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October 31, 2006

neverEVERagainLAND

between jobs and short on cash i took up an offer to spend last saturday looking after some kids at everland, korea's largest amusement park. $120 and park entry, it sounded like a good deal. it wasn't.

skeleton jackwitchy jindoctor paco? alex

still half-asleep and shroud in fog we find the place, a large tent, outside the gates, boasting such grammatically correct signs as "have a awesome party, jack-o-lantern". a man starts pulling costumes from a box and handing them to us. i wait till last and get rewarded - a full body skeleton outfit! we are told nothing more than that kids are going to come and that we should stand somewhere and give them a stamps and talk with them a bit. the next thing we know, literally thousands of korean children are pouring down the "path of stupidly-dressed white people." even if we had time to ask each kid a question other than "what is your name?" they would only give us blank stares. i dont have a station pretending to give a medical check up or sell $1 ice-creams, so i wander around trying to scare children. i'm getting sweaty and kids are prodding me with toy pitchforks from all angles. this isnt fun and it smells like scam.

the line finally dies down and we shed our outfits and wait for someone to tell us if we can have some lunch or if that's all we're supposed to do. its not, obviously. after a quick look inside the park to get some lunch we are ushered into a theatre, the stage appropriately backdropped with "a horror english halloween party". the kids fill the seats and the show begins with alex narrating 'the history of halloween' off the top of his head while i improvise actions for his story on the stage in my skeleton outfit. apart from our shiny white faces, this turned out to be the sole english content of the entire show, the korean mc subsequently instructing balloon games and dance competitions and best-dressed awards.

as an aside, there is something fundamentally askew about 10 y.o. korean girls "dancing ssssexy" (as the mc put it) to horrible beats spouting "lyrics" such as 'sex machine'. of course, their move-perfect routines are just imitations from tv and they are clearly unaware of their connotations. which then puts the responsibility back on the parents and the teachers, who disturbingly watch enthusiastically with video cameras.

our heads pounding and irritations mounting, this joke of an english camp seemed to finally be coming to close. that was of course, until another 500 kids came in and we learned we were to do it all again. nine hours work, not a single ride ridden, never an idea of what was next, and the most minimal english taught. we left, took the wrong bus home, and pathetically waited for the money to be transferred to our accounts two days later. not a good day.

October 24, 2006

(on the day that you turn) 22

gene & jack.jpg

bro-genius. you turn 22 today.
when i was 22 you were 18. i can see you sitting at the corner of the big wooden table at the back of our big wooden sharehouse, feeling if not awkward then aware, of yourself, in the company of my boisterous friends at my dinner party. and then you asked if anyone had a guitar. chris retrieved his underloved acoustic from his bedroom and you unrolled a piece of paper. the lo-fi indie-punk chords tapped my heel but it was the lyrics that popped my watery eyes. my birthday, in front of my friends, you sang a song you had written for me. on the day that i turned 22. and then someone threw a profiterole at my head. or was it a piece of squid?
on the day that you turn 22 i'm too far away for you to hear me sing but not far enough that i cant send you half-naked japanese school girl figurines. and despite my tunelessness i know what would be better. on this day i can see those four years laid flat. i can see you walk across them collecting objects from the surface. turning stones of maturity around in your palm. plucking blades of kind and understanding grass. inspecting scraps of pop-culture and humour. shuffling your feet through growing talents in music and art. ive loved watching you walk geno. ive loved sharing some of those steps with you. ive loved seeing that incredible smile of yours explode onto your face, so i know that everything is ok inside of your amazing brain and heart. i miss you more than these simple words could describe, more than the tune of any song could emote.
love, your broximus distalus.
jacko.

October 5, 2006

laying low in a tropical hideout. if anyone finds out, i'm turning their lights out.

jack sisi MM.jpg

seoul is quiet today. families are preparing traditional food for the chuseok holiday. most businesses are closed. i am picking the peeling skin from my shoulder, scratching the mosquito bites on my right ankle, and fingering the growth of my two week beard. hasisi and i returned yesterday from 12 days in the philippines, a trip that could be tagged using the words: mosquitoes, rain, sex, transit, cheapbeer, disorganisation, toothache, soreback, typhoon. in a humourous way the philippines gave us what we deserved, annoyances in exchange for escapism and convenience. we laugh an insane little chuckle.

manila. the sky holds temperature in clouds. our beat up taxi chugs along the choked highway towards the centre of a city without a centre. humidity fills immense gaps between immense buildings that have been left behind by shopping malls. on the street garish jeepney's are packed with staring eyes. on the streetside people mill like people people do, in hot poor countries. and when we open the door to our cute, grimy corner room we realise it is just good to feel away, and to share a double bed for only the second time ever.

friendly's guesthouse, manila

port barton. our jeepney, loaded with people and boxes and motorbikes and furniture and mail and anything else the community needs, heaves and splutters its way up the muddy 22km towards port barton. bogged, the men, myself included, jump out the windows and pull the fanstastic machine up the hill by rope by hand. i ride on the roof, dodging overhanging palm leaves and sucking in the warm tropical air. in sleepy port barton we uncover our hideout. children play racing games with bamboo toys on the beach. sisi wanders fully clothed into the warm ocean water. i read depressing love stories and drain a few san miguels. the rain sweeps through like regulated traffic.

cliched travelling shot

roxas. an early bus leaves us stranded in this forgettable town of videoke machines, long stares and the devil's own mosquitoes. in matching yellow american apparel bathing suits we sit on our dull grey beach and watch rain clouds swoop on islands hiding resorts for the rich and famous. the tricylce driver inquires, "sir, your wife, is she chinese?" i answer she is my girlfriend and he should guess again. after a pause, "sir, where did you get your wife?". the local church sign reads - save the user, punish the pusher.

wonder woman flop

el nido. the star attraction of the province and gatekeeper of the bacuit archipelago is a simple triangle of a town, nestled against some spectaculer limestone cliffs. behind the noisy line of guesthouses and tour offices and restaurants is a community in the predicament of every tourist town, resentment and blessing. and behind them are pigs, many squealing pigs in little wooden pens. children spout the familiar unpunctuated "hello. what's your name." i think i hear "long legs." sisi and i buy a cheap bottle of tequila and lip-sip-suck to more rainclouds moving in and around the sheer faced islands. we try to feel lucky as we learn that the worst typhoon in eleven years has just hit manila and wiped out the entire city's power. inside the lagoon confusion drops cold rain on warm water and i feel like an aquatic dracula, straring up the terrifying cliffs that impossibly sprout luscious vegetation. my body floats just above a kingdom of tropical life. i am finding nemo. i am finding an exciting fear of letting my legs fall towards the coral.

sisi, el nido

puerto princesa. tall fluorescent green lamps line the main drag of this post apoloyptic town. streams of tricyles exhaust foul gases. boyish hookers emit menacing stares. security guards loiter in restaurant and drug store doorways. its time to try jolibee, the philippino macdonalds equivalent, if only for chris' sake and to escape the dangerous desperate feel of the dark puerto streets. its horrible and i regret every bite. it couldnt feel like longer till our flight out of here.

island girl

baguio. the aircon bus rolls into the foggy mountain city after dark. the air is woody and fresh and we suck it into our lungs like a thickshake. students and even poorer types follow us down session street and into the market to cries of "sir, yes. pomelo. broccoli. sir. ma'am. yes." an old lady with a disappearing mouth tugs our arm pesistently for change. at the colourful easter weaving room we buy soft hats and thoughtful gifts and talk futures over coffee. we have that feeling like 'what are we doing here?' and i realise the objective has been accomplished. i feel closer to this beautiful girl than ever and we laugh. this might be a fun town if it wasnt a monday night.

the glow

manila. long faint shadows of the four day old typhoon. debris piled or not piled streetside. giant billboard frameworks fallen into highways and onto houses occupied by people too poor to buy the products they sell. this city is a bit of a mess but most of the power is back on. thanks to a mutual friend we set out to meet some real life philippinos in the rich area of town. our taxi driver burps and fumbles his way there in molasses traffic as i nurse sisis bad stomach by sticking pins in her fingers. heavy downpours, hidden atms, and lost parking tickets add to the castastrophe of complications that perfectly cap off the trip. the toy ukulele chimes a silly song or two back on the balcony. again, we scratch our bitten, blistered, burnt skin. again, we laugh an insane little chuckle.

the end

and oh, my camera battery ran out half way through the trip. still, there are less pics of hasisi here