Wednesday, 10 December 2003


Ok, today has been an informative day, and one I'll get onto later, after a quick summary of why and what I'm doing here for those that I've not been in touch with recently.

I only got to Korea yesterday and indeed only got the job just over a week before that, which made for a pretty damn frantic week getting all Scottish affairs in order. After leaving the castle in September, and a short sojourn to New York, I went back home to Dingwall, with my mother who was all too keen to cook and clean for me. I'd decided that the cost of living (ie the cost of drinking 6 or 7 days a week) was too high in Aberdeen and that living there could only be a comedown after my fantastic year in the castle. And so I returned home to Dingwall, with a mission to be in Korea by the end of the year.

The idea to work in Korea had occurred to me a few months previous to this. It came, originally, from a friend, the extreme deviant known simply as "H", who has been working there since October 2002. He casually mentioned in an email that I could work there, and I was interested, but the idea slipped out of mind as a summer of parties at the castle begun.

But it was one memorable morning that hauled the idea back to the forefront of my mind. I woke in bed in the castle about 10am, finding myself suddenly frozen in place. There was an intense feeling of there being someone just to the right of my head, but though I desperately tried, I could not move my head to see who. And I heard a voice, possibly female, say "Teach English, you must teach English, teach English" in a whisper.

I then had the strong feeling someone was standing at the end of my bed, but still I was frozen rigid in place and could not budge to see, and it was only when I relaxed that I could move again, but by then there was no-one.

And so that day I realised that I should go over to teach English in Korea.

For the sceptics, I should mention that I'd not been drinking (heavily) the night before, and I'm not usually attuned to hearing voices in my head. In fact, I'm utterly opposed to any idea of destiny or fate and therefore guiding voices and suchlike; however, as I pretty much make my life up as I go along, when I hear a voice in my head telling me "You must teach English", I have a strong inclination to go with the flow.

So, here I am. Following a voice in my head and finding myself halfway across the world teaching English to a bunch of foreigners who speak a language that I'm reluctant to believe can actually be real (or at very least understood by Western ears). My alternative was yet more years washing dishes and getting drunk in my spare time.

Ok, so I've spent 24 hours in Daegu now. Impressions?

Well, it's certainly foreign. I've seen a few other countries in my 25 years, but none of them would I mistake for here. It's flash, neon, often half-finished, affluent yet still with numerous throwbacks to a poorer age that I've not found in established developed cities, such as the many stalls in the street and dusty little side-streets.

It's bustling, and I know I've not seen it at its busiest. Traffic is mental, cars are dented and the few motorcyclists I've seen are living on the edge. Apparently Korea has one of the highest road fatality rates in Asia, so if you stop hearing from me suddenly, you know why.

So the news today is that I've seen my school, met my director, seen my future apartment and have my next couple of weeks planned out. The next couple of weeks not actually including any teaching due to a mix-up which wasn't my fault. Somewhere along the line was some confusion and, so though I rushed here within a week of getting the job in a blur of frantic life organisation, it turns out they don't need me to start till the very beginning of January (although it may be Dec 22 if my agency get their way). At first I thought "Well, I'm wasting my time being here then, aren't I?" but I've since revised that realising that I may as well spin out a couple of weeks in Korea rather than Scotland. Anyway, I'm visiting Seoul this weekend with Matt, a NZer, and um... Sungoon or something, Matt's student. A free journey. Next week I go on my visa run to Japan, and that weekend I intent to visit H in Cheonan. Hopefully I'd be able to start teaching the following week.

So far I've found the Koreans very helpful and friendly. The first I met was a guy on the bus to Daegu, who had just returned from a 2 month trip to London where he'd been studying in a church as part of his theology course. He intend to become a minister. He helped me get off at the right stop, then phoned my agent to tell him where I was, and then waited at the bus station with me to make sure I was ok. He was called Steven, though I suspect that was not his real name.

Jason Kim probably isn't the real name of my agent either, but it's likely much easier to say than his actual Korean one. He's basically my negotiator, and is there to serve all my needs. He speaks good English and has been very helpful, though he does have an aura of being a slightly dodgy dealer too. He seems to drive only when simultaneously on the phone. I think he quite likes me, probably because I accepted the slight confusion of misunderstood starting dates without much grumbling, and he's since then helped and offered to help a lot. He's used to a lot of whinging Westerners so I think he likes one that say "Oh, no problem, that's fine, don't worry about it etc".

Other Koreans I've met have been Sungoon, Matt's student, who drives a car and is driving us to Seoul for the weekend. He reminds me of a well-fed and spoilt child. There's been the school director who was very smiley and reminded me of someone, but I haven't yet placed who. And there were the teachers of the school - one was a guy who spoke excellent English and the rest were women who giggled lots.

I've properly met three Westerners, though I'll be meeting more tonight. Matt is the one I've seen most, who has sort of been my guide. He's been here a month. He's very easy-going and friendly. There's his cousin, Nicky, who I've only met a little, but she seems fine. And there was some Canadian guy, Josh, who'd been here three years and seemed very much like a foreigner abroad too long.

Anyway, I've had enough of writing. Bye.

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