Wednesday, 26 December 2012

December Memories: CHRISTMAS DAY

Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas everyone! These are some of the fabulous people
that i spent my first Christmas in Busan with. I had an
amazing day filled with good food, drink, games
and skype chats.

Here's a video of some of the cute 2nd graders
singing at the Christmas Event day.

I hope that everyone had a lovely day!

Monday, 24 December 2012

December Memories: Day 24

Christmas Eve
The veg is prepared, the crackers are sorted, the wine is open and
the hats are on all ready for the big day!


December Memories: Day 23

Christmas Presents
Christmas presents all piled up
and ready for the day.

December Memories: Day 22

After worrying about what my birthday surprise was the day finally came and it
turned out it was paragliding! It was amazingly sunny
but really cold floating about in the sky.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

High 1 Skiing

When I first came to Korea I had no idea what the weather was like, apart from the fact my friend Dan had lived there for a year in the past and assured me that Busan had beaches and in summer it was a good place to be. That probably explains some of the atrocious decisions I made when packing. I imagined a summer like in Europe, pleasantly warm and dry with a mild winter. One fur leopard coat is proving not to be warm enough against the winter winds that blow around every crook and cranny of Busan's jiggledy buildings and the shoes I brought for summer are all but ruined now after the monsoons and the humidity. With all of these things unthought of, I definitely oblivious to the fact that Korea would have a massive ski season here.

One morning while we were shivering at our desks (it really is that cold inside) when the principle walked in, said something involving our names and walked back out again. It wasn't until we probed a little with our co-teachers that they told us that we would be going on the annual Ski Camp with the 4th, 5th and 6th graders.

It wasn't until another teacher explained that it meant we got free ski hire, a ski pass where we would be free to roam to our hearts content on any slope, would have an apartment literally three minutes walk from the slopes, all our meals paid for and nothing in terms of teacherly duties would be expected from us in return that I realised how lucky we were.

The days crept closer and I got a little apprehensive. The only skiing experience that I had was a handful of lessons when I was about 10 on a dry ski slope in Sheffield. Because of the apparent lack of promise I showed then, I was never given, or never let myself be given the chance to try skiing again. That was until it was time to ski in front of a group of about 10 of my 6th grade girls on the first day of ski camp.

It took around 5 hours to get there from Busan on a coach of 4th grade kids that uncharacteristically didn't fall asleep, the skill to fall asleep anywhere must develop in older Koreans. We checked into our amazing two bedroomed apartment that we were to share with the school nurse and a female home room teacher, we dumped off our stuff, had lunch and started to get fitted up.

I hired ski pants and a jacket from the shop at the High 1 resort, which when they first explained it to us they said it was going to cost 200,000 won a day. That's like £120 and left Tash and I nearly in tears. It was only when we realised that he had added an extra digit and it was actually 20,000 won that we realised it was pretty reasonable. The next day we went with a coteacher who arranged for us to keep the suits for two more days and the price was reduced to 15,000 won per day. Amazing that that was the only cost of our skiing trip.

I decided to start of modestly and go with my 6th grade girls who were having lessons. As soon as i got up to them 2 of them started wailing 'Teachaaa help me! I want to go home!' that i realised that i wasn't the only one that had reservations about skiing. It turned out that in comparison I was pretty average at skiing and we stealthily snook off from the lesson when the instructor wasn't watching us.

High 1 seems like a really good place for beginner skiers as there are lots of runs to do. The first day I got brave and decided to take the chair left (which i then gracefully fell off at the top) and went down a larger slope. Half way down I realised I may have been a little too ambitious as I was starting to go uncontrollably fast and had to do a dramatic fall to stop myself!

That night we were invited to a teacher's gathering where we were forced to drink red wine and eat beef with salt that the other homeroom teachers BBQ'd while sat on the floor, laughing.

The next morning we were up bright and early and the head of English who turned out to be quite a pro on skates took us on a mini lesson, then satisfied with us as students, he took us right to the top of the mountain, where he proceeded to tell us over and over to just 'enjoy the speed!' I felt like explaining that I had enjoyed the speed a little too much the day before and my shoulder was paying for it, but instead i did what i was told and had a few more dramatic falls. It's great that there is a beginner's slope that starts right at the top. It took us about 20 minutes to get down, and takes alot longer to get back up on the lift. We went Monday to Wednesday so didn't have to queue for a thing, but someone has been at the weekend and said that there can be a wait of upto 30 minutes, which must be frustrating when you get down to the bottom so quickly afterwards.

I couldn't help but love all of the Korean snowboarders a little. Their outfits were all amazing, I saw one in a dragon kigu who went down the slope at an amazing speed with his arms nonchalantly crossed over his chest, but I doubt i am ready to try the snowboard yet.

That night we had an earlyish night, and i helped the nurse with the vast amount of sick children that gathered in her room. Her cure for everything seemed to be blowing them with the hair dryer, miracle cure that I might have to try! Either that or they were being hypochondriacs!

The last day the teachers marvelled at our stamina as we set off for one more ski after breakfast. Tasha, with slightly more experience intended to do an intermediate slope, but because of a mess up with the coaches back we didn't have time and grudgingly had to hand in our equipment.

Luckily the ski season in Korea lasts until February, so I'm hoping to get some more practise before the season is over.

A room with a view
Room with a view

Our apartment
Our apartment

Festive lights
Festive trees

At the top of the mountain
Ready to descend from the top

A well deserved bun
A well deserved bun

Freezing faces
The ski lift before i fell off it

If Ronald McDonald designed a ski suit...
If Ronald McDonald was a ski suit...

4th graders waiting to ski
4th graders ready to go!

Friday, 21 December 2012

December Memories: Day 21

Birthday Hint
What does it mean when some gives you a pilot's cap as a hint
of you birthday present?
A little apprehensive to discover the answer tomorrow as long as the
rain in Busan goes away...eeek!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Happy Cakeday

Swanky rooms and fancy cakes is how I celebrated by 26th birthday.

It was nice to be given two different cakes on my birthday, a christmassy reindeer one and a fruity cream cake, both from my beloved Paris Baguette.

The room I hired meant we could sing along with Westlife karaoke, play flip cup and balloon keepy uppy until 4:30 in the morning. I imagine this is what would go on at a children's birthday party if all the adults disappeared for the day.

I was very lucky to get so many presents, from Tash and friends from home, and still have a mystery present planned by Nick to come on Saturday. A little concerned that as a hint I've been given an old school pilot's hat with goggles...

It may not have gone quite as smoothly as I had hoped but it's one I won't be forgetting for a long time. So thanks to everyone who was a part of it!

Lovely Coworkers
Greeted in the office by cake!

Reindeer Cake
Coffee and macaron cake

Birthday Surprises from Mum
Birthday surprises from my Mum

Message from Momma Sue
Messages from home

Birthday Surprise
Ready for everyone to arrive

Glamming it up
Glamming it up with one of my presents

Birthday hat number 1
Happy Days

Ready to party
Some of the girls before the karaoke

Hello Kitty Swag
Hello Kitty Swag

Bunny Artbox slippers
Adorable Artbox Slippers

Sonny Angel Doll Number 2
Second Sonny Angel doll. When unwrapping it
I was saying, anything but the pig, anything but the pig...

Presents from mum

December Memories: Day 20

Snowman drink
School's out, 5 days until Christmas, 7 days until Japan and a
snowman in my Hazelnut Latte froth. Content!

December Memories: Day 19

Resting at home after the party and enjoying some of the presents
my lovely friends got me. I can't wait to try the Earl Grey by my friend's
speciality tea company, Ten and Six teas.

December Memories: Day 18

Birthday Girl
Happy Birthday to me!

December Memories: Day 17

election day
It seems as though Koreans get far more openly into their politics than they do in Britain.
I was walking through the underground two nights before election day, a national holiday
in Korea and every 100 metres or so there was someone trying a weird gimmick to get
people to vote for their party. My favourite was this dog with the yellow ribbon in
it's hair. Koreans flock to massive dogs, guess it's because they're so used to
their tiny white dyed dogs.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Birthdays Away

Tash, Pauline and I on my last birthday.
Can you tell I'm becoming slightly obsessed with
adding aparkly bits to my phoros?

Back home I love all the traditions that have come from celebrating my birthday. Especially as it's my mum's birthday the day after, so we tend to try and spend the day together in one big celebration. First of all, I always take the day off work if I can. Last year I took my birthday off, along with the 2 and a half weeks that followed it, getting well and truly into the Christmas spirit...not bad!

My birthday day is always filled with waking up to open presents, having breakfast with family and usually there is an M&S birthday cake on the menu. Then it's going out and trying to find something to wear for the night time, whether it's a work Christmas do, a Roller Derby shindig or meeting up with friends. Every shop, cafe and bar is completely swathed in Christmas decorations and it's such a nice time of year to celebrate. I love that no matter what pub we go to for lunch there's usually a roaring fire, a big Christmas tree and lots of tipsy office workers in wonky hats trying to act sober in front of their boss. You can't help but be in a good mood.

Then it's rushing home in time for far away friends to arrive, so I can pick them up from Sheffield train station that's usually decorated in lots of lights, and then the tomfoolery begins.

Last year I had one of the best birthdays that I can remember, it fell on the roller derby team's Christmas Fundraiser, there were fish net stockings, candy kane themed outfits, burlesque and lots of cake. The highlight of the night was the lovely DJ  Rex Everything turning his back for one second, just long enough for Tasha to hi-jack his equipment and put on All I Want for Christmas by Mariah Carey. Even the most tough ladies on the team had a good dance.

This year, however, I'm really far from home and I've tried not to think too hard about what I would usually be doing. I have work today, but luckily have tomorrow off due to election day. I'm miles from the family I usually have breakfast with and my mum who would usually be raring to chase down a cream tea after a pub lunch. BUT although it's proving to be different, it's not been bad so far.

I had a few nice emails from home to wake up to, an especially early email from Clare who was slightly concerned that no one else had wished me happy birthday, until she realised the time difference with her being in China, a skype call from my dad and step mum and a little sing song, be it slightly off tune, from Nick, all before work.

When I got here the teachers had bought us gifts (Tasha got a pity gift) and an amazing Paris Baguette coffee cake with macarons on top. Delicious!

And now I'm looking forward to going home, opening my presents, and spending the night with new friends. I've booked a party room in Seomyeon that has a jacuzzi, karaoke and games room, something that I would never have done at home. Judging by Nick's rendition of Happy Birthday earlier, I'm hoping someone is strong enough to restrain him when we don't let him have the mic.

But although I miss the festive cheer from England, and keep thinking about all the little things that did make my birthday at home feel special, I'm also looking forward to doing things a bit differently this time. On hold with the old, in with the new.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Our Weekend


On Thursday we had what was supposed to be a quiet get together at Rock and Roll bar in Seomyeon to say goodbye to Caroline, and Katie and Alex who are off to Thailand for some Christmas sun. Lucky! What started as a civilised affair turned into alot of red wine, pool and darts, which is one of the reasons I love Rock and Roll bar. Tears were soon added to the equation once we started to say goodbye.

Needless to say, it was hard after a 3 day ski trip which I'll right more about soon, and one English themed event day, that the last day was incredibly hard. Especially as the last day was the 5th and 6th graders who think that the Event days are too childish for them.

Friday night was all about catching up on sleep, getting the last of my Xmas presents in the post and eating some amazing Japanese food at a restaurant just off BIFF square.

Saturday was wet and drizzly so we didn't venture out until later, so Nick could buy a gift for one of the boys that lives at Soyang Orphanage. He ended up getting a Man U shirt and football, I hope the boy who gets it likes it.

Saturday night they had an 80s night on in KSU, and not having danced in so long, Anna and I headed down there, with bows and blusher aplenty. The music started off really, really good and it was nice to hear music that wasn't the typical techno dance, or House that all the clubs seem to play over here.

Sunday we well and truly embraced the Korean culture and had a go on the arcade machines as we walked into Nampo, did a spot of Xmas shopping and watched The Hobbit, one of my favourite books from when I was young.  I thought Martin Freeman was perfect to play Bilbo but it feels like the story's been unnecessarily dragged out.

Now we have one more day left at school (my birthday!) until we're off for a day, then two more days and we're off for two weeks and I'll be on my way to Japan! Exciting!

December Memory: Day 16

Sharing a straw
Everything in Korea is geared towards sharing, even the geezers have got into
the swing of it, although I can't help think of the comment that Ryan Gosling
makes to Steve Carell's character in Crazy Stupid Love...

December Memories: Day 15

80s party
Ready for 80s disco party in Vinyl Underground in Busan. Nights that
play music that I love are few and far between so I thought that I'd
make an effort for this and opted for the Madonna look.

December Memories: Day 14

London Red Bus
Two 2nd graders on their way to London for the event day. Cute!

December Memories: Day 13

English Obama
Tash and I had no input into this semester's English themed Event Day preparations so
were surprised to be met with this when we walked in. No wonder
the kids are always confused about what nationality Obama is!

December Memories: Day 12

Ski Socks
Loving the ski fashion.

December Memories : Day 11

Ski Trip
"Get really close and act like you're really good friends," our co-teacher
said before he took this picture...

Thursday, 13 December 2012

December Memories: Day 10

High One Ski Resort View
As if it wasn't enough that Natasha and I both got to go on the school
ski trip, with lessons, gear, food, accommodation and passes all paid for...
this was the view from our bedroom when we got there.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

December Memories: Day 9

Busan Christmas Decorations
My Christmassy corner in my bedroom.  Worked on
today so I feel in the mood when I get
back from our ski trip. I hope
that it's snowing!

December Memories: Day 8

Hair Twins
One of the highlights of last night was watching the relief on Anna's face
when she realised that this guy's hair was a wig. She was worried
that she had been outdone of beautiful ginger locks by a boy.

Our Weekend

With all the build up to Christmas I keep forgetting that December's also going to be a sad month too. Not only will I be far away from my family and all the traditions that I'm used to on Christmas day for the first time ever, but another close friend will be leaving Busan in a few short days. Saying goodbye always acts as a reminder of how quickly time passes here and how it's all very temporary, especially with our first year flying by so quickly.

So to say a good farewell to Caroline we all got together last night in PNU to eat some Thai food and drink mulled wine at the Matahari Cafe and then danced the night away in Crossroads. On top of this we got to see a wedding ceremony between a couple who met in Busan.

Today, to get myself in the spirit I watched Love Actually whilst finishing off my Christmas decorations and packed ready for our ski trip to High One tomorrow. A little worried as I have never skied before apart from a few lessons I had when I was about 10 on Sheffield's dry slope. Eeeek. It also means that I won't be able to get online for a few days. Hopefully I will still be in one piece when we get back on Wednesday night.

Ear Muffs
Sporting fancy ear muffs
Chatting over mulled wine
Good old chin wag over some mulled wine.
Sneaky Soju
Having a sneaky soju
Grace, Caroline and I
Grace, Caroline and I.

December Memories: Day 7

Matahari Cafe
In Matahari Cafe saying goodbye to Caroline after eating Thai food and drinking
mojitos and mulled wine.

December Memories: Day 6

Snow in Busan
Whenever the subject of snow comes up with native busanites they
always tell us that it never snows in Busan, but it seemed like today was the exception.
You could hear the kids screaming up and down the corridors when the first few flakes

Thursday, 6 December 2012

December Memories: Day 5

Korean toilet paper packaging
Even the toilet paper in Korea is cute...although I'm not
sure how comfortable I am with this Konglish...

Beijing Blues

Clare and I Sailors
Embarrassing picture of Clare and I ready for a fancy
dress night when we were about 19.
It looks like our trip to Beijing that we had planned for NYE is going to have to be put on hold. Sadly there was some visa issues that I totally didn't think about until we had booked the flights. We went to the office on Tuesday night, and the lady pointed out the problem, but we were told there was a work around. It was only on Wednesday morning, 5 minutes before I was due to go and speak in front of a whole class that they called to say that it wasn't going to be possible and would have to cancel my application. Cue lots of tears and garbled explanations to a class full of concerned kids about choking and coughing.

I'd just about managed to stop quietly sobbing when I realised there was lots of other things to look forward to in December; the school ski trip next week, our Christmas day and my birthday. That's when I realised I hadn't booked the room for my birthday yet, so I asked my Korean co-teacher to check, who then told me that the party room I had wanted to book was already booked up. By the time I got home it well and truly felt like the Grinch had been and stolen all of my Christmas spirit, despite being in such close vicinity of Natasha's room (I don't think I have mentioned her xmas room decor deserves an entry all on it's own).

Luckily, I'd received s big parcel from my dad with three new pairs of amazing shoes, and Wispas, so I dunked a Wispa in a cuppa and everything didn't seem so bad. What propelled me back into good spirits was an impromptu visit from Nick bearing chocolate cake and by the time the credits of Elf were rolling I was a bit excited about the new NYE plans that we're going to be able to make, and the fact I hopefully will have the chance to visit Clare in Beijing in the Summer.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

December Memories: Day 4

Nampo Christmas Tree
I think Nampo's Xmas lights are pretty impressive.
Ignore the neon lights of the high street and it almost
feels like home.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

December Memories: Day 3

Cute Korean Second Graders
Most of the time my 2nd grade class are monsters but I can't deny how adorable
they are in matching polka dot coats and bows!