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.)
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