Friday, 26 March 2010


I haven't published a post for over a week now, but it's because work has been extremely busy as it's my first week as a 'proper' teacher. What I mean is that I actually have to teach things other than how old my brother is compared with my snails.. So, I've been lesson planning like a pro (but with less than pro results :P) as well as rubbish like paperwork and 'chatting' to every student who wanders up to my desk. What usually happens is that a female student would roll up say 'Hi!!', wave, then leg it. A male student would swagger up, say 'Hi!', realise he doesn't speak much English, then linger until he manages to splurt out 'Bye..', and shuffle out in a 'fail' like manner. Good fun, but it takes up a lot of time and I'm more than happy to help them out :)

But, anyway, this blog is about food. So, here is some of the food I've been forced to chew and swallow (eat) since I've been here:

This was in a great chain place called 'School Food' we found in Hongdae. When I saw that the place was called 'School Food', needless to say, I wasn't expecting gourmet tucker, but it was actually a really fun place and the food was far from 'sausage, chips, and beans'. The above picture is a 'spicy pork cutlet'. Now, about 80% of the time when you order something in Korea it is going to be spicy regardless of if it specified it on the menu or not. So, when I ordered the 'spicy pork cutlet', I didn't realise at the time of ordering that it would melt my tongue. And it did. A lot. Lesson learned: don't order anything that says 'spicy' in South Korea because it will cause oral pain.

These are dumplings, or 'mandu' in Korean. And they are awesome. They're a tad crispy and dirt cheap. An excellent side dish and they can be fried on a pan, so it's easier for me to cook.

Can't remember where this is as I have had this meal about 10 times since I've been here. This is a 'Korean BBQ' and the food cooks in front of you while you munch on all the side dishes that they serve you. I love this about Korea because you order, say, pork and they bring a shed load of side dishes all included in the price. Things like kimchi, peppers, salad, and other more interesting things that I have no idea how to describe in English. Basically, you put the meat in a leaf of some kind and layer the meat with some of the side dishes (a bit of onion here, a bit of spice there) and you wrap it up with the leaf and eat it in one bite! It's seriously so delicious, or 'ma shiss o yo' in Korean :P.

Drinking soju is almost essential to this meal, by the way. I've seen a family with kids necking soju while enjoying this stuff. The kids weren't drinking it though... probably milk or something I didn't see.

This was lunch in Bupyeong one day and it's basically the same as the above, except that the meat isn't cooked in this picture and the stove is slightly different.

If I can't be arsed to cook for myself I would either A) invite my mate Tea Leaf (Tony) out for some grub, or B) go to some lush ddeokbokki ( place 30 seconds walk from my house. No meat, just some mandu, some floppy thing that I suspect is potato, and ddeokbokki, which is spicy, believe it or not.

Oh, and everyone seems to be really impressed that I am pretty handy with the chopsticks :) Many a conversation has arisen from my skilled handling of Korean chopsticks - which are thinner than Chinese ones and usually made out of metal.

I probably should have written this blog after dinner because now I am starving..

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Seoul - First time round

Right, I know that this blog is a long time coming, but I've been busy :P

Ok, so, it's the first weekend of being in Incheon and I feel completely lost. For example, I remember being in E-Mart (a superstore type place in Korea) and it taking me about 40 minutes to A) ask for a map of the city we were standing in, and B) find the right kind of map that I wanted (I wanted a road map so I could get my bearings and the best they could offer me was one of those maps of Korea that you might find in a Geography class) - but the staff were really friendly :)

Next mission: find a payphone to call my friend to see if she wants to meet up (she is Korean/British and she managed to borrow a phone off her aunt). I figured that they'd be one in the subway and after another 40 minutes I find the subway entrance and the payphone. Oh, and by the way, I discovered the other day, after living here for about 2 weeks, that there is a payphone directly outside my apartment building... salt in the wound.

So, we meet up and her Dad (Korean) buys the four of us - my friend Jen was there too - dinner, which was unexpected and I remember it was an amazing meal. Also, if someone way older than you offers you soju, unless you bluntly say 'I don't drink' or whatever, you'll more than likely get poured some regardless of what you say :) I love Korea.

Anyway, Yumi (the Korean/British girl I was talking about) says that she has to go to Seoul to see her family for some Korean holiday, that I still don't quite understand. So, we tag along and we get the Bagley's (my Alabama married couple friends) to meet us there!

The subway to Seoul was a doddle, although very crowded, and it only takes about an hour from Bupyeong to get there (even less if you get lucky and get the express).

Ok, so what did we do? We first shot straight to some kind of flea market that Yumi's Dad took us to so we could see if there were any cheap phones about. And there were cheap phones galore! But not the ones anyone would ever want to buy or even touch (my hands never left my pockets). For example, one stall out on the street was offering phones in a pot on a blanket on the floor and there was a mangy looking dog licking all the wares he was offering and to top it all off there was a nice backdrop of Korean porn. It was just sitting there amongst all the electronics and other randomly assorted goods. Lovely. But, to be honest, it was a great laugh. Here are some photos:

This is a guy selling picked snakes in a jar. I think you drink it and eat the snake, but I can't remember exactly what my friend told me...

Anyway, so after that we wander around Seoul for a bit and admire the city. Then we met up with the Bagley's and we headed to Seoul tower and to find a hotel for the night! The hotel we found was passable and slightly cheaper than the rest and after we checked in we took off to Seoul tower!

They had a light show at Seoul tower and this is the coolest picture I took of it:

and this is me at the base of Seoul tower:

Unfortunately, it was a bit of a foggy day. But the trip was off-the-cuff and I'll definitely go back there in the summer :) Also, if your wondering what all those colourful things are at the bottom of the picture, they're locks and 'lovers' are supposed to attach a lock to the railing and write a wish on the lock. They are then supposed to come back a while later (a year?) and then find and unlock their lock and see if the wish was true or some crap like that.

After Seoul tower we had the standard Korean BBQ and then got drunk around the tourist area, which is this amazing place:

I am DEFINITELY going back here :D

Thursday, 11 March 2010


I was told by my co-teacher that all I had to do for this week and next was to write an introduction lesson plan. And, so, this is it:

What I do is I go through this presentation and say where I'm from and what English food is like and that I love curry. I then say about my family, and when they see the picture of Lauren and Ryan they all go 'ooooo pretty!' (I'm guessing they are mostly talking about Lauren, but I did hear some 'handsome' shouts for Ryan from some of the kids wearing glasses (I think their glasses fog up a bit in the cold)). I ask them what pets they have and then show them the great pictures of my snails that my sister took (I think about 60% think they're gross and the rest think they are cool; I'm sitting in both camps). And then I get them to make name-tags, which is when my lesson plan alters slightly.

*Boys - Higher

I get them to play Chinese Whispers in teams using the rows they are put in.

1. I give the first person in the row a card with a sentence on it
2. The kid has to memorise it and whisper it to the person behind him and then that kid whispers it to the kid behind him etc
3. when the last kid thinks he has it right he puts his hand up (the first one of the groups to put their hands up gets to tell me first)
4. if he gets it right then his team scores a point, wrong their team are out of that round.

*Girls - Higher

The game is called 'snowball fight' and I found it at the above link. I tried it with the all boys' class and half the class just pelted each other and started fighting :/ But it works perfectly for girls and they finish it in no time!

*Both boys, girls, and mixed classes - lower

It sounds harsh, but it's tough for these guys and the teacher because they can barely write their names in English characters. So, what I do is extend the presentation by asking a lot of questions (e.g. 'Put your hand up if you have a pet! Oh, what pet do you have? What's the dog's name?' etc) and then I get them to work on the name tag by writing and drawing things they like and don't like and then asking them about it (e.g. 'You like music? Me too! Who's your favourite band?').

So far, I think I've done OK. I mean, I've never taught before and the classes I'm doing at the moment essentially involve me just talking about myself. But, I understand that the less I talk and the more the kids talk the better, hence why I've incorporated the games.

Oh, and my co-teacher took a couple of pictures of me doing my presentation in the 'English Only Zone' to a bunch of 'lower' kids, who actually turned out to have decent English in comparison to some:

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Taxi for Lee

My Nan always tells me to get a taxi back from wherever I've gone as a few quid in taxi fare doesn't matter compared to me getting mugged or happy slapped. And, of course, she is right. This advice is doubly relevant in South Korea because, most of the time, I have no idea where I'm going. Also, the taxi drivers over here are amazing because they are the king's of multi-tasking... I mean, the taxi driver tonight managed to keep his eye on the GPS WHILE watching the news and weather on his portable TV (which most people have in their cars over here) WHILE glancing at the address on the bit of paper I gave him and all WHILE driving his taxi on the crazy Korean roads in the pissing rain and snow/slush. He had definitely had some skills to be jealous of.

So, Nan, you know I'm in safe hands over here :)

p.s. he drove past my apartment twice as he couldn't understand 'stop' in English.

p.p.s. Tip: 'yogi' is 'here' in Korean, so shout it a couple of times when your near your destination.

p.p.p.s. pointing never helps.


My revised lesson plan seemed to work OK today and when I have the chance I'll post on here what I have been working on for my 'introduction' lessons (powerpoint presentation etc).

Monday, 8 March 2010

Teacher time

OK. So, I had my first teaching experience today. I taught 5 classes using my prepared presentation and minor teaching plan of getting the students to prepare name tags and then practice introduction based conversations with each other using some of the sentences I had already talked about in the powerpoint. It worked half the time, with the other half taking little interest for a couple of reasons:
1) They were either too low level to understand most of what I was saying as I found out that some couldn't even write their name in English characters.
2) they were too high level to be bothered with my 'let's write name tags and have a chat' lesson plan.

But I didn't really expect much from my first day teaching and I was surprised I got that far. Anyway, I'm revising my lesson plan for tomorrow to include some kind of game that might involve achieving something ;)

Seriously though, I enjoyed myself a lot teaching today and the vast majority of the students were pretty keen. Some girl even come by my office and gave me a soya milk! Not that I look forward to drinking it, but it was a nice gesture :) Maybe soya milk is the Korean version of 'giving a teacher an apple'...? I doubt it. It's probably more likely that she hates it and couldn't wait to offload it to the first sap she bumped into.

Anyway, I'm babbling, so I'm off to watch a movie before I go to bed as I now have ridiculous Korean internet in my possession!

Friday, 5 March 2010

Apartments anyone?

Just a short video of the sheer amount of apartment blocks around in Korea (this was taken near Dongchun station about 30 minutes on the subway south of where I live):

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Third time lucky...

ok. so. here is my video WITH sound this time...:
Also, on my way back from Bupyeong last night, I got genuinely lost. No one spoke English and I had to ask 3 different taxi drivers and a few passerby's how to get to my apartment. I managed to think of a landmark that was close to my place and I walked from there! But I got pretty stressed out because I thought I was being obvious, but clearly I was talking a load of rubbish... as usual :P

anyway, enjoy the video and let me know if it works OK.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

My First Day at School... as a teacher.

So, I woke up on Tuesday 2nd March 2010 at 6am - which was lucky because it took me a while to set it properly the night before as the instructions were all in Korean - to start my job as an English teacher! I should've got up earlier really because my co-teacher came an hour later to witness me sockless and still doing up my tie. I also had to go back to get my belt, which was embarrassing..

Anyway, after a cold walk to the school, I arrived at my desk! I sit opposite my co-teacher and next to another random teacher, who I have barely spoken to yet. My vice principal sits behind me, which is a little scary, but he seems really friendly actually. I suppose when everyone else in the school is literally bowing to him and the principal you automatically feel their power.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that on our way to school my co-teacher told me that I would not only have to introduce myself at the teachers meeting in front of the principal etc but also all of the students at the opening ceremony. My first question was: 'How many students does the school have?' She said that it was 40 classes of 30 students each, which I worked out to be about 1200 students. Great. My second question: 'Are you winding me up?' She wasn't.

So, I stumble out into the cold school playground (it was handy that it was cold because it kept me from sweating as much (good tip for you there by the way, Chris: keep cool)) and I realise that they probably will understand very little of what I have to say anyway. All the teachers were having their name called out and I soon realise that none of them are speaking and that I'll be the only one saying anything. So, they called out my name and all the girls in the crowd started screaming, and maybe some boys too, I wasn't sure :P But, I later found out that this isn't uncommon and I wasn't special after all :( When I started talking, I ended up going for the 'short and sweet' option and kind of blurted out my name and that I was from the UK and that I hoped they'll do well this year. Like ripping off a plaster.

Everyone at the school is really friendly and kind to me and I'm trying to speak slower and more enunciated for them to understand me better.

Some Korean school cultural differences I've discovered:
  • Everyone takes their shoes off and puts slippers on before entering the school, except the teachers who do it in the office.
  • There is about 25 minutes put aside at the end of the day in which the STUDENTS clean up the school. And, no, Dad, they don't put out wet floor signs, and, yes, I almost slipped up ;)
  • I'm not sure if it's only this school, but there is a 5-minute warning 'bell' that actually sounds like an ice cream van jingle.
  • Everyone bows to the next person up in the school heirarchy, e.g. students nod to their teachers and teachers to the principals etc.
  • Again, I'm not sure if it's just this school, but they seem to have spent half the school budget on the principal's office to kit it out with oak, leather, and flat screen TVs... It looks a little bit like Tony Montana's office room in Scarface actually - minus the cocaine and weaponry cupboard of course (but who really knows eh?).

And, by the way, I don't teach until next week as this week is being put aside for me to 'prepare' (apparently my lesson plan was 'great' and immediately sent out to the other English teachers to confirm :o).

Tonight I'm off out with the Incheon EPIK lot to Bupyeong and Friday I'm going out with the English teachers at the school!

소주 주세요!

My Apartment

Sorry I haven't posted a blog about Seoul yet - I promise I'll do that by the end of the week.

But here is a gay little video of me showing you all around my apartment:

It might be a little bit quiet, so you have to turn the sound right up! Also, just press the play button in the middle and it will load, then press it again to watch it.


Monday, 1 March 2010


As you might've guess from the title of this blog, I am in Incheon! I am living in one of many tower blocks in Incheon called 'My Ville' and I'm on the 8th floor. It's near a few subway stations and apparently not far from my school. Here is a professionally made video tour of my apartment: UPDATE - the video is taking too long to upload, so I'll have to upload it when I get the internet in my apartment... but here a few rubbish pictures.

Talking about my school, I met my co-teacher on Friday - and I was terrified. I was all sweaty from nerves on the bus to the meeting and the fact that I was wearing my suit didn't help. They were showing Yuna Kim (a Korean ice skater who is the best in the world and EVERYONE in Korea knows who she is) ice skating on the flat screen on the way to the meeting. I mention this because it was both a distraction from the nerves and at least a scrap of small talk material for when I meet the co-teacher. So, I shuffle into a hall with an auditorium-like seating arrangement and I have to find my name on one of the seats. There was about 20 different co-teachers sitting next to the named seats and we had to, kind of, 'pair up'. By-the-way, I remember it in this much detail because I was panicking at the time and, let's face it, it was only a couple of days ago. Anyway, so I rock up next to this young looking Korean lady and introduce myself and hold out my clammy hand to shake her hand and I realise that she's as nervous as me. Her name is Gracy Lee and she had plenty of questions for me. I had to clear up the confusion that Koreans seem to have with my first name being 'Lee' with the explanation of that it is also an English name and that my parents did not just randomly decide to give me a Korean last name as a first name... I like to say that my name actually means 'the side that is sheltered from the wind' because I think it makes me sound cool :P But, yeah, she seems to be a nice person and I'm actually looking forward to turning up tomorrow, with only a small amount of nerves. I'm not sure what my school will be like, but my co-teacher said they all got the lowest scores in the middle school entrance exams. Worst case scenario: I'll get kicked in the bollocks by a 13 year-old boy. Best case scenario: I'll be the Korean equivalent of Michelle Pfeiffer's character in 'Dangerous Minds'.

If you've watched the video already, then you will see that my apartment is quite small, but it's all I'll need, so I was pretty chuffed when I saw it :) I don't currently have the internet or a phone yet though because I need my Alien Registration Card before I can sign up to contract, apparently. 'So, Lee, how are you writing this blog if you haven't got the internet?' - well, I'm in a PC반 at the moment with a bunch of Korean nerds who are playing Starcraft against each other - 1000 won an hour to be the only white guy in a hot, sweaty room full of Starcraft players... it's quite fun actually.

Saturday: Went to find a pay phone in a subway station to call my friend Rachel (British/Korean), who had the only number I knew in Korea, and I got lost. So, a that should've taken about 15-20 minutes actually took closer to an hour. I managed to blag a meeting with Rachel and my other friend, Jen (American - Michigan/half Korean), and I was so desperate for company that I travelled over an hour (should've taken about 30-40 minutes) to see them. They were meeting Rachel's Dad (Korean), so we went out and he bought us all dinner, which was totally unexpected and the food was delicious. We then heard that Rachel had to go to Seoul to meet up with her family for the Korean holiday, which involves something about a moon (full moon?), and, completely off-the-cuff, me and Jen decided to tag along and hit Seoul with our married couple friends John and Beth (both American - Alabama)! I'll write another blog about this awesome trip another day, but basically it involves a lot of wandering, a lot of drinking, plenty of us being tourists, and me not showering for two days.

It's 7:50pm here now and I'm starving, so I'm going to stumble around my town and see what I can blag to eat.

p.s. go to facebook to see pictures of my trip to Seoul and my apartment!

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