Monday, October 5, 2009

Catching up...

Let's play catch-up shall we?

I left you in July, but I did forget to mention that second weekend of July, before I went home to Canada for 4 weeks, was spent at the annual Boreyoung Mud Festival. The mud that is found in around this small city is renowned for its cosmetic uses, and every year it attracts thousands of people to come get muddy. We had a really good weekend, despite being in a room far too small for our group of 17 people and despite have sub-tropical storm weather on our second day. We enjoyed romping around in the mudwrestling pits, painting our faces with colored mud and having the press swarm around us like we were celebrities (just celebrities covered in mud).

Of course, after that weekend, I was very fortunate to come home to Canada for four weeks. I had originally thought I would spend 3 weeks in my hometown visiting family and friends, relaxing, having plenty of time to catch up with people before flying to Southern Ont to visit my friends from Uni. Of course things rarely go as planned. I spent about 8 days in Dryden, then 10 days on a holiday within a holiday visiting my little sister and her husband in South Dakota, then 2 more days in Dryden, and then 7 days in Kitchener-Waterloo, which I though was 8 days until I woke up early the day of my flight back to Korea and notice my flight was leaving 12 hours earlier than I thought it was! It was a really amazing trip though, it was so wonderful to see so many people I have missed so much, and really heartwrenching to still have missed seeing so many of you (Parkway crew - I'm so sorry! And Denise! And Roberta! etc etc etc...) Most of you were there for part of that trip so I won't describe it in detail. I'll just give you the link for the photos of the whole thing ( ) and jump back into blogging about life in Korea...

When I walked through the arrival gate at Incheon IA, I felt a strange feeling. The thought "It feels good to be home" ran through my head. Don't panic Mom, I'm not a lifer. But, truth is, South Korea doesn't feel like a foreign country to me anymore. Now, this is where I live. I have my cozy little apartment, and my cat, and my great job.They are all here. I have a great group of friends that I was eager to catch up with. I was suprised but how comforting I found the lush, mountainous landscape that raced past me on the bus ride home and eager I was to sleep in "my own bed" again.

Now, I'm not sure how the H1N1 flu is being covered by the Canadian media, but I just don't get the sense from talking with family and friends back home that people are panicking about it. South Korea is. And Canada has had a lot more deaths linked to it than SK, they're not even in the double digits yet. The Korean government has responded to H1N1 by cancelling all major cultural festivals (booo!) and many
schools have delayed opening for the fall semester.Standard procedure by our Provincial Education office mandated that anyone who had travelled internationally needed to stay in "quarantine" for a week. Sounds scary, but really it only meant I wasn't allowed to go in to work and make the school liable if I infected everybody with swineflu. More days off for me, yay! It was also recommended that I stay away from public places (though being away for four weeks, it was necessary to go get groceries!). The extra days off were put to good use. Immediately there were "Welcome Back" dinners in my social crew for everybody coming back from vacation and "Goodbye" get-togethers for those who left in August when their contracts were up. We had to say goodbye to ALOT of great people (You know who you are!!!) which was tough, especially since my trip home hadn't quite cured me of my homesickness. What makes living in Korea so pleasant is the wonderful circle of friends I've found here, and big part of September was just adjusting to having so many of them leave. On the other hand, I really enjoyed getting back to some great Korean cuisine. I ate so much junk while I was in Canada that I think I OD'd. I really craved kimchi, and bibimbap, and cheomchi jiggae, and samgypsal, and haejanguk and samgaejuk etc etc etc. So it was great to have so many opportunities to eat out with great people.

It was alittle tough to get back into the swing of things at school. I had been on vacation for 6 weeks, and the last two weeks of classes were spent watching movies and prepping for exams. What do you mean, I have to plan real lessons again??? It was a well needed kick in the pants. And once the first couple classes were under my belt, it felt really good to be doing something productive with my days. My students were rowdy for the first couple of lessons, and for the first time in a very long time I felt my temper trying to get the best of me. I've got all but one class reigned back in (and that's because the disruptive students are so eager to be part of the lesson that it goes off on wild tangents). At any rate, I've got the classroom decorated for Fall, and am really looking forward to dressing it up for Hallowe'en, Winter and Christmas. I didn't think much of it at the time, but everyone who comes into the classroom (students, teachers, principals) loves it. I'm hoping the added visual stimuli will enrich their learning and help the lower-level students stay interested.

Two weekends ago, I travelled to Gwangju, a great city about an hour from Suncheon to have a "Girls Night Out" with some ladies in and around where I live. We got there in time for lunch at TGI Fridays (I had a REAL chicken burger with cheese and bacon!) and dessert at Cold Stone Creamery (of course). Next, we headed to our favourite Gwangju love-motel, "The Windmill" to drop off our bags, then it was off to do some shopping. First, we headed to the art district as C was visiting from Canada and was looking for authentic Korean art to take home with her. A sudden downpour drove us into a small shop where we each wound up finding something unique for a good price. I bought a beautiful embroidered hanging of Korean blossoms on black material for only 30 000 won. It was made about 50 years ago, and it's one of a kind. On our way back to the central shopping area, we found an underground market and did some shopping there. Soon it was time to meet up with everybody at the delicious Indian restaurant in Gwangju, the only one of its kind in this province. We enjoyed the buffet and then went back to the Windmill to make ourselves up. The evening was a journey starting at Ethnic Bar, an atmospheric basement cafe lit by pillar candles and oil lamps, featuring a small pond and decorated with huge swaths of fabric imported from Thailand and India. It was such a relaxing place, I almost didn't want to go anywhere else. But the reason why we had come to Gwangju was really go out dancing. So after a quick stop at the foreigner bar Speakeasy, our group headed over to Houze. Houze is a big dance club that really delivers what you want to find when you go to a club. Lasers, disco balls, a crowd of energetic people and DJ's who really know how to work the tables. It was truly a great place for dancing. The Korean guys were stoked to see a crew of foreign ladies, and were total gentleman, which was a great change from the kind of guys would've had to deal with had we been in Canada. Plus, they knew how to DANCE!!!

See pics here:

Last weekend was Chuseok in South Korea, similar to Thanksgiving in Canada. So I hopped on a ferry to Jeju Island with 10 friends to explore the "Hawaii of Korea". I'll post that entry the week is out!

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