expectations of udon

It occured to me that I might not be limited to packets of ramen for noodle-based home cooking, so during my massive E-Mart shopping trip this evening I picked up this boil-at-home pack of delicious udon soup, as one of several I want to try. This packet of two was under 3000 Won (about £1.75).

the packet

the contents

The result: basic, edible udon soup (not pictured, was too busy eating it), not exactly what it is pictured. I’m sure one of those lines of text I can’t read says ‘serving suggestion’.

Conclusion: It was less than £3 for two lots of noodle soup, my complaining stops here, but there will always be a place in my heart (and stomach) for restaurant udon soup.


Abusive pictures by children.

We have been encouraging our kids to draw pictures of us and their friends (keeps them quiet) and putting them up on our display areas if their good enough. To that end, we could not avoid receiving the odd picture that is somewhat less than complimentary. Here are three I received last week from two kids in my class.

This is a birds-eye view of my classroom with it's big purple table and splayed-out chair legs (apprently). The figure on the right is me with my back turned. The sort of, blue lump on my butt depicts a rip in my trousers. - As drawn by the girl who keeps threatening to kill me, Judy

My sister drenching me with a fire hose. I'm saying "uak!" and she is saying "hahahaha" - drawn by Judy.

and the crown-jewel in the teacher lampooning… crown?

Jon Teacher and I drawn with high heels and facial hair. Kissing. My favourite parts are: The heart floating up, the facial hair is depictive of our own - with my usual stubble and Jon's full beard, the caption "David & Jon is kiss", the arrow telling us that it's a kiss, the bill-like puckered lips, the ampersand that looks more like an '8'. Drawn by Julia

Sigh. There are some sweeter pictures they occasionally draw, such as those kimbap pictures when I said I was sad that my favourite kimbap restaurant closed down. Thanks Henny and even Julia this time.

I told my class that my favourite Kimbap restaurant had closed down, so they drew me some kimbap.

Weird Science

Weird Science.

Since the start of the new academic year in February, I’ve been appointed as the hagwon “science teacher”. Since the only contact I’d had with kids (in a teaching context rather than also being a kid too) before arriving here was vaguely science related you would have thought that I could bring something to the role. Last year Jon had been in charge of science, not sure what he’s doing now instead, and most of what you’re about to read he had experienced with a different supplier before, as I looked on.

Most of our subjects here centre around text books imported from America and as such contain many spelling/grammar errors (from my perspective). Regardless, at least they make sense. Our science and art requires materials that would be too much hassle or expensive  to ship from and English speaking nation. As such a Korean company writes the textbooks and associated media, such as posters and teaching guides. They also send us science-toy kits for the kids to put together, which are usually pretty fun and occasionally don’t work at all. The two below I taught with last Friday afternoon, a ‘rotating garden’ and an anemometer.

anen... anemem... ananememom... anemometer

fun but with strange keywords and difficult names

The best and most frustrating part is the truly strange English they use throughout. Clearly none of this has been passed under the nose of a single native or fluent speaker, perhaps it has but they thought it was all too funny. Take that rotating garden above, those are cogs right? No, according to the literature they are “saw-toothed wheels”. Any regular Korean teacher would probably just go ahead and teach kids that they are called “saw-toothed wheels”. As well as having strange terms for things, the Science curriculum is littered with grammar and spelling mistakes. A constant offender is use of the word “pill’ instead of “peel” (eg. “pill off the protective vinyl from the mirror”). Another minor but irritating issue I find is that in the student book, there are trace-the-word type exercises that use typing fonts rather than writing ones, so kids are asked to trace odd typing style ‘a‘ and ‘g‘.

Occasionally there are just these fantastic spurs of non sequitur set-up phrases and keywords. Pictured below is the absolute pinacle of this, as seen on Jon’s class’s science introduction poster. Try to guess the other Practice Word from they experiment, covered with a blue box. I guarantee you wont get it. I’ve linked to the original image on my Picasa, along with my theory at to why it’s a keyword.

Below is a list of errors or weird lumps of English used in the literature this Month.

Keywords and age groups this month:

3-4 year olds

  • Thermometer, eye, giraffe, face
  • Frictional heat, picture, frame, wood
  • Bones, leg, motion
  • Ploarized light film, bright, box

4-5 year olds

  • oil, tower, tube, liquid
  • magnet, top, cat
  • Anemometer (I have difficulty saying this one), strong, wind
  • weathercock, compass, direction

5-6 year olds

  • light, heart, black, rectangular
  • mirror, magic, coin (picture depicts 20 or so coins), moneybox
  • Saw-toothed wheel, machine, garden
  • metal marble (ball-bearing surely?), capsule, worm (picture depicts a caterpillar)

Other mistakes/ weird statements in this month’s science:

  • And the thermometer is helping us to see the change of volume of alcohol. [sic]
  • Sometimes the frictional heat can cause fires on mountains. [sic]
  • What is in our body? What is the difference between a squid which has no bones and other animals with bones? The bones give us form to our body. [sic]
  • Explain that the bones are made out of hard substance which can protect our important organs. [sic]
  • Tell that in order to keep the bones hard, you have to drink milk and eat anchovies which have a lot of calcium. [sic]
  • And oppositely you cannot see well when there is a little bit of light. [sic]

On the up side, I now know exactly what an anemometer is and how to spell it.

Garosu-Gil, hangul stickers and an artist I like. Not a run-of-the-mill 6th Month update.

I’ve been in Korea 6 months, wow. Right, on with the blog.

On Sunday Rich, Ha Young and I went to Garosu-Gil following the recommendation of a blog who’s sole purpose (Seoul Purpose – once again another fantastic blog name) seems to be to catalogue Seoul and the greater area in terms of metro stations. Find them here: Seoul Sub→urban

I was convinced by this part of their post in particular:

Garosu-gil often gets exaggeratedly described as the ‘Paris of Seoul,’ and though this is fanciful thinking it does have a distinctly different vibe to it than other areas of the city.  There’s as much French on signs here as there is English…

Not only were their snippets of French on business signs but we actually passed a hip-looking, young Korean street-vendor conversing in French to some young… French people.

Here are a few shots from the area, if there’s anything more impressive than the buildings and the extortionate prices, it’s the beautiful and overwhelmingly expensive looking people who seem to funnel their way onto the streets in great quantities.

outside a restaurant

can you guess what kind of establishment has this sort of lavish metalwork on its building?

really want some of those sake milk-cartons

Japanese... booze cart?

I took loads of photos of loads of people on that corner, I just like the aesthetic

Just before he looked right into my lens. I wonder if he is famous or whatever.

There were also a large quantity of Japanese restaurants. We had some delightful bento and little baby cans of Asahi as service, at a place called Hokkaben. It wasn’t that cheap, but then, nothing in the area is.

Bento at Hokkaben

Asahi, Woolworths can style

All of those pictures and more in my Sixth Month Picasa set, here neatly tag separated for you.

Second point of business, I’ve finally bought some hangul stickers for my keyboard. I’ve put off doing it for a while and even looked into getting the keys replaced, since I am loathe to sully my delightful macbook. I’ve had it coming up for a year now, so we might even be nearer the ‘last dent’ phase rather than ‘first scratch’. Regardless, they are stuck on now, they are’t particularly ugly or pretty. Perhaps my Korean typing will improve exponentially. To celebrate I’ve taken up the arduous task of typing out my Korean lesson notes into Google Docs. EXCITEMENT.

Thirdly, I’ve finally checked back to read the finale of Anders Loves Maria – a visually delicate but emotionally compelling, very adult story of a young man and woman who decide to have a baby. Each make mistakes that seem incidental at the time but unravel, sending shockwaves through the whole narrative.

I hope she doesn't mind me lifting this image from the site... I've linked back and everything

#153 – Jag hade en gång en dröm

It seems incidental that this story is in ‘webcomic’ form, I’d say that it’s really more of an online graphic novel. I’ve linked to the first page in the title back there, I urge you to spend a little time reading this 300 page story, I don’t want to give too much away. Back? Okay the Swedish lady behind this, twitter/blogger extraordinaire Rene Engström seems to be producing a new diary comic with some lovely graphics on her Tumblr blog.

10 mins .11

Slogans, jumpers and t-shirts in Korea are renowned for having some bizare nonsense written all over them in English. Probably as some form of global, cultural response to our desire to get pretty chinese symbols tattooed all over our necks, saying no doubt ‘picked seven frog’ or ‘table for two’. Here is a diamond I found on a t-shirt in an actual department store manufacturers outlet.

FYI those coordinates put us on Old Harrow lane in Greater London

Accept an invitation to MUSTACHE That's a country's people who is look like penguin from behind use to wear cylindrical hat. Bowtie with gorgeous mustached nad carry a cane. OUT PORT FLIGHT by BON

10 mins .10

I started to write this post months ago but ended up sort of forgetting about it when I got some of the Korean mis-spelt. I haven’t bothered to fix it properly or added enough to declare it ‘finished’. Anyway, in record time for writing (at least this paragraph), here is today’s short blog.

By the way, I know I didn’t do one a few days ago, it wasn’t because I was sad or anything (I didn’t know about the death yet), I think I was just too busy. Whatever, I don’t work for you.

Useful phrases 1.


Working against the tide of flavourless phrases such as “hello”, “how much is this?” and “help!”, here is the first instalment of Korean phrases designed for a gentleman or lady to keep their head above water in a Korean social situation.

포도주를 한병 따다 – Uncork a bottle of wine.

(po-do-ju-lul han-byeong dda-da)

포도주 – wine  (포도 – grape)

를 – subject marking particle for the object of a verb (the thing that you are talking about, that something is going to happen to)

한병 – one bottle (한 나 – one, 병 – bottle counting particle)

따다 – to uncork (or open/pick/cut off/quote)

까마귀 학이 되랴 – Once a crow, always a crow.

(gga-ma-gwi ha-gi dwi-lya)

literally: “crow crane impossible” – a crow will never be a crane. Equivalent of ‘Once a knave, and ever a knave’.

까마귀 – crow

학 – crane

이 – subject marking particle for an object

되랴 – is it possible (in this sense, it implied that it is impossible). Shortened form of the highly formal, normally unused 될 수 있을까 (dwil su it-sul-gga)

Death and Far Away

Serious blog post for a moment if I may. I was weighing up whether to post about this or not, but the fact is, it’s affecting my life in Korea so it may prove a useful discussion for people in similar situations while living in Korea or abroad elsewhere, far from home. For others I hope it stimulates thought on the subject.

This morning I checked my email on my phone in my regular half asleep sort of manner, still quite horizontal, between snooze presses. I got an message from my Mum telling me that my Great-Auntie had died. I’m pretty sure that it hasn’t quite sunk in yet.

She was perhaps the kindest person I’ve ever met and has always been everyone’s favourite relative. At the ripe old age of 90 years and deterioration with Alzheimer’s for the last few years, her death hasn’t been that much of a shock.

The problem I face, and can’t find a solution I feel completely satisfied with, is that I am right now in Korea and my family are in England. I couldn’t be further away really. I feel a duty to be at the funeral, as should anyone else who met her. Doing so is very difficult logistically, if not impossible. Assuming I could find and afford a flight home as such short notice, I doubt my contract would be robust enough to allow a few days off. I suppose this loops back into the unforgiving contracts and visa conditions that we English teachers in Korea sign ourselves into. I’m pretty sure that if I asked for the couple of days off necessary for flights, I’d be refused. If I took them nevertheless, I’d be fired.

So what I have here is an overwhelming sense of futility, without a chance to say a tearful goodbye properly in the company of my whole family.

So incase she has found a computer in heaven*, has worked out how to use it, has had her marbles restored to her and has found my blog:

Goodbye Auntie Hilda, I will miss you phenomenally.





* for the record I don’t believe in heaven and I’m pretty sure that she didn’t either.