Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Tale of Woe

How things went down...

So as many of you know, I love to ride my motorcycle here in Korea. What many of you don't know is that my Korean license is only good for cars and small motorcycles...

I have a big motorcycle.

So I've been driving illegally for awhile (which is actually pretty common). I've been waiting to take the Korean motorcycle driving test.

So on Saturday I went to the driver's license office. I had signed up on the internet to take the driving test. I bumbled my way around using my little bit of Korean and eventually found the "internet line". I was the only foreigner and no one spoke English. I gave them a photo, they gave me a form and pointed me toward a building near the motorcycle driving course.

I was the 6th person to take the test... only one guy ahead of me passed. We all nervously waited in the long line... watching...

If you accidentally touch your wheel to the black strip outlining the course, this huge siren sounds... you get one "free" siren. The second time the siren goes off... you're done.

Everyone fails at the very first obstacle... two ninety degree turns in a meter of space... that's about 3 feet. You don't even get to finish the course. They just wave you off.

I failed. So I signed up again for a test on Tuesday (3 days later). On Monday, I bought a tape measure, and some black tape. I drove down to the river and found an empty parking lot. I carefully marked out the course. And then over the next few hours I drove that course about 500 times (I'm not even joking, and I have the sun burn to prove it). I met several older Korean gentlemen who were curious about what I was doing. They even helped me out a little.

On Tuesday I woke up early... I went back to the river and drove the course another 20 times. Then I drove to the testing area.

This time I was the 10th person to take the test (out of about 45). I was really nervous. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking a little. I met a Korean guy my age who said he was going to New York. He practiced his English with me for awhile. He was there with a friend (who didn't pass). He told me he had passed the course many years ago.

I sat through the instructions the cop gave to the group... understanding a little. Then I went outside with the other drivers. I waited... one fail... two fails... three fails... four fails... one pass... five fails... six fails... seven fails... eight fails... and then I heard my number "saum-bek-ship" (they couldn't say my name). I walked to the camera... looked up to prove it was me... put on the helmet and got on the bike.

You can do this, Ryan. Slow and easy... look into your turn... don't freak out...
And then... in about 5 seconds it was over... The bike had such a different feel then my bike... stiffer... not as responsive... I couldn't do it... I said a few choice words... fail number 2.

The fail rate is 90 percent. 40 of us took the test... about 4 passed. It's a money making scheme.

Do I want to try again? I don't know. I know of a man who took it 25 times before he passed. I don't think I have that kind of patience.

That darn first obstacle kills everybody... if you make it past, then everything else is a breeze. Argh... so angry. Why can't they just transfer my American motorcycle endorsement? Because the US doesn't recognize a Korean driver's license so Korea returns the favor. Argh... politics.

So now I'm sad... and a little bummed out. And I probably drove back a little recklessly (always a bad idea to drive when you're angry or depressed).

Well, I will continue to drive with my current license. It's not for lack of trying.
We'll see... we'll see... gotta pick myself up.

During a driving break, I took this photo.

The course I made and practiced on. You can barely see the black tape outline.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I hate bowling...

Reasons I strongly dislike the game of bowling...
[1] It's always difficult to find the right size ball and it usually ends up hurting your hand anyway
[2] I rarely play, so when I do play, I am of course no good (I don't care if everyone else is no good too... it's not fun if you get a gutter ball every other turn, if you're lucky)
[3] People clap and congratulate you for knocking down 3 pins (that's dumb)
[4] I clap and congratulate people for knocking down 3 pins (I'm dumb)
[5] It's too noisy to have a good conversation and if you actually somehow manage to hear the start of a good conversation, it's your turn and the moment is lost
[6] You must put on poorly fitted foot wear that has been worn by hundreds of other people
[7] People get killed... well, nearly killed... okay, slightly almost nearly killed when other individuals throw their bowling balls backward
[8] It's not fun
[9] The walk of shame. Following a gutter ball or poorly placed throw, you must walk back to your seat while avoiding eye contact with everyone
[10] You must appear cheerful and happy whenever you get to a score of at least 40

Needless to say, I don't enjoy bowling... don't know if I ever have... plenty of other more interesting things to do.

Well, anyway, I salvaged the evening by taking photos.

Good form, Ryan... good form. Style points, my man.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

My Muddy Motorcycle Weekend

I think you have something on your face...

Those that went by motorcycle

Destination: Boryeong, Korea
Purpose: Mud Festival

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Visit to the Friary in Gangchon

This weekend I visited a Franciscan Friary. It had three brothers. Two are Korean and one is from New Zealand. Their mission as friars is to live in community together, pray, live simply, and offer hospitality to others. They support themselves through farming, candle making, teaching, and donations.

My friend Dave and I took the bus from Seoul out to Gangchon. There Brother Christopher picked us up and took us to the friary in the hills.

It was beautiful, peaceful, and surrounded by creation. We wandered up the mountain and took pictures. We saw some frogs, a toad, a snake, and lots of bugs. We could also hear many kinds of birds.

When we returned, it was time for midday prayer. We met Brother Christopher in the prayer room where we sat cross-legged on square cushions facing each other. We read psalms and prayers together in a call-response fashion. Large open windows let in the sound of a nearby stream.

Following the prayer time, Brother Christopher cooked us a delicious dinner. We ate and talked.

Later, I joined Brother Christopher for evening prayer. It involved 30 minutes of silent prayer followed by a scripture reading and a canticle. The room was dark and peaceful. It was lit by candles and a small spot light highlighted an icon of Jesus. I found myself nodding off several times, but the slightly uncomfortable crossed-leg sitting posture helped keep me awake.

It is interesting how the mind wanders when it doesn't have all the outside distractions. It is interesting the things that are said to God in the quiet of one's heart. In the quiet of the evening.

Following the evening prayer, those in the friary are asked to remain in silence until the prayer the next morning.

The next day we had morning prayer at seven. Along with the prayer was the Eucharist. It is a Korean friary so everything is done in Korean. However, Brother Christopher provided me with an English translation so I could follow along. The sermon he gave was also in English for my benefit.

Each prayer time was very orderly and followed a set pattern for the particular day. There were specific scriptural readings, canticles, and prayers for each day and each time of day.

It was a very peaceful time. A time to rest and a time to listen to the silence. I was able to write down some of my thoughts and read.

The life of a friar is not for me, but it was certainly interesting to experience it for a couple of days.

Before we left, Brother Christopher drove us to a popular waterfall that was nearby. We spent a few hours walking and talking with him and then said good bye. Then we caught a bus and headed home. Another weekend well spent. Another new friend made.