Saturday, 21 April 2012

Hugs and kisses for Easter and panettone on the KTX

The great visit from home has occurred - it was wonderful, and now I have what's left of our Spring holiday to reflect on the past month or so.
Seeing Busan through the eyes of Mum and David made us fall in love with the city all over again - we had a fantastic time; saw new sights, explored fresh wandering grounds, went up to the big city and ate new things, of course!

These little shots of chocolate were all that could be mustered for Easter morning treats - the cadbury chocolate egg came courtesy of my friend and colleague, Mandy, whose husband works in Hong Kong. The Hersheys 'Hugs' and 'Kisses' were my last minute purchase in an effort to make Easter what it has always been in our house - an excuse to eat chocolate!

The other great breakfast we enjoyed while the visitors were in town was Panettone from the Ops bakery which we (mainly, I) scoffed on the KTX once we had joined the train at Gupo. I kept my cool as we travelled to the station by metro and the minutes ticked away - we arrived on the platform with 5 minutes to spare, much to my relief, having assured everyone that we really didn't need to leave the house until 8.20 (even though i'd never been to the station at Gupo before). Why am i pathologically incapable of leaving plenty of time to get anywhere? I'm serious, i want to know why. I wish I'd known about the Panettone before Xmas but I'm glad the Ops bakery is not on our doorstep as, by now, I would be the size of a house if it were!

Spring arrived on cue at the same time as Mum in the form of pale pinkish white cherry blossoms and on Easter Sunday we joined the throngs and strolled beneath the trees on Moon Tan road in Dalmagi. Everyone had a smile on their face; it was warm, it was sunny and the promise of more heat and light, longer days and the fertile growth of flowers (and no doubt, chillies) made everyone cheerful (apart from the drivers stuck in the tailbacks - why does anyone think cherry blossoms look better from inside a car?) We had coffee over-looking the blossom, the people, the light-houses at Cheongsapo and the sea beyond and felt very contented. (Mocha flavored coffee, naturally)
Lots of our colleagues were traveling around Japan and South East Asia, but I'm so glad we were in Busan at this time. We've experienced Winter here and so naturally, Spring is all the sweeter in the place we got so cold.

We showed off our school to Mum and David - we have definitely taken for granted the great facilities and it made us realize just how lucky our students are to have such a pleasant environment to learn in. My classroom plant was in full bloom and i was glad I had seen it like this - shame it couldn't have been in term time.

School has been going well, 2nd term finished and we are well and truly speeding towards the end of our first year. The PYP people from the International Baccalaureate Organisation came to visit to check we are preaching the good gospel of Inquiry and the Learner Profile and saw that it was good. They managed to ruffle more than a few feathers along the way and seemed to forget such qualities as empathy and respect in their quest for evidence and IBO knowledge. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! After a little word in their ears, they softened and became more human and by the time they observed my lesson, they were all sweetness and light.

That leads me (i wonder why?) to our visit to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) with Mum and David. It was fascinating and atmospheric, due to the fog that took most of the morning to lift - by the time we reached the Dorasan Observation area only a thin line of mist hung in the valley between the previously tallest flagpole in the world and its South Korean counter-part (such childishness - the escalation in height of each one). I saw people going about their business on bicycles which evoked a past world that was simple and uncomplicated. It is far from that in reality but this short (bali, bali - hurry up in Korean) glimpse really caught my imagination - so little is really known about how people in North Korea live and feel, it made me want to see more. The North Koreans had, a few days earlier, launched a rocket, a satellite they claimed, and it had crashed into the Yellow Sea. The chosen few are allowed to spy on the rest of the world and know all about what's going on around them, but the people are denied this right to broaden their horizons. I hope that changes one day soon, but until the Sunshine policy of openness and cooperation returns, the fog looks like staying a little longer along this border.

fishermen in Mokpo doing something with nets - folding,
checking for holes?
We have been broadening our circle of exploration since the last post. We went to Mokpo in the south west, for the long-awaited first game of the season for our National League Football team, the mighty Busan Transportation Corporation Football Club (our Gimme a B chant goes on for minutes on end and is what first endeared me to this team's happy and loyal band of expat supporters). It's another seaside place so we went armed with beach related attire in the true spirit of away game fancy dress - although to be honest we weren't really big enough in our ambitions to make a real splash or impression on the good citizens of Mokpo, whose mayor (possibly) found it most bemusing - especially when he heard us shout Busan Fighting! after having his photo taken with us. It was a goaless, lifeless, draw with little incident and the sunny seaside feel gave way to arctic conditions. We eventually found a bar downtown and continued to drink away the chill. While Bob succumbed to the worst headache and throwing up bug he had ever experienced, i joined my non-welsh fellow fans in search of a bar that would show the Wales v Italy game. We found Lemon soju which was an excellent alternative to the kiwi soju we had asked for, and as consolation for not finding the match on anywhere, my BTC fellow fans spoke with flawless welsh accents all evening and played Tom Jones and the Manics on the jukebox non-stop - truly a touching gesture. Following this, at home games, we have persuaded the BTC to play at least one Jones the Voice track at half-time.  We sing Delilah if it's not on the list.

                                                                                                                                           I don't need to say how much i enjoyed watching Wales win the 6 nations, needless to say I wish I'd been there! Thanks to Russ for posting pictures of St Mary St through the day - i could almost smell the beer in the air!

Bob went to Thailand on a Maths course - he made a long weekend of it and really enjoyed himself by all accounts. I think he learned a bit more about Maths too! His colleague taught him how to use our big camera properly and his photos of Seoul really show what a difference a little knowledge can make!
Bob saw lovely things in Thailand!
I ran a half-marathon while Bob was living it up in Bangkok.  

Changing of the guard at Deoksu Palace, Seoul

In other news…we've been to a couple of classical concerts;  eaten gorgeous food at a colleague's flat for our monthly Science dept. roast dinner, rounded off with cheese and the most delicious single malt, Octomore;  i've tried egg cakes - little cakes with an egg in them;  visited Gyeongju (will tell you about it another time - when we go back, probably);  travelled by bus which was easy, efficient and cheap - will do again;  drunk Margharitas at Thursday Party (on a thursday) in Gwangalli Beach with our honored guests;  dined at the Westin Chosun buffet for David's 60th and bought a pair of bright pink, sexy boyfriend-cut jeans from the Gap and took them back a week later! Somethings never seem to change but I'm hoping that with the Spring, the Sunshine policy may return and some things may just change a little.

Another palace in Seoul

A beer in Seoul Station
Soulmates in Haeundae

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