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Don’t be Afraid of the Foreigner

20 Sep

Koreans are generally humble people, and almost to a fault in regard to their English speaking abilities. Their lack of confidence in their linguistic aptitude tends to manifest as an uber-shyness around foreigners, which presents quite the challenge  both as an English teacher and wandering nomad currently situated in Korea.

And so this video caught my eye as it came through my facebook feed earlier today. Seemly as part of its continuing efforts to become a global, foreigner-friendly nation, the following commercial is being broadcasted in attempts to diminish language barriers. Said commercial can be viewed below.  A bit of foreshadowing: hilarity ensues.

To dispel any confusion, essentially the concept is that multiple foreigners attempt to speak to the Koreans in their mother tongue, while the locals go to ridiculous lengths to avoid confrontation in fear of being misunderstood or making a blunder. And so the message is to, as the little girl does at the end of the video, say annyeonghaseyo (hello in Korean), instead of being fearful of speaking to foreigners.

Could you even imagine an equivalent campaign happening in North America? Oh Korea!



Koreans – They got the Power

26 Jul

On July 5th, CNN reported that authorities had evacuated 3,000 workers from a 39-story office building following reports that the structure had shook for about ten minutes. You can read about it here. What was strange about the incident, is that no traces of an earthquake were recorded during the period of the reported tremors. Nonetheless, tenants fled the building; one quoted stating that the building felt as if it was shaking up and down.

Tenants may have heard this catchy tune blaring through their walls just prior to the traumatic event:

Thats because 17-middle aged foggies were practicing their regular Tae Bo routine to this song. Tae Bo is the spawn of Tae Kwon Do and boxing, and has been made popular in the western world by fitness master Billy Blanks:

If you were ever striving for bodacious man cleavage like his, now you know what it takes(can cleavage even be bodacious?)

Anyways, apparently Snap (the musical maestros responsible for the tune above)  really convinced those Koreans that “they got the power”, as CNN is now reporting that their fitness routine is what caused the ‘earthquake’,

Prime Group, owner of the 39-story TechnoMart commercial-residential high-rise in Seoul, said 17 middle-aged people were working out to the pop song “The Power” by Snap on July 5 when their movements set the upper floors of the tower shaking for 10 minutes, according to a report from the Korea JoongAng Daily.

Scientists recreated the event in the 12th floor gym, according to a report in the Korea Times.

“We observed the vibrometer while performing the same kind of aerobic exercise that was performed at the time of the shaking which occurred on July 5. We noticed that the shaking was felt in the upper floors while the exercise was being performed while no other place showed signs of tremor,” Chung Lan, a professor of architectural engineering at Dankook University, told the Korea Times.

“It just happens to be that the vibration cycle caused by Tae Bo collided with the vertical vibration cycle unique to the building,” Chung told the Korea Times. The action amplified the building’s vibration and caused the shaking, he said.

Impressive. My workouts barely manage to move my lump of a body, never mind  a whole building. I wonder if Koreans don the sporty du rag during Tae Bo like they do during my tennis lessons?


PS As I was finishing this post, a similarly fantastic/horrid song came on my iTunes.

The Killer Bee and Me

20 Jun

….aka The Reason I’m Blowin’ This Popsicle Stand

An unfortunately familiar wave of procrastination is what led me to commence packing and laundering in the wee hours of the morning, just hours prior to my Seoul trip in early May. As I was folding the final round of clothing, what I perceived to be a giant black fluff flew off my dress. And then it flew higher. And higher. And higher. And higher. Until it flew so high that it reached my ceiling light, at which point I deduced that this fluff was no fluff at all, but a flying savage beast whose sole purpose was to pirate whatever sleeping hours I could have hoped to have salvaged at this point. To protect myself from the terror imposed by the brute perched on my lamp shade, I quarantined myself in my laundry room. This safe zone is from where with once tired eyes, now wide as saucers, I deduced that my foe was in fact a bee the size of bird. Okay maybe a baby bird…..err a fetal bird. In all honestly, no embellishments, the monster was at least 2 inches long and quite stocky. Let’s just say if I owned a DSLR camera that my work would be currently gracing the pages of National Geographic.

As my writing of this post would prove, I did eventually make it out my laundry room; with my boss as my champion, swooping in and trapping the devil in a tupperware container completely unfazed (though likely rolling her eyes throughout). The ease to which I was rescued left me completely mortified, but not surprised, as just about any insect larger than an ant can induce in me a fit of panic.

However, while dining with a friend last week, a familiar fiend buzzed into the joint, leaving my friend genuinely shaken(at least slightly). Which brings us to tonight, when said friend told me that he was convinced that we had in fact encountered the Asian Giant Hornet (seen above). Wikipedia had the following to say about it’s sting:

The stinger of the Asian giant hornet is about 6 mm (¼ in) in length,[3] and injects an especially potent venom that contains, like many bee and wasp venoms, a cytolytic peptide (specifically, a mastoparan) that can damage tissue by stimulatingphospholipase[disambiguation needed] action,[4] in addition to its own intrinsic phospholipase.[5] Masato Ono, an entomologist at Tamagawa University near Tokyo, described the sensation as feeling “like a hot nail being driven into his leg.”[3]

An allergic human stung by the giant hornet may die from an allergic reaction to the venom, but the venom contains a neurotoxin called mandaratoxin (MDTX),[6] a single-chain polypeptide with a molecular weight of approximately 20,000 u,[7] which can be lethal even to people who are not allergic if the dose is sufficient. Each year in Japan, the human death toll caused by Asian giant hornet stings exceeds that of all other venomous and non-venomous wild animals combined, including wild bears and venomous snakes.

The giant hornet’s sting reportedly kills around 40 people annually in Japan, which one could argue is rather minute in the scheme of things, but its certainly higher than that of the the common centipede, my ex-greatest foe (said friend also informed me of a poisonous centipede….let’s just eternal sunshine that conversation).

So it’s likely that I am over exaggerating the encounter slightly and am not in fact being stalked by killer bees, however, that won’t wont stop me from taking the precautionary measure of donning this outfit for the duration of the summer…

errr just joking(??)


Washed Away

11 Mar

Every time I turn on the television I feel as if I’ve caught a bit of 2012 and eagerly wait for John Cusak to fumble his way onto the screen (so what if I was the movie’s #1 and only fan)

To my disbelief, the footage is of the recent disaster that struck my neighbors to the East. One can certainly understand my confusion after watching videos such as this:

What I find most frightening is the wall of waves dauntingly flowing towards land. My condolences to anyone who has any missing loved ones in the area.

I have been planning to teach abroad for about 3 years, and it wasn’t until late October of last year that I decided on South Korea vs Japan. Up until the fall I was certain I would be teaching in Japan, but decided to choose South Korea; a decision made mostly based on monetary constraints. Though it’s likely I would have been in Tokyo and out of any grave danger, I think it is safe to assume that exposure to an earthquake of this magnitude during the first few weeks of my new residency may have put a mild damper on the experience. Just maybe.


Yellow Dust Monster

7 Mar

I pride myself in being intuitively aware of current street style, an ability that led to to immediately take notice of the numerous surgical masks being worn around me on a daily basis. These aren’t your plain white or blue surgical masks, these masks come in every print imaginable and are adapted to all markets. For instance, this particular design has struck a note with the male 18-34 demographic:

Despite having a popularity that challenges that of Canada Goose this past winter, I personally felt the trend was too SARS epidemic 2003.

When I inquired about this baffling fashion accessory, the most straightforward answer I received was (said with distant eyes and an eerie tone) “the yellow dust is coming…..”, which may or not be a quote from LOST. Thus I presumed, with true western ignorance(not a proud moment), that this belief must have stemmed from some ancient Eastern folly(and an excessive amount of sci-fi television viewership).

I stood corrected when a fellow foreign teacher directed me here: Apparently the “yellow dust” I was warned of is a spring time meteorological event that originates in the desserts of China and Mongolia, is whisked over much of East  Asia, where it then proceeds to attack the lungs of unbeknownst, unmasked citizens. This along with the “sulphur emissions and resulting acid rain” has compelled me to shop around for a mask for myself, nay, a hazmat suit. I heard that the Sanrio 2011 spring collection is particularly impressive.

In all seriousness, this is mildly frightening. The fellow teacher previously mentioned also warned me that his first encounter yellow dust season made him a little sick ,  endorsing that I embarking upon mine with caution.  And according to the wikipedia page, it is recommended that outdoor physical activity be kept to a minimum during this period, which bodes well for my new marathon fitness regime.