Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Liberation (of sorts)

At home for the week I'm having a good time with many changes to my daily schedule. It's good to get some fresh air and be surrounded by more nature than in Korea and also to be able to do many of the small things I can't often do. I'm also enjoying not being in the classroom for a while. Another thing that's different is the lack of a phone.

In Korea I always have my phone on and with me wherever I go. Having a poor command of the language means it's a necessity to be able to communicate with someone in my native tongue from time to time. Now it's harder to contact people or be contacted but the feeling is one of liberation. I dictate the terms of my day. No millstone round my neck. No expectancy or anticipation of receiving a message. No expectancy of a call or dependency on one.

Gone too is the feeling of irritation when someone takes an age to reply to a simple question or the bafflement of when someone prolongs a text 'conversation' with deliberate short messages such as "OK" or "Fine" when a brief phone call would suffice. Of course I need a phone but the feeling of being home is liberating, albeit a temporary one.

Sunday, 22 February 2009


Thank god I'm not a big fan of TV. Back home for the week there are many things to think about and many things to do, but right now at 9:30pm on Sunday night I'm staying in because I'm still jet lagged and all I can think about is how bad ITV is. No redeeming features (even the dire adverts are better than the programs). The program on now is Dancing On Ice (I think). If you don't know what it's about then good for you.

It's a fine example of the malaise of current British television. What a depressing thought it is that millions of people watch this and like it. The premise, 'talent' and execution are all of the lowest quality. What a sad reflection of my country. Could Alan Partridge's pitch for Monkey Tennis ever come true? It'd be a big improvement on this I'm pretty sure. A reappraisal of Korean TV is perhaps in order.

Friday, 20 February 2009

By the way

The boy who last week got caught cheating in his test, who then denied it and later apologised, yesterday I found him doing his homework in class - basically cheating again. I told him to erase it which he did, then during the break he did the homework again, and got caught out again and had retest again.

Not long now...

My last day at work today before my trip home, In fact my plane is set to depart exactly 24 hours from as I'm writing this. Needless to say I'm looking forward to being off this peninsula for a short while. I've had hardly any sleep at night this week and I'm starting to feel sleepy right now. Going to have to have a few coffees to pep me up in class.

Today's also my the last time I will see my partner teacher as she leaves one week from today, so by the time I am back I will have a new co-worker. In my current academy you share all your classes with just one Korean teacher (you're not in the room at the same time because you are teaching another class, which your partner then teaches). I couldn't have wished for a nicer more co-operative partner and I hope she enjoys her new life away from teaching. No big deal about getting someone new to work with, just that I'll have to sit next to her/him for the foreseeable future so someone interesting and talkative would do nicely. I just hope that things don't get switched around and I have to work with my nemesis. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Dozen. Currently my least favourite word

Today I had a check up at the doctor's who confirmed that I would need more injections. This time there would be injections on my right foot, whilst some additional ones to my left. I was prepared for more needles but anticipated only two or three, however the doctor had other plans. As the first injection went in he said, "Yeah, maybe a dozen today". I'm sure you can imagine how I felt. The pain isn't terrible but it isn't fun either. At the moment I am thankfully not in too much discomfort but there is a slight burning sensation and my feet are a bit itchy. It's better than two weeks ago but time will tell.

I certainly underestimated how many injections I had last time, so maybe in total I have had thirty on the soles of my feet, but perhaps that part of the treatment is over now. It would appear that the problem will not be cured as quickly as I had first hoped. Right now I feel that it may take three-four weeks to clear up. I wonder if it will affect my holiday or not.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

6,900 ₩

Right now I'm enjoying a nice bottle of red wine. When I say nice, I of course mean the cheapest bottle I could find in the shop. It's going down very well thank you and I wish I had another if only to make me feel like I wasn't drinking the only alcohol left in the apartment.

Celebrating failure

Usually at around two or three AM most nights I scan the cable channels for anything of note before trying to get some sleep. Sometimes you strike gold, but most times you see incredibly bad Japanese films, Starship Troopers, The Mummy 2 and (literally as I type this right now) Resident Evil 2 or films of this 'calibre'. Last week I found another level, D-Tox, starring Sylvester Stallone.

Sparing you most of the plot details, our troubled hero (a cop) is having problems and is sent to a detox program with fellow police officers but someone is mysteriously killing off the good guys. Suffice to say the villain of the piece was unsurprisingly an Englishman. The acting was some of the worst I have ever come across (and I used to watch El Dorado and Prisoner Cell Block H) and this made it all the better because I have to confess that I am one of those people who can find bad films good.

I love watching great films, but of almost equal pleasure to me is watching a film so bad that it's awfulness can be enjoyed on another level. It's true, bad films CAN be good. Despite being an appalling film from start to finish, I will never pass up the chance to watch Jaws 4 if it's on TV, a film so bad that the shark actually screams like an elephant when harpooned by the boat at the end of the movie. Yes the shark was impaled by a boat then it exploded whilst from somewhere obtaining a set of rudimentary vocal chords. I also have The Swarm on DVD - Google the Swarm, or go to and check film quotes from that, then you're talking serious cinematic faux pas. There is glory in success and glory in beauty but there can also be glory in defeat and sometimes glory in failure.

Watching this film (D-Tox) - which I couldn't watch all the way through, it was THAT bad/good, got me wondering what's the worst film I ever seen. You can't just pick any old rubbish, straight to DVD piece of trash, you have to pick a film that has been cinematically distributed. Where hope, expectations and serious financial investment has been made. And off the top of my head, that film for me is Jason X a continuation of the dreadful Friday the 13th horror series but this time set in the future, in space.

I saw this on TV in Korean - I have seen it in English AND in Korean (it's better in Korean). The film manages to have possibly the worst cast I've witnessed allied with a nonsensical script, appalling dialogue (one made is killed on some corkscrew drill device and his dying words are "I've been screwed") complete with with cheap special effects and is also possibly the least scary horror film I've ever seen. I genuinely LOVE the horror genre even at it's worst but I've seen scarier situations waiting for the bus.

The best thing I can say about it is that I didn't pay to see it, or no-one I know is in it so there has been no shame brought onto my family name. Yet I have still watched it twice. Korean has brought me down to that level. For better or for worse

Monday, 16 February 2009


Following on from events of last week in the classroom I was intrigued as to how one of my classes would go today. Thankfully my student apologised for the cheating last week and we moved on and even had a more constructive class than usual. He seemed very genuine and contrite. He must have apologised some five times. I told him I was pleased with his apology, and that too was genuine because although out here I (ESL teacher) am thought of more monkey than organ grinder, some respect is important. This made me also feel glad that I didn't make a big scene last week.

I feel it's very important to try to not bring past issues into the classroom and every day is a clean slate for the students, even if it's hard sometimes. The boy in question is definitely not a 'bad' boy and it again shows you how much pressure there is on some kids to succeed.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Driven to drink

I write this (2am Korean time) still hungover from last nights drink, where I got home after 5am. I needed a drink or two after the day I'd had at work and in particular one student who really effected my day. One boy cheated on his test. No big deal I suppose and I certainly didn't make a big scene out of it. I didn't shout at him, criticise him or make him look foolish in front of the other students. I just said that I have to discuss it with my partner teacher and see what happens, because there was suspicious writing on his desk.

Predictably he denied it, though far too quickly for my liking because he seemed to know what I was looking at before I even suggested that the writing on his desk may be cheating. Before the test was over the water works and amateur dramatics were well in action. I'm talking straight out bawling - for nearly thirty minutes. By the way, he has previous on this front and thankfully I am now immune to this trick. Whether he was crying because he would be punished, because he was found out OR more likely that he thought this would make me forgive the cheating I'm still not so sure. Because of the theatrics the class was wrecked. The student at one point glared at me venomously as if he would stab me given the chance. This was just the worst thing he could have done because that sealed it for me - there was no chance he was going to get away with it from there on.

He continued his denial with my Korean partner teacher even when presented with all the damning evidence (there was no way anybody else could have put the writing on his desk before his class). I am told that during a later class he admitted cheating. Things like this shouldn't effect me but they sometimes do. It's not the cheating that bothered me, it's the lying to me and the denial and accusing me of lying about his cheating and of course there will be no apology from him to me. I am just the foreign 'teacher', someone that doesn't count out here. Anyway, I enjoyed my drinks if not today's hangover.


The weather in Korea has been very comfortable lately - not cold but not yet warm. Perhaps there is still a cold snap to come but the signs are that Winter is over for another year. Indeed today, I am told it was around 20°C. The sun is shining and people seem to be happier. Despite this, someone is keeping the heating on in the teachers room.

Who can it be? Of course I have my suspicions. I have questioned several people and they all deny turning it on and even admit that they want it off and that it should not be on. Right now I am not wearing a coat to work, it's that comfortable right now. It's not only a waste of money but it's annoying several people especially me, who happens to sit right next to the heater. I question the sanity of anyone who needs the heater on right now and wonder if they have an agenda.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Hear No Evil (speak no evil)

Last weekend at the doctor's it was again pointed out to me by a Korean that I sound like a North American (according to him). I have posted about this before and my feelings remain the same but I still wonder why. During the past few months I have been presumed to be from America, Canada and also Australia but hardly ever from England. This is plainly untrue to anyone from the Western world. In fact those who know me better than most would say that my accent is a very strong Northern English accent.

I never pronounce things in a fake N. American voice and intensely dislike using American pronunciation/spelling. There is a definite difference in pronunciation, intonation and use of vocabulary. I have retained my accent but have a clearer voice, nothing else. I don't feel any anger or disappointment, just bewilderment but I wonder if it is laziness on the part of Koreans or just lack of exposure to other voices. There is more to the world that North America.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Fighting the unwinnable fight

Many English teachers here will tell you that there is a lot of grammar correction needed with students. I am currently raging a one man war on the word 'Finished'. It's easy to pronounce, spell and understand. Unless, seemingly, you are a Korean student. If you are you will only be able to say "FINISHEE". It takes a lot to make me angry in the classroom or to make me feel deflated but my Kryptonite has been found.

Despite constant efforts my 'War effort' is looking totally pointless and utterly futile. I take a metaphorical bullet in the back every time I hear the word in class which hurts when you have thirteen students shout it when they finish their test at separate times. Scientific analysis by me reveals that these students are incapable in accepting that the /ed/ ending has a /t/ sound and refuse to accept correction. I wonder if it is contagious.

Reality bites (or stings)

Nursing a hangover, today I travelled to the doctor in search of diagnosis and treatment of a foot problem that has this week got worse. One hour later I returned home after having ten injections in my foot.

It seems (as I knew) that I have a verruca or maybe ten plus. I've had a verruca before and it was definitely an unpleasant experience, but having so many really seems like a bad break. I had noticed something wasn't quite right some weeks ago but thought it was just a result of constant training at Hapkido but this week I started to feel discomfort and pain and saw the problem spread to one of my toes. It actually looks like I have holes in my feet, clearly not an ideal situation.

The doctor was fantastic, and I'm not being sarcastic. He spoke very good English and reassured me that no matter what treatment I would have it would definitely hurt. I had two choices but settled for the injections because it was explained that was the best option. I really do not like needles, though it wasn't as bad as I had feared. It was supposed to feel like acupuncture which I have had many times in Korea, but was similar to being stung by a bee or wasp.

I have to go back again in two weeks to assess the progress. Oh, and to begin treatment for the verruca/s on my other foot. At least I am now getting the problem sorted. I am still trying to work out how I got 'them'. I haven't been swimming in over eighteen months, and the doctor told me that I couldn't have developed them my going to Hapkido. I probably will never find out the source but I suppose that doesn't matter now. I have to put my feet up and rest for a week when I am not working.

On a side note, once again one of the differences between Korea and Home was more than noticeable. There was a problem, I went to the doctor, she sent me to another doctor who directed me to a skin clinic. That clinic was busy so we went to another one just two minutes away and we saw the doctor within one minute of arriving there before having treatment. In the UK doing this would take at least a week, but this took thirty minutes. Fantastic. While the NHS is free back home, this costs money, but with insurance it is very very cheap and well worth the price. The medical teams that I have seen during my time here have been great and the treatment is seemingly more advanced than in England. Hospitals and doctors clinics are on whole streets here so you have plenty of choice, all very different to how I am used to. People smile at you and make you feel like you are going to get better and treat you with a bit of respect. It will certainly be a culture shock going back home and seeing a doctor again. Korea wins hands down.

Monday, 2 February 2009

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