Cocomong Cruise!

Every month, our school takes the pre-kinders and the kinders on a field trip. For the month of August we went on a cruise down the Han River on a boat with the theme of Cocomong. Who is Cocomong? A Disney character? Well, sort-of. He is a cartoon character here in Korea and the children love him. He’s a pirate of sorts…at least I think. It wasn’t quite clear. And, yes, being trapped on a boat with over 100 kids, ages 4-7, with no means of escape seems terrifying but it turned out to be fun. It was nice being outside of a school setting with them, having fun, without throwing phonics and reading at them.

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My Co-teacher, Connie, and some of the kids. Pretty much sums up how they are all day during class. A good mix of adorable and special.

DSC_7710Not sure what this is but Seoul definitely has some…interesting architecture.

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DSC_7666And finally, Allison for the win.
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Coffee+Soju?

Last week, Thursday to be exact, was a holiday here in Korea. It was their Independence Day. D and I decided to venture into Seoul and see what was going on, if anything. Turns out, not much really (at least from what we saw). A coworker had suggested we go to a “Beer Garden” out on the Han RIver so we decided to check it out.

It was situated on a small Island in the middle of the Han RIver so we had to cross multiple bridges over the river to get to it. Korea is very pedestrian friendly so they had bridges to the island just for walkers. We met a couple of foriegners earlier and invited them to come with us. They are German and Danish so it was fun to get to know them better over a couple of beers.

(The following pictures were taken by D on her phone so the quality isn’t great but lugging a DSLR through Seoul in this weather wasn’t going to happen and I don’t have a phone yet. Thanks D!)

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Pedestrian Bridge1148266_10100416974841277_964124826_oForgot to take pictures of the “Beer Garden” but really it was just benches, umbrellas, Cass beer and snacks. The area was beautiful though. They had parks situated around the tiny island. People were relaxing and playing with their kids.

We then decided to cross to the other side of the bridge and hangout in Hongdae for the evening.

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Danish P left and German P decided to join us for dinner so we went to a Korean fish restaurant and shared soju. Afterwards, we found a spot right on the Han River where tons of Koreans were just hanging out for the night with guitars, snacks and, of course, drinks. P decided to introduce coffee+soju, which is what it sounds like: iced coffee drink mixed with soju. So good…but so bad.

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After enjoying coffee+soju by the river for awhile they took me to my first noraebang! We grabbed MORE coffee+soju and sang until we could sing no more! Pictures weren’t exactly priority by this time. I’ll leave the night right there…

In the past three weeks I have been to more bars than I have been to in my entire life! Drinking culture is so big here that all social life revolves around it and my coworkers are no exception. For C and his family – I was surprised to find this on tap at a rooftop bar!

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They also had Erdinger and Paulaner bottled but not just at this bar, at several bars! Maybe a larger German beer consumer base?

Tonight I am going to a rooftop movie showing of Kill Bill 2 in Seoul with D. They are all about their rooftops here in Korea! Limited space I suppose.

Until next post, Geonbae!

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Home Away From Home

I am sitting, writing this first post from my studio in South Korea, in the midst of a thunderstorm. It’s monsoon season here and today it definitely feels it. Surprisingly it has rained very little since I arrived a little over a week ago. That being said, the humidity is punishing. Having lived in Southern California the bulk of my life, I can handle triple digit temperatures in dry heat, but 85 degrees here, with almost 100% humidity on some days, is a new kind of heat. On the plus side, the humidity has been great for my skin! I secretly think it’s why Koreans have nice skin and are thinner. Just digesting food makes me sweat in this weather plus I never feel hungry. I’ve lost 5 pounds in just the last week! Thankfully my studio comes with a wall air-conditioner.

In Korea, the unit that I am living in is called an officetel. Very small and efficient. It’s not much, but in Korea space is precious. Most singles live in them and, true to it’s name, some people do run small businesses from them (such as the woman who tattoos makeup down the hall…regulated? probably not).

The first four floors are all businesses like restaurants, beauty parlors, dentists, dermatologists, etc. I probably would never have to leave my building if I didn’t want to. The elevators are a bit quirky. There are two of them but one only goes to odd floors and the other only goes to even floors. So, in order to visit my coworker who lives in the same building but on the 6th floor, I would have to go all the way down to the 1st floor and then enter the even elevator to get to the 6th floor. And vice versa to get back to my room since I live on an odd floor. Theoretically it keeps you from waiting too long or going to unnecessary floors but, in reality, the elevator takes forever regardless. I don’t really mind since elevators are kind of great for people watching. I have never seen the same person on the elevator yet!

My room happens to be on the 11th floor.

This is the entrance. To the right, as you enter, is the bathroom.

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Loft, which I am only using for storage. It’s too hot up there in the summer and since Koreans use ondol (floor) heating, it makes more sense to sleep on the floor downstairs. Plus, it was made for tiny people. I can barely sit without hitting my head on the ceiling, let alone stand. And that spiky thing is the light fixture.

DSC_7658A typical apartment kitchen in Korea. 2 burner stovetop, sink, fridge/freezer and washing machine for laundry. They usually don’t come with oven, microwave, dishwasher, or drying machine. It’s perfect for someone living alone.

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This is my living area. I moved the bed downstairs. I have a huge window which is great.

DSC_7660And this is the view from said window. Not exactly pretty but the bonus is that since I am in a little cove of the U shaped building, I am protected from the harsher weather like rain and snow, so I can keep my windows open if I want.

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I am located right in downtown Guri which means I am close to the subway, major bus stop and across the street from the Guri Sijang which is a traditional Korean market. It’s similar to the farmers market except it is open everyday and they sell EVERYTHING.  There are actual shops as well as produce stands, the infamous love motels and even a small gym. I’ll post pictures of that later.

If I ever miss America all I have to do is go to the Dunkin’ Donuts, Baskin-Robbins or McDonald’s that are all located less than a block from me. Just, wow.

So far things have gone smoothly, everyone has been helpful and my first week at work is done! Here’s to the next week!

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Does this Multi-pass work here?

After what seemed like forever, I have my visa in hand, my plane ticket booked and my bags packed (almost!). Come Monday I will officially be absent from the US for a year as I embark on a new journey in South Korea.

I’ve visited Korea once in my life when I was a baby (yes, that really is my brother and I in traditional Korean dress) but I was so young that I can’t remember anything. It has always bothered me that I don’t know very much about the culture my mom comes from. It’s difficult to imagine that she grew up in a completely different culture, in a country that was rebuilding itself from an often forgotten but terrible war. She was born into a 3rd world country which had just escaped Japanese colonialism just to be thrown into a civil war. It’s amazing to think that that same country is now a leader in technology, has the fastest internet in the world and is now ranked 15th in the world for total GDP. Mind you, this is a peninsula that is a quarter of the size of California.

South Koreans work hard and play hard. They work 6 days a week but luckily I will only be working 5 which translates to a 50 hour workweek for me. And when I say they play hard, what I really mean is they drink…a lot. We’ll see how that works out for my asian glow.

I have so many mixed feelings about this trip but the most prevalent is excitement. While the road seemed crazy long getting to this point, what with all of the paperwork, I can’t wait for this adventure to start. I am eager to learn everything I can about customs and traditions, food, Korea’s long and rich history, but also it’s fast road to modernization, pop-culture and how this tiny country half-way around the world lives.

Hopefully my next post will be from Korea!

 

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