Monday, 30 June 2008

Saturday, 28 June 2008


During the end of contract break in SA, I visited Pretoria Zoo. For some reason I have been putting of editing photos the last few weeks, but today I did a few. I will try to do a few ever day now.

I am sure you have heard the term "Dickhead" before? Ever seen one?

Update: I have been informed that this is a Wattled Crane. Someone was being very polite when they named this poor creature.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Lunch Seating Arrangement

It is rare to see a Korean without friends, very rare indeed. Apart from the times when there was a Korean sitting on a coffee shop, busy studying, you never see them alone in a restaurant or the like. Even at school you will very often see two students going somewhere to do something that only requires one student. One student will do the actual task while the other is just accompanying him or her.

If you keep this in mind then you will immediately start noticing the students who always seem to be alone. Of the five hundred students on my school, I can only think of two students who are always alone. When I was in school you would often see students eat alone, but often they chose this, for what ever reason. I very much doubt a Korean child would choose to be alone as desired option.

There is one student who really breaks my heart when I see her. I suspect she might be teased or just treated very badly because of a skin condition she has. I will admit that it does not look nice, but I don’t really see the problem, other than the visual appearance, that is.

At lunch this particular student always sits between the teachers, or at least at the teachers’ tables. The first tables in the cafeteria are reserved for the teachers and only when we start clearing out do students fill the cleared table, but not individually cleared seats,

What this particular girl does is pick a spot at our tables where the does not have to sit right next to a teacher. This way she is not really invading the teachers’ space and she does not have to sit with other students. Fortunately for her, her class is late in the feeding order that she normally comes in when a few teachers have left already.

A few days back she finished dishing up her food, but when she arrived at the tables, most of the teachers were still there. This meant that she would have to find a seat deeper in to the cafeteria and would therefore have to sit next to the other students. I noticed her stopping to look for a table and I noticed she was standing a few seconds to long. I glanced at our tables and realised what her problem was. There were no suitable seats available. She looked really anxious to find an open seat and I think she was hoping some of the teachers would stand up soon.

When no one immediately stood up she moved deeper in to the cafeteria, but I think her fear overcame her because the only made it to the third row before she turned back, looking hopefully towards the teachers’ tables. I was pretending to glance around the cafeteria. I am always looking around, so I don’t attract attention any more. All the time I was peeking to she what she was doing. As sorry as I felt for her, I wanted to see how things would turn out.

I kid you not when I say the girls stood there for five minutes, pretending to be looking for a seat the whole time. Eventually a teacher stood up and left. She moved to the first row again and milled about some more, unsure of she should risk taking the seat right between all the teachers.

At this point I could not take it any more and I nodded to her to take the seat. After we left the cafeteria I mentioned this to my English co-teacher and how I’ve been watching this girl for a few weeks now. I did not tell her to gain her sympathy, but essentially to inform her that I will be inviting this girl to take a seat between us whenever there is a spot and when I defend her I will have someone who understands the situation and is capable of translating for me.

Considering the Koreans society and how it is structured, I sincerely hope she gets in to a good University where she can make good contacts and long term friend, because if she doesn’t then she might have to leave this country to create a future for herself. The girl is not a bad student at all and has the confidence to greet me at the table ever day with a “Good Afternoon”. With a bit of help her English will really improve a lot. I will surely be rooting for her.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

SpongeBob from Outside

About two weeks ago I reached a level where I was fed up with many of my students who ignore me and even worse, make so much noise that sometimes I can’t even hear myself speak. Disruptive behaviour like that is bad enough for me, but what bothers me is that I can’t teach the students who want to listen.

I don’t see it as a problem when students don’t want to listen because that is their choice. At the end of the semester I have to give a mark that will count 20% of their total, apparently. I have no problem giving someone 0% because they failed every test and didn’t do any assignment. It is too bad the can’t fail a year in school.

Anyway, I notes of who the students were. They are normally the groups in the back of the class. I made sure I had all the right names and then typed out individual letters to explain to the parents what the situation is and that for the rest of the year these students will be sent out of class for any disturbance, not questions asked. You might think I am being harsh, but I think that if I have to ask you to be quiet ever week then you had fair warning, wouldn’t you agree?

Yesterday was the first week that the warned students were back in class and wouldn’t you know it, the first students crossed the line already. I started speaking, telling the students what we were going to do for the day. The one group in the back, who incidentally had two girls on warnings, ignored me. I stopped, waited a few second, started again to let them know I was speaking, and stopped. I walked up to the table pointed the two girls to the door and waited. After bewildered looks they got up and went out.

The girls didn’t have any idea why they were outside. When the Korean teacher showed up I met her outside and told her why they were outside. She explained it to them and I am sure they could see they were not going to get past this one because they didn’t even try to complain to me.

The fun part about all this is that this week we are watching SpongeBob, which means the two girls had to stand outside and hear every one else enjoying the episodes. The really fun part was watching them try to see what was going on. The front door to my class, a glass door, lets you see the whole screen, but at a very tight angle. The back door, also glass, lets you see a smaller part of the screen, but at an easy angle. They were switching from door to do, trying to get a better view.

Koreans have this idea that saying “Sorry” is enough. I understand why the think that, but if you do the same things every time then it is not enough for me. I don’t care if you say sorry, just shut up and let the students who want to, study. After class they apologised, as if I expected it, and waited for me to say they can go. I really don’t care. They have to get my attention back with their actions now, not their words.

Just before you think that SpongeBob is a lazy thing to do, please consider this. The students have to write essays about the episodes. I will have to mark these. That is where the not being lazy comes in. I expect to get really terrible English, but I feel that someone needs to start challenging these children to think further than their noses and start putting sentences together that are not already written in the book. If this works and they I think I will have to make this a regular activity.

By the way. I have dictionaries I can use now. Now they have no excuse for not knowing a word.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Sexy Pool

There is a program on channel 59, XSport, I think, called either Sexy Billiards or Korean Racing Models Billiards League.

The League is basically racing models, you know, girls at the car shows or at racing event to attract male eyes to the products, who play pool. I’m sure you did not guess that from the name, did you? The program is a perverted pleasure. I loath the stupid “blonds” who can’t play pool and I loath the concept, but at the same time I could not keep myself from switching to it between adverts in other programs.

Here is a clip of racing girls, not office friendly, and after that a clip from Naver showing an actual match.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Envy Season, I hope.

I wrote a week or so ago about how people are staring at my Crocs again. It seems like the Staring Season might soon turn in to the Envy Season.

At the doctor the other day I was wearing my Crocks because of the rain and the nurses were very interested in where I found them and how much they were. I bought my Crocs in South Africa, but I told them that you can find them on the Internet. I even found out that night that there is a Korean site. I would love to get myself a black pair to wear at work. The open toe slip-on thing is getting old and I would like to wear closed shoes again. Maybe I can start a fashion with these.

When we were in South Africa my mother lent June a pair of hers and June decided she had to get a pair for herself. She ended up getting a red pair of the original Cayman. Girl’s feet are smaller, so, considering that the fact that the shoes are blood red, all you can say is: “They are so ugly they are cute.”

At least she can now walk in really comfortable light shoes when she does layovers. Shlepping heavy shoes around the world in no fun. I tried it and ended up taking nothing but crocs.

June showing off her new shoes

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Oh Boy.

Right on the heels of a post earlier today, The Marmot’s Hole found this. This is not a reaction isolated to Korea, but no matter where it happens, all I can say is “GROW UP!”.

On the reverse side, maybe the Koreans can see why the Westerners were upset about the Coreana adverts now, but even to that I would like to say to a lot of Westerners, “GROW UP!” It was bad, but it was not the end of the world. Things like this happened in many countries. You don’t see me crying every time someone mentions the Boer War and it's concentration camps, do you? Why do people, Westeners AND Koreans, need to start screaming every time someone mentions a Nazi or a anything related to the Japan?

Image from Wikipedia

Lizzie van Zyl. This is a very common surname among MY people. That is what they did to OUR women and children. Nice, isn't it. Half a century later the Germans picked up the idea. Before then, and since then it has happened again. Argentina between 1976 and 1983 as an example.

It is done. Spend your energy making sure this doesn't happen again. Don't spend it on whining about a single girl dressed in a silly costume.

Why don't I ever see deals like this?

Thanks again to the guys from for this one.

Are they really THIS childish?

In an article concerning President Lee’s stupid idea to sell Dokdo without asking the people, again, Michel Breen said this:

In other reaction, Japanese officials welcomed Lee's initiative. Supporters in Osaka, where Lee was born, gathered in the streets and held banners, which were not legible because they were in Japanese, a language, which this newspaper refuses to recognize.

Michael Breen, Korean Times, 29 May 2008

Is this true? Are they THAT childish? Is the KOREAN times run my elementary school children?

If you read the comments that readers make you also get this “How DARE you say ANYTHING bad about Korea or it’s people” attitude, because EVERYONE knows that this is the most perfect country in the world!

I do admit that Breen does put Koreans down a few times in some of his columns, but I swear, if he wasn’t so funny while doing it then I would have stop reading after the first article.

About the US Beef protests he wrote this:

One of the notions that got the protestors out was alleged research showing that Koreans have a gene that makes them susceptible to the disease.

This misleading report, aired on the Bolshevik MBC-TV network, was particularly pernicious because it did contain a half-truth. Vulnerability to Mad Cow disease is in fact linked to the gene that controls one's ability to pronounce English. As the sizeable population of Korean-Americans who eat American beef shows, if you can speak English you can eat beef until the cows come home.
The problem in Korea, however, is considerable because of genetic wiring that makes people say “beeper” when the brain is saying “beef.”

A well-known actress, Kim Min-Seon, spurned the students on with a claim that “I wooder rador swallow shyanider than eat American beeper.” Ms. Kim, whose nickname according to my Google research is “Bambi” and who has type AB blood (don't ask me), is undergoing tests to see whether she has not already turned into a mad cow.

Michael Breen, Korean Times, 8 May 2008

I finished Michael's book “The Koreans. Who they are, what they want, where their future lies.” yesterday. In the book he give the impression of admiration for the Koreans people and gives many explanations and insights that make sense. What is more, you can actually see it all around you, every day. After stating many of the amazing contradictions found with Koreans, he makes this marvelous statement in Chapter One:

This passionate mix of contradictions can be difficult for the more ordered Western mind to handle. As I have suggested, foreigners often find themselves responding in contradictory ways. They criticise Koreans a lot and yet they can’t tear themselves away from them. They might declare that there is nothing good in this country, except of course their Korean spouse, who is the most important person in their live.

Michael Breen, The Koreans. Who they are, what they want, where their future lies.”, Page 7

I feel the same way most days. I really dislike Koreans, except for my girlfriend and her sisters and my co-workers and a bunch of my students and the lady at the place where I eat that great dish called Kimchi Jjigae and the guy at the coffee shop and…

I will close this post with a last quote from Michael Breen. In a chapter called “Then Next Generation” he says this about the Korean attitudes and behaviour:

Americans are from Mars, Koreans are from Venus.

Michael Breen, The Koreans. Who they are, what they want, where their future lies.”, Page 253

Friday, 20 June 2008

Dictionaries are scarce in Korea.

December, just before the Winter Holiday, I asked if I may have six dictionaries for my class, one for each table, so that the students don’t have an excuse to not do anything. They often sit back and say they don’t understand a word on the paper and then do nothing. The teacher said yes.

February, when the school started, I asked if I may have six dictionaries for my class, one for each table, so that the students don’t have an excuse to not do anything. They often sit back and say they don’t understand a word on the paper and then do nothing. The same teacher said yes.

Just before I sent to South Africa, six weeks ago, I asked if I may have six dictionaries for my class, one for each table, so that the students don’t have an excuse to not do anything. They often sit back and say they don’t understand a word on the paper and then do nothing. THIS teacher said yes.

I came back after two weeks and I asked if I may have six dictionaries for my class, one for each table, so that the students don’t have an excuse to not do anything. They often sit back and say they don’t understand a word on the paper and then do nothing. Again, THIS teacher said yes.

Two weeks ago I asked them what I have to do to get dictionaries. I was told the will look at it to which I replied that they have been looking at it for 6 months and half they school year is almost over. I showed them a nice small one with a hard cover to protect it. It is English-Korean/Korean-English and explained why I suggest that one, but something similar will be fine.

Today, three weeks later, I see someone walking around with MY dictionary that I bought with MY money. When I asked if I can have it back they said they are still looking for it in Icheon.

When I asked three weeks ago and offered to buy the dictionaries and just claim the money back they said this was not allowed. That day, after seeing my irritation at having to ask AGAIN, they frantically looked on the internet for the price at a special site they are supposed to use. NOW they are telling me they that they can’t find it in ICHEON? What about THAT SITE?! IN THE USA would have had it delivered two weeks ago already!

I will ask them how far they are at the end of today. I will ask them how far they are on Monday, and then I will ask again on Tuesday, and then I will ask on Wednesday. I will…

If they tell me to wait, then I will have to explain that six months is a tad bit long and three weeks between looking it up on the internet and now is a tad bit long as well, especially considering that I was in Seoul the very next day after the Internet Idea and offered to buy it for them.

I do not ask for much here. I never ask for things that cost money. When I asked, after a year, if I might have the couch mentioned in my contract, and offered to take one of the couches that the school have in storage, they insisted on buying a new one. This is not my choice, so I don’t accept responsibility for that expense.

Further more, I am asking so that I can run a more productive class. Next week I want to do a class where students will need to write a report on an episode of the Simpsons. Most of them will not have the vocabulary because, let’s face it, they are never forced to use and remember anything in a productive way. How will I have them write without dictionaries when their answer to “How do you like the movie?” is “Yes, I would like to” and when they do actually understand that I am using a phrase from the book then they want to answer me in Korean because they don’t know the English?

Thursday, 19 June 2008


I found this through Brian’s blog. Dude, how do you get through all the stuff you seem to follow? I am posting it on my blog because something like this needs so be known everywhere. If the clip is not bad enough then read the rest of the story which deals with a bit more than just the contents of the clip. It is truly disturbing.

No, the are not Idiots!

I honestly feel that I crap on Koreans to much, so straight after posting the previous post I started writing this post.


I feel that, unfortunately, criticising a characteristic of my culture and my education. I try to not always criticise, bit it is like telling a Korean not get angry when foreigner says something about Korea. They are always up in arms when this happens.

When I talk about Koreans like I did in my previous post then I don’t want to imply that Koreans are ignorant buffoons who all believe in strange crap and are completely incapable of accepting someone a little different from them. These are things that can be said for just about anyone in the world. How many people in the world are happy letting their daughter marry someone from a different culture if there is no obvious benefit to it?

I believe the average Korean does want to talk to foreigners and learn about what they think of Korea, its people and its culture. They also want to learn a bit more of the world outside through said foreigners. The lack of Korea’s English does isolate the people so. I believe that most Koreans feel that they need English and don’t bitch and moan at English teachers for every little thing they do. I believe that Koreans are as clued up on science as anyone else in the world, if not more so.

I also believe that Koreans are as gullible as anyone else in the world. I am willing to admit that I get duped in to believing stupid things every day because I take what people see and don’t try to find out more. I feel this is true for most people in the world. People are inherently lazy. We would rather sit, relax and not do anything, including thinking. It is just natural.

The only thing when it comes to Koreans being “stupid” is when it comes to critical thinking. I am not implying that Koreans can’t be critical and inelegant. Of course they can, but it is just not part of the culture. I can’t see how something like the BSE things would have happened in any of the Western European Cultures because people would very quickly figure out that the media was spewing bull and that the statistics don’t make sense. I am sure there are many Koreans who felt that the BSE protests themselves were as stupid as most foreigners seem to thing, but it seem that the majority are still in the “go with the group, despite the truth” mode.

Having just say that I don’t think the West are THAT gullible, let not forget Iraq. No proof, but that is OK, lets go in anyway and lets not forget Apartheid South Africa with the educated white rule, or even current South Africa and the Foreigners Riots.

Party Season.

I love how everything in this county seems to be in seasons. South African doesn’t seem to do much using seasons. There are the four seasons and in nature, but everything seem to start at the same time and finish at the same time. Food wise we get the same food all year round and you can watch most sports, TV programs and all kinds of other things all year round.

Here in Korea nature seems to happen in short spurts. After a full day of rain yesterday the tiny snails are out I force and they are all going in the same direction. I would love to know why. Maybe one of the richer snails is throwing a party next week. On the road to school there were elementary school children picking up snail for what every reason and I had to step lightly a few times not to get the souls of my feel al slimy.

Speaking of seasons, here are a few interesting facts about Korea:

  1. The national food is Kimchi and can cure almost anything.
  2. Hangeul is the most scientific writing system in the world, which sounds great, but does not necessarily mean it is actually all that scientific.
  3. In Korea, using an electric fan while you are sleeping can kill you.
  4. Where all other countries in the world have only three seasons, Korea has four. Count them. FOUR!

Yesterday during interviews with the students the one student said: “Korea had four seasons, how about Africa, urm, South Africa?” At my mentioning that we do have four seasons the students was very surprised, and not just a little.

How can Koreans actually believe rubbish like this, or rather, how can the education department allow rubbish lie this to be taught? I can understand that people might have misconceptions of the rest of the world when it comes to things like culture, but this? How on earth can only one county in the world have four seasons? Are there on other places on the same latitude? Have then never heard of things like the beauty of Europe in autumn or seen New York’s Central Park on films during fall?

I suppose you can argue that countries on the equator have only one season, but for basically every other country in the world there are four. If you think about it then Korea does not really have four seasons at all. You go from winter almost straight in to summer and then almost straight back in to winter. The transition seasons are relatively short here.

At least I can console myself that Koreans are a very scientifically educated people, unlike everyone else in the world.

I really need to do a post on the strange things people in South Africa believe in. You will laugh at some of the things the black people come up with, but at least they have the excuse that many of them still grew up in the mountains and had to go fetch water for cooking and washing.

It seems staring season might turn in to envy season. Yesterday the physical therapist asked me very excitedly where I got my Crocs and how much they were. I gave her the site, but when I went home I found out there is an actual Korean site. Maybe in a few month I can proudly walk down the streets with my worn out Crocs while everyone shows how behind the times they are with their shiny new shoes. *wink*

Wednesday, 18 June 2008


This is hilarious.

A few weeks back the Korean public was angry about the mistranslation of a statement my the US Ambassador. The translation made it sound like he said Koreans should learn science. The ambassador said something along the lines of: “…should learn the science and facts about BSE…”. The likely highly paid government translator and oh so professional media translated it as: “…should learn science and the facts of BSE…”. Notice the absence of that little word THE? A translator should know what a great impact that has on meaning. Professional translators know they have to translate meaning, not just words.

Considering this, here is a bit of interesting official advice from the “Cultural Guide for Migrant Workers in Korea – USA” (Apparently the USA is the only country that speaks English. They don’t speak it in England). The guide says:

Dangerous electric fans

In summer many go to bed with a fan on. In some cases a fan turned on too long can cause death from oxygen deficiency, hypothermia, or fire from overheating. A fan with a timer can help prevent such dangers: you can set the timer before going to bed for one to two hours' run. Do not forget to have the windows open for ventilation.

from: Cultural Guide for Migrant Workers in Korea

Well, so much for the “Don’t insult our science knowledge!” argument. I admit that there are many strange things modern people believe, but have you ever tried to convince a Korean that this is not true, using obvious arguments? Try it, but don’t be too serious about the whole thing. It is fun.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

June in Town

June came to Korea and that means everything non essential stops for the few days prior to, during, and after her visit. Blogging, both writing and reading, is very non essential in my life. It is just something I like to do.

While June was here we managed to do a few interesting things with nice experiences directly attributed to her Korean Language ability. The greatest of these was the coffee at Bliss Coffee here in Two Thousand City. The owner LOVES his coffee and as I was thinking aloud, June would ask him the question. When he found that we really like coffee, he kept on feeding us things containing caffeine, free of charge. At 11pm it is not the best thing to ingest in large amounts, especially if you have to be at work extra early the next day.

All in all it was a great weekend, as it always is when June comes home. I would like to create a whole post about Bliss Coffee, photos and all, and I will include a bit of what was going on this weekend, but that is for another day when I have photos to show. I will include in this post the best photo from my Dr Fish experience on Sunday…

Doctor Fish is basically a tub with little fishees in that eat the dead skim of your feet. The session is fifteen minutes long, but it takes you about five to get your feet in and used to the feeling. Apparently Miranda Spa here has it, but I only found this out yesterday. I doubt I will try it there, once is enough, but I do want to try the general Spa though.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Taking the Crocs for coffee.

Yesterday was the first truly hot day with the temperature over 30 degrees for most of the day, so when I went out to meet a friend for coffee I decided to wear shorts and a t-shirt. As I was leaving the house I started putting on my Converse shoes, but then decided that I would rather have the airy feel of my Crocs.

I have a pair off the original Caymen types. These things are ugly, but once you get used to them, and everyone around you is wearing them, you stop worrying about it. Here in Korea I am usually the only one wearing these monsters, but the fact that they are so comfortable means I don’t care much.

I took the bus to town because I have developed Achilles tendinitis due to my own stupidity. I sat in the back and got up just before my stop to swipe my cards and wait at the door. There was a middle aged couple there who gave me this up and down look as if I just crawled out of a pile of dung. I can honestly say that they had nothing to be that proud of themselves. The started at the bottom, moved to the top, went down again and then started starting at my shoes. It was very obvious that they were not use to the monsters because they were like monkeys trying to get a 3D view, moving heir heads from left to right.

It is going to be a long Croc wearing summer for me.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Like, Sho-wow!

It is at times like this that I wish I lived in Seoul. This would have been awesome to see. Those little lights are the candles that the protestors are carrying in the streets of the capital.

Please, get over it.

A friend of mine, a Korea who is often not very Korean at all, were talking about the protestors who got violent with the riot police last week. Despite what I may thing of the police in this country, I do feel that when you hit a police officer, with bats and shovels no less, then you deserve to be beaten down in the street AND thrown in to prison for a year or two. You might not like the police, but there are lines that you don’t cross.

My friend surprised me and seemed to condone the behaviour. I felt hatred radiating from her side as she said that the police did terrible things during the dictatorship years and the people are angry with them for that.

I can understand how the people may be aggrieved. South Africa’s history over the last 100 year or so had the British concentration camp, similar to the Nazi camp where women and children died just to get the men to stop fighting. We had the suppression of a people and their language, only to have those people turn around after freedom and do the same thing to the black people of the country. Abuse of black people was accepted practice and there were more than one massacre, often with the blessing of Christian leaders. The situation has been lightly reversed again, but racism is now showing its ugly face in an even bigger way big way with, at my last count, 63 foreigners dead. A few days back and Indian shop keeper was threatened and told to leave the country. Indians, as a group, has been in the country for over 100 years. I can just wonder if this will extend to white people soon because we are blamed for every bad thin in the country.

I can honestly say, for reasons that I don’t expect most non South Africans to understand, that I don’t like African Black people. Despite this, as well as recent and past history, you will not find me violently taking it out on some innocent young black man who just happened to be part of the institution that years ago did something that makes me angry.

I pointed out to my friend that the riot police were all just a few years younger than her. Their parents and grandparents had to suffer the same horrors that hér parents and grandparents did. They went to school in basically the same world that she grew up in, and likely have the same feeling as most other Koreans, regarding Japan. Why then is it OK to take out your anger towards the president and the police from decades ago on these innocent young men?

I got the feeling that she did the Korean thing and stopped arguing just to avoid the argument, but I still sensed the anger and hatred against the police.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

My Bra, this is lekker!

South Africa now holds a record in Korea. A South African arrested for brining marijuana in to the country, but in doing so he broke the record for the biggest load to be taken at Incheon International. It used to be a pathetic 12.8 kg, but the new record is now proudly behind the name of South Africa at 14 kg. According the translated article from Korea Beat, we seem to be going big when we bring the stuff in. I wonder what it was. Durban Poison maybe, or Swazi Gold, or…

Canadians, your reputation might be led smoky after this.

Assault! Assault!

It has been a year and I am still fascinated by the changes around me every day on my short walk to school. Today, when retuning home, while reading a book, my nose was assaulted by the sweet sent of a flower I was unable to identify.

Daily I am faced with the ever changing plant life. It seems that there is a new type of flower blooming every week. This week it is the little purple sun shaped flowers. Last week it was the little white sun shaped flowers. The week before that it was the mass of yellow flowers and before that the cherry blossoms.

It is the strangest feeling to find yourself smiling at the empty air, but I just can’t help myself. The sweet smells, the sound of dozens of frogs, the sight of a sudden burst of green and the feel of the wet spring breeze. I never thought nature would make me feel like this, but these are things that make me happy. I am not sure how I will be able to live in Seoul if it ever comes to that.



I was flipping through the channels after arriving home. I normally take a ten minute nap when and I need some kind of useless noise. While flipping I saw that Constantine was still showing. I have seen this film at least once a week for the last six month or so. Why do people pay for a channel like this? I don’t. As far as I know I get it free.

Monday, 09 June 2008

Interview? What interview?

Since last year I’ve been doing group interviews with my middle school students. The interviews happen after school and I am not getting paid for them. The payment doesn’t bother me as I am still coming in under my weekly hours. I am very happy to give the students a chance to speak English in a quieter environment with nothing more than their wits to guide them, mostly.

There are only two weeks left for them to come for the interviews, so their teacher asked me to make more time available to give everyone an opportunity. I did that, but the students didn’t come when there was time available or just didn’t turn up for appointments, yet now they suddenly all want to come. I don’t believe that.

I made a new booking sheet, adding the new available days and gave it to the teacher. I asked him to show it to his students and tell them about the new slots. He put on his glasses, looked at the sheet and promptly gave it back to me. My first thought was “So, how are you planning on showing them the new form if you don’t take the thing?” Considering I am doing this on his request, shouldn’t he take a bit more interest in it?

The truth is that I don’t care as much as I can. The students who are eager to come are also the students who, despite their language, try to speak to me in any case. If students don’t want to speak to me, then I am not going to force them to do so outside of the classroom.

I came back from my last official class today and there were no new bookings. I doubt the students even know I freed up time for them. I would normally have had an extra class right about now, but that was cancelled for these non existent interviews, so for now back to reading news and blogs on my normally packed Monday?

Saturday, 07 June 2008

Women and Go

I was lying in bed this morning, flipping through the TV channels, looking for an excuse not to get up. I found one of the sport channels and relaxed to a bit of Go. Go is a strategic board game known in Korea as Baduk (바둑). I admit that I know next to nothing about the game, but this particular match was at an advanced stage, so I thought I would watch to see what would happen. My logic was that things normally happen at the end of games like Chess, so surely the same would apply here.

I was a bit disappointed because when things did happened, it happened so fast and the game was over so quickly that I still don’t know what as was going on. I really need to read up on the basics of this game so that I can watch a bit more and maybe even enjoy it.

The main reason for writing this post though is that it combatants were a woman and a man. I am a little surprised, because rarely do men and women compete against each other in anything except the workplace, and even there is it only a token competition. In my experience this is a worldwide phenomenon in sport and games, but this area of the world is particulary sexist, so much so that Ask a Korean estimates, not scientifically, that: “Koreans are about 70 percent likely to be racist, but 95 percent likely to be sexist.” [rev] I am inclined to agree with that.

Take chess, for example. Chess is a game that needs no physical talents. You only need a healthy brain. It helps if you have hands to move the pieces, but there is always a way around that and you can still compete. Despite it’s independence from physical attributes, we still get a World Champion and Women’s World Champion. Why is this? In an 1962 Harper's Magazine article Ralph Ginzburg quoted, Bobby Fisher:

"That statement is accurate, but Lisa Lane really wouldn't be in a position to know. They're all weak, all women. They're stupid compared to men. They shouldn't play chess, you know. They're like beginners. They lose every single game against a man. There isn't a woman player in the world I can't give knight-odds to and still beat." [rev]

Are women really incapable of competing against the men? Does testosterone make you better at chess? As far as I know, women are allowed to compete against men for the World Championship, yet all the Champions so far have been men. [ref] Mathematic skill, which is considered a strong indicator of chess ability, shows very little difference between men and women. [rev]  The only high profile match that I found so far was the match between former Champions Susan Polgar and Anatoly Karpov, which ended in a draw. [rev]

Go is suppose to be getting more popular outside of East Asia, so maybe it will also lead to a more balanced state in the world of mental competitions like chess.

Friday, 06 June 2008

Memorial Day

Today was a nice little day off here in Korea. It is Memorial Day, the day people are suppose to remember the soldiers who fought for this country. I woke up late, played a game, watched and Battlestar Galactica and went out to get this post’s photo.

Something felt different from the moment I set foot out of the house. There were almost no people outside and even fewer cars. The city a general feeling of calmness about it. It was really odd because “the land of the morning calm” is everything but calm.

I am sure this is something separate, but the store where I normally buy the Pocari I drink while walking had, despite being open for business, it’s light switched of and half the shaves were empty.

All the way to town there were very few people on the pavements and still very few cars on the road. Only when I got to town did I feel a slight sense of bustle about the town, but it was still much quieter that normal.

I walked to the spot where I wanted to take a photo and sat down to take a relaxed, unforced shot. Not that is would make the shot any better, but normally you have to stand there and wait for a moment when no one is walking through you view. Today there was no such problem.

When I was had my shot of Stupid Char’s, I strolled over to Ti Amo for a coffee. The place was packed, but despite that there was a more relaxed atmosphere than usual. There were no girls, school or adult, speaking at the top of their voices for no reason at all, and the people who came in were strolling in out with no apparent plan in mind.

On my way home I decided to take a detour through an alley I haven’t noticed before. It led strange route home, but the good thing is that I discovered a cute little coffee place that I want to try out on Sunday. I need to try something new in Icheon again because I have become a lazy traveller, only going to places I know.

Thursday, 05 June 2008

Wonder Girls - So Hot

I have a class of students whom I believe is the worst in the school. From the moment they walk in to class they are noisy and very often they blatantly ignore me, even when I raise my voice to speak to them directly.

Today I had had enough. I tried to START my lesson to no avail. I proceeded to make a note of which students were disruptive, then sat down to compose a letter to the parents about the situation. From now on, at the slighted disturbance, these students will be out of my class for the rest of the lesson and this will be valid till the end of the year. I would rather teach the ten or so students who want to listen than not teach any one at all because of the noise.

To keep them quiet I went in to YouTube and selected Korean songs for them to watch. This kept them quiet enough while I was writing. At one point they asked for Wonder Girls’ “So Hot”, which I didn’t know about until today. I started it and I was astounded. In this video the Wonder Girls are actually sexy. Not in the nice Ee Hyori way, but in that Bouncy Knowles way.

In my opinion Sekshy(Sexy), Preety(Pretty) and Cyutu(Cute) are not the same things at all. Koreans often seem to misunderstand this. They will say a Cute girl is Sexy. You should not equate these unless you find children sexy. When I ask why they will say because she is pretty. No go on that argument. I know many pretty girls who are neither Cute nor Sexy, I know many Cute girls who are not exactly Pretty or Sexy, and I know a few Sexy girls who are not Cute or Pretty

Sexy is that something that will make a man, or a woman I suppose, say to themselves: ‘Man! I want to do that!”, and with “do that” I don’t mean dance. I mean “I want to do that girl”. I know it sounds crass, but that is the way it is. A sexy girl has men drooling over her because they are dreaming about getting in to her pants. I was watching this Wonder Girls video and I am not ashamed to say I was thinking just that.

I don’t mind girls doing that at all. That is their choice and my eye candy. What I don’t like thought is that the cute little, and still only 15 year old and up, girls are doing the same sexy moves. What kind of a parent will allow their young daughter to do that on stage? Are they that gullible to think that men will look at the girls doing their Fuck-Me-Now moves and think: “She is so cute; I wish I could give her a fluffy teddy bear.”? As much as I want to look at this eye candy video, it just makes me to uncomfortable to know I am looking at a girl just a little older than my school students.

In my search to find out which girl is Seon Mi, the one who only just turned 16, was, I found these pictures. An So-Hee, the 15 year old, is the model on the far left. Considering this is Korean and a bare chest is not exactly seen as an every day occurrence, again, what Korean mother will allow her little girl to do this in public? Are we doing this all for the money or is there some other reason?

How did I not watch this?

I can not believe it took me this long to watch this clip! I am sorry to say that it will only make sense to people who have lived here for a while, but here it is. Everything they mention in the clip is just So Korea.

Watch out for the padded bras and the completely irrelevant image, two elephants mating, at the Noraebang (singing room). I loved how they drank Casu (Cass) and how they go to the market to look at pigs faces. I was actually staring at a guy shaving the eyebrows of a pig head in our market yesterday.

Wednesday, 04 June 2008

Chopsticks rule my plate.

Another strange lunch session just finished. We had chicken schnitzel, at least that is the best way to describe it. The first thing I saw when walking in to the cafeteria, however, was FRESH SALAD. I loooove salad, but in Korea they rarely serve it.

Here is the kicker for the salad though. The dressing for the salad was orange juice. I don’t mean a dash of dressing that contains orange juice; I mean 100% orange juice, with the little bits floating around and everything. I even saw them pour it out of the bottles in to the big serving bowl at one point.

I already mentioned the hilarity of Koreans using knives and forks when eating dongkasu, so I leave that alone today. But a problem with knifes and forks are that they don’t work well for things like sticky rice. The rice forms little balls that are just the right size to fall off your fork. And we all know how difficult it can be to keep salad on your fork. Many foreigners here have taken to eating salad with chopsticks. Kimchi is also already sliced in to little bite sized bit, so again the chopsticks are king.

Considering that I had salad, sticky rice and kimchi on my plate, it was obvious to me what I should do. Imagine, however, the surprise of the teachers around me when, after cutting my meat, I stood up and asked for chopsticks. While they were all suffering with forks I, the foreigner, was happily eating my food the “traditional” way.

I don’t get it.

An article in the Chosun Ilbo says:

According to the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs on Tuesday, an average of 3.34 people died in traffic accidents per every 10,000 cars in Korea in 2006, more than double the OECD average of 1.53. Korea's figure dropped slightly to 3.08 last year, but it still remains high.

What I don’t get is this obsession to compare things like road safety between OECD countries. What does it matter if you are a member of the OECD or not? I have been to many OECD countries and I can assure you that I have NEVER been afraid of walking on the pavement/sidewalk and have rarely been even remotely afraid of crossing at the traffic light when I am allowed to walk.

In Korea people get injured on the sidewalk and a red light does not mean you have to stop at all, especially if you are a huge lorry. I would love to see where Korea features on a bigger stage. What will it look like when they do worse than most of the non-OECD countries?

Just in case you don’t know that the OECD is let me inform you. It is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an international organisation of thirty countries that accept the principles of representative democracy and free market economy. How do your principals on politics and economics have any barring on road safety?

As a side note I find it interesting that the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs is one thing. Maritime affairs are surely big enough to be a single operation in a country almost completely surrounded by water. Maybe this is why the road safety is lagging? Also, what exactly does “Land Affairs” mean?

Tuesday, 03 June 2008

East Asian is as East Asian does.

I am busy watching Battlestar Galactica at home. I tend to watch shows like these while doing other things at home, so I actually go thought a season quite quickly.

The other day I was watching episode 4 of season one. There was one guy whom I though was East Asian looking, but I wasn’t paying much attention and they weren’t showing him clearly. The group of new pilots was sitting in a lecture hall and this guy was playing with his pen in a way I have only seen East Asian people do. They do this thing where they swing the pen around their thumb in a horizontal arch. I have not been able to do it myself, but I have not tried very hard either. Maybe with a bit of effort I can lean to do it as well as this woman.

The first time I ever noticed it was when I was studying with a South African of Chinese decent. I thought it was quite interesting and watched him for a while. Every time I saw it since then it was an East Asian person, and now that I am in Korea is see my students do it all the time.

What exactly am I trying to say? Well, Inspector Gadget here knew the pilot was East Asian without having to look at his face. His hands told the story.

Monday, 02 June 2008

Where to teach English

I use a Firefox add-on called StumbleUpon. There are other services out there that do the same job, but I have never found a reason not to use this one.

The program is a way for people to rate interesting sites wen they view them and for other to then randomly view these sites, Last week I had a lot of free time and I was clicking that Stumble button often. I noticed that many sites use Google Adds. On this particular site Google displayed these adds:

Look at the second advert.


As julle nog nie StumbleUpon it probeer het nie moet julle dit regtig oorweeg. Ek dink mens kan dit aan Interner Explorer ook heg, maar ek kan nie sien hoekom mens IE wil gebruik nie.