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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“salad mice”

I happened on the Youtube channel of a young American couple apparently living and working in South Korea and touring occasionally. The auto-subtitles were on, and one video included the phrase

salad mice 

Because I could see their video and hear them speaking, I knew what they were talking about, but I’ll leave it with you with no context.

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Spellign

When I lived in Korea the first time I saw a handbag proudly bearing the logo

RALPH LAURNE

A few days ago I saw a t-shirt proudly bearing the logo

Gaevin Klien 

I don’t know and can’t guess whether the manufacturers of those items don’t read English or don’t care or they want to take money from people who don’t read English or don’t care or who know perfectly well it’s fake but they buy it anyway, or whether they did it deliberately to avoid or at least defend an intellectual property infringement suit. But accidentally or deliberately misspelling the brand name doesn’t make the item any less of a fake.

Ralph Laurne is widespread on the internet (but appears to be a typo rather than referring to handbags or anything else in Korea), but I couldn’t find any instance of Gaevin Klien. 

By the way, my ajumma students quite proudly flaunted their fake designer goods, perhaps more so than their genuine ones.

In my dreams

Two recent dreams have involved language. I don’t usually remember my dreams in much detail but these were short and involved language. Two days ago Facebook informed me that it was the birthday of one former student who returned to Hungary. I wished him happy birthday in English and he replied in English. That night I dreamed I was in a classroom. The first student greeted me in Korean, which I speak to some extent. The second student greeted me in Hungarian. Hang on … I don’t speak Hungarian, so how did this person in my dream speak it, and how did I know that it was Hungarian? Either I have absorbed some Hungarian, somewhere, some time, somehow, or my subconscious just made up something which sounded approximately appropriate and I just knew it was meant to be Hungarian.

Longer ago I had a dream in the thriller genre. The only part I remember is one person pointing a gun at another person, and the other person saying:

Do not shoot.

Do not shoot and Don’t shoot mean the same thing, but contracted forms are less formal and, in this case, more urgent. I can’t imagine anyone facing the business end of a gun saying Do not shoot instead of Don’t shoot, but that’s what my subconscious made that person say. Do not shoot (until, unless …) is more like something said or written in a firearms safety course, or said by a police/military commander. Google Ngrams doesn’t help, processing do not and don’t in the same way. A general Google search shows about 15 million results for “don’t shoot” (in quotation marks for exact match) and 2.5 million for “do not shoot”. 

I don’t (or do not) know what conclusions I can draw from these dreams.

I kept an extensive diary during my first stay in Korea 2006-09, which often throws light on my own usage. There are 6 instances of do not and 200 of don’t, including 58 of I don’t know, so I obviously spent most of that time in a state of considerable ignorance.

“Some dance to remember”

One day when I was at high school, some representatives of the school newspaper asked random students what our favourite song was. When the next issue of the paper came out, there was The Eagles’ Hotel California, with … one vote. 

I don’t know why some songs remain in the individual or collective mind and others don’t. Some super-famous songs basically disappear almost without a trace, while others which were mildly popular at the time become classics. Hotel California was no 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for one week in May 1977. I can’t find any record of its chart performance in Australia. It certainly wasn’t no 1 or one of the top 25 singles that year.

It’s sometimes hard to say how much of my memory of a particular song is from the actual time, and how much is from encountering them on compilation cassettes, CDs or Youtube videos. Some songs were and are extensively featured on compilations and some aren’t. It was easy to spot, by their absence, the singers and groups (or their production companies) which didn’t licence their songs. 

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“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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Hello camera

At some time during my first stay in Korea, I watched the movie 순정만화 (sun-jeong man-hwa, pure/romantic comic) rendered in English as Hello schoolgirl (Wikipedia, trailer with English subtitles, full movie with English subtitles). 

I recently posted about the 2003 movie 아이엔지 (a-i-en-ji, …ing, as in the English present participle), in which the high school girl’s mother gives her a mobile phone and she exclaims that she can take pictures, too. In this 2008 movie, the high school girl has a phone already, one of the first things we see her do is take a selfie, and she and the young man are texting and sending photos very soon after. Even without knowing it was from 2008, the slide phones would date it to a year or two. 

In fact, her aim is to own a film camera (필름 카메라), which can’t have been very common by then (I took a small and medium film camera with me in 2006, lost the small one very soon after, bought a digital one and never used the medium one again). While researching for this post, though, I found that film cameras are enjoying something of a resurgence in popularity, if only toy/disposable cameras available in vending machines. 

I’m posting this soon after lunar new year. Part of the plot is driven by the fact that the young man is 12 years older than the high school girl. He comments that they share the same sign, but nothing is said about whether that’s a good or bad thing.

대호

At some time during my first stay in Korea, I made a Korean name for myself, 음대호 (eum dae-ho), but I rarely use it. At some time during my second stay in Korea, I became aware of the Korean movie Tiger (trailer, wikipedia), but I didn’t watch it then and haven’t since. One of my textbooks had the word for tiger, 호랑이 (ho-rang-i/ho-lang-i), so I assumed that’s what the title was in Korean, but I have recently been reading a lot about Korean movies and discovered that it’s actually 대호 (dae-ho), from 대, great and the first syllable of 호랑이.

Today is the Lunar New Year, which begins the year of the tiger in the zodiacs of China and nearby countries including Korea. But I’m not a tiger. It would have neat if I was, given that I made the name for other reasons. 여라 분 새해 복 많이 받으세요!

Maps

Today is 15 years since I went to Korea the first time. We were planning to travel there last year, probably for Chuseok, before continuing to Europe, but that got knocked on the head. We hope to travel as soon as we can, but that is obviously not going to be soon.

I have been watching a lot a hiking videos and reading travel websites and blogs. My default maps is Google. Although its coverage is limited, it gives me most of the information I need. I have also investigated Naver Maps. Their maps and satellite are better than Google’s, but they have no street view, at least that I’ve been able to find. (Their default language is Korean, not surprisingly. There may be a way to switch that to English.) A few days ago I read a blog which mentioned Kakao Maps, which has better maps and satellite and more extensive street view than Google. (And is also in Korean, but the blogger said there’s a way to switch languages.)

These three maps show the area including Deoksugung Palace (lower left), Seoul City Hall, Cheonggyecheon and Jongno Tower (upper right):

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An unconventional high school

For one year of my first stay in South Korea, I taught English at an information industry high school (정보 산업 고등학교, jeong-bo san-eob go-deung-hak-gyo). I would otherwise have stayed at my previous hagwon, but I needed a job close to where my wife lived, and found this at short notice. Teaching at the high school was a challenge, and I learned possibly more than the students did. Looking on Google Maps yesterday, I found that it’s now an international convention high school (국제 컨벤션 고등학교, guk-je keon-ben-sheon go-deung-hak-gyo). I couldn’t find any explanation in English, but searching in Korean found an article on namu.wiki, which states that the name and academic focus changed in 2012. The major streams (alongside standard high school subjects) are convention management, convention tourism, convention advertising design (I’m surprised that those three require separate majors, rather than being specialisations of the same major), IT software and fashion coordination. I can’t remember exactly what the majors were when I was there, but information technology and management and tourism management were among them. Generally speaking, the tourism management students were the best at English, because the better or best jobs in that sector require English. The IT students were the worst, because there is a massive technology sector there. 

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