Friday, 31 December 2004


It's New Years Eve now, and various plans are afoot, but let's pull time back a week to Christmas Eve, when the magic of the festive period neared the climax of its sublime spell.

I'd a great Christmas, one of my best actually. My Christmasses have usually been pretty good, and all my childhood ones have blurred into one giant Christmas whereby I'd wake with great excitement at 2am and be unable to sleep again as I anticipated the clock changing to 6/7am (can't quite remember now). The very second that time arrived, a simultaneous stampede of myself, my brother and my sister would blaze a trail into the living room, where a roomful of gift-wrapped boxes lay clustered around three fireplace stockings. An empty glass of whisky and a saucer with a few crumbs of cake sat there also.

With great restraint we waited the extra minute it took our tired parents to get down the stairs, and then we could begin the manic frenzy of tearing paper and opening gifts to shrieks of amazed delight that Santa/mum+dad (whoever was believed in at the time) has got just what we wanted, even though for three months preceding the day our demands had been made most explicity clear.

That's the blur of childhood Christmasses, and I'm quite sure it's been partly fictionalised in my aging mind, possibly contaminated by idealist television images. However, there's no doubt that these were good Christmasses, with everyone in good spirits, kind of good health (i.e. not dead or lost their minds), and the excitement of Christmas still fresh in my youthful innocence, before the dark hand of maturity cast its icy shadow over my naive joy.

Teenage and early 20 Christmasses seemed to involve eating chocolate until I felt sick, this feeling often encouraged by alcohol. Not as magical, but still cosy and festive feeling. I'm sure there were at least a couple of white Christmasses, one of which fell overnight. During this time, however, my poor grandfather did manage to vomit on the Christmas lunch two years running.

Two years ago was one of my best Christmasses, when I was living in the castle. Mum and Morag stayed for a couple of days, and for these days in the very very remote coastal countryside surroundings of the castle, with just the three of us, we had absolute peace and serenity. With beautiful cliffs and sea stretching out panoramically from our atmospheric accommodation and no outside influences to disturb us, it really was the epitomy of tranquil. We ate and drank a little, opened gifts round a miniature Christmas tree, watched TV by the coal fire, and even made a daring expedition to a nearby abandoned house to gather more coal from an old, wet pile nestled by its side. It was the first Christmas I'd not spent at the family home, and it was a big success.

Last Christmas was pretty dreadful though. A total non-event. I'd only been in Korea a few weeks, and chose on Christmas Eve to go out and drink heavily. So heavily, in fact, that I have virtually no memory of that night, except for there being loads and loads of people, and being photographed with a fat girl. I woke up the next day (alone, mercifully) at about 2pm, feeling like a ghastly version of hell, and spent most of the day slumping around my shabby, tiny room, as traffic zoomed by noisily outside. In the evening I met up with Matt and some others, whom I didn't know too well, and drank a little in a bar, then went back to someone's apartment and played a boring game of charades (a game I have no fond memories of from any point in my existence). It was certainly my crappest Christmas.

But this Christmas was great, one of my best in fact.

I was working on Christmas Eve, and after another 43 class week was feeling quite burnt out and jaded by the time I finished, at 7pm. I had no big intentions for the night, but was quite sure I would not be drinking heavily, and thus tarnishing another Christmas day. Instead, my plan was to meet Matt downtown, not to drink, but to go to a DVD Bang, and watch "Love, Actually" together for the third time. "Love, Actually" is our film, as we first saw it in Seoul a year ago, during a mayhem-filled weekend that we have never quite recovered from. Matt has gone as far to have bought the soundtrack, which he listens to - and enjoys - regularly. We have our own song together too, which I think I've said before, not from the soundtrack but by 15 year old Russian lesbians T.A.T.U.

Anyway, it seemed particularly festive and fitting to see this film, making for a gentle Christmas Eve, and setting us up for a more busy, if not ever frantic, Christmas Day.

Christmas Day came in two parts. "Part 1: Lunch" was saving orphans. "Part 2: Dinner" involved spending extravagant amounts of money in an expensive hotel.

For lunch, a guy called Brian involved with the orphanage and working at the K2 airbase had arranged for all the Haean orphans to get into the airbase for a free, US-style, Christmas lunch. Accompanying the starving orphans were well-fed Western volunteers such as myself and Matt, who quite fancied a large free lunch.

In fact, I've put in some good time at the orphanage, so feel my free lunch was earned. I patted some orphans on the head too, so I'm sure they felt loved on this special day. Matt, however, has only been to the orphanage once before, so was just being a freeloader.

It was good fun, not just the lunch but the whole experience. The security round the US military base wasn't too high, as myself and Matt simply sat in a car and were driven in, after a short wait, without ever showing ID. We found this quite surprising, given the usual US paranoia. Possibly the coloured alert had been downgraded to "blue - only medium threat of explosions".

We were treated to a generous lunch of various meats, including turkey of course, and I sat with three orphans and watched them tuck into their only meal of the month not salvaged from the bins. Actually, these orphans are fed perfectly well so don't worry. They're all pretty normal children, not the shaven headed shaking Romanian infants popularised by the media.

This was followed a venture outside, where Santa appeared in a large tank-like military vehicle - far more efficent than reindeers - and led into the base's bar/entertainment centre. The kids gathered round a stage where Santa, accompanied by translator, handed out gifts to each and every orphan. It felt very Christmassy.

After this, me and Matt and to shoot off to Busan, where we were to meet with Noel and Sue at the 4 star Westin Chosun hotel situated by the beach. Noel and Sue are friends of Matt's whom I'd only met briefly, but we'd always got on well. Noel is a tall, laid back Irish guy with unkempt hair and infrequent shaving habits, and Sue is a very glamourous Korean girl, her glamour at first quite intimidating and almost harsh until you speak to her and find a thoroughly pleasant a gentle girl. Noel and Sue are married, in fact, quite recently. Just a legal ceremony, although they are planning the proper ceremony at some approppriate time in the future.

We checked in and relaxed in our calming room for a while, and felt hunger rise in our greedy bellies. Noel and Sue, who had booked more expensive rooms, had been accessing the free buffet and bar forbidden to commoners like me and Matt, but met us (somewhat tipsy) after 8pm and joined us for dinner.

The main restaurant was all booked out, but this didn't matter as the bar restaurant was still very swanky and we were given a seat overlooking the beach. The food was sufficiently expensive and I splashed out on some wine too. After the meal, my body felt soothed and warm, as though stroked all over by a pretty woman.

We moved onto the proper section of the bar then, where drinkers were hard drinking and Bulgarian singers were singing Western pop hits onstage. I bought the most expensive beer of my entire life, a pint of Sapporo, costing me the equivalent of over £8. Although alarmed by the steepness of the cost, I remained entirely calm and unphased, as befits a patron of an expensive hotel.

I did stick to the cheap, local, beer after that though.

We drank, and chatted, and made merry, and later took a brisk walk along the beach. Our day ended sometime between 2 and 3am, with everyone thoroughly satisfied by a thoroughly interesting and enjoyable Christmas.

Boxing Day - or St. Stephen's Day as I discovered the Irish call it - was fine. We ate very well at an Indian restaurant, and I arrived back in Daegu by about 8pm.

And that was Christmas 2004. In the next few days I hope to catch up with the rest of the week, which have involved finishing work, moving house, and being a charming young man.

Wednesday, 29 December 2004


I finished my job yesterday and have now moved in with Matt, and will be replacing him at his job next month. I'm already feeling much fresher and more relaxed, and have no excuse not to write more fully from now on, although I'll endeavour to find some.

I had a great Christmas too, spent saving orphans and spending loads of money in luxury hotels.

Much more later. I've got to go and have dinner with a beautiful Korean girl now.

Tuesday, 21 December 2004

Jason And A New Job

I've got a new job then, starting at the very end of February. More on that later, but for my job I have to give thanks to Jason.

I possibly mentioned him at the very start of my diary but you won't have heard of him since. "Jason" is the English name of my recruiter, and has actually been quite a large influence of my life in Korea. Not in my daily life, but it was him who got me my current job, him who got me my next job and, perhaps even more crucially, him who introduced me to Matt.

Matt these days is pretty much my only male friend. Not through design, but I seem to have aligned myself with quite a lot of attractive girls, Korean or otherwise. Matt is my bastion of maleness and was also the very first person I met in Korea, just over a year ago, when Jason (his recruiter too) got him to meet me from the bus stop. Myself and Matt spend many an hour musing as to how our lives would have progressed had we not met each other, and we usually conclude that it doesn't bear thinking about. We even have our own song - "Not Gonna Stop Us" by the 15 year old Russian lesbians TATU.

So Jason is responsible, in part, for where I am and who I know, but until last week he was just a forgotten part of last year. But knowing my contract here was almost up, he phoned me last Tuesday wondering about my plans. Not out of concern for my wellbeing of course (recruiters are notoriously unconcerned about teacher well-being; we're just a commodity) but to see if he could get me a new job, and thus net himself about a million won (£500) of very easy recruiting fee from the school.

I met him on Saturday then, after my YMCA class. It was the final YMCA lesson of the year and of the current course, concluding with a test and then pizza. The test was very easy, not just my own arrogant opinion, but it really was far too easy. The class has got much better in the last few weeks though, because the class numbers have dropped to about six regulars, and thus all the dregs have been shaken out of the class. It meant we had a pleasant group of good students left, many of whom are giving me a run for my money.

The Japanese single mother [later note - not true, she simply had a beloved pet dog], Yuka, is probably better than me now. She's got really good. Then there's Canadian Sherry and NZ Dave who are both almost as good. Sherry is quite pretty but could benefit from wearing some make-up in my opinion, and being Canadian I'm not able to get on with her due to my prejudice against Canadians. She does study very hard though. She wears dungarees too, something that suits only lesbians. Dave is a thoroughly nice guy, and myself and Maebh (who also attends the class) want to befriend him. Dave has a Korean fiance whose father has cut her off completely because she is engaged to a Westerner, even though he's never met Dave.

There's another Japanese girl too - Kaori - who is often too shy to show how good her Korean might be, and there's an Australian too, Luigi, with an accent that does extremely odd things to the Korean language. Then there's Maebh too, as I said.

After the very easy test all the four YMCA classes got together for a party. As it was noon at a Christian organisation you might correctly guess that this party was not a depraved orgy of debauchery with dancing girls and oiled up maniacs squeezing out their juices, but a civilised affair with pizza and cola.

Still, although civilised, I did my best to be charming and gentlemanly. I was called a gentleman by Hyo-Ju (the primary gin girl) on Sunday actually. She said that British men are all gentlemen and, understandably surprised, I asked how many she knew and she said "you." This is what happens, I suppose, when you know a girl for over six months and don't attempt to sexually molest her. You live and learn.

The two lucky recipients of my charms - both of whom are probably still scrubbing themselves in the shower today - were my old Korean teacher when I was a mere beginner, and a girl from Uzbekistan. My old Korean teacher is a tall and delightfully innocent-seeming girl with clunky glasses that won many admiring glances from myself and Tim "back in the day" of the first Korean class. It's been many months since I'd seen her and I think she's had sex in the interim, because she was looking far more "dangerous". Wearing glasses and dressed in black, with her hair combed back, her eyes looked less wide and innocent to the world. Her excuse for her prolonged absence was just that she'd been busy, however. She'll be my teacher for the next two months.

The Uzbekistan girl was lovely. Although I harbour great dreams of penetrating her, I actually want to use her Russian speaking ability. I still want to go to Russia after Korea and so want to know some Russian, and so I intend to ask her to help tutor me. Apparently, as Maebh told me later, she is only 19 years old and so is also just ripe for corruption.

Anyway all this was a prelude to meeting Jason at 1.30pm outside the YMCA. He arrived only a little late, running and calling my name.

Jason, there is no other way about it, is a seedy, selfish, single-minded, cheating, lying, two-faced little man. He was looking shorter than I remember, fatter too, and more ragged, and with thinning hair. Despite all this, I nonetheless like him. He's motivated and very gregarious, and exists in his very own focussed world of making money and womanising, and is absolutely foreign to the concept of thinking of others. It simply doesn't cross his mind.

Matt knows him much better than me. Matt knows about his unsuspecting (possibly uncaring) wife, Matt knows about his penchant for callgirls, Matt knows that his desire for money above all is actually a desire for more callgirls/"girlfriends" above all. Matt knows that there is no reasoning with Jason about anything, you either accept him or not and then prepare yourself to be caught up in his whirlwind.

He took me to a Burger King, where Matt soon joined. I'd been speaking to Matt the few days before, and so we knew what Jason proposed deal was. It is this:

Matt finishes his job mid-January. Then he goes travelling round Europe for a month, seeing perpetually unofficial girlfriend Rebecca in Ireland in the process, before returning to a new job in Korea. This job looks to be at Jason's school in the countryside, where Matt's cousin Nicky used to work. This would be great, as it would mean access to country dwellings during the summer.

And with Matt's old job vacant, I quite simply step into his shoes. This is a good thing as Matt's job is really quite easy. Matt wouldn't be leaving it, if not for him needing to take a month away.

The hours are 3.30-9.30pm. My current hours are 10am-7pm.
It is only 5 classes a day, 25 a week. My current is 8/9 a day, 43 a week.
Matt's apartment is much nicer than mine. Bigger and more peaceful. It's also near a university which means a good variety of bars and restaurants.

Jason seemed most pleased that everything was working out so easily, and the pieces of the jigsaw fitted just as well for myself and Matt. Jason's excitement grew as he proposed, nay demanded, that in celebration we would all, in January, visit his favourite room salon.

After a year in Korea, I have no idea what the term "room salon" used to mean to me, but here the meaning isn't too ambiguous. Prostitution in Korea is illegal but, most bizarrely, if another product is being sold then sex is allowed to be sold on the side. Thus there's quite an industry of coffee-girls, pretty young things than zip about on mopeds to home deliver coffee plus a few extra perks. And room salons are no more than glorified bar-cum-brothels, or so I hear. Slightly plusher perhaps, and more respectable for the middle aged Korean businessman to visit (which they do with incredible frequency).

Jason was bouncing with excitement as he declared this wonderful idea, which is to take place in January. Although Jason's intentions are most clear, Matt assures me that it is quite acceptable to just have a few drinks at these venues and not have to worry about being mounted by hordes of these pretty young things.

From prospective brothel visits to a visit to the orphanage, as that was what followed the meeting with Jason. With more volunteers and more organisation, it's all much easier now and once again I felt as though I achieve some teaching.

Next Saturday, which is Christmas day, I will be spending lunch time with the orphans. Now, don't be getting any ideas that this is a kind, self-sacrificing and selfless thing to do, it's because the meal is at the US Army Base and is free. The US Army, not known for understatements, will apparently have a colossal spread of Christmas food that I can tuck into like a barbarian. I'll try and avoid to speaking to the orphans as much as I can and concentrate on cramming my greedy pig face with free food. After that, me and Matt are planning to spend the night in Busan, at an expensive hotel which apparently has an all you can eat and all you can drink buffet. Thus it is quite clear that if by Sunday morning I haven't evacuated the largest chunk of faecal matter you have ever seen, then I'll likely be dead.

That was my Saturday then. Sunday was a little more serene. I met with Suk-jeong in the afternoon, that's the pretty Korean ex-teacher with body and breasts that make me dribble in her presence. I'd not seen her for about a month, since my braindead showing at the Geoje-do trip with her friends. But on Friday night, the Castle School teachers all got together and drank, ate and made merry, and she joined us. We went to a norae-bang, where I was forced to sing a couple of Korean songs, and also "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana, which I did remarkably well. Or so I lead myself to believe.

It was nice to see her again, but I stress "see", as there's more personality and life to the ants - and now cockroaches - that patrol my crappy apartment. Actually, that's rather harsh, she's a very pleasant girl and at least she doesn't crawl into my food and die.

The evening was a bowling trip with the Gin Girls, plus Maebh, plus Jama and three Korean friends of hers. These Korean friends were very loud and boisterous and scared the poor, quiet, conservative Gin Girls a little. The bowling trip had been something planned for quite some time but only finally arranged after ridiculous amounts of "you know, it would be great to go bowling sometime". Unfortunately, there was no bar at the bowling venue and thus my bowling suffered. It was also hampered severely by the Gin Girls and Maebh laughing every time I bowled, due to my apparent "bowling waddle".

I went for dinner with the Gin Girls afterwards, and if I've been sounding a little pervy earlier in this entry then you can be assured I always redeem myself in their presence with my exemplary behaviour - indeed, it was over dinner that Hyo-Ju complimented my gentlemanliness.

On the way back home with Hyo-Ju, after taking the bus back to Bangchon (our area), she happened to notice her mother in a small restaurant, and so we joined them. With two other women - one the owner - they were drinking crap wine, and may be have been slightly sozzled. They were most enamoured with my presence and my few paltry words of Korean. And for about half an hour, we sat and chatted, drank wine and laughed, and it was perhaps the highlight of my whole Sunday. Nay weekend. All that time with nubile young ladies, but together with three sozzled middle-aged women - ajummas as they're notoriously known in Korean - was the highlight. I was most charming with them. It seems an unfortunate reality in my life that my charms are most effective with middle-aged to elderly women.

It's Tuesday now, and the countdown to my last day (which began a long time ago) is nearing the climax. Six more working days to go, and then I'm away. I told some of my classes, and they responded in quite a touching manner. Mostly, at least. Some kids seemed relieved, but one class reacted as though I'd booted them all in the stomach, and cried out "No" and seemed quite distressed. You have to wonder why, as the highlight of any lesson for me is getting a kid to cry, and I try to avoid playing games at all costs.

Ok, I must go now as all the lights in my school are out, I'm the only person here, I just had to converse in very broken Korean with a mother who appeared with gifts, and I'm very hungry. Have a good Christmas and New Year, and at the rate I update these days I may extend that to Christmas and New Year 2005 too.

Sunday, 12 December 2004

Brief Plans

Hmm. There are all sorts of little anecdotes and stories I'd like to share, if I could be bothered. But I'll restrict myself to the important stuff.

I finish my contract in two weeks and then go to Japan for a few days, the return flight paid for by my school for reasons that aren't entirely clear. I'll stay at Matt's for January and likely will go with him to Taiwan for a couple of weeks. In February my brother visits for a month. I may or may not have a job then - I intend to stay in Daegu.

My life recently has been quite pleasant - I'm much better after my week's holiday, before which I was rather burned out. I've become much more social too, and have caught up with many friends.

I've also realised that I've only got one male friend in all of Daegu - Matt. Not by design, but all my other friends are ladies, and mostly quite attractive ones. I'm not too upset about this lack of male companionship however. Matt and I agree that we are the only male friends a man could ever need.

I finish at my school in a couple of weeks then, just after Christmas. I will do my very best to avoid wearing the Santa costume this year, having paid my dues last year. Worse, though, is the carol singing the teacher have got to do on Christmas Eve, after school, on the other side of the city, in the freezing cold. Apparently a Santa costume is being readied for that. I will certainly not be wearing it.

Monday, 6 December 2004

I Am Married

I think some congratulations are in order. To myself, on my marriage.

Yes, it seems that I am now married, so so an apparent rumour back in Aberdeen would have it. The first I heard of it was a few weeks ago, getting an email (which I haven't replied to yet) expressing surprise at my marriage. Then on the phone yesterday, my brother said he'd been asked about it too, and it seems that a few months ago, when exceptionally drunk, my brother had started telling people I'd got married to a Taiwanese girl.

So, although I've been dreadful with updating this diary and writing emails, it seems that I've got a great excuse, as I settle down with my delightful, if fictional bride.

Wednesday, 24 November 2004

Making My Mark

After 11 months and 2 weeks in Korea, I have finally made my mark.

Last night I managed to get the 14th highest score on Tetris at the downtown arcades, and my name is thus etched there for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, 23 November 2004

Being A Spastic

I'm feeling good today.

I've been feeling good for the last few days, but each day has got better. This is in stark contrast to the last few weeks where I've been feeling anything but good. In fact, last week was possibly my worst week in Korea to date.

It was burn out. I'm on holiday and am feeling supremely relaxed and back to the Nev we know and love. I'm recharging after a period of being completely drained. Not just physically tired, which I can take, but completely drained and devoid of thought or inspiration. Don't worry, it was never a big problem because I knew I just needed a holiday, but up until my holiday started I'd become like an automaton, like a shell. I wasn't looking forward to anything, and was poor company forced to go out socially.

It peaked the weekend before last. That was when I went to Geoje-do (a pretty island off the south coast) with Suk-jeong and her friends. There were about 12 friends in all, but none spoke anything but patchy English. On the Saturday night we stayed at a large hotel, the 12 of us renting out one large room to share. That night was quite fun, as we sat round, ate food, drank soju, and laughed and chatted. I wasn't on great form and my Korean was dreadful, but after some drinks it didn't really matter.

But the Sunday was hell. It started with waking on the floor, nauseus and with a pounding headache. Bodies were all around me. I struggled to my feet and found a seat as the bodies awoke. The nausea and headache subsided a little, but left behind a spastic of a man. For that day (and hopefully that day only), I was a complete spastic.

I had nothing. Nothing in me at all. Not a word to say, in English or Korean. I felt mentally dead, and all I wanted to do for the entire day was to go home. But I was with three carloads of Koreans, all very lovely people, and an alternative day was planned.

We started with a drive to a rocky beach. This drive took us along scenic roads that twisted and turned, and had there been any life in me I would have revelled in the marvellous view of sea and mountains. But the only thing in me was my breakfast, and not for much longer. As nausea crept up inside me, and my stomach slowly climbed to my mouth, my thoughts became focussed only on not spraying the car with my morning's digestions. This I mercifully managed, but only just. The car came to a halt, and I managed to fight my way ou of the car before vomitting in front of my Korean friends.

I felt better after that, physically. But mentally I was as spastic as ever. It was horrible actually, really horrible. Not only had I forgotten all the Korean I knew, but I'd forgotten how to make any conversation anyway.

So the day took us to some lovely scenes, a couple of rocky beaches, and an interesting POW camp/museum but it all washed through me. We got back to Daegu at 11pm and I collapsed at home a pathetic wreck. All last week at work I was a shell, just going through the motions.

I'd just been overdoing it. Monday to Friday is dominated by work, and slowly has been draining me. Plus, I'm studying Korean hard each morning for a couple of hours. My apartment is next to a very busy, loud road so I never get any peace. And it all caught up with me. The last few weekend I was perpetually tired and never particularly keen to meet people socially as it just drained me more.

But the solution was my holiday, which I was eagerly looking forward to and which I'm very much enjoying. On Saturday I locked myself in my room and spent the entire day cleaning, naked. My room is now spotless. I think it is the first time in my life I've spent a full 24 hours naked.

On Sunday I met with the Gin Girls, then met with Matt and Rebecca and went to Busan. We stayed in a love motel, which are always rather luxurious, if slightly seedy. This one had a vending machine with vibrators. As always, the rooms come with complementary condoms and tissues by the bedside. But they always have massive widescreen TVs, a DVD player and a computer with internet, and are spacious and comfortable. We went out to eat at an Indian restaurant, which was divine. Indian food, Western style, which I've not tasted in over a year. Expensive but none of us cared.

Yesterday I returned to Daegu and had coffee in the afternoon, relaxed, then met Maebh and Eileen in the evening. I've not seen them in a while. We ate shabu-shabu (or something) which was delicious. I was back to good form too, and we regaled one another with amusing stories and interesting chat.

Today I've been feeling especially relaxed. I had a leisurely morning before going downtown to drink coffee. Later I'm meeting Jamaleh for a meal. She's the attractive American, but ethnically Korean an adopted at birth, who is also Bahai (a religion). She doesn't drink however, so I suppose I'll have to drop the Rohypnol in her tea.

The next few days will continue leisurely, then on Friday is my birthday. It's back to work on Monday but I've only a month left after that before finishing my contract.

It's good to feel human again.