So remember how a post or two ago I was talking about spring being here and how exciting that is and there’s all this room for growth, flowers are blooming, people are flourishing, yada yada… hahaha… I was JUST KIDDING! Tricked yah! It’s winter take two in Geojin. It’s been snowing and everything… all over again!
Nonetheless, I’m not used to snow so it’s always beautiful and exciting for me and I wish I had more people to play with because I would definitely have a snow ball fight, build a snow man (or woman), make a snow angel, and just roll around like a snowball destroying the pristine surfaces of white that’s blanketed the town.
A couple of weekends ago it was St. Patrick’s Day. I made my way down to Gangneung to celebrate with my darling lil Irish friend, Edel. My night started off not being in the most social of moods as I was still pulling myself out of a random rut I found myself in… it was very much a hang back and observe kind of night. However, one of the highlights of my night was meeting a newcomer to Korea, Jennifer. I was talking to someone and of course saying who knows what doused with a heavy layer of sarcasm and shouted something about being superior when I get a very strange look from Jennifer. This sparked an immediate conversation (which started with me quickly clarifying that I’m not in any way superior). After talking for a few minutes she said I seem familiar to her, since she is just a month in Korea and I live 2 hours away from Gangneung I was sure we’ve never met and told her I don’t know where she’d know me from. She started asking me questions like did I find out my placement just minutes before getting on a bus, do I live in the middle of nowhere near North Korea, did I host a Hannukah dinner, and even an anecdote about my co-teacher and his license plate. As it turns out, I seemed familiar to her because she has been reading my blog waaay before she even moved to Korea! She said she’s read all my posts and really enjoyed them and it brought such a smile to my face. Jennifer and I chatted for a while and I really enjoyed her company. I love when random things like that happen.
Lately I’ve been receiving a lot of positive feedback regarding my blog and some of you e-mail me or comment after I post something. I just wanted to let you know that hearing from friends and family means the world to me and I’m so grateful to those of you who have made the effort to keep in touch. So truly, thank you. :)
This past weekend I went on my first organized trip in Korea, with a group called WinK (When in Korea). We went to an area called Jeonju as sort of a stop over on the way to Gwangyang where we went to the Maehwa Flower Festival and did a Temple stay. Jeonju is famous for having a special kind of bibimbap called dolsot bap. Dolsot bap comes in a hot stone pot with sesame oil drizzled on the bottom making the rice a nice crisp brown, the egg is raw and you cook it in the stone pot when it’s served.
Just to give you an idea of where I live and how far I travel on most weekends, here’s an example for this weekend. First I hopped on a 3 hour bus ride to Seoul (standard), followed by a stop-over for the night in Jeonju, then we went to Hadong for something that apparently I can’t remember right now, and then the Maehwa Flower Festival and Temple Stay was in Gwangyang.
Here’s a map:
Oh, I just had a chuckle! Still cracks me up to see where I live. Oh lawdy, I’m a trooper!
I’m so glad that I decided to go on this trip, such a nice change of pace from my normal weekends. I foresee many more weekends that involve lots of traveling… I came here mostly for the experience and to see and explore new places, so in the end it’s worth it.
Some pictures from the Maehwa Flower Festival aka Japanese Apricot Blossom. It’s one of the first flowers to bloom in spring in Korea.
From there we went on to our Temple stay… I’ll write more about that next time. Overall I really enjoyed it though and would do it again before I left Korea.
This semester is going by at a frighteningly rapid pace… each time the weekend rolls around I feel like I just got home from the last one!
I’ve really been enjoying teaching this semester. I have a co-teacher at every school I work at, my main co-teacher is pretty amazing and I’m learning a lot from her and another teacher in the English department…. not to mention we’re all the same age, their English is great, and they both have a good sense of humor so it’s been really nice. I’m able to use the majority of the materials and games from my main school and apply it to my visiting schools with a few adjustments here and there…. plus maybe I’m just putting in more effort this semester in general for whatever reason.
Almost everyday I sit with my two co-teachers, Jinny and Yae Ji, and we have “tea time,” which pretty much means let’s hang out, chat, and eat chocolate together. The other day we got talking about the types of stories you hear growing up and I got a little taste of Korean ghost stories. It’s instances like this which make me so appreciative to be living and immersing myself in the culture here… usually when you’re just passing through a place you wouldn’t get around to finding out little details like that.
Elementary students are usually told that the statues in the playground come to life at night. Most schools have a soldier/knight type statue and a girl reading a book, students are told that they often fight at night. If the girl won, the next day the page has been turned to the left, if she lost, to the right. My co-teacher said she used to go and look really closely at the statue of the girl to try and see who won, but now that she’s older realizes it was always in the middle. There’s also usually statues of animals in elementary schools and they roam around at night as well.
Then as you get into middle and high school all the ghost stories are about the student that is #1 and #2 in the class…. usually #2 somehow accidentally pushes #1 off a building, down a staircase, etc… and then feels bad and tries to bring them back to life or get in contact with them, but #1 ends up haunting and killing them too…. in the end everybody always dies (kinda funny). They told me a few though, and I got scared!
The middle and high school ghost stories are also very interesting to me because they are so reflective of Korean culture and how academically competitive it is here. In the U.S. I’ve never heard of a ghost story that revolved around who was at the top of the class. Then I was trying to remember all the babysitting horror stories I would hear growing up (yep, I’ve been working with kids since I was 12) and other stories of the ghost/horror genre and I couldn’t remember any! Or I would remember part of one, but not the whole thing…. please share if you have any good ones. My co-teacher said one time she went around collecting ghost stories because her students always ask for them on the rainy winter days when they want to avoid studying and doing work in class.
Just as a side note, I’ve been told that one of the most popular and scary Korean movies is called “Whispering Corridor.” It’s been re-made several times now, but the original one is the best.
There were some other things I wanted to touch up on, but this post is getting too long so it’ll have to wait for next time.
I’m really looking forward to this weekend. I’m going to fly on a tiny plane from Yangyang International Airport (about an hour south of me) to Busan (about an hour flight, 6-8 hrs drive south of me) and stay there for a 3-day weekend! It’s my school’s birthday/anniversary, so we get Monday off. I have a few friends that live in Busan and a couple of my other friends will be meeting me there. It worked out perfectly since there’s also an event going on in Haeundae Beach, Busan. We’ll be celebrating Holi Hai at a festival that was organized by a group of foreigner Indians. I’m not too sure what the significance of Holi Hai is yet, but I will look into it and report back!
I hope everyone is settling well into spring and you’re enjoying yourselves in whatever adventures you find yourselves in. Sending out much love to you all!
Until next time…
By the way, I started writing this post at the beginning of this week and now today it was all bright and sunny and warm…. but I heard it’s supposed to snow this weekend… really?! Make up your mind already!