Monday, 17 September 2012

Whether the weather be hot...

It has been an eventful few months since I last wrote, but i'm not going to apologise for the gap in service as I managed to catch up with all (most) of my nearest and dearest during the longest holiday I have had in nearly 10 years, so you're all pretty much up to date. Just thought I'd record my thoughts about the Summer, leaving, seeing Blighty and returning to Busan.

Term ended after a flurry of busy weekends.

Firstly a  temple stay in Golgulsa near Gyeongju, that was great, so much better than the last one. It was situated in a beautiful, peaceful, wooded valley, with a giant, old, stone carved Buddha situated at the top of the steep path, smiling approvingly over all the activities going on below in his name. The highlights were a talk with a monk about why he became a monk and a 90 minute workout doing Sunmudo, a zen martial art that made me sweat a lot! Another notable moment was when I arrived at morning meditation at (just after) 4am, having walked very quickly up a very steep hill, i proceeded to drip sweat all over my prayer mat every time I touched my forehead to it when bowing. I did not feel like a contented, calm Buddhist at that point. In fact, at no point did I feel like a Buddhist, or even inclined to become one. I felt that living in the moment and denying desire for anything in the future is just really opting out of society with all its difficulties and complexities. Good philosophy for a short break from the madness of the world and everyday life though, I recommend it.


We also had the last Science Department 'Roast' of the year which was a BBQ on our roof. It was a glorious day and a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon - watching the sun go down. Nobody else in the building seems to use the roof so i think of it as my own, private space. We will have to use it more this year, the only problem being it is a bit of a trek down to the loos on the 26th floor . It has been a regular retreat of mine for reading on a sunny day and catching some rays (of which there were plenty before we broke up for hols.)

As mentioned last entry, I did turn up to a football match between the foreign supporters of the BTC and the Korean supporters. However, I ended up having to play due to a mix up over whether or not the game was going ahead which meant a couple of players dropped out. It was the longest 15 minutes of football I have ever experienced. Not having played a game since my Edmonton County days, ie a long time ago, I was not only lacking in foot / ball coordination but had no speed or stamina. Our opponents were very good to us and kept their lead to single figures. It was a hot day that had started with frustration but which happily ended with the drinking of beer in the sunshine and a decent curry afterwards.


International Open day at school was great fun - our stall had scones, welsh cakes, bara brith, scottish tablet (mmm) and a proper high tea. We also ran a knobbly knees competition and our Samba band played its first public performance. All in all it was a wonderful day, rounded off with a tearful goodbye to 2 colleagues who were about to retire. I always find retirement speeches moving, but these 2 staff had been teaching in International schools around the world for up to 40 years and their wisdom and experience will be greatly missed by the school.

The end of term was a hectic time and it was sad on the last day to be saying goodbye to colleagues who we had grown close to over the last year. Some were leaving to go home, some to go abroad and one or two were moving on within Korea. No doubt we will keep in touch with them and hopefully see a lot of them again. But strangley, it was just as difficult to say goodbye to colleagues who we would see again in 7 weeks time. Colleagues and friends become a big part of your lives when you are far from what you used to call home.

We eventually got to the end of term and ran out of time for doing anything else, and then it was time to go on holiday to see our friends in Jakarta. We packed a lot in to the 10 days we were on Java and during that time, never had Korea and Indonesia been compared and contrasted so thoroughly. We owe a lot to Chris and Lisbeth as it is their path we have followed into teaching abroad. We hadn't seen them for 3 years but the intervening time soon fell away as it always does. Skype, Facebook and email have a lot to do with how easily we can pick back up with friends.

Then it was onwards, home to the UK. We had a wonderful time seeing family and friends and reacquainting ourselves with the beauty of the countryside and visiting places we had never been before. We were told repeatedly that the weather this Summer had been truly dreadful and we tried not to smugly reply that we didn't mind because we had had lovely weather in Busan and Java, thank you very much. The sun took its hat off for us and made the UK look beautiful - we even did swimming and sunbathing on beaches in Pembrokeshire! (the sea was bloody freezing mind you.) We told people as much or as little as they wanted to know about our time in Korea, and sometimes that really was quite little! I feel sorry for those who we saw later in our trip as by then, we really had had enough of talking about it and were beginning to bore ourselves. It was great to see family in Wales and Scotland and most of our friends in between - sorry to those we missed - please keep in touch!

Nearing the end of our long holiday in Blighty, we were really beginning to miss our other home, Busan and felt we really should have returned earlier. Having said that, we could have no regrets about leaving it so late to return because one of the highlights of our holiday was watching Squeeze play at Cropredy and finally getting to see Richard Thompson who we had heard so much about (Sal!)

We left sunny Cropredy (where, honestly, at times it had been too hot!) and began our long journey back to a rainy Korea. We were back at school the day following our return flight - i have never really suffered with jet lag before but this time it hit me for six and i was in a daze until the Thursday of our first week back. We had really missed out on meeting the new staff (although part of me had been dreading meeting so many new people) and we are still making up for lost time.

Since being back, we have had our chance to bemoan the weather here - whilst it was as humid as we had expected, we have seldom had a run of 3 or 4 sunny days and various typhoons have threatened to blow or wash us away. Happily, as a precaution, we have had a day off school twice (this latest one giving me the chance to catch up with the blog) and both have been very welcome. I feel the prayers i used to say all through the UK Winter for snow, which never ever led to a single day off, were not wasted after all.


There has been carousing and socialising a plenty - the newly formed social committee came up with the fab idea of going on a boat trip in the first week back (it was my idea) followed by eating and drinking and, well, being social into the wee hours. The Science dept took it's monthly Sunday tradition on the road. It was too wet for a DIY barbecue so we went to a duck restaurant instead, much fun was had by all! We also went to our first Noraebang (Karaoke) and had a thoroughly enjoyable time celebrating the birthday of colleagues. I won the first poker night of the year and we have started tasting whisky in a monthly Bothy! As we approach middle-age, Bob and I find ourselves saying more and more often, we just can't drink as much as we used to - so we make up for it by drinking more often instead!

So thank you Typhoon Sanba, for helping me to catch up with the blog. If there are no casualties (another little prayer goes up) our samba band, who held their first session this weekend, will be able to call ourselves, Typhoon Samba! Keep that weather coming, talking about it reminds me every day that i'm British. As for using the term, 'home' as i said to a new colleague, for me, home has come to have a third definition: the UK (original home), Busan, our new home and in between, it's wherever me and Bob are together, having a good time.



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