This week I’ve decided that, since not that much of note has been happening, rather than tell a linear story about what I’ve been up to I’ll just tell you about a few things that have become important facets of my life recently. From foods, to tricks, to hobbies, here are 8 things making my little Korean world turn.
As the season turned to autumn there was an arrival of a new type of vendor on the streets of Daegu. These carts sell a few different things, but their main attraction are the Korean pancake type treats. Shaped like a fish (for reasons unbeknownst to anyone I’ve asked) and stuffed with either red beans or a warm sugary custard type substance (I much prefer the latter), these delicacies are a must buy any time I walk past one. For the ridiculously reasonable price of 1000 Won for three, it’s hard to say no to them. Especially now that after the sun goes down the nights are bitterly cold, these do a fantastic job of warming your cockles, especially if you get piping hot fresh ones. I’ve found myself getting off work at 9.30pm and walking straight around the corner to where I know our nearest cart is to pick up a few before going home.
Good music in Korea
It exists! K Pop is not all-ruling! A couple of weeks ago while wandering around downtown Daegu I picked up a copy of the Daegu Compass; a small and free magazine that is released monthly that advertises events and causes in and around Daegu. One of the articles was written by a guy called Ali who was imploring people to come down to his one day music festival, which only cost 5000 Won with all proceeds going to charity. From the way that he wrote I could tell that he was something of a kindred spirit in his devotion to finding and sharing good music, and that I had to attend. The next weekend I went and spent a really fun day in a small, well-hidden but extremely cool bar watching a lot of interesting and entertaining bands play. Not only did I discover a lot of great Korean bands (about half made of Korean members and half made of expats that have met in Korea), but making a few new friends too, including Ali himself who, it turns out, is also English.
He was also putting on another show the next weekend at the same venue, which I also attended. I met up with many of the same faces again, who seemed happy to see me and talk to me, and I saw the best band yet; a Japanese/Korean husband/wife duo called Tengger that do an avant-garde electronic ethereal Fuck Buttons-y type thing. (As if that last sentence means anything to anyone who’s actually reading this…) I bought their album too, it’s awesome! I’ve now become friends with many of the guys in the Daegu music scene on Facebook and have been pointed to all the right places to find out where interesting music is going on. This is all very good.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I spend most of my weekend evenings going out and drinking a lot. I would not be so inclined to continue doing it if their Tylenol didn’t kick so much ass. They're 650mg a pill, so have that extra boost. A good 1300mg dose usually knocks out the problem rapidly. Last Saturday, upon waking up with a particularly vicious headache and scouring my room for some to no avail, I went out to the pharmacy in my pyjamas to get some. It was worth it, my head was calmed within minutes and I could go back to sleep again for a few more hours.
Multi packs of sweets
I’ve found out two things about kids: never underestimate their love of candy, and never underestimate the power of bribing them with it. For a fairly small fee of about 4000 Won you can buy a large multipack of sweets from the market behind our school, and I’ve taken to making sure that one of my desk drawers is loaded with sweets at all times. Before going into a class, particularly the younger ones, I’ll make sure that I’ve got a handful or two stuffed into my pocket. I’ll then promise to give some to whoever completes their work or wins at a game or do something else that I deem worthy of a treat. There are three problems with this though: you have to try and keep the candy distribution equal among the class so as not to upset too many kids; some kids are now aware that I often have a bunch of sweets in my pcket so have taken to patting me down in the hallways and trying to steal them from me; and lastly it’s hard to stop from eating quite a few myself!
Just a slightly different, Korean type of ramen noodles really. I’m not sure if there’s any actual difference in the style or flavours, but they have a load of brands here, which seem to be much tastier than most ramen I've had. I’ve tried several different brands and have now settled on my favourite, which I just call ‘the orange one’ (pictured). I eat a big pot of these with a bunch of vegetables, eggs and shrimps/chicken thrown in for lunch before work every day. A hearty broth, it’s delicious every time and sets me in good stead for the forthcoming day of teaching.
SO:L coffee shop
Daegu has a veritable plethora of coffee places in every nook and cranny, and Gaksan, my home in the North East corner is no exception. There are several of the well known chain coffee stores in the area, but my preference is SO:L, a small, warm and friendly little place run by the owner who is in there all day every day making coffee. He’s very popular and well known among the local people for his friendliness, which in turn has made his coffee shop very busy daily in the short time that it’s been open (less than a year). Of course it helps that he makes good coffee too. I have at least one coffee there every school day; in fact I just had my 50th from there this week (I know because I have a stamp coupon which entitles me to a free one every 10). I’ve now been here 70 days. 50 coffees from one place in 70 days is not a bad tally.
Shout out to my other favourite coffee place Caffe & Stuff, which is a little further from home, but I usually go there on weekends to write these blogs. I’m in here as I write these very words in fact. Looking at my stamp card it appears I’ve had 19 coffees from here (next one’s free!).
There are a lot of play parks around, and one night I found myself wandering home through one of them. I was called over to the swings by the spirit of my inner child. I hadn’t been on swings in years, but you know what? They’re still a lot of fun! Especially at night while the park is empty and I’m simultaneously listening to good music. Except when I go at it a bit too hard. It’s decent exercise too. Oh yeah, also at the park nearest to my house, there's wifi signal at the swings. I have no idea where it's coming from, but it means I can check my Facebook while I'm having a little play, which is convenient.
Sometimes when there’s time left in class to kill it can be difficult to find something to keep the kids’ attention since they get bored of hangman or 20 questions or other simple games fairly quickly. I’ve found that a good word search will not only keep them occupied, but quiet too. And, it’s sort of linked to learning English… Combining word searches with the aforementioned candy rewards for those who find 5 or 10 words makes it extra fun for them and extra peaceful for me. Also, I don’t usually have the answers, so doing the word search myself can be fun too.
And here's a gallery of a few other things making me happy recently (hover the mouse over the picture for an explanation):
As always, thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed this one. Next one should be back to normal stories, since it's Halloween next weekend and then the following weekend I'm going on a paintball and hiking trip.
Currently reading: Ulysses by James Joyce - Still working my way through this one. I'm about a third of the way through and progressing slowly. It definitely has a lot to enjoy, but these moments are spaced out by things like whole chapters wherein the characters debate Shakespeare's Hamlet (which I've never seen or read) . I want to finish it, but I also want to read a book that I genuinely enjoy reading, so I think after I finish the next chapter I'm going to start reading other books and then read a chapter of Ulysses between each other book I read.
My current toilet reading is Sum by David Eagleman, which is a collection of 40 short stories about the afterlife. They're only 2-3 pages each generally and they're all brilliantly dark and humorous.
Currently listening to:
Kliffdiver - Brink - One of the artists that I've come across and befriended in the past couple of weeks. Kliffdiver's music is dense ambient avant-garde electronic stuff. It's really interesting and expertly layered. Definitely headphones music. Check it out at kliffdiver.bandcamp.com.
Poliça - Shulamith - Second album in as many years from the Minneapolis band, it doesn't seem to have quite as many intensely charged moments as debut album Give You The Ghost, but they're going for the more sexy, dextrous bassy pop angle. It's really enjoyable.
FRIENDZONE - DX - A twenty track album that you can get on a pay-what-you-like scheme from their bandcamp (I paid £5), this follows up last year's excellent Collection I. Continuing with the multicoloured video game-like electronic beatmaking, the duo has proven here that they seem to have unlimited skills at making interesting and lovely little tracks. Great for walking around and taking in the world in the sunshine.
A song for this blog post:
FRIENDZONE - "All My Life+"