Archive for August, 2012

This must be a plant

August 24, 2012

With one line of four words in which every word is mis-spelled,  I have to wonder if it is deliberate.

I tried to obscure the website URL, but if you want to see the sign, look near the McDonald’s at Naeng-jeong Station in Busan.

And if you need a Well-being Internet Zone, well give it a try.



Obvious signs of Vampire infiltration of the South Korean populace

August 20, 2012

Today, in a grocery store, I finally put the pieces together and felt like a dummy for not seeing it earlier. Korea has a huge number of vampires and they have infiltrated the government to hide the fact.  It’s so obvious!

Was this a documentary?


1) In most of eastern Asia, there is a common implement that would be a useful tool for defense against vampires.  Here it…exists, but is belittled and few homes have them in handy locations.  I am talking about wooden chopsticks.  Wooden chopsticks can be found here but everyone extolls the virtues of metal chopsticks.  Government and university officials claim they improve computer game, archery and experimental manipulation skills and even connect metal chopsticks to holding the Olympics here.  They are also useless against vampires.  Not a coincidence.

1b) In a similar way, young students are weaned away from wood-framed pencils and to mechanical pencils as quickly as possible.  Even when the mechanical pencils suck and mainly seem to be used in class to explain why students haven’t started the assignments.

2) The Korean burkha and super expensive sunblock.  Why is sunblock so expensive in Korea?  Because it is strong enough to protect even vampires!  For extra cautious Korean vampires, wearing head-to-toe clothing everywhere, even swimming and hiking has become a cultural norm.

3) Constant application of make up to appear life-like.  Notice how many Korean women are reapplying make up in public places?  They have to to remain life-like.

There is at least one confounding variable.  Kimchi contains a lot of garlic.  It is so much a part of Korean culture that even the secret vampire conspiracy cannot decrease it’s prevalence.  Wait, perhaps this is why Chinese kimchi has received a bad rap: is it even more potent garlic-wise?

What am I teaching my son (mostly about driving)?

August 19, 2012

My son is at the age now where he asks reasonable questions; ones that show he has been thinking about the subject a little himself.*

We have been spending a lot of time in the car and he is curious about driving and traffic.  His mom recently got her driver’s licence so the subject is relevant.

Man, driving is a tough thing to explain.  I am not talking about physically driving and maneuvering large vehicles, but the rules and how and when they are ignored.  I’ve driven significant amounts in Canada and Korea.  I would like to think Canadian driving etiquette and behaviors fit some western standard but I don’t know.  Canadians take speed limits as mere suggestions but are scrupulous about obeying stoplights.  We use our turn signals almost every time.  Koreans are similar in their speeding habits but shockingly different in their acceptance of stoplights.  They also use their hazard lights at every opportunity while Canadians have to search out the button when they want to use their hazards.

(Image found here and not from my son.)

There are a lot of great drivers in the family I have married into and also my father was both skilled and knowledgable.   I myself, am only a fair driver.  I think I know my limitations so I can work around them but there are lots of better drivers than I out there.

Anyway, I think I have been, not deliberately, teaching my son that speeding is okay but that stoplights must be obeyed and that speeders might be good people but those who run red lights are jerks (I have forgotten he was in the car a few times and used stronger language).  I think my father would agree but are these my prejudices that I am training into my boy?

Most of the time I see drivers run red lights, they have slowed and clearly seen that the side streets are empty and no pedestrians are around.  Many times I see people running red lights after dawn -so the lighting and visibility are good- but so early that few people would be expected to be around.  I generally persist in thinking these drivers are bad but at the same time I wonder if I have been conditioned into accepting these delays that serve no purpose.

Now, readers who have heard the stats on traffic accidents here -it is a widely accepted assertion that Korea has the highest accident rate of any developed country and I believe it, but I haven’t seen any studies – might want to mention accidents they have seen.  I, too, have seen a few accidents.  One driver, running a red light, was screened from seeing the whole crosswalk by other vehicles and slowly rolled through to hit a bicycle – luckily being walked across and the rider was unharmed.  Running a red light during a busy part of the day on a busy street is freaking stupid.  Even on streets and at times that are usually quiet, running a red light is risky.  Still, treating a red light at as a simple stop sign in those conditions doesn’t seem irrational.  Waiting, as I always do, and always remind my son (who won’t be driving for about ten years or more), is the correct thing to do but also often unnecessary.

Here in Korea, where breaking the law was once seen as a form of revolt against Japanese oppressors or domestic dictators, a long history of law abiding behavior has not formed.  Here, in my room, I can abstractly consider the flexibility of thinking I see in Korean drivers – flexibility missing in other situations.

My grandfather lived long enough that his opinions on race, once mainstream and possibly even liberal, aged into mild unpleasantness.    My son is seven years old while most of my friends my age have teenagers.  I am eager to teach my son to swim and ride a bike and all those other value-neutral things but I am concerned about teaching my prejudices to him.


*When he was younger, I guess he asked reasonable questions as well.  As I recall, he would frequently ask about things that were new and needed to be sorted out in his mind.  When he was four, we were in Canada and discussing a friend’s properties.  The man owns a house and two apartments and was in the process of selling a house.  On one weekend, I was asked perhaps five times, “Ron owns four homes?”  One of these times was immediately after he had woken up, so clearly his sub-conscious had been working on the problem as well.

Hwamyeong Waterpark

August 10, 2012

I’m not sure if “waterpark” needs to be in quotes above, but it sure fits the bill for kids in early elementary school.  This is no competitor for Caribbean Bay, but it is a great place for a family to spend the day and I think around one-twentieth the price of Caribbean Bay, too.

Indeed, Busan does children’s aquatic entertainment right, with free fountains and shallow pools (Samnak Park’s 60 cm deep pool is great and just a little downstream of Hwamyeong) spread throughout the city.  Hwamyeong isn’t free, but plenty cheap; two thousand for the little guy and four thousand for me.

Hwamyeong consists of one large pool, most of which is eighty cm deep, plus a ‘river pool’ and water playground.

Here is the large pool:


and the playground:


and the river pool:

This pool has a strong current that pushes you at quite a clip.

The parasols seen in the background of a few photos are free.  They are also quite low to the ground; during the times I saw a lot of blue bathing suits, I felt like a Smurf under a toadstool.

I guess if more westerners visited, these loungers would see more action:


I went to the park with my son and we met his uncle and aunt and three cousins.   I had a great but exhausting time shepherding the kids but noticed that most kids had no adult nearby.  The lifeguards seemed vigilant but I just can’t understand Korean parenting around beaches, pools and waterparks.

As for me, the four kids frequently wanted to go to diverse places and I struggled to keep them all under my eye.

We all had fun in the river pool.  I would hold the youngest and spin around as the current pushed us around.  The water was just deep enough for me to kneel and slide my shins or feet along the bottom. When we left the park, I found my toenails had been ground down quite thin.

English Busan tells us:

Opening hours are from 10 a.m. through 6 p.m. and the price is 4,000 won for adults, 3,000 won for youths and 2,000 won for children.
How to get there: Take Metro Line No. 2 to Sujeong Station then leave by Exit No. 3, or take Bus No. 15, 59, 111, 121 or 126 and get off at Sujeong Station.

For more information, please contact the Busan Nakdong River Project Executive Office at 051) 333-3238. 

I want to go there again!  I would describe it as a better than the Dadae waterpark I visited a few weeks ago, although the other attractions in Dadae – the fountains and beach- may give it the edge overall.