My Brilliant Korea

Earl Grey moments

Blogging | September 30, 2009

I remember where we were and I remember what she said, but I cannot remember her name.

She was plump. She was Irish. Her hair was brown and curly.

We were vegetable picking together in the tiny town of Blenheim on New Zealand’s South Island.

It was late in the afternoon and we had packed the capsicums, eggplants and tomatoes away for the day.

As we enjoyed a quiet moment at the kitchen table before dinner, she turned to me and said:

“I have never seen anyone enjoy a cup of tea so much”.

In many ways, it was a fairly ordinary cup of tea.

Earl Grey. Full cream milk. A big spoonful of honey.

But it was warm. It was sweet. In my opinion, it was the perfect end to a back-breaking day on the farm.

Each time the mug touched my lips, I could not help but let out a contented “mmmmm”.

“Mmmmmmm… yum.

“Mmmmmmm… yum.

“Yum. Yum. Yum.”

I have always been partial to life’s simple pleasures.

Clean towels. A perfectly executed sight gag. A Review sale. A great shag.

And, of course, a milky warm cup of Earl Grey tea.

In the last week I have enjoyed three “Earl Grey” moments in Seoul, which I would like to share with you now.

1. The caramel ice cream.

At my high school, there are about 100 teachers. A handful of them speak excellent English. The rest understand some English but are too terrified to utter a word for fear of making a mistake. So, for me, at times, my high school can be a lonely place.

One of the teachers who speaks nearly perfect English is my head co-teacher J. By some incredibly lucky twist of fate, J also happens to be one of the most amusing people I have ever met in my life. Just this morning, J and I were again talking about the really, really ridiculously good looking gym teacher, Mr C. As usual, J made me laugh out loud.

“Before Mr C was married, he was reeeeeeally good looking,” J said.

“Now, he just fade away.

“Five years ago his head was very good.

“Now his head is not so good. But the body is still good.”

J has a lovely group of friends. I have suspected for some time that Jeong’s friends might also be amusing. But I could not be sure because they would never speak to me at lunch.

“They are so shy,” J told me.

“They like you very much and they can see that you are such a good and kind person, but they are so scared about making a mistake with their English that they are not talking with you”.

This week J and her friends asked me to sneak into the student cafeteria with them for an icecream after lunch.

“Don’t we have to get back to class?” I asked.

J shook her head with a wink and a smile.

“No, come on,” she said.

Like naughty schoolgirls, we ducked into the cafeteria and each grabbed a caramel ice cream. For the next 15 minutes, the women spoke candidly and in rapid Korean. They talked about sex (whether they were getting enough of it), their colleagues (who were irritating them),their husbands, their babies and their clothes. The women laughed together. I laughed along with them. I understood the jokes. For the first time they spoke directly to me, while J quietly translated like the good friend she already is. And for the first time at my school, I felt like just one of the other teachers. I loved that caramel ice cream.

2. The Suwon Express.

My friend Jeff and I decided to venture to a hip hop concert somewhere in southern Seoul last weekend. We did not know where the concert was. We did not know who would be there. We did not know what time it started. But gallantly (or stupidly) we headed in a southerly direction on the subway line we were 89% sure was the correct one.

Jeff and I chatted. We chatted and chatted. We chatted some more. We discussed America’s involvement in wars, the importance of an umbrella handle, the cinematic merits of the film Groundhog Day and the rife poverty in Jeff’s home state of Alabama.

What Jeff and I did not do, was disembark at any of the correct subway stops. What we did not do, was board any of the correct subway lines. Our biggest blunder came when we chatted so much that we accidentally boarded an express train (no stops) down to Suwon (outside the city of Seoul). In the end, the trip took 6.5 hours. We saw just one hour of music and ate some meat on a stick. We also saw a fully sick Korean punk- complete with Mohawk, leather jacket, piercings, tattoos- who was drinking an individually sized carton of full cream milk (because real Korean punks need calcium for strong bones, OK?).

The Korean punk was one of the highlights of the afternoon. The other highlight was Jeff’s delightful and unfailingly hilarious company. We were already friends, but we are good friends now. The trip home took just 1.5 hours. I consider the entire afternoon time well spent.

3. Pete the hairdresser.

Amy and I were waiting for a comedy show to begin in Itaewon last weekend when we were approached by a young Korean man named “Pete” (possibly not the name he was given at birth).

“Hello, I am Pete,” Pete said.

“I am hairdresser for Vidal Sassoon. I worked in London. This is amazing. I need two amazing models. You are two amazing models. You will be my models, yes?”

Amy and I had no idea what he was talking about. So, of course, we said yes. A few days later we met Pete at his salon. By this time Pete had made several decisions.

a. We would be his new best friends.

b. He would be our hairdresser for the next year.

c. He would use us as his models whenever he needed.

So that's me. Full-time teacher, part-time model for my best friend "Pete".

I look forward to more sweet, milky, warm, Earl Grey moments in this wondrous city.

Mmmmmm… Seoul.

And lastly, I will once again leave you with a bizarre Korean fact:

It is difficult to find Earl Grey tea in South Korea. However, it is available at Cosco supermarkets. There are seven Cosco supermarkets in Seoul. Earl Grey tea can also be purchased at selected E-Mart stores and foreign supermarkets.


1. Ross on October 1, 2009

Such a great entry. The bit with Jeff, so sweet. Watched 'I love you man' and got reminded of how amazing good friends are, and this entry just reconfirms that.

Apart from that the rest was shit.

2. Blythe on October 1, 2009

Ha. Thanks Ross. "Apart from that the rest was shit". Love it.

3. bay on October 1, 2009

Hey Blythe, I can totally imagine that earl grey moment in NZ. I remember sitting in your car one time in Cotton Tree and you were eating a pie from the pie shop and making so much noise it was almost unbelievable. "MMmmmmm... this pie is so good, mmmmmmm, do you want a bite? No? Mmmmmm pie." You are the noisiest, most passionate eater I know, and that is just part of the reason why I love you.

Bay xoxo

4. Blythe on October 1, 2009

Oh Bayzee, I love you too! I think we might be having an Earl Grey moment right now. Can't wait to have a real Earl Grey with you in real life. Or a pie. xxx

5. Samala on October 1, 2009

hehe, I'm so glad you're doing a blog Blythy, you're such a great writer :-) When will we see some piccies of some of the people you speak of (yep, including Mr Cha!!). love love love you xxx

6. Blythe on October 1, 2009

Unfortunately, Mr Cha is one of the teachers who says "annonghaseyo" (hello) to me and then quickly walks (struts) past. So no chance for a picture yet. Sigh. But I'm working on it. Seriously Sammy, you would love Mr Cha. He is sooooooooo good looking. And his strut/ walk is so hot. As for Jeong, despite the fact that she is gorgeous, she has so far refused to be in a picture for me. She says she doesn't like how she looks in pictures. One of her friends is having a baby shower in a couple of weeks so I plan to take a couple of sneaky photos there. I've been pretty slack with the photos overall, so I promise to lift my game and post on Facebook soon. Love love love you more xx

7. Ian on October 7, 2009

Hi Blythe,

Finally I have found the time to have a read of your Blog and catch up from where I left off. I see that nothing has changed since you left - you still have that same sense of humour and enjoy telling a good yarn and of course I enjoy reading them. The description of Mr Cha given by Jeong gave me a good laugh.

Keep it going........Ian

8. Blythe on October 8, 2009

Thanks so much Ian... I'm so glad you're still reading and still commenting. Thanks too for the pictures... you're right the kids will definitely be interested in seeing some more "Austraya". Speak (email) soon... B :-)

Any Comments?

About Blythe Seinor

When Blythe was a journalism student at the Queensland University of Technology she interviewed the former Indonesian president, Abdurrahman Wahid.
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