Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

 

Far from idleness being the root of all evil, it is rather the only true good. – Soren Kierkegaard

It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top. – Virginia Woolf 

 

I’ve already written one post today so I’m pretty tired. I remember some time ago making a photo essay about being idle. I used the verb ‘making’ because ‘shooting’ would have been incorrect. I didn’t have the idea then decide to go out and take pictures. On the contrary, I had the idea after looking at pictures. This was a great idea and really fits into my theme because I didn’t have to do anything. In fact, as I type I have just realised that I am going to just recycle some old pictures from Facebook and re-post them on here. The reason I want to write about idleness is because I am particularly tired after recently working quite hard. I realise that in my day-to-day life I may have the time to ‘blog’ but I don’t necessarily have the will. I believe this lack of will stems from some part of my brain or soul being spent.

I believe quite passionately in a particular kind of ‘creative idleness’. I use this  term to make a distinction between simple laziness or idleness. When you are tired after working a long day you may want to lie down on the sofa, ottoman, or some other type of comfortable furniture. If your brain is spent, like mine often is, you may resort to watching a conventional soap opera or drama. Let’s take Coronation Street, Eastenders, Emmerdale and any other type of soap. People watch them because they are shit. After a hard day’s work these types of soaps act like a kind of anaesthetic to dull our creative impulses. This is the reason I have not written a blog post for so long. Even if I have a good idea it cannot swim to the surface because of extreme apathy. By the way, I don’t watch any of those soaps. I have thought about watching them, but only if they were animated with more cartoonish violence.

I have come to understand the lack of creative idleness on an almost spiritual level whilst living in Korea. Koreans work the longest hours in the OECD yet have the lowest productivity. The lack of holidays and the culture of working ‘hard’ instead of working ‘smart’, means that the highly intelligent workers returning home on the subway only have the cerebral potential to play phone games. Everyday I see the empty gazes of Seoul’s workforce as they stare blankly into whatever trivial game or social media they are looking at. I’m not saying that  salarymen should be composing sonnets or contemplating the Hegelian Dialectic, but simply acknowledging another human or appreciating something outside their smart phone would help. I wish I could show people the infinite ways of passing idle time.

I consider myself very lucky indeed to come from a country where I could save up money then travel for a year, in trying to enjoy idle bliss. Ironically I spent most of this year working, but that ties into the ‘idler’s paradox’ – more of that later. On my journey to various parts of the World, the biggest gift I got was perspective. To see the World objectively and to question common ways of doing things. After seeing that some Samoans only work for 3 months in a year, and that Australians often go for month-long fishing trips, I was intrigued to know why this didn’t really happen much in the fast paced ‘real World’. After returning to the UK after my trip I became obsessed with productivity and the use of time. I had a time-consuming job in the back office of an academic booksellers. I was never much into counting things, so the idea of making reading lists and counting money seemed abhorrent to me. However, what I found was that I really enjoyed finding ways of saving time and saving man hours. Many of the practices I tried to fold into everyday life were not necessarily ‘good practice’, but the combination of various useful time-saving tips really helped cut the amount of time counting money. This extra time could then be used for creative idleness.

This is the paradox which I mentioned earlier. Being extremely well-organized and efficient ultimately leads to the creation of idle time. If your brain is not spent you can use idle time to do more worthwhile things than making money for the ‘man’ or chasing the Yankee dollar. Most of the great ideas in the world have appeared out of context. We are at our creative best when we daydream, when we swap ideas over coffee and draw on napkins. Most conventionally bad ideas come when we are sitting in a ‘study’ or sitting at our desk. Unfortunately we have inherited an industrialized world in which we generally have to conform to set shift patterns and gruelling hours per week measurements. Most people, given the opportunity could easily condense their week down drastically leaving free time to do creative things, or to be with their friends and family. The biggest fears of course are money and public perception. Nobody wants to be seen as a slacker, and money is a drug in the sense that the more we get the more we spend, and the more we spend the more we want. I wonder how much time at work is spent doing almost nothing? Hopefully, as we enter an era of post industrialization work practices will become more flexible and allow us to do things which make us human. There are some new cultural trends which will really make life much better. The ‘mini retirement’ is one of the best. Stopping work to do other things actually makes us more productive and focussed in the long run. many companies and industries are not set up for this yet, and of course it relies on reasonably well paid jobs where paying the rent isn’t a constant worry.

Now I find my photographs which I hope will illustrate how being idle can ultimately lead to increased happiness, longevity, and a sense of self.

Befriend foreign nationals to see if they have any tips on finding time to be idle. If they don't have any revolutionary ways then you could always help them into an idle lifestyle. Yasu and Kohei come from a land which is known for it's low tolerance for slackers, however as you can see, they have no problems leading an idle life

Befriend foreign nationals to see if they have any tips on finding time to be idle. If they don’t have any revolutionary ways then you could always help them into an idle lifestyle. Yasu and Kohei come from a land which is known for it’s low tolerance for slackers, however as you can see, they have no problems leading an idle life

Make time to make music. The guy on the right got up at 4 am to play his dig at sunrise. The Digeridoo also vibrates your body on a sub atomic level which helps to relax.

Make time to make music. The guy on the right got up at 4 am to play his dig at sunrise. The Digeridoo also vibrates your body on a sub atomic level which helps to relax.

Be sure to take a holiday and don't be bashful about telling others. You may lose some business in the short term but a well rested individual is far more productive in the workplace.

Be sure to take a holiday and don’t be bashful about telling others. You may lose some business in the short term but a well rested individual is far more productive in the workplace.

Be open mided about other cultures and habits which you may have overlooed in your daily regime.

Be open mided about other cultures and habits which you may have overlooed in your daily regime.

Iberia (41)

Make and take time to appreciate your surroundings instead of walking in straight lines to your office. Old businessman = hunched , fat and depressed/ Artists = slim, flexible and happy

ital 091

Too much to explain so just go here instead –
http://www.slowfood.com/

no 193

Set aside a place for relaxation.

nzn092

Time spent cooking and eating is always time well spent. Generally the longer something takes to cook the better it is to eat.

KK (31)

A hot tub, sauna and plunge pool rotation is always good for the idler. Saunas are especially good because you have a rare window to do nothing at all. In case you are confused, sauna sweat is good sweat, gym sweat is bad sweat.

nyc005

Learn from you ancestors. Life was tough for my Armenian family so they moved to New York to make enough money to do less work.

par009

Allow time for play, in this case third world pool (less balls more insects)

peru006

Take a hint from your environment

sk050

Getting perspective. I find that a good view of things helps me to realise how trivial most worries are. I used to ascend this hill to escape studying in Barcelona.

Take the time to enjoy simple pleasures. In this case a sunset. I myself like watching people who watch sunsets, I believe calmness is contagious.

Take the time to enjoy simple pleasures. In this case a sunset. I myself like watching people who watch sunsets, I believe calmness is contagious.

You don't always need to sit in a lotus position to meditate.

You don’t always need to sit in a lotus position to meditate.

Avoiding clutter and mess helps the mind and body achieve true idleness.

Avoiding clutter and mess helps the mind and body achieve true idleness.

Be prepared on excursions. Hunting round for food at lunch time infringes on time in the park. Most food groups are represented in this simple pack lunch combo.

Be prepared on excursions. Hunting round for food at lunch time infringes on time in the park. Most food groups are represented in this simple pack lunch combo.

Choice is generally bad for the true idler, imagine how much easier this decision would have been if there were only one shot of liquer.

Choice is generally bad for the true idler, imagine how much easier this decision would have been if there were only one shot of liquer.

Herbs and spices are full of wonder. Look at the ingredients on everything in the supermarket on your next visit, you will soon realise that making things for yourself is more fun and healthier. Spices used to be essential for medicinal purposes and wellbeing but Victorian protestants attached a stigma to them as they probably hampered the 'work ethic'.

Herbs and spices are full of wonder. Look at the ingredients on everything in the supermarket on your next visit, you will soon realise that making things for yourself is more fun and healthier. Spices used to be essential for medicinal purposes and wellbeing but Victorian protestants attached a stigma to them as they probably hampered the ‘work ethic’.

Why work 9 to 5 when you can work whenever you want?

Why work 9 to 5 when you can work whenever you want?

 

Further reading:

http://idler.co.uk/ – This is a great magazine site made by Tom Hodgkinson. If you like the site then there are also some books published on the same theme.

http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/ – Tim Ferris has become famous by trying to do things really quickly and easily. I question some of the content but the overall message is one of working less and enjoying life. There are many interesting ideas in the various books. e.g – only responding to e-mails at certain times each week, deleting all facebook friends and having people ‘follow you’, taking mini retirements.

http://www.ted.com/playlists/60/work_smarter.html

 

 

Britain and the USA can be “two nations divided by a common language” George Bernard Shaw or Oscar Wilde

Having lived in Korea for over 2 years I have picked up a lot of Korean. I used to take lessons, which helped, but now I rely on the world being my classroom. One of the stranger aspects of living here is the use of my native tongue – English. Something I didn’t  consider deeply before I came, was that I may have to teach, or communicate using ‘American English’. Being the only ‘British English’ speaker in my workplace, I often find myself either questioning or abandoning British expressions or vocabulary. This is not related to a lack of patriotism, it is simply to aid communication.

אַ שפּראַך איז אַ דיאַלעקט מיט אַן אַרמיי און פֿלאָט

a shprakh iz a dialekt mit an armey un flot

“A language is a dialect with an army and navy”  Max Weinreich

 

My experience of language is that it is often a contentious issue; people cling to the familiar because they fear losing their identity, or they see a confrontation between their own usage and other forms. Language is about communication, so I’m usually pragmatic when it comes to dropping or adding expressions and vocabulary. However, I am rather pedantic when it comes to verbal accuracy, for example, I prefer saying thrice instead of three times.

After trying to explain words and phrases to people, repeatedly, I decided to write this post as a logic test for conflicting expressions. This list clarifies many examples where I think Americans, British, and other native speakers compete to use, their words to describe things. Having been born in Britain I have consumed television from the USA, Australia, and obviously the UK. I have also visited these countries and worked with Americans and Canadians. Something else to note is that most of the Koreans I have been in contact with have learnt American English; they have provided an objective critique of Britishisms or Americanisms which make no sense or more sense.

Football v Soccer

There is only one winner, football. The word soccer derives from association football as there are many varieties of football. I believe it stems from the British Public School abbreviations – Like turning Rugby into Rugger. Football has gone way beyond the shores of Britain, and its introduction to Europe and South America has turned the word into an international word like okay or taxi. The poor countries whose majority sports are not football often use the word soccer. My advice to people is that if you travel to the USA or Australia then you might use the word soccer to avoid confusion, otherwise use football. Global usage makes a mockery of the word soccer. We have FIFA (Federation of International Football Associations) UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football). The global brands and organizations all use the word football, even in the locations where the word ‘soccer’ is used. If you are Korean then take a look at the listings of the K League. Five teams have Football Club in their names, zero have soccer.

Trousers v Pants

Many People assume that ‘pants’ is an Americanism for trousers. In my experience, many people in North West England, Scotland, and Ireland use pants to mean the long things worn over your underwear. In Southern England pants generally refers to underwear. I once got into an argument in a pub in Italy about this issue. There was a man from Liverpool and a girl from Australia who both used pants to mean non underwear. I’ll let logic have the last word. If ‘pants’ refers only to underwear then why do we have the word underpants but not overpants? Pants is also British slang for ‘not very good’.

Pickles

Can you pass me a pickle?

Which type?

My fondness for pickles prevents me from accepting this word to mean Pickled Gherkins (the type you find on McDonalds Burgers) I can only presume that in America they don’t pickle anything else but gherkins. This word is also used for gherkins in the UK too. I prefer to use gherkin because that’s what it is. In my pickle related nightmare, when I go to the pickle aisle in the supermarket, I see before me 20 metres of gherkins. When I awake from this disturbing briny dream, I become aware that thankfully, there are also pickled onions, Branston pickle, red cabbage, sauerkraut, piccalilli, cucumber, dill, mussels, mango chutney, and even eggs if you go in an old pub. I think I’m fighting a losing battle on the pickle front but I will continue to use the word gherkin just to help the other forgotten pickles, sitting on their dusty shelves in the storage area of the supermarket. In the meantime, the phalanxes of the gherkin super race stand in formation at the front of the pickle shelves, waiting for their pickle fascists to buy them all.

Fall v autumn

Apparently, fall predates autumn. People used fall in the British Isles before autumn came into use and the emigrants to North America continued using it. I have no real logical argument for this debate. I use the word fall in the classroom to avoid confusion. For this ‘word off’ I make a plea to all North Americans, I think Aussies and Kiwis use autumn. Please, please try to use autumn instead of fall. Fall is a commonly used verb, but autumn is specific to the season; it also makes an easy adjective – autumnal. I believe the word just sounds nicer and as soon as I hear it I feel the colours of the leaves and the cool winds. When I hear fall, I think of an old man dying. Poetically it sounds more beautiful:

The wind rustled through her autumnal, auburn hair. This paints an image of a Venus like woman whose hair is graceful and flowing.

The wind rustled through her fallish/fall like hair. This paints the image of an alopecia victim.

Elevator v Lift

I switch my allegiance to the other side of the Atlantic. As a noun, lift already means to give someone transport, whereas elevator is unique to doing its job. I also prefer technical words to come from Latin, in this case ‘elevatore’ the verb for raise. Interestingly French and Italian don’t use ‘elevator’ or ‘elevatore’; they use ascenseur and ascensore. I believe this would give us the much improved word ‘ascender’.

Prawn v Shrimp

Everybody is wrong, but North Americans are more wrong. In America everything seems to be called a shrimp even when it’s a prawn – these are two different organisms. In the UK and commonwealth shrimp usually refers to the very small prawns, shrimp being a synonym for small. However, I have discovered that not all shrimp are small. The difference is a tiny biological matter – the shrimp’s tail segments don’t overlap in the same way. The second segment overlaps above the first and third segments. The problem with this debate is the difference in seafood worldwide. Despite the differences, I know a prawn when I see one, and I live near Morecambe Bay which is famous for shrimp, so I will use the word prawn for prawns and shrimp for shrimp.

Pavement v Sidewalk

I still use the British version – pavement. I just like the word. I remember an interview with the Indie band ‘Pavement’ who were from the US, when asked why they were called pavement instead of sidewalk; they said that they got the name from a list of the most beautiful words in the English language. I also like the suffix –ment which can make verbs into nouns: embankment, shipment, allotment….etc

Zebra Crossing v Cross walk

I like zebra crossing because it’s more poetic. It may cause confusion in very specific circumstances in Kenya or South Africa. If there is an actual zebra crossing the road then cross walk may be easier.

Queue v Line

Queue is a clear winner here because it gives us the option to make different shades of meaning. I don’t make a line unless I am in an identity parade or perhaps on the school playground. Queue implies that there is something to be gained at the end, like admission or a postage stamp. I just wish the word queue had a better spelling.

I think I’ll leave it there for now. I may add more as they arise. The point of this exercise, which may be futile, is to refrain from patriotism when it comes to English. The language has gone international so I want to try to use the best and most logical (or poetic) words on offer. I often feel lucky to be able to choose between different words, but I do feel irritated when my own words are cast aside in favour of less accurate or less descriptive offerings.

If you are learning English as a second language my advice is simply to learn both and choose. However, you may have to choose between the following options:

American words in the UK: you will be understood but looked down upon.

British/Commonwealth words in North America: you may not be understood, or you may cause offence, especially in the case of fanny, fag, tramp, and pissed.


*disclaimer* This is from the perspective of a UK citizen who arrived in 2009. Some of the information may be out of date, I recommend checking visa requirements with a school, recruiter, or embassy before applying for a post in Korea.

Why?

Choosing a tefl job is one of the most difficult ‘professions’ in which to make a choice. I remember being overwhelmed by the potential of of working in virtually any place on the globe. I chose Korea after a lenghty process of elimination, but also because I have always been a huge fan of Korean cinema. This was a starting point which meant I already had a kind of familiarity with all things Korean. My personal elimination process is just a series of questions in no particular order.

Is there a competetive tefl market with jobs available?

Korea is a developed nation with a strong emphasis on education. In an increasingly international environment, and with an export economy English education is a vital part of Korea’s future. The legacy of a confucian system means that Koreans have a highly competetive education and employment sector. Many children attend academies after school. Most students are test orientated and motivated to finish textbooks and proceed to the next perceived level. This can be a disadvantage if you are accustomed to the communicative approach to teaching. Many parents and students see actual conversation and fluency as superfluous to the basic reading, writing and vocabulary memorization. You may meet Koreans who can read a textbook on microbiology with no trouble but they won’t be able to describe where they live or their parent’s profession. This is the Korean culture and if you cannot go with this black and white approach then life may be difficult. Your job is to teach people in their way not to change the educational methods of an entire nation.

Is it possible to communicate with the local population?

I compared the language (Hangeul) to both Japanese and Chinese. This was a major selling point for me. The alphabet is probably the best and most logical in the world. You can be reading signs and menus and less than a week if you make the effort. You can also be writing it confidently in a month or so depending on motivation. It can be difficult to speak because of the sentence structure, but Koreans are hugely enthusiastic about people speaking their language. In major cities and transport hubs many of the staff will be able to speak English. ALL street signs and place names are written in Roman script. After taking a few lessons and teaching myself I can order food, buy tickets, go shopping and have some banter with taxi drivers confidently. Finding Koreans to speak to in Korean has been something of a problem. Many are too shy to speak with foreigners or simply too good at English to bother blundering through hit and miss Korean.

Are there amenities you may expect from a developed nation?

In a larger city you can expect good quality healthcare and excellent tourist and transport facilities. In smaller places the level of organization and sanitation may be lower than Western countries. Timetables and tickets may not be in English in small bus stations. Some restaurants and eateries would not pass environmental health inspectors but there are always reliable chain stores to eat in. International banking facilities are quite difficult outside Seoul. However, most ATMs have English Language options.

Is it possible to live comfortably from the salary?

Yes! If you eat and shop locally you can usually save in excess of 3000 pounds sterling per year. I manage to live comfortably whilst still saving over 40% of my monthly salary. Transport and food is extremely cheap in comparison with the UK. It often works out cheaper to eat with friends in a restaurant rather than shop and cook yourself. If you find good places you may rarely eat at home. If you can work out the bus system and walk a bit then it will save money. I have heard that people can save over 8000 pounds a year. I personally prefer to stay in the country longer and spend a bit on travelling around and going to the cinema and museums etc. Most teaching salaries will vary between 1.9 to 2.5 million won per month. this is usually over 1000 pounds. I would look at the package rather than the salary. Many schools will offer return flights, accommodation and an end of contract bonus. Vacation time can be difficult in the private sector but if you plan on staying longer than a year you should receive a week in between contracts. In highly organized schools with textbooks and a syllabus your preperation time will be far less than in public schools or universities. Living within walking distance of your work is the best perk to save money.

Can you enjoy some elements of a ‘Western’ lifestyle?

In a larger place you can live in a Western bubble if you choose. This has the disadvantages of being more expensive and less rewarding. The presence of the U.S military has had a noticeable effect on the number of fast food chains and retail outlets. In bigger cities you are likely to find McDonalds, KFC, Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, Outback Steakhouse and numerous Tesco Homeplus branches. Imported goods are more expensive but you can enjoy the occassional treats like cheese, wine and familiar brands. Cinemas have subtitles rather than dubbing, this is great as it means you can enjoy version original films.

Who?

The most important qualification is obviously being a native speaker. Many parents express a preference for North American English and for females. Several high profile news stories about rape and paedophilia have meant that some places are more likely to hire females. I have found that most schools overlook the country in favour of having a good teacher. The World is also changing. Many home stay programmes for Koreans take place in Australia and New Zealand as they are nearer. I have also met many Koreans who have studied in the UK. In my city there are also many South Africans. You are far more likely to get a job if you have experience with young learners and if you have lived in a foreign country for an extended period. For the EPIK programme (which I passed but then turned down) the main focus is on adapting to a foreign environment and people. If you are reasonably adventurous and have spent some time abroad I recommend Korea as a great destination. If you ae fresh out of university with little travelling experience then the food and intensity of the lifestyle may be very difficult to adapt to

When?

The academic year starts in late February early March. There is aalso a summer break so August can be a good time to start. In the private sector many ‘Hagwons’ hire at any time of the year. This was a huge advantage for me in terms of flexibility.

What?

To secure a job and a visa you will need:

A degree.

Sealed University Transcript. Contact your University and tell them what it’s for. It must be sealed with the University stamp to prove the authenticity of the qualification. Some places ask for two sealed transcripts.

Apostilled Criminal Record Check. This can be costly and time-consuming. After trying in vain at my local police station I ended up using an online service from Scotland. Once you have the document you must have it verified by a Notary Public. This is usually a solicitor who has the qualification to stamp the documents. I only found one person in North Lancashire who was qualified to do this. It can be an expensive process as you need to visit or send your document to the office in Milton Keynes to finish the process.

Where?

I think this is the most important question when considering working in Korea. There is a vast difference between Seoul – the second biggest urban agglomeration in the world, and some small town with literally no foreign residents. After passing the EPIK application process to teach in public schools I turned it down based on location. If you apply really early you may get your first choice but I wanted to be in control of exactly where I was going to spend so much time. Seoul is huge and although it’s a fascinating place with so much to do, your school is likely to be in a satellite town or suburb outside the city. This can lead to higher transport costs and if you only visit the centre every weekend then why not just live in another city? The KTX train makes getting to Seoul very fast and easy from almost anywhere in Korea. If you want a good balanced lifestyle with the option of being able to speak to other foreigners then bigger cities are the way to go. A good   of size is the presence of a subway system. Cities over a million population have their own subway systems: Busan, Daegu, Incheon, Daecheon, Gwangju and obviously Seoul. Look for Shinsegae or Lotte department stores. If a city has these it shows the presence of a reasonably large affluent population. I chose Jeonju as there is a historical centre, a good K-League football team, World Cup stadium, and good transport links to most places in Korea.

On a personal note, I intended on coming for a year to save a bit of money then go travelling in Asia and return home. Since being here I have felt really at home with the food, people, places, and the often insane pace of life. I can still find new national parks, new beaches and interesting palaces and museums after my year long stay. I hope to improve my Korean and stay even longer. On the whole I would say that it’s the best location to work for a teacher of English. There is a great balance between earning enough money to live comfortably and still have enough to travel round and enjoy the beautiful mountains and the spicy foods.

Due to harvest delays, poor time management, and a series of other unfortunate events I found myself in Kaikoura with no money. When I say no money, I mean no access to a little used credit card back and around 20 dollars which was already needed to pay for accommodation. This left me in a back to front situation in which I needed money to pay for things I had already taken. After much searching, a lady who ran the local Subway sandwich shop offered me the most hours, she also contacted the owner of the hostel where I was trying to stay and arranged some kind of advance. After a couple of weeks I realised that it would take far too long to save any money so I took a cleaning job in a hostel which paid for my accommodation. With the two jobs varying in length I generally worked between 55 and 75 hours a week. The 75 hour weeks were exceptional and a combination holiday peak season and sacrificing  1 day off to have a two-day weekend every fortnight. It was a little soul-destroying to have so little time and I was envious to the extreme of tourists and locals alike who seemed to amble round leisurely whilst I was on my work mission.
Dusky Lodge, Kaikoura
As a feat which I never wanted to repeat I decided to document the mundane events which made up my life at that point. I tried to justify my low wage and low status jobs by what I could learn from being in that situation. I also tried to maximise the small periods of time I had between the hostel and the sandwich shop. Below is the e-mail I sent recounting what made up an average day. It was written shortly after the busy holiday season which is why it’s in present perfect tense.
I have been working in Subway for 35 hours a week and I also have a job in Dusky Lodge hostel over the road from Subway. The hostel job is in exchange for accommodation. I have two days off per week from Subway and one day off a week from Dusky Lodge. After a lot of diplomacy, discussion, and charm (a new skill I have been trying to develop) I have managed to get two full days off both jobs every other week. Two full days meant I was able to visit a hot spa in the mountains called Hanmer Springs. I have very little time to read or do anything interesting so I have decided to write about an average day. This has the unique point of being the only time in my travels where i have had such a fixed routine. Before this I have never stayed anywhere more than 7 nights on the trot.
View from the decking
I usually wake up about 6ish with various bizarre dreams, I then doze up until 8ish. After a few stretches (I’m not into that whole ‘scene’ but it has become necessary’) I make my way upstairs to the kitchen to have breakfast. At the moment I am on Weet-Bix, but usually I have porridge with a little honey. Sometimes I also have some Nutella on whole meal bread, it depends what mood I’m in and how my colon is behaving. I always have a cup of tea though, there are two cups I favour; one is a large green cup with an orange rim the other is also green with pictures of butterflies. For some reason when I drink green tea I usually use one of the transparent cups. The only other person to use the green cup is a German guy, he is also called Michael so I decided it was ok. I take my tea on the deck area which overlooks the pool and in the far distance the seaward Kaikoura range of mountains ,  is still snow-capped despite recent high temperatures. It usually takes me about 10 mins to go through the tea process, after which I make my way  to the Living room/reception area to await instructions on the morning’s tasks. The briefing begins about 9:15 but I am usually there about 9ish just to sit. I prefer to sit without the tv but sometimes it’s on. I usually make a couple of jokes at this stage, not really jokes with punch lines but just little comments to keep me entertained. For example, when there are Germans there I sometimes say ‘Ich bin ein ………….’  using whichever swear word I learnt. Backpacking is the best way to extend a global vocabulary of offensive comments in varying tongues. I have also made a point of saying good morning to everybody in their native tongue, thus far I have had to learn Chinese, Hebrew, German and Japanese (I already knew the Japanese).
The supervisors, of which there are two, give us our instructions. Roughly speaking there are three main divisions; Kitchens, Bathrooms and Beds. I think I prefer beds, when there are not too many, it’s kind of relaxing and I have a rare talent for folding the corners in the perfect way and generally making things look sharp. I give myself a speed challenge for making beds to prevent boredom. I don’t return immediately after completing task because then they will know how much time it takes me and will just give me more tasks. The top floor of the Lodge is basically a hotel so the standards are high, I even have to roll the towels in the correct place and make sure the coffee and tea is stocked up. On a good day I can finish at 11:15 but usually work continues until noon.
If I finish at a reasonable hour I do a few lengths in the pool, the chlorine kills off all the filth
and I have a spa after this then a shower. Unbelievably for a modest hostel there is a sauna, hot tub, and a nice pool area, it has been the main reason I have stayed so long. After finishing we reconvene at the pool table near reception to fold laundry together. Sometimes a new coachload of people arrives on a tour and I make small bets with some Finnish guys about which country they come from. I’ve been getting good at this game. The Sherlock style skills are mostly based on the brands of clothing, especially shoes and backpacks. Americans wear more Northface, British are more likely to wear Reebok Classics etc. I have  lunch at about 12.30. Most of the time I have my special rice dish but sometimes I walk into the town and get some fish. If you go on kitchen duty you can also get free food from people who have left, dates are written on all food items so a quick check at reception means you know if someone has checked out. I do share my spoils though in what I call the ‘binner’s banquet’. I don’t feel bad about this, it’s better than wasting food. If I stay at the hostel i usually have enough time to watch a film. On occasions where there is either a substandard film or a film I have seen often I simply go for a kip or just sit in the
sunshine.
At 14:45 I get changed for work then walk all of 5 mins to Subway. I first clock in on the computer then have a mini chat to whoever is there. At 15:00 there are not many sandwiches to be made so it’s usually just preparation, I like preparing food…it’s simple and repetitive. I seem to be the only one who doesn’t mind chopping onions, I think it’s because I understand the beneficial effects to the sinuses, this is a result of having suffered from rhinitis in the past. The rest of the day is a mixture of making sandwiches and cleaning. I do have a half hour break which I try to coincide with the bakery tray. Let me elaborate…
The bakery next to the hostel has a reciprocal arrangement with my hostel: they use the pool/sauna and we get the leftover cakes and sandwiches. I can usually secure a couple of cakes if I get back at 17:15.
After serving customers I have to clean toilets/mop floors/ clean the coffee machine then do whatever else is left undone. I usually leave the shop at about 22:30 to 23:15 depending on how busy it has been. When I return to the hostel I talk to whoever has stayed awake. Most people who do the cleaning go to bed early, but it seems I form a natural bond with whoever stays up. Last week I befriended two Japanese  who were nice enough to make me a Japanese curry. This week it seems to be only Tsabasa, (also from Japan) and I Ching  from Taiwan. Tsabasa is a quiet guy whose command of English involves repeating the last three words of my previous sentence, whether interrogative or imperative. Sometimes it feels like I’m talking to a cave. He is unremarkable apart from two small facts, he drinks more tea than I do, and he watches more films than I do. Although, I think the latter statistic would be different if I worked less. I ching is a nice Taiwanese girl, there were two other Taiwanese who were a bit homely and miserable, they left me a with a sour image every time I see the ‘made in Taiwan’ sign. On the other hand I Ching (who calls herself Iris) is very sweet and talks to people freely. Most Chinese speakers give themselves an English name as people either struggle to pronounce it, or they cannot remember. I am already on her good side as I refuse to call her by her English name, this is a sometimes confusing because nobody else knows who I am talking about.
I usually get to bed about midnight, I have customized my bunk so that each side of the bed is draped with sheets to give a Bedouin effect. In a hostel environment your bed becomes your room, because I have access to the laundry I took lots of green sheets and put them all round my bed. I also have my cd player hanging above my head so that when I eventually fall asleep the ear phones fall out in the manner of a dog pulling loose from its leash. My watch is tied around my cd case and I also have a bottle water wedged between the bed post and the mattress. The dorm I am in is below the hostel proper and next to the laundry room. There are 10 beds in total which are shared with whoever is cleaning at the time. The cleaners dorm is different from the others in that there is a tv/stereo and bathroom. The tv’s picture is crap and the stereo doesn’t work. It’s quite a nice place to live because it’s separate from the main hostel and it opens out near the pool. Except for an obcessive compulsive German girl who spends three hours folding clothes everyone is considerate and doesn’t make much noise in the evening.
                                       Due to the easy-going and trustful nature of the Kiwis in this part of the world I was able to save enough money to travel the whole of South Island. Although it was tough I look back fondly at this experience. It was rewarding to have no money and dig myself out by my own efforts.