition to going to church, I join another group in Korea. This one is and English group and is run by Jackie. I find another way to meet new friends and discuss current events in Korea. Carlo gets taken to the police station and I talk to him before he gets deported from Korea. I also meet my replacement who’s teaching at my previous academy.

Chapter 13
Lesson Plans

Brian reveals the most effective way to plan for his classes; by downloading lessons plans off the internet. Included in these lesson plans is  sample menu that is used to help the students role-play the purchasing of a hamburger in class.

Chapter 14
Dating in Korea

Brian shares four case studies of native teachers (males) who are dating Korean women. Included in these case studies are the reactions of the host-woman’s friends, families and social network.

Chapter 15
Surgery on a Budget

Brian get learns the difference between hospitals in Seoul (where the rich Koreans go) and all other hospitals in Korea. Brian finds the best value in Korea which is eye surgery which is priced at $2,500 in Korea vs. $28,000 in the United States. While in the hospital Brian meets an American man named Roman who’s been living in Korea since the 1970′s and publishing a book about a Post-Apocalyptic New England town. When Brian asks Roman who his book publishing agent is Roman replies, “The guy’s an idiot, he’s 62 and has just had his 6th child with his 3rd wife. What kind of a life is that kid going to have?”

“First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Guide to South Korea” by Brian Ward, can be found on Amazon.com

Internet Love in Colombia

January 31, 2013

“Our South American tour to Colombia is an unforgettable experience that may very well change your life forever. You will be introduced to literally hundreds of stunning women from Cartagena, as well as other surrounding Colombian cities. Why Colombian women? They just so happen to be some of the most beautiful, genuine, and sincere women in the world. These women are extremely friendly, warm and sincerely looking for someone with whom they can build a serious relationship. No matter how much we try to prepare the men who attend our Cartagena romance tours, they are always overwhelmed by these very special women.”

0001onlinedating

This is the hook introduction to the Colombian section of an internet site that specializes in romance tours all over the world. With tour packages starting at $1695USD, this might be a great way to justify taking a nine day trip to Cartagena or this may a south-of-the-border hail mary for divorcees addicted to online gambling. The personal opinion of this author is that if you are going to get into a serious relationship and possibly marriage, you might as well double down and come and start a relationship in Colombia. With the divorce rate hovering around 60% in most of the English-speaking countries it is probably a safer bet to search out a relationship with a foreign non-English speaking person than risk marrying someone from your own national origin.

The tour is pretty impressive and well thought out. For your money you are given two fully catered, special invitation, large socials. These are basically ballroom parties that take place in the same hotel that the tour has booked you into. Of course, there will be many intelligent and beautiful women there to meet as well as probably a few women who fall into other categories. The tour also includes hotel accommodations in Cartagena, unlimited personal introductions, complimentary interpreters provided at all socials, airport pickup as well as 24 hour hospitality and guidance from the website staff.

For the rest of us (people who don’t have $2,000USD to spend), there are dozens if not hundreds of websites specializing in meeting Colombian and Latin American singles. The one that is most familiar to this author is ColombianCupid.com. This website is free to use if you just want to see who is on the website. If you click on “advanced search” on the portal page you are instantly presented with a 2-page form that helps you best search for romance based on your own criteria.  Say for example, you would like to meet a 30-35-year old woman, living in Bogotá, with a profile photo, who is searching for romance/dating/marriage, speaks some English, has a bachelors degree and is willing to relocate to another country. After hitting search there are over 1,000 profiles listed in order of which members are most active on the site.

What is the difference between single women in Bogotá vs. the rest of Colombia? Probably the average woman living in Bogotá vs. the average woman living in Sincelejo (for example) is that in Bogotá there is the highest concentration of quality education, therefore the women who live here are more likely to have a more academic background, the women in Bogotá speak neutral Spanish and on the whole, are more used to being around foreign people.

A friend of mine, who will remain nameless, can actually testify to the confidentiality of your credit card information if you decide to join ColombianCupid.com because he joined the site for 2 months last year for $45USD. A standard question you will be asked by the female members after you join and put up a profile picture is, “What is your job?”

My friend always made a point of answering this question the following way, “I paint fences for a living.” No matter what your employment status is, my friend relayed to me, this is a highly effective way to avoid meeting women looking for a sugar daddy.

Next, he started viewing the profiles of the many women on the site. If there were ever more than two girls in one photo he would always send the same email, “Which one is you in the photo?” The answer would invariably be that the girl looking for a relationship would be the least attractive of the two. So, if you are ever unsure of which woman is the one who is actually the one looking for a special friend, you can take it from my friend and his research that it will always be the least attractive one.

Because there were so many Bogotá profiles of single women, my friend could also eliminate all the women who weren’t smiling in their photos, had visible tattoos, had their underwear showing,  too much cleavage hanging out (this means that either they are overeager or possibly using someone else’s photo) or were on the verge of black out drunk. My friend figured that probably the single most important characteristic he was looking for was a person who actually was happy and optimistic about the future. After narrowing the field down to about 15 profiles, he then started emailing them.  He decided the best question to ask would be a subject that pretty much every Colombian had an opinion on, “Do you love Shakira?”

If the girl responded, “What kind of crazy question was that?” He figured he would have to scratch her from the list. If the girl responded, “I really like Shakira,” he figured they were off to a good start. He would then ask more random questions like, “Tell me about a time in your life when you did something embarrassing,” and once again if the girl asked, “What kind of question is this,” he would scratch her from the list. He ended up chatting with a lot of interesting women who told great stories about getting dumped in elevators or falling down the stairs at church. He quickly had a more intimate group of five women from Bogotá who he was chatting with at least five times a week. Of these five, there was also another girl named Diana (who had beautifully tan skin, thick lips and a funny little grin) who he was very smitten with but she hadn’t answered any of the three emails he had sent her. In a last ditch attempt he decided to send her the mother of all emails, “Where would you like to go on our honeymoon?” If she didn’t answer this email he would back off for fear of being accused of internet stalking.

A few days later he got a somewhat puzzling email from Diana, “Thanks for your message.” He quickly sent her back a follow-up message, “I have bought a ticket to Bogotá, I will be arriving in 2 weeks, can I have your telephone number?”

He still pretty much knew next to nothing about her except what her profile said that she was a non-smoker, a financial administrator, had a daughter, had no exposed tattoos and was interested in starting a serious relationship.

After arriving to Bogotá he went on about three different dates with women he met online, one of which he snuck out of on his way to the bathroom to avoid a massive bill that he would be expected to pay. Furthermore, none of the women seemed like they had the real desire or enough free time to start a relationship with him. A week after he had arrived to Bogota, he got another message from Diana with her telephone number.

He called her up from his hostel and he arranged to meet her in Bulevar Niza at Corral Burgers. After she paid the bill of their first meal together it was pretty much a done deal. He moved into her apartment building a few weeks later and has been in a relationship with her since July 2012. Their relationship is not perfect, they do squabble after my friend forgets to wash out the sink after doing the dishes or when he eats too many chocolate chip cookies but he has thoroughly enjoyed being accepted into her life and is very grateful that someone has come into his life who is willing to overlook the fact that his hair is falling out, he watches “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” obsessively and has very poor dish washing skills. And, probably the best part about their limited internet interactions is that he will never have to explain to her why he told her he painted fences for a living.

When the country of Peru is mentioned, one imagines a peaceful scene of an Andean alpaca grazing along an Incan stone wall. When Ecuador is brought up, we imagine a rain forest panorama of frogs jumping off branches while butterflies mate in the background. When Colombia is mentioned, we envision a post-apocalyptic city full of overturned buses, being pillaged by men in ski masks. It is obvious which country any rational person would seek to avoid while searching for an internet bride.

“48,000,000 Colombians Can’t Be Wrong” is a true adventure story about a 37-year-old socially-awkward man who decided that the best way he could deal with a life sentence of microwavable burritos and 10-hour Facebook marathons was to look online for a girlfriend in Colombia and then hop on a flight to Colombia’s capital in pursuit of a woman he has never met.

During his first month in Bogota, Brian falls in with two white, self-assured backpackers who the author describes as, “…not the kind of guys who pump the brakes before going through an uncontrolled intersection.” He is then nearly kidnapped during an encounter with a woman he met online, almost becomes business partners with a Korean man in the “diamond business” and is forced to sleep in the DVD room of his hostel due to lack of funds.

Brian quickly regroups after his first month and auditions for the part of “congressional aide” in a Colombian feature film called “Left To Die.” He then lands a job as a writer for an English-language newspaper where his first interview is with a “suspected undercover CIA agent.” Brian then gets thrown off a TV set for refusing to take off his shirt from under his police uniform. While Brian is not getting thrown off TV sets, he marvels at all the discarded construction materials Colombians throw into pot holes to lessen their depths. Because of this strategy, a bus going over one of these open trenches (full of construction materials) will occasionally sling a chest-high brick through a group of panic-stricken pedestrians.

Brian sincerely believed this trip would put him on a track towards a life of excitement, intrigue and exotic women, far from his increasing first world debt. Instead, he unexpectedly falls into a job as an extra in a Colombian soap opera, has panic attacks, watches other gringos lose their marbles and blows half his paycheck on bootlegged DVD’s. Along the journey, he chronicles his friendships, the deranged ex-pats he meets, and his struggles/triumphs, including one fateful night in a Israeli restaurant that would change his life forever.

To view the complete book, go to …
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B015VWCXME?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Mexico, Spike Lee, Gabriel Rivera, Edward Norton, Carlos ‘n Charlie’s and a Voodoo Crocodile Farm

January 3, 2013

Some years back I got a job working in a hotel (aka “The Club,” and “The Village”) on the Pacific Ocean side of Mexico. It wasn’t like working at Denny’s. In this job you didn’t clock in or clock out. It was a job where I lived in the hotel and pretty much got paid to hang out with the guests of the hotel and party with the other employees of the hotel. I started out working in reception.Image

As I got to know more people at the Club, I met some several  Mexican employees who lived in California, Chicago, and Texas but had extensive family in Mexico. One of them was my roommate. He was also the Village Animator (guy who makes hotel guests laugh). He had been raised in El Paso but most of his family members were from Ciudad Juarez. He had such striking features that he looked like a cross between Moctezuma and Jackie Chan.

His name was Gabriel and he was always keen to talk about his experiences in film-making. His most famous story was how he got the job as the stand-in for Edward Norton on the movie 25th Hour. First, I had to ask Gabriel what a stand-in was. He explained that in movies, as well as TV shows, famous actors like Bill Cosby or Marlon Brando don’t like to stand around for 20 minutes while photographers adjust the lighting and the co-stars practice their lines. What a stand-in does is dress up like the lead actor and say the lead actor’s lines so the rest of the cast can rehearse their lines before filming. The 25th Hour is a movie directed by Spike Lee about a three strikes drug offender in New York who has one day left to live as a free man before being sent to jail for life. In the movie, Edward Norton flees to the El Paso desert to avoid serving life in prison. The dessert scenes are shot in the harshest most remote parts of the El Paso dessert. No New York actors were willing to travel to El Paso just for a small role as the stand-in. Gabriel knew this so he sent his resume to Spike Lee’s production office. Spike Lee’s production assistant called Gabriel a few days later. She thanked Gabriel for submitting his resume but explained that unfortunately the stand-in role was already filled.Image

“Who got the role?” asked Gabriel.

“A man named Richard Jenkins.” She replied. “The only problem is that I don’t have a picture of him on file.”

“Richard Jenkins? I know him from high school, he’s short, fat and full of pimples.”

“Oh really?” replied the production assistant. “What do you look like?”

“I’m tall, dark and handsome.” claimed Gabriel.

“Can you come to the set tomorrow so we can meet you?”

When Gabriel came to the set in the El Paso desert the next day, he met the production assistant and was given a walkie-talkie and told he would be notified when it was time to work as the stand-in. He clipped the walker-talkie onto his belt and went to the catering truck to get some food and water. While he was waiting in line a voice started radiating out of the walk-talkie, it was Spike Lee.

“Where is Edward Norton’s stand-in?” asked Spike.

“He’s over at the catering truck.” Replied the production assistant.

“You hired a Mexican as a stand-in for Edward Norton?” asked a totally flabbergasted Spike Lee.

That’s how Gabriel got his role of stand-in for Edward Norton, even though he had no idea who Richard Jenkins was and looked nothing like Edward Norton.

Gabriel was one of my closest friends in Ixtapa and whenever his mom came to visit from El Paso she’d always call us first and ask what she could bring down from the US for me.

One time, half-jokingly, I said I wanted a croquette set. A couple days later Gabriel walked into our room holding this huge box from the airport, wrapped in tape, showing that it had been inspected in Mexico City by customs. When I opened it up, sure enough, his mom had sent me a croquette set from Texas.

Gabriel knew all the Mexican slang, so each day after work I’d come back to the room with a list of phrases I which I didn’t understand. I’d start from the top, what does, “¡No friegues!” mean? Image

“It has different meanings, what context did you hear it in?”

“I told Paco from the Mini Club that Justin Timberlake was a better singer than Luis Miguel.”

“He probably just meant for you to stop joking around with him.”

Gabriel was one of the most popular employees in the village. A lot of the times I wouldn’t get invited to the parties that the employees had organized around the town or in the village, but Gabriel would always come to the room before he left and ask me if I wanted to come with him. Each time he asked, I told him I would go with him the next time.

Before I knew it, two months had passed and I had never even left the village. All I knew about the outside was what I had heard from the other employees when they talked about going out.

One night Gabriel came into our room in the middle of the night and turned on the light. I woke up to see him eagerly brushing his teeth and fixing his hair. He was very excited.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

He explained to me that he had five girls from Vancouver waiting in reception. He had invited them to go to Carlos ‘n Charlie’s that night.

“I also talked with your boss in reception, you don’t have to work until 1 p.m. tomorrow.” He explained. “Are you coming out?”

How could I say no? We walked up to reception together and took a taxi to Carlos and Charlie’s, which was about 10 minutes from our hotel. When we got to the discothèque, there were at least 1500 people inside. Carlos and Charlie’ in Ixptapa has two stages for dancing with a pool in the middle of them. There were so many people there I didn’t realize that we were right on the beach because I couldn’t see further than about four or five heads. The first thing that happened was that someone came along with a clear kettle and started pouring shots into all our mouths. I drank up but couldn’t keep anything straight about what was happening around me. We danced with the girls and hung out with all the other hotel employees who were there.

The night was a success. After leaving the disco, we all grabbed a taxi and headed home. I must have fallen asleep in the taxi because the next thing I remembered was waking up on the bed  between the two girls from Vancouver. I was still wearing the clothes I had been working in earlier that day, which was the only information I had. I looked up and could see that Gabriel was busy talking to the three other girls on the porch.

One girl rolled over and asked me, “Do you always sleep with your hand down the front of your pants?” I looked down and saw, to my dismay, that I had my hand buried down the front of my pants. I quickly sat up and joked about the different sleeping positions men utilize while sleeping. Not wanting to further make a fool of myself, I parted amicably.

From that night on, Gabriel became my wing man. Our goal was simple: We wanted to go to as many beaches/discotheques and chat with as many women as possible during our stay in Ixtapa. Like me, he had never been to Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo before and together we knew almost nothing about where we were living.

Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo are located 100 miles northwest of Acapulco on the Pacific coast of Mexico and are less than four miles apart. Zihuatanejo is known for its traditional Mexican charm, a place where most families still derive their income from fishing.  On the other side of the spectrum is Ixtapa, a modern city that has only been around only since the 1970’s and exists solely to entertain tourists. Ixtapa derives its income from the bars, discothèques, hotels and golf courses that dominate the landscape.

For our first beach excursion, Gabriel and I took a taxi to a crocodile farm at Playa Linda. Luckily we arrived during feeding time. The man who takes care of the crocodiles is the town eccentric. His name is Tamacuna and he is an old Mexican shaman with long grey hair that is held back by a yellow sweat band.  Although his duties are limited to feeding and caring for the reptiles, he does his job dressed as famous Mexican soccer player Luis Hernandez, complete with uniform, cleats and shin guards. If you pay Tamacuna a dollar, he will let you take a picture of him putting his head inside a crocodile’s mouth. He carries a baby crocodile around in his backpack. While feeding the adult crocodiles in Playa Linda, he takes the baby crocodile out of his backpack and passes it around to the old ladies. If the ladies refuse to hold the baby croc, Tamacuna threatens to put a spell on them. Very few of the women refuse to hold the baby crocodile.Image

Dating In Korea

December 27, 2012

“You need a Korean girlfriend.”

This is what all my Korean male friends would tell me constantly. It was easier said than done.

Of the 300 Native English teachers, 180 of them came in couples. Of the 120 left, probably 40 of them had girlfriends or boyfriends back home. That left 80 or so single teachers. 40 of those were males. Of those 40, four successfully got Korean girlfriends while living in Mokpo.

The first native teacher with a Korean girlfriend’s name was Mick. He met his Korean girlfriend at a dance club in Gwangju, which is about 40 minutes outside Mokpo.

“How does your girlfriend’s father like you?” I asked Mick.

“Well, he doesn’t know I exist. My girlfriend said that if her father found out that she was going out with a foreigner, she would be out of the family.”

That didn’t stop them from going out, but for a Korean woman to marry a foreigner it can usually have immediate repercussions in her family.

The second native teacher I met with a Korean girlfriend was my roommate Axl. He actually came to Korea with a girlfriend in Ohio but halfway through his stay he decided that he wasn’t going back to live with her and he wanted to stay in Korea. He met a Korean girl named Gloria during a private English lesson. She was taking English lessons in Mokpo because she was planning to apply for a teaching job at a university in a city called Jeonju, which is an hour north of Mokpo. Gloria successfully got the job in Jeonju. They started dating shortly after she moved to Jeonju. Almost every weekend, Axl would take the bus to visit Gloria in Jeonju. They were getting along so well that Axl decided to apply for a job in Jeonju so they could live in the same town. It took him four months of searching but he finally got a job teaching in Jeonju.amKorean

The night before Axl was set to leave Mokpo, he got a call from Gloria saying she was breaking up with him. It was too late for him to stay in Mokpo, his position had already been taken by a new teacher and his room was also taken.

Although he was sad about what happened with Gloria, he still wanted to have a going away dinner. We had three-person dinner with a Korean girl named Pam.

“I really want a boyfriend, I am so lonely,” remarked Pam while we were eating dinner together.

“I thought you had a boyfriend.” Axl commented.

“No, I haven’t had a boyfriend in two years. I want an American boyfriend I can just have sex with, nothing serious. I want you to be my boyfriend” Pam said to Axl.

I looked at Axl’s reaction, he just stared into the table as if his heart was in his throat. Here he was leaving for Jeonju pursuing a girl who didn’t want to be with him. While all along a from a girl in Mokpo wanted to have sex with him. I asked Axl why Gloria had broken up with him. He said something about her being too busy. What I take that to mean was that it was great to have a friend come visit but once he starts living in the same city, the Korean girl gets nervous about maybe this guy will try to marry me and then I can get stuck in a sticky spot.

Axl moved to Jeonju the following day. He is probably, to this day, traveling to Mokpo every weekend to visit Pam.

The third native teacher with a Korean girlfriend was an American friend of Jonathan’s. The way the American met his Korean girlfriend was during a dance party. During the party Jonathan and his friend danced with two Korean girls. The two girls were really animated and fun to be with. Because neither of the girls spoke English fluently, Jonathan had to translate everything that went on that night to his foreigner friend. While dancing, Jonathan and his friend introduced themselves to the girls.

They replied back in Korean. Jonathan translated, “Their names are Tammy and Jee Hey,”  Jonathan relayed to his foreign friend. He then asked them about their jobs. “Jee Hey graduated from a top university in Seoul and she is the owner of an English academy. She also lived three years in China and speaks fluent Mandarin,” Jonathan explained to the foreigner.

He then asked Jee Hey to demonstrate her Chinese to the American. She spoke a couple of lines of Chinese and everyone was satisfied. After the party, he and Jonathan invited the two Korean girls to have a drink with them.

So, the group all got into Jonathan’s car and went to drink soju. While drinking soju together the girls dared Jonathan and his American friend to take each girl in their arms and squat them to see who was the strongest. The American guy was a little nervous about the dare but Jonathan accepted freely.

The night went so well they ended up going to the Karaoke with the girls after drinks. In the Karaoke they drank plum wine and started to play a “numbers” game. The rules of the game were simple. Jonathan would write different numbers on tiny scraps of paper and put them in a hat.

On another piece of paper he would write a list of 1-10 with the instructions of what the person had to do if they drew a certain number. (ex: #1 – Go to the front of the karaoke and do a sexy dance, #4 – You must drink a shot of soju, #8 – You must sing a song while another person rides piggy back on you). It was a genius game.

As luck would have it, Jonathan’s foreign friend pulled the #8 and asked Jee Hey to ride on his back while he sang, “Hurts So Good” by John Cougar. Before Jee Hey climbed onto his back she took off her shoes and then latched her legs around his waist. By the time the foreigner got to the chorus of “Hurts So Good” Jee Hey had started kissing the American on the neck. He was nervous, out of breath and wasn’t known for his vocal skills but he continued to sing the entire song. At the end of the song they hugged each other and he thanked her for participating.

By the time it reached 4 a.m. the girls were tired and wanted to go home and take a rest. Before they left, the foreign guy asked Jee Hey for her number through Jonathan. A 12 minute conversation in Korean followed between Jee Hey and Jonathan. “What are you talking about?” asked the foreigner. “She says that she really likes you but she’s not sure if you want to go out with her.” said Jonathan. “Why not?” asked the foreigner. “She was divorced from her first husband and wonders if you still want to go out with her.” replied Jonathan. “What’s the big deal?” wondered the foreigner. Jee Hey interrupted and explained in Korean a little more about the situation. “She wants to know if you date girls who are divorced.” Jonathan translated. “Yes, why not?” the foreigner responded. “Well, in Korea, sometimes Korean men don’t like dating women who have divorced.” reported Jonathan. The whole situation was finally cleared up and Jee Hey agreed to give the foreigner her phone number and they went on another date a few months down the road. After that they broke up due to language problems and the fact that Jee Hey was working six days a week, going to church on Sundays and also trying to run her academy.

The fourth native teacher with a Korean girlfriend was a friend of Ole’s. The inter-racial couple was the most visible couple in Mokpo. They went out often and were very popular because they both had such an extended network of friends. One night the Korean girl invited some male Korean friends of hers to come out on a date with her and her native English teacher boyfriend. The night started out pleasant enough, everyone was getting along fine until one of her Korean male friends had a little too much to drink and started causing a commotion. Finally he stood up at their table and berated her in Korean for having a foreign boyfriend and called her trash in front of their Korean friends, a very uncomfortable situation for everyone. They continued dating but had to reduce their circle of friends to avoid future outbreaks.

Added to the social pressures of a Korean person dating a foreign person are the language problems (3% of Korean girls in Mokpo speak fluent English), cultural issues (Korean girls usually aren’t allowed to be alone in a single man’s apartment) and the religious issue (65% of Koreans are Christian and this means their daughters can’t have sex before marriage). When I say a Korean person is a Christian, this is not the same as a North American Christian. Korean Christians go to church up to six days week and spend anywhere from 20-60 hours a week in church. For them it is not so much a religion but a lifestyle choice.

Dating in Korea is similar to every other country; complicated.

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Everything You Wanted To Know About Teaching English In Korea But Were Afraid To Ask

There has been an exploding demand for native English speakers to teach English in South Korea. English programs and English academies have been spreading like wildfire all over Korea. And, due to an unpredictable economy, many university graduates, travelers, and people from all walks of life are packing their bags and taking advantage of the English boom in Korea.
Korean institutions are paying good money ($2,000-$2,500 a month) and offering excellent benefits (free housing, 30 hour work weeks) to Westerners who are willing to explore the unfamiliar, pack up their bags, and teach in thriving South Korea.
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This is the complete guidebook on how to relocate to South Korea and become an English teacher. This book illustrates the many advantages (low taxes, high standard of living, friendly people, safe streets) and challenges (dating, language barriers, disciplining students, getting along with co-workers) that the first time teacher can expect to confront in Korea.
Funny, fact filled and always informative, “First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Into The Backwoods of South Korea” provides the necessary knowledge you need to make the most out of the experience. Jam packed with practical information, “First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Into The Backwoods of South Korea” addresses all of the topics and taboos a prospective English teacher needs to know, from finding the right job and negotiating a contract settlement to avoid eating dog while ordering food off of a menu.While other books focus solely on classroom experience,“First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Into The Backwoods of South Korea” explores life outside of the classroom, providing you with an in-depth and often hilarious guide to Korean culture, food, friendship, drinking, dating, religion, health and history are just some of the subjects discussed in detail.Last but not least,
“First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Into The Backwoods of South Korea” looks at the embarrassing realities of life abroad, offering pause for thought on such issues as learning how to pronounce Korean students’ names, a 15-minute golf lesson I got in Korean that increased my driving distance 20%, my interactions with my Korean co-worker “Kid” who confesses to me that he was accused by his ex-wife of burning down her house and the cheapest and best eye surgery I’ve gotten in any country. “First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Into The Backwoods of South Korea” will awaken readers to the transitional opportunities available in a place that shares few Western customs but many of the comforts of home.
Written by Brian Ward, a semi-qualified middle school teacher whose walked the fine line between sanity and a nervous breakdown in the classroom, “First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Into The Backwoods of South Korea” is an irreverent and insightful survival guide for anyone brave enough to try their hand at teaching English in South Korea or who just wants to have a laugh at author Brian Ward’s backwards approach to living in Korean culture.
This guidebook also compares teaching in the USA to teaching in Korea.
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Country Salary
(Year)
Yearly Taxes Yearly Housing Expenses Total Remaining
Korea $26,000 + 50% of medical bills paid $780   $0 $25,220
USA   $35,000 $8,000 $8,400 $18,600
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“First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Into The Backwoods of South Korea” by Brian Ward, can be found on Amazon.com
Here is a chapter by chapter synopsis of the book:
Chapter 1
Dreams vs. Getting a Paycheck
This chapter profiles author’s friend Nick Lee, the hedonistic boozer surrounded by books, half-finished paintings and an old LP player — speaks in English rather than Greek or Latin. Prodigious nose, has been retooled as a heroic pretty boy. As Nick Lee’s life finally falls apart due to alcohol and lack of physical contact with women, the author decides to get on a plane to Korea. Upon his arrival to South Korea, he is taken back when he learns the true meaning of “Hair Shops” in Korea.
Chapter 2
Academy Owners
This chapter discusses the 4 major types of academy owners as well as which category I was working for. This chapter also discusses my “first contact” with my boss and Korean co-workers. This chapter reveals what a failure I am at teaching and includes the letters I received from Seoul which explained where I should improve. Introduced in this chapter is Carlo, an English teacher famous for drinking with Russians, getting bit by his students and his travels throughout Morocco.
In this chapter I get fired from my first job and start a new job. I am also forced to learn a little bit about Korean culture in order to be able to converse better with my students. Also introduced in this chapter is Jackie and the story of his dog “Blackie.” Also discussed is the Korean co-worker culture and what that entails.
Chapter 3
First Non-Monopoly Month in Class
I learn which class tattled on me for playing Monopoly every day in class. I also try different techniques for disciplining my students. I also discuss the advantages of talking with the students versus making them do exercises and what makes talking to the students so difficult. Also discussed is more of Carlo’s antics outside of the classroom. I finally get the bright idea of discussing the rules in class. I meet Carlo again out of class and we discuss the problems of his life; mainly how to deal with a belligerent student who happens to be the boss’ daughter in class.
Chapter 4
Bars and Churches
There are two types of English teachers in Mokpo, those who hang out in the bars and the other who hang out in church. Frankly I was getting tired of hanging out with the English teachers in bars. I decide to go to church instead. On my first day of church I discover that there is free orange juice and cookies served after each session. I meet Ms. Jung who explains to me why the street in Korea are so clean and how it affects retired Korean people. I also get my first private English student. Jackie’s house becomes haunted by a ghost and he reveals how to chase ghosts away. I go to my first baseball game.
Chapter 5
Modem vs. Router
I have my first run in with Korean modems and their downfalls. Jackie comes to my rescue and gives me some much-needed internet advice.
Chapter 6
Golfing in Korea
I meet my first Korean golf instructor who gives me best golf lesson ever using no English. Using my new-found golf skills I decide to golf a few rounds of golf with my new co-teacher George and his brother.
Chapter 7
English Meetings at Angel-In-Us Café
In addition to going to church, I join another group in Korea. This one is and English group that is run by my Korean friend Jackie. This group becomes a great way to meet new friends and discuss current events in Korea. Next, my former roommate, Carlo, gets taken to the police station and I talk to him before he gets deported from Korea. I also meet my replacement who’s teaching at my previous academy.
Chapter 8
4th of July in Korea
Author goes to a 4th of July party with his new-found church friends. He meets another English teacher named Tareck. Tareck is famous for kicking chairs across the classroom to get his students’ attention as well as living in the same apartment as his nudist boss.
Chapter 9
Kidman
Brian meets his first English-speaking co-teacher who goes by the name “Kid.” During their first time out for a hike together Kid confesses to Brian that he was accused by his ex-wife of burning down her house and that he likes dating Japanese women.
Chapter 10
Modem vs. Router
I have my first run in with Korean modems and their downfalls. Jackie comes to my rescue and gives me some much-needed internet advice.
Chapter 11
Golfing in Korea
I meet my first Korean golf instructor who gives me best golf lesson ever using no English. Using my new-found golf skills I decide to golf a few rounds of golf with my new co-teacher George and his brother.
Chapter 12
English Meetings at Angel-In-Us Café
In addition to going to church, I join another group in Korea. This one is and English group and is run by Jackie. I find another way to meet new friends and discuss current events in Korea. Carlo gets taken to the police station and I talk to him before he gets deported from Korea. I also meet my replacement who’s teaching at my previous academy.
Chapter 13
Lesson Plans
Brian reveals the most effective way to plan for his classes; by downloading lessons plans off the internet. Included in these lesson plans is  sample menu that is used to help the students role-play the purchasing of a hamburger in class.
Chapter 14
Dating in Korea
Brian shares four case studies of native teachers (males) who are dating Korean women. Included in these case studies are the reactions of the host-woman’s friends, families and social network.
Chapter 15
Surgery on a Budget
Brian get learns the difference between hospitals in Seoul (where the rich Koreans go) and all other hospitals in Korea. Brian finds the best value in Korea which is eye surgery which is priced at $2,500 in Korea vs. $28,000 in the United States. While in the hospital Brian meets an American man named Roman who’s been living in Korea since the 1970′s and publishing a book about a Post-Apocalyptic New England town. When Brian asks Roman who his book publishing agent is Roman replies, “The guy’s an idiot, he’s 62 and has just had his 6th child with his 3rd wife. What kind of a life is that kid going to have?”
“First Contact in Korea: A Native English Teacher’s Journey Into The Backwoods of South Korea” by Brian Ward, can be found on Amazon.com