Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Blessings in Disguise

For those all too numerous times in our life when the excrement hits the air conditioning, there are several occassions when we are lucky enough to see the silver lining glinting above us almost immediately. Other blessings however can take a little longer to materialise.

For instance, three months ago, my latest installment of excrement was the collapse of my plans for Antipodean rambles with my sister. Thankfully the silver lining popped up almost immediately and I am now happily ensconced here in South Korea.

Over the last six weeks I have begun to recognise silver linings that are the result of mishaps going back for several years. It's been very uplifting for me to realise that no cock up, blunder or gaffe ever goes to waste! Not just mistakes though, all sorts of oddities are serving me well over here.

I remember the first time I went to France: while we were sailing there on the ferry my travel mates pulled me aside and explained very carefully why I should not get offended by the fact that everyone would be staring at me. I was told that staring was not considered rude the way it is in Ireland, England, ........ English speaking countries in general! Rather it was a national pastime. At the time I adjusted to it and soon even forgot about it. I chalked it down as being good for my self confidence.

Turns out, it was actually practice for living in a city where for 80% of my week I'm the only white person for four blocks!

Last September I visited some friends in Bratislava and spent several days being bussed around the city by a bunch of speed demons with no regard for passenger comfort, the condition of the road or indeed the existence of corners! This enlivening experience was practice for Ulsan buses. These zippy little vehicles are small, but there are thousands of them, so that's ok.

Still, at least the Slovakian buses had plenty of seats - on the Ulsan buses for the ride home in the evenings I am invariably standing up, and given the flair of the driving, by next November I'll be ready to go snow boarding!

On a less whimsical note, eighteen months ago I started on medication which had the delightful side effect of fritzing my taste buds. Sweet things tasted like rancid plastic. It's the only way I can describe it. I couldn't eat chocolate, biscuits, hell, I couldn't eat fruit!
As you can imagine, I spent the first week rocking in a corner muttering "Why God? Why?"........until I started losing weight. Heh heh, I started to feel differently then! That was silver lining enough for me, but as the months passed and I travelled to different schools where the canteen was my only source of sustenance, taste became secondary to just plain eating whatever was put in front of me.

This was a HUGE benefit when I moved to Korea!! Every day at lunch I eat with the school staff, under the watchful eye of the Cook and I gamely try everything that's available, a practice not to be sneezed at when I recognise about 20% of the food! So far I have tried mountain bracken, a salad leaf which at home is considered a weed, three types of seaweed and a very small tree. No, seriously, they harvest the small branches of a specific tree and boil the bejaysus out of it. You either taste nothing but chlorophyll, or nothing but the soy sauce you have slathered all over it!

First the Cook was impressed with my chop stick skills, which was lovely to hear, cos I was feeling fairly clutch fisted that first week. Last week, Cook asked one of the teachers to translate for her and asked if we ate the same kind of food in Ireland. My emphatic 'No' needed no translation. She then expressed her admiration for how well I was eating when the food was so different.
Trust me, it always pays to get in with the cook, she pays close attention to what I like, and caters accordingly. I am really enjoying being spoiled!!

So the moral of this tale is, when life upends a bucket of manure on you, it's only a matter of time before you come up smelling of roses!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

You know you're a kindergarten teacher when.......

  • by Friday afternoon your hands are so covered in marker and crayon you look like you have been attacked by a blind, malicious tattoo artist.
  • you're six weeks into the term at your new school and already getting over your second cold caused by prolonged proximity to cute but snotty five year olds.
  • the children occassionally barricade the door at the end of the class to stop you leaving - as opposed to ten years down the line when they will be fantasising about stopping you entering.
  • 'Dignity' is a state enjoyed by others.
  • ditto for 'Personal Space'
  • Your enunciation and hand gestures would be the envy of any Childrens T.V presenter.
And you know you're a Kindergarten Teacher in Korea when.......
  • the girls where hair accessories that Irish kids would only trot out at Halloween, including pink tiaras, rabbit ears and bow ties precisely half the size of the child's head.
  • In order to get the boys' attention one must first confiscate their origami Ninja throwing stars. ( I did not make this up - who could make up something like that?!)
  • You toss and turn in bed at night muttering in your sleep: " Ee goy oh?" This is Korean for "Is this it?" Which you hear at least 80 times a day as each student seeks personal reassurance that they are on the right page.
And you truly know that you are a Kindergarten teacher when your day is filled with all of the above and you love every second of it!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Just Plumb Crazy!

I had a great example this weekend of what a daft bint I can be at times! So naturally I thought I would share my foible with the world: I was talking to my sister on Skpe this Saturday. She is just landed back in Ireland after a year in New Zealand topped off with a month in Australia and 10 days in Bali. I had a lovely time hearing a sample of her stories and reflections but when I ended the call I sat back and thought, "Wow, she has had some great adventures!" I was settling in for a nice comfortable bout of sibling envy when it struck me - "What the hell am I doing?!" Am I seriously going to envy my sister's adventure while sitting in my apartment in South Korea!!! For years I dreamed of moving to France, a country where I spoke the language, loved the food and was a two hour flight from home - but I could never quite get my act together enough to take the plunge. Now I find myself in a country where I speak precisely five phrases, recognise about 20% of what I'm eating (and by recognise I mean I can point to it and say that's fish!) and I'm a day and a half from home. I'm so far out of my comfort zone that it is merely a smudge on the horizon - I reckon I'll have all the adventure I can handle and then some in the next 12 months. So in this blog you will get to see the trials and tribulations of this Accidental Pilgrim as I struggle with the language, the culture, the fact that I can't buy shoes!! Meep! Fingers crossed I'll be able to handle it all, and write about it so wittily that I'll keep you enchanted. Ciao for now!