When you are in an Asian country for a while, you will travel. If you do not, then please read “Why are you in Korea?” and learn. To that end, people gather things from around the world including candy.
Yes, it’s a real Kit Kat, and yes, it actually tasted good. This was from China, a friend went there and brought it back.
This post will cover South Korea but in reality, it’s about people.
I realized something important when we went to Thailand in 2011. Sure petting a tiger is pretty awesome but nothing compared to the people we met. We met this girl, her name was Merav. She had been traveling for quite a few months in Asia and still have more to do. We found out that she was from Israel and is a dance performer. We had an awesome time sitting and chatting with her.
When we went to Indonesia, we went to visit from people who my wife met the first time she came to visit South Korea. We had the hardest time paying for anything while we were there! I had to sneak away from the table once to pay for our dinner and they were shocked that I did so. The Kindness that we found in a Muslim country was unparalleled.
In South Korea here, we have met friends that will be so till the day we die. This next person is Ahyoung. An extremely pleasant person who has gone out of her way to make us feel welcome here. When she worked at a coffee shop in Itaewon, she invited us there for breakfast, before the place was officially opened, made us breakfast, coffees and didn’t charge us a dime! We were stunned.
Today we went to a Korean BBQ place (lovingly called Meat Home) to celebrate my birthday with friends.
Everyone who was here was a completely new friend to us and we have damn good food at this $14, all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ place.
These people, whom I have only met just once, were kind enough to join us for supper and even got me the beset cake I have had since I’ve been in Korea!
We still haven’t even got to the coolest part yet :) See, those who know me, know how much I love Dragons. I was a little saddened to find out that, despite being distantly related to the Chinese, Koreans have very little Dragons as far as imagery goes in their culture. You’ll find some images at BuddhistTemples but not much beyond that. My wife met a foreigner here who bakes cookies. Not just any cookies but once that are damn near hard to eat because they are so damn artistically beautiful works!
This is what I mean by the people we meet. The skills that I have seen in these people are simply stunning and awe-inspiring!
The people I have shown here are by NO means complete. I’d be here for a week solid if I tried to write out every single person we have met and became friends with!
So, if you have never traveled outside of your own country, you are SERIOUSLY missing out. If you have a child that is thinking of college/university, then open their minds and soul to studying abroad! They will get a great education that goes beyond the textbooks and will give them a perspective on the world that is impossible to be had by staying in their own country.
SOUTH KOREA – Exercise normal security precautions
There is no nationwide advisory in effect for South Korea. Exercise normal security precautions. (emphasis mine)
Unlike their warning for North Korea.
NORTH KOREA – AVOID ALL TRAVEL
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against all travel to North Korea (officially named the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) due to the uncertain security situation caused by North Korea’s nuclear weapons development program and highly repressive regime.
There is no resident Canadian government office in the country. The ability of Canadian officials to provide consular assistance is extremely limited.
The U.S. Embassy informs U.S. citizens that despite current political tensions with North Korea there is no specific information to suggest there are imminent threats to U.S. citizens or facilities in the Republic of Korea (ROK). (emphasis mine)
The US Embassy on North Korea:
Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of
March 14, 2013
The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens about travel to North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK).(Actually, they go into rather LARGE depth in their warning.)
So stop your belly-aching and whining and fear-mongering about North Korea. The news is NOT your friend in this (or any other really) matter. They are there for one reason and ONE reason only….to make money but oh, they got you sooooo good. There are people who are listening to some fear because of fancy words put into the media, fueled even further by paranoid families that they have decided to quit their English teaching jobs here and go home. They don’t put a single, solitary REAL thought into the possibility of it actually happening. They only listen to the media (yay for profits!) and give up to their fears.
Have a nice flight home you people. Those who don’t bother to look into things for themselves. Those who let others make decisions for them. Those who have no spine.
War does NOT make a ruler popular. The Kim dynasty has a history of making threats after leadership change. This is all ‘sabre-rattling’. It is a ‘war of words’. It is all talk. If you think the vast majority is poor now, how do you think they could possibly handle any-type of prolonged fighting? Hell, even China is getting pissed at them, and China is their only real friend (not counting the Iran connections…).
Nothing is going to happen.
If it does, you have my explicit permission to say “I told you so.” Till then, Grow a pair!
A quick word on holidays here. If you plan on going to another part of the country (particularly heading South from the North), you shall be classified as clinically insane. A Drive from Seoul to the southern coast is usually around 4-5 hours, depending on stops and breaks that you might take. The same drive during a major holiday has been known to take 15 hours! Trains are a much cheaper and quicker way to go but you had damn well better book in advance to get a seat on one.
Ok, back to Cherry blossoms.
Viewing this relatively short blooming event(about a week when it is best to see them), can be challenging. Weekends, while the most obvious free time, are also the most free time for the 50 Million other people living here. Last year we tried to go only slightly early but there were very few blooms because we were too early. Two weekends later we were too late as most were on the ground.
This year, however, we are quite blessed to be in the South and living in a city where the streets are lined with them :) So we get to see them everyday! That being said, we still plan on hitting the Jinhae festival, as crazy as it will be, just to experience it once. After that, we’ll never do it again. It’s kinda like going to a theme park on the nicest saturday of the year….everyone is there…quite literally, everyone.
I have a friend here who volunteers teaching English at a North Korean school. I mentioned that I’d like to teach computers and would be willing to do some at the school he goes to. Today he took me there so I can meet the person who runs the school. It seems the guy in charge didn’t think it would work out, mostly his reason was because of a language barrier(my Korean is still not quite conversational) but I think that is a wrong way to view it. I believe they could overcome that and it would be a great chance to exchange language, culture and love of tech.
My friend suggested that I talk to his students at the end of his class about Canada. So I waited around and when his class was nearly done, he came to bring to his students. We decided to talk more about computers and what the North Korean students knew about them from their home country.
First let me tell you about the students themselves. They are all young people, about their late teens to early 20s at best. There were 5 of them, 1 girl and 4 boys. The girl and one guy were sleeping.
“I let them sleep, given the hell they have gone through.” said my friend. I can’t say that I blame them. I also can’t say that I could ever truly know what they have been through. One of the boys said that if they left their town, they would be killed by law if they were caught. So yeah, not exactly a fun place to live and it is most likely that whatever family they left have already been killed to make an example of those that have escaped.
Ok, back to computers. One boy said that they were shown pictures of a computer, told to read some material then given a test to write on what they learned. Not so much a computer education class but more like a ‘computer awareness’ class it seems. Another boy said he was able to play a game on a computer once. No, I’m sure it wasn’t anything like Skyrim but probably something closer to a 90s style game but we didn’t go into details. The first boy said that the person who had a computer was a ‘rich person’. I told him that I had 8 computers at my club but definitely wasn’t a rich person.
My friend had them tell me where they were from in North Korea and I used my Galaxy Tab to bring up Google Maps. Using the Satellite View, we were able to see some pretty amazing details on streets and houses in his home city. Sure, it wasn’t Google Street View but the details were a lot more than I had anticipated. The first view was just the standard maps view, which showed not much at all. I decided to switch to Satellite view and got some real definitions of city objects. The one boy showed me the statue of Kim Il Sung in his home town, his elementary school and the place where he played football. What struck me as being surprising was the overall design of the city. It was like any other city you may have seen. There were a fair number of houses and any other number of buildings you would expect to see in a mid-to-small sized city. This lead me to immediately realize how much ‘anti-North Korean’ propaganda has been fed to us. Sure their lives aren’t exactly rosy and they certainly don’t go on family vacations to the beach on the other side of the mountains but despite that, the city looked absolutely normal.
I do hope that I have an opportunity to help them out with the skills I have but I suspect that I really could use some better Korean any ways. It was an enlightening experience any ways.
So lately I’ve noticed an interesting shift in my dreams. Korean is becoming part of them. One might think that it is an obvious thing to happen but it has taken nearly 2.5 years for such a thing to do so. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t fully accepted my need/desire to learn to speak and understand the Korean culture here. I have made many Korean friends and been asking more and more questions on their culture and attitudes. No I haven’t been doing any “horse dancing” in them but I have spoken a little Korean in my dreams. It is an odd thing to experience I find. Not bad…just….odd.
Now we are moving in about a week from today. It’s going to be a very strange move because we have to do it twice. I am more concerned about my poor cat, who will not understand too moves, let along the 5hr drive south to the new home. Packing is coming along slowly but luckily it should be better. It has taken us these many moves (since we left Canada) to slim down on our stuff. I think this move will last quite a while. Heck, I already like the temps that are being predicted for our new city. Nearly 100% in the positives for the next week but Seoul is still hovering around 0m +/- 4C. Sacheon is about +3degC warmer on average it looks like. We will literally be moving right into spring weather :D
“You can be rich and enjoy the good life as long as you do not interfere in politics.”
This is going to be Asia’s biggest challenge, regardless of which Eastern country you live in. That single statement has a serious problems. See, the whole point of politics is that it represents the will of the people (in a Democratic world that is). When you have the largest population in the world, your control over them has a finite time. You cannot stop the inevitable. You cannot stop them from learning that they can be more free to do as the other countries around the world do. Trying to keep things otherwise is doomed to failure. South Korea has been following the West’s concept, with a slight twist. The people believe they have more freedom now than they did just a few short decades ago. To some extent this is true but it is a limited perspective. The amount of debt is insane now. How can anyone have freedom that is based purely on the debt they accumulate every single paycheck they ‘earn’? They have not been told the truth about money and this is simply another time-bomb waiting to explode as well.
For me, I can only hope to help educate people and get them more in balance. Koreans (Asians) are way too left-brained orientated and my goal is to open a school that caters to the starving right-brain that I see. I have started with my Open Brain House and plan to see this concept grow.
Well, I said I’d give up all Social Media and focus solely on setting up this new blog for 30 days and I have done just that. I also said that I would have one new post each day. This was a little tougher than I thought but sometimes old habits of ‘being busy’ creep back. Despite a 3-day lack, I made sure I made up for it and even wrote one post in advance! So I consider that a win :)
Now that I have all my old and new content here, I can focus on expanding my connections and seeing where it will take me. I still plan on being loosely affiliated with other social accounts but I no longer plan on utilizing them as much as I did. To be honest, that one single revelation I had about “if you aren’t adding to humanity you are just part of the noise” made a big impact on me. To this end, I have now enabled all kinds of social sharing, so that my posts can be read by those who don’t read a lot of blogs but I don’t plan on being on them extensively.
Now, that being said, time to update everyone on some changes that are happening very soon for me. I am moving. My wife accepted a contract in the very most southern part of South Korea (Sacheon). This is going to be an awkward move. Mostly because her current contract ends on the 23rd but the new one doesn’t start till the 1st. That’s quite a gap of time where we are literally in limbo. We are fortunate that the new contract recruiter has free storage for our belongings. This alleviates some issues but the next question is, what about us and our cat? Still working on this part.
Now, as for the place we are going, well not much can be said about it. It only has a population of 114,000 and it on the southern coastal area of the country. I had to go down to that area once and I did like it a lot. People are significantly less in a rush compared to Seoul. I would even consider driving there without too much worry. Driving in Seoul? Not without armor plating because I’d be sure to run the vast majority of idiots off the road.
I previously mentioned that I was considering University here. This idea has been scrapped. Korea has zero mechanisms for ‘adult admission’, especially adults with no prior university education, unlike Canada. They will not budge on this and the Government has never considered this at all. This is one, of many, areas where South Korea’s education system fails miserably.
So, I turned to online courses. Of course, I will would like to attend KAIST. Their course looks really good and they have a heck of a reputation, despite the number of suicides last year. I found Open University in the UK. They seemed to have a decent certificate course that was reasonable in fees as well as course material. So I emailed them, told them of my situation (Being a Canadian who is currently in South Korea) and got told:
Due to government restrictions on higher education study in some countries, modules that have been approved for worldwide study are not necessarily available in all countries. For example, in some countries students are not allowed any ‘contact’ with the distance learning provider during their studies; the definition of ‘contact’ taking any number of forms including online tuition.
The modules required for the T12 are not available to students resident in Canada.
Well, that just sucks. Kinda defeats the purpose of calling yourself a ‘open’ university and brag about being ‘online’. Yet another failing of educational advancement in modern times. So, now I am hunting again to find someone to take my money(within a reasonable amount, not looking for some stupid $50k/year program) and be accredited.