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Month: November, 2012

Trilling Adventures

When one finds oneself in a strange and mystical land, one expects a certain amount of Language Barrier issues. If the geographical tables were turned, it would be a well-meaning Korean making whole conversations out of ‘Hello!’, ‘Sorry!’, ‘Thankyou!’, ‘Delicious!’, ‘Toilet!’ and/or managing an infant’s grasp on counting numbers.

Rebounding off this situation when in the company of native English-speakers, you would imagine that coherent and intelligent conversation would flow enthusiastically, if not maniacally. You would imagine.

Having just returned from a debauched weekend of Chili’s fried animal, undecanted whiskey (who needs glasses?) and Channing Tatum, I feel that I have been initiated into the coping mechanism of my fellow westerners: they make noises at each other instead. In much the same way that any species’ mother knows its infant’s cry, each member of the crew has their own noise to punctuate conversation.

Aaron/Lori: U-Ugh! (something between ‘I’ve stubbed my toe’ and ‘I’m reaching climax’)

Hailey/Juri/Meg: Dr-r-r-r-r-r-r… (the love-child of a distant pneumatic drill and a peturbed Chewbacca)

Other noises include sad whalesong, atonally lyricising hot pocket… , standing by a nearby window and crying America! Caw-caw!, diminuitising any stressful situation by explaining that ain’tnobodygottimeforthat , turkey gobbling, breathy honk-honks, – etc. etc. Miraculously, these did little to prohibit any actual conversation, and did indeed seem to fuel much of the afternoon’s/evening’s/night’s/morning’s/afternoon’s activities.

Any fears of my RAF coat coming across as douche-tastic/ tactless on the US base were allayed quickly, and I had many-a opportunity to brag mercilessly about Grandpa Roy Cumberlidge’s WW2 escapades – hence the jacket, ladies and gents. The usual deep philosophising was had with total strangers, courtesy of Mr. Ethanol, and the usual battering of senses was had the following day. Of course, if there’s one thing the Internet needs more of, it’s people whining about hangovers.

Pointing blame.

This coming weekend brings the celebrated return of my other lady, Ms. 60D, whom I will be retrieving from the repair shop and fondling lovingly in as public a space as possible. If you don’t know who she is, you will have to live with the misunderstood innuendo. For the meanwhile, Meg’s Mr. Sony has served admirably – but the somewhat lessened cam-erection has been a worry of mine this past fortnight. Watch this space for amateur pretentiousness – coming to a blog near you soon.

Juri’s drinking technique baffles us.

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RE: Visiting The Doghouse & Island Hopping

10 points to anyone who gets the RE: pun.

From left: Aaron (mid-grunt), Lori, Hailey & Meg

So, consistency isn’t going to be the word of the year. As a wholly self-motivated project, this blog will suffer greatly at the hands of procrastination and distraction until somebody pays me for it and, as I have yet to wake up as Stephen Fry, I suspect this is a vain hope.

By golly, winter comes with gusto in Namyangju. While we’ve yet to see any snow per se, I have had my inaugural public appearance in the RAF coat this week, and am now the proud owner of yet another pair of murderer’s leather gloves. Until I see Winter with a capital W (ie. with more white stuff blocking the way anywhere), I remain under the conviction that I am meteorologically cursed to never see snow, regardless of my location. For the time being, nadger-shrinking temperatures will suffice.

The Koreans gave us a wide berth.

Last weekend (he said, realising the heinous delay in his autobiographing) was a cultural and environmental Experience in many ways, both Korean and American; along with fellow foreigners Lori, Hailey and Aaron, we embarked on an adventure to Namiseom (Nami Island), an inland island of spectacular autumnal foliage and antisocial ostriches. More on that later.

Firstly, a revelation: when you’re on the other side of Those Loud Bloody Americans, ie. in their company, it’s actually very, very fun. That is to say, it’s fun to act like a twat with absolutely no social inhibitions. Aaron, stationed in a US Air Force base on the North/South Korea DMZ line, is a veritable artist of explosive noises, and both Meg and I found ourselves grunting along with Aaron and the girls before we’d reached Nami’s shore. The ferry took approximately five minutes.

Lori WAS going to eat that chestnut.

Nami is a paradise arboretum and cultural heritage and, as such, is clogged with the inescapable crowd found anywhere in the country. Of particular interest were the ostrich pens, whereupon one could watch well-meaning individuals trying to feed them skittles and crisp wrappers. The birds, it appeared, were keener on savaging any reachable leather items.

Aaron helped me when in need.

I can’t explain this statue, and won’t.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love the Korean Beatles.

Regardless of the disgusting amount of soju imbibed that evening, we kept our promise for the following day by returning to the Yangju dog shelter, despite the perpetual rain throughout the day. Major karma points, we felt. The main result of the Sunday? We now have up to three dogs we want to foster.

Happy the Parkour Dog greets us with enthusiasm

This week has brought little in the way of experiences, other than I’ve sent my beloved camera off to the shop for a spring clean (the rubber is all but gone from the grips, and I needed some lens focus tweaking); as a result, I am bereft of imagination and inconsolable at best. Cactus juice helps.

On History and Striking Children

I type this with a 90p-equivalent bottle of wine in hand, pondering miserably on today’s brats and fanatically following Star Wars: Clone Warsin an attempt at geeky escapism. In lieu of having had any semblance of teenage angst in my youth, I am now going to school in the fear of being picked on, hit, insulted unintelligibly and called ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’.

We love this lady. She keeps us fed on odeng and hoddeok.

Green pancakes filled with honey, sugar and love. On the subject of ‘weight’…

Thusly I defend the reference to casual violence toward those younger and smaller than myself: the school is in possession of a number of admirably-designed implements for striking fear into the hearts of children, if not for simply striking the children themselves. I don’t want to worry anybody that this is a corporal-punishment-endorsing establishment, so to clarify: the weapon of choice is a colourful hammer which squeaks on contact. In response to this fact, I have spent the majority of my employment history in Korea re-enacting key scenes from any Marvel Comics films featuring Thor.

My own thoughts on child abuse/infanticide vary from day to day.

Not to say that all of my students are necessarily the spawns of Satan. A handful of the boys are wonderful and comparatively non-violent, and all but a maverick few of the girls are, by contrast, absolute angels. Included among this number are my adults’ class – a group of four ladies who make the teaching process a dream by not only not physically or verbally abusing me, but also by actually wanting to remember the words I’m throwing at them.

This Thursday – otherwise one of the two weekly lessons I have with Belle, Kelly, Nina and Michelle – myself and Meg were invited out to a walk by a nearby Buddhist temple, ‘to take advantage of the leaves’ as they insisted. They weren’t wrong.

It turned out to be highly educational for all involved; they proved to have suitable English skills to fill me in on the history of the place, and I regurgitated what Buddhist history I remember from secondary-school PhSE (Philosophy & Social Ethics to the layman) for their amusement and enlightenment – if you’ll pardon the pun.

As if this weren’t enough, they also insisted on treating us to an unfamiliarly sumptuous lunch of mushrooms, beef, acorn jelly (slightly less weird than it sounds), seafood pancakes and kimchi. Always with the kimchi. I neglected my camera at the time for the sage of ingestion.

I apologise in advance for taunting you with the following fact as I have no worthwhile photos to prove it – but, upon departure, we saw an elegant driveway rising up the mountain lined exclusively with ornately carved penises. The mansion atop the path was crowned with the most impressive architectural phallus I have yet seen and, if we do not return to this place, I shall be sorely disappointed.

From left: Meg, Michelle, Nina, Kelly & Belle.

People & P(a)laces

One cannot claim to have lived in a country until one encounters and, if possible, embraces as many aspects of its culture as possible. In much the same way, airport stopovers and holidays spent on Facebook behind curtains don’t really count. This coming from the man who is currently battling to stop Star Wars: Force Unleashed from crashing on his laptop may seem a tad hypocritical, but at least I can say this food looks delicious in Korean.

I am fairly sure that I am becoming a slightly more socially tolerant person in public – which is to say that, rather than resorting to passive-aggression, I only think nasty thoughts. You can’t live in Korea and expect to maintain your ideals of ‘crowd logic’ (oxymoronic as the term is). Now, whenever somebody blocks the way on/off a train because they’re busy playing Angry Birds or staring at the English couple, or hocks noisily in the street – we go to our Happy Places and imagine hurling gimchi at them.

In terms of more enjoyable cultural experiences, we finally managed to breach Gyeonbukgung Palace, after previously being locked out by sturdy doors. We unconsciously managed to time it so that we arrived during the changing of the guards; a vibrant display of silk, pointy shoes and enough Oriental weaponry to make the Wachowski brothers salivate.

This was sadly marred by the intervention of another person under the misled assumption that we really, really wanted to let Jesus into our trousers. Chruggers (Christianity Muggers) are like the chuggers (Charity Muggers) of Korea – they can’t be avoided, and can’t be deterred by any claims of Judaism – as it turned out. I should have gone with Hinduism or Islam and hopefully been spared the whites of his eyes as he prayed/foamed for Meg and I to turn from Abraham and accept Jesus into our orifices.

The palace, however, is beautiful; never have I been so jealous of royalty as when I pictured wandering regally about the grounds, admiring the distant palace gates and dispatching servants on errands. I have since decided that my life goal is to own a house which requires a workout to traverse.

Meg is in full Twilight mode in preparation for the final movie next week, and it’s starting to influence my lessons. As it turns out, significantly more boys are fascinated with the series than girls – but they still haven’t memorised werewolf, so ‘Hangman’ clues remain a surprise.