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.


Change in Schedule

So its New Year's eve, and I am spending it sat in a PC Bang typing this blog. This year I really cannot bothered; I am overcome with an explicable sense of apathy towards the new year. Probably because:

1) I'm too tired and need to rest in order to prepare for my change in schedule (see below)
2)I have too much planning to do for next week's classes
3)I am so frustrated over the lack of furniture in my apartment, that I am going to buy a rug and some cushions to put in the living room area, and move the TV there too. That way, there is somewhere fairly comfortable to sit, without the expense of buying a sofa/arm chair. After that I will probably buy a plant and name it Fred. I refuse to buy anything expensive that I cannot take with me when I leave, plus I am here to save money. Knowing the Koreans, the shops will be open to accommodate my needs.
4) I want to really get my teeth into learning Korean
5) I made my resolution when I came out here, and it still applies, so it doesn't feel that special.

Lunchtime today saw heavy snowfall until 8pm. It was not until the evening that the snow remained on the ground, leaving a thin blanket with the promise of colder, more bitter weather until March. It's been years since I have seen such snowfall.

Yesterday and the day before my two Bosses informed me of my change in schedule. During the winter months some of the students are 'on vacation'from school, and so because the hagwons are private academies and exist in order to make money, the schedule has changed to when it is more convenient for the students to attend. Plus from this week onwards I have taken on the extra responsibility of tutoring Ye-Reem (my Gomdo teacher's daughter) in exchange for free Gomdo training and free lunch and/or dinner. In addition, as of next week, for about a month or so, I will be giving the Gomdo students a half hour English lesson as a favour, as my teacher has been very good to me (especially when I was extremely ill) and I want to give something back.

Thus, as of next week my schedule will be as follows:

Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri:

8.30am get out of bed
9.50am get on the bus.
10.30 English lesson for Gomdo students
10.50 Gomdo training.
11.30 free lunch with Gomdo teacher and black belts.
12pm Chung Top Hagwon, with NO BREAKS AS PER BLOODY USUAL
6.15 Free dinner prepared by Gomdo teachers wife, and tutor Ye-reem for 20 min (the length of her attention span.


7.30 emerge from my slumber
8.30 get in a taxi
9.00-3.30pm Toe-song hagwon (with 20 min coffee break, and 30min lunch break)
4.00 Gomdo training
5.00 Free dinner prepared by Gomdo teachers wife, and tutor Ye-reem for 20 min

When I see it written down, it doesn't seem that bad, but I know the amount of running around it takes to get from one place to the next, so in reality it's quite exhausting. Nonetheless, this way I will be saving money; free training, free lunch and dinner...yey!!!

I also discovered that my 24th/25th birthday falls on a Wednesday, which is simply fantastic, as I am at the nice academy on my birthday. The Koreans count the time spent in the womb as the first year of your life, so just as I think it is bad enough being 24 ie MID TWENTIES, they go and add another year. FABULOUS.


Let it Snow

Awoke this morning at 8.30 to find that the ground was adorned with snow. I took a photo this...

 Car park, Jungong APT

Unfortunately by mid-afternoon the snow had melted and vapourised into oblivion. Nonetheless, it brought forth the promise of ski-ing and snow-fights with my students. Given that I am a little rusty, I would bet my money that my students would win.

The reason why I woke up a good 2 hours earlier than normal is because Rob phoned me. It was nice to hear from him, and he commented that my accent has changed a little. However, half an hour or so into the conversation, my northern accent started to come back, despite Rob being a Southern Fairy.

Today at Gomdo I finally mastered on of the sequence of moves for my Green belt. Now its onto the next one...which involves jumping and spining mid air, and swing my sword at the same time. I am apprehensive that I will not be able to pull it off. It looks so difficult, and I am still on the lower belts!!!!

Later this afternoon I found out at my other school that my schedule will change completely as of next week. Over the winter, (until middle of march) my working hours will be 9.30 until 3.30, with a coffee break and a lunch break (a small luxury that my other Boss at my main school does not bother to grace me I go again!). Also, I asked my Director at the other school if Rob can observe my classes, and thus during the run up to his visit I can teach the students how to introduce themselves. He agreed to this...should be fun!!! I must remember to tell my Gomdo teacher about my change in schedule as this will affect when I receive my Gomdo training and when I teach Ye-reem. I am not looking forward to working to fairly late at night to getting early the next morning, but hey ho.

Unusually, the students at my other school were inattentive, rowdy, and generally obnoxious today. I could not understand why, though Eun-Jung thinks that it because they are excited about their christmas break from their main school. To make matters worse, to my horror and embarrassment, while asking the students to turn to page 18, I found out that the chinese word for 18 is a similar sound to a Korean swear word. (The Koreans use 2 counting systems, chinese and Korean). Of course, I mis-pronouced it (the only difference being that the word for 18 is said quicker, and the 'a' sound is slightly more drawn out to create the aspirated 'p' sound, according to my colleague).

Swear word: Hangul: 시발 Romanisation: sheepal.
18 in Chinese: Hangul: 십팔 Romanisation:Sheeppal.
시 is shee
ㅂ and ㅍis P but the later is aspirated.
ㅏ is 'a' as in the word 'cap'
ㄹ in this case is an 'l'

So you can empathise with my ignorance!!!!

Rob has kindly agreed to leave some space in his luggage so that I can do some shopping ie he will take some stuff back to England for me, bless him. Plus I might get some salt'n'vinegar flavoured crisps afterall. And some duty free purfume...I'm after some more Flower my Kenzo, and Beautiful-Sheer by Estee Lauder. Meanwhile, my parents agreed to send me some deodorant...I am truely spoiled!


Yuletide celebrations

Friday/Christmas eve:

My boss did his usual and changed my timetable last minute. As a result, I had spent 40 min preparing for a completely different set of classes. I managed to piece together something for the elementary kids, but did not have time to prepare something for the Middle Schoolers. Afterall, 10 min to prepare for 7 classes is pushing it, when I only get 5 min in between each class to walk from one classroom to the next. Hence when it came to my last two classes/Middle schoolers, I legged it from the classroom and attached myself to the photocopier, to photocopy christmas carols as instructed. Of course it took longer than the 5 min time period allowed to get the copies done. My boss looked at the clock. "Louise, time, late!!!" and walked off before I had time to react. I was 3 min late for my class, as a result of his last minute change in timetable. My bosses brain opsoeyo!!!! (doesn't exist).

After hagwon, I popped round to Dana's school to drop of the Christmas cake as promised. The school was tiding up after their Christmas party, and I was invited to snack on some of the left over food. One of the parents had a really cute 18 month year old boy with him. He started singing, while the the 18 month year old starting dancing, bobbing up and down, doing the whole gangster hand gestures (arm over head hand pointing down to the floor in a stabbing gesture) and everything. I never saw anything like it, it was so cute!!! I couldn't stop coo-ing and laughing.

After that, I went straight home and straight to bed, to get some much needed sleep in preparation for tomorrow's celebrations.

I have noticed that my blogs often start with a complaint about my Boss. I really should consider stopping that, but unfortunetly, I really do have alot to complain about. Earlier this week, the Boss told all the teachers not to talk to me except in the classroom. Why??? I dont know. The teachers stuck to this for about a day, but by the next day they had given up, as they like me and enjoy talking to me. Ha!!!

Christmas day:

Awoke to the sound of the phone ringing, it was my parents phoning me at half past midnight their time. I made them (and Julia) open their presents while I was on the phone. They seemed to really like what I had sent them, and yes, everything did arrive in one piece!!! I instructed them to please, please, PLEASE buy and send me some deodorant as the Koreans dont sell it!!!

Chilled and pampered myself until it was time to go to party at Dana's for 5.30. I bought some cheese, yes, REAL CHEESE and had cheese on fried bread/toast for the first time in 3 1/2 months, which was a treat indeed!!! Spent the past week looking everywhere for a toaster, which proved fruitless. Nevertheless, the fried bread proved delicious, even tastier than ordinary toast. Yummy!!!

I arrived at the party at around 5.40 to be faced with a room full of strangers. I had met only 4 of them previously (Dana, obviously, Sandie, Andrew and Mina,)but once the drink started to flow conversation came easy, and we all began to have a good time. We couldn't get hold of a turkey, so we had a roast chicken instead, brought in by somebody from the airbase who actually has an oven. There were mashed potatoes, fruit (inc strawberries!!!) crisps, biscuits, and of course my christmas cake. I tried egg-nog for the first time, a drink composed of egg, and syrup/sugar from various fruit. It took me a while to elucite what the 'nog' in the egg-nog was!

Christmas Party 2004

Some of the girls I clicked with straight away,especially the Northern Ireland girl, Cara,despite them being a clique bunch. Cara and I seemed to have a lot in common, including gangster bosses. It was nice to be able to share my stories and experiences with someone who understood completely.

Christmas Party 2004

Meanwhile Andrew gave 3 speeches completely sloshed and swaying from side to side. Nobody was really listening to him after the first speech, bless him.

Christmas Party 2004

First Speech

Christmas Party 2004

Second Speech

Christmas Party 2004

Third Speech

Many photos were taken at the party, but not by me, as Ben, a bloke I had just met, took it upon himself to take my photos for me (yes, I did get my camera back!!!).

Christmas Party 2004

Photos of other people I met at the party:

Christmas Party 2004

Christmas Party 2004

Christmas Party 2004

Christmas Party 2004

Christmas Party 2004

At around 10pm we made it to the Wa-Bar, and we sat round on the biggest table in the middle of the bar. Ben continued to try and engage me in a deep and meaningful, which I participated in with wavering interest, as I was tired after coming down from my alcohol-high. As I sat at the table, I surveyed the group of people I was with; I found it both amazing and facinating that so many different personalities were able to engage and get along so well. The atmosphere was friendly and uplifting with no tension or awkardness.

After the Wa-Bar we went to a Singing room. On the way there it started to snow; the first sign of snow here in Korea.We stayed there until 5.20 in the morning, singing our hearts out to various tunes, both English and Korean, nobody caring if they sounded like a car back-firing, or cat with a serious case of pharyngitis. Andrew was still hammered, staggering around all over the room, and then jumping about like a hobbit on Speed.

Boxing day

Ben phoned me at 1pm ish, and we met at 3.15 to go for a walk round Eunpa lake. We veered of the beaten track (my idea, of course)and walked up and down hills, though trees and bogs. Ben's feet got completely soaked and his trousers splashed with mud. However, my jeans remained completely clean. We must have walked a good 7km until we finally made it round the other side of the lake and thus back to Miryong, were I live. We headed to Ms Donuts for hot chocolate and donuts, and then back to mine for a video.

This morning I am still exhausted. I arrived at Gomdo to find no one there, and I dont know why. I left them a note, written in English, assuming that the Teacher will look up any words he doesnt understand in the dictionary. I am sad to say that I have neglected my studies of the Korean language, and STILL dont know enough to leave a simple note.

So, its off to Hagwon for me now, while most of the teachers at the other schools get a week off...


Christmas Party

Yesterday was another opportunity for me to take photos, but of course, I forgot my camera. You see, yesterday, at my other school the teachers held a christmas party for the students. In my classes there were English-speaking games, with sweets as prizes. This was repeated 6 times over, so yes, I held 6 christmas parties in one afternoon!!! The students from a neighbouring hagwon were invited to join us.

For the elementary students:

Game 1: Pass a jar round while singing "We wish you a Merry Christmas" (which I taught them the week before). When we stop singing, the student who is left holding the jar reaches inside it and chooses a slip of paper with an English word on it. They act it out/give clues etc until one of the other students guess it. The student who had to give clues as to the word gets a sweet, while the students who guess correctly collect points...and we all know what points mean, dont we boys and girls??? Prizes!!! I dont know what the prizes were, I did not provide them or wrap them, but I think they were notebooks and packets of pencils.

Game 2: Bingo 9-square grid, numbers 1 to 20.

Game 3: Simon Says. (the one left gets a prize).

For the Middle school students:

Game 1: Choose a slip of paper and make a sentence in English. Correct sentences mean points.

Game 2: Bingo 16-square grid, numbers 1 to 30.

Game 3: Simon Says.

There were plain biscuits, oranges, yoghurt drinks, waffers and chocolate-coated marshmellow biscuits provided. As an added bonus, carol singers came and sang Korean christmas carols, dressed in santa hats (which I have looked for everywhere and cant find!!!). I am yet to elucidate if they were real carol singers or just some of the teachers from the other school.

Of course, at my main school, we are doing nothing to celebrate Christmas.

Earlier this week my Gomdo teacher had yet another business propostion for me (though he gets more out of it than me, but that doesn't bother me, as he has done a lot for me, and I want to give something back). In exchange for free Gomdo training and free lunch everyday, I teach his 6 year old daughter Yae-reem for 20 min, and in the new year, I teach some of the Gomdo students for half an hour every weekday. Technically I am not getting paid, so technically, its not illegal... This will really help me save money, though I am still using taxis more often than I should.


What a Night

Last night I was a little irresponsible. My director at the other school took all the teachers out to dinner at an American restaurant. Here I managed to convince my director to throw a Christmas party for the children. The children don't usually do anything special at christmas, even though Christmas is celebrated here. I thought it would be a nice treat for them.

After that we went to another eating house in Miryoung, close to my apartment. It was here that I sampled pig intestine, but it was not until after I tried it that thought to ask if it still had pg faeces in it. Eung Jung insisted that there wasn't any, but somehow I didn't believe her. It was too late by then anyway. 6 shots of soju later, we made our way to the nearest Narobam (singing room/kareoke), which was my director's idea. We all took it turns to sing, the new Maths teacher was particularly good. I felt very embarrassed singing infront of my colleagues. For me singing in front of friends is one thing, but singing in front of my colleagues is quite another. Still, at least it wasn't as bad as when Song-il, the Korean man that took me on a date, insisted that I sang infront of him. Really not the best way for me to impress somebody!!!

And if this wasn't enough, the girls insisted on going to Arabian Night after the singing room. Arabian Night is a night club where there are dancers on the stage, and you and try and copy their dance moves. In the end we gave up and did our own thing, doing our best to fend off any slimeballs that headed our way. 3 half pints of Hite managed to see me through to 3am, whereupon we headed home, exhausted. I have been suffering from insomnia recently, so it was nice to fall asleep almost straight away.

Today I arrived very late at Gomdo- I did not get there until 12.30. They were not impressed. I 'fessed up, as I didn't want to lie to them. I was not hung over, just tired from the night before, from my insomnia and from being ill all the time.

So I am off to my main school now, where I am going to do my uttmost to appear switched on.


Another week goes by

Another week has gone by, and this time I really do not have much to say. This post merely serves the purpose of confirming to those back in my native England that yes, I am still alive.

Over Thursday and Friday, my school time table changed around 8 times until the Boss was finally satisfied with what is best. He has removed one of the classes which I teach at a more sociable hour, and tagged another at the end of the day. Thus, every friday I will now be finishing classes at 9.40pm, and leaving around 10pm, allowing time to write up what I did that day. This is also annoying in as far as my bus does not arrive until 10.15, leaving me to stand in the freezing cold for at least 15 min. At least when my last class finished at 9pm I was nicely on time for the bus.
"so why don't you take a taxi instead?" I hear you cry. Because I spend to much money out here on nothing,mostly taxis, and one of the reasons I am out here is to save money.

What suprised me however, was that on Friday, the Boss insisted that the only thing I teach the Middle school students is christmas carols. So there I was, standing in front of a class of 30 14 year olds belting my little heart out, attempting to surpass the cattarh and general snottiness while teaching the rhythm and the melody of the carols I had chosen. One of the carols I taught was "Twelve Days of Christmas" complete with a mexican wave of actions to go with the words. The girls giggled and sniggered as the boys did " three french hens" and "six geese a-laying" but were not laughing quite as hard when it was their turn to do "lords a-leaping".

Saturday was spent sleeping, talking to Ben on the phone, watching some awful US dating show, then Sex in the City (cool!) then sleeping. It was the first saturday in about a month that I got to spend relaxing. Sunday was spent, well, sleeping, cleaning my apartment, and then a brief walk by Eunpa lake.

Eunpa Lake, Gunsan

Memorial, Eunpa

Not sure what this is, perhaps a memorial.


Platform by the lake. After taking this photo I disappeared through the trees you can see in the background, and up the hill. While I sat amongst the trees I wrote Rob's xmas present...hope he likes it.

On the way to the lake I spotted some farms, one of which had reindeer!!! I just had to take a photo, see below:

Reindeer farm, Miryong dong

Well, its time for me to go back to my apartment, attempt some cooking (pork and vegetables) and maybe if I have the mental capacity, learn some Korean.



My working week was pretty uneventful, apart from my Boss cutting his finger and showing it to me like a proud little boy to his mother.It took considerable restraint on my part not to throw a sarcastic comment. "Poor baby" would have been what I would have said had I not had the common sense to keep my mouth shut. I really have no respect for a man who constantly upsets the Korean teachers and thrashes, yes, thrashes the kids with a snooker cue when they dont do their homework (is that really punishment to fit the crime? I think not.) I have yet to hear of another hagwon in Gunsan or in Seoul that still uses physical punishment, though as far as I am aware its not illegal.

Saturday was spent in Seoul. It took me 3 1/2 hours to get there, during which the first hour was spent coughing and blowing my nose. No joke, I looked at my watch when it started, and again when it subsided. I have had this for over a week, and I was curious as to how long each coughing fit lasted. After that, I fell asleep for the next couple of hours till I reached the outskirts of Seoul.

Seoul, Korea's capital city, is THE place to be if you want anything convenient eg a phone card for cheaper phone calls, or to have a good time. Half of Korea's population is concentrated in Seoul, some 30 million vs 60 million, and in some parts of Seoul every other person is an English speaking westerner. Suprisingly, I did not like it one bit, I felt like I was back in England. Some Korean's compare Seoul with Manhattan, though it is likely that those from New York will disagree.

Having met up with Ben at the Bus Terminal, we took the underground to the train stop that would lead us to Gyeongbokgung palace. The bus terminal, with no exhaggeration is bigger than some airports I have been to eg Luton and Liverpool John Lennon, and some of the ones in Canada, apparently. The underground was an experience in itself. As large as the one in London and twice as confusing (due to Hangul and not knowing the system), it really is a sight to behold. The trains were just as hot, smelly and overcrowed as the ones in London, with Seoulites competing for seats. I was lucky to have someone with me who was used to the ticket system of the underground. Gunsan does not even have a train station; I have to get the bus everywhere, even from one city to the next.

40 min later, when we emerged from the underground and onto the street, it was still throwing it down. The sky was dull and miserable and the wind was strong and bitter. Within 5 min my trainers got soaked through, despite the umbrella. The photos don't even begin to capture the weather that day. In the end we did not stay long, as we could not find any decent shelter, and it was too cold and wet to carry on wandering the full grounds of the palace. Below is my half-hearted attempt of an account of the palace.

The palace was first built by Taejo, the first king of the Yi dynasty, when he relocated Korea's capital to Seoul. The palace was the hub of royal power, and royal residence for around 200 years. Unfortunately the Japanese invasion of 1592 saw the destruction of most of the 500 buildings that were housed within the place walls. After centuries of neglect, restoration of the palace finally began during the reign of King Gojong (1864-1907). Some 200 of the original buildings had been restored when the Japanese occupation (1910-1945) resulted in wholesale destruction, leaving only 10 building remaining.

The Koreans have vowed to restore the palace to its former glory of the days of King Gojong. This ambitious project commenced in 1995 and is due for completion in 2020.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

This the gate to the palace, which lead to a huge courtyard. It directly faced the main enterance to the palace.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

This the main enterance to the palace. Extending from this was a wall that quite possibly extended for a kilometre of two in enclosing the rest of the buildings.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Steps leading up to the main gate.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Stone carving in steps leading up to the main enterance. There were also some stone carvings of various creatures which I forgot to take photos of.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

This is part of the Changing of the Guard ceremony. In the background you can see the wall that I mentioned earlier. The guards stood outside the main enterance holding swords, spears, and various other mean-looking things, looking rather uncomfortable in traditional costume. Again, I forgot to take a close up photo of these guards.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

I noticed this from the courtyard in the background. I'm not sure what it is, possible some kind of Pagoda from the Japanese invasion???

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Inside one of the palace numerous room was a some kind of alter. The roof was lofty and was painted in the same style as the rest of the buildings in the palace. This style can be seen in some of my photos of temples in previous blogs.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Eun-Jung informs me that this is where the King used to hold banquets and entertain his guests. It is surrounded by a body of water, (bigger than the one residing in my trainers).

Gyeongbokgung Palace

This is a general view of inside the palace. We gave up after this, the weather having 'dampened' our spirits as well as our clothes.

After this Ben and I went for a Mexican, which was a real treat as you cannot get mexican food in Gunsan. I had a burrito, which was simply delicous, and I savoured every splendid mouthful.

The title of this blog provides a link to Ben's website, whose photos and descriptions provides more information than what I was able to conjure up.

One the way back, I spent some time looking round the shops at the Bus Terminal. They actually had a Body Shop, so I took the invaluable opportunity to buy the eyeshadow that I am running low on (always important!!!!). The journey home was restful, and I actually got to read some more of The Real Middle Earth, before arriving in Gunsan just past midnight.