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Hangukmaleul chal motayo

(I can't speak Korean very well)

semi-overcast 5 °C
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Okay - I have been having Korean lessons fortnightly, for about 2 months, so I thought I'd give you a brief guide to the Korean I've learnt so far:

The first thing I had to learn is the Korean alphabet, as the Korean language uses characters rather than romanised letters. My friend Maria, who has lived in Korea, did an admirable job of teaching me most of the alphabet before I left. However, because I didn't keep practicising it or using it, I forgot it again.

Unfortunately I can't show you it here because this blog doesn't support Korean. But its quite different to Chinese and Japanese characters. The unique written form, Hangeul, was created in 1446 by King Sejong the Great. His aim was to create a simple alphabet that could be understood by the masses and apparently he was so successful that Korea has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. Each letter in represents a sound and is put into a block that forms a syllable. The letters are then read in a clockwise direction to form the syllable. The Korean language itself is actually derived from Ural-Altaic languages, which is the same group of languages as Turkish and Mongolian. However, the chinese, japanese and english languages have had some influence on the development of the Korean language too. Most recently, the impact of english on Korean has led to a kind of hybrid language called Konglish, where english words are Koreanised. For example, haendup'on means mobile phone, literally hand phone.

Anyway, most foreign teachers at my school do a language exchange, where they exchange english lessons with a Korean teacher for korean lessons. However, I decided to take lessons with a canadian woman who is fluent in korean, because I wanted someone to be able to explain things, particularly grammar, to me in english.

So far I have been learning basic vocabulary: uija (chair), chaek (book), shiksa (meal). There also two different number systems - the Korean system and the Chinese system:

The Korean system - this is used for objects, ages and hours of the day.
Hana 1
Dul 2
Set 3
Net 4
Tasot 5
Yosot 6
Ilgop 7
Yodol 8
Ahop 9
Yol 10

The Chinese system - this is used for money, dates, months and minutes.
Il 1
Ee 2
Sam 3
Sa 4
O 5
Yuk 6
Ch'il 7
Pal 8
Ku 9
Ship 10

I can just about manage 1-10 in both and I know a few others in Chinese because that is the money system, so i know pek (100), chon (1000) and man (10000) too.

I am just starting on basic sentence formation. For example, I can say I am english:

Choneun yongguk saram inmnida
(As for me, english I am)

And my list of useful phrases is growing...

Choayo or Choahhayo
(It's good) (I like it)

Shirayo!
(I don't like it!)

Hajimasaeyo!
(Don't do it!)

The 'yo' ending on all of these is the polite form, but they can be shortened when being used informally. For example, if i wanted to tell the children not to do something, I can just say loudly, 'Hajima!'. But if i were to say that to an adult I didn't know well, it would be considered quite rude.

Its all very complicated!!

Posted by claire14 04.02.2007 14:42 Archived in South Korea Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (0)

A weekend soaking up Korean culture

I've been hibernating.

sunny 10 °C
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I have been a bit useless with emailing and keeping the blog up to date lately - sorry. I've been feeling a bit homesick and trying to hibernate for most of winter. I have got out a bit over the last week or so though, and managed to get some great pictures. So here's an introduction to a bit of Korean (and Chinese) culture....

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This is Martyr's Mountain in Jeonju - dedicated to some of the first Catholics in Korea, who were killed several hundred years ago. This mountain is just on the outskirts of the city. What I loved about it was not the hike - steps all the way to the top - but at the top there is a small church, with beautiful stained glass windows. But then, you walk across yards across the top of the mountain and you see a small Buddhist temple complex. Two religious sites right next to each other, on the top of a mountain and it was snowing. It was very beautiful and peaceful.

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This is Moaksan National Park. I went for a hike here today and took these pictures. It was unexpectedly warm, about 10/11 degrees, compared to the 1/2 degrees I have been used to. But, we've also had snow recently, so where there was shade there was still a lot of snow and ice. Hence the picture of me in my t-shirt in the snow. This park has a very impressive Buddhist temple complex (and I'll put lots of pictures on the other photo site shortly).

Yesterday we experienced a bit of Chinese culture at the Jeonju Sori Arts Centre, where they have an exhibition of the famous terracotta warriors and other Chinese artefacts. We also got to listen to traditional Chinese music.

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Finally, although I have been hibernating, we have had a few parties. Firstly, one at my room to celebrate the New Year....

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Then a fancy dress party for Zoe's birthday...

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And a hat and wig party for Jim's birthday...

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Posted by claire14 04.02.2007 22:50 Archived in South Korea Tagged events Comments (0)

A New Year in Korea

snow 2 °C
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So a New Year begins here in Jeonju. Though technically, of course, we have another New Year to go, because the Koreans celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year.

Things were starting to settle down again at work, after the stress of beginning a new term and changing all the elementary materials we use. I still have loads of paperwork to do but I'm getting used to it. The new term began at the beginning of December, so I got a new, lighter, timetable and, finally, my own classroom. I'm also really lucky because all of my new classes are good ones, that i enjoy. However, things have got busier again in January because all the kids have a one month vacation. Back home that would mean that we have less to do, but in work and study-obsessed Korea, it means more work, because lots of the kids come in for extra classes during the day. So I am doing an extra 4 classes a week for 6 weeks.

I am having a great time here. I've been here for about 5 months now (nearly halfway!) and everything has settled down to feeling quite normal. I'm glad I got to go to Vietnam and do something really exciting again. I'm very lucky that it was so easy to make friends here and we go out all of the time. Last weekend was our first weekend with all of us back in Jeonju after the xmas holiday, so I said everyone could come round to mine for drinks. It then turned into a bit of a house party (albeit in a tiny studio apartment), followed by a trip out at 2am to a local bar. Unfortunately, a big friday night always means I can't do anything all saturday because of my hangover, and this particular Saturday I also missed a korean lesson. I've only been going for about 4 lessons, so i didn't really want to miss it, but since I didn't get in til 6am, and my lesson was at half ten, i knew it wasn't going to happen.

Korea itself can start to look a bit dull when you're just in the city all of the time - most of the cities look the same, they're all quite new, with quite boring architecture, after so much was destroyed during the war. But when you get out of the city and out into the countryside, it looks really pretty. The mountains aren't very big, but there's a lot of them, Jeonju is almost surrounded by mountains, which look beautiful when it has snowed. I went for a hike on Sunday up one called Martyr's Mountain, which is a Christian pilgrimage site. At the top there is a church and a martyr's tomb, and then you walk a few 100 yards across the mountain, and you are at a Buddhist temple. Stood at the top of the mountain, in the snow, looking down on the city, the view was both exhilarating and peaceful.

Posted by claire14 10.01.2007 13:03 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Christmas in Vietnam - 23-24 Dec

Ho Chi Minh (or Saigon as its known to the locals)

sunny 30 °C
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Ok, I've been back a week and now I am going to try and tell you about my weird and wonderful week in Vietnam. We got a bus from Jeonju to Seoul, and then flew from Seoul to Ho Chi Minh. Ho Chi Minh City is known by two names because it was called Saigon when it was the capital of South Vietnam. However, when the North took over the city, and reunified the country in 1975, it was named Ho Chi Minh, after the North Vietnamese leader.

We arrived in Saigon at around midnight, after an uneventful 5 hour flight. It was very warm, probably about 25 degrees. We were picked up at the airport by staff from our hotel, the BiSaigon, and were checked in fairly quickly. Our rooms were simple, but nice. We straight to bed and crashed out after spending most of the day travelling. I set my alarm on my new watch (thanks for the xmas present Mum and Dad), so I would wake up for 10am and not sleep in. However, I neglected to adjust the time to allow for the 2 hour time difference, and wound up waking up at 8am. This is obviously much earlier than I would normally get, but I was too excited to stay in bed. Leaving the others asleep, I went for a wander around the area near our hotel.

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We had booked our hotel in a backpacker area, so it was full of foreigners, souvenir shops, restaurants and street vendors. It was a crowded and exciting place to look around. But my priority that morning was to find a travel agent that could help us book flights from Saigon to Con Dao. We planned to spend 3 nights in Saigon, and then 3 nights on Con Son Island in the Con Dao Archipelago. However, although we'd been able to book our hotel on the island, we had been unable to book a flight before leaving, so I had to try and find us one as soon as possible.

I went into a couple of different travel agents, whom all tried to help me, but sadly, I was told by most that there were no flights available on the day we wanted because it was fully booked. Also there were no flights a day earlier or a day later because it was a public holiday. I was disappointed, but not as disappointed as I thought Rachel, Nicky and Laura would be. We'd all been really excited about travelling to island, which was supposed to be a quiet nature reserve, with stunning beaches and wildlife. So, I found myself a table in a restaurant and ordered some breakfast, and then went through my Lonely Planet guide. My plan was to come up with a couple of alternative places we could stay and price them up, before I told the others that we couldn't go to the island, so that they wouldn't be too disappointed.

I found a few options and spoke to a travel agent about them, and he recommended a beach resort called Mui Ne. We had originally looked at going there before we found out about Con Dao, so I knew that the others already knew a bit about the area and had been interested in it before. Additionally, the travel agent could book us return coach tickets and even our hotel. I went back to our hotel, where the others were up and getting ready for breakfast and I explained the situation. Fortunately, everyone was happy to go ahead and book the hotel in Mui Ne. In fact, we were able to book 2 bamboo hut-style bungalows for $25 per night. That worked out at about £7 a night each. Bargain!!

Once that was booked, I felt like I could relax and take in the sites. And, of course, do a lot of shopping :) We also booked ourselves on a half day tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels. We had read about this before leaving - its a huge network of tunnels built by the Vietcong for hiding from the Americans and South Vietnamese. One of the unusual things about this tourist site is that it has a shooting range, where tourists can have a go at shooting various guns, from pistols to AK47s. We'd all agreed we wanted to try shooting something, so we put our names down for the tour on our last day in Saigon.

Next, I wanted to order some clothes to be made. There were many shops that had beautiful, handmade, silk dresses and I wanted to get mine ordered so that they would have plenty of time to make it. We found a very reasonably priced shop, but because everything was so reasonably priced, I got a bit carried away (no surprise there then!). I eventually ordered a grey and white, silk, Chinese style dressing gown for me, a silver and purple dressing gown for my mum, 2 silk scarves for my sisters and a tie for my dad. Then I also took a look at the different coloured silks available and a pattern book that the woman had. I chose a simple, and what I hoped would be, flattering style and a reversible silk that was a shiny, kind of lime green on one side, and a darker green-blue on the other. All of this together came to just $45. Again, another bargain :) But the shopping didn't stop there. Before heading back to the hotel I bought 2 wooden noodle bowls with matching plates and chopsticks, 3 small paintings, one large, lacquered, wood painting and a jewellery box. One last thing I did before heading back to the hotel, was chat to a cyclo driver and arrange a tour of the city later that evening... I'll tell you all about that next time.

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Posted by claire14 30.12.2006 05:54 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Christmas comes early in Jeonju

snow
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As the majority of the teachers at Sullivan and EG had made plans to go on holiday for xmas, we decided to have our xmas day early. So on Sunday 17th December, we gathered at Laura's apartment, where Theresa and Zoe had prepared a xmas dinner for about 12 of us. We don't have any ovens in ur apartments, so Laura had collected roast chickens from the supermarket and the others had prepared veg, a huge mountain of mashed potatoes, gravy (sent by Laura's mum) and even a homemade chocolate cheesecake and a Baskin Robbins ice cream cake - it was an impressive spread.

We also had presents - we had organised a secret santa between all of us coming to the xmas party and we all got remarkably good gifts for our 10,000 won (about £6) limit. I got a gorgeous pair of green earrings, to go with the silver and green ring I received from my work secret santa.

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The best surprise of the day, however, had to be waking up first thing to find 4 inches of snow! It was the perfect setting for our fake xmas day - crisp, white and cold. My xmas present to myself was a decent winter coat :)

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That coat came in very handy after our xmas dinner. We'd all had a lot to eat, and quite a bit to drink too - thanks to Nicky's delicious mulled wine - and we were feeling a bit sleepy. Mark had the genius idea of downloading the South Park xmas special, and we all watched that while our dinner (and all that cheesecake!) went down. By then it was about 6 or 7pm and it had got dark, but I had the urge to wake myself up a bit, so I suggested we go and make snowmen in the park.

About 5 of us went to begin with, and we regressed back to our childhoods - running around in the snow, climbing on the climbing frames, going down the icy slide and being pushed on the swings. We'd been fooling around for about 20 minutes when the rest of the party arrived and we actually got around to making a snowman.

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It proved somewhat harder than we thought, so it became a quite short, two headed, siamese snowman. One half was a man and the other was a woman in a kind of homage to Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the musical we'd seen recently, about a transsexual rock star.

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We then, predictably, wound up having a huge snowball fight, which typically ended up as boys vs. girls. It was a lot of fun though - I burnt off most of the xmas dinner calories. Finally, we ended our night in the park, with a bottle of red wine and carol singing. It was the most christmassy thing I could imagine, considering we were all away from our families back home, and missing them a lot. It was a really fun day, and a great way to spend fake christmas before we all set off on our various trips - some to Hanoi, some to China and Hong Kong, a few to Taiwan, and then myself, Nicky, Rachel and Laura to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).....

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Posted by claire14 18.12.2006 08:43 Archived in South Korea Tagged events Comments (0)

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