Aussie In Seoul

Well here is the deal. I am Australian and just moved to Seoul with my wife to work in a 5 star hotel. I hope to share some of my thoughts and comments over the Years I am here!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Only in Korea - President sick of his job.

When I first read this in the Korea Herald, I could not believe it was true. So I asked my co-workers is it true that President Roh thinks his 5 year Presidential term is too long?? Yes they said with a laugh, and moved on to the next subject. WTF! Here is a part of the article -

President Roh Moo hyun yesterday expressed his discontent with the current five year presidential term in a move likely to reignite a political dispute over a possible constitutional amendment.
"The five year presidential term feels too long," he told reporters during a mountain climb to mark his three years in office.

I just don't believe it! Can you imagine the President of a country who is 3 years into a 5 year term says he thinks his contract is too long? Now if someone mentioned that to their boss in the business world, they would be fired, or maybe transfered to butt-hell nowhere!

What suprises me the most is it really has not recieved much more attention. Hell, if my Prime Minister, Johnny Howard said something like this in Australia, heads would roll, and a new election date would be set. Can you imagine if President Bush said this to a bunch of reporters! Whatever context it was made in, I wouldn't want him running my country with comments like this!


Sunday, February 26, 2006

Pasta & Beer Night

Well, Saturday's are always a great day to unwind, and yesterday was no exception. The day was extremely uneventful, hanging around the house, watching movies, eating, and playing on the Net.

We met up at 7.00pm at the hotel (InterCon), and had a great Italian Dinner at Cafe Esperesso. We were going to eat in Hakone, but it was full thanks to a 1000+ wedding that had overflow guests. Pasta as always was very good, the wine of the month was some South Australian wines, and the cheescake desert was to die for.

We then headed over to O'Kim's Brauhaus which is in the COEX Convention Centre. It is run by the Westin, and is always full in the evenings. Besides regular mixed drinks, though they didnt have Bacardi last night, their specialty is some awesome Home Brew! Three variaties of beers. Very nice beers. I tried all three. We were joined by two other friends and all of us enjoyed the eveninig downing drinks, and being entertained the Bulgarian six piece band. Sadly they emptied the place at 1130pm, and we headed back to the InterCon. Great night, and I dont even have a headache this morning. Got to go, where off to Hyewha.

The entrance to O'Kim's. Get there early as sometimes you have to wait for a table. We waited 10 minutes!

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

James Brown in Concert

"Its great to be back in Shanghai" ! The quote was like someone running their nails down a blackboard! This was one of the first things James Brown said last night in his concert here in Seoul! I actually felt a little embarrased, but he did try to cover it up, and would be interested to see if others thought it was a joke or a f... up!

Anyway I should not let that take away from an amazing concert last night. What a fantastic band, great sound, lots of fun, and a crowd that really got into it! The concert was almost two hours long, and we were entertained from the greatest Soul Man of our times, and his band, and back up singers who were outstanding.

It was held in the Jamsil Indoor Stadium, with a crowd I reckon of about 3000. They played a wonderful variety of songs, from the classic hits, to lengthy jazz / soul numbers with the sax player at times stealing the show. He was just unreal. I closed my eyes and was just mesmerized by his skills on the sax! Wow!

Its funny, I never thought that I would see James Brown in concert in my lifetime and listen to some of those classics like "I feel good, I knew that I would", that I have listened to since I was so young. Good one you Seoul, and the promoters for bringing such a great concert here.

This guy above was the MC for the show. He really only spoke at the beginning of the show, but you could tell, he was most likely James Brown right hand man. He had the Soul groove going on!

The Soul Sisters! These ladies had voices that could have stolen the show if they were allowed. The danced and danced, and sung back up like they have been doing with James Brown all of their lives.

This guy on the saxaphone was just fantastic. I just loved every solo that he did, and he just drove the crowd crazy. Amazing talent, and was privelaged to hear him play.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Caught a Cold!

Damm! I thought I could get through the second half of the winter without catching a cold, but sure enough it came over the weekend. Made two mistakes once I caught it. First was go out Sunday evening for several hours, when I should have stayed indoors. Monday feeling like crap, still went to work, had a huge day, and should have gone home right after work, but attended a work dinner function, where I ended up leaving half way through it after throwing up, and a headache turned into a migraine! So Monday night 9.30pm, I crawled into bed, with Clariza freaking out as I looked like I was about to die, and I struggled to get rid of the migraine. And of top of that of course I had the cold with a sore throat, and a blocked nose.

I had half a brain to sleep for 12 hours and woke up about 1030am, with the migraine gone, but the cold in full force. I stayed at home for 3 more hours then my stubborn personality hit, and decided to go to work for a few hours! (idiot) I walked into work, did a few hours, and decided I better go home! Had an early night, and today I was at work at 730am feeling the recovery was on! Its now evening and the drugs are working, and I am feeling a lot better, but am sure it will still be a few more days until its gone!

What I didnt mention and just thought about it was that also on Monday morning I did go to the hospital. I went to Asan Hospital, to the International Clinic. The Doctor I saw there was Dr. Kwok and he was fantastic. He really took the time to pinpoint the problem, discuss all the symptoms, and prescribed only one medication, and not a dozen. The clinic there is excellent, and extremely helpful. My bill for the consult was only 18,000 won plus 10,300 for medication for 10 days! Not bad. I do have the government medical card, but the discount was minimal. Anyway, I do recommend the clinic and Dr. Kwok .... who is not a kwak!

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Seoul Orphanage

On Thursday Clariza and I joined the Charity Club from the hotel to spend the afternoon at an Orphanage in Seoul. We both thought that it would be important to represent the hotel, as well as a personal thing to be a little more involved in the community. I know we were both a little nervous going there as we had never been to an orphanage, and we did not know what to expect.

After a 30 minute drive in the lovely Seoul traffic we came to the orphanage. On the way the head of the hotel charity group explained to us that this orphanage consisted of around 80 children aged between 1 month old to 10 years old. All are normal children with no disabilities or problems, but were abandoned by their parents. Most he explained is un-wed mothers who dump the new born babies on the street, or in front of a police station.

So we entered, met the manager of the house, changed into something that look like a chefs jacket, but yellow (this helps the children identify visitors) and we had to empty all of our pockets.

The first hallway we entered consisted of two rooms, on the left side that house babies aged between 1 month to 18 months old. There was about 13 babies. They were taken care of by two ladies on a shift that work for 24 hours, 9am to 9am. On the opposite side of the two rooms were two bathrooms, and a small kitchen to prep the food. We hung out with the babies for about an hour holding them, trying to make them smile, and just giving them some extra human touch. It was so weird to be there looking at these babies, and holding them knowing that they have no parents taking care of them, just the helpers, and the volunteers that came to the orphanage like us. After an hour I treid to go into the room of the 18month old to 3 years old. When we entered the room, the 10 kids or so just started to freak out and once one cried almost all of them cried. I was not sure what to do, so I left and went back to the babies. I thought better to take on that room later.

We then went upstairs where there was about 5 rooms and 5 helpers with children aged between 3 to 7. Most of these rooms were conducting classes with their helpers, so apart from one room where we played with one or two kids for 30 minutes, we really didnt hang out with the others. On this second floor there was about 40 kids.

We then went over to another house behind the 1st building which housed the older children. It was a nice house with communal sleeping area and kitchen on the second floor, and 1st floor was where there was like a games room and study area with computers. The head of the charity club explained that last year the hotel donated 20,000,000 won ($20,000) to redo the entire interior of the house. It looked very nice. Anyway here we were attacked by about 10 kids aged between 7 to 10. We went to the play room and the girls kind of kept to themselves, but the boys stuck to me like glue. They wanted to sit on my lap. hold my hand, throw them around the room and more. I could so feel how these kids just wanted to have some affection and attention which I am sure they could not get much of.

So after an hour of exhausted work with the boys we went back to the babies and the 3 year olds whom I freaked out before. This time I played with a baby outside of their room door, and they just watched me through the glass. I figured if they saw this they would realize I was not a threat. So after 15 minutes I put the baby down and entered the room. They were very hesitent, but I just moved to one corner of the room and sat on the floor. I pulled faces at the kids, and clapped, and made funny noises. Finally after a few minutes one of the older boys ran over and jumped on me. From then on the tension eased, and over the next 45 minutes some of the others warmed up to me. During the time we fed some of them dinner with the helpers, and at 6.00pm all volunteers had to leave, and we bid our farewells.

Clariza and I have discussed this experience a few times since then, and we plan to go again next month, the third Thursday of every month. It was a powerful experience and I will never forget it. I think it could be very hard for some people, but I think it is a humbling experience to take yourself into such a differant world and try to make a small differance to these children. Sorry for the long message, but I thought it would be nice to share the experience.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

English Lessons

Since I live in Korea, where the vast majority of expats are teaching English, I have forwarded this fantastic video. Please enjoy.

This is another funny video about english -

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day

Wishing everyone a very wonderful Valentine's Day.

February 14th for me is a very big day. Not only is it the most important day to show my love to my wonderful wife, but it is also her Birthday! How lucky am I! One gift for two celebrations! NOT!! I have to treat this as two seperate occassions ... and rightly so!

Last night I had to go out with some business associates, and told them I had to be home by midnight or I better bring the divorce papers! So at 1140pm I was in a taxi on my way home.. and made it! So our clebration of February 14th is a 24 hour affair! But hey, Im the luckiest man in the world.

So whilst we are on the subject of Valentine's Day I thought I would give you a summary of how they deal with this day and certain love days in the year in Korea. All so fascinating, but.. I will stick with the normal way, or my life will be over!

Valentine's Day is on February 14 in Korea, as with everywhere else in the world. On that day, many girls and young women give candies and chocolate to their boyfriends and husbands.

There is another special day like Valentine's Day in Korea. It is called 'White Day." White Day is on March 14. It is just the contrary of Valentine's Day. Many boys and young men give chocolates to their girl friends and wives. Some confess their love to their girlfriends on that day, so many young women look forward to it. (So corny!)

Lots of shops display a variety of chocolates and candies before both Valentine's Day and White Day. Downtown is crowded with many young people who want to enjoy those days. But young people who had no girlfriend or boyfriend didn't like those days because they spent them alone. So, they made another special day called 'Black Day' for themselves. Black Day is on April 14. On this day, they have Jajang noodles with their friends who are in the same situation. Jajang noodles are black, so that is why they call it Black Day. However, it is still not as popular as Valentine's Day and White Day.

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Korea Information

After now living in Korea for over 8 months, I have to say that the bulk of the information to assist us in our stay has come from some outstanding websites. I am going to detail below most of these websites and hope that if anyone is ever going to travel here, or lives here, it may assist. Of course some are better than others, but overall the quality of these sites regarding information is fantastic.

I am using the logos for these websites and I hope no one gets offended. Actually maybe I should be paid to promote their websites! Haha I dont have that many people looking at my site. In any case, enjoy, and hope that it helps.

If you want to know so much more about Seoul and Korea, and I mean really getting out there and exploring, well this site is for you. Join an international group who travel practically every weekend to differant parts of Korea for what I feel is very attractive rates.

Wonderful website with extensinve information about Korea, on what to do, where to go, where to eat, and just so much more. Will take time to fully explore this website, but well worth the tour!

Is a monthly English written magazine in Seoul. The website, gives a lot of up to date information on what is happening in Seoul, and then some. I read the magazine always, and have it in our hotel rooms. I also use the website for a quick find.

A great website with a lot of community information a job line, but overall is a good website for those new to Korea with help targeted for foreigners.

A think a hidden secret. Seoul Metropolitan Government has got this most amazing map website. You will need to do a small download for it to work, but please do so. Once you got it, then play with the navigation and you will be able to see any street, church, hospital, hotel, school in Seoul. It is a great site.

Really cool site, written by expats living in Seoul. Lots of updated information on the places to eat, the places to shop, and so much more. A great website to put under favourites. I have found some good information over the past months.

Another very detailed website on Korea, that has so many links to great information. Another one I am sure used by a lot of people.

Since I seem to be fixated on the cold weather of Seoul as I can never work out really how cold it is, I always go to this weather site. It seems to be pretty accurate, and is the only weather site I use in Korea.

Community forum Board on Korea. For me, is pretty good, but not as many users as Dave's ESL. In any case it focuses less on jobs and more on the overall questins and answers about Korea. Keep it in favourites.

Dave's ESL Cafe, the undisputed champion Korea forum website, with hundreds of expats in Seoul using in on a regular basis to ask the questions and give the answers we really want to know. For those in the teaching world, then it is a must to check this one out on a regular basis. But even me, who is not a teacher, reads this site at least three times a week.

A very good website if you want to know what is really happening in the news. It focuses on the main articles in the various newspapers, including Korean, and gives it to you in English. A must read for me a few times a week.

So if you are a Aussie / Kiwi, this is the group for you. I am guilty of the fact that we have not joined but will do so this year. They seem to have a lot going on, and seem to provide heaps of activities for the ladies.

Now, I am sure I have missed a few other key websites, and would appreciate any feedback if I should add some. Have a great weekend!

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Management Philosophy & a blonde joke

I had a 5 hour meeting today! Can you believe it! Some people work 5 hours... I have one meeting for 5 hours! Anyway, have a few pics attached that were sent by a mate in Dubai, and the blonde joke comes from a friend at work. And hey, dont shoot the messanger on the joke ok!

And now for the blonde joke ........................................................

Subject: A jigsaw

A blonde calls her boyfriend and says:
"Please come over here and help me. I have a killer jigsaw puzzle and I can't figure out how to get started."

Her boyfriend asks, "What is it supposed to be when it's finished?".
The blonde says, "According to the picture on the box, it's a rooster."
Her boyfriend decides to go over and help with the puzzle.
She lets him in and shows him where she has the puzzle spread all over the table.

He studies the pieces for a moment, then looks at the box, then turns to her and says,
"First of all, no matter what we do, we're not going to be able to assemble these pieces into anything resembling a rooster.

He then takes her hand and says:
"Secondly, I want you to relax..... Let's have a nice cup of tea, and then....." he said with a deep sigh "........ Let's put all these Corn Flakes back in the box."

Have a nice day!

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Monday, February 06, 2006

Korea's Robot Future

Article from the Korean Times. I have to say, this is the future of Korea. Love the picture.

Police, Army Robots to Debut in 5 Years
By Kim Tae-gyuStaff Reporter

By the 2010s, Korea is expecting to see robots assisting police and the military, patrolling the neighborhoods and going on recon missions on the battlefield.

The Center for Intelligent Robots on Monday said the state-backed agency plans to check the feasibility of security robots by convening a 40-member planning committee late this week.
``If the robots prove to be viable technically and commercially, we will be able to begin developing them late next year,'' said Lee Ho-gil, head of the center.

When completed, the outdoor security robots will be able to make their night watch rounds and even chase criminals, according to Lee. The government also seeks to build combat robots. They will take the shape of a dog or a horse, with six or eight legs or wheels.

Toward that end, the Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) and the Defense Ministry will combine to channel a total of 33.4 billion won ($33.9 million) through 2011.
``The robots will be directed by a remote control system or move autonomously via their own artificial intelligence systems,'' MIC project manager Oh Sang-rok said.
``The two sophisticated robots will be empowered by the country's state-of-the-art mobile network, thus enabling mass production at an affordable price,'' Oh noted.

Smart robots need three basic functions of sensing, processing and action. Thus far, robotics researchers have tried to cram the three into a single dummy, causing expenses to soar.
Instead, the planned robots will be receiving most sensing and processing capabilities via a Web connection. Only the ability of movement will be located in the robot.
``In a nutshell, the mobile robot offers a hardware platform for the smart functions provided by the country's advanced network connected to the super computers,'' Oh said.
Korea boasts the world's highest penetration of high-speed Internet with roughly 12 million out of total 15.5 million households hooked up to the always-on connection.

On top of their use in national defense and social security, the MIC hopes to use the network robots for the private sector late this year.
``Three kinds of households machines will commercially debut this October. They will sell for 1-2 million won, a price that will not scare off customers. The low price is possible since they are empowered by outside networks instead of incorporated software,'' Oh said.

The three sorts of wheeled robots will be used for various applications: cleaning rooms, health-care programs, Internet connection, home monitoring or reading books to kids.
The mechanical servants, some of which have the ability to re-charge automatically, can also order Chinese food and pizza by connecting to the local network.

The MIC already finished a test run of the household robots late last year by installing them in 64 households and two post offices in Seoul and its vicinity.
Hyung Tae-gun, director general at the MIC, expected the robots will sell up to 3,000 units for this year alone and the sales will surge in the near future.

``Recently Japan unveiled household service robots priced at up to 10 million won, almost 10 times as expensive as ours. So you can guess the competitiveness of our network robots,'' Hyung said.

Why do I keep thinking about that RoboCop Movie!


Sunday, February 05, 2006

Busy Social Schedule

It's Saturday morning and the Seoul freeze continues. Its about -12 outside, and was a cool -18 last night when we came home around 10pm.Let me back track to Thursday evening...

Thursday evening Clariza and I went and watched Memoirs of a Geisha. Our hotel had rented out one thetre at the COEX Megabox, and we hosted about 400 of our key bookers. I had read the book several years ago, and of course the movie was differant, but some of the acting as well as the scenery was fantastic. I highly recommend that you take the time to see the movie.

Then last night (Friday) we went and watched a Live Performance called Paris Can Can. It was held at the COEX Convention Centre Auditorium, and had a cast of about 15. It was a very lively show, from tradional Can Can dancing, french classical singing, to a comendy skit that was very funny, to a few acts that reminded me a little of Circ De Soliel (spelling?) Overall the 1 1/2 live show was great, and again worth going to. We had a few tickets from our hotel, but the show would have otherwise been quiet expensive.

Then Saturday night we really actually paid to go to a performance, which was STOMP. Stomp is a great live performance doing many differant skits using everything from brooms, matchboxes, rubbish cans, to plastic bags, to make unique noises, and dance, or perfectly choreographed together. It was about 1 1/2 hours long, and was a great show.

This is how their website describes the show -

Music, Dance, Theatre, Choreography or Performance Art? All of the above! Or is it none of the above. Well, both are sort of right...In a way. Confused? read on...
STOMP is a movement, of bodies, objects, sounds - even abstract ideas. But what makes it so appealing is that the cast uses everyday objects, but in non-traditional ways.
There's no speech, no dialogue, not even a plot.
So why go see STOMP? Well, have you ever composed a symphony using only matchbooks as instruments? Or created a dance routine based around sweeping? You may have done this a little, but get a group of rhythmically gifted, extremely coordinated bodies with definitive personalities, and you have the makings for STOMP.

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Friday, February 03, 2006

Freezing Seoul

One of the long standing jokes in my office every morning this winter is when I come crashing into the office covered 5 times over with clothes crying about how cold it is outside. 90% of the time, reactions are from outright laughing to lectures on the fact that -2 or -3 is not really cold! Can you believe it! They just don't understand that where I grew up where 10 degrees Celsius is cold, or when I lived in Hawaii for 8 years, where cold was 16 degrees Celsius.

Funny enough as the winter has drawn on, I have actually started to feel what is cold or what is really cold. This morning I had a breakthrough..

After stepping onto the road in front of my house I knew it was bloody cold. There was some wind also, and after a minute I actually had tears in my eyes. I quickened to Olympic sprint pace to get out of this cold, but sure enough I was caught at the main road traffic lights! I stood there absolutely dying, and as it appeared around me, so was everyone else. I contemplated crossing 10 lanes of traffic, but luckily that reality side of my brain had not frozen over yet! Finally after what seemed hours, the lights changed and I jogged the last 300 metres to work! As I entered the hotel all I could think of walking into the office, and everyone would be laughing at me complaining about the cold. As I flung open the office door three of them were standing there, they burst out laughing, but all said "its really cold..Yes??!!" Victory! Finally they agree with me... But who wouldn't when one tells me the radio man said that wit the wind chill it is -20 degrees Celsius, or for you Fahrenheit people -3! I went online and checked the weather site and it said -14 Celsius, with wind chill -19.. At 7am.

Have a warmer day!

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Chinese eyes

If you cannot decipher anything, then try pulling the corner of your eyes outwards as if you were Chinese. And no I am not trying to be racist, just a way to explain it ok! Not looking for hate mail...

Anyway, the weather has taken a U-Turn in Seoul and it fell below the zero mark after a week or so of weather hovering around 2 0r 3 degrees. It was -7 this morning, and should hit -11 tonight! No snow in the city, but they say the mountains are covered in snow in the North. Would be nice to see.

One of my work mates was telling me yesterday that what would normally take him 3 hours to drive back to Seoul from his parents house in the South, took him 9 hours on Monday evening! Amazing, and you here this story all the time. You know, this is the only problem in Korea, the traffic. Or should I say too many cars, or should I say the infrastructure in regards to roads. You know the subway system around Seoul is fantastic, and cheap. The Country railway system seems to be very good, and sometimes I see more buses on the roads than cars! But traffic is unreal. I have no real solution, so will not bitch too much, but heck if the economy is doing so well, why wouldn't you spend a bit more on fixing this never ending problem! Work mates say they are just used to it, and plan accordingly. And the final thing on this .... There is no road rage!
It works!

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