Cusco

3

I walked out of Cusco airport, a building shaped like a barn on an expanse of flat land, into the great wide open. Half a dozen cabbies stood in my way and shouted the same fare in English. I guess they assume you’re going toward Cusco and then Price-Is-Right each other. They caught me off guard. I needed some fresh air so I sidestepped them and parked myself on a fence forty feet away. I turned on some Tom Petty.

The altitude was higher in Cusco. The air felt thinner. I didn’t need fresh air as much as I needed more air. I needed to acclimate but to acclimate meant to chill. One look out at the horizon and I knew there would be no chilling. You felt like a cowboy just looking out at it. It went on as far as I could see. Flat and grand and with CGI mountains in the perfect places. That #nofilter stuff. The Andes felt like they were calling me. Inviting me.

Hello, my friend

Come, my friend

Where are you going my friend? 

It wasn’t Mother Nature calling after all, it was this old cabbie who had snuck up on me while I had my headphones on. The old man came and posted up alongside me on the fence. He introduced himself as Jose Luis. Where are you from my friend? India. “Taj Mahal, oh yes. Wow. Come, let’s go to Cusco. You going to Cusco, yes?” He looked at me and gave me this OG look that said “Amigo, you know you have to leave the airport and go to town sometime.” He was half my size but gallantly picked up my tiny suitcase and scurried away to his taxi. I believe he was trying to show initiative, but technically that is the definition of theft.

Jose Luis charged me ten bucks less than the other men had shouted into my face. He also gave me a cool Lonely Planet-y introduction to Cusco and Peru. I could tell he had done the Welcome to Peru talk many times before, he had quite a few dramatic flourishes. He never missed a beat until I told him the address to take me. I had booked a place advertised as “an authentic neighborhood of locals” and reviewed as “Cheap. Dangerous after dark.” I wanted to see how modern Peruvian people are living. “Oh! You’ll see that here.” He mumbled an ominous laugh and gave me a weird look in the rear view mirror.

Jefe Jose Luis offered to drive me all over the countryside the next day for a fixed fare. I took his number and went inside my hostel. This woman Janet was cleaning the lobby. She had an infectious personality and a contagious smile. One could make a lot of disease-related compliments about that Janet. I always came back to the thought that she seemed to be facing a slew of chores and challenges each day and she still wore a huge smile as she folded tourist kids’ laundry on the lobby desk each night from 10PM to 6AM. I climbed the stairs and opened the door to my cluster of beds. No other bags in sight. Exhale. I closed the window, plugged in my phone, took off my jeans and brushed my teeth. Muy cansado.

I woke up at 5AM. I had slept well. I had cleaned up nice. My mustache was primed. I floated down the stairs and told “Javier from the Jastel” that Jose Luis had made an attractive offer. Javi came in hot with a competing offer from a tour bus company that would cost less, cover all the biggies and included a free lunch. In North America they say there is no such thing as a free lunch, but in Peru Javier said lunch was expected with a $30 bus fare. The only catch was the bus would pick me up outside in ten minutes. How is that even a catch dude? That is a selling point. I paid him in cash, he phoned up somebody, I heard a voice answer and ten minutes later a bus scooped me up outside the gate.

Maybe I should have researched better.

4

I climbed aboard the bus to the sound of a record skipping violently with the needle proceeding to rip the LP into two halves. Everyone stared, mouths agape, the guide was on the microphone and he stopped mid-sentence and turned around and asked me something in Spanish. I responded in English which threw him off. He switched off his mic and said “Hello. Do you know this is a Spanish tour?” I did not know that. He said that he spoke English but that the whole bus was full of people who only spoke Spanish. The bus had already pulled away so I told him Spanish seemed to fit the scenery and occasion better anyway. Who wanted to hear more of that same old clunky Queen’s English again? I took the last empty seat for one and put Built to Spill on. Cortez, Cortez.

Peru was playing Colombia in football that night and needed a win to qualify for the World Cup in Russia. Peru had not made it in since 1986, so people were tense. Half the bus was wearing the red and white Peruvian football jerseys and people were talking football amongst themselves over the majority of the day. I of course listened to the tour guide intently because I had no clue where we were going. I had assumed Javier had put me on a bus going the same places Jose Luis had mentioned but this was “all the stops” so I was riding blind. I had done no research. It was exhilarating. I was hanging on every Spanish word.

The guide filled me in loosely on what our plan was. I realized I was looking at fifteen hours on this bus. At a certain point, who knows when, we also started losing time. I only know this because people started asking the guide where they were all going to watch the big football match. They seemed to suspect we were not on schedule. The guide confided to me in English only moments after being eviscerated by a woman in Peruvian football jersey and hat that he didn’t care about football and totally forgot about planning around the match. He liked history more than sports, he said.

That was one of my favorite days of sights in my lifetime. Epic grandeur. Ansel Adams shit. So many cliffs, mountains, villages, landscapes, cowboys, stray dogs, farms, farmers and more that stand out in memory. Peru is a feast. It was hard to believe. All the while, the guide spun his yarn, the bus barely cared. Yawn. He started throwing in more English for me since I was asking a lot of questions now. At a certain point he told us we were stopping for our free lunch, and this is when he really lost the bus. First, he said that there were three different restaurants and that the bus would be divided into three groups. When we got to the first restaurant, he told the front of the bus (including me) to get off. He told us all at least five times to be outside in ONE HOUR. We assured him we were all going to scarf our lunches down and be ready early. He jumped back on the bus and we watched the bus drive away 66% full of confused and hungry faces.

Lunch was alright. Uneventful. Nobody wanted to chat so I strolled round nibbling on coca leaves. I got to the meet-up spot ten minutes early and every single person from my third of the bus was already in line and ready to board. Predictably, the bus itself went AWOL. For sixty extra minutes, we stood on the side of the road in some Peruvian village waiting. The hot sun baked. Dust was everywhere. Cowboys walked around. Hats and boots and everything. I loved it. I can imagine that for Peruvian tourists though, it was not cool on this day- the biggest sports day in their lives. When our bus finally made its way down the road, I knew our guide was going to get an earful again. Defense was futile. They peppered him from all directions. Men, women, old, young. He pleaded and said that the other two restaurants had not had enough seating for our fellow riders and so delay had led to delay. He got zero sympathy. Even I told him he should have chosen one restaurant. He said he should have been a teacher.

After picking us up, we still had to go pick up two more angry mobs from two more restaurants. I watched the guide get eaten alive by the rest of the day. A couple in matching jerseys exploded and completely berated him. They both stepped off the bus in the middle of nowhere. I was basically the guide’s shrink at this point, he was getting everything off his chest in English. He told me now that he hated doing tours for Peruvians because they were the first to curse him and the last to tip him. I hoped he already realized nobody on the bus was going to tip him besides me. Somebody else was probably going to curse him though.

The next place we drove to was magical. A very highly elevated village established centuries ago, sitting on a cliff of green grass with burnt sienna tiles on the roofs. There was the inside of a Church there completely covered in riches and gold beyond Scrooge McDuck’s dreams. I took some photos of some local kids there. As I walked around, it hit me… It was cold now and the altitude was catching up with me. It felt like I could barely move suddenly. I told the guide I needed to find some more coca leaves immediately. I had just got to Cusco the previous night. He was taken aback and said that I had screwed up by not taking a light day to acclimate to the altitude. I am tougher than I look, I thought to myself but I was feeling too weak and lame to say that. Maybe I was actually only as tough as I did look, not very tough at all.

I was fortunate to find a lady in a convenience store who had coca leaves and the best coffee I can remember. I had three coffees and kept asking anyone to confirm the coffee was stupendous. The lady spoke English in a very sexy accent. She said she had lived in the United States once.  She didn’t miss it. She was one of the people I really wish I could have spoken to more, though she was busy and running a business. She had the air of someone who was always running from one thing to another.

When the bus finally pulled into Cusco, it was late. The football match was playing in every bar, on every tv, on every phone. People jumped off the bus and ran toward the town square. Nobody said much to the guide. I tipped him and said goodbye. Dragging my feet toward the square, I saw him again and we walked together, slowly. We appeared to be the only two people in no hurry. I asked him if he was going to watch the match. He said he couldn’t because he had to get home to his wife and kids.

We kept walking in silence. We got to one point and he stopped and he pulled out his iPhone and showed me the screensaver. He said “Congratulations for coming here to Peru. My whole life I dreamed of going to Egypt. I used to study the Pyramids and I always knew one day I would go to see them. Then, when I finished college – my parents were saying I should get married. Then, to have a child. Then, one more. I always did what others asked of me, but now I ask why? Why did I agree so readily? My wife isn’t happy. My kids only care about video games. Each day I see people’s eyes change and their face change when they see the sights of Peru and I wonder if I will ever see Egypt. Will I ever feel that way? Always make the best decision for yourself.”

The screen saver was a photo of his kids. He put his phone into his pocket and walked away.

Peru tied Colombia 1-1. With the help of a Chilean loss, Peru qualified for the World Cup.

Views from halfway down a stairwell

Since I am usually taller than the person I am photographing, and I often shoot photos from my eye level or even from an elevated position, I really loved the perspective of shooting from halfway down this staircase outside a very busy metro. It was new. It was Mexico City and it was hot, it made me sympathize for the musician. Why was he dressed like a policeman while he played an accordion in the street?

Photos taken September 2015 with a Nikon D3100 in Mexico City

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Footprints

April 2nd, 2015

I stepped off my flight from Istanbul to Izmir with my schoolbag, a startling sense of excitement and three days to see this part of the country. All I had been told was that the people of this region were very attractive. I can confirm that now. I descended the escalator off the tarmac and into the airport and my nose was immediately smelling smells it had never smelled in an airport before. These Turks had a fully stocked professional florist’s right there, black escalator stairs ending in a mass of flowers of all colours and fragrances. It was a very strong first impression.

I was spending the day in Izmir before taking the train to Selcuk. Izmir is the third largest city in Turkey. It appeared more industrial, there were no tourists and people were genuinely surprised to see me almost everywhere despite there being a lot of people around almost always. I walked all along the bay in downtown Izmir, following a path past waterfront hotels and restaurants and bars all in soft pastel tones, like San Francisco on a post card long before Instagram filters.

I walked for five or six hours from an old bazaar with nothing but food and clothes, through a modern business area where I relaxed in a posh hotel lobby and put my bag down thankfully. I walked out of there and went down a side street full of kiosks all selling little trinkets. I found one man half asleep and all he sold were turkish artists interpretations of Hollywood movie posters. Framed. I would have purchased dozens if I could have but left happily with a Back to the Future and a Batman Begins that I added to my list of things to not forget somewhere.

I bought a delicious chocolate bar, Turkey has the best assortment of convenience store counter chocolate bars that I have come across in my life. They are clearly of a higher quality than American candy bars.

I listened to my short but sweet Turkish Gold playlist for hours and steadily walked in a drizzle that I frequently prayed wouldn’t turn into a rain. The preciousness of time is amplified even more while traveling, we are clearly at the mercy of the weather gods then, those powerful few known as weathermen in America. These were the sort of deep thoughts l had while listening to Paul McCartney channel his days in Africa.

All I need is a pint a day, if I ever get out of here, if we ever get out of here

I stopped and had a delicious coffee on a side street from an old man. We both smiled a lot and fumbled around trying to talk but neither of us communicated a single thing successfully. Well, actually, when I left he knew I liked the coffee and Izmir, and I knew I liked the coffee and Izmir. I paid him with a single coin.

Soon I was in the station. It was much seedier at night. Drug addicts and tough guys were popping up from buildings I had assumed were shuttered and boarded up. I found my platform and boarded my train and as I got within a few feet of my seat, my feet and knee ached. Maybe it was my imagination.

I found my hostel at 1am after sleuthing around the tiny village of Selcuk for the good part of an hour. I was greeted by somebody who made zero effort to pretend that I had not just completely woken him up. He showed me to my room and I fell asleep, exhausted.

I could hear loud noises. I heard them half-asleep and then they became louder. Now I was awake and could hear the sound moving. I lay there in my bed, under the covers and realized a damn bird was flying around my bedroom. I was alone in the room so I had to get up at some point, adult me lectured sleeping me sternly. I ran to the front door, hit the light, looked up at the ceiling and there is a huge bat flying around. I hightail it down to the front desk and wake up the guy for the second time that night.

He’s looking at the bat in disbelief. He’s asking me if I brought it. I’m looking at him in disbelief. I’m telling him no and that I’m not fluent in the language he’s speaking. I’m only guessing what you’re saying, dude. His plan is to throw the complimentary notepad from my desk up at the bat which is now stationary (pun intended) on the ceiling. Incredibly his plan works and works very quickly. I had resigned myself to sitting exhausted and watching him throw a stack of paper at a bat for at least the next thirty minutes but he grazed that flying rodent on his fifth attempt. It flew out the window and I closed it. We carefully inspected the room for more bats. There were none. He assured me this was not normal. He asked me if I would mention the bat on TripAdvisor.

The next morning, I woke up and ate breakfast. I guess everyone did.

I did not want to take a bus to Ephesus. From the Batcave, it was a 70 minute walk through the countryside so I elected to walk. I first passed cows and sheep and lambs aplenty on plots of farmland. There was a nice clearly designed path to walk alongside the road to Ephesus. That path was empty for many minutes at a time, but I did pass some interesting folks – some schoolboys, some old men, and a young woman exercising. She was really pushing herself through a demanding workout on the parallel bars at a kid’s playground. I saw some college-aged guys on a motorcycle and took one of my favorite photos of the trip. I was asked for a cigarette by somebody. I disappointed him and he too, did not hide it.

I had downloaded a Rick Steves podcast which was a walking tour of Ephesus. If you walked in and timed pressing Play correctly, you had a English tour guide in your ear for free. Directions, history, little facts and jokes. It was fascinating. They said that supposedly Julius Caesar or Cleopatra actually walked down that same narrow rock path. Following in Caesar’s footsteps felt amazing, Efes felt like a truly historic place, could easily imagine how this little place captured the attention of the world in 10,000 B.C.

I left there and walked back to Selcuk. I wanted a haircut. It was late, but Selcuk must be the barber capital of that state. Every lane has two or three salons or barbershops. I walked into an empty one. A very soft spoken gentleman named Salih gave me an immaculate cut. He even burned rogue hairs off my ears with a flaming Q-tip (Pun intended – you should be listening to A Tribe Called Quest). Most restaurants had closed. The village is so small, there must be about six square blocks in the tourist section, but there must be hundreds of restaurants. I was fortunate enough to not only have the best meal of my trip that night but to also become friends with my waiter. We talked about Syria, regional politics, Turkish basketball league, futbol and his plans for finishing college. We closed the restaurant and met with one of his friends for beers at a nearby pub. We then met their friends. Everybody wanted to be somewhere else. Guys who lived in Selcuk wanted to live an hour away in Izmir and those guys wanted to live in Istanbul. And those guys in London. And those guys just hoped the rain would hold off, like it had in Turkey today.

We shot the shit early into the morning and I drank too many beers. I was hungover the next day sitting in the courtyard eating my hardboiled eggs, papaya, berries and apple.

 

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Foreign Concept

OK, first of all I am Indian. As in, I’m from South India, born and raised, on the playground is where i spent most of my days…

but then i moved to the U.S

And i noticed a phenomenon that i’ve now come to understand takes place everywhere in the world.

See, in the states, it was very common for random Indian people to come up to me and start a conversation and the first question would always be “You Indian?” . I was always annoyed by this because i wonder how that can be the first thing you ask somebody. So, initially i would very dryly say “Yes, I am Indian. ” I would get a response such as “Oh! OKAY, GOOD. Here is my number. My name is _____. Feel free to call me”

That began to piss me off. Soon after, i would respond to this question with “No, I’m not from India, I’m from Trinidad & Tobago” However, this did not dissuade these buggers. After all, we are a persistent bunch of fellows. They would continue “Oh yes yes, MANY INDIANS in Trinidad. ” And than they would give me their schpeel and song and dance as if i had just narrowly passed the INDIAN test despite being Trinidadian or a Tobaggoner. So, I then changed my answer to “No, I’m from BRA-ZEEL” . Figuring that there is no significant Indo-Brazilian community, i assumed i was in the clear. However, my Brazilian accent didnt cut the mustard with my Indian brethren and they always asked me pointedly “BRAZILIAN?? What is your name?” ..Somehow this repeatedly caught me off guard and instead of saying “Wanderlei De Silva” or “Kaka”, i always said “Huh, oh uh, Michael”

And that seemed highly dubious to my inquisitors. Still, i was free for another day! Thank God I looked like a man of indeterminate ethnic origin!! Imagine if I was the spitting image of Mahatma Gandhi or Amitabh Bachchan. It would never stop. So, i successfully ducked out on scores of conversations with Indian men (Indian women hardly ever do this, I’m assuming because they’ve already been accosted by about a 100 indian guys that day) and quietly seethed at the manner in which a person could come talk to you and expect to be friends simply based on nothing but a shared subcontinent and a bond between 1.2 billion people…

but then I moved to Korea

And proceeded to do exactly the same thing. Irony of ironies, i caught myself walking down the street and if i saw a non-Korean, i immediately wanted to go talk to them and see if they lived by me and if they wanted to hang out and if they knew any girls who wanted to hang out and if so were they as desperate as i was? Okay that never happened but the truth is i caught myself looking at every white guy/girl, black guy/girl and even just people wearing a baseball jersey or NBA hat and wondering if i should talk to them. In a handful of instances, I did . And with disastrous results. See, the people who travel to faraway places can be broken down into these categories

1) the adventurer – cool, down for whatever, fun and frolic, these people are the ones that make things fun for all, hakuna matata on steroids, they left home cos the world is their oyster

2)the traveler– chill, down , reads a lot, learning about life and himself/herself, left home cos they wanted to learn about the world and themselves, good people

3)the type a personality– annoying, this was the latest thing on his/her agenda to be a complete person. Between their internship and grad school, thought it would be a good thing to put on their resume while they travel (not cos they enjoy travel, but so that they could compare notes with the other grad school kids) surprisingly common and unsurprisingly already focused on next year and the twenty after that.

4) the complainer– wack, popping up all over the place. My personal nightmare scenario, i have a way of attracting these people. My face appears to be screaming “DO YOU HAVE ANY COMPLAINTS?!?? NONE?? COME ON!! THERE MUST BE SOMETHING??” because the complainers seek me out and in the rare event of me talking to a stranger (eventho my mom told me not to) , they have been just DYING to complain. Why? Cos nobody else wants to listen to that shit! And then i walk in and they proceed to whine endlessly. Debbie Downer on Zoloft…

5) the herb – a conundrum, there are a lot of socially awkward people around here. Now, I’m not Ferris Bueller but i can at least understand how to NOT piss people off. Still, that seems like a tall order for some of the herbs around here. I assume they left home cos they were either friendless or surrounded by other herbs…good call leaving either way. It’s just not something i expected to encounter here and it doesn’t make me homesick or nostalgic. It just grinds at me. They keep talking and cracking joke after bad joke and i wonder “wow, he must really like the sound of awkward forced laughter followed by pin drop silence”

Obviously there are exceptions but still, this a broad overview. Now, the adventurers are not as common as you imagine. They are around but in limited supply. The travelers there are plenty of and these are the people you are keen to run into. When you approach someone or are approached by someone, you hope they are the traveler. However, it might be a TYPE A in disguise. In which case, get ready for a boring conversation that seems like an interview. The TYPE A frequently turns into The Complainer as well and at that point your best alternative is to run for the hills and never look back cos it is PAINFUL. Complaints around here turn into sessions where you can just get drained. It’s best to walk away before they start. I usually just say things like “Oh yeah, that sucks” and then zone out in my patented “sleepwalking while awake” state. Feigning ADD gets me out of a tough jam yet again! So, the point is , most cool people already have friends. It is the norm. Therefore, having learned the hard way, I know that the people who are waiting to talk to you on the street are usually herbs or are waiting to complain. There are exceptions, like me. But then again, I’m the exception to every rule. And you know this! ( I know I know, I’m a herb)

The moral of the story is when i was in America, I knew that being Indian alone was not enough to be friends with someone. Now, being a foreigner, it is even more obvious to me that this is true everywhere. Simply being English-speakers in Korea does not mean we will automatically be friends. Most probably, I don’t wanna know what you’re saying.

I’ll still take that chance though cos that’s what it’s all about.

AUGUST, 2008 : World Without Strangers

This past month has been a  big one for me. Enjoyable as well, despite people dear to me having some troubles. Thankfully, all has gone well on all fronts! August started tough and is finishing strong. In the past month, Korea went from being a possibility to a reality, as i sit here writing in a PC Bang (internet cafe) in Incheon, South Korea.

I’ll start a month ago. I had become bored in the New York/ New Jersey area and I could not really explain it. I have good friends and I had been working all summer long while living at home, so I had saved a bit of money (well, more than usual) Still, something was missing. I couldn’t place it, but while at one time I had been apprehensive about coming to Korea, I began to count the days and hours until my departure. In the two weeks before I left the states, it began to dawn on me that each time i was chillin with friends, it could be the last time i saw them for a long time. That, in itself, was sad. However, i was still happy cos I was beginning to really appreciate my friends in the US more. I always wind up comparing my friends there to my friends in India, who i grew up with. That’s an unfair comparison as most of my friends in Bangalore are family at this point. It’s been fifteen to twenty years between us so it is unfair to expect the same kind of friendship from my U.S peeps. However, my U.S peeps are being missed now. That is for sure. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

A funny aspect of my journey was that i initially felt quite adventurous for coming to Korea. I always thought that this would be an awesome experience and some sort of test for myself. However, the world is so different now, so much smaller. I think there are a few places left that would be very adventurous to go to but Incheon/Seoul certainly doesn’t seem to fit into that category… i found out later that there are places in Korea that might be that wild…Still, the area I live in is more advanced than India so I had to accept the fact that I’m not exactly Marco Polo or Chris Columbus for coming here in 2008.

So, the day came to leave. I packed and went to the airport. As i waited for boarding, i made my phone calls, saying my goodbyes. The last call i made was to my mom. This was part of our convo.

Ma : You must be excited

sid : No, not really

Ma: Nervous?

sid : No, not at all

Ma: Well, how do you feel?

sid: Nothing, really. I mean , this feels routine. This has been a possibility for months so it’s kind of anti-climactic…

And that’s how it went down. I was leavin on a jet plane, don’t know when i’ll be back again. And I might as well have been picking up my laundry.

When I got on the plane, I met this guy in my program. He was very friendly and we shot the shit for hours on the plane, telling me about his days in the Peace Corps in Tonga, an island in the South Pacific. He lived there for 2 years with no running water or electricity and nobody who spoke english. Just read book after book. Grew his own crops. Ate off the land. Loved every day. I was thinking “wow, that sounds like an adventure”  I thought of that and of how my grand-dad (who passed away before i was born) went to Champange, Illinois in the 1950s when he didn’t even speak English. He did that in an age before phones let alone the internet. He taught himself English while studying for his degree and working at a gas station on freezing cold Illinois nights. I tried to imagine him the day he left India for that journey around fifty five years ago. I couldn’t help but think that I’ll probably never experience a trip that significant…because he did it for me.

When my plane took off, I looked out the window, and just wondered what lay ahead for me. I  didn’t even feel anything, which is very rare for me. Usually, i get a little buzz on takeoff. I began to think maybe I’m growing up or something. I certainly hope that’s not the case.

When we landed in Seoul, we all went and lived in Konkauk University for a week for orientation. That was a trip. I had promised myself I was going to learn 10 words of Korean everyday and so when i left, i would be able to get by on the street at least.. Well, i fell 10 words a day short of my goal. Hey, It happens…

Orientation was technically about taking classes almost all day long, but really it just offered you a chance to meet and chill with people from all over the world. THAT was awesome. I wound up chillin  with people from Cali, Chicago, Canada, Australia, Scotland, England and mad other places. It was a proper orientation to gettin drunk internationally. So, during the days we learned a lot about Korea and at night, we found out about bars and street food like deep fried squid, seaweed and awesome korean hot dogs. During the days, we occasionally had a great lecture that would give you enough pep to make it through the boring ones. Despite the long days (9am to 7pm average), we felt great all week and i’m happy that I used almost every single moment in trying to meet and learn about the other people there. Still trying to process it all, thank god for facebook!

Orientation came to an end two days ago. Although we were all ready to bounce to our final destinations, I couldn’t help but feel sad to say bye to my new friends who won’t be living near me. These kind of jobs attract people who are typically kind, fun, real and just chill.

Hopefully, we all stay in touch.

Next, I left on a bus for Incheon, my new home, it’s literally outside Seoul, same Subway line and everything. My co-teacher picked me up and we introduced each other. Her name is MeeYong and the first thing she said to me was “Oh, you are very tall. I don’t know if you will like your apartment. We were hoping you would be short.” I was surprised how perfect her English is. Turns out that she has lived in England and everything. Next, she told me that we were on our way to sign a contract for my flat. I said “but are you sure i can stand up straight in the flat?” She said “Yes, you can in the living room but not in the bedroom” Hmmm. I enjoy standing straight and this was getting a little Being John Malkovich for me so i asked if we could just check out the flat first and then sign the contract. Well, it’s a sweet pad, studio with a split level upstairs bedroom, kind of japanese style i guess. I can’t stand in the bedroom and in fact i can touch the ceiling when I’m laying in bed. Still, it looks awesome and I feel like I’m in a movie or something.

After my contract signing, I was late for a dinner where my school’s staff was waiting for me. Over here, when they go out, EVERY PERSON in the staff goes out and they sit in a Korean style restaurant where they eat all kinds of good food with a lot of beer and soju (Korean Liquor, kind of like a watered down vodka). I am not a fan of Soju but they told us at orientation repeatedly that in Korea, when you say “I don’t like drinking”, you are really saying “I don’t like you”. CLASSIC. I walked in late and when i walked in, everyone started clapping and people were yelling ‘Ohhhhhhh!!!!!!” and ‘Wowwww” and things like that. Haha, i don’t know what they were imagining but i’m sure it wasn’t me! A few shots of Soju later, I was tight with the Princy and Vice-Princy. Can you believe it turned out the party we were at was the going away party for my principal? I literally met him on his last day. He hired me, got me my sweet apartment and was a very cool guy. I hope the next guy is as cool, I’ll meet him monday. At dinner, the P.E teacher (It’s amazing how they are always the same in every country!) stood up, flexed and pointed at me. I must have looked confused because he said to me in perfect english “please stand up and turn around and introduce yourself to everybody in the school” Thank God for Soju because I was quite relaxed and i just said “Hello, my name is Siddharth. I’ve come here from the U.S. Everybody has been very nice to me since I have been in Korea. I’d like to thank you all for that. I love this place and I’m going to try to do a good job.”

Job starts tomorrow. I’m going to go in and meet the little hellraisers for the first time.

stern disiplinarian

stern disiplinarian

I can’t wait. I feel nervous. I feel excited. A friend was telling me it’s just Anticipation… My co-teacher warned me that the DongAhm middle school boys are worse than other schools and I might be a little dissapointed. I imagine that’s what our faculty told new teachers at my schools my whole life! I’m sure they are immature, impatient, naughty kids. Well, that’s how i always was and that is how I am. I would like to think I have seen all the angles on misbehaviour and can psyche these dudes out. Still, I think this will be an epic battle waged over the next year. Look for me to post the latest on here and thanks for reading if you are still with me! Peace!!