Saturday, 31 December 2011

2011 in Retrospect

It is time to take inventory of the past year. (See summaries of 2008, 2009 and 2010.)

January / February

The year started somewhat traumatically as I was involved in a car accident while I was in South Africa; thankfully nobody was seriously injured. During my time in South Africa I enjoyed spending time with many family and friends, some of whom I hda not seen in many years. The fruitful quest in search of my grandfather's grave in an old cemetery in Johannesburg was especially memorable.


In March there was a terrible earthquake that caused the terrible tsunami that destroyed large areas of Japan's eastern coast and resulted in the explosion of nuclear reactors. Japan took the brunt of the tsunami, saving Korea from any ill-effects. At a personal level, March was much less volatile. After working on the day of my birthday, I went to an excellent bakery and enjoyed exquisite pastries and deserts.


In April I started my Afrikaans poetry blog, Ingelegde Lywe, with focus on love and erotic poems.

Nothing else much happened. I did do some touristy things in April, such as visiting Seoul Tower, watching the theatre performance Jump! (for the fourth or fifth time), and hanging out in Insadong.


A most memorable thing in May was the Lantern Festival Parade (which coincides with Buddha's birthday) that I went to see with some friends whom I hadn't seen in years. Another memorable random day was when I went with my Taekwon-Do instructor and another friend to meet some high level Taekwon-Do people. That wasn't the memorable thing; the memorable thing happened later when we went to the Han River and found this strange bridge with a glass floor on which you can stand (or lie) and look at the river below.

Because of the car accident earlier the year I started going to a chiropractor again on account of acute back ache. It helped a lot—it also forced me to practise more Korean as the doctor is even worse at English than I am in Korean.


June was a much more active month for me. I went paragliding, went to the port city Mokpo where I had some of the best vegetarian food I've ever had at a little place called “Waltz Vegetarian Buffet” and also went for a weekend to Jeju Island.

I was also asked to give a speech on poetry and Christianity; I focussed on the value of Mythos and the Numinous.

In June this blog reached its 1000th post.


I travelled to three countries: Thailand, Laos and China. From Thailand I flew to Laos, crossed the border by bus into China, back again by bus to Laos and then by plain back to Thailand. During the Laos-China trip I had a wonderful experience meeting with Sabbath keeping Hmong Christians. It was an enriching and humbling experience. For my second journey in Thailand I just relaxed, first in Bangkok, then on an island (Koh Samui) where I hanged around and went scuba-diving, and back in Bangkok again, exploring Thailand's jazz spots.


In August I went to the Taekwondo Hall of Fame ceremony to support my instructor and other acquaintances as they receive awards. I was very surprised when I was also awarded with a citation.


It may not sound particularly noteworthy, but it was a life enhancing discovery for me: I started making nut milks.


With the cooler, more pleasant weather I enjoyed more trips around Seoul, enjoying the Gangnam Fashion Festival, a trip at some of the palaces, and a trip to the Blue House, the Korean presidential residence. I also went to a Fantasy Festival where I ended up being a model to be sketched with two other French models for one of the live-drawing sessions.

Not to be forgotten is my backpack that I lost, with nothing inside missing. This was soon to be followed by another miracle.


Early in November my car in South Africa got stolen. Miraculously it was retrieved, and with value added. The thieves actually spray painted my car, so that when the police got it back, it is now worth more than when it got stolen! I can only praise God for this.


Friends from South Africa came to visit me. This has been the first time for people from my South Africa life to enter my Korea life. For some reason, it feels like something important. Since they have been here I've been all around Seoul, doing and seeing a myriad of things and enjoying Korea again with “new eyes.”


This year it felt as if I really settled into living in Korea. I remember at the beginning of the year how I seriously considered leaving Korea by the middle of next year, maybe relocating to Europe, but as the year progressed I became more and more comfortable in my life here. My work has been a good blend of stress and enjoyment. I truly enjoy most of what I'm doing. I definitely do not think that I will want to stay here indefinitely, but for now I am happy. For much of the year I've been contemplating about my future plans—what will I do when my contract expires at the middle of next year? Will I renew? It's still too early to answer that question. I do know, however, that I would not mind staying on in Korea. At the beginning of this year, shortly after I arrived back in Korea after my trip to South Africa, I caught myself calling my apartment here in Korea “home”. I do feel it.

In 2011 I've made some new friends, learned some new lessons, and reminded myself of some old ones.

What will 2012 involve? The world economy will continue it's uncertain downward spiral. There is likely to be a war (between America and allies with Iran and allies) with the potential to escalate to global proportions. But before WWIII occurs, I'll be teaching new subjects that I'm looking forward to teach. Next semester will be a hard semester because I'll be teaching extra hours, but I look forward to the new classes and expanding my knowledge and skill set. I hope the global elite's plans for world domination will not hinder me to see the next Batman film (a little shallow, I know), and afterwards I will join the millions and millions of people that will resist their psychopathic ambitions. I haven't decided what my involvement in the protest movement will be just yet; in the meantime I'll use my vocation as a teacher to get my students to think for themselves, to question the status quo, and to value the great principles: Love, Hope, Liberty!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Maya Angelou

I've mentioned before that my favourite poem in English is Maya Angelou's "Still I Rise". This year, while teaching 19th & 20th Century American Poetry I got to spend some time with Angelou's work again. The poem that my students seemed to like the most (based on the amount of essays that focussed on it) is the poem "Africa." It is quite a striking poem in which the African continent is anthropomorphised as a beautiful woman who is metaphorically ravaged by colonialists, who also "took her young daughters / sold her strong sons / churched her with Jesus / [and] bled her with guns". The poem ends with the woman "rising", "although she has lain" and "now . . . striding", suggesting that she refuse to submit and give up hope, but instead rise above her oppression and adversary. Like "Still I Rise" the poem shows the victim rising above her situation. The poem that really stood out for me this time, however, was "Phenomenal Woman". It might be because many people have asked me in recent months about my ideal woman, and while ideally a good figure does score some points, it is more her confidence in herself--her at homeness in her body--that makes a woman sexy. The poem "Phenomenal Woman" really captures this.

I just now saw this interpretation of Oprah Winfrey of "Phenomenal Woman" and "Still I Rise". Phenomenal! In the YouTube video below, Oprah starts to speak at 2:45 and begins with the excellent performance of parts of the two poems at 3:30.

The Canadian actress/singer Amy Sky did a pretty good job of putting "Phenomenal Woman" to music.

It is difficult to speak about Maya Angelou and not mention her poem "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings". Do read it. It is beautiful.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Queen Elizabeth II's 2011 Christmas Message

There is much that can be said about Britain, and with ever decreasing favour. However, I have a soft spot for Her Majesty the Queen.

I keep Queen Elizabeth I, who reigned from 1558-1603, in high esteem. She was one of the first rulers who considered religion a personal act between man and God and worked towards Freedom of Religion in a time when "heretics" were routinely excommunicated and / or burned at the stake. Queen Elizabeth I may have been "only a woman" and ruler of “half an island” as Pope Sixtus V referred to her, but she stood her ground against the Pope and the Holy Roman Empire, before whom many a king had bowed the knee, and withstood Spain and France. The England of today, including the Common Wealth, that enjoys its great freedoms of religion, speech, and conscience would not have been had it not been for this wonderful woman. Even the attacks of religiously-aggressive atheists like Richard Dawkins would not have been conceivable was it not for the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I who believed in religious tolerance.

It might be because of this endearment I have to Queen Elizabeth I that I'm curiously open to her name-bearer, Queen Elizabeth II, particularly to her annual Christmas Message. And what a beautiful address this year's Christmas Message was! She emphasized the value of family and friendship and man's need of a Saviour and forgiveness. Keep in mind that the annual Christmas Message is the only time the Queen is allowed to freely speak her mind. At all other times she is restricted by “advisers” on what she can or cannot say, but the Christmas Message is thoroughly her own. Imagine that you have only once a year the opportunity to freely speak your mind. Certainly at this opportunity you would share the things that are most important to you.

I highly recommend you listen to Her Majesty the Queen's 2011 Royal Christmas Message.

Since I don't really keep Christmas, this will probably be my only Chirstmassy-post for the year. The Queen's message of family, friendship and forgiveness is also my wish for you all.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Jack Parrow, Katie, Mmê Emily and The Help

In a recent post about Afrikaans rap and Hip-Hop music I mentioned how I'm not a big fan of the Afrikaans rapper Jack Parrow. But let me not be a spoil sport for others that enjoy him. Someone just now showed me the video below of a help (maid) in South Afrika, most likely working for a white family, and listening to the Afrikaans rapper on television. Watching her do her work with that amount of enjoyment she derives from Afrikaans rap will bring a smile to anyone's face and is possibly the best marketing for popular alternative Afrikaans music I can imagine.

It also made me think of Koos Kombuis' Afrikaans song "Katie", in memory of the maid that worked for his family and helped raise him. In the lyrics of the song he proclaims that their maid "was not merely a maid / but also a mother" [my translation] to him. In the video below Christo Wolfaardt does a rendition of the song "Katie".

This song by Kombuis is one of his most famous, probably because it resonates with so many white South Africans that grew up with an "Ousie" (Afrikaans word derived from "ou suster", meaning older sister, and used to describe a maid or house help). For many white South Africans of around my generation "the maid" was more than just another worker; for many of us, our Ousie was a second mother.

Me and my "mother" Emily.
Mine, was definitely a second mother. She worked for our family for 27 years. Her name is Emily but I often called her "Mmê Emily". Mmê is Sesotho for mother. She is actually ethnically Zulu, but the area we lived in was predominately Sotho, so she spoke Sesotho to me. The name I use and which all my family and friends use is a Sesotho name and was actually given to me by Mmê Emily.

She is retired now and currently lives in the Sebokeng-area, Vaal Triangle. The last time I visited her was in 2008. I hope to go visit her again next month, God-willing, when I visit South Africa.

Recently I watched the film The Help (2011), based on the 2009 début novel by Kathryn Stockett. The Internet Movie Database gives the following synopsis: "An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960's decides to write a book detailing the African-American maid's point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis," and gives it a rating of 8 out of 10. The American Film Institute listed the film as one of the ten films of the year. For people like myself, coming from a white family, who grew up with a nanny who is a person-of-colour, the film was particularly touching. Although the set-up in America and in South Africa worked differently, the similarities are enough for South Africans to also appreciate The Help, and appreciate our helps, as I appreciate my Mmê Emily.

Salvation by Spam

I saw the picture below on a social network site and then thought of something I wrote a couple of years ago somewhere else. Since the two compliment each other so well, I thought I'd post them here together.

Email this to 15 people and God will love you more.
Email has become the next bondage to works-religion. Almost daily I get (Christian) emails telling me to forward this to people and I will be blessed. Here’s an example:

Pass this message to 15 people except you and me.
Don't ignore and God will bless you.
So if I do not send irritating time consuming emails to other people God will not bless me? In other words, I have to work (send emails) in order to gain God’s favour?
Christianity is unique among the great religions because it is centred upon the idea that salvation (i.e. God’s favour) is not because something we do, but due to something God has done. The greatest struggle for many Christians is to accept God’s love and saving provision. Not to try and save ourselves, but accept God’s salvation on our part.
These chain-letters also usually make emotional manipulative appeals to make you feel guilty. For instance in the letter already quoted, the author pretends to pray for me. Included in that prayer is this sneaky manipulative sentence:

I pray for those who don't know You intimately. I pray for those that will delete this without sharing it with others. I pray for those that don't believe.
By proximity of the sentences I am to deduce that if I “delete [the email] without sharing it with others” then I do not know God intimately and do not believe. Apparently ones relationship with God depends on whether or not you “share” these irritating emails with other people. So the more you spam other people’s mailboxes, the closer you are to God?!
Call me paranoid, but I think that these emails are a ploy of Satan to get Christians to doubt in the faithfulness of God. Getting us to doubt in God’s complete salvation. Getting us to subtly try and contribute to our salvation – thereby insulting our Lord and Saviour by insinuating that His saving sacrifice was insufficient.
To become perfect I still need to send this to 15 more people.

The text focussed on religious emails that do the guild-tripping trick, but they are not the only ones to do so. Many other emails and social network posts use emotional appeals to make you feel guilty less you also copy-and-paste the emotionally charged request. Chain letters showing dying babies and telling you that for every email sent a few cents will be donated to the suffering child are equally manipulative and utterly bogus. Emails are not "tracked" in this way, and if they were it would be an illegal infringement of your privacy. No money will be paid to the dying baby through your email forwards.

As the picture above says, if you want to make a difference, make a tangible one. Go volunteer. Send actual money to an actual charity.

Do not forward me your guild-tripping devil-spawned messages! I just delete them and do not feel guilty for doing so at all. In fact, I sometimes even take the time to "Reply to All" in which I tell you and the other friends you sent your stupid email to, just how silly you must be for believing in such nonsense.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Adds About Dictators

North Koreans weeping over the death of the "Dear Leader"

Monday, 19 December 2011

Kim Jong-Il's Death, America and World War III

At noon today the official North Korean news agency announced that the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Il, has died. The North Korean newscaster was dressed in clothes of morning as she revealed that the “Dear Leader” had died on Saturday, 17 December, due to extreme psychological and physiological fatigue while doing on site inspections—something he was known for doing quite frequently—at 8:30 in the morning. The North Korean newscaster announced that he died of “physical and mental exhaustion.” The exact cause of death is myocardial infarction, a heart attack. This was determined during an autopsy that was performed on Sunday. He was 69 years old (70 years in Korean counting). North Korean citizens broke down weeping at the news, according to pictures from the Chinese news agency. China is North Korea's greatest ally. The funeral is set for next week, the December 28th or 29th.

Although the South Korean government has declared a state of emergency, the second highest security level, I have spent much of my day in the streets of Seoul and can attest that the average South Korean citizen does not seem too concerned. This is in high contrast to how American citizens reacted upon the announcement of the death of their bogeyman, Osama Bin Laden, earlier this year. In South Korea there are no obvious cheering in the streets nor cowering in the corners. People are just going on with life as normal Although online video sites do have news videos about the North Korean leader's death, the news is shared with local entertainment videos of participants in the pop idol show Kpop Star.

Asian markets seem more concerned than South Korean citizen as Asian currencies dropped at the announcement, but Asian markets have always been nervous.

So what can we expect? For the time being, I think, not much. It is very unlikely that there will be any uprising in the North. Since Kim Jong-Il suffered a stroke in 2008, the North Korean regime has been preparing for his eventual death. Also, although he died Saturday already, the party only made the announcement two days later, giving them enough time to prepare for any unwanted reaction from the people. The South Korean government's state of emergency is more for political display than anything else, since it is highly unlikely the North will do anything to stir up further animosity until after its mourning period. Apart from the immediate mourning period, which will last until around Thursday next week, Korean's also have a special mourning ceremony 100 days after the day of death. Furthermore, Kim Il Sung's Centennial is coming up next year. Plans to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea, has been put into motion for quite some time now.

North Korea is practically a cult-state devoted to Kim Il-Sung and his son and successor Kim Jong-Il. Kim Jong-Il's third son Kim Jong-Eun has been groomed as the successor so plans to “enthrone” him will also take up focus. The next couple of months we can expect North Korea to be completely internally focussed with the mourning of Kim Jong-Il, the centennial celebrations of Kim-Il Sung and the successor ceremony of Kim Jong-Eun.

That is at least how I see things play out, unless there are any outside interferences and the only powers that could / would cause “interferences” are China who isn't likely to do anything, Japan and Korea who prize stability in the region more than anything else, and the United States. America has its focus divided elsewhere and would rather not thin their attention any more than it has too. In any case, China will not stand idly by if America were to make a move in North Korea. North Korea serves as a strategic buffer between America's heavy presence in South Korea. A move by America on North Korea is too close for comfort for China.

Speaking of the United States and it's divided attentions... Both the USA and Russia have naval air carriers and other military presence in Syrian waters, what can only be described as a under-reported stand-off. China and Russia has blocked United Nations Security Council efforts (i.e. US military) to interfere with Syria. China has announced its allegiance to Iran.

It is well known that America feels the need to invade Iran because of Iran's nuclear ambitions. (That is, at least, the cover story. The truth is more probably America's hunger for oil or using war as a economic stimulus.) However, the American people are waking up to the fraudulent wars their government is waging. Although war is likely, it is unlikely that America will make the first overt move. Instead we are more likely to see them bite at the heels of Iran until Iran gets so irate that it loses its temper and make the first strike. This will, of course, give the Military Industrial Complex that runs the show the excuse to go to war with Iran. For this scenario to play out will require quite a number of months of agitation, so we can probably expect it to happen later, maybe September, October, 2012. That is unless they pull another false flag event like 9/11. With US presidential elections coming up we may first see some “soldiers coming home” rhetoric in action, which was a promise Obama made during his presidential race. Either way, it is plausible for Obama to stay on as president. He has been heeding the commands of his international banker masters quite well. But it doesn't matter. What we can be sure of is that unless Ron Paul or a completely different third party candidate suddenly become exceedingly popular and wins the upcoming election, the banking elite will just replace Obama with one of their cronies—it doesn't matter the party. The Republicans and the Democrats are merely to sides of the same proverbial coin—a two headed party.

Back to the probable war with Iran later next year. Such a war has so many parties involved that it can easily escalate to a global conflict—a Third World War. Unfortunately, with technology as advanced as it is, a Third World War will be a rather messy affair which could easily involve bioweapons and nuclear / hydrogen bombs.

Then, let's not forget the predicted high solar activities predicted for next year. And for those that do not know, sun storms are closely related to natural disasters such as earth quakes and unusual weather here on our planet.

But, in the meantime, enjoy the festive season. It ought not be too volatile. The “fun” is all scheduled for later in 2012.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Vyf dinge wat ek by my ma geleer het

My ma

'n Mens is nie aldag bewus van die waardevolle lesse wat jy deur die jare by jou ouers geleer het nie. En om eerlik te wees, die trauma-geïnduseerde amnesia wat met my ouers gepaard gaan maak dat ek nie juis veel van my ma kan onthou nie. Gevolglik is ek opgewonde wanneer ek wel 'n paar positiewe herinneringe kan onthou. In elk geval, hier volg vyf dinge waarin my ma geglo het en wat ek as waardevolle lesse by my ma geleer het:

“Vra is vry, en wyer daarby”

Dit was een van my ma se gunsteling spraakwendings. Ek is seker dat die idioom “vra is vry, en wyer daarby” selfverduidelikend is: Daar is geen skade om te vra vir, oor, omtrent, of na iets nie. Die ergste wat die ander party kan doen is om jou versoek te wyer, so daar is nie veel te verloor deur te vra nie, maar daar is altyd die potensiaal om iets te win. Selfs die Bybel por ons aan om te vra (Markus 11:24).

Veg gravitasie

Wanneer jy gesigroom aanwend, vryf dit op, nie af nie. Gravitasie trek die heeldag alles af, moet jy nie nou ook dinge begin afwaarts vryf nie. Soos ek ouer word kom ek agter dag dinge begin sak en het ek nou besluit om die beginsel ook in my daaglikse afdroog roetine toe te pas na ek gestort of bad het. In plaas daarvan dat ek “afdroog”, met ander woorde die handoek afwaarts oor my liggaam vryf, maak ek nou gebruik van “opdroog”—ek vryf die handdoek opwaarts oor my lyf.

Iets anders wat my ma ook vir my genoem het en waaruit ek as 'n man nou nie juis persoonlik veel baat vind nie, maar dalk van my vrouelesers wel kan, is dat “borste moet ondersteun word”. My ma het sterk geglo in bras wat die borste behoorlik ondersteun en die effek van gravitasie teenwerk. Klink sinvol.

Worry nie oor wat ander van jou dink nie en wees proaktief

My ma was nie 'n skaam mens nie en het glad nie omgegee om uit te staan of in die kollig te wees nie. Sy het kanse gevat, haar stem laat hoor, en was nooit bang vir verkeerd wees nie. Om aksie te neem is beter as om te kwyn voor die vrees van wat ander mense van jou mag dink. Sy was proaktief. Uit die krygskunste kan ek die beginsel beaam: aksie is inherent vinniger as reaksie. Wees 'n aksie mens, nie 'n reaksie mens nie.

Musiek het voedingswaarde

My pa hou nie van musiek nie. Ek vind dit uitermatig weird dat 'n mens nie van musiek kan hou nie. My ma, aan die anderkant, was 'n groot musiekliefhebber. Om haar was daar nooit nie musiek nie. My ma het van alle musiek gehou: Country musiek, rock-en-roll, klassieke musiek, boeremusiek, koortjies en lofliedere, popmusiek, selfs die metal-goth waarna ek as laattiener geluister het, het sy saam met my geluister. Sy't gesing, klavier en orrelgespeel en ons kinders aangemoedig om ook musiek deel van ons lewens te maak, want musiek is so nodig soos kos. En nes kos, het sekere kos meer voedingswaarde as ander. So luister na 'n gesonde verskeidenheid!

Waarde word nie net in geld gemeet nie

My ma het waarde gesien in enige iets wat handgemaak is, waaraan iemand tyd spandeer het. Massageproduseerde, masjien gekoekiedrukte produkte het min waarde in haar estimasie gehad. Iets wat die produk is van iemand se persoonlike swoeg-en-sweet, se bloed-en-trane, was outomaties meer werd vir haar. 'n Kranklike houtgekerfde stoeltjie was vir haar van meer waarde as iets wat dubbeld soveel werd is in geldelike terme. Daar's baie waarde in die “personal touch.” Tyd voeg ook waarde by tot iets. Natuurlik was enige oudhede en antieke dinge van hoë waarde vir haar.

Goeie lesse, dink jy nie?

Friday, 16 December 2011

Aegyo: Korea's Cute Coquette

In Korea there is something called "aegyo". They translate it as charming, which is definitely not the best translation. Aegyo is basically when an adult acts childlike in order to come over as cute. It is usually done by women, but men sometimes do aeqyo too, particularly in the early stages of a romantic relationship. Aegyo is basically acting cute coquettishly. This is probably a good translation for aegyo: "cute coquette." Korean women usually do aegyo to break her male target's resistance as she manipulates him to do her will.

I get that aegyo is cute. I also like cute things -- a cute kitten can melt me in a second. What I don't get is why aegyo is sexy. Korean men actually thinks it is sexy when their girlfriends act like little girls. Personally I'm completely put off by it. I find the nagging-manipulation of aegyo, like any type of emotional manipulation, distasteful. Also, that men should find such childlike behaviour sexually exciting borders on paedophilia, I think. (I cannot help but wonder if there is a correlation between child sexual abuse and a culture that views childlikeness sexually attractive. I couldn't find much information on the topic; this post by The Grand Narrative may be a start.)

As I mentioned earlier, aegyo is not exclusively used by Korean women. Korean men also do aegyo, as the videos below demonstrate.

However, male aegyo sometimes works the other way. Instead of an adult trying to act cute, a young man could act more mature, self-confident or tough towards a female that is his senior. The following video illustrates this:

I've often been asked about my interest in Korean women and why I don't yet have a Korean girlfriend. There are different reasons, but one is that I really do not find aegyo sexually attractive. On some isolated occasions I thought it cute, and can appreciated it as an interesting cultural phenomenon. However, sexually it is a turn off for me. I definitely find mature women attractive, not little girls.

A bad aegyo moment. Sorry.
But, let me not be too hypocritical. I've done aegyo myself on occasion, because I know the results it gets in this culture. Also, apparently I speak Korean very cute. The reason is two fold. First, my Korean ability is quite elementary so I end up sounding a little like a toddler clumsily putting together sentences and we all know how cute that can be. Second, I used to learn much of my Korean from women, so I ended up speaking like the girls whose intonation I copied. Therefore, I'm often doing aegyo without it being my intention. I've started watching how Korean men act tough in Korean films and have tried that instead, but from the reactions of some of my students I think it came across as the reverse aegyo that men sometimes used, which I spoke about earlier. While I'm not a fan of aegyo, I catch myself sometimes being an aegyo culprit.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Guan Yin

In the Oriental religions, the bodhisattva (enlightened one) I find the most attractive is Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. Her full name Guanshiyin means “Observing the Cries of the World.” She is, therefore, ever presently compassionately aware of all the suffering that occurs on the Earth. Her male counter part is likely Avalokiteśvara. His name suggests the “One that looks upon the world with compassion.” There is a Buddhist story of Avalokiteśvara's efforts at trying to free people (sentient beings) from samsara (the cursed cycle of re-incarnation). The Buddha of Infinite Light (Amitābha Buddha), seeing Avalokiteśvara compassion and sincerity, gives him multiple heads to better observe the suffering of the people, and bestows him with a thousand arms and hands so that he can better reach out to all the suffering.

The video below depicts the Thousand Hands of Guan Yin. It is a riveting performance by a troupe of deaf and mute Chinese women. Looking at the grace and precision with which these “disabled” women depict Guan Yin, one might be tempted to think that there is indeed some divine compassion at work here.

I think what I like about the mythos of Guan Yin is that it captures a key aspect of how I understand God to be. God is ever compassionate, ever merciful. There is no suffering that God is not painfully aware of. When we suffer, God suffers. Not in a pantheistic sense, but very much in a Parent-child sense. When a loving parent sees her child suffer, she is personally hurt by her child's pain as well. In this festive season we are reminded of the Suffering God; the God who “became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood” (John 1:14, The Message); the God that came to live and suffer as we live and suffer; not a far off deity, but a God that is intimately acquainted with our predicaments.

The first time I heard of Guan Yin was in a song by Alanis Morissette called “Citizen of the Planet” in which she sings: “I'm a citizen of the planet / My president is Kwan Yin”. It is a song I associate with. As a traveller of the world and as an expatriate, I agree that my “Patriotism [has] expanded by callings from beyond”. I'm no longer bound by a narrow minded xenophobic patriotism, but by a more open view -- one that is hopefully driven by compassion.

"Sir, you look like Mitch."

Jesse Tyler Ferguson
(Image Source)


“Who is Mitch?”
“Mitch. Mitchell from Modern Family.”
“NOOOoooo!!! I don’t want to look like Mitch!!!”

Or something to that effect is how a dialogue went between one of my students and I this morning. Now what I find quite curious about her statement is the peculiar timing. I usually have a stubble. I’m not fond of shaving, so I just use a clipper to quickly spruce my beard to a two-day trim. This morning I actually shaved properly, splattered toner and moisturized. “You look ten years younger,” is what a colleague told me. Why the student should compare me with Mitchell on this particular day is unusually baffling. Not only is Jesse Tyler Ferguson, the actor that plays Mitchell Pritchette in the TV-series Modern Family, my senior by a couple of years, on this particular day we look a decade apart.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson
(Image Source)

So let’s compare Mitchell and myself. He, is older. I'm younger. Okay, just three years younger, but still. Mitchell is out of shape; I'm not. Yes, I'm no beefy hunk either, I will admit it, but I'm not sagging -- yet. He has an unfortunate sense of style. I may not be a fashion slave, but I do have a sensible aversion of checkered clothes. He has what one can obviously refer to as a ginger beard, while I usually display an auburn stubble. He is evidently gay, with the fame and salary that warrants the paparazzi's attention, while I'm questionably bi-sexual with neither the fame nor the salary to have strangers take pictures of me without my shirt on. If I want shirtless pictures of myself on the Internet I have to take them and post them myself.

So what do the character Mitchell and myself have in common that causes my student to "compliment" me as Mitchell's doppelgänger? Mismatched red hair? He is a strawberry blond, while I'm more of a light auburn. A fair skin? Pink cheeks? A slowly receding hairline? Jobs that require talking? (Mitchell is a lawyer and I'm a literature lecturer.)

I guess in Korea all Caucasian gingers look alike. ;-)

Thursday, 8 December 2011

(Suid-) Afrikaanse Rap

Ek kan nie sê dat ek noodwendig 'n aanhanger is van rap is nie. Wat ek bedoel is, ek is nie 'n super fan nie, is nie ophoogte met al die nuutste albums nie, en hou nie trek met al die nuwe kunstenaars nie. Terselfde tyd kan ek ook nie sê dat ek geensins na rap luister nie. Ek was ook opgesweep met Eminem en terwyl ek nie tans juis na hom luister nie, het ek waardering vir sy sosiale kommentaar. Ek luister ook graag na K'naan -- was bewus van hom sedert sy album "Dusty Foot Philosopher", voordat hy 'n fenomeen geraak het tydens die sokker wêreldspele met sy "White Flag"-enkel. Dan is daar Kanye West. Ek het twee van sy albums, die nuutste een waaroor ek nie huistoe sal skryf nie, maar ook die vorige een 808's & Heartbreak, wat ek beweer 'n baanbrekersalbum in die Hip Hop-industrie is.

Wat Suid-Afrikaanse rap betref, Die Brasse vannie Kaap het my regtig opgewonde gehad en ek mis hulle nogals. Hulle het inderdaad 'n verskil onder die Kleurlinggemeenskap gemaak en was sonder twyfel baanbrekers in Afrikaanse kontemporêre musiek-industrie.

Na Die Brasse het ek eintlik min Afrikaanse rap gehoor. Ek het bewus geraak van Jack Parrow en Die Antwoord (soos almal maar), maar nie juis met enige intensie om hulle musiek op my speellys te hê nie.

Onlangs het ek bewus geraak van nog 'n Afrikaanse rap-groep, Bittereinders. Wat 'n bevange naam! Hierdie is wel 'n groep waarvan ek meer wil hoor en beplan om hulle album te koop wanneer ek volgende maand Suid-Afrika toe gaan.

As jy op YouTube soek na Afrikaanse rap kry jy 'n klompie videos van skoolkinders waarvan hulle eerste taal nie Afrikaans is nie, maar wat vir 'n projek hulle gunsteling rap songs in Afrikaans moes vertaal en voordra. 'n Vyfhand vir die onderwyser! Dit maak my uitsien na al die Afrikaanse musiek wat nog voorlê!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Ou Blog

Die eerste keer wat ek Korea toe gekom het, dit was rondom 2006, het ek ook 'n blog gehad--destyds nog met Yahoo! 360. Ek het daardie blog toe gemaak nadat ek hierdie huidige een begin het. Ek het wel 'n rugsteun gemaak van die oorspronklike blog en het nog meeste van daardie inskrywings. Dis interesant om my oorspronklike reaksies omtrent Korea te lees. Sien byvoorbeeld een van my eerste inskrywings hier onder:

Orals is trappe. Baie trappe. 'n Mens begin om roltrappe te waardeur in Korea. Hierdie roltrap is in een van die moltreinstasies.
Of hierdie inskrywing wat ek oor my eetgewoontes in Korea gemaak het:

Ek het hierdie week vir die eerste keer wat ek hier is vleis geëet. Van my studente het my uitgeneem vir ete en al die disse het vleis gehad. So toe kies ek maar 'n tofu-bredie met stukkies beesvleis. Ek wou hulle nie in die gesig vat en glad nie eet nie. Gelukkig is my benadering nie 'n wettiese "geen-vleis" kwessie nie, maar eerder 'n "gesonde leefstyl" beginsel. Omdat daar soveel soja produkte hier is, is dit maklik om vegetaries te lewe. Ongelukkig is daar nie 'n verskriklike groot variteit groente en vrugte nie (en boonop is die goed so duur), so ek sal nie heeltemal vegan kan gaan terwyl ek hier is nie. Ek het regtig gehoop dat ek sou kon.

In somertye het die Koreane baie koue disse. Nie koud soos ons het nie—regtig koud! Die kos word op ys gesit. Ek het nog net een so 'n dis gehad, pasta met kimchi. Ek verkies maar warm kos, of ten minste kamertemperatuur kos, eerder as half gevriesde goed.

Ek raak stelselmatig gewoond aan die Koreaanse kos, maar dis steeds nie na my eie smaak nie. Tradisionele Suid-Afrikaanse kos is ook nie regtig na my smaak nie... ek eet nie graag vleis nie, geniet nie pap nie en drink nie bier nie.

Ek wens dat ek net meer gewone vrugte en groente hier kon geniet. Maar elke keer wat ek R18 vir 'n appel moet betaal wil ek die horries kry. Een van my gunsteling skrywer het die volgende te se: "Money spend on nutritious food is never wasted." Ek probeer nog daardie woorde ter harte neem.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Vegan Coconut Cake

A while back I found a nice vegan clementine and cranberry muffin recipe by another Korean blogger. I had neither clementines nor cranberries, but I did have blueberries so I winged the recipe and made a blueberry muffin mix instead. I also do not have muffin pans, thus my muffin mix became a cake mix. Neither do I have cake pans -- I just have glass containers that are oven resistant. Any way, the small blueberry cake came out quite nice.

Then I experimented with a chocolate-walnut cake. I had made walnut milk the night before so used that, with some crushed walnuts, and a couple of heaped table spoons of cocoa powder, to characterise the rest of the ingredients. When it came out of the oven I melted chocolate truffles over the top as the icing. It was absolutely deliciously decadent!

Vegan Coconut Cake
Today I decided to make a coconut cake. I wasn't sure how it would come out, but it came out surprisingly well, although I did have to bake it longer than the previous cakes I made. Luckily I kept tabs of the ingredients so I can share the recipe.

Dry ingredients:

2 cups of flour
1/2 a cup of coconut shreds
1/2 a cup of sugar
1/4 to 1/2 a teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

Wet ingredients:

1 tin coconut milk (i.e. two cups)


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius.

Mix the dry ingredients together. Then add the coconut milk and mix well. Poor into a greased pan and bake for around 40 minutes, or until a testing utensil (e.g. knife -- I use a chopstick) comes out dry.

I topped my cake with condensed milk, but I'm sure you can find a vegan alternative instead.

It is not a very big cake. Maybe four big slices, so great for a small group of friends or a nuclear family.

Enjoy it with fruits and Rooibos tea!

Friday, 2 December 2011


A short video I took of ajumeoni (Korean aunties) making ho-ddeok, a sweet pancake filled with brown sugar, cinnamon and crushed nuts and other secret ingredients.

The music is by Kang San Ae.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Classes Next Semester

I received the list of classes that I'm most likely going to teach next semester.
  • 19th Century English Romantic Poetry
  • British & American Essays
  • English Prose Reading & Response Writing
  • English Short Stories
  • Literature & Visual Arts (Shakespeare Films)
  • Intermediate English Listening & Conversation
My basic contract requires me to teach twelve hours a week. I'm usually teaching fifteen or sixteen hours. This coming semester I'm requested to teach eighteen hours! The reason is that our department is losing three lecturers. One resigned, one was fired (or rather, his contract is coming to an end and the department chair told him that his contract will not be renewed), and another is going on a research sabbatical. With three less lecturers, us remaining professors need to carry the extra burden. 

The problem, however, is that this will again prevent me from doing any research of my own. The maximum a typical university lecturer teaches is twelve hours, usually less, with the assumption that they will also work on research and writing academic papers. Since I'm consistently teaching over twelve hours, my department does not expect any research output from me. And, of course, the extra hours I'm teaching count as overtime for which I get extra money, but unfortunately I'm not doing much for my academic career apart from gaining teaching experience in a variety of subjects. While this is a good way to solidify my base as a well rounded English literature lecturer, it is not doing much for my scholarly career. 

I'm teaching two new subjects next semester: Prose Reading & Response Writing and Short Stories. While I look forward to teaching new subjects, it means a lot of extra preparation, compared with classes that I have taught before. We have also chosen a new textbook for the Listening & Conversation class, so this class will also require extra preparation. The idea of teaching six overtime hours and technically three new classes has me exhausted just thinking about it. I had hoped to enrol into an official Korean language learning course next semester, but that seems unlikely now.

In the liminal space between the end of this semester and the beginning of next semester I will be teaching a Winter School class: Research Methodology. Again. Every time I teach I'm told that it will be the last time the class is taught. I really hope this will indeed be the last time. Although it is only a one credit course, it is terribly time consuming and needlessly stressful.