With mid-term exams approaching, the frequency and depth of my students’ post-lecture questions increased – one also managed to retroactively spot a mistake I’d made in the very first week. While I’m delighted that my students have the comprehension and confidence to ask questions in the first place, I wonder if my status as a lecturer might not be undermined somewhat by my slightly haphazard arithmetic. However, if my students turn out to be brighter than me then they’ll all get excellent marks and will go home happy.

The week passed in a flurry of chalk dust and numbers from statistical data sets (for upcoming case studies and assignments), faster than usual but not so frenetic as to deny me eight hours sleep a night. My quest to customise the ringtones on my sparkly new cell phone came to a gradual halt as attempts to connect via the data cable met with little success and the store staff rebuffed me with a rather inflexible “that’s impossible”, but I did meet with some success on the computer front as I reacquainted myself with an old friend in the form of Starscape.

On a point of principle, I spent half a morning at the local Hana Bank organising a new account – while they, like most Korean banks, won’t give credit cards or international ATM cards to foreigners as a matter of course, they were happy with me as a customer after a brief chat and I transferred my financial dealings to them immediately, apologetically severing my ties with Shinhan a couple of days later while making it clear that it was entirely due to their ethnocentric (some would say outright racist) policies. It remains to be seen whether Hana’s card will actually work outside Korea, but that’s another matter entirely.

Having dedicated one evening a week to the ongoing fixing-up of my apartment, I began dealing with the unacceptable squeakiness of my bed and hit the streets looking for some wooden slats to place between the mattress and creaky base. The local wood store turned out to be closed, but they had a waste area outside that contained just the few planks I needed. A few nail removals and some cutting to size later, I had a significantly quieter place to sleep and had brushed up on my carpentry skills (next week’s task: the rest of my furniture).

On Friday, Amy and Ju Kwan came up to Sinchon for some food and drinking in (early) celebration of Dan’s birthday. We hit an Indian-Polynesian place near Ewha and then settled into a few bars – inevitably stopping by Mike’s Cabin for some Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers. Amy and I took a long walk around the Itaewon area on Saturday, for no special reason other than to explore the neighbourhood and get a little exercise on the steep streets. We emerged in time for a film at the local DVD-bang (like a small, personal cinema room – yet another Korean first for me) and then the Veggie Club meeting at Petra’s – a more intimate affair this fortnight as only a tableworth of people showed up (which actually allowed for better conversation across the whole group). We hotfooted it back to Yongin before the hour grew too late and ended up having time for a long round of Killer Bunnies with Dan.

Termite ExpressAs it was a celebratory weekend, we took Dan out for that mixture of entertainment, confusion and horror that can only be found at Everland. On arriving, out first stop was the Global Village – a homage to Disney’s It’s a Small World After All, but done in a rather disturbing way. We entered to the pomp and circumstance of stereotypical Europe, oddly grotesque dolls twirling about in their national dance or quaffing beer (or both). France appeared twice, several countries were absent (though there was only limited space) and we began to wonder what horrors lay ahead. Both Christmas and the Moon appeared as countries, and then we entered the dangerous African region with spear-brandishing natives coming out of the bushes. Civilisation returned in the form of the USA, and then we were swept into the glory of Asia and the Korean peninsula in particular. There was a moment of panic as the car appeared to be going round again, but we escaped into the sunlight and quickly regained our scattered wits.

Intelligent chimpanzeesThe day was hot, and we consumed many an overpriced soft drink on out trek around the site. Dan and Amy braved the T-Express, a giant rollercoaster constructed entirely from wood (we speculated that the “T” stood for “Termite”, and we fought ghosts in the haunted Strathmore Mansion with laser guns that the Earl of Strathmore himself developed (apparently). There was also the usual slew of animals, including exotic fennec foxes (Vulpes zerda), coati (Nasua spp.), mara (Dolichotis spp.) and big cats. A new primate section had opened as well, and we got to see a cageful of squirrel monkeys (Saimiri spp.) bickering over a drinking straw that someone had carelessly dropped into the cage, chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), orang-utans (Pongo spp.) and even some ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta). The queues for other attractions showed no signs of diminishing, and so (despite the newly-created pastime of spotting couple- and family-style outfits) we called it a day and returned to Amy’s apartment for delicious soup and birthday cheesecake. If we can somehow engineer a circle of friends so that there’s a birthday every month or so, we’ll have the ideal outing + Amy’s awesome special event food frequency.

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