Monday, 28 February 2011

Things we like about Korea, Part One

Yes, as crazy as it seems, there are actually some things we LIKE about Korea. So this is part one! ( I feel there may not be that many parts)....

Finding food at Homeplus (Korean Tesco) that we can easily find in UK Supermarkets:

For Korean-food hating freaks like us, there is a dark wilderness in Korea, called the supermarket. We can NEVER find food that we like, and often end up living on bread and jam in the week and gorging on expensive Western food at the weekends. The Christmas trip to the UK brought some respite, with tins and cereal and crisps being lugged back to Jeollabukdo! We also found magical products at M and S food in Hong Kong (Why oh why can't they have it here?!!). However, finding food we like on our doorstep is a massive problem. The one concession to our misery is Homeplus.

Homeplus is great, it is the Korean name for Tesco and even stocks UK Tesco products (complete with original buy 3 for 4pounds stickers on the boxes)... So we find some gems from time to time. This is an advert for Homeplus, it's great and the jingle is really catchy!!

Anyway, this weekend in Daejeon (we love Daejeon) we found a Homeplus that was even more magical, stocking food which we never dreamed we'd find in Korea!! I got shreddies (Tesco Malt Wheats) my favourite cereal that I had thought I would never see again!

Greg got pickled onion and Tesco branston pickle! It was immense.

 It was the best day and we both jumped up and down in the aisles! Go shop there!!!

Expedition to Daejeon

After a massively hungover and sleep-deprived day where we were lectured by incompetent desperado English "teachers" who have washed up in Korea because their lives are even more hopeless in their own countries than they are here and who evidently have nothing to go home for so are trying (and failing) to make the best of a terrible, terrible situation, and dragged round the world's most boring temple by Chae Chong Lee and his posse of young, incompetent Korean women(they take about an hour to do take a register on a bus - no joke!), we set off on the long, arduous journey to Daejeon and arrived on Friday evening.

Rubbish temple (note kid in mask and Burberry scarf - Korean chic!)

We like Daejeon.  The Homeplus(Tesco) has a McDonalds(unlike the 2 in Jeonju which only have Lotteria - see above - , albeit, Lotteria's that serve fries) and the motels are cheap.  Best of all, we finally got a round bed!!!!!!!  Our initial excitement was somewhat crushed when we discovered how uncomfortable and impractical said round bed actually is.  The motel was also a dive and began collapsing on us just before check-out this morning(we narrowly escaped some metal bars to the head).

On Saturday we went to Kumdoriland, a bizarre, alien-themed amusement park that's home to the biggest roller-coaster in Korea.  It was cheap and fun and really quiet(the abandoned expo park and science park next door had a bigger crowd than the theme park) and we go to watch an alien singing "Maria" by Blondie which was surreal and fun.

Performing alien

Katherine conquered her fears and rode the Horror Express/Black Hole Express, the giant, 5-looping roller coaster and we hugged some Koreans in alien costumes.

Katherine makes her first friend in Korea

Looking cool(especially me!)

  We also saw a dog.  Speaking of dogs, the girl in front of us in the queue for the kiddie roller coaster was wearing trainers emblazoned with 'FAT DOG'.  Only in Korea!

Saturday night took us to Katherine's favourite thing about Korera, the American-owned, Irish-themed Bennigans where kimchi isn't on the menu!

[Katherine]: After our Kumdori Land adventure, we hit the abandoned Expo Park next door. It was created in 1993 for the International Expo and is full of really cool, modern looking buildings. However, as is the Korean way (they don't know what they're doing) the government seem to have left half the park to rack and ruin and still use half of it as a tourist attraction. Therefore some bits are really busy and some are really creepy and desolate. The creepiness is also increased by the fact that there is eerie music coming from speakers around the park.

Expo Park with Obligatory Aliens

We had read about Robots in the Expo Park in another blog, and Greg was desperate to see them, so we searched the whole park! Unfortunately, we didn't find the robots, but we did have a fun time in this weird place.

I got attacked by a bear:

Greg got eaten by a hippo:

I made friends with a Polar Bear:

We saw a 'Yonguk' flag, woo hoo!!

Greg got attacked by a giant ant:

We saw Archimedes' bare arse:

We watched people ride on these bikes things but were too lazy to rent our own:

As you can probably guess from the wide selection of weird photos, this place is the kind of place that Korea does so 'well'. In that it makes absolute no sense, has no logic to it and wastes a ton of cash!! We liked it though and I think we learned something too (I'll get back to you if I ever think what that could be)...

Today we planned to go to O! World(the new name for Daejeon Zoo) but the weather has turned nasty so we're currently sitting, cold and wet, at Daejeon bus terminal waiting for the bus back to Buan.

Nonetheless, we had a fun weekend!

Training for Guest English Teachers to Reinforce their Teaching Abilities

[Greg:]  The training was about as useful as the title (Kathy is being generous in her assessment) but a good time was had by all nonetheless.  We got drunk, went to the beach, went to a noraebang (Korean private karaoke booth), broke into the water park at the hotel and Kathy got stuck on a fence (yes, there's bruising).  There was nudity, free-flowing alcohol, biting and even a naked, 53-year old woman stuck in a hedge.  Fun times!

These people are trusted with the education of children!

Karaoke room

More beer arrives

[Katherine: ]  Unfortunately, all the high jinks were preceded by the worst conference ever.  Our day began at 7am in Buan, when we had to get up after about 1 hour of sleep as I was stressing about my move to Sintaein and my skanky, dirty new apartment.  Photos and description will follow later.  We had to get up so early, despite the conference being local to Buan, as greg had received no information about getting to the conference (or that the conference was even taking place because his co-teacher is hospitalised in the UK with gout).  My old co-teacher (Bitch Lee) had said that the two of us had to assemble with the rest of the EPIK freaks at some random culture centre in Jeonju(90 minutes from Buan) and board busses back to Buan.  As you might guess, I was none too pleased and whined and moaned at poor Greg for the whole journey (he's a real hero).  When we got to Jeonju, we managed to find the culture centre (with some difficulties) as, fortunately, our taxi driver was one of the 1% of taxi drivers in Korea who wasn't a dick.  Greg had obtained some reasonably accurate directions from a Korean friend since Bitch Lee gave us next to no information, as per usual.  However, my mood declined rapidly when we arrived at the meeting point and came face to face with my nemesis, Chae Chong Lee, the English education supervisor in Jeollabuk do and the man (partly) responsible for my horrible living situation and who lied to me about moving to Jeongeup.  This smug, self-satisfied, shiny-suited arse informed Greg (he obviously has no idea who I am, or just doesn't care) "ah, you are from Buan.  You should be meeting at the Buan Education Office at 10.40am".  This meant we could have had 3 more hours sleep.  As you've probably guessed, this did nothing for my already horrible mood (again, poor Greg).

[Greg: ]  And they made us eat "delicious Korean food" the whole time.  As usual, we were the only two people (out of 120-odd) who wouldn't (or couldn't) stomach it.  The hotel did have a Lotteria (rubbish Korean McDonald's rip-off) but it didn't even do fries!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Posting under duress...

I wasn't going to write anything tonight but Katherine insisted and although I don't know much about women, I know that it's best not to argue with them when they're on their period.

Today we went to Lotte World.  Lotte(pronounced low-tay - yeah, I know!) World is a massive amusement park in the centre of Seoul.  Most of it is indoors but there's an outdoor bit too.  We're annual pass holders(we emailed about a discounted online pass, were advised that we could get an even better discount if we met some random woman at an ambiguous location, didn't meet said random woman but got the special discount when she turned up an hour later at a different location with her elderly father having waited for us for 90 minutes) and go often.  Today was ridiculously busy because it's the school holidays but we still managed to get on a few good rides(most of which are shamelessly stolen from Disney or other theme parks since intellectual property is a foreign concept in Korea).
We got stared at a bit and Katherine got kicked on the arse by an old man but there wasn't a repeat of the 'staring hag incident' from our last visit, where a hag stared at us for about 30 minutes without breaking off the stare because Katherine told her not to queue jump.  The staring hags on the metro didn't disappoint though.  We feel like celebrities in this country.

Tonight we had 2 for 1 fish and chips at the Wolfhound.  It's an "irish" bar in Seoul.  It's full of awful people but the food is great and the champagne cocktails are cheap and delicious.

We had a minor disappointment at the International Food Mart when they ran out of salt and vinegar crisps(see below by Kathy) but otherwise we've had an excellent vacation - well it beats teaching anyway.

The mystery of the salt and vinegar crisps!!

Since I have arrived in Korea, I have taken one thing as my solace:

Yes, that's right salt and vinegar crisps!! They were a golden find in the International Food shop in Seoul and they brightened my weary days (for some reason Korean shops don't stock the same western brands like other Asian countries do - I wish I had discovered this before I came to Korea - research, Katherine, research!!

Anyway, the arrangement has all been well and good until last week! We were in Seoul to get drunk and celebrate Greg's birthday. However, a shock met us when we discovered that there were no salt and vinegar crisps in any of our food shops! I had to choke back the tears and grin and bear it, it was one of my lowest points in Korea! However, I tried to rationalise and said that this must be some terrible anamoly, that next week all the crisps would be back on their rightful shelves!!

I bet you can guess what happened next....

Yes that's right, this week I entered the shop and still NO SALT AND VINEGAR CRISPS!!! This is a travesty and I assume that the worst is to come, and that the future has a lack of salt and vinegar goodness in it???  Perhaps there is some weird shortage of export crisps in the US, or perhaps God is taunting me? I just don't know! But whatever happens, I cannot survive without them, they are my only hope of sanity!!! It's the lowest point of my being..

If anyone has any suggestions to resolve this, please let me know, I await answers and the return of my beautiful crisps to their lovely shelves!!! Korea, I've been so good to you, so please help me!!!

Monday, 21 February 2011

Ah Korea

So, when we arrived in Korea I was brimming with enthusiasm and determined to document every aspect of my fun year in my blog, a true document of the day:

 Guttingly, events beyong my control, ie living here: 
made me an unhappy Katherine, and let's face it, i'm not exactly upbeat to begin with!! So, as my situation got worse, I got more depressed and since November have not felt happy enough to contribute to my blog (plus I got annoyed at Greg not doing it!!)... However, things are now looking up! I've moved in with Greg in the buzzing metropole of Buan - joke, but at least it has a Lotteria, and am starting teaching 9 miles from Buan in a town called Sintaein next week. Hopefully this six months WILL be an improvement on the last and we will have lots of fun adventures. Either way I am intending on writing at least one post a week as I want this blog to be a lasting reminder of my time in Korea - although some things I will want to forget we have a lot of fun too and I want to always look back at it when I'm old and grey (and probably the internet will not exist then).

So, the new blog will begin in earnest, but first I will outline the last 3 months briefly!!

In November, we had a fun time at the Hanok village in Jeonju, where I hijacked Greg and the Buan Office of Education's bonding trip to this traditional Korean village. We made lots of 'delicious Korean food'

Bibimbap! (raw egg and raw meat, mmmm)

KIMCHI!! arrrgggghhhh!!!!

yeah, it was gross, remember we don't like Korean food. Sadly, our happiest memories here have involved scrambling around random areas and finding gold dust like mcdonalds and outback, and filling our trolleys at the international food markets. The Austrian Deli in Itaewon is my favourite so far - real ham and turkey like at home that I can make crusty ham sandwiches with, plus of course my favourite salt and vinegar crisps and SALAD CREAM!!!
Anyway, I'm completely going off kilter, we also did traditional Korean crafts, music and dressed up sexily in Korean traditional hanbok!!

                              Greg in Hanbok with non-traditional scarf (this apparently is in a teacher's magazine)]

We also did a tour of Jeonju, and Greg held a cat! Cute!


Anyway, I can't remember much else that happened these last few months, but that is exactly why I need to write the blog!!! We did go on an amazing holiday in January/Februrary to Hong Kong and to Tokyo Disney and Tokyo DisneySea, I will need to write about that in a later blog!

We have also had many trips to Seoul and to our favourite theme park, Lotte World, of which we are now proud annual pass holders! We also love going to the pubs in Seoul and devouring all the Western food (yes, again we don't like Korean food). Korea does have a lot of good points, mostly it's cheap transport and hotel options, which mean we go on holiday EVERY weekend so I will try and write about these things more now!! It has been hard over the last few months, and the isolation of a tiny village is hard to cope with, as is the constant lies from the powers that be. All these things have really got me down and hopefully the next six months will be more positive and the blog will be filled with flowers and fairies and things!!

For now, I will sign off with the promise of writing more very soon!!


Our Triumphant Return to the Blogosphere!

After 3 months of radio silence, we're back.  Katherine Teacher has been too depressed to blog about Korea (details to follow) but things are looking up so we've started a new blog to document our lives in Korea, the worst place on Earth.

Katherine and I are now living together in Buan, which is marginally better than the shack (the people who break into my apartment only re-tile the bathroom, they don't move all my things around and watch me sleep) so here's hoping that the next six months are better than the last.