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Posts Tagged ‘Ulleungdo

Swine Flu on Ulleungdo can’t be blamed on the foreigners

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Yes that’s the truth. Despite what many Koreans think, swine Flu on Ulleungdo can’t be blamed on the foreigners as there are only two of us and we don’t leave the island as often as the Koreans do. So if there is a major outbreak, it’s not our fault.

I’m grateful to have a somewhat easier life on Ulleungdo than most English teachers in Korea. At least I try and see it that way. With only two of us English teachers, the Koreans don’t really have anyone to compare me with. Nonetheless, this also means that I am sometimes assumed to be American and not recognized as South African.

With swine flu causing mass panic and chaos in Korea, we are definitely better off than the mainland. There have only been three rumoured cases here and these are just rumours. No one is confirming it.

This article on Road Junky details how swine flu in Korea has been blamed on foreigners. There is a lot of truth to this piece as even here I was quarantined after my summer trip to Cambodia. At one of the schools where I work I’m the only teacher who gets a temperature check along with all the students. I only realized this was strange after reading the article.

As much as I detest Arirang TV for all it’s fake, bubblegum, propaganda of how it’s important to accept foreigners for Korea to become a globalised society I can see the need for this kind of public social broadcast.

On the other hand it’s a little misplaced on Korea’s major English channel which is most likely watched mainly by foreigners anyway. Surely it would be more effective if it were in Korean on one of the Korean channels like KBS?

I think being on Ulleungdo can at least help Koreans here to realize that we aren’t all dirty, disease ridden bad influences on their children’s lives. We are fortunate to be able to get to know our students and some of their parents fairly well. I hope this will at least make a small difference.


Written by BiancaZAR

November 13, 2009 at 1:54 am

The things I’m missing out on not being at home

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My parents have recently sent me some photos of the flowers and wildlife that I’ve missed out on being on Ulleungdo and not at home right now. I love my home. We have lived there since I was four years old and even though there are no wetlands or streams, the trees and flowers often give us little surprises of God’s beautiful creatures.

In our front yard we have a huge cycad. This thing is so fertile that we now have 30 baby cycads. If anyone is in Durban and wants a baby cycad please email me. Last week my Dad found a pair of mousebirds nesting in the base of the cycad.

Mousebirds are only confined to Sub-Saharan Africa.

Mousebirds are only confined to Sub-Saharan Africa.

Over the weekend my Dad told me that the mousebirds have gone. He thinks a snake must have got to them. I can believe this as one night we spotted one midway through ingesting a frog double its size. There you have it, National Geographic wildlife action right in my own backyard.

I’m also missing out on October’s blooming Jacaranda trees.I have always loved these and they hold a special memory for my Mom and I from when she used to walk me to pre-school from our flat near Berea centre to my school near the Botanic Gardens. I always used to put them on my fingers and pretend I was a princess with flower rings.

Jacaranda trees in Broadway Avenue, Westville

Jacaranda trees in Broadway Avenue, Westville

I can’t really explain why I love the Jacarandas. It’s not like I’m that crazy about the colour purple either. I think it’s how they transform the landscape that is usually so familiar. A pretty purple carpet to announce that Spring has arrived.

I wish I could have seen this year’s Jacarandas with my own eyes. Sadly, I will have to wait until next year. At least I have my parents who make sure I don’t completely miss out by sending me pictures. Thank you parents!

Blooming Jacarandas

Blooming Jacarandas

Written by BiancaZAR

October 26, 2009 at 10:15 pm


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Ulleungdo Squid Festival, August 2009

Ulleungdo Squid Festival, August 2009

Anyone who has worked as an English teacher in South Korea probably knows about Dokdo. If you don’t know, ask your students and be prepared for a burst of Korean national pride with singing and fists waving.

For the rest of you, Dokdo is a pair of islets situated in the East Sea between Korea and Japan. This is a source of contention between Korea and Japan as the latter continues to make claims of ownership over Dokdo or as they call it, Takeshima. In English, they are known as the Liancourt rocks named after the French whaling ship whose crew almost crashed on the rocks in 1849.

From the time they learn to speak, Koreans can sing and shout “Dokdo Uri-dang” (Dokdo is our country). Besides being a symbol of national pride and independence for Korea, Dokdo lies in a rich fishing area which could also contain gas deposits. The walls of elementary schools where I work are lined with posters saying Dokdo is Korea’s and I’m really popular at school on the days I wear a Dokdo t-shirt.

Since I moved to Ulleungdo, which is the porthole to Dokdo, this has become a source of entertainment for me. I’ve started a t-shirt collection, enjoy singing Dokdo songs with my friends at the karaoke and sometimes organize Dokdo t-shirt parties when we go out.

Dokdomania has even reached the streets of New York, with a tour bus which runs a Dokdo-promoting advertisement, in bright LED lights through Manhattan. The Korean tour company owner is so committed to the cause that he is losing out on 6 million won (about $6,000) a month by running the ad.

Should you care about Dokdo? Yes, if you live in Korea or have anything to do with Koreans in terms of business or personal relationships. The final frontier for Korean nationalism, I know that I will be hearing Dokdo Uri-dang, many more times over the next few months. I guess I better learn the words.

Written by BiancaZAR

September 6, 2009 at 2:40 pm

NightWalkingTruths Explained

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Haengnam seaside walk at night. Ulleungdo, June 2009

Haengnam seaside walk at night. Ulleungdo, June 2009

One Durbanite. Six months. An island between South Korea and Japan. Teaching English. Thinking about home and the journey to wherever that is. NightWalkingTruths (NWT) is the umbrella under which all my sudden mental object formations (thoughts) about South Africa, Ulleung Island (South Korea) and everything in between fall under.

I have been trying to come up with a blog name since a few weeks before I came to the island. advises that the name of your blog should: describe what it is about, be easy to remember and equal the domain name, of course. These tips didn’t help me as I couldn’t put into specific words what my blog was literally going to be about. It was easier to make a list of what the blog is not going to be about. How was I going to fit all these expectations into one name? I was stuck.

The answer came to me my first night on Ulleung Island (Ulleungdo). I walked along the harbour shore, listened to the howling wind and felt salty drops of ocean spray from the waves crashing against the jagged black rocks.  Where was I? This felt like a place of true inspiration where my mind was assimilating all the tiny grains of black sand ideas that exist in my universe. All lumped together under this mountain that is an island.

As I walked in the dark with a smile on my face, I felt liberated embracing the freedom of the night walk. My mind started tickling these ideas and this is what I came up with:

NightWalking: advancing in life, synthesizing dreams and fears, realising opportunities and searching for light in the darkness. A journey in search of liberation and freedom in the sense of living in a place where you can go for walks at night, where you are safe,  where people aren’t starving and can work to support their families.

My journey is from Durban to Johannesburg (where I hope to move to in 2010) via South Korea. Usually we are advised not to walk the streets at night looking for answers yet that is when they appear. This is exactly what happened and so here I am, on this page, for you to read. Hopefully you will find NWT easy to remember…

Written by BiancaZAR

June 14, 2009 at 5:09 pm