Monday, 29 September 2008

Liverpool are magic, Everton are tragic

Enjoyable times in Korea. I write this from my apartment after a great weekend and I'm drinking a cup of tea, eating bacon butties and reading the newspapers. Quintessentially English. Perhaps.

Saturday was my Black belt test at the Hapkido Dojang. I wasn't nervous beforehand but my heart was beating as he test began. It went well. No big mistakes, solid technique and some very pleasing jump rolls too. It will be a few days, perhaps even a week before I get my result but I will be amazed if I don't pass. I was so happy with how it went that I have decided to continue for at least another two months, where I will face another test but also receive my black belt in front of my fellow students. It is that, that I am really excited for rather than the actual test.

Liverpool also easily beat a very poor Everton in the Merseyside derby 2-0, too to cap off a good few days which were also spent drinking beer, wine and Guinness. Today is supposed to be pay day too (with contract completion bonus included). Good times.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Pausing for thought

In about 36 hours or so I'll be taking my black belt test. I'm not nervous but there's still time. I'm a little excited but mainly confident. Success or failure can be put down to training, and practice has been going well. I know enough to pass, although there are one or two things that I am not happy with and ideally I'd like more time to improve. I don't just want a pass though, I'd like it to look like I know what I'm doing. Overall I'm ready to go.

It's all a little surreal, being in this situation. I never planned to take up Hapkido and my motivation really hasn't been to go through the belts, just to improve. Am I really up to the black belt standard? Well as discussed before, the ranking (1st Dan) doesn't really mean too much out here as so many people have them in their own disciplines. I have to say that as I do go through the belts there is a sense of achievement and it does feel good when your training goes well in the tests. I'll be proud to pick up my black belt when I do. I will pass! I must pass!

But what happens after this weekend? Well, going to Hapkido does require a commitment. I go after work and don't get home till after midnight so doing things later on is almost always off the agenda. My body sometimes takes a battering but I think I could cope with continuing for a little longer. However I have doubts as to whether or not I am flexible or agile enough to 'go much further' technique-wise. I have a big decision to make, but that's not for now and I must remain focused on Saturdays test...

Thursday, 18 September 2008

The clock still reads the same

I've been back from Hong Kong for a few days now and have lots on my mind. It's been around eleven months since I returned to Korea but the end isn't in sight. I know where the finishing line is, but I know I won't be seeing it for some time yet. Changes are needed and are in store but doubts also nag away at me.

Aside from that, I find myself wondering when will Summer end. I had hoped to come back, foolishly, to some Autumnal paradise but instead nothing has changed. It's still around 30° C for a large part of the day and at night time insects still chirp away to their hearts content, making me feel further away from home than they could ever know. This doesn't make work harder, unlike the middle of Summer, it just makes time pass more slowly. Sometimes I wonder if I am in purgatory. I have no real recollection of colder times. Did Winter 2007/8 really happen? Is this an illusion? Perhaps Winter will reward me with some splendid times to truly remember. Right now, I just want to be able to wear a coat when I go outside, that's all.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Chuseok time

Celebration time for Koreans. The long weekend for people here is for Chuseok and has most locals visiting their family, often going to their hometown and eating lots of traditional food. I asked several co-workers what they'll be doing and most of them are helping their family prepare things.... But not me! Tomorrow, for the first time in 11 months I'll be outside Korea. I'm getting out of the ROK for a much deserved holiday. I'm exhausted right now from my job and the long hot summer and I am anticipating a great time. Tonight I make my way to Incheon airport for tomorrows flight to Hong Kong. I'll be there for four days and three nights though I'm already wishing it was longer. I don't really know what I'll be doing and I don't really care. I do know I'll be spending a lot of money!

Monday, 8 September 2008

Déjà vu. All over again

An insight into some of my time in Korea right now.

A common theme in my life these days, here in Korea, is repetition. Or repetition, repetition, repetition. Most weekends my girlfriend and I tend to do the same things, more or less. go to the same few places to eat or drink (more enjoyable than I'm making it sound). On weekdays I wake up, read the newspapers online, drink some tea and do others things I usually do most normal days. I go to work, and here most of the classes are repeated over the course of the week, sometimes 3/4 times. I later go to Hapkido where I usually repeat the manoeuvres I have already learned to iron out mistakes and improve technique. And then I get home. Here I usually read again more stuff on the Internet and chat to my girlfriend online. After that I turn on the TV.

I watch some TV most nights as it helps me sleep. I'm a late sleeper and its often 3/4/5 am before I'm out for the night. Here are my choices - first Korean TV, which seems to be endless repeats of unbelievably UNFUNNY people doing UNFUNNY things. RIDICULOUS Korean dramas where the same themes are repeated over and over again with predictable results and also the worst acting you'll probably ever come across. Also there are a myriad of Entertainment shows, singing shows and reality TV programmes and some dedicated sports channels.

As for English speaking channels, I have CNN for news (American politics right now), OnStyle which is a women-based channel with mainly reality TV programmes as well as fashion shows and popular American dramas. And the 6 or 7 channels that show films in English. I'm over-simplifying things but that's pretty much it. It's is an OK selection. I can't grumble, I don't live in England right now so I shouldn't expect too much. But as always we have repetition.

Last night for at least the 25th time (to my knowledge - I'm not keeping score) Korean TV showed Starship Troopers. A horrible film. Terrible really. I've seen it before and there is NO reason why I would watch it twice. It's just I did, well at least some of it. At least 10 minutes. And every time its on I seem to watch a little of it. I'm a glutton for punishment I guess.

Over the years I've been here you can add to the list of films repeated ad infinitum, such titles as Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2. The Punisher, The Mummy 2, Transporter 1 & 2, Resident Evil 1 & 2, Drunken Master (I'm missing out so many) and a whole slew of Japanese/Korean films that I try to follow but don't really understand. Films that seem to be on every day every week every year. And I seem to watch 5 or 10 minutes of them every time. What am I doing? It's almost certainly because there is little else on at the time and I need to hear some English speaking.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Yesterday + 1

It's the first day of a new month and I'm hoping my luck changes for the better from here on in. Summer is nearly over and Autumn is almost upon us. The weather is changing for the better and my complicated visa renewal process is potentially looking a lot more straight-forward. September promises to be the best time I've had here for a while. Here's hoping for good times, lots of smiles and plenty of positivity!
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