The end is nigh

20 02 2010

It’s Sunday. In Seoul. Long weekend. Unemployed as of today. FREEDOM!!!!

What a week. I had thought that packing up our lives in Sydney was one of the hardest things to do. Yes it was hard but nothing like packing our Korean lives up. That was physically and emotionally draining on all levels.

When we left Sydney we thought we were only leaving for one year. We would be back soon and would see all our family and friends again relatively soon. One year turned into over three but we have returned to Sydney multiple times, seen the people and places. Packing up and leaving Korea feels so much more permanent. We won’t come back in a few months to settle back in. We might not see any o our friends , Korean and foreign, again. We won’t be able to visit Seoul for the weekend again. It’s much more permanent a move his time around. And that makes it so much harder to do.

The past week has been a blur of packing and sending some things home. Sending much more to the bin. Selling some things online and some to friends in town. Every night was a farewell dinner of some kind. Teachers dinners, dinners with Korean friends and their families, dinners with the foreigners, generally saying goodbye to everyone. Much more difficult than leaving Sydney ever was. I guess as foreigners finding our place in a small country town we have put down deeper roots than most. Still, I wouldn’t change any of it. Comingto Korea was the best decision we ever made.

Next. Mmmmm. Next. First is frankfurt for a few days. Then on to Istanbul for a few more and then we head west. Wear until west is finished. And then, who knows.





Snow snow snow and more snow

18 02 2010

Its olympics time and surprise surprise, Vancouver is struggling for snow. I’ve heard they are having to truck it in from miles away. Athletes are struggling and even getting injured. I heard that the young Australian snowboarder fractured his wrist on a soggy slushy halfpipe. Terrible.

For those not aware, the South Korean resort of Pyeongchang has been bidding on the winter olympics for the past, well, forever. When we arrived in Korea there were still stickers for Pyeongchang 2010 on cars and billboards. They came a close 2nd, but lost out partly due to the fear of a lack of snow. Since then they’ve bid on 2014, 2018 and likely will continue until they get tired of it.

However, the whole lack of snow argument is quite amusing. Most of this winter season we’ve had little natural snow. A few good dumps early on, one big dumping early January but it has been a bit brown and meh. Until last week that is. 3 days of solid snow last week gave us about 50cm of the fluffy white stuff. The skiing was fantastic. Since then we’ve had more. Not quite as much, but at least another 20cm. I woke up this morning and its at it again. Another few cm and its still going.

Of course unlike certain European countries (yes, I’m looking at you England) things don’t shut down here when there is a pile of fresh snow. Daily life goes on, just with more car accidents. I think this late winter snow actually caught the local city government by surprise. It took a day or 2 to get the snow ploughs, gritting trucks and associated infrastructure into gear. Since then, all is mostly fine. The roads are still narrower and more slippery, but other than a few obvious spots, back alleys, car parks and big hills there are no problems.

Our apartment (not for much longer) sits on a hill, overlooking the valley of Taebaek. We can look down and see a road that climbs a hill just outside out place. Its always quite amusing sitting on the balcony watching cars on the hill when there is snow and ice around. Usually its worst first thing in the morning and around 6 or 7pm when the water/sludge starts freezing again. Cars start driving up, get about halfway and then start to struggle. Sometimes they make it, sometimes they slide back down. Only the persistent (and taxi drivers) give it a second shot. Some smart people have snow chains, no worries. Those with snow tyres of the studded kind, usually ok. Normal snow tyres? if you are lucky. The stupid few with summer tyres? Ha ha ha.

What does surprise me, actually it doesn’t surprise me, is how badly the school buses drive. Most Hakwons (private study academies) have their own private shuttle busses to get the kids to and from home. These minibuses are driven terribly in the best of weather, but the snow brings out the worst. Driving way to fast, stopping with no indication in the middle busy roads, cutting traffic off in icy conditions. All crazy.

Oh well. Back to my boredom. This so called “vacation” time between graduation (last week) and the new school year (beginning of march) is boring. Very boring. I’m supposed to come to school. Sit here and do nothing. As I’ve already quit I have nothing at school to do other than movies, web surfing and computer games. For a day or 2 its ok. For 2 weeks its awful. Especially as I have so much to be done at home. We have about 8 days left in Taebaek before we leave for good and our apartment is nowhere near clean. Its going to be a busy week.





Honoured Veterans? EPIK reunion says so.

14 12 2009

That was a nice weekend. 3 days in Seoul. Can’t complain about that at all.

Why did we get a bonus long weekend? Why did we spend it all in Seoul? What is this EPIK thing of which I speak? Lets go backwards.

EPIK Logo.png EPIK is the name for the “English Program in Korea”, similar to Japan’s JET program. Basically they bring foreigners in to teach english to kids within the Korean school system. Here in Korea it gets a bit confusing. While it all sounds like we work for EPIK, we don’t. EPIK acts as a kind of umbrella, bringing us in, training us then passing us out to the provinces. Once out of their hands, we have very little to do with EPIK at a national level, its all provincial. Some provinces are good, some so-so and some pretty terrible. Gangwon-Do where I am? For the most part its good. Like most things it has issues, but what place doesn’t?

Back to the weekend. Having not heard a single thing out of the national EPIK crowd in a few years, it was a surprise to get invited to a reunion for honoured teachers. Seems we’ve been here quite a while and are now classified as veterans, and national EPIK wanted to do something nice. Even nicer was finding out that the reunion was a Friday/Saturday and in Seoul, meaning a bonus long weekend.

Honestly we didn’t expect much. Usually in Korea things get done with the best of intentions but the minimal of organisation. What a surprise we had. They put us up in a reasonable hotel (sure it was a bit 1980’s but it was ok), gave us steak and wine for dinner and then took us out to see a show. The show was a comic martial arts performance called Jump. Mostly non-verbal, it was great until I got dragged on stage to be part of the performance. I’m thinking I was picked because I was sitting on the aisle and had slightly “odd” hair. Oh well, nothing can prepare you for being on stage in front of a few hundred people better than a classroom of crazy students.

We had the obligatory presentation and handshake ceremony, but this time it wasn’t for certificates but for a plaque!

EPIK Award.jpg

Very nice of them to do something like this. Shame its soooo heavy. Lugging 2 of them through Seoul was a bit of hard work 🙂

The Saturday was a small amount of formalities and then back into tourist mode. We had lunch at a fantastic traditional restaurant, then up to Seoul tower for some more touristing. Fun fun fun.

Leaving the EPIK crowd, we had Saturday afternoon and then Sunday morning shopping in Seoul, then back to Taebaek and some sleep.

Overall, really nice to see that the national EPIK people are serious. They tried really really hard to make a great weekend and succeeded. They also spent a huge amount of cash on us. Can’t complain there. Just a shame as it really contrasts the differences between our local education office who really don’t seem interested in us, and the national people who really have put in the effort.

Short version : Went to Seoul, got award, came home.