Thursday, 31 January 2008

Got in the paper again.

There's a new section in the Korea Herald (the paper my school receives) called "Expat Living". I sent a letter in about something I care about, and they published it today.

You can see it at www.koreaherald.com, if you click on the box that says, "ExPat Living", or just trust me that it's there, and read it here.

I'm posting it as it was published in the Herald -- the version I originally submitted had been edited for length, with the first paragraph deleted and some the crucial information from Paragraph 1 adapted into other parts of the letter.

Of course, it's fun seeing my name in print; more gratifying, though, was when one of my students looked at me after reading the article in a conversation class and said, "I never thought of that before, but you changed the way I think." This was the same student I mentioned earlier, in another post. She's great, always ready to talk about stuff head-on, but it was really satisfying to hear her say, "You've convinced me."

I'm still all shiny from that.


here's my article, then:



***

Special


[Letter to the editor] The word foreigner as an agent of exclusion


As Korea aims to become a true global hub, it is time to think how the word waygukin, or "foreigner" is used. The word seems harmless: We are foreigners, aren`t we? But looking closer, just as the word "businessman" hinted that women didn`t really belong in the office, the word waygukin, literally "outside-country person," draws a circle called "Korea," and sets expatriates on the outside, looking in.

It is a small step from saying: "You`re not from here" outright, to implying "and you don`t belong here, either." The words waygukin and foreigner don`t mean to marginalize people, but neither did the word businessman, before it became politically correct to say businessperson, instead. Intentionally or not, it did -- and they do.

These words are so common that we foreigners even use them when talking about ourselves. Rather than just being marginalized by someone else, we are even excluding ourselves from Korean society. If I call myself an outsider, I will also think like one. I may hesitate to invest my full energy and passion in Korea, since even the word used to describe me implies: "You don`t really belong here."

The word waygukin says what we are not, but it`s time for a word that describes what we are, instead. "International," and "expatriate" have positive meanings. This small name change recognizes that we are more than outsiders; we are a growing part of Korea`s new, globalizing society.

Some of us have lived here for a long time, and we can contribute a lot if we, and our efforts, are welcomed and appreciated. It may just be fussing about language, and it`s only one step in the long journey of globalization, but a little change in word-choice still opens doors for women in business, and another little change might encourage expatriates to invest more in Korean society.

It might also help Koreans to see us not as outsiders, but as capable, energetic people ready and willing to participate.

Koreans and internationals alike: Let`s find inclusive words that remind us we`re working together to help Korea grow, and let`s leave old, exclusive words like "foreigner" and "waygukin" in the "hermit kingdom" past, where they belong.

Robert Ouwehand, Seoul



2008.01.31

Sunday, 27 January 2008

A Three-Fer of Ridiculousity

OK. I like to be positive, as much as I can, but this just begs to be mocked.

Protests played an important part in social change in Korea: in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a number of important protests shook off their military dictator's shackles and opened the way for a legitimate democracy. Before a student protest in 1978 that was surpressed with gunfire (and started the ball rolling toward a true democracy), it was illegal, and dangerous, to protest the government. Protests were also an important part of Koreans' opposition to Japanese colonial rule. This young woman's another national hero in Korea. Since the '80s, as civil liberties increase, it seems that many Koreans choose to celebrate their civil liberties by protesting pretty much anything: every weekend, you can walk around the downtown and find a protest either by city hall, by the parliament buildings, or in front of the US or Japanese Embassy. Sometimes, it seems that people join a protest just for the fun of getting angry about something -- one blogger called these "I like crowds" protests.

Today, I came across the protest of the weekend, and, well, sure, citizens are within their rights to protest things, and it can be an important way of exercising (the hell out of) one's freedom, but if you're putting yourself out there for something like this, I am also well within my civil rights to mock you.

They were marching, and I decided to look at the signs to see what they were marching about. As I moved up from the back of the line toward the front, while only able to read the signs with English on them, and sound out/recognize a very few Korean words, I spotted just about every cause I know:

FTA (free trade agreement with US), GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transsexual) rights, Iraq War, Skyrocketing Housing Prices in Seoul, Poverty/Social Welfare, Something about Samsung, Korea's largest conglomerate, currently involved in a corruption scandal, and also responsible for the error that led to an oil spill off Korea's West coast, Mistreatment of Migrant Workers, and, of course, a picture of Che Guevera. Because there always has to be a picture of Che.
--all in a single protest!



This baffled me, so I sped up to get to the front of the march-line, and the sign the union members held as they chanted, said, "A dream for a new world. A world without Poverty, FTA, War, Discrimination"

Basically, it was the white elephant table of protests -- if you're on the protestor's mailing list (of which I am certain there is one), meet at noon at City Hall (or wherever it is these things always muster), bring your favourite sign, and make sure you're dressed warmly and ready to shout!

If you like shouting, it's more fun than joining a swimming club! AND, you can lord it over your friends on the beer league soccer team that YOU'RE a social activist, and all THEY do with their weekends is play meaningless games.

Now there's nothing wrong with protesting in itself, but you know, when you flag ALL your e-mails as "High Priority," everybody ignores it, and on the weekend you really DO need a quick reply, you're still shuffled into the "read later" file. If you protest about every darn thing, every weekend, it just becomes a dull hum, chalked up to "one of the drags of being a Korean politician" - it loses its impact. I wonder if these people press for social change in any other way (organizing boycotts, giving money or time to social change organizations, changing their consumption habits, going on letter writing drives, publishing circulars and writing letters to the editor) or if they figure chanting slogans on Saturday acquits them of their other social responsibilities, plus, they get to meet their protest pals and get sloshed later! (Which sometimes seems to be the final stage of EVERY activity involving more than two Koreans -- once I told my students I climb mountains for my health, and one said to me, "But it's not healthy to get drunk the way mountain-climbers do" -- not all hikers, friend. Not all.)

Finally, I have my own opinions about celebrity gossip, but THIS has got to be the best story EVER.

Na Hoon-A is a star of the Trot musical style I discussed in an earlier post. He went AWOL for a little while, and the press cooked up a doozy of a story to explain his absence (you'd hope they could have produced a doctor's note). According to the rumor mill, Mr. Na had knobbed the wrong female popstar: one who had caught the eye of a big-time Yakuza (Japanese answer to the Mafia) boss; in response, as a way of saying, "I don't care if you're famous, nobody f***s with my lady," he had this guy kidnapped and castrated.

Well, Na Hoon-A is back on the radar, ready to tell anybody who listens that he is fine, and his manhood is intact. In fact, he was ready to share it with the press. (He doesn't actually do it, but when he climbs up on the table, everybody gets a little nervous, that "is this actually happening?" feeling when you witness a car accident. And listen to the camera shutters click.)



If you look at a picture of him, this is a dude not to be messed about with -- I wouldn't want to be the reporter who cooked up this story, stuck alone in a room with this guy.



And in case you doubt his manhood, here he is in full swagger, (pop and drop apparently) intact.


PS: how to win a swordfight:

Hey Americans:

Don't get sad about Heath Ledger,

Get MAD about this. Get really mad.
(hat-tip to Occidentalism.org for this clip)

My Brother Dan's Wedding Toast

I was the best man at my brother's wedding. Here was my toast for him and his wonderful wife, Caryn.

Dan And Caryn Ouwehand's Wedding Toast

Don't worry. It's shorter.


I remember one day going down the stairs to the room Dan and I used to share, and being greeted by a
funny kind of sound.
WHOOMPH!
Rustle rustle rustle.
WHOOMPH!
Rustle rustle rustle.

I was probably eleven years old then, and I opened the door to Dan, about eight years old, lying on the floor beside our bunk bed, wrapped in a sleeping bag, looking up at me with big, wide, excited eyes.

"Hey Rob! If you're wrapped in a sleeping bag, it doesn't even hurt to fall out of the bed!"

So I did what any wiser, older brother would do: I grabbed a sleeping bag and joined the fun.

We dumped ourselves off that top bunk or about twenty minutes until Dan's zipper got stuck on the bedframe and broke. When the zipper broke, we had to stop.

I tell this story because that was always Dan: he was the one jumping off and over things, riding his bike all around town and taking the dare where I'd shy away from it.

It's a bold step to get married. It takes courage to choose a person and entrust that one person with your future.

Dan and Caryn, though, have set up a solid foundation for their marriage. Their lines of communication are almost ridiculously open. I've spent some time with them, just relaxing and hanging out with them, and all of a sudden, Dan makes a joke, and Caryn doesn't laugh, and they start Communicating -- with a BIG big C.

"Oh. Sorry. You didn't like my joke?" Dan says.
"It wasn't funny," Caryn says.
"Not funny, like, inappropriate, or not funny, like,
not funny?"
"No, you know what? It's OK. It was funny. Really."
"But you didn't laugh. . . "

and so they go in circles as if it's a race to each be more accomodating than the other. It's silly to tease them about trying to hard to communicate excellently. In truth, it's like teasing a sprinter for having long legs.

I really respect Dan and Caryn's relationship, and the amount of commitment and effort they put into it. They work hard to have a healthy relationship: I was talking to Dan one night about Caryn, and how much I like her, and their way together, and he said it best when he told me "It's great because . . . we have a lot of fun together, but we can also solve problems." That's exactly it. They shore up each other's weaknesses, and encourage each other's strengths in amazing ways.

I've had the chance to see how they lift each other up and support each other in difficult times. As most of you know, Dan's and my mother can't be here today; a few months after Dan and Caryn got engaged, we learned that Jane Ouwehand has incurable stomach cancer. Most of the relatives on Dan's side that are here today, are planning to travel out to BC after the wedding, to visit Jane, because she's no longer strong enough to ravel here and see the wedding.

For our family this year, the joys and sorrows of life got mashed right up against each other. I know this is a bittersweet journey for many people here at the wedding, but I've also seen, because of these times, what a great support system Dan and Caryn have here in Red Deer, in their church, and especially with each other.

Dan and Caryn have built their love on trust and honesty and, moreover, on God. God has always been an important part of their relationship and their lives, so now, instead of diving off a bunk bed, Dan and Caryn are jumping together into a lifelong commitment, wrapped not in a sleeping bag, but in God's goodness and love -- and God's zipper never breaks.


Not many people get to speak for their mother and their brother with a speech, both in the space of a few months. I'm proud and honoured that I could do so, and I will never forget having the chance to do so.

Thanks.
Rob

Friday, 25 January 2008

My Hero.

My Mom's dad (we call him Opa, the Dutch word for grandfather) has made one of the main tasks of his retirement to write a family history. He started off with the life story of HIS father (my grandfather), which he published at a little, family publishing house (the kind of place that prints out genealogies and small-scale projects) to hand out to his kids and grandkids. I received my copy when I was sixteen, and (being sixteen) had no clue yet of the importance of roots and heritage. Too busy finding out who I was, I didn't have time to wonder about where I was from yet.

The man himself: my hero, Opa Boonstra:


Later, I worked for two summers as a guide at a heritage museum, and started to learn about the importance of history, and what a resource our elders are, simply through the stories that have given their lives meaning. I spent two summers hearing older folks come through the museum talking about who they were, and how things are changing, and what still stays the same. Sure, these thoughts are nothing you can't find in Thornton Wilder's "Our Town," but it's amazing how the technology, the methods, and the setting change so dramatically, but we human beings are STILL just trying to figure out who we are and what we're doing, struggling to connect, to know and be known, and to feel like our lives were worth something, carving out a place in this world, like writing our names in water (kudos to John Keats for that one).

I read that book finally when I was about twenty-four, just a little while before we found out my mom had stomach cancer. I was touched and moved by what, ultimately, read (to me) as a tender and admiring tribute to my Opa's father. What a blessing for the whole family, that we can have that story written down, as a piece of our heritage, that those stories will not be forgotten in time. It was an act of love for my grandfather to write a history of his father, both for his father, and for his children and grandchildren: he gave us the gift of knowing where we are from (or at least being able to).

Here in Korea, families have amazing, long genealogies -- during the Korean war, one of my students told me how, as his family escaped their burning house in North Korea, fleeing the approaching Communist Troops, his grandfather ran back into the house to rescue the family genealogy. I shook my head in wonder, and he told me "It goes back thirty generations". Cripes!

North America, because of the immigrant culture, doesn't really think too much of Genealogies -- especially when a lot of people are like my sister-in-law: "Irishambodiargentinianativenglisherpa" or, as she charmingly says, "Heinz 57". At best in North America, unless your progenitor rode the mayflower, genealogies are a hobby. However, in reading my Grandfather's memoir, I realized that for many Canadians, especially second or third generation immigrants, the story of "How We Came To Canada" (or America) is as important a part of our self-stories as Koreans' "Your five-times-great grandfather served in the court of King Wi-na, but was executed during a purge when the next king took the throne". In that respect, as my friend Tamie says, I bow to my grandfather's effort to keep our family story alive, to make sure it is not forgotten in the past, as those who experienced it die away.

The memoir includes stories of living through the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, and in the second volume, my Oma (grandmother) tells her story, too, and shares the fear her family felt when her father went off to fight the Nazis, and went several weeks unaccounted for. I read how my mother was born, how they built their first house in stages, as they worked off the previous home-builder's bank loan and more funds became available to them (basement first, then frame, then electricity, septic tank? Grab a shovel! etc..)

I thank my grandparents for writing this down, committing it to paper, so that it will not be forgotten.

And for everyone who wonders whether the things they do to help others matter at all, here is an excerpt from early memories of my Grandmother's grandfather:

"Later on when [my Oma's] Opa had his own shoe shop, he would not charge people if they could not pay. People held him in great regard for that. When I (Marijke) was visiting in Shalom Manor [an old-age residence with many Dutch immigrants] in 2005, I met Mrs. Zeldenrust, who lived in Hoogkerk many years ago and had known Tante Grietje [my grandmother's aunt, I believe]. Mrs. Zeldenrust's son told me about Opa's generousity and how peope appreciated that. I was amazed to hear that story forty-one years after his death."

Forty-one years after his death, people still remember his acts of kindness and generousity. Sure, "Nazi Week" will garner more ratings on the Discovery Channel than "The Friendly Cobbler," but, dear readers, kindness IS noticed, and remembered, whether it's ever mentioned back to you or not.

My man Jesus said, "Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is , there your heart will be also."

My personal favourite kindness CAN make a difference moment:



Les Miserables: a gracious act by the Bishop pulls a life out of the gutter and redeems a character who'd given up on himself; Jean Valjean goes on to become the greatest of grace-givers, thanks (though he might never have found out) to a kindness done by a bishop who'd been robbed, and would have been within his rights to send our man Jean back up the river where he came from.

(read the book. knocked my socks off. just read it -- Jean Valjean is one of my favourite characters anywhere, because of the way he incarnates grace to everyone around him)

Preach it.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Stars and influence.

"What the Snowman Learned About Love"

by Stars



I've been interested by the recent Tiger Woods non-story. Seems a sports anchor carelessly made a comment that had presumably racist overtones (something about Tiger's competitors lynching him), during a live broadcast. This was exacerbated when a golf magazine printed an issue with a big noose on the cover.

I like, though, that Tiger made one bland comment through his agent, and then stayed out of the mess: getting involved just lends the story more credence, which is the last thing we need in the modern frantic news cycle. By remaining above it all, Tiger got to focus on his golf, and he got to say "Come on, America, can we PLEASE move beyond the constantly-played race card, and get back to playing golf and stuff?" --he wasn't offended, the anchor didn't mean any harm, but a lot of other people got offended on Tiger's behalf, and we have another tempest in a teapot.

Now I'm not saying race relations in America are suddenly perfect, but Tiger calling for some commentator's head is not going to help a single inner city school in a predominantly non-white neighbourhood get more funding. He helps out a lot with funds and foundations, but he does it quietly, and he doesn't wade into these kinds of reporting quagmires.

(it's also funny, because Tiger Woods is about as multi-racial as you can get. Personally, I see more South-Asian in him than African-American. His mom was half-Thai, so making a tsunami joke would have hit closer to home on the race card than a lynching crack. He's also parts Chinese, white, and Native-American. Begin debate on mixed-race people having good genes, in the same way mutt dogs are healthier and more even-tempered than pure breeds. . . NOW!)

--who do you think he resembles more? These African-American guys,





Here's Tiger and family, for comparison:



Or these Thai guys?
This guy's much older, but his face is shaped and proportioned EXACTLY like our golfing champ:


His eyes are not shaped like an East-Asian (and why should they be? Southeast-Asians usually have wider eyes than East-Asians), so people miss that a lot of his other features (except the texture of his hair) are Asian.


Sometimes I wonder what celebrities should do about their fame and social consciousness. When Angelina Jolie tries to make life better for some villages in South Asia, when George Clooney makes hard-hitting movies that ask tougher questions than Fox News is willing to ask, I feel proud to be a human.

When the defining athlete of his generation, Michael Jordan's most famous quote on a social issue is "Republicans buy shoes, too," that makes me disappointed that he's choosing to use his fame to line his pockets and stump his endorsements instead of standing for something.

When the defining athlete of the '60s, Muhammed Ali, accepted a two year suspension from boxing during his prime rather than fight in a war that was against his religion, well, whether you agree with him or not, you have to respect that integrity.

But then, when U2's Bono gets preachy, sometimes we want him to stop preaching and (as Noel Gallagher says in the link,) "Play 'One' and shut the ____ up". However, I also respect the hell out of him for putting his clout behind the Jubilee 2000 campaign, and using his celebrity to bend the ears of some serious world-leader-ness.

Antitrust, anticompetitive bullocks: Bill Gates is my favourite rich guy.

And I think that Tiger Woods does enough that maybe, the best role model we can have is the guy who ignores race and simply rises to the top, refusing to engage that ugliness.

Sure, it's easy for me, a white male, to say that. . .but I respect Woods for his choice, because sometimes, feeding the news cycle is like negotiating with terrorists: you only invite more hysteria.

So what do I want from my celebrities? I don't know. I DO know that I think heroes should be people like my grandfather, and not stars or celebrities, however, if celebrities decide to use their influence for good, I really, really admire that (as long as you don't get preachy, I guess. Are you listening, Bono?)


Meanwhile, I'm also not sure whether the way to affect change is to talk MORE about the need for it, or to talk LESS: talking about change too much can lead to a victim mentality that doesn't help anyone, but ignoring the need for change doesn't work either. . . and who speaks for those who have no voice, and boy, it sure gets tiring (Thanks, Bono) "Tryin' to throw your arms around the world".

But if we don't, who will?

This darn awakening social consciousness thing makes life more confusing. Maybe I'll go watch some sports instead. . . and oppress someone. Buy a shirt made in China, or non-fair-trade coffee.

Oh well. I'm tired, and sick, and cranky, and I'm gonna go to bed now.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Two thoughts, then download the album linked in the next post.

1. Konglish: there's a bar right next to my school called "Beer Valley"

that's harmless in itself, but because of Konglish, and the fact the Korean lettering system has no character that stands for "V", they've replaced the short "a" sound and the "v" sound, so that the phrase, when read aloud, could mean either "Beer Valley" or "Beer Belly".

makes me smile.

2. My lady, Girlfriendoseyo, is my new favourite spice: every food tastes better with her! (We had lunch together and it was great.)

Now go to yesterday's post, click on the link, and download the Havalina album -- seriously.

Monday, 21 January 2008

download an AMAZING album for free.


Tell everyone you know: the classic nobody's ever heard of is available for free.

The album I like better than Joni Mitchell's Blue, better than Blood on the Tracks or Ziggy Stardust or Odelay, and at least as much as Kid A, Pink Moon, and Tom Waits' Alice, is FREE for download.

If you love music that sometimes makes you go "what the hell?" for a bit before it pulls the veil away and tosses you into a whole new galaxy where gravity tickles, then download "Russian Lullabies" from this site right now. If you know me at all, you know how seriously I take music, so download it simply because I say so. . . and if it doesn't click with you on the first listen, then read again my declaration that this is the only album that has stayed on my top five list continuously since 1999, and one of the only ones that I consistently come back to at least once a month, that might even be my desert island CD (in a collection of over 500, actual or physical), and give it a chance to grow on you. I've purchased this album about five or seven times, as gifts or to replace lost copies, and now it's out of print, so the artist made it available for free!

Havalina Rail Co. isn't for everybody -- I'll grant you that -- but this one creates a space of its own, and becomes a part of you, if you let it.

(Especially you, Tamie. Tell all your friends.)

(dont let the cover mislead you: it's english)

Snow in Gyeongbok Palace

This was from a friend's facebook page: I love bonfires, and the colour contrast in this one's beautiful. I miss bonfires, and having clothes that smell like woodsmoke.


So it snowed again today, the flakes were big and fat, which is a good sign that it's not TOO cold (small tiny snowflakes often mean bitter cold; the fatter the flakes, the warmer the air.)

I took the chance to head down to one of Seoul's palaces, where snow stays on the ground a bit better, because they're walled, so car exhaust doesn't wipe it out the minute it touches down.

Here are some of my pictures.

These first few are from a park near the palace entrance.




The snow was really clingy and crunchy.




Inside the palace now:

Yes indeed, I did tread across pure snow, and yes, it WAS satisfying to despoil the untainted smooth snowy surface.

I don't know why, but it's absolutely human nature to want to be the first, or the only, one to do something. Give a 4-year-old a big piece of construction paper and a pair of (safety) scissors and ask them to cut out a triangle, and they'll ALWAYS cut it out of the dead center of the page (unless they've been taught by some conscientious mother to do otherwise). Yeah, the desire to go somewhere new, do something never done before, is part of what separated us from the animals perfectly happy to continue mucking about in the sea. . . but it's an interesting thing to notice.


This was a lake. During the summer, crumple a cracker into it, and it teems with grey and the occasional orange carp.


I believe the mountain pictured above is also the mountain dead center in the mountainous, symbolic screen that you can see behind the king's throne in the picture below.


This thingy is in the middle of a lake that got nearly frozen, and snowed over. . . it must be important. It's also on the money.

(I guess the Bank Of Korea wasn't as hot on the tree, though)

The tree below is a fantastic, gnarly old thing. It's supported by two or three little bars, and fenced in, and I get this funny feeling it has a story, but I have no idea what it is. It looks like a kid trying to keep his hair from sticking up to me.


This guy rolled a snowball out of snow that sat upon a gravel path, and then split it open, to discover the snowball had picked up sand and gravel along with the snow, creating the same stratified effect one can see in a place like the Grand Canyon, except much, much younger.


That's all for now.


for more looks at the ins and outs of Korean palaces, here's a nice photo/written tour of Changdeok palace, the palace closest to my house.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

from "Sweetmeats" by Andrew Bird:

Do you wonder where the self resides
Is it in your head or between your sides
And who's going to decide its true location?
cause it's a question for the centuries
from communion to mad cow disease
but is it worthy of a song - all life's location?

I like him. More with each album.

I'm going to a "writers in Seoul" meeting today at 3pm. Hope it goes well.



The day Hillary Clinton won the New Hampshire primary (the US electoral system gets more confusing to me everytime I learn something new about it), they had THIS picture on the front page of EVERY newspaper.



Which is an awesome, but mostly just terrifying picture.

Having THAT on every paper in the newsstand made me think of this scene from "Being John Malkovich", one of the best weird movies I've seen.


I don't know why, but creepy pictures make me smile.


(from the cover of "I care because you do" an electronica CD by Aphex Twin -- really good artist, but creepy album covers.)

Here's another. . . look twice, and then you notice, YIKES!



(one of his videos from this album also mocks the objectification of women in music)

Friday, 18 January 2008

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Photo update.

come on, people. comment already! I think I'm the only one reading my blog anymore!

*with the exception of BradJ*

or is this your passive-aggressive way of telling me to start writing shorter posts?

So the Tell Me song is a ridiculously huge dance craze. It was about five below zero (celsius) this night, but these hardy girls were still out, shaking booty, doing the "Tell Me" dance to advertise soju (which the original "tell me" singers, the Wonder Girls aren't even old enough to drink yet).

Plus, watching these, adult women dance, didn't make me feel like a creep, the way watching the 14 and 15-year-old wonder girls do.

I can't imagine how these poor ladies stayed warm: it's not like they have any body fat to store heat, either, unlike hairy Roboseyo, whose chest hair is like constantly wearing an extra t-shirt.

Buying pirated movies always includes the chance of some unintentional comedy in the subtitles. This is from the movie, "Lust, Caution", a huge hit here in Asia, and controversial enough in China to have some of its erotic scenes censored.


The Chinese subtitles were probably simply run through Google Translate and edited in. Love that stuff.

For hours of entertainment, go to this site, which runs any phrase through Google Translate, into another language, and then back to English, to see what kind of mangled concoction comes out. It's hilarious.

My line from this site: "If what you have doesn't make you happy, having more of it probably won't, either," translated to Korean and back again, goes like this:

"To spread out and it was happy what will be extensive not to make, to be possible it compared to be, in addition."


Sometimes chalk outlines can make you cry.
(this was child-sized, right near where my former student was killed by a bus)

If I were the mayor of Seoul, I would make incredibly tough penalties for drivers of delivery scooters who go onto the sidewalks, and even tougher ones for their employers, who pressure their delivery people to skimp on safety for the sake of delivery time. You should see the craziness -- helmetless, flying down the sidewalks, gunning over crosswalks or through red lights -- it's insane.


It snowed in Seoul.
this happened.


And in front of City Hall, they built an ice playground, now that it's properly cold.

I like cold. I like seasons, I decided. I much prefer my seasons to behave as they should: if I saw a cat gathering nuts in the fall and hiding them in tree hollows, I'd probably freak out, and when early January feels more like late October, I get nervous, even as I enjoy the outdoors.


This is the shape of Admiral Yi Sunshin, one of Korea's greatest military heroes. He is also commemorated in a statue in Gwanghwamun, the beating heart of Seoul's Downtown.


Here's the real Admiral Yi, right out directly in front of the main gate of Seoul's most important Palace, generally recognized as a naval strategist on par with any in history.

OK, that wasn't the REAL Yi Sunshin, either (he's dead now) -- just the original statue that the ice sculpture imitates.


There was also an ice rink there, but it looked pretty poorly maintained -- uneven, with puddles and cracks and lots of carved-up snow, as such crowded outdoor rinks end up being. It'd be romantic, but onerous to skate there.



One thing I love about Seoul is that there are little back-alleys like this all over the place.


And if you head in there, you can find random little places buried around corners

with kitchens full of old ladies making INCREDIBLE traditional Korean dishes, with portions that'll fill you up, for about five dollars, sometimes less.


This one makes Kalguksu -- just plain old Korean-style soup -- but it's famous. It's been around for decades, the prices are still the same as they were in 1984, the decoration and atmosphere is nonexistent (or worse), with tacky posters on the wall at best,

(i mean, if this counts as atmosphere to you, you're laughing!)

it's crowded as heck (you bump elbows with strangers as you eat), there's only one thing on the menu. . .
but people line up out the door and down the alley to have a bowl during their lunch break. And Seoul is loaded to the rafters with little holes in the wall like this: in Canada, if a restaurant gets a good reputation, they usually introduce the "reputation surtax" whereby they charge as much as they can while still running on their rep; in Korea, that sometimes happens, but often part of a place's excellence is the pride they take in giving top-notch food at low low prices.

Plus, Korea is historically a peasant culture. The most famous foods are the kinds a farmer might eat when he comes in from a day in the field -- hearty, simple, and cheap. France or Japan take pride in the refined foods they served the upper class, and you'll still pay through the nose for five-star sushi or escargot, but the strength of Korea's cuisine is in the simple, hearty, healthy fare. Wonderful. (Plus, it's SO easy to eat healthy here for cheap.)

I don't know what's going on in here, but I'm not interested.

two I didn't take: from an expats in Korea facebook group:

parking for princesses only:
and. . . this baby knows what they're for.




take care, everyone! Hope you enjoyed my picture tour of the last three weeks!

-Roboseyo