Saturday, 4 December 2010


I've been a little bit lax on the whole 'updating' side of things - not really for want of anything happening, because funnily enough it's been a fairly eventful couple of weeks!

Last Thursday (the 25th) was Thanksgiving in America, and as I am never one to ignore a holiday, especially when I have even the flimsiest of excuses to observe it (we lived in America last year!), we hosted Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday 27th. The day before, I had begun writing an entry for this - I had a bad head cold and felt horrific. It was like someone had stuffed my head with fibreglass, and my teaching that day sadly suffered. Luckily, by Saturday morning I felt much better, although I'm still recovering from some aspects of that cold now, a week later.

The cooking details of Thanksgiving can be found meticulously recorded here, here, here and here. We invited some of the other foreign teachers, all of whom are American, and are pleased to report that we cooked and served a somewhat-convincing Thanksgiving meal - despite the lack of turkey. And cranberries. And so on.

As usual, hosting Thanksgiving meant that we were Buying Things in Korea, and hence Mistakes Were Inevitable. Turkey was nowhere to be found, so we bought a duck, and then on the day decided that the duck was unlikely to be big enough so I returned to the butcher's, bought a smaller duck, stuffed it with a tangerine and an onion, cooked it for a few hours, and then realized it was a chicken. Thankfully that was the worst of our issues, which was almost surprising.

 The next day, we climbed a small mountain opposite Tom's school and took some photos of the city that has been our home for over two months now. The paths were fairly treacherous: I'm not known for my superior balance anyway, and the steepness combined with the mass of autumnal leaves on the ground meant that I was clinging to Tom for dear life most of the way.

The industrial nature of Gwangyang surrounded by the mountains was kind of spectacular, although Tom in particular couldn't decide whether it was horrifically ugly or not. We could see the bridge to Yeosu, which is meant to be completed by 2012, when there's some kind of expo here. (And Wikipedia says: something about Yeosu's Expo 2012 bid. Well, that makes things far clearer.) Tom says that bridge is named after a Korean general who fought the Japanese off from here. The bridge lights up at night - oddly, given that it's not in use - which is nonetheless very pretty.
At the top of the mountain is what we believe to be a war memorial. This tall, tower-like structure is the centrepiece; a couple of engravings at the bottom show men with guns, and some Korean writing. There are signs plastered all over the place saying "CCTV", although no one else was there. In fact, the whole mountain was strangely deserted, given that it was a sunny Sunday and (you would think) more people would be out for a walk.

The first part of this week was less fun, with various work issues. Another English academy in Gwangyang is closing, and my school is inheriting a couple of classes of students. Of course, any parent wants the best for their child, but my Korean co-teacher and I are reluctant about the whole thing. First of all, the students want to keep learning in the same way they did in the other school, so we're not allowed to use the books that form the E Bo Young curriculum. Nor are we allowed to have classes bigger than three students, although the actual school rules prohibit classes larger than nine. Secondly, the parents have been badmouthing many other English academies and teachers in the area, so we're worried about what might be said about us. Thirdly, this means that from next week I'll be working 2.40-9.10 without a break two days a week, which will rise to four days a week from January. The parents are paying more for all of these privileges, obviously, but none of this extra goes to the teachers.

My health has also suffered slightly, and on Friday I'll be in hospital to have some precancerous cervical cells removed. I'm psyching myself up to have my insides electrocuted by a doctor with whom I have no language overlap (not to be melodramatic or anything), but am pleased with the prospect of a day off, sitting in bed knitting. Recovery time is very short, so the next day we're off to Namhae Island, about one hour from here, to spend a weekend at the Hilton with the other foreign teachers.

This week, there has also been the start of December! And hence the start of Christmas celebrations in our home and schools. I made Tom an advent calendar after he woke up on the 1st distraught, and individually we've been doing Christmas crafts in our classrooms. I have five classes a day and have given each class a section of the wall which currently displays their Christmas work, but which from January will display anything I feel like. This is a picture of Class 2 and Class 3's work: class 2 did some colouring (they're about seven years old) and class 3 (about eleven years old) wrote letters to Santa.

We also made some snowflakes, and taped them on to the windows to prove that it does snow in Gwangyang! As you can see, Class 1 (aged six) were very busy with their proper work yesterday and didn't get to do any colouring or anything Christmassy. It was tragic.

We also decorated our apartment - yesterday we went to Home Plus and bought a Tesco Finest (!) Christmas tree. It's 150cm tall, and very wide, and (slightly peculiarly) came with fake cinnamon sticks, berries and pine cones attached.

We documented (almost) the entire process of decorating the tree on Facebook, but here are a few highlights:

 An empty space where the tree will go! We used to have a huge, ugly armchair here, which we have been fretting over for a couple of weeks now (where oh where can we put it to get rid of it?). In the end we have just dumped it unceremoniously on the balcony, justifying it by telling ourselves that we won't use the balcony in the winter. Except to dry clothes. And we can get those out there by climbing out of our bedroom window rather than using the living room door. Sorted.

 First thing to go on: lights!

 Tom adds some decorations.

 And I put the star on top. Incidentally, I also bought that jumper from Home Plus yesterday. Under 20,000 W (about 11 pounds) for a pure cashmere jumper! It's very soft. I'm happy.

And the final shot of the tree in all its glory. The lights have eight settings, and can do all kinds of amazing things. When I got home last night, I sat in the dark with the lights on and felt very Christmassy.

The tree feels very special because we earned the money to buy it. I'm perfectly happy knowing that each of us taught for one hour to buy that tree. Definitely one hour's work well spent.


  1. 8 settings? thats amazing! Clearly all that money the S korean government have invested in consumer electronics has paid off! Martin Fid x

  2. That made for the perfect read to distract me further from this assignment I'm supposed to be doing. :)

    I't now almost 5 am, so only 6 hours until the deadline! :D

    Your favourite Brooks.