Archive for February, 2012

Jeju and Seoul


Here I am once again – in a chair, at a desk, in front of a computer screen, lamenting the strictness of whichever section of my contract that stipulates I must stay at school for forty hours of every week, whether there are kids or other teachers here or not. The first lessons of the new term don’t begin until Monday, meaning the next few days will consist of crossword-solving, reading, watching sports highlights, and many, many hours on Sporcle. That doesn’t sound too bad, I bet you’re thinking. It’s not. It’s how I spend lots of my free time anyway. I’d just rather be doing it in bed, not at school; and in my boxers, not a shirt and tie. Being here also makes the prospect of the imminent holiday-free five months a lot more real, so to counter this I’m going to write about the one I’ve just had. Read the rest of this entry »


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An Update


As I near the midway point of my year-long contract here in Korea, it’s difficult to tell how fast the time has gone. On the one hand, when I have been stood in a classroom during the non-teaching part of the first of seven identical lessons, watching the school leavers video of some unsuspecting American child, it has felt like the weekend is a lifetime away – let alone August 25. Incidentally, that’s what I spent Thursday and Friday of last week doing: the sixth graders “graduate” this month and one of their final English lessons consisted of learning about the differences between the ceremonies here and in the USA. I’ve no idea where my co-teacher found the video of “Daniel O’Hare’s Elementary School Graduation”, as it only had about 100 plays on YouTube when we watched it, but I decided not to ask. On the other hand I think of the new native teachers who will be arriving in Korea for their orientation around now; remember how unused I was to my new lifestyle; reflect on how much I’ve learned – and it seems like the previous six months were spirited away with a click of the fingers. Read the rest of this entry »

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Asian Asymmetry


Eliz and I returned yesterday evening from a nine-night layoff in the Philippines, and aside from being a more-than-welcome break from the Chinese water torture that life in Korea can be, it provided an interesting vantage point from which to sit back – Filipino beer in hand, obviously – and compare the two wildly contrasting ways of life. Often it is all too easy to just lump Asia together as one huge, 4,000,000,000-strong group of people, but a moment on holiday highlighted how wrong this is. We were eating and drinking and chatting about Korea with a family of Filipinos when one asked “how do they speak in Korea? ‘Cha du wah koh nah chang chong nahhhh?'”. It was a funny – if slightly racist – reminder of the differences  between countries that from back home seem relatively geographically close despite being in reality worlds apart. At times it was tempting to slip into a worryingly anti-Korean mindset – why can’t Korea sell a litre of rum for under a pound like the Philippines do? Why can’t Korea sell Hellmann’s mayonnaise in its supermarkets? – but I realise that if things were slightly different and I was holidaying in Korea midway through a year teaching in the Philippines I’d have complaints about the latter instead. Hence, this will hopefully turn out to be a gentle comparison rather than a giant whinge.

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