Sunday, September 25, 2005

A mixed bag of bulgoggi, buddhists and belts

Since my last blog entry so much has been going on. I am legal, which is a good start, after receiving my alien registration card. I have completed two weeks teaching which has just about gone to plan. I have been walking home after school with a smile on my face thinking about what the kids have learnt and what I have learnt which leaves me with a sense of satisfation. I have attended myfirst Korean celebration and developed my Tuk Gong techniques.

Last week it was Korean Thanksgiving, Chusok, which alongside the Lunar New Year is a very important time for Koreans. Mr Pong the Tuk Gong master invited us (the Tuk Gong gang) to his fathers house for a Thanksgiving meal. We drove out in to the country side outside of Gunsan and arrived at a small house in to which we were walmly welcomed by his mother, father, siblings etc. We ate the feast with Mr Pong his wife and two of his blackbelt students. We were kind of glad other members of he family didnt join us as the language barrier can be hard and more faux pas can arise during a Korean meal when there are elders with you. the food layed on was fantastic an array of dishes including pork wrapped in Kimchi, marinated beef, raw crab, small veggie omlettes, fish soup rice, seawed, Song Pyon a stodgy sweet and delicous rice cake and much, much more. I feel full again just thinking about it. The food was washed down with shots of SoJou a vey popular Korean drink that is made from rice and I can only liken it slightly to vodka. After the meal we were driven out futher in to the countryside where we were taken to a buddhist monastry for a traditional tea ceremony performed by the monk. I had to pinch myself as I sat crossed legged, drinking traditional green tea from bowls prepared by a buddhist monk hile listening to the wind chimes gently swinging in the afternoon breeze. I will never forget that momnt even though I did get pins and needles and I couldnt understand the monks wise words. The day of Thanksgiving was rounded off in a place called 'A Town' which sits outside of Gunsan city and meets the needs of the American GI's. Gunsan has a large naval and flight base and 'A Town' shortened from American Town is a small area full of western style bars, and a western supermarket and other bits and pieces. It has to be seen to be believed the bars are run my Korean older women named 'Mammas' who get you in their bars and drinking and then alongside most of the GI's there are girls called 'Juicies' who are young pretty girls usually Thai or Phillapinno who when bought drinks by a GI hav there company bought also. This side to it and the male presence in the area does make it feel slightly seedy but you just sit there in amazement that it is all so baltant and then you just chuckle at it. We went there in a group to hang out in Western 'style' places play pool and have a giggle and I got to listen to some descent music that wasn't smoochy Koean love ballards which swamp the music scene here. The GI's have a curfew of 11pm as well which is another weird part to it all as Im sure they are big boys now. At 11pm guys in uniform with guns walk around making sure that curfew is adheard to. As we were teachers we could be dirty stopouts and we found ourselves in a bar playing pool and choosing music from a video music juke box hich had all my favouites on alongside some of the Korean mafia. We decided to tell our friend Chris after his game of pool exactly who he had been playing with. I think he wished he had lost the game of pool after the knowledge of who he was playing with. So just a nomal Monday night out in Korea, nothing surprises me anymore.

Finally, Friday was my the day I achieved my Green belt at Tuk Gong after stumbling through the test we moved up a belt which was exciting. So watch out my spin kicks are leathal!!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Kicking Ass!

I have completed one full week in Korea in which I have met new people, started a Martial Art and begun my teaching routine alone and I come out the other end unscathed, well just about. Last week Lousie and I were invited to join in with a Martial Arts class in Gunsan, so with a good dollop of willpower and good intentions I dragged myself out of bed on Monday to join in. Today was my 7th day attending the class so I can safely say I am enjoying it the form of martial arts that we are doing is called Tuk Gong Musu and I can only compare it too Tae Kwon Do. Tuk Gong was, I think, created by the Korean special forces as an attack and defence against Tae KownDo. It includes a range of sequences that comprise of punches, jabs, kicks and stances to atack and defend. The early class that I go to is set up for foreigners, the group is led by the Tuk Gong master who is mix between Jackie Chan and Mr Miagi from Karate Kid and the class includes; Jess and I(even if the kicking ass is interspersed with gossip and giggling), a few Canadians, Americans and an Ozzie guy who has a black belt so don't mess with him I hear you cry. The classes have been putting us through our paces lately with constant kicking routines and stretching routines being taught. The last few days I have been walking like a brusied penguin, but it is all worth I feel more awake and slightly more healthy. And I was really chuffed the other day to recieve my Tuk Gong pants, jacket and white belt with my name embroided on the suit this make me look slightly more like a ginger ninja! Photos will come soon.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

I am a Noraebang Natural ( I dont think so!! )

Well, last night was my first experience of Korean night life. Firstly, Louise introduced me to Soju a korean drink made from fermented rice which can be compared to the taste of Vodka, however no mixers allowed!! I enjoyed it even after a bit of wincing and shaking of the head but I am sure I will grow to love it. The name of the bar that we visited is nicknamed 'The Fishy Wife' by Gunsan foreigners. That could be far from the truth, but hey, I like the translation. The style of the bar resembled a log cabin and inside there were large wooden tables and a bizarre portrait of the Beatles on the back wall no sign of any fishy business going on. I think the bar was going through an identity crisis.

After the Soju experience we moved on to 'Bar Street' in Gunsan mostly frequented by the American soilders who are based at the army quarters in Gunsan. It could be mistaken for a bar street in any Med resort such as Falarki or Zante, apart from the Korean signage of course. We headed in to a WaBar which is favoured by the westerners in Gunsan due to its wide selection of imported beers and alchopops. Louise and Jessica (two Hagwon teachers) tested the Korean version of the cocktail 'Sex on the Beach' and I was stingey with my money and stuck to a Korean beer named Heist. The WaBar sell the drinks that are imported at Western prices and Korean drinks are always half the price. In general I am sticking with Koean drinks and food, firstly beacuse of the price, I spend a total of 3pounds a day on two decent size meals which are both nutritious and filling. And secondly I am in Korea therefore I should try and fit in by sampling there cuisine. I came here to experience a new culture so that is what I will do, even if every now and again it blows my head off due to vast amount of spices they add.

After a bit of a western experience and a taste of home we made are way to Noraebang, which I believe translates as Song room ie/ Karaoke. It had to happen at some point. The set up is similar to that in Japan you pay for the length of time that you want to sing for or screech,depending on how good or bad you are, then you enter the booth and select from a range of songs. And thank god there was an English selection of songs, as so far I only know the constanants in the Korean alphabet. That would have been interesting! Louise started us off with a great remendition of 'Breathless' by The Corrs and then it steadily went down hill from there. We experienced everything from Abba: Dancing Queen to Oasis: Wonderwall. Louise even sang to us a famous Korean song called '어마나 or Oma na' which translates in to English as 'Oh Dear' which sums it up really.

We retired at a resonable hour compared to my usual UK Saturday night escapades, but at the moment I want to make a good impression. We walked Jessica back to her apartment which did make me slightly jealous as in comparison to my place it looks like a palace. Jessica's Hagwon provides her with a computer and even a sofa. I thought the lack of a sofa in my flat was due to Korean tradition, but no it is because the boss of my Hagwon is lazy and a bit stingey when it comes to his employees living conditions. So my next pay cheque is going to go towards making my flat look more like a home.

I'm off to Eunpa Park now to check out the boating lake and the potential to start a jogging schedule around the lake. Good intentions are always important, whether I follow them through, we will see!!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Made it through the first day!!!!

I sit here writing my first entry after a day full of new experiences. Already I have met my new boss Mr Im, ate Korean style even though the menu made no sense, bought and haggled for new furniture and met new friends alongside learning new words and the begginnings of a new alphabet.

I feel utterly overwhelmed by the place and by what lays before me, the reality of it all sinks in ocassionally but with the help of my flat mate (for the time being) Louise I can only hope to muddle through and intergrate as much as I can.