They say you’re more likely to achieve your goals if you tell people about them, and what better way to do that than post them on the Internet? Perhaps one of mine should be to improve my sense of timing as we’re already over 3% of the way through the year and most people have given up their resolutions by now – but I’m going to try to stick with the Korean theme of this blog and there’ll be no “become more organised” or “lose 3kg by the beginning of summer” here. Not that I need to anyway, seeing as though I’m still known as ‘Teacha Six-Pack’ by many of my students. Perhaps another should be “write blog more often”, but they also say that absence makes the heart grow fonder and so you regular readers out there (all three of you) should… well, have pretty fond hearts by now. Anyway, my goals. Here are three:
1) Practice speaking Korean.
It annoys me slightly that being in probably the only country in the world where my knowledge of the local language outstrips that of many of the locals’ knowledge of English (and that says more about them than me, by the way) I’m still often too shy to try anything more advanced than a ‘hello’ or a ‘thank you’ in front of anyone older than 11 years old. It’s not as though I’m in France, where any attempt to engage in a spot of the regional rhetoric is met with a smirk and a curt English retort – here even a “have a nice weekend” on a Friday afternoon can make a roomful of grown men coo – so being unappreciated is not a worry. It’s not you, Korean folk, it’s me.
2) Do more stuff.
A year’s not a long time, really, to live in a new place – especially one so different to where I’m accustomed to. It’s taken me almost until now to get fully settled in, and I already feel as though I should be writing a bucket list of things to see and do before I leave in August. Korea has much to offer, and I’m almost ashamed to say that I’ve not ventured up to Seoul yet, nor down to Jeju island; I’ve not climbed any of the thousands of Korea’s mountains – and women hike in heels here so I’ve got no excuse; I’ve not been to the penis café, which is – relatively speaking – on my doorstep being in Ulsan. At present it’s all too tempting after a 40-hour week (anyone who thinks university prepares you for the “real world” is either crazy or stupid) to spend weekend afternoons lounging about in DVD bangs, but how am I going to feel a year from now if I don’t get to see the Night View of the Ulsan Industrial Complex from Mt. Muryong, one of the Twelve Scenic Areas of Ulsan?
3) Befriend Koreans.
How cool would it look if I could return home with names like 김한원 and 남호추 populating my Facebook friends list? I’m always jealous when “[my friend] is friends with [name in Hangeul]” pops up on my news feed. Seriously though, this is something I’d like to do more – and have been doing more recently, to an extent. As lucky as I feel sometimes when I hear horror stories about westerners’ co-teachers and as much as I like mine, I don’t want all my lasting impressions of Korean people to be of colleagues or waiters/shopkeepers. It’s always nice to talk to Koreans you don’t share a principal with; to get a perspective on life not overshadowed by an element of professional self-consciousness.
In sum: speak Korean, see Korean, be (with) Korean. I’ve started well. This Saturday Elizabeth and I learned the word for wig and wandered around the downtown area asking giggling schoolgirls “where is the wig?”, as we needed one for a party that evening. The next day, we travelled to Busan with some new Korean friends. They took us to Taejongdae park, which is similar to Daewangnam park in Ulsan – picturesque walks around and through a coastal forest accompanied by views out to sea – only better, in their words. It was, too. Upon arrival, Elizabeth won a heart-shaped cushion by throwing some darts at some balloons, which was a pretty good omen for the rest of the day. We walked up an extremely steep hill and then jumped on a tram (why you couldn’t board at the bottom remains a mystery to me), which took us to… oh, ok, I’ll just show you some of the pictures.