Sunday, 29 March 2009

One month in...

So far so good; the teaching is going fairly well (read: I haven't gotten any complaints) and I'm starting to pick up some Korean.  No amusing stories to recount this week, but I feel comfortable enough to talk about one of the never-ending perks of teaching here:  The Konglish.  The crazy mixture of words that only people speaking it as a second language can master.  Some of the choice examples include:

Adviced (as in "My parents adviced me to...")

And in terms of sentences:

" My friend was popular at the start of the term, but became unpopular after revealing her personalities"
"Friends resemble each other by communication. The friend should be a person who gives me good effect."
"According to a research, Koreans don't usually get well with stranger, first-met people"
"If you satisfy the quality of life evenly, it is much ideal person for the globalization world."

More to come later.

The only difficulty I'm having is meeting people outside of the office, which is most definitely down to the hours I work.  Nothing I can really do about that except try and find fellow night-owls.  But where to begin?  Dilemma.

Thursday, 19 March 2009


I have been reliably informed that I haven't updated this thing in 10 days! Shameful I know, but there is a very good reason for this: I still don't have broadband at my apartment. Every time I try to write a post it cuts out. So, what's been happening in the last 10 days?

1) The annual joint US/South Korean training exercise has been taking place. This pisses off the North something fierce so they start moaning and making threats. But the main effect of this is that chinooks, blackhawks, and Apaches fly over my neighbourhood at regular intervals, and that armed guards were stationed at several subway stations across town.

2) I went to see Watchmen. I kinda liked it.

3) We went out for drinks on the 14th, which was 51% awesome.

4) I'm getting into the flow of teaching a bit more; I'm starting to have a bit of banter with the kids which makes everything a bit easier.

5) It was my birthday and, due to a mis-translation, I brought a cake when one was provided for me!

Monday, 9 March 2009

Trial by Classroom and My first weekend

So this weekend I went exploring.  I rocked up to the end of the Bundang line and found the hospital I need to go to for my physical, then stopped off at a few subway stops nearer to home to have a nosey.  Pretty much every store I went into on Saturday was hopelessly out of my price range.  Bundang is a very rich area, and the store-owners know it!

Which is why I, along with trusty exploring companion Alex, decided to look closer to home in Ori.  During this time, we found more amazingly expensive stores, accidentally wandered into a Korean wedding reception (who has their reception IN A DEPARTMENT STORE!?) and then we discovered the E-Mart.

E-Mart is like a 24 hour Tesco Extra store writ even bigger.  It is 4 floors of homewares, electronics, food, sports, clothes, coffee, nail salons, and toys.  And what's more, the prices are actually reasonable.  I got myself a toaster, coathangers, bedding and a week's shop for under 50,000 won (£25).  We also found an awesome but pricey Korean restaurant nearby; there's this pork dish (galbim, possibly) that is simply brilliant.  For less than 4 pounds per person.

Then Monday came; after 3 days of hurried training I was let loose on a classroom.  And I floundered like a freshly caught fish in a net.  I drew massive blanks on all my prepared topics and rushed straight through to the excercises in the textbooks, leaving me with almost 20 minutes of "dead air" at the end.  Not the greatest of starts, but I got back on the teaching horse and, in the gap between classes, rewrote my notes, made a catalogue of my mistakes and wrote a checklist of things to do at the beginning of the lesson (if I had done these at the beginning, I would have had 5 minutes of dead air; not a good thing, but better than 20), and the second lesson was a vast improvement; I was calmer, more collected, more clear in my lecture.  True, I still managed to run under, but I thought that a Q&A would fill the time, and it did.

Until I was reminded that I didn't go through the homework with them.  


Still, third time's a charm.  But today I also have my first Speaking class, which means I'll probably go through the same bout of terror once I realised I fluffed a line as I did yesterday.  Oh well, live and learn.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

My first day at school!

Right, today was my first day and I am still suffering some minor effects of Jetlag, so apologies for the incoherence.  But now I feel ready to give you a more in-depth version of events:

As mentioned last night, the cab driver from the airport to the apartment was very "friendly" by Western standards.  I probably shouldn't have sat in the front seat due to the gratuitous hand holding and groping that followed for the next hour, not to mention the arse-grabbage at the apartment.  I have since been assured that this is common between males in Korea (and yet they're in denial about homosexuality...).  I decided to forgo the pink bedding that Avalon provided for me and will attempt to purchase some before I finally grow tired of the paper thin quilt designed as a supplement rather than the main thing.

The TAs (Teaching Assistants, although the ones who showed up at my door looked like Korea's answer to Minder) arrived at 4pm and took me to my school.  As I had suspected, it wasn't the elementary school in the heart of Seoul that I had thought it was, 
but a high school in Bundang.  Part of me is glad of this; I think the challenge of teaching the kids there will be good.), but the rest of me is wondering how this will affect my contract.  These are issues I may have to address with my foreign head teacher on the morrow.  But I digress.

There are 3 other westerners in the school besides me and the head (who takes some classes of her own as well as mine for this week!  A present of some kind may be in order!)  They're great people, very patient.  It's a little overwhelming, with me being a fresh-off-the-plane, jetlagged Brit graduate and they all having some form of experience in teaching before there, but that should fade with time.  I'm probably also finding it overwhelming by virtue of the fact I have 3 days to cram 5 days of training into.  Which means I get 2 lessons to observe before doing a "mock lesson" (presentation) in front of th head and her big boss! 

However, I am going to have to go clothes shopping, as the dress code is far more lax than I had expected.  I'm just glad I didn't wear a tie or else I would've looked slightly more foolish.  I'll need a new jacket too, although apparently it starts to warm up from now so that shouldn't be an issue.

Et Finalement, here is my teeny-weeny Korean apartment.  Still, at least I have a shower.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

I've landed. But my brain is still somewhere over Russia.

So, 36 hours of fretting, flying and fending off the advances of a very "friendly" cab driver later, and I have landed at what shall be my pad for the next year.  It's not bad at all (photos to follow).  However, several clues abound the place that lead me to suspect that it has been only vacant for a matter of hours.  Not only this, but I'm pretty sure that this was a girl's apartment.

None of this is of any importance, it's just that my brain is wired on flying the wrong way around the world (travel with the turn of the earth, people! WITH!), coffee and more than enough in-flight food to last a lifetime.  And on that note: Who has CROISSANTS with chicken, rice and cabbage? 

Air China do.

Anyway, if I can find some clues as to where in Seoul I actually am, I can start trying to find my way around the place.  There's a gym on the top floor of the building across the street, so that's one less thing to do.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Away I go!

So, here I am, in a rather swish hotel overlooking the beautiful vista that is Paddington Station.  

Tomorrow, I have to go to the embassy to collect my visa, then it's straight to Heathrow.  But first I have to calm my nerves.  Y'see, I did something very, very dim: I googled my school.  Isn't it amazing how much more vocal the people who hated their jobs are? I must have read the exact same person's account (word for word, spelling mistake for spelling mistake) across a dozen websites.  But the whole episode has given me probable cause for doubt and panic (as if I actually needed any more) about the whole sorry mess.  Oh well, it's too late to back down now.  I already got a leaving present from work: It'd be plain embarrassing to go back.