Near miss, trashed

Near miss, trashed.jpgIt does make a really bad visual pun, but do think that the person depositing the said rubbish wasn’t trying hard enough. It is quite normal for a person to ‘dispose’ of their rubbish, a sales docket for example by simply letting it fall to the ground. The reasoning being that it’s someone’s job to pick up rubbish. Sure, in Asia there exists a job, but, I’ve seen this behaviour in Korea too. The exception in Northern Asia is Japan; all the times I’d been there the streets residential or commercial, were scrupulously clean. Go figure.

Without an explanation, it does sort of grate against your sensibilities. The slogan while I was growing up it was “be a tidy Kiwi” seemed to work well. There was also an abundance of rubbish bins too to aid the cause of tidiness, too.

The campaign has since been run again.

Old station, next century

old Seoul station.jpgOld world charm, made substantially prettier by the effect of lighting for whatever reason. Not to be held back in the moment of inspiration, I borrowed my wife’s Galaxy Note 2. The result is what you see here.

Seoul station was built circa 1910 by the Colonial Japanese. It has a nice frontage drawn from Victorian influences from what I can guess. Serving Metro line number number 1 and 4, it certainly is a bit of a hike between platforms.

‘Get in behind’, leads to luminous photos


Sometimes in photography, it comes down to moments of minutes or even hours. In this case cherry blossoms were the  subject of the photos. Sakura (桜) as they are in Japan or as they are in  South Korea, (벚꽃).  I had been waiting for sometime for the right moment to come up. Actually a concerted effort too, to take my camera gear out and actually shoot some of them in bloom. The one day I’d taken my camera to school and to the university, where I took the photos,  the weather had set an dull grey overcast of cloud.  The one thing I wanted in this shot was the beauty of the cherry blooms that could the luminosity of the setting sun. With this I had a matter of an hour or less; plenty of time. The trees, nor the blossoms weren’t going to disappear. In catching the light on the petals, I really had to place the sun behind the blooms, that meant pointing the camera towards the sun. Then it was a matter of fiddling with the camera settings. The effect as you can see, is rather pleasing.

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Hello, good-bye Incheon

A recent hike through the Incheon station area, located, not unsurprisingly at the end of the Incheon line. The station had the usual refinements, being an above ground station, it was a simple matter of walking out the doors. Putting on sunscreen (and later a hat) inside of the station seems normal enough. Only it attracted an unwanted stare from some older-middle aged Korean man. I stared back, he kept starring back, I turned, only to check later if he was still starring. Essh. What a cycle. Welcome to Incheon, home of the xenophobic throwback Korean men.

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The odd contrast to this initiation was the Chinatown that had been build. It was plush. Cobble-stoned streets and preserved buildings from Koreans’ colonial era. Ben and I made a bee-line for Jayu park. This is significant for the fact that it holds a statue of Douglas MacArthur, and other adornments celebrating the Korean war and (surprisingly) Americans. Found in the park were two rather esoteric sculptures. One of them under certain conditions could look like giant turd. Personally I found the graffiti that was on it a more interesting composition than the inscription found across the square from the sculpture. Built to commemorate Korean-American cooperation during the war. Well, something like that. Further inside the park there was a life sized bronze statue of MacArthur himself. Mounted on a pillar no less. Beside it was something more interesting, a wall frieze of MacArthur and his staff making for the beach. Presumably during the historically notable Incheon landings, you could actually see MacArthur’s bronze hand showing signs of wear, that it had been touched, and ‘shaken’. For an expression of appreciation or just a chance to even come close to a man of such reputation I can only speculate.

Onwards and downwards to the Chinatown. Exiting the park, we both noted elderly people that seemed to congregate in the park. I noted the same thing too in China. My walking companion observed that the old people there are more appreciative foreigners since, they would have seen and experienced the Korean war, unlike their younger, fellow citizens born after the war. Maybe the ajossi at the train station could do with a change in attitude.

The Chinatown had cobble-stoned streets and was well taken care of. Perhaps falling under the influence of Jayu park above it. Very much a show piece of Incheon, it was part tourist trap (there were tourist shops on every street, and on almost every corner), and historical site with the actual Chinatown having many buildings from the period of colonization from the Japanese. Ben and I went into a former bank to have a look, but also with the ulterior motive was to get out of the sun and cool off. The museum/ 1st bank of Japan was wonderfully air-conditioned. It has massively thick walls, arranged in what seemed to amount to a maze of rooms. I had my photo taken infront of a stage set, of the street, as it was back when the bank was constructed. The one and only helper at the front desk was mature, pretty and very helpful. Exiting, Ben and I gave the donation box some notes.

Back to wandering through the streets, a school kid started to speak to us in English. I blew him off, but Ben being more patient, answered his questions while I hurried around the corner of a building and onto the main road.

Leaving behind the Incheon station and into more conventional streets, I took a photograph of a ‘shop’ that sold just anchor chains. Looking at the amount of heavy metal he had, I’d say he’d cornered the market comprehensively. I didn’t see a shop that sold only anchors, but would have been very pleased if I did!

After all that, walking toward Bupyeong station was all a bit of an anti-climax. To cap off the walk, we went through Dong-Incheon underground shopping center. Corridor on corridor of mindless crap that I personally could never think of buying. I’d always thought that underground shopping centers and even the underground subway lines in Seoul also serve a dual purpose of acting like bomb shelters a’la the London blitz of world war two. Would they, could they, withstand a direct hit? Would the North Koreans use gas in their warheads? What’s more would the gas be heavy, and go down, into the subways? Would there be enough kim-chi to out-last the siege? Ben and I walked out and onward to our final destinations.

Forget Fukashima, just take your brollie

It rained, so I zipped on the hood to my newly acquired Columbia jacket. Just enough to keep the rain off, but according to the Korean news websites it was rain tainted with fallout from Fukashima. It’s the sort of thing that makes me roll my eyes and wish for more yellow dust, which is supposed to be prevalent at the moment too. At least the rain keeps the dust down, as for the radiation, it’s at very low levels. The current dosage quoted is 0.3mSV. I know for a fact that the amounts that can kill you are in the 10 to 100SV range.

You gotta laugh at some of the information films put out back then.  One thing that sprung to mind when I watched it was radiation is quite easily attenuated. Double the distance, and you quarter the amount of energy. It’s not how much, but how long.

Old and grey, old and dusty

If it was, then it was a shadow if it’s former self. Found in the western blocks from the main Yongsan electronics town after Ben and I  had decided to kill some time by walking around the lesser seen parts of the Yongsan-gu area. Previously seen was the seedy part of Yongsan. No, not the area where they sell over-priced cellphones*, but Korean’s version of  a shop front from Amsterdam.

Walking through the grey-washed buildings containing even more uninteresting techno junk. ‘Electronics town’ was all of two buildings opposite each other. We only went inside one of them, the sign on the other building proclaimed it had PC related products inside. Ben resisted the idea to go inside claiming it’d be “too boring”. So we continued to wander through the landscape seeing businesses of the online nature. One building seemed to mirror that of the electronics town one except that it also had Chinese characters on it. All told this could have been like radio street, the seed germ that Japan’s Akihabara got started on.

We finished our walking tour of the lesser known areas of Yongsan electronic market, ending at one of the newer buildings that contained a movie theatre, household goods, camera and notebooks, second vinyl LPs and other obsolete stereo equipment. This stuff was brand new and definitely tailored towards a niché market. The first shop that sold second-hand vinyl their inventory was extensive, with all artists from Spandau ballet to classical tracks. In the basement we came upon specialty shops that sold individual parts. We came upon a shop that sold just switches. Wow.

* Meaning pay a huge price and then bend over with your pants down.

Burger to go, extra cheese

Grammar to me is the basis of English teaching. Technically I’m employed as speaking teacher, but holistically I see myself as a highly paid consultant. In this consultancy, I converse with the workers onsite, addressing what to teach and how to deliver the lesson. Grammar in this case fades into the background and is suppliemented by random conversation points.

It always shits me that these converstation points have no substance at all. As drummed into me and the rest of the recruits at CELTA, “no task without a goal, no result without feedback”. There are other caveats but thats beside the point. I wish there were points to the lessons, but the drive for my lessons as perviewed by the KET is to stimulate interest in learning, English in this case. Enter EBS, the national education broadcast. Short vignettes of about 5 minutes long, the voice actors putting on this horrible faux voice, that all Koreans (and possibly Japanese) think are so cute. I did everything to stop from vomitting, not from the voice acting, but from the lack of substance.

The video posted here, is very moderate and is devoid of all cheese. Native speakers speaking naturally. While I would have posted an example with one with cheese I couldn’t find one.