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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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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

Life After ‘Tefling’

19 Apr

‘Tefling’ obviously isn’t really a word, but you know what I mean, so just go with it. (Life afteyayr Teaching English as a Foreign Language.)

If I was sitting down about six months ago to write this post it would have been quite miserable.  It probably wouldn’t have even been a post, just a series of sighs, grunts, huffs and puffs. I, perhaps quite naively, thought coming home with a years solid graft under my belt, (employers don’t know teaching English in a Hagwon in Korea is one of the easiest jobs in the world), added with the fact that I’ve lived and travelled abroad, giving me some kind of worldly edge or ‘soft skills’ as they’re sometimes known, combined with my English degree, would mean I’d get snapped up quicker than a slapper at a night club at the end of the night. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. It was more like I was trying to entice a vegetarian into eating meat with a bag of pork scratchings.

It might be the economical climate, the area in which I live, the fact I can’t drive – it could be any number of things. The fact was, apart from the odd telephone interview, nobody was interested. I quickly reassessed my target for a graduate job and down- graded it to just any job, AT ALL. I finally got a little shop job in a supermarket over Christmas. It was temporary and part time, did I mention it was in a supermarket!? This was a long way down for my aspirations for a graduate job within a large company with quick career growth. Who was I kidding?

However, I realised all this time I’d missed not just working, (and the general feeling of being valuable and productive), but teaching itself. I think going into teaching long-term is probably quite a common route after ‘Tefling’, and it makes sense really. I, personally, really enjoyed teaching. If your thinking of being a teacher but aren’t completely sure I would definitely advise teaching TEFL first. It gives you an idea of the basic principles needed for teaching without having to commit too much. You don’t have to pay tonnes for an expensive course to end up deciding it’s not for you. Yes, you do have to uproot for at least a year, but hey if you hate it after a few months you’ll have earned enough to buy a ticket home again.

Having said that, in my case, I didn’t get into TEFL with any intention to teach long-term. I have friends who’ve wanted to be teachers for years, they did placements and work experience but I thought it wasn’t for me. Things change. I’ve now been accepted onto a teaching training course beginning in September so I’m feeling much chirpier about the future and my career prospects.

Nearly all my other TEFL friends found jobs pretty quickly, which is hopeful. Makes me feel a bit sh*t because it wasn’t the case for me, but still, it means there’s hope for the rest of you! There’s an Estate Agent, an Apprentice Property Surveyor, Flight Attendant, Private Tutor, Educational Administrator and a Business Management Assistant. Impressive stuff. Although, some of those jobs are loosely linked to teaching and travelling, it shows that Tefling really need not have any baring on your chosen career. I’m certain none of them would have left it off their CV either. It’s like any job; you need to make sure it’s tailored to the job your going for. If  it’s a office job then focus on the organisational skills you gained and the use of computer aided things you did. On the other hand, if it’s a client based or customer facing role then focus on how teaching, especially in a foreign country, made you more personable and a better communicator.


chance

Basically, the overall message is do not give up and do not despair. The worst case scenario is that you are back where you were before you left and honestly, did you pack up your bags and travel to new lands to increase your career prospects or did you do it for the adventure? Would you trade in all the new experiences and new friends for a well-paid graduate job? I wouldn’t. I don’t even need to think about that one, and for someone who over-thinks everything, that’s a big deal.

 

It’s The Final Countdown – reflecting on almost a year in Korea.

13 Apr

I and Lawson began our 12 months contracts as TEFL teachers on the 21st of May 2012. Now it’s almost mid April 2013 and we are not renewing our contracts, so I guess you could say that it’s the countdown to the beginning of the end, or an end, at least on this chapter of our lives, anyway. So now is a good time to reflect on my time in Korea. Did we make the right decision coming here? What have a learnt and gained from it? 

I’ve missed home more than I expected. Not the place, but the people. When I was first looked into teaching in Korea I was just incredibly excited about the whole notion of living and working abroad. It was only the last couple of weeks before leaving that it dawned on me that it was actually quite frightening. I realised how much I was going to miss everyone. I even made a specific effort not to have any kind of sad drawn-out goodbye with one of the people I knew would miss most, my Grandma, because I didn’t want to think about it. I guess I’m a ‘Grandma’s girl’ through and through.

I feel lucky enough to have lived a fairly sheltered life. Maybe even, very sheltered, but I am only beginning to realise that now. I think being away from my family and friends for such a sustained period of time has really helped me value them. Sometimes you’re too close to see…that sounds incredibly corny but I really feel like it’s true. Maybe being away has given me rose-tinted spectacles. I haven’t forgotten how they drove me crazy sometimes, (as well as I do them),  but I think being away can really renew your appreciation. I would advise everyone to do this at least once in their lives if they have the opportunity. To take time away and recharge your gratitude for your family, especially. I think that is one of the most valuable things I’ve gained from being in Korea, appreciation. Similarly, in an odd kind of way, I’m also really looking forward to being apart from my boyfriend when I return home. I’m only looking forward for some time apart purely so we can miss each other again and renew our appreciation of each other.

Despite the occasional sharp pangs of homesickness I don’t regret it at all. I’m quite proud of myself for sticking it out. I doubted my ability to commit before now. I have never stuck a job out for more than six months before this. I also think, or at least hope, that it has made me a more accepting, more tolerant person. I’ve made some lovely friends here and met the odd person who has inspired me. My intention is to take away the things I admire most about the people I’ve met and implement those things in my own life, if I can. I’ve met the odd person whose inspired me and made me question some of my stubborn opinions too. I feel inspired to push myself more challenge myself mentally – I don’t intend to be ambiguous here – I simply want to learn more. I have met a few people who I’ve felt are far more intellectually aware and knowledgeable than me. Initially,  I hated that because it made me feel dumb-struck and frankly, plain stupid. But actually, I shouldn’t resign myself to what I refer to as my ‘lazy-brain’, as though it’s a character flaw I should learn to accept; I ought to push myself. The information is out there for the taking. Until just under two years ago, I’d been in education nearly all my life and learning felt like a chore that had to be done merely for exam results, now I have free reign to learn whatever I like.

I still don’t know what I want to do. People have finally stopped asking me the age-old, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, I guess that’s because I am a ‘grown-up’. It always felt like there was a deadline when people asked me that question but now the deadlines been reached the question seems irrelevant, we are constantly growing  aren’t we? I don’t feel under pressure anymore to make any final decisions. I want to take my time and think thoughtfully and openly about any opportunities that come my way and simply enjoy myself as much as possible beyond any outside constraints, whatever they may be.

Overall, this has been a far more valuable experience than the money I’ve saved. Which is good because my savings happen to be a lot less than the delusional estimations I made before coming here! I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to do this and if anyone else has the chance I would give you my own personal recommendation to do so. This blogging malarkey has been incredibly self indulgent and cathartic at times too. When our contract is up, before finally returning home, we have planned 6-7 weeks travelling Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam so we have a lot to look forward to plus a 3 day weekend on Jeju Island. I can’t wait to have sand between my toes, a cold Thai lager in my hand and some sun of my face. When I’m doing that, and when I return home, that’s when I know it has been worth it.

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

Weird Pets in Korea

14 Mar

The most popular pets in Britain tend to be cats, dogs, hamsters, rabbits, Guinea pigs; the usual furry cute looking creatures. Sure, there’s the occasional pubescent boy who decides to adopt a tarantula or snake, (usually with the motive, I imagine, to impress his friends or scare his sister).

In my experience, the pets of my household growing up included a tabby cat, named Oliver, my Mum partly regretted naming the cat this when she found herself pregnant with my younger brother, since one of her favourite boy names had already been taken. There was Christie the hamster who became Chris on discovery that it was male. I and my brother both took a bereavement day off school after a distressful morning trying to resuscitate the cold, stiff, furry ball before and finally burying it in a lunch box coffin in the garden. We had Sophie the German Sheppard, who lives to this day, happily frolicking in the fields of a farm somewhere, at least that’s what I have been told... My brother, with his first pubescent teen spot making an appearance, had a slightly less conventional choice of pet. He had a brief period of owning two giant African land snails. He said he needed two because he “didn’t want them to get lonely”. The notion of err…togetherness was reaffirmed in the snails behaviour. As if giant snails weren’t disgusting enough, I seem to remember the slimy things used to spend the vast majority of the time slowly sliding on top of each other, glued to one another, humping their days away.

In Korea they also have an interest in some alternative pets. How do I know this? Because they bring them into school! One of my pupils recently for example, proudly showed off his giant pet beetle. My boyfriend, Lawson, also told me about an occasion when his class was interrupted by a persistent chirping chick that had been brought into school by its owner, one of his pupils. I can see how a chick might be an appealing pet, it has those traditional qualities required of a pet; it’s both cute and furry, in fact it probably earns extra cute factor for being more fluffy than furry. But what will they do when that cute little chirping chick morphs into a big clucking chicken?

That had me thinking, now that I thought about it, whenever pets were brought up in class discussion my pupils never EVER said they wanted a ‘dog’, ‘cat’ or any fully grown animal. They wanted a ‘kitten’, ‘puppy’ or ‘chick’. I seem to remember a campaign as a child with the tag line ‘a dog is not just for Christmas’. This campaign obviously didn’t reach as far as Korea. I have also noticed many stray cats in Korea in the area that I live too. Is this purely coincidental? I can’t say I blame the idealism of having a cute miniature sized version, especially when you walk past the Korean pet store windows crammed with glass cages with puppies and kittens staring out at you with their pleading eyes. A trend in Korea, and a possible solution, are the cat café’s that are all over the country. They house cats and serve coffee so customers are able to sip their cappuccinos and enjoy the companionship of a feline friend for an hour or so.

I also wonder what part us foreign teachers have to play in the purchasing of pets. I see many foreign teachers advertising the re-housing of their pets because they’ve decided to leave Korea and return to their home country.  I know a couple, for example, who had a pet hedgehog named ‘Shakespeare’, if I remember rightly, that, was luckily enough to find a new home. What’s your view on adopting or owning pets on a short-term basis? Are you a TEFL teacher or ex-patriot who has adopted a pet or thinking about it adopting one? If you have any views on weird and wonderful pets please leave a comment. I’d love to know what you think about it.

I’ll leave you with this video about the cat café in my neighbouring town presented by fellow TEFL teacher and friend, John Avery.

Cheonggyecheon Stream’s Transformation

25 Feb

Me and Lawson went to Cheonggyecheon stream a couple of weekends ago on a very chilly Lunar New Year’s Day. Even though it was bitingly cold every time I took my hands out my pockets to take a photo I didn’t want to stop. This area of Seoul is what I had imagined for a capital city and more. It had the huge sky scrapers and modern glass architecture you expect from a capital city but so far I hadn’t felt like I’d seen it in Seoul. This is entirely our fault because, until this weekend, we’d kept cautiously to the tourist areas -Itaewon and Hongdae. I say ‘more’, because as well as the modern, recently refurbished stream, and the towering glass sky scrapers, in the mist you could see beautiful green and rocky mountains in the distance. It’s quite the contrast and completely unlike any capital city I’ve visited before.

In 2005 they spent $900 million refurbishing the water edges and generally beautifying it and making it look incredibly urban. I think in the Summer they have lots of plants and greenery but with it being winter the plants were dead and the fountains were frozen. It still looked incredibly modern and cool though.

Under Gwangtonggyo bridge they had copies of photographs showing what this area looked like during the first half of the 20th century. It was incredible. It was unrecognisable, not only from what it looked like now, but so far away from how I see Korea as a whole. It is quite easy to forget, as a Westerner, how far Korea has come in such a short time. The photos showed shanty houses propped up on the waters edge on stilts. It looked third world, poverty stricken and frankly, very ugly.

I was recently talking to a Korean co-worker who was telling me that the slow-pace, relaxed life in Australia drove him crazy. He has a dual passport and has spent many years living in Oz. He loved it and wants to return, but he said he couldn’t understand how a weeks work could drag into months. I can see where he is coming from; the first word I learnt when I came to Korea is “bolly” which means ‘hurry’, and one of the first things I noticed was how fast everyone drove. Korea really does live life in the fast lane in day to day life and in general. The urban project took just two years to complete and it is completely transformed from what it used to look like.

Cheonggyecheon Stream in the 1950s

1950

And now. 

Cheesy balls or Pure Romance Atop the Highest Point in Seoul (N Seoul Tower)

16 Feb

Seoul N Tower

As the title suggests, I have a contradictory reaction to all things cheesy. Part of me thinks it’s insincere rubbish that curdles my stomach, yet a smaller part of me thinks, much to the annoyance of the other part, “but maybe it would be nice?” It’s cruel how your mind can do that. These two contrasting opinions come at logger head’s all the time; when it comes to picking films, music, what I want for Christmas… It’s a pain being a walking contradiction. It stops me from being decisive. Maybe it’s because my parents are polar opposites. Yeah, blame the parents when your in self-doubt. Ahhh…Thank god it’s not my fault! I can barely get through a sentence without contradicting myself by the end of it. Even the word ‘love’ is so allusive and Disney-like that I question what it really means. I use the word in sincerity to my boyfriend, but I also use it about Topshop Sale’s and Wendsleydale cheese. All three of which, I’m big fans of. That’s harsh, my boyfriend is of course my world, so why then does that sound so cliché as though I don’t mean it? Maybe because it’s been spoken in so many Jennifer Anniston, Reese Withaspoon-type-films that it’s lost all meaning? Possibly.

Valentine’s day is the perfect time for these two contradictions to battle it out. We were lucky enough to have a three day weekend due to Lunar New Year the weekend before Saint Valentines, so we decided to do something romantic then, rather than the specified day. In retrospect, thank goodness, because as it turned out we ended up spending Valentines in our tiny flat with a plumber unblocking our toilet. Imagine that noise, smell, and company over champagne and oysters! of course, I could get into the whole debate about whether or not Valentines is just a marketing ploy but let’s keep on track here.

So we booked a Hotel in advance, and since we had £16 ($25) worth of Agoda points, we decided to get the deluxe room with the jacuzzi bath. Oh yes, the big spenders are in town this Lunar New Year. It wasn’t strictly Valentines day but if it was, what is the cheesiest things we could do in Seoul to test these two contradictory opinions to and see which comes out on top? Well, there’s a wealth of options. (Especially, baring in mind, Korea loves couples. The shops make a killing on double deals with ‘couple clothing’ right down to ‘couple underwear’ and ‘couple rings’ all through the year. They even offer set menus for couples, couple tickets and couple set snacks at the cinema with a a large coke and popcorn to share.) In the end we decided to do the omega of cheesy things to do in Seoul by visiting N Seoul Tower. N Seoul Tower is situated on Namsan mountain.  This, so-called mountain, is 243 metres tall and the tower on top of it is 237.7 metres tall so the idea is, especially at night time, you get a romantic view of all the shimmering city lights of the city.

It’s not so cheesy that only couples do it as they are other groups but what makes it really lovey-dovey are the love locks. Adorned from metal fences forming a balcony around Seoul tower are bright gaudy padlocks with notes of love, forever cementing a couples love, or so it’s believed by the more sentimental hearted. Many were notes are attached with Korean, or other languages I can’t read, but I imagine they say something along the lines of “you are my everything”, “you mean the world to me”, “I can’t live without you” with maybe the odd K-pop boy band lyric thrown in for extra effect, and stomach curdling clichéd soppy, sickeningly, cheesy, rubbish, “but maybe it would be nice?” questions the evil little angel, (?), on my shoulder once again.

It’s rarely going to be the man who implements romance in the relationship, no matter how many times we watch ‘The Notebook’, read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ or any recent films with the gorgeous Channing Tatum in. When it really comes down to it, at least I find, it’s the woman in the relationship who encourages romance because it tends to be the female who really cares about it. Men, generally speaking, are practical minded species. Maybe I’m slightly low on oestrogen levels or something then, because when I looked at the tacky padlocks costing 11,000 won, and back at the railing covered with every inch of them I just thought ‘bleeaurgh’. That was literally the sound I made in my head. Not so much a sound of hurling vomit, just nothing, just ‘meh‘ if you like. It lacked all spontaneousness and is anything but unique since the place was cluttered with the stuff. Bits of tat, like permanent locked down litter. Not only are there padlocks but people had attached key rings and phone cases too. It looked worse than the bottom of my handbag after a few months daily use, a hodgepodge of sweet wrappers, orange peel, broken pen lids, eye liner, and potato crisp crumbs galore.

I can honestly say that ‘meh’ never springs to mind when I think about my boyfriend, I don’t really feel like I need to put on a railing, tattoo on my wrist or write all over my Facebook wall how I feel about him. That’s not to say, that people who do do that, shouldn’t. Who am I tell you how to live your life? It just not me and I don’t think it’s particularly him either. We’re both fairly pragmatic kind of people. I feel confident about our relationship. But it makes me question whether I’m devoid of  romance. Does it mean my heart is made of stone?  We did intend to do the typical thing and attach a padlock along with the thousand others but it just seemed a bit daft.

In the end, we didn’t exchange cards or presents for Valentine’s, we don’t have couple rings and the idea of couple clothing recalls memories of an old, seriously uncool religious couple, who used to come to my Primary School wearing matching yellow anoraks that looked like they were wearing oversized  illuminous nappy bags. They came into school boring the students to death with stories about the bible. Sorry, to any Christians who might be reading this, but I’m blaming the story-tellers not the stories, or maybe I should say holy scripture?  (See! I’m a walking hypocrisy of opinions and not just in regards to Valentine’s day!) Instead, we enjoyed a lovely couple of days sightseeing all around Seoul and had a lovely weekend.

Anyway, as for some sort of point to all these ramblings, I will say that N Seoul Tower should be seen, by couples, groups of friends or by solo travellers because it is rather pretty up there. It can make you feel a little humble when you see how far the lights stretch out across the sky and how many people they are out there. As for the love-locks, (if I can hold it together just long enough not to hurl or shy away from some sincere emotion), they go to show that there are a lot of people who feel like they are in love. I think most of us can agree that’s a nice feeling. I hope you all had a lovely Valentines day, whether it was spent with your partner, spouse, friends or family, or even on your own, lusting after Channing Tatum or Ryan Gosling.


IMG_0519 IMG_0530 IMG_0524 IMG_0542 IMG_0543 Love heart sculpture

Tim Burton exhibition in Seoul

3 Feb

We recently went to the very popular Tim Burton exhibition at the Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA), Jung-gu, Seoul. Tim Burton is the director and mastermind behind many popular feature films such as Beetle JuiceCharlie and the Chocolate FactoryThe Nightmare Before ChristmasCorpse Bride, Alice and Wonderland and many more. The exhibition, that started it’s international tour in New York in 2009, had an incredibly vast amount of Burton’s work. It had costumes from his most popular films like Batman Returns on display as well as also giving you the opportunity to watch his lesser known film pieces such as Stain Boy and Victor, which I was totally unaware of before the exhibition visit. It also had many of his paintings, drawings, posters and models of popular characters like Jack Skellington, The Pumpkin King.

What I especially liked about the exhibit was that you were able to follow his work from the very beginning. It showed short mini-films he’d made without sound, which he started making when he was 13, making it possible to follow his career from the very early stages. There was even a letter on display from the Disney headquarters in response to a young, Burton in Highschool. He’d sent some paintings for some ideas he had for a children’s story. It was basically a rejection letter but it was positive and very complimentary. The letter also said it was too similar to the Dr. Seuss range, which Burton later in life credits as inspiration along with Roald Dahl, and it encouraged him to continue and go to Art College to further his style and skill, which he did.

There was an incredible amount to see, but unfortunately we had very little time to see it. We didn’t realise before we went, but we had to wait well over an hour just to get in. We queued and paid for tickets which then allowed us to get us another ticket, which had a number on. We then had to wait for the screen to display our number. By the time our number appeared on the screen we were only able to spend a little over half hour to view the work before we had to head back to the bus station, as we’d already booked our coach back home. It was ridiculously busy too, so being able to see the work at a leisurely pace just wasn’t possible, instead you had to shuffle along with the crowd. So if your planning on going yourself, (it’s on until the 14th of April), and I’d recommend it even if your not usually a gallery goer, I’d advise that you go on a weekday if possible and be prepared for the wait.

There are many pieces and sections of the exhibition I scarcely had time to properly look at due to the short amount of time we had, yet it was still very interesting. Before my visit, I naively had no idea how much creative input Burton had into the film’s, outside of directing them. Every little initial idea was documented in the form of one of his seemingly insignificant doodles on a restaurant napkin before it progressed into drawing, a wild and colourful painting, then a story board, and eventually a film. I had recognised before that all his films had that same Burton-esque, Gothic, slightly macabre quirkiness but hadn’t realised that he was an artist and illustrator in the typical sense too.

 

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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!

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