Monday, September 25, 2006

Working life

Working life has been good. We're currently in our fifth week of teaching since our arrival and the weeks have just flown by. There hasn't been as much time to get out and about, but in a way that's a good thing because teaching is less tiring than being a tourist.

This is the view from the back window of my apartment. I like to think that the multiple stairwells give the place a quasi-mediterranean feel. They also remind me of those Escher drawings. The neighbours are pretty quiet, although one old man likes to look at me if I leave my window open in the morning.

Hey look it's the same photo. Actually this one has rain in it. The other week it just poured and poured for about 24 hours. I was in another area later that day and the wind was really strong, blowing everyone's umbrella inside out and rendering them useless. I also saw a 3 metre sign for a net cafe come crashing down and hit someone's car. Then the wind picked it up and sent it hurtling down the street. Later I found out that a small typhoon had brushed past the coast.

This is our subway station during rush hour. We like the area we live in but it's very quiet and mildly uneventful. Except for trucks in the early morning that drive past right outside my window announcing grocery prices through a loudspeaker. I sometimes curse them from under my pillow.

Some BBQ places are much better than others. This one in Seomyeon is a little more expensive but you get these nice little rolled up beef thingies that aren't common elsewhere. That big grey thing there is a live octopus frying itself nicely for us. Actually it was dead, but you can get them alive if it tickles your fancy. My fancy hasn't been tickled yet, but times may change.

Not too far away from us is a Lotte department store. Lotte is a burgeoning corporate behemoth that likes to build apartments, department stores and compartments for things. They also make things that don't rhyme with 'department', but I wanted to showcase my poetic skills. Anyway, out the front they have a big globe of the world. It's nice, but someone stuck the Australia cut-out on backwards. And Tasmania must have fallen off.

Recently we went back to Foxy bar, a large nightclub with hip-hop upstairs and techno downstairs. It's pretty good and has a nice crowd. There's a cigarette stand on the bottom floor, with cutely dressed cigarette-ladies dancing to the music.

Halfway through the night, one of the bartenders started juggling fire bottles. Then he lit up a 6-storey cocktail fountain on the bar for somebody's birthday.

They also have a balcony area which is a good place to chill out. The building on the left is a part of Judie's Taehwa, which is a famous public bath house in the area. Public baths aren't common in western countries and I've been wanting to see one for a while now. Apparently you get naked and strangers will sometimes offer to scrub your back.

After a night out on the town you can still find food places open in the busy areas. Here we are eating samgyetang, a hot ginseng chicken soup that goes down really well when you're feeling a little exhausted.

On another night it was Cheri's birthday. She's a teacher working with our company and I'm glad she came down to Busan because she's always bubbly. Even without alcohol. Next month we're running in a 5 km public marathon. I should really get back into shape.

It seems that a few years ago Korea experienced an episode of golfing obssession. This is the legacy it left behind, entire department store levels dedicated to golf clothing and accessories. I'm not much of a golfer, but I like the scenery of golf courses. Usually when I play I get bored quickly and end up playing hockey with the golf sticks.

In the same store you can buy everything else, from air purifiers to Australian beef and fresh fish. In the mornings before the store opens you get to watch the staff doing choreographed stretching exercises. At Home Plus they do it at midday too. But back in Seoul I went to some place that had staff on rollerblades who did a choreographed dance in the aisles for the shoppers.

I'm eating out a lot these days, mainly because food is cheap and tasty. It's a bit of a hassle buying groceries because it's only me in the flat and perishables tend to do the obvious. I am also becoming of the opinion that cooking for one is a little depressing. On the other hand, a meal like this will cost you about five bucks with unlimited side dishes.

Recently I made a Korean friend, called Mi-Yeong. She doesn't speak any English, so when we hang out it's a good way to learn each other's language. By combining my flimsy Korean with hand gestures and hieroglyphics, I am usually able to communicate simple ideas. That book in her hand is my Lonely Planet guide to Conversational Korean, pocket edition. I took this photo with my outstretched hand, which is why it's a bit blurry.

When I walk home at night it's always through little side alleys like this one, which are all over the place in residential areas. They weave around the backs of houses and apartment blocks, with the odd stray cat or dog in them. I like the atmosphere in our area because it's really quiet and due to their wobbly nature I imagine that the alleys are probably remnants of older walkways that have been around for generations.

Teaching has been pretty much how I expected it to be. I like teaching and the classes are a decent size so it's been enjoyable so far. This is a part of my tangential lecture on global geography and the extent of Genghis Khan's conquests. I drew that map from memory... pretty good eh?

This is my favourite class, called English Chip 3 during break time. Some of the classes can get a bit sleepy, but in general the students work hard. These students are elementary schoolers and I teach middle school kids as well.

The lessons go for three hours straight with a five minute break on the hour. During the break I let them draw on the board when they've been good. They often like to draw little pictures of poo, or comics referring to me. Sometimes a mixture of both.

What a bunch of little angels. They like to tell me their interesting observations from time to time, like when I have a new pimple on my face or how my voice is too deep for my age. On top of all their normal schoolwork, most of them attend private tuition in their spare time.

The other day I ate naengmyeon, ice-cold noodle soup that is great in warm weather. The noodles are usually made of buckwheat and are black. One of my friends told me that the one I ordered on this day is the Pyongyang variety. Pyongyang is the capital of North Korea and is one of the most isolated countries in the world.

These are the markets of Seomyeon during the daytime. There are a lot of small food stalls and various curiousities to peruse. It reminds me of the Chinatown markets in Malaysia.

And at night Seomyeon reminds me of Sinchon back in Seoul. The people here speak a different dialect of Korean, which I think I'm eventually going to pick up after I live here a while.

Thus far, living in Busan has been as good as I had hoped and teaching is enjoyable. The lesson plans are very structured, but I still have a little freedom to go off on a tangent when I feel like rambling. My next focus is going to be on learning Korean, which could be interesting because I'm a little lazy when it comes to languages. Oh well, I guess we'll see how it goes. Cya!

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