Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Every now and again, when going to the teachers' bathroom at school, I'll walk into a cubicle to find an unflushed 'number two' toilet, sans loo paper, staring back at me. It's disgusting. A few weeks ago one of my co-teachers came up to my desk and whisperingly asked if I knew anything about it, hinting that maybe I was the one behind it. I said, "Do you want to know how it's not me? I don't put my toilet paper in the bin, I flush it!" Gasp! Horror! Explain?

School toilet, with bin. By 4pm it's not pleasant!
Given that Korea is one of the more technologically advanced nations on the planet, it is surprising how, uh, shitty, the sanitation system is. The pipes are far too narrow for the amount of people that live here, so there are many instances of overflows, blockages and general stinkery. To combat the blockages, people generally throw their used toilet paper in a bin next to the potty. It is a disgusting habit, and one that many foreigners refuse to follow, myself included.

The downside to this disregard for the rules is that we often find ourselves confronted with blocked toilets, from nothing more sinister than 1-ply paper. The pipes are so small! One morning, The Lovely Gen had to deal with such a problem at home and came up with a genius solution. We didn't have a plunger, so she used the power of Google and fashioned her own device out of the toilet brush and a plastic bag. The bag, once shoved into the toilet, created a vacuum and a few sharp plunges sorted out the block. Easy peasy.

This past weekend we went to a fireworks festival in the coastal city of Busan, and found ourselves in a similar fix at 2am in our hotel room. But this time, no toilet brush was handy! And no shopping packet! So we did the next best thing: hanger and bathrobe wrapper! Thank god we were sober and could sort it out, as the floor was flooding. Also, thank god for drains in the middle of Korean bathroom floors!

TLG wrapped the hanger in plastic and tried to do her usual plunging performance, but it wouldn't create a vacuum. Water was going everywhere, I was helping by taking photos, she was screaming because her arm was in toilet water up to her elbow (TLG: "Thank god this isn't poo water!"). We then tried the second bathrobe's packet, which was used without the hanger. TLG bravely put her hand inside the bag, stuck her arm into the toilet and used her hand as the plunger. Voila! The water retreated!

She then proceeded to attack me with toilet water hands. Luckily we'd gotten an expensive room equipped with a jacuzzi bath to make it all worthwhile.

First attempt: Hanger and bag. Obviously useless.
It's not working. Water everywhere!
Bugger this for a joke, let me just use my hand!
Toilet water hand! I'm gonna get you!!!

Monday, October 17, 2011


When I first arrived in Korea nearly two years ago, I had never heard of K-pop. I was unfamiliar with the 90's-style boy and girl groups that dominate the music scene here, and the only Korean musician I'd ever heard of was Rain. It will also come as no surprise to anyone familiar with homogenous Korea that most of these groups sound/look/dance exactly the same.

Big Bang. My boyfriend is the one in the middle
Surprisingly, K-pop is extremely popular outside Korea, and even the USA has jumped onto the bandwagon with the emergence of Big Bang. These 'bands' make silly amounts of money, most of which the singers/dancers don't see, and come and go faster than junk food outlets. It's not difficult to see why these groups are so adored, though. They're beautiful. Boys are androgynous and the girls look like anime fantasy characters, the kinds of people Westerners dream about before coming to Asia.

Now, let's be clear. I don't generally like K-pop. It's all the same, I can't tell one boy band apart from the next, and I particularly don't like the girl groups. But. I love Big Bang. Like, a lot. I know their names, and I know what their songs are called in Korean, and I listen to their individual stuff. My favourite is Taeyang (watch the link, it's so dramatic!). If you ask my students, they will tell you that he is my boyfriend. Oddly enough, he is the most masculine of all the K-pop boys... I should like G-Dragon more...

Anyway! Despite my general ambivalence about the genre, I found myself at the Asian Song Festival this past weekend, where many very popular K-pop groups performed, as well as big names from Japan, China, Hong Kong and Thailand. The concert was free, held by the city of Daegu to thank the citizens for coming to watch the IAAF Athletics World Championships last month.

The stadium was packed, and we all got free blankets and glow sticks (I love Korea, always giving us free stuff). We sat with what seemed like the entire foreign population of Korea, down on the pitch in front of the stage. Clearly the organisers wanted the cameras to catch us, to show how cosmopolitan the whole thing was! See! Foreigners love Korean music!

The first few acts were fairly terrible, but hugely entertaining thanks to the overtly sexual dancing in a stadium filled with children of all ages. My friend Tim, who loves himself some Korean girls, was mesmerizsd. I don't think he looked away from the big screen for a minute. There was some horrifically bad lip syncing from the starter acts, they'd not yet mastered the art of keeping the microphone by their mouths when 'singing' and dancing.

BiBi Chou, from China
The international acts were good though. I really like a woman from China called Bibi Chou (watch the link!), who was quite sexy in an andro way and had a really good voice. You could tell she actually sang the songs, and she had some English lyrics in there too, which made a nice change. The guy from Taiwan, Peter Ho, was hilariously lame, but a granny in the row in front of us went mental for him. She kept telling us to stand up, but everyone else was seated so she jumped up and down all on her lonesome.

G.NA, rocking her upside-down heart ensemble
The main Korean acts were so slick and professional. These guys really know how to put on a show, especially the big names. Miss A kicked off the main acts, but alas I was in the mile-long line to go to the toilet! Bloody porta-loos! But I got back in time to see G.NA (pronounced Gina) who is super hot and all my boy students adore her. It was nice to hear a song I could sing along to for a change, and we all waved our glow sticks about as we sang 'Black and white'. Well, aside from Andrew and Fiona, who were bored out of their minds!

BEAST, currently the most popular group in Korea, as far as I can tell, was a massive hit. An entire section of the stadium held up green glow sticks in the shape of their band name, which looked amazing. They sang three songs, danced like machines in their black and white suits, and reduced many a spectator to hysteria. I think I had more fun watching the audience than the actual groups.

I'm not going to lie. I had a good time, and when time came to leave at 8pm to watch the Man United/Liverpool game... I stayed behind to watch the concert *hides face in shame*. Luckily my blushes were spared when the rain came down and I had an excuse to leave. We joined the mass exodus out of the stadium, before mega groups Super Junior and Girls Generation had performed. We thought the show would stop because of all the electronics, but as we got on the shuttle bus we heard it kick off again. Bugger.

SNSD, or Girls Generation
So those who stayed got to see Super Junior and Girls Generation, as well as Perfume and AAA from Japan. I wasn't that sad, honestly. I was K-popped out by that point and just wanted to get to the pub to watch the football. Pity United were playing like rubbish and ended up with a 1-1 draw, the clowns. I later discovered that the show was broadcast to 40 countries, maybe I'm famous in Bhutan!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


One of many things I adore about The Lovely Gen is her child-like enthusiasm about birthdays. Any birthday is exciting to her, and she looks forward to mine more than I do (because I'm turning 30 next year and am thus pretending time has stood still). She counts down to her birthday for a month beforehand, reminding me every day, "Babe! It's only X more days!"

Sadly for TLG, her birthday is at the end of January, which in Korea is a terrible time because most people are either on winter vacation or on their way home, so there is a distinct absence of friends. So, ignoring my own ambivalence about days of birth, I teamed up with our friend Megan to throw a surprise party for TLG and Rodney, Megan's boyfriend. Four months early. It was genius.

It wasn't a fancy party by any means. There weren't gifts or costumes or strippers, but it still took a month to plan, to give people notice and keep them in the loop about the events of the day. Don't write about it on Facebook. If TLG or Rodney ask to do something that night, you're busy/dying/don't want to be their friend. No gifts required. Just STFU!

We told the unsuspecting duo that we were taking them on a special double date to a fancy new restaurant. We had to get our ducks in a row and plan for any question they may have asked, as both surprisees were sure to be nosy. And they were. What kind of restaurant is it? What must I wear? Where is it? How did you find out about it? What are we doing afterwards? No question thwarted us and we set off for Daegu and our fictitious 8pm reservation. Megan had gone in earlier to set up the venue, claiming a 'meeting' with her former employers, so we kept in touch via SMS and were veritable CIA operatives. We ascended in the elevator, she was hiding with the friends.

SURPRISE! Even I jumped with fright. The look on TLG's face was priceless and well worth the effort. She really had no clue at all, despite my near-busts and terrible excuses. Rodney was just as thrilled, it was quite adorable how happy and special they felt. High five to everyone who attended and helped!

Luckily the boys had experience with balloons and did a wonderful blowing job.
The stunned duo
Look at that face! So cute!
TLG and I. Brownie points scored!
Birthday cake, courtesy of Tim. Kamsayo!
Rodders fancied himself Dave Grohl, after which he proceeded to trip over a wire and fall flat on his face.
Foooozeball! One of the many games we played that night, including pool, air hockey and beer pong.

Look at that mic technique! Could be on Idols!
Gen and I were beer pong champions... but not at Champs. We blame the tables.
Andrew kept saying very vulgar things into the mic, so Fiona shut him up.
Megan, my partner in crime, and Rodders.
The last song of the night, well, morning as it was 4am, with some random American girls.
The boys got all emotional and sang a long song, something to do with a house?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


It must be really difficult being an international sports star. All that money, fame and butt-kissing is tough to deal with, it's no wonder so many players find themselves seeking solace in the boobs of blonde women. I'm looking at you, Mike Tindall/Tiger Woods/Ryan Giggs/Joost van der Westhuizen.

I really don't understand. How hard is it to keep it in your pants, lads? I know you're away from home for long stretches, and that women throw themselves at you constantly, but do you not stop to think about the consequences? I'm not even talking about the moral issues (I'm not conservative about many things, but I do think monogamy is legit), but think about the shit that will hit the fan when you're found out. And you will be found out.

England rugby captain Mike Tindall
Have a good time seeing your wife again, Mike? I expect the next family dinner at the Queen's house is going to be rather awkward for Mikey, given that his wife, Zara Phillips, is the Queen's grandchild. Married 6 weeks, mate. Really? Is it that difficult? You're not exactly David Beckham, son. I'd recognise my good fortune and beg forgiveness, if I were you. Same to you, Peter Crouch and Wayne Rooney. If you weren't sportsmen/millionaires you'd still be virgins.

Though in the interests of balance, it hasn't been proven that Tindall did anything other than stick his head between the blonde woman's boobs and get hammered with some 'dwarves'… But he then went on to lie about going to another bar with her, and only this weekend admitted to doing so. Wow, that's a long time to have memory loss, I wonder what prompted the bout of honesty? Another CCTV video?

What sportspeople who think about 'playing away from home' need to remember is:

A)You are famous, which means it will not stay a secret forever. Someone, be it the person you shagged or a witness, will sell the story at some point. You live in a goldfish bowl, which sucks for you, but it's part of the deal.

B) Even if the missus does forgive you, or believes that nothing happened that time, you've dented the trust she has in you. Every time you go on tour, or go on a night out without her, she will wonder what you're doing and worry. You will never come home to a calm, unquestioning partner again.

C) So to make your life easier, don't be a douche. And if drinking turns you into one, don’t drink. Keep your hands to yourself and your dick in your pants. If you can't do that, leave your wife so she can find someone hotter (Hi Elin Nordegren!).