Thursday, February 28, 2013

Arriving in Daegu

There are few things as terrifying as standing in front of an auditorium full of strangers, waiting to hear your name called out so you can meet the person who will, for all intents and purposes, be your mother for the rest of the year. Especially when you have what appears to be the bronchitis that was doing the rounds at orientation.

Mine is quite nice, actually. Although we did struggle to fit all my luggage into her tiny car. But she's pretty organised - we went straight from the pick-up place to the Immigration office and applied for my Alien Registration Card. I got a certificate which is supposed to work in place of an ARC, so that's cool... Except it didn't work at the bank. So no bank account yet. After the immigration office, we joined another Epiker and his co-teacher for some tasty beef soup at a restaurant, and chatted a bit, getting to know each other.

After driving around a bit, we got to my school, which has beautiful grounds but is a little run-down inside. Still, it's not terrible. It's just, you know, a school. And the classrooms look a lot nicer than anything I've ever taught in, and the English Lab (where my office is) is lovely.

Met the other foreigner who's teaching with me, and although he seemed pretty busy with work, he did give me a few tips about the school, so that's good. Then my co-teacher took me to my apartment, picking up her adorable 10-year-old daughter along the way. I may or may not have offered to tutor her daughter in English for free, but we'll see what happens with that. She was a very sweet an helpful little girl, sitting on top of aaaall my bags in the back seat, and helping me carry them (just the small ones - I'm not a sadist) up the 6 flights of stairs to my apartment.

My apartment building is called "Shiny" something, and oh boy, is it shiny. Marble everything, and some sort of weird zodiac thing going on, on the floor. I forgot my camera in my co-teacher's car (I think) so I haven't taken many photos yet, and I'll do an apartment tour once I'm settled. For now you'll have to settle for a verbal description.

Most of the wallpaper is pink and flowery, but not obnoxiously so. There is, however, an entire wall of some sort of brickwork hanging garden of babylon wallpaper, which is glittery. Um... Yaaaaay. Anyway, I'm sure Abi can help me figure out some way to make that work. Or I can hang something over it.

The apartment itself was absolutely filthy, and smells strongly of poo. Hot, steaming, fly-smothered turd. We didn't spend much time in it; only about as long as it took for my co-teacher to explain how the washing machine and ondol (heating) work. I have forgotten already, but I shall persevere!

I was pretty disappointed to see that the previous NET had left me nothing but a hairband, a small vacuum cleaner (which may or may not work), a moldy toilet, a broken bed, some jam jars and long strands of her hair all over the place. I would have appreciated a roll of toilet paper, at least. My co-teacher commented on the need for cleaning supplies and whizzed me off to E-mart (kind of like Super U for the Mauritians, or a cross between Checkers and Macro for the Saffers) where we hunted for sponges, detergent, bog roll and other such things.

And then she abandoned me.

Ok, that was dramatic. She didn't want to, but she had to leave to take her daughter to swimming practice. She didn't ask for this job, and she says she didn't want it, and I respect her priorities. I was taking forever to find what I needed. But I bumped into another Epiker who I recognised, and her lovely co-teacher helped me out instead, after mine wrote down some directions to my apartment.

I started feeling seriously overwhelmed as I didn't even know what size my Korean bed is. The other epiker informed me that I have what is called a Super Single, so I bought a full set of bedding for it. Turns out it's a single, but she was just trying to help. I may have wiped a few sneaky tears away, in the bedding aisle.

Got home, thanked them for their help, and open the window to let in some air that wasn't poo-scented, and then I looked around, contemplating what to clean first. And I remembered promising to send my co-teacher an email when I got back to let her know I was ok. And then I saw that my internet is not wireless, and I have no lan cable. Screw cleaning. I marked home on my GPS and headed out to buy a LAN cable. I vaguely remember my co-NET saying something about maybe being in the apartment above or below me, so I hesitated on the floor below mine, and heard someone exclaim something... in English. Foreigner-accented English.

So I rang their doorbell and said I'd moved in upstairs and wanted to introduce myself. The door opened, and there stood a friendly Canadian and his shiny new Korean wife (they've been married for two weeks). And they were so nice that I asked if they knew where I could buy a LAN cable, and burst into tears.

They sat me down, gave me wine, fed me a pasta dinner, gave me chocolate, gave me tips on teaching middle school and dating Koreans, told me where the nearest gym was, offered to take me to Costco on their next run, showed me their wedding video, introduced me to their cat, and even took my temperature and gave me medicine and a delicious home remedy - Min is training as a nurse. They have even loaned me a phone, so I can get a pre-paid simcard and be contactable until my ARC arrives and I can get something smarter.

Best. Neighbours. Ever. It turns out that Nick is a nerd and a gamer, and I joined the gaming society he founded a few weeks ago, in the hopes of making friends. I guess it worked. He's an Epiker in his 4th year, and she's an English teacher and belly-dancing instructor. They had belly-dancers at their wedding, so that's cool.

Anyway, they cheered me up and have loaned me a LAN cable and donated some rubber gloves and a bottle of bleach. So I guess it's time I cleaned this poo-palace up and made my bed, so I can sleep. Right now I'm just waiting for the vacuum cleaner to finish charging. I have already poured bleach down all the drains, so the smell of poo has gone. Or my nose is blocked and I can't tell. Either way, I win.

So all in all, a difficult day but I think I've made some pretty good friends.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Orientation highs and lows

As orientation starts winding up, with classes over and lesson demonstrations tomorrow, I think it's time I compiled a list of the good things and bad things that have summed up the last week or so of my preparation for teaching in Daegu.


  • Meeting people who will be living in my city, or even near my school
  • Building friendships that look like they'll last a long time
  • Hysterically funny conversation over lunch and dinner
  • Trying to eat scrambled eggs with chopsticks - and succeeding!
  • Playing drinking games with random ajeossis in the local watering hole
  • Being the only people in the bar and getting special treatment because of it
  • Learning Korean at lightning speed
  • The friendliness 
  • Jumping around like a maniac and kicking the crap out of the taekwondo paddle
  • Playing in the snow
  • Learning about Korea from Koreans, and about teaching in it from teachers who've done it
  • Singing the Koala song in Korean - Kokoko, alalal, lalala
  • Accidentally discovering the market
  • Heated toilet seats
  • Noraebuses
  • Fantastic Epik staff
  • The lady in the convenience store
  • Sitting with lecturers at meals and hearing the 'deleted' bits
  • Meeting people for what you both thought was the first time, only to realise that not only were you in the same class at university, but you trained together and worked at a bar together for a couple of weeks.
  • The key system - having one key between two people who hardly see each other is a pain in the arse.
  • No one has ever heard of Mauritius. 
  • Being too cold outside and too hot inside. 
  • Long lectures with no breaks, and the impossibility of keeping your eyes open
  • Whoever stole my shampoo before I'd even put my bags in my room
  • Hearing about people failing their drug test, or of people giving up and going home before they'd even gone to their city.
  • Making friends with amazing people... who are moving to the other end of Korea
  • Being woken by the Voice Of the Intercom God every couple of minutes in the morning
  • Not having clean clothes or time to wash them
  • The food getting progressively more western and less edible
  • Being treated like a child
  • The midnight curfew
  • The feeling of it being a school camp
  • Living out of a suitcase
  • Internet that only works sometimes, and not nearly at the speed of the infamous Korean bandwidth
  • Not speaking Korean well enough to get directions to the outdoor market, rather than to the 7/11, while leading a group of people on a wild goose chase
  • Hungry elevators that eat you and then ignore which button you pressed and go to whichever floor they feel like visiting at the time, in the wrong direction.
But even then, the bad bits aren't so bad. It's been fun, but I'm definitely looking forward to unpacking, throwing a load of laundry into the machine, and going for a long walk around my neighbourhood. Luckily for me, we've got a long weekend as I arrive, so I can do just that.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Norae-mobile

Today I discovered something marvellous. After a long day traipsing around a cold, muddy, and yet fascinating and beautiful folk village (with traditional video game arcade, traditional train, traditional camel-monkey-horse machines to ride around on, and a Chosun warrior doing Gangnam style on a horse), we hopped on the bus and headed back to our orientation venue.

On the bus, our 'homeroom teacher' explained to us that after a picnic or hike, ajummas and ajeossis like to have a bit of noraebang (Korean karaoke with scoring like Singstar).

not my photo or my bus but close enough. 
Two hours of foreigners singing "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Sex Bomb", and pretty much anything from the 90s off-key. Some brilliant displays of talent by the Brits, and some jaw-dropping performances by our Korean hosts. I tell myself they've been doing it all their lives and that's why they're so good. I tell myself that the cold is making me croaky and so my voice isn't up to scratch. I can keep telling myself these things. Maybe I'll start believing them.

Anyway, the aim was achieved: the time flew.

Compared to the crappy 90s movies shown on Greyhound buses in SA, I think NoraeBuses are the future. Oh, Korea.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Eating Bugs in Korea

It's been an interesting couple of days in Seoul with the other early arrivals. So far, everyone I've met is fascinating, friendly, and just plain nice. I'd like to thank Epik for the thoroughness of their screening process; they've managed to pick some great future amigos for me. Top notch.

And with these friends, I've gone to a bunch of nice restaurants (or street vendors) and have eaten some of the most delicious food I have ever tasted. I've watched friends cut meat with scissors for a barbecue. I've torn pork ribs to bits and dipped them in a sort of wasabi sauce, and snacked on crunchy chilis. I've had hangover soup, with congealed blood in it, fried things that taste like vetkoek, samgak gimbap (or "Sushi Burger Samoosa") and a whole lot of kimchi. I've loved all of it.

So, to add to our culinary adventures, someone thought it would be a good idea to bring home some of these little guys:

They're silkworm pupae that have been steamed and boiled, and seasoned. I tried one. According to my friends, most of them were squishy, but I got one that wasn't. I put it in my mouth, and thought 'Hey, this isn't so bad.' So I chewed, and tasted it more. It had an earthy sort of taste, not unlike Andouillette. The segments flaked a bit, and the flakes hit the back of my throat. I tried to swallow. I tried again. I considered spitting but the room was too full for me to get to the bin and things were starting to look a bit desperate in the vomit department.

Finally I got it down, and rinsed my mouth with water to try and get the taste to go away. The taste wasn't that bad though. And the texture wasn't bad either. The combination of that taste and that texture was revolting.

So now that box is ticked and I don't ever have to do that again. I do think it's worth trying, if only to see how brave you are.

I think some flakes of it are still stuck in my throat.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Suzie Q: The greatest bar in Hongdae

I don't claim to be an expert on the subject of bars. In fact, I'm probably one of the least knowledgeable people in the world about bars, except for maybe Mother Theresa or Mahatma Gandhi, although I'm willing to bet they had their own preferred watering holes before they became so... sober. But I do think that our little group of eager-beaver early arrivals has found the best bar in Hongdae.

Located quite close to Cocoon and Gogo's, Suzie Q isn't really visible from the street, except for a small door. But the moment you head down the stairs, admiring the decorative vinyl records lining the walls, and walk through the inner door, you know you're going to have a night that is, mercifully, sans-Gangnam Style.

Having discovered it the night before, we decided to take our whole rowdy group of waygooks to Suzie Q to soak in the atmosphere and have a bit of a sing-along. There were about fifteen of us, so we were looking for something that wasn't too crowded. We had also had two big nights, the second ending with the subway of shame home, so we wanted a light, relaxed evening to recover from it (well, we tried, but never mind that).

On our first visit we had a blast, mixing with a mostly waygook crowd (with some Korean hipsters) and singing and dancing the night away. The second night was a Sunday night. Notably more quiet, but there were enough of us to comfortably fill the bar, so fill it we did. We caught the DJ by surprise as he spun discs alone in an empty room, and he served us as well as playing the music. I'd taken a photo of the DJ the night before, and chatted to him a bit, and he remembered me, so he knocked a few thousand won off my bill, resulting in a free beer. He also milled around, chatting with us, and being generally friendly, but we could see he was taking strain without any other staff there to help him out. Eventually his wife left church early so she could come and run the bar - very generous of her.

Kyu Nam Jo, DJ at Suzie Q, reads through requests for songs.

With as much popcorn as we wanted, cheap beer, a long queue of good music and good times all round, the owner's wife told us the story of the DJ:

As one of the few DJs in Seoul who only plays from his personal collection, Kyu Nam is sitting on an absolute goldmine, and he knows it. But he's not interested in gold. He's been collecting albums since he was seventeen years old. Someone once offered him three million dollars for the collection, but Kyu Nam refused. He's more interested in running the music than running the bar, so his wife and other people do that while Kyu Nam just plays fantastic music.

Name a song, and he probably has it. Typical bar snacks include peanuts, banana chips, biscuits, popcorn and pineapple. Omnom.

He can locate any album within a few inches of a stack on the shelves.

His collection is so big it doesn't fit in my photos.
A good place to unwind and hype up.
All in all, this bar ranks highly in my books as the best bar I have EVER been to, in any country (Club Salsa in Xi'an, China, is a close second with a completely different feel).

Prices - Cass beer is W4000. Cocktails also available, although I didn't get a chance to try one.
Service - Like family, but nicer. English is not quite fluent but if you write what you want to say down, you're fine. Kyu Nam likes making friends, and mentioned a preference for British, Canadian and South African waygooks... 
Decor - There's something interesting wherever you look, and I'd hate to spoil the surprises. An overall vintage charm. It reminded me of the radio cafe from Love Rain.
Vibe - Everyone walks in and goes 'Oh my god! This place is AMAZING!' That pretty much sums it up.
Music - Old school, any genre, your choice. Not much hip-hop. No K-pop. No Gangnam Style (so far).
Clientele - mostly foreigners, not many military blokes, some friendly locals with good taste in music.
Smokiness - smoking is allowed inside, but it was pretty well ventilated so it isn't too bad.
Bathroom facilities - located above the bar, and pretty intimate... Co-ed bathroom with girls having to go past the urinal to get to the squattie. Bring your own TP (throw it in the bin!) and work those thigh muscles.
For a good night try to get your friends to choose happy songs, not songs that make you want to kill yourself. Sing-alongs are a frequent occurrence, with things like Bohemian Rhapsody, Hotel California, and anything by the Beatles or Nirvana. Have a few drinks here, enjoy the music, and if you ever feel like leaving and want to dance, hit one of the nearby nightclubs later on. Good street food nearby too. 
This bar is so awesome it more than makes up for the inability of foreigners to aim their pee properly at a squattie, so it gets 100% anyway.

Getting there: 
To get to Suzie Q walk from Hongik University’s main gate towards Sangsu Station. After passing Club Evans on the right side, Suzie Q is located down a nearby side street.

I think the most interesting thing about Suzie Q is Kyu Nam Jo. To learn more about him, check out the Chincha article about John Weeke's documentary about him, here. They spelled his name differently in the article, but I asked him to write his name down for me and have spelled it as he did (surname first). Often Romanizations of Hangul are approximate, so both are right. Some other mistakes in my original post have been fixed. Directions were copy-pastaed from this Korea Times article.

Friday, February 15, 2013

I'm in Korea!

It was a long flight after a long train ride and I'm exhausted, so I'll write a proper post once I've had some sleep. In the meantime, some first impressions:

1. It's so BIG
2. Look at all the little islands!
3. Look at all the windmills! So eco-friendly!
4. Incheon airport feels more confusing than it really is because of the unnecessary barriers everywhere that stop you from seeing (for example) the currency exchange place.
5. Immigration was like a sci-fi movie. Wish I'd had the guts to try the automated immigration. If you try it and it works, let me know!
6. No sign of any pushy ajummas, yet.
7. Ajeossis are the most helpful people on the planet. Especially if you agree with them that "Aigooo! Heavy bag!"
8. TV showing the news, on the bus. SA Greyhound, learn from this and stop showing crap movies from the 70s, please.
9. My hangul-reading is a lot better than I thought it was.
10. Seoul is MUCH bigger in real life than it seems on the map.
11. The Kimchee Guesthouse has stolen the stairs from Hogwarts, and turned them into an infinite loop.
12. Smallest bathtub in the world!
13. Ondol is the most amazing thing ever. My toes want to cuddle the floor.
14. Bibimbap is delicious.
15. People have said in other blogs that Korea has a weird smell. Maybe it smells the same as Mauritius, because I haven't noticed anything yet. It just smells like Asia to me. Europe smells like snow and petrol, and America smells like new barbie dolls and citrus.
16. Even when the sun is shining on the melting snow and everything is bright and clean, it's still terrifying to realise I'm in Seoul.
17. It's not as scary as it (doesn't) look.
18. Zzzzzz....

Thursday, February 14, 2013

On my way to Korea!

I've just got 6 minutes before this free internet times out and wipes my history. I made it to Paris via overnight train (which was lonely and boring to the point where I started making videos and talking to myself) and have paid all my euros to the French so they'll let me put my heavy bags on the plane.

Minimal doom and gloom other than that I'm hungry and probably won't be able to eat anything but vending machine food with the last coins I have until my flight in 4 hours.

Or the chocolate in my bag.


Anyway, it's still not quite hit me that this adventure is beginning. I spend my life in airports, so this isn't that new to me. It's just the usual ferrying from bureaucrat to bureaucrat and lugging heavy luggage around while pretending it's light so people don't ask to weigh it.

I think I'm going to take a stroll around and look in shops I can't afford.

At least no one has given me any bread yet.

I'm going to Korea in 4 hours' time!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fear and Anxiety

Even though I've done more research than is probably normally humanly possible (I have too much free time) I am absolutely terrified that I'm moving to Korea in a couple of days. What if I miss the train? What if I get on the wrong one? What if I can't find the backpackers' we've booked into? How on earth am I going to manage all my luggage on my own?

What if all the awesome 'friends' I've made on facebook and skype, in the official and unofficial EPIK groups, don't like me as much in person as they seem to online? What if I'm too weird for Korea?

What if all this research and excitement has over-hyped Korea for me and it's nothing like I expected it to be? What if I hate it?

What if I'm a terrible teacher? What if I'm terrible at Korean etiquette thingies? What if my co-teachers hate me?

What if I just can't cut it?

What if this was a terrible idea?

These questions (and others) are doing the rounds in my head. But it's too late to back out now. I'm glad, at least, that even though I'm this excited, and have done this much research, I have awesome friends who have been there and done it and been the voice of reason for me, telling me about the bad as well as the good. So I'm not going in completely blind.

But it still feels like I'm stumbling around in the dark on the edge of a cliff.

Or like I'm faking it, and hoping that at some point the 'positive attitude' will become real and drown out all the fear I have about this whole thing.

Because moving to Korea is actually quite a big deal, and it may not be what I expect, and I'll have bad days, and cry, and want to come home.

But hopefully I'll make it work. And that hope is what I'm desperately clinging to right now.

Monday, February 11, 2013

100 ways to say "good!"

We're stuck inside today, and can't ski, because of the weather, which looks like this:

That's me, in the middle there.

I've repacked my bags and am working on a playlist for my ipod for the plane. But I also thought I'd dip into my giant bag of resources (collected during my PGCE) and share something with the internet. I did intend this blog to be a good resource for teaching materials and things like that, as well as a sort of travel journal. So here you go:

100 Ways to Say "Good!"

  1. You're on the right track!
  2. You're doing a good job.
  3. You did a lot of work today.
  4. Now you've figured it out.
  5. That's right.
  6. Now you have the hang of it!
  7. That's the way.
  8. You're really going to town!
  9. You're doing fine.
  10. Good job, (student name)
  11. Very nice indeed!
  12. That's coming along nicely.
  13. That's a good student
  14. You did it that time!
  15. Great!
  16. Fantastic!
  17. Brilliant!
  18. Terrific!
  19. Good for you!
  20. You outdid yourself today
  21. Good work
  22. You certainly are doing that much better today
  23. Excellent!
  24. That's great!
  25. Super!
  26. Nice going!
  27. Good going!
  28. Keep it up!
  29. Wonderful!
  30. Wow!
  31. Keep working on it, you're getting better!
  32. Much better!
  33. Good thinking
  34. Exactly right!
  35. Now you have it!
  36. That's the best you've ever done.
  37. You made it look so easy
  38. I have never seen anyone do it better
  39. That's better
  40. Way to go!
  41. Not bad!
  42. Superb!
  43. You're getting better every day
  44. That is really nice!
  45. I knew you could do it!
  46. Keep up the good work
  47. You're doing beautifully
  48. You're really working hard today
  49. That's the way to do it!
  50. Keep on trying
  51. That's it
  52. Nothing can stop you now
  53. You're on fire today!
  54. You've got it made
  55. You're very good at it
  56. You are learning fast
  57. I'm very proud of you
  58. You certainly did well today
  59. You've just about got it.
  60. You've got your brain in gear today
  61. I'm happy to see you working like that
  62. I'm proud of the way you worked today
  63. That's the right way to do it
  64. You are really learning a lot
  65. That's better than ever
  66. That's quite an improvement
  67. That's not half bad
  68. Marvellous!
  69. Splendid!
  70. Perfect!
  71. That kind of work makes me very happy
  72. Fine!
  73. That's good!
  74. That's it!
  75. Right on!
  76. I like that
  77. Sensational!
  78. Tremendous
  79. Look at you go!
  80. It's a pleasure to teach when you work like that
  81. I think you've got it now
  82. Outstanding
  83. You remembered!
  84. Couldn't have done it better myself.
  85. Now that's what I call a fine job.
  86. You did that very well!
  87. You're very sharp today!
  88. Congratulations!
  89. That was first class work!
  90. You figured that out fast!
  91. You're really improving!
  92. That's the best ever!
  93. Good remembering!
  94. You haven't missed a thing!
  95. You've got that down pat.
  96. You really make my job fun
  97. Congratulations, you got (number of questions) right!
  98. You've just mastered that!
  99. One more time and you'll have it!
  100. You must have been practicing! 

4 days

Friday, February 8, 2013

Girard n'existe pas.

So we went to reception to pick up my passport, with my visa in it.

Except that it wasn't there. And the person who signed for it, "Girard", apparently doesn't exist. So Stephanie or Sophie or whatever her name was trotted down the road to the other office we didn't know about and about seven hours later she returned with this:

Let me show you my happy/relieved/excited/terrified face. I'm going to Korea!

There's only one thing left to do now.

Me, my Dad, and a little something called Poire William. Yum.
Oh, and I built a snowman, but we didn't have any carrots. So I made one that looks like a typical beginner skier.

My father is comparing this to Henry Moore.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

I have my visa... Almost.

An hour and a half ago, I received this in an email:

I threw on a jacket, yanked on my gloves and sprinted to reception (uphill in snow, both ways). I had to ask for directions, but after dodging heavy machinery twice and braving arctic conditions, I made it to the office. A sign said reception was downstairs, so down the stairs I went.

Only to discover that there was not a soul to be found in the office.

Apparently office hours are from 10:55am to 11:am and 4:30pm to 4:31pm. I suppose the French need more free time for bread-eating, surrender and nakedity.

I thought, "Well, maybe they left it lying around anyway," so I looked behind the desk and in all the cupboards and drawers, as well as in the wall-safe and behind some hideous paintings. Nothing.

It has to be here somewhere.

Girard must have taken it with him when he went to the bakery.

So I went home and facebooked mourned my rotten luck, while simultaneously doing Gangnam Style around this tiny little apartment because my visa is less than 20m away from me at this very moment.

I was going to take photos of the adventure of fetching my visa, but my camera's battery is dead. Enjoy the Dylan Moran video instead. 

My well-traveled visa

This passport (with my visa in it) has been to more countries in the last 24 hours than I have in the past month.

And it may be delivered... sooon...

I see England, I see France. I can see your underpants. 
If "Out for Delivery" means it's in a truck that's heading up our snowy little mountain, then,

Navergating Daegu

For months, I've been hovering over Daegu. Soaring above it, silently observing it from a distance. 

"They look like... tiny, tiny little ants from up here."
Despite what some people may think, I am not the Bat Man. I was using Google* Earth, and this was pretty much as close as I could get to seeing what my city looks like:

If only I could see what it looked like at street level... 

All I wanted to do was see it on Google Street view, but unfortunately the Batmobile Google* car never made it to Daegu. So instead I resigned myself to Googling the Hangul place names and finding out what sorts of things there are in my neighborhood. My browser is set to automatically translate Korean, but it's not very good at it. This can sometimes have hilarious consequences, such as the restaurant whose name mistranslates as "Interpants". I plan to visit it as soon as possible.

I started marking interesting locations on a custom Google Map*, as well as the locations of my friends' schools, as they find them out. There are a few expat maps that have been made over the years, and I've tried to compile them into one general map of Daegu. But I can't verify the info until I get there. Challenge accepted. And I think that will probably give me something to do during desk-warming season.

Some of the places on the map are out of date, such as the Champs Action Bar which closed about a month ago, replaced by something called Caliente's (which sounds like it may be Mexican food). An expat currently living in Daegu told me about this. And then he told me something which blew my mind.

He said, in one tiny little facebook comment, "".


Street view of the stadiums from the Google Earth photo.
Well, it makes sense if Korea has their own massive search engine and mapping company that they'd have cut Google out, or made some sort of a deal. And when you get past the sea of incomprehensible Hangul, Naver Maps works in basically the same way. So here's a brief rundown on how to use it, based on my own fiddling.

First, open Naver maps by either clicking the link above or copying and pasting it into the address bar in your browser. I'm assuming you know how to use the internet if you've gotten this far, but we have to start somewhere. It will spit you out in Seoul, to begin with.

It should look like this. I've labelled the basic functions you'll need (in red, of course).

Click to see a bigger picture.
Some things that stick out to me:

Weather - now that is a useful feature, and it seems to live-update.
Subway and train information.
The cutesy aerial view button - oh, Korea.

It seems a bit cluttered but I bet it wouldn't if I could read Hangul a bit better.

To get to the city of your choice, type its name in the Location box. Hit enter. Thereafter the navigation is basically the same as Google maps or Google earth  - double click to zoom in, right click to zoom out. You can drive around in the Navermobile on the roads, or, and this is my favorite, tour your city's bike routes on the Navercycle.

I decided to check out the bike path along the river that bisects Daegu. To navigate street view you can either click around or use your arrow keys. For interest's sake, the red and green lines show the subway lines in Daegu.

Clicking street view makes blue lines appear on all the roads where you can explore. Click somewhere on one of them. 

Let the cycle tour down the river begin!
Apparently drinking in playgrounds is perfectly legal.

Korea's ajummas are actually superfit ninja warriors. She walks here from Busan every day.
Another way to stay fit for free is to use outdoor exercise equipment. In a country full of highways and overpasses, putting a gym underneath seems like a genius use of space to me. Provided the fumes don't kill you. 

Delivery mopeds have right of way everywhere. End of story.

March of the Ajeossis.

 I can't believe how great Naver Maps is, though. If you're not intimidated by all the Hangul then it looks like it can be incredibly helpful for getting around. So, yeah. I could spend hours doing this. But I can't wait to do it for real.

*This post was not sponsored by Google or Naver. If you work for Google or Naver and would like to offer me money for all this free advertising, please leave a comment and I'll get back to you. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ski Ninja

My dad can be a bit of a dork sometimes... But I don't mind when the result is this awesome.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Finding out which school I'm going to

This morning I woke up to a message from a stranger, asking if I was South African, and promising vital information.

At first I thought, "Oh no, another Nigerian prince wants to marry me, but only if I give him a whole lot of money."

But then he mentioned what I majored in, in my undergrad, and said that he's almost completely certain that I'm replacing the Kiwi NET at his school in Daegu. My school. Apparently the oldest and biggest middle school in Daegu.

It has a pretty tree and a big rock.

And it's quite close to downtown.

Now this guy is telling me he's called dibs on anything the teacher I'm replacing leaves behind in her apartment, and that he may in fact switch with her, so he gets the better one. Hmm... This guy has far too much power.

Far too much.

I dunno. He seems like a fun guy...
Well, apparently it is quite common for the NET who stays to get first dibs on the leaving NET's stuff. It's a seniority thing, and I can definitely respect that. Hell, I'd probably do the same thing in his shoes. But I couldn't pass up the opportunity to put a photo of DJ Dictator in. 

Right now I'm just happy that I won't be teaching kindergarten.

What I know so far:
It's a middle school, and I'll be teaching about 1500 kids a week.
It's near the baseball stadium.
It's near downtown.
I found the school's website, which publishes useful info like the meal schedule for the cafeteria as well as calorie info per meal.
They celebrated Free Hugs Day last year. :)
The school was established in 1916, and was a girls-only school at first.
There's a very big volunteering program at the school, ranging from helping out at the school to helping in nursing homes, disaster relief, community gardening, helping the disabled...
They have lots of cultural outings, to art museums and so on. Maybe if I'm nice they'll take me with them.
It's near the opera house.
It's miles from the subway but when the third subway line/monorail is completed in 2014 that problem will be solved.

So, yeah. It looks pretty cool, I think.

Friday, February 1, 2013

2 Weeks

It makes the most sense for me to take an overnight train to the airport and lurk until my flight to Seoul. Which means saying goodbye to my parents on the 13th. I'll have a 'romantic' Valentine's day with Monsieur de Gaulle and then arrive in Korea on the 15th by flying into the future.

Charles de Gaulle. Hmm... Pass. Maybe when he was younger?
... Nah.
That's less than 2 weeks away. If you look to your left, at the archives, you can see that I started planning this adventure about 3 years ago.

And now I'm leaving in just under two weeks. And I don't even have my visa yet.