Home > Computers & Internet, Employment, Life > T minus 7 hours, and counting

T minus 7 hours, and counting

As I begin writing this post it’s twenty-five to seven on Tuesday the twenty-eighth of August 2007. My flight back to Britain (via Amsterdam, once again) is at 1335 hours. I’ve spent the whole night packing, and I’m actually almost finished.

Let’s go back to Friday.

There’s one humorous incident that I’d like to share from my last class on my last day at the hagwon. I’d been playing Scrabble with various classes that day – and being observed by a new colleague. This final class has been one of my favourites since I started taking it all too recently. Although they’re middle school students, the kids in the class have a bit of personality and a good sense of humour. One boy, in particular – Brian – is quite talkative and keeps – I should say, kept poking fun at me. He’d consult his electronic dictionary and say things like ‘You are childish’ or ‘You fret me.’ Anyway; towards the end of our game of Scrabble (boy versus girls, with me on the girls’ side and Joe Teacher on the boys’), Brian lay down tiles to spell ‘FUQU’ and said, ‘Teacher, “fuck you”.’ My reply was, ‘That’s not how you spell “fuck you”.’ (Actually, the ‘Q’ in ‘FUQU’ was provided by the word ‘QUIZ’, which I’d laid just beforehand (it was the one time when I put a word down personally, rather than just giving advice) on a triple word score square for 66 points. The girls won, of course.)

Saturday was a pretty good day – up to a point. Korean class went well and Paul and I left early to go to the France-Japan game in the U-17 World Cu; along the way we picked up a couple of friends of Paul’s and Peter from my roleplaying group. The journey was long, but it turned out to have been worth it. I’m used to watching football on TV and not at all used to watching it live. In some way, when the match started, it didn’t quite make sense to me – I wanted the contextualisation provided by commentary: who the players are, where the teams stand in the group and so on. But I warmed to it. Naturally, or strangely, depending on your view of such things, I rooted for the French – and they won, 2-1. They did go behind at the end of the first half, if I recall correctly, to a ridiculous (in a good sense) chip from the halfway line.

Peter headed off straight after the game had finished and the rest of us went to eat. Which might have been a mistake. Goyang Public Stadium is located near Daehwa station right at the end of Line 3 (the orange one), and it took a long while to get there. As we travelled back, I had an inking that the subway would close before I could get home – and so it happened. I exited the metro system at Sadang and set off walking. Not towards Ansan, of course, that would have been silly – but towards Gangnam … which was also kind of silly. After much walking and some brief sojourns at the bus terminal, McDonalds and a bus stop, I eventually got on the first subway train of Sunday morning. And that makes it three Saturday nights in a row I’ve spent in Seoul (you might call it a hattrick, but you probably wouldn’t). Next Saturday is highly unlikely to follow suit.

On Saturday I’d been invited to partake of some birthday bungee jumping the following day, and I was inclined to accept. When it came down to it, a late lie-in and things to do precluded it. (Interestingly, over this last night I watched a couple of editions of Survive This. One of the stories retold and analysed was of a guy who had been throttled by a bungee cord. The footage was bizarre and striking – it looked both natural and unnatural (a bit like 9/11 footage): on the jumper’s first bounce, the cord formed a loop that slipped over his neck just as he began to fall again. The pressure on his neck arteries made him pass out and he stopped breathing; fortunately for him, he survived. Hence the tale’s inclusion in a programme called Survive This.)

Instead of risking my life, I went to Yongsan to pick up me new laptop, which was apparently waiting for me. Except it wasn’t. Naturally. After much miscommuncation, the I was talking to – wait, no: the man who was talking to me in Korean rang my colleague Gina and explained to her what the problem was, and she then explained it to me. They’d forgotten to pick the machine up on Saturday, and I would now have to wait until Monday. Fantastic. I went back to the subway and while I was on the platform I got a call from the Korean guy. I told him to call Gina and she rang back to tell me he had something for me; it sounded like a compensatory freebie.

So I headed back up to the Toshiba/Fujitsu stand and he went away for a good fifteen minutes or so … and came back with my computer. I was confused and disheartened to discover that it didn’t come with the extra battery I had tried tomake clear I wanted the last time I was there. After some more talking to Gina and mental umming and ahhing I decided I might as well take it and handed over my hard earned cash. The laptop has Korean-language Windows Vista on it, and I haven’t really had time to do much with it yet. I’m quite happy with it, though – it seems quite swish, and it’s definitely very light.

With my new laptop slung over my shoulder and my previously shoulder-slung bag now being hand-carried I headed off to Insadong to do some souvenir and gift shopping. The following day I went into the hagwon early to see about my money; I was told to come back at C3pm. Except without the Star Wars pun. So I went to Insadong again to continue my shopping. With a new clutch of prizes, I returned to Ansan and lo and behold – there was an additional three and a half million won in my bank account.

At the hagwon, the director (speaking Korean) and the head teacher (speaking English) explained that money had been deducted from my final month’s salary for cleaning and repairs (referring to the mould that had grown behind my wardrobe), which seemed fair enough. I also lost money because the cable and internet package I’d been bought had been for three years; ending it early incurred a charge. Apparently, it was still cheaper than getting a one year contract. I’m also to be given a lift to the airport. They were both pleasant; I said kamsa hamnida and shook their hands, but I wasn’t really in the mood to even try to reciprocate much.

I went to the bank where my account is held (directly beneath the hagwon) and closed my account. Then I took my millions to the other bank where we all send our money overseas (in a beautiful pea-green boat) and did just that. Except with out the bizarre nursery phyme reference. After that it was – wait for it – back to Insadong to conclude my knick-knack purchasing. There were one or two other things I would have liked to have got, but I bought something for just about everyone.

Then it was back home to pack – which has been loads o’ fun. I had expected to get everthing into my suitcase, and have my new laptop as hand luggage. That hasn’t panned out. I now have my suitcase and my backpack full o’ stuff (I’m leaving plenty o’ clothes behind, too), and I reckon I’ll be putting both of my laptops into the one bag (along with a couple o’ books) to take onboard.

Wow – just writing that word – ‘onboard’ – gave me butterflies. I’ve been pretty unemotional about the prospect of returning home, but it’s been nervous energy that’s kept me wide awake all night and … well, I’m nervous, I suppose. I’ll be OK – there are plenty of toilets at the airport, after all. Tonight and tomorrow could be tricky – my extra baggage is going to make travel from Manchester to St Helens even more of a chore. If you haven’t heard from me by Thursday, please send out search parties.

  1. Drew
    28 August 2007 at 8:22 am

    Have a good trip man! Hope to see you soon.

  2. Drew
    31 August 2007 at 1:33 pm

    “If you haven’t heard from me by Thursday, please send out search parties.”

    Have got the St Bernards on stand-by…

  3. 31 August 2007 at 2:53 pm

    Glad to hear you got your bonus in the end.
    Manchester must be pretty wierd after a year in SK.
    Coming to Tokyo is, strangely, not wierd at all 🙂
    Good luck ‘back home’

  4. 1 September 2007 at 3:48 pm

    Yes, OK, I’m here – St Bernards not needed. :p

    Returning to the UK is not at all weird. In fact, I don’t really believe in culture shock. Returning to the ‘care’ of my ‘family’, is another matter altogether.

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