Saturday, April 27, 2013

Korea From My Phone

Super sweet and friendly dog near our apartment. If I walk past, I always stop for a few pets and to be jumped on!

We went and camped on a beach for a friend's birthday a month ago. It was cold, windy and miserable but for a while the wind died down, we lit a fire and had a great time. Then the police came, told us to move, it started rainy and was miserable again. Fun times!

Check out what I found at our local Emart for $1.60. Wish they had the black version though. Mmm.

Exercise machines at the park in town also come with a kid-friendly seat. I thought that when you pedaled  the seat might spin around but no such luck (I'd make a terrible parent).

Tom and I went to the local university campus for some Quiznos (Subway-esque sandwiches) and walked home the long way. We spotted this cat exploring the rice paddies and nearly, nearly got a cuddle! See if you can spot us in that photo.

One of the glories of spring! Umbrella Condoms! You put your umbrella in them and it prevents dripping, hurr hurr. 

Yesterday I left school, and this cutie (who couldn't have been older than three) was minding his toddler sibling. I was looking for their parents and waved, and got a big wave and an 'ANNYEONG!' from the kid in the pram, and a proper bow and 'ANNYEONGHASEYO!' from the babysitter. It was so impossibly cute and refreshing - most kids are a little scared of me - that I forgot to change out of my work shoes. I had to walk back to school which prompted another round of bows, waves, and 'ANNYEONG!'s and then my brain exploded from cuteness. I'm dead now.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Flower Through Concrete

Korean winter is so bleak and miserable and cold and awful that spring arriving is just positively joyous. I think because New Zealand weather is so changeable all year round, I don't appreciate the difference between seasons because it's relatively imperceptible. In Korea, it feels as if a day ago it was winter, and now it's spring, and when summer hits it's the same - one day it's breezy and cool, the next it's humid and awful. It's odd having such defined seasons.

Anyway, the best thing about spring is undoubtedly the blossoms. In Buan we had to go to Gimje to see them, but Jecheon's main street is lined with beautiful, petal-laden trees. Cheongpung Lake is also ringed with cherry blossom trees - we were going to visit over the weekend, but it rained on Saturday and then when a ten minute bus ride took thirty minutes because of insane traffic, we decided to just appreciate the flowers near our apartment instead.

My phone is utterly crammed with pictures, here's a few of the ones I really like.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Stuff and Things

I've kinda dropped out of this blogging malarkey. Not that I've been hugely busy - I have been busy though, doing courses part-time online, dealing with my co-teacher going on maternity leave and training her replacement, maintaining a social life - but busy in Korea isn't anything like busy in other parts of the world.

This week my students have mid-term exams, and like every other time they have exams it involves two lessons pre-exam where the teacher goes over everything in the exam to ensure all students pass, even if all they're doing is memorising the answers they've been given. Mercifully, this is handled by the Korean teacher so I have three days of deskwarming and time to do all the things I've actually had time to do anyway.

A couple of weekends ago I was visited by my friend Abi who I went to high school and worked with in Whangarei. Abi was on her way to the UK where she's doing her obligatory OE and she got cheap-ish flights through Seoul. I bussed up to meet her on Friday night where we crammed ALL OF THE THINGS into a weekend.

We stayed in the Jongno area - cheap love motels, history, street food - and hit up my favourite touristy spots. We went to Insadong and Ssamziegil, the latter has recently installed a kind of 'lover's walk' a bit like Namsan Tower (fourth picture down). Instead of locks of love, couples can buy small plastic disks and tie them to the walls of this walk. I went a few months ago and the walls were patchy and barren, but since November they've been utterly covered.  

The Saturday was unfortunately a bit rainy and miserable, so we trudged around under $3 umbrellas which broke shortly after purchase. Very close to Insadong is Bukchon Hanok Village, a suburb full of traditional Korean houses (Hanok) which is actually really ritzy. I always get a kick out of the traditional juxtaposed with the new so fingerprint ID locking systems on an intricately carved Korean gate just tickles me pink.

We walked around for an hour or so, stopping briefly in an odd little museum/hanok where we saw small carved wooden figurines and Abi got to try on a hanbok - traditional Korean clothing.

As we left the village to head back to Insadong, Abi was interviewed by a middle school student about her reasons for visiting. Sometimes it's frustrating - like yesterday, when I was having a discussion with my friends, and the neighbouring table kept asking us weird questions - but generally I really get a kick out of letting people try out their English on me. The student's Mum asked us for a picture so I got one too!

Later in the evening I got a chance to do something touristy I've neglected since settling in to Korean life - the night-time Seoul bus tour. I've wanted to do it for yonks! Unfortunately it wasn't the best, maybe because it was ridiculously rainy and I was freezing. The highlight was Namsan Tower, but we only got a ten minute stop there, and it's a 6 minute walk to the tower from the car park! We took a few quick snaps, I like this one of the tower in the fog.

We spent Saturday night eating tasty food and drinking soju at two different DVD Bangs, before rising at a respectable hour (cough, cough, super late) to explore on Sunday. Fortunately the sun was out and it was reasonably warm. We visited Gyeongbokgung and saw a few spring blossoms, it was beautiful! 

Abi's a big sports fan so after the palace we hopped on the subway and headed to Jamsil Sports Complex for some baseball. I really enjoy the games here and was pleased we'd decided to go - the stadium was absolutely packed and we ended up blocking a stairway, clutching tallboys of beer and cheering on the Doosan Bears.

We left a little early to skip the crowds and went to our last stop - Gangnam. It's kinda compulsory to visit thanks to .... that song... but there's still some cool stuff to do. We went to a cat cafe I'd visited in Korea part 1, and they had new cats! I've never been particular about wanting to own a certain breed of cat but after this visit I really, really, hopelessly want a Scottish Fold. They're just so boss. This grey guy clearly owned the place and was the main focus of my affection.

I had a last meal of Shabu Shabu with Abi (we crammed in SO much food, it was extraordinary) before heading home on the 9pm bus and being zonked for the week following. It was a great weekend, and big thank-yous to Abi for being my test audience for Korean travel. My lovely friend Steph is visiting in June so I've got another subject to try out before setting up a travel agency!