Tag Archives: seoul

christmas, new year’s, homecoming.

12 Jan


i’ve been trying to put this off until i get a new laptop, but  i have some free time now, so i thought i’d just shoot of a lil’ post now.

back we go to christmas!

christmas was very strange, although enjoyable. it’s not a big deal here , so there was no christmas feeling in the air or anything like that. on the eve sarah, casey and i went for a prix fixe dinner at between.

here’s me looking lovely:

photo by sarah o'sullivan

then we went to the noraebang with a few friends. i got to dress up as a rodent (?).

photo by casey park

then i went home. christmas day i met up with sarah and casey again and we went skating at city hall. it was 1,000 won (or like 85 cents) to rent skates and then skate. it was freezing cold and packed with people. we only stayed for 30 minutes but it was tonnes of fun. casey said it was his favourite thing he has done so far.

photo by casey park

then went to the frypan for dinner. just like a normal turkey dinner, except fried. koreans love fried chicken, and they do it so well. at the frypan  it is also on a bed of homemade potato chips. the chicken was delicious. the chips made me want to die later. it was too much grease. the salad we had was actually delicious. real, shaved parmesan cheese. so good.

at the frypan

then christmas was over. i did shed a few tears but then realized that i would get to celebrate christmas with my family at home, so i wasn’t really missing out.

on new year’s i went for dinner with some friends at an overpriced sushi placee, then to a bar called the social. ironically, it was empty at first but then filled up later with korean b-boys.

d, sam and i at the social club.

overall, it was a really fun night, but once again there was no excitement in the air! koreans celebrate the lunar new year (feb 2-4) so this was not really a big deal. oh well. it’s only new year’s.

after that weekend winter camp started. let me tell you: i LOVE winter camp! i only work until 12 pm every day and get to play games and do fun lessons with a small group of students who just love me. for the first two weeks of camp i worked at a different school, with 5 other foreign teachers and 6 korean co-teachers. it was super fun and i really liked it. this week i’ve been working at my own school teaching grades 3 and 4 and it’s just as fun. i love my students. i feel a real connection with them, as opposed to my regular students who are mostly indifferent. i guess winter camp is just a different environment.

two winter camp students.

so i now have just 2 days more of winter camp, then i’m heading home this weekend! saturday cannot come soon enough. i have tonnes of wonderful plans for the 3 weeks i’ll be home, such as going to stay in hamilton for a week with jacob (yes, hamilton is wonderful), celebrating christmas with my family, going to my friend’s cottage, generally relaxing, hanging out with my friends and family and eating lots of food. i cannot wait. hopefully i can fit in all my friends and family! three weeks will go by in a second.

hope your holidays were lovely,

see you soon!


yes, i’m alive.

2 Dec


so i’m awfully sorry i haven’t posted. it’s just with the war here and everything…it’s been an upheaval. really. well no. not at all. for anyone living in north america, your lives probably changed more than mine did during this tense period between north and south korea (which one is the good one anyway, palin?). my life did not change whatsoever. well, i was supposed to have a half day off once and then they said all the teachers had to stay at school because of the conflict. i have no idea what that had to do with anything. i was just robbed of a half day off for nothing.

that’s probably the most exciting thing that’s happened here. was i scared when i heard about the north attacking the south? not really. life in general did not change, so there was no reason for me to be frightened. after talking to my co-teachers i realized that while it was a serious attack, it was probably not a real reason to worry. i also am signed up with the canadian consulate, who got in touch with all canadians the night of the attack to tell us not to worry and that they would let us know about further developments. their lack of information up until this point, i assume, only means positive things. from what i understand things are really just winding down and there isn’t much of a worry anymore. yes, many foreigners were quite scared, which is understandable. i just wasn’t really one of them.

so currently i have 3 weeks left of regular school before winter camp begins. winter camp means i teach english camp for 15 days from 8:40-12:30 and then i get to go home! i will teach the same two lessons every day for 2 weeks at a district camp. at the camp there are 6 foreign teachers and 6 korean co-teachers, which is actually a nice change.  i might die of boredom due to teaching the same lessons so many times  but then again i teach the same lesson 9 times a week regularly, so maybe it won’t be that terrible. from what i hear, winter camp is quite enjoyable because you see the same students every day and actually get to know them. after that i have one week of winter camp at my own school. i have received just about no information about that. i have no idea how much i have to plan for it or what i have to do, but i’m sure they will help me when the time comes.

after winter camp i am returning to canada for three glorious weeks. i leave january 15 and return to seoul february 4. i am extremely excited to see my friends, family and boyfriend again. it will have been just almost 5 months at that point, which is long enough to be away from anyone you love, in my opinion.

in terms of homesickness, i have definitely been feeling it with the upcoming holiday season. seoul isn’t really that cozy or anything like that. it’s certainly not full of my home friends and family which you want to be around at this time. however, christmas is just one day, and my family and i are going to celebrate when i return, which is going to be very lovely and i can’t wait. however. the country is full of christmas lights everywhere, so i’ll hopefully take some photos of that to get up here. there is no snow though. today was quite mild. around 15 degrees celsius. it has snowed apparently, but i have yet to see it from my windowless cavern.

well, anyway i’m off now. 42 days until i’m back on canadian soil!

halloween has come and gone.

1 Nov

halloween has come and gone.

i apologize for taking so long to write something. it’s been ages i know. my one excuse is that the “a” button on my keyboard stopped working and i haven’t yet bought a new one. i didn’t want to write a message without “As.” it’s terrible, really. so i’m writing this at work and sending it to myself in an email.

i’m pretty sure the last thing i wrote about was how i get to go home in january now. well that is still true. what have i done since that time period?

shopping at dongdaemun: i have gone shopping to this area a couple of times now, not ever really buying anything but seeing a lot to buy. dongdaemun is a strange area of mall type stores. basically there are two major malls that i visited, each about 9 floors high. the inside reminds me more of a market or something, especially in the cheaper mall. each store is about the size of a closet, and is just packed with stuff to buy. usually there are no prices and no changerooms. you can haggle, although i’ve been mostly afraid to do so and have relied upon others to get me 5,000 won off (like $4). the better of the two, doosan, is more expensive and only opens at 7 pm! this is because it stays open until like 4:30 am. why? i have no idea. we left around 11:30 on friday and that was late enough for me. plus the subway closes at like midnight or something equally ridiculous.

teacher’s hike: last week i went for a hike with my co-workers and then for dinner. the hike itself was very light (a walk) and only about 30 minutes long. it was a lovely opportunity to talk at length with julia on the way up and mia on the way down. then we went to some restaurant and ate these delicious soups and drank 덩덩 주 (dong dong ju), a sweet rice wine. i accidentally told mia that i’d be leaving after my one year contract here was up. she was surprised. apparently they expect you to stay longer, despite the fact that the majority of people do not. i just hope this doesn’t negatively affect me in any way. sometimes they hesitate to give extra vacation because you’re not as trusted. oh well. there’s nothing i can do now.

halloween: halloween in korea left something to be desired. it doesn’t really exist, especially not in the schools. i suppose it’s up to the foreign teacher to bring it in, in the form of costumes and candy, but i wasn’t planning on buying treats for 800 students, and i think i stand out enough without wearing a costume. we went out on saturday night in hongdae to celebrate the day. i dressed up as a widow, as it was easiest. overally, i was unimpressed. lackluster costumes (everyone was probably in the same mindset as me) combined with the fact that it just didn’t FEEL like halloween had me a bit blue. although it was only for one day, i suddenly felt very far from home. i always miss people from home terribly, but it was worse than usual on halloween weekend. all i wanted to do was be back with my friends and seeing little kids in costumes running around. halloween is just such a wonderful time and i really missed it. it made me mostly worried about how i’d be feeling in decemeber when christmas and new year’s rolls around. obviously horrible. i’ll just remind myself on those days that it’s only for one day then too. on the plus side, my family is waiting to celebrate christmas and channukah until i return in january. a nice silver lining on that cloud.

on top of this, i had to come to terms with my financial reality. despite coming to this country to learn and experience, a large motivation was that it was simply a job that i am getting paid to do. i have to save a large sum of money in order to afford going to college next year, so at this point i’m almost putting away half of my take home pay a month to do that. i still can live a reasonably good life, but i had to realize that i probably wouldn’t be going on as many of the trips i had hoped to take. it simply isn’t possible with the amount i need to save. i’ve tried to be positive about this and to think that i’ll just  spend more time in korea itself instead of traipsing around over asia, but i really did want to traipse around asia. i’m still planning on going to japan for a bit in may with jacob, but i don’t know how likely it is that i’ll head over to china in the summer. right now there’s no real need to dwell on this, because who knows what the future will bring. however, it is a choice that i’ve made to attend college and saving money is just a sad fact of life. although, if i don’t get in i’ll be a bit mad.

one of the more odd things that happened on the weekend was at coex mall. dave and i noticed there was some g20 thing going on, and so we were invited to take a photo with the g20 leader of our choice on a green screen. of course we chose stephen (probably the only ones who will) and then also recorded a 20 second video “to the leaders.” i have received the video in my email and have no idea where else it went. an interesting aspect of this booth was that there were caricatures of all the leaders. in one, obama had a basketball, the india pm was on a flying carpet, and stephen was holding a beer. can you imagine what would happen if that went on in canada? the world would probably be up in arms. all dave and i could do was sigh and say, “oh, korea” and just move on.

my last thoughts will be about the upcoming winter. i am dreading it. the reason for this is because the school keeps the windows open, or has up to this point. the heat is not on. all the teachers are wearing coats and blankets in the office and the children wear coats to class. this is normal. as well, everyone is sick. well, i wonder why! i’m sure the fact that it’s 10 degrees indoors and the children seem to be inexperienced with the thought of covering one’s mouth when sneezing or coughing have nothing to do with it. or the communal bar soaps everywhere. actually, the majority of subway goers (from my experience) do not cover their mouths to sneeze or cough. HOWEVER! they do wear those masks! i don’t know if they wear them because they’re sick or because they don’t want to get sick, or both. either way, i’m sure some basic hygiene could do a world of good here. i know that comes off as “white man knows best” but sometimes the western world’s fear of germs is just appropriate in flu season.

alright. i’m going to buy electronics accessories.


12 Oct

as all canadians know, this past weekend was thanksgiving. i spent it doing typical canadian things like working on a saturday for sports day, attending a music festival in seoul at night and then eating pumpkin pie and cheesecake for thanksgiving dinner. well, at least one of these things is semi-normal.

since i last posted i have no idea what has happened, so i’ll probably just stick to recent events. this weekend was sports day at my elementary school. i was mostly excited for it, except for the fact the week had already seemed 10 years long and the idea of going back to school on a saturday was not what i had in mind for my sleep in weekend. luckily, waking up has been much easier these days, due to a recent purchase of a dr. light alarm clock.



dr. light.


i don’t think i’ve yet complained about the fact that i have two windows, both of which face the hall. or maybe i have. either way, it’s made waking up in the mornings torture. my poor body is confused due to never seeing natural light so most mornings were spent depressed and weepy pretty much until i was off the subway and walking for 5 minutes in the sun to school. the lamp was just over $100 and was suggested by my own mother to purchase. my co-teacher bought it for me online and it was delivered the next day. anyway. it’s made a big difference i think because i don’t wake up depressed and sometimes i even sleepily think the sun is in my eyes (that’s a bit sad).

so anyway. i woke up at 7 am on saturday to trek down to school. sports day is not really anything like track and field day is in ontario. firstly, there are over 1500 students. secondly, the parents also participate. and of course there’s the choreographed stretching routine that all koreans are raised on and know. apparently my videos are going to take like 60 hours to upload so i’ll save them for another day. here is a selection of photos:

i have about 100 pictures from sports day because i was the designated photographer. my only other duty was to help with the sprints (pictured above) where 9 children would run at once to be followed immediately by another 9. all 1500 students ran. our job was to figure out first, second and third place and stamp them on their hands immediately before the next group began to run. this proved difficult when the parents start to get involved and the children are jumping around like maniacs and standing in front of the finish line. anyway, it was adorable.

so that went until around 2 pm, at which point i went home and napped. then i woke myself up, showered and headed down to hangang park to the global gathering electronic music festival. it was definitely enjoyable over all, but i was super tired so i left at 2 am, which really was late enough for an old person like myself. i had a wonderful experience with a cab driver on the way home which consisted of the following”

“odieayo?” (or something like that which means where are you going)

“gil-dong yok”

*insert correction of my pronunciation*

“yes, there.”

“ok ok ok. 40,000 won.”

i knew where we were, and i knew that the trip couldn’t cost more than 30,000, but i was super tired so i agreed.

“front seat. front.”

“no. no sharing.”

he wanted me to sit in the front so that he could pile more people in the cab to make more money, and thus increase my travel time by who knows how long.


“no. i am paying you 40,000 for this ride.”

“ok ok ok.”

10 minutes pass.

“oh. gil-DONG yok?”



“what? no. you said 40.”

“so far…sooo farrrrrr.” (korean whine)

“no! you said 40.”

“so far. service chargee.” (whatever that means).

“well you said 40.”

at this point he made me get out in the middle of the street at 2:45 am and asked another cab driver to take me. it ended up costing 23,000 won.

this is typical. cab drivers will try to rip you off if you are a foreigner. i was irritated. but oh well.

so the next day a couple of friends and i headed to costco (which i have mentioned before) and bought pumpkin pie and cheesecake and ravioli and all those things. we headed back home to our friend’s house to eat our feelings re: being in korea on thanksgiving.

on the way home we of course encountered another cab fiasco. our cab driver picked us up off the street, as usual. we get in and immediately the car behind starts honking because we were in a right turn lane and he wanted to go. however, there were people on the cross walk so we couldn’t go anyway. our cab driver starts yelling and waving his hand out the window. then the guy gets out of his car and comes to yell at our driver for several minutes. the meter was on. then the other guy stands in front of the cab and won’t move. it was quite amusing and we wanted to film it, but this guy was clearly insane and we feared for our lives. in the end, the guy got back in his car and we mosied on our way. the fight cost us $0.20 cents.

after eating our massive amounts of dessert and moaning about stomach pains, we headed off to insadong for dinner and to take some pictures wearing hanbok.







i wasn't really wearing glasses.


the woman who ran the photo place was actually in love with all of us and couldn’t stop laughing at our antics.

so we ate pajon, or green onion pancake with seafood (which is becoming my favourite korean treat) and toasted to how thankful we were to be english speakers who were born in canada, but could choose to come to korea to teach. despite how much we all moan and at times may hate our jobs and the country we’ve CHOSEN to be in, we really should be grateful for even being here. not everyone has the opportunity to move to a new place and experience a culture like we do. although it’s not always easy and can in fact be very difficult, i guess we’re all hoping it will be worth it in the end. in the meanwhile, we should be thankful.  i often forget this and have to remind myself that i made this decision and therefore  should be relishing in it. that’s my thanksgiving resolution (a common canadian thanksgiving tradition, i think).

korean costco…among other things.

21 Sep

well the past few days have been pretty nice. i keep meaning to blog but then i just tell myself i’ll do it later, then forget immediately.

currently i’m on holidays until monday because it’s chuseok, or korean thanksgiving. i’m not planning on doing much other than lazing around and possibly hiking. oh and going to casey’s grandparents’ house in seoul for chuseok dinner. casey will not be attending. i have some big hopes for this dinner. clearly it’s going to be awesome food, but also a cool chance to get to go into a REAAAAAAAAAAAAL korean house and hang out with people who don’t speak your language (novel!). it’s really nice of them to invite me. well sarah kind of invited me. but anyway, i’m excited. i have spam to bring.

so on the weekend i met sarah and dave at olympic park where dave was going to do some work. what really happened is that we ate some pajeon (sp?): korean friend pancake thing with seafood and chives, magkolli (rice alcohol, gross), naan, chicken curry and samosas. traditional korean food. then we wandered a bit, had soft serve from lotteria (a burger place) and then went to starbucks. eep. whoever came to korea with plans of losing weight is going to be very sad.

after that we went on a “free” tram ride around the park which cost 1,800 won per person (why?) and then laid in some very rough grass while i did a reading of the portrait of dorian grey. the weather was pretty much perfect. as perfect as it could get i think. also there were adorable korean children running around. here are some pics.

after lazing around for awhile, we decided to go for shabu shabu for dinner and met with guiane and joanne. the whole experience was a bit annoying, but delicious. basically shabu shabu is when you get some soup broth and cook thinly sliced meat and vegetables in it. it’s quick and cheap. except when the server provides enough food for 10 people “because most people eat that much”.

not enough for 5 people.

it ended up costing us 17,000 won per person, instead of like 6,000 won. oh but don’t worry…we got a free heart pen. thanks! whatever. it was good.

so today was an interesting change from the perfect weather of saturday. basically it was a torrential downpour/flood for the entire day. ENTIRE DAY. how is that even possible? sarah and i went to itaewon to refill her phone minutes and the streets were flooded. i have a video but i can’t get it to work.

just another day.

pretty nuts. basically we were soaked the entire day. after itaewon we went on the long route to costco in search of cheese. yes, it was wet. yes, it was unpleasant. but it was worth it. we bought brie, cheddar cheese, croissants, crackers, cookies and i bought kashi cereal. so delicious and worth every penny. i’m going to be the weight of a small whale when i’m done it all but whatever. foreigners: costco is your friend. it has a LOT of food that you wouldn’t be able to get elsewhere. like everything they have at a regular costco. so strange. of course this one had floors. bring your own bags! we had to buy a reusable bag, which was fine, but it would have been better if we brought our own.

so there you have it. i guess we shall see what the rest of the week brings.

this should be a medical blog.

16 Sep

well the quest to find out how to cure my carpal tunnel continues.

today sophie asked me if she could take me to get acupuncture for my wrist. of course i accepted. when we got to the random clinic on the second floor of a random building i was informed that there was a better therapy for my problem. it was a clinic with a korean/eastern medicine doctor who was very nice. the second she looked at me she started grabbing at my collarbones, under my armpits and feeling around that general area. sophie translated, “something is wrong with your body.” good!

so after waiting for awhile i was laid on a bed where 6 suctions were placed on my left arm in strategic areas. then they started to pulsate and suck at my arm. then a heat lamp was turned on above my arm and they covered me in a blanket. i promptly fell asleep. maybe 20ish minutes later the doctor woke me up and using these two black stick things started to apply pressure to certain spots on my arms, legs, feet and hands. the machine just beeped loudly and i felt nothing but the point of the strange sticks. later sophie explained that it was some kind of current to “activate the cells or something.”

she then told me (in english) that i had scoliosis. i said yes, i know, small. she said no! no! making the korean no motion with her arms and told me that my scoliosis was actually very bad and that my entire back was out of line and my thoracic vertebrae were also “straight”, whatever that means. apparently it’s bad. sophie’s face during the explanation was pretty much one of horror the entire time and the doctor was very animated about the whole thing. she also told me that my neck around my thyroid looked swollen, and that she thinks i have a thyroid issue and i need to get that looked at. thyroid issues do run in the family, so she probably isn’t wrong. so basically this doctor’s advice was to get an x-ray so she could see what was going on with my back and then she would re-align me chiropractor stylez. sophie told me that she had a thyroid problem too and used traditional korean herb medicine and was cured, so i guess that’s what she wants me to do.

either way sophie said that “we need to think about this” and figure out our next course of action. this “expensive” therapy was only 10,000 won. the doctor expected me to feel zero pain after. i did feel better but of course it’s not cured. she said that basically since my entire back is out of line it’s pinching my nerves and causing me to change my posture and is therefore influencing my carpal tunnel. this sounds pretty realistic to me.

anyway, she put these great stickers on me to heal me. consider me healed! not really. but why did i have to come all the way to korea to find out i have all these terrible ailments?


brace yourselves.

13 Sep

well hello!

lots has probably happened since i last posted. i believe it’s been a week. this hopefully will become more regular when i get myself in gear.

what has happened here? well…

changdeok palace


seoul museum of art

of course LOTS of this

subway riding.seoul FC

this just once

seoul FC

and some other stuff but i’m tired of uploading pics.

the biggest news is probably that i have some sort of medium stage carpal tunnel. pretty great! after going to gangdong hospital with my co-worker, sophie, they informed me that i could possibly need surgery. well i paid $7 to see the doctor (outrageous! from canada) so i’d be paying 50% of that surgery too. no thanks! my parents and i decided that i’d do the tests in canada when i go back in the winter and then take it from there. sophie’s husband does acupuncture so i will try him out i think. i am currently wearing a brace typing this. very difficult and i purchased a baguette shaped keyboard pad thing to protect my wrists. only in korea.

in terms of how i’m feeeeeeeeeeling about being here…well i feel alright! i am definitely enjoying myself here. it’s exciting to go to new places and eat new food (honestly a reason to come here in itself), plus there are just so many ridiculous things to see and do. like a 4D experience called max rider in hyehwah. 3,000 won for the ride of your life. worth it. my only concern is that i still feel like i should be seeing more people. it’s just a bit difficult as not too many people live right around here. i guess we all have to travel.

my mother suggested that i may need to leave to do surgery in canada if the problem is actually serious and i was surprised to find myself saying that i didn’t want to leave. i’m not sure if that was because i’m loving life (which i do seem to be) or because i just don’t want to back out of a new situation. i guess we’ll see how things are in a few months.