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Gyeongju, couple rings and dead laptops

Jemma was finally allowed a day of work yesterday and so we caught the bus from Busan to Gyeongju on Saturday evening for our first trip away for a romantic weekend. Gyeongju is a big spot for Korean history. We visited Donggung palace at night while it was still beautifully lit up.  The next day we caught the bus to the eighth century temple complex Bulguska and then hiked to see the giant stone Buddha at Seokguram. At night we took a stroll along what turned out to be a street full of ‘Love hotels’, windowless buildings were even the car parks are hidden so Koreans trying to keep their liaisons secret without ever having to meet any staff.

Jemma wanted to get us couple rings for my birthday, she’d be paying this time, and I agreed. In all truth I don’t have any real enthusiasm for the idea, but it seems really important to Jemma and considering she's even willing to travel to the UK to stay with me it's not too much of a compromise to make on my side.  So I said ‘OK then.’ Each ring will be marked with our thumbprints, which took three times of filling up papers with thumbprints and scanning them to the ring making company to get it right.

It still seems we end up having a heavy discussion about future plans whenever we’re together. As much as I love her I feel guilty about how now Jemma’s with me her future plans are dependent on my own, and my own are uncertain.  Is it bad that I feel more excited about arranging my travel plans for after this first year in Korea than I am for my plans for the rest of my life? 

And in my latest news, my laptop died today.  One minute it was working as Jenna tried to do some bank stuff I needed on it, then the screen went blank, I pressed the power button to restart it….and it never turned on again. Fine to absolutely fucked in one minute. There’s a spare but rather clunky school laptop that I’m borrowing in the meantime but it’s all a massive pain in the ass considering it’s my second laptop to go down in the half year I’ve been here.

I was never given a receipt from Dongnae computer market but it may be covered by warranty. Of course I can’t read the warranty info on the back but Dahee says she’ll help me phone them tomorrow.


The good life

Saturday was a beautiful day for hiking. It was an exploratory hike i.e. Matt (Hike leader) wasn’t sure on the exact route, but it turned out a brilliant walk to the top of Cheonseongsan and down on a cold but sunny day. The grass was turning gold in the late afternoon light and snow was still on the ground. There were two temples, one on the way up that served free veggie food and one on the way down whose lanterns were illuminated beautifully as the sun had just gone down.

We were saved from a long night walk to the bus stop by Angkun, who had turned up too late for the hike but was good enough to stick around in his car to give us a lift back to Beomeosa. We went for Korean BBQ followed by heading to the impressively shiny and spacious university campus where Angkun is based. A movie was being filmed on site, with two dozen people dressed as riot police ascending the impressive stairs of the main city hall type building. A red/blue flashing light imitated the presence of police cars.

As we sat in Angkuns office having coffee and snacks and swapping travel stories I felt happy about the direction my life has taken over the past couple of years. Strange to think that back home some people think I’m an adventurous one. Out here the crowd that I hang around with, it’s common to meet people who live in a different country every year. 

Angkun is a professor of south east Asian languages who was showing me a tv show about Thailand on KBS (Korean broadcasting system) that he presented.

Bibi is a Malaysian girl who  works as a model, though she almost manages to spend half the year hitch hiking and couchsurfing around the world.

Her husband Matt is an American who has taught in several east Asian countries.

John is over from the Philipines studying medicine at a Busan university. He saw his first snow that day!

Zen has lived on Saipan and Guam before working five years going around the world while working on cruise liners and is now finally back home in Busan.

I’ve just finished reading ‘we need to talk about Kevin’, a brilliant book (as is the movie) about a woman whose son grows up to be a school shooter. Before being stuck at home with a son whose seemingly a psychopath even from birth, the protagonist travels the world, founding her own travel guide. At one point she mentions how travelling seems to be the cheating way of making your life seem more interesting, your stories lent an air of the exotic simply by being so far away. I can understand what she means. Would my ‘I was working at a bar…in Borneo’ stories be as interesting if it substituted Borneo for Leicester?  Sometimes I feel that by visiting interesting places and meeting Interesting people, I’m hoping some of the interestingness rubs off on me.

It was a good evening, though I was hoping we wouldn’t stay there too long as I needed to get back to Jemma. I messaged to say I’d be late and we didn’t have any definite plans…but I’d underestimated how upset she’d be about me being back several hours later than first estimated. She initially suggested I go back to my place for the evening, but as I had to travel past Namcheon to get back home anyway I dropped buy to pick some things up, and we ended up making up and I stayed anyway, trading in my ‘Jemma will accept anything you want card’ so she wasn’t so pissed off at me!

The next day I went to the theatre to see ‘almost an evening’, three short plays written by Ethan Coen. Really good, and seeing as it was an English language play I wasn’t surprised to bump into several people I knew in the audience, though I didn’t realise that a couple of mates were in the cast too!

The play ended in just perfect time for me to get back to Jemma’s and then head out to meet her cousin and nephews. A lot of the conversation flew straight over me (being in Korean of course) but Jemma was saying it was about that she really liked me and future plans.

When I initially left for Korea, I just had thoughts of enjoying my year out and not thinking of future plans until I returned to the UK. I think my previous experience with Lucy has left me with a distaste for putting down roots and talking about futures. 

I know I’ll always have roots in the UK what with family and friends but I was fine leaving them for a year, but now I’m putting down roots in Korea too! Though my long term plans always involved settling down with someone, and having kids, which is the ultimate ‘you really need to settle down for this’ life decision. And Jemma’s really just what I’m looking for in a girlfriend, she’s cute, chatty, artistic, loving and gives regular blowjobs! The only down side is the inevitable VISA/where do we live long term issues. It's all good now, and feels relaxed and easy, but the real test will come when i move back to the UK and we're apart for several months.  Freedom vs family, there’s always likely to be a compromise somewhere, i'm just hoping for a balance to get the best of both worlds.

New years dawn

Time to look back on the four goals i set myself when I moved to Korea.

Get fit — Following my several weeks flu/cold during which i was taking it very easy, I have yet to get back to the gym even though it's in my own house!  I am hoping to do more treks with the Busan Hikers group this year.  Always good exercise and an interesting crowd.

Get educated — Despite attending the language exchange and dating a Korean, i haven't made nearly as much progress as i told myself i would.  Need to do more revision...

Get laid — Ever since I got with Jemma I've been very satisfied on this front ;-)

Get productive — I finally started work again on my novel last Friday, only to discover on Sunday that it had failed to save properly.  I'm now finally getting back into my tale of humanities first voyage to another solar system.  I don't really enjoy the writing process, but I do like the end product.  It's going to be a hard slog to the end.  On the subject of good reads, i recently finished reading through Dan's (guy i met on hiking trip) account of cycling around the world.  Other people might find my country hopping last year to be adventurous, but there's always someone who puts it in the shade!  http://selfpropellingparticle.com/blog/  

  Despite the chill (warded off by my new coat donated by Jemma's cousin) Gwangali beach is a beautiful place at New Years; fireworks going off and brightly illuminated red lanterns carrying peoples wishes into the night sky.  Jemma and I stuck a wish page to join the thousands of others on Gwangali beaches 'wish tree'.

Mine read:

1. Stay with Jemma

2. Finish my novel

3. Carry on travelling

Jemma's was:

1. Same as Tom!

2. Sell more paintings

She's posting some paintings to a New York exhibition.  I was astonished when she told me the price tag, four times my monthly wage.  She says the people who have bought her paintings don't want them to sell for lower as they're worried their value will decrease.  I don't know much about that, and while she's a good painter (not saying that just because she's my girlfriend!) I do think she'd make a better living through art if she sold them at a lower price.

We went to HQ (Gwangans foreigner bar) to see in the new years with Tracy, Dan and Dahee.  A lot of my hiking crew were there too.  And then I was up to watch new years sunrise from Gwangan bridge.  Normally it's closed to pedestrians but new years from 6:30 to 10am is the one exception.

Last night we went to see 'Loving Vincent' an animated film about Vincent Van Gogh in which every single frame was hand painted!  We were in the most comfortable, spacious luxurious cinema seats I've ever sat in.  Jemma had been waiting to see this film for ages but she was so tired from new years and work i had to keep poking her awake.

Happy new years!

Last night

Last night Jon who owns SGA treated everyone at the school to korean BBQ (yum!) followed by bowling and pool.  Headteacher Joy convinced us foreign teachers to join karaoke too.  Everyone had a great time, except Matthew.  It's the one time he's been forced to be sociable with us all outside work and he wasn't even hiding that he'd rather not be out, just sitting at the table not eating, drinking or talking and leaving straight after the restaurant.

It was a great night that i didn't have to spend any won on other than the taxi home.  Actually i came of 20,000 won richer after our team won the bowling and pool!

Korean christmas

It's Christmas day and I have very little to do.  I'd like to see the new star wars movie but don't want to go on my lonesome, so have postponed that till later in the week when Dan can make it too.  Last night we had a Christmas eve party at our house.  We got loads of food and drink in, I made stuffed peppers.  The guests were mainly just us housemates plus a few Koreans i know, and went fine but it didn't have the same chemistry as our awesome thanksgiving party.

Jemma bought her cousin Cassie and her puppy Gucci along.  Cassie's a nice person deep down, though to be honest i find her a little ridiculous at times, all made up in fake lashes, sparkly nails and with a permanent pout from what i expect was too much plastic surgery.  She was tottering along in the most unpractical high heels to get up our hill, and spent most of her time on her phone or checking her makeup.

Gucci is a bundle of mental energy, and very yappy when excited.  She's also a huge fan of trying to lick peoples faces.  I've lost count of the number of times Jemma and i have been making out, only to be interrupted by an overexcited puppy trying to lick my face and happily wagging her tail.  Normally we have to fence her off in half the flat to give us some private time.

Jemma and I gave our presents last night.  She made me a really sweet wallet she'd made covered with with illustrations from our favorite photos together.  Inside was a card she'd made. 'special card! if u use this card once, jemma could accept what you want. From now to Jan 2018.' Not sure what i'm using it for yet!

I'd attempted to write her card all in Korean, copying the phrase for 'Dear' from the internet.  Unknown to me the phrase i copied had another persons named in as an example, so what i actually wrote was 'My dearest (other girls name). Jemma'.  Fortunately she saw the funny side!

A couple of days ago i was walking to the shops when i saw a man lying on the main road.  Screams were raised when it was realized he was rolling into the road.  What i first took for some kind of an accident soon showed itself to be deliberate, and a police bus (I only realized that day that police buses are a thing in Korea) stopped and a load of red baton wielding policeman got out to surround the guy as he continued to roll in front of their vehicle.  I still have no idea if the guy was trying to kill himself or was rolling in front of a police bus as some kind of protest.

Finally having no excuse to not get into the novel writing I decided to upload it onto my laptop.  I haven't written anything on it since July in Japan last year but had regularly been sending myself emails with backups...or so i thought.  A frustrating email, USB and hard drive search reveals that every copy i can find is an earlier version.  I'm missing at least a third of the novel!  I've got a nasty suspicion i deleted the one up to date copy from my USB to make room for work stuff i needed to transfer.  There's a possibility a more up to date version is on the ancient laptop i was using for travel last year, but I've stored that god knows where back in my room in Leicester.

I hate rewriting things, it really throws me off my creative path, and i'll never remember all the little details that went in the first time.  One option is to start writing from where i think i got to last time and hope i find the missing forty odd pages on a hard drive when i return in eight months time.  But without knowing exactly what happens in those pages it's hard to get back into the writing flow.  I was feeling positive about that novel but now i'm pissed of at myself that a few minutes double checking emails and USB drives could have saved me from losing a good forty hours of writing time.

The English patient

That horrible hacking cough is finally gone, but I've been taking it easy in the meantime.  No big nights out in a month!  And it's finally winter and properly cold outside, so we don't feel like venturing out much.  So I've finally been getting some quality time with the PS4.  I completed Uncharted 4 last night, amazing game!

It's quieter in the house than it used to be when i first arrived and we'd hang out in the lounge every evening.  Dan spends most of his time with Dahee now and of course i spend much of the weekends at Jemma's.  Connor is away for a few days for his sisters wedding...all the way back in Amarillo, Texas! With only five days holiday allowance I've decided against the vast amount of time and money it would take me to get back to the UK for just a one day event, so i'm hoping to watch Joe and Kara's wedding over skype link instead.

Today the cotton wool bud broke when i was cleaning my ears and i was sure i felt it still lodged inside!  I'd have been lost without Dahee, who gave me the address to the closest doctors and typed out what was wrong into my phone.  As it turns out it was a false alarm and the otoscope the doctor put down my ear revealed the all clear!  But it did make me realize how reliant i am on other peoples translation help for even simple things in this country.

Back together

I met up with Jemma just over a week back to talk in person. I told her I really liked her but I was worried about the future. I’d looked at the requirements for her moving over on an unmarried partner visa and it wasn’t looking promising. We’d require two years of living together plus I’d have to have had a decent paid job for six months back in the UK or far more savings than I currently have. Jemma was sweet though obviously disappointed. For the first hour as we talked in an otherwise empty bar I thought I was heading down the ‘I love you but I don’t think this will work’ route. But then at the last minute we both gave in and said we’d give it a go and work things out as we went on. We headed back to her place.

So just a couple of hours after we’d met and I was saying the future didn’t look we were back cuddled up naked under the covers after having sex in every position. It’s easy to forget that I’m actually Jemma’s first sexual partner. It’s like she’s making up for the past twenty years of adult life when she had no sex at all!  Jemma told me that she was initially worried about sex as she was inexperienced. I told her, in all honesty, that she shouldn’t worry as she’s really good. We’ve already tried things I hadn’t tried with anyone else before.

Does it sound shallow that sex played a role in influencing me to get back together. Lucy once said while we were still together that ‘sex is the glue that keeps relationships together’. Completely delusional of her when you consider why we split up, though in mine and Jemma’s case, it’s true.  Sex is the one thing it's absolutely essential to have in common with your partner.  I see it this way.  If you're not into the same movies, comedy, music, sports etc then you can spend time with other friends who are into those.  However sex is the one thing you can't do with other friends. OK i know that some people go for open relationships but that's not for me. If your partner isn't into the same stuff then you're fucked, and not in a good way.

So we’re back to being boyfriend and girlfriend. It does feel good, though the reasons that made me anxious in the first place are still there. I’m on an emotional pendulum. One minute I’m thinking, yeah this is really nice, I see no reason not to carry on. I’ve met all the family already, and feel welcomed.  The next I have a knot in my stomach and I’m thinking, oh no, this is going to be real difficult long term, did I make the right decision?  

So funny (in a non haha way) that i went on tinder in the hope of finding someone just like Jemma, and now I have it i worry about what will happen when i inevitably leave Korea.  As Oscar Wilde put it 'there are only two tragedies in life, one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it'.

I’m feeling pressure, put on me by myself, to know how serious I am, as if I need to decide now whether this relationship is going to be the one or not. Which is silly, I can’t know this early on. Maybe I worry because Jemma is older than me by five years with less time to waste. Maybe it’s because Korean society is still conservative and the gossip machine in her building has naturally noticed the foreigner who regularly visits. Being tired of everyone wanting to know her business is one of the reasons Jemma wouldn’t mind moving to the UK.


...and continued

So i sent Jemma a long facebook message earlier today explaining how i felt.  I just received one back explaining how she felt.  I think there's still love there, and yes there's definitely things i could have done differently.  If I've learned anything it's that i could easily have turned things around on Monday and won her back if i'd truly wanted to.  That was my queue to save things rather than just agree with her. I may still have that chance.  As I've said already i don't think i'll meet anyone else in Korea who i like as much as Jemma, and even if i do the same issue of futures will crop up.   It's easy to miss her and mope around, to be bummed out about being single and look jealously at the other people i know who are still making their foreigner/korean relationships work.   But when the opportunity is there i still have too much of a mental block due to the futures thing to throw myself into it completely.  I wish i could just ignore that and deal with that hurdle when it arrives.  Fuck, i'm not sure what to do, 'i love you's and 'i miss you's don't mean anything without commitment to carry on again properly. I should reply to her, but i still don't know what i want to say.

I suck.

Don't stop me if you've heard this before

Ummm, yeah, break up time, so naturally loads of entries, feel free to skip!

Jemma has a blind date set up this weekend already. I miss her of course, and I can’t pretend I’m not jealous. I wish I could see her this weekend. And the fucked up thing is that I didn’t pursue not because I don’t care but because I do, because however great things feel now the looming presence of leaving Korea made me wonder if she’d have more of a future with someone else. It’s just enough of an issue to stop me throwing myself back into the relationship 100%.

I’m annoyed with her for skipping straight to breakup after one issue. Shouldn’t we have talked about this more first? I’m frustrated with myself that I let her go so easily. Everyday I’ve thought about pouring out my heart and asking her to give it another go. But with everyday that passes it’s getting increasingly too late to do so.



None of us can remember the name for Aarons dog (the worlds angriest dog) but we have all taken to calling her the Babadook. It stems from a time Dan and I were watching an Australian horror movie about a small child who sees a (possibly imaginary) ghost called the Babadook.

‘Genuine question,’ Maya said, ‘do you think Aaron’s dog has seen the Babadook?’

The name stuck.

Wish we had Jemma’s cute little dog Gucci here instead.