Weekend Funtivities Part 1

So what else have we been doing besides being told how handsome we are in school, eating handy drinksnacks, snapping photos of vans, getting lost on buses, ordering chickens feet and ignoring sea shells as a food source? Well, when the weekend begins, we usually have a busier schedule than an Essex abortion clinic. So here is a brief look at some of the funtivities that we have gotten up to.

Hiking up Geumjeong mountain in Pbusan was an interesting experience. We got to see a fortress wall (the longest in Korea) that was built to prevent a sea invasion from Japan, which never came. The day started with a large group of us meeting in a nearby station and half of us getting lost on our way from the train station to the bus station across the road
not the best start to a hike! It was a sunny day leading to the inevitable sunburn on my neck, face and arms dont worry mum, I now have sun cream (Thanks Shaz!).
We met an old Korean man who hiked the mountain every Saturday and was wearing a Top Gun hat so will henceforth be known as Iceman. Iceman must have been sixty odd but loved the hard exercise to see the mountain views and he showed us a great place to get a beautiful view of Pbusan.

We also saw the lack of wildlife in Korea, distinctly birds
there are none. Dad, Ive been looking but so far my list is as follows:
Crow 10
Magpie 8
Pigeon 15
Misc 2 (they were really high up and looked like birds of prey but no idea what kind)
In fact, the official bird of Busan is the seagull and I am yet to see a single one. Maybe its a seasonal thing, so I wont hang my binoculars up just yet, but Im not hopeful. 
I did see a butterfly on the hike, but that was it (aside from the crows). In fact, so far the only wildlife I have seen since arriving is one spider, a handful of stray cats (and one dead one outside my apartment building this morning) and a few flies. Tell the BBC to put the breaks on Spring Watch: South Korea for the time being.
After the hike, we got dinner and some rice got stuck to my lip and it got caught on camera to forever be remembered.
Next up is Jagalchi Fish Market - Koreas largest and smelliest fish market. Words cannot do this place justice; here is a collection of some of the horrors on display here. (I would just like to add here, that I was actually surprised by how unfishy the market smelt, all things considered. Definitely not as offensive to my nose as walking past the fish counter in Sainsburys on a summers eve)
Selection of Sea Creatures
Intensive Fish Farming (battery fish)
Face Huggers
Fish for Sale
This massive fishporium was incredible! On the second floor were restaurants so we ordered some food. I wanted chicken but the restaurants only served fish for some reason. So we went for this slippery fellow, Houdini. Like a punch to the stomach, Houdini could do nothing to escape the inevitable gutting and slicing that ensued.
Houdini was barbecued and we enjoyed him a lot what a great guy! Thanks fish, thish.

We then went up Pbusan tower where we could see for miles despite it being slightly overcast. (I had to take Daves word for it when it came to the view I dont do heights!)

Even from here, the smell of the fish market was strong. We didn
t realise but it was actually coming from us and our fish stained smelling clothes.

Afterwards we washed the fish smell off our clothes and Houdini
s blood off our hands and continued our adventure. We went to the Pbusan Kite Festival, which was in the arse end of the city, right at the end of one of the subway lines. We watched some kites on a beach but there werent many on display. However, it was a good opportunity to drink beer with loads of waygooks (foreigners) on the beach and talk about our strange experiences. Next to the Kite Festival was a fountain billed as the largest in the World by Koreas official tourism website. If this is the Worlds largest then the World needs to step up a gear in fountain making and get on it because it was lame. Im pretty sure I can wee with more ferocity than this fountain can produce. Maybe it is Koreas largest fountain but Im pretty sure that the fountains in Las Vegas and Dubai are both bigger and I reckon higher than this one. I say reckon higher because despite waiting for over an hour for the fountain to be turned on, it was not actually opening until later that month... and we couldnt wait that long. The Worlds largest disappointment (after the chickens feet) would have to wait for another day.
Beach and Kite
So weve now seen the longest fortress wall, the largest and smelliest fish market, the kiteist festival, we met Iceman and Houdini, and saw the largest disappointment in Korea. I even had time to see a very informative sign placed over a drain in a ladies restroom.

Good advice. See you next time.

The healthy snack van is dead...

Long live the unhealthy snack van. Last week, it was all about the fruits, the herbs and the protein wet dreams. This week I take a look at the unhealthy side of snack vans. We start with the crisp van that is always buzzing around my flat shouting about its products.
Notice the size of some of those bags. This guy must be a wholesaler or something. Imagine a schoolboy walking home, after a long day of being bored by his useless native English teacher, and buying himself some crisps... 5 kg of crisps! It’s insane! The boy makes Gary Lineker look like he has a potato allergy.
This is the blood sausage van, which is conveniently placed on my way to the gym. Blood sausages to me are just lazy. I mean we could separate the meat and the blood but fuck it. Who cares? These idiots will buy anything when they’re drunk...or on holiday.
I’m not sure this is really unhealthy but seriously, a fish van. This goes against nature for me. Fish should be sold by ports, in markets, on submarines and boats but never on land transport. You wouldn’t sell chickens on a floating rig in the ocean would you? Unless you’ve suddenly be transported to Waterworld, in which case I think I’ll just end it all rather than watch Kevin Costner struggle to act.
Hmmmm the fried snack van serves up sweet little treats for your convenience. I wonder what happens when the van is moving and there is some deep frying going on, sounds dangerous to me. The man did not take my concern for his safety with such grace though.

I’m gonna say goodbye now before leaving you with one final very unhealthy van. Join me next week for another van special.
This is just ridiculous. I mean, honestly, eating wood can’t be healthy, can it?

The one with the SuperSnax and the chicken that wasn't...

On my walk from school to Katie’s flat, I pass around 3 or 4 schools and this means that the streets are inundated with fast food / street food sellers. Brilliant. I, of course, decided that every time I made this arduous journey of around 1.5 miles, I would need some kind of snack to keep my energy levels up. Well I approached my usual vendor and decided to branch out to something that had intrigued me since I first saw the advert for it. Fried meat in a liquid – why the hell not!?
I asked for my snack and she started asking me lots of questions in Korean, which I answered yes to all of, while praying I wasn’t responding yes for added arsenic. So it came and it turned out to be fried pork covered in spicy sauce with a cocktail stick, served in a separate container to some lemonade, and with them piled up one top of each other.
I tasted the pork, which came drenched in a red and a yellow sauce, and it was tasty. It turns out I had said yes to “spicy” not arsenic and was suddenly in a panic as my mouth was burning up faster than Gaddafi’s air defence. Then the first bit of this genius snack hit me – I had lemonade mere millimetres away from my mouth. Wow, how refreshing, and it saved me valuable snack eating time. I then continued walking towards Katie’s when the next bit of snack genius hit me. I could easily use the cocktail stick to eat the pork when walking and still be carrying the soft drink in the same hand. Snack food has effectively evolved to the next level - in terms of ingenuity, it’s the snack equivalent of the development of the eye. I picture a time when marathon runners like Paula Radcliffe will no longer have to only drink water but will pick up a tasty chicken snack as well whenever they run past a drinks table. In fact Paula can also get a piss compartment attached to the bottom as well so no more embarrassing leaks on the street. She can just wee in her food Jenga pot.
All that for only 90 pence. I’m impressed and I can’t wait for the next stage of snack evolution… The hands free snack please.
As brilliant as that story was, I’m sure many of you are slightly disappointed by it, having more disturbing preconceptions of Asian food and a perverse desire to hear about our suffering. Well I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that your narrow minded generalisations of the East are not entirely unjustified. Although the majority of our dining experiences have rated somewhere between pleasant and orgasmic, we have had a few experiences that made our toes curl (in the bad way!). The first was relatively tame and came in the form of a small side dish of silkworm larvae…thanks Korea but I like my barbecue without pupae if it’s all the same to you. Actually, that reminds me of a rather odd bar snack we were given the other day. I should preface this story by saying that in Korea, if you go anywhere for a beer you are given a complimentary snack as standard – sometimes a bowl of crisps or pretzels, and sometimes it’s more extravagant like some breaded chicken strips. 
Anyway, the time I am referring to, Dave and I ordered a pitcher of beer and it came with a bowl of miso soup, some chicken strips, some crisps and a bowl of shells. Yes, shells. As you can see in the picture below, these were in fact the very same seashells that she sells by the seashore, and I’m at a loss as to how or why you eat them! Needless to say we treated them the same was we treated the larvae – shoved them aside and tried to forget about them.
I’m sure some of you are wondering just how weak our stomachs are, if I felt the need to write an entry about a few harmless dead insects and crustaceans, but I’ve just been easing you into it – setting the scene with a few of Korea’s average snack foods. Now it’s time to take a peak into the reality of a Hangook kitchen, as we move from tame, to domestic…

So let’s go for a walk. About 5 minutes from my flat is a very interesting place called Gupo market – it’s pretty famous in Busan and sells just about everything; clothes, kitchen and household stuff, furniture, bedding and there is a whole section dedicated to food. Rows of fresh fish and other water-dwelling creatures, mountains of kimchi and seaweed, all kinds of pig parts and beef bits – it’s really quite amazing to see…although not so amazing to smell. Anyway, one day I decided to walk a different route to the shopping district and ended up walking past the back of Gupo market. As I came up to the market I was greeted with a strange smell (as happens so often in Korea) – turning my head to investigate, I was surprised to see a table, displaying chickens. Live chickens, I should say. I then noticed a cage next to said table, and in this cage were some goats. Curiouser and curiouser…walking further, I came across another cage, this time containing huge rabbits. What a strange thing to see at the side of a main road. I’m sure you’ve guessed where this is going so I’m just going to get to the point. There were dogs. In cages. Big, yellow dogs crammed into tiny metal cages, right at the side of the road. And next to these cages were refrigerated cabinets…you can work out what was in them.

I would like to mention here that these days, eating dog isn't that popular. In fact a lot of Koreans are embarrassed by the idea. But the tradition stems from the fact that there isn't much flat land on which to rear cows, sheep etc and when the country was much poorer, dogs were an easily obtainable source of meat. Now it's only really eaten by older, poorer people. The conditions the dogs are kept in is the really disturbing side and sometimes they are beaten and tortured before being butchered, because some believe that the meat tastes better when it is full of adrenaline.

Now, as a meat eater I feel it would be hypocritical of me to disapprove of eating one animal, but not another, and to be honest, I have little against the concept of eating these creatures (though obviously I’m not in favour of the poor conditions in which they are kept), but it was still quite shocking to see. Not from a moral perspective, as I’ve said, but it just looked…odd. A completely new experience for me and I found the whole thing both disturbing, confusing and fascinating. Yes, both of those 3 things…

Ok so they are the 3 foods we’ve seen but not eaten…now time for one we tried. First let me set the scene. It was a Friday night and Dave and I had decided to explore my local area. I live very close to a busy shopping district with loads of places to eat and drink and we spent ages trying to decide where to have dinner. In fact, there were so many options and we were so hungry that we eventually just picked a place at random. It was on the first floor of a building, with cute little booths that looked out over the street and were romantically lit and curtained off from the main restaurant. Perfect for a Friday night with just the two of us. Looking at the menu, it was a bit pricier than we had had in mind (7 pounds), but there were pictures and it looked yummy. Using my phrase book, we ordered something that had chicken in the name, a big pitcher of beer and a bottle of soju (a very popular Korean spirit that tastes like vodka and is great for putting in your beer!). The waiter warned us that the meal was really spicy, which always happens when a westerner orders anything in Korea. Yes we like chilli, yes it’s ok, spicy is good thanks, JUST BRING US FOOD! We were given crisps and a really tasty soup while we waited for the main, and we were starving so totally demolished both in minutes. Then it arrived. A big plate of onions, peppers and chicken in a spicy, sticky sauce. Or was it? “Erm Dave…that doesn’t look like chicken…I think it’s octopus”.

After poking around with a chopstick, I discovered what looked like lots of wobbly tentacles…so I started picking out the peppers and onions while Dave had a go at the mystery meat. I could see him struggling as it was so chewy and not exactly meaty. Oh and the sauce really was very spicy. Too spicy, actually. So while Dave chewed and discarded bits of tentacle, I got stuck into the drinks and thanks to my empty stomach, I soon had a nice buzz going. Dave was getting really agitated by the lack of meat on the plate, and you remember from previous posts that he’s not a big fan of paying for mistakes. Anyway, as I was poking around the plate I realised why it was so lacking in meat…it wasn’t octopus at all. We were sure we had ordered chicken, because we used the phrase book and it definitely said chicken and suddenly it all became clear – it was chicken…chicken feet! As soon as I voiced this discovery I couldn’t stop giggling and the whole thing was made even funnier by the fact that Dave was getting so angry about it! He was so hungry and grumpy and pissed off at the feet and I couldn’t stop laughing about it!
We couldn’t leave to get other food until we had finished the drinks and eventually he started to see the funny side. I mean come on, he’d been eating toes! I actually tried a bit and it was just chewy skin, completely lacking in sustenance. Anyway, once the pitcher was empty we headed to a fast food place for a couple of burgers and all the way home we were making jokes about licking chilli sauce off each other’s toes. What a perfect Friday night :)

The ice cream van is dead...

...Long live the healthy snack van! I have yet to see an ice cream van in my 6 weeks in Korea but have come across a multitude of healthier alternatives. I’m on a mission from God to photograph every type of van I encounter and am still missing a van I saw on one of my first nights that would be the crรจme de la crรจme of vans (to be revealed when I have a photo). So without further ado and French sayings, I give you the fruit selling van.
I came across this beauty on my walk to the gym – he seems to focus his time on strawberries. The next fruit van I came across was opposite this first van. Having a rival van opposite seems a bit silly. Do they follow each other round all day stealing each other’s clients or are they more friendly, swapping fruits and exchanging preservation ideas? Here’s a photo.
This van focussed on apples and oranges for the lower level of clientele. My own personal protein wet dream is next (aren’t all wet dreams protein based?) That’s right, it’s the egg van!
I wonder if on Halloween if the sales of eggs to youths drastically rise and whether pumpkin vans will start popping up everywhere. I love the egg van because as a daily egg eater, it is good to know that a supply is always circling my local area. How about a popped snacks van?
This little beauty makes and sells everything from popcorn to poprice (puffed rice)… Okay so not much variety then. Yet check out the volume of produce they make!

Last but not least is the herb van.
This van sells a variety of herbs for cooking unlike the herbs sold by Engrand’s ice cream vans, which have an entirely different purpose.

I hope you enjoyed this Friday van blog treat.  ์•ˆ๋…•ํžˆ๊ณ„์„ธ์š”

Our Nu Skoolz

Katie in italics
David in normal

Now you know about our arrival, our flats and Dave’s poor sense of direction so I think it’s time to tell you about the schools and our actual jobs, since that is meant to be the reason we are here (although it clearly isn’t!)

My journey to school is pretty easy. I have a 1 minute walk to the subway station, then a short subway ride followed by a 10 minute walk to school. I have taken to getting the 7:54 subway which means I’m always about 20 minutes early for school but I think it’s good to look keen and it gives me time to get in a cup of tea before I start the day. I have a desk in the staff room with my books and work laptop, and I’m at the end of the row, by the window, which means if I angle my laptop slightly I can sit and watch ER without anybody knowing...apart from when it’s so traumatic I can’t help but pull faces! So this desk is where I spend most of my time. I was told that I should probably stay in my classroom when I’m not teaching but I don’t really do that because I get lonely and am also less likely to do any work!

I am very lucky to have my own classroom though, as it means I can go in a set up my powerpoints etc before lessons start and I know exactly what technology I can use and how it works. I have a podium at the front of the class with a computer screen in it and this is then displayed on a TV behind me (which is touch screen!) so I don’t have to turn my back to the class to see what they are looking at. I have white boards rather than chalk boards and have decorated the front of the class with some Union Flag bunting.

Now I have set the scene, I will tell you about the kids. It’s an all boys middle school in a more industrial area of the city which means two things: My walk to school is along a pretty ugly factory-lined street; and the area is quite low income, meaning the kids are often from less well-off families. At home this would probably be reflected in their behaviour, and while I think it plays a role in their, generally low, ability their actual behaviour isn’t that bad...for the most part. The 1st graders are 11 years old and very cute. They are keen and well behaved and love repeating just about everything I say. I teach an after school class with the 10 best 1st graders and during this time I can teach what I want (rather than out of the text book) so I have been using Mr Bean to teach them about daily activities and opinions. They LOVE Mr Bean.

The 2nd and 3rd graders are nosier and generally if they repeat what I say it’s to mock me, rather than learn. If I actually ask them to repeat then about a quarter of the class will and the rest will stare at me with a look of disbelief, like I asked them to recite Shakespeare or something. Having said this, the good ones are attentive and I have some lunch time and morning classes with the best ones. For the 3rd graders I’m doing lunch time lessons based around music – different genres and how to talk about music. Yesterday I introduced them to Drum&Bass and the word “bangin” and then reggae and the word “chilled”. This is definitely the most fun lesson and hopefully it’ll go well throughout the year.

All in all I’m enjoying myself and it could definitely be a lot worse. The other teachers are really friendly so that is a massive bonus. The principle speaks brilliant English, and the vice is pretty good too. She really wants to improve so from time to time we’ll go for a walk and a talk so she can practice. The teacher in charge of looking after me is really lovely and so helpful. She’s done so much for me already and even invited me to her wedding! It’s on Saturday so I will be sure to tell you all about it next week. One of the best things about the staff is that almost every day we will be given snacks that someone has brought in. Usually it’s rice cakes or various sorts. Some are really yummy, others are just weird and occasionally they are actually unpleasant. Nevertheless it’s always a nice treat and last weekI brought in a big tray of muffins which went down a storm.

I was pretty nervous and a little intimidated on my first day at school. The nerves were normal but the intimidation was an unexpected surprise. I had to be introduced to the school in the main hall in front of everyone lucky enough to be a teacher, parent or student of Mora Middle School. All I had to do was bow and say, “nice to meet you” (in Korean of course). As they called my name to come up on stage, it would be a lie if I didn’t say that the hall erupted in a plethora of screams and shouts. The girls were screaming at me, the boys were shouting at me, the teachers were laughing at my awkwardness – everyone was making some sort of noise. I felt intimidated at first and then I felt like a rock star, on crack...so yeah, I felt like a rock star.

Through the noise, I could make out a few English phrases; “I love you!” and “handsome” being the most common. What was really surprising to me was that it wasn’t just the girls calling me handsome. Since the assembly, boys will happily come to my desk and say, “you are handsome” and then run off hand in hand with their guy friend. Korea is, by far, the most bromantic country I have ever seen. It makes Brokeback Mountain look like a BNP gay hate parade.

So in short, the teaching is going well and I’m having a lot of fun with the majority of my classes bar a few noisy grade 3 boys who I have just started giving punishments to. I still get screams when I enter classrooms from girls but I only get called handsome maybe 4/5 times a day now, so it’s slowing down :( However, my co-teacher is passed out on her desk, fast asleep, at 10am so I'm still feeling like a rock star!