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Wednesday, December 31st 2008

5:14 PM


  • Mood:
  • Music: Shameless - The Human League
It's been a year since I spent the new year with some of you guys at That'll do's parents place in Gisborne. Warm sun. Grape vines. The beach. A slap up feed (I cooked the pancakes). This year has been nothing like that.
I have to say, Christmas and New Year are not a big deal here for the Koreans.

I worked Christmas eve and after work a fellow teacher took me to Aiinsworld. An amazing world of miniatures!
I spent Christmas Eve evening with some other native English teachers at a native English speakers bar called Rythm And Booze. We drank, played darts and did a bit of silly dancing (well, mine was silly). It was choice! I got home at 6.30 a.m. and spent Christmas day with one of my better hangovers.

Boxing day I went to Lotte World with two Korean university students. I've mentioned Lotte before in my Pepero day post. Well, Lotte has an amusement park in a big mall. This was good because it was f-f-f-freezing outside.

One the 27th of December the 5th grade teachers and I went to Coex. Coex is in Seoul and from what I could tell it's a mall/conference complex/ movie theatre. We had lunch and went to a massive doll exhibition which included people in amazing cosplay outfits.

On the 28th I caught the KTX with my friend to his place in Asan. It took 20 minutes when usually by train it'd take a coupla hours. My friend mentioned, and I have to agree, traveling on KTX is slightly disappointing. It doesn't feel  like you are traveling at 300 kmph. The ride is incredibly smooth. I came back to Bucheon the next day after spending the day seeing the sights of Asan which included the most amazing village with traditional buildings. People actually live there it's fantastic!

I saw the new year in in a sports bar in Bucheon with some of my native English teacher friends again. It ended with two of us going out on top of the apartment building and looking down over the city. There were even a coupla stars visible!  It was -10 so we weren't out there all that long.
But as I promised That'll do - this post is about food.

In the background is walnut and squid ink bread. In the foreground - Marmite and cheese sammies. Thanks Scurvy Mands for the Marmite!

Col-pop. Cola underneath. Popcorn chicken on top.

We had an end of year staff dinner at a restaurant. This dish is duck.

This dog is definitely not still alive. You may laugh...

So cute, none of us could bare to cut it.

On the last day there was no lunch provided by the school, so the fifth grade teachers ordered in. Everyone delivers here. Even McD's. When you are done eating you pile up all the plates, burner etc. and pop it outside the door and they come and collect it. Most meals are D.I.Y. It takes a bit of getting used to.

We followed our meal with some Strawberries. Who says they are a summer thing?

This is for Slag. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Yum yum pigs bum.
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Sunday, December 14th 2008

6:21 PM

Happy now?

  • Mood:
  • Music: Chemtrails - Beck
I received a bit of criticism from a few people for the wordiness of my blog posts, so...

There have been heaps of chemtrails lately (view out my window).

Korean magpies are pretty, they have a bit of blue on. They are also quite raucous.

Spot the plane. Perhaps it's leaving chemtrails (view out my window). Yes. Those are apartments.

My brother and I used to love this sheeyit when we were kids! It's still da sheeyit!!

You will obey the cup. Enjoy coffee Time... Enjoy it!

Where's smurf? He's going to catch smurf certainly. I don't remember that one. Only Poppa Smurf and Smurfette.

One morning I woke up to snow (view out my window).

They'll put any old English on a pencil case...

...or toilet roll holder. BTW, this wasn't in the toilet! I don't take my camera into the toilet with me. Okay.

I dunno WTF either. That scene from Alien 4 springs to mind... I just discovered this room at school the other day. Was too scared to peek inside.

I walked to Bucheon city today, it was a spectacular day. This is some of what I saw...

(Koreans say shitty hall. Hee hee)

I wonder if Barber Church cuts hair on Sunday...? Perhaps they only cut hair on Sunday...? <Shrugs>
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Sunday, November 23rd 2008

2:24 AM

Seoul. Social. Snow. Subway.

  • Mood: Shivery
  • Music: Superbug - Sneaker Pimps (from the album Splinter)
Remember me mentioning in an earlier post about not really being cold in Korea? Well that all changed this week. All of a sudden we were in the minuses (-8 one morning). On Tuesday I got so cold on the way home from school I couldn't think straight. I had planned on buying some bread as I passed the store but the next thing I knew I was waiting for the lift in my apartment building. My nose and cheeks stinging. One hand deep in my pocket. The other hand which was holding the dinky carton of milk I had carried home from school could have snapped off it was so frozen. I have never felt so cold in my life.
Then on Wednesday it snowed. The first time I had seen snow fall. Snow is magic. I couldn't help but notice when it snows, even adults who have seen it fall many times before can gather at the windows and be transfixed by it. Myself - I had to resist the urge to rush outside sticking my tongue out or screaming with glee like all the children were doing. By hometime the snow had melted and everything was just wet. It was still freakin' cold though.
I am starting to get quite frustrated with the language barrier. It is too damn hard to be understood by or understand anyone.
A good example of this happened this week. I was approached by my co-teacher about mid-week and informed that I had to write something for the school newspaper by Friday. "Cool." I said "What do I write?" "Oh just an introduction and a resolution."
Huh? I thought of a new years resolution and asked if by resolution she meant stating what I hoped to achieve while I was there. Oh, no! No, that's apparently not what she meant. No. After about ten minutes of dictionary rummaging we both gave up on trying to translate what she did actually mean. "Ah, I'll just write ... something." I said. "How many words long should it be?" More confusion over that one. It turns out I needed to write about "this" much. Not really a help to me at all.
So anyways, I ended up writing a pretty standard introduction stating my name, where I am from, what I had done when I lived in New Zealand and what I was gonna be doing in Korea. I also mentioned some of the differences - our lack of snow, the side of the road we drive on and the fact that Christmas falls in Summer. Y'know the kind of things the kids might find cool... Well it turns out the newspaper is for the parents. Or so I find out after I've handed it in. Ah poos. Maybe Mum 'n' Dad'll find the fact I like riding my BMX interesting too...?
Whatever my co-workers lack in being able to understand English, they more than make up for it in making me feel welcome. They have taken me to the movies and out to dinner. They have given me so much delicious food (my fridge now smells like kimchi). I have been given books to help me with my Korean. We have been out drinking. I have been introduced to some of their families. We have shared plenty of laughs regardless of the language barrier. My poor co-teacher. She has had it pretty rough since I arrived. Korean teachers are worked very hard - apparently English teachers especially so. She now has the added pressure of helping me with my alien registration etc. I could never repay her. I have been spoiled.
I met some other Native English Teachers this week. Three of them, all from Canada, all very nice. I also met up with my two Korean friends (finally) on Wednesday night. It ended up being a very social week which was great.
On Saturday one of my Korean friends took me into Seoul and I saw a tiny bit of it. We went to Yongsan which means Dragon Mountain. Not one bloody dragon, there were heaps of cheap electronics though. I also was taken to Insa-dong which was really cultural. Later, just after my friend had left my place there was a knock at the door. It was my new Canadian friend from the same building as me inviting me out to dinner with her other Native English Teacher friends. So I got to hang out with English speakers all day. Although I still had to talk slower and clearer than I would back home. The kiwi accent is a bit too much for most of the world to understand it would seem.
Heehee. The other day I read a sentence to a class. It said - "See you then." My co-teacher asked the kids the meaning of "then". They answered and the teacher laughed. She had to correct them. They had given her the meaning of "thin". It turns out they can't tell if I'm saying "thin", "then" or "than". Ooookaaaaay...

Eeeeeeee! It's snowing! Eeeeeeeeeeeee!

This is a beautiful painting by the Vice Principal of my school. Bad photo though. Sorry.

The ribbon never stood a chance :(

Seoul. Nice.

Seoul. Not so nice (No I never tried it). Yeeeark!

No dragons, but I found a lost relly. He's got my nose. And teeth. And eyebrows... And complexion.

I might wear a flower in my hair too. If I had a bum for a head.

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Saturday, November 15th 2008

5:21 AM

Won Down. 51 To Go.

  • Mood:
  • Music: Planisphere - Justice
I will begin with a lesson in Hangeul because that's what it has (unexpectedly) all had to be about this week. Fun.
Back to this one...

The Hangeul above the line "I think the dog is still alive" is telling someone Korean how to "pronounce" the line. It roughly says Aa-ee theeng-kih duh duh-gih ee-jih suh-teel uhl-lah-ee-bih. This is called "Konglish". Most stuff I read in Hangeul is Korean language (duh!) but sometimes when I realise what I am reading is actually English (kinda) I have found it strangely exciting. Especially so when I received my computer for my classroom on Friday and was informed that it would have the Korean version of Windows on it. Also a couple of the programs I need to use are the Korean versions... as if it all wasn't hard enough...! It turns out Local Disc reads something like Lo-kihl Dih-sih-kih. And message = Meh-see-jee. I may just about be able to do it.

It's not all terrifying though. The kids are just nuts about "Eon Teacher". I recommend a trip to a Korean Elementary school for anyone who is suffering from low self esteem. As long as David Beckham doesn't turn up while you are there - you will be godlike. I am just going to enjoy it while it lasts (they will get over me) because the kids are great and it's a blast when it's not really embarrassing. I get called "handsome" or "very handsome" several times a day (strangely only ever once by a girl). Sometimes girls may scream "I love you!" at me as I'm getting in the lift or passing a classroom. I will never go hungry. They are always putting food in my hands. For a few days it was Pepero Day chocolate. Lately - mandarins and lollies.
One of the school's star soccer players got seemingly the best present of his life from me when I remembered his name (to be honest he had told me several times just seconds before and then had written it on the board). He threw his arms around me.
I don't mind admitting that I find it extremely difficult to remember the kid's names. Noooo! It's not because they look the same or anything so racist. It may be because I'm stupid. But a lot of them DO have similar names (Kim, Lee and Park spring to mind) and they are often very hard to pronounce. At first I could only manage to remember people's English names if they gave them to me. I have been bombarded with names (and other new information/experiences) this week, but kids aren't going to understand that I guess.

I have had to introduce myself to each class this week (a total of twelve), followed by a chance for the kids to ask me questions. Pretty much invariably at question time the order has been:-

(1) How old are you? (Whuh?! I still don't get why they ask this one, and first every time)
(2) Are you married? (naturally followed by...)
(3) Do you have girlfriend?
(4) Do you like soccer/basketball/baseball? (I say yes. It's easiest)
(5) What is your favourite food? (I am told by an eleven year old girl that Korean ramen is much better than Japanese)

Other questions, my favourites:-
Do you like children? (Hmmm. Yes. But I can't eat a whole one.)
Are you strong?
Do you have abs? (apparently they are blinded by my white skin and hair...)
Do you have celphone? What's your number? (kid whips out mobile - when I say no - kid proceeds to try take my photo with it)
And they do actually ask if I like kimchi. Koreans seem very proud of it. They love the fact that I do like it.

It's not just the kids. The Vice Principal has taken a shine to me as well. He can't wait to get on the piss with me. And I am having dinner with his family tomorrow night. I am really looking forward to it.

This is the "Life Tree" at Sopoooong Mall. I think it's a trick. Neither the tree, nor any of the birds are alive. Unlike the dog. It just might still be...

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Tuesday, November 11th 2008

12:17 AM

Eleven on the Eleventh

  • Mood: Better.
  • Music: Far Away - Cut Copy
I ended up going for my medical and physical exam today. I was supposed to go yesterday, but no-one told me I couldn't eat from 9pm the day before. I did. Therefore - I ended up having to go today. Anyway, it would seem nothing could go smoothly for me at this physical so inevitably hilarity ensued. It was both horrifying and humiliating. I will save you the gory details. But the punchline is ... today I carried around a jar of wee in my pocket. For the whole day. It's okay because it was mine.
And at least it didn't leak.
Today, 11/11, was Pepero. I hadn't heard of it. And neither have you I'm sure. Basically the big corporate chocolate company here in Korea made up another Valentines type day where you give chocolate to your loved ones. The kids love it. I do too because of this!

From the moment I arrived at school this morning I had little chiddles shoving chocolate into my arms shouting "Pepero, Pepero!" I couldn't eat it of course because I had my physical, but I hoed in after BECAUSE I EARNED IT!!!!! I'm saving these others for later.

Instead of the ultra-embarrassing story of my medical exam here's eleven fun facts/observations I have learned/made in Korea so far. Enjoy!

(1) In Korea they drive on the right hand side of the road. I remember when I was a kid and I went to the States, after two months I still wasn't used to it. I would look out the windscreen and gasp or clutch the seat. Strangely I am at peace with it here (although there is NO WAY I would drive!). I put it down to GTA. I think it really has made me used to being on the right. What this does mean, on top of a lot of things I really have to concentrate when crossing the street.

(2) There is very, very little written in the Roman alphabet. Everything is written in Hangeul(Korean alphabet). The road signs have a bit, but not always. I hadn't thought of this so I am learning to read Hangeul much faster than I had anticipated!

(3) I'm not completely clear on it but the Korean government changed their alphabet and unified it to correspond more with the Roman alphabet in 2000. Basically what this means is now there are two ways of spelling everything as many people seem reluctant to change. Something like that. For example Bucheon would be written Buchun by the locals (they pronounce it Poo-chun). But it is written Bucheon on all the (government) road signs. Of course stupid westerners like me now pronounce it Boo-chee-on which is all wrong.

(4) G and K sounds seem indistinguishable to Koreans. Also L and R, and P and B. I often can't tell if Koreans are saying N or M but that's me not being able to distinguish.

(5) Don't get me wrong. I'm LOVING the food here. But it's tricky to find food that isn't sweet. Bread and even chips seem to have quite a bit of sugar in them. All the sauces I've tried are sweet. I haven't tasted many chips but they've all been sweet. I had a cracker yesterday- braced myself for the sweetness. Mmmmmm it was salty and good. So happy!

(6) Koreans seem to love tv shows which have people doing stupid things and then they put sound effects and graphics over the top. While I would have thought it would be hard to fill a half hour slot with this kind of thing, these shows go for at least an hour. An hour of guys wearing vibrant womens leotards doing Jazzasize. Poorly. With "whoops", "prrrrts", "dings", "wah wuhs", and colourful Korean words and cartoon/photo images popping up over the top (It's better than Lipstick Jungle/Idol/Grey's Anatomy though!).

(7) (Paranoid sounding entry) For every person in the street who stares at me, I'm sure there's a handful who walk past without even a glance. I'm not saying I don't stand out (I've seen one other western person since Friday), it's just not as bad as I'd thought it'd be. But I'm not saying there hasn't been some staring!

(8) Pedestrian crossings have two lanes of "traffic" with arrows telling you what side you're supposed to be on.

(9) I'm not as cold as I thought I'd be. It was 2 degrees celsius outside this morning (average temperature Nov. 6.9, Dec. 0.2, Jan. -2.5, Feb. -0.3) but my apartment is very warm and I wouldn't know it was cold out. I don't have the heating on (I think - I can't read the controls). I wonder if it'll be a different story in January...?!

(10) So much is different for me here but at least they are on the metric system!

(11) The Korean for yes is "Ne" (sounds like neh) This means every time someone says yes to me I initially think they have said no. If you say "thank you" to someone in Korean quite often they will answer yes. "Neh."
Larry - "Thank you Jim."
Jim- "Yes. Yes you are thankful."

Just to prove I am actually in Korea. Here is me with a Korean man. Oh yea! That's my birthday cake!

My first ever bunch of flowers!

"Me so solly. Does my smoking offend you?" Heh heh - goin to hell...

Scary-assest shop mannequin ever.

WHUUUH?!!! WHAT?!!! Where is this exactly?! OMFG MUST GO!!!!

I just thought this was cute. In a textbook at school.

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Friday, November 7th 2008

11:59 PM

Here's A Real Big Post!

  • Mood: All the emotions...
  • Music: 'Another Day' by Air
Day two in Bucheon, South Korea. Tapping away on my laptop keys in my own apartment eleven floors up, ocassionally glancing down at ten lanes of traffic. A very far cry from sleepy Lower Hutt, New Zealand. Now and then I take a bite from the gigantic piece of fruit I bought this morning from a fruit stall on the corner. It's like a nashi - but about the size of four, maybe five. I ate half of it for breakfast. I'm taking a crack at finishing it by the end of the day.
I arrived at 7 am local time yesterday, Friday. First impression - grey. Thick fog means I saw very little on the one hour drive from Incheon airport to Bucheon. What I first thought was fog, my taek-shi driver assures me is smog. "Is it always like this?" I asked. Blank stare. I was taken straight to the school where I will work. But mercifully not to work. I was introduced to my co-teacher with whom I will be working for the next year (escorted right up to the fifth floor by my taxi driver).
It turns out the English teacher doesn't speak too much English. I guess kinda what I expected. I suppose her English will get better, as will my Korean. At one stage I was briefly left alone with the VP's secretary "How old are you?" he asked. That's all he asked, he didn't actually speak much English. I was introduced to the Vice Principal, a man introduced only as "Official"(Oh-pish-il). I guess he was from the company that hired me...? I never saw him again. And then was taken to the Principal. I was seated in his Jedi Council style office, in a very Jedi Council type of chair and was given a curious look. It turns out I look much younger than the picture they have of me. How old was I again? Like an idiot I mentioned that I photographed terribly and stated the age that I would be turning the next day (today). This was a silly idea of course, but I will get to that later. The co-teacher and Principal yammered away to each other for a while and eventually we were dismissed, The big P is a very busy man (very, very nice though). I sat with my co-teacher and read through a few pages of notes about my job, what I was and wasn't to do. It was all pretty reasonable. Help teach the kids English. Let the co-teacher smack them if need be. Kinda what I expected. It's called "team teaching" I raised my fist and jokingly cried "Team Teaching!" Blank stares. I learned that I am what is referred to as a Native English Teacher, or NET. Very cute. I commented on this to my co-teacher. Blank stare. The last page had a short list of things I had to do myself. On Monday I was to be drugs and HIV tested. I knew about the drug test, the HIV - news to me but a sign of the times I guess. Cool.
Next we were on the way upstairs to meet the other fifth grade teachers. Break time had happened while we were reading through stuff so there were kids everywhere. I had only seen a few on the way in when I arrived. I'm not sure what it is about me that gave me away (hehe), but they knew what I was there for and they seemed a little bit too excited about it. Some of them - their jaws actually dropped. Others shouted and waved. "Hello!" "Un young ha say yo!" I asked my co-teacher how many NETs were there at the school? 1 she said. Oh! That's me! I expected there to be others. So it turns out I'm kinda a big deal. Just like the t-shirt says. One kid introduced himself to me by name and told me to remember him! He tried to shake my hand but was soon dragged off for a beating by a cluster of other little boys. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to memorise his face (or name). I think I'll just call him Naruto.
The other fifth grade teachers were very nice. Five women and one man. Varying degrees of English speaking abilities. You can tell the ones who don't speak any English. They are the ones who won't even look at you. Not rudeness, just the Korean way I expect. After some exclusive Koreans only talk one of the teachers tells me apparently in honour of my birthday tomorrow we were to have a little thingee to celebrate on Monday. Oh that's right, that's HIV test day! Wednesday then. I think my gasp was quite audible. I should never have mentioned my birthday! Ah well too late I guess. I blame the dreaded lag. Actually I was starting to feel like shit. The delicious coffee sachet beverage I had been given earlier was doing very little to keep me awake. I hadn't slept for a day. Anyway, whatever this thingee is we have on Wednesday, it'll probably be quite nice to hang with the teachers outside of school and get to know them a bit.
My co-teacher offered to take me to my place as it is very close to the school. But first we had to stop by the office. I had stuff to sign. I was left for a slightly uncomfortable length of time with a couple of office girls who spoke pretty much no English. One of them asked me (in Korean) if I spoke Korean. I told her no. Dead giveaway I knew that much. My file was eventually retrieved and there was much signing, dating and stamping. Koreans have these awesome official looking square stamps they bang on everything. Then finally I was taken to my place.
I was left alone by my co-teacher and I started to look around my stuff. I hate to admit it but it was at this point that I began to despair. What set me off was the fact that I couldn't read anything. The tv remote. The air conditioner remote. The washing machine. All in Korean writing. Heiroglyphics. The tv needed to be tuned and I couldn't tell what button did what. I had been given phone numbers by my co-teacher to contact her if I needed, but what I thought was a phone was actually for the intercom outside. I had no phone. What few channels there were on the tv I couldn't understand so I couldn't relax and watch telly. It all felt pretty heavy at the time. I had always expected this kind of thing. I had tried to prepare myself mentally. But when it happens, it happens.
I had a nap in the early afternoon and woke up still feeling freaked out. I went out for a walk and came back to the wrong building. I swear the building next door is so much the same it's scary! I only realised when I was about to put my key in the lock and remembered that I had a different looking door than the one in front of me. I laughed in the elevator all the way down. It turns out my building was on the other side of a dark, narrow courtyard. Silly me.
This morning I woke up feeling very good about it all. The smog has cleared today.
One strange thing about my place.  It's quite nice. It has a bed, couch, table, chairs, washing machine, toaster, fridge, microwave, tv. It doesn't have plates, cutlery, pots, pans, glasses, mugs, towels, sheets or a rubbish bin. It's now Saturday afternoon and I still haven't managed to find a store that sells these kinds of items anywhere around here. I've walked several blocks in two directions. I'll try the other two directions tomorrow. But I get the feeling there just isn't a store like that around here. I think it's a bit like trying to find a Briscoes in Disneyland.

The view out my of window.

Nothing to drink out of but I got this...

The courtyard. Lovely sculture. Shame about all the rubbish (it was gone this morning (the rubbish)).

Hmmm. These characters are everywhere. This is a particularly big sculpture of one of them in a lovely mosaic style.

This is the street outside at night.

There's lots of fish in tanks in the street here. Some are quite exotic.

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Sunday, July 13th 2008

1:49 AM

My First Blog Post.

I'm just testing out this blog thingee. I'll start with a recommendation.
I can't stop listening to this...

I particularly enjoy the 'Bloc Party' one (not usually a fan) and  the 'Robbers On High Street' one (nah I hadn't heard of them either). However the album as a whole is really nice. The guy who did this, AndrĂ© of RAC also released a four tracker with remixes of old Nintendo and Sega tunes from Mario, Sonic, and Zelda.
The cover art is by Akutou, arguably the coolest guy on the internet. Track it down.
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