Sunday, 31 January 2010

Wacky, inflatable arm, flailing tube man - Day 2 (part 2)

At 11.20am the school director arrived. He was surprised to learn I had already been out and about. He explained the poo situation again. Basically you can't flush toilet paper down the loo (anywhere in Korea, not just my apartment) and so you have to throw it in with general trash, which i understand gets collected daily. They also have recycling of plastics and food. We got in the car and went 'down town'. It is worth noting at this point that the further down town you go, the more Americanised the place is. As i would later find out, Changwon is not like the rest of Korea because it's one of a few planned cities. The roads (as previously mentioned) are enormous, i counted 7 or 8 lanes in some of them. He showed me where the school is, which i would estimate to be about a 5 minute walk away on the 6th or 7th floor of a building in the city. Apparently there are 400 kids at the school, 300 elementary kids and 100 junior school kids. He also said the school is very busy on Monday so i should come in on Tuesday, though I don't have to. I will anyway to see how the job is.

So things on my shopping list included rechargable battery plug, some plug adapters, a mouse for the laptop (yes, all my essential items are electronic, it's sad but when food, water and warmth are ample, electronic things come a close second. We drove a little further and to my shock and surprise, there were 4 enormous stadiums very close to the school, maybe 8 mins from my apartment. A football stadoium, then basketball stadium, then a velodrome and finally a swimming pool and sports complex. I can only assume the pool is huge giuven the stadium and ive been told its about 25 quid to use the pool as much as you want for a month. The whole place looks like it was designed on the game Theme Park, or one of the Sim Cities. It's like someone had a blank canvas and thought if i'm gonna put one stadium here, might as well put them all here! We drove on further and saw a public football pitch with a running track around the outside. I intend to use it often having never had access to a running track so close by. I noticed some of the roads here are so wide that you can park in the middle. So strange. We drove on further and saw so many shops open, it's not like at home where everything closes. Some of the bigger stores are open 24/7. There was one building that is like an electronics department store, another street was pure electronics with LG and Samsung having whole stores to themselves (both companies have major factories on the other half of the city). It was good to see a massive poster of Stevie Gerard on one of the major streets. I bet when he was kicking footballs around as a young boy, he never imagined his face would be plastered across buildings on the other side of the world. I've yet to see Rooney but perhaps once photo editing becomes more advanced it'll be safe to use him as well.

After getting a map of the city from 'shitty hall' as he called it, the school director asked me 'have you heard of Tesco'? I laughed and said ofcourse and he told me one of the big stores in town is a Tesco. Sadly, after visiting, it turns out it is nothing like Tesco at home. It was a Tesco by name only. I hoped maybe some of their domestic produce was sent overseas but it seems not. I want to highlight an overall impression i had of the place. It is such an organised, efficient kind of a city. It's so different to home. It feels like any kind of a job someone could have, they do. A lot of people were shopping, it seems to be such a thriving community. English speaking ability seems to be quite terrible among all the people we spoke to, including many staff at Tesco and Lotte Mart when trying to find a plug converter. But the shops and streets are so advanced, technology is everywhere and whatever you could want or need, it's there and at an affordable price. I don't think anything i have seen has been 'cheap', but everything is close by and within reason. Perhaps we have more cheap items at home because British shoppers have constantly chosen to selfishly buy a cheaper product that undercuts more reasonably priced products, thus losing someone their job and business, to the point where only Tesco exists. Right now, Tesco is a medium sized player in a thriving market, but give them 20 years and we'll see how loyal the Koreans are to their society. Everyone seems to be working here in so many jobs, to the extent that shopping or indeed doing anything is so much easier as there are so many people to help.

Ok anoither thing to note at this point. After finding a converter and walking around many big shops, i was yet to see a non Korean person. Occasionally I has thought I had seen a black person, but it always turned out to be a Korean with a black scarf covering all but the eyes. So, no foreigners to speak of. That was until I found out that the British teacher lived right above me. The director introduced us and It was exciting to meet a fellow Londoner this far from home. I can only liken the feeling to that which a chameleon must feel when strumbling across another of it's kind out in the desert (see Life if you don't believe some chameleons have adapted to living the desert). So his name is Phil, he has a Canadian (i think?) wife and a daughter. Apparently he was dropped off in the same flat i'm in now and started work the next day, no introduction or shopping trip was offered, so the more we spoke, the luckier i felt. This week off should allow for a smooth transition into teaching. He loves it here so much that he's still here after 2 years

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