I have lived in South Korea since August 2006. I have travelled around the region and spent some time at home between contracts during that time but when people ask me how long I have been in Korea I usually say around 4 years.
When I came here in 2006 it was as an English teacher but now I’m here as a freelance writer. Until March 2010 I had worked for the same employer and had a great time but eventually and for me, inevitably, the Sunday night blues started to set in and I began counting the days until I could collect my final wage and travel somewhere where I wouldn’t have to leave my dignity a the door. I’m here for another 3 months to try and kick start a career in the world of writing before hopefully moving into full-time employment.
7am - The alarm sounds and I turn it straight off. Well I press the snooze button (4 or 5 times), which is both my lifelong friend and mortal enemy. Now we are in the post- World Cup period, I get out of bed after the 5th time of asking instead of around 10am (after getting up at 3.30am to watch the games).
10am - On Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, after a cup of tea and some breakfast, my girlfriend and I go to our taekwondo class. It’s harder to get motivated in the winter and the Korean summers aren’t exactly conducive to exercising but generally it is a fantastic way to keep fit. We arrive just after 10am, the class starts at 10.30am and lasts around an hour. With no classes on Monday and Thursday we might go a little bit further afield for lunch.
11.45am - After leaving the gym we decide where to have lunch. My girlfriend has to start work at 2pm so we usually stay local, in fact more often than not we go to one of several regular places on the main road from our apartment to the gym. Sometimes it’s bibimbap, sometimes bulgogi or sometimes kimchi chigae.
1.45pm - I walk with my girlfriend to work, avoiding the piles of rubbish that materialise like mole hills during the night, getting a cup of coffee on the way from a local bakery. Korean bakeries are not to be trusted for baked goods but their baguettes are good. The vast majority of their other products are koreanised versions of western pastries and cakes. Red beans are concealed in donuts, green tea lends it colour to some of the loaves of bread, giving them a moldy hue, and a fairly large percentage of the goods on sale are deep fried in some way. Their coffee however is usually OK as it is almost always made from freshly ground beans.
2pm - As my girlfriend starts her working day so do I. The computer is switched back on and Google Chrome fired up. All my tabs open and I start signing into things, Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Matador (of course.) I open a notepad on which I have scribbled all manner of things to do and then I sit. I usually open iTunes and put some music on to try and motivate myself. I eventually open a Google document and write a few lines of something. Maybe a blog post, sometimes an article for a Korean magazine (in English but some things are translated into Korean for a local newspaper), sometimes for a magazine back home in Wales, sometimes nothing.
I interrupt my “work” to put a load of washing in the machine, to take out a load of washing, to wash the dishes, to make a cup of tea. I try and stay at the computer, even if it is watching a film as I feel that if I sit on front of the TV in another room I have lost the battle that day and that doesn’t make me feel very good.
The best days, or at least the most productive are ones when I have to go somewhere for an article. It might be another city to work on a blueberry farm or to Seoul to walk around a few art galleries. I try to take the train when I can as I am not the biggest fan of buses even though in Korea they are fast, cheap, comfortable and reliable. There is just something about trains, the freedom to move around them maybe. In Korea you have the freedom to even sit in a massage chair or go into a private singing booth on the train.
8.45pm - If I am in town, which is often the case I will meet my girlfriend from work at 9pm and more often than not we go for dinner somewhere. Buying fruit and vegetables in Korea can be an expensive habit and it sometimes works out cheaper to eat out.
10.30pm - We get home and as my girlfriend has been in work all day and access to the Internet is restricted to the brief periods in between classes she catches up with emails and I browse the Internet, maybe scribbling a few things on my notepad for the next day before logging off the information superhighway for the night around midnight.