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Ceremonial Lights and Local Conflagrations

IMG_1911The hectic Korean lifestyle is an odd one to adjust to for a weygook. The sparing 10 days’ holiday offered by most hagwons seems a pittance to anyone from Europe (although I’m told it’s generous enough by American standards), and woe betide if you actually use any of your sick days – ie. you’d better be comatose or dead.IMG_1816

Domo-kun, just hanging out.

Domo-kun, just hanging out.

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That’s not to say that 10 days are your lot: as with all countries, there are National Holidays to lust after during the more arduous weeks, and Korea traditionally celebrates about 15 of them a year.

However, if the holiday happens to fall on either a Saturday or a Sunday, tough. It’s fairly common in the West for employers to throw in an extra day either side of the holiday for goodwill, but in Korea you have to hope that the weekend doesn’t eat up too much of your precious midday-wake-up-bacon-breakfast-back-to-bed days.IMG_1845

The most recent holiday, Buddha’s Birthday (seokga tansinil, 석가탄신일) luckily occupied a Monday, allowing us to get away with our previously-mentioned camping trip. While we were away, Gwangju dolled up for the occasion.

A popular form of cultural celebration in Korea is via the medium of lantern displays – illuminated, paper-framed models lining the city’s roads and rivers. This Buddha’s Birthday, historic and traditional figures hover above the rushing water, not to mention such antiquities as Pikachu (despite him/her/it being Japanese) and Korea’s favourite infant’s TV show Pororo. The riverside is especially spectacular towards midnight; while it’s not 100% that the lights will stay on (they indecisively flicked on and off as the hours went on for us), you’ll have the river to yourself.IMG_1920

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Festive soju with our newfound, coincidentally fellow Lancaster Uni alumni mate Si.

Festive soju with our newfound, coincidentally fellow Lancaster Uni alumni mate Si.

On this particularly scenic night, however, a less peaceful, slightly more alarming light display lit the sky; as we walked through the city, we were immediately walled off by a number of fire-engines and police cordons battling with a towering inferno of a building.IMG_1828

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Si, bravely striding past the barrier to have a look.

Si, bravely striding past the barrier to have a look.

The strangest part for me: in the West, social media-ites would be climbing over each other, eager to be the first heroic photographer to earn him/herself an award for capturing this dynamic event, tweeting and posting about the fire as it progressed (and losing interest when it went out). Try as I might, however, I can’t find a single mention of the fire online, despite a significant portion of downtown Gwangju being blocked off to fight it as smoke and embers drifted high above the tallest buildings.IMG_1867

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Maybe they’re just less dramatic here.

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The White Stuff

IMG_8556Time for a (slightly) more up-to-date update.

Reviewing much of my earlier ramblings, I realise that, given particular weather conditions, I am an angry little man. In the summer of 2013, I sweated, fumed and swore as I squelched miserably through crowds of un-moistened, calm people both above and below ground as I barged about the country. I couldn’t possibly have identified more with the ‘rubbish weygook’ stereotype if I’d actually wanted to: I was cranky, vague from the heat (the only Hangeul my memory permitted me was either offensive or unrelated to any given conversation), and I offended more passers-by than I could hope to apologise to. Summer is not my friend, and vice versa. [stay tuned 5 months from now, happy readers]IMG_8561 IMG_8672 IMG_8639 IMG_8666

It seems only fair, then, that the polar (so to speak) opposite of Korean weather transforms me into an infantile, happy moron who likes to grin at the sky whenever white stuff falls from it. I came to Gwangju preparing myself for a disappointing show of snow this winter; nestled in Jeollanam-do, among the southernmost provinces, the city usually has a more mild climate, ie. hotter summers, fewer winters. (This only occurred to me after I’d signed the contract.) That being said, I’m happy to boast that we’ve had no shortage of ice-lined socks and snowball-sodden wool gloves since December.IMG_8624 IMG_8726 IMG_8733 IMG_8545 IMG_7567

Arguably the best part of the weather is the wondrous sight of tiny dogs losing their tiny minds in snowdrifts, charging about with brainless abandon until their pitifully tiny feet are frozen and the snowflake-donuts on their noses have completely obscured their faces. Millie always regrets snowbounding afterwards, yet manages to forget before every new walk – helpfully.IMG_8336 IMG_8360 IMG_8367 IMG_8406 IMG_7561 IMG_8450 IMG_8757IMG_7456
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I only managed to partly cripple myself a few times on the ice, and both times were either heading to, or returning from our Dalk Galbi local so it was a fair trade.

Pre-snow mug.

Pre-snow mug.

Backtracking: Autumn in Gwangju

IMG_7369I believe The Doctor once said something about wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey ‘stuff’ making up the universe, so by that logic I’ll now cram in a few vague observations of autumnal Gwangju, 2014. Spring and Autumn are the two most lauded seasons in Korea, and with good reason; winters here are to be reckoned with and the summers can kill a pasty Englishman on sight, so it stands to reason that the climate wouldn’t half-arse the seasonal vestibules in-between.IMG_8139 IMG_8122 IMG_8102

Arriving in October, we’d optimistically assumed that we’d be missing the wafting tail-end of summer and be welcomed by orange foliage and cool breezes. Sadly, we miscalculated; the seasons were a bit tardy last year, and the heat didn’t give up until well into November. By that point, I’d all but renounced my cool-weather wardrobe and was sulkily preparing for the temperature shock of a capitalised WINTER as soon as December came about.IMG_8128 IMG_8105

Sometime around mid-November, however, colours other than GREEN and SHINY (being a prevalent colour in Korea) started to pop up. On our first joint-school outing with the entire staff, we went on a professional jolly to the multicoloured Gangcheonsan County Park – a local(ish) mountain range, the lofty heights of which were achieved only by our fellow weygooks and our manager Sean – despite having to traverse a 50m-high, creaking suspension bridge with at least one acrophobe in our midst.IMG_7374

The Hans Teachers meets Reservoir Dogs.

The Hans Teachers meets Reservoir Dogs.

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Front to back: Molly, a deeply enthusiastic Perry, Sean’s ear, and Greg.

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The school/s in their entirety.

The school/s in their entirety.

In a further fit of foot-itching wanderlust, we (briefly) went on a nostalgic trip to Seoul – which, reassuringly, instantly filled us with the twitchy English rage we’d missed so dearly. We’d somehow totally missed the Christmas lights around the city when we’d lived right next to it, so on the upside we had new scenery to admire in standstill human traffic. Meg and Molly both bought socks, to ensure the 6-hour round trip wasn’t wasted.

Seoul Subway. We'd missed you.

Seoul Subway. We’d missed you.

Meg's worthwhile socks.

Meg’s worthwhile socks.

Molly's worthwhile and meaningful socks.

Molly’s worthwhile and meaningful socks.

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A very enthusiastic Mario.

A very enthusiastic Mario.

Despite our relocation to the opposite end of Korea, familiar faces followed us; our briefly-met fellow foreigner Mark just so happened to have moved to a school in Yeosu, a local(ish, again) seaport town. Home to the 2012 Yeosu World Expo, the city is a weird blend of close, bustling, typical Korean alleys and great, shiny, hi-tech monoliths left over from the Expo. Sadly, while spectacular the event cost significantly more than it made, so now the whole area is almost totally empty – leaving one with the impression of a post-civilisation, dead city (see: Serenity, Fallout, The Last Of Us etc.) but with shinier edges. The centrepiece of the ‘city’ is a great, arched hall, the ceiling of which is one great 218-metre long digital screen with life-size whales, sharks etc. drifting around; the hall is flanked by escalators and conference halls, which – to my great disappointment – were all sealed off and thus unexplorable. Still, for an overimaginative child of a fictionally-post-apocalyptically-obsessed media generation, I could happily find a stick and flail about on a zombie-hunt for hours.

Meg, yours vanity-struck truly and Mark, all devouring rice-burgers.

Meg, yours vanity-struck truly and Mark, all devouring rice-burgers.

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While a slightly abbreviated season, the punchy colours around Gwangju – a noticeably more floral city than Seoul – are exactly how Lonely Planet et al. advertise them. Sadly, the elegant, swaying, vibrant colours have since been obliterated by a mighty shit-ton of snow. We remain optimistic that Korea will make it up to us on the other side of the contract.IMG_7352

Deck The Halls with Bowls of Kimchi (Fa La La) – Also, Happy New Yesterday

IMG_8689[NOTE: This was intended to be uploaded before New Year. To summarise: it was good and I’m still alive.]

I helpfully documented the cooking process.

I helpfully documented the cooking process.

I type this in the post-joyeux glow of Christmas in Gwangju. I’m on the bus, fiddling with the volatile nature of IOS Autocorrect as we speed away from our token remaining workday this week; while Christmas is a given holiday, nobody East of Dorset seems to have heard of nor gives a fig about Boxing Day, so our festive celebrations have been sandwiched between obnoxiously normal work days.IMG_8690 IMG_8701 IMG_8704

Not to say that Christmas has been compromised. Granted, a few ingredients have been a bit fiddly to come by – our gammon steak was achieved masterfully by Meg pickling the hell out of a block of processed ham, and our options of dead-and-cooked bird included ‘with’ and ‘without’ head – but enough greed has been fulfilled, enough food has been et and enough booze has been quaffed to qualify as a Successful Christmas.

A battle for the ages.

A battle for the ages.

Perhaps a brief summary of events between this and the (shamefully distant) last blog would be considerate. We’re well, truly and properly settled into our big, shiny base of operations, we like our routine and we really like our city. Looking back – much as we loved Namyangju – we made a fair few compromises living in the distant wildlands between Seoul and North Korea, interspersed sporadically with wrath-inducing trips to the most impatient city west of Tokyo. Here, we’re close enough to greenery to feel like we’re breathing actual air whilst having enough access to civilisation that we don’t have to mount an expedition for the weekly shop.

Molly with her miniature polar bear.

Molly with her miniature polar bear.

Our school is absolutely wonderful – more detailed outline surely to follow – to the extent that we haven’t once begrudged actually acting like adults and doing our job. It’s tiring and sometimes feels like it’s turning my brain to soup, but compared to the working hours of our Korean colleagues we have nothing to complain about. Plus, I got a jar of Nutella for Christmas (route to a man’s heart, etc.).
IMG_8038 IMG_8432I suppose a fairly significant side-note: once again, Millie The Slightly Weird Dog lives with us in Korea. As above RE: our school, will expand on the chaos of her transportation in a practical post shortly (something of a blogtacular back-log happening here) – but I’m overjoyed to report that our freakish little Border Collie-like-thing has the daily company of our friends Molly and Perry’s equally minute Pomeranian, essentially removing most of the guilt of going to work for hours. I will be getting home to the sounds of brainless joy and vigorously-sucked underwear shortly.IMG_8061 IMG_8367Rest assured, recent radio silence is a result of overwhelming creative disorganisation and comfort, rather than for a lack of positive things to say. My intention is to put up a few detailed/practical posts concerning Gwangju and Korean bits and bobs; if it happens before 2016, I’ll call it a win.

Homelandpia.

The big blue beautiful bastard. Like a shiny TARDIS.

The big blue beautiful bastard. Like a shiny TARDIS.

I’m writing this after a long, sweltering October summer (!? – still in the Northern hemisphere and thoroughly confused) day of exploring the local sights – by which I mean discovering as many recognisable supermarkets in the city as possible. It’s a very, very tedious hobby.IMG_7295

We’ve had our first week of work, and have our feet up in our brand-new, still-really-messy home in the 22-storey Landpia Officetel.

[Quick appendix: an ‘officetel’ is an example of the Korean/Konglish fetish for dual-word contractions – see also: Chimek = chicken & maekchu (beer), Menbuk = mental breakdown (also a cheery euphemism for tongue-tied conversational brain-farts), Remocon = remote control. In this case, an officetel is a combined office/hotel whereby workers can avoid the tedious commute to work by actually living in the same building – or, live in a residential space which can also accommodate an office. A terrifying but undeniably practical concept.]IMG_7154

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There’s a serious kink for socks in Korea.

Landpia, only a few years old, is big and shiny and exciting and has lifts which go very fast. I’m enraptured. We live on the eleventh floor, so can relax with a sense of aerial superiority over the common folk below (and a sense of awe at our 12+ floor social superiors); and, while our house has a total of two doors – ie. the front door and the bathroom – it still feels like a full house, rather than a big, tiered room. I’ve heard the word ‘mezzanine’ used but feel nowhere near qualified to successfully use it in a sentence.

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The running route, resplendent with bloody-minded fishermen.

The running route, resplendent with bloody-minded fishermen.

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On a more professional note (one does occasionally forget one’s purpose when working as an ESL teacher abroad), this new teaching experience is a huge contrast to our last position in Namyangju. For starters, we live and work smack-dab in the middle of the city, so no ajumma-fields to squelch through when we take a wrong turn. Our lessons are only 30 minutes long, which means that even the most horrific of student ennuyeux can be escaped swiftly; however, so far all the students have been wonderful/rambunctious/slightly sarcastic but in a good way. We actually have breaks in the day. We have our own room. I found a jar of apple sauce belonging to a previous teacher which I haven’t eaten yet but might when nobody’s looking.

The school!

The school!

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Yum.

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As we’ve only had the one week so far – which, honestly, entailed two days of shadowing other teachers, one national holiday and half the students off for midterm tests – a more detailed Life & Times will have to follow later. We’re really excited about working at Han’s School, and are eagerly anticipating not having to nestle in our own clothing while slipping into TV comas in future.

Meg had the artist's treatment at a street festival - results pending...

Meg had the artist’s treatment at a street festival – results pending…

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Also, we’ve discovered Dak Galbi restaurants in the area and will return to England fat as holy hell.IMG_7348

 

A Cross-Countries Trek

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We’re actually in Gwangju, South Korea. Finally.

Four-year anniversary breakfast.

Four-year anniversary breakfast.

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This would normally be the point where I’d use a cocky expletive to proudly declare our arrival at our destination – however, as it stands I’m just bloody glad we’re in the right hemisphere. Who knew, suitcases with broken handles aren’t much fun to pull?IMG_7140

We’ve been staying in a rather fabulous little hotel (not a love motel, as it turns out – either that or we just haven’t found the expected ‘vibrating bed’ function yet) for a few nights now, kicking the final throes of jetlag by totally escaping sunlight and accidentally sleeping until midday. We’ve managed to make a bit of a Korean tour up until this point (appropriately, our hotel is the Hotel Food & Tour, whatever that actually means), the timeline for which started as such:

Meg's reaction to being woken up for this photo.

Meg’s reaction to being woken up for this photo.

Step one: Actually succeed in claiming seat/s on Etihad’s aeroplanes. The journey was essentially successful, save for the vast majority of things which seemed to go miserably wrong.
*despite best intentions, my suitcase was STILL too heavy and I had to throw away two beloved pairs of trousers. RIP, light blue scuffed jeans and tan chinos
*an Abu Dhabi security machine ate my credit card

Abu Dhabi's bafflingly shiny airport interior.

Abu Dhabi’s bafflingly shiny airport interior.

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oh my god dak galbi I missed you

*we intelligently bought FOUR LITRES of classy-bastard alcohol without considering the weight implications for the rest of the journey across the world and then Korea
*we were stuck for (not exaggerating) a full decade at the passport booth with slowly-dislocating collarbones under the weight of baggage
*due to aforementioned passport delay, it took so long for us to get to baggage claims that they’d declared our bags as ‘abandoned’ and would have incinerated my socks (and everything else) had we not stopped them
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IMG_5519*upon finally succeeding in crossing onto Korean soil, we discovered that our solitary remaining credit card didn’t work abroad and prepared to make a life for ourselves within the airport à la Tom Hanks in The Terminal (soon rectified by the fourth attempt at Skyping the bank; danced like insane people and scared a family)
*laboriously pulled ourselves through what felt like every single Seoul subway station we managed to avoid the first time around, and managed to break off my suitcase handle (nearly causing a human avalanche of surprised Koreans when it got stuck on a moving escalator).

Familiar directions...

Familiar directions…

Meg's tactical coat-baby (like a clothing turducken)

Meg’s tactical coat-baby (like a clothing turducken)

However, I list these purely because misfortune is more entertaining than success. To make use of our gleefully-gotten free days before teaching, we opted to push ourselves on our lucky friends and colleagues in Namyangju to see a few familiar sights before Korea 2.0 began. Armed with our duty-free rum and wild, jetlagged stares, we usurped fellow Osan Crew member Hailey’s old room while staying with likewise Korea veteran Lori; in the space of two days we managed to see our old stomping grounds at the lake, briefly meander through the lichen-tastic Jinju Apartments, gorge ourselves to the point of masochism at my desperately missed Dak Galbi restaurant and scared the hell out of our old school director whilst baffled ex-students milled about us. It was wonderfully surreal to see our old workmates, getting soju-slurred with Eric and caffeine-twitchy with Monica respectively – however, one does not marinade in nostalgia when one is expected elsewhere.IMG_5428

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Lori sees you.

Lori sees you.

Ceremonious lakeside gibbon-run.

Ceremonious lakeside gibbon-run.

IMG_5498Fast-forward a day of relative success discovering and figuring out the cross-country KTX bullet train, we left our comfort zone and ventured to Korea’s southern half. Immediately, Gwangju feels different to Seoul; most notably, there’s green stuff lining the streets and you can actually see the sky without branded buildings reflecting it back at you first. Our area, Chipyeong-dong, has everything you need from a built-up commercial district while also being a few minutes’ walk away from long river walks and marshy horizons along the outskirts of the city.

Fleeting doorway shot at Kangs.

Fleeting doorway shot at Kangs.

As it turns out, we have.

As it turns out, we have.

IMG_5478From our (non-pornographically clandestine) hotel  we’ve ventured out to our home-to-be at Landpia (details to follow once we actually move in), and met up with four of our fellow colleagues-to-be at Hans School (same promise as above). Due to self-inflicted terrible timekeeping, I’m actually writing this after our first day of work – however, (see above two addendums) on that note.

Our non-clandestine hotel.

Our non-clandestine hotel.

My Portable(?) Life

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Complete with sentimental message from Dad.

The digital and actual paperwork is through, and we are officially (going to be) On Our Way! To Korea. Again.

The best way to make friends with your neighbours is to play musical instruments constantly.

The best way to make friends with your neighbours is to play musical instruments constantly.

After a few days of convenient weekend getting in the way of actually telling the agency we got our visas, I woke up this morning to a +82 number shouting out of my phone. A very friendly Korean lady tells my bleary and underwear-clad self that our flights have been confirmed, and that we’d better get the hell out of Blighty by 9:25 tomorrow morning (note: some paraphrasing). It’s now 3:30pm the same day, and the living room is a chaotic sea of cables, slippers and knickers – which, on a normal day, might be less stressful.

In a fit of self-indulgence, and because the caffeine’s worn off, I’m using an ill-earned break to remind Future Me what he actually needs to bring with him when he has to carry his entire life abroad for a year, having already decided against a good percentage of my original booty for the sake of packing. As English expats, we get but a single suitcase to take in the plane’s hold (I gather some of our more fortunate Western colleagues get two bags, which doesn’t fill us with murderous jealousy one bit).

My personal haul is as follows:

A whole bunch a’ clothes – which, owing to the fact that Korea actually has seasons (and how) have to be suitable for both blizzards and heatwaves. As such, I have socks ranging from itty-bitty trainer things up to inch-thick Chewbacca feet protectors, and jackets to match:

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Ranging from cool-weather to death-in-the-snow weather.

Ranging from cool-weather to death-in-the-snow weather.

Day-to-day Zombie Apocalypse messenger bag for all situations – for when I have no idea what I’m doing (ie. most days) and need to know that I’ll have something to do wherever I am. Pictured:

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1 – my beloved Scaramanga Leather bag, worn smooth by bashing into my backside for a few years

2 – my wallet, feigning wealth by cramming itself full of receipts from the last decade or so

3 – the single reliably living USB drive I own; a novelty DSLR keyring thing

4 – one pair of abused sunglasses, carrying on the accidental ‘brown’ theme

5 – Meg’s old iPod (so-named Orangensaft), thieved from her while she wasn’t looking

6 – my iPhone 4; not actually as battered as it looks thanks to the invincible case (given to me in Korea last time by a very, very generous Hailey)

7 – because I’m lacking brown leather things, one notebook for ‘ideas’ (ie. surprisingly violent stick-men doodles and bad Hangeul attempts)

8 – my trusty Victorinox penknife, which will NOT be going in my hand luggage (note to self)

9 – iPhone/iPad charger, for when I just can’t get enough Angry Birds in one day

10 – a battered Zippo lighter, because shiny

11 –  SD card reader for my iPad, for when I have to impress people in coffee shops with my incredible artistic ability

12 – Amazon Kindle ebook reader; my phone has about 8 hours’ battery life but this baby has 8 weeks on it. Used to give the impression of intellectualism while reading Terry Pratchett in secret

13 – iPad; slightly douchetastic but 100% essential if I’m running the risk of actually making conversation with people on long journeys

14 – Canon Powershot G15, my backup baby when it’s far too silly to carry an SLR about the place. Good for stalking friends when they don’t realise it.

Meg bullies the luggage.

Meg bullies the luggage.

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And, last but not egotistically least, the ever-present and indispensible camera gear. Very sad to be leaving the battery grip and flash triggers behind for a year, but streamlining must occur somewhere and I’m already down to a single pair of underwear for the year (colleagues-to-be: this is not actually true, please don’t avoid me in the corridor).

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1 – personalised wrist-strap (an alternative to a neck strap for more acrobatic shots), as given by my headteacher Eric last year which I love with all my heart

2 – Canon Speedlite 430EXII; a VERY nice flash irresponsibly gifted to me by my overly generous mother

3 – an all-rounder, slightly antiquated 28-105mm f/3.5 lens, with the slightest of chips in the glass from when I nearly fell down a bloody mountain last year

4 – one variable Neural Density (ND) filter for landscape/sky shots

5 – a slightly tackily-packaged lens cloth I forgot I bought in Korea last year

6 – my beloved 10-22mm f/3.5 lens for when I have to stalk everything in the room in the same moment

7 – one long-loved Canon EOS 60D, which I couldn’t possibly love more if it were my child

8 – the aforementioned backup Canon G15, because it IS a camera after all

9 – after much deliberating, the most practical of my camera bags to bring; the straps don’t really work but it IS stylish

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So, now I’ve publicly stated exactly how pickpocketable I am for the coming few days, I’ll get back on with actually packing. One 4-5am wake-up call and an 18-hour journey to go, and we’ll be jetlagged and confused in Namyangju for a few recuperative days before travelling to the uncharted territory of Gwangju.

Faintly interesting exploits to follow – if you’re really lucky, I’ll get Meg to take a photo of my uncomfrotably pretzel-like form as I sleep ignominiously on the plane.

 

 

 

How To Cook A Teacher

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Us at Swedish wedding.

Hello! It’s been roundabout-almost-specifically-exactly a year since we left Korea. Blowing off the dust (sneezing messily in the process) from this blog, I realise that I’ve actually missed spewing my brain across the Web via inconsistent and rambling updates. However, I also realise that the purpose of a ‘travel blog’ can get a bit diluted when one isn’t actually travelling per se. Fascinating though app achievements and toe-nail pickings may be in certain circles, I blather on enough when I’ve actually got something to say.

So, Fell Out Of The Nest has laid dormant, waiting for its moment to strike/be taken down from WordPress due to inactivity. I’m happy to say it’s looking like the former; we’ve gone and found ourselves another bloody job in Korea.

A brief run-down, catch-up, filling-in and fleshing out of 2014:

* Not much happened

* I saw a woodpecker

* I found a week’s work as a labourer where I made the mistake of cracking an anti-UKIP joke among exclusively UKIP-voting workers

* I wrangled a month’s work as an ESL teacher to Italian students who were (almost entirely) not bastards, and who have reminded me that Instagram is occasionally amusing

* I got an iPad for Christmas 2013 and am seriously running the danger of destroying my relationship due to Family Guy: A Quest For Stuff

*I lived in a Spanish theme park for a week

* I went swimming naked in a Swedish lake with people who were fortuitously also naked

*I went running at least once without soiling myself

*I got another teaching job in Korea while reflecting on how thoroughly underachieving I’ve been in 2014

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Siblings in London.

Now everybody’s on the same page, I thought I’d like to take an indulgent minute to actually provide some faintly helpful information for any fellow emigrants looking to teach abroad. Please note that this IS specific to UK citizens looking to teach in South Korea; Americans and Canadians have a slightly different visa process, but God knows there’s enough blogs like this ‘un out there which could probably help you. Also, South Korea is a touch more anal about documentation, particularly RE: apostilled degrees – other countries often require a blessedly shorter process.

 

Us + 'Mericans in Yorkshire.

Us + ‘Mericans in Yorkshire.

 

An ESL Cookbook: How To Cook A Teacher (In South Korea)

Ingredients
You will need:

*1-2 English humans ripened to at least 18 years, preferably capable of formulating a native English sentence

*One genuine (or not, if you’re crafty) university degree in any subject (but extra points for English/Theatre/Education courses)

*One willing notary public (can be found growing in most good solicitor’s offices)

*One passport per human, whose faces and details should ideally match that of the passport’s.

*At least one teacher recruiting agency (not essential, but recommended) – for suggested companies, links are provided at the bottom of this blog page.

*One resume, or curriculum vitae (CV) with hopefully honest details of previous employment

*One criminal record check (previously CRB, now called DBS but otherwise the same damn thing); please note that any previous murder convictions may affect your employability

*One clothed photo of yourself/selves – Korean schools often like to know what the teacher looks like

* NOT ESSENTIAL BUT RECOMMENDED: I would suggest, at gunpoint if necessary, that you save up to buy a month’s intensive CELTA qualification course. It’s around £1,000 and a month of hella work, but it will make you more attractive than beer-goggles ever could in the eye of prospective employers.

Us + dogs + please don't drool on me

Us + dogs + please don’t drool on me

The Process:

1) Having let your human stew in their home country awhile, have them look at the Wikipedia/Flickr/Facebook/Wordpress/Blogspot pages relating to Korea. What looks good? Does megacity Seoul draw you with its shiny things and bright lights? Or the beach-city of Busan, right on the Eastern Sea’s coasts? Google ‘korea teacher blog’ and see what you find – make sure to choose http://www.felloutofthenest.com for maximum deja vu.

2) Find a recruiter. You can go it alone, but there’s no real benefit; it’s the school who pays them anyway, and you’re more likely to find a dodgy job if you don’t have professional backing.

3) Have a nice, shiny CV to hand – possibly trim down an all-round CV to focus on teaching experience (if any) and/or relevant skills. Send the recruiter your CV as well as a smug mugshot of yourself.

4) Say hi. Make them like you and smile to show you’re not a psychopath (frantic smiles might have an adverse effect). Let the recruiter know your situation – eg. your earliest start date, where do you ideally want to be in Korea, are you travelling with a partner etc.

5) Repeat stages 2-4 a few times with different recruiters: you can up your chances and be more picky with schools if you have a few different parties finding you work.

6) You’ve found a school you like! They’ll probably want an interview, either via phone or Skype; if you’re in the UK, prepare to get up for an 8-9AM (GMT) interview (4-5pm Korean time [KST]). Have a chat, see what the director/manager’s like. Most of the time, they just want to see what you sound/look like, so make sure to be friendly and speak clearly. If you’ve got any questions RE: holidays, working hours etc. then now’s the time. Also, be sure to ask for the contact details of current/past teachers – if the school’s happy for you to talk to the Western teachers it’s probably a good sign!

Us at (first) wedding in England.

Us at (first) wedding in England.

7) The school doesn’t think you’re a weirdo! Now comes the tedious bit. International employment is a bureaucratic pain in the bum, so I’ll expand the above ingredients. For this stage, you’ll need to get/print:

*Your CV/resume
*Your CRB/DBS: they cost about £26 from http://www.disclosurescotland.co.uk/basicdisclosureonline/index.htm , and take 2 weeks to arrive.
*Your original university degree AND a photocopy/scan
*Your passport AND another photocopy/scan
* A Korean visa application form (your recruiter will probably send you one): looks something like this  – http://www.teacheslkorea.com/downloads/Visa%20Application%20Form.pdf

8) A bit of legal fumbling now – you’ll be needing to find a notary public to glance at your degree and DBS for thirty seconds, stamp it with a metal thing and charge you about a hundred quid for it. However, this WILL allow to you to teach in Korea and you WILL make it back sharpish when you’re teaching. Just Google ‘Notary Public’ in your respective city and get a quote from them. Once you have your newly notarised documents…

9) …you need to send them to the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO); everything you need to know about posting it is (refreshingly) well laid-out on the site at https://www.gov.uk/get-document-legalised . It’ll cost you another £30 per document but THINK OF THE TRAVELLING

10) Once you’ve confirmed the job with your school-to-be, print and sign the contract they send you (make sure it matches what you were told about your job!) and cram this into an envelope:

– your signed contract

– your photocopied/scanned passport

– the Korean visa application form

– a Health Check form (supplied by your recruiter)

– Four passport photos of your beautiful face/s

– your CV/s, with your signature somewhere obvious on them

– your apostilled DBS & degree

Then, send all your hard-earned bits of very important but incomprehensible paper to the school in Korea. I don’t know what your address is, but you probably will by now. NOTE: Make sure you send by FedEx or DHL – they can get a bit funny about Royal Mail parcels overseas…

11) Eventually your school will get your stuff to their local immigration office, and will send you your very own number, which you then pass on to the Korean embassy in the UK, along with your passport (which you will NOT have lost by this point). After a week or so you’ll get your passport back with an exciting new visa stuck in the pages.

12) From this point on, your school will be rabid to get you and will aim to arrange a flight date for you. And so, you’re on your way! Try not to punch any schoolchildren in the face – it’s not very nice and most of them study taekwon-do.

I’ve regurgitated all this information mostly because we’ve had to do it AGAIN for our new position teaching in Gwangju, south-South Korea. We’re seriously excited, and not just because we’re going to be living in a building with a helipad.

I hope we get to take the helicopter to school.

Us + sister + friend in Spain.

Us + sister + friend in Spain.

For your info…

Korean Recruiters

Our personal recommendation, having found us great jobs every time in Korea – ask Dan Henrickson at http://www.teacheslkorea.com

Other companies who have been fantastic include:
http://www.flying-cows.com (a British company)
http://www.footprintsrecruiting.com
http://www.opportunitykorea.com
http://www.peoplerecruit.com

Another tactic which worked fantastically for us was to browse the job offerings and, more importantly, post your own CV on http://www.daveseslcafe.com and await responses from schools and recruiters in Korea!

 

 

 

 

 

After The End

An-yeong, OnamI’ve been writing this blog – erratically, I’ll, admit – for over a year. My very first posting I planned for before I even arrived in Korea, just to show my dedication to self-publication! True to human nature, my last posting comes with slightly less exact timing with relation to the end of my year in Korea; I’ve been in England for almost two weeks. But no matter! I can round off one adventure and still keep the story alive.

He said.

My last shot of (other) home.

My last shot of (other) home.

Last Galbi

I write this, be-robed upon the same bed I sought to terraform for a year before Korea, full of oblivious optimism, self-satisfaction and the most hideous English cold conceivable. It figures that, regardless of the East Asian proclivity for weather extremes, it’s vague English meteorology which bungs me up like a cork. Adjusting to England has been a strange process; wheras in Korea I was comfortable with the ten words or so I was capable of squawking at the staff in shops, I have no excuse not to communicate like an intelligent ape-descendent with my fellow Englishfolk. My first extended shop transaction, I forgot basic grammar, my name, how to use CHIP & PIN in the shop and where the exit was. I felt exactly as foreign as in Korea – but I think I’m getting the hang of it now. Also, I have found it’s more of a subtle art swearing at people who actually understand the profanities you’re using.

Buglife Last Run Last LakeDragonspy

The last known location of Josh & Chris.

The last known location of Josh & Chris.

Outta IncheonOur return-journey from Korea, I’m ecstatic to say, is OVER. Not because I’m glad to be rid of Korea – far from it – but, in the grand scheme of Enjoyable Adventures, this particular journey wasn’t. Our flight route took us from INCHEON – MOSCOW – PARIS [stay in hotel overnight] – CALAIS(train, then meet with Meg’s family + car) – LONDON. Now, to clarify: I try very hard not to adhere to cultural stereotypes. Some are funny – English people are insufferably polite, Americans are hilariously noticeable in a social situation, Korean people REALLY like their reflections etc. etc. – but generally I assume that, to quote Depeche Mode, ‘people are people’ regardless of what you expect of them due to their origins. However – every Russian staff member on Aeroflot scared the hell out of me, and almost every Parisian milked our wallets dry and made us angry (a €25 taxi fare for a four minute drive? Really?). C’est la vie.Under The Seat

Cup DrinkerOn the positive side, Millie was a star the whole journey. Of course we were sat within spittle-range of at least two bawling infants between Korea and Russia, but Millie remained horizontally invisible in her little bag under the chair or on our laps.

 

[NOTE: For anyone wanting to bring their smaller, harrier family members from Korea to England, fly with Aeroflot. The service is diabolical and the water is non-existent, but they will take any (obviously, rabies/tapeworm, etc. – inoculated) animal up to 6kg on the plane with you, saving a WHOLE lot of chaos and worry on your part! Flying to England itself, however, will cost you a hella fee in Heathrow to move your pet – so, as we did, I’d recommend flying to Paris and travelling by land. You’ll save THIS much money and your dog/cat/ferret/pig/flying monkey can stay with you the whole time.]

Parisian RainWe were in Moscow for a total of twenty-five very rushed minutes, and spent the trans-European flight chatting to a lovely bearded Frenchman about the merits of travelling. After this point, however, the journey gets a bit squiffy. Remember, we’re carrying three huge suitcases, three cabin-bags and a dog amounting to exactly 99kg between us – and, helpfully, the third of our enormous bags is naught but torn fabric and purely theoretical wheels by this point.Paris Boudoir

 

 

Spiral Stairs

The bags stayed PUT.

Carting that amount of luggage across the world is a Herculean feat, particularly when it comes to physically carrying the buggers yourself. Wobbling and sliding our ways through the labyrinthine Gare du Nord was somewhat undignified, as was attempting to lift said luggage up four floors of serpentine Bohemian staircases when we finally found our Moulin Rouge-esque hotel. Va te faire foutre, quoth we, and instead just took out whatever clothes we needed, leaving the behemoths downstairs.Armed Youths

Paris, yeah?Gare du NordIn the morning, we succeed in returning to the station (only €12 for three minutes’ journey this time), avoiding truant youths attempting to cheat money and cigarettes out of passers-by before themselves being chased, screaming, out of the station by enormous guards; navigating through the crowds of passengers and alarmingly fully-automatically armed soldiers, we found our train. All 18 carriages of it. Of course, due to the unwieldy size of our luggage and excruciating effort in carrying it, and to the general nature of the world, we were in the furthest conceivable carriage, a little under a kilometre down the platform, with five minutes until the train left. Those five minutes were, quite possibly, the worst of the whole bastard journey.

Frenchland

IMG_2894 IMG_2898 IMG_2901 IMG_2912

Meg's LandFrom that point on, the journey’s effort and reflections we passed onto the family. Meg’s mum and brother, having just driven from London to Calais via the cattle-grid-esque le Shuttle, retrieved our weak forms from the train, squashed us into a slightly-too-small-but-bloody-comfortable vehicle and, thankfully, took over the rest of the navigation. I believe we were on a train under the sea at one point, but surely that’s delirium talking.

So, here I am, in England. I remember this place.Familiar Countryside

The Osan Crew

The CrewI’ve been in Korea awhile now, and I’ve experienced my share of cultural differences, sights seen etc. etc. – but, naturally (I think) for foreigners living abroad, for sanity’s sake one has to cultivate a group of fellow expats from one’s own culture. However, as I know astonishingly few British people in Korea, I took refuge in that most wondrously somber and infamously subtle culture: America.

Note from the author: Apologies, but there may be a number of photos of the following human specimens already seen in this here blog. As this is a post/mid/pre-nostalgia entry, however, I feel justified in this lack of originaliphotography.

Allow me to introduce…

The Civvies

See also: the teachers, the sleepers, the non-gymers, the (slight) Korean-speakers. The Civvies live their lives in Korea itself, struggling to navigate lurking pots of kimchi and savaged streetside plugogoi every day of their lives.

Moi

Heere's Sweepy!

Yours truly. But screw that guy.

Megan ‘Grumpy Cat’ Coast

Sexy WolfMy sole source of British familiarity and affection, Meg functions as long-suffering girlfriend and the group’s lion-tamer; a force of sheer bloody-minded exercise and motivation, she puts to shame most of your average Spec-Ops personnel with her 10-mile-a-minute gait and rippling abs. When not functioning as fitness poster-child, she is introducing simious (see also: gibbon) running techniques or dominating the men with her sheer indomitability.

Catchphrase: NO.

(disclaimer: I would like to emphasise that Megan is not grumpy herself, per se. She simply takes no excrement from nobody, foo.)

Hailey ‘Chocobo Knight’ GoodwinHowling Wolf

One half of the dynamic Louisiana (read: ‘Leezyana’) duo, Hailey is fellow Final Fantasy geek, lake-diver and lover of life in a sexily-bosomed package. Always the first to throttle others via hugs and embraces, Hailey is the beaming soul of the Osan chickadees – and her resonating battle cries invariably put others to shame.

Catchphrase: Assa! (see also: DRRRRRR!)

Lori ‘Hot Sauce’ Mine

Yo LoriChef extraordinaire, lavish hostess and downer of pints, Lori puts the manly-men to shame with her  multifarious skills. If ever the group manages to organise itself past alcoholism, you can be sure the adventurous Lori will be the Captain Nemo to our slightly unsteady Nautilus as we pave a path of obscenity ‘cross the nation.

Catchphrase: We do this! (with regards to drinking/travelling/immersing selves in mud/caving/bungee-jumping/tattooing/skydiving, etc. etc.)

The Manly-Men Airmen

The Fighters, the Wakers, the Munition Makers – defenders of earth, sea and pub, these gods of raw testosterone and lethality protect us vulnerable lambs in Seoul from the onslaught of the North. With American Steaks for muscles and Red Bull for blood, these are the stuff of legend.

Aaron ‘Obnoxious One’ Miller'Ard-On Aaron

My Souther brother from another mother, Aaron is the complete antithesis of conventional Britishness – which is why I love him entirely.

Chattanooga, Tenessee born and raised,
on the shooting range’s where he spends most of his days,
Rootin’ and tootin’ and shootin’ all day,
Fondlin’ shafts and firin’ blanks (not gay)…

The originator and perpetrator of the majority of the group’s obscenity, Aaron does a fantastic job of balancing precise professionalism at work with obnoxious moronity in the pub. Always the first into the fray, Aaron is usually halfway up the mountain we’ve just decided to walk to. For better (or worse), Aaron is the very embodiment of everything The South is proud of.

Catchphrase: AMERICA! CAW!

Josh ‘Pinkeye’ Peek

Cheeky PeekThis softly spoken man is not to be underestimated. Once you filter out the Aaron Noise, you realize that this smiling man is, in fact, ridiculousness given form; never have I seen a man put so much commitment into waking someone up simply by staring at them for an extended period of time. Usually requesting that you ‘put [any given item or sustenance] in his mouth’ with a straight face, Peek expresses his patriotism not through waggling his arms like an ape, but through small gestures of speech…’mericuh.

Catchphrase: ….’mericuh.

Anthony ‘Pantsony’ Shea

Anfony!I only have a vague recollection of where that awful nickname came from, and I have a suspicious feeling I may have been the one to come up with it while semi-conscious in a hostel. For that, I apologise.

Anthony (to all the British readers, in ‘Mericuh they pronounce the ‘th’ rather than abbreviating to ‘t’. I don’t know why, either), or ‘Anfony’ as I shall now name him, is our international man of mystery: while the other guys are grunting and building and blowing up stuff, mild-mannered gentleman Anfony is masquerading as Kim Jong-Eun himself! Or something. Need-to-know intelligence basis, I suppose.

Catchphrase: [on the subject of British/American spelling] – Why’s there a ‘u’ in the word?

Shawn ‘Dancing Pecs’ Hewitt

Sleepy ShawnThe recently-departed-to-Hawaii-and-therefore-a-bastard Shawn Hewitt, while in another time-zone entirely, is nonetheless still a member of the Osan Crew. He tries to escape, but Anfony can track him with Technology if he flees. Shawn is a towering obelisk of Spartan physique, and we worship him as such; any man who could pec-dance to the Macarena is not a man to be reckoned with. Alas, now he has gone to follow his childhood fantasy of roaming Hawaii painted blue, snarling at passers-by. I pity any girls going by the name Lilo.

Catchphrase: [flexing]

Any and all of the above are freaks of nature whom I value ridiculously highly as friends. I’m English, and therefore obvious indications of affection are an executable offense – but I will happily travel ‘cross the land again, that I might offend other countries alongside you.

Sorry: ‘y’all’.

 

Wolf-Pack