Sunday, November 30, 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thursday, November 27, 2008

HOME PLUS and my living space

Interesting Fact: Did you know since I have moved to Korea, I still have not finished my first toilet roll? It has been a month.

Korea does not cater well to the single living person as it sells practically everything in bulk. If I want to buy a pack of toilet paper – it comes in a pack of 20. Toothpaste - a pack of 6. Rice and washing powder are in at least 5kg bags. Fruit comes in pre-packaged boxes, there is rarely such thing as a single onion or garlic clove. It’s lucky I am trying to gain weight because I am eating so much to keep up with my food going off!

One of my favourite places in Incheon is the Home Plus department store. It’s never a bad day at Home Plus. It has EVERYTHING! I feel very foreign at Home Plus – there is staring – especially at what I am buying, then there is the person that slyly slides up beside me as I am looking at the biscuits “Where are you from?”, “New Zealand” “Ahhhh New Zealande” and then they just walk away.

Noodles anyone? If I bought bulk items like this I wouldn’t have any room in my room!

It is weird having everything all to myself in my small, cosy dorm room after sharing my living space (and milk) for so long. And my small, cosy dorm room can barely cope with being a bathroom/kitchen/lounge/bedroom let alone being a mess! So I have decided to become a tidier person. I am even trying to be one of those people that make their bed everyday. I know this tidy bedroom thing may come as a shock to my nearest and dearest – this is a small but positive change.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A blog about my cellphone…

160 70 Characters:

My cellphone is a piece of crap – the camera is broken and half of the menus are in Korean. It was second hand and dirt cheap so I wasn’t expecting anything to be working perfectly and actually, it’s really nice being able to call people without it costing $1.50 per minute. *

My first gripe is that I can barely text anyone internationally – 90% of the time it just doesn’t work – my text flies into message never never land. The truly annoying thing about this is that in any normal situation I could go to the cellphone company and say “Hey! Why doesn’t my cellphone text to these phones internationally but it works to these phones internationally?...and while you’re at it, why does my phone say I have a film message but I can’t find it anywhere?”

Oh no…asking questions with more than a yes or no answer can turn into something more longer and confusing than one can ever be bothered with. I KNOW I am in Korea, where the main language was Korean. But if a Korean speaks English I would love if they would wear some sort of flashing light and then I would run towards them with open arms and ask a million questions. Oh man, it was quite embarrassing the other day when we were discussing how we were going to ask for a two-day pass to the Platform exhibition and the women behind the counter spoke perfect English. Doh!

ANYWAY back to my cellphone. My second gripe is that a text message has only 70 characters! I can’t fit ANYTHING in!!! What happens to the song “160 Characters” by The Tweeks?? – Anthony would barely get to say hello let alone “I would like to tell you I, had fun with you tonight, would you like to do it again sooooooommmmmeettimmmmmmmeeee” (I have heard that song a lot.)

Hmmm who took this sweet photo?

No wonder the kids didn’t get it when I played this music video in class (they like the song (Tweeks) AND the music video (Luci)). But they just don’t get what the song is about. Korean squiggle just takes up less room. My text messages have turned into short, robotic answers.

I’ve been pumping my students full of Dunedin music – Librarian by Haunted Love is a favourite but they find the video SO scary hehe. But, again – they love the song. They will be Backstage groupies by the time I have finished with them.

Ahhhh I'm off topic again…anyway, having a cellphone means I am free to travel alone – not that I couldn’t before but it is reassuring to have instant access to a person I can call if I get lost or need translation. Often if when I catch a taxi home, the driver will ask me to call a Korean friend. This is the problem with living in Wang-dang Dong, which is next to Wang Dong – or do I live in Wang Dong next to Wang-dang Dong. Who knows? I am now able to be more independent and adventurous in Korea. Ka pow!

*Hmmm at least I don’t think I pay $1.50 a minute. This would involve asking a question with more than a yes or no answer.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

PLATFORM Seoul 08 (Part 2)

So at Songwon art center (which is an old house), was Koki Tanaka (Japan) and his installation "Approach to an Old House". Man it was cool. So you looked through the house and there was different objects in every room - a bunch of popcorn makers, a collection of crates and broken bottles, A curtain hanging off its rail. Then, in the top room there was a video installation that showed Tananka creating the objects in each room. Making the popcorn, releasing the crates and bottles attached to the ceiling with rope, walking into a room and ripping the curtains off the wall. It was like walking through a story and in the last room it all made sense.

The Jeppe Hein interactive piece at Artsonje Center - Invisible Labyrinth. You had to memorise a maze, then put on a headband, then when you went around the corner there was a large space with everyone slowly stepping around. What happened is that if you went outside on the maze you had memorised, the headband vibrated. An interaction emerged between the participators as we were all experiencing the same feeling - it was nice to feel that same connection even though we didn't speak the same language.

Surasi Kusolwong from Bangkok blended elements from eastern and western tradition in his work Golden Chance (I make nothing, you found nothing). The reason I love this work is that there was such a great use of space that was then extended further with a mirror. It was inviting and unprecious as the participant moves around thousands of balls of colourful yarn looking for hidden gold necklaces.

These were only the highlights. I can’t believe its over because I want everyone I know to see it, ESPECIALLY if you live in New Zealand or London because then you could have swung by and visited me on the way.

P.S. Thank you to those amazing people that blog about these things because otherwise I would never find out.

PLATFORM Seoul 08 (Part 1)

I have had to wait to blog about my arty weekend because I have had to wait a few days to process it all. I managed to catch Seoul Platform 08 in its last 2 days. I freaking couldn’t believe it. This is art I love – installation, performance, video, technology, culture – most of all – IDEAS! Simple ideas that are presented as a strong, inspiring piece. Oh man – imagine if this stuff could get to our little Blue Oyster Gallery?

Old Seoul Station was INCREDIBLE: it was built in 1925, it still has the chandeliers, the ceilings are amazing but the paint is peeling off the walls – it is so beautiful I can’t explain it.

AND most of the work was inspired by the space. We went on a tour (in Korean) but a man followed along with us and handed us a translated explanation as the woman spoke.

As we walked around the building we stopped at a window at north, south, east and west. As we looked out the window a recording was played of telling family stories that focused on something that happened in whatever direction you were watching – his aunt catching the train to Busan before she moved to Japan, the poor living in the mountains and stripping the trees bare for warmth. It was simple and beautiful and even though we read the translated version as he spoke the concept came across beautifully.

Another one here that was awesome was The Forty Part Motet by Jane Cardiff (Berlin). You walk into an old ballroom and stand in the middle of 40 speakers that are in an oval. A choir is singing – except that each voice is recorded on a different speaker, then there is an intermission in the music and you can hear each choir member chatting quietly. So as you walk around the speakers the sound changes. Oh man it was cool.

Imagine this but in a Korean 1920's ballroom.

As I walked into doART Gallery in Jongno-gu. I saw this.

I thought it was a statue. I walked up to it and looked very close. It was blinking. I thought it was a statue that blinked. I went up to the woman waiting at the side and asked her if was a statue (poor thing – imagine how many times a day people ask her that!). It was a person, caught in mid fall – completely still (except for blinking) for half an hour. Oh my god it was beautiful.

There are a butt load off galleries in the Jongno-gu district. If you go on the orange subway line to Anguk, get off at Gate 1 and walk towards Gyeongbok Palace you will find them.

Are you excited for part 2? I bet you're thinking "but this art is SO COOL - how could it get any better??!!" Well, my friend, just you wait.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Men in Sexy Speedos

I love how Korea is SO un-P.C.
For instance - look at this scene:
Here is a male swim instructor just chillin in his speedos teaching wee kiddies to swim.
Not only this, I was taking pictures of children in their togs. He saw me, the kids saw me - they just waved.

This un-P.C.ness is great for teaching as well. We can hug the kids, stroke their hair or on the other side pull them by the arm or the ear and put them in the hallway. We can make them stare at the wall with their hand in the air, or some other body part raised. Of course none of this is too violent or "friendly" - it's just normal interaction with children.
I have this crazy assed kid who just can't stay in his chair - he is tiny and adorable but a little shit; so the other day I just picked him up like a baby and continued teaching the class. It actually worked - the other kids were sick of him running around so they just went with it and he was getting attention and was listening to me. Just in my previous class, I had two wee girls massaging me - one on each shoulder (they offered, I took it.) It is just nice not to have the P.C. wall up. It makes teaching a lot more fun and interactive and I feel I get more of a bond with the children.

It is the end of the semester this week so today is the last day of teaching. It will be nice to start the semester from the beginning rather than coming in the middle. Hopefully Ivy (my co-teacher) and I get to keep most of our classes. It's going to get a bit busier as we are taking on a special class but it means we get to be a bit more creative with our teaching. Of course this was sprung on me in the staff meeting today but who needs notice? I am also getting to decide the art programme for the next semester (this was sprung on me after the meeting) - which I wish I could go wild in but trying to cram all of my ideas into 45 minutes is a bit ambitious.

Negative: Came home to have no power - fridge had been off for the day and freezer was all melty melty.
Positive: I have now defrosted my freezer - zing!
I was a bit sad sacky last night as I lay in bed with no curtains and no music or TV and also this morning as I blow dried my hair in the hallway, but it is all fixed now. As long as I don't miss Sex and the City at lunchtime I am happy. Carrie has just started hooking up with Aidan. Yuss.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Big Bang! Experience

Last night, I waited 5 hours (3 outside, 2 inside) to watch 5 boys with an average age of 18 sing, no, lip synch 3 songs. This was my first taste of live music since I left home.
I actually had quite a funny time - waiting outside in the freezing cold in the longest line I have ever seen - with no tickets or reservations - and somehow getting into a club that played shithouse DJ music until Korea's latest K-pop sensation came on. It is also the first time I have seen usually sweet and demure Korean girls get their claws out (probably as we were imposing on their Big Bang! dream.)

Their most popular song "Haru Haru (day by day)" is played EVERYWHERE. Every store is playing it, every cellphone has it as its ringtone, every body is literally singing it. If I want my kids to be good - I promise Haru Haru at the end of class. It is ridiculous.

Not only this but as we trudged down the street after the concert and got in the taxi - little did we know is that was as actually a "death taxi" disguised as a boy racer car. The blue interior lights flashed to obnoxiously loud k-pop as he weaved through traffic at 160 km per hour.
As we got off the motorway, Rory in the front seat turned back to us and said "I think I just saw my life flash before my eyes". It was horrific. But kind of funny. But only because we lived through it.

I can guarantee I will never do this again. But I enjoyed the experience of it all.

Man. As I was typing my entire curtain fell off my wall. Boo.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Eeek! It's getting coldsies!

Since I have arrived (I think exactly one month ago?) it has officially dropped 25 degrees and it is meant to snow overnight. Incheon wind has a horrific chill that I have never felt before...this makes me nervous because a) I am from Dunedin where the weather is crap. b) it is only the beginning of winter.
Luckily I don't have to go far to go to work - literally 30 seconds from the dorm to the front door of GEC, and unlike in Dunedin - my room is a snuggley box of heat.
Some things I have noticed since the weather has gotten colder:
- My classroom is really warm but there is no heating in the experience rooms or hallways AND my co-teacher (whom I love) constantly opens the windows in our classrooms but says how it is cold. I'm not even going to try and understand it.
- One thing I have noticed about Koreans - is that they barely take their jacket off. On the subway, in the classroom, in large shopping stores - and here I am taking my jacket on and off constantly because it is so warm inside!

Yesterday, I went to the hospital for a check-up (which went well). But the exciting thing about it was that I went entirely on my own. I took a taxi, found the right reception, had a conversation with my doctor, paid, went to the pharmacy and taxied back to Wangdang Dong to pick up some supplies. I felt adventurous and free and it was amazing!
I stopped in and visited my old roommates - they were so cute! After the initial excitement where they were grabbing my hand, stroking my clothes and making me coffee we sat in awkward in silence as they do not speak english. I still enjoyed it, I'll visit them again.

Here are some pictures of some of my kids - Chubi with her hat that the all the wee kiddies are wearing, Star in his booby shirt and the shitty science room (Lesson: concave and convex mirrors - a boring lesson I have to draw out for 45 minutes).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Nice Saturday

I have started making an effort to learn the subways and I think it is starting to make sense. Soon I will be able to travel on the subway on my own! Like an adult!! 
And now I have a cellphone. It is a piece of crap - the camera is broken (though somehow, I have never had a phone with a camera). But it was 30,000. I actually haven't tried to call anyone so I hope it actually works. Anyway, this is a key to my freedom of traveling around on my own - I will have access to the Korean language if I am to get lost. Which is likely.

I am really, really enjoying Korean lessons. It feels SO GOOD to be able to read signs. Also, since I have started it has been so interesting as a teacher to be on the other side of the desk for a few hours a week AND it helps so much to understand why my students have trouble with some letters. I tell myself this repeatedly as I get up early every Saturday morning to travel to Seoul.

AND I have finally seen some art!! I went to the Seoul Art Center - which was great.

We went to a fantastic exhibition called "Humble Masterpieces" is the wee blurb which I love...
"Every day we uses dozens of tiny objects, from Post-It notes to Band-Aids, erasers and pie cutters. If they work well, chances are we do not pay them wit much attention. but although modest in size and price, some of these objects are true masterpieces in the art of design and deserving of our admiration."

We also visited the European art exhibition.
This usually doesn't  float my boat, I usually skip the old stuff and head straight to contemporary. Though, this was pretty interesting (a little pricey at 12,000). I have never seen so many people at an exhibition - even at an opening! We had to line 
up and shuffle around 15th and 16th century paintings, so there wasn't much time to engage in anything but I'm glad I went.

I have found a vintage store in Ewha. It made me all warm and fuzzy inside. Lots and lots of great knits, boots, bags and coats (and a few awesome capes - zing!). Not much in the way of dresses - but I will definitely be going back there. Ewha has a great atmosphere - Ewha Womans University is there, so it is bustling with young people and has great shopping.

We ended our Saturday night back at the Palace in Hongdae - the most luxurious dessert restaurant I have ever been to! Hongdae is so great -  it has that young, hip vibe of Ewha and it seems quite a few foreigners hang out there.

As for my health, I am feeling so much better - my kidney feels as if it 
is almost normal again. Last week 
was quite relaxed teaching-wise, as we were having end of semester achievement tests, so it was a nice way to ease back into work.  I am back to hospital on Monday for a check-up, which probably means more injections boo.
Oh, and on Friday, it was speech and spelling bee day - which one of my student's won the spelling bee! He is so smart and I am very proud of him. Jeez, he can spell words in english that I can't even spell.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ahhh Korea

Ok, so today I was teaching cooking and we were making pizza. 
The cooking room has 4 little stations with wee sinks and the kids were (amazingly) washing up their dishes. Then, water starts leaking everywhere, all over the floor and the cooking room is now covered in a large puddle.

I went downstairs and told the office and then not long after all the teacher's received this message:
"Hello - the tap's are leaking in the cooking room so please do not use them anymore."
And no, this is not a temporary thing. We just no longer use sinks in the cooking room.

I don't even know what to say. This is the same as our dorm washing machines - we have 4, only 2 work. I guess there are no handy men in all of Korea.

I am back teaching now - because my infection was viral - it was highly likely I caught it from my kids. I have a mini panic attack every time they come near me  with their germy little bodies. I need a mask thingy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Just like Lou Reed said: I'm So Free!

Ahhh I'm never going to ignore kidney pain again! especially as I now know where my kidney's are!
Here some sicky photos of me and of my lovely room mates.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Life at Gimpo Woori

I am still in hospies - have been making myself comfortable but I may go home today. Through my non-Korean interpretive investigation I have found

a) blood and pee test which is out of the usual BUT

b) I was given breakfast this morning, which means I am not having an x-ray - which I thought I was going to have before I went home.

Even though Day 1 was rather traumatising (the only thing I knew about kidney's was that Toni Warner from Shortland St died from hers), it hasn't been too bad. I LOVE the ladies in my room - I can't even begin to explain their kindness, humour and generosity - especially when all of their english extends to is Hello and Bye Bye.
Sometimes I will be asleep and my room mates will have visitors - who will gasp when I sit up. I am 99% sure I am the only foreigner in this hospital so there is a bit of starring going on.

- The nurses are adorable - I am pretty sure none of them are over the age of 25. They get a bit embarrassed about their english - but some of them are so good. It makes you feel better when someone can tell you why they are poking you!

My room is so busy - for every patient there is at least 1 family member at their sides at all times. They will also help everyone else in the room (including me - alot!) which is so lovely, everybody shares everything and will help everyone as much as they can. A few have even been helping me with my Korean!

If i had my computer here I wouldn't even mind being here as much - there are 2 computers downstairs which middle aged men sit on for hours playing games. It grinds my gears.

Food is 50% ok. Not the best.

Through my foreign face I have met some fantastic english speakers - so I am making friends. Everyone just keeps giving me food and soy milk.

Um people are starring over my shoulder trying to read out the english I am writing. It is weird. I am going to go.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

ok, it was actually my kidneys hurting

Here is a brief summary of my situation until I can update further.

- Friday + Alcohol = Saturday hangover, sore back - I must have knocked it...
- Saturday hangover + fever + vomiting = Ok, I must actually have the flu - Just like everyone else
- Previous events = a whole day on bed on Sunday
- Monday + fever + sore back + teaching = not a good day
- Tuesday + doctor + "kidney! infection! hospital!" = me in hospital
- Me in hospital + Korean language = not really knowing what the hee har hey is going on

Today = Day 3 of 7, feeling better - have sweet as Korean ladies in my room - they do my hair and feed me. It's going alright.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

argh now everything hurts!

I officially have spent 27 hours in bed - my hangover quickly developed into a fever, aching pains and vomiting.
Pretty much I have caught whatever my students have whenever they cough all over me. So I am holding out to see how I feel tomorrow for work - hopefully I will be better. As long as you go to the doctor it is fine to get the day off work but I would rather be there for my first adult class.
Since I have been here I think about 3 of the teachers have been sick - its pretty germy around here. The kids come to school no matter what!!!
Here are some Halloween pics...

Ow my head hurts

- I'm curled up in bed on a Saturday night with a nasty hangover. Last night we were shouted dinner and drinks for our Halloween efforts and I indulged quite a bit. 
It actually wasn't my fault - i sat next to our director Steven and in Korea if your boss pours you a drink, you have to drink it. Steven and Kay took full advantage of this power and I was pretty wasted by the end of dinner (which was delicious). I stumbled home about 10ish leaving the others to go onto Karaoke (which I have not made it to yet) I managed a hazy phone call to Stu and I listened to The Best of Roy Orbison (according to my itunes). It was a great night, however I paid for it today as I had to get up early for Korean class. 
I managed to take some public transport by myself today (this is a big deal - as 90% of the information is in Korean) and even though I fell asleep, I managed to get home safe to my bed which is where I have been since 3pm.

- Halloween was good but it was COLD, I had many layers under my geisha outfit. We had a festival at school and I painted some adorable faces outside for 5 hours. I heard "Haru Haru" by Big Bang! and "Nobody" by the Wondergirls about 1000 times. 

- I don't know if it is the pollution but I have had really sore eyes recently. I definitely took all that New Zealand fresh air for granted.

- I am taking an extra class on for this month - teaching adults so I am going to be busy but the extra money will be good. Ahhh 7 classes a day!

- I have a problem class and I hate them. I literally have no control over these boys and they know it. I can't even threaten them because they don't understand me, they spend the whole class repeating everything I say - I guess that is a bit of english for them right?

- Korean classes are going well and it is making life a bit easier by being able to vaguely read a sign.

- It is time for sleep x