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!