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Envious Winter and Sprung Spring, or The One Where My Computer Died.

Hongdae FameIt’s been a while, chums. I’d like to say it’s entirely the fault of someone else, but I’ve had Toshiba back for at least two weeks now.Sun-Squinters

RainlightUPDATE: Make that roughly two months. I drafted this WAY long ago, but have miraculously managed to procrastinate all this while.

There’s a rather fantastic Korean expression – 꽃샘추위 , or Winter Envies The Spring (the cold envies the flowers, if we’re being specific); the phrase referring to the schizophrenic nature of early-year weather in Korea, where a few days’ unexpectedly hot weather is violently punctuated by a disabling cold/snow snap, leaving you in the delirious state of wandering into town with shorts, an umbrella and thick socks – just in case.What's This?

Pink BlossomNow, however, it has been several months since my last post; the weather has changed from bipolar spring to the more predictable progression of summer, with the living-room thermostat climbing a digit every day or so. In true white-trash fashion, I’m finding vests to be an entirely suitable fashion statement while my rabid beast lolls up and down the apartment. We’ve had a few ominous thunderclaps to emphasise the weather’s confusion, but now I suspect we’re in for the long haul – and my quasi-albino complexion has a gauntlet to run between now and Heathrow.The Guys

A lightning-fast update for those who have nothing better to read – practically every weekend is occupied with some kind of inanity, so I’ll do my best to be concise.

Pre-Sprung WoodsBetween then and now, the predominantly grey topography of wintry Korea has apparently exploded, leaving white-and-pink fallout fragrantly drifting to the green earth. Nonviolently speaking, spring has sprung like a well-coiled Slinky, and it’s driving the dog apeshit.Oblivious

Speaking of the aforementioned minibeast, we’re proud to say that the pathetically tiny 2.4kg animal we rescued in December now weighs a whopping 4kg: that’s about the weight of a slightly indulgent bag of rice.

She Likes Ice-Cream NowA few weeks [months] back, we and the ‘Mericans ventured into Hongdae, douchebag central of students and nightlife in Seoul, wherein lies the exclusive percentage of the local population daring enough to show any skin from the neck down. I don’t mean to say that was the inspiration for going, but that it proves how wild they get here. I might have seen a bare collarbone at one point.Aaron The Gentleman

Shawn's SkillsOur accommodation for the night happened was settled at Big Choi’s Guest House, a discreet and completely welcoming hostel ferreted away in one of Hongdae’s quieter back-allies for the more discerning foreign traveller. Concerning our accommodation, however, we were initially presented with a guiltily dark and quiet room filled with already-unconscious late-night frequent fliers. Our group being who and what they are, conservative use of sound would be a problem. This is the point where our Ukranian, skateboard-toting friend Phil Makarenko (Crackachenko to you, quoth he while skateboarding into a moving bus) reveals the slightly tatty gem of Big Choi’s: an Anne Frank-esque hidden ladder in a tiny cupboard, leading up into the mysterious Attic Room. By ‘mysterious’, I mean ‘mysteriously cosy despite the emphysema-inducing mould apparently used as wallpaper.Manly Portrait

Macarenko's HabitatOn the subject of new discoveries; greet the newly-adopted member of the Obnoxious Crew (actual group name to be confirmed): Anthony Shea, our very own super-duper secret military secrets have-to-kill-you-if-I-tell-you American James Bond. We tend to attract the exciting types.Obnoxious Consumerism

Josh

Lineup

ShawnHowever, Anthony’s initiation coincides with a decidedly more mournful occasion: our pec-dancingly handsome friend Shaun has left us for the somewhat envious shores of Hawaii. Given such a destination, our sadness is entirely selfish and we can only have schadenfreude hope his job is very, very tiring so he can only go to beach every other day (if Shaun’s reading – we love you really. You have been, will be and are missed something fierce).  The leaving ceremony predominantly involved a surprisingly English stubbornness to have a barbeque despite the pissing rain, and the pleasure of having the EOD workshop’s enormous female bulldog, Shelby, enthusiastically humping everybody’s leg.IMG_2426 IMG_2396 IMG_2315 IMG_2337 IMG_2345 IMG_2262

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On a more political note, I gather there’s been some hulabaloo with them familiar-yet-completely-different-and-batshit-crazy neighbours up North: Mr. Kim Jong-Eun said some very hurtful and completely pointless things which were, have been and are entirely ignored by the actual populace of South Korea. It seems the entirety of the world outside of ROK (Republic Of Korea, fyi) had been biting their nails in a pseudo-Cuban Missile Crisis fashion, but the locals honestly couldn’t have given less of a toss. A few of my kids expressed their wisdom in the form of such sentiments as ‘North Korea crazy, teacher,’ or ‘Kim Jong-Eun is dirty psycho and is very very fat.’ With such moral and ethical safeguards as these children, it’s no wonder Jong-Eun’s backed off.Checkertails' Crew

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Oh, I Remember You: Happy 2013…

Lake WalkI hide my face and shame in my hands as to the lateness of this post. The word ‘backlog’ springs to mind – and I blame the puppy entirely.

In true tradition of photography and the Internet, I have taken approximately as many photos of Millie as I have either Meg or myself since arriving in Korea – and then some. Lightroom’s ‘photo tab’ reaching 1,300 photos in need of editing has delayed any autobiographing far past the changing of the year.

So, in summary:

MILLIEConvincingly Innocent

Millie is, without question, the most ridiculous thing we could have acquired whilst living in Korea – and is the most irresponsible thing we could ever manage not to regret. She is under 6 months old, under 3kg, under a foot high and far more intelligent than the majority of dogs I have known. Within a week, she was housetrained, accustomed to being left at home for extended periods and was able to walk without the lead.Puppy For Christmas

The sight of her bounding and vanishing in the snow is justification alone for us saving her life – and we have given up any fantasies of fostering her off to another family. She’s coming to England, and she will see actual fields for the first time.

Apologies in advance – there will be a significant increase of animal photography from here on in.

WORKSanta, 'Cause

School continues in its oddness and wildly bipolar energy levels. Christmas Eve brought the Kang’s Christmas Party; a day devoid of anything resembling work, in favour of chasing sugar-crazed children around the school in full Santa Claus regalia. I have only myself to blame: not twelve hours previously, I made the fate-tempting mistake of saying to Meg, ‘I really, really hope they don’t make me wear a bloody Santa costume’. The fat-man trousers fit nicely, which was an added ego-crushing bonus.

PLAYTrees Lining Snow

For our treasured five days’ holiday, Meg and I had managed to reach Christmas Day itself without forming anything in the way of Holiday Plans. We eventually settled on an expedition to the as-yet undiscovered Songnisan National Park, bundling our wonky-tailed housemate off to fantastic dogsitter Bernadette en-route.

Barking Up The TreeSongnisan was a true revelation on many levels. Firstly, the weather was, for the most part, gloriously sky-blue. Any deviation from such weather was entirely in the form of heavy snowfall, resulting in a staggeringly beautiful mountainscape and real Isolated Mountain Town feel to the place. Finally – and perhaps most fantastically: not a soul could be heard. Since our arrival in Korea, we haven’t experienced anything so aweseomely quiet – so we proceeded to do the honourable thing of seeing how many obnoxious noises we could bounce off the distant slopes.Mountain Town

We almost – but not quite – managed to get up to one of Songnisan’s peaks before realising how laughably unprepared we actually were for the journey. As it transpires, snow + cold weather = ice, and ice + hill = hilarious scenes of foreigners grasping hold of any protruding foliage in a vain attempt to escape death. Next time we will bring crampons, partially so Meg can laugh at the word.

FESTIVE FESTIVITIESOur Card This Year...

Before leaving England, we resigned ourselves to the prospect of a quiet, potentially sad Christmas; we’ve never spent one on our own, and I was slightly worried about how the day would feel. I hadn’t taken into account The Americans, however.Let's Make A Noise Now

A short-ish while before Christmas itself, we all decided that one big, disorganised, obscene, alcoholic occasion would be infinitely superior to three or four sad alcoholic ones. Presents were planned, stockings were stocked and dinner (we thought) was doomed with only two hob-rings to cook for four.

It was a triumph anyway.

It was a triumph anyway.

Or, indeed, five, as we welcome the newest initiate to Team Obnoxious: Shawn Hewitt, fellow airman of Aaron’s and talented lyre bird of any offensive noises thrown at him. Never before have I seen a man so quickly accept insanity and bypass the usual social insecurities which precede it. We were proud.

True Love And ShawnNow, in England we’re a reserved lot. Christmas presents among friends – if, indeed, any – are usually a matter of ‘buying a drink’ or ‘getting a silly joke toy’, or ‘forgetting’ etc. etc. This Christmas, however, a certain amount of pre-planning went into it. So much so that, between our small group, both myself and Hailey each got an Xbox, Aaron got a THX speaker system which reduces sperm count in a three-metre radius and Meg got her very own fitness pole for Korea. Hooray for capitalism, and Merry Christmas to all.Sitting Patiently

I’m unsure if a belated New Year’s Resolution counts, but mine concerns the semi-regular maintenance of this here blog. I realise that such a resolution, including the acknowledgement of the resolution itself, is riddled with noncommitment and nonspecifics. An excellent start.

Night WalkAlso, our adored petit chien just stole practically an entire chicken breast from Meg’s plate without alerting either of us. We don’t know if we should chastise or compliment her.

– On Bigotry and Confucianism.

They guard those cellos with their lives.

Happy Chuseok, everyone! I know you’re all partying already: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuseok

You can feel Meg’s enthusiasm for yet another bloody photo.

So, it’s been another week of blood, sweat and tears in literal amounts; the school has intervened in three otherwise uncommon altercations between students (tears), I have managed to survive the first of my year’s exercise in blistering heat (sweat) – and one of my students absent-mindedly scratched his leg until it bled, prompting all of the other boys in the class to daub their fingers in it and paint themselves tribally (blood). The surreal scene felt a bit Lord Of The Flies, and no – I don’t understand it.

This has also been a week for quiet and completely unjustified rage at the state of the English language and holy s**t I sound like an English teacher. As a foreigner in another land, I would suffer greatly if I harboured any feelings of ‘superiority’ or pretentiousness concerning my own nationality. I do, however, feel my eyebrow pulsing slightly every time the teacher’s book tells us to make the students pronounce ‘fog’ faahg, ‘dog’ darg or ‘bob’ baahb. It’s a dichotomy of whether to teach them English English or American English, which wouldn’t be an issue were it not for the fact that I don’t sound like that when I teach them.

A particularly cropped/fuzzy pic of same heron.

What I believe is a Korean heron zooming about the waterways.

I’m not going to launch into some prehistoric, spittle-fuelled rant about the ‘origins’ of the English language or if anybody in the world speaks it ‘well’ or ‘badly’ – but I had to choke down the pedantic arsehole within me when I held up three different pictures of turtles, tortoises and terrapins and ensured that the Korean students would spend the rest of their lives lazily conglomerating all under the name turtle. It’s a tiny point, but as a tortoise owner it’s one close to my heart. This wrath was not abated by Meg’s discovery of a particularly repulsive article concerning the ‘eventual and inevitable conquering of the flawed English language by the superior American dialect’. Grant Barrett can go headbutt a moving train, in my personal opinion:

[…]The point that Americans are ruining English is enough to puff a Yank up with pride.

Soon we’ll have Sainsbury’s to ourselves! Our victory over English and the English is almost complete.

(-seethe seethe seethe.)

Doesn’t that mean ‘sorrow’?

Hence, bigotry (myself included). I would like to emphasise that I in no way generalise anybody as having such views – merely that I am slightly disappointed in the human race after reading that. The sheer number of (I hope) incorrect red lines under words in this post saddens me; all because I don’t have a fetish for the letter ‘z’ in ’emphasize/generalize…

Aha- there’s ‘joy’.

On a more relevant, less ranting note, last night we had the surprise and privilege of coinciding with Sunny and Amy at a local dak galbi restaurant (oh my god, it was good), which (in true English fashion) promptly led to hours of drinking and bad language skills – on our part, anyway. Sunny, Amy – I’m so sorry for your 3:15am departure. Our colleagues will be very disappointed in us.

Meg has gleefully discovered a Korean variation of rosemary growing with abandon in the area.

To clarify the latter part of the title, my adult morning class (all wonderful beyond a teacher’s dreams, as they basically teach themselves) eventually spiralled into a discussion on Korean/Asian culture, heritage and spiritualism, culminating with a unanimous apology for their ‘bad’ English skills. At this point, we had been discussing Confucian doctrine, ancestral spirits and less-than-positive relationships with in-laws. I remain convinced of their English ability.

A particularly bad shot-from-the-hip photo, but I had to. It’s got pink ears, for god’s sake.

To finish, I would like to apologise for the sheer length of this, and to anybody ‘cross the pond for my rants. I don’t give a hoot about accents, expressions, colloquialisms etc. (for God’s sake, we have Ireland, Wales, Scotland AND England to contend with) – but, as with all aspects of life, I can’t tolerate somebody inflating their opinions to prohibit another life, culture or experience. I don’t want to use the ‘Nazi’ cliché, but I did anyway.

Also, there’s no ‘z’ in ‘apologise’.