Posts Tagged ‘South Korea

09
Dec
09

Dog meat

It was going to happen eventually, I suppose. Today I was offered dog. Not a dog, you understand. I wasn’t being given a pet. Somebody thought that I might actually enjoy scoffing on flesh that had been pulled off the carcass of a dead dog.

I’ve been given a couple of days off as my fellow lecturers have to go to some conference. With nothing to do, the one lecturer who didn’t go to this thing offered to take me to lunch, and he suggested dog meat. I was previously aware of a penchant for dog meat in Korea, but I figured nobody would expect me to eat it. So this was a surprise. Thinking it best to immediately rule out the possibility, I calmly said, “I don’t think I’d like that, to be honest.” Unfortunately, I failed to appreciate this was beyond my companion’s level of English, and it seems he interpreted this as enthusiasm for the idea. Five minutes later we were parked beside a dog meat restaurant.

I honestly can’t say why I knew it was a dog meat restaurant – it wasn’t as if there were cartoon dogs on the sign – but somehow I knew it was not a place I wanted to be. And in that moment I thought it might be better just to do it. Was it worth the risk of offending a colleague by saying I didn’t want to eat here? Yesterday, this same guy congratulated me for assimilating into the Korean culture so well. It seems most Westerners have huge problems with food here, so the locals find it impressive that I horse it down without qualm. It’s not that impressive really, I genuinely love Korean food, but I have always prided myself on being able to assimilate well with foreign cultures. For instance, if I were teaching in Japan and someone offered me whale meat, I’d eat it. I wouldn’t feel good about it, but I’d suck it up and do it. And so, I rationalised that eating dog is pretty much the same deal.

Of course I didn’t do it. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get the image of our Frank back home out of my head, looking up at me with his big sad face. I spluttered out, “Oh, dog meat. Sorry, I’ve had that before and I didn’t like it,” and so he took me to a Chinese place where I had battered pork and seafood noodles instead. I was embarrassed at my squeamishness. I mean, I’ve always had a problem with our national mores over meat, and how we find the foods of foreign cultures repulsive. If we have little problem with chewing on the flesh of cow or pig, then is eating dog or horse or whathaveyou really any different? The way I see it, the only people who can be legitimately repulsed by such customs are vegetarians (this should not be read as an endorsement of vegetarianism, as I downright dislike vegetarians). And so, I will try just about anything that’s offered to me.

Still, there are two animals I just can’t bring myself to eat: dogs and donkeys. Donkeys because they have it hard enough as it is, and dogs because, well, just because they’re dogs. What other creature in the animal kingdom strives to align with humankind the way dogs do? And we’re going to repay that by eating them? Fuck that shit.

04
Dec
09

They made me play sports

Hello friends. I realise I previously said here that I’m not interested in any more personal blogging, but I figured one or two posts are justified, just to let you know what’s going on.

First of all, the new blogs are coming (two, at the moment). I’m working the format and on a couple of initial posts. When I first moved here there was no internet access in my apartment, but this has been sorted now so things should be moving along swiftly.

As for Korea, it’s all working out rather nicely. It will surely not have escaped notice that I’ve been very vague about the job I’m doing here. This is because I wasn’t entirely sure myself. Of course it’s teaching English. Let’s face it, it’s is the only skill an Asian company would look to the West for. However, I wasn’t being hired by any kind of school or college, but a power plant, and I wasn’t certain what they’d be doing with an English teacher. As it turns out, this particular plant has an in-house academy for teaching new recruits, and this is where I fit in. My fellow teachers (or “instructors”) are all engineering and energy geniuses, and then there’s me. I feel like Homer Simpson. They gave me my own office, which I’ve dubbed Sector 7-G.

Anyway, you might be aware of the value many Asian companies place in recreational activities in the workplace. This is not like the beanbags and game-consoles that places like Google and Pixar are known for. They like to organise team activities that encourage physical development and teamwork skills. And so yesterday we were given the afternoon off to partake in some sporting activities together.

For those of you unaware, I hate sports. To me its little more than effort wasted on activities that solve nothing and that nobody should really care about. Why kick a football when you could be figuring out how to change the oil in your car? It’s an attitude I’ve found to be problematic here. When I’m being introduced to people, they tend to ask what sports I like. No one even thinks to ask if I like sports to begin with, that’s just assumed, and because I’m terrified of offending my host culture I have to lie and name some game I haven’t even thought about since I was fifteen.

And so yesterday I found myself forced onto the playing fields. I honestly wouldn’t have minded as much if I was playing soccer or something that normal people play (and would also allow me to hang around in full-back doing nothing). But no, we had to tennis. TENNIS, for fuck sake! I’ve already pointed out that I hate all sports so it’s probably redundant to mention my hatred of tennis, yet there’s something particularly loathsome about this game. Whenever an ardent sports fan takes offence to my prejudice, I simply make reference to tennis and somehow my stance feels justified. Since golf was largely democratised, tennis remains the last pursuit of smug, upper-middle class twits. It’s also the only sport that can be legitimately described as creepy. I mean, what’s with those cultish white uniforms professional players always wear, like they’re all shooting a boyband video or something? You can’t tell me that’s right. After tennis, the only ignominy left is cricket.

Needless to say, I didn’t do very well. The only thing I could hope for was that I’d be so bad that they’d never ask me to play again. No such luck. Comments afterwards centred my potential and how much better I’ll do next time, platitudes I hope are bullshit. I really don’t want to be good at tennis.

So that’s my new job. I’m polluting the environment and playing tennis. It’s a good thing the PDs broke up our I’d joining them next.

13
Nov
09

Another rat abandoning this sinking ship

So, I’m off. Long-time readers of this blog might recall a post on Brian Lenihan that I ended by threatening to leave the country. Well, I’m following through on that threat. I’ve been offered a job abroad and I’ve decided to accept it.

A couple of months ago I posted about being offered a job and being told later I wasn’t getting it. It’s this job I’m for which I’m headed. I’ve avoided posting further on this as I didn’t want to jinx it, but I guess I’m safe enough at this stage. The explanation I received on why I was briefly told I’m not getting the job was, frankly, weird, something about mistaking me for English and not wanting to hire an English person. One can be forgiven for thinking something fishy is going on. However, I’ve checked things as much as it is possible to check these things. I’ve talked to embassy people and the agent with whom I arranged the job, and I’ve comfirmed separately that the company exists. I can be certain that the offer is legit and there is an actual job waiting for me.

And so I’m off. The visa is sorted and the plane-ticket is bought, and I’m leaving this weekend. I’m pretty much going as far as I can without resorting to the Australia option (which is good as I can’t imagine a fate worse than living in Australia). I’m leaving behind Ireland and unemployment, and probably this blog. It’s not that I’m abandoning blogging, I’ve really enjoyed it and I have a couple of ideas for new blogs I’d like to try out, but I don’t see myself updating The Unemployed Blog much longer. I suppose I could do an ex-pat Irishman’s blog, but it’s not likely. In all honesty, I’ve become quite bored of personal blogging in the last few months.

I’ll be fleshing out a few concepts due course, and there’ll be a few more updates here, just to let regular readers know what’s happening. In the meantime, if anyone’s passing through South Korea you can stay in my house.