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Showing posts from September 25, 2005

Stressed In the City

Right now I am feeling more run-down than I have for a long time. One of my students said to me today "you look dead". There's nothing worse than being told something like that but the truth is that I don't feel well at all. It's not that I'm sick per se - I don't have any real symptoms apart from a constant headache, shaking hands, grinding teeth and a short temper. I think the reality is that I am stressed. I am having trouble sleeping, as my mind races every night with the list of things I have to do the next day. Each day then brings a new challenge or a new thing to worry about and I feel like this sometimes gets in the way of what I am supposed to be doing.

Then again, I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to be doing, apart from teaching - despite the fact that it's only six hours per week, the teaching does take up a lot of time in preparation and so on; and once I have finished, I am exhausted. I was not really prepared for the mental …

Space-Age Student Cafeteria!

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This is a picture of the Sogang University student cafeteria on a beautiful clear September day. Down below is the stadium area where people can sit and watch the football or baseball. At ground level are changerooms and music practice rooms. Pretty cool, huh?

Who'll Come And Waltz With My Tilda?

As part of my Australian Culture course here at Sogang University (in which I now teach approximately 40 students), we spent some time learning the basics about Australia: the capital city, the system of government, what the flag and coat of arms mean and, naturally, the national anthem. I think I mentioned in a previous post that I sang the first verse of "Advance Australia Fair" a capella and pointed out that the original version of the song in fact contains six verses only two are printed on John Howard's website). I used this as an example of the way in which history in Australia seems to be "buried" deep in obscurity; a little like the phrase 'the tip of the iceberg'.

I then sang both versions of "Waltzing Matilda", and related to my students that for some people, this is their preferred national anthem. This song, too, contains layers of meaning - while the song is called "Waltzing Matilda", the swagman within the song is also …

Channel 15

Sometimes, in a fit of boredom, I watch movies on Korean TV. The good thing about television here is that there are very few advertisements during shows; however, the downside is that in between shows, viewers are bombarded with approximately three quarters of an hour of inane commercials. The following is a transcript of what I wrote down during one such "info-session".

movie ends ... woman with yellow ball speaks to little boy ... woman with ultra-slim gadget phone intent on looking seductive ... handsome-looking man in suit and tie asks "are you gentle?" ... girl plays violin in countryside ... boy walks through city ... tie man again ... woman drinks fruit juice at home ... two girls eat pizza and win a CD! ... car in shanghai morphs into car in paris morphs into car on melbourne citylink then parked outside centre for contemporary art: "let the people sing!" ... couple play video games and drink juice ... woman sleeping in white sheets wearing white u…

"Borntobe Chicken"

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The first time I saw this sign on a shopfront in Insadong I thought: mmm, borntobe chicken ... this must be a Korean specialty. Of course, it's really "born to be" chicken - and aren't we all?

For the record, this shop serves delicious fried chicken and pitchers of cold beer. They usually show the baseball on the television. The women who run it are very friendly and the coleslaw is extremely sweet too.

Borntobe!

A Quiet Night In Jongno ...

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Trying To Live Your Life In One Day (Part 2)

Okay. So. Itaewon is an area of Seoul which contains a United States Army base and which is known as a place where westerners congregate. While riding the subway there, I was beset by doubts: did I really want to go to Itaewon? If so, why? Wasn't I meant to be experiencing the real Seoul (ie the Korean Seoul)? All of these thoughts ran through my slightly-addled head but in the end I decided that it couldn't be that bad and that at least I could go home saying I had been there once. We exited the subway station and I was immediately struck by how different Itaewon is from, say, Insadong - it's more like the Kings Cross area of Sydney, with lots of bars and trash on the ground. US military police (known here as "CPs") roamed the streets, enforcing the midnight curfew for soldiers.

We headed to a Canadian bar up the hill, where a fellow-teacher of mine was participating in an acoustic guitar and singing competition. The bar was, well, as you'd expect, just like…

Overheard In a Seoul Hostel

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"Wow, they must have a lot of Nazis over here in Korea."

(Of course, this symbol denotes a Buddhist temple. It is not a Nazi swastika.)

Trying To Live Your Life In One Day (Part 1)

Last Friday, the day I received my Alien ID card, ended up being kind of crazy. After returning to the hostel, I went out again with my Canadian friend Kevin to see some "culture". We walked to the big fine/performing arts centre in Gwanghwamun, and checked out an exhibition of photos about traditional Korean acupuncture. It was quite harrowing. Next we tried to get tickets to a performance of Wagner's Nibelung Ring thingy but they were too expensive so we headed down to the Chonggyechon project - a shallow stream that's been 'rediscovered' under a freeway running through downtown Jongno. It won't actually be opened to the public until next weekend (when there's a huge party that I expect will be packed with lasers, trad dancing and fountains) but already it's looking pretty cool. For a city that's ultimately an ashpalt and concrete jungle, just hearing the sound of water flowing is relaxing. The street is lined with apple trees and you will b…