Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Sometimes students are the best

I’m not completely sure, but this boy might be right on the border of being declared a “Shinee” student, you know, Special Education.

Anyway, he often just plunks down next to the teachers at lunch time. He doesn’t try to talk to us or anything. He just says “Hi”, and proceeds to shovel food in to his mouth.

Today it was only I and one other teacher left when he did he did the normal rushing in and plunking down thing. The other teacher looked at him and told him to slow down a bit and pick up the spoon that he sommer dropped right on the “dirty” table.

He looked at her for a split second and picked up his whole hamburger patty to take a bite. At this point she was getting a bit dismayed, so she stopped him and started breaking up the patty with her chopsticks.

Shinee was not having any of that. While she was doing the breaking he was doing his very best to get his own chopsticks in there to get a bite of his meat. It was one of the funniest things I have seen in a while.

For him the final straw came when, just as he finally got some food in to his mouth, the teacher picked up his spoon and told him to put it on his plate and not on the table. Without a word he got up, picked up his plate and went looking for another seat.

To add to the hilarity, he doesn’t like to sit anywhere else in the lunch room, so he was literally standing a bit to the side, waiting for us to finish so that he could sit down at the same table.

If only lunch was always that much fun.


Two weekends ago I went on a excursion with Korean Safari to for a bit of Flying and Kayaking at 안면도 (Anmyeondo) After dropping everything of at out overnight spot, we headed to the airfield for our 10 minute sessions in Cessnas.

It was fun, but I was hoping to go further out to sea to look for islands. Another blight on the session was that only one of us was able to take control of the plane. As I was there mostly for the photographs I was willing to give up the control part to someone else.

Monday, 28 September 2009

I got in to a fight, at last.

This weekend was the Gyeonggido Sports For All Festival/Championships in Yeoncheon. Across all sports only adults are allowed to compete at this event, and that meant us English teachers would be competing in the hapkido. We had a choice of self defence of sparring and we all chose sparring. My personal reason was that I wanted to prove, to myself, that I can stand up and be a man if things ever get hairy. Until this weekend I would much rather have run away than faced any threat.

On Wednesday I picked up an injury on my left arm, the main blocking arm, and that was worrying me a lot. Honestly, I was TRYING to get out of the competition. I was already scared of this fighting thing and an injury did not help me feel any better. Long story short, I couldn’t get out of it and just had to get some extra padding on.

All the way up to the time of the fight the other masters from Icheon helped us and gave us tips on what to do and how. Unfortunately that is not the time to give a first timer new moves, I tried it and promptly forgot everything new the moment I stepped on to the mat.

The fight was nothing spectacular. My main problem was that my opponent wasn’t very aggressive and waited for me to make the first moves. This is not how we trained, so I had to start doing things that I was not very comfortable with.

I figured out quite quickly that this guy was not going to play the game I wanted, but I was not going to go down just hopping around the mat until the time was up. I tried a few kicks, did not land anything to score points and was hit in retaliation. I blocked a few (Yaaaaah!), and even tried to throw the guy.

Keep in mind that I was fighting men of about 23 who’d been doing this for a lot longer than I have. I’m really upset that I didn’t score a single point, but I am proud of myself for stepping on to the mat and facing my opponent like a man. I was not kicked in the head, I was taken down only once and it was not a shut out (default win due to a five point lead).

The main thing I learned from this was that this was not scary at all. I suppose that when you practice against masters you are bound to see the worst that could happen to you.

Everyone told me I did well for my first time. One person even pointed out that I was fearless and I figures out she meant my attitude and appearance on the mat. I did not run away and I tried to get in there and do what need to be done. I did not go all goggle eyed after the first point was scored on me and I did not waste time to get back to my spot after being thrown for a point. What’s the point of being afraid once you are there? Being scared would not have helped me. At least I was not warned for inactivity and running away like some people who will not be named.

That is the very short and sweet of me and my fist every fight. As soon as I’m able I will post a few photos from the competition.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Hopefully not me.

Today is the big day. I am S***ing myself.

Friday, 25 September 2009


See a view more at Facebook

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Where the bridge?

A few weeks back I tried to find Banpo Bridge to look in to the possibility of taking photographs of the musical water fountain. You would think it is easy to find a bridge in Seoul, but if you start at the wrong place and you don’t have a map then you can get hopelessly lost.

I figured that if I get off at Oksu I might be close. I ended up walking around Oksu trying to find a way to walk along the river. At least if I am next to the river I have targets to pursue. When I walk between buildings I feel like I am wandering aimlessly.

After a fruitless, and lazy, attempt to reach the river, I turned back to the train station and headed over the bridge, figuring that I might be able to find something interesting on the Apgujeong side.

I have never been to Apgujeong, by the way. What I found was an area filled with well dressed, good looking girls, (and me sweaty and dressed to walk.)

I also found this strange lampshade, made from silk worm cocoons.

(Looking at the map I found that I was actually in Shinsa and not Apgujeong.)

Monday, 21 September 2009

Child in the Forest

I was listening to a podcast this weekend and the host was talking about the unintentional interpretations of photographs. He mentioned Wynn Bullock’s “Child in the Forrest”. He was saying how, fifty years ago people looked at the photo and described it as an innocent girl just lying in the forest with not a care in the world.

He went on to say that if you ask people now they are more likely to tell you the girl is dead, killed by a serial killer or something of the sort. When I looked photo up on the internet I had to agree. How times have changed.

I studies Psychology and Criminology and one of the things they taught us in Crim. is that the perception of crime can be as bad as the crime itself. In other words, despite what the numbers say, if people believe that crime levels are high, then it will be true enough for them to affect their daily lived dramatically.

Take this picture. I am sure that 50 years ago you were almost as likely to be kidnapped and murdered as you would be today, but with a higher population density, higher reporting of crime and more media coverage, it seems like crime is much higher than before. Per person, I don’t believe it is that much worse.

Let us look at South Africa. Despite the supposedly high crime rate, the only thing that has ever happened to me was that my bicycle was stolen, and that was twenty years ago. (I ignore forgotten wallets that were never returned.) Sure, we have a relatively high violent crime rate, but as a tourist, for example, you will be sheltered from that for the most part.

In Korea if FEELS like there is a very little crime, but when you start looking in to statistics and how they are compiled, you realize just how “bad” things really are. Many crimes don’t get reported, even thought the police were involved. That is a product of the culture. Many crimes are hidden by the victims because culturally they are ashamed or are even blamed for the crime. Many crimes are sorted privately. Despite all of this happening around us, we FEEL that it is safe here, and that makes life here so much more relaxed than South Africa, or even the USA from what I hear.

Friday, 18 September 2009

… and then you …

A man, whom I assume is the father, is showing his son how to handle a traditional weapon at the Namsangol Hanok Villiage. Maybe, just maybe, this is how Korea achieves their success in the Olympics, starting early and not through 5000 years of needle work. Enough sarcasm now. This father is spending time with his son, showing him how to fight the next country who tries to invade the peninsula. I’m sure many children will give anything to have quality time with their fathers like this boy has.

* I’m still relatively new to Flickr, so I’m still learning how to use the service and it seems I’m allowed to link to my photo to display them on my blog. Nice think about that is that Flickr allows me to Geotag my photos, so when you go to the photo on Flickr scroll down and keep your eye on the right side. Towards the end you will see the properties of the photo and one of them is the location.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

What was that?

Only two weeks to go before the competition and I don’t feel any less sacred.

Last night Master Jo put on pads and did a bit of kicking and punching. It was scary. Master Jo, being an experienced master, has a blindingly fast kick. I’m sure he was holding back, but it was still scary. He would kick and step forward in the same move. This is not really something anyone else has done to us as before.

At first I was just trying to block his kicks and the first few kick I failed miserably. Once I got my first block in I was literally going “Yaaaaah! I blocked th…”

BAM! BAM!  Two punches right on the stomach target.

That was something to get used to. At least I can say that with every sparring session I’m learning something new. Before our session was up I was blocking and punching almost at the same time, then getting out of there.

I would like to stay in there and try a few self defence moves, but I just can’t seem to land them. Landing one of those scores big points and can even end the match prematurely if your opponent taps out.

Tonight is another session of pain. Interestingly, the more you do this the more your body adapts to take the impact without damage. I don’t know if I am adapting yet, but at least I am learning to ignore the pain that will disappear within seconds.

Pray to Chang Fei for me?

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Monday, 14 September 2009

Pillow Buddies

Students bring strange things to school. Every now and then a student will come to class with a pillow. Why do you think a student would need a pillow in school, huh? YES! That’s it!

Sometimes bringing strange things to class is just not enough and they feel the need to make it even stranger.

Friday, 11 September 2009

The End of Season Burn

The end of summer is marked by mats being put out all over the place, sidewalks included, with chili peppers laid out to dry. Two Thousand City has enough space for people to lay out huge mats under cover to protect the produce. As you walk or drive past it you are almost hit in the face by a sent resembling Chilly Crisps.

Wednesday, 09 September 2009

Just another day in paradise

Monday, 12:50pm, lunch:

“How about Wednesday?”
“Excuse me?!”
“Wednesday…I want to…take…you to…dinner.”
“OK.” [Thoughts = “This again?”]
“How about 5:30?”

[ERROR 342B9: Input has exceeded the duplicate limit of 5 instances. Current count = 7]

“Like I said before, nooo. I am NOT available between FIVE AND SEVEN.”
“Really? How about 7:30?”
“I will call you.”

Wednesday, 7:10pm: Cheeseburger at McDonald’s

Wednesday, 7:25pm: “This stove…does it increase heat in increments or gradually?” (Not actual conversation)

Wednesday, 7:45pm: “OK, so delivery tomorrow at 1pm? Great! Thank you very much.”

Wednesday, 8:15pm: “Hmm. Homemade cappuccino.”

** The guy is actually a pretty nice guy, except when it comes to things like this. In fact, even though a handful of my co-workers have annoying habits, like I know I do, I would not say any of them are anything other than generally nice people.

Market Day #2

Tuesday, 08 September 2009

Market Day #1

Every Friday there is a market outside the apartment complex. Actually, there are two, one at my complex and then one at short walk away. At our complex they mostly sell stuff, fish, fruit and a few dry snacks. At the other market they have mostly warm food, warm snacks and even a makeshift restaurant.

I have said this before, but after two years at my old apartment with nothing close to it, this is heaven for me. I have shops, restaurants, service providers and even a choice of two markets. Right now life is great.

Monday, 07 September 2009


Just before I went for my break to South Africa went to run an errand in the capital. With a bit of time to waste I thought I would walk up towards Jongno, a rout that took me past City Hall and Seoul Plaza.

At the Plaza there is a small ground lever fountain that allows children to get wet during the hot summer months. Unfortunately I didn’t know about this and arrived there armed with only my little Canon compact camera. The photos weren’t terrible, but I just did not like them.

After returning from the RSA I decided to go look in and see if I can get better photos. Sadly there were very few children there, but I managed to capture this gem.

I would go so far as to say that it is my current favourite photo. I had it printed out in a 10cm by 15cm print and I must say that it looks pretty darn good.

Friday, 04 September 2009

Thursday, 03 September 2009

Night Market

I come home yesterday afternoon and what do so see? A market, on a Wednesday. EXITING!

What makes this market interesting is that there was LOTS of food. There even was a small restaurant setup. At this little place they had about 10 items on the menu, one of which was a delicious looking BBQ, at least that is what they called it. It was actually just pork on a spit, but when has that ever been bad?

The portions were 25000 won and dished up for three people, but me being the lone hungry foreigner, naturally asked if I could take home what was left. Good new, I could.

The pork was absolutely superb. It had much less fat on than you would normally expect from meat in Korea and it was cooked to perfection. I even decided to take a bottle of Soju with my dinner. (I got halfway before I felt drunk and had to stop. *blush*)

After I had my expensive really by nice dinner, I bought dry baked soy beans, some fruit and a few snacks. Stupid market taking all my money! At least I know that I am paying for the novelty and that novelty will start to wane soon enough.

What is a bit weird about living where I do now is that I am seeing my students all, the, time. I don’t really mind because I am actually building better relations with them this way, but it is still weird. Where I lived before it was easier to eat in town while my students were hanging out at this market (which I didn’t even know existed). Now I am walking and greeting someone every ten steps.

I’ll say it again. Living at my new apartment is interesting.

Really Fluffy Stuff.

And that was the last of Indonesia. From here on we are doing Korea with one or two South Africa shots in, just to mix things up.

Wednesday, 02 September 2009

Tuesday, 01 September 2009

What IS that?

You would not believe how small these things are. Water plants and creatures are weird.