Friday, September 9, 2011

Beach Bums! The mission to visit them all!

Beach Bums! Carl and I made it our goal while on the Island to see as many beaches as possible!

This beach was not very popular among the tourists, which was incredibly hard to understand why. We went to this beach several days, including one night to camp on the beach. Our second sunset was watched here, and for me the most memorable one. As we stood there facing west watching the sun slide underneath the protection of the sparkling ocean I could hear Carl's heart beat. It was in that moment that I soaked in all the beauty around me and surrounded myself in love. My favorite photo of the entire trip was taken at this beach.

Falling in <3

Samyang Black Sand Beach
When driving to this beach we had full expectations that the sand was going to be BLACK. Well... it wasn't. I was black-ish, but not nearly as dark as we had expected. After leaving and doing some post Jeju research, I found out that the locals believe the black sand is beneficial to your health, and that many of them bury themselves under the black sand. Whoopsies! Here is the only picture I took that shows the "Black Sand"

Jeju 2011

Hamdeok Seoubon

 This is the beach that we kept on coming back to. This is where we got red as lobsters, swam in the ocean, and paid entirely too much for an umbrella. As soon as I saw the umbrellas and tables I started to pull one up to put our stuff under. A man quickly ran over to me and said, "Man won." ($10) Shit. It was too late for me to back out now! I handed the man $10 and realized as I did a quick count of the umbrellas that he had made more money that day than I make just by sitting his ass on the beach with a beer and watching the stupid tourists pour in. I had never in my life seen green water or water so clear. You could walk out on the lava rocks into the middle of the ocean and watch as people paddled the over priced kayak rentals (thankfully I didn't see the appeal, there were no rapids after all!) We alternated between swimming and reading, swimming and reading, until we finally decided we had gotten enough sun for the day and wanted to see more of the island!

Jungmun Saekdal
We saw this beach, but we didn't spend much time here. It was located in the middle of Jungmun Resort which was were all of the "gotcha" museums were (aka Teddy Bear Museum, Pacific Land (dolphin show!) and Ripley's Believe it or Not)


Carl made it a goal of his own to travel all the way around the island. I of course could not stand the infamous "Scooter Ass" for that long, so we waited to go to this beach until we had the car. The water was so low that you could see Korean couples walking out into the middle holding hands. The water was clear and warm, and as I stared down at my electric blue painted toenails, I would see little sand crabs and fish swim across my feet. Along the beach were statues, that we didn't realize until several hours later when we watched a Korean man climb on top of a Ram as being the symbols of the Chinese Zodiac.

Hyeopjae/Geumneung Beach
Our first day (after 2 1/2 hours on a bus, 4 hours on a ferry, and an hour long taxi ride) we arrived to our accommodation. We went out walking not long after that and discovered this little gem of a beach. Actually, two! One beach was very low key, yet covered with the ever so present basalt rock. (This is what shocked me was that I actually LEARNED something in my two semesters of Geology!)

I can't really tell which beach was which, but on the more reserved beach, you could walk around the camping area and find yourself surrounded by the basalt and little pools. On one of those corners we had our first encounter with the "Bangsatap". These are made of little stones piled up high that are believed to protect the village from bad luck. The Bangsatap's location is very important and not randomly chosen.

The other beach was definitely the family destination beach, and was certainly the most populated beach we saw while on the island, and their umbrellas were FREE! This is where we got to see more of what Korean beach culture is like. Intertubs stuffed with girlfriends while the boyfriends swam them around was a common sight throughout the week. I even tried to get Carl to carry my purse like a Korean, but alas, he's a true waygook. While Koreans are all very thin and small, then prefer to keep themselves covered either out of protection from the sun or modesty. Therefore, it was to my delight that almost all of the women were covered up since I was definitely not going to be donning a bathing suit around them. I can't say the same for the men though. I saw way too many men in short shorts or speedos than I would have liked. I don't know if I could have handled as a child seeing my father in a speedo without psychological damage, but to Koreans, its the way to go! Anyways, as we sat on the beach under a free umbrella reading, we watched what may have been the most intense session of gawi-bawi-bo (rock, paper, scissors) by men the same age as us. Assumingly, the 2nd and 3rd round losers had to dig a ditch. The last round loser had to lay in the dig and get covered with sand. Of course after he was fully submerged his friends flicked his forehead and threatened to throw beach balls at his head. Carl smoothly walked around them taking pictures like a paparazzi.

Hwasun- Under construction
Shinyang- another disapointment

In our quest to visit all the beaches in Jeju, these last two proved to be a dissapointment. Hwasun was under construction and Shinyang was very dirty. There were two beaches that we didn't make it to, but that just means we're going to have to come back to Jeju to see them!

Mid week we were starting to understand how little our skin had seen the sun this past summer as every time I'd go to give Carl a hug or even touch him he would wince. While we lathered up with sunscreen, the damage had been done. Korean's know how to make their money too! When we finally found aloe it cost us $10 for a tiny tube. Would have been better off just grabbing some from the Botanical Garden! But more on that later!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Korea and FOOD

Whether it's late at night and you're a bit drunk, or it's 10am and you've got a hankering for a waPPLE (waffle) Korea never ceases to surprise my taste buds. Unfortunately, I've gotten into a groove of going to the same places and eating the same things, but none-the-less, it's been delicious!

It means something different in every country, but the basic idea of meat over fire is the same-same everywhere. About 2 blocks down from us is the expat popular "Pig Place". It was introduced to us as the "Pig Place" and therefore we will never actually learn the name of this establishment. In Korea, restaurants serve one type of animal, i.e the "Pig Place" the "Duck Place" and the "Beef Place". We've found that in Korea is actually cheaper to eat out than it is to cook at home. When you go to a barbecue joint you usually pay 9,000-12,000W ($9-$12) a person and get a million 반찬 banchan (side dishes) including 2 salads (one as a salad, and one to put into your wrap) a soup, kimchi, some form of eggs, and a number of other random little tidbits depending on the place you're eating and the season. 

Mmmmm... Soju.

I'm a fan of the sauces you dip your meat in. The farthest plate are hot chili peppers. Just one pepper per meal will burn a new hole in your body. The middle sauce is garlic, and the closest sauce is a spicy sauce.

Handsome man mid bite.
Upon ordering a man whose sole job is to keep the coals burning comes out carrying a stone pot filled with red hot coals. Your 반찬 comes and you instantly dig in. I've gone to several different types of Barbecue places, but they are all generally the same... EXCEPT this one place we found at 4am in the morning that had a moat around the outside of the grill where you pour egg around to cook while your meat barbecues. Drunken finds are often the best ;-) I digress... After eating your 반찬 and letting your meat cook you cut up the meat with scissors, throw some garlic on the grill, and wrap your meat up in lettuce. This is the thing that I love the most about Korea, you don't find carbohydrates at every turn. Don't get me wrong, I would kill for a burrito with some sour cream, but health wise I never feel guilty after eating a Korean meal. Here are some pictures of our favorite "Pig Place".

Duck... Duck.... Duck...
 Another favorite place of ours it the "Duck Place". It's a bid odd of a story though that goes along with the "Duck Place." The first time we ate here we went with 4 other teachers. Koreans don't know how to handle that many foreigners at one time and often stare at us and get flustered because they don't understand our Korean pronunciation. Anyways, the owner comes over to us and sits down with us and just stares at us while we talk for awhile. She speaks very little English, but mustered out enough to ask if we were English teachers and for a business card. Of course being English teachers we don't carry business cards so we gave her our bosses business card. She picks me out of the bunch and asks me to write everyone's name down on the card. When we pay, we find out we were getting a discount. SCORE! About 2 weeks later Carl and I come by ourselves to eat. The lady instantly recognizes me and sits down next to us bringing us free cook and rice nectar(and yes, it tastes awful). Her husband speaks a little more English than she does so we found out the real reason for the discounts and free stuff. They wanted me to teach their children private lessons... I've known since before I arrived in Korea that private lessons are illegal since I am here on a work visa, but many foreigners do it here because you can often make good money doing it. For 2 hours the Duck parents feed us too much food, stared at us, haggled prices and hours with me, until there was nothing I could do but say yes. I felt awful about it because in reality they weren't willing to pay me what the going rate is and I knew that with our job I just wouldn't have the time. (Leave for work at 8:15a back home by 6:30p ish) That whole night I wrestled with what I did. I agreed to something I didn't really want to do and didn't have the time for. The next morning I wrote a nice heartfelt note and plugged it into google translate. I'm sure it didn't come out exactly how I wanted it to seeing how things are often missed in translation, but when she read the letter and saw my face she understood that I meant well. She gave me a big hug and kiss and sent me out the door with some more rice nectar and asked me to please come back to the restaurant. The food was too good not to come back... I always forget to take pictures, so here is an article written about our beloved "Duck Place"

Shabu Shabu

육수 pre vegetables
o.m.g the vegetables... the VEGETABLES!!!
O.M.G. Heaven in a pot... Seriously... Shabu Shabu starts out as a 육수 (which strangely is translated into gravy) but it is basically a broth. You shove massive amounts of vegetables into this bubbling broth. Bean sprouts, mushrooms, grass (I don't know the officia lname of it, but it's like a bitter tasting grass) cabbages, and various leaves. After the vegetables are cooked you add thin slices of meat. The next step depends on what type of Shabu Shabu you are at. We have "Spicy Shabu Shabu" where you take the vegetables and meat and dip it into soy sauce with wasabi, and then there is "Lotte Shabu Shabu" (because it's located in Lotte Mart) At "Lotte Shabu Shabu" you take rice paper and dip it into this mystery hot pink liquid which softens the rice paper. You then fill your rice paper with the meat and vegetables. But watch out! If you close up your rice ball too quickly you're going to put a fire ball of steam into your mouth! You then dip the rice ball into your choice of sauces (Oil, Peanut (which is ammmmmmmmmmaaaaaaaazzing) and spicy). After about three courses of this vegetable and meat combination you think you're just about done right? Wrong. There are still two more courses. Your 육수 has now become a broth of yummy goodness from all of the vegetables and meat that have been cooked down in it. You then add noodles to the pot. O.M.G. This comes to a nice little noodley soupy mush of wonderfulness. What? You say there is ONE MORE COURSE!?!?! Yes. Now you add some egg to the liquid to cook up and then rice with seaweed and chopped vegetables. Depending on how much liquid you have left in your pot it can be a rice mush or a rice soup. Either way this part is filled with so much flavor. Here is where I'm going to blow your mind. For two people to eat this massive amount of food it is only $20. The same price it would cost you to eat an overcooked steak and potato at Outback. Shabu Shabu is probably my favorite thing to eat here in Korea. All the vegetables send me into a healthy food craze!!!
Ball of <3
the amazing peanut sauce in the middle
Ok. Bad photo. But this is pre-wrapped


Ok, because of the way the Korean language is pronounced, they do not have an "f" sound. "H" also turns into "h-eeeeeee" Therefore, coffee is pronounced "copee" or "copy". I feel for the Koreans sometimes that listen to me speak or order. You can get two kinds of coffee here in Korea. The instant tiny cups of crap. And the heavenly Starbuck-like cups of yummy goodness. Of course these large-eeeeeeeee cups of coffee come at a Starbucks price, but sometimes you just need some of the good shit. As I sit here at my Angel-in-us (no, it's said Angelinus) drinking my "coPEE" and eating my "waPPle" I truly appreciate Korean food. Do I miss American food? Sometimes. But on nights that I am given a choice I'd rather opt for Korean food. :-)

4 months in...

Wow, it's been a long time since I've been on here! I've recently hit the busy season at the Village which means working a couple of 12 hour days and teaching 7 hours a day... It's been crazy when I look back on my life in the past 4 month, and not just culturally, but also professionally.

4 months ago I was scared to death of having to teach a new class I've never taught or seen before... now, I go into classes completely blind and figure it out as I go along. I've now started to develop "tricks up my sleeve" and ways to maneuver my way through a 45 minute class. I've learned that often times Korean teachers have too high of an expectation of what their student's English ability is, which unfortunately then becomes my problem because they've been stuffed into a class that is way too difficult for them. That Grammar for instance... How the heck do you teach Grammar to Korean kids? In the schools Grammar is taught by a Korean because its nearly impossible to explain what a subject, object, verb, adjective, past tense, present tense, and all that other stuff that I don't even know how it works without using Korean. Imagine being 12 years old, sitting in a French camp (where you've been lectured and yelled at saying you can only speak French in the classroom) and your teachers don't speak a word of English, but only French. Boy are you screwed! I see it in the kids eyes every time they come up to me and mutter something to me in Korean and my only response is, " Hanguel moh mal tamneeda." (I don't speak Korean.) Sometimes they just immediately give off a large sigh realizing that they aren't able to communicate their frustrations, and sometimes, the students don't realize what I said but only recognize that I spoke Korean... Therefore I MUST speak Korean! (geessh) 

I do find it amazing though that sometimes these children can have conversations with me. I think back to when I was there age and I was going to Girl Scout Camp or 4H camp having fun and doing crafts, not going to ENGLISH camp! Korean children go to school for an ungodly amount of hours, but to top it off their parents send them off to camp to LEARN. Thanks Mom and Dad for never subjecting me to that! BUT when I was there age, I didn't know a foreign language. Especially not well enough to attempt to have a conversation with a native speaker. I can't even have a conversation with a Korean past, "I'd like this." or "Good job!" and I've lived here for 4 months! Every time I go shopping and the sales ladies come up to me jibbering in Korean and asking me questions I get that same blank stare across my face as the 7 year old students in my classes... The I-don't-have-any-freaking-idea-what-you-just-said-so-I'm-just-going-to-nod-my-head-at-you-and-say-thank-you look. 

4 months in and I've learned...
You can do almost anything except find a doctor and book ferries without knowing Korean. Thus far I've been able to navigate throughout the city, book hotels, travel on buses, hail a taxi like a champ, and read a menu (kinda...) I've learned how to work and live with the person you love, which is probably one of the hardest things I've had to learn. Usually work and love are separate, but when you work side-by-side with the person you love it can become tense. It can also make you personal life rather boring. What are you going to talk about when you get home from work when you've been working together all day??? 

In 4 months I've learned that Korea is still unpredictable. You can't assume that you've finally seen the sunlight, because 10 minutes from now there will be a typhoon and you're world will be upside down. You also can't assume that after the rain it's going to cool down, because inevitability it will become even hotter. In 4 months I've learned a lot about myself, teaching, my relationship, and Korea, but in the grand scheme of everything, I'm the same as the kinder kids in my class room "tada hasayo-ing" after the foreigner in the front. I've barely even begun...

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Because of incredibly unfortunate events, we had to give up our temporary bundle of joy, SooYo. Korean's seem to despise cats. I can partly understand it because cats here are often street animals that are dirty, underfed, and usually have half of a tail because of the hard life they live on the street... SooYo was a very fickle cat. She loved to jump to anywhere that seemed high, even if that meant knocking over everything in her path and falling at least 3 times before she landed on top of the fridge. Toilet paper was her favorite thing to chew up (which quickly found a new location in the cabinet) Even though we only had her for 2 months, I built a strong bond with the little kitty and was crushed when we were told that either the cat had to go, or we had to find a new place to live. 

Some of my favorite SooYo pictures:

To sooth my sadness from being kitty-less, I went to a place where a friend said you could play with cats!!! Wait for it......

This is a place where you literally order a coffee or juice, and can play with cats for as long as you want! These cats are very well cared for. The cafe was nearly spotless, odorless, and inviting!! My favorite part about my trip to the cat cafe was the menu- 

1. Don't feed the cats
2. Don't touch sleeping cats
3. Camera- no flash
4. Don't hug the cats tightly

How amazing is this!?!?!? I'm sure rule #5 meant to say- "Don't bother the cats that are eating" but I couldn't help laughing uncontrollably when reading this!

My favorite little kitty... He was playful, and yet cuddly! 

While this temporarily soothed my neediness for an animal, it didn't quite feel the same... There is a bond that is formed from animals that are "yours" and this was simply missing from this experience. Next week... The Cat AND Dog cafe!!!! 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hell of a couple of weeks...

So, for those of you who has missed my posts check out for Carl's more avid updates (specifically Mudung Mountain!)

These past 3 weeks have been awwwwwful crazy! We have reached a point in our transition where we are settling down and getting used to Korea. It's no longer odd to get waved at by random little kids, or for the old lady at the convenient mart to tell me I have pretty eyes, or for random old ladies to point at my belly say "cutee-ah", and the sheer fright of riding in a bus or taxi has subsided. It's gotten easier to converse with the kids and the phrase TIK (This is Korea!) has taken on a whole new meaning to us. Now, I am at a crossroads where the novelty of being in a new country has worn off and the realization that being a foreigner that will never blend in has consumed me. My sense of adventure and awestruck has diminished and it saddens me that I'm starting to get into a routine... BUT these are all things that can be turned around!!!

So, here are some pictures from the past several weeks

Love at the top 

Yoga: Breath deep into the soul

Mudung mountain is 1187m tall. We reached a peak at 490m, but holy crap that was high enough! We now know why the Korean's take hiking so seriously! It took 2 hours to go up, 1 hour to go down, and 4 liters of water to keep us going! I didn't think we would reach the top, but when we finally did I'm not ashamed to say that I cried. The view was breathtaking. Even living in West Virginia, I have never seen mountains so beautiful before. As I sat on the end of the rock gazing at the magnificence before me, I saw how small I really am living in a world so huge. As silly as this sounds, I don't think I truly grasped before this moment how BIG this world really is. 

Outside of our little Gwangju English Village lies a farming community. For the past several weeks we've been watching the adjumma's and emu's hard at work. One day the fields were muddy and empty, the next week they were covered with plastic wrap, the next week they were flooded with water, until low and behold....
Distributing the rice to be farmed
Lowland rice requires rice to be grown in flooded plains called paddies so its roots could be able to make use of the nutrient content from the water it was planted in. Paddy rice farmers usually plant the seeds first in little seedbeds (above) and transfer them into flooded fields which were already plowed. The rice is the fed through this "needler" machine and planted at spaced interval in already flooded areas.
The needler machine!
At Gwangju English Village we see different kids everyday. We work more like a camp program where kids come for the day and go to our different booths. We have the following booths: Furniture Shop, Art Gallery, Fire Station, Police Station, Hamburger Shop, Supermarket, Casino, Clinic, Hairshop, Costume Shop, Book Shop, Sports Center, Post Office, Bank, and Airport. Every month we do seasonal booths as well. Here are some photos taken while "working"
How small is this little bugger!?!?!

Yeah, these kids were tiny, but had better English abilities
than some Americans I know. Watch out world!

Still in diapers. Korean age 3. Actual age 2. 

I told you all different ages! From age 3-17.
I'm getting my Lion suit on! Rawr!
 Stay tuned for next week! A combination blog of West Coast to East Coast! Mokpo to Busan! W00T!

Friday, April 29, 2011

You know you're in Korea when...

Installment #1:

You know you're in Korea when:

  • The pictures never look like the food you ordered
  • Rice is served at every meal
  • Coffee is instant and no more than 5 ounces
  • There is exercise equipment in parks
  • There are sales ladies in every aisle in Lotte Mart
  • You can bring your own food and alcohol to any sporting event
  • No one actually stops at a red light 
  • Turn signals are optional
  • Kimchi is like breathing. You have to do it everyday.
  • Your bathroom is always wet.
  • You think that scooterists are the craziest people alive and have a death wish
  • Children go to school for 11 hours a day
  • Your washer sings to you
  • Pizza comes with sweet potato, potato, and always corn
  • It's more expensive to buy a plate of fried chicken and fries than it is to buy a 3 course healthy meal of meat, vegetables, rice, kimchi, soup, radish, lettuces, salad, 2 deviled eggs, a fish cake, AND a bottle of soju
  • You can get hammered drunk on 2 bottles of soju for a grand total of $3
  • 4G internet speed
  • It's okay to hug and tickle your students
  • You don't use a knife, but scissors instead
  • You always carry tissues with you because you never know if there is going to be TP
  • You go in a public restroom and find 3 people brushing their teeth
  • You don't flush toilet paper.... (It took me a week and an embarrassing email to a friend to figure this out)
  • You use the phrase "Same-Same" when asking people questions or when ordering food
  • Become a master at charades... Example: When looking for the impossible kitty litter, I took a bag of cat food to a sales lady, pointed at the cat, meowed, and started scratching and lifting up my leg like I was trying to a pee... Mission was unsuccessful. She said I could use the food for cat litter. Fail. 
  • A pizza from Pizza hut is $24

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Haven't gotten lost!!! This week...

This week has been VERY busy!!! We enjoyed our first real "weekend" on Friday by going out for Indian food and taking a very crowded bus home. Unfortunately for the cute little Korean girl standing next to me, I fell over numerous times as the "skillful" bus driver raced down the streets. The Indian was so fabulous that Carl and I went back on Tuesday night for more! 

On Saturday we joined up with our recruiter and met loads of new foreigners! I haven't seen so many English speaking people in one central location since I've been in Korea! It was absolutely fabulous! We started off by going downtown and eating Shabu Shabu- which is essentially meat you cook yourself in a pot of spicy broth with loads of greens and mushrooms.
I forgot to take a picture... So I pulled this one off of google, almost like what we had.

 It was absolutely scrumptious! Since I have been here in Korea, my tastebuds have craved spice and heat, and unlike many of my fellow westerners I cringe at the idea of having (*gasp!*) PIZZA! After dinner we experienced Korean nightlife for the first time.
Yes, We have come to Korea to go to a German Bar

 The westerners took us to various foreigner bars where we could get to know each other better and talk about life in Korea. We had such a blast!
How F*&%ing HUGE is that beer!?!?!?

After sleeping in until after noon on Sunday, we threw on our soccer jersey's and headed to the World Cup Stadium to watch our own Gwangju FC play Seoul. It was quite an experience! Even though the stadium seemed rather empty, it was amazing to see the sportsmanship and cheering that goes on during sports games in Korea. After brillantly beating Seoul (a shocker to all!) we quickly asked our Korean boss the next morning how to say "Good game!" We live about a block away from the team and see them nearly everyday, so we wanted to be able to congratulate them on their victory! 

I learned another important cultural difference this week in Korean life. We had a lot of kids this week at the village, and was really the first time since I've been here that I have seen kids regularly. This week we had a lot of preschool/Kindy and Elementary children come to the village. Some fantastic, and some extremely shy. You tend to not get kids that really misbehave, at least not the way that kids misbehave in American schools. BUT, what I learned this week is the difference in Korean age and American age. In America, when you are born, you are 0 months old and exactly 12 months later you turn 1 year old. In Korea, you are 1 year old the moment that you are born. They count the time that you are in the womb as an age. BUT Korean's also turn ANOTHER year old on New Years. In order to calculate your Korean age

Current Year-Year you were born + 1 = Korean Age

HOLY WOW! I'M 26 IN KOREA!?!?!?!??!?! 

How this becomes super relevent to me is when they say, we are having 4-7 year olds coming to the village today. I had kids today that could not have been older than 3... Can you imagine how difficult that would be? They barely speak Korean, let alone English!!! It's just another challenge that you learn to manage, and at the end of the day your voice is gone and you have dirt all over you from playing on the grass, but they are cuter than anything you can imagine! My favorite this week was having Kinders. They were Korean age 5, so probably 4 years old. A group of girls had so much fun playing with my eyes, lifting my eyelids up and down and out. It's probably why I have a sty in my eye now, but oh well! 

Korea is also a lot different in the fact that you are allowed to touch the children. Most of my days are spent giving children hugs or tickling them. The first time I saw one of our teachers tickle, hug, and throw around a kid I was slightly shocked, despite the fact that I had already read this about Korea. The first day with Kindy's I learned not to wear any jewerly as my favorite necklace and Christmas present from Carl was broken. Carl also learned not to wear his glasses around the Kindy's since they decided he didn't need to wear them.