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Category: Features

Longer stories, usually around 1,000+ words

No Doubt About It: Something is Definitely Fishy in Busan

Saturday Morning Sights and Oh-My-Goodness Smells of Busan

There is something surreal about emerging from the underground isolation of a subway station into the open air of a new place. Our first Saturday morning steps out of the station and onto one of Busan’s humming city streets were no exception. But this wasn’t just any subway stop in Busan. This stop, I knew, led to one of East Asia’s largest fish markets among the city’s top attractions. Still, nothing could have prepared me for the sights, sounds, and oh-my-goodness, smells of the Jagalchi Fish Market.
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Jagalchi

It writhed around for a bit in the small plastic bowl before finally dying, the way any animal might after having its head impaled and skin removed. Without hardly flinching the man grabbed another hagfish from the pile, removed the awl-like tool from the cutting board and drove it through the fish’s head as if to say, “hold still, this will only hurt a little.” Nearby a row of old women, ajummas, were splitting clams with a knife.

Welcome to a routine day at Busan’s famous Jagalchi Fish Market. Continue reading “Jagalchi”

Wooriwa: A Weekend in Pyeongtaek

We left Goyang immediately after work bound to Jinwi station where we were promised a farming experience. So began our farming experience: three hours on public transportation, two backpacks, a couple of sweatshirts and some basic supplies, a guy named William and the promise of a “once in a lifetime experience” somewhere on the outskirts of Seoul; the ones exactly opposite from the outskirts in which we presently reside, to be exact. Continue reading “Wooriwa: A Weekend in Pyeongtaek”

Brief Encounters with Businessmen

Part One:
MOULARD PUZZLE CAFE, ILSAN — I am seated outside piecing together the last of the Starry Night puzzle’s frame. A puzzle cafe is exactly as it sounds, a cafe where you may sip a coffee of something a bit stiffer while assembling a myriad variety of puzzles. The drinks are mediocre, though the beer is at least well priced, but the real draw are the puzzles.I excuse myself to the bathroom and let Danielle try to go it alone in figuring out how to interpret the Thousand Pieces of VanGogh sitting on our table.
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On: The Hogwon

Most people outside of Korea might guess that the word “Hogwon” is the Korean word for a hog farm or the name of some kind of hog-based commodity. I’ll admit I didn’t have a clue about what a Hogwon was until I started working for one. Even now that I am working for one, I still do not really know how to describe it, because there isn’t really anything like it back home. The closest thing to it is probably a learning center like Sylvan, but even that isn’t really the education model that can describe a Hogwon.
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A Diamond in the Rough

Summer vacation came and went this week and, given that we have not yet seen a pay day, we decided to explore our suburb’s parent city, Seoul. We toured the Changdeok Palace in Seoul. Rich with history, it is among the most beautiful structures in all of Seoul. It brought back memories of Beijing’s Forbidden City, except that, unlike Beijing which lost many historical landmarks over the years due to urban planning under the growth-at-any-costs mantra it is a city with palaces, monuments, museums and other landmarks scattered throughout, reminding visitros and Koreans of the country’s long, proud history. In addition to historical significance, Seoul is also a magnificent cultural hub; a city in league with Paris, London and New York in its internationalism. Classical music, fine art, and Broadway musicals all make their way through Seoul. As we learned more about the city, and explored deeper and deeper into its nooks and crannies, we quickly realized that Seoul is probably one of the most under-appreciated cities in Asia.
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One Man’s Trash

The trash piles on the ground floors of apartment buildings in Korea are veritable gold mines for the visiting foreigner looking to furnish a studio-size room. Everything from kitchen supplies to living room furniture, can be easily found lying on the ground left by the latest resident to move out, into fresh digs. The Urban Crowd Effect is the force that compels people to ditch some of their larger belongings and buy (or find) new furniture to replace that which could not survive the trip. It pays dividends for foreign Hogwon teachers still awaiting their first paycheck but hoping to decorate the apartment a bit to make it feel, you know, a little like a home instead of a few blank walls, a tiny kitchen and a bathroom. While the couch we found this week may be a couch from the trash, it is still a couch. The cushions covers are washable, and the rest of it can be vacuumed; it’s also not too shabby for found furniture.
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When it Rains, it Pours

When it rains it pours. While this old saw usually refers to a series or chain of bad events each subsequent event getting worse and worse as the event or moment in time proceeds—like when an organization suddenly sees four of its six VPs resign in quick succession, when it rains it pours—during the South Korean monsoon season it is quite literally true. Work is only about a twenty minute walk from home for me, and though many of my co-workers take a roughly $3 cab to work each day, lately Danielle and I have taken to walking. The only real problem with our it’s-only-a-twenty-minute-walk-why-would-we-take-a-cab approach was exposed on our second day of work at our hogwon when a little bit of what looked like manageable rain turned nearly instantly into a downpour so heavy it was as if the air had suddenly turned to water. Thus began my first full day as an English teacher.
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