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Dina Porell, author - longlist finalist in Golden BaoBab's Prizes for Literature competiton

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Sunday, September 28, 2014, In : Writer profiles 
I have always been a major bookworm, and can't imagine life without a dozen paperbacks hanging around, just waiting to be read. As a child going to the library was part of our weekly routine, and I learned a lot about other cultures through my appetite for words and stories.

Considering this I was more than happy to learn about Golden Baobab, an organisation whose strapline 'Inspiring African Children's Literature' clearly reflects their mission: to fill bookshelves and stores around the world...
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Part 3 - the last of the links to unique and must read blogs from my MA Professional Writing peers.

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Saturday, September 20, 2014, In : Being a writer 
I need to write this post today. Not only because it will take my mind of the itching that's driving me mad, though that's a bonus. (The itching is caused by meds I need to take after having dental surgery a few days ago. It was bad enough when they made me stupid and sleepy, now add hive-ridden to that list!)

Having lost most of Saturday to the sleep monster I need to feel inspired, awed, and motivated, three things that are guaranteed when I delve into the minds of my fabulous MA writing pee...

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MA Professional Writing - more about my fabulous peers

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Wednesday, September 17, 2014, In : Being a writer 
I'm an active member of several Facebook groups, but the one I love the most is the magical space carved out by (all but one) of my MA cohorts. It's crammed full of creative ideas, information on all sorts of stuff and lots of fun.

We are currently hurting towards another deadline, having worked all summer on creating or enhancing an online brand/identity, and the standard of work being produced is inspiring. In a previous post I linked to three of the websites my peers have created, and now I...

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MA Professional Writing - showcasing my talented peers (part 1)

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Saturday, September 13, 2014, In : Being a writer 
Ever heard the saying 'you don't know what you don't know until you learn about what you didn't know and then you know that you know it'?

Perhaps not, considering it hardly trips off the tongue.Still, as someone who has spent most of her working life learning on the job I really appreciate the concept. It's this that drives me to strengthen my knowledge base, to improve on whatever I do alongside actually doing it.

That's why I signed up for an MA in Professional Writing through the University ...
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Pictures from summer in the UK

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Sunday, August 31, 2014, In : Travel tales 
Tomorrow I return to work after the usual long break between the spring and autumn semesters.) I am always excited about meeting new students and getting back into a routine, but not so keen on the prospect of cooler weather ahead.

When memories of my fabulous six weeks in the UK start to fade I'll be coming back to this post. It will remind me just how lucky I am to have amazing friends and family on both sides of the world.

Food: because it's a treat to eat things I don't usually see

 Costa Co...

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Re-entering orbit - things I'd forgotten about Korea

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Wednesday, August 13, 2014, In : Being an expat 
Six weeks. Less than 50 days spent out of South Korea and it feels like I have been away more like six years!

Here are just a few of the things that I'd forgotten about while I was away:
  • the toilet is way low. The sinks in the bathroom and kitchen are the same. I need a strategy to avoid the backache that washing dishes brings on.
  • I can't flush loo paper. (Mind, I spent the first few days in the UK fishing it out of people's bathroom bin so this will feel normal again pretty soon.)
  • people tend to...

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Air France - my first experience

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Wednesday, July 30, 2014, In : Travel tales 
As part of my quest for new experiences I chose to make my much anticipated annual Seoul - UK trip with Air France, rather than my usual Seoul - Amsterdam - Teesside journey with KLM. The switch was sparked by niggling concerns over the future of Durham Tees Valley, (the airport just a couple of miles from my UK base), leaving Newcastle as the only, and slightly less convenient, alternative.

Intensive Googling left me with two carrier options, British Airways and Air France. With similar fligh...
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Recording happy days

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Monday, June 16, 2014, In : A day in my life 
I enjoy following the photographic records of #100happydays that so many of my friends are collating on Facebook, although I will probably never sign up for the project myself.

The reason?

It's pretty simple. As I saw more and more people make a positive effort to record the good stuff in their daily lives I realised that I already notice that stuff. I did used to wonder if I was:

a bit weird for experiencing child-like joy at simple pleasures

or 

unusual in noticing the small things that create t...
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The Sewol Disaster

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Saturday, June 7, 2014, In : South Korea 
I haven't posted anything new to my blog since the devastating Sewol ferry tragedy. It has been such an overwhelmingly sad few weeks, and something that has changed the way a lot of people here think about things: well the foreigners at least.

Safety awareness isn't a priority.

I smile now when I recall asking my very first boss here when I would get the expected health & safety induction. I had no idea then that such things generally don't exist here in South Korea. In the seven years and seve...
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A fabulous blog about frugal living

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Friday, April 11, 2014, In : Being an expat 
Blog snob?

There are few blogs that I find interesting enough to bookmark and actually visit regularly, so it's always a treat to find something that catches my attention.

Money talks!

I've never been particularly motivated by money, but planning for life post global nomadism has put finances firmly on my agenda. I made a decent start to 2014 by actually applying for a tax refund. It was worth trading some of my sanity to battle with several Korean websites to get a little cash back from the gov...
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Weeks 7 - 12

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Sunday, March 23, 2014, In : Winter staycation: 2013-14 

Weeks 7 – 12

I haven't updated the staycation section for several reasons.

1.    I was really busy from weeks 7-10 as my good friend Rebecca got ready to leave Korea. Every day seemed to be a whirl of running around doing chores, or making memories.

2.    After she left I felt too sad to write about it. (Miss you Beckster.)

3.    I started my M.A. in Professional Writing. (Which will definitely get its own blog post or section.)

4.    The weather was wonderful, actually warmer in February than ...


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Where there's smoke watch out for fire!

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Monday, February 3, 2014, In : A day in my life 
For the last couple of days I had noticed a faint whiff of warm plastic in the air when I was using the toaster oven. I stuck my nose  all around it but nothing. Felt it up a bit, nothing. Plug seemed fine. Keep calm and carry on toasting.

Tonight my omelette was about done, tomatoes sliced, just the bagel to finish toasting and I'd be good to go with a late dinner. (The washer hadn't spun properly, causing a 30 minutes wrestling match that I barely won.) Anyone who knows me well is aware of m...

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Important message for foreign drivers in South Korea

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Monday, January 27, 2014, In : South Korea 
If you are:
  • foreign
  • drive in South Korea
  • have exchanged your home country licence for a Korean license
you need to read this.

You did what to my driving license?

One of the chores on your 'to do before leaving'list is to get your home country driving licence back. This involves a trek to the Driving Licence Agency centre where you originally exchanged it for the Korean version. Sounds simple, right?

So what if you get there and your licence isn't there anymore?

What if they tell you they threw it awa...

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Weeks 3 -6: a short report

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Sunday, January 26, 2014, In : Winter staycation: 2013-14 


Apart from two separate days when the snow came and went within 24 hours we continue to enjoy spring like weather for the most part. It's fabulous of course, but leaves me bereft of anything much to say. So here's a very short collection of highlights from the last four weeks.

  • I quit playing Candy Crush!!! I have wanted to stop for a while but the addiction was pretty strong. In the end the app made the decision for me. I just couldn't take the new level with shimmering candies for more than t...

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Weeks 1-2 of my strange staycation

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Sunday, December 29, 2013, In : Winter staycation: 2013-14 
I was expecting to have many tales to tell by now. Stories of drawing on previously unknown inner strengths as I battled cabin fever, surrounded by tons of that nasty white stuff that blights the winter season. Wrong!

Ironically, we are having the mildest winter I can remember in the 6 years I've been in South Korea. Not that I'm complaining, mind. I can live with see-ing the sun most days, especially as it quickly melts the odd bit of snow that has dared to fall.

Of course this means I have mu...

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My strangest winter holiday plan - ever!

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Sunday, December 8, 2013, In : Winter staycation: 2013-14 
The problem
It's not much of a secret that I dislike the cold, ice and snow that winter in South Korea brings. The problem for me is that in the last couple of years this has morphed from a pet hate into an aversion, and it's now pretty close to being a phobia. (This started when a friend here slipped on the ice and broke a bone.)

My coping mechanism has been to suffer it for the unavoidable week or two at the end of semester, then escape the day after we finish work. California, Sri Lanka, Mal...
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Reflecting on my unusual mid term test assignment

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Wednesday, November 6, 2013, In : EFL teaching in Asia 
In semester 1 of this academic year my students had loved the opportunity to go outside and use their phones to shoot a 1 minute sketch based on some dialogue we'd just studied. In fact this was so successful that I decided to adapt the exercise and use it for this semester's mid term assignment: making a 10 minute movie.

Was it fun? Overall, yes.

Would I do it again? Probably not!

I've reflected on the entire experience for a week or two and decided that in the end the hassles outweigh the (man...
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Auschwitz: it should never happen again

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Wednesday, September 18, 2013, In : Travel tales 
Culture and the way it impacts different societies has always interested me. That's probably why I chose to study social anthropology for my post graduate degree, and why I have spent more than a decade living abroad. Although the ways in which people think, interact and generally live their lives are mostly fascinating in a positive sense it's not always that way.

The plain truth is I struggle in a big way with hatred, any kind of -ism, ignorance, malice and anything else that fuels misery an...

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How Candy Crush Saga can boost your resume!

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Tuesday, August 20, 2013, In : Observations on life 
If you've never heard of the time sucking blight that is known as Candy Crush be thankful. If you are curious then a simple Google search will throw up gazillions of hilarious accounts relating how it has taken over innocent lives. But it's not all bad, is it?

Ever the optimist I thought it was time someone looked at all the positive things us addicts can glean from those hours spent matching candies and revelling in the sexy voice that tells us we are both sweet and divine!.

In a nutshell then...

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A quick hello from the UK

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Thursday, July 4, 2013, In : Travel tales 
I snagged a really cheap upgrade to business class on KLM, which meant I could sleep for most of the loooong flight from Seoul to Amsterdam. Hoping for a free upgrade on the return leg!

Still overwhelmed by supermarkets and typing on an iPad, but I will get used to it ...

Hard to believe I have been here nearly three weeks already! Had a fab week chilling in the most beautiful part of England Teesdale. Inspired to get things into place for my next project, a writing centre/retreat. Now for the ...
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50 fabulous things about me!

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Tuesday, June 4, 2013, In : A day in my life 
So in my current time zone I am just a few hours away from hitting 50. Yep, the BIG 5 -0, another milestone perhaps, and definitely another day to be thankful for the joys of ageing.

I thought about writing a post along the lines of '50 means freedom to say and do what you like', but that isn't anything new for me! I don't believe we need to acquire labels to become the person we aspire to be. If they give you courage to make changes then fair enough - but otherwise I think it's better to just...

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Driving in Korea - the honeymoon is over!

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Sunday, April 21, 2013, In : South Korea 
If you love the thrills and spills offered by amusement parks then driving in Korea is for you!

I've had my Matiz, (aka MiMi), for six months now, and for a good while I tootled around the country quite happily. Despite having heard so many horror stories about Korean drivers I didn't notice anything particularly concerning.

 Mimi all shiny and new looking.

I guess the rose tinted glasses had to crack at some point, and this month they did just that. I thought it would be fun to share some of th...
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The Authentic Teacher

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Thursday, February 28, 2013, In : EFL teaching in Asia 
I first came across the term 'authentic teacher' during my CELTA training, and it made sense on many levels. In fact I was so impressed that when I began training potential TESOL teachers here in South Korea I made sure to include it in the 'Top 10 teacher qualities' list. 

I'm writing about this now because the first week of the new semester has just come to an end at my university. Along with some new teachers we have 3000 freshmen wandering the corridors looking for classrooms - anxious to ...

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Help raise funds for Korean kids in need

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Saturday, February 16, 2013, In : South Korea 
An appeal from John Worth.

 

What will it take to put a smile on these kids' faces? Just one word ... 'you'!

 
The classroom areas at the JangHeung Area Children's Center, located in JangHeung Eup of JangHeung County, Jeollanamdo serve 61 children from one of the 5 poorest counties in Korea. Currently we have 3 classrooms at our center. 2 are one-room classroom buildings.                                                                                                                               ...

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Ahoy mateys: Q & A session on 14 day freighter ship voyage

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Monday, February 11, 2013, In : Travel tales 

I've just about got my 'land legs' back so it's time to answer all the questions I've had about my two week freighter/container ship journey from Oakland, (San Francisco) to Busan, South Korea. 


Ship info:  




I sailed on the container ship Hanjin Brussels. Built in 2000 she's 278m long, 40m wide and simply huge when fully laden with 5000+ units! (It hurt my neck to look up at her when in dock!) Owned by NSB and leased to Hanjin shipping she runs under a German flag. This really only matters in t...
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The joys of planning a freighter ship travel adventure!

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Sunday, December 16, 2012, In : Travel tales 
Faced with the weighty decision of what to do with my ten week winter holiday I dithered. I'm always torn between wanting to go back to the countries I love, and the thirst to try some place new. So I make lists:

List 1 - Countries I have been to/lived in and loved
 
Japan - close but too cold/expensive
Cambodia - close, warm, have contacts there
Sri Lanka - close, warm, but was just there last January

The USA (California) - lots of good friends there, great weather, shopping heaven but a long way

L...

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Jigsaws, Christmas giving and a lesson in life

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Saturday, December 8, 2012, In : South Korea 
 This jigsaw is driving me crazy! Not only does it have thousands of pieces but the pattern is so intricate that it's hard to know how to tackle it. Once the edges were in place, I tired to tackle the sky (which you can't see here.) Needless to say I didn't get very far.

So today I pulled up a chair and tried a different approach. I went for detail, staring carefully at the big picture for clues as to where each fragment of a person fit in. This proved to be much more successful of course, One...

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Trains, toilets and self publishing seminars: a Saturday in Korea

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Saturday, December 1, 2012, In : A day in my life 
I was so excited about the seminar I booked myself onto via 'Self Publishers in Asia', (SPIA, find them on Facebook), that I woke up before the alarm this morning! On the rare occasions that I find myself getting up earlier on a weekend day than a work one it usually feels so very wrong. Not today!

To be fair I was also allowing myself lots of time to drive to the local KTX station and secure a ticket to Daejeon - a city about 20 minutes away on a train that goes so fast your ears pop! Althoug...

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Inside my apartment

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Wednesday, November 14, 2012, In : EFL teaching in Asia 
Here are a few pictures of the inside of my apartment. I live in faculty housing belonging to the university, and it's set at the edges of the school grounds.
 
 My pretty building with ivy growing over my bedroom window, (just behind the tree.)

It's a one bedroom - and I'm forever grateful I no longer have to fall to sleep listening to the hum of my fridge!

 My magnet and recipe collection.

The fridge in its natural environment - a kitchen!


 I changed the living room around... here's the new look...
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Driving in South Korea

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Wednesday, October 3, 2012, In : South Korea 
After one semester living just a little bit too far from the subway I have taken the plunge and bought a car!

Here's a picture of MiMi. She's named after my favourite expat pooch



Here's my take on the experience so far.

Getting the licence

As a full UK licence holder this was easy peasy. I just popped down to the local 'Driver Vehicle Centre' and less than an hour later I had swopped my 2 part paper/ID card set for a rather ugly card only Korean licence. For some bizarre reason this place is in t...

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Semester 2: teaching at a university in South Korea

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Wednesday, September 12, 2012, In : EFL teaching in Asia 
After a blissfully long nine week holiday back in the UK I'm back into a work routine here at my university job in South Korea. It seems like a good time to post a little about the job, and show everyone what a beautiful campus I get to see every day.

My title: EFL Instructor

Location: Seoul is about 30 minutes from the closest mainline train station. (Getting there takes 20-30 minutes by shuttle bus)

Job conditions: 4 day work week. 2 x 16 week semesters (which means 5 months off a year!) Basic...

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Blind date expose: now available in paper form

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Tuesday, July 31, 2012, In : Being a writer 
It's nearly a year since I set up this website/blog and finally got serious about my dream to be a 'real' writer, whatever that really means! Since then I've had several travel articles published, and been paid for them! Not that getting rich is a major incentive - I just want people to enjoy my work.

A few months ago I launched my first non fiction book: 'Picky, Sticky, or Just Plain Icky?': an expose of one Korean woman's blind dating adventures. Writing about real life people and their adve...
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50 Shades of (Insipid) Grey

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Monday, July 16, 2012, In : Books 
Or '50 Shades of Crap'!

I don't usually stray into the fiction book review arena, but I feel compelled to make an exception for this super hyped/hot topic of conversation.

During the four weeks I have been home in the UK it's been impossible to ignore the craze that is 50 shades. From breakfast TV & tabloid spreads, to overheard conversations in pubs, the nation has become obsessed with erotica/Mommy porn served up on the shelves of supermarkets/via e-readers. 

As most people I know have bought ...
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Breaking out of my comfort zone:driving in the UK after 12 years!

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Wednesday, July 4, 2012, In : Being an expat 
Making sudden decisions is something I'm well known for, and explains why I was living in Asia just a few weeks after see-ing the ad. for the first time! I like the gung-ho approach, which is why I have done some pretty major things with absolutely no preparation or research. Until now.

A couple of weeks before I left Korea for the summer holidays I announced to friends that I was going to buy a car when I returned. Me - who is scared to cross the street on the green man - buy a car? Perhaps I...

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Holidaying at 'home'

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Saturday, June 16, 2012, In : Being an expat 
Well I've been pretty slack with updating this blog, website, Twitter etc. 8 weeks of sickness that started with a cold, progressed to bronchitis, and left me with a cracked rib from the violent coughing pretty much took over my life. I was beginning to think I'd not be well enough for my long haul flight, but some amazing herbal meds managed to do what five prescriptions from the doc had struggled with. I'm about 90% cured and very grateful for little things like lying down in bed!

Just after...

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Got an expat in Asia medical story to share?

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Tuesday, May 15, 2012, In : Being an expat 

Looking for expat medical stories.

Are you a foreigner who is a current (or former) expat in South Korea or Japan?

Got a medical/dental story you'd be willing to share?

If so I'd love to hear from you. I'm currently gathering material for my second book, which will be a collection of medical mishap stories from both countries.

* Your tale(s) can be funny, sad or outrageous.

* All contributions will be published either anonymously or with a pseudonym of your choice, unless you
  particularly wish t...


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An interview with Dina Porell: author of a new book on Egyptian culture

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Monday, May 7, 2012, In : Books 

When I heard that my favourite local author friend was releasing a new book I just had to grab an interview with her. Read on to find out more about this unusual ex-pat cook and writer.
 
Dina, you are not the usual kind of expat English teacher I meet here. What brought you to South Korea?
I have a long story with Korea. A few years ago I used to watch Korean drama on Egyptian TV. Korean dramas are very popular in Egypt. Anyway in 2008 I won the bronze prize of the first international Dokdo ess...


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Korea is making me sick, literally!

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Friday, May 4, 2012, In : Being an expat 
*Do note that this article discusses bodily functions to a level of explicity you may be uncomfortable with*

I apologise in advance if this post reads like a bit of a rant, but I am truly not a happy bunny right now.

The clock just ticked over into day 16 of me being ill. What I thought was a common cold is actually bronchitis. It's quite severe and the doc is concerned it may well be heading for pneumonia.

As I've not had this problem before I've been wiling away the hours I cannot sleep doing...
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Korean university students and EFL: challenges

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Sunday, April 29, 2012, In : EFL teaching in Asia 

In the South Korean education system there is intense pressure for students to achieve. From around 4th grade in elementary school a child's learning future may well be mapped out. Competition to get into the 'best' middle or high school is intense, and by age fifteen a large percentage of Korean kids will have spent about two thirds (or more) of their waking hours working towards this goal.

82% of high school graduates will enter university, (source: Glutted with graduates), their final desti...


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A question for authors

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Tuesday, April 24, 2012, In : Being a writer 

Publishing my first non fiction book a couple of months ago was a wonderful moment in my writing life.I believed in the story I was sharing, felt totally committed to the project and didn't have a moments doubt that this was going to be a great read.

That it is still selling steadily thrills me. I feel like a proud mother. I want to do it again but I'm having problems.

Even with several exciting options at various stages of development I can't seem to pull anything together. It makes me feel li...


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Writing notes for future blog posts

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Sunday, April 15, 2012, In : Being a writer 
Are you the kind of writer who never leaves the house without pen and notebook?
I definitely am. Unfortunately my compulsion to be ever prepared for literary inspiration doesn't always have a positive outcome. I've no problem with making notes. It's making sense of them afterwards that causes me problems!

An example
During my recent travels to Sri lanka I filled an entire small jotter with mysterious scribblings that make absolutely no sense to me now. Perhaps I thought that phrases such as :
    ...

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Cooking at home in South Korea

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Sunday, April 8, 2012, In : Being an expat 

I don't eat out very often here in South Korea, for various reasons.

  • My limited language makes it too much of a lottery. Point and smile only goes so far!
  • Most restaurants serve food in portions intended for 2+ people, which is fair enough as few people here would go out to eat alone.
  • Lots of the food is high in salt or pickled.


When I get together with friends I enjoy good BBQ meat, lamb or fried chicken, but most days I fend for myself.

Because I live in a fairly rural area I have ...


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Sri Lanka phase 2: from Colombo to Habarana

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Monday, April 2, 2012, In : Travel tales 

Having spent the first two days of the trip at the aptly named Paradise Hotel in Colombo, Jane and I reluctantly packed our bags for phase 2. We were to meet our driver and set off on the long journey to Habarana, complete with hangovers from the Arrack cocktails of the night before!

Needless to say, much of that journey passed in a blur. We were blessed with a great driver of course, and a comfy ride.

The famed 'cultural triangle' area was really more about my friend than myself. Being plagued...


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Shouting dictation

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Thursday, March 22, 2012, In : Teaching tips & resources 
Here we go again

It's a new semester and I am once again facing the task of engaging overwhelmed freshman students. The best way to convince them that language learning can be fun is to make part of each lesson interactive. I love see-ing them get into a task and completely forget that they are in that dreaded compulsory English class, even if only for a few minutes.

Time to be noisy

Next week I'm rolling out the first of my madcap activities. The wonderful 'shouting dictation' exercise. It take...
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Negombo: my absolute favourite place in Sri Lanka

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Sunday, March 18, 2012, In : Travel tales 

If you asked me to name the area of Sri Lanka I enjoyed the most I could only answer Negombo. Don't get me wrong, I loved most other places too and all for different reasons, but Negombo still ranks as the best. Why?

Maybe it's because this was the first stop on a whirlwind tour of the country? It was brilliant to catch up with my good friend (who flew in from the UK), and to do it at the aptly named Paradise Beach Hotel
.  The view from our balcony.

Or perhaps it was the daily cawing and swoopi...

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Language barriers

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Sunday, March 18, 2012, In : Being an expat 

How important is it that you can speak the language of the country you choose to live in?

When I first moved to Asia it never entered my head to learn Japanese. Trying to navigate a new culture, job and way of life consumed me, plus my school had a very strict 'English only' policy. I made friends with other English speakers, both foreign and Japanese and got by well enough.

A couple of years passed and my interest grew. Learnng to read katakana and hiragana made a major difference, and sparked...


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My book is now available!

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Monday, March 5, 2012, In : Being a writer 
Here it is! Well the cover anyhow! If you're chomping at the bit to know more, and I hope you are - you can check out the book page at Smashwords. (20% of the book can be downloaded free.)

In a nutshell it's a non fiction account of a South Korean woman's quest for love and marriage via blind dates: a pastime she claims is one of her hobbies - beats stamp collecting for sure!)

Despite having heard the taped interviews and read the transcripts a thousand times I still find myself touched by her ...

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Train spotting in Sri Lanka

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Sunday, March 4, 2012, In : Travel tales 
I I am a closet train spotter. In fact I love trains so much I once thought seriously about applying to be a driver - until I realised that my lack of maths ability ruled me out of the process.

Still, I get to enjoy them as a passenger, something I do at every available opportunity.

In Japan I fell in love with the sleek, high tech Shinkansen (bullet train). There's something about those cute noses that melts my heart! Here in Korea the KTX has a similar effect, but I'm not all about the swish ...
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My bittersweet love affair with Japan

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Saturday, February 25, 2012, In : Japan stories 

Japan was my first overseas living experience.

The relationship started as an experiemental kind of affair. A 'let's try it out and see where it goes' kind of thing. Being cautious seemed the best approach considering we hardly knew each other at all.

The first year flew by, buoyed by that overwhelming rush of happiness hormones and us both being on our best behaviour. More time passed and real life crept in, but still things were generally fabulous. When it came time to renew my commitment th...


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A taste of Egypt

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Saturday, February 25, 2012, In : Books 
Living in a foreign culture has both good and bad points, but sometimes you get to experience a double dose of good luck along the way. That was definitely the case for me when I moved to Asan, South Korea and met my dear friend Dina Porell.

Not only is she a kind, sweet and generally lovely person, she also happens to be a top notch cook. Dina hails from Egypt, and all the foreigners here were thrilled when she started making & selling yummy food from her home country.

One day I suggested tha...
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From riches to rags in Malaysia

Posted by Valerie Hamer on Thursday, February 23, 2012, In : Travel tales 
This magnificent bed is so high you have to climb a step to get in. It's also so big that even when I made snow angel shapes on it I couldn't reach the sides! Plus the pillows are the most amazing I ever slept on, truly heavenly.

Along with the royal bed my chalet in Cyberview Resort in Cyberjaya, Kuala Lumpar had a massive TV, desk, sofa, kitchen and a mini bar-fridge full of things I actually recognised.

I chose this spa resort as a splurge to transition from South Korea to my longer holiday...
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The real cost of 'budget' airfares

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Saturday, January 28, 2012, In : Travel tales 
Despite having a fair amount of dosh saved up in my escape fund' I am always up for a bargain. Looking around for flights from Seoul to Sri Lanka my first port of call was one of those airfare aggregator sites. I expected everything to be pretty pricy and I was right.

A major drawback to living in a non popular tourist destination is the sheer lack of cheap flights in and out of the place. Not to be beaten I navigated over to Air Asia's website. I'd heard several people boasting about their ma...
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Money, maths and mental arithmetic

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Wednesday, January 25, 2012, In : Being an expat 

Living with a numeric version of dyslexia can be stressful, and I usually try to avoid any form of calculating numbers unless I have pen, paper and lots of time to work things out. Despite this (sensible) approach I still seem to tie my brain up in knots when it comes to travel time.

Trying to figure out how much something costs often goes something like this:

"So this sandwich is 300 yen and that's about $3 so it is 3000 won, but the exchange rate is bad these days so it's really about 4500 wo...


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Paid Forum Posting: How I got my writing start

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Sunday, January 15, 2012, In : Being a writer 

I’ve always been passionate about writing so making the decision to pursue this career path was easy. Actually making headway was to prove rather more difficult.

The first hurdle I came up against was the ‘no experience – no work’ conundrum. As an aspiring writer I was constantly thwarted by requests for clips, article links or any kind of proof that someone else had judged my work worthy of payment.

Looking around the web I figured I could start a blog, or submit unpaid articles t...


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Gone bananas! An easy EFL/ESL speaking game

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Tuesday, January 10, 2012, In : Teaching tips & resources 

Many of my university students here in South Korea have a decent working knowledge of the English language, and they definitely tend to find grammar, reading and writing easier/more attractive than speaking.

This simple game really helps them to overcome this reluctance to communicate verbally.

How to play 'Gone Bananas'

  • Elicit adjectives/general information about bananas. You may need to prompt them on colour/where they are from/size/shape/taste etc. Transform ideas into simple sentences e....


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Comfort food: Girl Scout Cookies

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Sunday, January 8, 2012, In : Being an expat 

Sometimes I have to remind my university EFL students that even native English speakers sometimes fail to truly understand each other. This usually relates to pronunciation or vocabulary differences, but not always. Sometimes the biggest chasm between us are cultural rituals.

Let's take food as an example
.

A few days ago a teacher in the foreign community here posted an offer of Girl Scout Cookies on our 'net message board. Within minutes she had dozens of replies, ranging in tone from joyous t...


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Make promises not resolutions

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Saturday, December 31, 2011, In : Observations on life 
So it's December 31st here in South Korea and I'm gearing up for a couple of parties and the inevitable discussion of New Year resolutions. This is one of the few topics of conversation that will cause me to instantly glaze over - a safer course of action than getting into a debate/argument.

My problem isn't with the practice but the theory. Let's start with the word itself. According to thefreedictionary.com 'resolution' can mean:

1. The state or quality of being resolute; firm determinatio...

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Seven things most people don't know about me

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Wednesday, December 28, 2011, In : Observations on life 
The other day a friend here told me she really wants to be famous. She meant it in a "I have a blog/site that people read and bookmark" kind of way, rather than being so sought after that you can't leave the house without make up on.

I'd quite like to be famous too, in an anonymous kind of way. (I had a brief taste of the other kind a long time ago, definitely not my thing.)

So, just in case I am ever 'discovered' as a blogging genius it seems fitting to record some interesting facts about my...
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A day in my life: the hospital visit

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Friday, December 23, 2011, In : A day in my life 
Last month something weird happened to me - I got a really bad cold! I rarely seem to catch anything bad enough to make me want to stay home, but this was a stinker. Everytime I coughed - think five minute intervals except in the night when it happened every  two minutes - I had the most excruciating pain around my ribs on the left side.

As usual I ignored this, and it did get better. Then a week ago the cough/pain returned and I have limped through the week alternating between a 'woe is me' ...
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Identity theft, privacy and EFL job applications

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Saturday, December 10, 2011, In : EFL teaching in Asia 
Since the job hunting season kicked off for me a few months ago there's been something niggling at my mind.

Why do I have to share so much of my personal information, documents and life history? (And worse, what happens to this paperwork if my application is unsuccessful?)

Most job adverts in South Korea require teachers to send much more than a resume to register interest in a post. It's actually pretty standard to be asked for some or even all of the following:
  • resume
  • photographs
  • reference lett...

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Being sick in South Korea

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Thursday, December 8, 2011, In : South Korea 

Although I rarely get homesick the one thing that makes me long to curl up on a comfy sofa and veg out on daytime TV is when I get sick! In this fantasy scenario there are willing people on call to replenish my snacks/drinks and basically be my servant as I feel sorry for myself.

It's just not the same when you're sweating it out alone, grateful if you have a friend living close enough to pop by with a few essentials. (Try getting to the shop for toilet paper and water when you feel close to...


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EFL job seeking and product placement theory

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Sunday, December 4, 2011, In : Being an expat 
It's that time of year when a lot of EFL teachers here in South Korea are looking for something new. So far I haven't applied for very many jobs, largely because I don't want to stay around to do something that ignites no major passion for the new location/conditions/opportunities.

Last night I had an insightful conversation with a good friend. We discussed opportunities in other countries, and the kind of qualifications needed for each. Pretty soon I noticed there is some similarity between j...
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Group dates - Japanese style

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Friday, December 2, 2011, In : Japan stories 

Recently a lot of my time and mental energy has been spent wrestling with my new nonfiction book in progress. In a nutshell it tells the story of a South Korean woman who has got to be the most prolific 'blind dater' I've ever heard of!

I've never been into meeting potential romantic partners this way, perhaps because it's just not something that people do that much in the UK. Or at least they didn't. Since I left in 2000 Internet dating has blossomed, and changed the way people make connect...


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Life after NaNoWriMo

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Wednesday, November 30, 2011, In : Being a writer 
Well it's the end of November and I managed to scrape together the 50,000 words needed to get the coveted 'NaNoWriMo Winner' icon.

I am so NOT a fiction writer, and I swore after last year I wouldn't do it again. I'm still not entirely sure why I did, perhaps it's got something to do with my masochistic tendencies? Now it's done and dusted I'm deternined to remind myself that as wonderful as this experience is it isn't really the best use of my time.

Still, after a few weeks away from the man...
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Saying goodbye

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Wednesday, November 23, 2011, In : Being an expat 
You'd think that after eleven years I'd be used to the transient nature of my lifestyle. Wrong!

Although my philosophy is more about enjoying the friendships I make 'in the moment' it doesn't get any easier to let them go. Sure you can stay in touch, and I do. Facebook, E.mail, Skype and even good old fashioned letters are great ways to maintain relationships when distance becomes an issue.

Heck, there's also the chance to scoot around the world catching up with folk in their own environment: t...
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Cowboy picture

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Wednesday, November 16, 2011, In : Photographs 
This is what I call 'ripped'!

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Things that make me happy

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Sunday, November 13, 2011, In : Photographs 

This picture was drawn by a student at the middle school I worked in a couple of years ago. You can see I had short hair at that time!

Yum. Fixings for dinner: sweet potato, Australian steak and broccoli.

A book and wine = the perfect evening.

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11.11.11. means it's Super Pepero Day in South Korea

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Friday, November 11, 2011, In : South Korea 
One thing that South Korean shopkeepers have down pat is the ability to part folk from their hard earned cash! There seems to be some kind of unofficial 'holiday' most months, which means that apart from the standard excuses to spend on Christmas, Halloween or Valentine's candy you have treasures such as 'Pepero Day'.

Pepero is basically a cookie stick dipped in chocolate. These days there are endless variations, but what really matter is the shape, which is kind of like the number '1' . So ho...
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Out and about in the place where I live

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Wednesday, November 9, 2011, In : South Korea 
The weather is unseasonally warm for November in South Korea. Not that I'm complaining. I don't 'do' winter! The other day I took my clunky old digital camera out for a spin. These pics chart my walk to work.

After coming down from the mountain where we live and risking life and limb crossing the street there's a reward. I get to walk by this lake, and sometimes even see some wildlife. It used to be a fishing area - the green thing in the background is a line of seats meant for that purpose.

...
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Linda A. Janssen: 'Turning Points' Virtual Book Tour

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Tuesday, November 8, 2011, In : Books 

Twitter Unites Across the Great Divide

by Linda A. Janssen

 

Many thanks to Valerie here at Faraway Hammer for hosting me today on my virtual book tour. I haven't traveled to Korea physically yet, so this will have to suffice until I eventually do.

The book that I contributed to, Turning Points: 25 Inspiring Stories From Women Entrepreneurs Who Have Turned Their Careers and Their Lives Around (edited and co-authored by business and executive coach Kate Cobb and published by Jo Parfitt of ...


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An ultra simple game - Concentration

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Monday, November 7, 2011, In : Teaching tips & resources 
From time to time I like to post a simple yet effective activity that I use in my EFL classroom.

I've played Concentration with all age groups, often in the traditional way - matching cards face down, with a student choosing any two and trying to make a pair.

A while ago I adapted it to work as a team game. After several experiments I have got it down to a fine art, which I'm happy to share with you now.

Materials
8-10 words (that they have learned)
16 - 20 Post-It notes
A whiteboard (or any board...
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The perils of shopping in a foreign country

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Tuesday, November 1, 2011, In : Being an expat 
Last week my hands developed a really horrible reaction to something. The skin was ultra wrinkled, felt very tight and had lots of little white bumps on it. I'd only just bought a massive bottle of body lotion - and suspected that was the culprit.

My hands had only itched since I opened it, and all in all it seemed to be a crap product; kind of sticky and greasy. I wouldn't care but it wasn't even  cheap - no deals and discount toiletry shops here! This morning the frugal part of me gave it a...
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The 'yoboseyo' game

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Monday, October 31, 2011, In : South Korea 
I never really thought about how I answer the phone before I came to live in Asia. I'm used to people answering a personal call with 'hello', 'wassup', the actual telephone number or their name. (The last one throws me a little, but all are fine, right?) So it was interesting to realise that some languages have a special phrase reserved for this occasion.

In Japan it was 'mushi mushi'. Oh how we laughed at the TV video footage of a foreign star's bodyguard using this to attract the attention ...
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A blog post a day keeps the writer's block away?

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Wednesday, October 26, 2011, In : Personal development 
The mission: inspired by by my Naked Without Books blogger friend, who just finished a Readathon and blogged about it each hour, I am aiming for a post a day. This should get me into the November challenge nice and easily, I need to motivate myself and recording daily achievements feels like a good way to start. (I'm probably going to just add to this post from now until November 1st, to avoid clutter!)

Wednesday October 26th

Achievements
  • Nice walk in the sunshine
  • Managed to not see too muc...

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Introducing the November challenge

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Wednesday, October 26, 2011, In : Personal development 
Ha! Last week I was bragging to friends here about how easy the upcoming week would be. Mid term exam time at work means once you've actually produced and photocopied the exam papers the hard work is over. Show up, walk menancingly up and down the aisles while students scribble furiously, go home. An hour a day for four days, how easy is that?

I had major plans for all this free time. Post here daily, decide on my winter vacation, kick start a new routine that would squeeze the life out of eve...
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Websites and blogs that add value to my life

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Wednesday, October 19, 2011, In : Being a writer 
I can't imagine life without the Internet. It's like being invited to the biggest buffet you ever saw, then having to make choices between the healthy, indulgent and plain old junk food on offer!

These days I try to focus on making quality choices, because after checking Facebook, Twitter, two email accounts and Google Analytics I'm nearly full. I do allow myself dessert three times a week though, in the form of the wonderful UK soap 'Coronation Street'.

When I find a site that's special I book...
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Reaching new Hites!

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Tuesday, October 18, 2011, In : South Korea 
What Hite means to me, why I am posing next to a major star, and how much I love The Yeogiyo.com will all be revealed very soon!

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My first ever guest blog

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Wednesday, October 12, 2011, In : Books 

Since I started this site and got into Twitter I've become much more aware of the 'guest blog' concept. It's introduced me to wonderful writers who I may never have heard about otherwise, and that's always a good thing.

One night over chicken and beer I shared a story from my youth. My good friend Susan Bybee suggested this would make the perfect topic for a guest spot of my very own on her wonderful book blog site. An honour indeed.

See-ing it go up on Blogger was a real thrill, and I'm bound...


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Laura Ingalls - get out of my head!

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Wednesday, October 12, 2011, In : Books 
Last week a very good friend of mine kindly lent me the entire series of the 'Little House' books. I grew up with the TV series and it's no secret that I spent my tween years wishing I'd been called Melissa and lived on a prairie with Michael Landon. Somehow the books had escaped me, rather like the opportunity to take a 'Nasty Nellie' tour of Hollywood when I was there a couple of years ago. At least now one of these failings could be easily remedied.

Being so busy right now means I mostly sa...
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From matchbox to shoebox - South Korean apartments

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Monday, October 10, 2011, In : South Korea 
My addiction to moving house is a bit of a joke amongst my friends. In the eleven years I've been in Asia I have changed addresses about 13 times, which I don't think is so bad really. I would say it's weirder that I once only shifted to the place right next door. Then again I did have three three different apartments within the same post (zip) code in Tokyo. That confused the postman no end!

Several times these moves were related to work, but if I am really honest I kind of like the whole exp...
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Private students, Japan and toilet troubles

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Sunday, October 9, 2011, In : Japan stories 
One of the major benefits of teaching in Japan is that you are pretty much free to take on private students. In my first year I taught child psychology, my students being a couple of dance instructors who were taking some kind of exam. It was a lot of fun and a nice change from language classes.

It was a few years before I took on another job. Like so many good opportunities this one came from someone I knew. It was a nice little number, tutoring a doctor's wife and paying $100 for 90 minutes ...
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Korean weddings

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Sunday, October 9, 2011, In : South Korea 
Last year the moment I had been waiting for like forever finally arrived. I was invited to a Korean wedding! Having heard tales of ultra tacky decor - including disco balls, men in shiny suits and a rush for the buffet that would shame charging buffalos who wouldn't be? My offers to be the plus one at any such Disneyesque event friend's were due to attend had come to nothing. But fear not, now I'd have my own tales to tell of smoke machines, cheesy home videos and paparazzi style photography....
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Treasure hunt game

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Monday, October 3, 2011, In : Teaching tips & resources 
This is a twist on the traditional treasure hunt idea. It works well with all ages from elementary school to university students. The only core requirement is that it's safe for them to go outside unsupervised.

Before class
Walk around the area outside the school and make notes on what you can see. Turn these into the clues

Setting up
- Arrange them into groups of 4 - 5 (each group must have access to ONE cell phone with a working camera)
- Explain and check rules
- Distribute checklist, go over ...

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Types of university jobs in South Korea

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Sunday, October 2, 2011, In : EFL teaching in Asia 
In a previous post I gave a basic outline of my job at a South Korean university, a position ranking around halfway on the scale, which runs from 'fabulous' through to 'only if you're desperate'. There are better options out there, and a whole lot worse too! Of course no job is perfect, but what you bring to the table is likely to seriously influence offers. So even if you have to start somewhere close to the bottom there are plenty of opportunities to move up the ladder with experience.

I sho...
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Teaching English at a Korean university

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Saturday, October 1, 2011, In : South Korea 
The other day I came across a link to an article published by a British newspaper, way back in 2004. I reposted it to Facebook where it's been attracting quite a lot of commentary and discussion. The crux of the piece was all about how soul destroying and career killing EFL teaching is. The picture painted was of a whole load of inadequates and drop outs, living in poverty but unable to do anything much about it.

I appreciate that teaching English is, in many countries, an underpaid and under ...
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National coffee day: a look at some Japanese cafes

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Friday, September 30, 2011, In : Japan stories 
I've spent most of September 30th - today - thinking it was National Coffee Day. Such was my excitement at celebrating the drink of the Gods I even posted this news as my Facebook status, and have been hearing from coffee lovers and haters the world over as a result. It didn't even matter that the all important 'Inter' prefix was missing from the title. If I can talk, think or drink coffee I will!

I daydreamed through my short commute to work, mentally planning the article I've been meaning t...
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Busan Dog Cafe

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Friday, September 23, 2011, In : South Korea 
Browsing through my Facebook photographs today, I came across some pics taken last year when I lived in lovely Busan. One of the things I love about South Korea is the randomness of life here. Things like a dog cafe tickle me and I had to check it out.

In case you're about to close the page - hold on! This post isn't about a restaurant which features our furry friends on the menu, although they do exist. Rather it's a haven for dog owners and lovers alike to meet and play with the cute four le...
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Coronation Street - a little piece of home

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Thursday, September 22, 2011, In : Being an expat 
I'm not much of a TV person. When I lived in the UK I went for years between owning a set. (Something which was so alien to the authorities I regularly got letters asking me if I was sure I didn't need a TV licence!) Nothing much has changed. I've had the odd apartment which provided one - resulting in an addiction to out of order episodes of America's next Top Model and various other US shows - but for the past six months I've been living without one again.

Most of the time that's not much o...
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Massage chair nightmare in Tokyo bath house!

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Tuesday, September 20, 2011, In : Japan stories 
I think it was the summer of 2005 that I had a very close brush with death! For some bizarre reason I'd chosen to do the independent research project required for my M.A. studies on the Japanese sento, (local bath house). A perfectly legitimate and enjoyable topic, but August was never going to be the best month to be sweltering in a hot bath once a day.

For those who are unfamiliar with the sento, here's a little insight. Basically they are neighbourhood based buildings, fairly plain and fun...
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Engrade: a great resource for EFL teachers

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Tuesday, September 20, 2011, In : Teaching tips & resources 
I'm forever grateful to Becka Barker for telling me about the website Engrade. I used it for the first time last semester, with my university students and it was a great success.

What is Engrade?
In a nutshell it's a (free) online system set up to record student's grades. There are also several addiitonal feaures which allow you to make online quizzes, record attendance, keep notes on the class and communicate with those registered..

Why is it useful?
When Becka first mentioned Engrade she talke...
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Will it be Spam? Why I love Korean Thanksgiving

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Saturday, September 17, 2011, In : Being an expat 


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Books - the ultimate expat's accessory

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Wednesday, September 14, 2011, In : Being an expat 
One of my most memorable Facebook status updates: 'Is it rude to turn the page when the stranger reading over your shoulder hasn't finished yet?'

The dialogue this attracted was amusing and insightful. Some liked the idea of encouraging reading in any way, shape or form. Others claimed they would stomp on the offfender's foot and bring an end to this literary voyeurism. Inevitably it led to debate over the lack of personal and private space for visible foreigners in South Korea.

Regardless, boo...
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5 simple ways to engage your EFL students

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Tuesday, September 13, 2011, In : Teaching tips & resources 
In the eleven years I've been involved in English language education in Asia I've met many wonderful and hard working teachers. Despite being committed to the classroom and their student's learning, they often struggle with a room of apathetic, silent or plain disinterested faces.

Why is this so often the case?

To a large extent this stems from the role of English in South Korean society and schools. It's almost an evil necessity, and is often seen as such. Regular classes focus on grammar and ...
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The most essential EFL teaching aid - and it's free!

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Monday, September 12, 2011, In : Teaching tips & resources 
Whether you are a new teacher or have many years experience in the classroom, there's one simple teaching aid which we can all use to our advantage. Our face!

Teaching English as a foreign language generally means you will be communicating with learners whose ability ranges from zero to fluent. (Hopefully not all in one class, but it's been known!) You can (and should) prepare lessons, write objectives, gather wonderful materials and follow every teaching tip to motivate and reward learning. B...
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Drinking parties at Korean convenience stores

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Tuesday, September 6, 2011, In : Being an expat 
There are over 10.000 convenience stores in South Korea. I love the concept of 24 hour access to  everything from chocolate to dress shirts, beer to band aids. Some are huge and others so tiny you can't pass someone in the aisle, but the very best are those with plastic table and chair sets outside.

Alcohol plays a central role in Korean culture. (An excellent blog post with essential reading on this topic can be found at Korea Connection.) With no restrictions on open air indulgence the scene...
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Getting by without language

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Monday, September 5, 2011, In : Being an expat 


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Activities which motivate EFL students

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Monday, September 5, 2011, In : Teaching tips & resources 
I've been teaching English as a Foreign language on and off for eleven years, and one of the most challenging aspects is actually getting students to engage with learning tasks. While young learners may lack concentration they often have enthusiasm to make up for it. Teenagers, on the other hand may leave you struggling to find any positive adjective to describe those painfully quiet classes!

It doesn't have to be that way though. Here are two ideas for classroom activities I have adapted or i...
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Noise! Japan 1: the washing machine man!

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Sunday, September 4, 2011, In : Being an expat 
Am I noise sensitive? Maybe. Was I afflicted with this condition before I moved to Asia? Perhaps, or at least I could have had a latent tendency to be driven stark raving bonkers by it! Having spent most of my adult life living on main roads I can honestly say traffic noise doesn't bother me. Rumbling trucks are soothing somehow. I've also had neighbours in the UK who inadvertently shared more of their personal lives than they would have wanted to. I could tune that kind of noise out.

But Asia...
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Friends: memories of a Tokyo moment (or two)

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Friday, September 2, 2011, In : Being an expat 


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The quest for bread!

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Thursday, September 1, 2011, In : Being an expat 
I like bread! To be specific I like bread with bits in it. I also like cheese, bacon, yogurt without sugar, cous cous, sardines, wholewheat pasta and ground coffee that doesn't cost $20 a packet. Trying to find any of these items in South Korea can be a major challenge!

When I lived in Tokyo there were international food stores in many areas, plus a fair sprinkling of things I recognised from home in smaller, more general stores. Vietnam and Cambodia also did impressively well with the range o...
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The power of words

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Tuesday, August 30, 2011, In : Being an expat 
Living in a foreign country where English is not the first or second language creates a pretty interesting situation. The meanings you took for granted can be challenged as English is used within an entirely different context. Some people call this Konglish (Korean/English mix). I call it creative genius!

Here are a few examples I've come across many times over.

  • Glamour: refers to well endowed women. Possibly to those with curves everywhere
  • Hip: here it means bum/bottom/ass. I have no idea what ...

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Questions which make me cringe

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Sunday, August 28, 2011, In : Being an expat 
Imagine you are lost in a new town and need to ask someone for directions. The choices are:

a) A woman with a small child
b) A couple who look like they're breaking up
c) Two young men who are loitering suspiciously
d) A business person walking fast towards the station

In this overly simplistic example you most probably chose option A. (If not I'd love to hear why!) To survive in the outside world we need to be able to size up situations in a nanosecond. We use appearance, body language and...
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Beijing Sideways!

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Thursday, August 25, 2011, In : Travel tales 
If you've never hurtled through a hulong, on a level with large dogs, baskets of food, local pedestrians and a whole lot more then you have no idea what you're missing! The day I got to experience see-ing a Chinese city whilst being inches from the ground and travelling at maximum speed limits counts as one of the very best moments of my life.

I've had a thing about motorbikes and sidecars since I was a kid. It could be because I grew up with that now classic British comedy 'On the Buses...
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Nonsense English

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Wednesday, August 24, 2011, In : Being an expat 
Some of the English words and phrases I see here in South Korea are kind of charming. You can appreciate the effort made, sometimes the end result is almost poetic. Others are bizarre, (think middle aged man jogging in a T-shirt with 'Foxy lady' on it). Plus there are a few which are entirely inappropriate, but I won't go into that here!

Here's one from a cafe in Gangnam, South Korea. Which category do you think it belongs to?



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Life long learning

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Wednesday, August 24, 2011, In : Observations on life 
There are many things I would miss if I quit this nomadic, temporary lifestyle tomorrow. One of them would be the opportunity to learn so much. It seems to me that most days offer a lesson, about life, self or society. Sometimes I wonder why I was blessed (or cursed) with this tendency (or gift) to think so much, to say what others would only think, to have a kind of hyper-sensitive connection to my environment. Mostly though I embrace it, because it is simply who I am,

The last few day...
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Music and memory

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Wednesday, August 24, 2011, In : Observations on life 
I don't think I'm an overly sentimental person, but there's something about music that gets me. The way it can transport you back to a moment, an event, a whole period of your life - it's kind of amazing.

Sometimes I get into annoying Facebook mode and post several YouTube videos of songs I grew up with. I don't elaborate very much on the memories that go with them, but this compulsion to offer insight into one aspect of teenage development persists.

Of course there may not be any tangible valu...
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What is an expat?

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Tuesday, August 23, 2011, In : Being an expat 
Although I have been using this term quite freely in my writing it isn't one that I'm entirely comfortable with. It's a technical word which I perceive as being broad and ambigious in some ways, and way too narrow in others. Out of curiosity I turned to the net for help.

The first dictionary definition Google supplied differentiates an expatriate from a refugee on the grounds of the former being a 'voluntary absence' from one's home country. Fair enough, though some may argue that their circum...
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So you want to write a novel?

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Monday, August 22, 2011, In : Being a writer 
I'm blessed to know so many creative people. This year I am working with a lot of writers, musicians, photographers and artists of all kinds, which makes for a very positive and achieving atmosphere. Talent and skill may be important, but personal fulfilment seems to be the overall driving force.

I suspect that for every practicing writer, expressing themselves through blogs, journals, books, emails or song writing, there's a dozen who suppress the urge. Most weeks I hear something along the l...
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Yikes, I need a social media assistant!

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Saturday, August 20, 2011, In : Being a writer 
I'm not the most tech savvy person walking this earth. A good example is the fact that I only just figured out I can change the size of the font in this little text manager box thingy! (This is my 5th or 6th blog post!) I'll be like a dog with a bone for a while now, messing with size and style. I may even start playing with colours... if I can find the icon.

A few weeks ago I was often wrestling with the website too. It's amazingly easy really, I know I appreciate not having to wrote code or ...
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Why do I have so much stuff?

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Saturday, August 20, 2011, In : Observations on life 

Confession time. I need to share a secret with you, something that I want to get out in the open because that may make me deal with it. I find it hard to let some things go.

It isn't a surprise that this applies to every aspect of my life. We tend to replicate our (genetically imprinted?) patterns in both an emotional and material sense. I'll look at the former point some other time, right now my mind is on things. Possessions which seem to own me in some way.

I have a bag of tights (panty hos...


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Clean your emotional filters

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Wednesday, August 17, 2011, In : Personal development 
The other day someone mentioned that their air conditioner had been playing up. All was well after the filters had been cleaned, an action recommended at the start of every hot season here in Asia.

This conversation made me think about our emotional filters. Crucial to making sense of everyday life they may be, but they too can get clogged and dusty just like an a/c. The trouble is that most of us rarely think to gently remove them from the framework of our lives and give them a spruce up.

Bein...
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Can we find our way home?

Posted by Valerie Ann Hamer on Monday, August 15, 2011, In : Being an expat 
Every year on June 26th I have some kind of celebration, to mark the date I first arrived in Asia. This used to take the form of a social gathering, generally an eclectic mix of long term, new and casual friends which I would hold in a local pub.

Then two years ago I made it a virtual party. This was partly because I had moved to the other end of the country and was working weekends, making a large get together nearly impossible. But more than that, so many of the people who I have known and l...
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About Me


Valerie Ann Hamer Global nomad, writer, teacher

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