Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Time to walk a tightrope: Religion.

Before I start this out, I should probably share my own religion with you guys: I would say that I am an agnostic; I have no strong feelings one way or the other to any one faith.

But in Korea, the word agnostic is as alien as gadzooks or antidisestablishmentarianism. And here's why: Korea is one of the only countries in the world to "self-evangelise"i.e.: to convert itself to Christianity without outside help. And now that they've done it they're hellbent on getting everyone else to do the same.

So what does this mean in the real world? Well, there are hordes of Ajummas and Ajussis in the subways and streets handing out free packs of tissues to foreigners with directions and a little map to the nearest church. Not so different from home, I hear you cry. And you'd be right-many was the time in Newcastle where I would be stopped by Mormons. The only problem is that these guys are far, FAR more determined to get you to sign up, and exploit the fact that you probably don't know enough Korea to tell them to go away in a respectful manner. They will follow you through the subway, through the streets and occasionally to your building.

And it hasn't stopped since I moved to my new town. Last week, I was accosted 3 times by Koreans with a very impressive grasp of English who deduced that I worked in a hagwon and proceeded to tell me how evil and sinful the Korean education system is. Normally, I'd agree-the amount of pressure put on my students is epic-but the fact they were using this as a springboard for their own ideas, and not as a cause in itself, was what turned me off. Not to mention the irony that it is the self-same system which allows them to be bilingual; an impressive talent in anyone's book. I eventually gave them my old phone number and caught the bus.

This week at work I have been bouncing between schools to cover other classes in my break periods. Meaning I'm working my classes, and 40% of another teacher's (the other 60% is covered by her campus-frankly I don't know how they manage), whilst trying to juggle phone calls to my students. This makes me a saaaaaaaad panda.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Tired, hungry, bored, thirsty, hungry and tired.

So I'm approaching the end of my fourth month in Korea, and I can't help but feel that I've been wasting my free time.

Sure, I've been to fortresses, palaces and Korea's answer to Blackpool, but I feel as if there is so much more that I could be doing than just sleeping in, teaching and drinking on the weekend. Which is part of the reason that I have decided to stay in Korea when my summer break rocks around at the end of next month. The fact that all my friends will be in a booze induced haze in the Phillippines because they have their holiday a week before is also a major factor.

But the fact remains, I need to get the flock out of the cities. Hopefully my upcoming white water rafting trip will give me an opportunity to see some of Korea's apparently beautiful countryside.

Monday, 8 June 2009

The BNP and other animals.

So I know I decided to keep this blog to document my ramblings on Korea, but there's something a bit closer to home that I feel needs to be discussed. That's right: Elections.

Before I continue, I should point out that I was born too late to register in 2005 and I haven't voted in the recent European elections for obvious, geographical reasons. Now I'm not sure why, but England seems to have a track record of political apathy. People are of the mind that "my vote can't make a difference". However, the rise of the neo-fascist BNP should hopefully put that dangerous thinking to bed. I don't care how they package themselves: THE BNP ARE RACISTS AND NO AMOUNT OF "NICE LANGUAGE" WILL CHANGE THAT. They are a party who seek to maintain the purity of the white race and see minorities as sub-human. They exploit the fears of the silent majority to their own bigoted ends.

And, thanks to those who stayed at home in protest at the expenses hooha (Nice protest guys!), their leader has been elected to the European Parliament with just 10% of the popular vote. 10%. And to add insult to injury, this has happened in the county which I call home. For the first time ever, I am ashamed to say that I come from Yorkshire.

I don't know, maybe this is a blessing in disguise, and we've given Nick Griffin enough rope to hang himself. Hopefully he'll expose himself as the hate-monger he is.

Back to domestic news-one week into work and it's going fairly well. I am teaching three out of four slots every day, but I don't have to prep the lessons like I did back at the old place. The new teachers are all pretty cool too-my boss is English so I don't feel quite so "special" anymore. We have a new teacher who is currently under isolation and should be joining us at the end of the month.

North Korea have finally shut their noise holes, foreign teachers are still treated with total suspicion after the government singled us out as modern day Typhoid Marys, and I sent home 1,000,000 won (at least I sent it-if it makes it into my bank account is another story) so now I feel better about my finances at home.