Elwood 5566

Winter Returns to Daegu

Posted in Daegu, Diary notes, seasons by 노강호 on March 7, 2010

Top of Apsan Mountain (앞산)

Just when you thought it was safe to ditch the duck down thermal anorak, and winter suddenly reappears. After several afternoons with spring in the air, Sunday morning saw Apsan Mountain, Daegu, dusted in snow. So, after an invigorating bowl of chicken and ginseng soup, we took the cable car to one of Apsan’s summits. It was freezing with icy patches underfoot and a wind that stung the ears. Icicles hung from the summit buildings and surrounding trees were covered in a powdery snow.


Daegu and even much of the lower mountain however, remained spring-like, if not a little cold.

When the sun rose on Thursday morning, most of the city was under snow. Unlike England however, the buses were all running and no schools closed.

Close to Mega Town, Song-So

A Small park

Through the trees

By mid-morning the world was slushy!


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Celebration of the First Full Moon

Posted in Diary notes, Quintesentially Korean, seasons by 노강호 on March 1, 2010

Full moon

Sunday the 28th of February (2010) is the celebration of the new year’s first full moon. (대보름). This occurs on the 15th day of the lunar new year.  I was wondering why the markets and supermarkets were suddenly full of nuts, walnuts being  the most popular, and discovered that one of the celebration’s traditions is to crack open nuts with one’s teeth as this is supposed to guarantee their health throughout the coming year. Other traditions include mountain climbing, especially to see the rising moon as well as eating five grain rice (오국밥). Yakshik (약식), a tasty rice cake containing chestnuts, pine nuts, honey and sesame oil, is also eaten. Celebration is more noted in rural areas where dried grass is burnt. Originally, this occurred between rice fields and was probably a means of killing insect pests.

Oranges Galore – Monday Market

Posted in Food and Drink, fruit, Monday Market (Theme), seasons by 노강호 on February 24, 2010

Chejudo Mandarins

I forgot to mention the mandarins/tangerine variety of orange in my post before Christmas. Usually from the sub-tropical Chejudo, the southern most island, these are delicious. They are usually sold at varying prices with the sweetest being more expensive. However, even the cheaper ones can be relied upon to be persistently sweeter than mandarins/tangerines sold in the UK. A general distinguishing feature of Chejudo  and oriental mandarins/tangerines  is that they are loose-skinned and seedless. Their name derives from the bright robes worn by the elite mandarins of China and the fruit was formerly reserved especially for the mandarin class. Mandarin and tangerines sold in the UK are often not loose-skinned or seedless, are often yellower and can be  tart. These  are probably imported from the likes of Morocco. which was the first county to export the fruit to the UK. I have to say, I can eat the Chejudo variety as easily as I would chocolate.

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© Nick Elwood 2010. This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

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Winter – Monday Market

Posted in Food and Drink, fruit, Monday Market (Theme), seasons, vegetables by 노강호 on December 13, 2009

I intended making a visual collection of seasonal fruit and vegetables as they appear and was going to start this in spring, I decided to start earlier.

Persimmon (홍시)

Persimmon (also known as Sharon Fruit. 감, 땡감, 반시, 홍시/연시,꽃감.) Early December and the Persimmon season is over but these ones I bought a few weeks ago. Currently I have around 60 Persimmon in my freezer. Persimmon is called Kam and like the octopus, there are three types each called by a different name which can be confusing. Kam range from hard to very, very soft. If you like sweet and gooey you’ll love the hongshi, sometimes spelt yonshi. This is the softest persimmon and appears in late summer to early winter. It is very delicate, like a fragile bag of water. Unlike the other types of persimmon, which I don’t eat often, these can be easily frozen. They are delicious cold,  simply slice the skin and squeeze and scoop out the jam-like innards. Some coffee shops serve hongshi smoothie. You can also buy dried persimmon, rather like dried apricots but with less flavour. I’m told persimmon is quite high in calories – which is usual as anything delicious tends to be calorie laden.

Oriental quince. (모과)

The Oriental Quince  (Moghwa. 모과) , is used for its fragrance which is slightly appleley. It has a waxy skin. They do scent small areas like cars and small rooms but unless you dangle them under your nose, they’re pretty useless in larger spaces – but they look good. Moghwa appear in late summer and early winter. Make sure there are no small holes in them as these will contain worms. I had one with a small hole which were  fruit flies front door, a piece of gum blocked future access and entombed any inhabitants. If you turn the fruit regularly it should keep into the spring. The moghwa  is used in oriental medicine and can be used to make tea.

Daegu, famous for its apples (사과)

Apples. (사과) I live in Daegu which is renowned for apples and Daegu apples are truly delicious. In England, I rarely eat apples partly as there are so many varieties I never know which ones I like and because they can never be relied upon to be tasty. I suppose the variations in British weather result in fruit which can be sweet  one moment and sour the next. Daegu apples are never sour and they are never fluffy or soft. Some are truly massive in proportions. Recently, a Korean teenager told me that had Snow White been Korean, she wouldn’t have died because Koreans always peel the skin off apples and pears. (and the witch, so he said, put the poison on the skin). In England we tend to wash them, if we can be bothered, and eat them with the skin on – a habit many Koreans find odd.

Cabbages (배추)

My God! I nearly forgot the most important seasonal product of all… The Cabbage – usually called a paech’u (배추) As with most imported fruits and vegetables which I might buy back home, the Chinese Cabbage ( which I think is a pak choy – or maybe its a bok choy???), is a piddly little thing which usually sits in the palm of your hand, is almost pure white and has no green leaves and cost W2000. In Korea when the cabbage season is at its peak, some are colossal in size and this week in the market they cost around W1000 each which is about 50 pence  in sterling. Two will make me enough kimchi for several months. Check inner leaves for signs of caterpillar.

An occasional site, especially in more rural areas, are large vats of paech’u being salted ready for making kimchi. Indeed, in street markets at this time of year you can buy kimchi which has already been soaked in salted water.

Salted cabbages in Cheonan

My Winter 2009 kimchi (배추 김치)

Paech’u after being salted and pasted with kimchi paste. Yes, it looks like something from a road accident but it tasted delicious!

persimmon – 감, hard – 땡감, between soft and very soft -반시, very soft – 홍시 or 연시, and dried – 꽃감.  Oriental Quince (moghwa) – 모과, apple – 사과,  Chinese cabbage – 배추.

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© Nick Elwood 2010  Creative Commons Licence.

Orion Reminds Me – Friday 15th of December, 2000 (Korean Accounts 2000-2001)

Posted in Korean Accounts Part 1 by 노강호 on December 15, 2000

I went for a meal with U-chun this week. She speaks fairly good English. On both occasions we went to a North Korean restaurant which is beyond my taekwon do school and on the last block of buildings before the main road which leads down towards Kemyoung University. Both times we ate kalbitang, which is a beef ribs in a broth along with a side dish of ray fish in a sweet and sour sauce. I am going to give her daughter lessons next weekend.

On Friday, several of the boys in my classes had crying fits – it’s always the boys! A couple of boys had been misbehaving and I was getting stressed out. Next moment a boy called Tom, who is usually very well behaved, wouldn’t sit where I told him and I was beginning to lose my temper just as Mr Lee, the vice principal walked passed. I was so stressed I called him in and though he doesn’t speak very good English, I tried to explain the problem. Well, I expected him to just tell Tom off but instead he took him away. Half an hour later he brings him back. The boy is only ten and he was sobbing uncontrollably. He sat sobbing for the whole lesson. I tried saying sorry but I couldn’t really explain my regret to him. I think he was made to do some kind of exercises, like press-ups or standing with his arms extended until he broke down. I felt very guilty.

When the bell sounded, I went to my preparation desk behind reception and in front of Jo’s office and another boy is sat crying. I don’t teach this boy and he doesn’t have an English name but he is a character who is always grinning and gets on well with all the teachers. Every day he comes up to me, bows, and says hello in English. He was still crying twenty minutes later so I went to a vending machine and bought him some sweets. In what was supposed to have been a free period for planning, I was summoned to teach a class of Nanas. Jo has taken him to Letterland and as usual, nobody was informed. Mr Song, not realising he was on a trip with Jo, even drove to our house to see if he was at home.

On Saturday (16th Dec) morning Pauline called for me and asked if I wanted to go to the city center. I was just finishing my new stretching routine which I have adopted to try and repair my hamstring. We took a taxi to the town center where we discovered an army of riot police as there was some kind of demonstration in one of the squares. It was all very ordered with the protesters sat in straight lines on the ground. A troop of riot police passed us, wearing white tin helmets, grey uniforms and white gloves; they marched in two file rank columns – holding hands. We spent several hours in walking around an area known as Ex Milano which is fairly up market with some very luxurious apartment stores. In this area, which includes a chic street of women’s clothing, called Foxy Street, are shops selling brand names such as Nike, Puma, Ellersee, Rebok and so forth. Tired and knackered, we took a taxi back to Song-so and did some shopping at the E Mart, a large superstore near my house. Here I bought a humidifier, something I’ve never seen in the UK. There was a whole section of them puffing out refreshingly moist air. I have no idea how they work as when you turn them on the instantly begin puffing out clouds of cool moist vapours. Then I bought a Korean childrens book, ‘Snow White’ which translates as ‘Baeksil Gongju.’ I also bought a Korean-English dictionary (note – there was nothing online in 2000 and teachers didn’t have internet connections in their house) and discovered the word for clearing your nose. The word is ‘heng heng’ and it is a sound one hears constantly around backstreets where men snort their nose up into the gutter.

On Monday, the temperature suddenly dropped to minus 5 and it is now freezing cold. I sat in the internet cafe wearing two pairs of trousers and four shirts as I am desperately trying to keep the cold out of my muscles. As soon as Nana got back from Andong, where he goes every weekend, he turned the heating up to 80 degrees; the thermostat is in his bedroom. I don’t mind the heat but the heating system totally removes the slightest moisture from the air so I was glad I had bought the humidifier.

I didn’t go to taekwondo classes this week but I have been following a stretching plan and I think my leg is almost ready to work on but I am going to take it very easy. There are rumours going around Di Dim Dol that I am working in the Letterland School next week, when the winter holiday starts. I’ve also heard that Nana and I have a week off but of course Jo doesn’t tell us anything. On Thursday, Will, a young Sweedish student from Kemyoung University arrived to discuss his teaching hours. Of course, Jo wasn’t in the school when he arrived.  He kept him waiting for two hours before he arrived. On Saturday, he was supposed to take Pauline to the Alien Registration Office, down town but he never turned up for that either and ruined her Saturday morning. Also, in the week he telephoned the two Korean-English teachers, Gloria and Angela telling them to come and meet him over in Yon San Dong, but when they arrived there he had left the school early. I don’t know if it is typical of Korean bosses, or just Jo, but he really thinks he owns you and thinks nothing of inconveniencing you in your own time.

I had a couple of bad classes at Di Dim Dol this week., in fact in one of them I just walked out and told them ‘I wasn’t going to fucking well teach them.’ Twice I have arrived at a class to find it full of students I don’t know and who span the entire ability range. When I ask what has happened to my class I’m told my class list has changed and then told to, ‘just talk to them.’ This is the worst scenario for a teacher as you completely lose control of the lesson, more so when you don’t speak their language.

On Friday, U-chun and I met for lunch and ate bibimbap at a restaurant not far from the school. I had to sit on the floor which is getting easier. On Friday evening Ryo Hyu-sun called for me. He runs a reflexology practice next door to my flat. We drove into the centre of town and had a meal, the usual barbecued meat called bulgogi. I had to sit cross legged on the floor with my legs stretched out in front of me and straddling the barbecue that hangs down from the centre of the table. The problem is that my legs are just too long to go under the tables even though I can now sit for a limit period of time in the correct position. I felt really uncomfortable and and in need of a good fart. Hyo-sun and I spent most of our time with heads buried in respective dictionaries and both of us carry little note books for learning important words. In the west you’d probably assume him to be gay as he is very gentle and always impeccably dressed in a casual manner. At his practise, he usually wears the traditional informal hanbok which is a sort of loose fitting karate suite in a light brown colour with darker brown edges. He is always very feely-touchy and at one point massaged my big toe to make sure the gout was going away. Then he massaged my hamstring when my legs started to ache a little from the uncomfortable sitting position. However, things were spoilt when his girlfriend arrived just after we’d eaten. She ordered a coke a ignored me – perhaps she was shy. Thankfully, she fucked off after I’d paid the bill and I’m sort of hoping that she is more of an accessory than a real girlfriend – but that is wishful thinking.

After the meal my legs were so stiff I could hardly move them. I feel as though my legs are constantly repairing themselves only to be re-broken. We took Hyo-sun’s car, a new people carrier, to U-bang Park close to U-bang tower. This is right in the centre of Daegu. The top of U-bang tower has a restaurant in the form of a flying saucer similar to the tower in Seattle.

In the park we found a cafe, had a coffee and went for a walk. It was a beautiful evening and we didn’t really need coats as the temperature has been warm most of the week. This was the first time since I had arrived in South Korea that I was able to get a good view of the night sky. Orion was almost at the centre of the sky, I recognised it immediately. In Britain at this time of year this constellation sits on the edge of the sky and is very prominent, here it is much smaller, almost insignificant. On the edge of the park, and silhouetted against the sky was the Daegu Opera House. Next, we took the car to a place in the park where two large trees had been decorated with hundreds of tiny white lights. We took several photos and then drove on to the park’s lake, by now it was almost one in the morning. The lake was beautiful with large black hills rising up on the opposite bank and the silhouette of barren trees edged the panorama. High in the sky, almost above our heads shone a tiny half-moon whose reflection was mirrored in the dark water. We took photos of the lake from a small oriental, humped bridge which led to a small temple which was lit from the ground by lights. The stark light emphasized the typical colours that Korean temples are decorated in, a broad spectrum of colours ranging from light to dark blue, here and there splashes of red and yellow and set against a predominantly matt duck egg blue. The mountains, sky, lake and temple created in me a heightened sense of reality that suddenly reminded me that I was thousands of miles away from home, in Korea. During my stay in Korea there are times when I was memorably reminded that I am in a country and culture I had never expected to visit.


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The Letterland Saga – 11th of December, 2000 (Korean Accounts 2000-2001)

Posted in esl, Korean Accounts Part 1 by 노강호 on December 11, 2000

I didn’t really feel like going to school this morning however, I had to get up early to give Dong-soo (박동수) a lesson and then go to my school, Di Dim Dol to meet Mr Jo. Mr Jo is taking Nana and I to his new Letterland School over in Yon San Dong. As usual, Mr Jo didn’t turn up and it wasn’t until we’d telephoned him that he did. He was still in bed when we phoned and he didn’t arrive at Di Dim Dol until after midday.

After he arrived he drove us out to the new school where we are also due to meet the new teacher from Australia. The Letterland School was totally brand new and things like white boards and books were arriving as we entered the building. We met Pauline, the new teacher and after a cup of coffee went to have a planning meeting to discuss what we are required to do when the school opens on Tuesday. This meeting was led by Young-seop (영섭) who is the senior Korean-English teacher, but he is only about 26. Nana and I were given seven books and were told that we were to teach in front of the prospective parents. Neither of us has ever taught the Letterland system and don’t know anything about this method of instruction. Pauline tried to make some suggestions and it quickly became clear that she thought it was only Nana and I involved in this activity.

‘But you’re teaching too,’ I told her. ‘The three of us have to do it!’

‘But I’ve never taught before,’ said Pauline, obviously under the impression we were going to be able to give her some guidance.

‘Well we’ve never taught Letterland either so we’re all in the same boat,’ I replied trying to console her. Pauline couldn’t believe what we were saying and looked very concerned. The meeting was tense especially as Young-seop (영섭) didn’t seem to know what was going on either and of course we couldn’t really make sense of what he was saying. Much of our failure to communicate was derived from the way Koreans respond to negative-type questions, basically any question with ‘not’ in the question (don’t, aren’t, couldn’t etc).

‘Are we teaching to three separate classes or one class?’ asked Pauline.

‘To three,’ replied Young-seop (영섭).

‘So were not teaching to one big class, then?’ asked Pauline trying to clarify what was to happen. It didn’t help that she was talking very fast.

‘Yes,’ said Young-seop (영섭). Pauline was becoming very agitated.

‘You are confusing me, Young. Let me get this right, we’re not teaching one big class?’

‘Yes, he replied.

‘Oh Jesus! One moment you are saying we are teaching one big class and the next three separate classes, what the freak are we doing?’ I didn’t understand the confusion at first and later discovered that Koreans agree with a negative question so when Pauline asked, ‘so we’re not teaching one big class,’ Young-seop’s reply meant, ‘yes, we’re not teaching one big class.’

At this point I decided to start moaning about how ridiculous it was that we were expected to give a presentation and teach in front of parents when we had no idea at all about the Letterland system. To make matters worse, we only had seven pupil workbooks from which to deduce the Letterland philosophy. The meeting dragged on until 2 pm when it was decided we should meet this evening at 8.30. Mr Jo drove us back to Song-so where we visited a noodle restaurant and I arrived back in Di Dim Dol only minutes before my first class was to start.

My head was still pounding from a hangover when we met at 8.30 and I wasn’t too pleased that I was having to do all this un-scheduled work without being consulted. It’s not the money I’m bothered about but the fact I came to Korea to experience Korean culture and Jo’s lack of organisation is impinging in that. The group had now swollen with the addition of several other Korean-English teachers including Gloria, Angela and Winnie. Mr Jo started the meeting of with a little speech and was desperately trying to give the impression he knew what was going on. I moaned a bit more to the Koreans and tried to explain to them the meaning of ‘being a mushroom, being kept in the dark and fed on shit’ but I don’t think anyone understood what I meant. I tried to move things along and so did Pauline but Nana kept criticizing our suggestions.  Young-seop (영섭) then told us that there were some teachers’ planning books at the Letterland school. This revelation made me really annoyed as they were the books we needed to consult, someone needed to be sent to get them. An hour later and they arrived but it was now 11 pm so we decided to meet on Monday at 9 am in the Letterland School.

On Saturday morning I took a taxi over to Pauline’s house to see if she wanted to do anything this evening. I remembered how lonely and lost I felt on my first weekend. Pauline lives not too far from Yon San Dong, on the edge of town and with a good view of the mountains. It was refreshing to get away from the high-rises of Song So (성서) and to see some new views. Pauline was busy cleaning her floor and she wasn’t very impressed with the condition of her flat – basically a porta-cabin sandwiched between some houses. She has no iron, TV, or video. In addition no one from the school had visited her to see if she was okay or needed anything. Mr Jo really has no idea how to treat people, especially westerners and it is quite clear South Koreans need a revolution to reorganise the slavish way people are expected to work.

In the evening Pauline and I met up and had bibimbap in my favourite restaurant. I came out to her and she seemed genuinely pleased I was gay. Most of her friends in Australia are gay and so we spent some time criticizing straight men. She has a really good sense of humour, wears no make-up and likes to eat as she is very fat. I expect we will get along fine. I told her I had had a book published and she asked if she could read it. It took me a while to find it as I had hidden it in case Nana came across it by mistake.

On Sunday, I went for a walk up the mountain behind my flat; the mountain is called the Warayong Mountain. This is the first weekend since I’ve been here that I didn’t feel all achey and tired. Today is December 3rd and I can remember doing a guard duty in Polemedia Camp, Cyprus, when I was with United Nations, on a December 3rd. Somewhere I have a photo of myself at the guard post. I think that would have been in 1973, the year I joined the army. I was surprised with the change of scenery up the mountain as when I was last here, some five weeks ago; the trees were still green though some where changing to red. Now all the leaves have fallen and you are able to see much more of the city below. I walked the same routes as on previous trips, basically straight up the mountain to the resting place at the top. At one point there was a really clear view of Wu Bang tower in the distance with a large Buddhist temple between both points. I took a photo of it but it never came out. At the top of the mountain is an open air gym equipped with benches, dumb bells, a clock suspended from a tree, a radio and speakers, some weights and hoops. No one steals them and nothing is vandalized as it would most certainly be in the UK.  Friends and families were exercising here and it was interesting to see fathers of forty plus doing this with as much vigour as their sons. Once you get to this point on the climb you realise that there are higher mountains behind it. There must be miles and miles of walks up here.  I walked back down the mountain and went to write my notes up at a nearby internet cafe, known as a PC bang.



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