Elwood 5566

Monday Market – King Oyster Mushroom – 새송이 버섯

Posted in plants and trees, Technology, video clips by 노강호 on February 10, 2011

oyster mushrooms growing wild – difficult to find, easy to cultivate

In Britain, we tend to have both mushrooms and toadstools. ‘Toadstools’ is a term, though not exclusive in its use, to describe those cap bearing ‘mushrooms’ which are inedible or poisonous. Unfortunately, many toadstools are indeed edible and there are a number of examples I am competent enough to pick and eat. One of my favourites, which grows and is eaten in Korea, is the parasol mushroom (갓 버섯 – lepioptera procera). In England, this wonderful mushroom is prolific but few people pick it and it is unavailable in shops.

young parasol mushroom – unmistakable

Koreans, like many other European countries, are much more adventurous in their culinary and medicinal use of fungi and a wide range of exotic mushrooms are available. The king oyster  mushroom (새송이 버섯 – pleurotus eryngii) is common  in markets and supermarkets and is also known in Britain as the king trumpet mushroom or French horn mushroom. In Korea it is a common ingredient in stews and a favourite skewered between meat and onion. Though not particularly flavoursome, when cooked it has a meaty, abalone-like texture. Though difficult to find, as they often grow under forest ‘debris,’ they are easy to cultivate.

an oyster mushroom farm

Baby oysters are excellent in soups and stew and freeze easily

Korea is one of the leading producers of  the king oyster mushroom and grown in temperature controlled environments with air cleaning, water de-ionizing and automated systems,  farming is high-tech.  One of the most successful producers is Kim Geum-hee who now owns six high-tech farms producing over 5 tons of mushroom daily.

Kim Geum-hee a pioneer in the art of mushroom farming

Kim Geum-hee is an adorable character and one of Korea’s outstanding agriculturalists. I fell in love with her personality after just one video  partly because the added translations are a little ‘studenty’ but ironically enhance the videos imbuing  them with an enchanting cuteness.

meaty

“Photo by Catie Baumer Schwalb, pitchforkdiaries.com, used with permission.”

The videos about her success are interesting and well worth watching. ‘Kim Geum-hee ‘had a dream about mushroom,’ and later, ‘after graduating fell in love with mushroom.’ Oh, dear, I have bad thoughts.  When I see a room full of cap-type mushrooms I can’t help being reminded of penises. I’m sure many other westerners would have the same response and besides, the stinkhorn’s botanical name is phallus impudicus and before it  was biological classified it was known as, ‘fungus virilis penis effige‘ ( Gerard, 1597).  It’s not just me! You can poke a Korean in the eye with even the most phallic of fungi, of which there are a number of amazing varieties, and not the slightest link will be made to a penis. To Koreans that offensive fungi is simply a mushroom!

There are some excellent ways to use the king oyster mushroom:

Pitchfork Diaries

Ptitchef

Vegan and Korean

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Year of the Rabbit 2011 – Boring Bunnies

Posted in Animals, bathhouse Ballads by 노강호 on February 4, 2011

2011, year of the rabbit

새해 복 많이받으세요! Happy New Year! 2011 is the year of the rabbit and as the Chinese astrological calendar operates through a 12 year cycle, this means that it is particularly pertinent to those people born in 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963,1975, 1987, and 1999. I’m not particularly into any form of astrology and only today read the characteristics of my Chinese astrological animal, surprised at how closely it matched my temperament, only to discover I was reading the wrong one. It seems you can find aspects of yourself in any character, Chinese or otherwise. Call me a cynic! Apparently, rabbit people are kind and fabulous dressers, a trait also shared by sheep people which is the character presiding over my birth year. Unfortunately, I am a total slob when it comes to fashion!

I do wonder however, the extent to which astrological characters, or indeed Korean names, influence ones character. I still have an essay from a student in my last high school,  who wrote that their name, Dong-jo (동조), when written in hanja (東 照), could be translated as ‘leader from Asia. His grandfather had paid a shaman 250.000 for choosing this name. Dong-jo writes:

‘But without mentioning its price, it is still special because it has a meaning that is still leading me through my whole life. Influenced by my name, I always tried to be a captain of a group which I belonged to. It has been natural for me to be class president every year and even when I spent time in New Zealand, I was captain of our school’s house.’

I have met other Koreans who tell me their names have had an influence on their lives. So, I wonder to what extent your life might change if you not only have a meaningful name, but it is also somehow connected with your zodiac character. I have never been enamored with a goat as my western astrological sign, Capricorn, and as equally uninspired by my Chinese character,  a sheep, or my corresponding element, wood. In what way can you rescue anything from the ‘wood sheep?’ My Chinese zodiac sign is as boring and mundane as my western sign!

Bruce Lee, 'Little Dragon,' born in the year of the dragon (1940)

Bruce Lee (이소룡), born in San Francisco, was not only born in the year of the dragon (1940), but his elemental influence was that of metal. Lee had several names but was originally ‘Little Phoenix’ (細鳳), but as this was slightly feminine, it was later changed to ‘Return Again’  (李振藩) as his parents, having since moved back to Hong Kong,  thought he would at sometime return the USA. When he started acting, he adopted the name ‘Little Dragon’ (李小龍)  and it is by he is known in Korean (이소룡).

Bruce Lee's statue in Hong Kong

To what extent was the young Lee influenced by his various names and by the fact he was born in the year of the ‘metal dragon.’ I wonder how he would have fared had he been born one year earlier, in 1939, in the year of the ‘rabbit,’ and a boring ‘earth rabbit’ in terms that year’s element. A dragon suits everything about Bruce Lee’s life, his dertermination, fighting prowess and incredible physique but having him utter ‘the rabbit flicks its tail’ after kicking an opponent in the stomach, as he does in Way of the Dragon,  is more suited to a character in Kung Fu Panda. I quite envy both Dong-jo and Bruce Lee for having names that gave them something to aspire to from an early age. 

Happy New Year and good luck if you too have a boring astrological sign, Chinese or otherwise!

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Cultural Contradictions and Anomalies

Posted in Education, Korean language by 노강호 on January 4, 2011

Korean culture is rich in a number of contradictions mammoth enough in their magnitude to be classed Orwellian and in some cases subsequently rendered as oxymorons.

 

Perhaps the most famous oxymorons

 

With two types of school systems in operation, the state school (hakkyo) and the academy (hakkwon)’, the term ‘school holiday’ is a fine example. Kids yearn for the start of school holidays but unfortunately a holiday they are not as academies, private schools offering every subject from art to English, not only continue operating but increase the hours which they are open.  Any free hours remaining can be easily plugged by enrolling  in the sports academies which provide taekwondo, happkido, comdo (kendo), ballet  and dancing, etc, and which also adjust their hours to take advantage of closure of state schools.

Oxymoron – School holidays are academy days

 

Whoppee...a Korean holiday and business as usual in the academies

 

Holidays are nothing like they are in the west and the idea of someone taking two or three weeks off work in which to laze about or go abroad, are rare. For Koreans a vacation usually amounts to couple of days at the most usually taken at the same time as the rest of the nation. As a result, travelling is extremely stressful and vacation locations packed and busy. And of course, vacations are curtailed by the fact all the academies are open and as such all kids should be studying.

Contradiction – ‘holidays/vacations’  – infrequent, short and usually very stressful

 

an annual mass vacation day (courtesy of Life)

 

‘What do you do when you play?’ I once asked a student.

‘I play the violin.’

‘No, what do you do when you play?’

‘I play the computer.’

‘No!  What do you do in your free time?’

‘I play the piano.’

Well, maybe they misunderstood the word ‘play’ but you probably get the idea. Korean kids often have no experience of ‘playing’ as English children  might and a playground packed with children enjoying a range of games such as tag, football, acting out wrestling moves or doing dance routines,  etc,  is something I’ve seldom seen in Korean schools. Some students will even tell you that studying is their hobby! However, I’ve seen plenty of students sleeping at their desk in the five or ten minute intervals in which British kids would be playing.

Oxymoron – ‘play’ is extracurricular study

 

a ‘vacation’ speciality – the bootcamp

 

And then there are exams! Korean students are always taking exams and shortly before they finish you will hear some reference to their ‘last exam.’ The irony is of course, that this is never their final exam but simply an exam which concludes the current batch.

Oxymoron – final exams are a prelude to the next exam

 

mild compared to a vindaloo

 

Koreans are usually always concerned that their food is either ‘too hot’ or ‘too spicy’ for westerners. Most often they conlfate ‘spicy’ and ‘hot’ both of which it is  not. Although one meaning of ‘spicy’ is ‘pungent’ or ‘hot,’ in terms of range of spices, Korean food is limited with chilli, garlic and ginger, being the dominant ingredients. Cinnamon makes an occasional appearance, usually as a sweet drink but undoubtedly Korean food lacks the range of spices used by Indian, Thai or even Chinese cuisines. Neither is Korean food particularly hot when compared with some Caribbean, Mexican and Indian recipes. The Korean chili is substantially milder than the Habanero and Scotch Bonnet and I have not yet eaten a Korean meal which burns ‘at both ends.’ Several years ago I gave a bottle of habanero based sauce to some Korean friends  introducing them to the point that there exist foods  far hotter than kimchi. However, a raw, hot Korean chili still has the capacity to burn the mouth but it won’t incinerate it as some hotter chillies will.

True – Korean food is spicy – as in pungent

False/True – Korean food is spicy in as much as it uses a three main spices

False/True – Korean food is ‘hot’ – well it’s all relative and depends on personal preference but other national  cuisines are typically hotter.

 

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Just – Why You Shouldn’t Teach English in Korea

Posted in Just - 그냥, video clips by 노강호 on December 13, 2010

Well, my boss, who I have known for ten years, is fantastic but it goes on…

Video link

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Tagged with: ,

More Crappy Ingrish

Posted in Korean language, Photo diary by 노강호 on November 26, 2010

Crappy Korean English is great especially when practiced by schools that specialize in teaching English as a foreign language.

Entertaining!

even better with a pint of Cass

one of my student’s shirts

Almost as good as my all time favourite, ‘Milky Boy’

Fantastic! Great advice… if you can actually decipher it

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Minimal Intervention – Toilet Technology

Posted in 'Westernization' of Korea, bathhouse Ballads, Blogging, Comparative by 노강호 on November 10, 2010

but what;s inside is a gamble

 

This month the Korean census is being compiled and on Sunday afternoon I was visited  by a friendly woman who took my details. Handing me the census form to complete, I sat at my desk by the front-door while she knelt on her knees so her shod feet hung over the small entrance where you leave your shoes. From that position she could just manage to offer me assistance without taking her shoes off and entering my one-room proper. With her at my feet looking up, I felt a little like a Buddha.

 

an unpleasant experience and even worse if there's no toilet paper

 

One of the questions on the census asked if my ‘one-room’ toilet is ‘sit-down’ or ‘squat’ and it would seem that the ‘sit-down’ toilet is more desirable or ‘classy’ than a ‘squat’ job and this might suggest that the proliferation of  such toilets is part of the ‘westernization’ of Korea. Not only are Koreans being encouraged to eat western shit in the form of  fast-food, but they are being encouraged to expel it whilst seated. I’ve had my fair share of squatting in countries like India and Morocco and having to do so in Korea always reminds me of unpleasant digital incursions necessitated by a lack of toilet paper. Of course, Korea has toilet paper, or at least it’s available but if you’re using a toilet away from home there is a probability that  both the toilet you are forced to use and you yourself, are tissue-less and hence a digital dredging will be required. Last time I encountered such a situation I was fortunate that both a hose lay in the  cubicle and a handkerchief  in my pocket (Emergency Dump)

 

Personally, the idea of squat toilets are rich in unpleasant associations but they do offer some advantage on the seated toilet bowl. Firstly, they conform to the Korean ideal of ‘well-being’ in that they ideally align the body to provide the greatest expulsion of waste and in the process help reduce or retard the development of hemorrhoids. Secondly, much less ‘skinship’ is required squatting and most notable are the fact you don’t have to sit on what is a public seat and neither do you have to reach for the  sheets from a communal toilet roll. Nothing is worse than having to sit on those stainless steel toilets in British public conveniences which look great if regularly cleaned, but when not are tarnished with stains of unspeakable origins.

 

I notice many K-bloggers don’t like squat toilets but for those who have traveled and have more than one frame of  reference, even the worst Korean public toilets aren’t that bad; they actually have partitions and doors, are usually made of porcelain, have running water, and there’s never a sea of shit six feet from your backside.  Regardless of where you are in the world, shitting anywhere but in your home is a gamble and the worst you can expect in Korea is a lack of toilet paper,  some bad smells and the need to squat. And unlike some of the more ‘developed’ countries in which I’ve traveled, you’re unlikely to encounter anything ‘seedy.’ I once wet for a piss in a toilet in Denver and what I witnessed can be left to the imagination.  Yes; Korean public toilets often lack toilet paper and they can be basic and require that you squat  but in the scale of things this isn’t that bad. But Korea is full of surprises and it is just possible to discover that the emergency toilet is not only impeccably clean but creatively designed. Last winter, on my way to Seoul, the bus pulled-in at what in the UK would be  ‘motorway services.’  The gents toilet was amazing with a large central, glass atrium which filled the toilet with natural light and under which a large garden flourished. There were even a number of showers. Many bloggers seem to think Koreans have a monopoly on dirty toilets and not  only could I cite truly unpleasant toilet experiences, but also that you don’t necessarily need to travel beyond Britain or the USA to find them.  I’ve taught in British schools where students would piss or shit on the floor because they thought it amusing and I have even seen examples where kids would jam a whole toilet roll in the ‘S’ bend and then cap it with a shit.  Every country has unclean toilets and  a lack of toilet paper does not make a toilet ‘dirty’ it just means you should have carried tissues with the same zeal in which you carry a bottled water in summer.

 

a luxury toilet

 

I  am tempted to refer to the toilet on which you sit as ‘comfortable.’ Of course, this is a  culturally orientated value judgment as Koreans do not find squatting, either on a toilet or waiting for a bus, uncomfortable. It isn’t that a Korean wouldn’t want to read a book or newspaper while squatting, but that to do so seated is preferable. The difference is much the same between that of a stool and an armchair;  a stool is great for milking a cow or weeding the garden but if you want to watch TV or read a novel, an armchair is much nicer.

 

control console

 

alternative control console

 

Basically, Korea has four classes of toilet which may be designated squat, seated, luxury-seated and deluxe-seated. The three classes can be further classified by four bands based on cleanliness: very bad, bad, okay, super nice. The UK, on the other hand, only has one class of toilet, ‘seated’ and though  UK toilets can be ‘super nice’ in terms of cleanliness, I have yet to witness a ‘luxury’ or ‘deluxe’ toilet though it’s been rumoured for a  long time that the Queen has one.

 

Hyundai's electronic bidet

 

Both Korea and Japan have taken the western style toilet and transformed it into a luxury item which has invested bathrooms and toilets with the same comfort one would expect in a bedroom or front room.  If the ubiquitous British toilet is suitable for reading and relaxation, the Korean luxury toilet provides the comfort in which to enjoy the marathon epics of Tolstoy and Wagner.  Many Koreans households now have toilets fitted with an additional tier which is plumbed and wired-in to create a crapper with the  same sophistication  as the Starship Enterprise. Among the state of the art additions are features such as a toilet lid which raises and closes at the touch of a button or even automatically as you enter or leave the toilet. Koreans love heat under them and so a heated toilet seat is ideal. Cleaning you arse properly never really caught on in the UK  and only on the rarest occasions have I ever seen a bidet in a British home. A  recent survey revealed 1 in 4 British commuters had fecal matter on their hands (Telegraph. UK) which would suggest either sinks by a toilet are a rarity or us Brits wash our hands in the toilet bowl before flushing it.  Meanwhile,  over 70% of  Japanese households have a bidet and Korea is rapidly catching up.

 

Korean toilet fixtures provide a high-tech control console from which to activated a bidet and by which the temperature, force, and location of the spray are controlled. Once douched, an anal-dryer kicks-in and blow-dries the entire area. So, far, only one digit has been required to complete a procedure that formally required at the very minimum, an entire hand. Equipped with musical accompaniment, the ability to automatically inject a variety of scents into the air as well as instantly sucking out  foul smells  from almost the exact point of their origin, deluxe models sanitize the entire process and take poo-ing where no one has gone before.

 

a luxury toilet (link to 'Sharon')

 

A luxury toilet in my last high school

 

There seems to be some discrepancy about whether toilet paper should be used before activating the bidet. Some sources suggest ‘wiping away’ excess matter, some suggest ‘patting’ it partially clean, which I guess means removing any ‘crumbs’,  while others opt for the immediate activation of the anal shower unit. I guess it all depends on the consistency of your crap and certainly, while you might be able to ‘pat’ a bum clean that has just expelled the remnants of a Korean diet,  a western diet will render a much stickier, chocolaty mess totally impervious to anything but a vigorous wiping.  The luxury of a hands-free crap, of cleaning your backside without any form of manual intervention is probably only possible on a diet high in fibre and as most waygukins who eat Korean food on a daily basis, will testify, this is achieved when what you expel looks much the same as when ingested. If the contents of your toilet bowl resemble last nights kimchi-stew, your bowels are blessed with  ‘well-being’ and a bidet will free your hands completely.

 

High School toilets, when kids clean them themselves they are less tempted to piss or shit on the floor

 

And often other luxurious bathroom innovations can be found. I worked in one academy where a kids toilet had been designed and not only were there a miniature urinal, sink and sit-down toilet, but the room itself was less than two meters high and the door by which you entered was miniature. The entire bathroom was like something from a doll’s house.

 

toilets for kids

 

great idea

 

For super clean hands, even after crapping 'hands-free' style, nothing purges loitering microbes like the ultra-violet hand dryer.

 

Korean toilets, the shape of things to come...

 

There is so much more to Korean toilets and ablutions than squat loos and lack of toilet paper and putting up with a little discomfort, which could just as well occur ‘back home’ seems to distract some many bloggers not just from what else is out there, but also the usefulness of their experience as a subject. So, next time you find yourself caught short and in a squat toilet with no tissue paper…

 

and then go write about it!

 

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Tissue Trauma

Posted in bathhouse Ballads by 노강호 on October 19, 2010

 

Not suitable for pumpkin people

I was cooling off last night in the cold pool at the bathhouse. With the evenings still a little warm, at least if you’re western, the cold pool is still not too cold. Many Koreans started wrapping themselves up three weeks ago. The memi (매미) only had to stop singing, at just under 29 degrees, for some to start complaining about ‘the cold.’  The last memi I heard was on Saturday 25th of September and given Daegu is one of the warmest parts of Korea throughout the year, I would imagine the Memi stopped singing earlier, further north.

The following week, was still warm and I sweated in class despite the use of air conditioning and a fan but already some students had begun shimfing about it being cold. ‘Teacher! Teacher! I cold! Turn off air-con!” They whined. Like it’s fucking 28 degrees Celsius!  That week I really enjoyed walking home in the evening because there was just the tiniest touch of coolness floating in the air.  Suddenly there were only a handful of people on the street in short-sleeved shirts. And now it’s mid-October, I notice my shower is a little too uncomfortable to use without increasing the temperature. For the last few months even the coldest setting had become warm. And in my school some teachers have already started that typically Korean custom of wearing a coat all day long.

 

cooling off

 

So, in the bathhouse the cold pool (냉탕) is empty. Six weeks ago it was at its busiest. A friend I haven’t seen for a while came and spoke to me. He’s slightly older than me and incredibly fit. He has a short stocky body and is a regular in the gym where he runs for 45  minutes on the treadmill, at a fast pace. He has this habit of entering the cold pool, which you can just about swim in, by springing over its side and into the water. Most of the schoolboys don’t do that and instead enter by the steps or climb into the pool.

 

tissue trauma

We chat for a while, me draped over the pool ledge and him standing. Then he takes his leave and tells me he wants to have a shower and will come back and join me. As he turns around, I notice a white flash from his buttock and walking into brighter light realise he has a few inches of toilet paper dangling out of his crack. I grin to myself and then momentarily ponder which is the greater embarrassment, a bogey hanging out of your nose or residue bog paper clamped between your checks like an insistent napkin.? Instantly, I choose the bog paper because you can so easily tell someone they have a bogey hanging, you simply touch your nose in a particular manner, and they will understand; it’s a discrete and universally understood hand sign. But how do you convey to someone they have paper hanging out their arse? There’s no universal ‘sign’ and I wouldn’t want to risk saying anything in Korean which might compound the problem. Do you discretely touch your buttocks or point around to them?

Without actually verbalizing the problem, I would imagine the only way you could draw attention to it would be to tug on it, like yanking a doorbell or pulling the chain of a toilet!  You  wouldn’t want to tug on it too much or it might pull out and who knows what’s on the other end or how much might  be dragged out.  Best is probably a small tug, just enough to announce a presence  rather than raise an alarm.  By the time I’d finished pondering, the dilemma was over and he was  safely in the shower where the offending bog paper, sloughing down the backs of his legs, started its voyage to the drain. And luckily for him, I don’t think anyone else noticed.

 

 

envirnomentally friendly method

 

 

all too often the problem in Korea

 

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It Can Pay to be a Pygmy

Posted in bathhouse Ballads, Comparative, Entertainment, Gender, Korean children by 노강호 on October 7, 2010

Not suitable for Pumpkin people

My Korean girl students love camp boys, other wise known as ‘flower boys.’ Camp is totally in and the poncier and more androgynous a boy or man is, the better – provided of course, he’s straight. If you dressed a frond of ooo-wong (우엉 – burdock) in fashionable clothes, gave it a nice haircut and sent it flouncing down the street all limp and bendy, girls would swoon.

‘Boys over Flowers;’  highly successful!

Jay Park (박재범) – Handsome or Pretty? Or even pretty handsome!

Boys over Flowers (꽃보다 남자) was a highly successful drama which ran in early 2009, was aired in numerous other Asian countries and has subsequently been identified with the migration of Korean culture to other countries, a phenomena known as the ‘Korean Wave’ (할류). The first ‘wave’ (2005-2009), often associated with Winter Sonata,’ consisted exclusively of drama which gradually gained a fan base outside Korea, predominantly in Asia. With the export package now including  pop music, theater and musicals, a second wave (dating from 2010), can be identified. As an example, the singer Jay Park created more traffic via Twitter, on March 8th, 2010, than did that day’s Oscar nominations. Coined by some as ‘Hallyu 2.0,’ the ‘2nd ‘wave’ has encompassed Egypt, Turkey, Romania,  India and even Uzbekistan. Interest in Korean has increased and a country as small as  Nepal now has 30.000 people a year  signing up for  Korean language proficiency tests.

Burdock, wu-weong (우엉) Limper than a lettuce!

The incredibly popular, ‘Boys over Flowers,’ which has among other things, helped lower the fan-base age associated with the ‘Korean Wave,’ consists  of 29 episodes following the intrigues of a group of  high school boys. The four central characters, often refereed to as ‘F4,’ have been attributed with consolidating the interest in ‘flower boys’ and encouraging men to take more pride in their appearance. As a result, significantly more Korean men now use cosmetics and the current trend for teenage boy fashion is what Americans might call ‘preppy.’

Boys over Flowers‘ (꽃보다 남자) was inspired by the Japanese bi-weekly manga comic, Hana Yori Dango, by Yokio Kamio and ran from 1992-2003.   The magazine was targeted at Japanese high school girls. I find the title, ‘Boys over Flowers,‘ a little clumsy and  feel ‘Boy’s before Flowers,’ a frequently used alternative, much clearer. The title is a pun on  the Japanese saying, ‘dumplings before flowers’, which refers to the habit of being more interested in eating snacks than viewing the cherry blossom during the famous Hanami festivals.  It is the snacks and  festival foods that  are the most alluring; the blossom simply provides an excuse to indulge.  And if you’re not eating the snacks, you’re probably watching the passing boys, especially if they are as beautiful as the blossom.

A Japanese hanami party. Beautiful blossom, beautiful boys, delicious food. What’s your priority?

‘Flower boys,’ basically meaning ‘pretty boys,’ is not in the least offensive and Korean youngsters, even boys, are able to differentiate between those who are ‘handsome’ and those who are ‘pretty.’ Neither identifying someone as ‘pretty’ or indeed being labeled ‘pretty,’ implies  any accusations of homosexuality or effeminacy.

A boy nominated by his class as a ‘pretty boy.’

‘Pretty boys’ have delicate features, soft skin, and are usually a  little gaunt and certainly very androgynous. In terms of western, and certainly British standards, they’d babyishly be deemed ‘gay’ and might even get the shit kicked out of them.  Korean ‘flower boys’ can also get a rough  ride, not because they’re gay, but because  of their pin-up status and ability to capture the hearts of girls and women.   One significant mystery-comedy movie, ‘Flower Boys,‘ often called by the crappy title, Attack of the Pin Up Boys’ (2007), centers on the theme of ‘flower boy bashing.’ There’s no pleasing thuggy straight men who will just as quickly bash you for being gay as they will for being heterosexual and a babe magnet.  Of course,  Attack of the Pin Up Boys is only a story and doesn’t reflect real life. From what I’m led to believe however, the biggest problem ‘flower boys’ face, is in convincing girlfriends they are not ‘playboys’ (바람둥이) because they are often too pretty for their own good.

Leetuk, one of the Super Junior celebrities. A possible candidate for a ‘pretty boy’ nomination.

Unlike many British girls, Korean girls tend to like a boy who is well-mannered, slim and  averagely muscled (which given we are talking predominantly about boys, means skinny), has broad shoulders, is fashionable and  intelligent. Neither do they have to have a six pack or look manly. Indeed, a few of my female students positively dislike both aggressive boys and muscles. But the most important quality of all, one which  constantly supersede all others, is that a boy has to be taller than his girlfriend. Girls can be quite cruel about this requirement and while talking to a class of girls about the celebrity Tae-Yang (태양), I overheard  one call him a ‘loser.’ The reason? He is under 180 cm tall. Basically, if you’re a boy and short your fucked!

Taeyang Big Bang member. ‘Handsome’ or ”pretty?’

Though they wouldn’t understand the word even if explained to them, the definition most reflecting the sort of boys Korean girls like, is camp! In the very words of one of my students,  ‘we’ like boys who ‘look like girls.’ And though ‘handsome’ boys, that is boys who look like men, are attractive and certainly seem to be preferable in terms of a solid relationship,  many girls will swoon in discussions about ‘pretty boys’ even if they prefer the ‘handsome’ type.

Back in Scumland UK, when it comes to boys, many girls have no taste at all often because their priority is a quick rummage in their panties or a passionate-less poking behind the bike sheds and hence prefer boys who are one step up from brute primates and who are valued for being aggressive, butch, sporty, loud mouthed and promiscuous. If British girls demand any prettiness, it is that their lads be, ‘pretty unintelligent.’ Yes, I’m being horribly unfair but in the UK, currently riddled with anti-intellectualism,  teenage pregnancy and sexual diseases, for many, any spark of brain is a turn off.   The reason why the Korean predilection with ‘flower boys’ is so refreshing is that it is a kick in the mouth to the belief that the alpha male is universally appealing. I would go as far as to suggest that in Korea, even the boys and men who look like men pail into effeminacy when compared to the shaven heads and brute physogs of the men that dominant and epitomize so much of British culture. Meanwhile, if you’re a Korean girl with the stature of a pygmy or dwarf, life’s gonna be one big ride!

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Jabbering

Posted in Diary notes, Korean language by 노강호 on September 25, 2010

I’ve been making a concentrated effort to improve my Korean because of late I’ve been bored stupid talking to Koreans. On more than one occasion, I’ve actually been quite rude to people in an attempt to avoid talking. It’s nothing personal and indeed quite the contrary, I can withstand a Korean talking at me for hours on end without waning, but what bores me the most is having to listen to my own drivel. I have developed a range of conversation topics where I can impart my ideas and maybe even respond to a few questions, but unless I can keep control of the ‘conversation,’ I am basically fucked!

Well, a little, perhaps...

My boring litany revolve around being English, being a teacher, learning Korean and hanja, having a taekwondo black-belt, George Bush, and food. I have others, but these are fairly central. Each conversation topic has a number of branches and each of these, sub-branches but very quickly the conversation will reach a point where I no longer hear key words and don’t have the vocabulary or grammar to go further. At this point it is time to jabber.

My Korean skills improve at a laboriously slow rate but my ability to appear knowledgeable,  to appear as if I understand every spoken word, and to ‘jabber,’ have been catapulted to perfection. When it comes to the art of jabbering, my kung-fu is strong!

Jabbering shouldn’t be underestimated or treated with derision as it is an integral part of learning another language. First of all, to jabber, you have to be able to use at least a small percentage of the language. Secondly, you have to recognise various tones of voice because you need to respond to these appropriately. Most importantly, you have to be able to differentiate questions and statements. Thirdly, your skills at reading body language, and using it yourself, are crucial.

Provided both parties  give the appearance of understanding a conversation, this is achieved by strategically interjecting words such yea’ (예)  and  ‘really’ (찐자) at appropriate points, by occasionally stating that you don’t understand a word, even though in reality you haven’t understood the last five minutes conversation,  making the correct body language, and generally latching onto any word you do recognise, and then repeating it, you can ‘converse’ for hours. It would seem that two humans,from totally different cultures  will tolerate a lengthy dialogue in which only a small percentage of the conversation is mutually understood, provided the charade is successfully performed.  Indeed, two hours of mutual jabbering can be quite rewarding.

If a person is willing to jabber with you, and you with them, it is perhaps indicative of a mutual liking for each other and it should be pursued as a friendship could develop. I am often amazed, and saddened, that I have some very close Korean friends with whom  I jabber and yet am still only capable of making ‘small talk.’ I’ll happily talk to any Korean in my attempts to improve my abilities but having to listen to my own drivel has become tiresome.

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A 'Sick' Site

Posted in Education, esl by 노강호 on September 20, 2010

Learning to swear in English

On the subject of teaching swear words to language learners…

When I lived in Germany I had some friends who attended a dinner party hosted by a high-ranking officer. At the party were a couple of middle-aged Germans who had been trying to improve their English . There was a tense silence when, as the port was being passed down the table, one of the Germans declared, proudly and loudly,  ‘vat a facking gut dinner!’ Teaching swear words can have severe repercussions!

My humour is childish but I don’t really care: laughing is good for you and a hearty laugh every day is as beneficial as a little work out.

So, when I accidentally fell onto a Korean produced vodcast focusing on teaching Koreans how to swear, I was rather interested. I was reminded of my first hakkwon experience back in 2000, where one teacher would invent lyrics to the songs that were slowly driving him mad. One day he called me into his class after he’d changed the words of a song from:

‘I’m clicking cat, how do you do? I’ve got the loveliest smile for you…’

Into:

‘I’m clicking clit, how do you do? I’ve got the creamiest clit for you…’

Yes! It was very unprofessional but watching a class of 5 year olds sing a song about ‘clit’s and ‘creamy pussies’ was absolutely hilarious. It’s no justification, but somehow the tedious classes and money grabbing boss who insisted teachers only taught one letter of the alphabet every two weeks, and who treated you badly, diminished any sense of loyalty, responsibility or professional ethic.

Watching a Korean teacher swear in English is just as funny and I’ve replayed the vodcast several times giggling at the incongruity of a Korean (with an accent), saying words like ‘bitch’ and ‘fucking.’ If he was a Korean without a Korean accent it wouldn’t be the least funny. And when he then tells his students not to use swear words, but to listen for them, so that you ‘know what the western bastard is saying,’ all the time with the word ‘fucking’ incorrectly spelt on the blackboard – well, I’m laughing even more. Personally, I’ve never heard the word ‘sick’ used to mean ‘good’ but maybe that’s an Americanism.

Learning to swear in English

I’ve since discovered the Blog,  Brian in Jeollanamdo extensively covered this vodcast  back in July 2010,  and with some pertinent comments, but I nonetheless thought it worth including.

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