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Sunday, 27 September 2009

Food Showcases


Some Korean restaurants, especially those that serve "fast food" like noodles and fried cutlets (pork or fish), have food showcases to advertise their wares. I have posted pics before of them; here's another, a shot of part of the case, which was outside the restaurant in the street. Though the exchange rate is still a bit off, you can generally translate the prices as W1,000=$1; the food at this place is a bit expensive, but it looks good.

Quiznos



I ate lunch at Quiznos yesterday in Seoul (Itaewon) when I went to the chiro. Today I was supposed to go on a tour of a different part of Seoul, a trippin' university area, but I couldn't find the meeting area and had a communication problem when I called the tour office. Since it took me an hour to get to the area (2 subways; Seoul is a rather big city, after all), I wandered around on my own for a bit, and spotted another Quiznos. Why not? I had another Black Angus melt. They are pretty good, and you just can't get a sandwich like that anywhere else in Korea.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Korean Thanksgiving Holiday Gift Boxes













Next weekend is Chuseok, or the Korean Thnksgiving holiday, and once again the stores are gearing up for it with gift boxes. Yes, gift boxes of all kinds. Here is a small selection (I would have gotten more, but I was politely told to cease and desist from taking pics in the store). The spam boxes always crack me up. The one you probably can't make any sense of (red labels) is ginseng extract.

Deviled Eggs







I thought I'd make some more deviled eggs for the teacher's room today; I made them once before, and everyone seemed to enjoy them: the Korean teachers because, while they are a "western food", Koreans tend to eat a lot of eggs, so deviled eggs don't seem so strange; and the foreign teachers (2 Americans) simply because they are a taste of home. Me, I like them, and sometimes I just like to cook, especially when I have a bit of free time on a Friday morning after a really long work week. Having said that, I'm glad they are done with and setting up in the fridge:)

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Kiddie Arts





My first grade class, my beginners, have a new textbook, and the second unit in the book has a picture of a meadow with a picnic. Some of the vocab words for the unit are tree, lake, cloud, etc., but you can fit a lot more words in if you cover the animals (duck, ant, rabbit) and the food (chocolate cake, banana, grapes) from the pic.

So we talked about the picture and listened to the CD and a few other things, then I assigned each kid (there are 8 in the class now) one or two things to draw on the whiteboard, kind of hoping to imitate the book picture.

Anyway, what you see is the result. (Btw, there are 5 girls and 3 boys in the class, and you can often tell which gender drew what pic. Also, "Annie" is a book character's name.)

DDT and the Far Eastern Economic Review

I just recently got turned onto the Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) as a website for quality Asian news. In a way it is unfortunate, since the way I heard about this apparently much-heralded journalistic source was in reading that the Dow Jones corporate group, which now owns it, will be terminating it this coming December after a celebrated historical run. Seems a shame.

However, for now, and as a way perhaps to share their twilight period with others, there is an interesting article on DDT that I think everyone should read. The piece is not great in terms of its rhetorical arguments as it does not give the opposition (those fervently opposing any use of DDT based on environmental grounds) their proper due, but the article is noteworthy in that the author claims that millions of lives have been needlessly sacrificed to malaria in the process of banning DDT.

Anyway, I couldn't link straight to it, but if you go to the FEER homesite you can read the article, entitled "Life, Death and DDT":

http://www.feer.com

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Iranian Holocaust Denial

What do you think, is Mr. Ahmadinejad a total idiot, or is he playing a game? Myself, I can't see how someone can become president of a country by being an idiot, so I think he is playing a game with the rest of the world.

A very dangerous game.

What could his motive be? Why deny something that is so clearly factual?

Korean Script, or "Hangeul"





It is truly amazing to me sometimes the number of English words that are written in "Hangeul", or the Korean alphabet. Occasionally my students will ask me whether a word they know is English or not, which is kind of amusing, because it often is.

This fact of life here is both good and bad for English teachers such as myself. The good part is that students are already familiar with many vocabulary words in the English language; the bad part is that their pronunciation is often wrong (from my perspective), as the Korean alphabet/language lacks some of the letters/sounds we use in English.

Here are two examples from things just in my apartment.

The first is a box of facial tissues. There are the English words, and then above them the Korean characters that spell out "Mi-yong TTi-syu" or "Mee-yong Tee-syu".
The second word is "tissue", though the spelling and pronunciation of the product are different.

Similarly, for a package of cashew nuts, the Korean characters say "KKae-syu Neo-tteu" or "Kae-syou Nu-teu".

Cashew nuts. Brilliant. But no wonder my students are sometimes confused about what is English and what isn't.

Points of the Compass






These pics are taken from the pedestrian bridge that crosses the busy street in back of my apartment building (the same one that has shown up in other pics). Not too exciting but the bridge is next to the supermarket that was about to open, and the day is sunny and bright.

First pic, to the north, you can see a "mountain" beyond the apartment buildings.

To the south is the central shopping/eating area, pedestrians only, that leads up to the subway station (straight at the end), which is the hub of life in many, many Seoul area cities and districts and neighborhoods. If you don't believe me or just want a quick peek at the extent of the system, type "seoul subway" into Google; or, if you're a lazy bastard like me, use this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Seoul_Subway_linemap_en.png

I'm on the bottom light blue line, and for an idea of size/length, it takes me 30 min. to ride maybe 1/4 of the way along that line.

Back to the pics. To the east some big company is building new apartments, maybe about 10 high rises going up at the same time. That's the way they do it in Korea. The hell with putting up a single building!:)

To the west is lots of boring stuff like more apartment buildings, with a peek at another "mountain".

Saturday, 12 September 2009

On Being Nomadic

A good friend of mine recently asked me about the places I have lived. About the number. "How many?" she asked, and I had to slow my brain down and think about it, make a list.

The list is approaching 20. Twenty cities. 20 cities in 3 continents. Twenty cities in 4 countries.

If my math is right.

But math isn't the point, isn't the thing to grade. Life is being graded here.

I have no permanent home, no place to go "home" to, as evidenced by my trip back to the U.S. last spring; it took me seven plane flights to get around to see most of my family.

Most; not all. My family, like me (in a lesser way), have spread out.

They have spread yet have settled, while I continue to wander. Wander. Looking for what?

I'm not sure.

Today I rode a subway into Seoul to visit a dentist who speaks English and was educated in the U.S. I am very interested right now in the dramatic turn-around of the American policy towards North Korea . . .

But that is neither here nor there in my thoughts about wandering, about "home", about a place to belong to.

Maybe that is it. A place to belong to.

Hmmm . . . Lots to think about . . .

Subway Vending Machine





Somewhere in the bowels of Seoul, on an underground subway platform (part of line 2, I think, the longest circular line in the world at 60.2 km), I saw this vending machine. Not the first one I have seen like it, but the first time I remembered to take some pics.

Why take pics? Because the machine dispenses not just regular snacks, but also boxes of snacks . . . just in case you feel like sharing:)

Back to the Dentist

I went back to the dentist today to get a filling replaced. The old one had disappeared and my tooth was in need of service. Lasted a long time, that old one did.

I don't like going to the dentist. Not many people do, I guess, so that should be no big surprise.

I have to say though, that this large office in Seoul, recommended by korea4expats.com, deep in the heart of the cosmetic surgery district, is pretty damn upscale: A big modern office (their reception/waiting area is the size of a tennis court, very nicely appointed); courteous, uniformed staff, some of whom are fluent in English (and should be as the office advertises for foreigners); attached cosmetic and eye surgery clinics; even a tea/coffee while-you-wait bar (not, I think, meant for dental patients, though I was offered a beverage today, maybe because I showed up 20 minutes early).

It does kind of relax you.

But then the first words out of my dentist's mouth, after a polite greeting, were, "I'm going to give you a local anesthetic."

End of relaxation.

Immediate trepidation.

After all, why deaden the mouth with drugs unless pain is anticipated?

Next, after the right side of my face is experiencing what stroke victims maybe feel: "Raise your left hand if you feel any pain."

And the drilling began.

Wasn't that bad, actually. No pain, and I regained enough feeling two hours after I left to eat some well-deserved lunch.

And only cost about $100. Not bad at all for upscale.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Subway Screw

The other day I took the subway into Seoul to visit my chiropractor. The rack was calling. My back needed popping.

To get there, I have to ride the subway line from my city for about 30 min. and then change lines. The line change at this particular stop is a bear; you have quite a hike to make. Total time to get to the chiro: about 1 hour.

Anyway, once I came off the rack, purchased my Cheetos at the international food store, and jumped back on the subway, I was quite impressed with the time I was making. After all, this was the morning of a teaching day and I had to get back in time to change clothes for the work day.

When I boarded the subway car at the changeover station I noticed that not all of the waiting passengers got on, but I thought I knew why: sometimes the subway doesn't run out as far as I want to go. Instead, it stops at a midway point and everyone has to get off and wait for another train that will go the rest of the way.

My thinking was that I'd rather get on a nearly empty car, be able to sit down, and then change over, rather than wait for a traingoing the whole distance (and likely have to stand).

So I got on, grabbed a seat, and buried my head in a newspaper. When I looked up again to check our progress I noticed that we were back to the station where I had boarded. Shit!

I jumped off and was totally confused. Which side of the tracks was I on and why was I back at the same place?

Apparently, the subway train had turned around without my noticing it. Normally a conductor moves through the cars and kicks everyone off when the train is doing such a turn-around, but that didn't happen in this case. Normally a Korean will tell me (the ignorant foreigner) that I have to get off (as if I didn't notice that everyone else was doing so). That didn't happen; there were several Koreans in the car with me who didn't move a muscle.

So we got turned around without my knowledge, I went back to "Go", and I wasted half an hour or so. Plus it cost me a bit of loot as I had to cross over the tracks and re-enter for the correct destination.

I got home in time to change, but not with a lot to spare.

Now I'm going to be somewhat paranoid about which trains I get on, though I can always ask.

Going to the chiro isn't going to be quite so easy any more.

The Flu Scare

This week my after-school English academy in the Seoul area started checking students' temperatures (via ear thermometer). Also, students are now required to use a hand sanitizer gel before they walk in the door; a staff person is on hand outside the entranceway to make sure that all this happens.

In one sense it seems rather draconian, but in another it is a very realistic approach to dealing with the current influenza epidemic, and also a way of dealing with the fears (especially the mothers') that accompany the scare.

I do find it ironic that across the hall is a small plastic surgery clinic, and we (our school and the clinic) share a bathroom that has a sink but no soap. Plus, the doctor from the clinic smokes in the bathroom: "The good news is that you don't have the flu virus; the bad news is you're going to die of lung cancer via second-hand smoke."

Bastard.

So, this past week, as the new safety measures have been implemented, I have tried to approach the students in a non-confrontational manner; I have lubed my hands up and talked to them about the importance of keeping their hands clean--virus or not--and we have joked about the lemony smell.

Some students told me that their public school has four suspected flu students, and that the Korean government has declared that schools with five flu-positive students must close, so--of course!--they are hoping for a fifth victim. Quite a change from the days of hoping for lots of snow so that schools would shut down . . .

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Gangneung Beach








A variety of shots of the Gangneung Anmok beach area. You can tell that the summer 'beach season' is pretty much over, as the beach was not very crowded on a Saturday and almost deserted on weekdays. Pics of a fishing boat, a guy windboarding, a boat pulling a "flying fish" with people clinging on, a map of the Gangwondo beaches, etc.

Gangneung Looking In







Here are some various shots of Gangneung city looking from my 5th floor beach hotel room inland towards the mountains.

Gangneung: Pine City




Here are a couple of pics of the pine trees near the beach in Gangneung (Gangwondo Province). The area is layered as follows: ocean, beach, military chain-link fence, pine trees, road, and then either more pine trees or rice/onion fields.

The military fence was put up a long time ago to protect against invasion from North Korea, and most of it still exists, stretching a long ways (80 km?)up to the border. Parts of it have been taken down, however, to increase access to the various beaches, and most of the observation towers, bunkers, etc. are no longer in use.