Monday, 31 December 2007

The End of the Year

It has been a whole year of blogging for me, sometimes regularly, sometimes not. It was also my first year at it.

The Blog started out as a replacement e-mail to everyone and ended up being, well, the same thing. I sometimes get hits to the Blog from people in other countries and I still have very few people who actually care what I write, but I just don't care any more. I will remove the people I feel have no interest, like I did before, and carry on as if nothing ever happened. If you suddenly stop getting the emails then know it's because I never hear from you.

In this coming year I'll be sending email out only once a week to give a quick update on the posts for that week. I will try to do this every Sunday or Monday.

I initially wanted to include a nice little new year's photograph with this post, but since I don't have any and since I don't feel like using someone else's, you'll just have to live with my best wishes for the new year.

Voorspoedige nuwe jaar en mag julle alles van die beste he.

Up the Dragon Mountain.

After the initial and expected confusion the day before, I was told that all the teachers were going on an outing. At first I was told that it would be a workshop that would be run in Korean, so I decided not to join and rather work on my holiday school work. I suppose the question was then asked why I wasn't not going along and eventually it was explained to me what the real situation was.

This outing was to be the end of year get together thing and, needless to say, I didn't know that it was the end of the year either. As far as I was concerned the year only ended on the 31st. I only found out that I was wrong on Sunday morning though.

Anyway, the plan was to leave school at about 12pm in a bus that would make it's way to Yongmun San, translated, Dragon Mountain. This is an surprisingly mountainous area even considering that we are in Korea. I suppose it is because we were in the most northern part of Gyeonggi-do, bordering the mountainous Gangwon-do. The area is called Yangpyeong.

The road there was filled with really odd sights. Some times it didn't feel like I was in Korea at all. The buildings were of strange design and they were using comparability large amounts of English.

I suppose it is because of the large number of mountains, but there were a lot burial mounts to be seen. The most interesting was a mountain covered with small mounds. It was the closes I had seen to a Western style graveyard in Korea. Al thought I am still not in favour of burial due to it's waste of space, I feel this is much better than the large burial mounds that take up enough space to bury 10 people.

A few days back I saw a picture of a really strange fire escape slide and thought it was a joke. I'm still not sure if it is face a fire escape, but none the less, I saw one and include the picture I found on the net with this post.
(At the time of posting it will not be included because it is on another computer)

When we finally arrived at the mountain I was surprised at the amount of people. The main attraction there is the 1000 odd year old Ginko tree next to a Buddhist monetary. It seems like this is a normal thing for schools to do with their employees. Another school's teacher arrived at the same time as us and made their way up at the same time.

On the way up you can see little piles of stone that people stacked. I'm not sure if it is suppose to mean anything or if it's just the handy work of bored people who want to do the same thing every one else has already done.

A few times we passes these weird white things hanging in the trees. They looked like balls of wax without the pit, but when I touched it felt more like animal fat. It reminded me of the Blair Witch Project.

The weather wasn't all that great and we basically just went up, took a few photographs, me being the designated photographer, and came down.

To finish the day off we went to a restaurant were we got to scarf down all the Galbi we could, if it was Galby, and drink loads of Soju. The usual suspects got drunk as is the "custom" in Korea. I'm serious when I say this about drinking. Getting drunk here is not seen in the same light as in the West. I've hear of more than one women who wants a husband who can handle his drink. I'll do post about that some time, please just remind me.

The all night fishing will have to be in a separate post and it will have to happen some time this coming week, in between the editing and holiday classes.

Saturday, 29 December 2007

How to Propose Mariage.

This is one place where you will not see me, ever, I hope. Maybe I'm just not romantic enough or maybe I'm not Korean enough to appreciate it.

In my opinion you should never do something like this in public. On the one side you're putting pressure on the poor girl and on the other side you are setting yourself up for a rejection to be seen by the whole world. There is also the idea that it really doesn't have anything to do with anyone else.

What exactly am I talking about? Just have a look yourself. Maybe you'll like it.

Friday, 28 December 2007

The Weekend to Come

I don't know if they actually say this, but is always feel that I understand exactly what they are trying to say.

Imagine a raw Irishman saying: "Oh! Jesus, Mary and Joseph!", Don't forget the Irish accent, then have a look at what is coming my way this weekend...

Weekend Weather

It will continue along those lines untill Thuesday. The good thing is that I get to go looking for snow photos in the mountains tomorrow.

The bad thing is that I have never done it in weather like this before. I hope they don't find an Ottosicle when they start looking for me at school.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Foreigner Blues

Dear Mr. Editor

A few weeks back I read about how crimes by foreigners are on the increase. We will ignore how crime by foreigners are more likely to be reported and how the actual number of foreigners have increased which, obviously, will increase the number of crimes as well. We will also ignore any other statistics that are made invalid by stupidity.

What I would like to comment on it the "photograph" of the alleged foreigners in you on-line article. For your convenience I include the "photograph" in this letter.

I must admit, were I that girl, I'd also be freaked out if a blue man came stumbling my way. However, apart from that I just don't see anything to be scared of.

Just look at these three "foreigners". They are clearly in a really bad state. I suspect the gentleman with the barrette is a struggling artist. He doesn't even seem to have enough money to buy razor blades for a decent shave. The gentleman in the middle has obviously been the victim of some kind of crime. He was probably assaulted by a Korean, the crime not reported, of course.

Let's look at the guy on the right. He's BLUE! That's enough reason for him to be down, wouldn't you agree? I suspect he might have bad eyesight as well because he looks like he walked in to a lamp pole or something of the sort. These men are more dangerous to themselves that to anyone around them

Further evidence of their bad state, if you need it, are the toothpicks they're carrying. From that and the fact that they have to support each other we can deduce that they obviously just left a restaurant where they had too much Soju, in an attempt to drown their sorrows.

Truthfully I tell thee, we foreigners have a really hard time here in Korea.

Kind Regards
Otto Silver


I also doubt the authenticity of this "photograph" when looking at the little girl. I admit that she has a possible East Asian haircut, a small nose and small mouth, but Koreans don't have eyes that round. Surely you could have found a better model for your obviously fake photograph.

*Please note that statements in this Blog are not intended to make anyone look bad. I do not look down on Koreans. I'm merely describing how amusing I sometimes find people and I am mostly describing it to other Westerners. Feel free to come to South Africa and tell the world how crazy we are because heaven knows, we are.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Jugi Dureadu

If you have a look at the side bar here you'll see 10 things I like about Korea. One of them is reading English written in Hangul, the Korean writing system.

I suggest you learn to read it some time. It's a really easy and nothing like Chinese or Japanese. It's an advanced writing system and actually makes sense. For the most part one letter is one sound. There are a few exceptions, but nothing you can't get your head around within a few minutes.

Not surprisingly at all, you see it around here all the time. The best part, however, is that they write things like film name and products in Hangul as well. When you can read the script it ends up being an endless supply of entertainment, for me, at least.

Enough of that and back to the topic. You know how, at the beginning of a film, the name often doesn't come up straight away? First they have the production company's name, the director's name, a scene or two and THEN the film name. Very often on TV they have the name written small in the corner. Here, in South Korea at least, because you already know the North has no electricity, they do it just as often, but not using the Roman Script.

Imagine this. You're sitting on your bed, looking at the new film starting and wondering what it might be. You notice in the corner they have the name written and do quick bit of translation. The result is "Jugi Deureadeu" (sounding something like Jaugy Daudeadau).

What can this be? The images on the screen don't give you much of a clue. It looks like it might be set in the future, but you're not sure. You don't see anyone you know. You don't see anything you've seen before. You just don't know.

Just when you think that you will never get it they turn the light on and the original title comes up. It says "Judge Dread"!

Judge Dread! Not Jugi Deureadeu. Jugi sounds like a little Sissy Boy. Sylvester Stallone played a Bad Ass, Gonna Kick Your Butt From Here To The Wastelands action hero. We'll ignore the stupid costume that includes spandex and high sole steel tipped boots. He didn't play a Jugi.

I swear I will never get enough of this. It is more entertaining than anything happening in the actual film.

Something I don't get is why they need to translate the name like that? Shouldn't they just give it a new Korean name? Also, it seems pretty much everyone had English to some level in school. Surely they can read the name using the Roman alphabet.

Normally in South Africa we don't translate English names because we understand the language so well. We do however translate other language in to English. I can only imagine what we get up to ourselves.

We do have a habit of translating directly in to Afrikaans. It is just for fun and it leads to some strange result. It works even better if you do it with animals. As an example, a Leopard will become a Lazy Horse. The things with Afrikaans it that it is the same Language Family as English and we are mostly the same culture, to it is normally very easy to translate titles between the two if you really have to.

Keeping that in mind, just for fun I went and looked for a few actual translations of films in too other languages (and then translated back in to English). The ones I found are mostly from Europe, but a quick search will give you more from all parts of the world.

Here goes...

Dying to Live - Die Hard
Die Hard - Mega Hard - Die hard with a Vengeance
The Eighth Passenger - Alien
Deadly Assignment - Terminator
Forever Man - Highlander
Dangerous Sex - Species
The Gun Died Laughing - The Naked Gun
Raging Max - Mad Max
Just As We Were Falling in Love - Serendipity
Dancing Hero - Strictly Ballroom

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Monday, 24 December 2007

Tomorrow is Christmas!

Every year, around the same time, large parts of the world do this Red, Green and White Festival thing. It goes by various names, depending on the language you're speaking, but in English it is called Christmas.

Somehow I have always been more irritated that exited by this particular day. There are various reasons, but I think it boils down to two main ones.

Firstly, my family has never really done Christmas in any big way. In South Africa December it the biggest holiday season for the locals, so families end up being spread all over the country. This means that we don't get the traditional everyone-together-on-the-big-day all that often.

In places like Europe it is easier to be together because normally Christmas is not the biggest holiday season for going away. People prefer to stay together inside the nice warm buildings. We in the South go to the beach. Quite literally, we only dream of a white Christmas.

The second reason I don't get exited is that, well, I just don't like Christmas. It's a feast that has become nothing more than an economic holiday.

Here in Korea they don't really celebrate Christmas, but it's catching on, in the wrong way. Many of my students think it's a American Holiday about getting gifts. They have no idea that it is the celebration of the birth of Christ. Why should non-Christians even care about Christmas?

Another thing. How on earth can you have Christmas in a country and no Easter? Christmas has no meaning whatsoever without Easter. If you think about it then Christmas has very little meaning in any case. It makes for a nice bible story, but has very litte to do with the meaning of Christ, per se.

All in all I would be perfectly happy if there was no Christmas. I don't think I would even notice it's passing.

For those Westerners who know nothing about the history of Christmas, and there are many of you, have a look at this entry in Wikipedia.

I hope you all enjoy the Christmas though, whatever your motivations. For those of us in Korea who will be working again on Wedneday, best of luck.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Where did it go?

I was listening to one of my favourite Podcasts yesterday. It is a Podcast known as Seoul Survivors. It is coming to an end, but it is sill worth downloading and listening to them all. The hosts were talking about how their students don't know where Korea is on a map and how, when they find it, they then don't believe that it can be that small.

Hearing this gave me the idea to use a map as the Blog header. Not now, you misunderstand, but in the future. With this in mind I went hunting on Google for a map to use.

While searching I stumbled on to this particular map I'm showing here. It is a well know map of Earth's night lights. Another way interpreting it is that this is a map of the level of development of Earth's nations. Developed areas use more electricity and have more lights, generally speaking.

On the first map you can see the whole world. Naturally my eyes drifted to where I'm from and to where I am now. When you look towards the top left you will see a bright little snake. That is Japan. Just to the left is a little island. That is Korea, where I am writing from. More to the left you will see mainland China.

The world at night

On the next map I zoomed a bit so that we have a better view of Easter Asia. You an see all three countries I spoke of much better now.

Eastern Asia

Have a closer look at Korea in this one. If you look closely at the top you'll see that it's not the same dark blue of the sea, but the slightly lighter blue of land. That's right, if you didn't know this before then you know it now. Korea is not an island. That dark part is NORTH Korea. I live in SOUTH Korea. Like most Koreans, I refer to Korea as if it is one country. That is because I believe that it should be one. Practically and politically, however, they are two nations.

As a side note on this one, have a look at the immense power usage in the Gyeonggi, and more specifically, the Seoul-Incheon area. It's frightening.

The Black Spot

Just in case you really don't believe me about the North being there I went ahead and did an overlay of the countries borders from another map. I'm sure you can see it now, right?

Borders of the North

It is astonishing, and sad, that the North seems to have almost no electricity. This from a country where the people believe they have everything and the rest of the world want to be like them.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Even more on the weather.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who walks around fascinated by the weather here in Korea. We poor souls from the non-snow countries have never seen anything like this. Sure, I might have seen ball of ice as large as golf balls falling from the sky, even larger in photographs. Sure, I've seen the Apies "River", normally a few centimeters wide, flood to drown people and animals, and sure, I have been to the beach on Christmas day, but none of this.

Just after I left the house this morning it started coming down, freaking me out a little. It looked like rain while falling, it sounded like rain, but when it hits you, your clothing doesn't get wet and it doesn't melt. It was a lot like teeny tiny hail balls.

As it accumulated on the ground, the stuff looked like large white grains of sand or very fine polystyrene. It felt a lot like polystyrene as well. I was having visions of of Mana from Heaven.

Needless to say, I was five minutes late for school, again. I just can't help myself. It's absolutely fascinating touching the icy precipitation. Every kind looks different. Every kind feels different. Every kind even sounds different.

I used to think that the snow in films were mostly fake because it didn't fit in to my idea of that snow is suppose to look like, but now I see that although some of it might be fake, most of it is really as weird as it seems.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Tell me, Santa

Yesterday, Tuesday, we had a workshop for the Foreign Teachers at Everland. It was interesting, I liked the lectures and it was nice to be taken to Everland directly without any hassle. I don't think I will go back there any time soon unless it is with June. It is just not really my kind of place.

I did, however, stumble upon an interesting article the day before which told about the the Santas there. The Santas at Everland had to undergo training and, amongst other very important Christmas skills, they had to learn the dance to Tell Me, but the Wonder Girls. I was hoping to get a photograph of this, but it never happened.

For all of you who are not in Korea, and that is most of you, I include the video with this amazing "Christmas Song". To make matters even worse regarding this song, the Wonder Girls are being used in an advert, I forget which, and utter the amazing words "Merry, Merry, Me-me-me-me-merry Christmas". Heavens Save Our Souls

As a little side note, today is Voting Day here. That means an extra off day. it is good, because right now I have no idea what to do with the children. They are only at school in body. Why would they care if they have already finished the exams?

So Much Weather.

I often wonder why Koreans don't mention the weather more often. I have never heard anyone utter that very English greeting: "Morning. Nice weather we're having" or something along those lines. People have talked to me about the weather, but not in the same way the English do.

I find this very surprising, because there is almost as much weather here in Korea as in England. No, in winter, you start the day out cold and then it moves on to not so cold. On some days it is overcast and other days not. You even get bits of rain scattered in between. Today, for example was a particularly gloomy and cold day. It made me long to be back in England, hence this post. I really miss my London days.

As a last comment on this topic, I went and found out how to say "Nice weather today" in Korean...

안녕하세요. 날씨가 좋군요?
(Annyeonghasaeyo. Narsiga johgunyo?)

Friday, 14 December 2007

Others YouTube-ing it.

I have no idea why I only thought of this now, but I did and that is all that matters.

I went and typed Icheon in to the search to see what I would get. I got a few interesting clips, but the real find was Priendly. He has a nice collection if clip that he took for our viewing pleasure.

I will be contacting him, and the other, to let him know that I am linking to him on this page. I am suppose to ask for permission first, but I have no idea how long it is going to take for them to reply, so if they say no then I will remove it afterwards. In the mean time you get to help them with a few more hits on their clips.

Priendly is the guy with all the clips. You can find his clips at The other two people have one clip each, so I thought I would just link directly to those clips.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

I have to pay more!

They increased my lunch bill by 100 Won! 100 Korean Won! That's about 12 US Cent for the month! How am I going to survive?

I worked it out. It is an incredible increase of 0.0016%. Despicable!

I wonder if they will give me more details on where this money will be going.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Why East Asians are Crazy

I have discovered why East Asians are crazy. It is so simple that I'm surprised I haven't thought of it before.

First, let me tell you how I found the truth behind the matter. She has done this before, but the other day June was telling me something involving thinking. As she was telling the story she was pointing at the centre of her chest, in other words, her heart.

I had known about East Asians doing this, but I just never made the connection. East Asian are all crazy because their brains are in their chests and not in their heads where it belongs.

How is one suppose to think with all those other organs cramping one's brain in to oblivion? How is one suppose to stay sane when one has no functional brain.

I propose that we start a campaign to teach East Asians, starting right her in Korea, how to move their brains back in to their heads. That way they can function normally again.

*Please forward this to 10 people or your brain will drop in to your chest.

Wednesday, 05 December 2007

The Ridge Racer is Back

* I was going to post this a few weeks ago already, but all off a sudden the cars stopped using the road for the most part. That seems to have changed this morning. My "favourite" car also made a showing

There are very few cars using the road that I take to school in the morning, hence, there are a few cars that I recognise, most notably the Yellow Minibuses that bring the pre-schoolers to the school there.

The normal thing to do is for them to slow down and go past the pedestrians slowly. Normally when the road is very narrow the pedestrians stop walking and step to the very edge of the road. This is something that seems to be an unwritten rule.

There is one car though that passes me a few time in the week. It is a silvery blue colour SangYeong, I think.

This car drives up and down this road like it is a Ridge Racer course. You can hear this car coming up because that speed is obviously faster than any other car. This car also barely slows down when passing people, be it adults or children.

I've nearly been hit by the mirror a few times. I am just waiting for the day when that car comes close enough AND I have my pen ready to scratch the paint.

I have over the weeks found out a few things about this driver. The first thing I found out is that it is a woman who drops of her boy of at the primary school. She stops at the top of the road, parks next to the church and then makes her way, with her son, to the school.

She stalks, clasping her son's hand, down the footpath that connects the back road to the main road in front of the school. After exiting from the footpath she then stalks over the road, son still in hand, and makes sure he gets across the road.

After she physically let go of him she walks back over the road and stands there, looking at him. She watches him walking, head down, not talking to anyone, until he is well past the gates of the school and into the grounds.

When she is sure he is not going to be anywhere else but inside the school, she turns around and marches up the footpath, back to the car to do some more Ridge Racing back to where she came from

About two weeks ago I found where this Ridge Racer comes from. Let me paint a picture quickly.

When I leave the house I walk next to the main road for about 100m before turning off the road and onto the back road that goes up the mountain. It takes about 100m more before I get to the real back road where it is mostly trees and grass around me. This is the same point where the racing in the morning starts.

Turns out she isn't taking her son from some other part of town to a school in Song Jeong. She is not even just driving him past the traffic to get to school. Nothing as nice as all that.

She is taking him from the bottom of the road, to the top and she does this at racing speed. That is all. There is no great distance involved.

I've came to call her the Crazy Ridge Racer and I am waiting for the day that she either hits me or I scratch her car.

Monday, 03 December 2007

Ray's Coffee & Live

We have a little lounge type place here in Icheon called Ray's Coffee & Live. The Korean spelling written next to the name will, I am sure, cause the Koreans to pronounce it Ray-ee(without the S). The coffee mentioned in the name implies hot drinks and live is saying that they have live music performances there every now and then. Don't ask me when they have the live music because I have only seen it once before.

Ray's is a hangout for those who want to look cool, but despite that it is has a nice intimate feeling to it. It is located on the second floor above a clothing store and right next to a pedestrian crossing in the main walkway of the down town's shopping area. You can spend hours there staring at the people and in a bit I will tell you what you see when you stare at them.

The seats in Ray's are really nice. You get to slouch in wine red lounge chairs or sofas while crunching some shrimp sticks. The up, or down side, depending on how you look at it is that you can smoke there. That means you smell smoke as soon as you walk in irrespective of whether people are actually smoking. The smoke is just too deep into the furniture to clear out every day.

You can get a variety of hot drinks there from the normal coffees to speciality teas. The drinks are presented in a very nice way, but you have to wait forever for it to be served. Don't go there on your own. If you are relaxing with friends then this is a good place to go.

The thing that led me to write this post is the girl who served me my hot chocolate. More specifically, the way she was dressed. She was wearing a woollen dress that looked more like a long coat. It was really cute, but still pretty without being over the top. She wore black stockings, and get this, high heels. Not court hoes, but high heels. I know the girls here love their heels, but for heavens sake, you are busy working as a waitress. Wear something more comfortable. The shoes were not a mismatch though. They were black and ware spoiled only slightly by the big black bows on them. All in all she looked really nice.

What you will see when you look out the window at the people on the ground is another matter altogether. It is freezing cold here, but the girls insist on wearing short skirts and stockings. The stockings look more like very tight thermal underwear.

Anyway, I don't care how thick they are, they are not keeping the cold out at all. This is one time where saying "Freezing their, er, female parts off" is not being vulgar, but very realistic.

The short skirts are, of course, accompanied by high heels. More often than not the shoes are brown or red with the remaining examples made up mostly by black.

Shoes are a standard item for forgetting to match what you they are wearing with everything else. Apart from the shoes there are lots of other things that will not match and they do it in every possible way. Styles of clothing don't match. Fabrics don't match. Colours don't match. There will almost always always be something wrong.

Aska and myself don't point out the strange clothing any more. We point out the girls. or guys, who are actually wearing something practical or at the very least managing to match everything. That was the surprising thing about my waitress. Everything was actually matching.

I so wish I could see more girls just putting on thermal underwear and jeans with sneakers, but the only girls who do that are the very young or middle aged mothers. It seems young women will not be caught dead without mini skirts and high heels. At least sometimes the heels are replaced by boots, but sometimes that will then be accompanied by tiny shorts. You just can't win.

I will do my best to get some pictures of some of this and add it to this post. I will update you when this happens. Most likely it will happen next month when I don't have any school

AS a little side note. This idea of the dark stockings apparently comes from a law, social or actual, that said that you were not allowed to show skin. I'm pretty sure that doesn't exist any more.

*Please note that the statements in this Blog are not intended to make anyone look bad. I do not look down on Koreans. I'm merely describing how amusing I sometimes find people and I am mostly describing it to other westerners. Feel free to come to South Africa and tell the world how crazy we are because heaven knows, we are.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Vanila Ice Up My Hair.

You can always rely on students to keep life interesting during the times when they are not making life hell.

Two days back I passed one of my students on my way home. Normally there are no students on that road that time of day. That, however was not the strange thing.

He went for his haircut, but with a "style" that would no way have been allowed in the school. I could see in his worried eyes that he was expecting me to say something, but I chose not to call him Vanilla Ice to his face.

For those of you who don't know him or don't remember Vanilla Ice, here is a picture...

Vanilla Ice

Vanilla Ice was one of the first really famous white rappers,as far as I know. I can still remember some of the words to "Ice, Ice, Baby". He was not just white, but he brought bling in to the white world, big time. One well known thing about him was his hairstyle. There was the obvious Elvis impersonation, but if you look at the spot just above his ear you will see the pattern shaved in to his hair.

This is what I was seeing on the student, except that it was much larger and looked a bit like a Reebuck logo. Basically, one of those attempts to be cool with no sense of where to stop. We had the same thing happen 15 years ago when I was in High School, even with the same exaggeration and same lack of style sense.

After reminiscing about how cool Vanilla Ice was, I started wondering what would happen to him at school and whether they would allow it. Sure enough, I saw him in the teacher's room the next morning.

He entered the teacher room trailing behind his home class teacher with a look on his face of impending doom. Everyone saw the "problem" very quickly and kept on sneaking looks at the silliness. He was berated by more than one teacher and was seemingly not allowed back to class till the "problem" had been solved.

At one point, a few hours later, his home teacher was talking to a woman whom I suspect to be his mother. I have no idea what was being said, but I have to wonder how she let her son come to school like this. Did she somehow think the school turned in to a academy for Korean rappers? Did she maybe not see it or did he just manage to hide it from her the whole time?

I really wanted to ask what was happening, with precise details, but I decided that it was more interesting to make up my own story that might make it look worse than it really was. Maybe I will ask someone today if I get a chance.

Just after lunch yesterday, I think, I saw the student return with what looked like a army haircut and this morning I rightly saw him arrive at school with his little woolen pull down hat thing. For the life of me I can't think what they are called now. I hope that will be the only lesson he will need that being stupidly led my "coolness" will embarrass you more than not being "cool".

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Sad things we worry about.

I read a Blog every day where a guy takes Korean news stories and translates them. It is a nice way if hearing about interesting news here n Korea. They are mostly useless stories that are just nice to read, but today he had something disturbing to publish.

I read this translated story and then the comment he wrote afterwards. There was a link in there that I followed about how foreigners get treated. It is really disturbing stuff.

To read the news article, click here, and to read the disturbing part, click here.

I knew about things like this even before I coming to Korea, so it is nothing new to me, but I am glad I have not really had a problem like this before. I just have to wonder why Asia is like this and when it will happen to me?

Sunday, 25 November 2007

What I've learnerd about Snow

1. Watch out for that ice!

This first one is very important. I already mentioned this in a previous post. When people walk on the snow or cars go over it, the compacted snow turns to solid ice. Now, if you didn't know this before, then listen up. Ice is slippery stuff. Don't run on ice. Don't even walk on it if you don't have to. Stick the fluffy white stuff or the rough solid brown stuff.

Also remember to watch out for the ice that is so thin you can hardly see it. In England they called it Black Ice. The problem is not that it is more slippery that the compacted snow. Quite the contrary. It is normally not nearly as slippery. The problem with this ice is that you don't see it and walk as if there is noting there. That is what will get you because you will loose your footing when you are not ready for it.

2. Snow is as pretty as I thought it would be.

In South African we have the traditions of a North European White Christmas, but we hardly ever get snow or even a chance to see it. Our Christmases normally ends up with a little plastic tree that is getting more Africanized every year, a day at the beach and a Braai (barbecue). In other words, we only see the beautiful scenes in photographs and films.

One of the main reasons I wanted to see the snow was for the photo opportunities. As you can see I already got a few nice shots in. They were more than I expected I didn't think my first attempts would look so nice. I always had ideas in my head of what it would be like to take snaps in winter, but these were nothing like it.

The other thing that is really beautiful is the white you see every time you look out the window. For the first two days, when there was lots of snow, I was surprised every time I looked out to see the serene pure scene. You forget what is happening outside when you are inside in the heated rooms.

3. Snowball fights are more fun than I thought it would be.

Need I say more? If you are too old to do this then you are just to old, period. No one should ever be to old for a little bit if fluff throwing.

I was having a snowball fight with 5 girls. It was funny. More to the point, I was minding my own business when they attacked me. (Translation: They were the only targets around and they are not allowed to retaliate.)

These were really slow in making their ammunition and when they did eventually throw they were just useless. I would hunch down and made my stash of 5 shots, ignoring them completely. They never even got close to me while I was doing it. By the time they got the courage to come closer for a better chance I had my stash ready and would start peppering them with it.

You would think they would do the logical thing and just disperse, but they all turned tail at the first shot and ran away in a group. That means I just had to launch the remaining 4 snowball into the middle and hit nearly every time.

As I walked home there was normally nice snow on the side of the road and every day I ended up making about 20 snowballs to chuck at some kind of target along the way. That would satisfy my craving for throwing things about for the rest of the day.

Aaaaaah. I can hardly wait for the next snow to come.

4. Snowmen need special snow.

When the snow was coming down the first time it was real nice for making small men. However, by the next morning the ice seemed to have become dry and lost it's stickiness. I was unable to get a decent amount to stick together to make a nice little man. The little one I already showed you is all that I could manage.

My students tell me we will get lots more snow and that I'll be able to make a large one, if I wish. I do wish and can't wait to make a jumbo man. I have to go get carrots or maybe some kind of Korean vegetable.

5. Indeed, it is not that cold outside.

It was about 5 degrees outside after the snow, much warmer than the preceding days. I've heard people say that when you go skiing the temperature outside is much higher than people seem to think. I don't think the temperature went under 2 degrees the whole time we had the snow.

There you have it, the things I learned in just a few days.

So far people have not complained about the slide show format, so I include some nice snow shots as another Photobucket slide show.

Friday, 23 November 2007

I don't believe this!

I know that even Korean don't like this, so I feel comfortable enough to go off on a rant.

I was watching a film last night. It was obviously a made for TV film, but I was still enjoyable. At about the two thirds mark the bloody TV station decides to have an infomertial.


Infomercials are not bad in themselves, but you know how long these things can be. I had to look at the stame stupid product and listen to the same stupid lies for 20 minutes! (I stopped watching after about 2 minutes as soon as I realised what I was looking at)

That the hell!? Are these people idiots? I know they are trying to sell their stuff, but does the network really want people to go somewhere else because they like actually watching the things they tune in for?

I thought UK television sucked, but I am fairly certain that Korean TV is even worse. At least the English know when to stop the stupid advertising.

*Please note that the statements in this Blog are not intended to make anyone look bad. I do not look down on Koreans. I'm merely describing how amusing I sometimes find people and I am mostly describing it to other westerners. Feel free to come to South Africa and tell the world how crazy we are because heaven knows, we are.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

After the Excitement

Now that the excitement had died down I will tell you more about my first day of snow.

On Monday evening I heard thunder but I ignored it because I had seen the weather forecast saying that it would rain. A few minutes after that Aska phones me and told me that she is pretty sure that the first snow was falling.

I can't tell you what it felt like when I looked out of the window and saw a brand new blanket of white. I couldn't wait for Aska to put the phone down so that I could go outside and touch the snow.

Once outside I wasted now time making a mini snowman, but without the right tools I was unable to give him a decent face. The poor thing. The photograph that I include is the one I made the next day at school. His head fell off just before the photograph, so he is a bit ugly.

I also made a snow ball and threw in a random direction. Most of the time though I was just staring at all the white with a stupid grin on my face or walking around feeling the strange crunch under my feet. The crunch isn't something I expected from the snow.

After spending some time outside I went in and phoned home to tell my parents about the first snow. I so hope they can see it some day.

I was quite tired and really wanted to get to sleep, but I kept on getting out of bed and looking at the nice fresh white cover. It was just so beautiful. I even left my blinds open so that I could see the snow when I woke up.

Tuesday morning was my first ever day in the snow and I learned a few things. The first and most important thing I learned was that when snow gets compacted then it turns to ice. This means that you don't walk in the tracks of cars. You stick to where there is lots of white fluffy snow.

This effect caused some problems when going up the mountain. The cars were unable to get past a certain point where the gradient is steeper than other places. The compacted snow, having turned completely to ice, made sure they had no traction at all. A few cars were parked where you never see them and they were walking the last bit to drop their children off.

The second thing that I learned is that the snow is stickier while the snow is coming down. In the morning, when I wanted to make a snowball to start a snowman, I was unable to because the snow kept on falling apart. Later in the day it changed again.

Third thing I learned was that it is not that cold when it snows. Sure, you don't want to go out in your shorts or something stupid like that, but for the most part it is bearable with a nice jacket.

I include a few photos of my experience for you to look at.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Your Photographs CAN Look Better.

I'm sure I mentioned it, but we went to Suwon a few weeks back, mostly so that I could take photographs. I got a few nice ones, but all in all most of them are just interesting and very few are what I could call good.

I would like to share just one here, but with a little twist. I'd like to show you how I changed it from an OK image to something more interesting to look at. I'll start of with the original image and then explain to you how I got to the final product. Lastly, I'll show the final image and let you decide it if looks better. I won't be posting them one after the other, so you might want to right click on both and open them in new windows so that you can skip back and forth to see what the differences are.

Here is the original. It's interesting and I took it mainly to show the autumn colours on the mountain.

We will start here. I will skip the detailed steps, but you should get an idea of what goes in to it.

The first thing I always do is sample the colours for colour correction. Black is first and a spot that should be black get marked for sampling. I have noticed that correcting colour when using the black sample has the biggest and best effect on the image, so I need to get this one right. After that I do the same for mid gray and a white. In this example I didn't pick a white spot because the sky was so bright and over exposed that it showed up as one big white blotch.

Having picked my spots to sample, I use Curves to set the sampled spots as markers for colour correction. This immediately makes the colours more vibrant, mostly because it makes the very dark spots black and adjusts everything in between. The gray sample usually does very little. and white often has an effect.

Maybe I should mention here that I use PhotoShop CS3. I did exactly the came in CS2.

After the colour correction I boots the contras a tiny bit, again, using Curves. This enhances the colours slightly, but more importantly is clears the image of a lot of that "spoke" that seems to blur everything in most pictures. You don't even notice the smoke until it is suddenly gone.

Depending on the image I might boost the saturation, but I try to avoid that. I was actually considering reducing the saturation in this one, but I felt that the picture looks "prettier" this way even thought the colours are a little brighter that needed.

The last big change I made was to add the sky. Normally I will just do a black overlay gradient to add a bit of feeling to the sky, but here the sky was so over exposed that I decided to take the sky from another image I took that day and drop it in here. I changed it a tiny bit to be more visible and a deeper blue, but apart from that I didn't do anything else.

The very last thing I do is to run a Smart Sharpen filter on the image. This has the effect of sharpening edges and making the image less blurry. In other words, it makes the focus seem better than it really is and makes the details clearer. This will not fix images that are just completely out of focus though.

If needed, and it is needed more often than you think, then you should straighten the image out and crop it to get a better composition. Both were applied to this image.

That is it for the actually image changes. Al that is left after that is framing. For my arty images I use the black frame and if I want to use them as travel photography then I use the white frame to make them resemble postcards. You have seen the white frames in my other posts. A small logo, date and name is added as well.

That is it. Not much to it, is there? The rest is just looking for the right photograph and trying different things. If you take lots of photographs then you are bound to get something nice. This example isn't a particularly good photographs, but it illustrates the point well and does capture a bit of that autumn look like here in Korea.

Here is the finished product.

I hope this inspires some of you to at least straighten their images and run some sore of auto correction on it.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007



Snow! Snow!

Snow! Snow! Snow!

Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow!


My first ever snow!

It started last night at about 10 pm and I was so excited I could hardly get to sleep. I went out and made a tiny snow man, I threw a snow ball and did not make any now angels.

I also slept with my window blinds open so that I can check in the morning if the snow is till there.


p.s. I forgot too pee in the snow.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Oh! My Ears!

The winter is here! It has fallen on us!

I mentioned that the temperature would be dropping and it has done just that. The thermometer at school is reading a sizzling -6.9 degrees Celsius.

On the way to school this morning I was poking at the water that was left from the light drizzle yesterday evening and it was frozen. I haven't seen frozen water on the road in about 7 years now, but my question still remains: "When is it going to snow?"

I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one freezing my butt off. Everyone arrived at school and remained in their long Super Duper Thick Warm Jackets. I was feeling really sorry for the students who had first period physical education and had to go outside without their Super Duper Thick Warm Jackets.

There is one things that really bothers me about this weather. I'm sure my black trousers are shrinking very time it gets cold. It feels like it tightens around my legs every time. It is starting to freak me out.

I was hoping to get out early in the cold yesterday and get photographs of the frost in the mountains, but it went and rained a bit. Rain just destroys your chances of frost. I hope to get another chance to go out with my tripod to freeze all my extremities, nose, ears and chin off, but it seems that 3am rain is going to be a regular things for a while.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

No Fish Be Biting.

As I mentioned in the post about the school's festival day, there are many clubs in the school. One of these is the fishing club.

A few months back at a dinner gathering the Art teacher told me about this club and invited me to join them. Somehow I never did, but I was reminded of the club when I saw their presentation at the festival. Not wanting to miss my chance to go fishing in Korea, I got hold of him and asked him when they will be going again. He said that it would happen today, Saturday.

There was something else happening on today. One of the English teachers had a birthday party planned and I was invited, but people who know me know that I really have to be in the mood to go out to a club for a night's dancing. Somehow freezing my butt off next to the water seems more appealing than sweating my butt off in a club.

Anyway, I got all the needed information and here we are today.

This morning I met the teacher and the students at school at 9am. I had been looking at the weather forecast and today's weather was to be on the cold side. That proved to be true. The freezing weather is just around the corner though. Tonight the temperature will drop and it will stay down for a few days to come. If the predictions are correct then it will go down to -7 degrees in a few days.

You know, the funny thing about the temperature dropping is that I cant wait for tomorrow morning to come. I know there will be lots of frost around so I'll be able to go take photographs without the frost disappearing to quickly.

Back to today and we all hopped in the cars and headed somewhere. I have no idea where it was, but it was somewhere with a a man made pond with fish to catch. As cold as it was outside, it was stifling inside the car. The heater was set to 30 degrees. I don't even like that temperature in normal weather and I was dressed for winter.

On the way there I was staring out the window, just looking at winter arriving. The area close to the pond has lots of rice fields that have already been harvested. There were little frozen stubs everywhere and the field had turned from a dead brown to a frozen white.

The one exception to the cold outside was a large stream we crossed. Steam was rising out of it at a tremendous rate. It almost seemed like the water was boiling, but I suspect it was only a few degrees warmer than the air above it.

I noticed just one really unusual thing along the way. There was a place called Photo Design Studio. That in itself is not strange at all, but there was no Korean name anywhere, only the English name. I have never seen that and to see it out on the country side is just plain weird.

After a surprisingly short drive we arrive at our destination where everyone poured out of the cars and started setting up while the teacher arranged payment with the owners. I am ashamed to say that I forgot to ask how much I owe then. It will likely be better if I ask back at school where there is someone who can translate for me.

Two students helped me and told what everything was. It was interesting to see how the rod and everything is unfolded and set up to catch the fish just literally spitting distance in from of us. Everyone does their own setup on an assigned seat consisting of an old car seat on a little platform next to the water. My seat had a rain cover over it as well.

(What on earth! As I'm writing this it is drizzling outside! I wonder what this will do for the photographs tomorrow because I expect this water to freeze.)

I'm not exactly the king of fishermen, but I am used to people casting for fish some distance away from themselves. that doesn't happen here, however. Here we catch fish right in front of us. It feels very strange.

I am sad to report that I was unable to get the knack of it and I didn't catch one single fish. I would like to go again thought. It was nice, despite the disappointing catch.

The big outside like was basically just used by our small group. I was taken "around the corner" and in to something resembling a greenhouse. The greenhouse turned out to be an indoor pool where the more hard core fishermen were sitting. It was nice and toasty in there with a big stove like contraption to warm the whole place.

At around 1 pm we headed home and the rest of my day was spent catching up on some sleep and playing on the internet.

I include in this post a few photographs of the day. These photographs turned out to be my only catch of the day, but being me, it is something I will remember longer than the actual fishing.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Fuck You!

I already mentioned earlier this week that I would do a post on "Fuck You!" and here it is. I already had a comment about it from one friend. She said that the joke I posted doesn't fit in to the whole style of this Blog. I agree, but there was method behind it and today it will become clear.

Recently my students have started saying "Fuck You!" in class. It doesnt happen that often, but it should not happen at all. What they are doing more often is throwing the middle finger around as if it is a greeting. Keep in mind that these children are only 12 years old.

I know what you're thinking. Children of that age know all the swearwords, right? Keep this in mind. Their English is not nearly at the level ours was when we were their age. Even though I was speaking Afrikaans at that point "Fok Jou!" is exactly the same thing. It even sounds almost the same. I KNOW the students know its the wrong thing to say or do, but I am pretty sure they have no true idea of why.

Last week I had had enough of it. I told a boy not to say it again and 5 minutes later he shouted it to another student so loudly that I coul hear it across the room. I wrote a letter to the boy's home teacher and together with an English teacher they came to explain that he heared the other boys say it but that he doesn't really know what it means. This is why I decided to ask permission and do a lesson about "Fuck You!" without trying to sweeten it up for them.

So far this week I have done only four groups out of the 12 who should hear the lesson. Only four because not surprisingly my schedule has been changed and I didn't have any class for the first three days of the week. That is the nice kind of schedule change.

For the ones who did hear the lesson I must say that it was one of the most interesting reactions I have had to a lesson so far. It ranged from absolute quiet while they do some actual listening, to taking it as a sign that they can say it all through the lesson because it is OK.

By the end of the lesson, though, I do make it quite clear that if I hear them say it again then they will only come back to my classroom if it's with their parents. This is so that the parents also know why the student need to apologise to me.

I don't need an apology from their parents. They can give the students some stick at home, but I feel it is to late for their parents to do anything about it. I just want the students to realise how seriously I'm taking it. If it is going to change then it will have to be from the students side.

I include a link to the Presentation I used. I will be sure to keep it and improve it for next year because I am sure that it will happen again. Note that the story of where the word comes from is most likely not true, but it is still a good story.

Download the "Fuck You!" Presentation

Lastly I will show you another reason why I felt I needed to to this lesson. You would think the parents of this primary school boy would do something, but it seems they either don't care or they think it is oh so funny. The photo was forwarded to me from a South African teacher here. (I blurred the face myself though)

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Pass the ball! Oh! My Hair!

This must be one of the most amusing things I have seen the children do in a long time. I am not surprised by it, but it’s still amusing.

The Physical Education teacher had the students play football, but football with a twist. They had to pair up and in order for them to stay together they had to hold hands. Needless to say, it turned in to something more like holding on to a selected piece of clothing rather than hands. Just picture two people partially attached to each other running around trying to act as one.

What happened more often than not was that the boys did the playing with the girls just trailing as best they could. That in itself isn’t funny at all. What did have me looking on for much longer than I normally would have was the habit of the girls to just put their heads down when running, and pictures this, hold their fringes down.

It is not as if there is anything to mess up. Their hair is as straight as can be and with one flick of the finger they can fix it after their big spring for the ball.

I so wish I could have captured this on video.

There was one girl what was really impressive. When the ball was passed their way the boy stopped the ball initially but she lightly kicked it forwards and even took a shot at goal when she thought it might go in. All I can say is: "You go little Miss I-Don't-Care-About-My-Hair!"

I really need to start bringing my big camera to school more often. It would have been so much better to post a nice zoomed shot of one of a girl attempting a run.

What Starts with F and ends with K?

A first-grade teacher, Ms. Brooks, was having trouble with one of her students. The teacher asked, "Harry, what's your problem?"

Harry answered, "I'm too smart for the 1st grade. My sister is in the 3rd grade and I'm smarter than she is! I think I should be in the 3rd grade too!"

Ms. Brooks had had enough. She took Harry to the principal's office.

While Harry waited in the outer office, the teacher explained to the principal what the situation was. The principal told Ms. Brooks he would give the boy a test. If he failed to answer any of his questions he was to go back to the 1st grade and behave. She agreed.

Harry was brought in and the conditions were explained to him and he agreed to take the test.

Principal: "What is 3 x 3 ?"

Harry: "9."

Principal: "What is 6 x 6 ?"

Harry: "36."

And so it went with every question the principal thought a 3rd grader should know.

The principal looks at Ms. Brooks and tells her, "I think Harry can go to the 3rd grade."

Ms. Brooks says to the principal," Let me ask him some questions."

The principal and Harry both agreed.

Ms. Brooks asks, "What does a cow have four of that I have only two of?"

Harry, after a moment: "Legs."

Ms Brooks: "What is in your pants that you have but I do not have?"

The principal wondered why would she ask such a question!

Harry replied : "Pockets."

Ms. Brooks : "What does a dog do that a man steps into?"

Harry : "Pants."

Ms. Brooks : What starts with a C , ends with a T , is hairy, oval, delicious and contains thin, whitish liquid?"

Harry : "Coconut."

The principal sat forward with his mouth hanging open.

Ms. Brooks: "What goes in hard and pink then comes out soft and sticky?"

The principal's eyes opened really wide and before he could stop the answer, Harry replied, "Bubble gum."

Ms. Brooks: "What does a man do standing up, a woman does sitting down and a dog does on three legs?"

Harry: "Shake hands."

The principal was trembling.

Ms. Brooks: "What word starts with an 'F ' and ends in ' K ' that means a lot of heat and excitement?"

Harry: "Firetruck."

The principal breathed a sigh of relief and told the teacher, "Put Harry in the fifth-grade, I got the last seven questions wrong..."

*Thanks for this one Pauline. I'm sure I'm not the only teacher who will not try this on any middle or high school students. They do have this habit of knowing what they should not know

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Another Festival

First things first and did you guys notice that I've figured out how to justify my paragraphs? It was a bumpy ride, but eventually I managed to get it right. I only rolled it back four posts so far, but I'll go back further as time goes on.

Back to matters at hand now and there has been another event in this festival mad country. This time it was my school's turn.

The festival was basically to show of the skills of students and groups in the school. There were small exhibitions from Mr. Park's wild flower group where they showed other hot to make little phone rings with pressed wild flowers.

There was art from the art various arts classes, exhibitions from the fishing team and lots more. My favourite was the "farmers" who sold their peanuts and hot sweet potatoes for dirt cheap. A hot sweet potato goes down really well on a cold day.

These exhibitions lasted in an active form for about 2 hours or until just before lunch. After lunch the real show started.

We all gathered in the school's hall where various group of students performed for us. Some were obviously well organised and lead by adults while others were just students who wanted to show of their skills.

I have decided to give out my very own awards to the students. To bad they might not even know about it.

The Most Fun Award goes to the Taekwondo boys who were jumping, kicking and breaking board left right and centre, at the same time!

The Cutest Award goes to the students who danced to the Supremes song "Baby Love". Within the same group they ranged from very good do just too darn cute. Just for fun, have a look at the Supremes themselves: Click Here For The Video

The Great Skill award goes to the student who did magic. Some times you could see what they were up to, but their showmanship and skills were nothing to be laughed at for Middle School students.

My last award goes to the girl whom I will call the Broadway Girls. Their dance routine was very well practiced, the girls are obviously good dancers and I did not have to think "Maybe that should be left to the adults" at any point. I hereby award them the My Favourite Act award. *

To finish the show off we had a band from a local high school doing a bit of punk rock for us. The girl who was the lead singer can go a bit further in developing her showmanship, but she is already good and has a really nice voice

Needless to say it was a day in which I had no classes. I am still awaiting a chance to do my "Fuck You!" lesson which I will tell you more about very soon.

* Editing Note:
Since publishing this post I've been told that the Broadway Girls were from the same High School as the band. No wonder I didn't reorganise ANY of them. I just thought they were third graders. They tend to fly under my radar most of the time.

** Readers Note:
Thank you to everyone who has been letting me know when they found mistakes in my spelling or grammar. I appreciate it. I know my spelling sucks and I would rather have someone tell me so that I can correct it that have it hang out there for everyone to see.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Mercury Down!

Today is the third day of cold weather in Icheon. I know it is going to get even colder, but so far we've been experiencing one cold day followed 3 hotter days.

The cold weather here seems to be accompanied by a morning fog that isn't so thick that you can't see your face in front of you, but you can't see much beyond about 150 meters. I can't wait to see if there will be a really thick fog soon. I don't know what it is, but I love the feeling of walking with everything unfolding in front of me.

Another thing that I've noticed is that we are getting frost more often. I love frost. It reminds me of my school days when I had to go to school at 7am in winter. Pretoria often had frost that early in the morning. I would take a detour and slide my bike around on the grass of the park.

The only really bad things about the frost then was that when you were young and playing rugby you had to "clear the field" for the older teams. I assure you that clearing a field of frost when you are barefoot is no fun at all. I saw it again a few years back and I couldn't help but smile while watching the boys drop down to rub their toes when the game was not in action.

Back to Korea now and I tried to get a few nice pictures this morning. I suspect I might have to go out very early over the weekend and see if I can find some thick white frost on a dark background. I will add the few that I took this morning to the end of this post.

There is something fun about this weather that I get at school. Over the last week I have noticed that early in the morning the halls of the school have been very cold. When you leave a classroom you are "blowing steam". I want to look over my shoulder because I am sure I am will see dead people. Maybe I should put some graffiti saying just that.

As a side note, I did look at the weather forecast and it seems like today will rise to a reasonable temperature again, but I will have to wait and see. Outside is not giving me much confidence in that happening, though.

Oh well. I'm still waiting in anticipation for the snow to arrive.

Thursday, 01 November 2007

Specialty Fridges

Main Entry: kim·chi
Variant(s): also kim·chee \kim-chē\
Function: noun
Etymology: Korean kimch'i
Date: 1898

: a vegetable pickle seasoned with garlic, red pepper, and ginger that is the national dish of.


As we were approaching winter I've noticed that there are more adverts for refrigerators on TV. I don’t know about you, but I fond this very odd.

At the English Contest the one girl gave a speech on Kimchi and she mentioned that here in you get fridges that keep the Kimchi at the optimum temperature for fermenting. This tit bit opened my eyes to what was happening on the little picture box in my place.

The main reason I didn’t recognize that all these adverts were actually showing how special they were for having Kimchi compartments was that I didn’t recognize the Kimchi itself.

They don’t just pile it in to a container like its normally done. No, sir! They put it in oh so neatly and make these nice little bite sized Kimchi rolls. I have never seen that in my life. Maybe some restaurant will do that if you pay enough, but I doubt that is a reality.

Of course, it is likely just a matter of time before I get shown that I am wrong.

The funniest thing for me here is that they always have these ultra chic couples promoting it. They live in these ultra clean houses with huge kitchens that have never, and most likely will never be used. The wives look like they don’t not know the arse end from the cutting surface of a knife, but, oh, they have to have the biggest most expensive fridges to keep the Kimchi in.

More likely these couples go to the most expensive restaurants every night where the Kims (the Jones of Korea) can see how much money they have.

I'll just go and buy my Kimchi at the store whenever I run out and stuff in to my little plastic container in the fridge.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Pleasure or Pain, Sir?

I needed to let go of my yellow the other day and as I walked in to the men’s room I thought I heard someone in the toilet cubicle. Not all that interested, I just went ahead to the urinal.

The sound of my footsteps obviously alerted the man in the cubicle that there was someone present and he thought it a good idea to lock the door.

This begs the question, why wasn't it already locked?

Honestly, this still wasn't anything to worry about. It was just a little peculiar at most. The alarming part came when the man started making noises. And not softly either!

I really couldn't tell if the was in pain or grunting from pleasure. I had a mind to look over the door to see which two teachers were doing the dirty during office hours.

I can't wait for the day when I can enjoy myself in the cubicle like that.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Lost in Reality

This was likely the strangest day I’ve had at this school yet.

The education department's people came today and of course everything needed to look great. Problem is that everything in not this great, ever, and it was strange to be because I didn’t know that the department would be here.

The first thing I noticed was that all the students seemed to be busy with something in their classes. Normally early in the morning they run around screaming for no apparent reason whatsoever, until their classes start.

Today it looked a bit like they were busy with tests, but there were no teachers or parents to supervise. It was surrealistic, I tell you. What had gotten in to these little monsters? Why were they not running around and screaming?

The second thing I noticed was that I kept on slipping on the floor. After nearly breaking my neck a few time I saw that there was a distinct lack of dirt in the crevices on the stairs. They had actually cleaned the floors almost properly!

One thing that I have stopped doing here is care about what shoes I wear in the school. I wear the shambles because it is comfortable, but I don’t change my shoes to keep things clean. I would much rather walk barefoot outside than barefoot inside. Outside my feet will just be brown. Inside I will get black soles, I am sure.

The other thing that I found amusingly odd was the Physical Education class. I took a picture of it and will post it at the end of this post. The students were just so orderly. They were actually paying attention and sitting/standing in neat lines. Seeing this made me go: “WOW!” I just stood there for a minute staring just at them.

Can’t we have the department here every day? I can really live with this lack of noise.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

The Icheon Middle School English Competition

On Friday we had an English Language Competition for the Middle Schools of Icheon. I have been working with two students during the two or three weeks prior to this to help prepare them for the competition, or should I say I tried.

I was just told that they had to answer question and that one student will deliver a speech while both of them would be delivering a dialogue.

Even thought the speech was called the One Minute Speech I did not actually realise that they will have a timer and stop them after one minute.

The other thing that confused me the form the interview would take. I didn’t know if they would use the provided questions exactly, if the questions would be coming form the example description or if they would be from personal experience.

Basically I knew nothing. This didn’t help much for my motivation, I must say. I did what I thought best with what was provided, though.

One of the rules is that none of the students were allowed to have lived in a foreign country. I understood that that meant countries where English is a major language, so I think Germany, for instance, might not have disqualified a student.

By the standards of their age, both the students were quite good. The boy, however, is what I would call one of the better students in the school, overall. Both his parents teach English at an Academy and I have spoken to his mother. Her English is very good. Although he was born in the USA, I understand that he was brought here as a baby and that he grew up in Korea. Therefore he has been exposed to en English country in a way that would influence his language.

The girl was not that bad, but she just needed to concentrate more. When I would ask a question like “Do you normally travel by bus or by car?” she would answer “I prefer to bus”. I know she know better than that because eating a bus is no fun. I think this is a direct conversion from the Korean Language. Where you take a now and ad a “do” to is so that you basically say “I prefer to bus-do”

I must admit that I didn’t have that much hope for the competition because I expected the other student to be much better than they were. It turns out that they were not. Our two students handled themselves really when on the day and made a good showing of it. We came in third and I am very satisfied with that, considering I had no idea what we were doing.

The students who came in forth, I think it I know who it was, could easily have taken that spot, but based on that the judges saw, there weren’t better. I spoke to them outside in the hallway and they are good. They were twins and both has the same strange accent, though.

The top 25% of the students ware far ahead of the rest. I’m proud to say that third puts us in that group, if you cant figure that out for yourself.

In my opinion the pair that came in First was not the best. The one boy was very good, but the other one was no better than either of your students. He was very funny and entertaining, but that does not make him personality good in a language. The students who came in second were, in my opinion, the best. Both were very comfortable when speaking. Their speeches did seem a bit rehearsed, but it was well pronounced and their interviews showed their ability clearly.

All in all I learned a lot from this and I hope to be able to do a better job next year. I would just like to start earlier with the students.

One last note, the one minute speech turned out to be the 90 second speech. It would have been nice to know that in advance.

All in all, I think that was a good day at the office.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Children on Pollution

I gave my children a task to try and explain to me what they can do to reduce pollution. I gave each group a white boards and markers to draw and write with. This invariably produced some of those strange things only children dare come up with. I refuse to let go of my inner child because I don't want to loose my creativity completely .

These my favourites:

Science Fiction English Cafe

"I'm looking outside and I can’t see anything but eluminated white."

This is the scene I have had in my one office for a few days now.

I have three places in school where I work. The first is my desk in the Teachers Room where my laptop is plugged in and where I can use my Instant Messaging programs. The second is the English Lab which is basically my classroom. Here I have a nice computer with sound, but no MSN or YM. I can also save bookmarks there, though.

Lastly I have the English Cafe. This is a room set up with computers with the aim of being an English Environment, I guess. To bad the computers are allowed to display Korean. I sit here often and also do interview with student here. The interviews are for English practice, basically.

This last room is where I'm finding myself at this moment, and looking out the windows I see nothing but bright white. It gets a bit strange as it feels like I am in a science fiction film. It’s like one of those scenes where reality is suspended and you are caught between worlds or universes and have no way of getting out. Very, very creepy, I must say.

What on earth am I talking about? Now that winter is almost upon us and it is getting cold, we are getting fog in the mornings. Just like fog every where it takes a few hours to clear, if at all. The sun, however, does not stop shining and it lights up the fog to a bright white colour and this is what I am looking at outside.

The fact that this might this is the quietest of my places aw well as that I normally sit here all alone doesn’t help to displace that felling of being in a near dream world.

On a more realistic note, I saw the school’s thermometer dip below 10 degrees for the first time today. I am expecting this to me coldest winter ever and I cant wait.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Mean Wasps and Dying Children.

Orange, the mean Yellow Wasps:

Wasps are really mean little creatures and deceptively so. While walking home the other day I noticed a little wasp eating another insect. This is not one of those big wasps that make nests in the corners of buildings and attack as a group when they see you. Nope, this is one of those cute yellow ones that I think burrows in the ground.

I have started referring to this wasp as Orange, they Yellow Wasp. I am going to make a little Wasp sized t-shirt that reads "Meanness belies this Cuteness"

Anyway, Orange was busy chewing on the head side of another insect that was basically still alive. That I have seen before. They paralyze the insect and just stars to eat. This is one of the nicer things they do.

The really funny part was that the "face" of the insect was lying about one centimeter away from the body. With face I mean the eyes and antennae. It made me think of Silence of the Lambs, that part when he take one guy's face of and puts it on his own. I can only marvel at how quickly this wasp must have taken that face off and started eating on the rest of the body, because the antennae were still moving.

Just try and imagine the scene. Two insect eyes and antennae not connected to anything, but still moving. It look like someone buried too the head in the sand at the beach wearing a pair of those stupid big fly looking round sunglasses and a set of Halloween antennae.

As I am writing this I thinking that the little yellow wasp will be my new favourite insect.

The little Lees go to school:

For the teachers who might read this, I am not sure how many of you have noticed that children who don’t know you tend to "run away". This happens often with me because the Primary School in my area doesn’t have a foreign teacher. Having said that, I would like to relate to you the story of little Lee Kim Bab and her brother Lee So Ju

A few days back I was walking to school. It was normal time, around 08:10 in the morning. I noticed little Lee Kim Bab and her younger Brother Lee So Ju walking in front of me. They were clearly in no hurry because they were happily talking and looking at things next to the road or pushing each other.

Through all this I suddenly noticed from their reactions that they had noticed me behind them. Because this is a dangerous situation for them (everyone knows foreigners eat your Koreans) they made the logical decision to stop playing and start walking faster. Not being one to back down from a challenge, or a chance to torture the innocent by doing nothing wrong, I increased my speed as well. When they noticed this they replied in the expected fashion of increasing speed again

Do take note that little Kim Bab is only about 8 years old and little So Ju is only about 6 (Western Age), so their legs barely reach the ground.

It didn’t take long then for them to have to start running, or at least So Ju was running and his sister was walking VERY fast

Also take note that the two schools are right next to each other and on top of the mountain, so I was going to follow them all the way there, All the way up the mountain.

Considering all this you would think that Kim Bab would have a bit of sympathy for her little brother and slow down. OK, she did turn around to encourage him a few times, but that was all. No slowing down and pretending that the big bad man is just a human. By the time we reached the top of the mountain, just in front of the school, little So Ju was wheezing and coughing and had to stop completely to take a breather.

I can only imagine what he would have felt like, because I feel something like that when I start training after a long time of laziness. You have a headache, your tongue is burning and you want to throw up. It was definitely one of the funniest things I have seen in a while.

I know it is really mean, but come on. I didn’t really do anything wrong.

I am sure this will happen again soon to someone else and I can’t wait.

*By the time this Blog post is out you would have received four batches of photos in the email. I hope you enjoyed it and what you were looking at made sense.