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