Sunday, 22 January 2012

Happy Lunar New Year

I missed out on New Year's Resolutions to write more often and keep in touch more regularly and here in Korea, one gets a second chance with the Lunar (Chinese) New Year which is today.

Nothing interesting to say about today's breakfast, sorry (muesli, Tesco Blueberry Wheats -catchy title - and banana), although I do have a couple of pictures from our Christmas holiday in the Philippines which fit the bill. This first one was my first course from an extensive buffet at the Marco Polo Plaza in Cebu City. I couldn't resist the the multi-coloured cereal and the wide range of dried fruit. The tea in this place, despite it's 4 stars, was diabolical!

We had an interesting time in the Philippines - despite having the Rough Guide, I singularly failed to read any background stuff, I failed to ask amongst lots of friends and colleagues for recommendations about where to stay etc and consequently I was surprised by the poverty we saw in Cebu City and frustrated by the lack of 'sites' and 'history' to explore, as well as disappointed by some of the places I had booked us in to. The variable weather also put paid to beach style activities such as sunbathing, snorkelling and drinks infront of sunsets. However, and I must stress this, we both had a relaxing holiday during which we both read alot and grew fonder and fonder of all things Filipino. By the time we were flying back to Korea, I was wistfully examining (if that is not an oxymoron) the mountains of the northern islands and planning a more adventurous return journey.

This second breakfast photo was taken at a resort on Panglao island which Asia Rooms said it had booked us in to but Yves, the Swiss owner, said it hadn't and they were full. He kindly offered us food and more importantly beer and we slept on his sofas with the mosquitoes. Yves (out of guilt for having cocked things up, I suspect) organised somewhere else for us to stay and a trip around Bohol so all was forgiven if not quite forgotten. This breakfast was scrambled eggs with toast (which is always a special treat breakfast in our house) but this one had added chocolate cake and a lovely cuppa. It was here that i finished my Kate Atkinson (Brodie no.4) book - never underestimate the power of a good book to help one rise above the petty irritations of life. She was a godsend and the book appears in the photo (now a photo of a Kindle would just not bring back the same memories would it?) I also sampled the delights of tea with Calamansi juice (sweet little limes) I drank it when i was seriously flagging and losing the will to live and it single-handedly revived my spirits and ability to cope. That sums up the Philippines for me, the rough with the smooth, the ups and the downs - altogether memorable. We ended our trip on a high - an afternoon and evening with friends in a bar called Magellan's Landing - i knew the history would feature somewhere.(Magellan's Ending would be a more appropriate name - it was very close to where he met his demise at the hands of a disgruntled native)

The best bit of our Xmas/New Year holiday was having a week to laze about at home in Busan (coming back from our holiday, we really did feel glad to be 'home' - late mornings and sunny afternoons in the flat - sun streaming in and pottering about. Freezing cold temperatures outside but we finally managed to work out how to achieve underfloor warmth after a prolonged process of trial and error with the heating/water controls. I have always been quite blase (blahzay - can't work out how to find acute accents) about pressing buttons and hoping for the best which is just as well because it seems to be the only way to get things to work here.

Winter here is not the grey, wet, miserable affair it can be at home. Days are bright, sunny, cold (around freezing) but most importantly, dry! Very dry - a humidifier is needed and copious amounts of moisturiser. It is cold enough for a mini ski resort very near Busan to make its own snow so last weekend we skied up and down a few short runs and said over and over - we can't believe we're skiing and only an hour away from home! Brilliant. Of course we now want more, so looking into going further afield. We will be skiing during the February break up in Yeongpyeong - which will be hosting the Winter Olympics in 2018.

The photo on the right shows the bright sunshine of Winter that highlights colour and brightens up life in general. My only gripe is that my classroom at school does not face the sun during school hours and so going to work at 7.30 in the morning feels like going somewhere dark. I've taken to leaving school as early as i can so i can race home and catch the sun before it sinks below the horizon. Every time i do this, i imagine what my Dad would say - he was always very disapproving of the 3.30 finishers - but now i know that if one sees something as being essential to one's well-being, just bloody go ahead and do it and be damned. With age comes wisdom on such matters! I have to add that school in every other respect is so far removed from the teaching experience at home that I am enjoying it and love teaching small groups of children to acquire and use more English.

I have signed up for the Haeundae Half-marathon in an effort to motivate myself to get out running more. I was feeling quite positive about this endeavour as i have 2 months to get my distance and stamina levels up. However, it turns out that it goes up a hill so that changes the challenge somewhat. But it moves things forwards so i will not back out. After all, what goes up must come down, so that will be something to look forward to. This is me in winter running gear - imagine gloves and a scarfy thing for the complete look. I have long since ceased worrying about what i look like running, just as well!

Well, I'm glad I've made the effort to write - it is nice to sit down and think about our experiences here in a summarising kind of way. I have mentioned 'home' a few times and not in the context of the UK(although in conversation here i use the word home, meaning the UK, all the time) I do feel at home in Busan (Bob thinks we should call it Pusan as it sounds more interesting, Pusan Perimeter etc) Nearly 6 months in and i feel very well settled. We now have friends, not just colleagues and the christmas party before the hols was great for feeling seasonal warmth towards them. Wishing people a Happy Christmas and a good holiday and giving them hugs at the end of term made me feel like I belonged and that i really cared about this group of people. But I am missing the hugs and good times with friends back 'home' too and so next Christmas will be spent in a cottage on the Gower, with friends, family, grey skies, rain, turkey, hugs and merriment galore. It's an emotional journey, coming to live so far away. And i love journeys of all kinds.
Happy New Year to all my friends and loved ones. And if you're not on Facebook - make it a new year's resolution to get on it so you can hear all the in between bits of news too! X

1 comment:

  1. I did write this on 23rd but the blog must think i am in the UK? hence the wrong date. RL

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