Monday, August 29, 2011

I can't get away from Efes

Most people think Turkey is an alcohol free country. Not so. The Turks drink. Heartily. Ataturk, their version of George Washington, was famous for loving the local anis-seed liquor, Raki. He's also got his own brewery for beer. Sure, the strict Islamists don't partake, but Turkey is a secular country, and so to each their own. For the most part.

The trouble is, as with many things, Turkey's beer manufacturing sector is a blatant monopoly. Efes Beverage Company makes not only their beer, but also Becks, Fosters, even MGD! That'd be all fine and good if Efes was decent beer, but it's not. I'll grant you, their Dark and Wheat variations are drinkable, and Becks won't let them mess up their German Purity laws very much; but the regular Efes Pilsner sucks.

And you can't escape it.

The only other brewery in town is Tuborg, and, to be honest, they aren't much better. You can get Bud, and Heineken, and, strangely, Brooklyn Brewery's Brown and Lager, but you will spend, I kid you not, 11 to 13 dollars a beer on any of these.

So, unless I was brewing, or had a hook up from the American base, then Efes was the go to beer.

And again, it sucks. And gives you a headache. The only good Efes we ever had was on hot days on the Mediterranean, and, let's face it, anything cold probably tastes good under these circumstances.

Though we hated leaving Turkey, I'll have to admit, there was clearly no love lost when Erin and I parted ways with the old Efes.

Which is why it was so damned funny when I went for a beer run in D.C. this summer, and came out, having spent 10 dollars on a six-pack of Efes, just to see the look on Erin's face. The Lebanese guy in the store gave me a thumbs up when I bought it, "good beer," he said.

I just nodded.

Here is my buddy Rhett and I, knocking back an Efes before a night tour of the U.S. monuments on the mall in D.C.

Having visited Turkey, my sister too appreciated the humor in finding Efes in her hometown.

And of course, the obligatory monument to Efes shot.

It's not surprising to find Turkish beer in D.C. My sister's roommate works at a fancy Turkish restaurant, and there are plenty of Turks wandering the streets. D.C. is of course, worldly like that. What did surprise me, was to find Efes in Korea.

With a catchy slogan as well, "Thirsting for Life!" and "The most popular beer in Europe!" Really??? Most popular huh? Interesting.

The Koreans loved it, or, maybe they just love a free sample:

An interesting observation by Erin, nowhere on the export Efes do they say it's from Turkey. What, Prime Minister Erdogan, aren't we proud of having the most popular beer in Europe come from your country?

Luckily, where I found this Efes was at the International Beer Festival, two blocks down from my house, and Efes was NOT all they were selling. I was pretty damned excited to find this nice little selection of beers, imported, if you will notice, and are still paying attention, by some company that is "Leading Korea's Craft BEEL Revolution." Ah, that one never gets old. Beer posters all over the place, and someone still messes up and put's an L where the R should be.

But seriously, not a bad selection, right? You can't argue with being able to buy an Anderson Valley IPA, two blocks from your house in Korea, now, can you.

Rogue, Lost Coast, Anderson Valley, and a couple of small Euro brewers all got to sell their wares here through this Korean Beel distributor. And I got to reap the benefits. The only thing that was the same as in Turkey, was the price, 10 damn dollars a bottle. And 20 for a Delirium Tremens!

Shit, pass me one of those free Efes Mr. Beel man.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Screen Shot from my computer

Oh, no, I've been rocked out!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nore-Bang, what is it?

It's late at night.

You walk down the street, and surreptitiously sneak through darkened doors underneath neon signs.

At the top of the stairs, to your left, are a series of doors, all closed, with music and lights emanating from underneath the crack between the floor and the door.

To your right, a woman in an evening gown and lots of makeup, standing behind a cash register, asks you if you would like a room, and if it would be normal, or V.I.P?

You look to your boss, your headmaster, and you say, gee, I don't know, what do you think?

He says, it's Nore-Bang, let's go all out. It's the last weekend before school starts, right?

As the young woman escorts your group down the hallway of smoky rooms, your pulse quickens. The soju, Korean vodka, you had with dinner blurs your vision, and possibly judgement.

But then again, it's just Nore-Bang, Korea's version of Karaoke. So, what's to worry?

Now, what did YOU think I was talking about?

Because, in Korea, when you want to go sing Karaoke, you do it in a private room. You rent the room, grab some beer, some chips, some of the aforementioned Soju, and all your mates, and you head off to your own private concert.

Awesome. Even it's not what you thought I was talking about.

You cheeky monkeys.

Private sound system, laser lights, a massive remote control that accesses 1000,s of songs, a huge flat screen TV, and lots and lots and lots of bad singing. THAT is what Korean Nore-bang is all about. Here is the evidence:

It still doesn't beat the time our school in Ecuador hired us a chiva, an Ecuadorian party bus, and the whole time, my principal kept worrying that one of us would be decapitated by a power line as we partied on the roof of the bus.

Nope, it's not Ecuador. But I'd say it's far safer, and just as much fun.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A quick tour of Songdo

Yet again, we've moved somewhere extraordinary. South America was latin spice, with plenty of edge. A bit dangerous, but a bit free as well. Turkey was an Islamic country, but with the secular spirit of Ataturk, a visionary for the future of a tolerant world. Korea is the future. It is George Jetson.

We've moved to New Songdo City, essentially a 30 billion dollar neighborhood that has sprung up from the mud flats surrounding the coastal city of Incheon, Korea. Most of the idea for this city has come from the obvious looking real-estate tycoon second to the right in this photo:

His name is Stan Gale, and he is gambling big on this place. He has essentially built a city of the future, and his plan is that it will attract international businesses to come and settle here. We, at Chadwick, will be teaching those international students. Hopefully. You can read more about Stan, who is seen here being chatted up by our PE teacher, Wyatt, here.

So, what does Stan's city of the future look like?

Well, it's tall, with lots of skyscrapers reaching to the sky, but it's also green. Gale has planned tons of green space, canals, lakes, parks, running trails, and lots and lots of trees to make this as comfortable an urban environment as possible.

Here, is Korea's tallest building.

And, here is our apartments. Not as tall, but impressive nonetheless. We're surrounded by several buildings, but they have places them in such a way that nobody has to actually have their vision obscured by another building. Several teachers even have a view of the sea!

We've got a subway stop our our door, a runnning park on the opposite corner, and a corner store that sells Guiness and Hoegarden beer. What more do you need? Just a good bar to have a party in, and here it is: Cafe Moim. DONE!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

New Staff Picture

As Chadwick International went from K-7 to PK-8, and doubled class sizes, the staff literally doubled this year. There were something like 35 new hires. It's a great mix of folks, from places across the world such as New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, China, Wales, and Zimbabwe.

Unlike many international schools, Chadwick broke the cardinal rules of refusing to hire teachers without a minimum of two years experience overseas, and refusing to hire teachers with non-teaching spouses/partners. Normally, these two requirements shrink the pool of qualified candidates quite a bit, but Chadwick was able to scoop up some real coups by bucking the norms of these international teaching guidelines.

Just another reason why I love this school so far.

That, and my headmaster plays ultimate fisbeee.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Life is busy. We arrived in Incheon, Korea (just outside of Seoul) two and a half weeks ago. So far, we've moved in to a new house, bought all the related sundries, began new jobs at a new school, met a whole new set of colleagues and friends, explored the running trails in the green space of our school, and had way too many happy hours sponsored by our school.

We couldn't be more pleased with our move. Our school is wonderful, supportive, and well funded. The students are cheerful learners. Our neighborhood is safe, quiet, and surprisingly green.

The bars have Guiness on tap. I even found and IPA in Seoul. The subway is clean, efficient, cheap, and two blocks away from our house.

Our house is a wonder of technological connectivity. We can call our neighbors from a flat screen video panel, which also controls everything from the front door to the oven.

I have TV in my bath.

Our lights are controlled by remotes, and we enter the house with a fingerprint scanner.

The cat found a huge cardboard scratchy at the local version of Wall-Mart, E-Mart. She loves having a big house to run around in.

Today, we'll explore the vegetable and plant market that sets up outside our house on Thursdays.

The school has excellent toilet paper.

Korean Barbeque involves grilled, marinated beef, pork, and garlic and onions at your table. This is a good good thing.

So, we are happy. More to come soon.