Ekke

My photo
Pretoria, South Africa

18 Jun 2017

Modder en Vuurwerke / Mud and Fireworks


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Modder en Vuurwerke

Ek het heel goed begin aanpas by lewe in Korea. Ek het nog heel gereeld die ontnugtering gehad dat ek in ’n ander land woon en werk, maar dit was als vir my ’n lekker ervaring. Deur aan te sluit by ’n paar Facebook groepe het ek besef dat daar byna elke naweek iets was om te doen en te sien.

Die naweek het weer aangebreek, en ek het vir my ’n plek bespreek op die stapgroep se bus na Boryeong, Suid Korea. Dit was meer nuuskierigheid, as ’n diep belangstelling wat my laat besluit het om by die toer aan te sluit, ’n geval van ek is mos nou hier, ek kan net sowel… Want wat is ’n Modderfees nou eintlik?

Boryeong is ’n klein landelike dorpie aan die weskus van Korea. Daar was vir een of ander slim geologiese rede ’n baie fyn tipe kleigrond, wat ’n sagte, gladde modder vorm in die reën seisoen. Iemand het bevind dat dit kosmetiese potensiaal het, en ek raai hul moes dit op 
’n kreatiewe manier bemark, dus ’n Modderfees.

Die fees vind plaas op Daecheon strand, waarheen vragte van die modder aangery word. Daar is opslaan swembadjies, opblaas hindernisbane, glybane, ’n modderput en modderfonteine. Dis kompleet soos ’n waterpark, maar gevul met fyn, gladde modder. Jy moes ook ’n toegangskaartjie koop, die bandjie om jou arm dra, en in rye staan vir elke aktiwiteit.

Ek is seker dat daar mense is wat jaar na jaar die geleentheid bywoon, en hier het hulle al ’n tipe van kultuur en tradisie by die fees geskep van opdaag in uitspattige en belaglike kostuums. Selfs een van die ouens wat in my groep was het opgedaag met sy sussie se leotard en pienk tutu. Nog ander het opgedaag met opblaas vlerkies, tjoepies en swemkappies, duikbrille en snorkels.

Modder bly egter net vir so lank amuserend, voordat die lang lyne jou ontmoedig om nog ’n keer te gaan. Maar gelukkig is die see nie vêr nie, en binnekort gaan spoel jy af in die branders en lê jy bietjie op die strand en bak. Ek moet wel bieg, dat my vel na al die modderspelery lekker sag en glad gevoel het, so die modder het dan seker wel kosmetiese eienskappe soos geadverteer.

Teen sononder is al die moddersports verby, maar die fees is nog lank nie oor nie. ’n K-Pop-konsert vind in die oop veld naby die modderputte plaas, en dis ’n groot affêre. Direk na die konsert verby is jaag almal weer vir ’n goeie plek op die strand vir ongelooflike vuurwerke. ’n DJ sorg vir dansmusiek tot die klok 12 uur slaan. 

Kafees, restaurante, en winkeltjies blyk ook 24 uur oop te wees vir die geleentheid, en die strand raak byna glad nie stil voor sonop nie. Daar is ook ’n klein, maar duursame klub om die nuwe dag in te dans. Na ’n hele dag se opgewondenheid, heelwat te drinke, en ’n oorheersende liberale gees, laat mense in die oggend ure maar alle inhibisies agterweë en moet polisielede maar die strand op golfkarretjies patrolleer om nagswemmers en naakbaaiers te konfronteer, vir hul eie veiligheid natuurlik. Dit geskied darem als met ’n goeie en vergewende gesinheid. 

As die son opkom, vind die naguile ’n plekkie reg op die strand om bietjie roes af te slaap. Die 24 uur burger plek swaai die spyskaart om, om hul ontbytopsies beskikbaar te stel, en net dan, vir ’n oomblik was dit heeltemal. Wat ’n vreemde maar interessante ervaring.

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Foto's / Photos

Van die mense in my groep / Some of the people in my group
Basiese uitleg / Basic layout
Stoei put / Wrestling pit
Hindernis baan / Gladiator course
Vuurwerke / Fireworks
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Mud and Fireworks

I’d started to get accustomed to life in Korea. Every so often there was still the sobering thought that I was in a country other than where I spent my whole life, but what a great experience! By joining a couple of meet-up groups on Facebook I learned that there was something else and new to do and experience nearly every weekend.

The weekend had arrived, and once again I had booked my spot on the hiking group bus to Boryeong, South Korea. It was more curiosity than real interest that made me decide to join that weekend’s tour. It was a case of I’m here, might as well… What is a Mud Festival anyway?

Boryeong is a small country town on Korea’s eastern coast. For some clever geological reason it has a very fine type of clay soil, that becomes smooth, slippery mud in the rainy season. Someone then figured out that it has some cosmetic uses, and I guess needed to advertise it in a creative way, thus the Mud Festival.

The festival takes place on Daecheon beach, and loads of mud is brought from the mud pits to the beach area. Mud is poured into inflatable pools, inflatable gladiator obstacle courses, slides and mud fountains. It’s a whole waterpark filled with smooth, slippery mud. And like a waterpark you buy a ticket, get a wristband, and que for every ride.

I’m sure that there were a lot of people that had attended the festival several times before, and they’ve helped to create a festival culture and some festival traditions, attending in some outrageous costumes for one. Even one of the guys in my group wore his sister’s leotard and pink tutu. Others arrived wearing inflatable arm floats, tube floaties, swimming caps, and even snorkeling gear.

Mud, however, is only amusing for a short while, before long queues deter you from going on another ride. Thankfully the ocean is nearby, and within moments you can wash off the mud in the waves and bake warm in the sun on the beach. I will admit, that my skin did feel smooth and soft after the mud-sports, so I guess they do have the cosmetic properties advertised.

By sunset the mud area closed off for the day, but the festival was far from over. There was a K-Pop concert in an open field behind the mud area, and it was a huge deal. After the concert wrapped up everyone scrambled for a good spot on the beach again for a fabulous firework display. A DJ was also present and ensured that people could party on the beach until a little after midnight.  

Cafes, restaurants and convenient stores also seemed to be open 24 hours during the festival, and the beach didn’t quiet down at all until the sun rose again. There was a small, expensive club not far from the beach for those who wanted to dance through the night. After a full day of excitement, drinking, and the general liberal spirit amongst festival goers, some people started losing their inhibitions a bit, and police members had to patrol the beach on golf carts apprehending night bathers and skinny-dippers; for their own safety of course.

As the sun rose, the diehard party animals and nocturnals found themselves spots right on the beach to sleep off a little rust. The 24 hour burger joint flipped their menus to show their breakfast options, and right then, for a fleeting moment, it was all completely peaceful. What a strange but interesting experience.



11 Jun 2017

Kampvuur, Karaoke en Knoffel. / Bonfires, Jukeboxes and Garlic.


(Scroll down for English)

My volgende avontuur in Suid Korea was weereens na ’n eiland aan die suide van die land. Vir hierdie spesifieke naweek is ek toe saam met ’n stapgroep na die eiland Namhae toe. 

Ek het heelwat naweke saam met die stapgroep deurgebring. Dit was ’n baie gerieflike, en bekostigbare reëling. Vrydae aande het ons 23:00 bymekaar gekom en in die bus geklim. Ons het maar almal op die bus geslaap tot ons by die bestemming aankom, en dan het ons omtrent dadelik begin stap sodat ons voor sonop op die een of ander uitkyk punt kan wees. Sondae aande het ons gewoonlik skuins voor tien weer by die bushalte gestop, net betyds om die laaste moltrein huis toe te vang.

Die tog Namhae toe was geen uitsondering nie. Ons het soos gewoonte donkeroggend daar aangekom, ons padkos gekry en waterbottels gegryp en begin stap. Teen sonop was ons in ’n grot teen die hoogste berg op die eiland, en het ons ’n ongelooflike uitsig oor die eiland en strand gehad. Die res van die dag was vol avonture soos roei op die see, ontspan op die strand en frisbee speel. 

So tussen die speel moes ons ook ’n plekkie in die kampterrein gaan uitsoek om ons tente op te slaan, waar ons die aand sou deurbring. Ek het die perfekte plekkie gekry waar my tent lekker onder ’n boom sou koelte kry, sodat die son my nie sou uitbak nie. Dit was ook nie vêr van die ablusieblok of hoofstrand af nie. Ek wens net ek het die verdekselse ding in die voetpad naby my tent raakgesien!

Die aand het dinge begin interessant raak met ’n groot kampvuur op die strand, ’n bietjie malvalekker-braai en, soos wat mens seker maar kan verwag, heelwat drank wat gereeld aangevul sou word. Ons was nie die enigste groep op die strand wat ’n partytjie gegooi het nie, mens kon elke paar meter nog ’n groep sien wat met identiese aktiwiteite besig was. 

Teen omtrent middernag het die feestelikheid maar vir my bietjie handuitgeruk, en ek het besluit om tent toe te keer. Die kampplek was stil, en al die tente het amper leeg voorgekom. Ek het sommer vinnig ingesluimer, dit sou ’n lekker nagrus wees. Of sou dit? 

Dit was omtrent twee uur die oggend wat ek wakker geskrik het. Iewers het Koreaanse musiek kliphard geblêr, en ’n paar mansstemme kon duidelik gehoor word wat dronkerig saam mompel en op al die refreine kliphard uitjil, voor hul weer terugkeer na ’n onverstaanbare mompelrige geraas. Daar was geen manier dat ek sou slaap met die geraas nie.

Ek het besluit om te gaan ondersoek instel. En dis toé dat ek die verdekselse ding raaksien. Net daar in die voetpaadjie tussen my tent en die ablusieblok was ’n buitelug blêrkas, met net 5 liedjiekeuses, maar massiewe klanktoestel. Die hele ding lyk nie op eerste oogopslag soos ’n blêrkas nie, maar net soos ’n kampterrein ornament, slegs daar vir estetiese waarde. Voor die blêrkas het 4 middeljarige Koreaanse mans hulself bevind. Hul het al 5 die liedjies deurgespeel en saam geblêr, terwyl ek als wat ek kon oor my ore druk om die marteling van hul samesang te verlig. Die manne het darem na die laaste liedjie weer tot ruste gekom.

Ek het eventueel weer aan die slaap geraak en het nou net gehoop dat niemand anders die ware funksie van die ornament ontdek nie. Tevergeefs! Dit was net na sonop, of so het dit gevoel, dat ’n klompie jong kinders ’n speletjie daarvan gemaak het om ’n liedjie te kies en dan weg te hardloop en weg te kruip, totdat die liedjie verby is en hul weer die knoppie kon druk.

Slaaptyd was amptelik verby, met die kombinasie van dié geraas, die son wat uitkom en ander kampeerders wat ook begin rondskarrel, sou ek definitief nie weer aan die slaap raak nie. Ek het maar voor die strandkafeetjie gaan sit en die een koffie na die ander ingeryg terwyl ek vir die lae brandertjies kyk en probeer beter voel oor my min slaap. Ek het ook maar ’n roomys vir ontbyt geëet.

Sondag het ons toerleier besluit om ons na ’n baie spesiale fees te neem. Namhae eiland se ekonomie is hoofsaaklik afhanklik van toerisme en landbou. Waarvoor hul die bekendste is, is inderdaad knoffel, dus hou hul die jaarlikse Namhae Knoffel Fees. Nou as jy dit nog nie kon raai nie, knoffel is ’n groot ding! Dis nie net sommer ’n geurmiddel vir hierdie mense nie. Daar is ’n spesiale knoffel navorsingseenheid opgerig op die eiland, en dit was juis waar die fees gehou is. Daar was allerhande knoffelary beskikbaar; van die gewone gedroogde knoffel, gekerfde knoffel en knoffel poeier, tot uitstallings van knoffel rangskikings en kinderkuns rondom die knoffel tema, tot knoffel tee, knoffel soda, knoffel jellie en knoffel in sjokolade. Bisar! Ek het net gehoop dat iemand nie ’n bondel gedroogde knoffel in ons bus wou terugneem Seoul toe nie.

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Die Grot / The Cave
'n Tempel naby die grot / A temple near the cave
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My next adventure in South Korea was also to an island in the south of the country. This specific weekend I went with a hiking group to Namhae island.

I actually spent plenty of weekends with the hiking group. It was a convenient, and affordable way to travel. We would meet at the pick-up point at 11pm on Friday nights, and board a bus. We would sleep on the bus, and arrive at our destination early the next morning, and almost immediately start hiking up to some kind of vantage point for sunrise. Then on Sundays we would get back to the city just in time to catch the last subway back home.

The trip to Namhae was no exception. As was the tradition we arrived in Namhae before sunrise, got some snacks, grabbed our water bottles, and started our ascent. By sunrise we had arrived at a cave in the highest mountain on the island. It had an amazing view of the island and coast. The rest of the day was spent kayaking, relaxing on the beach and playing ultimate frisbee.

In our free time we also had to find a spot in the campsite to put up our tents for the night. I thought I had found the perfect spot, conveniently located in the shade of a big pine tree, relatively close to the ablution block, and not far from the main beach. I just wish I had taken notice of the darn feature installed in the footpath near my tent.

That evening we had a big bonfire on the beach, and things started to get interesting with all the bottles of beer and cheep wine and spirits making their way to the party, stock never seemed to run out, as people made top-up runs to the convenience store frequently. We weren’t the only group on the beach either, and every few meters a group of people could be found busy with similar activities. Pretty soon all these parties and groups started spilling into each other and it became one big drunken nest.

At about midnight it became an uncomfortable gathering, with open fires, drunk people, egos fueled by alcohol, etc. and I decided to make my way to my tent. The camp site was quiet, and all the tents almost seemed deserted. In bed by a decent-ish hour, I almost immediately dozed off. Surely I would be well rested the next morning, or would I?

It was about 2am when I woke up in shock. Somewhere a Korean song was blaring out loudly, and some men could be heard drunkenly mumbling with to the tune, belching out the choruses, before returning to drunken muttering. There was no way I would be able to sleep in this racket.

I decided to investigate, and that’s when I so the damn thing! Halfway between my tent and the ablution block, the feature surrounded by the four middle-aged Korean men, turned out to be an outdoor Jukebox. It only had a choice of 5 songs, but boy did it have volume. The whole thing didn’t look like a Jukebox at first glance, it simply looked like a campsite decorative feature. The 4 men played all five songs, and sang along as loudly as they could, while I tried my best to block the tormenting sound from my ears and get back to sleep. After the last song finished it got quiet again and I could try to sleep again.

Eventually I managed to fall asleep, and would manage to sleep in a little if no-one else discovered the true purpose of the decorative campsite ornament. But that was perhaps too naïve a hope. It must’ve been right after sunrise when a couple of mischievous children started playing a game of press the button and go hide, just to repeat the game after the song had finished.

It was evident that there was no more sleep to be had, with a combination of the noise from the boombox, the sun brightly shining into my tent, and the other campers starting to scurry about, I would definitely not have been able to fall asleep again. I went and sat on a plastic chair by a plastic table in front of the convenience store next to the beach, drinking the one convenience store instant coffee after the other, looking into the small waves, and trying to cheer myself up despite the lack of sleep. I also ate an ice cream sandwich for breakfast that morning, because I needed all the help I could get to seem alive. Not a happy camper!


On Sunday our trip leader decided to spoil us by taking us to a very special festival. Economically Namhae Island depends on tourism and agriculture. In fact, its most famous produce is none other than - garlic. For that reason they also annually host the Namhae Garlic Festival. Now if you haven’t guessed it yet, garlic is a big deal! There is a special garlic research centre on the island, and that is exactly where the festival was held. One could find the usual garlic fare, like dried garlic, crushed garlic and garlic flakes; the more unusual products like garlic tea, garlic soda, garlic jellies, and chocolate covered garlic; and then there were also the really bizarre garlic bouquets and arrangements, garlic photo benches and children's garlic themed artworks. I just hoped that no one wanted to take a bundle of tried garlic on the bus with us back to Seoul.

6 Jun 2017

Deur die Geel See / Crossing the Yellow Sea


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Ek was al skaars 2 maande in Korea en ek was lus om bietjie meer as net my dorp te verken. Die enigste hindernis was die feit dat ek nog nie ’n selfoon, bankrekening of Suid Koreaanse ID-dokument gehad nie, o ja, en dat ek feitlik geen Koreans kon praat, lees of verstaan nie. Dit het beteken dat as ek wou reis ek noukeurig moes beplan, en niks beter verkeerd loop nie. Dis mos maklik!

’n Vriend en ek het afgespreek dat ons saam na die eerste fees van die seisoen sou gaan. Dit vind plaas heel aan die Suide van die land op ’n klein eilandjie genaamd Jindo. Dit staan bekend as die “Jindo Sea Parting Festival”. Jy’t reg gelees, see skeiding, soos met Moses en die Israeliete. 

Dit is nou nie ’n bonatuurlike verskynsel soos die in die Bybel nie, vir hierdie een is daar wel ’n logiese verduideliking. Dit is eintlik net ’n baie lae gety wat as gevolg van die maan se wenteling en afstand selfs laer as ’n gewone lae gety is. The fenomeen duur vir omtrent ’n week of so, maar die Saterdag van die fees is dit veronderstel om die laagste te wees, laag genoeg dat mens op droë grond vanaf die strand vir byna ’n kilometer die see in tot by ’n nabygeleë eilandjie kan stap en terug. Wie sal nie so iets wil beleef nie?

Dit is toe afgespreek, ek en my vriend gaan Jindo toe. Daar is egter die klein kwessie dat ons twee 5 ure per bus van mekaar af woon en dinge fyn moes beplan om mekaar op die bushalte in Jindo te kry. Hy het omtrent ’n week voor my in Korea arriveer, en ek dink hy het dalk net ’n foon gekry, maar dit help nie rerig as ek nie ook een het nie.

Ons busritte het toe darem uitgewerk en toe ek die Vrydag aand by Jindo se bushalte aankom het hy reeds daar vir my gewag. Met die hulp van sy splinternuwe slimfoon se kaart toepassing het ons ook vinnig ons hotel gevind en was ons gereed om te verken!

Saterdag het vinnig aangebreek en dit was tyd vir die fees om te begin. Daar was ’n paar dinge van die fees wat ek nie heeltemal verwag het nie. Eerstens het ek nie verwag dat daar soveel mense sou wees nie, letterlike duisende. Tweedens het ek ook nie gedink daar gaan ’n man in outydse kleed, sandale, lang grys baard en boonop met ’n staf in sy hand aan die voorpunt van ’n  skare mense staan nie. Agter hom was musikante met simbale, dromme, trompette, en klokkies, ook geklee in outydse drag. Dit was sowaar ’n viering van die destydse deurtog van die Israeliete deur die Rietsee.

Korea is ’n baie gelowige nasie, en toegewyd tot die verskillende gelowe wat hul daar beoefen, so dit maak seker sin dat as daar ’n droë pad deur die see oop maak, hulle hul geloof daaraan sal koppel. Ek wonder nogal by myself watse simboliese uittog hul vier tydens die fees, of is dit ’n toekomstige uitkoms vir die land, wanneer Noord en Suid kan herenig, wat hul wil voorstel.

Dit daar gelaat. Ons is agter die “Israeliete” aan, see in, al die pad tot by die einlandjie. Daar het ons ’n oomblik gehad om ons deurtog te vier, voor ons maar weer moes terug deur die Geel see, voordat die gety inkom en ons daar halfpad betrap. ’n Honderd meter voordat ons terug is op die vasteland het die gety sterk begin inkom, die water was ysig koud en het mens se voete byna dadelik laat kramp. Die water het die ongelyke klippe toegespoel en die vordering nog bemoeilik, ek het op die ou-end kuit-diep deur die ysige water gesukkel voordat ek teen ’n paar hoër rotse uitgeklim en droë grond bereik het.

Al wat nou nog voorgelê het was ’n beker lekker koffie, lekker warem Koreaanse kos wat eie is aan die streek en tuur na die eiland en die see, waar die pad ’n rukkie gelede oopgelê het. Hierdie geleentheid was net ’n voorskou van als wat hierdie klein landjie als gehad het om te bied.
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Die Musikante / The Musicians


Die droë weg / The dry path
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I had only been in Korea for a little shy of 2 months, and I wanted to explore a little farther than just my own town. The only obstacle to my exploring was the fact that I still didn’t have a phone, bank account, or Korean Alien Registration Card, oh and my lack of Korean language skills. That meant that if I wanted to travel, planning would be of utmost importance, and if anything went wrong I would proverbially be screwed. No big deal!

A friend and I agreed to go to the first festival of the season together. It would take place at the very South-West tip of South Korea on an Island named Jindo. The festival is known as the “Jindo Sea Parting Festival”. Yes, you read that right, sea parting, like with Moses and the Israelites!

It’s not a supernatural occurrence like in the Bible though, there was a perfectly logical explanation for the sea parting at Jindo. It’s basically just a really low tide, caused by the Moon’s orbit of earth the tide would be much lower than usual. This phenomenon lasts for a week or so, but on the Saturday of the festival it was supposed to be very low, enough so that a dry path of about a kilometre would open up between Jindo and a tiny island off its coast. Who would want to miss an opportunity like this?

Agreed, my friend and I would go to Jindo. There was however another little issue - we lived 5 hours by bus away from each other and would not be able to travel together, but would have to meet there. So things would have to be planned really well. He had arrived in Korea about a week before I did, so by that time he had just gotten a phone, but that didn’t help us since I didn’t have one.

The bus schedules eventually worked out quite well, and when I arrived at the bus terminal in Jindo on Friday night, he had already been waiting there for me. With the help of his smartphone’s maps we were able to then easily find our hotel.

Saturday had arrived and it was time for the festival to start. I don’t know exactly what I expected to see at the festival, but there were some things I didn’t expect. Firstly, I didn’t expect so many people, literally thousands of festival goers. Secondly, I did not expect to see a man, clad in a robe and sandals, sporting a long grey beard and holding a wooden staff, to lead the procession through the sea. On his heels were a group of musicians with cymbals, drums, trumpets, and bells, also wearing robes and sandals. It was actually a reenactment of the Israelites' crossing of the Red Sea.

Korea is quite a religious nation, and very devout, regardless which religion they practice, so it probably makes sense that if a dry path opens up through the sea it would get connected to religion in one form or the other. I then started to wonder what symbolism this crossing held for the people taking part in the procession, was it a celebration of deliverance they had experienced, or a prayer for deliverance they stilled longed for, maybe reunification?

Enough about that. We followed the “Israelites” into the sea, all the way to the little island. Once there we had a short moment to celebrate our crossing of the Yellow Sea before we had to start walking back to the coast, lest we get caught by the incoming tide. About a hundred metres from the coast the tide started coming in fast, the water was freezing and almost immediately caused one’s feet to cramp up and go numb. The water started covering the uneven path, making progress even slower. I eventually walked calf-deep in the icy water until I could clamber up a higher rock and walk onto dry land.

All that remained to do then was to get a nice hot mug of coffee, hot local Korean food, and to gaze over at the island and the ocean where, just a short while ago, a dry path had lain. This festival was just a preview to what amazing adventures and sites this little country has to offer.

5 Jun 2017

Kan jy Amerikaans praat? / Can you speak American?


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Dit was die jaar 2012 en vir die afgelope jaar het ek alreeds voorbereidings getref om in Suid Korea te gaan Engels gee. Ek het ’n TEFL (Teaching English as Foreign Language) sertifikaat aanlyn verwerf en al my dokumentasie vir die Visum-aansoek gereed gehad. Nog net een ding het geskort, en dit was ’n werk in Suid Korea.

Ek het reeds in Augustus 2011 aansoek gedoen gehad by EPIK (English Program In Korea), maar toe die tyd aanbreek vir my Skype onderhoud was my Engelse aksent té Brits vir die onderhoudvoerder en was ek dus onverstaanbaar (vir haar). Dit het my werwer stomgeslaan dat ek nie loshande die pos gekry het nie. Hy verduidelik toe dat Koreane maar sukkel met Engels en slegs Amerikaanse Engelse aksente verstaan. Sy voorstel vir my volgende onderhoud was dus dat ek ’n Amerikaanse aksent moet namaak!

Ek het nog nooit eers gedink aan die verskil tussen Amerikaanse Engels en Britse Engels nie, ek verstaan mos albei ewegoed. Ek meen ons hoor albei op TV, studeer Britse Engels in skool, praat met hoeveel verskillende aksente in Suid-Afrika met mekaar Engels; Engels was vir my Engels, maak nie saak hoe dit verskillend klink nie. Dus moes ek bietjie navorsing doen.

Ek het my dadelik gewend na die ‘beste' platform vir linguistieke navorsing wat ek aan kon dink - YouTube. Ek het die soekfunksie gebruik en ingetik: “American English Accent.” Die resultate was legio, so ek het maar bo begin en op die boonste skakel gekliek. Die video het die verskil tussen die klank van die vokaal “a” in Britse en Amerikaanse Engels beklemtoon. O ja, “dênce" en nie “dance" nie, “cên’t" en nie “can’t" nie! Goed, “ê, ê, ê.”

Die tweede skakel was vir my seker die hulpvaardigste en by verre die vermaaklikste! Dit was ’n skets van Casper de Vries, waar hy verwys na “Americans”. In die video lug hy ’n paar maklike wyses uit om soos ’n Amerikaner te klink, en ek het hulle almal geoefen, dit lui soos volg:
Eerstens, moet nooit sê “Yes” of “Yah” nie, gebruik in stede “Yeah” soos “Jêê-ah!” Dit is ook nie “Awesome” nie, maar wel “Aah-sum”.
Tweedens het hy gesê dit sal ’n mens baat om hardlywig te klink wanneer mens woorde soos “problem” sê, dus “praaah-blem”.
Laastens moet mens nie vergeet om mens se lippe om te krul en die “r” te aksentueer nie, en dus “shurrrre” te sê vir “sure”.

Ek het aantekeninge gemaak en seker gemaak dat ek een van hierdie truuks in elkeen van my onderhoud vrae sou kon gebruik. My volgende onderhoud was reeds vir die volgende middag geskeduleer, en siende dat die internetkonneksie maar stadig is in die platteland waar ek gewoon het, sou die onderhoud oor die telefoon geskied.

Dit is min of meer hoe die gesprek (in kort) afgeloop het:
Koreaan: “Hi Egbert, are you doing well?”
Ek: “Yeah, I’m fine thanks, and yourself?”
Koreaan: “Also good. I want to check if you would be able to start working by March 1st?”
Ek: “Shurrre! I can do that.”
K: “The students at our school are low level students, would you be willing to teach low level students?”
Ek: “Of course, no praaah-blem!”
K: “The apartment we prepared for you was the previous teacher’s, and it is somewhat furnished, is that ok with you?”
Ek: “Yeah, thats aah-sum, thank you so much.”
K: “Thank you for the interview. The starting date is March 1st, and we will let you know soon if you got the job.”
Ek: ”Aaah-sum, thats grreat, I cênt wait to hearr back from you. Thank you for your time.”

Die truuks het gewerk, of hulle was dalk regtig desperaat om iemand betyds te kry, want 5 minute later het ’n e-pos met die kontrak, Visum-uitnodiging en ander besonderhede deurgekom.

Twee weke later was ek in Suid Korea, ek het wel vinnig geleer dat die lang pad van kommunikasie probleme nou aangebreek het. My eerste gesprek met my mede-onderwyser het nie so glad verloop nie. Sy’t byna glad nie verstaan wat ek vra nie. In stede van “ske-jewel” het ek “schedule” gesê, ek moes op die ou-end my sin herhaal en eerder die woord “timetable” gebruik. Na ek “classroom” gebruik het moes ek myself korrigeer met “clêssroom”. Na ek ’n paar keer met “Yah” geantwoord het, wou sy weet of dit dieselfde as “Yeah” beteken. 


Dit was maar net die begin, want die stryd van Amerikaanse spelling gebruik om die kinders in die klas te leer, en om woorde soos, “boot”, “bonnet”, en “coriander” te vervang met “trunk”, “hood”, en “cilantro” het nog vir my voorgelê. Vir 5 jaar het ek dit gedoen, en nou praat ek ’n Engels wat enigiemand sal verwar oor waar ek vandaan kom, maar ek dink amper enigiemand sal kan verstaan.
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The year is 2012 and I had already been preparing to teach English in South Korea. I had already acquired a TEFL (Teach English as Foreign Language) certificate, and prepared all my documentation for the Visa application. The only thing that was still missing was a teaching job in South Korea.

In August 2011 I had applied at EPIK (English Program in Korea), but after having the Skype interview I was informed that my English accent was too British and that the interviewer had a difficult time understanding me. It left my recruiter stunned, as he thought that I was a great candidate. He explained to me that Koreans are used to American pronunciations, and often find it really hard to understand other accents. So, he suggested that I should fake an American accent for my next interview.

I had never even thought about the difference between American and British English, I understand both equally well. Coming from South Africa we are immersed in both, you hear both on TV and radio, we study British English at school, and people speak in such a variety of accents across South Africa that to me it was all just English, didn’t matter how different they sounded I understood it all the same. That meant that I had to do some more research before attempting to fake an American accent.

Don’t be too impressed though. I immediately jumped to the first best platform for linguistic research that came to mind - YouTube. In the search bar I typed in the following: “American English Accent.” There were a plethora of results, so I started at the top and clicked on the first video link. It was quite helpful and focused on the difference of the short vowel sound “a” in American and British English. Oh yes, now I remember, It’s “dance” not “dahnce”, “can’t” and not “cahn’t”. Alright, take note and apply!

The second link was by far the most helpful, and definitely the most entertaining. It was a comedy sketch by a South African comedian named Casper de Vries titled “Americans”. In his video he referred to a couple of easy ways to ensure you sound American; and I practiced and used them all, as follows:
Firstly, never say “Yes” or “Yah”, use “Yeah” (with a thick drawl) in stead. For the word awesome don’t pronounce it as “Ossum” like the Brits do, but say “Aah-sum”.
Secondly, it would be to one’s benefit to sound constipated when pronouncing words like “problem”, eg. “praah-blem” (add thick drawl).
Lastly, don’t forget to push your lips out and apart and accentuate the “r”, as in “shurrre” for “sure”.

I wrote down all the notes and made sure that I would be able to use every little trick in my interview answers to sound American. My next interview had already been scheduled for the next afternoon, and seeing that the internet connection was too slow, it would be a phone interview, which would furthermore count in my favor, because no one would see how ridiculous I looked while trying to sound American.

In short, the interview went something like this:
Interviewer: “Hi Egbert, are you doing well?”
Me: “Yeah, I’m fine thanks, and yourself?”
Interviewer: “Also good. I want to check if you would be able to start working by March 1st?”
Me: “Shurrre! I can do that.”
I: “The students at our school are low level students, would you be willing to teach low level students?”
M: “Of courrse, no praaah-blem!”
I: “The apartment we prepared for you was the previous teacher’s, and it is somewhat furnished, is that ok with you?”
M: “Yeah, thats aah-sum, thank you so much.”
I: “Thank you for the interview. The starting date is March 1st, and we will let you know soon if you got the job.”
M: ”Aaah-sum, thats grreat, I can’t wait to hearr back from you. Thank you for your time.”

My methods must’ve worked - or they were just desperate to fill the position in time. 5 minutes after the interview I received an email with the contract, Visa-invitation and other details attached. I was finally going to South Korea.

Two weeks later I found myself in South Korea and, as I quickly found out, at the start of a long series of communication issues. My first conversation with my co-teacher didn’t go smoothly at all. She almost didn’t understand a single one of my questions. In stead of “ske-jewel” I pronounced it as “Shedual”, and I had to eventually rephrase my question asking for my timetable in stead. After asking about my “classroom” (British) I had to switch over to “classroom” (American) before she could produce an answer. After answering with a short “Yah” a couple of times, she enquired if “Yah” means the same as “Yeah” or “Yes”.

That was only the beginning, because the battle of American spelling in the classroom and substituting words like “boot”, “bonnet” and “coriander” with “trunk”, “hood” and “cilantro” all still lay ahead. I kept on going like this for 5 years, and now I speak a type of English that would confuse anyone as to where I’m from, but I’m rarely misunderstood!