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...