Saturday, April 29, 2006

Going to Japan!

I am planning a trip to Japan over my summer break. Nice! Keri is coming then, and we were trying to figure out where to go. Originally Thailand was the winner, but it's rainy season there and we don't want to risk it. It's gonna be f'ing hot in Japan too (as it will be in S.K.), but what can you do, that's why they call it "summer break" right?
So I think we're gonna go to Tokyo and Kyoto. There is something called the Fuji Rock Festival going on there when we'll be there...we're looking into going. Over 46 bands from all over the world (including the Chili Peppers and Snow Patrol, yea!) are going to be playing at the base of Mt. Fuji.
If anyone out there has any recommendations for frolicking in Japan, drop a comment.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Bukhan Mountain and a broken ankle

Mom and her friend left on Saturday. All in all we had a great time! The weather was pretty crappy on some of the days, but they seemed to find positive things in all the situations. They ate a lot of Korean food (of course), observed some of my classes, went out to dinner with some of my friends, went to the DMZ, went to a nonverbal performance (Korea's answer to Stomp!). On their last day here, we decided to hike/climb the nearby Mt. Bukhan (around 1700 ft) which is in the city. That day we had perfect weather, in the 60's. I could only go a little way up with them, because I had to leave to go to work, but it was beautiful!! Waterfalls and streams and blooming flowers......ahhhh. To think, I could go there every morning before work if I wanted to!
Unfortunately, on their way down, my mom's friend Sandy spained her ankle. She was able to make it down, but it really swelled up and was black and blue later. She iced it and everything, and luckily it was their last day here so they didn't have to do much walking. She got it x-rayed when she got home and found out she broke a bone in it! Ahhh! Well Sandy, at least you have an interesting story to tell when people ask you how it happened...."I was in South Korea, climbing a mountain..."
Here are some pictures from that day.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Mama's here!

Well, I know I'm still in the doghouse, so to speak, with some of you from my last post (heehee), so here's a new one to take away the memory. (Pun intended)
My mother's here with her friend Sandy this week! They were supposed to arrive on Friday night, so we could spend the weekend together. I had all of these plans for us to go to the coast and stay over night away from the city (since my mom isn't much of a city person), but of course, their flight had some "mechanical difficulties" (always fun to think about) and they ended up having to stay Friday night in Tokyo. Oh well, at least they got to see a little bit of Japan. So anyway, they didn't arrive here until mid-afternoon on Saturday, foiling my plans.
Sunday we got out of the city, but it was a closer location. We went to Nami island. It's a famous island in the middle of a river about an hour away from Seoul. We took a train there, and were unable to get seating tickets, so we had to stand on the train the whole way. The island was beautiful with a lot of cherry blossoms and other sorts of trees and wildlife. They also had the weirdest squirrels I've ever seen. They have tallish, pointy ears. They look like devil squirrels. Strange!
I've had my mom and Sandy try some very traditional food (of course) and wine. Yesterday we went to the most famous palace in Seoul, Gyeongbukgong (the "Palace of Shining Happiness"). It was beautiful with all the trees in bloom. Mom and Sandy are on the DMZ tour today, so they are really packing their days full. We have plans to eat dinner with some of my coworkers tonight.
Here are some pictures. The one with the metasequoias (really tall, thin trees) is from Nami Island, and the ones of the palace are pretty obvious.

Friday, April 14, 2006

How much is that doggy in the window???

Ok. So I know I'll probably get a bunch of hate e-mails from you all after you read this, so if you have a weak stomach or are an animal rights activist, you may want to skip this entry.
There is a soup called boshintang that literally translated means "healthy soup". It contains dog meat. Eating dog is NOT something that TONS of people here do. It's mostly done by older men, because it's said to be good for virility. It's not something you can necessarily find all over, but it's not served in dark alleys either.
There are dog farms where dogs are raised specifically for food. They feed them a special diet and they are never anyone's pets or dogs that they find on the street. They are very lean.
Anyway, one of my friend's dad was here this past week, and one of the things he wanted to do to explore the Korean culture was to go to a dog restaurant. So Thomas rounded up several people (mostly foreigners) and we all went to a dog restaurant.
SO, I ate dog.
It looks and tastes like any other type of meat. Sort of like a "gamey" version of beef. I only ate a piece just to try it. Most of my friends liked the taste but it's not something we're going to make a habit of. It's also very expensive. For one serving it's $18 because it's pretty rare.
One thing I found funny is that there was a lot of religious paraphenalia on the walls. Jesus posters and such. Jesus watched me eat dog!
I told some of my older classes that I was going to eat dog and at least 3 students in each class had tried it at some point. A lot of the kids really were against it though.
Anyway, I did it as a cultural experience and I don't plan to do it again......But when in Rome........
P.S. Angie made the above drawing...notice my name is spelled "Shanyun". That's because "nyun" in Korean means "bitch", and it just fit in so nicely with my sweet of her...

Cherry Blossoms

Welcome to Asia. Once spring hits, thousands of Cherry Blossom trees bloom. It's beautiful, and it smells great too! Who said there can't be nature in a city of 14 million people?
There was a Cherry Blossom Festival downtown this week. There is a little island called Yeouido (supposedly the "Manhattan of Korea"--the business/financial district). There is a 7km stretch of Cherry blossom trees--1400 of them to be exact. So a bunch of us went down there to see the sights. We went at night after work, so they were all lit up, some even in different colors. It was pretty cool to see. Here are some of the photos. They didn't turn out so great cause it was at night....but here are some of my Korean friends--Julie, Hannah, and Jay (of course those are not their real names, but at my school all the Koreans have to take English names).

Monday, April 10, 2006


I just had such an awesome weekend. The company I work for rocks. One of the teachers suggested we go to Gangchon for the weekend, and it morphed into this trip with 25 of us in the South Korean countryside. We rode one of the ECC school buses there, and stayed in a huge condo with a fire pit out back. We rented ATV's and were able to ride up a mountain! School paid for everything, including all of our food, drinks (and there were lots, lemme tell you), ATV's, condo, etc...each teacher only pitched in $10 for the whole weekend!!
We rode ATV's and bikes, went to a little carnival, played lots of games, drank lots, at sam gup sal (like bacon galbi), had a bonfire, lit fireworks, stayed up really late, and went sightseeing at a lake the next day. I had the best time. I just love the people who I work with. They are so funny! I also learned a lot of new korean words this weekend. Most of them are vulgar. Ahhhh, the culture....
Here are some funny pics.
I'm the one in the back of the ATV line. My great friends Geoff and Angie--don't they look badass, like Beyonce and Jay-z or somethin yo?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Visitors Part Deux....again

Did anyone else see what happened?? I posted about my aunt and uncle's visit, then I posted about my kindy students, and the first one disappeared! So now I have to try to recreate that first post about my visitors. Dammit! All that work for nothing!

Anyway, as I was saying (before it got so rudely erased), my Aunt Lila and Uncle John visited Seoul last week. They came on the same day that Nicole left. The first day they were here was a weekend so I was able to hang out all day. We went on the city bus tour, and we saw lots of things I had never seen before. Because of the extensive and efficient subway system in Seoul, I'm used to being underground when I travel, so it's pretty cool to actually see the city while I'm going somewhere. We were able to get on and off the bus tour wherever we wanted, so we went to a Korean Folk Village (this one was in the city), Insadong (an area of downtown that has a lot of traditional Korean stores and restaurants), and Gyeongbokgung Palace (built in 1394--the oldest palace of the Joseon Dynasty). I didn't have my camera there but the palace is amazing--I will go back and capture it for y'all. I guess the name means "Palace of Shining Happiness"--isn't that nice??
So anyway, my aunt and uncle really did a lot when they were here. They are world travelers, so they weren't afraid to really explore the place. And yep, they said that it was a typical Asian city--you know, crowded, lots of Asian people (really??!), neon lights, markets....
One thing that they noticed was how friendly the people are. People were coming out of the woodwork to help them, especially if they were looking at a map. Or even if they weren't. Also it's very safe here. You could set your purse down on a table and leave for an hour and it would be there when you got back. So that's always nice for a tourist to not have to be super paranoid about your belongings when you're here.
Lila and John also knew 2 Korean professors here, Joe and Dr. Cho. They usually meet at conferences in other countries, so Joe and Dr. Cho really enjoyed showing them around Korea. I was able to have dinner with them a couple times. It was great--we went for my favorite dish, galbi (pork or beef rib meat cooked over a grill on the table). The Korean professors really made sure Lila and John got the "Korean experience". On their last night here, they found it imperative that John try soju, Korea's national liquor. The "right' way to drink it is to take it as a shot, and then tip the shotglass upside down over your head when you are finished to show that you drank it all. Way to go John! You are soooo Korean! Here are some photos of that moment as well as Lila and John enjoying a traditional Korean dinner--sitting on the floor and using the chopsticks.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

My babies

March is the start of the new semester in Korea. To me, that means a new schedule and new students. My schedule is pretty good. I don't have to be into work until noon, or sometimes 1. I leave around 7 or 8 pm. That means I have NO excuse not to work out in the mornings! (unless of course I go out the night before) ;)
ANYway, I got a new kindergarten class. They are the youngest kids at the school. Brand-new 5 year-olds. If you remember anything about Korean age, that means they are a mere 3 years old in America. Basically fetuses.
SO, of course they don't speak a lick of English. The entire 80 minute class consists of them babbling to me in Korean (expecting me to answer of course). They call me song-sang-nim, which means teacher in Korean. They are soooooooooooooo cute, and I do love them. They don't pose quite the behavior problems that my previous kindy class did; the problems lie in their young age. They have the attention spans of gnats, which I understand--they are only 3. So I really put on a performance in that class to keep them interested. I am waaay over the top when it comes to voices and facial expressions. It's pretty fun (because of their reactions, they really get a kick out of it) but it's tiring. In addition to their short attention spans, they also aren't used to sitting at a desk for doing workbook pages for 4.5 hours a day. So I get the occasional desk-sleeper, which is also understandable.
Here's the thing that I just can't believe or understand--they can't wipe themselves yet. If you ask me, isn't TOILET TRAINING a little higher on the list than SPEAKING ENGLISH??? Hmmm...Now, not to be insensitive or anything, but in my contract, it says NOTHING about wiping the ass of another human being. Last time I checked, "teaching" didn't involve the bathroom. So anyway, to make a long story short, one kid peed his pants in my class, another kid shit his pants, and now I have an aide. It's great. She's Korean, helps the kids in the bathroom, and also helps translate. I'm in heaven.
Here are some pics of a few kids that I may steal when I leave the country. I love love love them. Pictured here: Edward, Denis, Ryan, and Cara. I get happy just seeing their pictures.

Monday, April 03, 2006


After a whirlwind of March, I am back writing on the good ol' blog. I had guests for 3 weeks. It was great! An overview....My friend Nicole from grad school came over her spring break for 16 days. It was nice that she was here over 2 weekends so we were able to leave the city. We went to another city, Busan, which is on the east coast of Korea. We took the KTX there, which is a high speed (bullet) train. It travels 300 km/hr (approx. 180 mph), so we were able to cross the country in a little under 3 hours (South Korea is about the size of Indiana). Busan is on the East Sea, so it was beautiful. We walked on the coast and had some Korean style seafood (seafood baked into a pancake). It was really good! The restaurant owner talked to us for at least an hour about Korea, traveling, and life. He spoke really good English. We stayed overnight there and walked around the city the next day. Here are some pictures of Busan....

I got to see a lot of things I hadn't seen yet when Nicole was here. We went to a Korean Folk Village, which was great. There were traditional performances like tightrope walking, a seesaw routine (women on either side propel each other into the air and do flips), Korean traditional dance, was very interesting. They also had a lot of shops and restaurants.
Nicole was able to see where I teach and meet some of my students, as well as the teachers I work with. We all went out to dinner and drinks when she was here. Nicole was also able to participate in noraebang (a MUST-see in Seoul). We stayed out until 6:30 am on St. Patty's Day (there is an enormous Irish population in Seoul) haha, just kidding.
It was great experiencing the city with a good friend. And to top it off, now Nicole is thinking of coming here to teach this summer for a year. Assa! (remember, that means "awesome" in Korean) Here are some pictures of her visit....