All of these are questions I have really been asked at
What’s a faq?
FAQ stands for "Frequently Asked Questions".
It is a way for me to answer questions people ask
me a lot. Foreigners in Korea get asked a lot of the
same questions everyday.
This is okay, but sometimes I wish
I could simply give someone a link to a faq that would answer
all of their questions without having to explain for the thousandth
time that yes, I like kimchi, or that no, I am Canadian, not
American. So, I created this faq.
Do you like kimchi?
Yes I do. Very much. If you have some extra, please give me some.
I hate store kimchi and my mother doesn’t make it.
Do you like Korea?
I wouldn’t have stayed here for another year if I didn’t. Of course
I like it here. Some things are hard about living in a foreign country,
of course: missing your family; not knowing the language well;
You must be lonely in Korea. Do you have a girlfriend?
First of all, sometimes I miss people from other places, like my friends
and family in Canada. But I am never lonely in Korea. There are always
so many people to see, talk to, eat with, and be around. I have made
some great friends here. Never lonely.
As for the question about my girlfriend… right now I honestly don’t know if I do or don’t…
What is your favorite Korean food?
In the summer, my favorite food is Cong Guk Su. In the winter, I like
the Kimchi Wang Mandu Jeongeol served at Ajuma Neng Myeon. I also
crave Be Bim Mandu (Shinpo Woori Mandu’s especially) and Dol Sot Be
Bim Bap from time to time. I like Banya Dol Sot Cap as well, and I
know a really good Bo Shin Tang place in Shindong.
Wait a minute… do you like Bo Shin Tang?
Yes, I do. It’s food that we North Americans like to say "sticks
to your ribs", meaning it is nice and heavy and makes you feel
warm inside. I think it should be available in winter, of course,
but I don’t think complaining about that will make much difference.
Yes, I know that Bo Shin Tang is dog meat. That doesn’t really bother
me. After all, while we like dogs in general, pigs are a hell of a
lot smarter than dogs are and we slaughter them without a second thought.
That’s not to say I am not in favour of humane slaughtering methods.
But I think to complain about how we kill dogs for food, but never
think about how pigs become bacon or sam gyeop sal, is a double standard.
It reflects the way we are all trained to value the pretty, the cute,
much more than other things. So people cry over seals dying in the
Arctic, but say very little about the coral reefs dying all over the
world. Coral reefs recycle oxygen. Without them we are in very big
trouble. We depend on them. I can’t say the same for seals. Our double
standard isn’t just stupid, it’s dangerous.
How old are you?
How old do you think I am?
Okay, that works better in person. I was born on the 4th of March,
1974. You can do the math for yourself.
Where are you from?
The answer to that is complicated, of course. Depending on who is
asking, the answer I give can be "Canada" or "Montreal",
though really I tend to think of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan as my hometown.
Saskatoon is a city with a smaller population than Iksan that is located
in the middle of the southern half of the province Saskatchewan. I
sometimes describe Saskatchewan as the "belly button" of
How do you say that city’s name?
Sas-ka-toon. Saskatoon is in Sas-kat-che-wan. These are Cree names,
I’m not sure what they mean though I seem to recall someone once claiming
it had to do with it being a place that the Cree Indians thought was
good for camping.
You have an earring in your left ear. Are you gay?
I don’t think so. I’ve been crazy about girls since I can remember…
Wearing an earring, or two earrings, or rings in your nose and lips
and tongue and wherever else you want… that stuff doesn’t usually
mean anything, at least not in terms of whether someone is gay or
straight. It can mean something about how one thinks about
image, or appearance and the way we over-value it in Western
socety (and, I think it’s fair to say, perhaps even more so in Korean
society). But usually an earring is not a big "I’m gay"
sign, at least not among Westerners.
Are you married?
What is your favorite sport?
I actually don’t like sports in general. My father was quite an athlete
in his day, a national record-breaker in his home country of Malawi.
However, I wasn’t the one who got those genes. My little sister Annie
(er, sorry, she wants to be called Isabella these days) is
a jock she played soccer for years, and also got into rugby
and kickboxing, last I heard. Most competitive sports just bore me,
though. The only time I haven’t hated watching sports was during the
World Cup in Korea, and most of my interest at that time was in the
crowds watching the games, not the games themselves (as tense and
well-played as they admittedly were).
I do like to swim. I am currently taking swimming lessons and loving
What is your favorite music?
That’s a very difficult question to answer briefly, but I will try.
I rearranged my CD collection the other day and I found the following:
my collection is 37% classical music (mostly Medieval, Renaissance,
and Baroque music; 43% jazz music, some of it very old and a lot of
it very modern and weird-sounding to most people; 6% rock music, most
of it sort of weird or unusual; 5% world music, meaning stuff like
Tuvan throat-singing and Afrobeat and stuff like that; 2% folk music;
and the rest of soundtracks, spoken word, and comedy stuff.
My favorite musicians and composers include: Johannes Ockeghem, John
Coltrane, Miles Davis, JS Bach, Steve Reich, Björk, Thelonious
Monk, Bernart da Ventadour, Tori Amos (curse me for it!), Matthew
Shipp, Steve Coleman and Five Elements, Salif Keita, Bob Marley, Dexter
Gordon, Gavin Bryars, Jah Wobble, Pete Namlook, the Uh Uh Boo Project
Band, Belle & Sebastian, Pharoah Sanders, Hum, Albert Ayler, the
Orb, and Milt Jackson.
I’ve never heard of most of those people and bands. Do you listen
to any Korean music?
Of course I do. I live in Korea.
So then who is your favorite Korean musician?
That’s difficult too. I haven’t had much chance to explore beyond
what I’ve seen live, or been given as gift CDs. Live I have seen and
respected Korean bands like 3rd Line Butterfly, Huckleberry Finn,
Cocore, Irony11, Nastyona, and, as I mentioned above, the wonderful
and unique Uh Uh Boo Project Band. From CDs I have received or borrowed,
I really enjoyed Kim Kwang Seok’s live performances, and the bizarre
PiPi Band, and I also have quite enjoyed traditional Korean music
as well. The kayagum and the haegum are my favorite instruments. I
was given a disc of haegum music for my birthday and I am listening
to it a lot. Lately, I have also discovered the hilarious and entertaining
Hwang Sin Hae Band; you can download samples of them here.
For the longer answer to both of the big questions about music, and
for more information about my musical background and current musical
involvements, please follow this link to the
music section of my site.
Your nose looks bent. Why?
I am very very bad at catching baseballs.
Sometimes when you look at me I can’t tell whether it’s me or
the person next to me. Why?
I have something called lazy eye. When a baby is born, the
brain doesn’t know what to do with the two different pictures of the
world that come from the two different eyes. Most kids’ brains finally
learn to mix the two images and make a single 3D picture. But about
5% of people just don’t, and the brain gets a habit of listening to
one eye more than the other, or even ignoring the other eye. If it’s
caught soon enough a kid can have normal vision, after treatment.
But it wasn’t caught early enough for me. Since it’s a problem related
to development the problem is the connection between the eye
and the brain, not the eye itself, which is perfectly fine
there is no treatment for this condition. I had some surgery on my
left eye to make it look like it was sitting in the right place, but
sometimes when I am tired or stressed out the left eye wanders and
the right eye moves toward the center of my face to compensate for
it. I am actually pretty blind in my left eye, but I do not consider
this a disability although it does make driving difficult.
You lost a lot of weight during your first year in Korea. What’s
Food poisoning. I got sick several times, and that accelerated my
weight loss. I don’t recommend it, though. Also, only eating Korean
food (no junk food, no donkas, no pizza or McDonald’s) helps, and
I rarely eat non-Korean food these days. Swimming is also a wonderful
form of exercise.
You eat Korean food everyday? Can you cook it?
Of course! I live here!
In addition to being pretty good at making several kinds of Indian
curries (including butter chicken, something I have not yet mastered),
some Italian food like pastas and a wonderful vegetarian lasagna (which
I haven’t made in over a year because I don’t have an over and can’t
buy the cheese I’d need anyway), I can cook simple Korean foods like
Sun Dubu Chigae, Kimchi Bokeum Bap, Kimchi Chigae, Ddeok Mandu Guk,
Ddeok Guk, a few side dishes like Passeot and Congnamul, and of course
stuff like Sam Gyeop Sal. I want to learn to make Tuen Jang Chigae
(I’m about to try it when I finish this faq), Cong Guk Su, Neng Myeon,
and Gamja Tang. I wouldn’t mind learning how to make Pechu Kimchi,
Do you have a religion?
No, I don’t. My mother raised me as a Catholic, but I stopped practicing
the religion long ago. I like to think of myself as believing in humanity’s
ability to learn and reason and recognize the importance of compassion
and justice. I think of science as one of the most important ways
that people can learn about the world around them, because it’s a
method subject to criticism and correction. I have faith, it’s just
not in gods or spirits. It’s faith in us as a species, in our ability
to learn and work together.
If you don’t have a religion, that means you can drink alcohol,
First of all, I don’t understand how Christians can ban alcohol. Jesus
turned water into wine. He drank wine at meals when he could
get it. Sure, it wasn’t the kind of wine we have nowadays, it was
probably less strong. But I would bet money that sometimes He had
to take some time and have fun with his friends… the way we share
soju or beer, he would have shared wine. It’s crazy to think otherwise,
and I see nothing in the scriptures that suggests otherwise.
That’s not so say that the binge-drinking I see around me sometimes
in Taehakno (University Street) isn’t a problem. Certainly that kind
of behaviour is not compatible with Christianity drunkenly
wandering the streets in packs of students who are likewise drunk
is just asking for trouble. But banning alcohol doesn’t make sense
in terms of Christianity. Jesus specifically told people to drink
wine when they ate they broke bread together; the first re-enactions
of the last supper weren’t Masses, they were meals with friends eating
and drinking together. The simple act of sharing a meal was a commemoration
of something much bigger than the bread and wine itself. It’s sad
that this beautiful ritual got lost somehow when people took religion
and scripture and did their best to turn it into something it was
never meant to be, a bunch of rules and ways of accusing one another
of sinfulness. Not that all religion is like this… but I have seen
it so very often.
Yes, I can drink alcohol. I don’t drink much these days, though.
Maybe because I am happy? I do enjoy Korean liquors, especially Bok
Bun Ja but also Sul Guk Ju, So Guk Ju, and even soju if it’s with
the right food.
When will you go back to the USA?
First of all, I am CANADIAN! I don’t particularly think
Canada is better than the USA, but we are in some small ways different.
And anyway, how would you feel if I kept saying you are Japanese or
Chinese? It’s basically the same thing for me: I’m not British, Australian,
French, or American. I am Canadian, for whatever that’s worth.
Okay, that said… I don’t know if or when I will go back to Canada.
I really enjoy living outside of Canada, and more specifically I enoy
living here, so I don’t know really. I am tentatively planning to
go next Christmas to visit my family, though that really depends on
my situation at the end of this year. But I honestly can’t imagine
living in Canada again, at this point.
Do you know any other languages besides English?
Yes, I learned to speak French while I lived in Montreal. I studied
it a little as a child, and actually French is my mother’s first language.
(English is my mother’s second language.) But she didn’t teach me
French as a child, so I had to learn it in adulthood. When I left
Quebec for Korea, I could hold a decent conversation in French. Now,
when I try to speak French, a mixture of French and Korean vocabulary
and grammar comes out of my mouth.
Are you studying Korean?
Yes, I am. Slowly, and patiently. I like it. It’s fun.
Why are you studying Korean?
Like I have said so many times already: BECAUSE I LIVE HERE. Also,
because it’s fun and challenging and nothing beats the feeling of
accomplishment when I have a conversation with a Korean in his or
her language. I also believe it makes me a better teacher, not only
because I understand the kinds of mistakes Korean-speakers make when
learning English, but also because it reminds me of how difficult
a task it is to learn a language so different from one’s own. It constantly
spurs me to respecting my students at all levels.
What do you think of Korean women?
Women. They’re all great, Korean or otherwise. To me, Koreanness or Canadianness or
other nationalities are less important than the kind of person one is.
I remember, as a little boy, my mother telling me that there are good people and bad
people in every race. That also applies to cool people and losers, sweet people and jerks.
Just like in Canada, I think many women (and men!) here are boring, and many women (and men) here are really genuine
and honest and good-hearted. It’s just like back home, the main difference being that the nice
and sweet people here are sometimes more sheltered than back in Canada, and in terms of women
the boring ones are usually a lot better looking here. Now, my girlfriend,
she is something else! (That is a way of saying she’s quite unique, and wonderful in many ways.)
I also happen to have a lot of other very intelligent and strong female Korean
I am interested to see how feminism develops in Korea and other Asian countries in the next
generation or so, especially given observations that the advances of feminism in China have been
increasingly lost in the richer classes in China. I’m very curious about all of that.
Who do you prefer to teach, adults or children?
In English, we have an expression about how you can’t compare apples
and oranges, and it applies well to this question. Broadly speaking,
I like kids because they like to fool around and have fun, but I
don’t enjoy having to discipline them. On the other hand, I don’t
like teaching adults who aren’t self-motivated (because unlike with
kids I don’t have recourse to discipline nor can I easily motivate
them with games and candy); but it is among my adult students that
I have learned some very interesting and profound things. Each involves
different challenges and different pleasures.
Can I have your cell phone number?
Probably no. I don’t give that number to many people, because to
be honest, I don’t have a lot of time and I am very busy. Sometimes
I become close friends with students, and in those cases I do give
my number to them. But becoming close friends with me takes time;
it’s not like it will happen in the space of a meal or overnight.
I am so busy that I must be very careful how many people I give
my number to. After all, I have many people asking for it… I deal
with thirty or sixty new people every couple of months, and this
question always comes up. So if you ask me and I am reluctant, don’t
take it personally. I have no fear about giving you my email address,
though, and I love getting email from students. I also am sometimes
willing to hang out when I am not too busy.
Can you edit this English document for me?
Well, that depends. Usually, if it’s short, I don’t mind looking
something over. If you are an attentive and bright student, I am
usually quite happy to do so, though I might need a few days if
it is long and I am busy at the time. If you are someone who hasn’t
come to class in a few weeks, well, I might look but not too closely.
There are a few people among my friends who occasionally ask me
to help them with something like this. They are the same people
I know I can count on to help me when I need help with some Korean-language
document or other linguistic barrier. If you’re unlikely to be willing
to reciprocate when I need help, I wouldn’t make a habit of asking
Can I ask you a question?
By all means, yes. I mean this in general. I don’t mean for this
faq to scare you off asking me questions, I just prefer that they
be questions I’ve never heard before. Please by all means ask me
questions! It’s my job to answer them as best I can… when they
are appropriate, anyway.