Thursday, September 27, 2007

Chuseok Fun!

This week, Korea celebrated Chuseok (their version of Thanksgiving), so we were off from Friday. Friday night I went out with one of my co-teachers to Bucheon, a city about 20 minutes from where I live (also where i have to go to catch my subway). I like the vibe in Bucheon and will definitely hang out there again very soon.

On Saturday, after having lunch with a few friends I moved on to Itaewon (which is foreigner capital), and met Dimitri and a few other people. This is Dimitri and I at a cool coffee shop called "The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf". Three Korean university students at the table next to us asked where we were from and wanted to know some key phrases that we use in our country... this is Dimitri and I with them.

Since my first week-end out in Korea; Dimitri, Yang and myself somehow find ourselves together. Yang is our Korean techno expert and loads of fun to be with.

After the coffee shop, we met up with my dear friend, Rachel and a few other people. Here I am with Yang, Rachel and William.

Around 4am, some of us were tired and went home. HOWEVER, some of us missioned off to continue the party! Another friend, Hendrien and I only left Itaewon @ 8am after having breakfast at McDonalds!

There was some kind of arts and crafts market thing that was taking place in an area called Hongdae, so on Sunday Hendrien and I (after maybe 3 hours of sleep), met Dimitri & Brian...We must have walked all over Hongdae and decided to go clubbing again that night... The nightlife in Hongdae is awesome....

This is me with Brian (from USA)

Dimitri, Brian, Hendrien & I - after our second night of clubbing, checked into the Jimjilbang - sleeping rooms/24 hour spas. Hendrien and I moved from room to room which have different treatments - for example, there's a Jasmine smelling room, an ice room, a gravel room (lie on gravel)....salt room (lie in salt) and an Oxygen room... soooo cool!

The next morning, Monday - some of us clearly needed to buy new clothes! So after lazing around in the Jimjilbang till midday, we missioned off for more exploring. We ended up in Itaewon again...had dinner at a Mexican place (where I was so excited when I saw coriander!)

Hendrien and Brian left us, leaving Dimitri and I to sleep at the Jimjilbang yet again! I left there at about 5am...and after strolling around Seoul station, I got home on Tuesday morning at 7am!
Resting for the whole day, I wasn't really that tired...and at 6:30pm, Dimitri and I decided to hit Seoul YET AGAIN! I called Yang and persuaded him to come out with us... Here are the three of us again:

Sadly, Yang wasn't feeling too well so he went home - and Dim & I slept at the Jimjilbang again (albeit a different one).

So, Wednesday morning - and I was as fresh as ever...trying to keep Dimitri awake! This is a pic of Itaewon @ 08h30...

This seems to be our hangout in Itaewon : The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

Dimitri and I went to Kwanghwamun to an awesome bookstore called Kyobo books - loads of English titles...The area is really awesome...not as crazy as other parts of Seoul.

We decided to go to Seoul Station where we had lunch and thought that it was high time we both missioned off to our respective homes. Poor Dimitri had to work today (Thursday) whereas I only get back tomorrow....

...and this is Seoul Station

Friday, September 21, 2007

...for the sake of the children

The reason I haven't blogged this week isn't because it's been a boring week - it's because I haven't had the time!

This week, I taught my 6th graders the section titled, "I'm stronger than you" Now they're crazy about WWF - with the likes of The Undertaker, John Cena, Great Khali etc... I, on the other hand, despise it. I find it pointless and shudder each time a wrestler (regardless of his size) is thrown to the ground.

...but, for the sake of the kids and to capture their attention...I pretend that I'm a HUGE wrestling fan.

So this is what happened in one of my classes today.... (6th grade).

As I walked into the class, a girl threw something on the floor which landed right at my feet. Obviously I got a hell of a shock, but the girl didn't know I was entering the class... however, my co-teacher reprimanded her...and after 5 minutes of a mini lecture (I don't know what), she was asked to come and apologize to me in front of the rest of the class.

By now, the mood was sombre....totally what I didn't want because 1) it's Friday! and 2) it's the last day of school till next Friday because of Chuseok

I found a pretty cool clip on about Superman vs Lava Monster... usual story where Superman saves the day, hence Superman is STRONGER THAN Lava Monster.

When I noticed this specific class wasn't really responsive, I had to quickly alter my lesson plan and have them do something different. Just like a previous class earlier this week, I had one student act as The Undertaker, and the other as John Cena and they arm wrestled. They still seemed a bit sleepy, so I challenged someone to an arm wrestle. The kids went crazy! They were laughing and pointing and probably thinking I was the most ridiculous teacher they've had.

....but teaching English as a foreign language to children has taught me that when you enter that classroom, you have to totally leave your personality behind in the teacher's room. (unless you are genuinely wacky). But all I can say is this : Thank goodness some of my family and friends don't see me during my lessons! I'm all over the show...jumping from here to there, miming etc...

No matter how tired I am, or if I'm in the mood or not, when I enter my classes, I'm greeted by my students SO warmly that I can't help but feed off their energy, bundle it up in a lesson and throw it back at them.'s to the end of a good teaching week :)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Hwaseong Fortress (Thursday, Sept 13 '07)

On the fourth day of Orientation week, we were taken to the Hwaseong Fortress. Here's a snippet about it taken from this website.

Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon City, Gyeonggi-do Province, represents the latest features of fortification in Korea. The construction was planned by the 22nd king of the Joseon Dynasty, Jeongjo, when he moved his father's tomb from the Yangju area to Mt. Paldalsan in Suwon County in 1789. The fortress construction was started along Mt. Paldalsan in January 1794 and completed in June 1796, under the supervision of Chae Jae-gong, a former minister and the magistrate of Yeongjungchubu County.


There was even karaoke on the bus ride to the fortress...

We were invited to write three wishes down and attach it to a certain tree.... soon, there'll be a ceremony held where all the pieces of paper will be burned, and it is said that all the wishes will be granted....

Our guide...

There was a film being shot while we were there!

Meagon (from USA) & me

Golden Buddha

Orientation for English Teachers

On Monday last week, I attended the week-long Orientation for English Teachers. It took just over an hour to get to the subway station (after a transfer) where we were picked up- brownie points for not getting lost! Viola and I knew we must have been at the right place since there were so many other foreigners around there.

We were picked up by the La Vie D'Or resort felt like a bit of a culture shock seeing so many foreigners! The resort was amazing.... check it out:

From our room....

We had to share are my roommates
Carla (New Zealand), Me, Viola & Gilian (Australia)

Our days were spent at lectures, presentations, discussions and lesson demo's. The orientation served a great purpose for foreign teachers who are new to Korean culture. It was also a fantastic networking opportunity....I met so many other foreign teachers from America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. It was so comforting to know that everyone seemed to have gone through the same phases that I did , as in.... "What have I done coming here...will I ever survive?!"

There were quite a few South African's as well, which was pretty cool. Here are some of them (although the first person on the left & the last person on the right are American)

On our last night at the resort, we were treated to a little show comprising of traditional Korean music and dance. Some of the performers were elementary school children and were SO cute!

By Wednesday, I was wishing the conference to be over... but by Friday (our last day), a few of us seemed to have bonded so well that we weren't quite ready to leave! But most of us exchanged contact details and have promised to keep in touch. I even met two Canadians who are vegetarian as well (very few of us around).

Saturday, September 8, 2007 happened again

I had a very cool day in Seoul - met some friends and went to a show called NANTA - I'm really tired right now, so here is a snippet from a website:

About the Show: In Nanta, four chefs react the sounds of samullori using all sorts of kitchen utensils as they prepare for a wedding reception in an open kitchen. As they get ready to start the day, the unpleasant manager gives them some unexpected news. Not only do the chefs have to prepare the entire wedding meal by 6pm, but they also have to give the manager’s nephew some cooking lessons. None of them are happy with the situation, but they set out to work.
In the process, they must solve a whole array of difficulties. Gradually, the audience and the players become one. Finally, they pull all their ideas together to finish the cream cake, and the ceremony proceeds without any troubles. In the course of the fantastic wedding party, the audience bonds through lots of laughter and humor, the friendly kitchen atmosphere, and above all five characters whose magnetic spirits create the various rhythms and sounds.

Anyways, I was really proud of myself for taking the subway ALONE today... met a few people at a station 5 stops from mine.

Coming home, I was on the right bus, but seemed to have gotten off at an earlier stop. So naturally, I called my lifeline, RACHEL... and was like, "Rache, I think I'm lost... please ask this girl where I am and what I must do?"

Rache is my lifesaver and has spoken to a number of random people on my behalf. I just call her, hand the phone to the unfortunate person stuck with me and then she translates for me. THANKS RACHE xxx to a foreign teacher's conference on Monday, will be back Friday....

Thursday, September 6, 2007

" Korea languagey..." -Mr Lee

This is Mr Lee - 4th grade homeroom teacher. At any given moment when Mr Lee and I are in the teachers room at the same time, this will be our conversation:

I will be going about my work quietly and swiftly, and then...

Mr Lee: Hello! (points to an object) ... In Korea languagey, ...... (says the Korean name of the object)

Me: Repeats the word 2 or 3 times

Mr Lee: Ok

Me: Gham-samni-dha (Thank you)

Mr Lee: Ok. (and he walks out, or goes back to his coffee...)

Today I learnt that 'rain' in Korean is 'pee' ..... interesting, huh?!

Speaking of rain, I left my umbrella at school yesterday and woke up to rain this morning. So I was going to brave the rain and get soaked, but as I stepped out my apartment, one of my students walked past and let me share her umbrella with her. Poor girl got stared at my so many kids enroute to school.... The other kids must've been thinking that she was sucking up to the English teacher!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

...home safe, without getting lost

I am proud to announce that coming home from Bucheon Station this evening, I took a bus home (Bus no.38) and I did NOT get lost :) The ride was about 20 minutes long.

Next step - try to conquer the subway (maybe on Saturday).

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Meet Eunsuk & Kim

On my home yesterday, I bought two little fish... Their names are Eunsuk & Kim - don't ask which is which :P

Monday, September 3, 2007

Lost in translation...

I'm going to start keeping record of how many times I get lost in a week....

After a fun week-end, I told Yang and Dimitri I'd take the subway home ALONE - my first time!
So...they wrote down step by step instructions for me (so sweet, right?!) Yang wrote the Korean version in case I wanted to show it to someone and they'd point me in the right direction, while Dim wrote the English version for me. Right down to where I had to exit the station...

They walked me to where I had to catch the subway, bid me farewell and wished me luck. I wasn't really nervous...

....I had my little subway map that Dim gave me in my hand, following every little stop, until I realized we were stopping at different locations than my map.


After realizing this, I got off at the next stop. I had no idea where I was, and asked about 12 people if they could speak English, until a woman at the bus stop helped me.

Well, turns out I ended up in another city altogether - 40 minutes away from mine. I asked this lady to please tell a taxi driver to TAKE ME HOME. I didn't care how much it was going to cost, but I needed to get home

The taxi driver couldn't speak English and kept speaking in Korean to me. Then I called one of the teachers from my school who spoke to the driver in Korean. Anyways, 40 minutes later we arrived in my area and he tells me that I hope him 2 million won (or something like that).

I freaked out! ...but I gave him 3 x 10 000 won notes and he even gave me change, so I have no idea what was going on.


It's hip, it's's Hongdae!

There's an area in Seoul called Hongdae which has an electric kind of energy to it. And it seems like the people there just don't sleep! The pic above is some kind of dancing..

Then Dimitri, Yang and I met Rachel and was so amazing, cause Rache & I haven't seen each other in almost 7 years I think! The guy on the left was just a random guy walking past who wanted to be in our pic - but hey, we didn't complain ;) ...and that's Dimitri & Rachel on the right..

We went to a norie bang (singing room) ...basically karaoke room. We had so much fun... this particular norie bang was really cool... with free ice cream, chips & beer.

.....Then Rayeong joined us (Rachel's sister) who I last saw when we were in matric. It was like an amazing blast from the past seeing the Chung sister's...

Hongdae is loads of fun with food and entertainment places GALORE!!!

We decided to go to a club, and on our way there there was an Indian guy who stood in the middle of the road with his arms wide open as we approached him. He wanted to greet me (probably got excited seeing another Indian) I didn't panic though - I just said that it was nice meeting him, but sorry cause we had to be moving on.... Anyways, we landed up at this club called M2.

It is from this club (M2) that I was crowned the Diva Deity (by Dimitri). There were some well-known DJ's playing that night... I don't know how well-known they really were cause I didn't know them. Every time I wanted to take pics, the bouncers came to reprimand me, so I just left it... which is a real pity 'cause I don't know if people will believe me when I say that I went crazy! I danced with a bunch of (I presume) students, and after about an hour, I found myself on an elevated platform facing hundreds of people on the dancefloor! People were cheering me and waving at me, and coming up to me to give them a high 5. Needless to say, we had loads of fun...!

Around 3am, Dimitri, Yang and I went to a Tzimjilbang. This is like a 24 hour spa. You "check in", and are issued a clean pair of shorts & a t-shirt. Guys & girls have separate bathrooms/locker rooms... You get given a towel and you can do basically anything here... from visiting the sauna, steam room, go for a mud bath, have a massage, have your nails or hair done...anything! Then if you want, you can just stay over as there are sleeping rooms.

In the morning, you can have a shower... have a treatment done, or have breakfast...