Thursday, 29 November 2012

November: A month of literary abandon

Although I know I've quietened down on here, November has been a super busy month for me. Between all the usual obligations such as work, and all the social events, like our trip upto Seoul, I decided to give myself an additional challenge.

I kept it quiet from most people, mainly because I guess that I don't have the confidence in myself to think that I won't just pack it all in at the first hurdle, but now that I've finished one day ahead of the challenge date I feel like I can explain a little bit more why I've not been such an avid blogger.

I decided to take part in this year's National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo). It's a challenge that anyone can take in November. It encourages people to try and write 50,000 words, which is the average length of a novel, in just one month. When you first look at the number 50,000 it seems like a mammoth task, yet when they sell it to you as just 1.667 words a day, it seemed alot more doable. So I signed up the day before it started, October the 31st, without much forethought about my plot.

I'd had an idea in my head for a long, long time about a story I'd always thought I could write. I know I'm not the next J K Rowling, but writing is something that I've always enjoyed, so I thought that maybe it was time to stop thinking about it and start actually trying to turn it into something physical.

The first week was easy, it was still a novelty and the ideas were flowing. By the second week, I'd run out of ideas, and was at risk of turning the novel into a short story. I had to catch up on the weekend's wordcount before I could even start the rest of the week. This made it feel like more of a chore. As if school somehow knew I'd decided to do this, the work load increased. There were speech contests to judge, the next event day to plan for, new work books to shop for, meaning I had a lot less time to sit at my desk and write.

When I sat down at the computer on the 21st of November, I was over 10,000 words behind the goal word limit, which is roughly a week behind. This was mainly because I was so excited about sharing my Seoul pictures on my blog, that I decided not to do anything on my piece on the Monday or Tuesday. So that night I had to brace the chill and lugged my laptop, charger and all down to a coffee shop. I sat there and didn't move until I had caught up.

I'm long past the point where I think this novel is going to work, the story is awful. I'm constantly repeating phrases like 'All of a sudden' and 'She held her breath'. The characters keep morphing into other characters, are they good or bad? Even I don't know. Even at the 35,000 mark I still didn't know how I was going to end it, at 50,000 words I still don't like what I decided to call the main character, I really dislike her too. I wanted her to be pretty cool, but she's turned into a Kristen Stewart-esque sulky teen.

Yet it was interesting to see how the story changed and seemed to lead itself to a logical ending. And even though I know I'll cringe through every part of it when I read it, at least I can say I actually did it. And give me a month or two break from a word processor, I might actually want to use it as a rough draft to work on. Maybe this story could work after all. Maybe.

Before November, the most I had ever written was my dissertation four and a half years ago. That took me at least 7 months and it was only 14,000 words. I felt incredibly proud of myself, so doing nearly four times as much writing in just a month is a massive achievement.

I've never been the most self disciplined person. I decide to eat healthily, have salad for my dinner and then chase it down with an ice cream. I resolve to get myself in better shape for roller derby, but drink too much the night before, so I'm happy that I've proved to myself that I can do it if I really apply myself.

So that's the biggest thing that's happened this month, along with the small fact that I stepped into North Korea.

Apart from the writing this month was filled with quiet weekends spent vintage shop browsing, telling people you love them by giving them chocolate covered sticks on Pepero day and art. We went to the Trick Eye museum, I shared the art around our school from the street art festival and we also paid a visit to the old refugee camp, Anchang Village. I finally got to watch the new Twilight movie, go ice skating and gawp at the amazing Christmas tree in Shinsegae, I'm feeling ready for Christmas now!

There are lots of exciting things I have to look forward to coming up in December, and now I've finished the story, I can properly build upto them. We have a ski trip with the school from the 10th-12th December, our final Event day of the year, with a British theme, my birthday, Christmas and then Nick and I are headed to BEIJING for NYE with Clare and her boyfriend Joe. So excited!

Funnily enough, the other day I was randomly looking on TED and found this talk on trying something new for 30 days and Nanowrimo was mentioned. Next up, which I think will be the hardest, is trying to break my awful habit of picking my split ends.

Monday, 26 November 2012

This week...

 has been mostly about...

Breaking Dawn Part 2. The end of the cheesefest that has taken up a big slice of my life since i was coerced into reading the first book a couple of years ago. It was a strange finale to it all but I can still say I'm team Jacob to the end!
Ready for ice skating
Looking ready as I'll ever be for skating...
Ice Skating! Nick took me to the ice-rink as a surprise. I loved the fact they made us wear ridiculous helmets on the ice.  We were totally shown up by the tiny kids in lycra who were whizzing around, but it didn't stop us trying to give Torvill and Dean a run for their money.

Uno Game
Tasha with her fancily painted nails
Board Games. It's cold outside and the beaches of Busan are almost a long forgotten memory. It's all about staying in and keeping warm now. Who knew Uno had so many rules?!

Gangnam Style Socks
Oppam Gangnam Style
Millions of layers to keep warm, topped off by market socks. Gangnam style.
Shinsegae department store christmas tree
Pretty tree at Shinsegae department store
And trying harder than usual to get myself into the Xmas mood. This year is going to be a strange one, but there's lots of things we have planned that I think will make this Christmas one that we won't forget.

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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Our Weekend: Grim Up North

All the group 1

I'd been looking forward to this weekend for aaages as this was when me and 11 of my favourite people from Busan were headed upto Seoul for a couple of birthday celebrations.

It was Saturday that I was most excited about though, as we had arranged to go to the DMZ. The DMZ is the border where North and South Korea meet. We paid a little extra for the Joint Security Area (JSA) tour run by the US Military which meant we got to go into the area where the soldiers from the North stand and face the soldiers from the South. We entered the area by going through a modern building that was built for the sole purpose of reuniting families that had been separated by the barrier. Sadly the guide said that it had never been used for that reason.

It was strange stepping out of the building made of marble and glass into a concrete square, where you are faced with a few small hut like buildings and at the far end of the square is the pretty menacing looking concrete building that is the North's. On the steps of the building there only stood one soldier who checked us out with his binoculars for a good long while. But we did notice several other soldiers on the roof of the building, and the guide informed us that there were soldiers in the windows of the building watching us too.

The three poor South Korean soldiers have to stand, perfectly still for 2 hours at a time staring at this lone soldier, while he stares straight back. The one that I felt particularly sorry for was the one who must stand out in the open, without any cover to protect him if the worst did come to the worst.
Face Off
Can you spot the soldier?
Here's looking at you...
We were taken into one of the blue huts which was called the Armistice Conference Building where many an unsuccessful peace talk had happened. Half of the building was in the North, and half in the South and in that building we were allowed to step over to the North. I can say it felt no different at all. The only way you were aware that you had passed over is if you peered out the window to see which side of the concrete slab that marked the border you were stood on.
Coupling in North Korea
In the North of Korea with a South Korean soldier
The concrete slab you see marks the border between North and South
Following the tour of the JSA we were taken to a few spots where there had been attacks before, and shown in the distance the Peace Village, or Propaganda Village as it was repeatedly referred to on the tour. This is a village based in the DMZ on the North side, but is believed to be completely uninhabited, apart from a handful of people that work in some factories near by and others that have the job of looking after the gigantic flag that dominates the horizon. The tour guide told us while trying not to laugh too hard that originally the Freedom Village on the South's side of the DMZ had the biggest flagpole, but the North hated to be outdone so they replaced it with an even taller one. He commented that until 2004 the Propaganda village would play communist propaganda for upto 20 hours a day, trying to tempt anyone within hearing distance on the South to come over to the North. Something else that I found interesting about this part of the tour is that men born in the Freedom Village, which is in South Korea, are not allowed to leave, completely contradicting the name of the village.
Propaganda Village, North Korea.
Nick's not known for his good pictures but I thought this was great
The Group and North Korea
Does North Korea look much different?
After this we headed to the third tunnel. This is a tunnel that the North Koreans built, which was discovered in 1978 when a defector of the North told the South Korean government about it. It would have allowed upto 30,000 men enter the South in one hour. Scary stuff.
Girls on tour
Glamorous Girls
Neil the Pied piper
Like flies to...
Apart from the horribly early start and the strangely propaganda-esque movie shown at the theatre at the 3rd tunnel, I really enjoyed the tour and felt that I learned alot more about the country that I live in. It's bizarre that the country is split as it is, and the only thing that acts as a barrier between the two countries are these small white poles, 10 meters apart that wouldn't look out of place in a picket garden fence.
Orange Hostel
Outside the lovely Orange Hostel, Seoul

For the rest of the pics you can see them on my Flickr account.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Happy Belated Pepero Day

Pepero Day Treats
Pepero day treats
It's been almost a week since Pepero day, 11th November in Korea, which is the same day that Remembrance Sunday in the UK fell on. It was strange to celebrate such a weird little holiday on the same day.

Pepero is a snack in Korea, I think people in the UK would know them as Mikado, which is the Japanese counterpart. Because of the way the date looks when it's written, 11.11, the company decided it looks like four of the chocolate covered sticks, so they decided to make a holiday out of it.

The point of Pepero day is to give your loved ones and friends a gift. Cue lots of chocolatey sticks on sale, small boxes of them stuck together to make massive hearts, one covered in coconut and hundreds and thousands, it was hard to resist temptation while shopping.

My lovely co teacher bought us a box of strawberry flavoured ones each, and my students on Friday  bombarded me with sticks in the hope that we wouldn't do much work that day.

It reminded me that I hadn't mentioned it on the day after receiving a huge one from my last class of the day, which she said was her leftovers from the weekend. I like that I was her last resort. But a Pepero breakfast was a nice start to our weekend in Seoul.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Our Weekend: Anchang Village

Anchang Village Grafitti and Flag
Korean flag amidst the rubble in Anchang Village
After weeks of dodging sneezes escaping from little mouths and pushing away the spluttering children that greet us in the hallways, the sickness bug finally bit me. Typically, it coincided with Tasha's sister, Emily, arriving from the UK. Therefore this weekend was a mix of lots of sleeping and sipping lemon tea, followed by meals out at night, drinks and dancing so that Emily could see what Busan was all about.

On Sunday I found myself drinking the aforementioned amazing lemon tea, wearing a new thick knitted jumper I picked up from Seomyeon underground shopping centre, whilst surrounded by cats at the With Cat Cat Cafe. Definitely one of my favourite places in Busan.

On Saturday Nick and I followed the advice of Busan Awesome and went to visit Anchang Village. This used to be a refugee camp in the Korean war and has turned into a permanent residency for those hardy Koreans who Nick commented must be 'built like a mountain goat' . There's no other explanation as to how someone would be able to live every day life up such an incline. It was quiet and peacful and the chilly Autumn windswept leaves were the only things moving down the tight, brightly painted alleyways. There was the odd fat cat sat on a rooftop that would stare at you even more unashamedly than the locals. It was a strangely eerie place to be and it wasn't quite what either of us were expecting. All along the main road were pieces of grafitti and art work that stood out, yet fitted in pefectly there. And every now and again you would get a glimpse between the teeny one room houses of the high rises that I've started to associate with Busan.

Saturday night we went to see Tasha's favourite local band, Enter Busandman, a Metallica tribute band. They were playing in Vinyl Underground, and I was a bit gutted to arrive a little late to miss the ska band Onedropeast, who I've only managed to catch once before.

So after my cat filled weekend my cold's took a turn for the worse and the last two days has been a blur of working and sleeping, with the odd interruption of an ice cream being delievered by Nick, an unexpected but very welcome surprise! I just want to get back to normal for our trip to the DMZ this weekend.

I didn't take many photos this weekend, but here are a few of the snaps from Anchang Village:
View of the Village
The roof tops of Anchang Village
Busan Below
A good view of Busan from the top.
Anchang Village Art
The wall art that we read about was what made us want to visit here.
Anchang Village Art
Amazing grafitti in the middle of lots of scrap.
Anchang Village Wall Art
Plastic toys and household items stuck to the side of the house.
Community Centre at Anchang Village
Anchang community village.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Trick Eye Museum

Back in August when I was madly planning for my Mum's trip to Busan I picked up a leaflet about Busan's Trick-eye museum. She never made it, so as I've set myself the task of trying to find new places in Busan I decided to try it out on Tuesday.

If you hadn't already notice, Korean's love taking pictures, and the slowness of my computer and it's full drive suggests that I've been bitten by the fever too. This museum is just an excuse to take hundreds of pictures. There are lots of artworks that encourage people to interact with them and get involved. For that reason it's a bit of a bizarre place to be. Rather than explaining the artwork on the boards next to the pictuires, there are hints and tips on how to take funny photos.

We went an hour before closing so we almost had the whole place to ourselves, which made Nick a little daring at times...
Who knew that's what cause the Scream?
Spider Man
Spider Man
Checking It Out
Checking it out.
My ideal library
Neverending story

Little and Large

Sadly my camera died shortly after these which brought a premature ending to the pics, but the museum was about to close up for the evening so we headed to PNU and got some BBQ and Hite instead.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Junggang Street Art

If you're ever around the 40 steps area of Busan it'd be well worth coming to explore the side streets of our school. At the start of October they had a street art festival where lots of different artists were given a space to be creative.

We went down for a look and here are some of my favourites:
The footsteps lead up the stairs with the
lyrics of a well known children's song beside you
Piano Wall
I loved the piano on the wall
Art on the wall at the back of school
Stairway behind school
These are the steps behind myschool, you can see our weird
spiral slope where the lunch carts are pushed on the right of the page.
Street Art
Jinny and the birds
Jinny less than pleased I coerced her into a picture
with a painted sky and metal birds flying above her.
Keep Fishing
A silhouette on the wall catching a big painted
Flowery Moon
The rabbit on the moon
According to Jinny the Koreans don't believe in the man on the moon
like I was brought up with. Instead, they believe there is a rabbit on the moon! Interesting.
The rabbit on the moon
She also said the rabbit isn't alone, there is a woman on the moon. From what I can
gather she has a pestle and mortar with her.
More drain pipes
Drain pipe and gutter art
Call me
It's definitely worth a gander. The artists were also kind enough that when my coteacher went on the scroung for event day, they gave her lots of paints to complete a few things in our solar system room.

To get there, climb the forty steps, cross the road and walk up the next flight of stairs that will be slightly on your left. You'll be in an alleyway, and this is where the art starts!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Our Weekend

After lots of weekends away it was nice to spend some time at home this weekend.

On Friday night some friends got together and we went to a few places around Nampo to eat, drink, and perfect our aegyo skills.

Saturday morning was bright and breezy so I headed back to Nampo, and got myself lost in the market where I discovered a few cute vintage shops and a big building filled with lots of smaller vintage boutiques. After this is seemed a little rude not to have a Red Velvet Cupcake, so I decided to get one to take home with me.

Saturday night was ladies night, so we all got together in Oncheonjang where we tried home made cocktails, and then meant to head out to PNU to watch a battle of the bands competition, but ended up going out too late. It was really nice to see all the bars really busy, as sometimes they can be a little quiet and lacking in atmosphere.

Sunday I just relaxed, popped into Nampo, watched the film, Attack the Block which I thought was awful and had to give up on half way through and had an early night ready for my first full week of teaching since September!

To top my weekend off I decided to go and get my haircut for the first time since I've been in Korea. Because of some decisions I've had to think about over the last month I've literally been pulling my hair out so thought it could do with some TLC. At a friend's recommendation i decided to go to Hwamiju in Nampo. It has a bright purple sign, is up on the 2nd floor of the main street of Nampo, right opposite the big Paris Baguette. It's super fancy inside.

As soon as the stylist, Mina saw my hair she started muttering 'Emergency' under her breath. My own hairdresser didn't even react like that after I bleached my hair 5 times in 48 hours. She'd periodically stop snipping away to stroke and coo over my eyelashes, then finished my straightening my hair into what can only be described as a Rachel look. Having said that it wasn't a bad price at 27,000, she could speak really good English and she did give me entertainment while I sat there...