1460 and Forever

On May 24th 2008, shortly after I took the picture at the top of this post in a club in Busan, South Korea, I met a girl who told me that her name was Chloe even though it wasn't. I could have gone to that club on any other night. That girl could have been in any other bar that night. We could have never met. We could have so easily never met.

I have never forgotten the way those first few months panned out. The awkward first phone call, the songs I first sent her, the late-night Skype chats that ended at dawn. I have never forgotten how she became my best friend first. And how we hardly slept and fell in love that first night.

And I'll never forget what she has done for me. How she believes in me. How she has stuck by me and taught me what it is to be loyal. How she tells me that I can do anything - and I believe her.

And with 4 years behind us, she still makes me laugh every day. I hope that when she's nearly too old to do so, she still starts dancing for no real reason and cracks me up. I hope I'm lucky enough to see that.

And no matter what shit gets thrown our way, we stand as a team and throw it right back. Because she has shown me what it is to be strong. She's my partner in every sense of the word. She makes me into a better version of me.

When I think of what we've been through. The places we've been and the things that we've seen. And how it hasn't always been easy - I'm so proud of us.

Across 3 continents we have built something truly special. We're unbreakable. Nobody can fuck with me and my Canadian.

Stumbling into that club was the best thing I have ever done.

I love you, K.A.

Love, Smithy x


Cinco de Mayhem

I should come out early doors and say that I absolutely love Mexican food. I haven't been to Mexico, granted, but anything that even tries to call itself Mexican food is going to get eaten by me. Korea does not do Mexican food (or Tex-Mex) very well. Tacos are actually quite popular, but almost all restaurants that pop up in this country attempting to make authentic Mexican food like we know in the west are almost instantly bastardized by the damn natives of this peninsular and suddenly you've got olives in your burritos and gochujang where the salsa should be (although, actually, that spicy red pepper paste will end up playing a vital role in this story, so maybe the natives are on to something).

Anyway, I know a guy who shares my love of all things Mexican. His name is J-Mao and he is a sexual deviant. Don't bother following that link either because he hasn't updated his excellent blog in over a year. Regardless, on each of the previous two May 5ths that we have spent together in this country we have approximated a Cinco de Mayo party. I'm English, as most of you know, and have no idea what the fuck Cinco de Mayo means - 5th May obviously, but in terms of an excuse for a party, I'm not sure. Nor do I really care. My American friends introduced it to me as a day to make Mexican food and drink Tequila so I was sold. Anyway, the first 2 parties we threw were fine, but we were determined to make this one (almost definitely our last, by the way, as J-Mao is pussying out and moving back to the States) the best of the bunch.

We started thinking about the catering quite early because, regardless of the fun and the frolics that would undoubtedly occur, this party was mainly a way for J-Mao and I to stuff our faces with bomb food. With this in mind, we made a recce trip to Vatos Tacos in Itaewon. Inspired by the Kogi BBQ Truck in LA, Vatos is run by a couple of Korean-Americans with the view to combining the huge flavours of Korean and Mexican food and wrapping them in home-made tortillas. The place is fire and, whilst a couple of their ideas don't quite work, some of them really, really do. Their Kimchi Carnitas Fries are a lot of fun and they do a Samgyupsal Taco which is fucking ridiculous. If you're in Korea and you haven't eaten there, you're an idiot. Go there immediately, order a Makkeolita, and tell them that Smithy sent you. Just kidding, they won't know who the fuck I am.

This year, Cinco de Mayo fell kindly on a Saturday with the preceding Friday given as a rare day off for us hapless Hagwon teachers. I spent the day shopping and eating pastrami before J-Mao arrived in the evening armed with Patron and a winning smile. Despite an insistence that we would not get drunk that evening due the amount of work we'd need to do the next morning, we simply had to try a shot of tequila to make sure it was working okay. It was working fine as it happened, and that's how we found ourselves a few hours later pounding soju, grilling galbi and cackling like rapid hyenas. We managed to make it home at a reasonable hour, thankfully, as important work was to be done. J-Mao organised an orgy of seasonings, swirled it up in a ziploc bag with some tequila, dunked the chicken and pork into it and held them down 'till they drowned in that shit. The smell was intoxicating. As was the Patron.
Breakfast Burritos

I defy any hangover to cope with the onslaught of one of J-Mao's breakfast burritos and the spicy, starchy, bacony, eggy goodness that I rolled up into a warm tortilla, stuffed into my face and washed down with some stupidly strong coffee obliterated the faint throbbing in the temples from which I was suffering. I can't tell you how awesome those were. We were good to go. The Canadian and I cycled down to the supermarket for some last minute supplies and, once we returned, we got stuck in to chopping tomatoes for salsa and mixing Sangria while J-Mao worked his magic on the guacamole and the various sauces we had to look forward to. One in particular, with a nod in the direction of Vatos Tacos, had a gochujang base and was immediately christened 'Dank' by yours truly due to its intense, aromatic flavour. And the fact that it was the bomb. One of my favourite parts of this party came later in the day when, with completely straight faces, our guests were asking people to 'pass the Dank, please' as if it was the most ordinary name in the world. It was fucking dank, though.
Bonathan Punch & one of the bottles of Tequila
©Priscilla Vasquez

The guests soon arrived and busied themselves in the punch that Bonathan had created. J-Mao and I hustled in the kitchen, him creating food and me being 'his bitch' according to my Canadian girlfriend. I saw it at as helping but, whatever. The food made it's way out and people were soon snarfing up the food like there was no tomorrow. My personal favourite were the beer-battered fish tacos with homemade coleslaw and a healthy slathering of dank, but the pork tenderloins were meaty and intense and the chicken was light and fragrant and damn tasty. I'm drooling onto my lap right now which is a repulsive sight for my sorry co-workers but, damn, that food was good. I wish it was Cinco de Mayo every day so I could just turn into a disgusting, fat sweaty pig. That's the plan for my 50s.
Chicken, Guac and yes, that is Dank in the centre.
©Priscilla Vasquez

Anyway, the rest of the day/night was a foggy haze of leftover quesadillas and mucho, mucho tequila. We played Ring of Fire at some point which, in a moment of genius from La Canadiana, was filmed by a hidden camera. Watching that back now is like one of those 'found footage' movies (you know like Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity?) but, instead of a rising climax and jumpy moments of terror, you've got 10 drunken idiots from all over the world, screaming at each other in mockney accents and calling each other Sharon. Fun, it was.

So, what can we learn from this? Cinco de Mayo is a fun-ass holiday that should be adopted the world over. Expensive tequila > inexpensive tequila but, at the end of the day, any tequila > anything else. And mate, that sauce was fucking dank.


Love, Smithy x


A Grey Day

It's a grim and miserable day in Bucheon today. The rain is drizzling, the temperature has dropped and the Umbrella Army left a trail of damp puddles throughout each aspect of my thrice-weekly taekwondo commute. I left The Beast tied up this morning so as not to subject her to more rust-forming rainwater while chained beside Songnae Station.

And it is a grim and miserable day inside my heart as, last night, Manchester City were crowned league champions for the first time in 44 years after the most emotional 90 (95) minutes of football I think I have ever experienced. When City struck with those two late goals, I covered my face with my hands and waited for the tears and devastation to wash over me - but they never came. All I felt was a resignation, an acceptance bordering on relief, actually. City were definitely going to start winning trophies at some point - the talent they have in that team made that fact inevitable. The truth is, if QPR had held on last night, if Joey Barton hadn't, once again, proved himself an actual maniac, we'd have won the title and, for the first time, I really don't think we'd have deserved it. There is too much work to be done at United, and I just hope that Fergie has the time - and, most importantly, the money - to make the required changes. Being a United fan in your 20's means that you have never experienced failure. It is difficult at times to suppress that sense of entitlement but it is important to remember that success is not a Fergie-given right to all United fans. Ferguson has created team after team after team that wins things. Chelsea, Arsenal and Blackburn all had runs at us, and we batted them away. City have so much money behind them that this could be the biggest challenge of them all. Fergie doesn't have too much time left at United - he is 70, after all - and he now needs to build a team capable of competing with, and beating, City and Barcelona. It's time for the Glazers to put their hands in their bearded pockets, or simply fuck off.

Anyway, it's important to keep positive. We have a cracking new hanger for our tea towels, for example. And it's fish curry for tea tonight. So, you know, every cloud and all that.

Love, Smithy x