Archive for the ‘Rant and Rave of the Week’ Category

It’s funny how something I see every day here in Korea stirs memories of primary school in England. During that time, my days sitting at the back of the classroom were numbered as it became harder and harder for me to read what the teacher was writing on the board. My difficulties were not really noticed until my first visit to an optometrist. It was there I was diagnosed with mild astigmatism and recommended that I needed aid in the vision department. To me, having my eyesight corrected was nothing short of a miraculous opening up of the world. Suddenly, I could fully enjoy growing up in the heyday of Thundercats, Grotbags, Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles and other such delights that I considered to be the finer things in life. So, to sport my affections, I chose a pair of tortoise-shell blue frames for my first glasses.

On the sides of these frames were small pictures of the TMHT Raphael (named by a giant talking rat after the famous renaissance painter). However, it was not until I got to school that I realized that whilst many of my fellow pupils shared my love for the four green heroes they did not have the same taste in fashion accessories as I did. Mocking ensued and it was not long before I attempted to scratch off the green turtle with the red bandana. But to no avail. Recklessly uncaring, I played sports with those glasses on, I fought with them on, and they were dropped, thrown, dumped and stepped on during my younger days. Finally it was not my destructive attempts that won me a new pair of sight enhancers but rather they no longer fitted properly. So, they were replaced with a huge pair of eighties’ gigs.

 Then the troubles began. As a ten-year-old of above average-height, the glasses I had to wear were big enough for a giant. Now at middle school, with kids coming into puberty and bigger guys and bullies I was introduced to a whole host of new words; Biggles, four-eyes, geek as well as other equally unimaginative sobriquets. Not surprisingly, this made me angry and more fighting followed.

By the time of grammar school (13-16) I had a reputation for not taking insults lightly but, more importantly, I was more comfortable with myself and I also wore a less confrontational pair of optical aids.

Roll on five years and I start wearing contact lenses and rarely use glasses. Another set of years roll by and I’m here in Korea getting laser eye surgery. Today, I’m looking at this computer screen with better than 20/20 vision.

What does this have to do with Koreans and Korea? Here, every day, I get flashbacks of my early days at school. This sorry condition is brought about by constantly seeing people wear those 80s style glasses as part of their image. Indeed, so desperate are they that many wear just the frames without lenses. They are choosing absurdity purely to be part of the scene. As a kid I don’t believe I ever had a real choice but I quickly discovered the meaning of absurdity and also the troubles that come with it.

© John Brownlie 2011


“Good Morning, Mr Kim” These are not the first words that instantly come to mind when being woken up to the sound of metal pipes being dropped twenty foot into a large hole. This clangorous assault on my sleep is accompanied by the inconsistent banging of a hammer, a utility van with its engine running while blasting out K-Pop as men attempt to shout over the noise. It’s Tuesday, seven in the morning – not my ideal wake-up call as I was expecting at least another uninterrupted hour in bed.

Of course, alarm clocks are normally not a sound people like and can be associated with that of a crying baby or somebody dragging their finger nails down a chalkboard. Generally these are universally considered sounds of aural torture. I have yet to speak to anybody who when asked what music they like, reply with ‘a cat on heat’.

In Korea I have had more unexpected awakenings than I have ever experienced anywhere else. Prior to the ridiculously early building going on just a few feet from my door I have had to suffer the ‘vegetable van’. This frequently siphons away my precious sleeping hours. Fitted with loudspeakers, it informs everyone within a hundred-foot radius that its radishes are ripe, the oranges are organic and the offer of the moment is onions.

My temptation to stay in bed is now dwarfed by the loud interchangeable noises,incompatible with my rest time.
However there is yang to my yin as I now get my five-a-day.

© John Brownlie 2011