Goodbye Korea, Aloha World

As the days diminished towards the conclusion of my second year of teaching in Korea, I was awash with the usual sense of excitement, wunderlust and desire to once again hit the road, and be reunited with my first and greatest love…freedom. After a spectacularly colourful autumn, Daegu had become cold and dreary, and I was more than ready to leave, maybe for the last time, ‘the land of the morning (imaginary) calm.’ My enthusiasm was only ever so slightly tempered by the reality that I would once again be homeless and unemployed, but as per normal, these were only minor concerns, as I had an amazing three months of travels planned, culminating in a month of study in Prague, not the worst place to go to school! The economic problems the world is facing is finally hitting Korea, making it more difficult to secure the prime university jobs that I sought, so as the recession has forced my hand a little, it was with mixed emotions that I left what has been my home for more than two out of the last three years. And perhaps good timing too, in wake of the death of doom monger Kim Jong Il to the north. Though this was celebrated by the students, the specter of his perhaps more psychpathic son, Kim Jong Um, is perhaps cause for even more concern, as he sets out to assert his power and illustrate that the Hermit Kingdom will not be weakened by the death of ‘The Beloved Leader.’ Watch out world.
So, in summary of my second year in the R.O.K, I’ll begin by saying I have loved every minute of it. It has been a much healthier and more productive stint than my first crazy year in Gyeongju, trading drinking for writing and hiking, my new passions. Consequently, my long, on-going book project has kicked on significantly, and I have finally started blogging, the first steps toward my future writing aspirations.
My creaking joints have just about allowed me to continue playing footy, turning out for and captaining foreigner team F.C. Daegu (The Deer), to the top of the league at the mid point of the season. It has been a pleasure to play for such a good team and with such a great bunch of lads, and a great way to retire…probably. So, cheers to Dano Dooner and all the boys…now, go on and win the league.
My school had generous holiday allowance, so I was able to slip out of Korea to visit various exotic spots, The Philippines, Japan and Indonesia, as well as a short trip to Jeju Island off Korea’s south coast. I really made the most of my time off school, visiting Boracay solo, but meeting my brother in Bali and for Japan and Jeju travelled I with my girlfriend.  All four trips were excellent adventures, and necessary breaks. Like any job, even an easy one like mine, holidays are welcome, especially to get away from the students…if just for a short while.

This time out I worked for an excellent company, Moonkkang, and I had a great school. The teaching was just that this time, teaching, as opposed to being a glorified babysitter as in my previous school, the unbelievably shoddy E.C.C. I will certainly miss some amazing students too, kids that are not only smart and keen to learn, but kids that made me laugh on a daily basis.
It’s fair to say that the Korean education system is so harsh on the kids, studying for for long, hard hours, and then going to several academies until late in the evening, and at such young ages. But, in most cases the kids try to make the best of it, and despite their exhausted minds and bodies, they tried to learn and have fun, which made my job entertaining as well as easy. Also, the support of the management was also often beyond the call of duty so Chris and Lynn, thanks a lot.
A big shout out goes to my friends in Gyeongju, my former home town, both those that remain and those smart enough to have left…auntie Muzza, Gorgeous Woods, Martorana, McGowan, Hopton and Park…great friends who will remain so forever…or at least until I forget them! We all had some awesome times watching the band, ‘The Taco Handshake,’ so to Angus, Dave, J and John, I say thanks…and, “Can You Bodge A…?”  Take a listen!
To my Siji school mates and neighbours, the pleasure was mine, and thanks for all your help back in the day. To my ‘Deer’ team mates, it was an honour, and when you finally lift the K.F.F.L. league trophy, don’t forget ‘OL’ Silky!  Finally, to my brother Mark fits Henry I say thanks, a great friend and valuable source of verbosely delivered info about all things Daegu, and more contemporarily, my CELTA course and Prague. Thanks bro, and see you on the other side.
In an action packed and fulfilling year there have been many standout moments. Watching the ‘Tacos’ rockin’ in the free world across various cities was always fun. Leading ‘The Deer’ to a 5-4 win versus champions Busan Utd, against all the odds, was unbelievable, perhaps even a career highight? And yes, I scored. Summiting the R.O.K’s highest peak, Halla-San, then diving it’s bluest waters on Jeju was special. I was humbled in Hiroshima, Japan, and the tragic history of that haunted yet hopeful city will stick with me for a long time. I spent a fantastic week basking horizontally in Boracay, The Philippines, and and to hook up with my brother for scuba diving in Bali was a long held ambition fulfilled. I have had my travel writing published for the first time, and many pieces followed in various publications, and although my paintbrushes largely gathered dust, the little they did do was vastly improved. Being among the action at the Athletics World Champs in Daegu was inspiring, and to witness Usain Bolt in flight, both successfully and otherwise, was to see records rewritten and dreams shattered.

However, the absolute highlight of my year, perhaps surprisingly as an Englishman, was St. Patrick’s Day, because this was when I was introduced to the beautiful, talented and wonderful Leslie Patrick. Over a couple of green coloured beers amid the chaos of downtown Daegu we met, and have been together ever since. Yes, meeting Miss. Patrick on St. Patrick’s Day was perhaps a little cheddary, but as Korean cheese is so terrible, it was very welcome.
Right now, I am sitting next to Leslie in Kahului Airport, Maui, having spent two spectacular weeks among the wild, volcanic scenery and lazing on glorious beaches of Hawaii. From here we hit up California and England, followed by a month exploring Morocco and Egypt, before finally landing at my desk in Prague, where I’ll exchange my backpack for a satchel, and my Lonely Planet for teaching textbooks. Beyond my CELTA teaching course, who knows? Maybe I will score a job in Prague, perhaps Japan or Latin America? But score a job I must!
For now, I am going to rekindle an affair with my first and longest love, travel, with my newest love by my side, as Leslie and I continue on our mini four continent world tour. And for me, I am delighted in the knowledge that, whereas most visitors leave Korea with a bottle of soju or some kimchi stuffed in their suitcase, I left with the wonderful Miss. Patrick on my arm.

P.S. This is posted a week late, and I am currently in rain lashed Beccles, England…weep weep!

** Coming soon…Hawaii 5 0, and The Lost Boys.

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