30.4.10

Breakout!

 
For only the second time since I arrived here in September, this weekend I will be leaving Seoul for another Korean city. Now, despite my fears that I may not encounter any white people for 2 days and I may have only the briefest glimpses of the Golden Arches, I am excited about the prospect. I'm ready for a break.

I'm going to Gumi. Heard of it? No, of course you haven't. I haven't heard of it and I've lived in Korea for over 18 months. From what I can Google, it's a small, industrial city about an hour's drive from Daegu. Which, in itself, is quite annoying as Daegu is one of the few places in Korea I'd like to visit and haven't. And I won't have time to get there.

But why, Smithy, you handsome bastard, would you travel to within an hour of a city you wish to visit in order to visit a city which you have never heard of?

Well, we are attending a wedding.

The gloriously cheesy, outrageously contrived union of The Canadian's friend, Annie, and her beau will take place on Sunday afternoon and, since Queen Kendrino of Canuckistan has been invited, I'm being dragged along kicking and screaming going too.

I haven't been to a Korean wedding before so I suppose it will be an experience. From what I've heard it will be in a large, characterless room with hundreds of people there (the larger the guest list the more impressive your character, apparently, so Koreans find themselves sending invites to people who once tiled their bathroom) and the most incredible tat can be found at these occasions. My mate PJ once went to a K-wedding and found himself singing a duet with the Bride's best friend. As part of the ceremony. I've seen footage. It wasn't pretty. I've heard tales of moving walkways and fake, flying doves as well. I hope I see fake doves.

Anyway, that's how I'll be spending my weekend. Mr and Mrs J-Mao will be looking after the mutt (who, after a 10 minute separation, had his big stupid collar replaced after using the time to lick his poor little nut-sack red raw) and we'll be enjoying a welcome break from yellow sand and desk-warming.

Before I go, have a bash on this game. It's totally addictive. I just managed 1101. If you can beat me - and prove it - you get a special, smithyblogs style, prize.

Chopper - Flash Game


Sorry, you will need the <a href="http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer/" target="_blank">Flash Player</a> to play this game.
Add Games to your own site More Flash Games!

And, come on the Scousers! If you beat Chelsea this week, all will be forgiven. Well, not all but, you know.

Love, Smithy x

28.4.10

Quirky Contestant Number 3!

How have you been coping without me? I hope you managed to keep the tears to a minimum. I'm sure you've missed me more than I've missed you.

I'd like to say that I've been taking a little break because my life is simply too filled with thrills, spills and automobiles to blog, but I don't like to lie to you. Truth is, I've been working as a double agent in order to infiltrate the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education and prevent what are believed to be grandiose and underhand schemes to make their English education programme the least-effective syllabus the world has ever seen. So far, I have failed in my task.

So, what have I been doing?

Well, I've taught the dog how to shake paws. I can't get him to lie down yet so I might skip that and just move on to teaching him how to make me a fucking cheese toastie.

"Make me a fucking cheese toastie, Maroo."

Shouldn't take too long.

The Korean blogosphere, now officially the largest and most pathetic group of self-important geeks the world has ever seen (of which I do not count myself a member, by the way), has been up in arms regarding a blog called Lousy Korea. It was removed by it's author this week following a number of death threats towards her and some of her users. Lousy Korea was a tongue-in-cheek look at the frustrations one faces as an expat in this country using quite graphic and crude language in order to get it's point across. Now, the girl lived in Korea and in fact extended her contract beyond the 12-months she originally signed on for, so she can't have hated the place that much. In fact, I think she's still here. But, as anyone who has lived here for any length of time knows, irony and sarcasm are not qualities celebrated, or even understood, in the ROK.

"Teacher, teacher, it's raining and cloudy today teacher!"
"Yes, lovely day isn't it?"
"Err..teacher...it's rainy and cloudy! You crazy teacher! You crazy!!"

Korean Rum Diary posted a long, drawn out and emotional post the other day where he bemoaned the loss of free speech in Korea and reiterated over and over again that Lousy Korea should be able to write whatever she wants without receiving death threats and that Koreans are to sensitive and stu......

It went on, believe me.

But yeah, of course she has the right to write what she likes. And yeah, Koreans are nationalistic and overly proud - nice observation. But the threats were made on an Internet forum. And you know who writes on Internet forums? Virgins. And you know who writes on forums like Korean Sentry, the English-language forum for people of Korean origin to vent their frustration against the evil white man? Korean virgins.

A death threat from them is like a declaration of war by Luxembourg.

The whole thing has been blown way out of proportion and can be used, I believe, as one more indication of how fucking boring life in Korea can be. That people actually care about a stupid little blog being removed because of a stupid little death threat by a stupid little Korean is shocking to me.

Lousy Korea was shit anyway. Not racist, not offensive. Just shit.

You want to see something truly offensive and, yes, maybe even a little racist? Allow me to show you a couple of stills I've stolen from a role-play video I've had to show a class of 6th graders from the chapter Where Are You From? I desperately wanted to show you the whole clip, but I am unable to extract it from the CD. I'm absolutely gutted, because the dialogue on these videos is simply too good to be true. You'll just have to take my word for it. I'm not making a single thing up. I swear.

The role-play is based around a talent show, where 3 different characters from 3 different countries have to come on to the stage and introduce themselves to the crowd. The first contestant is Korean.


Now, as you can clearly see, the Korean woman is being represented by a plasticine white man in a Hanbok. The host of the show, on the left with the microphone, is being played by Victoria Wood circa 1994.

Contestant number 2 is American. And what is the traditional outfit of the American woman?


Yes, that's right. The Gay Cowboy. This is the interview he gives to the American Gay Cowboy Woman Thing named Ann.

"Oh, you're from America, can you swim?"
"No, but I can play basketball."

What? How are those things related?? I am now going to make a point of asking every single American that I meet whether they can swim, and if they respond by saying that they can play basketball, I'm going to say, "Well, that's completely irrelevant" and throw them in the nearest pond and stand to the side, cackling, and screaming "Your basketball ain't gonna help you now, is it Ann??"

Finally, contestant number 3 is from Uganda. According to her interview, she is on her way to visit her uncle in Japan. This picture shown below is how the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education - the office for public school education in the capital city of the Republic of Korea - chose to represent the population of Uganda.


Now, unless I am mistaken, that lady is wearing a dress made from the skin of a Cheetah. She is also without shoes. Now, forgetting for a moment that this picture is demeaning, racist and condescending in the extreme...how the fuck is this woman getting to Japan?? She's not got any shoes! Are you trying to tell me that she's gone through the tricky administrative process required to obtain a passport, but she is manufacturing her clothing from the hides of dead cats?? And why has she got a black face but white arms and legs? Is she a minstrel?

The videos on this CD are certainly doing their job well, as long as that job is to make me laugh so hard that I have to take a change of underwear to school with me. I'm just not sure that any English is being learnt.

Love, Smithy x

20.4.10

Whoops!


It's always nice, from the other side of the world to see your home town making the headlines. I'm from Bury, a small town on the outskirts of Manchester, and we rarely make the papers beyond our flailing 2nd division football team and the odd reference to our 'world famous' Bury Black Pudding (you heard of it, world?).

It was something of a shock though, after I clicked a link labelled Testicle was cut off 'by mistake' to see that this took place at Bury's Fairfield Hospital! I was bloody born there! Although rumours that it was a mistake by the same surgeon that created my third, glittery testicle are unfounded.

Imagine going in for routine surgery and having one of your nuts chopped off. It doesn't bear thinking about, does it? Wasn't there a story about that on Scrubs once?

Anyway, before I go for 2-4-1 fish & chips with the missus (2-4-1 means 2 portions for 1 person, right?) I'll leave you with another awkward ESL video, maybe my favourite so far.

video

19.4.10

A Brief Moment of Perfection


I got very little sleep last night. Mylo decided my sleeping was unnecessary and proceeded to wander around the apartment, banging his stupid plastic cone against any surface he could find. He seemed to be searching for loud, rattling ones. My Canadian girlfriend didn't stir. At sometime around 3.30am she rolled over long enough to tell me, "I think he needs to go to the bathroom", which left me with two viable options - sulk or get up. I did both.

After observing that a rat had gnawed through our garbage bags and, in my coma-like state, allowing Mylo to piss all over my new Stan Smiths, I went back to bed and snatched a few hours rest. I hesitate to call it sleep.

I ghosted through my classes this morning - "Teacher, teacher! Panda eyes!" "Sit down, nobhead" - and am now tapping this blog out in that vaguely-stoned way you get after having nowhere near enough sleep. It reminds of me of when I used to write essays at Uni, pulling an all-nighter as I'd left it till the last minute. I'd work until dawn, chain-smoking and drinking tea, then somehow get to Uni and hand it in. Only difference is, I wasn't vaguely-stoned then.

I'm in a fairly shitty mood if you can't tell. We might have to give up Mylo after a visit from our landlady over the weekend. My plan to avoid this is to pretend that we didn't understand what she was saying and play the dumb cracker. Although, since she crossed her arms into an 'X' and said, loudly, "Dog! No!" I'm not sure how that's going to fly.

But life is about the little pleasures, right? Like, I've just been given a Dunkin' Donuts Americano for example. Completely out of the blue. It made me smile inside, and probably gave me another hour or so of consciousness. Excellent. And we're having fajitas for dinner tonight. Again, this is a good thing.

But sometimes, the stars align and create something so beautiful, so awe-inspiringly perfect that it makes my belly fizz. A sometime Atheist, it takes moments like these for me to give even the slightest consideration to the existence of God/Allah/Buddha and the rest of those guys. Today, I logged on to the BBC website, clicked onto what appeared to be an innocuous link, and experienced one of these truly religious moments. Only a supernatural force, beyond our human comprehension, could have engineered a situation whereby these simple words could be scrambled into the following, breath-taking sentence.
An Australian publisher has had to pulp and reprint a cook-book after one recipe listed "salt and freshly ground black people" instead of black pepper.
Hallelujah.

Love, Smithy x

18.4.10

Cranium, Cones and the tears of a C**t


My head hurts today. I blame Jim Beam. And soju. And shitty Korean beer. Last night we went to our favourite Korean BBQ restaurant with friends and grilled up a whole load of beef. Then we were still hungry so we grilled up a whole load of pork. It took me a while to come round to the idea of samgyupsal but now I'm fully converted. And this place does fantastic kimchi which, if placed at the end of the samgyupsal grill, collects all the pork fat and starts to fry in that juice, making it crispy and porky and delicious. Me and J-Mao have quite a taste for the soju so we threw at least 2 bottles of that down. To be honest my memory is a little hazy.

After the meal we came back to the flat (picking up a bottle of bourbon en route) to play Cranium. You know it? It's basically an amalgamation of a million different parlour games which, when combined with booze and cool people, is a lot of fun. Luckily, we had both of those things last night. In a room full of North Americans, I was flying solo as the lone Brit and I'd like to say that my extra level of culture gave me the edge in a closely-fought but thoroughly deserved victory. I'd like to say that. In reality though, I don't even think we finished the game.

What I do remember though, is having the United-City game on in the background as I was using a fully-grown Canadian male as a puppet to demonstrate the concept of robotics to Ken-deezy. You may have noticed a slightly defeatist tone to my previous blog regarding United's chances for the rest of the season. I couldn't see us getting a victory away at City considering our form and I certainly couldn't see Chelsea dropping the 4 points required for us to draw level with them at the top.

Well, even I can be wrong sometimes.

A dour, scrappy game at City ended with Paul Scholes - the planet's greatest living Ginger - nodding in the only goal of the game 3 minutes into injury time. Celebrations were muted because, as necessary as it is to keep reminding City of their secondary status, the result would mean nothing if Spurs couldn't do the goods for us against Chelsea.

But did they ever.

Spurs won 2-1 after a fantastic performance, and the gravy was provided by the sending-off of John 'The C**t' Terry. There is no more beautiful sight in the world than the unhappy face of a disgusting person. In fact, let's savour it for a moment.


Lovely stuff. That picture isn't even from yesterday's game but still, it's great to look at. I might get it framed.

So, the title race is wide open again. Chelsea are 1 point ahead and still have to play the scousers while we're away at Spurs next week to try and do what Chelsea couldn't. I'd obviously rather be in Chelsea's shoes - it is their title to lose - but this will go all the way to the last day of the season, I'm sure.

Finally, before I go, I'm sure you noticed that mutt in the above picture. No no, that's John Terry. The other picture. Well that's Mylo (I wanted to call him Plastic Cone but the Canadian was having none of it) a dog we've fostered from the local animal hospital . He looks like a fox with a weird curly tail and has to wear that ridiculous cone on his head as the poor lad has just had his nuts chopped off, but we've sort of fallen in love with him. Strict immigration laws in the UK (for dogs I mean, the door is wide open if you happen to be an eastern European rapist) mean that he'd have to undertake a 6 month quarantine on arrival so taking him with us isn't really an option. We'll be doing everything we can to find him a permanent home before we leave Seoul. It feels good to be doing even a little something to help the many poorly-treated and homeless dogs in Korea. I've posted a link on my sidebar to ARK, a fantastic charity that does so much to help a terrible situation.

If you're in Korea and have been considering a pet, give me a shout. He's a great dog.

Toodle-pip.

Love, Smithy x

15.4.10

News!

So, what's been happening on this filthy little planet of ours in the last week? Well, it would be impossible to ignore the earthquake that hit China yesterday, killing over 500 people and destroying the lives of many more. What an awful tragedy. An acquaintance of mine has recently moved to China so I kept my eye on this, although according to Google maps (which is fantastic by the way) he would appear to be quite far away from the epicentre. Is it me or are there more natural disasters happening recently? If you haven't seen the movie 2012 yet then I suggest that you do in order to get a quick insight into how our lives will unfold over the next few years. I'm not ready for the end of the world. I haven't skydived yet.

Barack Obama hosted a summit of the world's leaders to discuss rounding up all the 'loose' uranium in order to keep it away from all the baddies. From what I can understand, the most important deal to come out of this conference is the turning over of some of Canada's uranium to the United States. Yeah, great. I feel safer now. What are the peace-loving Canadians going to do with a load of uranium anyway? Once they worked out they couldn't smoke it, they were bound to hand it over to the US eventually. They probably traded it for a ounce of Cali-green and a bag of Cool Ranch chips.

Gordon Brown has announced that the General Election will be held on the 6th May. I haven't yet decided whether or not to go to the trouble of registering as an overseas voter. Mainly because I'm not sure if I'd vote even if I was in the country. I think the UK is going to shit and I'm worried for the future of my country, but I don't see a single person stepping up and saying what needs to be said. Brown's an idiot, David Cameron is a fucking idiot and I don't think that, yet, a Lib Dem vote is worth anything. I expect to see a Conservative government in place for the first time since I hit puberty, and I would not be surprised if the scumbags, racists and idiots rise up and spit their poisonous votes at the BNP. Back home, we need a complete revamp on our priorities, our beliefs and our politics and there is nobody standing for election who will offer that. It will be Prime Minister Cameron, mark my words, and the descent into chaos will continue unabated.

And finally, a quick word on United's results over the last week or so and how this leaves us for the rest of the season.

Fucked.

We crashed out of the Champions League - a two-leg defeat to Munich punctuated by a 2-1 loss at home to Chelsea -  and followed that up with a pathetic 0-0 draw at Blackburn that has left us 4 points behind Chelsea with 4 games to go. On Saturday we cross town to play City, a team who's current form is almost as strong as my hatred for them, and Chelsea are away at Spurs, who just beat local rivals Arsenal last night. We have to win all our remaining games (that aren't easy) and hope that Chelsea drop points. And they're ahead on goal difference. It's not looking good.

It's a strange thing being a United fan in your early (ish) 20's, because we have never known failure. I have never been aware of a time when United were not the most successful team in the country. My mum and dad, who grew up watching the Busby Babes of the late 60's, had to watch in horror as the team fell apart and descended into mediocrity, culminating in the previously unthinkable relegation to the old Division 2 in 1974. So, it can happen. And with the way things are - Fergie reaching the age where retirement or, I'm sad to say, death, are around the corner; the rise of the foreigner investment allowing sup-par teams like Chelsea and City the fast track to success; the huge debt that United are currently riddled with - I can see a time in the near future where this extended run of glory will come to an end and United will be another team fighting each season simply to stay in the Premiership and keep ticking over. A Tottenham Hotspur, an Aston Villa, or - god forbid - a Liverpool.

This is not a gross over-reaction to us failing to win the League this season - I know we can't win it every year - it is an observation of what is going on in modern-day football, and an acknowledgement that in the club's current situation, we are unable to compete. We can't pay the transfer fees of the top, top players and are relying on scouts to find us bargains. That's fine when you come up with a Cristiano Ronaldo, but that doesn't happen all the time. I hope I'm wrong, and that the club can find a way to evolve without selling it's soul like they've done at Stamford Bridge and Middle Eastlands.

But - and it breaks my heart to say it - I don't think it can.

Love, Smithy x

14.4.10

Tortilla Day!


As I've already noted, lunch at our school can be something of a disappointment. Mr Kriska and I have only opted out the one time, for a much-savoured Whopper actually, but we have wanted to on many occasions more. It's not that I don't like Korean food. There is some that I really enjoy. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Korean food that I like includes freshly barbecued meat, which is quite difficult to find in the staff room of an elementary school.

Because of this, our lunches generally consist of rice, a soup (watery, vaguely fish-flavoured) a questionable meat, a vegetable (normally an uncooked bit of bush) and shit kimchi. Kimchi is not all shit - some is actually very good - but this kimchi is shit. I dread lunch time most days. Never before has eating felt like such a simple refuelling exercise.

Except Wednesdays. Wednesday is known (by me alone) as Good Food Day. It's when we have something a little bit different from the norm. This has been known to include bibimbap, corn dogs, spaghetti and curry rice. Not exactly fit for a King, but certainly more enjoyable. For me at least.

Mr Kriska provided me with a menu the other day detailing the food we'd be eating over the next month or so. It's in Korean, obviously, and I immediately trawled through the Wednesdays to see what we could look forward to. I didn't recognise anything until I looked at Wednesday 14th. 치킨또띠아. I looked again. 치킨또띠아. I read it aloud to myself. Chi-kin-doh-dee-ah. Chi-kin-do-dee-ah. With a little manipulation, that could say Chicken Tortilla. I checked with Mr Kriska. He was reading it the same way.

Wednesday 14th April would be Tortilla Day.

Honestly, I'd prepared myself for a huge letdown because, after forcing down the world's most watery spaghetti and a corn dog with a sugar coating, I'd deduced that the school chef couldn't quite handle Western food.

What we received was a delight.

Now, these weren't Mexican food in any way, shape or form. What they were though were crispy pieces of breaded chicken with small, soft tortillas and a salad in a vaguely ranch-style dressing. Us pale-faces were allowed 2 of them. I can't tell you what a pick-me-up it is to eat some vaguely tasty food in the middle of the day after the slop I have to force down my neck on a daily basis. I feel great.

And Nigella Ontario is making her almond chicken tonight.

Yeahhhhhhhh baby!

I don't have lessons much over the next week or so, so I'd expect to be hit with some nonsense every day.

Tomorrow, News - United's Season is Over edition.

Happy Tortilla Day!

Love, Smithy x

8.4.10

Dementia is No Laughing Matter

I'm starting to feel like I don't know who/what/where I am. I got about 4 hours sleep last night and United lost. As Mr Kriska pointed out to me, maybe I shouldn't bother getting up since I seem to curse the result anyway. Doesn't matter now, there'll be no more 4am kick-offs since we're out of the Champions League.

Man...

Anyway, mustn't dwell. To cheer us all up, I have a couple more entries for the What the Fuck? award for most pointless ESL video. Want to see 'em?

video

Now, I was raised well, so that I know that it isn't nice to make fun of the mentally ill. Which is why I am so offended by this fat boy's impression of a handicapped. Who can't cut bread? Especially with a dagger! And why's he saying good morning to someone that has been stood behind him for 5 minutes? Although, I suppose, if it is a handicapped he's impersonating, they might not notice people stood less than a metre away. Oh, and what's that you say? You don't think it's fair I called him a fat boy? Well, check this out.

video

How old are you?! You great big cake-eating bastard! Look at how hard that boy's trying to stay balanced on that little scale as well. Poor lad's determined to push this impression through to the very end, isn't he? And that teacher's smokin'.

Before you go, why not check out a couple of blogs my friends are running? Seoul Sounds is a very cool blog ran by my mate Steve who is sampling different sounds from all over the city. Land of the Wired Anymores is run by a former navy seal and blood diamond exporter from North Carolina. He settled in Seoul after a run-in with the Nation of Islam and can now be found hanging around Taekwondo clubs, in blatant violation of a US-based order preventing him from being within 50m of them. Anyway, homie can doodle and his latest observation on his run-ins with the Kougars is quite amusing.

I'm going to take a nap before me and Mr Kriska go and drown the sorrows of our rice and soup lunch with half a fried pig and a few bottles of The Soje.

Love, Smithy x

United v Bayern Munich - As It Happens...














It's 3.46am. I just stumbled out of bed and banged my head on the wall.  I'm going to try something a bit different and talk you through the game as it happens. I'm half-dead so I apologise in advance. United are down 2-1 from the first leg albeit with a vital away goal scored by King Rooney before he injured himself. We'll be without him for this game. We need to score.

After turning on the TV I saw Rooney's bald little face and, in my zombie-like confusion, thinking they were showing a replay (not an unusual presumption considering my past experience with Korean broadcasters) skipped through the other sports channels. It was during this time that United scored through Darren Gibson, deftly set up by Rooney himself. He's playing. After Fergie said that he had 'no chance' of playing. An amazing piece of acting. The Munich manager must be furious. 1-0 United. 2-2 with the away goal. Munich have to score.

It was while typing that paragraph that I looked up just in time to see Nani 'do a Ronaldo' and score with a little flick behind his left leg into the far post. Great ball from Valencia, great finish from the little Portuguese and just like that, 6 minutes in, it's 3-2 on aggregate. Still, one goal from Munich would make it exactly level including away goals. No time for a party yet.

Paddy Evra just went through the back of recently-returned-from-injury-ex-Chelsea-slaphead-should-have-chosen-United-Arjen Robben. As much as I applaud the physical assault of any Chelsea player, past or present, this opens the door for Rooney getting a kicking.

Rooney is limping. England fans will be plotting to kill Fergie. He has to come off. He can't run. On a lighter note, Evra just flattened Robben again and baldy don't like it.

The Germans don't look at all dangerous going forward. Evra's having a blinder marking Robben and The World's Ugliest Man is getting no joy with young Rafael down our right. Rooney looks a bit better. Readers should be aware that Rooney is machine - not man - and as such does not heal at the same rate as us mere mortals.

Out of sheer stubbornness to make my purchasing of QOOK TV worthwhile I am refusing to connect my computer and instead am watching this on Korean TV. The commentary baffles me. It is obviously mostly in Korean but the odd verb is screamed out in Konglish. So if you listen carefully you can hear "shooting!", "crossing!" "punching!" "heading!" So annoying! Why doesn't someone point out to them that it's "header!" not "heading!" And Vidic is not "Vidichy". I may put English commentary on at half time.

Little Rafael da Silva just narrowly missed a good chance. I've always loved a good full back and him and his twin brother Fabio are certainly good full backs. If it weren't for us having the best left back in the world already in Paddy Evra (Cashley, who?) I'm sure we'd have seen a lot more of the two of them together. We will in the future I'm sure.

Edwin van De Sar is a beast. All goalkeepers have to be completely mental and he just took a kick to the face saving that. Not the best defending by United there.

3-0! Valencia with another fantastic run to the by-line and a teasing cross misses Rooney and runs through to Nani who delivers a very difficult finish into the roof of the net. Amazing.

Before I could stop my silent celebrating and knock that paragraph out the little Croat Olic sneaked through a snide little finish across the front of Van de Sar. Robben comes close soon after and the momentum is clearly with the Germans. The half-time whistle goes and not one minute too soon.

United 4 - 3 Munich on aggregate. Only one German goal away from heartbreak. This game's far from over. It's 4:36am. I'm getting a cup of tea.

Okay, here we go. 4.47am and the second half is kicking off. Decided against a brew as I might try and get back to sleep after the game. Doubt it though. This has the possibility of being the most nerve-wracking 45 minutes I've watched in a long time.

Rafael's just been sent off. What the hell for? Am I missing something? Where was the foul?? The World's Ugliest Man is a cheating bastard. And he's fucking French.

Rooney off, John O'Shea on. Had to be done to shore up the defence. Nani's having an absolute blinder, his best game in a United shirt. I think he will decide the outcome here. 34 minutes left and we can't concede. Because I can't see us scoring.

The replay of the sending off suggests there was a tug by Rafael. I stand by my cheating French bastard comment. Just not on that occasion.

I've swapped over onto the laptop now and connected it to the TV so I'm watching on Setanta through Veetle. The jury is out on whether the Setanta commentary in English is more or less annoying than the Korean one. Just faced the wrath of the Canadian by sneaking back to the bedroom to steal her computer.

She said, "Mmmmeh".
I said, "3-1 darling. Bayern are one away-goal from going through".
She said "Mmmmeh".

21 minutes of defending left.

Switched back to the telly as Veetle failed and I realised it was a good 30 seconds behind the live footage. I'm speaking to people in England and I can't risk finding something out on Skype before it happens on the TV.

Robben has scored for Munich.

To be honest, it was coming and at least it's happened now rather than later. Robben was taken off immediately after scoring and Berbatov is warming up. We need to get some possession and start bombarding their goal like they've been bombarding ours. 13 minutes to score or we're out of the Champions League on away goals.

Berbatov on for Carrick. Giggs on for Gibson.

It's times like this that I'm glad I don't have the English commentary. If I heard 'United have 10 minutes to win this' or 'it's squeaky bum time' I'd throw something at the TV.

Do United know that we're out if we don't score? 10 minutes and not one real attempt on goal. 3 minutes of injury time left.

Now's the time to play Kick a Frenchman with Ribery's face. The German fans are going mental. Not seen so many bouncing mullets since...I don't know I'm too pissed off to finish that joke.

Game over. Our 'dream draw' in the Champions League proved false as we fell to a German team we should have destroyed. We paid for conceding soft goals in both legs and missed Rooney at 100% tonight. Only a Chelsea slip-up can hand us any chance of glory this season.

The Koreans are playing a Nickelback song over a montage of highlights from the game.

Time to get an hour sleep before work.

Gutted.

Love, Smithy x

6.4.10

News!

Welcome to your weekly dose of news, brought to you from a tiny office in a noisy school in central Seoul.

The iPad is here and with it the inevitable iNeed propaganda from Apple. Man, I want one so bad. I didn't think I would, but I do. Maybe I'm just a sucker for Apple marketing. I lay in bed at night watching those little videos on the Apple website. I honestly believe that my life would be improved if I went out and spend the $500 on one. But I suppose that's the nature of capitalism. I sometimes like to paint myself as anti-capitalist but when it comes down to it, I esentially read No Logo once and that's it. That's the top and tail of it. I like to have stuff as much as the next guy. And I'll be buying a 2nd generation iPad. The 1st generation isn't quite up to scratch.

To top off a rough week on the oceans for South Korea after the explosion of a naval ship near the border with North Korea, they had an oil tanker with a $100m cargo hijacked by Somali pirates yesterday. Nightmare. Apparently, due to the nature of the cargo it would be unsafe to attempt to take the ship by force, so it looks like there will be a ransom paid by the American owners of the cargo who were using the Korean ship to transport it back from Iraq. I say good. Get the ransom paid asap. Get the Korean-Filipino crew home safely. And make the American Government pay over the odds for the oil they are pillaging during an illegal, bloody war.

I saw an item on the news last night about Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic program and how they'll be starting testing soon. $200,000 a ticket? I'd pay it if I had it. I wouldn't be on the first flight though like Branson's kids are. Or the second. Or the third for that matter. In fact, I think I'd wait until the fifth flight and it's been proven that you can't just float off into nothingness before I trusted Mr Branson with my life. And then I'd pay the 200 grand. That I don't have.

A Japanese man has been executed in China for smuggling 'stimulant drugs'. What are 'stimulant drugs'? Who wants to buy 'stimulant drugs' in Japan? Strange. And, once again, the tricky issue of the death penalty is being debated the world over. The Chinese are certainly not alone in their use of it, but they are suspected by Amnesty International of executing thousands of people every year. And not even for violent crimes. How does a drug dealer receive a state execution? How does anyone? My personal view is that a state has never got the right to inflict death on a person, no matter what they have done. I don't think a state can ever inflict that sort of violence on another individual and then realistically expect the society which it governs to behave in any other way than violently. I believe that capital punishment is barbaric and antiquated and that, one day soon, we will look back with shame and wonder how it was ever part of the constitution of 'civilised' countries like China and the United States. At least I hope so.

And, in other news, Mr Wonderful has told me to go fuck myself. You're a sensitive boy, aren't you Mr Wonderful? Choosing to ignore the multiple compliments I bestowed on you and throwing your toys out of the pram because I called you sad?

Do you want a cuddle, Mr Wonderful?

Love, Smithy x

5.4.10

Does a Blog a Blaggard Make?


Any criticism of a blog or blogger coming from someone who maintains a regular blog will automatically scream of hypocrisy. I am readily aware of that.

There are some people out there who take themselves very, very seriously though aren't there? I shall call you people bloggards.

And guess what, dear reader? Since there are a great quantity of blaggards living in Korea, the chance of encountering a bloggard becomes greatly increased.

I follow 3 of the so-called K-Blogs. These are An Idiot's Tale, Korean Rum Diary and Blackchild in Kimchiland. I follow them because they make me laugh and I find them interesting. KRD and Blackchild do very little other than bitch and whine about Korea and the way they are treated by Koreans which I find quite amusing. Blackchild's claim that he is "the only Black person within fifty miles in any direction" makes for a rather interesting take on his surroundings. He doesn't post enough though.

The most fascinating of these 3 bloggers is Mr Wonderful, either a psychiatrist's wet dream or a cleverly constructed character, who is the voice of An Idiot's Tale. He posts 3 times a day at least, and each will have a breakdown of his mundane and unvaried life. He is married to a Korean ("The Dragon Lady") with whom he has two kids ("The Children of the Rice") and refers to his mother-in-law as "The Queen Elephant". Koreans are "Mongols", Soju is "Toad Juice" and he chronicles his increasingly futile attempts to learn the "fiendish Mongol tongue". I find these anecdotes (if that's what they are) hilarious. He writes in short, simple sentences, often repeating the same jokes again and again and flips between self-deprecation "this piece of shit blog" and grandiose bragging "I look dazzling in a suit".

The problem with old Mr Wonderful - old, alcoholic, friendless Mr Wonderful - is that his blog is clearly the most exciting thing in his life and he is becoming a little detached from reality as a result. He claims to get 1000 hits a day, which is fairly impressive, but he is using these numbers to fuel an already inflated ego. He is going around criticising other bloggers like anybody actually gives a shit. There's a dude called Brian Deutsch or something who I was vaguely aware of before Mr Wonderful picked up on him. He's a wannabe journalist I believe who got very involved in the expat scene and maintained a blog that was the go-to page on teaching and living in Korea. Poor old Brian took himself very seriously though, and Mr Wonderful jumped on him. He is now known as Blian Goldenballs and, along with fellow Mr Wonderful-christened K-Bloggers Clissy Snowfrake and Joey Kimchi-Dick, gets ridiculed on a fairly basis. It's all light-hearted fun. 

But I will say one thing.
Mr Wonderful is in danger of turning what was once a hugely entertaining, informative and hilarious blog into a boring piece of shit that makes him look like the saddest man alive. So the other guys are losers who can't get laid and take themselves too seriously - well done for pointing that out. But you're the one getting your knickers in a twist about what they say about you. Nobody cares! People read your page for a laugh. So make people laugh.

But anyway. The reason I was posting. I received an award yesterday, my second actually, and I wanted to make a little comment on it that will inevitably make me look like an arse. Postman said it very well here, but he is more of a gentleman than I. Let me try and not sound like a knobhead.

I don't see the point in these awards. I don't think anyone should be particularly flattered about receiving credit that you have to give. For example, the conditions of my receiving an award from Mashlip (who has a pretty good blog by the way) would be that I have to give it out to 5 other people or something. But I don't want to. I don't follow 5 blogs worth rewarding. Maybe 3. And if I gave one to Mr Wonderful I'm sure I know where he'd tell me to stick it.

So, basically what I'm saying is thanks very much for the award, Mashlip and I'm really pleased you found my blog.

But, if you don't mind, I won't be passing it on.

Love, Smithy x

3.4.10

New Look!

I took some precious time out from watching The Wire to give this blog a bit of a spring clean. There was a lot of wasted space so I made it wider, and I don't think you could really enjoy the curves of my calf in the picture so I made that bigger for you, dear reader.

Do me a favour yeah? Click that survey on the right and tell me what you think. If you hate it, I'll change it back. If you don't give a shit, then tell me!

Love, Smithy x

2.4.10

Korean Immunity


After over 18 months of living in South Korea, I guess I am becoming slightly immune to the weird and wonderful ways of the people. When I came back from Thailand, I was shocked by how much it felt like coming home. Of course, it is not home, and it never will be, but I feel extremely comfortable here. Even if things annoy the hell out of me at times.

When I think back to how I was when I first arrived in Geoje all those months ago, naive, confused and scared shitless, I feel like a completely different person. Whilst I'm sure I make social faux-pas on a regular basis, I think I am starting to understand how things work.

I have been given two pieces of advice that have helped me throughout my time here and I would not hesitate to pass these on to any newbies in this country.

The first came from the other native teacher at my school, Mr Kriska. He told me early on to keep my head down and not draw attention to myself. He was right. We have a very odd existence at work where we teach our classes and interact with our fellow teachers but have very little to do with the Principal or Vice-Principal or any of the upper echelon in our school. And this suits us just fine, because we have found ourselves having extra vacation days here and there due to us being completely under the radar. We just smile, bow, play the game and do our own thing and I'd advise anybody else in my position to do the same.

The other piece of advice came from Mr Wonderful, the quite hilarious writer of An Idiot's Tale, a blog that puportes to be about living and teaching in Korea but is actually so much more than that. One of his mantras is 'don't get involved in Mongol bullshit. You can't win'. That is so, so true. You can't change the way these people are. We are outsiders in a very close-knit and introspective society and nothing that we do really matters anyway. So sometimes, if not most of the time, you just have to suck it up and get on with things. Korean society and the rules that govern it will very often seem completely bizarre to the average Westerner, but it is their society and they ain't gonna bend for us.  Either live with it, or go home.

Which is why, when I was told by a colleague earlier today that 'we have to go outside and pretend to clean the school for a picture,' I just smiled to myself, rolled back my chair and strolled outside.

Ah, Korea. You strange little country.

Have a nice weekend, and Happy Easter to you all,

Love, Smithy x

1.4.10

Don't Do That!

When I first came to Korea, in May of 2008, I had never taught a single thing to anybody in my entire life. In fact, my teaching experience amounted to 2 weeks spent at Tottington South Primary School when I was 13 years old. If I remember rightly, the best part of that experience were the jacket potatoes with cheese and beans I'd eat round my mate Square's house at lunchtime. He has a square head, in case you're wondering.

I was thrown into the classroom within 72 hours of my landing, with 10-12 little Korean kids looking up at me expectedly and not a clue what I was supposed to do. I played hangman with them for about a month.

I still have no teacher training. I don't have a TEFL qualification, I certainly don't have a PGCE and I even skipped out on the week's orientation at the start of my contract. The difference now though, is that I teach in an actual Public School! I have 30-some kids in my class! I'm a proper bloody teacher! And I don't know shit!

It's this lackadaisical attitude to employing native teachers that will be Korea's downfall, I'm sure. There will come a time when they realise that employing unqualified nobheads straight out of Uni is not conducive to learning, but that time has not yet come. There is a lot more to be said on this matter, but now is not the time or the place. There are more pressing matters at hand.

The poor level of English speaking in this country cannot be blamed solely on the lack of quality teachers, although that is the main reason. The materials that we use are also quite appalling. We have books with the most useless language I've ever seen and songs that make you want to jump out of the window.

And then there are the videos. Oh, the videos. They are awkward - beautifully awkward - poorly acted, terribly dubbed and use the most mundane dialogue that a true native speaker would never use. They are hilarious.

Bet you wish you could watch one, right? Well here's your lucky day.

I've stolen, for your viewing pleasure, my favourite videos of the school year so far. While you're watching these, just remind yourself that I have to teach them to 30+ kids at the time, and try and get them to take them seriously.

Okay, here's the first one -

video

Now, there are a few things I like about this. First of all, Jinho (who is the main character throughout my Grade 5 and 6 books and, despite him being a child, deserves to be run down by a truck for having such a stupid face) is dressed up like Prince in his Boy Scout days and, despite supposedly being Korean, speaks with a US accent. Cindy, an unfortunate young girl, appears to be mentally disabled - perhaps blind - and is an Australian with an American accent. Also, I find it rather odd that her first question after meeting a strange boy for the first time is "Where is your room?" and that she then smiles in that breathless, manic way when she finds out it's on the same floor as hers. I detect poor parenting.

Here's the next one -

video

If I was that lad I'd have turned to that chick and given her a piece of my mind.

"Oh, it's small? Is that all you've got to say? I just saved up my pocket money for 2 months to take you to the zoo and all you can say is "Oh it's fucking small"?? I'm leaving. Good day!"

Here's another -

video

Okay, I want you to listen very carefully to what the little Aryan girl, Ann, says both times she asks the question. Go on, listen again. I'll wait.

Done?

I think you'll find she says, "Excuse me, sir. Is this DERRRR nelson building?" What the hell is that?? I had 90 different kids ask me, "Teacher, what does she say?" and I had to say, "Well, child, she has a mental breakdown, says DERRRR in the middle of a sentence and then carries on her day." The second guy clearly notices because if you look closely, he turns to a mate who's stood in the upstairs window, and subtly - but accurately - calls Ann a wanker.

I've saved the best for last -

video

So, she looks at a picture of some corn - she looks at a picture of a woman - she looks at a picture of a golfer - she wants to go shopping. Okay, I can vaguely get my head around that. But her husband's bloody mental! Look at him! He's tapping his foot despite there being no music on, he's staring vacantly into space and then leans in to about 3 inches from his wife's face to ask her "when"? And then, when he tells her he can't tomorrow (without divulging the truth that he has a rendezvous with a young boy from work in a love motel tomorrow) he waves at someone. Who you wavin' at, guy? And why is there a stormtrooper in the air conditioning unit? And what the fuck is so funny about Sunday? I think that chick needs to get out of that marriage and go marry a corn farmer or something because her husband looks like he was the product of his dad and his auntie, if you know what I mean.

So basically, my point is, if Korea insists on employing morons like me, and giving them CDs full of bullshit like this, how are the future generations of Koreans supposed to have any chance when it comes to speaking English?

Don't do that, Korea!

Love, Smithy x

N.B. I have not got permission to use any of the videos that I have used in this blog. I am sure I have broken copyright law and blah blah blah...does anybody care? I am raising awareness here. So take that, The Man!