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.
Chuseok isn’t a holiday in Australia, of course, so I spent the day working, listening to Korean music or semi-watching Korean hiking videos for most of the time. Youtube suggested two videos of old photos of Seoul, dating from 1884 and 1984 respectively. (A lot happened in between!)
The first is on the 대한여지도 Korean Geographic channel, and has photos taken by Percival Lowell. (There are other similar videos – follow the links.)
If you can’t see a video above, try here, or search for eg ‘youtube korean geographic seoul 1884 percival lowell’.
The second is the 복원왕 Restoration King channel, and has colourised photos. (There are other similar videos – follow the links.)
If you can’t see a video above, try here, or search for eg ‘youtube restoration king life in seoul 1984’.
The next video I watched was from 1979, and the Yeouido 63 Building was conspicuously absent (it was started in 1980). While I was watching it, I had the sudden thought that it would be interesting to compare then and now (if possible). The screenshot for the second video above should be relatively easy, but the screenshot for the first video is probably under an apartment building or department store.
I also remembered seeing a video at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza of the view from Namsan, with the buildings risings up animatedly over time.
Yesterday I walked around the Circular Quay and Rocks area of Sydney Harbour. A bonus was a full-sized cruise ship at the Overseas Passenger Terminal. A second bonus was that I found (on the terminal’s website) that it was due to depart in 40 minutes, so I positioned myself on the footpath above Circular Quay station (where I’d been several hours before).
One of the reasons Sydney (first the settlement/town then the city/metropolitan area) is where it is, is that there is deep water right up to the shoreline – deep enough for the sailing ships of 1788 and, it turns out, for the cruise ships of the 21st century.
Many years ago, possibly before I went to Korean the first time, I came across a reference to gugak, or Korean traditional music. In the Korea the first time, I saw and heard various performances of traditional music, but did not encounter the word. In Korea the second time, I wandered around the regional city I was living in on various occasions. One day, I saw a museum of traditional arts and crafts. I had always thought that gugak was gu+gak, but the hangeul at the museum read 국악 or guk–ak. (One advantage of hangeul is that it tells you where the syllables are.) Guk by itself means (among other things) nation (most often found in words like 대한민국 (dae-han-min-guk, the official name of the Republic of Korea), 한국 (han-guk, the short name) and 외국 (oi-guk [way-guk], any foreign country). Ak by itself is related to 음악 (eum-ak, the general word for music) (which I incorporated into my Korean name, which I rarely use). So gugak is literally “national music” (국가 음악).
Last night I came across a reference to gagaku, or the classical music of Japan. Are the words gugak and gagaku related? Possibly, but after some research this morning, it’s impossible to be sure, working across Chinese characters, Japanese kanji, hangeul, pronunciation, transliteration and translation of all three language into English, and dictionary and encyclopedia entries. Gagaku is 雅楽, literally “elegant music”. The syllabification seems to be ga+gaku, because there is a related word bugaku, or “dance music”. Gugak includes court music, folk music, poetic songs, and religious music used in shamanistic and Buddhist traditions. Gagaku is primarily court music and dances, but also Shintoreligious music and folk songs and dance. Continue reading →
OnSaturday evening I went for an outing to a baseball game. This is slightly unusual in Australia (there isa baseball competition, but it is almost unknown) and very unusual for me (I would not otherwise go to a baseball game, except …).
Last year I semi-did a course in photography on Coursera (I watched the videos and did the standard quizzes, but didn’t pay money to do the assessment quizzes and submit my photos for peer review). A few weeks ago one of the lecturers (a professor of photography at a university in the USA) emailed people in Australia who’d done the course, saying that he would be in Australia in late Dec-early Jan and was planning a trip to the baseball. (Which makes about as much sense as me travelling to the USA and going to a cricket match, but his son is involved with the baseball team here.) Seven photographers and three hangers-on attended. We had a short session together, then wandered around taking photos before and during the game. After some time, we each had a one-on-one with the lecturer, and he said some seriously nice things about my photos.
Yesterday I went to Yarramundi Reserve, a small and frankly not very interesting area at the junction of the Nepean, Grose and Hawkesbury Rivers, north-west of the Sydney metropolitan area. Yarramundi (or Yel-lo-mun-dy, or Yal-lah-mien-di, or Yèl-lo-mun-dee, or Yellomundee, or Yello_mundy, or Yellah_munde) was a leader and healer of the Buruberongal (or Boo-roo-bir-rong-gal, or Bu-ru-be-ron-gal, or Bu-ru-be-rong-al, or Boorooberongal, or Buribırȧŋál), a ‘wood tribe’ whose country extended inland from somewhere north-west of Parramatta towards and including the Nepean/Hawkesbury River.
A party of British explorers led by Governor Arthur Phillip met him and several others in April 1791, on an expedition to discover if and how the Hawkesbury (which they had previously explored upstream from its mouth) and the Nepean (which they had encountered after walking overland westward from Parramatta) met. As it turns out, the Nepean/Hawkesbury is essentially one river, but the two names have stuck, and this junction is the arbitrary point at which the names officially change. (The Grose River was named later; Major Francis Grose (later acting governor) did not arrive in the colony until 1792.)
(long but hopefully interesting) The Nepean and Hawkesbury Rivers circle the Sydney metropolitan area and surrounding countryside to the south-west, west, north-west and north. I live in a suburb on the banks of the Nepean and last weekend went photo-hiking to four lookouts about 20 minutes’ drive south of here, in the small part of the greater Blue Mountains National Park east of the river. An online friend from Canada commented “Your Nepean is a lot more photogenic than ours” – “ours” being a major suburban centre of Ottawa, Ontario.
The former British colonies, big and small, are strewn with names commemorating places and people from Great Britain and Ireland, alongside names from other colonial powers (most notably Spain, France and the Netherlands) and indigenous names. Canada and Australia both have a Sydney and a Nepean. (And a Toronto – Australia’s Toronto has a population of about 5000; Canada’s Toronto … doesn’t.)
To illustrate the grammar point ‘I used to V’, I showed the students several photos of me as a child. One was of me at the age of three with my youngest sister at the age of less than one. One student asked ‘Which one is you?’.
On a previous occasion, a student said ‘Wow, you used to be cute!’.
In July 2016 I visited Lotte World Tower in the Seoul suburb of Jamsil. At that stage the building was complete (at 555 metres, currently the fifth highest building in the world) but still being fitted out, so the observation decks weren’t open, but a shopping mall at the base was open. It was officially opened last week, on the 3rd of April, preceded by a fireworks and laser display on the night of the 2nd.