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3 days left . . .

23 Feb

Wow!  I can’t believe that this is my final week in Korea!  What a blast it has been!  Tomorrow is my last day at my school en then on Saturday is goodbye Korea.  This past week I have had and still get many panic attacks about packing everything and seeing everyone!  It’s hectic!  But amidst all this craziness I still had time to reflect.  Coming to Korea was something that I’ve been wanting to do for quite some time and I am still amazed at how quickly the time has flown by!  Korea is the third country I have lived in and by far the most challenging.  But all in all it was a fantastic year.

I was placed at a, how would the Koreans put it, ‘notorious’ school in a very poor area.  My area and middle school has been referred to as the Harlem of Daegu.  So yes teaching at one of the worst schools in Daegu was, let my put it this way, challenging.  I wanted to give up.  I wanted to pack my bags and go home.  But I didn’t.  I stuck through.  And that to me is a great accomplishment! Yes you might think how hard can it be to teach English to some of the most intelligent people on the planet, and in one of the best education systems in the world.  Well, I experienced another side that spectrum.  The majority of my students will not go to High school.  My school has one of the lowest academic ratings in the whole city and the kids’ behaviors attest to that!  My year started off pretty bad with the whole apartment saga, and then one of the students threatened another teacher with a knife.  Not the best introduction i’d say! I mention these things because I’m giving myself a pat on the shoulder.  Well done, you did great!  And I did.  I was a great teacher and the kids (well most of them) really loved me.  It was tough, really tough, but I made it through and now I am a stronger person.  I grew so much this year and that my friends, as MasterCard would say, is priceless.  I learned so much about myself and what I can accomplish.  I managed to live in a country where I don’t speak the language, am not to fond of the local cuisine and had my issues with the whole culture shock.  But I managed, no in fact I flourished.  Even so that I started to get really fond of Korea!  Not that I would want to live here permanently but Korea definitely has it’s up sides!  And there are so many things that I will miss dearly!

To my co-teacher I would like to say thank you.  She stuck by me and was always there when I needed her.  To all my new and amazing friends, damn, I’m gonna miss each and everyone of you so much.  It’s amazing how close you can get to someone when you are all experiencing the exact same thing.  If not for all my Epiker friends I would not have made it through this year!  And then to my school I would like to say, so long suckers!!!!!!!!!!  I will definitely be doing cartwheels in my heart tomorrow when I leave the Faksan behind!  But I will  wipe a hypothetical tear (i’m not much of a crier) when I board that Singapore Airlines flight on Saturday!

Korea, even with our love hate relationship I will never forget you or what I have learned this year.  It has truly been one of the greatest years of my life and I will cherish this experience forever.  To my fellow Epikers who decided to stay behind, good luck and enjoy every minute.  Before you know it your time here in Kimchiland will be over!  To the other Epikers returning to their ‘normal’ lives, the best of luck to you and I wish you all great success (Borat voice) upon all your future endeavours.

Korea, you made me laugh, you made me cry, you me scream and you made me jump!  I will never forget you!

Kimchi, to you I want to say, you can suck it!  I never want to see, smell or taste your ugly face ever again!

Cheers from Kimchiland!  It’s been good, real good!

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So we did the Amazing Race!

13 Dec

That’s right, this past Saturday I took part in an Amazing Race to raise money for an orphanage.  It truly was an amazing experience.  The race took place here in Daegu and we had to figure out clues about the different spots we should visit during the race.  17 teams of 4 participated.  My team had 5 people though.  We were dressed like Santa street workers and were named team Festive.  So here is what went down at the Amazing Race – Daegu Edition.

We all met up downtown at Daegu Station, the two organizers explained everything to us as we practised kicking a happy sack 7 times to each other.  At 1pm the whistle blew and we received our instructions.  The first task, the happy sack challenge, was soon made easier to only 5 times and once completed we were off.  The first thing we did was trying to figure out all the clues for our challenges.  We soon realized that we would have to break up the race in two parts.  We decided to first complete the tasks on the west side of downtown and then venture to the east side.  The tasks that were situated in downtown we left for last as the finish line was a bar downtown (perfect way to end a race).

Here are the Clues we received: (In brackets the order and number on the map we completed the tasks)

AMAZING RACE

Guidelines:

– Missions can be completed in any order.

-You must take a photograph or video of your entire team at each location.

 

1. Holy-Roller Mision: This has been a place of worship in Daegu since 1886.

2. Park Ji-Sung Mission: On June 6th, 2002 the Red Devils faced off against Uncle Sam’s Army at this location.

3. Ajumma Mecca Mission: This is the largest market in Daegu.

4. Food Mission: Find and eat either 순 대  (Soon Dae) or 동 집 (Dong Jeep).  Racist clause: You can not have a Korean member of your team eat this food.

5. Dancing mission: Record a choreographed dance at one of the following locations: Dong Daegu train station, the stage downtown near the McDonald’s an d Daebeq Department Store, or in a crowded subway car.

6. Viking Mission: Go to Soosung lake and ride the most unsafe amusement park ride you can find.  (Hint: it looks like a viking ship).  Take a video of your team doing this.

7. Speed game: Your team will receive a sealed letter at the beginning of the Amazing Race.  You must find a random Korean person to read this to you. The letter has a secret word written on it.  The Korean person will give you clues and you must guess what they are talking about within a minute.

8. If you live in daegu you might have been to this park at least once or perhaps did a sky jump close by.  Find an attractive Ajumma wearing a visor and get a picture with her.

9. Find Daegu’s premier skater boy doing tricks at his hang out downtown.

10. Do your best Abbey Road recreation.

GOOD LUCK!

We knew where almost all the places were except we weren’t too sure of number 1 and 2.  We decided to go to the furthest location west of Downtown and then work our way back.

Here is a map of Daegu and the order in which we the did the tasks.

1. We were off.  Racing down the stairs towards the Daegu station subway looking like a bunch of enraged lunatics.  The adrenalin was pumping and we were all very excited.  We jumped on the subway and headed for Duryu park.  We were on subway line 1 and needed to change to line 2.

 

Go team Festive Go!

2. At Duryu station we raced up the stairs and ran towards the park.  We were a bit confused by the clue that read “find an attractive ajumma wearing a visor” .  We were not sure if should just find a random one or if a specific one would be waiting for us at a certain location.  Duryu park is huge and it would take us forever to cover the whole park.  We chose to take a picture of a random Ajumma.  But finding one was the hard part.  We spent half an hour in the park scouting.  We were rejected 3 times.  They’re just not that willing to take a picture with a bunch of foreigners that look like Santa street cleaners.  We were about to stage the picture when a very willing and friendly Ajumma came waddling along.  We got the picture and raced back to the subway.  Along the way we passed our friends who were in another team!

 

A willing Ajumma

3. In the subway Nicola realized that she lost her transport card so she quickly bought a new one.  We raced down to the tracks and just missed the train.  Bummer!  So we had a few minutes before the next train would arrive so we worked out a little dance routine.  We got our moves worked out and when the train came we did not waste any time.  We got on, placed the Ipod and speaker on the floor, gave the camera to a random dude and we danced.  Some people looked utterly confused by what we were doing and others just plain annoyed.  But most of the people enjoyed it and took out their cellphones and took pictures of us.  At the end of the dance we got a well deserved round of applause from spectators.  And one lady even called for an encore.

4,5,6.  We arrived at Seomun Market and raced up the stairs.  By this time I was panting like a dog and sweating like a mine worker.  And we weren’t even half way through yet.  The way towards Seomun market was super crowded and it truly is an Ajumma Mecca.  Not the place you would want to go to during a race.  So we got to the main market area and quickly took a picture.  We found these three young girls and ask them where we could find the food that we were supposed to eat.  Obviously their lack of English and our lack of Korean caused great confusion so they just decided to take us to the food stand in the market.  Once there we decided that they seemed nice enough and willing to help us.  So we gave them the speed game letter.  They read the instructions in Korean and we started the guessing game.  We did it in 4 minutes but  the language barrier should be taken into consideration.  Most of the times we said the word but they did not hear it so we continued to guess.  But is was great fun!  After this we decided to do the food challenge.  We discovered that the one dish is pigs blood intestine.  Disgusting!  I am so glad only one of us had to do this challenge and well done to Shana because I could not have stomached it!  She took a few bites and we were off back to the subway.  All the challenges on the West side of Daegu were completed.

 

Seomun Market!

Mmmm . . .Yummy!

7,8. We got on the Subway and we were headed to the World Cup Stadium.  The Stadium is on the outskirts of Daegu and one of the last stops on the subway line.  so we had time to catch our breaths.   When we finally got to the subway stop for the stadium we found a deserted crossing a did our bestest Abbey Road impression.  After that we raced to find a cab and speed towards the Stadium.  Once there the cab driver was very nice to take a picture of us and drive us back to the subway.


9. This was our biggest mistake during the day.  We did not realize that Soosung lake was so close to the World Cup Stadium, and if we took a cab from the Stadium to the lake it would have saved us a lot of time.  But instead we traveled with the subway back to Bomeo station and from there took another cab to the lake.  This killed us!  Once we got to Soosung land/lake we discovered that the Viking ride was closed.  there was another team there and they said they have been waiting for a while but nothing.  So we reread the clue and it was pretty obvious that we had to do the viking ride, but what can you do.  So we went on another ride.  This ride was horrible as it shakes you around and you are not strapped in.  Shana actually fell.  Then it starts spinning.  It was horrible!!!!!  So after the ride and complaining about the injuries we gained from the it we were off again.  We got into a cab and we  headed downtown.

10. We discovered (with the help of Nicola’s Korean friend) that the Holy-roller task was a catholic church.  the cab driver immediately knew where we wanted to go and even though we asked him to go very fast the roads were so congested.  It’s really not a nice feeling to be in a race. anxious and stuck in traffic.  we finally got to the catholic church took a picture and were off again.

11. I saw a many familiar buildings on our way to the church and i knew were close to downtown.  We had no idea where the last challenge was but I had a feeling.  The task was the skater boy one and I thought it was at the park opposite the Novotel.  So we just started running in that direction from the cathedral.  It was a long run.  Nicola’s friend came through again and just as we got to the park she told us that the park we are looking for is just a bit further down.  We finally got to the skater took a picture and where off again.  We were done!  All the challenges completed.

We knew we did not win, but we still wanted to finish with a bang!  So we ran to the finish line.  We came 6th, which is fine by me!  It was great!  And to top things off we won the best dance video.  That’s right, our little number on the subways was a winner!

It was the most fun I’ve had in Daegu in all my 10 months here!  Our fiends who won the race are also so from our neck of the woods so all in all the Ghetto dwellers took almost 50% of the prizes!  Not bad!

 

Well done Team festive and thanks for an amazing race!!!!!!!

 

Cheers from Kimchiland!

 

 

Fighting back!

9 Dec

It’s getting colder and colder here in Kimchiland.  Last night as I walked home the first snow flurries fell.  It is absolutely freezing.  And to be honest if everything isn’t covered in white then this weather is just not worth it!  The whole open the windows and switching on the heater thing is still going on.  It is as if they have to either freeze to death or melt to death during the summer!  We are looking for a balance people.  An equilibrium!  Oh well, what can you do.

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So as month ten is almost over I am progressing in standing my ground here in Kimchiland.  Koreans (in general) are not too welcoming or accepting of foreigners, so for us to be treated with a little dignity over here can sometimes be a battle!  But nothing major to run home about.  It’s just different.  Get over it or get out.  Or get even!  I go for get even!  On Monday night we went out for dinner for a friends birthday and on our way to the restaurant (in my neighbourhood) all of a sudden an old woman (Ajuma) shoves me out of the way.  Now I know she cannot speak English and ask politely “excuse me” but there is no reason to shove me out of the way when there is more than enough room to pass.  It’s ridiculous.  So I retaliated and decided to through her with my gum!  Unfortunately it only hit her shoe but it was good enough for me.  Next time I’m aiming for the hair.  That’s right you evil Ajuma’s – I’m fighting back!!!!

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So this past week I have been reading in the Korean times and on an English teacher Forum that our jobs as Native English teachers might be in jeopardy here in Kimchiland.  Yes tha’s right the government has developed a multi-million dollar robot to replace all english teachers.  I guess it was only a matter of time before this happened in this high-tech asian country.  And if this is at all feasible then go ahead, because ultimately the government will save money.  Native English teachers are an expensive investment.  Our flights are paid, we do not pay tax for the fist two years, we get housing, we get severance pay and half our medical aid is covered by the school.  But can the robot really replace the person?  Especially in such a personable field susch as teaching.  But then again, the Korean English curriculum basically trains these kids as robots.  They memorize instead of practice.  And that is no way to learn a language.  Oh well Goodluck to robot 2154458-998!

 

That’s all for now, Cheers from Kimchiland!

 

Whoops!

25 Nov

The Dumbass of the day award goes to none other than mrs America SARAH PALIN!

Love letter/International night

24 Nov
Colonel Sanders is the official face of KFC, a...

Image via Wikipedia

Living in South Korea.  It’s got an exotic ring to it, right.  And to a certain extent it is kind of exotic to live in this country. Although not in the conventional way exotic.  Getting acclimated was probably my biggest challenge this year.  Getting used to all the strangeness that constantly surrounded me.  And yes it is still challenging when I am faced with cultural ‘differences’.   But for the most part South Korea has been an exotic experience.  Apart from the fact that Kimchi is national treasure number one there are so many things in this country that I cherish.  Because we ourselves are a bit exotic to the everyday Korean friendliness is not always flung our ways.  But boy oh boy when a friendly face greets you in the morning on the way to work, or the Ajuma working at the 7/eleven pats you on the back and gives you and extra chocolate it sure makes your day.  Or when the owner of a restaurant gives you some free dessert or racecakes because it is his daughter’s 100th day on earth.  When the owner of the local W1000 store stirs up a conversation and you have no idea what is being said.  Or when the college educated taxi driver tells you that you look like the kernel from KFC.  There are moment where Korea can make you feel so special.  When you go out for dinner and everybody in restaurant glares at you but the owners praise you and blurts out the only 3 words of English they know for your convenience.

The relationship I have with Korea is no different from any other relationship.  There was a lot of fighting.  Many make up sessions.  fun times and sad times.  Throughout my blog I have realised there are many posts that may paint a picture that I hate this country and the people.  This is not true.  The purpose of this blog is not to be published in one or other literary magazine or to serve as guide for foreigners living in or wanting to live in South Korea.  I wrote my blog with true honesty.  It is what it is!  I think my brutal honesty comes from the lack of ‘real’ blogs about Korea.  Most (if not all) teachers in Korea struggle with most of the same things.  But not too many write about it.  I do.  As I experience Korea I write it down, because one day when I am old and weary I can read my blog and look back on this experience and experience my true emotions.  I am not trying to paint a bad picture nor am I trying to make Korea seem as a Utopia! Korea, I don’t hate you or your people.  I don’t alway love you or you people.  But we make it work.  If i didn’t I would be here.

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There are not too many English-speaking people here in Daegu.  Of our group of teachers who were placed in Daegu only 5 are South African.  One left in May so that leaves 4.  Although we do see the other two every now and again our immediate friends here in Daegu are all from Canada and America.  So even though this year has been the ultimate Korean experience I am very glad that I had the opportunity to make so many friends from other countries as well.  The friendships we formed here grew very intense very quickly.  We needed each other, not only for communicating but also someone who can relate to our ‘side of life’.   We spend most of our free time together and experience life outside of our schools together.  It’s great.  We make memories that will last us a lifetime.  This past weekend I held an International Night where each of our friends had to bring a dish from their ‘heritage’.  It was great.  I brought boerewors and Nicola biltong crackers.   we had American, Cuban, Italian and Korean.  It was great.  We compared cultures and we ended the night in true Korean style by going Noreabanging (Karaoke).

It’s great to meet people from all over the world.  And to realise that we are all the same.  Whether we are from Africa, the US or Korea – we are all the same.

Korea it’s a love-hate relationship, but at least there is a balance!

Cheers from Kimchiland.

Under Attack

24 Nov

Yeongpyeong Island after the attackYesterday North Korea attacked South Korea.  Yes North Korea regularly reiterate that they are a force to be reckoned with yesterday’s actions are a little bit more severe than I anticipated.  Yes two soldiers died and 16 soldiers and civilians were seriously hurt.  It’s not as bad as the sinking of the Cheonan in March where over 40 soldiers died.  The significance of yesterday’s attack is that it is the first attack aimed at a South Korean civilian area since the end of the war in 1953.   Yeonpyeong island has been the cause of many disputes between the two Koreas over the years.  Although it is South Korean territory it is located a mere 12.5km from the North Korean coastline.

My co-workers were both shocked and outraged when they learned (from me) of the attack.  My co-teacher immediately wanted to know if I was going to go back to South Africa ans she said that she wanted to go with.  But for the most part the South Koreans are not worried.  Yes the military has been placed on high alert but North Korea has played this game for 60 years, so they have become quite resilient to the threats.  I am not worried, yet.  The attack wasn’t on the mainland and a full-blown war seems a bit far-fetched.  Both countries (and their allies) just has too much to lose.

We received a notification from the embassy today that informed us that we should stay calm as the situation is under control.  I am relieved that we finally got something out of the embassy because in March everyone struggled to get anything from them.  If it comes to that they informed us that they will send through evacuation procedures, but I doubt that this whole thing will go any further.  

Last night as I was watching a movie I suddenly heard a very loud ans strange noise.  I rushed to the window and saw a fighter jet fly over.  I am nowhere near an air base so I’ve never seen them in my area.  This made me realise once again that North Korea is a legitimate threat and that the jet is either training, patrolling or just being visible.  Strange feeling.  In South Africa we don’t have any enemies.  We are not involved in any wars, no one wants to make war against us and even terrorists keep away.  So to be in a country where another country poses a constant threat is kind of nerve wrecking.   I mean it’s not a constant worry but instances like yesterday just make you realize that the potential of a full-scale attack is not impossible.

In 2005 I lived in London during the London bombings, in fact I did not live too far away from King’s Cross and those attacks shook me.  I was scared for weeks after the bombings and being suspicious of any veiled person with a backpack.  There is just something about feeling a threat like this that is hard to describe.  North Korea is constantly in our conversations, sometimes we laugh and joke and other times like yesterday we are more serious.  The fact is living in South Korea it is impossible;le to escape to gripping claws of the North.

Today it is business as usual here in Daegu and although the attack is still fresh the people here just carry on like before.  They’ve learned to cope with it.  So let’s hope and pray that this is the end of it and that nothing more will come of this.

Cheers from Kimchiland!

And it’s the double digits!

19 Nov
DSC00113

Image by _maracuja via Flickr

99 days before I leave Korea!  Wow!  I am still a little culture shocked and now it’s almost time to go!  Since my time here in Kimchiland is running out I thought it good to make a list of the things I still wanted to do and see.  Unfortunately I did not get so see as much of Korea as I planned to but saving up all my money kind of hindered weekend travel excursions.  Before I get on that plane in Incheon I definitely want to go to Seoul one more time.  I also want to go back to Busan and experience the city.  I’ve only been to the beach!  And then I would like to go back to Gyongju and see everything this time around.  Lastly I want to visit a ski resort and fall on my ass trying to ski!  I cannot believe there are less than a hundred days left.  In retrospect time has just flown by!  Now to make the most of the remaining months here in Korea!

Cheers from Kimchiland!