Chopsticks and kung fu kicks!

Leaving on a jet plane …

Jindo – The Mysterious Sea Parting April 26, 2009

Filed under: South Korea — esacc @ 9:13 PM

Shout out to the home land … hope all is well!

 

This past weekend I was able to experience Jindo – the parting of the sea. It was a very long day, but definitely worth it! To begin this post – for a little Korean history please read…

 

The legend of Jindo Sea Parting:
Legend says that Grandma Ppong made the parting of the sea parting possible, just like Moses 3,000 years ago. The legend states that a long time ago, the people of Jindo Island were frequently attacked and killed by tigers, so they took a raft and moved to the nearby Modo Island. However, an elderly woman named Grandma Ppong was accidentally left behind. The old lady longed to be reunited with her family and prayed for help night and day to the Dragon King of the Sea. Then, one night, the Dragon King appeared to her in a dream and told her to cross the sea by walking on the rainbow that he will provide for her. When she awoke the next morning, she ran to the sea and a rainbow-shaped opening appeared in the water between Hoedong-ri and Modo-ri. The people of Jindo Island still perform an annual ritual dubbed the Yongdung Festival for the Dragon King in remembrance of the sea-parting miracle and Grandma Ppong.

 

To get to Jindo I had to endure a 5 hour + bus ride … which meant a very early start to the day! My Sunday morning started at 5 AM … catching the bus at 6:30 AM. Along the way we stopped off  at numerous rest stops as well as stopping for lunch at a village famous for it’s Bamboo.  At the first rest station we stopped at I experienced my first Korean riot in the women’s washroom – which was jam packed. It was intense. There is no such thing as lining up in a single file line and waiting your turn – instead, you push and shove your way through the hundreds of people and assume a position outside a single stall. Each stall has it’s own line – and you better have your hand on that door or someone will sneak right in between you and the door and take your place. It was literally shoulder to shoulder pushing, shoving and yelling … which I simply watched in amazement and laughed hysterically at. The Koreans ladies’ appreciated the fact that I found humor in this chaotic event … but I certainly did my fair share of pushing and shoving. Although, after the ordeal of just getting into the stall, I was almost too scared to leave it. But I put on a brave face and pushed my way back out. It was very interesting to say the least. The only downfall – this took up my entire break at the rest stop so I had to quickly make my way back to the bus. Definitely an experience I won’t forget any time soon.

At the Bamboo farm I traveled around the bamboo fields/paths for a bit, and then ate lunch at a nearby restaurant. This place served the most side dishes I’ve ever seen in Korea. It was unlimited amounts of sides and the rice was served in Bamboo bowls which made it fun! haha We spent a couple hours in this village – mainly browsing the nearby Bamboo gift shops, and then it was back on the bus destined for Jindo. We arrived in Jindo at 3 PM Sunday afternoon, with the sea parting expected to take place at 5 PM. There was no shortage of entertainment to pass the time. The streets were littered with food vendors and dancers, as well as many Korean “Cultural Experience” tents … there were also cages that held the infamous Jindo dogs …  which are so adorable. I really really wanted one! But rather than blowing 300,000 won on a puppy, I purchased my pair of thigh-high rubber socks/boots for 5000 won and managed to find a seat by the sea to witness the spectacle.

 

At approximately 4:45 PM I could see the current start shifting and small wakes made where the sea road would emerge. In the meantime, Koreans were taking advantage of the low tide as they spent most of the time collecting fresh sea weed and any sea creatures they could find.  At 5 PM the first of the travelers started to make their way across the sea road.  It was quite the sight to see as hundreds of colorful boots made their way across the middle of the sea. I soon joined in on the fun and made it about 3/4’s of the way across the sea before turning back (in fear of missing my bus home!). Along the road it was quite exhilerating as at the half way point, I turned back to see how far I really was. It was pretty cool to be standing out in the middle of the sea! I also found numerous star fish that became the star of many of my photos. I brought some home with me but by the time I arrived home they were already starting to smell and I knew I wouldn’t have enough time to deal with them until Tuesday, so I threw them away … sadly. I turned back and made my way back to the start of the road and on the return walk I definitely could see the current coming back in some places. I managed to make it safely to shore and made it back on my bus for our 6:30 PM departure home.

 

The bus arrived at our arrival point around 11:30 PM and I was home and in bed by 12 midnight. It was a long day, but I managed to get some sleep on the bus so today is not a write off.

 

Tonight the teachers from my school are taking me out for my birthday dinner and then back to my apartment for some dessert. I’m sure it will be a good time!

 

I hope all is well at home. Miss and love you all. xoxoxo

 

 

Give it to the baby!! April 22, 2009

Filed under: South Korea — esacc @ 7:45 PM

Greetings from SK! Once again, I have much to blog about as the Korean culture becomes more fascinating each week.

Last week I went to my first baseball game in Korea and it was unbelievable. To start, you are allowed to bring in your own food and drinks, but there is certainly no shortage of food and drinks sold indoors as well, so that makes for an incredibly cheap and exciting time. Tickets were a mere 7000 won, which is less than 7 dollars CDN and our seats were pretty decent! The atmosphere in the stadium is indescribable – at times the excitement of the crowd and the circus acts going on around us (not in the literal sense) made it very easy to get distracted from the baseball game itself. Which, let’s be frank – baseball isn’t the most exciting sport to watch from start to finish, so I appreciated the distractions. haha Each player on the team has a song or a chant that the crowd would bust into each time they were up to bat … the cheerleaders/aerobic dancers had about 394 costume changes … there were numerous mascots including a dancing Soju bottle – so symbolic of Korea. In the 8th inning they handed out orange Lotte Giants plastic bags – which, naturally one would fill it up with air and tie it on their head. So, when in rome, we followed suit. It made for a hysterical end to the game as we began to catch on to the chants and songs, and how can you not have fun with a plastic bag tied to your head? The ironic part of it all – the bag serves as entertainment but also has a purpose – after the game, the loyal fans remove the bags from their heads and fill them with the garbage from the stadium. How cool is that!? Fans enjoying sport and caring for their environment all in one setting. So dynamic. It was certainly a great experience and I will be heading to numerous games this season I can assure you!

Saturday I took full advantage of the clear sky and warm temperatures and made my mold in the sand at the beach. After about 7 hours in the sun, I came home with a wicked burn that has turned into a solid base tan and I also saw some interesting sights. lol Including men in thong underwear playing frisbee – and us foreigners being followed by paparazzi in their undies. hahaha hilarious. We were definitely the focal point of many photos and even had a group of Japanese sailors and armed forces ask for a picture with us. Only in Korea. hahaha

Sunday morning was the marathon and it went really well! There were a ton of people so we weren’t “in it to win it” but we made the most of it and ran our 5 KM in about 24 minutes. Not bad for lacking my youthful athletic ability. I am going to enter the 5 KM again next month, and work towards the 10 KM. My new friend Maddi and I have been getting into a routine of running, so it’s nice to have someone to run with. The other morning we went for a run before school – we ran from our apartments to Haeundae beach and the sky was the clearest it has been in awhile. The waves were absolutely massive that morning! It was unreal. I often have moments thinking “My life is not real” … it’s hard to believe that I live 15 minutes from two of nicest beaches in South Korea. And to top it off – they are surrounded by mountains. Life is good. This is always the type of place I’d envisioned living in and it’s actually happening. Love it!

Sunday afternoon after the marathon, I visited the temple by the sea which was pretty neat. It is definitely very touristy as there are lots of vendors set up with things to buy and food to eat. The temple itself was extremely busy. On May 2nd it is Buddha’s birthday so all of the temples and even the city itself is preparing for the big day. On that day Koreans will visit 3 different temples and make wishes at each one … it’s supposed to lead to good luck in the coming year. Also, apparently if you visit a temple at lunch time, you get free lunch. I am definitely planning on hitting that up some time soon!

So this weekend is Jindo … the details are still a big hazy as to what is going on. I think I may end up doing a weekend package that way I get to see a few different places as well as take part in the parting of the sea. Hopefully it all works out and I get to go. If I do, expect a lengthy post!

So my birthday is next week and I am very excited. On Monday I am going out for dinner with a bunch of teachers from my school and then they are all coming back to my apartment afterwards. Should be fun times! I managed to find some sweet buys and have furnished my apartment nicely, so hopefully I can accomodate every one 🙂 I will be sure to post some updated pictures of my apartment soon.

 

That is all for now – oh, besides the fact that I ate pig intestine and pig blood yesterday. Not my favorite. lol

 

Next time I hope to have the video option working so then I can show you videos of my cute students!

 

Miss and love you all! xoxo

 

Cottage Country – Korean Style! April 12, 2009

Filed under: South Korea — esacc @ 9:25 PM

Annyong!

 

My Korean vocabulary is slowly increasing by the day … I can count to 5, say My name is Erin, and say random words. I am working on getting better. Apparently I have the Busan accent which is NOT good – my Korean teacher friends say I need to learn the National language, otherwise I will sound funny if I go to other parts of Korea and speak with a Busan accent. haha

 

So I spent the weekend away with one of the teacher’s from my school and it was so fun! It was myself and 6 Korean families. We went to a cabin in the mountains which was about a 5 hour drive from Busan. We left Saturday around Lunch time and arrived just in time for dinner. I swear I didn’t stop eating the entire weekend … from the moment I got in the car, to the moment I was dropped off, there were constantly snacks being passed around. One of the most remarkable things I can say about Korean children (and Korean people in general) is their willingness to share. You can guarentee if one child has a candy bar, or a snack of some sort, they are more than willing to give a piece or a bite to any one near them. It’s really cute. And since I tend to stand out amongst the group – the kids swarm me with treats. lol I love it.

 

Anyway, so we arrived to the cabin and I was introduced to the other families. The kids and I played some catch – which they thought I was a superstar because I could catch the ball – hahaha. That night the kids put on a talent show and it was really fun! The older girls did a dance to one of the popular Korean pop songs – “Gee” (which is actually a fun song. It’s by Girls Generation – youtube it) – and another boy played the violin, another girl sang a song, and there was even a science experiment and some magic tricks. And since I tend to be a big child, I took part in the talent show as well. My talent you ask? Speaking Korean … which was horrid but hilarious. We had more snacks and I taught some of the girls a couple “Canadian” card games, which was really fun! I brought my Korean Phrasebook with me, so the little girls and I did some basic vocab where I would say the word in Korean and they would say the word in English and point to the object if it were in the room. It was good practice for both languages, and the girls were sooo cute!

 

Once bed time rolled around, we pulled out the Korean style mats and blankets … girls in one cabin, boys in the other – and had basically a huge slumber party! complete with pillow and tickle fights! haha

 

Sunday morning included my first Korean style breakfast – Kimchi and rice cake soup – which I helped  prepare 🙂 The fathers played a Korean game which is a combination of soccer and volleyball – it’s basically volleyball with only your feet over a lowered net. Lots of fun! After breakfast the kids and I had a scavenger hunt, and then the kids, myself and the fathers went and played a Survival Game which is BB guns … I was terrible at it. At least I learned I wouldn’t make a good sniper!

 

Once we got the cabin cleaned up and the cars packed, we made our way down into the valley to a little stream and tried to fish with our hands. I took on the responsibility of spectator and photographer … the kids were right in there though, and one of the fathers was really good at catching fish with his hands! That’s skill! After fishing we drove a little ways and then stopped for lunch and dodgeball at a nearby park … the weather was gorgeous so we played for quite a while until it was time to say farewell to the families traveling back to Seoul. We then loaded in the van and started the 5 hour trek home. Once we arrived in Busan, we stopped for dinner with the other two families from Busan and then I was dropped off at my apartment around 9 PM. I was super tired, but it was such a great experience and I had a lot of fun! Trying to write about what I experienced is so difficult as I can’t really fully express how I felt, or what I saw … the pictures again don’t do it justice. It was so nice to get out of the city for a night … the scenery on the drive and around our cabin was breathtaking. There is something about being surrounded by mountains that just numbs me and makes me feel so relieved. It is great therapy 🙂

 

I have posted some pictures from the weekend, but again, they do not do justice to the true serenity that I felt being there.

 

April is going to fly by … the weekend of the 25th, I think some friends and I are heading to Jindo island to witness the Parting of the Sea phenomenon … should be quite the scene! I’m sure it will be grounds for blogging … feel free to google the parting of the sea in South Korea or check this out: http://digg.com/d1hO21

 

Until then … I hope all is well in k’aenada and you don’t get any more snow storms!

 

love and miss you all! xoxoxo

 

 

 

I am turning Korean. April 6, 2009

Filed under: South Korea — esacc @ 5:20 AM

Annyounghasehyo from Korea! (That means HELLO)!!!

It has been awhile since my last real post and after the weekend I had, I have so much to blog about. 🙂 So get your popcorn ready because you are in for some good stories!

First I just want to send out some shout outs to the homeland …….. Happy Belated Birthday to my Quarter Century Old Sister Kara … sad to have missed the feast and birthday cake! – and my happy belated birthday to my beautiful mother (I won’t share your age mom haha) and grandmother (75th!). Also, Congratulations to Uncle Dave and Aunt Genny with their new addition, born April 5, my new cousin Leah 🙂 Can’t wait to meet her!

Where do I begin … last week I started my afternoon classes which is where I get to make up lesson materials and teach the class for the entire class. The first day didn’t go so well … at all … and I was pretty bummed out about it. They were lower level classes and it was my first couple classes, so needless to say, both parties weren’t totally ready for what was to come. They weren’t ready for my inability to speak Korean and I wasn’t ready for their lack of understanding of what I was saying. But after sleeping on it and some last minute adjustments to my lesson plans, the next day was a complete success and I have been on a roll ever since! The classes are really fun and it really gives me an opportunity to provide more one on one teaching and to learn more about my students as people. So we are having fun with it so far. I am constantly looking for new material and ideas so if any of you have anything you think would be a good idea, feel free to share 🙂

Last week I also got to experience something I don’t think a lot of foreigners will experience in their time here in Korea … I was “invited” to attend a funeral service for one of the school staff’s mothers who had passed away. Normally I don’t do well in these situations, but I kindly accepted the offer as I was curious to see the cultural differences that take place while paying respects to the deceased. I initially expected that I would just be a spectator but I was asked to join in on the service, so I kindly complied. The service itself is a very short, intimate experience in which you enter a room with a small group of people – there is a mantle in honor of the deceased, dressed with pictures and personal items … and you take a flower and place it on the box. Then there are a series of bows to the deceased and the family members – both standing and kneeling – and then you quietly and swiftly exit the room. From there we took a seat at a table and took part in some food and drinks … which was served by the extended family members of the deceased. It was a very short service … it is comparable to the visitation that we tend to have in Canadian culture … but it was interesting in to experience nonetheless.

Saturday was a day of firsts …. hahahaha … if you are conservative … stop reading in fear of being offended. Dad – don’t judge. Mom – you will be proud.

So Saturday some friends and I decided to head to the hot springs in Dongnae … we weren’t completely unsure as to what we were in for, but that’s sort of the expected in Korea. Luckily we did have a Korean friend with us and as we approached the building that housed the hot springs, he informed us it was a public bath house… aka nude time. After little hesitation it was unanimous that we would be going in. We all quickly introduced ourselves to each other as we were about to get closely acquainted.

Just for clarity sake and in fear of being removed from my father’s will – these bath houses are NOT co-ed. There are two separate areas for girls and boys … thank the Lord.

Anyway – we made our way in to the “spa” … it was completely and utterly awkward from the get-go but we dropped drawers and headed for the showers anyway. You aren’t allowed a towel or anything … and the small scrubbing towl they gave me, I kept getting yelled at by Korean woman to not hide. haha After the courtesy shower, we entered the bathing areas … it’s basically a huge room with all sorts of different tubs and pools – hot tubs, cold tubs, warm tubs, grape colored and scented tubs, salt water tubs, outdoor tubs, and saunas … all different tubs that you just bob to and from for as long as you wish.  There are also some paid services that you can have done … full body massages and full body exfoliations, facials, etc … I opted for the full body exfoliation and am I glad I did! I could feel and see the skin being scraped off my body … it was so gross it felt great. My skin feels amazing and I was glowing! The girls and I enjoyed sipping on some freshly squeezed OJ and pomegranate juice as we bobbed from tub to tub. After a couple hours of awkwardness we decided to hit the showers and meet up with the boys who were already downstairs drinking beer and eating food waiting for us. hahaha It was a completely unreal experience – especially being a foreigner – but it was definitely something that needed to be done. The teachers are my school were so proud to hear that I went. haha They thought it was hilarious. hahaha I will likely go back just for another body scrub … and apparently there is a bigger, better and newer bathhouse not far from my place, so that will obviously need to be done as well. hahaha

After the bath house we went out for some Korean eats and then went to a soccer game. It was pretty fun! Nothing too unlike a soccer game at home – actually far less busy – but nothing really to write home about. EXCEPT for the fact that you can bring your own food and drinks in to the game … so we stopped off at a department store called Home plus and stocked up on snacks and drinks and then headed to the game. A mere 8000 won (less than 8 dollars CDN) got us a seat anywhere we wanted in the house. Unfortunately, after being drained from being in tubs and saunas all day, we were all pretty dehydrated so for most of us, headaches started setting in so we called it an early night. Which, I was very thankful for on Sunday morning!

Sunday was a very eventful day! I woke up early and made my way down to Haeundae beach to take part in the Moontan Road Cherry Blossom Festival. Moontan Road is one of my favorite places in Busan … it is this windy curvy road through the mountain that connects Haeundae Beach and Songjeong Beach …. and the Cherry Blossom Festival involved a 2 hour + hike along the road and through the paths in the mountain… it was abosolutely breath taking! (literally and figuratively). The sun was out in full force and the trek itself was pretty intense … and the sights I got to see where incredible. And part of the glory for me, was doing it on my own. Well, me and 3000 of my closest Korean friends 🙂 … but seriously, I was hiking the mountains – just me, my ipod, my camera and a couple twisted ankles and it was awesome. I would do it again in a heart beat. I was a little bit confused as to what I was supposed to do when I got to Songjeong beach … so I wandered around for awhile and then caught up with some other hikers and followed them around … luckily they knew where they were going, as we headed for the buses and bused it home. I stopped home for lunch and then headed back out to Haeundae beach to take in the sights and sounds. The beach was busier as it was a gorgeous day … so I roamed around for a bit and then headed for home. All in all it was a great day!

I have posted some pictures from the Cherry Blossom Festival – sorry, no photos from the public bath 🙂 hahaha … sickos. I also tried recording a video to include in here, but it doesn’t seem to want to work … so I will try to troubleshoot this problem and maybe in my next post you will have a video to watch!!!

I hope all is well at home. Miss and love you all ! xoxoxo