Friday, 29 March 2013

Jamming: Comfort zones and blocking zones

I loved the scene in Girls where Hannah went for a job at an advertising agency. The lady who interviewed her went into thorough detail about their wall art as though it was some very complex threorum that a normal person wouldn't be able to get their head around. The piece looked something like this:
Girls' comfort zones
I'd say that everyone gets this idea, even Hannah couldn't seem to understand why the lady thought it was such a hard concept to grasp. It's whether or not you have the energy to take the first step out of your comfort zone which makes the idea viable or not.

There are hundreds of moments in my life where I've feel totally out of my depth. Whether it's during an argument or a first day of work. Nothing ever feels magical about those situations.

I guess the biggest leap I took away from my comfort zone was moving to Korea, that was terrifying. But a year later and I have an amazing group of friends that I could easily see myself hanging around with, even if I were back in England. In that sense, I've built another comfort zone away from my original nest. Therefore, to 'make the magic happen' again, do I have to move away again? And what happens when I get comfortable there? It'd be like a dog chasing it's tail around the globe, I'd never be able to settle. But I don't think you have to build up millions of air miles to get away from your safety net.

And now to the point, getting away from what I'm comfortable with doesn't have to mean a trek to another country or a big overdraft. The one time I can guarantee that I do not feel in the slightest bit comfortable is when I'm jamming in roller derby. My hips were made for blocking and this 5 ft 11 body of mine was not made for moving at high speed for long periods of time (i know it's only 2 minutes maximum!). I feel comfortable in a pack, I like being the one that my jammer can feel safe around, I like seeing how I can help her and I like the feel of having my team mates right next to me.

As soon as I put the jammer panty over my helmet I start to feel sick, my legs start to shake, and this is just at practice, not to mention the public games. In my head I start to panic; what if I fall over before i even cross the line? What if I can't get through the first back wall of the pack? What if they keep knocking me over and I have to get up again and again? What if the other jammer laps me?

To avoid that horrible scenario, I've noticed I always kind of let the other jammer go ahead, let her take the brunt of the pack formation, let her break it up and then I can hit it when hopefully they're more distracted.

I also try to do ANYTHING to actually get through the pack. Pushing, tugging, must of the time it is only my team mates, but other times it's the other team I'm holding onto. It's ugly desperation to not let the team down that makes me do it. But every time, the whistle's blown and I'm sent off.

Many a time I've been sent off as a jammer, and sit there in the penalty box, mad at myself that I'm letting the team down as I sit there and our score grinds to a halt. The pressure I put on myself. The team would much rather see me keep trying, being knocked over and picking myself back up again, instead of being redundant in a box.

The sense of elation once I break through the pack is one of the best feelings in the world, but that is fleeting when I realise that I have to dash around the track and face the pack all over again.

So, that's me working outside of my comfort zone, every time someone asks me to jam. But it's dawned on me that it's the position that I learn the most from. It's a time I get to focus on my own skill, I know I need to tidy up my stops and my footwork.  What more motivation for self improvement do you need than a whole team of people depending on you?

I've also learned that when it's the challenge of the jam vs. the skill I have to offer, no one sees me as the underdog more than myself. A terrible negative mindset that hinders rather than helps. This is something I'm working on.

When I'm on the track, behind the jammer line, metres away from the comfort of the pack, there's no Expecto Patronum style magic going on, but at the same time, if I can work towards putting on that jammer panty and having some confidence in my self, then that would work a charm. I can't wait for that day!

And even if I don't learn anything more from the times I feel uncomfortable, or I only achieve the Paul Daniels kind of magic, then at least I can look out from my comfy zone and know that I gave it a good shot.

I think I'm long overdue a roller derby post on here, and now that I've started skating a bit more, I can feel the love for it coming back to me! You can see more about me and my thoughts on roller derby here.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Korean Work Nights Out

Work Do
Old picture of a tame work do with just the ladies
Every payday in England my work mates and I would meet up after work and go out for a few drinks. Generally there'd be some people who would make excuses and slip away after one, others that had to drive and some that would try and just have a couple before their other halves came to pick them up. Those that stayed on for the rest of the night would turn upto work on Monday morning, a little red in the face because of what they said or did.

It's a totally different story in Korea, the more respected the person, the more revelry they're expected to bring to the party. Nick's most recent work night out included all of the teachers getting sloshed on whiskey, and the janitor falling down the stairs, the principle sitting next to him all night with his hand on Nick's knee, and karaoke sessions to top it all off. I've had offers to go on boat trips from a parent before on their million pound yachts and watched the principle do a fancy trick with a beer bottle. Roll on Monday after a Korean work night out, and the only thing you get for drunken mischievousness is a pat on the back and the feeling that you've been let a little closer into the fold. Nick's principle even decided to start holding his hand when they bumped into each other in the corridor the next day.

For our first work night out of the school year we went to a restaurant in Jagalchi fish market that specialised in sashimi. Sashimi is raw fish that's cut into thin slices. I'd never tried it before as I'm not a massive fan of fish, so was a little nervous when I found out this is what we'd be eating.

Luckily my coteacher took really good care of me, as I was the only foreign teacher who could make it. She  walked me through the wet streets of Jagalchi, avoiding all of the ajummas in wellies gutting fish, and passed tanks of poor fish who awaited the fate that would come to them inside the restaurants. When we got there, the other teachers had already started, so we got down to it straight away. I mixed wasabi and soy sauce together and dipped some of the fish in it. I have to say, it wasn't quite so bad as I had expected. It's more the texture of raw fish that I don't like, rather than the taste.

But the focus of the meal was definitely NOT on the food. As soon as I sat down, there was a beer and soju poured and ready for me. In the blink of an eye, everyone around me had empty glasses, so I had to catch up. Round two was a shot of soju, followed by more beer. They kept assuring me that I didn't have to try and keep up with them if I didn't want, the secret is to never empty your glass and they'll leave you be!

It was funny to watch these stoney faced homeroom teachers melt into class clowns, the more alcohol they had in them. It was specially amusing to discover that most of them can speak pretty good English, even though they won't ever say a peep to me in school.

It was when one of the homeroom teachers pulled out a pair of die from the 1st grade classroom that the night turned messy as he designed some drinking games to go with them. When I drank water they all looked at me astonished and asked if I was sick.

I stayed with my teachers until about 10:30, watching them get funnier and funnier as they drank more and more soju. After a few drinking games and having watched one of the homeroom teaches fall asleep at the table as he mumbled 'fighting' under his breath, I decided it was a good time to leave.

I ended up having a bizarre night surrounded by brilliant company, and saw a side to the teachers that I otherwise wouldn't have seen, although I don't know if I'll be trying sashimi again.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Our Weekend: A tour of Daegu's parks

This weekend started on Friday night with the English department's first meal of the year, which I'll tell you more about later. I left around 10:30 to pack ready for my weekend in Daegu.

Daegu is about an hour away on the KTX from Busan. This is where my closest roller derby team is. After I strap on my skates, it's always well worth the journey, the team are all so nice and the hours whizz past so fast. The other half of the league who are based up in Seoul came down to join us, and one of the girls brought her sister along, Kim Jen Illin, who plays for Durango Roller Girls.

After practice Nick and I headed out for some dinner, but retreated back to the motel earlyish as we were both so exhausted due to roller derby and football. We'd decided to stay close to Dongdaegu train station as there are lots of motels there, and it also meant we could leave our stuff in a locker there to pick up later.

The next day we started out bright and early to discover Daegu. I'd only ever seen the inside of the train station and the streets of Daegu rushing past me as I sat in a taxi on the way to the skate rink, so I thought it was about time I spent some time getting to know Korea's 'fashion capital'.

We started with breakfast at Starbucks where I tried their Berry and Hibiscus drink, which I thought was amazing. We followed this with a stroll through Dalseong park via Gukchae-Bosang Memorial park.

It was really nice to be somewhere that actually feels like a park. More often than not in Busan the parks are hilly and foresty, rather than having lots of green grass you can laze around in. What's more, the park had a zoo!!!

We started by seeing the llamas, deers and a very sorry looking Zebra. We then followed the crowds passed the bird enclosures, with things such as peacocks and hens. Then we came to the eagles and vultures that had tiny cages which made me a bit upset. But it wasn't anything compared to what we were about to see. There was a huge baboon in a small cage, next door to a bear. This was followed by a bengal tiger and then two enclosures that had two wolves in each. The enclosures were so tiny and you could see that it was driving the animals mad as they walked back and forth. I'd heard that zoos in Korea weren't too animal friendly, but I didn't expect to feel quite so shocked and sad.

Further around the path there was a larger open air enclosure with walls covered in bright paintings of Winnie the Pooh, then the two saddest bears sat next to a dried out pool, one of which was gnawing on a piece of litter that had blown into the enclosure.

That was enough for us, so we left the zoo part although I did notice two other larger enclosures with lions and tigers in it, but it still wasn't great.

To cheer me up, as we left, Nick bought me a bubble gun(which I'd noticed a kid had been blowing one right into the vultures' cage). And we lightened the mood by blasting the old ajummas along the street with colorful bubbles. Needless to say, they weren't impressed.

We walked through the markets where people were busy buying, selling, chopping and frying, with the smell of food drifting out from small pathways in the street. By the time we got to Duryu park we were incredibly hungry. We stopped off at a small Korean restaurant to grab some bibimbap, and toyed with the idea of going into E World, advertised as Daegu's biggest theme park, I didn't realise that Daegu was an emporium of so many theme parks! As it was pretty late in the afternoon, we gave it a miss and walked through the second grassy park of the day, this one had a 'Kolon concert hall'. We eventually found a golf range where Nick decided to have a go.

After an impromptu exit after he thought he had broken the ball machine, we made our way back to Dongdaegu station with about 2 minutes to spare before our train left. I'm yet to see why Daegu's called the fashion capital, but it was another tiring, yet good weekend!
E world
Metro Tokens
Gukchae- Bosang Memorial Park
Gukchae- Bosang Memorial Park
Gukchae- Bosang Memorial Park
Dalseong Park4
Dalseong Park
Ostrich at Dalseong Park
Bear at Dalseong Park
Goat at Dalseong Park
Chimpanzee information at Dalseong Park
Bubble Gun
Dalseong Park
Golf range Daegu
Say Cheese
Daegu tower looking over E World//  Metro Tokens//  Cherry Blossom at Gukchae-Bosong Memorial Park//
The entrance to Dalseong Park//  Animals//  Who knew mature female chimps lived with bear babies?!//
Bubble gun fun// The market place// At the golf range// Cheese!! 

Thursday, 21 March 2013

HBO's Girls


Just like I am with every other TV show, I was pretty late catching onto this. In fact, I'd listened to person after person mention it, and it was only last Tuesday, whilst waiting for the new Walking Dead episode, that I decided to watch it, and it only took my a week to finish watching the whole two seasons.

I have to say, I cringed my way through the first two episodes, thinking that it was trying so desperately to be pretentious. It was only after the main character, Hannah Horvath, meets with her ex boyfriend in the third episode that I really fell in love with it. I realised that consciously trying to be cool was what Hannah's character was all about, which although flawed ans self centered, made it impossible not to watch.

My favourite character is Adam, who's like a creepy, psychotic BFG. But behind his big ears and floppy fringe, he's probably the most honest and logical out of them all. A close second is the prissy Soshana who seems to live her life exactly as if it was contained within the pages of some glossy magazine.

The first season was a mix of Sex in the City and Skins, with an amazing soundtrack. Something that shouldn't work but really did. Whilst the second season was a lot darker, melancholy and at some times pretty hard to watch, but as you viewed the character's and their relationships you'd grown to love slipping away, it became harder and harder to turn it off.

I don't know how well boys would react to this, I can't see them enjoying all the period talk and how Hannah refers to her own body, the fights over who said what and did this, but overall, Nick seemed to approach it with indifference!

Does anyone else watch it? Who's your favourite character?

Here's my favourite scene of the first season:

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Japan Swag

I know it's been a long time, but reading Murakami at the moment really reminds me of my trip to Japan, with all the talk of Shinjuku station. It reminded me that I didn't share with you some of the stuff I bought while I was out there.

I had this conversation with George when she returned from a long trip there, that Korea has completely desensitized us to the cuteness that is probably quite overwhelming in Harajuku.

Here are a few bits and bobs that I bought...
Japanese Nails
Japanese Snow Fairy
Lucky Cat
HK Flask
Yukata Design
Fancy false nails// Snow Fairy Japanese style//
Totoro// Beckoning cat// Hello Kitty flask//
Yukata dressing gown

I can't help but think that Totoro is being judgemental whenever I turn around and he's sat on the bed all wide eyed! Take me back to Japan please?!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Our Weekend: Pig Neck and Paddy's day

This weekend was mostly spent saying goodbye to George as she left Korea to return back to England. I finally donned my skates after a year and practiced with the ROKD giels, and we celebrated St Patrick's day by watching the rugby game.
Pig Neck BBQ
Pig Neck BBQ
Pig Neck BBQ
Pig Neck BBQ
사진 129
Vintage cafe
Korean Photobooths
Huge Beer
Giant plates of food
Gwangan Bridge
I never thought I'd say this but delicious pig neck BBQ// George's last dinner// Put the
meat in a leaf and roll it altogether// Not looking impressed at Tasha' samjan covered
chopstick// The vintage cafe// Strawberry juice// Photobooth sesh//
Beer bigger than my head// Chicken, salad and crisps// St Paddy's day at Gwangalli

Work is so incredibly challenging at the moment that I feel like I try and drain every single second out of the weekend. Our school decided to change the whole way we work which has more than tripled the work we have to do. So here's counting down another 3 days until I can relax again!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Not everything in Korea smells like...


Work's well and truly started, the only place I can get a decent cup of tea is at my house and people bustle past me like I'm in a roller derby game- it can only mean I'm back in Korea, and have been for a while now. I have a serious case of the holiday blues. To try and combat it, I decided to list some of my favourite things about Korea. They may be obsessed with poop shape things, but not everything here is bad...

♥ The 'Yogi-Yoh' Button

This is a little door bell like contraption on every table in the restaurants. The servers happily stay out of your way until you ring the bell, then they will be over in a flash. No awkward moments when the server comes over to check your food when you have your mouth full, and no trying to catch the waiter's eye when you want something from them, just ring it and they're there at your beck and call.

Plus, if they don't have a bell, it's ok here to shout OVERE HERE! at the top of your lungs.

♥ The Cheapness of everything

Eating a massive dinner for less than £5. Cinema tickets for prices that're a long forgotten memory in England. I no longer have to check my bank balance through squinty eyes in fear of what the minus figure is going to be. It's amazing!

♥ Travel

Trains that arrive on time and are really cheap, buses that do actually run every ten minutes and don't make you wait for half an hour before two arrive at the same time, and to top it all off, a travel card (like an Oyster) that you can use on EVERYTHING!


Weirdly themed rooms that are generally right in the thick of it for less than probably two hours in a holiday inn. Even better is that most of them have event rooms with hot tubs, pool tables and karaoke rooms that are great for parties.

♥The Toilets

Most are sparkling clean and they do all manner of things at the touch of the button that I never imagined a toilet could do, the best part is the heated seats on an icy Winter's day. Add to this the amusement that most public toilets have a 'Modesty' or 'Etiquette' button. This is a button that girls use to cover up any unladylike noises they might make, whenever they press it the sound of gushing water fills the cubicle.

♥ Being Close to Everything

Within less than an hour I can be relaxing on lovely sandy beaches or conquering big mountains. What's more is that give me an hour or so on a plane and I can be in Japan, China and lots of other places that are worth exlporing.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

♥ Cute Korea: Photo Booths

Korean Photobooth Fun
On top of the Sonny Angel Dolls, I may have potentially found a new addiction. I feel like this one really shows that I'm adopting some of the Korean culture. Although it's probably not one of their best assets, it's the habit of taking photos of everything, all the time.

We decided, before Anna and Grace left, that we would have to try out one of the photo booths that are really popular in Korea. Basically, they are bright pink shops stuffed to the brim with young Korean teenagers, all ogling over prints they have just had taken in the booths. The booths are small, but contain endless amounts of fun in the form of posing for pictures, which you can then customise with frames, stickers, phrases and CGI props.

I got overly excited about the booths that automatically enlarge your eyes. Something that lots of Korean girls long for.

A set of photos costs 6,000won which has to be paid in 500won pieces. You put in your money and the booth bombards you with questions about which effects you want to use. This includes strange backgrounds, frames, skin tone and the softness of the pictures.

You then have to quickly strike a pose as it starts the countdown to take the pictures. It gives you about 30 seconds between each picture.

Once you've had all of your pictures taken, you leave the booth and enter the editing suite (I've called it this at a push. Really it's just a computer screen with a curtain around it.)

Here is where all the fun starts. In the editing suite you can do all sorts of magic to your photos. We gave ourselves tiaras, bows and even added a Korean caption to one picture. My coteacher has since told me that it translates to 'stupid' but no one at home will ever know.

You have a limited time to edit, then you can pick the layout of the prints. It took us a while to work this out and sadly didn't end up with our favourite picture printed. But, we'll know better for next time, and I'm pretty sure there will be a next time.
Korean Photobooth fun

Monday, 11 March 2013

Our Weekend: Monster Cupcakes and Tim Burton

Train journeys are always fun when you have red wine and The Walking Dead to make it go faster. I'm a couple of episodes behind on the third season, and think that it's definitely the best season so far, what does everyone else think?

Saturday was really sunny and warm, so we strolled around Hongdae, got some lunch then headed to the Tim Burton exhibition and the Seoul Museum of Art. It was amazing. It shows pictures, videos and notes from when he was really young, up until his big blockbuster films. It was so interesting to see which ideas that he developed all those years that you can see influenced some of the characters in his movies that everybody loves now-a-days.

Feeling weary we headed to Edae to the Raintree Cafe that I had seen mentioned on Cute in Korea. We ordered some juice and a huge banana and walnut pancake that came with green tea ice cream, exactly what we needed to get our energy levels back up, just in time to meet our friends.

We went for dinner in Itaewon and went to a Speakeasy bar. Being a massive fan of Boardwalk Empire, I was really excited about this. There was a small eye slit cut into the door, and when the light's on, you're allowed to knock and see if they'll let you in. Luckily we got in. It was really dimly lit with candlelight, there was jazz music playing and hundreds and hundreds of bottles of whiskey lined the walls. Not being a big whiskey fan, I had an amaretto sour, then decided to be brave and try a whiskey sour. The bar guy, who told us his English name was Rocky insisted that adding an egg white to a sour drink made it better, and i have to say it was really tasty.

The next morning we met near Itaewon for brunch and I tried Eggs Benedict for the first time. It was so nice being able to get a really good Western breakfast eating out, something that is pretty rare in Busan. After this we went to the Monster Cupcake shop. I was completely spoilt for choice, all of the cupcakes were decorated amazingly, and the owner's cute little son was sat in the shop, munching on a severed finger, that was actually made out of biscuit. I went for the lemon cupcake decorated with an eyeball, and Nick took a coffee one with the chopped finger.

With just a few hours before our train, we decided to visit the Hanbok village. This is an area that has lots of well maintained traditional Korean housing. It was really nice to take a wander around, and the peaceful atmosphere really reminded me of Kyoto. After exploring the tiny winding streets, we came to the main road where there are lots of traditional tea houses, we sat outside in the sun and enjoyed our cupcakes and took a stroll through the park, back to the metro.

We ended our trip on a high note, after finding a shop that sold turd shaped cakes, which we couldn't resist! They tasted a lot better than they looked.

It was such a nice, relaxing weekend, and was great to discover a bit more of Seoul.

KTX journey Walking dead and wine
Coffee Shop in Hongdae
Planning our trip
Coffee Shop, Hongdae
Tim Burton Exhibition
Tim Burton Exhibition
Tim Burton Exhibition
Banana and Walnut Pancake
Raintree Cafe
Raintree Cafe
Raintree Cafe
Monster Cupcakes
Monster Cupcakes
Monster Cupcakes
Monster Cupcakes
Monster Cupcakes

Hanok Village
Hanok Village
Hanok Village
Hanok Village
Hanok Village
Hanok Village
Choonang School
Hanok Village
Poop Bread
Poop Bread