Chopsticks and kung fu kicks!

Leaving on a jet plane …

Updated Apartment March 24, 2009

Filed under: South Korea — esacc @ 7:37 AM

Hello! This will be a quick post. I just wanted to post some pictures of my some what re-arranged apartment and my new blinds that I am sooooo proud of. Partly because I think they are super cool, but mainly because I hung them all by myself!!! Enjoy! πŸ™‚

 

Machalee and Noreabong! March 22, 2009

Filed under: South Korea — esacc @ 9:57 AM

Machalee is Korea’s famous rice wine … it’s like a mini brain ninja. It really gets in there and grabs hold of your noggin! But it is really really delicious.

Noreabong is Korean karaoke. It’s AMAZING! It’s the classiest Karaoke bar I’ve ever seen. You rent private rooms with big comfy couches and sing your soul out. There are even tambourines to be used and binders full of endless song choices. (Yes, English songs included).

So now that you are familiar with some Korean terminology, I can explain the last few nights that I experienced of Korean life.

My week started off pretty well. Two of my students showed me a short cut home from school and after a bit of confusion/a language barrier, they were in my apartment playing cards and showing my magic tricks. They were too cute. They will full of questions and were just so excited to be hanging out with me! haha

Thursday night some foreign teacher and I tried to go bowling but that didn’t work out so well in our favor. We had a rather large group and the alley was rather small and busy so we didn’t end up getting to play. Instead we watched some hardcore bowlers for about 40 minutes and then called it a night. hahaha Kind of lame, but always a good time!

Friday night was an epic night …. one of the best so far! The teachers from my school and I went out for dinner after school. We went to this squid restaurant where you grill your own squid on a flame at your table. I was a bit skeptical at first, but like ALL Korean dishes, once I had a bite I was hooked! It was really really delicious. There were some spicier dishes that I was told to try – so in an attempt to not disappoint, I tried them all out and again, was left completely satisfied. Along with the dinner dishes I was introduced to Machalee – to which we consumed about 10 bottles. Needless to say, we were all feeling pretty good by the time dinner was over! haha After dinner we ventured on over to a Noreabong. This was my first Noreabong experience and it was a tale to tell! You rent out a private room that has a huge table and big comfy booth like couches … with tambourines and endless song choices. It was the best and sooooo funny. I was a bit nervous at first, but the teachers were great sports so it was easy breezy! hahaha I loved it! After about an hour in the Noreabong we headed over to another bar for a couple more drinks and conversation. Koreans certainly love to drink! The decor in the bar was all colorful bottles of all different sorts. It was such a cool atmosphere to be in, especially with such a kind group of people!

The night ended around 11 or 11:30 PM but I was HURTING the next day. hahaha A combination of spicy squid and Macahlee and beer …. ugh. But it was definitely worth it.

Saturday I went over to my co-teachers (So-huyn) house again for lunch where I was introduced to what I call the Korean Mr. Noodles. It’s the same concept of Mr Noodles but with some spicier Korean tasting seasoning … and So-Huyn added an egg and some onions to the dish as well. After lunch So-Huyn’s sister came over and showed me how to make Korean Pizza – aka Kimchi Pizza. I needed a dish to bring to the foreigner put luck, and I wanted to learn how to make the pizza … so it was a fun experience! And my pizza was a HIT! (It’s not really pizza … it’s kind of hard to explain, and if I were to tell you the ingredients, you’d probably be a little turned off, but here goes: kimchi – lots of it! – leeks, green onions, squid, mussels, flour, water, and milk) … you mix everything together and then cook it like a pancake in a frying pan. It is really really good!

Saturday night was the pot luck. Every one did an excellent job of making dishes. The food was really good! We had curry and meat balls and chili and salads – all sorts of different dishes! I was still hurting from Friday night, as were a few others, so we called it an early night. I was definitely excited to wake up this morning hangover free πŸ™‚

SO, not sure if I mentioned it – but I am running in a 5 KM Marathon here in Busan on April 19th for Cancer. So I have started training for the big day! haha I have always wanted to get into running and at least this gives me something to work towards. And, lets face it, it’s not every day someone can say they ran a marathon in South Korea! I think they have them on a Monthly basis so depending on how this one goes, it may become a monthly occurrence for me. It’s a great way to see the city as well, and the added bonus that beach season is right around the corner, it’s a good way to get in shape for it! hahaha

Today I went to the Haeundae market with Maria and her friend Leah. We did some browsing … I bought some bamboo blinds for my apartment whcih were ridiculously cheap, but when I got them home I realized I have no tools to hang them with! haha So … I may have to get creative. I will let you know how I make out. I also rearranged my apartment a bit the other night, so once the blinds are up, I will post some updated pictures of my home πŸ™‚ Also, at the beach today they had a sand sculpture competition which was super cool. AND, the waves were pretty big today! A coupld guys I know went surfing yesterday at one of the beaches. Apparently it’s like 25,000 won (which works out to be less than 25 bucks CDN) to rent a surf board and wet suit for like an afternoon. I am pretty excited to try it!!!! I’m sure that experience will be worth an entire blog on it’s own. haha

There are still so many things I want to do around here! I still have yet to climb Jangsan mountain … but my time is coming I know it! There is a temple and a sports area and a waterfall on the mountain, so hopefully if the weather is nice next weekend I will get to climbing it ! Also, there is an aquarium by Haeundae beach which I am pretty intrigued by. Maria went and said she wasn’t that impressed – but they have a tank that you can scruba dive with sharks in …. ummm …. I think some other foreign teachers are going to do it …. I will definitely go watch but I’m not sure how I feel about taking part just yet. But then again, I ate and love pineapples here (which, for any one who knew me at home, you know I was not a fan of pineapples) so South Korea has apparently changed me … so perhaps my fear of sharks and fish will dwindle with the wind! hahaha We’ll see about that. lol

Hmmm … other than that … I am going to call it a night. I got to skype with my family and some of my extended family this morning so that was a nice treat!!!! I miss you all and love you πŸ™‚ xoxoxo

 

Dynamic. March 16, 2009

Filed under: South Korea — esacc @ 4:13 AM

Dynamic Korea. Dynamic Busan. This slogan definitely speaks to the true culture of my new home.

Since my last post, I have experienced much more of the Korean way of life! Firstly, just to update you – volleyball was an absolute blast! We played for about an hour and a half and it was so fun. Afterward, they had ordered Chinese food for us, so we ate Chinese and drank beer in the teacher’s lounge. I can’t wait for this week’s match.

My co-teacher invited me over for lunch on Saturday and it was incredibly delicious. Her husband is a phys ed teacher at another school, so he invited the foreign teacher from his school over as well so I met another guest English teacher. The food was delicious. We made fresh kim bop and my co-teacher made this delicious stew type dish. Every thing was amazing. Followed by, my personal favorite, Korean coffee and dessert which consisted of sqaures and fruit. As a sidenote: the fruit in Korea is unbelievable. It is so BIG and fresh and the taste is explosive! Everything tastes so great here! The strawberries don’t even look real, and apples are so big I can barely eat a whole one to myself! It’s like the fruit here is made to share – as is the way of the Korean lifestyle! After lunch my co-teacher, her husband and their daughter took us to the nearby beaches where we were able to take pictures and walk around. It was absolutely gorgeous. It was a little bit cool but the sun was shining and the beaches were bustling with people. We drove down Moontan Road again and stopped at one of the look out temples to take pictures and take in the view. It was so beautiful! I have attached a couple pictures. We drove Brett back to his part of Busan and then they dropped me off at my apartment, arriving home around 6 PM.

Saturday night included St Patricks day festivities – of the mild sort. But one bar that we went to served Green beer so that was festive! We went on a mini pub crawl, so I got to see a lot of the bars and restaurants around the corner from my house. Most of the bars serve little snacks with the drinksΒ  which are a delightful little treat! Nothing beats popcorn and beer! lol I met a bunch of really cool, really nice foreign teachers. All of them, except one, were from Canada also – one of which is from Hamilton! Such a small world! One guy, Jake, lives in my building and is from Guelph. It was nice meeting new people that are in the same area as me. We are starting Euchre nights which is unreal. I am happy to meet some people who know how to play!

Yesterday, although I probably could have spent the day in bed recovering from Saturday night – haha – I went to the Pusan National University area with Jake and two people (Paige and Josh) that I met Saturday night. We met up with Jake’s Korean friend who owns an art gallery and got to see his studio and some of his work. His work was amazing! Paige and I took off to walk around the shops in the area and I got to try the waffle sandwich which was a deliciously cheap treat! YUMMY! Luckily I didn’t bring any money to spend, so I only browsed. I could definitely do some damage though. haha Everything is super cheap in that area, so I will likely go back to “browse” some more πŸ™‚

The food here is to die for. Everything tastes amazing. The only thing I am starting to miss is breakfast food – Koreans tend to eat rice and kimchi for breakfast … but on the plus side, we did have pancakes one day at lunch and if I get really desperate, McDonalds sells the Egg McMuffins so I may have to try those out one day soon!

Korea is certainly dynamic. Driving in Korea is insane. People rip around, flying through red lights, parking on sidewalks, mopeds and motorcycles weave in and out between the roads and the sidewalks. It’s pretty hilarious but pedestrians do NOT have the right of way! haha
I have attached a few pictures below. I hope you enjoy πŸ™‚

Miss you all! xoxo

 

Paradise. March 9, 2009

Filed under: South Korea — esacc @ 6:13 AM

I feel like I am sitting on cloud 9 at the moment. I have only been in my city for a little over a week and I am falling in love with it more and more each day! It’s amazing what being in another country, by yourself, can really do to you. There are so many things I would have never done that I can now say I have done and enjoyed! For instance, Saturday I mastered the subway system – by myself – got lost in the market – walked in circles – but eventually found my way home. And today … I ate raw fish for the first time and it actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. The texture was a bit overwhelming at first, but after awhile, I got used to it. I’m not sure it would be the dish that I’d order at any restaurant, but I wouldn’t decline a dinner invitation if raw fish was on the menu. At least now I know what to expect πŸ™‚

Today was the most incredible day. Prior to dinner my co-teacher took me on a little tour of a couple of the beaches close to my apartment …. she took me on a road through the mountains that overlooked the ocean and I can honestly say I was unable to speak. It was the most amazing view I had ever seen. And unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me, but I don’t even think the pictures would have captured the true serenity of the moment. It was breathtaking. I will be going back to those places in the near future …Β  I didn’t want to leave! And next time I will have my camera!

After dinner, my co-teacher and 4 other teachers and I went down to the lighthouse and walked along the pier just as the sun was setting being the mountains and the full moon was out. The way the moon sparkled on the water was paralizing. Koreans are incredibly warm and caring people; I felt like I was walking along paradise with 5 of my best girlfriends – even though I have only known them for a few days – and I don’t understand a word they say – it was an extremely peaceful moment. (No offence to my lady friends at home … you are in no way being replaced!) It was unbelieveable. By the time I got back to my apartment my heart felt like it was going to leap from my chest and I just knew I needed to come blog about what I had experienced.

This has already been a life changing experience for me. I enjoy watching and respecting the Korean culture. The way they hold on to and practice their traditions is so symbolic and touching. The respect for elders, and something as simple as you do not pour your own drink – but you pour others and they will in turn pour yours to me seems so respectful and unselfish. Speaking of which – I found out the difficult way that if you do not want more to drink, you do not empty your glass – because as soon as a Korean sees an empty glass, you can be sure it will be filled again! (And I am talking shot glasses here people.) haha I am so glad that I get to be a part of this culture and that I have been accepted and complemented for how quickly I have caught onto the traditions and that they appreciate the respect I show their culture. It’s truly incredible.

Lisa Brown – you were so right – when you travel with locals you taste and smell and see things like never before!

I do miss all of you, of course, and there is no place like home, but I am truly smitten with my new temporary home. Everything seems so perfect.

Next time – I promise to include pictures πŸ™‚

P.S. This wednesday the teachers and I are playing volleyball … I’m sure some funny stories will come from that πŸ™‚

xoxoxo

 

Week 1 In The Bag. March 6, 2009

Filed under: South Korea — esacc @ 8:32 AM

I have officially been in my apartment for one week and this new city is starting to feel like home. I had my first day of teaching actual course material today and it felt so natural and exciting! I love seeing the enthusiasm in the kids faces. All of them light up at the sight of me, and I can barely walk through the halls without saying sounding like a broken record. I think the most rewarding part of this week was having the opportunity to work with some of the students in the special education program at my school. Their energy is contagious and I can’t help but want to surround myself with them. Luckily, for me, and according to their helper teacher, luckily for them, we get to spend a few minutes in the afternoon where they stop by my classroom and practice the sentence they learned that day.Β  Today it was, “What is your favorite sport?” Yesterday it was “What is your favorite hobby?” and the first day it was “Did you enjoy your meal??”. It is enough to melt an icebox of a heart!

My schedule is finally coming together. I have two co-teachers that I am supporting, so we decided that I would make it so that I work with each of them on a bi-weekly basis – that way I get to work with grades 3, 4, 5 and 6 … which I prefer because it’s nice to be able to switch up the course work and the classes. Each grade has a different energy, so it will be a nice variety. The way it works in schools here is the teachers teach 3 or 4 classes back to back in the morning and then have the afternoons off. Each period is 40 minutes, with a 10 minute transition break in between classes. The grade 5 and 6 students have to take a couple afternoon courses, but they are done by about 2:30. The teachers work Monday-Saturday, 8:40-4:40 … sometimes longer hours. So they teach in the morning and then we all have lunch together (which I will discuss in detail below) …Β  in a couple weeks they are going to let me have my own afternoon classes with mixed grades, as well as an English class for the mothers of the students, and an English class for the teachers of the school. I am really looking forward to those classes because they will be less structured and not so curriculum orientated, and it will allow me to be creative and come up with fun things to cover!

After lunch there is a small group of teachers that hang out and chit chat for like an hour, while snacking on some sort of after lunch snack. Today it was bean chips and cherry tomatoes – but the other day it was deepfried everything – squid, sweet potato, hot pepper – anything. Everything is SOOOO delicious. All of the teachers are really impressed with the fact that I eat and enjoy pretty much anything they serve me. Every day they ask “Do you like this?” … and my answer is always the same, “Yes! Everything is so delicious!” … even when I have the slightest doubt about something based on it’s appearance and I hesitate on taking on – I just say to myself – “You always think something looks gross but are always satisfied with the taste” so I take it, and 9 times out of 10 I am happy that I took some, and a little disappointed I didn’t take more! lol Korean food is so healthy and the meals are so balanced, so I always keep that in my back of mind also. I just don’t ask what anything is, or smell anything, until after i’ve tried it… because if they had told me I was eating deep fried squid, I probably wouldn’t have eaten it … but when they told me after I ate it, I didn’t hesitate taking a second piece because it was really good! They are so impressed that I love their food that they have sent me home with leftovers every day this week! They keep telling me to bring containers so that I can take the leftovers home. lol It’s pretty great that I get lunch and dinner taken care of for all of about 2000 won a day. lol The school staff even goes out of their way to make sure there is one fork in the chopstick and spoon dish for me … even though I am getting soooo much better at my chopstick skills – so much that the other teachers are impressed – I always take the fork with me so that I show that I appreciate their efforts – but I try not to use it. I only used it yesterday when we had like chicken with bones in it – they were tricky to eat with the sticks! hahaha I am really trying to show the teachers that I am here in their culture and I want to do as they do. “When in Rome” right? haha

The other teachers that were initially really timid with me are really opening up and trying to practice their English with me. They are so sweet. And on the plus side, they are starting to teach me some Korean words and I find myself sometimes, and I mean sometimes, being able to follow along with their conversations. But sometimes they just sound like they are angry and then I get nervous – but then they all giggle and smile and all is good in the world. lol A couple of my co-teachers want to go shopping and out for drinks with me. And maybe to the public spa – which is basically a big huge bath tub in the open where people strip down and bathe together … they told me today I could wear a bathing suit – thank the Lord! lol

The Korean word I learned today is “OPA” which means older brother – and I guess if you say it to a Korean man it just makes him melt and he will love you forever. So I said to the phys ed teacher and the “girls” (my Korean teacher gossip group) want me to say it to the Vice Principal on Monday. lol These ladies just crack me right up. It’s like I have a Korean family! I love it.

Another strange thing is that most bathrooms do not have toilet paper in them … nor do they have paper towels or hand driers to dry your hands … so I am getting into the habit of bringing tissue or TP with me wherever I go! DYNAMIC KOREA!!

This weekend I hope to find my way to the market to buy some bambooish blinds for my apartment … and perhaps make it hiking on the nearby mountain. I will certainly take lots of pictures and update my blog with anything exciting that may happen!

Until next time … keep fit and have fun!

Miss you all!