Tuesday, July 28, 2009
* Another thing – if the government DID just state this rule, then that is highly unfair. It’s summer vacation NOW in Korea, and anyone will tell you that over summer, there are almost no foreigners in Korea.
Ina calls back after I had a quick vent to my mum.
Me - Hello?
Ina - Hello, this is Ina
Me - Hi Ina.
Ina - Sheetal, you know before all that I told you wasn’t my opinion. It was school’s.
Ina does this very often. She gives me information or something that doesn’t seem very fair at the time, upsets me and then afterwards she says “I know you and your thinking. It’s school that says that”.
Co-teachers / Managers to foreign teachers in Korea are meant to be like a mouthpiece for the Native English speaker. Very often, principals and vice principals can’t speak English so the co-teacher acts as a link between the two. I’ve come to Ina pretty well over the past year. Unfortunately she doesn’t have a strong character and never questions authority. She just accepts and does, even if she’s unhappy about it.
Mind you, this is Korean culture. You just grin and accept what’s being told you. You don’t talk back. This has been very difficult for me to adjust to. I was raised to believe that just because someone is in authority, doesn’t make what they say or do right.
My previous co-teacher was the opposite. If she didn’t believe in something, she’d defy and fight for it (figuratively). And she always told me that we are all human and we all make mistakes. No one’s perfect. And to top it off, there are always exceptions to rules.
Anyway, I just pretended that the phonecalls hadn't happened, and I got ready to leave for the airport.
Me - Hello?
Ina - Hello, this is Ina
Me - Hi!
Me - I have to tell you something important.`
I had a feeling that I wasn’t going to like what I was about to hear.
* Before I go on, here’s a brief explanation of what’s going on.
My school will officially open for the second semester on (Wednesday) August 26. But that’s still my vacation day, so the principal said that I don’t have to come to work, and I should start on Thursday, August 27. That means I’ll only teach for 2 days that week (Thursday & Friday).
Initially I was only going to arrive back in Korea on Tuesday, August 25. But changed my ticket and will arrive a day earlier – Monday, August 24.
Back to the convo:
Ina - You will come back to Korea on Monday, August 24 right?
Me - Yes
Ina - Actually you have to come back a week earlier because of influenza (swine flu)
Me - I don’t understand.
Ina – There is a document from government. If you travel somewhere, you can’t come to work for a week after you come back.
Immediately I thought – Well, then …why not just NOT go to work that Thursday & Friday and then just start work the following Monday after I’d arrive back in Korea. Doesn’t that makes sense?
Me - Ina, I don’t understand. You want me to come back a week earlier so I can teach on those two days/ Ina - Yes. Can you change your ticket?
I tried coaxing myself into keeping my cool.
Me - Ina, this is big problem for me. I’ve already made plans at home with my family for other travel and now I must leave a whole week early? Why can’t I just not come to school on that Thursday & Friday?
It really felt like she was just not getting what I was saying.
Ina - So, if I tell you that you have to come back one week early, what can you do? Me - Ina, I’m sorry but I cannot. I don’t care if I don’t get paid for those two days of not working, but it’s unfair to tell me to change my ticket now and pay the fee in to change it.
Ina - Actually, I also had to change my ticket (She’s going to the UK for a week). And I also had to pay money for that.
Me - When did you do that?
Ina - Last week.
Me - Last week? Ina, I’m leaving for the airport in 2 hours!!! This isn’t fair to tell me this on the day that I’m leaving.
Ina - I had to change my ticket and pay because I am a teacher. In Korea. And you area also a teacher in Korea.
Me - Ina, I understand all that. And I respect rules, but there have to be some exceptions. The school can’t be so inconsiderate about this.
Ina - I only heard about this today. So principal was concerned about your coming back day so she and Mr Oh suggest you come back one week early. (Mr Oh is my other co-teacher).
Me - Ina, this really isn’t fair.
She lowered her voice a bit.
Ina - Um, Sheetal – actually I’m OK about that. But it’s the school.
By now I was pacing up and down and getting noticeably upset.
Me - I’m sure the school can be a bit lenient about this.
Ina - So do you want me to tell your thoughts to the principal now or after the vacation.
Me - I really don’t know. … I think just please leave things the way you are.
Ina - Ok, please calm down. Forget everything I said and do anything you want. And when vacation is over, I will explain to principal the situation.
*When people tell me to calm down and to NOT stress, I could honestly scream.
Ina - Go and have a nice vacation and journey.
Me - Yes, ok. Thank you, Ina. You too.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
We were just going to get a quick bite and head out. As soon as our gim-bap's (rice/veggies/other things wrapped in seaweed) arrived, she said: "I have something to talk to you about."
This sounded interesting. There was a proverbial drum roll.
"Can a guy and girl be JUST friends?"
I knitted my brows. Damn. I thought it was gonna be a hot topic. But this is an age-old question.
Brief background of Sarah: She's from Busan (down south) and has a steady boyfriend. Her parents and everyone at work thinks she's single. Apparently, I'm the only one who knows. I've met him before and the 3 of us hung out a few weeks ago when he was in town visiting. She's been pretty active in her church community since she moved here last year from Busan.
She told me about a guy she knows at church. He's a year old than her and they seem to get along pretty well. In Korea, friends at church are also known as 'church brothers' or 'church sisters'. So he's like her church brother. For the sake of our convo this afternoon, we started calling him "Church Guy".
When Sarah's dude was in town visiting, she introduced him to Church Guy. Apparently, Church Guy seemed very cool, but the boyfriend didn't take like the idea of his girl hanging out with this older "Church Brother". He's a student (and has a car) ... bonus points in Korea.
Last night Sarah & Church Guy went to movies. Then dinner. Followed by a walk on the beach. Sounds like a date, right? And a romantic one at that. But, Sarah turned her phone off.
"If he called, I didn't want to lie to him" (referring to her dude)
Although, she told him she'd been out (but he didn't ask with whom...)
What he doesn't know won't hurt him...(?
Apparently Church Guy has told Sarah that he likes her. Not as a girl. As a person. He says she reminds him of his sister. He went on to say that he enjoys spending time with her. She told me that she feels very comfortable with him as if she can tell him anything. But her dude hasn't taken a liking to his girl having this "guy friend". So what does she do?
So she asked again, "So do you think a guy and girl can JUST be friends?"
I did a quick mental scan of all the guys I know. Straight, Gay, Bi, Married, Boyfriend, Single...
"Yes" I said. A guy and a girl CAN just be friends without it being romantic.
She looked slightly relieved by my answer.
She smiled and went on to say, "I was thinking of you and Sean."
Sean is one of my best friends, who is more like a family member to me. We met at university and have been inseparable since we first met. I've spoken a lot about him to Sarah - how we'd go out for lunch, movies, dinner and all the good times and laughs we shared.
"What about Sean?" I asked.
"What if your boyfriend doesn't want you to meet Sean? Would you not meet Sean anymore, or would you... and not tell your boyfriend?"
Of course, I hadn't thought of this. But the answer was easy.
I've probably known Sean for longer than I know my boyfriend. So I wasn't going to throw away a friendship just 'cause my dude is insecure about me having other guys as "just friends".
"I'd still see Sean," I said.
Sarah hit the table and said with excitement, "OK! That's what I thought.... 'cause I was thinking if Sheetal thinks it's OK to do that, then I'll say it is too...!"
But there's a counter argument to this.
If you really love your better half and they have a serious problem with you being friends with someone of the opposite sex, what would you do? Ditch your friendships with other guys just for your man? Or... see other guys (just friends) and NOT tell your man?...knowing he'd get upset.
Sarah's going to Busan tomorrow. She'll be there for a month. She told me she won't have any contact with Church Guy over the summer. I got the feeling she had other reasons for being happy about going home for the summer. As much as she enjoyed Church Guy's company, she won't be seeing him and won't have to feel guilty when talking to her guy over the phone.
Leaving the cafe, Sarah said to me, "I feel like you are Carrie (of Sex & the City) because I just tell you everything about my life and about guys"
Mind you, she's not the first to tell me this *wink*
I told her that while she has to take her dude's feelings into consideration, she should just follow what she feels is right. She's not married and still pretty young. She told me that throughout her life, she thought girls should just have friends who are girls and have A boyfriend. But now that she's living on her own, the girl is seeing the world ... :)
A few hours later, after shopping we stopped for a drink at a cafe in Bucheon. I thought the topic was put to rest, but she brought it up again. Clearly it was bothering her. She's feeling guilty about having Church Guy as a friend, knowing her dude doesn't approve.
I told myself to stop giving her advice in case she tells her man - "...but Sheetal said" - I don't want to be getting my a** in hot water with her man!
I have male friends (married/in relationships or single). The reason I'm not IN a relationship with the single dudes? There's no chemistry, I guess.
I have a friend here (Scott) who I occasionally meet for dinner / drinks / movies / coffee. He pays for me a lot of the time, as much as I resist. (just for the record - I have no qualms paying for a dude when we're out ... I've done it plenty of times) To others, this may seem like he's "into me". Some friends have told me that it's likely that he is. But he totally isn't. There's no chemistry. No electricity. No fireworks. It's just his nature...
I think this post should be in 2 parts - else I'm gonna be writing till 3:00am again...
... so can a guy & girl have a relationship that's purely platonic?
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
But I'm losing track, so back to the story.
Yong-san area has a lot of foreigners so it's pretty common seeing a mixture of people when you're out and about. For me, however - this is sometimes a slight culture shock 'coz I usually hang out in my area where there are hardly any foreigners, and nearly all my friends here are Korean.
"Hallo Sweetie", the one said in a thick accent.
"Yes... ok, bye!"
I've been whistled at before and men yelling "Hey baby!" That's when my friend Dimitri stepped in and became my (pretend) boyfriend when we went out.
I stopped in mid-email to watch the rest of the show because Oprah's laughter made me curious about what Harvey was talking about. Well, I only really watched the last 15 minutes. But I seemed to have caught some good tid bits.
"If you're a secretary, you're a secretary.
- What are your short term goals?
- What are your long term goals?
(Short & long must be different!)
- What are your views on relationships?
Ask about his relationship with his mother. If it's non-existent, it's a red flag!
"If he can't love his mother, he's incapable of loving you"
- What do you think about me?
He may say, "I think you're independent / you'll make a great mother...etc"
- How do you feel about me?
He may say, "I feel like when I'm not with you, I ain't gonna make it"
He may even say, "I love you" - which is what most of us just want to hear.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
After weeks of waiting in anticipation, the day had *finally* arrived. I spoke to my brother the night before he left for Johannesburg to take part in the finals of The Next Big Thing - a national competition scouting the best DJ in South Africa. When I spoke to him on the phone, it was about 2am in SA. I can't remember word for word, but I think I told him that I knew he was going to win - I just needed it to be official :) I had complete faith and confidence in him.
I spoke to him again on the morning of the competition. In my heart, I knew when I'd talk to him again - he'd have won the title. Anyways, I went to bed around 10:30pm (Korean time) on Saturday. I asked my mum to call me at 9:00pm (SA time) ... which means it would be 4:00am in Korea. I Skyped in with the family & believe it or not, heard the entire show LIVE!
Meanwhile, I'd been updating my Twitter/Facebook urging friends in SA to watch. Unfortunately, SABC 1 had soccer on, so they didn't broadcast the finals as it was advertised. Bummer. When my brother took the decks, my stomach was in knots. The judges gave their comments, and soon after that the voting lines were open for about an hour.
Thankfully, I was chatting online to a dear friend, Des - who was also watching. And keeping me informed about what was going on. I called back home when the voting lines closed.
The winner was about to be announced.
I actually stood up with my hands covering my mouth.
Hearing my brother's name being announced as the winner was soon muted by the screams of joy & excitement - both from my parents sitting in our lounge in East London, South Africa ... and me, in my apartment in South Korean - seven time zones apart!
My heart was racing. I wanted to jump and scream and call everyone I know! Also, I couldn't WAIT to talk to him. About an hour later, after he'd left the studio with Neelesh I got to talk to him. There was so much I wanted to say to him, but the words were just stuck.
When you want something, you can only ever acquire it if you have ONE thing in particular - and that's PASSION. My brother has it. I'm his biggest fan - hands down!
Check out the official website of the competition here.
The students are able to spend their "dollars" by "buying" snacks - chips, cookies, candy, stationery - even travel catalogs!
After our 6th grade classes on Monday, a lot of the snacks were finished, so we had to raise the 'prices' - making a small packet of chips $20! It was fun, cause just for a minute we announced a "sale" where everything was going to be just $2 - but they HAD to speak in English.
After their "shopping" they could watch a movie - I-Robot :)
My co-teacher & I stayed an extra 2 hours on the Friday after work setting up the classroom~
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
The Daily Dispatch ran this awesome article on my brother today~
So tomorrow is the day we've (we = my family & Damage fans) have been waiting for - the Final Round of the NEXT BIG THING DJ competition.
My brother is currently in Jo'burg and gearing up to appear live on TV tomorrow.
on Channel O & SABC 1
Friday, July 17 2009 - 8:40am
I've just arrived at work.
I saw something disturbing a few minutes ago. Walking to work, as I turned a corner I heard a child crying. I didn't expect to see what I did. A girl (maybe 10 years old) was standing naked, holding a paper with a message on it. Who I assume was her mother was standing next to her, arms folded, giving her a death stare. My instant reaction was that I had to take a photo (to ask my Korean friends what the paper read) and - SURELY, what I saw was wrong.
But I couldn't pull out my green neon camera and snap this weeping child - who was standing naked in the street. Naked. Crying.
I walked on, but turned to look back over my shoulder a couple of times. So many people walking towards her were slowing down and mothers walking their children to school had a confusing look on their face.
I arrived at school, and told one of my co-teachers (Mr Oh) what I'd seen.
"Maybe she's being punished?" he said.
"But isn't that illegal?" I asked.
I just told another friend at school about it, and she told me that she'd heard about it. The paper read:
"I am a liar"
What do you think? I'm really disturbed by this.
I told my other co-teacher about this. She was very upset to hear this. She said that it constitutes as child abuse. And she just shook her head in disappointment saying, "That girl will NEVER forget today for the rest of her life."
I honestly don't know if the girl is one of my student's. I couldn't bear to look at her face. It is very likely that she is a student at our school, since this happened just around the corner from the school. Apparently, no one can question or confront the parent, but if necessary - it can be exposed in the media. I know of other teacher's who walk that route in the morning and will ask them if they saw it.
But - so far no one has reacted as it being 'normal' or acceptable.
Read it. Don't read it. Your choice :)
This is what my week has been like:
- 5:50am - Wake up! (to my friendly wake up bell on my phone: "Gooood Mooorning!")
- 6:30am - Start getting ready for work (shower etc...)
- 7:15am - Mix a protein shake
Usually I'd also sit at the table and read a couple of pages of a book I'm into. Otherwise, Tweet a bit from my iPod Touch.
- 7:35am - Start getting dressed
Anyone who wears make-up will know that applying it is somewhat like art. I begin with a spray/cream for blemishes which is like a treatment. Then moisturizer. Next - SUNBLOCK (BB Cream included). Foundation. Setting Powder. Wipe off excess. Shimmering power on the cheeks. If I'm in the mood, a bit of eye-shadow, blending it into the arch of my eyebrow. Then - eyeliner. (I use the screw crayon type). First on the eye-lid, and then under the eye.
I make sure I've taken my tablets for the day before applying lipstick.
1) Lip moisturizer
2) Lip Liner
3) Lip Colour Gloss
My hair doesn't take all that long. I merely clip it up and just "GHD" the fringe. Some days I just clip it back. 2 reasons why I haven't been wearing my hair down these days:
1 - My recent haircut & colour was a disaster story on its own
2 - The heat & humidy will make it stand up like a witch
Am I good to go yet? Nope - have to make sure that my kitchen sink is clean and dishes-free.
- 8:00 / 8:10am - Leave the apartment
- 8:15 / 8:25am - Arrive at school
- 8:40 - 9:00am - Prepare for class
- 09:00 - 12:00pm - Teaching
- 12:10pm - Lunch Time
- 1:00 - 2:30pm - Teaching
- 2:50pm - After School Class
- 4:00pm - Head to the air-conned office
- 4:40pm - Home Time
- 5:15pm - Arrive Home
- 6:00pm - Eat
- 8:00pm - Oprah
- 1:30am - Time to disconnect.
I've been behind on my e-mails for the past few weeks. E-mails to family have gone down to one liners and sometimes even just talking through keywords.
Also, I'm talking less. Observing more. It's just the way it is at the moment. End.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Now remember I teach over 1,000 students per week! Yeah, I know some of their names, but I usually have to double check with their homeroom teachers if I forget. Anyways, I couldn't remember her name. I quickly scanned some photo's I've taken at school and FOUND the girl in a pic I'd taken at Sports Day! I circled her face and sent the pic to her homeroom teacher.
I was touched :)
Se-yeon is the girl in yellow with glasses
The last time I visited a hairdresser was in April when I was in South Africa. I've already blogged about what a disaster that was. I went into a mild/mini depression for the following 3 days (my family may argue that it was longer). Why was I so unhappy? It wasn't the cut I'd asked for, and I was given golden streaks - something I still shudder about when I think back to it. I had another dark colour over it to cover it up, but by now it's nearly all washed out and my hair is looking pretty light in colour. Light hair against my skin tone is not a look I like at all.
When I asked the lady to just trim my fringe like she always does, she pulled her face and asked where I'd cut my hair. I wanted to get out of there as quickly as I could. In my broken Korean I told her I'd had it cut when I was in South Africa. She said I should go back to her after it had grown out a bit. Little did she know that I am counting the days till I get home to have it treated, trimmed to a decent length and something that *I* approve of!
As I've blogged before, it's monsoon season here in Korea. The humidity is disgustingly sticky. And as always, under such weather conditions, my hair doesn't know how to behave! It's really easy and convenient for me to just tie / clip it up everyday. I hate having hair dangling in my eyes - nothing is more annoying.
The drama of my hair continues... till further notice!
A few months ago I was in Myeong-dong, my favourite area in Seoul. While walking to the subway station there was a lot of activity in front of one of the department stores. They often have amateur groups performing to pop music (Korean & English). The day that I was there, they were dancing to Beyonce's "Single Ladies".
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
It just so happens that this DJ is also my brother :) By now, y'all know that I'm probably his biggest fan. And while I may be biased, I can confidently say - damn ... this guy can make anyone jump up and move! He's almost on his way to Gauteng where he will take part in the final round of the national DJ competition, THE NEXT BIG THING. He'll be representing the Eastern Cape ~!! Wooohooo!
I am *so* proud of how far he's come. I know how much this means to him and if anyone knows the passion he has about this, trust me ... it's ME!
will be LIVE
on Saturday, July 18 2009
on Channel O & SABC 1
Damage beats his way to stardom
Barbara Hollands EAST LONDON CORRESPONDENT
A YOUNG Eastern Cape man with a passion for mixing music has been chosen to represent the province in a national DJ competition which will be televised live next Saturday night.
Darmesh Makhan, 22, who goes by the name DJ Damage, is the only Eastern Cape entrant to reach the finals of The Next Big Thing, an annual competition run by Channel O and SABC1.
Describing the competition as an “Idols for DJs”, Makhan said his unique music mixes were a hit with viewers who voted him into the final stage of the competition.
“I think I‘m different from the other four finalists who are from Gauteng, the Western Cape and KZN because they play mostly house music and I play everything from old-school stuff like Greased Lightning to the latest hip-hop.
Makhan matriculated at Selborne College before joining his father‘s media company where he works as a layout artist.
His interest in DJ-ing was aroused when he saw hot South African DJ Ready D on television‘s Phat Joe Show.
“I was just 16 but when I saw Ready D and what he was doing to the crowd, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I started building up my music collection. My school friends nicknamed me DJ Damage and I decided to roll with that name.”
On his eighteenth birthday, his parents gave him his first pair of decks and the young DJ started teaching himself the skills of mixing music from his Braelyn home.
Now DJ Damage, who regularly amps up the atmosphere at Numbers Dance Club and corporate gigs around East London, is becoming a household name nationally. He often sends mixes to the Fresh Drive on 5fm, which are played on the Ultimix at 6 and also has residency on the Friday Night Fix on the same station on most Friday nights.
Last year his father encouraged him to enter The Next Big Thing competition, but he only made it to the semi-finals. This time around, DJ Damage is hell-bent on winning.
“I just had to try again, so I sent a 12-minute mix and when I made the semi-finals they flew me to Jo‘burg and we were televised live. It was nerve-racking, especially when they told me just before that a million people were watching, but after a while I just ignored the cameras.”
He was “speechless” when he was called live on air to be told he was one of five DJs through to the finals and is now busy mixing an earth-shattering 14-minute set for the finals next week which will be broadcast at 10pm.
If he wins, he will enjoy a seven-day working cruise to the Seychelles where he will play at a variety of nightclubs, a recording contract and a state-of-the-art DJ rig.
“I want to bring this home to the Eastern Cape to show there is talent in small cities.
“People ask me if I‘m not intimidated by the Jo‘burg and Cape Town guys, but I tell them they are the ones who should be scared of the small town guys.”
There were even messages on the school system to take care and watch out for leaks in the classrooms. The vice-principal also walked around the school checking for any damages etc... some of the windows outside the English classroom (in the corridor) were a bit open and the floors were wet.
I needed to do some shopping on my way home, but didn't - was not in the mood to carry rain in my grocery packets! It can wait till tomorrow.
Anyways, I was so relieved to come home and find that the rain hadn't come in through the SMALL opening of my window / net blinds. Around 7pm, the rain was still beating against my window - love this weather, but only when I'm at home and dry. My heart goes out to those without shelter during weather conditions like today :(
Sunday, July 12, 2009
I decided on an Asus model, who were the first to actually come up with the concept of netbooks. The 1008Ha is the latest model and comes in black, white and pink. Every single review complained that the glossy black was prone to fingerprint stains. I couldn't think of having a pink cover, so I settle for the white - which makes it look like a Mac, right?
The design is said to be inspired by nature, and so the 1008Ha is also known as the Seashell as the machine's shape is similar to it. It is said to have a 6+hour battery life - which is perfect for me. It arrived on Friday, and I was so excited! I love getting new electronics :-)
I really like the design and feel of it. It's lightweight and fairly easy to type on. I'm currently using Windows XP (Korean) on it, but am going to have my IT guy install the English version for me tomorrow, along with MS Office and an Anti-virus program as it's not included.
As you can see, the keys are pretty flat looking, and one has to get used to the Pg Up/Pg Dn key on the bottom right of the keyboard. If working on a surface, it's best to use a mouse (included in the package), as browsing and using the mousepad can be a bit trickey. Web pages can be enlarged or shrunk by either 'stretching' or 'pinching' the mousepad (as seen in the pic below).
In the left corner, there's also a button to turn on / off WiFi. The power button is simply in the top right hand corner. There are two USB Ports (external hard-drive/mouse)? One of the common features of this model is that it has a power-saving mode. Also included in the box is a micro-fibre cleaning cloth.
I'm ever so thankful that I have a reliable IT guy in my life over here. Trust me, if I were him, I'd block all calls from ME~! But he never fails to deliver and helps me out with virtually anything I need. He's just awesome!
The smell was driving them crazy and they were singing "Pizza Pizza Pizza" to the tune of "Mama Mia"'s "Money Money Money"! Needless to say, they were super happy and co-operated well when we had to move on to the next chapter :)