Thursday 17 November 2011

The Irish dinner!

        This dinner was and will be a one time only event and was possible the most anticipated meal of the entire year. Since the end of February Dee and I began chatting about "an Irish dinner" we even proposed to first cook it the St. Patrick's day weekend in March but once we found out about the parade and festival in Seoul that plan got waylaid. Numerous other dates had been set since and each had been quashed before they ever got the chance to become reality. I think our friends here began to associate "the Irish dinner" in the same category as leprechauns, the crock of gold at the end of the rainbow and fairies!!!
          Then we finally set a date. Last Friday evening (the 11th of November 2011, a date I am sure will be forever etched in their minds as the night they ate the best food) we finally held the infamous "Irish dinner". Despite our best intentions we failed to locate bacon (or ham as the yanks needed us to specify) and a cabbage dinner by itself didn't appeal very much so we altered our menu. It may not be traditional Irish but it is a dish that I think every Irish family have frequently... Roast Chicken.
          With seven for dinner we bought 2 chickens (thank God for that because despite their appearance Korean chickens turned out to literally be almost skin and bones!).
The chickens were picked to the bone.
 From 4 that evening Dee, Helena and I were like santa's elves on Christmas eve... not a moment was lost. Dee got onto prepping the veg (broccolli, potatoes and carrots), while I started dessert (Bailey's Cheesecake and apple crumble) and Helena got going on the veggie option (Kelly had to be awkward and decide she wouldn't even eat meat for the "Irish dinner" :P ) of Prawn curry (ok so maybe thats not traditionally Irish either but it was made with McDonnells curry powder which is Irish so we think it kinda counts! Regardless of it's Irishness it was delicious!
          After finishing the desserts I turned my attention to the chickens. I took them out of the plastic containers they were in to be greeted disturbingly by the fact that my chickens still had necks attached (no head luckily but still necks). Unfortunately nobody else volunteered for the job so I found myself ringing a chickens neck for the first and hopefully last time. Ok, so the chicken was already dead but I still twisted its neck til it snapped...yuck. After that I got the par-boiled potatoes from Dee (coz neither Helena or herself knew how to make roasties) and using granny and moms method I lathered them in butter. While the potatoes and chickens were in the oven we prepped my apartment. I have to say with Dee's and my tables and a few pieces of furniture repositioned we actually had a pretty good set-up. I collected the roast potatoes and basted the chickens (they were cooking in the schools cooking room as Korean houses don't have ovens, they mainly cook on stove-top). Then a while later Dee and Helena went to collect the chickens while I cooked the leeks and seasoned the mash (the way dad does..the best!).
The carrots
          Right on schedule Sam, Kelly, Kyle and Ness arrived and we got to serving up our meals. I have to say it was inpressive. Main course was Roast chicken with roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, leeks, carrots, broccolli and beautiful onion gravy!! In Sam's words "it was like a dinner your mammy would make". Then for dessert we had the baileys cheesecake and crumble washed down with a nice cup of Irish tea.
Kelly enjoying the cheesecake a bit too much!
 All the while with a continous playlist of Irish artists serenading us in the background (everyone from Westlife, to the cranberries to the pogues). Despite the wait I think the "Irish dinner" well and truly lived up to and may have even surpassed expectations!


My kids!!

           My students, my kids, my babies, my doteys, my little monsters and so many other names all apply!! I can love them and hate them in the same second. I can want to hug them and scold them. I can feel relief when they leave and miss them too. Who'd have thought it'd be so confusing! My students are 6yrs old Korean (5 internationally) and they really are tiny at times. I mean I am a teacher, a nurse, a cleaner, a dentist and a parent depending on what the need at that particular moment which means I can have numerous roles in just one day!
          In the last few months I have dealt with almost every type of bodily fluid there is: tears, snot, spit, blood, vomit, pee and poo!! Sometimes they break my heart as they sob into my shoulder (but I will admit despite the risk of sounding cruel I like those moments too... the way that a little kid can hold onto you as if they couldn't survive without you is an amazing feeling!). Sometimes they make me laugh as they walk over asking for  a tissue with snot hanging down past their chins. Sometimes they make me worry with calls of "Teacher, teacher nosebleed!" and sometimes they make me sigh to myself and wish that I could ignore what they are saying with "Teacher Lisa I was too late for the bathroom"!
         I breath a sigh of relief on Friday evenings as they get on the bus yet I find myself thinking of them over the weekend! They can change me from angry, to laughing, to angry again in the space of 10 seconds! I have sympathy for every other teacher and parent out there! A day with children is a rollercoaster... with a whole lot of unexpected twists! Basically I am going to miss them.
          In just 6 short weeks I will have my last class with them and I know I am going to be a stereotypical "Hennessy" and bawl my eyes out. It is just amazing how close you can get to the kids after a week with them not to mind a year! They are torments and treasures.
          Some of the things they do and say can be the cutest... like while teaching about giving one day I asked one girl what was the best present she had ever given to her parents and her answer was "I gave them me", she laughed and thought it was funny but I thought it was adorable and so true. Another day one of my boys was explaining that his friend got a new baby sister but phrased it as "Raphael's mommy laid a baby". I couldn't stop the laughter. Albert my little rogue walked up to me one day and said "I like penis", I nearly choked and got him to repeat, "I like penis" but on getting him to explain it became clear he actually intended to say 'I like peanuts'! I tried to hide my laughter. Erin told a silly joke: 'Why did the cow cross the road? It wanted to get mooooooo-ving!' and I laughed as heartily as I have in ages.

           My good friend Vanessa recently told me that she had read an article about how jobs can affect peoples happiness and ultimately their lifespan. According to the article people who worked with or were around young children were statistically happier and lived longer. I believe it. They make me laugh, they make me run, they make me sit on the floor and build blocks at lunch (the boys) or colour princesses and flowers (the girls) all of which make me smile. Basically despite the bad things which came with teaching such a young age group it was surpassed by the good things. I have loved the last 11 months and I intend to savour my final one.

Friday 4 November 2011

Malaysia and Bali.

         On the 10th of September 7 of us (Dee, Helena and me, Sam and Kelly and Mark and Dan) happily boarded a plane for Kuala Lumpar(KL), Malaysia. A week of no kids, no teaching and no English village!! Bliss! Don't get me wrong I love working here in Korea but the lack of holidays can be very tiring. I mean since I arrived last December I had had one week off in February and maybe 4 other days for bank holidays. If I had been teaching in Ireland for the same amount of time I would have had 2 weeks for Christmas, a week in Feb for mid-term, 2 weeks for Easter, numerous days for bank holidays, St. Patrick's etc and then to top it off 2-3 months for summer!! A slight difference! All in all I think that all of us were wearing fairly thin energy wise and were in need of this holiday very much.

          We had the whole holiday planned (in our heads at least) 2-3 days in KL and then south to beach islands off the coast to really chill and bask in the sunshine. Unfortunately mother nature hadn't agreed to this and so she decided to throw in a little surprise..... a storm system! There goes our beach holiday or so we thought at first. We arrived in Malaysia on Saturday afternoon and after a very very long passport control line we finally made it out of the airport and onto our bus to the city centre. We arrived at our hostel (the Reggae Guesthouse, near Chinatown, which I would definitely recommend to a friend).
Here, Sam being Sam decided that a sun holiday without the sun wasn't gonna work out so in his typical convincing fashion somehow persuaded us all to book a flight to Bali in Indonesia for the Monday morning. So our week in Malaysia quickly turned into one day in Malaysia. Anyway, after getting rid of our bags we happily wandered the streets admiring the various stalls of beautiful Malaysian crafts and then met up together for dinner.  Luckily our hostel was attached to a bar and restaurant and the food was delicious. We intended having one or two drinks there first and then moving but we got chatting to other people and spent our night there! (A very easy walk home!)

          Next day (our only day there) we decided to buy tickets for the hop-on-hop-off Kuala Lumpar bus tour. Definitely worth it, despite only having one day we saw so many of the main attractions in the city. We started first at the palace (we could only see it from the gates bit it looked gorgeous), I got to have my picture taken with the mounted soldiers at the gate. I really love horses, hope I get to go horse-riding at some stage on our travels!

 Then we moved on to Little India, a predominately Indian neighbourhood. Sam bought some street food which despite its unusual appearance turned out to be delicious and we all stole mouthfuls! Next stop was The museum, I think, despite stopping there intending to go in we got distracted outside by guys                                                           with snakes and lizards and parrots charging for photos. We all stood a little scared at first but Sam went for it and took his pic with a snake. Sure enough after him we all got courage to do it so Dee, Helena and I posed for a photo together. Dee and Helena refused to hold the head though so I got stuck with it and I'll admit although I enjoyed it I was a bit nervous too. Back on the bus and off to the bird park! It is the largest free flight aviary in the world, it was cool. Birds literally flew and swooped around our heads or waddled along the paths in front of us. Despite all this this best part of that stop for me and actually one of the highlights of the holiday were...the monkeys!! Yep, wild monkeys! They lived in the trees around the park and we first saw them as we were walking in as little baby monkeys swung from the lamposts. After we came out of the park they were there again but closer and this time we had food. Sam held out a cracker in his hand and a little monkey held on by his tail, swooped down, snatched the cracker, and was back in his tree before we could even react. After that Sam fed a few more of them as we stared on amazed. Then I finally decided to try so I got a cracker and then this monkey just strolled over to us. He looked at me and I looked at him and I held out my hand (with the cracker pinched right at the tip of my fingers) expecting him to grab it as quickly as the others but he just lazily stretched out his arm and took hold of the cracker. For a second we both held it looking at each other and then I let go and he just took it happily. It was amazing. I have never been that close to a monkey... do you know they have fingernails?                                                               Little tiny finger nails on little tiny hands, it is so scary how human-like they are. Next we saw the main square, which was beautiful and we saw an unexpected display by the armed forces showing their fighting techniques in slow motion almost. Then the Petronas towers, which are now the tallest twin towers in the world. Strange but we were there on Sept. 11th, the ten year anniversary of the twin towers attack. Then we went to the KL tower and then I think it was home to the hostel, although I may be forgetting some stops as it was a pretty hectic day!

         When we got back we strolled through Chinatown and stopped at a restaurant to eat, sitting there a scraggly looking guy wandered up with a guitar... all of us at the table rolled our eyes and thought "Oh no, just go away" but WOW were we wrong. He opened his mouth and started singing Pink Floyd and it was amazing. Then Bob Dylan, then Johnny Cash, and so many more. I would have happily listened all night he had talent. He didn't just do amazing covers of the songs he gave them his own twist and some of them I would say he even maybe improved! He finished after maybe 6 songs and we all happily gave him money into his hat. Bed early that night for our flight next morning!
           Up early and taxi to the airport, and very excitedly boarded our flight for Bali. This is where the real holiday begins!! Arriving in Bali we got a taxi to Kuta the main resort but found the prices higher than we expected to moved across the island to Sanur, here we found a cheap hotel but also found that it was basically where all the retired couples holidayed, not exactly what we had in mind. We decided to stay one night anyway and move back to Kuta next morning and it was a fun night after all. Back in Kuta next morning the sun was really heating up and we booked into a cheap hotel (after a search) and then made our way to the beach. We spent the day lying on sun loungers, splashing in the sea and eating fruit. Unfortunately while Dee and I were swimming Helena forgot to re-apply her suncream and was quite a lovely shade of lobster red when we came back! Poor Helena!

          The rest of our week was pretty much spent in the same way, lying on the beach relaxing during the day and going out at night. Over the week we had many funny and happy stories and a few not so funny ones (Dee being robbed) but all in all it was a wonderfully, relaxing few days. The only problem is how fast it went. Friday came far too quickly and we caught a flight back to Malaysia, where we spent a night in a hotel near the airport. Next morning we boarded our plane "home" to Korea and despite our wonderful weeks holidays we were all happy to be going home at the same time.