Wednesday, 25 July 2007

A Week to Forget

Apologies for writing this late, but I wasn't even sure if I wanted to write about the week gone by. It was one of those weeks that you just wish will never happen again. Nothing seemed to go right. However, I am not intending to talk about that. I will talk about other things that I have noticed.

Last week there was a national holiday called Constitution Day. Of course, I was only told the day before that I will not have to come to school, but no problem, I had the date in my diary and I knew beforehand that something might happen. What I did find a bit strange was as I was going into town to look for a cell phone I saw one of my school's students and he was wearing a uniform. I am not sure if the school was actually open and I didn't know about it, but I decided not to ask because I might get some strange and disturbing answer.

Let's leave that for a bit and talk about scooters a bit. Scooters are the small motor cycles what is often used for deliveries. They are not so strange in themselves, but the people on them are, needless to say, interesting. Usually, if they are wearing them at all, they don't tie their helmets to their heads. They have these little “cap” helmets that the "cool" bikers wear, so you can imagine what will happen if they crash with that thing not tied properly. It will go flying in whatever direction even before they hit whatever they are destined to hit. I just hope I will not have to be the one to wash all the red of my wall after the crash.

As if it is not bad enough that they wear they helmets in such a fashion, then they have their wives and girlfriends on the backseat, without any helmet! You would think that they will be a little bit gentle-manly and give the helmets that they merely placed on their heads to their ladies, but alas, it seems that is not the way of such things in this country.

To keep up with my "insects of the week" stories, I'll tell you of the Dragonflies. I was walking to school one morning and for no particular reason I looked up and saw about 10 or 15 Dragonflies buzzing about. I've seen them again and again since then and they are still around. It is strange how insects appear and then disappear again. Because it has started raining regularly and sometimes non-stop, now there are tiny frogs popping up everywhere. I suspect it is because now they can hop about and stay wet all the time. I swear, it is starting to feel like Egypt here. It is hot and humid and every week there is a new insect to give you the creeps and make you fear that another plague is coming.

Dezzie gave me one of the best links I have received in a long time. Remember la Linea? Here he is, ladies and gentlemen. Enjoy.

Only two other things of note happened this week, or at least two things I would like to talk about, and they are the Spelling Book and the School Play. I ordered a book from Amazon to help me improve my spelling. Everyone who knows me, knows that my spelling is down right dreadful. In retrospect I should have bought the thing from Amazon UK, because it is the American spelling. Not to worry though. There are only a few things that change and they are normally the things I know to look out for when I write. The school play, this is what I was told it was, was actually someone else who came to school and performed for the children. It was all in Korean and I have no idea what they said, but it look suspiciously about the Korean war or something like that. I was too afraid to ask. ;-)

Oh, wait! Something good did happen. I got my new phone that replaced the one I lost. I have no idea how I lost it because I was more careful than normal that day. Anyway. Now I have a phone that is sold on Korea only. Here is the kick. It doesn't slide. Whoop! It doesn't flip. Whoop! And it isn't a Samsung! Praise the cell phone gods! It has everything I want in software AND it was one of the cheapest phones I found when my search begun. Thank you again, June, for helping me with this. After the week I had and the excitement of the new phone, I just slept most of Sunday. I really needed it.

That is it for this edition. Quite a lot considering I had nothing to say.

As always...

*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, 17 July 2007

Test Week

This week was kind of boring. For the most part I was doing nothing except playing games at school.

From Monday to Thursday the school kids were writing exams for this term and since I don't have any duties relating to exams I had nothing to do. The school also closed at 1pm at the latest every day, and then the whole place was quiet. Very strange, I tell you. I could have been a lot more effective and productive, but it is one of those things that the more time you have the bigger the proportion you waste. Go figure. It was a nice little rest though.

Most of the things that did happen happened just before and during the weekend. One of my co-teachers thought he would take me out so that I can do something interesting since I was sitting there the whole week being bored. He invited two other teachers I don’t really know very well and we went to some place in Moer-in-Gone for, what he said, tea. We never had any tea but had dinner. The food was very interesting. Firstly we got what was a pot of something that looked very milky, together with a big wooden spoon to pour the stuff into your bowl like cup. They said it was Rice Wine, but I would rather call it Rice Beer. Rice wine is more like Suju or Sake. This stuff reminded me of Ginger Beer. I think I want to make some myself, or at least try. It is s called Dongdongju ( 동동주). As the main meal they gave us something like a potato pizza, but I can’t really say what it was. One was quite spicey and the other was just OK. We also had a huge pot of soup with something like rice dumplings, but dumplings like in the west, not the little filled things that look like ravioli. The soup was called Ongsimi (옹심이). All in all it was a nice night and I got to talk to two of the teachers I never get to talk to.

Saturday we went to a pottery class. It was being held at a elementary school that is apparently very well known for it's pottery school. They have their own little museum and there they have pieces from the best artists in Korea. They are very proud of it. We went through it and then had a look at what we would be using to make our own pottery. After the quick view, we all got our clay and with a few instructions, we were of to make whatever we wanted. I will show you mine and a few of the others when we get it back from them next week, they are baking it for us some time this week.

The pottery session was ended when the teacher who took us, me and the students, took us for lunch. We went to a fusion restaurant, which basically means neither a western fast food restaurant like McDonald’s nor a normal Korean restaurant. We had something they translated for me as Pork Cutlets, or 돈까시, but we in the west call it Schnitzel. It was OK, but not that great. Koreans need to learn a bit about making sauce that does not have chilly and sesame seeds in it. Seems they just can’t get those tastes that we like just right.

After this whole session it was only 2 pm and I wanted to go to a book shop in Seoul. I was looking for a book on grammar to give me explanations on why English works the way it does. I just speak English and I don't always know why I say or write something. I ended up getting a tiny little book that gave me exactly what I wanted and I also got a little Korean Phrase Book. I have already made a little list of things I want to know how to say in Korean.

Just outside the book store I found a place that makes the little stamps that Korean use instead of signatures, but after making it I found out that I spelled my name wrong. I still don't know why, but everyone says so. Now I have to get a new one. At least they are cheap.

One last thing about the past week. There is a TV program on the Discovery Channel called “Future Weapons”. The funny thing here was that the guy was talking of the “great new weapons” that they are developing to battle "Bad Guys", meaning the USA fighting others, as if anyone will ever use it and as if only bad guys will be killed. Idiot! Then he goes on to talk about a smart missile that is "guaranteed to hit the target almost every time". Which is it now? Guaranteed or almost? We can’t have both. Almost is an assurance, not a guarantee.

Well, boys and girls, that is it for this week. There are a few things that I already have lined up for next week, but you will have to wait till then.

*Please not that the statements in this Blog is 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, 09 July 2007

Quieter Times

This week was mostly uneventful, but still, there is something to say.

The snails seem to have disappeared and the flies are not so many anymore. The downside to the flies is that they seem to have gotten bigger. I think by next week they might weigh down my hand if they come to sit on it.

My Gym Program is starting to get into some kind of shape, but I was befallen by one of those bad nights where I got to bed late and then just could not sleep. It doesn't make it easy to go to the gym. There was also some other interruption, but I forget what it was. I at least got a session in for each group, so that is something good. My weights for each exercise will be set soon.

Another little annoyance that I put down to culture is the way students stand when I talk to them. They always seem to stand at a 90 degree angle to me. Because I want them in front of me when I talk to them, I keep on turning in their direction with the effect that they promptly correct the angle again. I have given up and just life with the fact that I will not see a student stand in front of me very often. Koreans!

I went for a quick shopping trip to Seoul to get stuff for my computer as well as a little tea set and tea for myself. The computer stuff I got in Jongsan and the tea set I got cheap in Insadong. The rest of the goodies for my home I got in the underground mall at the Express Bus Terminal. Slowly my place is taking shape and becoming what I want it to be.

And to end of this short blog, I will tell you about the t-shirt I saw. I wish I could get a photograph of it, but I was in no position to do so. It was a boy and I only saw this as he got off the buss. On the back of his shirt it said "I used to be a Bitch, but then I was m....". I can’t be sure, but I think the last word was "mistaken". I sincerely hope he was mistaken because if he was a bitch before then he really does have a problem.

*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, 02 July 2007

This Happen Again and Again.

Lately there have been tiny little snails walking across my path when I walk to school and back. This week however, I have seen more of them than usual. I was playing "Dodge the tiny moving shells with tentacles" every morning. This makes me wonder if it is snail season now. Is there even such a thing as snail season?

Speaking of things that are becoming more common, I would like to mention the flies. It would seem to me that summer here coincides with an invasion of flies. At first it was just a lost fly here and there, but now I suddenly see them everywhere. They are sitting on everything, fighting for their private space and basically just annoying the hell out of everyone.

Maybe I'll have my camera with me some day and get a picture of this. Small white dogs over here can’t be left to be just be small white dogs. They need to be small multicoloured dogs. The people are forever colouring the ears and tails of the little ones. Sometimes it is just one colour and other times they make it multicolour. At first I thought it was just someone trying to be weird, but now I am sure it is just them being Korean.

I have noticed something interesting about the way a lot of Koreans write some of their letters. Most notable I have seen them write d, t & i in a strange way. It is not that it looks differently, but that action they use. For instanced the "t", many of them cross the "t" first and then draw the line down. With the "d" they draw the down line first and then make the circle, so I am sure by know you can guess what they do with the "i". They dot the "i" and only then draw the line. I think this has a lot to do with the way the Korean writing system works.

You can basically do it any way you please and it makes no difference to your writing speed, but us in South Africa are taught to do it in a certain order and when you start writing cursive it makes sense, even though you don't know it. Try it. Write cursive doing these strange things that I mentioned, and I assure you it will just not work. Korean does not have cursive scripts, not even in capital letters. The letters are always the same.

You can pick your prize if you can figure out what this t-shirt means. If I find any other interesting pictures then I will post them to you. in a similar vain you can have a look at an advert at Paris Baguette, a bakery.

Needing an exercise book so that I can practice my Korean, I went to buy one from the stationer. On the back of the book there is a link to the company who makes it, Morning Glory. I know not everyone knows what this saying is about, but maybe you have heard it before. if you don’t know it yet, then let me tell you about it. Very often men will, when they wake up in the morning, have a penile erection. This erection is called morning glory. I have since found out that this is one of the biggest stationary companies in the country. Now that is what I call a Michael Jackson name for children’s stationary.

Let's talk about doors for a bit. Most doors here are swing or sliding doors. The swing doors swing both ways more often than not. Koreans being Korean, they don’t really consider other people around them as worthy of their attention. This leads to them always pushing the swinging doors. You can be in the middle of Seoul with the rush hour “walking” traffic passing, but you will still push the door outwards without thinking twice about who might be crashing into it. And EVERYONE pushes. The exception is when the door says pull on your side. No, wait, then they still push if it can be pushed.

The only thing of significance I did this weekend was to go to the Tea Festival at COEX. COEX is a rather big western style mall with great shopping to be done. The festival was nice, but it would have been better if I was able to speak Korean so that I can talk to the exhibitors. Many of the exhibitors were dressed in traditional Korean hanbok and we got two ladies to pose for us. I also manages to get a picture there of the Korean version of "Buy one, get one free". They say "1+1".

My last thing for this week is my scientific investigation in to the ratio of Soju, a strong rice wine like Sake, to beer. A bottle of Soju is about the same size as a bottle of Beer, 500 ml. The fridges of restaurants very often have four different bottles of drinks. Coke, Sprite (called cider here), one kind of Korean beer and Soju. Normally there are more bottles of Soju than beer, and often with a ratio of about to 1. Korean like to drink. Koreans REALLY like to drink.

Almost forgot. The yellow fruit I have in my hand id a Korean Mellon as well as a lady who stands outside the parking for, I think, COEX. At most shopping places where there is parking they have someone who stands there and seems to do nothing more than greet the people. This lady was, however, in a nice uniform and did this slow, formal bow to everyone who came in wit a car. What a job to have, but I suppose it is better than the board man on the street corner (for the SA people).

Go well