Monday, 9 February 2004

DMZ part 1

Who was it that sung "I don't like Mondays. Tell me why? I don't like Mondays - tell me why? I don't like Mondays, oh oh oh" or something. Was it the Boomtown Rats? The question is rhetorical because I really don't give a damn, but whether their question within the song was rhetorical or not, I am fairly certain that they weren't referring to life as an English teacher in Korea and why that English teacher in question wasn't too fond of Mondays.

That English teacher in question is, as you may have guessed, me. I don't like Mondays. Not just because it heralds the start of the working week (as I suspect was the reason for The Rats) but because my Monday is a hot mother of a tough day. 9.50am to 6.25pm, with an hour break about noon and otherwise solid teaching. I'm not afraid of long shifts, but long shifts when you're teaching young children are very demanding. Especially this week when I have phone teaching which took me till 7pm today.

I'm also not feeling 100%. Just a bit of a cold, sore head, feeling weak. It's possibly this avian chicken bird flu which is sweeping Asia and claiming every man, woman and child around. Avian flu is not to be confused with Evian flu, which is, of course, an illness based upon drinking too much mineral water.

More likely than avian flu for my weak state of being is just general lack of care for myself. Since that Wednesday night out with the dental nurses I haven't been quite right, just needing a good night's sleep which I'm afraid my weekend certainly didn't give me. Hence why Sunday was a dreadful day for me, and today I woke feeling pretty lousy, though I'm improved now.

It was the fault of my weekend really, as it wasn't a relaxing one. When you go to visit one of the tensest places in the whole world you can't expect relaxation. I was visiting the DMZ, the demilitarized zone, the 5km diameter wide border that divide North and South Korea. Heavily populated by soldiers, it's not a place to raise the children, though in fact I think the only raising of children done there is by the local wildlife when it manages to avoid the many landmines liberally scattered.

I went with H and Matt. Friday, straight after work, me and Matt got the train to Cheonan, where H lives. Cheonan is a plain city, if it were a woman it would have a flat, dour face and no chest. However, like that woman if she wears make-up and a padded bra (especially if you're drunk also) it can look nice under certain conditions and so Matt's first impression was good as we arrived to a Cheonan with freshly fallen snow. Snow makes almost everything look good, and Cheonan looked very pretty.

H met us at the train station and we went for a meal, with a friend of H's called Simon additionally. Just at some local little restaurant, where the proprietor was this very enthusiastic woman who was familar with H, although not familiar with the English language, and her drunk friends. They stuffed us full of food, and me and Simon with some soju (the other gayboys weren't drinking) but it was an early night.

For it was to be an early morning. The tour of the DMZ started at 10am in Seoul, meaning we were up by 6.45am and left Cheonan by 7.30am.

That train journey provided me and Matt with possibly our highlight of the whole visit. There was standing room only in the train, but the journey was just over and hour so that was fine. As we stood, a girl offered H a selection of sweets. To me and Matt, the offer was clear. It was "hello strange Westerner, you're not from here but I want to be friendly. Here is some sweets, please take a couple."

H took the whole lot, and as he did so the girl audibly gasped. H was absolutely obvlivious to this, thinking her noticeable surprise was because he said thankyou in Korean. He gave me and Matt a few, and as we were almost as surprised as the girl we said "You took all her sweets!"

At this point, H realised his social faux pas in stealing this young girl's sweets, and at the same time me and Matt became uncontrollable with laughter. All this poor girl would have known was that an arrogant foreigner had taken all her sweets, given them to his friends, and then we'd all started to piss ourselves laughing. We gave H a guilt trip until about 30 minutes later he gave two sweets back to the girl, which I think would have just added insult to injury.

Ok, we got to Seoul and got to where the tour was setting off, and that'll do for now and I've got other stuff to do, but I'll continue part 2 tomorrow.

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