Friday, October 7, 2011

Annyeong 안녕 Korea!

(Incheon Airport)
I guess it's time to say안녕to Korea and this blog!  My experience in Korea was life changing and a great opportunity to travel abroad/teach abroad and still make some money.  There are plenty of places teach English abroad; however, without the teaching degree/license, it can be tough to find a job with a decent salary.

The highlights of my experience are endless - but to narrow them down to a few:  

 Scuba Diving!
 Frolicking around on the Great Wall of China!
Volunteering with Help Your Seoul!
Lantern Festival!
 Learning Korean Culture!
 Meeting the Comfort Women!!
 Meeting new adventurous friends!
 My first ballet was AMAZING!
 My Korean Loves!!
 Traveling Japan alone!
 I really loved a lot of my coworkers from my first school year!  Danny, Kelly, Julia, Lucy, and Ann were so amazing!!  Outback with Lucy and Ann - and dinners at Danny's house are some of the best memories I'll keep from Korea - 감사합니다

And this list goes on and on...

I already miss my adventures but I've learned it doesn't matter where you are - there are adventures everywhere and you've just gotta decide to LIVE your life.  Yes, many of these adventures require money (which I don't have being that I am now unemployed) but there are so many ways to LIVE that don't require a cent.  There is nothing worth more to me that spending time with my nieces and nephews and to me - that's really living - making a conscience effort to be a part of someone's life.

Before teaching in Korea I read A LOT of negative comments on places such as Dave's ESL (even though I think Dave's is an awesome resource!).  A wise person once told me that those who complain on Dave's are people who are bored and lonely, sitting in their tiny Korean apartments instead of going out there and LIVING your life in Korea to its potential.  My advice to those thinking of traveling to Korea is:  GO!  Research your school the best that you can - but just take a leap.  The worst thing that can happen is you have to scrape some money together to fly home.  You never know about a school.  Not mentioning any names - but in my experience I've learned - that one year a school can be amazing and depending on a million factors we are unaware of - the school can do a complete turn for the worst the next year.  Business in schools in Korea is done much differently than at home.

My advice to those who feel "stuck" in Korea is:  be bad and bold!  Stand up for yourself and don't let any school administrator let you down!  You CAN leave, you CAN switch jobs - it just takes willpower!  If you choose to leave early, make sure you collect your pension.  That's YOUR money!  They don't question you or care at the pension office.  Just apply a day before your midnight run and it'll be in your home bank account 1-2 months later.

Thanks to my family and friends who supported my decision to run away to Asia and thanks to everyone who religiously read this blog.  I downloaded a stat counter a long time ago that tells me how many people read my blog from each city - I am truly humbled by the readers from all over the world when the original intent of the blog was to keep my immediate family in the loop of what I was doing.  At the time of this posting, there have been 11,885 pageviews from all over the world!  Sadly, the most read post comes from Jeju Island:  Loveland XXX.  When I look at the stats, it shows people google Korea XXX and get that post.  Ewwwww....

Thanks to the amazing people I met in Korea that made my experience all that much better.  It's tough to live in another country at times.  And you need good friends and neighbors to get you through those times.

I've enjoyed blogging so much - I have been thinking of starting another called "Minnesota Girl" -out to prove to the world that this great state has culture, don't cha know!


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Last Night in a Love Motel

Last night in Korea - what better than to stay at a raunchy love motel next to the bus station? be completely honest, I didn't want the awkwardness of running into a co-worker while dragging my hundred + pounds of luggage to the bus station when I should have been at work.  So after having dinner and Baskin Robbins with my dearest friend, Amanda, I hailed a taxi to pick up my luggage at my apartment and bring it to the love motel.  First of all, taxis in Korea can be annoying - there are a lot of rules and regulations that I am completely unaware of.  Many times I got a flat out NO and an X with their fingers telling me they wouldn't take me where I wanted to go.  So imagine how happy my taxi driver was to load his car with all my luggage.

It went something like this: 
  1. "yo-gi-oh" (right here).  "waiteeeing...waiting..."  
  2. I run to my apartment and drag down my luggage as I'm sweating profusely. 
  3. Taxi Driver:  "no nooooooo noooo."
  4. Me:  Nae Nae Nae (yes)  Ok...good (thumbs up).  Nae.
  5. We load it all up as he's yelling at me in Korean and I keep saying.  Ok  Good  Nae...Kam-sah-ham-ni-da (thank you).
  6. We get in the car and he looks at me and says, "waitingggg....waitingg..."
  7. He gets out and PEES on the street.
  8. He laughs when I "yo-gi-oh" him to the love motel.  And says a bunch of things I don't understand.  And I give me one last Kam-sah-ham-ni-da.
Goodbye 553-13 Jangan Gu Cheon-Cheon Dong #304

In case you are unaware of what a love motel is - it is basically what you've already imagined.  They are all over Korea and can be rented by the hour or night.  They are the cheapest thing to a westernized hotel that you can find.  Western hotels are very expensive and hard to come by in Korea.  Your other option is a pension like you've seen in my other blogs.  The pension offers a more traditional room where you sleep on the floor and the bathroom (usually) is more traditional where you'd shower in the middle of the bathroom versus an actual shower stall or tub.

Wow...a tub with jets!  Except, who knows what's gone on in there--this is a love motel...  I opted for the shower feature.  Love Motels come with everything you made need - especially if you unexpectedly stop by after the office.  Here, you will find shampoo and conditioner.  Unlike Western Hotels, Korean hotels have CostCo-sized toiletries that you share from guest to guest.  It always grosses me out that they don't change out the soap - but then again they don't in public restrooms either - but you don't wash your body in public restrooms.

A toilet featuring all the amenities - including bidet.  
The little foliage area was hilarious to me.
You just can never know what to expect at a love motel.
This is where the magic happens.  I've even stayed at love motels with different colored light options.
A mirror above the bed...
And little stuffed bears!  All in the same room!!  
Let's just say there was more than CNN on this t.v.;)  Like I said, it comes with everything:  robes, t.v., fridge, computer, hair dryer, hot water pot, dvd player, etc...
After shave, lotion, hairspray, brushes, q-tips, you name it!
My favorite is the little pack you get from the front desk at check-in.  My gift set is complete with:  toothbrushes, toothpaste, face wash, bubble bath, and Condoms!
Lastly, shutting off the lights in a love motel can be quite time consuming.  You've got more dimmer switches that you can imagine.  So, to conserve energy you put your key in this holder when you enter the room and the lights turn on.  When you leave and remove the key, all the lights automatically shut off.  This is quite brilliant - and it helps you to not lose the key.
Soon enough it was time to check out of the Lavender Motel and board the bus for the airport.  My fun adventure at the love motel - and Korea- were over.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Random Things I Miss (and some I don't)

Just a few random photos from my last few days in Korea.  Some things I'll miss...some things I won't.

I'll definitely miss Korea's public transportation system.  It's cheap, reliable, and convenient.
 I'll miss and won't miss the halmonis selling fruit on the corner.  It's great to buy cheap, fresh produce straight from the farmer but these ladies get pretty upset if you stand in front of their stand and block it!
 I WILL NOT miss the icky bar soap in public bathrooms or just public bathrooms in general.
 From the moment I got on the plane, I missed these amazing chocolate waffles!
 And even more, I'll miss Edita's text messages to go down and get a wapple at Cafe Soho.
 I won't miss a certain individual who made this for me!  I came to work one day and a certain person made these and gave them to everyone.  Everyone was so happy and wore them all day at work except Rebel Katie.  Come on, this is the biggest scruucie on the face of the planet!
 My second-to-last night I wanted to order McDonald's while I cleaned.  I was bummed when I called and McDonald's doesn't deliver to my neighborhood so I got Domino's.  
 Comes with hot sauce...
 "We Know The Pizza."  One would assume an American company in Korea would have correct English grammar...but there is no such thing in Korea.
 I WILL MISS MR. KIM SOOO MUCH!  I didn't even get a chance to say goodbye:(  Mr. Kim was my neighbor and one of the most amazing Korean man I met.  He would give me apples and vegetables from his garden.  One time he chased me down to give me two walnuts:)  Such a sweet guy!
 I ALREADY MISS dak galbi!!  Chicken mixed with spicy sauce, cabbage, rice cakes, pumpkin slices, etc.  My favorite Korean meal!!
 Who knew I'd miss fish that was so much work?  Learning how to de-bone fish with chopsticks was a challenge but after time - it soon became one of my favorites.  Usually a fish restaurant will have fish tanks outside of the restaurant and you can chose which fish you'd like for dinner.
Chili Chicken and Kimchi Fried Rice.
I loved skipping out on school lunch and running to the kimbap place a block down the street.  When I wanted something spicy - this pork deop bap was the best!  It was the spiciest thing I had in Korea.  Usually when I ordered it, Koreans would watch me eat it - surprised that the foreigner could eat spicy food.
 DUCK!  I love Duck!
 My last week in Korea I went to see the performance JUMP.  It was great - it was a comic martial arts performance.  I laughed a lot and enjoyed watching the taekwondo.

 I like bi bim guk su minus all the vegetables.  The sauce and cold noodles are good - but it's weird to eat lettuce with cold noodles...just saying.
 Mix it up - just like bi bim bap!
I most definitely miss this girl and other friends I've met in Korea.  It's pretty cool to meet so many people from all over the world.  No doubt, there are a good mix of foreigners in Korea who act like jerks and misrepresent - but there are so many amazing foreigners that want to get as much out of their Korean experience as I did.  Amanda is like my Canadian sister and I have no doubt our paths will cross again sometime soon.

 Lastly, I miss these guys like crazy!!!  My students made my time in Korea unforgettable.  They made me laugh and cry and sometimes both at the same time.  They impacted my life more than they'll ever know and I didn't even get to say goodbye to them.  I never thought I'd like teaching - these guys made me realize the impact a teacher makes in his/her students' lives.  

The guy in the middle is Bob!  My BOB!  Everyday he gave me a huge hug when he first saw me.  And it wasn't just a quick hug...I'd usually be sitting on the floor waiting for my students and he'd come and sit on my lap for ten minutes or so.  We called him Teddy Bear because I loved hugging my teddy bear:)  We also called him - bi bim bob and bob-o (both names that are funny if you understand some Korean).
Like any culture, there are positives and negatives.  The important thing is that we can laugh about it in the end.  Korea was good to me.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Last Night Out in Korea

I spent my last weekend out with good friends and neighbors.  We began with Korean shabu shabu...hmmmm....I miss shabu shabu!

First, you pour cabbage, mushrooms, and other vegetables into a boiling broth.

 And then you add the delicious meat.  You only allow the meat to cook until just about done - it shouldn't be overcooked.
 Dip the meat into a delicious, spicy sauce.  Soooo gooooood!
Once your meat and veggies are finished, add noodles to the soup.  My favorite are when the noodles come as one rice noodle sheet and you rip it apart and put into the broth.  Those noodles are a bit dumpling-like, but these noodles are good too.

Once the noodles are finished, it's time for bo-kum-bap (fried rice).  Add the rice, egg, seaweed, and some other things into the original bowl - the broth should be gone by now.

 After our delicious shabu shabu dinner we headed out and found this amazing sausageya sign.
 And this amazing guy with the light-up suit outside the bars near Suwon Station.  You never know what you'll find at Suwon Station!
 We headed to the "Rooster" - a fun, hookah bar near Suwon Station.  Andrea and Adam just got back from visiting family in the States - they had amazing gifts!!
 When you come in, you take off your shoes and relax on the floor filled with several rugs.

I love the decor and the silhouette of the rooster on the wall.

 Enough beer?

 Adam's ghost hand...
 Many times in Korean bars you have to order something to eat.  Fruit platter...don't mind if I do!
 Robyn and Ian from Canada.
 Andrea and Adam from Idaho.

This night out really made my departure finally feel real.  There are so many cool things to do in Korea and I really miss doing something new every week.  And most importantly, I really miss the amazing people I met along the way.