Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Koreans Aren't Friendly?

Okay so this is something that's been bothering me for a while so I figure I should finally sit down and write about it.  One of the most interesting things about going abroad are is of the opinions, tips and precautions people feel the need to share with you before you go, suddenly everyone you know becomes an expert on your next destination.   Before coming to Korea and over the past 7 months living here I've heard plenty of suggestions, warnings and comments about the people, food, driving, weather, you name it.  One common utterance I've heard, on multiple occasions is "Oh Korean's, they're not very friendly", this has come from people in the US, Taiwan, and even others living in Korea  (by both foreigners and Koreans, speaking of those from different provinces/cities). Well, after living here for 7 months I'm finally going to call BS.  Like many generalizations and stereotypes, this may have been true for some people, but so far, in my experience, it's been quite the opposite.  Even this morning during the last part of my run, the man riding on the back of the garbage truck turned to smile, wave and say hello - maybe he's the one that prompted this blog post.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Seoul Surprises

This past weekend I had plans to travel to Seoul with Sara so she could scope out the location of where she'll be taking the GRE next month.  I knew that I didn't have classes on Friday and found out Thursday night (from one of my students, 이장희) it was because my second graders were going to Seoul for the day to tour Seoul National University. As I approached school Friday morning it dawned on me that I should have asked to go with, scoring myself a free ride since I was already planning to be there for the weekend, oh well too late.  Or was it?

I sat down at my desk and seconds later my phone was ringing, it was the principal telling me I should come with "hurry, we're going to Seoul now".  I tried explaining that I needed my backpack since I wanted to stay for the weekend, but there was some info. lost in translation.  With the help of one of the English teachers it was arranged that I could run home, grab my stuff and they would wait for me to leave. Score! This is where my planning ahead totally pays off, I had thankfully laid out what I planned to pack for the weekend so I was able to throw it all together fairly quickly.  10 minutes later instead of sitting at my desk drinking coffee and catching up on emails I was on my way to Seoul.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Geumosan on Crack

After a few weekends of adventure I decided it was time for me to stay closer to home for once. Originally I was hoping to catch some of my students playing soccer but their game turned into practice so that was no longer the plan. Friday night was spent at Loudine's house watching "What to Expect when you're expecting" eating pizza and drinking wine, i'm beginning to really enjoy these movie nights.  I had been texting Shaun (the newbie in town) about the Packer vs Bears game - yeah he's from Chicago and of course, a Bears fan.  At some point during our conversation we decided we were going hiking the next morning, always up for a challenge I decided we'd try the hike behind my house annnnd take it all the way to Gumi.

Map of our route - bottom right corner to the biggest peak (red rectangle)

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Next Einstein

Two weeks ago I was struggling to come up with what to teach for my next lesson, but with the help of my friend Charles that problem was quickly solved. He sent me an "inventions" lesson which was a big hit with his class so I thought i'd give it a try. There really isn't much explanation needed; I just wanted to share with you some of the weird, wonderful and wacky inventions my students created.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Last weekend Sara and I decided that it was time to take off and explore another city of Korea.  After minimal research I discovered there was an International music festival taking place in Gwangju, with the promise of live music we were sold.  Our friend Charles was also feeling the travel itch and decided to join us on our adventure across the country.  Gwangju is the SW province of Jeonnam-do, and thanks to a big mountiain smack dab in the middle of the country it took our bus about three and a half hours to get there.  Charles had a bit further to travel but thanks to some generous co-workers he was able to get out early so we all met at the bus terminal around 10pm.  Our first  task was to locate a place to stay for the night, we going to head downtown but after the help of a few friendly locals we were directed just a few blocks away from the terminal.  Between the rain, cars and overtired silliness that came upon us, we had quite the laugh trying to find a place to stay - but eventually settled on a motel just a few blocks from the station.  It wasn't the most beautiful place i'd ever seen but you couldn't really beat the price (25,000 per night).  Not really feeling up to making the trek downtown we decided to see what was nearby offering food and drinks.  We found a small bar/restaurant with an extremely friendly waiter, who spoke near perfect English. We caught up while sharing stories and laughs over a pitcher of beer and snacks, but soon decided to call it a night as we all had long days. I think getting back to the motel was among our biggest challenge of the weekend. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

So Many Naked People

It's crazy how fast my time in Korea has been flying by, I remember last spring talking to friends about wanting to go to the Daegu International Bodypainting festival and now it's been over a week since I've been there done that.  The festival took place the first weekend of September and was held at Duryu park in Daegu.  Caitlin and Joonwoo picked me up around 10am and we made our way into Daegu (woo hoo for not having to take the train) arriving just in time for what was supposed to be the opening ceremony. Turns out there wasn't any type of actual ceremony, 11 o'clock was rather just the time all the painting started.  The park was pretty empty but it was cool to see all of the models and artists getting ready. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A New Semester

Start of the new semester means only one thing - more staff dinners and lots of soju.  I knew there would be changes at school, my main co-teacher taking off to have a baby being one of them, but I did realize there were a few other teachers that were also leaving. One of the teachers that sat kiddy corner to met in the office was offered a promotion to VP at another school, I found this out the day before he left as we all gathered for dinner. I hadn't really talked to him much but he would always greet me with a warm smile and friendly "안녕하세요" (hello) when I walked in the door every morning. Of course, after a few soju's at dinner he expressed to me (with help from my co-teacher) how much he wished we could talk more and that he's sorry he doesn't know more English.  I was near speechless trying to convey to him that he made me feel welcome no matter how many words we shared. During dinner one of my co-teachers asked me if i'd be joining for 노래방 (karaoke) after dinner. To be honest I barely wanted to join for dinner so I was not to excited about the prospect of signing and drinking afterwards.  My new co-teacher and I had plans to escape (which a few others had already done) but one of the other women said to wait, that she would drive us.  We were getting ready to leave but upon entering the parking lot were met by most of the male staff who pointed to the 노래방(conveniently located right next door - there would be no escape).  

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Back to the Swing of Things

Since returning from my summer vacation in Taiwan I seem to have adopted a new weekend habit. (okay it's only been two weeks, but still).  The last two weekends have been filled with good friends, good food, lots of dancing and of course a few drinks.  Then by Sunday I try to restore some of the damage i've done to myself by exploring my city by bike.