Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Please note...

For some reason that is still unknown to me, The April Edition post has decided to place itself after The February Edition post, instead of taking it's rightful place before The March Edition. I wish I knew why this was and most importantly, knew how to fix it, but I don't. I felt the need to comment on this because it's bothering me and I feel that it might bother others who might be a wee bit OCD such as myself. If you have any suggestions on how I can remedy this problem... Please help me!!!


Life In Seoul Continues... The April Edition

Saturday, April 4th: Now that the weather is warming up, it can mean only one thing: Back to doing touristy stuff! A group of us decided to go on a walking tour that follows this route: Dongdaemun (Honginjimun) → Seoul (Naksan) Fortress → Biu-dang → Naksan Park → Ihwajang. For your viewing pleasure, here's are a few pictures from that day (Check out my Facebook for a more thorough vieweing experience!):

Group shot overlooking smoggy Seoul
(Top: L-R): Dan, Jen, Meghan, Kelly, Amanda, Me, AJ, Kiki,
Bottom: Susie, Tara

"Built in a massive public project at the beginning of the Joseon Dynasty (starting in 1390), this stone wall averaging about 20 feet (6 meters) high encircled the entire city, providing protection from thieves and wild animals as well as military attacks. This part of the wall belongs to the section that reached north and then west from Honginjimun to the northern city gates (which are no longer extant). This city has grown far beyond its original fortress walls and gates, but interest in them as important historical architecture has been revived by proud Seoul citizens, and they are progressively being restored to their original splendor."

"During the reign of Great King Sejong (early 15th Century; he is depicted on the 10,000 won bill) this was the residence of a notable Yangban (member of the aristocratic class) named Yu Gwan, known to history by his pen-name “Hajeong”. Serving as a State Minister in the royal court, he was a leading participant in the reformist Neo-Confucian movement of that time dubbed “the spirit of Chungbaek-ri.” Take a little time to look around this residence (restored in the late 20th Century) to get a good impression of Joseon Dynasty aristocratic architecture, and the lifestyle of its residents. Nearby this house there is a spring called “Jajudong” which was once famous for its clean and clear waters."

Funny story about this part of the tour: We were all sitting at this building listening to our tour guide and the security alarms kept going off. It was a high-pitched siren-type alarm, but while we all looked at each other nervously waiting for the police to show up, our tour guide just get chattering away as if nothing was going on. We assumed that this was a normal occurence, but it was funny all the same.

"This “Pear Blossom Manor” was the home of the first President of the Republic of Korea, named Lee (or Yi) Seung-man but best known to global history by his own adopted spelling Syngman Rhee. He was a dedicated fighter for Korean independence against the Japanese imperialists a century ago, and then spent decades in exile in the United States, diplomatically lobbying for American support for Korea's cause. Becoming a fervent Protestant Christian, he married the daughter of an Austrian Ambassador. When Korea was Liberated in 1945 he was able to return to this house in Seoul, and quickly became a leader of the conservative political forces. Upon the creation of the Republic of Korea under auspices of the United Nations, he was elected as its first President in August 1948. He led the nation bravely through the devastation of the 1950-53 Korean War and then the reconstruction era that followed it. Public discontent with the political and economic corruption of his administration led to his forced retirement in 1960, when he fled to exile in Hawaii. After his passing away in 1970 his wife returned to this residence and continued to live there until her own passing in 1992. Their home was restored as a public exhibition hall of artifacts related to his life and presidency in 1988, and is fascinating for all those interested in Korea's modern history."

Saturday, April 11th: Cherry Blossom Festival Time! My one word to describe this day: BEAUTIFUL!!! A group of us headed to The Yeouido Yunjungno Cherry Blossom Festival, which occurs every April and where you can take in more than 1 400 cherry trees.

Some of the girls: Lindsay, Jen, Kelly, Amanda, Me. If I remember correctly, Meghan took this picture, but Laura and Randy were also wandering nearby.

I'm not exagerating when I say that this area was jam-packed with cherry trees.

It seriously looked like something from a movie, with light pink and white blossoms everywhere. The best part was when there'd be a breeze and the blossom pedals would swirl around like snow. I've never seen anything quite that beautiful and feel so fortunate that I was here to experience it. I think it's safe to say that cherry blossoms are one of my new favourite flowers!

Friday, April 17th: First field trip of the year! In celebration of Easter, we brought the kiddies to a large park and had an Easter egg hunt. Alright, they only actually hunted for Easter eggs for about 10 minutes and they weren't even chocolate eggs. They each had to find an Easter egg that was a actually an egg-shaped contained full of bubbles and they loved it! After lunch and an exciting game of duck-duck-goose, we took a walk and found a large playground where the kids could let loose and run around like hummingbirds on speed. Introducing Banana and Cherry class being their silly selves.

Saturday, April 25th: Not that we ever need a reason to get dressed up and have a girls night, but this night was extra special because a bunch of us went to see the a bilingual performance of Vagina Monologues presented by V-Day Seoul 2009. As described in the
performance brochure, "V-DAY SEOUL is a dedicated group of foreign and Korean citizens who have come together for the third annual bilingual production of The Vagina Monologues. We are raising awareness, through the play, to prevent violence against women and to help shatter sex taboos in the Korean community." To say that the show was amazing would be an understatement. Acts such as "My Angry Vagina" and "Vagina Happy Facts" made me laugh out loud, while others such as "Say It" and "I Was There in the Room" made me cry and most importantly, made me think. A lot of the more intense ones had to do with Korean comfort women, women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese during WWII. It's painful thinking about what those women went through and what some women are still being forced to go through in this day and age, but I think it's important that we do think about it because as long as it's in our consciousness, those women won't be forgotten. I'm so happy that I was fortunate enough to see this performance and would recommend to all women (and men!) that if you get the chance, go see Vagina Monologues. I guarantee that you won't regret it!
May - to be continued...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Life In Seoul Continues... The March Edition

Monday, March 2nd: This day was... *cue the ominous music* the first day with the new preschoolers!!! Not gonna lie, the thought of teaching twenty 6-year olds with little to no English knowledge TERRIFIED ME!!! I had been teaching a class of 6-year olds and a class of 7-year olds in the last session, and while they were both first year classes, I started teaching them 6-months in so they were pretty good at communicating in English by now. Now I teach 2 classes of 6-year olds (Cherry and Banana class) and honestly, had reason to be scared when walking into that first classroom. Here were 10 tiny children (They really are tiny, but smaller than my last set of 6-year olds! Especially some of the girls. They look like dolls in their oversized SLP uniforms! Although I had to remind myself that these kids were born in 2004, so are in reality 4 and 5, hence their mininess.) staring at me wide-eyed, whispering to each other in Korean, unsure if this tall wagook in front of them was a monster or not. This day consisted mainly of singing silly action songs and colouring, hoping with all my might that no one would cry. I also tried to learn everyone's names, which wasn't made easy for us foreign teachers. The kids were wearing name tags, but with their Korean names on it. Their lockers were labeled, but again... Korean names. Awesome. A few were able to tell me their English names, but not everyone, so I made sure to ask Jinny if she could help me out with that. Oh, forgot to mention that I'm once again paired with Jinny which makes me so happy! She's an incredible teaching partner and is super easy to deal with so I was thrilled when I found out. Anyways, it took a few days to learn all their names, especially one whom I dubbed Smiley for the first 2 days because whenever I'd talk to him, he'd just smile and giggle. On day 3 I finally discovered that his name is James. And yes, he's still very Smiley. I actually don't think I've ever seen him look sad or angry, now that I think about it. All I gotta say about that first month of teaching these kids is that it was INTENSE because of the immense language barrier, but also very rewarding. These reasons will be discussed at a later time.

Wednesday, March 4th: This marked the first day of the 2009-2010 session, meaning new afternoon classes. I'm actually really happy with how my schedule's set-up now, since I'm off at 4:10 on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays (MUCH better than getting off at 7pm like I used to on those days) and off at 5:10pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays (that stayed the same). I now teach two IE1 classes, which means I'm teaching kids that were in the one-year 7-year old preschool program last year and who now come in every afternoon for 90 minutes (from 2:40-3:25 with one teacher, 3:25-4:10 with the other teacher). The upside to teaching this level is that I already knew a lot of the kids since I'd taught the majority of them in afternoon preschool. I also teach 3 of my old students from Kiwi class, Julia and Michael in my first class, Anny in my second class, which has its upsides and downsides. Upside is that they're fairly easy to get under control, since they've known me long enough to know how I work, downside being that teaching the same kids everyday for this long gets a little tedious and my expectations towards them tend to be higher because I know what they're capable of. My third afternoon class on Tuesdays and Thursdays is a Hi-Kids 1 class, meaning these kids are fairly beginners at English and the little that they do know is whatever they've learned in elementary school. They're 10 and 11-years old and I'm lucky because they're actually quite bright and know more English than I initially thought they would. They're a very energetic bunch (mostly good energetic, although they can be a bit much at times!) and for the most part all eager to participate.

Wednesday, March 11th: Happy 2nd birthday to my adorable nephew, Logan!!! I can't believe it's been two years since you were born. <3>

Saturday, March ?: Can't remember the exact Saturday that these events took place, but I do remember that it was a good day. That afternoon, I had a girls days out in Insadong with Amanda, Tara, Kelly, Jen, and Meghan. Insadong is a large touristy shopping area that has many traditional Korean shops for all your souvenir needs.

The day started off with a bang when Tara and I discovered WineAid, which we purchased in the 7-11 located in the Balsan subway station. WineAid is a basically a wine cooler, in a can. Yes, you read that correctly... in a can. Here's Meghan, Tara and I showing off our cans of winey goodness. (Pretty sure the girl between Tara and I was less than appreciative of the photo op. The man next to Meghan looks pleased to be included though!)

Once we arrived in Insadong, Kelly and I felt the need to enter the mystical realm known as the 'Auto Toilet':

Not sure if it's clear or not, but the sign inside the Auto-Toilet reads "This is an automatic sanitary restroom. The whole toilet stool is cleaned and sterilized after every use and the floor is washed regularly." I just though it was really funny look and was amused that the doors close behind you as if you're in some secret lair or something. There's also a time-limit which I believe was 10 minutes, but if you want to get out before that time, you get to press this giant yellow button:

Nothing like a giant yellow button to make a girl's day! Anywho, the remainder of the afternoon was spent wandering the streets of Insadong venturing into one shop after another. I ended up buying a pretty paper fan (it was sooo hot that day! Definetly a sign of spring!) a pair of earrings and a pretty amethyst ring. Korea's fairly reknown for its amethyst and since it's my birthstone, I felt it was necessary to buy myself a piece of amethyst jewelery.

That night, a bunch of us headed to Hongdae for a fundraiser at a little bar off the beaten track. I wish I could remember what they were raising money for, but my focus was on the fact that all the bands were covering 'Beatles' songs. Excellent! The bands were quite good, especially one who had a sax player and a trambone and other random instruments that you wouldn't expect to find in a little bar like that, but who rocked! There was lots of singing and dancing involved and I left that bar with high spirits.

April - to be continued...

Life In Seoul Continues... The February Edition

Saturday, February 14th: Ah Valentine's Day. The day of looooove! Not gonna lie, this has never been my favourite holiday. Blame the romantic in me, but I don't believe you need to set aside one day in the year to express your feelings to your loved one. Shouldn't that be an every day thing? I was originally worried that AJ was a V-Day fanatic and that I'd have to suck it up and celebrate the day, but thankfully we share the same point of views on this holiday. And what better way to celebrate a holiday that you don't especially like: Get a tattoo! The day was actually a coincidence, but it made me laugh nonetheless. I'd been wanting to get a new tattoo forever, even when I was still in Ottawa, but I just couldn't decide on what I wanted. I'm not one of those 'Ooooh pretty! I want that forever inked onto my body!' kinda people. I believe I'm one of the smart few who actually takes time to think over my tattoo, even if that means obssessing over it for months. I never expected to get one done in Korea, since tattoos are still fairly taboo here and unlike at home, you don't find a tat shop on every street corner. The fun part about working with such a variety of people is that you get to meet an equally varied amount of people! Several of the guys have had work done by Hojin, who lo-and-behold started dating one of my good friends (sadly they're no longer together). This lead to some of the girls getting tattoos which of course brought back my desire for a new tattoo. After months of research, that "AHAAA!!!" moment came. I explained my idea to Hojin and a few days later, became the recipient of this wonderful piece of artwork, which is located on the left side of my lower back (its about the size of my palm):

Since living in Seoul, where trees are mostly for show (There's many trees, but you can tell there all fairly new and were planted mainly for aesthetics. No 100-year old trees in downtown Seoul, that's for sure!), I've realized just how much I love nature. It's very easy to take for granted those things that surround you everyday; things that you grew up with. But when they're suddenly scarce, you start missing them. Since being here, I've taken so many tree pictures (Amanda teases me mercilessly) because I get so happy to see them. I was looking at some pictures that I had taken and that's when my "AHAAAA!!!" moment came to me. A tree tattoo!!! Now to decide what kind of tree. Well, I've always wanted something that shows I'm Canadian. There came my second "AHAAA!!!" moment. What's more Canadian than a maple tree! I'm VERY happy with Hojin's work and am thrilled to have a permanent memory of my time in Korea. After the tattoo was complete, a few of us went out to Hongdae to celebrate Jen's birthday, which is February 15th. All in all, I do believe this was the best Valentine's Day to date!
Saturday, February 21st: First off, this day is my dearest and oldest friend Sab's 26th birthday! Wooohooo!!! We've often missed each other's birthdays over the years, but never has there been so much distance between us when our birthdays come around. *tear* This day, a Saturday might I add, was spent at school. We had a "seminar day" from 10:00am - 3:00pm which all of teaching staff had to attend. We spent the day talking about the different SLP programs which ended up being more insightful than originally thought. We also had a guest speaker from Oxford Press who was very interesting and who gave us great pointers to increase our effectiveness as teachers. SLP bought us lunch which we had at VIPs, a tasty restaurant with an American-style buffet. To say we ate our fill is an understatement! Everyone was pretty sleepy after that, so we were happy that the day was nearly done. We actually finished earlier than anticipated which was excellent!

That night, we were supposed to go our for Jen and my's combined birthday party extravaganza at Monkey Beach, but a series of events forced a change of plans. Amanda made dinner for some of us, which I started to eat but then had to leave. AJ got hurt on his way here so I went to meet him at the subway station. I didn't really want to leave my injured bf at my place all by his lonesome, so I stayed here with him. I was very disappointed missing the Monkey Beach dance party, but turns out that no one actually made it there. Everyone ended up at Adam's then went to Hongdae and Monkey Beach was rescheduled for the following weekend.

Thursday, February 26th: Today was the last day of the school year for our preschoolers, meaning my last day teaching my 6-year olds and 7-year olds. *tear* It's amazing how quickly our 6 months together went. There was a graduation for the 7-year olds since they'd now be going to elementary school and would no longer be going to SLP every morning. Each class took their turns going into the Rainbow Room and reciting a poem for their parents. They also received a year book-type photo album (with their English name engraved on it...very nice! I'm still sad that I didn't get one too.) and a certificate stating that they had completed preschool at Gangseo SLP. This morning went by very quickly and I was sad having to say goodbye to my little minions.

Friday, February 27th: HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!!! 26... YIKES!!! Since there was no preschool that day, I got to go into work a little later than usual. Not by much though, since the morning was dedicated to meetings to discuss the new schedules that we'd be receiving because this was the last full week of the 2008-2009 session. Once work was done at 7:00pm, I headed to VIPs with some of the girls for my birthday dinner. I wore a silly birthday hat (always a requirement!!!) and ate many, many food. It was fantastic! Once we finished stuffing our faces, we headed over to Madigan's, an Irish-pub that's become a popular hangout place for us on Friday nights. It's very chill and not usually super busy, which suits our large group perfectly! We were there to celebrate/mourn the departure of Alisha and her bf Jinmo, as well as Jon. It's not that dramatic, considering they're all returning to Korea in the summer and fall, but a bummer nonetheless. Must of us planned for it to be an early night, until we found a large private room that contained a noraebang (karaoke) machine! The early night turned into a singing all night, especially Laura, Amanda and I who spent many hours singing our hearts out. I do believe it was nearly 4am by the time we relunctantly dragged ourselves away. What can I say, noraebang's addicting and oh-so much fun!

Saturday, February 28th: Official birthday party night! Some of the girls met up earlier in the night for some pre-drinks, then we made our way to Monkey Beach. The rest of the work group made their appearance at some point in the night which made me very happy, although Jen, my birthday-partner, fell asleep and never made it! AJ was sick and also didn't make it. Bummer. :( Their absence was felt, but it was still a fantastic night and the buckets of booze (I'll never tire of this concept and am so happy that I have 2 in my possesion... They're so great!) flowed freely. Oh! And there were glow bracelets and glasses and other funness! Kelly managed to procure us some, which isn't that shocking considering Kel's a pro at getting free stuff: "If it's free, it's for me!" There was much dancing, much drinking, and much laughing. I'm very happy with the way my 26th birthday played out! If anyone's wondering if I received any gifts, I did! Meghan gave me an amazing gray purse which I adore. She knows me too well! Tara got me a glass Hello Kitty phone charm. Jen got me a ginormous panda pen, some Hello Kitty socks, Hello Kitty stickers and Hello Kitty post-its (she also knows me too well!). AJ got me lots of DVDs from his local DVD man, including several seasons of Friends and the Heroes. My favourite gift also came from him: A GIANT TEDDY BEAR! Yes, I'm not ashamed to admit that I still love stuffed toys and this one is especially fantastic! He's at least 3 feet tall and very cuddly, just like AJ! (AJ's definitely taller though!) What's even better is that AJ won him for him at a carnival game that's close to base... Tee-hee! I'm still unsure as to how I'll be getting T Bear back to Canada, but he's coming with me, no ifs ands or buts!

March - to be continued...