Monday, 25 June 2007

Points of the Week

Point One:
Koreans often say "Why?", when they should be saying "What?" like when you look at them they will look back at you and utter this single word "Why?", implying "Why are you looking at me?". normally the questions should be "What is wrong? What are you looking at?"

Point Two:
It has started raining here in Korea. Apparently the buckets will start coming down soon. Monsoon season, you see.

Point Three:
Little white butterflies has suddenly appeared, either chasing each other or just fluttering around the new produce being grown everywhere. Why do they appear now that the rain has started? Don’t they get wet?

Point Four:
I heard a rooster crow this morning. It is the first time in two months that I heard it. Has it been there all along and I just haven’t noticed it?

Point Four:
I was taken shopping by one of my Parent Students. This is good because I can ask questions about what things are and what is eaten when and how. I got a few new things, good and bad. I bought tofu that is supposed to be eaten at breakfast, tofu for soup, eggs boiled in Soya sauce & green tea as well as Cold Noodles. I am waiting for a warm day to eat my Cold Noodles, the eggs are nice and the Breakfast Tofu is too much for me.

Point Five:
I found Yogurt without sugar in it. This is Korea. This is not normal, but I am still rejoicing the find. It is called Denmark Yogurt and it is sour, just like it is supposed to be. If you are here then you will know why this is a good thing to find. Koreans seem to LOVE sugar in everything. Everything! They like it almost as much in their food as chillies.

Point Five:
I bought little dried fishes that you eat as a side dish. They are quite nice. Sunday I found a little squid in there. It is tiny, but it is a perfectly formed squid. Cute and tasty.

Point Six:
I met Aska in town on Sunday and went to wash my hand in the restaurants bathroom where we went for dinner. The soap dispenser attacked me! Squirted me right in the eye with the force of an arrow and it hurt! It hurt a lot. I washed my eye as best I can and let my eye do the rest. I woke up on Monday with all the stuff sitting on my eyelid. Gross

*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.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Food and Stupidity


My weekend started a little earlier than normal this week. My "parent
students" decided they wanted to take me to lunch and I never say no to
lunch! Another Korean dish bites the dust!

We went to a place that was something like a BBQ Restaurant. There was
the normal assortment of condiments, but then there was this hole in the
middle of the table. After placing the order the ladies arrived with a
little metal bucket containing charcoal. This they placed in the hole
and then placed a grill over it. They then brought pieces of partially
cooked, marinated meat. This gets grilled the way you prefer and then
wrapped in lettuce leaves with a bit of whatever you choose to put
inside. Normally it would be this salty paste, a bit of cabbage and
then something else of whatever is left.

I was told that Westerners don't like the smell, but I can't see why?
It smells just like a spicy marinated sosatie in South Africa. Give
the meat to the Pretoria Boy, I say! I was told the name of the dish
and promptly forgot what it was. Today I had class with the parents
again but forgot to ask them the name. Rest assured that I will get
back to you on this because I would like to go for another session of

This week I had lots of sessions with the 3rd graders. You remember the
conversation practice? Yes, that. All of them are suddenly willing to
do it. Oh well. At least I have something to do now.

The rest of my weekend was all about food. I was supposed to be taught
how to make something like a Korean Pizza on Friday, but that
unfortunately didn't happen. I did get my lunch with the parents as
well as Indian food on Saturday. Nice and expensive, but something other
than Korean food is a good change and nice every now and then.

I am sure you are now wondering that I am talking about with the Indian
food, right? No? I don't care! You are going to hear about it anyway.
The plan was to meet with three teachers and go to Itaewon for Indian
food. Two South Africans and a New Yorker. The one girl actually
lives in Icheon and I was supposed to take the bus with her from
Icheaon. As per norm, the buses from my place don't do what they are
supposed to and I arrived at the Icheon Bus Terminal just as the bus to
Gangnam lef.t This, needless to say, made me almost one hour late for
my meeting with the people in Itaewon. It was not that big a train
smash, so all went well. We drank coffee, ate, talked about everything
and basically just had a good time. It seems that everyone meets
someone else in Itaewon because two of the girls were going to meet
other friends there after our get together. I tend to do this as well.

On Sunday I went to Suwon. The plan was to meet with Sue, an Auzzie, and
we would then go there together. She has been to the fortress, but
she works in Suwon, so she said she would show me around. All the
planning was OK, until I decided not to take my travel guide along.
This in itself is not a problem, but when I did not have my phone with
me to call Sue, that it when it becomes a problem. Apparently there
are two bus terminals and I didn't arrive at the one that I was supposed
to be at. We weren't sure which one connects to Icheon. There I was,
at the wrong place with no way to let Sue know where I was. I suppose I
could have just asked everyone how to get to the fortress, or the other
terminal, someone was bound to speak English, but I was real tired and
just decided to go home and try to get some sleep. It was all a bit of
a fiasco.

When I got back to Icheon, I quickly wanted to go and buy some empty
DVDs and discovered that this Sunday was a huge market day. I have to
figure out if this happens every week or just some weekends. Mission

I can't remember if I mentioned the sun shining straight in to my room
in the morning, keeping me awake, but it does. I run across those
"eyes hades" that one uses to sleep. They work great. I got 2 hours of
extra sleep this morning. Man! Do I feel good now?

Just a few observations I've made. Apparently T-shirts go through
fazes here. Someone mentioned that the current faze is to print random
statements of facts on shirts. I saw this a few weeks ago and it is
quite strange if you don't know about the facts yet. On the back of
the shirt it said: "Ostriches run very fast but they can't fly." That is
it. Nothing more - just that. I hope I am not the only one that sees
this as evidence that Koreans are indeed weirder that South Africans.

Another strange thing that they do is add -pia to things. I heard about
this and saw my first example on Sunday. There is a website called
something like Interested in knowing what this is?
Hmmm? OK. I'll tell you. Utopia. UtoPIA. Uto-pia. Buspia. Yup. They are
indeed crazy here.

Oh! Oh! One last thing. Toast. There are shops that sell toast.
Sounds exiting, doesn't it? I thought the same. hehe. Toast is what
they call toasted sandwiches. I would love to know what they call
actual toast.

Well. That is the end of my ramblings for this episode.

Go well.

*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.

Monday, 11 June 2007

The great and the not so great.

What, might you ask, did I do this weekend?

Jongsan Electronics Market. WOW!

You can get anything that you can think of that is in some way connected to computers. And Cheap!! It is just a matter of being patient and walking around for computer or screens or fans or mice or games. I also seem to have found a place for a spot of DVD shopping. I fell in love with the place! I have to go back soon to get a few DVD’s and other supplies. You figure out the maze. Then you can start shopping. There are stands that seem to sell nothing but Memory and hard drives. Others that seem to sell nothing but boxes that you use to build the

I would love to go in to even more detail about that place, but basically the most exiting thing I can tell you about my adventure there that might interest others that don't actually want to buy computer parts, is that I got lost going to Itaewon afterwards. The line that I had to take does this strange circle jobbie, but at both ends of this circle it splits off. One end goes to Incheon and the other goes to somewhere I know nothing about. It seems that some trains go in a circle all the time and some turn off to one of the line ends. I got onto a train that seemed to be going to a stop close to where I was going, but the problem was that it went to that stop goingwrong way around the circle, the long way round. When I got off and tried to ask someone how to get to Ichon, the stop next to Itaewon, then kept on telling me the way to Incheon. Sheeeez! And I thought Westerners got confused. To make matters worse I live in Icheon. Icheon, Incheon, Inchon. Go figure. This whole mess made me half an hour late for the meeting I had arranged.

As I said, after Jongson Market I headed to Itaewon to meet with another English teacher from another town and after her a Korean girl that I met online before I came to Korea. The teacher showed me a few things about Itaewon, like where the bookshop was and which restaurants are good for certain foods. We had a cup of coffee, talked a bit and basically just hung out for a while. At about 6pm the Korean girl arrived (and the teacher left) and we decided to go for dinner. She brought her friend along because they were at a wedding earlier. We went to a place called Gecho's which is suppose to be quite well known for having good western food. Honestly, I don't miss western food enough to really care. I miss ITALIAN food though. I would love to make my own, but I can't find the spices in Icheon and I still have to find the best places in Seoul for things like that. A nice basic Pomodoro sauce would be great! I've heard from a few people that here Spaghetti Pomodoro is seen as Spaghetti and Tomato Sauce/Ketchup. Eeeeeeeeew! Ew! Ew! Eeeeew!

Something about Itaewon that bothered me was all the Westerners and not just the teacher types. There are lots of American Solders. In Qatar there is a base as well and I can't say that I ever warmed up to them. Here they seem to be very similar. At one point we were crossing the street and this one guy just thought it good to try and talk to my friend, as in trying to pick her up. For heavens sake! You don't do that when you are walking in the opposite direction in a place like that. Not even in the west. Get some manners. When we were in Gecho's the two girls were two of only a handful of Koreans. It just felt wrong. I need to see more Koreans. It seemed like I was in New York or something.

I am sure I will go back to Itaewon, if for no other reason than to go to What the Book. It is said to be the best English Language book store in the city. They do have a lot of second hand books on everything you can think of and then a number of new books on various subjects. I suspect the Westerners give them their old books when they leave the country. English books are quite valuable here as you don't just walk in to any bookshop and find what you are looking for. Even the big book stores in Seoul don't have a lot of stuff in English, never mind the Fantasy that I normally read.

Other than that it was just the basic drill of cleaning the house on Sunday. As I had done shopping on Wednesday, I didn't have to go to E-Mart again.

For next week I was thinking go going to Suwon to visit the fortress and a teacher or two who works there.

Till next time.
Go well.

*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, 07 June 2007

Walking as Royalty

When I told people I would be going to Seoul on Wednesday (which is a holiday in Korea), the question would inevitably be something like: "With whom are you going?" When I said that I’d be going alone, they all expressed surprise at me doing such a thing. I was beginning to wonder what I was letting myself in for, but me being me and believing that you can’t get THAT lost in a city with an even OK transportations system, I still went. My opinion is that, despite the stress of possibly getting lost and not finding anyone who speaks English to help, the day was a success.

I made my plans the previous evening, marked the subway stations and roads I need to follow and noted the times I had to be report for the guided tours, and then got some sleep.

I was out of the house at about 08:45 and made it to the Bus Terminal just in time to catch the Seoul Express at 09:00. On the bus I went over my plans once more and then relaxed while listening to Podcasts on my MP3 player. I think I arrived at the Bus Terminal at about 10:15 and then went on memory to try and find the subway. Of course, I got lost almost immediately. The signs kept on pointing me in strange directions. I had some idea of where I was supposed to go as I had been in the area the previous week with June. Eventually I found the station and made sure I got on to the right line - no problem there. The line I needed went through the Bus Terminal, and then it was just a matter of going in the right direction. After studying the map again I was on track and off to my first destination, the Palace of Illustrious Virtue, or Changdeokgung.

This was the "backup" palace of the last dynasty of Korea, but was used as the primary for almost 300 years because the "primary" was destroyed by a fire and wasn’t rebuilt for a long time. The Dynasty that resided here ended in 1910 when Korea became a Japanese colony. The Japanese from that period was very destructive throughout Asia and here they destroyed most of the palace. Today only about 30 percent remains after restoration. The most beautiful part is what is called “The Secret Garden”, where the Emperor would read and study or just enjoy some quiet time.

After Changdeokgung I headed off to The Palace of Shining Happiness or Cyeongbokgung. I planned to be there in time for the 13:00 English guided tour, but decided that the changing of the guards was more important to see. They don’t do this every day or even throughout the year. In any event, they have a nifty little pamphlet that tells you what everything is with enough detail to be very useful. As with the other Palace, the Japanese thought it would be a great idea to destroy most things here, but restoration here has been very successful and it is quite an impressive complex. My favourite part was, and I am sure there is no surprise here, the Gyeonghoeru, a two story pavilion that was used for royal banquets. It is built on a platform on a large pond and looks like it is floating in the water. Even more beautiful to me was the two gardens on platforms just to the side of the pavilion. I really like water and how it improved my photographs!

Something that I found interesting here was the fish that seemed to have watched to many Jaws movies. They swim just under the surface with their top fins breaking the surface. It makes for an eerie sight when standing a few meters away so that you can’t see under the water surface.

Also on the same grounds is the National Folk Museum. I honestly started getting tired and did not want to roam through a museum. The structure itself is impressive and something to behold.

As a little side note, I bought some Ddakbboki at a street vender on my way to Cyeongbokgung. I sat there on one of her little seats munching away. Ddakbboki is little sausages of rice cake, cooked in a chilly sauce with a few veggies and fishcakes pieces added in.

The weather was cooling and it looked like it might start raining, so I headed down Sejongno to the statue of Admiral Yi Sun-Sin. He was the inventor of the famous Korean Turtle Ships and can be seen on the Korean 100 won coin. To be honest though, he was just my landmark to get to the statue of the hammering man.

The hammering man is a multi story, moving statue of, and here is the amazing thing, a man hammering on something. I was expecting more, but it is still something worth seeing. I am sure it would have been much nicer if I wasn’t expecting to see it.

I had time left and the weather seemed to be stable, so I decided to go to Insadong, a traffic free area reserved for traditional Korean goods. You can buy all kinds of stuff here - it is a must for tourists. Earlier I had to explain to some Americans how to get there. Lucky for them I knew what and where it was since I had been there the previous week with June and Jin Ju. I also noticed on the map that I passed it when going between palaces.

On the way there I decided it would be a good idea to take a little detour in the general direction of Insadong, but my eastwards turn somehow became south, and I ended up at the Cheonggye Stream.

Lucky June took me there as well and I knew where I was, so it was map time again. I am pretty sure that when we were there we took the Subway to get to the Insadong area, but it was actually walking distance. I can’t wait to tease her about this. I just hope we did actually take the train or I will be the one with egg on my face.

Back to business, I just went for a little stroll through the area there, looking at the shops and the people before heading home.

I got lost, again, at the Bus Terminal trying to find the ticket booth for my bus and almost got onto the wrong bus, but in the end I got home safely and not that late either.

I slept really well after the hard day’s walking. Good thing to because I had to record the TV session for the school the next day.

The next Blog will have a bit about garlic, Shrek and other useless things

Go well

If you notice that I said something incorrect or that I am starring at the wrong end of the donkey, then let me know and I will correct it. This does not really count for spelling, but because I suck and know it, I will not bite your head of for correcting that.

Hey! What do you think of my donkey expression? I just thought that up. I was trying to translate an Afrikaans expression, “Die kat aan die stert beet he”, and this one just happened.

*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.

Tuesday, 05 June 2007

Drunk Tramplers and Dirty Children

I have been very lazy about this writing thing and I haven't told you anything about what has been happening during the last month, but I am sure you are pretending you know everything and read on as if all is fine and dandy

I just came out of a nice relaxed weekend that started Friday evening with a couple that clearly had too much Soju. I am not sure what the problem was as my Korean sucks big time, but the dude was quite made at the dudette and then decided to go trample the little patch of land next to my place. Lucky they only trampled the ground and not the produce.

The first time I noticed something was when I heard loud voices outside. I live on the third floor, so I was able to look down onto the spectacle. The guy was clearly drunk and was pulling an unwilling girl along into the field for whatever reason his drunken mind could conjure up. What disturbed me was that he at one point actually hit her. As much as I wanted to help, I knew it would make little difference and I will get into more trouble than either of them because I am the foreigner in the small city.

At one point the guy left, then returned with some strange idea of pulling her in to a ditch next to us. I was watching this and if he did actually take her there I would have gone to fetch help. No telling what the hell he wanted to do there. There was something that sounded like sex (it was dark and I couldn't see clearly) more talking, shouting, leaving and returning. Eventually the guy wanted to take the girl back to their car, but she was acting all dead and refused to go along. At this point I think she was just being childish. Just go and get out of there. The guy had clearly calmed down and wanted to end everything for the night.

But enough of that story. It would take quite some writing to tell you everything in detail. This was just a quick rundown.

Saturday I went to replenish my food supplies. After the shopping I had to wait for the bus and decided to have something to eat. I ate very slowly at McDonald's, and wasted a lot of time 'cause the bus would only be there in about 45 minutes. While there I saw this boy that looked quite hyper active and just acting strangely. I was wondering why his parents didn't tell him to calm down or something. Basically everyone was ignoring him, even though he would sometimes look at someone and talk to them. I didn't look too closely, so I have no idea who he was talking to.

Later, at the bus stop, he turns up and just acted very strangely again. At this point I started noticing more about him, such as his clothing. His clothes were very dirty, his face hadn't been washed in days and his shoes were about 4 sizes to big for him. He sounded like a horse when he walked. Honestly! When the number 8 bus stopped, he kept on talking to someone on the inside, even though we were sitting inside a little glass box waiting for our bus. There was no-one to hear or maybe even look at him.

When the next number 8 arrived, he got up and it seemed as if he wanted to get on, but then looked at the driver, answered a question and then come back. Then he started coming into the glass box, and going out again, he basically kept up this strange behavior for quit a while. I honestly think he might be a homeless boy with not all of his peanuts in the packet. A little sad and disturbing, I think.

Some of you might know Citibank. I think it is a US bank, and one of the larger banks - they have one here as well. The nice thing is that the Koreans pronounce it "Sheety" Bank. It provides a bit of entertainment when the advert of the bank comes up.

Talking of adverts - There is one about something called "Cash & Rush", but in the song they keep in saying Cashee and Rushee. This is a real Korean pronunciation, but I think it might be done for the sake of the music. When teaching, I often stop and ask people to repeat words after me, because if the word ends in -sh, then it is inevitable that someone will add a -ee, so, "I hide behind the Bushee". I think I should start making a list of these things so that I can catch them before they do it.

Something along that topic is me being a local TV Star. I have to do a show that is broadcast every Wednesday morning. Think of it as TV lessons for the whole school. The first two were live, and that didn't turn out to great. I keep on loosing sound because the mike needs do be right against my mouth for me to be audible. The possible solution is to record it on another day and then broadcast it on Wednesday morning. Better for me because that means I don't have to wake up so early.

Lastly, I went for a walk over Ari Mountain. It is the mountain behind my place, or next to the school, or however you want to see it. It is very nice and quiet. I was trying to find a different route on to it and found possible entrance, but there were all kind of signs a little way in and I still have to try and translate it. I don't want to be somewhere I am not supposed to be. Along that path is something that looks like a shrine, so maybe I might be treading on holy ground or something.

Well then. Tomorrow, Wednesday, is a holiday and some of the schools are closed on Thursday as well. I am in one of those nice schools. So I think I will go to Seoul for the day. I will read my guide on the bus and make my final decision as to where I want to go and what to do.

Until next time then.

*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.