A little bit of everything from October.

October came and went rapidly. I didn’t have time to post on my blog.  I was pre-occupied with far too many things. The daily life of school and weekends was crammed with major and minor activities. Anyway, it is November now and I lie here in bed at 15:06 on a Wednesday writing my blog. I’m sure a trigger in your brain is wondering why I am in bed when I should be at work. Fortunately, I haven’t been sacked. Unfortunately, I am struck down with acute tonsillitis. I suffered for seven days before it got too bad to handle, went to hospital, then got sent home from work two days ago. I’m beginning to feel better. Although feeling slightly less optimistic about my concerned co-teachers visit in an hour when I look at the pile of washing-up and dirty laundry that is on the floor. My school seems overly concerned no matter how much I allay their fears of my health. Maybe I should do something to clean up the place…

…I cleaned up the mess (If you call throwing the dirty clothes inside the washer, but not turning it on cleaning).

My friend Mia was perturbed at being unable to find my October posts, claiming she couldn’t work my blog. After reassuring her that I just hadn’t written anything and was lazy/busy, I find myself here with you eagerly (or possibly not) about to find out what happened in October…

At the beginning of October is the celebration that I’m sure is marked on everyone’s calendars, my birthday. This year my birthday was superbly placed on a Monday. Monday, normally being the worst day of a week to have a birthday, is not so in Korea. Why? Because, every year October 3rd is a national holiday! It has something to do with some kind of independence day or something. More importantly my birthday was now part of a three-day weekend! 앗싸!

Being graced with good fortune this was also the weekend of the Ulsan Cup. A national football tournament for ex-pat teams. Now playing for the recently formed Changwon Wednesday with the demise of Sparta Busan on the horizon I was looking forward to a successful, slightly drunken birthday weekend away with my mates.  Disappointingly, we made no real impact on the tournament. Winning our only game in the plate quarter finals in a penalty shoot-out  before losing to a Malaysian team in the semi final who had previously trounced us in one of our group games.  We did have some highlights though. We drew with Inter Busan a pretty decent team in the group and obviously me being top goal scorer for our team (I should probably not tell you that I/we only scored one goal in the tournament). I also nailed a penalty in the shoot-out, too.

Ulsan turns out to be a pretty decent place. We played at a nice enough spot by the river and the city centre is refreshingly modern. On Saturday night we went to the best Indian restaurant I have been in since I left the UK, some nice bars and drank some awesome street cocktails. Street cocktails have suddenly appeared all over Korea. A bit like a burger van in the UK, but with a man or woman making cocktails that go in a sealable plastic bag. It’s a pretty awesome idea that in no way would the stupid British government will ever allow. Being reasonably sensible I headed back to our 1960’s hotel at 2am. Some of the younger lads/drunks stayed at ’til 6am. This didn’t affect their performance for the Sunday finals whatsoever…

Sunday night was being treated as my birthday night out. We moved to a motel in town after the days football was up. After our second visit to Krispy Kreme’s (the Americans love their donuts!) we went to a micro-brewery. This German style micro-brewery sold some ace ale. Modelled on the atmosphere and furnishings of Munich and Oktoberfest we beered away until it was time to head to a faux English/Irish pub for the biggest event of the weekend….Tottenham vs Arsenal! Tottenham won 2-1. We all went back to the hotel, my legs unable to do anything but cramp-up after playing five games of football in two days for some much-needed sleep. In the morning we surprisingly avoided Krispy Kreme only to learn we were going to Dunkin’ Donuts…I seriously question how my American friends stay so slim!

Frisbee update…we played a few more games over October. Two games in Daegu and six games on the beach at Haeundae. Daegu was entirely successful and Busan Gang Green extended their victory run to six games. The six game weekend in Busan at the beach was slightly different. Our squad, slightly stretched by absences, laboured to three wins and three defeats. Their were still plenty of positives. I only played on the first of the two days due to a football game on Sunday in Daegu. It is autumn here in Korea and it was evident on Saturday at the beach as it was cold and raining. Not ideal conditions for frisbee. After getting destroyed by Daejeon Pandemic in the first game we regrouped and dried off in Starbucks. I doubt the Starbucks staff were entirely happy to see us as we left half of the sky and half of the beach on their floor. I, however, was particularly grateful for the use of the hand dryer to dry my shorts… We won game two convincingly and lost a tight third game. After Sundays results we finished third of twelve in the league. This means we go into championship with a bye into the quarterfinals. Incidentally, the championship day is this Saturday and I’m very excited!

Autumn is festival season in Korea. I really wanted to go to Jinju lantern festival a few weeks back but missed out due to sport commitments. However, after washing up in Spaland at Shinsegae Department Store (Love that place…feel like a new man every time I leave…as unmanly as that last comment sounded….?) I went to Gwanganli Beach to see the first big display of the Busan International Fireworks Display. Spread over nine days with two large displays on the Saturdays I was intrigued to see if the event would live up to its reputation. I was going to see the display on the first Saturday; an international tournament. Poland, America, Japan and China all competing to show the best display possible to the incredible crowd packed onto the beach, promenade and balconies. America was all brash and patriotic (no surprise), China was a red themed appreciation of the orient, Poland was set to some classic classical music and Japan just blew me away, even the Koreans cheered biggest for the Japanese display. However, when the results were published Japan came a politically correct joint last with someone else.If I remember correctly China won it, or maybe America. Anyway, I digress.

The following Saturday was Halloween and I chose a big party in Changwon over another night fighting the rippling surge of people on the beach to watch the finale of the fireworks festival. I had a great night dressed in an outfit that conveniently took little to no effort to create (Mancunian Gangstaaaaaaaaa). As always it was good to see the Changwon crowd, some great friends there.

Finally, October was an incredibly important month for my school. Being one of the outstanding, largest and recently built schools in Busan it was chosen to run pilot scheme called CBI (Content Based Instruction). Over the last two years they have taught science and social studies in English. Since I joined the school in June I have been part of this scheme teaching twice weekly classes with Olivia the head of the English department to the Mercury (advanced) CBI class. I have always enjoyed these classes. Students seem more engaged than they do in regular English classes. The twist of using a subject they are passionately and naturally interested in seems to make language teaching much easier.  The pilot program was drawing to a close. The grand finale being an afternoon of open classes, a school musical and a presentation to the education authorities and the teachers and principals peers throughout Busan. My open class went successfully well. Olivia and I had practiced for weeks and despite a last-minute nerves and a slight panic in final rehearsal on my part it seemed to go down very well with our observers. The school musical was fantastic. Our music teacher has assembled an incredible amount of musical talent in our school and their performance was faultless. The acting was great and in perfect memorised English. It was great to see these young students excelling and in many ways giving a better performance than I had an hour ago in class. Finally, after many speeches and an interesting presentation on the improvements of English scores since the inception of CBI class at school it was done. No more CBI class for now which makes me a little sad, but an obvious relief around the school after the end of their big day. Afterwards all the teaching staff were treated to a delicious dinner out in Hwamyeong. Full of Galbi and too much soju and beer I left my colleagues to avoid the impending trip to noraebang…

So that was October. It wore me out, my body has failed and November starts on a bit of a low. Being ill and the unthrilling prospect of winter being just around the corner has my spirits down a little. My head is a little all over the place as well at the moment, lots of my friends are leaving in the next month or so and some other relationships are a little up in the air at the moment. Sometimes I think Korea really tests me, but in reality it is just the course of life. I’m not sure what November will bring but I have a feeling it is going to be a big month for me…

(Note: My coteachers came round to check on my health. They are overly concerned but it is a nice feeling to feel cared for. The brought me a ton of fruit for which I am very thankful; kiwis, bananas and oranges! Unbelievably my favourites! Incidentally, I was complimented on the cleanliness of my room, but not on my glorious illness induced aversion to a shave…guess they don’t like the beard!)

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