Monday, 15 March 2010

Korea - The first eel

Hello everyone!

My lessons this week, where I am repeating my 'How are you?' crusade, have suffered a degree of disruption. This isn't a complaint. My hardest day is going to be a Wednesday, when I teach back-to-back for the first four periods. This week, however, I was informed first thing on Wednesday morning that there were no lessons that day. The reason? The students had their monthly exam test things. So my busy day turned into watching Taken and browsing every internet page in the world. As well as drinking walnut tea. I can say I've tried it, and now will forever stick to Tetley's. The only bits that should be in a cup of tea should be broken biscuit pieces from dunking, NOT actually part of the tea.

Again, I have been running a fair bit this week, actually breaking the 10k barrier a week before I felt I needed to. My reward was, with Ellen's assistance, to destroy a massive ddak galbi that evening. That stuff is so so good, and I had no hesitation in skipping breakfast the next day, simply because I wasn't close to being hungry.

Thinking about it, it's actually been a pretty quiet week, which is good as I'm actually saving decent sums of money, as opposed to spending lavishly and realising I'm making a small profit. The one time I spent a sizeable sum of cash this week I ended up not actually doing anything, and getting rather annoyed. Tuesday was Kelly's birthday, so had organised a meal in her favourite bulgogi place for 7.30. I was done with my day at 6.30, so headed straight for Bucheon. I was in a different part of Siheung, however, so wasn't 100% on which bus to take.

I was stood in the torrential rain/snow/slush, guarded only by an umbrella my co-co-teacher had given to me out of pity, and soon saw a bus with Bucheon station written on it. That'll do, I think to myself, and after fiddling around with my cards in my pocket, find my transport card and hop on. I'm sat on the bus for a long time. Too long really. I listened to the entire Ellie Goulding album on one bus ride. We're going down increasingly remote and small roads. I kinda figured that it was going the wrong way a little while before the bus terminated in the middle of nowhere. Feeling a bit miffed, I shouted at the driver that it said Bucheon station on the front, and we both got out to check. Both felt vindicated. It did say Bucheon station on the front. But the arrow was pointing away from the station, and towards Hasang-dong. I'm guessing that's where we were.

Another passanger quickly pointed out a bus going to Bucheon station, and I hopped on. Listened to another whole album whilst getting there. It was a little after 8 when I rocked up to Bucheon station, so I called Kelly to explain my thus-far horrendous journey and get directions to the bulgogi place. 'Say Bucheon hospital'. Easy enough.

Except, as ever with taxi drivers, it wasn't. Firstly, and understandably, they didn't know what 'hospital' was. Even after I said 'ambulance nee-nor nee-nor'. I called Mr. Kim, who told me the Korean for hospital (it's pyong-won, not that I'll ever forget it now). I said it to my driver, and he didn't understand, so I passed the phone over. I can only hear the driver, and more than once hear him say 'Siheung'. Erm, what? He passes the phone back, and I decide to clarify with Mr. Kim that he'd said Bucheon. However, the driver, obviously aware that I need to watch the pennies, had hung up, and soon set off. He got to the first crossroads, where I always go straight on, and...turns right. Up above I see a sign for Siheung, tell him to stop, try to explain myself, and end up just getting out.

I try and fail with another taxi, and am getting increasingly frustrated. A third taxi lets me in, and I say 'Bucheon pyong-won'. Look of confusion. I then take a risk. I know the district Kelly lives in is Jung-dong, so I add this into my intsructions. He speeds off. That's better. Even if he has turned left at those fateful crossroads.

He stops after about 5 minutes. On that same road. And points to a building with a green cross on the front. Oh dear. That's not it. And now I don't know where I am, the meter is steadily rising and already above 4000, and I am very very frustrated with life. I get him to take me back to the station. He's nice, chopping off some of my fare, but I had spent almost 10,000 on a journey to hell and back. In the slush. It's March!! Snow, you were nice when you first came, but let the flowers grow now, OK?! The fact that my alien card had disappeared, probably on the floor when I was fiddling to find my bus pass, didn't help my mood.

Recalling all of this to Kelly the following day may have actually been the highlight of her week. Looking back, it is pretty funny, and almost entirely my fault, but it was a bit of a reality check for me. No, I really can't speak any Korean. I just know words I can drop into a conversation to impress people.

So other than that the week was pretty quiet up until Friday. Friday night I met up with Matt at Bucheon station, and we then met two of his Korean friends. One of them, called Chris, was very good at English. His girlfriend, Chae-Won, was less so. Minimal would be the word, I guess. We went for food, and I was intrigued by the prospect of what we were about to eat.


Yes, I was going to stuff one of those sea snakes that can electrocute you down my trap. What was I expecting it to taste like? No clue. Slimy, perhaps. We waited a while, consumed a fair amount of soju, and soon a big hot plate was brought to the table. On it were three long, reasonably thick, strips. One was covered in what looked like barbecue sauce, the others were accompanied by other seasoning. Here we go...

...and it's good. REALLY good. Tastes like a normal grilled fish. Plenty of meat to it. I was surprised, but I don't really know why. Maybe I thought it would taste more like octopus or something. Proves once again that you shouldn't prejudge the food out here. Speaking of that, this guy Chris knows where to get dog. And likes it...

We then went to a couple of bars, with jailbar being our final destination. Turns out the Korean girl actually lives in the same district as me, and through lots of hand gestures and minimal English we talked for a while. We all headed to jailbar, where we met Kelly and a few others. They were pretty drunk, and we soon followed. Anyone who partakes in soju cocktails when extra bottles of soju are poured into them would. It was strangely quiet there, however. Not much in the way of sexy dancing.

Most people left within a short time of us arriving, so we made our own fun by sitting next to two Korean girls and talking to them for a while. Their English wasn't great, but probably in the top 10% of Koreans I've ever spoken to. More soju was drank, and I was soon on my way back. I guess I got a taxi. It wasn't as fun as last time, but at least I didn't throw up!!

Love you all


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