Friday, 28 May 2010

Japan - The first Asahi

Hello everyone!

May 21 is a national holiday in Korea, for Buddha's birthday. This meant that we had a long weekend, and a long overdue opportunity to go travelling. I'd run out of digits on my hands and feet if I listed all of the places I wanted to visit in Eastern Asia, but one in particular stood out - Tokyo, Japan. This was the chance to go, and when my American friend Ellen suggested it a few months ago, it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. From the evening of Thursday, May 20, to the evening of Sunday, May 23, we visited the busiest, biggest city in the world. This is our story...

We work in schools across the road from one another, and both of them were holding sports day on the Thursday. Nice easy day, and also an opportunity to get out of school early to get our 1930 flight from Gimpo Airport. Gimpo is Gatwick, Incheon is Heathrow. Actually, Gimpo is more like Stansted or Luton, but the point remains. Our trip to the airport was trouble-free, save for one of my students squirting me with her water pistol. Outside of school, not a good idea love. It was a hot day, though, so it felt pretty nice and soon dried off.

It was strange how hassle-free everything seemed to be going. We were at the airport on time, hadn't forgotten anything important, tickets were issued (although we were sat a couple of rows away from each other), and nothing perverse had happened. Then we get to the X-ray machines. I am fine, but Ellen gets metal detected, and then they call her over. Something in her bag was causing the security staff a bit of grief. Search, search, search...oh, there's the problem. A YOGHURT. Accidentally left in, but naturally could blow up a plane. Well, at least they're thorough.

Pretty soon we are on our plane, strapped in, and on our way. As I mentioned, we were in different rows, so it was initially quiet time. The other people on the plane probably appreciated not hearing my voice for a while. Didn't last, though. Our food - and my Kirin beer - soon arrived, and when it did the two people next to me started trying to talk to me. I realised, from looks and lingo, that they were probably married, and definitely Korean. They realised that I was definitely not. I guess they were interested, and I was happy to play along with them.

We ended up talking - well, communicating, as the wife couldn't speak English, and the husband was as limited as I was for Korean - for the remaining hour of the flight. It was great fun. Ellen later said she was a bit jealous, as the men next to her weren't as fascinated. In that they didn't say a word to her. I was talking to a married couple called 남자, or Namja (the husband), and 아이, or Ahi (the wife). They were visiting their daughter, who lives and/or studies in Tokyo. I mention that my 'number one' (complete with hand gesture) food is ddak galbi, and their eyes light up. The husband takes my sudoku book, and on the inside cover starts to write something. It's in Hangul, but I give it a shot, and eventually understand what it says. It was the name of a university, a subway stop, and the city Incheon. It then had his name, Mr. Hwang, and a phone number. After this was Saturday, 1pm.

Basically, what has happened is they have invited me to go with them for ddak galbi on any Saturday after 1pm. Supposedly it is the 'best in Korea'. Naturally. Only one way to find out, and I am sure that one Saturday I will not be hungover or busy and will gladly take them up on this incredible gesture. So so nice. They were great fun, and the flight flew by, no pun intended. After a brief hold-up at immigration, for an unknown reason, we were soon on our way to get a subway to the city.

Aah, the subway. We had been told about this before leaving. It's mental. Mental and massive. I'm confident about my navigating skills, but this is contrasted with many many experiences of getting lost, both in Korea and when travelling around Europe. Those who I dragged around Milan for a day trying to find a building which wasn't actually in Milan can testify to that. We get on the bus to take us to the subway terminal. It's either terminal 1 or 2. I'm convinced it's 1. It stops at 1, and just about everyone else gets off. Umm, what? We dither for a bit, then ask the last person getting off the bus. Does she speak English? You can bet your bottom yen she can! Very, very well, in fact. And she was hot. I fell in love at that moment, and she directed us to the subway.

She also helped us get our ticket, which isn't the easiest thing to do either. You have to find your destination on the map above. Under each destination is a price. That is how much you put in. Sounds simple - bit more difficult when most of the maps are solely in Japanese. Often we ended up putting in the minimal amount and going to the ticket man when we got to our point of interest. The subway was quiet, but coming from an airport after 10pm this wasn't surprising. We navigated it quite comfortably, and were soon in Asakusa, our resting place for the night.

Asakusa is the more local, more traditional area of Japan, and an ideal place to start and settle down to deciding our itinerary. However, this does mean that its a wee bit quiet on a Thursday night. After getting a couple of drinks at the bar, chatting to the barkeep and his piano-playing friend, and finding out exactly why the 5Y coin has a hole in it (so they could put loads of them on a metal rod, making them easier to carry), Ellen went to bed, so I started chatting to the few remaining souls in the bar. Chatting obviously means drinking and story-swapping with. I haven't changed my travelling style in that respect.

Drinking in Tokyo is not a cheap business. Not if you drink inside, anyway. The way around it is our technique - 7/11. Cans bought, then sat outside drinking and talking. This sounds good, until you realise that it had been, and still was raining. It relented a little while after, but it got me back in my travelling spirit that I had began to miss. Our poison of choice was Asahi Strong Off - the Japanese Special Brew/Super Tennant's/Cass Red. The unnecessarily strong stuff.

Many of this famous five (English, Israeli, and two Italians) had been in Tokyo for a while. The Englishman, Jamie, had been there for six weeks, and had been sleeping on the street for the last two. When bedtime came, we snuck him into the hostel, where he slept on the floor. 'Best night's sleep in two weeks'. Whilst walking back we discussed the notion of going to the famous fish market, which opened at 4.30am. This was after 3am. Needless to say, it didn't happen.

Interesting and enlightening start to our Japanese adventure, but the trip was really starting on the Friday. Happy birthday Buddha!

Love you all


Thursday, 27 May 2010

Korea - The first six months

Hello everyone!

Exactly six months ago, on November 28, I was sat alone and hungover in Heathrow Airport, waiting to go to a country that six months previously I only knew because of football and Team America. At the halfway point in my contract, I thought it might be good to reflect on what I have done. I'm going to do this initially in numbers.

**DISCLAIMER** Many of these are wrong, but I don't care. The point will be gotten across.

Times I've eaten kimchi - one hundred and twenty-eight.
Times I've eaten rice - one hundred and thirty-four, thanks to Thailand not doing kimchi.
Times I've cooked for myself -thirty . in six months. honestly.
Christmas dinners I've had with turkey - none.
Christmas dinners I've had with a baby octopus - one.
Fish eyeballs I've eaten - one.
Dogs I've eaten - none. yet...


Beers I've drank - probably hovering around the 500 mark.
Times we've gone for a 'quiet drink' and rolled in hammered at around 5am - seven.
Times I've vomited - four or five.
Times I've wandered around Hongdae with my face painted as the Joker - unfortunately, just the once.
Times I've fallen asleep on the bus or subway and missed my stop - close to double figures.
Number of 50 cent rap battles we've had in noraebangs - two.
New Year's I've celebrated - two.
Times I've left my camera somewhere - at a guess, five.
Times my camera has been returned to me - five.
Girls I've slept with - as if I'm going to tell you that! My mum reads this!


Coconut milkshakes I've drunk - three. i want another one. now.
Number of Thai magic tricks I've witnessed - none.
Number of Thai magic tricks I've witnessed that went wrong and lost Kelly's ring - one.
Taxi and tuk tuk races I've been in - two.
Adventures in Korea I've had outside of Seoul - five? nowhere near enough anyway.
Times I've feared for my life in a taxi - every time I get in one, but three times when I genuinely wished I'd written a will.
Elephants I've ridden - one.
Boats I've taken with illicit gem dealers - one.
Number of countries I've visited - three (the DMZ doesn't tick off North Korea, I'm afraid).

Wales and Britain

Times I've sung Tom Jones songs with a taxi driver - one.
Times I've explained where Wales is - twenty-seven.
Times I've successfully explained where Wales is to strangers - four.
Times people haven't understood my accent - I know numbers are infinite, but it's up there.
Times I've been mistaken as Canadian - two.
Time I've been to the foreigner's district in Seoul - none. no intention to, either.
Delays of packages sent from Britain - two.
Bags of teabags I've had sent over - i think its six.

Games of Ring of Fire/King's/Circle of Death we played at orientation - three.
Times I've been called a terrorist by a student - one. and boy did she pay for that.
Lessons I've had cancelled due to very random events - too many, yet not enough.
Hours I teach a week - fourteen for students, four for teachers.
Private tuition classes I teach - three.
Times I've been asked if I have a girlfriend - seventy-six. probably.
Times a student has shouted 'I love you!' at me - a lot. more from boys than girls, though...
Number of students I've thrown out of class for being a Man City fan - one.
Presents I've had given to me by students - quite a lot, often for no apparent reason. can't complain.
Lesson plans I've taught - c. 15.
Winter camps I've taught - one.
Songs I've made my students sing - three.
Number of ping-pong balls I've thrown at students in a fit of anger - one.
Bags of candy I've given to students - far, far too many.
Times I've been late for school - three.
Times I've turned up still drunk to school - three.
Times I've been told off for being late to or drunk in school - none.


Korean World Cup stadia I've visited - three.
Half-marathons I've entered - three.
Half-marathons I've turned up to - one, and one tomorrow.
Major sporting events I've been to - four.
Ping-pong singles matches I've played with Koreans - about twenty.
Ping-pong matches I've won against Koreans - one.
Number of (very) early morning hikes I've done - two.


White Christmases - one.
Coldest temperature - -16'C (Korea, January).
Coldest temperature with wind chill factored in - -27'C (Korea, NYE).
Hottest temperature - 38'C (Phuket, February).
Earthquakes - one.
Size of my flat - 3m x 6m, at a guess. Including the bathroom and kitchen.
Free Xbox machines given to me - one.
Alien cards I've gone through - two.
Pairs of sunglasses I've gone through - four.
Musical concerts I've attended - two very, very different ones.
Times I've visited a jjimjilbang - one in Korea, one in Japan.
Times I've had a haircut - none.
Times I've radically modified my hair - once.
Korean words I've learnt - between 75 and 100, though don't hold me to that.
Times I asked who Kim Yu-Na was - one. never had to ask again. ever.
Times I've logged onto facebook - I don't want to consider that.
Money I've saved - far more than expected: bank balance of W4.5mill, with W2mill already sent home.

Chance of me staying for an extra year? Honestly, it's not likely. What might change my mind is if the current political climate gets worse. I have millions of won stuck here due to a shocking exchange rate, brought about by this propaganda being spewed by both sides. Interesting that BBC, CNN et al fail to mention that many people think that this is all an election ploy from President Lee, and that it will soon die down. But if the rate worsens still, there is more chance of me staying.

I am loving my time out here. It is amazing, a real-life changing experience, and I have made the most amazing friends. Sorry to say it to everyone back home, but I don't miss Britain one iota. Not even fish and chips. I am thurrily content, and delighted that I took the plunge about ten months ago and applied for this lifestyle. What a lifestyle. What a place. Loving Korea. Loving life. And still six months of fun to be had!

Love you all

Matt Smith
매트 스미스

Monday, 24 May 2010

Korea - The first sports day

Hello everyone!

I've never wanted a week to go so quickly in my life. The excitement for Japan has been building steadily for a while, but now the leash is off and I am giddy. As a result I haven't wanted to do much work in school. Luckily, the school schedule has once again come up trumps for me. Obviously I had Friday off for Buddha's birthday, part of the reason we can go to Tokyo, but my school's sports day was on the Thursday, meaning I only had to teach for 3 days, and only 8 lessons.

You can't really call those 'lessons' either. I dragged the kids out of the comfort zone that is their own classrooms, and took classes this week in my own room. It's not just my room, but it's better for groupwork. I'm allowed to do this once in a while, but am not allowed to move the students every week. Why, I don't know, but there's still many things about school that throw me. Wednesday is a good example of this. I teach periods 1-4, but then have the afternoon free. About ten minutes into period six, three students turn up to my office and start talking in Korean. I point them over to the other woman in my office, but then they suggest that they're talking to me. And then say that I'm supposed to be teaching their class. Right now. First I'd heard of it.

Turns out that this was a class that I had missed to go to the open class last Friday. Still, to be told about it would have been nice, and I made this point to Ms. Kim when she turned up to my room with the class. I was pretty annoyed - how dare they interrupt my YouTube session - until she said that she had only found out less than half an hour before the lesson. Messages don't get passed around particularly quickly in school, so I would have probably been told in...I don't know, June?

A bit frustrated and unprepared, I lost my cool for the first time out here. A student would not stop talking, even though his classmates kept telling him to be quiet. He was sat in close proximity to where I was standing, and eventually I snapped. Randomly, I had a ping pong ball on my table, so I picked it up. And threw it at him. And hit him on the head. Then carried on teaching as normal. He was brilliant for the rest of the lesson. The corporal punishment that is so common out here obviously works pretty well, but I can't make that a regular thing, otherwise I would never get a teaching job in an English-speaking country further down the line.

Unsurprisngly, the students' behaviour changes when are dragged out of their own environment. They become louder, more playful and are a bit less disciplined. On the whole, its better for what I was doing, as group activities also seem to bring out the competitive streak in many students who are normally quiet in class. And also, no one sleeps, which has to be seen as a good thing.

I was playing scattegories with them, and it was great fun for everyone, though the volume in class ruined my voice a bit. Especially on the Wednesday, when I taught this four times back-to-back. I took to using a microphone in a couple of lessons, but resisted the students' calls for me to serenade them with songs.

Aside from the extra lesson, Wednesday afternoon was spent watching some K-pop on Youtube with some of my students. The Wondergirls have released a new song which I'm sure all of my students already know the words and dance moves to. It's best described as a 'grower'. Certainly nothing on 'Run Devil Run' by Girls' Generation, which is definitely my favourite K-pop song right now. Would it be a success in Britain? Possibly, possibly not, but I like it. Though we know that my music taste often leaves a lot to be desired.

So Thursday was sports day. If you remember from my previous efforts, over the past couple of weeks qualifying for various events, ranging from dodgeball to football, has been taking place. Uniform wasn't happening for me today, so I turned up in the clothes I was wearing to Tokyo. A different kind of uniform was happening for the students, however. No standard sports' kit in sight. Each class (one boys' and one girls' class were paired) had to wear the same costume; one that was decided days, maybe even weeks, advance, so that the students could all get hold of it.

Some of the costumes were ridiculous. As I said to the other English teachers, there is no chance in hell that you could get an entire class of 17 year old boys to wear matching pink satin pyjamas with bunny ears in a British high school. It just wouldn't happen. It's amazing that there is no issue with self-consciousness and about what other students think of you. Though the other students, dressed with sombreros or mickey mouse ears or hawaiian shirts, wouldn't be able to take the mick too much.

They actually competed in these outfits, which made it more bizarre. Though some of the events were bizarre in their own right. Tug-of-war is an outstanding event choice which I will recommend in any subsequent school I work in. What's funnier is that, if it is 1-1, they don't have a third, definitive attempt. Oh no. They decide the winner in a much fairer way...rock paper scissors. Mental.

I then settled down amongst the students, who spent most of the day hi-5ing me and posing for photos, to watch the dodgeball and football finals. The latter went to a penalty shootout, in which a grand total of three people scored. Very bad game, but the chanting from their fellow classmates and paired classes was incessant. Who knows what they were saying - I'm guessing it was names of their classmates and positive things like that - but its infectious, and very catchy.

The funniest event came a little before lunch. It's hard to explain, so the pictures will help here. The basic premise is that each class crouches down in a line at one end of the field, with the exception of three of the class members, who stand at the back. When the gun is fired, one of the students clambers onto the back of the first student in line. He then proceeds to RUN ALONG THE LINE, flanked by the other two students who try (and often fail) to prevent him from falling off. So far, a little bit strange. Well, strap yourselves in. The field is obviously longer than the line, so people from the back of the line have to run to the front to keep the line going to the other end of the field. So basically you get a mass movement of people across the dirt, with people clambering over one another and falling over. It was hilarious. Health and safety would ban this event before it even entered UK waters.

I decided to eat and nap for a bit at this point, the two events being interspersed with more photos and hugs. And me being squirted by a water pistol numerous times. I was very tired, and needed to conserve my energy. Not only for Tokyo, but for a more immediate reason. As you have seen, there are many differences between the sports days of Korea and Britain. One I have yet to mention is the level of involvement of the teachers. The teachers play a more active role out here; in that they actually take part. I wasn't told about the teachers vs students football game (Mr Kang was, but had had a soju sesh the night before so hilariously slept through and left them short of numbers), but I had been told about the relay race. Why? Because I was running in it.

Not against students, I hasten to add. I'm not that stupid (though stupid enough to agree to this during my half-marathon training, which hasn't really been going to plan but did involve running the day before). As a teacher of first-grade students, I was running for the first-grade team. We were against the second-grade team, and a team of parents. Naturally, there was a bit of interest in this race, not least from my office, who made a placard for me. The first-grade team was the populist group, containing myself and the very popular and superbly built student PE teacher, who all the girls love for some reason. I know the reason now.

We battered the other teams. I was on the penultimate leg, and had enough time to slow down and do an ear-cupping gesture to the adoring fans. The scream was deafening, true ego-boosting moment. But it pales into comparison with what happens next. I hand over to the PE teacher, who waves to the students, before doing a somersault. That's right, an actual somersault. Ear-splitting roars, including one from me. He then jogs around half the track backwards, holding out the baton to the second-grade guy who is sprinting his heart out but not getting closer. Another flip, and then a soft jog to the line. Ridiculous. He got ambushed by about thirty students wanting to hug him. Hero.

That pretty much wrapped up sports day. Let's face it, that was not going to be topped. It was a wonderful day. The students had so much fun, and it was nice to see them come out of their shell a bit. Funny how much more fun people are when they are relaxed and don't have to study for 16 hours a day. The cheering and passion was incredible: I really wish sports day in Britain could even come close to replicating that. As for the costumes...each to their own.

Straight from school was the beginning of our Japanese adventure! I'll get on writing that up soon.

Love you all


Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Korea - The first jjimjilbang

Hello everyone!

In amongst the sporting festivities, last weekend also involved the standard drunken debauchery. I briefly mentioned it in the previous blog, but I'm going to talk you through our super Saturday. Sky Sports has nothing on it.

We (when I say we here, I mean Tom, and we all owe him) bought some meat and accroutments in Sammi Market, near my house, and then lugged the food back to Woosok tower for a sunshine-smothered barbecue. Woosok is where a lot of the English teachers in Siheung live, and I get the feeling we will spend a lot of time on their roof. It felt like we were on holiday, topless torsos being parched by the sun whilst cooking and drinking.

It was a glorious day. Many of my schoolkids spotted me as we walked down, and came to give me hugs and hi-5's. When I tried to talk to them, it fell a bit flat. Guess I still have some work to do. I took over cooking duties when some ash flicked into Tom's eye. As you can see, I still haven't cut my hair. Still going for the whole year! After the tension of the outspoken American's brief appearance (see my previous blog if you missed that), we got on with having fun. Mixing it up a bit, and feeling summery, I was drinking an amazing sweet red wine. It's South African - Korean wine is restricted to rice wine, and thus a bit heavy.

Our barbecue was awesome, and will undoubtedly be a regular feature of our summer. But soon the sun began to weaken, and we prepped to go into Hongdae. Rather than dealing with public transport, we went direct in a taxi, which wasn't overly expensive - just over a fiver for a pretty long journey. Whilst on toilet breaks in a coffee shop, we noticed two university students sat across from each other on the same table doing their art homework. Both listening to music - different music. It was strange to see people in the nightlife district working, a fact made worse when we saw that their drawings weren't really that good.

First stop was a bar called Woody's. 2,000W for a beer (that's just over a quid!). Fair few of those were sent packing. A Canadian girl was sat near us, and Jon and myself took it upon ourselves to give her some playful banter. Others would have called it outright abuse. After doing this for far longer than was necessary, she then bought a gin bucket, which...well...was a plastic bucket with gin and juice in it. The two of us played a drinking game where the other person drank if you could end a sentence with a word that's final syllable was 'oh' - innuendo, low, slow, etc etc. Needless to say, the girl got destroyed, until Deb joined in and showed off her amazing linguistic skills, getting me drunk in the process.

The rest of the night involves trying to learn to salsa in a packed club which definitely didn't play salsa-friendly music, bacardi shots and mental podium dancing. Not by me, I might add. The people I came with left relatively early, so I went to meet some people I had met at the DJ festival the week before. It was soon light, and thus time to head home.

Or not, as it turned out. 'We're going to a jjimjilbang!' one person shouts as we pile into two taxis. A short taxi race later and we arrive at a very large complex called the Dragon Hill Spa. A jjimjilbang is essentially a health spa, with one crucial addendum - you can sleep there. In this one, which with seven floors is one of the bigger jjimjilbang's in Korea, you pay 12,000W and have access to everything for 12 hours. It houses all of the things you would expect in a health spa: saunas, jacuzzis, colder bathing and swimming pools. The works. We must have got there at around 6.30am, and headed for the baths.

Having never been to one before, I wasn't exactly sure on what to do. I'd heard about nudity, but they give you a t-shirt and shorts upon arrival, so when we got to some lockers and other people started to put their stuff in I decided to change. When finished, I looked around to see that no one else had followed suit, and that in fact everyone else was staring at me as if I'd shot the Pope. It was at this point that one of the guys explained that there are other, more secluded changing rooms where you change your clothes, and that these lockers were for your valuables. This point was hammered home when we walked through into the main lobby area.

The faux pas' don't end there, though. We go to the baths (they're segregated, for reasons you're about to find out), and then everyone changes. I'm done, of course, so head through in the grey t-shirt and shorts. Soon I turn around to see everyone else walking through...stark naked. This time the looks were just of despair, and I was quickly sent back to strip. It made sense, we were going into the baths, but this didn't register in my gin-fuelled state.

It was very relaxing, even after Frank got a bucket of freezing water and starting chucking it at us. Drunken shower done, and we then went to sleep. I mentioned earlier that you can sleep in a jjimjilbang. I'll now say that it's not at all comfortable to do so. You can sleep anywhere - some slept in the PC room, for example - but most of us ended up sleeping in the main hall. On the wooden floor. You do get a pillow if you can find one, and after I had done so (it took a while) we settled down for one of the more painful sleeps of my short life.

Waking up four hours later was a strange experience. I turned my head and opened my eyes to see two chandeliers shining above me. I looked across the room and saw families walking around in shorts, the kids excitable and the parents desperately trying to rein them in. I could hear the faint noise of activity coming from afar. It felt a little bit like Vegas, but also felt like your bog-standard holiday resort, especially when we chilled by the swimming pool for a little while. I had to leave soon after to sort out the football stuff, but the rest of the people had planned on staying there before going to Hongdae, and were making a day of it. You could easily do that there. It was very nice, if a little surreal, and I'm sure I'll be back.

Love you all


Monday, 17 May 2010

Korea - The first baseball game

Hello everyone!

When I first came to Korea, almost 6 months (!) ago, I didn't know too much about the country. That's what has made this adventure so great thus far. One of the few things I knew about was their favourite sports. Putting taekwondo and 김유나 fever aside, Koreans are wildly passionate about two sports - baseball and football. This past weekend embraced both.

My first KBL game was on Friday night. We went down towards Incheon to watch their team, the SK Wyverns, take on Seoul's main outfit, the Doosan Bears. I really wanted to experience the passion of Korean baseball, even though I was pretty tired. I'd love to say I was tired from teaching that day, but it would be a scandalous and outrageous lie. It was a result of eating a portion of jjim dak that could have fed Bob Geldof's minions and then watching the seedier elements of Bucheon go about their business whilst sat drinking outside a corner shop. It's people-watching, but a late-night version. I did actually have more lessons than usual on Friday morning, because I was leaving school on a 'business trip' in the afternoon.

'Business trip' us the expression used for any time someone leaves school for a while. My orientation was a genuine 'business trip', but it gets used if I have to go to the hospital, to the bank, or even to GS Mart to buy more candy if my stocks need replenishing. Can't let the kids know that I've ran out of treats for them, there would be riots. This time, my excursion was across the road to Sorae middle school. Each public school teacher has to do one demo lesson, or open class, during their year. Each school is part of a group, and the other schools in said group send their native teachers and another English teacher to watch it. The idea is to compare teaching styles and offer advice. The pressure comes from the fact that this is the one time in the year when the bigshots from your school - principal, VPs, Head of Department - will see you teach. My open class will be in September; this was Ellen's.

It was very, very impressive. Mr Kim was busy, so Mr Kang came with me to watch, and spent most of the time trying to decide who was hotter out of Ellen and her co-teacher. After the lesson, you spent a bit of time giving feedback and then asking about each other's teaching problems, solutions and tips. Everyone has to contribute, an idea which took Mr Kang by surprise when he was given the mic. ' lesson was very punctual. Yeah.' As I said to him when we left - profound.

The feedback was very complimentary, with the exception of one tall, lanky, awkward American, who tore into the statistics used about American problems, calling them 'lies' and a 'myth'. Funny that, as they were taken from the textbook, but he then went on about negative impressions and stereotypes and lack of patriotism and all sorts of things. Was a bit ironic that he was becoming visibly more agitated and angry when trying to dismiss the idea of Americans being...violent. The guy acted like a jerk.

The twist in this tale comes at our rooftop barbecue the next day. It appears that, later on Friday, this American guy was sat on his own in a coffee shop when Josh and Tony walked past, saw him and invited him up. Can't fault them for that, if I didn't know better I would have done the exact same thing. Still, it added a bit of tension when he arrived. He didn't stick around long anyway. Not every Westerner we meet is going to be a wonderful person, I guess. Most are though! I'll go into details of that in the next edition. New experiences galore this weekend, I don't want to beat you down with an information overload.

In the meantime, I seem to have digressed badly from my original point - baseball. The Friday games start pretty early, so I was hoping to head straight to Incheon straight from this open class. However, Saturday was Teacher's Day (there seems to be a day for everyone in May), and as a thank you the parents of some of our students had made us a special meal, to be served when school finished at 4.30pm. I wasn't overly hungry, but still went along and stuffed my face with galbi tang. Whilst doing so, and talking to Mr Kim, I lost track of time, so was surprised when the time was approaching 5.15. The game, taking place a long way away, was starting at 6.30. Taxi time.

The taxi to Bucheon station was one of the funnier rides of my life thus far. The man, upon finding out that I am happy to try speaking Korean, decides to talk to me. A lot. He asks me where I am from, and I say Wales. He doesn't know it, and doesn't know Ryan Giggs, but then says 'Sco-tuh-lan-duh'. I smile, and then he makes a gesture with his hands by his mouth whilst making funny noises. Yes folks, he's mimicking playing the bagpipes. Hilarious, but it gets better. We keep talking, and as we descend towards the station he tells me he loves The Eagles. 'Hotel Calibornia', he says, and then starts to sing. Feeling on a similar wavelength, and it being a Friday, I start to sing with him. He then starts to list other songs he likes, none of which are by The Eagles. The fourth song on this list? Delilah. Tom Jones' Delilah. 'He is from Wales!!!' I exclaim. Big grin from the driver, followed by us singing Delilah really loud in the taxi. Well, the chorus anyway, I don't know the whole song. But an absolutely ridiculous way to pass the time.

The subway is packed full of kids. It was only after speaking to Kelly, who was at the stadium, that I understood why. SK were doing an offer of sorts for middle school students, so they were descending en masse to the Munhak Stadium. Rumours were going around that it had become a sell-out, but I got in before this was confirmed. A bit different from being one of 5,000 watching the K-League game in the stadium across the road from this baseball ground.

The atmosphere was electric. Even in the away end. How do I know this? Well that's where we ended up sitting. Even though we had all specified 'SK' when buying the tickets. Oh well, guess I have to support Doosan now. This was made easier after Doosan went 5-0 ahead in the first inning. Couple of things I found interesting about Korean baseball:
- They play the chants and songs of the AWAY teams when the visitors are batting. Very nice of them to do that, but I can't imagine it intimidates them a lot. Missing a trick there.
- The pitchers are so lazy that they get DRIVEN from the bullpen to near the pitching mound. In what looks like a Smart car. Bizarre.
- The cheerleaders are high school students, so if there was a team based in Siheung there would be a strong possibility that I would teach them. That unsettles me a little bit.

The noise and atmosphere at the baseball was incredible, but it pales into mediocrity when compared with Sunday's football game. Rather patriotic, the Koreans. It makes sense, being a very homogenous ethnicity and population. Tickets were a mere 30,000W (imagine paying about £16 to watch England), and our seats were really good. After making a Korean man one-shot his beer, and seeing him almost collapse, we headed in amongst a sea of red shirts. The game itself wasn't high on quality - Korea won 2-0 - but every time Korea even got close to the penalty area, the fans went mental. We thought one girl behind us was going to have a heart attack. Or make all of us deaf.

I missed the second goal, being in what's known as the 화장실 (toilet, sorry for showing off the few Korean words I know). I heard the roar, and sprinted out to the concourse, where DOZENS of Korean security guards were standing. They turned to look at me. 'Korea GOOOOOALLLL!' I scream. They love it, lots of hand-slapping ensues, and then they demand my camera to take photos with me. They were security, I wasn't going to say no. Though it has been pointed out that they don't look particularly intimidating...

We went to get a photo with the cheerleaders as well. Good moment, that. This was Korea's final home game before setting off for South Africa, so they had a send-off after the game. Very spectacular, this. Fireworks, a K-Pop band, the squad carrying a giant Korea flag around the pitch and kicking footballs into the crowd - it was probably better than the game itself. Lot of atmosphere about the place, and I am definitely now backing Korea in the World Cup. South Korea, that is.

Love you all