Saturday, March 28, 2009

6. Commentary

Bright Blue skies but some of the snow still hasn't melted.
Thanks Taji for that insight.

I'll explain some of the pictures to you in a bit more detail, shall I? See when Taji came here then it was a huge deal.. the Principle met him and instantly they got along. Taji invited the teachers and staff to have dinner with us at the Restaurant here, but they politely declined; which Taji wasn't too happy about. It was very difficult for them to say yes because of the costs involved to Taji. So the Principle invited all the teachers and staff to his house for dinner. As you can see in those pictures there were a lot of things served that night. Him and his wife must've been cooking all day to put a spread like that on for us!! He even went as far as buying a box of San Soju, the brand that I love so much; even though he prefers another brand. Taji couldn't stop saying how hospitable everyone was.. how unreservedly nice and utterly welcoming they were. So that was Wednesday.

So that brought about the question of Taji taking them out to dinner. They mulled over it for a while, until I said that Taji would be insulted if they didn't accept his offer (ok so I threw in the.. "in our culture" spiel too). End result is that they agreed and a lot more Soju was drunk. They agreed but still wanted to show Taji a traditional Korean restaurant, so off we went about 10mins out of town to a Tofu restaurant (that's the one with the red sign). Here they made their own Tofu fresh and served a mild Korean rice wine called Makgoli.. and of course we saw through it. They took us here mainly because it'll be cheaper than the other restaurant near my place. I guess this way we were happy and they were happy. And that concluded Thursday.

We went to Yeongwol on Friday night to meet up with Linda and Youngmin and their two daughters (they were my co-teachers last year for all those just tuning in). They took us to a duck restaurant which was pretty average. It was their first time going there too since having two little kids running around makes for a difficult evening out. We downed some Soju there, before heading off to find a motel for the night. As it happened there were no motels or rooms available. Undeterred we went off to Taksabal (the local Friday night bar/pub/restaurant), too meet the boys. To cut a long story short, and I apologise for doing so since I'm still hung-over from this exact night, we met up with most of the teachers in Yeongwol and that meant that the co-teachers wouldn't be too far away. So there were six Aussies there: Me, Taj, Brett, Kurt, Greg, and Rachel (from Taebaek). A few Americans: Mark, Kat, Mel, Blake, and Rach. A pom, Stevo. And finally a Russian, Aleks. Add to that three of my co-teachers from my second school. Take into account Kurts pulling power, which added four Korean girls to the table, who then also invited a few boys. What you end up with is a combined effort of 18 Litres of Beer, some food, and 17 bottles of Soju on the wall. Then we were off to the Norebang so sing out hearts out (and for some to pass out on the couches/floor). The night ended with Taji and I pissed as a panda, catching a reserved Taxi home to Sangdong. So ended Friday.

Now it's Saturday, and Taji and I have just come back from the Restaurant almost cured of our hang-over's (thanks to more beer of course). Taji's having a nap until 4pm and then we're off to Wonju for the night. We'll come back here on Sunday, and maybe have an arvo session with the boys. Then on Monday we're off to Seoul for the night and then Incheon after that. Taji flies out on Tuesday. Now you're up to date!

Taji's language:
Hello in Korean is "An-young-ha-say-yo",
Taji says: ASS-say-yo and thinks he's got it down pat.. just thought I'd share.

There's this place called Sinshigae which is a up-town shopping centre.

Taji saw it and turned it into: SinceYourGay.

Friday, March 27, 2009

5. Amazing - Just Amazing!

PS: A few pictures courtesy of Korean hospitality.
PS: A few pictures courtesy of Korean hospitality.

Thanks Kuk, for inviting me as a guest to write on your blog.

I arrived in Sangdong on Sunday night after leaving Brisbane on midday, Saturday. The trip included flights, stopover, a little nap in a nearby hotel and a couple of bus rides.

Sangdong, is a primitive village remotely situated in the middle of mountains in north/eastern Sth Korea. By western standards all the mod and cons are available at hand.

Without dwelling too much on the geography/topography, climate etc of the place, (that - I leave to you readers who are lucky enough to visit this place to decide for yourselves) I intend to write more on my son Sharads' achievements so far, as a human being in his short 23.5 years of life. After talking at length on various issues with him, man to man of course (that's the way I brought all my 3 boys up in my share of their bringing up from childhood), I find Sharad to be a well balanced, nature caring and emotionally sensitive young man (though his physic sometimes tells a different story). Hehe.

He has acquired a level of thinking which surpasses most in his age group and I firmly believe that coming out in a totally new world and fending for everything himself, setting up a house etc has certainly helped him in his ways now.

I urge you readers who are even slightly inclined this way and circumstance permitting, to go out there in the world and explore it to your hearts content.

Finally, I would like to say this to you Kuk, for as long as you use that head on your shoulders and not head from elsewhere in deciding on life affecting issues, you're just fine. You will go to places where not many people have ever done so in this world.

And to you blog readers, if you feel that I am bragging about Sharad - because he is my son after all - then please disregard that you have ever read this article from the blog.

Suresh (and Taji to you Kuk)

By Guest Blogger: Taji.

Monday, March 23, 2009

4. Taji does Sangdong!

Chilly wind and the sun's shining!
First of all, welcome to Mike! I didn’t know you still read this mate! I passed Hongcheon on the bus to Chuncheon on Friday night.. man it brought so many memories flooding back! I hope you had a grand time back home, and I’m sure we’ll catch up real soon!

My dad (aka Taji) landed in Incheon airport at 04:45am yesterday. We got home around 8:30pm after a little kip and three busses; he was buggered! Though, it would seem he was not quite buggered enough.. HE asked for Soju! Here I am, the biggest soju pusher in all of Yeongwol, and now I finally realise where I got it all from! He just wanted to taste it at first.. but three bottles later we were rightly pissed and about to collapse! Though he loved the stuff; I woke him up this morning to tell him I’m off to work, and the first thing he says is: “Shit, I’m still drunk!”. Hahaha!

He made me some tinned mutton Fiji style and also brought over three packs of roti! I downed four roti’s while drinking the soju and then went to bed content and stuffed! I have a feeling that Taji will fit right in here.. the only obstacle to overcome is the chopsticks.. and then of course the chopsticks while drunk.. other than that everything will work out perfectly!

Just a quick comment on something that just happened at lunch today. We sat there in the cafeteria eating our food when suddenly the Principle made a gagging sort of sound, only ever so softly, and then started to cough like he was choking on something and it needed to come out. I looked up, but not at him; I found myself making sure to avoid his gaze, and I looked at all the other teachers and they were all very suddenly interested in their food. I thought about what had happened on the way back to the staffroom and figured it out. Where in western society we'd ask if he was ok, or go and get him some water, here they pretend like its not happening. I concluded that to see the Principle (a man of high authority) in a moment of weakness is not something we should ever do. See, he would lose face in front of his staff is anyone were to ask him if he was ok. Its a little difficult to explain exactly what I mean; but I think this is the closest I can bother going into it at the moment.

I hope everything at home is good and everyone't taking care!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


A clear and fine day all round.

Tonight I find myself contemplating home. Very rarely have I thought of home; since I’ve been back from my Christmas visit. It seems as though the longing is still there, and yet the pain once felt is no longer urgent.. rather an inconvenience that happens to ambush me at unsuspecting times hoping to catch me off guard. Home is no longer an end goal, rather a base of operations. My heart is beginning to realise that it will never be the same place it had once been. I will by no means be able to slip into society, work, friends, after having experienced what I have. My mind now will forever be curious as to the next adventure and the next culture that presents itself. I have begun to understand that there is no longer a place for me in my previous life.

Friday, March 6, 2009

2. Lamb or Mutton?

Started as gusting sleet, turning into a brilliantly blue day. Still incredibly windy though.
The new principle generally gets presents for coming to a new school. All week I’ve seen a courier carrying pot plants into this school yet I thought nothing of it. This was until I was invited into the Principles office yesterday for some homemade hangover cure (a mixture consisting of ground dried Ginseng and milk), and I was defiantly in for a surprise. Almost every vinyl tile in this office had a decorated pot plant on it! What in the world he’s to do with all these gifts escapes me.

Sleet is evil. I experienced sleet today for the first time in my life. Defined as partially melted snow or a mixture of snow and rain, it really is my least favourite weather option. It just means that it’s still as cold as if it were snowing, but wet (and what’s even more bothering to me is the lack of snowballs). At the moment it’s gusting down with whiplash ferocity.

Boredom is blissful. As I mentioned previously, the school year started this week. Though now, being Friday and the end of the week, I still haven’t done a thing except attended one class with two students. Now the struggle lies between being bored and being lazy. For all those who know me; I’d gladly choose the lazy option, right? Well I’m glad I live up to your expectations; so bored that I crave something to do, yet on the other end of the chopstick, so lazy that I don’t want to do anything constructive. I’ve found a medium, I read a book and facebook.

Facebook, no seriously. Is there any other way of juicing information out of people (with their consent) than through Facebook? Facebook knows what I like and what I dislike, who I’m good friends with, where I’ve been, where I live now, and where I’d love to live, and I’ve only been on for only a few short months. and I’m positive that if Oscar the Grouch sat down with all the information I’ve ever typed into Facebook, then he’d be able to psychoanalyse me to a tee. Next we’ll have Facebook shrinks: “feeling lonely, feeling distressed, feeling something? Simply click on the HelpMe! application and all your worries will instantly vanish” [96,239,229 people have joined this application].

Music is my saviour. Ok I’ll get to that one later. First of all..

Typing saviour. As if it wasn’t bad enough that everything on my computers are in Korean (ie Microsoft office and Windows), now I type in something such as saviour or analyse and It feels the need to correct my spelling as if there was something wrong with it! Honestly, how many squiggly red lines must a guy create before Word realises he’s from Australia!? Criticise, organise, judgement, honour, gaol, gimmeafreakinbreak.

Music is my savior. Over here you’d go crazy from all the Korean babble unless you tune out. I’ve been told thinking too much is a dangerous thing to do, which I somewhat believe. So I tune into my very own radio station at which plays music from the artists I type in and then cross-references them to other like music. Music I’ve never heard of yet music I suddenly realise that I’m quite fond of! For example, I type in Matchbox20 and after a few songs Powderfinger, Coldplay etc etc and now I’m listening to Frou Frou – Let Go, its great! Please visit and subscribe today!

Illogically logical Koreans. If another teacher in Korea were to read that they’d know exactly what I was talking about. But how to explain..? The well-known example, I sit at my desk from 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday, and only teach less than 12 hours a week. Yet, I have to be at my desk for the whole time! Another example just presented itself; forty minutes ago I typed that last sentence. I was told that I needed to teach now! So I left and now I’m back. No warning, no time to prepare, and obviously it was quite the disaster. I taught the 5/6 class, from two different textbooks in the same class. How can I teach them both 40-minute classes without dividing the class? It works well in theory that two fifth graders and two sixth graders can be taught in the same class.. but in practice.. nothing happening!

I love life. The few months were a little difficult (those who have been following from the beginning would know), though now I’m enjoying every second of being here. Sure I have my good and bad days, but if it’s a weekday and I’m interacting with the kids, then it’s automatically a good day! Each and every one of them love to smile and generally be happy.. its inexplicable just how happy these little dudes and dudettes are at times! There’s so much to learn just by observing them. As you can see my qualms are very trivial, I mean who but a very bored person complains about Microsoft Office’s word recognition software and sleet?

Ok that’s enough of my rambling. I’m staying in this weekend I think, just to recover from the Welcome Party and then Thanks for the Welcome Party Party.

PS: Look what I found in Seoul!! :D

Thursday, March 5, 2009

1. Spring Time!

On Monday the school year officially started. Usually I go to my second school (Nokjeon) on Mondays and Wednesdays, so I was expecting to go there but no such luck. They sat me down at my desk and didn’t tell me anything except that the English timetable hasn’t been completed as yet. That was on Monday.. today, being Wednesday, I’m still at my desk doing nothing. The third grade teacher speaks no English whatsoever, though I can tell that she’s trying.. she came up to me about ten minutes ago and said “Shib-uh… I… third time… [a lot of rambling in Korean]… co-teacher…” and then left. I think that means that I have a class to teach at 11am (being third period) with her. So now I’m stumped for things to do.. I was supposed to ask the kids about their holidays and then have some fun playing games etc, though I just looked at how many students there are in the class (to choose an appropriate game to play), and there’re two. Two. Two!

I’m not sure if I mentioned it, but most of the teachers have left my school. Now we don’t have a Vice Principle nor a grade five teacher. Mr Joo now takes care of grades five and six: totaling four students. We got a new kitchen lady, so the one who I called Nuna (elder sister) has left. This one, Ms Mira, speaks English really well.. actually better than most of the other teachers. I’m stumped as to why she’s in the cafeteria! Some of the admin staff are still here which is good since they’re more friends of mine than some of the teachers (teachers are always busy). Finally, the new principle is a good man, who loves his Soju. He’s milder than the last guy, not so boisterous but nonetheless still quite jovial. See, we had the Welcome To Gurae dinner last night and the soju poured freely and now we’re all feeling like crap (except for the ladies that is). I’ve also just been informed that we’re dining together once more tonight and that the menu is Duck.. that’s fine by me, but you kinda have to read between the lines here. What she really meant is that we’ll be having Soju and a little duck to make it go down easier. I guess its no surprise really.

Oh and on a final note, I sat next to a kid on the bus today, he would’ve been no older than three, and he was sitting there with his legs dangling no where near the ground, all wrapped up in his blue snow jacket; and he was softly crying to himself. I got worried and asked my friend Mr Hong (the bus driver) what was wrong. He told me in this broken Konglish that he’s crying because his parents had split up and had an argument that morning. I found it hard sitting there next to this poor little boy with huge tears running down his face.. he was just so quiet, as though it was his own problem and that he was doing something wrong in crying about it.

Sorry to leave it on such a sad note, but I want to be able to remember this when I’m back to a mundane life behind a desk somewhere. So now, I still don’t have my timetable, which I’m completely fine with.. I’ve gotten used to the “Korean Style” of last minute information. Being elementary school, it only takes a couple of minutes to prepare for a lesson.

PS: we had a great snow competition yesterday. We got into two teams, I as the leader of one and Mr Jong was the leader of the other. His team won the snowball fight, but my team won the best snowman comp. Here are some pics: