Happy New Year to everyone!! It is now January 2010 and I cannot believe how quickly this year has gone. It doesn’t seem long ago that I was moving out of my flat in Nottingham and counting down the days to spending 3 months in Australia, and now here I am nearly six months into my year teaching in Korea, and I will be back home again THIS YEAR!!
This month has mostly been focused around Christmas, so may not be too much write about!
ADVENT CALENDAR AND CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS:
December is of course the month of the advent calendar and thanks to my mum and dad sending me one I could enjoy this tradition despite advent calendars seemingly not existing over here!! It was of course a chocolate advent calendar so I enjoyed the taste of English chocolate on a daily basis for a full 24 days - chocolate over here is rubbish so this was a very big thing for me!!
I was also determined to make the apartment feel festive by decorating it for Christmas, however I did not want to spend a fortune on Christmas decorations. I therefore bought some coloured paper from the friendly supply store along with some tinsel and made my Christmas decorations. Basically, I made a Christmas tree out of coloured paper and then several paper chains which I hung from the ceiling. I also made a ‘Merry Xmas’ sign for the inside of my door. Along with the couple of small Christmas decorations I bought from E-Mart and my Christmas cards from home, it didn’t look too bad, even if I do say so myself!
Early into December I took a trip to E-Mart and bought myself a new camera. I wanted to have a compact camera that I could carry everywhere with me for those times when I just happen to see something I want to take a picture of. This also means that I do not have to carry my big camera with me all the time ‘just in case’.
Anyway, I went to the electronics section and ‘spoke’ to the guy behind the counter. I say ‘spoke’ because he spoke very little English, but we actually managed pretty well between us and he was very helpful. The first camera he tried to sell me however was too expensive. I tried to communicate this to him and he looked at me a little confused and then he seemed to get is and declared ‘discount?’. I was a little embarrassed by this as this wasn’t what I meant at all and I would never ask for a discount, at least not as the first thing I asked about something! I finally managed to communicate my real meaning and we moved onto the next camera!
I came away with a good little camera and a couple of memory cards and a case for a very reasonable price - he even gave me a discount, I think because of the earlier misunderstanding, but I wasn’t complaining!!
Well, school has been fairly standard for the most part this month, with the exception of the Christmas parties which I have written about separately below, however there are a couple of things I will include below:-
The Fart Story - I was teaching one of my older classes (WeWiz 1-1) and at the end of the reading book there is a story referred to as ‘Pleasure Reading’. I got onto this story and started reading the first page, when I stopped and couldn’t quite believe what I was reading. The story was about a family and the husband had left the wife and son because the wife had, and I quote, ‘done a really loud fart’. OMG - I couldn’t believe I was having to teach them this!! Of course the first question anyone asked when we finished the first scene was ‘teacher, what’s fart?’ - GREAT!
School Decorations - after decorating the apartment I then set about making some decorations for my office at school. I made the same paper chains and ‘Merry Xmas’ sign that I had made for my apartment and took them in to school. This was met by great enthusiasm by all and the school Christmas decorations promptly were also brought out and it was declared officially ‘Christmas’.
The introduction of the Christmas decorations also had the effect of (for all the little ones anyway) the kids then starting and ending each day with ‘Merry Christmas teacher’ - bless!
Surprise Speaking Tests - They really shouldn’t have been a surprise as we have them every month, but with Christmas and New Year I fully expected for there not to be any speaking tests this month and as Jong Sool had not mentioned them I assumed this was the case (never assume - the Korean moto). Not so - I was told on Wednesday that speaking tests were to happen on …… Wednesday! Thankfully I had an hours break before the first set of speaking tests so I had time to get organised for at least that days tests, so all was good in the end - except for the fact that I have to write them all up over the New Year!
SEOUL CITY HALL, DEOKSUGUNG PALACE, CHEONGGYECHEON STREAM AND GWANGHWAMUN:
I made a trip into Seoul one weekend this month in the hope of finding something Christmassy. Having read up on my guide book I went to City Hall where there was supposed to be a large skating rink - not so! However, there was a giant Christmas tree (not real, more a plastic cone, but it was still pretty cool). Across the street from City Hall was Deoksugung palace and there were the colourful guards outside and a huge colourful drum. There was also a small band outside playing Christmas songs - just what I had been looking for - so I spent a while just stood around listening to the band play.
From city hall I walked up towards Gwanghwamun plaza where I found a lot of building work under way and at the far end a huge ski slope and ice rink (I later found out that the usual City Hall ice rink had been moved here). Unfortunately the skating rink was surrounded by barriers and then set back pretty far so you could actually see the rink unless you paid which I didn’t want to do as I didn’t intend to skate!
Instead I walked back up to Cheonggyecheon stream and then walked along the stream back towards the subway station. I joined the stream at the start point where the stream began with a fairly impressive staggered waterfall. Also near the start of the stream were several beautiful horses and carriages lined up. I believe that they were offering rides, but I never saw anyone use them, but they were very pretty!
PIZZA KOREAN STYLE:
The Thursday before Christmas (not Christmas Eve, the one before) it was announced at school that we would be going for dinner after school and that the menu was pizza! That was good with me as I figured you couldn’t do anything too strange with pizza, so after school 8 of us piled into Jong Sool’s car and headed to Pizza Hut.
As usual I had not input into what we would be eating (this was decided in a group huddle from which I was excluded) so I just had to wait and see what arrived. I have to say the pizza that arrived was a little unusual! The pizza topping was pepper, ham, breaded shrimp (complete with tails) and potato with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. The toppings then ended a way short of the crusts and surrounding the toppings was a rim of mashed potato and a layer of melted cheese. I was a little unsure about this, but it turned out to be one of the most delicious pizza’s I had ever had. The mashed potato was a genius addition!
BOOKING A HOTEL FOR GREEN DAY:
I just had to include something related to Green Day this month didn’t I?! Well, I had to book a hotel for the night of the concert and I finally got round to doing that mid December. The one hotel I had found nearby I called and it turned out they were fully booked. I then had to call the information line and find out what other hotels were close to the Olympic Park. They gave me a number to call and I asked if they spoke English, to which the woman who answered replied ‘no’. Oh dear - I carried on anyway and she put me on to a man who spoke a little English. We muddled through me booking a room for about half and hour and instead of giving m directions to the hotel he told me which subway station to go to and which exit and told me to call him when I got there and he would come and fetch me which I thought was very nice!
I have since found the hotel website so am going to try and find the hotel next week just to double check things!
SCHOOL CHRISTMAS PRESENTS:
The week before Christmas I gave everyone at school the Christmas presents I had bought for them. They seemed genuinely surprised that I had got them gifts and ripped into them straight away! Thankfully, they all seemed to really like the gifts I had bought them so that was good.
I then got a surprise on Christmas Eve when I got given some presents from them. I got gifts from Sarah, Jin Sun, Grace and Sunny separately and the gifts were all very nice and very thoughtful. It made a very nice start to the Christmas weekend!
SCHOOL CHRISTMAS PARTIES:
On Christmas Eve, all the school classes turned into Christmas Parties for the day. The format was fairly standard for each one. They started with the game of trying to blow the post it note off your nose, followed by then seeing how far you could throw it (not very far!). Then was the game of electronic darts which was actually very fun (I had several go’s at this one!) and everyone seemed to enjoy it! Then followed the game of how many times can you head the balloon, which was another favourite and finally there was the party staple of arm wrestling!
The first classes had the little ones in and they dressed up a bit in their santa hats and such, and then in the later older classes we had some nibbles which was nice.
I also gave them a bit of a surprise by wearing my hair down under my santa hat for the day. I don’t think they have seen such long ‘yellow’ hair before and they wouldn’t stop playing with it all day. There reactions were all very amusing!!
CHRISTMAS OVER THE INTERNET:
I could write pages about Christmas, but instead I will keep it very short.
On Christmas Day and pretty much all of the Christmas weekend I spend the afternoons and evenings on skype with my family at home. It was really nice as it meant I could see everyone at home and we could open our presents together as we would normally have done. It meant that Christmas was much better than I thought it was going to be and it actually really felt like Christmas!
‘NO USE WASHING MACHINE WHEN COLD’:
This week on Monday (the first day back after Christmas) Jong Sool told me as I was leaving for the day that I was not to use the washing machine if it was cold outside in case the pipes freeze!
When I asked how I was supposed to wash my clothes, he informed me that I could ‘hand washee’ them! Great! I have now made the decision to put my thermometer outside and as long as the temperature is above zero then the washing will get done!
On Boxing Day night and most of the following day I snowed in Deokjeong! It was a couple of days late for a white Christmas, but I didn’t mind that really. The snow is still here nearly a week later and with more on the way I think it is here to stay for a while to come!
On Sunday I was a little excited by the snow and so wrapped up warm and headed out for a walk around town in the snow. I walked up through the park (where I promptly fell over!) and then back towards my apartment through the main streets. Everywhere was really pretty in the snow and I hope that it stays that way for the rest of winter!
Well, there is not much for me to say about New Year as I didn’t do anything really! In fact I spent New Years Eve night making a start on the speaking tests I had to write up. I did enjoy a glass of wine to see in the New Year along with a one sided conversation with my dad (the microphone wouldn’t work on the computer he was using).
I then decided to get up to see in the UK New Year with my family at home, which meant getting up at 8:30am (not an easy thing for me), then as soon as it turned midnight in the UK (9am for me) I was off back to bed for a few more hours sleep!!