Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Kawaii Korea V.1

One of my best friends recently described me as "all bubblegum and hello kitty and sh*t" perhaps the reason I blather on about the cuteness of things in Korea so much? I thought that I would give you a glimpse of some of the things that we have managed to snap. I'm dedicating this to a fellow blogger and Sheffield Steel Roller Girl, Leigh, as I know how much she would love it here. Let's just say that i fit right in with my Rilakkuma phone cover...

Hello Kitty Pan Scourer

Padlocks with cutsey messages on. Roof of Lotte department store
Smiley face forks

Happy Hand Cream

Lipbalm ring
Even the children are so cute with their tiny faces

Sleepy Puppy in a supermarket (not to be eaten)

You all mocked me, but now i fit right in...with my 10 year old students

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

I ♥ Korea

View from Lotte roof// Cake//
Yum// Inspirational words taken from a bag
A few of my favourite things about Korea so far.

1. The cuteness of everything. Everywhere you turn there's amazingly cute kids, doey-eyed cartoon characters and sickly pink plastic gadgets overload! Sometimes it's almost too much to take and I have to take a deep breath to not get too over excited!

2. Every corner you turn there is something unexpected. The Lotte shopping centre is an amazing example of this, we caught a lift up to the top floor and there was this serene roof top garden with the best views over the whole of Busan, take the lift down to the bottom floor and there was a fountain and lights display going on that could almost compete with a Disney Magic Kingdom display.

3. The Jingles. Everywhere you go there are merry jingles to brighten up your day. End of a lesson? This happy tune plays out through the school corridors. Got to the last stop on the metro? You get played a fan fare. Waiting for lift? Stand and be serenaded.

4. The food. Ok, it took me a while to warm to it, but i am actually loving the food now.  I love how they have little bits of lots of different things.  It's spicy and sweet, hot and cold all on one plate. I still need to be a little braver and try more sea food, but I am super proud of myself so far and I love that chop sticks are becoming easier and easier to use everyday.

5. The Beaches. In less then 20 mins we can be at some amazing beaches. I don't think the novelty of this will ever wear off, coming from Sheffield where the closest beach is over an hour away.

6. Nick Grimshaw's late night show on Radio 1 being the show I get to listen to as I get ready for work in the morning. If anyone knows me well, they will know that I have had a long standing love affair with him, in the sense that I wish he was my brother.

7. The fluidity of our routine. I know this wouldn't suit everyone, but I love how I'm getting used to expecting the unexpected. They seem to change things at the last minute and never really have any concrete plans - on Friday for instance it was sprung on us at school that it was no leftover day at lunch, therefore we had to eat everything on the plate. I have no idea what the reason was, and when I asked a few other teaches, they didn't seem to know either. Bizarre but amusing!

8. The stationary! The stationary departments that they have here makes paperchase look dull. Luckily, Tasha shares the same love as me, and didn't find it odd that we spent over an hour in the stationary department of Lotte last night, or the night before that...

9. The 5 minutes of fame. I think being a foreign teacher at a Korean school is guaranteed to make you feel like a celeb for at least a few days. Being showered with gifts (ok, it was some odd stodgy mush, but it's still the thought that counts) and compliments never hurt anybody.

10. Everything seems to be imprinted with a life lesson, inspiring you in Korenglish. The toilet doors in the school tell you that 'An hour today is worth two tomorrow', buildings tell you 'Anything is possible' and my favourite was a flight of stairs that we walked up told us they loved us. Happy, happy, happy.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Let's Go Fly A Kite

Little did I know on Friday night when I was happily stuffing my face with bangers and mash and cocktails in the Wolfhound, an Irish pub in Haeundae, that in the early hours of Sunday morning I would be hoisted up by a young Korean guy, infront of a crowd of hundreds of drunk and dancing people at Club Fix.

Saturday morning turned out to be bright and breezy so we headed to Dadaepo beach, a remote little beach on the South coast of Korea. Coming out of the station we checked the map and headed in the direction of the beach, thinking it would be a short leisurely walk. Little did we know it was about a 5 mile walk through an industrial estate with very few pavements.

I’d seen that there was a kite festival at the beach being advertised, and when we got there there was the grand total of about 5 kites billowing in the wind, not quite what we were expecting. We went for a walk along the coast where there were some amazing views. This will be the perfect place for picnics once the weather heats up.

On Saturday night we put on our dancing shoes and caught the metro to Seomyeon. The streets of Seomyeon were packed with lots of young Koreans and illuminated with so many signs it was hard to know where to look.

Club Fix was a maze of different floors, and I couldn’t believe how many people were packed into the club. Some highlights of the night were the DJ’s jacket, which was a semi transparent, neon orange gauze-like Adidas tracksuit top and these amazing fruit platters that seemed to magically appear when you sat down at a table. Round all of this off with a McDonalds breakfast, and it was a pretty good night. I’m still trying to forget about the lifting incident and hope the scrawny boy isn’t laid out in bed with a bad back.

Sunday brought us more sunshine so we wandered down the road and finally got to Nampo, which is the home of the Busan International Film Festival, I’m really happy that it’s so close to us. The streets were bustling, there were hundreds upon hundreds of market stalls selling just about everything. Everyway we looked there were cute and kitsch stores and signs that made us ‘ooooh’ and ‘aaaah’. We stopped off at the most adorable coffee shop and ate such good cake.

Now I’ve found the cake and cocktails and so many cute things here I’m really starting to feel like I can settle in.

How to get there:

Club Fix: We're convinced that there is some sort of wizardry going on with Club Fix. It seems impossible to find, then just when you're about to give up, it appears very vividly right infront of your eyes and you wonder how you ever missed it, but as soon as you leave it disappears again. SO here is where I think it is:

-Get to Seomyeon. We go by metro.
-Once at the metro, leave via. exit 2 and walk down the main road(the one with McDonalds and American Apparel on).
-Take the second main road on your left and it should be on the right hand side.
-It's 8 floors up, so you will only see a white club fix sign at street level, along with the ticket booths.

Also, if you join their facebook page, every weekend they put up a status, which if you like they will give you free entry. Otherwise it's 20,000 won which is pretty expensive. Make sure you take I.D though as they have been funny about this in the past!

Dadaepo Beach: I think this beach will turn out to be best for picnics and getting away from the bikini clad bods at Haeundae. Apparently the fountain there is supposed to be awesome too!

-Catch the orange line metro headed to Sinpyeong and get off at Sinpyeong. --Don't make our mistake and try to walk to the beach. Catch a taxi from outside the station, it came to about 2,000 won which was really good to say how far away it is from the station.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

One Week in Korea

Broken computer = sad faces// Beautiful Korea. Wonderful Immigration//
Fixed computer= happy faces// Tash with Teachers Hannah and Jinny//
Lampost// Busan City Tour// Unimpressed with the tour.
Today is a pretty important day for us, it marks the end of our first week in Busan! Undoubtedly there have been ups and downs as we sort things out, but today has been a good day.
We have been ferried about by our supervisors alot since Monday; to the bank to set up accounts, to the immigration office to finish the final paperwork, and to the hospital to check that we are both in working order.
It feels like we have spent ALOT of time stood around waiting for things, which  means we have had alot of time to observe. My favourite four observations so far are:

1. There seems to be this unspoken pressure that people feel at certain times that makes them do an odd shuffle/dad run. This happens mostly across roads (the drivers will not wait for you if you haven't made it to the other side of the road when the green light appears) and in queues- it's as if they are worried to miss their turn, so when they are called forward, they will run to the counter. Strange. What's even stranger is you find yourself starting to feel the pressure as they shuffle past you, and you start to feel like you should do it too.

2. We spotted a man the other day who was wearing a very smart pinstripe grey suit, shiny black shoes, a crisp white shirt...and these really thick, fuzzy, thermal, purple and pink socks.

3. It also seems as though the highway code doesn't apply to motorcyclists, who are able to switch between driving on the pavement and the road at will. They are particularly partial to using pedestrian crossings to change direction, rather than having to do something as mediocre as use a turning. They also sometimes like to multi task and fling business cards at people whilst they drive down the pavement.

4. How robust the children are here. I have seen at least three children fall down the stairs as they run to get a quick look at us. I've seen numerous kicks, punches and trips and one particular fall ended in a young boy doing a barrel roll down the corridor, before he leapt up to reassure  us that he was fine.
The novelty of us hasn't worn off with the students yet - today I have had a female student profess her love for me, and another class gather around me whilst taking pictures to show their friends.

The language barrier has been a little daunting and confusing at times. In the hospital on Tuesday we had to undress and put these kimono-esque robes on before an Xray. I went first so hesitantly stepped into the room. The nurse couldn't really speak much English but managed to show me that I needed to stand facing a screen. She then wrapped her arms around me from the back and kind of tugged, so thinking I understood her charades perfectly, I disrobed, only to notice her frantically swinging her arms around and taking deep breaths.  It turned out that she wasn't hyperventilating - she was just asking me to take a deep breath...ooops.

Amongst all of this we managed to fit in a Busan Night Tour. Although it wasn't great as the tour guide spoke in Korean, it was worth it just for the views. We drove across the Gwangan bridge and then up a mountain to an observatory. From the deck the view of Busan below was amazing. I'm really looking forward to seeing more of Busan at night this weekend.

We're celebrating our 1 week anniversary with a Gossip Girl marathon, so this is M & N signing out. xoxo
Gwangan Bridge

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Annyong haseyo Haeundae Beach!

I'm sure I'll be fluent in Korean after a year, but at the moment it's easier to do a mini bow to acknowledge people.

We were let loose on the streets of Busan this morning.

We wandered down into the metro, and surprised ourselves with how easy it was to buy a ticket, so decided to head out to Haeundae Beach. The feeling of pride I had as we got onto the right metro with our tickets in our hands was inexplicable. As was the interest we generated from a group of ladies, dolled up to the nines (for a Sunday morning) who openly gawped at us as they passed boiled eggs amongst one another and stuffed them in their Louis Vuittons.

The sun was shining at Haeundae, and it was the first time we'd seen Western people since we landed. (I know we shouldn't be excited about this, but I thought we might have seen a few more by now).

First off we followed some Americans into a bar which contrary to it's gross name, Fuzzy Navel, served pretty good Mexican food. This was soon joined by a donut that was topped with popping candy at Dunkin' Donuts...AMAZING!

By the afternoon the sun had got even hotter so we wandered down the beach where we saw an array of weirdly dressed and groomed rat dogs (I'm going to do a dog blog later)...but just as a teaser, I can honestly say that I have never seen a dog dyed neon colours before!
Busan Station// Haeundae Beach// Popping Candy Donuts//
Ultimate Frisbee Explained// Dipping my toes in the sea// Rock Surfing//
Dongbaek Park// The Sun// Market
We tried to figure out the rules of ultimate frisbee. It seems as though you have to wear strange head accessories, such as a bandana or sunglasses, or a combination of the two and act very dramatically ('We need more deefence on the oceanside' shouted at the top of your voice!) as a frisbee is thrown around...maybe I'll try it sometime.

Soon enough the drama of frisbee proved to be too much so we went for a walk by the coast and through Dongbaek Park. We were approached by an old man at the lighthouse, who called us Natashi and Madelime as he pointed out the best places to go in Busan and told us about being the president of a company and then (just as we thought he was going to ask us for money or try and sell us something) offered to take a picture of us together, and strolled off! Weird how in the UK you always suspect people are after something, when really people sometimes are just trying to be friendly!
We're now sat back at home, watching New Girl with our faces glowing a little red thanks to the sun, and although we have our first proper day of school looming over us tomorrow, I'm kind of happy that we've made our first own adventure into Busan -  maybe I will be able to survive a year after all! 

Saturday, 17 March 2012

First Day in Busan

After 3 flights, one ride on the heathrow express and our first trip on a Korean bus in Seoul we finally arrived in Busan late Thursday night.

It's been a little bit bizarre since then - and I don't think it's just down to the sleep deprivation.

We were met yesterday morning at our apartment block by one of the teachers from the school, who had brought us an interesting breakfast of Shrimp burgers and Beef burgers.

After breakfast we met our fellow teachers, who all seemed really friendly- and then I was told it was time to meet the students. The other teachers had said the students were excited to meet us but I never expected gasps, claps and whooping!

The students were all really cute and I loved the questions they asked, the best ones being;
Have you had plastic surgery to make your eyes bigger?
How tall are you?
Do you know Harry Potter?

They would all gasp and clap when I answered. It's a bit daunting to think that I'll be teaching them next week! Eeeek!

Lunch was the first time we got to try traditional Korean food, rice, noodles, fish soup, kimchi and an egg dish...I think it will take some getting used to! We've resorted to stocking up on what we think are pot noodles and crisps until we get used to everything.
It was wet and dreary in Busan last night so I spent the evening unpacking my room and catching up on sleep.

Anyway, here's a few pics of the apartment...

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Moving Day!

It's finally here!

After trekking back down to London and having a few moments where it looked like we might not get there in time to pick up our visas, thanks to the bus being super later, we finally got them and confirmed our flights for today at 17:00.

I'm glad I've had the last few weeks to see everyone and after a couple of teary goodbyes I'm finally ready to go. A final DQ, a colouring in session with the roller girls on Old No. 7's tables, a visit to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park and gorging on Bannoffee pie (Because i have the excuse I won't get to eat it for another year) have all been highlights.

We're now waiting in the lounge ready to board our first of three flights, and I'm trying to ignore the fact that I've got several necklaces on and about 3 jackets to wear to try and keep the weight of my case down. My carefully packed hand luggage has already been unpacked by security, thinking I was carrying some sort of weird musical instrument and Tasha had to explain it was a pair of skates while i was patted down...See you on the other side!