Since this entry will not be on-line until the end of January it’s probably a bit late to say happy new year, but I’ll say it anyway - HAPPY NEW YEAR.
This month has been a pretty good month and one of a few new things so it may be a long one! Here we go:
Ha-ha - thought I’d start with this, but don’t worry I have written a whole separate blog on my Green Day concert, so those who never want to hear the words Green Day again can ignore it completely and those that want to know about the best concert ever can read about it in the Green Day entry!!
NEW YEAR, EXTRA YEAR:
I believe the saying is “When in Rome, do as the Roman’s do”. If I apply this to Korea it means that as of January 1st I am 27!
Perhaps I should explain - in Korea everyone gets a year older, not on their birthdays, but on January 1st! When this is combined with the fact that Koreans are born 1 year old, it means that Korean years in some cases are 2 years ahead of Western years in terms of age! Taking this into account, technically I am 28 in Korean years, but that just upsets me, so I have decided to ignore that old saying and stay 26 years old until my birthday in July by which time I will be back home anyway!
NEW STUDENTS and JAMES BOND:
The new year seems to have brought in a handful of new students to school.
Lee - he is Mike’s brother who started just before the new year. He has joined into the Junior 2-5 class and his brother into WeWiz 1-6. Both were pretty quiet at first and are now starting to get into things a bit more.
Sarah - she has joined the WeWiz 1-2 class and she is a bit of a mystery still. She doesn’t really seem to want to be there, but she came out of herself a little in the speaking tests this month so there is hope for her yet!
Carly - she is a new kindergarten students and a welcome relief from the two boys who can be a pain sometimes! She is doing really well and really wants to learn so that’s good!
James Bond - the other week, one of my students from Fantasy 2-6 came to see me in the office all serious. He sat down in the spare chair and said almost perfectly “Teacher, I want to change my English name”. I said okay and asked what he would like to change it to. He then answered “James Bond”. I was so proud of myself for not laughing out loud! We finally reached an agreement that he would go by James (on the speaking test forms etc) but we would both know that really he was James Bond. He was happy with this and so now I have James Bond in class! Brilliant! I think it runs in the family as his brother is Mountain, so they must like these unusual names!
KOREANS - THE FRIENDLIEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD?
Okay, I don’t know if Koreans are actually the friendliest people in the world or not, but I have certainly found them to be ultra friendly and helpful! This month gave two good examples of this:
Firstly, this month I went to the bank in Deokgye to send some money home as the exchange rate was to good not to. In order to get to the bank in Deokgye there are two choices, the bus (I have no idea which bus) or a taxi. I went with the latter and so found myself a taxi and thought I did pretty well at communicating where I wanted to go. It seems not, but my resourceful taxi driver took out his phone and called someone that could translate to him where I wanted to go. First problem solved - getting to the bank. I was a little concerned about getting a taxi back, so when we arrived I decided to try and ask him about this. He seemed to understand and told me to stand in the parking lot when I came out and it would be okay.
So, I went into the bank and got my money sent home with no problems (it’s really easy after the first time) and when I came back out I was met by my taxi driver from the journey to the bank. He had parked the taxi and waited for me (about 20 minutes) off the meter so that he could take me back home! This would just not happen in England!
Secondly, I stupidly managed to lose my travel card at the Olympic Park and couldn’t find it (I didn’t try too hard as I knew it wouldn’t be very likely and I had just walked for about an hour so wasn’t about to retrace all my steps). This was a problem as I had no idea how to get a new one as the one I had was left in the apartment by a previous teacher. That and the annoyance of having only topped up my card that morning!
I went to the subway in the hope of finding a machine to get a new card. No such luck, the machines were for top up only! After standing around for about 5 minutes thinking I may get stranded in Seoul a woman came up to me and asked in good English if she could help.
I explained my problem and she also had no idea how to get a new card, however rather than leaving she went and pressed the help button for the subway staff and asked on my behalf how to get a new card. She then came and explained to me how to get a new card, but that wasn’t it. She then took me to the shop and spoke to the woman in there and explained what I needed. Then, once I had a new card she took me to the machine to make sure I knew how to top the card up and only then did she go on her way. I couldn’t thank her enough!
Again, I’m not sure this would happen in England?!
At the start of the month I went to Olympic Park which was the location of the Green Day concert and I wanted to find out where I needed to go etc, and to have a look around the Olympic Park also.
The park itself is massive. The buildings are all clustered together relatively closely and everything is really easy to find as there are plenty of information boards and signposts (in both Korean and English).
The first building you come to after coming out of the Olympic Park subway station is the tennis centre and in the car park is a huge board showing the full tennis draw and results for the 1988 Olympics.
I had a wander around the buildings until I found where I needed to go on the 18th and all the buildings were very impressive, especially the swimming pool which I only saw from a bit of a distance but it was certainly impressive!
After finding my way for the concert I walked around the Olympic Park for a while and actually walked all the way to the other end of the park. In the centre of the park is a huge grass area with a few hills and sculptures dotted around, and there are several walking paths taking you through and round the park. The whole place was covered in snow and I am interested to go back and see it in the spring as I think the park area will be very beautiful.
I walked around the park to the peace gate where there was a large sculpture and a walkway surrounded by flags over looking the lake (which was frozen over, or at least covered in snow).
Near here there was also a large ice rink which no-one seemed to be using despite the area being quite busy!
The peace gate itself was amazing. It was huge and had ‘wings’ which were beautifully decorated on the underside with a pattern which included a dragon. It’s certainly a landmark you can see for quite a distance and makes an impressive backdrop!
In front of the peace gate was a pathway and then there were two pathways either side which were lined with strange totem poles with silly faces on them!
This month I discovered some free (well technically W1,000 to cover photocopy fee’s) Korean lessons and decided to give them a go. I started off at Level 0 which is where you learn the Korean alphabet and this week for the first time I tried Level 1, which is really hard, but I think I will learn a lot by just sticking with it.
The lessons are great, they run from 4pm - 5:30pm and the tutors are really friendly and helpful and its just nice to meet some new Westerner’s and have a chat in English, so it becomes quite social as well as just learning Korean which is really nice!
In 2 lessons in Level 0 I managed to learn the whole alphabet, which is more that I had managed on my own in the last 6 months, so fingers crossed I will soon be able to have a proper conversation in Korean!
THE END OF THE HAND WASHING ORDEAL:
Thankfully, the other week Jong Sool announced that is was now okay for me to use my washing machine again. After a couple of weeks of only hand washing (which is a real pain) this was gratefully received and I immediately went home and washed a whole load of clothes I had been putting off hand washing!
I made a return trip to Insa-Dong this month after a successful trip for Christmas presents. This time I went to look for something for my mum’s birthday next month, but also for a general look around for things to take back home with me in July. I went armed with a set amount of money that I thought would be plenty, however I managed to spend all of this money by the time I had got half way down Insa-Dong!
I really love this part of Seoul, there is so much to see in all the little shops and stalls that spill out onto the streets and everything is so colourful and decorative. The store owners stand outside with the stalls and are really helpful and actually really good sales people. In one shop I had a woman follow me around the shop showing me things and I came away with a few extra bits! I did manage to negotiate a bargain though so I was happy!
I’m obviously not going to say what I bought as it would slightly ruin the surprise on my mum‘s birthday, but I got some really nice stuff (at least in my opinion).
ITAEWON (and the best pie‘s ever!!):
Last weekend Jill came to visit and we made the long anticipated trip into Itaewon. Itaewon is the Western area of Seoul and the place to go if you need a Western fix!
In the subway there is a really helpful information centre where they speak very good English and from there we went in search of a pie shop called Tartine that Jill had heard was good.
We found it and the pie’s in the window drew us inside, however its small and more a café than a restaurant, so we decided to go back later to get some pie’s to take home.
For lunch we went to Gecko’s which is a bar that serves good English food at reasonable prices. It reminded me in a way of a Wetherspoons type place (in a good way), but it had proper service rather than you having to order at the bar etc.
I enjoyed a delicious steak and Guinness pie and chips followed by a yummy crème caramel and it was so nice to be surrounded by English - it seems such a luxury to be able to understand everything that is going on around you!
After lunch we made a quick stop at a Western market, where you can get some Western food items and then we went to a book store called ‘What the Book’ which buys and sells second hand books as well as some new books. The selection was pretty impressive and I will certainly be going back if I run out of books again.
The last stop before home was back to Tartine to pick up some Lemon Meringue Pie’s. They were individual size but they were pretty big and they were delicious. Actually that’s an understatement - I will certainly be revisiting Tartine in the near future!
SHOE SIZE 250(!):
This last week I actually got around to buying some of the boots everyone seems to wear and I have been wanting for a while. I went to the little shoe shop that is between the bank and my apartment and they were so friendly and helpful. Turns out my shoe size in Korea is 250!!! Just a little different from the size 7 back home! I think its in millimetres or something.
Anyway, I came away with a black and a beige pair for W40,000 so a complete bargain! They are probably the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn and super warm as they are all fluffy inside.
They were also greeted with excitement at school too (they seem to notice everything) which was nice!
RANDOM APARTMENT GIFT:
Last Friday night when I popped down to the convenience store I was called over to the little guard booth where the security guard for our apartments lives (while he is at work at least). I was completely confused and was trying to work out what on earth I could have done to warrant a summons to the guard booth.
When I got there I was told (I say told, but it was all gesturing) to sign against my apartment number and when I did so I was presented with a small box.
When I got back to the apartment I opened it to find that it was a towel which was embroidered. It was a very nice little gift, I just have no idea what it is celebrating!
This week something brilliant happened! I arrived at the Adventure 1-1 class (the old Fantasy 2-6 class) to find all the girls there, but none of the boys. Now, their bags were there so I knew they were somewhere, just not in the class.
Five minutes later Jong Sool came into the class followed by all the boys and informed me that they were to have a penalty for being late. He then got them all to stand in a line at the back of class with their hands in the air and informed me they were to stay like this for 5 minutes.
I thought this was brilliant and couldn’t help smiling! I don’t know if I should admit to enjoying those 5 minutes, but they do drive me mad for 50 minutes twice a week so I think its only fair!
FIGHTING ON THE SUBWAY:
Today as I went into Seoul for my Korean lesson there was some excitement on the subway when two guys started full on fighting!
It all started when one guy asked another to move up a seat so that he could have two seats together, however when the guy refused the other guy punched him and they had a brief scrap! There were however some Korean soldiers in the same car who came to the rescue and split them up and that was the end of that excitement!