Monday, April 9, 2007

In-SEOUL-ted!~ ^^

Annyeong, shiksa hashossoyo?*

*=hello, did you eat? = hello, how are you?


Yes I know it's been four months since I last wrote, but thats mainly
due to the fact that I've settled myself nicely in Korea and have not
really travelled to many places since, apart from hiking around some
mountain fortress walls of several fortress towns dotted around the
Seoul vicinity.

As many of you know, I also went back for a week to Australia to
attend a friends wedding and visit some of youse guys and family - It
was nice to be back home and should have probably stayed longer than a
week because it was over before I knew it!

Work has been same old same old, with a few extra teachers from
Australia beefing up the aussie contingent in Korea (as there are
hardly any here, they tend to go to Japan instead).

My work load is not too bad, as I am generally free for most of the
day (classes are usually in the mornings and at night due to people
working), but I would prefer not having to get up at 5:30am each
morning to teach a 6:45am class (and I don't think the students really
appreciate it too - however most of these students are made to by
their companies, and the students must attend at least 70% of all the
classes or else the student will have to pay for the lessons
themselves. English is such a critical skill to have to Korea as it
is usually one major factor that gets you a promotion).

It's also amazing that it was only less than a year ago that I didn't
know any grammar rules or how it works - now I can spout things like
"present perfect progressive" and "past participle" and actually know
what I'm talking about! I can finally know how to explain what
"unless" means, or the difference between "something" and "anything"!


If extremely hot humid summers and freezing cold winters aren't enough
to drive you completely nuts in this country, it is usually around
this time of year that Korea suffers from
another environmental effect, this time partially man-made.

This is known as "Yellow Dust", which is basically sand from the Gobi
Desert in China that decides to go on vacation and scatter itself all
over Korea using the wind.

Now normally this wouldn't be so bad a problem, except this sand is
usually toxic and causes respiratory and skin allergy problems. It is
toxic because the sands are tainted with industrial chemical pollution
from Chinese factories in the desert.

Even I felt a little itchy and had a sore throat one particularly bad
yellow dust day, which often leaves the city bathed in a slight yellow

One way of avoiding breathing the dust is to stay indoors, street
washers wash the streets, and people wear paper masks over their mouth
and noise.


These fortress towns have massive walls that stretch of kilometres
around the city, kinda reminiscent of the Great Wall of China in
appearance and majesty.

Guard towers are located at regular intervals along the walls,
allowing for more spectacular views of the surrounding forests and
mountains beyond and below.

Inside the fortress walls lies the town itself, a collection of old
traditional style houses that have been there for several hundred
years and virtually unchanged (except for the addition of cable TV
and/or converted into a traditional style restaurant).

In the town of Suwon there is also a small palace featuring terrocotta
and wooden slanted roofs, the wooden beams holding it uniquely
characteristic of Korean culture, being colorfully painted in green
and cheerful brightly coloured patterns and murals (Japanese roofs are
unadorned, bland and drab in comparison).

Korean culture is famous for bright colors of white, red, yellow,
green, blue and black the most prominent in architecture, paintings
and traditional clothing. In fact, the social status or occupation of
a Korean in ancient times was displayed by the color clothing they

Inside this palace were courtyards containing courtyards containing
open buildings containing models of traditional costumes, weapons and
furniture. One courtyard contained traditional games that visitors
could play with, such as throwing rings around a pole from a distance,
the throwing of several large sticks up in the air and the way they
land determines the winner, and finally, a simple see-saw meets
trampoline, which differs from the child safe see-saw versions we know
of today, since these ones involve actual jumping up and down on a
see-saw and flying high in the air, careful how you land lest you end
up with the board coming up to meet you between the legs, or landing
too heavily on the ground resulting in back and neck pain!


While at a Berlitz party with other teachers and students, I see one
of my female students standing alone, who shares a class with her best
friend. Her best friend was elsewhere talking to another teacher, so I
decide to talk to her. Feeling mischievious, I ask her:

"So, who do you think is better at english, you, or your best friend?"

"She is."

"O.K, what about who is more smarter?"

"She is."

"Really? O.K then, so who would win in a fight between you two?"

"Her, for sure."

She then starts to walk back to her best friend, but not before
turning her head around and saying:

"..But i'm prettier!!!"

Korean girls can be so "catty".


Konglish is a collection of Korean words that have adopted English
words to describe or explain things that do not really exist in the
Korean language. Here are some examples:

"handy (phone)" = cell/mobile phone.

"eye-shopping" = window shopping.

"hwaiting!" = fighting! = Go (sports team)! Pretty much what you say
when you cheer your favorite team.

"one room" = studio apartment.

"apartment" = apartment building, rather than the apartment itself.

"big liver man" = brave/strong.

"one shot!" = bottoms up, said when taking a shot.

"cut out the film" = to pass out/black out after much drinking.

"make a promise" = make an appointment.

"make a meeting" = to go on a date.

"make a booking" = to go on a date that results in more adult
activities, what us westerners may call a "booty call" (in possibly a
love motel)*

"sexy bar" = topless bar (Korea are still conservative enough that
there are no strip bars)

"booby booby" = what one says to a girl in a club if they want to
pursue intimate relations with said girl (in possibly a love motel)*

"children's day" = a day when all the managers are at training outside
of work and employees are less stressed, and relax as a result.

"100 years guest" - usually referring to the son-in-law, who is always
welcome at the parents-in-law's house.

"skin-ship" = close friendship**

*A love motel is a series of hotels scattered around Korea that allows
you to rent one of their rooms for 2-3 hours at a reasonable price.
The reason for this is that most Koreans live at home, so to do
anything of an adult nature, Korean couples would go to these places.
Love motels have a seedy feel to them, especially with the drapes
covering the entrance to the parking area under the hotel so no one
can see the cars and couples that enter and leave.

**Even though Korean culture is quite conservative, it is quite ok for
close friends (usually of same gender) to touch each other by stroking
the arm/leg/thigh, and even holding hands or having their arms around
each other walking down the street. Hence the Konglish phrase
"skin-ship", a friendship so close there is skin contact.

Despite knowing this, it always catches me off guard whenever one of
my students reach out and stroke my arm/hand/thigh affectionately in

Another sign of good friendship is when they will carry your bag or
backpack for you, even when you try to decline or physically resist
their tugging at your bag!

Anyways, till next time,