Sunday 31 July 2011

It's raining, it's pouring

 It's raining again today, as it did all last week. When in daiso I picked up a couple of sewing projects, and thank goodness eh? Gave me something to do on the boring evenings in trying to pass the time while the rain poured outside. Here are my first 2 completed crafty experiments.

Panda hairband

You get all the felt and accessories in the pack

You have to cut out and put together the design

I love gingerbread men!

They have pot pourri in them, peachy smelling gingerbread men!

Monday 25 July 2011


Sometimes all you want to do on a Friday night is lay in alone listening to songs wondering if that's the way he feels now.

Other times all you want to do is drink wine with your friends and imagine all the great things you can do now that the only person you have to think about is yourself.

Fontaine's hood

Little trip to Newcastle for the evening


Silly dancing

Irish legs

Bring on the dance-off

Is that all you got?!

Stolen hat

Tuesday 19 July 2011

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10 things to know before you go

A friend of mine (Mary) asked me to write her a list of 10 things to know before you go to Korea. I've decided to put it here for anyone else thinking of visiting Korea as a tourist. Please bear in mind these are merely my observations, as a white, female Briton.

1. Manners do not exist in Korea. At least not in the western sense. People will spit on the street, right next to you, you will hear them, right beside your ear hocking the stuff up. No one moves out of the way of each other, walking along the street everyone, especially adjummas (Adjumma is Korean for 'Miserable old bag') will bash you out of the way, practise tensing your shoulders now, if you're not prepared you will get pushed over. It is my personal belief that no one in Korea, and by extension this area of Asia, know what a queue is. You've been waiting here, for this lift/train/checkout, ages and most definitely before me? who cares? Your body is not totally pressed up against the person in front/your nose is not touching the train safety glass, therefore I am within my right to squeeze my body between yours and the train/lift/checkout and go in front of you. Something I think Korea could do with? Those signs you get on the London Underground 'Love is... waiting for others to get off the train before you board'. Richard Ashcroft would be fine:

2. Things are far away from each other in Seoul. The subway is excellent, especially the airport express. But just be aware your journey will take a long old time!

3. Buy a t-money card (same as oyster). You will save time and money. You can use it on the subway, bus and airport express.

4. There are A LOT of Americans here. Everyone will assume you are American. Many people here are incredibly ignorant about anything not relating to the US. To them; you are white and therefore American. People speak American English and have a hard time understanding some British (or Australian/NZ/South African) pronunciation. Esp: can't, dance, castle.

5. No one can differentiate between England and the UK. I feel for any Brits from Wales or Scotland. The only place they know in the UK is Manchester Utd. A typical conversation with a Korean will go thus: Korean: "Where are you prom? Amelica?" Me: "No I'm from the UK, Yong Guk" Korean: 'Ahh Manchester United!!! Park Ji Sung, YOU KNOW?!! Bery good soccer player". If you don't know who he is, you will soon. 

6. There are hundreds and hundreds of coffee shops; starbucks, coffee bean, cafe bene, angel-in-us, hollys coffee. Koreans like to visit them often to socialise. Therefore they are usually quite busy, and the coffee there is exorbitantly priced.

7. You are white. You will be stared at. You will be stared at more if you wear sleeveless, strappy or 'low cut' (anything below your neck) tops. But as it is boiling hot I suggest just getting over the stares to avoid overheating.

8. DO NOT sit on the last 3 seat at either end of each subway carriage. These are STRICTLY reserved for the elderly or disabled.

9. Don't cross your legs on the subway, or indeed anywhere else in front of a Korean. It is considered rude. Blowing your nose in public is also considered rude and disgusting (sniffing is not though).

10. Koreans are terrible drivers. They drive in the same way they walk down the road, without looking or considering anyone else. Crossing the road becomes a game of chicken. That car is hurtling towards you, but if you don't walk out staring straight ahead, you will be waiting forever on the pavement (buses are the exception, you WILL get run over by a bus). Most Korean cars are automatic and no one has any control over speed, so you will (bus or taxi) travel down the road jerking along while the driver quickly alternates between the accelerator and the brake. If you have a hangover, I suggest you walk wherever you want to go. Also, on the bus especially, hold on for dear life, the bus driver will approach the bus stop at the highest speed possible before slamming on the brake, just in time. 

11. One for luck; Traditional culture dictates these last 2. As a foreigner no one will be offended if you don't, but if you want to fit in more: Always give things with 2 hands, money, drinks etc. Bow to people when you greet them. At times you feel like a nodding dog, and if you stay here long enough it becomes quite natural and you will do it when you go home too.

Mud glorious mud

The pictures I took this weekend at the mud festival are stuck on my waterproof throwaway camera which still has 18 photos left on it. So until I use the camera again (during the summer) I can't post properly about the 10th Boryeong Mud Festival. Until then;

Wednesday 13 July 2011

I can't stand the rain

Korea's weather sucks. I never thought I would say this but English weather is much better. Yeah it's rains at home, but generally in showers and although it can be raining in the morning, you know it could easily brighten up in the after noon. Summer and spring have days that are warm, and even in the winter, it's cold but you can still go out and do stuff. Korea? Korea is all about extremes; in the Winter it is so cold your fingers are likely to drop off if you stay outside too long, in the summer the heat and humidity is unbearable, as soon as you pass through your front door you are sweating, thoughout this heat, you are also faced with pouring rainstorms. June and July this year are monsoon style months (I assume this is the same every year) and when it rains, it rains! For hours and hours on end. Relentlessly. Pouring. It's still hot though, so you're sticky and hot and wet. This weather is not pleasant, and although I never imagined this happening, I do actually miss the mild weather in the UK. Gloomy days or not! 

Daiso Loot

Home cooked pasta and proper veg, it's been a while

Cool, East (Pagoda) meets West (ugly skyscraper) scene I noticed while outside immigration

It was a Buddhist meditation office centre

New desperately needed wellies

The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain

The rain in Korea falls constantly day and night

But they do have these convenient brolly bags outside most shops, subways or department stores. Handy!

This video is from China, but the rain is the same as we've been seeing here for the past 2 weeks. Have you seriously seen anything like this that can last for that long before?!?

Monday 11 July 2011

More Books

My latest collection of books read.

I mentioned this book in the last book post and now I've read it I can recommend it to everyone. I thought it was really good, the premise is that the author is a university lecturer with terminal cancer. He is asked to give a 'last lecture' to a group of graduating students. It turns out it will be one of his last lectures before he dies. It is filled with his life experiences and some really good advice. You can watch the actual lecture online, but the book gives a little more info about what happened on the day and some backgroud stuff too. The best piece of advice? 'Ignore everything he says and just look at what he does.'

One of Roald Dahl's book for adults, this is a collection of short stories inspired by his time as a pilot in the RAF. It was ok, but I was glad they were short stories as I wouldn't have been capitaved enough for them to be much longer.

Love this author and love this book. A family mystery that weaves between 3 generations of women over 2 countries (Britain and Australia). I cannot wait to read her next story, although apparently it's about the same size at the bible...

I first picked up this book when I was at school. I couldn't get into it. I tried again at university, and again couldn't get past the first couple of chapters. This time I got into the story and it didn't take me long to finish the whole thing. Maybe I could relate more because I have lived abroad myself or just because I am older but I found it an enjoyable read and a nice insight into living in the Spanish countryside.

This is one of my favourite books and I decided to re-read it out here. It took me a little while to get into it because I already knew the story, but it was nice to rediscover bits I had forgotten from when I first read it, and after I finished the book I watched the film again. Such a magical story!

As I enjoyed Great Expectations so much I was advised to read this one as it is 'better'. In my opinion, it's not. It took AGES to get into and even then I didn't feel for the main character or feel that what happens in the end is really the best thing.

I decided to read this book as I'd read about it's inspiration from 'Travelling with Pomegranates'. It's a lovely story, focused on religion, discovering identity and racism in America. I think it is also a film.

I've only just finished this book and I thought it was fantastic! It's written by a journalist who embarked on a walking adventure through South Korea in the 80s. It's obviously very old, but it's still very relevant (which is kind of shocking as it shows how little Korea has developed in the last 20 years). In the book the author points out the charms and flaws of Korean culture as he recreates the journey taken by the first ever foreigners (Dutch) to arrive (shipwrecked) in Korea. He encounters all kinds of people on his journey and his honesty is refreshing. This book is neither full of propaganda nor a disparaging critique.

I've just started this one, looks like an interesting read and one that will leave me hankering after a long trip on a train. Trans-Siberian anyone?

Thursday 7 July 2011

Experiencing Royal Culture

As I've mentioned before I took an after-school course during May called 'Experiencing Royal Culture' Each week the class consisted of a 40 minute lesson about an aspect of Royal culture (Introduction, education, food, attires), then a visit to the museum to show us some of the artifacts we'd learnt about, and then a hands on session. We made soap the first week, practised calligraphy the second, third week we cooked and fourth 2 people were able to try on some Royal clothes, for some reason my luck was in (?) on week 4 and I got to dress up in the Queen's Royal clothes, it wasn't all that pleasant though, because the Queen wears 20 items of clothing. I was let off of all 20 but I ended up with 6 layers, and a massive headpiece on. Needless to say I was pretty sweaty under all of that! Here are some photos of what went on.

Ingredients for goldongban (modern day bibimbap)

Egg covered fish

cooking the meat

cooking the bracken

everything prepared, cooked and ready

rice mixed with a little oil

my bibimbap, the special gochujang (Pepper paste mixed with honey), kimchi and rice cake things

Group 4

Layers 1 and 2

layer 3
layer 4
layer 5

layer 6, what were all those other layers for? You can't see any of them!
It's REALLLLLLY hot under there!

Dressing the King and finishing off the Queen's accessories
I'm showing my hands in this photo which wasn't really allowed, you aren't allowed to show any flesh (aside from your face).

Now without hands, there is a woman standing behind me holding the headpiece because it weighs 3 kg. There were even heavier ones back in the day but one queen broke her neck so they stopped that tradition.

I would really recommend this course, it's available to all public school teachers in Seoul and it's completely free. There is a field trip to Changdeokgung palace, which unfortunately I couldn't go to, but they have said I can join the next group for that one in september/october. For more info go to the National Palace Museum website.