Saturday, February 14, 2009

Gift from my school principal

I'm never called to the principal's office, so when I got the call to go downstairs... I didn't know what to expect! The principal of the school I work for gave me this beautiful gift ... a set of spoons & chopsticks. He wrote a letter and explanation of the gift to me, which was translated by my colleagues...

(He also told me that he hopes I use them with my future Korean husband!)

Dear Sheetal Makhan (Teacher)

First of all, I'd like to express my gratitude to you because you have taught English to our students in an interesting and kind way since you came to our school. You've stayed with us for up to almost one and a half years.

I also thank you that you get along with all teachers at our school and have good relationships with them.

I am impressed you have learned Korean and Korean alphabet (Hangeul) and the bright side of Korean culture. Thank you also for introducing these things to your country.

I hope you keep fit and continue to educate our students. I also wish that you learn about our country and be able to promote Korea positively always.

2009. 2. 11. Wed
Korea 경기도 시흥시 신천동 203번지

신천 초등학교 교장 조건상

(Sincheon Elementary School Principal, Geon-Sang Jo)

Giving a souvenir
〔a spoon and chopsticks)
to Sheetal

Korean usually use both spoon and chopsticks to eat food with. I think you are not familiar with these, so you may find it difficult to use them However if you constantly use chopsticks, then you will eventually be good at it.

Korean people use spoons and metal chopsticks since they were young, so most Korean are skillful in work with using their hands. Using them has improved intellectual ability of Korean as well. For example, when Korean doctors operate on patients the fingers they use are very accurate and take care of detail. In addition, fields like IT technology and semiconductors are excellent.

Some Koreas who took part in The World Skill Olympics received first prize many times over the last several years.

I wish you will enjoy Korean life using these. Please, don't forget Korean and always keep my country in your heart.

2009년 2.11 수 wed

한국 신천초등학교장 조건상 드림

Korea Sincheon Elementary School Principal

Award for Excellence

I recently won an award from the Foreign English Teachers' Association in my city, Siheung. This is what was written on the plaque:

Award for Excellence

In appreciation of the spirit and dedication for teaching demonstrated by:
Sheetal Makhan

The Association proudly bestows this award to Sheetal. She has demonstrated herself to be an outstanding educator. She brings life to English education and stands out amongst her peers. The Awards Committee for 2008 examined her teaching materials and met with her and her co-workers, all of which spoke to her contagious enthusiasm for learning.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Chatterbox: February '09 ~ Jet-setting solo...

I hope that 2009 is proving to be a good year for you so far. I have a positive feeling about this year, and I’d like to reiterate my good wishes to you all – for good health and happiness for you and your loved ones.

Do you know how to be alone without being lonely? For a long time, I couldn’t wrap my mind around this concept. I couldn’t bear the thought of sitting in a restaurant or going to a movie alone. About three years ago, during university I set my mind on going to a movie alone. I did, and realized that it wasn’t really that bad! I started going frequently – alone.

When I moved to Korea in 2007, I gained a tremendous amount of independence. I was ready to take on any challenges and adventures that came my way.

I always knew that I was destined to travel and I feel like I’m living my dream – traveling to places I only dreamt about. I have limited vacation time, so when I am not working, I try to travel as much as possible.

When I travel, I want to learn about the culture and people of the country I’m in. I am more interested in taking photographs of people and interesting architecture, whereas shopping is the least important thing to me.

At the end of December last year, I traveled to Singapore and spent a couple of days in Malaysia. None of my friends were available to travel with me, so I took the plunge and went alone. Thinking back on my trip, it was probably the best vacation I have been on, even though I was alone during the festive season. I did things at my own pace and ate whatever and whenever I wanted.

Many people have asked me if I felt bored and / or lonely. Honestly? I didn’t. I learnt that by being alone, especially checking in at a hotel or dining alone, one is more approachable. Very often I sparked up conversations with people working at the concierge desk, people on the same bus as me and restaurant staff.

Locals were confused because I am an Indian from South Africa who’s been living in South Korea and now traveling around Asia alone. I didn’t know that traveling solo would be so surprising to some. In fact, I felt very safe being alone. I felt like people (like hotel staff) looked out for me more, and kept ensuring that I was fine and knew exactly where to go and how to get there.

One of the highlights of Singapore was visiting the oldest Hindu temple in Chinatown, Sri Mariamman Temple, where visitors have to pay S$3 to take photographs inside. You may also remember that some of Hrithik Roshan’s Krrish was shot in Singapore, so it was exciting to see some sights that I recognized from the film, like the famous Merlion. Singapore is renowned for its cleanliness, but to see people sweeping the streets constantly is something quite unreal.

I made a spontaneous decision to go to Kuala Lumpur (KL) from Singapore. I arrived on a Saturday afternoon with no return ticket back to Singapore, no Ringgits (Malay currency) and no accommodation! Luckily I met kind and helpful people along the way (bus and taxi drivers) and all was sorted within an hour.

In KL, the Petronas Twin Towers stand majestically amongst KL’s skyline. Being the tallest twin and office building in the world, one feels completely minute next to it.

The trip back to Korea was long and very tiring…but oh so worth it! The experience of traveling alone was not only adventurous, but I proved that I can now do anything on my own! Friends come and go, and as I grow older I learn that there are fewer people we can rely on. Therefore, the only constant person that won’t let me down is the one that lives in my mirror…and she’s not that bad to hang out with!

You can read more about my trip and see more photo’s on my blog at

This month, my column is dedicated to my loyal friend Natalie who, without fail, is a true confidante regardless of time zones.

Happy Valentines Day to everyone who celebrates!

See you all next month…be safe and happy.

Hoola Dancing ~ Amazing Show

From the AMAZING SHOW (Philippines)
Remember: They're all men!

One night only! ~ Amazing Show

From the AMAZING SHOW (Philippines)
People: They are all MEN!

Single Ladies in Myeong-dong

I was in Myeong-dong yesterday ~ one of my favourite areas in Seoul. Outside one of the department stores, as usual ... there were dancers. I caught this on video. Beyonce's, "Single Ladies"...

Threading Machine

Threading is done to remove unwanted facial hair. It is done by manipulating and twisting a cotton thread. The hair caught between the cross threads are plucked from the follicle. Compared to tweezing, this method is less painful. Threading has many advantages over waxing ~ it doesn't peel of a layer of skin, the hair doesn't grow back as fast, it can pull out specific hairs, hair doesn't need to be long to be removed...and doesn't leave the skin red and irritated.

I told my beauty therapist here in Korea about threading, and a few days later... this is what she got... a threading machine! It's not as painful, unless you're tired and your skin is sensitive ...or you're PMS'ing! Check it out:

Transportable store!

This is someone's bicycle ...but also their little store selling cigarettes/candy!

Escaping the heat

People look for shade ANYWHERE to escape the heat!

Looking for a job?

There are company stalls outside the public library. People can go there, apply for a job, have an interview on the spot and find out then and there if they're hired. If not, move to the next stall!

Male Urinals

There are male urinals like these all over ~

Halo Halo / Pat-bing-soo

Pat-bing-soo is a very popular summer snack/dessert in Korea. It's a mixture of yogurt or ice cream, fruit, cereal, jelly bits etc... served on crushed ice. In the Philippines, the same thing is called Halo Halo (meaning "mix mix").

It's served like this:

After mixing everything together...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Day 5 - G'Bye Philippines, Friday Jan 30 2009

At departures at NAIA, you have to say your goodbyes outside the airport building. This eliminates congestion inside, which is pretty great...Security allowed my aunt to stand in the queue with me right up to where I had to present my ID and scan my luggage.

Similar to what I saw at Changi Airport in Singapore

Ohhh ~ I had a 30 minute Shiatsu massage

Few minutes before boarding

Good bye Philippines!

...Happy to be back in Korea (Incheon Airport)

Day 4 - Cowboy Grill, Thursday Jan 29 2009

There was a travel agency at our hotel, and the ladies there helped us out with a few necessary things. For the first day, they thought my aunt was my mother because she kept calling me 'anak' which means 'my child' in Tagalog. They were very friendly and loads of fun... so ~ we went out with them on Thursday night when they finished work! (at 22:30)!

This pizza was goo-oood! But SO garlicy

There was live music ~ I really can't stand live music.
Singers scream and when it's SO can anyone enjoy it?

Day 4 - Divisoria Market, Thursday Jan 29 2009

Divisoria Market is ... incredible! One doesn't quite know where to look... where to walk. You have to clutch on to your bag (in my case ... a camera as well). So we stopped to buy sandals for my aunt, but they didn't have her size. The woman YELLED to a man in a buidling across the street.... I couldn't see who she was talking/screaming to.

So I walked across the street... looked up at the building, and saw a man standing at the window. He put something in a bucket and that was connected to a cable-like thing and reeled the bucket across the road (from the one building to the next) ... with my aunt's sandals inside!

Beads beads beads



Manicure in the middle of the street!

While we were at lunch, these guys were posing for me outside!

Day 4 - Manila Zoo, Thursday Jan 29 2009

We went to the Manila Zoo on Thursday.
It was pretty run down and some animals looked really sick.

Filipino school kids on a field trip

Day 3 - White Bird, Wednesday Jan 28 2009

After the Amazing Show, we rested a bit at the hotel. And around 22:30, my aunt and I decided to go out shopping. On our way to the market, we greeted a group of guys that were near our hotel. One guy appeared to be advertising a bar... and asked if we wanted to go to one. We thought - Why not? The place was called White Bird.

We were ushered into the bar... and seated on a couch facing a stage. We were given menus and ordered a drink. And then... there were male dancers on the stage in front of us! The manager came to introduce himself to us and came to sit down next to me. He was dressed in pants and blazer ...and earrings. He pointed to a room with a large window. There were about 15 guys wearing white vests. The manager told me that I could choose any guy I want to dance for us. (I didn't...)

Anyways... there was music... there was dancing...there was a pole. 'Nuff said! One guy got off the stage to dance in front of me, but when he got too close we chased him away.

After we paid (and we were cheated!) ... we hurried out of there so fast and agreed that we'd put it down to life experience. We still went shopping after that! Only got back to our hotel around 2am and chatted while eating junk food ;) It was a great night!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Remembering my uncle

Today, February 4 is my late uncle Dully's birthday. His life was taken way too suddenly at the end of 2006 in a freak accident when he was on holiday in the Philippines. We miss him so much, and at the best of times still can't fathom why we were robbed of such a beautiful soul.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Day 3 - Amazing Show, Wednesday Jan 28 2009

This is a 70-minute musical variety show highlighting world culture.
It also features some of the some of the most beautiful transvestites in Asia.

NOTE: Transvestite = someone who adopts the dress
or manner or sexual role of the opposite sex

So... all these 'women' are actually men!
They were... beautiful!

Phantom of the Opera

Dream Girls

This gal was a hit with the audience

Cabaret performance

Japanese dance

So sexy

Is it a guy?

Is it a girl?

It's both!

Korean fan dance ~ Buchaechum

This guy (in white) was the only 'guy' in the show .... WOW!

Just for the record: HE held ME.
(And I told him he was cute!)