Archive for October, 2009

And I mean that in a literal way. (Perhaps also a figurative way – who knows?)

On Saturday I joined my friend Botond on an excursion with a mountain biking club. We went to a mountain near Bundang, south of Seoul. The group consisted of around twenty foreigners, mostly from North America, but including a Kiwi and a Malaysian (who sounded like Arnold Schwartzenegger, bizarrely). Almost everyone was wearing lycra or fleece with short cargo pants.

I felt out of place in my jeans and sweater – but I don’t really have any even vaguely sporty clothing. I also don’t have a bike, so I was loaned one for the day – a blue mountain bike known as the ‘loaner’. Or possibly ‘loner’ – who knows?

The ride involved a lot of going uphill – either riding or walking – and it was very tiring; especially once we hit the second part of the ride. I’ve ridden bikes on three occasions so far this year, which brings the total number of times I’ve ridden a bike since I was a teenager up to … about three.

In addition to my relative lack of skill, the bike was hard to get the hang of. The seat started off very high, and the gears were unusual. There was a ring around the bar just inside each handle, which you twisted to change gears. It took me a long while to remember which way was up and which down. Plus it was fairly easy to turn them accidentally while trying to simply grasp the handles.

Towards the end of the long, tiring ride, I started to get the hang of things, and to build confidence when it came to going down fairly steep, narrow, uneven forest tracks, and going fast. And, where you get a nice, relatively level stretch of path, it can be quite fun to whizz along, not pedalling (if possible).

At the end, there was a small barbecue held in the middle of the large car park for the nearby lake and spa (in the water at the edge of the lake was a large bungee-jumping tower). I was drained, so I didn’t feel up to much socialising. But I think it (mountain biking) may be something I’ll try again sometime.


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Episode IV: A New Job

I haven’t been updating this blog much recently, which pains me, but I’ve simply had other things to do much of the time. Like spend time with my girlfriend and other relationship-related activities (cooking, cleaning, travelling at the weekend etc), and work – the real kind of work.

Two weeks ago, I started working at Educa Korea, a business based in Gangnam-gu (Seoul’s financial centre) that imports educational books and toys and sells them on to schools, hagwons and parents along with supplementary learning materials produced in-house. This latter point is a major part of my job: I have to proofread and write workbooks that accompany many of the textbooks and children’s novels we sell. As such, the work is pretty easy and pretty boring. Not so bad; it reminds me a little of the divisional website work I was doing in Runcorn when I worked for the (erstwhile) Department for Education and Skills. I also teach a little – at the moment just one student twice a week.

The job was essentially got for me by my language exchange partner Ji-hyeon and her boss, Mi-seon, who I’ve been doing a reading class with. I was expecting to be offered some part-time teaching work, but on the morning of my interview, Ji-hyeon let me know that I might be in with a shot at a contents developments post – and that’s what I got. My pay is ₩2.615 million (£1400) a month, thirteen months a year (don’t ask me why – I asked for ₩2.8m, which they accepted, but they wanted to spread it out differently. It’s actually the same deal, I think, as with E-2 visa teaching jobs – the legal requirement is for a bonus month’s pay at the end of a 12-month contract).

I have a 30-45 minute commute every morning and evening (as opposed to the two minute commute I had from my apartment in Nowon to Ginius Academy in the building directly across the street). I get up at seven in the a.m. and have to be at work for nine. I finish at six in the p.m., apart from when I have my class to teach (5:30 – 6:50, Mondays and Thursdays). It’s tiring, but it hasn’t turned out to be as completely draining as I was fearing. I also have a lot of work to do – I have eight workbooks to write by the end of November, along with random proofreading and book reviews (these latter for the purpose of helping Educa decide which books to buy).

Don’t tell anyone, but I’m not really working legally. I still have the visa related to my previous job. As that visa was sponsored by my employer (kind of; I was sponsored by Sharon and E-Castle rather Ginius, who I actually worked for latterly. The whole area of immigration and work is pretty murky) it should, strictly speaking have been cancelled when I stopped working there. I now have to go through the whole visa process again, it seems. Very tedious.

At least I have a job that I like. I always told myself and everyone else that I liked teaching, but, to be honest, I was ambivalent about it. Some classes and some students could be great, but it was mostly a chore, and didn’t really play to my strengths. I hope content development is going to prove more rewarding.

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