Thursday, April 30, 2009

7. Chooooky!

Happy Birthday Chook!

I think this is your first birthday where I've been away from you.. I hope you're doing what you want to!! Relax and enjoy life for the sheer reason that your living it. I've been thinking of you all day.. I tried calling at midnight, but I guess you must've been sleeping.. how unlike you!

I didn't mention the Lantern Festival, since I don't really have any pictures (my battery went flat). Basically there were a couple of roads closed off at the place we went to, called Insadong; there were tents erected selling all sorts of things. Mostly lanterns and how to make your own lanterns etc etc.. other groups were there too.. like the Thailand Buddha Association.. then there was a huge stage set up on one intersection where they had dancing and singing and the like. It was raining when I went there so that was a downer, but other than that the festival had all the liveliness I've come to love from Korea!

Ps: Due to boredom, I’ve come up with this calendar of my work days over April and May. It’s mainly due to things like Sports Days, mid-term exams, etc. The days in blue are the days I don’t need to go to work.. looks quite promising, no?

Monday, April 27, 2009

6. Lest We Forget.

Post-rain sunshine.. so still a little cool and overcast.
Ok I’m not sure but I think that how you spell Hi, in Korean! You might remember me saying that I’m too lazy to learn to read and write Korean. Well, nothing has changed. BUT, now I notice things a little more. For example the sign on the bus that says Sangdong (상댱); I look at the symbols and think try to link it to some sort of sound. So doing little things like that, I’ve come to read a little bit of 한글 (Korean). Oh and of course I’ve discovered that my name is actually spelt 시브 - which actually says Shi-buh; no wonder they have trouble saying my name.. the character isn’t in their alphabet!

So, update on this weekend. I went to Seoul for the ANZAC Dawn Service and also Buddha’s birthday’s Lantern Festival! I got to Seoul on Friday afternoon and after organizing some accommodation and eating dinner at a place called New Zealand Bar-B-Q (which incidentally had nothing to do with NZ); I settled in and went to sleep while it was still pouring cold rain outside. Turn’s out my body didn’t feel like sleeping at that point.. so I tossed and turned until about midnight and then got up at 5am. Off I went to the war memorial.. it was quite spectacular actually!

As I was walking up, I saw a few people gathered in a group, so I went and introduced myself and they turned out to be really nice girls! There were five of them, all teaching English and all from NZ, so we went up to the service together. The only thing was that it was located in section of the memorial that wasn’t covered, and the cold seeped through to us all. I’ll apologise now for the lack of pictures, but it just didn’t feel right to be taking pictures at such an honourable ceremony. So this is how it went:
  • Opening Prayer and Lesson from John, Chapter 15: Verses 9-14.
  • The ANZAC Day Address by the NZ Ambassador.
  • Ataturk’s Ode by the Turkish Defence Attache
  • Wreath Laying under the names of the fallen.
  • Commemoration to the Fallen:
    They went with songs to the battle, they were young
    Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow
    They were staunch to the end, against the odds uncounted
    They fell with their faces to the foe.
  • Then a little girl named Isabella stood and recited this Ode:
    They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old;
    Age shall not weary then, nor the years condemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning
    We will remember them
    Lest we forget.
  • Volleys.
  • Last Post (Bugler).
  • Two minutes silence (where all we heard was the clicking of the Korean camera crew!!!).
  • Rouse (Bugler).
  • Closing Address by the Australian Ambassador.
  • National Anthems (Korea, Australia, New Zealand).
  • Finally a blessing which concluded the service.

I must say that we were all a little annoyed at the Korean camera crew buzzing around throughout the whole ceremony trying to take pictures of absolutely everyone in every possible light!

After this we went to breakfast where they put on quite a spread (see pictures below). Then I went off to take some more pictures of the grounds. I was taking a particularly emotional shot (of the old man reaching), when I heard this “Hey can I ask you a question.. where you from originally?” I told them Fiji and she got all excited and called her friend: “Hey Lata.. [pointing to me] FIJI!!!” So that’s how I got to know the Pacific Islanders in Seoul.. they were going to a bar to watch the Super 14 but I already had plans to meet up with others. So I got their number and their “If you ever need a couch to crash on, we live really close”.

This seems like a large enough post already, so I think I’ll save the recollection of the Buddha festivities until tomorrow’s post. Here are the pictures up until then.

Children from an ANZAC club of some sort were flown in from Australia for the service.. they had no where to put their hats so..

Here you can also see US Army..

The Turkish Honour Guard..

Ok, right to left: Alice, Megan, Amy and Nicola all Kiwi's and 2 of them were private institute teachers and two were public..

Believe it or not, these were the Australian and NZ Officials working in Korea on behalf of the UN.. See what they're serving? That's Rum with coffee. Yep, you read correctly.. they had black coffee and a shot of rum to boot! Keep in mind that this was at 7AM!

Monday, April 20, 2009

5. Refresh!


Non-stop rain and howling winds!

The bitterness of winter has died away. Spring is finally upon us and though winters’ cold grasp is still remnant now and then; it is safe to say that Spring has arrived. This is my first real Spring.. as comparisons with Australia fall short of explanation. Where hot and cold seasons prevailed, Korea’s contrary and more traditional approach define the four true seasons in a decidedly opposed manner.

The arrival of the Birds is the foremost noticeable factor that a change is approaching. After wisely having spent the colder months in warmer climates, the cheerful chattering of birds shatter the cold silence, acting as herald for the oncoming spell of warm and temperate weather.

Then tentatively the trees start to blossom; always weary of winters lasting clutch. For once a tree has decided to blossom, a minor relapse of winter – for even one night – will tarnish the blossoms and burn the newly born through the immensity of its frost. It is therefore a delicate balance of vast import to any plant life: knowing when it is safe to bloom.

Next, the sun re-gains its warmth. Warmth not felt for many months’ returns to the ecosystem unleashing immeasurable rejuvenating power. Suddenly the mountains are speckled with splotches of brilliantly florescent greens and reticent yellows; not to mention the vivid purples, soft pinks and bright whites of the various cherry blossoms.

In due course the rains arrive to finalize the revolt. Washing away all gloom and despair, filling the air with the coarse fragrance of freshly soaked Earth. Lasting for days on end, the rains flood rivers and streams which stagger under the awesome load and fill each chasm with refreshing new life!

Ok enough of that.. as you can tell, Spring is a lovely time of the year.. even without the fancy words attached to it. Now, how about a story from today..?

It absolutely amazes me the different ways Korea has surprised me so far. I sat there quietly eating my lunch, minding my own business, when all of a sudden I'm bombarded with: "Shiv, I heard you're getting married this year.. when?" I don't have the slightest idea how this rumour started, especially since I'm in such a small school! Naturally I asked about it, and apparently I brought my girlfriend to school once and introduced them to the teachers. That's when it clicked.. Pav and Shelly came to visit and they totally ignored what I said about them being my friends, and automatically married me off to one of them! I have a strong suspicion that Soju had a large part to play in this..

Friday, April 17, 2009

4. Day Blossom

A perfect Spring day!
I’ve taken the last three days off since I’ve got that ‘cold’ I mentioned in the last post. Well all the medication he gave me is finished and I feel no better whatsoever. So I went back to the doctor to see what he can do about it. I normally wouldn’t have gone, but I had to give some excuse to the school for requesting a third day off! Anyway, off I went to Taebaek – on the way to the bus terminal I took some day time shots of the cherry blossoms (see below).

I got to the doctor, who speaks English surprisingly well and he asked me the basics. How are you feeling? What are your symptoms? Do you have any allergies etc etc. After spraying some stuff in my mouth and up my nose (using what appeared to be an air gun!), he decided it was time for an x-ray. Off I went into this little room.. and he had me stand up against a slate of lead (I think) and hold my breath while he took the shot. Might I add, while he was setting me up he told me that my shoulders were too broad to fit within the slate but my lungs wouldn’t be.

I was asked to sit down for 5 minutes while the developed the x-ray. As it turned out, my frame is bigger than most Koreans’ and therefore my ribcage was also quite broad and didn’t all fit into the image. To top things off; my lungs filled out my rib cage and they barely fit into his little image. After a little more talking in which he stated he underestimated my size and that I’d need a bigger dosage, we came to a solution. I am to take a larger dosage, now including antibiotics, four times instead of three times a day! I now officially have a Bronchial chest infection, this means that I can’t stop coughing, I’ll have a runny nose, and still have pains everywhere. I don’t often get sick, but when I do it’s a bloody pain in the ass.

Now to some lighter news, it’s Cherry Blossom season! Enjoy:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

3. Night Blossom

Chilly wind, rain, and gloomy all round..
Spring is finally coming to my little village, sure it was only a couple of months late.. but hey.. better late than never right? Last weekend I went to a Cherry Blossom Festival in Gangneung which is on the East coast. It was amazing.. I had a great time with people I met during the orientation and there was one particular are where the blossoms lined the streets. They really are beautiful trees, though the petals fall off at the slightest breeze. The Koreans believe in an underlying lesson that can be learnt from these trees. The flowers only appear during a short and fleeting period; this symbolizes that our own lives are very short and we must make the most of it in the little time we have here, for at any moment a slight wind can blow us down into the dark abyss. Ok so it’s not that dramatic, but I thought it’d be fun to make the story a little “livelier”.

Oh another funny thing happened during class last week. In Korea instead of “blah blah blah” they say “mo mo mo”. The target language to be learnt in that particular lesson was: “Where is my pencil”. It just so happened that they grasped that concept quite well, even after playing a game with it, and getting bored. So then I proceeded to explain to them that they can use the words “Where is..” for anything. After a while of having them repeat things such as “Where is the bus terminal” or “Where is my book”, finally I asked if they understood. One boy stood up and said to the rest of the class “Where is my mo mo?”; and they all understood. I on the other hand, was almost on the floor trying to conceal my laughter. (Truth be told; I was reminded of Chook and our trip to Singapore). If you’re not Fijian-Indian, you may not understand.. sorry.

At the moment the weathers’ turned gray and gloomy, and I’m sick. The weather has been fluctuating for the past few weeks now; for example it was a warm 26^C with beautiful sunshine last week, and now it’s back down to 10^C and raining. It’s only the second time I’ve needed to take a sick day in my seven odd months here. It’s nothing serious, just a sore throat, nose, muscles, joints, and a headache. I’ve got some drugs (and no Pixie, not the type that make me hallucinate!), so I’m hoping I’ll be over this soon. I loathe being sick.

Last night I went out and decided it was a great night to take some pictures of the surrounding area. So off I went in search of the perfect shot.. as you can tell they aren’t all that great. I still have to figure out how to take good night pictures; I think it may have something to do with the wind moving the branches as well.

I hope you like them..

Thursday, April 9, 2009

2. T.G.I.F.

Felt like the warmest day of the year so far! Perfect for a walk!
I can’t believe it’s Friday already! The days here pass soo quickly that I barely have a chance to breathe! It’s not like I have a lot on my plate during the week.. still somehow it flies by! I love it!

We had a new sixth grader transfer in a couple of weeks ago. She’s a good kid and the only one that bow’s and says thank-you to the teacher after the class is finished.. naturally I adore her! She’s the tallest person in the school.. She transferred here from Wonju (a bigger city) because her father is in the Korean Air Force and was assigned to another base close to Sangdong. Mr. Kim, the fourth grade teacher pointed her out to me and said “she is very tall”, to which I replied, “yes, she is”.

“It’s because she’s been brought up in Wonju.”
“Ahh righhht”, I laughed.
“No, really. Children in other parts of Korea are about her height. Only in rural communities such as here are they shorter.”, he said matter-of-factly.
“Well they have better nutrition in bigger cities. Vegetables are hard to find here, and not many families have the means to go shopping for nutritional food all the time”.

That made me a little sad.. I didn’t know what to say to him after that.

Here is the only grade three student. I don’t know how she copes with being the only one in a class, and the only one sitting with her teacher at the cafeteria. But she’s always happy and is friends with everyone! I give her just a tad more attention than the others, and now she run’s up to me yelling “MR SHIV!!” and gives me a big hug!

Oh and this is another girl (in grade four) at my second school. The one in the middle. She is soo damn adorable, and I’ve nicknamed her Matilda. Can you tell why?

This ones for you Mous Mous.. thanks for the advice, it turned out perfectly!

Finally, Taji said that I need to get more vege's into my diet.. so this one is to show you that I am.. can't get much healthier than this Taj..

Monday, April 6, 2009

1. My Dict*ator Friend..

Bright blue skies, and the has sun regained some of its warmth. Still pretty windy though!
I had to censor most of the words here which may be picked up by some sort of intelligence agency; so please forgive the minor interuptions. I'm hoping it will work this time round..

I guess I should mention the recent events regarding our nearest and quite possibly most mentally unstable world leader: [censored]. I first heard of this man through an incredibly informative source: Hollywood. Here was my first impression of him:

Team America - I'm So Ronery
Uploaded by Videogeezer

Since then I have broadened my knowledge base thanks to a quick search on Wikipedia. I’ve found out that CNN has described him as “one of the most mysterious leaders in the world”. Who just happens to rule the largest standing ar*my in the world, with a whopping 9 million tro*ops (including reserves), or 1.2 million currently armed [censored] ready for bat*tle. To put it into perspective that’s 74,000 (including reserves), or 53,000 armed that our Australia has. Ok so, lets back up a bit.. since when is Sharad/Shiv/Kraze/etc interested in world politics? [since his Soju supply has been threatened?] No, since Nor[censored]rea fir*ed a mis*sile/sate*llite when the US/Japan/South Korea asked them (however politely) not to. See two weeks ago N. K. announced that they will be sending a sate*llite into orbit between April 4th and 8th, though some thought it to be a long-range mi*ssil*e test capable of hitting US land (Alaska).

The information here thus far, is that yesterday they fired it off, and the first part broke off somewhere in the East Sea, and the second part sailed right over Japan and then fell.. nothing made it into orbit; and that’s all we know. Now what’s curious is that Japan dec*lared that they will fi*re upon anything that comes into Japanese Airspace. The US backed Japan saying that if it goes past Japan then USA will fi*re upon it. To those declarations North [censored] promptly announced that any disruption to its “sate*llite” will be considered an act of w*a*r.. and be dealt with in such a manner.

Obviously precautions need to be taken though they are just that; precautions. Over here nothing much has changed at all, there are no preparations for any sort of w*ar.. but it doesn’t hurt being prepared. So I have been in contact with my embassy, as have most foreigners here; and I have also packed an emer*gency bag (just-in-case I forget my toothbrush in the hurry). We have heard rumours of foreigners withdrawing all their money and packing everything they have in a hasty panic, though the general consensus around here is that that sort of behavior is premature and border-lining paranoid. Either way anything were to happen then I have 3-4 hours to get out, and have my escape route planned to tee. Though I wish I could offer be his friend just so he won’t be so damn ronery.

In other news.. today I was told by an 11 year old girl that she likes my hairstyle because it looks like MacGyver’s. Of all the people I’ve been said to look like; this blonde-haired, blue-eyes guy was not one of them! Though if memory serves, MacGyver had a full head of flowing, thick blonde hair.. right? The only way I can see the comparison is if he’s still making shows now at age 60 with a huge receding hairline!

Also I got some goods in today from the Foreign Food Mart! For a mere W30,000 I scored a bag of okra (bhindi), a bag of green beans, boneless chicken, 5 roti’s, tortilla’s, mixed vegetables, and a tub of I can’t believe its not butter! All this delivered and frozen in a Styrofoam box. Now like a true Indian; I just need a second freezer!

That’s basically all I have to report at the moment. I had one of the most peaceful weekends of my Korean life this weekend just past.. it was satisfying to just laze around with some exceptional company whilst listening to forgotten tunes.