Friday, 12 February 2010

Korea - The first hike up Sorae Mountain

Hello everyone!

So on Sunday I did indeed get myself into gear and hike up Sorae mountain. It's really close to my flat, about a 10 minute walk to the bottom. Thinking it might be quite high, I wrapped up warm, and set off at around 2. I wanted to get back to watch Murray win in the tennis, and that started at 5.30, so was giving myself plenty of time.

I needn't have bothered. I don't know where they get off calling this thing a mountain, but it's rather small. Less than 300m, in fact. I know this because I was at the top in less than half an hour, and there is a stone which proclaims Sorae Mountain to be 299.4m. Couldn't they artificially build a little extra mound to make it 300, to make it seem like some sort of achievement? I was sweating, partly because of the speed that I scrambled up it, but also due to the unneccesary level of layers I had on. I think it was 5. I got to the top to see the view. I wasn't expecting much - Siheung isn't known for it's aesthetic beauty - but couldn't see much due to the haze. Gotta love that air quality.

Nevertheless, I started taking photos. That is, until a man grabbed my camera off me. It took me by surprise, so he swiped it quite easily. I turned around to see an older man holding the camera, and pointing to the 299.4m rock. He gestured again, and it became clear that he wanted to take a photo of me next to it for my camera. Amazing. He could have gone about suggesting this in a different way, but his not to try...

The mountain was quite muddy, so my clothes and trainers were becoming a bit dirty. At the bottom - having walked past a frozen stream, which looked pretty nice - they had a solution. Air jets. I don't know if this is just a Korean thing, or whether I am a bit naive, but they shoot powerful gusts of air at the mud to clear off the excess. It works as well, but is a bit strange.

So I got back for the tennis, made myself comfortable in my awesome new chair, and watched Murray lose the first two games. Whilst this was on I checked my facebook page, and noticed that a friend in Bucheon, Jackie, had left me a message saying that a few people were watching the match down in the Park, where a lot of my Friday nights terminate. Murray then broke to make it 1-2, and I thought to myself, 'why not?'. So I grabbed my coat and sprinted down the stairs to grab a taxi.

I didn't think I would miss much of the match. Then genius taxi driver gets on the expressway. Even on Sundays they have rush hour, and this was certainly it. The most expensive taxi ride thus far, and it took a loooong time. I got to the Park to find Jackie and a few others sitting front of a blank screen. Not cool. Something had gone wrong with the power. To find out that Federer was almost 2 sets up didn't aid my mood at that point.

After Murray somehow lost the tiebreak, and thus the match, we headed to RnB to play darts, pool etc. It was good fun, and I got to meet a lot of interesting people. One of them, Ryan, plays touch rugby in Bucheon on Sundays, which is something I might go for in the future. Whilst watching the tennis over the past few days an advert has been occasionally flashing up about a marathon in Seoul in late April, which will take precedence if I sign up for it.

I got back to Siheung before midnight, to avoid another expensive taxi ride, and then decided to stay up to watch the Man Utd-Arsenal game. Of course, the time difference means that I was up until after 3am watching it on a Russian-sounding internet stream. Not a clever move, given that normal school service was to resume in 5 hours, but worthwhile. It was also a good way to demonstrate to my students what we mean when someone is tired, and also when someone is delighted. See, all planned out. Ahem...

The lesson was lots of alternative answers to the question 'How are you?'. I have been getting a bit agitated with the same response, in the same tone, from each and every Korean. In class I was even able to see this by doing a Bruce Forsyth impression (of sorts); 'I say how are you, and you all say...' 'I AM FINE THANK YOU AND YOU?'. Putting a question mark at the end is also giving them more credit than they are due. If someone had died right in front of them, if they had just won the lottery, the answer would still be the same. This week I made it my mission to change this, and so far students are actually giving me different answers when I move around school. Though as I only teach first graders, the other students and indeed the teachers still use their one solitary line.

There were some funny moments this week. One of my classes know that I am a Man Utd sympathiser (I would back Cardiff if the two ever play, though), and wind me up by gesticulating how much they like Man City. I threaten to kick them out, which usually helps me win the banter battle, but it is all good fun. Maybe shouldn't have openly laughed at the students who said they were Arsenal fans though...

To show someone feeling angry I had a few different methods. One was to swipe expensive-looking translators off people's tables and leave the room for a reasonable length of time, then return and ask everyone whether the victim is happy, and also whether said person wants to punch me. They found that funny. Another method was to pull up a picture of the Hulk, and get them to describe what happens to him when he is angry. Of course, they had to identify who it was first, and one student got it badly wrong. 'Shrek!' he shouted. Oh dear. Lots of laughter, some of which was from me. I didn't see that coming. All this makes me wonder how I am employable, but then I remember that most of my co-teachers don't bother turning up to the lessons anymore like they're legally supposed to, so I can get away with a lot.

I don't really remember much happening this week. I got sent home early on Monday because I looked tired, which was amazing. Or my co-teacher just doesn't like me being around, who knows. Tuesday night I went down to Kelly's where she fed me cheese and broccoli soup - who'd have thought, it's actually really good - and we did more research and planning for Thailand. Aah, to see the sun, that will be nice. It's becoming slightly warmer right now, in that it is hovering on the 0'C mark. Almost T-shirt weather.

Friday was eventful, so I will leave that for the next post. It involves a drinking contest...

Love you all


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