I think I’ve been on a high because of the Google ads finally working. I’ve been doing this business officially for six months. It has barely made any money so far, though I can see the money on the horizon. Google ads and I have had a tumultuous relationship. A long time ago, they accused me of clicking on ads on my website and kicked me off. The appeals process was difficult. I finally got back on, but I was so fed up, I didn’t use them. They never made much money anyway. A couple years ago, I put them back on. They only made coinage to a couple dollars a day. But it steadily increased. It first took two years to get my first $100 threshold payment. Then six months. Then I was on a steady three-month cycle. Suddenly this month, the income has shot up many times over, and it’s still increasing. It’s not get rich money. It’s not even living money. But it can help pay student loans and be used as investment capital to promote and improve the business.
I think this was part of the reason that I’ve had a little more motivation to get a lot done this week. I’d been in a rut in putting together tours. It’s been lack of self confidence. Yes, I can show people around. But can I actually be a tour guide? Do I have enough stuff to say?
Yeah, I do. I just doubt myself.
So I had a few epiphanies for some new tours. My ongoing survey on the Food Journal shows that people are most interested in traditional food tours. I have a real liking to this 1970s village at the Children’s Museum at the back of Gyeongbokgung Palace. Then things started linking together, and I put together a solid narrative for a romantic nostalgic tour. Romantic in the sense that it’s a westerner’s romantic idea of Korea. Nostalgic in that a Korean on this tour would feel that way with where we go.
I also made a seasonal tour–the Chilly Summer Crawl. It’s a tour based on my “10 Ways to Survive a Korean Summer” post.
I knew most of the places on the tours, but I had to do some research to fill in the gaps. I’ve become pretty good lately at digging through Korean language food blogs for info. The trouble is they’re not that reliable. Some really underwhelming places get ga-ga’d over.
Nonetheless, I only went to one dud. It was a boribap place in Insa-dong. Very dull and sterile. The next day I found a much better folksy place. My favorite folk-style restaurant got converted into another copycat coffeehouse. So I was desperate to find a replacement. The one I found was not a great as that one, but pretty close. In fact, I think they have some of the old place’s bric-a-brac.
So most of the week was footing it around Seoul, finding and testing places. I even used a stopwatch to time the routes.
Today (Thursday) was the first day I had to sit down in front of a computer. And I had a lot of work to do. I’ve been behind on my other duties anyway. Now I had the tours and all my other projects to catch up on. So from dawn to now (10 p.m.) I got the following done.
- Worked out the details and ticket prices for the new tours
- Rebranded the Mapo BBQ Tour into the Ultimate Korean BBQ Experience
- Made Facebook ads for the new tours
- Made Google ads for the new tours
- Promoted the tours through social media
- Put together the first four episodes of the reworked “Jen’s Teaching Tips” podcast
- Registered the podcast with major directories
- Published the first episode of Jen’s Teaching Tips
- Fixed a lot of issues with Jen’s Teaching Tips, SeoulPodcast, ZenKimchi Food Journal, and ZenKimchi websites
- Worked a little on OhmyNews International (the only steady paying gig in the bunch)
- Sent the ZenKimchi Events newsletter
- Wrote a new review for ZenKimchi Dining
- Wrote a new post for ZenKimchi Korean Food Journal
And frankly, I’m proud of all I’ve gotten done today. Jen’s new podcast sounds good. It’s funny. We have a subversive tone with it. The new tours look great, and I think they’ll be tight. Right now I’m not so happy with the Google banners I’ve put together so far, but I’ll work on it. I’m also still behind on Food Journal posts. I have one that’s been sitting there since early May.
I want more days like this.
I really don’t write here much anymore. I really should. I’ve been mostly concentrating on Jian’s blog for personal stuff.
Hat Dave called me last night. He’d been fired from his new teaching job. He had only recently returned to Korea after a year-and-a-half absence. It looks like this experience really hit him hard, and he’ll likely not return this time.
I had dinner and drinks with him tonight to see him off. He’s leaving Sunday. We reminisced a lot about our times with the old gang at CEA. But then we went even further back. I had known Dave since my first year in Korea. He worked at the Wonderland school across from us. We said hi to him every day as he walked to work while we waited for the kids to arrive from the buses.
We both agreed that the mood in Korea is changing a bit. We’re in for another dark period–like during the swine flu. The MBC piece that everyone’s talking about has caused a large stir. It’s larger than anything I’ve seen so far. But the Korean response has not been encouraging. Roboseyo says things are getting better, and I agree. But I also feel some clouds coming. A lot of long timers are saying this is the right time to jump the Good Ship Korea for good.
Barely anyone is left in Anyang. The long timers have mostly left. I know of maybe three people here. Ironically, Anyang has gotten better. Yes, we’ve lost Atlanta bar and a few others, but we now have Taco Bell, On the Border, Maekju Barket, and some other nice hangouts.
I do have this itchy feeling that this recent scatterage of expats is like the birds and dogs getting antsy before a major disaster. The visa rules, though seeming more liberal on paper, are getting tougher for more people. The Korean psyche is becoming even more isolated and turtle-shelled.
Along with this, EJ is getting concerned about Jian. Even though she is a gorgeous kid who gets attention wherever she goes, EJ is worried about her being an outscast–a wangdda–in school. Korea famously has little tolerance for anyone who’s different. Kids are even worse. I keep hoping that Jian would develop some good social skills early as a defense. She’s already getting a social conscience.
Things are tense in the ZenKimchi household. The business is not making steady money yet. Contracts are on the near horizon. And I am putting together some more marketing cashola to help with the existing pillars. I’m also working to monetize previously money-draining projects. We’re under stress because the housing prices continue to rise crazily. Our tiny apartment will go to $120,000 this year in key money. It’s only slightly less than the buying price of $150,000.
Thoughts of returning home are tempting. I also consider this my home–especially this apartment. I’ve never lived so long in one place my entire adult life. It’s my rock. My roots. I enjoy the view, and I love hearing the sounds from the Buddhist temples. With Jian, it’s feeling smaller.
I just want to get things steady again. It feels like how things were before the divorce. I think that’s one of the reasons I stuck with teaching English so long. I appreciated the stability more than normal. I’ve always known that this moveover to Korea was temporary. Yes I still don’t wat to oeave
To an old friend.
I read of Davy Jones’s passing today and thought of you.
Slept in late today. I dreamed that I was doing a one-off Morning Special show with Nemo on a Saturday on location somewhere. We had no scripts, so we improvised until the show ended at 10 o’clock. When I woke up, it was 10 o’clock.
Much of the day I wrote. I’m trying to keep myself on a writing schedule. Today it was working on the glossary. I also had time to work on ZK Dining and work on a long rant for ZKFJ.
Business class was on business incorporation and taxes. I wish now that those two subjects were split into separate days. Many of us wanted more details on the requirements for incorporation. But much of the class was wasted on a single student asking hypothetical questions about tax loopholes that no one would get any practical knowledge from.
I also didn’t eat much today. Just some apple slices, a burrito from Paris Baguette, and a couple of hot dogs after class.
Jian got a flu shot.
I got up around 3 a.m. because I just couldn’t go back to sleep knowing I had to be up at 3:50. I washed up and wandered around in my temple clothes. At 3:49 I could hear the beating of the gourd and a procession of monastic voices floating out of the darkness. It was spooky.
Everyone else in the temple stay woke up, and the wranglers took us to the Buddha room, where we went through the prayers. Basically it was like bringing a newbie to a Catholic mass.
“Oh, I’m up? Now I’m down. Now I bow. I’m up again. Down. Bow… no down again.”
We finished, bowed to the Buddha one more time and left to another building. In this one, we had to do our dreaded 108 bows. Seong Eun, the intern who has been the interpreter, was also doing the temple experience with me, and she explained a little of the reasons for the 108 bows. Each bow is to remind people of certain tenets of Buddhism. Basically, be excellent to each other. I was given an English version of what each bow stood for. Even with the handy list I lost count quickly. These were full stand up, get on the floor and prostrate, stand up again bows.
Individual drops of sweat were making spots on my mat by bow 70. When we finished, we meditated for a good ten to twenty minutes. Then we had a thirty minute break before Baru, the Buddhist eating ritual. Seong Eun and I both felt like we had rubber legs. We could barely walk, and using stairs was a new experience.
The Baru I found cool. I had learned about this years ago, but I had never actually done it. We get four bowls stacked inside each other with various cloths for cleaning and wrapping. There are a lot of steps in this ritual. I think half the time is spent cleaning and re-cleaning each bowl. But I liked the food.
After going through the eating and cleaning ritual we had to untie the bowls we had just tied and wash them for real in stainless steel sinks. After all that, I think we were pretty much finished. I did a little part about my impressions for the camera, along with a few walking shots, and we were done.
We went to a place to get breakfast breakfast. A group of restaurants outside the complex specialized in sanchae, mountain vegetables. I got a sanchae bibimbap, and it had a runny egg just like I like it. And the banchan was all good. They even had myongi, that leaf from Ulleungdo that I like so much.
Next was a long drive to the home of cherished tragic author Lee Hyo Seok. It was a good couple hours of museum shots. We had lunch of buckwheat noodles and headed to Yong Pyong Resort for some recreational scenes.
At Yong Pyong two of the crew members and I rode ATVs. I had never ridden one. My mom always said they were dangerous. And after my first run around, I could see why. We went up the mountain from where they rented the ATVs to where the camera crew was. From there, we did a lot of stunt driving for the cameras. I swore I came within six inches of the ground hovering camera in one pass.
After all that, the last shot was me coming in behind the other two and stopping in front of the camera, turning off the ATV and talking to the camera. It took a few takes to get all that down right. On the final take, I went around to get my place in line with the others. As I sped up, I saw a narrow but deep ditch that was camouflaged by grass. I couldn’t stop in time. The front of the ATV slammed into the edge of the ditch, and I almost went flying off the vehicle. The handlebars caught me–in the stomach. So I got bruised up all over. But I just went ahead and did the scene, and it was a wrap.
Next was the mountain coaster. It’s an update of the summer mountain sled ride I knew as a kid. But instead of a concave concrete track, they were nice and secure on a monorail. You couldn’t flip over in these. But believe me, I tried. I went down fast and found that even though the coaster was secured on the track, I may not be as secured in the coaster as I’d like. We did three shots of the coaster, and it was a lot of fun.
The final scene was to highlight gudul, a type of ondol, or under-the-floor heating. We went to a little village that specialized in it, with displays of different types. We did a scene with the village chief and then I helped lay down some mud and bricks for a furnace.
After cleaning up was the dinner scene. Great food. Todok, country doenjang and very herby jeon.
I was designated to sleep in a special hut meant to demonstrate the gudul system. They had already heated it that morning. But they wanted a scene of me with the chief stoking the fire for the already heated floor. So I’m now sitting in a hut that is about sauna temperatures. I’ve opened the one tiny window, and the bugs are quite happy about that–not letting a little screen block their way.
We just have three main things to do tomorrow, and one of them is paragliding.
It’s coming full circle.
Is that the right use of that phrase?
Watching Anthony Bourdain’s “A Cook’s Tour” inspired me to go ahead and move to Asia. I always said he had the dream job as a travel host.
Now I’m one.
Yeah, it’s not The Travel Channel. It’s Arirang. But I’m still living a dream. This summer we’ll be taping episodes of “ecotours” in Korea. Right now I’m in a dorm at a Buddhist temple in Pyeongchang. I’m wearing Buddhist garb and have to keep my hands folded just right when walking around. Also had a pretty darn good temple dinner.
So today we started our three-day shoot. It was mostly the temple and the forest leading to it. We tried to do an opening near the top of a mountain, but it was too foggy.
Tomorrow I’ll wake up at 3:50 to do prayers and 108 bows. I’ll ride an ATV and a mountain coaster. I’ll check out some markets and local cuisine. And on Sunday, weather permitting, I’ll go paragliding.
Gonna catch some rest now. Gotta be up for prayers in a few hours.
It’s strange. I’ve had an unusual bout of homesickness lately. It started with a trip to Memphis King Barbecue with my friend Mike from Alabama (Jasper). I then went on websites looking at restaurant menus in and around Fairhope. Now I’m watching King of the Hill.
KotH, I know, was originally made to make fun of rednecks. But I’ve found parts of myself yearning for their lifestyle–standing around drinking beers, life so dull and peaceful that organizing tackle boxes and going to lawnmower shows sound exciting, backyard barbecues. I get how this show has lasted so long. The writing plays with stereotypes and breaks them. It makes social commentary with subtlety. And it pokes fun at a demographic that doesn’t mind laughing at itself. Look at the history of TV poking fun at the South–Beverly Hillbillies, Dukes of Hazzard, um, Jerry Springer. Even if I don’t agree with much of red state politics, I get them. I know how they tick. I miss living in a place where it’s 98 degrees in the shade, where going out to eat sometimes implies a tray at a cafeteria with two kinds of gravy, where common sense (though it takes its sweet ole time) usually prevails.
I so badly want to fire up my own grill in my own backyard. With squirrels. And fresh cut grass. And life is dull–in a good way.
I’ve decided to password protect some of my more personal posts. If you want a password you can ask me on Facebook. But I have to know you first.