Wednesday, November 18, 2009

2nd Year in ROK Starts with a Bang!

Ok, ondol's on, cat is fed and cuddled, hot chocolate hot, music on. It's just you and me, Blog. Let's do this.

Well after that fantastic weekend on Jeju island, it was back to the old grindstone. Well not exactly. Midterm exams gave me another week of cancelled classes, thank you Korean public education system. Well actually, now that they have me monitoring exams during these periods, I prefer a regular week of classes. It goes by so much quicker, not to mention it's so much more enjoyable to interact with the students and see some of them making progress. I've really enjoyed this semester so far. I'm in groove with teaching, confident with my lesson planning and have a good repoire with all the students (spent the months of first semester getting the 1st Graders comfortable with me and speaking English in front of their classmates). I had a very successful lesson with my Gr.1's discussing the similarities between Thanksgiving Day in North America and Chuseok in South Korea. Another fun one was doing Fall Acrostic Poems with my Gr. 2's. My students constantly surprise me. (I did post a sampling of the stranger poems I recieved on Facebook and my Google Group, so I won't post them here, if you want me to email them to you let me know).

October was a very busy month for me outside of work. On Facebook, I have a new photo album for every weekend!

The 2nd weekend of October was a social one. My friend Janet, who had been in South Korea for over 3 years, decided rather abruptly that she was ready to return home to San Francisco, so Friday Night we threw her a surprise Party (Appropriately titled "Where in the World is Janet SanFrancisco?"). We played a hilarious game of Shu-ele-Phone and realy enjoyed eachother's company. (Side note: Shu-ele-phone is a group game hybrid of Sherades, Clue, and Telephone that I picked up camping with a bunch of LDS friends in University. The Waygook crowd over here has really taken a liking to it). The next night was Janet's non-surprise farewell night, which she had gone and planned herself. We had a great meal at Outback Steakhouse and then headed out for a last night of Noraebong.

Pics are mostly of me with a bunch of people you probably don't know, but here's the link anyways:

The next weekend was jam-packed with fun! On Saturday, me and my partner in crime Amanda bussed to Busan (SK's 2nd largest city) to see the Busan International Fireworks Festival, held at the end of the Film Festival held the week before. We got there early enough in the day that we were able to take a cable car and then a short hike up to see the south gate of Geumjeongsanseong, the ancient fortress that overlooks the city. It was a beautiful site and made me sad that we didn't have enough time to hike along the wall of the fortress. But we knew we had to get down to the Beach well before the fireworks started if we were to see any of the show. As we left the subway to head for the beach, it became clear that everyone in the city was headed in the same direction. Police and men in Army fatigues were stationed everywhere directing masses. Arriving at the beach, I thought we would have to watch from the street. The beach, km's long, was packed. Somehow we managed to find a spot at the front, alittle too close to the water (Tide was coming in!). The show was 45 minutes long and amazing! I'd never seen anything like it in my life. We weren't in the ideal location for watching it, way off to the side like we were, but it was still spectacular. I will post the video's I took after I get this up. Getting back to the subway turned out to be way more difficult after the show. I've never been in a crowd like that before in my life! (Will post those videos too)
The next day, Amanda and I managed to find the energy for another hike. But first, I went downtown to buy a proper pair of hiking boots! We were planning to hike Jirisan, the 2nd highest peak in South Korea, the next weekend and I wasn't going to be caught without proper footwear this time! Boots aquired, we hopped on a local bus out to Songgwangsa. This temple is considered one of the three "Jewels" of Korean temples. In the gorgeous fall foliage, it was breaktaking. After looking around the temple we hit the trail for 3 hours. This turned out to be one of my favourite hikes of the year. Because we didn't hit the trails until 2pm, we didn't see too many hikers, and for the last hour of the hike we didn't see anyone else at all! It was a great opportunity to really enjoy nature. At the end of the hike we arrived at Seonnamsa, a smaller temple, but we had arrived at the perfect time. The monks had begun their evening drumming, which I'd never witnessed at a temple before. The sounds of the drums seems to go right inside your ribcage and bounce around. And in the classroom was a school of student monks being lectured by a head monk. A winding road lined with paper lanterns led us down to the busstop and as dusk deepend, the lanterns all came on and lit our path.

Now these are some pics you don't want to miss!

The next weekend was one I had been dreading and looking forward to all month. We were going to hike a small part of the Jirisan mountain range, the trail upto Cheonwangbong which is the highest peak in the range and the 2nd highest peak in Korea (Hallasan on Jeju is #1). This time Amanda and I had some company, Suze and Lindsey were coming with us. We were up early (6:45) in order to get on the trail before 9:00am. The trail we were taking was estimated to run between 7-10 hours and we woul lose the light aroun 6:30, so we would be cutting it close as is. It was a tough hike, but hiking the weekend before and taking the stairs up to my apartment on floor 17 a couple of times during the week helped me a little bit. On top of that, the mountainside boasted such beautiful scenery, I was constantly distracted by it and not thinking too much about my aching muscles. I summitted at 4 hours 20 minutes. Lindsey and Amanda arrived first and picked out a great perch for us to eat lunch on. My canned tuna with cream cheese and crackers was fan-freaking-tastic. After lunch we head west along the ridge to Jaesakbong peak and then headed south back to the trail head. My energy was quite high for the whole hike, but I fell behind the girls because I just couldn't stop taking pictures!

Pics here:

Of course the following weekend was Halloween. I had felt totally uninspired as to what I should dress up as, and then a few days before Halloween my friends Jodie and Stephen helped me come up with the idea of being a marionnette who had freed herself from her master. Which turned alittle grisly at Stephen's suggestion that I should have severed hands attached to my strings. It was too awesome of an idea not to try it! Stephen even helped me find a craft store to get materials to construct the severed hands. Findind doll-like clothes was easy-peesy since looking like a doll seems to be what most girls are going for with fashion here. All week, I was showing the "Thriller" video to my students and that also really helped me get excited. On Friday, my supervisor from the previous year (Lee Myeong-Sook) gave me a halloween treat bag full of candy to wish me Happy Halloween. And so inspired by my co-worker, I ran out on my lunch and bought a ridiculous amount of Kic-Kers (Kit-Kat's) and delivered them to the teachers room with a big black and orange poster wishing them a Happy Halloween. That night, the Halloween party for the foreigner crowd in Suncheon was held at McCarthy's bar. We had a great time. On Saturday, the actual Halloween, I was happy to stay in with friends and play some games and watch a scary movie. It really was a great month. I can only hope the rest of the year will be half as good!

Check out my costume here:

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