Friday, December 31, 2004


The sentimental bit first ...


Alas, '04 is almost over and out. Think I might attempt the 'best of' ...

January04=Landed a new job at Hoseo University. The interview was strange in that it seemed like I was interviewed by the whole English Department and the Pastor. That's never happened before.
Febuary04=Finally left Little America. I had tried that approach before but it didn't quite happen. Anyway, it happened this time. The end of a number of things, too many to mention ... or dare mention.
March04=Completely out of my depth at University. Classes of 50+ 'adult' students. The largest had I had had was 12. A big learning curve and i'm not talking about my student's! 1st wedding of year.
April04=Parents and brother visited. Bit of an eye-opener!
May04=2nd wedding of the year. A very quick affair. It took us longer to get to the venue than it did for the ceremony itself. Sorry Kerry but I didn't really enjoy it ...
June04=Stress beyond belief. Grading students for the 1st time. Not an entirely pleasant experience. Start of a 2 month holiday.
July04=The best and worst day of the year. The 31st. 3rd wedding of the year. Neil - I will get my own back. 1 day!
August04=Hot, sticky and sweaty. Back at University.
September04=Some tourists arrived. Think they had a good good time. Also, 1st trip to China. Whoa. Check out the photos for both events.
October04=Final wedding of the year. A warm, sunny afternoon in the country.
December04=Now. 28 Years old. Completed 1st full year of University.


Thursday, December 30, 2004


The urge to stay in bed is getting harder and harder to overcome. I guess thats due to a combination of factors - too cold, no work mixed with a large dose of laziness. Perhaps, i'm actually in hibernation mode.

Alas, a brisk hike up the nearest mountain quickly wakes me up. The cold and the wind see to that. In fact, i'm not sure it even got above freezing.

I was thinking about having a 'year end' post but to be honest, it's actually quite difficult trying to sum up a year in a few sentences. So much has happened but by the same token, not that much has happened. In the large scheme of things, i'm still in Korea albeit in another job. Perhaps, in the small scheme of things alot has happened - of course it must have, after all i'm 365 days older than this time last year ...

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


My sources tell me that we had snow last night ... clearly, I wasn't awake early enough to confirm the rumour. To me, it looked like a hard frost!

So, no ducks today. Where are they? Maybe they got scared. Perhaps they are planning their next mission. Regardless, I should be extra vigilant ... just in case they launch a stealth attack.

It is quite depressing watching all the T.V. news reports these days whether they are in Korean, Japanese or in English. All are focussing on the Eathquake induced Tidal Wave that hit so many countries. All showing on the spot footage of the destruction. I guess it just shows how fragile our whole existance is, irrespective of the medical, technological and scientific advances we, as a race, have made. I read some reports outlining how it could have been prevented or the loss of life reduced but ultimately, the single biggest 'force' on the planet, is the force of nature. However we try to get the better of it, it always comes out on top. It may even become our downfall. We could spent millions or even billions on creating warning systems but nature is only predictable in it's unpredictability. History is littered with examples of this. From volcano's erupting to - perhaps - meteors hitting the Earth.

Although, despite the bleakness, it seems that the human spirit will try to overcome such events. Too late to save many but maybe in time to save the many who remain.

Let's hope so.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


We have a group of ducks next to our apartment block. Not really sure where they have come from - Maybe they are North Korean spies or something - but usually they just do their own thing like quacking and waddling, but today was different. As soon as I saw them, I just knew something was wrong. The quacking and waddling has stopped and they looked like they were on some kind of mission. They were walking in formation, upright and marching as if they were an elite group of, well, ducks. At the entrance to our apartment, I stopped to let them past. This passed without incident but as soon as I tried to continue to my apartment, they suddenly stopped and headed straight back towards me. I was getting alittle concerned by this point, so I speeded up but as soon as I started to speed up, they did too. It's like they were chasing me. Clearly 6 elite, highly trained ducks are no match for 1 highly motivated and determined Scottish bloke but on this occasion, I let it pass and went home.

But, what if this happens tomorrow - will the ducks be as lucky?


Monday, December 27, 2004


I was just killing time before I had to go back and collect my photos from the shop when nature called. So, off I went and found a suitable cubicle. Thankfully, it wasn't one of these squat things which are a nightmare since the chance of actually hitting yourself is very high. Anyway, I closed the door and got into position when all of a sudden I notice 2 eyes staring at me. Now, in China, it is quite common to have no toilet doors but here in Korea it's not exactly a spectator sport. For a brief second I was really confused and flustered. But, then it occurred to me that they were actually my own eyes ... it turns out that this cubicle had a small mirror attached to the door, right at eye level!

Why? i'm not sure. Perhaps it's to help put your make-up on or maybe even to watch yourself burst a blood vessel whilst dropping one.

If anyone has a suitable explanation, then please share it!

Anyway, I've finally finished the film I started in september. They can be found by hitting the 'photos' link. There are some more from China and then some from here in Korea ...

Sunday, December 26, 2004


Word of the week: 'Merry christmas'.

O.K. not really a word but close enough. Anyway, because it was ...

Phrase of the week: 'You're not even a decent bus route now'.

Words of wisdom from a certain married man back in Edinburgh who correctly pointed out that the number 27 Bus route was much better than the number 28 Bus route. Just a nice way of saying 'you're well old'.

Sight of the week: 'Skirts'.

Friday night was busier than usual in downtown Cheonan but the thing that was really noticed was the amount of young ladies wearing particularly short skirts. They must have been so cold. Poor things!

Song of the week: 'The little drummer boy'.

Purely for the humming part which sounds very much like 'bum'. A classic, even now.

Saturday, December 25, 2004


Have you ever tried playing golf in winter?

Don't. It's too cold. The conditions are terrible and the green is usually the size of a 10p piece making it impossible to land on. Also, never allow anyone to speak whilst in mid-swing. It can cause untold damage to your chances of hitting the ball sweetly. It can be the difference between a par and a bogey or even a double bogey. Furthermore, do not allow anybody to convince you that it is a good idea to use bars, alcohol and glasses in place of a golf course, clubs and balls!

Today is of course Christmas Day ... so Merry Christmas.

Many thanks for the cards and the messages. I was just thinking about a book I covered with some of the other Professors at School. The main character said that when you are young, you need people around you. When you are old, you need people around you but the secret is that you need people around you inbetween as well. That's what Christmas is about, isn't it? Not the mad shopping spree the day before. Just a shame i'm here and not there ...

Friday, December 24, 2004


Rudely awoken by the sound of my Mobile phone (or should that be Hand Phone!?!) going off ... if it was a positive message then that would have put me in a good mood. If it was a negative message, then their would be trouble.

I'm still undecided as to which it was. It was Scott. He was wishing me a Happy Birthday which is pretty positive but it was the way he worded it that made it sound less than complimentary!

I'll have words with him later.

And yes, it's my birthday today. A big fat 28 years of age. It was always the case that 28 years old was OLD. I never really knew anyone who was that age but these days, loads of people are that age. I wonder if people who are actually older than 28, just say that they are 28 to cover up for the fact that they are well older than 28.

Anyway, a Christmas Eve birthday isn't that exciting. In fact, I would rather it was on another day, preferably in June or something. The reasoning is that all the best days of the year all happen in 1 week for me ... birthday, christmas and new year. I have nothing to look forward to for the REST of the entire year. 51 weeks to be exact!

But, I guess you can't choose the day you're born on ... you're stuck with it all your life.

All that remains to be said is:

Merry Christmas! :-)

Thursday, December 23, 2004


The truama of going for a haircut. Even at home it's not that great an experience. You are either an 'appointment' or a 'wait in line' kind of person when it comes to getting a chop. These days, i'm definitely a 'wait in line' guy. I'm not one for thinking ... 'hmm, I should get a haircut next thurdays at 2.10pm.' Plus, my Korean isn't good enough to be making lavish appointments yet, although I could get the 'thursday', '2.10pm' and my name out but nothing else.

So, why bother with the excess stress?

Actually, the stress usually happens as soon as you sit in the seat. Normally, you would have a chat with the person, just to clarify what's going to be happening. In guys' cases, that is usually a sentence or 2. Maybe 3 if either you or your 'stylist' is gay. But, to be honest, I would love to get 3 sentences out in Korea to clarify things because 1 of 2 things can happen. 1 = You'll get a Korean haircut. Not great but quietly effective or 2 = The haircut that the 'stylist' thinks that you want and probably not the one that you had in mind. Usually, 1 and 2 happen together.

Thankfully, me and my 'stylist' 유진 - have an understanding. Not much of an understanding but much more than the one I had with the last person. She keeps it simple yet effective. Not too short, not too Korean. She's crap with wax but thats fine. Plus, her assistants are very good at washing hair - they even put the shampoo on whilst you're still sitting in your seat. Thats how talented they are!

Anyway, the christmas haircut is looking good but then I haven't really seen it close up yet. Strangely, they don't do that thing with the mirror once they have finished. That worries me.

1 day until the big 28. Ugh.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


At School, I was pretty hopeless at making things and to be honest, even at University, I wasn't that great at making things which is ironic since Chemistry is all about making and breaking things. Hence, I am no longer a 'chemist' - not that I was really one anyway. I was pretty good at faking it!

But, these days, I'm getting better ... I was back at my old School (the final time!) and instead of looking at textbooks and boring the kids senseless, it was 'making' day.

For the youngest classes, we made angels and christmas trees using each others hands. Pretty impressive. Needless to say that my own examples weren't as good as the kids but in my defence they have smaller hands to draw round making it easier for them to actually make an angel or christmas tree shape. Anyway, the older kids made christmas cards. Alas, my cards were much better because I can colour in within the black lines whereas they can't!

I hope that they all went home happy. Probably ... because they know that they won't be getting that damn Paul again.

2 days until the big 28. Not good.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


Probably the most important day of the semester today ... the inputting of grades. 1 slip could prove fatal!

Actually, it's an easy process - just click on the letter that the student deserves. Then mulitiply by 400. Thats when it isn't so easy. No doubt I will get some student(s) knocking on my door questioning what I gave them. I feel a sick day coming on around that time ...

It looks like we will not be getting a white christmas. It's certainly colder than it has been recently but no snow. I hear that Scotland might well get some. Plus, I managed to catch the weather on the news today. We complain about the temperature when it hits freezing point but those idiots in Canada ... in places it's -20 IN THE AFTERNOON. I'm sure it's a nice place but what's the point in living in a place where there is a very real chance of getting frost bite from going to the shop for milk. I'm certainly not going to risk my life buying bread for my cheese on toast - i'll get someone else to go for me ...

Monday, December 20, 2004


Made a fleeting visit to my old School today ... they needed me to cover for one of the other teachers who was away this week. It's strange how different your memories of a place change over time, especially a place where so much time was spent. Each time I go back, something else is different - just little things but 'things' all the same.

Before I left, the 5th floor was the place to be with my room close enough to the action but far enough away from it, so as to hide if need be. Next door was Kirstie, with Ann one the other side, Anes further down the corridor and Monica next to her. Upstairs was the place we went for lunch. A place a long way away.

But today, the 5th floor is no longer the place. My room is no longer 'my' room. The layout has changed. Ann is banished to the 6th floor. Kirstie gone along with Anes, who can no longer march up and down the corridor complaining. The 6th floor is now where the action is. I'm placed in the classroom right at the end. Miles from anywhere.

Actually, it all seemed alittle alien to me. The School, the classroom, the teachers. The warm glow associated with 'then' evoraporate in the 'now'. Even the kids seemed alien. Many looked the same but I guess they are someone elses students now, not mine.

But, thats time ... doesn't matter how much you try to stop it, it just happens.

Sunday, December 19, 2004


Word of the week: 'Points?'

Clearly, the majority of my students have enough difficulty making questions hence this simple but hightly effective alternative to asking for their provisional grades.

Phrase of the week: 'Can I know my score?'

Asked by the minority of my students for their provisional grades. These guys probably got A's!

Sight of the week: Hair

I caught the city bus into Cheonan the other day. All the seats were taken, so I had to stand which isn't that unusual. I was just looking around, minding my own business when I was hit by the fact that, in all the seats on one side of the bus, where old women with EXACTLY the same hairstyle ... the short, dyed black perm thing. Clearly, I jumped off the bus and ran for my life!

Song of the week: Romania#026 James Lavelle

Actually, not really a song but the last 5 songs of his 'Beauty and ...' It almost makes me want to start tapping my feet.

Saturday, December 18, 2004


Finally, the Christmas Party season has begun ...

Back when I was living in London, there seemed to be Christmas Parties everynight in the run up to the big day. It didn't really matter if you knew anyone hosting the party or even which Department was having it, you simply went in the knowledge that their would be free food and drink. This 'FREE' thing certainly brought out alot of people and I certainly wasn't complaining. Although, it was ironic that our own Departments' - Finance! - wasn't free ... surely someone could have fiddled the books or something for it.

But here, Christmas Parties have been noticable by their absences. It seems that they are simply not 'done' - even the students don't have them.

My colleagues and I had more of a gathering than a raging party to celebrate both the end of term and the fact that most will be leaving before Christmas actually arrives. A very pleasant evening was had although the real party didn't get started until the non-drinkers and children went to bed.

It seems that the University has given permission for a new factory to be built on Campus RIGHT NEXT to our apartments. Our campus is essentially in the middle of nowhere with mountains right behind us. It's very picturesque particularly considering that we have a big pond and landscaped area beside the apartments. But, it appears that this landscaped area is to be developed and turned into a semi-conductor packaging factory. Needless to say, their are many unhappy campers. It seems like 'greenness' is giving way to 'money' these days with a number of other developments springing up around Campus. Although, this seems to be commonplace in most areas in and around Cheonan with examples of hills being cleared and 'moved' in order for new Apartments to be built.

It seems like many in the Planning Departments take the 'now' view instead of the long term one. Korea is only a microcosm of the world around it.

Friday, December 17, 2004


Just received an E-mail from one of my 4th year students ... I had a strange situation with her in that she couldn't attend class because she had got a job. Now, I think this is alittle strange. If you have a full-time job, you can't really still be a full-time student. But, over here, its actually accepted. Anyway, I told her that she must still do homework, complete assignments and sit the final test, all of which she agreed with.

So, this week, I calculated her grade based on the fact that she hadn't attended class and she hadn't completed 1 assignmet. Overall this meant she was looking at a C. She just happened to call and ask what her grade was, so I told her and the reason behind it. She wasn't too impressed but agreed to give me the assignment that she hadn't completed in order to boost her grade.

Today's E-mail was the assignment and the accompanying note 'begged me' to give her a B+ ... 'because it is important for my future'.

Well, hello ... if it was soo important, then why didn't you come to class and why didn't you give me the assignment when I asked for it - a month ago!?!

I'm the one giving HER the opportunity to hand it in LATE and then she has the CHEEK to tell ME what grade I should give HER.

I don't think so ... I should take points off her for that!

Thursday, December 16, 2004


The usual elimination of Scottish teams out of Europe before christmas continues ... It was looking quite rosy with real hope for all 3 teams having a realistic chance of progressing into next the next round.

Alas, the usual story of missed chances and glorious failures. Being Scottish, you kind of get used to them.

Firstly, Celtic were handed the toughest group and it was no real shock in losing out to Barcelona and Milan, although to get beaten by some unpronounable Ukrainian team was careless. Although, even these Ukrainians can splash 14 millions pounds on some Brazilian striker. Money that we could never dream of spending. And, that seems to be the difference - money.

Secondly, Rangers have no-one to blame but themselves. Only needing a point from home to qualify, they changed their formation by playing arguably their best midfielder at right back and trying to man-mark the eventual scorer of the 2 goals. Stupid.

And thirdly Hearts. To be honest, not many people gave them a chance given the strength of the oppostion but they held their own and secured a great result in Basle - a place where a number of good teams have left with a defeat.

It looks like even our best teams can't compete even with 'average' European teams. It's all a far cry from the days when Scottish teams reguarly competed in the latter stages of European competitions. When will we see your like again ...?

Apologies to the non-football fans!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


A message was left yesterday mentioning the fact that in my posts 'there' should be 'their' and vice versa. I think I have always had a probelm in trying to use the correct 'one' - even since I was back in Primary School. Plus, 'where' and 'were' caused probelms. Thankfully, that one has been 'sorted'. The question is: How can I reverse 20 years of cock - ups?!

Those blasted grammarians' ... but it is true, it seems like the English language is peppered with examples of poor grammar. I'm not just talking about English grammar found (or should that be 'not found') here in Korea but at home. Newspapers, shop signs, official documents and letters ... the list is endless.

Is this the fault of the Education system? or Are we just getting lazy?

Of course, when your talking, it doesn't really matter if you confuse 'there' and 'their' since no-one picks up on it but now that E-mails and texting are more common, the mistakes are more easily spotted - but are they picked up on!?!

Anyway, completely changing the subject ... I was minding my own business at home last night when this 'thing' tried to attack me. In the resulting confusion, I grabbed the closest thing to hand and whacked this 'thing'. As it turns out, it was a bloody mosquito ... what are they still doing alive at this time of year?!?

Makes me wonder what else i'm going to be living with ... last year it was a paranoid schizophrenic and this year mosquitoes. Next year?

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


It's amazing how popular you become when someone wants something from you ... I guess it happens to people who find themselves with there 15 minutes of fame with all there ex-girlfriends or best friends from Kindergarten or the next door neighbours cousins' uncles' babysitter get in on the act by selling there stories to the tabloids claiming X, Y or Z.

But, today, i'm really popular ... the continual knocking on my door or the showering of 'gifts' or 'Hi Paul!' whilst walking around Campus is getting scary.

I would like to believe that it has something to do with the fact that i'm a great teacher and they have really enjoyed my classes or that the students are really happy to see me or are even sad because the holidays are here. Maybe, i'm being cynical BUT is the reason for this new found popularity, have anything to do with the fact that i'm currently grading them?

Answers on a postcard, please ...

Monday, December 13, 2004


That usual monday morning ... it's dark and cold outside - can't bothered getting up. Can't be bothered getting dressed. Can't be bothered getting on the bus to University. Can't be bothered with students. But that all evaporates in the knowledge that we are now on the homeward straight. The light is starting to appear ... and then there is a knock at the door and the light suddenly, is gone.

Students. Wanting to know there grades. Only, they don't say that. They only say 'points'. I tell them 'You got a C+ and you got a D'. There faces drop. They understand alright. A moments silence ... only broken by 'My joke ... you got a A and you got a B+!' There bowels back to normal and a big cheesy grins on there faces.

'Merry Christmas teacher' one says as he leaves my office.

That turns my day.

Maybe mondays are actually pretty good after all ...

Sunday, December 12, 2004


Word of the week: 'Cold'

Actually, it's really not THAT cold but my students think it is. How else can you explain them all sitting in class with there big winter jackets and scarves on.

Phrase of the week: 'It's difficult'

Firstly, it's amazing that my students can actually make a 2 word 'sentence' and secondly, apparantly, my test was this. How can it be - I gave the students 2 weeks notice plus they could bring notes to it!

Sight of the Week: Grown men trying to dance. The funky chicken springs to mind.

Song of the week: Albion by the Libertines.

Over and out ...

Saturday, December 11, 2004


It seems that normal everyday activities can turn into really traumatic experiences. I never really paid much attention before since I usually just put things down to living in Korea, however, I do wonder sometimes ... is it really a 'Korea' thing or is it actually me!

2 examples occurred today.

The 1st is shopping. Normally, an easy, easy activity. Wander up and down aisles, picking your food of choice, dropping into your shopping trolley and then, once your finished, paying for the privilage. But, actually, it's a minefield. Not only are there other people but there are other people with shopping trolley's. Now, there is a Highway Code for cars etc. but nothing for trolley's and to be honest, they are equally as dangerous with numerous crashes, shunts and knocking of random things over. Plus, there seems to be absolutely no rules or etiquette - I find myself getting really aggressive whilst moving up and down the aisles. Does that mean i'm suffering from trolley rage? Anyway, Darwin's 'Survival of the fittest' is alive and well in my 'local' supermarket.

And 2ndly is flushing the toilet. Normally, a simple case of pulling the handle and making sure that what was there, isn't there anymore. Without doing into too much detail, I just happened to check to make sure that what was there, wasn't there anymore. The level of the water in the bowl began to rise as it usually does but to my alarm, it kept going and then to my horror it kept rising, almost to the top of the bowl. Thankfully, it didn't spill over or anything but it could have and believe me, that would have been really bad. So, now I have a toilet that won't flush. How is that possible? I haven't been doing anything out of the ordinary. Plus, I live alone, so no-one else could have blocked it. It is a mystery.

Maybe I should just stay in bed ... but then the headboard would probably fall and whack me on the head.

The stress of it all ...

Friday, December 10, 2004


The rest of my photos have been posted ... it's only taken how long?!?

Plus, I still have a film to finish from september. Pretty pathetic really but in my defence I haven't really had that much of an urge to take any photos. I see many things that I could take photos of but how often do you take photos of things that you see everyday?

It probably took me 20-odd years to take a photo of Edinburgh Castle ... one of the most photographed places in Scotland.

Also, some of the best photos are the ones that are spontaneous or are gone as soon as they occur. Exactly the time when the camera is safely 'resting' at home.

Anyway, many thanks to Maya for allowing me to pinch some of her photos chronicling Beijing. They are much better than anything that I could take ...

Thursday, December 09, 2004


Ugh - 4 days of listening to strange examples of English is not really good for ones health!

To be honest, alot of my students did really well. I didn't have high hopes especially since it was the 1st time i'd tried anything like this before but the students responded with some great ideas, great PowerPoint presentations and most of all in there information. I actually learned alot from them.

The prize must go to 1 of my Tuesday afternoon students. They had made up a sketch about Korean food. The were talking about how hungry they were and how they couldn't decide on what to eat. So, they then decided to all get X, Y and Z food delivered. Low and behold, there was a knock at the classroom door and there food was delivered on cue - ready to eat!

Thankfully, i'm almost done with the actual testing. I have some groups next week - the ones who missed the class (strange!) or the ones who had PowerPoint probelms. Pretty pleased about that especially after the debacle that was Mid-Term tests in which students didn't show up or showed up at the wrong time.

All I need to do now is grade them ... thats when the fun really begins.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


The semester is coming to a close which means the pressure starts to increase, not only for the students but the teachers as well. Actually, the pressure begins weeks before the actual test itself with countless hours trying to plan something that everybody will be able to do regardless of there own ability. But, the trick is trying to make it fair whilst allowing the students to get the points that merits there ability. This and the fact that it must be an spoken test, makes life pretty difficult.

So, this time, I asked my students to form teams and present a topic to the class. The thinking being that the students need to do all the work, everything from planning to delievering on the day. Essentially, they were in complete control. And they had 2 weeks to prepare it.


We'll find out ...

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


I guess that a little background is in order ... but where to start?

As Hansen usually points out on the B.B.C's 'Match of the Day' - keep it simple.

Scottish adult male, 27 years old, living and working as a 'Professor' at a University in the city of Cheonan, South Korea, teaching English to the masses, is probably as simple as I can make it.

I'm currently completing my first full year of teaching at a University and overall, my third in Korea. Before that, there were stints in London and a year globetrotting around the World. And even before that, I was growing up and learning in Scotland - a place that will always be classed as 'home'. Nice place ... actually, a very nice place - shame about the weather!

Alas, Korea is the current 'home'. Many things have been written and said about Korea - you can check for yourself regarding the 'bigger' picture but as far as i'm concerned, it's where I live and work. I guess I have some complaints about it - doesn't everyone have some complaints about where they live? - but on the flip side, I have many good things to say about the place. The good currently outweigh the bad ...

Monday, December 06, 2004


The Earth revolves around the Sun. Night follows day. Getting frustrated when the traffic lights slyly change back to red just as you approach them. 7 coming after 6.

The link?

All constants. Never changing despite my best efforts to convince number 7 to take a break.

One thing though, that rarely remains constant, is technology. Today proving this. Not only can I make postings but by typing in a list of seemingly random letters, I can link one website with another.

I would like to take credit for this alas, though, I would be lying ... although I am quite pleased that I managed to link this site with my photo site. Not only that but I have managed to post photos on that site as well ... I've been in a daze ever since!

The 'photos' link is somewhere on the left hand side.

More photos are likely to follow ... but that is dependent upon me utilising more technology - namely a scanner.

Surely that can't be as complex as making 2 websites link up?

Sunday, December 05, 2004


What ... i'm online?

Nosebleed time.

Check 1,2 ...

Look's like i'm on.

A minor miracle has occurred. It look me awhile to get an E-mail address and even longer to get a Mobile Phone but now my own 'Blog'. What's next ..?

I guess a Blog is an on-line diary, so that's the plan ... here goes.