Monday, May 24, 2010

Staying out of trouble

Since moving to Seoul, I haven't has as many opportunities (or as much motivation) to take weekend trips to other cities. But, with the 3-day weekend thanks to Buddha's birthday, I got that chance last weekend.

On Thursday afternoon (after classes were finished) I had lunch with my Doumis (helper students that the school paired me with) and then took the bus to 청주 (Cheongju). I met up with Viruck and Candice, and we hit up the town for some barbeque, playstation arcade, karaoke, and beer. Slept the night in 청주, and then in the morning met up with my friend 민애 (Minae) and together with some of her friends (7 of us in total: me, 1 Italian guy, 1 Korean guy, and 4 Korean girls) took a road trip. Our first stop was 전주 (Jeonju). This city is very famous for its "Korean Traditional House Village." Its about 1 sq. mile and all of the buildings look like the traditional korean style. We had 비빔밥 (Bibimbap, rice mixed with various vegetables and a chili pepper sauce) which is the famous food there. It was good, but the only real difference from 비빔밥 made elsewhere is that they added a walnut and a few pieces of jejube. Because of the traditional appearance of this town, sometimes its used to film movies that have a lot of flashbacks or take place in the past. One of my favorite movies, 클래식 (The Classic) was filmed here.

After that, we got back in the car and continued driving south for about 2 and a half hours. We got to the home we rented for two nights (see picture above). It was in an area with alot of hills and forest, and was really beautiful, especially when the mist rose up over the forest. It had a barbeque outside, and inside there was a kitchen, bathroom, and two rooms. Friday night we grilled outside and enjoyed the nice weather.

Saturday it was raining non-stop all day. We went to the nearby mountain, 지리산 (Jiri mountain), which is one of the most famous in Korea. There is a temple not far up, which was cool. And then we hiked 2.5 km along the path which took us quite far up the mountain and to a beautiful waterfall. The constant rain was a bit bothersome, and made for a few slips on the way down. By the time we got down, it was time for a very late lunch and then we went to a tea museum. When the first person brought tea to Korea and gave it to the king, the king ordered that the tea be planted on this mountain. So this mountain is the origin of Korean tea culture, since about 700 CE. By the time we got to town, most of the shops were closed... but we managed to buy some sushi, chicken, and various other things to make a delicious meal. We went back to the house to eat and enjoy a few drinks.

Sunday morning we had a big breakfast of ramen and fried rice. I'm not a big fan of ramen to begin with, and it's not exactly how I like to start my day ㅋㅋ But it was good to get some food in our stomachs before we left. The trip back home took 8 and a half hours (from the time we left that lodge until I got back to my apartment). So, it was a bit difficult because I hate to sit still, but spending time with friends is always fun. Spending two days with the same people non-stop is a good way to make friends. And actually I found out that 병일 (Byeong-il, see picture above, and no... I have no idea what he's doing) graduated from the high school that I taught at last year. Its a big coincidence since that town is so small that nobody in Seoul even knows where it is, and there are about 7 or 8 high schools in that town. So it was fun to talk with him about the school, because we knew some of the same teachers and famous places nearby.

민영 and 민정 (Minyeong and Minjeong) who were in the same car as me for a good portion of the weekend.
보라 (Bora) and Luka. They've been a couple for 6 years, but can't speak each other's languages. They always speak in English and are a really good couple.

Monday, May 17, 2010

anything but static

Everything in America changed so slow. I've had the petal to the metal ever since I came to Korea. But perhaps that metaphor is a little erroneous, as it implies that I have some control. But everything in Korea changes faster than I can understand it. Really, the best way to live is just to follow your heart and do what feels right. If you have a good heart, and a good head, regardless of the speed that you are going at, regardless of how badly you screw up, it won't be so bad that someday in the future you won't be able to get back on your feet and exclaim "whew, that was fun!" and take the lift back up to the top of the hill. It's hard to imagine that all of these blog entries have been written by the same person, and its safe to say that these journals only scratch the surface of my daily life and daily thoughts in Korea. I think I really have changed alot, and I suppose that will be tested when I travel back to the states next month. What changed -- me, or my environment?

I took the midterm test last week. My listening and reading results were 91% and 95%. They are respectable scores, but fell short of my idealism. I am really proud of my class, as we all did quite well. Lets just say if this were softball, and it was my class against the other level 2 classes, this game would've been called early due to the 10-run rule. I suspected that we were much better at Korean than the other classes, and i'm glad to have this confirmation. Especially Junya, 100 and 99?! I'm proud of you!! But I guess I chose the wrong person to make a bet with. Let's just say breakfast is on me this week. Tomorrow we get the writing and speaking results back. I think I am pretty good at both of those, especially writing, so I'm eagerly awaiting those results.

Today I was informed by my teacher that they want to take a few photos for some school-related purposes. He was pretty vague... which I now know was due to the fact that he really didn't know anything about it. If he were right, it only would have taken a minute. But instead, I spent a good 2 and a half hours there with about 10 other students. The korean classes are 95% asians. So I think it was a little odd that the 3 young, handsome white guys and the 1 black guy among the 200 students all got selected to this group of 11 students. But when they chose the girls, they didn't pick girls that were young or pretty. What are these pictures for, and who are they marketing them to? I knew it was serious stuff when I saw that I had to get my hair and makeup done before we started shooting. They really went a little overboard and made me look like 구중표 but its okay. I think they didn't really have the right makeup tones for white people, but that would be implying that i have some knowledge in the field of cosmetics, which is definitely not true. It was hot and dragged on forever, but I got to be the lead role and I got to spend some time with old and new friends such as 소신.

This weekend is going to be great, as I'm taking a road trip with 민애 and her friends (1 italian and 4 koreans). I don't know much more beyond that. It's a three day weekend thanks to Buddha Day. Looking forward to another great week, one day at a time ^^

Monday, May 10, 2010

삼천 단어

A picture I took in my new apartment... I haven't changed that much since I came to Korea!

The beautiful cherry blossoms on Well-being Road between the two campuses of our school.

Junya, when we went to the amazing coffee shop near our school.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Lately it feels like some things, such as school, are moving at light speed while other things are standing still. Some time ago this rate of progress would have irked me, but actually I think that everything in my life is where I want it to be now, so standing still is great, so long as it doesn't become monotonous.

Next week is the Mid-term exam. I haven't had a midterm at this school so i dont know what to expect exactly. But there will be a 2-minute improvised roleplay with a partner, an interview with a teacher, and a written exam. I guess that pretty much covers everything, speaking/listening/writing/reading/pronunciation/vocabulary.

Last weekend, two of my good friends came up to Seoul and we had some fun. Their procrastination and indecisiveness are really bothersome, but once we finally get to doing something its nice. We ended up going to the Buddhist temple together on Saturday and we went to Seoul Forest Park on Sunday. We were six in all, and Me and Junya opted to go rollerblading while the other 4 elected to bike.

Life is good. I'm busy. I'm ready to go back to the States next month to be a best man, spend time with family, and catch up with friends. But.... how will I fare for two weeks without Korean food?