Wednesday, July 6, 2011


For some odd reason, when I stepped out of the English classroom this morning the air smelled like mornings in Malaysia. Specifically, mornings in Penang, our family's favourite holiday place. I think it was the combination of the humidity with only a little heat (I had just stepped out of the air-conditioning) that you also get walking across the lobby of a hotel that is always open to the air (and pool!) outside, the smell of something savoury cooking, the smell of glazed pastry and the relaxed holiday feel that you get when you know you have nothing much to do but chill and enjoy your time. Now, I have no idea where the pastry smell came from as we aren't even having pastries for lunch - perhaps it was a relic from yesterday when we had the rice-dough donuts, or maybe from the sugar in the 양념 sauce to go with the tofu nuggets (???) today. Since we just had exams, we're watching movies in class for the next three weeks until the semester ends in my classes. Apparently no-one else is allowed to do this because it's a waste of time, according to our VP, but since he a) doesn't speak English and I'm guessing also b) doesn't consider my classes to be 'real' classes anyway I can get away with it. I've been letting the kids choose which movies they want to watch, and thankfully they haven't all chosen the same one (I learned my lesson last year after watching Home Alone 2 seventeen times). The first year boys got respectively embarrassed (like hiding their faces embarrassed) and excited watching 'Stardust' when there was a kissing scene and then when Michelle Pfeiffer took off all her clothes to admire herself in the mirror. They were subsequently very disappointed when the camera didn't actually show anything below her shoulders and above her calves, hehe ^_^ It's a weird dichotomy - students get really embarrassed when anything even close to hinting at sex is shown, but the boys are more than happy to ogle the tiniest patch of bare skin - proof that testosterone wins out over cultural mores every time!

Anyway, my students are at least happy to be in class. Other classes have chosen "Finding Nemo", "Pirates of the Carribean 1" and "The Corpse Bride". So far none of the girls have chosen "Confessions of a Shopaholic" surprisingly (I didn't particularly think anything of the movie anyway since it's very girly so I'm not too disappointed) and I'm tossing up whether the swearing in "Aliens 2" is at a negligible enough level to give the option of watching it to the second year boys or not.

In other news, I don't know if it officially counts as the start of Korea's rainy season, but thanks to all the typhoons sweeping over various parts of North-East Asia, it's been raining a lot here lately, hence the high level of humidity. Last weekend there was 30 - 80 mm of rain on Sunday alone, and the weekend before a typhoon in Taiwan resulted in about 2 metres of rain over Korea. My gumboots have at least been getting a lot of use! Hopefully it won't continue, not in the least because Koreans are not good swimmers and hence have no water sense (i.e. not crossing a river that has risen by so much that all of the walkways and even the bike path on it's banks has been covered) so that as well as the mudslides and collapsing houses and roads mean that there have been about 14 deaths already and another 5 missing, presumed dead. On the other hand, it does mean that there are breaks from the heat which is otherwise sweltering. I made the very stupid mistake of walking downtown yesterday by the road (taking approx 35 - 40 minutes), rather than by the river (approx. 50 minutes), and the heat, along with the pollution meant that I ended up very sweaty and feeling very dirty with all the dust flying around. I would have happily welcomed a brief shower of rain at that point, but I instead hid in a nice air-conditioned bank for a few minutes until I cooled down :)

Oh and to Cheongju-ians, good news! My favourite sushi place, Sushiru (스시루) has re-opened! They were briefly closed for a while a few weeks ago and it actually looked like the shop was being either torn down or refitted, but it opened to no discernable change except for different soy sauce pots so I have no idea why. If you haven't been there, I recommend you go! It's a street back from the Lotte Cinema, next to the Family Mart on the corner. It's also one of those sushi-train places and the food is always fresh. The staff is really friendly, and if they like the look of you they'll usually give you something free (and delicious!) to try - yesterday they gave us seared scallop and kimchi sushi 'service' (free), last time it was some succulent prawn tempura. Oh and the best bit! Every time anyone goes in or out they greet you with a battle-cry-esque "안녕하세오오오오오오오오!" I've actually been there so many times that last time I went they gave me a loyalty card ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ Perhaps not incidentally, that's my new Korean word for the day - 회전초밥 or heejeon chobap: sushi train sushi :)


Update: awkward moment of the day - realising that one of my co-teachers is slightly homophobic, or at least not comfortable with the idea of homosexuality or transgenders. Watching my roughest second year class of 15 year old male students leaning on each other and cuddling up to watch the movie (the chairs in the English classroom are pretty uncomfortable) with their arms slung around each other, and commenting on how cute I thought they were but how strange it seemed considering that when I was that old we never even did that, she started telling me about these two "interesting" boys she knew in highschool who would hold hands, walk around together, lie on the grass and talk between themselves and even take toilet breaks at the same time. Ok, now I know that sounds odd to us Westerners (for boys at least) but it's really not that uncommon in Korea. And then she started telling me about some famous Korean actor (I think she was talking about Harisu who's pretty much the only one who's actually made it) and how she "couldn't" understand her/him. I guess this was my fault though for bringing it up as I had forgotten how Christian she is - she actually got married in a church for one when it seems like most Koreans these days get married in wedding halls. Anyway, at least the students enjoyed the movie!

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