Yesterday felt a bit unproductive. I wasted two hours trying to figure out if I could reactivate my cellphone. The company ended the service as soon as their records indicated that my work visa had expired. Last time that happened, I had a one month grace period which I'd been counting on to be able to exploit this time so I could have a functioning cellphone for the rest of the time in Korea. I suspect I didn't get the grace period this time because I disappeared off the grid to Japan for 10 days.
Anyway, it started seeming very expensive and complicated to get them to reactivate the phone, so I gave up and just rented a cellphone for this last week, so I'll be able to call people or whatever. It's hard to function in Korean society anymore without a cellphone — adoption is basically 100% as far as I can tell.
I then had to find a different hotel, as the funky place I stayed my first night was fully reserved. I had chosen that place almost solely on the basis of the fact that they offered in-room free wifi according to their website, which is hard to find in anything but top-end hotels. It was OK, kind of a youth-hostel vibe that reminded me a bit of my years at Casa de los Amigos in Mexico City.
I may try to stay with an acquaintance, Peter (not the same Peter I worked with, but an American I met through my friend Basil some months back), in Ilsan — he's made an offer to crash on the extra bed at his apartment. It would be convenient to be based in Ilsan, and the choices of hotels out there are surprisingly limited, especially for Korea: either high-end business hotels or those pseudo-posh "love motels" (a la the Japanese model) where you can easily get a room overnight, but they look at you funny at the front desk when you ask to stay for such a long time, and your neighbors might get noisy. I have seen very few of the traditional Korean yeogwan that can be found almost anywhere in most Korean towns.
I felt very tired yesterday. Perhaps all the traveling, catching up with me. Returning to my comment of some days back: I'm really not that good of a traveler… I just like being in lots of different places.
Staying in various hotels and places, I've been enjoying (?) the glories of having access to Korean cable television, which is something I never had access to in my apartment. 60 odd channels. Here are some random observations.
Why did the minbak at Dodong, Ulleungdo, have a channel with Chinese-language music videos?
There are at least two Christian networks (one may be Catholic?), but there's also a Buddhist TV network, which is fascinating, as it follows the Americn "Christian media" model closely, but of course, the content is strikingly different. At one point, I was fascinated to watch a long lecture (sermon) by a traditionally bald-headed senior monk at some temple, and to note that he was, in fact, an American (ethnically European), speaking fluent Korean, badgering his audience and telling them jokes in a style not unlike a Christian pastor. Of course, I laughed for a long time when this was immediately followed by an extended informercial for a weed-wacker.
There's the "Go" channel (as in the complex board game of "Go"), but there also seems to be a channel with a lot of Chinese-style chess. And there are 3 or 4 sports channels, too, but I'm puzzled by the fact that they always seem to be covering the same sport at any given time, but different angles and specific matches or events. At one time, you'll seem 3 or 4 channels covering golf. Then later, they're all covering soccer matches. Mostly, they're covering baseball (this is late summer in Korea, after all). But… are they all working together, or as a cartel, such they always have the same sports? Is there some convention or rule that says they have to stay in sync? Or is all really the same company? I can't quite puzzle it out.
Korean TV seems to have a lot of shows dedicated to following "average people" around in their lives. So you can sit and watch someone shopping, or meeting their friends for lunch, or having dinner with their family, with a running narrative commentary. I'm sure there are special reasons why these individuals and families merit following around with a camera crew, but my Korean is not good enough for me very often to figure out what those reasons are. But as a cultural observer like I am, I find myself drawn to these programs just from the way that they offer windows into daily Korean life. One show that I caught last night was following a group of Korean expatriates living in Los Angeles, which I found particularly fascinating.