Sunday, 26 September 2010

Sunrise and sunset in the land of the morning calm

So by writing this blog before the end of next week, I will have managed to mantain my one blog per month goal and thus kept myself very pleased!

There has been so much that has gone on in the last 5 or 6 weeks since my last blog that it is hard to get it all down and to do it justice. I am often torn over the kind of blog that I want to write too, there's a lot of comments I would like to make about the nature of living in Korea, observations that I have made about the experience but I also just want to talk about the sights, the sounds, the food and the number of funny occurences.

I guess I'll just meander for the next few hundred words and hope it makes some kind of sense to you, trying to pick out the best bits, best bits being things that are interesting rather than just making those back home feel envious!

Ok, so this month was one of real ups and downs, we had to rehearse for an open day at our school (Airport day...I'll explain in a sec), work a saturday and long bloody hours but we also got gifts from the school, an extended vacation and me and some pals got the chance to get down to Busan.

Airport day was basically one of the most surreal experiences I have had in Korea, the notion was that for two open days the school would basically become an airport. The class rooms became different parts of an airport and the teachers became airport workers! For example Edison class became a ticketing office and I worked on the ticketing desk..Newton classroom was a plane and Geoff teacher was a pilot...Analie teacher was an air stewardess.

All the kids had to recite lines...and were absoloutley brilliant at it... We taught them through chants and one and one encounters. "Can I see your passport"...."Here you are"...."Where are you going"..."I'm going to England"...."How many bags do you have"...."I have one bag"...etc..etc.

The kids had to learn songs about airports and countries too..."Buckle up for safety" "I'm a little airplane" (based on I'm a little teapot) and so on and so forth. It did verge on the surreal at times, I remember one rehearsal just staring at these bewildered five year olds and being in tears with laughter...wondering what on earth was going on!

Mrs.Yu our boss was really on edge at times and that sometimes filtered on to us and then on to the kids which was a little unfortunate...It seems odd looking back on it now because for the parents it was just nice to see their children interacting with their foreign teachers, speaking English and having fun.

I could go into the nature of education in Korean Hagwons here but it's a little arrogant having only been here three/four months...basically I would just wonder how much education is really gained by recital rather than understanding what it is that you are saying but annnnnyway.

We had to work a saturday that week...for me that was teaching from 9.40 until 7pm but it did mean that they gave us an extra day for our chuseok holiday. The following saturday me and two buddies went down to Busan... Which is pretty much across the whole country..Koreans will probably tell you that this journey would take 10 hours and at chuseok the traffic would be so great that it would probably take a whole day... It took about 5 and a half hours and traffic was fine! It was a pretty cool experience seeing the Korean country side, going through the southern cities but I can't be too descriptive, it was at night on a motorway after all!

We got to Busan at about 5am having left off at 11.30 and went to hauendae beach... Staring at out at the pacific ocean for the first time as the sun came up was awesome, I suppose my most abiding memory would be how when it was still dark we could see hundreds of glowing lights over the sea, there were so many that we assumed that they were cars travelling over a bridge. But as the sun came up it dawned on us (excuse the pun) that they were actually boats...I think most of them were fishing boats but you can imagine that there must be a heck of a lot of marine traffic over the eastern sea or sea of Japan or Korean sea (Depending on your nationality)...cargos upon cargos going from Japan to China or vice versa.

After drinking at the beach for a little (we didn't get hammered), we went and stayed at Jimjilbang...a Jimjil bang is like a means getting your tackle out in front of lots of korean men but it is really relaxing...lying in the hot baths and staring out across the ocean.

Sleeping in a Jimjil bang is another matter, in a Jimjil bang you will see a floor full of sleeping people covered with a tiny blanket (they are dressed) and resting their heads on tiny leathery cusions.

The first time you see it , it is a little bit like seeing a video of one of those mass suicides that take place in religous cults..and then you just have to find your own spot and get your head down.

Sleeping for as long as I could... I was woken once by a guy having a nightmare and another time by an Ajuma kicking people...that's kind of like their job at health spas...kicking people awake..I wasn't kicked but I saw her moving towards me...and a bunch of kicked...angry Koreans ahead of me sprouting up like grass shoots from their slumber.

That day we headed down to a holy spot on the coast...It was incredibly beautiful..There are a ton of photos of it on my facebook page and I would recommend checking them out. I would also recommend sites such as this to anyone wanting to come to teach in Korea, it can be very easy to see this place as just a bunch of neon lit bars stuffed ontop of each other.

After this we headed down to a motel, got cleaned up and hit the tiles, I taught a bunch of Korean girls the macarena and "big fish" "little fish" "cardboard box" which was fun... clubbing here can be a lot of fun...if you want to party rather than just scope out women to pull... it's easier to meet people that way too.

The second day we spent at a park and then headed off to the jalgachi fish market, what an explosion of sights and sounds that was. Old women dragging huge buckets of fish slop through a bustling maze of people, trucks and movement. Row after row of dead fish hung out in ice baths and king crabs spending their last moments heaped into huge tanks of water. On every corner was a fish restaurant with people begging you to come in and try their offerings, bartering and hustling.

We did spend an awful amount of time debating where to go but it was all the worthwhile to see more of the market around us. We ended up having one of the most colorful dinners I've ever had and will probably ever have... we were served by this chef/waiter/fish monger who had this unforgettably strong face and slicked back black hair.

He presented us with the fish we could eat (still alive) and even let my mate Dave hold one before it ended up on our plate. The setting of our meal was this giant fish market that surrounded us and while fish were being cooked and killed we were sipping our beers waiting for the starter.

It was all fish too, maybe a bit of seaweed thrown into a tasty soup or the odd side dish of soy sauce but other than that it was just plain fish...grilled, boiled and raw! I managed to eat live baby octopus tentacles...which was odd. The worst bit of consuming such a dish would have to be the tasteless strips of slop sucking on your tounge as you try and down it, like some last bid for survival.

After the fish market we found another motel (all of these places have dressing gowns for him and her, a box of tissues and porn on the telly btw) we headed out into town and found a few cool bars...setting off fireworks on gwangali beach at night was a highight, as was my first experience in the batting cages at the amusement park (I was surprisingly good at it!)

On tuesday we left for seoul with heavy hearts as the rest of the world around us went and spent chuseok with their families.

I guess I have become a bit lassiez fair about partying in Seoul (what a thing to say) but I can't speak about the remaining days of my holiday with much enthusiasm. There were a couple of highlights in Gangnam, the first being a visit to a booking club, we had wanted to go to a club and been brought to a korean booking club.

The deal with a booking club is as a fella, you come in and get a table you spend like 90 quid on a bottle of brandy and women are brought to your table. The women aren't hookers but are looking to meet men, they get dragged around the wrist by these bell boys and are asked to spend time with paying customers.

I'm proud to say that me and my mates came in with flip flops, requested no women and just a shit load of beers for 100,000 won. We stole fruit from tables and watched in disgust as needy women were lugged to tables of absoloute tossers. My girlfreind Song came down to meet me and that made for a pretty funny experience. Everytime my back was turned she would be dragged away by one of these bellboys and there would be me running desperatley to retrive her.

We finished our beers and then sat outside a seven eleven until my buddy diego decided it would be a cool idea to drink some more on the roof of an apartment. We snuck into this apartment building and took the lift to the 15th floor and then go on to the roof where we were able to see the sun come up over the Han river and the bustling seoulites travelling over the bridges that surround it.

Phew...well that's it for another month, I wish I could give you more...I wish you could see the things Ive seen these last few weeks...but I guess that's up to a wise man once said "get busy living or get busy dying".


  1. "I guess I'll just meander for the next few hundred words and hope it makes some kind of sense to you, trying to pick out the best bits, best bits being things that are interesting rather than just making those back home feel envious!"

    -I wish Tariq would take notice of this.

    Damn dude, Korea sounds weird, but in an awesome way. Booking clubs and Jimjibangs? What the fuck? Still, Im guessing its pretty cool to be a part of. Oh, and props on the live baby octopus tentacle chow, I'd say thats a pretty epic culinary achievement!

  2. Yeah mate,

    Weird but awesome would be a pretty acurate interpretation. Korea is like the opposite of everything back home. People here probably complain about it more than Japan but they all want to stay too. Everything here moves at lightning speed and you find yourself doing the strangest things!
    Thanks for the props, I've eaten chickens feet too...there's a dog restaurant in uijeongbu but I reckon I'll probably give that a miss! There aren't many bosintang places over here but my misus reckons they sell dog meat under the counter here!

  3. don't eat dog man...
    unless it's a poodle, they suck.

    sounds amazing. watching the sunrise over the pacific supping on a brewskie with some pals.

    wish i could be there to do some of the crazy shit. if you get bored, you're welcome to come to high wycombe, where people really know how to party.

    i can't decide if the booking club sounds awesome or incredibly fucking sleazy. i guess it's funny either way.

    miss you dude.