Bookends

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The sleepers, await

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Bus tours, to the picnic table

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It has to be the strangest place to have slept, but I’m not sure if I slept at all. Public sleeping isn’t at all an unusual sight in Korea. On the way to the World Expo in Yeosu, the bus had parked at around 3am, and without announcement, and more of a necessity, the entire busload of tourists went to sleep. I came to the drowsy, pain-induced realisation that I had to get off of the bus to sleep. Parked at a rest stop, the facilities had it’s allotment of picnic style tables. Choosing one, I initially put the hood of my rain jacket over my face (it was too suffocating) so instead moved it aside so that only my mouth was uncovered. The rest of face, namely my left eye, was covered from the overhead lighting. Apparently I did sleep for a time as my wife made occasional trips from the bus, to check up on my progress.

I have to say that I’ve never sought the company of fellow English speakers but, in my tired state of mind earlier in the evening, I found some America’s female conversation incredibly whiny. She was conveniently located in the next row behind me.

I just wonder if all the effort to see the expo will be worth it or simply I’d be to tired to appreciate it all and sleep through it. We shall see.

Adventures in Shenyang, a frozen vista and walking the street

Shenyangweather12_02_15EDITIt’s freezing cold in Shenyang. Daily temperatures are down to single figures and that’s during the day! At night apparently it gets colder. Thankfully, the people who administer the building that my wife’s parents live decided that there’s enough money in the heating fund to actually send some heat through the tower block. (Later on in the month they did actually reduce the heat flow from less than toasty to absolutely meager flows of warmth).  Having arrived directly after the initial Lunar new year’s celebrations, I managed to miss the first salvo of fireworks. Not to worry, there was a second (closing) firing of fireworks 15 days later. I have to say that having seen it kick off for the third or fourth time, It wasn’t their most colourfull or noisy effort. Still, not bad for something that’s not formally organized. Some years they actually prohibit the use of fireworks because of pollution which hangs low in the cold, still air. I can attest to this. Fun does have it’s price.

In the 30 days I stayed in Shenyang (30 days is the maximum allowable length for a visa for China) we went shopping, but mainly went to a massager that lives across town. I have to say that she was quite good at loosening up my shoulder. But in waiting for my wife to finish, I’d hang out at the local Starbucks order a  hot chocolate and very slowly drink it. I have to say that it was delicious topped off with mock cream with the heavier, chocolatety fraction condensing at the bottom. Drinking the last third was like having a dessert course within a dessert course. The dark chocolate was a silky, made almost syrupy by the cooled milk already in the cup. Another thing that was good about Starbucks was the free wi-fi.  Made possible with my Toshiba Thrive, I blended in well with the rest of the patrons, as they were also surfing hard on their laptops or smartphones.

Traverse this.

Something I never ever do in Korea or indeed anywhere else is jaywalk across a road. For me this is no small matter, and in veritably I’m the first person across since I don’t just walk, I jog or sprint. I’m just shit-scared of getting hit by a car. It’s the mindset of the person behind the wheel that is just deadset on driving, and not even pedestrians, will stop that. I once saw a woman driver veer towards some fellow ‘froggers’ waiting along the middle of the road. I can’t think of any reason than they (the froggers) might be known to the driver, or, she was on some sort of power trip. The fellow pedestrians glanced at her go by. Maybe they were as surprised as I was.

But aside from going out for massages, there wasn’t a lot for me to do. Once I went out to take photographs. It was Shenyang’s finest weather that it had to offer, the sky was a powder blue with a pale sun hung halfway in the sky. A walk around the neighbourhood that surrounded the tower block apartments that my wife’s parents lived in yielded some photographs.  Passing through residential areas, and the nearby shops that support the also nearby monastery, I snapped photographs, cursing my laziness for not packing my zoom lens. I’ve been known to say, “just get closer”.  I cursed again as the reason for the super zoom lens was the prevention of shyness, on the part of both parties.  Having said that, I do think that I got at least one photograph that made the walk worth the effort.

Member of Olympic sleeping team, gone rogue

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What always flabbergasts me, is, why can’t they wait until they get home? Chosen to take a nap outside of Onyangcheon train station, the pavement is fortunately covered in recycled rubber, softening the asphalt.

No sense of decorum; a bench would be more appropriate, as he ‘lies’ not far from the escalators that lead up to the station. Though, it does makes a funny photograph.

Driving test manual, gets the car tart?

Not so much blatant advertising but a flirty book cover for the driving education manual. Theory and mock questions and the other requisite street signs too. Since most of the learners are teenages, the incentives are there. Get your license, get a car tart. For such a weighty document, it serves absolutely of no use at all. Drivers on the road breaking every rule, taxi drivers ignoring red lights, bus drivers doing whatever they want. For me, I’ve stayed away from the drivers seat. Too dangerous. What has four wheels and handles?! Looks ridiculous. Parked where-ever he pleases, it’s parked by the bus stop. I can only imagine a 4 tonne bus hitting it, there wouldn’t be much left at all. (Nothing would send a stronger message than having a bus ride up, and over your ass). Don’t park there!  The police force here must have an incredibly difficult job at times.

Flying solo between the lazy and uninterested

1st graders, right after lunch

3rd grade high schools are probably the worst of the lot. Whenever students ascend to the last grade of any school they always have the feeling that education is now unnecessary. You get the same effect from sixth grade elementary schoolers too. But these guys at my high school are just lazy, unmotivated, and refused to be motivated to study at any means.

It’s probably what got them to what technically is a ‘technical high school’. Pardon the pun. Teaching the third grade class I had all of two students that were engaged in the task. All the rest just could not be fucked to do anything but indulge themselves in their own conversations, preen their hair and basically do nothing. From my perspective they’ve got an uncertain future with prospects of little money or jobs. Even if you’re a girl in Korea you still need money to get married, right? And even before they meet some unfortunate sap, they need money to dress themselves up to the nines and tens. Even looking at some of even the disinterested students I see some sort of spark, some internal drive that sets them apart, but most them I don’t see anything. The lights are on, but no-ones home. Not smart enough to draw the threads of causality together, education equals money and a future.

I should have been riled up, but knowing that if I got ticked off, it means nothing to them. Well okay, the lesson means nothing to them, just the same way that they mean nothing to me. Here to do a job, get in, get out with my karma intact.