Thursday, November 26, 2009

Why are you dick bloggers such arrogant dicks?

Here's the question:
Why are you dick bloggers such arrogant dicks? No one cares what you dicks think.
Wow. That's eloquent.

I'm not sure if this guy is serious or if he's just trying to get a response to a stupid question (I get a lot of these), but I guess I could give it a go.

First of all, I'm impressed that the word "dick" was used three times. I might need to work the word back into my vernacular, dick. I've been pretty big on "douche" for the past few years and -thanks to "Always Sunny"- I've been planning a return of the word "bozo". Soon enough, bozos.

So, this fellow thinks that us "dick bloggers" are "arrogant dicks" and that "no cares what" us "dicks think". Maybe he's directing that towards me and generalizing about the entire K-blog world or perhaps he really thinks we're all "arrogant dicks", but does this accusation hold?


I only have a couple ideas. Many of us opine on issues that matter to us. That's why we started our blogs and that's what we do. If we make claims or statements that irritate people, then I guess they can call us names. The fact is that many of us pay very close attention to Korean issues. We feel pretty connected to the nation in that way and perhaps that knowledge comes across as arrogance. I'm not a know-it-all. I'm constantly put in my place and educated by people through this blog, your blogs, journalists, academics, pols, my wife, my students, my friends, my parents and even my dog. There are a few things that I know to be true and the rest of it is just a stab.

I guess that some of this perceived arrogance could also come from comments we leave on other blogs. I know that I get pretty obnoxious on ROK Drop when American politics are being discussed, but for the most part I stay out of the comment boards. They tend to get nasty, snarky and offensive way too often and way too quickly.

Do we know more than non-bloggers? Nope.

Do we care more? Who knows?

Do we spend more time reading, writing and thinking about all things Korean? Probably.

Does anybody care? My 56 followers and my wife appear to and that's all I care about.

So, how about you guys, my fellow bloggers: Are you arrogant dicks?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Homemade Thanksgiving/Turkey Dinner in Korea

Here's the question:

Have you ever cooked an American Thanksgiving meal in Korea, turkey and all? My Western friends and I decided that we wanted to make a Thanksgiving dinner for our Korean friends, and I'm a little bit stumped about the turkey. This may well be purely a matter of this being my first time cooking a turkey and not knowing what I'm doing. I do have some questions about turkey in Korea, though.

1. Where is the best place to get a turkey? I might already know the answer to this. We might be able to get a turkey from someone one of us knows in the American military. I've heard that's the cheapest. But, if we go to CostCo, are we likely to find a fair deal for a turkey?

2. Once we actually get a turkey, will we be able to find a roasting pan in stores in Korea? Or would we be better off trying to borrow one from a church or other institution that might serve a Thanksgiving dinner? (Our dinner is on Friday, not Thursday).
I have never tried and I think it's great that you are, but Korea is not the easiest place to start learning how to make a proper American Thanksgiving dinner. My advice? Don't mess with it. Not only will it be extremely stressful, but I doubt that you'll find all the ingredients to do it well and, of course, the oven is another problem. If you don't have an oven in your apartment, you're setting yourself up for disaster.

You could go the Costco route (and probably find a big pan there as well), but I can't speak from experience. Two years ago (when I was searching), there were no turkeys to be found. That doesn't mean they're not there though as things might have changed, but again, finding the turkey is only the beginning.

In 2008, Kimchi Ice Cream said,

Apparently if you can get a Korean friend to call a turkey farm (assuming there's one near you--a farm, not a Korean friend, lol--there is one that's not too far from our university) you can ask a Korean friend to call for you and buy a turkey. The farmer will, for a fee, kill the turkey, de-feather it, and then deliver it to your place 

I doubt that you have time for this though, so if you want your Korean friends have a good meal, then I'd suggest taking advantage of 10 Magazine's list of places to get a good Thanksgiving dinner. Most of the places are reasonably priced, well-cooked and a lot of fun.
Now, you do have one more option: ordering a turkey/Thanksgiving dinner from a hotel. We did this last year and it was affordable, fed over 15 people and it was delivered to us at the time of our choosing. Many major hotels will be serving turkey and if they are not, they'll make it for the occasion. We customized our entire dinner and it was fantastic. If you want to eat at home, go this route.

I'm sure other people have many other routes they'll be going, so please share. As for me, well, I'm not a big turkey fan, so my wife and I will be enjoying a Brazilian Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Good luck though!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Why do schools leave the windows open in winter?

I have been quite busy fielding hate mail from my recent article in the KT. Good stuff, guys.

Here's the question:

Why do some schools open the windows and doors in the hallways in the winter? My school opens nearly half the windows and doors to the outside even when it is near freezing. This is hard for me to comprehend because a) it's a major waste of heat/energy b) everyone is wearing sandals and c) they are worried about students getting sick, and a cold school is a good way to make students sick.
I've always wondered the same. I used to hate being in public schools (or even some hagwons) during winter. There's nothing worse than sitting down on that ice-cold toilet seat. I remember how cold the stairs were in my first hagwon. Brutal.

My best guess is just that, a guess. It wasn't too long ago that many schools in Korea used space-heaters and other styles of old ovens in the classrooms. There was no reason to heat the hallways since students spent most of their time in the classrooms. I guess.

You raised some good points as well. It seems like it's a major waste of energy and you could argue that well, but most of the schools I've been in don't have any heating units in the hallways, so at least the heat isn't pouring out. Of course, the classrooms are connected to the hallways which would certainly reduce the warmth in the classrooms. So yes, it's a waste.

The kids do wear sandals or slippers in most schools and it seems that the cold air in the school could lead to an increase in illnesses. I guess we could assume that this practice is supposed to curb outside germs from getting inside which is highly debatable, but I think it also decreases the need for teams of janitors in schools. Less dirt (which most schools have fields of) on shoes would decrease filth. Regardless of the reasoning for the slippers, I'd like to see some comparative illness stats before assuming that it leads to more sicknesses. It makes sense to me though.

I also think it's perfectly reasonable to assume that a cold, drafty school is a potential health hazard, but I have a feeling that some school officials believe that by leaving the windows open, the bacteria, germs and viruses will be sucked out by or killed by the cold.

Anyone else have any ideas?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Friday the 13th in Korea

Here's the question:

One of my co-workers was talking about Friday the 13th and how this year was very unlucky because there were 3 Friday the 13th’s in 2009. Yeah, yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah, I get it. Koreans are superstitious, but I really do wonder why she believed in Friday the 13th? Isn’t there an Asian equivalent?
Friday the 13th is one of those superstitions that everybody knows about, yet the origins are still pretty unknown. You can snoop around Google if you really want to get a look at what some people think, but it doesn't really matter. Maybe I'm wrong, but the fact that I had to look-up the origins of the date suggests that I'm more aware of it only because of what happened at Camp Crystal Lake back in 1980 and since "Friday the 13th" is ranked in the top ten movie franchises of all time, there's no doubt that the slasher flick had some sort of effect on many Korean nationals from that generation as well. Simply put, eveybody in the globalized world is probably aware of the Jason's hockey mask (and Freddy's metal-clawed brown leather glove) as it has been referenced over and over again in pop culture.

As far as an Asian equivalent, I'm not sure. I don't know what all Asian people believe and I don't believe there's a Korean equal to such a day, but there are a few loosely related things that come to mind. I don't want to even begin to compile a list of Korean superstitions and myths myself, but maybe a few just get the conversation flowing.

The Number 4

While it's hard to say whether or not the number "4" is as universally feared or disliked in Korea as the number 13 is in some other nations, the fact that many elevators in Korea read 1...2...3...F...5... is at least an indication of its fearful roots. In the Chinese language, the word for "death" sounds just like the number "4" in the Korean language ("사")  and since many cultural and lingual traits of China have trickled into Korean culture, it's no suprise that this one stuck. I wonder though, does China also omit the number 4 from elevators? I've been there, but I think the massive amount of Tsingtao blurred my elevator experiences. Or maybe I didn't have any.


Don't throw your fingernail clippings on the street. Otherwise, a rat (or mouse) will eat them and therefore consume a part of your soul. If you do happen to accidentally do such a thing, don't worry. All you have to do is get a cat to eat the fingernail-eating rat and BAM! -you've got your soul back. Of course no really buys into that, yet it's not too uncommon to see Koreans wrapping their clippings in a paper towel or toilet paper before disposing of them.

The Morning Spider

Never, ever, ever kill a spider before noon. If you do, brace for bad luck. Why? No idea, kiddos. I've just heard this one too many times not to mention it.

The Red Name

Anyone who has taught kids here has heard that writing someone's name in red suggests that they are dead. And if they are still alive, then it's bad luck. I used to do it just to get a rise out of some of the naughty kids, but don't have the chance to do so anymore.

Who else had heard some interesting superstitions? Oh, and I please no kimchi/fan death comments.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Is Swine Flu Paranoia Justified?

Here's the question:

Do you have any idea about what are our rights when it comes to swine flu? Like for example, my friend got sick, and her school made her go to the hospital, where they injected her with multiple things--she has no idea what--and then gave her several unknown drugs to take. A week or so later, she still had a cough, so they made her go back to the hospital, where they gave her Tamiflu, and her school ordered her to take it. I'm not sure how much you know about influenza or Tamiflu.....but that was the most illogical move imaginable. She even got tested for swine flu, and the test says she doesn't have it!

Will I get deported if I don't let them inject me with things? Can your school order you to take drugs? I'm so scared!
I knew this was going to happen. A couple weeks ago, I had a sick teacher who claimed he had a fever. Fair enough, so he stayed home. When I told my boss we had a sick teacher, the immediate reaction was that he had to go to the hospital to get tested for swine flu. I calmed the situation by taking a possible gamble and saying that he didn't have a fever or flu-like symptoms. Of course if he did have H1N1, I could have been risking the health of co-workers and students, but I presumed he didn't and was correct.

I did that (and perhaps it was wrong, but I'm no bioethicist) and avoided my teacher being forced to the hospital and my institute being closed for a week or so. However, this situation raises some serious questions: Can an employer force an employee to be vaccinated? Is it a business decision, government policy or genuine health concern?

And if an employer forces an employee to stay at home or go to the doctor against their will, should they be compensated for the missed wages or any incured costs?

Big questions really. I understand that a school might need to close its doors for a week or so, but only in the case that students' have been confirmed to have had contracted the virus. Many public and private schools have done this. If a teacher contracts it, then they need to seek treatment and be absent from school. I also don't see a problem with an employer forcing an employee to get tested for the virus. Payment is a different story and I imagine each school is different.

Treatment is another animal.

The title of the questioners email was "Swine Flu Madness" which was reminiscent  of our beloved Mad Cow protests a couple years ago. This fear, however, is infinitely more legitimate  and grounded in genuine concern and not politics (unlike the US). Last week alone, the number of cases more than doubled in Korea and have shown no signs of slowing. (Here for wolrd trends.) That trend is quite troubling from a public health stance and, if you look at its effects on the ground, the reality of the public's fear is becoming real and a strain on private education.

I know that enrollment is steadily (and probably temporarily) decreasing in many cram schools. I understand that 수능 is around the corner, but I fear that after the tests, some hagwons will have drastic drops in enrollment. My classes, which are usually packed, are hovering at 70% what they used be and even enrolled students are staying home. While it doesn't affect my pay, it's devastating to the school and since I'm the manager, this is a problem for me. If one of my teachers was ill with swine flu-like symptoms, we would certainly force encourage them to get the proper treatment as prescribed by Western medicine. They could refuse of course, but at the same time it would be totally irresponsible of  me, the teacher and the school to allow that teacher back in the building before they're cured. The main goal is containment.

In the end, I think that schools have some ground to stand on when forcing teachers to be vaccinated or treated. There is nothing wrong with a school asking you to get tested and if you have something, get it treated...for yourself. WebMD doesn't have all the answers.

So, let's get to your questions:

If your friend doesn't have swine flu and is certain of that fact, then tell her not to take the medicine. There is a chance though that the doctors are not being "illogical" and that they -perhaps- might know better than say, a teacher?

I don't think that you can be deported for not getting shots, but a school could fire you which would lead to a cancellation of your visa. Sounds harsh, but make sure you get tested for the flu first. If they try to stick you with something BEFORE knowing what you have, then I would be suspect. Again, I don't think schools are wrong for being paranoid. This is not only a financial issue, but a public health issue as well.

Also, your school should not be able to force you to get shots without having any traces of the virus. As of now,  the "health ministry said inoculations will be administered first to medical staff, patients, the elderly, pregnant women and infants." You are not in that category, but you do have a lot of exposure. No one can force you to take medicine except yourself. If you believe that you do not need medication, then don't take it. They won't be pinching your nose, Indian Jones-style.

Let me finish up with this question for you guys as I know some of you are on flu vacation:

If an employer forces an employee to stay at home or go to the doctor against their will, should they be compensated for the missed wages or any incured costs?