The Mapo broadwalk, big contrast

The last time Ben and I walked through Mapo, was about two years ago. Then it was shabby buildings that looked like they’d been bombed by some foreign power. This time, it was quite literally the other side of the railway lines.

What a contrast it was, setting off from the randomised station, we emerged, as it turned out, in the hagwon district of Mapo. Pretty posh, we pasted a Maths hagwon that ‘guaranteeing your grade’. I wonder how hard you’d have to sleep in class to flunk, and then how much more harragging from the mother to get a refund. In big cities, the schools aren’t run by the Principal or the head, they’re run by the parents.

Mapo has streets like any other street in Seoul, this one was clean with the usual stores, apartments and restaurants. Towering above us were candidates for the forth coming local elections. A booty of high pay and perhaps a more reclining lifestyle awaits the individual that champions his cause the best. Maybe not this guy. He needs to review his photos before they go to print on a 10m by 50 meter poster stuck on the side of a prominent building. Wincing your hands isn’t conducive to an image of integrity and honest policies. Even the crowd in my town have a better sense of decorum.

Onwards to what could almost be seen as the “apple cart”. You don’t have to travel far to see signs of Koreas agricultural roots.

It never fails to surprise me how lacking in testosterone men are portrayed in advertisements in Korea. From Boy bands, to selling Nikon camera to showing what the average police graduate might look like. He might look nice, but he doesn’t at all have the image of authority that Mr Plod in New Zealand might have.

I have to comment that the photos of the two police officers are would-be graduates of a Police hagwon. Not, just one, but one of many police hagwons, or ‘academies’. Joke anyone?

This is dizzy stuff! When is an eyefull too much?

A dizzy feeling in my brain, a dull ache, not to mention itchiness and a sensation that my left eyeball doesn’t feel wet enough.

It never fails to be a shock to the system on how different the bedside manners of doctors (here in Asia) are different to the doctors in New Zealand. A definite “chalk and cheese” comparison is the vernacular my Dad would have used. As for the meds, I can rightly guess that it’s some sort of medicated eye drops with some other pills. They could be lollies for no explanation was given. Great! There’s a yellow pill in the concoction! Yum.

Vote for the least desirable, on again

The one time I voted in New Zealand, was about 15 years ago. I’m not anti-establisment, but I just can’t see anyone worth voting for.

This year in Eumseong, they’re having local body elections, again. For some reason, (perhaps anti-corruption?) it’s annual, as in every year.

No groupies this time, or should I say, not yet. But they are handing out name cards. The cards themselves have a mini résumé on the back of the candidate. The cards, are there to sell, no doubt about that.

Ran the rats maze, ended in a gay-pride parade

I had in tow, my newly acquired snooper lens. My walking companion hefted it, trying to ascertain a weighting without the camera body attached.

I would say, looking at the pictures later on my laptop it was a good investment. It yielded pictures that were nicely saturated, and in focus.

The rats maze was Olympic park, up by Jamsil by the Han river. Old stomping grounds for Ben and I. We’d strode this ground before, and had return by cause of a dice roll. The park is laid out in such a way that there are no direct exits. And we, the rats, were invariably lend in the wrong direction.

Walking by the olympic flame one particular group of children looked at the flame. Kids being kids, one of them tried to put it out by spitting on it. They were all class, as I’d expected Korean children to be. The glass shield wasn’t just to guard against the wind afterall.

The walk ended on a rather sour note. Tired and sore, Ben and I were so sweaty, that our clothing was adhering to our bodies in unnatural ways.

We are proud

We’d only just settled for a minute in the train carriage, when along came some cyclists. It was a procession of 5 or 6 cyclists, replet with their cycles. They also had, all of their kit on, sunglasses and helmets included. The bright colours on their cycling costumes lent to an impression that it was a gay pride parade.  They were rude and presumptious. We were in their spot. We moved on, with not much to say but thinking a whole lot more. Opinions of Korean cyclists dropped to an all new low that day.

Kamikaze eaters, stuck to our seats

This was ‘tang su yuk’, a Korean interpretation of sweet and sour deep fried pork. The food served in the school cafeteria was adequet. I always ask the students what they thought of lunch, and the reply is always ‘terrible!’ Or cries of ‘not delicious!’ Mother’s cooking is always better. The quality of meal today wasn’t bad at all. I say this because, I was able to eat all of the dishes. Even the soup, twen jang kuk, or fermented bean soup wasn’t bad. Just a dash of pepper powder to make it tangy, and not spicy.

The sauce for the fried pork, though sweetened, was not at all sour. The consistency was too thick. Someone must have added too much cornflour when making it up. It was like warmed up wallpaper paste. Or warm snot.

Friday, around beer o’clock time

In Korea, beer is normally drunk in groups (as is all activities), and in addition an-ju, or a side dish such as heated through squid is usually eaten.

Hoegaarden is now brewed locally, and I prefer Pringles to squid.

WMD, with mixed results

Intially there was whoops of delight, but then laughter as the nose cone and parachute were carried up, on the breeze, and over the school building. Looking on, a teacher, replet with clipboard, methodically recorded the time of flight for each student’s rocket launch.

Being a technology High school, they decided to use an air compressor instead of the usual hand pump. It would have been something I would’ve done. Looking on I thought it only slightly cheating.

Students too fat, too much cat food

Hedgehogs in Scotland have recently been put on a diet. According to the report, the hedgehogs are too fat to roll themselves into to a ball. My Middle school students are, by Korean standards not over weight, with a few exceptions. Though I think that they’ve been hitting the ‘cat food’ too much, as they’re desperately un-fit.

I found this fact out when I, another Korean teacher and half of the first grade were sent on a field trip to Cheong-ju. Later we went to Sangdang Sanseong. Quite literally, Mountain fortress. The task was to walk the circumference of the fortifications. It is a popular walking track, with the par for this course, 1 hour. 90 minutes later, I was still trying urge the students on. I had started as tail-end charlie, but the Korean teacher had promoted me to point man. The students were going too slow, and needed motivation by him.

I blame too much of sitting in a classroom, followed by more sitting in hagwons, followed by even more sitting at a computer playing games…

These guys were basically struggling to make the grade, literally.

No fun, like a gammy OS

Got it done. Twice. One of the least fun parts of computing and most ironic flash screens I’ve seen was that. Time is precious. I’d rather spend time using my laptop than reinstalling the software for it. Time is precious. Re-loading an OS takes ages.

Join the police force? I’d rather ride the escalator

One of the less amusing, and more eye-catching posters in Korea. Taken in Incheon, outside one of the local police stations, enticements by a Korean drama starlet, Kim Min-kyeung, to join the police force. The Police itself aren’t well regarded by it’s citizens in Korea, since a long time ago, they were an extension of the Japanese occupation.

Use of media stars to advertise public announcements is a good idea. Superficially, I prefer escalator girl, even if I don’t know her name.