A Travellerspoint blog

April 2006

Oh, Engrish!

might as well do one more while i'm on a roll...

I've said it before and I'll say it again:

I Love Engrish.

The language barrier can be your best friend (funny stories, heckling without worrying that the people you are heckling actually know what you are talking about) or your worst enemy (you're seriously in trouble or you're dating someone who doesn't speak the language...which I guess are both one in the same).

Miscommunication is often a source of jokes in my classes, even in the more advanced levels.

The no-bajee (no pants) story, for example.
Or "panty-gone" or the strangely disturbing "red pen tea."

Or "Teacher I am detention."
"Hello detention."

I even had one girl who still says "son of a bitch!"...she knows it's bad, but her dad says it so so does she.

One of our friends, Chantal, had a tiny 7 or 8-year-old ask her,
"Teacher, what is pimpin and why so difficult?"
(A reference to Big Daddy Kane's "Pimpin Ain't E-Z"...oh what these children have to look up to...)

Also from Chantal...have you ever seen a 7 or 8-year-old wearing a shirt that proudly proclaims: "Sex Terrorist. Got the Skills to Pay the Bills"? I haven't either, but apparently he's out there.

Today I had a student yell for me to "TEACHER! Come! Here! Please!" Another kid piped in "Come on baby!"...apparently a reference to a Korean computer game.

We receive about 50-70 essays apiece every other week full of secret codes for English words such as "I'm get a love whip."

There is even a website dedicated to nothing but Engrish from all over the Orient (although Japan seems to have the most difficulty...). www.engrish.com

But yesterday, we noticed some graffiti scrawled all over the wall outside of Avalon, right by the doors.
I do not know who this "Kevin" person is...I actually have about 50 students named Kevin, not to mention the other 200 that go to Avalon (ok so that's an exaggeration...like saying eleventy billion).

So I'm not sure who this is talking about:


I sincerely hope this is not true...none of our students are older than 13. And Korean children are MUCH more innocent than Americans. These kids love poopoo jokes. I've seen Korean comedy. You would think it was written by the same 10-year-olds that I teach every day.

Well...I thought it was funny anyway.

Posted by lrbergen 09:36 Archived in South Korea Comments (3)

More Tourist Stuff

this is a couple of weeks old. and yet...still fresh.

Ok, now that I've gotten over the shock of the yellow dust storm (which apparently, there is another one coming...more intense and as one of our Korean teachers says...YOU CAN DIE), I can finally write about the actual day that Scott and I spent in Seoul.

Mostly because nothing new has been happening.

So as I said before...wait, maybe I didn't say it on here before and I'm too lazy to go look it up so I'll just write it again...Scott and I took the bus to Gwanghwamun and then walked two blocks to Deoksugung, one of the many royal palaces scattered throughout Korea.

This was a neat little statue made of metal parts. I thought it looked like a crazy Don Quixote. Scott thought it looked like "you know...that one guy...from that one movie."

This is a statue of Yin...uh...I don't know. He helped defend against the Japanese invasion with some kind of boat.

I just realized I am probably the worst possible person to write about this stuff. I don't care and therefore I don't remember anything of historical significance.
But I digress.

The outside of the gate.

We got there just in time to see the "changing of the guard," obviously a historical reenactment. (Funny story, not so obvious to me. Me: "Do you suppose this is just a reenactment, like one of those preservation of history things?" Scott: "No, Lyndsey. These guys are over 100 years old. Show some respect.") Lots of drum-banging and horn-playing and marching.



I have video too, but I can't post it on here.

Then after the obligatory picture with the guard, we went inside. Some of the stuff was pretty cool, but once you've seen one building, you've pretty much seen them all. The palace served as a temporary palace after the Japanese Invasion of 1592 when all of the others had been burned down. Then there's some other stuff. Read about it here if you're really so interested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deoksugung

Walkway near the entrance.

Sign on one of the buildings.

This is apparently a very popular pattern in traditional Korean buildings. Still pretty though.

Side of one of the biggest buildings.

Wide...or long...shot of several of the buildings.

King Sejong, the creator of the hangul alphabet.

When we were all palace-d out, we decided to go to yet another palace. Along the way we saw the only patch of grass in Seoul, heavily guarded against pets and high heels by people with clipboards and whistles. No kidding.
Isn't it lush? Or doesn't it seem so surrounded by all those buildings?!

Then we happened upon this new walkway opened not too long ago along a stream. Apparently the stream was heavily used when it was a shantytown during the Japanese invasion? Or the Korean War. Some time during hardship, which seems to be most of Korean history.
To me it looks like the East Race in South Bend, only much cleaner and with many more people:

Then we happened upon the American embassy, followed by a real live city yard sale. Complete with used wardrobes, crappy toys, and old camera equpipment sold next to bottles of soju and beer. I should have taken a picture, but it seemed rude (well...ruder than normal for me). It was too difficult to get to the next palace so we skipped it and walked on to Insadong, the most touristy part of Seoul with tons of shops and restaurants and fun happenings everywhere.

Along the way, through small side streets that Scott insisted he could navigate (and for the record Scott, no you didn't get us lost but you almost got me hit by a car...so I guess we broke even), I got to experience yet another part of Korean culture.

A real live octopus in a real live tank in a real live restaurant. Delicious.

The entrance to a bar. To be fair, I didn't notice this. Scott did. I give credit where credit is due.

This is in the most unlikely place, right near a huge glass monstrosity of a building, right near the parking ramp which leads to the underground parking garage.

When we finally made it to Insadong, we couldn't resist these delicious deep-fried, sugar filled, boiling-hot-ready-to-explode "pancakes." They have some sort of peanut/chestnut filling. So tasty.

Ok. These are not so tasty. The vat farthest away is filled with bugs. The vat closest to you is ...snails I think? Either way, this whole stand smells like vomit. Literally. Hot vomit. Sorry, it's gross, but again, I'm just trying to give you a visual. Or a ...smell..sual. My favorite part is that this is the Korean version of "would you like fries with that." Bad joke. Sorry.

Scott and I were lamenting on how we missed the European cafes where you could sit outside and drink a beer. So we went to a place that he knows to get one.
It was on the roof of this building, which was a market. This whole building was filled with artwork like this, just random off-the-wall stuff you wouldn't think could be art. For example, my friend Rose said this was a wall of road signs.

And these were toilet seat covers.
[Note: for about two days, this picture was featured on Travellerspoint. WHOOP!]

And also a cocoon.

And of course, what art gallery wouldn't be complete without blown-up red latex gloves covered in Korean writing!

Then when we got to the top of the building, there just happened to be a hip-hop performance several stories below.

And a shot of the main street of Insadong.

And keep in mind, all the while Scott and I were unaware that we were blissfully inhaling cancer-rich yellow dust. Did you notice the yellow haze to all of my pictures?

That aside, it was a good day to be a tourist in Korea.

Come to think of it...this post probably should have been two, but now it's too late, isn't it?
Enjoy, people!

Posted by lrbergen 08:11 Archived in South Korea Comments (1)

Visiting Places

a student takes me on a trip to egypt

Friday classes consist of writing, writing, and more writing. Usually done in a rush to not only fill in about 10 pages of difficult grammar/analogies, but to also write an essay with time to spare so I can check it so they can rewrite it for the next Friday class.

Easy, right?

It's actually quite a pain in the neck, because you just know the kids aren't learning anything by going this quickly. It's pretty ridiculous.

I have one RA class (lower level) that I have MWF. Friday we do a writing class. This class and I have a love/hate relationship. When I let them get away with anything they love me and I hate them. Then of course the reverse is true. Not to say that I actually hate these children. They're actually pretty great, and one of my smarter classes, but they definitely get out of control, and I feel like a monster trying to get them back in line.

So anyway. Try to imagine, if you can, the madness that is a Friday writing class, with an out of control class that speaks virtually no English. They've already gone through a massive amount of grammar with their Korean teacher...after having already had a full day of REAL school (in comparative terms, my school is a "fake" school). The kids are basically dead.
I'm just trying to set the scene for you here.

Last Friday we had to write about visiting places, hence the title. The book is actually kind of stupid...while I understand that we're trying to teach structure, the book offers no room for creativity whatsoever. So you have to "imagine" that "John" is "taking a trip" to "somewhere" (London). An actual excerpt:
"Where is he going? What is he going to see at the art gallery?"
"Where is John going on Sunday? What can he see at the zoo?"
So when I tell the kids to "imagine" then give them the paper to write their creative stories, I have questions prompting them in this way that confuse the heck out of them. Normally I just tell them to run with it, and grade the same essay over and over again, which gets monotonous, but hey they're learning, right?

So most of the students turned in essays about John's trip to London. I have one student, Sung Hwan, who is about the clearest definition of "rapscallion" or "scalawag" that I have ever encountered. He kind of has that "aw shucks" attitude if he does something wrong, and he'll say something boy-like and give this wicked mischievous grin. Despite all of this, or probably because of it, this kid rules.

This is what Sung Hwan wrote (in a fill-in-the-blank fashion):

John is going to Egypt.
It is a exciting and dangerous.

On Saturday morning, He is going to Spinx and take picture. In the afthroon [afternoon] he is fight mumny in Pyramid In the evening he is find treasure and Pharaoh.

On Sunday, he is in the Guinnes Book and He is rich

On Sunday evening, John is stay all day

I knew somethin was a-brewin in that 11-year-old head of his because he kept asking me how to spell this and that. Most creative essay ever. Well...in my class.

And honestly, it wasn't TOO bad grammatically, comparatively speaking. Just imagine someone gave you a piece of paper and said, "Here. Write an essay in Arabic." It would be hard, that's all I'm saying.

Posted by lrbergen 08:09 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Once the dust settles....

choking on my own rage AND yellow dust.

Sorry for all of you mass e-mail recipients and/or myspace/livejournal friends. I have to put it here too so others can see it, even though you're all probably the only ones to look at it.

I was not aware of this until recently: Korea is often affected by dust storms, yellow dust storms carrying sand all the way from China's Gobi Desert, picking up all kinds of fun chemicals and pollutants on the way.

Saturday, we had the worst dust storm in four years, making everything a hazy shade of yellow.

This sounds promising (taken from Chosun Ilbo):
"As the sky turned a jaundiced hue and visibility plunged to 1.5 km from a normal average of 10 km (6.2 miles), South Korea issued a health advisory on Saturday due to the storm described as the worst since 2002.

The dust, which originates in the Gobi Desert region of China, picks up heavy metals and carcinogens such as dioxin as it passes over Chinese industrial regions, before hitting the Korean peninsula and Japan, meteorologists say."

D'ya hear that people? CARCINOGENS! What on earth....?!

Also, this:

"On Saturday, the meteorological office said people should stay indoors or wear masks if they ventured outdoors after doctors warned prolonged exposure could cause health problems such as eye and respiratory diseases."

read more here: Doh!
I am SO glad that Scott and I made that our day to do some sightseeing in Seoul, a day devoted entirely to walking around outdoors. That's right folks. What they advised against, we did. Then I went out that night. In Seoul. Doh! indeed. That could be why I haven't been able to stop coughing for oh, about 3 days now. It apparently kills 365 people per year (mostly elderly folks) and makes 1.8 million people sick.

Clearly, I am not very smart.
But to be fair, I just thought it was the normal pollution that usually plagues Seoul and its surrounding area (in which I live). When we couldn't see the surrounding mountains, we commented on it...when we couldn't see the Han River on the bus, we were worried, but not so much. When I read this...well I'm pretty freaked out. Who knew Korea was so bad for my health?

We have a warning that we will be receiving much of the same over the whole season. And as I have heard, those facemasks that everyone wears do NOT help in the least. The heavy metals and carcinogens in the air will get through. So I guess the plan now is to stay inside as much as possible and check the news more often about this. I didn't know about it until Wayne, our head teacher, sent me a text that night.

Here are some pictures.

This is a picture of mine taken from my apartment window. Usually you can see a mountain a bit further off.

An image found on Chosun Ilbo, a Korean newspaper.

A view taken from BBC online. See all the dust swirling? Disgusting.

Yuck. I think I'm going to go lay down. Or is it lie down? Either way...

Posted by lrbergen 08:02 Archived in South Korea Comments (1)

Spaghetti-Os in Korea

i hate korean appliances. all of them.

One of the best things I brought from home was Spaghetti-os. If you were ever a child or college student, or one of those in an adult's body, you will appreciate this seeing as how they don't have them in Korea.

However, finding a can opener to open the considerably bigger can, with no pull tab, proved to be more difficult than I had thought.

And so I tried to open it.
I managed to cut a small line. I don't know how, but I did. After that, the can opener was useless.

So I broke out the butter knife, ginsu knife, scissors, and even wine bottle opener. Here's a hint: the butter knife works the best.
I eventually pried open a hole where I was able to scoop/dump out the spaghetti-os into the saucepan. After about 20 minutes of battle.

And here's what that looked like, in case anyone is interested:


And all of my weapons:

I tell you what though. They were the best spaghetti-os I've ever had.

Posted by lrbergen 07:27 Archived in South Korea Comments (1)

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