Tag Archive: Korea


Goodbyes

I have been home now for a couple of weeks and it has been a weird, yet nice time.  I definitely got behind on finishing wrapping up this blog and my year working in South Korea.

So I got together with some friends on my last weekend in Korea for drinks and darts and just spending some quality time together for the last time.  It was a really fun night and I really do miss the people already. Of course we were at Metropolis, which became my MacLaren’s if you watch How I Met Your Mother. I love every person that works there. They treated us so well and became great friends of mine.  They always bought dinner or made sure we made it home safely.  Saying goodbye to them wasn’t easy, but we had a few laughs that definitely made it more bearable.

3 pf my favorite, favorite Koreans.  I loved working with Eileen and Joanne. They are funny, kind, and just really awesome people.  It was fun overcoming barriers of language and culture and I am grateful that with all of the things I dealt with throughout the year at work that having co-workers wasn’t one of them.  Then Jun Soo was always super helpful and willing to do pretty much anything we asked of him.  He made sure we made it home and helped me get awesomely cheap contacts. yay!

It was Jun Soo’s idea to tear up the napkins to make them look like tears because it totally resembles what it looks like when someone is crying in a particular Korean kid’s cartoon.  It was really funny to take these pictures while everyone was watching us.

These people plus the missing Jun-Soo and the already returned Rachel and Sara made up the core of my friendships and system during my time in Korea.

and then finally one of me and Andy.  I am so glad that Andy had this place that we could go to that was a really constant mix of Koreans and foreigners and then made it so awesome that we went back time after time.

The next set of goodbyes were so hard for me to make.  It is not uncommon for foreign teachers to pick up private students they teach on the side for extra money.  Technically most of the time it can be used for termination of your contract, but everyone does it.  So I hopped on this train and taught a couple myself.  I first began teaching these two little 5 year old girls.  They were great. I played with them and we sang songs and read books, and I just really enjoyed their eagerness to learn.  One of the girls had an older cousin that I also began to teach.  Her English was really good and she loves learning.  She is an overall great student, but even more so at English.  Her name is Grace.  I loved spending time with Grace’s family.  They always treated me so well and constantly went above and beyond what they paid me every week.  When I was sunburned her mom cut up her aloe plant and made me lay for hours covered in aloe.  She constantly would take flowers from her own vase and send them home with me.   They took me to lunch many times.  I also spent a day just playing in the park with Grace and her little cousin Min Seo.  It was really appreciated and I loved the relationship I built with their family.  I let Eileen take over the lessons and I am glad that Grace will be taken care of.  During my last lesson we had lunch and chatted for awhile.  It was just really nice to feel like I had moments where I got to be this almost natural part of someone’s family even though I clearly wasn’t.

This was our last meeting together.  We went to my favorite Chinese place and I had this delicious spicy seafood soup called jjambbong.  Min Seo the smaller girl really was my favorite person.  She is so funny and smart and just a really well behaved child.  I told her parents that any time they wanted to send her to America I would be more than glad to take her.  She was so cute and loving.  and then of course the same with Grace.  She was such a good student and so easy to chat with and I always looked forward to our lessons.

I really like this picture of Grace and I.

Leaving Korea was easy in some ways because I was ready, but there were definitely things that kind of hit me at the last minute and caused me to just feel this deep sadness about returning home.

I am grateful for the people that I was able to meet and make connections with during my year there.  I am even more grateful for the technology that allows me to keep in contact and to keep building relationships with people like Eileen that I hold so dear.

 

Last weekend I went with some co-workers to a Korean baseball game.  It was a total experience.  If you are in Korea, like baseball, and it’s in season I think it’s a total must.

Basically tickets are less than 10usd for the general admin seats.  We sat right outfield front/bottom row like right on the field.  We bought tickets the day of the game and settled in to watch the LG Twins play against the Doosan Bears.  Both teams are Seoul based teams so there were a good amount of fans that came out to support.  Neither team made it to the play-offs so there weren’t as many people as usual.

Korea baseball games are fun for 2 main reasons. First, everything about them is cheap.  We bought beer for cheap, unlike the ridiculously over priced stuff at games in the States.  Then, in Korea there aren’t hotdogs at a baseball game, there is fried chicken.  No one walks around selling during the game, but all of the vendors are set up just outside, so its way less annoying.  Second, they are fun because of the fans.  People love baseball here.  Love it.  Korea also loves entertainment.  This is evident in every facet of their lives.  Therefore, at baseball games there are these cheer dancers that come out for each team when they are up to bat.  Each team has a theme song, and even some individual players.  They all  have these huge clapping sticks and the fans have all kinds of cheers memorized.  There are even cheer wars.  I’m not talking like a small section starting something, I mean the whole freaking stadium.  It was a total experience for sure.

We got there about an hour before the game started.

So my friend/co-worker Joanne played photographer and didn’t realize how light weird my camera can be if you don’t know when/how to change the settings and stuff.  I should have checked it first.  Point is the pictures are reaaaallly bright and stuff so this is the best I could do with them.

LG fans.  You can see the dancers/singer guy on the blue platform thing in the center.

This kid was sooo cute.  He was chanting all the cheers and clapping his sticks for LG hardcore.

Me and Joanne after the game was over. I have no clue how she wasn’t freezing.  It was sooo cold outside.

It was lots of fun, most assuredly.  I wish I had gone to more while I was here.  So it goes.

The Faucet Affair

I have created a faucet lapping monster.

Hans has always been weird about the bathroom.  He will sit outside the door while I shower and talk to me.  He will come in the bathroom and try and drink shower water off the floor but I don’t let him since its a shower floor which is gross.  And he is terribly afraid of a flushing toilet.

Well, lately his relationship with the bathroom has changed ever so slightly.  He has decided that he is giving up the gross life of post shower water for a cleaner more luxurious lifestyle of straight from the tap water.  I know many cats love this little source of hydration, but Hans had never showed interest before last week while I was getting ready for bed doing the nightly routine of teeth brushing and face washing.  Now he is like this addicted monster.  Any time I go into the bathroom he dashes in and jumps up to the sink and starts lapping at the faucet waiting for me to turn on the water.  He’s so silly.

Also, side note:  in order to get Hans in the smoothest way possible he needs to be wearing a collar and tags and such.  Well, he has never had to wear a collar before as far as I know.  So I got him one about a week ago to help him get used to the idea.  So far he just sits trying to chew it off.  It’s not too tight or anything he just really hates it.  He looks ridiculous trying to tear at it, but I am more afraid hes going to hurt himself.  Oh well, only 2 more weeks until we are home sweet home Stateside.

Last week in science class with my GS students we didn’t have an assigned project.  Usually we do these silly little prepackaged projects from these books.  Some of them are fun and some of them are just ridiculously pointless. Anyway, last week I suppose they didn’t come in on time because we were told it would be a “review week”.  These aren’t really things you can review because these poor kids don’t even get half the things you say to them most days.

So I decided to do something fun and make a project to keep them busy and to let them have fun.  I finally settled on the idea of making ice cream in baggies.  The kids had a great time.  It was a little more messy than I would have hoped, and I probably should have had them work in teams instead of individually, but hey I know better for next time I suppose.

I looked up a basic how-to guide on-line just to get some accurate measurements and tested it at home the night before just to make sure it would work. It was really easy and I used chocolate milk just to skip a lot of extra steps.

Meet GS4A. From the left row front to back and the right row back to front  Sally, Daniel, Christal, Julia, Tom, Steve, and James.  They are a handful.  The boys in this class are hardcore.  They talk 100 miles and hour and they love to destroy…everything.

Daniel is a weird child.  I teach his sister Bella, too and  I would love to meet their parents.  They are very strange kids.  Definitely marching to a way off beat drum.  Daniel kept wanting to lick the salt.  It was gross and unsanitary and I just couldn’t reason with him.  I am sure his sodium levels were spiked for days.

James and Julia shaking away.  The bags got really cold, of course, so I had brought some hand towels to class for them to use when they needed them.

Stillll Shaking!

Poor Sally, she is one of my favorites. She was so excited about her awesome looking ice cream, but some how some of the salt got mixed in with her milk, and she had some terrible tasting ice cream.  I did give her a new chocolate milk to make up for it though.  Other than her mishap and a few not quite frozen situations everyone’s turned out great.

맛있는!  (delicious!)

It’s a little blurry because Daniel wouldn’t hold the cup still, but yay! icecream!

And it was during their last class of the day, so I sugared them up and then put them on the bus home.  ^_^

Chuseok

One of the biggest holidays in Korea is Chuseok.  Everyone has days off to celebrate together.  Essentially it translates to Korean Thanksgiving and celebrates the Korean autumn harvest.  Everyone travels to see family and spends time eating with them.

There is a special type of dduk, a rice cake called songpyeon, that they during this time as well.  My kids were writing about it in their journals for weeks leading up to the holiday.  They all were excited about the special dduk.  I had some and it was quite good.  They do put it in bags with pine needles which was a bit strange, but definitely tasty. The link to Wikipedia tells you all the deliciousness inside.

I had the honor of being invited to spend the day at Eileen’s grandmother’s house with her family.  I have spent time with them before if you remember at her grandmother’s 90th birthday party.  Her family has been really kind to me this year, and I am really thankful for them letting me be a part of their celebrations.

So I woke up early and met Eileen and her mom for our journey down to Suwon.  We took the subway for over and hour and then a bus for about 40 minutes.  Finally we arrived.  There was so much food.  Kimchi, of course, jeons of all kinds, egg battered veggies, sides galore, and this delicious soup yukgaejang,  which I call six things soup because its name sounds similar to the number six.  Eileen laughs every time, but it totally makes sense to me.  Her grandmother made it with chicken and it was so tasty.  We ate and ate and I was so full, but then her grandmother kept bringing out fruit and snacks and she kept personally handing me things being the good Korean hostess, but I was so full.  It is rude to not accept things offered to you in Korea so I just kept eating until I finally just said I’m sorry but I am just too full. Saying I’m full is one of the things I learned early on in my year here.  Haha you hear people saying it all the time. Sadly, I didn’t take any pictures of the food because there weren’t many people there and I kind of wanted to just enjoy being there and not being the weird foreigner with a camera, so sorry about that, my words will just have to be enough.

Side note: The word for stomach in Korean is bai.  This word is also the word for sheep and pear.  So sometimes I just sit and giggle at all the ways you could get all three of these words mixed up in a sentence taken out of context in translation.

Anyway, so after so much eating, which was totally ok because it’s a holiday and those never count, plus the food was amazing, we were asked to go help pick some veggies.  Eileen’s grandma has small portions of these community gardens near her house.  It’s really interesting because these plots are on the sides of these hills almost up into the trees.  To get to one of them you have to climb up these makeshift dangerous rock stairs.  It was fine though I suppose because if her 90 year old grandma can climb them like a champ then we figured we should too.  Though I am still not sure how grandma did it, to be honest.

I did take pictures of this 🙂

Eileen borrowed some clothes from her grandma so that she wouldn’t mess up the nice clothes she was wearing.  Of course you can’t work in a garden without a hat, so we borrowed those too.

She totally looked like an ajumma, it was hilarious.

I was in charge of picking peppers in the first garden we went to.

Eileen and her grandma.

Then we went to the second garden, and there were so many mosquitoes it was crazy.  I think I ended up with 15 bites by the next morning.

Also, in the middle of the second garden there was this make shift sitting area.  I am pretty sure its where old men go to drink soju while they garden haha.

Again, we couldn’t stay long because of the mosquitoes. We did get some good veggies though.

After we were finished and had helped clean up her grandma start packing food bags for all of us. She even sent some left overs for me.  They were so delicious and I was surprised she even sent some for me.

Overall, it was a good day and I am really glad I got to experience my last holiday here properly.

Seoul Forest

Eek I thought I had this post queued up to post, but apparently I messed that up somehow. oops.

During the last few days Andy was here the weather was beautiful.  On the Sunday before he left we decided to go to Seoul Forest.  Andy had been there on his own one day while I was at work, and he really liked it there.  I was excited to check it out.

We wore our couple shirts out and got a few looks and comments which I thought was super funny.  I got them kind of as pretty much a joke.  Koreans looooove their same-same and I just don’t get it, but these shirts were cute sooo we wore them out for a day in the park.

Seoul Forest is huge. Seriously so much green!

There is also a deer park, butterfly and insect houses, and tons of other things to do.  So we made the most of it, I think. First, we walked around for a while. Then we had been talking about getting a tandem bicycle so we went to the bike rental area and picked one up.  It was a rocky ride at first until we got smart and decided to adjust the seats.  much easier once that happened.

We rode over to the deer park and used the handy-dandy machine to get some food to feed them.

then ta-da deer feeding:

Normally, I am not a fan of caging animals in the middle of a huge city like this, but these guys really had a lot of nice forest land to roam around in.

Then we just rode around for a little half an hour looking at all the different parts of the park. After our bike ride we kept walking and headed to the butterfly house.  There were beautiful butterflies and squishy little caterpillars everywhere.

Sadly, the insect part was closing for the day when we tried to go in.

This place had a water treatment facilitation and eco forests as well.  It is huge. There were play grounds and sculptures.   It was so nice to see so much green.  There were so many people out enjoying the day. Families were camped out for the day playing games and having family time together.  I will say that Sunday is most assuredly still valued as a family day for Koreans and it is usually the day they spend fostering their relationships.

This was one of the huge sculptures and kids could climb inside and hang out.

Andy took me over to a bridge area that he had seen before.  It was really awesome.  It was nice to have the tables turned and have him showing me around.

Lots of pond area.

Also, there was that ever looming juxtaposition of the fact that this park is smack dab in the middle of this humungous city.

Then we headed to the small set of gardens we had seen that were set down at the this slope situation.  The flowers were beautiful and I really liked it…

but then I started noticing them.

looming

and it was not cool.

their spindly legs and huge creepiness. I really hate spiders. fact. and these were really big creepy things. I just imagined they were fast crazy guys and I just was itchy all over.  I made it through though.

ugh.

After this it was dinner time, but we weren’t ready to leave so we went to see if the guy who was selling pizzas he was making on the back of a truck was still there. Alas he totally was.  So we got a pizza for like 6 bucks and went back to the park to eat it while the sun was setting an end on the day.  We watched all the kids playing in the fountain and it was really nice.

 

DMZ

 

Sorry about the length between posts.  I didn’t want to spend hours of my last days with Andy blogging, and then I just spent a few days being really lazy.  No worries though there will be a couple posts showing up over this next week.

Andy and I took a trip to the DMZ.  Unfortunately, we didn’t take the trip with the USO.  We had a good experience but if I have time to go again I will definitely go with them. On this trip it was ridiculously hazy out.  We took the bus with our group.  When we arrived at the barricades we handed over our IDs and were registered.  Then a soldier got on the bus just to match IDs and people to make sure everyone had been cleared.

There were lots

It was a really hazy day.  This was taken at our first stop, Imjingak.  It was built to be a place where civilians that had lost their homes in the North could go and console their sorrows.  It is the farthest point people can go without permission.  It was the first stop that was full of good and somber parts as well as touristy ridiculousness, like the amusement park.

This is the Korean memorial for the United States.  Sadly, we didn’t have time to see it any closer.

This is an alter that is used by the displaced, especially during Lunar New Year and Chuesok, Korean Thanksgiving.

Ribbons hang all over the fencing of the bridge that was built to have an exchange of POWs.  They are messages to family members that were separated into the North.

One of the trains that was abandoned on the tracks when they were destroyed and split up during the war.

There are so many systems in place for security, and of course the most popular being barbed wire EVERYWHERE! Seriously, you couldn’t look in any direction without seeing this somewhere in your line of sight.

This is the Peace Bell that was installed in 2000 to hope for a United Korea during the new millenium.

of course there were these little photo points set up throughout everything.  They really wanted to make this into a place that should be enjoyed and almost celebrated instead of seeing it at a border that kept families apart and was created because a nation was being divided. A border that is still heavily guarded and at all times comes with some level of danger.

But back to the happy go lucky ventures of the day.  After this stop we went to this really good place for lunch.  Had some beanpaste soup and tofu something or another.  It was here that Andy and I tried some North Korean beer, and photographed our reactions.  It wasn’t terrible after the first initial sips, but definitely not something I expect to see on the shelves at a grocery store in NC anytime soon.

awesome sculpture near the third tunnel.  It is supposed to show the divide being bridged by the people and stuff, obviously, of course.

A map of the DMZ.  There is actually a village of people that live within its boundaries.  They farm and go to school and everything.  They have a curfew, and can’t roam freely because of undetonated mines.  I wouldn’t say it is my ideal life, but it’s what they have chosen to do.

and back to the cheesy touristy things like taking pictures with these little guys.

Apparently Andy decided to find himself a new girlfriend, but she was already taken.

These little statues were outside of the Third Tunnel. We weren’t allowed to take any pictures in the area.  It was really hard to navigate this tunnel because it seriously looks like it was built for children.  I hit my head numerous times and was glad for my helmet.  we walked bent over in half most of the time.

This is one of the lookout posts over into North Korea.  It was so hazy and the ‘photo zone’ was so far away that I didn’t really get any pictures…well I got some buuut I took them in a place Iwasn’t supposed to so they deleted them…oops. We also didn’t get to go into the information center because some US high ranking official was there.  I am not sure who, but it was a bummer that we couldn’t see everything, especially since it was hazy. The guards were nice though and answered a bunch of questions some others had.

Last we went to Dorasan Train Station. It is the last train stop in the northern parts of South Korea.  There is a train that runs south from this station every 2 hours through the middle of the day, I think.  There are tracks on both sides but only the one side is ever used.  All around the station is this almost movie set looking set-up.  There are cargo holds and immigration buildings and things that would be necessary during an opening of borders and a slow process reunification time.  It was just so strange to see everything there and waiting but never being used. The tracks were destroyed during the war and the picture above is a wall with names on it of people that donated in the project to rebuild the lines.

This is the front of the station.  It is way nice and clean and modern looking.  It is stationed with guards but they were kind of goofing around and answering questions, and of course posing for pictures.

There was a map showing how the Trans Siberian rail road would look and how if the North were open to the trains that it would take something like 15 days to take a train from Seoul to London.  Personally I would absolutely love to take a trip like that and see the landscapes of Russia.  Maybe one day.

Apparently George Bush did something with the tracks.

We had to pay like $.50 to go out onto the platform.  When we got there there was a train waiting to take people South.

This is the Korean’s main phrase used to describe this station.

Of course since there were no more trains for at least two hours and absolutely none on the other side we got to go down and hang out on the tracks.

and the way to North Korea is blocked and filled with red lights and stop signs.

Overall it was a very interesting experience and I learned a lot, but I also felt like I was in this kind of fun touristy learning spot and not in this kind of scary border that stretched 2km on each side of the border in countries that are still technically at war.  It was informational but hard to take it all as serious as I think we both would have liked to. So it goes. And there you have it, the DMZ trip with Adventure Korea.

War Memorial of Korea

Sunday, Andy and I decided to go check out the War Memorial of Korea and museum. It was raining of course, but we figured that since a majority of everything was inside it would be fine.  We weren’t planning on spending more than a couple of hours there but actually ended up spending the whole day pretty much because there was just so much to look at and see and do.

Outside there are a lot of memorials that represent different things.

This represented the sword and the tree of life…I totally thought it was two sides of a bullet buuuut I was wrong. It was really cool to see.

These face ball fountain pieces did not have any explanation in English.  It was kind of strange though to see all these little faces on several of these throughout the court yard area.

This is a replica of a monument built for a great king.  Sadly, the original stands in China on what was once part of Korea during a heightened and stronger period, but now is Chinese territory.

This was a really awesome piece to see and read about.  The English text explaining the monument called the Statue of Brothers says this:

“The Statue of Brothers is an 18 meter wide and 11-meter high symbol of the Korean War. It consists of the upper part, lower part and inner part. The upper part of the statue depicts a scene where a family’s older brother, an ROK officer, and his younger brother, a North Korean soldier, meet in a battlefield and express reconciliation, love, and forgiveness. The lower tomb-shaped dome was built with pieces of granite collected from nationwide locations symbolizing the sacrifices made by our patriots. The crack in the dome stands for the division of Korea and the hope for reunification. Objects inside the dome include a mosaic wall painting that expresses the spirit of the Korean people to overcome the national tragedy and a map plate of the 16 UN Allied Nations that dispatched troops to the war. The links of iron chain on the ceiling signify the unbreakable bonds of a unified Korea.”

Bronze statues like these that represent all types of people on both sides that were, and still are, effected by the war between North and South Korea.  They were big and detailed and to me that made them powerful.

Also, along the outside of the museum was an area that displayed various planes, vehicles, and artillery used during Korean history.

This ship is an exact replica.  The real one is housed at a different site and unfortunately we weren’t able to see the inside, but it was still cool.

Then to get out of the rain we decided to check out the inside of the museum. There was so much information about Korea’s history as a whole, not just the Korean war that divided the peninsula in two.

One of the interesting, funny little things about Korean museums is that they seriously love using dioramas. Seriously, they love them.

The swords that Korean’s used to fight with were crazy big and scary.

awesome fighting details.

Pretty much hoping I can find one of these awesome outfits around Halloween.

huge boat replicas.

A flag that was signed by a volunteer corps during the war in the 1950s.

Tear drop made of dog tags from the Korean War. It was a really cool piece to see.

On the bottom floor there was a really cool exhibit we didn’t get to see but it was kiiind of like our version of gingerbread houses only they were made out of toothpicks and this puffed Korean cereal and rice cake things.  It was really neat.

I didn’t take many pictures in the museum because there was just soooo much to see, and I was really focused on reading what I could and just trying to keep all the things that have happened in the long history of this country separated. I totally recommend this as a place to see if you ever visit Seoul, just make sure you have a good chunk of time you can spend taking it all in.

 

Interview with the Boyfriend

Andy isn’t the best person to make video blogs with buuuut he will get better…maybe. He just really likes to talk and tell lengthy stories.  The first video we tried to make was 12 minutes long…I talked for maybe 30 seconds….soooo after a couple of takes this was the shortest we got.

Tomorrow I will try and get blogs up about our weekend adventures to Yeouido and the Korean War Memorial.

N. Seoul Tower

After work on Friday Andy and I headed to the North Seoul Tower.  It is by far one of the most touristy things that can be done in Seoul.  We took a cable car up to the top because it was much, much too hot to climb the mountain.  However, I am not a fan of the cable car.  Just the idea of being suspended in a metal box hanging on a wire just isn’t something that makes me feel comfortable.  Plus on this one there is no good air circulation and they pack in the people.  It smelled weird and made me feel itchy.  Alas, we finally got to the top.  We got our tickets for the observatory and after finding a shop that sold some American goods we headed to the elevators.

The view was really something.  All around you could see the city, the apartment complexes, the river, the bridges, all of it.  They also had notes on the glass to tell you what you were looking at, and at other places it showed what direction you were facing and how far away you were from that point.  It was really neat, super super touristy, but really neat. Totally worth doing once while you’re here.

We picked a really good time to go, right before sunset, so I was able to get pictures during the day and at night.

you can see the moon in this one. ^_^

some of the lower parts of the city.

I love the mountains in the background.

Then it got darker and darker, and the lights got brighter and brighter.

It’s so big…so so so big.

awesome little signs that tell you what you are looking at.  and some fun bokeh in the background.

and the final view before we made our way back down on the cable cars.