frog blue

Bring you germs to work day

One of the many shitty things about the corona era is that even the start of a bog standard cold will have you wondering 'is this corona?'

I'm 99% sure this isn't. It's all the symptom's of a garden variety cold, runny nose and sneezing. Despite everyones mask wearing it looks like the common cold has still found a way to get through. So i'm headed into work.

Damn, this is uncomfortable. My nose is trickling and i to get off the subway just to blow my nose and change my mask...twice. As a result i'm running late.

Why am i even going in? Korean work culture is to just mask up and still go to work if you have the sniffles, and there's no one else who can take my classes. That's one cultural norm i'm wishing i hadn't adopted.

Inevitably every cough will be met with a chorus of 'teacher. Corona?' from my students.
I'm a fool for going in.
frog blue

Can we go back to normal now?

I am sitting in the cafe next to Hanwha resort where my wife's market is, typing away at LJ until it's time to help her pack up.

I'm drinking a beer (a dark something or other, this ones a little too bitter for my tastes) and that means the corona can't get me.
Honestly, that's how it works here. I don't make up the rules! If you have drink or food in front of you then having your mask off is fine, even if you're with a large group of other people. However as soon as you step outside into the open air on the street, it's masks back on, and you'll be getting dirty looks if you go without.

Like seriously, I went hiking this morning, and a good portion of people are still masked up despite walking out alone far from the crowds in the mountains and fresh air.



It's still beautiful hiking weather. I've never known it so warm so late in the year. Every week I think 'this is the last bright and sunny shorts and t-shirt weather we're going to have, so I should get out in the mountains before it turns cold', but I keep being pleasantly surprised!

But back to covid precautions. It's the inconsistency that irritates me. The men working out on the street doing pruning, building and directing traffic don't have to wear masks. Fair play to them, wearing a stuffy mask when you're already doing heavy labor out in the sun has got to be shitty. But somehow the people walking from A to B on the street still all wear them. It's not a legal requirement as far as i can work out, it's just everyone's behavior reinforcing it.

I've taken to removing mine occasionally for the brief walk from the subway to work, but putting it back on when i'm about to pass a pedestrian whose wearing their own mask. But it just feels purely performative at this stage. For the subway or an enclosed place like a shop or office then yeah OK I'll still wear a mask, but when just walking on my own in the street? I'm vaccinated and out in the open air! If we can't go back to normal now then when can we?

I'm a fairly risk averse person, but I'm just not going to carry on wearing a stuffy uncomfortable mask outdoors because it will protect me from a zero point zero zero whatever chance of getting covid at this stage.
Everything we do in life has risk. Often a very minute risk, but a risk all the same. For a vaccinated healthy person of thirty nine whose out in the open air, the discomfort of not breathing fresh and unfiltered air seems worse at this stage than the very minute risk of getting covid.

A couple of years ago a person walking behind you with their face covered was seen as threatening. Now it's the opposite. I never imagined that the simple act of walking outside with my face on show could ever feel subversive!
frog blue

Comfort food, comfort drink and comfort internet

Another games day had come and gone, and the kids looked just as eager to be anywhere else but the classroom as I felt. Games day countries that we've covered since my last post are:
Turkey - I appreciated the Turkish Delight i'd ordered in especially more than the kids did.
Cuba - Sadly I couldn't share Cuban cigars and cocktails with my students.
Today was Ireland. As with all my country board games i'm dealing in cheerful stereotypes. Leprechauns, four leaved clover etc. Throw the sticky ball at the map of Ireland and get one chocolate if you hit the Republic or two if you hit Northern Ireland.



It's the sort of thing that would wind up with complaints if i tried it in the UK but here passes safely under the radar. Still doesn't beat my 'throw the sticky ball at Mecca and get a chocolate if you hit it' from the Saudi Arabia game!

As much as i'd love to, I couldn't open up a can of Guinness or bottle of whiskey and share it around. Or just down the drink myself while muttering "look what you little bastards have driven me too!"

So I've done the next best thing and swung round a British pub called 'Celtic Tiger' in Seomyeon to spend a couple of hours dining, drinking and typing up LJ before i'm due on the market to help my wife pack up. Guinness is the most expensive pint on the menu, but after holding a games day with Ireland as the theme it would be rude to drink anything else.



I inquired after veggie food, but they don't have any, so i settled for fish and chips instead, which has felt similarly homely.



Five years ago i would have rolled my eyes at the thought of coming all the way to another country only to seek out a pub to get the same food and drink i could get back home, but now, i really get it.

They have a cocktail here called the 'Irish car bomb' and I wasn't sure whether to be amused or offended! (I think i'll settle for guilty laughter). Just made me recall my ex-father in law telling me how he was almost hit by a car flung through the air by an IRA bomb. He had been just walking past a pillar at the time which shielded him from the worst of the blast.

In addition to my comfort food and comfort drink, I have been doing a fair bit of comfort internet scrolling. This is different for every person. For my wife it's looking at videos of cute puppies and kittens. For me it's planning on where i'll travel next, researching the local attractions, then looking up the accommodation and flights, trains and buses between the places i want to visit. It's vacations that are still years away or may never happen at all, but its a nice distraction to dream about.
frog blue

The number of the beast

I'm onto the final edit of my novel. Soon it will be time to send it to agents. I've written a synopsis in preparation. It's so hard to condense it all down to two pages! I finally managed it, and checked my word count to find that by pure chance my synopsis was 666 words! I find this far too amusing to ever change it.
frog blue

R.I.P betta and farewell snails.

The betta fish died on Friday. It had got bloat. I cleaned out the tank and added a little salt to the water like the internet recommended, but it also warned me that fish seldom recover from it.
It had been clear for quite some days before it wasn't going to survive. I thought that perhaps the kindest thing to do was euthanize it, but i don't know how the best way to do that would be, and somehow i never had the heart/guts to do it, even though rationally i know it would be for the best. In the end it was a relief when it died. For someone who claims to care about animals, it is sad that fish didn't have the best life with us towards the end. I buried it in the small shrubbery bed that runs along our garden.

With the betta gone from the smaller tank all that was left were the water snails, and i didn't want to leave the tank running just for them. We got a bunch of smaller snails from the neighbors downstairs as they were meant to help clean the tank, but instead they were breeding and got out of hand.
So it was decided to return them to the wild. I cleaned out the smaller tank and put all the snails in a water bottle. Then I cleaned out the bigger tank, no easy task considering i have to safely transfer the many fry in there each time i do a clean out, and removed the snails from that one too.

I took them with me on my afternoon walk. We've now in that perfect weather that Korea gets for just a a couple of months between it's blazing hot and humid summers and chilling cold winters. I was surprised to see some of the trees are already losing their leaves, which makes the following photo look colder than it really was.



The bottle was a bit leaky.



Here is their new home in a mountain stream. I hope they're happy.



Though as I type this out the thought just occurred to me, they were all native Korean water snails weren't they? I mean, I haven't just fucked up the ecosystem by releasing them? The big ones definitely were, as my mother in law scooped them out of a pond under the impression that we'd want them them as pets. The smaller ones I just went to check with Jemma and she said 'yes'. Though she was distracted by her drama series and i don't know that she understood what 'native' means.

This is probably fine...
frog blue

K-pop and K-movies

A friend recently shared this meme on facebook.



It’s true! K-pop: light and fluffy. K-movie: many of them surprisingly dark and brutal. But I confess, despite having lived here for four years, I still consume very little in the way of either Korean music or movies.

Most of my students are very much into K-pop. Nine times out of ten for the girls it’s BTS, or sometimes Wanna One. I tried watching some of their videos but it does nothing for me. Though I imagine thirty-nine-year-old British guys are not their target audience!
On the girl group side, Twice and Blackpink are also immensely popular. I watched some of their videos too. Easy on the eye, forgettable on the ears.

I still hold that PSY is the best thing to break out from the K-music scene onto the international stage. Unlike the achingly sincere love ballads that come from Korea’s numerous idol groups, there’s a sense of satire and inventiveness to PSY’s music. Megahit ‘Gangnam style’ for example is lampooning the trendy and wealthy Gangnam district in Seoul.
This is another of my favorites. Seeing as representations of the North and its leadership can still be a very sensitive topic in the South, it’s surprisingly subversive in all the best ways.



Kiha and the faces are also worth a listen to. I’d never heard of them until I saw them live the very first time I was living in Busan, back when I was in the hostel in Haeundae and in my first week had a free music festival and pool party on the beach!



As for movies, until last night I could count the number of Korean movies I’d seen on one hand.

The Tower – People are trapped by fire at the top of a newly opened skyscraper and a group of heroic firefighters are trying to rescue them. Very much a Hollywood style disaster movie, though it contained a brief but surprisingly gruesome scene with people trapped inside a burning elevator.

The Host – Mutant monster rampaging on the banks of the Han river in Seoul. Also the American military are up to no good. If you take a walk along the Han river you can find a life size replica of the monster.

Train to Busan – Known as 부산역 (Busan station) in Korea. Zombies on a train! Spoiler – The train never makes it to Busan.

Okja – It’s set half in Korea and half in the USA. But the directors Korean so I’m counting it. What at first glance looks like a kid’s movie about a little girl and her cute giant GMO pig friend turns into something much more varied in tone, with a strong animal liberation theme.

Parasite – Big Oscar winner. If you haven’t seen this yet, then why not?

Yesterday I was taking a stroll down cinema street in Marine city. This is a seaside walk featuring loads of Korean movie posters and actor bio’s spread along the sea wall.



Scrolling the movies, I came across a cheerful looking poster of a cartoon fish leaping from a restaurant fish tank. It looked very much like a kiddie friendly animation. Called 바닥 (Padak), I decided to watch it that evening.
It is NOT a children’s film! It turned out to be much darker, deeper and more interesting than the poster suggested. Fortunately, I’d googled the movie beforehand and knew what to expect and so hadn’t suggested watching it with my niece and nephew.



It follows a mackerel plucked from the ocean and dumped into a seafood restaurant tank where the other fish are just waiting to be butchered. It’s like Finding Nemo had that Pixar classic been filled with horror, hopelessness and fish based gore, with added trippy 2d animated musical numbers.
Those live sea food restaurants with their tanks outside of sad looking fish, crab and squid awaiting their fate are ubiquitous in the port city of Busan. Numerous reviews said Padak would put you off seafood for life, which is no bad thing in my opinion.
frog blue

Reach for the sky

Just some pics i took looking up past marine cities skyscrapers, on a sunny day, a cloudy day and at night. It's the most shinily futuristic looking part of Busan and never fails to impress.







That is all.
frog blue

If you go down to the woods today...

It's flower and butterfly season.



On a more macabre note, I discovered this.



My first thought was it could have been the scene of a suicide, but then why would anyone take the body down but leave the noose? I thought about climbing the tree to take it down just in case it tempted any depressed passers by to use it.
In the end i settled for taking a photo to show to Jemma and ask what it was all about. She said that it wasn't mean to be a noose but was supposedly a sign that the tree was bad luck so not to climb it or even touch it. Ironically I wouldn't have given the tree (one among tens of thousands on that mountain) a second glance if it hadn't been for the marker, and it never otherwise would it have occurred to me to climb it!