Archive for February, 2011

I’m a real summer person so I’ve been really surprised this year by how much I’ve enjoyed winter, but then its hard not to when winter in Korea is dominated by freezing but bright and sunny days!  And then with a ski resort on your door step, whats not to like?! 

In the last week though there has been the faintest bit of warmth in the sun that seems to give a slight nod to the approaching Spring.  I can’t wait to feel the heat of the sun on my body again, and spend weekends at the beach…..

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After 9 months of living in Korea I think I’m pretty settled, but there is one thing that I don’t think I’ll ever get used to……..the space invaders.

I think it’s fair to say that English people have a very big personal space area, that extends in a full circle around us.  It’s an invisible force field that once violated sets off feeling of uncomfortability, and sometimes maybe even anger.  Add to that the national psyche that assumes queuing, order and waiting your turn.  Now mix that combination with Korea, where personal space doesn’t exist, neither does queuing or waiting in turn – it all leads to some uncomfortable, or frustrating, or angry moments!  The times I’ve been waiting to use a cash point, leaving the appropriate distance between me and the person using the machine, and had someone step infront of me and slide right up behind the person using the machine…….It just seems so wrong on so many levels.   

That said, I think that the more I’ve traveled and experienced different countries the smaller my personal space area has become.  I can even cope with the insanely busy bus, that runs from my house into town, where it’s not uncommon to find myself standing, being spooned from behind, while my crotch is hitting the person who is sitting down on the shoulder (maybe thats just an unfortunate problem of being quite tall!!).  I guess I could turn around and leave my arse on the sitting persons shoulder, but that would mean face to face nose touching with the person who had been spooning me, and well somehow that seems worse!

I get that in those type of busy bus situations it can’t be helped, I even get that the way people shoulder barge their way past each other in the street, rather than two people stepping slightly to the side to avoid contact, is just the way it is.  What I don’t get is the old lady space invaders. 

The first time I came across one was when a group of us did the Damyang Half Marathon.  We were stood around talking and a little old Korean lady came up to us and started slapping people on the bum, I think she may have grabbed some of the lads chests, and then she went in for a full on crotch grab with me……violated!

My second experience came yesterday as I was on the bus heading to the start of my running route.  There wasn’t any seats left but the bus wasn’t too busy, no need for personal contact.  A woman pinched my bum!  I know it sticks out a fair way, and that my running pants don’t leave anything to the imagination, but still, whatever happened to boundaries!!

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On Sunday 20th March I will be running my first full marathon!  As the time to run draws closer I’m starting to realise just how far 26miles is, and am finding the prospect of running so far a little daunting!

That said, training is going well and with a little help from my friends, at Gwangju Running Club, I’ve been increasing my long run distances – I’m up to 19 miles.  I am starting to find the increased distances a little tough though, and decided that I needed to find some added inspiration for race day to drive me on past the 20 mile mark to the end.  That inspiration has come in the form of my childhood friend, Amy.  

In 1994 we were 15 years old, about to sit our GCSEs, with the world at our feet.  Suddenly for Amy things changed.  She was becoming increasingly ill, I didn’t understand how or why, all I knew was that the girl who had been by my side from before we started school was no longer there.  Initially I’d go to see her at home, but by the time I was heading off to University she was so ill that she was bedbound, in a blacked-out room, and could barely cope with a short “hello”.    

Amy has M.E. the most debilitating illnesses I have ever witnessed, and is one of the 25% of sufferers who is severely affected.  The daily symptom of M.E. vary from person to person but include chronic pain in the soft tissue of muscles and joints, cognitive problems, headaches, sleep disturbance, noise intolerance, photophobia, chemical and food intolerance (including prescription medications), fatigue, plus other ongoing life changing symptoms. 

Fast forward 16 years, through underage drinking, University, work, travel, seeing friends get married and start families of their own, to today – Amy is still ill and remains house bound.  I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to have your life on hold, hoping that one day you’ll be well enough to lead a “normal” life. 

Back in April before I left the UK again I sat with Amy in her garden, it was the first time I’d been home and she’d been well enough to do it in 15 years.  And then, I received a wonderful card from Amy this week, telling me how she’d managed to go out for half an hour in her wheelchair with her mum to the village reservoir, she wrote of how the swans had snorted in disgust at their lack of bread!  I couldn’t stop smiling at her excitement when I read the card, it’s such a massive improvement from where she’s been.

If Amy can get to the reservoir, I can get to the 26 mile point!

One of the many tragedies of ME is that although the UK government recognises ME as a neurological illness, has never funded biomedical research into ME. Life is hard enough for the quarter of a million UK citizens living with this chronic, debilitating illness every day, but it is even more heart-breaking knowing that there is so little research going on in the world to try and find the cure that ME sufferers are all so desperate for. ME Research UK, a charity, (also known as MERGE), is the one ray of hope in the UK. The aim of ME Research UK is to fund biomedical research into ME/CFS – to find its cause, to develop effective treatments, and ultimately to discover a cure for this poorly understood illness.

Please help me help support this great cause by giving what you can…….



Last year Amy managed to talk to people in the local media about her illness, you can read about her life in her own words here…



For more information about severely affected M.E. sufferers




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In class today…

Me: What can you see in the picture?

Student: Teacher I don’t know the English….”car ears!”

I love it! From now on I will only refer to wing-mirrors as “car ears” 🙂

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