Posts Tagged Korea

Wrap-Up

This blog should have been written months ago, but maybe I’ve needed some time to process…

Traveling in South East Asia was amazing.  Words do not capture the beauty I have seen in Thailand and Cambodia.  I never imagined myself going to either of these countries, or even Korea for that matter, but I am very glad I got to experience them with Seth.  I am forever changed.

One year in Korea and it feels like a dream.  That’s the only way to describe my time there.  I have been home for several months now and when I speak of Korea, it feels like some wild amusement park ride.  That “thing” I did last year.  It doesn’t feel like real life to me for some reason.

Here in the States there are responsibilities and commitments.  I have to pay soo much money to have a phone, computer access and gas for my car.  The few responsibilities I had in Korea were minor and without serious consequences.  That was a major change from my life prior to moving to Korea.  I learned how to relax and chill out, finally.

I am happy to be able to shop for clothes and shoes again.  That part is nice.  I also enjoy having a full kitchen again with the ability to cook just about anything I want to eat.  Most of all, I’m happy that I get to see my nephew and the rest of my family.  It’s difficult to be away from the people I love.

People ask me if I would recommend moving to Korea and teaching for a year… I say, Go for it!  The money is great and you might get lucky to meet some fantastic people in the process.  Just keep an open mind and be willing to try new things.  Before Korea I had never eaten fish with the head and tail still attached, I had never eaten soo much cabbage in my life (and if I ever eat cabbage again, it’ll be too soon), and I had never seen soo many men wearing pink sparkle ties.

The world is a giant place and I think it’s wonderful to experience as much as possible.

Peace

I will be teaching Science at my Alma Mater!  Life goes on and I’m excited about my next adventure.  I’m also working on a food blog.  Since I won’t be traveling the globe eating exotic cuisine, I decided to write about my own culinary masterpieces.

Thanks for following along on my journey.  It’s been a wild and wonderful ride.

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Leaving Korea

Things you should know when leaving Korea after a year of teaching…

I did alot of research about leaving Korea and things that needed to be taken care of or completed before making the final plane voyage out of Kimchistan.  Most of what I found was conflicting information or outdated.

I can tell you that the date on your Alien Registration Card (ARC) is very important.

We were told that we had a week or so after our final working day to leave Korea without a penalty.  This is wrong!  You must be at the airport by midnight of the ending date on your ARC.  This date will vary from your actual Visa dates, but they will go by the date on your ARC.  Things I read online were that the dates aren’t important and that it is up to the airport staff as to whether you pay a fine or if they let you pass through.  Most things I read told me not to worry, told me to leave whenever.

If your current employer in Korea does not renew your ARC, then you are overstaying your visa even if it’s only by 1 day.  Our employer told us that things would be fine.  He either lied or didn’t know.  I suspect that he did know, but wanted us to continue working that final day.

At the airport, it took us almost three hours to go through security because of the stupid one day over on our ARC.  We were shuffled to various offices, filled out various documents, and received a nasty stamp in our passport that says we overstayed our visa.  They were going to make us pay $150 each, but they would have had to hold the plane for us to have enough time to give them money.  So, instead of holding the plane they made us run to our terminal.  We actually had to RUN through the airport to make our flight.  It was awful.  We were the last people on the plane and everyone was upset with us.

Keep in mind that we each had a carry on bag, laptop bag AND guitar case!  Seth had his original acoustic and I had his newly acquired Korean Bass guitar.

All of this just made me happy that I was leaving Korea.  I was no longer sad.

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Goodbye Sanbon

One year has come and gone.

I can’t believe how quickly time passes!  Time really does fly when you’re having fun.  :mrgreen:

The past week has been a whirlwind of emotions.  I’m thrilled to be that much closer to getting back home, sad to be leaving my Korea friends, will miss the yummy food, but super excited to be traveling for a while.   Other than friends and family nothing makes me more happy than seeing new places and experiencing different cultures.

Packing our belongings up has been a draining task.  I’m still not sure I have everything I need… and have probably forgotten something seriously important.  But, there’s no time to dwell.  The plane leaves in about 10 hours.

Thai food here I come!

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Fish are Eating My Feet! Nom Nom!

I have always wanted to visit one of those strange cafes that have tanks of fish you put your feet into.  Before coming to Korea, I saw them online and thought it would be fun.  After 11 months, I finally made the trip.

Tiny fish nibble dead skin off your feet.  Sounds weird, but feels even weirder.

These cafe/spas are found throughout Southeast Asia.  Special kinds of fish eat only the dead skin, leaving healthy skin to grow.  Sometimes these fish are called Nibble Fish but commonly are called Doctor Fish. A franchise here in Korea even calls itself the Dr. Fish cafe.

Step 1:

Wash your feet.

Step 2:

Put feet into the tub of fish.

Step 3:

Wait…as fish eat your feet. Nom nom nom. Okay, not actually your feet, just the dead skin on your feet.

The fish tickle your feet as they nibble, but not to the point of actual laughter.  More like a bit of the ‘pins and needles’ sensation.  Sometimes my foot was completely covered in tiny fish; but most time, was more like 6 or 7 fish.  Overall, the experience was pleasant if weird.

Dr. Fish… success.    :smile:

This cafe in Beomgye was super cheap.  For 20 minutes of fish-time we paid a little less than $2.  Plus, they brought us free cokes.  How awesome!

I have heard that Dr. Fish cafes are all over Korea, but I haven’t seen very many.  Sanbon has one of these cafes, but all the fish died (must be dirty foreigner feet). They never replenished their fish supply.  Don’t really understand that one… considering the cafe is called the Dr. Fish Cafe.

Other than nibbling fish, the cafe offered a great selection of coffee and baked goods.

I have never put videos on my blog before… so I hope this works.  The bright red toenails are mine!

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2009 Comes to an End

2009 will always be my “Year in Korea.”  What a ride…

As much as I miss home, leaving will be difficult.  We have less than a month left in Korea. This year has flown by at race car speed,  the world just a blur of light whizzing around me.  So many amazing memories, so many amazing sights, so many amazing people.  I am truly blessed.

This New Year, we’ll miss the the iconic Times Square ball of light and various over-the-top musical performances.

Instead, we’ll ring in the New Year Korean-style and watch (on television) the striking of the Boshingak Bell.  This massive bell is struck 33 times by 16 different people (the # of people changes from year to year).  The bell ringers are members of a diverse, ever-changing group comprised of celebrities, dignitaries and common citizens.  As in New York, the ceremony will include over-the-top performances by today’s “It” K-Pop bands.

The traditional ringing of the bell originated in the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910). In the early Joseon period, bells at Seoul’s four main entrances and four small entrances were rung every morning and evening to notify the opening and closing of the gates. The bells sounded 33 times in the morning to start the day and 28 times in the evening to announce the curfew.

I put together a slide show of my favorite 2009 memories:

Finally, I’d like to share a few of my New Year’s resolutions with you. Sharing them makes it hard to break them.
Resolutions:
  1. Write letters/ post cards more often
  2. Be more patient with myself
  3. Seek out more live music
  4. Teach my dad how to use a computer
  5. Continue painting
  6. ?????  taking suggestions…

I hope everyone has a wonderful new year! Goodbye ’00s, hello ’10s.

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Christmas in Korea

Christmas in Korea is like any other day.

E-mart, along with every other store and shop in Sanbon, remained open.  Unsurprisingly, Koreans celebrate holidays quite differently than we do in the States.  There is a large Christian population (along with the Buddhists), but people don’t go wild with store closings or gift-buying. In America, Christmas is a huge commercial holiday with families spending hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on gifts.

When talking to my students, very few of them had Christmas trees. Even fewer said that they will get presents. Christmas is not a gift-giving holiday in Korea.

I also wasn’t bombarded with Christmas songs non-stop since the day after Halloween.  When I did hear the random Christmas song, I was surprisingly happy to hear it. Sometimes I sang along.   Back home, I get soo sick of Christmas music, hearing all the remakes of the same stupid songs, over and over again.

I did buy a tree.  Albeit a small tacky tree, but perfect in every way.  :razz:

Our director at work gave all the teachers cakes.  Seth got a bigger and different cake than the rest of the office.   His had a huge cookie on top. Mine was a cheesecake.  In the few days before Christmas, all the store windows were lined with red, green and blue boxes of cakes.  Everyone we passed on the street seemed to be carrying a cake too.  Instead of giving presents, I suppose giving cakes is an appropriate way to celebrate Christmas.

Christmas lights make me happy, but finding them in Seoul was a rarity.  When we did see twinkling lights, they were beautiful and reminded me of home.  Sanbon had no decorations of any kind.  These two pictures are from Itaewon and around City Hall.  Areas where foreigners frequent were the only areas decorated with Christmas cheer.

Hanging out with some friends of mine.  Just thought it was a cute pic.  It was a Christmas Eve Eve get-together.  :mrgreen:

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Thanksgiving in SK

Celebrating the holidays away from home is difficult.  Finding the perfect location to spend these home-away-from-home holidays is the key to happiness.

My friends decided to all head to the mountains for Thanksgiving.  There is an online group called ‘Meet Up’ and it organizes various outings for foreigners like me.  Around 50 people of various Western backgrounds, mostly American, spent an evening in a cabin eating turkey and singing songs.

It was a music filled adventure.

The cabin had a piano that one of the visitors played beautifully.  Seth brought his guitar and not only played solo but with piano accompaniment.  The owner of the cabin was an actual jazz musician and he played a few songs for us.  It was such an amazing surprise to listen to saxophone while chilling out after dinner.  Also, hidden away in the back of the cabin was an norebang!  Complete song list and videos.  Certainly didn’t see that one coming.

Thanksgiving in Korea… success.


Thanksgiving Dinner Menu:
Turkey *
Ham*
Gravy
Stuffing – 2 kinds*
Green bean casserole
Apple Crisp
Sweet potato casserole
Mashed potatoes
Macaroni and Cheese*
Pumpkin soup
7-Layer salad
Cranberry jelly*
Rolls*
Pumpkin pie*
Smores (by a bonfire)
* = from the Army Base
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War Memorial of Korea

Not that I like war, but the War Memorial of Korea was worth visiting.

Korea has long bloody history of battles and hardships.  The Memorial has done a wonderful job of displaying Korea’s strength and endurance.  This country has been invaded, attacked and colonized by other countries.  Still today, they feel the effects of the cold war being a divided country between North and South.  Through all this, the people of Korea have held onto their culture and heritage with pride.

Created as a national treasure, this is a drum of war.  The detail was stunning.

Oh and a few months ago I made this tiny model of a dragon boat, but I had no idea what exactly it was…

…now I do. :razz: It’s actually a Turtle Battleship, an important Korean military invention.  Notice the spikes on top!  Canons poked out tiny holes surrounding the ship.  Plus, it was small enough to maneuver easily in rough waters.

The Memorial was filled with everything from ancient relics of battle to jet fighter planes.  Off to the side of the main building was an entire field full of military planes, tanks and ships.  It was also interesting to see that a wedding was taking place in the middle of all these vehicles of war.  People can use a designated open square outside of the Memorial for weddings.  Apparently it happens quite often.  Weird.

<– Statue of Brothers

This memorial was built to represent the split between North and South.  Many families were separated when the country divided.  Inside the dome, beautiful mosaic tile depicted Korean flags.  Light shined through colorful stained glass in bright oranges and reds through the crack/divide of the two representative sides.

Touching and informative, I walked away with a sadness for this strange country that I have come to love.

Directions: the easiest way is to take a bus because it lets you off at the gate, but if you take Line #4 on the subway it’s a 3 minute walk from Exit 12.

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Norebangs are Too Much Fun

Picture this:  tiny room, comfy couch, 2 microphones, giant flat screen TV, swirling colored lights, tambourine, fun wigs and your friends.  Oh, and it’s BYOB!  That’s right, you can bring your own food and drink to these places.  It’s great.

My dear friend Stacey came to visit me in crazy Korea!  Of all the fabulous things we did together, I want to share our Norebang experience first.

If you’ve never been to Korea or maybe Los Angeles, then you probably don’t know what I’m talking about when I say ‘Norebang’.  And it’s pronounced more like Nory bahng.  Well, it’s very much like karaoke in the fact that you sing along to music with words on a tv screen.  However, Norebang is soo much more fun than plain old karaoke.

norebangTiff

There is a Norebang just about in every building, sometimes even two.  It is a place that people of all ages go to sing and have fun.  All of my students, whether they’re 5 or 17, tell me they go to Norebangs with their family and friends.  I really wish there was one back home.

Something funny to point out is that even though we were singing ‘Under the Boardwalk’ the video was a random Korean video.  It’s a video loop and it rarely ever matches up with the song type.   It’s funny when you’re singing a happy song and the video is of a girl that died and some dude is crying over her dead body, or singing a cheesy love song and some Korean guys are bouncing around dressed like The Beastie Boys.

All of the Norebangs have various themes.  My favorite one is called UFO and oddly it’s not space-themed.

<– hallway in UFO

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Road Signs

I don’t drive in Korea, but I do notice the street signs.

What’s weird is that the signs are situated in strange locations.  Places that, if in America, drivers would be completely lost and constantly miss turns.  There might be a sign that is after the turn, so if you’re not paying attention you miss the turn because the sign is ahead of the traffic and ahead of where you should have turned.  Sometimes the sign is located WAY before the turn with maybe another road in between the sign and where you should actually turn.

This top picture of signs for example is located smack dab in the middle of a 4-way traffic light.   The top sign that says ‘Gunpo Global Education Center’ is not found by turning right at this intersection… it is down a few blocks.  This led me to believe that signs found on top like this one imply not turning at this intersection, but at the next 1 or 2… that was wrong.  Logic fail.   Sometimes it does mean to turn immediately.

Oh and there is only 1 sign at this intersection, only visible to the people driving head on.  What about the other 3 lanes of traffic?  Do they not need signs?

I’m sure it makes perfect sense to Korean drivers.  But how we’re supposed to just KNOW this, I’ll never understand.  Chalk it up with the rest of the weirdness.

This sign is placed in between two streets.

As you can see, it has directions for what appears to be two different left turns up ahead.  But notice the Do not Turn symbol pointing in the same direction as the road says to turn.

Hmmm, which way do I go?

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