Monday, 26 July 2004


Just a quick update, as I can't be bothered writing anything entertaining.

I'm in Vientaine now, the capital of Laos. Vientaine is pronounced "Wieng Chan" and not "Vee-en-tee-ayn" as Emily and Rosie consistently say. I always, of course, correct them.

It's hot here, and wet (but only in the evening so far), and very relaxed. Laos is a sleepy country and this is a sleepy city of 120000 people. A lot more peaceful than Daegu's hoard of 2.5 million.

I've spent time sitting by the river, drinking juice, we visited some park with lot of crazy Buddha statues, and I feel much more relaxed already. The people in Laos all seem very friendly too.

Strangely, I've seen more Westerners here than I ever do in Daegu. Travellers from Thailand mostly. Some look like annoying white-dreadlocked hippy trash that I just want to set fire to, but the ones I've met have been fine. Except for some very odd Norwegian who thinks he's Buddha and that monks were trying to kidnap him.

Anyway, tomorrow we go to some place called something like Savanakhet, and then to some place with lots of water. I'm feeling very wealthy because it's very cheap here, so I can flash my dollars at the cheap trash and let them see what hard earned money looks like. It also means that I can pretend to do extravagant gestures, like buy everyone lunch, even when it only costs about £5 in total.

Anyway, I've written more than I intended, and now I'm going to drink some Lao beer, which is really very nice and a lot better than the pish sold in Korea.

Friday, 23 July 2004

Tired And Glad Of My Holiday

I go on holiday tomorrow, for a week, to Laos. I very definitely need a holiday. I've been fed up teaching about "food", "family" and "It is a pencil" quite a lot for the last week.

I'll be fine when I return, and will start updating here a little more too. As for now, though, I am very glad I only have 6 more lessons to teach before getting my first proper rest in 7 months.

Monday, 19 July 2004

Director Fashion Update

My director is wearing her little black evening dress yet again. It's beginning to really disturb me.

Friday, 16 July 2004

The Director's Dresses And Evolution

For some reason, my director has been choosing to wear dresses for the last week. No, don't worry, my director is female so this isn't as disturbing as it might be, but it is still quite disturbing nonetheless.

You see, my director was not blessed with "small" bones exactly. She looks the sort of lady who could floor most men with a single punch. And her previous incarnation as a medium-to-smartly dressed person was fine.

But there must have been some 2-for-1 sale on, because in the last week, two dresses have been getting heavy repetition. One is a big, orange, flowery number that might have come from 50's America. The other is a little black dress designed, I thought, for sophisticated nights out. Neither dress looks like daywear for the director of a school.

The biggest problem, however, is that my director looks like a bull. Maybe a bullfrog. She behaves in much the same way. Amd so her decision to start wearing evening wear at work disturbs me.

It's possible that she's noticed my recent step up in dress sense, and decided to follow my lead.

On a totally different note, I've decided to teach my kids about evolution. However, I'm not going to directly teach them it, I'm going to slowly demonstrate it by practical demonstrations of "survival of the fittest". I'm going to deliberately persecute the quietest and most retiring member of each class and make their life purest hell. I'm going to terrorise them by shouting furiously at them for the littlest things, mocking them endlessly, forcing them to sing in front of the class, and generally just making life a misery for them.

I intend to have my chosen victim in tears for at least 25 minutes out of 40.

I'm going to absolutely destroy this weak member of the class, until they have a breakdown or the parent removes them from the school. And thus, the other students will learn by example one of the key elements of evolution.

Upcoming Holiday Preparations

I'm going on holiday next week. After teaching 43 classes a week for six months, believe me I need a holiday.

This is the first proper holiday I've ever had in my life, as I was discussing with someone the other day. Actually, I was probably just telling them and being mildly irritated when they interrupted my talking with an opinion of their own. Usually, when I go abroad, I've just quit my job. Occasionally when I've had a job for long enough, I've taken a few days off for a holiday, but simply used to it to piss about. But this time, on my week's holiday I'm actually going on holiday, to Laos.

I picked up my flight yesterday. I'll arrive in Thailand on Sunday morning, and from there it's about an hour's drive to the Lao border. The capital, Vientaine, is more or less right there. I should be meeting with friends from home - Emily and Rosie - at 3pm that day.

Emily and Rosie are lovely girls, even if Emily does have socialist opinions and is one of the few people that can raise emotions in me. Except for the emotion of "disdain" - a lot of people make me feel disdain. Disdain is also a word that if you think about too hard, you start doubting its a real world.

Emily and Rosie together are a potent combination and I actually have fear that their uninhibited wildness might be too much for the quiet creature I have become. Back in Scotland, Emily was second only (to another friend, Jenny) for sheer capability for excess and endurance. With her friend from Glasgow, Rosie, added to the equation, it was like to volatile chemicals being mixed with dangerous results. Set loose in Asia, I have no doubt that there are already many traumatised Thai and Lao people who will talk for ages after about the two crazy white girl whirlwinds that scarred their little villages for generations.

Thus, I know that this duo will be a bad influence on me, and so I've recently been in slight training for our reunion. The Friday before last I got mildly drunk, and this Friday I actually went out till 7.30am and was definitely not sober.

It was Matt's fault. He's started to drink again and the leery, sleazy perve that I first became ingratiated with has returned. We had a couple of drinks near his area of town, outside a Family Mart - a chain corner store much like Spar or Alldays, but open 24 hours, selling beer, and with seating outside so you can drink your beer on the premises.

Into town then where we met up in some technically good bar but mysteriously sterile in atmosphere. Eileen and Maebh were also here and they seemed happy to see me for the first time in months.

A conversation about Iraq and the war then started, which I was forced to participate. Mainly because most people don't like the war but have these facile reasons, and I like to argue with them. I have no idea if I am pro-war or anti-war, but by default I always seem to be pro-war, just because most of these anti-war people are such asses.

Anyway, it was a very good natured discussion, and through it I ended up talking to some guy called Owen. He disturbed me, frankly. It was because he had this giant baby face. Really, he looked just like a big baby. He was unnaturally clean shaven - more clean shaven than any man, boy or even girl I know - and had curly locks. It was exactly like somebody had cut a baby's head off, inflated it, and stuck it on his body.

Well, maybe not "exactly like", because that would be a bit crazy.

Anyway, despite creeping drunkenness, I resisted telling him about his giant baby face and was, in fact, very well behaved and good company. At about 5am, most of us headed to Bubble Bar. It still had the same reckless, carefree attitude that appeals to me, but I continued my good behaviour and just had a few drinks and talked to some half Scottish guy (but Canadian being his predominant half) about Scottish football and other such stuff.

I got on well with him, but an incident later on did alarm me. He had a Korean girlfriend, whom he pointed out on the dancefloor. She looked like a pleasant female specimen and so I told him she seemed very nice. He then asked me if I wanted to dance with her. I didn't really know, to be honest, but he insisted I did and so she she started dancing this very suggestive and physical dance with me, as the boyfriend watched on. For a young gentleman like myself, having a girl dance provocatively before you while the boyfriend looks on approvingly, is a very confusing thing to occur.

Anyway, I managed to escape from this situation and the club closed soon after, where I managed to get a taxi home. I had a numb headache for a good chunk of yesterday, but still managed to go "orphan-saving" at the orphanage.

Today I intend to just have a day of peace. Some shopping, and I may meet with Matt later.

Wednesday, 14 July 2004

Quick Update On The Last Few Days

Today's my easy day, as after the incessant series of classes on Monday and Tuesday, I get a few breaks today. It's still 8 classes, which is a hell of a lot, but it's broken up into bite-size chunks.

My past few days have been relatively interesting, and you may all be either shocked or relieved to hear that I managed to get drunk last Friday night. Not especially so, but this guy Craig that I know invited me and some others to watch left-wing ranter Michael Moore's prize-winning and apparently controversial documentary "Fahreinheit 9/11", about evil US President Bush and the helpless Al Queda. Or something like that.

Anyway, it was very good and let to an obligatory discussion about the war afterwards. Because there were a number of people I don't know - including a non-drinking vegetarian for God's sake - I was very diplomatic and didn't give my real opinions about the war. Which are that it was great fun to watch on TV.

I ended up just drinking with Craig for hours afterwards, until about 3am, whereby I was in full control and could easily have driven a lorry, maybe even two, but perhaps just not legally.

As a result, I missed my Korean class for the first time in months on Saturday. I was feeling lethargic and was quite glad that there was no orphanage teaching that day, for some reason or another. I took a short wander into downtown and bought some books and CDs, and also a return flight to Laos.

That evening, the Gin Girls called by for their lesson. I taught them to say "Now, Mr Nev, can you feed us gin and we will both get naked." Actually, I didn't teach them that, I concentrated more on stuff like "He is in the kitchen", "She is in the garden", "They are eating."

They're quite fun though, and it's extremely useful to have people I can practice my Korean on and iron out various little flaws. And big flaws. They're coming round again tonight as they're away this weekend, and I've also been invited to a picnic in the mountains in a few weeks time.

After three weeks I now know their names too - Hyo-Ju and I-Na. I think I'll just stick to the "Gin Girls".

Sunday was a trip to Seoul to buy a cheap 2nd hand computer. No real excitement except that I got to use the new KTX Bullet Train. It goes at 200km/h, or something. It wasn't quite as fast as an actual bullet, but it was fairly fast nonetheless. Faster than a car, but slower than a jet, roughly.

That's basically my weekend. The last couple of days have been standard enough. It's been raining a hell of a lot in the last month, but it's always very warm.

I also managed to explain that my camera was broken to the shop I bought it from, and ask to get it fixed, entirely in Korean. I'm sure I sounded like a disabled child with a speech impediment, but it was a proud achievement nonetheless.

Friday, 9 July 2004

Danny's Accident

Great excitement in Castle School today. The kindergarten are racing around, chattering with wild abandon and their youthful enthusiasm is spilling over so much that the teachers are finding it difficult to keep them controlled.

Why? Because young Danny (Rainbow Class) managed to have explosive diarrhoea all the way from the gym to the "sick" sofa. This is one of the most exciting things that can happen in a child's life, it appears. After Christmas, perhaps.

The only one not to be excited was young Danny himself, who seemed entirely unfazed throughout the whole episode. The sick sofa has taken quite a beating though and I, for one, will not be sitting on the middle cushion for quite some time.

Sadly, for me as well as the children, this may be the highlight of my day.

Thursday, 8 July 2004

Robot Duties

No it isn't
No it isn't
No it isn't
No it isn't

Repeat for 40 minutes.

Techno Game

My Ocean class are now loving the game that we all call "Techno Game". This is the game that made Eric bleed, and involves them running about in a circle to music, and have to pick up a piece of red lego when the music stops.

I've been weening them on a Felix Da Housecat mix album, but today moved to some harder stuff. In fact, I moved to about as relentless and savage as techno gets - Speedy J's brutal "Loudboxer" album, a 60 minute opus of incessant percussion and menacing, snarling techno without light or melody.

I have to admit, my Ocean class of 5 year old weren't as enamoured by Speedy J as they were of Felix Da Housecat, so possibly they're more into their funky house than brutal techno, although Speedy J works better as a continuous piece and less as stop-start music to a kids game. However, young Kate was seen jigging about at one stage.

Young Fiona also seems to be developing a penchant for mixing, which is very promising indeed. The tape deck I use is broken from the day that eager Ann of M5 class offered to carry it for me, then accidently dropped it. This broke the outer case off, which means the playing tape is in clear view and can be slowed by pressing the two cassette "holes" that turn round (I do this with tedious frequency in all my classes to distort the English tapes I have to play, far more for my own amusement than the kids, who are often trying to listen to what is being said).

Anyway, Fiona loves distorting the music by pressing down upon the holes and slowing the music from a techno beat into more of what I'd describe as a "dub" beat. She also likes to press it at rhythmic intervals to create a scratching-like noise, as done by most hip-hop DJs (I'm hoping she's just being experimental and won't stray from techno to hip-hop).

I say, screw English. From now on I'm teaching all my kids about techno.

Wednesday, 7 July 2004

Bad Boy Rodger

My M7 class appears to be one that goes up and down quite frequently. It's always a little boisterous and I have to remain on the ball to avoid that spilling over into mindlessness, but when it has good runs there can be good banter and everyone has quite a good time. It's certainly never a boring class.

However, when it's on bad form it can just be a pain to teach. The kids whine, act up, get cheeky, and have to be prodded hard to do any work.

After a while going in the right direction, it was set back when it merged with another smaller class, this one containing the monstrous bag that was Annie. The class slipped quickly into rudeness and insolence again. I actually kept quite a good grip it on it, but I know that the class was Daniel's most hated and dreaded class, and he rules with an iron fist.

Anyway, the good news is that Annie has gone, an event so glorious that I may take to joyous alcoholism again. In the same breath, Thomas (who was alright) and Ken have also departed.

Ken's departure was quite interesting, possibly the most interesting thing about him. Ken is perhaps the student to have made the least impression on over all others. His anonymity was startling. A quiet bespectacled boy, he was astoundingly unremarkable.

In fact, in many ways he reminded me of my good friend H. H is a quiet bespectacled boy who doesn't try to draw attention to himself. However, H also happens to be the greatest deviant I've ever encountered. I'm not sure Ken had any of "the H magic" in him.

Anyway, Ken left because he had a fight with Rodger it seems. Rodger, you may recall, is a student there that at the beginning of my teaching was the bane of my life, He's calmed a lot since. David said, that when he first started here, that in 20 years he was one of the worst students he'd ever taught.

And it seems that although much tamer in the classroom now, indeed he's actually fairly keen when in my class, he causes hell in the school (mini)bus. And apparently injured poor retreating Ken in some way, and Ken is no longer coming to our school.

The M7 kids were indicating that Ken was bleeding, and it may have been some kind of headbutt.

Daniel informed me that Ken is the third child to quit Castle School because of Rodger. Oh, bad bad boy Rodger.

I wish Rodger had headbutted Annie though.

Crying Hat-trick

I got the kindergarten hat-trick today.

The kindergarten hat-trick is the rare day that I can get a child in each of my three kindergarten classes crying. Today I got Daniel (Forest Class: 4), Sarah (Cosmos Class:6) and Christopher and Jim (Forest Class: both 6) in tears.

Actually, my role in their tears was not too significant. Young Daniel burst into tears, a not infrequent occurence for him, because he perceived potato-head Alex to have been fighting with him.

Sarah, not a crier, inexplicably burst into tears when she likewise perceived her friend Sandra as fighting with her. Sandra was baffled.

Christopher cried for a good 10 minutes because... ahem... another kid thought of the food "bananas" before he did.

Only Jim do I have full responsibility for. He was being a pest all lesson, and repeated calm warnings weren't working, so I eventually yelled at him annd wouldn't let him sing in front of the class. He burst into floods of tears.

So, maybe not a proper hat-trick, but still a worthy effort. I may, one day, try to get all my kids in every class to cry in a day. I have found that recently I'm getting more kids to cry than usual.

I do enjoy children crying.

Friday, 2 July 2004

Who Is This?

This morning I took 10 minutes selecting what clothes I would wear today, which included several changes of outfit for comparison.

I no longer recognise the person I see in the mirror anymore (but he does look good).

Thursday, 1 July 2004

My New Regime

Here is my new Monday to Friday schedule. I allow myself an extra couple of hours in bed on Saturdays, which are compensated by my Korean class at 11am, and on Sundays I give myself the privilege of a free day.

5.30am - 6.30am: Wake, shower, have coffee and toast, clean my apartment, ease into the day.

6.30am - 7.30am: Study Russian on Mondays and Tuesday, Korean on other days.

7.30am - 8am: Do some writing.

8am - 8.30am: Watch BBC World.

8.30am - 9am: More writing.

9am - 10am (except Wednesday when I have to go to school a little earlier): more Russian or Korean study.

until 7pm or so: teach

7.30pm - 8.30pm: Watch two episodes of "Friends" as I wind down from 8 hours of teaching. Eat some food.

In bed by 9pm.

Saturdays are a little more varied, with the orphanage and the Korean class thrown in and even allow for a little sociability, and Sunday's only regimen is the newly emerging noon meeting with the Gin Girls.

I've been keeping to this new regime perfectly over this week and am loving it, and have no doubt that I will be continuing it for some time.

Truly the Nev of old is dying, and some other entity is forming in its place.


Every couple of months, a young waif-like Korean lady appears in the staff room for a couple of days. No, this is not the school ghost, but always the sign that a member of staff is leaving, and a new one about to join.

The waif-like one never stays. She floats about a bit, displaying a mixture of fear, shyness, confusion and sheer lack of innovation or ability. The next day she's gone. A few days later another waif appears, though usually a little less waifish than the original. Usually she disappears quickly too. Then a third appears, with less waifishness, more spark, and more confidence and she becomes the new member of staff.

This happens every couple of months because in hagwons, the staff turnover is high. I spent years working in kitchens and bars so know the meaning of a truly high turnover, but considering I'm working at a "school", the turnover is very high. Reasons are many, and you'll just have to use your imagination because I can't be bothered writing about it.

Anyway, this waif re-appeared on Monday and, naturally, was gone by Tuesday. A new girl was in yesterday, much less waifish and with a bit more spirit too her, and she's still here today making her a fairly good bet for staying. Anyway, all this signals the imminent departure of one of the six Korean teachers here, and this time it's Clara.

Which will be a shame, because in the last few months the staff-force have really began to get on well together. When I first started, this wasn't the case. With a couple of Korean teachers leaving, and miserable miserable John complaining about all conceivable possibilities, there wasn't much of a staff atmosphere. It took till the start of new term to settle down, and in the last couple of months it's begun to gel well. But, alas, change is inevitable, which is sometimes good and sometimes bad, when you have a good status quo.

Clara leaving isn't a big surprise, as she mentioned before that in about August she's going to Canada to study English. It will be a shame however as she's become quite fun in the last while. She was pretty quiet and a slight mix of shy and surly to begin with, but once the ice melted from the wintery days of when I first started she began to demonstrate a good sense of humour. I think too that she was a tough as hell teacher, though we never had any shared classes.

She's not even been here a year yet, mind you. The school is only three years old, and the only people to have been here (the director aside) since the begiinnig are David and Winnie.

Poor David got lambasted a little when I first met him. I hope to God that "lambasted" is the right word to use here, otherwise I'm saying something quite alarming. He makes a poor first impression though. Not the most physically desirable of characters with a scabby bald head and overhanging stomach, his quietly grumbling and reticent personailty was not much in compensation. However, like all good things, he has been an acquired taste and now I just can't get enough of him!

Well, let's not go overboard here. But he's definitely developed, and is now rather funny. And very rude, in a cheeky way, to the Korean teachers. He knows a lot about what he's doing, which is useful, and is often very helpful too. We get on well now - he's not a naturally social man at all and would be happy, I suspect, to spend his life watching TV in his apartment - and I think he actually quite enjoys talking to me.

The only other male around is Daniel, another Korean and another teacher that in the past I was critical of. But I've completely changed my mind about Daniel now. He's very lively and sometimes annoying, but is very open and refreshing. He takes a stick around to hit the kids with, wich I think is wonderful. I also think he's a very good teacher. He helps me out if I've any problems and is instrumental in the better staffroom atmosphere as he is invariably the one to organise a few drinks after work or a meal.

The glam-girl of the staff-force (me being the glam-boy now, with my "manbag") is Jesse, an attractive young piece of meat with a tremendous body. I've not quite sussed her personaility out fully though. I think she's pleasant and friendly, but not massively exciting. David calls her a "lush", often to her face. She's a bit like a painting that moves. Her English isn't great though, which stifles flowing conversation. As a teacher I think she's probably ok, although maybe not of lasting inspiration to the kids.

She's not as bad a Julia though, with regards to teaching. I like Julia a lot, she speaks good English, is very friendly, and comes across as a thoroughly nice woman. I wish only good things for her. But teaching is not her forte. Well, she might be fine at the actual teaching side, but class control and discipline leave a little to be desired. I can always hear which classes she teaches. Some she gets on fine with, but some just run riot. Especially the horrible T7, who I have mastered and they are excellent little citizens when controlled by me, but with her it often sounds like they're using industrial drills to kill each other.

A fairly new teacher - replacing Sharon (whom I liked but always slightly intimidated by) - is Cathy. Her English isn't great and when she first started she wasn't far off being a waif, as she wisped about in shadows daintily and shyly, not daring to voice an opinion or be noticed. But she's relaxed a lot in the last month and fits in well now.

The only other teacher, therefore, is Rachel. She's not an English teacher but rather a kindergartden teacher for the mornings, who teaches the kids Korean and maths and art and stuff, instead of just hammering a foreign language at them. Her English is therefore even worse than that of the English teachers, and she has a mildly drab angry aura to her, and I've not really said much to her before.

There's Winnie too, the recpetionist, who does a little bit of kindergarten teaching. Her English isn't great but she's very friendly.

Where do I fit in? Pretty well, I think. I'm always pretty relaxed and always go out when the staff are doing something (David prefers to watch TV at home, but when he does go out makes numerous complaints that it's costing him money and energy). I get on well with everyone and don't cause any big disruptions. As far as being a teacher is concerned, I've certainly got good crowd control (there is no misbehaving in my classes) and I think some education is also magically transferred from teacher to student.

But, as The Scorpions, memorably sang about the fall of the Iron Curtain, "there's a wind of change." Not so much as wind though, as a sudden breeze as Clara looks to be gusted away and a new teacher ushered into her seat. If it turns out to be the new semi-waif, it should be ok as she seems friendly