Wednesday, September 25, 2013


It's taken me too long between posts again, but whatever! Before Tom jetted off to Mexico we went to Thailand for 10 days and spent most of it on Koh Phangan (the time not spent on Koh Phangan was travelling to and from our house and the island!). 

We've been to Thailand before but this was our first time on Phangan - home of the full moon party and a bunch of Australians in fluoro. We opted out of staying at Haad Rin, the main beach, instead booking at Thong Yang Bungalows which fit our three criteria - cheap, right on the beach and good food. 

We fought over the hammock quite a bit.
The beach itself was lovely but the swimming was a bit crap -very shallow and painfully rocky. Here's the view at low tide, right before the full moon.

We still had a marvellous time. Tom planned out his Mexico travels and I read 5 books and we both drank a bunch of beer and Sangsom and ate a lot of the delicious food offered up by the restaurant at Thong Yang. The owners had a few dogs including two very cute puppies who spend most of our vacation fighting each other. 

The sunset from our/my apartment isn't great, so it was nice to bask in a few good ones while we were there.

I also celebrated my 29th birthday! Tom and I went to an awesome beachfront restaurant and I got to eat one of my favourite foods - laab gai. A dish which can only really be described in a gross way - meat salad. I also had a delectably spicy ginger mojito AND there was a surprise market in the town next to the restaurant so we loaded up on cheap pad thai, peanut satay and mango sticky rice to take back to our bungalow for a midnight snack. Awesome.

We didn't stay cooped up in the bungalow the whole time. We visited Haad Rin twice - it's gorgeous, but I wouldn't want to stay there unless I was an insane party animal. Surprise! I'm not.

The first time we visited, those dark clouds in the photo above burst into one of the most intense rain storms I've ever seen. Tom and I were stuck in a bar overlooking the beach for a good few hours waiting for it to let up! After it eased, the bay was especially pretty - a big rainbow arching through the sky, the sand dazzlingly white against the dark clouds... great stuff. 10/10, would visit again. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Back to it.

Sorry for the giant delay. My last post was in May and then things got hectic. June was maybe one of the busiest months I've had in several years, July was a giant puddle of heat and melting and August included a 10 day trip to Thailand for my birthday. We're now twelve days into September and I feel like I should update anyone who uses this blog to keep tabs on me and Tom and our Korean life and such. 

On the first day of June, Tom and I hosted the first of four Come Dine with Me dinners, based on the TV show which is linked in that highlighted text. My sister has these dinners in New Zealand, and because Tom gets a kick out of cooking AND editing video, we set up a challenge with four teams that stretched out over two months because of how busy our June was. We cooked French food, mostly Tom but I helped a little and we came in third place. Tom made an excellent (profanity laden) video of the experience which can be found here.

Also in June we were lucky enough to be visited by not one, not two but THREE people. First to stop in was Tom's Dad, Martin, who managed to score bargain return trip tickets through Grabaseat and visited for about ten days. He mostly hung out in Jecheon seeing a few sights but we ventured to Seoul during the weekends. A highlight was seeing The Garden of Morning Calm again. It's gorgeous but stinking hot in early summer. 

A slightly less expected highlight was seeing ten thousand people inflate plastic shopping bags, tie them up and put them on their heads. This happened at a Seoul vs Busan baseball game, I expressed confusion to one of my baseball crazed students who assured me it was all fine and normal. Quite.

A week after Martin's departure we were joined by our lovely friends Steph and Ollie who arrived separately from the UK on their ways back to New Zealand and Australia respectively. Steph and I had a great weekend in Seoul visiting Lotte World and catching up and while I was working during the week Steph even managed a day trip to Haesindang Park!

Steph's first Korean Barbecue!

On the log flume at Lotte World. 
The four of us (Tom, Steph, Ollie and me) spent a weekend in Seoul visiting all our favourite hotspots and only hotspots as it was a mean 32 degrees. I got a nasty ear infection but wasn't too sad about it as it meant sitting in an air conditioned Doctors office while Steph, Ollie and Tom looked through Gyeongbukgung Palace in searing heat.

At Vinyl - our favourite Hongdae bar.
In between drinking (to keep hydrated, I swear) we went to a cat cafe, a dog cafe, ate at a few good restaurants and did as much walking as we could stand. After several cat cafe visits I've learned that your best bet for some cat action is to buy food and you're immediately the Pied Piper of cats, at least until the food runs out.

After the insanity of June, July is a bit of a hazy blur. It got stupidly hot and we ended up not really cleaning our apartment for two months as moving away from our fans was too difficult. We did enjoy a few lovely trips to Taksajeong - a swimming hole about 15 minutes out of Jecheon and we cat-sat for a week too.

Taksajeong! Small middle school contingent using the rope swing on the left.
Our house guest, Talia.
We also had some really crappy news in July. Tom and I intended to renew for another year in Jecheon. My renewal went fine, but Tom's school told the Education Office they didn't want to keep him on. The non-renewal was handled really, really poorly - I knew before Tom did for some stupid reason. We spent July trying to get Tom another position in Jecheon and couldn't, and Tom was never really given a decent or understandable reason for not being renewed.

Korean public school contracts usually don't get renewed for one of three reasons - the person they've hired is a complete dropkick, the school has run out of money or someone higher-up isn't a fan of the employee in question. For various reasons I'd say the answer is behind door #3, as there's another teacher at Tom's school now and I believe my boyfriend is an awesome dude. It's been pretty tough for both of us. For various reasons, I've elected to stay on and Tom left on September 1st. He's now in Mexico doing cool things and making me jealous. I'm adjusting to living by myself and looking forward to seeing both my sisters in a mere two weeks!

I posted above that we spent time in Thailand, will make a separate blog post about that in due time.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Things for sale

Below are clothes for sale. If you're interested, PM me on Waygook. I may not see if you comment here.

Prices and sizes are listed, everything is from a clean, smoke-free home. Postage is a flat 5,000 within Korea and I will combine postage if you buy more than one item. Pick up is from Jecheon in Chungbuk, 40 mins from Wonju.

ASOS halter tankini set, 5,000 won. UK 20, worn twice and in excellent condition.

 Korean no-brand cardigan. 5,000 won. No size but fits me and buttons up. Very warm and comfy.

 Glassons (NZ brand) orange cardigan. Size 16 but fits me!

ASOS Curve 3/4 sleeve blouse. UK 22. 5,000 won.

 Kathmandu (NZ) Altica Thermal sweater. XXL. 5,000 won

Spotty shift dress. Made in Vietnam, a little faded but in great condition. 5,000 won.
 ASOS stretch party dress, UK 20. More orange than the picture. 5,000 won.

No label knit sweater, bought on Gmarket. 2,000 won. Free size, very stretchy.

 ASOS short-sleeved peplum dress in forget me not print. UK 20. Peplum is hard to photograph so it's flipped up. 5,000 won.
 Cort CM 15G amp. Great condition. Free but pick up only.

Friday, May 31, 2013

My Workplace

It's kinda weird for me that I first wrote about my classroom nearly three years ago. Some days it feels like I've been in Korea this whole time, and our 5 months travelling + 6 months in New Zealand were just glorious dreams featuring inexpensive sauvignon blanc and restaurants that serve food other than Korean or 'western.' This time around I don't have the luxury of an English Room so I spend most of my days in the Kyumushil - teacher's room or 'Kyocera office' according to Google translate.

I recently gave up school lunches and while everyone was out eating cafeteria food I took a few pictures to show y'all. The lunch thing was a long time coming - last year I loved them, this year I'd been living on kimchi and rice and trying not to kill everyone when my blood sugar crashes at 3:30pm every day. It's been a month off the cafeteria and I feel happy, healthy and more tolerant of late afternoons. I do get stared at a lot more and I've had to explain what couscous and quinoa are to my workmates.

This is the view from the office - my co-teachers desks and the school field. For the first 6 weeks of my employment, the kids gathered here every day and sang and danced to Gangnam Style. It was hell.

My vice principal sits at the head of the room, in front of a board which covers the monthly events and the breakdown of students per class. Currently we stand at 1170 students, I teach 446 of them. I probably know around ten by name. Jangnak's the biggest school in Jecheon and we have a lot of students, but we had a hundred more last year - evidence of Korea's declining birth rate. 

Sorry so blurry!
My desk has a delightful view of shelves stacked with books I have never seen anyone even touch. The yellow cushion on my chair plugs into a USB port on my computer and heats up! It was an absolute lifesaver - even in -14 degree temperatures, the office windows and doors are opened daily to air the place out. Having a completely hot butt was amazing.

My desk is always this messy, much to the delight of my neat-as-a-pin co-teacher.

For a peek into my classroom (which I put on Facebook last week) here's a pic of my students. To indicate they've finished work, they either have to put their hands on their head, make a sign language turtle - like this, do a Vulcan Hand Salute or their favourite - Batman faces!

It's my favourite too. 

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!