My first henna tattoo… and other TEFL tales

It’s probably because I’m studying again, desperately trying to get the final module of the Delta completed and off my plate in order to put it behind me and use all my new Super Teacher skills on different challenges, but I’ve noticed that the long-neglected ‘Working’ aspect of this blog’s tagline is creeping back in.

Last autumn, when I set sail for Thailand and the first, intensive part of this Delta journey, I was definitely burnt out. All the joy had disappeared from my classroom. My inventiveness had diminished. I was seriously questioning whether sinking a few thousand dollars into a further qualification and a definite period of unemployment was the best of ideas, or whether I should turn my mind to another career change. More

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The red shoes – a tale of twelve countries

On starting work and getting to know new classes, a favourite game is two truths and a lie. Everyone has to think of two true (and preferably interesting) statements about themselves, and one lie, and their new classmates can ask questions to find out which statement is false. It’s a great icebreaker for the group and, if you do a demonstration as the teacher, the group gets to know a bit about you, too, which helps in building productive rapport.

Recently, Wonderboy played this game with a new class and included the statement, “I’ve been to eight countries this year” as one of his interesting facts. This threw the whole game out of order as no one in the room could believe such a thing could be true! In fact, even for me the last twelve months have involved an epic amount of travel. Travel all witnessed by a pair of cheap pumps which I bought this time last year, specifically to see me through the biking holiday I went on last June.

Here, from the perspective of the Red Shoes, is a photo record of my travel adventures, June 2015 to June 2016.

Red Shoes' first day out - Seoul

Red Shoes’ first day out – Seoul

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Three Things Thursday

It’s less than a fortnight until I depart Korea and my wonderful home in Seoul for good, so this month I present for you my Top Three Things…

…to get up to in Korea.

Thing 1 ~ cross country cycling

I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of amazing holidays in the last few years, but my cross-country bikeride from Seoul to Busan in June this year was one of my favourite holidays ever. I finally completed the Seoul to Ara Hangang West Sea Lock just last weekend when, after days of frustrating packing and paperwork preparing for the move, we decided to blow off some steam by jumping on the bikes for the 40km ride west towards Incheon and the beginning / end of the full 4 Rivers trail. It gave a nice sense of closure both to our summer adventure and to the wonderful and incredibly active life we’ve enjoyed for our two years here.

The full, day-by-day account of my June bike-venture has all the gory details, which I won’t go into again here. Suffice to say that everyone I have read about or spoken to who has tackled this momentous journey concurs – it is one of the greatest adventures they’ve ever had, inside or outside of Korea. And I think there are several good reasons why, many of which are reasons I’ll really miss this place when I leave.

Firstly, a reason many Koreans give when describing why they’d never move to another country on a permanent basis: More

Busan or Bust: Day 3 ~ ‘make’ day

In which I conquer Ihwaryang pass and escape a rainstorm in the nick of time

Day 3 ~ 수안보 to 상주시 (Suanbo to Sangju) 80km

4Rivers guide here.

Day 3

Day 3

The story so far

I started today’s ride with a photo before we set off from the lacklustre Motel Gloria in Suanbo, convinced from other blogs I’d read that today, hill climb day, could be the ‘break’ day for my legs and my suffering bike. Instead, it has definitely been the ‘make’ day, in which I have discovered that I was, in fact, born to bike, and should immediately quit any other line of work and spend the rest of my life on epic cycle trails around the globe.
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BUSAN or BUST: geared up and in the picture

We’re packed and ready. The bikes are tuned up, the excitement is building, the race is on.

For the last two weeks we’ve been getting bikes serviced, adding bits, (Madame is now sporting a very fetching red seatpost rack and some new ergonomic grips), buying spares (inner tubes, spokes, chain links) and my personal favourites, bike tools. Madame got a new rear tyre as well as the rack and a tune-up, or ‘setting,’ in Korean. Mr MTB (mountain bike) at Mapo MTB patted her and nodded, “Busan? OK.” Then he looked at Wonderboy’s bike, named The Beast for good reason, and laughed. “Busan?” He guffawed, “No no no!” And continued to chortle and mutter good-naturedly until it became clear that was exactly what we intended, at which point he sighed at the crazy foreigners and conceded to our request to tune it up, fix the broken bits and leave us to it.

nice rack

nice rack

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Three Things Thursday

Its the first Thursday of the month, so it’s time for three things…

…that light up, play music, and get you wet.

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Lost in Laos: Vientiane

Our Laotian adventure began inauspiciously with four weeks of tussles over a flight change. To get through the three months of work between Christmas and now, we had booked our flights to Laos during our first week back at work in January, plumping for Korean Airlines budget company, Jin Air. What can go wrong when you fly with such an internationally well-reputed organisation, other than a brief set-to about nuts? But then, if you choose to fly budget, who expects nuts anyway?

A last minute dash to their HQ and some, “Angry, of Seoul” conversations later, and we had the correct flights in our in-box with a little over 24 hours to go before check-in. We’d also been switched to Thai Airlines A380 with all mod-cons. Fate appeared to have finally started smiling upon us, especially after we lucked-out during our Bangkok transfer with a free Starbucks as their card machine wasn’t working! More

Seoraksan – not a baaaahd day’s hike

To celebrate Seollal – the lunar new year and the start of the year of the sheep (hence the baahd title joke) – I packed up and shipped out to the port town of Sokcho on the East sea. As Seollal is one of the two big annual holidays, it was me and 22 million Koreans on the move for the three day holiday, so the going was not fast. However, Sokcho isn’t too far from Seoul, and a four hour bus ride across the country and around the entrancing Seoraksan national park later, I arrived at the express bus terminal, directly in front of my glorious, hot-pink, turret-sprouting motel.

Barbie-meets-Blofeld

Barbie-meets-Blofeld

The Rocustel Motel, despite looking like something Disney’s Snow White vomited after a night out on raspberry vodka shots, is an amazingly comfy, cheap n’ cheerful motel, with impressive Barbie-meets-Blofeld interior and underfloor heating to die for. It was the perfect place to use as a base in Sokcho: behind the express bus terminal, a ten minute walk from tourist hotspot and food heaven Abai village, two minutes walk from the beach, and over the road from the number 7 bus stop, which provides a direct service to Seoraksan National Park ticket office in one direction and ‘Rodeo Street,’ the shopping centre of Sokcho, in the other. Things couldn’t have been any easier.
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Holiday in Cambodia

Splendour of the Khmer empire

The great thing about travelling and blogging is that you always have plenty to write about. The terrible thing about blogging and travelling is that you are so busy doing interesting things that it’s difficult to find the time to write about them. Fortunately, the weather forecast currently reads, “hotter than the innermost circle of hell, wetter than an octopus’ garden” so there’s some quality hiding-from-the-sun / rain down time.

The ‘Eyes of the Mekong’ Fishing boats along the river in Vietnam are traditionally decorated with these curious eyes.

I arrived in Cambodia five days ago by boat along the famed Mekong river, making this the fourth country I’ve arrived in by boat, ship or ferry, and the second iconic waterway I’ve taken an extended voyage on to reach a destination (rather than sailing along for excursion purposes) the first one being the Amazon. This was a very different experience.

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Three Things Thursday…

It’s back! With three things you can do…..

Easter Eggs

Easter Eggs

…on holiday in Seoul.

With friends visiting over the Easter holidays, it’s been a busy couple of weeks. There’s been a lot of lovely food consumed, although we also egged each other on enough that we finally tried the grubs.

Grubs in a cup!

Grubs in a cup

You know how sometimes something smells disgusting but takes delicious, like a really strong cheese? Or how sometimes something sounds like it should be foul but is surprisingly tasty, like haggis, or black pudding? This was not one of those happy occasions. More

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