Thursday, February 28, 2008

Kindergarten Graduation

The kids have now graduated from kindergarten and will be starting grade 1 next week. The ceremony was on Wednesday. With 100 kids graduating, it was a fairly large event.The parents of the top two students in each class were asked to bring in flowers/plants. EXPENSIVE!!!! The plants are now in the front hall of the school. The giant flower displays were going to be thrown out so a few of us teachers raided them after the ceremony was finished. Roses, orchids, carnations, daisies, Justin, my little monkey.Max, such a sweetie.Brian and Tim having fun.Kaeley, a little angel.The stage.The crowd.
The ceremony started out with the Korean National Anthem, and the school song, and then there was a bit of a speech. Then all of the students had their turn going up to accept their Kindergarten Diploma. There were a few songs for the kids to sing, and a poem to recite. They had all been practicing them for the past few weeks - The World Is A Rainbow and I Will, ...Then all of the students got special awards from a selection of categories - Young Rockstar, Young Diplomat, Young Einstein, Young Shakespeare, Young Athlete, Young CEO, Young Prince/Princess, Young Picasso, Young Mathemetician, and Young Prodigy.Brenton and Kevin (the two boys in the middle) receiving their awards for Young Mathemetician. "We are young mathemeticians."
I'll miss my 20 kids. :(

Would you want to go tanning here?????

Red Pig Tanning SalonHow do they come up with these things???

Monday, February 25, 2008

umbrella tree

I pass this tree every day on my way to work. All of a sudden one day early this month, it was covered in red umbrellas. Then there were signs all over the area with hearts on it. Advertising for a Valentines Day contest/sale type thing in the area. Another shop had a little red convertible Volkswagon Beetle parked out front with a heart on the side of it.The umbrellas (as well as everything else related) disappeared a few days ago. Now I miss them.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

How I love cats!!!

From an email that I received the other day:

Excerpts from a Dog's Diary
6:00 am - At last! I Go Pee!
My favorite thing!
8:00 am - Dog food!
My favorite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride!
My favorite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park!
My favorite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted!
My favorite thing!
12:00 pm - Lunch!
My favorite thing!
1:00 pm - Played in the yard!
My favorite thing!
3:00 pm - Wagged my tail!
My favorite thing!
5:00 pm - Milk bones!
My favorite thing!
6:00 pm - They're home!
My favorite thing!
7:00 pm - Got to play ball!
My favorite thing!
8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people!
My favorite thing!
11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed!
My favorite thing!

Excerpts from a Cat's Diary
Day 983 of my captivity: My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.
Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a 'good little hunter' I am. Bastards!
There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of 'allergies.' I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.
Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow -- but at the top of the stairs.
I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released - and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded.
The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicating with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The mountains did it.

What happened to Namdaemun?[photo from]
ONE theory, according to Jeon Hang-soo, head of Korea Oriental Topography Research Center, is that the gate was built to block the fire energy emitted from the pointy mountains around the city, and that if the gate weren't there, Gyeongbok Palace, a ways behind it, would have caught fire.
Mysterious Energy Linked to Blaze
By Park Si-soo Staff Reporter 02-11-2008 17:49
Oriental topography experts said the fire at Seoul's 600-year-old structure may have something to do with the mysterious "fire-torching" energy from a mountain in southern Seoul.
"From the perspective of Oriental topography, it is possible that the energy torched the fire," said Jeon Hang-soo, head of Korea Oriental Topography Research Center. "Basically, Seoul is more densely filled with the energy than any other cities due to the shape of mountaintops surrounding the city ― spiky and sharp. Mount Gwanak in Southern Seoul notably has the characteristic."
In Oriental topography, spiky mountaintop stands for "fire" and "hot temper."
Noting that Gyeongbok Palace, a home to kings during the Joseon Kingdom (1392~1910), Namdaemun and Mount Gwanak are topologically standing in a straight line. Kang Whan-woong, 74, a professor at Sejong University in Seoul, said "Namdaemun was constructed with the hope of blocking the 'aggressive' and 'fire-inviting' energies from sneaking into the palace."
Ancestors had installed statues of "Haetae," a tiger-shaped legendary creature, at the grand gateway in a bid to suppress the energy, he added.
If the gate had not existed, a blaze would have broke out at the palace and even the presidential office, Chung Wa Dae, the professor said.
He pointed out another two mountains in Seoul with the same characteristic as Mount Gwanak ― Mount. Bukhan in the heart of the city and Mount Dobong in Northeastern Seoul.
Some experts in Oriental topography said the number of crimes in the capital might increase in the aftermath of the gate's collapse.
"As Namdaemun, having served as a guardian restraining the 'hot-temper' and 'easy-fighting' energies from Mount Gwanak disappears, we will see the number of crimes in the capital escalating until its restoration," predicted head of the topography research center. "The restoration of Cheonggye stream has largely contributed to mixing the hostile energy with peaceful one from the manmade waterway, resulting in weakening the violent energy."
Namdaemun was given the status of "National Treasure No. 1" in 1962. The original gate was constructed in 1398, rebuilt in 1447 and has since been frequently renovated.
If that's too much for you to believe, there are other possible explanations. They've arrested a 70 year old man who admitted to carrying out arson. It is said that he is only a suspect, but from what I've read, and from his confessions, I'm pretty sure he did it.

S Korea arrests 70-year-old in landmark fire
(Agencies)Updated: 2008-02-12 10:42
SEOUL, South Korea - Police arrested a 70-year-old man suspected of setting a fire that destroyed the country's top cultural treasure, the 610-year-old Namdaemun gate in Seoul, authorities said Tuesday.
The man, identified only by his family name Chae, was arrested Monday night on Ganghwa Island, west of Seoul, Korean national news organizations said.
"The suspect has admitted he carried out an arson," police official Lee Man-kook said Tuesday, without giving further details.
The fire broke out Sunday night and burned down the wooden structure at the top of the Namdaemun gate, which once formed part of a wall that encircled the South Korean capital.
Police have secured a letter from the suspect, in which he complained about the compensation of his lands in Gyeonggi province near Seoul and he set the fire to draw social interest, Yonhap news agency said.
Hundreds of stunned South Koreans gathered near the charred structure Monday night.
"My heart is burning," Lee Il-soo, a 56-year-old man who runs a small business, said as he fought back tears. He said the fire had destroyed the pride of South Korea.
The two-tiered wooden structure was renovated in the 1960s, when it was declared South Korea's top national treasure. The government built a plaza around the gate, officially known as Sungnyemun, in 2005 and opened it to the public the following year for the first time in nearly a century.
The gate — carrying a plaque reading "The Gate of Exalted Ceremonies" in Chinese characters — had been off-limits to the public since Japanese colonial authorities built an electric tramway nearby in 1907. Japan ruled the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
The Cultural Heritage Administration said it would take at least three years to fully restore the gate and it would cost some $21 million. Some 360 firefighters fought to bring the blaze under control, said Lee Sang-joon, an official with the National Emergency Management Agency.
Yonhap reported earlier that police said Chae's physical appearance and outfit matched those of a person witnesses said climbed the stairs of the gate shortly before the fire started. It added that police found a backpack and an aluminum ladder at Chae's house that witnesses claimed the man was carrying at the scene. A bottle of thinner was also found in his house, it said.
Yonhap said the man had been charged in 2006 with allegedly setting fire to the Changgyeong Palace in Seoul, which caused $4,230 in property damage. Yonhap quoted the police officer as saying Chae was only one of several suspects.
An official at a police station handling the case refused to confirm the report.
Firefighters found two disposable lighters at the spot where they believed the fire broke out, Yonhap reported earlier, citing fire official Oh Yong-kyu.
President-elect Lee Myung-bak visited the scene Monday and deplored the destruction of the landmark, the namesake of Seoul's central district.
Kim Ok-ja, a 40-year-old public servant, said she could not sleep Sunday night after hearing of the fire because her heart was broken.
"I came here immediately after finishing work because my heart aches so much," she said after offering a white flower, a traditional symbol of grieving.

Also, there is a lot of discussion as to WHY Korea didn't have more surveilance or protection for Namdaemun, their No. 1 National Treasure. 24 hour guards, more cameras or such. Who knows. I think that Korea doesn't have a lot of the vandalism problems that many countries have to deal with.

Poor Security Blamed for Gate Burnout
By Kim RahnStaff Reporter 02-11-2008 18:54
Security loopholes were detected after an overnight destruction of the nation's top treasure Sungnyemun Gate, also known as Namdaemun, in central Seoul.
Experts said that the fire that destroyed the city's landmark wooden architecture was destined to happen due to the opening of the treasure to the public without appropriate security measures. They said the seeds of the accident were sown in 2006 when the gate was open to the people with the exception of second floor of the gate.
Despite the free access to the gate, only six infrared sensors and four CCTVs were installed around it, with no monitoring inside the gate, police said.
Eight fire extinguishers were the only anti-fire equipments for Sungnyemun, according to the Cultural Heritage Administration and Jung-gu ward office. There were neither fire alarms nor sprinklers.
KT Telecop, a security services unit of KT Corp., has been in charge of security of the gate since late January. The security firm failed to spot the fire immediately and its security officials were on the scene later than firefighters.
As to the start of the fire, night lighting equipment had the possibility of short circuiting, while arson was feared as people could easily access the gate.
Three workers from the ward office guarded Namdaemun on weekdays between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. when the arched gate at the center of the structure was open, and one worker on weekends.
During nighttime, however, the cultural asset was guarded by an unmanned security system of the security firm. Some pointed out that the blaze could have been brought under control at the start of the fire if a night duty worker had been stationed there.
"Three workers are posted there during the daytime, but their main job is opening and closing the gate, providing information to tourists and checking the condition of the structure. We had only an unmanned security system at night, so it was difficult to take immediate measures against fire or other damage occurring at nighttime," a Seoul City official said.
He said a state managed system should have been prepared ― for example, the government directly managing cultural properties or providing an adequate budget to local authorities in charge of management.
After the fire at Naksan Temple in Gangwon Province in April 2005, which destroyed a bronze bell, Treasure No. 479, the administration has promoted a disaster prevention project at major wooden cultural heritages, setting up fire-fighting equipment at four temples so far. Sungnyemun was included in the project, but had not been equipped with such systems.
The official also said that the law on cultural property protection focuses only on "preserving the assets in their original forms," and thus restricts installing fire-fighting equipment.
"To keep the cultural properties' in their original forms, the law allows only simple fire-fighting equipment such as fire extinguishers. Installing equipment using electricity, such as fire alarms, is restricted to prevent possible damage to them," an official of the National Emergency Management Agency said.
Lee Sung-won, deputy cultural property administrator, said Monday that the authorities will make efforts to restore Sungnyemun as it was.
Besides Namdaemun and Naksan Temple, the nation has seen several cases of fire, which resulted in damage to cultural heritage sites. In April 2006, a man set one of the buildings in Changgyeong Palace in central Seoul on fire. In May 2007, fire started by an arsonist demolished a wooden pavilion in Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, a World Cultural Heritage. Earlier this year, two middle school girls set fire to a grass field near the fortress while searching for their cell phones.

Monday, February 11, 2008


A few months ago I took some pics of Namdaemun (officially Sungnaemun 숭례문) on two different occasions (mun is gate). I had planned on posting them but never got around to it.
October 26th:side view at nightthe ceiling through the gateNovember 4th:Front view with guardsUnfortunately, I was unable to go into the main structure.
Seoul Sungnyemun
Designation: National Treasure No. 1
Period: Joseon Dynasty 1389
Location: 29 Namdaemunno 4(sa)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul
This was the main gate in the fortress wall of Seoul. It is also called Namdaemun (Great South Gate), as it is the southern gate of the capital city. It was first constructed in 1389, and was rebuilt in 1448.
The gatehouse, which measures 5 kan (a kan is the interval between the pillars) in width and 2 kan in depth, is a wooden structure built in typical style. It is the largest city gate in Korea. There are some conflicting theories about the author of the characters on the plaque hanging from the gate, but it is recorded in an old text called "Jibongyuseol" (1634) that they were written by Prince Yangnyeong.
[from the sign posted at the site]
It is just around the corner from Seoul Station. Next to it is Namdaemun Market, which is a huge outdoor/indoor market full of clothes, shoes and other such things.
Namdaemun WAS such a beautiful structure. Last night it burnt down.
The fire supposedly started at around 8:30 and lasted long through the night. At around 11pm a news article came out reporting that there was no major damage.
Arson Suspected in Namdaemun Fire
REALLY??? No major damage? From seeing live coverage on Korean news channels I could tell that it was pretty much destroyed, even at around 11 P.M.
Fire Destroys Historic Seoul Landmark
Fire destroyed perhaps Seoul’s most famous landmark on Sunday night when flames engulfed the Sungnyemun, more commonly known as Namdaemun or South Gate, the nation’s no.1 national treasure. Thirty-nine fire engines and 88 firefighters rushed to the scene at shortly before 9 p.m. on Sunday. The destruction of a six-century-old national treasure is being blamed on the misjudgment of firefighters and inept attempts to bring the fire under control at the initial stage. At 10:30 p.m., firefighters believed they had extinguished the flames, but it rekindled on the second floor and engulfed the gate. A taxi driver identified as Lee Sang-gon said he saw a man entering Namdaemun with a bag in his hand while waiting for a fare. “Several minutes later, a fire broke out on the second floor of the gate. I immediately reported it to police.”
Firefighters fought the blaze with ladders and fire hoses at 8:55 p.m. and by 10: 30 p.m. thought the fire was under control and focused on putting out smaller flames. But the blaze rekindled at 10:40 p.m. and burnt the roof out. It collapsed at 12:40 a.m. on Monday. At 12:00 a.m., firefighters belatedly tried to take the roof apart and douse the gate with water inside, but the effort failed and firefighters were reduced to watching the gate collapse while they sprinkled water around it at ground level.
Gate That Survived 600 Years Consumed by Fire in Hours
Seoul’s historic Sungyemun, better known as Namdaemun or South Gate, which was razed by a fire on Sunday night, had survived several wars including the Japanese invasion during the Chosun dynasty in 1592 and the Manchurian invasion of Korea in 1636. Now, due to a suspected attack by a lone arsonists, one of the oldest remaining wooden structures in Seoul is no more.
The 600-year-old gate was designated the no.1 national treasure in December 1962. The biggest remaining castle gate, construction began in the area where Mt. Namsan met the southern castle wall in 1395, after the Chosun dynasty moved the capital to Seoul. It was completed in 1398.
The gate was repaired in 1447. According to historical documents found during repair work in the early 1960s, the gate underwent another massive restoration in 1479. There was also large-scale repair work from 1961 to 1963 of damage inflicted during the Korean War. Since then, only minor repairs have been carried out. The Sungnyemun stood forlorn on a traffic island in the thick traffic of central Seoul after the Japanese destroyed the castle wall during colonial rule. But in May 2005, a new plaza was opened around the gate, which was opened to the public in March 2006 for the first time in 100 years. Sunday night’s tragedy was the first fire at Sungnyemun in 600 years.
How sad. :(
[photos of fire and damage from]

Sunday, February 03, 2008

An apple a day

Makes sense. And I just bought a big bag of apples today! :)
Eat apples, bananas and oranges to boost memory
Saturday, 02 February , 2008, 19:09
New York: Regular consumption of apples, bananas and oranges can protect the brain from damage and also improve memory, suggests a new study by American and South Korean scientists.
These fruits are important sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Of the three, apples appeared to contain the most antioxidants, followed by bananas and oranges, the study found.
Scientists at Cornell University, New York, and their colleagues from several universities in South Korea exposed cancer cells to phenolics - a class of chemical compounds extracted from the three fruits, health portal Medical News Today reported.
The scientists then put the cells under oxidative stress - a general term used to describe the damage in a cell, tissue or organ caused by reactive oxygen species.
The researchers discovered that the chemical of the fruits had prevented a significant proportion of cells from succumbing to damage from oxidative stress, with varying degrees of success.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Friday, February 01, 2008


I went to Yetchatjip in Insadong in October but didn't have a chance to post the pics. Yetchatjip (Old Teashop) is a fairly well known teashop in the artsy area of Seoul. Hidden in a back alley, it is a fantastic little place. There are a bunch of birds flying around, and the whole place is filled with little knicknacks and decorations. It is hard to explain. Only going there, or pictures can really do that. I figure they are worth sharing. :)seats for twotowards the doormy table with some rice cake snacks and my hot quince teamy viewmy companythe bathroom - Not much leg room, but kinda cool with loose rocks on the floor and fish swimming in the little rock pond that you have to step around.