Saturday, November 15, 2008

Everland, Part Two: The Zoo

A few weeks ago, Nana and I chaperoned a school trip to Everland, a local imitation-Disney amusement park. (Previous post.) Well, as it turns out, Everland is not only an amusement park, but also a zoo (and I'm not talking about the children). How we missed this last time is beyond me.

Here are some shots from the zoo.

Nana sez: "Looks like the bears have killed the most tourists today."
Justin sez: "Can't get complacent, though--the lions and tigers are right behind."
Common sense sez: "There's no way there were 21 bears in that park."
Nana catches a nap on the safari ride. As do the lions. (Yes, there was glass.)
Below is the liger, over whom youths here have obsessed ever since Napoleon Dynamite came out in Korean translation.
(In case you were wondering--yes, the lions and tigers here are kept in the same enclosure. Giggity giggity gigitty.)

And finally, the bears. Who basically seem to sit around all day until the safari bus pulls up, at which point they perform silly tricks for crackers.Also--up close, they're HUGE.

Cuteness award goes to these little foxes.
Awesomeness award goes to this orangutan, who, in true orangutan fashion, spent most of her time mooning, spitting on, and/or making faces at visitors. Also, she's separated from the outside world by a 20-foot pit. Orangutans are known for being wily tricksters, and zoos often have to go to great lengths to keep them in their enclosures.
Perhaps the coolest part of the zoo, though, was the chimp enclosure, which featured little bubbles you could pop your head up in and get face-to-face with the chimps.
At first, I was impressed by how much interest the chimps took in us--I mean, they were shaking their heads, "smiling," making faces, sticking out their tongues--but then I realized that most people send them treats via a little tube in the pillbox. The chimp below is reaching down for a cookie.Even among apes, we're cheapskates.

Second place in coolness, though, goes to these crazy monkeys. Look at them go!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mr. Rogers!

Remember Won't You Wear A Sweater day, sponsored through Pittsburgh last year and celebrated by Justin, me, and Annie in Korea?

Now we're famous. (You can go about halfway down the page, or you can do "find in page" and type Seoul. Or Nana.)

As far as I can tell, we hold the distance record. Kiss my 13-hour flight, Sweden and Germany! Yeah!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Overseas Vote

With regard to the US presidential election: I can't speak for the Korean man-on-the street, but our kids are overwhelmingly pro-Obama. I had the electoral map running on my SmartBoard each period when they came into class, and after the obligatory minute to figure out what on Earth the electoral college map says about anything, they cheered when they found out Obama was up.

This could be generational - young people around the world seem to be strongly pro-Obama, so maybe it's age as the determining factor instead of here. And I didn't really notice a difference between our Korean and non-Korean students' reactions - except perhaps some extra excitement from an African student.

But in any case, it's interesting because, as Justin posted earlier, Korean attitudes on Korean mixed-race individuals can be pretty closed-minded (until 2006, mixed-race Koreans were barred from serving in the military; even now, I think, they are exempt from the draft). 2006 was, not coincidentally, right after the Super Bowl when Hines Ward took MVP. So if his success in sports helped bring down barriers here, could Obama's victory presage anything for Korea? My guess is not with adults. Obama, unlike Ward, is not part-Korean, so I doubt his story will be seen as relevant. But seeing the kids respond like this (we had clapping and dancing) suggests that change may be coming generationally. It's encouraging, and I hope our students will remember this when they become the generation in political power, but I realize that for some people, it's a long time to wait.

Hines Ward and Bi-Racial South Koreans

My hometown paper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, ran an article today on Hines Ward's continuing social efforts on behalf of bi-racial kids in South Korea. Hines Ward is himself bi-racial--half black, half Korean--and was basically run out of the country with his mother before being heartily claimed by Koreans as "their" Super-Bowl MVP (Let's Go Steelers!). The mere fact of seeing officials call Hines Ward "Korean" was a big deal, and Hines Ward's visit to Korea in the wake of Super Bowl XL attracted much attention in the media in both the US and Korea.

The fight's not over by a long shot, though--there's still a lot of racism here, some of which (without going into too much detail) Nana and I have encountered in our daily lives.

Check out the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette today.

GRE in Korea: Case Closed

The last phase of our joint GRE travails was brought to a successful close yesterday (successful in that I was able to take the test--no way to know how I did): the GRE Subject Test in Literature will haunt my dreams no more.

We celebrated the occasion by finally visiting the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Seoul we'd yet to see: Changdeokgung (aka, Changdeok Palace). Expect a post soon.