Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chuseok: Part III

After the best sleep I had all week long, I went back to the bus station that I love so much to take yet ANOTHER bus.  Our destination this time was to a ropes course in Daegu called Herb Hillz.  Due to the fact that I had been to the course I was nominated to be the leader of the group.  Now if you remember from that post all those months back, the course is kind of like an obstacle course through the trees.  There are zip lines that connect the trees together with ladders, skateboards, bicycles and everything in between.  After a few nervous starts, we completed the course intact.  One member of our group even overcame his intense fear of heights. At least for the afternoon.  Success.

Gayle and Kevin maneuvering around the trees

Peeking around a tree

Ryan doing one of the many zip lines through the course

Group shot after our ride through the trees

After the ropes course we made our way back to Pohang.  After just finishing the course we were all starving and decided that a quick bite to eat and a final tour of our town would round out our new friends' visit to Korea.  One thing we all agreed upon was that you can't come to Pohang without visiting our unique Judko Market.  It was late when we arrived so we immediately went to the seafood section located in the back.  None of them had ever held a huge king crab before and luckily the people at the market were kind enough to let them hold a few and pose for pictures.  Now, I had never held one either and for some reason decided that I would also like to get in on the thrill of holding a live monster of a crab.  

After 3 of our group successfully posed for a picture with their crab it was my turn.  Successful pass of the crab to my arms.  Posing for the picture.  Waiting for the camera to flash.  Sudden immense pressure.  The crab had decided that my picture was one too many and that I could do without one of my fingers.  It took my poor finger and squeezed until my screaming caused my stunned friends to help me out.  Never will I ever hold onto a crab again.  Another lesson learned.  

Kelly getting ready for her picture with the monstrous crab

The crab got me.  My poor finger!

We spent the remainder of our evening at Bukbu Beach where we ate at a seaside seafood place.  Try saying that ten times fast. 

Corey successfully picking up a single kernel or corn with chopsticks

One of our last pictures before the end of the night

Our last stop was at a downtown bar, Whistlers, for a few games of darts (which I found out I kill at) and the inevitable goodbyes.  It continues to amaze me how much you can like someone after only spending less than a week with them.  I would likely never have met AJ, Corey, Kevin or Kelly if they wouldn't have decided to come to Korea to visit Ryan.  Hopefully our paths will cross sometime in the future.  If all else fails at least now I have more places to visit when I go stateside.  

All in all, the trip was amazing.  New experiences.   New friends.  Pictures that just can't do any of it justice.  I am absolutely exhausted and need another vacation to recover from my vacation.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely.

Chuseok: Part II

After cleaning up our pension (and trust me it needed to be cleaned) the sane part of the group tried to talk the crazy part of the group out of swimming to a nearby island I refered to as "Ryan's Island."  Now Ryan had tried to convince us all the previous night during our bonfire on the beach that he could swim to it.  We were convinced it was the worst idea in history and did our best to talk him out of it.  Now, anyone that knows Ryan knows that once Ryan has an idea it is usually unlikely he can be talked out of it.  They ended up successfully making the swim (miraculously enough) and emerged relatively unscathed.

Our beautiful coastline

Ryan's island.  We estimated it to be about a mile from the beach.

Geoju Island.  Our island for a few days.

Another view from our pension

Now after being on the island for a few days we had decided to go to Busan (the nearby city we caught the ferry from) and do some hiking and show around Ryan's friends.  What we had not planned on was the fact that the ferry back to Busan would be inoperable due to choppy waves.  Well, super.  We're on an island with the most direct form of transportation taken out of the equation.  We ended up taking a 3 hour bus ride back over a bridge that connects the island to Busan.  Not ideal but it kept me off the ferry which clearly was fine by me. 

A 3 hour bus ride, 1 hour on the subway and a delicious dinner later we were finally at our love motel.  It was super late but we were in Busan (a great city) with 4 friends from America who had never seen it by night and would likely never see it again.  We took them to a few local bars and ended up at a place called Fuzzy Navel where we met a Russian, Korean and Brazillian.  Sounds like the start of a joke.  The Brazillian was a gorilla of a man who kept roaring at everyone while ordering drinks.  Entertaining but ridiculously scary.  If I wouldn't have had Kelly I would be back in Brazil right now being forced to be his bride....even though he had a wife who was tattooed on his arm. Thankfully we evaded marriage and got to bed in the wee hours of the morning...both unaware of the hiking adventures that were in store for the following day. Ok,  maybe slightly aware but in denial.

Corey with a statue in the heart of Busan's shopping district

Trevor with his guitar.  It's rare to see him without it.

One of the best Korean shirts I have ever seen.
Can you say spell check?!

Yes, you are reading this correctly.
"Whip me.  Eat me.  Bite me.  Verybrain."
Oh Korea.

One of the guys, Corey, happens to be from Massachusetts.

Now even though we got to bed at 6am we still had to be up at 930 to go hiking.  Not the most enticing thing to do whilst being hung over but we made a promise so there we were with our bells on.  We made it out of the hotel (sans Trevor due to excessive partying) and began to find our way to our hiking destination.  We separated into groups and took cabs up the biggest hill in history (maybe an exaggeration but close enough to the truth).  Next was the hiking part.  Not the biggest fan of it after such a late night of awesome.  I made it about halfway before I began to feel the overwhelming negative side effects.  I took a break at an exercise point (yes there was a casual exercise area in the middle of a mountain) while the rest of the group kept soldiering on.

An amazing view from about halfway up the mountain
NOT enjoying the very mountainous climb

Group shot of us at the middle of the mountain

I proceeded to lay down on a bench, headphones in ears, eyes closed.  I had no sooner fallen asleep before I was woken up by the tiny hands of two small Korean children who wanted to practice their English.  To many Koreans, any foreigner is a teacher and has nothing better to do than teach English in the middle of a mountain in an ancient exercise yard.  After being enticed by the promise of a picnic by their parents (which turned out to be well worth the lesson) I taught them a 20 minute lesson which consisted of the alphabet and different names for food.  Only in Korea. 

An ancient exercise yard complete with weights, slides
and workout equipment.

A Korean man getting ready to exercise upside down.

The picnic proved to be well worth my time and after thanking them repeatedly (and doing the bowing over and over again that you all know I love to do) I received a phone call from Gayle wondering where I was.  During my nap and English lesson more than 2 hours had passed.  Whoops.  Time flies on mountains.  Turns out they couldn't figure a way to get back to me again so they started the trek back down the mountain on the assumption that I would do the same.  Wrong assumption.  20 minutes and repeated false falls later I was also at the bottom of the mountain, but without a clue where I was.  After eventually finding a cab and conveying where I wanted to go (more hand gesturing and broken Korean) I got to Temple by the Sea to search for my friends.  Thankfully Buddah was on my side and I found them.  Now, what did I learn from my trip up the mountain?  Two things.  Don't drink heavily the night before an intense hike.  Don't lose track of time when you are separated from your friends while on a mountain.  Lessons learned.

The temple was absolutely gorgeous (my pictures don't do it justice) and was one I had never frequented before.  After our temple visit we got cheesy rice (one of my favorite meals in Korea) and made our way back to Pohang.

In Korea pigs are considered lucky

My ladies of the week (Amber, Kelly and Gayle) with a golden Buddah

Why the temple is named, "Temple by the Sea."

One of my favorite shots of the day

Monday, September 27, 2010

Chuseok: Part I

[My earlier post hit on the specifics of what the Koreans do for Chuseok vacation.  It is similar to Thanksgiving and they spend it with their families.  The foreigners in Korea spend it with friends in other parts of the country or in another country entirely.  The next few posts are a look back on the ridiculousness that was my Chuseok vacation.  Enjoy.]

After extensive planning between 16 or so people that been recruited for my island paradise vacation...it was finally time.   At 8am on the dot I was at the bus station waiting for the one and only, Tim Reedy.  Thirty minutes later he comes meandering down the street with a guitar in hand, sporting his yellow sunglasses and donning his "island" sombrero.  All it took was one look from him to know this was going to be a week to remember.

The island vacation outfit

The bus terminal.  Chuseok traffic is the American
equivalent of Thanksgiving traffic.  Times 20.

After we made it on the bus to Busan I met some new friends.  A good friend in Pohang, Ryan, had 4 friends come and visit for the long holiday.  I don't think that Kevin, AJ, Kelly or Corey knew quite what they were getting into when they signed up for this week-long adventure.  Or maybe they did because they knew Ryan.

Our first bus of many headed to Busan

Eventually we made it to the ferry headed for Geoje island.  Little did I know that I get ridiculously seasick on ferry boats.  Like if I would have been outside I would have had half my body over the side of boat kind of sick.  I spent the majority of the ride in 1 of 2 places:  in the ridiculously small and smelly bathroom on the first floor with all of the other motion sickness afflicted people or on the floor with my head between my legs staring at anything that wasn't moving.  Thankfully the trip was only 1 1/2 hours.  Not something I will be wanting to do again anytime soon. After we were finally on dry land  we began the task of figuring out where we were going.

Now even though this trip was relatively well planned out, we still got lost with no place to stay.  We ended up taking cabs ALL AROUND THE ISLAND and eventually found a decent love motel to stay at for the night.  After stashing our stuff and getting the ferry smell off of ourselves it was off to the island we went.  We walked around for awhile and eventually saw a sign for "foreign bar."  Now our thought process went a little something like this.  "We're foreigners.  This is a foreigner far.  It looks kind of rockin' from the outside.  We'll give it a chance."  Little did WE know that apparantly on the island the term "foreign bar" is actually code for "sleazy Filipino  bar with hookers who dance around in barely there clothing and sell the most expensive soju cocktails in existence."  Guess we were wrong.

Cheesing it up on the ferry before the motion sickness took hold

The first dinner for the non-teachers.
They look a bit skeptical to me.

After following a few of the boys into a "secret shot" bar, we ended up at one of the sketchiest Noraebongs i've ever seen.  Imagine cramming 15+ people into a tiny room and then fill it with alcohol, fish jerky, multiple microphones and every popular kareoke song...and you have our evening.  The cherry to my evening was bruising my leg from my mad tambourine skills.  Excessive tambourining can be dangerous.

Nick, Amber and Nick mid-song

Now my Tuesday may not seem to be all that exhausting but try excessively playing the tambourine for a few hours and maybe you'll understand.  We were all up relatively early and decided to figure out where to go and what to do for the day.  Unfortunately the rain made our planning skills a little improbable.  After stopping for some Korean food we all took cabs (yes more cabs) and somehow found our SWEET pension for the next day.  Now in Korea a pension is somewhat like a house that is rented out.  It is usually bigger than the average love motel and has annemities like multiple rooms, sometimes hot tubs, fully equipped kitchens, etc.  Basically we had the perfect place to party and relax whenever we wanted.

Cute little house complete with flat screen tv, fridge and microwave

Fully equipped kitchen

After dropping off our things at the pension, the adventurers of the group (yes this time I was included in the adventurer category) went to a nearby waterfall.  We made the hike up the mountain and waded around in the waterfalls, in the rain.  Just take a look at the pictures I took and try to tell me it wasn't beautiful.

The boys walking up the hill on the "massaging rocks."

One of the coolest sights i've seen since being in Korea

The last of our night resulted in a seaside bonfire where guitar playing and endless stories kept us entertained until the rain became too much to handle.  Great start to a stellar vacation. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Chuseok, Minbaks and Cincinnati Chili

#131.  In Korea there are bed and breakfast-esque set-ups called "minbaks."  They are usually found in rural areas and islands and those who frequent them know to  expect traditional Korean blankets and a heated floor in place of a bed.  Not the most comfortable accommodations but the low prices make it enticing for tourists or people looking for a cheap place to crash.

#132.  September brings the Korean version of Thanksgiving known as Chuseok ( 추석 ) .  It is a major harvest festival and lasts for three days.  All of Korea has the holiday off and generally travel to their ancestral hometowns and share a fest of traditional Korean food.

This past week was a good week.  Busy with school.  Busy with friends.  A new string of teachers coming.  Even more leaving.  My kids seem to understand more and more English.  My school is finally starting to become something I almost look forward to each day.  Notice I said almost.  My life is finally fitting together.  Finally.

This weekend was much like any other weekend in Pohang with the exception of dinner on Saturday night.  Now what could be so special about a dinner you may ask?  Well if you have been deprived of certain familiar favorites for 7 months and then all of a sudden they were on your plate, it would prove to put a smile on your face as well.  Saturday night was a potluck dinner of sorts at the house of Sara Adisi, one of my favorite ladies in Pohang.  She made us Cincinnati chili (think Skyline Chili) complete with onions and real shredded cheese.  Now I say "real" shredded cheese because there is shitty imitation cheese that shouldn't be allowed to be processed and make the foreigners who miss real cheese long for the cheesyness that is cheese. I don't think I've ever talked so much about cheese in my life.  And yes, I know it's just cheese.  Ok, i'm done with the cheese talking.  Coupled with our amazing chili was a tuna casserole type dish, ramen salad (dry ramen, lettuce, veggies, sauce), fresh baguettes with balsamaic vinegarette and cheesecake for dessert.  One of the best meals I have had since arriving in Pohang.

Sunday once again was my lazy day.  Hanging out around downtown and catching up on my blogging or e-mails, pictures on facebook and getting my plan together for the week.  I'm all about having the occasional "Sunday Funday" but for the most part, my Sundays are for relaxing.  It's my time for myself.  Time to see people I don't get to see.  Enjoy some coffee.  Have a sandwich.  Have something familiar to tide me through the week.

This paticular upcoming week is filled with crazy amounts of work.   Thankfully I only have 6 more days of teaching and then I have almost a full week off for Chuseok.  6 days of no teaching.  No kids.  Some friends are headed to China.  Some to Thailand.  Some to Phillippenes.  I unfortunately spent far too much money over summer holiday so a big vacation wasn't feasible for me.  A large group of us decided instead to take advantage of the beautiful weather and explore Korea.  On September 20th, we will be headed to an island off of Seoul for a few days with 20 or so people in tents or minbaks.  Getting out of Pohang for a few days.  Get some perspective on our jobs, life, friends, etc.

Saying I am looking forward to this is an understatement to the extreme.  I've got a feeling this week will crawl by.  Let's hope i'm wrong. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Decision. Made.

A little update on the "to stay or not to stay" dilemma.  I have decided to stay for another year.  I have listened to my family, friends and most importantly myself.  Staying here is something I think i'm meant to do.  One more year of traveling around Asia and getting out of debt.  

Contract negotiations are still in the works but as long as he concedes on letting me go home in the spring for 2 weeks consider that baby signed.  The idea of eating western foods like my mom's chili or chicken noodle soup, taking a proper bath, using a dryer to shrink my stretched out clothes or sleeping in a full sized bed is what will get me through the next few months.   

Mark your calendars folks.  Beginning of February I am bound stateside.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Guryompo Sulipalooza Weekend

[Pictures courtesy of Nadia Hugo]

The last weekend of August meant the annual Lisa White/Susi Gong birthday bash weekend (also known as Sulipalooza Weekend) at Guryompo beach.  Lisa White is one of my closest ladies here and it was only natural that I spend the weekend with her and 40 of my closest friends.  Yes, I know I said 40 of my closest friends but here it's true.  Just like in Cheers, everyone DOES know your name.  We were even joined by Nick Kelly, the friend of mine who recently returned to Korea after spending two months at home.  We all spent the better part of the day swimming, drinking and catching up on the happenings of eachothers lives that don't include little children or school scheduling.

After a day of swimming, we built a huge fire (we all know I don't build fires so I cheered enthusiastically from the sidelines) and proceeded to have a true beach experience complete with guitar playing, hot dogs and smores.  Yes, I said smores. It's weird the random things that just cannot be found in the majority of Korea without going to a Costco or bribing a buddy from the Marines to get from the military base.  Graham crackers is just one of the many, many things that are largely unavailable to us here in Pohang.  Marshmallows?  Yes.  Chocolate?  Of course.  Graham crackers?  Not a chance.  Frank McGirk, who had the foresight to bring graham crackers back from the states, allowed us to partake in the American classic.

Thank you Frank for that little taste of home.

The combination of the smores, sun, amazing weather, friends and fun made this weekend one that will be hard to top next year.

The band of Pohang:  "Jack Russell Terrier"

Where we stayed most of the night

Friday, September 3, 2010

Not Alone.

Yesterday Facebook reminded me that I am not alone.   For all of the facebook inept people it is basically a social networking site for you to stay in touch with family and friends from around the world.  You have places to put your photo albums, play games, send messages to people, instant chat...the works.  It also has a place for your status.  The status is for whatever you may be feeling at that particular moment.  It helps you vent, let others know what's going on with you, etc.

My status was," cried for the first time at Kids College today.  Thanks for making me feel as useless, unimportant and irrelevant as possible."  It was a shitty day but it happened yesterday so i'm trying to leave it there.  In a matter of hours I had a string of comments from friends and family to remind me that better days are around the corner, to make me smile or just to remind me that i'm not alone.

Here are a few of the people who helped make yesterday bearable.  If you are one of them, thank you. 

    • Nadia Hugo unlike! sorry you're having a bad day, hope it will only get better from here on! :)
      Yesterday at 2:07pm ·  · 

    • William R. Davis Jr. Hills and Valleys. Tis the way of the teaching world. Keep your head up. Remember, your BSU buddy is always one phone call away.
      Yesterday at 2:15pm ·  · 

    • Virginia Gabby i've had a day that ended with tears too, it's super lame but sometimes happens. don't let the bastards get you down!! Hope the rest of your day is mucho better.
      Yesterday at 2:33pm ·  · 

    • Sarah King Hugs.
      Yesterday at 2:38pm ·  · 

    • Anna Sweet booo...crying about work stuff is the most disappointing way to cry... speaking from experience. good luck with your tomorrow!
      Yesterday at 2:40pm ·  · 

    • Gayle Smith im so sorry! dont let them do that to you! what happened?
      Yesterday at 2:56pm ·  · 

    • Frances McDonagh That does suck. I hope your day gets better! Big hugs!!
      Yesterday at 2:57pm ·  · 

    • Frank McGirk Shrug it off, continue to teach as well circumstances permit, and cash the damn paychecks. Not a lot you can do about stupid bastards.
      Yesterday at 3:31pm ·  · 

    • Kurt Meyers uh..., one point korea...?
      Yesterday at 4:33pm ·  ·  1 person · 

    • Jenn Comer
      Thanks for the support guys. It seriously makes all the difference. Today was just ridiculous. A TON of new students, asking for help from my Korean staff Korean-English translations and them saying no and walking in the opposite directio...See More
      Yesterday at 5:15pm ·  · 

    • John Christian Schneekloth Hey, tomorrow could always be worse...find the silver lining...then steal it and sell it at the pawn shop
      Yesterday at 6:02pm ·  · 

    • Chad M Parsons It is only one day tomorrow should be better if not there is always friday and saturday night.
      Yesterday at 6:24pm ·  · 

    • Stacey Snellenbarger awww, I'm sorry Jenn! It sucks when you have a horrible day at work. Love you long time!
      Yesterday at 8:28pm ·  · 

    • Terry Shank Always remember that you are loved by many many people here at home.
      Yesterday at 8:45pm ·  · 

    • Michael Naperalsky ‎::dislike:: ::dislike:: ::dislike::
      22 hours ago ·  · 

    • Kyle Schlegel Just do what I did:
      leave your apartment with your deposit, and leave behind a gigantic mess
      18 hours ago ·  ·