Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year to one and all.

As I type, Ian is mashing the better parts of a cow into burger shapes so that we can have a drool inducing meal. If I can still move after considerably increasing my chances of CJD, it is off to town we go for parties and fireworks.

Enjoy and best wishes for 2006!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The following is a synopsis of the Sound of Music by one of my preschool students. These little kids have an amazing oral standard, but when it come to getting those thoughts from their heads to paper, they have a few issues. Each weekend the kids write a diary about their weekend activities and because they are kids, they try to cram everything in their heads onto a single page.

The following youngster made a sterling effort. I have not changed any of his mistakes and note that Koreans have problems saying the “v” sound and so “Von” had a “p” sound to it.

I went to Daegu Opera house.
There were many people.
There was a church.
There was nuns.
They prayed.
Maria go to mountain.
She sang.
She went to church.
Chief nun says “Go to Pontrap’s house”
We had a breaktime for 15 minutes.
We ate hot bar.
There was house
In the house there was seven children.
She went to house.
There was captain.
He said, “You have to respond the children”.
She said, “Do you know how to sing?”
The said “No”.
They learn how to sing.
Captain came.
Children said, “He will merry with new mother”
New mother said, “I will leave this home so he marry her”.
I t was fun!

There you go. A very concise summary, but I do think he may have drifted off at some point during the musical……
I noticed in the news this week that Hwang Woo Suk is up for Muppet of the Year. Seoul National University admitted that his findings were falsified. They have said that they are upset with this news and Korean people have stated they too are disappointed with their so called "National Hero". Disappointed? Were I a member of the Korean Government I would have two little horns popping out the top of my head, complete with insanity induced drooling, such would be the level of my anger. Particularly considering the millions of dollars handed out to Hwang to fund what he insisted was legitimate research. No money back guarantee.

On a lighter note, I hope everyone had a great Christmas. I did. The next day was not so great. Not when idiot here had to go to work after the Christmas Party of all parties. Thanks to Maebh and Ben). For my first class, I was capable only of giggling at the kids and not until I had inhaled a bacon double cheese burger at the Temple of Hope, commonly referred to as “Burger King”, did I feel somewhat ready to greet the remaining anklebiters.

However I got some sweet presents including enough Clinique stuff from Maebh and Sara to ensure I gain some transvestite NBF’s, a Frasier box set from Ian’s Mom and Dad and a Creative Mini from Ian. Ian has installed all the music and set up the play lists. I just listen to it and show it off to everyone who has the ill luck to run into me and is subjected to me showing off said player and my limited mp3 knowledge ( I actually have no idea what I am saying to anyone…esp when referring to gigs… I just copy what Ian says, accompanied with a “knowing-and-don’t-you-dare-question-my-superior-opinion” look. It has the masses fooled

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Last night saw temperatures hit -13C. Fabulous. However, what was not so fabulous was the ice on the inside of the bathroom window, nor the ice on the panes of the washing room window or even the icicles that formed on the inside of the bedroom window. Koreans dont believe in insulation. The styrofoam between the walls and and the windows of my school testify to that.

Temperatures increased for a while today, so I decided to finish my Christmas shopping in snowy conditions. It actually felt like Christmas here with snow covered streets, everyone dressed in hats and scarves and the Koreans who seemed to think a blizzard was coming direct from the Himalayas with their ski ensembles.

Christmas shopping is more or less complete at this stage and there are fine amount of presents under the horrendously cheesy tree here. It is a flagship for over tinselling and overlighting. I love it.

In other more fasinating news, the Korean stem-cell researcher, Hwang Woo-Suk, has been accused of falsifying his "pioneering" work. Koreans are not too happy to hear about this, but he is determined to prove his work, despite being bombarded with accusations of carrying out his research in unethical ways and ultimately publishing untrue facts. Generally, Koreans are still supportive of Hwang, with some feeling that the attacks on him are down to jealousy beacause Korea is the leading nation in this field. Sour grapes perhaps

Friday, December 16, 2005

It's snowing and I am ecstatic. The northern part of the country has been battling the elements for the last few weeks and Daegu is finally getting its turn. It started in the early afternoon, and has gradually risen to a decent pelt of snow. However walking home in snow does have its disadvantges, what with getting a little damp and almost getting oneself the position of lead dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet due to some magnificent pirouettes. It's also wonderful to note that when a kids slips on ice, it is seen as "cute", but when an adult foreigner makes a show of themselves, it is comedy on a grand scale. Snort.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Cable and heat have been restored.

The cable was my fault. Had I looked behind the fridge I would have noticed that the cable plug was lying idly behind said fridge. Little sneak was taking an early Christmas holiday.

Heat is back in Ian's apartment. Lovingly restored with a hairdryer.

Korea has reached a new technological high
My cable is out. Not my fault. If the cable company bothered to send me any bills, or even a bill to the correct address, I might not be so outraged at the moment

Ian's heating is gone. It has been out since Saturday night and there hasn't been sign nor light of the repair man, who swore blind he was going to turn up at Ian's apartment between 10pm and 12am... we should have taken those blatant lies as a hint, seeing as the inconsiderate oaf never showed up. I really would like him to arrive soon seeing as the water that is coming from the sink and shower is ice cold, therefore in -10 celsuis weather we are getting tonight, it is a win win situation for pipes that are in the mood for freezing and, if they are feeling a little on the wild side,they could also fit in a quick bursting session.

Apparently the boiler repair men are being very overworked this season what with the weather being cold and all that. Why? Didn't they see it coming?!?!?!?! Winter is Winter is Winter here. It means sub-zero temperatures. It means ice cold weather. It means very god damn person in the country is going to turn on their heating, so why they are mystified by the sudden onslaught of broken down heaters defies me.

I must go teach some children in a building that doesn't have any burst pipes.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Oooohhh, that Mr.Clarkson.

You know you are the epitome of laziness when you wake up in the morning with all your clothes still on after having spent the previous night just watching tv. I had great intentions to get up after the third episode of Top Gear to change, but that wise cracking Jeremy Clarkson had me spellbound.... so spellbound in fact that he lulled me into a deep, fully clothed sleep.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Allo Allo!

Went to see Wallace and Gromit with Ian tonight. Very funny. The most amusing part for me was seeing Wallace reading "Ay-Op!", complete with the red and white lettering, bearing all too familiar a resemblance to good ol', "Hello". Why I snorted with laughter. Unfortunately, the whole joke shot Concorde style, (pre exploding in the sky incident), over the Canadian's head.
Oh deer........

A new store has opened near my school. This little store sells flowers and antiques. Odd combination, but this is Korea after all. However, it is the name of the store that has provided the most entertainment.

"Flowers and Entics".


Wednesday, November 02, 2005


This month a Census is being conducted. This evening Census lady turned up at the door. I have no idea what I told her. It was one of those wonderful experiences where one is faced with a Korean only speaker and a Korean only form. It resulted in me phoning Maebh employing her as my translator. The first part of the form may be filled out correctly, but the second part is a complete mystery to me. At the end of the ordeal Census lady and I peered at the form, glanced at each other and agreed that there was no way this thing was appropriately filled out. So I send her off with a post it note with my name and number and a little note telling the nice Census people that, in all likelihood, the information on the form is gobildigook and that someone in management really ought to ring me so I am not classified as an illegal unemployed immigrant.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Today I was returning from lunch when I bumped into one of the teachers from my school. She was carrying a book and soft toy she had just bought for her little daughter who is 3 years old. She noticed me looking at it and so explained the book and toy. And oh my god, it proved how different Western culture is to Korean culture. The soft toy is a little mole with toy poo on its head and the accompanying book tells the story of the little mole rambling around his local farm trying to discover who it was that pooed on his head. Now instead of the mole asking the other farm animals if it was them that pooed oh him and accept their negative responses, he demands that they all produce a "sample". So through illustrations, we see the pig, the cow, the horse and their other animal friends pooing for the mole and he compares that on his head to that on the ground.

This is deemed suitable entertainment for a 3-year-old................

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

At the school where I work, the preschoolers are taught English, Korean and Chinese. A prospective student visited the school this week and while he toddler waddled his way around the entrance hall, wide-eyed with mischief, his Mom chatted with the Head Teacher about the teaching curriculum. She was very inquisitive about the teaching methods, in particular for English, as Koreans believe English is the most important foreign language to force feed down their 4 year olds throats. However, upon perusing the syllabus she was a little upset to notice that Chinese was part of the curriculm. She demanded to know why it was a featured subject, whereupon the Head Teacher informed her that the school believed Chinese ( not sure what regional group is taught) to be just as important for children to learn as English. She pooh poohed the idea saying, "Nonsense, Chinese is only a trend at the moment". That's right. And I am quite sure the 1.3 billion Chinese speakers in the world whole heartedly agree with you.
Boring Boring Daegu

Whenever I go to Seoul for a weekend I am always depressed at the thoughts of returning to Daegu. Not that Daegu is a bad spot but Seoul has so much more to tantalise the senses.Over the weekend, Ian, Maebh, Sara and I ventured to Seoul with Don and had a right rollicking good time. We stayed in our usual haunt, Sinchon, foamed at the mouth in Bandi and Lunis ( the seizure inducing treasure trove bookstore), delighted in the amazing shopping stores and had a wide array of restaurants and bars to choose from. We also met up with an old friend, Simon and his fiancee, Naire ( Congratulations and la la la).

So on Saturday took the KTX to Seoul and decided to immediately find a place to stay as Don was rather mule like with his great big rucksack. So, like a sherpa, I guided everyone (the usual sherpa Maebh was off duty until later that night), to Sinchon to stay at our regular motel. Imagine the gut wrenching pain when we turned that fateful corner to discover that our little gem in the city had turned into a scaffolding nightmare. All I was capable of doing was huffing and puffing at the mess. However, we managed to find another place and it really was a bit of a downgrade. But beggars cant be choosers and I do think Sara and Maebh became rather attached to the hair of a hooker that was running all down one side of the bed in their room. From the angle of the hair I took it to mean that her and her lucky little customer were trying a rather unusual position.

After settling in, otherwise known as tearing the contents of my bag onto the floor looking for my sweater due to the Arctic conditions in Seoul, we headed for Bandi and Lunis. People who have read this blog before will know of my love for this bookstore. I am sure this is lost on people in Ireland who have Waterstones etc at their fingertips, but for us that are deprived of a wide selection of English language books, Bandi and Lunis is the Holy Grail. Not a sound was uttered between us as we curled our way through the rows looking for reading material,apart from the occassional grunt of pleasure or fart of joy. After successful purchases we had a few drinks and some food and then waited for Simon to come from Jamsil and Maebh from Daegu. Following their arrival, the night degenerated into an alcohol fuelled frenzy at a bar that had a little dog who had the unfortunate luck to be mauled to death by me and barmen that kept giving us free drinks. I am not quite sure what their rational behind all their free drinks was, but they were a little disgruntled that we stayed so late ( yes, apparently leaving an establishment at 7am is considered inappropriate).

So the next day was not a pretty sight. Don, Ian and I tried to make it to the super mall in Southern Seoul, a mere 23 subway stops, but a general feeling of unwellness resulted in us turning back after 5 stops.

And so back to Daegu we went. Returning here after the brights lights in Seoul ( in fact I really am convinced that the neon in Seoul is brighter than the neon in Daegu), always seems like such a let down. There is so much variety in the capital, koreans don't stare and point at us like lepers, nor is their the conservative attitude of the Daeguites. Daegu is recognised as one of the most conservative cities in Korea and so being exposed to devil may care attitude is so refreshing. But then again, nowhere else is it more amusing it see the looks of horror on the faces of the older generation when Ian and I kiss on the street than in Daegu.

ha ha.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

So I was at a house party on Saturday night. A young man whose nationality will remain anonymous was chatting with Maebh and I. The conversation took this unfortunate turn

Him- "So where are you from?"

Me- "Ireland".

Him- "Really??"

Me- "Yeah, yeah".

Him- "Do you know Jimmy?"

I think enough has been said on the matter

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Dear Lord. For those of you living in Ireland count your lucky stars that there is a distinct lack of cockroaches there. The nightmare with these bugs is neverending. I got my new apartment this week and have to stay that I was rather pleased with it. It looked clean, had nice warm wall paper, ( as opposed to the blue freezer like number in my former hovel)and overall appealed to my senses. However, the school went against my wishes and moved everything from my old place to my new place. My original intention had been to disinfect everything before I moved anything to my new place so roaches would not travel with me, but apparently prevention is an alien concept to these people as the movers hauled every last item to the new apartment. Today was the first day I had free to sort out everything in my new place and was very pleased to have the help of Ian and our new teacher Maryanne. However in the cleaning process I discovered that there are ants in the apartment, the sink is attached to the drain pipe with duck tape and there were roaches in the tv unit brought from my old apartment. Ants are easily gotten rid of here, the school can sort the sink ( although I am completely lost for words as to how remedial owners of property are'd figure maintaining apartments instead of letting them degenerate into inhabitable slums would be top of their owner agenda), but I am furious that roaches may have been brought to my new place. I think Ian may have a permanent guest in me. My sink is a complete joke though. Who in the hell thought duck tape would hold a sink in and prevent water from running into the closet and all over my new floor. Although, at this point I would to thank the creators of Dettol as their wonderful product succesfully disinfected all my plates and cutlery and gave them a dishwasher sheen.
Also because I am in a one room unit there isn't a laundry area. So, my washing machine has been decked out in true Knocknaheeny style..... it is currently sitting on bricks in my apartment.Yes. You read correctly. Bricks. The school caretaker had to place it near the bathroom door and so placed it on bricks and thoughtfully wrapped said bricks in tin foil. I don't understand the rationality behind that particular move. However, the story gets better. On Thursday I stood in front of the machine and could not for the life of me work out where the water supply for the washing machine would come from. The school caretaker appeared, I asked him how the machine would function and the poor guy looked at me as if I had ten heads. In his limited English he explained with the aid of demonstrations that I would have to drag tubing from the machine to the bathroom where the tubes would connect with taps in the bathroom and the draintube would have to be rested over the shower drain to filter out dirty water.

I think they have it better in Ballymun

Friday, September 16, 2005

It's a Bugs Life

Cockroaches.They come in many shapes and forms and apparently I have the brownband variety dancing merry jigs in my apartment. They are hideous disgusting creatures that breed like rabbits and have made my apartment life hell. The spawns of satan began their life in my apartment before I moved in and it has proven a difficult task to rid my place of them. The previous tenant had complained about them, but the school failed to pay any great heed to him and so it wasn't until the school handy man turned up to chuck some boric acid around the place, did he realise that acid was not going to bring an end to Roach Fest 2005. So instead of forking out for an exterminator the school is moving me to another apartment. However my new slum like abode will not be ready for two weeks as they have to wait for the current tenant to leave. So I have taken up residence with Ian at his place. And I think he is adjusting quite well to the influx of moisturisers, underwear and non stop reruns of Will and Grace.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Nothing, and I mean nothing, of any significance has happened over the last week. The high point has been buying some shower gel called "Cocoa" and discovering that it actually does smell of chocolate.

Depressing really.

Although on Saturday I did go to a board game cafe with Ian and some friends where my ass was whopped by Ian at Connect 4. Mind you I got excited to the point of hyperventilation when I found out the cafe had Connect 4. I also had myself convinced that I could thrash Ian, but failed to realise that consistently beating your brother at Connect 4 when you were 6 and he was 4 does NOT ensure global Connect 4 domination. On the same night I got to meet up with an old friend from Daegu who is now in Seoul having spent some inbetween time in Prague and Bangkok. And what stories he had about Bangkok. Don't think I want to go there now. I could tell you what they are, but lord that would involve having to type more. So enough of that.

Chusok is approaching ( Korean Thanksgiving... although they conduct memorials to their ancestors than actual thanking the giving...i have myself confused. Just accept that it is Thanksgiving). I have a number of days off and so Ian, Maebh , Nev and a few more (along with me) are going to a lake area near Seoul, just to hang out and recharge our batteries. There are mountains there, but I am determined to appreciate them from a sitting position as opposed to actually murdering myself by going up one.

Disneyland Hong Kong has opened, Sign me up for a weekend there. However, take a look at their website and you will be delighted to see that you can have your wedding there. I think this place has outdone Vegas for cheesiest wedding destination. Mickey Mouse as best man, Minnie as maid of honour and Donald Duck as the priest......

Monday, September 05, 2005

Typhoon season is upon us again. This time with Typhoon Butterfly. Do not ask. Who names a typhoon that? Maybe it's a play on words like calling a big 6ft 8 thug, Tiny? Or floats like a butterfly stings like a bee? But then they should have called it Bee. Typhoon Bee? Not very typhoonesque. In fact butterfly and bee are ridiculous names. If they are going down the animal way, perhaps, "Pit Bull Terrier", "Rattlesnake" or even "Wasp". Typhoon Wasp. That'll scare the masses. Anyway you will delighted to hear that if the power does go at some point tonight, I am armed with a single candle and half a bottle of water.

I don't stand a chance.

Friday, September 02, 2005

classic incident at the local police station. A bunch of drunk guys were embroiled in a staggering/battering contest outisde the front doors of said station. They were punching, kicking, biting, shouting and pulling at each other, all while the defenders of the peace peered out through the glass doors not daring to venture out to break it up and restore some quiet to the area. Eventually a member of one of the the feuding teams, stepped up to the front line, eyed up the opposition, selected the weakest member of the pack, rolled back his arm and floored the bastard! Everyone stopped in mid swing/drunken punch, stared in awe at the source of the flooring and immediately granted the puncher God like status. A pack of cigarettes was located, the two teams sat on the police station steps, smoked and laughed all while drunk guy lay in an unconscious heap on the ground. The police decided not to get involved seeing as the matter had clearly taken care of itself and so returned to their busy evening of soap watching.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

This April, Ian came to Ireland and while he was there he took a number of pictures. Only recently did I learn how to upload images to my blog, so here are a few pictures. The first is of Bunratty Castle followed by Adare Manor, Universty College Cork, and Kilkenny Castle. Yes, there are many castles in Ireland and Ian was dragged along to only a select few ( lady luck was on his side), and was told to enjoy himself and take lots of pictures. I
The weather here is suffering from a nasty dose of schizophrenia. One minute hot,the next cold. Last week I was waking up shivering, but today smacked all that nonsense out of me and provided a pleasantly warm day. Seeing as it was warm I decided on a trip into town to peruse new clothes in stores. what a mistake. Koreans in large numbers annoy the hell out of me. When walking around the main shopping areas of Daegu, the foothpaths are thronged with thousands of people, all ambling along on their two speed gear sticks- go slow and sudden unexpected stop. Now beacuse there are thousands of them and because the streets are a tad on the small side, everyone is compressed sardines in a tin style. You are constantly being pushed, elbowed, smacked by bags, having toes and heels trodden on and worst of all..... when a team of girls that have been blocking the entire street, see a frilly pink hideous fabric number, disguising itself as a "blouse" ( didn't think there were still such things in the world, but rest assured they are the backbone of the Korean women's fashion industry), in a store window and suddenly slam on the brakes causing everyone behind them to bump into them. That sucks. Oddly enough no one here seems to mind. Even if, like me, you purposely push others out of the way just to get through crowds with both shoes on, they appear oblivious to your actions and continue with what they are doing. Wierd. Also evident here are the blatant lack of manners. No one and I mean no one here holds a door open. I was leaving a rather snobby department store today with my arms full, what with shopping bags, bag, phone and stupid Christian fliers in my hands. Two men walked out the main door before me, letting the door swing in my face and while I grappled with said door and my belongings, another guy pushed passed me to get out before me. However, this is not just with me, i have seen Koreans do this to their fellow Koreans and no one seems to care...again. Also on the bus this afternoon, all the seats were occcupied by men in their 50's to 60's. A bunch of old ladies got on the bus at one point, one with a walking stick and another with a dodgy hip and were they offered a seat by these men? No. The saying is that "Manners maketh man", well here it appears to be " Man who is rudest will maketh it". Strange how these things still annoy me even though I have been here so long, but I guess there are other social annoyances that I have become immune to- such as toilet paper on a restaurant table instead of napkins, the inability of the people here to eat with their mouth closed and other such social treats (!) I am excited about Don ( friend from Ireland) coming here as I cannot wait to see what he will have to say about the place.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

This week I managed to get a new alien card, which means that the evil bank witch, daughter of Satan HAS to give me my new ATM card on Monday. Mind you though I am realising that lots of my store cards are gone, so now I really will never know the point of the Body Shop card. In store, each time I purchase something, the Body Shop employees swipe my store card and inform me of my point status. So a few weeks ago I asked if I could use my points for discount purposes and the mare working the counter neighed at me in laughter. So I'll de damned if I know what the purpose of the card is. I hope it's not something fun that I am missing out on due to language barriers. Snort.

Monday, August 22, 2005

I am minus a new bag, various clothes, all my make up, my discman, keys to my apt,my cell phone, all bank and credit cards, Ralph Lauren perfume and the lord knows what else.
Yes, I was robbed. Well not quite robbed, more broken into. On Saturday morning, someone got into Ian's apartment and made off with all my stuff that was in a bag. We presume that the thieves came in to steal his stuff, but got spooked and grabbed the first thing they saw, which happened to be my bag. I am gutted and devastated and I am finding out that loosing your identity is one of the worst things to happen. I have to go through a lengthy process reporting my alien card as missing to the police before i am issued a new one. Without my alien card, I cannot get a new bank card, so today I lost it(temper wise), with the bank staff. I refilled all the forms, the staff matched my information to my previous information, showed them my passport etc and still they refused to issue me a new card. Yet, without a second thought they happily handed over money from my account. Does anyone see the logic here? Cos I really don't.
Also, had to get the locks on my apartment changed door as they got my keys and my identification. Generally, an enormous headache that would easily be remedied were I able to speak the language and not deal with idiots. In KOrea, I am unable to get a new bank card from the bank next door to my school, but I was able to ring my Irish bank and within a matter of minutes a new series of card had been issued. There's red tape and then there is the most illogical thinking ever to grace the planet. Between guys leering in my bathroom window, getting robbed, dealing with the most inefficent people I have encountered in some time, I am just so tired. Just to validate my point regarding inefficiency, when I entered the police station with a rep from my school, the whole police force was seated on their backsides, reading the paper and regarded us as such an inconvenience. When presented with the matter it took them a quarter of an hour to inform us that no, they couldn't help us. More or less they said that their little stamp would not do on my form,as the head honchos in Police HQ,which I presume is somwhere in the "Metropolis", had the bigger better stamp, and that would look so much prettier on my form.

I am rather aggravated at the moment so feel obliged to end before I end up insulting an entire country.

Friday, August 05, 2005

So following my trip to Seoul, Ian and I decided on a whirlwind tour of Busan ( coastal city in Southern Korea, second largest city in the country), and what a delightful cultural insight it proved to be. First insight was the presence of a condom vending machine in our hotel room. Yes, IN our hotel room. All you had to do was insert 1,000 won and out popped a pre-boxed condom. Being the inquisitve person that I am I of course had to insert my two coins and unravel that little number with the speed of ….well.. a person with a great need for speed. Now, the box was a little on the small side and the contents of the box weren’t too far behind. To say that it was a “tight” looking number was an understatement. Ian stared at it in horror, recoiling from its cling film consistency and earthworm sized girth. Still though an innovative way to earn more money. I was surprised by the owner having such items in her hotel rooms, seeing as she was a little old lady that had all the hallmarks of being the two time winner of “Iron Mammy”, such was the level of care being shown to her residents.

Seeing as our room wasn’t really of a 5 star standard, never mind 1 star, we decided to amble around the beach known as Haeundae. Imagine a beach half the size of Tramore beach. Yes? Then pack 800,000 people at least into that confined area and that is life at a Korean beach at peak holiday season. And oddly enough, despite the place being more mobbed than Penney’s on Christmas Eve, it was a strangely enjoyable experience. Ian and I joined in with the “gang” and bought a beach mat, that looked oddly like that tin foil stuff that you put over a person when they are in shock. Neh, kill two birds with one stone and all that. We found a spot on the sand and set up camp with a few beers and indulged in some people gazing. And there was where we learned cultural insight number two. People. In Korea. When at the beach. Go swimming. With all their clothes on. So there I was sitting on my little mat, when I noticed that someone had fallen into the sea and had gotten himself and his clothes and shoes all wet. But, as I started to scan the sea/ sand line, I noticed that at least a few others had suffered this mishap. How careless, I thought, until Ian pointed that the whole 800,000 were doing the same thing. How bizarre! Remember as kids, when your Mum or Dad would kill you for getting into the sea with clothes on, seeing as you could possibly drown to the excess weight. Evidently not a problem in Korea. People here are made of flotable materials. Duh.

I also discovered here that Ian is anal about sand. Well, he is Canadian. I am worn out telling him that a “beach” on the edge of Lake Ontario does not qualify for “beach on the Atlantic” status. At Haeundae, I wasn’t too pushed about the state of our mat, but if I got shouted at once, I got shouted at a hundred times by Ian for getting sand on the mat. It was brilliantly obvious that Ian was oblivious to the fact that we were sitting on SAND. Mind you though, it was rather funny to watch Ian loose his temper every time the Koreans trampled over our mat/shock defense system dragging the better part of the beach over aforementioned mat. Titter.

Also the national obsession with looking perfect and a camera has spread to the beach. A trio of girls sat next to us at about 9pm and spent a good hour or so taking pictures of themselves with the three cell phones, two digital cameras and one Polaroid number they had in their possession. Each picture was determined to be unsuitable as after examining each picture they would all immediately start rectifying the part of their person that was a little camera shy. Hair was brushed, make was reapplied and those all important pouty lips and sulky expressions were perfected. Hilarious.

At about 1am, Haeundae beach was completely thronged. There was barely any moving room. People ranging from those in nappies to those back in nappies were out and about shakin’their thang on the beach. Music was playing from a huge stage at one end of the beach with a spectacular fireworks display in the night sky. It put the Cork Culture Thingy to shame ( even though Cork did set a ship on fire….). I oohed and aawwed with the best of them, staring at the show with child like wonder. And then to bed I went.

The next day we hit the Busan Aquarium. The aquarium was really impressive as it houses so many varities of tropical fish. My personal favourites, apart from the really cute penguins, were the angel fish. These little critters are about the size of a baby’s finger nail. They are transparent with a little coloured blob in their chest cavity and to top it all off, they really do have angel wings! And they swim like angels floating to heaven. My Catholic upbringing fell in love with those little guys. The mock turtles and sharks had me fascinated as well as the eerie looking crabs. We were allowed to hold starfish…. Genuinely like holding a little coloured rock. However, it was not just the fish that amused me. It was interesting to see a stunning 6ft lady with little or no English on the arm of a most unfortunate looking gentleman at the aquarium. A case of Russian prostitute and guy who has no shame. Believe me, Russian Prostitutes stand out a mile here. Although I have been repeatedly questioned regarding my “Russian” nationality……………………

Thursday, August 04, 2005

I have just finished my week long vacation here. Due to unfortunate financial circumstances, I was forced to stay within the borders of Korea and was surprised by the right rollicking good time I had within them. On day one, I stayed in bed far too late, so achieved nothing, day two went to CostCo and almost wet myself over discovering blocks of real cheese, and day three went to the Korean Tesco to buy socks. Seeing as there was genuine danger of me overdosing on fun, Maebh came to my rescue and so we decided on a trip to Seoul. We took the KTX there,( think TGV). CIE needs to send its engineers on a field trip to Korea. The rail network here is incredible- it is fast, efficient and more than half the price of Irish rail. Maebh and I also noted that the KTX appears to be immune to the "leaves on the track" phenomenon. We were able to complete a Cork-Dublin (distance wise) trip in less than an hour and a half, ( incl. stops) for about E20. Got to Seoul and decided to amble around the city for a while. Ambling was easier said than done. It was far too hot for me. I was dripping sweat, grumpy and dying for some form of air conditioning. We visited Deoksugung palace in the city, which is a beautiful blend of Korean traditional and English Georgian architecture. Following that we watched a re enactment of the changing of the Korean guard. It was stiflingly hot at that point, but my inner pain was temporarily halted by the sight of one of the guard's on "drum" duty accidentally smack himself in the eye with his little drumstick number. I swear, if I knew the proper names of the "drum" and drumstick" I would place them here, but seeing as I never listen, that just is not going to happen. However, en route to a subway we found a huge bookstore with a dazzling selection of English books. It was not the books that did it for me, but the tear inducing choice of magazines. I left clutching three copies of Marie Claire. I though Maebh was going to have to hit me with a shot of Ridlin to calm my excitement. We ventured to Insadong afterwards, which is noted as being the art centre of Seoul. Perhaps because I am European and have come to learn that "art centre" signifies multiple galleries, street painters, crafts etc.. on display, was the reason for my disappointment in the area. Every single store stocked the exact same produce and seemed to exist for the sole reason of draining tourists of their money. Seeing as there was nothing there to hold our attention Maebh and I travelled to a super area in Seoul called, Sinchon. It is a student area of the city so is littered with lots of bars and restaurants. We found our hotel, settled in and then journeyed to Itaewon for some food. Itaewon is one of the most hideous places I have ever been to. It is the "Western" part of Seoul, so called because of all the Western bars and restaurants there. Also of note are all the American GI's and sleazy lecherous Pakistani's. Maebh and I were looking for an Italian restaurant, got lost and ended up on Hooker Hill ( don’t think I need to explain that one) and then down some dodgy side street with less then honest looking individuals. After we almost ran screaming from the area, we came across the Italian. It was a cute little place, but infected with loud-mouthed, rude Americans who were hell bent on making the waitress’ life hell. Americans wonder why we dislike them, and while in a foreign country I am open to all and sundry, but it is people like that who tarnish a country’s image. I could continue at length about the Korean hookers and the persistent GI, but that just brings back far too many nasty memories. We made a rapid escape to the Sinchon area where the only thing we had to avoid were tipsy, silly Korean students, determined to yell “Hello” to the two foreigners.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Went to a new bar in town tonight. Basement number with so trendy it hurts interior and accessories. Funniest part was when we sat down. The bar man offered us a menu and upon perusal we realised it was not a menu for the alcohol selection, but for the music. In menu format came all the cd's you could wish for, with a synopsis of each one and a photo ( should one mix ones album covers). Could this place be any cooler I thought? Indeed so dear reader, as the bathrooms were awaiting my keen eye. It is truly amazing what someone can create with a stencil and a few cans of spray paint.

Mind you this trendier than thou interior notion only works in some places. There is a little store in town that has been a favourite of mine for purchasing cheesy Korean things as well as cosmetics, household stuff etc... However in recent weeks, the nasty people of this store have decided to change the layout and content of the store so much so that ambling around the joint feels as though one is gazing at Swarovski crystals and not some inanimate object that was knocked off by a non union worker for the cost of sending a child to school in Mali for a week. When you now enter the place you are no longer bombarded by pound shop type goods, but to access the butterfly shaped "diamond" encrusted hair accessories, the only way of doing so is by stepping over a man made in-store stream complete with fake fish. You have no idea how much that confused me as I spent ages looking for the "bridge" until the nice store people informed me that i would have to step on the "boulders" in the stream or jump over it. Not very wheel chair friendly is what I thought. The place wouldn't last a day in law suit happy Ireland

Friday, July 22, 2005

On Wednesday I had Gym class with the baby preschoolers. Now think of gym class that we had in school and then completely erase all such memories as the concept of gym class in my school is in a class of its own. I was told that I had to let the students ( aged 4) listen to classical music and the let them draw pictures based on what they were listening to. What? Cos that’ll get their blood pumping. I thought that was the kind of thing that was done with slightly deranged people. Anyway seeing as it was 930 am I was in no form to cause a fuss, so set about finding some classical music cd’s. I found one that claimed to be “Perfect For Romantic Situations”, so figured that would do. Went to class, put on said CD and got treated to European Nineties style dance and not something in A Minor by some geezer that had one ball, was deaf and blind, an arthritic sufferer and all round musical genius that no one realized until he was dead. That was not on, but the kids seemed to like it, as they all hopped up and started gyrating to the oomph oomph oomph beat. Rather amusing to watch a bunch of Korean 4 year olds shakin’ their thang to a German nightclub institution. So back I went to the office to find something more suitable for the awakening of a young mind. I failed to anything even resembling classical music, but instead in the middle of Korea found a Northern Ireland Tourist Board issued, battered tape of Phil Coulter and James Galway, featuring such gems as “Danny Boy”, “Raglan Road” and the “Thornbirds” theme.

Didn’t go down too well with the kids, but I treated them to my own personal rendition of Danny Boy. A moment they will forever treasure
So this week was a fun one. On Monday we did a cooking class with our preschoolers. I know, me teaching people to cook. Not a very sensible move on the part of my head teacher, but beggars really can't be choosers. However the "cooking" really was not the best word to use to describe the art of cutting up a watermelon, making a sandwich and creating rice cakes. I tried to explain to the teachers that "cooking" implies "heat", "oven" and burning of ones skin. However, they were undeterred in their thinking. Sandwich making was a blast. Not. The melon ensemble proved tasty and I had a right rollicking good time making rice cakes. Rice cakes are balls of rice that have a thick sticky dough like constitency. To make in the non traditional way, the "dough" comes in a cardboard box in a square shape, the dough is torn from the square,pulled and plied to form a mini pizza base shape, red bean paste is added to the centre,the dough is rolled to form a ball and is then rolled in cinammon powder for flavour.In theory. A bunch of 5 year olds see sticky food and think, "Let's wreck the classroom, our clothes, teachers clothes and just about anything else we can touch". Apart from George. George is one of those special kids that appears to have knowledge control issues as it takes him a good half an hour to figure out something, by which time the rest of the class has moved onto something else,while George blurts out the answer to something from a question posed half an hour ago. However,I have an enormous soft spot for George. He was fascinated with the concept of making rice cakes, but the rolling-into-a-ball-process had him completely at a loss. Eventually after much demonstrating and after the other kids had gathered boxes of the things, George eventuallly got to bring home a whole rice cake to his very proud parents.


George however, was not content with just making the rice cakes and found much greater enjoyment from mashing the mix with his fingers that had previously taken up temporary residence in his nostrils and then stuffing said mix into my mouth. No wonder I am sick.

The heat here is slowly starting to kill me. Today saw another 36 degrees. Leaving my apartment is like walking into a brick wall of heat. For the next few weeks I am refusing to mingle with the great outdoors and will be found in places that come equipped with uberforce air conditioning only. Although I have my summer vacation coming up next week so I guess I just might venture outside.... sunshine permitting. Of course I could do the same as the ladies here who are scared stiff of the sun. Women here believe having white skin is a sign of great beauty ( the range of skin whitening products in cosmetic stores is rather terrifying), therefore anything that might tarnish that look is not appreciated. So when they are out and about on the streets of Daegu, many women have little sun parasols held over their heads to shield their faces from the sun. I personally think a good dose of factor 50 would do the trick, but then there is no accounting for taste.

And speaking of taste, Ian, Matt and I went for some food tonight and shock of all shocks, one of the side dishes served consisted of whole potatoes. I almost cried and almost choked as I tried to fit in way too much at once. Maebh will appreciate this joy,as we like to rank galbi restaurants based on whether or not they serve potatoes as a side dish..... I know....

Anway must go look up some medical sites so I have one up on the doctor for tomorrow.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Today is 35 degrees celsius. I am too hot. And am worn out informing everyone. Particularly the person in the office who keeps altering the air con setting from my 18 degrees to her 21 degrees. This means war bitch.

Mind you though the owner of the Pound Shop next to my school complimented me on my new shiny Oakleys this afternoon. They'd want to be nice. Cost me an electricity and gas bill, numerous dinners and a social life to purchase.

I would be ecstatic about getting to go home soon to my air conditioned apt, but the blasted thing keeps making me ill, despite numerous cleanings. Last night I was coughing so much in my sleep due to the air con being on, that i woke up and was almost choking. I have to see the doctor on Saturday again........... yes Dr. Software himself. I am going in with a checklist of questions-doctors-ought-to-ask-the-ill from some medical website, so I can guarantee correct diagnosis. Yes, I am a highly trained medical professional at large............................

The Tesco style "Gary to aisle 5" bell has just rung in the school so off to educate the minds of tomorrow.


Sunday, July 17, 2005

Today saw me achieving nothing other than sleep in far too late, watch tv and, very much against my will, shower. However, Jamie Olivier's School Dinners show is now on Korean tv. I had forgotten how hilarious and annoying the head dinner lady is. The poor lad was trying to creat healthy dinners for 37p. He should have attended my secondary school and taken Home Economics. I was forced to do the class for three years and how I hated every second of it. I am very undomesticated and so viewed Home Economics as an enormous waste of my time.The Irish Education Board failed to agree with me. Every Thursday we had to cook some course assigned meal...all of which I would burn, destroy or reduce to barely palatable messes. Prior to cooking we had to determine the cost of the meal-to-be. We had to factor in ingredients, electricity, gas and something else that must have been unimportant for me to forget. Back in 1995 we were able to churn out a healthy meal( according to the teacher....) for 25p per portion. I think Jamie would have learned a great amount from this class and perhaps, had I paid attention, I too could have achieved international Naked Chef fame and fortune.

Instead I have to haul ass to work tomorrow and I am so reluctant to go. I teach two preschool classes in the morning- the first class is reasonably intelligent, but the second class consists of four boys all aged four. So essentially all I am doing is babysitting a bunch of kids in a language they really do not understand. I think tomorrow is designated colouring day.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Fot those that are interested,please peruse the Daegu website, for some informative facts and cultural updates. I am outraged to hear that I missed out on BoneyM playing as I would have provided a wonderful accopaniment ( i have no idea how to spell that, working with plain phonic abilites on that one), to Daddy Cool. Please note the title on the top left hand corner of the site, City of Environment ( the titles keep slipping to such gems as "City of International Mind" and "Where your dreams come true..apparently pathological lying has reached local council levels). Anyway, Daegu had deluded itself into thinking that sticking a few trees on the main streets constitutes "environmental awareness". Perhaps the word "mental" is in environmental for a reason. Korean attitudes to caring for the environment are questionable- rubbish is abandonded in multiple bags in piles gathering on street corners and drain systems could really do with a dose of Mammy power cleaning. Also of note here is the fact that it is not permissable to throw food waste out as general garbage. Who knew? I probably did, but chose to turn a deaf ear. In Korea, all food waste must be thrown into yellow trash can thingies that are positioned on street corners. Seeing as the procedure shrieks of effort, I have chosen to carefully hide my waste food in amongst papers and the like and casually dump it among the other trash bags. However, I had not reckoned on the might of the cardboard/plastic/glass hunting people scouring through my trash and through incredible powers of deduction, establishing that it is Eileen of Apartment blah blah that has thrown the Daegu rubbish dump out of sync. Yes, I received a fine from the council for throwing out food as general waste and I have no idea how they knew it was me. If I ever find the person who tipped the council off as to my evil ways...............
Even though I have complained for the last number of lines, it is such little things that keep me so fascinated with this country and hope that their quirky little ways will not succumb to the might of the United States of McDonalds Capitalist Notions.
So drinking here is far too easy. A Jack Daniels and Coke will set you back a whopping E3.97. I think that I may indeed find many positive points about this country. However, despite great intentions we failed to make it to the U2 bar and so had to settle for bars downtown where in one bar there was a hideous first year music school type band number attempting to play music. While the bass player was rather talented, the drum player kept dropping his sticks (possibly due to his sporting of rather dark glasses in an already dark basement bar), and the saxophone player needed a lesson in proper air inhalation versus music production.
The next bar produced some old friends and the disturbing realisation that some people really ought not be let near music controllers. Example in point- Ian went to a bar where there is a pc available for all people to download music from the net. Cool you may think. Indeed, until you consider the fact that Audioslave was interrupted by an Irish guy who put paid to the aforementioned song and instead played Tatu "All the Things she Said". I hung my head in shame and attempted to recover Irish/Korean relations. To no avail. The entire bar gazed in great amusement at the speakers wondering who in their right mind felt it was necessary to inflict Russia's greatest export since Sputnik on otherwise sane people.

On the local armed forces TV channel ( the American Army provides me with all the OC that I need. GodBlessAmerica), there is the Christian/Baptist Who knows what is really going on Ministers, insisting that we are all going to hell. I feel obliged to watch them and pay great attention, seeing as other people in the world are paying way more than E3.97 for Jack Daniels and Coke and that is just wrong so I ought to go pray for those that are paying way more and hope that the Vintners Association will listen to my silent prayers
Before launching into full blogging mode, a description is necessary. I am living in a city called Daegu in South Korea. The area that I live in is called Jisan dong and is located at the base of a local mountain range, providing some refreshing cold air from the horrible humidity here. Here in Daegu, I am an English teacher at a hagwon ( private school) in Jisan and will be living here for a further ten months.

End of description.

This weekend was supposed to see a fun filled trip to the Mud Festival at Daechon. However a nasty dose of bronchitis brought a halt to such a notion. Apparently medical professionals consider rolling around in wet mud to be hazardous to a set of weakened lungs. My trip to the doctor here was rather intriuging. Any of us who have visited a doctor are familiar with the check up system - you explain what is wrong with you, the doctor conducts a physical examination and then through his powers of medical deduction, determines what is wrong with you. Not in Korea. No. Why bother with such time consuming activities when it is far more easier to input the symptoms into a computer software system and see what it spits out for a diagnosis. While I am sure the local doctor here did indeed attend medical school, I was rather perturbed by his lack of trust in his own skills and feeling more at home with his PC and software systems, ( although not all that surprising seeing as Korea is the Holy Grail of computer rooms, stores , users, etc..) So after inputting my symptoms, the "doctor" informed me that I had bronchitis. Righto I thought, a prescription and a day of rest should have me in tip top shape. A trip to the pharmacist here is another interesting little venture. As you all know, in Ireland, a pharmacist will give you medication in the tube/bottle/container it was made in or give you a container, holding the dosage you have been instructed to take. Here, it is simplifed to such an extent that if you manage to mix up your dosage you really ought to get a smack. My dosage instructions were to take 8 pills three times a day, and so the pharmacist put my dosages into little plastic bags that are all joined together for idiot proof medication. I think i am feeling a little better..........

A trend that is taking over South Korea at the moment is the sporting of rubber bands on one's wrist. These are not to be confused with the yellow Lance Armstrong numbers, these are benefical to your health while being the ultimate fashion statement, so not to be one to miss out on such a concept, I tore into the nearest pharmacist to get myself one. Everyone here from baby to OAP is wearing these things, but the exact purpose of them is rather mystifing. When questioned, Koreans say that they are "good for your health". When pressed further, they seem oblivious to the exact "good" and seem content to accept the good for health sell. However, some of Maebh's university students informed her that the purpose of the band is to relax the body and mind. However mine is an anion bracelet and no one seems to know what it is they do, other than prevent early death.I remain unconvinced, but still keep sporting the thing.

Ian and I are on a Sideways buzz at the moment. For those that are unaware, it is a novel by Rex Pickett ( now a movie), set in the Californian vineyard area, where the lead character has a disturbing passion for Pinot wines. After reading about it, Ian and I decided that we had to try a Pinot, so this afternoon and trucked into town to buy a bottle of aforementioned wine. Wine here is pretty expensive as it is not very common and is preferred by Korea's wealthy eilte, therefore adding a hefty price tag to each bottle. However, I was able to locate a bottle for a reasonable amount and so am sitting back and enjoying a few glassed before going for galbi with Ian, Maebh and a few more friends and then onto a local bar called U2. If there isn't something from the "Joshua Tree" playing, I will be greatly disappointed.