Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
I've seen some Tim Burton movies, so I know they're quite distinctively macabre. I'm not a huge fan of all of them, however ones such as 'the nightmare before Christmas' and 'Sleepy hollow' resonate with me for personal reasons.
Previously, I had no idea that he was involved with one of my favourite Disney films ever! The fox and the hound.
It wasn't actually the blockbuster film memorabilia that really captured my attention, it was more his deliciously dark humorous sketches and absurd poetry.
Monday, December 17, 2012
I've realised that whilst I'm struggling to understand what my American friends are saying, they're also finding it difficult to follow me. I think this may have taken slightly longer to dawn on me, because people sometimes find me difficult to follow regardless of their first language. Whilst chatting to News beat and Lady PP, they admitted they've been wanting to ask me to explain a few things I've said. Such as:
- PMSL - Seemingly a Brit acronym (who knew?!), which means p*ssing myself laughing. News beat commented that Brits seem to use p*ss in a much less angry or literal manner than Americans.
- Tea-time - Same as dinner time, just more informal.
- Chav - This was obviously a delight to explain. I directed them to Jeremy Kyle, Little Britain's Vicky Pollard, and told them to watch some of Shameless. That should give them an idea, right?
Saturday, December 15, 2012
I arranged a small group walking tour through Visit Seoul's website. This was fairly easy to do as they have an on-line booking system. There are other free walking tours available from other guides/websites, but this was the only one I found which offered tours on Sundays.
Our guide was an older retired Korean gentleman, he was extremely patient (ladies were late, but not me for once), kind and informative. He took us around Bukchon Hanok Village, this is an old traditional part of Seoul.
He showed us various Korean houses and explained how they are minimally designed to provide a balanced feel of nature inside. He told us about the secret, not so secret, secret palace gardens, the mountains, pagodas, the stories and conspiracies surrounding the suicide of the Hyundai companies chairman, and he showed us where the President resides.
Bukchon Hanok Village was bustling with tourists even on a Sunday. It was a quaint traditional little area of Seoul, although you could see the modern expanse of the city rising up in the backdrop. This was a very pleasant afternoon stroll. There are 16 other walking tours offered on Visit Seoul's website, so we plan to organise another one in the near future.
Saturday, December 8, 2012
Santacon is an annual worldwide event that I'd never heard of before. It basically involves dressing like Santa/festively, and singing Christmas carols merrily. My friends and I discovered there was one happening in Seoul, we'd purchased our chon won Santa hats from Daiso, and we were ready to join the festivities.
I haven't quite adopted the Korean 'hurry hurry' mindset. My friends now like to affiliate my lateness with the 'Cheongnyangni black hole'. This is partly true, Cheongnyangni station is one stop before mine, and it's the last station for inner Seoul. This means that the Subway doesn't run as late at night to my home. It also means Cheongnyangni can sometimes randomly (ok there might be an announcement in Korean) be the last stop on the line, so everyone has to suddenly disembark. Then, I have to wait a while to get another train to Hoegi.
Due to the 'Cheongnyangni black hole' and my usual dithering, I was running late to meet my friends at Sinchon. The Santacon revellers had already been drinking in that area for a couple of hours, they were due to gather on the platform from 8pm, and then take the subway to Hongdae at 8.30pm. Korea has free wifi on the subways. So I was Kakao-ing my friends to give them an eta, and tell them the corresponding platform number for my carriage, so we could meet as I arrived. There was a moment when we thought I might miss them, but thankfully I managed to time it superbly. As I arrived at Sinchon, my friends and all the Santacon revellers excitedly and purposefully boarded the train. The best part about the whole experience was watching the bemused reactions from Koreans, some of whom used their smartphones to capture pictures and videos. I also tried to quickly capture a few moments...
Following Ted's grumpy assertion that he wasn't drunk enough for carols, I reached into my bag to rescue my 'inspiration'. Ted exclaimed 'that looks suspiciously like you're about to drink a bottle of p*ss'.
I laughed and assured him that it was White wine I'd decanted into a water bottle. I explained I'd bought it to help numb the sense of cold. Sure enough, we were all soon swigging from my bottle, and singing some carols with the other Santa's.
Sunday, December 2, 2012
Thursday, November 29, 2012
I agreed, because I found it as hilarious as the other kids did. Following his name change, he was ever so keen to participate and answer questions in class, just so I would keep saying it.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Confused I thought to myself I'm your teacher, I can't be an entertainer all the time, I'm meant to be trying to help you learn some English. Then, I told myself to chill out.
I've now come to the conclusion that it's actually quite a good rhetorical question.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Cautiously, I only took one. Lets see if they do the trick...
Other medication that I have, is for headaches and various other aches and pains I believe.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Teacher Shannon told me that Korean's actually count days and celebrate numerous anniversaries, with 100 and 300 being particularly poignant. 'How do they keep track?' I asked.
She said 'oh, there's an app for that'.
Der, obviously, silly me!
So next week for our 100 day anniversary, we (some fellow SMOE teachers and I) should hopefully be going to celebrate this very Korean, and important relationship anniversary. Perhaps we'll even buy some matching clothing! Joking aside, it feels quite symbolic in that I'm finally starting to feel like I'm making some good friends.
A lot could change in the coming months, but I've gone from contemplating coming home for Christmas to seriously considering renewing my contract for another year. Bearing in mind that I am thinking about this despite the challenging students, and sub-zero teaching conditions (it's minus degrees now, and my school still haven't turned on the heating). There are definitely some negatives to living in Korea, but there are also many positives. I keep meaning to write about some of the wonderful, touching and entertaining experiences I've had with some of my students, but I think I'll save those thoughts for a future post...
Friday, November 16, 2012
Sunday, November 11, 2012
Friday, November 9, 2012
Later, I had the realisation I'm probably feeling a little friendsick. You see now I'm far away and on my own, those connections are important to me, from them I derive some of my sense of belonging, identity and worth. For the first few months, I've been busy settling into my new life, but I haven't forgotten about my friends and family. Particularly with the readily available access to Facebook, which amongst other somewhat irritating things does allow me to keep in touch with people I care about. However, there’s quite a difference between a 'Like' and a Skype call. So, recently I've made more of an effort to Skype and message people. I've also been buying little gifty things to post to them, which has helped me feel a little happier, and more connected to those I love.
Hopkin's astute analogy made me laugh this week. When I mentioned how I've been feeling, he said 'it's natural, like breaking up with somebody, I'm sure you'll get over it'. So although I was the instigator, I'm still experiencing some feelings of loss and separation.
This evening, another teacher messaged me to say that she was now feeling similar, and she sought assurance that these feelings would pass. Being a confident and advisor is a familiar role to me, and it felt nice being able to oblige and assist.
So tonight, I am having a restful night in with my old friend LD, and my new friend makkoli :)
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
I'd heard that a no-fly zone is enforced, so I asked my COTs about this. They said 'oh yes, during the listening test'. They also proceeded to tell me that the exam lasts all day, and if students fail they can't re-take their exam until next year. I explained this is similar in England, so they continued to tell me that apparently Americans can re-take their SATs several times.
I asked them what the high school students will do afterwards, they told me they will probably go out drinking and celebrating, although the legal age limit in Korea is nineteen.
(It's oh so quiet, it's oh so still, you're all alone and peaceful until....).
I explained A-level students like to let their hair down after their exams as well. However some students will be of legal drinking age because this is 18 in the UK.
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
As mentioned previously, it is pretty, pretty cold here now. Yet still no sign of the windows being shut, or the heating being switched on at school. My co-teachers and most of my kids wear their coats inside. Due to the constant drafts, (and corridor gale tunnels), it's colder in the building than out. Honestly, I've actually seen people remove layers when they leave. Today, they actually asked me to turn off my computer so there was more electric to power the heater. Excuse me, but how does that work exactly? Then when it got warm, they opened the window, huh? So, tonight I went shopping. I bought some gloves and a scarf. Combat cold has commenced! All the smart blouses, dresses that I bought with me are about to get drowned in fleece, and woollen layers. Not quite what I envisaged pre-korea...
You see the different coloured tips on the glove fingers, only touch screen friendly aren't they, how cool is that? Perhaps these have been around for a while, I just never knew before. I figured taking a picture whilst wearing them was a good test of their effectiveness, haha!
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Monday, October 29, 2012
'I got my bangs out at School today and the kids went crazy'.
Do you understand all of those? I didn't, and I'm sure they'll be more to come....
Saturday, October 27, 2012
Koreans like to work hard and drink hard, so getting schwasted is rather common. I wonder whether I will still see people like this when the sub-zero temperatures hit.
Friday, October 19, 2012
|'Elephants always remember a good book' Steve McCurry|
Thursday, October 18, 2012
I had suspected they'd take it very seriously (Shannon kept warning me they would) and boy, oh boy did they! When I told them that I haven't really played since school they called me a beginner, and rightly so. In the end, I lost track of the number of times the shuttlecock came to blows with my body rather than my racket (my left ear lobe took a particularly searing swipe) .
At first there was just Penny, Edward (not their real names) and me. Penny has been trying to coax me to join badminton for weeks, she was super excited and over-friendly with me when I said I would join. High 5's in the corridor, Korean drinks and treats, etc. Anyway her enthusiasm had waned, because one month into teaching I still hadn't attended. Did I mention that it took me 5 hours to buy a pair of trainers in Myeongdong the other weekend. Ok, so I'm picky and indecisive at the best of times, but shoe shopping in Korea, well that's another blog of it's own...
Penny made me warm up stretch Korean style (see previous blog). She told me that stretching is important, I agreed with her and mentioned the recurring problems I have with my Achilles tendons. She looked concerned, and then she told me that she has metal pins in her back due to a car accident. She lifted her top to show me a huge support band around her waist. She said she probably shouldn't play, but she's crazy about badminton!
So initially Penny told me to warm up with Edward. He's only 8 years old and his English is pretty limited, like my Korean. Still, we were pretty fairly matched, he is clearly good for his age, although I think I managed to beat him a couple of times. Some of the other students noticed me playing and immediately wanted to join us, so Edward and me teamed up for doubles. We won. So far, so good right. Then, Penny started to play with me, we weren't playing a game, more having a knock about, or so I thought until I realised she'd been watching me play with Edward to identify my weaknesses. She made me work on them, I joked about it, but I was still enjoying playing (she even complimented some of my shots), so I made an effort to reach, jump and run to make the returns like a good sport.
After an hour or so, three more teachers came to join us. At this point, I was warmed up and mildly sweaty. They suggested doubles and paired me with the strongest player (a male teacher and badminton tutor), because I'm a beginner. This was when the pace changed dramatically, when the game commenced we bowed to our opponents, and then I was encouraged to cross racquets with my doubles partner and say 'fighting' in English. I assume as in 'fighting spirit'.
The next hour of playing, things got a little blurry due to the speed and pace of the game. I listened to their guidance and tried my best, but my body wouldn't move quick enough. Plus the more tired I got, the slower and clumsier I became....
There are no shower facilities at school, so I had to walk home in my sports gear. By the time I got home, I felt weak and my arm was really beginning to ache. It felt like I had slept on it funny, I even had pins and needles in my fingers. I almost had lift it with my left arm to get it to move, so showering was more tricky than usual. Although my arm ached, I was tired enough to be able to fall asleep, so I went to bed early.
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Sunday, October 7, 2012
Saturday, October 6, 2012
Saturday, September 29, 2012
Thursday, September 27, 2012
Saturday, September 22, 2012
So this popped into my head....
'Are you sure?' I asked him.
'Yes' he said.
'You know that's a girls name, right?'
'Yes' he said.
'You are sure you want to be called Beyonce?'
'Well, ok'. I said. Genius!
Friday, September 21, 2012
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Saturday, September 15, 2012
Friday, September 14, 2012
Something had to be done, Korean coffee is not for tasting too often (it comes in ready-made sachets with dried milk and sugar). I was seriously lacking caffeine. I made a trip to e-mart and purchased a slightly expensive jar of instant coffee. I was apprehensive because the jar looks somewhat similar to 'dishwater' type coffee granules. I was extremely disheartened to discover that with one tea spoonful it tastes like it too. I've rectified the problem somewhat by using table-spooned sized portions, and adding semi-skimmed milk. Ahhh, coffee! :)
I also find the notion of being open and candid slightly strange. Don't get me wrong, I'll happily share humorous anecdotes from my life with loved ones, but the idea of posting on the net evokes some feelings of self-consciousness and anxiety. I know everyone is generally an expert on themselves, so it should be easy. But I don't tend to share lots of details, I like to hold a little back and retain an air of mystery. Plus, I tend to get a little lost in my own dreamy thoughts and simply forget to mention things...
For those who know me, deciding which blog has naturally taken me a while. And, I still need a little time to properly acquaint myself with the features and settings. Since I'm already a couple of weeks into my current adventure, I will need to blog a little retrospectively. Well, at least I've finally started, so I'll try to gather my thoughts and add more soon....
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Oh, American English, I had to force myself to maintain a straight face. How old am I?
Sunday, September 9, 2012
Aramis gave me several tips, these are a couple I remember:
- Yogi-oh = 여기오 which means 'hey, over here'. It can be used in restaurants (although there is usually a yogi-oh button on the table), taxi's, etc.
- Be prepared to barge your way off the buses and subway without apologising. Aramis told me that I would increasingly find myself doing this. I've had to push a little sometimes, but generally I'm managing to duck and weave my way past people whilst saying shil-le-ha-ge-ssŭm-ni-da. 실례하겠습니다 which means excuse me.
Thursday, September 6, 2012
Today, whilst I was checking students had turned to the correct page. I casually pointed to one student's book and said 'page 112'. He turned to look at me. Only then did I notice that he had a large unused syringe with the needle in his hand. He lifted it towards me and made a swiping gesture at my arm. I was slightly stunned, but I opted to calmly repeat 'page 112'. Since the syringe failed to prevoke a reaction, he delved into his pencil case and pulled out his Stanley knife (Koreans regularly use these to sharpen their pencils, what's wrong with a pencil sharpener I don't know). He made a cutting gesture in the air, and said something in Korean. From his manner and his tone, I figure it was something threatening like 'I'm going to cut you'. I was not impressed, this twelve year old kid was actually trying to intimidate me. I opted to continue to appear unperturbed and calmly repeated 'page 112'. He muttered something else under his breath, before huffily turning to the page. I said 'thank you' and then swiftly moved away.
Later over dinner, I regaled this tale to some fellow teachers, they asked why I hadn't scolded him or sought assistance from my co-teacher. I told them I'd also been thinking about whether I'd handled the situation appropriately. I explained that I my co-teacher was dealing with two other boys who were fighting across the room. I said I'd been told this student has some (unassessed) behavioural problems, and I felt like he was trying to intimidate me. So, I opted to go with my gut instinct of trying to calmly placate the situation rather than freaking out. I'm still not sure it was the best approach, however I assured them that I'd spoke to my co-teacher about it afterwards. Shortly after this conversation, what song should start to begin playing?
Monday, September 3, 2012
My landlady is also worried about me living on my own (ah). She told me that I must lock the utilty room door from the inside to stop people getting in. Err, I'm on the 4th floor, so unless Spiderman has moved from Manhattan I'd be extremely surprised to find someone had climbed up the sheer wall below my window. Besides there are numerous CCTV signs in the streets in my area. Considering that Seoul has a relatively low crime rate, it seems the Korean's fear of crime is even greater than at home.