Adventures of a LuLu

Mischief and Mayhem in East Asia

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Location: Seoul, South Korea

Steer away from the beaten track and leave a trail for others to follow.


Such a shame

Monday, myself, Eun-Joung, Paula, Jen and James went into the hills to see a Buddhist temple. We got a coach to the next city, Jun-Ju, the biggest city in the district. From there we took a rust bucket of a local bus into the country. The ride was fast and bumpy and we could not help but make references to Speed, the driver making a good Sandra Bullock. When we got there, the temple was perfectly situated in a backdrop of rivers and forest covered hills. The view was magnificent. The temple had four gates, various prayer and meditation rooms, and a bell thing that you swing a log against to dispell the evil spirits from the world (does that include soju?!). I took a few pictures with my new digital camera:


Aforementioned bell thingy.


A beautiful backdrop for a temple, with the kind of woods you would like to get lost in...

The ceiling of one of the prayer rooms. All of the buildings had this style of painting on the ceiling, the colours blocked and vibrant. Can you see the dragon? Looks deceptively friendly to me...


The temple had a raised garden behind this wall...ascending the stairs to the garden allowed me to take the last picture of the temple posted on this blog


Statue of Buddha inside on of the prayer rooms


Spotted this on the way to the temple. Not sure what it is, but it was looking kinda lonely, so I took a photo of it.


Monday and tuesday was rounded off with videos and booze as usual, though I spent the whole of Tuesday asleep. Today myself, James, Paula, Jeremy, and two americans (whom I really cannot remember the names of, but are a really sweet couple) went to a pizza restaurant, where I opted for pasta, as it had vegetables in it. It has been weeks since I have included vegetables in my diet due to being ill. Afterwards James took me to a park situated by the port, which holds various sculptures, some of them quite rude. (I have a photo of James posing suggestively with one of them).


Today was so hot the sweat was dripping off me, but I was grateful for the shade offered by the trees. The leaves have not yet started to turn here in Gunsan (or out by the temple); I am looking forward to when they do. On the way back James took me down the side of the hill through some rubble and dirt; I was not impressed. I swallowed my pride and allowed him to hold my hand to help me down, as my shoes were not suitable for the terrain. There was no way I was going to allow him to carry my rucksack though.

We took a taxi back into the city and I showed him were the dojan is; he will be starting Gumdo with me tomorrow. He already knows the martial art of the Japanese Samuris, so I will be extremely jealous if he progresses at a faster rate than me. We went back to his apartment where he introduced me to his rabbits (which he insists he is going to put in a stew when he leaves), and his his pellet gun. After a while I was able to work out the path of the pellet when fired, so was able to shoot with some level of accuracy.

So now I am sat here in this PC room, Chusok having drawn to a close. Tomorrow its Gumdo with James and screaming from the kids. Its such a shame that its over, but I am looking forward to starting Gumdo.



The weekend has been very relaxing so far. Friday night I popped into the Gumdo dojan, to say hello to the teacher and the other black belts. I ended up watching Van Helsing on a big screen in the Dojan, amongst a group of kids.

Saturday, I had my hair thinned, shortened and styled for 8,000 won, (4 quid), which I am slowly growing to like. At least it is not so heavy on my head and neck, keeping me a bit cooler than before I had it done. Paula insists that it looks good, and I trust her judgment. The hair salons here are fantastic; the Koreans, especially my generation are extremely beauty conscious. When you walk into the place you just know that you will come out looking a star.

Went into the so-called town centre and found a post office, which really made my day. Still a trek just to post a letter. Bought some girly necessities which are thankfully half the price they are in England (facial scrub, shower gel, lipstick) in this really nice shop which I think might be the Korean version of the Body Shop, maybe better. Also bought myself a Korean style long sleeved top, which is too big for me but will do when the winter sets in. The tops tend to be one size and you are not allowed to try them on (but you are allowed to try on the trousers..!). I was very surprised to find that it did not fit me, since I am the same size as, maybe slightly wider than most Korean women. Fell in love with this funky flat cap, which Paula insisted I buy. How could I refuse? It is now a permanent feature of my head; some old Korean woman commented that it made me look like a popstar. Discovered that the chips in KFC are better than in England,(perhaps made with real potato), but I will not make a habit in eating there.

We took a taxi back to Paula's. The taxi driver was so proud, he actually stopped the taxi along side another one, wound down the window and shouted at the other taxi driver in Korean that hey, he has 2 gorgeous female foreigners in the back of the car. Paula and I were so flabbergasted that we began to wave and smile at the other taxi driver who was staring at us with a great amount of interest. Here in Korea, because we are different, Westerners are generally perceived to be good-looking. Saturday alone, when was alone in a taxi, the driver could not stop complimenting me: 'beautiful, pretty, lovely.' I pulled the cap over my face in embarrassment.

Went back to Paula's after going into town. Jen, James (Canadian) and Joseph, Jeremy came round, and the six of us squashed onto Paula's king sized bed to watch the Last Samurai, well, at least in theory. Ended up chatting instead. All films in Korea are max 2 hours long, even if they have to cut bits out. I shudder to think what they did to the Lord of the Rings. They stayed until around 2am, and went back to their apartments bladdered. Joseph banged on again about training me in kick boxing and Tae-Kwon-do (he has 29 years of experience), but I explained that I will be starting Gumdo, which I cannot do in England, and besides I do not have time to commit to another martial art. Instead I made him promise to drop by and watch me train, and James is thinking about starting with me. To compensate, I suggested that I go ski-ing with him in the winter. This seemed to do the trick.

I really do hope get to go ski-ing, it will be my first time on snow. Also hope to get some rock-climbing and horse-riding in, as well as travelling. Looks like my time in Korea will be very busy. I wonder if they have some paint-balling and white water rafting somewhere...


Definately worth it

Last night, in between 3 shots of Soju (Korean vodka, made from rice 20% proof) I meet another Jen, (also Canadian) Jeremy (American, Ohio), Mark (Aussie), Sheena (South African), Chris (Canadian) plus others I unfortunately cannot remember the names of. Joseph, let out and let loose by his Mrs, insisted on dancing on the table, which was a sight to behold from a 47 year old man. I must do the same on my birthday. It was definately worth showing up last night.

Did very little teaching today due to class tests, but the classes I did get to teach more than made up for their peers. The screaming was deafening, but this was partly my fault for getting them so worked up. Yelling is ok, as long as they are having fun, and that it's in English. I really do feel sorry for my pupils, most of them do not want to learn English, but are pushed into it by their parents. After English at Chung Top, thr majority then have computer academy followed by violin/piano/singing lessons. After that they have homework for their normal school and Chung Top to complete. Some 9 year olds are not in bed until midnight, to get up at 6.30 the next morning.

No wonder, in my opinion, the men end up violent, and the women end up hysterical. They are trapped in a hard-working culture inflicted on them from birth, and receive very little loving attention. Meanwhile they have little time to relax, persue their own interests, discover and be themselves. I am only glad that they do not live in a country where they are expected to undergo slave labour in order to keep alive.


ho hum

The past few days have been quite quiet. My schizo boss has changed from being almost normal with a sense humour, to a rude, indifferent bastard. But hey, the silence is much better than the sexual harrassment. I guess he realised that he was not going to get anywhere when I started laughing at them. Every time I approach him its 'Louise, me very busy'. When he is in a slightly better mood I intend to get my degree certificate back from him.

Stomach seems to have settled, but famous last words and all that. I antipicate yet another bout of constipation. The flu is slowly drifting away, now that my voice is coming back, along with my eneregy levels. The increase in my energy levels was celebrated by cleaning the bathroom. I can now see the floor and the surfaces, but I cannot shift the mildew. At least the bleech has killed it. I then attacked the kitchen surfaces, only to find that the stains will not shift, no matter how hard i scrub. At least I know now that they are clean, even if they don't look it. I have the fridge, dusting, sweeping and mopping the entire apartment left to do. I will leave the two balconies to a later date.

Next week is Korean thanks giving, where I get 4 days off. Unfortunately it was only today that I hit upon the idea of taking a boat to China, only costs 20 quid for a return. But then I realised that I would need to get a special visa that will allow me back into the country, which I really do not have time to do. I will keep a look out for any other long national holidays and plan it better next time (if there is a next time!). So saturday will be spent in shinae (town centre) and monday a Korean colleague is going to take me to a Buddhist temple situated in the mountains, so it will not all be that bad....

Tonight I will be meeting up with Westerners in the Wa-Bar, the local hangout for all those who do not speak Korean. It will be interesting to see who else is here in Gunsan.

I have completely forgotten where I found the local post office. oh well, back to square one.


Fate's creative hand

Thursday and Friday night was spent eating out with some Korean aquaintances after watching the belt tests for Gumdo (martial art involving swords). Mild food was constantly pushed in my direction, which I was extremely grateful for, though I ended up with bad stomach upset on Sunday anyway.

Saturday I woke up in fairly good health. Taking advantage of this I decided to take my first trip to the town centre. Believing that the town centre was straight up the main road, I took what I thought was the correct bus into town. I realised 20min later that this was the wrong bus, and not knowing which was the right bus, I decided to stay on it to give myself a guided tour of the city for 40p. The bus took a route out of the city and into the country, which was a nice suprise. The nice surprise turned to nasty shock when the bus stopped in the middle of nowhere, thus I was kicked uncerimoniously off the bus. I stood there, surrounded by rice paddy fields and huts, with not a taxi or bus stop in sight. I managed to find a main road and walked along it until I found a bus stop that would have sent me back the way I came. Luckily 15 min later, in the heat and humidity, my ticket to 'civilisation' arrived.

On the way back I noticed a huge lake on the edge of Gusan, surrounded by hills and forest. I got off the bus and started to walk round the lake, soaking in the beauty and tranquility. I found a quiet spot on the bank and lay back for half an hour relaxing and appreciating the view, to be disturbed by a small group of children who came tearing down the bank brandishing a fishing rod. My peace shattered, I ascended the bank, and bumped into a Korean man, who started speaking to me in English. As it turned out, he knows a few westerners, and phoned one of them from his mobile, while I was still stood there. He put me on the phone to a married Canadian old enough to be my father. Trusting my gut instinct I agreed to meet the Canadian (don't normally do this, usually extremely wary, but trusted my instincts) at his flat. There I met his Korean wife, who has kindly offered to help me if I was ever in any trouble, shoving contact details in my direction. She then phoned two Western teachers, who arrived at their flat an hour later (Jen, Canadian and Paula, Irish). As it turns out Paula's birth name is Samantha, the girl that Andi wanted to put me in contact with but lost her number. Again, trusting my instincts, the 3 of us went out for a drink, where I got along with them famously. We swapped numbers and went home.

The next day was unbelievably ill. I spent the next day sleeping, (not the booze, upset stomach) only to be disturbed by 2 phone calls at 9am, the first being the Canadian fella, Joseph, to check that the night went ok and that I was safe, the second being Ryan. At 7pm I could not cope anymore. I had dirtied by bed clothes, and my washing machine would not accept the bed sheet. There was no where I knew of where I could by a replacement. I phoned Paula, who after hearing my predicament, took me to E-Mart outside of the city, which sells practically everything, and even has a MacDonalds. Paula, myself, bedding, mop and bucket, plus other assorted cleaning materials ( the flat is disgusting, but has improved since I have arrived) bundled into a taxi and went straight back to her flat, where we laughed at Korean porn, dicussed boyfriends, and shared our grief over not having a single sausage buttie, bag of chips or salt and vinegar crisps in ages. Swear to god. I stayed the night, to tired and weak to move, and left the next morning contented that I had made a friend


Pleasant Surprises

Woke up at 9.30 to the sound of my landline phone ringing. It was Ryan, a nice start to the day, especially as the medicine is still working its magic.

Got on the bus to get to the KGB bank so I can open a Korean bank account (now possible as I have my immigration card). Got on the wrong bus. I managed to find the school, but it was too late to go to the bank but too early to turn up for work. I hear someone calling my name. I look around me, stunned, then carry on walking, assuming that someone was shouting something that is similar to my name ( afterall there is a Korean flower whose name is similar). There it was was the sansaengnim/teacher from the Dojan, situated round the corner from the school. He beckoned me inside the Dojan, to be welcomed with a cuppa cha and a smile. I meeting him tonight for dinner others, and then watching the belt tests tomorrow night. I will start Gumdu (?)/sword fighting next week, once I am feeling better.

So much better...

Yesterday was spent at the immigration office, where my Boss tried to take my immigration card off me. I said 'No, I keep'. He accepted immediately, after learning from the arguement he had with Andi. He then took me to the doctors: things down my throat, in my ears and up my nose. I refused to have anything shoved up my nose. MY NOSE IS BLOCKED. I HAVE THE FLU. ACCEPT. I was then escorted to a private room where I had a needle jammed in my rear end. I pleaded to have it in my arm, got nowhere. I am to take 6 different tablets 3 times a day after meals, plus medicines. To their credit, I seem to be recovering quite quickly now.

A visit to the mobile phone shop to find out if my mobile was repaired proved fruitless. We will phone you this afternoon... I was told. After that I informed my boss that I was too sick to teach today, which he took with great understanding and grace ( thankfully). After 2 hours of blissful slumber I was awoken by the phone "your phone has been repaired, you can go to the shop and get it now"- music to my blocked ears. I stumbled back into my bed and blacked out.

When I woke up I was surprised to find that I felt so much better than I have since I got here. I hope this doesn't change.


Money and Frustrations

Today my flask leaked water all over my bag, soaking everything including the mobile that the Boss gave me. It is completely flooded. I took it to the Telecom store to have it repaired; they cannot promise that it will be fixed, but they will do their best. I have suggested to the Boss that if the phone is still broken tomorrow when I go to pick it up, that I will buy a new phone, which I will give him at the end of the year. It would have to happen to a LuLu.

One consolation is that I received my training wage plus a quarter of my airfare today, though no doubt I will have to spend some of that money on a new phone.

The usual confusions occured in the classroom today: some classes had text books or reading material, others I will have to make up a curiculum as the parents are refusing to buy more books for their children's English classes, as it does not count towards anything. At least I have some books which I can use for reference.

So tomorrow I am off to a different school. The Boss states that it is his elder brother's academy, and insists that I will get paid. We shall see...if I don't I will string him up by his balls.


Teacher's first day

I approached the Boss to check that the timetable is correct, he waves me out of the office. I insist, he still waves me out of the office.

I go to my first lesson. A complete shambles. I have not met any of the students thus I did not know which level they are at in reality (the numbers on the timetable are not always a faithful guide), since my first day observation last week was a Tuesday, not a monday. After this first lesson, one of the teachers tells me there is a change in the schedule, thus I missed my first class, so I have to teach it in my free period tomorrow. So typical, why did the Boss not tell me sooner when I asked him? The other lessons go fine, apart from 6A, who seem quite advanced compared with the other classes, but again, did not get a chance to observe them, so not sure what they do and don't know already. I know that they have finished New Parade 4 but there does not seem to be a teachers copy of this text book in the office. One of the teachers told me after that lesson that they have no text book, and that I have to invent my own curiculum. Unbelievable. During one of my last classes, another teacher interupts and informs me that my timetable has changed AGAIN, whereupon on Wednesdays, I AM TO TEACH AT A DIFFERENT SCHOOL, BECAUSE THEY NEED ME. THIS IS NOT IN MY CONTRACT. WILL I GET PAID???

Meanwhile I have practically lost my voice and my nose is running like a tap. I strained to get my voice to the back of the class.
This is my first day as a teacher.

The Flight

Ref Sunday 5th Sept 2004

It is 7.35pm German time, and I am one hour into the second leg of my journey to Korea. Today was my 4th flight of my entire life, this time to the other side of the world. The flight from Manchester to Frankfurt was smooth but there was little time between the announcement of the gate number, and boarding the plane. Out of the window I saw Germany for possibility the first time-forest with pockets of civilization. Buildings encirled by fields which in turn were surrounded by the forest. Further towards Frankfurt, this became stripes but with the same princple applied: a row of buildings, a strip of fields either side, flanked by forest. The buildings have an uncanny resemblance to those in Sim City 3000.

Within an hour of taking off from Frankfurt, I have been offered headphones for FREE, presented with a face wipe, (only to be whipped away 10 min later), and given a glass of water with a complimentary snack. Yet more fine examples of German sharp effeciency. Browsing throught the menu I notice that there is a CHOICE of meals for dinner ( as opposed to the British 'eat this slush or starve' approach). I'm definately going for the beef, to satisfy my craving.

I am above the clouds- the sky soft pink mingling with yellow, blending to blues of varying hues and tones. I plug my headphones into the the arm of my seat, and select 'Korean Channel', bracing myself for the enchanting melodies of East Asia, only to find myself listening to ...Indie? Rock Music! Sang in Korean with a smattering of English. I'm going to fit right in. The next song is a diabolical attempt at R'n'B ("Shake da Boom"-must get Ryan to translate). Trying very hard not to laugh, actuallt succeed.

I have come to terms with the fact that I am far to tired to study some Korean, so now it is time to rest my pen and catch some zzzz's.


Must Write Something

Every day so far I have had plenty to write about, but no time and no computer by which to do it. If I find a way of writing back dated blogs I will do so, once I have found the nearest internet cafe. Most of the shops around here sell snacks, clothes or mobile phones. Wall to wall. Andi pointed out an internet cafe to me on the first day, but feeling tired and disorientated, I have completely forgotten how to get there.

Today, I went to register at the local immigration office, accompanied by the Boss (whose friends are gangsters, apparently), who now have my passport. I am to pick it up (along with my immigration card) on Wednesday. After that I should be able to open a Korean bank account, as HSBC, your worldwide local bank, is as about as local to me as the Grand Canyon. While I stood at the counter, Andi was arguing with the Boss that no he could not take her immigration card, as she needs it to fly out of Korea. The same thing happened when Janice tried to get home, he actually took the card off her and consequentally she could fly out of the country. Andi also had to argue for this months pay, plus the rest of the refund for the flight, plus the bonus months pay as stated in the contract. What a nightmare. This is one dodgey geezer. Andi warned me about him, but I did not realise he was this bad. Hey, I can handle him. If not the sansaengnim at the local dojan has offered to sort him out. (With a sword? what a show-down).

After the visit to the immigaration office I spent 2 hours wandering around the shops near the hagwon (school) looking for the nearest cash machine. Found them actually inside the banks, but they were not machines that accepted international cards, just cards belonging to that bank. Its lucky that I thought ahead, and have enough cash and travellers cheques to last me a couple of months. Have also found a very good bookshop that sells English Language teaching materials. Unfortunately however, I could not find a bottle of bleach with which to clean the disgusting flat. Might explain a few things...

(I have only been here 5 days, but I am already sick and tired of EVERY SINGLE TAXI honking me, touting for business. Yes, westerner may equate to lost, confused and stupid, just not right now! I WILL FLAG YOU IF I NEED YOU!!!

This is my last day of observation. Next monday I will be teaching. The school is completely disorganised;in some of my classes the children are at different levels. Apparently I need to come up with a solution. Yeah right. The children are badly behaved, especially as they know that they do not need to learn anything as they will not get tested ( what is the point...?). The teachers carry wooden poles with them which are used as canes. This is perfectly legal in Korea, though I can't imagine that I will be using it, no matter how badly behaved they are.

This is the first morning (anywhere between midnight and 9am) where I have not had an upset stomach, despite using bottled mineral water. This morning I had only stomach cramps, but that was all. Progress...

My rhianitus has cleared, only to be replaced with Andi's cold...

7.40pm Just witnessed half the class being caned (because they forgot their homework, or did it so badly they may as well have not bothered), weird experience.


Here the adventure begins

It is with some level of embarrassment that the adventure begins with setting up my very first website. Well, we all need to start somewhere. It is here that I will be recording my many adventures, mishaps and general mischief and mayhem for all the world to behold.

I will be in South Korea as of the 6th Sept 11.30 local time, and so no more commentry will be posted until then.

So watch this space...something interesting might just happen.