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February 18, 2007

The Road is Working for a Living

TheRoadisWorkGIMHAE, SOUTH KOREA - I just realized it's been a full week since I last posted. Time flies when nothing exciting happens. The difficulty of course is that I'm completely stalled here while I wait for a new passport. I'm simply not doing exciting things.

The good news, for my bank account, is that I'm no longer wasting both time and money. With the help of my brother, I've managed to secure 12 hours/week teaching private English lessons. The pay is shockingly high for the amount of work required but I won't complain. This 'work' now means that I can live comfortably without digging into my dwindling (read: non-existent) travel budget. If I'm stuck here long enough I may actually save money!

Aside from the fact that my forward progress on this journey has hit a wall, I have little reason to complain. I'm happy to be sleeping in the same bed for more than 3-days at a time; even if it is an air mattress on the floor of my brothers studio apartment. I'm happy to have a stable, unchanging group of friends (by association of my brother) and I'm happy to be living a 'normal' life, mixing work with play, although the emphasis is still on play.

February 11, 2007

Hunkering Down in S. Korea

IMG_2483BUSAN, SOUTH KOREA - So the slow boat from China turned out to be far more civilized than my booking agent had led me to believe. The bamboo matt was in fact a plush, curtained berth and the (185m) ship was full of places to wander and get stared at by school children and adults alike.

For nearly two days, I was at sea as a lone English speaker surrounded my more than a thousand ethnic Asians. I was certainly the most conspicuous person on board. Most passengers were anything but subtle about my status as 'freak of nature' aboard the ferry.

The entire trip went without conversation and while very lonesome, was actually quite pleasant. Aside from the occasional child who braved up enough courage to noisily peak into my berth for a look at 'the foreigner', I managed to arrive in Seoul rested and ready.

The 300km/hr KTX Train from Seoul to Busan on the other side of the country was the fastest overland travel so far on this trip.

Now that I've arrived, I think I might have to settle in for the long haul. There still seems to be no quick way to get myself onto that Trans-Siberian train. This news is especially dis-heartening.

I'm trying to make the best of it though and after recovering from the shock of finding myself signing loudly (and badly) in a private karaoke room at 5am with my brother and his friends on my first night here, I've started to look for some work to help me bide my time. 3 weeks. 5 weeks. Who knows how long It'll be before my paperwork is set for the next leg...

February 07, 2007

Detour to South Korea

Yellow SeaBEIJING, CHINA - There are a few difficulties that I can't seem to get past:

1. I need a brand new passport in order to meet the Russian requirement that I have TWO BLANK FACING pages free.

2. I need my Birth Certificate before I can get a new passport.

3. My family won't be in a position to send the Birth Certificate until after Feb 15th. (One week from now.)

All of this means that I can't even begin to organize the appropriate visas until my passport is in order (at least 4 weeks). I'm stuck.

Drastic times call for drastic measures. I've gone and bought myself space on a bamboo mat for the 28 hour ferry crossing to South Korea. I leave tomorrow morning.

It's a better place to sort out my visa issues than Beijing, primarily because my brother lives and works there. He's promised me a place to sleep and an opportunity to work a little and a group of friends that doesn't change every three days. It sure beats staying in a Beijing hostel for the eternity that it'll take to get myself sorted.

I wanted to draw a line on the pictured map but the photo editing software on this computer is exclusively in Chinese. My route will take me from the Chinese coast to Seoul where I'll board a high speed train to Busan (in the South East of South Korea) You'll have to use your imagination.

One last thing. This computer terminal is infested with cockroaches. I'm not kidding, they run out onto the keyboard every minute or so. At 3 Yuan($0.35)/hour I can't complain though.

February 04, 2007

Great Wall, Greater Beuraucratic Nightmare

The Great WallBEIJING, CHINA - Though I may look triumphant in this photo of me at the top of the Great Wall of China, I've been anything but since arriving in Beijing.

I'm trying to gather the visas needed for the rest of my trip across Asia via the Trans-Siberian railway to Moscow. If I'm to make it to Europe without flying, this was to be the easiest, and in my mind, the most romantic way to get there.

In the last 3 days I've suffered what seems to me to be an uninterrupted string of bureaucratic defeats. The latest of which was the discovery that I need to go through the laborious process of getting a new Canadian passport issued before I can even begin the painful, and lengthy ordeal of getting the visas.

The three pages I had left in my passport should have been enough but Russia requires that I have TWO BLANK FACING PAGES despite the fact that the visa only takes one page. My spare pages are scattered throughout. I'm screwed.

The other revelation was that I got here just in time for a new rule to take effect that forbids the Russian embassy in Beijing from issuing tourist visas to non-residents of China. The best I can do is a 10-day transit visa.

There are other difficulties and hoops, but most of them should be navigable. All it comes down to is time and money. I'll be lucky to get out of Beijing within a month.

It's a big city and there's lots to see, but I'm not at all excited about being stuck here in the dead of winter for a month or more. I want nothing more than to keep moving. It's almost long enough to get an apartment and a job. booo hiss.