Hike-Ho Hike-Ho

Once again the rain is coming down in Korea. Sadly, due to the cost of the warning messages I got all last year (see here for more), I did not have prior warning of this.  However, the weekend that was more than makes up for this positively Irish weather.

11214334_10205580114796503_3788995163751014237_nFriday saw us take a severely indulgent trip to the “Urban Camping Barbecue” in KyungSung (right next to Monk bar for those of you Busanites looking). This place serve everything the way you would if you were camping. That is if you were camping in a premium spot with easy access to water and refrigerated alcohol, of which we drank too much. Luckily we had Costco pizza and hotdogs to clear up any nasty hangover the following day.

The true highlight of the weekend though was certainly our 5 hour hike on Sunday. We met George and Ciera, an old friend we will miss as he’s headed home and a new friend we will miss just as much, at 10 and took the subway (line 1, orange) to Oncheongjang. From here we took the cable car up to the Geumjeong mountain (click here for Lonely Planet instructions).

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The Quiet on This Eastern Front

Well well well, it seems I’ve finally gotten back to this blog after two months of seemingly having forgotten its existence. However, I promise I have a good reason, in fact I have many good reasons. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

Firstly, I’ve begun applying for university courses… well preparing my applications for university courses as I won’t be starting until at least September 2016. This process has involved quite a lot of back and forth with good universities, great web resources, and even better friends.

Now, I know that this excuse isn’t great because I was basically already at my computer and a blog post is barely three clicks away, but on top of all of this, I was also packing up to leave the “Love House“. The stress of packing was much greater than I anticipated as it’s hard to pack what you might use into boxes to be undisturbed for a month or more. Added to this the fact that I had to come to terms with leaving my school, which felt more like home than work, was difficult. Even if I had made the decision months beforehand.

Finally, J and I went to Hong Kong as a birthday celebration, as you may have seen on my Instagram in the sidebar. I truly promise to steal Jamie’s pictures and post them here for your enjoyment once he has finished uploading them, I know you are dying to see what typical tourists do in HK. I’ll just say that it involved a whole lot of Disneyland, Dim Sum, and dothering about worrying which subway to catch!

PS Yes, the cover image isn’t of great quality and no it’s not just a bad filter, the pollution is just that bad in the city at 4PM!

Let’s Get Real

This weekend I had a mission: find a Realtor to help me move house when the time comes in April. This was to be no mean feat as, in spite of all of my talk, I have still not mastered Korean. Instead of doing what a reasonable person would do and asking a Korean friend for some help, I decided to wander through the area in which I want to live, walking into Realtors’ offices.

When I came up with this plan, I thought I was onto a sure winner. I mean how hard could it be? No I didn’t know the Korean word for Realtor, nor any other words one might need in the field of real estate, but how hard could it be?

My naiveté was once again blinding as I wandered around my desired dong (get your mind out of the gutters it means neighbourhood).  After an hour of poor results I began to lose That is until I realised that the buildings with all the papers pasted to the windows, were in fact Realtors or  부동산 .

So, biting the bullet, I found myself walking through a door into a small office. Inside I found two women, smartly dressed, typing away at their desks. Immediately, they stand up and come to the door to welcome me in with a warm “안녕하세요”. “Ehrmm… Do you speak English?” I ventured. Perhaps a tad hopeful. My answer was not as I had hoped however. “No… but body language” the older of the pair declared with a suggestive wiggle of her hips.

Thus began one of the longest hours of my life, in which I was shown to two separate flats in the The Realtor was so kind and understanding of the language barrier, and yet I was awkward and stuffy. My mind racing over all the things I needed to ask, and how foolish I had been to think I could do this alone. After the second apartment, about two liters of sweat down my back, and some awkward negotiations through Translate, the kindly Realtor and I called it a day and went our separate ways.

With only one month left until the big move, I am beginning to feel the stress of the impending deadline. Now I know how Mario felt with the ever-advancing screen as he killed koopas and gobbled up mushrooms. Luckily, I did find a Realtor who spoke English after lunch, however, I was informed that I’m too early to find anywhere for April and so shall have to wait until the end of the month.

I’ll be honest and say that this came as rather a shock to the system because back home if I didn’t have a place by now, I wouldn’t be getting one. The pace of life is definitely different here that’s for certain! If you too are looking for a new place in Korea, I strongly advise you to find a willing Korean to help you or an English-speaking Realtor recommended by a friend. Or better yet, learn Korean and solve the problem before it arises.

The End of the Rockstar Teacher

Rockstar Teacher (n): A teacher who strolls into class convinced of their own importance and full of righteousness. Can often be seen playing games and aiming to become a friend rather than educator. Most easily identified by a lack of preparedness and over-reliance on games in the classroom.

Over the past number of weeks I have felt like a great teacher. My classes like me; we laugh and joke and cover the required pages in the textbook and then joke around some more. This felt like I was doing my job to the letter. Instructing English lessons was no problem at all.

Slowly, I began to feel like the Gene Simmons of English language teaching. No, I didn’t have the face make-up and I shan’t comment on the over large tongue, but I did feel like a rockstar. It was wonderful. I could rock into class and do the work set out by the text book, high-five some kids, and we would rock through the lessons.

However, I began to notice that the kids haven’t actually learned anything for this rockstar teacher. Sure, our textbooks are full of worked examples, but the kids were not equipped with the skills they needed to reproduce this on their own. At first, like many other teachers, I thought it was the students being unwilling to understand although that didn’t feel like the right answer.

The truth is that I was unwilling to understand my students’ difficulties, and no amount of high fives of laughs could cover up something like that. So I have decided to change my methods. I still hope to be a “fun teacher”, and the high fives are here to stay, but the poor attitude of “bad students” is being laid to rest.

This is the end of the rockstar teacher.

P.S.

Apologies for the long absence readers, but I’ve been very busy trying to assimilate and not get snowed under at work. Not to mention that I’ve been off skiing, and bowing, and helping friends move house over the past few weekends! More on the skiing later when I put together a picture album of the snaps J took.

Culture Shot: Putting the Toil in Toilet

Oh god, where are the toilets in this place? I crane my neck looking around for the toilet sign, the slick of sweat at the bottom of my back is quickly becoming a trickle. My brain is foggy. I need to find the bathroom, quickly. My eyes are roving the whole of the cafe, searching every possible location for the sign. Meanwhile, my bowels are growling like a dog about to bite. Oh Jesus. Ah! There it it! A quick exit stage left and around the corner. I can make it.

Jumping into the first stall and sitting down, I breathe a sigh of relief. Just in the nick of time, man that was a close one. Yet, as I sit here in the drafty cubicle of the Korean Barbeque, I can’t help but think something is missing in here. I can’t quite put my finger on what’s missing, but no time to think about the interior design of a toilet stall right now, I have to get back to the table…

Oh no.

No.

No. I can’t have missed the most important step of going to the bathroom in Korea. I’ve been here too long to have forgotten.  Continue reading

The Culinary Cabaret

Good day readers, welcome to Monday, when the questions make no sense, and there’s not enough coffee in the world to wake you up! The worst thing about Mondays is not the fact that I have to wait 5 more days until the weekend, but rather that the weekend is over, almost as if it never happened! This is particularly grievous when you have had such a wonderful weekend as I had.

“Emmet, this post is tagged as ‘Food Glorious Food’ get to the food bit!” I hear you cry, well ok then enough waxing philosophical. Let’s begin.

Caffe Primo: The Best Brunch in Town.

Determined not to fall into the usual trap of waking up late and doing nothing, Jamie and I rose early on Saturday morning with the vain hope of completing a hike (a hope we have almost every weekend). However, stepping out into the cool air and flapping wind we settled for a walk on the beach and a massive brunch second breakfast.

Naturally, Caffe Primo (Korean website here) was our selection as we were already at the beach. The brunch menu here is excellent. There are so many options to choose from on the menu. Such as, Eggs Benedict, BLT, a full brunch, and many others I’ve not tried, but all of which look delicious. Even my picture below does not do the ‘Primo Brunch’ justice, it’s that good. Sadly, I didn’t manage to persuade J to delay wolfing into his BLT to snap a pic.

I opted for no mushrooms on mine as they are my Kryptonite... Ok that's a lie, I just hate them.

I opted for no mushrooms on mine as they are my Kryptonite… Ok that’s a lie, I just hate them.

Check out those fluffy eggs and crispy bacon. A veritable feast!

You would think that after such a massive meal in the middle of the day, we would choose a small dinner late in the evening. Especially given that we went to the ‘First Busan Foreigner Market’ and ate delicious muffins and other snacks here too. Alas, no, we continued the theme of food by following up with dinner in a French restaurant, Le Jardin.

Le Jardin

I know those of you who know me from back home will be amazed that I went to a French restaurant given that I have never been a massive fan of France. Not since I stayed there aged 8, a self-catering holiday in the rain. Perhaps, I’ve realized it’s time to let by-gones be by-gones and move on. I’m getting off topic, right, Le Jardin.

Walking to Le Jardin kind of feels like you’re walking away from anywhere that you might find a great place to eat, as it’s about 15 minutes from the KyungSung University subway station (exit 5, turn around and then take a right, keep walking until you see the university and pass a T-Mobile on the corner then take the next right, it looks like a blind alley). However, it’s worth the trip!

Upon entering, we were greeted by the smell of cooked garlic and the friendly staff in the semi-open kitchen. We were also met by a blast of heat, much needed and often absent in restaurants on these cold winter nights!

leJardin Chicken Tourte

I had the Chicken Tourte (above), which was deliciously creamy and so filling, without being overly greasy or too heavy. LeJardin

Jamie had… the above. I can’t remember the listed name, basically it was cheesy bacon, potato and onion… Google informs me that this dish is, in fact, called Tartiflette. Jamie was willing to share thank God, because this looked so mouth-watering. I think it was my favorite of the two, the potatoes were delicious, the cheese was good (a true rarity in Korea) and the whole dish was perfectly seasoned!

It is unsurprising that the food here is so good as the chef is French, which really surprised me when I saw him in the kitchen. It also adds credence to Lumiere’s assertion that in France “The dinner here is never second best!”.

Truly, the weekend was a triumph of food, or rather of our stomachs, as they took all the food we scoffed. On Sunday, the stomachs had their work cut out again as we had lunch in Costco on our monthly jaunt. Hot dogs, pizza slices and chicken bakes abounds, all washed down with unlimited soda. Sure, we may have gained almost a stone weight (14 pounds or 6kg), but it was delicious, and that’s what counts!

So You Want to Come to Korea Part 3: Public school vs. Private academy

Ok, so I know I said I’d have this here by the end of the weekend, but it’s the weekend somewhere right? Or is that it’s 5pm somewhere? I don’t know, and I doubt you care readers. You’re too eager to hear about the differences between working for a public school and a private academy (or hagwon as they are known).

Let’s begin.

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Back to Reality

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written anything for this blog. Scratch that. I mean, since I’ve written anything full stop. I’m going to shirk responsibility for that onto the Christmas season and my vacation from school (a whopping 5 days doing as little as humanly possible). Please accept my humble apologies for this silence!

So readers, HAPPY NEW YEAR, 2015 is full of endless possibilities: bright lights, big cities, busty ladies. Although, I think I’d rather early nights, low lights, and a good book. What an exciting live I’ve come to lead.

Joking aside, this is basically what my vacation consisted of, and boy was I happy about it! Rather than bore you with a blow-by-blow account of my time off, instead I’ll just show you a gallery of pictures that capture what I did with myself for the time off.

 

Ok… It seems I only took two photographs on my time off, good thing I’m not a photo-blogger I guess! These pictures come from the first day of my vacation, when I walked from my house to the old downtown, Nampo-dong. It takes roughly 2 hours to cover the distance on foot, alternatively I could have taken the subway for a less scenic 17 minute journey.

That night was spent in utter recline with great friends, scoffing as much pizza, fried chicken, and (bizarrely) feta salad as we could, and of course, ringing in the new year.

The next few days were spent in a similar fashion: relaxing, hanging out, and eating. Then on Monday, school started back and the holiday season seemed to drift out of focus and into my memory. Back to the grindstone it is!

P.S. If you were hoping for part 3 of So You Want to Come to Korea, I will try to have it up by the end of this weekend!

So You Want to Come to Korea? Part 2: Recruiter, Recruiter, Make Me a Match

So yesterday(ish) I wrote about the boatload of documents you need to get you application for a visa to come to Korea (see here). Today, I move onto the somewhat confusing topic of recruiters. Recruiters are one of the best ways to find a job in Korea, if you are not already in the country as they will know about many upcoming jobs and can often have a large catchment area of schools.

Trust me, at least once in your dealings with Korean recruiters you are going to feel like the man above. It can be frustrating and agonizing!

Firstly, what exactly are recruiters? 

Well, I’m glad you’ve asked, because this is a very important question and an even more important answer! In short they are companies that find candidates for schools. Key point here. They are businesses, who work for schools. Recruiters do not work for you, they work with you, but not for you never forget this.

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So You Want to Come to Korea? Part 1: A Boatload of Documents

After 8 months here in the ‘Land of the Morning Calm’, 8 months spent recommending it to anyone who’d listen for longer than a second, I’ve decided it might be time to let you know how to get here. Hopefully those 8-10 second recommendations have piqued at least some curiosity!

I hope do do a few posts in this series about coming to Korea, the first of which is about the documents you’ll need to get here, or at least get a visa application to do so. Please note that this guide is most applicable for the Irish out there and those looking for a basic guide to getting yourselves together enough to make it to Korea.

So, tell me what documents I need Emmet!!!

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