Archive for February, 2009

We had a new master start at the taekwondojang this week, Yoon Sabeomnim. Kim Sabeomnim, the guy he replaces, has left to start a brief new job; brief because he’s going to Australia for a year and a half in April (when we talked about it last Friday at first he said he was going to Austria). Master Yoon isn’t as friendly as his predecessor, nor does he have much English. As a consequence he hasn’t helped me much with my technique. On the other hand, this week there has suddenly been an influx of students – many of the students I saw last year have returned to my class, so Master Yoon’s attention is necessarily divided. In other news, I get tested for my blue belt next Friday.

There’s a change of staffing coming up at work as well. Botond was told a few weeks ago that his contract wouldn’t be renewed. Apparently, his replacement started work today; I don’t work Saturdays (muah-ha-ha-hah) so I haven’t met him/her/it. I’m sorry to see Bo go, but at least he’s found a new job without too much trouble. He’s teaching kindergarteners from mid-March. Rather him than me.

We’ve had some typical Korean retardedness with our work schedule recently. After four weeks teaching a morning/early afternoon timetable in January we went back to a late afternoon/evening routine for two weeks, and last week we returned to the early schedule for another fortnight. Although we, or at least I, taught mostly the same classes for the middle fortnight, there were some changes. As a result, I taught a few classes for only two weeks out of the latter two months of this semester.

My contract states that I have ten days paid leave a year, half in summer, half in winter. But I found out yesterday that there is no winter vacation planned at work. Fucking typical. I need to speak to the director’s brother next week. (He works as a teacher; she, on the other hand, doesn’t work much at all, especially now that she has a new baby.) While I’m at it I should try to get a definite yes or no on the renewal of my contract, which is up in June.

I’ve been downloading a lot of comedy recently – a load of great stuff from the last fifteen years: The Fast Show, The Day Today, Father Ted, Brass Eye, Jam, Man Stroke Woman, Monkey Dust, Ideal. I’m looking forward to sharing them with Bo and Travis. I really ought to buy some of these when I next spend some time back in Britain.

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Earl Hickey on My Name is Earl, season 4, episode 17, ‘Randy’s List Item’.

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Exchange rate watch

1 GBP = 2,000.1 KRW
1 GBP = 1.1096 EUR
1 GBP = 1.4237 USD

2,300,000 KRW = 1,149.47583 GBP

Bonus Exchange Rate

1 GBP = 332.28 Hungarian forints (HUF)

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Jo Brand on QI, F series, episode 7.

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Taking the skis

I went skiing for the first time on Sunday, with Botond and So-young and their friend Seol-Hee, who drove us to the resort.

On Friday night I didn’t get much sleep, partly because of the new late schedule at work and partly because I had to get up early to go to Korean class. The class itself wasn’t too hot – mostly review stuff; I only noted down two or three new vocabulary or grammar items on my notepad.

(By the way, the title of this post refers to the Korean for the verb to ski: there is no Korean word for this verb, instead you have to say ‘스키를 타다’ (‘seukireul tada’) – ‘to take skis’. ‘타다’ (‘tada’) – ‘to take’ – is the verb used for any form of transportation – car, subway, aeroplane, horse, skis etc.)

Later in the day I met Bo and Travis to play pool in Nowon and then go drinking in Itaewon. This night out was supposed to be an E-Castle thing, but the Korean teachers weren’t interested – to my non-surprise and slight relief. We visited several places: first, dinner at a Mexican restaurant, then Gecko’s, the Wolfhound, then there was a pause as we tried to find somewhere that either had a football table or was a ‘meat market’. We finished the night in Woodstock – which was my favourite place as it was almost empty – and therefore quiet – and played some decent music.

After about an hour’s sleep once I got home it was time to get up to meet Bo and So-young to go and meet Seol-Hee. I was feeling a tiny bit hungover, but nothing serious: I hadn’t been able to quite finish my bowl of cereal that morning, for instance. We met Seol-Hee outside her building and proceeded out of the city. The drive was about an hour or so, but with a heavy mist shrouding the landscape there wasn’t much to see out of the window.

You could tell when you were approaching the ski resort – Jisan – because of the number of skiing and snowboarding equipment shops along the road. We rented our own stuff from one of these places.

After a meal at the resort’s food court Bo took me outside to start my training. I’d snowboarded once before, two years ago, with other English teachers from Ansan – and I wasn’t very good at it – but had never skied (although I have a dim memory of a day at a ski slope in Runcorn when I was in the Scouts – but it could be imaginary). I was hoping that skiing would be easier than snowboarding.

First Time Skiing
And it was. Bo’s tuition helped a lot – in fact he was very good in this role. After a frankly kind of scary first half an hour or so up on the slopes, where I felt completely out of my depth, I suddenly started getting the hang of it. After my first awkward couple of descents I was able to go down without going arse over tit once – although I was employing a cautious, snow-plough-heavy technique. Later, as I tried to overcome my natural cowardice and go fast, and as I was getting tired, I started falling down more.

Botond, Seol-Hee, So-young, Captain Maybe

The sense of control over direction and speed was quite pleasing – especially so bearing my snowboarding experience in mind, where I felt like I only had two choices: go, and fall over.

It was hard work, both physically and, if you like, psychically, but certainly rewarding. Afterward, with my minimal sleep during the previous two days, I was fairly knackered.

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Last night at taekwondo there were two brand new students in the class along with me and the two master. The new students were young women – in their early twenties – wearing straight-out-of-the-bag dobok (uniforms), complete with creases, and white belts. It was a little strange to be the senior student, not just in terms of age but in experience too.

I arrived late because of work, did a few warm up exercises by myself, then joined in with a bit of punching practice. Then we did some simple kicking exercises. The new girls, having started the class earlier, finished earlier than me and went home. I carried on with some further kicking exercises – like a front-roundhouse-side kick combination that I’d done once before. I also practised taegeuk 1-jang and 2-jang – apparently, I will be tested for blue belt at the end of the month.

At the end of my training, I spent a few minutes talking to I Sabeomnim. She told me the new students had told her on a snowboarding trip together that they thought taekwondo was easy. I suggested we do sparring next lesson. I also asked whether she thought the new girls would be interested in English lessons. She said one of them was studying English at university, and she would ask her.

The new schedule at work is basically the same as the morning schedule we were doing in January, but starting at 4pm instead of 9am. Except that there is one class of kindergarteners (I think – they’re very young, anyway) that starts at 2:30 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday – and I have to teach them. Yesterday, I arrived at work at two o’clock and the fifth floor where the staff room is was closed, so I had to get a key from the admin staff on the fourth floor.

I’m starting what will hopefully be a habit of giving students detention for being noisy in class. This will take the form of lines: ‘I will be quiet in class’ x 50 or 100 or whatever I deem appropriate. I gave a few such detentions yesterday and, unfortunately, the students in question were fairly blasé about it. Little bastards.

On a positive note, I have a few more of the older classes now – consisting of older middle school students. These classes can be pretty painful because the students are very quiet – but they can also be quite relaxing compared to a class full of rowdy elementary school students. And – a lot of these older students are girls – which is nice; they seem to respond well to me – even if that just means giggling.

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I left home today to go to Itaewon and Yongsan – the former to possibly buy a new coat, the latter to possibly see a film. I ended up doing neither. As I was walking along the street – to the next busstop on from the one I usually use – I heard a crack at my shoulder. It sounded a bit like I’d been shat on by a bird, but it also sounded like maybe the buckle on the tie for my hood had been caught under the strap of my laptop case and had suddenly popped out.

I got on the bus, and my laptop case fell to the floor, the strap having become disconnected. The bit of metal that connected the strap to the bag had snapped – in two places, hence the crack that I’d heard a minute earlier.

I got off the bus with my bag under my arm and looked around for somewhere to obtain something to make repairs. The busstop for Sanggye Station is right in front of a small shopping centre called Daeho Plaza Shopping Town. I went in there instead of round the side as I usually do. I looked for a place that might sell cord or shoe laces. It was very quiet with most of the stands closed. Up on the second floor (by which I mean first floor) I noticed some used white plastic cord on an otherwise empty set of shelves – so I helped myself to it. In the toilets of the subway station I tied the now loose end of the strap to the strappy bit on the body of the case that the metal bit used to fasten to. If you see what I mean. It worked.

Then I went to Yongsan to buy a new case. Of course, my first port of call once at Yongsan was Starbucks, where, for the second time in a row and the second time ever, I managed to get a table – this time by putting my coat and laptop at an empty table and then ordering my caffe latte grande. I kept glancing in my table’s direction as I was waiting, even though it was hidden behind a corner. To be fair, this isn’t really necessary in Korea, but I’m not in the habit of ‘losing’ things when I’m out and about. With my drink at my hand, I went to work on a review of Dreamer of Dune. My computer seemed to have suffered no ill effects from its bump.

Then I bought a new laptop bag. The price tags at the stand all bore a Union Jack – the bags being made by ‘Michiko London’, whatever that is. It’s pretty stylish, but the old one that came with my Fujitsu machine (when I bought it at Yongsan at the end of my contract in 2007 – don’t you remember?) was a little more practical in some minor details. For instance the old one had a flap which covered the zip and most of the side, which protected it from rain (I believe), and all the pockets were on the outer side of the bag, ie, away from the body. Neither is true with the new one. It cost me ₩58,000.

I went to a toilet and transfered all my stuff from the old case to the new case, and put the old one in the carrier bag that came with the new one. Then I left Yongsan with the intention of going to Itaewon. Just after I crossed the road in front of I’Park –

the strap broke!

I’m sure there’s a name for it, but the strap has at each end some metal parts involving a loop and a lumpy bit. The lumpy bit should be inside the loop, allowing the end of the strap to swivel. Well, one of these bits came loose. I went back to the stand and showed the man, who then replaced the strap.

Then I went to Itaewon – where I didn’t buy a new coat, but instead went to Starbucks and did some more work on my short story. Unfortunately, the final scene that I’d thought might be easy turned out to be more problematic. As I’m at the end of the story, you could say that I’ve written up to X, I have a good idea of what Z is, but I’m not at all sure about Y.

I’ll hopefully do some more work on it tomorrow, having allowed the back end of my brain a night to cogitate on the matter. I also want to finally buy that new coat, too, and with the return of late starts at work I should have plenty of time (depending on what time I go to sleep and get up, of course).

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