I started writing this post on paper a day or two ago, but right now I’m sitting with my laptop in Sandpresso (they sell sandwiches and espressos … and other stuff) waiting for my lunch, so I might as well start again.
The weekend was pretty busy. On Friday night I went for a meal with my colleagues to celebrate (if such is the right word) mine and my Korean-American colleague’s leaving. Mostly her leaving, I think. Partway through the proceedings she was exhorted to make a speech and she spouted about how much her year in Korea and the support of her co-workers had meant to her. After that, I was asked to do the same; I called across the tables, ‘Pass.’
People left in dribs and drabs, and I went with my New Zealander colleague to Beer Plus for a short while. Then we decamped to the roof of a large (for this part of Ansan) apartment building, where some other people were having their own party – in the dark. This was the pleasantest part of the evening. Another of our colleagues was there – a middle-aged Korean woman. She seemed fairly drunk and a lot happier than she does at work. She told me she had run her own hagwon up until a few years ago when she went bankrupt. I asked her where her hagwon had been, but she just said, Nearby. This made me think it might just have been Wonderland, of which I’ve read various things of the not very good variety. The floor above our hagwon used to be Wonderland and I’ve always had the impression that ours was its reincarnation.
I got home by about 3:30 and later on on the new day I went out to my Korean class. After that it was off to Hongdae to partake of a farewell night out with the ‘Ansan Massive’ – the group of English teachers who mostly live and work near me.
When I got off the subway, I wandered round for a bit, as I don’t know Hongdae very well, then eventually got in touch with one of the people who was organising it. The night started in Carne Station – a buffet restaurant where, for 25,000 of your Korean won (OK – my Korean won), you can eat and drink without limit for three hours. It isn’t a terribly classy joint, but neither is it a dive. Blue tie-dyed T-shirts were handed out that had ‘Ansan Massive’ on the front and ‘Assa’ in Hangul on the back (‘assa’ is an interjection that means ‘yes’ or ‘excellent’ or, as it’s more usually translated, ‘awesome’). Unfortunately ‘Assa’ was misspelt and ‘Ansan Massive’ was done in such a way that it looked more like ‘Massive Ansan’, but I’m sure no one really minded.
After much galbi, beer and the odd whiskey and coke and tequila and orange juice, I left with everybody else some time after closing time (it’s not that easy to get rid of a crowd of about two dozen happy foreigners). The plan then was to go to a noraebang (singing room – ie, karaoke). We arrived at this place with a glass facade affording a view of the singers inside to the passersby outside, and had to wait for some time before we could go in. When we got in and had removed our footwear someone decided that squeezing 24 people into two small rooms, one of which wasn’t yet free, probably wasn’t going to work out. We put our shoes back on and left.
We went to a place which might have been called Ice Bar. For a fee, you get a poncho-style Parka (or maybe a Parka-style poncho) and a pair of gloves, then you go into the bar – which is made out of ice. You also get a free drink (free apart from the fact that you pay for it when you buy rent the clothing) in a large cubish beaker made out of ice. It was an interesting novelty, but it left me a little cold (ha ha).
Next stop was a bar which I think was called Tin Pan – it may be one of several in the area: Tin Pan 1, Tin Pan 2 etc. It was absolutely packed, anyway, and we didn’t spend long there. Long enough, however, for some of us (not me) to get up on the tables and dance. The party fragmented at this point. As a group of us were waiting outside, various people went their own ways, either home or to other bars. I tagged along with what seemed like the main group, but nothing much really happened after that. Towards the end of the festivities, one Canadian girl started trying to pour her heart out to me, but without going into specifics. A New Zealander (not the aforementioned colleague) started saying every few minutes, Let’s pick up some hookers.
Eventually, I left the diminished group at the hotel where they’d hired a room and headed for the subway. Although, I wasn’t feeling all that tired once I got on the train, I closed my eyes and was asleep before we crossed the Han River. I woke up a while before my stop, fortunately, and arrived home some time before eight.
About three and a half hours later, I got up to prepare to go to my roleplaying group. Which went reasonably well. We finished the Wheel of Time campaign and got to see Peter’s new apartment. The former was acheived in large part by my Aes Sedai becoming some sort of evil skeleton revenant and killing everything that moved. The latter could best be described with the word ‘wood’. Or maybe ‘wooden’. Or possibly ‘panelling’, or some combination thereof. I wasn’t consciously feeling all that tired, but by the end I was running out of conversation, and my character left the scene silently and went to commune with a shadow-blighted avendesora tree.
And this week I have been progressing through my final week of work. Right now (having worked on this post throughout the afternoon), I’m awaiting my final class of the day. It’ll be with a single student who speaks excellent English (she is, quite literally, in a class of her own); we’ll play Scrabble and eat pizza (if she’s amenable).
This, I suppose brings me to the subject of my feelings. I haven’t really been feeling much. Actually, earlier in the week I suffered some mild depression, maybe as a result of the weekend’s exertions, possibly over worry about how my contract is going to be concluded (ie, are they actually going to pay me my bonus? are they going to return my degree certificate? (it’s no longer on display by the reception desk)). My spirits have also been dampened by the fact that my parents are on holiday next week and won’t be abel to pick me up from the airport, and my sister apparently has a lodger, so I can’t go and stay with her. Which means I’ll have to go and stay in my late grandparents’ house once more with my brother and his girlfriend (assuming they’re still together – I haven’t had a reply to my e-mail to her).
Well, it’s later still in the day, now, and I’ve just found out that my brother’s (possibly ex-) girlfriend is my sister’s lodger. Getting to my sister’s village would have been relatively (and strangely) easy from Manchester Airport (speaking of which here’s a rather cool image from Google Maps). Getting to St Helens will be a little trickier, so I think it’ll be best if I spend Tuesday night in a hotel. The prospect of spending time not just in St Helens, but in Britain is losing its appeal. Maybe I’ll be moving on sooner than I had thought.
Yesterday I tried phoning the people who are going to sell me a new computer. The bloke I talked to didn’t have any English, so later on I asked my Korean colleague Gina to ring him. I asked her to find out if my computer was ready to pick up; she rang him and drew a blank because she’d thought I had taken my current laptop for repairs. Once that misunderstading was sorted out, she let me know that my new machine was stuck in customs and they didn’t know when it would arrive. I should learn more tomorrow.
On Saturday, after going to not one, but two Korean classes (apparently it isn’t possible to pay only a portion of the monthly fee for a portion of the monthly classes, so the receptionist at Seoul Korean Language Academy suggested I come to a morning class; I also didn’t have the full 130,000 won on me last week when I paid, but she was happy with the 119,000 I gave her. In addition, I was able to communicate a little of what I was going to do in the future) … where was I? Right: after going to two Korean classes I’ll be heading up to Daehwa to see the France-Japan game in the U-17 World Cup. In preparation, today I bought an England shirt from the Umbro store that’s just opened up on the street of clothes shops not far from where I live. This evening, I looked on the internet and found that it was 50% more expensive than it would have been in Britain. It also has a label inside the collar that reads:
So finally, at this point I have just one day of teaching left. I spent today just playing games: a Cheddar Gorge game with the younger students, and Scrabble with the older ones. It went well. While I only had four classes today, tomorrow I should have nine, including one brand new class. There’s also a possibility I’ll be observed by one or both of the new teachers. Being observed is never a nice experience. Then I have to get my money (it’s after midnight, now, so I’m strongly tempted to go to a cash machine and check my account) and collect my certificate and then I’m done. I have Saturday, the possibility of a new laptop (if it turns out the one I’ve ordered isn’t going to be available before I leave, I may go to Yongsan and look for another), some last minute souvenir-buying on Insadong and my hagwon director giving me a lift to the airport on Tuesday (she doesn’t speak English, so at least I won’t need to talk to her much) to look forward to.
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