Thursday, June 30, 2011

End of June continued w/ my tiny friends

Trip to the Incheon Zoo

Well, I can’t leave out my tiny little friends in my June update. My class still manages to shock and impress me pretty much on a daily basis. I tend to spend my break times sitting with my class during their Korean class time. I have better conversations with the kids in my class than I do with almost all of the teachers in the school and they are far more entertaining than anyone else so I really actually enjoy their company, most of the time. The other day I walked into the classroom to the kids learning Chinese. No, that is not a typo and yes, these 5 and 6 year olds are learning to read, write and speak in English and Korean so why not throw Chinese into the mix!

Melisa runs up to greet me and I ask her if she is really learning Chinese. She tells me yes and then proceeds to climb on me like a jungle gym as she normally does. Her answer wasn’t convincing enough for me so I ask again if she’s really learning Chinese. “Yes,” she says again as if what she really wants to say is, “obviously, why WOULDN’T we be learning Chinese.” Luckily sarcasm isn’t used in kindergarten. Still not convinced I ask her to say something to me in Chinese. “Ni hao” she says in her tiny little voice, “that’s hello.” Then she continues and says, as she counts on her fingers, “hello, English, annyeong, Korean, ni hao, Chinese.” It wasn’t much, but just the fact that this little itty bitty thing was carrying on this conversation about languages with me was so impressive.

The month of June was filled with parent participation classes for each age group. I mostly went from class to class with the musical English teacher just to show my foreigner face and brag about my English speaking ability. She had a little skit prepared that involved the parents in song, dance and roll play. I was just told what to say and then the kids and their parents were supposed to repeat after me. I felt quite foolish and a little like a ventriloquist’s dummy, but whatever makes the parents happy.

We took a field trip to the lettuce farm to pick some lettuce. Not the greatest idea during the start of the rainy/ monsoon season. I think it rained for 5 days straight and then they picked the first nice day to take us to the farm. Most of the kids were wearing dress shoes or sandals and were told to go through the muddy path to pick their lettuce. Most of them came out practically crying that their shoes and socks were all muddy. One girl kept asking me to clean her shoes. “I don’t have anything to clean your shoes with,” I told her. “On the bus clean my shoes, please.” “I don’t have anything to clean your shoes with on the bus either.” Then I heard a little more whining. I stayed out of the mud and just directed the kids, but I also didn’t get any lettuce out of it. Oh well, the price I paid for clean shoes.

Dirty shoes

So, Rainbow Class didn’t have any March, April or May birthdays so we all were long awaiting June. Angelina and Kevin had birthdays in June so they both wore their hanboks to school for the birthday party. We went to the gym to sing songs and take lots of pictures. Then we ate the best/ worst meal of the month. This is the fourth time I’ve tried to teach afternoon classes after they had cake for lunch and every time is equally torturous. Luckily this only happens once a month, even though I really enjoy the lunch filled with dokbouki, chap chae, fruits and rice cakes.

This is the closest we could get to smiles and it was their birthday party!

Finally a smile!

Still, looking super happy to be here...

Well, I'm happy for the birthday party!

Angelina, show me what you got! (I swear I didn't add, and look absolutely miserable while you do it! She was really mad they made a boy escort her on stage and not her friend Kelley)

Blowing out the candles.

The end of June

I haven’t had much to say in a while, but I haven’t stopped enjoying Korea. I once heard someone compare blogging to going to the gym. I thought this was a great comparison because once you stop, it’s hard to start back up again. I’ve almost rounded out my fourth month here and made some really great friends. Andi and I met on our trip to Yeosu and Geomundo and have hung out a couple times since. We spent one beautiful Saturday afternoon riding bikes through Yeoido. There is a great bike path that follows the Han River and has great sites and a ton of convenience stores to pick up treats along the way.

The Han River and swan paddle boats

After our bike ride Andi introduced me to a popular Korean soup called Sundubu jigae. It’s a very spicy soup that comes out boiling hot and you drop raw eggs in there and they cook with the soup. After our dinner we met up with another friend, Andrew, in Hongdae. We somehow convinced him to check out the Hello Kitty Café. I guess I had sold him on their delicious hot chocolate! After Andrew had enough girl talk in a sickeningly pink café he convinced us to go somewhere else. This was a day of first because then I tried my first Soju bomb.

Korean loving in the Hello Kitty Cafe

Our desserts

Giant pitcher of beer

Andrew making Soju bombs - Coke, Soju and beer - not as terrible as I thought it sounded. The Coke helps for a sweet taste as the end.

The following weekend I met up with Andi again in Hongdae. I’ve been told I haven’t ever had a “proper” night out in Hongdae. This is because Hongdae is known for their partying, clubbing and staying out well past when the sun comes up. None of these things are appealing to me and I feel like I wouldn’t regret never experiencing this type of night so we just got some dinner and coffee and chatted, just the two of us.

We then met up with Andi‘s boyfriend, Aaron, and some of his friends at a local darts bar. We ended the night in a norae bong, which is Korean karaoke. This is a very popular late night activity for Koreans. There are norae bongs everywhere and you walk in and get a private karaoke room for your party. There are couches, a big flat screen tv and hundreds of Korean and English songs to choose from. It was a great way to end a fun night! I’m not a singer, but I’ll hit up the norae bong again!

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Lack of sleep and too many jam-packed weekends were starting to catch up to me, but I spent a relaxing weekend on Seonyudo island. I met a group and we took a bus down to Jeollabuk-do provice on the western coast of Korea. We then took a ferry boat across to Seonyu-do. 

Fog on the ocean delayed us a few hours, but when we got to the island we rented bikes to explore the island.

I spent some time relaxing on the beach before we had dinner. After dinner we had a bonfire on the beach and some people decided to cook up some sea creatures they caught earlier in the day. It was a relaxing night before we went to sleep.

When we woke up in the morning we explored the island some more and had lunch before packing up and taking the ferry back to the mainland.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Folk village & green tea making

Nagan Folk Village

When we arrived at the Nagan Folk Village we dropped our bags off, explored the village a little and then went to dinner. After dinner a bunch of us hung out on the wall to the village for a little while.

Sunset in the folk village

on the wall surrounding the village

 In the morning we explored a little more and then headed to Bosung Tea Hill to see just that, hills of tea. We ate some green tea ice cream, green tea bibimbap (a spicy rice dish with vegetables), had some iced green tea and some green tea chocolate. They can apparently make anything and everything with green tea!
in fields of tea

with Hong in fields of tea

tea hills

some of the group in the hills

We then headed out to make our own green tea. We visited this cute little Korean couple who use flakes of gold to fertilize their tea. Yes, this is very expensive tea. We learned which leaves were the tea leaves we needed to pick. Then we went and put the leaves in a giant pot to cook them and then we took them out to cook and roll them. The heating and cooling process then happens five more times so we didn’t actually finish making the tea, but we were given samples of this gold tea with tea rice cakes and crackers.

tea made of gold!

rice cakes made of tea

making green tea


After lunch with loaded onto a ferry boat for Geomundo Island. On the 2 hour ferry ride we relaxed and partied with the Korean ajumahs and ajusis (middle-aged men and women). They certainly know how to have a party. They were passing around oversized bottles of soju and beer with various other snacks. Some were singing and dancing and others were trying to balance on the ferry boat after drinking copious amounts of soju.

Our ferry boat from Yeosu

Some of the girls on the ferry

some Koreans starting the party

When we got to Geomundo we dropped our bags off at a local pension where we were staying. This is a typical Korean type “motel”, where you sleep on mats on the heated floors. After dropping off our things we boarded another ferry boat to tour Baekdo Island. This is made up of 39 uninhabited rock formations. It is a really awesome site to see.

Baekdo Islands (Baekdo - meaning 1000 islands)

After the tour of Baekdo we had dinner next to our pension and then explored this small island. This island really reminded me of when I was in Italy and stayed on a small island off Capri called Ventotene. One of my friends had commented it was like the Truman Show, in the fact that the same people who gave us our coffee in the morning were giving us our beach chairs during the day and partying with us at night. This island was pretty much the same thing. Most of the people on the island had taken the ferry over from Yeosu with us. Either way it had been a really long day so we went to bed pretty early.

In the morning we walked to a light house on the island.

The lighthouse.

Then took the ferry back over to Yeosu to visit the Nagan Folk Village and stay over in a traditional house there. On the way to the village we stopped at the Suncheon Bay Eco Park to enjoy nature and take a quick walk.