Tuesday, 28 April 2009

News-time, children...

So nothing of any real importance happened this last fortnight (I love that word) at work because the students are doing real-school exams and don't have the time to come here.  Still, it doesn't stop parents complaining about us.  

The real impact of this is that for the last 2 weeks we've essentially done an office job.  Sitting at the desk for hours, and hours, and hours, making sure we have cover sheets on our TPS reports (anyone who gets that reference gets a prize-answers in the comment box), knowing that the work that we are doing will get ripped off by people who will take all the credit.  It's reminded me why I wanted to come out here in the first place, given me a little perspective, and now I can't wait to get back into the classroom.  My co-teachers are starting to give me their bad habits; I caught myself referring to my jeans as pants, maths as math, and football as soccer.  I need to reposition the Union Flag on my desk to remind me to stand up to their poor English!

Outside the office, life has been pretty cool.  My second baseball game was awesome (I may be getting into it; It's £5 for major league games! Compare that with watching the frickin' Magpies), made a few new mates, stayed out on an all-nighter (I feel I need more booze next time I do it) and got broadband in my flat.  To cap it all off, I got my movie-geek hoody and T-shirt from home; nice to have some new threads!

I leave you with this thought that has popped suddenly into my head.  I now weigh 96kg.  For the first time since 2004 I am actually back below triple figures.  All down to a mostly fish, vegetable, and what-I-hope-is-Chicken diet.

Peace out y'all!

PS: I'm now in the market for an early morning  (6am) Taekwondo class, despite my old mates urging me to go to the kiddy class just so I can "Feel like a giant".  Tempting, but I do that almost every day. 

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

More Muzings

So, since the last time I did this, stuff has happened.  Here are the highlights:

1)I received 2 packets from home; the Fruit Pastilles were very well received!
2) I went to a baseball game.  A surreal experience, given I had never seen one before, had a very basic understanding of the rules and it was all in Korean.  Still, a good day.
3) I carried a sofa across our neighborhood, complete with all the weird looks that entails.

But most importantly of all: My employer may be bringing in Saturday classes next semester.  No-one at the office is happy about the prospect of working a 6 day week, especially if it keeps the same hours as our normal week.  However, there is a clause in the contract giving us an extra vacation day for every weekend we have to work and any work we do on weekends has to be voluntary i.e.: They cannot make us.

We'll see how this potentially problematic issue develops.  You'll know more once I do.

Seongnam out.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Normal Service will now be resumed.

Wow, that was a surprisingly heavy post for me.  Now, we can get back to the light-hearted ramblings of a young, foolish, single British guy!

This week I finally bought a mini Union flag for my desk to remind me to stand up to the relentless tide of US and Canadian accents in my office.  I mean, on Friday I caught myself saying "Math".  I was duly ashamed.

I took the plunge and ordered stuff off of a Korean website.  With the help of my very patient Korean colleagues I managed to order 2 pairs of shorts and a chair for my apartment.  I just hope those are the things that actually arrive.

I have discovered the sheer mentalness/awesomeness that is Costco.  For the uninitiated, Costco is a discount cash-and-carry that sells pretty much everything, from tractor tyres to iPod touches, via hiking boots.  It's popular amongst us expats because it carries a large range of imported foods.  And I made the cardinal mistake of going without eating.  I promptly spent 70,000 won on junk.  Including a 32oz bag of KETTLE CHIPS.  I am now afraid that if I open them, they will either go bad within a couple of days, rendering the thing a major waste of money, or I will eat them all in a single sitting and put on all the weight I've lost since coming here.

I paid myfirst visit to a Noraebang with a stirring and, in places, voice killing rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody.

That's the latest bulletin, gang.  Stay tuned!

It's Politics time: The North

Now, today the North attempted to launch it's "Satellite" into orbit.  The north claims it is transmitting data, although quite what that data is is anyone's guess.  However, the US, Japan and the South all claim that it was a dud and broke up somewhere over the Pacific.  I'm inclined to believe that the US are right on this one, but the larger question is really: How does this change anything?

The UN will send a very-strongly-worded-letter to whichever Party aide opens the late Kim Jong-Il's post.

The North will continue with it's human rights abuses and attempts to bring its technology into the 1990s.

The South will continue with the frankly foolhardy policy of rattling the North's cage, so long as it has the backing of the US.

The rest of the world will tut and get on with their lives, knowing that whatever happens, the North can't hurt them.

I can't act as if I know all the answers.  To be perfectly frank, the actual missile launch and North Korea's plans to build a weapon that can hit Alaska (Yes, that hotbed of US and global politics) don't really bother me.  The north has had the capability to strike anywhere in the peninsula for the last 15 years, and they haven't used it.  So it's not the maybe-they-will, maybe they won't worry about invasion in the short term that bugs me.  

The fact is that there is no real solution to this problem.  As long as China backs the North, any attempts to lay economic smackdown on the North by the UN will be vetoed.  As long as Lee Myun-Bak stays in office, he'll keep cutting off the aid (both economic and material) to the North that it's people sorely need.

The problem is similar to one that is endemic in Korea; that of pride and competition.  Parents send their children to hagwon to make them better than their classmates.  Men treat their best suits as a second skin.  The confucianist culture has created a society where keeping face is everything.  And now, when the eyes of the world are on the Korean peninsula, this concept of not losing face (be it through not backing down on the missile launch, or by cancelling the much-lauded Sunshine policy) is perpetuating and exacerbating the mother of all Mexican standoffs. 

So, unless the governments on either side of the DMZ shake off thousands of years of the same philosophy then no-one can move forward.