Sunday, 27 December 2009

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Friday, 25 December 2009

Go, Go, Go!

The traffic lights just outside my school. This particular intersection is the source of much frustration and confusion. I'm surprised no students have been run over yet.

I took the photo as I left school at about 4:45. it is winter, so by that time the sun is already very low and created a slight background colour which is helped along by the colour processing action I ran.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

How to be grateful for a small start…

“Teacher, I need money.”

“Oh? Why do you need money?”

“I want to buy clothes.”

“Hmm. (Curious) How much do you need?”

“이만 팔천 원! (28000 won)”



“Twenty eight thousand won?”

“Uuuuhm. Ten (makes an X in the air) two, (shows eight fingers) zero, zero, zero.”

“Yes. 2, 8, 0, 0, 0. 28000 won.”

“OK. Yes.”

“Let me see…here is 50 won.”

“Really?! Thank you teacher!”

Tous Le Jours

Wednesday, 23 December 2009


A sign indicating the underground parking. Like signs all over the world, this one is pointing in the wrong direction, unless you are looking for the stairs that does to the underground parking, maybe then, if you look around a bit. Take care to avoid the waste food bins at which the sign is pointing.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Short skirts and expensive watches.

Two of my students are competing in an English competition today. Unlike the previous years, my involvement has been limited to listening to then once, suggesting intonation changes, and then listening to them the next day. The whole thing has been handled by my co-teacher, who is going to Seoul National University of Education next year. The women is a machine. There is seemingly nothing she can’t do.

Here is the dialogue they will do as part of their “presentation”.


Hello, ladies and gentlemen.

We are Jang Da-Yeong and Jo Soo-Bin from Icheon Songjeong Middle School. We would like you ask you a couple of questions:

Have you ever shortened your skirts to make it look better?
Or have you ever bought expensive but good looking products?

Our dialogue today is related to these questions.


Soo-Bin: You look very gloomy today. Is everything all right?

Da-Yeong: I got scolded for my short skirt just a few minutes ago. What's up with you?

Soo-Bin: I'm just dying to get a limited edition watch, but I don't have enough money for it.

Da-Yeong: I heard that limited one is very expensive.

Soo-Bin: It is!

Da-Yeong: How much is it?

Soo-Bin: It's seven hundred thousand won and I'm only twenty thousand won short, and I have to hurry because there aren’t many watches left.

Da-Yeong: What!? Seven hundred thousand won? It costs too much! Why must you have it?

Soo-Bin: I don’t know. I guess the reason is about the same as you wanting to wear short skirts. I feel that watch will make me look special.

Da-Yeong: Maybe, but we can buy cheap watches in the markets, and there is little difference between those and the expensive watches.

Soo-Bin: Normal, cheap watches don't look cool! And my friends don't think they are great either! Tell me, what makes you want to wear a short skirt?

Da-Yeong: I feel longer skirts makes my legs look fat, and that make me feel embarrassed.

Soo-Bin: I don't get it. Why does it make you feel embarrassed? Isn't it just your own imagination? I think longer skirts make you look nicer and neater.

Da-Yeong: I don't agree. Something different, like a short skirt, earrings, colour contact lenses and make-up makes me stand out. None of those cost W 700 000. Why do you want to have expensive things?

Soo-Bin: I don't have the real reason. I just feel famous products (brand names) are cooler.

Da-Yeong: I think both of us are focusing on the superficial things too much.

Soo-Bin: Maybe you're right. I do stress looks most of the time.

Da-Yeong: I think we should improve our inner beauty.

Soo-Bin: You can say that again. Let's start doing meaningful things. Maybe we can read more, and try to help others. That will make us really beautiful and special people.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Washing up is not as easy as it looks.

My apartment has heating, and it works pretty well. The heating is not everywhere though. Every apartment in our complex has something like an enclosed porch, and this is the part that is not heated. With no heating in there it gets pretty cold. At least the door between the porch and the main room is quite well insulated, so you rarely notice it. On my porch is my watching machine. This is the same washing machine that has never given me any problems. The time had come though.

Like most people in Korea I wash my clothes, and the time had come to do a bit of washing. I put my stuff in the machine, closed the door, set the cycle I needed and pressed the “Play” button. I went back in to the toasty main room and started my dinner. 8 minutes in to the cycle I heard the annoying sound of the machine telling me something is wrong.

A Google Translate told me the load was “unbalanced”. What? I had only a small load and to top it off everything was still dry. About that, why was everything still dry? It took me a few more tries to notice that the “Woosh, Woosh” of water pouring in to the machine was absent. I touched the pipes, the rock hard pipes and said out loud: “Frozen?”

Winter had really arrived over the last few ways with Two Thousand City going below minus 10 Celsius on more than one occasion. It was never a problem in the previous apartment, strange as it may seem, but here the water on the porch freezes. I asked around and apparently I am not the only one with that problem.

At first I tried pouring hot water on the pipes, but that was obviously not going to work. I then hit on the bright idea of heating up the room. I have a small electric heater that I used in my previous apartment. I turned that on full blast and pointed it at the pipes. Oh, I disconnected the pipes from the taps so that the water could run out when it melted. That worked a charm, except I needed more time to melt the water closer to the inside of the machine, so I waited.

After what I thought would be an acceptable time I re-connected everything, set the machine and pressed “Play”. Wahooo! I heard water rushing. Happy with the world again I went inside, the warm inside, to entertain myself with a book. I had just gotten in to what I was reading when I hear it. The Error Signal. “What now?!”

Of course it is not the first thing you notice, and the error message didn’t tell me what was going one, but eventually I saw that the drum in the machine was completely filled with water. Zenu have mercy! Like any decent machine will do, I had to wait to open the door. Problem was, this door was not opening. Even after unplugging the machine it was still locked.

I sat down and thought about it. After a short time pondering the situation, I realised that there had to be a drainage valve somewhere for just such an occasion. Of course, water in there was frozen as well. Seems my little heater was going to be needed again. I left the valve open, went inside, again, and watched a movie while I waited. After about 30 minutes I turned around to see the water rushing out of the machine. SUCCESS!

Everything went cool running after. I was able to wash my clothes, and not get enough sleep. My next mission is to try and AVOID the whole freezing thing. My first attempt involves this…

After washing I disconnect the pipes from the tap to drain that water. Then I open the drainage valve to drain everything inside the machine.

I have a few more things to wash today, so we will see what happens this evening.

Friday, 18 December 2009


반갑습니다(Bangabseumnida) is Korea for “It’s a pleasure to meet you”. It is actually only one of the way to say this, and this particular phrase literally translates to: “It is a pleasure to SEE you.”

This “Pleasure to see you” bit causes a lot of confusion with the students as they often say “It is a pleasure to meet you”, even after a few year of me teaching them. Until now I thought it was purely the way they were taught, but last night I looked at some lesson notes from KoreanClass101 and had two A-HA moments.

Apparently when Koreans haven’t seen each other for a while they will say this to each other. The first A-HA seem to suggest that the students say this to me in a way that implies that they missed me. Wrong usage, but how nice of them.

My second A-HA moment came as I was reading the notes and was reminded of the first time my ex-girlfriend came to visit me in Korea. We hugged and her first words were: “Hello. I’m please to meet you”. She immediately realised what she had said but all she could do was apologise and give an embarrassed laugh. At the time I did not understand how she could make such a mistake. She is not exactly a beginner, you see. It would seem that her Korean instincts took over at that point in time and the wrong translation passed her lips.

Interesting that I would realise this almost 3 years later.

Thursday, 10 December 2009