Thursday, May 28, 2009

4. Life, oh Life..

Refreshing, clean, crisp air..
I thought it was time for a midweek update. A few things have happened this week. Yesterday, being Wednesday, just before my class started, I was told:

"Shiv, by the way.. you have an open/demo class with me tomorrow as well as another on Friday and then after that you have to "take care" of classes 3-6 alone for 2 hours while we have a meeting.”
Easily done I thought, we can watch Mr Bean and play some games and have some fun.. that was before:

Oh and I forgot to tell you, the supervisor of The Board of Education wants to evaluate you while you're conducting that class."

Wait it gets better..

"Did I forget to mention.. you've been doing it wrong all these months (we've been very busy, you know), so here is the TEXT BOOK you are supposed to be using. The CD is in Korean, but I'm sure you'll manage."

After this I went off to class to teach.. "Who is teaching with me today?" *Blank faces looking at each other* "Sure thing", I said as I got the hell outta there..

So yesterday the students were completely all over the place.
The day before was a lot more interesting though. I do nothing at all on Tuesday’s but now I’m being forced to come into work and sit at my desk. So after doing nothing all day, I got home and it started hailing!! Places started to flood and everyone was at their windows mesmerized by the heavy rain and pelting ice.
Yesterday, after the heavy rain, I decided to go and explore the riverbank beside my apartment.. I found my Happy Place. Here's the view from it..

This is my Happy Place.. I can lie on it for hours and still be comfortable, its that smooth! All the world is drowned out and all you can hear is the constant rushing of the water while watching the clouds drift slowly by, high above.

This is what it looks like at my school after the rains..
Sangdong, as seen from the Bus Terminal..
Well it's now time for my big performance for the Yeongwol Education Board..

Monday, May 25, 2009

3. MMM Sunshine!

Beautiful, just freakin beautiful!

Living for the weekend, that’s what we do here.. and for good reason too! I’m really hung-over, and quite possibly still a little drunk (see below for reasoning), so I’ll do this in the poonciest way I know how.

Friday 22nd May.
Dear Dinkum-Diary,

Today went off without a hitch! I went to my second school and then after that went to my first ever Korean class. This provinces education board has decided to give bi-monthly Korean classes for their English teachers.. so off I went, bus, taxi and an hour later I was in Bongnae Elementary School. From three-thirty to five we had Yongmin (my ex co-teacher; see previous entries) and Mrs Nam teaching us how to say hello and where we’re from. It was enjoyable enough, but they’re teaching it like we’re supposed to teach English here: drills! Oh well, I had to catch a train to Wonju at five-thirty, to meet Cassie and have a bit of fun.

I got to Wonju at seven pm, met up, and decided to have some coffee. After that we decided we needed something to eat, but we also felt like a couple of beers. So in what can only be described as semi-alchoholic randomness, we made up out minds to get some 김밥 (Korean sushi), and then head over to the Family Mart and sit outside with a couple of Coronas. Note: Family Mart is like a Seven-Eleven or corner store that also sells booz. Over here they don’t really have milk crates instead they have green soju bottle crates. We commandeered a couple of those and sat half on the footpath, half on the road eating Kimbap and drinking Coronas. We had just decided to play a bit of Blackjack, when we saw a Korean guy coming out of the Family Mart with a few beers. As he slowly (and not so steadily) made his way to his girlfriend, in the car, he saw us and started towards us.

“May we join?”, said our soon-to-be-friend Jin-won. That there was where it began; soon we were all playing Blackjack, laughing, and drinking, outside of Family Mart! Jin-won and Chung-hee (I think that were their names) are uni students in Wonju, looking for a good time. Eventually we got the soju out, and after a few more laughs we had decided to go to the Norebang (singing rooms). Jin-won drove us there and the night ended with the exchanging of numbers and the promise that next time we’re in Wonju, to look them up so that we needn’t pay for a motel!

Saturday 23rd May.
Dear Dairy-Diary,

Saturday dawned a little fuzzy around the edges. We had such a great time the night before that we had forgotten to eat dinner! So we were starving! Off we went to the Korean place we got the Kimbap from the night before and had a feast! On our way we found a cane (see attached pictures) which would set off my costume. After brekky, we were off for more coffee, and then to E-Mart to prepare for the nights celebrations. See, Steve and Rachel had a party for their birthdays, though they decided to make it a costume party. Those not dressed up had me and my special tonic to deal with (poor Brett). My ‘special’ tonic is a Chinese wine that Kurt introduced to us, it really has no taste (unless you can call flaming breath a taste), but it’s cheap, nasty, and you can light it up and use the white-blue flame as a candle or cigarette lighter!

Anyway, let’s fast-forward to the party. Cassie and I had got dressed in another motel in Yeongwol and decided to walk over to the bar where the party was being held (a four minute walk). It was the funniest thing though, as we walked people would out-right stop and stare at us going past. One example was of these men standing at the taxi stand, when they saw us coming they got straight up and scurried out of our way! Another was when a man (about 50) who I’ve been buying water from for the past six months, saw us and immediately put his hands together in front of him and bowed so low that it almost made me want to drop the façade. But I was dressed up and “emanating sheer power and respect” (as Kurt had put it), so I had to go along with it.

So what were we dressed as? I still don’t really know. Guesses at the bar were: Bonnie and Clyde, Gentlemen and Lady, Pimp and.. umm.. employee, Mafia Boss, The Underbelly, a Gangster, and some others that I’ve forgotten. Anyway, let me set the scene for you. Taksabal (the bar) is a medium-sized and quite noisy place with wooden floors and small half-stools which are placed around metre-long round tables. These tables were put together so that the foreigners took up half the bar itself. I had been working on my strut on the way to the bar, so when I got to the front door and entered my first instinct was to make an entrance worthy of my guise. In I went with the gorgeous Cassie at my side.. one step onto the wooden floors and I stopped. Nobody had noticed us enter – and I couldn’t have that. With both hand on my wooden cane I tapped the floor thrice in a not-so delicate fashion. What happened next even surprised me (though my guise would never let me show it). The bar went almost dead silent. I stood there with both hands on my cane in front of me and after a couple of seconds I slowly spread my arms out as if to say “whatdya think?”, “whatdya think your doin”, and “forgetaboutit” all at once. The first thing that happened was that the Korean patrons started clapping and cheering.. taking their lead the foreigners caught on and the silence was broken into a unified boisterous laughter.. then the fun really started!

I won’t go into details, but there was a lot of drinking and playing games and general merry-making that lasted until about 2am. Then some people went home, others went to the Norebang, some went to smoke shisha, and still some stayed at the bar. We decided to stay at the bar for a little while before calling it a night. And what a night it was too!

Sunday 24th May.
Dear GlassAndAHalf,
Kurt’s leaving us soon. His contract expires at the end of June and then he’s off to Australia for a while before starting his kick-arse teaching job in Shanghai. This may sound like an excuse, but it really isn’t.. I had the idea to have a nice quite Sunday arvo session, you know.. to spend more time with the guy.. make memories and the like. Brett said he knew of a place where we could actually drink outside in the sun, and not only that but they also sold imported beers! So I called around to the boys to see if they wanted to join us. Kurt, Brett, Blake, Alex, and Mason answered the call and at around 2pm we were having a couple of beers on the side of a mountain overlooking Yeongwol while the sun was shining in all its hot hot glory. As Kurt said, all we needed was a cricket set and we’d have left Korea for a while!

As the afternoon progressed we took it easy (still very hung-over from Saturday nights festivities), and just chatted about a few random things. We played a bit of Blackjack and then a couple of Korean birds joined us. We noticed at around four-pm that not all of us had had breakfast, and this being Korea, we could have almost anything delivered to us no matter where we were. So, what better to cure a hangover, compliment our beers, and at the same time provide a well-rounded nourishing meal, than two boxes of hot, greasy Fried Chicken!

We watched the sun go down over Yeongwol and had an all-round relaxing afternoon. Well.. that was until one of the boys said that they felt like some soju. This high-class boutique tea/coffee/beer place had no soju, but I had about 5 bottles of my tonic left over. So out they came, and before we knew it: it was 10pm, we couldn’t walk straight, and I still had to catch a bus home.

What a weekend!

Monday, 25th May.
Dear Choco,

Today is Monday.. I love Mondays. I have two classes all day, and guess what? I went to one of them and there were no students there! So now I’m guessing I have one class all day. Anyway, I woke up feeling absolutely terrible. Three days straight of drinking will do that to anyone, I guess. I got into work today at eight-thirty and now it’s almost eleven, I’ve done nothing but write in this blog and I’m about to make myself some mid-morning, pick-me-up Tea!

I predict today will go as planned, and I’ll get home at four-thirty. I'll upload pictures (hopefully) and then get some well deserved (not really) sleep!

Until next time,


Confused military personnel, Mother Nature, Me, the Pirate Couple, and a random Korean dude.
We have no idea who these kids were!

Prince Charming.. looking a little terrified for some reason.

What a poser!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

2. Fresh Clams!

Wet, windy, and cold.. again.

I’m feeling much better now.. thank you to everyone for the well wishes and the concern! I figured that I just have to do the exact opposite of what a doctor here tells me, and I’ll be fine. So I stopped taking the meds and I was miraculously healed. On to this weekend’s entry..

My self-proclaimed “special friend” (she feels ‘friend’ just doesn’t do her justice), Cassie and I, spent this past weekend at an Auto Camping & Caravan Park on the beach at Mangsang in Donghae city. It seems to me as though my free time goes from great to magnificent and doesn’t stop there.. this has to be one of the best weekends I’ve had in Korea (and yes, I do realise that I’ve said that before; though such is the nature of spontaneous exploration).

I arrived into Mukho train station on an overcast Thursday evening and met up with Cassie, we caught a cab to the beach and found our caravan. The caravan was a four sleeper with a shower, stove, a large window looking directly at Japan (~520km away), and hidden crevices absolutely everywhere, oh and most importantly: it was a mere two meters from the sand! After settling in and establishing some house rules, we went outside and for the first time ever I dipped my feet into the Sea of Japan, or otherwise known in Korea as the East Sea (avoid making that mistake in front of a Korean.. it’s not pretty!). Needless to say the water was freezing, although at the same time it was incredibly tantalizing.. there’s just something about a beach, or the sea, that has the ability to relax and enthrall at the same time; I could not believe how good it felt just playing in the sand and inhaling the salty air!

After the euphoria had subsided a little, we went back inside and looked for something to settle that sea-induced hunger which always ensues prolonged periods of beach time. Luckily we had bought a pizza in town before going to the beach and had the leftovers to tie us over. Then after pizza and a few beers I was cradled into a trance-like sleep by the endless sound of rolling waves crashing over and over and over again.

Friday dawned slightly cloudy, as I discovered after being woken by Cassie at 5am to see the sunrise, and it only got worse. It was overcast all day and the temperature was dropping, definitely one of the worse things to happen whilst on a beach. We didn’t let that darken our spirits though. We went and explored the huge campsite, peeking into a few Koreans’ tents to smell what’s cooking or to check out their set-up and then caught a bus down into Donghae Fish Market. Cassie had had these delicious crabs that she could not stop thinking about ever since, so she was determined to cook some that evening.. however it was not to be.

The scene at the fish market was hectic (see: for fish market pictures). We asked for six crabs, and she pulled them out of the water, all wriggling and angry but then she kept piling more and more onto it. I said I’d only like six and she said something about 12 or 15. I got the impression that they only sold them in dozens so I asked how much that would be.. a cool 100,000won. After unabashedly accepting defeat, we headed out discouraged and dismayed.. we did what foreigners here typically do: headed to the nearest Family Mart and downed a couple of Corona’s. Walking down a random street we saw an open air market.. we thought we’d have a quick look before deciding the dinner menu.. that led to us buying a kilo of clams (5,000 won) and a random fish (3,000 won) I thought looked cool. Unexpectedly light-hearted, we went off to the nearest and largest grocery store (E-Mart) and bought things to compliment our newly acquired main meals.

I had never cooked clams before so when Cassie placed a clam spaghetti dish in front of me, I was more than a little hesitant.. she was American after all. Parsley, garlic, and white wine steamed the clams’; then al dente spaghetti was stirred through and topped with a splash of olive oil.. all accompanied by a slightly fruity-sweet white wine. Delicious.. the word just doesn’t do it justice. Thinking back now it doesn’t seem all that complicated, and it really wasn’t, but the freshness of the clams was what made the dish come to life! I felt like I should cook something that would allow us to taste the fish itself, so for my entry I pan-fried the fresh fish in a tasty olive oil and seasoned it with a bit of salt. I made a quick dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and a tonne of parsley and ladled it over the cooked fish. All in all we had a splendid meal costing a total of about $AU20..

Saturday didn’t dawn. It covered the oh-so perfect scenery with a miserable cold and gray filter. Inevitably we didn’t want to do anything or go anywhere, but there’s only so much Rummy one can play. So after a mushroom, onion, and cheese omelet for breakfast we were off to walk along the ‘boardwalk’. We found a few places that rented out ATV’s, so we got a couple and went scooting down the beach on them.. it was SO much fun!

After half an hour of that we went and had a coffee to stop everything bouncing around so much, and then found a 김밥 (Kimbap, like a California roll) place and had a light lunch. We then decided that we liked cooking so much that we should go back and get some more seafood.. I mean who knows how long it’d be till we got to have seafood THAT fresh again! So I handed my 5,000 won to the lady and she remembered us to she gave us half a kilo extra and called it “service”. Cassie bought a kilo of prawns. I was impressed by her clam idea that I got to thinking how I would prepare them. I decided that I’d brown some garlic and ginger in oil and throw in some string mushrooms. When they became aromatic I poured in some soy sauce and soju and then put in the clams and steamed away. They turned out great! So we made that the appetizer and then Cassie made her spaghetti but this time with prawns.. It tasted great and the prawns just melted in my mouth, though I still think I preferred the clam pasta. Then we got blind drunk and went to sleep.


Sunday morning and the rain had stopped. The clouds had begun to thin. The first true sunshine came at precisely 12:09. I recall the time because I remember telling Cassie that it seems like something God would do. Check-out was at noon. I travelled two hours to get back home, and Cassie four and half. Pictures are on Cassie’s camera so keep checking for the updated version..

All in all this weekend was exceedingly nice-uh!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

1. A Flock of Geese.


Hot, still and sunny!

It all started a couple of weeks ago when I got the flu. I went to the doctors and he prescribed me some medication (4 pills, 3 times a day). I was on the verge of recovery when I got a fever. I went back to the doctor and he said he underestimated my size and gave me a larger dosage (5 pills, 4 times a day). Six days ago I woke at 3am with a fever, shivering and aches and pains, so I decided I’ll go back on the first bus at 9am. I wont lie, those six hours were terrible, but they were nothing compared to the 30 minute bus ride to the doctor. As I was walking to the bus terminal I noticed that my breathing that become short and shallow.. I thought nothing of it and kept going.. only when I got on the bus, and the breathing didn’t even out, did I start to get a little worried.

I kept on breathing that way for 45 minutes until I got to the doctors surgery. The first thing I asked him was “Why cant I feel my hands and legs?”. Apparently it has to do with the balance of electrolytes.. the sudden rapid increase in heart-rate for such a prolonged period had thrown my balance out of whack and that’s why my legs had cramped up and I couldn’t feel or move my fingers. He told me I was having an anxiety attack and that its all psychological and that I shouldn’t worry. I proceeded to tell him that I worked a total of 14 days last month and am only working 12 this month, what the heck do I have to be stressed about??!! He gave be three shots and increased meds (6 pills, 4 times a day) and the breathing slowed back to normal.

And that’s how it began.

I’ve been having these attacks ever since. I got frustrated with the incompetent blob this guy was being, and decided I’d get better care in a bigger city. So off I went to Wonju. Here’s where the fun really begins!

I walked into the hospital and the first thing I saw was a Gloria Jeans!! That one factor drained the rest of my luck for the day. After we found where we were meant to be going I met my man-nurse and immediately noticed the squirt of blood on his collar.. I defiantly wasn’t in Australia. I was put on a bed in the hallway and here’s what they did to me.

  • Blood Pressure check: 133/88.. normal.

  • Temperature.. normal.

  • E.C.G.. normal.

  • I.V.. This nurse guy was so nervous that he was visibly trembling when searching for the vein. I watched everything he did and I counted.. it took him a total of eight (8) tries to find the vein in my left arm. Each time he pull out a little bit (but not all the way) and stab in another direction.

  • Blood test.. he tried my right wrist this time and found some blood in only five (5) tries. We joked about how 13 stabs must be bad luck so he’d have to poke me at least once more at some point. Sure enough, he didn’t have enough blood to test and went digging for more.

  • Urine test.. normal.

  • Skin test.. This I was sure was purely for the “look he’s a foreigner, lets make him squirm” factor. He inserted a needle half way up my forearm and just below my skin. Then he injected something yellow and what felt like hot molten acid into a lump under my skin. The lump of liquid slowly spread (and cooled, thankfully) and he marked where he’d injected it.

  • X-Ray.. normal.

After all that they told me to wait for a couple of hours while hooked up to the IV. As we were waiting out side we saw this black 4wd pull up and a moment later the two men got out and went to get a bed. They got the patient on the bed and wheeled him inside. I saw a glimpse of his face (covered roughly by a hat) as they passed us by, and his mouth was hanging open.. stone cold dead. Also there was no order whatsoever, the emergency room was littered with moaning and groaning and even screaming people placed anywhere they might be some space.

Tomorrow I’ve decided to go to Seoul and hope that there are some people who might know what they’re doing over there. I’ll keep you updated.