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.