Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Banish those winter blues!

I wouldn't say I'm suffering from festive blues, obviously I'd like to be at home with my family, but I'm fairly fine with not being as well. What I am suffering from, is winter blues, it's positively freezing! It's recently been between minus 12 - 17. I don't want to go out unless I absolutely have to, my feet and toes are constantly chilled, even my hair freezes, and the cold steals my breath away. So to help me overcome this serious bout of winter blues, 2013 will now look something similar to this....

manila 550x355 Manila, Philippines 
Manila, Philippines
Boracay Beach White Sand
Boracay Island, Philippines
Kawasan falls, Cebu Island
Palawan Island, Philippines

Merry Christmas, and happy birthday to me!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Moviethon time

I feel like I should apologise for my ongoing weather updates, but being British talking about the weather is meant to be second nature. For example, I'm currently aware that England is quite sodden, because my mum kindly informs, and updates me during our Skype conversations. 
I knew Korea would be cold, but minus 17! I've never experienced minus 17 in my life! And nor have some Koreans, because it's apparently the coldest winter for 56 years. 

To quote my friend News beat "it's as cold as witches t*ts out there. I disapprove."

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Four months since touch down.

I'm afraid I need to do a little back blogging again. Fortunately unlike some of my friends, I don't have any grand desire to be a writer in the future. My blog is simply a record of my personal thoughts and experiences. Some of my friends blogs are more informative, frequent and entertaining. You can find links to  them and others on my page, if you are interested in Korea, I do recommend you read them. 

I'm coming to realise that everyone's experiences and opinions vary greatly. With the EPIK program you really don't know what your situation will be like until you are here, it is a complete lottery (and it can change). I don't have the best of everything, but I know others have some things more difficult than me. I feel quite fortunate, in that my situation and experiences are generally somewhere nicely in the middle, with a few ups and downs now and again.  

Tomorrow is the last day of School for two whole weeks. Hopefully I will find some time to play blog catch up. Generally my School keeps me pretty busy, so by the weekend I'm pretty tired. Consequently, Korean classes are also on the back burner. They help(ed) me forge a good circle of friends, but come the weekend I find I'm presently lacking energy and concentrations levels. I've now reasoned that it took quite a lot of energy and effort to get here, so I figure I deserve some time to relax and reflect. 

Today, I went to research purchasing materials for my winter camp craft activities. I know, doesn't that sound interesting. In January, I have to teach three weeks of winter camp (morning lessons only). No textbook, I've practically had carte blanche on what to teach. This means more work, but it's great because rather than just teach set textbook phrases and expressions. I can be creative, try to improve their fluency, and have some fun. My co-teachers (COTs) asked about my craft abilities, I explained that I have some recent experience from being a youth worker, and summer school. I told them I've found when I demonstrate how bad my efforts are, it helps raise students confidence because they can probably do better than me, and often want to show me so. Earlier this evening, I went to Homeplus (I love homeplus for the Tesco brands I can get there) to buy my COTs some little Christmas gifts (Quality street chocolates nonetheless). Anyway, I think they might be slightly more concerned about my craft abilities when they see my patchwork attempted wrapping! I played 'pass the present' with my after school kids a week or so ago, and I used the left over scraps of paper I had from that. Whilst wrapping my COTs gifts, I noticed the paper wasn't quite the shiny red Christmas themed paper I thought I'd bought... 
Embarrassingly hilarious! Thankfully my kids didn't seem to notice, they were more interested in chastising me for wasting paper, and sharing the gifts amongst themselves, so that everyone got a little something or other. Note to self: must read the small print more closely, especially when it's in English.

Korea has been looking pretty festive since October, there were Christmas decorations on display at the same time as Halloween. This actually helped me be organised enough to send Christmas cards in plenty of time. Most have received theirs now, which means I can post this picture to illustrate how in true Korean style Christmas cards are super cute here!

I thought I would spend Christmas exploring more of Seoul, but it's too cold for too much of that. Seriously, I have never been so cold in my life, it takes a certain level of energy/mind over matter/intoxication to brave venturing outside. Plus, there's plenty of time in the coming months. It also means I can carry on planning my winter camp lessons, so they should be really, really good! You can tell I'm enjoying my job, when I want to do work over the holidays.   

Besides, my Christmas presently looks a little like this...
Ah, bless me. However, I'm actually feeling a little Christmas fatigued. I've been teaching Christmas related lessons for the majority of December, we've had snow already, and I participated in Santacon a couple of weeks ago, roll on New year! I feel the best way to not feel too melancholy about the turkey, stuffing, pigs in blankets, cranberry sauce, roast spuds (potatoes), roast parsnips, sprouts, presents, and family games I'll be missing, is to not think about it too much. Obviously, this means that this present will be be opened before Christmas day. I've opened two parcels already anyway. Big thanks to my Mum, and my brother's family for your gifts. I've been wearing them xxx

This weekend, I hope to finally start planning my holiday for 'spring break', followed by more carols at a Norebang. Can you believe this Christmas classic is not that well known by my American friends?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I've always liked strange characters, too.

Red days on the School Calendar represent various national holidays, today's was for the national election. Shannon told me a little bit about it beforehand, but I mostly just listened and nodded. I'm not an avidly interested in politics, and I'm generally cautious about discussing with others. Hopkins is the only person I know, who somehow makes discussing politics enjoyable.

Anyway, I used my day off School to visit the Tim Burton exhibition at Seoul Museum of Modern art. I went with my friend Maryland cookie, yes she's hasn't dropped off the edge of the planet. She just doesn't use Facebook, she tweets. I don't get it either.

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.

I wish I could find some better examples. 
Unfortunately, I couldn't take pictures inside the exhibition. So, I guess you'll have to go and see them to fully appreciate. I doubt you'll be disappointed.

Monday, December 17, 2012

'Not a Scooby'

Last week, one of the key expressions I needed to teach my kids was 'I have no idea'. Whilst lesson planning and chatting to my COT, I told her that I'd probably say 'not a Scooby', which pretty much means the same thing. My COT then asked me if this is a widely known expression. I replied, "yeah, everyone knows what it means". Then, I broke it down for her. I explained that it's short for Scooby-doo, because he's a bit dim, and it rhymes with clue. My COT really liked it, she told me to teach this expression to the kids. So all week, I duly taught them 'I haven't got a Scooby'. However, when I mentioned this expression to my American friends, it turned out they really didn't have a 'Scooby'. Not as widely known as I thought then, oops! Consequently, my current mission is to raise awareness, and frequency of usage within AmE (American English). My American friends seem to love it when Brits use certain expressions, so I'm hoping it won't be too difficult to get this one to catch on...

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.
During our conversation about language differences, News beat sent me this link about British problems which I found mildly amusing. News beat also told Lady PP to read it in my voice in her head, she said "it makes it funnier". Oh really, mmm?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Bukchon Hanok Village walking tour

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


I was running late as usual, dithering, drinking, white wine, and dreading the prospect of wandering around outside in minus 12 conditions. When I suddenly had a spark of inspiration, but I'll get to that later.

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

Snow is falling...

Or it will be soon. It's regularly minus degrees here now, but I still haven't seen any frost in the mornings. At these temperatures in the UK, I'm sure I'd be having to de-ice my car everyday. It's a different kind of cold I guess...