My hate mail

7 Mar

If you find swearing or abusive language offensive you’re probably best off not reading this post as it is in relation to some abusive comments I have received.

I haven’t written a post in a long time now, because I have been busy doing my PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education) since September. However, recently, whilst I was doing my diagnostic placement, I checked my emails in the staff room. I had an email from WordPress asking me to moderate some comments. Upon seeing the email addresses from the commentor it should come as no suprise as what was to follow – Sociopathtraitors@gmail.com and Fuckingassholes@gmail.com

The cyber troll behind the email addresses was obviously quite upset about my post about eating dog meat in Korea and proceeded to tap out three quite similar comments in reaction to it. Some were on posts that had absolutely nothing to do with dog, which makes me wonder if despite their outrage they still read some of my other posts? I think they must have been deliberately searching out things they would find offensive to come across this post. I don’t know if they set these two email accounts up deliberately to abuse me, or maybe I shouldn’t flatter myself. I think it’s more likely that they were set up for the purpose of sending abusive comments to anyone who sufficiently rattled their cage, as I had.

My  reaction to the comments was first shock and then laughter. I had to explain my audible reaction to co-workers in the staff room. I called my Mam and my boyfriend on the evening to share it with them, joking that I have something in common with Russell Brand. (I am also British, disillusioned with politics and can’t always be bothered to brush my hair, but it was a flippant joke I hadn’t really thought it through). I was actually referring to the hate mail he joked about in his stand up. You can watch that here. 

When I ate that dog meat I didn’t set out to upset anyone. I’m not stupid, I understand the controversy around it and if I was maybe really truthful maybe that was part of the appeal? I see it as being on a similar plane as eating kimchi, visiting a jimjilbang (korean sauna) or a noraebang (karaoke room). I wouldn’t usually eat spicy pickled cabbage on a daily basis, get in a large bath naked with other naked women or get drunk and sing karaoke in the UK. Hang on, that last one has happened outside of Korea.

What I mean to say is that I was of the impression “When in Rome do as the Romans do”.  I could also debate the issue about dog meat not being that different to any other meat. The fact is, we have domesticated dogs so we can get uncomfortable seeing what some people consider as a family member as something we could eat. I include myself in that. My Mam has two Pomeranians and one of my other posts shows that I dog sat my Auntie’s Golden Retriever for two weeks. Sociopathtraitors@gmail.com may be pleased to know neither of which were made into Korean stew. But boy, do I salivate at the site of them! – Jokes.

Anyway, because I think it’s quite amusing I thought I’d share the comments with you all and remind anyone who does encounter abusive messages to just laugh it off. By putting details of yourself online you open up the gates to a wide world of judgement and not everyone will like you and that’s okay. What’s really sad is the people who take it to heart and the people who send the messages. Whether you’re the type of person tapping out horrific messages, or the one reading them directed at you and getting upset, I think they both must be quite unhappy and that’s a real shame. Luckily, most people, including me, don’t fall into either category. I’d encourage anyone reading this to not allow themselves to be taken in by nasty online messages if possible. And to the ‘trolls’: maybe you should find another hobby? Cross-stitch something pretty or go for a bike ride! My troll should probably direct their hatred into something more positive. I suggest they join PETA or the RSPCA and actively support animal rights in a more positive way if that’s their bag.

Untitled

Here’s me – months after eating dog, cuddling my Mam’s Pomerian’s as though eating their specie never even happened. What a hypocrite I am.

pom

Au no Fair!

2 Aug

My 6 week au pairing experience was drastically cut short, ending after just 10 days. If you read my first post about au pairing you would have read what a great time I was having, blissfully unaware of any apparent discomfort I was causing the family. I want to be respectful and not use the family’s real names so for the purpose of this post I’m going to give them all pseudonyms. The Daughter will be ‘Adriana’, Mother – ‘Carla’, Father – ‘Mario’, (I know some of you are bound to imagine him as Nintendo’s Mario with a thick black moustache but so be it), and the son, ‘Fabio’.

Things began taking a bad turn after just a week. A Thursday evening meal ended with me being quite teary and emotional, after being told that things were awkward and there was a ‘problem’, of which I was at the centre of. I sat at the end of the dinner table, as they spoke in vibrant Italian, their foreheads wrinkled. Their body language hinted it was something serious but of course it was completely undecipherable by me. Their expressive sounds were made intelligible, as usual, by their Father, Mario’s, translation. I can’t remember word-for-word what was said and the general dialogue was delivered somewhat fractured due to his wife’s and daughters’ continued interjections and his faltered English. The general message was along the lines of ‘the children don’t understand you, both my wife and daughter feel uncomfortable, it’s not working’.  Adriana and Carla continued to try to add to his translation.  As each bit of information was relayed in slightly broken English it delivered another slight blow to my bubble, in which I had thought everything had being going well.  It’s a little bizarre that the main issue seemed to be communication when they had deliberately sought out an English speaking au pair; it’s not as though I tricked them into thinking I spoke Italian. I couldn’t even if I had wanted to. The daughter’s English was very basic which made conversation challenging but surely that’s the point? I made gestures, drew pictures, and used Google translate to get what I needed across. She had an English textbook that we went through a couple of afternoons but I didn’t want to force her to do it if she didn’t want to, I don’t want to become the enemy. In fact, this was reiterated in the conversation when the father translated that she didn’t want to be doing a textbook like school work. I had brought children’s books with me. So far we had gone through ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ together, I drew the words and looked up translations to aid her, but she seemed exasperated as though it was too challenging. Ideally, the parents would have been understanding, ‘yes it is challenging’, but encouraging – ‘keep trying’.

Instead the Father concluded with, “How can you fix this problem?” It sounded like he was decisively directing all the blame onto me. I wasn’t sure how to answer and the table seemed to stretch out before me as though adding greater distance between ‘me’, the foreigner, and ‘them’, the family. In that moment, I felt very alone. I apologised, but for what? I wasn’t sure. I felt I had tried my best but agreed I would try harder. We had been to the park, painted, had Fifa tournaments, played ‘Guess Who’, I did English homework with Adriana, as well as getting food shopping and preparing a simple lunch. We hashed out a vague plan of how to ‘fix’ things; I was to do more activities with the children and not only talk more, but to be more determined in my approach to talk to Adriana, (i.e. be more repetitive and do whatever possible until Adriana successfully understood my attempts to make conversation). The Mother, Carla, who I had tried and failed to manage simple conversation with due to her minimal response, upon seeing me well-up, tried to comfort me with a hug. Her affection didn’t go unappreciated at the time, but in hindsight it now seems, as harsh as it might sound, a little weird, since it was she, who decided, less than four full days later, that I should leave.

The next day, I had planned to go to the small nearby park again on the advice that I should be doing more activities with the children. However, due to a misunderstanding, the daughter called her Grandparents and arranged for us to go round to play ping-pong as we had done all together, parents included, one afternoon earlier in the week. I didn’t mind of course, the Grandmother, Mother to the children’s Dad was especially nice. Her English wasn’t great but her effort and perseverance in trying to talk to me, made her extremely likable. I only wish the daughter and Mother had tried half as hard as she did. I searched my memory of Italian words so I was able to express my gratitude and tell her how kind I thought she was. It probably didn’t sound all too melodic, to say the least, but I managed to get my message across.

-On a side note, another misunderstanding led me to spending an afternoon wandering around the town of Macerata alone despite me believing she would be accompanying me. I’m independent enough to enjoy my own company a while I just hadn’t expected it. However, she did kindly drive me into town, point me in the right direction and even provided me with a guidebook. When I explained the misunderstanding to Mario, it transpired that, (roughly translated), she hadn’t wished to ‘cramp my style’. In actual fact, I had been looking forward to us going around town and even imagined us having lunch together in a cafe, as I would my own Grandma.

– Friday seemed pretty successful. The kids enjoyed playing ping-pong with their Grandad and we ate a nice lunch. On the other hand, the children’s habit of turning on the TV in the kitchen during lunch continued. It seemed like a happy distraction from having to try to engage with the stranger in the room – me. I hated being a killjoy but due to the previous night’s conversation, I suggested to the daughter that maybe we should talk instead, reminding her that her Dad had wanted us to talk more. Unfortunately, it fell on deaf ears. She half-shrugged and told me she hadn’t seen the episode before. I mentioned it to Mario when he was home from work, as I didn’t want it to lead to me feeling ganged up on again. Yet, he said it was fine, let them watch TV.  I was getting mixed messages but didn’t want to push the point. I was led to believe that I was there, primarily, to help Adrianna with her English, however after less than a week, she didn’t seem too enamoured with the idea of learning English whatsoever. When I suggested going through her English textbook again she said ‘no’. Again, I didn’t want to force her. Also, she often gave up quickly when she thought trying to explain something seemed like too much of a challenge or would take too much effort. It’s an entirely different dynamic to what I had done in Korea, I was not there to be a figure of authority like a teacher so didn’t try to be, I tried to be their friend but without conversation it was difficult.

I felt bad for the young boy, Fabio, he was full of energy and enthusiasm. I actually think I could have gotten more success teaching him the odd phrase or the lyrics to an English song than his sister, but the parent’s only wanted me to focus on the daughter’s English. They said I shouldn’t try to teach him, instead leave him to his own devices on his Playstation as he was ‘timido’, shy.  This seemed bizarre to me and entirely contradictory, as Fabio was anything but in my company, he would dance around the living room with more moves and mischief than King Louis, of Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’. He was a little cutie. I made him giggle as we had staring competitions, pulled faces at one another and I’d mess up his hair affectionately.

That’s not to say the girl wasn’t nice, she was, she just wasn’t motivated. When she explained to her Dad the following Monday that she didn’t always understand me, which I think is normal when two people of different languages are talking to one another, it was translated as though it was a fault with me, my personality. I was told I needed to be ‘more friendly’ when I don’t believe I was at all unfriendly. Mario said I needed to ‘smile more’ and that I was ‘too serious’. I was actually much more smiley than usual, but they had seemed to have taken my natural expression and odd furrowing of the brows when I was trying to decipher what was being said in Italian, as some kind of, I don’t know, anger…In fact, I specifically remember the Dad telling me I scared them. I can honestly say I never raised my voice to them once; I never even wag my finger at them.

The only telling off I gave them, if you can call it that, was when I asked them to get dressed before their Father came home for lunch. I didn’t get cross; I asked them once. Adriana bluntly replied ‘NO’.  I asked again five minutes later. I again she flatly replied ‘NO’. Leaving a little more time, (this was all whilst I was in the middle of making lunch.) Again, she replied ‘NO’. The fourth time, I went over to the Playstation and said that if they didn’t go to put their clothes on, (I was pointing at my own clothes and their pyjamas, to demonstrate what I meant), that I would turn the Playstation off. Again, Adriana replied, ‘NO’.  I didn’t want to, but I know from experience with my younger sister, that if you don’t follow-through on your threats then you rarely expect to ever garner any respect or have any co-operation from kids. I counted to five, they looked at me as though they didn’t think I would, but I did – I turned off the Playstation. Little Fabio whaled and they both stomped off to get changed. This was all a big mistake, to my surprise, Mario said I should have left them to stay in their pyjamas all day if they wished. That was a little frustrating, it made me the ‘bad guy’, the enemy.

I would describe the parents as quite lenient, very loving, but very lenient. The kids went to bed the same time as their parents and they watched kids TV until 10.30 most nights. They weren’t made to eat vegetables if they didn’t want to. I’m not criticising their parenting it just meant that the daughter knew that she only had to do what she felt like doing, and speaking in English, by the end of the first week, was NOT something she felt like doing. At least, that’s the impression she gave. Of course, as far as she and her parents were concerned, that was my fault.

Pretty much every conversation with the parents, (mainly the Dad, since he was the only one who spoke in English), about how things were going was a re-hashing of the same conversation of the first the one, on the Thursday previous, and with each conversation it made a small issue bigger. What can make an uncomfortable situation worse is talking about how uncomfortable it is. I think it’s reasonable to expect a certain level of awkwardness if you invite a stranger who doesn’t speak your own language to live with you into your home to take care of your kids, but it takes time.  Usually the awkwardness would go unmentioned. Instead it was discussed at length turning it into a much bigger issue. Mario kept bringing it up, probably out of concern – I don’t doubt that he had good intentions, but it just made things worse. I was determined to not let it get me down, I reassured him that I was happy, I hadn’t given up if they hadn’t, and that I was genuinely doing my best to make it work.

Despite me treating each day as a new day, putting their concerns out of my mind and pulling all my usual kids repertoire out of the bag: playing frisbee, football, making silly faces, singing songs, telling jokes, drawing numerous cartoons, showing them how to do origami and performing many magic tricks, (I can literally make a handkerchief disappear – what’s not to love about that?), it all went to pieces.

One day, which turned out to be my last day, I was playing volleyball with the kids on the beach at our usual spot, by the rented sun loungers when a woman from the cafe a few meters away, called the daughter’s name. It was usual for Carla or Mario to call the daughter and check in every 45 minutes or so to see how things were going. However, this time Adriana hadn’t heard her phone ringing whilst we were playing. She missed her Mother’s call. Anyway, she spoke to the Mum via the cafe phone and reassured her that everything was fine. However, when we returned to the apartment, after I set the table for lunch and the kids played FIFA on Playstation whilst we waited for their Dad to join us, things went from bad to worse. First, the Dad dived into yet another conversation about his concerns, all pretty much the same as before. Then his mobile rang. It was his wife, Carla. She crying, saying she was beside herself with worry he told me, she said she “couldn’t trust me and wanted me to leave as soon as possible”. Some painfully awkward hours later, (I hid in my room the best part of it), I was on a plane back to the sunny UK.

And so that’s it. My au pairing experience came to a sudden end. Would I au pair again? Probably not. Not because of that particular experience, every family is different and I know people who have had great au pairing experiences. However, in September I’ll be training to be a teacher. My summer holidays will be precious and I’ll have money to spend making it count. There are still so many places I want to see and things I want to do. I have four weeks left before I have to commit completely to my PGCE and write off my social life for around ten months. In the meantime, I plan to enjoy myself.

Macerata

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I’m sorry about these au pairing titles but for some reason, as cringe-worthy as they are, they really tickle me.

Oh No Pair!

2 Aug

My au pairing experience turned into a bit of a disaster. I’ve ‘ummed’ and ‘arred’ about whether or not to write a post about it. I told the Father of the family about my blog and he’d visited the page. He even thanked me for the nice things I had said about his family in my first post about au pairing. When things started falling apart, he told me he had checked to see if I had wrote about it online, which left me in two-minds about whether or not I should.

I’ve tried to be as accurate and honest as possible about the experience, but ‘at the end of the day’, (Jeremy Kyle contestants have ruined this phrase for ever!), I don’t feel I have done anything wrong. By excluding it from my blog, and leaving my previous post without an ending, it would feel to me as though I am ashamed, when in fact I have nothing to be ashamed of. I think it’s only fair to be honest about my experience.

All too often people have an online persona, especially on Facebook, which shows their life to be one amazing party or delicious Pizza Express meal to the next. I’m not saying I don’t have an online persona to some extent, (we all pick profile pictures that make us look the best etc), I just wanted to be honest in my blog and show the good and the bad. Life has moments that kick you in the metaphorical balls sometimes; its how you roll with it that counts. As it happens, I think I’ve rolled quite well. I turned being sacked and deported (excuse the hyperbole, poetic license, INNIT BIATCHES!) into a lovely family trip between my Dad’s place and my Aunties, catching up with my adorable cousins and siblings in what happened to be even better weather than I’d had in Italy. Us, English, have been uniquely treated to some amazing weather lately. I feel dead lucky to have a lovely family that picked me up, both in the metaphorical sense and literally, in the case of my auntie, from the Stansted airport. My boyfriend was ever-dependable in his support and my Mam, who I’m eternally grateful – let me know that she would have no problems bailing me out and handing me a get-out-of-jail-free-card in the form of a plane ticket if it all went pear-shaped. Luckily, the family was just-to-say reasonable enough in purchasing the flight home instead. So my next post about how it all went wrong is written and ready to post. It will be up tomorrow.

Sun in London with my Dad

Sun in London with my Dad

Oh Au pair!

5 Jul

My Mam was an Au Pair in Canada for a short time until I, a foetus at the time, rudely made my presence known. You could, on this basis, say that this is my second time experiencing life as an Au Pair. This time, roughly twenty-four years later, I am in Italy. Here’s a bit of a run-down on things:

My host family live in Macerata 25 kilometres from the mid-east coast  or half way up the calf muscle. This is day 4 of of 44 of my au pairing experience. So far I have had sole care of the children for one half-day, spent a day with the father and two children on the beach, taken part in a family ping-pong tournament, eaten out with three generations of the family (on both sides), had a brief tour of the town, watched a couple of world-cup football matches, been to the hairdressers, learnt a few very basic phrases to get by and eaten numerous nice meals. With all that and I still managed to squeeze in one or two naps, typical!

I have so much to write about already, I don’t know where to begin. So far it’s been great, I couldn’t have hoped for a nicer family. They’ve been so welcoming. The two children are gorgeous; a delightfully mischievous eight-year-old little boy and a lovely, kind girl, aged eleven. Fortunately, the father’s conversational English is very good. The mother is very friendly too.

I found my host family on a site called aupair-world.co.uk. I wish I had found the site sooner, it was brilliant. If anyone reading this is thinking about becoming an Au Pair then obviously take care choosing the right family. I read all the profiles pages of all the host families carefully and spoke to several families via Skype before deciding on this one.

I chose to come to Italy because I love Italian food – who doesn’t? It’s not too expensive to fly here/I could hop on a plane home fairly easily if anything went disastrously wrong, I have enjoyed previous visits to Italy and I don’t know…there’s just something about Italy. Even ‘Sopranos’, the popular HBO drama series of an American-Italian mobster family is so...hmm maybe ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ is a better example. Either way, the principle values of both shows are very similar actually: Family, good food, loyalty and humour. These of course, are just stereotypes, but so far they have rung true. It’s bravissimo! I’m loving it. Home-sickness is bound to hit me at some point, I miss having Lawson with me immensely, but the experience is priceless.

Dog Meat for Dinner and dispelling myths

17 Mar

Most people who have never been to Korea, or the hermit kingdom as it was once known, know very little about it. Some people assumed when I told them I was moving to Korea that it was dangerous, poverty stricken and that they all eat dog meat. From what I have encountered from living here almost a year is that these myths are mostly false. I don’t personally find it any more dangerous than Britain and I think it’s safe for me to assume any other Western country, for that matter. Obviously, there is some political turbulence regarding North Korea but nothing that has ever affected me or anyone I know directly, and hasn’t done for a long time. There is some bitterness towards Japan and China but I know Koreans who have been holidaying in both these countries. I don’t know the intimate details of Korean people‘s finances but I’ve never seen any great signs of poverty other than the odd homeless beggar in the capital, which is usual for most cities in the UK too. As far as I know most people are living in reasonable circumstance. Most of them live in nice, privately-owned, high rise apartment blocks. Business appears to be far better off  than in Britain and doesn’t appear to be hit by the economic crash in the way that the Western world has. In contrast to my home town, with a high street almost full of redundant shop fronts business in Korea appears to be booming. There are dozens of shops and restaurants even in the small town where I’m situated. And of course, we are all familiar with Korean international companies such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai.

I was surprised to find that many of my students were repulsed by the idea of eating dog meat when I told them of my plan to sample the meat at a restaurant that particular night. One or two, on the other hand, admitted they had eaten it without knowing and some said that their parents on occasion ate it. I concluded from that that it is something that is becoming less usual than it might have been in the past. When I ask Koreans about their Korean culture regarding food they tell me Kimchi is their famous dish.  However, I’d never even heard of the spicy pickled cabbage dish until I came to Korea, although I’ve eaten at least a couple of nights every week since I’ve arrived.

For some time we have been talking about eating dog meat so I, my boyfriend, my Canadian co-worker and an American friend finally arranged a night to do it. We headed to the only dog meat selling restaurant we knew. The owner was a little taken aback by four foreigners requesting dog meat. Our American friend, Sean, requested it as he speaks decent Korean. The word for dog meat stew is actually a euphemism for healthy soup, Sean told us so when he asked for it the chef reiterated that it is in actual fact ‘dog meat’ as though to check whether it was what we actually wanted. The restaurant was just closing. Maybe it was out of curiosity that the restaurant stayed open to serve us. They perhaps wondered what four foreigners would think about their delicacy or maybe it was just the extra business. Either way we were able to eat a portion of dog meat stew each.

 

dog meat stew
It arrived in a bowl with what I think was spinach in a red sauce. The women who brought it over to us warned us that it was a little spicy. Also with the dish there was the usual side orders such as kimchi as well as a bowl of sticky rice and a spicy chilli sauce to dip the meat. My initial reaction was to smell the steam rising out of the bowl. The woman almost immediately warned me not to. As soon as I did I realised why. It stunk! It smelt of damp dog. Straight away I was transported to a time when I was out with Sophie, the pet dog my family used to have back home, I took her off her leash on the green by my home and she ran into the duck pond. After this happened she would always smell really bad. I thought this was the smell of greasy damp dog fur yet this was the smell rising from the steaming dog meat soup. It was quite hard to shake the image of my happy pet dog shaking herself off, spraying water from it’s fur and get past that awful smell yet I managed to eat several strips of dog meat from the stew. The others said they thought it tasted like turkey. I’m not a big fan of turkey but to be honest the dark meat didn’t taste bad. It tasted okay. It was quite chewy but in the sauce and chilli dip it was nice enough. I couldn’t finish it though, not with the image of my pet dog in the forefront of my mind. My boyfriend, who as it happens hates dogs, ate his own and finished mine off quite happily. We don’t have any intentions of eating it again but I’m glad we have at least tried it and had our portion of real, old style Korean cuisine.

dog meat

Top 10 things I love about Korea

22 Jan

I’m naturally quite a pessimistic person so in a pursuit to be more positive I’ve decided to compile a list of the top ten things I love about living here.In no particular order here they are:

1. Sticking two fingers up, despite how angry my face might appear, still means ‘victory’. The Koreans are literally defying my negativity with an overwhelming sense of optimism. Frustrating yet cool.

2. The convenience stores are exactly that because they never EVER close.

3. Koreans are overly impressed by my mere and pathetic attempts to speak Korean. A simple ‘hello’ or ‘thank you’ has had them clapping, literally. Although, it can sometimes mean that a taxi driver will begin to have a full lengthy conversation with me, at which point I turn take on the social ability of a horse as I ‘neigh‘, (Korean for yes), in response to everything he says.

4. Koreans think I’m beautiful, (their words, not mine!) purely because my eyes aren’t brown, I have pale skin and blonde hair. I’m not looking forward to returning to the U.K and having my bubble burst.

5. More often than not brainy kids = cool kids here. It was quite surprising to me that the kid with the glasses, that puts his hand up all the time, is the one the others are envious of. Had he been in the UK he/she would be having the contents of his school bag emptied on to the floor and be called a ‘swot’, ‘geek’, ‘teachers pet’ etc. But instead, here, the other students ask him/her for answers and praise him/her for being smart. It’s amazing.

6. Paris Baguette and Tous Les Jours. I love they’re egg custard tarts, cheese cakes and hot chocolates. I also love that they’re everywhere. They’re as common as a Gregg’s bakery back home.

7. Disorganisation is generally expected. This works out tremendously well in my favour, being as disorganised as I am.

8. A complete disregard for health and safety. This might sound like a bad thing and I was permanently aghast with my mouth wide open with the things I saw in my first week here. However, once you stop looking at things as though your taking a hazard perception test you realise that it’s actually pretty good. If, for example, you were to trip on the numerous wires that are traipsed across the pavement, it doesn’t mean you sue the family-run grocery store for everything it’s worth until the owner can’t afford to feed his or her children. Instead it means you watch where your bloody going next time, and rightly so, and I say this as a clumsy person.

9. The honesty and trusting nature of the Korean people. There is one occasion in particular which succinctly demonstrates this. That is when Lawson’s school Director gave us her credit card for a week when we went to Thailand. Her credit card! This is unheard of in the UK. People would say she must be mad. Lawson’s credit card wasn’t set up for on-line banking so we were unable to purchase flight tickets. She kindly paid, for which we reimbursed her of course, she gave us her card in case we needed it for verification. I feel surprisingly safe here. Probably safer than I do back home.

10. Finally, the cheapness of everything. Although, I think when I initially came to Korea I had delusional ideas of exactly how much I could save. It’s not as cheap as Vietnam or Cambodia, of course, but if your prepared to do without Western home comforts it is still about fifty percent cheaper than the West for prescribed medicine, public transport and a sit down meal. I’m going to include ‘service’ here too, otherwise it’d be the “Top 11 things I love about Korea” and no one likes an odd number. ‘Service’, as they call it here, simply means ‘free’. It is common practice to be given a hand full of make-up samples in shops or a free plate of chips. Great, eh?

If you can think of any others feel free to add them bellow as a comment.

This post was inspired by an excellent fellow TEFL blogger, Allie. Visit her site here!

Jimjilbang – Naked Spa Time!

14 Jan

For obvious reasons there isn’t a photograph to accompany this post so you’ll have to use your own imagination; the implications of this statement do worry me slightly.

I’m the kind of girl who always uses the changing room at the gym or swimming baths. I don’t have one of those ‘if yer got it flaunt it’ kind of mentalities. I’m just naturally slightly uncomfortable about being naked in front of people. I’ve never really thought greatly about why I feel this way. I wouldn’t say I was particularly insecure about the way I look. I guess I just feel more comfortable about my body when the possibility of it being scrutinized is removed. Maybe I’m prudish or uptight or Western Society, media and legislation, has made me think that the way I was born, in the flesh, is somehow either sacred and therefore private or indecent and therefore should be hidden. I don’t know. Either way, the idea of being complete and utterly starkers in a spa full of other women filled me with trepidation and fear.

So why bother do it then if it makes you feel uncomfortable? You might ask. Because, I know the fear is slightly irrational. It had also come recommended to us by fellow ex-pats in Korea who told us it was a very relaxing experience. Plus, I’ve come to experience another culture after all. So as weird as it seems to us Westerners getting your naked on in a spa is part of Korean culture. It is as much about having a thorough clean to them as anything else. It’s as natural a thing to do as eating dog or live squid. Which I also plan to getting round to doing too eventually! Back to the case in point; It is very popular in Korea. It isn’t unusual to see three generations of Koreans all together helping each other scrub one another’s backs in a sauna or steam room or just chill in a jacuzzi and chat. Obviously, they are two completely separate spa’s one for men and one for women. So separate in fact they are on different floors and your not even able to share the same lift.

So finally, despite my angst I decided I couldn’t put it off any longer. After a  pint one week night at our local bar Lawson suggested we get it over with and go. I decided, with the help of a second lager, to stop being such a pathetic wuss and get my nuddy on – KOREAN STYLEAA! I’d already done the necessary female grooming. The blades on Lawson’s razor may need replacing sometime soon.

I entered the spa in all my nude glory like a proud lioness roaming the jungle, taking big strides around the place and swishy my hair around like I was in a Loreal advert. I was maintaining the façade of being an ivory goddess of beauty rather than the quivering wreck I felt and pimply wobbly thing that I am. But actually, after a quick cursory glance at the other women in there I suddenly  felt very normal. In fact, I actually wished I hadn’t bothered grooming. The nice part of me says they were ‘very real looking‘. The cruel part of me says ‘they looked like they had road kill stapled to their lower stomachs‘. Also, since it was fairly late there wasn’t that many people in there. No more than maybe fifteen minutes in did I start to really enjoy the experience. I had a nice soak in the jacuzzi, chilled in the sauna for a while and tried the various different temperatures of the pools.  It’s very clean and fairly luxurious in there actually. The inside of the sauna walls are decorated with semi-precious stones depicting flowers, trees and clouds in mosaic.

My ex-pat friends had been right, it had been a very relaxing experience and I left feeling clean, contented and strangely very calm. What’s also great about it is it also incredibly affordable at just 5000 KRW (£3/$5).  You have the option to pay extra for a massage to if you so wished.I have been two more times since this first occasion and will no doubt go again. It’s great! I find myself wondering why we haven’t adopted a similar idea in England. As for the whole being naked issue – like  suspected, it was all in my head. It was no big deal at all.

Photos from Bangkok

8 Aug

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Weekend (from hell)

8 Aug

Our first weekend in Korea was going to be three days long as the Monday was Buddha’s birthday. So after asking other foreign teachers, the one place most mentioned as the place to go was Busan in the South of Korea, (South, South Korea). After being told about beautiful beaches and a relaxing atmosphere we were sold. We decided to get a bus down on the Saturday, admittedly we slept in longer than we’d have liked, so arrived at the bus terminal around half 2. We were told that the next available bus wouldn’t be until 7. In hindsight, we should have decided there and then not to go as the bus takes 3 and a half hours, but we thought if we stay until Monday it would be worth it. So we bought our tickets and waited, and waited, and then waited for the bus to arrive. When it came it was the most comfortable bus I have EVER been on, the seats are what I’d imagine they would have in the first class area on BA flight. In fact, the bus was the undeniable the highlight of the weekend.

We arrived in Busan at around 10:30pm, the next task was to work out the subway to get to the beach area. The subway it turned out had a lot of signs in English and was suprisingly easy to get around on. So it’s now 11:30 and we’re there. Armed with a phrase book and a guide with hotel names in we look for a taxi to take us to a hotel. After a good while waiting we got one, got in and pointed to the name of a hotel in the guide. The Taxi Driver says ‘no’, so we point to another, ‘no’ again. We look up hotel in the phrasebook, again we get a straight forward ‘no’. Does he just not like us? Confused we got out and went to the beach area on foot as we were told this is where most hotels are.

On our way to the beach we notice a lot of drunken rowdy people stumbling about, this doesn’t seem that relaxing after all. In fact, if I had to compare it to anywhere, it would be the Korean Magaluf. We reach the beach after dodging taxis and drunks to discover ALL hotels are fully booked. After about an hour of walking around being rejected we bumped into some other foreigners who have given up finding a hotel and plan to stay up until 5am when a spa opens and sleep there. (Recent Edit: we had no idea at this point about the overnight option of Jimjilbangs, oh if we’d known). So after being confirmed we won’t be able to find a hotel we decided to find somewhere to eat. After spotting a restaurant that looked nice we decided to sit down (on the floor). Now most restaurants in Korea are very friendly, this wasn’t most. We attempted to order through the method of pointing, which the waitress somehow took to mean we want 3 courses despite there only being 2 of us. Tired, and unable to find words in the phrasebook to argue, we accepted this as were starving. The food was okay but very filling, and cost 67,000 won, which we had come to learn works out as quite expensive by Korean standards. We paid, left looking for a late bar to spend the night and got the first bus home.

We then decided to get a taxi to anywhere with a hotel. Again, armed with the phrase book, we found a taxi, who unfortunately can’t understand anything English or Korean we say. Thankfully, a passerby stops and takes pity on us and offers to translate, we didn’t catch his name but this good Samaritan may have just saved our weekend.

However, after a 15 minutes in the taxi to the next area we still had no luck in finding a hotel with a vacancy. EVERY hotel in Busan appeared to be booked, we would have at this point willingly stayed in a stable if any hotel had one going spare. Our only hope was to find a bar for the night and promptly leave in the morning. We found a bar, had a few beers, played the longest game of name-a-celebrity-beginning-with-the latter-letter-of-a-previously-said-celebrity, (does this game have a name? If not I’m now calling it The Celeb’ Name Game), and tried to look on the bright side, (we’re in South Korea – not North Korea!) After 2 hours of The Celeb’ Name Game the sun was coming up, so we grabbed a hot chocolate, got the subway, hopped on the bus all by 7:30 am. The rest of the weekend was spent sleeping and trying to forget about our trip to Busan.

Jonathan and Tamsyn

 

George Osborne’s speech: The Tory Party is living in an upper class dreamland, bitterly alienated from real Britain

7 Mar

“I ache for a government that actually understands the realities of life in Britain” Don’t we all. 60 days until the General Election. Let’s vote wisely.

Lauren Murphy

If George Osborne wanted to prove he was living in an upper class dreamland filled with law-abiding, tax-paying, corporations and scrounging benefit claimants, spending their generous state hand-outs on widescreen TV’s and crates of Stella; then he certainly achieved his mission during the Conservative Conference. Osborne plans to cut £3bn in working-age benefits by 2017 if the Tories manage to convince the British public that voting for them in the next election wouldn’t be voting for the devil itself.

In his speech Osborne condemns those who are living on state welfare and earning more than working families, he forgets to mention the fact that most people in poverty in Britain are actually in work and receiving benefits to subsidise low-pay. The number of people receiving housing benefit that are in work has risen by 59% since the coalition came to power. The House of Commons Library published a report that…

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Huntingdon Witches and Oliver Cromwell

23 May

I’m dog-sitting for my Auntie in Huntingdon at the moment. I had a mooch around the town and took a few photos. I popped to an antique and craft sale and to the farmers market which was selling goose and ostrich eggs amongst other things. It’s only a small place, but it’s quite nice and happens to be the birth place of Oliver Cromwell. The Cromwell Museum is in the building where Cromwell went to school.

It also has a sculpture of Captain Scott, the Antarctic Explorer that was sculpted by his widow, Lady K.Scott. According to a local man I met in town, Huntingdon is also the last place to kill a ‘witch’. The witch may have been Mary Hickes and her nine-year-old daughter Elizabeth, who were condemned to death by the Assize Court and were hanged in Huntingdon on Saturday 28 July 1716. They were believed to have taken off their stockings in order to raise a rainstorm.

Also quite spooky is the legend of Hinchingbrooke House, now a school. Originally a convent, Hinchingbrooke House, is said to be haunted. The bridge over the Alconbury Brook, named Nun’s bridge, is said to be haunted by one of the nuns who once lived at the old convent. It’s said she is often accompanied by another ghost which resembles the appearance of a nurse. The myth goes that the nun had a lover, a monk who caused them to be murdered. In 1965 a married couple reported seeing the ghosts on the bridge, and again when they returned home the same night.

Other claims to fame is that between Huntingdon, Brampton and Godmanchester lies England’s biggest meadow. Well…whadda-yer-know… Here’s my pics. IMG_1667 IMG_1668 IMG_1670 IMG_1672 IMG_1674 IMG_1676 IMG_1677 IMG_1678 IMG_1681 IMG_1693 IMG_1700 IMG_1706IMG_1640IMG_1641IMG_1648IMG_1652IMG_1653IMG_1654IMG_1657IMG_1660IMG_1661IMG_1665IMG_1671

Voting UKIP

23 May

If anyone could make me support UKIP it would be their General Secretary, Jonathan Arnott. He wouldn’t make a pretty postcard, his favourite pastime according to his twitter account is taking part in chess tournaments and he’s a maths teacher. I’m not a fan of chess, UKIP or maths, so he wasn’t off to a great start. However, after meeting him, hearing him speak, and chatting with him for almost an hour, he’s won me over.

 

Last week, I went to a party meeting/conference/whatever. I’m not sure what you’d call it, it was basically a handful of over forties, but mostly over fifties, congregating in a pub in Redcar. (I was by far the youngest there.) It had two main UKIP speakers; Jonathan Arnott and Ray Finch, both of which, are MEP candidates. The former for the South East and the latter for the North East.

Cleveland Bay Pub

 

Finch was described at the event as being “Nigel Farage’s right-hand man”. He was a Scouser with a sense of humour. He made a couple of funny jokes but he didn’t say anything that surprised me of a UKIP MEP candidate. He wasn’t a bad speaker, but he wasn’t that thought-provoking either.

Jonathan Arnott, on the other hand, was much more impressive. His answers were balanced and appeared steeped in knowledge. When the floor was open to questions, someone asked him why is it was that immigrants pass through France to come to the UK. I thought he’d give the obvious UKIP response; something along the lines of ‘because they know they can take advantage of our welfare system’, but he didn’t. Instead, he said he thought it was most likely because most foreigners second language is English. English is an international language so it made more sense to go somewhere you can speak the language. ‘Of course! It makes perfect sense. Why hadn’t I ever thought of that?’ I thought to myself. He spoke also of the common-wealth, how Iceland’s, Norway’s and Switzerland’s non-EU position had been advantageous for them and so therefore could be for us, of the Lisbon Treaty going ahead; despite the Conservative’s promise to give us a referendum on it etc. The only thing I would say, is that he did what a lot of politicians do, and went on too much about how the other parties keep slagging them off. Of course they slag you off, you slag them off, you all slag each other off! If they were in agreement with all your policies it’d wouldn’t make sense to have separate parties, would it? There was talk from both Arnott and Finch that suggested the Media was some kind of conspiracy against them. I’m not sure about that one, like I said in my previous post Nigel Farage has had loads of airtime on TV’s Question Time. Farage and his party have been caught saying many things it would be almost impossible not to report, for lack of entertainment, if nothing else. Plus, the rise in popularity of a fringe party like this is unprecedented, they’re bound to get attention.

Jonathan Arnott came and sat with me and some of my family once the speeches came to a close. I think it struck him that I was quite sceptical about UKIP, possibly the fact that I didn’t clap every time Finch or he had finished speaking, or it may have been my facial expressions. (I have quite telling facial expressions, so I’m told.) I asked him questions which I was afraid to voice out-loud in a pub surrounded by avid UKIP supporters. I told him that I found it worrying the amount of members with abhorrent racist views that have been rearing their heads in the media lately, that I have concerns that coming out of the EU would limit my options to live or travel abroad, that I volunteer part-time helping refugees and immigrants to speak English, that I feel more should be done to  he to help immigrants and ethnic minorities integrate into British society, I asked him why UKIP have such bad attendance in EU parliament…He answered all my questions and confronted all my concerns and more. His thoughts and opinions were reassuring. All his responses were coherent, logical and very well informed. I was amazed actually.

The question about UKIP’s attendance in EU parliament was a question Nigel Farage was asked on Question Time just days before this event. Farage said something along the lines of, ‘we’re damned if we do, we’re damned if we don’t’. I can see why he would say that – they should have good attendance because they’ve been voted in, yet at t,he same time, it seems hypocritical for them to attend a parliament they want out of. However, I didn’t agree with this stand point at all. Surely, having been voted in, then their whole purpose, as MEP’s of UKIP, would be to stop any legislation coming through which they believe, and their party believes, to be detrimental to the UK? The way I saw it was – if they’re not their to vote against it, then what’s the point in voting them in in the first place? Jonathan Arnott explained, partly in his speech and partly in his conversation with me, was that there were two different types of EU meetings. Some, in which, you merely sit and listen with little to no input. These meetings, he told me, you get paid something like 300 Euros  just to attend. He said he’d been told that they were a waste of time, but said that if he were to be voted in as MEP, he would attend the first couple to form his own opinion. The other kind of meeting is a one in which you can vote. Those, Arnott said, were the ones that they always attend. He then did a bit of opposition party bashing, asking how often I thought David Cameron and Nick Clegg attended EU parliament. On the whole though, his response was far better than Farage’s and made a lot more sense. It made their attendance, or lack thereof, sound reasonable. He didn’t come across as contrived and wasn’t as evasive or as convoluted in his answering of questions as most politicians are. He seemed, dare I say it, honest. 

What was also very enlightening, was a text Arnott said he had received from a big pharmaceutical company. I think he said which one, but my memories fails me. The company had invited him to a big conference in a Hotel in a European city, it could have been Zurich, but again, I can’t be sure. He’d obviously been given the invitation in anticipation for him being elected. He said it’d most probably be  the kind of affair where they would ply you with fancy free champagne in an effort to persuade him to vote in their favour in European parliament, if he were to be elected. He said he wouldn’t be attending, he was disproving of the entire nature of it, but I did find it a little disconcerting that this is what happens in European politics. I’m probably very naive to think it wouldn’t though. Where there is power, there closely follows corruption.

Whilst he was sat with us, a relative asked him what he thought about the recent furore in the media over Halal meat being sold unknowingly to British consumers. He said he thinks that supermarkets should be transparent in regards to the products they sell, so that consumers is aware of what their buying; clearly a fair point. I mean, we don’t need a photo of the abattoir on the packet or anything, but something on the packaging ought to indicate whether or not it had been killed in-line with Islamic guidelines or not. Arnott said he’s been told by a friend of his, who had visited a Kosher abattoir, that although they killed the animal in a similar way, (by slitting it’s throat and allowing the blood to drain away), that it was done, humanely – killing the animal almost instantly and very hygienically. Therefore, he concluded that we should look into how Kosher animals are killed and see if there is a way that it could also meet Islamic guidelines too, and still keep it as humane as possible. He also made a point of mentioning that at present, there is no official law in the UK that states how animals should be killed, despite it being most common to stun the animal first. Someone interjected at this point, I don’t think they’d had heard or had taken in the full extent of the conversation. They came across quite angry, forcefully saying that he didn’t think that THEY should be able to overrule British law.  More was said by the man, but in effect, he was saying that THEY, (they being Muslims or those from Islamic countries), shouldn’t be able to come over here and enforce their laws on us. It may sound harsh, but he didn’t make complete sense. Arnott’s response was brilliant! He very calmly, yet assertively,  put him in his place. “First of all, I don’t think you should use the word “they””, he said, which I was very much in agreement with. Whenever you start to use that kind of detachment vocabulary to refer to a group of people,  it’s as though their ‘the other’, the opposition, the enemy, it’s very risky territory. Arnott, then proceeded to explain that he’d gotten the wrong end of the stick, we don’t actually have a law that dictates how animals should be killed. It was clear that he disagreed with him but he asserted his opposing view calmly and quite respectfully.

Another surprising point Arnott made was that he agreed with some of the things Europe has done, not all, but some. He said if the UK came out of Europe he’d want to keep many of the laws that are already in place, the changes he saw as positive and the ones that made it conducive to economical trade and business. Whether, they’d be able to pick and choice like this is unknown.

Overall, I thought Jonathan Arnott was very personable, down-to-earth and spoke a lot of sense. I think if UKIP was Jonathan Arnott and people like him, then I’d be inclined to vote UKIP. Despite his best efforts, I still won’t be voting UKIP in the near future. I’m still too wary about some of it’s members and the kind of people UKIP attracts. Also, I’m still not convinced we should be coming out of Europe, although I do think it ought to have much more transparency and needs a great deal of reform. I also think we should have the right to opt in and out of laws, if possible, that don’t always have Britain’s best interests. I think it needs more balance. As far as referendums go, on the one hand, I think it’d be great if British people were able to have more say in politics – but on the other hand, the general public put Jedward through to the final twelve acts on series six of the UK Xfactor!!!

To follow the outcome for the EU election live click here.

Coming clean on UKIP

12 May
Maybe if UKIP was just Nigel Farage in a unusally flattering sea captain's hat UKIP would be much more popular.

Maybe if UKIP was just Nigel Farage in a unusally flattering sea captain’s hat UKIP would be much more popular.

I’ve been reflecting on my last post and I’m starting to feel slightly embarrassed about suggesting UKIP is a racist party. It’s a bit small-minded and short-sighted of me. Which in light of what I’m suggesting is quite hypocritical of me.

I do think UKIP aim to insight fear in the public, as though there is an epidemic looming over Britain. That’s clear based on the language used in the leaflets that I receive through the post. However, strictly speaking, there is nothing on their official website that marks them out as being racist. In the up-coming European election they have been very clear about two things: They want stronger regulation on immigration and they want to leave the EU/EEC. That’s not racist.

I’ll be open-minded, I’ll do some actual research. I barely even need to scratch the surface. Second or third link down after typing ‘UKIP’ into Google is their Wikipedia page. I begin to read their relatively brief history, since they began in 1993. It was founded by Alan Sked, who low and behold left the party “feeling it contained members who “are racist and have been infected by the far-right”. This is also my problem with the party. I don’t necessary think the party itself, and what it’s striving to achieve is wholly racist, but it certainly attracts racist people.

Members such as UKIP MEP, Godfrey Bloom, who was reported as calling women “sluts” and criticising foreign aid to “Bongo-Bongo-land” and William Henwood, UKIP council candidate, tweeting that Lenny Henry should “emigrate back to a Black country” are slightly worrying. However, they have both been left the party now.

Nigel Farage, himself, as Labour MP, Chuka Umunna, pointed out on Question Time this week, says some dubiously unethical things. Farage’s controversial remarks is no doubt what has made him the most regular panellist on Question Time since the 2010 General Election. I liked Russel Brand’s comparison to him being like Boris Johnson. The entertainer of politics. Just what will he say next?!

question time

I can see why his plain-speaking manner is very appealing however. In sharp contrast to Conservative MP, Grant Shapps, who ducked and dived questions on Question Time last week, Farage gives very straight answers. Shapps may have been following Margaret Thatcher’s political advice who said “You don’t tell deliberate lies, but sometimes you have to be evasive”. The public has become so familiar, wary and mistrusting of this transparent attempt to be evasive that Farage comes across as quite refreshing. Farage is not all that different from most others MPs in Parliament in terms of background though. He’s privately educated and presumably affluent, since he spent his working life working on the stock exchange for an investment bank. He markets himself as being different from the rest, but when you learn just a little bit of background you discover that the diversity of choice is as slim as ever.

Farage seems to be saying 'Look! I'm just like you - drinking a pint in a pub!" I'm guessing it won't be a Whetherspoons though.

Farage seems to be saying ‘Look! I’m just like you – drinking a pint in a pub!” I’m guessing it won’t be a Whetherspoons though.

At some point in this post I have to come clean and tell you I went to a UKIP fundraiser last Saturday. THE SHAME! I was invited by a family member, I won’t say who – not that they will be ashamed, but just because it’s the proper thing to do. I was curious, I still am. I went under the perception that they’d be a lot of people there and I’d be able to get a more rounded perspective on what kind of people vote UKIP. Are their members are as shady as the Guardian would have you believe? Well there was that AND the free pies. There was not actually a very big turn out.
Although, me and my prejudice, automatically pin-pointed one particular thuggish looking character as being a blatant fascist based on his over-sized beer belly and shaven head. Turns out he ran the venue where they function was being held and did not even seem to attend the event itself! OOPS! There was very little sign of UKIP paraphernalia bar two balloons. I pointed this out and asked someone running the event if they “were keeping it on the down-low?” How ridiculous of me! Why would they? Why should they? Several moments later there was some encouraged chanting. Nothing like a brawling football chant just a simple few encouraged responses from the audience. About as harmless as “Oggy, oggy, oggy!” – “Oi, oi, oi!” I didn’t join in with the chanting and I noticed a couple opposite didn’t either. In my mind, I immediately assumed that, they too, must have felt similarly unaligned with UKIP, going as far as presuming that they also felt a little awkward being there. If they were, it was for very different reasons, as by the fourth and final time the audience was expected to respond shouting ‘UKIP’ one of them instead shouted “BNP!” Once again, I was proven very wrong. Rascism is dressed in all guises. I must admit, I feel very stupid.

Jonathan Arnott, North EAST representative for UKIP. He might not look like much ladie, but he's damn good at chess.

Jonathan Arnott, North EAST representative for UKIP. He might not look gorgeous ladies but he’s damn good at chess.

Now for an even more shocking confession – I have agreed to attend a political UKIP function. Maybe I’ll get a better insight there. My political opinion won’t be swayed into voting UKIP because I wish to remain in the EU anyway. I’m quite proud of that fact that England and the other founding members won the Nobel Peace Prize as part of the EU in 2012. I think that’s more reason to be patriotic about Britain than many. The clearer labelling on consumer goods, some of anti-discrimination treaties, cheaper flights and open borders also appeal to me, so UKIP would never be the party for me. I’m struggling to justify why I’m going. I don’t even think there’s going to be pies! I’m regretting accepting the invitation but I feel as though if I’m going to bad-mouth them, as I have done, then I need grounds to do so. It’s very misguided to believe what the newspapers say since they all have a political agenda. I need to hear it from the horses mouth. Who are UKIP? I’ll let you know who I discover them to be shortly.

Getting a bit political

29 Apr

A few months ago, for the first time ever, I wrote an email to local Labour MP, Alex Cunningham. After working for a short time in a Social Club* I was getting a little frustrated by the level of racism I was hearing. We have a fairly noticeable Asian community in Stockton. I’ve noticed a few African people too, but it’s only because there is few of them that it even registers on my radar. I basically just asked this Mr Cunningham what he was doing to better integrate ethnic minorities in Stockton. He told me about a Culture Centre in Stockton and suggested I popped down. To be honest, the very idea of Stockton having a Culture Centre at all was a surprise to me.

Chilling like a bad ass by Norton duck pond.

Alex Cunningham chilling like a wrong’un by Norton duck pond.

Racism, for the most part, is accepted as being reasonable in Stockton. At least, that’s what I’ve found. I don’t imagine for a second that it’s unique to Stockton, most Northern towns will be similar. Words like ‘Paki’ and ‘Chink’ don’t raise many eyebrows. The phrase “…they come ‘ere and steal our jobs…” gets ignorantly banded around like a Caveman would a wooden club, whilst other mindless people stand by and nod along in agreement. Not everyone thinks this way of course. However, I’ve increasingly noticed hostility towards immigrants since I’ve been away. Maybe after living in Korea and spending most of my free time with open-minded people it has become more noticeable to me. It’s always irritated me but I’ve started to think it’s not enough to just disagree with it; I should do something, hence the email.

I don’t want to be too hard on Stockton. It’s not all bad, as this website shows.

As for the word ‘Paki’ or ‘Chink’, or any other term of that nature, I just feel as though I ought to get something off my chest. People argue in an attempt to justify these terms for Pakistani and Chinese people by saying that “Oh, well, it’s just a shortened term like ‘Brits’”. If it was the same, then why does nobody has ever shout ‘Brit’ at me in the street? If it was the same, then why isn’t “Brit bashing!” ever been a phrase used to intimidate British people? Because it’s not the same, that’s why! The word ‘Paki’ has a huge amount of very negative, hurtful connotations. Therefore, I can totally understand why it would be offensive. It’s nothing like saying ‘Brit’. That isn’t a substantial justification.

UKIP

And the answers would be…yes, yes, yes and yes.

Anyway, I did pop down. I sat in the café, chatted to the Director and left my number with her, told her I’d done some TEFL teaching before, and if I could help – give me a call. She called me and I’ve been volunteering two afternoons a week since then. I teach adults English. The people who attend the class are a mixture of refugees and immigrants living in the area. There are Iranians, Congolese, Polish and other ethnicities. There’s even a lady from South Korea. I was actually very excited about that, what is more – she lived in the same province of Korea as me! She asked me if I knew any Korean so I proceeded to tell her all the Korean words I know. These consist of ‘Hello’, ‘Thank you’, ‘Stop that’, ‘One beer, please’ and some basic directions I learnt to help me describe where I lived to Taxi Drivers. Pretty poor really considering I’d lived there a year, but she politely gave the impression she was impressed.

It’s the second term of English lessons now and some of the students are getting quite good so I’ve moved on to teaching some English grammar. I’m really enjoying it and I hope it means that they are able to integrate better into British society, that’s the aim.

I also think as British people we could make more effort to be more accepting and friendly towards foreigners.  We ought to speak out against racism when we hear it too. Nobody moves thousands of miles from their home country and family without good reason. I took a better opportunity in South Korea so why shouldn’t anyone else? We shouldn’t make assumptions. Let’s exercise tolerance!

I found this article with a link to some anti-racist songs by popular artists.
Click the picture below to be taken to it.
 

Also, this is an interesting organisation. If you’re thinking of voting UKIP you might want to give some of their a quick read first. Click the picture below to be taken to their site.
 

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/why-dont-you-speak-english/4od < This is a good documentary related to learning English as an immigrant. The couple from Redcar, which is not far from where I am, are hilarious! It’s worth watching just for that.

 The European elections are coming up soon. I’m thinking of voting Labour, but I might be persuaded otherwise with a convincing argument. 

*A Social Club, sometimes referred to as a Working Man’s Club, is basically a pub. However, you must be a member to go in and the alcohol is usually cheaper than that in an ordinary pub. Some Social Clubs to this day don’t allow women to have membership.

The Daily Mail timeline of shame – updated

24 Apr
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