Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Monday, March 28, 2005
Sunday was a great addition to the long Saturday that I had. I had arranged earlier in the week to meet with one of the Korean teachers, Sophia, on Sunday to go to Insadong (another part of Seoul). I thought that it would be cool to hang out with her, particularly in a place in the city that is known for it's traditional arts and ceramics. I just thought that who better to show me traditional Korean stuff...than a Korean! It was really good. It ended up being a bigger group that I had expected with Me, Sophia, Rob, Erin, Matt, and Sarah (from my school). We all went to a traditional Korean restaurant. SO COOL! Erin's got the pictures so I'll have to wait to show you all, but the decor alone was incredible. Rice paper walls, with bamboo used almost like waynes coating (any trading spaces fans?). Anyway, there were a lot of antique looking things there, it was really cool. We sat on the floor (as you do in many Korean restaurants) and ate some good food.
Afterward, we walked around and looked in the shops and passed by some traditional Korean performances. We didn't stop to see any because we weren't really in that sorta mood. Plus, I figure, I'm here for a whole year, I can go back and see it anytime. There were people on the street making all sorts of traditional foods. We ended up trying this sort of hard toffee that is made with sugar by this one man who continually smoked a cigarette while he made it. It looked like he had a paint brush and some sugar in a small metal dish over heat (no, he wasn't making crack...but he could have been!). You could pick the shapes that you wanted imprinted into it. It was pretty good too. It tasted something like burnt marshmallows and the middle of a Crunchie chocolate bar.
We ended our day by going to a Korean tea house. They have some real interesting teas there. Matt ordered what I thought was the best tea. It's called Five Taste Tea and basically it's really sweet, almost fruity, tea. I would definitely get that one next time. I had pear tea boiled in honey. It was really ginger-y, but I liked it. Erin had a plum tea that was also really good. I didn't expect them to be so sweet, but you don't add anything to them, you just drink them as they come. Again, like the restaurant, this tea house had the greatest atmosphere. It's like you're in a hole in the wall, like something out of a movie...only, it's my real life. There is one tea house that Matt has been talking about with antiques everywhere and birds flying all over the place. I haven't been yet, but we all plan to go sometime soon. It's also in Insadong.
Insadong is a really cool place. The type of place that you'd by 'real' Korean gifts for people or just pick up some pretty unique things there. I'll definitely go back, it's only about 25 minutes by subway from my apartment, so it' s super easy to get to.
Anyway, enjoy the pictures below. There are some of my walk to the Buddhist temple and Fortress Wall, and also some of the Saodaemun Prison that we visited on Saturday. I have more, but I have only posted some of the good ones so far.
Miss you lots!
Sunday, March 27, 2005
Saturday, March 26, 2005
It's Saturday night here, and I just got home from the most full, yet exhausting day!
This morning was Korean lessons. Week three and I'm finally learning to read! I have no idea what any of the words mean, but I can sound them out...that should count for something!!
Anyway, after Korean lessons a bunch of us went and checked out Sodaemun Prison. It's in Seoul, and it's a historical reminder of the past oppression by Japan. Those involved in Korea's independence movement in the early 1900's were held there and tortured by the Japanese. It was pretty intense. We came across this woman who worked there, she happened to be an English guide, so she gave us a free tour around the main building, which was really nice because although some signs were in English, not all of them were, so she filled in a lot of the gaps. The experience at the prison was very real to me. I couldn't help but picture people stuffed 20 or more to a cell waiting to be tortured, starving for food, and not even being able to lie down and sleep. The prisoners were also not allowed to complain or talk to the Japanese guards. If an inmate had died in the cell, the other prisoners were allowed to push a wood block out as a means of communication to let the guards know that they were needed. The torture in this prison was disturbing, there were artifacts and life size models (quite graphic, fake blood on the walls, ect) depicting women in chains having bamboo shoved under their fingernails until they confessed information about the whereabouts of the Korean Independence leaders.
By the end of this tour I was quite solemn and ready to move on. The tour was quite educational and I definitely learned a lot about a period in Korea's history that I had previously known nothing about.
After the tour Derek, Sarah, and Rob decided that they wanted to head home to chill. So Me, Erin, and her roomate Sarah decided to randomly venture onto one of Lonley Planet Korea's "walking tours". I found it in my book and figured that it would be good to hit both in one day because they were so close to eachother. I decided that I want to play the tourist card for as long as I can here, because you'd be surprised at how many English teachers just live and work here...they don't travel. So our two groups parted ways and we headed toward this Buddhist temple that was set out in our books. We started heading the right way, but a Korean man soon stopped us and asked if we needed help (thankfully random Koreans are fluent in English and usually willing to show their skills). He directed us up this back alley toward these ancient temples. Our first impression of this tour was simply eerie. There were rows upon rows of abandoned homes. It looked like everyone had left in a hurry, there was garbage everywhere and tons of stuff left behind. I'm not quite sure what the story is with this place, but seriously, once you're off the main road it's like you've stepped into another world. So, we headed up this alley uphill for about five minutes and came to a fork in the road. We saw what looked to be a temple, so we headed toward it. At first glance the entrance to the temple looked like it was underconstruction or like a place that was not to be 'toured'. We decided to keep walking anyway. As we walked up these old stone steps we were able to see this giant bell that is the offical enterance of the temples. Honestly, I don't know if I can even begin to describe the atmosphere of this place. It was absolutely incredible. There were birds everywhere, chirping and we could hear the drumming and chanting of Shamans who were conducting some sort of service and offering. As we continued to climb uphill we were able to turn around and see the city, yet feel as if we were in some distant ancient land. We were up high enough to see so much and the soundtrack of this place was something only to be heard and not truly described. We kept climbing and finally got to what seemed to be the top. We could see the city, the temples, and best of all, we could see Namhansansung (Korea's Great Wall), which was constructed in 1392 and in many parts is under construction. The view was incredible. It was a sort of ancient-meets-modern that I've never experienced before. Incredible.
As we were about to leave Sarah looked up and pointed out that there was most definitely a Korean military sniper standing at the highest point on the cliff on a building rooftop with his gun ready to go. I guess he's protecting the wall or something, there were fences infront of the wall so that we couldn't get close enough from this particular location to touch it. I'm not really sure what or who he was ready to snipe, but it just made for a more interesting tour. I think it was really cool because there weren't a lot of foreigners around and we seemed to be the only people who were there just to check it out and take some pictures. There really weren't many people there at all, maybe ten people were there, which is amazing for Seoul because there seems to be people everywhere, always.
Anyway, this has been my Saturday, I'm utterly exhausted and needing to sleep for yet another busy day tomorrow. I'm heading to Insadong, which is a part of the city that is still very traditional. A girl from work, Sophia, offered to take me there and go to a tea house. I'm really looking forward to it, so we'll likely be heading there after church this Easter Sunday. I'll have to let you know how it goes!
Thursday, March 24, 2005
What time is it there?
I think that the most frequently asked question when I talk to people on msn or on the phone is "what time is it there?" and my reply is usually "umm, i dunno, let me go grab my watch" cause lets be serious people, does it matter? When it's my day, it's your night, and when it's your day, it's my night...I'm seventeen hours ahead of you, time to do some math!! Right now I'm posting at 2:00pm on Friday Korea time, and it's 9pm on Thursday Vancouver time. I'm kidding, it doesn't actually bug me that much, but I do think it's pretty funny that it's the first thing everyone asks!
In Korea at this point I've been feeling quite isolated. Although I'm in the land of fast paced life, intricate subway systems, and cell phones as big as your pinky finger, I still don't have the communication network that I'm used to. I have no tv, no email, no computer, and up until last weekend no speakers for my ipod. I had nothing and in a loud city my tiny studio apartment was getting pretty quiet. It's a change that I wasn't really prepared for. I never thought that it would affect me in the way that it has. I know that it's really good for me to be away from what I'm used to, but I've got to admit, it's a little strange. I know that I clearly have access to internet at some points during the day, I have to to post this, but I'm used to having a computer at home, to check emails as often as I'd like and to flip on the tv while I'm doing it if I like, while running itunes and listening and downloading songs at my leisure. I feel very disconnected from the world that I'm used to. But, let's be serious, one of my first big purchases will be a laptop computer and internet access will soon follow. Yeah, the problem is not that I "can't" have internet, it's just that I don't have a computer...the other 3 teachers at my school have it in their apartments, it's just me that doesn't. Although I'm incredibly tempted to buy a Mac (because of my ipod), I think that I'll buy something like a Samsung, something that's made here anyway, cause you can get pretty wicked deals on computers here, especially since they're made here. Plus the technology in Korea is so far ahead of what North America has to offer, it's almost worth it to get something here that's just crazy-rad.
Anyway, that's life for me these days...although I did discover that if I adjust all of the cords to my tv in the exact right position I can vaguely intercept the "AFN" network, which is the Armed Forces Network designed for the army base in Itaewon (in Seoul). It's a desparate attempt to connect myself to some sources of media, although, I might add they are incredibly censored and edited for their military viewing audience.
I miss you all incredibly and I miss being able to just pick up the phone and talk whenever I want to. So for those of you who feel like chatting it up with me, feel free to give me a call. I'd love to hear from you. Calling between 4 and 8pm Vancouver time probably works the best, although I have received a couple calls from particular individuals at 3am...ahem *Kiki*. So, I look forward to hearing from you soon!!!
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Kimchi and Aloe Milkshakes
Don't be alarmed by the title, we did NOT eat or drink Kimchi and Aloe Milkshakes! We (Rob, Derek and I) were just talking about different concoctions that we could create...we also just made some pretty wicked Strawberry-Kiwi-Bananna milkshakes that were awesome (thanks Rob!).
Work has been an interesting experience in the last couple of days. We have this new vice president and he's ok, but he has some really weird tendencies. Funny thing is, he's so nice to all of the foreign teachers, but when he talks to the Korean teachers he creates all these weird "rules" that he wants us to adhere to. For example "No talking except if you are asking questions about work related things." Ok, I know in some jobs it's super important not to talk cause you're focusing and what have you, but honestly, if you knew my job, you're realize how ridiculous that sounds. I think it's because he has pretty bad English and when we talk he can't understand us, so he assumes that we're gossiping or talking about him. He also had us all switch desks today. Just kinda random, "ok everyone switch your stuff around"...apparently there was some sorta system to what he was doing, we can't figure it out though. The good thing is, I'm further away from his desk (which makes me happy) so he can't tell me I'm talking too loud. It's kinda funny because in Korea women are expected to be much quieter than they are in North America. Can you see my issues? I'm not exactly the most delicate talker in the world, so I have problems speaking quietly. I have to consciously think about it while I'm there otherwise I'll get bad looks from other teachers and from my supervisors. It's a cultural thing I guess. Anyway, if I ignore my supervisors my job is great. I like being with the kids, I don't like dealing with the VP so much. He's just...so odd. He gives Rob back massages (male touching is common in Korean culture and isn't thought of to be "gay"), but let me tell you, Rob, being western is not used to the male closeness and quite often gets pretty creeped out at buddy guy always squeezing his arm or rubbing his back. And what do I do?....yup, laugh my head off. Typical Andrea stuff.
Here are some recently posted pictures of last weekend. If you want to see more pictures and read Rob's stories check out his site at:
Talk to you soon!!
Monday, March 21, 2005
...And then his foot was run over by a car!!
It's Monday once again, back to the grind...haha, grind? Yeah right. My job's really not that hard. Partly why it's so great. I'm actually at work right now, just finished eating some bipimbap (basically rice, vegetables, and some spicy red pepper sauce...oh yeah, and the fried egg). I'm content right now, ready to teach my last class, conversational english, to 6 grade 8 kids. They're really fun. I always feel bad for them, cause it's late, and they're usually hungry, so sometimes I bring them candy. That, and I'm usually pretty strict, so candy always seems to smooth things out :). You all know how I am...I'm still me, Andrea...says it like it is...and sometimes crosses the line. Just ask Rob, he'll tell ya. He's probably had just about enough of my straight up honesty I'm sure.
This weekend Rob and I went for round two of Korean lessons. We learned double consonants and double vowles...holy crap, I don't think I have single consonants and single vowels down...how am I supposed to do double? Well, I'm learning, but it's super tough. I don't feel like I can really do much, but maybe someday soon I"ll call some of you and just go off in Korean, see how that pans out...
Anyway, at our Korean class Rob got talking to a couple of guys, and the guy asks "where are you from?" Rob says, "Vancouver". The guy says, "Shut up! Where?...I'm from Richmond!" How weird is that? Anyway, his name is Matt, super cool guy, 23 years old, lives in Richmond and goes to church in Vancouver. Talk about random. He came and hung out with Me, Rob, Erin, and Erin's roomate Sarah. It was a lot of fun. We went to this one market together called Namdaemun Market, about 40 minutes from my house. We were walking down the streets and someone asked what this odd tube shaped substance was that some old woman was cooking on a portable vending grill. Matt turned, looked behind him and started explaining it. I saw a car coming toward him...so I started to push him outta the way, all of a sudden I heard a shriek. No kidding, a shriek. Then Matt goes, "Oh my goodness, I always wondered what having your foot run over by a car felt like!" and then he looked down and showed us the tire tread marks on his shoe. I seriously almost fell over laughing. We just met this guy, but we were already making fun of him.
Later that night we all went to this church an hour away from home. It was pretty cool, and yes, it was an English service. The church is quite big, the structure itself would put SDBC to shame. The thing that I was most shocked about was the vendors selling stuff in the courtyard of the church. It reminded me of that one episode of the Simpsons where the church gets sponsors and has money changers...y'know, the whole Jesus kicks over tables in the temple thing, only in the Simpsons the Jesus figure is honest and righteous Lisa Simpson. Anyway, it was quite overwhelming. Although they also had an after church lunch in the courtyard, which was pretty cool. The preaching was good, so was the worship, I think I'll head back there next week. Rob and I both went to the "welcome table" and talked with some people at the church. Its funny how fast we've met people who go there and how many people we recognize...cause this was our first service. I'm still really praying that I can fit into some sort of church community, it's starting to come together, but it's far from being where I'd like it to be.
It was a good weekend overall. It's kinda sad that I can't see the new friends that I've made and the old friends that I have already had during the week. It's not like at home when you can just chill whenever you want to. You've really got to plan you r weekends. I think that we're all thinking of doing something more "cultural" next weekend. Possibly checking out one of the old unused prisons from when the Japanese where here a hundred years ago. Should be pretty cool. Erin and I decided that we really need to start doing some more things that I are more "travel-like" because it's so easy to settle into the "well, I just work and live here" life.
Life here is so much different than it is at home, but I am settling in just fine. Keep me in your prayers and email me your thoughts, I'd love to hear them over here in South Korea!
Talk to you soon...
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Hip Hip Hooray for Teaching!!!
Well, I decided to give this online journal a shot. I figure it's a pretty cool way for you to see my pictures and read some random stories that I write while I'm here. I'm in for the long haul...and we all know that I'm traveling in this strange place with an even stranger character, your friend and mine, Rob Tegelberg. There's bound to be some interesting situations that come out of that alone!
Anyway, I'm here and loving Korea. The people are great (just like everyone said they would be) and my job is incredible. I was quite surprised at how much I actually like teaching. I know, I know, it doesn't surprise many of you, but I never knew what I joy it could be! The kids are absolutely amazing. There are a few that I would love to take home with me. In particular there is this one student of mine named Jake (I got to name him - if the students don't have English names, we give them to them...kinda like having a pet hey?). Anyway, Jake is just about the most adorable kid that I have ever seen! He's about 8 years old, doesn't speak much English, but he tries so hard and then he looks at me as if he wants me to approve of his attempt at reading a grade one level story book...and smiles. It's love! Honestly if it were legal for me to take him from Korea and bring him home with no concequences, I just might do it. And you know me...I'm not a big sucker for babies (ie: girls who only talk about marriage and babies)...so you know this kid has got to be cute right? If he lets me I'll try to post a picture of him, although a lot of the kids are pretty shy, especially when it comes to photos.
Well, today was an adventure. I went to get my alien card today from the other end of Seoul at the Seoul Immigration Office. It was about an hour and a half to get there, and an hour and a half home. So, Rob and I decided that we should most definitely stop at Starbucks on the way home. It had been a long morning for me. I was up at 7:30am trying to track down the one bank machine that I know of that takes forign cards, then off to the photobooth to take some quick passport sized photos before going to immigration. Quick. Yeah right. I sat in this booth trying to make sense of the Korean instructions. The freakin machine wouldn't take my money! So, I called Rob (he had done it the day before) and asked him what this dang machine's problem was (I was pretty choked at this point cause I was in a rush). Turns out, I was trying to put a 5,000Won bill ($5) into a machine that only takes 1,000Won bills ($1). I still can't read Korean...and the giant 1,000W that was over the bill slot. Go figure! Needless to say it was a long morning. Starbucks was most definitely the remedy that I needed. So we headed to the five story Starbucks in Meyong-Dong. YES, FIVE STORIES! Why they need five stories, I'm not quite sure. I guess in a city of fifteen million you never really know how many people you'll need to seat at once! Starbucks is just like home though, you can order your Caramel Macchiatos, Cappuccino's and Lattes just the way you like them. All Starbucks stores are required to have a knowledge of "Starbucks English" which makes things most convienient for me. I'm still working on hello and thank you, I certainly don't need to be working on "I'll have a grande half sweet vanilla nonfat latte" in Korean thank-you-very-much! Anyway, it was a great cap to a long morning.
We've also got two new teachers here at Plus Academy (the English Hagwon that I teach at). There are four of us in total...which means that all four of us are new! Makes for some interesting conversation at work "How do you teach that?" "uhh, I dunno" "What do I do with this book" "ummm, frick, make it up..." Yeah, it's good though. Their names are Derek and Sarah and they're a couple here from New Brunswick. It's really great to have them, especially coming at the same time, because we're all figuring out this crazy country at once. It'll create some great "team building" experiences I'm sure. They're a really great couple though. I think that all four of us are doing to get along great. They have the same sort of personality types that mesh well with mine (and Robs). They're totally laid back and they're funny! Plus they've done their fare share of traveling. Sarah taught English for a while in Argentina! She was a linguistics major in university and Derek went and met up with her while she was teaching there...only...he traveled there on a bus...FROM MAINE! Crazy...that's a long way to go on a bus. Anyway, they're great. I really enjoy having them around. They're off on a visa run to Japan tomorrow, so they won't be in to teach. The school wanted them to come over so quickly because they were in such desparate need for a couple more teachers that they didn't have time to wait for their visas. They have to be in and out of Japan in 24 hours. Not much time to see or do...anything. I'm sure they'll be glad when the stressful nonsense is over.
Well, feel free to leave your comments on this site. I will update it as often as I feel neccessary...whenever interesting stories and situations arise.
I hope to hear from you soon!