fire is a life force. it creates and destroys. a campfire creates not only warmth but an atmosphere, a circle for campers to gather around to tell stories. the fire is something that you need to keep alive. while you are awake the fire is burning. it is one of life’s greater pleasures to stare into the fire in silence. and it’s not an awkward silence. the flames and embers are so beautiful glowing and flickering you can get lost in it, when it looks like it’s starting to die you can bring it back to life, it’s a simple project that everyone takes part in.

i went camping this weekend and it was marvelous. i love camping but i had forgotten how much. it’s been a while. at home i camped fairly often, but this was my first time in korea and i’ve been here for a year and a half. in summer in south africa i camp almost every 2nd weekend. granted it’s mostly at music festivals… but still. i also do the long term outdoor/”true nature” camping. so i can set up a tent in no time. i am down with the  finer details like bringing dishwashing liquid, what food works best on a fire or gas cooker and the importance of those little fleecy blankets. i also know to bring baileys to drink with my hot chocolate in the morning.

this has been said many a time but korea is a small country. and a highly populated one. so it is incredibly rare to feel that seclusion you feel in nature, where you fee like you’re the only person for miles. this weekend was the first time i experienced this feeling. although there may not have been miles seperating us from civilization, for a little while it almost felt like we were cut off from the outside world. we camped on a small relatively unknown island. there are many islands here, some are more famous than others. most are tourist destinations. the island we traveled to is called imjado. it is down in the south-west side of the country, close to mokpo. to get there we took a train to mokpo, a bus to jido/cheomam and a ferry to the island. the bus and the ferry didn’t take too long. the ferry was half an hour and the bus a little over an hour.

we were lucky in many ways. lucky because it was a long weekend so we had more time to enjoy ourselves. lucky because it never rained. lucky because we were camping with people who had a friend who lived on the island, he also had a car. and lucky because it was out of season so there were hardly any other travelers.

we camped on a hill overlooking the beach. behind us was a soccer field and not very far was a public bathroom. the beach is apparently the longest stretch of sand in korea. the tides on the beach were crazy. in the morning it was possible to walk out to the small island across from us. in the evening the tide and waves came in so high that we were splashed wet while observing the sunset from the boardwalk. then it went back low enough again so that we could shoot fireworks on the beach in the night. the sound of the waves and the crackling of the fire were the background noise to our campsite banter.

one of the joys of camping is the open spaces. open space surrounding you, open space up in the sky and open spaces of time. camping is the freedom to relax to the max. you have the whole day ahead of you with nothing to do. except eat and enjoy yourself. there are simple time fillers like playing cards, strumming a guitar, reading a book, going for a walk or having a nap. at nightime there’s the fire. the hearth around which everyone gathers. like they’ve been doing for thousands of years.

some of you may or may not know that i have a passion for fashion. i don’t care if it sounds superficial because i know it’s not. fashion is art and expression on a mass scale. just about everybody (excluding those wacky nudists, bless them) puts on clothes everyday. and most people put thought into what they’re wearing, some more than others.

i’m particularly interested in how the koreans dress themselves. most people have seen pictures of crazy japanese kids wearing all sorts of things, korea too has it’s own interesting style. and although we may not have harajuku girls or lolitas (thank goodness for the latter) when it comes to funky fashion korea is definitely no land of retiring wallflowers.

in my small town i must say the ajummas are the most out there when it comes to fashion, not to worry – i love ajumma style. i’m kind of trying to adopt it and make it my own. so far am rocking an awesome ajumma dress that gets compliments every time i wear it. ajummas seem to prefer floral, crazy patterns, sparkly and baggy with some neon colours thrown in for flair. what’s not to love?

i live in a small town so it’s not exactly a stylista’s paradise. the style is pretty generic (as with most small towns) but some of my younger co-workers wear some really cute chic outfits. it’s when you reach the city that’s when things really get interesting. obviously like everywhere else in the world the city is where people are most stylish. it’s where the shopping is, where the clubs are and basically the creative hub. it’s full of people who give a shit. and people who don’t. and that is where fashion happens people.

koreans go quite outrageous but i have a sneaky suspicion they don’t always know they’re being outrageous. it’s like when a new wacky look debuts on the runway. most people go oh that’s so shocking! i could never wear that… but wait a few months and that look has somehow filtered down into the mainstream. people slowly approached it and toned it down and made it work. i feel like the girls here see the look on the runway and in fashion magazine, say cool that’s the fashion and wear it. quite fearless. perhaps they think just about everything from the west is a little strange so who’s to say what is stranger than the next. in the end they end up looking fabulous and it’s me who’s emulating them. so many trends start in the east and move to the west, not just technology.

the most outrageous style probably comes from the kpop girls. my favourite group 2NE1 are really fierce. they look like they wear mostly jeremy scott mixed with some random toys as accesories and they always have the greatest jackets.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAJ6Xk9bnew (check em out).

jumpsuits/one-pieces and giant bows in your hair are perfectly normal looks. heels with socks? why not. crazy t-shirts and huge buns on the top of your head? funky nerd glasses? tiny little acid washed ripped denim shorts? that’s practically the uniform. in winter just add black tights. oh and high heels. high heels all the time…

i have not adopted the high-heels with everything look. i, alas alack, can not walk very well in them, let alone walk up a mountain in them. i’m hoping at the end of the end of my stay here i will! my hero is the girl i saw choosing “the hard path” in a pair of gorgeous purple heels. i took the “easy way” and i was wearing sneakers!

there are about three distinctive “looks” in korea. chic, trendy and tomboy. trendy is more fashion forward – whatever’s in fashion, they’re wearing it. chic is neutral colours (black, navy blue, beige) and quite fancy. tomboy is for the girls who love their sneakers, baseball caps and hoodies. usually oversized. boys here are quite trendy too, very metrosexual with skinny jeans and man-bags.

i have bought some fashion magazines here, even if they are in korean. i’m hoping to one day be able to understand them. but for now i’m just enjoying the pretty pictures. korean style icons seem to be young “it” hollywood girls… like mary kate + ashley olsen, lindsay lohan, misha barton and nicole richie. gossip girl is definitely the style focus. the style channel has constant updates how to get the serena, blair and little j look. i love the style channel a.k.a OnStyle mostly because a lot of the shows are in english and fashion focused. multiple seasons of america’s next top model, project runway, launch my line, rachel zoe etc. oh and sex and the city all the time. different seasons, plus the movie.

last week i did a fashion lesson with my girls. it was enlightening to say the least. they all (even the basic level) knew the names of different styles such as vintage, funky, military, boyish etc. they were given a worksheet with pictures of different items of clothing – they had to say what was old-fashioned, in fashion and always fashionable. surprisingly hot pants have  always been fashionable and will stay that way. cowboy boots are incredibly old fashioned and they had now idea what dungarees or bell-bottoms were. they learned the word fashionista and that is what they call me now. which is awesome.

shopping in korea is a thrill. i was at first excited about the fact that zara and mango have stores in korea. but i hardly ever shop there (unless zara has a sale) they’re more expensive and nothing in there really blows me away. korean stores have way cooler clothes for cheaper. when i first got here not a week would go buy that i didn’t buy something. often i will look down at what i’m wearing and realize that everything was bought in korea. lately i’ve been trying to curb myself. waiting for the season to change so i can justify some more shopping : )

korea is a consumer culture. there are shops everywhere. and they are open all hours (in the city). i’ll go out at night and something sparkly will catch my eye and voila my outfit is complete with a new accessory. they all have bright lights and blast music and sell pretty much the same stuff. cheap, fun, pretty stuff. for serious shopping you can head to seoul and visit myeong-dong. here are large international stores like h&m, zara, forever21 etc. but there are also stalls in the street and the place is absolutely bustling with shoppers. it can be very crowded. hongdae is better for smaller artier/hippier clothes. and just walking around there is a treat. the underground shopping in incheon (bupyeong) is amazing. everything is crazy cheap and it goes on for miles. serious trouble for a shopaholic. but i haven’t even mentioned the online shopping. most of my co-workers prefer it and i can easily see why. the clothes are even cheaper and they deliver straight to your door practically overnight. shopper’s paradise here folks.

luckily i don’t have a credit card because this fashionista’s wardrobe is overflowing… it’s more like a floordrobe at the moment. but winter is freezing cold and summer is unbearably hot so i need a wider variety of clothes?

whatever. i may have a problem, but at least it makes me look good : )

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it’s beginning to look a lot like christmas…

this year would only be the second time i have ever done christmas away from my family. the first time was in mozambique a couple of years ago when i was working in a backpackers there.  that turned out to be just fine so i wasn’t too apprehensive about doing it again. of course christmas is a time for family but when far from home your friends become your family and you are able to have a really special time.

i knew i would be getting excited for christmas early as i was going to make it the theme in my lessons for the 2 weeks prior to christmas. we were going to listen to christmas carols, learn christmas vocabulary and play a christmas game. so i had christmas on the brain constantly in the weeks leading up to it, it helps that i had friends who were equally excited. we shared lesson ideas and christmas plans and generally just let the christmas spirit envelope us.

teaching christmas to the students was interesting. they all know who rudolph is, but they have no idea what a reindeer is. show them a picture of one and say what is this? rudolph! ask them what kind of animal he is? rudolph! eventually you may glean “deer” i have now improved their english vocabulary substantially by including the words reindeer, mistletoe and egg nogg. the best was when i asked them what christmas carols they knew and the whole class started singing “last christmas” by wham. strangely when i asked them if they were excited for christmas many of them said no. when i asked why they said it was because they don’t have boyfriends. apparently christmas in korea is a couple thing. for most of them on christmas day the plan was to eat cake and watch a movie.

i had somewhat bigger plans. already in september me and my friends had hatched a plan to rent a pension close to daejeon. we all wanted to wake up together and open presents and eat delicious food. some of the gang had experienced korean christmas the year before and were determined not to do it again – no kimchi and fish soup! so with a pension booked, secret santas assigned and menu devised this christmas seemed to have all the makings of a success.

christmas actually started a couple of days early. me and hannah (my twin) were actually going to be separated for christmas so we planned a pre-christmas dinner/gift exchange on thursday night.  the night before that we made and decorated christmas cookies.  she decorated her house all christmassy (including christmas lights!), we listened to christmas music and i made dinner. it was lovely. christmas eve was friday and as me and hilette were in charge of the food for the weekend we were the ones shopping in costco for christmas deliciousness. we managed to stuff everything in a taxi and head to the pension, no easy task (we didn’t really have a clue where it was). we eventually found it and were delighted to see that it was beautiful. not so delighted to discover only one stovetop and no oven or microwave. but ‘n boer maak ‘n plan and we had prepared for this eventuality by buying roasted chickens from costco. while most of the people went out me, hillete and paddy stayed home, drank hot chocolate and watched love actually. i fell asleep to love actually which is my christmas tradition : )

throughout the night and in the morning more of our little family arrived. we woke up in a nice christmas bed all over the floor. quite a few of the elves were hungover. but luckily not me and mamma hilette (the designated chefs). first things first though, we had the opening of the presents. what christmas morning is all about! we’d done the secret santa thing and it was fun finally discovering who our santa was. i think everyone was happy with what they received, i know i was : )

now the second most important part of christmas – the food. me and hilette had gone wild at costco. breakfast was bacon, eggs and croissants. we would spend basically the rest of the day preparing dinner. the entire length of the window sill was occupied by bottles of wine. we were nine people in the pension and i think there were 20+ bottles. we wasted no time trying to make a dent in that collection.  throughout the day the other little elves lolled about, drinking wine, playing boardgames, knitting and listening to christmas music. occasionaly being fed snacks by me and hilette (cheese and crackers, strawberries). with only one stove top and nine mouths to feed a feast to, it was not the easiest cooking experience. but it was lovely and everyone was very helpful. christmas dinner was my tomato soup, bread buns, roast chicken and ham, veggies in cheese sauce, paprika’s stuffed with camembert cheese and wrapped in bacon, and a waldorf salad. and of course wine. lots of wine.

so christmas day was a day of wine, friends and food. there were some light snow flurries outside but the real snow came on boxing day. the whole world was transformed in a white winter wonderland. it was magical. the view from our pension was picturesque and after we had packed up our home for the weekend. we played in the snow while waiting for our bus back to daejeon. the festivities however weren’t over. there was a lovley potluck dinner organised at a restaurant in daejeon – a private event so we had the restaurant to ourselves. it was cozy and had a piano so we spent the night singing christmas carols, lighting sparklers and generally having good christmas cheer.

monday was back to school. only christmas day is a public holiday in korea and as it fell on saturday we didn’t get any time off, this was actualy the first time in my life that i was working around christmas… no worries though, we made the absolute most of it and it was lovely to be with my expat family.  those of us staying another year have vowed to re-create the experience and i’m definitely looking forward to it : )

 

i have been in korea for 5 months now, can you handle it? that’s almost the halfway mark. well halfway on a one year contract. i may extend to 2, i’m open to it because i sure am having a good time.

i had a lovely holiday in the philippines but i won’t be writing about that here. what happens in boracay stays in boracay. i will be writing about returning to korea and then being invited to orientation. orientation is for newbies in korea to adjust to their new life. they have 2 big intakes in february and august and usually people will be fresh off the plane and straight into orientation. a nifty little way of helping you to adjust to your new life etc. i however missed the big february intake and thus missed orientation first time around.

not too worry, i coped just fine. i did a fair amount of research before i came. i had been teaching already in south africa and i knew people who had taught in korea or who were still there. so it was mostly smooth sailing. plus everything was exciting and strange and new!

coming back from the philippines was interesting. things were not so exciting and new anymore. i did not appreciate the drunk adjosshi (old man) on the subway telling me and my friends that are too many english teachers in korea and it is not good bla bla bla drunken bullshit. well played to my friend jade who just politely told him to tell his government. i also thought people would stop staring at me by now. not so much.

so i guess it was kind of cool to go to orientation to learn more about korean culture and culture shock. like a little refresher course. it was also nice to get new lesson ideas and have a few more days off from school. but that’s the boring part. the best part was meeting lots of new interesting people and sharing many memorable moments. how’s that for alliteration? go margo english teacha !

half the people had been in korea for a couple of months (some even years) and the other half had landed just a few hours before. nevertheless we were all instant friends after the first night. on the first night there was no schedule other than dinner and unpacking… oh how we would miss those heady hours of freedom in the next 6 days where we followed a schedule of lectures from 9 am to 10 pm. the only break being lunch and a 10 minute reprieve every now and then. but i digress.  that night we sat outside sipping soju and juice and sharing anecdotes about korea with the newbs and genrally discussing things you discuss with people you just met.  i met the new girl that was coming to my town and discovered that her mom had read this here blog… hi!

orientation was held at a conference centre. so we all got nice hotel style rooms with own bathrooms etc. the cafeteria was really beautiful but unfortunately the food was not. after day 2 of fish soup, kimchi and rice for breakfast i decided sleeping in was the better option. it was also necessary because although days were filled with lectures nights were filled with… well it’s hard to say. there was definitely drinking involved but that wasn’t the what made the nights so  groovy it was more the craziness that happens when you combine 30 english teachers from all around the world and keep them cooped up and isolated from the real world. there were crazy dance offs. there were koreans teaching us k-pop dance steps. there was breaking into the noraebang room turning on the machine getting busted and getting shat on like we were still in high school. there were hilarious jokes about how jamaicans say bacon and beer can. there was a lot of hysterical laughter. there was literally a facebook party. like a LAN party, except everybody was on facebook friend requesting each other. i could go on and on. but i won’t.

we were lucky to have a break from lectures one day (can you tell how much i loved the lectures? more on that later) and have a “cultural experience”. this meant going to the indenpendence hall of korea. it’s more like the independence park as there are about seven different museums, monuments etc. all about the japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945. all i’m going to say about that topic is the japanese sure were cruel and the koreans are not goin to forget anytime soon. the independence monument was really beautiful but i think the most enjoyable part for everyone was the arts  + crafts and dress-up component of the trip. we were taken to a building resembling a korean military school from back in the day. here we got to assemble our own little military school house as well as dress up like soldiers. basically act like kids. awesome.

now to get to the real reason we were there: the lectures. with all sorts of topics like culture shock, classroom management, effective co-teaching etc. the first couple of days i genuinely did enjoy more than i had expected to. the speakers were interesting, mostly other EPIK/SEPIC teachers who had been here a while. the class conversation was stimulating, we shared lots of ideas and tips. but by saturday i felt like i had heard it all. plus i had very little interest in the korean middle school curriculum or adjusting to being a new teacher, topics that didn’t apply to me. i guess my biggest gripe was that i was sitting in a lecture hall from 9 am to 10 pm on a saturday and a sunday. my weekend had been taken from me! and if you’ve read the last post you’ll know how much i love my weekends : )

i coped by bringing in my laptop and sitting in the back doing random things on the internet and pretending i was taking notes, i was not the only one. being in korea is a lot like being in high school sometimes, but that is a whole other blog post for you to look forward to.

before i had gone to orientation i was complaining to my friend that i had to go. i told him the only good thing that would come out of it would be making new friends and i felt like i had enough friends. a completely crazy sentiment, i know. i ended up making a whole new bunch of totally awesome friends and i am so stoked about it. we’ve already planned a reunion in hongdae this weekend and they’re all coming to my rooftop party the next weekend. we had a lot of great conversations throughout the week of orientation and one thing that came up a lot was that friends are important in korea. you are miles away from home and being a recluse is not going to help you enjoy your time here. get out, do things and meet people was the advice that was passed around again and again. and i agree with that wholeheartedly. it’s so simple, and on that note i will leave you.

happy travels, happy campers!

insert a song about weekends here:

or listeners calling in to 5fm [radio station back home] and saying “it’s the weeeeekeeend baaabyyyy!!”

weekends in korea are pretty freaking awesome. i’m not sure what it is, it isn’t the relief that the workweek  is over and you finally get a break from all the stress and thankless hard work of a 9-5. because stress doesn’t really feature in my 9-5 (or make that 8-4 actually) i teach 2 or 3 classes a day, they each last 50 minutes so i have a lot of time to prepare and relax. plus i enjoy teaching, the girls may be naughty but they usually they make me laugh and smile. if you’ve read the previous post you know all about it.

so what makes the weekends so great? is it the fact that i have really awesome friends? that just about everything is an adventure? that a bottle of soju is so damn cheap?

with summer here now every weekend feels like summer holiday. it’s weird, i’ll be dancing with my friends somewhere some hour of the night/morning and i’ll feel just so blissfully happy, the kind of happiness that you want to shout from the rooftops. that feeling that you get in the summer holidays when everything is carefree and great. i guess because i’m in another country it is that traveling kind of vibe, but at the same time i’ve been here a while now.

there is the adventure aspect. every weekend i leave my little town of majeon, either to head to the big city (daejeon) or sometimes the even bigger city (seoul) or somewhere new and exciting in korea. daejeon is where my awesome friends live and every weekend is a happy reunion as we don’t usually see each other in the week. my majeon/geumsan friends are cool too but i guess i’m more “tight” with the daejeonites. we’ve all got the same sense of adventure and enjoyment. if one of us finds something that looks like it could be cool and suggests trying it out nobody hesitates. no humming and hawing, more like why on earth not? life is for living. book it.

nightlife-wise there are lots of cool and interesting clubs but we usually end up at our “local” which is actually not special or interesting at all but i guess it’s comforting. or there’s always the gs25. drinking outside a convenience store is one of the very awesome things about korea. it sounds totally dodgy and low class but it’s not… i promise! “our” gs25 has nice wooden picnic tables and is surrounded by other bars and clubs, it’s great to people watch and meet people and enjoy (really) cheap alcohol and snacks. buying beer at a convenience store is a very exciting novely for the south african in me. plus the gs25 is open 24 hours. i’ve sat there till 10.30 am before.

that is another interesting/crazy thing about weekends in korea. the total lack of sleep. there is too much awesome too experience to waste time sleeping. sleep when you’re dead. or in the nap room at school during the week.

now before you start planning an intervention… let me assure you it’s all good fun. i’m not getting completely wasted. jagermeister and tequila are expensive here. i hardly ever have hangovers. sleep deprivation? yes, hangovers? not so much. there’s just this awesome crazy energy and me and my friends really enjoy each others company. plus not every weekend is a party weekend. quite often i go on trips that involve hiking, visiting temples and whatnot.

a list of some of the awesome things i’ve done weekends… not to brag or anything : )

jisan valley rock festival

boryeong mud festival

other festivals

travelled  to cities, towns and islands

stayed in a traditional korean village

went to a huge south african braai in seoul

went on a american and canadian independence day booze cruise

got lost in and explored hongdae

picked and learned how to make green tea

and and and and… : P

oh and i said awesome 8 times in this post. because it’s an awesome word to describe how awesome everything is. awesome awesome awesome.  (13 times now)

one of my students wrote me a love letter. and no it’s not that kind of love letter, remember i work at a girls’ school… korean students tell their (english?) teachers that they love them, i guess sometimes “like” just isn’t enough. it seemed quite weird at first but i guess i’m getting used to it. i often feel like i love my girls so it’s nice to know the feeling can be mutual.  this letter was more of the “you’re a wonderful teacher and i love you” type. and i’m touched. this is the first time this has happened to me. i’m including it here fore you to see:

isn’t it just so squee? i don’t know what the little cat means, but it’s cute. i’ll ask her next time i see her. this came from one of the quieter girls in class… the ones so quiet that honestly i’ve never really noticed her before. she came with her friend to my desk handed me the letter and a tinned iced coffee drink and then ran off.

a lot of my girls are crazy shy, it’s almost like they’d rather die than open their mouths in class. trust me i’ve tried. but i’ll just keep trying and the best way (for me) is to make the english class a fun and “safe” place for them. guess the use of a beyonce song got through to this girl. don’t worry song-i there’s lots more where that came from.

not all of my girls are timid little mice. some are quite the opposite. they come visit me at my desk and have little chats and then run away giggling. in the beginning i had one girl come to my every day and tell me i’m beautiful, then she would tell me that she’s beautiful. she also told me her english is very good. i think that’s all she could say to be honest. she doesn’t really come around anymore. at the moment one of my girls is coming to me throughout the day and having little conversations, it’s nice to have a friend in the staff room.

this whole students visiting the teachers in the staff room is peculiar to me… when i was in high school we weren’t even allowed in there. not that we’d ever want to go. for us (or me and my friends) teachers were the enemy and the less time in their presence the better.  sure some of my teachers were “cool” but that just meant i behaved a little better in their classes and had less contempt for them. isn’t it funny that i’m a teacher now? but really the girls come in and have chats with the teachers… of their own volition. like they want to be there and it’s fun for them.

i guess it has something to do with the fact that they’re at school practically all the time. until 10 p.m on weekdays as well as every second saturday. when i ask them what they’ve done on the weekend it’s always sleep and study. their only other hobby is playing computer games.

the relationship between the teachers and the girls is really sweet. lots of gift giving. also quite touchy-feely. there are always encouraging pats or rubs on the back or head (i’m talking about the female teachers).  at my old school where i worked there was a strict no-touching policy so this too is something to get used to. my co-teacher even plays with the girls’ hair in class.

of course it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. the girls do misbehave and the teachers do discipline. my two male co-teachers actually walk around with sticks even though they’re not allowed to use them.  my one (male) co-teacher  has told me that sometimes discipline is more important than education, one time he cancelled a whole class to discipline the students.  all the girls were all seated in the male teachers lounge next to the staff room and i could hear was him shouting, slamming the stick on the table and the girls crying. ever since then the class has been behaving much better and he’s very proud of himself. no comment.

at a rough estimate i teach about 280 girls. i only see each class once a week so it’s not very easy remembering their names, and in some cases even their faces. but there are quite a few that stand out. whether it’s by their friendliness, cheekiness or apathy. i can say i definitely have some favourites and it’s not because they’re more well behaved, because generally they’re not. i like the spunky ones with character and i like the shy ones with potential. also if you’re friendly to me and not too obvious of a suck-up, then i’ll like you too. i even like “madonna” who spends most of the time in class looking at herself in her handheld mirror, looking so bored she’ll die and sighing and rolling her eyes when i make her answer a question. i’ll crack you yet maddona (her chosen english name).

seeing the students out and about is fun too. our town is really small so after school fun amounts to going to paris baguette or strolling down the one “cool” shopping street. this means i’ll often see my students and they’re reaction is usually pretty hilarious. they usually seemed shocked that i actually exist outside the school. once they get over this they like to try and embarrass each other. the best is when i’m with a guy friend. they will ask without any shame whether he is my boyfriend, when i explain no we’re “just friends” they laugh knowingly. the next day at school you can bet they’re going to ask me about my boyfriend. but shame it is a girls school, so i understand (i was there too) although i never behaved like the one brazen hussy who completely freaked out and posed for a picture with my male friend and asked him to be her boyfriend.  i had to beat her off with my umbrella!

but no really, it’s lovely to be greeted in the hallways with my own special “hello”  while the other teachers get “annyeong-hosseyo” and it’s interesting to define and learn all these little personalities. not very deep down inside i’m still a teenage girl so it’s cool to be reminded of my high school days albeit they were definitely very different .although some similarities remain. i was at a girls school too and i also wore a uniform. the girls and i share a love for stickers, pop music, gossip girl and twilight. more often than not i can honestly say that i love my girls.

before i came to korea i had heard of this strange word and although it was explained to me, i was sure i would never use it because it just sounded so silly. deskwarming? what? kind of like benchwarming… but at a desk.  but hey what do you know?  i’ve gone and made it the title of my blog.

deskwarming is when you come into school and sit at your desk (all day!) even though you don’t have any classes (all day!). just like benchwarming, where your team is playing a match but you spend the entire time on the sidelines, on a bench (in case any of you south african readers back home don’t get the american sports terminology). this could be because the students are writing exams, they’ve gone on a camp or a field trip, or it’s something like sports day.   as lesson planning really doesn’t take up that much time, the foreign teacher is left with hours to fill.

i’ve been deskwarming all week because of  exams. it’s been mostly boring but so far i’ve managed quite well. although i don’t think i would have survived without the internet. at all.  i had very noble intentions of working on learning korean, making flashcards and working through my book with the audio cd. but i am a serious procrastinator so i haven’t gotten around to that yet. instead i’ve spent a lot of time reading blogs, stumbling (yay for StumbleUpon), facebooking and reading “tender is the night” by f scott fitzgerald as an e-book. oh and listening to music on jangofm (internet streaming radio).

there are basically 2 types of blogs that i read. blogs by foreigners in korea and fashion blogs. http://www.koreanbloglist.com is a great source for the first type. i have found some really funny and helpful blogs on there. it’s great to read about other people having similar experiences to you in a country that at times can feel so foreign and lonely. it also gives you great ideas, whether they be about teaching or travelling or just day to day life. i’ve found some great blogs on there that i’m following regularly. fashion blogs or any sites related to fashion are great for me because that is one of my passions. i just love clothes and style and people being witty and creative with it, it’s so inspiring. and something i would actually like to get involved in in the future. of course i read other blogs too…

one of the best boredom killers is http://www.stumbleupon.com. if you haven’t heard of  it, check it out. you go to the website list your interests, insert it in your tool bar and whenever the internet (or your workday) is being particularly dull you click on stumble and it will take you to a sight it thinks you might like. if you like it you click “i like it” and it will store it for you as well as know to show you similar sights in the future. my interests are reading, history, cooking, travel, photography, art, film. music, humour and astronomy.  from this i get some pretty cool websites and learn some nifty things. i even get links to humourous astronomy : )

so the internet helps with the soul crushing boredom that is deskwarming. but it can be unhealthy,  it sucks you in a bit and after a couple of hours you start feeling like you’re wasting your life, did you come a thousand miles away from home to develop a headache from staring at a computer screen for hours on end? you feel quite exhausted as it saps your energy. it’s moments like these that you wish you could have classes again and try and teach english to your sweet, cute and naughty girls. that you could feel a sense of purpose and creativity. and then the bell rings for lunch. or you get up for a glass of water and a chat with your co-teacher and it becomes almost bearable again. but when i really can’t take it anymore, i turn to lolcatz.

for all the other people out there with too much time on their hands, and in need of a laugh here are 2 links.

http://icanhascheezburger.com/

http://www.lamebook.com/

and with that i’ll leave you… it’s almost lunch time : )