Saturday, February 6, 2016

Another example of why I don't speak Korean

Well it's Seolnal here in Korea. I won't type that word again because it is my least favourite Korean word. Why? Well that's a long story. Most people here haven't grasped the fact that Korean can't be "correctly" spelled. Every week I have a few kids ask, "Teacher, how to spell, Kimchi or Gangneung, or whatever?" To illustrate the point, take your pick of a dozen arguments online about this. It is an absolutely perfect illustration of my job security over here. The Korean language has no short I vowel sound. If you don't know what that means it's the sound of the I in "it," "sit," or "shit." I could have said "spit," but blue bloggin' this morning.

The short I sound doesn't exist in the Korean language or alphabet, and they never use it. (Even when saying "eet," "seet," or "sheet." But that is, I believe, the most common mispronunciation English receives. French, Russian, Spanish, I think most speakers of foreign languages have trouble with it. At any rate, whether you use a K or a G as the first letter in Kimchi, (the official spelling of many former K words like Kwangju and Kangneung, two places I've lived here, changed years ago from K to G and nobody pronounces them any differently), the "ee" Koreans are FIGHTING for at the end of the word, is the identical letter and pronunciation as the FIRST I in the word. They are both pronounced as "ee" by Koreans so they're not really wrong about the last sound and its spelling, they're just wrong about the word. Militantly wrong. I have heard the word spoken a million times and probably just over half the time it more closely approximated a K sound followed by an EE sound, the M is undisputed, nor is the CH, and then another EE sound. So Keemchee should be the spelling with Geemchee as an allowable alternative. Never seen either used. Job security.

I can't write Korean letters on this but the kiak, the original letter in the Korean alphabet, is properly pronounced, as it astutely says in this argument, about half way between a G and a K. "An extra hard G sound," as one person puts it. It has always been one of MANY confusions to me about the Korean language that when they double the kiak, it DEFINITIVELY sounds like a K. So why not just have the single kiak always sounding like a G? It's the same with the T and D, P and B, but we won't get into that. I am almost convinced that it is a very real part of the national pride in their language amongst Koreans that it is a complicated language. To them it seems that complicated equals sophisticated equals smart. Linguistically, I would lean toward the opposite. But oh my GOD never say that to a Korean! King Sejeong, (another word that can be spelled a dozen ways), was a genius! He's the guy who created the language.

Weeellll, judging from the number of undereducated retreads who have climbed to the educational elite postitions in the businesses that are the universities of Korea, and who just take papers written by their underlings and affix their names to them, King Sejeong might well have been a total plonker. Again, don't say that to a Korean! And he didn't invent the language, as you will be told by his biggest fans in Korea, he just gets credit for the alphabet, "Hangeul," (need I say that I have seen THAT word Romanized several different ways as well?). It is most commonly spelled "Hangul," with the U getting the appropriate English reading of the OO sound, which is not the proper pronunciation. It is an EU sound. The short A vowel sound doesn't exist in Korean either so usually the double whammy mispronunciation occurs when a rookie reads it spelled the usual way. The A gets pronounced more like the A in "hand." It's "Hahn geul," not "Han gool."

I think Hangeul IS absolutely brilliant!!!! for Korean. Nothing else. You will also be told that it is so brilliant that anything can be spelled with it. Uh, no. No it can't. Shut up and eat yer geemchee.

The reason Hangeul is so brilliant in my estimation is because it is simple. It took me no time at all to learn it. Ironically the hardest language I've ever been exposed to has the easiest alphabet. The scholars that King Sejeong took credit for were actually pretty good. But none of them are on the 10000 won bill. Here's a list of the faces we see every day here on the Korean won. Again, the word "won" could be spelled "weon" or "wun," I've even seen it spelled, "wurn." The vowel sound is one we don't have in English. Sort of half way between short U and short O. "UN," and "ON," are equally wrong. Somewhere in between, with a W in front, is the correct pronunciation of the money here.

So anyway, the reason I absolutely hate the word for the Korean celebration of the Lunar New Year is because it ties a few of these pronunciation oddities together and then adds the one that I think is MOST bizarre in the language, and all in one word. Maybe the most bizarre in any language I've ever been exposed to. I now live in Gangneung, the former Kangneung. I remember back when I first came to this city early in my days in Korea. I had only mastered the simple parts of the Korean alphabet so I had a big shock in store for me when I looked for the Kangneung bus. I found one that was headed to Kang Leung or Kang Reung. The letter for R and L is a malleable one too. I had no idea HOW malleable. Yes, friends, they sometimes use the R and L letter for the N sound even though they have a perfectly good N letter in the alphabet. But wait, it gets better. The Korean word for Lunar New Year is Seol nal. That letter for N is used. But for some reason NOBODY spells it that way. Weirder still, very few people SAY it that way! It's spelled Seollal and every time I say, "Seol nal," my students make fun of me. So is the N letter pronounced as an L in Seolnal? Sort of the reverse of the L letter being pronounced as the N in Gangneung? The answer is I don't know. And I'm at the point, having been here over a decade and not learned the language, I'm at the point where I can say proudly that, you know what, I don't really give a shit. Or a spit.

One of my friends here in Kang or Gang, Gong or Kong, Kahng, Gahng, Leung, Reung or Neung, started a thread on what she thought was the proper spelling of Seollal. I think she spelled it "Seorlar?" I can't remember. I said, "But it's the Lurnar new year not the Seorlar new year." Some other people got right rude on the thread! Name calling and commenting on how it's a totally wrong spelling. FOREIGNERS! One called her "fucking stupid." Incredible!

Folks, Korean and English are polar opposites and trying to spell one languages words with the other languages alphabet will always end in failure. Witness the entire country of people, Korea, who learn English through Korean, (because of their zealous pride in it), and have the exact same pronunciation difficulties simply because they are using Korean sounds for English words. It ain't that complicated. THIS is why the youngsters these days can say, "Ant," and not "Ent." They'll still say "ent," but have the ability to say, "ant," when corrected. They're learning young enough. But there's still a whole generation of people who can't do this. The bad habits are entrenched. They valiantly spend half their incomes trying to unstunt their language learning abilities, but rarely succeed. I'm just here, along with many others, trying to make this new generation the last one that makes these cherished and nurtured mistakes when learning English.

That being the case, who, then, will they put on their money? Hmmm....

They'll need a new entry on that webpage with the money. "Beloved rapper and dancer, hated landlord, Psy, is Korean treasure number 45,001." Gangnam Style used to be Kangnam Style I'd like to point out.

Anyhoo, it's, well, you know what it is. Lunar New Year time here in, well, you know where I am. I had planned to go to Seoul, (or Seo ool), to visit the Peet/Spiwak residence, buy some stuff I can only get in Seoul, watch the big game with them, but evidently they all have the flu or Zika virus or Ebola or whatever. The whole house caught it and it's been a great big vomitous mess for the last week. Patient Zero, as Heather calls Kelly, is fine now so I have hope that maybe everybody will have recovered by 8:30 Monday morning, but it's a slim hope. Besides, I have an ague of my own. Two months here and two colds. I guess having so many students exposes me to a lot more germs. My first year here I remember having 9 colds. I'm well on the way to busting that record. So I'm up at 4:30 or 5 drinking lemon tea with ginger in it, playing Simpsons Tapped Out and blogging.

Those are the perfect things to be doing on a snowy weekend here in the, um, city where I live. I'd guestimate we got about 8 inches of snow yesterday. And, damn the cold, I was out in it stocking up for the ghost town this place will be on Monday and Tuesday. During Lunar New Year everyone goes to their Grandmother's house in the coutry and celebrates. With the snow AND the heavy traffic there would have been yesterday, I think I'm glad I didn't go to Seoul. But I got a lot accomplished being currently on the mend. I got my wifi router so that now I can get a printer and stop paying so much for photocopies. I bought some other stuff for work too. Got the wifi set up even though I had to do it all in this language I refuse to learn. I bought an E-Mart pizza, my first pizza in this city. Two months without buying a pizza. I'm proud of that. It was not good, but it was BIG so I'll have some for the duration of the holiday I reckon. I also bought the fixins for chicken soup. That's what I'll be doing today. And if I go to Seoul to watch the game, I'll bring some for my fellow convalescents.

So I'm loving the holiday and the days off, but I hate that word. Incidentally, my favourite Korean word is "Goguma," the word for sweet potato. Jennifer, the friend who posted that string about "Seorlar," said it's actually, "Gogooma."

What EVER!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Crude Awakening

As I said a couple of posts ago, if you look desperately enough, you can find some positive in just about anything. Korean dramas. I find no redeeming qualities in ANY soap operas or dramatic shows of this sort. None. You get stupider every time you watch them. Korean dramas, much like many things about Korea, are just a more extreme example. You get EXTREMELY stupider every time you watch them. But if not for the people in Korea and a mind meltingly large number of OTHER countries killing brain cells with these things, we wouldn't have THE KIMCHI SLAP!

I LOVE the kimchi slap! What a fantastic idea! And this week's kimchi slap goes out to my long time friend, Tony Braga. We went to school together so I've known Tony a good 35 years probably! I saw him just a few years ago in Calgary. We met up for beers a couple times. The years have been kind to him. He's looking good for a guy our age. And I notice he likes to wear some smooth threads. That's why this kimchi slap is gonna hurt a little extra. Do you know how hard it is to get kimchi out in the wash?

The kimchi slap was well earned, however, by sending me an invitation to like the "Energy East" pipeline page on Facebook.

Energy East. Let's start with the very politically misleading name. We're meant to assume that this "East" means eastern Canada, which is the end of the pipeline, sort of, and it would be very helpful to the originators of this environmental disaster in a euphemism if we'd all just assume the energy derived from the oil product in the proposed pipeline from western Canada to eastern Canada, will be enjoyed by eastern Canadians. Or ANY of the jobs or benefits. But that's not the case.

I really don't need to say much more than Stephen Harper was a huge proponent of Energy East for you to be absolutely sure that it will benefit his home country: China. THAT'S what the "East" means.

Tony is an Albertan. We went for beers when I was living in Calgary. Ironically Albertans believe oil has helped their province and that the pipeline will help them too. I need to warn you that that link could harsh a lot of mellows so click at your own risk. 37 years of oil spills in Alberta. The stats are unbelievable! An average of two crude oil spills a day! That makes 28,666 crude oil spills in total, plus another 31,453 spills of just about any other substance you can think of putting in a pipeline – from salt water to liquid petroleum. And we're not talking a guy spilling some Quaker State while changing the oil in his car, or in Alberta, his truck. We're talking HUGE. One being the Nexxen China largest land oil spill in history. But they apologized, so...

It's projected to originate at the oils sands in northern Alberta and go to Eastern Canada to refineries and shipping points, (to China), in New Brunswick and Quebec. The pipeline will use a lot of existing pipe that is now part of Trans Canada Pipelines natural gas transport. And we all know Trans Canada Pipelines has a stellar safety record and those old, used, pipes have NO chance of rupturing, leaking or, like exploding. RIGHT???

The plan is to increase production at the oil sands in Alberta by 40%, which, and this is in no amount of doubt, will vastly increase carbon emissions. This is why Harper was among the people faking like he didn't believe in things like that and kept Canada out of the Kyoto Protocol and carbon taxes and such. So, it will damage the air. The air that we ALL breathe.

And, at the risk of sounding like our ex-ruler, let's be clear, (shudder), this is NOT your normal crude oil. It will be bitumen, something that needs to be treated and heated to become a hazardous chemical coctail far beyond the hazard of just plain crude oil. "Dilbit" or diluted bitumen, costs an estimated 10 times to clean up as regular crude oil, and both are virtually impossible to completely clean up, let's be clear. Just ask the people who live near the Kalamazoo River.

Listen. Tony, and everyone else. The Energy East pipeline WILL have spills. And the cost of cleaning them up and the damage to our beautiful country doesn't even compare to profits to Canadians. And there will be FEW Canadians who profit, you can be sure of that. Our oil industry is set up to be that way. Extracting corporations, from other countries, get almost all the profit. That's crown land, folks. That's OUR oil! It belongs to the people of Canada, not China.

What I told Tony is what I've posted a few times before. Refineries at the source. It should be illegal to transport unrefined bitumen. PERIOD! It's too fucking dangerous. We don't need long, purposely drawn out environmental studies to show that. We have eyes.

Secondly, the Chinese will build those refineries. And they will employ Canadians. Not their nephews who they send over on fake student visas either. REAL Canadians who need jobs!

Thirdly, we will implement a taxation system like Norway's instead of basically GIVING the oil away. The taxes collected, (for the first time), will go to Canada Pension. There will be 1.1 million litres a day! Well, if you talk to politicians who DON'T want the pipeline, it's 1.1 mil. If you talk to reps from Alberta who WANT it, they'll say, "About a mil." These are PRECISELY the jackwads who should have nothing to do with this decision because they're all obviously salesmen talking dollars and cents when we need them to be thinking about facts and common sense.

I say we shouldn't even THINK about this project until we are guaranteed refineries at the oilsand site and HUGE taxes on the extracting companies that will be contributed to EVERY Canadian's pension. It hasn't scared people away from Norway's oil. Why would it scare the oil thirsty Chinese away from Canada? And, so what if it does? Right now there's such an oil glut in the world that the risk is even LESS worth it! The barrels the oil is sold in are worth more than the oil right now! The oil ain't going anywhere. Nothing wrong with saving it for our country's future. When it's worth more and we, (hopefully), have some government that is more responsible and actually cares about the Canadian people. Or when the Canadian people can actually decide stuff for ourselves that affects us so intensely.

I dunno, maybe I shouldn't kimchi slap Tony. Maybe I should take a dead, baby seal covered in bitumen and slap him with it. Hell, I think we should line up all the politicians who are playing money games with this crucial, life and death issue, and give THEM a black baby seal slap.

It couldn't hurt.

Sunday, January 31, 2016


Once upon a time there lived a farmer in the County of Wentworth named Gedsudski who was deliriously happy with everything Fate had bestowed upon him. He had an uncanny knack for growing the most useful crop in the world: hemp. He was pleased that others used his crop to make their lives better. Some used it to make clothing, some used it for food, some for rope, some to build their houses, and some even used it for oil. Farmer Gedsudski had even heard tell of a man who had built and fueled an automobile almost entirely of Gedsudski hemp. Everything but the tires was what he’d been told.
Why, his hemp had directly or indirectly made almost every life in Wentworth County that much better for the growing of it. This was a source of happiness for Farmer Gedsudski.
And, Farmer Gedsudski had a wife of legendary beauty! Mrs. Gedsudski was the best wife a man could want in the eyes of Farmer Gedsudski. She was as good as any of the hired help at harvest time and much easier on the eyes in the long days of winter when the fields were resting under blankets of snow. There were those who remarked that her culinary skills were almost as great as her beauty. She seemed to win the Wentworth County Fair baking contest every year with muffins or cookies that contained her secret ingredient. Hemp, of course.
Farmer Gedsudski couldn’t put his finger on it but, between her cooking and her radiant beauty, he saw an almost other-worldy quality about Mrs. Gedsudski. She kept him happier than he thought any woman could. For longer than he thought any woman could.
Yet, with all his job satisfaction and marital bliss, Farmer Gedsudski felt he was missing something. On many a night, in his relaxing armchair, with a very relaxing bowl of hemp in his pipe, Farmer Gedsudski got to thinking. There were days when hemp farming was difficult, and some seasons the weather cooperated and some seasons it didn’t. There were trials and troubles in the hemp farming racket, he knew, but wasn’t it in overcoming these that he took greatest satisfaction? The Missus wasn’t as young as she used to be either but wasn’t she still thrilling him just as much after a hard day planting and a succulent meal of hemp lasagna? So what on earth was it that had him itching to try something new? What was this desire to up and leave what anyone with the sense God gave a termite would consider a life of near perfection? Was it just that little word? “Near?”
Some of the Gedsudskis’ neighbours noticed an overcast shadow about him and felt it incumbent upon them to give Farmer Gedsudski advice. Mrs. Hansen, who brought eggs and milk every week said that the love of money was the root of all evil. Farmer Gedsudski hadn’t found that to be the case, really. He did have certain customers who were only interested in certain strains, who paid quite handsomely for them. They were, indeed, his least desirable customers, but he didn’t think having more money than he and the Missus needed was a bad thing. In fact last winter, when only the greenhouses were in operation and Mrs. Gedsudski wasn’t as necessary, wasn’t it one of those customers who offered her a vacation at his tropical condominium at a reasonable price? Farmer Gedsudski thought, “Those guys ain’t so bad.”
The more advice he received and the more he mulled it over, the more Farmer Gedsudski realized that what he was missing in his life was Truth. He told Mrs. Gedsudski one morning that he was striking out on his own in search for Truth. Well she took it harder than he’d expected. But she actually helped his quest in a backhanded sort of way when she said, “You go find her then. See if I care! But I will sue you for everything!”
“Her.” Farmer Gedsudski had no idea Truth was a woman. He reckoned that’d eliminate about half of his search. For that, he signed everything over to Mrs. Gedsudski and granted her the divorce she immediately asked for. He had found that his skills in herbology would suffice to keep him clothed and sheltered during his search. And leaving the challenges and the schedule of the farm behind him turned out to be an unexpected blessing. His new ex-wife had made his search easier right from the get-go.
He searched high and low, near and far, east and west until finally after several years of wandering the globe, at the top of a high mountain, inside an almost imperceptible cave, he found her. Truth was a woman after all. She was an aged, silver-haired, bone rack of a woman. Cave living had not done wonders for her complexion. She had the tanned saddle-skin wrinkles of a brown elephant. Her one remaining tooth did little to block the breath that was rank evidence of a life spent in neglect of dental hygiene. Fires in the cave were her means of cooking and staying warm so her arthritic, bedpost fingers were all permanently soot black. Upon meeting Farmer Gedsudski, she gave him a gummy, halitosis smile and beckoned him inside by waving one hand that looked like a black catcher’s mitt.
Farmer Gedsudski dwelt in the cave with Truth for a year and a day. Though the times of intimacy were a far cry from his cinnamon sweet, firm, buxom former Missus, the curdled, dangling dog-like dugs and sour, sweaty smelliness of Truth was something Farmer Gedsudski learned to appreciate. Truth was everything he’d been looking for otherwise. Every day she told him of the world and every day he was awed by Truth. The knowledge and wisdom she imparted made him feel whole again. He had found what had been missing from his near perfect life.
On the day he left, Truth embraced him and gave him one last rotting flesh kiss, something he had almost become used to, and whispered one final message into Farmer Gedsudski’s ear: “When you speak of me, my darling, tell everybody I’m a hot, young blonde with a body that just won’t quit.”

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Apostille Apostate

I was asked, (or rather, my boss, Mr. Shim was asked), today by the education office of Gangneung to produce a copy of my university degree with an apostille. I can't tell you what a buzzword this has become in the offices responsible for levelling endless bureaucratic paperwork at every foreigner as punishment for choosing to work here in Korea. I've heard it in the immigration office, "We need apostille," at the bank, "We must apostille," at the hospital, "You apostille," and now the education office. First of all, I have an alien card, which means I've been cleared by immigration and the government of Korea. THIS means they have seen an apostilled copy of my degree. Secondly, said degree has been notarized, sealed, stamped, apostilled, verified, and legitimized to death. I have produced sealed transcripts on two occasions, had my degree investigated and verified by Korean document verification offices TWICE at my expense, and have had stamps and signatures affixed to it by notaries, lawyers and Korean consular generals. This is on record at any immigration office, so why does the local education office need an apostille?

Let me first say that it genuinely IS a fun word to say. APOSTILLE. Makes you sound legitimate doesn't it? Say it a few times and see if you don't feel like you could fool someone into believing you are more official than you actually are by saying it. APOSTILLE. I don't need to know what the hell this means, I just need to demand it and watch the foreigner hop to it. It makes me feel SO good about myself! APOSTILLE!

I am positive the officials who request apostille have no idea what it means, most of them anyway, because I have gotten into exchanges with them during which they proved their ignorance. And, as always, pointing out that an immigration officer or any office worker knows less about their job than you is a dangerous thing to do. At the immigration office nearby Gangneung I gave them a copy of my degree which had been stamped and signed by a lawyer who I had never met previous to the stamping and signing and who I paid about 50 Canadian dollars for the service. The lady at the office, who I was told prides herself on knowing a lot about Korean immigration laws and rules, asked me for my ORIGINAL degree with apostille. I told her that nobody gets their ORIGINAL degrees stamped or notarized or "apostilled," and what I had just handed her was a copy of my original document that had been stamped, signed and notarized by a lawyer. She said, that's not what we need. We need apostille.

The word "apostille" in French means "notation." When we get our documents "notarized" by a "notary" public or a lawyer, this is identical to having them apostilled. Ironically, in Canada, where we have French and English as our national languages, we never really used the term until recently. It was something that started, in my understanding, in the U.S. But since the difference between Canadians and Americans is negligible to a Korean immigration officer, all over the country they started demanding Canadians produce "APOSTILLE." I am sure hundreds of us have informed workers all over Korea that we have been doing exactly this for years and that the document in their hands is essentially "apostille." And I'm sure hundreds of Korean immigration workers took offence to the uppety Canadians trying to tell them their jobs. So now, just recently, Canadian notaries, lawyers, foreign workers and document services have started using the term "apostille" but doing exactly nothing different than they did before.

So Mr. Shim calls me from the education office asking for the requisite apostille. I had given him a copy of the copy of my degree that the lawyer had signed and stamped. I said that the stamp was not a postage stamp, (which, hilariously, due to misinterpretation combined with deep desire to seem highly official, Korean consulars have been doing for years),
it's a stamp that raises the surface of the paper and creates bumps on it. This is why it is not done to the original degrees. I'm pretty sure the craze over "sealed transcripts" I fell victim to twice was just a misinterpretation gone amok as well. One of my colleagues had her's delivered and she opened the envelope before giving her transcripts to her employer. She wanted to copy them I think. They wouldn't accept the transcripts because the seal had been broken. The envelope seal. I bet what happened was when checking their very, very bad electronic dictionary, some immigration head office worker mistakenly used the word "seal" when he/she wanted "stamped" and mixed up a personal seal or stamp with a sealed envelope. And, fuck it, let the foreigners figure it out. Notice the degree is stamped with stamps, a personal seal stamp, and a signiture, just to cover all the bases.

Anyway, I said to Mr. Shim that the signiture was still there along with the lawyer's official ink stamp so that really should qualify as an "apostille" without the person feeling the bumps on the paper. I'll find out at work today whether the worker was appeased or not. I'm guessing he'll be going back with the original copy of the original degree with the bumps because somebody wants to appear official without actually knowing what the hell he/she is doing and if they can inconvenience a foreigner along the way, well that just an added bonus.

That REALLY is what a mojority of the paperwork I've been doing for, I don't know, the past year???, comes down to: inconveniencing foreigners. I had 6 photos taken for the purposes of official papers here. They had peel-away backing so they could be conveniently stuck to the documents. I ran out and had to get another 4 yesterday so that I could go to the hospital to get my official physical examination, which requires a photo attached, FOR THE SECOND TIME! It needs to be in a "sealed" evelope too. ha ha ha ha. I have to laugh because if this all isn't just inconveniencing the barbarians from abroad then they are laughable, jeuvenile attempts at ersatz professionalism so many of the agencies put on here. Like playing grown-up. That's what it is. Seriously! I think I may be giving the Koreans the benefit of the doubt assuming they're doing this out of pure racism.

At any rate, I am, indeed, an apostille apostate. I reject the official requests for them as either xenophobic inconveniencing or childish desire for unwarranted legitimacy. At their VERY BEST the process is an antiquated one. Back when practicing law was not well known to be among the most unscrupulous of professions, I suppose it might have meant something to have an attorney affix his or her signiture or seal to a document, thereby giving it slightly more legitimacy than the word of a commoner. If the lawyer had known the person for some time and was able to vouch for his/her honesty, and if no money changed hands, the process might have actually had some merit. But nowadays when a lawyer who has just billed a client for an hour after leaving a message on his answering machine, set a rapist free on a technicality, and paid a visit to a hospital emergency room giving out cards for potential personal injury lawsuits, signs, stamps, seals, verifies, notarizes or fucking APOSTILLES anything as a total stranger who I have paid to do so, it means exactly nothing and actually detracts from the legitimacy of any document. But it's a costly and inconvenient process that is just so doggone FUN to say! APOSTILLE! APOSTILLE! Maybe it's me but I see two gay men using it as a safe word. APOSTILLE! APOSTILLE you beast!

Anyway, after we get this nonsense taken care of, Mr. Shim assures me that the paperwork will finally be over. Which is good because after, like I said, about a year of jumping through hoops and filling out documents most of which are completely unnecessary, I feel like saying to the Korean government, "APOSTILLE! APOSTILLE! JIN JAH APOSTILLE!"

Addendum after work the same day: What'd I tell ya? Mr. Shim tried unsuccessfully to use the copy of the stamped degree without the bumps. I guess they need to feel the bumps. Whatever! I'll be so glad to get all the paper pushing over and done with, I'll submit to one last act of subservience. In fact I have made it through my first full month of employment here and that means I will have money again! WOOOOO HOOOOO!!! Not outta debt by a long shot but not scrounging for change either. Korea, despite its shortcomings, and there is no shortage of shortcomings, has bailed me out of the worst financial disaster I've ever been in. I am working my ass off here but I think it'll get easier. I am slowly reigning in the students who looked to be troublemakers. The older ones at least. The younger ones might need a bit more work. But as time goes by and I keep sacrificing an entire day of every weekend to plan lessons, I'll eventually get entire curriculums together for all the books and that will make my life a lot easier.

I have to say I love the hours! I never have to get up early. What a blessing that is! No shift work, split shifts, sleep deprivation, short turnarounds or any of that crap. 3:30 PM to 9:30 PM every day Monday to Friday. It's more teaching hours than an ideal schedule should have. I'd prefer 5 or even 4 hours a day since I have so many students and different classes and every one requires its own lesson plans for the week. But for a guy who likes to have a beer or two to wind down at night, then get online and play, it's a perfect schedule. I could even have more than a beer or two if I had a mind to. Not doing that though until I get more settled in.

So now that the big bureaucracy is almost over, I will be able to concentrate on other things. Namely, getting a phone, getting my stuff sent here from Canada, and getting paid up with all the very accomodating people who stuck with me through the whole Indonesia fiasco. The shipment is in the works and will likely be here by March. I may get a little use from the jeans, pants, sweaters and winter clothes in it yet. I KNOW I'll be using the golf clubs. And it will be super nice to have my big computer! And printer. Though I think I just might break down and get a printer here. Mine will be all clogged up by now anyway and printers aren't too expensive. I've been going to a store and getting things printed out at 300 won per page black and white and a lot more for colour. I could have bought a printer by now with only one month's worth of printing.

The debts to friends and family will take longer to repay. I am SOOO looking forward to the end of 2016! I reckon by then I'll be out of debt again and I'll even have some money in the bank. Enough for a bit of a Christmas time holiday for sure! And MAN will I be aching by then to hit the links in Pattaya! Or who knows, maybe even Viet Nam! Then another year here in Gangneung and before I know it the 2018 Winter Olympics will be right in my back yard. And I'll have the donatos to GO to the events! I have plans to repay some deserving, sport loving friends who have helped me in my time of need. Big plans. I hope things work out.

So anyhoo, as I so often say, I have no love for the crazy, silly, messed up things that happen here in Korea. I DO love that it's a free enough country that I can express my feelings truthfully without getting ground up into Soon Dae for it. But, like my regular railings about Canada, if I didn't like the place, I wouldn't care enough to bitch about it.

Peace out brethren and sistren.

Addendum: OH MY GOD, Magnum! The first comment I've had in ages and it's someone trolling for apostilles. Do you see? Do you see? Do you see, Larry? DO YOU SEE what happens? You're killing your father, Larry. DO you SEE what happens when you f*&^ a stranger in the a@#$? Do you see what kind of money grubbing vermin I'm dealing with here?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Artificial Happiness

Okay. Sigh. Holy crap, I'm exhausted before I even start this post! What exhausts me more than most things? Maybe more than anything? It's the hyperpositivity that seems to me to have reached pandemic proportions worldwide and, by no coincidence, our world is in the most trouble its ever been in.

Let me start by saying that I'm with you, positive people! I am! I realilze that you can find positives in almost anything if you look desperately enough. And I agree that thinking positively is healthy for mind, body and spirit. This is what makes it so easy for people to try to life coach us all into ignoring the smorgasbord of high-carb, fatty, succulent shit the world serves us up on a daily basis, and making do with the dietary, free-range, organic, rice cakes of positivity hidden somewhere on that table.

Nope. No. Scratch that metaphor because while the positivity may very well be good for us, like eating "right," it is not the negativity that is our enemy. Not in my opinion. This is just the opinion of the hyperpositive. Ironically it is what the people who cause all the negativity would gladly have the entire world believe. What I'm saying is, while these positive people don't realize it, in most cases, and they are not evil, in most cases, they are enabling the evildoers of the world. That's right. That's what I said. By thinking positive, they are enabling the negative.

How so? Well I'm glad I asked that question. While the hyperpositive are engaged in their difficult labours of creating their escapist, artificial happiness, they are forcing out the realities of the world that are in dire need of attention. They are putting their heads in the sand while the desert collapses around them. This is the very definition of apathy, folks, yet, (and this is why I find them so exhausting), so many of these people singing "Zippadee Doo Da" on the sinking Titanic are pointing fingers at people who would draw attention to the problems of the world in an effort to elevate them into public consciousness so that the public can amend them.

Titanic, ice berg, climate change. Let's use this for an example. These retreads who would tell you that global warming is a myth and burning fossil fuels is not harming our planet are quite a crew, aren't they? They remind me of the tobacco industry reps back in the days when they hired scientists be very busy NOT proving smoking causes lung cancer. Ignoring these people while the Chinese ACTUALLY purchase Canadian air by the can,

is not going to make the smog, the oil spills, the melting ice caps, the proxy wars or the greedy corporations go away. But we can always look really REALLY hard to find a positive from all the shit the fossil fuel hoarders of the world bring us. Let's see... advances in technology and science such as the oil-eating enzymes developed to help clean up oil spills. How about the shorter line-ups to see the Great Wall, or as much as you can see of it on a polluted day? Seriously though, the one truth that has been crammed down fossil fuel country citizens' throats is jobs. It's true. No arguing that. There are small groups of people who gain employment from the fossil fuel industry by extracting and selling and making an even SMALLER group of people filthy rich at the expense of the GIGANTIC majority of us. How can they feel good about that? "Just don't think about that. Ignore it. Concentrate on the positive. Don't be such a bummer. Don't be so negative! Stick your head in the sand and let's go out drinking and dancing so we can wipe reality right out of our heads."

This is NOT happiness, my friends. I've seen other defence mechanisms as well. The old, "I have to do this to support my family," "It's just business," "If I don't do it somebody else will," arguments come to the fore. There are even people who do charity work to ease the mental burden that being a contributing factor to the steady deterioration of the planet causes. But try as they might, no amount of charity will help as many people as their industry is hurting. So go on Prozac or Zoloft or whatever the hell the newest anti-depressant might be. Then you are just supporting ANOTHER evil industry. We ALL do it. If we have money in a bank, if we shop at Wall Mart, if we buy stuff made in China. What the hell ISN'T made in China?

So it sounds like just another person bitching but not offering solutions. This is another tried and true argument that is used against realists nowadays. When people occupy Wall Street or demonstrate I am constantly hearing, "Their reasons. weren't clear. What could these cryptic signs possibly mean?"

I have seen positive things done by these supposedly negative people too! Look at Iceland jailing its corrupt bankers. Look at Germany going a day where they actually used less energy than they created with non-fossil technology. Look at Norway sharing the oil profits with the people to whom the oil belongs and making them all rich. Things like this could happen globally if only we could wake the sleepers, the lazy, the ignorant, the misinformed and the hyperpositive.

As much as I hate to state this, I think it may be a fact: for this to occur globally, it probably needs to start in the U.S. of A. And with the possible exception of China, I think they might be the toughest country to whip into shape. But I am going to suggest a solution. It's not drastic like quitting your jobs. In fact it's something that only Americans can do. Here it is. Vote for Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders could make some VERY positive things happen in America. He'll fight the corporations, give affordable health care, cheaper education or even free, lower taxes for regular people and raise them for corporate fat cats, he'll run America the way we all know countries should be run. And more importantly he'll give hope for the hyperpositive. You see I believe that behind most of these "Hooray for everything" smiles is a depression and hopelessness that a corrupt world can cause. They try to block out the negative but it finds them. The "happiness" they claim to want to share with you and me is nothing but artificial happiness and an aversion to the responsible behaviour that could make real changes in the real world and lead to REAL happiness.

As I've said before, don't be skull sodomized. We need to sack up and face the negatives in the world and turn them into positives. REAL positives make REAL happiness. I, for one refuse to satisfy myself with the escapist, fairy tale happiness of the hyperpositive. They exhaust me because they think they are doing good when really they should be ashamed of themselves. But they are so out of touch with shame, (because, well that would be negative, wouldn't it?), they seem incapable of change. Not only that but the best defence is a good offense, they seem to think, so now, the militant action they so despise directing toward the genuine evil in the world, is being foisted upon the only people who are doing anything to change that evil.

Artificial happiness. It's a riddle inside a puzzle wrapped in a conundrum.


Friday, January 22, 2016

Population Problem

I remember an old Simpsons episode in which Apu says, I think to Homer, something about America's "dangerously low population." It was a funny joke. Irony. I laughed. It's something made fun of quite a few times in the show, most notably the ONE time Apu and his wife create children, it turns out to be EIGHT children. The Nahasapeemapetilon Octuplets (from top-left to bottom-right): Sashi, Pria, Anoop, Gheet, Poonam, Uma, Sandeep, and Nabendu

"Dangerously low population." I still chuckle at that. Back when the episode in which that line was spoken by Apu aired, I think late 80's early 90's, the population of the entire world was 5 billion. Today India alone has 1.3 billion people. That's about 18% of the world's population. Added to China's 1.4 billion, (about 20% of the world), (and I'm assuming that's excluding Hongcouver and all the other Chinese not living in China), that's getting close to 3 billion in 2 countries. Now they ARE big countries but still...

I don't know how it could be made any clearer. Would you want to ride that train? Or be visiting the "Great" Wall when it's so full? I know population problems. I've lived in Jakarta and I lived in Seoul back when it was higher up on the population density ratings. It's no picnic. I remember visiting Sorak Mountain during Chuseok, (Korean Thanksgiving), and although I always love being out in nature on a mountain somewhere, I couldn't get OFF that mountain soon enough. The ticket saleslady told me they'd sold a million tickets that day and I believe her. Every path was 4 or 5 wide with people pushing one way or another. You see when you have too many people, they get pushy. Aggressive. Competitive. Or they don't get anywhere at all. It's a problem that is just no good for anyone. Well, no good for ALMOST anyone.

Nice, relaxing dip anyone? There's nothing relaxing or nice about overpopulation.

And if you think they don't know, you are either ignorant or you have been misled.

I don't think I need to argue too hard to make this point. Do I? Because recently I read an article someone had posted online about Japan and it's shrinking population. The article was all doom and gloom about the dangers this will create for the future of the Japanese. I commented by saying something like, "And countries like China and India feel sorry for Japan's dangerously low population. Good for you, Japan!"

It wasn't long before a guy name Lolu replied to my comment. He said that China and India are enjoying booming economies right now while Japan hasn't boomed in 3 decades. So, still in humour mode, I reply, "Oh, I see. So more people = more money. That's gotta be right. Thanks, Lolu."

He replied, "More people = more workers for industries = more development of newer industries = more tax payers = booming economy." This is the pseudoscience and attractive sophistry that I am finding implanted in the minds of youngsters more and more these days. It sounds pretty plausible and with enough self-convincing a person with a functioning intellect could successfully turn it into a belief. It just ain't what's happening. So I replied, "Spoken like a true industrialist. In reality, it's not sheer number of workers that attracts industry, it's the competition among the workers. And their desperation, which allows them to accept lower wages."

Then Lolu the industrialist showed his colours. He wrote, "How can you have adequate competition between workers if you don't have enough workers in the first place?" I replied, "Adequate for industry? I don't think ZERO wages would be adequate for industry." And as the world has so spinelessly accepted as a fact of life, industry gets away with this behaviour due to its "fiduciary responsibility" to shareholders to amorally suck every bit of worth out of the land, the people, anything it can. I continued, "Industry wouldn't even be satisfied if people PAID to work. They'd STILL want more. Maybe Japan and other globally responsible countries are reducing "adequate" desperation amongst their people. It's a nice thought."

I added the last part because Japan is expensive. Having kids is expensive. Having kids in Japan is VERY expensive. Mystery solved. This, I believe, more than anything is why their population is dropping. And this is why I complimented Japan. It's the same in Korea and I have complimented Korea on it as well. It is globally responsible thinking to realize that maybe behaving like Chinese or Indian bunnies is not what's best for the world.

Here's Lolu's response, "Sure, Japan is being responsible by having a demographic time bomb where there won't be enough young workers to pay for and support the health and social needs of an ever growing ageing population. Very responsible!" (punctuation and spelling errors his, not mine)

Again, sounds like he might know what he's talking about. I think the word choice more than what is said is why this sounds more intelligent than it is. "Demographic time bomb." This is a staple with corporate types whose best interests lie in creating this panic, fear and individual thinking in the consumers. Keeps them cheaper and more productive. Think how hard you have to work to get on a train in India. How many people you have to step on a push aside in your fear of being late for your shitty job and losing the miniscule income it provides. That's what you get on the job site when overpopulation is fostered. People who will inform on other employees or even stab them in the back to protect their jobs.

During the whole exchange I wondered who Lolu was. I kept picturing a guy with an obviously African name, son of an upper crust one-percenter in the great continent. Educated overseas in England. Oxford probably. Business probably. Groomed to take over the family business. What industry was his father involved in and what mental malleability did he pass on to his son? If his father was, I'll go for the low hanging fruit, involved in the blood diamond industry of South Africa, for instance. What does a person repeat to onesself like a maaniacal mantra to justify such hideous treatment of one's fellow human being? "People are just numbered consumers." "I am not directly harming anyone." Or maybe something a bit more cmoplex like, "Adequate competition is a thing."

I realized I might have been banging my head against a wall trying to reason with this young man. And by then others had jumped the thread like the Korean dude, Jack Kim, who commented on how China's one child policy will cause a similar demographic catastrophe in China. And I read some other comments from other people who just go along with the main idea of Japan desperately needing to increase its birth rate and population and I started actually thinking, "Is it me?" I mean, is there a possibility that I could be wrong here? THAT'S how powerful this mindless drivel coupled with general acceptance as fact can be!

I'm NOT wrong. This sort of doom and gloom has been the forecast for MANY countries throughout the ages and has not come to pass. If Japan, or any country, sustains zero population growth and the Japanese old people outnumber the young Japanese workers, the country will not collapse. There are BILLIONS of people in the world who would LOVE to work for those obscenely high Japanese wages!

It's much too hard to get accurate statistics on things like unemployment or income disparity in India let alone China, but I'd like to comment on the Lolu nonsense a little further in case any of you see one iota of truth to it. He said that China and India are "booming" economies right now. This sounds good and it's supposed to when uttered by corporate, industrialist child-killers. But when you take a closer look at overpopulated countries, and I have read some people who have, you will find that the boom is not enjoyed by many. Mostly just the rich. I read a recent article in one of the well known American business magazines about China's economy. The writer had spent years and years in China and was well informed. He wrote that the people of China have basically made a deal with the Chinese Communist Party allowing them to get away with human rights violations based on the Powerball Lottery hope that if they continue having families of 10 or 20, maybe ONE of their family might manage to be soulless and anti-social enough to attain a position in which he or she actually benefits from this economic boom. And I guess the families hope that that family member won't do to them what he did to so many others on the way to the top and say, "No money for you motha fuckaaaaas!"

Same in India. Same in all overpopulated and underpaid countries. It's a corporate win win! And it's the ONLY reason someone might have to say that shrinking population is a bad thing. Don't be skull-sodomized by the greedy. Have your friends spayed or neutered. Here's one more picture of what they say we NEED:

Monday, January 18, 2016

Hengbokguh in Paradise

What a day it was today!

I got outta bed knowing I had been paid for the first time in a LONG time, what amounts to a regular check. Not regular because it was minus an advance I had to take to get me fed and watered to the point I'm at now, but it was my first check at the new job. I went to the bank machine right in front of the KT Telecom building and took out 200,000 won. That's about 230 bucks Canadian right now although it used to just translate 1000 to 1. What's happening to the Canadian dollar? Dayum!

For the three weeks I've been in Gangneung I've been using wifi called "iptime." It has no password. It's brutally slow and getting slower so I went to apply for KT today. That's what I was doing outside the KT building. Other than getting all moneyed up. After a minimal wait and a miraculously successful struggle with my Korean and the teller's English, everything went smoothly.

Geez. I so seldom type that sentence I had to stop and admire it. Oh, wait a second... I got a text message several hours after I applied, while I was at work. The message said I had defaulted on internet payments back in 2008. 8 years ago!

I did some quick record checking and blog reading, (that's one of the main reasons I'm writing this thing, (pppfffssshhhttt! Like I have "records...")), and I had Hanaro internet in Mokpo for half of 2008 then moved to Gwangju where I used the school internet.

I recall ONE thing being most important when I signed up for Hanaro in Mokpo: that I could cancel at any time. I was told by the woman who spoke English just fine that I could. Then when I moved to Gwangju I tried to cancel and she told me I'd have to pay 6 more months.

As you can imagine I had a few choice words for her, which I know she understood, given her excellent English. When I'm morally outraged and downright pissed off I can string together some Shakespearian, Old Testament, Mediavally disparaging remarks on a body! She probably even understood THOSE.

It's what every foreigner has feared more than once being over here. We are constantly handed contracts, including those for our employment, cell phones, internet, utilities, bank accounts, housing and other such necessities, that are ENTIRELY in Korean and we just hope the not-to-be-trusted people who are offering them to us, can be trusted just this once. COME ON - Bankers? Landlords? Government workers? Lawyers? Cable companies? Who knows the kind of usury, graft, fraud, sophistry and chicanery those contracts actually contain? And if you have read my blog before, or know me at all, you'll know that every contract I've signed for work over here in Korea has been broken. Except my current contract and one other. (sheepish eep!)

Well the bitch in Mokpo just blatantly lied to my face and told me I could cancel at any time. I remember this because it was important to me at the time. I had just finished a demoralizing year at Hankook University of Foreign Studies where I found a perfect example of how the greedy scumbag liars of this world can only cheat the spineless, apathetic, self-delusional, neg-blocking, and lethargic - who don't stand up for themselves. It was difficult for me to decide which of that lot I was hightailing it away from. But I had one offer and one possible offer on the table at the time. I was a hot commodity. I wasn't pushing 50 either!

Mokpo University was one place I was looking into and Seokang College was the other. I had worked at Seokang for a year and been told they'd hire me back when it was possible. I had enjoyed the year and was looking forward to returning. But at the last minute they told me I'd have to wait another semestre before they'd be able to hire me. That's 6 months. So I did something I never did before or since: I took the Mokpo job, signing a year contract, with every intention of breaking that contract if Seokang wanted me back. As it turned out, Seokang wanted me back and I broke the contract. With permission from Mokpo. They were actually very nice about it. And, although it was more work and fewer holidays than other contracts I had had at that time, (not NOW though), and although there were other minor problems, their's was the one contract that was never broken as far as I can remember. Shoulda just stayed. Hindsight...

I can't remember for sure, but I can think of no reason why I wouldn't have even TOLD the Hanaro lying sow the whole story. She assured me vehemently that I could cancel at any time. Told me she had dealt with many teachers at Mokpo U. Even gave examples of some who cancelled early. Then just lied. And probably does it regularly. Never losing sleep.

This is going to come back to bite me in the ass, I'm sure of it, but I think the most bothersome part of it all is that the Korean people believe all the workers for the above mentioned necessities when they say that foreigners have caused so many problems for them and they all get away with charging outrageous fees and adding unfair rules and regulations for foreigners. What do you want to bet that a huge number of the supposedly "delinquent" foreigners were innocent just like me and that it was a crooked Korean and a totally Korean contract that were the cause of the problems? And then through no fault of their own the foreigner is considered a credit risk. Dishonest. Evil. That's the way this place works, folks. And as a foreigner, there's precious little recourse. There is nobody who will believe my word agaisn't that lying succubus' in this country. Which further perpetuates the reason why they won't believe my word against that lying succubus'.

And anyway, I thought Hanaro was different from KT. Do they share their records? I know Hanaro had a class action lawsuit against them for sharing peoples information to spammers. Thousands of Koreans collected. I looked it up online because I got tons of debilitating spam on my Hanaro internet and could have gotten in on the rewards, IF I were Korean. One of the penalties.

I've been told that this is part of my record in Korea. Like that "permanent record" we all fear? This is like my Korean credit rating. I wonder if I'll be able to get a phone or if I could rent a house or start a business.

But I guess KT won't let me have internet. You know, out of moral principles. But if I go there with the year's payment up front, they'll get off their high horse in a jiffy. Money's a morality mitigator ain't it?

Shit! This was going to be a positive post. After KT, which I thought had gone just swimmingly, I hiked 'er downtown to my bank. It was a cold wind a blowin' today so I actually had to put my hoodie hood up and TIE it! But it was good exercise. I got to the bank and transferred some money into my Canadian account. No problem! AGAIN I use that phrase! This time it sticks too! I got the aged teller and she did everything right. And fast. Even allowed me to pay a couple bills. And tonight the money is in my account. Less than a day! THAT's what I'm talkin' bout!

And after the successful cable and banking ventures, having the cash in pocket, I went to McDonald's and got a bacon tomato burger. I was feeling pretty good I must say. Understanding, sort of, how people can get comfortable in their little lives of regularly intrickling of resources. So much so that they are able to deal with great negativity in the job place. Like overbearing, egotistical morons who want to be considered ABOVE every other teacher even though they don't deserve to be. Go get another cheeseburger and forget it. I was even thinking today that I could probably make a few bucks on a slogan here in Korea. Hengbok means "happy." It is pronounced remarkably close to the Korean pronunciation of "hamburger." They say something like hemboguh. Hengbok. Hembog. "The Whopper: It's not a hamburger, it's a hengbokguh."

Loses something in translation but I bet it'd work. Now two weeks from now I'll see that. Just watch...

Anyway, it was very nice today feeling like I'm back working a steady job again, getting out of debt, happily wandering the streets, getting logistical difficulties taken care of, got my alien card, I am also feeling much better health-wise, coughing much less... I was even thinking of a post on OINK in which the author complained about all the foreigners complaining about Korea and suggested they just go back home. I thought to myself that Korea besically saved my life here and I'm pretty doggone happy to be back. Then KT pulls this.

It's tough to go an entire day with nothing but plusses. So now I'm thinking, "Well that guy who wrote that post in OINK made one flawed assumption, at least in regards to me, that home, wherever it may be to the complaining foreigners, is any better. The ESL industry in my country pays less, won't hire full time so has no benefits, no pension or severance, no free apartment and, since it's run largely by Koreans, has been messed up by them. Korea is now the only place I can do this well for myself and it now requires more hours and less vacation. Also teaching kids. And it still doesn't even compare with what my country claims as an AVERAGE job of 47,000 a year. Plus all the other problems in Korea so fuck you, OINKer, if you don't like the people complaining, why don't YOU go home?

And there goes my good day in Gangneung. Stay tuned, it's sure to happen again. Just not likely before several more posts complaining about people congregating in doorways or pushing their grocery carts more slowly and even stopping as you courteously wait for them to go first, and many many other things. What I know, and what that OINKer fails to see in my complaints and others on that site, is that we still like Korea, maybe even love it, otherwise we wouldn't bother to complain.

Man! Some woman out there somewhere is VERY lucky I stayed single!