This Post is for My Father

Unlike in 2005, when I pined over a girl who was never going to go out with me again for 40 days before I decided to go home, or in 2010 when I pined over being anxiety-riddled and aching from a shit gallbladder for 55 days before I decided to go home, I have been able to remain in relatively steady contact with my father since arriving back in South Korea in February 2013.

Skype can definitely be thanked in large part for that. It was not around in 2005, nor was a laptop and I never bothered getting a cell phone before I bailed. It was around in 2010, and I did have a laptop, but I didn’t really reach out to my father as much as I probably should have. Most of my calls home tended to be to my best friend, Amanda, who at that point was more just a very good friend and I used to date and who was getting increasingly sick of me butting in on the conversations she was having with another boyfriend at the time.

In 2013, there is a laptop, Skype and several other means to make internet phone calls, were to choose to do so. And, every week (give or take a week here and there), I am in touch with Dad, letting him know how my week is going, what I am planning to do in the coming week and what kind of deals I’ve been able to get at Home plus.

It was a great night for deeply-discounted meat at Home plus.

That above photo, however, highlights one glaring omission. My father has heard a lot of what’s been going on in my Korean life these past-almost-eight-months, but he has not really seen a whole lot. I blame Facebook for this, because it’s my habit to pass the buck to someone, or something, else. Since my Dad never subscribed to it, he has not seen the many, many photos I’ve thrown up for anyone who wishes to give them a gander.

So, this post actually is better since I can’t possibly post every photo here. That would just take too much time. But, I can post the best of the best. The highlights, the peak experiences, the things only he and I would understand and appreciate.

So, without further delay: Dad, this post is for you. Enjoy.


Dad, of course you know Amanda, who arrived in Korea in late July. But, you probably don’t know Hye Ri, one of our closest friends. The two of them have bonded splendidly in a very short period of time. I met Hye Ri sometime in March or so, but recently the three of us have gotten much closer.Image

Here is Amanda and I at a Lotte Giants baseball game. Despite the team not being very good, their fans are passionate.Image

See? Passionate fans.Image

Here, Dad, is something you certainly take for granted: CHEESE. Only until the last couple years, anything besides lousy “American” cheese slices and mozzarella were near impossible to find. It’s getting a little easier, but it’s still not terribly common. This two-pack of cheddar and Monterey Jack cost just about over $6 at a Home plus near Amanda’s apartment. THIS WAS AMAZING, since cheese like had only been seen in Busan’s sole Costco location on the rich side of town. There was plenty of other cheese at this Home plus, too, but it cost closer to $15-$20. The price you pay. Image

A sad fact of life for expats in South Korea and other places is that people leave. Jenna, seen here, has been one of my closest Korea friends since first meeting her at the airport when I arrived in Korea in 2010. Now she’s gone. Will she return? Only time will tell. Many don’t. Some of them you see again, many you don’t. It’s definitely a different experience than what one experiences when someone moves a state away.Image

A casual bibimbap, mixed veggies and rice, and a section of banchan (side dishes) at a local Kimbap Chung-guk.Image

One of my students at the Dunkin’ Donuts next to my school. His English has been very, very slow to take but he’s a sweet kid.Image

Pizza in Korea is weird, Dad. It’s not like in New Jersey where it seems like 75% of the population is Italian and a pizza place is at every corner. Here, it’s Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s and Korean chains fashioned after them. And, they like corn on their pizza. Sweet mercy, they like corn on their pizza …Image

Some of my students. Some classes are rough, some students are rough, but the diamonds in the rough make it worth it.Image

I like to eat out but often I like to eat in, as you already know. Here, I sliced up some raw salmon (on discount at Home plus!) and enjoyed it with a side of rice and a Hite, one of Korea’s finest (cough, cough) beers.Image

The view from my window at 6:30 a.m.Image

One of the kids at Soyang Orphanage, where I try to go with a group once a month to hang out with the kids and teach them a few English words. She just got her nails did.Image

A view down one of the nearby streets to my apartment, as I headed to the bus to go to work. That woman is the recycler, I guess.Image

An after-work meal at Kka Jja Jang, which I enjoyed for the first time with this meal. It’s total comfort food. The black sauce is loaded with onions and some meat, and is just so rich and delicious.Image

Chuseok, or Korean Thanksgiving, is held around September every year. It’s one of their biggest holidays and a go-to gift given to everyone is these weird gift sets you can find everywhere around this time of year. Some sets include multiple cans of Spam, while others, like this one I got from my school, contain SEVEN TUBES OF TOOTHPASTE. I’ll never need to buy toothpaste again. Koreans are a bit obsessed with brushing their teeth, and do so diligently after every meal.Image

Some children walk down “Texas Street,” which, despite being “Texas,” is more a Russian enclave. It’s apparently a bit seedier come nightfall.Image

We got out to a beach in Ulsan, a city about 45 minutes from Busan, a couple weeks ago. Sometimes, you’ve got to change your scenery.Image

Sundown from the balcony outside my apartment.Image

This is Dadaepo Beach, which is a big, relatively quiet beach only about 15 minutes from my apartment. This was taken midday, when even fewer folks were out.Image

I am my father’s son. This ham and cheese sandwich, which reminds me of sandwiches you used to make for us when we were younger, cost about 75 cents.Image

My goofy thumbs up got featured in the latest GnB English School newsletter, distributed monthly to parents.Image

One of my local buses. Image

My local cheap Korean food joint. This one is open 24 hours.Image

This shot was taken on a walk where several of us met up with Amanda for some BBQ at a place near her apartment. Korea is always working.


In America, Dad, it seems like everyone has their own culture, their own style. In a lot of ways, that’s true, since we have been raised to be individuals. But Korea is a homogeneous society. Most people eat kimchi and rice for breakfast, most people drive Hyundais and Kia’s. And, most hikers tend to where the same damn clothing, even if they don’t really need to spend all that money to walk up a hill. Image

Speaking of going up, these shopping carts were going up the escalator at Home plus the other night.


And finally, my freetalking class, the last class for the night, was a bit rough. They’re a little younger and it’s just chaos. They think it’s just fun time. I try to make it fun but, … ugh. Anyway. Sometimes, the soul needs relief after a rough night on the job. Enter “Dwe-ji-guk-bap,” a soup of boiled pork and various veggies, with various banchan to complete the delightful meal. Add a bottle of Cass and a little inspiration while watching some insipid Korean drama on the TV, and this post was born.

I hope you enjoyed this post, Dad, and I hope anyone else who stumbled upon it enjoyed it, too. I’ll talk to you Sunday night, Dad. Love you.


One thought on “This Post is for My Father

  1. John,
    These are wonderful hard working people,eager to make it big and full of life.
    The foods are different ,but really not by much,people here are always adding and trying
    new foods .
    Thanks so much for sending this post it really made my day.
    Say Hi to your Friend and Amanda and you look good, the country is good for you
    Will be waiting for your call Sunday.

    Love, Dad

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