Friday, 31 August 2012

10 Things about living in Korea that I won't ever get used to...

1. The Smells I'm happily skipping down the road, my classes have gone well that day, the naughty girl hasn't played up at school, the sun is shining, but for once it's not too hot, the man throwing business cards at the pavement hasn't hit me so far and I haven't tripped for at least 5 minutes on the uneven paving that Korea is built upon, when all of a sudden the most grotesque, vomit inducing, sex panther-esque smell fills your nostrils, just reminding you not to get too carried away with your current situation, there is always something to drag you down. You can run into the subway to try and escape the smell, but then you're surrounded by middle aged men who all smell like they think a vampire invasion is imminent so they've decided to safe guard themselves by brushing their teeth with kimchi. Why is it only the men though? That's what I'd like to know.

2.Pickled Radish  It doesn't taste toooo bad, but I think this is one of the worst culprits for the smells in Korea. Who would have thought these small white pickled cubes could make such a stink? Hours before lunch time I know when it's on the menu as the smell wafts up from the kitchen. It smells like stagnant trumps mixed with rotten vegetables. What's worse is that it got delivered with an order of fried chicken to the school. The teachers semi opened it, but then popped it in the fridge so they could enjoy it later, but then forgot. Weeks later it decided to make it's presence known by letting out a smell worthy of requiring a gas mask, every single time someone opened the fridge. Bleugh.

3. The use of the word Maybe
Teacher: "There's a parent's meal tonight, maybe you will come?"
Me: "Oh, I have plans tonight, sorry"
Teacher: "Maybe you will cancel them though?"
Me:  "I guess maybe I will."

Teacher""We have a class in 10 minutes, maybe you could make a powerpoint presentation on the past participle third person singular?"
Me: "Yes, Maybe I could..."
Teacher: "Maybe it could have pictures and animation too?"

 How has maybe turned into such a threatening word ?!

4. Their love of clapping  There seems to be a belief in Korea that the correlation of sales in a shop is directly linked to the volume/frequency of clapping that is done by the sales assistants. They stand in the street and clap really loudly in your face as you walk past. Whenever it happens I walk away feeling slightly violated. Once I was sat in the phone shop, when I saw one young gentleman gather his co-workers together, they all marched out of the shop and started clapping less than enthusiastically at innocent passes-by in the street. Strange but true.

5. Korean Boys asking for Phone Numbers Why? Just because we speak English doesn't mean that we want to give you English lessons. Most of the time I hope that these are genuine requests, but sometimes I feel like these are hopeful suitors disguising their dreams under the cloak of a language barrier. This has been spurred on from a bad experience I had on Sunday night. I was sat on the subway with a male friend, and happened to notice a young Korean man smiling at me, but I just ignored it. Eventually my friend left, and so I tried to look absorbed in my phone. Unfortunately the man got off at the same stop as me, so I hung back, but he must have noticed, so I hopped into my local supermarket and spent a good ten minutes in there. When I came out I started the walk back upto my house, when I realised that I was being followed, I turned around and was greeted by the guy thrusting his phone in my face with a note on the screen that was begging for English lessons. No you creepy person.

6. Only one song seeming to be big at a time...and at the moment it's this that's being played to death. Enjoy!

7. Not being able to try things on in shops  Every item of clothing in Korea seems to be 'Fixed size' which is rather ambiguous. Will it, won't it fit over my thighs that inadvertently aren't as skinny as a stick of celery? To add to the mystery of the size the shop assistants will not let you try things on. Before I learnt this lesson I asked a few times if I could try, and was always met by filthy looks that would drive me straight out of the shop. Why won't they let this 5ft 11, sweaty, white monster try on their delicate looking dresses?!

8. The Toilets First of all they don't usually have toilet roll in the cubicles, just a big roll near the entrance of the bathroom. Therefore whenever you want to go, you have to carefully judge how much loo roll you need, and pray that you don't have a sneaky wee that seems to stop, but then just carries on. Once you're over this trauma there's the ash trays, I can't imagine wanting to smoke while I'm sat in a public loo, but then I don't smoke so I don't know what nicotine cravings do to people. Next, while you're having a drag on your cigarette, you can check yourself out. Yes, they have mirrors at eye level when you're sat on the toilet. I think this shows that the Koreans have taken vanity to a whole new level, who would want to look themselves in the eye when they're doing their business? The worst thing about this is that I went to a bathroom that only had the squat style toilets, and even in there, you can look at yourself while you squat over a potty that smells like pee, and try not to slip on the puddles where other people have obviously missed (probably because they were too busy smoking and doing their make up while they were having a good old squat). After using some of the worse toilets you feel like you need a good wash, but when you approach the sinks there are these strange looking soap contraptions, think soap on a rope, but it's on a metal stick instead, and you have to do some obscene hand gestures to get yourself properly soaped up...sometimes you can't help but laugh at everyone doing it with perfectly straight faces...oh Korea!

9. Sitting on the floor Maybe it's just from all the years of being provided a comfy chair to sit on when I go to a restaurant that means I struggle with sitting on the floor. I spend the whole time wriggling about trying to get comfy, legs to the side, crossed, straight out in front, a combination of all three which ends in the crescendo of an awful bout of pins and needles, by which time I've gone off my food. Maybe that's their secret to staying to slim.

10. The Spitting  It's usually old men that make the real song and dance about clearing their lungs onto the floor, but I've seen demure K Pop esque girls doing it, even a student at our school who is very cute with pigtails and glasses has been known to do it. It makes the kida at home who hang around off licences trying to find an adult to buy them fags seem like they're being discreet when they spit a big green blob on the floor. Charming.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

I wish...

That I was as talented at something as Killian Martin as at skating... Discovered through one of my favourite skaters Bonnie D.Stroir.

Something about deserted theme parks makes me nostalgic and I love the song on this video too...

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Typhoon Day

I've been sent home from work before because of floods, and snow, but never because of an impending typhoon.

There were lots of warnings yesterday about a typhoon that was heading our way after causing havoc in Japan. Apparently it was supposed to be the worst in years. I waited all night for it to hit with a bit of nervous giddiness, but sadly it never did. Not that I'm complaining as it's a bonus day off.

I've managed to be super productive today, arranging what I can do when my mum arrives in just under a week's time, and watching Mad Men, which I am now obsessed with. I love Don Draper's smoothness and his glamourous housewife Betty.

Our Weekend

We don't often get the chance to meet up with our Korean co-teachers so it was nice on Friday that they took us to a restaurant after work. The restaurant wasn't much to look at, it was hidden away in a dark corner of Nampo market, but the food was really tasty. It was marinated pork BBQ'd with lots of leaves and  rice.

After that I had a quiet night in while Natasha went to watch a Metallica tribute band at Vinyl Underground in KSU. I know how desperate that she was to see them, and it was their last ever gig so I'm glad she caught the show.

On Saturday I headed to Dadaepo beach which is pretty South of Busan. The weather was amazing, the beach was virtually empty compared to Haeundae and Gwangalli, it was nice to see so much open space.

I headed home eventually with the intention of trying to see my friend's band play, but got into PNU too late, so we sat at our usual joint, the street bar, for a while before the girls headed for food at a chintzy Italian restaurant. The restaurant had tiny booths that were separated from other tables with big screens and curtains, and had big fluffy sofas to sit on. After eating I think we could all easily have dozed off. We managed to stay awake though and chatted late into the night.

Sunday we met up in Sajik and went for some delicious food at, which i think is the closest that I have come to a Sunday roast since I have been here, with chicken, potatoes and vegetables in a thick sauce that was almost like gravy, with an added kick! I ate while the boys chatted excitedly about Fantasy Football, even half way around the world there is no escaping it.

From there we headed out to watch Busan I'Park, the local football team play against Sangju , who is the military's team. Unfortunately they didn't score so it was a little boring as my first experience of football here in Korea.. It was nice to see the players that played for the Olympic team celebrated so much as they were applauded at the end, and pretty funny to watch Nick knock over a small child as he tried to catch the ball one of the players threw into the crowd.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Free Boat Tour

It happens every Tuesday and Thursday at 2pm and leaves from the ferry terminal at Jungang. It's all in Korean and mainly goes around the docklands, lulled Tasha into a sleep where she dreamed about yorkshire puddings and gravy, also was a bit blustery on deck so made her flash her underwear at all the school girls but it was still pretty worthwhile.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Haedong Yonggungsa Water Temple

With the weather being as hot as it is recently we've found it pretty hard to tear ourselves away from the beach where you can take a dip in the sea whenever it got a little too warm, but we finally managed to organise ourselves last weekend for a long over due trip to Haedong Yonggungsa Water Temple.

I'd heard that it was one of the more unique temples in Korea, and due to some guides and sites saying that you could hike there, I imagined a tiny remote temple right on the cliff edge. When we arrived, there was a coach park filled with cars, lots of touristy stalls set up selling little buddhas and incense and alot more people than I'd expected to be milling about.

Even though it was busy, I loved the temple and the grounds it was set in. It was nice to sit on the rocks, dipping our feet into the sea and watching the people in the distance wandering around the rocky temple. Although it was very touristy and there were restaurants and cafes there, it was nice that it was still done in a very Korean way and wasn't quite as polished as a major tourist destination in the UK might be.

We walked around the temple, threw coins into the wishing pot, although no one had good enough aim to get them in, and poured what I presume to be holy water over the buddha's head. Afterwards we sat on little wooden stools, bought some icecream from the little buddhist cafe and sat and looked out to sea while the ice creams melted all over our faces. I think a new year's resolution for me this year should be to learn how to eat a cone without making a mess...

After a while we followed the signs for the forest trail, which ended rather unceremoniously at a gate with a clear no entry sign. Yet being the trepid explorers that we are, we headed past the gate, walked down through a few tiny allotments and came out at the sea shore.

Randomly there was an amazing outside terrace cafe with big comfy chairs to sit in, so we drank Asahi and took in the view. I think the highlight for Tasha was seeing the Great Dane that was skulking around the cafe- definitely the biggest dog that we've seen since we've been in Korea.

We ended the night watching the sun go down on a wooden pagoda near to Songjeong beach, as I watched the tiny people cling desperately onto the banana boats in the ocean below, and realised how idiotic I must have looked last weekend.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Saying goodbye to new friends

Katie and Anna had their lovely friend, Trina, over from England for 3 weeks over the Summer holidays. It was nice to have a new face in the group and by the time she had to leave it felt like she'd been here all along.

On the last night we realised that she hadn't tried flavoured Makeolli yet so we took her to our favourite Makeolli bar in KSU to say goodbye. I still love the banana flavoured one the best, but the berry one is definitely a close second...

The Perfect Film

To watch when you're feeling lazy and it's rainy outside...

Tuesday, 21 August 2012


One of the promise lock trees at the top of Seoul Tower
The one good thing about Summer camp has been the fact I could leave school at 1 and not have to sit at my desk until 4:30. But it also means that the few hours I usually use to write my blog have been taken up by sunning on the beach or meeting's hard sometimes!

It was really nice to have a whole week all to myself to do whatever I wanted this month. We made the most of the weather by spending a few days relaxing on the beach, reading and eating watermelon. Another day I went for a really long walk in Hwamyeong which is becoming one of my favourite places in Busan. Then there was our trip upto Seoul where we explored the ancient palace and got a kitty overload at the Hello Kitty cafe. Visiting Forever 21 and H&M was also great, and I was excited to see the opening of the H&M in Shinsegae department store when I got back to Busan.

These few days were followed by a hot, sticky weekend in Jisan where I got to watch Radiohead, James Blake, The Stone Roses, Owl City and M Ward. I loved the festival, but my favourite part was definitely dipping my feet in the stream that ran through the grounds and being introduced to Bubble Pong drinks!

As if that wasn't enough festivities, there was Boryeong mud festival where we all got covered head to toe in mud. The atmosphere was amazing and running into the sea afterwards to wash it all off and start the madness again was definitely the best bit. Although I had to try and not think about how dirty the water must have been, especially everytime I walked through a suspiciously warm spot of water. No matter how exhausted I was on the bus ride home after that weekend, I couldn't help but laugh at everyone on the bus serenading the drunk guys.

This month was filled with superhero movies, we went to see Batman at the IMAX and Spiderman too. I love that in Korea there's no messing about with movies and they don't show any adverts before hand. I also visited the DVD bang to watch Toy Story 3 as I realised it was getting a little ridiculous that I hadn't watched it yet. I also finished the first season of the Wire and am well on my way to finishing the second. Is anyone massively anti McNulty like me? For some reason I just can't stand him!

I finally started my language classes this month, so I'm hoping to be able to speak alot more than I can at the moment, and stop giving blank looks whenever I'm asked anything. The teacher seems really sweet and as the weeks go on there are less and less students, which means more teachers for me!

We had our second event day session where I was a weather girl and Tasha was made to dress as a polar bear, not exactly what she needed when the weather was so hot and humid here.

Finally I shared my love of soju and the perhaps insincere compliments that we're peppered with day in day out on the last couple of Friday Favourites. I've decided to give Friday Favourite a break as it was becoming  harder and harder to think of things.

Finally I shared my love of StumbleUpon (Noone's bought me the Gatsby jumper yet), we discovered a tasty new Mexican called O Taco and just couldn't stop singing Carly Rae Jepson, thanks to everyone at Mudfest! Someone help me to get it out of my head!

Monday, 20 August 2012

End Of Summer Camp

Camp finally finished on Friday. It's only been three weeks but it's felt like so much longer. It's definitely been the hardest three weeks of my stay in Korea so far.

It was a massive challenge teaching kids that  were 5 or 6 years younger than the ones that I'm used to teaching, especially at the end of a hot, sticky summer camp session when they're just itching to get outside.

Even though we only had to work half days, we were teaching more lessons than we normally would in a whole day, back to back with very little break so by 1:30  most of the times we were ready for bed.

It's funny though as now we're back to normal teaching, my favourites from Summer camp have turned out to be the naughtiest ones. I loved one little boy that would turn up to school wearing ajumma pants or tshirts covered in robots, hand grenades and ice creams. He was like a mini ninja that somehow managed to wipe off anything I happened to write on the board- but would always give me a helping hand to control the other six boys.

My favourite part was watching each group perform a play they'd been practising for weeks. Even the ones that drove me mad in class looked amazingly cute!

All in all, I'm relieved that it's over. and cannot wait to see my normal classes again. But I'm also very proud that I managed to get through it, even if I do feel like I need another vacation already.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Goodbye Old Purse, Hello Sparkly New Hello Kitty Purse

After my purse went missing the other month and was discovered in the boys toilets at school two weeks later, I decided rather than carry that one around which had probably been peed on, that I'd buy myself a new purse...