Wednesday, November 26, 2003

I’m sitting here listening to the Vancouver Canucks play the Montreal Canadiens as I write this update. It’s kind of strange to hear advertising from A&B Sound and traffic updates about the Lions Gate Bridge. It’s easy to forget I’m in Korea and when I step outside it sometimes still comes as a bit of a surprise that I’m actually here.

I guess technology can really break down distances, in a way that it never could before. We listen to Vancouver radio streams over the Internet, we download and watch the latest Hollywood movies and TV shows from Peer-2-Peer networks, we video conference with our friends and read the latest newspapers from home on the Web. It really is amazing when you think about it!

That being said, when you have most of the creature comforts of home at your disposal, occasionally there comes a curveball that pitches you back into the reality of where you live. We had one such curveball last weekend.

John, Will and I went down to Busan on Saturday morning to go camera shopping. We suffered through the jolts, jerks and sudden stops of the bus ride and arrived in downtown Busan at around noon. We hopped onto the subway and made our way down to Nampo-Dong, where the all the camera shops seem to congregate.

It’s a strange nuance of shopping in Korea that all the stores selling similar goods seem to cluster in one area. There will be a pet store street, a hardware store street, even a sock store street. I guess it makes it easy for the consumer to compare prices, but I’m not sure how they compete with each other, seeing as they all sell virtually the same goods at relatively the same price.

Anyway, Will bought himself a nice new SLR camera and once we were done we decided that it was beer time before we headed back to Ulsan. We found a decent ‘Hof’ and sat down for a couple of drinks to steel ourselves for the ride home.

At this point, in came an older man, who I can only describe as being a Korean Jim Carrey hopped up on a handful of amphetamines. Claiming to be a poet, he excitedly sat down with us and talking a mile a minute, began relating his life story to us. His story was punctuated outrageous hand gestures, exaggerated facial expressions and kung fu acrobatics in the middle of the restaurant. Needless to say, John, Will and I were nearly beside ourselves with laughter at this strange character.

At one point, he got up suddenly and told us we had to meet his ‘Master.’ He ran off down the street and for a moment we thought we had rid ourselves of this bizarre man. Not so lucky.

He came back shortly with another gentleman who looked like he stepped directly out of the 14th Century. He wore old, traditional robes and sandals; had a large Fu Manchu moustache and beard and his long hair wound up in a bun on his head.

Not quite sure what to expect, we were surprised then when he spoke in near perfect English. Not only that, but he swore like a sailor on shore leave. His mastery of English profanity was truly something to be admired.

So here’s the lowdown. He is a bit of a nomad, having wandered all over Europe for 11 years telling people he was a fortuneteller. He lived in Jirisan National Park on top of Mt. Jiri for three years with only himself and his one-eyed goat to keep him company. He was a temple artist, a writer, a musician and a laborer. He insisted, amidst the swear words, that he was ‘Nobody’ and we should just call him Jirisan.

We spent most of the rest of that night with Jirisan, who turned out to be a fascinating person. He had an amusing perspective on life and we had a great time hanging out with him. But, we sure got some strange looks from people on the street – us, three foreigners, and this crazy looking Korean dude!

On Sunday, we got together with all of our friends for American Thanksgiving. We’d arranged for a couple of turkeys and everyone lent a hand in bringing food or drinks. There ended up being nearly 40 people, which was a great turn out and a lot of fun to have everyone together. Using our best MacGuyver skills we even managed to deep-fry one of the turkeys, which was delicious – but not that healthy I suspect.

My sister Julianne has arrived in Ulsan, so it was nice to have her there for Thanksgiving as well. I think she’s settled in pretty nicely now and is slowly adjusting to life in Korea at her own pace.

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