Friday Feeling: Good Things for Those Who Wait… However Impatiently

Last month I was very happy to hear from Mother Dearest that she had sent a care package, unfortunately I was less happy when, after 3 and a half weeks I was still waiting upon it… It seems I have considerably less patience than I previously thought. Perhaps my patience is all spent trying to convey the idea that the letter i does not make the long e sound all the time. Today, though after all my waiting, and an awkward almost phonecall to the post office to find out where my DVDs were!

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An Post you beautiful son of a gun!

Hooooray! Mammy you beauty! The package was hiding a very unexpected gift “because they fit in the parcel”: a pair of trousers. No longer will I be Emmet-teacher with only 3 pairs of pants. So my good fortune came around just as I was tiring of waiting for it!

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Perhaps the 80 tea bags caught some customs officer’s eye…Joke’s on you, sucker, it’s not opium!

All in all, I feel great this evening, and I think I now finally understand what the great philosopher Mel B meant when she said she wanted to “zig-a-zig-a”!

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No Rubbing Eyes: The Story of Laser Eye Surgery in Korea

Recently, two of my close friends faced their fears and stared down the barrel of the laser gun, both literally and figuratively, in order to improve their eyesight. Needless to say I was eager to accompany them to the clinic to see what all the fuss is about, and to help them home after surgery of course.

So what is laser eye surgery like in Korea?

Their clinic definitely did not look like this…

Firstly, I must tell you that Jamie and Lindsay did part with that little bit extra cash for a pretty fancy clinic in one of the more affluent areas of town, so you can expect top notch treatment to be mentioned.

Now back to the matter at hand, the clinic. Located on the 14th floor of a rather swanky skyscraper, the clinic set the tone from the very moment we stepped off the elevator. As we walked through the sliding glass doors, we were greeted by a whole host of beautiful receptionists all of whom had decent English. Looking around in awe I wondered if we had happened upon a spa rather than the ophthalmologist’s, everywhere I looked were leather couches and iMacs for those waiting to be seen. Also there were so many smaller private waiting rooms, full of wonders yet to be discovered.

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Friday Feeling: Under the Spotlight

Friday is here at last! I’ve been waiting for this since Monday. This week has been a barrage of checking writing homework for 8 of my classes, this means checking 48 essays for grammar, unity, topic sentences and more. Needless to say I can’t wait to relax this weekend.

The thing about checking so many notebooks, followed by classes, and getting too little sleep at night, is that it takes a toll on your appearance. I must admit that this week I did look a bit rough one or two (or three or four) days, and I was aware that I looked tired and was getting spots like a middle-school student. However, one thing I did not have enough wherewithal to remember was that people would comment on my less-than-dazzling appearance.

Korea is famous for it’s high standards of beauty, and as a Westerner I am not exempt from these standards. As such it was remarked by students and others that I looked tired and had spots this week. How did I forget this would happen? Or perhaps, as I’m sure many of you are asking, why is it ok to notify some of a spot on their own face? They’re probably pretty aware it’s there anyway! Sometimes, the cultural difference baffle and astound me.

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Culture Shot: Pepero Day

If you thought Valentine’s Day was a farce of a commercial holiday, then Korea will once again prove your Western assumptions wrong. Ladies and Gents, I present to you Pepero Day.

Pepero Day is the celebration of a Korean snack food of the same name. These snacks are bread sticks dipped in candy and come in a variety of flavors. They do not sound altogether appetizing, but let me tell you, I managed to put away a sizable amount yesterday…

Pepero

These gifts came from my friends at Muay Thai. One guy even made the ones in the cellophane!

As Valentine’s Day has it’s roots in a celebration of a saint, it’s hard to criticize Hallmark et al. for cashing in on it’s Capitalist potential. Pepero Day on the other hand, has no such origin. Instead, it comes from a 1983 news story, in which two school girls exchanged Pepero in order to become tall and thin like the Pepero sticks. These superstitious, and wildly misguided, girls exchanged these gifts on November 11th, the date that looks most like Pepero sticks. To a simple reasoning, or a homeopath, this logic is sound and the trick should work. Sadly, it doesn’t. I woke this morning at the familiar 5′ 8.5″ (that half is very important to me), and I believe I may have even gained weight in the night!

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One student even took the time to personalize the box!

I digress, however. So seeing that this could be turned into an incredibly marketable phenomenon, the parent company had the day enshrined in the commercial calendar. Now, you can buy Pepero everything, from gift-sets to plush toys. According to Wikipedia the Pepero company make 50% of their annual sales on this day! Not that the same isn’t true for florists and their ilk back home on V-Day I’m sure.

As you can see in the pictures, everyone gets some Pepero on this day, from friends, form teachers, from students. It’s all very cute, which makes it even more Korean, as almost everything here is either cute or for couples, or in this case both!

So now you know folks, the rest of the world also have holidays as outrageous as Valentine’s Day! Gooooooooo Capitalism!!!!

What Do You Mean MY Accent?

Having been inspired by the recent theme of accents on two of my recent follows (Notes from the UK and Not Another Tall Blog) I’ve decided to throw my hat into the ring and weigh in on the subject. As with the others I’ve always regarded myself to have rather a neutral accent, however I’ve come to realise that this may not be the case.

Given that I am an English teacher, accents are incredibly important in my life right now. Typically, teachers in Korea are encouraged to speak and teach only the North American accent, as much of a lark as that it seeing as there are more accents than states, or so I’m told.

So how does this affect me, an Irish native, when trying to teach?

Firstly, I had to rigorously train myself out of the most notable nuances of the Irish accent such as “One, two, tree”, that one was actually an unexpected revelation as I was convinced my TH’s were in perfect working order. The first time a student remarked “Teacherrrr, it’s THree not tree” I wanted to melt into a pupple on the ground and seep out through some unseen crevice (a la Alex Mack). I refrained from correcting the emphasis on the “errrrr” at the end of his “teacher”. I’m definitely not childish enough to respond like that, or at least I wasn’t that time…

You won’t hear such terrible pronunciation from me, the vulgarity on the other hand, is about right!

Secondly, I have also been informed by both co-workers and students that when speaking clearly I tend to slip into a bizarre British accent on words with long vowel sounds. I can neither confirm nor deny this, even though I’ve just spent 5 minutes enunciating lines from a book on my bookshelf. Personally, I feel that rather than inflection or intonation, it is the words I use that my coworkers notice. This may or may not be due to watching altogether too much Downton Abbey though.

So even when watching my own P’s and Q’s (and S’s and R’s and TH’s along with the rest of the letters too) I must be mindful of the accent of those I’m teaching. This is one of the greatest challenges of teaching in Korea as students often refuse to believe that I know how to pronounce the words correctly. Sometimes it’s because a Korean teacher in public school has instilled the incorrect pronunciation in school, other times the incorrect pronunciation comes from Konglish (the unholy amalgamation of Korean and English, whereby words are written in Hangul but are essentially loan words). It often comes as a shock to students that “orange” does not end in an “ee” sound, nor do words ending in H.

However, I always find myself thinking, do we really need to eradicate the “Korean-English” accent beyond the abhorrent “ee”, the stressed second syllable, and my pet hate the added “-uh” to the ends of words such as “nice”? Although the goal of many Koreans is to learn to speak like a native, leaving behind the nuances of their own accent, I feel that so long as my students can be clearly and easily understood and speak with a fluency of a native speaker (I can dream), having a Valley Girl accent is not all that important.

Where does this leave my own accent though? I’m not entirely sure, I fear it may become trapped in accent Limbo, wedged somewhere between Irish, British and North American as though I’ve lived in the States and Britain just long enough to pick up a twang but not the entire accent.

So, readers, teachers, friends, how do you feel about your accent or that of those you teach?

The Weekend on Wednesday

Halfway there folks, it’s finally Wednesday! Although, that said, it’s also already Wednesday and it’s taken me until now to get myself in gear to post the pictures from last weekend’s adventure.

Having had a lazy Saturday going to the “pictures”, as they say in dear old Ireland, to see Gone Girl, we decided to use Sunday to visit the Children’s park for the first time, as we mistook the Citizen’s park for it last time (here’s the scoop on that).

Front Gate

“Reports show Rubik’s Cubes, Hello Kitty, Pooh Bear and Disney are among the best-selling toys. Which should we use in the statue ma’am?” “Yes!”

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Friday Feeling: Time Warped

Happy Halloween everyone!

Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year. Perhaps it’s the brisk autumn air, or maybe the browns and oranges of the trees, but in reality it’s probably the abundance of the chocolate and other treats. I have been know to have a very sweet tooth!

But wait, how is it Halloween? It’s only June right? Nope it’s October, just check out the calendar.

I am genuinely convinced I’ve fallen into a time warp and been sucked forward in time. It does not feel like I’ve been in Korea for 6 and a half months already! How did that happen to fly by?

Bizarre as it is, I’m very excited for school today because not only have we decorated for the occasion but I also get to wear a rockin’ tiger onesie to work. What a time to be alive!!

Have a safe one folks!

Blasting the Blues Away

I know it’s been rather a blue two weeks here in Busan, and you have taken the brunt of it readers, but I have finally blown the homesickness away. Quite literally.

On Saturday evening, after a decidedly unusual meal of chicken soup, which arrived complete with chicken carcass in the bowl, to avoid confusion about the contents, I’m sure (but more on that another time), we headed to the Busan Fireworks Festival on Gwangalli beach. Naturally, with the firework display beginning at 9 we rocked up around 7. This was arguably our second mistake of the day, after the chicken soup.

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Luckily my random photo-snapping resulted in some nice shots!

You see, by the time we arrived 80,000 other inhabitants of Busan, some having camped out all day, had also decided to turn out for the show. So, there we were amidst hundreds of others with similar intentions, debating whether to hike to higher ground to gain a better vantage or to face the reality that we should settle for a beach-side spot and learn our lesson for next year. Ultimately we opted for the latter.

Although our spot was less than ideal, the experience was definitely one of the best so far on my sojourn here in Korea. As you can see from the picture, we were right of center for the show, which gave us some giggles during the “Couples” theme segment when the heart-shaped fireworks looks more phallic than perhaps was intended.

I must admit though, that the atmosphere of the crowd was somewhat subdued, especially given that the population of Busan and it’s brother were there. One girl was even so good as to bring her cat to the festivities. How…kind…of her? Far be it from me to deprive a cat of enjoying nearly an hour of load explosions and flashing lights!

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Friday Feeling: Go and Jump!

What a week it’s been in Hadan-Dong, folks!

Between the rain of Tuesday afternoon and my new endeavor- resuming Muay Thai training, in a Korean gym, I’ve taken a few blows this week.

The major hit I took this week came at training. Try as I may at Muay Thai both last night and Tuesday night, I could not get the hang of of skipping. I’m blaming my lazy left foot, my slender wrists and my inexperience with a skipping rope.

The last of the three may be the real culprit here, as I can count on a single hand the number of times I’ve picked up a skipping rope in my lifetime. It is, it seems, one of those things I tried once and decided I would never be great at and so gave up as a bad job (similar to my fleeting obsession with Gaelic earlier this year). After training echoes of the word “Jump rope” followed by snickers filled my dreams with images of retorting an old favorite of mine “Oh go and jump yourself!!”

Now, I know I lured you to Friday Feeling posts with the promise of music, but this week there is nothing to encapsulate my feeling after my second Muay Thai session last night other than the following:

Only, there’s a word missing in the clip, “rope”. “White men can’t jump rope”. Or at least, this white man can’t!

Alas, the rope may have triumphed today, but I’m not giving up, my ego (and some of my toes) may be bruised, but I’ve thrown my hat, and $110, into the ring so I’m not backing out just yet!

The Rain in Sp….Korea

[NEMA] 3 days 1:30 like Secret Sunshine, sunshade, Gimhae, Busan rainfall alarm, humidity and flooding risk areas to evacuate, go out, please refrain attention to safety

What a wonderful way to start the day! An indecipherable message, from what I can only assume is some form of spy organization. Obviously, they work in some way akin to ISIS from FX’s Archer (as opposed to the unaffiliated, yet similarly initialized ISIS/ISIL of the Middle-East).

This came in at about 8AM this morning in the form of a text message. It’s not the first message of it’s kind, nor do I assume it’s the last. I mean spies always have to communicate right?

In actuality, the message was written in Korean, and it was the infamous Google Translate that resulted in this garbled smattering of warnings followed by negations of said warnings… I surmise the intended purpose was to warn me that it was going to bucket with rain this morning, and thus save me from the thorough soaking I was to receive.

Sodden as I was, I decided to cab it to work, where everyone else was also feeling the effects of the depleting vitamin D levels as a result of the rain. It was thus I found myself standing in class trying to convince the children that the “long O” sound does not make an “ow” sound, I very nearly resorted to the Henry Higgins method of pronunciation coaching just to ease my way into the day.

 

Overall, today has been somewhat of a damp one, but at least the weather is reinforcing what the kids so often tell me: “Korea has four seasons teacher”.