Before applying to teach ESL in South Korea, whenever I thought of the FBI (which was not often) I would free associate it with things like American’s Most Wanted, bad-ass secret agents and secret agentesses, and possibly cocaine-sniffing German Sheps. As an American, I guess I felt a certain amount of confidence in our Federal Bureau of Investigation. I thought it was pretty powerful. And pretty cool.
BUT THEN EVERYTHING CHANGED…
When I started writing about my experiences here there were only two other foreigners writing blogs in Busan as far as I'm aware and so it enjoyed a level of mild popularity by virtue of absence of choice. This led to a few invitations to appear on Korean TV and radio shows, and I was also asked to write, but always for airline magazines - perhaps their editors had correctly surmised that I work best with a captive audience.
The same number phones again exactly one minute later. This time I answer it, because it's entirely possible that it might be important.
I’m alone in the apartment and receive a call from an unknown number on my mobile. I don’t answer it because my son has only slept 30 minutes all morning, he’s just woken up, and I’m desperate to get him back to sleep again so I can do something productive in the little time this will afford me. To this end, I’m walking circles around our lounge with him in a sling on my back, which is the only way of getting him to sleep, at all, ever.
A few weeks ago my computer started to switch itself off randomly. Given the construction quality of our apartment building, coupled with the dubious nature of the electrical system here, I wasn't sure at first what the cause was. But finally I concluded it was probably the power supply unit, and that I’d have to buy another to test out the theory.
You can be free. You can live and work anywhere in the world. You can be independent from routine and not answer to anybody. This is the life of a successful trader.
- Alexander Elder - Trading for a Living
I don't write about my job very much; it's usually not relevant to my Korean experiences I document here. Occasionally though, the two worlds do become intertwined.
the problems my wife and I had experienced with the maternity hospital
we were in, but things were going to turn out to be worse for other people in what seemed to me like a perfect storm of Korean cultural issues.
Recently I wrote about some of
We went to see 'Alice in Wonderland' on Saturday evening, and after escaping from the hole we'd fallen into, my wife turned her five-month old Windows Mobile phone
back on and it didn't work properly. I have the same model and we hardly ever turn them off - this is Korea, it's practically a social crime. Not answering within two rings annoys people, so mid-way through a sentence you can often find yourself talking to someone holding a suddenly produced phone to their ear; phone conversations have priority over face-to-face meetings.
Before I left the UK, I decided to ship some items to Korea on the basis that if I wanted my life in Korea to eventually feel more like home, I should save at least a few of the possessions of my former life before the rest hit the bins and the charity bags. A few items had sentimental value, some of it was purely practical, but many were simply things which would be hard to replace in Korea, such as books and DVDs. For example, I had a backlog of twenty-three books I hadn't read, and if I didn't have them sent to Korea I had the feeling I would just end up repurchasing them from Amazon.com, with all the extra expense and inconvenience that importing from the US potentially entailed. The downside of living in a country where hardly anyone speaks English is that it can be quite hard to shop for products in your own language.
, and the third tier volume discounters E-Mart
and Tesco Home plus
(sic). And this pretty much summed up the price differences as well, so inevitably it wasn't long before we had worked our way down the pricing scale and were honing in on buying from 'Home plus'.
We travelled all over Busan looking for a television, but it rapidly began to feel like there were only three types of stores - the official manufacturer outlets of Samsung and LG, the second-tier electrical stores