Monday, 28 September 2009

And in recent history...

So many things had happened over the last couple of weeks, yet I just haven’t had the time to record them here. For instance, I went to see the musical Rent – which was excellent. I went to Hoengseong 횡성 (were, apparently, one can taste the best beef in the whole world) and visited a traditional market and took photos of rice paddies. I attended a three hour Brazilian Jiujutsu workout in Apgujeong 압구정. I accompanied a friend to hospital who came down with serious abdominal spasms. I met some friends and had lots of good quality ice-cream. I’ve seen a number of good movies and read a couple classics (Of Mice and Men and Lord of the Flies), not to mention some good poetry. All of this in between work-work-work.

My theme of weariness

[Source: FreakingNews.Com]

Being weary has become an unfortunate theme in my life. So regular is this motif that one would think me ill, but thankfully ill health is not the cause of my fatigue. Rather, my weariness is often the cause for becoming sick. The problem is actually very simple – I do not sleep enough. It is not that I cannot sleep; it is merely a case of my biorhythm being out of sync with most of society. I am undeniably the proverbial night owl.

A perfect routine for me would be to wake up around 9am and start work around 11am. This, of course, is not the common practice of regular society which likes to start their day at least two hours prior my own preference. And what a difference such two hours make! There was a time I used to teach businesspeople; hence, my working hours were very early in the morning (before they went to work) and in the evening (after they came back from work). One student who on one occasion attended both the early morning and late evening sessions told me that my evening classes were much better and that I looked noticeably less tired at night than I do in the morning. My X used to complain about my burst of energy at 10pm, just around the time when she was ready to sleep.

At present I start working at 8:30 or 9am and so get up around 7:30am. I usually go to bed after midnight, so I get around seven hours of sleep which is not bad; however, I function best on nine hours of sleep. These days I feel it necessary to take a siesta of about thirty or so minutes in the late afternoon. Sleeping during the day has always been a taboo for me, mostly because of my father who could not tolerate daytime lethargy and engrained in me his reproaches – Why are you sleeping? You have no guts! What bowl organs and sleeping have in common I have no idea, but to this day I feel terribly guilty if I sleep in the afternoon. Nonetheless, my body – which has little concern over childhood indoctrination –has begun to plead for more sleep and the late afternoon nap is appreciated.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Heart Breaker & Voice Synth

Korean hip-hop sensation G-Dragon recently released his song "Heartbreaker" -- with voice synthesizing being a prominent feature of the song. I cannot help but wonder if it was inspired by Kanye West's 2008 album entitled 808s & Heartbreak. Listen to Kanye West's "Heartless" from the album and notice the strong use of voice synthesizing.

Speaking of Kanye West, what on earth was he thinking last week when he hi-jacked Taylor Swift's acceptance speech during the MTV awards? If you haven't heard about it, West took the mike during Swift's acceptance speech for best female music video and proclaimed: "Yo Taylor, I'm really happy for you. I'mma let you finish, but Beyoncé has one of the best videos of all time."

In the meantime his "I'mma let you finish, but..." has become a flourishing meme and has gone viral.

I just a while ago started to listen to 808s & Heartbreak and have enjoyed it a lot, but this recent asinine trick by Kanye West has really spoiled it for me. Really, what was he thinking? (He attempts an explanation on Jay Leno, who asked Kanye what his mom would have thought about it -- this causes Kanye to choke up.) Aah... celebrity life... such a realm of emotions!

Toilet Paper & Korean Friendships

[Image Source: Ava7.Com]

A couple of weeks ago I had my first house warming (I'm planning a second house warming in October for my non-Taekwon-Do friends). A Korean friend arrived that evening with a big set of toilet paper -- 30 rolls in all. Some of my non-Korean friends were quite surprised at this peculiar house warming gift. Luckily I knew the symbolism behind the gift and thought it very thoughtful.

Allow me to explain in case you ever find yourself the recipient of toilet paper from a Korean friend. A toilet roll, when unrolled, is exceptionally long and represents the wish for an equally extended friendship. Now times that with 30! The giver of thirty rolls of toilet paper is in effect saying that I hope our friendship will keep on for a very, very, very, very, very long time.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

A Sexual Korea

I cannot remember where I stumbled on this poster -- probably on The Grand Narrative. In the media it is the foreign community that is made out to be sex crazy. Interestingly, if one is to trust the statistics above, the foreign community are not the major clientele of the sex industry. There is a strange dichotomy in Korea, where foreigners are made out to be the sex addicts; however, on closer inspection one see a heavy emphasis on sex in the Korean culture. I recently opened a Korean newspaper and on practically every other page there was some kind of sex-ad -- be it escort agencies or penile dysfunction clinics. When I just came to Korea I was surprised to see escort-agency business cards with very provocative pictures of ladies licking their fingers and, showing cleavage and sitting open-legged strewn in the city streets at night. Every where you go one sees motels. Having slept in a number during my travels in Korea I can tell you that these motels are set-up for utmost sexual-encounter comfort, with emphasis on discreetness. Recently when I went to a Korean cinema to watch a movie it dawned on me how many sexual references there are in the advertisements. Since I don't have a television I cannot say whether this is the case for most Korean ads or just the ads shown in the cinemas. But judging from poster ads and billboards I think it is common. Not to mention the many recent Korean movies that are basically glamorous soft porn -- take A Frozen Flower as an example.

The strangest thing for me is that the Korean society insists that it is conservative and prudish. At face value that is the truth. But just below the surface there is another Korea that is anything but sexually conservative. It is like Korea is in a Victorian Era that is ready to explode with sexual tension.

Wind Surfers

I took these photos of wind surfers on the Han River about a month ago, one Sunday at Tteoksam Resort's wind-and-water sports area (dedicated to wind- and kite surfing). The Han River is a humongous river that cuts through Seoul and has numerous bridges (for example Banpo Bridge) that connects the two halves together.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Friday, 11 September 2009

Another grueling week

Yip, that's me looking tired...

I really thought that the second week of classes will be better than the first week. I was wrong. I've been crazily busy this week too, and am amazed at how tired I felt every morning I woke up. Take this morning (Friday) for instance. I had a faculty meeting at 8:30 and it took every ounce of self-discipline to get out of bed -- especially since my first class only started at 11:00.

Yesterday (Thursday) was a very busy day. I taught five classes back to back. Even during my lunch break I had to prepare some interview questions to be used with student applications later this year. Directly after my classes ended I had to rush home, change clothes, and rush to an elementary- and middle school music contest where I acted as master of ceremonies. I was supposed to be one of the judges at the event, but was told just the day before that I am replacing the first choice for reasons I thought discriminatory. (They wanted a Caucasian face to be the master of ceremonies, regardless of the fact that the other person, although genetically Asian, is much more Western than I am; I am from Africa after all.) In any case, we decided not to make too much a fuss about the changes in our duties and I went ahead MC-ing the event. After the contest I rushed off to Taekwon-Do because I promised the instructor that I'd teach the classes as he was a little injured two days before -- and I also felt like helping him out a bit as he ran the dojang alone this week, since the chief-instructor's father passed away and so he did not teach this week. Not to complain -- teaching Taekwon-Do is, after all, one of my passions. Nonetheless, it was a 8:30 am till 10:30 pm work day -- not to mention that I only got home around midnight.

I really, truly, honestly hope that every week of this semester will not continue to be as hectic as these last two weeks were.

Regardless, I authentically enjoy my job. I love teaching and cannot imagine too many other things I'd rather be doing. After all, I get paid to read great poetry and listen to good music! The only thing that I really dislike about my job (apart from early morning meetings, of course) is grading papers; and that, I am sad to say, has already started to drizzle in.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Op grond van my velkleur...

Môre moet ek serimoniemeester speel by een of ander taalskoolkompetisie. Ek sou aanvanklik slegs een van die beoordeellaars gewees het. Maar vanoggend tydens die departementele vergadering is ek ingelig dat ek nou die serimoniemeester moet wees – hoekom? Want ek is wit. Ja glo dit of nie, rassediskriminasie en rassevoorkeur is steeds aktief in moderne Korea. My kollega wat oorspronklik die seremoniemeester sou wees is Koreaans van geboorte, maar het in Amerika (Hawaii) groot geword. Ondanks dat sy “Westers” in kultuur en denke is, en vlot in Engels is, is daar aan haar gesê dat die ouers van die kinders wat die kompetisie gaan bywoon wil ’n Westerse gesig sien. Dit maak nie saak dat ek van Afrika is nie, I look the part.

Nou ja, môre is ek nie meer beoordeellaar nie, maar serimoniemeester op grond van my velkleur. Hoe moet ek hieroor voel? Dit gee my geensins ’n warm gloei in my binneste nie.

My een vriend is ’n African-American. Hy is oortuig dat die Koreane hom anders behandel op grond van sy vel. Partykeer dink ek dis net sy historiese vervolgenswaan as ’n New-Yorker waar “police profiling” ’n algemene ding is. Maar dalk is hy reg. Rassisme is algemeen in Korea. ’n Ligter vel kry definitief voorkeur in die massamedia. Modelle en akteurs met ligte gelaat is baie meer sigbaar en Koreane gebruik “skin bleachers” om hulleself ligter te maak.

Monday, 7 September 2009

First House Warming / Taekwon-Do Social

Back: Sanko, David, Cory, Jay
Front: Anna, Phoebe, Baya, Christine

Sunday night I had my first house warming / Taekwon-Do social at my new apartment. I’ve been wanting to invite the Taekwon-Do gang over for some time now and with two of them (Phoebe and David) leaving sometime this week (they are going to America and Australia respectively), I thought the sooner the better.

Missing from the group photo is Haley, whom left earlier, and Byeong-du who avoids cameras. Unfortunately our instructors couldn't make it either. In a sad turn of events, the father of our chief instructor passed away recently and the assistant instructor had prior commitments.

Baya is credited with taking photos of the food. I made Thai Curry (again) and for desert we had Häagen-Dazs ice cream. It was interesting to see all the guys in the kitchen preparing the meal, and all the girls chatting away in the lounge. Apparently, that is how is ought to be -- or so I was told.

I plan to have a second house warming for my non-Taekwon-Do friends soon. A nice apartment (like my new apartment) should not go to waste. I wonder what food I'll prepare next time. I've been playing the Thai-Curry trump card too often now. Maybe I should look into something authentically South African, like bunnychow, bobotie, or snoek with peach jam and sweet potatoes. I wonder if I'll be able to get the ingredients... I haven't cooked meat in ages, so maybe I should go with something else. In any case, many of my friends are vegetarian, so South African cuisine might not be the best option. There is always macaroni and cheese...

Scansion in My Voice

“Professor, you have scansion in your voice,” said a student to me the other day. “Scansion” is of course the wrong choice of words, but I understood what she meant – even though I am surprised that my elocution comes across like that.

I had this student last semester in my one poetry class – this is where she learned the term “scansion”, although she uses it somewhat wrongly in this context. Scansion is the analysis of verse into metrical patterns. In other words, through scansion one determines rhythm and meter in a poem by establishing the stressed and unstressed syllables in the words in the lines of poetry. So when my student said “Professor, you have scansion in your voice,” she meant that there is a rhythm in the way I speak. She continued to say that a number of other students made the same observation.

I wonder if this “rhythm in my voice” is a good or a bad thing. And to apply her use of the term “scansion”, I’m curious to know if I speak in a distinct meter? Do I speak in snippets of iambic pentameter?!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Gelukkige verjaarsdag, Ma

Dit is vandag my ma se verjaarsdag. Sy sou 66 gewees het en as sy nog geleef en gesond was, sou sy goed gelyk het vir 66. In haar laat veertigs en vroeg vyftigs het sy haar jare gedra soos ’n dertigjarige.

Ek mis haar soms. Gelukkig is die lewe genadig deur ’n mens besig te hou met allerande dinge. Indien nie sou ’n mens heeltyd verlang het na die wat vêr of dood is.

Daar is tye wat ek graag met my ma sou wou gesels oor dinge. Verhoudingsprobleme is ’n voorbeeld. Ek onthou toe ek en my X nog saam was, was daar ’n paar geleenthede wat ek erg graag met ma oor wou praat. Nou steeds. Ek sou onder andere met haar wou gesels oor pasbaarheidskwessies – die feit dat dit moeilik is om ’n (vroulike) maat te kry wie by my pas. My eienaardighede, belangstellings, lewens-en-wêreldbeskouing, Godsiening, ensomeer maak dit geensins maklik om iemand te kry by wie ek pas nie. Buiten vir die pas wat hierdie abstrakthede betref, wat nog van seksueel-pas?! Soms ontmoet ek dames met wie ek op van hierdie bogenoemde dinge in stemming is, maar daar is geen seksuele vonk nie. En soms is daar die vonk, maar niks om ’n verhouding op te bou nie. Oor hierdie tipe dinge sou ek graag met my ma wou gesels. En soms is daar dinge wat ’n seun by sy ma oor wil spog. Ek kan nie vir dogters praat nie, maar as ’n seun is daar ’n differensie tussen dinge wat ek by my ma sou wou spog, en wat ek by my pa sou wou spog.

My ma se dood het nie vinnig gebeur nie. Steeds kan ek nie sê dat ek voorbereid was op haar afsterwe nie. Ja ek was voorbereid, in die sin dat die nuus van my ma se dood het my nie geskok nie. Sy was toe al baie jare siek en het skielik dramaties agteruit gegaan. So boos as wat dit mag klink, ek het baie keer gedink dat die dood ’n genadige oordeel vir haar sou wees. Haar siekte het haar so geweldig afgetakel dat sy ten laaste bitter min van haar eentydse glorie gehad het. Ek het haar sowat ’n week of twee voor haar sterfte gesien. ’n Bondeltjie, ’n verlepte hopie op ’n bed – skaars instaat om ’n verstaanbare sin te maak. Hierdie is ’n vrou wat kon praat. Ek meen PRAAT. Sy’t nie gehuiwer om haar sê te sê nie. Reguit en op die man af. Sy’t gebewe; ’n koue koors. Haar gesig vaal en haar hare wat eens ’n blossende wol rooi vlamme was, was nou yl, bros en grys. Ek het my rooikop by haar geërf. En haar glimlag – daar was geen glimlag meer nie. Die pyn, die verlies, die hartseer, die totale aftakeling het haar glimlagplooie vervorm tot plooie van verdrietigheid. Ek mis my ma se glimlag. Ook my glimlag het ek by haar geërf.

Dit is vandag my ma se verjaarsdag. Sy sou 66 gewees het en as sy nog geleef en gesond was sou sy goed gelyk het vir 66. En ek sou haar gebel het en dit vir haar gesê het.

Self-Portrait: Gansta

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Audit my classes

Dear Friends,

So a number of you told me in the comments section, in private emails, or in person that you would like to join some of my classes on-line.There are two classes for which I created blogs. The first is 19th and 20th century American poetry, and the second is Poetry in Music. The blogs will provide the reading (and listening) lists as we progress, as well as relevant links. There will also be a selection of class notes. Furthermore, the assignment questions will be posted on the blogs, as well as other questions and thoughts to ponder, which are likely to reappear in different forms in the exam papers.

I think that especially the Poetry in Music class ought to be fun to follow online, as many of the music we will cover will have links to YouTube-videos, lyrics, and so on.

So, join the journey with me at:


Dis half agt in die oggend. My selfoonwekker het 30 minute vroeër gelui. Ek is op, maar voel mislik. Vir meer as ’n maand het ek byna nooit voor tien die oggend opgestaan nie en my biologiese klok was heel gelukkig met daardie roetine. Vir die laaste twee weke het ek wel my wekker gestel vir sewe die oggend, maar het natuurlik dit bloot afgesit sodra dit gelui het, en dan op die ander sy gedraai. Aangesien die semester hierdie week amptelik begin het, kan ek nie sulke streke doen nie. So beide gister en vanoggend, en vir die res van die semester, gaan ek nie op my ander sy draai wanneer die wekker lui nie, maar ag gee op die selfoon se kerm, en opstaan. Op ’n Dinsdag het ek eers klas teen tien uur die oggend. Nietemin, om my roetine stabiel te hou gehoorsaam ek die oggendalarm en rol teen sewe gedwee uit my bed, met ernstige interne protes.

Ek wil regtig weet of oggendmense en aandmense ’n normale ding is. Daar is duidelik die twee spanne: oggendvoëls en nagwolwe. Maar is die laasgenoemde ’n natuurlike fenomeen, of is dit ’n afwyking. Behoort almal nie vroeg op te staan met die aanbreek van die oggendson nie? Hoekom word ek nie moeg in die aand nie, maar kry as’t ware ’n tweede asem rondom tienuur die nag? Ek is seker die mens is nie bedoel om ’n nagdier te wees nie – ons oë en pupille is nie groot genoeg nie. Maar aai, as daar nou een mens is wat ’n nagmens is, dan is dit ek. Hierdie gesewe-uur-in-die-oggend-opstaan-ding is nie vir my nie.

’n Paar jaar gelede het ek ’n ander job gehad wat sesuur, of ses-dertig, in die oggend begin het en moes gevolglik voor ses uit die vere. Sjoe, was ek toe vir jou mislik!