Friday, November 10, 2006

Seoul'd on Seoul!


Yes I'm still here, alive and well, (especially with the North Korea
threat - thanks for your emails expressing concern),

Well Autumn is upon us here in Seoul and the weather is noticeably and
thankfully cooler now. The skies are also mainly clear and sunny. If
any of you plan to visit Seoul, now is the best time to do so (or next

Things haven't changed too much since I last wrote. Chusok (Korean
Thanksgiving) came and went. It is a time of year where people go back
to their home towns and visit their ancestors graves, spend time with
family (like Thanksgiving, but with rice cakes instead of turkey), and
put up with grueling long hours in heavy traffic (a 2hr trip could
take 8hrs during Chusok), since everyone tries to leave and come back
to Seoul in the 4 day holiday. Imagine most of 10.3 million people
(half the population of Australia) leaving the city at the same time!
Imagine also a city like New York or London with hardly any people,
and you can imagine what Seoul was like during this time!

I had plans to visit friends in the port town of Busan, but because of
the traffic and all buses/trains were booked, I had to settle for
watching DVDs (Korean and English) on my computer, drinking with
friends, and relaxing at my cosy apartment.

Work is same old same old, though the split shift (working morning and
evenings only) is draining me a bit. I usually sleep in the middle of
the day and the middle of the night for 2-5hours, which makes life
feel a little more surreal due to sleep deprivation.

People are a little concerned about the nuclear test. When there were
missiles launched from North Korea a month or so ago, people didn't
care, but this nuclear thing has changed things. Previously, the
current South Korean government have been looking in trying to reunify
Korea and send them much aid and assistance as a humanitarian and
diplomatic approach. Now it will be interesting to see what
eventuates. People in Seoul are complaining that they sent aid and
building materials, which they probably used to build the bomb instead
of helping the starving North Korean masses. There are even some
protests about the failure of the current government to prevent the
tests from happening.

Of course too, are the speculations about the nuclear tests being a
fake, or at the most, a fizzer.

Apart from that though, life goes on, no mass hysteria or people
evacuating.. but it's early times yet. I'll keep everyone posted on
any developments..

I've been told I look like this actor called Shin-Ha Kyun (see shinakyun.jpg)

What do you think? Do you think it resembles me? Every Korean I meet
thinks so... ^-^

Featuring a cute Korean actress called Nam Sang Mi drinking my (and
Korea's) favorite alcoholic beverage. She's adorable!!~ ^ ^

Many Korean ads tend to be cute or silly, almost childlike with cutish jingles.

And here is something bizzare yet a hilarious example of Korean quirky humour:

Koreans use different emoticons to express their mood when writing
emails/text messages. The emoticons are a mix of western and korean
characters (so I hope you can see them). Here are a few of them:

^-^ = happy (^ represents an eye arching upwards when an Asian smiles.)
(^?^)/ = Yay! (note how it actually takes longer to write it than
the word yay!
?? = sad
?? = very sad
^-^* = nervous (the * is sweat down the face)
^-* or ^-~ = wink
@.@ = wow surprising

Also, a ~ following a word represents a longer positive sounding tone.
example: great~!

I don't think swimming is a cultural thing in Korea, because no one
seems to be able to do so. Hence;

-Swimming pools are not very deep! Even I can stand in it! There seems
to be no such thing as a shallow or deep end.

-There is something called a pool break which occurs every 2 hours. It
means that people must all leave the pool for 20 minutes so they can
rest, for if they wear themselves out having fun in the pool, someone
"could drown".

-Head caps must be worn. No exceptions! This saves them having to
clean hair from the pool. They never counted on one of my friends, who
is quite hairy all over his body. Maybe he should wear a wetsuit?

OK, another cultural difference. Whereas we westerners see a "man on
the moon", what do Koreans see? That's right, a rabbit! But not just
any rabbit though, nope, it is a rabbit making rice cakes of all

These Koreans have quite a vivid imagination sometimes. Bears eating
garlic turning into people, rabbits cooking rice cakes on the moon,

Despite the fact that wives traditionally stay at home and look after
the kids and serve the husband, while husbands work and do as they
please, it turns out that wives are not as helpless or powerless as it
seems. Wives usually are the ones who control their husbands bank
account - in fact some of my married male students have no idea how
much money they actually have in the bank! "I don't know how to pay
bills" says one. "My wife handles all that. All I see of my money is
the pocket money she gives me." Pocket money!?! For a 45 year old?

(on a completely unrelated note, I had one of my female students help
me pay my phone and gas bill, because I didn't know how to (come on it
was in Korean!) I jokingly told her she'd make a good wife. Probably
wasn't the best thing to say.. ) ^-~

Anyway, stay tuned for more developments!