Archive for category Ulsan
This Saturday just gone was the main event of this year’s annual Whale Festival in Ulsan, and it was a really excellent day. Of course in the preceding weeks all the buzz and the build-up had centred around the dragon boating tournament – especially as training sessions had started in earnest – and with 15 or so teams of 18 foreigners signed up, bragging rights were well and truly at stake. Each team was named after a different whale and the Narwhals – having had one semi-successful practise under a monsoon a week prior, and having been given just the one day to prepare suitable matching outfits in the style of a “post-apocalyptic, Mad Max, barbarian, viking, neon, glitter bandit” – assembled in dribs and drabs, collectively a hotchpotch mishmash mess, shortly before 9 in the morning. Someone suggestively pulled a couple of six-packs of lager from a rucksack, everyone eyed everyone else with silent, superficial “should-we-shouldn’t-we?” stares, then someone else cracked one open and our preparations began.
Yesterday was my 8-month Korea teaching contract anniversary; I’m two-thirds of the way through it and with just four months to go and plently still to see here I thought it would be a good idea to write a bucket list of sorts. I’ll include things I’ve already done, as the memories of them will bring a great big cheesy grin to my face as I write. If anyone can think of any more that would be fantastic!
We did it! We finally did it! After seven months and thirteen days in this country, Elizabeth and I managed to sufficiently muster enough energy and enthusiasm to experience Korea’s national past-time – hiking. It’s been on the agenda for a few months now – “oh, we’ll just wait for that really nice Sunday you occasionally get here and then go” – but as the weekends have rolled around other, less strenous activities have been preferred: drinking, lie-ins, making sure we’re up to date with whatever TV shows we’re watching. Until now. Read the rest of this entry »
Perhaps a strange first choice, but I love the Taehwagang, the river that meanders east down from the mountainous surroundings of the city and opens out into the East Sea. With it forming a direct route between my flat and Elizabeth’s (and coupled with her inability to do anything other than lie in bed after a day at work) I spend a lot of my time cycling up and down it, and so I’ve had plenty of opportunities to bask in lots of what it has to offer. The stretch I use most often is long and straight, and seen from above would resemble a set of coloured pencils: blue river; green walkway; red cycle path; brown grass and vegetation; and then grey road. My favourite thing about it is the people you see there. Read the rest of this entry »
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:
Over the last few weeks and months Elizabeth and I have heard about a number of “cultural” excursions that are run in and around Ulsan by the council. These being free, we decided to see what a couple of them were like. At Korean class we were handed information sheets in English, we received text messages in English confirming our registration, and these trips were generally said to be fairly foreigner-friendly – and with us being as into free stuff as we are, naturally our interest was piqued.
I’ve just been inspired by a truly excellent school dinner to write again about food in Korea. What’s that? What did I have? Well, for starters, the kimchi was pretty nice today, and for the first time in a while I wished I’d had more. I had one scrumptious side dish of seasoned spinach, carrtots and beansprouts (I don’t know if this is my imagination but there seem to be two kinds here that look identical, one bland and one delicious and today’s was the latter), and another of mini sausages in a sapid spicy sauce, which overflowed into my rice section. The soup tasted like Thai red curry, which might explain why I slurped it all down with0ut a word or even an upwards glance to my co-teachers.
I kinda wanted to wait to write this until I’d tried something insane here, as Korean seems to be the place to go if you like to treat eating as an extreme sport. Regularly topping lists of expats’ craziest, wackiest, zaniest foods eaten out here is a dish called sannakji, or live octopus. I think it’s most common that the chef guts and chops the octopus before the eater kills and consumes it (important: do in that order, as there are several sannakji-related deaths a year, through asphyxiation, apparently), although one friend has told of the time she was presented with a live octopus impaled on a chopstick, only for its legs to sucker themselves onto her face once she popped the head into her mouth. But I reckon an experience like that would merit a post all on its own; and having done some research on names and ingredients before writing this, I now know that my diet here so far has been a lot less mild than I previously though, and I should have plently to sink my teeth into.
I once wrote about the time I hated Korea – about a time when my every attempt to smoothly, swiftly and successfully complete something as fundamental as shopping for supplies was seemingly blocked by an invisible force working explicitly in opposition to me. I mentally – justifiably or otherwise – lay the blame at the feet of Korea. Not a person or a group of people; but a whole nation: an accumulation of its history, geography, tradition, cultures, inhabitants and everything else that constitutes the place. I hated Korea. I later realised that what I had undergone is known as culture shock. During orientation in Jeonju (which seems like years ago, now) we were warned about this – it being the second phase that every native teacher experiences while here, after the honeymoon and before two others I’ve forgotten but that might well return to haunt me one day. I sat there and sort of scoffed to myself, however: I’m a seasoned traveler; I’ve lived abroad before; and anyway, shouldn’t culture shock hit as soon as one touches down in his new surroundings, rather than a few weeks or months down the line as this guy’s claiming? I’m not the kind of guy to go around irrationally blaming people and objects for behaviour traits that a population has cultivated for thousands of years. Of course, I was wrong – as my earlier blog will testify to – and since then I’ve caught myself muttering angrily about some Korean idiosyncrasy or other simply because I’m not used to it. Here I’ll write a little about some of the more interesting and relevant ones.