Cold and snow

My wife and I have booked a month’s holiday in South Korea from the end of December to the end of January, long overdue from our original plan of September 2020. I have been keeping an eye on weather forecasts, but it’s really too far away to be sure of anything. One website gave a forecast of 66 mm of snow on New Year’s Day, revised the next day to 4.9 mm, then the day after that to sunny but cold. But we can be sure that it will be cold (especially in contrast to our (rather mild (so far)) summer in Sydney and that it will snow.

I’m reminded of two incidents involving cold and snow during my first stay in South Korea (2006-09), which I haven’t told here yet. Possibly during my first winter there, I left for work dressed in black shoes, black trousers, a black jacket, a black and brown scarf wrapped up to the bottom of my glasses and a black beanie, so all that was visible was my glasses. I got in the lift, it stopped several floors down and a young Korean woman got in. She took one look at me and stood as close as she could to the opposite corner. I moved as far as I could into my corner and tried to look non-threatening. We got to the ground floor, the door opened and I allowed her a good head start.

During my second winter, my hagwon owner/director asked me to teach a conversation class for TOEIC students. TOEIC notoriously focuses on grammar, reading and writing (and maybe prepared listening and speaking), but leaves students under-skilled in actual conversation. One day it snowed, so I asked the students if they liked snow. 

One student: (very long pause) … No …
Me: I don’t like snow because … why don’t you like snow?
Student: (very long pause) … Military …
Me: I don’t like snow because when I was in the military … what did you do?
Student: (very long pause) … Shovel …
Me: I don’t like snow because when I was in the military, I had to shovel snow.

That’s not much conversation, but an awful lot of communication.


Sing it!

While I was eating dinner in a pub, the big screen was showing the preliminaries to a repeat of the USA v Wales football/soccer world cup game, with the sound turned down. The teams came out and lined up and the two national anthems were played and sung. Looking very carefully, I could just see the USA team members’ mouths moving, but they clearly weren’t putting much effort into it. The Welsh team members, on the other hand, were actually singing. I even mouth-read the word Gwlad (country).  It wasn’t lip-reading, it was mouth-reading, like, their whole mouth. Sing (or don’t (see the Iranian team before their match)). Just don’t be wishy-washy about it.

Tourism Korean, part 1

Visitors to Seoul are very likely to encounter at least one of Seodaemun, Namdaemun or Dongdaemun. Even if their tour guide (human, printed or digital) doesn’t tell them, it’s probably possible to figure out that they are the original west great gate, south great gate and east great gate of Seoul. Seo, nam and dong, therefore, are west, south and east. Dae might be great or gate, and mun might be vice versa, but the head of any compound noun is more likely to be in the first or last position, and finding that Gwanghwamun is the main gate of Gyeongbokgung palace firmly points to mun as gate. 

These actually have (or had, in the case of Seodaemun) official names, which are 돈의문 (don-ui-mun), 숭례문 (sung-nye-mun) and 흥인지문 (heung-in-ji-mun) respectively (which are also rendered in hanja (Chinese characters used in Korean), but tourists don’t have to worry about any of that). Seodaemun also refers to a gu (local government area), park and prison, Namdaemun to a market and Dongdaemun to a gu, market, former baseball stadium and design plaza (and I’m sure a lot else each). Bukdaemun (north great gate) (officially 숙정문 (suk-jeong-mun)) exists but is far less known, partly because it is perched in the mountains, a moderate hike from anywhere.

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1000th post – a few stats

As with my 500th post, I am taking the milestone of my 1000th post to consider a few statistics. I started this blog on 1 November 2014, so 1000 posts in just under eight years is about one every three days (2.89 days, to be precise), slightly less often than the two and half days I calculated then, because my posts have been fewer and further between recently. 

According to WordPress, I have had readers from 203 countries and territories around the world. The top 10 are the USA, Australia, England, India, Canada, Philippines, Germany, South Korea, Indonesia and Brazil. On the other hand, I have had one reader from each of 24 countries and territories: Andorra, the British Virgin Islands, Burkina Faso, the Cayman Islands, Chad, Congo – Brazzaville, Djibouti, the Faroe Islands, French Polynesia, Fiji, Gibraltar, Greenland, Grenada, Guadaloupe, Guinea, Kosovo, Monaco, Samoa, the Seychelles, South Sudan, St Lucia, Swaziland and Timor-Leste. I would love to know what brought each of those here. 

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999th post – A tale of two cities

I have occasionally pondered the similarities and differences between these two cities (shown above as close as I can to the same scale). I think there are more differences than similarities. Both are the biggest city in their country, but Seoul comprehensively so and Sydney only just (and is projected to be overtaken by Melbourne sooner rather than later). Seoul is the capital of South Korea, but Sydney isn’t the capital of Australia, even though many people around the world think or assume it is. As a result, Sydney (and/or Melbourne) dominate economically and culturally, but not politically (at least at the national level; they dominate their respective states). 

Geographically, both sit between the ocean and mountains. Even though South Korea is overall more mountainous, Wentworth Falls (at the far left of the Sydney map) is higher in elevation than Bukhansan. It’s just that Bukhansan is located comparatively much closer to its city. (Also, Mount Kosciuszko (the highest mountain on mainland Australia) is higher than Hallasan, and Mawson Peak (the highest on an outlying territory) is (just) higher than Mount Baekdu.) Both are at similar latitudes (Seoul 37ºN and Sydney 33ºS), but Seoul’s weather is dominated by the Siberian high and East Asian monsoon, meaning very cold winters (with snow) and very wet summers (with occasional typhoons) while Sydney’s is more equable, very rarely getting super-cold or super-hot (at least towards the coast; my inland suburb is more variable, and one day a few years ago a suburb near here was the hottest place on the planet). 

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Family history part 3

One of my hobbies is family history research, which I do when I can between everything else. Recently I’ve been researching two families from Cornwall, partly because the Cornwall Online Parish Clerks website has an extensive database and easy-to-use search. 

One of my great-great-great-great-grandmothers had the surname Trevaskis. Except that it appears as Trevascus on her baptism record in 1798. The baptism records for that parish record a Trevaskes in 1693, then Trevascus (1708), Treveskeys (1711), Trevascas (1768), Trevaskis (1780), Trevaskus (1780) and  Trevarcus (1785). Then in 1819, everyone decided that they were going to use the spelling Trevaskis. It is possible that these were different families, each with their own spelling, and that the others died out, but I doubt it. The family which used the  spelling Trevaskis in 1819 previously used Trevascus in 1804 and 1807, Trevaskus in 1809, Trevascus again in 1811 (two records, for Jennifer and Jenifer), Trevascus and Trevaskus in 1814 (two records for one child), Trevaskis and Trevaskus in 1816 (two records for another child) and finally Trevaskis in 1819 (two records, for Margaret Trevaskis and Margaret Edwards Trevaskis).

But we can’t blame the families for this. There was less standardisation of spelling in general, and the information which I am seeing on the internet has gone through at least two sets of ears/eyes, brains and hands – the vicar or parish clerk of the day and the volunteer transcriber of recently. The database search allows for wildcards – I found all of the above (as well as Trevanen and Trevorrow, each with a smaller number of variants) by searching for trev%. (PS the website says, in the small print: “We make no warranty whatsoever as to the accuracy and completeness of the data”.)

I’ve discovered branches of the family which I either didn’t know existed, or only had the most basic information for. But sometimes I hit a brick wall. One great-great-great-grandmother was married in 1855 and came to Australia in 1857. Is she the girl of that name baptised in that village on 12 Apr 1835, or the one of the same name baptised in the same village on 17 April 1836? Or was she one of the six other girls of the same name baptised elsewhere in Cornwall in those two years, or was she older or (possibly) younger than that? (And it’s not the case that the first one died young and the parents gave the second one the same name – the two have different parents.) I may never know. It also does not help that there was a limited supply of given names, and most children only had one given name – this one had a middle name, and there’s still that choice. (But I did find another ancestress (and more of her family) because of a very unusual middle name.)

By the way, my ancestry is English and probably Welsh on my father’s side, and Scottish, Scots-Irish, Irish (probably Scots-Irish) and Cornish on my mother’s. Various great-, great-great- and great-great-great-grandparents came to Australia between the 1840s and 1880s. We know almost of the great-great-great-grandparents’ names, with a greater or lesser amount of details, and with some families traced beyond that. Most of what I’ve done is collating information from other family members, plus some research of my own.

“Why aren’t there more fat Koreans?”

When I went to Korea for the first time, I spent several days surviving on convenience store food between going for some meals in restaurants with colleagues, sometimes with their adult students. I knew that I’d have to find a restaurant I could go to by myself and/or cook for myself (which required some planning because I had to buy cookware, crockery and cutlery – my manager provided a very nice studio apartment with bed and pillow, but nothing else). 

Most of the restaurants I could see into had low tables and floor seating, but I found one that had Western-style tables and chairs. The manager placed the menu in front of me, pointed to the first page and said “Rice” (which I could actually see myself), then to the second and said “Dock”. Was that duck or dog? I was afraid to ask, so I said “Rice, please”. She and/or (a) waitress(es) brought out a bowl of plain rice, several bowls of soup and a major array of meat and/or vegetable dishes (I seem to remember 13 – I didn’t record this story in my diary of the time). I got through the rice and halfway through the meat and/or vegetables. At the end of the meal the manager offered me a big cup of shikhye (a sweet rice dessert drink). I first declined, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I forced it down somehow. 

Along the way I discovered that she spoke passable English, having lived in Brisbane, Australia for some time. As I paid and left, I asked “Why aren’t there more fat Koreans?” She said “Oh, is all vegetables, is all healthy”.

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States, provinces and territories

Completing a trilogy of geographical-related posts is a topic I’ve had on my mind since posting about Texas not being that big, four and half years ago: the largest country subdivisions in the world. These go by different names in different countries. The most common in English-speaking countries are state, province and territory. 

Drawing mostly on Wikipedia’s list of the largest country subdivisions by area, the top 10 are:

NameCapital (largest city)Area km2Comparison (world country, x Texas)Population (percentage of country’s total)Comparison (world country, USA city proper)
Sakha Republic (Yakutia), RussiaYakutsk3,083,523 India 4.4 964,330 (0.6%)Djibouti
Austin TX
State of Western Australia, AustraliaPerth2,645,615 Kazakhstan  3.8 2,615,794 (10%)Lithuania Chicago IL
Krasnoyarsk Krai, RussiaKrasnoyarsk2,339,700 Democratic Republic of the Congo 3.42,876,497 (2%)Albania Chicago IL
Greenland, DenmarkNuuk2,166,086 Saudi Arabia 3.155,877 (1%)American Samoa (Wikipedia’s list stops at 100,000, the last being Roanoke VA)
Territory of Nunavut, CanadaIqaluit2,038,722 Mexico 2.938,780 (0.1%)Monaco
(see above)
State of Queensland, AustraliaBrisbane1,851,856 Sudan 2.75,076,512 (20%)Costa Rica Chicago IL + Houston TX 
State of Alaska, USAJuneau (Anchorage)1,717,854 Iran 2.5737,438 (0.2%)Bhutan
Seattle WA
Xingjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China Ürümqi1,664,897 Iran 2.424,867,600 (1.77%)Australia
State of Amazonas, BrazilManaus1,570,745Mongolia 2.34,080,611 (1.9%)Moldova
Los Angeles CA
Province of Quebec, CanadaQuebec City (Montreal)1,542,056Mongolia, 2.28,484,965 (22%)Israel
New York NY
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Kingdoms and republics

Writing about kingdoms and empires in my last post prompted me to complete this post, which I’ve been thinking about for some time and had actually done a lot of research towards: the division of current-day countries into kingdoms and republics. 

Firstly, a few words about empires. Many of the entities we refer to as an empire were never officially called that: the British Empire was headed by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and Queen Victoria and the few kings following her were only ever Empress/Emperor of India.

As far as I can find, the last counties to be officially called empire were:
the Empire of Japan (大日本帝國 Dai Nippon Teikoku or Dai Nihon Teikoku) (1868–1947) (note that the head of state is still called emperor)
the Ethiopian Empire (መንግሥተ ኢትዮጵያ, Mängəstä Ityop’p’ya) (1270-1974), but apparently the literal translation is ‘Government of Ethiopia’
(arguably) the Imperial State of Persia/Iran (کشور شاهنشاهی ایران Kešvar-e Šâhanšâhi-ye Irân) (1925/1935-11 February 1979) 
the Central African Empire (Empire centrafricain) (1976- 21 September 1979).
(Obviously, the scope of an empire varies over time.)

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Kingdoms and empires

The hymn The day thou gavest, Lord, has ended (Wikipedia, performance) has as its last verse:

So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never,
Like earth’s proud empires, pass away:
Thy kingdom stands, and grows forever,
Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.

We quite often refer to God as king and to God’s kingdom or the kingdom of God, but we almost never refer to God as emperor or to God’s empire or the empire of God, even though King of kings and Lord of lords is more analogous to an earthly emperor than a king. 

The only reference to empire/emperor/imperial in the King James/Authorised version of the bible is in the comparatively late OT book of Esther (1:20):

When the king’s decree which he will make is proclaimed throughout all his empire (for it is great), all wives will honor their husbands, both great and small. 

(The king being Ahasuerus and the empire being Persia.)

Of the other 27 translations on Bible Hub, one uses realm, four use empire and the rest kingdom.


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