I saved my soul by coming to Korea

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Dramatic as it may sound, it is true. I used to regard my tenure here as a “time-out” of sorts. A “time-out” out of the grind of life in the United States that seems to befall all who are partaking in the race, rich and poor alike. “I’ll get to live in a Buddhist nation, (albeit heavily capitalistic as well – as I write this two Buddhist monks just walked into the Starbucks I’m at, judge away but I swear by Buddha its true)” I fantasized. Experience the collectivism of East Asian culture, which has been such a delight (I know this is a generalization, and I don’t give a damn…it’s a good one). “I’ll get to travel deep into Asia, India, Nepal, Thailand, THAILAND anywhere.”

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But what I didn’t count on in coming to Korea was how being self-exiled from American society would contribute to what I believe to be a massive growth spurt of spirit – is the best way I can put it. I came to Korea and met like minds that had arrived to similar conclusions, ideas, suspicions, proclivities, but through a totally different stream path. Those who began flying in their own minds, out of the confines of the socially scripted path that they had been perpetually corralled onto in their respective western towns since birth. I’ve interacted with so many from all over, and not only through boozey eyes. Exchanging our most precious findings at haste out of the excitement of finding each other.

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Eventually explored dimensions of potential that were alien to my American identity, which in retrospect was suffocating in things American. I’ve been here now for about 6 years and in that time I’ve seen friends and family back home regress as opposed to grow. Perhaps its different with y’all, but many if not most, are rather stagnant or worse in their knowledge of the world, similarities and differences therein, and the wild inter-dependencies. I found myself a seat on the moon many a night, looking down not only the world below but also myself in it and noticed that my youth is in tact although I’ve reached my late 30’s. I feel younger in many ways than when I first arrived. I can’t help but notice many of my closest friends and family back home have aged instead of growing. Not only physically, mentally, but also in spirit. And understandably so, and I would have too, swimming right alongside them in that fishbowl. So, to the other self-exiled temporary or otherwise, I hope you never second guess your decision to eject based on your lack of material substances in comparison with those back in your home country. Your 401k might be non-existent, but investing in your soul, spirit, intellect is of greater benefit to the world and yourself in the long run me thinks. Friends and family may quickly level you with that pesky “peter-pan complex”, to which I hope you respond with a middle finger….(and an illegal smirk).

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The M&M Trail of Sulawesi: Makassar to Manado

Indonesia, Travel, Volcanic Islands

The M&M Trail of Sulawesi: Makassar to Manado (via The Togean Islands)

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Part 1 (of 2)

“South East Asia” – A totalizing geographic label I’ve grown to find increasingly vapid, does an especial disservice to the complexity of Indonesia. Two hundred and Fifty Million people flung across a galaxy of richly soiled volcanic diamond islands, lapping up the superbly lush waters of the Indian Ocean. Busy rainforests, dense jungles, handsome mountains, glowing sulfuric lakes, glowing sulfuric lakes on the tops of mountains, Salvador Dali-esque rice terraces cascading down massive rifts, deliciously grassy bluffs, sprawling valleys, white sanded beaches against post card white waters, sparkling architecture of reef, trippy coral, vibrant green paddies everywhere, all of it, all furnished and fertilized by an innumerable amount of volcanoes that align the vast Sunda and Banda arcs that together makeup Indonesia’s firey spine.

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And mirroring all this earthly diversity are the people and their impossible to believe milieu of a population equal in size to that of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Burma combined. With the exception of the western circus that is Kuta, Bali and the dreary, carbon-poisoned lipsticked pig that is Jakarta, the rest of Indonesia (and Bali) is a wild frontier, densely diverse, and loaded with potential adventure.

Although Indonesia is considered by modern measure to have the largest Islamic population in the world, the variations on Islam across the archipelago is abundant and largely take cue from their local animistic traditions, that to me, a person who has lived and traveled in the middle east, makes this place a muslim-lite nation. (obligatory PC explanation imminent)Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with Islam nor with Islamic nations in toto. All I mean to point out is the heterogeneity within their religious practice. To me, the Abrahamic religions are only as open and tolerant as the people who practice them. And in Indonesia, its wide open.

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SULAWESI!

My most recent tour across the scatter of Indian oceanic islands took me to the scorpion shaped island of Sulawesi, the world’s eleventh largest. Reflecting much of Indonesia’s spiritual and natural milieu, the island is a mixture of a youthful Christianity, an Islam flung far from Mecca, but if pressed a little their deeper animistic perspectives reside right alongside their veils and crosses (especially so in Torajah). The island’s largest cities are not unlike other choking cities of Indonesia, less any remarkable destinations. However, if there’s one thing to remark on, it’s the kindness you find still in these densely populated areas…I don’t think they get too many visitors.

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Most travelers come to Sulawesi for its pristine nature, scuba diving, and indigenous cultural experiences, which are well worth the little more you spend say going to the hackneyed touring dens so many foreigners trample through each day across Indonesia.

The M&M Trail

To begin the M&M trail, you’ll have to begin in either Makassar or Manado. Makassar is the capital city located in the south and is up and busy. The airport touts were reminiscent of my first step out of New Delhi Indira Gandhi international and into their gropey swarm. However, unlike their Delhian counterparts, the Sulawesian passion for business doesn’t seem to super-cede their welcoming kindness. I know this may seem like a traveler’s idealization, but I’ve never seen pushy touts so non-pushy, but rather get easily distracted by their more authentic curiosities. However the travel gods gave us a pass on that mess and delivered us up to an angelic local named Margaret who was just returning from a visit with her daughter in Bali and offered us a ride and more. And if you think I’m being harsh towards Delhi’s toutiverse…then, in that case, you’re an idiot.

Margaret invited us to her house to relax while we awaited our bus to depart to Tana Toraja, our first stop along the trail. A medical doctor by trade, she was a natural caretaker providing us with a tasty local dinner, refreshments, and quickly offering us a room to nap in along with a nice bathroom/shower. It was all too much considering we’d spent the previous couple weeks stationed in a “rustic” provincial dwelling in southern Lombok. We couldn’t believe our luck with finding such a hospitable interlocutor. Her husband, a social science professor at a local university shared her humanitarian flare and they both had been providing a boarding house for university students. Together, they inspired me ever more to pay it forward at every turn. The world instantly becomes softer and more enjoyable in these instances and to that lovely couple, I give them thanks for deepening that lesson ever more. On top of it all, they had one of their borders give us a lift to the bus station. He took his post very seriously and saw to it that we had no problems purchasing the ticket and getting great seats on what was perhaps the most luxurious bus I’ve ever taken in all my travels, and that will be the last time I experience any thing resembling comfort for the next few weeks.

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Once we arrived in Rantaepo, the central city in the land (Tana) of the Torajans, you’re immediately welcomed by funeral touring touts. That’s right, among the most unique tout markets I’ve ever seen. Many have their own motorcycle tuk tuks, gotta be the most dangerous I’ve seen in design where instead of being carted in the back of some motorized bike, you’re carted in front.

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Summer is funeral season in the land and this attracts tourists Indonesian and Farang alike to their bloodbath funerals. Although the dead may have passed earlier in the year, and the initial ceremony complete, it’s not till the summer that they hold this particular ceremony meant for the public, with a corpse that has most likely long been embalmed. So naturally, the ancillary tout funeral tour market would emerge that proves its worth for if it’s a blood bath funeral with exposed corpses that you fancy, these guys will get you there. Either at the bus stop or through your guesthouse, you will most likely have to hire one to get to the blood, the mud, and the beef (food that follows). But you might want to leave your western sensitivities on that luxurious bus, because shit gets weird quick in these funerals (and that’ll be the last remotely comfortable bus you’ll take).

The whole affair is some kind of after-life popularity contest where the most popular and wealthy dead throw the most extravagant funerals with the most bulls and pigs slaughtered. And the more that people show up, the smoother the sail is for deceased’s soul on its way on up to the Christian heaven, and in turn the family’s sense of peace. If there is one word to summarize the experience, it is BLOOD. We made our way to what seemed to be a wealthier funeral where several bulls got the chop along with some large pigs that ringed the main event. Following the sacrificial massacre, the meat is bbq’d and served to guests (no pics here, look it up).

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However, do not let this practice scare you off. The entire ordeal is managed by a smiling mass that loves nothing more than to show their cordialness and/or gratitude towards your attendance. Forget anything you heard about other lands of smiles, nothing beats the kindness of Sulawesi, blood bath and all. Following the ceremony, we retired up to the mountain village of Batutamonga to stay in a traditional Torajan boat home, the Tongkonan. If you’ve never seen these interesting communities then you are in for quite a “weeeeee”…look at the roofs:

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Many Torajan people live in these small communities of boat homes, which as explained by Wikipedia:

“The word ‘Tongkonan’ is derived from the Toraja word tongkon (‘to sit’)   and literally means the place where family members meet.

According to the Torajan myth, the first tongkonan house was built in heaven by Puang Matua, the Creator. It was built on four poles and the roof was made of Indian cloth. When the first Torajan ancestor descended to earth, he imitated the heavenly house and held a big ceremony.[1] An alternative legend, describes the Toraja arriving from the north by boats, but caught in a fierce storm, their boats were so badly damaged that they used them as roofs for their new houses.

There are three types of tongkonan. Tongkonan layuk is the house of the highest authority and it is used as the center of government. The second type is tongkonan pekamberan, which belongs to the family group members, who have some authorities in local traditions (known as adat). The last one is tongkonan batu, which belongs to the ordinary family members.”

The village is kinder than it is stunning. The mountainous villages are lined with wild coffee in all directions. Wide-open valleys dripping with stunning rice terraces.

Dense with natural beauty, all you need to do is get a lift there (via the back of motorcycle) and walk back down to Rantepao, or hitch a ride if you’ve walked enough. The bird watching along that walk…WATCH THE BIRDS! Small communities of Tongkonan homes dot the hike down and never get old in design. You’ll notice the older, centered homes usually have a collection of bull horns rising up the front mast. I’ll let you figure out why.

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Thank you Bulls. Although you’re slaughtered en masse every summer, atleast it’s done with honor as opposed the McWest’s factory sacrifices for those who a want their burger and life on the go.

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Getting around in Rantepao is probably best if you rent your own motorcycle. But if you must, I’d say hire a bike and ride on the back if you’re trying to get out to the mountains. You can find some drivers by the main bus stop area. Getting north of Rantepao is not easy no matter how you cut it. We went through one of 2 local bus companies, and it was not like the bus from Makassar….not like that at all.

To be continued….

 

Primary Transit summary:

From Makassar a 12 hour luxury bus to Tana Torajah via Charisma -> 14 hour butts to nuts buss to Poso (Buses can be arranged via your guest house or just go to travel agents, near Café Aras) – Good driver, crazy roads, cramped but charming ride -> 4 hour 3 am drive via minivan to Ampana arranged through guest house in Poso -> 3 hour large ferry to Wakai arranged at the ferry terminal via “the harbor lady” Ufha, sat on roof under makeshift canopy -> 30 min Boat to Kadidiri, also arranged via Harbor lady –> 3 hour Boat to Una Una arranged through guest house “lestari” –> 3.5 hour Boat back to Wakai arranged through guest house “sanctum” –> 10 hour overnight ferry to Gorontola, shared cabin, well worth it arranged via “Una” Losmen, near main harbor –> short tuk tuk into Gorontolo from harbor -> 10 hour Mini Van to Manado arranged via guest house “Melati”.

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Women: It’s about the Super Ego stupid

Game, Relationships

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First off, this is for women who are looking for a relationship or some steady companionship. Not for those at play…to you I say: game on. Also, it goes both ways, albeit with nuances. Lastly, this is NOT limited to Heterosexuals.

Girls, unless there are some serious fireworks, don’t give it up right away. I know this one wont win me many points but I don’t care. Men don’t think too highly of themselves (of Men in general that is). Your allowing one of us Turkeys in between those amethyst thighs so quickly devalues our sense of selves even more; the Super ego takes a further step back while the ID ego becomes even more pronounced in our day to day mind (hence identity loss you male whores). I was led to believe that after having a one-night affair with some gin-tonicky bar room floor model I would feel like a goddamn champ. And that’s exactly what that the pacing tiger that is the ID ego wants you to believe. However, it’s hardly the case really. With the dirty deed done, the Super Ego is weakened, the tiger is asleep having fed, not giving a single fuck about you…any of you (the mates) and the man’s psyche is left…standing there…blinking….like a jerk…one step closer to douchedom.

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A woman that holds out makes us feel better about ourselves, unique. “She won’t let me insert my penis inside her after knowing her for only 12 hours, she must be special” we thinks…and, this is key, the idealization begins. We idealize, raise you. With every “not right now”, the super ego applauds, steps forward, and sees you more and more suitable a partner in this battlefield of immorality. Every time a woman calls you out on your dumbassery (a precarious enterprise for another piece), the Super Ego gets a raging mind erection for you. The ID meanwhile, that pacing tiger, is being tamed for the circus. It’s the super ego that dates, commits, and eventually will wash your underwear. It’s the Super Ego that’s gonna research ways to give you epileptic like seizuring orgasms, and how to top the dinner they made you last week. The amoral ID tiger will be curled up in the corner of his cage, chilling, to be awoken for more controlled reasons 😉 To summarize, having game equates to being able to entice the Super Ego and manipulating the ID. Now, go out there and BE somebody.


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SNOB! (or Discriminate?)

Game, Personality

First, a myth to bust: being judgmental or discriminate does not equate with being snobbish. Snobs “turn their nose up” at you based on material superficialities and perceived behavioral nuances that pose no real threat other than cramping their stuffy ass stylings. A snob for instance may dismiss your relevance based on your attire, wheels, word choice, hair do or lack thereof, education level, job, i.e., things that have little to no reflection of your character. In fact, snobs typically befriend pieces of shit, much like themselves, due to their material acquisitions/titles/abilities that perhaps have more to do with their character. My cousin was (perhaps still is) a snob and his best friend in the day was a BMW driving cocaine dealer who loved nothing more than to letch on anyone and their girlfriend (but did perform magic tricks for his more advantageous female customers, hence his shitty little moniker “Magic Dave”). Another girl I knew reeks of entitlement and is of seraphim level snobbery, is totally well versed in whatever is popping, has little to no time for any topic that doesn’t feed her narcissistic vacuum of a soul….that means YOU (every you out there), and is surrounded by silly assholes and sycophants. Snobs, assholes, and sycophants are age-old allies, as we all know.

So what to call those that do not suffer the aforementioned axis of assery and keep their distance? What do we call those that won’t allow you to trespass and shit in their souls with your senseless ramblings and rants on topics idiotic or centrally, endlessly, about you? Those that won’t ask you a follow-up question because they know it’ll lead to having to endure longer your complete lack of transactional communication? Those that don’t slow for a stop and talk with you after having seen your sloppy ass once again at the bar with your hands uncomfortably all over everyone, sweating, hair a mess?

I proffer the term “discriminate”, of course not in the racially or ethnically charged sense (that kind of discrimination belongs to a whole different level of hell, no where near the subject of this here meditation). The discriminate I speak of differentiate based on their judgment of your behavior. They see your character loud and clear and simply don’t like it. And no doubt, they’re well aware of their own imperfections, they just don’t need to burden their own toxic pond with any of your dumb shit. They won’t turn their back on you for your plain Jane fashion sense nor on their bedazzled counterparts; nor for being overweight, underweight, cross-fit-ripped, nor for having a visibly troubled past riddled with bad decisions or experiences.

A discriminate person is level headed and seeks acceptance all the same. But they will cut ties off until further notice with you if your behavior is shit. They have no time beyond perhaps a fleeting twit of entertainment for the lecherous, narcissistic, convo dominating, petty soul thieves. But the rub here is that those that suck probably don’t know it. However, a good rule of thumb: if that guy or girl you respect doesn’t really give you the time of day anymore, you might want to check yourself before solidifying your place in schmuckdom. Godspeed (I am all of the above btw -except racially discriminate-).

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Date a Man Who Travels

Dating, Relationship Type, Travel

Date a Man who travels

They are easily missed in the bustling, dusting, city centers of the world for they are usually camouflaged in local garb against the backdrop of pedestrians walking enmasse, motorbikes riding, tuk tuks tukking, darting in between the ever stacking egg crates, petting wandering goats and cows. Never confused with the spectacled flash of their boyish traveling counterparts painted with the latest in Koh San Road beer label fashion, found traveling in interchanging wolf packs. With a still eye however you may spot their grinning beards, which finds solace in the chaos of the big smoke. You may notice them alone, fearlessly snaking through the melee of fruit markets in search of that perfect mango breakfast they had had the previous morning, with which they are eager to share with you, and anyone who comes across the shine of their disarming vibe of brotherly love, be it a local, a tout, the aforementioned green traveler, or most of all, with a scentful woman who resides in such dimensions of freedom.

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Date a man who travels.

Try not to shy away when he approaches you with an unconventional question, because a man who travels would rather share an experience WITH YOU rather than waste time on names and geographic labels. Try to enjoy the exchange before you dismiss him, it maybe the breath of fresh air you didn’t realize was needed, exhaling societal complexities and toxins. Try your hand at his queer witty banter, the exchange could spring you right back into things. And once you both have settled into the liberating free breathing realm of presence, and find yourselves flying off into a joyous sunset of random convos, the humdrum topics ranging from cities of birth to favorite family guy lines will come about on their own, and will actually be interesting.

Date a Man who travels

When you see him having his ritualistic coffee in the calm of morning whilst reading his book of topics eastern, join him. It is your turn to approach and allow his boyish center to reveal itself. Join him in the silent peace of a traveler’s morning, which alone can be a bonding moment. Further cemented by eating the piece of waffle he’s offered you hot from his plate. Do not be suspicious of his brotherly ways for they are most likely authentic. He has a big heart and it bleeds for true human communion beyond the Freudian motives that so often arm us. Most likely he’s already willing to do so much for you lady, much less share some “maple soaked sweet bread?” Surrender the rest of your day to the travel gods cause most likely he wants to spend it with you, and probably has a loose plan of action, at best. Join him and foster his magic, for a traveling man always carries with him at least a little bit, but needs the catalyst of a free woman’s trusting smile to work. So push him on that two day kayak trek down the Mekong offered by that smiling dready around the corner, charm his magic into action, and no doubt that river trek or city walk or museum visit or what have you will extend on and on.DSC00865

Technology, HR, and the Perfect job – A cautionary tale.

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A position at a well known University in Busan had opened in the department of Advertising and PR. Considering I have over five strong years of experience teaching the topics mentioned, in Korea and the U.S, along with a B.S and M.A in Media and Communication, a PhD dissertation underway directly covering the topics mentioned, and with a good friend who works within the department to vouch for my ethos, I felt that my application could present a strong case for consideration.

Upon learning about the position, I immediately went to work preparing a solid application. Filled out all three pages of the application, wrote a 2 page teaching goal statement explaining my worth and vision for the position. Rustled up former colleagues and mentors for letters of referral, and polished all existing materials as you do for an application. A process that doesn’t come without its headaches but also intrinsic rewards, but one that is ultimately meant for the extrinsic possibility of landing a great job within walking distance from my home.

I followed the advertisement to the letter and emailed my application to the address listed, along with a follow up email directly after to confirm receipt of the application (which predictably wasn’t replied to but was received). The next day, I received an email notification that my emailed application (and prepare yourself for the headache that is my life at the moment) had been rejected by the receiver’s email for unknown reasons. The notification didn’t specify what the problem was, and considering the application file was well under 20mbs, I didn’t really think it could be the file size (woe is me). I sent the application in again and again also from another email address, only to receive more rejection reports, this time a day after the deadline. Must be the file size that’s the problem here, which every email in the world would typically accept.

I followed up with an email explaining the email address listed wasn’t accepting my application:,

Hello Hiring Committee,

I am testing this email address again from my hotmail account.

I’ve been attempting to email an application to the listed email address: ——- , since 12/3, but it seems there is a problem. If this does reach you, can you please respond at your earliest to confirm so that I can send you my application from a different email?

Thank you!

Sincerely,

Mushiguna Schmuck (anonymity’s sake)

For which I finally received a flip reply stating:

Dear. Mushiguna Schmuck,

Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to apply our job position.

Unfortunately, the deadline is over. Please apply for the K** job opening next time.

Sincerely, (they didn’t put any name here)

My application wasn’t even DOA. It was dead at conception for it wouldn’t even pass beyond the 25 year old’s desktop to the decision makers of the position. I attempted to contact the HR professional but to no avail.

Finally, after returning to Busan several days later, I immediately went to confront this HR “professional”. I walked into the office and addressed who presumably was an intern where I could find him, only to learn I was talking to him: A boy attempting to project a shaky authority through the baby fat that encumbered his visage. He was receptive enough for a quick chat in which I attempted to show him the evidence of the emails and their replies, that I followed the advertisement’s instructions, but it seems the instructions were incomplete. That is, they didn’t specify that their email inbox was equipped to only handle smaller file sizes and it would be advisable to send the application over in pieces (something I’ve never had to do in hundreds or thousands of similar sized files sent).

I explained till I was blue in the face, but in the end he told me that the principle of fairness was what kept him from accepting my email. He told me (and here comes the palm to forehead moment) that other people had the same problem and were able to get it to him in time via a different email address that he supplied or directed them to send it in pieces, and tha…….

WHAT? You knew your email instructions were incomplete? That your inbox isn’t set to accept the rather medium sized file that YOU requested? And that you helped others out and accepted their applications only because their second or third shot was still within the deadline? Don’t you see your principle is…is….fucking moronic? (I didn’t voice the last part outwardly, regrettably).

In a state of exasperation I left and into the other cold, but still had one more card to play. I would attempt to meet with the department chair and plea my case for consideration. The next day, my good friend at the University would introduce me. He was generous with his time and allowed me to explain my case. That I had emailed the file well within the deadline but the email inbox listed wouldn’t accept the file size requested, that any email inbox normally would, that the HR professional had been made aware of this problem from other applicants whom he had helped because they still got it to him in time. That he would not accept my emailed file because I didn’t figure out his email’s handicap till a day after the deadline and that his principle is…is…..fucking moronic.

The Department chair was sympathetic to my plea and eventually fully sided with my story hearing and seeing all evidence presented. He seemed interested in my application and would accept my CV, but explained that in order for the department to consider my application he would have to convince the other professors of my case in order to reopen deliberations for the position, and that could be a long shot. Which in the end it was because I just learned that 2 out of the 5 professors, for reasons I won’t even begin to understand, decided not to hear my case and that my application would not be considered. Furthermore, considering that they weren’t interested in the only other application, the position would be closed.

Palm to forehead.

Moral of the story…uhhhh…don’t trust HR, Email, or Rationalism whole heartedly. Email applications in pieces and in one piece. I’m not sure of how many pieces though so you may have to ask the HR professional about that but given the fact that they might not respond till its too late, you might have to play a little guessing game.

Prepare your steed for irrationality…its chubby annoying face, will pay its bumbling visit upon you.