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Archive for December, 2006

Cold in Korea

I was out and about in Ansan yesterday – not doing that much: stopping for coffee and reading, looking in shops; eventually I watched Night at the Museum at Lotte Mart and bought myself a little cabinet for my books. The weather was bloody cold. It was so cold the condensation on my moustache kept freezing, which has never happened to me before. the ironic thing is that it was far colder Yesterday in Ansan than it was at Yongpyong on the snowboarding trip at the weekend. The difference, of course, was the wind. At the skiing resort there was very little or no wind, whereas yesterday it was like walking into a wall of razorblades.

Or something.

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As I was walking to Home plus last night an ambulance wove its way through the stationary traffic on one side of large junction near the supermarket. Its siren was blaring, its lights flashing, its horn beeping. When it reached the front of the waiting cars, none of the traffic coming in from the left hand side immediately in front of it would let it cross and turn left (Koreans drive on the right, remember). As I walked up beside the ambulance I saw a paramedic through the window giving someone chest compressions. The traffic coming from the left continued to ignore the ambulance while the patient inside was presumably on the verge of dying. About half a minute later the lights changed, but the ambulance still had to race against the other vehicles turning left.

I had my camera with me and I was very tempted to film this, but there was someone standing next to me and it was cold – and I didn’t really think of it soon enough.

Traffic lights in Korea are taken more as guidelines than rules. It’s very common for drivers to turn right at a red. They’ll often speed through a newly turned red light beeping their horns to warn other road users. I’ve seen the aftermath of a couple of traffic accidents at the same junction near Home plus and the thought that occurred to me was, They obviously didn’t beep their horns loud or long enough.

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101 visitations

On the stats page of my blog, the graph showing how many hits I’ve had over the past month has a huge spike of 101 hits on 21 December – and I don’t know why. Mostly, my daily visitors number from the teens up to the forties. My total number of hits is now up to well over 4,000.

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Exchange rate watch

1 GBP = 1,826.67 KRW
1 GBP = 1.4924 EUR
1 GBP = 1.9619 USD
2,000,000 KRW = 1,094.8894 GBP

Bonus Random Exchange Rate

1 GBP = 25.116 Maldives rufiyaa (MVR)

Source: Yahoo! Finance

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Exchange rate watch

1 GBP = 1,816.12 KRW
1 GBP = 1.4923 EUR
1 GBP = 1.9595 USD

2,000,000 KRW = 1,101.2742 GBP

Bonus Random Exchange Rate

1 GBP = 23.34 Estonian krooni (EEK)

Source: Yahoo! Finance

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Ow

Right now it’s the morning after arriving back in Ansan from a skiing/snowboarding trip to Yongpyong (apparently, a Winter Olympics contender). I’m only writing this now because I got to work to find that the kindergarteners were going on a field trip (I had been told, but, of course, I’d forgotten) and I’m currently uploading a video file to my Daily Motion account.

At lunchtime on Friday I went to Home plus and bought a backpack – 60 litres, the biggest they had – for 110,000 won. Even though I didn’t have any ski-wear, I still had about the largest luggage of any of the thirteen waeguk seongsaengnim (foreign teachers) going on the trip. I expect to use the backpack again. Several people, if not, everybody else on the trip, bought ski-wear specially for the trip. I didn’t do that because I don’t want to buy things I’m only going to use once – plus, I’m completely unfamiliar with all that stuff.

We met at 6:30 on Saturday morning at the nearby 7 Eleven and several hours later, after a subway trip into Seoul, a coach ride to somewhere else in Seoul, then a coach ride up into the mountains, we were at the resort. The people organising the trip had rented a two-floor apartment there for six people, so we went up to it in smaller groups. On Sunday evening we were joined, for some reason, by some Korean friends of one of the organisers, so that night the apartment slept 21 people, I think.

Having no ski-wear I didn’t do any sports on the first day, but I watched some of the others and took some photos and videos. Later on I found the ski-wear rental place, so on Sunday I got pants (this Americanism has been seeping its way into my consciousness) and jacket for the day. Then I followed others up on the gondola to the highest part of the resort. I took more photos, but they looked very blue with distance and haze; I haven’t put them on my computer yet.

Then I got a snowboard and boots and made my way to the nursery slope. I once went to Runcorn ski slope with my Scout troop, but apart from that I’ve never skied before. Snowboarding is, apparently – and it’s not difficult to see why – harder than skiing. Still, it was what everybody else in the party was doing. I fell over very often (occasionally when I wasn’t even moving). Then some of the others invited me up to one of the more difficult slopes; rather stupidly I said Yes. I hadn’t figured out how to steer effectively let alone slow down, so my descent took the form of me picking up frightening amounts of speed very quickly and then deliberately falling over. (Actually, my experience of the nurserly slope was similar except that the speed was of a less scary variety.) At one point, I landed on my face and cut the inside of my lips.

The whole snowboarding thing was spoilt for me after that – it wasn’t so much that that run had been way beyond my expertise, but that my body – buttocks and right wrist especially – was sore and every further time I fell over brought increased pain. I did some more runs on the shallow slope, but packed it in an hour and a half or so before my pass expired.

On Saturday night I stayed up later than most. There was plenty of fun to be had drinking beer and playing the many card games that people knew. I was apprehensive of going to bed early because of the noise. When I eventually did go to bed, there seemed little space in the two bedrooms so I bedded down in the hall on the lower floor – and had to put up with the two or three people who stayed up till about 6:30 talking and watching TV.

On Sunday night I did exactly the opposite. I stayed downstairs reading (book two of The Prince of Nothing, The Warrior-Prophet, about which I’m quite excited), had a shower and made myself a spot in the boys’ bedroom. (At one point one of the Koreans came down to kick me out of the girls’ bedroom, where I’d been talking to our girls and reading, because the Korean girls wanted to use it. He said to me, ‘Why aren’t you upstairs with everyone else?’ I said, ‘Because I’m down here reading.’) At midnight, I heard everyone cheer the advent of the 25th.

When we got back to Ansan I went straight home without waiting for everybody else to catch up, use the toilet, say their goodbyes etc at the station. I got home to discover that my laptop was still switched on. The stupid fucking piece of shit keeps bringing up error messages when I close it down. I logged on to Aegis and played that for three quarters of an hour, spending the sixty turns I’d accumulated over the weekend.

Then I texted Sue to if she wanted me to give her her present today – the answer being No due to sickness. Then I went to bed. Actually, I sent and received the texts lying on the bed, but then I went to bed with the intent of sleeping. I took my shoes off, but that’s all. I woke up about sixteen hours later and prepared for school – where, as you know, I wasn’t needed.

Oh, yes – my body hurts. But only when I move.

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Exchange rate watch

1 GBP = 1,823.43 KRW
1 GBP = 1.4927 EUR
1 GBP = 1.9609 USD

2,000,000 KRW = 1,096.8328

Bonus Random Exchange Rate

1 GBP = 7,839.8 Zambia kwacha (ZMK)

Source: Yahoo! Finance

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Exchange rate watch

1 GBP = 1,804.18 KRW
1 GBP = 1.4889 EUR
1 GBP = 1.9499 USD

2,000,000 KRW = 1,108.391 GBP

Bonus Random Exchange Rate

1 GBP = 36.836 Honduras lempiras (HNL)

Source: Yahoo! Finance

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Words, words, words

It was a relatively eventful weekend. On Friday night I decided I couldn’t wait any longer and started watching 24 Day 5 – and, as I was looking on IMDB for the name and credits of the actress who plays the new first lady, Martha Logan, (I think I recognised her from Frasier) I inadvertantly discovered that Edgar gets killed off later in the series. This serves as a warning when trying to find information about a TV series or film or book or whatever that your going to watch or read or whatever. I ignored this warning to look again when I thought I recognised (correctly, it turns out) one of the bad guys as the man who played the long-haired scientist in Arachnophobia.

On Saturday, the other foreign teachers I hang out with on Friday nights (although not this last Friday night) had a Christmas party, including a ‘secret santa’. A week or two ago, I drew the name of a girl I’d never met, so on Saturday I went to Seoul to finally get her a couple of books – The Summer Tree, book one of The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay and Windhaven by George R R Martin and Lisa Tuttle. (While I was at it, I also bought myself some books – Salem’s Lot, Stephen King, Rum Punch, Elmore Leonard and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J K Rowling.) I had been invited by a Korean colleague to a party in her boyfriend’s town, but nothing came of that.

Given that I hate Christmas and all it stands for, and that I don’t feel a huge need to socialise every week, I wasn’t that enthusiastic about going. Consequently I spent a lot of the afternoon and evening just wandering round Seoul taking photos of the Christmas lights (ironically). I got a terse phone call from the guy who was co-hosting the party telling me I ought to be there – which didn’t do much for my mood. After heading to the Cheongyecheong (a man-made little river running through Seoul) to take a couple of shots I headed back to Ansan, all the while rehearsing arguments about why I hadn’t arrived earlier.

I got there at about 10:30 (the party had started at 4:30) and was greeted with the usual levels of friendliness from everyone there (the guy didn’t say much to me, but then we’ve not spoken much in the past, either). I gave my present to the appointed recipient and she seemed very happy with them – she reads sf and fantasy and hadn’t heard of the authors. I was given a kids toy weapon set, consisting of a bow, helmet, dagger and a sword that made swordy noises. I didn’t personally open it, barely touched it and left it at the hosts’ apartment. I was fearing just such a childish present that I wouldn’t know what to do with – another reason I wasn’t too keen on turning up.

Everyone was fairly drunk and shortly after my arrival we went to Beer Plus.

As I’d drawn close to Ansan I’d noticed it had started snowing – and sticking. The five-or-ten minute walk to the pub took about half-to-three-quarters of an hour because the snow was falling heavily and there was already an inch-or-two of snow on the ground, so everyone started having snowball fights. Except me, of course. I recorded several clips of the cold merriment – until my battery went flat, that is.

Having missed out on much of the imbibement of alcohol and having had my spirits dampened by the earlier events I wasn’t as merry as everyone else and went home early to watch some more 24.

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For a while now I’ve used a points system in class. If the students speak in Korean or misbehave I give them -1 point; if they finish work quickly I give them +1. It works reasonably well, but I often get situations where suddenly one or more students start shouting ‘Danny speak Korean!’ and I haven’t heard the kid saying anything; at these times I feel awkward taking a point away for something I haven’t witnessed. So yesterday I started using ‘chances’.

Previously, the scores would look like this:

Danny -1
Phillip 2
Sally 0
Sean -2

Now I put two marks in front of the name and rub one out for each infraction. If there are no marks left, they get minus one – and two more chance marks. So now my score-sheets look like this:

11 Jessie -1
  1 Olivia 1
     Coney 0
  1 Sean -2

I’m much more liberal with the deduction of chances and it doesn’t make me feel so arl-arsed (to use the Scouse).

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