Archive | May, 2012

Teaching and Learning

16 May

I’m aware of how cheesy and cliché it sounds, but teaching and learning are two things I do pretty much every day here, with varying degrees of success.

When it comes to teaching, this week I’ve been struggling to learn how to discipline my classes. I’m not a very stern person naturally, and it’s hard to discipline children when you can’t actually say much that they can understand. One punishment that we do dole out a lot in my classes is to make students stand at the back facing the wall, and all my students know what a silent and angry pointed finger means!

In the last class of today, which was a particularly rowdy one, I turned around and caught one of my students firing a spit-ball at my co-teacher’s back. This infuriated me! I know this class is unruly because my co-teacher is unpopular and the students have no respect for him, but not speaking Korean, I am only as strong as my co-teacher. I immediately ordered this girl to the back of the room, but she apologised and begged me to change my mind. She’s a pretty good student, who I also have for after school class and who always works hard, so I nearly gave in and allowed her to stay put. At the last minute I decided to hold firm – I can forgive many things, but spitting paper at a teacher is not one of them. I didn’t tell my co-teacher why I’d sent her there – one punishment ought to be enough. I felt terrible about it when I saw her face though! I suppose I’m torn between wanting to be liked, and wanting to be respected.

One of my adorable letters!


Obviously some students like me, as I received a pair of letters for Teacher’s Day! Teacher’s Day is when Koreans honour and celebrate their teachers, often by visiting former teachers and giving flowers and other gifts. My school had a ceremony in the morning where the students sang to us (enthusiastically but not very well!) and gave us carnations. Some of the classes had decorated their classrooms with balloons and in one case a red carpet leading me up to the lectern. The students seem to enjoy Teacher’s Day more than the teacher’s do, I think!


Back to the learning… I’ve realised that a certain amount of homesickness has started to set in. I’m lonely. Not to a crazy extent – I have made plenty of wonderful friends here who I see all the time. I can share things with them and relax around them in much the same way as I can with my friends at home. The difference is hard to explain. Essentially it’s tactile. My group of friends and my family at home are all pretty tactile people – we hug and hold hands and link arms and curl up on the sofa. It takes a long time to get to that point with new people for me; I’m generally not that cuddly a person! I realised that I’d been skipping a few stages by just drinking a little too much which allows those barriers to come down. Problem is, I don’t actually feel any better for it in the long run, so I’m going to have to try and push through it sober, I think!


I’ve always been surrounded by pets, too, so being literally alone in my flat all the time is having an effect. I’ve always thought I could live alone, and I think that’s true, but I can’t live alone and pet-less! I have no idea if I’ll go straight home at the end of my contract or if I’ll be tempted to resign, but I’m worried that I wouldn’t be able to live here, by myself, for more than a year without getting seriously depressed. After all, I only survived the last three years or so in London thanks to these little guys:

My guinea pigs, Arthur and Merlin. Merlin is still with us, and currently wrapping my Mum around his paw.


Busan Comic World

6 May

I’m a geek, so when I heard there was a bi-monthly comic convention in Busan, I had to go. The BEXCO centre in Centum City was packed full of manga-style comics, cosplaying Korean kids, and adorable merchandise. It was amazing. Behold a selection of the excellent outfits on display:

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In which I find where to get some tail in Busan.

4 May

Cat cafes are exactly what they sound like – a cafe full of cats. It’s a great idea for countries with a high-density population like Japan and South Korea. Most people in the cities here live in small apartments with limited space for pets, especially pets like cats which either have to go outside unattended (not a great idea in a busy city) or get all their exercise in a two room flat. Hmm… not ideal. So what do people who want cats, but don’t have the space for them, do? Well, they go to a cat cafe, of course!

As a cat lover with serious pet withdrawals I was excited to check out my local cat cafes. So far I’ve been to Yang Yang Cat Cafe in Nampo-dong, and a cat cafe in Seomyeon. Both times I only got some cat loving through grabbing a passing cat. The kitties are mostly in it for the treats, so if you don’t have any tuna you’re not going to get any tail. So to speak.

Many of the cats are beautiful purebreeds, so even just watching them hang out, play, and terrorise small Korean children was worth the 7,000 won entrance fee (for which you also get a cup of tea). When you arrive, you change into some slippers in the little anteroom, and then find a table. The staff are on hand to make sure the cats are safe and happy, and that the punters get some feline attention.

It’s basically a little kitty brothel. Is cat house a pun too far? Maybe. I loved it. At the place in Seomyeon we were passing a month old kitten around for cuddles. This is a genius idea if you ask me.

I was satisfied that the place was clean, and the cats well cared for. They seemed on the thin side, but not unhealthy. There was food and water constantly on offer, and plenty of places out of reach for the cats to retreat to if they were feeling harassed. Neither place smelled bad, and the staff were keeping an eye on everything to make sure the cats were happy. There were rules on the walls asking customers not to wake sleeping cats, or pull their tails, etc (I think – the rules were in Korean but there were some pictures!).

Next up, I’m going to have to try the dog equivalent! Currently I get all my dog loving by attacking passers-by whilst they walk their dogs on the beach…

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