Category Archives: This Korean life

the sweet smell of summer

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I’m breathing it in. As many deep breaths as my lungs can hold. as I’m typing our office window is open and I can hear a crescendo of cicadas buzzing from the green down in our school yard. A sound I’m really gonna miss.  All too soon this season will be turning once again. Vacation time is already done and I’m looking ahead to my final month teaching a new semester.

I loved vacation. 2 weeks of downtime and  doing a whole lot of glorious nothing! Finally, towards the end of the 2 weeks I started to get antsy from all the inertia but before that I was perfectly blissed out to be sleeping till 11 or 12 every day (in our Busan love motel with its Hello Kitty clad wallpaper), lazing with a beer in my hand by the sea or lakeside, reading for hours and hours and hours and watching movie after movie. Last semester was long and I took on a lot of extra work which took its toll on my energy so I really needed this break!

I ended the vacation on a really high note. Myself and my co-teacher Sera went on a fantastic 3 hour bike ride, we rode out to and around my city’s famous lake  and stopped beside it to snap pictures while dragonflies as big as my fist scooted over our heads and huge fish jumped and belly-flopped against the shimmering grey water top. It was a truly great day. Riding home we felt the first huge hot splashes of typhoon rain exploding on our heads and pretty soon we were riding through a full-on rain storm. I now believe nothing makes you feel more alive than riding your bike full speed in the rain. It’s  good for the soul!

In six short weeks I’ll be waving bye bye to this chapter of my life in this beautiful little corner of the world and packing myself off on my next adventures in backpacking. I think my heart is just about ready to burst with excitement!  I have so much to plan and organize right now so you bet my love of making lists is in absolute overdrive!

Reading in the sunshine on Gyengpo Beach

sunny day, full beach

the essentials

Picnic by the lake

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Socks-y feet

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If there’s one thing Koreans really dig it’s these ankle length socks with cutie patootie designs all over them. Costing little over a buck a pair I’m busy stocking up on these lovely little foot warmers before I say a big “toodle-loo” in 6 weeks (six weeks~ how has this happened? So much to organise, so much to do, where do I start??!!)

I’m back to school this week after a glorious 2 week vacation. One of the biggest perks by far of a job in teaching (as every teacher I’ve ever met in my life says) is the extended periods off from work. I haven’t known such luxuriantly long opportunities for rest and rejuvenation since, well, since I was back at school myself! And I’ll tell you what, the first day back at school as a teacher is a MILLION times harder than it is as a student! This week has been long and rough on this overgrown schoolgirl ^.^

Korean foods I love & love to hate

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Me eating delicious Korean Pa Jeon (파전) or pancake

 So many things I’m going to miss when I hang up my teaching hat for good in 2 months. The gorgeous mountaineous scenery I get to see every day when I leave my apartment, the kind smiling faces of my co-teachers every morning, the copious high-fives my students give me on a  daily basis. High up on that list will be some of the mouth-watering Korean cuisine I have grown to love. It was a different story when I first got here 2 years ago. To my eyes Korean food isn’t the most appetizing in its appearance and I’m all about the aesthetics when it comes to food. I very quickly learned however that in most cases it will taste far better than it looks. I’ve also grown very attached to the communal experience of korean dining. At barbeque restaurants the cooking, sharing and eating of the meat is a joined effort. Rather than having your eyes down on one plate you are all sharing from the oodles of side dishes that litter the table. It is customary to pour drinks for eachother and plenty shots of soju is a must if you have a Korean at your table. This style of dining encourages input, eye contact, conversation and a shared eating experience which I will miss sorely when I’m gone.

Sharing a cheese dalkabi at Tudari (fried spicy chicken)

Saying all that, there are certain foods that turn up on the menu over here  that I won’t be sorry to leave behind at all! Here’s my top 4 Korean foods that I love to hate~

1. Mook (무ㄱ) or Acorn Jelly

brown slime? I'll pass thanks

As I’m writing it acorn jelly actually sounds like it could be pretty nice. Not for me it aint. It’s cold, it’s wet, it wobbles. And it it don’t taste nuthin like acorns.

2. Spam

 

It’s a tasty meat treat. Apparantly.

Yep, you read that right. Spam.  And I’m not talking about slapping your friendon the forehead, I’m talking about the processed meat in a can. They’re crazy for it here and apparantly it’s too nice to buy for yourself. Spam can usually be found in marts in the form of  gift packs bound by a large ribbon.

3. Persimmon

 

The persimmon. A tricky fruit.

 

I’ve tried to love persimmon. Honest to God I have. I’ve given it chance after chance. My pal Mary hit the nail on the head when she said “it’s always presented to you like your getting such a treat”. After politely swallowing down its  fleshy, slimy blandness a million times I’m afraid it’s officially over between me and the persimmon now.

4. Rice cakes

Isn’t there enough rice in the main meal or what??

I have a huge sweet tooth which mainly demands chocolate and not dessert sweets made of rice with red bean paste inside. Enough said!

 

 

 

Pencil Case Wisdom

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Annyong!

The idea for this post came from my friend Whitney, who a few months back quoted on facebook some of the corny and typically poor English that is stamped all over Korean stationary. This is the message her pencil case had for her….

“I’m walking on joyful color spectrums. I feel the love that’s really real”

~  what exactly joyful color spectrums are I would just love to know! I get the distinct feeling that manufacturers in Korea deem their products more saleable if they have some English text slapped all over them. However they clearly  feel it unnecessary to have an English speaker check over the grammar, spelling and punctuation of the text before producing it on a mass scale. No wonder some of my kids struggle to form a legible sentence when their t-shirt says ‘The Baetles’ or (and I actually bought this t-shirt because it was so hilarious) ‘Sungrasses’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m a letter writer so I have bought at least 4 stationary pads here over the last 2 years and some of the lengthy messages and quotes printed on them are so incredibly saccharine and garbled I just had to share a few…

 

“Even we can not fly now, it doesn’t mean we can’t never fly. A dream that we have, we already starting flying to the sky.”

“On lovely day, I want  take a walk with you, I want to show you beautiful flowers and nice blue sky. It made my heart fill fully by just looking.”

“Love , which is a wonderful feeling, come to everyone at someting.”

“noting can be instead of you”

“Mere traveling either in foreign lands or at home is time half wasted.”

That last one just kills me. Even before translation it doesn’t make any sense. Travel is a waste of half of your time? What does that even mean!?

Saying all this I do have a real soft spot for Korean stationary, they’re crazy for stationary over here and when they get it right they really get it right. Check out this teeny cute squirrel bookmark I got from Gangnam Artbox:

 

Weekend Summer Camp

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Weekend Summer Camp
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GYL Summer Camp, Okgye, 2011, a set on Flickr.

So to save money toward my next adventures in traveling I’ve taken on any extra work I can lay my hands on over these last few months. The biggest cash cow has been a Global Youth Leaders programme I work at 2 Saturdays every month which pays really well and is pretty easy money too as the Middle School students who take part in it are all exceptional at English. This weekend was the overnight camp for this programme and we stayed at a swanky Women’s Centre situated right on the beach with a lush panoramic view of the tree covered mountains.

There were plenty of photo opps and I snapped away with my iPod on the first day. As you can tell I’m pretty hooked on the Instagram app on my iPod! I love the range of effects you can choose from and the way some of them can pop the colors in an average looking photo and transform it into something that looks pretty gorgeous. I’m quite addicted to this neat little memory maker  ^^

Anyway, back to the camp. The kids had a bunch of team projects to do, they put on a talent show and we hired a dance teacher to teach the students and camp leaders a K-Pop dance routine which I may or may not have royally f*cked up in the teachers final dance performance at the end! Ah, nothing tops of a day better than making an ass of yourself in front of a bunch of teenagers!

This was how it should have been done

I spent a good dose of my time dedicated to one of my favorite hobbies- people watching. Or student watching as this was. There was the loner girl who sat all day solving, undoing and re-solving a Rubiks cube. There was the chubby flamboyant boy who performed the entire Miss A dance routine during his team’s talent performance, taking it all way too seriously. And there was the angel faced pre-pubescent girl wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with ‘I’ll show you mine if you show me yours’. Ah, sweet oblivion. I couldn’t help but chuckle and remember the time on the beach when my boyfriend spotted an ajumma pooting around wearing a t-shirt with the slogan ‘Vote Mike Hunt for President’…x

Not as easy as buying noodles

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So finally, after 2 whole years of procrastination I did it. I took the plunge and sacrificed my hair, my crowning glory, to the mercy of the Korean hairdresser to give me blonde highlights. Acquiring a decent head of highlights in this particular spot on the earth is no easy feat and understandably so, the stylists here are just not used to dealing with light colored hair. Korean message boards are riddled with horror stories cautioning fellow blondies against the dreaded ‘orange job’. So fearful was I of a brassy do that I twice gave in to the lure of the do-it-yourself bottle die which, to be honest, left my hair a hue not that far from the color I had been dreading and so was, in the end, completely counter-productive. Last week I decided enough was enough and decided to get a little of my Nancy Drew on. After a lot of research (read this as googling and blog reading) I decided on Lucy Hair  in Sinchon, Seoul. Lucy and her stylists all speak excellent English and they trained as hair stylists overseas so they are fully capable with dealing with all hair types. Dennis, my stylist, was amazing and gave me exactly what I asked for in terms of hair color and the style. I am now one very happy blonde bunny!

Here’s a before and after of my hair color:

And finally, my banana feet. I’m not entirely convinced whether I’m wearing this color or it’s the other way round. The juries still out…