Monday, 30 June 2014

Some things I did in June


In June I saw two high quality dance performances. First, I went to the National Theatre of Korea (국립극장) to see the National Dance Company of Korea (국립무용단) perform their awesome staging of "Altar" <단(壇)>. It is among the top three dance performances I've ever seen. 

The choreographer Professor Sungsoo Ahn 안성수 교수님 is truly brilliant. I hope to see something by him again.

I also recently went to see the Kim Young-Hee's Mutdance's (김영희 무트댄스) 20th Anniversary performance. It was very good. The dancers were extremely expressive (and very beautiful), and the music was haunting, adding to the emotive choreography. 


I got to see Edge of Tomorrow and Maleficent which were both quite fun. I also watched the Korean film "No Tears for the Dead" <우는남자>. It's by Lee Jeong-beom (이전범), the same director of "The Man from Nowhere" <아저씨>, so I was obviously excited to see it. Sadly, it was quite disappointing. The best part of the movie is the poster!

Martial Arts

Apart from my regular Taekwon-Do training I also organized a Systema workshop at the beginning of the month. 

Two or three Sundays back I went to a Brazil festival in Seoul where they had Capoeira practitioners performing. The leader of the group recognized me. We are "friends" on a social network. It's nice to meet people in real life. 

And over the last weekend of the month I co-organized another Taichi session, this time focussing on the Five Animals Qigong Exercises. I'm thinking of joining the Taichi gym once a week over the next month or so, over most of my vacation. There is a class in English on Mondays that teaches Chen Style, which is the style I'm most interested in as it resonates well with ITF Taekwon-Do.

After quite some planning I got a long awaited book on Taekwon-Do history that I need for my research. The book costs $99, but getting it posted from the USA to South Korea costs about as much as the book. Finally I heard that one of my friends were coming to visit Korea so I begged her to carry the heavy article with her. Luckily she obliged. 

Speaking of things arriving... I finally got my 5th Dan certificate, which means that I can now officially call myself a fifth degree black belt. 


Something that visitors to Seoul often do is go up Mt. Nam (Namsan) and visit the Seoul Tower. After my attendance at the National Theatre of Korea for a dance performance, my friend and I decided to hike up the mountain, seeing as the theatre is already a third up the mountain already. I haven't gone there in probably two or three years, so it was nice just to do the leisurely walk. Mountain climbing is more appropriately called mountain hiking, as there are very nice trails to get to the top. Seoul Tower is probably one of Seoul's two most prominent landmarks, and provide an exceptional vantage point from which to look at the city.

The other most prominent landmark in Seoul is the Han River which I also visited about a week ago, and went on a ferry cruise/buffet with some friends. At the moment there are the most beautiful flower patches all along the river, and some parks to relax in the late afternoon breeze.

In celebration of my semester finally coming to an end I went with a friend to Ocean World this past Friday. Although the lines were quite long, I still got to enjoy many water rides. One of the best things about it was that I got to enjoy student's discount of over 50%!

Great Food!

This month I really experienced a variety of tasty food. There were some of the old classics, like the awesome Thai food restaurant in Noksapyeong called Taste of Thailand, or the superb Italian restaurant in Hongdae, Kitchen 485 (서울시 마포구 서교동 399-24), or Sushi Den between Konkuk University Station and Ttukseom Resort Station. But I also tried some new things.

The first wasn't exceptional, but it was nice tasting this old Seoul classic: an ice cream sandwich known as a "Monica ice cream"(모니카 아이스크림) from the famous Taegeuk-Dang bakery (태극당), one of the oldest bakeries and dessert spots in Seoul. 

Speaking of ice cream, a friend took me to a new connoisseur ice cream parlor that got me all giddy. Fell + Cole Gastronomic Ice Creams is phenomenal. There are three branches, one on Hongdae, another in Gangnam, and a third in Jongro. We went to the one in Hongdae and I had a "Roasted Caramel with Smoked Sea Salt" ice cream cone.

Another dessert place that will blow your socks of is Eclairs by Garuharu. When they gave me a small peace of their vanilla éclair it was so unexpectedly good, that I something akin to an orgasm. Seriously, this place makes the best éclairs I've ever had in my whole life. And these beautiful éclairs are definitely food for the eyes as well. That rose one is absolutely brilliant. (서울시 용산구 이태원동 247-9)

As you may know, I'm always searching for good hot chocolate. A few evenings ago a friend took me to a place that serves Spanish dark hot chocolate with churros. It is deficult to find good hot chocolate in Korea, so Chocolate Con Churros is definitely a great place to try if you are in the Seongbukdong area, about a 10 minute walk from Hansung University Station. (서울시 성북구 성북동 124-5)

I've also tried Gangnam Croquette for the first time a week ago. Apparently it is quite famous. I had the vegetable curry one. It reminded me a bit of South African curry vetkoet.

Work and Studies

The end of the semester meant, of course, a lot of work and study stress with making out exams, grading heaps of assignments and exam papers, managing problematic students, and regarding my own PhD studies, giving presentations and writing reports and essays. Luckily, after quite a number of sleepless nights I'm finished. I'm still waiting for the grade results of my PhD classes, but was happy to see this morning that at least the results of one of the classes are open, and I got an A+.

I've been working with another professor where I work on searching for and reviewing textbooks that we may want to use for classes next semester. I've also received the last of classes that I would be teaching. I'm teaching two new classes and we may be changing the syllabi for other classes, so I'll probably have to spend a number of my vacation just doing prepping for next semester. But that's okay. At least I can sleep late every morning.


My friend Chonghee came to visit her family from the States, so we also made two appointments to catch up. It was great seeing her again. On a sad note, someone I've become rather close to, Ps Clif Maberly and his wife Karen left Korea and moved to Egypt. I've enjoyed numerous moments with Clif that is very unique to the type of person he is, and the type of person I am. For instance, how many Christians do you know that would attend a Buddhist temples on Buddha's birthday, or visit a Shaman museum. Because we worked in different departments (I'm teaching English Literature, and he is a missionologist) we didn't have that many opportunities to hang out; however, the time we did spend together was always of value. I also spend good times with other friends--realizing that if there is meaning to life, then it must be something to do with relationships, with connection.

Of course there are more relational things that happened in June, but not everything need to be posted online. ^_^


After two years of wanting a bigger computer screen--preferably a television screen that I can use as a computer monitor, I finally bought one. Someone was leaving Korea and I got to buy their 43" TV for really cheap. I simply would never have bought something like this hadn't it been that I got it for around 10% of what these types of televisions usually cost.Movies at my house, anyone?! I'm still getting used to the monster of a thing, and it is taking up most of my desk space. Seeing how big it is, I had to buy a cableless (wifi) keyboard and mouse so that I can sit on my sofa and use my computer, rather than sit right in front of the television. 

A few days ago I walked passed a musical appliances store and decided to look at their earplug earphones. The earphones I had before doesn't have particularly good sound. In fact, the cheaper ones' treble is too high, causing my ears, which are quite sensitive, to ache.  I wasn't expecting much, looking at the different earphones, knowing full well that the ones I'd like I would not be able to afford. But to my surprise the Motorhead earphones, which has an exceptional bass and mid-range was on sale. So I promptly got me a pair. Have been happy so far.

Well, these are some of the highlights from June. My orchid also started blooming and smells wonderfully sweet. I'm not exactly sure what type of orchid it is, though. I got it as a gift a year ago.

Sunday, 22 June 2014


"When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." -- Maya Angelou

Monday, 9 June 2014

Yup, that's me: "Highly Sensitive Person"

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I didn't know there is a label for what's “wrong” with me, but I'm happy that I can give a name to it now. Yes, I am a “Highly Sensitive Person” (HSP), which means that I'm extremely sensitive to sensory input.

On Dr. Elaine Aron's list of 27 indicators, I ticked of all but five indicators, and of those five that I didn't tick off, a number of them used to be part of my sensibility, for example a high sensitivity to pain and startling easily. The only reason I didn't tick these off as well is because my decades of martial arts training has “conditioned” me to endure pain, and not to startle so easily anymore.

Wikipedia summaries the attributes of HSPs as follows: depth of processing; over aroused; emotional reactivity and high empathy; and sensitivity to subtle stimuli.

Here are some HSP examples about me: 

I hate bright lights. My apartment is always dimmed to a mellow ambiance, as the bright lights disturb me. I'm constantly dimming the brightness of my computer screen and mobile phone, as the bright lights bothers me, to the chagrin of other people trying to use my digital devices.

I similarly hate loud noises. Loud music to me can be torture. Seriously, sometimes when I'm at a cinema I have to put in my earphones to dampen the sound and at concerts I cover my ears. I've went to church with earplugs numerous times, finding the excitedly loud voice of the preacher overbearing, and the only way I can sit through the sermon and listen at it is by dampening the sound to a subdued conversation. A few weeks ago at a work event where there was a musical performance I had to walk out the venue to the other side of the building. The loudness of the event put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day. A gaggle of children playing and shouting makes me anxious. I admit to not liking children, and I realise now that a major reason for this is that children are too noisy and haphazard for my sensibilities.

I hate strong smells. In fact, while I'm not prone to headaches, some of my worst headaches ever have been triggered by overwhelming smells. Yet I'm constantly sniffing at things: flowers, wood, books, spices. Different aromas bring me great joy.

I'm also very sensitive to taste and am often capable of distinguishing subtle flavours in dishes, this has enable me to recreate dishes I've tasted before without a recipe, purely based on remembering the different tastes.

I find the textures of certain fabrics uncomfortably rough. I have in the past bought some warm, woolly shirts, but I struggle wearing them as it feels like they are scratching my skin and since there I was a child there have been certain blankets under which I cannot sleep, as the feeling on my skin is too rough and disturbing. On the other other, soft textures like plush blankets can make me giddy with joy. I love touching silk and polished surfaces like marble or smoothed wood.

Visually, I can get enthralled by colours and textures. A small flower or colourful autumn leaf can make stop in my tracks to take in the moment and feel blessed for having witnessed such beauty. I sometimes crave to see certain things like other people might get a craving for certain foods: for instance I might crave to see bamboo in a bamboo forest, or crave to see a diamond on black velvet, or crave to see cobalt blue. Thankfully such cravings can in part be suppressed by quick image searches on the internet.

I'm also unusually attuned to people's emotional vibes, and can sometimes tell that someone is upset while they are still far off. Actually, awareness happens at an unconscious level, so that it feels like a form of telepathic empathy, although I'm guessing it to be my subconscious picking up on faint body language cues, if a more logical explanation is necessary.

HSPs tend to be very sensitive, empathetic and cordial. This is very true of me. They are likely creative (check), imaginative (check), and intuitive (check).

One writer on the topic stated something that I found quite profound: “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs states that in order to develop as people, we must meet certain needs in a certain order, starting with physiological needs. Well, I find that HSPs actually start at the top with transcendence needs and work down to the physiological needs last.” 

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How literally true this is I don't know, but it sure does feel to be the case with me sometimes. I'm often more preoccupied with the higher level needs, and have been so even during times when I was concerned about my physiological needs such as not having money for food or being stressed about where I will stay, or while in pain or discomfort from an injury or illness. Even during such times—or sometimes particularly because of such discomfort—my thoughts are taken up with matters of philosophy and spirituality.

This discovery, this new label brings surprising comfort to me. It confirms that it is not just in my imagination, that I do experience certain stimuli more intensely than most other people, that there is nothing wrong with me; my senses and nervous system are merely acute, more than the average. And now that I have a term, it is much easier to research it. I've already found some excellent coping strategies, some of which (like dimming lights and avoiding caffeine) I've discovered through the years by myself; but there are other suggestions as well, which I'm sure to test out.

If you think you are an HSP as well (about 15%-20% are), or if you suspect someone in your life is an HSP, listen to the following talk by Dr. Aron that she gave last year.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Gedagtes omtrent lewensmaats

Ou gedagtes het vandag bietjie vir my gekristaliseer terwyl ek in 'n gesprek met iemand was oor wat dit is wat ek in 'n lewensmaat wil hê. Dit het my toe laat besef dat daar is moontlik twee groepe mense, met betrekking tot verwagtinge van hul lewensmaat. Die twee groepe kan basies verdeel word onder 'n “vervul”-groep en 'n “aanvul”-groep.

Aan die een kant is die vervul-groep: daardie mense wat voel dat iets in hulle lewe kortkom, dat daar is 'n leemte in hulle hart wat deur iemand vervul moet word. Dis die groep mense wat soek na 'n anderhelfte om volledig te word. Hulle vind hulle kompleetheid, vervulling, volledigheid in hulle anderhelfte. Daar is iets romanties aan die “you complete me”-idee, en dit raak ongetwyfeld die harte van vele mense, en is daarom nie sonder rede 'n tema in baie romantiese stories en films nie.

Aan die ander kant is die aanvul-groep, wat nie 'n behoefte het om vervul te word nie, en wat nie voel dat hulle onvolledig is nie, en soek gevolglik nie na iemand om hulle te kom voltooi nie. Die aanvul-groep soek eerder iemand om hulle te komplimenteer, 'n eweknie wat hulle aanvul. Hierdie mens kan onafhanklik funksioneer, maar besef ook dat die lewe beter is in 'n vennootskap; dat 'n verhouding is sinergeties, sodat die gekombineerde kragte van twee wedersydsondersteunende mense groter is as die twee afsonderlike kragte op hulle eie.

Ondanks ek al verskeie romantiese gedigte geskryf het wat die vervul-tema promofeer, besef ek dat ek in praktyk nie 'n vervul-mens is nie, maar 'n aanvul-mens. Ek soek nie iemand om my te vervul asof ek tans onvolledig is nie; ek soek nie iemand om my anderhelfte te wees, asof ek tans 'n halwe mens is nie. Ook wil ek nie iemand anders se voltooing wees nie. Ek is 'n volledige mens—met of sonder iemand in my lewe. Tog het ek 'n behoefte aan iemand as 'n getuie tot my lewe, 'n eweknie, 'n lewensmaat om die lewenspad saam te loop. Ek is van mening dat so 'n verhouding kan lei tot ware vervulling, en die vervulling is nie mekaar nie, maar iets groter. In so 'n aanvullende, ondersteunende verhouding kan die twee mekaar help om hulle individuele en gedeelde drome te behaal.

In die eersgenoemde tipe verhouding staan die twee en staar in mekaar se oë, so verlief dat niks anders saak maak nie. In die laasgenoemde tipe verhouding staan die twee hand-aan-hand langs mekaar en kyk in dieselfde rigting.

Soos ek vroeër genoem het, die eerste tipe klink nogal romanties. Die probleem wat ek met hierdie tipe verhouding het, is egter dat die twee persone hoef nie regtig goed bymekaar te pas nie—hulle hoef slegs op mekaar verlief te wees. Ongelukkig waai die verliefdheid oor, en wat dan? Ek dink byvoorbeeld aan my ouers wat getrou het omdat hulle verlief was, maar nie omdat hulle noodwendig goeie (lewens-)maats was nie. Met die jare aan het hulle gevind dat hulle nie veel in gemeen het nie. Ek weet nie van my pa nie, maar ek weet my ma het vir dele van haar huwelik baie alleen gevoel. Dit was nie dat hulle nie lief was vir mekaar nie. Dit was bloot dat hulle nie werklik maats was nie. In my opinie is dit beter om alleen te wees, as om saam met iemand te wees en alleen te voel. Ek is seker toe my ouers getrou het, het hulle in mekaar se oë gekyk en gedink dat solank hulle mekaar het, sal dit genoeg wees. Dit is eenvoudig nie die geval nie. 'n Mens moet nie 'n ander persoon die bron van jou geluk maak nie. Geen mens kan daardie verantwoordelik dra nie.

My idee van 'n ideale verhouding (indien so iets bestaan) is nie twee halwe mense wat mekaar heel maak nie, maar twee heel mense wat mekaar komplimenteer. Dis nie twee mense wat verskillende note van dieselfde melodie sing om een volledige deuntjie te maak nie, maar eerder twee mense wat verskillende note in dieselfde sleutel sing—wat in harmonie sing.

Ek hoop so 'n verhouding is ook vir my beskore, maar indien nie, gaan die lewe aan. Ek sou verkies om 'n duet te sing, maar ek gaan nie ophou sing terwyl ek alleen is nie.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Some Things I Did in May

Goodness, it is June already! This means that the semester is coming to an end. This coming week will be the last teaching week. Next week will be final exams, the week thereafter I'll do grading, and the following week is arbitration week and final admin stuff. And then, I'm happy to announce, I will have a well deserved vacation. But first, here is a quick recap of some highlight from May.

PhD Stuff

My PhD course work is going well. I recently did a presentation which I think went quite well. At least a couple of my classmates found it quite useful and some of them came and asked me afterwards for my sources. My discussion with my philosophy professor, who is also my thesis supervisor is quite fruitful, I think. Although I have not read as much as I would have wanted to for my thesis research, I have honed the outline of my paper a lot. I may or may not have to give another presentation this coming Monday... Korea can be a little ambiguous at times.

Work Stuff

The end of the semester came rather quickly. This coming week there is a public holiday on both Wednesday (for regional elections) and Friday (Memorial Day), so I will only have a two day work week (Tuesday and Thursday), since I am off for my PhD studies on Mondays. There is much that needs to be done in these two weeks, but it is all nicely coming together.

Baseball Game

Baseball is not something generally played in South Africa, and as far as I know, we do not even have a dedicated baseball field in South Africa. Needless to say, I've never been to a baseball game, nor really ever had a true interest in going to one. However, a professor from one of my PhD classes took his master's degree class out on a field trip to a baseball management's office, and afterwards a game, and invited the PhD group as well. Here are some photos of the stadium management "behind-the-scenes" areas as well as the pit and bench and so on.

It is the Jamsil Stadium in Seoul. It was quite a pleasant first game, and luckily I had a friend who could explain to me the finer details of the game. Baseball isn't too complicated and I had already known the basic rules of the games, having watched enough Hollywood movies to deduce the rudementaries.


I got a guitar as a gift. One of my neighbors had a guitar which she didn't use and felt that it was just taking up space. I on the other hand have been looking for a guitar for quite some time now, but just couldn't get myself to buy one--being very selective on what I spend my money one. Well, I was most happy to take it off her hands.


I went to Dongdaemun, which literally translates as "East-Great-Gate", possibly two or three times in May. Dongdaemun is known as a fashion shopping area. Visiting Dongdaemun Market is quite an experience as it truly comes to life as a night market when people from all over (including abroad) come to buy whole sale clothes, or hunt for bargains and sales.

I did do some shopping too. I bought a pair of summer pants, a nice matching shirt and also new frames for a new pair of glasses. I've always wanted round steampunk / Harry Potter style glasses, but whenever I put them on they really don't match my face. However, this frame gives the illusion of being round, but they are tempered on top and match my face much better than actual circular ones.

Home-made mayonnaise

I made mayonnaise for the first time. I based it off of a video I saw with Jamie Oliver. Making mayonnaise is surprisingly terribly easy. I don't think I will ever buy mayonnaise again. It just doesn't make sense to buy it, if you can make it easily and cheaply and with organic ingredients.

New Pots

A friend saw the states of my cooking pots and then gave me a sincere and serious talk about the ill-effects my old pots may have on me, and that I should not be using those teflon-sprayed stuff, as it is not healthy, so I took her advice, threw out my old pots, and bought two new ones, with a ceramic coating. I bought one big pot and one small one. I need to buy one medium sized one. I might do it this in June or maybe next month.


The annual Modern Dance Festival was held over May 23-31. I would have loved to attend all of the dance performances, but could only see seven dance routines. Nevertheless, it was great. The highlight was the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company with their performance entitled "If At All", choreographed by Rami Be’er.

I also saw "Knockin' on Heaven's Door", "Foot, Foot, Step, Sound and Step", "Landing Error", "Swift Shift", "The Song", and "Waiting Tree". This list was grouped into two shows with three performances each.

At one of the performances I met a really nice guy who is a the producer / director for a 3D animation series currently running on a Korean TV channel. We had a great time talking about the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company performance and other art related stuff. I guess I made a new friend.


I attended a Taiji workshop, focusing on joint mobility. It was painful, but in a good way.

Personal Life

As for my personal (romantic) life, all I can say is that it is the stuff that soap operas are made of!


I watched "Her" Saturday night. A very nice movie.

I also watched the series "True Detective". Very good.

As well as some documentaries that are worthy seeing, like Generation Rx and The World According to Monsanto.

I also downloaded the book "The Science Delusion" after watching this TED Talk on my app and started reading it over the weekend.

Well, that's all the major things I can think of.

Oh, and I voted.