Beaches, Busan and new Beginnings! (Again!)

It’s June. Which can only mean one thing, almost a year completed in the ROK! I have six more working days and eleven more days in total until I will have been working and living in Changwon. In many ways the year has flown by. Being in a challenging new job where I learn something new everyday has been an experience in itself. I think the most valuable aspect of my adventure lies in the friends I have made, adapting to a different culture and being able to learn many things about myself that I didn’t know or was too scared to admit to before. I won’t bore you with the details. The people who know me will be able to recognise these things for themselves in how I have changed or through the experiences I have shared with them.

Apart from sleeping and soccer I have always listed worrying about the future as one of my ‘activities’ on Facebook. I don’t really worry that much, it’s more of a reflection of my indecisiveness and arguably my ability to focus on goals. I don’t really believe in ambition. Ambition is something that blinds you to everything else around you. Having direction is important, but having only one vanishing point is naive. Broaden your horizons. With this in mind I have been searching for a new job. I like my academy, students (most of them) and my coteachers have always been generous and helpful to me. However, i feel it is important to experience working in a different school environment. For this reason, I have applied and secured (fingers crossed the paperwork all gets sorted out) a job at a public middle school in Busan. Busan is a nearby city of 3.5 million people and is Korea’s second largest city. I am very excited about working in a public school. It is true that both private and public have advantages and disadvantages but I feel my teaching skills will be more challenged in a public school. Additionally, it is also important to consider the new dynamics of living and working in a very large community. You can feel quite isolated in an academy. I hope that i will understand and experience more of Korean lifestyle. By gaining a second year of teaching experience and potentially completing a CELTA or CELTYL qualification I will be in a position to market myself on a bigger international stage in the future.

I have been to Busan many times but I have spent a lot more time there recently. Apart from football matches there are three main reason for this: Public holidays, beaches and good friends. In the last month or so I’ve had three big beach days. Thanks to the onset of a warm spring and the beginning of summer beach activity has been high on the list of priorities!

Songjeong Beach, Busan:

I visited Songjeong on May 5th. This is commonly known as Children’s Day in ROK. Like mother’s or father’s day in the UK this is an excuse to celebrate children. Or, if you are a teacher, a lack of them as school is CLOSED for the day! I went with a group of about nine friends from Changwon. Despite a occassional gust of chilled wind the sun permeated the blue of the sky and we enjoyed a day of relaxing on arguably Busan’s quietest yet most beautiful beach. Lacking the commercial development of Gwangalli and Haeundae beaches, Songjeong is a lot more relaxed. The beach was uncrowded and laid back. After eating the best Kimchi Jiggae in Korea we hit the beach. The girls sun bathed and the boys had ridiculously timed (post beer swilling) foot races, games of British Bulldog (hilarious entertainment for some bewildered locals) and a bit of mini soccer ball juggling. After some appropriate Mexican food (Cinco de Mayo) we headed home. My only gripe a broken finger from British Bulldog.

Gwangalli and Haeundae, Busan:

Last weekend was what is commonly known as a bank holiday in the UK. In ROK public holidays are assigned to particular days rather than always being on a Monday. Fortunately this time the 6th of June fell on a Monday. Making the most of this we planned a big weekend in Busan. After work on Friday I skipped home and grabbed my stuff so I could catch the late bus to Busan. The football team I play for had organised a celebratory evening in the bar that sponsors us. The bar lavishly agreeing to provide us with a bottle of tequila the weekend following a victory. With little sense of guilt having missed this great victory in Pohang I partook in too much tequila and remember little more than what my camera was able to visually jog. I saw a Korean punk band, looked like I had fun, wore an ajumma’s sun visor and met some random people who I forget the names of!

On Saturday I met my friends from Changwon and Matt who recently joined Sam and I as ex-Metropolitan workers in ROK. After grabbing a new motel near Gwangalli beach and jumping on the subway we eventually got to Haeundae beach. Haeundae is an entirely different proposition to Songjeong. It is commercial; surrounded by skyscrapers, new development, restaurants and bars it is often considered the Miami of Korea. This weekend it was celebrating a sand festival:

“The festival’s program is full of events inspired by the beach’s beautiful white sand. One of the highlights of the festival is the hot sand bath (beneficial for health and beauty), where visitors are buried in the sand from head to toe. Other events include a beach volleyball competition, an exhibition of different types of sand from around the world, and a marathon race.”

We enjoyed (after enduring the stinking hangover) an afternoon of general laziness, frisbee and soccer. I checked out the sand sculptures and thankfully avoided the exhibition of world sands. As entertainment went the highlight had to be a fight between a man commonly know as ‘Mr. Busan’ and an American navy guy. Mr. Busan owns the Paradise Hotel and Casino, an operation that has bought him riches and a luxury lifestyle of spending everyday of the summer on a beach with his friends. All uniformly dressed as Germans (thong only). Today, they were playing soccer rather than charging around on jet skis. Somehow the ball (predictably) hit someone on the beach. After the ball being hurled back at Mr.Busan by said navy guy it all kicked off. Ten guys in thongs all attacking one extremely drunk navy guy was comical gold. After numerous break-ups and fire-ups the flakey police intervened and removed the navy guy and his friends from the beach. In the evening we hit the bars on Gwanganlli. With the bridge that runs across the bay reflecting its neon upon Gwangalli’s shore we sipped beer watched some more live music from a skyscraper and played some pool. We headed off to Kyungsung University area and frequented some bars and clubs and my memory gets hazier from there…

On Sunday we gathered together, caught up with a few absentees from the previous night and chilled out on Gwangalli beach. Notable events included hangover reduction by swimming in the sea, angering lifeguards by swimming too far out and being entertained by an impromptu street performance by the Korean cast of Miss Saigon on the way to the subway station to begin the journey home.

Monday, as it is with any bank holiday weekend in the UK, was dedicated to recuperation, pizza and health-guilt fuelled late night exercise…


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