Monday, 31 May 2010

Pollen Everywhere

If there was any doubt that the spring and early summer air is saturated with pollen then this should clear things up.

A few days back we had very light rain. Light rain does not wash everything away in one fell swoop, and it allows you to see just how much pollen is on the surface of all the things around you. Here you will see the yellow in the edges of the water as it is washed away in to the gutter system. Apologies for not getting closer to the ground. The lens on my 30mm is not macro and thus need to be at least arms length from the subject being photographed.

Another way to see the pollen is to just swipe your finger over something that has been standing outside for a day or so and you will notice the yellow line on your finder.

Sunday, 30 May 2010


I took a friend to Namdaemun to get his lens fixed. We arrived just before lunch and thought we might as well get something to eat in the market. The “two” options were the tried and tested Waegoog favourites, or go see what is hiding in one of the dark side alley.

One thing that I have learned it that side allays hide some amazing food and we were hoping for the same. As you can see we are not the only people with following these ideas. We picked an alley and looked for the restaurant with the longest line. “No idea what they are selling, but there is a line of locals, so it must be good.”

The setup here in interesting. They sell ONE dish and that is it cooking right there, in the open kitchen on the opposite side of the alley from the actual restaurant. Not very hygienic looking, but then, what kitchen rally is? The dish is called 갈치조림 (Two links as explanations)

This is the same women who does the cooking, or at least the monitoring of the stuff on the stove. She also serves the food. Here she is going up the stairs, balancing the food on her head, passing patrons and even positioning shoes as needed. Photos of the shoes next.

If you look closely you will see the 1.5th floor just to her left. You have to crouch to walk in there, but who cares if you sit the whole time?

The shoes, perfectly positioned by the women carrying the food on her head and dodging patrons.

And there we have it, 갈치조림.


*Images linked to flicker where larger versions are available.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Sex in Public School Dormitories

This was in my inbox this morning:

오늘(수, 5.26) 공개수업시간에는 학생들이 서둘러 입실하도록 지도해 주시기 바랍니다. 그리고 공개수업 후에는 상담준비(성적 등 자료 준비)해 주시기 바랍니다.
좋은 하루되세요.
교무부 최의광 드림

And your Google Translate for today:

Today (Wed, 5.26), a public school hours led to a dormitory for students, please hurry. After public consultation and preparation classes (sexual and data preparation), please.
Have a nice day.
Dream gyomubu choeuigwang

Thursday, 13 May 2010


I was asked my adult class about those little packets of Instant Coffee Mix and when Koreans started drinking it. You know, the little sachet containing instant coffee, milk and sugar already? Apparently they have been around for about ten years now.

I’m was wondering because I want to take some back to South Africa because I’m pretty sure we don’t have it there. It seems we like to prepare each cup to taste instead of having to drink the same disgusting drink that everyone else drinks…

Sorry, went off a bit. I don’t drink instant coffee at all, see? I can rightfully claim that I am not a snob because I didn’t drink coffee as a child either. We only had instant coffee in the house and I could never stand the taste. I only started drinking coffee after school when I tasted real coffee for the first. Seems I just have naturally good taste. Back to the story.

Our discussion went on it’s own marry way as it normally does and I was told a few interesting things about Korean Coffee Culture that you will not find in the travel guides. The first thing that came out was that when some of the adults were still dating, coffee was used as a way of indicating whether you liked your date or not. At the end of the date you would finish your meal of with a coffee, but here’s the twist. If you liked your date and wanted to see him or her again, then you ordered coffee for yourself. If you did not like your date, then you ordered milk. WOW! I know you are not actually saying anything but that is not exactly subtle. I suppose it does avoid the uneasy verbal question and verbal rejection of a possible next date.

The subject of Dabangs (다방, Coffee Rooms. Ticket Café) also came up. Back in the day they were the place to be. That was where you hung out to look for a boy or a girl. They were the places to pass the time with your friend and they were the places to just relax. You can still find them, but now they are very cheap places for poor old people, mostly men, to hang out.

As far as I understand Dabangs are also where you order your coffee with a side order of pretty girl, and apparently these menu items have been around for a long time. This particular menu item is called a Ticket and will give you the services of a personal pouring girl for about 40 minutes.

A funny/weird/interesting/disgusting titbit that came out was that older people used to crack raw eggs in to their coffee. Don’t think I will try that soon. Also, my research shows is that a dabang will not deliver to a Sauna.

The girls not only have “drivers”, but have people who exploit their mental health.


Friday, 07 May 2010

S*** Foreigner

I’m generally pretty thick skinned about being called names and I don’t get upset quickly when people are stupidly racist towards me, but even I have a limit, and when I have an off day that limit is lowered.

One of my classes got to watch their Reward Movie. Usually I start the film, wait a bit for everyone to settle down and there is no further problems. Every now and then the class does not settle down to the extent that I cannot hear the dialogue. At these times I stop the film and wait, not saying anything. It takes about a minute for everyone to realise that they need to settle down before I restart.

One class today did not want to settle down. I actually timed them and seven minutes after stopping they were still going on as if nothing was wrong, with no one even attempting to quiet them down. I was starting to feel for the students who were actually quiet, so I decided to take the noise makers in to the next classroom to do some work as a punishment.

I followed them in and just as I entered in I heard the words 외국인 (foreigner) and 시발 (shit, although I am not sure of the spelling). I can still handle the swearing, but I was obviously being referred to as a foreigner in a derogatory way, by a piss ant student. I will not stand for that.

I told his teacher about it, saying that I don’t want to see him in my classroom again. She spoke to him and she said he was sorry and would like to apologise to me. In Korea, even if you don’t mean it but do make an apology, and the apology is accepted, everything is assumed to be settled. (Remember that when you are in an accident. Don’t say everything is OK or accept any money.) I was still upset about the situation and said that I was not interested in hearing his apology, or not today at least.

Apparently he will be writing me a letter and will give it to me on Monday. I’ll see how I feel about it then.

Tuesday, 04 May 2010

Is this how my next contract year will be?

Last week I asked what the vacation/test/whatever days are that I need to take in to account for my lesson planning. One of those days was the field trip today.

Yesterday I had to ask what the plans for the trip was because I still hadn’t heard anything.

The plan was that each grade would go somewhere and that I would stay at school. A bit amazed and for a few seconds I did not know what to say. I had to stay at school, with no students and no other teachers? Really? But I was always allowed to go before this?

I asked if I was allowed to go and was basically told “You WANT to go?” Apparently it didn’t seem possible that I might want to join one of the trips. Whatever!

I asked the around to see who is doing what and decided I who I would like to join. The 1st graders were going to the KBS studios. I can’t name a single Korean drama, almost no Korean films and I don’t have a TV or radio. Needless to say I had little to no interest in going there

The 2nd graders were going to some village dedicated to some Korean poet. I don’t like poetry in any language, especially not in a language I am not even a decent beginner in. Why on earth would I want to go there? I wouldn’t.

I wanted to go with the 3rd graders to Digital Plaza in Seoul. I like digital stuff. I am a part time geek, I am. This is where I want to be. Even if everything is in Korean and I am not allowed to touch anything, I would still like to be there.

Today I arrived at school went to my desk to do something while I waited for the students to start getting on the bus, when a teacher who essentially has nothing to do with me informs me that I need to go because the 1st graders are getting ready? How does HE know I’m going with them and not me, and when was this decided? First I have to stay at school alone and now I have to go somewhere that is only of interest to Korean women and men who want to get in to the business in some way? If I never had a choice, then fine, but I was given a choice and then it is made for me?

I flat out refused to go and said I would rather stay at school. I was not angry. Yes, I was upset, but mostly I was bitterly disappointed. Am I back in the boat where I am the last one to be considered, and then only when I actually remind people that I am?

Just before the 2nd graders left their English teacher phoned me and asked if I wanted to go along. Maybe it was because it was her asking because I went. It was most likely the most boring trip I ever in Korea and it did not help dispel my disappointment at all.

Also, a week and a half after almost having a fight over the dictionaries that I requested two months ago already, I decided to just buy them myself. They will be mine. If I find one page missing or crumpled, one page scratched on, one cover ripped to pieces, I will ban that student, or even the whole table from my class and they will not come back until I have a replacement. My money, my dictionaries, my rules.