American Thanksgiving in Korea

Thanksgiving was last week, and this year we wanted to make it more special than last year’s (held in a bar, food straight out of a box, the only good part was that it was with friends!) When had heard about the American military base preparing a proper 10-12 person Thanksgiving meal for 100,000 won (about $100), we thought it was a great deal. (We were hoping for huge portions!) And they did not disappoint; there were about 20 people at this meal, some friends and others friends of friends. We ordered 2 meals and had more than enough food. It was a fantastic time; before eating, we went around the table and said what we are thankful for – about halfway through, we laughed at how we forgot to introduce ourselves and state our names. Ate three different kinds of pie, and truly enjoyed the magic of the day.

Setting the table

So much good food!

After last year's Thanksgiving meal, I refused to eat with plasticware on paper plates.

For dessert: Homemade pumpkin pie, apple pie, and pecan pie!

We ate dinner at our friend's house - this is her dog, Mandu.

And now it’s the Christmas season! I went to Daiso, the dollar store in Korea, and bought fun decorations to get into the holiday spirit. Last year, I blinked and Christmas passed. This year, I want to enjoy the season as much as possible. And of course, make it fun for my students. 🙂

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Birthday Weekend

My birthday was November 16th, and Andy’s the 23rd, so we decided to have a joint birthday celebration from the 19th-20th. 10 of us rented a pension in Danyang, a really beautiful part of South Korea. We met early Saturday morning, took a bus from Seoul to Danyang, and after some grocery shopping…

took a taxi to Hongbongwha pension.

After putting the food away, we were on our way to Gosu cave.

Then, had a barbeque dinner:
It was so windy that the pension staff gave us blankets to wear!
And finally, we drank and ate birthday cake with friends.

During the fun, the curtain rod randomly fell. There were numerous holes in the wall and it was impossible to fix – luckily, the pension owners were nice about it – it must have happened often with how many holes were drilled in the wall!

It was a great weekend away from Seoul – the air was so crisp and clean! Danyang itself was a small, cute town.

The bridge leading out of Danyang town.

On Sunday, we hiked around the pension and took a bus back to Seoul.

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What to do on a rainy Saturday in Busan

Last weekend, Amy, Lin, Andy, Naomi and I traveled to Busan to see their annual fireworks festival. Last year, Naomi, Amy and I really enjoyed it, so we were excited to return. We took the Mugungwha train on Friday night. At 5 hours, it’s slower than the 2 1/2 hour KTX, but half the price, so we were sold.

Lin booked a great room earlier in the week, and it was only a 3-minute walk to Gwanganli beach (where the fireworks were taking place)! It was great, except for the fact it rained all day Saturday.

So instead of seeing famous places like Taejongdae and Gamcheong 2-dong, we spent the day indoors:

1. Ate a nice, hot breakfast at the Wolfhound (near Haeundae beach). Amy and I were both craving a Western breakfast, so this was perfect.

2. Went to the movies. We watched Paranormal Activity 3. Good stuff.

3. Had tarot done. Amy had never done this, and since Lin was with us, he could translate. 1 word: Whatajoke. Even though I still kind of like this stuff.

4. Went back to Gwanganli. Ate Pajeon and drank Makgeolli for dinner. Yum.

5. Found a spot on the beach – which was easy to do because the rain stopped just minutes before – drank and enjoyed the fireworks.

It was a good weekend despite the weather. Good friends, good fun.

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Field Trip to the 63 Building

Last week was midterms, and yesterday was a holiday (National Foundation Day). The school pays for a field trip after midterms and finals, so I met the 1st (7th) graders and other teachers at the 63 building today. I went there in July, but it was cloudy, so this was a great opportunity. Oh, and it was free! Doubly awesome.

First, we went to the observatory. The 63 Building is on Yeouido, an island in the middle of Seoul. This island is a major business area (a lot of men and women in suits :)).

After the observatory, we checked out the aquarium. In this area, they were filming a Korean drama, and my female students were excited. After that, we checked out the wax museum. I seem to only have pictures of the observatory and aquarium here (others are on my phone), but it was a great day! The best part was my students all said hi to me throughout the day – 400 1st graders. Some bowed/some waved and said hi. My co-teacher mentioned it seemed like I was a celebrity. I think they just liked seeing the native English teacher in regular clothes. 😀

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Temple stay

Last weekend, I went on a temple stay to Haeinsa, one of the most famous Buddhist temples in South Korea. It’s located in Gyeongsang province (about a 4 hour bus ride from Seoul). I met my friends Naomi and Theresa at the bus station early Saturday morning, and we arrived at the temple a little after 4:00pm. We changed into the temple stay clothes (really comfortable!) and began the stay.

The temple stay was in English and German; the monk spoke English, and we were with a group of middle-aged people who spoke German. It was fun because whatever the Korean woman translated into German, Naomi could translate into English for us! The first day, we talked about how to act around the temple (how to greet the monks, etc), we ate dinner, and got acclimated. We went to sleep at 9:00pm, and woke up at 3:00am!

Sunday morning, we watched the monks beat drums, had a meeting with our group, did 108 bows, and meditated. After that, we had an hour break, ate breakfast and had a tour of the temple. The pictures are from that tour. At the end of the tour, we were lucky to see the Tripitaka Koreana, which will be closed to the public beginning next year in order to preserve it. The monk said the mixture of cold air from the top of the mountain and warm air from the base make it an environment which insects don’t like, so it helps in preservation. One of the men in the group said it was moved to a high-tech preservation lab, and it actually did worse and was moved back to Haeinsa!

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Muuido Camping

Muuido, an island near Incheon, is a great camping area and it’s easy to get to from Seoul! My friends and I went there the weekend before last to celebrate our friend Amy’s birthday. In the end, we chose to stay in a pension (we bought a lot of food and needed utensils, a refrigerator, etc), but we want to return in the spring and camp in these huts:

We had a great time; grilled dinner, made s’mores (substituting those diget cookies for graham crackers worked well), did cartwheels in the sand, played with fireworks, and ate cake with chopsticks. Yum.


Welcome to Muuido!

At least it looked pretty for a while. 🙂

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After a 2 month hiatus…

I’m ready to start blogging again. I’ll be honest, most of it is for my family and friends, and just to give you short updates here. So, here’s the past 2 months in a few bullets as I could find:

1. Finished district summer camp. It was great! The evening of the last day of camp, I was on a plane home for a 2 1/2 week vacation.

2. Home was WONDERFUL! Took a roadtrip to Toronto with a couple of friends, and enjoyed much-needed family time. But in the end, was ready to return to Seoul.

3. Had a surprise at the airport. Also, my students were excited to see me again! I had missed them too.

4. September 10-14: Chuseok weekend (Korean thanksgiving). The evening of September 9, I got lasek. Recovered for the next 5 days. Now I have almost perfect vision (it will become perfect in about 2 weeks). I was pretty much laying in bed all weekend, but it was worth it! I got some information here and had a great experience. The doctor spoke English and walked me through each step of the procedure. Had a long recovery period, but was taken care of. All is well now. 🙂

5. Finally visited the “House of Sharing.” I first heard about the comfort women after my first blog post (before coming to Korea), and I’m glad I finally made this trip. The 2 people giving the tour, about in their mid-20s, knew so much information on this issue. It was informative and saddening. To anyone living in Korea, I highly recommend this experience.

A typical room for the women.

This depicts what the women wanted for their lives.

This shows what the women experienced in their lives.

Part of the museum.

Will update again soon! It is so good to be back.

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