Wednesday, October 26, 2011

DiNnEr w/Co-WoRkErS

I didn't think I would have this much fun with them lol

Shabu Shabu...good good! (fusion of Mongolian, Korean, and Vietnamese)

baby squid...come to mama!

my co-workers


Monday, October 24, 2011

Stairs, stairs, and more stairs...

            In Korea, hiking is a must! So this weekend, Ana, Ana’s co-teacher EunChi, and I headed to the famous Seorak National Park. Seoraksan (san=mountain) is apparently the third highest mountain in Korea. When I read this, I thought “it’s not like we’re gonna actually climb the mountain”….wrong! Oh man, Koreans are serious about hiking. To me, hiking is walking around a mountain, maybe some stairs, but for the most part walking….yeah! I was soooooo unprepared! hiking boots, just sneakers, I didn’t think I would need hiking gear this soon. And not only was I not prepared for hiking, but I was not ready for the weather! It was raining the whole time and no waterproof jacket, pants, or bag.
            We left Friday night to sleep on the bus, get there early in the morning and start hiking. Well there was not much sleeping on that bus. Have I mentioned how crazy the drivers are here? Well add rain and you have a bus ride from hell! I honestly thought I was going to die.
            We got to Sokcho at around 6am. Everything was dark and everything closed of course. Thank goodness we had a native Korean speaker with us. EunChi asked for a taxi and it took us to the foot of the mountain for a cheaper rate since “it was raining and we were girls” hahaha. Once there, we decided to get breakfast first. Now this was my first time having a Korean breakfast, what did I eat? Bibimbap hahaha…though delicious, that taste stays with you the whole day!
While we waited for daylight, we decide to get some ponchos...oh yeah, sexy ponchos, I got a purple one hehehe.
At 7:30am we drank our energy drinks and started the hike. The hike was about 3.8 kilometers. Again, when I saw this, I thought “oh easy!”….wrong! I have never climbed that many stairs in my life, not at Notre Dame, not at Pisa, not at the Vatican! But more on that later.

The scenery was gorgeous! Ana wanted to go there to see the peak of foliage, and though not all the trees were red and yellow, it was beautiful! 

Can you see the rocks piled up? They are wishes! =)

At first, the hike was pretty easy. After passing the first rest stop, we got separated. Then all of the sudden, I heard music/chanting and I thought, “I made it!”…yeah right, I was barely half way! This was the first stop, Heundeulbawi, aka the “moving rock.”
After that, it was all stairs! No need of a stair master in Korea…

There is a temple inside the!

Trying to move the rock haha

…And then I saw Ulsanbawi in all its glory. Ulsanbawi is a rock and I was about to climb it…more stairs (0.4 km)! Before starting, Ana and I decided to take a break and have a snack. As we waited, a couple offered us boiled eggs and cherry tomatoes hehehe more food, yay! We then saw EunChi coming and waited for her. As we rested there, we saw 3 people slip coming down the stairs :S…those stairs were so steep and slippery that I was honestly a bit nervous (and yes, it was still raining). We started the climb and again we got separated. I had to move fast because if I went any slower, I was going to lose my momentum. I tried to take it steady without too many breaks. I had to be careful about each step I took because I did not want to slip. There were rails, but my hands were freezing and I could not grip hard (no gloves btw).

0.4km of pure stairs up the rock!...I couldn't even see where the hell I was going!

...right before climbing Ulsanbawi

But then all the pain went away as I took my final step and reached the top! I felt so proud of myself! At the top, there was a nice little platform where people were drinking coffee and taking pictures. The view was amazing…but it only lasted for a few minutes because it was so foggy :/ 

The view from Ulsanbawi

we made it!!!

                The way down was supposed to be easier, but because it was so slippery, I had to hang on to dear life. Ana let me borrow one of her gloves, and though it was soaked, it totally made a difference.

Sinheungsa Temple

By the time we got back, we were all soaked…a nice combination of water and sweat!...I’ve never sweated that much in the rain lol. We then hopped into a cable car and went up to another peak…and yes, more stairs, well not as many this time. Unfortunately, the view again was horrible…

We left Seoraksan at around 6pm and headed back to Sokcho for some R&R. EunChi left because she was going to meet someone. Ana and I got a motel room and we paid 30,000W ($26)…it was cheap, but what can you expect for that price? A smelly and moldy room! Haha. Ana laughed at me because I would not even put my face on the pillow, I wrapped it with my coat!
Before calling it a night, we went out to find dinner. But we got something even better, the Sokcho Festival! The main street was closed, there were vendors, a parade, music, and of course the always freebies hehehe. We got coffee and pajeon (Korean pancake), they were also giving out a towel, but the line was too long. 

Some of the vendors at the festival

So they had a photo booth with hats from around the world, and oh yes, they had Mexico!


the parade...notice hello kitty and fiona?

So far, this is my favorite sweet snack, it is a hoddeok, or sweet stuffed pancake. It had brown sugar and sesame seeds in the middle, yum! .....ataaaaaaskate puerka!

The next day we just went around Sokcho for a walk. Ana wanted to see the Gaetbae Boat and the Abai Village where some scenes from a famous Korean drama were filmed. 

Gaetbae Boat

Abai Village

Abai Village 

Cheonghodaegyo Bridge

dried squid!

               We then made our way to the Lighthouse Observatory, more stairs!! >.<

Deungdae Beach

                 We then had to try the Sokcho's specialty for lunch, the famous stuffed squid! I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was not too impressed…maybe because we bough it at a street stand? was alright. 

By 1:30ish we were exhausted and decided to catch the 2:45pm bus back to Pohang. We bought our tickets, walked around the area a bit more while we waited, and then we were on our way!...oh man, I soooo wanted to pass out on the bus, but I knew that if I slept, I would not be able to sleep at night. When I got home, I took a hot shower, turned on my floor heater, and passed out!

            So that was my weekend…and I’m afraid I have more hiking coming up this Thursday with my co-teachers…wish me luck!

Monday, October 17, 2011

25, 26, 27, and 28 on The List

More amazing culture differences!

25. Germs anyone? Apparently cycles of colds are endless here....great! I am bound to get sick pretty soon, why did I opt to not bring my vitamin C shots with me?!?!? Let me tell you something about Koreans, they are EXTREMELY hard workers, and that's an understatement. They are that dedicated to their job that if they are sick, they will go to work, I guess they would only be willing to stay home if they have to actually go to the hospital. OK, I get that. They want to show to their peers that they are diligent workers and that a little cold is nothing to keep them away from work. Now, students do this too, they will go to school no matter what. Well, if they are feeling good enough to go to school, go right ahead by all means. But here is how the cycle begins...nobody covers up when they sneeze!!!!!!!!!!! YUK! I guess it's not part of their culture to cover up, but ay! this equals germs everywhere! In my after school class one of my students has been sick for the last 2 weeks. Since it's a small class of 7 students, I have them make a circle and I sit with them....know where I'm going with this? Student sneezes right in front of my face! :/ No bueno. Last week I had to sit her the farthest lol. Another thing, I heard that it's rude to blow your nose in front of others, which equals to students using their hands to clean their runny noses and of course have no restraint towards others and touch everything! YUK!!

26. I noticed this back in Seoul and somebody in orientation mentioned it: the holding hands thing. I've seen women of all ages hold hands (from seniors to little kindergardeners), and also boys hold hands. Well the little ones do, older guys (teenage and above) are very touchy, they wrap their arms around each other and such. I've also seen fathers and teenage boys holding hands. I still do not fully know why, to my understanding they do this as a sign of friendship and "closeness," whatever the reason is, I thinks it's actually really cute, especially when it's two little boys holding hands hehehe. The only problem for me at the moment is getting used to my female students running towards me and wanting to hold my hand. It's so embedded in me to not touch students that it's a little awkward right now.

27. One of my favorite things so far: NO TIPS! Heck yeah! Not at restaurants, not at bars, not a clubs, not anywhere! yiiiii

28. I was told about this about two weeks ago, but did not encounter it until yesterday. Koreans have a fear of pesticides, who doesn't right? We all wash our fruit and veggies before eating them. But some Koreans go as far as not eating the skin of fruits such as pears, grapes, and I'm guessing anything that can be peeled. My co-workers offered me some grapes yesterday. I noticed that they had a little empty cup set up in front of them and then I saw that they would take a grape, put it close to their mouths, suck the inside, and put the skin in the cup. I politely asked why they did this and they said because of pesticides. OK, I am all for healthy eating and organic, but to say that they would not eat the skin because of pesticides just sounded ridiculous to me. I of course wanted to make sense of their answer and to maybe put in perspective the whole "fruit skin has pores because it needs oxygen to breathe too, so if air goes out, air can go in too, so technically your grapes are not free of pesticides simply because you don't eat the skin"...but I kept my mouth shut because their English is very limited and would not understand my reasoning, nor do I want to be THAT person, at least not with them hahaha...Johnny, you know how hard it was for me to keep my mouth shut lol. I know very little about the anatomy of fruits, so correct me if the above statement is wrong. I wonder what they do with strawberries...

That's all for tonight, Imma go mimis!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

It was a Beast of a Saturday!

I didn't really had plans for this weekend. Since I'm low on cash and I want to save for the Busan Fireworks Festival on the 29th, I though I would just stay home, do laundry, improve some lesson plans, and clean. 

Friday I just went grocery shopping. I went to Home Plus downtown and I was on the hunt for some cereal with lots of fiber. I found one, and it of course tastes like cardboard, but it'll do the job. The first time I went to Home Plus, Ana and I found some frijoles...what, frijoles? Yeah, baked beans! I didn't buy them because, well to be honest, I don't miss them that bad yet hahaha.

Saturday I woke up, I cleaned my tiny studio and I started doing laundry. I then received a FB message from my friend Joyana inviting me to the Asian Song Festival in Daegu. I had to decline first because like I said, no money. But she generously offered to treat me and I did not hesitate to say yes hehehe. The concert itself was free, she helped me with transportation =) that's a friend right there!

Before I forget, on my way to the bus terminal, I took this picture of produce vendors. This is how they set up their little shops on the streets. There are some markets, but these guys are all over the city.

Anyways, Joyana and I hopped on a bus and we were on our way to Daegu! When we got there, I was honestly expecting way more screaming 13 year old girls. We exchanged our coupons for tickets and headed to the entrance....and then I saw the crowd haha. We could not get in right away because they were going by sections, we were section A32.
 Daegu Stadium

We got some snacks as we waited in line because we were soooo hungry. I bought some sweet potato chips and Joyana got some chicken bites. Which by the way, comes with some pepsi. It's interesting the way they give it you. They put the pepsi in a big cup (but don't fill it up of course), and then put the chicken bites on a small cup and mount the two. But how do you drink your pepsi? Well they make a whole on the cup with the chicken and put a straw through it so that you can enjoy your pepsi.
 sweet potato chips
notice the two mounted cups and the straw, cool uh?

This girl in front of us had this jacket, I thought it was hilarious!

Anyways, this waiting in line thing was taking forever! Joyana had friends waiting for us inside already and they told us that they weren't even checking the tickets. Since they were letting in people section by section, we figured, why not tag along the next group that goes in? We thought about if for a sec, and we decided to go for it! I was a bit nervous (we went in with section B), but we went in with no problems hehehe, they barely took a look at our tickets. 

They were going to escort us to another section, but as soon as we got the chance we left to go find Joyana's friends. They had sweet seats!

We got free blankets!

 Glow sticks everywhere!

 Oh and we got a free glow stick too

The show started, and OMG! You know how on TV they will show screaming Asian girls over artists? I honestly thought this was made up or exaggerated for TV, but ooooh nooo! These girls!! They were melting! They were about to burst out in tears! They didn't know what to do with themselves when a band like Beast, Girls Generation, and Super Junior were on! My ears were ringing after all that screaming around us!...But it did remind me of 13 year-old-Selene at a concert back in the day haha.

At one point, I had to go to the bathroom and of course there was a long line. I waited, but then they announced that Girls Generation was about to perform and half the line left! hehehe.

Me and Joyana =)

We were enjoying the concert when all of a sudden it started raining! Boooooo!! We had to move to another section :/

The concert ended at around 10:30pm with Super Junior saying why they liked Daegu. Oh but before that, they greeted the audience and one of them said something in Spanish lol. I was not able to make it out too well, something about "gracias por recibirnos...estamos contentos de estar aqui."

When we left, it was still raining and it was windy...not a good day to wear my TOMs =(, our free blankets helped a bit. Joyana had suggested earlier to spend the night clubbing or something in Daegu, but we felt so miserable in the rain that we decided to leave.

It was a total adventure trying to find a taxi. We had to walk so much! At one point we jaywalked because we saw a taxi on the other side of the road, but a cop on the other side started yelling at us hahaha. Joyana was like "taxi! there! we are cold!" I though "oooh shit, we're gonna get a ticket"...but no, he left hehehe.

When finally a taxi stopped for us, we quickly rushed inside. Noella told the driver where we needed to go, but the driver looked like he wanted to say something. We then understood that it was too many of us in the taxi, 5, when he could only have 4. But of course we quickly made puppy eyes and said "pleeeease". He hesitated for a bit, I though he was going to kick us out of the taxi. But then he said that he would charge 15,000W, double what it should be, but we took the offer.

Joyana and I were lucky enough to catch the last bus out of Daegu to Pohang. Some girls had to sit in the aisle because there were no more seats. But we got home safely =).

I do have to say that I did like some of the songs at the concert. One of Super Junior's song sounded like it could've been part of Justin Timberlake's FutureSex LoveSounds. The artists that were making their debut all had playback which did not surprised me. Only one band really irritated me, it was a Japanese girl band. OMG their voices were horrible, not because they were off tune, but because it sounded like Barbie dolls singing! Too high pitched! When they greeted the audience I though that they would sound normal, but no!!! That WAS their voice! I don't have much to say about the music. I enjoyed the experience of being at the concert, but my mind has not changed about the music.