Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Something silly to entertain the bored :)

A bit of fun to while away a couple of moments while deskwarming or otherwise idling at a computer - the Nac Mac Feegle game on www.terrypratchettbooks.com. Basically, the Nac Mac Feegle are little blue brawlers with very strong heads, so the goal of the game is to drop onto as many people's heads as possible. Sound weird? Perhaps. But still entertaining, haha^^

Oh and because I can, a badge! Love it :)

I'm Reading Terry Pratchett

Monday, July 18, 2011

Serious post of the day - Seoul Slutwalk 2011

Reblogged from Roboseyo, 18th of July 2011

SlutWalk Seoul 2011

(possibly from here... anybody have an ORIGINAL original source?) (from here)

A police officer in Toronto said that women should protect themselves from rape by avoiding dressing like sluts. Toronto's feminist community called bullshit on victim-blaming, an all-too-prevalent attitude in assault safety discussions, and organized a response called "SlutWalk" -- a group of women dressed like "sluts" and walked through the streets of Toronto carrying signs, to raise awareness that those attitudes are really not cool, and possibly to reclaim the word "slut."

Since then, SlutWalk has spread to other cities, and it appeared in Seoul last Saturday, July 16, 2011.

I attended in solidarity, because I strongly believe that the idea needs to be introduced, championed, and spread, that it doesn't matter what a woman wears: nothing even remotely justifies sexual assault, and focusing on what a woman should do to avoid the attack implicitly acquits men (and other would-be attackers) of their responsibility to not be rapists, which is where every discourse about sexual assault should begin and end: with better education of what rape is, and what the consequences are, until the slogan "No means no" jumps to the lips of 20-year olds as quickly as other slogans, like "don't drink and drive."

The proceedings for Slutwalk Seoul started at 2pm. I joined up near Gwanghwamun at 4 - demonstrations aren't allowed in Gwanghwamun Square proper - during a welcome pause in the intermittent downpours in Seoul that day. There were speeches, some songs, a non-verbal performance, and then a march down to Deoksugung palace, in front of which there was a dance, and then a return to Gwanghwamun.

The SlutWalk crew moved on to Hongdae, where I was a little too wet and cold to catch up with them, though I met with a few of my feminist and/or supportive friends, including The Grand Narrative (from whom I found out about SlutWalk Korea) and Popular Gusts, for some burgers and drinks afterwards.

signs were carried, slogans were shouted.

At the event, there were almost as many cameras as demonstrators, and rain concerns may have caused the "costumes" or "slut" outfits to be less extreme than they might have been at other slutwalks; however, the crowd was enthusiastic, and people were generally OK with the different people who'd come - including males with cameras.

They ran out of the red ribbons which indicated a person didn't want to be photographed, so I can only publish pictures I took where no faces show... in that respect, the rain and face-obscuring umbrellas turned out to be a boon... and even if it hadn't rained, the point of going wasn't to take lots of pictures of women dressed like "sluts" anyway -- that'd kind of be missing part of the point of the event, that self- objectification for the male/appraising gaze is not the reason for the event, nor the reason women dress the way they do when they go out.

Here's a link that includes a video made by the Hankyoreh.

body-paint was used to interesting effect.

Why did I especially like this event? Two main reasons:

1. Because it was planned and promoted by Koreans for Koreans - the blog and the twitter account and the poster were all Korean only, and I think it's awesome that Korean women are speaking with their own voice.

2. Because when sexual assault comes up in Korea, even in my classes (I like bringing a lesson based on this article into my discussion classes), the discourses I've heard have overwhelmingly focused on the victim's side -- "she shouldn't wear short skirts" "she should not drink too much" "she should use the buddy system" -- what the woman did to bring her attack on -- and barely brought the attacker's side into it (things like stiffer punishments or public awareness campaigns). Overwhelmingly skewing the discourse toward the victim's responsibilities eventually results in an atmosphere of complicity and maybe even enabling, for would-be attackers, in which they figure they can get away with it, if she's drunk enough, or dressed sexy enough, because that's what they always hear when sex attacks are in the news anyway.

Blaming a rape on a short skirt is like blaming a pedestrian hit by a drunk driver for using the crosswalk. Especially in Korea, where short skirts are just about the norm.

I'm strongly of the opinion that for every time somebody says "she shouldn't dress that way" somebody should say "she has the right to dress how she likes and not be attacked for it" and "it's on the attacker's head" twice, and for every dollar spent promoting the former idea, two should be spent on the latter, and so forth. So that no sex attack ever happens again because somebody simply didn't understand, or hadn't had it impressed strongly enough upon them during that one class during high school, where the law draws the line.

It reads something kind of like this: "Sorry my body's not beautiful. Ha ha ha. -From an unsexy slut"

SlutWalk has, predictably, been controversial in many places where it's occurred, and I'd like to touch on a few of those controversies.

1. Maybe SlutWalk makes sense in Canada, where it was invented, but it's not culturally appropriate for Korea.

A journalist asked me if I thought this was an appropriate kind of demonstration for Korean culture, which (by asking it of a foreigner) turned into a kind of loaded question, given that the event was planned by Koreans: I think Korean women should be free to express themselves however they want. Cultural appropriacy doesn't come into it when a. people raised in this culture made the choice to express themselves this way, b. cultures change all the time, and c. some cultures systematically suppress women's rights, and ignore women's voices.

Deoksugung gate. Note the boys dressed as sluts.

2. Isn't this a pretty shocking and outrageous way of starting discussion about this issue?

Maybe it is... but sometimes controversy gets people talking in a way that doesn't happen when one minds their p's and q's, and sometimes something a little brash is needed to capture public attention. A hundred women walking past city hall in lingerie counts as such.

And especially in women's issues, where part of the problem is that women are programmed that being loud, and demanding their rights is unladylike, imprudent, or not "demure" the way a good filial daughter and dutiful wife should be, I'm all for women getting angry, and loud, until middle-aged, male middle-managers feel ashamed to say "well I think women's rights have come far enough in Korea because women have taken over every entry-level position in my district office, and I can't find a single man at the entry-level to promote into division manager," and until women feel empowered enough to confront them on actually believing Korea's come far enough when Korea's Gender Empowerment Measure was woefully low in the last year it was measured (61st of 109 in 2009 - shockingly low when compared to its very HIGH Human development index (26th in the world).)  (for the record, yes, Korea does better when you include women's access to quality healthcare and education here)

Sometimes a vanguard comes along with a pretty strident message, and acts as the shock troops for an important idea. After they've put the idea out there, it becomes OK to talk about it, where before people just changed the subject. Once it becomes OK to talk about it, very smart, less brazen voices (hopefully) appear to present the idea in a way that is palatable to those who feel accused and attacked by the stridency of the vanguard. Over time, idea enters the mainstream. I'm OK with that process taking place. I'm OK with there being a noisy vanguard for important ideas. I'm OK with some screeching about important ideas, especially because marginalized populations are marginalized because people don't listen to them: clearing their throat and raising their hand and saying please hasn't worked.

I liked this boy's sign.

3. But isn't it true that women who dress that way are dressing that way because they want men to look at them? Why would a woman dress like that if she wasn't looking for sex?

Hmm. Something I've learned: despite how I like to think the world is aligned, it's not always about men.

There are any number of reasons a woman might dress up nicely/sexy (and let's not forget that what's sexy to one person may be absolutely modest to another):

1. To pick up other women
2. To impress other women
3. To make their friends jealous
4. To make their boyfriends jealous
5. To display status
6. For their own damn selves
7. To feel more confident
8. To enjoy being admired by other women
9. To enjoy being admired (and only admired) by men
10. To balance feeling bad by looking good
11. To show off those bitchin' new heels she just bought, the sixteen pounds she finally lost, the hairstyle she's been waiting to try, or the great (name accessory) she got as a gift
12. To live out a Sex And The City, or similar, fantasy she has
13. Because of a bet she won or lost
14. Because going out and flirting with boys or girls helps her forget something that's bothering her
15. Because most women dress that way at the place where she's going
16. Because she was raised to believe looks were the only important thing
17. Because she was taught that sexual attractiveness is the best way for women to gain power over men
18. Because she grew up in a culture where people judge women who don't dress up and look good as "lazy" (I've had a man say that in class)
19. To attract the attention of men, because she wants to talk to men
20. Because she likes getting free drinks when she goes out (jeez. I'd dress in a tube top and high heeled boots if it meant I drank for free every Friday night. Wouldn't you?)
21. To turn on the boyfriend/boyfriend prospect who came out with her that night
22. To advertise she's looking to make whoopie with some guy she meets that night

That's twenty-two I thought of just now, and I'm not even a woman, and only one of them invites a proposition from a stranger who was ogling her across the room.

I wasn't catching every word, but the point of the event wasn't man-hating, as far as I could tell. I had an interesting conversation with a journalist about it, and the fact is, this is a really complex issue with a lot of variables...

1. There are any number of ways women can dress and behave, for any number of reasons (see above)
2. There are any number of ways that dress and behavior can be interpreted by the (usually male) observer (though too many automatically assume reason 22, and act accordingly)
3. There are any number of ways a male can act on their interpretation of a woman's dress and behavior
4. There are any number of ways that male's behavior can be interpreted by the woman he approaches

And clearly some things are out of line from the start, but there are others - certain types of compliments, certain types of eye (or not-eye) contact, and other kinds of movement and attention, that can be easily misinterpreted, on either side, at numerous points in the interaction... and it's unfortunate that the amount of alcohol flowing increases the chance signals will be misread.

But in the end, it'd be great if responsibility for those misreadings and misunderstandings were blamed equally on the dudes thinking with their one-eyed trouser-snakes (that's penises, y'all), as on the ladies who supposedly "brought it on themselves." And until responsibility for those misreadings and misunderstandings is shared by both sides, and moreover, until it is recognized that men are capable of better than acting on every sexual urge that comes along, and thus share more responsibility, women have a reason to hold slutwalks, and whatever other demonstrations bring these issues back to the forefront, where people have to be confronted by them**, and think about them, and hear ideas they don't necessarily agree with, that might force them to change some of their ideas.

And that's the point of SlutWalk, to me.

**I'm lucky, as a man, because for me, these issues are things that I can touch on from time to time, read about at my leisure, and comment on when it suits me. It's not something that confronts me every time I dress up to go out, or get leered at in a bar; it's not something that casts a bit of suspicion and even fear on every night out, or every up-and-down I get from a stranger. I'm lucky to be able to approach the topic so academically, because I've never in my life felt like I'm three, or two, or even one decision from being raped. And the fact I haven't, and many males in these conversations haven't, means (I think) that some of us wildly misjudge what's at stake for others taking part in the conversation, because they, or someone they love, was. Because I'm not confronted by these issues every Friday night, I'm still learning about them. Somewhere stewing in me is a post, or maybe a series, about why these discussions get so fraught, and dramatic, and (frankly) ugly, when people go beyond preaching to the choir... but for now, suffice it to say I know I'm in a lucky spot, to be approaching the topic so casually. That bears on everything I write about it.

Comment moderation is on. I don't like deleting comments, but I also don't like trolls, flames, misogyny, misanthropy (that'd be man-hating) and general disrespectfulness of either the host (me), women, men, or other commenters.

And by the way: If you're about to go into the comments and say that "Yes, well, it's still true that women should be careful etc. etc."
To save you some time, I know. I never said otherwise. Everybody in the presence of strangers should use their smarts. Public awareness campaigns can help people who don't understand their choices, or who wrongly think their justifications are enough, but they won't stop pure predators. I know that, and I'm not saying parents and teachers should stop teaching would-be victims to get reckless... I AM saying that message should be a distant second to "Don't sexually assault people" in emphasis, but right now I don't think it is.
The only thing I disagreed with in Roboseyo's post was his list of reasons why women may dress 'like sluts' sometimes - number six, "for their own damn selves" should have been number one (so not really disagreeing). As to my own opinion, I think that this is a great idea. And, it has to be said, it seems like it was done pretty well in Seoul without being too strident which unfortunately often seems to be an excuse for media to write protests and shock-value campaigns off as overreaction, which can make it more difficult to get taken seriously by the people that it actually targets. It was also great to see so much male support in what Roboseyo rightly points out is a country with a terrible record for gender equality. Anyway, that's the serious post for the day. Might have a crack at translating some song lyrics later.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

If you're reading this, I have already been killed..

Haha, anyone remember that ridiculous Pauline Hansen video she made? What an idiot. In oh so many ways.

Actually, this is just a follow up post to my one yesterday whinging about how sick I was. I went to the doctor and apparently it was just gastro-enteritis. Surprisingly, this was the first time I've been to see him this year when he HASN'T suggested that my illness stemmed from constipation. Tonsilitis? And constipation. The flu? And constipation. At any rate, I am taking a bunch of medicines (seriously, there are like 7 in each dose) and feeling better every day. Luckily today is also 초복 or chobok, the first 'dog day' - there are three in Korea (삼복 sambok or 복날 boknal - I've heard it called both), each marking the supposedly hottest days in summer (today it was about 28 degrees and rained like the sky was flooding for about half an hour then just as abruptly stopped) - so we got summer chicken soup (닭곰탕/삼계탕 - dakgomtang/samgyetang) for lunch so I could actually eat something. The long and short of it is that I'm ok. Sorry for worrying people :)


A classic email from T-Bo (who likes his privacy, hence remaining otherwise unnamed) to brighten my morning.

"I teach English at a Korean elementary school. In a presentation today I used this picture of Justin Bieber and convinced them it is real. Now the entire 5th grade thinks this is what he actually looks like now. The girls aren't taking it well."

Hehe ^^

Thanks T-Bo! BTW if there is a better nickname you'd prefer, let me know. (By 'better' I automatically exclude "T-dog".)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

By the way...

Just to add, for those of you in Cheongju, I'm pretty sure it was something at MJ's that made me so sick as that was the last place I went and where I started feeling ill. It was either that or the lime mojitos at Roadking (they are frozen so maybe they didn't defrost them properly?) because that was the only thing I had that was different to everyone else, none of whom got sick. I shudder to think what it was that made me ill there too - it must have either been the sliced lemon in my drink or even worse, the glass itself. And apparently MJ's is also a lot cleaner these days than it used to be too, which is a worrying comparison. So be careful Cheongju-ites!

Warning: possible overshare ahead

What have I been up to since last week I hear you not actually ask? Well, Saturday was an interesting night in which I almost got assaulted by some random Korean girl that one of my friends befriended out of pity that we then couldn't get rid of. Very friendly, but very agressive. Some things she could have done with knowing: if people want to leave, let them leave - pick up the clue that they may in fact be escaping; don't try and pimp your new friends out to your old friends and think that this is funny; affectionate is cute, grabby is not; 'holding on' to someone's bag to prevent them leaving is not a good idea unless you want things to end very badly, and throwing a temper tantrum as a last resort in a packed bar when that person wrestles their bag back and goes to leave will not make said person want to stay any more. Luckily, it was also Emma's birthday and this was only after we'd done the majority of the fun stuff celebrating already. As she had sent us all a text message saying "What are you doing tonight? I want beer and a face full of cake!", she got her birthday wish and the subsequent face full of blueberry preserve and egg tart. So at least the night started out well!

Warning: the story ahead may be a little more than you ever wanted to know. In fact, I just remembered that a bunch of us were talking about this only last night and I actually specified the rule that any detail about bodily emissions was an overshare, so I apologise for my slight hypocrisy. Don't worry, it's not that specific.

So I say started, because it ended with me going home after a couple of hours feeling a little queasy, despite not having drunk an inordinately large amount of alcohol. Nothing that couldn't be fixed with some cup 짜파게티 (jjajangmyeon ramyeon) I thought - little did I know that my night wasn't over yet and that I was going to wake up again repeatedly sweating with a fever over the next six hours continually running to the bathroom and trying not to hurl my guts out. You could say it was an improvement when I finally managed to, except that I then spent the rest of the morning pretty much sitting on my bathroom floor sobbing into the toilet and wishing it would stop between bouts of whatever else was pouring out of my body at the time. Part of this melodrama might have been the fact that I couldn't even keep any water down, and since I had had a few drinks the night before, I was getting pretty dehydrated.

Anyway, thankfully the vomiting stopped after four hours, and I managed to have a shower and some sleep. Later on, watching "Killing Bono" with some food and tea with Eadaoin also helped - great movie by the way! Stars Ben Barnes as Neil McCormack (Prince Caspian) and Robert Sheehan (Nathan from 'Misfits') as well as Martin McCann as (according to Eadaoin) an eerily lookalike Bono. It also had Pete Postlethwaite in it in his last role before his death from cancer earlier this year, looking tragically remission gaunt rather than cocaine-chic gaunt, but doing a great job (as always) nonetheless. By the way, best quote of the movie from Pete Serafinowicz: "Don't boo me, I went to Eton!" haha^^

Monday saw me with more stomach pains and sleeping through both my deskwarming and the two classes I had (they were watching movies anyway) and Tuesday slightly less so (probably because I skipped two meals entirely and didn't have any carbs or dairy) but still sleeping all afternoon at my desk. I'm feeling much better today so I'm going to see how I go with lunch and if it comes back then it's probably doctor time. One of my co-teachers kept trying to get me to go home yesterday but I didn't want to go since a) I've already taken a few sick days off, b) my vice-principal doesn't like me as it is, and c) I can sleep just as easily at school as at home (there's a very comfortable couch in my English room office). So instead she's been giving me a bunch of extra medicines and a kind of back massage-pummelling to help circulation or something. Another got me some 죽 (juk) or rice porridge for lunch since I didn't want to risk the kimchi fried rice and hotdogs that were today's lunch, so I am being very well taken care of :)

At any rate, I can easily say that of all the indigestion meds (소화약) I've tried, by far the best have been these herbals ones called 보화환 (bohwahwan) and 생록천(saengnokcheon). I think that 보화환 might actually be a generic name for that type of medicine, but it basically looks like little choco-balls, or really big brown silica gel balls, and goes with the 생록천 drink. Apart from dried orange peel and ginseng, I have no idea what is in either of them, but they work really fast and last for a good couple of hours at least. You can take them three times a day and were 3000 won (about $2.80) at my local chemist.

So that's the update on the state of my digestive system. Hopefully things get better and I don't have something awful like the last couple of times I didn't think I was sick and ended up having tonsilitis and then a kidney infection. If you don't hear from me, assume that I've got stomach cancer or appendicitis and have been hospitalised... or more likely that I'm fine and just lazy about blogging. Peace out y'all! Hope your tummies are feeling less grumbly than mine :)

Friday, July 8, 2011

K-pop your peepers over that

Oh and one more quick blog for the weekend, I read this on the blog Sociological Images and most heartily agreed. Also, James over at the Grand Narrative has done two particularly good posts recently - the first on the 'oppa' issue in K-pop, the second his usual address of various issues - read numbers 1, 2, 6, 7, 9 and 10 and the referenced articles in particular (if you have the time). The one on abortion in Korea is especially interesting, as it is probably not something that is commonly even known as illegal (probably due to the negligible attempts at sex education in Korea - see number 9) and it is certainly not something that is commonly discussed. I don't have the reference on me, but researching something for a Korean gender course in Uni, I remember finding an article saying that up until the 1980's at least, most doctors didn't even know that it was illegal either.

Oh and for the record, I hate Girl's Generation. I don't even know who that is in the first picture on James' post, but I want to punch her in the face. Rational? Not really. Psychopathic? Not quite. Ok so fair enough, I recognise the fact that they work hard (at being cream puffs) and put in the hard yards to perfect their dance routines etc, and they do well by working that whole 'complete package' angle - e.g. they have their main singers and backup singers/dancers all in one permanent group (unlike Super Junior who change their members sometimes) and they have so many members that they can cater to every man's tastes (as long as all they have a taste for is cute little girl dollies) and so can effectively corner a large portion of the K-pop appeal ratings, but their incessant innocent good girl image pisses me off every time I see them, sometimes even when I just hear their music (even their "Run Devil Run" 'bad' sides were pretty tame). It's not like it matters who it is anyway - there are so many of them they're pretty much interchangeable.

Seriously, if I'm in a bad mood, or you just want to irritate me beyond all reasonable reaction, use 애교 (aegyo - cutie pie language) at me. Probably make sure you aren't wearing anything flammable at the time.

Bits and bobs to finish the week.

Ok first of all, something always guaranteed to make blog authors smile - the weird stuff that people who visit your site put into search engines that get them directed to your blog. The weirdest this week? "just one happy smiley face black leather watch silver trim". I have no idea when the hell I've even mentioned a watch, much less happy smiley faces. Anyway, that aside - it's Friday! Huzzah!

So onto actual content. As mentioned earlier, I tried the Face Shop's foot peeling treatment, but forgot to post photos along with all the bitching I was doing about how leprous my feet looked. So you don't suspect me of exaggeration (and because I like grossing people out), this is a genuine picture of my foot on day 6 after the treatment. Keep in mind that this was AFTER I'd been wearing socks all day and had just also tried to rub off the worst of it. Gross right?

...teehee, don't say I never give you anything ^_^

Anyway, the next is the Southern Hemisphere Summer Christmas party I went to a couple of weeks ago. After bitching about all the snow and low temperatures we'd had to suffer last December, a bunch of Kiwis, an Aussie (me) and some Saffas (a word I've never heard before coming to Korea that South Africans use to each other), as well as some token Northern Hemispherians, had a rollicking good Summer picnic in a park pagoda, even with the unfortunate addition of up to 2 metres of rainfall that weekend. We even had some unexpected entertainment in watching two drunk guys pee in some bushes, as one of them very courteously held an umbrella over his mate, getting a good eyeful of his junk while doing so.

And last but not least to be covered, my blog wouldn't be my blog if it weren't for the crazies that are my students. In my classroom there are two sets of switches. The top one, two sets of three buttons, is the light switch. The bottom one, three sets of two buttons are the fans. The average time it takes for my students to work out which ones are which? 4.5 minutes. Keeping in mind that a) there are 6 fans in my classroom, b) when I come in I usually have to turn the lights on because for some reason they like to sit in the dark until I rock up and c) the bloody lights are pretty damn obvious whether they are on or not, this was a worthy achievement. I actually thought it was just the boys (three of my first year boys actually took about 8 minutes to figure it out while I laughed helplessly in the corner), but then today someone in class 2-4 (average level girls) had a crack at it and gave up after about 2 minutes, complaining that it was too hard. IT'S A FREAKIN' LIGHT SWITCH, NOT A NUCLEAR FISSION REACTOR! I took pity on them and did it for them, but they couldn't understand why I was trying not to giggle (cue usual chorus of "왜ㅐㅐㅐㅐㅐ [why] teacher???"). As my neighbour Edithe often hears me say, my students this year are really stupid ...special. Poor things. I am also loving the fact that I have been applauded for every lesson this week at least once because I'm letting them watch movies - class 1-6 (boys) this morning actually gave me a standing ovation and four of them told me that they loved me. It's a nice change from yesterday when I had to tell Man-Seok in class 1-7 to get out of the girl's bathrooms, then tell him put his socks and shoes back on and stop lying on the table, and then have a talk to him TWICE about why you shouldn't say "kiss me!" to teachers and blow kisses at them. Oh and apparently the PG13 (or whatever) movie "Stardust" is an "adult" movie, according to class 1-7, who were scandalised at the afore-mentioned kissing, naked shoulders and bath scene where you see Claire Danes' shoulders and bare legs below the knee. Mind you, they are also the only class who noticed the word "ero movie = soft porn" on the Konglish vocabulary curtain at the back that I usually have rolled up to cover it (why that was necessary for middle-schoolers I have no idea) and spent the first three minutes of class running around yelling out, so the idea was probably already imprinted in their fragile (*cough cough*) little minds before the movie started. Anyway, I'm not sure why the second years seem so surprised that I'm letting them watch movies as it's exactly the same thing I did last year after exams, but it's nice that they appreciate the fact that I want to do work just about as much as they do. Haha, simple pleasures &c maybe?

Oh and something else that made me giggle - answers to the English exam, or rather, one boy's unique approach to answering the questions. Warning, if you comment on this and try to turn something that's supposed to be some light-hearted whimsy to brighten your day into a serious discussion, for example, on how crappy language learning in Asia is compared to Australia or vice versa I WILL hunt you down and batter you to death with a copy of whatever foreign language textbook I have close to hand.

2nd year English exam questions (in Korean):
1. [Susan is 13 years old, Tom is 11. Write a comparative sentence].
2. 빵 한 덩어리 is ...?
3. [Finish this sentence in English]: Study hard...

1. Susan is older than Tom/Tom is younger than Susan.
2. A loaf of bread
3. .. and you will ace your final exam.

Dong-Wook's answers:
2. Hey Negro! What's up man? Oh... that bad say, right teacher??? (They didn't know that I was marking these, but this is something I continually tell them off about so it's good to see it stuck)
3. The END! I not know nothing!!!! SORRY TEACHER HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Haha ^_^ Oh Dong-Wook. I spend most lessons with his class telling him to shut up or sit down, but you can't say he doesn't try.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


For some odd reason, when I stepped out of the English classroom this morning the air smelled like mornings in Malaysia. Specifically, mornings in Penang, our family's favourite holiday place. I think it was the combination of the humidity with only a little heat (I had just stepped out of the air-conditioning) that you also get walking across the lobby of a hotel that is always open to the air (and pool!) outside, the smell of something savoury cooking, the smell of glazed pastry and the relaxed holiday feel that you get when you know you have nothing much to do but chill and enjoy your time. Now, I have no idea where the pastry smell came from as we aren't even having pastries for lunch - perhaps it was a relic from yesterday when we had the rice-dough donuts, or maybe from the sugar in the 양념 sauce to go with the tofu nuggets (???) today. Since we just had exams, we're watching movies in class for the next three weeks until the semester ends in my classes. Apparently no-one else is allowed to do this because it's a waste of time, according to our VP, but since he a) doesn't speak English and I'm guessing also b) doesn't consider my classes to be 'real' classes anyway I can get away with it. I've been letting the kids choose which movies they want to watch, and thankfully they haven't all chosen the same one (I learned my lesson last year after watching Home Alone 2 seventeen times). The first year boys got respectively embarrassed (like hiding their faces embarrassed) and excited watching 'Stardust' when there was a kissing scene and then when Michelle Pfeiffer took off all her clothes to admire herself in the mirror. They were subsequently very disappointed when the camera didn't actually show anything below her shoulders and above her calves, hehe ^_^ It's a weird dichotomy - students get really embarrassed when anything even close to hinting at sex is shown, but the boys are more than happy to ogle the tiniest patch of bare skin - proof that testosterone wins out over cultural mores every time!

Anyway, my students are at least happy to be in class. Other classes have chosen "Finding Nemo", "Pirates of the Carribean 1" and "The Corpse Bride". So far none of the girls have chosen "Confessions of a Shopaholic" surprisingly (I didn't particularly think anything of the movie anyway since it's very girly so I'm not too disappointed) and I'm tossing up whether the swearing in "Aliens 2" is at a negligible enough level to give the option of watching it to the second year boys or not.

In other news, I don't know if it officially counts as the start of Korea's rainy season, but thanks to all the typhoons sweeping over various parts of North-East Asia, it's been raining a lot here lately, hence the high level of humidity. Last weekend there was 30 - 80 mm of rain on Sunday alone, and the weekend before a typhoon in Taiwan resulted in about 2 metres of rain over Korea. My gumboots have at least been getting a lot of use! Hopefully it won't continue, not in the least because Koreans are not good swimmers and hence have no water sense (i.e. not crossing a river that has risen by so much that all of the walkways and even the bike path on it's banks has been covered) so that as well as the mudslides and collapsing houses and roads mean that there have been about 14 deaths already and another 5 missing, presumed dead. On the other hand, it does mean that there are breaks from the heat which is otherwise sweltering. I made the very stupid mistake of walking downtown yesterday by the road (taking approx 35 - 40 minutes), rather than by the river (approx. 50 minutes), and the heat, along with the pollution meant that I ended up very sweaty and feeling very dirty with all the dust flying around. I would have happily welcomed a brief shower of rain at that point, but I instead hid in a nice air-conditioned bank for a few minutes until I cooled down :)

Oh and to Cheongju-ians, good news! My favourite sushi place, Sushiru (스시루) has re-opened! They were briefly closed for a while a few weeks ago and it actually looked like the shop was being either torn down or refitted, but it opened to no discernable change except for different soy sauce pots so I have no idea why. If you haven't been there, I recommend you go! It's a street back from the Lotte Cinema, next to the Family Mart on the corner. It's also one of those sushi-train places and the food is always fresh. The staff is really friendly, and if they like the look of you they'll usually give you something free (and delicious!) to try - yesterday they gave us seared scallop and kimchi sushi 'service' (free), last time it was some succulent prawn tempura. Oh and the best bit! Every time anyone goes in or out they greet you with a battle-cry-esque "안녕하세오오오오오오오오!" I've actually been there so many times that last time I went they gave me a loyalty card ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ Perhaps not incidentally, that's my new Korean word for the day - 회전초밥 or heejeon chobap: sushi train sushi :)


Update: awkward moment of the day - realising that one of my co-teachers is slightly homophobic, or at least not comfortable with the idea of homosexuality or transgenders. Watching my roughest second year class of 15 year old male students leaning on each other and cuddling up to watch the movie (the chairs in the English classroom are pretty uncomfortable) with their arms slung around each other, and commenting on how cute I thought they were but how strange it seemed considering that when I was that old we never even did that, she started telling me about these two "interesting" boys she knew in highschool who would hold hands, walk around together, lie on the grass and talk between themselves and even take toilet breaks at the same time. Ok, now I know that sounds odd to us Westerners (for boys at least) but it's really not that uncommon in Korea. And then she started telling me about some famous Korean actor (I think she was talking about Harisu who's pretty much the only one who's actually made it) and how she "couldn't" understand her/him. I guess this was my fault though for bringing it up as I had forgotten how Christian she is - she actually got married in a church for one when it seems like most Koreans these days get married in wedding halls. Anyway, at least the students enjoyed the movie!