Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Korea - The first new shoes

Hello everyone!

Spring is here!!!! It took it's sweet time, but finally the sun is beginning to show itself. I walked around Sammi Market on Sunday wearing my shades and in just a t-shirt. Stupid idea as it wasn't really hot, and there was a bit of a breeze. I also wore my shades into school on Monday. Yes, I'm that guy. The students were intruiged by them, and not all were complimentary - one of my favourites, Jessica from winter camp, told me that I looked like a fly when wearing them. Thanks. I guess my ego could do with being dented a little.

I did actually wake up to see the sun over the course of the weekend, which I found quite impressive. Friday I ran 17km, encouraged by a Korean man running next to me at a slightly quicker pace who kept pointing at me speed, suggesting that I should keep up. No chance. My legs were shot after this, so I was grateful for a text from Tom seeing if I wanted a drink after he finished work. A couple of beers after sustained exercise keeps the muscles relaxed for longer, so I've been told.

These couple of beers turned into a rather large night, undoubtedly helped by Tom calling for 'Soju o' Clock'. We were having good fun, save for the point when one of the older guys, a Canadian called Mike who is the spitting image of Ben Stiller, started demanding to know our views on the monarchy. Not quite Friday night conversation, really.

We went to a noraebang. Our usual one was, for some unknown and strange reason, closed, so we went to one near my flat. There are a lot of them - they do love a noraebang out here - and I couldn't say which one we frequented. What we do know is that me and Tom do a damn fine duet of Dr. Dre and Eminem's Forgot About Dre, which we nailed just about word for word. Epic. We then decided to do the honourable thing and do a runner. The woman had been trying to cut our time short, after all. Little did we realise that I had paid for it all on my bank card, but I'll come to that later.

So the sack was collapsed upon close to the time I had woken up for school the previous day. A few hours later, we were up and moving again. I was still drunk, I'm fine with admitting that. This is proved by me trying to buy a chocolate bar, and not realising that I didn't have any money. And not really realising that I was supposed to pay the guy. When me and Nikki met Brittany in Bucheon station I also ran up to her and gave her a jumping hug, which, contrary to popular opinion, is not something I normally do. 'Are you still drunk?' was her first question.

My aim was get new work shoes. The soles have come off mine, so it was kinda important that I got new ones sooner rather than later. As the other two had never been to Dongdaemun, we headed up to the market. I'd checked Korean shoe sizes earlier in the week - turns out I'm around about a solid 267. No, I haven't become Bigfoot, they just measure in millimetres. I didn't waste time in purchasing, either, partly fuelled by the desire to return to my bed. First pair that fitted, 10,000W - done. They are Velcro - I feel I'm four years old and unable to tie shoelaces again. May make things easier when we go for dinner in sitdown places during or after school though, as I won't spend half the time untying my shoes.

As we were walking through the market, we came across some pet stores. Were they dinner for later? Well, I couldn't help but feel that one group of animals in cages would be, as they couldn't possibly be pets. CHICKENS. What on earth happens if they lay an egg?? The egg would surely crack on the hard floor. Do people really buy chickens as pets?? Mental. Anyways, it was quite a nice day, so we decided to walk around Dongdaemun's Natural History complex or something like that. It kept saying that they had knocked down a baseball stadium to create the excavation area. We were more fascinated by the fact that they were cleaning the outside paving slabs with a vacuum cleaner.

It was pretty interesting, actually. Old Korean historical stuff that I would have paid more attention to without having a crushing hangover to deal with. We instead took pleasure in the more simple things - Nikki in standing on the grass next to a sign which probably said not to do it; me by wandering off to look at a large animal made of recycled bottles and cans. Still, a productive day, so a good day. Well, until I realised later that night that I couldn't find my bank card. And then going over to Stevo's to watch United succumb rather miserably to Chelsea. But let's take the positives and move on.

I'm trying to 'go the extra mile' regarding talking to people in school. I've begun to realise that people in my school, students and teachers, want to talk to me, even if they aren't confident enough to do so. What I have to do, and what I am starting to do, is move around and talk to people during some of my free periods (let's face it, there's only so much TV I can watch before they force me to do more work). So on Wednesday afternoons I now head up to a different office for one hour to talk to people up there, and more of my old students have located my new office and come in at certain times to talk to me. I do like seeing my winter camp students, they were great fun. Some of them want me to hang out with them outside of school, at which point I gently point out that that is not going to happen. Lines being crossed and all that.

So this week I'm teaching my kids about western music. A few points to make here. For all the penetration of McDonald's, Starbucks, Manchester United and the like, they don't know as much about Western music as I expected. The stuff they do know is mostly obvious - Britney, Beyonce, Eminem et al. The boys love Beyonce's Single Ladies video, can't think why. But you know, global stars. Oh, and of course that famous Irish band. No, not U2...Westlife. Yes, those four Irish twerps with highlights in their hair have actually become rather famous in Korea. I was a bit disgusted at this, but very intruiged. What songs? Not that I know any of the top of my head, but I'm sure the names would ring a bell. The names that you hear are upcoming on one radio station, so you change to another. 'You raise me up!' one boy shouts. Innuendo aside, I did recognise the song - and hated him for it.

There were some other interesting ones as well. Sum 41 - always good for the treadmill - was regularly shouted out. Newer singers and bands, such as Ke$ha and Boys Like Girls, were also shouted out. I had to spend a bit of time correcting the few intelligent ones who knew of Oasis. Not that you would know that they were saying Oasis. It sounded like 'Wazz-ish'. One class also managed to stretch Britney Spears into EIGHT syllables. I laughed at that one. Disappointingly, however, no one had a clue who Katy Perry was. They do now, though.

I was happy to let the kids be a bit more raucous and less controllable for these lessons. Towards the end of my lesson - after doing a fill-in-the-blanks Coldplay song lazily plucked straight from my TEFL Prague course - I brought up the words to her Hot 'n' Cold song onto the screen. Splitting the class into two, I got them to sing alternate lines of the chorus. Loud. Louder than the loudest Yellow Submarine rendition. The lure of a big prize (not a clue what that will be as yet) inspired them all to be rather loud. Slightly out-of-tune, admittedly, but some of my classes were ear-splitting. The loudest class will get a prize, though I'm going to keep pitting them against one another for a while so I can decide what I can get 40 kids that isn't candy and doesn't break the bank.

Love you all


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