Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Korean Religion

So what comes to your mind when you first think of Korean Religion? Well, probably Buddhism, Taoism or Confucianism right?

A 2003 survey by the South Korean government showed that only about 50% of Koreans adhere to any particular religion, while the rest are either Atheist, or as I’d like to call myself, spiritual.

Well I’m quite the opposite of a religion buff but I thought Confucianism was more of a way of thinking than a religion. Anyways, stats showed that only about 3% of the population are Confucians although I believe the respect for elders and some other Korean values are related to this old way of thinking. My last rant about having to show uber respect to older men comes from this way of thinking.

Buddhism used to compose a high percentage of Koreans but today is practiced by only about 1/4 of the Korean population. There are numerous famous Buddhist temples and mountains in Korea that provide great hiking and sightseeing on the weekend.

The most surprising thing to me though, is the number of Christians here in Korea. Christian missionaries first started coming here in the late 18th century and converted a large number of Koreans, and then again in the 70’s and 80’s a large number of people converted. The later I am guessing can be attributed to the US led force against North Korea in the 50’s and the continued presence of American Army bases here. Christians statistically comprise only about 25% of the population, but wherever you go in Korea, and especially Seoul, you see churches absolutely everywhere.

The majority of my students both now and in the past are Christian. I think every one of my 12 co-teachers is Christian and on Sundays…. oh on Sundays.

You think the odd Jehovah Witness is a little annoying back home in Canada. Well…you ain’t seen anything then. I would say about 70% of the people who approach me in the street are coming to talk to me about Christianity and to ask “Have you found Jesus?” On Sunday you can find streets lined with people who are signing hymns from the bible and if you go to downtown Seoul you get the really hardcore who are walking around with big banners and picket signs damning anyone who doesn’t believe in the Lord and Savior.

I am all for doing something that makes you happy and gives you purpose in life, but the minute someone tries to push those ideas and beliefs on me or someone else than that is the time I lose respect for them and their religion. Only once has a girl who approached me on the street responded when I told her I’m not religious with a ‘”No problem, you can think as you which.” I was very astonished as all the others have continued pushing and trying to attest their thinking.

I am usually nice and respectful to those who approach me like that but there are times when I can lose my temper. Last March while me and Sungku were sitting in a park, a man and what seemed like his son came up and said hello to us. I said hello back very kindly knowing what they were going to talk to us about. They show us a little brochure and I respond with a, no thanks, not interested. He pushes it forward again, and I repeat the answer in Korean. They start talking Korean to Sungku who is actually quite anti-religious and she gets angry and gives them a few harsh words to go away. They stay for another solid minute just talking and ignoring our request and it’s about this time I start getting pissed off and when Sungku decides she’s had enough, stands up and really starts giving it to them in Korean. Got the attention of the whole park, but finally made them leave.

I sometimes wear a chain with the Buddhist symbol around my neck and I’ve gotten trouble from a Dutch friend back home about it and a foreigner here, as it looks similar to the Nazi symbol. Fair enough error back home, maybe not for the guy here. But one of my students the other week sees it and asks me, “Are you a Nazi teacher?” I look at him funny and ask him “You are Christian, aren’t you?” Of course he didn’t understand and maybe it’s for the better but definitely the next week I saw him wearing a cross around his neck, pulled out and displayed for my viewing pleasure.

The worst thing about most religion is the zero tolerance most take on having and studying other religions. I think it is good to read a variety of religious books to understand certain peoples ways of thinking and to take a little from each to come up with your own philosophy on life. Like this kid in my class though, he knew what the symbol was and was just poking fun at it and comparing it to one of the most known and despised symbols in the world.

This lack of acceptance has provoked a few outbursts from me in this country. Although most religious people I meet both here and back home are kind, generous, caring and keep their convictions to themselves, those who persist and ignore my free thought will always be the reason why I have a negative view on religion as a whole.

I hope I haven’t offended any readers with this post. But if so… I don’t apologize… I didn’t force you to read my thoughts and views and you are more than welcome to carry on believing what you will as long as you’re not hurting anyone with them.

Peace, love , cheese, and Freedom of Thought,


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Got warm again here in Seoul this week and I haven't had to put anything more than a sweater on for the last few days. Enjoying it.

Getting psyched for my first Hapkido test this week where I can get my yellow belt instead of my newbie white belt if I pass. Beware the yellow belt!!! Aya!

Last Friday I finally moved into my new place. It was reasonably clean for Korean standards after moving out, but not up to par with a new house residence you would move into back home. So first day of cleaning is just a basic sweep of the floors and a first level wash with towel and water. Second day onto the cabinets and porch, and third day...well that's yet to happen although the cabinets and floors as well as an overall dusting is much needed.

The last tenants took absolutely everything from the house so I needed to get a new bed, gas range, washing machine, TV, closet, and everything else you might need. The school was reasonably good about it and most of it is all installed and running. The bathroom is still bare and needs shelving and stuff (as well as a good cleaning) but I have another week or so before I'm going to have anybody over. Speaking of people over!!!

House Warming Party! Gonna be two Saturdays from now and as always with my pa rites it will be a quite random mix of people and events with nothing really planned and just kinda following the flow of the night.

Back to last weekend, lets look back not ahead. I moved right off a Rodeo Street which is geuss is supposed to be a take on Rodeo Drive as it has a whole pile of cheap discount name brand stores. I'm sure my cousin Katie will love it when she comes and visits. As for me, I enjoy the sights that come along with a shoping center, but not the shopping itself. Went shopping with my girlfriend on Saturday for a solid 3 and a bit hours, she managed to drop over 7 bills on clothing and I had a few bags on my arms to walk back with. It's hard work going shoping with people even though you don't do much shoping yourself. A good nap was had afterwards.

So, out to Iteawon tonight for some grub (gonna try to get Egyptian food) and gonna stay over at my buddies place. Got a private lesson tomorrow afternoon near my school so I can start earning some drinking money and sending more of my salary back home to pay them student loans (interest is a bitch!).

Great link to a translated menu at 김밥나라 (KimBub Nara), good for newbies or the soon to be!

Having a hard time finding my camera cord and my GF has most of our pics on her cam. I'll get some goodies up sooner or later. Till next Time. Hap Ki!


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Well...wasn't quite the weekend I expected, but was a goody anyways. Friday had a dinner with my Korean tutor and a few other friends. Some good 감자탕 (Meat and Potato Stew) and a few bottles of Soju. My friend Mike who brought his guitar decided to break it out and play a little bit oafter we urged him on. A few stums and some chill music later he got the attention of the two ajissis (25 year olds + men) a few tables over. In broken English the guy says " You play a song for us!" Mikes a bit uncertain at first but the green courage kicks in and over he goes to play them a song. A reggea/rock song, one he wrote himself and the guys were enthralled. The guy offered him a shot and even made him do it the 'love shot' way. Mike said, hanna, dul, set (korean, 1,2, 3) and the guy was not happy. Have to do it again but this time in English. After the shots were concluded the guy said he has to now play us a traditional Korean song. He does a few notes...stops. Few notes again, stops. And once more for good luck./ Thought he was just messin' with us but then he began and kept it up. THought it was a nice peaceful Korean song until he started singing. He must havae thought it a kareoke room as he started just bellowing all kinds of stuff in Korean and got the attention of the whole restaurant. Another table called over the waitress and got her to tell him to shut up.. a bit disrespectful I thought, but maybe for a good cause, I couldn't handle much more of his singing.

They left about the same time as us, and as they were walking by, he shakes my hand and says, you are a good man, but running (as he points to my stomach). Excuse me? Running he says again and demonstrates the big belly motion with his hand. I'm livid with this. Sure I'm not thin by any means but u don't go around saying taht to people. He had a few chins so I have him a good ging and said, 'How many chins do you have?". He says, but I'm old. It quited down but I was still not pleased with his comment since I've been working out and getting in better shape over the last month.

Anyhow, Monday morning I was teaching some businessmen who work at Samsung and they said I looked like I was in great shape. I said, well not great, but not horrible shape either, but thanks for the compliment. I’m just doing a three week fill-in job there, they have good English and are quite interesting. Three of them work in the military defense division and design rockets and missiles. The others work in the computer engineering division…a slight change from my 10 year old kids. Very enjoyable.

Back to Friday night, afterwards we head to a little back near Konkuk Uni. (like most countries the best bar scene is around the Universities) where there’s a little bar that has cheap ber and shots and a good environment. From there to the 노래방 (karaoke room) where we sung a little of everything from Nirvana and RATM to Bob Dylan and Oasis. Great fun to go singing after a few drinks. Much more relaxed since you get your own room and unlike China, you sing at the screen with your friends behind you…you never feel like your up on stage and could care less if your singing bad. Friday as a good success.

Saturday got a call in the morning while still in bed. Come hiking! Ummm, maybe let me talk to the girl and see what I can manage. After a little convincing I got us up outta bed and out the door on a hike. Expected a little hill but got a good hour and a bit hike up at mountain. Great view and got rid of the hangover nicely.

Was waiting for a call on Saturday from a friend who lives outta Seoul,. We’ve made plans to go out but he’s missed calling me before, so when I got offered to go for home-cooked Spaghetti, I jumped on the idea. Korean cooked but it was still mighty cheesy and tasty. It was an elder sister of a friends and there were about 6 of us there and a little 1 year old baby. The baby was very scared at first, but was playing with me by the end of the night. Sungku was very surprised that I was fooling around and playing with a baby since all she hears is about my bad students at school and thinks I don’t like kids. The women’s house we were at was a hard drinker. We brought 3 pitchers (about 5000ml) thinking it would be enough. We proceeded to polish off another case of tally’s and when were all feelin fine. A bit too fine for some as the women almost toppled over my friend Richie with her baby in arms. I was a bit surprised and repulsed at carrying a kid around being uber drunk and I could tell Richie was a little shocked himself. When I told Sungku the next day she thought I was just being very conservative, maybe I just havn’t been around many younger parents, but my gut tells me something’s amiss.

Anywho, hit up the 2nd 노래방 in as many nights and went singing away with another 3 pitchers of beer. Planned to go out to hit up the bars at about 230 but the mom was hammered and wanted to come out with us. We therefore had to go in and get her food and let her calm down and stay in the house, she was a wreck and was in no condition to go out any farther. ‘Course after sitting down for a bit it was lights out for me too and soon enough I was in the taxi heading home.

Sunday was chilled, Poker was cancelled which was disappointing but it’ll get doing in time. Saw my new apt. this week! Looked pretty nice. 2 bedrooms, decent size, small bathroom but very manageable. I was supposed to move on Tuesday and had everything packed and cleaned before I went to class on Monday. As I get to school the manager informs me I might have to stay in the house a few days without a bed of fridge…or anything else you might find in an apt. (it was completely bare). Ummmm, hellz no. I’ll just be staying where I am now and you can let me know when you have bought new stuff for me. ‘Course if I would have looked myself I could have found good furniture online the week before, but she has managed to get some 2nd hand and I hope its relatively good condition. It’s a hagwon (small academy) and they love to save money any way they can. Hope they found some good stuff and I’m all settled in by next Monday (finally). I’m sure I’ll have new stories before the week is out on that. I’m spent. Hope your doin well. I’ll post new pics here soon. Happy bday Jerry!


Friday, November 10, 2006

Mooooonnnnnnnnneeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyyyy!!! Today is payday and since I have a total of 4$ plus a little change to my name, that is a good thing. Been takin’ ‘er slow this past week since I’ve been pretty broke and ready to have a good weekend. Dinner tonight with some friends, probably out to the bars tomorrow night and gonna try and take some money from some guy sin a poker tourney this weekend. Actually quite resemblers a weekend from back home. ‘Course the green relaxant back home has been changed to a different kind of green relaxant here, Soju!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Aiiiyaaaa!!! Headin' to Hapkido tonight. It's great exercise and fun to learn. Based on using other peoples energy for your own self defense. So far I've learned how to break some wrist holds (good for when my friend Derek tries to wrastle me, I'm gettin free now!!), some basic throws and some differnt kinds of kicks. The 1st 30 mins is purely stretching and cardio so I'm satrting to get a bit more flexible and back into reasonable shape. Hope to keep it going all year while I'm here, so see where my energies lay in a few months.

It's gotten freakin cold here. Literally two weeks ago I was in shorts and a T-shirt and it felt like June in Vancouver, now I am in my heavist coat and am still a bit cold, like January in Vancouver. Eeeeks, there is a total lack of the spring and fall season here in Korea. Hot or cold, better used used to both of them. Classes are OK, sthe same old, good ones and bad ones. Going to move into my new house in 6 days finally! It's going to be good to actuyally settle down and know this is where I'm going to be living for the rest of my 10 months in the contract. I'm sure it will be a big relief. I'm off! Hap-Ki!

Monday, November 06, 2006

First real post!!!! So as always when I am at school, I'm chatting with my mom and others on MSN and never get the time I want to type. I'm pretty broke these days as I came here flat broke and have only gotten 2/3's of a months pay since the pay monthly salary on the 10th of the following month (aka this Friday the 10th should be a fun one). Went to a Hyundai dept. store with SAungku who was going to get her pants tightened. The normal ajumma dry cleaners said it was too complicated for them, so we went right to the clothing line in the dept. store where she bought them. To one place on the 5th floor, tried on, pinned the mark, then up to the 8th floor, tried on, pinned and 45 minutes later we were able to get 2 pants hemmed. Back again tomorrow up and down the whole store just to get them. I didn't think we got pants hemmed right at the store itself in Willowbrook, but I'm a boy, maybe I don't know whats what. It was interesting though as I could watch all the men carrying their womens purses wandering aimlessly in the ails. Moms and their 12 year old daughters who come right out of a fashion magazing and a song playing in the back which all i could here wa the word Jealousy repeated over and over.

Good dinner and card games that night. Took 'er easy on Sunday, back to it today.

Well, I sure didn't get what I wanted out and it's alrady time for class. I guess I'll have to keep at it to improve. I'm out.


Friday, November 03, 2006

Below are all my emails since I left for Korea in January. For pics, check out Reds MSN Live Space, link is on the left of the main page. Ill still send out the odd big update for people, but will have lots more day to day stuff that I won't include for those that care to read.