Giggity Giggity

I’ve promised my friend Anna that I will write a blog post everyday for November, annnnnd it’s already November 3. Catch up time!

November 1

November 1st marked the day of my first real, proper, grungy, smokey, rock gig in a pub. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not cut out for this rock thing. I listen to classical music more often than not, I don’t particularly like sex or drugs, I wear flippy skirts and I like pink gel pens. Today I’m wearing a black pleather jacket and I’m concerned that I’ve over done the cool factor.

Nevertheless, when the lead singer asked if I would join the band as a pianist and female vocalist I jumped at the opportunity. The one time I had seen Malarkey perform I had the best night of my South Korean life. The crowd loved them, the band loved the crowd, and the covers they did were well chosen and fun. Why wouldn’t I want to be a part of that?

After a brief foray on the bass, I was finally back on the keys and knew what I was doing. I was so pumped for this gig. Practice and sound check went well and we booked out a motel room (jacuzzi with waterfall tap included) to get into costume. Costume. That’s right. This was Halloween. We had decided months ago that we were to go in drag. We had Lana from Archer; a female Mudkip; a man with a snake in his bra; a not-quite-spice-girl/not-quite-royal wearing the aforementioned pleather jacket; and my favourite, a bloodied up Beatrix Kiddo. I went as a punk rocker; faux-hawk, scary eye makeup, chest hair, bra-less man boobs, and stubble included. I looked decidedly feminine but overall it was effective!

FullSizeRender

I’m still on a high from the gig. Whilst I was a bundle of nerves during my first vocal solo, and the sustain pedal got stuck on sustain, once that was over I picked up and I really enjoyed the night. I love being in this band and who knows? Maybe I will finally embrace the inner rock goddess that desperately wants me to let go.

November 2

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so CLOSE. Going from a Saturday filled with high energy performances to a Sunday filled with directing high energy performances was a poor choice. And yet, it is the life I have chosen and the life I love. The day started beautifully. A sunny brunch, followed by enthusiastic practices and a script writing session until the late afternoon.  “Late afternoon” was the problem. By the time I had finished I was shaking from caffeine intake and hangry. I snapped at a friend, she pulled me up on it… the water works started. I am not a crier. This was weird. I was overtired. Everything is good justt… stressful.

Standing there in the bus terminal, crying like I’d just lost my love interest in a K-drama, we made our way to a cafe where my friend worked her magic and convinced the cafe to make my favourite drink, a minty hot chocolate! Coupled with a vent, cinnamon sugar pretzels and hugs it wasn’t long before I was feeling a lot lighter.

In the end the tears were worthwhile. I came home tired but determined to get myself on track and I’m going to be taking extra special care of myself this month to prevent another wet-eyed attack even though my to-do list looks like it was written by Obama on speed.

I’m super pumped about this blogging challenge. A lot is going to happen this month and I think it will be healthy and fun to write about it. I also want to reflect on the year that was, considering that I am now entering my 12th month in Korea. My next post will be titled “Luncheon in Suncheon”, something that I promised a friend I would write a looonnnng time ago.

A Summer to Remember

First an explanation: After a not so brief encounter with cyber stalking (for lack of a better term) I decided to take a step back from publicly detailing my life. I didn’t abandon social networks but I did decide to put the blog on hiatus for a while and kept in touch with only a few people. Now that ties have been cut as extensively as possible with said stalker, for a couple of months, I’m feeling nervous, yet comfortable enough to continue the tale of my marvelous life here in Korea.

It was spring time when I last wrote, and now summer – my first summer in 18 months – has come and gone. My poor skin didn’t know how to handle the pressure and left me sun-ripened for a couple of weeks after climbing Halla-san, South Korea’s tallest mountain, and lazing  about on Jeju island:

I also made my (assistant) directorial debut for the farce “Rumors!” by Neil Simon, which turned out to be a fantastic success and learning experience. Furthermore I wrote and conducted my own arrangement of “geek” songs, after a commission from the council of Alleycon 2014, a western style comic convention in Gwangju:

Gwangju, as I’m sure you have noticed has become my second home in Korea and I’m happy to announce that I will be moving there in just 7 weeks. 99% of my friends live in Gwangju and my “second job”, managing a choir/performing arts organisation, is centred there. Whilst working full-time next year I will also be studying a Master of Applied Linguistics online, with a part in literature, so that I can eventually come back to study Science and English education. After the stress of the last few months defined goals for my career, savings, and life in Korea have done wonders for my health, mentally and physically.

I won’t write anymore today. I just wanted to get back into the swing of it. My friend Anna and I are intending to blog once a day in November for the blogging version of nanowrimo (na-no-blog-mo). I’m sure I will have lots to write as my latest project is directing a cabaret and dessert night to be held at the end of November. I don’t have to time to pause and that’s just how I like it!

Oh yeah. I’m also in a rock band and was in a k-pop contest winning team. lol.

Rumors and K-pop contest photo credit to R. Kojic; choir to L. Crone

Restless for Rest – A Coastal Adventure – Part 3

… Busan!

After saying goodbye to my taxi buddies, I headed to the train station hoping that I could get a space on the train that night. I could, I had to wait 3 hours, but I could!

My phone was dying  and a Korean friend was sending me desperate messages telling me that I was crazy and that there were no accommodation options in Busan because of the mass influx of people due to Golden Week. I wasn’t too concerned. If the worst came to the worst I would be able to get a bus or train back to Suncheon, and have a lovely few days at home. Determined as I was to find a place to sleep, and prove the world wrong, as soon as I got to Busan I walked into the fist motel I saw. I may have had to go down a terrifying alleyway, up an elevator that wasn’t quite in order, speak to a man who clearly slept in his office, and pay in cash only, but damn it! I found a room. A super sexy, red lit, out-of-order-rotating-circle bed, with pink polyester sheets, situated next to the train station kind of room. It was dodgier than Butch’s hideout in Pulp Fiction, but they gave me a free toothbrush, and assured me that the room was neither clean, nor would it be cleaned – I didn’t ask about this, they were just determinedly honest; I appreciated that.

That Room...

That Room…

I’d read that the world’s largest shopping mall was in Busan and I was in the mood for the cinema so I decided to check it out. The problem with the world’s largest shopping mall, is that it is rather large. I promptly got lost on my way up the escalators, and I’m fairly sure I took a goods lift in order to get to my final destination. Grabbing my obligatory “nachos” and “ice tea” I made it just in time for the opening credits of “The Great Budapest Hotel”… I think it might be Wes Anderson’s best. Getting home on the subway should have been a breeze, except this is me, this is me in a strange city, at midnight, during Golden Week. At 12am the subway arrived at a random station and stopped. It didn’t finish the route. It just… stopped. And so, I got out, and attempted to hail a taxi. Except this is Golden Week, in Busan… there were no vacant taxis. And so I walked. I walked for a really, really long time, in the rain.

I used to this all the time at home, walk for hours and hours, in any weather, I’d walk everywhere. I still do. It’s just that everywhere isn’t that far anymore. Since that walk, and the endorphin rush, and the peace of mind I gained, I’ve been sure to keep walking, as long as I can most nights of the week. Anyway… back to Busan.


The next morning, I decided to make my way to Hyundae Beach. However, on the bus I was accosted by a middle aged woman who desperately wanted me to speak English to her (rather unwilling) daughter. She decided that I was to tour with them that day and took me to the outskirts of Busan, namely Taejongdae Park, which apparently has a really interesting lighthouse on  a rocky peninsula. We didn’t get quite that far, the poor woman got a bit too tired, and after seeing the ocean for the first time in her life, was a little overwhelmed and we went back to the bus stop chomping on octopus jerky. They wanted me to join them for dinner, however I needed some breathing space and I headed back into the city.

Wandering around I eventually made it to the famed Hyundae Beach where families were setting off fireworks in celebration.


There isn’t much more to say, except to point out that the train journey from Busan to Suncheon is one of the most beautiful journey’s imaginable. Rolling hills, small mountains, coast, rivers, rice paddies. It’s just stunning. And yet, I have no photos. I was far too busy skyping my aunt and enjoying her company. 🙂

I couldn’t help but feel incredibly humbled, and calm, and lucky at the end of this trip. Korea has so much too offer, and I tend to forget this all too often. I get wrapped up in the bubble of the GPP and my job – both of which I love, but I need to step away sometimes and appreciate this country while I’m still here. Tomorrow (actually today – derp), I’m heading to Jeju island for a few days of hiking and (maybe) some sun. See you on the flip side!

Restless for Rest – A Coastal Adventure – Part 2

Struggling to sleep thanks to the odd feeling that I was being watched by a cartoon dog, I eventually dosed off, and woke well after my alarm.

There was no way to sleep with snoopy

There was no chance of sleep

Freaking out, I ignored the call of the luxurious bath tub and ran to the ticket office at the train station. The queue was packed with other disorganised travelers and looked something akin to the picture below. Somehow, I managed to get a standing room ticket and I even found a piece of wall to rest on!

CROWD

This is actually Gwangju, the night before, but you get the idea…

Arriving in Gyeongju, it occurred to me that I had hours before I was due to check in at the temple; I had no idea where I was going; how far away anything interesting was; or what to pick.

Taxi driver to the rescue!

Clearly prepared for idiot tourists like myself, he took one look at my confused face and pulled out  a poster with pictures of places to choose from. I pointed at a pretty looking lake thing, he nodded his approval and away we went. On arriving, he got out of his car and walked me around for a couple of minutes showing me where I should go – have I mentioned that I love taxi drivers in Korea? I really do, not enough to marry their sons (I’ve been proposed to by proxy a couple of times), but enough to be very grateful they exist.

It was a perfect Spring day, the sun was high, the sky was blue, the grass green. It seemed I had chosen to visit the area hosting the Anapji Pond, Royal Tombs and the Cheomseongdae Observatory. These sites all date back to the Ancient Silla dynasty of Korea (57 BCE – 935 CE). Anapji, originally constructed in 674 CE and restored in 1974, was the palace of the Crown Prince away from the main palace.  Cheomseongdae, meaning “star gazing platform”, is the oldest known observatory in East Asia. Interestingly, it is made of 362 pieces of cut granite, representing the number of days in a lunar year. Known as tumuli, the Royal Tombs are dotted all around Gyeongju covered in green, green, grass. I made a joke when I was travelling that I was in the shire, but really it was more like walking around the burial site of Rohan. I wish I had a better way of describing just how calming and peaceful this place was. Or at least, it was until a young woman let out a shriek, because a squirrel had decided to join for lunch! Perhaps I should let the pictures speak for themselves:


Eventually I made it to Golgulsa temple. I’ve got to admit, I just wasn’t in the mood. I was full of adrenalin after touring ancient Korea, and well, I just wanted to keep moving. However, I had made a commitment to give this “temple stay” idea a try and so I went. It didn’t start well, the (stunning) taxi ride was about 20,000won more expensive than the temple had lead me to believe and I was short on cash to pay for my stay. Luckily they did have the card facilities they had purported not to carry, but the mid-30’s British girl who works at the temple, was quite simply awful, and dripping with false niceties. Maybe I’ve become used to Korean hospitality but it just seemed like every question anyone had was bothersome. Hmmf.

Anyway, I found my room, a large hall which fit probably around 30 sleepers; put on my uniform; and went for a wonder through the temple gardens. The weather was starting to cool off, birds were chirping, lanterns were strung around the complex to celebrate Buddha’s birthday. That night I met the other guests for dinner. Following Buddhist practice, women sat separately to men, and the meal was entirely vegetarian. As a special treat there was watermelon – watermelon costs around AUD$20 in Korea! After dinner we were given an orientation to the chanting and meditation practices at the temple, and then we had a Sunmudo lesson! It was so fun! I felt like I was back at dancing without stretched toes and if there was an academy in Suncheon I would be sure to enroll.

The next morning, after waking up at 4.30 am for prayer (the stars were awesome!) and a ceremonial breakfast, we were given the option to head out on an excursion. I decided that that was exactly the plan I wanted and I took the tour bus to Girim-sa Temple in Mount Hamwolsan. It was a small temple, but full of interesting things. In fact, the detail on the temple roofing was probably the most detailed I’ve seen, and also, oddly, the most pastel. This was followed by a trip to the coast to see a pile of rocks in the ocean that apparently held an underground tomb. I appreciated the idea rather than the site itself, there wasn’t much to behold.

Going back to the temple, a couple of other guests were talking about leaving. Realising that this may be my only chance to share a taxi back into town, and getting fed up with meditation, I decided to trek back into town with them. The frustrating lady in the temple office claimed that there was no taxi available. However, catching a bus wasn’t an option because one of our number was nursing a back injury. Curiously, on asking a man at the kimbap shop down the road, we managed to get a taxi within 20 minutes. Hah!

I made some lovely friends on that taxi ride, a German lady living in Tokyo, her sister, and a young Mexican man living in Saudi Arabia as an engineer. (Thanks for the postcard Rod!)

New friends :-)

New friends 🙂

I was sad to leave Gyeongju, but I had decided that it was time to hit the big city of… MWHAHAHAHAHA!!!! (Tomorrow, I swear – but 1000 words is quite enough!)

Restless for Rest – A Coastal Adventure – Part 1

It was a while ago now that I took off along the southern coast of Korea for my 6 day Buddha’s Birthday holiday, yet it is still fresh in my mind like it was only last weekend. I was in the midst of May Concert rehearsals, teaching was full steam ahead and I was just starting to get serious about studying Korean.

I was busy! I wasn’t really ready for a holiday. It seemed to come at me unexpectedly, forcing a break in productivity.

I was in one of those outwardly annoying phases one projects when they are pushing themselves too hard  and forget the value of relaxation. I’d been in hospital for stomach ulcers that had caused perforations in my stomach, bad enough to need stitches, and leave a large dent in my wallet; I had sprained my ankle and I wasn’t sleeping. BUT OHHHHH NO. I WAS FINE. FIIINNNEEE LOVE. Idiot Heather.

Some part of my subconscious wasn’t quite so stupid, and listened when some Korean friends suggested I try a temple stay. I booked my self in for 3 nights at the Golgulsa Temple near Gyeongju in the South East of the country. I chose this particular temple for two reasons. First, I was keen to visit Gyeongju, one of the most historically interesting areas in the country. Secondly, Golgulsa is known for training in the art of Sunmudo, a Korean martial art; sweating my frustrations out seemed like a far more welcome idea than seated meditation.

Before I headed off to Gyeongju I had some things to take care of in my own province. I had a “western” breakfast date with a friend, Lindsay, completed with a peanut butter milkshake and a suggestion that we trip 15 minutes south to visit friends in the coastal city of Yeosu. This would be my first visit to the Korean coast. I had heard many a “you won’t be that impressed”, “you’re Australian, don’t bother”, “the water is gross and muddy in the west” – so naturally, I was keen to go. It may be the product of growing up a short walk from the relatively small, windy, basalt encrusted, seaweed stinking bay that is Altona Beach, but colour me impressed Yeosu – you’re perfect! It was small and unassuming; southward facing (so that the sun was never in my eyes); dotted with islands and cool water, perfect for paddling; surrounded by a lovely boardwalk and palm trees. It was a perfect, homely paradise.

Alas, adjective-inspiring siesta’s must come to an end, and I ventured back into Suncheon and onward to Gwangju the next day for a joint rehearsal with the Hoshin University Choir. I had hoped to skip this rehearsal, however conductor guilt got the better of me. It was lucky that it did! I received a call from a non-English speaking government worker telling me that I had incorrectly disposed of my garbage, and I needed the Head Conductor to take the call for me! I’m still not entirely sure what I did wrong, but the conductor guy got me out of a fine by saying “waegookin” multiple times so ummm… yay?

I wasn’t to make it to Gyeongju that night and expected to make an uneventful pit-stop overnight in Daegu. Ha! “Uneventful”! I was to discover that Korean motels can be… interesting. Often called “love motels”, rooms are available on a nightly basis … and an hourly one… to satisfy the ahhh… “love” drive… of young adults in Korea still living at home. One can find vending machines filled with “toys” and “protective gear” and some very interestingly themed rooms; the appeal of which I will never understand. I got Snoopy:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

CLIFFHANGER!!!! Part 2 will be up tomorrow 🙂

Adventures in Choral Gwangju

Those of you who know me well, know that it doesn’t take long  for me to find a project, or five, related to the arts. So it was, that I found myself becoming a “Player” (committee member) of the Gwangju Performance Project and starting a choir under that umbrella with a girl Caitlin, who has become a dear friend. This all happened rather fast, I had been planning to start a choir once play rehearsals were up and running, yet after Caitlin posted on Facebook asking whether a choir existed, I knew I had to get the ball running fast.

Approximately a month ago we had our first rehearsal. I’d planned a bunch of fun, easy pieces to get our new members excited and ready to create the relaxed Saturday afternoon activity we wanted. Of course, this is Korea. “Easing into it” is not a well known concept.

It didn’t start well. Stepping into a taxi I slipped and sprained my ankle worse than I had since my dancing days, and I ended up being late for the rehearsal! About 5 minutes after I finally arrived, Dr Shin of the Gwangju International Center walked in holding an ominous looking score. He asked us whether we would be interested in performing with the Hoshin Choir (a semi-professional choir in Gwangju) for the May Concert. My face fell; everyone else’s lit up. I was terrified; they were excited. Dr Shin gave me a 35 page score of Korean patriotic songs I had never heard and told me to conduct. I… stumbled through it. For a month we practiced these pieces, not really knowing if we were doing the right thing because we wouldn’t meet the Hoshin conductor until about a week before the concert.

I became an invigorated, stressed out, sleepless being. I was determined that we would get these pieces down. Terrified that we would fail; confident that we wouldn’t.

A week before the concert we discovered that we were to sing almost the entire score in Korean rather than the provided translation! I was also told that I was to sing the opening solo – in Korean!

After a month of pushing these poor choristers to their limits, the concert day arrived. It was an incredible event. A host of classically trained musicians performed throughout the evening and we were to close the concert. I must say, I’m not sure I’ve ever been prouder of myself or others. If anyone would like to see a video of the performance, just send me a message and I’ll send it along.

On Friday, for the first time in a month, I managed to clean, hang out the laundry, wash the dishes and prepare a meal at home. I was even able to test my ankle out with a short jog after work. I’ve been going non-stop. Even on my recent holiday to the East Coast of Korea, I had itchy feet and felt the need to keep moving. It may sound tiresome to some, and it is, but I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time.

I’m starting to think I’ve landed on my feet.

It's all a farce.

It’s all a farce.

I asked my students two questions

I was nervous going in to class today. The topic in the textbook was “Problems in the World” and well… given the current climate… I wasn’t too sure what would happen. I started with the obvious question: “What do you think is a major problem in the world today?” followed by “how would you fix this problem?”. The answers to the first question, were incredibly aware. These kids read the newspaper. Nothing goes unnoticed to them and once I convinced the murderous little sh**s that they could neither assassinate nor force anyone to eat “bin rice”, I was given solutions to these issues, that sometimes amused me, but mainly just blew me away:

  1. Children use smart phones too much – Break them. Change them to a 2G phone. Don’t have a smart phone, this is the best way! 
  2. Children use swear words – Teach children better words. You shouldn’t scold them, it doesn’t help. 
  3. Chinese Yellow Dust is coming to Korea – Plant many trees in China. Break the factories. Make the population smaller – One child!
  4. People are missing from the Sewol Disaster. The Sewol Captain was negligent. – Lift the boat. Rescue earlier. Teach workers everywhere about emergencies.  
  5. People are poor and hungry – Donate money. Give rice. 
  6. Smoking is making people sick – Quit smoking. Don’t sell cigarettes. 
  7. The Japanese Prime Minister spoke rudely – Persuade him to learn history. 
  8. Too much CO2 is creating Global Warming and hurting the environment – Ride a bike. Plant many trees
  9. North Korea is developing nuclear weapons – Become ready for unification. 
  10. Putin is trying to steal Ukraine land – Have a fair vote. 
  11. Bullying in schools – Everyone has home schooling. 
  12. The Fukushima Earthquake has made radioactive trash – Use tax money to rebuild Fukushima.

These answers got me thinking about perspective because many of these answers, could only be given by students in Korea. Teenagers in Australia wouldn’t necessarily know what “unification” or “yellow dust” is, or how the Japanese prime minister was offensive. Yet these words represent issues that hinder our lives on a global scale. As an Australian teenager, I can remember giving answers about immigration and mental health – issues that would never occur to my Korean students. I’m not sure what my point is, it’s just interesting that “World Problem” is such a subjective term.

Stay tuned for a couple more blog posts in the next week about a recent holiday, and the performing arts in Korea. 🙂 

Korean Ferry Disaster

To the people of South Korea,

I am writing this using the most personal and public medium I know.

I am a bystander to your grief. I see your tears at the bus terminal; your shock as more negligence unfolds. I cannot tell you that it’s alright, because it isn’t. I cannot promise that everything will get better with time, because I’m not convinced of the translation.

For the most fleeting of moments, I am living in your country. I am teaching your children. Children who bring laughter to my day. Children who went on field trips last week, and are now home and back to the daily grind of exam preparation, solemnly aware of their good fortune.

Last night, in Gwangju, I had dinner with a large group of expatriates. We were celebrating the success of an event we had organised; attempting, in part, to bridge the gap between the Korean and Foreign community through a mutual love of the arts. We were high on success and relief. Yet with time, we began to take advantage of the present company, discussing the tragedy that has befallen this nation. Many, myself included, were hesitant to take part in the conversation – unsure of anything useful to say. However, sometimes vocalising your grief, your confusion, even your anger, or your blind hope for a miracle, is use enough.

And so it is, that I write to you. Hoping to express my condolences to the loved ones of the deceased or missing; passing on the words that were once passed to me:

All is well
by Canon H. Scott Holland

Death is just an open door,

I have only slipped away
into the next room

I am I, and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
that we still are.

Call me by my old familiar name,
speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.

Put no difference in your tone,
wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.

Let my home be ever the household word
that it always was,
let it be spoken without effect,
without the trace of a shadow on it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was;
there is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?

I am waiting for you, for an interval,
somewhere very near,
Safe and Secure,

All is well.

May you find comfort and strength in this dark time. 

The Extremes of the Seoul

By the end of January, I was ready for a holiday. I’d had a terrible week, dealing with out dated education practices and a black dog that insisted on following me around – constantly reminding me that I had left my loved ones and forgotten my teddy bear in a warmer hemisphere. Luckily, my cold hemisphere position celebrates two New Year’s holidays and I was due to set off on an adventure up North.

No, no, not that North. I was going Seoul Searching!

As soon as I clocked off, I boarded the Seoul Train – a mildly insane idea considering that this meant I was to arrive in Seoul at 4am. The internet had assured me that 4am was a perfectly reasonable time to arrive in one of the world’s largest metropolises, leaving no surprises when I arrived in a barren wasteland of closed coffee shops and quiet streets. This was New Year after all, most Koreans were running home at half speed (traffic jams) to complain to their elders that the kimchi refrigerator had finally broken.

Seoul train

Waiting for the Seoul train to arrive

After fending off an overly friendly touting “taxi” I jumped into the most legitimate vehicle I could find and gasped “coffee”. The man turned, looked me up and down, snorted, said something about a waegookin, and drove me to Itaewon, the foreigner section of Seoul, filled with 24 hour cafes, brunch spots, western sized shoes, baking supplies and kebabs; most importantly kebabs.

I didn’t have a kebab. That’s really not the point. Kebabs existing, meant that people who needed kebabs also existed; loud, sleazy, raucous, completely drunk and distasteful people – everywhere. Never has disgust been more satisfying.

I was in the antithesis of Disney. An ‘old familiar point of view’ had taken over.  My Never-Wonder-land. The… ah… I could keep going but I’ll spare you some pain.

A friend of mine claimed, on our 4 hour trip in Macau, once upon a time, that if Las Vegas was the most fake place in the world, then, as Macau is a fake Vegas, it must be the most fake place in the Universe. The same could be said of Lotte World and Disney World.

Macau is to Vegas as Lotte is to Disney. From antithesis to hyper-reality, I was sure to make this a trip of extremes. Lotte World, is the largest indoor theme park in the world, and also has an outdoor section with it’s very… own… Cinderella’s Castle. I didn’t feel any pressure to go on the rides, I just wanted to soak the place in.

For anyone who has been to a Disney Land and ridden the “Small World”, you would know that it is best compared with Gene Wilder’s face and that terrifying tunnel in the original Willy Wonka movie. For anyone who is yet to experience either, well:

Round and round and round you go.

Everything is bright. Just a little too bright.

Everything is coloured. Just a little too coloured.

Everything is happy. Just a little too happy.

If you took that one ride, and made it a park, you would have Lotte World – An Architect’s Impression of Mania.

I’ve thought for a long time about what to tell you about Lotte World. I’ve been trying to decide on a fun story or particularly odd encounter. Yet, I don’t really have any I want to tell. My trip to Lotte World was an entirely cynical one. I intended to laugh derisively at the delirium – matching couples, overly happy staff and the wide eyed smiles of the Lotte characters – and I did. Yet it was an entirely personal endeavor. I went to wander, and have time to myself and I got a lot of that, yet less than I expected.

When I had finally decided that I had had enough, serendipity stepped in, in time for the parade, and I found myself completely barricaded from getting out. Suddenly, I felt a little poke in my back. Turning around, a little knight stared up at me, sword in hand, ready to take on the evil giant that stared back at him. As I bent down, he whispered “hello”, I pulled out the pen in my pocket, and we proceeded to duel. More kids joined in and the high pitched Korean lady performing silly dance moves to keep the children “occupied” while we waited for the parade stared daggers in my direction. With the little boy refusing to let go of my hand, I watched the show. The parade was a fascinating march of unacceptable racial stereotypes and sea animals. It was pretentiously hilarious, unpretentiously fun and I completely adored it!

That little boy really helped renew my enthusiasm for all things Korean, and reminded me to appreciate rather than laugh at what is innocent and kind. Seoul had done for me what my job had failed to do in the weeks previous. It reminded me why I want to be here. I want to educate beyond a university environment, and work with kids. I want to live in a culture that is so old and yet so young; having pushed so far ahead, in such a short space of time, that it is difficult to find anything below or above an extreme.

I love South Korea, it never stops amazing me and it never will. I have so much more to tell you about my Seoul adventure, yet for now I will leave you with this little face that I’m sure will haunt your nightmares just as it haunts my apartment. Here is my first Korean souvenir, a comforting slice of depression found within the coloured halls of the most manic place on earth:

Reginald the Cat

His name is Reginald

Happiness Tip: Face backwards the first time you ski!

Just a quick note: Sorry that I am late posting this. Having just completed my first week of teaching elementary students on top of my regular classes – around 6 hours extra teaching time – writing home was the last thing on my mind. This has meant that for over a week the first post you see on this website has been a fairly depressing, brutally honest piece about the trials of living in a new country, so foreign to your own. By the end of today’s post if I haven’t made you smile, I give you full permission to force a grin on my face – Joker style. And so: 

Unfortunately,

I was a scientist these past few years – I research any new project so thoroughly that every moment feels like déjà vu.

Fortunately,

I was a scientist these past few years – I read everything objectively and with a grain of salt.

When I first started learning about coming to South Korea, as an ESL teacher, I inevitably found my way to websites and blogs that were far from positive. After reading some of these accounts I couldn’t help but wonder if it was all a scam; that I would get to Incheon airport, be thrown into a black car and sold to a very strange man with a fetish for slightly odd looking, mildly voluptuous, messy haired, 174cm, blue eyed, Caucasian women. It was a very small worry, given that the previous foreign teacher had added me on Facebook and was definitely short.

No, I am not usually this paranoid.

(That last sentence was probably a lie.)

Thankfully, my paranoia has so far proven unwarranted, and I was right to ignore the mindless drivel of cyber pessimism.

Over the New Year’s break I had the good fortune to be invited to attend a company workshop at Muju Ski Resort. When I first heard the term “Company Workshop” I was terrified. It sounded like I was about to spend the New Year sitting in a room, trying to concentrate on lectures whilst staring longingly out my window as skiers rushed past. How wrong I was! “Company workshop” was actually code for let’s go skiing together, eat amazing food and drink copious amounts of soju! I had a marvelous time and had a chance to build my relationships with my co-workers.

(I’m starting to feel that “copious amounts” is a redundant term when it comes to soju.)

On the other hand, I am less convinced of my relationship with skis. I think it is more likely skiing resorts that I am unsure of.  I just don’t really understand the appeal of repeating a carnival ride over and over again, and that is exactly what I felt I was doing:

Step 1: Waddle over to the chair lift.

Step 2: Sit in the chair lift

Step 3:  Admire the view (skip this if it is your 10th time (or 2nd) and just close your eyes to escape the glare)

Step 4: Ski down the slope

Step 5: Repeat

For me, skiing was maddeningly monotonous. I’d much rather go hiking.

Yet have no fear, my rant ends here! There was plenty of hilarity to break up the monotony.

As this was my first time skiing, I was sure that I was going to fall over countless times. In the end, I really should have had more faith in myself. Twenty years of dance training should not be discounted; I proudly stayed on my feet.

This is not to say that I was graceful off the slopes – my clumsiness outside of sport is unrivalled! The first time I went up the slope a coworker tried to pass me my phone and I slipped. Not a “slip and quickly gain balance” kind of slip, oh no, I slipped all the way down the slope…

Backwards!

Somehow, I stayed on my feet until the very end when I finally stopped screaming and realized that I had no idea how to stop! I was forced to skid onto my side to break. People came rushing towards me checking that I was okay; mistaking my maniacal laughter for a cry of pain.

Skiing backwards; watching our instructor try to have a conversation with us until he skied into a fence; watching a male friend ski straight into the gap of a woman’s legs, locked in a never ending hug down the slope; those are the moments I will treasure… not the wish washy, upy downy, time wasty nonsense, that was going up and down a hill for eight hours.


I’m glad that I got to do something with the company so soon after the norebang nightmare. It meant that I went in prepared for the worst, and was pleasantly surprised when, most of the time, I was free to be myself and speak my mind (politely of course).

Rest stop Muju

Not a bad place to take a rest