Friday, September 28, 2007

Long overdue...

Hello, friends. I am trying to play catch up cause as you may have noticed I have been MIA for a bit. As part of my quest to reconnect to the world I have added captioned pictures to both my facebook and my shutterfly accounts (the shutterfly account is more thorough). However, more exciting than the day to day work life is my vacation: I just got back from my Chusok break trip to Jeju-do island. Jeju is a tropical island located off the southern tip of Korea. I went with a huge group of my coworkers (some of whom I knew well, others I barely knew). I'll share the "short" version of our itinerary below:

Our flight was not until mid-afternoon. But because Monday was the first day of Chusok break and people had been warning us that everything was going to be shut (and that tickets would be sold out) we left hours before we normally would to take the bus to the airport. In reality, there was no extra traffic. The result: us at the airport 5 1/2 hours early. That's a new record for me. See us bored below:

We finally made it do the island which was beautiful and took a long walk to a good dinner. After dinner we went to this, for lack of better word-- reserve, and saw a pretty waterfall. A nice way to end day 1.

Monday night we stayed at Nikole's married friends' apartment while the boys crashed with her friend Tim. I lucked out and got the couch that others were too tall for. Being short pays off sometimes.

Tuesday was Chusok (Korea's thanksgivinng equivalent). Most people visit their relatives and eat together. We on the other hand, played on the beach and walked around town. We saw these kids on the street and asked their parents if we could photograph their traditional clothes:

The majority of Tuesday was a beach day (made me SOO happy). We had perfect weather for beach football and swimming. We went on a sand beach by the fancy resorts (if only we had enough money to stay at the Hyatt!). Check out the view from the Hyatt:

In the afternoon we went banana boating. It was so much fun...reminded me of houseboat trips. Some of our people went parasailing too. Tuesday night four of us decided to skip the apartment life and sleep on the beach. We had a bonfire with a bunch of strangers from all around the world. Then we slept on the sand listening to the waves crash. It was all lovely minus the million and two bug bites I acquired. I am just too sweet tasting I guess. The beach we slept on:

We woke up Monday morning smelling like bonfire, sweat, bugspray, and beach. A shower was in high order. So we went to the Jimjilbang for a scrub down. For those unfamiliar with the term, jimjilbangs are basically saunas/spas where you soak/scrub/etc naked (single sex). At first it was really odd to hang out naked with all my coworkers. But everyone else is doing it and I got comfortable with it pretty fast. It's a little weird hanging out with a ton of old naked Korean ladies, but if they can flaunt their stuff, so can I.

The rest of Wednesday was filled with travelling to O-do island (a small island off the northeastern coast of Cheju-do). We took taxis to buses to a ferry... missed a ferry... finally made was worth the hassle. We basically hung out in a sweet pension right on the water and relaxed, played pool, played spoons, learned some Korean slapping game, and got to sleep in real beds.
Here's some of us waiting for the ferry:

Here is the pension we stayed in:

We hiked to the east side of the island to watch the sunrise. It was gorgeous!

Then I took a nap to recover from my 5:30 AM hike. Once we were all up and ready we rented scooters to check out the whole island. Let me tell you, I was one quality biker chick. I was not the smoothest starter or stopper (and by not smooth I mean incredibly jerky) but I had a lot of fun riding around. We checked out some cliffs that were impressive and had a blast. Then we took a ferry and bused it back down to Seogwipo (where we were staying the first two nights).

one of the views:

Once we got back, we did another group jimjilbang trip. My skin has never been smoother! Then Thursday night we went to a nice Italian place for dinner and enjoyed the views and company. That night we slept in a Korean hostel. It had private rooms and I got to sleep in a bed. Not the highest quality, but for 10,000 won a night I was completely satisfied.
Almost the entire group (missing Tim, Emily, and Nikole)

Friday (today):
We woke up this morning and spent a good three quarters of an hour at Dunkin' Donuts waiting for 3 coffees and 3 toasted bagels (who knew it took so long here!). Then we booked it over to a large Budhist temple. Well, first we took a detour in a cab to a tiny allyway with a mini budhist sanctuary upstairs in a building... we had a slight miscommunication with our driver. Alas, we eventually found the correct Budhist building. It was beautiful (sooo tropical!). The place had a waterfall and tropical plants everywhere. Not what I pictured a temple looking like. On a different note--I have never seen so many Buddhas in one place. The main temple had an upstairs with thousands of mini statues. There was also another building that housed hundreds of larger statues depicting the many human emotions. A view of the temple:

After numerous adventures and mishaps we got our stuff and made it back to the airport side of the island. We were determined to find a specific Indian restraunt before we left and wandered tiny roads until we found it. We must have looked like so ridiculous--- a dozen white people dragging luggage back and forth with maps and confused looks. Awesome. We were finally successful and made it back to the airport just in time.

All in all-- a good and incredibly random trip. Now, back to reality. SAD.

Monday, September 3, 2007


Warning: this blog is random and I am too lazy to organize it. If this were my student's paper I would tell him or her to focus on the trait of organization. Alas, it is not. And I am not SO nerdy that I cannot write a simple blog without considering all the six traits of writing. Haha. I need to get away from teaching for a bit.

First of all, I finally feel good. I didn't want to worry anyone, but last week I had the stomach flu on top of some infection that made my lymph nodes swell into giant marble-sized knots. I felt dizzy and nauseous and just plain lousy. However, at the end of last week I suddenly recovered. Nothing makes you appreciate health more than recovering from periods of sickness. It is fantastic to be able to move around without having fevers or fits of nausea. I feel back to my energetic self. Love it!

Secondly, I am feeling like my classes are really getting more comfortable. I definitely have moments where I realize I am a new teacher. But for the most part I have a lot of fun with my students. I am starting to get a little posse of kids who I have to kick out so I can get work done. I see me forcing students out instead of them fleeing as a good sign. This week is spirit week and it has been fun to dress up and get them excited about things. Today was pajamas day (a great excuse to wear comfy clothes). Tomorrow is copy cat day (and a group of us are dressing up like Korean teenagers... so fun. We bought these ridiculously long shirts with frilly bottoms and a giant dog print. We are going to layer these tank tops over tee shirts. We are also wearing heels with jeans, giant plastic hair bows, and massive hoop earrings. I don't understand fashion here. It's a fun bonding experience, though). Bad hair day on Wed is going to be a piece of cake. On the topic of aesthetics, my room feels more like a classroom too. The students have made bright posters that are all over. I like to joke that a rainbow threw up all over my walls.

Sarah visited this weekend and it was great to see someone from home. Even with bad weather (it finally switched to fall!), we had a great time. We got out of town for a day to go shopping with a bunch of people from my school. The school took two buses to Songtan (a big shopping area near an army base where everyone can speak English!). I ended up buying SO many decorations for my apartment. I came home with two lanterns and a custom ordered lamp. I also got two hand-made vases. Sarah and I also got a joint COSTCO membership this weekend. We said we were roommates... I guess we could be? I stayed in her apartment for almost a month!

Other: I am coaching elementary soccer right now and it is such a great stress relief. I love running around with the kids and they make me laugh. Last week my team had to pick a name. They went through all sorts of natural disasters and tried to blend them with the school color (gold)and the school mascot (dragon). My kids also got stuck on certain words (like disaster). The result? SOO many horrible choices: the Golden Earthquake Disaster Dragons, the Dragon Tornado Shooters, the Golden Disasters, the Hurricane Lightening Bolt Dragons... they really struggled to shorten names. Finally they stuck with Disaster of Doom... a name that makes little sense and probably does not exemplify the school's Christian values. We'll have to work on that. However it was pretty funny to watch them run up to one of the other elementary teams (the Ball Shooters) and shout out their scrimmage request: "The disaster of DOOOM, challenges YOUUUUUUUUUU. Do you accept?" They keep me laughing.

Another random aside: I am obsessed with aloe water. It is water that literally has bits of aloe floating in it. It's a little odd the first time, but it really moisturizes your skin and is great! So refreshing.

Yet another random bit: I am starting to sound like I'm from MN. My vowels are changing (I blame my coworker and constant distraction, Emily). I am also starting to pick up Canadian-isms (I have far too many people to blame here). I say "eh" a lot and some of my intonation has shifted. I'm going to come back from Korea sounding like some weird Minnesota-Canadian with a Korean accent. Why are I so susceptible to accents!?!

One final thought: the Korean TV stations like the randomest American shows (my viewing selections are highly limited): lots of CSI, never-ending showings of the Janice Dickenson's Agency show, the Biggest Loser, at least two-week-old E celebrity dish shows, and an occasional old episode of Gilmore Girls or So You Think You Can Dance. There are also a million and one horrible old action adventure movies that I never heard of in the states but are clearly American. SO random.

Anyhow, miss yall. Sorry for the randomness. My brain won't think in an organized fashion right now. Figured it's better to update stream-of-consciousness than not update at all.