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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…
…ever.
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…

Korea could be days away...

I have four new ps4 games; Lego Jurassic World, Farcry: Primal, Witcher 3 and Rise of the Tomb Raider.  So I’ve been filling in my supposed Korean revision time with much game playing.  Uncharted 4 and Rise of the tomb raider are ties for my current favourites, both like playing through a Hollywood action movie.

I’m due to collect my visa on Tuesday. After that I could be flying out any day.  I’m about as packed as I can be.  After travelling the world with a backpack for a year it seems a luxury to take a big suitcase with me.  In fact, I never really got used to having a whole room to myself again.  I’ve rearranged my clothes chest of drawers but other than that have barely touched all the other assorted tat that gets collected over thirty-five years of life.  I’m still using the same few clothes on rotation that  sit on my chair.

I keep reminding my mum that I’ve already lived and worked in New Zealand for a year and travelled the world for another year, so I’m pretty clued up how to organise myself for another year away, but she keeps on giving me advice on what I need to take.  She’s lovely, but worrying about and trying to organise people is just what she does, she can’t help it.  Free use of my dads office has been fantastic though, and I forget how arkward it would have to be to go down to a print shop every time I need something scanned, photocopied or printed.

The waiting game

I'll be heading to Korea in two weeks...in theory.  In reality i may miss my original start date and have to start a week or two later.  I got all my documents to the agency via DHL a couple of weeks ago.  After that I was waiting for them to get a visa number for me.  I thought it would take them two to three days.  Apparently it takes two to three weeks.  Following that i have to get down to the embassy in London where it takes another five days to sort out my working visa.  After that the school books my flights.  Even if i get a visa number tomorrow things would still be very very tight to get there for my intended starting date.

Today marks a week aaniversary since i left Amazon.  Was planning on doing some korean language revision and look at the work rota they forwarded to me but i'm sure it won't surprise anyone to learn that i haven't been that productive.  Been seeing some old friends instead.
Tomorrow i'll be heading down to London where i should be seeing some of the old GOSH crew.  At least i hope so.  Not many have replied to say they can actually make it.  Tuesday and Wednesday i was down in Leamington Spa visiting my old work friend Cress.  We took a along country walk back to hers while trying to avoid stepping on all the tiny froglets.  I got my trainers soaked and had to dry them with Cress's hairdryer.  Then we watched an orchestra practise that her boyfriend Anton is in.  And then onto the Town House pub for an open mic night with some really cool local musicians.  Cress is still awesome, as properly punk rock as anyone i know, and was saying that i've inspired her to do some travelling.
Saturday my friend John was in Leicester...all the way from Sydney.  OK he's spending a couple of weeks in England and ireland, mainly for a nephews wedding.  But he came up to Leicester to see me and i gave him a tour of what highlights Leicester has.  Sunday I saw another John, this one an old friend from back in my JW days.  My dad is going to be away for the next week, so last night the family threw me a 'leaving england' dinner at a local Indian restaurant.  I hope this visa number comes through soon.  Seeing as i've said so many 'goodbyes' to people, it would be a real anti-climax to not be heading out.

Warehouse days are over

My second warning at work for productivity arrived a fortnight after my first, and the final warning a fortnight after that.  At that point, I greeted the news with a cheery ‘ah right’.
‘You’re leaving soon?’ the guy from ADECCO guessed.
‘Yep, going to work in Korea.’
‘Guess you don’t give it a shit about this then’ he said light-heartedly.
‘Nope.’

I was meant to have some extra productivity training but we decided with me leaving before I could possibly get fired it was completely pointless.  Not that productivity training would make a scrap of difference to my work anyway.  As I’ve told them before, it’s not about the speed I work at but about there not being enough work coming down the line for people to make decent rates.  It seems silly now that I ever got stressed about that kind of thing seeing as I always knew it was a temporary job.  But once I knew I was leaving for sure I felt far more chilled about working at Amazon.  I didn’t have to worry about my rates and when you know you have just a few weeks left the work doesn’t seem too bad.

I wouldn’t like to be working in the Amazon warehouse as a career, but for a brief three-month job to fill the gaps between my travels and get my bank account balance back up it’s worked just as intended.  I finished Thursday morning last week.  My last day went perfectly.  I got to say my goodbyes to everyone that mattered and I spent the last few hours feeling far happier than anyone working nightshifts in a warehouse has a right to be.

Game freak

For the past year I've spent hours reading about video games and watching gameplays and reviews on youtube but doing nothing in the way of actual gaming.  But I finally went and got myself a PS4 at the weekend.  Originally i was thinking of waiting until i was in Korea to buy one but then i thought that due to the difference in PAL/NTSC systems i may not be able to play English bought games on it when i bought it back to the UK.  So I instead opted to buy a second hand one over here (looks good as new, good deal) with enough games to see me through a year and fly it out with me.  I have No Mans Sky, Batman: Arkham City, Uncharted 4 and Mass Effect: Andromeda.    I could happily just stay in doing nothing but playing games for a week, but with just three weeks left till i leave the UK and a tonne of stuff still to sort out that's not going to happen.

Also, this is as good a moment as any to link to the wonderful XBox fanboy vs playstation fanboy youtube comments reconstruction video.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-5farzJoz8

Essen

I tried to get last Thursday night off work but hadn't been allowed due to applying too late.  I was being picked up by Adrian at 9:15am on the Friday and knew if i went to work the night before i'd get two hours sleep at most when i got home, which would mean i'd be knackered for my weekend away in Essen, Germany.  Also my gran was staying with us for a week but i'd be working nights for most of it.  It was the last time i'd see her for a year due to moving to Korea, and seeing as she's 88 now, i did wonder if it was the last chance i'd get to see her at all.
So I phoned in 'sick' pretending to have diarrhoea.  First time i've ever actually pretended to be sick to get out of work, I've lived a shamefully well behaved life!

We got a big taxi to the airport along with James, Louisa and their little lads Isaac and Jacob.  Seeing the vast amount of hassle it takes for James and Louisa get the little ones sorted to leave the house and through airport check in and security reminded me off how i want to get the great bulk of my travelling done before i have any kids!  Adrian and I just had a light piece of carry on luggage each, but the Waterton family had several bulky cases, pushchairs and a travel seat to take for just one weekend.  I wonder just how did my parents manage it taking four boys to the Cayman islands and back!

We were sitting in the depature lounge when the message came up that our flight was delayed by two hours.  With plenty of time to kill, James and I took a leisurely walk towards a drinking fountain, towing Isaac and jacob behind us on their travel trollies.  I glanced at the depature board...to see that instead of being two hours late our flight was now on Final boarding call!  I legged it back to the depature lounge to find Adian and Louisa just as they were staring at the board to see the change in plans.  They started dragging the luggage towards the gate while i ran back to James.  We moved as quickly through the airport as we could while holding a case and a kid each.  The last bus to the plane was delayed because of us, and no doubt the flight too, but what can the airline expect when they suddnely change a flights staus from delayed by two hours to final boarding!  Once on the flight there was extra hassle when it turned out the childs seat that Jacob was in couldn't be strapped into the airplane seat.

Thankfully everything went far more smoothly once in Essen.  Gareth had been living in Germany for two and a half years but still commutes back to Birmingham nearly every weekend.  The Waterton family were staying at a hotel, with Adrian and I sharied a pull out couch back at Gareths flat where his partner Anthony was also over.  It was brief but fun stay in Germany, just a little over forty eight hours.  Neither Essen or the nearby Dusseldorf that we visited on Saturday have much in the way of obvious touristy stuff, but both are nice cities for a day or two.  Mainly we just moved from shop to restaurant to pub.  Much beer was drank, and Anthony and I manged to find veggie food.  Germany's main food ofcourse is sausage of every type, queing endless jokes about German sausage.

Bittersweet

Well that happened quick.  I had an interview with a school in Busan two hours ago and they've offered me the job already.  They're writing up the contract now.
So, I'm happy, right?  I mean Busan was exactly where i wanted to be.  But a little part of me was hoping i'd fail the interview, as i didn't want to relay the bad news to Liz's school in Seosan.  I mean i really liked the people there and i was warming to the idea of living in Seosan.  I hate disapointing people, especially when they've done their best to help me and were looking forward to working with me.

So Busan...the beaches, the bars, my old friends from the language cafe and the lovely Min-ji.  She'll be excited that i'm moving, though considering my recent history i hope it's not just to break her heart when i leave after a year.  I kind of have mixed feelings about my decision at the moment, but i think ultimately Busan will be a good move.

On the subject of breaking hearts and letting people down, me and Temi are no longer a thing, if we ever were.  Which was inevitable ofcourse if i was going away, I just wasn't expecting it to end so upsettingly for her.  I've always been open about my plans to go away teaching for a year, and i presumed that as she understood this she was cool about getting into a short term relationship.  But as it happens,no.  Things suddenly took a turn for the worst when i mentioned my korea plans again, and she said that she doesn't do short term flings, that she feels she was just something to fill in the time, and a heads up would have been nice.  She said that she doesn't take it lightly when people use her.  Ofcourse i said i was really sorry about the way things worked out, and i hoped we could still be friends.  She said yes, but to give her time for now.
Shit, another girl hurt who really liked me to add to my not impressive collection of screw ups.  I do really like Temi, we really click, but i guess ultimately it was not enough to make me abandon my 'teach for a year in asia' plans.  I was originally meant to be visiting her in Glasgow this weekend.  But she's decided it would be best not to.

Also going to give up on my plans to partake in the trails4us clinical trials.  I was kind of looking forward to it, easy money, a worthy cause and i imagined it leading to some 'that time i was a human guineapig' stories.  But it clashes with the start of my job so got to give it a miss.  My parents will be relieved!

Interview whirlwind

I was originally meant to be going up to Glasgow today but that got cancelled.  That's a story for another post, but it does mean that i'd already booked tonight off work which has turned out to be very much needed.

Sunday evening I went through 'Dave's ESL cafe' emailing every agency in Korea I could find but suspecting i'd left things too late for the Fall 2017 term.  To my pleasant surprise i had several agencies interested in me by the following morning.  Since then my week has been a whirlwind of emails and skype interviews.  This is while working nights at the same time, so i've been feeling utterly knackered at work while fitting in interviews in the morning before i go to bed.

Yesterday morning I had interviews with two schools who both offered me a contract.  I opted for the one in Seosan, a small city an hour and half from Seoul.  For the past few weeks i've been feeling unusually stressy for me, but with the Korean job in the bag with a late August start i could finally relax.  Jeff at my agency forwarded me the contract in the early hours of this morning, and i emailed him promising to read and sign it tonight...

I woke up this afternoon to a message on skype from Yoon at another agency if i was still interested in the interview with the school and if i'd recieved his email?  What email?  I checked my junk emails and there it is, an email at 3am Wednesday offering me an interview a school in Busan.
Busan, I fucking love Busan!  The city has loads of cool places to visit, I have friends still there from the English Language cafe and it's the home city of Min-Ji, the girl who i dated all too briefly back in August and who is hoping i get a job in Korea.  She's currently single and i'd love to meet up again.  The hours and pay are also good and it comes with free accomodation with other english teachers.  It sounds like a perfect job, and i have no idea why the email got sent to my junk inbox, especially when Yoons previous emails came to my normal one.  If i'd seen it on time i may have had the chance for an interview and job acceptance before accepting the Seosan one, so frustrating!

So on the positive side i have at least one job offer right now, which is more than i thought i might have a couple of days ago.  Yesterday I was relieved and happy, though the Busan interview job offer has left me conflicted again.  If i don't get the signed contract to Seosan by the start of tomorrow they'll be wondering what's wrong.  Should i sign the Seosan job offer and then do the Busan interview anyway? I don't like letting places down when i've already accepted a job offer.  The korean working day starts at around 1am GMT, so I should decide soon.

Plan B

Damn working nights screws up your sleeping patterns.  It's Sunday morning and i've been awake since just after 3am.  I'm meant to be doing a job search right now.  Clearly writing livejournal entries is more engaging.  Did i mention i'm annoyed at myself for putting all my eggs in one basket and not applying for anything else apart from EPIK?  I did, but i'll say it again.

So, Plan B.  I've got several ideas.  I've applied through another agency for the fall term in Korea, though i suspect it's getting very late in the day to do so.  So i'm looking at other TEFL options too.  China seems to be coming up quite a bit.  It's not my first choice but i'll take it over staying in Leicester.  Or if no paid work comes up i'm thinking of volunteering at a school in Nepal for a month, which would leave me nicely placed for that Everest base camp trek that's still on my bucketlist.  Also i've just applied to volunteer for a clinical trial down in London.  If successful i'll get more money for sitting on my arse for two weeks than i would for busting my ass at Amazon for two months.

Thursday was election day.  The polling station is a church just a minute down the road from me, and i was down there as soon as doors opened at 7.  I've always presumed i was a bit of a leftie but more recently i've been feeling i'm just more of a centrist, a liberal though not necasarily a leftist.  I voted labour, though to be honest, none of the parties manifestos looked too bad.

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