Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Best Thanksgiving In Korea Yet

When big American holidays come and go here in the ROK, it's pretty typical to get a lot of E-mails from family and pictures of the wonderful meetings and feasts of which they are a part.

Of course, there are always events for foreigners here. For examples, while I was on a trip with Vicky and her parents last year, all my friends went to a really nice dinner at a hotel in Seoul. It looked like a nice time. Certainly, when you can't be with family, it's nice to have friends in their place.

I haven't yet taken part in any special things with friends. I've been fortunate enough to spend my time with Korean families. It gives me a chance to see what they do, and also I like being with a family during holidays.

But this Thanksgiving, I changed it up a bit thanks to some very good friends. If you are a regular reader of the blog, or live somewhere near Inha University, you're familiar with Go Bar. It opened a few months after I first arrived in Korea in 2008, and I went there on a very regular basis when I lived in Okryeondong.

But since I've moved to Yeonsudong, I haven't been there as frequently. I went last year for a super-fun New Year's Eve, and have been there maybe once or twice since.

But Mike, the owner, wanted to something nice for Thanksgiving this year. So Bryan, Alex, Geoff, Scott (Bryan's new co-worker) and I all decided to join in. We brought girlfriends, of course, and various people provided various food items. It all added up to a really nice time with friends and a nearly authentic American Thanksgiving meal. We replaced the turkey with chicken, but it was still really good. Check it out.

As you can see, that's a pretty good-looking meal.

Along with the food and friends, we also had our fair share of drinks and darts. It was a really nice Thanksgiving and the first time I really celebrated an American holiday over here.

Christmas is up next, and we have no plans as of now. But it would be nice to do something like this again. Thanks to everyone who was involved!!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Update On The Yeonpyeongdo Attack

Apparently, the North attacked the South's island of Yeonpyeong because the South was holding some military exercises there. That would be like the U.S. attacking Canada because they wanted to do basic training with their Army.

Here's an updated AP story with more details.

I had a discussion with Bryan about how the news feeds into the fear, but some of these quotes from President Lee Myung Bak are pretty severe this time around.

He said:
'"Enormous retaliation should be made to the extent that (North Korea) cannot make provocations again," he said.'

That's pretty intense. To make sure the North can't attack or provoke again would basically need a full-on war ... again.

The island is about 80 km (50 miles) from Incheon. It's not as close as I thought. But that's still pretty close for an almost-full-on attack.

Monday, November 22, 2010

More Shots From The North

North Korea is once again pushing the South's buttons by firing on Yeonpyeongdo, a small island off the western coast of South Korea.

Here's the AP news story.

Here's the Aljazeera news story.

Here's the CNN report.

Both stories include some pictures.

Apparently, there have been at least four casualties, as well as a number of houses being destroyed. It prompted a quick response from South Korean marines.

I'm usually pretty quick to write any crazy North Korean news off, but the past few months have seen the most shooting between the two countries in a very long, especially being condensed in such a short period.

First, the Cheonan ship sank in March. I was pretty skeptical about the North's involvement, but now I'm pretty much convinced they did it. Actions speak pretty loudly, after all.

Because after the ship incident, troops from the North once again fired on the South in October, right before everyone arrived for the G20 summit.

And now, they're firing once again. Keep in mind that this time is not too far from those of us living in Incheon. I used to tell my family and friends not to worry, but now I'm actually a little nervous about all this activity. On top of that, we get to hear continual 'scare' stories about this nuclear reactor that's taking shape.

I know that news feeds the masses a healthy dose of fear. I've managed to think rationally about it before. But even I am concerned about why all these military exchanges have been taking place in the last 8 months.

Let's hope we hear something more solid on this soon.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hambak's Halloween Celebration

I wrote about teaching Halloween lessons and celebrating here at Hambak, but I realize I didn't post any pictures.

We took Thursday and Friday at the end of October to teach Halloween culture lessons to the morning classes. Don't forget, Koreans don't celebrate Halloween. Certainly the idea is well-known here, but kids don't trick-or-treat, and unless a Korean is friends with westerners, they won't be donning a costume for super-fun times, either.

With our afternoon students on Friday, we all dressed up in costumes and handed out candy to celebrate. It was a busy and fun afternoon. So enjoy some pictures of our Halloween fun at Hambak.

Check out all the pics here!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Yeonsu District Office Song Performance

Twenty schools came out to sing at the performance on Nov. 3 at the Yeonsu District Office. We learned that out of all those teams, our group and one other sang English songs. Both of our songs were English, as we sang 'Sweet Caroline' and 'Summer Nights.' One other school 'did Sing, Sing, Sing.'

Ridia was a bit worried that we didn't have a ton of motions, but it made more sense since we had to learn English words, while the other schools only had to learn movements, essentially.

The students did very well with their singing. I think they had fun, but we're all relieved that it's over. We did a ton of practice and basically had no real down time or prep time for the last 6 weeks. It was fun and whatnot, but that really can drain a person.

It wasn't a competition, so there were no prizes awarded, but our students put on a really nice show. I think the crowd got into it, when they weren't being rude by talking and walking all over the place. The auditorium was packed far beyond its limit, and typical Korean manners took over. I spent the majority of my time reprimanding students for talking and running around during other schools' performances. Oh well. If I can even influence one student to be considerate of others, I'll feel that I accomplished something.

But enough of my complaining. Here are some more pics from the event. It was a good time, and it's nice to get it over with. Back to normal schedule!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Languages Shape You

There is a really great article on cracked.com about how your native language can shape the way you think, based on what words and concepts are available and how they are used.

The article is here. Please check it out.

One of their examples is about people who watched a video of a person breaking an egg. In English, especially, the viewers would say, "That man broke the egg," or something to that effect. But in other languages like Japanese or Spanish, people would simply say "the egg broke."

This is something Popper and I talk about all the time. For example, Koreans only have about 6 tenses, and only use three on a regular basis. Whereas in English, we have 12 tenses, and use at least 6 on a regular basis, depending on how pretentious you are.

Korean speaking and description is very much a situational language. Describing things in person, like where something is placed or how to get somewhere, is monumentally easier in person. If you're doing it over the phone, or even talking about past and future tenses, it's much more difficult to convey exactly what you're trying to describe.

English goes the opposite direction. In English, we tend to describe things in great detail in order to make sure we're as clear as possible. It doesn't matter where you're standing in relation to me, or if it's happening in the future. We an describe the details to a point where it is 100 percent clear to the listener.

An example Popper and I talk about is the Korean word '거꾸로.' That's how Koreans say backwards. But it's also how they describe something that's upside down. Popper even did a little experiment where he held had stood behind one student and had the student's friends describe how he was hold a pencil sharpener. They used the same word for upside down as they used for backwards.

If you're going into a business meeting and have 5 minutes to prepare, what do you do if your secretary tells you all your slides are '거꾸로?' Do you simply flip them around or do you actually turn them right side up? You only have 5 minutes and you have 200 slides. I hope you make the right decision.

Anyway, next time you're thinking about how easy it is to describe some things and think of some concepts in English, keep in mind that it's very difficult in some language, and even non-existent in others.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Halloween in Hongdae 3: The Revenge

For the third year in a row, we dressed in our costumes and headed to Hongdae in Seoul to celebrate Halloween. And just like any sequel, it provided some new twists and turns, new characters and some of the same old stuff that you never liked in the first place.

This was the first time Jeong Mi officially celebrated Halloween. She bought cat ears, but made her own tail and put together a really cool cat costume. I continued my practice of going as my favorite androgynous and/or gay singers by dressing as David Bowie.

I bought a terrible wig and did my best to cut it, but that was mostly a disaster. Haha. But Jeong Mi did the lightning bolt paint job on my face and it was stunningly awesome.

We left Yeonsu-dong for Hongdae around 8 p.m. and got there close to 9:30 p.m. The bus ride on a Saturday night to Seoul is kind of a traffic nightmare.

We met Barry and a bunch of our other friends at GoGo's in what is now Euro Tinpan Alley, or some terrible location name. It was Barry's birthday as well, so we celebrated with Geoff, Bryan, Colin, Popper and a ton of other friends. I even got to see my buddy and former college roommate, Kevin.

It was cool, as always, to celebrate Halloween and see all the costumes. But, as usual, it was just way too many people. We had a cool back room to ourselves, but ourselves was about 30 people more than could fit in the room.

We took off fairly early with Popper and Jong, and headed to smaller restaurant/hof that wasn't packed with westerners celebrating..

While hanging with my friends was fun, there were just too many people. But going to the smaller place was really great. We even had a good time with the staff, and they offered us a bottle of beer for service.

That may or may not be the last time I celebrate Halloween in Hongdae. It's just too many people. I'd rather be with a smaller group of close friends than with 100 acquaintances. That's just more my style. But if it is the last time, it was super fun and I'm glad that I went.

Check out the pics here!!!

North-South Gunplay

Some North Korean troops fired at South Korean troops across the DMZ on Oct. 29. It happened about 56 miles northeast of Seoul.

What does it all mean? Probably nothing. I rarely post news stories anymore because most of them are boring. Even the interesting cultural stories don't really pique my interest very much anymore. I'm sure that people in America see more about the North-South conflict than I do. You guys could probably be filling me in on details.

Anyway, here's the link to the BBC page.