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?????!!