Sunday, 3 October 2004

Charming Nev

I got back from holiday on Thursday. Not a big holiday, just Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off, but it was a very restful few days. The holiday was due to Chuseok, a big thanksgiving type holiday whereby half of Korea travels across the country on the same day to spend a few days at the grandmother's home (I think, or something like that).

Originally I'd planned to visit Busan for a couple of days, with Rebecca and a few other ladies, but this plan was somewhat scuppered by my failing to wake up on time. Inexplicably, on Monday morning, I only woke at 9.50am, which was the exact time I was supposed to meet everyone at the train station. Usually, I'll be awake by 8am at the latest. And as I didn't have anybody's phone number, or those I did had recently lost their phone, I couldn't catch up with them later.

So my only plan for the holiday was abandoned, but I was quite glad as I don't think Busan would have been anything special. Instead it gave me a perfect opportunity to savour a few days of peace and tranquility, studying Korean and relaxing.

And it also gave me the unintended opportunity to charm the ladies.

I've been very charming with the ladies recently. And when I say that, I don't mean that my dirty little man downstairs has been sleazing around and spraying his grubby muck willy-nilly, no I mean I've been charming and pleasant and entirely unlike the true sordid character that lurks within. My now feeble but just capable grasp of Korean is beginning to reap dividends. Last Saturday I was out with Tim, as he has moved to Seoul for a new job. With Tim were a few Korean friends that don't speak any English, or speak very little. So the entire night had to be conducted in Korean.

Now, for not one second do I pretend our conversation was anything but numbingly bad. Stuff like "What do you study?", "When do you graduate?" and "Do you like beer?" were the highlights, although I did make a joke in very fragmented Korean about if "I sing then ears are sick". Fortunately Koreans are usually very accommodating with our dreadful stabs at their language, and because both me and Tim are eager learners and good company then they happily tolerated us.

There were three Koreans with us that night. One was a girl I've met a few times, a very funny girl and full of life, although quite frankly looks like a dog that's been hit by a shovel. I know that may sound cruel but it's simply descriptive, you must trust me. Her boyfriend (I think) was there too, a gentle, laid back guy who didn't resemble any kind of animal, hit by a shovel or not. The third was a girl, a very cute girl studying Beauty Therapy or some nonsense like that in university/college.

After a few beers, my Korean started to flow and it really was much easier to speak it. We moved onto a very busy club where conversation became secondary to limited dancing in a very small space, but whether it be by the power of words or simply the thrust of my dancing, I seemed to get on quite well with this "Beauty Therapist". I hasten to add, once more, that I was Charming Nev and not Sleazy Nev, and so at the end of the night I got her phonenumber without once trying to haul her off to my apartment for some fast pumping. I suppose I'll have to phone her, but I can't for the life of me remember her name and my Korean over the phone is many times worse than it is in person. She was very, very cute though, and being a Beauty Therapist I'm sure her level of intelligence is about on a par with my child-like grasp of Korean.

That was my Saturday night of being charming then. The previous week I procured another phonenumber, from an ethnically Korean but American adopted girl. She's fully American, culturally, but was born in Korea and adopted overseas. She's a friend of Rebecca's, a new teacher in the school, and for the first month I wrote her off as attractive but boring, but in a head to head fight between the two, attractive always overcomes boring. Anyway, the Saturday before last we met after a Korean class and went to some workshop type thing dealing with traditional Korean culture. This is all the usual stuff like making rice cakes, wearing silly clothes and elaborate bowing, although was quite interesting. That night, a large group of was out on a combined leavning night (of Nicky, Pam and maybe someone else) and this girl - Jamaleh is her name - became quite interesting, She doesn't drink, which at first appalled me, but this is because of her religion. She was brought up as Bahai, which is a small religion started about 150 years ago. I've heard of it because their main temple is in Haifa in Israel, which I visited three years ago. It's a large temple on a hill with a line on amazingly symmetrical gardens running both up and down the hill from it.

Anyway, once again I was on exemplary behaviour, although that is probably only because the night rumbled on till about 9am and by this stage I was simply too exhausted to be sleazy, and was far too conscious of the fact that she was completely sober, which is something I can't handle when I'm drunk.

I have been doing many things besides being charming, I should mention. Studying Korean primarily, which I continue to enjoy, and general socialising. I was very glad of my holiday this week though, which was what I was meaning to write about here, as teaching 43 classes a week for the last two months gets pretty damn tiring, and hence when I missed my train to Busan it was a perfect opportunity to completely relax and recharge some energy. Which I very successfully did.

I did little on Monday except stay at home, study Korean, and rewrite some of last year's photo diary. I had a small opportunity to be charming however, when I ventured onto my rooftop to enjoy the sunshine. Alas, my powers of charm were only allowed to be used upon a lady of perhaps 90 years of age, although a very friendly one. She was small, thin and wiry and the pressures of 90 years of living - through Japanese occupation, WW2 and the Korean War - had evidently been a big burden upon her as she couldn't stand straight and instead shuffled around like a hunched, dying crone. She tried speaking to me but I couldn't make out much of what she was saying, although it seemed like she was maybe saying she had no family to be with over Chuseok. In which case would be quite sad. That could be a complete misinterpretation however. I know she lived in the area as I was able to ask her that. She was arranging fruit on the rooftop to dry, and while doing this stared at me the entire time. Not a hostile stare, just an ongoing friendly, curious look. She gave me some small fruit which I politely ate. They were hard and disgusting.

Tuesday my luck with the ladies continued, but improved as I managed to cut 70 years off the age, get an English speaker and someone who could stand up straight too.

It was all very unexpected. I'd expected my Tuesday to be much like the Monday, except I took a trip downtown to see what was happening. Not much. Tuesday was the main day of Chuseok and so most shops were closed, and it was probably surprising that any were open at all. Quite a few people were about, although not half as many as you'd expect usually. The bookstore wasn't open so I was unable to buy anything, so just went to a coffeeshop to drink coffee and rewrite some photo diary. Just innocently minding my own business.

Until I caught the eye of some young lady.

Although I'm quite happy to be approached, it doesn't often happen because either I walk around too fast or when I'm stationary I pay little attention to my surroundings and never look anyone in the eye. I probably appear a shifty character to some. This day, in the coffeeshop, I certainly had no idea who was around me, and noticed only the blur of Korean conversation. Until some yellow appeared before me, and a voice asked if it could join me.

This has never happened to me in a coffeeshop before, and I doubt it does happen much except in episodes of Friends. So what luck it was that when it did happen, it wasn't some freaky 55 year old Australian with unwashed hair, a desperately lonely man from Hull, or some fat Canadian, but a very attractive Korean girl.

Well, of course, I said, please join me, and we started talking. Her English was absolutely fluent, flawless and better than many native speakers, and I had to ascertain that she wasn't American at first. She explained that she wasn't at home with her family - as is usual during the main day of Chuseok - because of an argument with her mother about her being lazy and not helping with the traditional female duties of cleaning up the dishes. She'd phoned a friend to meet her for a coffee but had got a phonecall from the friend shortly after saying that her young child had fallen down the stairs and had to be taken to hospital. When she laughed as she told me this, I knew I liked this girl.

We sat and drank coffee together and chatted away about anything. At first the usual ice-breaker of where I'm from and cultural differences and such. But this progressed onto other tangents and I learnt quite a lot of interesting things. Such as, she claimed, 2 out of every 10 young women in Korea have had plastic surgery. This seems quite incredible but she's not the first person I've heard say such a thing, indeed, Korea is reputed to be the plastic surgery capital of the world. She explained that being a plastic surgeon in Korea is a very well considered job, and that the most popular operation was to get some eyelid removed to make the eyes appear wider and, as Koreans perceive it, more attractive.

What really kicked the conversation off was the revelation that I was learning Korean. Although my Korean is little more developed than a toddler's, she was enchanted by it. And I've found that when I'm speaking Korean I say a lot of things I'd never consider saying in English, Just because it's too brazen. So I explained to her in Korean about how long I'd been learning it, where and how I was studying, and who with. In Korean I told her that my teachers always had to be attractive because I could never learn from an ugly teacher. She asked me if she was pretty enough and how she compared to the Gin Girls, and I told her of course, and that she was my prettiest teacher. All of which sounds dreadfully pathetic in English but I imagine said from the voice of broken childish Korean may have sounded oddly appealing.

She helped me out with my Korean, although I'd had four coffees by now so was too pumped full of caffeine to be terribly effective. She's been an English teacher for a year, after having graduated in English in university, but I was her first Korean student and I think she enjoyed the novelty.

Suddenly we realised it was dark outside, and that we were both very hungry and we'd been in the coffeeshop for 5 hours. We went for a meal at a small Japanese restaurant that I like going to, and although she ordered the same thing as me (a big social faux pas in my book), by this stage I had noticed that she had a really quite excellent ass, and so I didn't mind. She gave me all her best Korean lines too; as well as complementing my awful grasp of Korean, she also admired my skilfull use of chopsticks. Many Korean do this, as if the thought of a Westerner using chopsticks is something quite incredible. However, I've come to learn that what can sometimes be perceived as patronising or rude is usually anything but - it's just cultural differences. That's why Koreans sometimes laugh at my Korean - it's never because they're laughing at me, it's usually just surprise because it's so unusual, and equally, their gasps of astonishment that I can say more than three words is meant to be encouraging, even if it can seem like the equivalent of patting a retard on the head for tying his shoelaces.

We went for a film after that - The Village by M. Night Shyalalaman, which was decent enough, hardly spectacular, although was partially ruined by the fact I really wanted to break wind for quite some time, but had to hold it in for the sake of etiquitte.

Our goodbyes were made after that, as we'd been together for the day and it was time to go. Se-jin lives and works in Seoul and was just visiting her family in Daegu for the holiday, but we agreed to keep in contact and I'll see her when I next visit. Besides the fact she had a very good ass, a good body and was very pretty, I believe she may have had a good personality too.

Wednesday was spent just studying a little more, and in the evening having dinner with Matt (returned from a jaunt to Singapore and Malaysia, on the way back from a wedding in New Zealand) and Rebecca. I broke the news to Matt that because of financial problems regarding having to find a lot of money to pay for renovations of a flat I own in Aberdeen, I can't travel to Russia next year and will have to spend an additional year in Korea. I may outline this in greater detail in a future entry. Matt wasn't too bothered, I think we both quite like the idea of another year in Korea.

Back at teaching then, and it's been fine as usual. I'm enjoying my teaching, I think I'm quite good, and I can certainly control my classes well. I like quiet, calm classes but also enjoy punishing children with humiliation or hitting them on the head with a marker pen, so my students have learned to conform to these ideals.

I continued my run of charming form on Friday. After work, the staff (minus anti-social David, who prefers to watch TV) got together and had a few drinks. All Korean, except me, therefore the conversation often was well beyond my grasp. The entire night Daniel was being glaringly obvious by trying to set me up with Cathy, an attractive but shy young thing. I'm quite I couldn't understand of what he was saying. However, I think - on a far more wholesome note - she wants to practice her fairly faltering English but has been too shy to ask me, so I might broker a deal for equal Korean-English lessons. As I said before, I can only learn from attractive teachers, and she definitely qualifies.

And that night too, while walking home with Jessie - the glamour girl of the school who is leaving next week to study English before beginning a career as a flight attendant - she dropped a big hint about needing someone to practice her English with. She does a little practice with David but he is an excessively ugly man and so needs a gentleman with a little more pride in his appearance (she didn't say that, that's just speculation). So I've agreed to meet up for lessons with her after she leaves the school. Which means I'll now have four young ladies under my wing for private lessons.

Anyway, today is a bright and clear day, free of the oppressive heat of summer as Autumn has finally arrived with graceful serenity. I'm enjoying the feeling of being cold once again. And so, I'm going to finish up now and do some shopping, and eat some chocolate cookies and drink some juice, and study Korean and listen to music and then meet up with Maebh (Irish girl who I'm back in contact with after a summer of hardly seeing her) to help her with her Korean, then meet up with Matt for a movie. So it looks to be a very delightful day.

And apologies for any overtones of lechery or sleaziness in this email, regarding women as mere chunks of meat. I can assure you that after studying a foreign language for many months and greatly cutting down on my drinking, my brain has got into gear and I have become a character that my mother can once more take pride in, after putting up with years of shame.

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