Chopsticks and kung fu kicks!

Leaving on a jet plane …

Bye Bye Busan March 11, 2010

Filed under: South Korea — esacc @ 9:45 AM

Welp … February 25th came and went. The end of the school year marked the end of my contract as an EPIK English Teacher. It was certainly a bitter sweet time as I was sad to be leaving my students and the teachers and all my friends that I made in the past year, but I was also excited to hit the road and start traveling.

Unfortunately the scuba diving with the sharks didn’t happen as I ended up getting a bout of tonsillitis that lasted well over a week, so I was unable to go. I was so disappointed.

Anyway, enough with this boring post … on to some more exciting news…

 

4 weeks. January 31, 2010

Filed under: South Korea — esacc @ 7:55 AM

4 weeks. 4 weekends. That’s all I have left in this adventure in Korea. WOW. Where has the time gone!?

Cait and I were hanging out in my apartment today talking about what happens next. What happens in 4 weeks? Even though we’re traveling for a couple weeks together, it still doesn’t seem real that we’ll be saying “farewell” in the Bangkok airport with a “see you ________” still very much open ended. Even saying “see you later” to Madz and Laura will be hard enough — and Laura and I both live in the K-W, and Madz is just a short trip to cottage country away; it just doesn’t seem real that we all won’t be living in Busan, meeting for weekly girls dinners and shopping and going out on the weekends. I have truly made amazing friends here and I have high hopes of them lasting … but, not without effort of taking and making the time to meet up and visit each other — CAITLIN – you have to be sooooo difficult being all American. Even Kyle lives pretty far away … you didn’t plan this Canadian boyfriend thing very well!

How quickly the time has gone by. I have slowly started cleaning up my apartment and sending things home, but the more I pack up, the more memories I stumble upon from over the course of the last year. The idea of leaving seems so surreal, I think I am almost in denial of it’s actuality. Today I had a moment of “I want to stay” which was immediately followed up with the feeling “I want to go and travel”. HAHA

So what will the next 4 weeks hold? Making my travel plans and booking plane tickets. Packing up and moving out of my apartment. Picking up any last minute things that are cheaper to buy in Korea than anywhere else. Farewell dinners. And most likely, tears, tears and more tears.

At this point I have absolutely no regrets with my decision to come to Korea, and I have little regret about my decision to leave after the one year mark. I know I am leaving a changed person with a different outlook on life, love and responsibility. I feel like I’ve grown and learned a lot about ME over the course of the last 11 months, which was my ultimate goal for coming here. I feel like coming here has brought me much closer to my true friends and family at home … and has made the bonds stronger with the people I love at home. It’s funny, when you eliminate the aspect of physical contact from the equation, how it forces open and honest communication – and I truly am happy for the openness that as developed between me and my family since I came here. We are forced to put into words what we think and feel – and I feel closer to every single person in my family because of this, and almost have a new found respect for each of them as well. Love you guys. xoxo

There are still many aspects of myself I’m getting to know and questions still  unanswered — like, what comes next once I’m done traveling? What are my long term goals? blah blah blah … — I know I’m ready to leave Korea, but I’m not so sure I’m ready to come home just yet. I miss my friends and family a ton — but I still need this time to see the world and figure myself out. I need to find the passion within me that I want to make a career out of. Hopefully something stumbles into my lap over the course of the next 6 months! 🙂

Anyway, I will end this post … sorry for the randomness that this was. I will post again before the end of the month for sure. Believe it or not – I’m trying to get some people together to go scuba diving with the sharks at the Busan Aquarium — who would have guessed I would be organizing something like that!? HAHAHA … we’ll see if I’m brave enough to go through with it. I want to get over my fear of fish once and for all!!

Love and miss you all. xoxoxo

 

Snow in Korea! (Jirisan) January 10, 2010

Filed under: South Korea — esacc @ 8:23 AM

December 22nd marked the end of the 2nd semester and the start of Winter Vacation for the students and teachers of my school. In celebration of this, some teachers from my school decided we should go away on a little retreat. We decided to go to Jirisan (Jiri Mountain) for a night and it was the perfect way to start my Christmas break (or lack there of).


Jirisan is a mountain in the southern region of South Korea. It is often considered one of the three most important mountains in South Korea (the mainland highest point).

The afternoon of December 22nd – Nine teachers, myself included, climbed into a 11 person van – along with an endless supply of snacks, beer and of course, soju – and made the 4 – 5 hour drive to Jirisan. Upon arrival mid-evening, we stopped for dinner before heading to our hotel. We ate the most delicious bibimbop I’ve ever had as it was made with all organic vegetables and was obviously made fresh and hot to serve. So delicious. It was outside the restaurant that I saw a light dusting of snow for the first time in Korea. I was so excited!

After dinner we made our way to our hotel, which in true Korean fashion, had no furniture other then a kitchen table in it. It didn’t take long before snacks upon snacks were offerred up and devoured … along with a steady stream of beer and soju. After a few Koreans games, I decided to offer up some Canadian based drinking games – with the obvious Korean spin on it – but boy did it work out nicely. It was an absolute blast! After a few hours we decided to head to bed as we had a big day ahead of us.

The next morning we woke up and, after breakfast, made our way to Jiri Mountain (Jiri san). We initially planned on driving up as far as we could and then doing the mild hike to the peak – but upon arrival we were informed that the road was closed to cars due to too much snow, so we were asked to park and walk. I was NOT at all mad about this news. Actually, I was beyond excited and basically skipped my way up the mountain. After a couple hours we made our way to the rest lodge just under the peak of the mountain and it was absolutely beautiful, so of course, I needed to climb to the peak. After a short hike to the top, I was greeted with frigid winds and reduced visibility – and SNOW EVERYWHERE! I was beyond excited, my smile was literally frozen to my face.

After some photo ops, we made the descent down the mountain and hit the road. We stopped off at a nearby market for some lunch before heading back to Busan.

It was such a great way to end the semester and start Christmas break as I was missing a good Canadian White Christmas.  I have since been to Tokyo, Japan and am now completing my 3 weeks of Winter English Camp before heading to Boracay Island in the Philippines !


 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!! January 2, 2010

Filed under: South Korea — esacc @ 6:50 AM

Happy New Year and Happy Holidays!!!! Just wanted to make a quick post to wish you all a happy and safe holiday season. I will be updating my blog in the coming weeks about my school trip to Mount Jiri; Christmas in Tokyo, Japan; and New Years… followed by Boracay in 2 weeks!!!!

Miss and love you all! xoxoxo

 

Fall in Busan November 28, 2009

Filed under: South Korea — esacc @ 10:52 AM

Fall in Busan is beautiful. The leaves on the trees have (finally!) changed colors, so the mountains and pathways are looking amazing. As well, my area of town is getting into the Christmas spirit with little white Christmas lights set up on the trees of the sidewalks; Starbucks in in full-fledged Christmas stock; and even some local stores are become festive!

 

A couple weeks ago we had a bitter cold spell for about a week, which was terrible. And to make matters worse, my school is generally a couple degrees colder than the outside temperature in the Winter … so it made for some pretty long and uncomfortable days. I literally wore my winter jacket, under armor leggings, two pairs of socks, a long sleeve, and a hoody just as an attempt to stay warm. Not to mention how much green tea and other hot drinks I consumed those days! But luckily the cold has gone and the last couple weeks have been gorgeous fall weather. The evenings and nights are generally pretty chilly, but during the day, the sun is shining and it’s enjoyable weather to be outside in.

 

Wow. It’s been over 9 months since I started this amazing journey. It’s hard to believe how quickly the years start to go by as we get older … but more importantly, how quickly they go by when the days are full of enrichment and adventure.

 

I’ll admit 3 weeks ago, I found myself antsy to hit the road and see some other parts of the world … but now that I can comfortably say that I only have 3 months left here, it certainly is a bitter sweet feeling.

 

For starters, Maria and Leah have finished their year contract and are currently surfing the beaches in Bali, followed by 3 weeks in India. I think I can blame them for stirring up the anxiety of me wanting to hit the road after countless nights spent at Starbucks brainstorming travel ideas and future travel plans. We came up with some pretty amazing (perhaps borderline outrageous) travel plans, but it certainly is fun to talk about! Seeing them off was sad but exciting… sad because I am now down 2 friends in my area … but exciting because they have amazing plans ahead of them, and I can’t wait to be in that position in 3 months.

 

Now that the dust has settled since their departure, I find myself torn between wanting to stay and wanting to leave. I told my coteacher that I won’t be re-signing a contract for next year … mainly because most of my friends here aren’t, and because I suppose I should be home and act like a maid of honor to my sister, rather than just fly in for the wedding like I’d originally planned. So I am in planning mode in order to get ready for a few months of traveling when my contract is finished … I am constantly on travel websites and reading my lonely planet books to find the best itinerary for my travels. I can’t wait! The next 3 months are going to fly by, and again, it’s a bitter sweet feeling.

 

For starters, however, I am going back to Seoul for FREE … free train ticket and hotel and food from EPIK (English Program in Korea) for a Winter Reunion. So we get a Friday off school and spend the Friday night in Seoul. So that’s the weekend of December 11th. Pretty excited for it!

 

Then Caitlin and I are planning on going to get out of Korea for Christmas so that we keep busy for the holidays, so we’re planning on flying into Tokyo Christmas day for 3 days ! I’m super excited! Then right after that my Winter English camps start for 3 weeks … then it’s off to Boracay, Philippines in January (google this .. you will be jealous) for a RELAXING 10 day vacation in the sun and sand.

 

Once I get back from the Philippines it’s only a short few weeks before the end of my contract (end of Feb) … then it’s back on the road to do some real, rugged traveling! So far my itinerary includes China, Thailand, Bali, Australia and New Zealand – followed by a brief Canadian West Coast tour, then it’s back in Ontario just in time for cottage season! I am beyond excited, but it’s going to be really hard to pack up the memories I’ve made over the course of the year here, and say goodbye to people that I consider family.

 

It certainly will be a rollercoaster ride over the next 3 months as I struggle with feelings of excitement, anxiety, sorrow, and adventure, but I am ready for the next challenge.

 

Korean Whisperer Coming At Ya. October 18, 2009

Filed under: South Korea — esacc @ 8:23 PM

So it has been awhile since my last post… mainly because I’ve become extremely busy over the last few months, and partially because I didn’t really have anything too “exciting” to blog about.

 

I am still loving life over here. Things at my school are still amazing and my students seem to be much more comfortable with me. Ever since coming back from summer vacation, more and more students seem willing to run up to me and have full out conversations with me as opposed to the standard “Erin Teacher! HI!!!!!!” that I’m used to on a daily basis. So I’m proud of them for that. I have also taken on some extra afternoon classes twice a week which allows me to make some extra cash money … so I’m very happy about that! And it’s mainly younger students that I don’t teach on a regular basis, so their cuteness is just sickening. I could be in the worst mood that day, but as soon as I walk into that classroom with my eager, energetic 1st and 2nd graders, my day does a complete 180 and it’s non stop smiling. They do, however, take up a lot of my energy as I am constantly trying to keep their attention for the entire 50 minute class. So by the end of the day, I am usually drained, but it’s totally worth it.

 

So unfortunately I didn’t go anywhere cool during my summer vacation, but I really enjoyed havign 2 weeks off to just veg out and relax. I spent basically every day at the beach … so my tan was phenominal, but other than that, I didn’t get up to much. I managed to get sick with a cold during vacation and since then I haven’t felt 100% … and I am just getting over yet another cold. I went to the doctors and was given about 63 pills to last me 4 days. Eugh. But I am feeling much better so hopefully that was the last of it!

 

During my summer vacation I did receive a new nickname — the Korean Whisperer… and one cab driver even called me “Miss Korea”. HAHA.  All of my friends seem to think I have a 6th sense when it comes to the Korean language and Korean people. I can have full out conversations with Korean people just by saying a few words and also I am able to somewhat understand what a person is trying to say when they speak to us fully in Korean.  It’s pretty amazing and it actually really helps make living here easier. I have also started taking free Korean classes twice a week at a university in Busan. The Busan Educational Office opened the class to 30 Guest English Teachers like myself and so far I am learning things. The classes are twice a week until the beginning of December. It’s a bit of a hike to get to the location, but it keeps me busy. On top of that, I have joined an ameteur volleyball league with a bunch of Korean elementary school teachers in Busan. My coteacher is also on the team, so she picks me up and drives me home twice a week for our 2 hour practice. This Saturday we have a big game day, so hopefully we can pull off a victory! Depending on how things go with my afternoon classes and my Korean classes, I may be forced to quit volleyball if I become too run down and tired. With things on every night Monday – Friday, it’s making it difficult to get to the gym and make use of my super expensive gym membership.

 

However, Laura, Maddie and I did run a 10 KM race last weekend. The three of us had been getting together each Friday evening to do a “long” run and then training on our own the rest of the week. Despite being ridiculously sick with a cold for 3 weeks straight (all three of us) we all finished in under and hour and I’m so proud of us! We were so proud of ourselves we decided to register for another 10 KM race in November. Maddie and I have continued our training, starting today, and our weekly runs will be back in session this week. Running is pretty boring, but when you do it with your best friends, it’s almost bearable. haha … we are thinking about doing a half marathon in January, or February … but, like I said, running is kind of boring. I’m not sure all the k-pop and pump up beats in the world could get me through 22 KM … but we’ll see! The challenge itself may be enough motivation to do it. Maddie has done two already back in Canada, so she will be having me on a rigorous 16 week training program if we do decide to do it. Stay tuned for updates on that!

 

Other than that, I am in planning mode. I can’t believe I’ve been here over 7 months! The time has flown by … I will be heart broken to leave, but I am very excited for what next year will bring. I was toying with the idea of renewing my contract, but unfortunately I’d have to renew for another full year, and with my sister’s wedding next Fall and my family and friends back in Canada, I don’t know if I could spend anoter full year away. (At least not right away – HAHA!!!) … so I have been getting into “travel” mode and doing lots of planning. The first weekend in November, myself and two friends, Maria and Leah, are going to do an overnight temple stay at a famous temple here in Busan. So basically I will be living the life of a munk. Waking up at 3 AM for worship, eating strictly vegetarian food, and helping out in the community. It is sure to be a unique experience! I am also trying to get to Japan for a weekend before Christmas, so I am aiming for the first weekend in December. Then, after winter English camps, Caitlin and I are hoping to head to the Philippines for some relaxation on the beach for about 10 days. Once my contract is up, I have some serious travel plans, so hopefully financially it will all pan out!

 

I have also been doing a lot of reflecting about what I want to do when I get back to Canada. I am likely going to be heading back to school and I think I am slowly narrowing down my options. This 7 months away has really opened my eyes as to what I can personally accomplish and how I can handle new experiences, and it really is helping me make decisions regarding my future.

 

In local news… Saturday night was the famous Busan Fireworks Festival at Gwangali Beach and it was absolutely stunning! It was the most amazing fireworks and light show I’ve ever seen, and there were sooooo many people. It was incredible. It also provided me with the chance to try out my new camera that I bought … and I was far from disappointed!

 

Well, I think that’s enough of a mass update from me. I’d love to hear from any one at home.

 

Miss and love you guys!!! xoxoxo

 P.S. The weather here is still amazing! It’s almost the end of October and we are still able to get to the beach on the weekends and enjoy some moderate sunshine!

Here are some random pictures from the last few months!

 

 

Summa Time! August 3, 2009

Filed under: South Korea — esacc @ 9:44 AM

The end of July marked the end of first semester of school – and the start of summer “vacation”.

To kick off summer vacation, the youth club at my school invited me to attend an overnight trip to Goeje Island. Eager to see more of Korea, I kindly accepted the invite and boarded the bus destined for Geoje. About 4 hours later, we arrived in Goeje. First thing on the agenda was a visit to a POW (Prisoners Of War) Memorial Museum. It was quite fascinating and gave me a better understanding of the Korean war and it’s impact on this country. From there we were off to the youth hostel that we would be staying at for the night. Just like summer camp at home, this youth camp had camp counsellors so the next 24 hours I barely saw the kids. The other teachers and I took full advantage of this freedom and had a driver drive us around Goeje Island. It was absolutely beautiful! I felt like I was back in Jeju. The only downfall was the visibility of the day – it had been a solar eclipse that day so it was very hazy, making it nearly impossible to see and capture the true serentiy of the scenery. I definitely want to make it back there on a clear day with my friends.

After an afternoon of touring around Goeje, we headed back to the youth hostel for the night time activities with the students. The next morning I spent on the balcony of our hostel room, taking full advantage of the sunshine and catching up on my book, while enjoying the beautiful scenery. Then it was back on the bus to Busan after lunch.

It was a pretty neat experience – especially since the female teachers we travelled with were not the usual ones that I socialize with, so it made for some interesting moments as well, but fun nonetheless.

After the school trip, all the other teachers started their 1 month of vacation … while I was busy preparing for 3 weeks of summer English camp and reading camp! The school is absolutely dead these days … but I am keeping really busy. I teach 3 – 4 classes of summer camp in the morning (with the curriculum I have to create on my own) and then 2 hours of reading camp in the afternoon (which I’m getting paid overtime for so I’m happy about the extra moola!) I am into the second week already, then I will be off for 2 weeks. My summer vacation plans are still TBD … hopefully I come up with something to do! I looked at flights home and they are ridiculously expensive so I think that idea is out … I’m sure I will find many things to occupy my time with.

Summer in Haeundae has really picked up since the rain has stopped. The beach is constantly bustling with people from all over and entertainment from all genres. It’s the place to be and it’s actually a really fun atmosphere to be in! For one who doesn’t like crowds, I really don’t mind the thousands of people that occupy the beach day in and day out … and alllll night too! Last weekend was spent entirely at the beach. The weather was amazing and it was packed. But it was super fun. I can’t wait for next weekend!

In other news – BIG NEWS – BUSAN HAS A COSTCO!!!!!!!!! Costco opened a few weeks ago and I made my first trip there on Friday. Made a pretty big dent in my wallet, but I am happy to have a family supply of dill pickles, honey nut cheerios, oatmeal and frozen fruit. OH .. and enough bread to serve a small army. haha AMAZING. It felt like I was back in Canada for a short moment …. 🙂

Hope you enjoy reading!

Miss and love you! xoxoxo