Friday, July 30, 2010

Fan death

One of our most memorable moments in Chile was a dinner we had with our friend's host family. The season was turning, and cold had set in. In Chile, there are traditional foods for each time of the year. When it is cold, people drink a lot of matte. This is a type of tea drunken using a silver straw with slits at the bottom to keep from eating the leaves.
It is widely believed however that if you step outside after drinking a hot beverage without covering your mouth your face will freeze permanently. They believed this so strongly, they literally prevented us from leaving the room for at least fifteen minutes until they could be sure that our faces wouldn't freeze from the shock. This commonly held belief was so strong, that even well educated Chileans held strongly to this superstition. Everyone knew a friend of a friend whose cousin's mother-in-law had actually had this happen to them.

We have found a similarly bizarre conviction here in South Korea. It is called Fan Death.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say.

Fan death is a putative phenomenon, generally accepted only in South Korea, in which an electric fan left running overnight in a closed room can cause the death of those inside. Fans sold in Korea are equipped with a timer switch that turns them off after a set number of minutes, which users are frequently urged to set when going to sleep with a fan on. The specifics behind belief in the myth of fan-death often offer several explanations for the precise mechanism by which the fan kills. However, as explained below, none of these beliefs stands up to logical or scientific scrutiny. Examples for possible justifications of belief in fan death are as follows: * That an electric fan creates a vortex, which sucks the oxygen from the enclosed and sealed room and creates a partial vacuum inside. This explanation violates the principle of conservation of matter, as indoor fans are not nearly powerful enough to change the air pressure by any significant amount. Additionally if the room is closed and sealed, there is no place for the oxygen to be removed to. * That an electric fan chops up all the oxygen particles in the air leaving none to breathe. * The fan uses up the oxygen in the room and creates fatal levels of carbon dioxide. * That if the fan is put directly in front of the face of the sleeping person, it will suck all the air away, preventing one from breathing. This explanation ignores both the fact that a fan attracts as much air to a given spot as it is removing from it, and the fact that most people point a fan towards themselves when using one, which causes air to move past the face but does not change the amount of air present. * That fans contribute to hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. As the metabolism slows down at night, one becomes more sensitive to temperature, and thus supposedly more prone to hypothermia. If the fan is left on all night in a sealed and enclosed room, believers in fan death suppose that it will lower the temperature of the room to the point that it can cause hypothermia.

The Government of Korea doesn't alleviate this erroneous fear but rather propagates it.

In summer, mainstream Korean news sources regularly report on cases of fan death. A typical example is this excerpt from the July 28, 1997, edition of The Korea Herald, an English-language newspaper:

The heat wave which has encompassed Korea for about a week, has generated various heat-related accidents and deaths. At least 10 people died from the effects of electric fans which can remove oxygen from the air and lower body temperatures...

On Friday in eastern Seoul, a 16-year-old girl died from suffocation after she fell asleep in her room with an electric fan in motion. The death toll from fan-related incidents reached 10 during the past week. Medical experts say that this type of death occurs when one is exposed to electric fan breezes for long hours in a sealed area. "Excessive exposure to such a condition lowers one's temperature and hampers blood circulation. And it eventually leads to the paralysis of heart and lungs," says a medical expert.

"To prevent such an accident, one should keep the windows open and not expose oneself directly to fan air," he advised.

It makes me wonder what strange beliefs we have.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Jellom nam do (part 3)

For Part ONE click here
For Part TWO click here

Today is green tea picking. We pile off of the bus and are greeted by a woman with the air of ancient royalty. She is smiling sweetly, her neck and back are straight as arrows, and the way she holds her body is grace itself. I feel like she belonged in a more elegant era and has somehow magically and mistakenly been transported to the future. She explains that we will have a contest for the most and best green tea leaves picked. We make groups of threes and begin to pick. The smaller the tastier we are told. The larger, the more bitter so we are looking for the youngest sprouts. She inspects our basket and laughs. Obviously our leaves are too big.
We are trying to hold our teas properly. I feel like a goob.

Once the picking is over, we are lead to a tea serving room. We are taught proper gender etiquette on holding our tea cups and pouring. Males and females have different hand positions for both actions. Their tea is watered with special golden water increasing its health benefits, value and price. When I say golden, I mean that they literally add gold dust to the water that nourishes the plants allowing them to charge the ridiculous price of $1,000 for two normal size boxes of tea. They assure us of the health benefits of drinking gold infused tea, but I taste nothing incredibly special to warrant that price. Each cup, which mind you is two full sips, would cost on a normal day $25/cup, but because we are in a special group, we don't pay for the tea.

Our elegant guide

Boys being silly while picking tea

They weigh our baskets. We are miraculously in the running for most and highest quality. I may yet have tea picking in my career options. We make our way to the tea processing room. We are told to wash our hands without soap because if we use soap, it might contaminate the taste of the leaves. The first step is throw the leaves in a massive wok. You allow it to roast a few seconds and flip them over with your gloved hands. This is done for maybe ten minutes. After which, it is placed on a straw mat with a cloth covering it and rub in an anti-clockwise direction. No idea why the direction is important, but I do what I am told for the most part. My arms and hands are starting to ache and evidently, I am doing a poor job. We are told that we are squeezing out all of the liquid in this process, but my little pile is not juicing like the rest of my team. After some more time, it is time for the tea leaves to return to the roaster. This process is continued something like ten times. It is grueling, hot and tiresome. Looks like I won't be a tea maker after all, but I have a new found respect for them now.

Our basket doesn't end up winning. We loose by .05 kg. We hold our head up high in spite of our devastating loss.

The bamboo forest sounds amazing, but honestly is lacking in interesting things to look at after five minutes. We walk through the bamboo stalks, along the path, and quickly notice that this bamboo forest is exactly true to its name, with nothing else to offer but more bamboo stalks.

bored in the forest

Our last stop before heading home is a road with trees. That's right folks, we stopped to look at a road with trees. After the Korean War, or the fighting portion of the war (since they are technically still at war) , Korea was pretty devastated. Just about the entire country including the trees, and wildlife had been destroyed. So one of the presidents or dictators which ever label you prefer to refer to him as, introduced a tree planting program. This program was different than our "plant a tree day" in that it was mandatory for all Koreans to go out and plant a tree. It generated and replenished many lost forest and animal habitats (if they had had any animals left, I am sure they would have been happy). And this road was one of the famous tree planting roads with trees glorious in their size and and age lining it. The idea of every Korean actually planting a tree as a national project is amazing in itself. The tree lined road, not as amazing, but what it stands for, national pride, and willingness to give even if it was just some time and a seedling with the promise of hope for the future, is something worth stopping for. To commemorate our stop on the road, and because we are a little bored with walking down a road with little variance we decide to take a group photo jumping in the air. I think it turned out pretty cool.

Arriving back home, I am exhausted, but am loving being in Korea more and more everyday.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Jellomnado (part 2)

For Part ONE click here

Our dinner and housing is at a traditional folk village. These "villages" are set up to feel like Korea did before modernization insisted that gray unsightly boxes which some might call buildings decidedly threw the thatched houses into a history trash bin. Dinner is samgipsal (pork belly) with lots of different versions of kimchi and other random side dishes including quail eggs.

Barley water is place on our front porch for a refreshment before we go to bed. The little old lady who cares for us has more wrinkles than a shar pei. She is of the breed of Koreans who believe in hard work. She cared for our needs until late in the evening, and was up sweeping before I rolled off my floor mat in the morning. Sweet, but with a strong dose of "no nonsense" she makes me miss my grandmother.
After we lay on our floor mats, our fan, the only coolant available decides it no longer wants to accept electricity. Mosiquitoes versus death by heat are our options. We opt for heat as mosquito bites last much longer.

In the morning, we tour the folk village. There are several Korean families living or staying on the premises. Rabits, chickens and other farm animals hop around in their cages. As always, we are overly-intrigued by the animals.

There is a wall, not as grand as "The Great Wall of China" but an impressive one non the less surrounding the village with a walk way on top. It gives us a fantastic view of the village. It is stunning. I love this Korea. I love this Korea for it's aesthetics and quaintness. It is nothing like modern day Korea and it's hideous box architecture and industrial feel. Old ladies are selling their wares as we walk out. As usual they are all selling the exact same thing. We buy a cup of berries similar looking to blackberries from a hunched over smiling old lady. The first berry is succulent and sweet. However, as if by dark magic, as soon as we walk away, the rest of the berries have absolutely no flavor. I have to keep from spitting everyone of them out.

to be continued....

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Jellom nam do

Laggard. Yep, that's me. This post is so past due, if I were a teacher grading this post, I would give it a zero. So I apologize for the tardiness, however, you probably never would have known the differences had I not just shared that with you. This trip was during the middle of June and we are currently creeping towards August. Actually for us, it doesn't feel like a creep but more like an out of control vehicle without working brakes heading towards a crowded intersection. We are in the middle of summer camp currently with multiple programs happening all at once and Kyle having to organize everyone, time is more like a whirlwind than anything. Which is one reason I let this post simmer on the back burner until now.

The World Cup soccer match is flashing in the front of the bus, while I adjust my crooked neck and oddly bent legs for the hundredth time. Screams of elation bombard my ear. The US has just scored. I slit my eyes open for a peak but soon close them again.

I awake to our leader saying "we are here!" It is pitch black outside which may or may not have something to do with that it is 4:30 am. Kyle is grumpy. He is always grumpy when he doesn't get proper sleep. My teeth feel grimy. Ten out of 40 of us paid to sleep in a Korean style room instead of the rest of the night on the bus or outside in the grass. We make our way up the hill through the wall of humidity to our hotel.

The view outside the window in the morning is of the ocean. I hadn't noticed on our walk last night. We had the opportunity to hike a small mountain, but Kyle and I have chosen sleep over a hike.

We have slept for at least 6 hours horizontal. We are ready for the remainder of our journey. Lunch is raw crabs. They are really delicious, but take quite a bit of effort as to get to the crab meat, one must suck it out. The slurping noises, which are an acceptable noise in Korea swish vulgarly around the table with every suck.
We are also provided with fish soup. You gotta love it when they include the head.

Kyle sucking away.

We have options next. Kyle and opt for a hike to a scenic island. But as usual, plans don't always pan out like you would like them to. Construction prevents us from actually meeting our destination, as we can't find the detour signs and become increasingly lost. Although we don't make it to the island because of lack of time from being so turned around that we ended up in someone's backyard garden conversing with a cow, we had an adventure. In the end we are able to view the island from a decorative temple gazebo. It looked beautiful from afar.Resting in the gazebo

The only cow so far I have seen in Korea

The gazebo

I don't know who this fellow is

I was trying to shoot the bee, but he was moving too quickly

We arrive at a National Park. I think what we are looking at our fields of rice patties, but I can't be sure. What I do know is that I have taken so many pictures that my camera has died and I am tempted to jump in the mud pitt with the mudskippers and crabs and starting hocking them at random tourists from frustration that I was too stupid to remember my charger. After holding me back from jumping in the mud, and also posing like the captain of a boat, Kyle is ready for our hike up. I have seen at least three Korean women walking barefoot caring their high heeled shoes. Blisters and an irrational need to always look like dolls are the culprit I believe.
The observation deck shows crop circles of patties. We had hoped for a sunset, but the humidity has blanket the sun in a dense sweat and opaque water droplets.From up high

another view of the same shot

Kyle being a captain of an imaginary boat
The typical Korean pose.

I liked her parasal

It was quite the site

The blades of grass were even beautiful to photograph.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Totally Literal

A friend of ours showed this to us recently and it is not short of drop on the floor hilarious. At least that is what Kyle and I think. Just take a minute to imagine Kyle going through one of his laughing fits. I love how he laughs. It is the most contagious laugh. It infuses joy in any room.

The premise of how this project started was that 80's music videos make no sense. They don't seem to go along with the lyrics at all. So some guy or team decided to make a video with totally literal lyrics depending on what was happening in the video and in my opinion it is a masterpiece. There are several of these out there but the best one is the "Total Eclipse of the Heart" which is an awesome song with a crazy video. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Sorry! I uploaded the wrong video. Some of you may have been confused about why this supposed video said "duplicate", but not to fear, it was my fault. Nothing was wrong with your computer or your technology skills.
If you don't know what I am talking about it is for The Pirates of English Village post -click here.

For the correct video, click here or watch below.

Pirates of English Village

This is the long awaited drama video from my Russian students. Although we practiced in the classroom more than my students liked and more than the allotted time, the students never got practice with the microphones, which means the person running the microphones also didn't practice. Unfortunately in our play, the actors performances were nothing short of stunning (says the slightly biased director :) ), and yet, hardly anyone in the audience could hear what we was being said. Despite that slight hiccup of no one actually knowing what was going on in the play except for me and the actors, I was incredibly proud of my students. I chopped up the video quite a bit and only gave you tidbits of the major parts, but I will give you a run down of the story line so that you can follow along.

The characters are as follows:
Wendy- long brown hair
Tinkerbell- blond hair shorty
Jack Sparrow- white pirate shirt
The captain of the ship- yellow shirt
Peter Pan- girl in the green German looking pants
Captain Hook- red Jacket
crocodile- the dragon looking little guy on the side.
And other pirates and crew.

The storyline:

The Captain is having a birthday party
Tinkerbell keeps trying to get Wendy married off- Wendy says Peter Pan is too young
Wendy thinks Jack Sparrow is handsome but Tinkerbell disapproves.
Captain Hook crashes the party and demands to marry Wendy.
She refuses.
She spends two days in the brigg.
As Wendy is about to walk the plank, Peter Pan and Jack Sparrow rush in a save the day.
Jack Sparrow, instead of asking Wendy to marry him asks Tinkerbell.
Wendy in a furry jumps in the water and happens to save Captain hook who is being chased by the crocodile.
Wendy then proposes to Captain Hook whom she has refused for the entire play.
They are married as well.
Peter Pan is furious and jumps in the water to plan a revenge with the crocodile. Fun is had by all!

The students really enjoyed the play, as did I. And for the first time since being here, I nearly cried when my students left. I really loved teaching those kids. They were a fun bunch of enthusiastic kids, and I already miss them. I hope you enjoy them (at least their video) as well.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Russians and the obstacle course

You thought we were done with the Russians didn't you? Well... I have been for two weeks, but I have been slow at editing videos. If you haven't noticed the blog is not exactly chronological. I put things up when I get around to it.
In fact, we have one last video yet of the Russians- their drama. So exciting isn't it!

As I have stated before, Russians and Koreans are not the same breed. I'm not sure they are even from the same planet, but that is a whole other topic for another day. One striking difference, is their need for physical activity. At one point in Korean history, the typical Korean spent most of their day farming outside under the blazing sun. This was of course before the technology bubble burst in Korea, contaminating all matter south of Seoul into a technology making factory. This technology contagion sent Koreans indoors, set them in chairs in front of a P.C. and turned them into gaming robots. Unless I am proposing soccer, the option of outdoors is clearly out of the picture for my Korean students. I one time had a girl say, hopefully jokingly but I am not sure, "teacher, too much green!" after we had gone outside for fresh air. The Russian students on the other hand were having a difficult time going to sleep at night from lack of physical exertion so it was deemed that they have obstacle course day at the random ropes course in the mountains right near us. This is the video of our day with the Russians at the obstacle course.

And pictures. I felt a little ridiculous in my overload of technology when following my students around with not only a camera with two lenses but also a video camera.