Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Afrikaans, Flaams, Nederlands en ander Tale

Deesdae praat ek baie Afrikaans/Flaams/Nederlands. Met "baie" bedoel ek bloot relatief meer as gewoonlik. Gewoonlik praat ek Afrikaans so een, dalk twee keer per maand indien ek met 'n Afrikaanse persoon Skype of oor die foon praat. Deesdae praat ek nie regtig een van die drie nie, maar ek praat 'n kommunikeerbare dialek. Die rede is dat ek snaaksgenoeg hier in die vreemde mense uit die Laaglande ontmoet, en skielik meer kans kry om Afrikaans/Flaams/Nederlands te praat.

In Korea was daar onlangs twee jongmanne wat Taekwon-Do kom oefen het by ons klub. Die een uit Nederland, die ander uit Belgie. Daar het ook 'n Nederlandse vrou beging oefen. (Het jy geweet dat skoptegnieke heet "traptegnieke" in Nederlands en "skeptegnieke" in Flaams?) Hier op my toer in Laos en Sjina het ek ook mense uit Nederland ontmoet en land en sand gesels oor wat ons hier maak en sommer ditjies en daaitjies. Ek probeer aspris in ons gedeelde dialek praat, al verstaan ons mekaar veel makliker in Engels. Ek geniet dit om my Afrikaans te oefen (iets wat ek selde kans voor het), en dis ook lekker om in 'n "geheime" taal te praat wat die mense om my nie verstaan nie. Dis lekker om te weet dat buiten vir Engels ek in nog 'n Europeuse taal kan kommunikeer.

Eendag, na ek Koreaans relatief goed onder die knie het sal ek graag nog 'n Europeuse taal wil aanleer: Duits of Frans. Maar my tyd hier in die Ooste het my ook nuuskurig omtrent hierdie toontale, soos Manderyn of Thai. Die idee om in tone en nie net woorde nie, te kommunikeer is baie interesant. Ek het met iemand gesels oor Thai gedigte en hulle het my vertel van die wonderlike toonryme wat daar in Thai digkuns bestaan. Die rym in Thai is nie bloot woorde wat ryme nie, maar ook tonale rym en die meeste rym vind nie aan die einde van reels plaas soos tipies in nie-tonale tale nie, maar veral as binnerym. Dit klink wonderlik! Die persoon met wie ek gepraat het se uitering dat "tonal languages are one of the great pleasures in life," het my byna op die oomblik oortuig dat ek ook meer bekend moet raak met 'n toontaal. Ek oorweeg Manderyn, eerder as Thai, alhoewel ek meer van Thailand hou as van Sjina.
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From Korea I flew to Thailand, stayed there for a day, then went to Laos for about a week, then to Southern China for another week, and find myself back in Laos momentarily. Flying back to Thailand tomorrow -- then the real holiday starts. My visit to Laos and China was part of a project of which I will elaborate in a later post -- took plenty pictures that I will share once I'm back in Korea.

Tomorrow I'll meet up with a friend in Thailand, a fellow Taekwon-Do practitioner and local movie star. First we'll go do some Taekwon-Do training at his dojang (it's been weeks since I last done any proper exercise so I'm looking forward to it). Then afterwards, we're going to watch the latest and last Harry Potter film. I'm very much looking forward to that.

What can I say about mainland China? The Cultural Revolution succeeded in purging the country of its culture. What remains is a Lennonist / Stalinist framework with "Chinese characteristics." I enjoyed Hong Kong much better when I went there two years ago. Of course it is not purely traditional "Chinese", due to the British and other cultural influences, but I nonetheless found it to be more authentically Chinese than mainland China. Then again, what do I know -- I only went to China for a week and therefore have a very limited perspective.
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Tuesday, 26 July 2011

A Sketch of a Road Trip in Laos, July 2011

The road from Luang Prabang to Luang Namtha is a winding course hugging close to the rolling mountainess hills, typical of such roads in Laos. It is full of sharp and unforgiving bends snaking through the mountains. Straight stretchess seldomn last longer than a couple hundred meters as if a straight road is a wholly foreign and somewhat blasphemous concept in these mountains. The roads are tarred, but unevenly so--wavy and bumpy and 'organic'. An albino water buffalo points its portly round cheaked butt at the passing traffic, it's short tail wagging impotently against bugging mosquitoes.

Perched tightly against the near vertical mountain wall bamboo shafts are rooted and hang loosely over the road, pretending to be weeping willows with broad tearful forest green leafs hanging from yellow green stalks. Under the bamboo fine ferns grow in hairy tuffs and on the open rock face moss grows in in a bright green velvety pelt. A row of ducks march towards a small village.

Every handful of kilometers or less there are small roadside communities of three to fifteen small wooden structures. The wooden huts are raised on stilts, their walls are woven mats made of dried bamboo leafs or strips of banana leafs. The roofs are thick carpets of grass or banana leaves that droop over the edges. Closeby one stilted platform two pygmy potbelly pigs plough with their broad snouts in the mud.

Never have I seen so many naked and half-naked (bottomless) toddlers in one span of time. Naked Mong children squat in the brick brown mud. A naked boy showers under the village tap, oblivious to the passing traffic. Naked children play in a roadside mountain stream, splashing each other with water so their brown little bodies glisten gold. Naked todlers walk hand in hand, frowning at the stareing passengers in the passing vehicles. One bottomless child carries a puppy by it's neck.

The adults seem not concerned about their children walking, playing, sitting inches from the road with its drizzle of metal monsters passing by. These roadside people are hemmed in by danger: the black tar river with its roaring vehicles on the one side and close by the gurgling brown river with its many branches on the other side. Like the children, chickens also cross the road fearlessly. Dull coloured hens take long-legged strides to meet bronze coloured roosters scuffing in the muddy undergrowth.

Every so often the road is blotched, not only with domesticated animals, but with bleeding earth or bloodclot-red rocks from mud or rock slides--an ever present danger with the near constant rain showers this time of year. A herd of ginger cattle take a siesta on the warm tar. They chew the cud nonchalantly while cars navigate their way around them and rocks and potholes.

On the top of the mountains ancient trees stand like tall sentinels, watching over the valleys below. Their woolly bottle green heads cast dark shadows on the jungle beneath them. Loose vines hang like comatose snakes from their dark grey branches. These old-timers have stood there for centuries, weathered the seasons, both natural and political. In the valleys beneath them is the river with its muddy branches and small rice paddies. In one ditch two water buffalo stand flank to flank and whisper to each other.

Mong women work in the fields, or walk with woven grass baskets strapped to their backs beside the road, or sit and gossip on the stilted platforms while making trinkets decorated with tribal patterns to sell to tourist at the markets in the bigger towns. They are dressed in Mong skirts, black pieces of cloth wrapped around their waists with matching head scarfs and tops decorated in tribal patterns. Two dogs, one a dirty black with yellow face markings, the other a mustard beige with a grin, run towards another village to go tell the latest news they have over heard.

In the oppressive humid heat many men walk topless. Their stringly rich brown boddies show-off tight abdominal muscles, a sign of hard manual labour and not enough food to gain weight. A fat Lao is an uncommon sight, and a fat mountain villager even less likely. There are no fat chickens, no fat turkeys, no fat dogs, no fat cattle. Only fat pot bellied pigs and fat water baffalo, but even these are not 'fat'. The topless rich brown boddied men are busy with whatever needs attention, whatever needs fixing or maintaining. They work on the roofs, on broken motorcycles, wooden structures, they fidgit with anachronistic rusted wire-framed sattelite dishes, planted like a tree next to one of the main huts. They carry buckets on poles, or scythes for harvesting rice or cutting wild bananas from wild banana trees. They are busy, but there is no hurry.

Trucks and vans and motorcycles drone by. The motorcycles are either red or blue and always carries an extra bare-footed and helmetless passenger, a young woman or a child. Sometimes the passenger holds an umbrella over the two of them.

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Sunday, 17 July 2011

A Sunday Brunch in Luang Prabang, Laos

At an open restaurants on the banks of a magnaminous river, I sit at a table, covered with a checkered table cloth. On the opposite bank are moored long boats--each around twenty meters in length. Beyond them mountains have risen long ago like gigantic tortouise shells, covered with emerald fur. I order a vegetable curry, spring rolls, and a shake made with dragon fruit and coconut. While the food is cooking the restaurant owner / chef / waitress / mother teaches her young boy to read. They look at a chart of animals; the type of animals a child in South East Asia ought to know: frog, snake, tiger, crane. It drizzles, a slow lazy rain. There's no hurry in Laos; not from the people, nor from nature. The curry arrives: a bright, deep yellow-orange--sweet and salty and spicy and creamy and delicious. I eat like someone in love, then peek at my watch and see that I am late for an appointment. I'm probably the only person in the whole of Laos "late" for anything.
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Friday, 15 July 2011

Sketch: Luang Prabang, View from a coffee shop

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Bangkok, Vientiane, Luang Prabang

Wednesday morning I got up very early, put some final things in my bags and trudged through heavy reason to the bus stop. Got off at the airport shuttle bus station, went to Incheon International Airport and took a flight to Thailand. Slept over at a motel in Bangkok. The next day I flew to Laos. Slept over in Vientiane and flew to Luang Prabang, which used to be a French colony, this morning. I will stay here for a couple of days then travel to China, Kungmin City to be specific.

Tonight I'm staying over in a quaint little guesthouse, basically a wood cabin. At the moment I'm sitting in a coffee shop, enjoying a view of a great lazy brown river, sipping at my chocolate malt and enjoying the free wifi. (And this in a communist country. I have to reevaluate my stereotypes regarding communist regimes.)
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Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Things to do before I fly

Just finished grading my last set of papers and sent of the grades to the department's admin assistant. Now I need to start packing for my nearly four week long trip: Laos, (southern) China and Thailand. Got so much to do, and haven't had time to just sit down and make a list of what I need. Sunblock, socks, small tube of toothpaste and toothbrush, a hat, camera, writing pad, drawing pad, Taekwon-do uniform, books, small umbrella, plastic bags to keep things dry, snorkel, smart phone charger . . .

But before I can do all that I need to clean my apartment -- or at least find the source of that funny smell!

I hope to post relatively regular updates to the blog or to my Twitter account while on holiday -- or at least as regular as the places I will be visiting will allow. I'm not to sure how "free" my Internet access will be Laos and China.

My Twitter information is in the sidebar.

Thursday, 7 July 2011


Image Source
Genugtig, maar ek vlieg darem maar deur klere! Op die dae wat ek na die krygskunsklasse toe gaan, gaan ek maklik deur vier of vyf hempde. Vir werk dra ek 'n knopieshemp met 'n onderhemp onder. Dan wanneer ek krygskunsklas toe gaan hou ek die onderhemp aan maar trek die Taekwon-Do uniformbostuk bo-oor aan. Na Taekwon-Do doen ek Yusul--'n vorm van Koreaanse jujitsu of te wel, stoei. Hiervoor trek ek eers 'n stywe spoedhemp aan en dan bo-oor 'n ander hemp of uniformbostuk. Dan, na oefening, trek ek 'n skoon T-hemp aan omdat die ander hempde nat gesweet is van die oefening. Wanneer ek uiteindelik by die huis kom, neem ek 'n stort en trek dan 'n ander skoon hemp aan om in te slaap. Dan tel ek nie eers die ander kledingstukke (broeke, onderbroeke, kouse) nie.

Wat wasgoed betref, ek was klere in drie kleurgroepe. Een bondel slegs vir wit klere, een bondel slegs vir donker klere en een bondel slegs vir bont klere. Ek het dus nie 'n spesifieke wasdag nie, omdat my wasgoeddroograk nie groot genoeg is nie. Instede, wag ek vir een van die drie kleurbondels groot genoeg is, dan was ek daardie bondel.

En soms was ek ander goed. Gister het ek beddegoed gewas.

Nou-ja, ek is net een mens. Verbeel jou ek was getroud met kinders. Ek is seker die helfde van my water-en-elektrisiteit sou net aan wasgoed gewy gewees het!

Die slegste ding omtrent wasgoed vir my is klerestryk. Ek vermy dit ten alle koste. Een tyd terwyl ek in Potch gewoon het, het 'n vriend van my besluit genoeg is genoeg, en het hy begin om my klere te stryk. Ek weet nie of hy my jammer gekry het weens my gekrekelde klere nie en of die ongestrykte klere hom net so intens geïrriteer het nie. Hoe ookal, dit was 'n goeie "sharp-looking" era in my lewe. Omdat ek stryk so pes hou ek baie van die winter want dan kan ek truie en baadjies bo-oor my ongestrykte werkshempde aantrek en niemand vermoed dat my hemp soos 'n Johannesburgse straatkaart lyk nie.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Blur, Beck, and Buddy Holly

Colour Associations

Next semester I'm teaching a class on Presentation & Public Speaking again. I think this will be the fourth time teaching it. In any case, in one of the classes we discuss the symbolic associations with different colours. I plan to show my students this animation. Notice the associations with the different colours; red, for instance, indicates pain (inflammation) or anger. The animation will be a great introduction to the lesson.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

MMA, Where the Strongest Man Gets the Woman

I've never watched an MMA "Weigh-Ins & Face Offs" session before. For some reason YouTube recommended it to me, so I thought I'd see what it is about. To my surprise I realized that the weigh-ins are basically sexual objectification sessions. There is no reason why the weighing in could not happen behind closed doors, but instead an entertaining spectacle is made of it. The purpose is clearly for the display of the fighters physiques, often in their briefs. An intrinsic part of the show also seems the deliberate undressing -- the stripping -- of the fighters for the audiences voyeuristic pleasure, before they get on they scale. They could have easily arrived in robes like they do when approaching the ring; instead the act of undressing is purposed to add to the subconscious message of stripping down and getting naked. Some of the fighters seem more comfortable with this than others. The beautiful women with the hot pants and bikini tops in the background are there, of course, for no other reason than adding to the sexual tone of the event. Their purpose is purely decorative, like racing girls at car shows. And just like racing girls where the girls have very little to do with cars, but merely to create a sexual connection with the vehicle, so too do these girls here seem to add some primal energy. Virile muscled men and curvaceous women: the subconscious message is that the men are fighting over the women; like male animals fighting for mating rights with the females. The face-offs are nothing but "posturing" and "power displays", exactly what male animals do in the wild in an effort to intimidate their opponent before fighting over females start. I must say it is all very cleverly designed and I cannot help, at a very instinctive level, to enjoy it. At the same time, I cannot help but wonder what effect this has on society, as it merely enforces gender role stereotypes, and a culture spiked with sex and violence.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

How Do You De-Stress?

Last week some of us at the martial art gym where I train in Seoul went to a cafe after training. Some of them ordered beers to drink. I got a chocolate milk. Then one of the (grappling) students asked me "how do I de-stress" if I do not drink alcohol. He is not the first Korean to ask me this. I've been asked this question before by other Koreans too. Clearly, in the Korean mindset drinking alcohol is a way to relax and de-stress.

It is always difficult to answer them. I seldom think of doing something in particular to lesson my levels of stress. I keep Sabbath, but apart from that, I cannot think of something that I regularly employ to de-stress. Maybe Sabbath is enough not to require any other forms of de-stressing. Actually, going to martial art training is probably a method of getting rid of stress in itself. It might also be a case that I do not need a depressant like alcohol to calm me down, because I do not use stimulants (e.g. coffee) to ref me up.

So how do you de-stress?