After giving it more thought, riding bikes along the river reminded me a lot of Japan.
We haven’t gone exploring in a while. Seems like for the past couple months the weekends have been filled with trips to Busan and us moving to our current place. Those things combined with how hot it’s been getting makes us really just want to sit on this couch in front of the fan and watch CSI (super popular in SK).
But yesterday, we had enough! We referred to this CNN article, 50 Beautiful Places to Visit in Korea, and looked for something that was in driving distance. The Juknokwon, Damyang (담양 죽녹원) caught our attention because it fit our two criteria: (looked) free and outdoors. Aurora marked it on her google maps and we set off towards the west with the iphone telling us where to go.
We got to Damyang about an hour and a half later. It was way farther than we had initially thought but I had a full tank of gas and we had never been anywhere past Suncheon before.
Since we haven’t been exploring in a while, the first thing that hit me was how many people were there. Took me about 30 seconds to become complacent with it.
After I got over the crowds and people in high heels, I really felt like I was in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon or House of Flying Daggers (links to the clips if you grew up in a non-Asian environment).
Walking through the paths I couldn’t help but wonder what Koreans were saying about the forest. I was comparing it to Chinese kung-fu movies. Were they recalling the same? Or maybe they it reminded them of some drama? Was everyone around me really just saying, “Wow, nice bamboo.” or “I like this bamboo forest.”?
Anyways, after the forest we rented bikes for an hour and rode alongside the river. I felt like I was in Amsterdam. I just associate riding a bike along a river with Amsterdam even though I’ve never been there. In very Korean fashion, the bike path also doubled as a rode for cars who didn’t want to drive on the normal road that was only 10 feet away.
We decided to get some food at this restaurant along the river (Koreans love eating outside). The usually procedure for us when we walk into an unknown restaurant involves a lot of “Ummms . . ” and “Uhhhhs . .” while we sound out their entire menu out loud. Most food establishments in SK have a specialty and most of the time it’s a regional thing. So we’re thinking, “Oh, they have some kind of bamboo dish here.” Too bad we don’t know what the Korean word for bamboo is. We ended up getting this noodle soup, the kind that we get for lunch at school. Good thing is that it was only 3,500 won, around $3.
We did get some bamboo flavored ice cream later so that was good enough.
Aurora wants to go back but I don’t know if I’d want to drive that far (250km) again. The plan is to use the bamboo forest as the farthest point of interest and try to find more places around us within that boundary. Hope we find someplace for next week.
Last week, Aurora and I made one year teaching English in Korea. The experience so far is really difficult to describe in a short time and I’m sure I’m be rambling on and on to people back home when I visit in a month. I don’t think that Id be able to organize my thoughts neatly in a blog post, so I’ll probably stop talking about it right now.
I wanted to talk about how I’m going to REALLY REALLY try to post more. One common type of site that Aurora and I like to frequent when we have free time is travel sites. Being in Korea has opened up so many opportunities to travel more, be it around South Korea itself or it’s neighboring countries. I mean even though we’ve been here for an entire year, there are a lot of places in Korea that we have yet to see. And guess what we do when we think of somewhere to see for the first time. . . we google it! There’s already a ton of info on Korea from the bazillion other travel/Korea/English teacher people, but why not just add another.
We guarantee have one more year here which means one more year with this blog. I’d really like it to be something that we can look back on and ogle over for hours. I need more posts to do that though so more posts there will be! Ultimate goal would be for this blog to get popular enough where it would be able to support me financially, allowing me to be location independent which means I can travel anywhere I want. Got to start somewhere though.
There’s about 2 more months left on this 1 year contract. It’s nuts to think that I’ve been in Korea for almost a year now. Everything has just been so normal. I’d rather internet-zombie in my free time at school than update this blog . But I guess I could give some updates on a few things. I’m already getting so bored of the sites that I usually browse through that I’ve brought my laptop to school to watch movies. That last thing is not part of the aforementioned “updates”, but just a little nugget that I thought I’d throw in.
I like it. Nothing really to complain about. I’ve accepted that kids are kids and to not let it get to me when they act like it. For every time that they are super rowdy, or someone starts crying, or they don’t listen, they do something funny that kind of almost makes up for it. It’s not like 50 to 50 or anything but it’s a more healthy way to deal with kids.
I’ve grown accustomed to the school routine and am rushing to prepare for classes 10 minutes before they start. The job itself it not really hard when you think about it. I’m at a school for about 40 hours a week but only actually teach half the time, about 20 something 40 minute classes a week. Also, English is not really a super important subject so every week a couple classes or, maybe even sometimes, entire classes will just get cancelled. Like right now. It’s “Sports Day” practice day. Actual sports day is next week. All 3 schools that I’m at have been practicing for sports day for the last week or so. They play sports on that day but also do performances for their parents and whoever else is there. Closest thing I can liken it to it May Day. I don’t have any classes today. Yesterday, 2 were cancelled. My teacher just called me on the phone and said I can take a rest today. Earlier he told me that I’d have 2 classes today.
Shit always changes on the fly. If they tell me that I have no classes, I’ll still be ready for some just in case. It’s like the faculty just plans every single day by ear. Most days, everything is the same. Sometimes there’s something to do which fucks everything up and English is usually pushed aside to make room. Fine with me!
Not work time consists of a lot of tv shows. I finally found a way to unblock Netflix and Hulu so Aurora and I are on top of all these shows that I never used to keep track of. Also, Korea loves American crime shows. There’s always a station playing some CSI variant. I recently found that they have the history channel too but it’s not the one that I fell in love with in high school. There are too many barely history related reality shows now. I just want modern marvels.
We eat a lot. I think we eat very healthy. We use the shit out of this new smoothie maker. We’re good at buying groceries. Every single time I’m in the kitchen I wish that it was a foot bigger and fridge normal sized. We don’t drink that often but if we do it’s usually makgeolli or Dry Finish. Soju is so hard to drink.
Weekends are pretty normal. I still think that buying a car was the smartest thing to do and sometimes we’ll go somewhere we haven’t been and take pictures that you will only get to see on your tiny phone screen. It’s spring over here so there are a lot of festivals going on. At first it was like, “Oh cool, something to do.” But now we kind of avoid it. I already get agitated trying to navigate my cart through a busy grocery store on the weekend. Korean festivals are just like that x’s a 100. The reason for the festival doesn’t really make up for the amount of time and energy it takes to experience it. Might I add too that Koreans are the worst drivers in the world so I really want to kill myself if I get caught in traffic. Just driving around the country and looking for cool things (which we usually do find) is what I think constitutes a fun weekend.
NOT ABLE TO CATEGORIZE
I’m sad that I won’t be able to stay at my current schools for another contract. The school board is cutting back on foreign English teachers so I am currently looking for another place to teach at. I went to an interview at an after school hagwon (private school) but think that I’d rather stay in the public school system. I think it’s pretty interesting that I’m looking for a job in a foreign country. I think it’s cool to say that I’m an expatriate.
I changed my 2 front tires and brake pads and it came out to 170,000 won. I was apparently given a discount of 20,000 but I have no idea what anyone is saying to me ever. I always think about all the times that I’ve worked in retail and had to interact with tourists who couldn’t speak an English at all. I’m that person over here.
Aurora and I have been living in a tiny studio apartment this entire time and want to move to a bigger place next contract. We wanted to move to Jinju, the closest real city, but now I don’t even know where I’m going to work so I think we’re just going to stay out here in the country. I really want a bigger kitchen.
Making almost a year means that for the first time, I’ll have properly experienced all 4 seasons. Being out in the country, the effects of the seasons are very noticeable and makes the scenery even more nice to look at. I’ll sometimes ALMOST think that overall Korea looks nicer than Hawaii.
I can’t help but notice this word counter and see that it is already past 1000. I guess that’s good enough for now. I’ll post pictures once I get my flickr account all sorted out. I might as well just make a new one already. Their customer support sucks (Yahoo).
Three weeks ago I said I’d post 2 entries a week. I’ve posted zero. You’d think being at school with absolutely nothing to do would produce some quality posts. I even brought my laptop to school one day to edit pics. Here are some random ones.
I somehow got Aurora to go outside in the snow. She hates snow.
Aurora’s camera: Sony Nex-5r
We have this tourist map of our area of Korea, Gyeongsangnam, that we use to explore when we don’t feel like going to Jinju or Busan. Since we’re on the bottom of the peninsula we’re surrounded by a lot of islands, beaches, and bays. On this day we decided to go to the neighboring province of Sacheon to see Elephant Rock. There isn’t much to say about it. It honestly sounded cool on the map but since Korea as a country is pretty small they tend to make big deals out of whatever things, I guess to make it seem like there is a lot to see. If there was something like it in Hawaii it would probably only be known by locals and never shared with tourists. Anyways, we drove down to Namildae Beach, walked a little bit to the rock, felt underwhelmed, and then left. We kind of have a good/bad habit of leaving for our weekend excursions late so we get to wherever we want to be in the afternoon. While it only gives us a couple hours to explore we get sick golden hour light for us to take masterful pictures. This is what we do almost every weekend. We find something interesting on the map and drive to it.
Oh my goodness, I can’t believe it’s been this long since we’ve (mainly me) posted anything. Sorry, internet. We’ve been doing a lot of things but just really haven’t had the time to put anything on here. A lot of it stems from the prior thought that wordpress was banned on our computers at school. And while that is still half true, I’ve found a way to at least login and post stuff.
We’ll be hitting the 7th month mark this month and with it, the longest continuous work stretch ever. Three months of work. 8-5 Monday-Friday. We’re always cold. We’re always tired. We’re dead. So thank God (capital G) that a super long time ago he impregnated a virgin to have his baby boy born into the world of mortals! Yes, I am talking about tomorrow which is Christmas! Jesus Christ! For me, it’s the start of my winter vacation (sorry, Rora). I’ve been waiting for forever (3 months) for this.
It’s a different Christmas for sure. I’m in Korea. Rarely do I see anything that reminds me that it’s Christmas.<RELEVANT CROSS CULTURAL OBSERVATION> I find it interesting that although Korea has a way higher population of Christians than Japan, the latter has it way more commercialized than the former. In Korea, it is still seen as a mainly religious holiday while the Japanese see it as a day to make money. Korea has the day off while not so in Japan. </END> Besides the ornaments that my mom sent me, nothing in our tiny apartment resembles Christmas (although I did try to buy some lights but they came without any way to turn them on). There aren’t really any Christmas foods that Aurora and I can eat to feel like it’s Christmas. I work today on Christmas Eve and might be at school again the day after Christmas. Aurora and I went to a Christmas party with the other foreigners around us but just got super drunk (first time drinking soju + beer). So yeah, it has really made me think of what I think Christmas is. I’m not quite sure yet but will probably have a better idea in the following week or so. I do feel a little affected when I see pictures of my family all eating local food together or a beach but not really jealous instead more like good for you.
So anyways, back to the title of this post. From now until we leave for Singapore and Malaysia (Jan 19), I will be at Gojeon Elementary School doing almost nothing. I have to plan for the vacation and maybe learn more Korean but I will probably be 1 of only 3 people at school. I’m using all my vacation days to travel and must stay in school even though there will not be any classes. Tomorrow, Aurora and I will drive to Namhae in hopes of a more Christmas-ey environment (German and American Village). After that I promise at least 2 posts a week with pictures!
Even though we don’t post on this blog we’re always taking pictures as can be seen here.
Aurora and I meet Ben in Seoul. Fly to Manila. Try to sleep at Manila Airport. Fly to Singapore. Spend about 3 days in Singapore. Take a train to Malaysia. Spend the rest of time getting nuts around Malaysia (about 8 days). Fly from Kuala Lumpur to Seoul. Hang out in Seoul for a couple of days. Average temperature for Malaysia around the time that we’ll be there is in the high 80’s. Seoul will literally be freezing. We’re going from humid jungle heat to fricking freezing might be snowing cold.
2 more months!