Vietnam Pictures

Merry Christmas everyone! I have put up a sampling of pictures from my trip to Vietnam. There are only about one hundred pictures up now with about four hundred more to come. Take a look.



For those who don't know, I will be in Vietnam for the next month. I arrived in Hanoi last night and spent the day exploring Hanoi's Old Quarter. I am hoping to start bloggin about my travels here, but at the moment I'm having trouble transferring images from my camera to the computer. I will work on it and hopefully update soon.



It has been a long time once again since I updated. I've had some pictures sitting around for awhile waiting to be posted, but never got around to it. So here they are.

These are from the World Basketball Challenge. I don't understand it completely, but it is an international basketball contest with teams representing each country. My friend Alex and I were able to get tickets to the final game of U.S.A. v. Korea. The US team was really good with some big stars from the NBA (don't ask me who).

Here is a view from our seats as the teams warmed up. The stadium is really near my house and Korea's professional basketball league plays here. I have been to a game yet, however.

Anyone who is a bigger NBA fan than me may be able to tell who some of these players are. I can only remember Dwayne Wade was there.

Oh! And cheerleaders! It was funny seeing the difference between the Korean cheerleaders and the Americans. The Americans performed quite a showy routine with pyramids and backflips, etc. Meanwhile, this line of Korean girl just shook their pompons and walked off the court.

And the game begins. As for the play of the game, let's just say it was not the most compelling thing to watch. But, more on that in a bit.

One of the advantages of being a foreigner in Korea is that people rarely question what you do, mostly from their lack of English. Knowing this, Alex and I decided to try and sneak a better seat. We went down a level and saw a few people walking through a doorway with yellow tape in a big X clearly reading "Do Not Enter". We decided to follow. Once inside the door we walked down some stairs only to see the people we followed being chased by a large security guard. Hiding in the stairwell, we waited until he had escorted them back to the security office when, with his back turned, we proceeded forward. We stepped out of the tunnel, surrounded by guys typing feverishly on laptops. Yes, the press booth. We hung around there for awhile and no one said a word to us.

We left the press box because we wanted a better angle to get shots of the US bench. We got to a great location right behind the basket. Unfortunately, most of my pictures came out very blurry.

And the game is over. 116-63. I told you it was not compelling. You can see a list of players names there, if they mean anything to you.

When the game was over we headed out onto the court hoping to get a photo of Alex grabbing the rim of the basket. Unfortunately, the security guards were trying to rush us out so all of those pictures came out blurry as well.

That's all for now. I'll be back soon with photos of Sokcho.



Summer intensive classes are here and I'm working non-stop. Fortunately, I have a vacation in two weeks and will spend it on the beach. Hopefully the weather cooperates this time.

Yunha and I went to the Bucheon Film Festival again this year. We were only able to see one film called Adam's Apples that was pretty good. They also had a special effects exhibit that was interesting but they didn't allow pictures. Yunha managed to sneak a couple and when she sends them I'll put them up here.

The special effects workshop and exhibition was housed in a massive department store. Outside, children played in the water fountain.

Meanwhile, inside the department store I found this children's hair shop where kids can sit in miniature sports cars while getting a haircut.

After the exhibition we walked down to a pedestrian shopping area to Yunha's favorite restaurant.

감자탕 (Gamja Tang) is a spicy potato and beef stew. This was definitely the best 감자탕 I've had, though it strangely lacked potatoes. This was especially strange considering that the 감자 part of 감자탕 means potato. Nevertheless, it was very good and I can see why it's Yunha's favorite place to eat.

After lunch we chose to walk the 20 minutes across Bucheon to the theater. Along the way I snapped some pictures of the never ending rows of apartments throughout Korea.

This is the entrance to the theater where we watched Adam's Apples. In the film Adam, a recently released prisoner, moves to a country church and at the urging of questionably sane priest decides to bake an apple pie for his redemption. The premise is a little goofy, but Adam and the film both know this. It's worth a watch if you ever stumble upon it. I can't remember where it is from, but it's some cold European country.

At a park near my house we took some pictures. I was experimenting with the different setting on my camera.


Yeong Jong Do

As promised, here are pictures from my trip to 영종도.

Yunha tried to book us a room with a view and when we arrived managed to trade up to a Honeymoon suite. My favorite thing about this photo is Yunha's leaning reflection in the mirror.

Here I am, 10 minutes into arrival, leaning out the window for a cigarette.

We had two beds. I'm not sure why a Honeymoon suite requires two beds but whatever.

A really nice room.

Yunha looking really cute framed in the doorway.

Next to the hotel was a log cabin restaurant that had a small animal pen outside. Here Yunha feeds a horse.

Here is one of several large white dogs they had. On the first day we saw three or four really cute puppies, but since it was raining so hard we didn't stop to take pictures.

Yunha convinced me to try the local delicacy 조개구이. Fortunately, I agreed. It was delicious. Eating this food requires wearing one glove, ala Michael Jackson.

Here is the dinner we enjoyed. On this trip we opted for the half-shellfish half-shrimp option.

Little did I know that the shrimp came with heads and eyes and all the other stuff that turns me off from eating something. I did try one and it was good. However, Yunha not only ate ALL the remaining shrimp but also the majority of the shellfish. That girl can eat.

I took this photo because I wanted to show we were eating on the beach. However, the weather was not so cooperative.

A shaggy and wet dog that Yunha somehow thought was really cute.

The weather was not nice, but at least it stopped raining for awhile.

Here an old bald man poses for a picture on the beach.

We took many shots of ourselves setting off fireworks on the beach. Unfortunately, this is the only one that came out. If you look in the background you can see signs advertising the food we ate earlier.

On the last day it cleared up enough to take some pictures of the surrounding area. These are from the hotel window.

This is clearly an area under development and will probably be a popular tourist destination in the future.

Here is the little restaurant outside our hotel. It was a very cozy place.

Finally, Yunha napping on the couch.



This time of year Korea enters what is known alternately as Monsoon Season or just Rainy Season. By either name it is wet. It has rained nearly everyday for the past two to three weeks. The rain is constant. In the morning when you wake up it is raining. When you go to bed at night it is raining.

Over this last weekend I went away on a small trip to 영종도 (Yeong Jong Do), which is an island off the western coast of Korea and home to Incheon International Airport, Korea's main airport. As is usual for any trip I take it rained non-stop (photos coming soon). Nevertheless, I had a good time and stayed in a great hotel. I ate some delicious 조개구이 (fresh shellfish cooked over an open flame) and discovered a tiny crab inside one of the shells.

Aside from the weather my apartment has also been inundated with water as of late. My washing machine periodically chooses to leak water across the floor of my kitchen/laundry room. In addition, it seems the heavy rain has sprung a small leak in the roof of said room so anytime I venture to the refrigerator I must first wade through a shallow swamp. I'm not interested in fixing it since I have only a few months left in this apartment.

A couple quick updates: I purchased a replacement for my camera that was stolen >_<. So, I'll be able to post new photos soon. Also, summer intensive classes begin next week so I'll be very busy in the coming month.

Here is the first picture to be posted with my new camera and features a co-worker's oft-worn t-shirt. Koreans tend to make and purchase t-shirts with seemingly nonsensical English printed on them, such a my girlfriends shirt that largely states "NO WAG AT IOWA". This particular t-shirt, however, clearly has an English meaning. The only thing less embarrassing than asking my co-worker if I could take a picture of her shirt was trying not to explain to a group of curious Korean female co-workers why I found it so amusing.

As a last note I just want to wish the best to my aunt Cathy who was just diagnosed with Leukemia. For the sake of her, her children and her grandchildren I wish her a speedy recovery.


World Cup

Like most Americans I have very little interest in soccer. If I weren't living in a soccer-rabid country I most likely would not know that the World Cup of soccer is taking place. For those who don't know (I didn't) the World Cup takes place every four years. This year it is being held in Germany and teams around the globe compete for the title.

Koreans are especially patriotic in regards to their soccer team. A lot of ths has to due with the fact that the previous World Cup in 2002 was held in Korea and Japan. In that contest the Korean team made the quarterfinals and there were huge celebrations all over the country. The videos of those celebrations are still regularly shown on Korean TV with massive crowds of red-clad Koreans cheering every move. So, I was excited to head down to city hall recently and watch Korea play Switzerland. Some friends took some photos.

Since the games are played in Germany the Korea game started at 4a.m. Korean time, yet the crowd was still huge.

Right before the game started the police came through and made everyone sit down and to my shock everyone did. You could never get people at home to do that.

These two guys rode around on Segways dressed in masks. We took some pictures with them and I begged them to let me ride the Segway to no avail.

Even us foreigners got into the act and dressed in red. I even wore some red horns as the Korean team is called the Red Devils.

Even the Korean police sat down to enjoy the game.

The sun started coming up. Not sure how many people were there, but I heard people saying millions.

More of the crowd. Unfortunatley, Korea lost to Switzerland 2-0 thus eliminating them from the World Cup. I was looking forward to more of these events.


I'm back

I had basically abandonded this blog. Mostly due to laziness, lack of interest and nothing new to report. However, I've decided to continue to update it. Maybe not frequently, but I will.

The bad news is I am once again camera-less as my camera, along with my iPod and electronic dictionary were recently stole from my bag. This is the second time I've had an iPod stolen in Korea, both because I left my bag unattended. And seeing as I went right out and bought another, it is my fourth iPod to date.

I'd like to buy another camera soon, but not sure I can afford it just yet. Regardless, I'll keep things updated around here again.


Family (Posting Frenzy)

I been on a posting frenzy the last couple of days. What can I say. I've only seen my girlfriend for two and a half hours in the past week. I need some place to put my energy.

Anyway, I should have said this before, but I'm glad I didn't because now I have the pictures. I'd like to welcome to the world the newest member of my family. Nathan Nicholas Stoff was born March 21st.

Congratulations to my sister and her family. I can't wait to come and spoil Nate like I have Abs.

Crazy bitch

I work with a guy who I'll call 'Jeff'. Jeff is a Korean who spent his high school and college years in the States and speaks perfect English. He is an attractive guy who, by the look in his eyes, you can tell is not very confident. Nevertheless, he's a great guy and we've developed a friendship both at work and over numerous shots of tequila at Gold Bar in Hongdae.

But, he has a girlfriend. Jeff is 26 years old. The first story he every told me about this girl is how when he met her she told him she was 23, but several weeks later he discovered she was actually 34. This should have been the first sign the girl was psychotic. However, and I've seen her in pictures and in person, she's really hot, so he let it slide.

Over time he'd tell me stories how she called him hundreds of times a day demanding to know where he was and who he was with. He told me she'd show up at his apartment at all hours of the night expecting to find him with other girls. She even called our school numerous times a day wanting to speak to him when he was in class, suspecting he was off in a private room with one of our female co-workers. This continued to the point that she was told not to call again.

Things reached the boiling point for me, however, two weeks ago when Jeff showed up to work on a Monday looking dejected. After asking him what the problem was he informed me that over the weekend his girlfriend's jealousy had reached such a level that she'd driven her car into his in a fit of rage. I was flabbergasted. I told him this was way out of line and it was time to break it off for good. He agreed.

The following Monday I arrived at work to find Jeff, yet again, dejected. He'd taken the girl, over the weekend, to an amusement park. I was outrage. I asked him very sternly how he could do such a thing after what she'd done. I also commented that I'd noticed his car in the parking lot and it seemed to be back in working order.

"She's coming here now." he said. A little confused, I asked him to clarify. He wasn't sure if she was bluffing, but had threatened to come to his work. I, assuming she was bluffing, went down to the computer room. Fifteen minutes later and the whole ordeal out of my head I was interrupted in the computer room buy someone looking for Jeff. Reminded I headed upstairs to see if anything had developed.

When I stepped outside I heard the distinct screaming of a Korean girl. I looked over just in time to see Jeff's girlfriend pick up a large piece of concrete and hurl it into his driver's side window. By this time a crowd of co-workers and pedestrians had gathered to watch as she took out her keys and scratched them all across the hood of Jeff's car, still screaming. I watched for a few minutes as she hurled rocks at the windows and scratched the paint.

Feeling a bit excited and disgusted by the event I called a friend to give the play-by-play. As I'm telling my friend what is going on and laughing out loud I turn to see Jeff returning to the scene. A little embarrassed about laughing at my friend's misfortune, I was happy to see the police come and take her off to jail.

Now, however, she had pressed some sort of charges against Jeff and he has been in jail for two days. I don't know the exact details of the charges are, but I hope he is released soon.


Sick Update

I returned to teaching today and my concerns about the doctor's notice were completely useless. I should have expected it considering my past experiences in Korea in these situations. The director's assistant only asked me how I was feeling and relayed to me the reasons for calling. I told her she woke me up after I had fought to fall asleep and she apologized.

Later, my manager told me she had heard I needed a doctor's note. However, once I told her it was not in my contract she dropped it and also apologized.

See, Korean people aren't so bad.


Sick part 2

Aside from being physically sick I'm beginning to get sick of Korea. I've been here almost two and half years and it's starting to lose its appeal. I think back to the days when I first arrived in Korea and the first year or so of living here and I remember an excitement, a newness to it. I felt as if I was doing something interesting, something most people will never get a chance to do. I was exploring, having adventures, meeting new people from all over the world and generally just having a really great time. In fact, it was one of the best times of my life.

That feeling, however, has gone away. As I mentioned in a previous post Korea now feels like a place where I live rather than an exotic place to explore. Now, I'm starting to resent Korea as a result. I'm sick of the blandness of the food. I'm sick of the rudeness of the people. The drunk ajjossis harassing you or wanting to practice English. The way too cute, princess-disease laden young girls. The deceptiveness that is so rampant here. The young men who are either intimidated because I'm a western person or, alternatively, want to be my friend for the same reason. The lack of anything beautiful or even mildly visually interesting. In general, I'm sick of Korea and Koreans and everything associated with them.

However, I say that to say this. I know these things that I point to as being annoying or the cause of my bitterness aren't really the cause at all. All, of the things that I listed and numerous others have, at one time or another, been part of what I loved so much about Korea. I can remember enjoying the drunken old men and their screaming at each other over countless bottles of soju. I remember finally giving in to "cuteness" of Asia and putting a Winnie the Pooh charm on my cell phone (I know. Forgive me.).

I know the problem isn't Korea or Korean people. The problem is that I'm bored. I've always had to do new things, go to new places, try things I'd never tried before. And frankly, I've sampled most of what Korea has to offer. The first year or so I spent a lot of time partying and meeting new people and I loved it. But, even that has lost it's appeal to me because it's the same thing rehashed continuously.

I don't know what the solution is and I don't mean to come off as whinny. These are just the thoughts that have been running through my head lately. I've thought that maybe, once this contract is finished, it's time to head for a different country and try teaching there, but I can't decide on a location and I am not entirely sure it won't just be same shit-different country.

There was a lot more I wanted to put in this post, but being as I'm sick and on very little sleep I'm having a hard time putting the words together. So, I'll leave it at that for now.


I stayed home from work today because I'm sick and, as a result, couldn't get any sleep last night. My work day begins at one o'clock in the afternoon, so I sent my manager a text message at 8:30a.m. and followed up with a phone call an hour later. "No problem." she said, "Take a rest."

So I did. After being up the entire night I was finally able to fall asleep around 10:30. Two hours later my phone rings, waking me up. It's my director's assistant (I essentially have three bosses: manager, director's assistant and director) telling me that the director says I'll need a doctors notice for taking the day off. I'm annoyed because after fighting all night I'd finally managed to fall asleep. She insists to me that it's in my contract that I have to supply a doctor's notice. So, I tell her I'll take care of it and begrudgingly get out of bed.

The first thing I do is go to my computer, open my copy of the contract and read through it. No mention of needing a doctor's note, only that I am entitled three sick days. This being the first. So, now I'm more annoyed because I know they didn't bother to look at the contract and check for this. They just assumed the threat of it would be enough to motivate me. Also, I'm angry because, clearly, they don't trust me.

Anyway, I decide I might as well just go to the doctor and avoid any problems. Again, I sit down to the computer to find English-speaking doctors in Seoul. Then I remember that last week my laptop died and I'd been forced to buy a new computer over the weekend. Needless to say, the unexpected expenditure left me with very little money. W50,000 ($50) for a week to be exact. Doctors in Korea are relatively cheap and I do have insurance provided through my work. Nevertheless, the fee would be at least W30,000 ($30), leaving me with next to nothing.

So, I'm angry, annoyed, sick and broke. I think about calling the school and telling them, but decided I'll just deal with it tomorrow. After all, it's not in the contract.



Kimchi and rice are the two staples of the Korean diet. While rice, of course, is eaten throughout Asia, kimchi is pretty Korean-specific. Koreans, rightly so, are quite proud of kimchi and I've heard claims that it prevents bird flu, cures cancer, slows aging, etc. Well, now it's been named one of the five healiest foods in the world. I realy like this quote from the article. It's 100% true: "natives say “kimchi” instead of “cheese” when getting their pictures taken".



Here are a few pictures from Bucheon, the area where Yunha lives. It's a suburban area just outside of Seoul.

We went to a big mall with the intention of seeing a movie, but there was only one English movie playing and it didn't seem interesting.

So, we wandered around the mall so I could take pictures.

We ran across these two people dressed up as cartoon characters. Scenes like this are quite common in Korea. I really can't explain how strange this place seems sometimes. I stopped these guys and got some pictures with them and Yunha, but she'd rather I didn't put her picture on the internet.

A shot inside the mall. The woman in the picture was putting her hands over her face because she saw me with the camera.

This picture was taken just outside the entrance to the mall.

I didn't take many pictures because I always feel a bit uncomfortable taking pictures in public. Koreans stare at foreigners enough already and if you take out a camera you get a lot of looks. This is pretty surprising since Koreans, like the Asian stereotype, love to take pictures, though mostly they take them of themselves. I suppose they find it a little strange to take pics of mundane things like movie signs and grown men dressed as cartoon chickens.


This photo of a Japanese toy was also taken at the mall, so I decided to throw it in the mix.