Tag: Korea moments

EPIK Developments In Incheon (and Elsewhere)

Or: Why it seems that the public school program no longer provides job security

A couple of months ago, news of a major blow hit the EFL teaching community in Korea. Incheon had decided to reject all of the incoming EPIK applicants. Now, there were only nine of them, but many people saw this as a sign of things to come – Seoul had already cut down their intake to only elementary school teachers, and where Seoul leads, the rest of the country tends to follow. Incheon, for instance, had been instituting the same policy.

The scaling back of teachers has a process that is usually as follows:

  • Elementary school teachers are given the option to renew at their current schools.
  • Middle and High school teachers may renew, but will be transferred to elementary schools.
  • In some cases, middle school teachers have been allowed to stay, but in the knowledge that if they leave, their school will not receive a new native English teacher.

This… this was not how Incheon handled it this time around. Continue reading “EPIK Developments In Incheon (and Elsewhere)”

On Buses In Gwangju

I’ve often said that if I die in Korea, it will probably be during a bus ride.

From Snow to Sand: B&T Adventures

As we careened along one of Gwangju’s major arteries near the bus terminal and squealed around a corner on two wheels, I reached out and grabbed the handle in front of me to stop myself from tumbling into the aisle. This was by far one of the fastest bus rides we had had the fortune (good or bad remained to be seen) of encountering. Once I had prevented my forehead from smashing into the seatback in front of me at the next light, I turned to check on Tamara. She had carefully wedged her feet in between the seat in front of her and the side of the bus to prevent herself from catapulting into the exit stairway at every traffic light. Her hands were braced against her seat to stabilize herself for the wild swings around cars, pedestrians, puddles, and even the occasional corner. The world’s strangest roller coaster…

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On the bus from Seoul to Incheon

I love driving.

I especially love driving at night on empty, well-lit roads. In those moments, it’s like the world belongs to me. I can speed up, and hasten the arrival of that wonderful moment where the roads start to look like home, or I can slow down a little and see the city lights recreating my world, step by step.

Here in my car, I feel safest of all. My car, my lights, my streets, my world.

And at night, it’s the best. Millions of houses and millions of lights shine onto the streets. Lonely cars and trucks drive down the road – they may not see home until daylight. There are times when I look out of the window at the long line of street lights curving away in the dark, and I forget where I am. I forget that I’m in a bus. I’m moving in the dark and all those lights are taking me home. For a very long moment, it no longer matters where home is. It no longer matters that this isn’t the N1 and that these aren’t my lights on my streets in my city. I see headlights and street lights and white lines on the tar, and I’m going home.

I want a word for the almost-home.

That point where the highway’s monotony becomes familiar
That subway stop whose name will always wake you from day’s-end dozing
That first glimpse of the skyline
That you never loved until you left it behind.

What do you call the exit sign you see even in your dreams?
Is there a name for the airport terminal you come back to,
Comfortably exhausted?

I need a word for rounding your corner onto your street,
For seeing your city on the horizon,
For flying homewards down your highway.

Give me a word for the boundary
Between the world you went to see
And the small one you call your own.

I want a word for the moment you know
You’re almost home.


Korea Will Change You – Clothing and Appearance

Before I left home, I recall my mother telling me that I should be less concerned about clothing. She assured me that I was probably freaking out over not being able to buy clothes in Korea (she was right, incidentally), and also that by the time I returned to South Africa, I’d be dressing completely differently.

I scoffed. I liked the way I dressed, and I saw no reason to change it.

But I have changed the way I dress. It’s this weird thing Korea has done to me. I like it.

Continue reading “Korea Will Change You – Clothing and Appearance”

Korea Will Change You – Safety


I started a post on this topic ages ago, and it became too long. So now I’m splitting it up into a series of posts on how life in Korea will change you. Please note that I speak from my own experiences, and that these things may not be true for everyone. However, based on the people I know and discussions I’ve had, they’re true for people other than me.

Also, these posts, it seems, are generally happier and more upbeat than my usual fare, so enjoy!


One of things that I genuinely love about Korea is how safe it is. I discovered just how used to this I’ve become when I was visiting home.

In Korea, I will happily take my laptop to a coffeeshop, and leave it on the table when I go up to order, leave it on the table when I go to fetch my drink, and leave it on the table if I go to the bathroom. At no point am I concerned that it won’t be there when I come back.

I would never do that back home.

shocked chester

If I realise, at 11pm, that I have no milk for my coffee the next morning, I’ll groan, put on some respectable garments, and go to the nearest convenience store to pick some up. And yes, I’ll walk there.

Back home, this would not have been the case. I would definitely have driven, even if it was only around the corner.


It’s 2am, the taxi driver has dropped me off at the wrong school (I always give them the name of the school next to my building), and when I realise this, I sigh, pull out my phone, and use Google maps to find my way home. It’s an inconvenience, but hey, the fresh air and the walk will do me good.

Back home… walking around at 2am? Probably less than sober? Not. On. Your. Life.

no cat

I’m not saying that Korea is 100% safe, or that theft and assault don’t happen here. I won’t pretend that my actions in any of these three scenarios (or dozens of others) show reasonable caution. I also won’t say that there have been no scenarios where I didn’t feel safe, but those were in completely different contexts.

The general feeling of safety is still one of the coolest things about Korea.

happy oooh!

So what will Korea change about you?

It will change how you view safety. I would never have thought I’d be that careless with my things. I’d never have thought I’d be finding my way home through empty streets in the early hours of the morning.  I certainly never thought I’d leave my handbag unattended, or assume I’d find my cellphone where I left it at a bar.

And that… that’s pretty cool.

Whiny Expat Bloggers (Part 2) – Complaints and Complainers

Or Complaints, Complainers, and Complaints about Complainers

(the word complain looks really weird when you’ve written it several times)

This post has recently been passed around the expat community in Korea. This post was made in response, by another blog. It’s also a topic I’ve written about. I’m a complaining expat blogger, and I’m very aware about all the complaining that I’ve done.

Continue reading “Whiny Expat Bloggers (Part 2) – Complaints and Complainers”