Apps for everything.

Here’s the backstory.

I needed to do a Costco run and so did my sister. She finished work at 7pm so to save time I told her to take the bus home. “Which bus” she said. “Aaaahhhhh the 9710”, I said. 15 minutes later she texts to say she’s in Wollong. Excellent, that’s just out the road. I picked up her partner and we drove to meet her at the bus stop. 15 minutes later she text me again with the words “this is taking too long”.

Sharp intake of breath as I realised with a certain dread and fear that perhaps the 9710 didn’t go to Geumchon, it was on the road to somewhere else. So I did what all people would have done in that situation, told her to get off the bus.

Now we had her at a bus stop who knows where and me sitting in Spuddy in Geumchon. Never fear. The thought of having to tell my father how I lost my sister somewhere between Wollong and the 9710 destination, forcing her to speak Konglish to strangers and sit on a cold bench until she wasted away because I told her to “just wait there” had me thinking of a solution.

So here’s what we did. I called her to describe the bus stop and surrounding area. The best she could do was “there’s a petrol station across the road and a green building over there”. Wow! Thanks. That really narrowed it down. Fail.

This being Korea though, I figured there was an app for finding her.  And there was. It’s called Seoul Bus. First, I got her to read the number of the bus stop. Then, I went on Seoul Bus and typed in 9710, scrolled down until I found the number she said she was at.

wpid-Screenshot_2014-03-04-10-52-32.png

Each bus stop is labelled with the name of the stop so I typed the name of the stop into the Sat Nav in my car and headed on the short 11km drive to find her. And did I? Of course. The sat nav brought me to literally 100 metres of where she was standing.

 

So what did I learn from this experience?

1. The 9710 doesn’t go from Munsan to Geumchon. It goes from Munsan to Seoul.

2. She was about halfway to Seoul before we realised it so the bus doesn’t waste any time getting you places.

3. The Seoul Bus app is the business. You can search the bus number to find out where it stops, the bus stop number to find out what buses stop there or you can search the map for bus stops nearby. The downside to this is that you must be able to read the Korean.

wpid-Screenshot_2014-03-04-10-53-02.png

4. She would have stayed lost ( or would have had to take the bus back in the opposite direction) if I didn’t have Sat Nav in my car. I have just discovered the t- map app on my phone. T map is exactly like sat nav but it brings you the fastest route at the time you’re travelling. Again, it’s in Korean but apart from typing the destination, it doesn’t take a genius to follow the arrows.

wpid-Screenshot_2014-03-04-11-02-18.png

We did eventually make it to Costco and our evening was completed by some 500won colas and dinner off plastic plates. What a life.

 

My 10 favourite things to do in Korea.

Someone asked me what my favourite things to do in Korea were.  I have a lot of favourite things to do so I narrowed them down to 10. Before we read, I think we should listen to Julie Andrews and her favourite things, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_PjaKkmTgQ

My list isn’t half as interesting as Wild Geese that fly with the moon on their wings but here it is anyway;

1. Drink tea with my friends; Monday to Friday is a haze of school and study and randomness so when the opportunity arrives to sit down, drink tea and have a laugh, I take it.  I have so many great memories that have stemmed from all of us in one apartment drinking tea and having the craic. Since your friends are your family here and thankfully I’ve got some great friends, tea time is a great catch up time.  As you can see in the picture, you never really know what’s going to happen at tea time……….

teatime

2. Play at a session; I love to play to my walls and I’m sure my walls appreciate it but there’s nothing like playing with real people. Having a few pints, a bit of craic and playing a few tunes is the most ideal way to spend any Sunday afternoon.

session

3. Be a  tourist; There are loads of places I’ve never been to in Korea. I love nothing more than heading off to some museum, exhibition or random city, getting lost, play the tourist and encourage the people to practice their English. ” This picture was taken at Chuseok when we all headed over to Paju Samneung to check out the tombs. Just us and our cameras and Spuddy.

Tourist

4. Fly Kites in Imjingak; Imjingak is an area with a park right before the border with the North. Tours to the DMZ usually stop there are there are interesting things to see like the North and stuff but the park there is fantastical. It’s a giant  green area with a stage, some statues and it’s an ideal place to pass a day. It’s an even better place to fly kites. My friends and I went there recently on our day off and spent a wonderful afternoon picnicking and listening to the free concert. No kites in the pictures below I’m afraid but we look like we’re having a great time anyway.

iMJINGAK INJIN

5. Eat Galbi; Has anyone ever noticed that the most epic conversations always start over some delicious Galbi? Delicious meat, lots of side dishes, good people, random conversations. Galbi is where it’s all at. The picture below is as close to a Galbi picture as I could find.

Galbi

6. Sing at the Norebang; I don’t know one person who doesn’t love the Norebang. Actually, I do, I just choose to ignore them (more singing time for me!) A night out is never really over until you’ve hit the Norebang. Cheap, cheerful, you can play the tambourines, dance, sing. You can sing in English, you can sing in Korean or Japanese or just play the tambourine. If you are at a luxury Norebang you can eat the snacks. Good times. I’d like to thank Cindy or Leana or whichever friend took this photo of our last trip to the Norebang.

norebang

7. Go to the cinema. For everyone who asks, yes the movies are in English. Well the foreign ones are. Apart from all that delicious popcorn in all those flavours, the thing I love best is being the only foreigners in the theatre. It’s 50 or so Koreans and 5 expats and you can tell because only we get the jokes (I guess they don’t translate well) so while we’re falling around laughing, the Koreans are laughing at us laughing.

8. Have random conversations; I’m not one for talking to strangers but sometimes you just can’t help it. You’re sitting on the subway and suddenly the person next to you wants to practice their English. I’ve spoken to some great characters. The adjummas who think I’d be a great match for their son, the old guys who tell you stories of the war, the adjusshis who are a little disappointed that you’re from Ireland and not somewhere they’ve actually heard of, the other adjussis who actually know loads about Ireland. The list goes on. Good times. Like the guy below. I met him in Malaysia, he was all over the red hair. Shame he knew nothing about “Iceland”

chinese man

9. Learning Korean; I do complain about having to memorise all the vocab and grammar and so on but learning Korean is a hoot. Koreans are so shocked that you can say 안녕하세요, Wow amazing! I said hello. Imagine that!  After 4 years, I can say hello. For my next trick I can speak an entire sentence.  When I do my homework on the subway, Koreans will chime in when I make a mistake making it look like I magically got all the answers right all by myself. More good times. No pictures because I actually study as opposed to taking pictures of my books and posting them on FB.

10.  Bombing around in Spuddy. I simply adore my car. Not because it’s a Porshe or anything just because it’s mine and it fits everywhere. Honestly, you could lift it up and bring it inside it’s so small. In fairness to Spuddy it’s deceiving big. On the last road trip to Daegu we fit 4 adults, 3 overnight bags, a harp, a whistle, a concertina, a bodhran in there.  That whistle really took up all the space……

spufdy

I also get a 50% discount because I drive an awesome yellow car ( or because it’s a 경자). Whatever,  my reason is better.  AND it’s yellow so I can find it in that sea of monochrome. Win win right there.

Then there’s Norecar. In the morning on the way to school, I throw turn on some music and just sing as I drive. Great times. (for me, not for anyone who may be unfortunate enough to hear me!)

If you live in Korea, let me know if there’s anything you would add to the list. Otherwise, leave your comments below!

A day in the life of Shauna.

The alarm rings and I turn it off. The next alarm rings and I do the same. Five alarms later, I decide to get up. It’s 7.30am and the start of a whole new day. I’m up and ready, eating my breakfast by 8ish. I spend the next 30 minutes watching whatever English programme happens to be on tv at that time of the morning.  These days it’s usually Poirot or Miss. Marple. At what is supposed to be 8.30am but in reality is 8.40am , I leave my apartment and head to school. The journey takes just 20 minutes in my car, Spuddy.

wpid-20121203_173734.jpg

Classes start at 10.10am but the teachers are all there for 9am. I use this time to prep for the day but mostly I use it to think of little games we can play at the beginning of class.  Classes in my school are only 25 minutes long so I try to play one game with each class before doing book work. The curriculum is made for me so I know what I have to do in each class.   It’s also a good time to say hello to the children and since there’s always a drama at school, I can hear all about it during this time. I teach children from Korean age 4 to Korean age 7.  Let me describe to you the sounds you hear from the staff room in the morning.  Imagine a child still using their outdoor voice and multiply this by 50. Then throw in a crying child and two fighting children and you have a good idea of the chaos here in the morning time. To be fair, once we get over the initial “I’m at school again” shock and excitement, they calm down.

The day goes from 10.10am first class to 2.30pm all classes over. Then there’s a special 40 minute class from 2.40pm to 3.20pm and then desk warming until 5pm. My school isn’t an English kindergarten it’s a Korean one so the children all speak Korean except to me where I make them speak English. If there’s ever a way to improve your Korean, it’s work at a school like this.  I’ll never forget the first few months I worked here. My Korean was pretty basic so when a child asked me to go to the bathroom, I would have no idea what they said and would spend a long while looking them up and down trying to decide from their general posture what the matter was! Like all things in Korea, it was a learning experience.  They learned to use hand signals and I learned how to speak better Korean. With the exception of 3 teachers, the majority of teachers here don’t speak English so if I want to report an incident in the classroom or talk about a student, it’s done in Korean or Konglish.

pic 1

Since this is a day in the life, lets take my Monday. Class schedule looks like this; 7yr, Free, 6yr, 6yr, Lunch, 5yr, 4yr, Free, Special Class.

The seven-year olds are a great class to start with. We talk about the weekend, we do some book work and then they play a quiz game similar to hangman where they have to guess the letters. These days they’re actually getting really good at guessing the words. I’ve had to turn those words into sentences and today they got the sentence ‘ I had a banana and bread for breakfast” before their lives ran out.  The class is brilliant. They make up their own English and speak to each other in this unique language “Robin, this eat no don’t do that not so good” Great effort and great use of all the key sentences I use.  The class leader also disciplines them and I love to watch how the whole thing works.

1368666569947

Sixes are a different story. Some of them have never learned English and some of them have not only been learning English since they were 4 but they have home tutors.  This makes for an interesting class, every class.  The dynamic is often fragile as the faster students pick on the slower ones. I start all their classes with a game that involves easy vocabulary like colours or animals to level the playing field but sometimes that doesn’t work. Today we’re talking colours and one (there’s always one) says dinosaur.  The game is over. Book time and yes there is one for everyone in the audience ( I really do say that). Best thing about sixes is that they aren’t afraid to give themselves praise.  They spend the class pointing to their work going “teacher, good job, good job”(not a question, a statement)

Lunch on a Monday is the calm before the storm. The five and four-year old classes on a Monday are the worst. The fives are so unpredictable. I never know what they’ll be like. I try singing and they look at me like I’m crazy. I try a game but they don’t get it so I go straight to book and they don’t want to do that either. So it’s a terrible waste of a class.

class

Awful, shocking and now to finish the day on a low note is the four-year olds. Of the three 4-year-old classes in my school, these are the worst. The first 6 weeks, they spent every English class crying hysterically when I entered the room. I didn’t even say anything. Now it’s May and only one of them hysterically cries. He gets so upset that he’s not only crying but sobbing uncontrollably to the point of almost vomiting.  These days he’s taken out before I arrive which calms things somewhat. The other students have been bribed to not cry by the homeroom teacher. So finally the class begins. By this time it’s 1.30pm and these poor little children are so tired. We sing a song and they don’t react in any way. So we sing it again, with a little more enthusiasm and only one joins in. Enough with that, I take out the book we’re supposed to be “reading”. Except by reading , I mean looking at the pictures and learning single words and making appropriate noises. So, the frog goes rweeebbuddd and I jump up and down, which also gets no reaction. The same goes for the elephant, the cat, the snake and the fish. One child has fallen asleep. One is engrossed in the contents of her nose and the other is just staring into space.

Snack time followed by special class.  Special class today is for the 7 year olds and I only have two. We turn on the computer and the material we’re using have a special programme of interactive activities. That’s how they spend the first 15 minutes. Then t’s book time.  The book is pretty difficult for students who don’t learn English all day so it’s a slow process. Today, I want to jump out the window. The activity is a comparison of the two stories and they have to tell me the differences. Except they don’t see any so I try to hold back the frustration. Eventually, we find 3 differences and manage to write them down correctly so it’s not a completely wasted effort after all.

pic2

The final hour of the day is spent chillaxing in the English room (above).  The children have all gone home so I take in the rare moment of silence.  This is when the weekly report gets done or any preparation is completed. But usually I catch up on whats happening around the world.

For your entertainment, this is what happens on the first day of term when no students show up to class…..https://www.facebook.com/540988015/timeline/2013#!/photo.php?v=10151324946708016

This blog is dedicated to Brian Healy and Edel Feely. The coolest followers I have. Thanks guys and keep the suggestions coming!