Thursday, 31 May 2012


I can't believe that it's the last day of May today, where did it even go? It feels like this month's flown by scarily quick, but at the same time I can't believe how much we've managed to pack into our time. It's made me realise that this year is going to be over before we know it.
So this month was the first time I got my kit off and visited a jjimjilbang, which is a Korean spa where for the majority of the time you have to be publicly naked. It wasn't as scary as I'd built it up to be in my mind, although we haven't been back yet. I think I need to sort out my Baskin Robbins addiction before I go again.

We got ourselves out of bed super early (like 6:30) which I'm sure is the earliest that I've been up while I've been here, so we could walk across the Diamond Bridge. This is something that only happens once every year and I'm so glad that we managed to do it. The weather was perfect and the view was great. I also loved the glamorous brass band who not only were carrying their massive instruments the whole way, but were doing it all scantily clad in mini skirts and high heeled cow boy boots! Classy. Our second walk was far more difficult and made me feel like Indiana Jones. Seokbulsa temple and it's view made every bit of the struggle worthwhile though.

I feel like I've spent so much time sleeping on the beach this month that 'beach naps' should be listed as a new hobby of mine. I've not just been napping on the amazing beaches around Busan though, I've also been to a masquerade party on the beach which resulted in me having my first experience with a Korean doctor, and witnessing first hand the hypochondria of this strange little country.

We visited Seoul for the first time, although we only got to see the train station and the metro, which looked very much like any station in Busan, before we arrived at the World DJ Festival. We got caught up in our first extreme storm, which made me feel like an extra in a Final Destination movie.

Two birthdays were celebrated this month, Natasha's and Buddha's. Natasha wasn't the only one to get presents, as I was inundated with pity presents. I also treated myself to my beautiful new camera, which I am still trying to get the hang of. Not only that but I received 3 amazing care packages. The two I've mentioned are from Stacey and Pauline which have been like my favourite parts of England packed into a box.

We've met lots of amazing people that will probably just make my time go even faster, and sadly had to say goodbye to a couple too. I' have my fingers crossed that June turns out to be just as good...

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Care Packages V2

Hurray! Another care package arrived at the end of last week. I don't think the novelty of receiving gifts from home will ever get old.

This one was sent from my lovely friend Pauline, a.k.a Jane Doe A Go Go to the roller derby world. Just the one who's to blame for my obsession with roller derby...

It arrived a couple of days after Natasha's birthday. She'd been receiving a huge pile of post most mornings so it was a nice surprise to find one addressed to me tucked amongst the birthday gifts...although I said to Tasha that I'm unsure as to whether this may fall into the pity present category. I don't mind though, I'm enjoying reaping the benefits of being pitied!

I was treated to:

1.Cadbury's Creme Eggs. Slightly melted and disfigured.
2.Jelly Snakes. Unfortunately I decided to take the Jelly snakes with us to the World DJ Festival this weekend and they got washed away by the storm. Those that didn't get washed away lurked in the sand and inconveniently stuck to the bottom of your shoe when you stepped on them.
3.A letter on stationary that is cute enough to compete with my vomit inducing stationary.
4.Finally she included a programme from the Sheffield Steel Rollergirls' most recent home game, where both Natasha and I get a mention...

So thankyou GoGo! I loved it all and now only have the photo and programme left of what was in there...

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Our Weekend: Happy Birthday Buddha

This weekend was a long one due to it being Buddha's birthday on Monday. We headed to Seoul for the first time to join our friends saying farewell to Becky at the World DJ Festival. Sadly she's on a flight back to England as I type. It was an eventful weekend filled with kigus, apocalyptic-esque storms, the dirt or tan game, and for me alot of sleep. I was in bed before 12 both nights, luckily a wide awake Tasha woke me up on the last night, twenty minutes before the end. I went back to main stage where the final song was cut off half way through and everyone was sent away...very anti-climatic.
Decided to pack lightly, taking just a tent, a torch and some jelly snakes.
Tasha trying to sleep on the corridor chair on the KTX
All the girls BEFORE the festival had started.
48 hours later...
On the hunt for food after the first night.
The storm approaching.
Storm damage.
Rocking the wet, bedraggled look.
This was where the main stage was before the storm.
The lucky few tents to stay standing.
Tasha walking in her hero's footsteps, she'll never be as good a
drummer as Bieber though.
One way to get instant campsite fame, while simultaneously
losing all shreds of your dignity.
Headlock of doom
Kigu night two.

Desperately clinging onto the tents and crying through the storm, and her passport taking a detour just hours before her flight are things I doubt Becky'll be forgetting anytime soon. I don't think I've ever enjoyed showering as much as I did last night, but sadly it turned out there was no tan, just dirt, dirt, dirt.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Friday Favourite V6: Pity Gifts

My coteacher, Jinny, who loves to give!
The concept's pretty easy; at the end of every week I'm going to write down one thing I love about Korea. Last week it was drinking hot drinks with straws and here is this week's...
If you're not lucky enough to be our friends on facebook, then I think it would be pretty hard to guess that this week it was only Natasha's birthday and not mine.

Before I came to Korea I read about this weird gift giving ritual and etiquette that existed over here; accept the gift with two hands, don't open it infront of the giver, never give the gift of homemade cooking to someone whose house you're attending or else they'll feel obliged to return the container filled with something similar...the list goes on and on and on. Since we've been here the only gifts I've been given were presented by a small, sticky hand accompanied by puppy dog eyes, and they don't really care how you accept their weird drawing or orange segment, as long as you take it.

We arrived at work on Monday morning (having just eaten a massive part of the Baskin Robbins ice cream cake for breakfast) to be serenaded by our lovely co-teachers who presented Natasha and our other English speaking teacher a massive cheese cake and gifts (it was also his birthday). They forcibly crammed massive bricks of the cake into paper cups and shoved them into our hands, complimented with a pair of chopsticks. Even though I had just eaten a big breakfast of ice cream cake, I thought that it'd be rude not to eat this piece of cake too...

As soon as the bell went for first class and Tasha trotted off, one of the co teachers shuffled over with a sachet of instant coffee and told me to take it. When I asked her what it was for she said something about feeling bad about Natasha getting so many gifts and me not getting any. I assured her it was ok, but she was pretty insistent, and knowing how much they get offended when you don't accept a gift offering, I popped it in my drawer. 2 minutes later, another of the co workers came over with a handful of coffee sachets and plonked them down on the table, within 10 minutes I had a drawer filled.

We went for coffee with Jinny, my coteacher, and she pulled out two neatly wrapped gifts, handed one to Tasha and one to me. She explained shyly that she'd decided to buy me one as she'd been feeling sorry for me because of Natasha getting so many gifts.

However much I feel like a toddler who has to be bought a special present on their siblings' birthdays so they don't start throwing a tantrum at the new sparkly bike and gift wrapped presents, i do secretly quite like it. Honest, I do enjoy watching others get gifts though.

Then there're the freebies you're given in make up stores...I'm sure they pity the state that this hot weather's driven my skin to and put a few pity face masks in the bag when I'm not looking. I've bought 2 face masks since i've been here, somehow i have 5 left...hmmmm.

The only downside to these pity gifts is that after reading my Culture Shock book, I've just noticed that the majority of the time, they expect gifts to be reciprocated. I'm going to end up bankrupt!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

My first trip to the clinic...

If anyone knows me well, they will know how clumsy and accident prone I am. It isn't surprising that this week I was faced with my first trip to a Korean medical clinic, if anything it's a bit of a shock I've lasted this long. Add into the mix the Korean's love of unnecessary bandages for minor medical ailments and you can imagine Tasha got quite a laugh out of this whole debacle.

Last week I mentioned that I went to a masquerade ball. What I didn't mention was that I was tackled to the ground on the sand and landed right on my shoulder. It'd been hurting pretty consistently, and when I went upto Daegu this weekend I realised that I couldn't play derby because it was that painful. So I thought I had better bite the bullet.

My co-teacher armed me with a map drawn in felt tip pens. I don't know what I was expecting, but when I stepped inside the clinic there was nothing weird or fantastical about the place. There was lots of beige, nurses in pastel uniforms and a few glossy mags strewn across the waiting room.

It was a whirlwind of being ushered from room to room. I met a massively fat doctor who spoke admirable Konglish. The hospital bed I was lied on was covered with pink, silky sheets with weird cushions dolloped on top. I was told to lie down and 'relax' while I had heat therapy on it. The nurse drew a curtain around the bed, which was pointless as it was about 4 inches wide and did nothing to hide anything. I laid there, my feet stupidly hanging off the bottom of the bed as it was definitely manufactured for someone at least a foot smaller than me, until I heard a 'ping' go off and she shuffled back.

Next, Electro therapy was deemed vital to my recovery and I started to get worried about how much all of this was going to cost as these weird sponge cylinders started making my arm involuntarily spasm. 20 minutes of that and she told me to go back to the doctor.

I walked straight in to witness some other guy being jabbed in the arm. Apparently it's normal for a couple of patients to just hang about in the doctor's room while they're waiting for treatment. My eyes went wide as I noticed the nurse cutting off a metre of plaster as they put it over the tiny pin prick of a jab wound. He ducked behind a curtain to drop his trousers while I was given a shot in the shoulder.

I was then told that I also needed one in my derriere, so was asked to go into another room and reveal all. I don't think I mentioned it in my last post, but I fell asleep on the beach on Sunday morning, for a good long while, and awoke with a seriously burnt behind. Not only did I feel a fool showing her my tan line (it's not tan yet, still a bright shade of red) but when she started slapping me, I had to bite my hand not to scream. It was so painful.

Finally, just to ensure that I didn't leave with any dignity intact at all, the metre long plaster was whipped out and stuck onto my shoulder. As I walked out Tasha reassured me she had seen someone leave with at least 3 metres of plaster wrapped around a leg.

To be fair, they only charged me 12,300 won to get rid of what pride I had left, which equates to about 6 pound back in the UK. And realistically, I would have been made to wait at least 6 weeks before I got any treatment.

As I walked home, the shoulder not even a big deal to the Koreans on the street who're constantly mummifying themselves in plasters I added the ripped tendon to my ever growing repertoire of ridiculous injuries...

Monday, 21 May 2012

Our Weekend in Pictures

This weekend we celebrated Tasha's 27th birthday and I think it's one that she won't be forgetting any time soon... It started with baseball which turned into a bizarre night out in Nampo-Dong in a Korean night club, next was a trip to Daegu to practise roller derby with the ROKD ladies, a swift KTX ride back to Busan so we could go out in KSU, no time for sleep but Haeundae beach seemed like a good idea at 8am in the morning, tried to sleep it off there but just got sun burned. The best bit was Tasha being so deliriously tired that she managed to walk all the way into my room and stand there for several seconds before realising there was Stevie Wonder's Happy Birthday blaring out, a massive cake and lots of presents waiting for her! What was even better was Birthday cake for breakfast this morning.

A street vendor casually chilling with a kitten on his shoulder.
Happy Faces all around when he let us hold it. Not so happy
faces from him when I pretended to run away with it.

Sajik Baseball stadium
Homemade pom poms
Sleepy Giants Fan
Bet he's had a fair few trips from the tooth fairy
Alternative head wear

Bag Heads
Noone wanted to join in our metro party
The third set of people asking for their picture to be taken with us
The fan then preceded to take us to a techno club
Escorted home
Daegu for the ROKD monthly scrimmage
ROKD ladies in action
Trying to get the Baskin Robins cake home in one piece
Ready for birthday fun
The lovely Maybelle Kim
Our view in the morning
I don't know how he stayed asleep this long
Secret birthday hijack attack Natasha. Stevie Wonder was
playing and everything. 
Birthday cake which turned into Monday's breakfast
Trying to embarrass her failed miserably. She loved it.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Birthday Suit

Well it was Natasha's birthday this weekend and I'll post up more pictures tomorrow but I am absolutely exhausted now so thought I would just put the picture of my new dress up.  I found it at a second hand shop in Nampo and it was so cheap costing under £6! I love it and got to wear it out for the first time last night to celebrate her birthday.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Friday Favourite V5: Hot Drinks With Straws

The concept is easy; at the end of every week I'm going to write down one thing I love about Korea. Last week it was beach naps and here is this week's...

I don't know if it's because I'm some tall, gangly moron, or whether this is a common problem, but I find walking while simultaneously drinking literally impossible. It doesn't matter what drink it is, or what kind of a container it's in. If I don't stop to take a sip I end up with the drink all down my top. Hence me having to stop whenever I take a sip, which is not only annoying to the person behind me who crashes into me, but it's annoying for whoever I'm with when they discover they've been chatting away to themselves for the last 10 paces. This is why having hot drinks served with straws is one of my favourite things about Korea.

I love the coffee shops over here, they all have that little something extra that would make a coffee shop really unique back in the UK, but here it's just the norm. Whether it's drawing bunny faces into the froth on top of your cappuccino, covering the floor in faux grass or serving your drink with a fortune cookie, I love the little things that they do here. I think my favourite coffee shops are 2F and the Pink Elephant in Nampo-Dong and the chain Coffine Gurunaru.

The first time we were handed our hot chocolates, with a straw by the side, we cautiously looked around to make sure we weren't making some terrible social mistake. We slooooowly dipped the straw into the drink and took a sip. And just when we had that Eureka moment of realisation that straw + hot drink = a match made in heaven, no one pointed at us or laughed, or even peered over the screen of the Ipad they're usually fixated with.

So the next time we were in a cafe and we were given a straw, we dunked it in straight away without any hesitation. At first we made the rookie mistake of sucking the drink straight up, which is unbearably hot unless your mouth is made of asbestos, But now we coolly wait, playing with our straws, until a decent time has passed and the heat is bearable.

Our love for these straws is so strong that it's got to the point where if we're not given a straw, there's a minor uproar. I've seen Tasha get seriously indignant if that hot chocolate isn't served with a straw. She was also super happy to see that the Korean equivalent to poundland, Daiso, sells these straws, so she can take this new habit home with her.

Many a time I've been ridiculed for my straw usage, why's it so wrong to drink a can of Strongbow or a bottle of Koppaberg with a straw? Where's it written that a Jagerbomb shouldn't be sipped as a long drink through a straw? Everything tastes better with straws. This may have something to do with my overly sensitive teeth and my lack of drink to mouth coordination while in transit, but I don't like to get weighed down by the negative things. On the brightside it means less backwash and perfect lipstick all the same time. It also makes sharing a hot drink easy too, and if I haven't pointed this out already, the Koreans love to share!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Cute Kid Quotes

Natasha with her class// My favourite 5th grade class
Well today I'd shoved my hair up in a bun, and one of the students in my favourite class told me that I looked like a 'poo head'. Thinking that something must have got lost in translation I said, 'pardon?' and she said, very clearly, 'today your hair looks like poo...' my face must have dropped so she then added 'except poo is dirty and your hair is beautiful'...bit of a back handed compliment there. If it's a compliment at all.

That's not the only strange thing that's been said in my first couple of months of teaching, here are some of my favourites...

I walked into class and one of my 6th graders offered me a segment of her orange in her warm, sticky hand and instructed me to 'eat now', so I did as I was told, even though I thought it was really disgusting. Then I started the class...
Me: How're you today?'
Student: I am happy because I just ate my snake...
Me: trying not to freak out You ate a snake? Why did you eat a snake?
Student: blinks, looking a little confused because it was delicious. Teacher Madeline ate a snake too...' Me: About to tell her to hang on a minute and stop throwing these preposterous accusations about my eating habits around, I realised she was just saying the word 'snack' and was referring to the mildly warm orange I'd tried to swallow whole without chewing.

I'd set an exercise for one of my lower ability classes in my 5th grade and noticed that one of the boys wasn't doing anything apart from staring out of the window, so I asked him what was going on, he replie
Me: What's wrong? Why aren't you working.
Student: But Teacher it's too hard, my head will explode.
Me: I don't think it's actually going to explode, do you?
Student: Yes.

Me asking a 6th grade lower ablity student:
Me: How are you today?
Student: Terrible.
Me: That's awful, why are you terrible?
Student: Because of my father...
Me: What's wrong with your father?
Student: He's just sooooo fat.

Natasha trying to elicit to 3rd graders what the meaning of finally was:
Natasha: Does anyone know what the word finally means?
Student: Yes, it's like 'Finally, it's time to die'...

In a class where I was teaching the students about the pets that have lived at the White House:
Student: Teacher? Is this correct?
I look at the book where he's pointing to a sentence talking about Warren Harding's pet named Laddie Boy.
Student: He had a pet Lady Boy?
Me: Lolz

When a 6th grade student is lying on the desk after I have set them an exercise.
Me: Tina, what're you doing? Why aren't you working?
Student: (In super melodramatic voice, not bothering to lift her head off the table and her arms're hanging limply over the table) Teacher, I am so hungry I have nooo power.

When having my first class with 5th grade I did a powerpoint about me and my family, after showing them a picture of my sister...
Co-Teacher: Do you have any questions for Teacher Madeline?
Boy Student: Do you and your sister share the same spirit??

Natasha teaching animals and pets to 3rd graders:
Natasha: What's your favourite pet?
Student: My favourite pet is Teacher Natasha.

When asking students to list rules of the classroom:
Student: Do not gas because it will kill the teacher.
My (very prim and proper) coteacher: She means don't fart.

To a fifth grader:
Me: Did you have a good weekend? What did you do?
Student: Nothing.
Me: Nothing? You must have done something.
Student: All I did was eat, sleep and poo.

It's quite hard to keep a straight face with them most of the time! Also, here are some photos of the posters I had them design...