Sunday, 14 August 2011

Have I eaten dog yet.......could have?

I thought I had a good idea the other day and thought I would try some street food. I was walking around my little town and there was a pretty big queue at one of the street vendors so you think 'those locals must know a thing or two...right?' I get to the front of the line and I'm confronted by a massive vat of what looks like noodles (i thought they were noodles) and then next to it was a some 'meat' (I thought it was pork) and everyone was mixing the two together....monkey see monkey cost about £1.50 and I got my monies worth. So to the taste....well I couldn't identify a  thing really, and then the chili kicks in BOOM!!! The meat was like nothing I've ever had before. Dog you say??? Well I hope not. Didn't see many walking around the area though. Might try something different next time....

I've been lucky enough to have been taken out for lunch twice since starting work here. On both occasions I was taken to fairly traditional Korean establishments. Apparently most restaurants don't really have names, they just call themselves what the sell. So one place was called 'Duck' so duck was on the menu. 
Eating out in Korea is a big deal, with the host needing to make a fuss. My principal took all the teachers and staff to this restaurant when I first he was being really generous. At this point I need to add that he doesn't speak a word of English so we didn't really say a whole lot, but I appreciated it nonetheless...

Right here are some rules:

  • you sit crossed legged on a little cushion and it's rude to uncross your legs until the meal has come to an end
  • you get metal chopsticks and a metal're not supposed to hold both in the same hand
  • when someone pours you a drink you have to hold your cup with two hands
  • when you pour someone a drink you have to use both hands
  • if someone offers you something it's rude to say 'no' 
  • you can't start eating until the oldest person starts tucking in
Those are the main rules and well the only ones that I can remember...OK so at this place there are no menus (even if there were it's not like I could understand anything anyway) the food kind of just comes....In this restaurant you actually cook the duck yourself on a grill right in front of you in the middle of the table. (No tipping here either...bloody hope so if I cook the thing myself..they should tip me) They then bring all little side dishes that sit in the middle of the table and you help yourselves. You don't get your own plate, just grab your chopsticks and tuck in....kind of an Asian Tapas. 
All throughout lunch the principal is tucking into straight Soju shots..which is Korean Vodka ( lunch on a school day) and at the same time the vice-principal is making sure everyone has a beer (yes at lunch) Massive booze hounds here. 
The food was awesome. I can't even begin to try and tell you what the names of the side dishes were but it was all pretty amazing. 
Now the problem came when the principal kept asking me if I wanted more food...I'm about to pop and all I can think about is whether or not I've lost the circulation in my legs from sitting crossed legged for so long, and if I say no I'm going to cause a massive scene and ruin my relationship with the principal. So I suck it up and eat and eat and eat.....never really a problem for me in the past.

I'm enjoying the food here, but in the restaurants that do have menus I have no idea what I'm ordering, so I need a local to help me out...I might just grow a pair get into a restaurant and just point at something on the menu and hope it isn't a 7 course set menu for 10 people.....or dog...and hope it all works out for the best. 

Happy eating folks

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Classroom Time

Hi everyone,
So it's been a slightly calmer week this week and I thought i'd show you some photos....

Here are just a couple of pictures of some of the kids I we made volcanos!!!! OOOHHHH!!!!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

My Apartment

My First Week

I've finished my first week in South Korea...what an experience. They said from day one they really want to get me involved. So my first day in the office, after the meet and greet, I'm told that i'll be in the classroom teaching tomorrow afternoon with my co-teacher Jun. Right...errrr OK...immediately i've got that stomach churning feeling of "holy crap...what am I doing here again?" 
To "ease me in" there is a summer camp going on at the moment, September is when school starts again. So I'm not on my normal schedule yet so I've been helping in a few different areas. 

Anyway, so here's what I'll be doing whilst I'm in Korea. My school is called Gyeongsan English Town, and is actually joined to but not really part of another school called Imdang School. I'll have three main roles....Firstly and my main bread and butter is to be a part of the English Town lessons. Rooms are split into a number of different sections; the Bank, the coffee shop, department store etc....Each day a different school brings a number of students to the school. They get sorted into varying levels of English speaking ability, and then they have a certain amount of time in each section of the "English Town" where we teach them conversational English. This lasts until lunch, then they have a "mission game" set for them where they have to use the English that they've learnt from the day to use in the different sections. Then there's a closing ceremony, certificates are handed out and there are prizes for the best performers. I'll be doing this every day. The pro's of this is that you get to meet different students everyday and they are mostly excited about being out of their regular programme. I'll get to work with students of varying levels from 'great' to me trying to learn Spanish....The cons I guess are that it might get pretty monotonous. All the teachers here though say that with every class comes something new. we'll see I guess. 

I'm also involved in the schools "gifted programme"...students go through interviews and a number of tests to get into the programme. From September I'll be seeing them for twice a week. For this I can pretty much make up my own lesson plans, I don't need to follow any curriculum. At the moment I have a co-teacher with me but that might change...freedom to mould the minds of young Korean children. First Geoyongsan next the World!!!!
The kids are cute and pretty well behaved, but they're still getting used to me. I've joined mid-year so they had another teacher for the last 6 months. This is what I'm interested in most and is going to be the best insight into actual teaching. 

Lastly I'm involved with the Teacher Training programme. I'll be working with Korean English teachers who want to try and improve their English. I've been working on a one to one basis with teacher Jun and at the moment we go through Newspaper articles and discuss vocabulary, pronunciation and discuss the content to make sure it's all understood. 

And that's what i'll be doing for the next year....

So outside of school I've been scoping my local area and trying to get to grips with the cultural differences. You know the funniest thing about Korea??? It's the little differences. They still got the same shit over here as they have over there, it's just a little different.
Actually it's very different....I imagine Korea to be more like how Japan and China (two places I haven't been) are, culturally speaking, rather than Thailand and Indonesia (places I have been). 
There are a lot of rules like you have to use two hands when you give or receive anything to someone your own age or older, or it's considered rude; the older you are the more authority you have, even if you are in a lower position at work....and loads more. I just don't want to offend anyone without even realising it.
My main problem is not knowing what i'm buying at the market. It looks like soy sauce right???'s some crazy thing i've never heard of. Dictionary...should have brought one. I've got "hello" and "thank you" figured out at the moment and as long as I smile, point and nod my head I'll get by for a while.
Tattoos are a bit of a no no. Well big tattoos. Apparently Korean skin isn't your own, it's passed onto you from your ancestors. So by getting tattoos you are insulting your ancestry. Well I must have a lot of ancestry because I have more skin than I'd like at the moment, and I guess my ancestors must be pretty mad at me. So I have to cover up the fish at work. 
I had one woman stop me and touch me and jibber-jabbered at me about whether or not I could wash it off. Needless to say that she was a little shocked when I told her it was real. 

Money being a little tight as it is, my first weekend really hasn't gone off with a bang! It was great to get some free time.I needed to unpack and get the flat in some kind of order. Get some good sleep,  finally get the internet sorted in my flat, and to do some housework because this place is pretty filthy....needs a good clean. Rock and Roll!!! 
It's a long weekend next week with Monday being Liberation Day so I'm sure there'll be things going on.

Although I've been rambling on there is still so much to say, but I'm sure you've read enough and I'm sure I've written enough. 

Be in touch soon, take care peeps.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Anyeong haseyo Korea!

After the best part of 21 hours, about 12 hours in the sky, 3 in the waiting room at Amsterdam International Airport, and hour at Seoul International Airport and a 5 hour bus journey down to Daegu (which actually pissed on KLM for seat comfort and leg room) i'm pretty pooped....and hearing "let's go meet your boss" when i'm met by Liz (who works at the school and has a Korean name but I can't remember it yet, so we call her Liz) so it's another half hour in the car....after all that i'm just hoping I don't get the sack for smelling as bad as I did.

It's all good though, my manager is called Jun and he's a dude! The headmaster of my department of the school, Dave, is also there to say hello and i'm very pleased that they tell me we are all off to my new flat. It's about 1730 by the time we get into the flat, which is a stones throw away from the school....anxious isn't the word I would use to describe how I felt about the place I was going to be living for the next year and to my surprise it's not a studio...thank the gods, i'm way to large and clumsy to live in a studio, I get a bedroom, a separate living room and a hallway/kitchen. I even get partial views of the rice paddies, who needs seaviews! Beat that Brighton!!  photos and videos to follow when it's looking nice(ish) I get the impression i'm pretty lucky, although we now have to go out and buy stuff for my new digs....bedding and food really is the order of the evening...oh and slippers. NO shoes allowed almost anywhere here except for when you're outside. Slippers needed for work...ok i'll go with it.
They have E-Mart here...(hmmm ring any bells). 5 floors of of hell really after the day i've had, but you can buy everything here...Everyone is super friendly and there's a nod here and a bow there and I immediately feel the culture shock and i'm thinking "oh god how am I going to survive here? I can't read or understand a thing?!!" I'm assured that everything will be ok by Dave as he grins every time a Korean sales assistant comes and asks me a question and I give her that quintessential English look of "huh? ...Right let's go get some slippers....this i'm sure in England might take a minute or two but big Chubb Western feet meant that my choice was fairly limited and took a matter of seconds....there was only one pair that fit.
I pick up just about half the shop including the two key things in South Korean food society...chopsticks and a spoon. These are now my culinary weapons of choice. If you're good to them then they're good to you....because they don't use anything else when you go out to eat in a Korean restaurant.
We get back to the flat and unload the stuff and i'm wobbly on my feet with lack of sleep and an empty Chubb stomach that'd been grumbling for a good long while. Dave takes me to a little pasta joint just round the corner and I get a lay of the land...."Pasta??!!" I hear you say...well yes, it was his choice and he was paying so I didn't object. Plus there's some talk of a Korean banquet in my honour on Thursday...well I never! But I had already dipped into some Korean fast food at a stop on my way down to Daegu. Couldn't tell you what it was, but it was hot and spicy and tasted pretty good. So a little familiar pasta went down well. It's at this point that i'm told "oh by the way you can't eat anything tomorrow until after your medical exam which is at about 1400.....BALLS!...Blood tests and a ball tickle here I come...lovely.
My apartment is in an area that has a load of bars, restaurants and I discover that there is a University here so it can get pretty lively. I can't wait to get into Daegu centre and do some exploring, but it's probably not going to be until the weekend, where I can hopefully get my internet router sorted and finish buying stuff for the flat to make it my home for the next year.

It's up tomorrow and into school for 0830 and i'm told it's all guns blazing and i'll actually be teaching in a classroom to actual small people in a couple of days....what?!..ease me in gently? Nope sink or swim time.....welcome to South Korea.

ps. Anyeong haseyo means hello in Korean...the one word I know...

pps...damn forgot clothes hangers!