Friday, 23 January 2009

In South Africa

I'm currently in South Africa -- arrived last week Friday. My internet access is limited, hence the few posts. At present I'm in Durban (viva KwaZulu Natal!); came by bus yesterday. Before that I spent time with some of my brothers.

This weekend is going to be jammed pack with visiting friends. I look very much forward to it.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The Waffle Machine

I discovered a waffle machine in my apartment building, hidden away in an obscure little room on the ground floor. Since it doesn’t seem to be in any current use, I took it upon myself to salvage it; for safekeeping, of course. I’d be happy to return it when somebody asks for it, but until then I’ll be putting it to good use.

In fact, I’ve used it twice already. The first time was Saturday night. The waffles came out perfectly. And again tonight, I invited Young and Angelina over. Unfortunately Angelina had to work late so she couldn’t join us. On my first use of the waffle machine, I only used one of the two plates, but tonight with Young over, we used both plates and I’m happy to report that the waffle machine is in superb working order. We had at least three waffles each, with different toppings.

I plan to have many more people over for waffles-evenings in the future.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Self-Portrait: Looking Back on Christmas

Doing the Ham-Ceremony

Me with a squid on my face in the infamous parka,
freaking out Young, who got married the next day.

I guess it's time to tell about the ham-ceremony I took part in last month, in preparation for Young's wedding the following day, and the evening before my trip to Japan. No, the ham-ceremony has nothing to do with pork...squid instead.

The following is a section from my monthly update letter, which I share with my Global Family.

“Ham” literally means box or chest. It is customary for the bridegroom to give to the bride’s family a ham, which is a coffer with (I’m assuming traditional) clothes. The coffer is taken to the bride’s parent’s house by the ham-bearers, whom are the groom’s closest friends (i.e. the best men). But it’s slightly more complicated than that. Part of the ham-ceremony is to get the bride’s family to “buy” the gift and it involves shouting in the street with a squid on your face. So this is how it works, or at least, this was my experience:

We were two in the convoy, me being the actual “ham”-bearer. For this I had to wear a mask with a dried squid. Nobody seems to know why. It’s traditional. (That’s the answer for anything you don’t know the reason for.) I don’t know how they made the mask in olden times, but what we did was to buy a paper mask and then we cut out “eyes” from the dried squid and stapled the thing onto the mask. The mask has two distinct disadvantages; it doesn’t smell too great and it looks rather scary, as the photos can testify.

Donned with the squid on my face and carrying the wrapped coffer we started out about 30 meters outside of Angelina’s house. I would loudly shout “Ham saseyo!” and my accomplice would echo. “Saseyo” literally means “buy please”. So, “Ham saseyo!” can be translated as “Ham for sale”, or “Please buy this Ham”. Family members of Angelina came out with envelopes that contained money. These were put a couple of steps in front of me, enticing me to walk forward. If I stepped on the money it was a sign that we accepted the “bribe” to come closer. Unfortunately with the squid on my face and the coffer in my arms I couldn’t readily make out where I was stepping, so I often had to tread around haphazardly in one vicinity until I happened to step on the envelope. Also, I wasn’t too sure when to call “ham saseyo” and when to continue forward. The quicker one enters the house, the less money you are “bribed” with, so the key is to find that nice balance between getting enough “gifts”, whatever that may be, and not harassing the family and probably offending them by taking too long to enter the house. Luckily, Young was close by. He had to be to show us where the house is. So he prodded and poked me from behind, suggesting when to shout and when to walk.

Once in the house the ham should be presented to the bride-to-be’s parents. Waiting was Angelina’s mom (her dad passed away a couple of months before). I presented the coffer and then had to do the formal Korean bow. This was unexpected. I’ve never done the deep bow before, and have only seen it performed a couple of times. I tried my best, but think I messed it up a bit. Luckily everyone was very gracious and my foreigner-ignorance was kindly endured.

The whole event finished off with us all enjoying a lovely meal together. Both Angelina and her mother were dressed in beautiful hanbok. A hanbok is the traditional dress of Korea. The affair also seemed to include ddeok (traditional Korean rice cake) prepared by the bride-to-be’s family. I’m not quite sure how the ddeok fits into the whole thing though. A large amount of ddeok was sent with Young as a gift to his parents.

The photo in this post is not a Creative Commons image.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Nee, dus nie ’n hus met langore nie.

Photo by the Associated Press

Glo dit of nie, maar ek het op ’n plaas grootgeword. Ek en my ouer broer is ook natuurliefhebbers en het graag na diereprogramme gekyk, of langure spandeer in diereboeke. As sulks het ek baie babagedroggies gesien. Op ons plaas het ek al die gewone plaasbabas beleef: kalwers, skaap- en boklammers, perd- en donkievullens, kuikens en baba-eendjies en -gansies en konyntjies en varkies, natuurlik ’n spul werpselhondjies en -katjies, selfs babarotte, en dan nog die minder gewone diertjies: nonnetjiesuil-, pou-, papagaai- en tarentaalkuikens, babaverkleurmannetjies en babakrimpvarkies en babamolslangetjies. En dus net die gedroggies wat ek in lewende lywe op ons plaas gesien het. Dan is daar nog die babamonstertjies wat ek op ander plekke gesien het: babaspringbokkies, blouaapbabas, nagapiebabas, kameelperdjies, olifantjies, zebratjies, renostertjies, leeuwelpies en die lys gaan aan. Nie eens te praat van al die volksvreemde skepseltjies wat ek op TV of in boeke gesien het.

Maar nog nooit, nie in al hierdie jare van bestaan nie, nie in die regte lewe, of op TV, nóg in boeke, het ek ’n baba-aardvarkie te sien gekry nie – ondanks die feit dat die aardvark inheems is aan (Suid-)Afrika. En nou, hier kry ek dié kabouter te sien op die Internet, en dit nogals ’n Amerikaansgebore aardvarkie.

Van al die geörgies wat ek al in my lewe gesien het is ’n baba-aardvarkie sekerlik een van die lelikste goetertjies wat bestaan. En ôk oulik, natuurlik. Sulke lelike babadiertjies is altyd oulik.

Kyk daai ore! Ek vermoed dus ietwat hoe ’n hus moet lyk.

Once in 13 Years

I haven’t gone to a general practitioner medical doctor in around 13 years. Sure, I’ve been to a dermatologist a couple of times during this period, but never to a doctor for any common (or uncommon) illness. I’ve proud myself in the fact that I never had to visit a doctor for anything other than my acne problem in over a decade. I live healthily and when I’m sick I doctor myself with mostly natural therapies and herbal teas and tinctures. It helps to have a homoeopath as a friend to get some occasional advice.

But my 13 or so year record is blemished. Earlier this week I went to my doctor here in Korea to replenish my skin medication. My flu symptoms came up; the doctor examined me and ended up giving me a four day course in antibiotics. Even though I really dislike using conventional medicine, I gave in because I’ll be going abroad in a couple of days and thought it better to put a hastened stop to this virus before travelling.

Now, instead of saying that I haven’t been to a doctor (for anything but my skin condition) in over a decade, I’ll have to say that I’ve been to a doctor only once in over a decade.

Movie Review: A Frozen Flower.

A week ago I went to see the Korean movie “Ssang Hwa Jeom” – 쌍화점. The English title is A Frozen Flower (2008), directed by Yoo Ha.

The film recounts the fictional tale of a King during Korea’s Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). At the time depicted in the film, the Goryeo Dynasty was subordinate to the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty. In order to keep the throne the King needs to produce a son, lest the Yuan Dynasty enthrones the King’s cousin. The King is unable to perform with women and instead asks his childhood friend and closest bodyguard Hong-Rim, who is also his lover, to sleep with the Queen and produce an offspring on his behalf. A devastating love triangle between the King, Hong-Rim and the Queen is the result. It’s a movie of steamy (heterosexual and homosexual sex), bloody violence and beautiful traditional Korean clothes and striking cinematography.

Movies such as this one always make me question Korea’s supposed prudishness. A Frozen Flower is anything but prudish. The sex scenes are very raunchy and almost soft-porn in depiction. While Koreans may still call themselves conservative, their media production stands contrary to such a claim.

Another thing about A Frozen Flower is that it is a typical han-movie. Han is that unique (or so it’s claimed) Korean emotion of despair. It would seem that a Korean movie is not authentically Korean, if people aren’t crying and dying. By saying this I’m not giving away anything about the plot that is not expected of a typical Korean film. As I said, if people aren’t crying and dying, it would be unKorean.

The cinematography is exquisite and the traditional music is beautiful. If you’re not too squeamish about the explicit sex and violence, it's an interesting depiction of how Korean royalty might have looked during the Goryeo Dynasty.

Below is the trailer...

Thursday, 8 January 2009

"And the award for the best screenplay adaptation goes to..." -- Well, we'll have to wait and see.

Remember how I raved about the script of Batman: The Dark Knight? Well it seems that I'm not the only one. The Dark Knight has been nominated by the Writer's Guild of America (WGA) for the best adapted screenplay award. The movie will have to stand its own against a number of other movies, all which I haven't seen yet: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Doubt; Frost/Nixon; and Slumdog Millionairre.

May the best bat win.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Japan: The Second Day, Part 5 – The Singing Room

After the formal dinner I was invited to go with the Korean and Japanese-Korean instructors to a gentlemen’s noraebang. Directly translated “noraebang” means singing-room, basically it is a Karaoke Bar. Now a gentlemen’s noraebang is a little different from a normal noraebang. At a gentlemen’s noraebang the clientele are men only, and there are hostesses.

Honestly, I expected somewhat sinister occurrences to happen, but this was not the case. The hostesses were middle aged ladies dressed in formal clothes who make it their job to compliment the guests. They would pour them drinks, and prepare them food. I appreciated how the ladies respected my request not to have any alcohol. They merely filled up my glass with water. I found it very strange when one hostess fed me some food with chopsticks, and then wiped my mouth afterwards. They did this with most of the guests. From my observation there was no real sexual innuendo, instead the hostesses seemed to be acting in mothering-roles for the male clients. There was some touching: mostly patting thighs and stroking shoulders. The hostesses also acted as Karaoke assistants. They would work the Karaoke machine, act as backup singers, cheer-on the male singers, coordinate the smooth exchange of microphones and play drums or tambourines. If I was a Korean women and I knew that my husband was visiting one of these gentlemen’s noraebang with his friends, I would not be worried.

Whilst the Korean delegation respected my non-alcoholic preference, I was not going to get away from not singing. Although I’m not really shy of singing, I really do not know popular pop songs. I listen more to alternative music – not the type of music listed in Karaoke books. The saddest moment was when they started to choose songs for me and I had to attempt to do a rendition of “We are the World”. It was just short of a disaster.

I only got to bed well after 1am.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Movie Reviews -- Three disappointments

Following are three movies I went to see at the cinema last year, but could have skipped.

Eagle Eye

A cross between Enemy of the State (1998) and I, Robot (2004); but not for the better.


A vampire movie aimed at teenagers. It hoped to do be for the 2000s what The Lost Boys (1987) was for the 1980s. It failed. Twilight’s vampires are pretty, but not sexy; and the story spends too much time trying to reinvent the genre with little positive results. Disappointing – unless your 13.

Australia is somewhat of a fairytale in the same way Wale Rider (2003) was for New Zealand. The latter was just more successful in capturing the magic. Australia is also a romantic-comedy of sorts. Although I enjoyed it for what it was, I think Australia caters more for the female audience, with long shots focussed on the chiselled body of the beefy Hugh Jackman. Although showing some beautiful Australian landscapes, the movie fails miserably at being the one thing it tries so hard to be: an epic.

Monday, 5 January 2009


Die laaste paar dae was ek heeltemal tam. Die griep het my onderstebo gepooitjie, op my kom sit, my mond oopgerek en my keelgat afgeklim -- daar nes gemaak en gebroei. Dit het Kersdag gebeur. Die volgende dag het ek begin simptome ervaar en teen die 27ste was ek bedlêend. Met droë keelkraphoese en nagmerriekwekende koorse is ek 2008 uit en 2009 binne.

Ek het gister vir die eerste dag gewilliglik my woonstel verlaat en vandag het ek dieselfde gepoog. Toe ek vanaand tuis kom toe ontplof ek weer in 'n reeks heliografiese hoese wat voorgee om een of ander geheime boodskap te dra vir die oor van 'n gewillige paranoïed.

Nietemin, ek voel effe beter en hoop dat dit so sal voortgaan. 2009 kan net beter.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Watch the Aged

An English rendition from the original in Afrikaans.

Watch the aged.
Their grey faces eroded by time and labour;
the radiant youth, once lustful like fawn bucks,
is flaked away; their skins tainted with rust;
the down-thin-hair lies thinly over chick-bare-heads.

Imagine under all the layers of clothing (necessary
to keep the snail-oozed-circulation from setting),
those down-to-earth (for earth you are and earth you’ll be again)
withered aged bodies
..... aged flesh tanned to leather
by life
..... by the vanity of life – all for not.

Death comes. There’s no hurrying her.
Her steps, each step, unwavering
without misstep without spraining or swaying
like an ox on the plough field comes death.

Also God sees the aged and shakes his head.
Not in disapproval, but in empathy...
No, God forbid! What does God know of growing old?
But God, more than any other spectator, always recognises the tragedy:
The weathered just born – breathes in – dashes through curiosity,
lust, responsibility and weathered old age – breathes out –
like a flower.

Listen to the aged voice. The blazing anima/animus, that was once
stoked high in a moment of orgasmic sweet sex
waned to moist quivering lukewarmness – gibbering like urine.
Yes even in the piss you hear it. The bladder has no more ambition.
The sluices are lame and without water pressure.

Worst are the eyes: jewels that turned into dull alluvial stones.
It’s the longing in the eyes that are worst; the acknowledgement, the forced
recognition that the oil is finished, the wick is burned up,
even the lantern is brittle. Regardless the fighting spirit, the defeat,
the surrender is unavoidable. She won. She always wins.

But God does not pity his withered children,
‘cause God knows that life is larvation; death is pupation.

Om te bad

Klim onder ’n stort, skrop, en spoel die vuil weg.

Maar ’n bad – volgetap met warm water – is nie ’n haastige okkasie nie. Vir my neem ’n warm bad niks minder as ’n half uur nie. Dis ’n gebeurtenis, nie bloot ’n higieniese ritueel, soos tandeborsel, nie. Dis iets wat waardeur moet word; verkieslik by kerslig, soms met musiek, soms in absolute stilte. Jy moet lê in ’n bad en week. En prut. Jou gespanne spiere word saf. Jou gejaagde vlak asemhaling word diep en rustig. Jou bekommernisse losop. Jou ooraktiewe brein dryf op ’n kalm meer. Tyd verloor spoed. Die wêreld word ’n plek “daar buite”. Jy’s terug in die baarmoeder – veilig.

My woonstel het slegs ’n stort. Mensig!, ek mis ’n bad!