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

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Shock in a Box – The Christmas Post

I hate the lead up to Christmas. Throughout December, I rant non-stop at my friends and family.

I am a pre-Christmas Grinch.

Christmas lights – The attention seeking brat of neighbourly cheer.

Christmas Shopping – Phobic.

Myer’s Windows – Not lovely enough to hold attention, resulting in a rousing children’s chorus of the ‘Bourke Street Scream’.

Fake Christmas Trees –  Worse than the smell of Pine-O-Clean.

I hate pre-Christmas because it is nothing like Christmas. Pre-Christmas is that joyful time of year when I start to wonder whether love really is measured by material possessions and a horrendous electricity bill. I become bitter and twisted, counting my pennies; meticulously planning a Christmas Dinner that could headline Food Porn Weekly.

I love Christmas.

I love that I get to see my ridiculously large extended family. I love that getting a gift is more exciting than the gift itself. I love that I get to eat like I have the metabolism of an eight year old.  I give up on the fancy dinner and hoe into a non-glazed ham thrown unceremoniously on the table next to the yo-yo’s, gravy and mince tarts.  Gravy-laced-brandy-custard is delicious.

This year was different.

This December has proven truly remarkable.

I wrote Christmas Cards and letters (that have no hope of arriving before January). I decorated using the kitsch-est ornaments I could find. I bought a 10cm Christmas Tree that is entirely fake and yet I think it’s wonderful.  I created another tree out of green masking tape on my front door. I own a headband with reindeer antlers and my TV is wrapped in fairy lights.

I’ve planned lessons around Christmas and given the gift of Freddo to all of my students.

I’ve eaten Christmas [sponge] cake out of a cup with chopsticks and guzzled a towering mess of soju.

I have loved every moment of my Hallmark-Scented Korean Christmas Adventure.

On Christmas Day, I joined other expats for a delicious feast of turkey, mash, Yorkshire puddings, cakes, truffles… The list goes on! It was so refreshing to eat hot food at Christmas without feeling like I had melted into a substitute for the gravy. I felt like I was having that oft dreamed of “White Christmas” – in a country that views Christmas as an excuse for an extra Valentine’s Day.

None of it was like home, yet I felt so… at home. So welcome.

Before I sign off I want to mention how grateful I am that I have such kind, wonderful family and friends back home.

Thank you for skyping me into my favourite family gathering and for making sure I had a KK gift to open Christmas night.

Thank you for skyping me into the carols.

Thank you for making sure I knew I was loved.

Thank you for the letters and parcels.

Thank you for the photos and stories.

Thank you for my post title… Shock-in-a-Box… A box full of cards, chocolate, a chupa chup, vegemite, books and a choral t-shirt.

Thank you.