Tuesday, June 1, 2010

...The Much Delayed Post

Okay so since I was such a slacker and haven't posted anything for almost a month we're going to do a quick recap and leave out all the boring stuff I'm sure people don't want to hear. Easier said than done because now I have to sum everything in order of importance and we all know how good I am at writing short pieces.

Well the week following Children's Day was my birthday and Teacher's Day. Ashley and Jess got me a present which was very sweet of them and we all went out for Thai food. With a field trip in the morning and a relaxing day with friends, it was a pretty good birthday, especially since I spent it away from home yet again. We ended up going to Big Rock Brewery, a Canadian themed loungey bar in Gagnam and enjoyed our very own beer tower and the much awaited caesar, or bloody Mary's. In Korea you take what you can get (and don't take it further). The night was followed by a kareoke room where we belted out some Beach Boys, Lindsay Lohan, The Little Mermaid, among others. So it turned out to be a pretty good birthday weekend.

Teacher's Day is a day of appreciation for teachers where the students bring presents for their teachers. Mine included gift cards, whitening sun screen, alot of cards,and a bottle of wine (special thank you to Michelle's mom for that one). Others got presents like whole cakes, snake skin tights and coffee gift cards. Of course nothing says I love you teacher like a pair of snake skin leggings.

The Sunday, Alex and I went to a soccer game (Korea 2: Ecuador 0), also the last home game of the year before the world cup, in which both South Korea and North Korea quailified but not Canada or Russia (wtf). Turns out Koreans love their soccer with a firework ceremony, some performances and a march around the stadium with a flag for a post game show. Me and Alex were thrown into a moshpit of Koreans and posed for pictures for a good 10 minutes. Gotta love it. GO REDS!!

The weekend of the May 24 weekend back home was a long weekend here too for Budda's Birthday so we all headed to Busan (Korea's version of South Beach) to have one last weekend before Kevin left and to enjoy the sun. Or so we thought. After quite the fun train ride on the KTX (350 km/h doesn't feel that fast when you're playing drinking games and being rowdy) we got to Busan after 1 and embarked on a search for a motel. We headed to Thursday Party for drinks and stayed out till 5 am just in time to hit the beach for the beginning of a sunrise. Me and Hanna got up early and headed for breaky where we got the call about North Korea and South Korea tension and the possibility of war. This was followed by another bad news call from Ashley telling us we were getting thrown out of our hotel. So off we went to one that was cheap, and rightly so since it was a very nice hooker joint came night time. We spent the rest of the day on the beach getting harassed by a Canadian guy who wouldn't go away and headed to Breeze Burns for dinner for delicious burgers and sandwiches with an hour wait time. The night/morning finished off with Thursday Party again where we danced, sang S Club and met some more Canadians. That was as good as it got since the next 2 days were full of non stop rain. We went to see a Giants game, which was cancelled after we got our tickets and after Jessica pushed a security guard back. We ended up going to see Nightmare on Elm St. and then went out for dins and spent the night with drinking games and taking it easy. Sunday was the day of saying goodbye to Busan, rainy weather and we headed back home on another 3 hour KTX ride. Kevin left that Tuesday morning so we had a goodbye dinner and were sad to see him go, which was followed by Jessica and Ashley leaving this morning to an even sadder departure.

On a side note we celebrated their final weekend in style by going to an Italian cafe in Itaewon and then to a ladies drink free night (bad news bears) and of course Gold Bar. It was a night to remember, or forget, seeing how none of us seemed to have remembered what happened on Saturday night. Looks like this weekend we're taking it easy and spending time with the new teachers Jennifer and Jake.

More to come, and more frequently (promise, as they love to make promises in Korea).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cinco De Mayo, Children's Day and the Start of May

So it's officially May here! Also made me realize how I forgot about this, oops. The weather is getting amazingly warm and it's beginning to feel like summer, finally! Minus the fact that this means monsoon season is coming and I am without rain boots. Today is children's day in Korea, a national holiday where noone goes to work, children have no school and there is yelling in the streets. Regardless I got to catch up on sleep, spend the day napping and some shopping and cleaning. Oh the exciting life. In celebration of Cinco De Mayo we went for Mexican food yesterday at On The Border, one of the few and far between Mexican places in Seoul. But the food is amazing and the drinks full of tequila and margarita mix...just the way I like it!

Last weekend was gorgeous so I ended up going for a hike with Mike and Adam on Saturday, followed by dins with the guys and some of their girl friends who were soo sweet and lovely! The night of course was followed by Soju slushies and me going home early to be ready for sunday brunch...breaky buffet in Gagnam, surprisingly at a bar, which is hard to find here, especially since Koreans don't have a difference in meals and enjoy rice for breakfast. A nice breakfast surprise..Vitaliy!! He's back and we were super happy to see him. The other teachers and I ended up going for a bike ride along the Han River, nothing like the nice weather and old school bicycles to make for a great weekend.

This coming weekend we're all going bungee jumping for Vitaliy's birthday!! There will be updates, if I make it but Im super excited for this! Speaking of birthdays, it's also the new teacher's birthday that day. Shannon, she arrived here for her 3rd year of teaching, and behold, she is from Guelph. Small world but we haven't seen much of her because she's been out with her friends who she knows here.

Well that is all for now so there will be more updates soon times. xo

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Skinny on Asians

It seems that no matter where you go Asian girls are tiny and doll like and being a girl you usually hate it and try to justify it with sayings like their food is healthier or it's just genetics. While that may be true, there's more to it than that, at least from what I gathered. I think Paris Baguette would take Tim Hortons out of the running for numbers of locations per square meter. So with all this rice, huge portions and amazing bakeries on every corner these Korean girls do what every other girl does...diet. This was told to me by my 8 year old student who when asked how her weekend was replied terrible. Turns out she spent the weekend dieting because her father tells her she is fat all the time. And there I thought my parents were bad.

Another reason is all the walking, with so many people and such a wicked subway and bus system Koreans get around everywhere on foot. Not to mention all the public outdoor gym machines available to everyone and the running tracks where you can catch Korean couples taking nightly walks...alot of them in heels.

Heels, that's right! After spending several hours in heels it becomes obvious why these girls have no fat on their legs or elsewhere. If there was ever an enduring leg workout, heels would be considered that. And Koreans beat Europe in their girl to heel ratio with almost every woman here wearing heels all day, every day. Someone enlighten me on how Asia and Europe can do this? Because it really does look super cute.

There ya have it, some very common sense enlightment on why Asian girls are so tiny and how it's not just genes, food and secret diets.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Little Bit of Everything

It's almost been a month since I've been here and here's the news which I have not posted due to serious slacking on my part. First, we had the new teacher Brandon who came from Canada last 4 days and run away during lunch one day. Mr. Moon found his keys in the door and his stuff gone, oh the pressures of JM English School, but understandable cause it can get overwhelming at first. Second, we took the kids to the tombs by our school on a mini field trip and have a legit one this week, unless it gets cancelled due to the possibility of, but no actual rain like the last one.

Natalie took us to a breakfast place called Butterfinger Pancake in Gagnam, for the low price of 17 dollars you can get a plate of french toast, sausage, bacon and home fries, but completely worth it! Turns out it is possible to get a typical American breakfast here after all, especially when it's for dinner. Next step...ice cream for dinner? There is a ColdStone Creamery across the street after all.

Speaking of Natalie, she left us to go back to America, or Florida to vacation with her fam and we got one last goodbye dinner to celebrate. We also celebrated Hanna's birthday by going out for Indian food at this newly reno'd place. I only had to come to Korea to have Indian food for the first time after living in Brampton for like 10 years, go figure.

Last weekend we ended up in Namdaemun and checked out the market with Casey and Eric. Need some weird fruit or elephant underwear with a trunk, you can find it at the market. Louis Vuitton steering wheel covers? You can get that here. (Oh wait, LV doesn't make steering wheel covers...) Followed by Eric's real Korean BBQ experience we headed to the Seoul Tower. Pictures don't even describe the view but this city looks amazing at night! Followed by soju slushies and Hongdae University where we went to several bars and had ALOT of drinks and made our way home for 7 am, yet again.

This weekend we did the Nori bang, aka the kareoke room you rent out and sing your heart out while sipping on your own 1.5L bottles of beer that you smuggled in. Nothing like Under the Sea to make your night complete after a long week of work. But I guess it could get worse then getting paid to color and eat birthday cake.
Saturday I got to shop at Itaewon and learn to bargain with salesmen. The perfect place for foreigners with everything you could possibly want from coffee, burgers, subway and any kind of knock off you could imagine. Sunday me and Alex headed to Dongdaemun and walked around and got waffles and pogos wrapped in french fries. See pic below.

Probably can clog your heart in one bite, but a very delicious way to go out. We hit up Itaewon for dinner at Kraze Burger and got our fill of Westerners and delicious food. Oh how fast the weekends fly and its back to work tomorrow. But it's getting warmer and summer is coming and it can only get better then! Oh and now that the Leafs are out of the playoffs it can only get better as well!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Weekend

The school week ended, complete with a party with Pizza and finished lesson plans, which meant it was time to relax, unwind and drink our faces off. The new teacher got in on Friday, his name is Brandon and he's a fellow Canadian from the heart of Toronto and not just the surrounding area. He was too tired so he didn't make it out to dins with us, which meant he missed us drinking on the walk to the restaurant (that's right drinking is fair game EVERYWHERE HERE). We ended up at Goldbar III once again, which involved tequila shots, darts and some meeting of the Asian crowd, nothing like a Korean girl tell you she likes your body (flatering or creepy, you decide). I left sometime after 1 since we had to make it to Jangokk for our health exam for 9 am the next day and it was a very lovely morning when you wake up still drunk and have to go get blood work done. It was a pretty brutal subway ride for me and Hanna due to this but we managed to get that done and made McD's breakfast which is conveniently across the street. Health exam which includes measurements, physical, x-rays, blood test, hearing and eye test and of course a urinal sample for the low price of 82 dollars.

We walked around and got smoothies and bought some cards and headed to the Sports Stadium to meet everyone else for the baseball game. Go Doosan Bears! Season opener, huge crowds and alot of clappers would describe it in part. The cheerleaders start off dressed and strip down and start doing Bring It On style cheers and flips. Argos and Raptors girls need to learn from that. Ballons are let out and scatter across the stadium and the crowd does a different cheer for every batter, presented by the guy directing the cheers. What would your batter song be? Despite being super chilly, our team won 8-3. And then it was onto TGI Fridays for dinner, with our rez like family. The plan was we all take 2 hours after dinner to shower and get ready to go out but it somehow turned into everyone being too tired and us sitting around reading gossip magazines and drinking coffee. Not a bad day overall and gave us all to see each other for Vitaliy's and John's last weekend, as they are leaving on Thursday.

Sunday consisted of doing the tourist thing with Adam, where we met up at Seoul Station and headed to the Gyeongbokgung Palace. Pretty impressive and cool for a reconstruction of something that was destroyed by the Japanese. We walked around, I made him take pictures of me in a traditional costume and we went to the Folk Museum which taught us about 3 year mourning period, where the son of the dead parent has to offer the spirit breakfast and supper every day for 3 years. The arranged marriages in Korea were done in the groom's home and included bringing over blue and red silks and a goose to symbolize eternal fidelity. Cute, huh?

The whole thing was pretty interesting to see and after some dinner with Adam's friend Zach and me attempting to buy a router and set it up the weekend was over just like that.

Back to work once again.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chicken Pingers, Itaewon and A Whole Lot of Westerners

So it's officially been a week since I've been here. Survived my first ever weekend in this country which turned out to be a pretty fun one. I had to pick up Adam from Lotte World and got to go through the huge department store and see the whole mall in all its glory. It was followed by 12 hours in heels in which I got to try Jajangmyeon (noodles topped with thick black bean sauce) and got to take my first Metro trip to Itaewon aka party central and westerners central. While down there you might forget you're in Korea all together and not back home. We went to 2 bars and 1 club where I was surrounded by military men trying to get with the innocent Korean girls who didn't know better. Since subways don't start again till 5 am we had to stay out all night. Nothing says party like going to bed with sunrise and getting KFC for street food, while some people are eating breakfast at the same time. Surprisingly the funniest part of the night happened in there when a gay man was crying after a break up with his boyfriend and I was used to console him. He thanked me by kissing me on the head and telling me he thought Adam was hot. Gotta love Korea!

After going to bed at 7 and waking up at noon, I was dragged out to a ball hockey game with the other girlies followed by delicious Korean BBQ. Turns out in Korea you can go to baseball and soccer games with your own booze, or buy it for store price and get absolutely loaded all under $20. (You can also do the same in the movie theatre, popcorn and a beer? don't mind if I do).

With only 500 changes made to my schedule I'm ready to embark on my journey as an actual teacher tomorrow after getting to teach some of the class today. They're probably happy to have me do what they're paying me for though, and I'm excited to try and control the little buggers and keep them from running around!!

Me and Hanna treated ourselves to a pedicure and chicken pingers (too bad Koreans don't understand f's) and we're embarking on a trip to H&M tomorrow! That's right the first ever opened one in South Korea, in the fashion are on Myungdong street. Or where all the designer stores are and some of the best fashion designers in the world sell their clothes. No big deal. Only 40 min away but totally worth it. That's the price of beauty girls.

Annyeonghi gaseyo (goodbye)

Friday, March 19, 2010


So it's finally Friday and we all got through the day and can't wait for the weekend. Also found out I won't be teaching 2 of the classes till Wednesday and had to write yet another report. But it's getting better, especially with the discovery of a dunkin donuts that serves espresso for 3 dollars a shot close to the school. Money well spent. Some of the people are going to see Shutter Island tonight (2nd time around? No thanks!) but I got to move in early into my new place aka Vitaliy's old place and unpack. He did an amazing job of cleaning the place and it smelled like clean febreeze when I got here! It's surprisingly big and will be my home for the next 362 days so better get used to it and learn to love it! It already has more storage space than back home so it kinda makes me happy to have a whole shelf just for my shoes. We live close to Lotte World, which is a mall/superstore/skating rink/amusement park all in one! I will be going there tomorrow to meet Adam who's finally here (!!) and get grocerries and a lighter for my hot plate (no baking ovens for Koreans). Lotte World looks like Disney World at night and I cannot wait to go to the actual amusement park in the near future! Since Adam will be here tomorrow I imagine a trip to Itaewon or Hongdae (2 party downtown areas) are in order so there will be a follow up of what I can only imagine will be a messy night!

Gotta love the weekend, especially in a foreign country!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Day II

Totally got lost going to school and had to turn around and come back and start over but survived my second day of watching other teachers and eating porridge, which is a common Korean food to cure sicknesses (or hangovers following St. Patty’s), which surprisingly is super delicious. If you’re willing to give it a chance Korean food is very delicious and very cheap (starting at 1 dollar and going up to 16 for a feast). And I'm even eating the spicy sauce so noone can say I'm not giving it a chance, even while burning the insides of my mouth.

I found out I will be starting teaching on Monday with about 4 or 5 classes so it shall be interesting and overwhelming and will be moving into my new place on Saturday! Turns out golf is a huge thing in Korea and the children on Fridays get a specific golf teacher to come in and go to the driving range on top of the school. There is tonnes of virtual golf here, however to find an actual golf course you have to go outside of Seoul. One more day and it's the weekend!

Ps. Turns out there is McDelivery here and McDonalds delivers right to your door. Jealous, I know!

Welcome to South Korea

Working abroad, teaching English and travelling. According to suggestions and requests I figured it’s time to start a blog to record my travels and to minimize the retelling of stories. The trip started off with rushing past US customs and barely making planes, followed by a layover in San Fran and a 13 hour flight to Korea. It flew by and I finally got an individual TV screen in my seat (yay!). The airport is spotless and easy to get around and thankfully I got my luggage and was picked up without problems, except the 2 hour traffic ride to the school. Since in Korea they start the work day later at 9-10, the traffic also happens to be later. On the way passed about 4 bakeries, a Starbucks, KFC and other North American food chains so looks like living here might just be not too different from home.

I am now lodged in a “love motel” until Saturday when I’ll be able to move to my new apartment. Fun fact: love motels are where Koreans go to “hang out” since they are not allowed to bring anyone home unless they plan on marrying that person, resulting in DVD bongs where they go to watch movies and cheap motels. Suddenly a lack of privacy at home doesn’t seem so bad. The floors are heated and the showers have no curtains and the water drains from the shower and sink through the drains in the floor (hello gym showers). I was picked up from the motel the next morning and taken to JM English School (stands for Jesus Miracle). I met the other Western teachers, half from Canada and half from the US. We are now evenly divided with a total of 8; however half are leaving as soon as next week or in the next 2 months. So looks like the few newer teachers like Hanna, Alex and Jeff will be doing the travelling and experiencing the culture with me. They took me out for my first 2 meals where I got to drink Soju; the cheap Korean drink with 18% alcohol level made from rice liquor and had the Korean BBQ experience. In Korean it’s rude to decline anything so there is no saying no to Soju (When in Rome). Since I arrived a day before St. Patty’s I was taken to Gold Bar III, a popular hangout for the westerns here where I was fed cheap beers and taught to play darts. Not a bad start to a new country; especially a country full of drinkers where passing out in a bar or the street is a daily occurrence and the business men’s main business is to not offend their partners by taking shot after shot with them.

By the way, everything you heard about tough Korean teaching practices: not true. The kids are bundles of energy and despite being adorable are super loud and restless. The early morning high pitched screaming is something to get used to but at least I get to wear slippers at work, since it is a common practice to not wear shoes around. But the kids are excited to see you and remember you right away and since they range in age and levels it pretty much comes down to luck as to what classes you get and how much screaming you`ll have to endure.

Survived my first day!! More to come...