Posts Tagged ‘WTF?’

FMD and Animal Rights

I just got a call from my friend again and sadly, there isn’t much good news. The FMD situation in Andong seems to have gotten worse as it has spread into other provinces. People are discouraged from traveling into and out of Andong. Even a small event such as an annual graduation trip for middle school students was cancelled due to travel restrictions, so the students took their trip to a movie theater instead. While the farmers are especially hard-hit by the outbreak of FMD, everyone in Andong has been affected in some way. People from Andong are not readily welcomed into other places because of the threat of carrying the FMD into other areas. Many kinds of produce and other products from Andong are rejected for transport. It’s hard to know how long these effects will last even after the disease has been contained.

Some of the measures cities and provinces have taken to curb the spread of FMD include car sterilization sprays and UV ray booths, both of which I’ve passed through a few times. Sterilization posts have been placed near toll booths and other sites throughout the affected provinces. Cars pass through and drive over a spray of sterilizing liquid, similar to going through a car wash. As for UV ray booths, people enter the green-colored booths and get blasted with bacteria-killing UV rays. I don’t know much about that kind of thing, so I wonder how effective it is.

They’ve also started vaccinating the cattle to prevent them from contracting FMD. Hopefully it will help to stop the spread of FMD into other areas and spare more livestock from having to be killed.

I have a some final comments to add regarding ‘animal cruelty.’ There have been protests and campaigns against the method of killing the pigs and cows to prevent the spread of FMD. Many from outside of Korea. I am also critical of some of the methods of extermination, such as burying cows and pigs alive. However, it is ignorant to generalize and condemn ‘Korea,’  ‘Koreans’ or ‘Korean culture’  based on a simplistic understanding of how the FMD epidemic has been reported. In many cases, people from the outside are quick to criticize these actions without a proper understanding of the severity of the epidemic or of the decision-making process that took place. I agree that there are more humane ways to fight the spread of FMD. But, making statements like “Koreans, like the Chinese, have a culture of being cruel to animals” are not productive and are flat out racist.

Lastly, my primary concern is the effect this situation will have on the farmers and people of Andong who are most affected by the situation and must live through this ordeal every day. We on the outside should provide our support and sympathy instead of criticism or contempt.

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At War

On my way out of work yesterday, I read some news headlines about a North Korean attack on South Korea. To be honest my first thought was, “Again?” I don’t mean that to be insensitive, but since I arrived in the ROK, I’ve realized that there’s a tangible tension between North and South after the alleged North Korean attack on the Cheonan-Ham back in March and the subsequent school drills we had to conduct in the months following the attack/accident.

The shelling began around 2:30 p.m. local time, according to South Korean military officials. The North fired about 200 rounds, and the South returned fire with about 80 rounds of artillery and scrambled fighter jets in an exchange that reportedly lasted an hour. It is considered one of the most serious exchanges in years between the two nations.


On my way home, I bumped into a few of my 3rd grade boys. They greeted me with, “Teacher, war!!” And I told them well, we are not at war, but soldiers on both sides fired some shots. Technically, they are right. The war has never officially ended. They seemed pretty riled up about what had happened. Then I said, “stay safe, boys” and went on my way. And I meant that. The reality is that all of my male students will serve in the Korean military. It’s possible that they would have to fight if the conflict were to escalate further in the future. I just hope North Korean and South Korean relations don’t continue to deteriorate in the years to come.

The internets was a-buzz with reports of the firing. People posted links to news articles and all the major and even smaller news agencies had already written reports within a couple of hours. But, I didn’t notice much of a difference in anyone’s behavior around here. Local shop owners tuned into the news instead of their usual dramas, but that was about it. Not that I expected people to be up in arms or anything. I’m just not sure how I should act or react in this kind of situation. It seems ‘business as usual’ is the common approach.

Another thing that has concerned me is how this incident will affect aid to North Korea. South Korea has always provided a significant amount of humanitarian aid to the North, such as flood aid after the heavy rains this past year. According to some reports, South Korea has suspended aid as a response to North Korea’s military aggression. I can understand why they made this decision, but I don’t think it will be very effective. Kim Jong-Il will still be able to eat while the rest of the people suffer. Sounds like the kind of policy he would go for anyway.

And I also wonder, what role will China play in all of this? They expected North Korea to maintain peace, but what do they think about this incident? What does this mean for Kim Jong-Il’s successor, his son, Kim Jong-Un? Some reports say it’s a way to draw attention to the future North Korean leader and his awesome power. Next time, they should consider sending out ‘Save the Date’ announcements.

And an even more pressing concern (sarcasm), how will this affect K-Pop? Don’t worry, music programs have also been put on ‘high alert.’

For those of you who want to find out more, a quick google search will turn up hundreds of articles. Check your trusted news agency for more information. For those of you here in Korea, do you hear jets all of a sudden? I didn’t notice at first since I’m so used to hearing them back home. What do you think?

UPDATE: Here’s a collection of photographs from the events of this past week.

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As most of you living in Korea may already know, scooter deliverymen (and the occasional deliverywomen) drive like rebels without a cause. They ignore every traffic law as they drive forwards, backwards and diagonal all over the streets and sidewalks. I must admit, the delivery service in Korea is excellent. It’s very popular because it’s fast, convenient and free (and there aren’t any drive-thrus). However, the delivery scooters appear out of nowhere and nearly take me out every time they pass. Today, one man came very close to it.

sidewalk AKA the 'scooter lane'

I was walking down the street to go the gym right after school. I turned the corner and suddenly saw a scooter driving straight at me. He was still far enough away for me to move out of the way, so I jumped back onto the other side of the corner. But, it was too late. The deliveryman tried to swerve out of the way but there was nowhere else for him to go because there were students on the corner waiting for the light to change. So, he fell off the scooter and rolled on the ground while the scooter skid across the sidewalk straight at me. Luckily I was able to dodge it, but it was a close call. I managed to dodge the scooter twice!

The driver got up with a strained expression on his face as he rubbed the pain out of his hands and legs. I just stood there, shell-shocked and speechless because I didn’t know how to express myself in Korean. He picked up the scooter, which was a bit damaged after it fell on the ground and asked me “괜찮아요?”. Then my students came rushing over to see what happened. They looked at me with eyes full of concern, “TEACHER!! Are you okay??”

I told my students that I was fine. I apologized and bowed to the driver because I felt a little bit responsible for his accident. I picked up his helmet for him and apologized one more time before he got back on the scooter and we parted ways.

Today’s Lesson:

Scooter deliverymen are reckless and dangerous. They need to slow down. Food can wait. Life is more valuable than a couple minutes of spared time.

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Of all the things that bother me about Korea, the number one thing has to be the unpredictable, slow-paced way that people walk.

Keep Left - yeah that campaign was a major fail

Sometimes walking downtown feels like I’m at the club trying to make my way through the sea of people. On weekends and especially at night there are so many people out, especially the damn couples. I enjoy a relaxing stroll once in a while, but most of the time I have somewhere to go. Maybe it’s more of an American mentality to want to get from point A to point B in the fastest way possible. If so, this is one difference I have a hard time dealing with.

And add umbrellas now that it’s raining… a;lskdjfla;ksdjfl;akdjsf

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Turning Point…?

Here it is… my first rant. This is my first post written in anger and frustration. It’s due to a combination of events. Actually, I still love being in Korea and I’m having lots of fun, so this isn’t actually a rant about Korea. I’m really frustrated with the complicated tax exemption process.

I’ve been waiting for my residency certificate (Form 6166) since February. Soon after I arrived in Korea, I asked my parents to mail Form 8802 to request the residency certificate. I would’ve done it myself, but things got pretty hectic before I left. My brother went into the hospital the day before I left for Korea. So, I understand that my parents had a lot to worry about. I would do it myself, but I can’t do much from Korea. I already filled out the form so all I needed to do it have it mailed to the IRS. Simple, right?

Turns out my parents never mailed it. alksdfjalskdjf. I’d been eagerly waiting for the past 2 months, thinking my residency certificate was on its way. But, my parents had no idea what I was talking about. They could’ve said something earlier! They thought I was asking them to file my taxes. wtfff. I sent them detailed instructions, a copy of the form, and told them exactly where it was in my room. I am just going to have someone else do this for me. Parents = epic fail.

The worst part is that I have to wait another month once I send the form. I told my school I would have it soon. I hate having all the information and knowing exactly what needs to be done, but not being able to do anything about it.

Other things.. I tripped on the stairs at school yesterday. Ate it pretty bad and now I have a bruised knee. It didn’t put me in a bad mood though, it gave me a good laugh. But, lately I’ve been feeling accident prone and it makes me feel uneasy. Like I’m waiting for something bad to happen to me. I can’t shake this ominous feeling…

Some of my classes are becoming more rowdy. They picked a bad week for that. They shouldn’t give me any reasons not to be nice. Because when I’m not nice, it’s really, truly an unpleasant experience. Don’t want to unleash that anytime soon. I’m trying to enjoy myself here!

UPDATE: My parents did send my tax form back in February! My mom scanned a letter from the IRS saying they received my application and they’re processing it. But it took them 2 months to send me a letter telling me they are processing it… IRS= epic fail.

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Hand Mirrors

What’s up with the hand mirrors?

Mirror, mirror...

All the girls seem to have one. Instead of carrying around compact mirrors, girls carry mini hand mirrors with ornate designs. They’re kind of like the hand mirrors that came in the vanity sets I used to play with as a little girl. Girls in my class bust out the hand mirrors and fix their hair and just stare at themselves right in the middle of my lesson! I get really mad when they do that. I’m not sure if this is acceptable behavior in Korea, but I find it really rude that they aren’t listening and personally I find it in bad taste to publicly admire yourself in the mirror.

That doesn’t seem to be the case though in Korea. It seems more acceptable for a person to check his or her appearance in the mirror in public. I find it strange sometimes that people are comfortable primping and grooming themselves so openly. Like when people walk past a shiny surface or window to check their reflection. People back home check themselves out too, but we try to do it discreetly or even secretly. Because when we catch someone checking themselves out we find it really funny. Like when I walk into Geisel and try hard not to look at my reflection because I know the people sitting  inside are waiting to catch me checking myself out. I know it’s not just me!

In addition to people carrying their own mini hand mirrors and checking themselves out in every reflective surface they pass, there are full length mirrors in most of the subway stations. I noticed them because every time I walk past, I’m so tempted to look at my reflection! I never do, but I notice that most of the people that walk past the mirror turn their heads to look at their reflections. It should be okay for me to look at myself too, right? I shouldn’t feel vain if everyone else is doing it!

I think I’ll just give in and unabashedly check out my reflection in the subway mirrors and store windows. I just don’t want to make it a habit and keep doing that when I go back home!

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I was in the middle of showing a video in class when this woman in a white lab coat walked in holding up white stips of paper. I seemed to be the only person surprised by her appearance.  I stopped the video and tried to figure out what was happening. At first, I thought she came in to take everyone’s temperature. But then she handed out the white stips of paper to everyone and the entire class stood up and left…

Turns out, they went to the bathroom to uh… test their urine. It took about 5 minutes, which is a lot faster than I expected and would never be possible in a middle school back home. A class of American middle schoolers would take an entire period just to pee on a strip of paper. Then they all came back and sat down. I was joking with them and said, “I hope you washed your hands!” But some of the boys looked at me like “Wash my hands? What are you talking about, Teacher?” Yikes, I hope they used soap!

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