Tag Archives: Daegu

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!


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)



– 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.


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!



Love letter/International night

24 Nov
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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.



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!

red, yellow, green

9 Nov

For the most part I think Autumn has departed.  Even though the red, yellow and green leaves are reminiscent of Autumn the snatching cold tells a different story.  I am enjoying the cold weather very much. The only downer is that It get’s dark at around 17:50 which sucks!


This past weekend we made our way to Palgong mountain to see the autumn foliage.  It was nice to get out of the city and be one with nature!  Our little adventure started down town Daegu where we had to wait for the Rapid city bus to take us there.  The bus was packed and we barely had room to stand.  And at every stop more people just got on without ant people getting off.  We assumed that everybody was on their way to the mountain.  One thing as certain and that was that it was going to be a long bus ride.  The 1 hour and 45 minute bus ride wasn’t the most enjoyable thing I have ever done in my life but in the same breath it made me smile a couple of times.  Koreans love hiking and the outdoors.  Especially Koreans above middle age.  The love hiking so much that they wear hiking gear everyday.  In fact I don’t think they own anything other than hiking clothes.  And not just any hiking clothes – brightly coloured ones.  The interior of the bus looked complete like a brewing pot of rainbow vomit.  And these feisty Ajuma’s don’t take any crap, as they’ll shove as hard as thy can t get past you even though it is humanly impossible for you to move an inch!

At the mountain we walked around, took the cable car up and took way to many photos of leafs.  It was beautiful.  But as with everything else in Korea it was extremely crowded.  Everywhere you go it is crowded.  There are people everywhere.  It get a bit much sometimes,  I mis wide open spaces and driving for miles and miles without seeing any traces of civilisation.  Is it possible that I am longing for a weekend in the Karoo or even the Free State?  It’s time to get out of here, I am going nuts.


The leaves were beautiful and the colder weather is wonderful.  Korea can be beautiful, it’s a pity that it only lasts about a month of the year.

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Waygookin 2.0

4 Nov

Anonymity is impossible for a foreigner in Korea.  Koreans all look the same.  They have the same eyes, the same hair, the same language the same everything.  On top of that the Korean culture is based on collectivism.  So it’s not hard to understand why we stand out as much as we do.  And you can try your hardest to fit in like eating Korean food, trying to speak the language, basically adapting to their culture – but no matter what you do you will never get rid of your foreignness.  I have tried to explain to many Koreans that the never-ending staring, pointing and murmuring makes us feel very uneasy and quite frankly it is rude.  And all of them justify this by stating that Koreans are not used to foreigners so whenever they see one they are shocked.  Now this is completely understandable (although I think they’re too melodramatic in their reactions) since Korea is one of the most homogeneous countries in the world. I am not sure of the exact statistic but I read the other day there are just over 1 million foreigners in Korea.  Now that is not a lot in a country of 50 million people.  the majority of this group hails from China (who can blend in) and South East Asia.  English teachers from the “seven English speaking” countries are an insignificant number.   I can imagine what it must have been for Africans to see Europeans for the first time.  both groups must have been shocked and quite amazed by what they are looking at.  It’s a person, a human being, but they look so different!  This reaction was understandable for centuries ago.  We are now in the 21st century and globalisation is at its peak.  the Korean media is flooded with influences from around the world.  A ‘foreigner’ will make his/her appearance at least once a day in most korean living rooms.  So many kids attend academies where there is a native English teacher.  And even though the Daegu public school system was the most underserved area in Korea regarding native teachers, as of this fall every single elementary school and middle school in Daegu has a native english teacher.  The fact that we stand out as much as we do and that everybody points at us reminds me of Saartjie Baardman who was a south african woman exhibited across Europe because of her African features.

The fact that we are so few foreigners here in Daegu whenever we spot another foreigner (other than downtown) there is that akward ‘waygook moment’.  Almost as if you also want to react in the Korean manner of Oh Waygookin.  What do you do, do you say hi, do you nod and smile or do you stir up a conversation.  It happened the other day while I was waiting to meet a friend in the subway station.  I was waiting by track on one of the benches when all of a sudden as if out of nowhere another foreigner appear and sits next to me.  I say hello and smile akwardly.  What do I do?  What do i do?  Do I make small talk, ugh I hate small talk.  Do we just sit akwardly and stare at each other?  What to do?  But before I could even respond to any of these questions the train arrived and she got on.  Phew!

Cheers from Kimchiland!

They are out to get me

2 Nov

We are pretty much half way through the second semester and just as I thought that kids are not all from hell they proved me wrong.  Yesterday was one of those days.  The kids just got on my nerves and unfortunately my nerve ran out!  Now I must admit that things have been going much better here at the juvy.  The second graders are nothing compared to the horridness that are 16 year old’s.  But the year is getting long and somewhere along the way the kids are losing their manners!  I think in general Korean teenagers don’t learn any manners.  Yes they bow to older people and their language is respectful – but that is it!  Their actions say something completely different!
So yesterday i tried to teach a class on numbers because many (most) of my students cannot count to ten.  unbelievable right?  I know it’s kind of a boring lesson but I did try to spice things up a bit but the kids were horrible.  They kept on talking, standing up, walking around whilst the korean teacher is doing absolutely nothing.  I tried everything but they did not listen!  So about ten minutes before the end of class I just couldn’t do it anymore.  These kids were blatantly ignoring me and my co-techer just stood there as if she was part of the decorations!  I threw the white board marker in the direction of the kids and said “i’m done!”  I took my folder and left.  I just couldn’t.  I took a walk outside because I was shivering with rage.  Yes, I get teenagers and I get that they are ‘tough’ to work with.  BUT we are two adults with them, one of which speaks korean!  Why is it such an impossible task to discipline these mongrels.  If I don’t get a heart attack before the end of this year then nothing can kill me!
This morning my co-teacher came to me and asked me how I felt!  I said I’m fine and she apologised for the student’s behaviour.  I don’t want damn apologies I want them to effin listen!

Just another day here in Kimchiland!

This past weekend was Halloween and we went to a Halloween party here in Daegu and it was awesome!  I love Halloween and I really had fun going out in costume and even randomly scaring a couple walking down the street!

Cheers from Kimchiland!