Pictures of me
What I Miss - Leaving Korea Part III
1st February 2009
I have finally arrived here in the Philippines. Yay! Before
my whole world gets consumed with global domination, I’m going
to write down the things that I will miss from Korea before the
fade too far from my mind.
- The Activist Community
The community that I found in Korea was the thing that kept
me sane. The friends I made – you know who are – really made
my time in Korea special. If I had something big planned,
people would just magically appear to help me. Ditto if they
had something planned.
Here is just a brief list of
what we got up to:
the Burma Protest,
Gay Pride March,
63 Years On, the
WeAJa Market, tours
of the House of Sharing, and many more…
seeing so much
pointless volunteering in Africa and the Philippines, it
was so refreshing to meet up with such competent people! All
too often I asked for advice about Meaningful Volunteer and
got such wonderful feedback that my plans and ideas would
shift and change and mutate until – hopefully – I now have
an efficient organization that will make meaningful change
in countries around the world. I will have these resources
on tap here in the Philippines, but most of the time it will
be via email and not quite the same.
Thanks for the
adventure guys and gals! It was a blast!
- The House of Sharing
It has always
been hard to write about the House of Sharing - I never
quite had the right words to describe my feelings about the
Sometimes it was such an uplifting place –
watching Yi Ok-Seon
Halmoni do her thing was just wonderful. She is such a
little fireball of an activist.
At other times it
was just frustrating. I think we all know that we are
fighting a losing battle – the Halmoni will all almost
certainly die before the fucktards in the Japanese
government get around to apologizing, let alone paying
Every time we give a tour of the
House, every time we speak out, every time we make a noise,
every time we write about the issue, it brings the Halmoni
one tiny step closer to getting what they want.
- Talking to Groups
One of the things
I did enjoy about the House of Sharing was talking to large
groups of people about the issue. I just love talking to
large groups of people about things that I am passionate
about. The whole “comfort women” thing can be a difficult
one to talk about – especially down in the “Room of
Experience” where I read out a former “comfort woman’s”
testimony and have to talk about topics such as rape,
cutting people in half, forced cannibalism and so on. I
usually tried to detach myself from the issues and read it
as dispassionately as I could so as to not to break down.
One of things we fight for at the House of Sharing was
to get the history corrected so that these crimes are not
repeated again. Unfortunately, these crimes are being
repeated all around the world. They are being repeated in
Northern Uganda – a place that is very close to my heart.
The two issues – the sexual slavery of Korean women
during WWII and the child soldier/sexual slavery issue in
Northern Uganda – are obviously very closely related and
this gave me a fantastic angle for which to sell the
necklaces and bags that were made by the ladies from the
North. I am sure the sales of Grassroots Uganda products are
going to take a dip now that I have left the Korean
I talked about
many other things as well – prostitution issue here in the
meaningful volunteering is, the
refugee problems in
Ghana and so on. I gave three different talks during one
particular holiday week.
Mental Note: If you are
going to bash World Vision and what a terrible job they are
doing, make sure that the next speaker is not from World
I just won’t get these types of opportunities
on the little island I will be working on here in the
Philippines. I will – of course – babble about the issues to
fellow volunteers, but it’s just not the same.
Earning money was the main reason I came to Korea. After a
I landed in
Benjamin’s Academy and had a very positive experience
and learnt so much about teaching. I’ll miss the kids there
of course. The goofiness of Mark, the
diligence of Annie, the energy of
Ellie, plain old cool
Kevin(g) and the loveable rogue that
is Andy and a hundred other kids with
I left Pulao
Elementary School, I felt like I was abandoning the
kids. The NGO (non-governmental organization) I was with was
leaving the area and there would be no volunteers to replace
me. Leaving the kids at Benjamin’s was so much easier
because I knew someone would replace me.
the staff there as well. I had good
times with them all. I formed a close group with the first
group of teachers that I worked with. For the first year or
so, it was Liad, Steve, Mi-jin, Ji-Sook, Benjamin and I. We
were a close group. People – of course – move on and the
I wasn’t especially close to the
new teachers that came over my last few months. This was my
fault. I was too busy trying to “save-the-world”. I would
usually work on Meaningful Volunteer in the morning, go to
work for six or so hours, then head back home and work on
Meaningful Volunteer again. On the weekend, I would usually
dash off to some activist-thing-a-rather. This didn’t leave
much time to socialize with the new co-workers.
- Coffee with a Friend
I can now speak the Korean language at least a little well.
This is mostly due to
JiHa - a
great Korean friend that I made here. I would help her with
her English and she would help me with my Korean. Well, that
is how it started anyway. It ended up less like a language
partner and more like hanging out with a friend.
Sometimes we would meet in my neck of the woods – Suwon –
and sometimes in her neck of the woods – Jamsil, and
sometimes in the middle somewhere. I helped her a lot with
her applications for American universities, and she helped
me a lot with via various fundraisers.
I don’t have a
list of treasured acquisitions from Korea like I have from
other countries (see
because – quite frankly – I only have one:
that JiHa made for me for my birthday.
- Curry Town
Where was my
Where was the
Meaningful Volunteer held?
my farewell party
Where was any social event of any magnitude
The answer to all these questions is: Curry
Curry Town was less like a restaurant, and more
like a place to enjoy some great Indian food with good
- Bitching about religious things
There was always an ear to bitch into when religious types
pissed me off. I am not gonna have the luxury on Romblon.
For one thing, the population of the island is made up of
75% Roman Catholic and 25% of other Christian denominations.
Had to find a sympathetic ear among that lot.
fact, I am going to have to tone down the expression of my
opinions as well. I am not sure why, but it is just not the
done thing for the head of an international NGO to rant and
rave about the perils of religion. It shouldn’t be, but it
- Teaching with Resources
you’re teaching in a developing country, that doesn’t mean
you have to work with crap resources. Much of my preparation
work has been to ensure that the best possible resources are
in the hand of volunteer teachers.
But there are
other types of resources that I just won’t be able to get.
The power – for example – is only on for about two-thirds of
the time. Good Internet access is another. I was delighted
to learn that there is a product here called Smart Bro which
just plugs into your USB drive on your laptop and allows you
to have internet access wherever there is cell phone access!
The cell phone access on the island is good, but not great,
so the download speeds will be at about dial-up speeds.
Which brings me to number nine…
- The Internet
The Internet in Korea is liking swimming in cool, clear
waters. It is so good. Techno-geeks might be interested to
learn that I sometimes hit ten megabytes per second. Dial-up
speeds just don’t compare…
- 5,000 won Pizzas from Pizza School
Mmm… Cheap pizza…
- Riding the 7000 Bus to Sadang
in Suwon was great because there was nothing much to do
there and hence a good place to save money.
Suwon was terrible because there was nothing much to do.
I did enjoy taking the hour-long bus to Sadang (which is
on the edge of happening Seoul). It gave me chance to chill
and read numerous books. Uber.
I don’t have a job now. Money will not magically appear from
nowhere. It will do the opposite and disappear into nowhere.
This could be a problem…
As a result, I am very
paranoid about money and that I might run out. I am in
Quezon City at the moment and occasionally need to go to the
local mall. I catch the 7 peso ($NZ 0.28)
opposed to the 10 peso ($NZ0.41) taxi so as to save 3 pesos
If Meaningful Volunteer is a success, then
volunteers will start flooding in and the money issues will
disappear. This is a big if though…
- The Food
The food in Korea was
great. Not just the Korean stuff, but the sheer variety of
international food was impressive.
I thought that the
food on the island would consist of fish, rice and fruit.
Turns out I was wrong about the fruit…
The food in
Korea was great. Not just the Korean stuff, but the sheer
variety of international food was impressive.
thought that the food on the island would consist of fish,
rice and fruit. Turns out I was wrong about the fruit…
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