Je suis en vacance mes amis...

Tue Jul 29, 2003

Well, now I don’t feel like writing a long update. I’ll make sure this entry is peppered with links for those who wish to learn more and expand their knowledge-bases. Let’s see…Two Sundays ago I went to the Sodaemun Prison Hall. This was a Japanese prison camp for political prisoners and activists during their occupation of Korea. All the original buildings remain, including the execution chamber and various torture devices, which you can try out if you are so inclined. I wasn’t inclined. In the basement they have recreated gruesome torture and rape scenes with animatronic dummies. It was quite nightmarish, especially for kids I would think. The place felt very, very haunted.

Sometime last week was “International day” and after much deliberation I chose Ireland as the country our class was going to be. I had to dress them up and invent a dance. As it turned out the outfit looked like a cross between Peter Pan and a leprechaun. We wore all green with green hats, four leaf clovers painted on our faces and I wore a green kilt. The dance I taught them was what I imagined an Irish jig would be, although the kids interpreted the kicking as a chance to display their martial arts skills, so they looked more like perverse Ninja leprechauns than anything remotely resembling the Irish nation.

On Friday I tried this great dish called “Sang Ge Tang”, a kind of chicken soup with Ginseng. It’s supposed to give you lots of energy. What it did was drugged me into a deep sleep, whereupon I woke up at three-thirty in the morning and decided to do my laundry. I don’t usually engage in such bizarre behaviour, so I’m fairly sure it was the soup. Alice is so sweet, even though her English is, well, muddled. After the soup, she asked me quite sincerely, “Are you very delicious?”, I replied quite ernestly in the affirmative, although I was privately quite amused.

Last Sunday I visited the National Museum of Korea, which has the most extensively boring collection of pottery I’ve ever seen. I breathed a sigh of relief when I came upon these magnificent Buddhist statues hidden away deep in the bowels of the museum basement. Afterwards I visited Technomart, I rather impressive monument to technological gadgetry, and a jarring contrast to all the Paleolithic pottery shards and flakes I’d been looking at. Sometimes I’m surprised to find myself living in the future.

Yesterday, I met the foreign teachers from our direct competition - Kang’s language school. They’re an older South African couple from Durban, really nice people. They’ve been here three years and even have several dogs and cats. They have a car so maybe I can convince them to go on a braaivleis in a Paju rice paddy sometime. Why not celebrate South African culture, regardless of the geographic and social context? Who would have thought so many South Africans would be teaching in Korea. I guess it makes sense though. The guy, Brian, is an IT expert so I’m hoping he can help me buy my laptop sometime. I was going to get Debbie to help me but she doesn’t know much about computers. Well, that’s all I have time for, I am on vacation after all!

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