Sunday, May 31, 2009

New friends

Chris: Shortly after starting work in Chungju the other foreign teacher at our English academy introduced us to his friends here. They're a fun bunch of people and have all been very warm and welcoming to us right from the start. We've actually just come back from a weekend away in a nearby city with about 8-10 of our new friends. I was introduced to an American cultural phenomenon that is a drinking game called "beer pong". Needless to say, things got messy. I'm proud to say that I think I represented the Aussies well. I'll definitely be taking this game back to Australia ...and the USA's cultural imperialism continues....
So of our new friends there's like 10 Americans, 2 Koreans, and 1 Irish guy. I can honestly say that there's not one of them that I don't like. It's obviously really important to meet good people when you've suddenly transplanted yourself to a totally foreign place, so we've been very lucky to have met so many so soon.
We've even met a couple of other Koreans who run a bar nearby our old apartment. I don't know if I'd call them "friends" just yet. Mainly because the closest Korean word to "friend" apparently denotes a closer bond than that of the English word. The owner has just shut down his bar for renovations but not before supplying us with plenty of free food and alcohol! He invited Rowena and I around to his house for dinner this weekend ....but as I mentioned earlier, we were out of town. The cynic in me thinks the owner and his employee's friendliness is somewhat motivated by a desire to practice their English conversation skills and by the fact that supposedly it's good for business to have foreigners frequent your bar. Whatever the case they're nice people and, as I just mentioned, the beer is often FREE!
29 days in Korea and still swine flu free. Every day is a blessing.

Our new home sweet home

Rowena: We've finally moved into our new apartment...woohoo!!!!! For the past month we've been living in our temporary accomodation, and our new place compared to our old is a palace (ok not a palace, but let's just say we were living in a one room shit hole). So we're pretty happy, and are loving our unnecessarily spacious balcony. 2 weird things though... our fully furnished apartment doesn't have a freezer, and our bathroom doesn't have a basin... We're in a good location, conveniently close to work and no longer have to do the 1 hour gruelling trek (ok, I may be exagerating a little) that we've been doing for the past month. So I'm quite happy to call this place home for the next 11 months :)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

"Hello handsome man!"

Chris: This will be news to anyone who knows me - apparently I'm very handsome! I've had basically the same face and body for 28 years but have only just found out about my handsomeness. Okay, okay, I know what you other foreigners in Korea are going to write in response. Yes, maybe every single young white guy is considered good looking in Korea. And yes, maybe Koreans are much more likely to comment on people's appearance. But why have you got to bring me down?!? Can't you just let me be blissfully (and purposely) naive?!?
Here in Korea I'm told on a pretty regular basis that I'm "handsome". Sometimes it's shouted at me on the street by passing school girls, sometimes women AND men in bars feel the need to tell me, even my co-workers and students let me know about it. The other day I walking down the street late one night when I passed a small group of straight-looking young men I had never met before. They stopped me so one could take a photo of me with his friend. When I left one commented on my "handsome face" and another called me "handsome-man".
Of course I'm letting my girlfriend, Rowena, know all about my newly discovered handsomeness. Apparently she didnt know either!
I write about this to highlight just how bizzare this place is. Night is day, up is down, black is white.
I think I hear a few suitcases being packed around the world by my fellow caucasions. Please remain in you respective countries. I want to remain a novelty.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Bad luck

Rowena: Ok so this is a whinging post. Last night we went out for dinner with a group of friends at another traditional restaurant (the take off your shoes, sit cross-legged on the floor deal). Great food, good times, and then we get up to leave. We seem to be the last group of people at the restaurant, and we're ready to put our shoes back on. Everyone's doing just that, and I realise that my shoes (thongs really, as I call them - no not that kind of thong...) are not there! There's a similar pair left there, which happen to be the same colour and size as mine, but probably cost a tenth of what I paid for mine. My beloved Haviannas (the comfiest pair of thongs I own - AUS$25) now belong to some local, and I'm stuck with said theief's $2 dirty thongs. Boo!!! Last week someone stole my umbrella that I just bought that day! AND the week before we left for Korea, someone stole my handbag!! Karma seems to be paying me back for a crime I'm yet to commit! I'm guessing now that someone is going to steal my clothes off the communal clothes line that we're using. I shouldn't say that...I don't want to jinx it!!!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Korean girls

Rowena: Korean girls love to walk the streets wearing high heels, not any old high heels, I'm talking sky-high heels! And they wear these everywhere. Chris and I have been temporarily living in an area where the foothpaths are bumpy with many cracks, dusty roads, and when it rains, can get very muddy. Yet the girls continue to wear their sky high heels and effortlessly walk the streets, rain or shine. I'm constantly tripping over cracky footpaths, and that's wearing flats! Even the teachers wear their heels to work. Chris and I are yet to witness, but we've heard that girls even go hiking in their heels! It's insane!
I think I'm the only non beer drinker here in Korea. Guys obviously love the beer, but so do the girls. Chris has been trying to get me to 'learn to love beer' over the past 5 years, and I'm slowly getting there... I can now drink a bit without wanting to spit it out. Luckily though, they have nice cheap cocktails for my sweeter pallate. It's about AUS$6-7. I think I once paid AUS$18 back home for a cocktail. So yesterday I ordered a 'sex on the beach', and the bar tender repeats my order and says, 'ok, 1 sex on the machine'! I couldn't stop laughing. I ordered the same drink later that night and he said that same thing. It's my new favourite drink, but I don't think I'm brave enough to order a 'sex on the machine' the next time we go there! Might just have to learn to love the beer...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Not a pretty sight

Rowena: We went out for dinner with a group of friends last night and it was at a traditional restaurant where you have to take off your shoes and sit cross legged on the floor while you eat. The look on Chris' face when he realised we were dining this He doesn't cope well with this tradition and was doing a few stretches before we sat down. We were eating a hot pot style dish called 'shaboo shaboo' (I have no idea how to spell it, but it sounds about right!), and it was delicious! So we were having a wonderful time and I noticed that the group of elderly diners behind us were staring at us. And this isn't strange to us anymore...we were a group of foreigners and we're all used to getting stared at. But this one particular woman didn't take her eyes off me and was saying something in Korean. I just thought she assumed I was Korean and was asking me how my meal was. So I'm nodding trying to explain to her that our meal is fantastic. The group of elders finished their meal and left the restaurant and we waved goodbye. A minute later, a waitress comes up to me with an apron, ties it around my waist backwards, and I realised that she was covering my backside! I was wearing jeans, and my ass crack was apparently showing!! I was sooooooooo embarassed... the eldery woman was tring to tell me that I was disturbing her dinner with the view of my backside! Apologies elderly woman, I will remember to wear high waisted jeans the next time we dine at a traditional restaurant!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Korea: land of the freebie

Chris: Rowena may have already written about the free stuff we get ...I don't know, I couldn't be bothered reading over past posts.
Maybe everyone gets free stuff, maybe it's because I'm a round-eye, maybe it's my and Rowena's irresistable personalities. I don't know and I don't really care. Just about everywhere we go we get little perks. When we're at a bar we get ice-cream, fried eggs, and of course plenty of bar snacks. When we eat out we occasionally get little extras. For example, the other day the owner of some restaurant gave us some of his lunch. The old guy who runs the baseball batting cage thing gives me free turns sometimes and feeds me little snacks and Soju (Korean alcoholic drink) ....though I'm definitely his best customer so maybe this is just smart business practice. Maybe it's just so he can hit on Rowena. Rowena slightly injured herself while batting and he's twice asked her if she'd like a "massage" to fix it. Hey I'm not above pimping her out if it means I continue to get free batting practice and Soju.
The owner of a bar we've twice visited challenges me at pool and then gives us free pints of beer when he loses. The last time he promised to shout the whole bar if he lost. He then promptly paid up and I became a hero to the 10 or so people there!
I've been stopped on the street by university students and fed shot after shot of Soju and then had my hands forcibly filled with snacks.
I hope I'm not wearing out my welcome. I hope these people don't think I frequent their establishments just to exploit their generosity. If anything I try to avoid going too often because of the freebies. But right now I really feel like a (free) beer so I'm off to the bar with the terrible pool player for an owner....

Monday, May 11, 2009

Rowena: So after a few days of teaching, I've figured out which kids are my favourite...yes that's what teachers do lol (or I could just pretend that I love the all just the same!). I have one particular class that I look forward to. It's a group of 4 kids, and I got to name one! Each kid has their Korean name, and an English name. We went through a few different options, I even suggested 'Chris' but he didn't like that he was happy with being named Jack. They never fail to correct my attempted Korean the way I correct their English.
Chris and I went into town on the weekend and were very excited to discover that they have 'Video Pangs' which are private DVD rooms. You just choose from a reasonable selection of DVDs and get to watch it in a comfy private room with a large screen and comfy couch. Sounds great right? I think so, I like watching movies. But apparently people go there to do more than watch movies if u know what I mean. That's probably why I was getting a few weird stares when I told people at work what we did on the weekend. I was telling them we went to the movies, they were hearing we went to have 'party time fun' at the Video Pang, and we had such a great time that we went there twice! I should of figured when I saw a box of tissues on the table.
We had drinks with a group of 'foreigners' over the weekend, the majority being American. They were all English teachers as well working at different schools. It was the first time we saw non-koreans, very exciting!

The kids

Chris: We probably won't be able to upload any photos for a couple of weeks so I can't show you any pics of our students (or anything else). Instead I've searched the internet for a picture to represent something nearing the adorableness of some of our younger students. This picture still doesn't do them justice....

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I'm not Korean!

Rowena: After months of preparing documents, waiting on visas, and frantically filling out more documents...we're finally here...woohoo!!! So Chris has basically covered the details of our time here so far but my experiences have been slightly different. EVERYONE here thinks I'm a local. What makes me say this? Well firstly, on our flight over here, the flight attendants were all greeting me in Korean and Chris who was right behind me was greeted in English. Secondly, at the airport, the immigration officer attempted to have a conversation with me in Korean, and realised about 5 minutes in that I didn't understand a word he was saying. Thirdly, every shop assistant expects me to translate for my obviously foreign-looking boyfriend. 5 days in, and it still doesn't get old! What we're loving so far are all the freebies we're scoring for being foreigners...when we buy a couple of beers,we get... a bowl of ice-cream, 2 fried eggs on a sizzling platter, and other snacks! We've had 2 days teaching and I have to say that I'm EXHAUSTED!! I'm finding it hard coping with a 5 minute break in between classes. No time to scratch your own ass, let alone eat!!! Most of the kids are great...but you always come across a few that can give you the shits. I have to say though, these kids know so much more than what I expected. Not only can they read, write and speak English, they can actually comprehend what they are reading. Some of these kids are more advanced than some kids I've taught back home! We've noticed that the Korean teachers use ALOT of korean in class, some only use korean! Chris and I have no choice but to only use English, but hopefully that will encourage the kids to learn english faster. Hopefully we can eventually understand and speak enough Korean to get the meantime...just smile and nod and continue to walk the streets of Chungju with my D-grade celebrity boyfriend!

We're here!

(This was written a few days ago but only posted now)

Chris: Well we're in Korea now! We arrived Saturday night and so far so good. I had 1 hour of sleep on Friday night then caught a 6:30am flight to Sydney. We just made our connecting flight in Sydney airport ....and I mean JUST. The woman at the counter told us we missed the flight but then let us board. I think she was trying to make a point and scare us. I reckon I had a total of 3 minutes sleep on the plane, despite taking an unprescribed sleeping pill. Rowena was listening to music through her headphones and still heard me snoring and woke me up. I felt a little too self-conscious to sleep after that. Once in Seoul we met some dude holding a sign with our names (just like in the movies). We were driven to a bus stop and sent on the longest 90 minute bus ride of our lives.
We were met in Chungju by our boss. He was younger than I imagined, about mid-thirties. First impressions can be misleading but he seems laid back and friendly. He showed us around the hagwon (private English academy, I think). Kinda small and very modern. I was impressed. He took us to a hotel becuase our apartment wasn't ready. Hotel was awesome ....though I would've been satisfied with just a space on the ground to pass out on. Big screen LCD, computer (all in Korean), two showers, big jakuzi, and a bunch of other unnecessary but cool stuff. The weirdest thing about the hotel was that just outside our door there was a vending machine full of ....umm ...."marital aids". Funny as hell. We'll put up the pic when we can be assed. I wonder if our boss had to pay for the room by the hour. When I thanked him for the comfortable room the next day he made a point of saying that he'd never been there.
Next day we're shown around Chungju. It bigger than I expected and quite pretty on the outskirts. We're taken to a Korean restaurant where you sit on the floor. I forgot this was going to happen. I have the flexibility of an arthritic giraffe but I tell the boss I'm fine. Rowena struggles with the super spicy food but she tells him sh'es fine. Our apartment is 5 minutes walk from our school but we're told it isn't available for 3 weeks so we're taken to our temporary accommodation 10 minutes drive away, near the university. It's very modest but it already feels like home.
I thought we were to start on Monday but instead we start Wednesday. Over the next couple of days we go out to bars, shop, eat great food. It's all good. I start to notice eyes on me though, especially from kids. In case you ddin't know, South Korea is a very homogeneous nation, in terms of culture/race. I stick out like a sore thumb ....a very sore, gangrenous thumb. Young kids especially like to stare. It doesn't bother me at all. That may change. I know it bothers some other expats. Rowena doesn't get the same looks. I tell her she dooks like a Korean with a tan. She tell me I'm like a D-grade celebrity. It's kinda weird to get so much attention for doing nothing else but existing. Now I know how Danni Minouge feels ....oooh take that Danni! No soft targets are safe when I've got my little self-indulgent blog. Watch out Paris Hilton and Peter Andre, you're next!
This has been a long post but there's still so much more to write. Every little interaction with someone is an adventure. I already feel like I've packed in so much living in such a short space of time, and that's kinda what this whole thing is about.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Bye-bye Austraia

Chris: We got our Visas today! We booked our flight today! We leave tomorrow morning! Woohoo!!!
Oh crap, this suddenly became real.... wish us luck....