Thursday, December 17, 2009

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas...

Well, it's almost Christmas in Korea ... 8 more days to be exact.
It's hard to be in the Christmas spirit when the temperature just dropped below zero for the first time, the sky is blue every day and there is no hope of snow.
It seems more like October in Canada...

I love Christmas, so I'm not letting the lack of snow ruin my holiday celebrations. Luckily, Christmas ornaments and decorations are easy to find here, so our apartment is decorated and looking great. I've finished all of my Christmas shopping (except for part of George's present), and we have holiday parties to look forward to. Tomorrow we are hosting a Christmas Sweater Party (a very important Laurier tradition), and on Monday I'm doing a Secret Santa gift exchange with some friends. We are also hoping to go skating on Christmas eve, to a fancy dinner at one of the beach-front hotels on Christmas day, and to some kind of Christmas concert or performance before then!
Even though I am missing snow, my family and friends, holiday parties, and all of the Christmas traditions at home, there is still enough to do here that I will have a nice (although very different) Christmas.

Last weekend we went to Seoul for an EPIK reunion. It was basically a big goodbye party for all of the teachers who have decided not to re-new their contracts, and more importantly, was a free weekend in Seoul!
We left Friday morning (another perk, missing a day of school) and arrived in Seoul before noon. There was enough time for a quick visit to Forever 21 before checking into our hotel. Although the majority of the rooms were updated and nice, George and I were stuck in an old, creepy and somewhat dirty room. Really the only negative part of the weekend.
On Friday we had some lectures, group discussions, and a talent show. After a steak and wine dinner (yummmm), we were taken to see JUMP!, a comic martial arts performance. I had already been lucky enough to see NANTA, so thought JUMP! was good, but not incredible. Those who hadn't seen NANTA really enjoyed it. I guess I'm just a spoiled brat!
On Friday night we went out in Seoul with our EPIK friends and some friends from home who teach around Seoul.
Saturday was spent at Kyongbuk palace, the Folk Museum of Korea, and a sea food buffet. (Again - transportation, hotel, tourism and meals were FREE. So lucky, right?)
After the reunion ended George and I decided to check out the Seoul Snow Jam. There was a big-air snowboard competition taking place in the middle of the city. Everything had been built for the one weekend, and was in a gorgeous location, with mountains as the back drop. It was also the most crowded place I've ever been, with just too many people to be really enjoyable. We managed to brave the crowds and the cold for about an hour, but that was all that I could handle.
I returned home with some friends on Saturday night and George stayed another night with his friends.
Overall it was a great weekend, Thank you EPIK!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Do you remember the time?

I've seen some strange things in the past day...

Last night George and I went for dinner at Shinsegae Department Store. We decided to eat in the food court that overlooks the skating rink, and happened to be just in time for a performance.

We stayed for three scenes of one of the weirdest skating shows in the world. The level was very, very amateur. The performers appeared to be Russian. One scene involved a woman standing behind a table filled with bells, she proceded to ring different bells to make music. Another scene involved ice fairies waving sheets around. My personal favourite was a Wizard of Oz inspired scene. There was a Dorothy, a lion, a tinman, someone who looked like a big gold Christmas ornament (scarecrow??) and a giant bear who wasn't even on skates. I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone watching this show. After about 20 minutes I was exhausted from laughing and had to leave.

Shinsegae has some awesome Christmas decorations ... I was happy to see them!

Then, this morning: I get into the elevator after my run and a girl is standing in the corner, clearly drunk, and all of the buttons from 1-8 were pressed. I get in and press my button. Her little teacup dog escapes into the lobby, we have to wait for him to come back. The elevator stops on 2, her dog makes another escape attempt, she doesn't get out. We stop on 3, same thing. By this time I'm getting a little annoyed, but don't know if I want to speak to this drunk girl in Korean. She finally looks at me and points to all the lit up buttons and says "You?" (confused as to why I'd pressed all of the buttons). I point to 16 and say "Me", then point to all the other ones and say "You?". She laughs hysterically, and unpresses all of them except her floor.

Fast forward an hour and I'm walking to the bus. I go to the convenience store at the gas station near my bus stop to get a bottle of water. The 2 attendants (grown men) were sitting on their lawn chairs, in matching parkas ... and matching animal toques. Like the animal touques that small children wear. A tiger and a bear I believe. Unfortunately I was too shy to ask them for a picture, but here's one for you to get the idea...

Korea makes me laugh today :)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's been awhile...

...since my last blog.

Some things were going on at home, and I just wasn't feeling up to writing.
I'm long overdue on an update.
November was a difficult month. There was a lot of grey rainy weather, unhappy stuff at going on in Canada, and a lot of school-related stress. Overall, not my best month in Korea. Luckily I have wonderful friends here and at home, an amazing family and boyfriend, and a kitten who provides me with hours of entertainment.

So what have I been up to?

Dadaepo 10km race:
- a run along the ocean at the far southwest end of Busan (I live at the far east end, so it was quite a hike to get there)
- this was also George's first ever organized race - he finished 10km in 49:50 - I'm so proud!
- I managed to cut my time of 53:54 (October's Gwangan Bridge Race) down to 52:09. It hurt. But again, very proud!
- A great course and a lot of fun.

Blowfish Turkey Trot:
- our favourite bar in Busan is located on Songjeong beach. George and I go in at least once a week for dinner, and love it there because of the great atmosphere and the staff who are all so nice. Anyways, Blowfish had a Turkey Trot (for American Thanksgiving) this past weekend and George and I both entered.
- It was a short (approx. 2km) run on the sand of Songjeong beach ... running on the loose sand sure was hard!
- I placed 1st (of 2) of the women and George was 1st of the men (out of 5).
- We each won a free meal (best burgers in Busan, if not all of Korea!), and all of the participants shared a free keg after the run
- A really nice, fun Saturday afternoon

Open Class:
- Native English teachers who work for EPIK had to enter an open class competition that began in the late spring/early summer
- I made it to the third round ... I think mainly because a lot of people dropped out/ refused. By being one of the top 5 contestants in the Haeundae district I am guarenteed my choice of school and a raise for next year. Since I'm not resigning I get nothing ... so really quite a pointless contest. Oh well.
- It was a lot of work and stress. I felt a lot of pressure from my school to perform well. Other EPIK teachers and their Korean co-teachers came to watch my class, which only added to the pressure.
- Overall it went well ... nothing spectacular, but a good solid class. I'm proud of myself for being able to stand up and teach in front of so many people, and I'm so glad that it's over.

- We had 2 wonderful visits this past week, from Baerg, who teaches in Seoul, and from Dave, who is George's brother's friend and is currently studying in Japan.
- It's always nice to see people from home and there two were no exception :)

Who wants to visit next?????!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

All the leaves are brown, And the sky is grey

I posted recently about how fall had been so far... complaining about the cold.

And then last Saturday the temperature climbed to 23, it was beautiful and sunny, and George and I spent the day on the beach. Pretty amazing weather for November 7th!

Just when I decided to give fall a chance, things took a turn for the worse. It's been rainy, windy and grey all week. I haven't seen sunshine since Saturday and it's starting to get to me. Also, with this nasty weather, it's been dark pretty soon after 5pm. That coupled with the rain and wind has really hurt my running schedule this past week.

Not good, since I have another 10km race on Sunday! Hopefully the training leading up to this week was enough to get me decently prepared. George and I finally braved the weather for a run last night, and aside from a bit of drizzle at the end of it, managed just fine. I'm hoping to beat my time from last month. I think the fact that I won't have been suffering from a cold for 3 weeks leading up to this race will definitely help. I also think that adding George to my training regime will also have done amazing things for my speed ... he's just so much faster than me! What better motivation is there than getting beat by someone who hasn't done physical activity in almost a year!?
I'll be posting race results and experiences on Sunday or Monday.

Also this week in Korea, yesterday was university entrance exam day for all 3rd year high school students (kind of like SATs). The whole country rallies around these students. All businesses and schools begin their day at least one hour later to minimize traffic. For 20 minutes during the listening portion of the exam, no flights are allowed over the country.
Crazy, right? Talk about putting extra pressure on these kids by magnifying the importance of this exam to ridiculous levels ... shutting down the airspace - really!?
My co teacher didn't tell me about this day so I arrived at school at the regular time and was the only one here (aside from the security guard, lunch lady and a few kids) until about 9:40. The extra hour of sleep would have been nice...
Here's an article further explaining the tests ... very interesting:

Overall things are going well here, minus the weather. Christmas decorations are making their way into Starbucks and some of the major department stores ... I am excited to see them/ sad that I won't be home for Christmas. I will however be on a beach somewhere in Southeast Asia, so it's not all bad!

Miss everyone at home xoxo

Lions and tigers and bears, Oh my!

(more like giraffes and a penguin, but good luck finding a lyric to match that!)

George and I decided to spend Halloween in Seoul, the capital city of Korea. Our good friend Wade was finishing up his contract the following week, so we were able to say goodbye to him, see some other friends in Seoul, and get a weekend away from Busan.

We took the KTX (Korean high speed train) from Busan to Seoul on Friday night. The train travels at speeds of up to 300 km/hr, so it only took us 3 hours to reach Seoul. Unfortunately the city is massive, and Wade's place (our Friday night accommodations) was about 1.5hrs from Seoul Station. We arrived late Friday night and after just hanging out for a bit decided to get to bed in order to rest up for the next day.
I had all kinds of ambitious touristy plans for Saturday, but we woke up to rain. After gorging ourselves on pastries we made the trip back into Seoul before noon. George's friend from high school, Quan, lives about 5 minutes from Seoul station, so we decided it was a safer bet to stay there on Saturday night, in order to make it to our train home on Sunday.
The rain showed no sign of letting up, so instead of seeing Seoul Tower, going for a cruise on the Han River, or exploring one of the many palaces in Seoul, we went to a major shopping district and spent the afternoon browsing. I did however get to fulfill two of my goals for the trip - to shop at forever21, and to eat a Subway sandwich (it was disappointing).
Saturday night was Halloween so we got in costume and went out on the town. Koreans don't really celebrate Halloween, so there were people stopping to gawk at the crowds of foreigners in goofy costumes. I had a great night, and it was made better by the fact that my costume was the comfiest I've ever worn!
Seoul was great, but I could tell from a short visit that if I lived there I'd spend a lot more money. The shopping, food and the bookstores would eat away at my pay cheques, so I think it's safer for me and my wallet to be in Busan! I also like how Busan is so much smaller - nothing is really more than an hour away, ever, and that's really nice.
I had a great time in Seoul, and I can't wait to go back and actually see some of the sights that I wanted to see!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Baby it's cold outside

So, fall has definitely arrived in Korea ... and this Canadan is having trouble coping!!

Up until this week our fall weather has consisted of temperatures between 13 and 21 degrees .. pretty nice! Suddenly, on Monday, the temperature dropped to about 2, with the high during the day only around 10. What a change ... it's terrible.

To make matters worse, Korean school are not good in cold weather. They are built so that the classrooms are all on the side of the school that gets the morning sun, which warms them up nicely. The hallways however recieve no sunlight, so are freezing. To further the problem, all of the hallway windows are open. I need to wear my coat to walk to class, or go to the bathroom ... which is also not heated. The kids all walk around in coats all day too ... it seems like closing the windows would solve this problem ... not sure why they have to be open. My office is in a portable behind the school, and recieves no sunlight, so is actually colder than the outside temperature. I haven't taken my coat off yet this week! The floor heating is nice, but takes hours to warm up. I think I'll be investing in a space heater to survive the winter. All morning I've been taking breaks from typing to sit on my hands becuse they are numb from the cold hahah.

The super fashionable Korean girls are still super fashionable .. even though the temperature has dropped. Miniskirts are still everywhere, and I've yet to see anyone wearing an actual coat ... just cute blazers and thin, cropped leather jackets. Brrrrrr!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hurry up and wait, so close but so far away

So, I have a Kinesiology degree, and one of my major reasons for coming to Korea was to help me decide what path to take next. For the last few years I've been torn between going to teacher's college or doing a compressed nursing degree. I finally made up my mind about a month ago that Nursing is a much better choice for me. It's been such a relief to finally make that decision ... and takes a lot of stress out of my life.
I just applied to school today ... wish me luck!
Trent Compressed Nursing, fall of 2010? I hope so.

Now that that's major decision making is out of the way I just need to wait and see if I'm accepted, then figure out what I'm going to do from April-September of next year once I'm back in Canada.

Take time to realize

Well, almost at the 7th month mark ... it's scary how quickly the time is passing! As excited as I am to see everyone at home (and don't even get me started on how excited I am for the food), it's sad to think that we only have 5 months left here.

However, the last few weeks have been great.

On the 17th a bunch of our friends gathered in Gwangalli to watch the Busan Fireworks Festival. My language exchange partners and co-teachers had all highly recommended it, and I was not disappointed. It was definitely one of the coolest things I've seen in Korea so far! There were 40 minutes of steady fireworks, which were set to music, and were launched above, below and around the gwangan bride ... which of course also had a pretty great light show going on to add to the fireworks. Enough talking ... check out some video! The first video is the end of the opening number, the 2nd video is to a section that was set to "doe a dear" from The Sound of Music. The final video is part of the finale. Enjoy :)

I'm pretty sure I spent the entire 40 minutes with a stupid grin on my face ... it was just soooo good. If you are in Busan for this event next year (yes, it's an annual thing), then GO!

This past weekend George and I also decided to go to the UN Memorial Cemetery in Korea. It's located near Kyungsung University ... I think the closest subway station is Daeyeon. Anyways, we really weren't sure what to expect, but were both very impressed. The grounds are massive, and covered in trees, grass (which we never see in Korea), and beautiful monuments, statues and flags. It was created to honour those killed in the Korean War. It was beautiful, peaceful, and really forced us to think about how far South Korea has come since the end of the war. Definitely high on my list of Busan reccommendations, especially if the weather was as perfect as this past weekend :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

And that's the way it is.

Laura, Erin and I are successfully registered for our 2nd 10km race in Korea! It's not until November 15th, so I have just over a month to get healthy, and it better shape. I would like to take a couple of minutes off of my time ... we'll see how that goes!

Good news - the 6 mystery pills 3x a day prescribed to me at my 2nd hospital visit seem to have worked - my cold is finally gone!

I went to the Busan Foreign Language library at the Haeundae Beach Tourist Centre on the weekend, expecting to walk out with some new reading material. However, it turns out that they will only loan books to Korean citizens, or those married to Koreans. Boooo. I miss the endless supply of great books at home. I also really miss cottage cheese (random, I know).

Aside from that, everything is going great here. The weather has finally cooled off, and dropped as low as 14 degrees today. The flip flops may need to be put away soon.

Above: some pictures from a relaxing Sunday afternoon in Haeundae ... sweet car!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

All of the people start to rush, start to rush by

Yesterday I ran my first race in South Korea. It's been a hassle trying to find races and register when I don't know the language! Luckily, a Pusanweb post helped me to find a Korean woman whose husband is an avid runner. She informed me of the Busan Ocean Half Marathon Race, and Laura, Erin and I signed up for the 10km distance.

We have all been battling colds for about 3 weeks, and our training has suffered. We arrived at the race yesterday sniffling, coughing and feeling unprepared and NERVOUS!
Some ridiculous sights soon helped us to relax a little bit:

- there was a group led stretch ... hundreds of people were participating, it was to set counts and there were girls in miniskirts and crop tops leading it on stage
- there were people whose job was to mist passersby with sanitizing spray ... need to be careful of H1N1!
- the first aid team were all on rollerblades .. and some were looking not too steady on their feet
- a lot of runners were wearing jeans

We found a grassy area to stretch, and relaxed until race time. When we noticed the crowd moving out we headed for the starting line with George, our trusty photographer in tow. After lining up and posing for pictures we were approached by a man.
"Um, are you 5km?"
"No, 10km"
"Oh no, this is the half marathon course. You need to go that way"

Panic immediately set in ... we had less then 10 minutes and we lined up at the wrong line with no real idea of where to go. We had to push through the entire field of half marathon runners, run over their start line and a few hundred metres down their course ... mildly embarrassing. Volunteers continued to point us in the right direction, and after a minute or 2 we saw a huge group of runners lined up. Unfortunately it was the 5km start line. There was no way to go around so we had to push through thousands of people to find our start line. Luckily I have learned how to say "Excuse me" in Korean, so after a few hundred "실래합니다's" we managed to pass the 5km start line. Finally ... the 10km participants were in sight! It was at this point that the race started. We were trapped behind thousands of people, so even though we tried to work our way to the front we were unable to cross the line for 7 minutes. I mean, at least we found it!

The race itself was a lot of fun. Running on the bridge was amazing, such great views! The incline was barely noticeable, which was a relief. We made sure to pose for the photographer that was perched on top of the bridge ... can't wait to see those shots. It sure is tiring to run while holding the double peace sign or the heart-above-the-head pose. I expected the crowds to thin out as the race progressed, but that never happened. I feel like I spent the entire time dodging through the huge amounts of people.

Some interesting things that I saw along the route:
- hoards of people stopping in the middle of the bridge for photo shoots
- runners in jeans
- people lining up along the side of the course so that the first aid rollerbladers could douse their legs down with numbing spray
- volunteers whose sole job was to hold open garbage bags at the water stations ... and everyone used them ... well, everyone except us ... I just threw my cups in the general direction. There were barely any cups on the ground - bizarre!
- free post-race acupuncture
- Kyungsung university football players doing the race in full uniform, including helmets

Overall it was a fun event. My time was 53:57 ... which considering the circumstances I'm happy about. I plan on doing another race in November and improving that time!

Thanks to George and Cliff ... our cheering section and photographers :)

After a lunch at Quiznos (a turkey sub was the closest I got to Thanksgiving dinner this year), George and I spent the afternoon on the beach, staying until the sun went down. A perfect end to the day!

Happy Thanksgiving Canada! Wish I was home for some turkey.

Holiday, Celebrate

Chuseok weekend was a great break from work and responsibility!

On Friday George and I took a scooter ride to Igidae Park (이기대 공원) which is on the far side of the Gwangalli beach. There is a boardwalk/trail that runs along the coastline and provides some spectacular views. The road that winds through the park reaches some pretty high elevations, so the view from some of the upper lookout points is amazing. One of my new favourite places in Busan!

Our friends Wade, Baerg and Ric came down from Seoul again on Saturday morning. We were lucky enough to have beach days on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. I wish I could say that we took in some cultural sights, or did anything other then relax on the beach and party ... but I can't.

Overall a great long weekend.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It's a beautiful day not a cloud in sight, so I guess I'm doin' alright.

So, things turned out well, I have a 4 day weekend for Chuseok!! Very excited for the time off of work.
So many of my students are sick and I feel like the 4 days away from them with help me to get back to 100% health again. I've been suck around 70% for the last week and it's very frustrating!

Our friends Wade and Baerg are coming down from Seoul, which should be a lot of fun. I'm hoping the weather holds out and we can get in one last beach day (surfing included).

I find myself wondering where the nice weather went, and then I realized that it is October! The temperature here is between about 18 and 24 degrees everyday, so still quite warm. However, we've been used to much warmer, so in comparison it does feel cold. I've actually worn some of my light hoodies in the evenings lately!

I'm still in shock that 6 months have passed since we left home. Where did the time go?
Here is my 6 month wrap up:

Things that I am missing the most:
* friends, family, dexie
* fast food: arby's, wendy's, subway, pizza villa in bridgenorth...
* my mom's and george's mom's cooking
* good gyms ... oh Peterborough YMCA, how I miss you!
* the ease of daily life ... ordering food, dealing with sales clerks, any daily activities ... just so much easier at home!

Things that are great here:
* OoMi! I never realized how much having a pet would brighten my day every single day
* friends I've made in Korea
* the weather
* how easy my job is!
* cute Korean kids

Current sources of frustration:
* being stared at non-stop. Yesterday, George said that he now knew why celebrities got so upset with the constant attention and scrutiny ... so true!
* how hard it is to learn Korean. The more I learn the more I realize how difficult it is and how far away I am from being able to have a decent conversation.
* sick people coughing without covering their mouths, coughing in my face, almost spitting on me in the street ... overall, just really disgusting!
* a sudden allergic reaction I've developed to mosquito bites. They swell up to huge red welts, and stay that way for days.

Plans/goals for the next 6 months:
* get out of Busan and see more of Korea/ Southeast Asia
* continue to learn Korean with the help of my language exchange partners
* stay positive and live everyday to the fullest :)
* apply to school for next September ... scary !

And that is all for today.
When I get home I'll try to post some videos of the Brown Eyed Girls performance and of Oo Mi's latest antics on youtube.
Happy 추석 Everyone!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Long time gone

Things are going well in Busan, lot's to catch up on!

The Brown Eyed Girls performance at Club Elune was interesting ... it was cool to see some Korean celebrities up close, but their performance wasn't exactly spectacular!
My friend Laura and I managed to get to the front of the crowd and had front row views of the concert. I'll post video soon!

George and I also did a photoshoot with our friend Cliff. He's planning on getting into wedding/engagement photography when he gets home, and needs to build his portfolio. We spent a Sunday afternoon around Haeundae, posing for romantic, engagement type pictures. (No, we're not actually engaged) Kind of embarrassing, but we're in Korea ... there were so many people with big cameras doing their own photoshoots with friends, so we didn't stand out too badly. The pictures are gorgeous, and we had a lot of fun shooting with Cliff ... I'll post a link to his website as soon as it's finished.

Last week I was one of many people who came down with a cold. I was sick for most of the week, and even had to take a sick day on Tuesday. My school insisted that I go to the doctors, where I was given a prescription and sent home. I'm not sure if it was on the doctors oders, or thazt my school was just afriad that I have swine, but they let me have Wedesday off to rest. NICE-UH!
It was the first time I've been really sick in Korea, and I was nervous about taking a sick day because teachers here just don't. Ever. Luckily noone seemed to mind too much, and when I returned on Thursday, 2 teachers brought me fruit plates to help "improve helth". So sweet o them. The fact that people dont feel that they can take sick days kind of concerns me ... with the whole swine flu situation, Korea, with it's communal eating and frowned upon sick days will be in serious trouble if the disease really breaks out.
Below are pictures of my first prescription in Korea and one of my adorable students. If you're going to wear a mask, might as well look cute doing it!

So my 10km race training took a serious blow last week while I was sick. I wasn't able to train for almost a full week because I was so exhausted and congested. Luckily I was feeling up to our weekly Friday evening long run this past weekend. Laura, Erin and I did 9.5km, and had lots to talk about so it flew by! I have no worries about the distance, but I need to make some serious increases in speed. Just under 2 weeks until race day ... wish me luck!

Last week also marked our 6 month mark in Korea ... it's hard to believe it's been so long already. I'm excited that I'll get to see everyone at home in 6 months, but I'll also be sad to leave Korea. We've met some really great people and have a pretty easy and fun life here!

George and I decided not to continue on with our Korean classes. We hadn't spent enough time practicing, were feeling overwhelmed by grammar, and weren't actually using any of what we learned ... not to mention that it was getting expensive! I've found a few language exchange partners to practice with, we'll see how that goes.

Oo Mi is adorable as always. So glad that we have a cat in Korea :) Here she is enjoying a plastic bag.

This coming weekend is Chuseok, Korean Thanksgiving. I still am not sure which days I actually have off of school, but a lot of my friends seem to have Friday and Monday off. My fingers are crossed that I'll also have a 4 day weekend.

That's all for today ... xoxox.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


It's been a while since my last post ... again!

Things have been busy ... now that I'm teaching all 22 of my classes alone ( as opposed to 10 last semester) I have so much prep to do at school. Things have been especially busy this week since I had open class today.
All of the EPIK teachers are required to do a demonstration class, and today was my lucky day. 3 people from the office of education as well as my principal, vice principal and a few of my coworkers came to watch. Luckily with the swine flu scare going on here none of the other EPIK teachers were able to come - what a relief! Things went well. I don't think I'll be winning any awards, ut my principal was happy, so really all is good.

My 10km training has been going well. I'm only 2 weeks in but I've managed to get intervals/hills, a tempo run, a long run, and a normal run in each week. Tonight is 8.5km ... the longest run I'll have done since before leaving for Korea - I've really let myself go!
After the run tonight I'm going to my first K-Pop concert and I am beyond excited. Brown Eyed Girls, who sing the hit song Abracadabra, are coming to a club in Haeundae. For anyone who doesn't know, K-pop is Korean pop music. It's cheesy, campy, ridiculous, has a few English words thrown into the chorus ... and is completely amazing. I don't know what my running playlist consisted of before I found k-pop. Seriously.
I'll be sure to post about the concert sometime soon.

And for those of you who don't know any k-pop, here are a few of my favourites!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Let's go surfin' now, Everybody's learning how

This past weekend there was supposed to be a surf competition in Haeundae. Unfortunately there were no waves to be seen. The international surfing rules require a certain wave height and since nothing was topping about 1 foot, the competition was cancelled. The organizers ran a whole bunch of games and board paddling contests to keep the hundreds of foreigners who showed up entertained. It turned out to be a great beach weekend, and since "Korean beach season" is now over, the millions of umbrellas, chairs and people are gone. I like the beach so much better now!
Haeundae surfing competition

There were even paparazzi!!

George and I managed to do a bit of surfing at Haeundae on Sunday. The waves were tiny, but it was still a lot of fun. I managed to get up every time that I tried ... can't wait for some typhoon waves to roll in so I can have more of a challenge.
The waves picked up in the early evening, and
everyone jumped at the chance to do some surfing!

We also went to Seomyeon underground shopping on Friday night, it was amazing. We'd gone looking for it before, but had ended up in the bad wing that had all kinds of belly dancing and promo girl outfits, not what I was looking for! This time we wandered around some more and found the good shopping area - I'll definitely be returning next pay cheque.

In Korea there is no summer running season. The rainy season, and I guess perhaps the humidity prevents it. However, there is a big race coming up in October. Since I know about it so far ahead of time I will hopefully be able to get registered! I've emailed the organizers and am waiting for a response. The course takes the runners over the Gwangan bridge and back, which sounds awesome. Since my vacation time slacking has kept me from running much lately I think I'm going to do the 10km instead of half marathon. I'm hugely competitive, and don't think I can improve my time from my last half with only a month to train and the winds/height challenges of running across the Gwangan bridge and back. I'll be mad at myself if I don't improve my time, so doing my first 10km race ever will be a better idea. I'll train for a half later, when I have the time to do it properly and blow my old time away! Let's hope I can actually get registered for this race, I really want to do it.
Pictures of a previous race. Might have to
re-evaluate my goals ... it looks packed on that bridge!

The bridge!

**UPDATE: The registration deadline is the 13th, so it looks like I'm going to be doing my first race in Korea in October ... NICE-UH!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

So long sweet summer ...

I'm back at school finally. I returned yesterday after 3 weeks of English camp at another school, 2 weeks vacation and 2 days of extended quarantine. Let's just say that my first full working day in over 6 weeks was not so easy ... I was in bed by 9pm last night! It was so great to see all of my students again .. I missed them over summer vacation.

I'm sure by next week I'll be back into the routine and it won't be so bad.

So, a follow-up post on Thailand. I've told you what we did, now here is what I thought of everything!

Things I loved about Thailand:
- the weather ... it was hot hot hot!
- the food ... every meal we had was spectacular. I'm missing it so much.
- the water ... so blue and so warm
- the scenery ... Phuket and Koh Phi Phi were gorgeous
- the fact that I didn't get stared at everywhere I went (which is the case in Korea)
- once again being in a culture where there were many different lifestyles and true individuals ... I loved it!
- Ladyboys - so funny
- the shopping ... so many good deals (if you bargained hard)
- there were great drugstores ... I've missed going into Shoppers Drugmart at home and emerging an hour later with $100 of hair and makeup products! Boots Drugstore in Thailand is awesome

Things I didn't love:
- the fact that it was so touristy - everyone was selling something, you had to really argue over prices or you'd get ripped off, even little kids were out selling stuff late at night. I didn't like the feeling that I was being hustled all the time, but I understand that tourism is THE major source of income for many Thai's, so I can accept it!
- the heat ... anytime we stepped outside I was drenched in sweat ... fine when we were by the beach, but was definitely something that was hard to get used to

So in general, I fell in love with Thailand. I would love to teach there in the future. Being back in Korea has been hard, and I seem to be seeing many of the flaws after being away. I need to switch back to positive mode, and instead of being frustrated by things, try to find the humour in them. This strategy served me well for the first 5 months here and I have to get back to it for the next 7!

A lot of my frustration has come from recent problems George has had getting a rabies vaccine. He was bit by a monkey in Thailand, and was able to receive his first 2 (of 5) rabies vaccines while there. Since we were unsure of the health of the monkey it was just a precaution. However rabies is a very serious disease, and if contracted by a human has a 95% mortality rate. When the time came to get George's 3rd rabies shot we went to three different hospitals in Busan and were informed at each one that they didn't have any rabies vaccine. One of the things I was warned about at the travel clinic in Canada before I left was rabies, and it seems bizarre to me that the vaccine would not be available here when there are so many random street dogs roaming around. By the time we were at the 3rd hospital we were both frustrated, and asked the doctor on call to find a hospital that did have it. He broke the news that there were actually no hospitals in Busan that had the vaccine, and told us we'd have to order it through an internal medicine doctor. This was on a Saturday and we wouldn't be able to see an internal medicine doctor until Monday. Since the vaccines are supposed to be administered on a strict schedule we were both worried and quite angry. On Monday George was told he wouldn't be able to order it, which was not the answer he was looking for. Finally on Tuesday his co-teacher found him a doctor that wrote him a prescription for the vaccine, but informed him that it could not be shipped, he'd have to go pick it up in Seoul. The company would not ship it because if it is not kept at certain cold temperatures it loses it's effectiveness. So Tuesday night we frantically searched the city for a cooler bag (not available), and George finally got on the KTX with a Jumbo Thermos, hoping it would allow him to get the vaccine back to Busan. Luckily everything worked out, and he was provided with a big styrafoam cooler by the doctors in Seoul. He got it back to his doctor in Busan who gave him the 3rd shot yesterday, and will give him the remaining 2 shots as well. The whole ordeal was completely frustrating, especially when all we heard before coming was that Korea has a great health care system.
I guess the animals here don't have rabies?!

In more exciting news, I've been surfing twice since returning from vacation and I think we're going again tonight! Definitely something I'm really excited about. There's also a surfing competition in Haeundae this weekend which we'll be going to watch.
Who knows, if George and I get in some good practice tonight we may even enter the beginners division ... mostly for the free t-shirt and free drinks at some local bars on Saturday night ;)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sun tanned toes ticklin the sand, cold drink chilling in my right hand ...

So ... Thailand. What an incredible vacation!

I'll give you a basic rundown of what we did...

George and I left Busan on Saturday afternoon and flew into Seoul. After a few hours in Seoul we flew to Bangkok and had a 7 hour layover which was terrible. We arrived in Phuket (pronounced Poo-ket) on Sunday morning and by the time we had found our hotel it was around lunchtime. Getting to Phuket was a long process (almost 24hours from apartment-hotel), one which would have been so much easier if we'd booked our tickets sooner, and had been able to take the Pusan-Bangkok flight. Oh well, next time!

The only planning we did before leaving for Thailand was to book a hotel (Kata Poolside) for our first 2 nights in Kata Beach. Since it was off-season we were able to get a great hotel with a pool, huge room and balcony at an amazing price - about $65 total for 2 nights. We spent our first day enjoying the delicious room service food, soaking up some sun on the beach and enjoying the warm ocean water. We also were able to see a gorgeous sunset ... something I've missed so much while being in Busan. The sun disappears behind the mountains in Busan, which is pretty, but just doesn't compare to sunsets over water.

Day 2 was spent on a Sea Canoe Excursion, booked through our hotel, but available at any of the tour booths in the area. We left early in the morning and spent the day on a boat, seeing James Bond Island, Hong Island, Bat Caves, a Mangrove Forest and all kinds of gorgeous scenery. There was a buffet lunch on board, and snacks of fresh fruit throughout the day. The guides were friendly and we had an incredible time canoeing, swimming and exploring. I'd definitely recommend this trip to anyone visiting Phuket!

We decided to move to Karon beach for our third day. It was a short Tuk-tuk ride from Kata, and is a bigger and more touristy area. George spent the day surfing while I split my time between boogie boarding, reading and tanning. A rain shower interrupted our day around 5pm so we decided to walk to a market about 10 minutes from the beach. The temperature was so high that the rain was quite pleasant, so we spent a few hours shopping. We also had some delicious banana pancakes and Thai street food (delicious and dirt-cheap) for dinner. We weren't overly thrilled with our hotel so we decided to book a trip to Koh Phi Phi (Phi Phi Islands, pronounced Pee Pee) for the next day. This was a part of the trip that we were really excited for. Gorgeous scenery, blue-blue-blue water, the beach where the movie "The Beach" was filmed ... and it didn't disappoint!

We had more rain on the ferry ride to Phi Phi, which made for a pretty miserable journey since the majority of the seating was outdoors. Miraculously the sun emerged just as we arrived and checked into our guesthouse. We ran to check out the beach then went in search of some lunch. While eating we ran into one of George's friends from Brampton who is also a teacher in Korea. We spent the day with him and a friend, enjoying the beach on Phi Phi. That evening we decided to go out. After a Western style buffet dinner and a walk all around the island to check out what was going on, we grabbed some buckets (literally just bucket filled with alcohol) and went to the beach. There were multiple fire shows going on and we spent a few hours watching one. The boys even participated when the pulled out a giant flaming skipping rope. The talent was incredible and the show was completely mesmerizing. The four of us sat for hours, barely talking, but thoroughly enjoying ourselves. As our buckets were dwindling we decided to check out a bar that featured Thai fighting. They also allowed drunk foreigners to jump in the ring. So stupid, but very entertaining.

The next morning we booked an excursion to all of the sights around Koh Phi Phi. Then, our brains still muddled by alcohol we walked towards the beach, and decided to stop for a picture with the cute little monkey that was tied up at a resort. George went first ... and long story short he got bit. I guess that's what happens when you support the exploitation of animals?
Anyways, the monkey also stole his shirt, and it took 1 policeman (who also suffered a scratch), and 2 resort employees to get his shirt back. We then set of to the nearest pharmacy to get directions to the hospital. The first thing we saw when we walked in was the sign "Doctor visit 500 baht. Rabies vaccine 1300 baht." I had the feeling that this little terror had bit many many people! After a wound cleaning and the first of 5 vaccines we left the hospital and spent a few hours walking around and swimming before our excursion started.

We boarded the boat in the early afternoon. Our first stop? Monkey beach. A wonderful place for someone who has just suffered from a monkey bite to visit. After everyone was safely back on the boat our guide said, "Oh wow, that's the first day ever that one of our passengers hasn't been bitten!". Hmm, and why didn't he warn us BEFORE going to the beach?
Stop 2 was some snorkeling. Unfortunately the day had started to turn overcast so we weren't completely happen with our photos, but it was still alot of fun.
We then went by Viking Cave on our way to Maya Bay. This is the place where scenes from "The Beach" were filmed. The boat stopped on the far side of the island, a few hundred metres out from shore and the guide told us, "Ok, please swim to the beach. It is about three minutes. Bring your shoes so we can walk through the forest to the other side of the island". Umm ... what!? I didn't mind the swim, but it was approaching sunset and I wasn't thrilled about prancing around soaking wet in a bikini. It turned out to be worth it ... Maya Bay was gorgeous, we got some great photos, some some neat sights, I pretended I was Leo and ran in video-game mode through the forest .... overall a lot of fun.

The cruise wrapped up with a buffet dinner and views of the sunset and we returned back to shore. The sights themselves were great, but the company we went through was kind of terrible and unsafe. There was a choice to take a long tail boat, speed boat or a big boat with about 100 other people, and we chose the big one that actually had a bathroom ... but i think we would have had a better time on one of the others! I guess when you only pay about $20 you can't be too picky.

After our second night on Phi Phi we decided to head back to Phuket for our last 2 nights in Thailand. Since we had enjoyed Kata Beach so much we decided to return. We spent 2 days on the beach, learning how to surf, swimming and just enjoying life.

On our last day we had to go to Patong so that George could get his 2nd rabies shot. Unfortunately it rained all day, and surfing was waaay more expensive the in Kata or Karon, so our last day was kind of a bust. We did get to eat Subway for lunch which was great, and George had a Thai massage while I got a manicure, so it was not all bad.

Leaving Thailand was so hard. I can't say that I'm happy to be back in Korea ... I guess it's just the post-vacation blues...

I'll post more on Thailand and our return to Korea later!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I had the time of my life!

Quick update:
We made it home from Thailand safely, and Oo Mi survived her week as a bar cat!

We had an incredible time ... more to come later :)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Meow Meow Meow Meow

So we are officially en-route toThailand (we've made it as far as the departures lounge of the Gimhae airport in Busan). I thought I'd use the time to update my blog with some very exciting news.
We have adopted a kitten. Last Sunday George texted me a picture of a cat and her kitten. They lived behind Blowfish bar in Songjeong. The owners of the mother cat were looking for a home for the kitten and George volunteered, surprising me with the news on the morning we were to bring her home.
She moved in on Sunday, terrible timing since we were only a week away from vacation, but they wanted her to be taken in at that time so there wasn't much choice. So we brough the kitten home, assuming that it was a boy, as we had been told. Approximately 2 seconds into a Skype call to my dad, we were informed that calico cats are all female ... so it turns out that we brought home a little girl!
We used our cell phone dictionaries to come up with a Korean name, and settled on 우 미 (Oo Mi), which was supposed to mean "grace and elegance". We figure she'll either undergo a huge change and grow into the name, or it will be funny because it's ironic. After speaking to some Korean friends were were told it means something a little different ... I think "bitchy or stuck-up", and has a bit of a negative connotation. Oh well, we like it!
One of the owners of Blowfish has 2 kittens of her own who live at the bar, and agreed to take Oo Mi while we are on vacation, which is a total lifesaver! We dropped her off this morning, and I hope she takes well to her time as a bar cat!
I think our flight is boarding soon, so I have to go, updates from Thailand soon!!!

Friday, August 7, 2009

It's a smile, it's a kiss, It's a sip of wine, it's summertime!

Long time no blog.
Sorry for anyone who is trying to follow this thing!

I kind of forgot I had a blog for a while there. Weird...

It's summer camp time so my schedule has been drastically changed. I'm working at a camp at a university in Bansong, which is just outside of Busan. I teach either 1 or 2 80 minute classes each morning, so with the commute I'm still home by 1:30 each day ... amazing!
How has this been affecting my blogging? Well, I do my best work (meaning: I have a lot of free time) from my office at school. I do not have a computer or an office at camp so I have been spending alot less time online. The shortened work hours are great ... it feels like I'm already on vacation because I'm only working half days.

Not much is new here. The rain has been much less frequent the last few weeks - I think we've had more sunny days than rainy ones. George is officially on vacation, his camp ended today. I have one more week of camp and then my 2 week vacation starts.

We just recieved confirmation today - WE'RE GOING TO THAILAND NEXT SATURDAY!!!!!!
We had originally planned on going to the Philippines and Hong Kong, but left things to the last minute and weren't able to get flights on the days we wanted. Our travel agent recommended Thailand and we decided to go for it. Although we've been planning on travelling through Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia when our contract is finished, we decided that we'd do the southern beaches this time, and do northern Thailand next spring!

We're flying into Phuket and plan on splitting our time between Karon (on Phuket), Krabi and Koh Phi Phi (where The Beach was filmed!). We're going from the 15th-24th and I am sooooooo excited :)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Goodbye to you

My mom and Pam have returned to Canada :(

While I'm sad that they are gone I am so happy that they were able to come to Korea. We had a great week and it was really neat to be able to give them a taste of what my life is like here.
On Saturday we got an early start on our adventures. After meeting at Haeundae subway station we travelled almost an hour to the Jalgachi fish market. After exploring the market we walked to the nearby Busan tower to check out the amazing views of the port and the surrounding city. Our next stop was Nampodong market where my mom and Pam were able to buy some souvenir t-shirts and even ajumma visors!

On returning to Haeundae the weather was still decent, so we packed up and went to Songjeong beach for the afternoon. What an experience! My friend Meg met us there and we were a little overwhelmed by the response we got from other beach-goers. A few different people approached us and asked to have their pictures taken with us. A lady asked Meg to brush sand off of her babies hands (when she could have easily done so herself). The 2 Korean girls sitting next to us were hilarious. They came over for multiple photo shoots and brought us gifts of dried squid and cans of Coke. Once the boys showed up they brought out the booze giving us a bottle of soju and then continued to refill our cups with "So-Maek" a combination of soju and beer. Overall a very entertaining afternoon.

For dinner we went to d'Maris seafood buffet, which is right down the street from me. My mom's name is Maris, so I knew the second I saw the restaurant when we arrived in Busan that I'd have to take her there for dinner when she visited. We had a great meal, but all that eating was tiring and we had an early night.

On Sunday we were lucky enough to have another day without rain. Although the skies seemed somewhat overcast we decided to set up camp on Haeundae beach and get some reading done. My mom, Pam and I were on the beach from about 10:30-5:30, with on a short Fuzzy Navel lunch break. Needless to say that after weeks of rain that much sun exposure left me quite burnt! The waves on Sunday were massive (which is rare at Haeundae beach) and we spent a lot of time in the freezing cold water enjoying them. I was in the icy cold ocean 3 times, ranging in length from 10-30 minutes, which I still cant believe ... that water is so cold, but I was having too much fun to notice! After lunch we rented 2 tubes and used those to ride massive waves into the shore. I think it was the most fun I've ever had on the beach! I'm hoping to see waves like that again soon. We had a nice dinner of Korean BBQ on Sunday night with some friends who had come down from Seoul.

Yesterday morning my mom and Pam left Busan for their long trip home. I am SO lucky that they were able to visit, and I'm going to miss them!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Take me out to the ball game, Take me out to the crowd

We took my mom and Pam to a Lotte Giants game on Wednesday evening.

It was a great game, lots of excitement, and even a (rare) win for the Giants. The most excitement came with a rain delay. Umbrellas went up, ponchos were sold, and the die-hard (and/or intoxicated) fans settled in to wait it out. I think the rain delay was more fun than the game! The only disappointment was that because everyone was under umbrellas or wearing ponchos they didn't hand out the orange bags. So my mom and Pam didn't get to experience that, but with the weather we've been having they were lucky to even get to see a game!

We hung out on Gwangalli beach last night and wandered down the beach to look at the carnival and nearby fish farm. The after effects of the 260mm+ of rain we got yesterday morning were apparent. Streets were still quite dirty from all the running water and large sections of the beach were washed out.

The weather has been awful all week, but we've managed to squeeze lots of fun activities into the short periods of time that it is not raining. I'm having a great time and wish that my mom and Pam were staying longer then 10 days!!!