Friday, 30 May 2008

Remind me not to go to space.

How long could you survive in the vacuum of space?
OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets


I also took the caffeine test and without having a drop of coffee for two days I managed to score...

The Caffeine Click Test - How Caffeinated Are You?

OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

I wonder what I will get with a few cups in me?

The First and Second Years are away on a camp and today I am with the Third Year on a field trip. With just one class in three days I am sure you can see why I feel the need to take a test or two.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

I see your Western Face and I raise you my Eastern Feelings

I came across an article that states: “When it comes to emotions, Eastern and Western cultures see things very differently”. Considering that I live in the East I thought I should take a look. It is quite interesting, although I am sure a lot more can be said about the subject. I suggest you have a look at it here.

There is the main point of the article:

“What we found is quite interesting,” says Takahiko Masuda, a Psychology professor from the University of Alberta. “Our results demonstrate that when North Americans are trying to figure out how a person is feeling, they selectively focus on that particular person’s facial expression, whereas Japanese consider the emotions of the other people in the situation.”

Something I always wonder is where other cultures fit in to this. South East Asians like the Philippines, Indonesians and Malay, seem to be very different from what we like to think of as the East, but you rarely see studies involving these groups.


It is amazing when you don’t have to worry about the cultural constrains or certain products. We are raised in wine drinking cultures where whine must be in a glass bottle or, dare I say, a box with a tap on it. It does not really matter how you buy it though, you will still drink it out of some sort of a glass, unless you are a drunk and just swig it out of the bottle.

I picked this clip up on Mongdori. Lotte Chilsung thought it a good idea to put whine straight in to a can so that you can drink it, well, straight of the can. It is a fantastic idea if you ignore how “stupid” it will look, drinking your wine from a can.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

What it your phobia?

I stumbled upon this site and thought I might find a phobia of Koreans in that list, but search as I might, I could find none. She only word I can think of is Goryeopobia. If anyone has a better idea then please let me know. I am severely lacking in creativity right now.

I was also trying to find a phobia of Philippinos, but I can’t find a name for it. I was thinking of calling this one Queeniephobia.

Did you know where is something called Geniophobia? It is a fear of chins. Imagine having that!

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

In China as in Korea

I couldn't help but smile and think: "I know I always say KOREANS, but I know EAST ASIANS". I am adding my comment in blue to this New York Times article that I picked up through The Marmot's Hole.

Mocky is a naughty monkey. His friends Ken and Ann are humans. Together, they teach English in Beijing’s elementary schools. My students love Mocky. He and his pals are more fun than the characters in their previous textbook series, Ma Nan and her teacher Miss Zhang. Those primers could have been titled “Hectoring English.” A typical dialogue went:

“You’re late again, Ma Nan.”

“I’m sorry, Miss Zhang.”

“When do you get up every morning?”

“At 7.”

“Get up earlier. Don’t be late next time.” (I know more useless dialogue if you need it.)

In Beijing, students begin learning English in first grade. Every child is enrolled in three 45-minute lessons weekly until sixth grade. That sounds impressive, but beware the Potemkin classroom. Most instruction is automated, with students reciting dialogue along with animated characters on a DVD. Although Mocky speaks slowly, he sounds like Truman Capote on helium. Like my students, I follow the subtitles. (So you are saying that after 6 years they can basically speak no English at all except for screaming "HI!"? I wonder is what other Asian coutry I have seen this before.)

I live just south of Tiananmen Square, on one of the city’s hutong, or narrow lanes, in a decrepit courtyard house shared by several families. Since 2005, I’ve volunteered at the neighborhood’s elementary school. On the first day, I found blackboards decorated with chalked Olympic mascots, the five-colored rings and verses in Chinese:

The Olympics will be held in 2008
Our civic virtue must be great!
Spitting everywhere is really terrible
Littering trash is also unbearable
To get a “thumbs up” from foreign guests
Beijing’s environment depends on us!

After standing for the national anthem each morning, students were supposed to update the number of days until the start of the games. Only one class kept the correct count. Time had stopped completely in Grade 4, Class 2, where there were always 996 days until the Olympics. (They are children. It is more work for them ;)

It was a pleasant illusion. There were no clocks in my classroom, and the view out the windows looked just as timeless. Waves of sloping, tiled rooftops rolled toward the school. We could see the flying eaves of the Front Gate and the row of red flags fluttering atop the Great Hall of the People. The wider view, however, revealed that we lived on an ever-shrinking island. Modern office towers and apartments built on razed hutong squeezed our neighborhood from all sides. I pointed to the golden arches shining in the distance, and the kids shouted, “McDonald’s!” By the end of that school year, we could see a Wal-Mart too.

Mocky is the poster monkey for the drive to have 35 percent of the population conversant in English by the Olympics. He originated in a textbook series called “Bingo!,” used throughout Asia if not always beloved. (This from the blog of a teacher in South Korea: “‘What’s wrong with Mocky? He ate his banana too fast.’ Why didn’t Mocky choke and die on that big banana instead of just making a mess on the kitchen table, the table of my mind!”)

The textbooks are similar to those the students use to study Chinese. There are no proficiency levels, so the best students slide toward “average” competency. The questions ask students to repeat rather than analyse, evaluate or create. Isolated words are stressed over complete sentences, and students often cannot relate to the terms. (Yup. And then those average students walk in to class with a new teacher and just spew out phrases that related to nothing at all, right? The best is when you then ask them a question based on that rubbish and they have no idea what you are saying.)

When Mocky explores careers, he considers becoming a farmer, a doctor, a nurse, a pilot or a dancer. After injuring himself while trying to juggle, he comes to respect veterinarians and decides he wants to be one. But when I asked my students about their aspirations, the first boy yelled, “When I grow up, I want to be a foreigner!” (When I think back to when I was that young, I only knew of about two careers in total, but many writers seem to forget that the target audience is only 7 years old.)

The students had difficulty saying what their own parents did for a living. “How do I say ‘unemployed’?” one asked. On the blackboard, I wrote down the English for fry-cook, road builder and — for a girl who called herself Cher — fashion designer. She pointed at a classmate and said in English and Chinese, “His father is a prisoner!” (Interesting are the students live in)

The only decorations on the classroom walls were patriotic: a plastic flag, a typed list titled “10 Actions That Show Civic Virtue and Decorum for the Olympics.” Mocky is apolitical, yet at times I question his allegiances. A lesson in fifth grade began with Mocky’s asking, in less than perfect English, “Who is the first man in the space?”

“I don’t know,” Ken answers. “But I know about the first man from China in space. He is Yang Liwei.” (And here they think the world must bow down to the first Korean in space, even thought she is about 40 year behind. I hear she is a very nice and often very non typical Korean. I would love to meet her some day.)

Mocky admires a picture of the astronaut, smiling and waving next to a Chinese flag, and comments, “Wow, he is so great.” The fourth-grade textbook focuses on the past tense. In fifth grade, children are introduced to the future tense. When I asked students to create their own sentences, they translated lessons from their Chinese classes. For a year, I heard student after student repeat: “Beijing will host the best Olympics. Chinese culture will attract the world deeply. We will win.” (Aaaah, "the world will want to be like us". Somehow that makes no sense, considering the world has known about China for so long already.)

Then, suddenly, Mocky disappeared. We last saw him in the jungle at the end of fifth grade, angering Ken and Ann by taking them to an all-banana restaurant. “I do not miss that stupid monkey,” one of my best students blurted out in Chinese. Then she frowned and asked, “How do I say that in English? I forgot.”

Mocky is the creation of Ken Methold, the author or co-author of more than 250 titles, which have sold more than 15 million copies. He rarely gives interviews. Perhaps he would rather be recognized for his six novels than for his red English-speaking dinosaur, Gogo, who can be seen on an endless video loop at Beijing’s Book Mansion, asking, “Do you like doughnuts? Do you like burgers?”

With 230,000 titles on display, Book Mansion is China’s largest bookseller. Textbooks fill one of its five floors, each the size of an Olympic swimming pool. There’s an entire aisle of English-Chinese dictionaries and another filled with preparation manuals for English competency exams. This being China, Mocky faces some new competition, in the form of a series starring a monkey named Micky. (Same here. All those books and I can't make heads or tails from them. All those books and people still can't speak English. All those books and still no English Only TV channel)

But for all the piles of textbooks, a visitor to Beijing will still have difficulty finding locals conversant in English. Book Mansion categorizes its manuals by category: leisure English, phone English, taxi English, job-hunting English, even badminton English. I opened one of the many books titled “Olympic English” and found this: “I have made a reservation for tonight through the telephone. My name is Cable Guy.” (Don't forget the weird unnatural intonations that the possible included audio will teach. "Please to mEEEt you.")

So just what are Chinese people learning about the English-speaking world? For starters, we’re moody sluts. A book called “Love English” teaches that “Do you want to go to a movie?” really means “I’d eventually like to have sex with you,” while “I’m bored” really means “Do you want to have sex?” The final entry in “50 Selected Love Letters Between United States Presidents and Their Beloved” is from Monica to Bill, and introduces the adjectives “disposable,” “used” and “insignificant.” (Why teach them the bad meaning when they can't even use the proper meaning. And don't even get me started on the foreigner basing that will later on be the result ot opinions formed based on this. It is OK for Chinese people to be like "this", but not foreigners?)

The police, 60 percent of whom are supposed to be competent in English in time for the Olympics, study from a book called “Olympic Security English.” Dialogues called “Dissuading Foreigners From Excessive Drinking” and “How to Stop Illegal News Coverage” introduce useful phrases like “Don’t pretend to be innocent.” (Illegal = make Chine look bad, even if true. And what will they say when I start defending myself after they say "Don't pretend to be innocent". Do they have backup dialogue for that or am I guilty no matter what?)

Fourteen countries border China, but the only characters from neighboring regions are Muslims with names like “Mohammed Ali.” One culprit is apprehended while robbing an American’s hotel room, “because my family was killed when the United States bombed Afghanistan. I became homeless and I hate Americans.” (All I can say it WTF!)

My best student is the local constable, Officer Li. He approached me about a private lesson in English vulgarities, “so I know when a foreigner is cursing me.” We met over dumplings. As the rounds of beer kept coming and other customers turned to stare, I compared Officer Li to body parts, told him what to do with himself and appraised his mother. He nodded happily and asked for more. (I have learned Korean insults, but my GF gets very upset even if I joke about them. In response I told her to never show me the Middle Eastern Stop/Slow gesture again because the meaning in South African is terrible. We will see how long this holds up. I will miss my Street Fighter action insult. )

My agent told me that what happen in Korea happens all over Asia. This was my first actual indication from another source.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Rugby Union

Google reader turned up this off beat bit of information:
South Korea seal Asian Five Nations second spot.
Good going Korea!

It is no surprise that Japan finished first with 4 out of 4 wins. On Asia Proper (the real Asian powers are Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific Island) there are very few teams that can compete with, never mind beat Japan at Rugby. I must say that I was surprised to hear that South Korea came in second considering that Hong Kong was a British Colony until not so long ago. I only know of one club in Korea.

South Korea suffers from the one of the same problem that that Black people in South Africa suffer from. You need GRASS to play rugby. Unlike football, you can’t play on the sand and gravel that most schools here seem to have. Therefore, there is no possibility to get it in to a decent level at amongst the youth. Let us not forget that we will have to take students away from they over full studying times. However, if the Taekwondo studios are considered Hagwons, then maybe we can start a Rugby Hagwon?

I can hardly remember this about Japan beating Korea article from Reuters earlier this season, but I suppose it fits on with this post.

Also a link the the Asian Five Nations.




After reading the article I remembered that I never watched last week’s match between “my team” and current champions *cough*, the Bulls and the Cheetahs. I call them “my team” because even thought the same players play in the Super 14 as in the Curry Cup, the team name is not the same and in theory they can draft in player from other provinces for the duration of the Super 14 tournament, which they can’t do in the Curry Cup.

My mother told me that the match was good, but I didn’t expect this. I stopped following the season after the first few games because the Bulls were not just loosing, they were embarrassing. It hurts to see your team loose in the way they lost in the first part of the season. Somehow they managed to turn things around and won their last 4 matches, each looking better than the previous.

I downloaded the game and sat down to watch. It started with the Cheetahs scoring quick tries. I thought to myself that my mother would not say the game was good if we lost by a mile, so I was still relaxed. The Bull managed to hold out and score two sudden a bit tried later on. The first half ended with the score at 18-17 for the Bulls. When the teams came back the game turned in to a massacre. The Bulls were running rampant, seemingly scoring tries at will and racking up 42 point, mostly in tries to the Cheetahs’ lone 3 point penalty. In rugby, 60-20 is a huge win/loss, no matter what was happening in the game. Pierre Spies is back and the rugby world is looking out for him again. The man made a great comeback after serious illness, but the star of this match for me was first the Right Wing, Ndungane, and then closely behind him the Full Back, Kirchner. The Left Wing and last years world player of the year, Habana seems to have joined the land of the living recently and made a big impact on the game as well. Rugby365 has a full report here.

The semi finals are being player this weekend and then the finals next week. After the Domestic Seasons start in the Australia, South African and new Zealand while the international test matches will be played them in the Tri Nations, possibly the strongest single Rugby tournament in the world with the Super 14 close behind. I digress. After the recent performances by the Bulls I can’t wait to get the Curry Cup under way. We won the Vodacom Cup last week and maybe we can now get the big brother as well.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

In my own world

As I walk along the back road through the trees I see little white flower pedals falling from the dying blooms high up in the trees. Along with the silence it is easy to imagine that I am in some sort of Eastern Romantic Fairy Tale. Every day I marvel at how nature is constantly changing around me.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

News of the week

I'll start off with an interesting and growing thread. Someone brought up restaurants and I made a note to go visit the places myself.

(PS: for reasonably priced, really great Indian food, I recommend Durga, on the second floor of the street front, straight ahead out exit 1 of jonggak station (line 1), between jonggak and gwanghwamun stations. Try the fresh naan bread, the chicken butter masala, the palak prawn, and the dal makhani. Tell them the curly haired guy who always orders chicken butter masala sent you.)


I think Buddha’s Belly is the best Thai food in Seoul. Great ambiance, too. It is located behind the Hamilton Hotel, in the same building as USMania (just down the street from the Three Alley Pub).

Read the thread here.


Korean anti-Americanism

An extremely interesting article, but I have to wonder about it. When I walk down the street, do you think they some people might like me, or maybe NOT like me because they think I am American or because I am Foreign. Do people like the man in the article really make the distinction?


South Korean leader apologizes over beef deal

And why exactly does he need to apologise for peoples stupid over reactions about the based on the media’s intentional misinformation, again? Are we going to get a public apology from the Editor of the station that showed imaged of a sick animal, knowing that it didn’t have BSE, but still claiming it did? I am so sorry to hear that the Presedent is doing his job and trying to find cheaper meat for the people of Korea. I sure hope he doesn’t try to find any other cheap sources of food.

Tukkies to stage xenophobia protest

The first article I am seeing about someone actually standing up against the this serious, and still spreading, problem in South Africa.

I can link to a few articles, but I already mentioned it earlier this week. Since mentioning it the violence have spread to all the corners of South Africa's townships


Tsvangirai visits xenophobia hot spot

What really annoys me about this article is that he sees Zimbabweans and Mozambiquers as “Brothers” that need to be helped, but will he say the same about me, an actual South African, despite my skin colour? Somehow I doubt it.

Because of attitudes like this, and general violence and crime, is it any wonder that 20% of SAfricans plan to emigrate?


Government to blame, say bloggers

“DO not know what our government was hoping would happen when they allowed foreigners to flood into our country. I remember the Special Assignment programme on how Zimbabweans found a way into our country.

Our government did absolutely nothing. Imagine yourself being the poorest of the poor, and there are people from another country who get jobs because it is easy for them to be cheated. I fail to believe that our South Africans do not want to work hard. — Cleo”

I suppose the government workers striking because they didn’t get the extra public holiday is a prime example of how hard they are working. Also, are they saying that THEY would rather be the ones being cheated, just so that they can strike and show how hard working they are, or are they now referring to the private shop keepers who were driven out of town and get their shops looted by these same “hard working and honest” local people.


Documentary highlights education collapse

Yup, yup. 15 years on and the terrible white government did just as much good as the current black government, but the fool will vote for the ANC no matter what, and don’t even mention that they can vote for a white man. Heaven Forbid that things might go back to the way it used to be. The ironic thing is that, 15 years on, they are still blaming the white government for the ANC’s uselessness.


Korea's Animation Industry Maturing

Sweet. Nice going people. We need another strong animation style. In my opinion we can not have enough animation.

Let’s just hope they take it like grown-ups and don’t make it in to another excuse to try and justify Korea as the best thing since the Big Bang. Korea has so much to offer, but they can’t seem to do it without making an issue about everything that is nice.


When Sexual Violence Prevention Education Goes Wrong

I am not sire if I should laugh or scream at this article. I can just see little girls stabbing someone just because they don’t know them, and based on the reactions I get from the elementary school children when I walk down the street, I just hope they don’t attack me spontaneously.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Morning Dating

I had the TV on this morning while getting ready for school. We have a sports day today, so I had more time to do, stuff. There was a show running which I assume was some kind of dating show. Here is a description of one of the “contestants”: Shoulder length hair with a pony tail and stick stuck in for looks; perfectly shaped eyebrows; well done make-up; longish white painted nails; shiny stud ear rings. Well sculpted chest but legs that look like tooth picks.

Yup, it was a guy. For the live of me I can’t see why a girl would be interested in what I can only describe as a girly boy. Sure, he might have a nice personality, but he seemed to be a real ass. The only men I have ever seen that resembled this were all not just gay, but blazing Queens. And people wonder why you don’t really see Western girls with Korean men.

The girls were quite cute thought and having them wear bikinis did make me more interested. It is 7:30 am. Do you really expect me to look for something intellectual on TV?

Thursday, 22 May 2008

What do you think?

I didn't have enough time to prepare well for my classes this week, and because I was tired and I felt like being entertained by my students, I wrote a questionnaire for them to fill out. It kind of goes along with the lesson they are doing, so that it my excuse for using it. One girl filled it out like this...

What do you think?

What is your favourite food? What is it? Why do you like it?
Japanes Food

Where is your favourite place? What it is? Why do you like it?

What is your favourite thing? Why do you like it?

What food don’t you like? What is it? Why?
Study Repellantly fatty tood

Where don’t you like to go? Why?

What do you think of soccer?
So So

What do you think of Korean TV dramas?

Tood is suppose to be food, but the way she wrote it made it seem like tood. The part in read just seems so out of place with the rest of the questionnaire. Where on earth did she get a word like Repellantly? I also like that her favourite thing is Money.

* A few more of the classes have completed the questionnaire. One student doesn't like going to Hell and a surprising number of students don't like Kimchi. One boy doesn't like his grandfather's house and a lot of students don't like Hagwons because they are tiring. Surprise, the students study to much. (Yesterday when I walked past the girls high school at 9:30 pm, the girls were steaming out) and the one boy doesn't like his grandfather's house. I didn't get a chance to ask him why.


Dit is altyd lekker om die kinders iets te gee wat hulle bietjie moet dink. Ja, ek moet antwoorde uit hulle trek, maar ek gaan ten minste een kind per klas kry wat iets ongewoon neer skryf. Dit is daardie een student wat die hele vyf en veertig minute die moeite werd maak.

Xenophobia: Mbeki gives nod to army.

It is spreading! is terrible!

In short, the violence against foreigners in South African townships have spread to townships outside the province. Because it is mob violence and our police is only marginally better than Korean police, the army have been asked to join the fray. I know this sound bad, but a few SA will have to die for this, because I am sure many of them are only there to loot what is left when the foreigners start running. Shameful stuff.

The whole article, including the death toll so far, is available at The Mail and Guardian.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

The Republic of Korea vs The Republic of South Africa

Koreans, and more specifically the Korean media, might seem to hate foreigners, but at least it is not as bad as the current situation in South Africa. There people are being killed, set alight alive, for being foreign. Keep in mind that this is only happening in the townships, but I agree with Zuma that this is shaming the nation as a whole. How Korean are we sounding now? Shaming the nation?

The situation have made it on to the New York Times: Anti-Immigrant Violence in Johannesburg.

Here is a quick article from the Mail and Guardian in South Africa as well: Mob violence sweeps Gauteng.

When I got back and checked the blogs, I noticed a lot of information about the Gwangju Democratization Movement. It is sad, but I am sorry to day that I grew up with thighs like this. I am a bit desensitised to massacres.

Again, two famous examples from my own country. They are not on the same scale, but for reasons that at arguably far less:
The Soweto Uprising and The Sharpville masacre

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Roundabout Korean

I found this image on one of the sites I visit regularly. Most of the finds on the site are Japanese or Chinese, but every now and then Korean pops up. I showed this photo to Skattebol and she was not laughing at the English itself, but at the translation. She said the Korean said something very different.

I have heard that the Korean language/culture likes to do things in an exaggerated or roundabout way, and here is a nice example.

The Korean reads along these lines: "To make a new dream, we are repairing our site. On the day that our dream comes true, we’ll provide a special happiness and pleasure to you, our customers."

Visit for more great Engrish, Chinglish and Konglish finds.


Dit will voorkom of die teorie dat Koreaan, die taal en kultuur, daarvan hou om dinge op ‘n lang manier te doen, wel waar is. Vergelyk net die vertalking wat ek gekry het met die Engels wat hulle self geskryf het.

Wanneer jy klaar vergelyk het, glimlag bietjie oor die kwaliteit van die Engels.

As jy soortgelyke fotos wil sien, gaan gerus na of kyk na die bietjie wat ek reeds self in Korea gevind het.

Hiedie is die eerste keer wat ek in Afrikaans skryf. Vir die wat dit lees en erstaan, wys asb my spel en ander foute uit. Ek moet weer van voor af leer Afrikaans skryf en word maak nie veel reg nie.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Starting another 365.

After another 36 hour travelling stint I am back in Korea and finished with my first day. It was hard.

When I arrived yesterday I didn’t really know what to feel about being back. Somehow Icheon doesn’t really feel like home, even thought I take it as that, but considering that I don’t see Pretoria as my real home anymore, it makes things difficult. Where do I belong? Pretoria is “Home”, but not the place where I want to be, an I can’t think much more than 12 months in advance because of Korean laws.

Anyway, a few things have changed in the two weeks that I was gone. The road to school is much greener. I need to take a photo. The vegetation is now so lush that it almost feels like I am walking through a forest after the evening rain.

I started by fist day of my new contract having slept only 4 hours in the previous 2 days, jet lag, and having only one period off. When 3:30 came around I was already dead on my feet.

At school I gave out the few gifts I brought along and I really wished I was able to bring much more. There are many more people who would have loved to get a small gift as well. I have no idea how the teachers will take it that I gave everyone in the Admin Office a gift, but they do a lot for me in terms of paper work and things like that.

I was informed today that we would be going to dinner in Thursday to “Welcome me to Korea”, but I think it might just be an excuse to go eat out on the school’s expense. I don’t mind. Free food is rarely a bad thing. I was also drafted to be the Tug-of-War ref at the sports day on Friday. It is nice because I am kind of being treated as a teacher of the school.

Friday, 02 May 2008


After the exams this week we had the normal get together for the teacher. First though, everyone went up Salbeong Mountain. Somehow I ended up walking with the Principal, Vice Principal and two other teachers. I think the rest never went up that mountain, but that is irrelevant.

I bought a cappuccino to accompany me up the mountain and offered my vice principal a taste. She shares my like for coffee. She took a sip, pointed at the spot where she drank and said: “뽀뽀” (Poppo) It means something like Little Kiss.

I heard about this before. If a women drinks from the same cup as a man, then she they should use opposite sides otherwise it will result in an indirect. As far as I know most people don’t really care, but it is still a concept that is familiar to most Koreans, it seem

Thursday, 01 May 2008

May Day, Workers Day, Labour Day

Guess in which country are teachers not considered part of the labour force. I will give you a hint.

"Five of the letters in the countries name are K, O, R, E and A."

Guess which country doesn't do labour day on the first of May because they are afraid of being called Communists, which, by the way, have never existed in the world we live in. Want a hint?

"The first letters of the major parts of it's name are U, S and A."