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That escalated quickly

Just a couple of days before flying to Busan I started writing an epic entry all about my relationship history and analysing it to death.  I meant to finish and post it a couple of months ago but I got busy. With all the new experiences I was having and new people I was meeting it somehow seemed less important, which I guess is a good thing.

In the meantime, I’ve met Jemma and things have suddenly gotten serious.  When I initially went on tinder it had been a couple of years since I’d had a regular love life and all I really wanted to do was meet some nice Korean or foreigner girls to enjoy time with in my year here.  The first and only person I met through tinder was Jemma.  Funny to think that my initial plan was to start dating Min Ji again and I haven’t even seen her since I returned to Busan.  I liked Min Ji because she was young and pretty and liked me back, but I don’t think it went any deeper than that.  Jemma and I seem to be getting a real connection.  She’s clever, she’s an artist, and what’s more she is thinking of returning to England (she was there for seven years studying art) so it means that the end of my year teaching might not mean the end of our relationship.
We’ve already had some heavy conversations about where our relationship could be headed, and now I’m invited to lunch with Jemma’s mum on Saturday!  Things are going well with Jemma (obviously, hence invite) but still this feels pretty soon.  I don’t mind it, though ideally I’d wait a month or two before meeting her mum.  But she wants to meet now and I don’t really have any good reasons not too.

‘Hope that u feel happy and not burden to u. If u feel uncomfortable for this situation, plz tell me.  We could back to normal friend.  It is ur last chance to decide it’
I did think twice when I looked at that message. I don’t have a fear of having my heart broken, I have a fear of breaking other peoples.  I do really like Jemma, and I’d like to see where it goes.  I think my head and my heart are weighing up the risks, the risk of missing out on a really good relationship that could have a future vs the risk of feeling terrible by wasting someone’s time and breaking their heart.
I’ll report back after lunch…

Big Belly Jem

I was messaging Jemma from work on Monday.  She was saying that ‘I have a bit bad news’, ‘sorry I don’t know how to explain’ and ‘but serious one’.
‘No worries’ I messaged back, ‘we can talk later’.
‘Come here then after early dinner’ she said, ‘U can see big belly Jem’.
Big belly Jem?  I knew she was due to start her period soon.  Is this her way of telling me she’s pregnant?  I spent ten minutes thinking of how this was going to change my life.
‘Big belly?’
‘Ate dinner a lot. Hahaha’
‘Phew! Pregnancy scare!’

We talked later that night.  Jemma’s mum (her dad passed away eighteen years ago) is conservative and doesn’t approve of her going out with a foreigner.  I don’t think it’s necessarily a racism thing, she’s thinking about what future lies in a relationship with someone who plans to stay in Korea for only a year.
I had been wondering the same thing myself.  But for the time being everything feels so good with Jemma that we’re both willing to overlook that.  We’re still very much at the honeymoon period of the relationship where I turn up in the evening and we spend most of the time in bed naked until I have to leave come morning.  Jemma was saying that it feels like we’ve known each other for much longer, and I feel the same (in a good way).  There’s a lot of great nights I’ve been out on in Busan, but my favourites are still the ones I spend at Jemma’s flat.  And unlike nights out, it’s completely free and doesn’t leave me with a hangover!
Jemma's mum keeps giving her lectures on the future and financial stability, two things I don’t want to think about for a good year.  Since moving back to Korea Jemma has had some financial help from the family while she tries to make more of a break through with her art.  There’s an exhibition in Seoul that she really wants to display her work at, but the stall costs a lot and she needs her families help to fund it.  That funding comes with strings attached.  Her mum said she’d help with the money…if she wasn’t going out with me.  So now I’m wondering what to do, carry on with the relationship or call it just friends so that I don’t hold back her art career?

As for relationships that are headed somewhere, my brother Joe and Kara just announced their engagement!  We’ve all been suspecting they’d get engaged for some time. I'm hoping they set the wedding date for after I return from Korea.

Dinosaurs and aliens

I gave up on the dead laptop and bought a new one.  For a couple of days it had that wonderful shiny fast new laptop feel to it, even if it did update itself during my starter A lesson, hence fucking up my activity plans.  I've taken it home to do some work for the activity books.  Im designing the clay activities and i've settled on the subjects of fossil site, dinosaur display, solar system and aliens.  I haven't told anyone else i'm doing that and really i shouldn't have to, but with the deadline looming and other tests to design i've found that for once i don't have enough prep time during work hours.  So i've been attempting to do work from my room...but word just froze on it.  That didn't take long to start bugging up...
Tomorrow i may have to go in early to design the models to be photographed for the books.  As this is actually making dinosaurs and aliens from childrens coloured clay it barely qualifies as work!

Night hike

The weekend before last i went on a hike with the Busan daytrippers...that started at midnight.  We started in Nopodong and crossed the bridge to the island of Yeongdo-gu.  Looking out over the sea, I asked if i was seeing other islands or part of the peninsula.  The ocean was just so full of lights it's a surprise there's no land out there, just hundreds of boats!  The dozens of squid fishing boats that line up several miles out have fantastically bright lights for luring the squid.  After knowing Korea as just having shorts and t-shirt weather, it was chilly at the top of the mountain where we waited for sunrise.  I'd been warned to take more warm clothes than i thought i needed, but i was shivering still once we stopped moving.  Well worth it for watching the sun come up over the ocean from a rocky outcrop.
I whatsapped another photo of my food to Jin Wen (Malaysian friend i met when i was in Borneo) in the hope of some light hearted conversation.  The subject turned quickly to 'do you know any korean?' and when i admitted to just the alphabet and 'ten words' she was suddenly unimpressed.  I told her i was planning to take lessons but she went on (in little recorded voice messages, she's the only person i know who does that) about how there are apps for that kind of thing, how i should have started to learn months ago and ending with 'i'm disapointed with you'.

Wish i could be the type to say 'well fuck you too' and just never be bothered to message her again.  But sadly for me, Jin Wen is one of those people that matters.  She's pretty, intelligent, capable...and yes, she has no filter, which i used to think made her interesting and funny, though i'm reavaluating that now.
It's been said the most offensive thing you can tell anyone is the truth.  Sure, Jin is being overly harsh, but the truth is I should have learnt more by now.  I'm worried i come across as one of the ignorant foreigners who doesn't bother to learn the language of the country they've moved to as they can 'get by' in English.  Tomorrow morning I have a meeting with CulCom in Seomyeon (central Busan).  It's an organisation that gives free Korean lessons, so hopefully i'll be starting those soon.  I'm determined that the next time i message Jin Wen it will be all in Korean.
I’ve been given the task of coming up with ideas for next semesters clay class.  Unsurprisingly, a fossil dig and a dinosaur display have become one of the themes.  The other will be a space scape and an alien planet.

It’s monthly test time for all my classes this week.  A couple of cultural differences when it comes to marking papers;
In Korea, a tick by something means it’s wrong.  Circles are used to highlight the correct answer.
Never write anyone’s name in red.  It means they’re going to die!

Dating and hiking

On Saturday Jemma and I headed for the Sasang riverside festival and then onto Gwangali for the English party pub meet.  We got all cute and cuddly, and things looked to be heading in a relationship direction.  Though the following evening she asked on kakao talk (it’s the Korean version of whatsapp) that it would be good to make things clear.
U will back to UK later, right?
Yes I will.  In August next year.
Then maybe I could feel comfy with u just friend
No problem, whatever you feel comfortable with
So we both really like eachother, but we’re calling it friends for now, and hopefully will still get to see each other regularly.  I carried on swiping through tinder (it’s addictive) but have got through everyone in my area without many matches or any more dates set up.

On the Sunday our house crew plus extras went out for a hike.  Mike was meant to be leading the hike, but was MIA and had been seen just five hours before still out on the town.  We finally got in touch and he turned up an hour and a half late full of apologies.  We had all been planning to be grouchy with him but Mikes a likeable guy and once the hike got underway it was a great success.  There was an amazing view from the top of the mountain (I forget what one).
Mike and Grace and doing business with some people who want to start importing and selling these hanging tents in east Asia.  So we carted one of the tents uphill, planning to take some promotional shots at the top.  The tents don’t sit on the ground but instead require three sturdy trees or rocks to tether themselves too.  As luck would have it the tip of the mountain ended in a series of rocky crags, the perfect place from which to hang the tent.

A most enjoyable failure

I had four main goals for my year in Korea;
Get fit – I’m still fairly thin, remarkable seeing as I hardly do any exercise and eat as much as I want.  My legs get a bit of a workout as I do a lot of walking, but my top half is completely skinny.  So I intended to get some exercise done, maybe go to the gym, finally get in shape.
Get productive – Earning a living as a writer is still a goal I’d love to achieve.  I hadn’t written anything more on my space travel novel since Inawashiro, Japan in July last year, but I still believe the ideas a good one.  So it’s time to open up my laptop again and get the words flowing.
Get laid – My year spent travelling was always going to be something of a dry spell relationship-wise with not staying in one place for more than a few weeks.  But now I’m living in one place for a year it would be nice to get a girlfriend.
Get educated – I’ve never been good at foreign languages, but with spending a year in Korea I should definitely make an effort to learn the local language.  Maybe join a language café or get lessons.

And now I’ve been here for six weeks my achievements thus so far are;
There’s a gym in our very building just for us eight teachers.  I haven’t used a single thing on it yet…
I haven’t written a single word on my novel.
No girlfriend, nor any dates coming up.
Learnt about six words so far.

And no excuses either.  I work for just seven hours Monday to Friday, with zero commuting time.  Mainly I’ve just chilled out in the lounge, had lots of lie ins and some great nights out.  I’ve failed in my goals so far, but have succeeded in having a good time :-)

The weather is finally changing from baking sweaty summer heat to warm and pleasant…though with too much rain.
Last weekend was a typically messy one.  Beach party followed by wolfhound pub followed by screeching our way through karaoke followed by restaurant.  Vanessa and I opted to get a taxi to get home early at 3:30am.  The rest of my house crew got back thoroughly wasted at 7am.
Tuesday night I saw a couple of old friends from my time on the cleaning crew of popcorn hostel.  I was there just over a year ago on a workaway when I came to Busan for the first time.  Mia is just over for a few days from Taiwan, but Melissa still lives in Busan.  I stayed the night at popcorn where I finally paid for a bed.  It’s off season, and I had the whole dorm to myself!

Back in Busan

Caroline drove me all the way from Leicester to Heathrow and saw me off as i went through security.  Then I flew to Amsterdam, to Seoul, and finally to Busan where I was picked up at the airport by the recruiting agency boss.  I was introduced to my fellow co-workers and housemates before being shown my room. It’s exactly a year since I last arrived in Busan.  The weather is as warm and humid as it was then.  The city at once felt familiar and welcoming.  Time to get used to Korean won again ( a Korean won is 0.0067 British pence).  I’ll literally be earning millions here!  And I even saved my Korean travelcard which still works.  I’ll know for sure once I start teaching, but I feel like I’ve fallen on my feet at this place.

The first thing I had was a much-needed shower to wash off twenty four hours of travel.  But it wasn’t time for sleep yet.  Me and four of my new housemates headed out to Sasang for dinner, beer and soju.  My arrival makes six of us foreign teachers all living in the house.
Matthew is the guy who interviewed me and recommended me to his employers, and has been a great help through skype with anything I needed to know.  Though he seems busy with lots of other projects and doesn’t seem to hang out drinking as much as the others.
Dan is from Sheffield.  Really cool friendly guy, big into his sports and guitar playing.  This is his third year teaching TEFL, having taught in Beijing and Bangkok previously.
Maya is from Shropshire, though was in London for four years walking for a medical company before heading to Korea.  She’s fond of hiking and sketching, both of which I’ve already joined her for.
Monica is an Indonesian girl whose been in Korea for years already.  Really cute and friendly.
Connor grew up on a farm in Amarillo, Texas.
Ashley and Aaron are two Korean teachers, though I haven’t had the chance to get to know them as much yet.
I have my very own room, complete with tv, small fridge, balcony and bathroom!  And all included for free with the job!  It’s great having my completely own space.  I can walk around naked and no one cares.  The tv doesn’t work yet, nor does it have the port to plug in my ps4.  I asked Connor for advice and he said he had to buy a new tv in the end for his PS4.  It didn’t take me long to unpack and make it my home, but even with just the one suitcase plus medium size backpack, I have all the things I need for the year.

The kitchen and lounge downstairs is where we socialise. The tv is connected to a computer so we play things through youtube and Netflix.  The school is located atop a steep hill in Sasang-gu, on the outskirts of Busan.  Our neighbourhood isn’t the most happening of places, but we can easily get the metro into town.  Sunday I joined Maya and her friends Mike and Vanessa for a hike along Busans coastal path.  We stopped for veggie burgers at Gwangali beach followed by a dip in the ocean.

With chilling on Saturday and out for the day Sunday, it felt as if I’d skipped back a year to when I was just travelling with no responsibilities other than three hours of cleaning.  But Monday I started work.  It began with a visit to the hospital for a medical test to check I’m all healthy with no drugs in my system.  Fortunately, I have a week overlapping with Diana whose leaving on maternity leave, so I started with a couple of days just sitting in on her lessons so I could see what it was all about.  Today I try my hand at teaching, with Diana on hand in case I seriously mess things up.
Next week I’m on my own…

Here I go (again)

I got my Korean work visa yesterday.  I got the bus all the way down to London and back up again just to collect it.  I had a couple of hours to kill afterwards so took a touristy stroll round central London.  Still a magnificent city.
The visa all looks in order.  Good news as my flights were finally booked on Monday.  I fly out tomorrow afternoon.

I’m now home alone.  I’ve already said my goodbyes to mum, dad and Joe on Sunday.  They’ve gone to Dref Gerrig, the cottage in Wales we’ve been going to ever since I was little.  I would have liked to have joined them, but with picking up my visa and needing to be in touch on the internet, it was not to be.  My parents made me a great book of pictures from all the family to take with me.
With the whole house to myself I’ve been walking round in my boxers, chilling in the garden, playing music loud, drinking beer and playing PS4.  Living the dream!

I’ve been saying my goodbyes to everyone else too.  Saturday I had a leaving lunch with the old gateway crew; Adrian, James and his little lad Isaac, Cheryl, Gareth and his partner Anthony.  Even the Antz (Anthony who I know from way back in junior school) put in a brief appearance.  He’s been pretty quiet on the communications front ever since he had meningitis last year.  A very close call with death, it came on suddenly while he was driving in Scotland, and a passing motorist found him unconscious.  Fortunately he's been recovering since.  James had been saying previously how he felt Antz had become more withdrawn since the incident.
With everyone else having families to get back to, it was left to me and Adrian to undertake a pub crawl.  Seven pubs later Adrian is very drunk, the barman refuses to serve him and he falls asleep briefly at the table.  I left him near the taxi stop where he insisted he could get home ok.
Sunday I went to Sanjai’s house for a catch up over several whisky and cokes which was great.  Sanjai is now married to an American with a step son and they split their time between Florida and England.

I’ve been hanging out with Caroline lots.  Friday we went for cream tea at Wygston house, a bar in Leicester’s oldest surviving house from the 15th century, a walk along my old haunts around the uni and castle gardens, and then for desert at a waffle house.
Thursday we went for dinner at a Turkish place (we were originally aiming for carribean but couldn’t find it) and then onto the Black Horse pub.  It was the first time Caroline had been to a pub…
Honestly.  Apparently back in France bars are seen more as somewhere that just the heavy drinkers go to.  Or so she says.  And not drinking herself due to her dad drinking too much, followed by a conservative religious phase and being busy being a single mum I guess she’s never had much need to go to a pub.  But to have reached the age of forty without ever being inside a pub is more than surprising!  The black horse is a sleepy little local pub with an open mic night, a perfect introduction to British pubs.
Thursday and Friday we were pretty well behaved, having determined that we were just ‘friends’.  But then Caroline was round yesterday and after being perfectly behaved for an hour she asked for a hug, I did…and it escalated from there to snogging and dry humping on the sofa.
I keep trying to find the balance between being her friend and not leading her own…and failing.  I’ve already explained that I consider her just a friend and I don’t want her to wait for me, but kissing her back hardly encourages her to become less obsessed.
She said light heartedly that if she wasn’t my girlfriend she’d be my stalker.  I laughed back.
It’s only half a joke.

Today I just have to finish packing my case, do some last minute washing and will see Ed and Jess in the evening.  Tomorrow morning Caroline is going to give me a lift all the way to Heathrow.  There’s a perfectly good bus that goes to the airport from Leicester, but she said she really wants to see me before I go.  I said yes, but she has to promise that she’ll accept petrol money.  I think she goes too far out of her way for people, literally.

So my next entry will be from Korea.  Beginning of a new era…