Thursday, 1 April 2010

Korea - The first K-league game

Hello everyone!

The following events take place between March 25 and April 2

Another week, another significant amount of running and forgetting to save money. I think I've eaten in my place once. I would be obese by now if I didn't spend so much time on the treadmill.

Adding up what I have had in terms of dinner, I have had ddak galbi twice (Friday and Sunday), Samgyupsal twice (Saturday and Thursday), galbi once (Tuesday) and a truckload of fried chicken (Wednesday). What's amazing is that all of this probably cost the same amount as one decent meal in Britain. Each meal was about 5 or 6 quid a pop. Little wonder we all eat out quite a lot.

My teacher classes have started in earnest this week. I teach the English teachers twice a week, and also teach 2 groups of non-English teachers once a week. I had, and still have, no clue as to what I'm supposed to do with the English teachers. Their grammar, for example, is far superior to mine, so I can't really do that. So on Monday, when most of them showed up, it turned into a general chit-chat about movies while drinking coffee. However, as they are all very busy - much, much busier than me - they want the hour to be productive. Ideas on a postcard, please.

As for the non-English teacher classes, the teachers in these classes actually have better English than I expected. And, for the ones in my office, than they had used when talking to me before. I guess they feel a bit intimidated and shy of trying to practice in the office, as there are two Korean English teachers in there, and they may possess some sort of inferiority complex. I told them they shouldn't, and that my Korean is shambolic, but I keep shouting it out in the office. I've learnt the phrase 'I am full' - Pae-ga-puh-loh-yo - so that they will stop constantly offering me food. I have to use it a lot.

Even then, sometimes it doesn't work. On Monday my co-admin-teacher person - the Chinese teacher, Miss Ka
ng - was leaving. They messed up her contract or something. We all got her two cakes from the bakery, and soon after lunch - when I carb-loaded by eating my body weight in rice - the cakes were brought out to be eaten. The practice of eating cake is a bit different out here. Paper plates? No chance. Fork and spoon? Don't be absurd. Not in the RoK. No, we eat cake out of a plastic cup...with wooden chopsticks.

n spite of the initial frustration with having a non-English-speaking teacher as my new admin helper, I will miss Miss Kang. She was a very friendly person, always happy to help me as best as she could, and my Korean has improved markedly thanks to her. She did one final amazing thing for me before leaving. The principal put out a message that I had to start up an after-school programme. Though not happy about that prospect, I was willing to do it, as a lot of public school teachers I know have to do something similar. Well...not me! Miss Kang told him that my contract states that I finish at 4.30, so I can't do any after-school activity. Awesome! Another reason for other public school teachers to hate me though.

One person who doesn't seem to hate me is the new vice-principal. I have lunch with him in the canteen every Thursday. He is a keen runner, and has ran a lot of marathons in his time, so took a big interest when it was mentioned that I am doing this half-marathon. He actually runs on the school treadmill after school. I've been told by some sources that his shorts are unnecessarily short, kinda like those athletics ones from the 1980s. I'll stick to my gym for the time being. I've also been told by lots of teachers that they all hate him, as he has increased their workload significantly. Hasn't affected me yet, apart from people moaning about him to me.

He was moved here from Siheung High School, and told me that there was a native speaker who worked in his school. Another high school teacher in Siheung?? When I came to school the next day the VP had left me a message with his name, Wilson, and a phone number. Having grown a pair since moving out here, I had little hesitation in calling it, and we got dinner on Thursday. Really nice guy from California, though only has one more month left, which is a shame.

In preparation for the half marathon, which is on the 25th, I decided to cut alcohol out of my life until the race was completed. I also thought it would give me a good incentive to keep going. Obviously I'm not going to find that a particularly easy task in Korea, where drinking seems as regular as breathing. I opted to give myself one final night of the stuff, on Saturday, before sacrificing for a month. Kinda like a late Lent gesture, perhaps.

That Saturday we decided to go for a bit of Korean culture. Well, I'll try and package it as that - I haven't done anything cultural of late. We went to a K-league game. The K-League is Korea's football league. Our destination was Incheon, where we watched Incheon United face the, ahem, 'might', of some other team called Ulsan. I wasn't expecting the standard of football to be particularly high.

It wasn't. I was tempted to go down to the touchline to warm up, but would have failed some sort of alcohol test. Also it was pretty damn cold, even for very late March, so I was content to shiver in the stands. The stadium was used fo
r the World Cup, and has a capacity around the 50,000 mark. It wasn't quite at full capacity. We knew that would be the case - it's guaranteed that most Koreans could name more players in England than Korea - but it's hammered home when you look at the ticket. There is no seat number. You pick one of the four stands, then the world (or part of the stadium) is your oyster. The attendance - a whopping 5,775. About 250 of these were in the stand to our right, and they seemed like the hooligan element, if such a thing exists in Korea. They were the only ones making much noise, anyway. Apart from a couple of ignorant foreigners shouting abuse at how bad the players were...

Incheon lost 2-1. Shame. They hit the crossbar in the last minute as well. After the game we headed over to Bupyeong, where Sean lives. It was his girlfriend's birthday, and also we hadn't gone there. It was exactly the same as Bucheon. Most places are a bit samey, as to be expected. We had some awesome samgyupsal, and great fun to boot. We moved on to a bar, quel supris, and I was soon called over to a table of three Koreans. No English, they just wanted to chat at me, rather than to me. I had some soju off them and swiftly left. It was Saturday night, I wasn't going to do any 'work' unless it was to my benefit. Though I then spent a while playing wingman for Kelly while she talked to a Korean guy - the other one's English wasn't great, and I soon ran out of things to say to him that he would understand.

So alcohol done until the race? Not quite. As everybody at university can testify to, I'm rather easily persuaded when it comes to alcoholic beverages. Even if it is not offered, but is on the table with others drinking, I feel obliged to join in the fun. That really does make me sound like an alcoholic, doesn't it. I lasted a whopping three days before drinking on Tuesday. After this relapse, my new attitude is that I can't drink the day before running, so after doing a fairly heroic run - I'm up to 16k thesedays - I will allow myself a little something. No passout nights, though. Should probably cut those out altogether, many would suggest...

This leaves me with just enough time to talk about my lessons. This week has been a combination of two lessons - some classes are ahead of others due to scheduling and exams. Those playing catch-up have done the weekend lesson. As all most Koreans do on the weekend is fulfil the three S's - sleep, study and Starcraft - I had to modify it to be from a British perspective. I asked my classes what they thought British kids did. One student shouted out 'watch porn movie' a little too loud for my liking. One aspect I showed them was nightlife, and I asked them what people do in nightclubs, saying that there are three things. 'Dance' was normally said first. Good answer, what else? 'Drink-uh'. Yes, very true. I knew they knew what else I wanted them to say, and most were rather shy about it. 'Um, to meet?' But there was one student who had his own very animalistic idea of the third strand. 'TEACHER, TEACHER!' he shouted. It got my attention, but before I could get a word in, he continued...

'HUNT! THEY HUNT!' Wow. I fear for the girls when this guy turns Korean age 19 and actually goes to clubs. Something barbaric and unnerving about his choice of word.

Thursday was April 1. I asked around before, and they do actually do April Fool's out here. It's called either that or 'Liar Day'. I was scratching my head for options, and for once my creativity deserted me in a time of need. All I did was to storm into each class, act serious (its difficult for me, that), and then write EXAM on the board. The first class called my bluff straight away. The second fell for it. My first 'exam' question was 'what is the date?', and they gave the answer without a hint of understanding. Bless them.

But then the third class. They went the extra mile. I didn't even get to writing 'exam' on the board before I noticed that two students at the front were sat facing the wrong way. With their clothes on backwards, of course, so that I wouldn't notice. One of them even had stuck a paper face to the back of her head. I wasn't fooled, and played 'how many fingers am I holding up' right in front of her 'face'. 1-0 teacher. They did get me, however. In the middle of the class, one girl screamed 'EARTHQUAKE!!!' and every student flew under their desk. Every student. That did throw me, I have to be honest. It took me quite a while to calm them, and me, down after that. I'll talk about the lessons themselves next time, gone on quite the rant once again.

Happy easter! Love you all


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