Monday, April 30, 2012

Bulls, Beer and Burgers

During my downtime at school you can usually find me perusing different 'Korean tourist' websites, looking for ways to spend my weekends.  A while back I stumbled across information for the Cheongdo bullfight festival, I mentioned it to a few friends with tentative plans to go but didn't make it much further than that.  Apparently it's the nations largest bullfight competition and dates back about 1000 years. About two weeks ago the topic came up again, but this time through an organized tour with Waegook Travel., I usually tend to pass on the organized group travel plans, but the price was decent and I figured it be nice to have a bus cart me around and not have to figure out trains, buses and taxis.  Plus my friends Meredith and Sara were interested in joining so I figured it'd be a good day.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Gyeongju

A few weeks ago in my class I taught the expression "April showers bring May flowers".  The kids understood the meaning however it didn't translate the best as rainy season here is generally in summer - July and August. Unlike the April showers we have at home, spring arrives here just in time to cure you of your winter blues, this is the time to catch the beautiful cherry blossoms [벚꽃]. Literally you need to catch them before their gone, the blossoms tend to bloom during the first few weeks of June (depending on location) and are usually gone within two weeks.  I was in luck, my friend Son was planning to stay in Gyeongju for the weekend to explore and invited me to come along.  Gyeongju was the capital of South Korea during the Shilla dynasty so there is a ton of history and lots to see there.  It was the Friday after our school hike and I didn't really feel like rush to a bus so I decided to instead get up early Saturday and catch the first bus.  I slept with ear plus in that night, thanks to the lovely dogs down the block and their incessant barking, which created a bit of a rushed morning after sleeping through the first five minutes of my alarm.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Birthday Party

Last week after returning from Seoul I found myself battling yet again another cold.  I've been told by numerous people that for your first month or two in this country you'll be sick on and off.  I haven't consciously noticed a higher level of air pollution but i'm starting to believe that's the culprit behind my hacking cough and scratchy throat - hopefully it goes away soon.  So back to last week, I thought it was going to be hell teaching all week but once again luck was on my side.  Tuesday my students were all testing so I sat at my desk, Wednesday was a national holiday for the election, and Friday we had a half day so the afternoon could be spent celebrating the school's birthday.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Seoul Party Rockin'

One week, 206 miles later and I find myself on the opposite side of the country.  When trying to explain the dynamics of some of the larger cities here: Busan, Daegu and Seoul i've heard a great comparison is Miami, Chicago and New york respectively.  After having visiting all three this statement is fairly accurate. Busan has the laid back feel I image you would get in any coastal city - although it wasn't exactly the Gold Coast or the LA boardwalk, life did seem to move a bit slower there - and everyone I met was extremely helpful.  Seoul on the other hand had the hussel and bussel of New York (although that's only from what i've heard seeing as I've never been).  The subways were jam packed, there were people everywhere, and everything was much more expensive.  

I was lucky enough to not have class last Friday as it was the schools birthday, yes they celebrate that.  In fact we have an assembly and school wide hike coming up this Friday - in addition to our day off.  I took advantage of this by sleeping in and getting ready for the weekend.  Thanks to some friends advice I opted to take the bus to Seoul, running me 15,000 won for 3 hours of travel in comparison to the train which is about 18,000 won and same amount of time.  The bus was definitely more comfortable, spacious and we didn't have to stop to let people get on and off along the way - good choice.  I got in around 6 and made my way to the hostel we booked for the night - Big Chois.  The hostel was pretty much what I expected, although my travel buddies were less than enthusiastic about sharing a room with others (guess they didn't realize what a shared dorm room ment).  I had to wait until about 10 for the others to get in, I went out explored and grabbed dinner but the cold and wind sent me back to the hostel.  Choi and some of his friends were in the common area drinking makoli (korean rice wine - not bad) and invited me to join.  They all had a minimal grasp of English and we were joined by two other foreigners (a post-grad backpacker from Switzerland and a retired man from the UK living here for 4 years - literally, at the hostel...) This might have been the best part of that night, one of the guys proceeded to tell me my future using my birthdate and time (I'm not supposed to make any investments this year or every 8 after that...good to know).  

Saturday we started our day at a cute little coffee shop - decorated as if we were on the beaches of Hawaii. From there it was off to the Trickeye Museum which was just down the road from where we were staying. Basically it's full of art that looks 3D and you can interact with.  Pictures would be better to explain. 
Happy Birthday Son!
Perfect angels :)


I wish this was for real - so much shopping to do in Seoul


Running out of time...


Popular (old school) Korean game Neolttwigi [널뛰기


Koreans generally dont' J-walk..case in point.

After the museum we made our way to Itaewon which is a popular area for foreigners to hang out.  We found a new motel for the night, after realizing the concert was on the direct opposite side of Seoul from Big Chois, and enjoyed some high quality burritos (pretty much qdoba). This just goes to show how westernized Seoul has become, I was told there is NO mexican food in Korean, false and I found it. We had some time to kill before the concert so Son and I made our way to Dongdaemun History and Culture Park. 
Random garbage/recycling sculpture in the park

We walked around the mall - pretty sure it was like 8 stories tall, and then went out to walk the street markets.  After being somewhat depressed at the prices in the mall we found a steal - 10,000 won for some knock off Converse - I could care less about brand name, they were cute and cheap! score.  Not knowing exactly where the concert was, being tired of wondering and ready to drink we decided to navigate our way there. Probably an hour later and after a few U-turns on the subway, we made it! Bough some soju and beer, picked up our tickets and camped out.  Everyone was waiting in a massive crowd and we happen to meet two Koreans who had both come alone.  미현 hung out with us for the rest of the time before the concert and when we bought him a beer (for the steep price of about 1,700 won) he told us we were angels.  You could tell he was beyond excited for the night and glad to make some new friends.  Courtney met up with us just in time for us to go in and find our seats.  

Group before the show!






I.am.not.a.whore - but I like to do it.


Sorry i'm not sorry - open containers, totally acceptable in Korea


I stole Son's glasses - he told me they make you invisible...

The concert was a blast, if anything it was over too soon - but I guess that's where "time flies when you're having fun" would apply.  We had a good 30minute subway ride home and by that time Son and I realized we were starving - no dinner, oops.  Son wanted a good steak so somehow we wound up at Outback - it was fine, probably not worth the price they charged us but that's what you get when you try to eat Americanized Australian food, in South Korea.  Sunday morning came all too soon and we decided to continue our American tour with a stop at Dunkin' Donuts.  We were then off for more shopping, wandering, lunch with Daniel (one of our teachers from orientation) and then it was back home to the reality of another week.  

Incase the pictures weren't enough...



Enjoy!


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Busan with Visitors

Saturday night after getting into our rooms we spent time catching up and getting settled.  Everyone was tired from a full day of travel - especially Adam and Alivia who I think we're still feeling some of the effects of jet lag.  We all showered, unpacked, caught up with each other, showered and went to bed.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Busan Newbie

This last weekend I was lucky enough to get time to spend with some of my family. Darren, Joan and the kids: Alivia, Claire and Adam are on a whirlwind tour of Korea and China; I was able to meet them for the weekend in Busan, one of many stops on their jam packed vacation.They weren't scheduled to get into Busan until Saturday evening but I wanted to make the most of the weekend so I got up early and caught a train to Busan.  I looked into a few different ideas for the day and since the weather was pretty nice when I got there I decided to start with Yongdusan park (Dragon's head mountain) and Busan tower.  It seemed pretty close to the train station so I decided to walk....