torek, 27. september 2011

Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes

This morning I ate rice with hot curry for breakfast, brushed my teeth and put the textbooks, CDs, notebook and pencils in my schoolbag, waved goodbye to my hosts, shouting that I'm going to school and they replied that I have to study hard. But let's start at the beginning, two evenings ago...
The dinner was a success. Well, everybody said so and if they are just being polite, well, next time they'll eat the same, like it or not. I told them, I was very explicit about it, not to praise my cooking too much; saying that it was nothing special would have been the best option because for the next dinner I would perform culinary miracles to make it taste better.
I love people that don't complicate things. At the end there were ten people for dinner. We barely fit in my room, but it was funny. The scary part was when I realized (when the guests were already taking their places on the floor) that I have only a midget table for one person. I borrowed some dishes from my hosts, also a bucket to cook the spaghetti, but no table. Even if I wanted I couldn't, they don't have such a big one. The clever and practical mind of Korean women is simply the best. They just found an old newspaper and spread it on the floor - as I've seen in many occasions - even if this was supposed to be a special dinner, who cares! And that's the way I like it!

And they all brought presents - be it socks (many of them), cookies (absolutely delicious), boiled chestnuts, a bag of rice and... a Korean textbook. Immediately I had an awkward feeling receiving the gift and thanking for it. Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes. I was right. The lady who gave it to me just asked, "So, do you wish to have lessons every day? And do we start tomorrow?"
Now, of course I wish to have lessons every day and learn as much as possible as fast as I can. What I don't wish is to pass for a moron. I quite pride myself about language skills, but with Korean I'm at a loss. The pronunciation still remains a mistery to me. Oh, I get words pretty fast, but to put a sentence together is harder than load a ten ton truck with radish.
At the end I survived the lesson. A little bit reassured about my pronunciation, she's evidently a good teacher, but still feeling stupid. You see, there's a guy here, who speaks just no English, with whom I talk in Japanese. I don't want to say that I learned so much Japanese, no way, is to say how awful is my Korean!
Luckily yesterday we worked all day so I had enough time to set my mind to be a student again. Because working together with all these nice people made me craving for knowledge of Korean!

Yesterday's work, planting cabagge and broccoli, maybe more than 5000 seeds.
Break time

The Japanese speaking guy

My pretty coworkers, don't mind the grimaces, they are pretty!

My pretty coworkers drinking beer during the first morning break

View on our house from the nearby peak

Some surroundings

This one left me speechless at the local store

sobota, 24. september 2011

A new home?

In the rice fields the green color is loosing it's battle against the yellow. Autumn is here, my first Korean autumn it will be.
It's more than a week that I'm here, in another almost anonymous Korean village in the southern part, and I have still mixed feelings about me being here. All the feelings are positive, no worry about that. It's a place that could be called almost weird, but calling it that way would be probably offensive for the folk living here, so let's call it amazing. How did I find it? I didn't. I came here through a friend of a friend, I've never met her before but she was willing to help me finding a place to stay and to work. That was the first weir.. ahem, sorry, amazing thing. The second w.. amazing thing was that she told me that here folks are mostly engaged in organic farming. I was used to Korean "organic" farming, but it seems that here they take it seriously. To continue, she is vegetarian. Next, the fields landscape is not ruined by tons of vynil and other garbage. The nearest supermarket is 40 km away. But the most amazing of all is the family she found to host me. I just couldn't believe my ears when she told me that they have a ten years old son who doesn't go to school. I have to admit that for a short moment I tought of a total moron, unable to walk and speak... shame on me. No, they don't send him to school because they don't believe in this educational system. Which is cool. I couldn't agree more. I will never forget an article of a family in Slovenia that doesn't send their kids to school because " schools kids have to read stories about dragons and we won't let our children learn about that Satan's creatures...", as the mother said. Of course she had also other arguments, all concerning Satan and God. And that is just stupid.
So I moved on a mountain to live with this great folks and their son, one of the brightest kids I've met. Well behaved, friendly, curious, with a good taste. He likes my cooking. Above all he likes my laptop. Not that he hasn't his own copmuter, but on mine he found the complete Evangerion series and now he is daily struggling through the Japanese audio and the English subtitles.

Actually I live "on my own", in a small building near the main house.

And this is the view from my window. And it's the same all around, but I have only this window.

Through the same window, but from the outside, it looks like this.

With my own kitchen and fireplace for floor heating. Yes, I'm already using it. During the day the temperatures are autumnly nice, sometimes even hot, but the nights are already chilly.

I started working immediately. Different works. Building a toilet. Finishing a porch roof. Field work. And, surprise surprise, making a floor heating system. With my host as boss, of course, not alone. The best part was that we had to dismantle the old one, almost 100 years old, to make a new one. I can't tell you how much more you learn from this rather than from just making one. And I also learned a few new tips and tricks, that aren't used in the northern mountains. Clearly I will not write about them, they are our trade secrets, you know.
But I could write novels about the people living here. I didn't manage to eat a single dinner at home because I'm invited somewhere every day. Sometimes it's related to work, sometimes to pleasure. In two days I'm having more than ten people here for dinner, I promised a Mediterranean menu and I fear I will have to borrow my hosts kitchen and dinning room. Yes, I had to go to that 40 km away supermarket to buy spaghetti, but it's worth to entertain those who were filling my fridge with food in the first days, when I was still a bit lost. Yes, I had to pay quite a lot but I just can't believe that I actually earn more here than with slavery work. In a relative way, because here I'm working less. Mostly I have troubles because everyone here is so cooled and relaxed. They just keep telling me to slow down. One I had to be unpluged to leave the tools and have a break. I only have to learn Korean to realize how easy is making friends here.
The day I arrived I was jokingly told that they'll do their best to settle me down here. I laughed with them. Now I'm not laughing anymore, I just hope this dream can become true. Even if I miss my princess, she can come here for any holidays!

sreda, 14. september 2011

On kigo, again

Kigo, 季語, the season word is used to associate a season with just one particular word (or phrase) in Japanese poetry, be it renga, renku or haiku. Few years ago I found out why one of the kigo for spring is kawazu, although I heard them in Korea.
This summer I realized the kigo semi. I remember that I found them a bit annoying in the 新世紀エヴァンゲリオン (Neon Genesis Evangelion) series, chirping all the time over Tokyo-3, but still pleased that the makers used this poetic way to show the change of global climate after the Second Impact. (By the way, did you know that you can find haiku written even in Klingon? I didn't, since few minutes ago.)
(松尾 芭蕉, again:
Well, this year the cicadas are driving me crazy. I know cicadas for all my life. Their sound is the kigo of the Mediterranean summer, yet I knew only them, the Mediterranean ones. I don't know the Japanese, no summer there so far, but the Korean 매미 are enough. They are so loud that it's hard to believe. In the countryside it can be literally painful for the ears.
The loudest sound is from only one sucker, you can see it on the branch when zoomed on.

cicada by dagkleva

sobota, 10. september 2011

A censored post

South Koreans are among those working the longest number of hours in industrialised countries, averaging 2,256 a year compared with 1,647 in the UK or 1,778 in the US, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. But despite being extremely hardworking, their productivity measured among the lowest of the OECD's members. (OECD 2010 average annual hours)
To me it seems normal that it's so. You just can't be efficient and productive in a long working day. But that doesn't bother anyone here. Long working hours are the sign of your devotion to work and it absolutely doesn't matter if you're just wasting your time in the office. Two years ago I met a genetist from Switzerland and we had a conversation about Japan. I told him of my experiences on Tokunoshima, where we spent a lot of time just pretending to be busy. He couldn't believe it, in his eyes the Japanese are extremely hardworking and to make an example he told me about two Japanese scientist that worked for a year at the same institute in Geneva as him. He started talking how the two were always first at the institute and the last to leave and then he fell silent for a moment. And recalled that while the two were always there, he can't really remember to have seen them working a lot of times.
Another example of Confucian historical burden in Asia is the educational system. In Korea they spend insane ammount of time and money studying English. They have a set of exames to pass and when I saw some books I tought that I could hardly pass such an exam. Yet the results are very poor (but still a bit better than in Japan) and they have hard times to make a decent conversation. Of course nobody dares to point out that it's the fault of the system, how could you possibly have tought of that, no, it's the students that don't work hard enough so now they invented a way to solve this conversational deficit: they are adding to the already demanding exams an oral test. I'm almost positive that it's gonna be just a huge amount of text to memorize and repeat like a parrot in front of the commission.
Another sign of this very well organised disorganisation is present also in the slavery I do now. Near the house where we live there are some huge radish fields. Do you think that we do them? Don't be naive, it would be too simple. They drove teams here by bus to do the work. And few days later we went to work something like 150km away, just on the border with North Korea, near the DMZ. Just being near the DMZ was unpleasant enough, with guardposts every few hundred meters and all that barbwire. When I was shown a sign near the field I felt even more uncomfortable - we were working near a mine field. I was warned not to make stupid jokes like throwing radish on that side. And then came a moment when I became worried. Well, to tell the truth, I was scared. It was cloudy, but it wasn't thunder what I heard. I really don't understand how anybody can mistake artillery fire for thunder. And when it went on and the locals were still cool I understood it's just manouvres but the bad feeling remained. At least we had some great sightseeing on the way back, we passed near the Seorak mountains.

The second part of tis entry was censored. By myself. It was long, raging and full of violence and hate speech. But now I'm all so soft and tender that I'm almost disgusting. It will be clear at the end. To make it short and simple, without rabid raving - someone stole my money. It was an insider job, some Chinese. Don't start shouting about my racism - there were only and only Chinese around me. I was almost done there, had enough money and then this blow. It left me speechless. I could only scream in frustration because there was 10 people in the house and I will never know who did this. So I prolonged my slavery till today, made my money again and for the last two weeks lived like a paranoid - sleeping with my wallet and passport. And today I packed and left - for Jinbu. With a big bag full of different Korean cakes - it's chuseok and my princes first bowed to me than jumped in my hug and kissed me. Home sweet home.