Monday, 22 November 2010

On Being Different

On Saturday we went to Home Plus. We went to the drinks aisle. There was  another woman in the aisle, with her little girl in the trolley. The child was probably about a year old. Whilst innocently looking for orange juice, this woman caught our attention and said to us, in broken English, "she's afraid of foreigners," gesturing to her daughter. Indeed, the little girl was staring at us worriedly. It was true. But why did she tell us this?

On Sunday we went to the butcher's in search of a chunk of meat to roast. It took a while, mostly because we couldn't figure out how to say that we wanted to spend so much money and what could they give us for that price. They kept putting various things on the scales and pointing to the number, and offering us discounts but not very clearly (so was the price they just showed us already discounted, or would they take half off?), and complimenting Tom (with some surprise, amusingly) on his beautiful girlfriend - and eventually we walked away with just over a kilogram of pork which cooked beautifully.

Living in Korea can be a challenge, but there are also times when life is more fun when you're communicating through pointing and gesturing.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Doing stuff at the weekend!

Well, Tom and I actually had a fairly productive weekend for once! It was nice to do things, rather than just sit around watching X Factor - although we managed to fit that in too, of course.

Last week was fairly typical: I think the only things worthy of mention are PAYDAY! and the fact that I got two new students in my Wednesday/Friday adult class. Oh, and we ordered an oven online, although it's going to delivered to a friend's place, hopefully this week.

Then the weekend came along! On Thursday, during the online ordering of the oven, I mentioned that I also wanted a small dining table. All I wanted was something cheap and wooden. Suddenly, six or seven people were involved in the purchase of a second-hand table, with phone calls and text messages being sent all over South Korea. Eventually we agreed that our boss would give us a table that she has in storage and would take us to a second-hand store on Saturday morning.

On Friday the table arrived, with four 'chairs' (stools). We refused the stools and sadly hid the table away - it has metal legs and I'm not happy about it.

On Saturday, we got up early and were taken by our boss's husband to a furniture store. The furniture didn't look second-hand... but it did have the higgledy-piggledy, cramped atmosphere which, in our experience, 'proper' furniture shops lack. However, after being told that their cheapest chairs were 45,000W each, we called our boss again and reminded her that we wanted second-hand. She insisted that this shop was as cheap as any second-hand place, but to be honest, even if that turned out later to be true, I didn't want to kit out a rented apartment (which is only ours until next October) with brand-new furniture.

Funnily enough, a couple of minutes' drive away we found a real second-hand shop with a small round table and two chairs which we got for 60,000W. We paid, went home, and the set was delivered to us for free within twenty minutes of paying for it. We are pretty pleased with it.

The other major Saturday event, except for discovering a local butcher's (an extremely fun experience), was going out for dinner! On our own! With nothing but two phrasebooks and a dictionary to help us! It was a local place that we've walked past countless times, on the way to both the yarn shop (more on which later) and the nearest taxi rank, which looks fairly traditional - at least, it requires the removal of shoes and sitting on the (heated) floor. We ate gamjatang, which is a "spicy soup with pork vertebrae and potatoes," and tastes much nicer than it sounds. Overall we ate this huge main dish (it was the smallest size, shockingly), rice, all the assorted side dishes, and had a beer each for just 23,000W. Eating out is definitely cheap, but we remain skeptical of the people who claim that it's cheaper to go to restaurants than to cook in Korea.

In knitting news, there are some Top Secret Christmas Projects going on, which I am very excited about. Also, after using Judy's Magic Cast On (video) for my first pair of toe-up socks, I have gone sock crazy and have spent a significant amount of the last twenty-four hours gazing longingly at sock patterns. That cast-on is just so easy and beautiful. Several times I have thrust the laptop at Tom gabbling "oh my god these are so beautiful look LOOK." I even laughed at a knitting joke. (Why is this knitting pattern called Crusoe? Because it's stranded. Hahaha!) I think I'm going to have to make these, which necessitates another trip to the yarn shop, of course.

Saturday, 6 November 2010


Since we arrived, we have met two Westerners properly (and one left not only the country, nor the continent, but the hemisphere two days after we met her), and seen two others. Yesterday, however, that completely changed. We went for lunch with the other couple who teaches here, who left for new adventures today, and the new couple that arrived just a few days ago to replace them. This means we are no longer the new teachers! Yay!

The food was very, very odd - the American bar and grill buffet was far from American, and really quite strange - but there were some nice tidbits among the mess. In my experience, Korean food is generally palatable to Westerners, but this meal included cold things and... yes. Anyway. The new couple were really nice, and we hope that they liked us as much as we liked them. It was strange and exciting to meet people who are basically us, a month ago!

In fact, it's been more than a month since we arrived, and we've now done five weeks of teaching. No plans for this weekend except downloading X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing tomorrow - I feel almost as if the weekend has snuck up on us!

I had a much better week this week, after a good few days of being generally grumpy. Overhanging issues have almost entirely been sorted, or at least their solutions have been planned, so that's that. Next week is payday, which means a bevy of interesting things - most excitingly, we will be able to buy an oven! We're also plunging headlong into the holiday season, which even Tom is anticipating this year. He's decided that we're going to show Korea how to do Christmas properly, although this seems to mean that our Christmas tree will be on the balcony, where strangers can see it but we can't. That's a point we'll have to rethink.