Since I moved to America a few months ago, I’ve been unable to work. It takes months for a work visa to be processed and in that time I can’t leave the country, or do much of anything really. To save on costs, my wife and I have been living with her parents and brother.
It doesn’t matter as much as you’d think. Most houses in America are huge in comparison to the UK. Living with other people isn’t a problem. If you need some time alone you can sulk off to your own wing of the house and pretend that nobody is there with you.
When it becomes a problem, is when you also have enough animals in the house to open a petting zoo. My wife’s family seems to collect animals like most people collect useless kitchen appliances. Instead of an ice cream maker they’ll only use twice, they get a new cat. Instead of a popcorn machine, a dog. When you have as many cats as they do, it probably seems like something you buy regularly. “Hey, don’t forget to stop by the store on the way home and get a new cat!” “Cat food. You mean cat food, right?” “No no, I mean a cat.” Continue reading Living with 5 Cats, 2 Dogs, 1 Bird, 8 Fish and 4 Humans→
When somebody likes you, you feel acceptance. Being liked insinuates that who you are as a person is fine, that your mere existence is worthy. Suddenly when you’re liked, you’re important, even if it’s just to one person. Continue reading The Importance of Being Liked→
The main aim of all travel is to have a good experience. Something we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.
When we travel we go to great lengths to produce a memorable experience for ourselves. Spend bags of money trying to create the perfect moment or memory. The ironic thing is that years later the things we remember aren’t what we originally set out to see.
A few winters ago, my girlfriend and I visited New York City. If you ask me what I remember from that time then I’d have to be truthful and say not a lot. My memories are hazy, made up of small seemingly meaningless images or moments that seem unconnected by any theme. The only connecting factor is that they happened in New York.
On its surface Bangkok is a city that is defined by its roads and food. In Bangkok it is either rush hour or rushier hour, either breakfast time, lunch time, dinner time or supper time.
Everywhere you go food exists, in restaurants, bars, malls. The city is paved with food stalls. Eating is so intertwined with life that it’s hard to tell when one meal ends and the next begins. Life is like one long feast to Thais, all they seem to do is smile and eat. Smile and eat. And take taxis.
Like every generation of Englishman, I got into football at a young age. Each day I would go out onto the field outside my house with my friends. Friends – at that age – were easy to come by. Anybody that could kick a ball was a friend.
Christmas was approaching. Excitement building. At first the children spoke in hushed whispers, but as the day came closer their voices grew louder. Eventually they were shouting in hysterics “Santa is coming! Santa is coming!”
I wrote about lying to children in my last post. Well the biggest lie of all is Santa. And as Christmas approached it was my biggest problem.
Pity. That’s what I feel for any white male who works in a Korean hagwon at Christmas. Why? Because there’s a very definite possibility that you will find yourself tasked with being Santa. In a school filled with Korean women, the white guy becomes Santa by default.
The best thing about working with kids is that they’ll believe anything you say. To children, anybody over 5 years older than them is an adult. Somebody to be trusted. Somebody who tells no lies.
I love a good lie. Something I can really sink my teeth into. Literally. The first time I lied to the children, I said I’d eaten another child.
One student had left the school to go to America. I explained that he wasn’t in America, he was in my belly. I’d eaten him.
At this point in the lie, the reaction is different based on the child. Some automatically believe it to be true. Some want more details (“What part of him did you eat first?”) Some shout out loud that I’m a liar. Then they say that they’re going to call the police and I’m going to go to prison for lying. Everybody laughs aloud.
The lack of private toilet time isn’t the only problem I have with working in a Korean kindergarten. Every few weeks I seem to get some new illness. Either due to the lack of hygiene from the kids (Hey, I’ll just sneeze in your face, ok?!) Or more annoyingly the kids who do understand hygiene and decide to use it against you (Hahaha! I’m going to cough right in your face…so funny!)
Inevitably you get sick, but you can’t do much about it. The annoying thing about hagwons is they open before the hospitals and shut after them. The working hours are so long that there’s no time to go to see a doctor. Unless you want to be the stupid white idiot who goes to the emergency room after work with a sore throat.
Worse than this, there’s an immense amount of social pressure to not take a day off. The unspoken rule seems to be that unless you’re dying, you should be in work.
There comes a time when every foreigner in Korea makes the pilgrimage to the DMZ: the most unlikely of tourist attractions.
At the end of the Korean War, both North and South Korea signed an armistice agreement, basically saying they would cease fighting. Each side moved back 2 kilometers from the front line of the war, creating a 4 kilometer buffer zone between the countries. This area was quickly fortified by each side and became the Demilitarized Zone. A long strip of land which nobody can enter.
Years later, despite there still being tension between the two countries, the DMZ has become a major tourist destination. There are gift shops, restaurants. Places to take pictures.