The 20 night wait, Part I
Trip Start Aug 14, 2007
114Trip End May 23, 2008
· GMT +8:00 hours
All too familiar
20 nights. That's how much time we have to kill between leaving our now-only-a-fond-memory KE camp on November 30th and reporting for our next contract on December 20th. But, having to kill time in Seoul is something I'm adapt at, something I've had plenty of experience at (you may recall me highlighting my previous humdrum stays in the city at the beginning of my It's déjà vu all over again entry).
3rd time's the charm
As I said in the last entry we're being accommodated by a friend, Jay, and we're staying in his apartment with his wife and two small children. It's the 3rd Korean family we've been accommodated by in as many weeks. We even have our own room, one that is predominantly bubblegum pink and made out in a Princess theme to appease Jay's 6 year old daughter (having two Princesses in the one apartment should be a cause for concern, but there have been no issues to report as of yet). The room also has a huge, 6-foot Hello Kitty banner covering most of the window wall, which means, even in the dead of night, there is enough light illuminating Kitty to remind us we're being well and truly watched. While staying in Jays (who up until this visit to Korea was the only employer in Korea both of us had known) initially was awkward, we've since become as comfortable in the apartment as his family is with having westerners there in the first place.
As I type we've got through 11 of those 20 aforementioned nights, a little over half way. The last 11 days haven't all been boring, drawn-out, dull, monotonous...... I could keep throwing adjectives at this forever, but I think you get the message, right? I've been using the time to update my beloved Travelpod and Meg has been spending time working on the early stages of the kindergarten project what will see us back in Korea next year. Yep, one can easily drag out those two tasks over 11 days, and beyond. Whether we can get 20 days out of them is another question.
Day 110 to 120 Observations (December 1st to 11th 2007)
Day 110 Observations - Saturday, December 1st 2007
· One less Mano
Yep, there will be one less Mano in the world come next summer. A belated congratulations to Sar and Dave (number 2) on the announcement of their engagement. We're both looking forward to the big day guys. It'll be nice to be on the other side of the celebrations.
Day 111 - Sunday, December 2nd 2007
· Dry Cold
I know now why Korea feels so cold in the winter even though it's nowhere near as cold temperature wise as Canada. It's because the cold here is a 'dry' cold. Ummm, I now realise having typed that line that I'm going to have a hard time explaining what I mean. The air here in the winter is dry.... but I've said that already, right. Umm, right, let's just leave it at that. Sorry.
Day 112 - Monday, December 3rd 2007
· The bread winner
Meg started doing private lessons today. Conversational English to Jay's daughter and a friend. 2 hours a day, Monday to Friday for two weeks. I wasn't in the least bit offended when they asked Meg to do it and not me. She is, after all, the qualified teacher. She also doesn't have an accent or scare kids as much as I do. The extra cash (€450, CND$650) will be nice.
Day 114 - Wednesday, December 5th 2007
We wired a lot of money to Canada today. It alarmed me how easy it is to kiss goodbye to 6 Million Korean Won (€4,400, CND$6,525). Easy come, easy go.
· Getting festive
Jay's wife and daughter put up their Christmas tree today. Yep, 'it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas
· Korean Bathhouse
I went to the bathhouse today, my first time on this visit to Korea. It's always an enjoyable experience (assuming you can get over the nudity aspect of the visit) and lying sweating in one of its saunas today I wondered what I always wonder when I visit the bath house - why I don't visit them more often. They are all over Korea and pretty much follow the same layout. They have 3 floors, or three separate areas on one floor in the smaller places. One area is for men and women who, wearing bathhouse supplied clothing (shorts & t-shirts), share a series of sweat-inducing saunas, saunas that are marked outside with the internal temperature (typically anywhere from 60 - 95 degrees). Some of the hotter saunas are even designed in the shape of an old-fashioned baker's oven, complete with an asbestos door covered passage you must crawl through in order to get inside (just to remind you how inhuman they are, I guess). Staying in here for longer than 10 minutes is a challenge Koreans seem to thrive on. You typically begin your visit to the bathhouse in the saunas before heading to one of the other two segregated areas. Where you go depends on your sex - men to the blue floor, women to the pink/red floor. It's here you dispense of your sweaty shorts & t-shirt (and apprehensions) before climbing into one of a series of different temperature bathing pools. In this area you'll also find showers, massage areas, more saunas and more curious Koreans staring at you. In my experience westerners who frequent the bathhouse garner lots of attention so being comfortable naked in the presence of Koreans is a must to get the most out of a visit. Getting comfortable, believe it or not, is a matter of just going with the flow. Meg has yet to visit a bathhouse but she tells me she is game. We'll report on her outing if and when it happens.
Day 115 - Thursday, December 6th 2007
· Ho ho ho
We mailed our Christmas cards today and when they arrive, if they arrive, you'll be reminded how we're thinking of you all over here in Korea. Its way too long since I actually spoke to some of you (you know who you are), something I'm all too aware of.
· Samson - An Update
You probably remember me commenting on my lack of a haircut from my September 26th It's déjà vu all over again entry. In it I commented on how I'd leave my hair grow until it became unbearable, at which stage Meg might agree to me getting it cut. Well, it still hasn't been cut and while it is long (longer than I ever remember it being) I'd be lying if I said it was unbearable. It's now over 5 months since I had a haircut, the longest I've gone without one since I was about 14 or 15 - around the time in my life that I first stared caring about my appearance and started refusing haircuts from my best-intentioned Mam. While I generally like my hair to be shorter, I seem to be living well with my increasing hair mass, receding hairline aside. On a good day I look scruffy, one a bad day homeless. But that's okay; if there is any stage in my life when I can appear homeless without repercussions this is it. Plus, Meg still likes it; she still thinks I look younger. It's a win win situation, don't you think?
Day 119 - Monday, December 10th 2007
· On call
I was called into work today. I was asked to cover for a sick teacher in Jay's private English school. Because I was ill prepared my 4 hour shift went tediously slow, 4 hours I spent rotating through 5 different groups of students, all of which were as surprised to see me as I was to see them.
"Teacher Lee is sick today. I am teacher David", didn't appease them much, nor was the fact that I was a westerner (teacher Lee is an English speaking Korean).
"Teacher Lee back tomorrow, teacher?", they asked at the end of lessons.
"I hope so", was my response.
· End of an era?
Our laptop, my trusty T22, the one that has been around the world with me and one I use to create these entries, is killing me. It has had a seemingly never ending litany of issues since we got to Korea (remember my BSOD, the one I did report on). I'm hoping the solution to all the problems will arrive in Korea any day now but deep down I'm suspecting it's just suffering from old age (it's almost 6 years old, a fossil by computing standards) .. and exhaustion. If it can hold out for a few more months we'll be eternally grateful.
Day 120 - Tuesday, December 11th 2007
· The Ailments - The Return
Meg has been ailment free since leaving Tirana in Albania during the second week in September. That, in hindsight, is a feat in itself considering it was seemingly one ailment after another for the weeks leading up to that. She even managed to get through the whole of the 9-week KE camp experience without so much as an upset stomach, suffering through only one self-induced hangover in that time. But now, after a week of somewhat prolonged, somewhat protracted days she has come down with a flu-like bug, one we're hoping passes as quick as it came. Jay's wife is mothering her as best she can, making her drink some kind of Chinese fruit drink that she swears is good for you.
· Blowing ones own trumpet
Okay, so I've received a bit of praise from my work here on this Travelpod. I've received comments informing me that I 'have the gift of the gab', that 'I have a way with words', that my entries are 'always an enjoyable read'. I've even had someone suggest that I should write children's books. Not quite sure where that came from but I'll take the compliment as it was intended. Thanks for all your comments.
Btw, no, I didn't forget to upload the pictures for this entry. There are none. We're giving both the camera and video camera (and you) a well earned break.