Monday, 29 November 2010

Korean 2022 World Cup bid pros and cons

Having been a football fan for over twenty five years I have been following the World Cup bidding process carefully. Being from England, naturally I hope we get win the right to hold the 2018 cup. Recent events mean though that the chances of winning are not high with Spain/Portugal and Russia seen as more likely to be successful. As long as the vote is a fair one I think people can cope with not winning especially when the attention of the Government should be on more pressing matters.

South Korea, as well as Australia, Qatar, Japan and the United States are all bidding to be hosts, but for the 2022 World Cup. Bearing in mind last weeks events on Yeonpyeong island and the ongoing uncertainty on the peninsula I find these quotes interesting from bid team member Hyo Jin Ahn, "I don't think this incident will make a negative impact on our bid,". For what it is worth I have always thought Korea had no chance of hosting the tournament but hope to be proved wrong, having lived here a fair while and being married to a Korean, etc, etc.

Some things in South Korea's favour - The stadiums are already here. They are of a very high quality and the bid would only need to build one more, in Incheon which is already in construction whilst increasing capacity in six more. The transport infrastructure as proved in 2002 should be able to handle things. In particular, Incheon airport is fantastic and a gateway to Asia and Europe. 2002 is still fresh in many peoples memory and although the tournament was low on quality (not the fault of neither Korea or Japan), overall it was a success. South Korea is Asia's best team and now enjoys a higher world wide profile with the likes of Park Ji Sung and Lee Chong Young and others playing successfully overseas - this is not an 'unknown' football nation. Clutching at straws here but the 'bid for peninsula peace' may entice some to go vote for it - but that hasn't helped Korea's bids for the Winter Olympics so far.

Some things not in South Korea's favour - They only recently co-hosted a tournament (2002) so perhaps it is not Asia's turn. The recent Korean F1 Grand Prix was not a total success. This may have little bearing on the bid but press coverage was critical in some nations. If the 2018 bid goes to an 'established' nation such as Spain/Portugal or England then Fifa will possibly be more inclined to hand 2022 to a 'new' nation such as Australia or Qatar in a bid to create a legacy somewhere. On the legacy theme, what has been the legacy for 2002? Many World Cup stadiums are white elephants i.e. Daegu where I live. The K-league may be improving but attendances overall aren't so great and this will always be a baseball nation. If there aren't enough hotels in England, something their bid was criticised for then are there enough quality hotels here? Remember Korea only co-hosted 2002 so dealing with so many travellers represents a problem for all host nations. Kick off times here are not agreeable with Europe (too early and not at 'prime time') which would possibly reduce television income. And of course what happened on Yeonpyeong island is impossible to be out of peoples minds - what incredibly bad timing for South Korea. Unsubstantiated rumours persist that China is going to bid for 2026 which would only happen if 2022 does not go to Asia.

Bearing all these in mind I expect Korea to be eliminated in either the first or second round of voting. The vote for the 2018 and 2020 bids is held on Tuesday, December 2nd. Good luck to South Korea and England this week because we both need it.

Pay day bonus

Pay day and I've finally got all of the bonus which was due two months ago. I'm crossing my fingers that the currency won't tank over the next twenty four hours because I want to send home a little bit of money just in case the value does goes down over the next few weeks and months. Please be nice North Korea!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Friendly rivalry

On Tuesdays and Fridays I teach my youngest and lowest level class with just four students. This class is always a lot of fun and full of incidents. One boy is a little different to the others - he once had to be dragged out of class by the jaeshi teachers like a prisoner from Guantanamo bay. He has calmed down and seems to enjoy class and also the learning process. The others make fun of him but I make sure to give him lots of encouragement.

On Wednesday they are taught by my co-worker Ivan. From all accounts they really love what goes on there. Myself and Ivan are trying to make our classes more interesting by making the class more fun and asking the kids questions that make them think more. Often they give a funny answer but always they are very engaged by the whole thing.

Recently I have begun a 'rivalry' with Ivan. I let the students think that we are enemies and always competing against each other with the hope that they use their improving English with creative sentences. I think it's working but we'll see. On Wednesday the situation is reversed with myself teaching Ivan's low level class. Here the class has begun making great questions about the rivalry between myself and Ivan. An example can be found here.

Right now it's a lot of fun and I wonder what's going to happen next. For what it's worth I think Ivan's class like me and my class likes Ivan. As long as they enjoy learning I think we are all happy. At least both classes are never boring.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Work changes

"As you know, I'm leaving. You do know I'm leaving don't you?" said our manager today at work (I am paraphrasing). Of course most of us didn't. Again, back of the line when it comes to news at work. She is leaving in three or four weeks time to take on another branch. I'll be on manager number five when the new guy arrives next month.

This is probably a change for the better. I just hope the new manager leaves the teachers alone to teach and doesn't spend his free time patrolling the corridors watching for mistakes. I am hoping for better communication and less of an 'us and them' situation.

A more significant change at work too. We're moving location in December. To the building next door which is currently being finalised. It will look a lot newer and fresher than the current one which has graffiti on a lot of the classroom walls. Maybe this will entice new students into our academy. We shall see.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Not panicking yet

Not much of a reaction from my students yesterday despite North Korea attacking Yeonpyeong island. One class said in unison "We're all going to die". After telling them that I wouldn't because I can buy a plane ticket out of here the class continued. Whilst another class described what happened with actions and smiles because they are a low level so couldn't do it verbally.

But seriously, hardly any students or anyone at work again would talk about it. Avoiding it won't make it go away. I wonder how much more of this nonsense South Korea and it's people can tolerate from their Northern brothers. Again, I feel no less safe than I have previously. I am glad though that I do no live near the border.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Checking out villas

An update on the move situation. Today my wife and I were shown three apartments just two minutes walk away from where I live now. The first two were pretty poor and there's no way I'd pay 100,000won a month to live there. The last place was pretty good. It was a lot more spacious and had more natural light which are two things I value right now. We both agreed that this would be good enough to live here for the few months we have left. It felt good to finally be able to see where we might be living.

A second option was given to us - pay an extra 50,000won a month and move to an even bigger, newer villa. So on Wednesday or Thursday we're going to see another place. My wife seems keen on this idea but wants to see the place first. Either way both villas (when I think villa I think of sunny Spain) are in the same area which is also near all the other teachers I work with. It looks like we may be moving perhaps this time next week. Over the past 24hours the communication with work has been better and this is because my wife has got involved. The ball is now rolling.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Waiting to move

Some two months ago I was informed that I would have to move apartments in November. It's now the 22nd and work hasn't told me when I'm moving or where I'm going to (though I don't expect to be any more than ten minutes walk away from work). It's pretty obvious that they haven't found a suitable place yet but time is running out as I'm due to pay rent on where I live this Friday. This gives us only a few days to finish packing if indeed we need to.

I expect to hear something today on what's going on. Last Thursday I received a call telling me that the move was going ahead and would get an email back that night. Four days later and no email. Moving house is a bit of a pain considering I never asked to change. Lot's of packing and cleaning up. We've amassed a lot of stuff over the past eleven months so the guys at work who deal with these things and have to help me move everything may wish they'd decided to keep me here. I don't know what the apartment will look like or how big it will be - but I have been assured it will be the same size as where I live now.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Student confession

I have one student who is - as all the others who've taught him will say - one of the worst students in my academy. He rarely brings his book to writing class. Even rarer still are the days he brings in his homework. He spends most of his free time after classes in the retest room. At times he is a real pain, distracting others whilst making it hard to teach the way I would like and the way the class needs to be taught.

But, having been his teacher for a long time -about a year in total - I actually hate to admit it but I think he is pretty funny. He is not the brightest in class but often says the funniest things, often at the right time. Ironically his actions make the class a lot more fun that it might ordinarily be.

Today is presentation day and of course he didn't do his homework. I gave him help and enough time to practice but before he was due he held his head in his hands and came out with this.

"Why me? I am loser. I am life loser!"

You had to be there but once again he had the class in stitches.

Really bad spelling

I don't know how my student got this word so wrong today. He was supposed to write television.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Eiffel Tower notebook

Ask any Korean student about the Eiffel Tower and they will know it's in France and probably tell you it's in Paris. But ask them who designed it (Gustave Eiffel) and it's no big deal but usually they won't know. And neither does the designer of this Korean notebook who spells the name like they fell asleep on the keyboard.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Departure dilemma

Time is really flying by right now. There's nothing particularly special that my wife and I are doing but right now we are enjoying ourselves. Last week was a tough one for me. I got a bit stressed out with work and was pretty angry towards the end of it. Over the weekend I relaxed and ate some really good food and now I feel so much better for it.

For the past few weeks we've talked over and over again about when we leave Korea. It's THE thing in our lives right now and will be up until my wife gets her visa for the UK. Do we have enough money? What do we need to prepare? Should we leave early? etc, etc. Making decisions together that are right for us.

I am determined that we have a decent amount of money when we finally arrive. There is no guarantee of a job short term or even long term so we need enough to be able to stand on our own two feet for as long as possible. My wife is set to finish work at the end of March and I have a contract till the end of April. And here we have a dilemma.

One of my wifes best friends, a Korean who lives in England, is getting married here in Daegu at the end of May. We would both like to go to the wedding but if things don't change we won't be in Asia then. Do we a) forget about the wedding? b) go on a trip for a few weeks after finishing and come back for the wedding before going to the UK? or c) I extend my contract by one more month and we go to the wedding then have a nice Asian holiday?

If I extended it would be no big deal to me. The work is easy and often painless. We would be able to save a decent chunk of money for that month. But, we/I am always delaying, extending and putting off our departure. Until yesterday my wife was 100% dead against me extending a little but last night she said it would be OK which has given me this dilemma. IF I extend for one more month it would be just that. There's no way I would stay till October. No way.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Where's mine?

Them: "Give me Pepero!"
Me: "Why?
Them: "...Give me Pepero!"
Me: "I think you've got this the wrong way round!"
Them: "I want Pepero"
Me: "Where's mine?"
Them: "Pepero"

And then I roll my eyes in semi-disgust as the conversation is shut down. Luckily this was only happened a few times today, today being 빼빼로 day once more in Korea. The day where people, often youngsters, give others this chocolate covered biscuit stick thing. It's harmless but when my students demand food from me I really get annoyed. Especially as over the past two years or so I have been fairly generous in giving out treats and snacks to classes.

I have some wonderful students. Some kids who you know will unfailingly grow up to be good, maybe great adults but I have dealt with far too many spoiled brats. Kids who take but never give. Those who whenever they see you eating their lunch act like a starving child who hasn't eaten for days and demand some of your food. And more often than not, those kids are also the worst students. I ask myself if this is a Chilgok thing? A Daegu thing? Or a Korean thing? I really don't think it's the latter.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Lights out

A few more computer problems at home meant that I got to work later than usual. I walked through reception to relative darkness. There were no lights on so I thought there was something going on. Maybe a birthday being celebrated or whatever. The receptionists told me something was wrong.

I walked into the teachers room and was told that there was no power. Everything was off so no computers, no landlines, no heater, nothing. But why? The landlord had turned off our electricity. Last week we heard that he wanted us out and today he proved it. Someone high up at our academy phoned the police and it was being dealt with when I arrived, with some people being interviews. I missed the drama by a few minutes.

Everyone in the office was excited. We al harboured hopes of being sent home for the day but it was not to be as a few minutes later the lights came on and we had to go teach. I don't think we've heard the end of this story. Hopefully there'll be a happy ending - for someone. I don't know what's going to happen next week or even tomorrow. As always, we are kept in the dark.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Good news but the signs aren't good

This week some good news at work. At least on the face of it. Starting Monday, every foreign teacher will get a break in the week, apart from the new guy who is supposed to start next week. This is great and nobody is complaining. It's something to look forward to and hopefully I can use my time productively, be that preparing stuff or reading a book.

In the three years I've worked at my academy only Korean teachers have had breaks. Everyone has had them on Wednesday's but that kind of doesn't count. Also, we do get breaks in between classes but only of five or ten minutes. Now we're getting a free period each but only because numbers are down on our Middle school students. It means that there aren't enough numbers for us to teach. Which is a bad thing. Elementary students seem to be in steady supply (so far) but not the older kids. Clearly my branch is suffering from the new and shiny academy that's just opened up down the road.

My job isn't affected. I have a c0ntract for six more months and there is no worry of me being out of work but I like where I work and don't want the place to do badly. On top of the numbers issue we were told this week that the owner of the building wants 'us' out too. That though is not bad news as moving to a cleaner and possibly newer building will be great for both teachers and kids. Oh, and a new teacher started on Monday but quit after only three days. I feel sorry for my manager who must be under a lot of pressure.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Korea, taxis and TV's

On Saturday my wife and I took a taxi to go somewhere to try and fix my broken laptop. To no avail. But the trip was not uneventful. The driver had one of the TV's/hard drives that are increasingly common in taxis these days. During our ride the driver proceded to change the channel he was watching (whilst driving!) several times. At one stage he was flicking through the hard drive trying to find the music videos he wanted to see. We didn't crash - it was a Saturday afternoon, luckily not at night - but I was amazed at how this is legal.

I've posted about this before I think, but how can these things not distract the driver? I'm not a big fan of a lot of drivers here. Even if most are good behind the wheel there are a lot that take the mickey with the things they do, like using their phones while driving, people parking oin the pavement with no thought of pedestrians and those who stop to go to the corner store and leave their engines on. This is worse as surely it affects the drivers ability to drive safely. I know bad driving is a worldwide thing but I don't get this fad.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Pencil case art

Today two of my students storyboarded a 'fun' scenario involving myself and my partner teacher. 가빈 is, of course, me.

Six to go

Six months left in Daegu, Korea. Not time to wind down yet or pack up my things but it feels great to know that the end is in sight.

Over the weekend we went to a travel agent that we've used a lot for trips and she told us that we may not be able to get cheap flights to Hong Kong. We were planning to go there for Korean New Year. If we can't go then we can't go but the both of us would really like to go somewhere then. Still, if we stay in Korea we will be saving a lot of money.

Money, always on my mind. With six months to go almost every thing I do I am scrutinising. Do I need that expensive coffee? Do I need another beer? My Costco membership is up and I'm faced with the dilemma of renewing or now. I think I will because I can't go without the food I get there. Luckily, beyond day to day expenses, birthdays and holidays I don't need to buy many things from now until we leave.

I need to step up my saving. Every month I have a target and it's not always easy to meet it. Now with so little time left and no big bonus OR pension at the end of my contract if I don't try harder to save I may not meet the target I have set for my wife and I for moving to England where everything is much, much more expensive. Hopefully a cheao month for me.

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