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Mr Gwyn Brown in Korea

Read all Mr Gwyn Brown's entertaining reports from Korea




Dear diary,

thank goodness Trinity has covered the weekend. Now i don't have to write so much...naw!

Ok, where to start, why at the beginning of course. Last week was spent trying to get the kids at YangJeon to behave. Yes, i am having some trouble with them, one student in particular. I persevere, but often have to kick him out of class, at least 3 times each training session. He will not listen, to me or to the other instructors, so i am concentrating on the other students. This really bothers me a lot, but i have decided it's not fair to the other students to have to spend all my time trying to get one student to behave.

Anyway, last week on Thursday, i finished off the day by grading 3 students that couldn't get to the grading in the weekend. It was a very small affair and didn't take long, but different as i was grading on my own. No problems though, they were all good students.

Then the weekend was upon us. As Trinity mentioned we had been invited to Park's brothers wedding. I was excited, i love weddings, and wanted to see what a Korean wedding would be like. Well unfortunately, i didn't get to see it, as the guys taking me there couldn't get their backsides into gear to arrive on time, so i got there with about 5 mins of the wedding left. To be honest, i was pretty annoyed about that...never mind, if Korea has taught me anything, it's to have a great amount of patience!

After the wedding i went out on the town with the boys and Trinity, but left them to it after 11:30, i'm an old fart, and nightclubs just aren't fun anymore. Ok, they are a small amount of fun, but the drinks are expensive, the conversation is impossible, and i don't like the god, i am an old fart!

So at least i had a reasonably early night for Sunday's big outing. I don't need to really write too much about that as Trinity covered it really well, but below are some different pictures.

Sunday nights dinner extravaganza was awesome, so much food. We wisely stopped eating about 1/3 of the way into the meal so didn't suffer too badly. But then again i don't think the boys suffered either, they just eat like this most of the time. Must have stomachs like basketballs!

The top picture you can see is of the President, holding a large jar of marmite! Yep, had some stuff sent over and the Koreans have never tasted marmite, and they love it. They all gather in the mornings in the Do Jang with their fresh bagels and go nuts with the stuff. Better than vegemite by far!

My last week in Korea has started, just 5 days to go now. I have so many memories, so many things i will miss, and so many things i am looking forward to seeing and doing again when i get back home.

Dear Diary,

it was one heck of a weekend!

On Saturday we finally had the grading in YangJeon Do Jang in Busan, 2 weeks after the Ulsan grading. I thought there were only going to be my 10 students, a nice quick small grading, maybe one or two parents. Wrong! There were also some of my WTF students and a lot of students from the Busan University, most of whom i hadn't met yet. Well, after getting over the surprise Roman and i again just got on with it. This grading i called out the commands, as the students here know my voice better, while Roman wrote comments and Trinity assisted as well.

As we were now seasoned Korean professionals and this being our second grading, everything went smoothly. Well, outwardly i hope it appeared all went smoothly; there were a few hiccups. I was pretty nervous. I had prepared myself for a small number of students, had my plan all ready, and then had to throw it away and start again. But as Master Davidson is fond of saying, we can adapt, and so we did.

As a side note, gradings here are normally very short affairs. The WTF instructors grade their own students in groups of 5 or so and each group takes about 5 minutes, maybe less, including senior gup belts. I watched one last week, and then was asked to present the students with their new rank immediately after, which i did. The kids were nervous at having a westerner present them with their new belt, especially as i made them line up and wouldn't let them remove their own belt and did them one at a time.

So i guess the parents and other students watching were expecting something like this to happen with the ITF grading. It didn't! (the grading in Ulsan was different as it involved Gumdo and Hapkido students, while the Busan one was for just Taekwon-Do students). Roman and i went through all of their syllabus requirements, keeping each group of 6 students on the floor for about 10- 15 minutes, and making them sweat! We wanted to set a standard as we know it, so we made sure we had examined everything. And after, we bowed and left saying we would give the results when we had some time to consult and discuss!

So that was Saturday. On Sunday we had been told that we were to be travelling to the far West of Korean, about 4 hours drive each way to see a calligraphy master, who reads and writes in ancient Korean. A language that is almost gone now. Not very many people can read it let alone write it. It was a 6am start and a very long day. Along the way we collected Mr Kim’s tea teacher, and two university scholars, one a doctor, who also wanted to see the calligraphy master. The other scholar was studying languages (I think he was a professor?), and I think he was also at one time a student of the master. We were in illustrious and intellectual company indeed!

After 2 hours we stopped at a highway café for breakfast, with about 2,000 other Koreans, all milling around, eating, talking, shopping. These highway stops are large and well used. Next was a smaller stop where we visited a bamboo museum! Man, it’s amazing what you can make out of bamboo. I got a few things so I hope I don’t have too many problems with customs on the way in, better get in the something to declare lane I think.

Finally we arrived at the masters house, and of course it was a traditional house in every way, very old, and well used. The master, as you can see, is old, but very sprightly, and very happy to have guests for the day. There was a lot of bowing, kneeling, and a little praying to the old gods as well. All great stuff for us. Then we were welcomed into the house, while the rest of the Koreans were left outside! Felt a little funny, we are only martial art teachers after all, and these guys are scholars…must be the foreigner thing. And of course the master took an immediate liking to Trinity, after that we could do no wrong. Roman and I just watched and enjoyed her discomfort!

His hospitality was amazing, and his wife was very happy to see us as well. They put on a traditional lunch for us, out of their own garden no less. And we also had to sample the local plants that he said were for health, some of them unpleasant! One of the things we were given to eat was this small crystal like substance. Apparently they set fire to the large young bamboo shoots, heat them up, mix with salt and some other stuff, then leave it to crystallize. This takes a very long time and not much is produced, hence it is very expensive, about $100 a gram ( I know what you are all thinking, and I hope you are wrong, but to be honest I still don’t know!). So we were given some to eat. It was odorless and purple in colour, but oh my the taste. Like a mouthful of Rotorua’s sulfurous air. In fact, a very strong sulfur/salt taste that lingered and lingered and lingered…yep, can still taste it.

Then we were invited by Mr Kim to visit another temple nearby, which we did, while the others talked to the master. When we got back, he got out his brushes and proceeded to write for us. Simply awesome, and especially with the scholars and the two Mr Kims (Director and President) telling us how special it was for foreigners to have this done for them with the master. Here is a photo of the master writing for me. The meaning of the picture is martial arts instructor, plus my name, plus the importance of family, the date of the year based on ancient Korean history (complicated with each age done in 16 year lots, and today being the 70th year, making this writing so special and old), and of course the master’s signature. I was speechless. We were told that he might write for us, but he wrote individual pieces for Chris, Roman and myself. Then on a roll, he wrote for the others as well, thoroughly enjoying himself.

He joked with the other Koreans, berated and laughed at their efforts to read his writing, made strong brush strokes which he explained as his artistic uniqueness, and generally loved having guests. One of the scholars asked me what I thought of him. I felt safe in that the master spoke no English, so I said I thought he was a cheeky old bugger, especially as he kept glancing at Chris all the time. Well, somehow he understood what I had said, and then there followed a long string of Korean, ending with him smiling hard at me. Suitably chastised and realizing that the master understood much more than he spoke, I humbly laughed. He laughed with me, sharing the joke. If I can have half his zest for life at his age, I will do just fine I think.

After we had some pictures taken, where the master managed to pinch a few bums, not mine thankfully, although Roman and especially Chris wern’t so lucky, and we said our goodbyes and left, each with a precious and treasured gift from the master which will be framed when I get back home. After another 4 hous drive, we arrived back, tired but what a fantastic day.


Today is Thursday the 10th March. I have just 17 days left in Korea. Boy, where did the time go! It's about now that I am starting to think about the few short days i have left and what i can squeeze in to them. Trinity suggested to me on Tuesday that we visit Jeju Island in the weekend, as there is some of the Generals calligraphy there. Anyone familiar with the Generals life will know that he was associated closely with the Island. It's an $80 plane ride, so not too expensive (incidentally, the same cost as a trip to Japan for the weekend, oh what a choice to make!). Although like i said before, there is still a travel warning in Japan for measles. I think though that it might also be something to do with all these pesky mosquito's we have at the moment, not to mention the dust that is still with us. Came back quite thickly on Saturday too.

Yes, the mosquito outbreak is pretty serious. The President was telling me that 5 Koreans a year die from them; he says it is the Japanese mosquito that is the nasty one, not too common here, but i am not sure if he is joking or not. Might be that Japan/Korea thing?

Anyway, the Do-Jang is infested with the little darlings...mosquito's not children. We have set up several of those spray bottle mosquito killers, but they seem resistant to them somehow. After training, taking a shower at the Do Jang is an art form in itself. You have to spray the bathroom quite heavily, give it 2-3 minutes, then get your shower over quickly as the survivors try to bite you even while showering.

(Let’s not discuss using the toilet in the Do Jang, it’s a squatter, so you can use your imagination about the joy of that, a cloud of mosquitos, and balancing on the balls of your feet while using a spray can furiously. I’m sure the little #$gg&rs know you have to put the can down at the end and wait for that moment).

And holding your breath while showering is also advisable, lest you also succumb to the heavy spray smell. But it's not just the Do Jang though, they seem to be everywhere outside as well. I am told that this is normal for this time of the year.

Crikey, first the natural dust storms, now the insect plague, i wonder what is next? Rivers turning red? Well, Korea is a strongly Christian country. Maybe there is a message here somewhere? Maybe I should have kept the beard! With a stick and my white Do Bok I could lead the people to safety!

Anyway, it has given me another training idea for the kids. It's called mosquito training. Yep. If you can kill more than 10 mosquito's in one minute with your hands, you get an ice cream. So far I am out about $15…I’m not joking.

In the weekend, as Trinity has already written, we went to a tea ceremony which was pretty cool, actually very cool. Then we went to see another Buddist temple, as you can see from the picture, he is a pretty happy chappy...kind of makes you smile too. We have also been back to the markets for presents for the family etc. And this weekend I will have to go back again, as I found out a week ago I am to be a grandfather again, so I will make room in the suitcase for some Korean baby gear now!

Trinity and I ended up working last weekend as well as when we turned up at the Do Jang to do some patterns, we were asked to take the instructors class for about an hour. They are really getting the hang of signwave and getting their hands and feet to arrive at the same time. Some good power happening too. Although they are still more interested in sparring than anything else.

Is that Mr Brown on the side of that Bus?

Read Chris Morton's blog to find out.


Another week in sunny Korea has drawn to a close. It's been a pretty quiet week altogether, just the usual teaching and learning. This weekend i have free, Yay! I have to say that the weekends have been pretty busy helping ITFK, but they are starting to slow down now as we build on the advertising and training that has been done already. So i have the next few clear, till i come home in just 3 weeks. Chris and i were planning to go to Japan next weekend, but there is a travel warning in place at the moment, apparently a measles outbreak. So might still be able to go, but it's looking unlikely.

It's really cheap too, only $80 return on the ferry. Then we were going to homestay with someone from the Japanese ITF, or failing that, a motel probably. Either way, it's still a cheap weekend to see Japan!

Hopefully everyone has seen that ITFK are asking for more instructors to come over here and spend some of their youth learning Korean, and teaching TKD. If you are in your early 20's and are thinking about doing the big OE, why not start here for 6 months, earn plenty of spare cash, and then carry on to London and Europe, and if you run out of money, come back for another 6 months! Or travel through China and Japan etc. Lots of options, and there is always a bed with the guys here for anyone that wants to visit.

So, this weekend is free. I am planning to spend it shopping in the Nampo Dong market, it's smaller than the one in Seoul, but has all the same stuff. And they have a large art market there, which is under the street, so hopefully i can pick up some original Korean art or similar. I have also learned that electronic goods are definitely cheaper here. You can get a 30 gig Ipod here for less than $250 won, which is about $330 NZ. Phones here are amazing also, but i am reluctant to get those as they might not work correctly back home. Telecom tells me they will, but then they also told me that i wouldn't be able to receive or send texts here, and i can! Occasionally they don't arrive for 4 days, but they do get here!

So that's it, a small update as things are rolling along nicely...all the hard work is done!



It's a terrifying word for some, certainly for Roman anyway, although to his credit, he did sing a little bit. Chris and I had a blast. In fact, we didn't finish the night until 5:30am the next day, and that was after the grading day as well!

So, how did the grading go?

It was a complete success. What a great day for ITFK and also for all the instructors involved here, Korean, NZ, and Moldavian!

My day started at 6:30am when i got up and walked to the Dojang to get ready for the trip to Ulsan. Roman had spent the last two weeks preparing my students for their big day. It's funny, even though he is their instructor now, i still feel they are my students. I taught them their first Taekwon-Do, and that feels pretty special. And seeing them on the grading floor ready to be tested and watching their efforts was exciting, nerve wracking, and joyful all at the same time.

I traveled to Ulsan with President Kim and Ki Tae, and unfortunately we got lost along the way. Actually i didn't get lost, as i was asleep, but somehow i woke up lost. Korea has a lot of roads, and while you can expect to know a lot of the cities, i guess they don't know everywhere.

Luckily for us we got to the centre of Ulsan and i could direct them the right way. Neither speak much English, but i managed just fine with Orun Jo, Wen Jo, and Appro (left, right, and front ). They did laugh a bit though when i couldn't figure out the Korean to tell them to go straight ahead and decided to settle for Appro. It worked and we made it to the Do Jang only a little late.

All the students were lined up and with a few introductions, we got started. The Hwa Rang Hapkido kids were up first, with the Taekwon-Gumdo students later in the afternoon. The grading was much the same as the ones at home, except there were only white belts, and it was a great deal noiser than i am used to. I had prepared a grading form and sent it to Roman, and he had made a few changes to it that he wanted, and so we sat down and just got on with it.

I was a little nervous, not having done a grading course, and not being an examiner. But as it was only white belts, and i knew what we were testing them on, i felt confident. I have to say i have a lot of respect for the examiners back home, it's a huge job to reflect a students efforts on the grading floor in their marks. Some of the students i thought would do well, didn't. And some of the ones that i wasn't expecting much from, were really good on the day. Just goes to show that as their instructor sometimes you can only do so much.

Roman was the chief examiner; he called the students out and called the commands, while i marked them off with what i thought of them. I started trying to look at every aspect of what they were doing, but it was too slow for me so i settled on looking at their overall performance, and let Roman write with his symbols things like their back leg wasn't straight etc. It's easy to see what their overall standard is, whether they are an A pass or just a pass etc.

We worked together well and before we knew it, we had been through about 40 students. I hope one day that i can do it properly back home, but that is a long way off in the future.

After the grading Roman performed a pattern for the students and their families and just like that it was all over. Then after lunch we went to the other venue, which was the local hall, where the Taekwon Gumdo students were grading. They had two gradings on the day. The first was for Gumdo so we saw the end of that, and then they graded for Taekwon-Do, so a busy day for them. In between the gradings, we were treated to another bamboo slashing Gumdo display, which Chris hasn't seen before.

And then , another Taekwon-Do grading took place. This one was different, and very much like the gradings at home in NZ. There were more students to get through, and it was certainly busier. After the grading, Roman again performed another pattern for the parents, and then Chris was also asked to perform Hwa Rang, to which she did well, albeit with a lot of nerves!

And there you go. The first official grading was over. About 90 students were graded in total and they will always have the honor of being the first batch of the new ITFK. It was a great day for all concerned, and i have been told today that the grading in Pusan is set for 2 weeks time, subject to change of course.

But i will be spending the next two weeks adjusting their training slightly, introducing more theory questions in English, and running a few pre-gradings to show them what is going to happen. So it's back to work really.

After the gradings, i said another sad goodbye to the students and we traveled back to Pusan, talking about how things went. What was good, what needs changing to improve things etc. We all agreed that the standard was most acceptable and the grading went well, with few problems really. So it was time to start thinking about the next one, and plan out the next set of lessons. Once the Pusan grading is finished, the students will be well on their way in their Taekwon-Do journey.

Back in Pusan, we decided that a celebration was called for. After all, today was the end result of 2 months very busy work and we decided to let our hair down, and as it turned out, our voices out!

We had dinner together with the President and Mr Kim, and toasted ITFK's success, and then Chris, Roman, Park, Ki Tae, Myself and two Russian friends of Romans went out on the town.

We started at this Western bar where we were the only people in it. Strangely enough, our drinks order took an incredible 15 mins to arrive. Couldn't understand why either, it's not like the barmaid was busy, she was just so incredibly slow. It slowly dawned on me why there wasn't anyone else in the bar!

After that we went to a night club, which was quite large. We ordered more beer, and for some reason Long Island Teas. It was here that Chris, Park, Roman and Ki Tae really hassled me and kept introducing me to all the young Korean girls nearby as the superstar "Elton John". Some of them believed it too and just kept staring all night long.

I got my own back though. For all you Wellington members reading this, Chris is now called Trinity (Matrix) here, as she wears these dark sunglasses and bears a striking resemblance to a smaller version of Carrie-Ann Moss. Roman is Clark Kent when he is out on the town, and his alter ego when he is in Do Bok, the Koreans love nick names, so these have really stuck. This was to be my undoing at the Karaoke bar we went to at 3am.

After the night club, we decided ( actually Park decided) we should experience the joys of the Karaoke room, Korean style. So, after finding one that was suitable, we removed shoes, and shut ourselves away for another 2 hours of singing, drinking, and in general, hilarious laughter. Sorry folks, no pictures!

But suffice to say that with 10,000+ songs to choose from, I think we successfully managed to slaughter most of them. Naturally I was asked to sing some Elton¡¦badly! Trinity has a pretty good voice, and it didn't take much persuasion to get her up and singing. The room was about the size of a good lounge at home, and had a big table in the middle where we could order lots of food (we did), and where there was a small stage at one end of the room.

I had a great time, and did my best not to hog the microphone too much, as I am prone to do¡ sometimes.

With that, we ended the day at 5am, and got back to our rooms just as the sun was coming up. I haven't done that in a long time, so Sunday was a very slow day for me. However Trinity and I did manage a 7km walk up the side of a mountain to see the Beomosa Budest Temple in the afternoon. We didn't plan on walking, it just kind of worked out that way, and certainly helped to clear the head.

Right now it's getting late again, and I am off with Roman and Park to see his brother, who owns a sports injury/ massage/therapy clinic to have our joints manipulated. We have a 10pm appointment, on Sunday night, after very little sleep and a long day. It's a tough life!

As you can se the new application form for coming to Korea is up and running, so if you are interested in coming over, drop me a line.

I almost forgot. Trinity and I taught the 240 Kindy kids on Friday. I took the first two classes and she took the last two, but I am sure she will tell you all about it on her blog page.


Chris arrived in Korea all safe and sound!

Dear diary,

Today is Thursday the 26th and this week has been much the same as last, except of course that Chris arrived on Tuesday. Then proceeded to call me a woos about the standard of driving here. Mark my words, she will change her mind!

So, Chris arrived on Tuesday, a little bleary eyed, but considering the mileage covered, not too bad sleep wise. She tells me she had a reasonable sleep on the plane. Good for her, wish i could do that.

Mr Kim and Mr Kim and i met her at the airport, and then brough her back to the Dojang to meet the President (another Mr Kim) after lunch, which is where we are in the photo. Interestingly enough, we are eating at a place called 'Victoria's', just around the corner from the Dojang. I hear Brendan was a regular.

Afterwards, Chris met with the President and other officials etc, then watched me take the kids class. I guess she was chucked in the deep end a little as this is the worst behaved class i teach, but really they are great fun, just a little enthustiastic shall we say. She will really know all about it on Friday, she has the Kindy class to take, all 240 of them. Trial by fire comes to mind!

Mr Kim ( the first Mr Kim, not the Mr Kim in the photo, he's the second Mr Kim) has asked me to go with her for the first time, but to be honest, i don't think she will need my help. By the way, all these Mr Kim's arn't confusing at all, in fact it is easier to remember them. If i need anything, i just say 'excuse me Mr Kim'...can't go wrong. And 3 times out of 4, i will be right.

This weekend we have the Ulsan grading, which we are ready for. And afterwards Chris and i are planning on spending the weekend wandering and looking through the markets for gifts for the family etc. And yes, planning on getting lost as well! Not sure where Roman is this weekend on Sunday, but my guess is he will come back to Pusan with us.

So that's the last 4 days. Tomorrow marks 1 month to go for me, and i have been working on the documents for inviting the next batch of instructors to Korea. They are approved in Draft Form; a little bit of fine tuning for President Kim to do, and then you can all see what the next batch, or for you 80's fans, the new kids on the block, will need to come here.

So, 20,000 words, wow, i didn't realise i had written that much. I know my family reads them all, but they are being kind!

Right, to the weekend. and what a weekend it was I can tell you. But first, I finished the weeks training in Gimhae on Friday, following in Brendans footsteps. The picture you can see on the website of me and the two little girls was taken at the Kindergarten, where President Kim has started a foothold there. There are about 240 students there, and I teach them in 4 classes. However before anyone goes 'holy cow batman', the students are all 6 years old or younger, and the classes are only 30 mins each. So they are more like exercise classes, with a little bit of TKD thrown in. Still, it takes 2 instructors together to get through the 60 students per class, and i am usually deaf and drained after the 2 hours. Those kids are pretty loud. You did well with them Brendan!

After the last class of kindergarten kids, i have a 6 hour break, then another class to teach in the evening at 8:30 which has only 2 students. So you can really make things happen with them, and they are both talented young girls, 12 years old each.

In between, Ki Tae, one of the Korean instructors took me back to his place for a rest. It has to be the smallest flat i have ever been in. There is room for a single bed which is a mattress on the floor, and about 1/2 metre of space around it. And that's it! Even his car is bigger. There is no kitchen or anything else etc. He says it is temporary, as the toilet is a fair way away, and so is the shower, but it's only $10 a week to rent, so why not!

After Friday, Park sabumnim and Ki Tae took me back to Pusan, which is 45 mins drive from Gimhae, although i can't tell where one city stops and the other starts. We went to this bar for a few beers, and i got talking with the girls behind the bar, I had to use Park as a translator so conversation was slow. But it was fun, and one of the girls gave me this giftpack the bar had received as a promotion. It contained a necklace, and a container with a real oyster in it, supposedly with a pearl inside which you then put in the necklace. Well, i opened it up at home, and sure enough, there was a pearl there. Quite a big sucker too. Korea, it's just one surprise after another.

It was that night that I found out the grading had been cancelled for Pusan, not sure why yet. But the one for Ulsan is still on, so I have another week to wait for the first grading in Korea for ITFK.

Roman traveled down to Pusan on the Friday night, arriving late. So I caught up with him on the Saturday morning and we discussed how he was going, and swapped notes to make sure we were teaching the same thing, to the same standard.

After, we decided to catch the subway to try and find the big markets, and see what we could see. This was the start of a very long day which didn't end until 5am the next day!

Roman had met up with a Russian friend of his, and she helped us to buy 2 subway electronic passes which is much cheaper and you can just recharge them. Naturally the first time i tried mine it wouldn't work, but luckily for me an ever-present kind Korean used his and let me onto the subway. The card worked the other end so perhaps it was just a glitch somewhere. Will let you know when i use it next.

So, Romans friend left us to the day, and we carried on and got off the subway in the right place for the markets. We then somehow managed to end up in the middle of the world's second largest fish market, rather than the tourist shopping market. Not sure how that happened and we did look a little out of place, but what the heck, while in Rome...

After wandering around for a while and discovering that you really can eat anything that lives in the sea, we made it to an exit and after refreshing our lungs, decided that we should find a pub, have a beer, and then decide how to find the markets. Naturally, we avoided the seafood restaurants.

We ended up in this large restaurant with a great young Korean girl who was our waitress, and i must admit, who we teased quite badly. I tipped her after feeling a little bit guilty. In fact in the end, she started blushing way before she even got to our table, fire engine red too, poor thing.

'So, Roman, do you think our waitress speaks any English.'

'Not sure Gwyn, why don't you find out by asking her, that would be the polite thing to do.'

'Ok, I will ask her. She's quite pretty though, don't you think.'

'Yes, i do think she is quite pretty, now are you going to ask her if she speaks English so we can order, I'm starving.'

'I don't need to ask her Roman, judging from the colour she is going I would say she speaks very good English.'

'Yep, i think you're right.'

So, needless to say, we had no problems getting a great lunch. We could see our waitress embarrassingly talking with her friends by the bar, and it's true, the colour red is really quite visible for some distance. After getting advice on where we had gone wrong, we paid, tipped, and found the shopping street, or should that be streets; maybe a block or two would be more appropriate, and selling everything you could possibly imagine for tourists. I brought this cool army outfit for my grandson, hope i got the right size, the little feller is growing so fast. He has really started talking heaps since i have been away, something that makes me very homesick.

We wandered the streets for a little bit, then spotted this huge tower on a hill close by, kind of like the skytower (see picture). It's amazing that when you are wandering between tall buildings, you can't see a tower hundreds of metres tall on a huge hill, just one street over. So, we decided to climb the hill, and then the tower, which should give us a good view and some good tourist shots (again see picture) (thanks so much Master M for putting together all these articles and photo's i send can cut this bit out if you like!).

After the tower, we watched these Korean rap singers (see pic!) who were pretty bad, although it all sounds bad to me not being a fan of rap music, then we headed back to the shopping area, by mistake i might add and found ourselves again lost in the concrete jungle!

We were getting pretty tired by now and this called for a new tactic. A coffee at Starbucks and a movie, Seoul style. We watched this movie called Sunshine, which i really enjoyed. It's a science fiction movie about an expedition to restart the sun, in the name of humanity and Hollywood of course. A little like 'Event Horizon.'

After the movie, we were still lost, and decided that we would try to find the baths, relax, and see what happened after that. Well, we wandered around for another hour before giving up and deciding to get back on the subway and ask a taxi driver closer to the Dojang, in case we stayed out after the subway shut at 11pm and ended up having a long taxi ride etc. You may be wondering why we didn't just ask someone on the street where the baths were.

Well, there are two very good reasons for that. Firstly, only the young speak enough English to help you. And two, if you get the pronunciation wrong when asking for the baths, you end saying the word breasts and another word which is very close to one that means bar, or pub. Which means you end up asking for something like a topless bar etc. This can be rather embarrassing when asking young school kids.

So, using my tried and tested never get lost fail safe method of finding a school kid and asking for directions, we did just that and asked this bunch of young kids, who happily chatted to us and then showed us the subway. Which was annoyingly one street over all the time. I still shake my head at that.

Arriving back at the Dojang at 9:30, we rang Park Sabumnim to see what he was doing and if he wanted to go to the baths with us, saving us the embarrassment of having to ask a taxi driver. He was coincidently just arriving at the Dojang, and so the evening adventure started.

Have you ever had one of those days when you know you shouldn't have gotten up, and things go from the sublimely farcical to hilariously funny, and just keep getting worse? Well...

After Park rang one of his friends for advice, he decided to take us to this large baths on the other side of town. It was quite a drive. After driving around the block 5 times and not finding it, Park parked the car (no pun intended) and went to ask for directions. I suggested he ask a school kid, but he stubbornly persisted in speaking Korean. In the end I was right, as the shop owner he asked came out of the shop and pointed at this tall building across the street. When we looked up, there on the side was this huge picture, about 5 stories tall, of people in the baths (clothed of course). To say this was funny was an understatement. But it got better. Roman said he was looking forward finally to having a soak in a nice hot bath, I told him to just wait, and believe we were in the right place once we had our feet wet. As we approached the entrance, Park discovered it was closed for renovations. At this stage Roman and I just smiled, got back in the van, and then laughed until we stopped.

We then drove back through town for another hour, and managed to find a small baths house, which was bliss. Coming out at 1am, we went to a pub where the music was really loud, too loud to talk, so we left there after a beer or 3 and went for dinner at 2am. The pic is of the guys getting changed into their pub clothes. Plenty of places were still open, and as you can see, we found one that had a jungle theme. Great food too. Restored and recharged somewhat, we ended up at a Korean nite-club until 4am, where the music was even louder.

Park dropped us back at the flat at 5am, where needless to say, sleep was pretty quick coming.

Sunday was a long day. We slept till 11am and then went to the Dojang at 12:30, where we were meeting Park for what we thought was a small instructor session. It ended up being a long training session (1-5pm) which Roman took with lots of new instructors, as you can see from the photos. The president had arranged for these WTF and other martial art code instructors to come for a sparring session to see what ITF was about. Roman must have done a good job, because they all signed up on the spot I think, so again ITFK is growing bit by bit. It's really exciting to be a part of it and to watch it grow.

After, we were taken to the Russian section of Pusan (yep, I was surprised as well to find out Pusan has a Russian village in the middle of it, and full of Russians too!) There, amazingly enough, we had dinner at a Chinese restaurant (not much surprises me here anymore. It's perfectly logical to drive to the Russian sector and have dinner in a Chinese restaurant). This was our waitress (see pic), who also had to be customarily teased. She didn't speak English at all, and as we found out later, no Korean either as she is Chinese, but she was a great sport and so we had our picture taken with her.

One of the instructors (another Mr Kim), who you can see carving something in the photo, spoke Chinese, so Roman and i were able to talk to her. We had to ask Park in English, who translated it to Kim, who translated it to the waitress, and then all the way back again. The irony of playing chinese whispers with a chinese girl wasn't lost on us.

Anyway, what Mr Kim is doing in the picture is carving my name, in Korean, into a stone stamp, that i can take home a sign letters with. How cool is that! He has been working on it as a gift for me for a week now, and it will take him a while longer yet...i just don't know what to say.

Then, it was back to the Dojang, where I am writing this update for you. It's now 11:15pm, and I am going to bed. Will attach the pictures tomorrow and send. Night night.


Dear diary,

Well, time is flying now. I am nearly 2/3 of the way through my journey. Funny, the grading seemed so far away, and now it is just 2 days away, well the first one is. The one in Ulsan is the following week, but will be the same. I have been noting down some observations about how things are different here, the things i like, the things i miss. No, marmite isn't one of them, although i will probably have one or two sandwiches when i get home.

I had my second day teaching in Pusan yesterday, at the WTF Dojang. I had to wear the WTF Dobok, which i am afraid i absolutely detested. It goes against all my morals. But, sacrifices have to be made sometimes...compromises. Doesn't make me feel better though. The reason is that the WTF instructor is changing to ITF, but can't change too quickly as he will lose his students, and therefore his business. So, while i am wearing this pseudo uniform, at least i am teaching real TKD. Nothing inside has changed, but you know, i did feel like having a shower after. Strong words i guess, but i make no apologies to anyone. The WTF instructor is another Mr Gung, and a great guy. He has recognised what TKD actually is so that helps...a little.

Of course the thing i miss the most is my family. But i also miss other things. Like wearing bare feet outside, something which is a definite no no here. The ground is considered dirty, and so is the bathroom floor. So you take your shoes off at the door, and there are slippers to wear inside if you wish, but you can't wear them to the bathroom. You have to change shoes at the bathroom door again, to a set which are kept in the bathroom and are considered 'dirty'. So, i miss wearing bare feet. Of course you don't wear bare feet, as they are always there, just covered up as such. I wonder why we don't say wearing no shoes more than we say wearing bare feet? Anyway, i am looking forward to running around outside...wearing my bare feet. Course, it will be winter when i get back, but i don't think that will bother me one little bit.

I also miss being able to cross the street without having to check 50 times first. I am reminded of the scene on the National Geographic Channel of the wilderbeasts trying to cross the crocodile infested river. No one wants to be the first wilderbeast, and you sure as heck shouldn't be the last either. Best to be in the middle of the herd (do you say herds or pack when talking about wilderbeasts?) Course the best time to cross is when the crocodile has already got his wilderbeast and is distracted, thank heavens i haven't seen that yet, but the other more experienced wilderbeasts tell me it happens, and to use it when you can. It's a jingle out here, survival of the fittest and all that. And there are lots of crocodiles.

I hopped on the subway this morning to find the markets, which wasn't too hard. Last time i was on a subway, i got pickpocketed in Rome and had my passport stolen, so i was a little more careful this morning. Anyway, while i was sitting there, this old Korean guy was chatting to me about NZ and how he used to visit there often, working on a ship etc. When he got off, this other guy got on wheeling a big suitcase behind him, and proceeded to set up shop selling stuff. This is common here. After all you have a very captive audience on a subway carriage. It's not like you can go anywhere else. So, this guy was selling these cheap camouflage raincoats (no, i didn't get one). He has about 1 minute, maybe less, to get his message across before half of the passengers disappear, so he was using the fast sell routine. You don't need to be able to speak Korean to know that. His selling gimmick was to blow his nose in the bottom of the raincoat, i kid you not. And no, i didn't ask why. Didn't work either as no one batted an eyelid or brought one, especially not the one he was using. I found a convenient advertising poster to read while he was blowing his nose, and it didn't matter that it was in Korean. I could have told him it was a bad sales tactic, but he moved on the the next carriage and started again. It's not wrong, just different i guess. Although i have to say, at least in Rome, the guys there set up puppet shows on the subway...wait a minute, maybe they were part of the scam!

Something else that i miss is the co lour green. Korea is very brown and grey in co lour, although now that spring is here, it is certainly greening up so it's looks pretty again. I also miss using a big towel. Koreans use these small towels, about the size of a dish drying cloth. Once you have finished with it, you just get another one, there are always plenty. But ladies, there is no coming out of the bathroom wearing a towel on your head and one around your body. And anyway, showing too much flesh is frowned upon, and it's only recently that bikini's have been allowed on the beaches. Must go there one day.

There are many things that i like here though. I like the fat free food! I also like the 'star' status that being a foreigner gives you (still no agent has called me yet, i am losing sleep over this now!). I like the friendly people, they are so helpful. Even when you aren't lost and have managed to surprise yourself at blending in and not looking like a tourist, they still come over and try to help you read the subway map, or buy a ticket, something i don't need help with now. I miss driving my car too, wouldn't even think about it here, no thank you. And I love the cheap food and clothes, the baths, the heated floors in the houses and motels. I love embarrassing the children in the street! That's great fun and never feels like an old joke best not repeated.

I am still using my 'Yes, but i can't eat a whole one' answer when Koreans ask me if i like children. I am looking forward to the day that i meet a Korean who understands the joke. Hopefully they won't be a policeman. By the way, there are 787 foreigners being held in Korean jails at the moment, or so the article i was reading in the foreigner paper said, and the jail conditions are appalling. Certainly don't want to end up there. No bail, you can be held without trial for as long as they want, and then there is the language to contend with. Nope, i will watch my p's and q's.

Right, i'm off teaching, not sure where today as i am not used to the Pusan timetable.

Dear diary,

well, today is quite a sad day for me. I have left Ulsan and come down to Pusan, where i am taking over from Brendan i think, although i am doing other things as well, one of which is putting the grading form together. Last night was very sad for me, i even had a student start crying when they found out it was my last time there, naturally this set me off as well. I will miss the kids, my soccer buddies, the shop owners in the street who always wave and say hello, but especially my two homestay families. I hope they can make it to Pusan for the last weekend where i am planning a farewell dinner drinks thing.

Last night Roman saw the work i had started, and it didn't take him long to jump in with the Ulsan kids and get to it. I have to say, he has so much more experience than me and did things a little differently, and the children really responded well. They are in great hands and will learn a lot from him.

So, last night i finally got to bed about 12:30, in the 'love motel'. I took a picture for all you curious folks back home who have been emailing me with questions. As you can see, there is indeed a mirror on the ceiling, and the room is small, but clean and tidy.

I am not too sure what exactly will happen this weekend with the grading. I intend to do it just like the ones at home, but of course i am also sure like everything else it will be different!

I am having a chat with the President today about another job offer he is intending to present to the junior black belt instructors of NZ, so i hope to have that ready to show you by the end of the week. Lets just say for now that there will be quite an opportunity for selected instructors to also make their mark on TKD in Korea.

Dear diary,

Well the camp weekend is over, and i am knackered. Although i have to say not as tired as i usually am after the kids camp back home. I found it rather wonderful to be a guest and not to have to run around everywhere making sure everything was working, kids were safe, parents weren't too drunk etc (i swear that only ever happened once).

After an uneventful couple of days since Wednesday, where i continued with the program, teaching, eating, drinking, and sleeping when i can, it was a relief when Friday arrived as i spent several very late nights on Thursday and Friday, having an unofficial goodbye party with my two homestay families. On Thursday Master Lee and i went shopping after training. He had decided there was only one way to say goodbye and that was to drink a few beers, or that might have been my idea, can't remember at the moment. Anyway, after being in the supermarket, i happened to mention that i was hanging out for a bacon sandwich when i got back home. So he asked what that was, and well one thing led to another. Low and behold, about 30 minutes i found myself in Mrs Lee's kitchen cooking us all bacon sandwiches and opening a jar of olives as an entree.

This turned out to be the best experience i have had here, amazing what a simple jar of olives can do. It appears that both Lee's can't stand them! Ha, finally something that i can eat that they cannot. Naturally i was courteous and respectful to their sour faces when they tried the olives. Revenge is a dish best served cold... about as cold as a jar of olives actually. Although to Master Lee's credit, he did try to acquire the taste. But after 3 olives he gave up and spent the night with eyes focused straight ahead, and wincing at my quickly adopted loud olive eating style. It's amazing the decibel level that can be achieved with a mouthful of olives when one tries.

So, Saturday morning eventually arrived, and as usual, after staying at the Gungs for the night, i had another game of soccer in the morning. Yes, i know, probably not the wisest decision to play soccer on the morning of a kids camp, but i wasn't sure i would see my soccer buddies again before i left for Pusan. They were their usual jovial selves, joking and laughing at my attempts to tackle and pass. That all changed when i scored a goal though! Yes, i am getting to a passable standard in soccer, will miss the exercise when i move.

After that, it was a quick walk to the Lee's and we departed on the buses (needed two of them in the end, there were over 120 kids at the camp). The camp was East of Ulsan, up in the hills. You can see from the photo's a little what it was like.

On a side note, Brendan has had to leave for NZ today for family reasons, very sad to see him go as we have been working hard getting things going here at our respective ends. I hope everything works out for him.

At the camp, Roman arrived after about an hour and we spent some time catching up on what he had been doing in London. I knew most of the children at the camp, although not their names. Most of them had english names on their tags, names like Sarah, Betty, Thomas, James etc. Although there were some unusual ones like 'chicken, shark, mkie (which i am sure was meant to be Mike, but than again, might not of been either). Roman and i did some games with the children which was a lot of fun, and we generally spent our time being mobbed as you can see, answering hello with 'hello, how are you' etc. The children performed some dancing and singing at night, and then we were treated to a 'campfire' evening, as you can see. Sorry for the out of focus picture.

The children formed a large circle around the fire and there were a small amount of fireworks as well, which was great fun. After that the adults retired to their rooms, apart from myself and a couple of the instructors who decided to go into the nearest city (there is always one near you here) and get some 'supplies'. Well, at 1:30am i had drunk only one beer, wisely i might add, and headed off to bed.

That's Roman, at 9am the next morning.

He was supposed to be up at 6:30 with me and the other instructors, but beer and jet lag are an effective sleeping pill. I am sure he won't mind his picture here. ( I am also sure he still has that old Moldovian sense of humour they are all famous for. Will let you all know after sparring next weekend which he is taking apparently.) To be honest though, he wasn't the only one, most of the instructors were late getting up. Ok, ok, me included.

After breakfast, we were asked to set up an 'english dairy shop'. This was where the children would come and see us one by one and buy some common things, using only english words. Most of the children were good at it too, and i had lots of fun with this. You never can tell who will speak good english and who won't.

Then it was time for another instructors planning session, which went well. Roman and i also found a small amount of time to go over one of my new patterns that had been giving me some grief with the stepping, so i can work on that now as well. And that was pretty much the weekend.

I am off now to the baths again, to get clean, and then an early night i hope...we will see, things change here!

Dear diary,

since getting back from Seoul, i have been busy with preparing the kids for their grading, although as the grading approaches i have done less of the basics and more of kicks and entertainment. It's difficult when you have a whole class full of white belts of quite different ages. My second class of 4 at the Gumdo school has small children of 6 to teenagers. So seperating them has become essential for control. Here, Korean parents don't discipline their children a lot, they let their Hogwan(after school class) teacher do that, and smacking at school is also common. Funnily enough, their doesn't seem to be any problems with children misbehaving in class (Go Sue Bradford)! Anyway, i cannot smack the kids, or hit them with the pads etc, i just can't do it, years of NZ conditioning. So i do it in other ways, usually with pressups, or i try to make the punishment not a punishment, but still letting the child know i don't want them to do that again. Sometimes i make them leave the class, but not often.

So, with some of my classes i seperate big kids from little kids. I haven't been able to do any propper breaking, sparring, self defence etc yet, so i don't know that the children see where the basics are taking them, and they have no seniors to follow their example. I have great respect for Mr Bull from Gisborne, i can see how hard starting a new club would be, especially with all white belt students. Most of my students have gotten used to me though. They know when i put my hand to my mouth and say english, i want them to repeat what i am saying to them. But i also follow that up and explain what each english word means, so they understand the words and can use them, which a lot of them do now. It's challenging and fun, and i imagine that i would be very good at charades back home now! Some of them are now coming to me and asking for the english word for lots of things, and they are especially interested in me naming each move to the last technical detail. They don't understand it, but they love repeating the words, and then trying to use them in other situations.

On Tuesday night the President and Brendan visited me at Gumdo, which was a surprise. The President has asked me to move back to Pusan to teach there, and to assist him in arranging, organising instructors to come over, and advising on how ITFNZ works, so i am looking forward to that. But i am very sad to be leaving Ulsan, my students, and my home stay families. The Lees i can talk to and that's great. The Gungs i can't talk to much, even with the translator calculator thing, but we still have heaps of laughs, so i will miss them both. I will also miss my new soccer buddies.

'What's that Mr Gung...ok, soccer time'

...excuse me while i zip off for my morning game.

Yep, every secong morning i play, when i stay at the Gungs house. In fact this morning the guys at the field were asking me where i go every second day...i'm one of the family, so yes, i will be very sad to leave. And especially as i have been really making progress with most of the students, thats sad too. But onwards and upwards.

On Tuesday night, i had another Gumdo lesson, as you can see from the photo i am now officially a white belt student, and i nearly know enough to be a yellow belt, although the stances still throw me a little, and i can't hold my sword up high for very long. It's just like i remember my first TKD training night and trying to sit in a walking stance for 5 mins...sore the next day! That's me in the middle next to my buddy Jackie Chan, and i must admit i look pretty happy with myself. (No, it's not a real sword, just a practise one, but still heavy. Probably a good thing, i keep hitting my head and back as i swing it round, don't really want to come home minus an ear or two). Pity there isn't gumdo in NZ, i am sorely tempted to take it up.

Ok, thats it for this week i think, not much to write about, although there will be after the camp this weekend. I do have some great news coming up though, to do with instructor placements here, but i won't say anything yet until i have finialised things with the Presidents, NZ and Korea.

Dear diary,

It's been a very long 3 days, but heaps to tell! So...

The Lee's dropped me off at the bus stop at 11:00pm, where we waited for Brendan to arrive. Fortunately for him, his bus driver woke him at the right stop, or it would have been long ride home. Then Brendan and i were left to our own devices for the whole weekend in Seoul, once we were able to get there that was. We so needed the trip. Don't get me wrong about working here. It's exciting, new, an eye opener, but it's also exhausting at times. I love my home stay families ( I stay one night at each place, depending where i am teaching on the day), but there isn't a lot of time to zone out and relax. So, Brendan and i were really excited about getting away, doing our own thing, making our own mistakes, and generally trying our hardest to get lost and have fun doing it.

Having said that, we were grateful that the Lee's helped buy our tickets, and made sure we got on the right bus. Nothing like a good independent start. Anyway, we got on the bus at 12:20am, and surprise surprise, it was full, not a seat left anywhere except right at the back, which suited us just fine. Not sure why lots of Koreans were traveling to Seoul at that time of night, and most of them were either asleep or didn't speak english enough for me to ask them. Don't know how to tell the ones apart that do speak english anyway, so perhaps that was a good thing. The bus also had these great seats, just like a plane, they reclined a long way and with plenty of leg room.

After a fast trip, lasting 4 hours (yep, Sth Korea's smaller than you think, you can drive from one end to the other in about 6 hours), but mainly due to Mario Andretti driving the bus, we arrived all blinky eyed in the capital at 4:20am. What to do now? Brendan wasn't too keen on the naked sleep at the baths idea, he had been muttering about it the whole way. So we decided to look for a Hotel close to the bus station, of which there wasn't one, except the Marriott, and they wanted $350US for us to stay until 10:00am. It was tempting as it had been a long week for both of us, but that's a bit rich for us country boys. So, looking like the cheap backpackers we were, they hussled us out the front door pretty quick and into a taxi, where we were told we would be taken to somewhere more appropriate for our standing in society. Made me feel a little trashy, cheap even, but i guess we did look a little worse for wear after the all nighter. To be honest, we were just happy that the guy on the desk spoke enough english to help, so i won't be too hard on them.

Anyway, this was my first Taxi ride in Korea. I had observed them driving from a distance, and the only words that kept coming to mind were 'lethal, wife and kids million dollars richer due to insurance policy'. But with no choice, in we went. Now i must apologise to the taxi drivers of Korea. Yes you guys drive the worst i have ever seen, but we took a fair few taxi's in the weekend, or taschi's as they are called here, and not once were we ripped off, and they were all dammed cheap too. Best way to get somewhere in a hurry, in my opinion, thanks guys. They all spoke a smattering of english as well.

Not sure what the guy from the Marriott told the driver, but we ended up in a pretty dodgy area of Seoul. Getting out of the car, we immediately recognised (well Brendan did anyway), that we were in the red light district, and there were 'Love Motels' as far as the eye could see. We were right outside a beauty, called 'The Romeo'. Shaking our heads and wondering how bad we must have looked to the Marriott and dodging the working girls in their doorways, we made it inside to find the guy at the desk didn't speak any english, and thought we wanted a room together.

'No, separate no, i'm sure you do separate beds...yes, on the floor...spare mattress will do fine...follow you to a room...ok...yes i see there is only the one bed, we want two beds...hanna, dool we're not a couple, would you go out with this guy?...yes, ok, i think he has got it Brendan.'

Finally, at 5am, blissful sleep. Rats, it's 10:30am, slept far longer than intended, must have been really tired. Oh well, this is more of a weekend to unwind, than run around like madmen and see everything we possibly can. We took our time getting up. After all we had paid top dollar for this room ($60,000 Won, about $75NZ)..incidentally it was the best room they had, the penthouse suite if you like...real tasteful too. Mirrors, lights, big spa bath. Probably the first guests in it's lifetime to have spent 5 hours there. ( i love these love motels, they are great value, clean, close to town, and always open. If you get stuck in Korea for a place to sleep, they are your best option at short notice, all jokes aside).

Deciding after our first taxi ride to brave another, we waved one down and found our way to the other side of the city, to where Master Lee had told me we could catch a bus that was called Seoul City Bus Tours. This would be a great way to see the city, and cheap too. $10 all day, including commentary. By the bus tour company was a tourist information place, and the lovely lady there found us a backpackers to stay at. We had a great room, TV, and large floor all for $19 a night each! After leaving our stuff there, we decided not to take the tour, but to walk to the Imperial Palace which was very big as you can see in the first pic.

Brendan had wanted to visit the DMZ, but unfortunately i had forgotten my passport(sorry mate) after reminding him to bring his too. Never mind, after the palace we had a good stroll around the markets which were huge. On the way to there we had pizza for lunch, which is where Brendan became strangely attached to the pizza box. We somehow ended up in a large underground art gallery while crossing the road, and as he hadn't found anywhere to drop the box off (Koreans aren't big on public rubbish bins), he probably cut a rather strange figure, wandering around admiring the art with Pizzy, as his cardboard friend became known.

After that and the markets it was a long walk to find a movie theatre so we could just chill out and relax. Went and saw this movie called 300, have to say it didn't do much for me, too Hollywoodized. It retold the story of Leonidas and his 300 Spartans holding back the forces of Xerses and Persia. Something the General wrote about, so i guess it was a fitting end to the day.

In the middle of the city, there must have been some kind of demonstration planned, because there were so many police, armoured water cannon trucks and armoured buses that you could have walked across their shoulders while crossing the street, any street. Must have been 3000 at least, or maybe we were seeing the same ones. Also in Seoul, we were no longer celebrities, there were lots of tourists there. It had been so long since i had seen another white face besides Brendans, it became hard not to stare!

The next day we were again a bit slack getting going, but the timeout was doing wonders. We walked to the bus tour and started off, seeing a bit more of the city. This is the view from the centre of Seoul, on one side only. As you can see the yellow dust is still with us, although not strong today. Stopped in a shopping district and managed to buy these T-Shirts that say 'I'm foreigner, don't be afraid, you can stare at me'. Yep, they work too. After a great day sightseeing, we ended up again at the movies where we saw this bizarre movie called Perfume. Not a movie for the kids, but strangely entrancing, with a great twist too.

The next day it was an early start at 6:30, where we had to make our way down to Pusan, so i could get a bus back to Ulsan. We weren't sure how we would do that yet, but that's what makes these trips fun! After deciding it would be a shame to come to Seoul and not catch the KTX (this is Korea's new fast 300km train), we got a taxi to the station and made the 8:30 train to Pusan. Yep, that sucker was pretty quick! Only travels fast for half the distance as half the track is old, but it was still great zipping over the bridges and valleys at nearly 300kmh. The last pic is what that looks like. Also, you sit backwards on this train, it's safer if you crash!

Back in Pusan, we caught the subway where i said farewell to Brendan as he departed for his stay, and i carried on the the end of the line and found a bus back to Ulsan, and then another taxi back to my homestay. And that was pretty much it...

Must say though that there were english signs most places which made it easy for us, and most people selling tickets spoke a little english, so there weren't too many hassels. I made it back in time to start teaching at 3pm on the Monday, although it was a long day.

Great weekend. This one coming Roman arrives and we have the camp to do, and i still have no idea how that will turn out, but it will be interesting i am sure


Dear diary,

Well today is Friday morning, 6:30am, i can't sleep in here. I don't usually anyway, which is why i try not to get invited out too much at night as they usually turn into late drinking and eating parties. I am getting invited out every night though! I have become rent a guest, and it seems popular with the locals. Must be my good looks and funny stories in english because my party trick sucks (maybe being hairy is a party trick here?).

Yesterday i headed off to the Library with Master Lee, but we didn't get there. Instead we ended up going to the blossom festival, yay!, which was just like a large open air market. It's under all these blossom trees which are now in full bloom as you can see. That's me, the skinny one dressed in black in the centre in case anyone was wondering. There are so many blossom trees here that when the wind blows it's kind of like being in a white out, or perhaps a blossom out is better.

Anyway, we went to the blossom festival market, where half the stalls are food stalls, so heroes my second photo. Doesn't look that interesting, until you take a second look at the centre of the photo. That's right folks, that's whale meat. Not sure which whale but it looks like maybe a pilot whale or something similar. I didn't have any, neither did Master Lee, he doesn't like it.

My last photo is of a group of traditional performers. You can see in the picture if you look to the left, yep, there is a burial mound right next to the stage. Could of been part of the act as far as i could tell. They were pretty funny, or would have been if i knew where to laugh. I just followed everyone else and kind of laughed along, fooling everyone except master Lee, who just looked at me like i was on another planet. I'm trying to blend in as it were. Was pretty successful too, until several buses of school children arrived and blew my cover. 'Hi, how are you...i'm fine thankyou, how are you.'

Good, now walk two steps, repeat 'Hi, how are you...i'm fine thankyou, how are you.' Walk two steps 'Hi, how are you...i'm fine thankyou, how are you.' Walk two....

They just love to say hello, although they often run away as soon as they do, laughing and covering their faces, leaving me standing there wondering if it was something i said.

Tonight is Brendans and my big day out. Not sure if i told you yet, but we are going to Seoul. The plan is to leave tonight, after class (this does sound familiar, dejavu?) on the late bus. We will arrive at about 3am, then we are going to the baths, which are open all night, to sleep in the big room with lots of steam and other naked men. It's not wrong, just different. I doubt we will find a hotel room at that hour, so the baths are it...yay! Then we have two days in Seoul, although Brendan did mention something about visiting the demilitarised zone, must remember that Nth and Sth Korea are still at war, and to can the jokes and one liners while all the guns are being pointed at me. (on a completely different note, i still get asked if i like children. I always reply, 'yes, but i can't eat a whole one.' So far no one gets the joke, which is probably good, except Brendan, who while he still laughs, tells me it's getting old. I think he is laughing more at the Koreans missing the point and me getting away with saying something like that)

Anyway, this is the last update until i can get near a computer on Monday sometime. Should have plenty of news i would think!


Dear diary,

Again, not much happening day to day. Classes have settled down, but are still changing in nature as we refine the syllabus for the grading this month, not far away now (April 22). And if that isn't enough to do, the Koreans have decided to hold an english camp. Wasn't sure what this was but after Master Lee explained to me a few things, i gather it's the same as our national camps. Only thing is, they are having it on the 14th-15th...this month. And they want Brendan and i to run most of it, which is the english side of things i gather! No pressure, that gives me at least 2 weeks to organise things!

Now I know a thing or two about how to run a camp, but i usually start at least 6 months out gathering ideas, sending out application forms, holding meetings (ok, i am talking %$#@, the meetings are usually pizza and beer drinking sessions that produce some changes to what we already have settled on as a great formula).

Luckily for me, i can remember the timetable, the games, ideas, and most of the organising. And someone else is sending out the forms, organising the venue; we are going to this huge army kind of place that holds 300+ people. Should be a lot of fun. Over here, they don't need to give months and months of notice, they just tell them a few days or weeks out, and people seem to be able to get there. More on this to come in the next few weeks i imagine! Roman, if you are reading these updates, you are taking sparring classes at the camp, and i have volunteered Brendon as your demo partner. I'll do the first aid etc etc

My Hapkido lessons are coming along well, although i don't have them regularly. Last night i joined in some of the classes after TKD training, which are 3/4 of an hour, and then we do Hapkido training. Lets face it there is only so much 4 direction punch and block you can do with the older kids, then they need to burn some energy. So last night's classes were rolling and falling, flipping in mid air, summersaults, going from hands to feet to hands to feet to hands...all down the dojang. Pretty much sucked at those. But i can walk on my hands a short way now, and summersault from feet to hands, flipping over and landing on my back on the practise pad, which is the beginning stage. Pretty happy with myself about that, although i am not sure how the kids do it all the time, made me feel sick after a few goes.

The weight loss has settled down a bit as well, thank goodness. Was feeling pretty weak for a few weeks there. Can't see my washboard abs yet though, but they are there...somewhere. Maybe they are round the back? Also, i am back to stretching again, after having to take a break as all the sitting on the floor was playing up with the knees and hips, but that too is better now.

I went into Ulsan yesterday with Mrs Lee. She teaches english to kids and needed some new books, so she goes to this english special store. Quite a big place for a Korean shop, mostly kids books, but i did manage to pick up some more novels to read. After, we went to her daughters school to pick her up. I hadn't been to this school before, and it's a big one. She goes to what we call Kindy, but it's in the school, and there are quite a few classrooms. I got mobbed again. Don't mind that too much, would be nicer if it was the womans college where the early 20 students go, but it's a start i guess. And i wish they wouldn't keep trying to pull the hair out of my arms, little buggers are so quick. It's not stuck on you know...i have feelings.

I think Mrs Lee was a little surprised. I had told her that it happens with the small children. She is used to going there incognito. My biggest fear is being invited inside the classroom, at least in the corridor i can still see daylight. I wonder what would happen if a real celebrity came and stood next to me, would there be a different reaction for instance if it was Jennifer Aniston (apart from me grabbing her of course). It's tough work being a wannabe star, i can tell you, and i don't rate a limmo yet. Signing autographs isn't big here, but taking pictures with your phone camera is, so i have to look my best all the time. I think Mrs Lee's daughter Jerry is pretty popular at Kindy now. (Still can't figure out why i don't have an agent yet, do you have to contact these people, or do they get in touch with you?)

Right, it's Wednesday, not much yellow dust today again, thank goodness. I'm off to the bathroom for my morning beauty regime, shouldn't take too long.

Dear diary,

today is the second of April. Incidentally, Koreans celebrate April fools day here as well. They like a joke and appreciate being the butt of one, in fact you are a star if you can make a good joke on them. Like a red rag to a bull really.

Yesterday was really interesting as you can see from the two photo's here. The first is a mountain shot i took about 4 days ago, which is what Korea has been like since we arrived, hazy all the time with the 'Yellow dust' as they put it, the dust from China and Mongolia that blows this way each spring. Well, the other photo was taken yesterday, late afternoon, in Pusan. And as you can see, the 'yellow dust' has well and truly arrived. Visibility is down to less than 1 kilometre in places. I think i will be looking at getting one of those face masks myself, man it was like being in the middle of a large Aussy bush fire. The stuff gets into everything, especially your mouth. I wonder if that counts as a visit to Mongolia, always wanted to go there?

Strangely enough, tastes like dirt, and makes some people cough. Anything outside looks like it was driven in a rally after a few minutes, and i'm not even going there with what it does to the old nose, but lets say that blowing it often is a necessity, even more so than the spicy food nose blowing thing.

Incidentally, i have been forced to shave off the beard, something about scaring small children. No, actually it was the wife, she emailed me and said i looked like something born from the unholy union of a Leprechaun and Ronnie Barker. So, off it came. In fact this has had an amazing effect. All the Korean woman i know here already keep saying how skinny i look now, and how young. Don't mind that at all. Don't worry dear, i can't wait to get home and 'see' you!

As i said, yesterday was spent in Pusan with all the instructors. There is always a new instructor at the Dojang that Brendan and i haven't seen before. And the President thanked us very much as he believes that they are getting more and more inquiries from, shall we say, the 'other' TKD organisation, and it is due to us. Don't think that's the whole truth though. He is one dedicated man, totally committed to establishing Master Trans TKD here back in Sth Korea, and where there is a will, there will be a way for this man. Very humbling some of the things he said to us. But it is his ideas and his work that are the basis for their organisation, we are just here to work.

Brendan and i did some work on the upcoming grading. The Koreans have pretty much got it how they want to conduct it, and we will only see the first grading, but it will be a start for what we we know will be many to come. Would be great to see where they get in 5 years time.

It's back to work today, but this weekend coming Brendan and i are being let loose on our own in Seoul. We are planning to catch the train late on Friday after my last class, and have a weekend in the capital, getting lost, visiting the imperial palace, gardens, shops...guy shops that is! Our secret weapon against being lost too much is school kids who speak english so it should be a lot of fun. If you guys don't get an update by Tuesday next week...well you will know why.

Right, off to breakfast, rice, eggs, fish, kimchi and a lot of nose blowing to follow no doubt. Although, the yellow dust today looks less thank goodness.



Dear diary,

well it's been a little while since my last update, and to be honest, there isn't much happening at the moment (seem to remember saying that before). I have spent this week installing in the students here in Ulsan the basic grading syllabus that was agreed upon last weekend.

For those instructors curious, here it is!

4 direction block, 4 direction punch, basics, english...!

Yep, pretty much the same as ours, without the self defence aspect (especially for my hapkido students, who continue to laugh at my attempts to master the holds they show me...pretty much wasting my time trying to teach them anything about releases, learned that very quickly!)

The basics are stepping forward walking stance, stepping back, high, middle, low punch, punching exercises, low block, low knifehand etc and front kicks. I also have some 5-6 year old students, and taking a page from Master McPhail, have suggested that they sit a half grading and the Koreans come up with some kind of different belt, similar i imagine to what is happening back at home...usurping ideas might get me in trouble, but it's a great idea.

All classes are done in as much english as i can with them, and speaking english is probably just as important as the techniques, more in some cases. If i get stuck i resort to Korean. Eg, i say 4 direction punch, and i see some blank faces, i just say Saju Jerigi. They say the name of each technique before they do it, for example, step forward, middle punch, turn left, low block etc etc. This way they do the exercise, and learn the english for step, turn, block, punch ... essentially what we learn in Korean. It's pretty funny though, i have to stop myself all the time from saying saju jerigi, and to say 4 direction punch instead, it's all upside down. We have also started on the 'Do' side of TKD, with the tenets. They have great difficulty with some of them, but especially pronouncing perseverance. Koreans can't pronounce the 'F' sound or the 'V' sound, so they have to try real hard.

Funny thing is though, When Brendan and i were teaching them the english pronunciation, they all started laughing when we said perseverance. Really laughing hard. I asked Master Lee what was so funny and he said that this word sounds similar to a word in Korean that means 'the task is already complete'. So we are teaching them what it means to persevere and they hear don't persevere, it's already finished. Guess you had to be here really. The kids find it very amusing as well.

This week i have also been getting students to take charge of the classes, something that isn't done here. But it gives me the time to go around and correct stances. They are so shocked to be standing at the front saying step forward, low block etc. But me calling them sabum, which means teacher, makes them very proud, and it is working well. I use the students that speak good english, rank doesn't matter. It also shows them that they have to practise, because next week it could be them.

I am down to 4 classes a day now, which is good. There are probably 100-120 students in total between the Gumdo and Hapkido classes. I have also this week been standing outside schools giving away information to children, advertising. It's not the done thing at home, in fact would probably get arrested as a possible kiddy fiddler or something, but here, everyone does it. Which reminds me, it's very liberating the amount of children contact the Koreans have. Must say it still makes me uncomfortable a bit, i am used to saying sorry anytime i bump into someone, but here it happens all the time so no one even looks or bothers avoiding in a lot of cases, and don't apologize either, which is the norm here. But the children are constantly grabbing my hand or arm or whatever they can and talking away to me, sometimes in english, mostly in korean. They often sit right next to you, or on you, or lean on's great that it works here, never would at home in PC dangerous, Chch civic creche good old NZ though.

Had a great training session last night at the Hapkido Dojang. During the kids class which is first up, Mr Gung interrupted me with 15mins left to go.

'What's that Mr Gung? You want me to stop teaching? Well ok, i am used to these things i guess. Oh, you want me to follow you, well ok. Hhmm, not sure Gung me old china what that means, can you say it again. "Kikhe tme", Ok, nope, still don't get that one, can you show me? Why are you getting those newspapers out, hang on a minute, why have the children disappeared, Why are they sitting around the newspapers. This is all a bit strange Master Gung, but sure, i can follow along(must be some strange korean tradition or something?)What's with all that food, Master Gung?'

Wait a minute. Brown, you bloody idiot, it's not "kikhe tme", it's "cookie time". "Yes, yes", Mr Gung says, "kikhe tme". Well, turns out that every end of the month, he has cookie time at training where students take a break and have a little party, and why not i say. Although, this isn't doing the diet any good. Hang on, i'm not on a diet...yeha, give me those chips, yep i'll have some of that stuff as well...ok, is that hot, because if it is, someone is getting 100 pressups, oh, it's not hot. Go Korea!!

Dear diary,

well not much has been happening this last two days, although i did have another game of soccer this morning with Master Gung. We arrived at the field to find even more koreans than last time, and had to wait for a bit while the teams took turns on the field. Then it was our turn again. This time though, i was put on the left wing...rats, the only place worse than trying to kick left footed all the time, is being in goal with everyone shooting the ball at you all the time. And my left kicks are only average, wait a minute, my left sidekick isn't too bad, maybe i can use that somehow. In the end though, i did better than last time. Managed to pass the ball a lot, quite successfully too, according to the positive tone from the other players.

Yep, like i said, not much happening...although last night was a little interesting, if you can call becoming the first Kiwi to become a fully deputized member of the Korean Law Enforcement Community!!! That's right Brendan, beat that, and i have the photo's to prove it. I haven't been a deputy since the time Mr Skedgewell deputized me at the Dunedin Nationals when a suspicious character turned up and he was asked to look in to it. I wonder if that makes me the first person to belong to two police forces?

Anyway, let me take you back to last night, here's how it all happened...cue the wavey lines and funny music.

After Hapkido training, where i tried out the new ITF Korea syllabus on the kids for the first time, which went pretty well, i got changed and waited for Master Gung to take me home as usual. Only this time he appeared and said something about night police? 'What's that Mr Gung, you want the police? Ok, you don't want the police, what do you mean? Ohh i see, you are the police, i thought you were just a Hapkido master? You're not? You are a police officer as well? Oh, not a police officer, a night police officer. Ok, is there a difference? Right, i get it, you just belong to a group of locals that help the police at night, kind of a community thing, right, sounds like fun, Oh, we are going to go on a patrol. Yeha, count me in!!

That conversation took a long time, with lots of gesturing, but i pretty much got it right, my guessing Korean is getting better.

Anyway, we went to this police station, where the night police hang out, and Mr Gung led me inside, where i surprised a bunch of other night policemen who were getting ready for a patrol. They were a very friendly bunch, prone to joking a lot, as you will see. Had me going there for a bit too.

So, they thought i was pretty funny, and wanted to have their picture taken with me. Well one thing led to another, and before you know it, i am dressed in uniform(sorry dear, i had to give it back), sitting in the boss's chair, and posing for photo's!!

Then it was out on patrol. Mr Gung bundled me into that back of their police van, and he disappeared and left me with 4 other guys, one of whom spoke a small amount of english, and that was it, we went out on patrol. Lights flashing and battons at the ready. Our first stop was the police station down the road. It was here that it got a little hairy for me. One of the guys thought it would be funny to grab me by the arm and pretend i was under arrest and forcefully lead me into the real police station, only thing was he didn't tell me it was a joke.

The 2 policeman inside took one look at me and started asking all these agitated questions in korean which didn't need any translating i can tell you, then the guys with me couldn't keep a straight face any longer and just started laughing and let me go. Well, great joke guys, next time let me know!

After that we went back to the night police station and Mr Gung arrived shortly with takeaway chicken, soju, and beer. Then the night descended into a drinking night...great, i have soccer tomorrow i thought. Never mind, these guys are great fun. You know it's funny, after the 3rd beer i could understand them fine...maybe they were slurring their Korean, or maybe beer gives me a super sense of translation. Whatever, i apparently invited all of them back to NZ at any time(sorry dear, it was the beer, but they are a great bunch of guys), and i also have a few new 'Brothers' as well, not sure how that happened, apparently it's a Korean tradition to have a close friend that become a brother for life...ive got about 8 now!

We had a great night, until one of the guys phone rings...yep, it's his wife and he scurry's away pretty quickly. Then all the other guys start looking at their watches, mumbling something to each other, and suddenly it is all over.

Mr Gung and i are driven back to his house by the sober night policeman, who all the time was watching our drinking and shaking his head.

Beat that Brendan!! I will let you decide the points for this one!

26 March 2007

Well. this weekend was full of lots of stuff! On Saturday morning i traveled with Master Lee to see the Gumdo grading, i have attached some pictures of the display cutting the bamboo staffs, one of the kids where they have to draw their sword after throwing a tennis ball in the air, and they have to then strike the ball in one draw and cut..very impressive.

The next photo is of me Brendan, the kids grading, Jackie Chan!, and Brendan's host family.

After the grading, we decided to try being on our own for the day, and decided to take the bus from Gimhae to Pusan. Fortunately for us Brendan's host helped us buy the tickets and get on the right bus. He gave us some directions for getting off the bus, but to be honest, we kind of didn't understand him too well. So after sitting on the bus for 1/2 an hour we figured we were in Pusan, or thereabouts. Now, to get off the bus in the right place.

Our master plan turned out to be, stay on the bus as long as possible and see what happens. Worked for us well, until the bus driver, noticed us and stopped the bus, got out of his seat and headed down the bus towards us. We weren't the only people on the bus, but somehow we knew. Yep, he pointed at us and gestured for us to depart...immediately. Ok, we get the picture, time to get off. Maybe our ticket has run out, maybe we did something wrong, or possibly we were as close to our destination, the Do Jang, as the bus went. We still weren't sure, but the end result was that we got off the bus. He pointed in a direction and waved us on, he was a bit grumpy, but as it turned out he was looking after us and we started walking in the right direction. Although at the time we didn't know it. We were supposed to get on the subway, and would have of been there in 10 mins or so, but with walking, it took us 2 hours.

In the end to be sure, i asked some school girls (yes, they go to school on saturday here). Once they had gotten over their embarrassment, they were very helpful, and one of them spoke good english, and put us on the right road, which turned out to be the one we were walking down! Go figure. Brendan was right, he thought he recognised the area. I had no idea, being a country boy in Korea.

After a brief stop for a Mac attack (again, we gave in to temptation, this time they were not spicy), we made it to the Do Jang, where a very surprised Park sabum couldn't understand why we had wanted to walk all that way (about 8kms). We just showed him our hairy faces and said we were Kiwi's, and tough. (Incidentally, the hairy face thing is for older men, younger woman don't like it here, but they see it as a sign of maturity and respect, so we think it is working well for us! Course, Brendan has only just started as he keeps getting called 'Army Boy' or one he isn't sure he likes "Sean Connery". Me, i'm Richard Dreyfuss, although after this weekend i was very nearly Kenny Rogers, more on that later.)

Then after a rest of 5 mins or so, Park sabum asked us if we would like to go and visit the American Aircraft Carrier, the Ronald Regan, which was in port. Would we!!! Turns out he is a bit of a military buff, so he wanted to see it as well. I have attached some pictures of it and the sun going down, and Brendan and i posing on some bloody great rock in the middle of the ocean that he thought would be a good idea...have to say i agree!

After that we were taken into town for dinner with Park sabum and 4 of his students, all 18 year olds, and one of them spoke ok english so we had a good chat. Man, those kids can put away the food. I thought Master Lee was good, but they left him for dead. Brendan and i just sat back and watched, and the food kept coming and coming. Then on the way out i discovered the last photo. That's right folks, it's a singing bar, specialising in the great Kenny Rogers hits and songs. You had to be there i guess. Anyway, took the photo for a certain instructor in Hamilton, who is a big fan and of course shall remain nameless.

After all the excitement, it was off to bed at our usual hotel. Which incidentally, is a 'special hotel' where apparently the guests stay for 'one night only' or even perhaps a 'few hours' if you know what i mean. The mirrored ceiling and discoe lights are a good giveaway, not to mention the special tv channels they have...all part of the experience of teaching in Korea folks. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it i suppose!

Anyway, Sunday saw us teaching again with the instructors, and at the end of the day, after much talking, language confusion, demonstrations, advice, more talking and 1 hour of much needed patterns practice for Brendan and i, we finally have the beginnings of a grading syllabus for the first ITF grading (our ITF organisation) to be held in Korea for a long time (if at all, not sure?). Brendan and i are very happy with the days work and feel we are making some real progress at last.

Then it was the drive back to Ulsan for me and i arrived back home at 8:30, where my host family all went out to dinner again. I got to bed at 10:30, pretty tired, but very happy with the weekends work.

Dear diary,

Well another week is drawing to an end. I am excited about tomorrow as i am traveling to the Gumdo grading, where my friend the Jackie Chan look-a-like is grading. Will get his pic (and autograph) i promise. This morning i had another game of soccer with Gung, the Hapkido master. To tell the truth i was still sore from the game 2 days ago, so i thought i would take it easy today and not go out so gungho, as it were.

Well, when we got to the pitch, there were about 24 koreans all ready to play. Hhmmmm, i don't think this will be a reduced side somehow. Yep, i was right, it's going to be a full blown game, with referee and all the rules. Rats, i haven't played proper soccer for years, not since i was a kid. Oh well, perhaps the ball won't come my way.

"What's that Gung? There's too many players and will i sit the first half out. Well ok, but i'm not happy about it, i think you have left me out just because of my skills, or lack of them perhaps."

As you may remember i have started growing a beard. No one here has one, and certainly no one has a flaming ginger beard, like mine is turning into. Probably can see the dam thing from half a mile away, stopping traffic or something. Run for your lives, it's the foreigner with his face on fire.

"What's that Gung, it's my turn on the field. Well ok, what position am i in? No, reply in english i don't understand what you are saying. Yes, i know you don't speak english, but you speak more than i speak korean. Ok, ok, stop waving at me, i get the message, i'm on the pitch already."

So far so good, no one seems to want to pass me the ball. Perhaps i can just kick it a little, sub off the field, and honour will be satisfied. You know the funny thing with soccer, is that once you have passed the ball to your team mate, and he has it, you are no longer responsible for what happens. So if you get the ball, just pass it to someone else. They seemed to place me as a back, so i just passed the ball whenever i got it.

Blast it, i'm at the back and there are 3 koreans from the other team bearing down on me and no one else is near. Ok, NZ TKD soccer skills don't fail me now. Must of looked quite a sight, old flaming cheeks taking on 3 koreans. We tackled for a bit and strangely i managed to kick the ball out. Yes! Right, now to sub off at the peak of my fame before my true lack of skill comes out.

I wave, yes, one of the other benchwarmers stands up, runs over and takes my bright yellow shirt, while i jog off to cries of 'well done, great defence, you can come and play anytime, get a haircut and get a real job.'

I made that bit up, i really have no idea what they were saying.

While i am on the subject of music, i am reminded of being in Honduras again. Here though, they play the late 80's hits, but they have been Koreanified. And strangely turned into full blown orchestrated ballads. All sung in korean too. I can recognise some of the tunes, but it's not life as we know it Jim.

Friends at Tauranga said to me when i left that i would either come back home an expert in TKD, or would quit! Well, not exactly. I don't have that much time to practise on my own, maybe 30 mins a day max. But i have taken Master M's advice and started learning my new patterns from the book, have gotten 1 under my belt, and halfway through the second. Looking forward to having them corrected when i get back to Tauranga, but at least i should have the basics right.

Well thats all for the next few days, i am taking some time off. Hopefully will do some more sightseeing this weekend.

Dear Diary,

well another first for me last night, had pigs spine for dinner at this specialist restaurant. Was quite nice really, spinal cord and everything. All in a large soup bowl. You had to pick out the spine, pull the cord away, and wella, there you go. Along with the customary hot spices of course. I still passed on the chilies though. And right next to our table was this huge TV. What was on while i was chewing my spine i hear you ask? Why real life medical dramas of course, lots of blood and guts including my dinner. I just shake my head now, must be used to it.

I have moved house, well, that is to say i am now moving between each instructors house depending on where i am teaching each day. Still have lots of classes each day though. This morning i was invited to play a game of soccer with the locals. Ok, i thought, i will give it a go. Wasn't too happy about the 6:30 wake up, but i am dedicated!

I didn't have any suitable trackpants like everyone else, so i just wore my All Black shorts, i think they thought i was crazy. On the way to the playing field, the car in front turned on it's wipers, and the water coming off the windscreen hit our snow!

The game was a 4 aside reduced field, no outs, no offsides, and no hands game. Of course i didn't know this at the time, as no one spoke english apart from saying 'good kick, good kick', and some other stuff when i missed the goal. But i soon learned the rules and we were away. Played for 1 hour and am absolutely buggered. You know, i didn't know you could get plastic burns from artificial turf, but there you go, a lesson for young players. Afterwards we had our photo taken as you can see.

Good bunch of blokes. Of course as soon as the game was over there was smoking-a-plenty, but this is Korea. Actually there isn't that much smoking here, certainly not as much as Europe.

The other photo here is rather disturbing for us. I spotted it on the last trip back from Pusan. It's not the swasticker, or however it is spelt, but is a church sign. There are lots of them here. Bothered me quite a bit when i first saw it, but i am more unformed now. Of course this is an ancient symbol, and was used by lots of religious groups long before Hitler stole it, including the American Indians. I guess they are reclaiming it.

Was involved in a bit of an accident last night at training. I was playing with the kids when one of the bigger boys fell, and hit the soft matts with all of his weight on his little finger. Drove the finger nail right back up into his finger where it popped out through the skin at the last joint. Nasty little looking injury too. But he was pretty brave. I just wrapped it up with my NZ first aid skills and waited for Gung the instructor to turn up 5 mins later, where the young man went to the doctor. Apparently he held him down and popped it back in to the right place. At least that's what i can gather from Gung's vivid description and words like ouch, which are universal really. Will see him tomorrow night to see what it looks like.

And they said this job was dull and boring...i wish!

I have also lost 7 Kilo's. Yes, that's right Jenny. Korea is the new weight loss program from hell. With all the teaching, the soccer, the running around with the kids, and the food...well it's perfect. I don't know where they have gone, but i don't want them back. I haven't been this skinny since i was 23-4 or there abouts. Not even 4 gradings managed to shift the guts, but 3 weeks in Korea and i feel like Superman. Which reminds me, what do you call a man who works in the supermarket here. Yes, thats right, he is called the Superman, at least that's how the Koreans pronounce it and how it sounds. First time i heard that i was searching the sky for some kind of Korean in red underwear flying past. Cultural differences are wonderful!

Dear Diary,

well it finally happened. On Saturday i traveled down to Pusan in the afternoon to spend the weekend with Brendan, but on the way home, right in front of us there was an accident. One of the mad Korean drivers decided not to stop for the lights thinking someone would let him through, but no, he had quite a good smash, saw the whole thing. Could have been us but there you go...always wear your seatbelt.

So, like i said i went to Pusan to see Brendan, training had been cancelled, or so we thought, and i didn't take my Do Bok, for a change...big mistake. Anyway, i arrived at 3:30 and we went to Brendans hotel, where he is still staying. Had some free time until 9pm when we were going out to dinner, so we wandered the streets, found a mall and did some wandering inside. Had some fun getting lost and saying hello to as many people as we could embarrass, which was quite a few. Then out for dinner which was nice. Then we went to another foreigners bar, where we played some pool, got husseled by this american guy called Tim, who has been teaching here for 6 years, and playing pool everynight since then i would say.

As it was St Patricks day, we of course drank Guinness, very nice drop it was too. Then we went to a shopping mall at 1am, as you do. Got a little hungry and unfortunately Brendan and i succomed to the desire for western food as you can see in the photo below. Typically though, my chicken thingy was very spicey, but still nice.

Then we were driven to the top of the highest mountain in Pusan for a look at the city, which was quite a drive. Very cold! Great view but i lost the use of my ears and nose with the wind chill. On the way down we came around a bend in the amazingly steep road and there just crossing the road was a deer, go figure. Our driver Mr Kim was as amazed as we were. Finally got to bed at 3am.

The next day was a slow starter for us, got to the Do Jang at 12 mid day after getting up at 10:30. We were supposed to go shopping, but Mr Kim, the president wanted some photos taken first. Turned into a mammoth photo session for Brendan, as i didn't have my do bok.

Mr Kim wanted to use us to show all the pattern moves and intermediate moves from white belt to 4th Dan. Brendan posed for the pictures up to 1st Dan in a 3 hour photo session and we worked together to make sure to the best that we could that the moves and positions were pressure! We are not sure why they don't use the legacy CD, but i guess they want the english speaking guys in the photo's. It's my turn this Sunday i think. Really makes you try to remember very hard everything that you have been taught when someone is pointing a camera.

Then it was the drive home to Ulsan for me, and back to work on Monday. I think this weekend we will have some time off!

Dear diary,

well the weekend is finally here, time for a break. I have been walking around the village lots lately, just to give me a change from the days teaching. Keep bumping into students all the time, as you would expect. They are bringing me candy everyday now, which is so sweet of them.

Yesterday we went to the primary school to pick up Lee's student as per usual. However something seems to have subtly changed. I have become a celebrity! Yes, i have finally achieved village wide recognition as the TKD white guy who you can say hello to, and he talks...please no pictures. We ended up in the main hall which is where the Gumdo grading will take place next weekend, will post some pictures of that! Anyway about 30 children followed us in there. Lee was just showing me the place and all of a sudden we were surrounded...well i was surrounded, he somehow managed to slip away quietly. Must be some Gumdo special move that i haven't been shown yet. I was trying to make the door, but the kids had progressed from just saying hello, hello, HELLO, to deciding that i couldn't hear them and they had better check that i was real by grabbing me. Yep, i was mobbed by 30 primary school students. Lucky for me it was only 30 or so. Fortunately i made the door and the outside world only loosing my innocence! Mobbed by children, eat your heart out Brad Pitt! I do believe that puts me one up on you Brendan?

That night i was taken into Ulsan by Lee and his wife, to a place they call Tombstone. It's a pub that is run by foreign teachers here, so not populated by the locals. Besides, it was very hard to find. I had a great time, met one Kiwi girl on her first OE teaching experience...frankly she looked a little shell shocked to me, had only been here for 2 days. (listen to me, 2 weeks and i am a veteren)

Lee and i partnered up for a game of pool with Wolfgang and his ladyfriend, who was from Sth Africa, didn't catch her name, but he was a german canadian...go figure with a name like that. I think they were a couple of local pool sharks, but it must of been beginners luck, as i hadn't played pool for ages, neither had Lee, but we beat them...twice! Only problem was that there is no antismoking law here, and man did my eyes water, and my clothes and hair stink. Go the good old days back home, don't miss those smokey pub filled nights one little bit. Next morning i had to wash everything(actually i don't do my washing here, Mrs Lee won't let me. Must be the celebrity thing...i don't know)

Later in the morning that day, Lee took me into the bamboo forest to do some Gumdo. I was very impressed with his skill in slicing, dicing and well just general lethalness. I felt like i was on the set of the last samurai. Then he let me have a go. Man, that thing is razor sharp, but it still took me 3 goes to get the stroke and cut right. Simply awesome experience throwing around a real sword, especially these ones(they are exactly like a japanese katana which is probably familiar to us) That's 2 Brendan!!

So, today it was back to the Hapkido Do Jang for another days work of running around like an idiot trying to keep up with the children. Brendan is right about the foot thing though. I have split all the skin on all my right foots toes, especially the big toe which doesn't look pretty, like i kicked a sword or something. Naturally the children find this fascinating. Have brought some creme to try to soften them up again...makes putting your shoes on interesting i can tell you, and we do that a lot here.

Anyway, had a good days training, finished at 9:00pm for a change, and was looking forward to catching up on some sleep. Didn't get in from Tombstone till 1am (Horse threw a shoe, had to shoot him, dog gone horse was no good anyhow...i think the locals ate him?) Where was i, oh yes, sorry about that, went west for a minute. Finished teaching at 9pm, and was then invited by Gang, the Hapkido master to have a few lessons from Gang, i need those fingers...aaarrrghh...yes, that works well doesn't it....grab you here, ok, but....oouuch..yes, that does work well too, no no i am fine, learning heaps, thanks...what, dinner....ah, ok sure, but i am only a little hungry.

He is trying so hard and has learn't enough english to ask me if i am hungry, and a few other things as well. Doing Hapkido doesn't need any english, yelling in pain is the same in any language it would seem.

Well, instead of going to his place or a local restuarant, we walked to another apartment block. Hhm, this could be interesting i thought. I have had a day of teaching and i stink from all the exercise, and we are going visiting. Ok, maybe they will think it's a foreigner thing. Gang played a little joke and knocked on the door, but ran and hid when it opened, leaving me to say hello. I played along and just babbled a stream of english at the poor woman, who looked so surprised she didn't know whether to run or hit me. Gang practically fell over, he thought it was a great joke. Well, inside were 11 other people, waiting for us to arrive, all dressed up...bugger.

What followed was a dinner where i was the guest of honour, which was nice. Had a great time, and one of the guests spoke english well enough to translate. Then my hosts son came home at about 10:30pm. I was sitting at the table with my back to the door. He must have been used to his parents having guests around, because they all said hello, then i turned around and spoke english, well, same reaction, he jumped about 3 feet, and dissapeared into his bedroom in embarrasment. Everyone thought it was a great joke. He ended up sitting next to me for the night, and spoke a little english, so we had a chat. He was a Manchester United football fan, even had the t-shirt. The other boy there spoke good english so translated for us, great time was had.

Home to be at 11:30, absolutely buggered i can tell you. And tomorrow, back to Pusan to catch up with Brendan..Night night

Dear Diary, Day 15

Well it's been over 2 weeks now and i feel that i am making steady progress in my little part of Korea. The Gumdo students are very interested in the TKD techniques that i have to show them, however the Hapkido students are not as interested. They like the kicks and hand techniques, but get bored very quickly with the patterns and basics. I taught them reverse turning kicks last night, only to see them surpass me with jumping in a few turns, took me years to get it semi right! I also had a self defence lesson from Gang, the Hapkido master. It was good to see that the stuff we use in ITFNZ is similar, so i wasn't too lost. They can kick ok, but don't understand the technical motions related to the physics of power. Unfortunately i don't speak Korean well enough to explain it so i have to go slow with examples, which works kind of well.

I had sometime to wander yesterday, and found a market with lots of stuff for sale, the wife would have loved it. Apart from the fish of course. Every second shop is a fish stall, and there is lots of varieties. Wandering through, a few of Lee's parents are saying hello, and practicing their english, so i guess the advertising that i do just by wandering around the town is working...hhmm, i wonder if this is why he encourages me to get out and about!

I had dinner at a fish shop last night after Hapkido class. This is the same shop that the old guy from north Korea owns. My 3 guests and i had a great time, although no one spoke english. One of them had an english/Korean dictionary on his phone! Conversation was long, but we got there in the end. The food was fish, as you would imagine, but Korean style, which meant it was raw. I'm ok with that, i have sushi a lot at home. They slice it up and serve it with soy sauce and wasabi. Although really they should just put out the wasabi and add maybe two drops of soy sauce to it. Not the best when you are trying to stop your nose from running due a cold.

I am also back to looking ahead when driving now, a minor victory. I have come to several conclusions with Korean driving. One, there is a set of road rules, but either no one can remember them, or no one likes them, or no one cares about them. Intersections are the best. If you get there first, you get to go through, doesn't matter if you are crossing a main road or not, or if there are signs or not. And strangely everyone stops, so this give way to the first person there really works. No one gets upset, everyone cooperates, and everyone is patient.

Speaking of getting upset, i was worried coming over that sooner or later we would have some trouble with the WTF. Well, turns out that fighting here is strictly forbidden. And if you do, there are huge fines and jail time. So no one fights or gets upset really. Except when you are late home, have been drinking and eating fish with some NZer you just met, like one of my guests last night, whose wife was a little irate at him...woman, they are the same all over the world (no doubt i will pay the price for this comment when i get home from my better half). Anyway, this huge fine for fighting is probably a good idea with a country full of guys running around with swords, sticks and what have you.

Have you seen the pictures of Asia where the people wear those face masks. For pollution right. Well kind of, but not apparently in Korea. About this time each year, the wind starts to blow through the Gobi desert in China/Mongolia and it picks up these very fine dust particles and dumps them on the Korean peninsular. So a lot of people here choose to wear the surgical masks, and they are starting to do so now. They tell me that the sunsets and rises get spectacular. (Excuse me for a minute while i blow my nose again, for the milllionth time since Monday. I imagine i am supporting thousands of toilet paper factory workers worldwide at the moment...hhmmm, wonder if i am contributing to child slave labour somewhere? will there be a glut when i get better? unemployed slave children, what happens to them?...why do these things bother me??)

Where was i, oh yes, the dust masks. Yesterday Lee asked me if i wanted to go for a bush walk. He didn't say bush though, i just put that in. So off we trekked. It's like walking through the pine plantations at home. Korean pines are smaller and twisted, like their lives they say. And the ground is so dry, no greenery anywhere. Well, after walking up this huge mountain, i was surprised to see an exercise area, complete with a weight bench, at a junction of tracks and in the middle of nowhere. I kid you not. As we walked more, there were more of them, here a triceps dip parallel bar, there a situp bench, inclined on one side in case you find it too easy of course. Lots of locals walk this track, and use the equipment...well, there you go, surprised the heck out of me. But not too strange when you think about it really. What was strange though, was that every housewife out walking wore a mask, at least most of them did. And there were burial mounds all along the track, with people kneeling and paying their respects to their ancestors buried there...wonderful stuff!

OK, that's it for a day or two, off to lunch...again...please lord, no more food!

Day 12

Dear diary, finally some time to write.

Today is Saturday and a big day for Brendan and i. We are being taken to Seokgulam Grotto, which is the cave where the relief of Kumkan Yuksa is. A bit of a drive, but we got there ok. The cave is about 700m up on the top of a mountain, in a valley facing East to catch the rising sun. The main part of the cave houses a large budda, with Kumkan in front of the budda to the right and left, carved into the wall. Funnily enough, looks just like the picture in the coloured belt syllabus. Awesome experience to be there though. This particular cave is associated with Hwarang, so it was only appropriate that Brendan and i do the pattern. We had brought our Do Boks but left them in the car, so it was normal clothes, but still a great feeling.

The Koreans are really looking after us well, we don't pay for anything, despite our trying to. We also had these cool tiles given to us, which are roofing tiles, where you write a message on them and the go into a building, i dedicated mine to the General, and Brendan to NZ.

Next, it was off to the tomb of Yoo-Sin, yes the same as the pattern. You can see it in the background behind me in Do Bok.This was quite an experience and moving. We got changed and after lots of pictures we became the first TKD's (ITF) to perform the pattern Yoo-Sin at the tomb of the late general. About 30 tourists watched on and clapped when we finished.

Then it was off to more tombs of kings from the Silla dynasty with a local guide who showed us around, great stuff and really interesting. Lunch was at a traditional restaurant again, and with lots of food. Then i joined Brendan to go back to Pusan for the night and have the Korean specialty of Dog. Yes, that's right, we ate dog. Actually it's rather bland. Then i was offered some fish, which i ate and that was very nice. Turned out to be the dreaded and very poisonous puffer fish. So the day was full of 'different' foods again, and sights for the camera.

I stayed with Brendan at his hotel room for the night and it was good to catch up.

The next day we had training with all the instructors and then we talked with them about setting up their organisation, grading procedures (we did a mock NZ style grading for them to show them how we do it), and what it means to be an instructor. We urged them to form their own syllabus, and ensure that their standard of teaching was consistent.

Arriving back in Ulsan, i had dinner out with my host family, then it was off to the traditional Korean baths. Now this place was amazing. All the men are on one floor and the woman on the floor below. Everyone is naked, about 100+ men, with a huge complex of spas and saunas. I was a novelty from the beginning as i am rather a bit more hairy than the average Korean, and when they say my TKD tattoo, well that was then end. Koreans don't have tattoos, and i had a TKD one. They were all bowing and calling me sabum, rather embarrassing really. But i guess i soaked it up a little, hasn't gone to my head though, unlike the cold from hell that i have picked up from nowhere. Woke up this morning feeling like crap to be honest.

Day 8

Dear diary,

well, routine is well established, and so is the cold weather. Seems we are experiencing a bit of what the Koreans call 'Flower cold', which means a spring cold snap referring to the flowers coming in spring. The days are starting to roll together now. I get up at 7:30, check email. Usually have 30 mins time to read and reply so replies are short, sorry. Then it's breakfast and out the door for work, open the Do Jang, errands, advertising, and then lunch. Teach until 9-9:30 depending, then dinner. Home at 11-11.30 and bed.

I had my first Hapkido lesson today, with what we call numchaka's. I have got the basics, but seeing Gang the Hapkido master in action is awesome. They use swords, staffs, bow and arrow, as well as their arms and legs, not to mention throwing and falling. I have been concentrating on two different areas in TKD teaching. One is teaching fundamental movements so they can get the basics, and the other half of the class is things like jumping, which they are really good at, or pad work which they like. They are good at hitting the pad, but their technique is off a little. Again though they learn very quickly, great students to have.

Wandering around the village now is interesting, i know where to go. There are so many hairdressers, i wonder how they all make their money sometimes. And there is a restaurant in every second shop, all serving different things. Speaking of food, i know Brendan and i talk about it a lot, but it really is a big thing here. Todays food was different, again! Cereal for breakfast, kind of like crunchy nut cornflakes, then for lunch, well that was interesting. Lee orders for me as all the menu's are in korean of course, so he suggested i try something different. We had this sausage thing, cut up. Anyway it wasn't sausage, it was a pigs intestine stuffed with noodles and congealed blood, kind of like black pudding. I liked it although it was quite spicy. Next came boiled pigs stomach and liver cut into small pieces. I am ok with this kind of food coming from an English family. But dinner was different. i was served the dreaded Makkoli, and mindful of Brendans experiences, i paced myself, i'm fine today, i only had half a bowlful. I also had bugs, yes, the dreaded bugs finally appeared. These ones were silkworms, and i had to try one. Well, to be honest, i pretty much finished the bowl, they were yummy. Lee likes them as well, so there weren't many left.

Then his student arrived, the one going for his 3rd dan in Gumdo. Part of their testing involves drawing the sword and cutting a piece of bamboo that is mounted in the floor, standing upright. This is harder than it looks, but it was awesome to watch how fast the sword comes out, and the bamboo is sent flying...must have a go at this. They have to have licence to have a proper sword here. Incidentally, samauri are Korean descendents, originating here, not in Japan.

Lee's student is a well educated man in TKD, he knows all about ITF and General Choi. We had a good chat through Lee. It was heartening to hear that the General is reasonably well known here, even with the WTF stranglehold. It is his opinion that they are falling apart as well, which is good news! Also, he looks the splitting image of Jackie Chan, i kid you not. Will get a photo to prove it, so i had dinner with Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan...lots of laughter over that one i can tell you.

Ok, today is Saturday, and we are off sightseeing, so i should have some more photo's to put up soon.

Disneyland look-a-like kindergarten on our first day here.

Hapkido Do Jang, notice the name on the pants, this is the name of the club here, Christine might like that.

My room in my hosts house that their little girl gave up for me

Undercover police van light of one of the WTF instructors learning ITF in Pusan.

Day 6

Dear diary,

Last night i got to watch the seniors doing gumdo, using real swords(similar to the Japanese Katana), simply awesome. There is no way you could get near these guys to kick or block, pretty serious stuff. They have Tuls just like TKD, where they have to have a certain form, arms in the right place, hand changing, sword moving in the correct arc or strike. I had a lesson, and it's not as easy as they make it look. I should have known, i remember my first night at TKD, with Miss Holmes and Mr Graham teaching me Saju Jerigi. I was a beginner all over again, which is good.

I taught at the other Do Jang today, similar amount of students, but a little older on average. They practise Hapkido, and these guys know how to fall. The instructor there doesn't speak english, but we get our message across with gestures so it's ok, although sometimes we just laugh and throw our arms up when we can't say what we want. His wife has studied NZ intently and has so many questions, trouble is she doesn't speak english either, so it's quite funny sometimes. But they have both started to speak more now. I am learning a little Korean, but i spend all my time teaching english. Although i can now say that my stomach is full, which is probably the most valuable words i know!

The Hapkido classes are similar in length, 6 classes of 1 hour each, only there they play soccer in between, so i don't get much rest. TKD and teaching games and fun classes has become my normal working day, which is what i am here for. I taught my first TKD lesson in the Hapkido class, for 30 minutes. They learned Saju Jerigi, both sides perfectly in that time, they learn very fast. Soon they will be ready for their first ITF grading.

After class, i was taken out to dinner at 9 pm, and foolishly found myself in a chillie eating and drinking contest. Yes, i know what you are saying, but honour was at stake and i had to make the effort. Did ok in both areas, but lost of course. They appreciated the chili effort and the shop owner wouldn't let me eat another, he took pity on me i think. We had quite a few laughs and i had a great night, although i am feeling a little seedy it seems. But not as bad a Brendan; i was shown a picture of him having acupuncture yesterday, and he didn't look comfortable at all. Must remember not to have that stuff.

While waiting for dinner, i was standing on the street looking at the fish shop. There are many of them here as you would think, but they all have these large fish tanks outside which they just grab what fish they want, and there you go, fresh fish. Anyway, this old guy comes over and ask me what i am doing in Korean, i just said i don't speak Korean. Then he started to speak english, very rusty, but in 5 mins he was speaking ok. He was in his 60's and was a north korean, he had gotten stuck on the wrong side of the border during the korean war, and separated from his family. Quite a story, and i enjoyed talking to him.

Day 7

Today it was back to the Gumdo Do Jang, where the children knew me, so it was an easier class to teach, and they were quiet and better behaved. Turns out Lee had given them all the message while i was away at the Hapkido Do Jang, and it was much easier to teach. Almost like home. I taught the same class, Saju Jerigi, and they picked it up quickly as well, especially Tom, my hosts' son. I had a little extra time after class, so i kept teaching him, and he is one of those students we all want, he learns so fast, and just keeps practising all the time, so i was amazed when in the space of another 20 mins, he had learned Saju Makgi and Chon Ji.

These guys will be a world force again, mark my words. It may take some time, but Brendan and i have made a good start here. I teach by example, as most don't speak conversation english, so all moves have to be acted out, or i have to physically move the child.

The children are saying hello to me in the streets now. Where we are is a smaller village, next to the city of Ulsan, so i think the locals are getting to know me, or hearing about me. The children also bring me chocolate now at class, it's so cute.

My hosts home is small by our standards, about the size of a small 2 bedroom flat, but it's warm and cosy, and of course scrupulously clean all the time. Excuse the spelling, i can't find the spell check on this computer, and while there is a dictionary, it's in Korean. To save space there are some interesting things here, one of which is the dishwasher, which is placed over the sink, like a cupboard. It's very long, but only about 60-70 cm high, fascinates me for some reason.

I have discovered a lot about the WTF here. 90% of their students are children. It appears that most Koreans don't continue with their training when they go to university, as they don't have the time. Neither do the adults as they don't have time either. So their attitude is that while the children are learning a martial art, as far as their parents are concerned they are getting exercise, which they view as being good for their health, it doesn't matter what art they are learning. Gumdo is different as it is more serious, and not as popular so there are less Don Jangs. So the other teachers tend to concentrate on making the children exercise, not learn techniques. I guess it's a case of supply meeting demand, and this is their income as well so they must keep the parents happy.

Ok, that's it for a while, off to classes this afternoon.


Day 5

Dear diary,

every corner holds something new, as well as a WTF Do Jang of course. They are everywhere, 6 million practicing BB's and counting..

Where i am in Ulsan, i am practically the only westerner. However today i was coming out of the Do Jang, when low and behold, there was an american on the stairwell! I practically fell all over the guy, talking english so fast. He is here teaching english, of course. It was great not to have to speak slow! He is taking me to a westerners pub this weekend so i am very excited, as there are other Kiwi's there...hope there are no Australians! Ok, at the moment they would be good to see as well.

This trip is changing me. I am thinking all sorts of different things, which is great. I expected to find it different here, and it is. My favorite trick to date...saying hello loudly to school students on their way home. Some of them even jump, then laugh, then get all embarrassed. Most say hello back, and every adult around stares. I like this game.

I have also fallen in love with the, not like that. But it is the only chair i see for my working day, and i am always sore from squatting. Yay the toilet, the toilet rocks!

Oh, my working day. Well it starts at 7am when i am woken up for breakfast. Then we head out to do errands, look at gear, update the website, visit other Do Jangs, and eat, oh yes, do we eat!

Then at 1pm i start teaching. 6-7 classes each 1 hour long, with 30 mins break between. It's now 9:30 and i have been let off the last class, as there are only 4 students and Lee is being kind!

During class is a great time for me, as i don't have to sit a lot. Also the classes are very difficult. I never thought i would say that i am having difficulty teaching children, but lord i am having difficulty. They talk constantly, and argue with each other, and sometimes disagree with the instructor, although not me yet. This so alien to classes at home, but i guess it makes it more challenging. It gives me time to practise my catchphrase "it's not wrong, just different".

And today after each class, the children have insisted that i walk with them around the block. They love watching me playing the 'Hello' game, and laugh very loudly. They also ask me the name for everything they see, and that's a lot. I am losing my voice a little today, but i am sure it will toughen up.

The Koreans also cannot pronounce my first name, so they just call me Mr Brown, works for me! By the way, Brendan's last name 'Doogan', means bandana/cap. Lord knows what he is being called at the moment. And the lucky bugger is still in a hotel, not that i am complaining at all, i love my host family, they are so accomadating...always making sure i am not hungry. The little girl, Jerry, follows me everywhere, she is just the sweetest and so pretty. And she speaks english pretty well.

Ok, that's all for today, i have been teaching all afternoon and i am now asked to go and learn some Gumdo, Korean sword fighting..with real swords. Boys, eat your hearts out!

Day 4

today i am traveling back to Pusan to take a days training session with all the instructors. I am excited, and a little nervous, but looking forward to catching up with Brendan and seeing what he has been doing. It's still raining, spring is here and apparently it will rain a lot now, typical.

Training with the instructors was different to say the least. Here it is common for students to talk during class, something Brendan and i found hard to cope with, but hey, it's their country. Funny though, we are more disciplined in class than the Koreans...irony is a strange thing sometimes. Also, they insisted on taking breaks all the time...ok, we can work with what we have. Most of the class was spent on teaching the first 3 patterns, signwave, and 1,2,3 step sparring. They are so enthusiastic, and very talented. To start with there was no sign wave, by the end of the class, everyone just about had it...look out world champs in 5 years!

At 5 pm we finished up, and i headed back with Sangdo to Ulsan. He has changed his name on me, and wants to be called Lee, so ok, i can call him Lee. Apparently it has something to do with Gumdo and his martial art. He looks a little like Bruce Lee anyway, so it works for me.

Lunch today was in a traditional part of Pusan. We were taken there by one of the instructors in his van, which turned out to be an undercover police van. Even had the Hawaii fiveO flashing light which he could put out the window on to the roof when he wanted to get to the donut shop in a hurry...i'm still laughing. These guys don't talk a lot of english, but they are so friendly, and want to talk to us all the time. I am finding i don't get much time to myself. Below are some observations i have made since being here.

Koreans are a very shy people, and seem to find it very funny when i say hello to them. Although they all speak basic english, like hello, bye, etc.

I found out today after meeting Lee's wife finally, she is an english teacher with good english. Anyway, they have two adorable children, a girl 5, and a boy 8. They asked me to call them Tom and Jerry...yes after the cartoon characters, whom the children adore. Jerry is missing a tooth, so i asked her if the tooth fairy had it, thinking she would say yes or no, not yet etc. Well my mistake, there is no tooth fairy in Korea. They have a little ceremony and then throw the teeth up on to the roof! I can imagine looking down on lots of korean roofs and seeing hundreds of little white teeth. It's for the birds to take away and then to bring back better and bigger teeth for the kids. What a great tradition!

I hate to generalise, but i am going to anyway. I can see why Koreans are such bad drivers. and since i am here and see everyone driving, i can see why. I have taken to sitting in the back whenever i can, which isn't often as i am ushered to the front seat every time. I tried to write my journal to avoid looking at the road ahead, and the other not to look, somehow it feels safer strangely. But this makes me carsick after a while, so now i just look out the side window a lot and prey. So far so good, and i am not a religious person, but i might be in 3 months!

Please lord, no more food. I think i will have to have a catchup day soon, where i eat nothing. I just don't see how they can eat so much and not get fat. I have also given up asking what i am eating, it is better not to know. I just eat it if it tastes ok, no matter what it looks like.

The strangest thing here though is that i don't know from one minute to the next where i am going to be next. I am asked to get into the van, then out of the van into a hall where a class is waiting to be taught. Then afterwards i get changed and back into the van, and we arrive at yet another restaurant...ok just smile and eat. My stomach has recently staged a cout d'tat. I think it now hates me, and i am not even going to go where my bowels feel about me. I think that if they could leave, they would..traitors. But it keeps me on my toes i can tell you. I am also sore everyday, sitting on the floor all the time is going to kill me i am sure. If it doesn't, i will have buns of steele. But it is especially hard on the knee joints, and my feet are asleep again as i type this.

So much is different, and i can honestly say that this is such a cool adventure, not knowing what is around the corner's exciting. If you are thinking of coming, do it!



Part 1, Day 1 (pics to come later i hope)

Well, finally an hour to spare. It's been one heck of a ride so far, it's day 3 of being in Korea and Brendan and i haven't stopped. So, let me take you back to the beginning and let you all know what this 'adventure' has been like!

I met up with Brendan at the airport and we said our goodbyes to respective friends. It was a long flight, and we spent it talking about what we were expecting to find in korea. We came to the conclusion that we really had no idea at all what was in store and we would just play it by ear.

We arrived in Bangkok tired and with sore backsides from all the sitting. It was late in the evening and we had 3 hours to wait. Bangkok airport is immense, and very new, so it was a long taxi ride in the plane. Not many shops were open so we decided to find our departure lounge and try to get some sleep there, rather than falling asleep in the economy waiting room and having to run. It was a long walk to our terminal, about 700 metres in a straight line down one wing of the airport (There were 6 wings in total, on 3 levels). Getting there we found no one, which was a little alarming, but we were sure we were in the right place, and slowly it began to fill up with Koreans going home. We got stared at a lot.

The ticket lady wanted our tickets before we were allowed on the plane, but we didn't have any, which was a worry as she kept asking for the ticket, and she was getting louder and louder and more irate each time she asked me. I tried to explain we had electronic tickets, but it wasn't sinking in much. She finally got the message though, and were allowed to get on the flight. A much smaller plane, and with every other passenger a Korean, we stood out like the proverbial. We were too tired to care, and i managed to get 2 hours sleep i think. Brendan couldn't for some reason. Funniest part was the bus ride out to the plane. We walked all that way to the departure lounge, only to have to get on a bus and go all the way back, giving way to planes that were crossing the runway in front of us, to find out plane. It's not wrong, just different!

We arrived in Pusan at 7:30 in the morning and headed for customs. We had spent much time talking about what to say at customs as we didn't want any trouble saying we were there to teach(rumours had abounded that the WTF was trying to prevent our entry into Korea), so we just declared ourselves to be on a holiday. We shouldn't have of bothered, nobody asked us anything, looked at our bags, or did more than a cursory glance at our passports...all that worry for nothing. Getting the luggage took a while, we had to wait for all the Koreans to get theirs as they crowded the carousel and we decided rather than to push, we would just wait.

Finally with bags in tow, we went through the doors, to be greeted by a large welcoming committee of about 7, including the President, which was very nice. We were made very welcome and they carried everything for us, kind of like royalty, but not really!

Next, a crazy drive to the Do Jang. Wow, i am not driving in this country, no way!

At the Do Jang we talked to our hosts and found out a little about them, and they about us. We were then taken to lunch, which was very spicy, and our first taste of what was to come. At this stage all we wanted to do was sleep, but all they wanted to do was to show us around!

So, sight seeing it was. First up was a temple and a tomb, which was fantastic. All the classic pagoda lines and traditional houses. Then we were off to another Do Jang which was much larger and had none other than a disco ball in the middle of the roof, nice touch we thought. We spent some time there training and trying to loosen up the body a little, but to be honest we just wanted to sleep. It was then we found out we were to stay the night in a traditional Korean house, sleeping on the floor on tatami mats and cushions. YaY! Bring it on, this was going to be great. So we were dropped off and told to go to dinner at 6, and be at breakfast the next morning and then ready to go to work. Ok, we said, were ready.

Well, dinner was an experience. The menu was in Korean, none of the ladies dressed so fine spoke english, and we didn't have a clue what to order, no pictures either. So, after some confusion, i took the plunge, closed my eyes and pointed my chubby digit at the page and said we will have that one. The lady looked at us with a big smile, and with lots of Sum-nedas, we eagerly, or should that be tentatively waited for the food to arrive.

First course was soup, which was yellow..looks ok, but what does it taste like. Yes, pumpkin soup, so far so good, i must have selected the right menu. No such luck. What followed was a dinner of some 19 courses, including (Brendan wrote them all down, but we are separated now) eel, chilies, kumchi(pickled cabbage that has been buried for 3 months), whole baked fish, some gastropod shellfish thing, shitake mushrooms (i think that was what they were), whole baby prawns with shells on, which were crunchy, dried seaweed pieces like very thin pastry and a lot of other very spicy meals. We did our best, and managed to waddle back to our rooms.

Then it was straight to sleep, although i did wake up at 4am and couldn't sleep again, curses to jetlag!

Breakfast was more of the same food, only less quantity. The food is the same at each meal here, no cereal, all meals are fully cooked 3-4 courses. I feel so bloated.

Part 2, day 2

Sleeping on the floor on a futon is not as romantic as it sounds, not that Brendan wasn't charming, but lets face it, there is nothing like a nice soft bed. Anyway, enough complaining. The traditional house is amazing. Sliding paper doors, heated floor, all wood and decorated in traditional with the staff dressed traditionally. Boy, were we spoiled, and we loved it.

We were picked up at 10am, and it was off to work. Teaching TKD, no. Well, not exactly. Today was all about marketing, the hard sell i suppose you could say. We were taken to a kindergarten, but not an ordinary kindy, no no, this was a finishing school. All the kids in traditional clothes, or suites and ties for the boys and dresses for the girls. The owners were immaculate, and the place amazing, the photo's don't do it justice at all.

We were paraded around, introduced as the English instructors, and in general made to feel welcome. What was really transpiring though, was the first attempt by the ITF, to muscle in on the WTF and start claiming back students to the true Taekwon-Do of General Choi. We realised that the ITF here in Korea has it tough. They are small, have to make do with using a lot of other martial arts Do Jangs and students, just to get started. So if we have to put up with feeling like we are on display, so be it, at least we are on display in Korea!. We made two stage appearances in the 'Kindy' the first in clothes, and the second in Do Bok. The president here has a plan of getting the students young, under 6 years, and bringing them up to ITF, so that they stay. He is using the english lesions as his hook for parents. It's very commercialized, which is a little strange, but if it helps grow ITF, then we are happy to be a part of it.

Lunch again today was huge, Brendan managed to finish his, but i couldn't...please, no more food. I hoped that being here would loose me weight, no such luck so far!

In the afternoon we went back to the Do Jang to wait for another instructor to arrive, who was Sangdo. He is a Korean Gumdo(sword fighting) master, as well as Hapkido. He speaks good english and he questioned us for a while. Then, suddenly we were to leave spearately. I was to go with Sangdo to Ulsan, about an hour away, while Brendan was to stay in Pusan to teach there. So. we said our goodbyes and i got inthe car with my homestay family, or just Sangdo as it were.

Arriving in Ulsan after getting lost twice(he blamed me as he couldn't drive and try to speak english as well!) we went to his Do Jang. He dropped me right in it and i took two classes of children that night, just playing games with them in English, making them laugh and generally having fun. In between we had dinner. Yay, more food! I had the jellyfish, only i didn't know it was jellyfish until he told me at the end. Okay, i get it, make the white guy eat this yucky stuff, smile like you don't know what you are doing and act like you don't speak english. Well done Sangdo, you think you got me, well you didn't. I actually liked the jellyfish, mainly because it didn't take the roof of my mouth off for a change. Oh, the great thing with spicy food all the time, it burns twice. Kids, ask your parents what that means.

Then he had a phone call from the other Hapkido master, who wanted to meet me. It was already 11 pm and to be honest, i wanted to sleep. But work first, so we went to meet him. He was still teaching! Then i was invited to his house to meet his family, my first look at a proper korean house. They didn't speak a word of english, and Sangdo tells me i am to spend the later half of my stay with them, now that will be interesting!

They were so lovely and got out snack food for me. No, not chips and dip, don't be silly. Wahoo, at least i recognised the strawberries. But the other stuff was dried fish skin, a delacasy...with scales removed of course. I think i got away with eating the whole plate of strawberries, maybe no body noticed? Maybe they were being polite!

Finally to bed at midnight.

Day 3

Today, Sangdo's wife and family are still in Pusan. She goes each year at this time to attend a 2 day memorial service for her father. Ancestors and family are a big thing here. We leave at 9am and head to the Do Jang. I don't know what i am doing today, but i am asked to get changed and meet back at the van in Do Bok. Ok, i'll play the game, where are we going?

We arrive at the elementary school(Primary school for us), and i have to stand on the street corner, accosting parents arriving and handing out pamphlets on Hapkido and gumdo, in my Do Bok. Today i learn all about sell, sell, sell and how hard the ITF here really have it. As part of growing ITF, they are doing a deal with some other instructors, of which Sangdo is one, to teach Hapkido, TKD, and Gumdo, all in english, of which Brendan and i are an integral part. It feels funny handing out brochures in Korean, trying to get parents attention, although to be honest there were literally dozens of other businesses doing the same thing. In places the parents had to fight their way through just to get to the safety of the school!

There are also two WTF schools selling as well, and i am afraid i am getting some unfavourable looks from a master and 3 students. Not that i am worried, Koreans are too polite to make a scene in public. And Sangdo looks like Bruce Lee anyway, so all is good! Afterwards, i am bundled into a van with the other non english speaking master, to go to another school to hand out his stuff. I can see why they wanted us here at this time. To have missed this opportunity would be very bad for business. First day of school is a very big day for the kids and families, and a lot of businesses try to cash in on it.

I get lots of stares, and lots of children come up and try their english on me, but i am used to children and have a great time with them, trying to get Sangdo more customers. Don't know how successful we will be, but time will tell.

ITFNZ are offering several opportunities for senior members to work overseas in the home of Taekwon-Do - Korea. Applications for the positions have now closed, and we will be announcing the successful applicants soon.

ITF Taekwon-Do in South Korea is small, of course in competition to the WTF strong hold. ITF Korea have a strategy to grow quickly by taking advantage of the popularity in Korea to learn English.

For this reason, ITF Korea have requested ITFNZ assist them by sending up to three Instructors to teach Taekwon-Do classes (in English) to the Korean people in Busan City. The main project is to combine English conversation class with Taekwon-Do, not only for young kids as an after-school program but also adults as a recreation program.

This is a most exciting development in ITFNZ, and later in the year we hope to announce details of another project for Canada. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for some of our keen Instructors as I'm sure you will agree.

Details of Placements
Between 6 and 12 months
Number of people
Up to three

Men or women who have a red belt or higher, preferably at the age from 20-29


Home-stay in Busan (for free)

Salary per month

US $1200 dollars (minimum)

Plus living costs, food and transportation (including airfares to and from Korea)

Purpose of the invitation
To spread Taekwon-Do in Korea, which is the mother land of ITF.
Special benefits
  • Each Instructor will be assigned a local Instructor as an assistant who will attend the classes with you, translate when required and so on.
  • To visit historical sites in Korea, like Kyung-Ju, where Hwa-rang used to practice martial arts long time ago. To participate in winter and Summer Camps for free. To enable to participate in the Korea Championship as staff or a player. To get Korean traditional ceramic Jar and tea pots.
  • To visit places where the names of every pattern derived, and practice there as you feel the atmosphere of historical sites. To get a belt and Do-bok with the Korean name on them


Chris Morton's Korea Blog

Gwyn Brown's "Dear Diary" Reports

Brendon Doogan's Korea Blog

Carl van Roon in Korea - read all the reports here


International Taekwon-Do Foundation of New Zealand