Monday, July 13, 2015


Hyeopjae beach.
-Jeju [South Korea]

I find it interesting to be on Jeju immediately after spending time on the Hawai'ian islands.  Both are stunning volcanic archipelagos that offer rich soil, waterfalls, and beaches.  The prolific traditional statues of Jeju, dol hareubangs[1], look nearly identical to their Polynesian counterparts.  Both have large tourist economies[2]; both are known as honeymoon destinations; both have important military roles[3].  The comparisons are such, that Jeju is often referred to as the Hawai'i of South Korea.

However, the contrasts are easily recognized.  I have moved away from shrimp trucks and sweet barbeque.  Now, squid and kimchi are the mainstays of my diet.  No more Dole pineapple and Spam; now it's Jeju tangerines and kimbap (a derivative of Japanese sushi).  Pork is now eaten in the form of Korean barbeque[4] instead of a luau, with black pork as the local favorite. 

Jeju is unlike any island I have visited.  Here, the water is cold and order prevails.  People wear more clothing on the summer beaches of Jeju than a Hawai'ian caught in an Alaskan blizzard.  There isn't the carefree, laissez faire, attitude of the tropics.  No, Jeju has a methodical, orderly way of doing things that is evident in the many facets of the island culture.

Jeju has an mistakable allure, evident by the number of people that visit each year.  The entire island population of just over 600,000 people manages to host the 12 million tourists that visit each year (the majority are Korean).  The people are courteous and sing everything they speak.  The greetings and "thank you's" sound like an acoustic version of the K-pop music that is so popular on the mainland.

Dol hareubang statues.
-Jeju [South Korea]
The island has a small town feel that I appreciate.  I am greeted with smiles and respectful bows from shop owners.  People take a little time to speak to each other as they walk down the street.  Agriculture is a significant source of income for the locals and the island has a "down to earth" practicality while maintaining a highly motivated and highly educated attitude.  These are people who are accustomed to work.  One can feel the matter-of-fact dedication that has led to the massive economic growth of the last two generations[5].

After several visits to Jeju over the last three years, it has now become synonymous with cooking southern-style barbeque[6].  The island culture loves the meat and the flair of having it cooked in a foreign style.  I love sharing something completely unique to the culture of my own country and, at the same time, integrating some local flair, such as cooking it with the tangerine wood that Jeju is famous for.

Soon, I will this non-tropical paradise for more exotic climes, but I will always appreciate the quiet dignity of Jeju.

Suweolbong at sunset.
-Jeju [South Korea]

1.  "Dol hareubangs" are statues carved from basalt traditionally found on Jeju Island.  The name derives from the Korean word for "stone" (dol 돌) and the Jeju dialect word "hareubang" (하르방) meaning "grandfather".  The statue faces feature grinning expressions, bulging eyes, and slight smile.  Their hands rest on their bellies, one slightly above the other.  They are considered to be gods that offer both protection and fertility.  These statues are placed outside of gates for protection against demons traveling between realities.   -return to the story

2.  In 2011 and 2012, Jeju was the home of one leg of the most traveled air route in the world.  For these years, respectively, a total of 9.9 million and 10.16 million passengers made the 450 km journey between Seoul and Jeju.  For 2013, the Jeju to/from Seoul route slumped to second place for a total of 13.8 million passengers among nearly 74,000 flights behind the Tokyo to/from Sapporo route with a combined total of 14.78 million passengers among over 59,000 flights.  Interestingly, in 2013 the São Paulo to/from Rio de Janeiro flight route had more flights (a combined total of 74,940 flights) but less passengers (a combined total of 12.8 million people).
In contrast, the Hawai'i archipelago received 7,998,815 visitors during 2012.   -return to the story

3.  Jeju holds a strategic location between South Korea, Japan, and China.  As such, it has been a battleground for many conflicts.  In 1910, Jeju (along with the rest of the Korean empire) was annexed by Japan.  During World War II, Japan established a naval base on Jeju that housed 70,000 soldiers.  Currently, there are plans to build a Korean naval base that will house 8,000 marines, up to 20 destroyers, and several submarines.   -return to the story

4.  Korean barbecue is a style of of cooking in which the meat is typically cooked at the diner's table on gas or charcoal grills that are built into the table itself.   -return to the story

5.  In 2012, Korea was the world's seventh largest importer and exporter.  In the last 50 years, this country has literally grown from from having to a gross domestic product of zero to over a trillion dollars annually ranking it as the eleventh in the world.   -return to the story

6.  There will be more stories involving my experiences cooking southern bbq on Jeju. The last barbeque adventure involved cooking half of a pig (weighing in at 42 kg) on one of the black sand beaches, a story that will soon be told.   -return to the story

Driving Licenses

-Rock Sound, Eleuthera [The Bahamas]

This story is the result of reminiscing while waiting[1] at a non-US governmental driving license issuing agency.  Why, you might ask?  Well, that's easy... because it was considered by the author to be more productive to reminisce that pretending to go crazy and start an imaginary verbal altercation with a large green elf-eared androgynous robot with a Lite-Brite© device on his/her/or possibly even it's chest, as was suggested by one of the dear comrades that was being accompanied in the procurement of a non-US governmental driving licenses at said non-US governmental driving license issuing agency.

Anyway.... this is a story about the author's acquisition of a non-US governmental driving license from a non-US governmental driving license issuing agency.  Said agency was affiliated with a small island country located within the confines the Caribbean Sea and that is precisely where our story takes place.

As it so happened, my then current driving license, issued by a US governmental driving license issuing agency, was due to expire.  Under such circumstances, many fairly radical solutions were presented to me.  Not the least of these, was a suggestion that I obtain a driving license from a non-US governmental driving license issuing agency, something that had heretofore been a completely foreign idea to me, in more ways than one.

The details of securing such a license, as accounted to me, varied greatly in the manner of description and in regards to the specific stipulations that must be completed for license obtainment.  For, on this particularly galvanizing matter, it did appear that most every single one of my associates not only had an opinion of the proceedings that would ensue, but felt obligated to share those opinions with me.  I was regaled with legends of past driving license obtainments.  I was terrified with horrible misdeeds of driving license obtainment officers.  I was intrigued by the ever-changing list of required items.  Under such a state of bewilderment and bemusement, I took it upon myself to pursue this matter and scheduled an appointment with the appropriate non-US governmental driving license issuing agency under the greatest of philosophical mindsets, known as, "what the hell..."

As circumstances would allow, my appointment was to be on a Tuesday, and a very propitious Tuesday at that; for, this particular Tuesday had provided our tiny Caribbean island with a great deal of rainfall causing a fair amount of consternation amongst my associates and, of course, eliciting another barrage of opinions as to the procurement process of the non-US governmental driving license.

It was under these circumstances that I did embark to the non-US governmental driving license issuing agency for the obtainment of a non-US governmental driving license.

Pink governmental building.
-Governor's Harbor, Eleuthera [The Bahamas]
I arrived in short order, particularly given the fair distance that needed to be traveled and meteorological conditions that then existed.  Upon entering the parking area of the non-US governmental driving license issuing agency, my expectations very sorely incorrect.  This was not the grand, stoic, mind-eating, bureaucratic[2] building that I had expected, but rather, a mildly mind-numbing light coral pink den of repetitive motions.

I entered the lair of the bureaucratic beast and found the typical henchman, or in this case a henchwoman, entrenched at her escritoire and encased in a protective layer of glass.  Well-versed in the language of the governmental agencies, I took the mumblegrunt that escaped from the underling as an invitation to sit down.  Once seated, another mumblegrunt, slightly more fervent than the previous, evoked me to approach the henchwoman's alcove.  Mistaken, once again, a more vigorous mumblegrunt with a pronounced henchwoman headnod indicated a number-issuing machine.

Reluctant to breach international governmental agency protocol and evoke the wrath of all bureaucracies everywhere, I endeavored to communicate entirely without words and thus approached the number-issuing machine.  Following this criterion, I made several glances, and some minorly abstract gesticulations for reassurance, before bravely pulling a number from the number-issuing machine.

A wave of euphoric relief swept over me as a satisfied mumblegrunt and slight headnod replaced the look of mild annoyance on the face of the henchwoman to indicate that all was in order now, we could proceed according to the necessary rules of operation.  I again took my seat to begin the required wait.

Yes, I have found a wait IS mandatory within the offices of governmental agencies.  This, I believe, is the golden truth of all governmental agencies; all must wait.  This ensures that the individual will feel less individualistic, and through increasing physical discomfort, will continually grow more comfortable with the idea that one will do as instructed, an important concept for all to comprehend, fully crystallized through inevitable wait.

Mind you, I was the only non-henchperson in the office making the entire previous number-issuing procedures and wait-time entirely unnecessary, but that is not the point.  The point, dear reader, is that there are procedures that have been outlined and that we as trivial, uninitiated members to the great order of bureaucracy, have not the power to suggest that a perfectly logical process be followed.  Oh no, it is our place to show that we are capable of following, just as it is the place of all henchpersons to unquestioningly ensure that following be followed.  Plus, if one did not wait, how would the henchperson possibly have time to primp him/herself and scrutinize personal electronic devices for the latest tidbits of fashion gossip?!?!?

Anyhow, after the required wait, and little more for good measure, another mumblegrunt and slight finger movement lead me to believe that I should approach the glass cocoon.  The henchwoman, vocalized something unintelligible and pointed to the clock on the wall.  "Fair enough," I indicated with a shoulder shrug, not fully understanding what I was agreeing to.  I then pointed back to single chair upon which I had been sitting and raised on eyebrow in a questioning grimace for I dared not speak at the risk of upsetting the natural balance of office order.  I evoked a satisfied nod from the henchwoman and quickly returned to my previous post of anticipation.

After another immeasurable amount of time had passed, I heard a rumble from the great double-doors opposite my position on the lone chair of the fore area of the mildly mind-numbing light coral pink den of repetitive motions.  I realized that these double-doors must lead to the inner sanctum; the cocoon, birthplace, and rearing area of the Great Bureau of Bureacracy, the glorious managerial workstation.

Indeed, it was.  For from these double-doors emerged a short man.  Not only was he a smartly attired short man, but a short, smartly attired man.  I instantly recognized that he must be important for he wore the sharpest of military-esque uniforms, with assorted medals decorating his chest.  At a single glance, one could not only ascertain that he was the grandest non-US governmental driving license issuing agent in the room, but, possibly even in the entire building.  As such, he shall now be referred to as the Grand Poobah[3] of Driver License Licensing within the non-US governmental driving license issuing agency, as it exists in our story.

In convincing English, this man invited me to join him in the inner office.  Under such circumstances, was I to begin the process of acquiring a non-US governmental driving license, or so I believed, for I still had absolutely no idea as to what this process actually might entail.

This intricate exercise began, at least on that particular day, by the ceremonial seating of the Grand Poobah of Driver License Licensing within the glorious managerial workstation of the non-US governmental driving license issuing agency in which, the Grand Poobah of Driver License Licensing sat down at his desk while I remained standing, waiting to be formally allowed to be seated, something he rectified with a firm down-sweeping motion of his right hand.

Upon sitting, I was made to wait for several moments while the Grand Poobah of Driver License Licensing preened his military-esque uniform as to best allow me to luxuriate in his splendor and resplendence.  We then began the following conversation, which has been painstakingly recreated word-for-word down to the minutest of details:

[Long post-preening pause for effect]
"Boy, you know that one must drive slowly when its raining?" causally stated the G.P.o.D.L.L.[4] with an air of extreme importance and only slight questioning.

"Yes sir," I responded deliberately and with an air of only semi-importance so as to acknowledge that I was only just important enough to be in association with the G.P.o.D.L.L., but not of significant importantance, so that he was able to fraternize with me at his leisure.

[Another pause while the G.P.o.D.L.L. focused his eyes on his various certificates for our social hierarchy to become further established]

"Are you sure that you understand that one must drive slowly when it is raining?" more questioningly stated by the G.P.o.D.L.L. than the previous statement.

"Yessir," I responded less deliberately as I began to ruminate on two rather fundamental questions to this whole account, how exactly was it that I might acquire the non-US governmental driving license and where exactly did the G.P.o.D.L.L. fit within this entire process, questions that were both to be answered in short order, I assure you.

[Another pause, but this pause found the G.P.o.D.L.L. looking intently at me, prompting me to believe that further explanation was required by myself.]

"I come from a place that has bad weather....." I added to my contemplations by way of explanation.

"Very well." said the G.P.o.D.L.L. as he somehow summoned the double doors to open with a slight waving of his left hand.

I took that gesture as my cue to exit the the inner managerial workstation and upon exiting through the grand double doors of bureaucracy, the henchwoman mumblegrunted to me what I believed to be, "40 dollars, please."

I quickly acquiesced, shrugging my shoulders (largely for my own purposes of amusement and as a symbol to the deep state of bewilderment in which I currently found myself).  Upon receiving my monetary token of trade, the henchwoman rose from her office chair and began walking towards an unknown area further within the light coral pink den of repetitive motions whereupon, seeing my befuddling, she stopped mid-stride, and made a sweeping gesture with her right hand that I took to signify that I should be seated in the lone chair, which I immediately did.

I waited for a rather short amount of time further contemplating how exactly I had found myself in these perplexing, yet rather intriguing circumstances, when the henchwoman approached the protective glass encasing and held out a card in my general direction.

"How odd," I thought to myself, as I stood and approached the mysterious card ensuring that I gave the henchwoman three questioning glances before daring to reach out and receive the card from her outstretched hand.  Though logic dictated that I should exit the den as quickly as possible without drawing any undue attention to myself, I could not resist examining the card.

To my great astonishment, I had received my non-US governmental driving license from a non-US governmental driving license issuing agency which provided me the distinct privilege to not only drive an automobile, but also a motorcycle, and even further, to my great amusement, a golf cart.... yes, amigos, it appeared that I was now officially licensed to drive a golf cart.

Though my mind was reeling from a multitude of questions, I deemed it to best serve immediate purposes to leave my sleeping questions lie, and took it upon myself to leave the mildly mind-numbing light coral pink den of repetitive motions posthaste without further explanations.  No use accidentally undoing all the excellent work that I had already accomplished by unknowingly meeting all the driving license issuing requirements of a non-US governmental driving license issuing agency with precisely twelve words and only a few random thoughts.

Long live bureaucratic verbosity and the odes that they inspire!

Robot thingey.
-Jeju [South Korea]

1.  Read as, "Waiting..... glacially slow waiting..... This wait was long enough for the author to urinate, properly, I might add, in every urinal of every bathroom facility of the non-US governmental driving license issuing agency and then aid the cleaning staff in dusting off all the plants while persons attempting to acquire driving licenses visited enough desks in enough agency offices to obtain a single paper with no less than 218 stamps and no more than 3 strange Braille hole thingies."   -return to the story

2.  Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the term "bureaucracy" is French in origin.  The satirical word was coined in the mid-18th century by the French economist Jacques Claude Marie Vincent de Gournay by combining the French word bureau, meaning "desk" or "office", with the Greek word kratos, meaning "rule" or "political power" and is so doing, evoked all the known Mediterranean sea gods, in a spectacularly torturous typhoon of medieval office tyranny to create a word with the horrific meaning of "the place where time moves so slowly, and with such great pain, that a thousand deaths would be preferable to the microscopic mental mastication received from each trivial point of minutest minutiae."   -return to the story

3.  Grand Poobah is a term derived from the name of the haughty character, Pooh-Bah, in Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado".  In this comic opera, Pooh-Bah holds numerous exalted offices, including: First Lord of the Treasury, Lord Chief Justice, Commander-in-Chief, Lord High Admiral, Archbishop of Titipu, Lord Mayo, and, finally, Lord High Everything Else. The name has come to be used as a title for someone self-important or high-ranking and who either exhibits an inflated self-regard or who has limited authority while taking impressive titles.
Interesting uses:
  • "Grand Poobah" was the name of a high ranking elected position in the secret society of the Loyal Order of the Water Buffaloes in which Fred Flintstone and his friend Barney Rubble were members of Lodge No. 26 on "The Flintstones."
  • Howard Cunningham, on the TV series Happy Days, was a Grand Poobah of Leopard Lodge No. 462 in Milwaukee.
  • In the "Fraggle Rock" episode called "The Secret Society of Poohbahs," Gillis Fraggle serves as the Beggler-Beg of the Poohbas, Convincing John serves as the Vanguard of the Poohbas, and Red Fraggle serves as the Mind-Reader who sees if a potential member is worthy enough to join the Poohbahs.
  • In the comic strip Pearls Before Swine, the character Rat deems himself Grand Poobah of the Benevolent Society of Angry Misanthropes.   -return to the story

4.  In the truest of bureaucratic fashions, with the intent to create even greater mystic, and simultaneously the illusion of more efficiently proceeding, I hereby arbitrarily decree that the Grand Poobah of Driver License Certification shall hitherto be known by the acronym of G.P.o.D.L.L.   -return to the story