Published: November 15th 2011November 14th 2011
Busy street in Nampo-dong
So I've been here over a week now, time is flying by! The last week has been spent observing all of the classes at school, this included some of the Korean classes too. Needless to say, in those lessons I just sat there like a fish out of water pretending I knew what was going on. Although one of them was a cooking lesson so I just sat there eating everything the kids made me - certainly beats sitting in an office I suppose!
The kids seem to find me quite funny, it seems they think I'm some kind of giant hairy monkey (Koreans tend to be quite short and don't have much hair) - so this means they spend a lot of time rubbing you arm hair or stubble and laughing their heads off! So far I have only made one kid cry - a little 3 year old girl called Baily who burst into tears the first time she saw me. I guess I would cry too if I bumped into a gorilla when I was 3. After a couple of lessons though she has got used to me and doesn't bawl her eyes out any more! The
Food stalls near Jagalchi
other funny thing here is that people round this area haven't ever heard an english accent before. Aside from finding it difficult to understand me, they repeat everything I say that sounds funny (like boTTle or waTer - pronouncing the t's - rather than the drawn out American slur). My aim this year is to try and get the whole school talking in a posh english accent, as it's pretty funny hearing them talk with the Queen's English! Although a problem I've been having with this is that the kids don't understand their names spoken with an english accent - I call their name and they won't respond, and then laugh and tell me I'm wrong when they realise what I mean (for example I say 'Dan' and they think it's pronounced 'Den' or something - I still can't say it without them laughing). So rather reluctantly I've been resorting to using an American accent now and then, and saying criminal things like 'garbage' instead of 'rubbish' or spelling 'colour' as 'color'. I will change this at some point I think, this cant go on for the rest of the year!
Friday was my favourite day (or should I
say favorite?!) this week, as it was a holiday in Korea known as 'Pepero Day'. Invented by a chocolate company 'Lotte' (although they make just about everything else here too - fast food, department stores, supermarkets etc......), it is the Korean equivalent of Valentines Day. Everyone gives each other boxes of 'pepero' which is a bit like Mikado I think (a stick dipped in chocolate). Anyway, teachers seem to get given hoardes of it from all the kids, I still have boxes of it in my room! Made a nice change from all the rice I've been eating lately anyway!
The area that I live in is a fairly new part of the city, and I think we are pretty much the only foreigners in town. That along with my height makes me quite a good tourist attraction in the area - when anyone walks past you get gawped at, particularly by kids. I genuinely feel like a celebrity, it's actually quite nice to get the attention (although I'm sure it will soon wear off!). Although no-one has asked for my autograph just yet. I have also managed to lose my phrasebook already, so my sign language is improving
These were alive - I have no idea what they are - anyone shed any light?!
at a rapid rate! I am trying to learn a bit of Korean, but I first have to learn Hangeul (the symbols), and a lot of the sounds are quite similar to each other so it can be difficult to pronounce some things. Everyone is pretty helpful though and don't mind helping you learn so I'm sure I'll be fluent in no time?! Maybe not!
We were lucky enough to get invited to a Korean wedding on Saturday in Jagalchi in Busan. The manager at the school was getting married to the Director's sister and was kind enough to invite us along. It was a Western style wedding (although still quite different - a lot noisier!), but the lunch was served in Jagalchi fish market, which is the largest seafood market in Korea. It was a buffet, and the amount of food there was unbelievable. And I didn't recognise a single thing. So I set about the task of finding out what everything was by choosing one of each - I'm still not entirely sure what half of it was but I ate everything from what they call 'very small octopus' (which you eat whole) to raw catfish to
fish eggs, and the rest. It was a pretty amazing experience! So much so that I found myself back in the fish market on Sunday to look around the actual market. I ended up eating in a little place above the market and just told the guy to get me whatever he wanted. About 10min later he brings over about 8 plates of food. And then every couple of minutes another dish would arrive. Eventually I had I think 16 plates on my table including fish head soup (which looked disgusting but tasted amazing), sushi wrapped in leaves and whole barbequed fish. They really love their side dishes here in Korea (the main one being 'kimchee' which is kind of fermented cabbage - and yes it tastes how it sounds!).
The only real problems I've had have been with shopping. I tried to buy some food so I could start cooking at home but I didn't know what half the stuff in the supermarket was, and it seems they don't have a lot of things that I would usually use at home. So I came out of my first shopping trip with a pack or Oreo's, a bottle of
Fish head soup...
...better than it looks!
Coke and a Snickers. Not exactly the most nutritional meal! I also came home from school one day on my own and found I couldn't get into the lobby of my apartment building - code didn't work. After 3 times of trying I waited for someone to come and went through with them. Got up to my room and the code wouldn't work for the door. Must have changed the codes without telling us. So I went to security and spent about half an hour trying to explain through hand signals my problem, after which he sent another security guard with me to the apartment. Codes were now working fine. Security guard is looking at me like 'you stupid Englishman, what is wrong with you'. Only realised about an hour later I had gone into completely the wrong block of flats and attempted breaking into someone else's place - they all look exactly the same and I had taken a turn too early I think. Stupid Englishman.
So anyway, sorry for the massive essay but so much is going on here! I'll try to make the next one shorter. Well done to those of you that have made it
this far! Here's my address for any of you that might want to send me anything (or look it up on Google or whatever - it's the address of the school but it's best if you send stuff there):
Kid's Club Ocean City
Myung-ho Building F4
Hope you're all doing well back home!
There are more photos below