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.