Saturday, March 21, 2009

School of ROK Goes to Singapore!

Our school's week-long spring break starts today, and on Monday Nana and I head to Singapore, where we plan to putter around the museums and eat copious amounts of cheap, delicious food.

Since our computers won't be making the trip, however, expect us to be out of touch for a couple days--though you might get a post tomorrow about today's RAS embroidery museum tour!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Happy Hwangap!

In Korea, "hwangap," or the celebration of the 60th birthday, is a very big deal. You may have noticed, courtesy of Chinese restaurant placemats, that there are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. What you may not know is that your animal is also associated with one of the five traditional Chinese elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. You are therefore not only born in the year of the tiger, you are born in the year of the fire tiger. (Perhaps this is related in some way to William Blake?)

Your birth sign - be it rooster, pig, or whatever - is repeated every twelve years. But it takes sixty years to get back to the exact sign under which you were born: water rooster, or wood pig. Consequently, at sixty, you have lived through the entire zodiac. When you add this to the fact that in Ye Olden Days, living to sixty was quite the accomplishment, you have all the makings of a need for a major party.

My father turns sixty today - March 19. I am a derelict hwangap celebrating child, having provided neither rice cakes nor grandchildren for the celebration, but I did record my students singing happy birthday:

And here's the Korean version, for good measure (please note that I know the words! I have not learned much here, but I have learned that!)

So happy Hwangap, Dad! May your Earth Ox prosper!

Yellow Dust Monitors

We're heading into the height of the yellow dust season here in Seoul, so in the interests of our readers here in Korea, here are two sites you can use to keep track of the dust.

Yongsan Army Base Yellow Sand Monitor
: This one's good for its detailed, gradated, color-coded alert levels. (See Nana's previous post here.)

Korea Meteorological Association: It's in Korean, and it doesn't have the detail the Yongsan monitor does, but it does have a forecast model, so you can plan ahead.

For example, here's a screencap of today's report. Looks like we're clear for a day or so!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Yonsei Severance Redux

Nana, the resident health insurance ninja in our household, arranged for us to get some annual checkups down at Yonsei Severance Hospital's International Clinic yesterday.

Though we've said so on this blog before, it bears repeating: service in the International Clinic at Severance is absolutely superb. They have several English-speaking general practitioners on staff, plus several English-speaking guides and nurses who escort you wherever you need to go outside the clinic (for example, for blood work or x-rays, etc). They also have walk-in hours on Saturday mornings, though be advised that many of the hospital's specialists only see patients during the week.

Apparently, Gangnam Severance has also opened an international clinic, though we can't report on their service first-hand.