Some Nuggets

Before we leave 1987 altogether, here are a few treasured nuggets from my journal at the time.

April 24, 1987
I didn't go to the hagwon this morning. I went to Seo-myeon. I got my shoes fixed and I bought a clock and some glasses* and the guy did a lousy job on the lenses. Went to the hagwon and met Mr. H. He is a tardy geek** and he was wasted but still we went to some tables and got more wasted. Two guys fought and got bloody and broke a bottle and glass went flying. Then we left and went to another table and Mr. Shin got tanked. Tomorrow I have to go shopping with him. I might buy a yo.

*My eyesight is fine. It was fine then, and it's fine now (knock on wood).
**My apologies to anyone offended by the insensitivity of that remark.

April 29, 1987
Yesterday to class in the morning and the night. Today none. I went to Lucky Shopping and bought some stuff. I am fairly bored and lonely. My classes start the day after tomorrow. Today was the Miss Pusan pageant but I didn't go.

May 4, 1987
Saturday it rained all day and so I went out late to NamPoDong. It is cool there but I felt stupid alone. Met a girl called Miss Joe. She is cool so we went to see Crocodile Dundee together and she bought dinner. I felt comfortable and we talked.

May 5, 1987
Buddha's B-day and Kid's Day. Miss Joe came and we stayed home all day. She is really rad.

The Rationalization

When Brian joined me in Korea in August of 1987, he had recently met a young lady back home. They were in love. She turned out to be the one because they got married in 1988 and are still together. I was the best man at the wedding. We haven't spoken since. Apparently his lady didn't take a cotton to me and pretty much told him to freeze me out. Whatever. But that is not the point of this...

Given his new-found love interest back home, Brian never really sank his teeth into life in the Korea. He lasted only 2.5 months and was pretty much planning his departure from the moment he arrived. He was constantly in my ear about how I needed to get outta there, head back home, how I was meant to be in the States; constantly in my ear. Sure that wore on me and those seeds he planted were taking root, but other factors were at play.

My contract with Mr. Shin stated that any outside jobs he got me we would split 60 my way and 40 his way. Such was the job up at SamChullyHo Bicycle Company. As I mentioned before, I would drive his car up and back whenever I had class there. While not stated in the contract, he insisted I pay for the gas and that seemed fair enough to me. Every month SamChully would send him the monthly fee for my superior English Teaching and then he would divide out my 60%, subtract a chunk for gas, and give me the rest.

That arrangement worked pretty well until Shin decided to let me in on a secret that he was under-reporting my salary to the goverment so he wouldn't have to deduct as much Income Tax from my pay. (I was paying Income Tax to the Korean gov't?) He marketed it as a benefit to me 'cuz it saved me money, but it just made me more and more suspicious of him and his accounting methods. If he had never planted that thought in my dome, I might never have peaked inside the envelope of cash SamChully handed me for October 1987.

Inside that envelope I found 50% more cash than Shin told me they were paying. That means I was getting 60% of 50% of what they paid. I couldn't believe it. I must've counted that cash 20 times. I had Brian count it. I couldn't believe it. Then subtract from my cut the money for gas in the Pony. How much is gas anyway?

I volunteered to fill the tank on the way to SamChully one day. Turns out he was charging me more for gas to go to Yangsan and back each week than it cost to fill the Pony for the whole month for everywhere it went. I asked the SamChully executives about it. How much was gas. How many MPG (KPG) the Pony got. How much they spent on gas per month in their own cars. No matter how I mathematized it, I was getting gouged there too. I confirmed with them how much they paid for my services each month too. Again, confirmed. I could only guess Shin thought I would never figure it out.

As I noted in my journal, I had planned to tell Shin of my plans to bail on the contract because he was ripping me off, but I must've called an audible at the line of scrimmage.

Before actually going through with the Midnight Run, I consulted another English Teacher in town. He was somewhat of a big wig at Shi-Sa or somewhere. I laid out the facts as I knew them and he was supportive of my decision. That was all I needed as a capper on top of the rest.

You already know what happened the first week of November 1987...

An Awkward Transition

Hometown USA 1987

November 8 1987
I landed in LA without a plane ticket onward and in true Korean style, I went right up to the check-in counter and paid cash for a ticket on the next available flight home.

That left me nearly 2 months to decompress, chill out, and figure out what to do next with my life. I didn't work at all during this period. I hung out at my future brother-in-law's apartment. Generally, I lived the life of riley. I looked forward to the huge box that carried my stereo more than anything else. All the while I was burning through what little money I had left from Korea.

The obvious next step for me was to get back in school and try to get a degree.

January 1988
Here's what I wrote in my journal:
It's January 20-something. I haven't written since November last. If you can believe that. Came home from Korea and straight to Jeff's apartment. I hung out at Jeff''s for 1.5 months. Home for Christmas. I loved America and hated Korea and Koreans. Started school again. I don't mind so much but all my money is gone and it is hard to study. My family is cool. I have been reading. I don't know what I feel or think. I don't know what to do. The other day I was walking and from across the street I heard the sound of Korea Speaking. I saw 4 guys. I yelled: "Hey! Why aren't you speaking English? This is America." They muttered something so I said: "How do you expect to live in this country if you don't know English"? Now that I think about it I might have said more but I trust my point was made. I was pumped and shaking. I am way behind in school. I don't have a job. Brian is officially engaged. That didn't take long. He bought a ring. I miss him.

The Anti-Climax

1987 in South Korea

Saturday November 7
Having arrived in Seoul around mid-day, the first order of business was to find a cheap place to spend the night. We grabbed a small room with a floor to share near the station and headed immediately for the airline office to pick up and pay for my ticket. While so many things could have gone wrong with that whole procedure, all was smooth sailing and after parting with most of my remaining cash, I had my ticket in hand.

We went to Itaewon and shopped. I picked up some black Eel Skin dress shoes that I had ordered on our last trip to Seoul. I was really psyched about them at the time, but I quickly realized they were way too small, a tad cliché, and ugly to boot. We loaded up on other trinkets and trash. We wandered around in a state of giddiness combined with trepidation. We were excited to be heading home, but there was a nagging fear in my head that something would prevent me from leaving. My mind ran through the many scenarios by which Mr. or Mrs. Shin had stopped by on Saturday to check on me, or check that Brian left without issue, and found me gone too. I imagined they then called the airlines, called immigrations, called I don't know whom. But I was on a contract and I imagined they had legal recourse against me disappearing. And I knew Shin was not afraid to use any means possible to protect his language institute.

Perhaps that nagging worry drove me to the Post Office to carry out one of my last acts in Seoul. I have no recollection of doing it, but in January 1988 I wrote in my journal that on that last day in Seoul I "wrote to Mr. Shin and to SamChullyHo to clarify." I have no idea if they ever received those letters, or how they might have reacted to them, or what the letters actually said.

Sunday November 8
We got up early and humped our heavy luggage out to Kimpo. Nobody was waiting there for me. Nobody to grab me up and send me back to Busan. Without ceremony Brian and I boarded for LA and bade farewell to the Land of the Morning Calm.

Don't Pack the Mousse

1987 in Busan, South Korea

Friday November 6... Continued...
After my evening classes I returned to the apartment to start packing. Brian was fully packed and a bit antsy so I took a break from packing and we went to the club. We partied for a few hours before returning home to finish packing. Brian napped for a couple hours while I threw the remainder of my belongings in a large black expandable travel bag on wheels.

Having completed packing, we took a look around the apartment. Beds gone. Armoire gone. Stereo gone. Fridge empty. It would be quite obvious to the next person who entered the place that it had been abandoned. Our last childish act as we left was to empty a hair mousse canister into the kitchen sink building a small hill of fluffy whiteness. Odd.

Around 5 a.m. in the early morning darkness, we humped our heavy bags down four flights of stairs, and wheeled them out of the apartment complex. We both waved to the "security guard" at the entrance on our way past, and went down to the main street to hail a cab. It took two cabs to fit both of us and our bags, but eventually we met up at the station. We both probably slept the whole way anyway, so I honestly don't recall if we took a train or the bus. But all roads lead to Seoul anyway right?

Architecture and Morality

1987 in Busan, South Korea

Friday November 6... Continued...
My plan was to go home after my morning classes and get all packed. Then I would finish my evening classes and head to Seoul with Brian. However, since I told Mr. Shin I didn't feel up to driving to Yangsan, his angel of a wife grew concerned I was ill. She told me she was bringing lunch over to the apartment right when I was planning to do the packing.

She and Mr. Shin showed up with a grand feast of some health-restoring beef stew thing and rice with many side dishes (and Kimchi). To their eyes everything must have appeared in order at the apartment. All of Brian's stuff was packed, but none of mine was. In my room was the giant closet (armoire) I had bought. My bed and headboard were intact with my lovely pink blanket thereon. My Lotte Pioneer stereo sat in my bedroom ready to play any tape I wanted to hear. Probably OMD's Architecture and Morality.

We all ate. The Shin's left. I went to the Institute to teach my evening classes. While I taught, the guy I bought the armoire and the bed from went to the apartment and picked them up. He paid me some fair amount for them since I had only used them for a couple months (he bought back Brian's bed too). Another dude went over and crated up my Lotte stereo in a big wooden box. Brian paid him for me and the guy took it and put it on a slow boat for the states.

(That is how I come to still have this stack. Maybe someone will buy it from me at our Yard Sale this weekend...)

Pure Torment

1987 in Busan, South Korea

First week of November 1987
(After November 1, I didn't record anything from this eventful week in my journal for a few months. I'll do my best to get down here what happened during that time. Later I might also try to analyze it.)

Monday November 2
I started my November classes at the Institute and at SamChullyHo Bikes just as I had for the previous 6 months. Brian was not teaching at all because he had told Mr. Shin he was headed home and he had bought his ticket. As of Nov. 1st I had also reserved a seat on the same flight back as Brian. We were to depart Kimpo November 8 and fly direct to LA. Then continue on home from there. I didn't have a flight booked from LA onward yet however, and I had not paid for my ticket from Kimpo to LA. I also had not mentioned to Shin that I was planning to weasel out of our contract and bail like a thief in the night...

At some point in January 1988 I recorded in my journal that my "last week in Korea was pure torment. Convincing myself I must go. Playing, dancing, working..." It truly was a difficult week for me. I had guilt about what I was planning to do. Plus I didn't know what kind of trouble I could be in if I got caught. Since there was so much red tape involved in getting to Korea in the first place, I imagined all kinds of things going wrong. But for several reasons that I'll get into later, I couldn't (didn't? wouldn't?) see any other alternative. As late as October 28 I had every intention of telling Mr. Shin I was leaving.

Friday November 6
I woke up and went to the Institute to teach my morning classes as normal. But I told Mr. Shin I did not feel up to driving to Yangsan to teach the SamChullyHo executives. After all, I had not even packed a single thing yet...