Friday, December 24, 2010

A Moment of Sappy-ness


No matter what the good-bye is for and what the new beginning is.. it is the hardest thing to say good-bye to the 50 little smiles you've seen every morning Mon-Fri for 11 months while living in a foreign country. Smiles transverse all language barriers and I will remember each and every one of those goofy little grins. 50 smiles will never be forgotten, 50 tears were gained and forever wiped away.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bitter/Sweet

Today is Tuesday, I just finished teaching one of my 4-year old classes for the last time! For some reason, it was like they knew to be extra sweet to me.... at least in the beginning! I walked in, the normal 'Hewo Paula Teacher' greetings... and then I played the first song and one-by-one the students started coming up and giving me a hug (well.. giving my knees a hug) and saying 'anyong saranghayo' (Hello, I love you)... of course I didn't scream at them to sit down and sing the song. I decided I'm gonna soak all this in! I'm goin to miss these kids sooo incredibly much. Even tough Kindergarten has been quite awesome at times and quite horrid at other times, these kids have been such an awesome part of my life for the past 11 months! I know each and every one of their names, whether they use learner's chopsticks or not, who can make them cry the easiest, why they cry, if they're afraid of the rain... and on and on... this whole teacher business is emotionally difficult!!

After the first song played and I began to ask them the normal, 'how are you', 'how is the weather', 'how old are you'... etc... they began to bring their chairs around where I was sitting.. instead of having 10 kids scattered around the large table in front of me.. I had 10 kids crowded around me, trying to get as close to Paula teacher as possible. Where is your camera when you need it?? Luckily I had the camera on my phone, but the pictures definitely did not do 'the moment' justice!



Of course after I convince them to sit in their normal seats, they begin their hellacious chatterboxing, climbing on the tables, climbing under the tables, wandering around, picking their noses, refusing to sit, making their friends cry, nonsense.

And then... once again, that was my sign that I am now ready to GO HOME! :)

Friday, December 3, 2010

I Experienced THE Melting Pot

Sure the term 'melting pot' is normally used to describe the United States. But, I'm not in the U.S. right now, am I??


November 25, 2010

I'm in Korea.
I'm in a tiny city called Jinju, most Koreans have never even heard of it.
I was in a bar called Sound Garden.
Who would ever think, that while in Korea.. you could be sitting in a room where four languages are being spoken all around you. And you need to have a basic understanding of all four so that you can mingle amongst the crowd.

I found myself in this situation at a farewell party for a French friend, David. I have met many French people who are helicopter engineers in a small town right outside of my city.. and I've hung out with them at random get togethers. Although I took French in highschool, I only know enough to understand what people are talking about around me.. and enough to seriously give me issues while learning Spanish.. I always end up using French numbers, days of the week, and random words when trying to speak Spanish, and it drives me crazy!!




I found out that there was a man from Spain that worked with the Frenchies as well. He was at the party, and my friend Samantha introduced us.. because I am trying to re-learn my Spanish again for my trip in March.

I have honestly never been so confused in my life. At the same table, there were people speaking English across from us, French beside of us, Korean around us and Jose and I were speaking (trying) Spanish! Anytime I would try to say a simple word like 'yes', it would come out like, 'Nay, aaagh, Oui, aaagh, Yes, aaagh SI!' It was the most mind-boggling experience!!

When I left, I thought about how I had never imagined that happening in Korea.. and how much I have appreciated everything I've been able to experience here!
대한민국
I LOVE YOU KOREA!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

There is a War in Our Midst

.. and I don't mean with North Korea.

Well I do, but I'm sure you have all heard enough about that in the news. It is really not a bother here living in South Korea, because the ROK people are so OVERLY used to the threat of war.. it aint nothin' but a G-thing! I can't understand the news, so I don't watch it.. no issue there. I only understand the words that are originally English, but written in Hangul (the Korean lettering), so no newspaper for me.

I'm talking a war you probably don't hear much about. A war between two equals. A war between friends.. but enemies.

I am talking about.. a BOOGER WAR!




Unfortunately.

Here is how it works, imagine yourself being 5 years old. You're sitting in your seat, with all of your classmates around the table with you. The English teacher is trying to teach you some new vocabulary.. you look around to see if eeeeveryone is looking at you.. and then you do it! You DO... IT! You pick that golden booger out of your nose and reach over the table, and put it in front of your friend. Then.. you giggle to get his attention, and wait for the war to begin. He flicks your booger towards the girls on the other side of the table.. another boy intercepts.. but oh wait, the booger is sticking to the table (you're thinking, haa haaa. always happens to hiiim!) so the boy picks the booger up and smushes it onto the other table. That friend is thinking.. oooh you want to play that game? And picks one of his own boogers and puts it in front of the same boy.

This goes on and on, while the English teacher is screaming, "HAJIJIMAH!, HAJIMAAAAH! Don't do that! Stop it! I'm getting the Korean teacher right now, Saaan sang niiiim!"

But the Korean teacher never comes, the English teacher doesn't know what to do. Ohhhh no, ooooh no. One of the booger boys is walking up to the front of the class to tell her something.. she's freaking out.. he's grabbing her arm "Paula Teacher! Paula Teacher!". "Eww, don't touch me! Booger boy! Ugggh, SIT! ANJUSAYO!!"

And then the English teacher begins to countdown, "23, 22, 21, 20, 19.. !" The kids are thinking.. hmm.. that's strange! She USUALLY starts at 5, you know, the countdown our mom's do?


....

But little did they know that I was counting down the days I have left teaching kindergarten in Korea.
23 my friends!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

You're Scaring the Children

...that's what she said!

This was said more than once during my attempt to ice skate for the second time in my life. I was screaming bloody murder while having blades attached to my feet, who wouldn't?? Okay.. obviously not you!

Skating in Korea: a little different than ice skating in America
A.)Helmets are required.. for everyone
B.)Gloves are required.. for everyone.. if you fail to bring them, you have to buy light pink gloves from their store (including the guys!)



Wednesday, November 24, 2010

An Ode to Girl's Nights in Korea

Let me introduce you to 'the girls':

Mikan- a bubbly, Korean loving, blonde who is always laughing and has a funny accent from North Dakota
Laura- an amazing girl who is always the biggest sweet heart, loves techno music and anything that lights up that she can spin in the air, from Minnesota
Ange- yet another blonde with a South African accent, a good girl, she was my bestest friend here and always liked to have fun and smile
~~~These were the originals who started the tradition... as teachers come and go in Jinju, we were adding new smiles and saying goodbye to some great ones~~~

March 12, 2010: First Ever Girl's Night
Mikan, Laura, Ange and I decided to take a trip to Busan to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. We arrived, shopped a bit, found a hotel, ate at a Samgyupsal restaurant, went to the bars in PNU to listen to live Irish music and then shopped the next morning. At the beginning of the year we were crazy shopaholics and Korea was still super new to us.

At this point in time, we realized Girl's Night needs to happen much more.. the group we were hanging out with in Jinju was mostly guys & we were the only girls.. so it was soo refreshing getting away from Jinju and living it up.




April 8, 2010: Discovery of the Mecca
HAEUNDAE BEACH.. Home to Elune, Maktum & Fuzzy Navel

In our li'l city of Jinju, dance floors are far and few between. We were going a little stir crazy, and had all sorts of built up energy with no real way to release it. So, we packed up our bags again and went to Busan!
The same 4 girls, with the same missin.. fun, dance and laughter!
This time, Busan was epic.. it was unlike anything we had seen in Korea. Fuzzy Navel was found, a mexican restaurant serving amazing food and margs. We then discovered Elune, which played lots of techno. And we also found Club Maktum... which has a two story giant-silver-fuzzy-lit-up penis as its enterance! I kid you not my friends, Korea is a special place! haha




May 13, 2010: Haeundae Beach
This time, we added a new girl to the mix:
Claire- a spunky blonde Brit, who will also always stay out way past your bed-time

Of course, we had to get our Mexican fix first. Then we ventured to Elune because a British DJ, PunkRolla was DJing. Ooooh P.R., Laura and I fell in love with the DJ! However, the DJ fell in love with the Korean girls, paha.. why wouldn't you when you're in Korea?? Crushed.. :) The music pumped, we were stars as usual.. not very many foreigners there ever.

During the night, we noticed this middle-aged man who is beyond super tan (hardly looks Korean), acting as a promoter/insane dancing/whistle blowing/light up glove rocking star. He was too funny/pervy.. I was dancing on stage, and he grabbed me and put me on his shoulders and I got to bop around the club waaay up high! I won't lie, it felt pretty cool... people don't really do that in the US!!! Then, we spied a couple of white guys up in the VIP (as I said.. super easy to spot, amongst a crowd of Asians). The funny thing is, that instead of THEM coming up to US, they sent a Korean guy friend down to the floor to ask us to come to VIP to meet them... Being Korea, it definitely did not surprise us, although coming from white guys, it DID surprise us!!(Side note... there are Korean Clubs.. I have one in my city.. where a waiter will go up to a girl and say "This guy wants to meet you, come with me to talk to him".. and they DO.. and that is the whole point of the night clubs) We said heck yea, why not?? VIP? They were US Marines who were hanging out with some super wealthy Korean contractors in Busan. So we ended the night with them in the VIP/Karaoke room for a while, definitely a highlight of the night!

The next morning, we rested at the beach, and it was amazing!







May 21, 2010: Ulsan
Buddha's Birthday

Mikan, Ange and I decided to go to Ulsan for part of Buddha's Birthday (a 3 day weekend). We had an amazing time, met some hilarious people, and were bombarded by Koreans who had hardly ever seen a foreigner! This weekend was written about in a previous blog!





June 10, 2010: Haeundae
New smiles:
Christina- an adventurous and crazy soul with an inspirng New Zealand accent
Kirsten- a fun chick who is of course from South Africa and BLONDE

All I wished for my birthday is that it would be spent dancing with my girls! And I got it :) We all had so much fun at Maktum and Elune dancing the night away!!




The next day we played at Gwangali Beach for their celebration of the ocean!







Then the unthinkable happened... there was not a girl's night during, July, August.. SEPTember.. OCTOBER.... what was happening!?? There were lots of vacations imbetween, we were all out discovering Korea and other countries, some got boyfriends, there were festivals happening all over the place.. and we didn't have/take the time to plan a night out together.

Until... my last Jinju girl's night ever, came upon us!

I planned a girl's night, and made everyone promise me it would happen because I leave Korea in about a month! And it happened :)




November, 20, 2010: Haeundae
Meet the new girls:
Sam- although she is definitely not new, this was her first girl's night.. she is my super cool friend from NYC
Angeline- a fun-loving graduate from JMU, Go Dukes!
Dana- Ange's replacement, but her blonde is quite dirtier :), my li'l ecuadorian amiga

I was super excited and also a bit bummed about this girl's night. I was missing my friend Ange, because she had gone back home to South Africa :( She had been at every single girl's night before that, so it was different, but I partied in her name!
We all decided to go to Busan around noon, go ice skating and shopping, and then head to 'za beach! The ice skating hardcore wore us out (and sucked!! bah), so we were all slow at getting ready once we found a love motel. (The love motel let us have 7 in our room, niiice!!) We headed to Fuzzy Navel for mex and margs and then went to Elune!
It was an interesting night. First, at Fuzzy Navel, I noticed a girl at the table beside of us.. and she looked sooo familiar. It took a hot second to figure out how I knew her, but I figured it out! I had met her briefly twice in Beijing, once in a van on the way to different shows (Acrobatics/Kung Fu) and once on my way to Tiananment Square. We talked each time, and knew that we each lived in Korea but never had time to hang out in Beijing.
I was too big of a chicken to walk up to the table of 4 girls and ask if I had met her in Beijing.. even though my friends swore she had been staring at our table earlier in the night. Mikan ended up going to the bathroom at the same time as a friend at her table, and asked her if her friend had gone to Beijing for Chuseok (creeper!), she said yes and they each sat back down at the tables and told us. We screamed a bit, hugged, and talked about our trips! How random?? Neither of us even live in Busan! I love travelling!!

At Elune, the thong guy was there of course. He has been a highlight of all of our trips to Haeundae. Mikan and I tried to get his attention when he was on stage to talk to him, and he ended up inviting all of us to VIP. So we hung out with him a bit and roamed around all of Elune.. a great way to end the last girl's night in Korea!!!






GIRL'S NIGHT, I'll miss you!! I have soo many great memories from every single one :) Cheers to my girls, LYLAS

Friday, November 19, 2010

Say Kimchi.. Like You Mean it

Three fridays a month I have the pleasure of going on field trips with the kindergarten I work for. I have been to the Jinju Castle, Children's Library, Forest Museum, and a hike, amongst many others.















Last friday I went to a Chrysanthymum Festival and today I went to a dinosaur museum.

Now, you would think the point of these field trips would be to educate the kids and allow them to have fun (seeing as they are THREE to SIX year olds going to school 5 days a week without a nap time). However, from my point of view it is all about show.. like many things in Korea.. saving face.. glasses without lenses.. charms for your cell phone.

Our kindergarten, which is a chain throughout Korea, is in competition with the other chain kindergartens that have a lot of money in Jinju. There are obvious marketing approaches that any business would take, however I don't feel right about this one:

Every single trip we have been on, except for maybe the library,the teachers immediately take out their cameras. They take pictures non-stop, but only of the kids posed. We went to a police station one time where the kids were allowed to try on safety gear at the shooting range and it was a zoo trying to put ear muffs and safety goggles on a kid, taking the picture, putting them on the other kid, taking a picture, puttting them on the other kid, taking a picture and so on, you get the picture, ha, hopefully! The kids never actually get to experience things, it is a lot of shouting from teacher to teacher, dragging one kid away from the photo area and dragging the next kid there.




Today, we went to a dinosaur / science museum and the kids spent more time posing for pictures in groups of three in front of a model of Mars or beside this statue or 'pressing' that button than they did actually DOING the different experiences and being a kid and running around using their imaginations!! I have 20 kids that are 3 years old, and they pose without being asked.. literally pose.. either with the peace sign, one hand up to their face like they're innocent, macho poses, the works.



I kind of just stood back and watched today and was like MAN these kids miss out on all sorts of joys in childhood, just so my kindergarten can put a book together at the end of the school year to impress the parents so they will re-sign for the next year... or to appease the parents to make sure they have lots of fake-posed pictures of their children... not sure which.

Get Your Eagle On Girl

Drop down and get your eagle on girl
From the girls with skinny waists to girls heavy set
Come on
Flap your wings
From the girls got it good livin' in the suburbs
Come on
Flap your wings
To the ones in the ghetto with their hands on their curves
Come on
Flap your wings
Flap your wings
-+-Nelly-+-

This is the song that I was singing to myself as a 60 year old lady in leopard print panties and a red bra was scrubbing the skin off of my entire body, literally. I definitely didn't have as classy an outfit as she, I had nothing, zilch. I found myself spending a Thursday night lying on a hot pink table, with my best friend in Korea, Dana,on a lime green table beside of me..each of us, naked... bright red... dawning green cucumber masks... with two pairs of hands scrubbing away at our bodies.

Not a piece of skin was missed.. although now some is missing.

How did this happen you may be wondering? It all began with a, "Hey Dana, let's go get a body scrub at the Sauna. My feet looked absolutely disgusting when I got out of the shower today!" She agreed that she could use some T.L.C. as well, so we planned a date! And a date it was! HaHa

First we went into the sauna (I believe I have posted about this before). If not, here is a brief run down. There is a men's sauna and a women's, although young children are welcome to go to either. You pay 5,000Won (about $4USD). Go to the locker room, change into your birthday suit and head to the showers. First you shower a couple of times, and then you head to the pools where the vagina soups are made! There are piping hot pools, super cold pools, medium hot pools, massage pools, and sauna rooms. And if you're lucky, the sauna you go to will have a body scrubbing room!!

The body scrub was 20,000Won (about $18USD), we saw this on the sign. There were two ladies and two tables, they spoke ZERO English! They were busy cleaning the room when we first arrived, and one of the ladies was trying to tell us to come back later.. but we wanted to know what time.. she didn't want to deal with it, so she sprayed us with (cold) water and we ran. Most of the time if you stand bare naked in a sauna and look really confused someone will come to help you, so we did just that for a couple of minutes (at a distance from the cold water sprayer), the other non-water spraying lady finally came up to us and took our money and motioned us to go sit in the pools. So we did just that and finally they came and got us!

The journey begins, we're already naked and a bit pruney.. the perfect start! I had already called the lady with the leopard panties because I thought she had to have sass and a good personality (two of the most important things to me when I have someone scrub my skin off.. although this was my first time), so I chose her table. We both layed down, looked over at each other to wish each other good luck with a couple of giggles, and then turn our attention toward our scrubbers. Whenever we said anything in English my lady would make fun of us and mimick us and we would all just laugh. I tried to talk to her as best I could with the little Korean I know (I figured she should know a little bit about me if we were going to become so close in the next hour). They started off by pouring buckets of hot water on us and lathering us with some sort of soap. Then, she gave me a head massage and did a crazy massage on my face that ended up making my cheeks feel numb. Then, she got a bowl of goodness, and I could smell the cucumber from a couple of feet away! I assume she is only going to put it on my eyes, but she puts it all over my face.. and I think she was telling me to shut up by putting them over my mouth too! What a nice lady :)

Then the scrubbing commenced, she scrubbed each and every part of my body at least 5 times, and each time it became a little more painful. The scrubbers felt like absolute brillo pads, insane abrasion! She started at my feet and ended at my neck, including everything imbetween. Then, she said something to me in Korean, I put my hands up in the air like I have no clue what you want me to do, so she slaps my butt and twists my leg... aaah, ok you want me on my side, ok a new angle I gotcha! So I do, and then she lifts one leg up and bends my knee (none of this in a very nice and soothing way.. it's Korea, I expected nothing less from this dear Ajuma :) ).. this would be why I had the 'Get your eagle on girl' song in my head!! As she scrubs my inner thighs I begin to feel I know her on a different level now. Not only is she totally ok with scrubbing my inner thighs, she is totally ok with my foot sinking into her pudgy fluffy belly! Once both sides were done, she flipped me over onto my stomach, I think my favorite body part to be scrubbed was my butt. Now you know alll about me, and so does she!!

Anyways, she ended up taking my mask off of me, telling me I was super dirty.. especially my hands.. because I had so much skin that she had rubbed off of me on the table.. which I don't think is my fault!! haha. She lathered me with soap and washed me, gave me a light massage, put oil all over me and slapped the side of my butt to tell me to leave. We (mainly me) giggled, bowed, and then she blew me a kiss goodbye.. she was one cheeky lady and I loved her!



I know this situation would be rather disturbing to most Americans, but to Koreans (even the Christian ones) this is more than normal. I now consider myself a 'Korean American'.. I believe I've earned my stripes :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Living History

After teaching the other night, I had a quick conversation with one of the mom's of my students. Hopefully, it will turn into a long conversation before I leave. But this is an interesting story to share, and very inspiring!

This (Korean) lady had told me once before that she had lived in Argentina for a couple of years when she was about 8 years old. I found that quite strange, and the next time I saw her I asked her more about it. She said that her parents and some of her family were fleeing Korea because of fear of a war. There was already an uncle living in Argentina, and he was doing very well for himself and so the family chose to move there. The family being some aunts & uncles, and her mom & dad.

This past tuesday, I asked her a couple more questions.. yes, a.) because it is a strange story and b.) I couldn't be any nosier than I already naturally am.

She told me that her parents were married in North Korea, and during the Korean War they fled to South Korea (nice-uh!). The mother left all of her family and friends, and successfully made it to South Korea with her husband's family. They stayed for about 8 years, and when word spread about North Korea building tunnels underground to invade Seoul they decided they had to leave the country. They were terrified of living under North Korea's rule again. When they moved to Argentina, they worked in restaurants and in the fields.

----In 1965, 13 Korean families arrived in Argentina by boat. Between 1970 and 1978, 500 more families (about 2,800 individuals) arrived, the Argentinian government was allowing these families to settle in the less-developed areas of the country. They were supposed to have great knowledge of farming, however few did and many ended up relocating to cities. (Wikipedia)----

When the threat of another North Korean invasion dwindled, her family decided to move back to South Korea. Her mom to this day has not spoken to any of her family members, does not know if any of her 8 brothers/sisters are alive, and will probably pass away never knowing.

Two words,

LIVING

HISTORY

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween is for Witches

..that's what she said! I guess that doesn't quite fit there.


BUT, that's what my boss said when we suggested having a Halloween Party for the kids at the hagwon. He sent an e-mail to Dana saying 'We will not be having a Halloween party, I believe halloween is for witches. How about a Christmas party where we give out candy to the kids?'

As I have said many times before, Korea is home to extreme-ism. I will leave it at that.





Well, too bad for the kids at the hagwon, I got to have a Halloween Party for my kindergarteners at BebeGung... AND I hardcore broke the rules and stayed dressed as a panda bear for my hagwon classes.. sue me << sticking tongue out >>! It was the cutest thing since.. I dunno, apple pie? Anyways, the kids had been learning a couple of 'autumn inspired songs' and the trick-or-treat song for the past two weeks and performed them for a couple of 'candy elves' (also known as parents) in return for candy. I LOVED IT, except for the singing part and dancing with them.. it's far to early in the morning for that kind of thing!! I definitely did not expect the kids to be as decked out as they were! They were sooooooo darn cute! Insanely cute! It just made my day!

Lyrics to the song below:
I love the mountains.
I love the rolling hills.
I love the flowers.
I love the daffodils.
I love the fireside.
Where all the lights are low.
Boom-dee-a-da Boom-dee-a-da Boom-dee-a-da Boom-dee-ae
(And yes, I have 3 year olds that can sing this :) I'm soo proud!)


video








For the adult festivities, we pre-gamed all dressed up in our costumes (panda, teacher, two school girls, bad spider man, a bum, and a werewolf) with Bloody Jello and then walked around the streets of Juyak-dong tormenting the innocent. Followed by a crowd of about 40 foreigners all decked out in cotumes dancing at Rock Bar in Sunupdae. It was quite an interesting night for any Koreans who dared to roam the streets!
video

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Festiva-looza

Korea:::: Land of the Festivals!


There has been a festival every weekend since I arrived back from Beijing one month ago. Technically, I have been to six in the past three weeks!!

The weekend of October 9, 2010 was epic!
DMZ/JSA
I went to Seoul with Dana and Jesse and arrived at 1AM Saturday morning.. we took a taxi to Itaewon and the three of us slept in a Full sized bed.. quite comfortably, haha! Dana and I woke up at 6AM to head to Camp KimUSO's office to catch our bus for the DMZ/JSA tour. It was an absolutely amazing tour, plenty of historical information as well as plenty of laughs! I love American soldiers, they definitely have a sense of humor! Our first stop was a 20 minute information session about how the DMZ/JSA works and what it is for. Then, we headed to the literal DMZ line and visited the conference room where North Korea and South Korea meet face to face for meetings. I was able to cross the line into North Korea, it was awesome! It was really funny, because we got to take funny pictures with the soldiers that are on duty in the room, they do not move, wear sunglasses so you have no idea if they're even looking at you, and are in a martial arts ready to fight pose!


After hanging out there we went to the 3rd infiltration tunnel. This tunnel, amongst many other tunnels found, were made by North Korea to surprise attack Seoul, South Korea. It was super interesting/tiring! It is 1.1 miles long, 6.6 foot by 6.6 foot, and 240 Ft below the ground. It could have easily accomodated 30,000 North Korean soldiers per hour with light amo!!!

Next, we went to the top of Mt. Dora to look through telescopes to view North Korea! It was interesting.

The tour lasted from 7:30AM-4PM... quite exhausting, and the next part of our day was even crazier!


Global Gathering

When Dana and I got home, we met back up with Jesse at the hotel and took a nap for an hour, the met up with some friends for MEXICAN FOOD! Along with Margaritas made with REAL LIME! I was pretty stoked.. Koreans don't seem to understand the concept of a lime!!



Then, we headed to Global Gathering. It is a huge World-Wide DJ festival (very popular in the UK), and this GGK2010 was the first one for Korea. It was awesome! The main DJs were Aarmin Van Buren, Fat Boy Slim and Justice. It was an insane night, and of course I had to dress up like a panda as an ode to the Great Wall!! We met a lot of cool people from across Korea, and also ran into them the next week at a Rock Festival. I experienced my first mosh pit, it was insane.. we wanted to be up to the barrier and closest to the DJ to get the full effect.. and definitely got the full effect! Christina and I decided we wanted to 'be rescued' like the other shwasted people that literally got pulled over the fence while they were half alive from intoxication. And so we waved the security gaurds over and they pulled us up and we got to run around in real close to the DJ, it was epic and super fun!!! Practically all of the awesome people from Jinju were there, so it was just an awesome time to be had by all.



October 1-12, 2010

Jinju (my city) held its annual Lantern Festival! It was AMAZING, MAGICAL, BEAUTIFUL and INSPIRING! I looooved it, if you can't tell.
The floating of the lanterns dates back to the Japanes invasion of Korea in 1592. The Korean soldiers used to float lanterns down the Namgang river towards home to let their families know they were alive. The festival has been happening in Jinju since 1949!!!

It was so gorgeous I felt like I was at Disneyland! I wanted to go to the festival every day (it was 2 weeks long).. but I didn't! I walked around it about 4 times, but I was able to see the un-lit lanterns from my kindergarten every day.. so ti made up for it. One night I met up with some friends and we had Magkoli at the river's edge and had a dandy night!!







Gyeongsang University Festival
I had a fabulous time at the GNU Festival! They had fireworks, bands, about 50 tents ran by student organizations. All of which were to raise money for the different organizations around the school. Everyone just goes and hangs out, eats food grilled by the students and drinks Soju/Mikju/Mogkali and talks. It was super chill and I loved it. I went two nights and wished it happened every weekend!



1st Daejeon Rock Festival/Balloon Festa/Food Expo
This was an interestingly disorganized group of festivals, all occuring in the same location. The balloon festival was awesome, however of course being Kora, none of the hot air balloons actually literaly went into the air.. they were out for looks. But I got to jump in a basket and pull the chain that makes the fire ignite.. like all of the other little kids, and it really thrilled me! Claire, Dana and I also set off a wishing lantern which floats into the sky like you're in a dream!



Then, we went to the Rock Festival (about 15 bands from all over Korea came and it was supposed to last from 8PM-5AM.. that story will come in a bit). We stayed for about an hour, brought our own drinks because they hardcore lied to us about international beers being there... lied! There was only one cooler (the same in every bar in Korea), over-priced, 'International' selection of beer. We decided to head to the busier part of town and see if we could find a good place to hang out and stopped by TGIFridays, goofed off, practically got kicked out, but had a fun time just talking and enjoying life!

Here's where it turns 'SO KOREA'.. when we arrived back at the Festival, there was someone talking on the mic saying that the show was cancelled. We looked at each other and seriously thought it was a joke.. but soon realized it wasn't when people started making fires out of pizza boxes and throwing chairs. SO AMERICAN! I'm sure they were American actually, haha rednecks! And we were told that the bands were going to split up and head to different venues around the city because of noise complaints. Mind you, this event was sponsored by the city of Daejeon and was FREE because they were trying to stimulate tourism to Central Korea.



So, it took us about an hour to hail a cab (none of them would stop for us white people.. they knew the area was absolutely crazy) it was hundreds and hundreds of people trying to head to different areas of the city. But we finally got a cab and headed to .. what else .. but Yellow Taxi. Which was actually in a really cool area of Daejeon, one which I think I would visit again. Very good nightlife, lights all around! It was cool and a good ending to the night!

Smell the Kimchi

I went to a different doctor today. I've been sick for the past month, started to get a bit better, and now I'm starting to get a bit worse. I walk into the doctor's office/hospital, hand my Alien Card over with a piece of paper explaining in Korean what my symptoms are (coughing, stuffy nose, tired, ect.) and answer a couple of questions that are purely in Korean.. with a couple of yes's and nods (having no idea what she's asking). I hear my name called, 퍼거슨 (Pa-ga-sun), stand, walk to the door, sit, hand my note over, the doctor looks at my throat, listens to my heart, write something down on a piece of paper, hands it to me, I stand, walk out the door, hand it to the receptionist, hand over money, and then she points me in the direction of the injection room. Of course, I ask no questions, a.) because I can't, b.) because I'm in Korea so it is inevitable for me to get an injection when sick (but I'm not complaining right now because I feel like poo).

The lady motions me to sit, inserts the needle, I begin to feel funny immediately (mainly because I'm a baby when it comes to needles) begin to hum a little, tap my foot, act like I'm totally not getting injected with something at the moment... and then my mouth starts to taste funny, my heart starts to feel warm, the lady turns my head to her and motions to breathe! So I do, I thought I had been breathing the whole time... but paying more attention to the way my body was reacting so fast!

And I am babbling on about this because it made me realize, I am going through the motions. I am living an absolute dream here in Korea, but I am simply living up in the clouds somewhere. As a lady I met in Beijing said to me one time after I said, oh yeah I got my nose piereced today.. she said "Hahaha, I can't believe it! Well yes I can, Little Panda Paula roaming around Beijing (flapping her arms and looking up in the sky)"... and it really made me realize, I am so random! I need to stop floating in the sky and come back to earth. I need to pay more attention to what's around me! I normally ride my bike on the same side of the road to work everyday..but the other day I was walking on the opposite side of the road, and noticed a super cool building, only two blocks from where I live!!! And I had NEVER noticed it before! How?! It really weirded me out, how had I been so obvlivious?! It makes me wonder what else I have missed out on because I had my mind on other things or was too busy to notice?!

I am so busy in Korea, but not from work necessarily, from fun. There is ALWAYS something going on, and I need to stop and smell the Kimchi!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cha Cha Now Y'all

Pictures and hopefully video to come... BUT, I just taught my 5 and 6 year olds in kindergarten the Cha Cha Slide by DJ Casper!!! I had soo much fun, with sweat involved!!! The kids are too precious, and tried really hard... in the beginning.. and then they just got tired! After the class was over, I had a ginormo grin on my face because I had so much fun!!!! These kids honestly amaze me.. my 6 year olds are learning Chinese writing as well right now.. and my 4 year old class knows the months IN ENGLISH!!!!! It's insane.. at first I was asking them to just repeat the months after I said them, while showing them a card.. and now I ask them to repeat.. and they just start listing them all out! It's awesome!! I recorded them during my class today (a couple days after I originally posted this blog, enjoy :) )

video

video


I really do love this teaching thing.. which is starting to scare me! I'm also thinking about getting my masters again.. the idea keeps popping up into my head.. because it would also really really help me to get a university job in another country! So hmm.. something to think about! I am unsure about whether I'll be working at another academy, a kindergarten or public school next year... it's all up in the air! But I have plenty of time to think about it.. fortunately!!

Panda's Tales

As I was sitting on the plane reading my book at 6:30PM on a flight from Beijing, China back to Seoul, South Korea.. I looked out the window.. took a deep breath.. and said 'DANG! Did that SERIOUSLY just happen?!'

I had just spent five magical, wonderful, insipiring days in Beijing all by myself, playing in the Forbidden City, exploring the traditional Hutongs, raving on the Great Wall, and meeting some awesome new friends!! All I have to say about this life is WOAH.

It was my first solo travel trip (well, I guess besides my trip to Korea) and it was amazing! I live in Asia.. so I wasn't nervous about not speaking the language, I just imagined myself heading to Seoul by myself! I was a little nervous about possibly having that feeling of 'alone-ness', but learned real fast that in hostel life you're all in it together. My hostel, Leo Hostel, was amazing. It definitely felt like a little family. I had researched it on the internet, and simply emailed them to reserve my bed. They fill up really fast, because they are so popular so I reserved it a couple of weeks ahead of time. The directions they had emailed me for getting to the hostel were fabulous, and I got there without getting lost! It only took me about an hour from arriving at the airport to getting settled into my dorm room. YES dorm room. When Joe and I used to travel in Central America, we used to always do our own seperate room in hostels, and never once did we stay in a room with a bunch of other people there.. so I was a little nervous about what that would be like. But I found it to be awesome! I'm stoked to stay in a dorm again, people who travel are just so fun and full of life. The first roommate I met had been a teacher in Korea the previous year, so he and I had a lot to chat about and immediately bonded. The sad part was that he was leaving the next morning, and so the first friend I made I was losing! I was a bit bummed, but met a bunch of people the next day on my trip to the Great Wall!

THE SUMMER PALACE
I arrived at my hostel at about 11AM on Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010. From there, I hopped on a subway (Beijing's subway system is super easy and in English!!! rock on.. highly reccomended!) and took a day trip to The Summer Palace. I was immediately aware when hopping off of the plane that I had not packed right for the weather! It was chilly!!! But all of the intense walking around the Palace definitely warmed me up, fortunately. I probably SHOULD have worn tennishoes.. and I probably SHOULD have waited to do the Summer Palace POST-Great Wall-ness.. but I didn't, and it still all worked out. I was just pretty sore after. I highly reccomend the Summer Palace.. the views were amazing, I got to walk along a river covered with Wheeping Willow trees, climb up a huge hillish/mountain to The Temple of Budhist Incense and gaze at the views around me.. as well as walk around a lake filled with lilly pads and ride on a dragon boat. I did this all by myself and loved every second of it, extremely relaxing!


ELECTRONICS MARKET
After The Summer Palace, I went to an Electronics Market to find an extra camera battery for my new Sony, just in case it died while I was on the Great Wall. I WOULD HAVE CRIED IF THAT HAD HAPPENED!!! And it was the biggest mistake ever to go there! The Chinese vendors (which I was prepared for) kept shouting 'Hey Lady Hey Lady.. want a computer, Hey Lady! IPOD, Hey Lady! MP3?!' and I just wanted to pull my hair out. The initial prices they tell you are absolutely out of this world, which makes haggling a must.. which I also hate! As my friend Ange knows from Thailand, I'm A.) horrible at it and B.) despise it!!! But I found the best price I could and ran out of there! My first meal in China was guess what?! MCDONALDS! I know right?! Horrible, never in my life have I travelled to a new country and actually been like mmm.... I could really use some Mickey D's.. but it was just the right time for comfort food rather than a break down!

THE END OF DAY1 & BEGINNING OF DAY2
That night, I went to bed at 8:30PM.. you got it, that early!!! I relaxed in my bunk bed (on the top) and read part of my book and then passed out (I hoped none of my roommates thought I was the new weirdo lame-o roomie who goes to bed early and doesn't socialize... but I honestly couldn't have cared less I felt so exhausted!!). I'm such a hard sleeper, that I didn't even really wake up when my other 5 roommates came home to sleep!!! We each have lockers with electric circuits in them to charge our stuff and keep it safe, however the actual door to the room didn't have a lock.. and the place just seemed so cozy, that I didn't even think twice about it!

The next morning, I walked outside and said 'Holy Moly, I've GOT to find some warmer cothes for the Great Wall'. I had just signed up for a 1PM overnight tour to the wall, where we would be camping ON the wall.. and knew I would freeze to death! For some reason the only things I packed for China were, two singlets, my green and white tye-dye short sleeve WWF Panda shirt, two dresses, a fleece jacket, one pair of shorts, and my purple/red tye-dye Thai pants to sleep in (well I DO know the reason, I thought it would be much warmer, and 'beginning of fall weather' like a sweatshirt and shorts). So I ventured off to the Wanfujing Shopping District listed on the map that my Hostel gave me.. and knew I needed to hurry it up so that I made it back in time for my trip. Well... of course the 'shopping district' was filled with nothing but Gucci, Fendi, Prada, etc, etc.. and I found nothing. I was super bummed, and scared of what was to come, and ventured down a Hutong (alleys that are filled with shops.. very traditional in Chinese cities) and found a Panda Hat (which I have been wanting ever since Ange and I saw a kid with one in the Shanghai Airport on a layover in July).. I got it for $3US!!! I was stoked! And at least my head would be warm on the Great Wall if nothing else!! And this would eventually be the reason I received the travel name of 'Panda'!! :)

THE GREAT WALL
So at 1PM on Thursday, September 23rd, 2010 about 12 of us ate a big sub, and headed off to a 'secret' area of the wall where not many tourists would be and what we thought would be a quiet relaxing night in nature ON the Flipping Great Wall!! There were a couple of people from Norway, Switzerland, New Zealand, America and Germany, a fabulous group (also, there was a current and past Korean ESL Teacher!) We had a great time chatting during the 2 hour ride to the wall, there was a van of people and then I rode in an old VW with 3 other peeps :). We realized we were definitely going to a random 'secret' area of the wall when we began to go down a random dirt road, so the excitement was definitely beginning to build! When we arrived at the entrance, we were shown the area of the wall our tents were at and told when/where to come back for dinner. We hiked up and back for about 3 hours (I believe), took some awesome pictures, and vasked in it's glory!!! I still can't believe that I was on THE Great Wall of China!!!!



When the sun went down, it started to get pretty chilly, especially since we were up in the mountains with the wind! We headed back to the tents around 7 and began to hear some random music, and noticed people down at the entrance (which was random, because besides our group of 12, we had only seen about 8 other people on The Wall). We didn't think too much of it at first, until we went closer to it to eat our dinner. The meal was super yummy (thanks Leo!) as well as the Yanjing and we were given super warm blankets before our guide and drivers left us there for the night to camp! I went up to the tents to put my super cool tye-dyed pants on and grab my panda hat so I wouldn't freeze to death, and on my way back down it was so dark that I couldn't hardly see the steps! We stayed at the dinner area for about an hour just chatting and swapping stories about our countries and travelling.. during this time, the full moon showed its face and the music had gotten louder and louder! We also began to notice some random spotlights along The Wall and temptation began to stir! We eventually decided to go down and sneak past the guards to experience this amazing dance party! And experience we did! It was amazing, dancing, laughing and being able to look up at the sky and see the full moon and the shaddow of THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA!!!
We stayed there until about 2AM and headed back up to our tents to get some sleep, which was near impossible because it was so cold and the music was SOO loud!!! But we all woke up at about 7AM, discussed the night's happenings and brushed our teeth on The Great Wall (we were quite stoked about this, using bottled water and spitting it off the edge)!! Leo Hostel's drivers (our Driver's name was Noodles!) came bring us dumplings for breakfast and to take us back to Beijing!


I highly recommend this hostel and this tour! It was absolutely amazing!!! Although, you probably won't be lucky enough to be able to rave on The Wall because our drivers said they'd been there about every day for 2 years and had never seen anything like that happen!! It was great!


ACROBATICS SHOW
I was quite exhausted post Great Wall, so I roamed around the city and went shopping in the less expensive shopping district that I was informed of by one of the Norwegian girls. And bless her heart, because I found some leggings to keep me warm for the rest of my trip!!
I also went to the Pearl Market to get yelled at by a million Chinese vendors to buy their things. It wasn't quite as frustrating as the Electronics Market, but I found it quite annoying how jacked up the prices were, and that you HAD to haggle for EVERYTHING! Literally, I was warned before going there to always ask for a 1/4 of the price they offer and don't go much higher!! It's insane, but I found some good items and souveniers so it was successful!
I ate dinner at the hostel and left for an Acrobatics Show at about 6:30PM. The show was awesome, it reminded me a bit more of a circus (minus any animals) than an acrobat show, but it was still enjoyable. The hostel informed me afterwards that it must not have been the same show as they normally put on, but all was good. I saw an amazing act at the very end, where FIVE motorcycles went round and round in a steel dome (like what you would normally see in a circus in America, but with one motorcyclist in it).. I was pretty worried about them, I felt like a mom! And I got to meet one of them afterwards and get a picture, it was pretty cool all in all!
I went to sleep early that night, even though it was a Friday. I'm pretty sure that out of the 6 people in my room, I went to bed the earliest every night I was there! Possibly because I was sick and possibly because of my allergic reaction to my antibiotics.. but still, I was practically a grandma :)



BEIJING ZOO
I felt too lazy to take on The Forbidden City on Saturday morning, so I decided to have a relaxing day of Pandas and shopping! I took the subway to the Beijing Zoo and wandered around for a couple hours. The Pandas were of course my favorite part, I watched one play outside for a good 30 minutes and enjoyed every second of it! The Zoo was huge! Way bigger than I thought it would be, being in the middle of Beijing and all. I couldn't be bothered going around the whole thing, but wanted to check out the 'American Animals' section, because it sounded too funny.. what exactly ARE American animals?! Well I found some goats in this section, along with DOGS and CATS!!! I about peed my pants! I couldn't believe my eyes, plus it was pretty sad, because their PETS not zoo animals!! But the dogs looked like they were having a blast playing with each other, there was about 30 I would say, all sizes, there was even a Lassie dog! And there were a bunch of cats, but they were in cages :( I left after that and went to the Wudoukou Clothing Market.


WUDOUKOU CLOTHING MARKET
The clothing market was not quite what I had expected. I'm pretty sure I was in a ghetto area of Beijing, which was pretty interesting! I had to take a taxi from the subway station to the Market, and when I was dropped off I was looking at the driver like, 'are you sure?!? are you for real for real?!' because it looked like an old wearhouse sort of. But it was definitely the market! My Lonely Planet said that this is where the hipsters go to get their 'trendy' clothes! So I wandered around, found a couple basics and got my nose pierced! I know random..! It was an interesting experience too! The man spoke ZERO English, I don't even know if he knew 'hello!'. I sat down, pointed to my nose, he put a dot on my nose and handed me a thing of earings to choose from. I chose the smallest one I could find and handed it to him. He pulled out a file and sharpened it right in front of me (I'm thinking, oh dear.. is this normal?!) and then sterelized everything and held it with pliers, while putting another set of pliers in my nose and just pushed it through! I was relieved when it was finished and we exchangd a hug! It cost me $8US!!




PEKING DUCK
Later that night, I met up with the Swedish couple, the Bostonian, the Korean ESL teacher, and a guy that was staying in our hostel to get some Peking Duck! We got our own private dining room, and we chose a large duck to split between all of us and ordered about 8 different side dishes! All of which were super yummy, from mushrooms to tofu to sweet & sour soup! The duck comes out at different times, they first bring you the skin, then the dark meat, then the white meat, followed with a pile of the bones! My favorite part of the duck was the plum sauce they serve it with and the little pancakes you wrap it up in when you eat.. however I honestly missed me some Sam Gep Sal barbequed duck from Korea!!! HaHa, I KNOW! We decided to get some post dinner drinks/dessert at 365 INN and I got to eat HOMEMADE Apple Pie for the first time since December!!!! I was in heaven! After 365 we did our sorrowful goodbyes and wished each other well on our travels! I was really sad to say goodbye to my new friends!!





FORBIDDEN CITY
I was - THIS close to not going to the Forbidden City. I was thinking it was just going to be like any other temple/castle I had been to before. Once you've seen one, you've pretty much seen them all in Korea/China!! But I got off my lazy butt during my last day there (half day) and ventured off to the city. And I am SOOOO happy that I did! I had been told by people you want to give yourself a half-a-day to wander around the Forbidden City.. guess how long it took me?! Half an hour! HaHa... and I loved every part of it! It was huge, and magnificent, and interesting, and reminded me of a movie I had watched with my mom when I was younger, 'The King and I'. After the Forbidden City, I went up the small mountain directly behind it to get a good panoramic view of the Forbidden City and Beijing.


This was definitely an interesting trip! I walked past about a hundered older chinese people doing yoga and arobics, singing, dancing, and just enjoying life! I loved it, I felt so relaxed there! When I reached the top, I took lots of pictures and also got dressed up in some traditional chinese princess get-ups and got my picture taken! It was a lot of fun playing dress up!!




THE END
I decided to spend my last couple of hours in Beijing shopping in the Hutongs and reading a book in the bar/dining area of Leo's while eating fried bananas! My last meal wasn't chinese at all (not so big a fan of the chinese food!) it was a huge CheeseBurger from 365 and green tea! Then I headed to the subway at 2:30PM to catch my 6PM flight back to Seoul, South Korea!

BEIJING, I love you, you were such an inspiration and beautiful (at times smelly) city, I will be back again some day!!!!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Cardboard Box, BE GONE! :~:~Poof~:~:

:::::CAUTION: Reader's warning, these are my opinions, I'm not trying to force them on anyone or convince anyone of anything, I am simply giving a little piece of 'me' to you.. if you so choose to continue reading. The end.::::::


I have decided tonight that I will be hardcore working on re-learning Spanish. Yes, the Spanish that I took two years of in college.. paid who knows how much money for the courses.. passed with flying colors.. yet still know none of.

I think about my decision. And rationalize it by saying, 'Well, I'm re-learning my Spanish because I'll be living in South America (backpacking) for four months come April... duhh...' Yet, then I realize that, I have been living in Korea for 7 almost 8 months and have yet to learn over 20 Korean words.. nor do I feel the need to.. nor want to.. nor ever feel the desire to learn it. I will be here 5 more months, and then another year shortly after.. yet still, I don't feel the need to learn Korean.

There is an issue here.

It makes me ponder 'WHY Korea?' I just finished reading the book Eat Pray Love and when she goes to 'eat' in Italy, her main desire is to learn and immerse herself in the Italian language. She felt that, it would make her get to know the country, the people and the culture better. I think that I want to get to know the Korean country, and the people and the culture better as well too.. but do I? The question I ask myself, is do I REALLY want to live in Korea for another year after this contract? And as I think about that.. yes I'm thinking about it at this very moment, my answer would still be yes, although I may not have the desire that Elizabeth Gilbert had to learn the language of a country she loved (although I think she wanted to learn more about the country of the language she loved), I still want to come to Korea another year.

I love Korea. Of course, there are ups and downs. But I feel happy and fulfilled with my life right now. I feel that I am honestly doing what I was meant to do, at this point in time. Not necessarily teaching, but Korea has allowed me to work with and love people and children from (literally)around the world, and it has allowed me to be outside the box that most young Americans are forced to be squeezed into with the flaps tightly bent over the buldge as society around them tries to hold the top flaps down with one elbow while trying to successfully get the packaging tape to stick to the corner, so that it can release the elbow and seal the box.. walking away, forcing what is in the box to be unhappily molded into a position in that society that is harder than stone to get away from. Then, society can turn the other way while the person that is in the box tries desperately, nearly killing themselves, to break out of that box and wander back to the path they were meant to follow all along.

I know that is a bit dramatic, but do you know who I am?! If you do know me (which, I hope you do since you're reading this blog) then you know I am being more than serious. Although I was raised that the 'normal' path for a young Southern American Girl to take is to :1.) Graduate high school 2.) Graduate college 3.)Settle into a career/Get married 4.) Have babies 5.) Retire.. at the age of 'who knows' since the retirement age keeps getting pushed higher and higher 6.) Die

I prefer the path of following my heart, not following societal norms, doing what makes me happy and doing good for others. This may sound selfish, but who honestly, HONESTLY, knows what they're going to do for the rest of their lives when their 22?! How can I be expected to be mature enough (jump through lifes obstacles on my own, without the help and security of another party) and ready to pick a life-long career and get married (without the high possibility of divorce, being at such a young age) without experiencing life and the world first!? I think a requirement for both is to LIVE and EXPERIENCE. Working in an office at a job you're unhappy with in a busy city you are unhappy with from 9-5 plus overtime leaves you little time to experience the other things that exist in this world besides money and cars and clothes and nice apartments. I don't feel comfortable getting married at the age of 22 because I've witnessed how people change and grow apart in their 20's because you have life to live outside of college and your parents' house, how can you be expected to stay the same when you still have much more maturing and developing to be done.

Also, at what other time in my life would I be able to be young and at my prime with the world and possibilities at my finger tips?! Why SHOULDN'T I take advantage of this opportunity, because it isn't what Americans should be doing?! Because it isn't what we've been taught since we were young, that you grow up, get a job, get married and then when you're finished supporting you're children you can travel around the world so long as you don't dive into your retirement account. I am still young people, let me be young! When I am middle aged and without a career/husband THEN you can haggle me and down me for what I am doing, because it is NOT that I don't desire that, it is not that I DON'T want to be near my family and friends right now. I am making new friends that come from all over the world that want to teach me things, that want to explore, that want to help me fulfill my desire of youth, to help me BE me, and who support me on any random decision I make.. even if it is moving back to the US to begin a career.

I just want the world/society to know that it is OK to learn about the world, fear doesn't have to be a part of everyone's lives. You don't have to fear the unknown, just explore it, get to know it, love it, maybe you'll learn something.

This is basically my diary for everyone to see. It should probably be kept to myself, but this is how I feel at this moment, this is why I am living my life like I am, and why I will continue to think outside of the box. I want your support!

I know this blog began with me discussing why I am learning Spanish, but sometimes you have to peel the layers of an onion apart rather than just getting it over with and cutting it with a knife (The Blind Side, awesome and inspirational movie).

There is a lot of life to be lived before we die
Don't let it pass you by
Don't be fearful of that which you do not know
Follow your Personal Legend or at least try
Take the path less walked on
And don't be afraid to fly.

*~~P~*~

Friday, September 10, 2010

Lunch With Little Devils

I have now been given the great pleasure of eating lunch with my kindergarteners. For the past 6 months, I had been eating with my Korean Grandmother Cook and the Director. NOW, I have been downgraded to the messy, crying, nose picking, food on the floor, crazy 3-6 year olds. GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!!!

The first week it was pretty awkward, I don’t know how to handle little kids eating. I mean, don’t get me wrong.. I did a LITTLE babysitting in my day, I’ve been around a lot of little brats before. But I am an English teacher, not a kid cleaner-upper-feeder-mother yet! I am a little upset at this, however I refuse to complain because I am getting fed for free.. although now it is not so much for free but my payment is being a slave to the children.

I am expected to have conversations with these breathing-eating animals while they shovel food into their tiny mouths with spoons and beginners chopsticks. They hardly talk to each other they’re so busy with their food, how can I make them pay attention to me?! It has been about a month that I have been doing this now, it is getting a little easier… with the occasional gagging.


It can be quite funny, I have some teachers who like my help, some teachers who refuse to let me help dish out the food because I always give too much or too little or don’t put it in the ‘correct’ whole in the tray (crazy Koreans :) ). I also think that my horrible chopstick skills may be at fault.
The kids can crack me up at times too. In my 3 year old class (western age, not eastern) there was a little girl with food in her mouth and cheeks puffed out like chipmunks who started crying. I pointed to her after a minute (because it started to get real awkward because the Korean teacher just ignored her) and asked what was wrong with her. The Korean teacher looked at me and said, “Food spicy, ha ha ha”. I about died, I felt so bad for the girl. I didn’t know they would be force fed spicy food, no wonder they’re so immune to it when they get older!

In another class, I wanted more room to eat because I felt all crowded with the little kids surrounding me, I tried to scoot two kids down the table a bit, one looked all upset, so the teacher told me to sit in between the two kids, the little boy started crying ( I was obviously separating him and his girlfriend ), so the Korean teacher told me to move to the other side of him, he started BAWLING. This is one of my favorite kiddos mind you, he was once called Dragon --raaawr-- until a couple of weeks later he decided to change his name to Brian (lame!), he is 4 years old and always happy. My heart cracked a little!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Thailand/Malaysia-a-Go-Go

July 24-August 1 2010



Day 1:

Saturday. There was a total of 4 girls that went on the trip.. Mikan, Ange, Dana and I. We took two seperate flights, at two different times, out of two different airports! Ange and I had to leave for the airport in Seoul at midnight on Friday night, arrive in Seoul at 3:30, sleep in the bus station for a bit, catch the bus to Incheon Airport at 5AM, sleep on the bus, wait for our flight for a couple hours and sleep in the airport a bit more. You will soon see that sleeping became quite a habit! We arrived in Bangkok at 4:30PM.. went straight to Nakorn Ping Hotel (a friend gave us the business card for it before we left) dropped our stuff off and searched for a travel agent to buy plane tickets.

In Thailand, there are a million travel agents.. much different than in the US. They do everything from scam you (!), to book bus tickets, tours, plane tickets, taxis, shuttles.. anything you desire to do in Thailand.. and that is pretty much the only way to do it. It is unlike central america where you pick up the bus and pay right then! So it was pretty stressful for me trying not to get scammed!!

Anyways, Ange and I bought plane tickets to Koh Samui for Monday early in the morning and also bought 4 Ayutthaya tour tickets for us and the girls. The plane tickets were about $120 US, I think it was well worth it to get an extra day of islands as well as no overnight bus!

Dana and Mikan's flight did not arrive until about 1AM.. so Ange and I went shopping on Khoasan Road (basically the backpacking district) ate some fried grasshoppers and mealworms for a snack :) GROSSE, CRUNCHY, and the legs stuck in my throat for quite a while! I prefer chocolate covered!



Day 2:

Sunday. The four of us woke up super early to venture to Ayutthaya and check out old Buddhist ruins. It was awesome! Definitely worth the visit and the heat! (Which in all honesty, there was never one day in Thailand that was hotter or more humid than Korea!!!)
For more information on Ayutthaya visit,

We stayed there for most of the day, our tour took us to a bunch of different sites around Ayutthaya city and came with our very own tour guide.. who we couldn't understand!! Our meal was included, and it was devine!!! Gotta love me some Thai food!

That night, we ventured back to Bangkok, went to the weekend market and found a bunch of goodies. Took a motorbike taxi home (awesome way to see the city!!), highly recommended. And hung out around Khoasan Road a bit more. There was a bit of Pingpong confusion as well.



Day 3:

Monday. Ange and I woke up wicked early to catch an airport shuttle to Bangkok Airport. We got to hang out in an awesome lounge while waiting for our flight.. I LOVE Bangkok Airways!! We could use the internet plus tons of free snacks!! When we arrived on the island of Koh Samui we picked a random beach out and went to it. I have to say, in case you are reading this to get tips about Thailand. Avoid Koh Samui!!! And if you can't avoid Koh Samui, avoid Lamai Beach (good for families though, who like to stay on resorts)! SOOOOOO touristy!! Hardcore not my style!! I was not impressed a bit! Ange and I found our hotel, The Seabreeze Bungalows, and slept on the beach for most of the afternoon. Our room was very cheap on this beach, thank goodness.. about $6.50US each / 8,000Won / 200Baht each. It was super comfortable and cozy. We ventured off to Chaweng beach that night, which is still super touristy, but has more of a nightlife on the beach scene! We hung out with two Australian guys for the night (Australians were EVERYWHERE) and had a couple of cocktails a couple of feet away from the water! Tons of fireworks went off throughout the night as well, pretty cool!



Day 4:

Tuesday. Ange and I decided to take a trip to Ang Thong Marine Park. It was by far my favorite part of the trip!!! It was just us two, because Mikan and Dana did not arrive on Koh Samui until 10:45AM, they took the night bus down from Bangkok. On our tour to Ang Thong, there were about 10 of us in a speed boat which first took us to Koh Wao to go snorkeling. It was the first time I had ever done this, and I loved absolutely every minute of it!! I can't wait to do it again. Can't say I am ready to try scuba diving again, but I am definitely going to try again.. one day!! I got to swim with schools of awesome striped fish and touch a couple :) After snorkeling we went to Talay Nai, where we climbed up to the top to look out over the Green Lagoon of Emerald Lake. It was awesome, and later we went down into the lagoon to look at it close up. Next, we went to Koh Pualay to eat lunch on the beach.. now this isn't your normal 'lunch comes with the package, paper bag lunch'... this was a mini buffet with Chicken Curry, Sweet and Sour vegetables and friiiiieeed chicken!!! I would have to say I went back for thirds :) So much for a beach body!! After scarfing that down, I laid on the beach and fell asleep until we were ready to go kayaking around a couple islands. I understand why the writer of 'The Beach' (starring Leonardo DiCaprio) got inspired by Ang Thong!!! Kayaking was so fun, I had never done it in the ocean before and I loved it! Ange and I were the super team (we had just gone rafting a couple weekends before and had the 1-2 down pat!). It was a great trip, and sadly after kayaking we went back to Koh Samui! HOWEVER, we got to ride elephants when we got back.. an absolutely random part of our package! And what is even MORE random, is that we RANDOMLY met up with Dana and Mikan at the elephant center.. not planned.. had no idea they were there! So we were REUNITED! I got to play with my new best friend, a litle monkey before and after the elephant ride.. so I was happy all around! See the monkey videos below :)

The girls got us a hotel at Chaweng beach while we were in Ang Thong... while we were waiting for them to finish their Elephant Park tour we went to Chaweng and passed out on the sand to wait for them with the key! Later we met up with two different Australian guys who we had met on the Ang Thong tour and had dinner and hung out when we were all back together. I'm telling you, Australians were everywhere, and they talk A LOT!!



Day 5:

Wednesday. We all woke up super early and took a ferry to Koh Pha Ngan (where the Full Moon Parties are held.. which we were THERE FOR!!) This began my two days of not having shoes on (literally on another island, a.) I didn't want to lose my Rainbows.. you know how much I love them and you can't get them in Korea b.) I had gotten cut by some poisonous coral and two of my toes and part of my foot swelled up so I couldn't get my flipflop even on!!), it really was quite easy since we were mainly on the beaches and the sidewalks and streets were extremely clean! Don't worry I had my tetanus shot before I came :) So we were super relaxed and got two one-hour massages ($4.50US each) while we were there to prepare our bodies for what is called THE Full Moon Party!!

The Full Moon Party takes place on Haad Rin Beach on Koh Pha Ngan.
How it started:
Info:

The Party was insane!!! There were about 8 different DJs along the beach all of which played different types of music, super loud! Many rickity sketchy stages to dance upon. Alcohol being sold all the way down the entire beach, they sell drinks by the bucket.. pretty intense. Fire shows and activities all over, fire jump ropes, fire twirlers, fire slides, fire everything! I only did the fire slide though, don't worry :). It was actually super awesome! The party lasts all night, but I got really bummed when I lost my friends for what felt like HOURS, so I found a lit up area of the beach, put on my poncho (it had been raining the whole time.. didn't dampen the party), and fell asleep on my purse. I woke up the next morning to music still blasting, a few people still dancing (hooked on who knows what drugs) and found my friends literally 50 feet away from me when they ran to me flipping out that they hadn't been able to find me! Just glad they didn't leave me there and go to another island :)



Day 6:

Thursday. We took a ferry to Koh Tao to spend the day (a different island) and slept on the beach all day.. you know how we do :). Then, we took a longtail boat to catch the ferry back to Koh Samui so that we could grab our bags from the ferry office (they SO kindly let us keep them there so we didn't have to waste our money on a hotel we weren't going to use). We found a hotel and booked our tickets for the next leg of our trip.



Day 7:

Friday. Ange and I's flight was out of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and the Dana and Mikan had to head back to Bangkok to catch their flight. Our flights were both at 1AM on Sunday, just different cities. Unfortunately, Ange and I had to take a combo (in this order) of caravan, ferry, VIP Bus, Songtaew, car, minibus, VIP Bus, and taxi to get 22 hours away to Kuala Lumpur! It was a very long day and night! We left at 7AM on Friday and arrived in Kuala at 4AM on Saturday!! We didn't want to pay for a hotel, so we got the cab driver to take us to a McDonalds that was in the heart of the city.. and we slept in booths until 8AM... it was quite a site! We're pretty hardcore, I'm not going to lie!!



Day 8:

Saturday. After we woke up in McDonalds, Ange and I headed out to grab some brunch (Naan and curry) yummyyy! Then, we headed to the Petronas Towers (the twin towers of Malaysia): . Luckily, on our way to find them we ran across a 'Hop-On Hop-Off Bus' and flagged it down to buy tickets! We took a bunch of pictures of the towers, but were unable to go up in them because they only allow a certain amount of people in per day, and they had sold the tickets out in 15 minutes!!! So we hopped on the bus and went to the Central Market (which was awesome! We got plenty of Malaysian goodies there), we TRIED to go to the Butterfly Forest, Orchid Garden and waterfall but they wanted a nice chunk of change for it and we just weren't in the mood... so as we waited for our bus to come by we proceeded to lay down in the middle of the sidewalk (not a busy sidewalk) and fell asleep on our packs until the bus came by and woke us up! Then, it started to rain.. so we fell asleep on the back of the bus for an hour and a half until the rain died down... we are partiers let me tell you! :) We wound up going back to the Central Market, grabbing some yummy dinner, meeting some awesome old Grandpas that are now my Malaysian Grandpas and then left and went to the airport. We really enjoyed Kuala Lumpur.. but it was quite easy to see it in just one day!



Day 9:

Sunday. Had to say good-bye to Malaysia and our summer vacation, slept in both airports, on both planes, on the shuttle to the bus station once we arrived back in Seoul, Korea and on the 4 hour bus back to Jinju! And for some reason I feel exhausted 3 days later!

All-in-all it was an awesome vacation! We got two nights in Bangkok, one day in Kuala Lumpur, one day of cultural sightseeing, three days on islands, and the Full Moon Party.. I think that is more than successful! We ROK.. literally! (Republic of Korea ;) )