Monday, 19 December 2011

Moving To A Joint Blog

Moving over to a joint blog with my fiancée, Sarah. In future, go to this website:

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

10 Things I Will Miss About Korea

This is the start of my little series on how I feel about returning home to the UK in March.

Didn't know I was coming back?

Well, come the end of March, my mug will be paraded around the streets of Portsmouth once more. Hide your pork pies... I'm a-coming!

10 Things I Will Miss About Korea

The things I will miss about 대한민국 (South Korea... I'm just showing off) are plentiful to say the least, but I will try and think of the things I will miss most and somehow form a kind of list. It's not a 'top 10' or anything, just a list.

  1. 제육덮밥 (Jae ook deopp bap (sorry for the rubbish romanisation)) - a kind of spicy pork dish. The meat is quite fatty but cut like thick bits of bacon. Drenched in a 'Korean spice' - a name I use for that spice that Koreans seem to use on everything that I haven't really bothered to remember the real name of - sauce with a fist full of rice. There's some veggies in there, but they are left in the shadow of the slices of pork. Disclaimer: Sarah's restricted me from the wonders of tasting the 제육덮밥 because it's 'bad for my health'. She's right, of course, and I can get it 'once a week', she says... She cares more about my health than I do :)
    I suppose I can throw many Korean foods under this bullet point: donkatsu (actually Japanese), the cheapness and availability of sushi (also Japanese...), bibimbap, jajangmyeon, kimbap, kalbi among other foods that I don't know the name of because I've let Sarah order for me too many times.

  2. Home Plus... Oh wait, it's basically Tesco's... I only like it because it's literally yards from Sarah's apartment complex.

    In fact, that is what I will miss about Korea, more specifically, Incheon. Looking out of the window of Sarah's apartment, I can see literally everything that I need to live. There's a bakery, two bakeries, actually; a bank downstairs; restaurants, bars (western and Korean), coffee shops; dentist round the corner, doctors in the building next to hers, opticians, pharmacy; a gym... I could go on.
    Actually, the above is a bit pointless when you can get everything delivered... I don't even have to leave the apartment to get fully cooked meals on plates with cutlery, side dishes etc.
    Everything is so convenient here that we moan about having to wait a couple of minutes for the elevator. Actually, it does take a long time... it can be quite frustrating.

  3. My students. Enough said, really. My students are awesome, well... most of them anyway :)

  4. The internet connection. My monster internet connection has got entire HD movies downloaded in minutes. We use ethernet cables plugged into our laptops, too, which makes the transfer even quicker. When I get back to the UK it'll be like those Star Trek episodes when they go to those lame little planets with budget technology and they have to act all impressed. 'Oooo you're downloading at 1MB a second? Big whoop, bruv... had 4MB/s back in 대한민국' - will be a statement I'll have to try and avoid using in an attempt to not sound like a total jerk.

  5. It's going to sound bad, but I'll miss being able to play the foreigner card. A great example was the time when I forgot to bring change for the shopping trolleys at Home Plus. Instead of simply cutting down on what I bought so I could carry it myself or use a basket, I made eye-contact with an employee and tugged at the chained up shopping trolleys as if I didn't understand what was happening. The employee, at a slight jog, came to my aid and unlocked them for me :) What a pro.

  6. No.5 on my list actually touches on this item: the kindness of the Korean people. OK, they might be a bit xenophobic at times, the dirty stares etc, but that's a different story. I believe that Koreans are inherently kind and welcoming. I'm not sure if this applies to Korean-on-Korean kindness (Sarah and I have seen many a Korean vent their stress and anger upon one another), but Korean-on-foreigner kindness? Sure.
    The stories I've heard of people being invited around random people's houses for dinner seems to crop up every now and then. I seem to get
    떡 (ddeok) every other day for when teachers go through some kind of hardship, like a death in the family, or have something to celebrate, like a marriage. I've had 3 packets of the stuff in the past two days and a can of some sweet rice drink, which I don't really like but I'm saving it to pawn off to some kid if I run out of candy.

  7. How anime and manga is the popular art form. When I was a kid, I remember doodling weird shapes or stick figures hitting each other with giant swords (hello, Freud). The kids here? They're doodling anime characters or reading manga under the desk. If you want to see more of what I'm talking about then check out my blog on what I've called 'Kool Korea' here [1] and here [2]. But that anime/manga stuff is everywhere! If only I could read Korean...

  8. The transport here is so handy... and interesting. If I want to get to Seoul I have the options of bus, subway, or taxi - all of which I can pay for with a single wave of my T-Money card. All three options are cheap, too, compared with England at least. Taxis are obviously the most expensive option, but even then I have gotten from Hongdae to my place in Incheon for about 30,000 won (20 quid) - a 30 minute journey, about 40 minutes by bus and about the same by subway, even less now the airport line is open.
    The bus I take to school is a banged up wreck that I'm surprised is even allowed on the roads to be honest. But it's my wreck. I've seen people running for the bus fall flat on their face through my position on the back seat (I sit there by choice, it's not 60s civil rights deal). I've seen car crashes, arguments, midgets, old people get elbowed in the head by people falling on them because the bus driver drives like a maniac. I found a phone on that bus and stressed out all the passengers while I tried to communicate with the owner's father when he called the phone. I used to take the bus to work all the time back in England, and the only interesting thing I remember from that was when the bus driver wouldn't let me on because he had driven 3 feet past the bus stop already...

  9. I'll miss the places we've visited. Places like Muuido, Seoul, places in Incheon that we've visited, Busan, Gapyeong, Mokpo for the F1. Those are memories, but you still miss it. I regret not seeing some things like the Tripitaka Koreana, Jeju-do, the north Eastern region, but you can't do everything... and anyway it's a mission to get to those places :P Who knows, maybe we'll return in the future?

  10. When you're in Korea, in this country where hardly anyone speaks your language and as a Guest English Teacher (GET) you are treated as such: a guest, you get into your own little bubble. When you're here it's difficult for anything to affect you. I look at the news and politics from America and the UK all the time, but if I didn't want to then I don't have to. I don't have to read a newspaper or watch the news, which is inevitable when you're in your home country.
    Seeing a headline or have something happen to you can make or break your day sometimes. If I get dirty looks on the subway here, or I see a bus driver literally get out of his bus just to shout at a passer-by and consequently get into a fight (happened more than once) I can just put it down to 'it's their culture. I can't help because I can't talk to them. There's literally nothing I can do, so I'm just gonna sit back and soak it up and enjoy the interesting experience'. It sounds harsh and non-conflict but it's true. If a Korean is looking at me strangely, what am I really going to say to them? What can I say? If it was in England, I'd have to deal with it. I'd be like 'erm, can I help you?' and then take it from there. Here my tactic is to stare back at them until they feel awkward and look away.
    Tip: old guys don't usually feel awkward like this and it will take a lot of staring before they look away...
    Obviously when things happen to your family at home or when you miss a birthday or Christmas, it has an affect, but that's what you've signed up for. There's nothing you can do but feel that way. But I'm talking about having to deal with rubbish on a day-to-day basis, not the far-reaching effects of missing family events.
    Although isolation can be draining sometimes, I will miss not having to deal with the rubbish you get thrown at you on a daily basis at home. From little things to the big, in your 'Korean bubble' it's often your choice what you can let into your life. (Unfortunately, Sarah, as a
    교포 (gyopo - a person of Korean descent who was born and/or raised outside of Korea itself, e.g. Korean-American), does not have this luxury. She speaks enough Korean to know when people are saying things.)

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Sports Day!

I know it doesn't really count, but this is the speed I got from my school :o It's also not relevant to this blog post...

Anyway, SPORTS DAY! :D

The day after the festival came Sports Day... And it was manic. I knew I was in for some trouble when I heard the blowing of horns and chanting as I wandered into school for the day at about 8:15am. In an almost tribal fashion each homeroom class had their own 'uniform' that the kids bought themselves, their own chants, warpaint, and rivals. Also, each class had their own section on the school playing ground to cheer on their team in, I presume to minimize fights.

I chose to stick with my co-teacher's homeroom class - class 1-8 - for the entirety of the chaotic Sports fest. Kitted out in pink t-shirts and animal-ear headbands, we looked pretty badass :P

For the record, I did not wear a pink t-shirt... although I was forced to wear a cat-eared headband for about 10 minutes by one of the more... assertive/scary students :P

This is 'one of the more assertive scary students' leading the tribe:

It's not really surprising that our team won the 'loudest class' award, is it? :o

After a few words from the Principal and the Korean national anthem, the games kicked off. First up!.... jump-rope.

Now, jump-rope is really popular amongst kids in Korea. When I ask questions in class like 'what are you good at?' they often come back with 'jump-rope'. And, yeah, they're pretty good at it.

The kids line up diagonally with two kids working the rope. Then, yeah, they jump over the rope... Tough stuff eh?

Next up was tug-of-war! Apparently, my co-teacher had a lot of confidence in our team. Remember the girl who forced me to wear the headband? Hye Lim her name is, and according to my co-teach she is 'strong' lol.. Needless to say, 1-8 won the tug-of-war, mainly thanks to Hye Lim I'd say. Good times :)

The next event was mental and would definitely be banned under 'health and safety' in the UK.

The game involves all the students in the class. Two students (it helps if they're tall) train another student (it helps if they're small) along an ever replenishing line of students' bent over using their backs as stepping stones for the small kid to run across... I'll just upload another video:

And then after this an even more mental game reared it's head! I'm not sure what it's called, but I'm gonna call it 'Charge at your friends and get rope burn game'...

One kid actually got rope burn and he wandered off crying while the chaos continued... :o Genuinely looked liked amazing fun though...

After this there was what I consider to be 'real' sports: relay race and... er thats it. So plenty of tug of war, rope based games then but a cheeky bit of shot put or high jump is out of the question :'( Ah well, it was better than any sports day I've ever had on all accounts.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

My otherworldly net connection

Just because :)

Go to and test to see how yours compares to my beast of a net connection here in Incheon, South Korea :P

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

School Festival!!

School festival day was a couple of weeks back now - I've just been too busy to whack up a blog about it... Well, let's say a mixture of lazy and busy. Anyway, the school festival is when each homeroom class ('tutor group' in the UK) sort out a theme for their homeroom and kids can go in and out of each room and check out what they're friends are up to. It was really fun :) Unfortunately, I couldn't really wander the classrooms myself as I had to do my own theme game! I called it 'Lee's Treasure Hunt' but the Korean teachers changed it to 'MISSION' 'cause apparently the student know what this means - you have to say it in a Korean accent though otherwise they won't understand (roughly said like 'Mee-shun').

Basically, what the 'mission' involved was the students running around the school looking for clues and each clue would then lead them onto another clue. Each clue sheet had a letter written on it. Once they had collected all of the letters and worked out the anagram that the letters formed, then they had completed the mission! I thought only a handful of students would try it and then I could pack up early and wander around the school enjoying the festival with the kids... However, tons of students turned up and, to my surprise, actually worked out the clues quite quickly - a lot of the clues weren't easy, for example 'look underneath the staircase to the first floor' requires a bit of work for some of the less able kids. The prizes were pens that one of my co-teachers gave me to give away. I think one guy thought he was going to get candy or something really special because he was away for ages and when he finally came back with the answer and I gave him the pen as a reward he looked like a man who'd just been ripped off at the bookies :P Like he was gonna give me a 'piece of his mind'...

These are some students who took part in the mission:

They completed it pretty sharpish.

Class 1-7 had a cool game room going. Needless to say, this was my favourite room. I turned up and a couple of girls were dressed in cool costumes, there was music blaring, and it was packed full of kids getting keen about games like Jenga and Chess :) Great fun.

I played (and won) a game of Jenga versus this girl hehe >:P Owned her.

(Of course) There was a Starcraft tournament in the computer room. Again, packed full of kids. They were clicking the mouse faster than I could do with my elderly 23 year-old fingers...

A selection of creepy masks that the students made for the festival :)

Next up: Sports Day! :o

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Korea F1

This weekend just gone me, Sarah, Chris and Amy (two mates from England who came over for the race and a holiday) all went down to Mokpo to watch the F1. Took the KTX, which was hassle free, played Trivial Pursuit on the way down on Sarah's iPod touch and slept on the way back because it was gone midnight... We turned up at the race track after a great night at the hotel with the friendliest hotel manager in the world (he had a small Paris Baguette cake waiting for us when we turned up, gave us a lift to the shuttle bus AND when Sarah left her phone at the hotel he posted it to her a couple of days later... great bloke) at around 11am ready for the Hyundai series race an hour or so later.

This is when things started to go wrong.

It had rained quite hard the night before so it was all muddy. Very muddy. We had to buy cheap plastic ponchos because there was a constant light rain that wasn't going away. There was also a long, arduous walk around the track to do anything, i.e. get the tickets, get food/merchandise etc. But we couldn't get any food in the end because no one was selling any... thousands of people and not ONE food vendor. Apparently, a lot of people had got wind of this and brought their own food (either that or they thought that food would be too expensive and cleverly brought a lunch of their own). So we were starving. And wet.

The track was so sodden with water that the race was delayed by an hour to see if it would dry up. It never really but they started the race anyway, albeit behind the safety car for like 20-odd laps. As soon as the safety car buggered off though the race was awesome :)

Here are some pictures:

Yes, Dad and Ryan, we had a flag :) Were we on telly? I doubt it.. I never saw one TV camera the whole race...
Good close up picture of some of the racers that Sarah took. Alonso looks smug. It's like he already knows he'll win.

Nice picture of me and Sarah in our ponchos and F1 lanyards :)

F1 gets underway!! It was seriously so exciting. Saw a few cool overtaking maneuvers down the straight and saw a couple of crashes and this:

Uh oh... Vettel's out. His car was on fire and after he got out of his car he hopped on the back of a moped and zipped off lol.

This was the view for a long time :P As you can hear the cars are soooooo loud. They gave us ear plugs, which I didn't use because I'd feel lame if I put em in, but they were definitely needed. This video was taken when they were going 'slowly' behind the safety car too, so you can imagine the noise when they are going full throttle... and we were on the huge straight. Great experience it was.

Still, an awesome race weekend at Yeongam, Korea! Let's hope Korea gets it's act properly together for next year and spruce up the place a bit :P

Friday, 15 October 2010

Sports day preliminaries

Turned up to class today (class 2-5) to find no bugger there and a load of kids shouting at me to go outside and watch the football. This took a while for them to get across because I initially thought that they were winding me up and their English was shocking. I also thought I might've got prior warning that I got to watch football instead of trawl through the textbook with the kids, but this is Korea after all and I've gotten used to it :P

Here's a few pictures I shoddily took of the game:

The kids, and even one of my co-teachers who was sitting next to me, were well keen about the game. My co-teacher kept like slapping me on the back when things happened, cheering really loudly... It was the Final of the group to see who progresses into next weeks Sports Day. Serious stuff.

The game ended in a goalless draw with penalties to come and it was pretty tense, as you can see by all the nail biting going on in the picture above :P

This is our glorious playing field. Almost as dusty as my apartment :P

The game ended 5-4 on penalties with class 2-5 (the team I was cheering on) beating class 2-3.

If this was tense, imagine next weeks Sports Day...

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Hot Sonakshi Sinha, Car Price in India