Sunday, 31 March 2013

(Day 254) Hwaseong Immigration Detention Center Day 4 (Part 2) D-?


2 eggs
soy milk
Lunchrice & kimchi
chicken soup
seafood salad
Dinnerrice & kimchi
potato soup
spicy squid

If it isn't the constant storing of toads all night, it's the army of ants trampling in and out of the bathroom for a couple of hours this morning. The wakeup time isn't actually in till 7 am, but beginning around 6, the same people sleeping soundly and snoring get up and decide to do their business while the rest of us are still trying to sleep. Its times like this (and only times like this) I wish I spoke Korean as this is the only common language everybody here shares, so I could express my displeasure in a way other than seeming like a raving lunatic. Courtesy is not a part of the Asian lexicon-- unless it’s hierarchical. The detention center is better than jail in some ways but those same reasons make it worse to. Having to deal with the rude inconsiderate people (myself included) is frustrating, but being able to socialize is nice too. The worst thing is the unknown. In jail I knew what day I was leaving, but here I don't have a clue how long I will be stuck here.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

(Day 253) Hwaseong Immigration Detention Center Day 3 (Part 2) D-?


2 eggs
soy milk
Lunchrice & kimchi
chicken soup
salad with gelatin
Dinnerrice & kimchi
slimy seaweed soup

I think I got about 3 hours of sleep last night due to the symphony of frogs. It was a constant drone all night but much too loud to be ignored or embraced as a lullaby.

One of the Chinese asked if the hair on my chest was artificial. I had to laugh. Did he think I glued it on my chest?

Friday, 29 March 2013

(Day 252) Hwaseong Immigration Detention Center Day 2 (Part 2) D-?


2 eggs
orange soy drink
Lunchrice & kimchi
slimy seaweed soup

It’s Friday. Going into the weekend at ye olde detention center. As of this morning, the current cell population is 12, with one leaving. A born again Christian Iranian, a Muslim Indian mute Bangladeshi, a Mongolian, a couple of Vietnamese, Chinese and Chinese Koreans. By the end of the day, the population has increased by two-- a Pakistani and a Nigerian. It’s like a mini UN. I am still the only white person. I feel very under-represented. One last guy from Thailand arrived before the day was through.

I should have known or at least expected the incompetence of the kitchen staff to understand a simple request. I don't like rice so I asked that the rice be replaced with bread. Just the rice... nothing else, and of course I got half a loaf of bread, cabbage with French dressing and two fried eggs, because it's a set menu and the staff are too stupid to make anything but a set menu. They can substitute chicken for pork for the Muslims, but they are incapable of substituting bread for rice. In addition, it turns out they cooked the chicken and pork together and then just separated the two to serve it, so the Muslims couldn't actually eat the chicken because it was cooked in pork fat. And they are as stubborn to fulfill our requests as we are to refuse to eat the food they serve. I'm sure if the UN and Human Rights Commission weren't breathing down their necks, they wouldn't even offer the option of chicken. There’s this square box and any variation is impossible-- like the law of gravity.

To the room guard’s credit, one of them talked to me later (he actually called me Mr Tees. Since the family name comes first in Asian names, Koreans usually assume David is my family name) and explained that he tried to talk to the kitchen staff and it is the chef that refuses to budge on the whole side dish substitution. The room guard understood my concerns, but it’s not his call. At least he tried and explained later. It is a case of “this is the way it is no matter how inane it may seem and too bad.” I appreciate the effort.

Maybe it’s the cultural difference. It seems to me that people here just accept things without question and assume it can't be changed, whereas I feel everything can be changed if you question it. I also have an almost unhealthy distaste for legitimate authority. It's the social commie Canadian in me. I would say I’m an anarchist if it wasn't such a corrupted word hijacked by a bunch of dirty hippies.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

(Day 251) Hwaseong Immigration Detention Center Day 1 (Part 2) D-?


Breakfast bread with brown sugar
2 eggs
soy milk
Lunch rice & kimchi
kimchi soup
Korean style pancake
Dinnerrice & kimchi
slimy seaweed salad
seafood stew
soy milk

There’s now a different menu every day at Hwaseong, but it's essentially the same-- rice kimchi and watery soup.

One of the Vietnamese went home this morning. One of these days that person will be me. Hopefully sooner, rather than later. I was able to talk to my mom and tell her about my little adventure with my documents being shredded and physically abused. Of course, she is incensed and currently writing an email to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canada. I also left a message with the Canadian embassy. Later, I talked to Z again. Talking to her has changed over the years. We used to talk about things like school and home, but now we talk about such things as politics, society or religion... actual interesting subjects. She's turned into a little adult. It’s cool. Now I can truly corrupt my offspring.

The non-Christian Christian is still here. It's been 18 months for him. I've had a hard time dealing with 8 months. I can't even comprehend 10 more months of this shit. It's no wonder he's angry and intolerant of the other detainees. I don't blame him. I've been thinking about how well I'd be able to readjust to society when I go back to Canada. There is reverse culture shock to deal with as well.

I had a meeting with my caseworker today. It was basically a repeat of “I don't have any money and I can't get any money from the Canadian embassy, my family or friends, so if I'm going to be deported, the Korean government is going to have to pay for it.” Making me pay for my crimes has ended up costing the Korean government a lot of money to feed and house me for 8 months and deport me. I also talked to my embassy eventually. They can't do much other than listen; maybe complain on my behalf over my treatment. They also told me to have a good weekend since it is Easter in Canada and although they are in Korea, the embassy workers follow Canadian holidays and won't be back until Tuesday. Lazy buggers. The civil service gets paid too much for what they actually do. They justify it by making the laws that administer everything. The children are running the candy store.

I'm finding it impossible to sleep. I just spent 5 months in a small room by myself. It was lonely, but it was very quiet. Now I am in a large room with 12 men. All of them snoring a different volumes and frequencies. It’s loud and distracting. It's like being in a swamp with a symphony of frogs.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Day 250 D-Day?

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner = ?

This is it. The day of reckoning. By this evening I'll either be on a plane out of Korea or stuck in red tape for an undetermined amount of time. Let's hope it's the former, although it will probably be the latter.

That worked out like I expected-- actually a little worse. I got to all my stuff and repacked it in anticipation-- just in case, but there was no need. The immigration officer didn't speak English. He gave me a piece of paper with my rights, so I requested a lawyer as was my right and he refused. I asked to talk to my embassy. That was refused. He demanded I sign the documents but I couldn't read it and he couldn't explain it so I refused. I showed him my documents from immigration, a receipt for my visa and he tore it up. I freaked out. He just destroyed all the proof I had of my legitimacy. I refused to sign.

Five big guys showed up, handcuffed me and manhandle me into a van. The handcuffs were really tight. I definitely have bruises from that, maybe even some nerve damage. One guy felt like he was going to break my ribs as he sat on me. We drove to Mok-dong and they threw me into another cell, but didn't remove the cuffs. The pain was unbearable. When it was lunch time, they finally remove the cuffs so I could eat. Then they gave me an inmate uniform and finally, my books so I could write this. Now we're going back Hwaseong. I fucking hate that place.

Now I'm back at Hwaseong. I don't know how long I'll be here. I was able to talk to Z, but it’s too late to call my mother. Current population—13, I think. 1 guy each from India, Bangladesh, and Iran and the rest are Vietnamese or Chinese.

The food is shittier, but it's much nicer to be able to speak English to many people. I feel almost human again. Rwanda is still here, which explains why JO never got his books back. My voice is almost horse from talking so much. My daily entries should become a lot more interesting, now that I have other people to write about.
The Iranian is a political refugee because he's Christian. The UN people told him to go to immigration to get a visa and instead, they arrested him. He's been here 5 months trying to work his way through the refugee system, which is next to impossible here in Korea. Rwanda was supposed to be released in November and he still here because of the bureaucracy.

I was able to talk to T. He told me about another friend, a good musician and performance artist, who totally got screwed by the school hakwon system. No pension, no return airfare. Korea just made another friend. For every good story I hear about Korea, I could tell you two or more bad stories.

My guilty, white man, imperialist, colonialist complex makes me hate myself for talking badly about anyone because of race, but I have very few nice things to say about Korea and Koreans. The good things I have are all superficial things about the technology, temples or the beautiful women. Anything I have about people, society or culture is mostly bad. I wish I didn't feel that way, but my experiences keep reinforcing it.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

(Day 249) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 154 D-2

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner = March 5

This is it. The last day. Tomorrow, I will finally leave this place. Whether or not I'll actually be free, is yet to be seen. I won't truly be free until I'm sitting on an airplane, and I'm far from there yet. I won't be in jail anymore-- that's the main thing, but I'll be able to use the telephone and I will be at least one more step closer to real freedom than the 23 hour lockdown in solitary confinement I am currently enjoying.

I gave my playing cards that I made and all my extra pens to Mr Kim today. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to make the hand off tomorrow. I kept a pen, the highlighters and pencil so I could continue this diary and draw, if the desire strikes. I also kept the black markers in case my next destination is immigration and they confiscate my pen and pencil due to the metal content.

I've also kept the newspapers from the last few days. The detainees might appreciate some recent news. I've packed the books just in case, but if I go to the airport, I'll have to abandon them which I loathe to do. I'm not traveling around with 30 books or paying for overweight luggage. It’s so tempting to pay the $50 just to leave today. I'm so broke though, $50 could be the difference between being able to afford a plane ticket to Bangkok or being stuck here.

So, what have I learned after 250 days of incarceration? I'm a selfish narcissist, but I knew that already. Whoever holds the keys, makes the rules and no matter what is written or considered law, the only thing that matters is who holds the keys. It isn't about willing to do the time if you commit the crime, it's about how much money you have to pay everybody off. Just ask the new president of Kenya or all of my fellow inmates jailed for corruption-- and there are a lot of them in Korea. Just last week, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency joined our merry band of criminals and it won't be long before the Vice Minister of Justice himself is added to our ranks.

I had one last meeting with the warden after lunch. I explained my fear about being sent back to immigration jail upon my release tomorrow. I explained how it would be in everybody's best interest to drive me to the airport let me buy a ticket and leave Korea tomorrow night. He said he understood my predicament and he would make a plea to the immigration officials sent to collect me on my behalf. I will be released at about 9 am. I also got a receipt of all my expenses during my stay here and I have $100 more than I thought which is totally awesome. I'm still broke but not as broke as I thought. If I make it to Thailand I'll even have a couple hundred dollars to get me going. Finally I donated all the books I had to the prison. The warden said he wanted to read them and that he could lend them to other prisoners.

For my last night in jail the Korean national soccer team has decided to play a World Cup qualifying match against Qatar live from 8 pm to 10 pm. We got to stay up late and be entertained with something worthy of my attention. Go Qatar!

I notice in the paper today at a presidential nominee for the Fair Trade Commission has withdrawn due to a tax evasion investigation. There has to be a certain irony in that. So far 12 candidates have withdrawn or been eliminated due to corruption or questions about ethics. Yet, I'm the one in jail because I'm too poor to pay off the right people.

The game went into overtime but the prison broadcast station killed the broadcast exactly at 10 pm. This is the difference in cultures. In the West, this would have caused a riot. In Korea there were a few indignant cries, but it was pretty quiet. In the end, no one knows who won-- it was a tie when the broadcast was cut off.

Monday, 25 March 2013

(Day 248) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 153 D-3

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner = March 4

I've been sitting cross-legged on a hard linoleum floor for so long, my ankles have developed calluses. I have one on the side of my foot, too. Scarred for life.

Unless I'm still here for lunch on Wednesday, this is the last time I have to eat that slimy seaweed soup. I never really had to eat it, but I've been given very little choice. If I don't eat it then I go hungry. They barely give me enough to eat as it is. How else would I lose six kilograms? All I do is sit cross-legged in a cell. My exercises don't take long and are hardly strenuous enough to warrant such weight loss. I even started eating rice when the new workers started a week and a half ago and I'm still hungry after every meal. So, the slimy seaweed soup gets eaten, even though it’s gross.

Trying to sleep through the night has become a Herculean task due to the anticipation of my release in two more sleeps. It's worse than waiting for Christmas as a child.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

(Day 247) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 152 D-4

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner = March 3

I can spend my last Sunday avoiding all the terrible TV by reading yesterday's paper and the stack of books I have. Almost bliss. 3 more sleeps till freedom. It seems hard to believe.

It only took 33 episodes of a drama about rural life in a Korean small town (where, in reality, 1 in 4 wives are of foreign, Southeast Asian descent) to actually show foreigners as a part of the plot. None of them are major characters though. With a cast of at least 10 women, two or three should be non-Koreans.

I got a hole in my only pair of socks. I only have to wear them for another two days. I had two other pairs of socks, but they also developed holes last week and I threw them out after I had a shower, rather than wash them and keep them for one more week. I have a fresh, brand new, never-been-worn pair of socks, but I was saving them for Wednesday when I'm released. Fresh socks, underwear and undershirt-- new beginning.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

(Day 246) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 151 D-5

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner = March 2

My last weekend and a good thing too, because I've almost run out of soap, toothpaste, shampoo and the batteries died on my electric razor. If I stayed any longer, I'd have to replenish everything with all the money I don't have... As it stands I can go without shaving for 4 days and the soap, toothbrush and shampoo will last until then-- but just barely.

The highlighter pens I used to color code everything have also started to die out on me. Again, they only have to last for more days, although they are so dry now even that seems unlikely.

Today is Billie Jean Day on TV. I've seen Koreans singing and dancing on TV to Billie Jean at least 3 times on 3 different programs. Those Koreans, they really love them some MJ. I wonder if they know what drug-addicted pedophile means? I don't care how good his music is, I never liked MJ much-- even though he was the first concert I ever went to, thanks to some hard work on my mother’s part by standing in line for tickets in the days before the internet. There's a certain irony that two out of the three performances I saw today were done by children under 10 years old.

On my last Saturday, the movie is in Korean. Thanks to JO, I have plenty of books to keep me entertained. No harm, no foul.

Friday, 22 March 2013

(Day 245) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 150 D-6

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner = March 1

It’s Friday. Going into the weekend for the last time in this place. Current cell population-- 1 Canadian. It makes for some pretty boring days. The Canadian isn't much of a conversationalist. He's argumentative and always thinks he's right. He usually is, which makes him all the more annoying. Thankfully, most of the time, he keeps to himself by drawing, writing or reading.

The New York Times finally fixed the comics, but I missed 3 days of continuity. There's a notice that if I want to receive the missing days’ comics, I can email them. A fat lot of good that does me. If I had a fucking computer, I wouldn't be reading my news in the newspaper or writing this journal with a pen in a paper notebook.

I forgot that JO brought me even more books. I have 5 days left and six books to read. Even I can't read that fast, but at least I won't be bored for the next 5 days and if I get sent back to immigration jail, I'll have lots to read there, too.

I also got one last letter from my mother. Instead of writing her back I can just call her next week.

I read two of the books this evening. They were short.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

(Day 244) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 149 D-7

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner = March 7

Less than a week! JO finally came to visit. All his grand plans for a charity event to raise money to spring me from jail all came to naught. Not surprising to me, but it was apparently to him. I'm well aware of how people perceive, like or don't like me. When he first suggested it, my first thought was “Good luck with that.” At this point it hardly matters.

I have never been, nor have I ever cared to be popular or well-liked. I never saw much point worrying about what other people thought of me or going out of my way to get people to like me. I'd be lying to say it didn't bother me sometimes, but it’s something out of my control. I can't make people like me and even if I could, I have no idea what I would need or want to change about my personality to make it happen. It is what it is.

JO also told me he's leaving for Thailand permanently on Monday. If I manage to make it there, that's good for me as I won't be going in blind or alone. I have to get there first.

I do know that the people who do like me and are my friends are some pretty awesome people and not because they're my friends or like me. Most, if not all of them, are artists, musicians, writers, intellectuals-- in general, free and creative thinkers. They are outstanding and extraordinary individuals and I am honored and humbled by them

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

(Day 243) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 148 D-8

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner = March 6

1 week! I started packing and cleaning... And I’m finished. It didn't take long. I have 3 pairs of underwear, a pair of socks and an undershirt I've never worn. I kept them and intend replace the clothing in my luggage. I need to throw stuff out from that, too. I'm six kilograms overweight with my checked luggage and now I have more stuff to add with all my notebooks and sketchbooks. I need to do some seriously quick organizing between my cell door and the front gate. I also threw out all the winter clothing I had. It was only two sweatshirts and some long underwear. I'll never use them again.

All the paper I accumulated in regards to my charges and court also went in the garbage. I have multiple copies with my other belongings and when I get my hands on those, in the garbage they will go.
I'll give Mr Kim all my pens envelopes and playing cards when I leave.

This week also marks the last the last time I take a shower, here the last time, I have to eat that shitty menu and the last time I have to watch that crappy drama... Although I have to admit, I will miss the ending of K-Pop Star and the show that has contemporary artists covering classics. Guilty pleasures that have sucked me in, damn it!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

(Day 242) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 147 D-9

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner = March 5

Once again, I was able to finish the crossword puzzle, whereas Friday and Saturday puzzles continue to elude me. Since I'm already a genius, you'd have to be more than a friggen’ genius just to solve those puzzles. Maybe if a bunch of us geniuses got together and took a crack at it, we'd have a chance...

The comics were also reprints from February 18th. Some heads are rolling in that office today. But maybe not, since today’s comics were from February 19th. What a rip off. I feel cheated since I've already read these comics a month ago.

I spoke to Z for a few minutes to wish her a Happy Birthday. We both had so much to say that we would both interrupt each other, then have moments of silence while we both waited for the other person to finish speaking at the same time and then interrupt each other again, as we both started speaking, thinking the other person was finished. It was very confusing. Start, stop, start, stop. Like two teenagers on a first date.

I was also able to portray my wish to be taken to the airport right away as soon as I was released next week to the guard, who said he would call immigration to find out. It's a long shot, but there's always a chance or maybe it's all a pipe dream. We'll see for sure in 8 days, won't we? However, so far nothing has worked out like I hoped, so it's unlikely that this will, too.

Monday, 18 March 2013

(Day 241) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 146 D-10

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner = March 4

Happy birthday Z-- although it won't be "today" where Z is until tomorrow, so I'm jumping the gun a bit here. We're heading into the home stretch here. This will be my last full week. I'll be out of here next Wednesday. One more shower, one more weekend, one more boring Sunday, 7 more newspapers. It's hard to describe the anticipation. It's overwhelming.

Documentaries that show how stuff is made are awesome because you don't need to understand the language to understand the content. I watched two documentaries that showed how big clay pots are made on the mass production scale and how big bronze sculptures are made. Complex, yet so simple at the same time. One person is capable of making 50 pots a day or more.

That was the highlight of my day, other than the end of the day, which means only 8 left when I wake up tomorrow.

I was given a new undershirt, underwear and socks, toothbrush and toilet paper today, too. I had to laugh because I couldn't see much point, since I'll be gone next week. At least my underwear will be clean.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

(Day 240) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 145 D-11

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner = March 3

Happy St Patrick's Day, to all you Irish folk. Here in this jail, that would be only me and I'm only something like a quarter Irish. I'm hardly Irish at all. And I have no green clothes. Either. Even amongst all my stored belongings, I don't own any green clothes.

One of the new inmate workers has some pretty impressive forearm tattoos. They are the same on each arm but mirror images of Koi or goldfish swimming in water. At risk of stereotyping (which exists for a reason) these are some serious gangster tats. First, because of the image. Fish, Tigers and Dragons are a common Asian tattoo and really, tattoos in general, are usually only on gangsters in Korean and Japanese cultures.

There are however, a lot of young Asians that have tattoos like Westerners and surprisingly, a lot of them are women. You'll see them on Asians who are mostly musicians. Women will have them on the back of shoulders or under the arm on the rib cage, where they can be easily hidden.

Anyway, this inmate has large elaborate traditional tattoos in a very visible location. Only one of them is completely finished and colored, but the kid (he looks younger than me) just screams “junior gangster.” He's either here on a drug or a rape charge. He's too young to be an embezzler and besides, you embezzle from the mob, you end up dead-- not in jail. I would guess drugs. Probably meth, since that's really the only drug Koreans get involved with. Popular with taxi drivers, students and bored housewives.

I have no self control, so Mr Kim has decided to give me one apple a day, so I don't eat the whole bag of apples all at once. I can't help it. Eating rice and kimchi at every meal leaves me still hungry. And I'm bored. Eating apples give me something to do and satisfies my hunger... for a short period-- until I eat another apple...

Saturday, 16 March 2013

(Day 239) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 144 D-12

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner = March 2

I got another letter from my mother yesterday, so I spent the rest of the day writing her a small novel-- a novella, if you will, about not much at all.

It’s Saturday, so another weekend/ weekstart. Tomorrow is Saint Patrick's Day and Monday is Z’s birthday. More than a week, but less than two weeks until freedom. After Monday, I also have enough money to buy my freedom. It's tempting, but then I would be completely broke... but-- I'd be free... I've come this far. Probably best just to ride it out until the end. I'll need the money when I have my freedom, more than I need the freedom earlier.

Tonight’s movie is Iron Lady which is much better than last week’s train wreck with Eddie Murphy. I’ve seen it already though... Not that it really matters. I'll gladly watch it again, even if I have no choice in the matter.

Friday, 15 March 2013

(Day 238) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 143 D-13

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner = March 1

Mr Kim gave me some more coffee, so now I have that for a couple of days... the weekend, at least. It’s hard to find much to write about. Nothing really happens. I have no drama between inmates because we never really interact and when we do, I only talk to one person because he's the only one who understands English. We talk about food and travel. Mr Kim has been all over the world.

I do the same things everyday and I've already written about that multiple times. Poor writing in Korea English language papers, poor acting in Korean soap operas and how many sit-ups I can do-- all pretty boring and mundane.

I started writing another book, but I haven't quite finished the other two books, yet. I don't really want to write much of this book by hand with pen and paper. I'll be able to use a computer in a little more than a week, and even if I spent 8 hours a day typing what I already have, it will take almost 2 months or more to transfer all my notes to the computer. And then all the time to re-write and edit before I'm ready to present it to other people, the long journey towards trying to get it published, either by a publisher or self-publishing and all the promotions and work involved after that... I may be writing this in 2013 but it could be 2014 before anybody reads it.

We got new inmate workers today, so yeah-- there's that... Now I have to train a new pair how to deal with the foreigner in cell 7 because we're also difficult to please with our sense of Imperialistic superiority.
The hardest part is the food. They have this misconception that only Koreans eat spicy food and it is way too spicy for a mere foreigner, so they have to give me these tiny portions of kimchi and yellow curry that could hardly feed a bird. I'm not even going to bother avoiding the rice, I need to gain weight anyway and 12 days won’t really do much. But give me bigger portions damn it!

Yellow curry is the weakest, compared to every other kind of curry, and kimchi is more sour than spicy. From my experience, it's the Koreans have a hard time with really spicy food. All Korean food is spicy, that's true, but it's all the same pepper that makes it spicy and the pepper itself is actually quite mild. I find Korean food bland because there's no variation between spices-- the curry is always yellow, peppers are always the same variety. I'll bet a Korean could barely handle a banana pepper or green or red curry. To make food spicier, they just add more peppers which overpowers the flavors of all the other ingredients.
I will not miss being asked if the food is too spicy or the surprise after at being able to weld a pair of chopsticks.

I just did it again... repeating the same subject-- this time, food. Exercise, bad TV, poor writing and food... Yawn. 12 more days...

Thursday, 14 March 2013

(Day 237) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 142 D-14

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner = March 7

As predicted, I ate all the apples yesterday and only had one left today. I'll probably finish all the oranges today as well. I should eat more rice too. I'm almost too thin now and actually need to gain some weight. I just don't like rice. It’s so bland like starchy, mushy water. Unfortunately just water won't add any weight and I need the starchy, mushy part. Blech. First world problem.

I should be ashamed and thankful I have so much food everyday and here I am complaining about it. I wonder how many starving people would give up their freedom forever if it meant a decent meal 3 times a day? I think I would rather starve, but I've never been that desperately hungry. I've been poor and without food before but never long enough to become truly desperate. Would I give up my freedom? I don't think so, but would other people, who know of no other life but hunger?

If time could go any slower, it would be going backward and I would have discovered time travel. I read every single article in the paper no matter how uninterested I was in the subject... It’s remarkable how long it takes to read the business section. I've even started following stocks and exchange rates just for the hell of it. That Buffett dude has some really expensive stocks. Just one stock costs over $100,000. I'm assuming it's in US dollars. Samsung stocks are nearly the same numbers but in Korean Won, so in reality it’s about 1 percent of the cost. There. How much time did that take to write/read? That is time that's gone forever-- you'll never get it back. I hope it was worth it. It was for me.

I spent all day waiting for dinner. Not because I'm hungry but because it marks the time of day when everything winds down. The guards do the last roll call, the workers serve dinner and retire to their cages, the last two hours of some shitty drama are broadcast, the lights dim and I attempt to sleep through to the next day, which is one day closer to freedom. At this point I have “one more” left. One more Thursday, one more Friday, one more weekend, one more week. I can't make time go faster, so I hurry up and wait.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

(Day 236) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 141 D-15

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner = March 6
Sometimes my exercise routine varies very a great deal. I usually do 100 sit ups all at once followed by forty chair-lifts and 40 push-ups later in the day. My chest and arm muscles can't take much more than 40 reps at any one time. If it says I did 100 push-ups, I didn't do them all at the same time. At that time I'll do 30 chair-lifts, 20 sit-ups 30 push-ups 20 sit-ups, wash, rinse and repeat two more times, ending with the push-ups. That means I do 3 x 30 chair-lifts, 3 x 30 push-ups and 5 x 20 sit-ups. The bare minimum I do daily is 100 sit-ups 40 chair-lifts all in one go. I've been trying to get into the habit first thing in the morning but I'm lazy and sometimes I just don't feel motivated. Even then I usually do my exercises at some point during the day. I don't have anything else to do after all. The real trick will be to continue the routine after I'm released in two weeks.

And that's all I'm going to say about that. It’s been awhile since I talked about exercise. I thought I should give an update on this  total mundane subject just to be thorough, since this is has to be the first memoir about jail that totally lacks any sex or violence, in all of history.

Actually jail is really boring and uninteresting. That’s why there aren't more memoirs. They would all be “Today I woke up at the crack of dawn and stared at the wall until dusk. Then I went to sleep” and that entry would be repeated for the length of the inmates sentence... 25 years to life... and a journal with the same entry 9130 times would be pretty boring. It would be really easy to edit though.

Mr Kim gave me a bag of apples and a bag of oranges today. I ran out of coffee yesterday, so now I have fruit for breakfast unless I eat at all today... I've already eaten three to four oranges and to apples just for something to do not because I was hungry. The next 2 weeks are going to drag by so slowly.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

(Day 235) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 140 D-16

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner = March 5

It hardly seems possible that I only have 2 weeks to go. I hope I don't have to deal with too much crap from Immigration. I just want to leave the country as painless and hassle-free as possible, but I doubt that will be the case.

It took a little longer than last week, but my theory about the New York Times crossword still holds. Mondays are easier than the rest of the week-- especially Saturday. I manage to complete most of today's crossword. The highlight of my day-- doing the crossword.

Monday, 11 March 2013

(Day 234) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 139 D-17

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner = March 4

While I'm writing for waiting for my newspaper to be delivered, I want to play cards, but I'm scared of getting caught and having my cards confiscated as contraband, which kind of defeats the purpose of having them in the first place.

Last night, I was caught playing just before the dimming the lights for the night. The guard shook his head and said no. I just looked at him with a dumbstruck expression and kept on playing. I figured the damage was done. He's either going to open the door and take my cards away or walk away and leave me alone. After watching me play a few hands as I consciously ignored him, he did the latter. That was a night time guard though. Perhaps he didn't feel like filling out paperwork for confiscated contraband.

Now, it's Monday and all the guards are rested and fired up with vigor from the weekend off, with newfound determination to exert their power over their little fiefdoms and lay down the rules of the land-- whatever the rules happen to be this week.

Meanwhile, I sit here bored. Debating whether I should break out the cards or not... waiting for my newspaper... or the TV... or a visitor, or letter to relieve the utter boredom that defines stir crazy in the stir.
That was close. There is an over friendly guard working today. When he arrived at work, he got his little clipboard and went down the cellblock checking his list and saying a cheerful hello as he went. His cheerful greeting announced his approach and I was able to gather the cards and hide them under my little table as he passed. Idiot. He may think being cheerful and friendly is endearing to the hardened criminals of cell block 7, but all it does is alert us to get rid of our contraband before he pushes his face up against the Plexiglas of our cell doors.

I've seen so many Korean dramas, I'm beginning to notice that the same actors keep reappearing lately. It’s like there is a limited pool of talent to choose from and they just shuffle between sets.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

(Day 233) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 138 D-18

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner = March 3

I was so busy writing mom and Z, I never read the paper. So today, I have something to replace the god-awful TV. I also wrote so much in my letters, I got nothing left here. My hand hurts. Weekend entries always seem to be shorter... I wonder why, since I have less to do and take up my time.

There is one show on Sundays that I enjoy watching. It’s a singing contest where popular K-pop stars sing the hits of an artist from the past-- usually the 80's or 90's-- and that particular artist presiding over the performances. It’s like Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber covering David Bowie songs while Bowie watches, except the younger artists will usually change the style. If it was originally a rock number, they might rearrange it as a ballad, for example. Then the audience votes for the artist and interpretation they like the best. Some of the performances are quite elaborate and I have a newfound respect for some of those K-pop stars. Some of them can sing really well. It's an interesting show.

 I wonder how well it would go over with Western audiences and musicians? I think getting some of the younger celebrities to sing would be hard with the clash of egos. The Korean celebrity culture is more geared to fun and group games, whereas Western individualism would see it as too much of a competition between egos. If you ever do see it on Western TV, you read about it here first.

(Day 232) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 137 D-19

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner = March 2

I got a letter from both mom and Z today, so I spent all day writing letters and not much else.

The movie was A Thousand Words with Eddie Murphy. How the mighty have fallen. How do movies like this get made? Who actually sees them in theaters? I only saw it because I was forced to. There is no way I would choose to watch it otherwise.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

(Day 231) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 136 D-20

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner = March 1

The incident with the guards about an inmate's knit cap really bothered me. There are other inmates with clothing items that they obviously didn't get through the prison system, so why did they single this guy out? They really make an effort to make everybody conform to the rules which is natural for prison, but it seems to me like they make up some of the rules as they go along sometimes, or only some rules apply to some people. Like the time I was told to wear my jacket with my inmate number on it all the time. I see inmates often not wearing a jacket but none of the guards bother them. Or the playing cards. I understand they are contraband because the inmates that are sharing a cell will gamble and that's a no-no, but then again, they sell Go/Stop cards and Go/Stop is a gambling game, too. Besides, I can't gamble with myself in solitary playing solitaire... or I could and I'd be guaranteed to win every time, so who would I be harming? All I'm doing is passing time while doing time. Where's the harm in that? Does it make things too easy on the inmate? Is that the reason? Do they want the prisoners to be as bored as possible, so they will spend lots of time contemplating the error of their ways?

During the 3 roll calls of the day and every time the TV turns on or off, there are two songs that are played every time. One of the songs has an accompanying cartoon. I don't understand the lyrics in Korean, but through the cartoon, I get the gist. Pure re-education propaganda.

The cartoon is done in a common Asian cutesy style and has an old lady crossing the street while the light is red, when a giant hand (the hand of God?) suddenly comes out of the sky, picks her up and puts her back down on the curb. Then, it cuts to an old lady talking loudly on a cell phone when the giant hand comes from the sky, plucks the phone from her hand and gives her a hand sign with a graphic indicating cell phones are not allowed. The next cut shows a guy in an office smoking. The giant hand comes down, takes the cigarette and exchanges it for a No Smoking sign. Then it shows a drunken guy, with a necktie tied around his head Rambo-style and holding a soju bottle, about to get into a car. The hand of God descends to pick him up and puts him in a taxi, all while the music repeats a phrase over and over. At the end, the old light lady, the guy and some previously unseen kid are dancing hand in hand in a nice field as the key phrase repeats over and over. I see this cartoon at least 3 times a day and hear the song 2 more times. My understanding is that it says “following the rules is good.”

There is another song that is also played first thing in the morning, at every roll call and every time the TV turns off. It repeats the same key phrase as a cartoon does about rules. That’s the only Korean phrase I understand out of both songs. I have no idea what they are actually saying about the rules just that the songs involve the Korean word for “rules.”

Finally, at 9 pm when the TV turns off for the evening and an hour later the lights go dim, signaling it's time to sleep, a woman's voice comes on over the speaker system with calm, relaxing, classical music playing in the background and she drones on for about 5 minutes in a soothing voice as the music sets a mood. Again, I have no clue what she is actually saying, but the tone just screams “brainwashing propaganda.”

Often during the day, there will be some sort of announcement over the speaker system. I'm sure that what they are saying is vitally important, but I don't understand and no one offers to inform me what it all means. For 5 months I've been blindingly following what all the other prisoners are doing, which is both good and bad. Bad, because I don't like blindly following anybody-- who does? Good, because I don't understand all their attempts at conformation, propaganda or brainwashing and I can plead ignorance of all the rules-- even the ones I really do understand.

I finally got the right menu.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

(Day 230) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 135 D-21


Breakfast coffee!!
Lunch radish kimchi
grass kimchi
Korean style pancake
spicy vegetable & chicken soup

Same soup as last night’s dinner, but with chicken and a kimchi I can’t describe as anything but grass... fail, but I’ll eat it all anyway just because there’s nothing else. The soup smelled a little like dog food...
Dinner kimchi
rice cake and beef soup
zucchini & mushrooms
shredded radish kimchi

There soup is the one decent thing. Two kinds of kimchi is redundant and a couple of slices of zucchini and some mushrooms is more like a garnish than a dish. Oh well, I only have to eat this 2 more times this month.

Less than 3 weeks! How exciting! The idea of leaving-- of escaping Korea-- of being free--anywhere but here, pretty much consumes every waking moment. Right now, it’s all I think about. I can't help it. If I knew exactly what time I would be leaving, I be counting down the hours and minutes (~480 hours).

My playing cards were almost confiscated as contraband in less than 24 hours while i was showing them to Mr. Kim during the exercise period. Apparently, you're not allowed to have playing cards, but somehow Mr Kim said something to the guard and he handed them back to me. We quickly walked away as to not push our luck. You can buy Korean cards (go/stop) and baduk, a game played with black and white tokens, like checkers, but a deck of western style playing cards is contraband. Go figure.

Speaking of contraband, there is a inmate here that spends all of the exercise period actually exercising by jogging around the yard. He's a big dude. He looks as if he spends the rest of the day doing push-ups. Anyway, when he runs, he wears a blue toque with white stars on it. Yesterday, some guards came into the yard and took his hat away from him for no reason at all. What's the harm in a fucking hat? Obviously at some point, someone with authority gave it to him. That's the only way he could have gotten it in here in the first place. I made my contraband. It’s highly doubtful this guy knit his own hat.

If people bring inmates stuff, it has to be approved by the guard before it is given to the inmate. Nothing gets into the cells without going through a guard first. I even had my asshole x-rayed when I was processed and visitors have to turn in their hand phones before they can meet with inmates for 15 minutes with Plexiglas and an intercom between them. My mail has always arrive already opened and any books I've received, take at least a day before they reach my cell, so how did this dude get his hat into the jail in the first place? I have all my clothes here in storage, but I had to buy prison approved socks and underwear and shirts. And once he had it why did they come and suddenly take it away? It’s just a hat...

Prison has not taught me to have any respect for authority. If anything, I have even more disdain and contempt for power tripping authority figures. Down with authority! Freedom to the people!

I finally got a menu today. From my limited Korean skills, what is written is not what we were served last week. I don't remember having bibimbap for lunch yesterday... In fact none of the meals I recorded in the last week match anything on the menu...

Mystery solved. I've been given the wrong menu. The worst part is that the wrong menu had much better food on it. I've been served shitty food all along. This whole time has been a scam right from the beginning. I knew it. They wouldn't let me keep the menu as evidence and now I don't have a menu again. I have 3 more weeks of shitty food to look forward to. It’s actually less than 3 weeks though, so I think I can deal with it.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

(Day 229) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 134 D-22


Breakfast nothing
Lunch rice & kimchi
some sort of grassy kimchi
tuna & slimy seaweed soup

Slimy seaweed is an automatic negative, as is more than one kind of kimchi. 5 dumplings does not a meal make.
Dinner kimchi
spicy vegetable & beef soup
shredded potato
raw pickled garlic

Raw garlic? Really? Nothing else with it, just garlic? What kind of side dish is this shit? Koreans have some very strange ideas of what constitutes food. If my room stinks, it’s their fault. At least ai won’t have to worry about vampires.

It was a beautiful day outside, so I had to go out during exercise period to experience it. It’s supposed to get to 17°C by Saturday. If that doesn't indicate spring is here then nothing else does.

Mr Kim and I are on speaking terms again. It's hard to hold a grudge against the only other person able to talk English. He gave me a box of coffee, too which is very welcome since I can't buy my own anymore.

I'm not very impressed with the menu this month. I'm never impressed with rice and kimchi 3x a day, every day, but since January, the menus have been getting progressively worse. Oh well, only 21 more days... 21 more days... 21 more days... If I only drink one coffee per day, I'll almost have enough to last the rest of my time here. That’s very unlikely since I already used 2 out of 20 and I have... 21 days.

I wonder why I didn't think about it a lot earlier than now... It suddenly occurred to me that I possess the skills and materials to make my own set of playing cards, but put into actual practice proved more difficult than I thought. Drawing the cards was easy—8 cards per sheet of A4 paper and 6.5 sheets of paper. The face and Ace cards were the only the elaborate cards of the bunch. The rest were all repetitive and more tedious than difficult. Then I took my pencil drawings and inked them using black and red pens. Herein lay a problem. The ink was visible on the backside.

“Okay,” I thought to myself, “I'll add an extra layer of A4 paper to each sheet of cards. I have glue. No problem.”

Until it came time to separate the cards from each other. I have no scissors because they’re sharp and dangerous and I might use them to commit suicide or homicide. So now I have 6.5 sheets off nicely drawn playing cards I can't play with. I solve the problem by folding the edges over and over to get a good crease and ripping them apart. Crude, but effective. Now I can play solitaire for the next 20 days!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

(Day 228) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 133 D-23


Breakfast nothing
Lunch kimchi
some sort of radish root in red pepper sauce
potato & rice pasta soup

Some pretty meager offerings here. The soup was better than slimy seaweed, but very bland—needs salt. Very small portions of the side dishes and a banana leaves a gnawing hunger for the rest of the day. I hope dinner is better.
Dinner kimchi
turnip? in hot water
sweet & sour pork

I think it’s turnip but it could be some sort of radish. Whatever it is, it’s in hot water... oh yeah, there’s a shrimp, too. The grass could be garlic or green onion stalks, but it just looks and tastes like grass mixed with red pepper sauce. Crap. That’s what it all is-- crap. The pork is okay.

Now the rumor floating around is there will be a general pardon in celebration of Buddha's birthday, which is until April or May (May 17th, I think). Neither of those dates makes any difference to me, since I'll be long gone (22 days to go...), but what's interesting is the fact that any significant holiday (president inauguration for example) leads to rumors of a general pardon. The first time, I was hopeful. Now I know its bullshit. It’s what passes for hope in the slammer.

Personally, I find the holidays in here a time of despair, not hope. The holidays remind me of what I'm missing out on. I don't look forward to them at all, except as a marker of time passing by. 8 months is in jail is nothing compared to the usual sentence of years, but it's enough for me to know that I'll avoid it at any cost in the future— especially if I'm not in a first world country. I'm lucky this is Korea and not someplace like Laos or Cambodia.

I was given a slip of paper today and once again no instructions on what to do with it, so I gave it back without filling any of it in. Sometimes— actually most of the time, I get the feeling that I'm missing out on something vitally important, but no one here cares to tell me what's going on. They're real quick to yell at me when I don't follow instructions, often failing to realize no one told me what the instructions were in the first place. Of course, this makes me indignant and hostile... Only 22 more days only 22 more days...

Still no menu, thus far. The menu has really sucked. Out of 10 meals served so far, 0 have rated 4 rice bowls. 3 have received 3 rice bowls. Four meals rated a 2, two meals got 1 and one meal got a high of 0 rice bowls. There are still 4 more meals to try. Hopefully, at least one of them will get a 4 bowl rating. Three weeks of shitty meals is something I hardly look forward to. However it is only 3 weeks until I am finished with this crap forever. Maybe crappy meals are but a small price to pay.

I finished the last page in my sketchbook JO brought me way back in September. I probably would have finished it sooner, but I've been negligent in the drawing and writing lately. It’s not that I'm uninspired. Rather than write everything twice-- on paper and then again on the computer, I would just as soon wait until I have my computer in 3 weeks.

Monday, 4 March 2013

(Day 227) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 132 D-24


fish cake & onion with gelatin
bok choi kimchi
cabbage, tofu & soybean soup

Meh. Two kinds of kimchi and a bland side dish with no meat. The soup was something other than just water and kimchi, so that’s something worth noting.
slimy seaweed soup
beef and cabbage

The beef and yogurt are the only decent thing about this meal. The rest is crap, and of course, the serving of beef is miniscule. One has to eat rice just to keep from starving.

I think the New York Times has a scam going with the crossword because Mondays always seem really easy. Yet, by the time we get to Saturday, it’s next to impossible unless you have a well-rounded and extensive education in the classics, Latin and whatnot. Today had a lot of pop culture references.

I still haven't been given a new menu for the month of March. Every meal time is a mystery. It’s actually a little better to expect the unexpected. That way even if it’s crap, it’s welcome crap instead of dreaded crap. By the 7th of March however, everything will start being repeated, so I can go back to dreading the upcoming meal. Now that I've written about the lack of a menu, I'll be sure to get one today, but as of 6pm no such luck.

Later, there is still no menu, but I got a calendar of what particular kind of bread is available to order on any particular day (the choices vary day to day). Most of it is sponge cake filled with cream or red bean paste or both. It’s gross. Like eating pizza with potato and corn on it-- only in Korea. However at this point, I’d eat any kind of pizza if it had tomato sauce and cheese, regardless of the corn or sweet potato.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

(Day 226) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 131 D-25


Breakfast bread & strawberry jam, flavoured  milk
Lunch kimchi
spicy pork with kimchi
fish cake & turnip soup
Rather plain and missing a side dish, but better than slimy seaweed soup or slimy seaweed kimchi, or slimy seaweed anything... Like dinner on Friday (menu day 1), but without the lettuce.
Dinner cubed radish
soybean, potato & tofu soup
dried seaweed & soy sauce
breaded fish fillet with ketchup

The dried seaweed is kind of pointless if you don't eat the rice. The soup had lots of potatoes and tofu, and at least the server didn't dump a cup of ketchup on the fish this time.

8 months later and I still hear the song Gangnam Style at least once a day. Since the day it came out, I've been behind bars. I have never seen the video and I've generally avoided the whole phenomena, but I still am still sick of it as much as any free person.

When I first heard it, I thought, “Wow. Someone is actually making fun of the superficial nature of Gangnam and the people who hang out there.”

I thought Koreans would be offended, but they embraced it-- even more so when it became a craze. 6 billion people laughing at a K-pop song and Koreans are proud of just being recognized—maybe never realizing we're laughing at them not with them.

Personally, if such buffoonery was representative of my country and culture I'd be embarrassed. As a Canadian, I'm still hit with “Take off, you hoser” and “eh” or “aboot” jokes every so often by Americans and it’s been 30 years since Bob and Doug Mackenzie. Any Canadian under 30 probably has no idea who those two are, but it's still an embarrassing stereotype. I've never heard a Canadian talk in the kind of accent Americans make fun of, unless they're from some remote eastern part of the country where people speak a mix of French and English. It’s like me talking in an accent more akin to some redneck hillbilly from the southern states and speaking like that to every American I meet. And “eh” is not any dumber sounding than the American “huh.”

30 years from now a young Korean will say “I'm from Korea” and everybody will break out into the horse dance because that's all anybody will remember about Korea and its culture. The poor kid from Korea will have no idea why everybody does this funny dance whenever he identifies where he's from.

There are no words to describe how bored I am. I really dislike Sundays. Thankfully, I only have to suffer through three more of them...

Saturday, 2 March 2013

(Day 225) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 130 D-26


Lunchcucumber kimchi
yellow radish
hard boiled egg
noodles & fish cake in hot water

WTF? Are they trying to starve us? Terrible lunch. Bland and insubstantial. This isn't a case of being hungry ½ hour after eating. This is a case of being hungry as I eat and still being hungry after I finish.
Dinner rice & kimchi
soy bean, cabbage & tofu soup
sausage in sweet sauce
bean sprout kimchi

I ate the rice this time because I was still starving from lunch, but I will never be a big fan of more than one kind of kimchi. It’s overkill.

The movie tonight is Battleship... Really? How many movies were released in English last year? Why choose one of the worst? They only show 52 movies in any language during the whole year. Why does one of them have to be a steaming pile of shit? Surely there are some better choices than Battleship. Of course, I'll watch it. What choice do I have? 4 blank walls or Battleship? It could be argued that the 4 walls are the better choice.