Sunday, April 10, 2011

Busan e-FM Week 10: 2010 Review

About 'Open Mike in Busan'


There’s an old saying ‘do someone a favour it becomes your job’. Having shown willing to veer away from the original schedule and do a Christmas segment, then I was asked to do a review of 2010.


Now we’ve reached the end of 2010, I thought that today I should do a bit of a review of my latest year in Korea.

But first – the burning issue of my wife’s Christmas present

Right after leaving the station last week I went to the nearby Lotte Department Store here in Centum City – and they were closing it, at 8pm(!), so I couldn’t get in. Maybe it’s a sign that I’ve been in Korea too long, because I’ve started to really believe that stores are open all the time – or at least – really long hours.

My Christmas experience highlights one of my biggest problems in Korea – I can’t really function independently. I actually wanted to buy an Android phone for my wife, but with my limited level of Korean language ability it’s completely impossible. So I made a gift voucher for her instead, saying that I would buy her a phone – but obviously, we’d have to go to the store together after Christmas.

Eventually I spent many hours walking around Nampodong on Christmas Eve trying to find a token present – a snow globe – which my wife really wanted I think, but I didn’t see one – not even a cheap plastic one. I gave up and bought her some tea. I know that doesn’t sound like much but I think it was more expensive by the gram than crack cocaine [this wasn’t a joke] – it wasn’t some kind of 5,000 won box from a mart. Even so, the whole tea-buying experience was still very frustrating. I guess the ajumma was trying to tell me about all the types of teas using body language, which doesn’t really work.

Christmas Day and Babies

Christmas Day was a bit of a write-off. We’d planned to go out for something to eat, but our baby was sick, so he cried almost all day and we had to take care of him. The next day – which is also a British holiday called ‘Boxing Day’ - was better, but then the day after that we had to take him to the hospital. He’s on some medicine now, which unfortunately he keeps throwing up. I’ve been working very long hours in the last few months, so I’d really been looking forward to having a holiday, but it didn’t happen. I suppose that’s the way things are when you have a baby.

But having a baby was one of the highlights of my year. Of course, it’s a huge event in our lives. But it’s also been a really tough experience for me – it’s meant a lot more work and a lot less sleep. He was born in September, but even before that there was quite a lot to do, so it’s really been this year’s biggest theme for me. It’s such a big subject I should probably come in here one week and just talk about the whole fusion baby experience. [Four weeks later, I did.]

These are the toughest times and I’m sure it will get easier as he gets older, but certainly one of the downsides for me has been that because of this we don’t go out much now. So it has changed the nature of my life in Korea. Before he was born I still felt a little like a tourist – going out to lots of places, and having lots of experiences, but since his birth I haven’t been able to get out much, so now it feels like I actually live here.

I work from home, so many days can go by without me even leaving the apartment. The baby also changed my job a lot because my wife is a financial trader like me, so we used to work together, but now I just work alone, and it’s quite a solitary experience.

Busan e-FM

This is one of the reasons I decided to accept the invitation to come on Busan e-FM – I needed to get out more and do something new. And it’s certainly been one of my more memorable experiences of 2010. It’s actually interesting because it’s my first experience of dealing with Korean people professionally, and I think that’s part of the learning process as a foreigner here.

Memories of 2010

When I looked back at my blog I seem to have been to quite a few festivals and performances in the first half of the year. The Haeundae Sand Festival and Dadaepo Beach Kite Festival were quite memorable – I saw snow in Busan for the first time in March, and during the summer we spent a weekend at a friend’s summer house near Daegu, where we helped dig a foundation for a small building, and harvested some of his crop of vegetables.

Then there’s all the things that were happening in Korea – Kim Yu-na skating for gold in Vancouver, the World Cup, and of course the sad things as well – the attacks on the Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island. It was local news, but the fire at the Golden Suites building in Haeundae was quite shocking too – it really makes you think about living in high-rise apartments in Korea.

And plans for 2011

I usually don’t think about making New Year resolutions, but then every year, once Christmas is over, I have a habit of dwelling over the previous year, and thinking about how to improve things in the next 12 months, so I suppose I do make plans.

I expect I will be staying in Korea, although I will return to England for a few weeks; my family haven’t seen our baby yet and my mother is anxious to see him. It’s a long journey for a baby though, which means it’s not an easy trip to make at all.

As for other plans, I’m not learning Korean very quickly, so if I still can’t function here by the end of 2011, I think it’s time for me to leave Korea and live somewhere else. I really do like Korea, but as time goes on I’m beginning to realise that if I can’t speak Korean well enough I really don’t like my life here. As each year passes the pressure to become fluent gets stronger, and if it doesn’t happen it just creates more psychological pressure, which makes the learning process even less fun. I want to have fun, and the more studying becomes work the less motivated I feel about it.

I think so many people in Korea are used to the very long hours involved in studying that it can be difficult for me to say, but there are other things I want to do with my time. I’ve got a pile of books I want to read, and during the last few months I’ve been writing automated foreign exchange trading programs, and I’d like to continue doing that. I used to work as a software developer, but this recent project made me realise that my skills are becoming a bit outdated.

Actually, one of the advantages of learning a language such as Korean is that there’s no Version 2, whereas in the computer industry there’s always a new version of a programming langauge. Anyway, there are a couple of programs I want to write for my job, and there are a couple of websites I want to create. One is actually Korean-related and the other is specifically for Busan. I think building things is fun – and that’s why I want to do them – but I can’t really justify doing any work on them until my Korean language is better. I feel the rest of my life is on hold until I’ve learned Korean.

So 2011 is Korean language year. My goal is to be able to learn enough Korean to easily buy my wife a present next Christmas.

Busan e-FM
Inside Out Busan

Air date: 2010-12-29 @ ~19:30

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