Tag Archives: Korea

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!

Advertisements

Sounds of Korea

10 Dec

Korea – the land of the morning calm, where nothing can disturb this tranquility! …(crickets)…… uh yeah right.  As with any developed country, Korea is noisy.  No longer is this Asian a destination for calm and soothing vibes.  Nope Korea’s many bustling city’s and it’s neverending desire to develop and prosper chucked the morning calm.  Korea is very noisy.  The population density is very high so you can imagine.   Now these noises are fine, and being a city person myself the noise is not that bad!  But there are other noises that drive me insane.  seriously so much that I want to kill myself!

Chewing sounds.  Koreans chew with their mouths open.  I am yet to come across a Korean that eats with his/her mouth closed.  And they chew very loudly.  It’s quite disturbing.  In fact it nauseates me!  I literally want to puke.  I can not even count how many times we have left a restaurant because of this.  There is no way in heel I would ever be able to get used to this.  And don’t get me started on gum in the subway.  You would think that the loud subway noises and the announcements would drown out the chew sound, well guess again.  Koreans love rice cakes and these little delicacies are chewy as hell.  Combine that with the inability to silently and opening your mouth so wide I can see your tonsils and you will begin to understand my irritation level!  It’s bad!

Another sound that pollutes Korea is that of the cough!  Yes Koreans (men mostly) are chain smokers and they have a lot of phlegm.  It’s gross.  They spit everywhere.  The men.  The woman.  The children.  They all do it!  and apart from the fact that every single street in Korea looks like a spit factory it’s the sound that is the worse.  That sound that makes you realise that somewhere, someone is busy getting rid of a weeks worth of slime and guts.  It’s utterly gross and makes me cover my ears!

The other sound has also got to do with snot and its gross.  Koreans love to sniff.  The suck their noses dry and it just makes me want to puke on the snot sucker!

These sounds are enough to send me to a mental institution and have never in my life ben so thankful for my ipod.  If anyone ever asked me what is the most essential thing to bring to Kimchiland, I would say that it is your Ipod!  Because without covering your ears and blasting dangerously high decibels into your ears, there is no way that you would survive the sounds of Korea.

Cheers from (sniiiiifffff) Kimchiland!

Catching up!

2 Dec
The cover of a Pepero box

Image via Wikipedia

I really wanted to write about this but never got around to it.  So it seems quite redundant to make an entry about it now but I don’t care, so here goes.  The 11th of November was Veterans day in most parts of the world, but not here in South Korea.  Oh no!  The South Koreans spent their Thursday celebrating something completely different.  Chocolate sticks on fact.  Pepero’s.  The 11th of November is Pepero day here and is basically something like Valentines day but with one big difference.  It revolves around this one sweet called Pepero, made by one company named Lotte.   For about two weeks before this day all the shops start decorating with giant hearts and symbols of love.  If i can remember correctly I read somewhere that Lotte sells about 80% of all their Pepero’s in November.  School students go crazy with this day as they bring boxes and boxes of Pepero’s to school and give it to their friends.  Or boys to girls and vice versa.  I have one issue with this day and that is there is no historical significance for the 11th of November to be celebrated as Pepero day.   Nothing happened.  No Legend or Myth or anything.  Although Lotte denies that they forced this day into existence there is a rumor that two middle school girls exchanged Pepros on the 11th of November in Busan way back in 1994.  And from there on out Pepero day has taken the nation by storm.   As a teacher it’s a bonus tobe teaching on days like Pepero day because you will most defenitely be spoilt with one or two of these boxes.  Well not me!  Nope, when I got to school on the morning of the 11th almost the whole staff were outside the doors searching all the students.  That’s right folks they confiscated all the Pepero’s.  I have no idea why they did that, but my school took away their Pepero day.

Another thing that I failed to report about was the CSAT tests.  All third grade High School students took this University entrance Exam two weeks ago and the whole country came to a standstill once again.  Koreans value education more than any other country in the world I think.  And they have to because almost all high school graduates end up going to varsity finding a decent job has become very hard.  But it’s great!  So on the day of the exams everything starts later.  All schools start an hour later and some businesses start only at ten.  No flights are allowed to land in Korea during the exam and everything must be quiet.  Everyone goes to work later so that the roads won’t be crowded so that the students can get to their exam centers.  Police cars escort students to the centers.  It’s a national kerfuffel.

 

That’s it for now.  Cheers from Kimchiland.

Mentally handicapped!

2 Dec

In Korean schools there are mentally handicapped students mixed in with the regular students.  I wrote about this a few months ago.  I still can’t understand why these students go to a regular school as they clearly have special needs.  I have been strugling with a student grabbing my face and pulling my beard.  The first time it happened I shoved the student’s arm away quite forcefully.  When I got to teach that student this semester and realized that he is mentally handicapped.  I am not sure what is wrong with him and apparently it’s hard to translate his ‘illness’ from Korean.  To me, but I am no expert, he seems autistic. Now I have absolutely no experience with ‘Special Needs’ kids.  In fact before I came to Korea I had absolutely no experience with kids whatsoever.  The thing is I do not know how to respond and react to these special needs kids.  The act out in class, start jumping up and down or would randomly just start screaming.  There is no way for me to control them and as I have stated before my co-teacher is practically non existent.  So now I ask you what do I do!  These kids do not speak or understand a word of English and I am not trained to handle them.  Hell I am not even trained to be a teacher.  Special needs kids need people who are trained to work with them.  I am not.  This one kid in second grade (middle School)  keeps on running up to me and pulls my beard.  It is no longer an isolated incident and I do not know what to do about it.  I have talked with two of my co-teachers about it and they just did nothing.  So whenever he sees me he runs up to me and pulls my face.  If I see him first I grab his arm but as soon as I let go he goes for the face again.   This is starting to get me down.  I feel helpless because I cannot do anything to stop him.  First of all I don’t like it when the students touch me because I think it is inappropriate .  Second of all when ever he grabs my beard he hurts me and thirdly he is dirty.  I know kids aren’t spokesperson’s personal hygiene or anything but this kid in particular is just always dirty.  So that annoys me even more when he touches my face.  But most of all is that nothing is being done to bring this under control.  Two days go I sat at my desk in the office when all of a sudden I just see this sudden movement from behind and then i feel my beard being pulled.  obviously I reacted with a very loud NO!  And all 80 eyes in the office were on me.  I pointed my finger at the kid and said no to him like 5 times.  No one did anything.  After a while my co-teacher sitting next to tells me that I must understand that he is mentally challenged and that there is nothing that we can do about it.  Seriously.  Are you fucking kidding me!  Anyhow I told her again that I think it is inappropriate for the student to touch me and someone has to talk to him about it.  They did not!  So today once again in the office in front of everybody the kid comes up to and grabs my face.  In front of everybody.  With absolutely no help from anybody.  Nothing!

Too long!

26 Nov

This whole North-South nonsense has gone on for way too long.  Before coming to South Korea I never really paid any attention to either one of the Korea’s.  I knew the UN secretary General came from South Korea and also LG, Samsung and Hyundai.  And that’s about it!  Now that I am here I must say that I have learned a lot about both these countries and how much of an impact they have on the international community.  The two richest (maybe strongest) countries in the world are battling it out by exploiting the North-South tensions!  China backs the North and the US the South.  North Korea easily and often claim that South Korea is the US’s puppet and they often forget that China is their puppet master.  Yes North Korea is dangerous and poses a threat to international security, but jeepers this has gone on for way too long.

It is kind of a sticky situation that we currently find ourselves in.  North Korea attacked South Korea and although they deny that they initiated the attack according to them and their ‘borders’,  South Korea did enter their maritime space.  I think the solution is to give all the water that surround both Koreas to the UN!  Now the US is sending a ship and they are going to have a circus right by the North Korean border and possibly aggregate crazy Kim Jong Il and his delinquent of a son even further.  So I don’t know!  I really do hope that everything will just kind of fade away!  I have too much to look forward to and I will not let stupid Kim Jong Il ruin my fun!

North and South should just settle their issues like two Korean middle-schoolers- Kai Bai Bo!  That is Rock Paper Scissors.  Although thoroughly annoying to a teacher this little wonder can solve any Korean obstacle.  And the speed at which they conduct their games is absolutely mind boggling.  These Koreans are professionals when it comes to the are of Rock-paper-scissoring.  So Lee Myung Bak and Kim Jong Il call each other on Skype and settle it once and for all.  Sudden death!  Seriously!

 

Cheers from Kimchiland!

The world at my fingertips!

26 Nov

I love travelling.   If I could I would become a traveller, by profession.  It’s times like these that I wished I lived in Thomas Cook’s days.  Just sail around all day looking for new and undiscovered places.  That would be great.  But seriously if I could I would want to do something that involves travelling constantly.  Maybe I’ll harass the travel channel until they give me a job!

Coming to Korea was partly because I want to travel and what better way to do it while teaching?!  And sure enough I have done some travelling this year that made me very happy.  With our time here in Korea running out we had to make the most of our opportunity to explore Asia a little further.  When we started thinking about where to go during our holiday and after our contracts it was a complete mind frying experience.  We literally had the world at our finger tips.  we could go anywhere.  Never before have I had the luxury to go literally anywhere!  It was great.  It was like being blindfolded and pointing at a map and just go there where you pointed.  So exciting!  A million destinations and adventures entered our minds and it was magical.  In the end we decided on Malaysia, Cambodia, Singapore and Bali.

Last night we booked the last flights and it is wonderful to just go online and be like “Let’s book tickets to Bali”.  So thank you Korea for allowing me to have my fingertips where they are.  But then again I sure as hell have  worked hard t deserve it!  In moments like these life can’t get any better!

 

Cheers from Kimchiland!

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.

___________________________________________________

 

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.