Archive | December, 2012

Another Year Over

31 Dec

January 2011 I decided I wanted to spend a year working abroad before I had too many commitments in the UK to want to leave. In February 2012I left for South Korea. Now 2013 is arriving and it will be the year I return home. How can 2013 measure up to the year I decided to leave, or the year I actually left? I don’t know what I’m going to do when I get home, not really. A lot of things have changed whilst I’ve been away, but the one thing I really have learned from spending this year living and working on the other side of the world is that who you are doesn’t change. I haven’t changed. I’ve probably learned a lot (a smattering of Korean, how to swim rather than sink in a classroom of teenagers, to smile in the face of confusion, to drink through culture clashes, to correctly identify stealth tentacles at least 80% of the time) but I am not going to be fundamentally altered by a change of scenery.

What did I want when I came to Korea? I wanted to experience another culture in the way you really only can when you make your living as part of it. Teaching has been the perfect way to do that, I think, and I have had a great time doing so. I don’t have the intrepid backpacker mentality (the very idea exhausts me) so the teacher’s lifestyle has also allowed for me to take my exploring as slow as I like. My generous and inquisitive students have also given me a wonderful inroad into the culture and mindset of South Koreans, and in turn given me a chance to reflect on my own culture and how it has affected my thinking.

Some aspects of living abroad for a year (and it will be nearly 13 months since I left, when I finally return in March) have been difficult. I’ve experienced homesickness, and more recently the strange feeling that my home as I left it no longer exists – things that changed whilst I was away feel unreal to some extent, and I imagine confronting those changes on my return is going to, ultimately, be quite upsetting.

I am looking forward to going home though, and seeing all the people I have sorely missed in the last year. I’m also looking forward to eating all the food I’ve missed – it’s amazing how prominent things like roast potatoes, pies, and cider have become in my dreams.

During the next year I’m hoping to move into a new home with wonderful new housemates (and, it seems, a inevitable menagerie of pets), start my own business, and find some kind of gainful employment (fingers crossed). Before that I’ll also teach winter camp, show my brother the wonders of South Korea when he arrives in a couple of weeks, and visit Japan.

Who knows what will happen after that?

Happy new year, everyone. x

Getting crafty in Korea

11 Dec

So, winter is here and I’m sad about it. I hate the cold and the dark with a passion that goes well beyond the occasional annoyances of summer. Thanks to the weather, I spend my evenings bundled up on the sofa with a hot water bottle and an electric heater watching TV and dozing. It’s not the best.

One thing that winter is better than summer for, though, is knitting. Staying home and knitting is a bitch in the summer, when sweaty fingers make needles sticky and yarn squeaky. In the winter, I want to make warm hats, and gloves, and the extra layer of wool on my lap is a blessing. Plus it’s a great way to spend a weekend mostly snuggled under a blanket with the TV on and still feel like you did something productive with your time.

270452_10151237576346773_1856281893_n

Some wrist-warmers I knocked up which are getting a lot of use in my classroom right now.

Before I came to Korea, I worried that I would find knitting supplies hard to find. I tried googling “knitting in Korea” and came up with little outside of Seoul. I packed a suitcase full of yarn and needles, just in case. You see, knitting keeps me sane. I mean that quite sincerely. Whenever I notice that I’m feeling very stressed (you know that terrible, increasingly anxious feeling that no amount of to do lists or rationalisation seems to cure?) I also realise that I haven’t got any projects on the needles. Once I cast on, and knit a few rounds, I notice the anxiety just drop away. I can’t relax properly unless there are needles in my hands. Or unless I’m on a beach somewhere tropical with a good book. But often knitting is easier to achieve.

Totall relaxed and snug with my knitted bunting and ear-warmer/headband thingy.

Totall relaxed and snug with my knitted bunting and ear-warmer/headband thingy.

Busan is actually great for knitters, as it turns out. I can’t speak to the rest of the country, but for knitting fanatics heading to South Korea, I can reassure you that Busan will cater to your needs. Here are some tips about knitting in Busan (and by extension, quite possibly South Korea in general):

1) Circular needles are your new best friends.

I’d knit on circular needles before I came to Korea, but I also used double-pointed needles and straight needles a lot too. Koreans seem to knit exclusively on circular needles, which at first I found a little annoying when trying to buy needles for new projects, but now I’m a convert. Circular needles are longer for knitting big projects flat, they make it easier to transport your knitting, and you can use them to knit smaller projects in the round using the magic loop method (or the two needle method outlined here: http://www.weebleknits.net/twocirculars.html). Needles are also ridiculously cheap – about 500 won (or 30p) each.

Circular needles also allow you to try on your work as you go for a better fit.

Circular needles also allow you to try on your work as you go for a better fit.

2) Hunt down yarn in subways and markets.

I find most of my knitting supplies in shops in the underground shopping malls attached to the subway stations, or in the markets. In Busan, there are a good selection of shops in the mall connected to Bujeon subway station, and there’s one that I buy needles from near Nampo subway station (walk up past exit 7 and keep going into the subway – the shop is on the left and closed on weekends as far as I can tell).

When it comes to buying yarn, the best place I’ve been is Gukje Market (close to Nampo or Jagalchi subway stations). The stall holders have a pretty good selection at reasonable prices and are happy to get balls out of bags for you to poke at. If you’re a knitting novice you may want to bring a more experienced yarnaholic with you because the labelling can be a little lacking and I have had to guess weights and fibres sometimes.

3) Craft seasonally.

I noticed over the summer that heavy yarn was hard to get hold of, and the Koreans I ran into everywhere seemed to be crocheting with lightweight cottons. That’s not so useful for a girl trying to get a jump-start on her winter knitting. Plan ahead and stash-up is my advice.

4) Stationers are great for notions.

I’ve found the best notions (especially cute buttons) in stationers. My local stationer in Dongdaesin-dong is more like a craft and games warehouse – the guy has a floor dedicated to paint – and they stock a great range of cute crafting bits and bobs including some colourful acrylic yarn. I picked up some lovely buttons in a cute stationers attached to the bookshop in the Shinsegae department store. Keep your eyes peeled.

5) Daiso

Daiso is a Japanese chain of cheap shops that sell almost everything, kind of like Wilkinsons back home (fellow Brits should get that reference). They also sell a lot of basic craft equipment like material scissors, needles and thread, felt, and craft glue, plus some adorable craft kits.

%d bloggers like this: