Friday, June 25, 2010

Korean Folk Village

I've been hanging around town lately because I'm trying to save money for my trip to China at the end of July. There are a lot of great things to see around Suwon/Seoul. My friend, Caitlin and I decided to check out the "must see" folk village right outside of Suwon. It was okay. Nothing too exciting. It reminded me of something you'd go and see on a fieldtrip in elementary school.  It had your basic tightrope guy that you see all over in Korea, traditional farming, houses, etc.  All in all, we had a good time. I'm glad we went...but it definatly wouldn't put it on my "must see" list of things to do in Korea.

The jail was pretty interesting.  Never do you want to go to jail in Korea.  Although it obviously it is much different NOW than what is pictured below...Korea is pretty harsh on crimes; therefore, there isn't much crime in Korea.  I heard of a guy who came to Korea on a teaching visa like the one I have.  He wrote a book on his experiences.  His experiences included, packing some marijuana in his luggage and going to jail for 3 months and then being deported.  It's really nice to be able to walk down the streets at any time of night and not feel any fear.  The only people I fear are the other foreigners here...they are the ones that cause all the problems!
So anywhoo...these are some typical torture devices from way back when...
How would you like to sit in jail like that??
ahhh...no, please...I don't know how that marijuana got in my suitcase!!!
When leaving the jail, you must always have "Head Carefulness"...or just watch your head.
Traditional stone bridge.  If you have any questions if you should cross this bridge, consult the warning sign below...
Traditional toilet...or as foreigners call them...squatters.  They use a more modern approach to the "squatter."  It's the worse when you walk into a restroom and that's all they have.
yes!  I always wanted one of these!
This was literally in the traditional bathroom at the folk village...no lie!  So...are you saying, they read the newspaper while taking a squat?
If you can't read the sign, it says "toilet paper."  I would have just used the obituary notice.
On the way out, we turned a corner...and what???  there was a small amusement park on one side of the FOLK VILLAGE.  Oh...Korea!
We took a nice, romatic boat ride...we had to be careful not to sit on the same side of the boat...otherwise it would tip over...not so romantic, anymore!

Monday, June 21, 2010

My Students...

My students are soo funny. Three months ago I was teaching them: Hello, How are you? And today one of my 6 year olds (4 or 5 years old in USA) said, "Katie Teacher, You have a big chest!" Lol...they are learning English waaay too fast! And to top it off, he kept showing me with his hands exactly what he meant...just in case I didn't understand him!

About one month ago, I saw a lightbulb go off in one of my 1st graders...he looked at me after I said I loved Korean food and said, "Teacher...lives...in...Korea????" Lol...the kids thought I went home to USA every night. I had them look out the window and I pointed where my apartment is...it so close, you can see it if you're on the top floor of my school.

Between classes, I caught the kids practicing some performances. I ran upstairs and took a few very short videos. They are reciting from memorization so their conversational English is much better than this. I didn't help with the performances, but these are some of my English students.
Apple Tree Class:

Maple Tree Class:

Pinetree Class

This is a picture of June birthdays in the Apple Tree Class. Jenny (on the left) and Jeff (in the middle) are twins. Jacky is on the right.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Korean Kids are So Cute!

Henry and Helen


I just realized I hadn't put any pictures of my kindergarteners on the blog yet.  You are in for a real treat.  They are so much fun.  They can be a handful at times, but for the most part they are great.  I am constantly amazed on how quickly they are learning English.  When I took the job, I really didn't think I'd be able to have such in-depth conversations with some of them.  Granted, there isn't a lot of conversation I have with the 3 year olds, but the 5 year old children are amazing!  They seem so much older than they are.  Because Korean age is different, our 5 year old age is really 6 or 7 years old here.  Although I am 26 years old at home, I am 28 years old here :( 

I will quickly explain Korean age.  The day you are born, you are one years old.  So, my birthday is Dec 29 and on that day I would be one.  Then, on New Year's Day, everyone turns one year older, instead of turning one year older on your actual birthday like we do at home.  So on Jan 1, I would be two years old, even though I was only 4 days old.

Back to my kindergarteners.  Every month we have a birthday day and we celebrate all the kids' birthdays that have a birthday that month.  The kids wear hanbok, traditional Korean clothing, and the parents bring in cake and treats.

These are some girls who had a birthday in May from my Maple Tree Class.  They are 7 years old (just turning 6 in American age).  Their English names are Sabina, Bini, Ivy, and Sally.  Some of our parents give the kids the craziest names.  McQueen is probably the craziest at my school...my friend has a kid named Peter Pan and another friend has a kid named, Circle!  Just imagine keeping a straight face and yelling, Peter Pan...sit down!
The Maple Tree Class really wanted to take picture!  This is gym day so their uniform in the winter are these bright orange sweatshirts/sweatpants.
The kids did a performance for their parents.  I happened to sneak by in between classes while they were practicing.  I will add the videos later.  This is the Maple Tree Class again.
Pinetree class is getting ready to practice.
And lastly, HANK.  Afterschool, we have elementary students come for English classes. They are my biggest headache of the day.  Many of the students come before or after other after-school programming.  Hank comes from Taekwondo Class.  One would think he would get rid of all his energy there...but not even close!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Eastern Medicine


I have wanted to try acupuncture since the moment I came to Korea. Since 8th grade I have suffered from horrible migraines and the past few years I have had a really hard time with my sinuses/allergies. I read acupuncture was great for these things. The best part is that my health insurance in Korea covers acupuncture. I had been putting it off until I got my insurance and could get someone to go with me the first time to translate.

One morning, I woke up with a little back pain. I went on with my day with no problem until it was time to go to bed. I couldn't even lay down in bed without crying...it hurt so bad! So after 2 hours of sleep, I went into work and one of my teachers looked up where I could go. Originally I wanted to see a chiropractor because it felt as if I had knocked a rib out of place and it was pressing against my lungs; therefore, making it hard to breathe. Chiropractors aren't very common in Korea...for these issues, Koreans go to a traditional hospital...or as my teachers call it, Chinese medicine.

They took some x-rays because they thought it may be a broken rib. When that wasn't the case, they thought it may be a slipped disk, but they needed an MRI for that. So I opted to try acupuncture and return to the hospital if the pain didn't go away. They put a few needles in my back and hooked it up to electricity. It felt nice once the electricity started...it sort of warmed/relaxed my body. Once it was done I was given A LOT of natural medicines and a pad on my back.

I woke up the next morning with nearly 0% pain! I couldn't believe it! I felt a little sore, but other than that...I felt great. That morning, I tried my medicine. Once my supervisor saw me getting ready for the medicine...she grabbed some chocolate. Usually I don't mind the taste of medicine...I actually think Pepto Bismal tastes good. I took one swig of the medicine and began gagging. It was horrible. My supervisor had to coach me through it like I was a child. Once I got it all down she shoved the chocolate in my mouth as I am gagging from the medicine. That evening I went to take the medicine again. This time I was prepared with a snickers bar and plenty of water. Once I got it all down, my body reacted immediately, before I even knew it...my medicine was vomited out into my water glass. I NEVER will take it again. I know it is great for your body, and people from all over the world come to Korea for it, but...my body will stick to the acupuncture and Western pills.
This pretty much tasted like I was drinking blood...
Many pills...
Everything together...medicine and back patch

I will say again though, the acupuncture was amazing.  I will definately do it again and again!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Election Time!

Election Day was June 2. A few weeks before the election, they started hanging up banners and handing out flyers for the candidates...unlike U.S. elections when it is several months beforehand. However, that doesn't even begin to demonstrate how different candidates are publicized in Korea. There are these trucks that drive around town BLASTING music and messages on why you should vote for this candidate. Several times I would have to stop class for a moment to wait for the truck to pass because the kids couldn't hear me over the truck. Any popular place in town will look like the video below. This is an intersection in my neighborhood near the subway station later in the evening. Usually there are several trucks like the one in the video lined up. I happened to take a video on a slow day...but I think you'll get the picture.

Gumundo Ferry

The ferry to Gumundo Island takes about 2 hours. Because of a wind advisory, we had to leave the Island early. Once we reached our destination, we found out a wind advisory went into effect about 5 minutes after we pulled away from the shore..so we were very lucky to get back to the mainland. Otherwise we would have been there until Tuesday. The ferry took much longer because of the rough waves. Most of us took seasickness medicine before we got on the boat. I've never been seasick, but I'm glad I took it. Several people were vomiting on the boat. Most people had their eyes closed and were laying back on their seat...but my Dad conditioned me for this by sending me on the Zipper at the county fair over and over and over when I was a kid. So, I was gladly trying to take videos and watched out the window the whole time. I couldn't get a very good video, naturally. When I pulled out my camera, the waves seemed to calm down. It was hilarious to watch people try to walk on the boat, it was possible...but took a lot of balance, concentration, and you had to hold on to something the entire time. I will also note that this wasn't a small ferry. It had two levels and I was sitting upstairs. So when you see the waves crashing, they are crashing above the second level.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Gumundo Island


Buddah's Birthday is a national holiday in South Korea. So for the 3 day weekend, my friend Caitlin and I headed to Gumundo Island. Gumundo Island is an island off the southern coast of Korea. It isn't very busy with tourists, so this was a great opportunity to get away for a calming weekend. Since Korea isn't very big and is heavily populated...great tourist destinations can be very busy on holidays...so I was happy to see only one other tourist group on the island while we were there.  We started our journey on the bus at 11 p.m. and arrived shortly after 6 a.m.  We stopped at a convenience store and headed for the ferry to the island.  The ferry was a little different than I had expected.  We had to sit inside because it moves very fast...but it still took us 2 hours to get to the island.  Once we got to the island-we headed on another ferry to the Baek Islands...meaning 100 islands.  Baek-do (do means island in Korean) was very beautiful.  It was a nice way to wake up from a sleepless night on the bus.

After the Baek Islands we hung out at the beach all day in Gumundo.
Some pictures of Gumundo Island...

There were several wire racks of fish drying in the sun...Koreans love dried fish-not me!
Took some pics of the scenery around the hotel/pension...
Saturday morning we got bad news.  There was a storm coming and if we didn't leave Saturday afternoon, we'd be stuck on the island until Tuesday because there are no ferries when there is a wind advisory.  So we snuck in a beautiful hike to the lighthouse-the second oldest lighthouse in Korea and headed back to the mainland.
Hiking...
You will find these rock piles all over Korea when hiking.  You make a wish and add a rock to the pile.  By adding a rock to the pile you are also making all the other wishes below yours more strong.
It was about to storm...so it was foggy...If you look close enough you can see the lighthouse...our destination.
A small rock pile begins on a big rock...
The left is the little city on the island...
Sometimes there are stairs for us...
Sometimes not...
Clear, blue water...
misty...
Getting closer...
We hiked up just to hike back down, across the rocks, and back up again...
Only 1.2 km to go...
We hiked up this, down this..past the rocks...
We made it!  Just as the wind started blowing and the rain started falling...
Stairs to the lighthouse...
So...we hiked back, had lunch and had to board the ferry back to the mainland.  It was an extremely bumpy ride.  I made a short video and will add that to the next blog.  We spent the night in Yeosu City...the most beautiful port city in Korea.  We planned to see a folk village but we had to cancel because of the weather.  So instead we planned to see something similar in Yeosu City.  However, we were so sick of being wet, we stayed behind...bought an umbrella...saw the pier...and boarded the bus for home.  It was quite the adventure.  It was as much fun as it could be with the awful weather.  I was glad we got to spend Friday relaxing in the sun on the beach.
Yesou City