Tag Archives: south korea

christmas, new year’s, homecoming.

12 Jan

hello!

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!

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yes, i’m alive.

2 Dec

hello!

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.

thanksgiving.

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?”

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

“ok ok ok.”

10 minutes pass.

“oh. gil-DONG yok?”

“neh.”

“50,000.”

“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.

 

 

chopsticks.

 

 

 

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).

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

and

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.

annyong.

what is going on?

6 Sep

obviously the #1 most frustrating thing that every expat goes through who lives in korea is that they have no idea what the eff is going on at any point in time.

this happens often. at school during the staff meetings i attend every monday in which i understand nothing, and when i ask after if anything important was said, am told no. this happens at restaurants when you can’t read the menus in hangul, in cabs when the driver cannot understand you saying your subway station despite trying 100 different intonations, pronunciations and whatever else you can do to make him get it. this also happens when people talk to me in stores, on the street, in my classroom. it happened today when my landlady, liz, took me to buy a cellphone and plan.

i am very grateful for liz’s help. she speaks some english and really is a very nice person. however, i have no idea what just happened in the cell phone store. i have a phone. it’s mostly in english, except for texting which is in korean. i have figured out how to make the actual message in english, but all of the settings remain in korean. i have no idea what my plan is. as far as i can tell it’s somewhere around $40 a month for the first three months and then after that you can change it. i suppose i don’t need to worry too much about it yet because i can change it after that time period, but i don’t even know how many minutes i have. if i have any text messages. can i go on the internet? i don’t want to but am i paying for it? why did i get an antennae to watch tv? i don’t want to watch tv. all i wanted was a phone that can call and text. this was not easy to explain and of course never was accomplished. it would be a lot more helpful if my co-teacher would come along with me to do these things, but she has both of her parents in the hospital right now and therefore is very busy. i do understand, but it can make you feel pretty helpless sometimes. most times, really.

well i guess i’ll just hope that my phone bill doesn’t turn out to be like 100,000 won a month or something and that it really only is $40. everyone says that asia has the best cell phone plans. i guess i will see. the best isn’t necessarily what i want. i want the poor student’s deal. unfortunately liz did not seem to grasp why that was and so i fear i am stuck with something i cannot undo.

during the weeks i mostly just go out for dinner with sarah and dave as they live very close to me. on the weekends we have done touristy things (like we went to changdeok palace on saturday). i want to experience as much as i can while i’m here, but part of me is so tired that i have to drag myself out of my bed/room to do anything. i always am happy i did, but it’s that initial getting out part which takes a bit of effort. now that i have a cellphone i hope i do see other people too.

alright well i’m going to go for indian so i will hopefully write more later.

peaceeeeeeeee.

rainy day post.

29 Aug

well i’m waiting for mad men to load so until that happens i figured i might as well do a post about what’s going on here.

today sarah (my friend from school) and her friend stella and i went to home plus at gubendari station. it’s only one stop north of gil-dong where i live, but we walked there. it was absolutely pouring rain. we walked through the market near my apt. to get there. it really wasn’t as close as we thought it would be.

photo by stella

that’s us walking through the market in gil-dong! as you can see, it’s a bit wet.

so finally we got there and wandered around this massive store which i think was 5 stories. i managed to get a lot of the things on my list but WHY did they not have a double fitted bed sheet? like really. only queen and single. soo that i still need to get. and a toaster oven. but i did get some things to make my little house here a home.

the store is strange because you pay for your items on each floor. so when we went to the grocery floor we had to ‘check’ our cart and get a new one. it really was much easier than lugging everything i had bought along with me.  i ended up buying just a few items but overall i spent probably around 200,000 won sooo around $200. not impressed! my school has a 300,000 won stipend for me, but i think the majority of that was spent on my bedclothes. i don’t know where the remainder went.

so when we tried to leave i had an entire cart of stuff and it was still pouring. we needed to take a cab but we couldn’t even hail one. in korea you hail a cab with your hand about stomach height and wiggle your fingers with the palm down. anyway, so finally a guy comes over and then won’t take me. why? i have no idea. he was speaking korean.

finally this nice korean guy a bit younger than us gets a cab for us and helps me load my stuff in the cab. he also talked to the cab driver for us. he was super nice and spoke some english like “oh my god!” when he was trying to shove it all in the cab. it’s funny here because some people don’t seem welcoming to foreigners but then other people are SO nice. i guess it evens out somehow.

so then finally we get going to my house, of course my directions are in english but stella was there who speaks korean, which is a huuuuuuge advantage. we get to my house and the cab driver and sarah help me bring all my stuff in, although i left my food in the cab with sarah and stella. ugh. oh well. so then on the way into my apt my landlord (papa kim) helps me carry it up, which is also super nice of him. later on i saw liz, papa kim’s wife and she had invited me to see her cello concert at home plus. i said i was sorry i hadn’t attended but she said i must be very tired (true). anyway, i hope she wasn’t offended that i didn’t come.

so after running to family mart to buy ramen to eat for lunch i am now settling into my bed to watch mad men and nap.

i am never staying up until 4:30 am to silent skype again, ok?

the end.