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AUGUST 14, 2008
Expat living is a page dedicated
to the issues that affect expats' daily lives. It is your page, where you can share stories about your life in Korea. Send story ideas to Matthew Lamers at firstname.lastname@example.org
PHOTO CHALLENGE — The great outdoors — A Jeju grave site with a volcanic stone fence, from the top of Yongnuni Oreum. In the background the Sonji Oreum is visible, and further behind it is the Nopeun Oreum.
Mario Taradan (flickr.com/photos/helje)
In focus — prime lenses
By David Smeaton
For expats, Olympics evoke patriotism
By Matthew Graveline
I’ve heard a lot of people talking about prime lenses, but I’m not really sure what they are. Are prime lenses better than other kinds of lenses — Mitch, Pusan. There are two types of lens: prime and zoom lenses. Zoom lenses have a minimum and maximum focal distance and you can zoom between those distances. Zoom lenses cover various ranges. 12mm24mm would be considered a wide angle zoom. 70mm-200mm would be considered a telephoto zoom. So the type of zoom is defined by its range. Prime lenses are much simpler. They have a fixed focal length. So there’s no zoom in the lens. The only way to zoom is with your feet! For example, a common focal length is 50mm. While it may seem that primes are far less useful than zooms, both types of lens have their advantages. Many photographers keep a combination of primes and zooms in their camera bag. Thanks to the laws of physics and the wonders of engineering, primes have a few benefits that make them worth using. The first benefit is that prime lenses are often lighter than zooms, because they require less glass and mechanics inside. For the same reason, primes are usually cheaper. However there are two more important reasons to consider using primes. The biggest reason is that prime lenses have wider apertures. Most zooms (the expensive ones) have a maximum aperture of f2.8. However, it’s easy to buy a prime lens with f1.2, f1.4 or f1.8. Actually, the 50mm f1.8 lens is one of the most popular lenses that photographers buy. This lens is very sharp and fast. It works well in low light situations and creates wonderful “bokeh” by exploiting the shallow depth of field that results from using wide apertures. Prime lenses tend to take higher quality photos than zooms. The trade off with zoom lenses is the engineering compromises picture sharpness. Primes are much sharper. Zooms tend to also be less good at bokeh and blurring the out of focus areas. This is also something primes do well. However, these days zoom lenses are almost on par with primes in both bokeh and sharpness. It’s worth using both types of lenses, because they give different benefits. Most photographers use a zoom as their base lens (for walking around) and switch lenses for shooting different purposes. I have one prime lens in my kit, a 50mm f1.8, but I’ve chosen to use zooms because, as a traveler, I need to get more range with fewer lenses. But every photographer should have one fast sub-f2 prime lens in their kit. It’s a great investment and it usually becomes the photographer’s favorite lens. Happy shooting! If you want to be a part of the weekly Photo Challenge, join the “Seoul Photo Club” group at flickr (flickr.com/groups/seoulphotoclub). Send David a message at davidsmeaton @gmail.com or visit his website at davidsmeaton.com. — Ed.
For Korea’s expats, the Olympics offer a way to connect to their home countries. The Games evoke national pride for Korea’s foreign population, even though most are thousands of kilometers from their homelands. Korea has become a country with a respectable foreign population. Expats from America, Canada, Ethiopia, South Africa and Scotland took time to share with The Korea Herald how they will experience the 29th Summer Olympics. Anthony O’Shea is an Irish-American who came to South Korea from Santa Cruz, California. Working as an English teacher at a private academy, he regularly checks the medal standings. O’Shea believes the Olympics embody everything a good sporting event should. “It’s a couple of things: It mixes national pride and sport together, and it only happens every four years. As far as I am concerned, that makes it pretty special,” he said. Watching the Olympics on Korean networks has led O’Shea to search for other ways to watch the American Olympians. But being in Korea, watching the Korean perspective of the Beijing Olympics has exposed him to several sports he would never have seen on American networks. The most different being women’s handball, which is a Korean favorite, as the South Korean team is strong this year. But as an American, O’Shea is looking forward to watching several sports in which his country is competing. “We expect to win every Summer games in basketball,” he said. “We have the biggest
names in the sport.” He also wants to be able to see the Williams sisters play in Olympic tennis and Michael Phelps as he tries for the Olympic record for most gold medals ever. Andy MacDonald is not so lucky. As a Canadian from Collingwood, Ontario who works as an English teacher here, he has less to cheer about. Even as Uzbekistan, Togo and war-torn Georgia have taken the podium, the Canadians have yet to win a medal. But it is the spirit of the Olympics that has MacDonald excited. “Its like Christmas season for sports fans,” he said. “The Summer Olympics aren’t really my thing, but I’ll probably be watching the games, no matter what the event. Take handball, for example. Do I understand it? No. Do I care who wins? No; but I’ll still watch.” All joking aside, MacDonald mentions a couple of Canadian favorites who have a good chance of winning medals. Among them are Adam van Koeverden, the Canadian flag-bearer and Olympic kayaker who won several medals in Greece. Also, the Canadian men’s-eight rowing crew, which has not been defeated this year, is looking to make good on its defeat in Athens, where it came in fifth. Either way, MacDonald said he sees the Canadian team winning at least a couple of medals, as they have one of the largest contingents: 332 athletes. But while Canada promises to bring home some medals simply because of the sheer number of athletes it has entered, the Ethiopian team promised its nation that it
will bring home medals because of its talent in certain events. As Ethiopian Fekadu Metekia explains, the only events worth watching, for him, are the running events. As an expat living in Busan for several years, Metekia said he enjoys the events themselves, but it is the Olympics’ ability to connect him to his compatriots that he enjoys most of all. “I guess it comes naturally. The Olympics connects you with the people back home. They are watching at the same time you are,” he said. With no fellow Ethiopians nearby, Metekia said he actually finds himself hoping his country does better than before because he has unbiased expectations. While O’Shea and MacDonald still check out their home media sources to see how their nations are doing in Beijing, Metekia prefers to check out global news sources to find how Ethiopia is doing. Using Yahoo News, he is able to check out the latest on the famed Ethiopian runner Haile Gebrselassie, the world’s greatest distance runner. But, while Gebrselassie gets a lot of media attention for his decision not to run in the streets of Beijing because of the air pollution, South African fencer Sello Maduna gets only brief mentions. But, as South African expat Cindy Sigamoney explains, the first black South African fencer to ever make it to the Olympics is a big reason why she is watching the Beijing Olympics. “To be truthful, I didn’t really follow the Olympics, but because of this one guy, I am this time,” she said. Another reason she’s interested in the results
of Beijing 2008 more than previous Olympics is that this is the largest South African team competing since Apartheid ended. Just like O’Shea and Metekia, Sigamoney was moved as her nation’s athletes made their way into the stadium during the opening ceremonies. “I definitely miss home more,” she said. But for Scottish expat Barbara Cadwallader, the Beijing Olympics do not really inspire the same homesickness. Having just arrived in Changwon with her husband, who is an engineer, Cadwallader had a different reaction to the beginning of the Beijing Games. When asked about Beijing, she said she felt it was being overshadowed by the controversy with Tibet. She has yet to get her cable set up, so she hasn’t had a chance to watch any of the Games, but once she does, she will be watching the Opening Ceremonies, at least the reruns. “I heard the ceremonies were spectacular,” she said. “I hear China pulled out all the stops.” The other expats also said they were more interested in these Games because of where they live now. Sigamoney admitted that she first became interested in the Beijing Olympics because of China’s controversial position in the world and other political issues which surround these games. “Part of it is the sport, but part of it is China’s coming-out party,” said O’Shea. “I am interested to see how they present the Games. We are so close to them; there is definitely also a big buzz about Beijing here in Korea.” (email@example.com) Eastern affairs. This includes well-intentioned interference, like the creation of the state of Israel, which Muslims saw as little more than the West’s latest crusade. “Jews and the Christian Crusaders, whom Muslims had for centuries treated as two quite distinct enemies, now became merged as one,” Padgen writes. Decisions such as these, coupled with Western support for decadent, secular autocracies like the Shah of Iran stirred new hatred in the Muslim world — an enmity that would one day reach American shores. This book is, as its subtitle suggests, a condensation of 2,500 years of events, and more thorough analysis of each era can be found in other books. There are times when his economy-sized history lessons fall short. His telling of the marathon-inspiring journey of Pheidippides contains decidedly incomplete information, and he states that Mark Antony “fell in love” with Cleopatra, apparently unaware that, etymologically speaking, the concept of “falling in love” did not exist at the time. We ought to assume that Antony’s motives for allying with the Egyptian queen were less romantic. These are forgivable oversights, however, given that Pagden clearly expresses why Western and Middle Eastern powers are better off not trying to force their wills upon one another. It does not appear that our governments are any closer to learning the lesson, but it has been articulated. (firstname.lastname@example.org) *A group to which U.S. President George W. Bush should belong; after all, his bachelor’s degree at Yale University was in history. That makes the past five years even sadder, does it not?
Why the East and West don’t mix
“Worlds at War: The 2,500-Year Struggle Between East and West”
By Anthony Pagden / 626 pages / Random House By Rob York
Those in the West, meaning Europe and later the United States, have always disagreed with those in the Middle East about how people should be governed. Westerners have always been more partial to democratic government and a politics independent of faith. Even before Islam, however, Middle Eastern countries have always supported totalitarian systems intertwined with religion, as shown by UCLA professor Anthony Padgen in his book, “Worlds at War: The 2,500-Year Struggle Between East and West.” It’s hard to imagine a time when the Middle East’s conflicts with the West were not rooted in disputes among Islam, Christianity and Judaism. However, Pagden shows that the conflict is older than these issues, and that the core disagreements in governing style show how efforts by one side to invade and colonize the other have failed, not that this has stopped either from trying. Pagden traces the origins of today’s conflicts, including the Iraq War, back to the conflict between the ancient Greek city-states
and the Persian Empire. The Greeks had deities of their own, but valued their form of democracy, as exclusive and elitist as it might seem by today’s standards. The Persians, however, had no use for representative government. Greeks knew that the Persians, deeply impressed by their Zoroastrian beliefs, would never tell a lie, but that their views led to fatalism. The historian Herodotus once recorded a Persian general say that he would carry out his duty of invading Greece, even though he knew that fierce Greek resistance would lead to the death of himself and most of his men. “What God has ordained, no man can by any means prevent,” this general is supposed to have said. Of course, the West would eventually adopt Christianity, and the Middle East would follow Islam, but their contrasting views regarding the role of religion in the law never changed. In the preface to “Worlds,” Pagden makes his distaste for all religions clear (though he gives credence to the prophet Daniel’s visions regarding the rise of Alexander the Great, oddly enough). In the chapters dealing with the Crusades, his critique of Christianity is more strident because Muslims were more tolerant of the faiths they had conquered. As the book progresses, however, the tide begins to turn in favor of the Christians, almost entirely due to Christ’s command to “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s” in Matthew 22. As Pagden says, this is Christ’s only explicit refer-
ence to politics in the Gospels, and, over time, it has lead to greater separation between the Church and the law. Conservative Muslims, however, follow Shari’a law, which makes any separation of mosque and state unlikely. “The society of Islam is ultimately based not upon human volition or upon contract but upon divine decree,” he writes. “In the societies of the West, by contrast, every aspect of life has been conceived as a question of human choice.” This difference has inevitably resulted in disharmony when one side has stepped into the other’s territory. Among the examples Pagden cites is Napoleon Bonaparte’s ill-fated attempt to colonize Egypt starting in 1798. Napoleon, a self-professed “Orientalist,” understood that defeating the Egyptians militarily was only the first step, so he attempted to win them over by practicing religious tolerance and telling them of his defeat of their old enemy, the Vatican in Rome. However, Napoleon’s words only convinced the Muslims that the French were indifferent to faith and had overthrown the Pope to install godlessness. “Just as most Muslims today have failed to be persuaded that Western social values can be made compatible with the Shari’a, so, too, were the Egyptians who confronted Napoleon,” Pagden writes. Historians* reading his book will see many examples of how the tragedies of today are the result of Western interference in Middle
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