Trip to Canada confirmed

Ok, so I’ll be flying home for 2 weeks in January from the 14th to the 28th.

Sorry things have been quiet, ‘stuff’ has been going on :)  We are moving as my wife has a new contract starting in March.  So it’s packing all kinds of things.  I still have my Makerspace to finish packing things up and ship back down this way.  This weekend should finish that all up.  Then there is packing our place here, take a trip home and come back to make sure everything is packed for the move.  Still don’t know how we are gong to actually move just yet but that will get sorted out in Feb.  No big deal really.

Not terribly looking forward to seeing all the snow back home given that our temps here are hitting high-single digits this week and not a flake of snow.  Warmest, Christmas, Ever.  Love it!

Trip home!

Well, it’ll be nearly 17 months since my last visit home so it’ll be nice….almost.  See, my last visit home was during the summertime…this time…Winter.  What kinda makes this worse is that where I live now, it rarely gets below freezing and rarely gets snow.  From that to go to Canada during January?  Well, at least it won’t be as bad a February’s are.

Ok, so I’ll be in Canada from Jan 14th to the 28th.  I know that at the weekend of the 18th we’ll be in the Ottawa area.  Outside of that, I’m fairly open to meeting anyone in the Golden Horseshoe area or in the Ottawa area if you live that way too :)

The rough plan is to hit Toronto on the 16th(Thursday) and meet up with people there in the evening at a restaurant.  Then Friday we head out to Ottawa, stay there till Sunday and come back.

I’m staying the next weekend but my wife is not.  (oddly it’s the same price for me staying 3 more days…).  So I have one more weekend back home as well.

Will be nice to have a Tim Horton’s coffee again :D  Oh…and see friends/family too ;)

I met some #North Koreans today!

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.

Internet in #Korea

I’m afraid I have been spoiled…even on the cheap plan.  We are paying a whopping $20/month (3 year plan) and my speed is about 5 times faster than the fastest internet I could get when I was back in Canada where it was costing me $80/month.  So in essence, I am getting 20 times the value on the cheapest plan.  This is rated at 50Mb/second.  Just so we are clear.  That is MegaBITS(Mb) and NOT MegaBYTES(MB).  To put it in layman terms, an average DVD could technically be downloaded in about 2 minutes(assuming a 700MB file size).  Remember, this is their cheapest plan!  Next step up would be 100MB/s which means a DVD could be downloaded in 1 minute.

Now, moving is interesting.  Koreans are really good at customer service and it is pretty top-notch here.  We had to put our internet on hold until we have an address of our new place.   Our provider (KT, Korean only) allows you to put your Internet on hold up to 3 times in one year and for a maximum of 90 days each time.  Way more than most people need I think but awfully damn handy if you are a person who travels a lot for work/pleasure.  So with a bit of language-fumbling around, a few phone calls to friends and/or translation service, we managed to put our internet on hold and then go to the local office here and tell them our new address.

Today the Internet guy comes and apparently he can’t use the current setup.  He has to run a line to our place.

Now, I have to take a break and explain the construction of apartments here for a moment.  Remember that post where I briefly touched on the extreme conservatism that is pervasive here in Korea?  Well that idea applies to nearly everything here and I DO mean everything.  Including the construction of buildings.  In order for the technician to run a cable to our place, it literally will run from the top of the building, along the outside of the wall, and he has to drill a hole and feed it inside to our apartment.  Typically they drill holes through the vinyl frame of the windows and just seal it up with silicone.

Now, he asked me if it was ok to do this.  Well, I can’t just say yes because I’m not the owner of the building.  I have to get permission.  Sure it is probably just fine but I am not going to just assume that.  Koreans(Asians in general?) don’t like you doing things without asking first.  Even if you know they will say yes, they want the opportunity to be able to give you permission.

So now I have to wait and go through a long chain of people to get this number so permission can be had.  The chain, in case you were wondering, goes like this: Me -> Wife -> Supervisor -> Owner.  At lest, I hope it’s only this short.  At least we’ll have the number for next time, should anything come up again.  We will see what happens on Monday when he comes back.

Dreaming in Korean and a look to the future

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

I read this article on China called “The awakening of the Chinese Dragon” and one quote from it sums up the general Asian mentality it seems.

“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.

30 Days of my new Korean-focussed blog and some major changes in my life!

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.