In July 2015, I left Korea after 8 years (10 years total) and returned to Wivenhoe, in Essex, UK. Why? I’m still asking myself! Korean life was so relaxed and familiar but I missed my friends and family back home. I think I would have stayed in Korea permanently if it had been possible for foreigners to buy property or to live in the country without having to exit every 3 months and return with an updated visa.
Hardest of all, was saying goodbye to my gumdo Master, Kwon Yong-guk. I had trained with him everyday for almost four years. When I eventually stepped on to the Seoul-bound trained, in Daegu, we both had tears in our eyes. However, leaving Korea in 2015 was quite different from leaving in 2001; with the internet and the likes of Facebook and Skype, staying in contact is easy and I video chat with him most weeks. In 2001, the primary mode of contact was via e-mails or the likes of Messenger and a Christmas phone call, Seoul to UK, in 2000, cost me £80.
Before I left Korea, I already had an inkling of what I was going to miss, and I very much do. Most of all I miss Koreans. In particular, I miss young people. Korean towns and cities are filled with children and teenagers and street life is enlivened by their routines. Further, Korean culture is coloured by the broad range of amenities provided for them: PC rooms, Kids Cafes, jumping rooms, noraebang (singing rooms) and play areas in restaurants. Even amenities which in the UK would be predominantly for adults are equally frequented by children and young people. Where in the UK, do you see children or teenagers eating together, unsupervised, in anything but the likes of MacDonalds or KFC? And of course, in Korea, children haven’t yet been indoctrinated and corrupted by the idea that their bodies’ are a source of sexual attraction to lusting adults and especially lusted over by those who were formerly trusted, such as relatives, teachers, politicians and the clergy. Britain is now a very scary place for the child and indeed any adult whose interactions with a youngster are misinterpreted. Indeed, so central to the British psyche are concerns of child sexual abuse, to the point of obsession, that it suggests either a very unhealthy national preoccupation, or worse, one that is rooted in the human condition.
Then, I miss Korean men; ever since I experienced life in Germany, I’ve always found a great swath of the British male population to be horribly brute. Indeed, to be fair, male or female, the British character is typified by vulgarity, aggressiveness and violence. This character is predominantly a product of the working-class tradition of which it is currently politically correct to deny the existence or influence of and yet we see the class dichotomy paraded for entertainment in the likes of Downtown Abbey, East Enders and the intrigues of the royal family. Few Brits would deny the existence of a British upper class, but to correspondingly talk of a ‘working class’ has become as socially uncomfortable as flying the Union Jack over your house. I have met Koreans whom I dislike but I’ve yet to meet a Korean man who is brute or vulgar, let alone a brute or vulgar female. It is wonderfully liberating to walk busy streets surrounded by predominantly feminine men or youths rather than having to negotiate the complex variations of the British psyche where one man is a gentleman, the next, some slob with his hands stuffed down the front of his trackies and the next some male looking female who is foul-mouthed and muscled.
I miss being really clean, ‘clean’ in the same way you can be in Korea and I’m not claiming all Koreans have the same standards. Swimming pools, spas or sauna are not a daily part of British life. Unless you live within 20 mins of a bathing complex, most of us don’t enjoy water or cleansing as entertainment. On the contrary, bodily hygiene in Britain tends to be functional procedure especially as many British homes don’t have a bathroom suitable for cleaning your body in a truly comprehensive manner. And Korea is bursting with restaurants, coffee shops, street food and markets. In six months back in the UK, I’ve eaten out twice. It’s simply too expensive to eat out at a decent restaurant twice a day. Of course, I’m living in a large village rather than in a city but even if I go into town, population approx. 122.000, there isn’t a great deal to do and the quality of resources and culture is impoverished. One big problem with Britain is that so many of the things you would do on a daily basis in Korea, and without a second thought, are not just expensive luxuries in the UK, but by comparison, are second-rate. Trains are slow and dirty even when they are high-speed intercity trains but no British trains are truly ‘high speed’ because the ancient infrastructure limits speeds to 125 mph, maximum.
There are some pleasant aspects of being back in the UK though I don’t feel they compensate for living in both an impoverished culture and among so many with brute and vulgar sensibilities. I enjoy damp air, green fields, eccentricity (which in Korea is frowned upon), birds and houses with gardens… and that’s about it. I actually thought I’d be able to be more positive but on reflection that’s all I can muster.
I have no doubt my posts here will commence with ones of a comparative nature before they broaden out into other topics.
Any of my Korean students will fetch me a cup of coffee if asked and occasionally they will buy me one from one of the numerous coffee shops in my area. I’m reminded of the time, when as a new teacher in my first post, I had taken a coffee into my classroom and when I came to drain the dregs discovered a couple of drawing pins lurking therein. I only took cups into my classroom on a few occasions and quickly decided it was dangerous to drink from a cup left in the presence of students. I also learnt to check any seat before sitting as upturned drawing pins were also a common means of abusing staff. Even a jacket I once left on the back of my chair was removed, thrown on the floor with my opened wallet and bank cards discarded on top. I can narrate these events to Korean students and they will be mildly shocked but there are some ‘stories’ I wouldn’t dream of attempting to narrate as they are simply too shocking for naive Korean sensibilities: boys masturbating under desks, on one occasion a boy flashed his dick to a female colleague, or girls giving boys oral sex in view of the staff room.
Recently (now a year or two ago) however, an event occurred in a British school in which a boy stuffed his penis and testicles in a female teacher’s coffee mug, took a photo of his exploit and then posted the photo on his Facebook account. The teacher subsequently drank from the cup before discovering what had happened. Unfortunately the only major link I can find for the article is at the Sun, Britain’s crappiest, and most widely read daily newspaper. I originally read it on MSN News. Incidentally, another incident in the same week involved a girl putting laxative in teachers’ coffee. I had difficulty telling the cock and sac story to all but a few very close Korean friends and certainly couldn’t explain it to a class of Korean 16 year olds whom I can mortify by simply sucking my pen. They would not be able to comprehend why any student should behave in such a manner and would see only disgust and depravity in the act. However, I could easily tell it to British 13 year olds many whom would find it funny and a valid reprisal to make on a teacher. Indeed on the MSN comments associated with the news report, some individuals questioned why a teacher would have a cup in the classroom while some simply claimed a teacher deserved such treatment.
I wondered where those ESL teachers come from who claim Korean kids are as bad as British kids given there are so many blogs and books written by full-time British teachers who are appalled by the current standards. Indeed, it’s usually only school managers and those who’ve had to prostitute their personal integrity to gain promotion, those who live in self-denial in order to maintain their sanity and preserve at east a little self-respect, or the lucky few in truly decent schools, who will deny that something is seriously amiss. I could form a small club with the number disgruntled teachers I know and I’ve known a number of excellent teachers who’ve left the profession because it excessively frustrated them. The idea of returning to British shores to teach fills me with dread.
Britain is not the worst country in the world so why pick on it and not a really bad country? The point is I’m not incensed by the inadequacies of other countries! I don’t’ own their passports: I’m British and I’m forced to write that on official forms and documents. When it comes to learning we encourage students to accept criticism as a means of bettering their ability but many people erect a brick wall when it comes to the criticism of their nation. I’m not unpatriotic, conversely I am patriotic. (Indeed, at one time ‘patriotic’ encompassed the criticism of your country as it was borne out of good intention and the desire for your country to better itself). And of course, I have been socialised in the UK, I speak English, I have an ancestry in the British Isles. Everything about me is British and more specifically, English.
When I have lived abroad for long periods, especially in radically different cultures, I start yearning for England: English mist, damp mornings, English rain, green grass, decent tea, an English Christmas, Oh!… and the wonderful sounds of Elgar, even though I hate the nationalism it has come to represent. I miss those orchestral marches with their majestic dignity that is so vividly depicted by the characteristic combination of clarinets in their rich chalmeau register fortified by the cellos and in the background the pizzicato pulse of basses. There is no hurry, the pace is relaxed and only the British have quick marches which are so leisurely you can almost hear the snort of immense cavalry horses. And when the little timpani roll climaxes with the brush of cymbals, a thrilling, gentle ‘tushhhh,’ an orgasmic tremor, evoking a tiny tinkle of brass, breast plates, dangling swords and medals, how staggeringly imperial! The culmination of an epoch of world domination depicted not by Sousarian vigour; its thrashing cymbals, blasting trombones amidst the bling-bling sparkle of patent leather, staybright and plastic, but by sublime subtlety. And what of roast beef, bitter, lazy English villages and English eccentricity? When I’m away from England, Britain, for too long, there is a yearning, almost at the genetic level which reminds me of my roots and kindles what little allegiance I have. I too am British and this memory, this imaginative kindling is my England and ultimately the place, for better or worse, I feel at home. In this context one can argue it is very patriotic to voice a concern that it has a scummy façade, that it is not aspiring to be better either in terms of its physical being or in the nature of its citizens.
©努江虎 – 노강호 2013 Creative Commons Licence.
Yes, it’s vacation time and I’m off to the UK. I don’t intend writing any posts while away and when I return I’ll only being posting here on a monthly basis. After a number of years in Korea over a twelve-year period, I’ll only be repeating myself and currently I’m spending time at my site on Haidong Gumdo, at zen-sword.com
I currently need to write one more post to make the total number of posts over 3 years, 500. Have a great summer!
©Amongst Other Things – 努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.
My most poignant memories of army life took place in Osnabruck and Imphal Barracks, where I was stationed from around 1976-1984.
I remember the downy birch trees from which clouds of yellow pollen drifted, when the wind blew across the barracks, in spring. It greatly irritated Mick Henderson, our bandmaster, who suffered hay fever. The species of birch were specifically Betula pubescens around which the ‘fly agaric,’ toadstool (Amanita muscaria), with its distinct red cap and white spots, often grew. Downy birch and the ‘fly agaric’ have a symbiotic relationship. Occasional some quite poisonous toadstools grew around our band block, including the ‘death cap’ and ‘destroying angel.’ I remember the winters when borders of grey-black snow, hardened to ice, edged the regimental square and paths from December until April. And in summer, the grass between the various ‘blocks’ was parched a thirsty brown. I did most of my taekwon-do, from white belt to black, training under the canopy of birch trees by our band block and had an intimate relationship with the seasons from the dank smell of the lichen on the papery bark of the birch trees to the taste of the dust that my footwork kicked up in the summer. And of course, a myriad of faces traverse that landscape.
It was, in retrospect, quite a beautiful barracks, spacious and well-ordered with tended gardens and where buildings, with the exception of the gymnasium, were single floor buildings and hence blended into, rather than dominated the wooded background. In this sense it was the antithesis of austere barracks such as Imphal Bks, in York, where there wasn’t a shred of grass, or functional, somewhat clinical type barracks such as Cambrai, in Catterick Garrison, from which we’d just arrived.
A posting of eight years was a long one and it meant that you became acquainted with the small army of civilian staff that work in every barracks but whom you rarely got to know. Most of the small army of civilians were women and indeed, the only man I can remember was ‘Peter,’ the barber. Other civilians, some British, worked in the WRVS and the library both of which were opposite the Guardroom. the faces of some of the German women who worked in the cookhouse, I can still remember.
There was also a small contingent of individuals who worked just outside the barrack entrance: Archi Konker and his family ran a highly successful ‘schnell imbiss’ wagon which stood by the Naafi every evening in the late 1980’s. Then there were the taxi drivers, one of whom was Richard Muller, who in the summer of 1981, drove me to Schiphol airport in Amsterdam when I missed my connecting train.
I visited Imphal Barracks in 1990 and considering I’d only been out of Germany for 4 years, Osnabruck was almost a ghost town and even by then Imphal Barracks had been fenced in and its environs, Am Limberg and the Naafi, were inaccessible.
At 1500 hrs on Thursday the 26th of March 2009, Imphal Barracks lowered the Union Flag which had flown over its domain for 64 years. They keys to the main gate were handed over to the Mayor of Osnabruck. So many people, both military and civilian had lived and worked here and yet trawling through the internet, so little remains as a testament to its existence. Of all the thousands of photos that must have been taken by soldiers and their families, only a handful of sources can be found.
However, Jim Blake’s, the schnell imbiss close to the barracks, is still going strong.
© 努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.
Photos of the deserted barracks taken in 2010. (link)
Last Post, Osnabruck. (Royal British Legion)
Following up on my recent post (Fulfilling a Promise to my Mother, March 22nd, 2012),
March 22nd, 2012), which focused on ‘filial piety,’ I recently stumbled upon two divergent posts on the subject. One is an excellent and touching explanation of filial duty while the other concerns the filial piety of Korean celebrities. I do not doubt that many western celebrities provide cars and houses for their parents; I believe Justin Bieber recently bought his mum a house, but what is interesting in the second account is the sense that filial loyalty is a gauge of one’s character and devotion. Maybe it’s the translation, and the article is brief, but they almost seem to be bitching about who is the best son.
Both posts are re-blogged in their entirety.
Traditional Chinese filial piety culture (中国の親孝行文化/中国孝道文化)
According to Chinese tradition, filial piety is the primary duty of all Chinese. Being a filial son means show respect to one’s parents during their lifetime and–as they grew older–taking the best possible care of them.
A story can best illustrate the concept of filial piety. During the Chin Dynasty (4th-5th Century CE), a boy named Wu Meng was already serving his parents in exemplary filial piety although he was just eight years old. The family was so poor that they could not even afford a gauze net against the mosquitoes. Therefore every night in the summer swarms of mosquitoes would come and bite them. Wu Meng let them all feast on his naked stomach. Even though there were so many, he did not drive them away. He feared that the mosquitoes, having left him, would instead bite his parents. His heart was truly filled with love for his parents.
Filial piety is a good virtual of Chinese people, and people from other countries should also learn from it. Parents gave us birth and nurtured us, therefore we have the obligation to respect them and to take care of them when they can no longer take care of themselves. Western countries have complete social welfare systems to support people financially after they retire, but older people often face loneliness; they long for somebody to talk to them, especially their children and grand-children. We should try our best to spend more time with them, talk to them, and take them to family gatherings and trips to the nature.
Filial piety can benefit our society. It can make our family tie stronger, and children can learn a lot from our attitude to our parents and from their grandparents. They can realize how important a family is to a person, and develop a strong sense of responsibility to their families and friends. For example, when it is necessary to stand out to defend our families and even the nation for danger, we will not hesitate to do so, because we know how important our families and our country are to us.
In short, the most important custom from my country that I would like people from other countries to adopt is to be good to their parents. It is not only ensure that our parents can be taken good care of when they are getting old, but also help our children to develop good virtues and spirits.
(Published 0n 19th Oct 2011)
Re-blog 2 from: 2Elf4Suju
Kyu-hyun showing his filial piety : bought the apartment for his parents, new car for her Mom & guaranteed for his Dad’s Korean academy in Taiwan
On 7 March’s broadcast of MBC’s ‘Golden Fishery- Radio Star’, MC Kyuhyun shared the filial piety that he showed to his parents, and boasted to guests 2AM that he guaranteed his father’s business, attracting much interest.
When the MCs asked “What have you done for your parents?” as 2AM were answering about buying cars, houses and other presents, Kyuhyun added that he didn’t lose in the area of filial piety. He mentioned that he bought “A 40th storey apartment in Wolgokdong” as a present for his parents.
He added, “The car that I’m driving now used to belong to my mum, so I got her a new car as a present. I also guaranteed the Academy that my father opened in Taiwan.” which got the attention of everyone.
(Cho Kyu-hyun is a member of the K-pop boy band Super Junior, and sub groups Super Junior-M and Super Junior-K.R.Y.)
권수빈 for Newsen
Chinese translation by hyunlove
Translated to english by @kikiikyu
(Published 8th March, 2012. http://2elf4suju.wordpress.com/
- Traditional Chinese filial piety culture (中国の親孝行文化/中国孝道文化) (encocoen.wordpress.com)
- 120308 [News] Kyuhyun showing his filial piety : bought the apartment for his parents, new car for her Mom & guaranteed for his Dad’s Korean academy in Taiwan (2elf4suju.wordpress.com)
Service – 1950’s-1973?
Instrument – bass
Final Rank – Sergeant or Staff Sergeant?
Family – Unknown
Current Location – deceased (FTW)
A ‘Pen Portrait’ is hardly the right title. I don’t remember Eddie very well because he left the band shortly after I joined in 1973. At the time we were stationed in York Barracks, Munster. Eddie was a bass player, possibly a sergeant or staff sergeant at the time, and along with various other older members of the band, was one of those individuals whose service stretched into the past and to places that always sounded exotic, Benghazi was one I remember.
Although I find it difficult to picture him, when I think back to days when I first joined the band, I can almost hear his voice. Eddie must have left the band before we departed for Cyprus in the Autumn of 1973, which means I must only have known him for a month or so. On this point, a number of older band members seem to have left shortly before our posting to Cyprus and UN service.
Eddie died in 2011 or perhaps 2010. (FTW)
© 努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.
I currently live in Daegu, South Korea, and recently my local supermarket, E-Mart, was selling imported beers, on of which was Keo beer, from Cyprus. Anyone posted to Cyprus under the United Nations will instantly recognise the distinct, yellow and blue can.
How did it taste after all these years? I have to say watery but possibly better than Korean beer which is notoriously boring. Perhaps my taste buds were influenced by nostalgia…
© 努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.
I have special memories of winters in Osnabrück. I think these photos must have been taken around 1978 because Dave Smith and I went to Kneller Hall in 1979 and Andy Coombs had transferred to another band by the time we returned.
Osnabrück winters were severe with heavy snow appearing usually at about the same time we were playing in the Hallemünsterland show, which was every December. The snow hung around for months and I clearly remember chunks of compacted snow, the remnants of that which had been swept to the side of pavements, loitering into early April.
Then, there were odd occasions when the finest drizzle fell onto the freezing ground and everything was glazed in a fine sheet of black ice. I only remember this kind of weather twice over a 10 year period but it was memorable because for several hours everything was suspended; all traffic stopped and the pavements were so treacherous that even walking a short distance was dangerous.
There were a numbers of photos taken at the same time as the two I have added here, the others included Knocker Patterson, Bones and Mick Pickering.
Both photos are intensely familiar to such a point I can almost feel the nip of a Wesphalian winter and smell dinner as its aroma drifts from the nearby cookhouse. In the photo above, to the left of Phil Watson’s head, are the birch trees around which I practiced taekwondo over 7 years.
Silver Birch trees were so prolific in northern Germany, they covered Imphal Barracks and I remember an enormous, somewhat desolate forest of silver birch surrounding Bergen-Belsen. In autumn and spring, Amanita Muscaria mushrooms, which grow in a symbiotic relationship with silver birch, would spring up around them. In spring, the Catkins, laden with pollen, were a great source of irritation for Mick Henderson and on a blowy afternoon, I recall watching the trees around the Regimental Square swing and sway in the wind agitating a cloud of yellow pollen.
© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.
Service – 1973-1982???? Went to KH around 1979 or possibly 1980. Became Bandmaster of 17/21st Lancers around 1982.
Instrument – trumpet, trombone, bass guitar
Final Rank – Warrant Officer First Class.
Family – Unknown
Current Location – apparently, Ken was a music teacher for 20 years at the Royal Military School in Dover. He retired in 2009.
As a naive 17 year old, I quite feared Ken Kane. Up until moving to Catterick in the 1970’s, I had little to do with him but in Cambrai Barracks he was a ‘living-in’ NCO and responsible for the singlies accommodation and his rule was firm. I suppose Ken, who was around ten years my senior, was a little old school and he didn’t suffer fools lightly. He was the type to look under your bed or run his finger over a ledge you hadn’t considered cleaning and his reproach quite stung.
As strict as he was I had immense respect for him which lasted throughout my service. He was an brilliant sportsmen talented at numerous games and a BFT never phased him. Musically, he was very gifted, playing the trumpet, trombone, bass guitar and I have a suspicion he played more.
He became Trumpet Major at some stage, and was certainly so in the early days of Osnabrück when all bandsmen were required to blow that ghastly instrument. Even as a trumpet player, at which I was crap, any skill or potential ability on the cavalry trumpet eluded me. Ken was equally as strict as a TM and I can remember he would run us through a series of exercises and then listen to our calls, individually. In the four years I was required to practice the cavalry trumpet, I was only ever a supernumerary.
Sometime after our arrival in Osnabrück (c 1977), Mick Henderson released woodwind players from trumpeting but by then he had negotiated a restriction in duties and the only calls regularly made were Guard Mount, Last Post and the occasional calls required by RHQ. At Kneller Hall, I remember trumpet calls dominated everything from Last-Post to ‘smoke break.’
In 1979, Ken, Dave Smith and I were at KH, Ken as a Student Bandmaster and Dave and I as pupils. I can’t remember too much about him as he was sectioned with another company and after my leaving KH. in January 1981, only saw him on a few occasions. Every now and then I’ll do a Google search but like AJ, he seems to have disappeared and I’ve not spoken to anyone who has heard from him. Perhaps Bones has some knowledge as their wives were close friends.
© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.
There are plenty of degenerates trawling around the internet looking for ‘interesting’ tid-bits. Sometimes I’m one of them but I’m not degenerate, my interests are cultural and academic – honestly! The great thing about WordPress, is the access to a large amount of statistical data and this was certainly absent from Blogger a few years ago and which prompted me to switch platforms. Every now and then I look at the ‘search terms’ people have used to access Bathhouse Ballads and it’s depressing; because I’ve written about ‘girls knickers’, ‘penises‘, ‘skinship,’ ‘circumcision,’ ‘corporal punishment,’ ‘showering,’ ‘shitting,‘ ‘pissing,’ ‘teenagers,’plus the mention of ‘sex,’ ‘gays,’ and lots of stuff on ‘bathhouses,’ many search terms are from those looking for something seedy. And all mixed together, the permutations are extensive, I’m attracting some weird searches.
Here are my favourites:
Chillies on his willy – rather a bizarre search term but why not go the whole hog with chillies that look like willies.
Boys stripped to the waist – clearly a frustrated waeg! Go to the bathhouse and you can see them naked! Actually, better still, have a wank!
Girl’s Knickers – interestingly, the only word I don’t think I’ve ever written in this blog is, ‘vagina.’ So, girl’s knickers? Like used, unused, soiled? And by ‘knickers’ I guess you mean the shapeless baggy things as opposed panties or the Devil’s Panty – ie a thong.
Dirty Gays – now is this an opinion or do you mean gay people with dirty hands?
Bathhouse Ballards – I actually have 16 entries with this spelling.
Boy flesh – Look at Jay Park and have a wank!
Bathhouse squirt – another bizarre entry. Is this a small person or does it refer to some strange practice?
Little kids nude skinship – you can find all you need under 변태 성욕.
Jimjjilbang Penis – well, you’d be much better searching for this in Korean rather than badly spelt English (jjimjilbang).
Korean kid saw me poop – please tell me it didn’t arouse you? Actually, I used to know a boy who used to invite you into his house to watch him shite? He was very sexy but watching someone crap is not just a freaking turn off, but puts you off your food!
Little man cok poto – clearly from a Korean which is ‘pine.’
And my favourite…
Water forced up arse in spa – yes, you need to take a trip to Wonderful Spa Land, Wolbae in Daegu. They have an amazing set of massage stations one of which you sit over and it lifts you up. If you hold onto the sides and pull yourself down you can manipulate the jet to provide a very intimate probing. My Korean friend and I had quite a laugh doing this and the interesting thing was, that he had never previously thought to pull himself down onto it. Mind you, he’s getting regular sex so he’s clearly satisfied. Wonderful Spaland also has 4 excellent chest massage water jets but you’d have to mount these or bend over in front of them, which might attractive some attention. These will certainly provide a deep aqua invasion and you’ll probably need to expel your intake on the toilet immediately after. Good luck!
Interestingly, Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, is a popular search term especially considering this painting depicts all forms of human vice and ‘perversion.’
© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.