Wednesday, May 14, 2008


I am very saddened that it has been so long since my last entry here. It seems like only a little while ago since my last...well, anyways, I do apologize to all those interested.
So much has happened since that it hardly seems relevant to record it all here and now...most of the major stuff already known to most people. In any case, this is my third year in S. Korea. This time in Seoul (I am so bloody happy about that!) Josh and I have managed to secure ourselves public school positions and so far things have been pretty wonderful.
Some notable differences include: A definite and resounding respect that was noticably absent from the last two years. Much less time spent teaching...if you can imagine teaching 14 classes a day!!! Now I teach a maximum of six in one day sometimes as few as three. Finishing all teaching by about 2:30pm. What a signifigant difference that is. All legalities are in...I pay tax, get my pay on time, get a pay slip and National Health Insurance and every other legal concern that was previously lacking! All the teachers I work with are friendly, interesting and can speak at the least a little English. All my needs are taken care of, without hassle.
Can you imagine?? Such luxuries? Ha! Well maybe not for those living in the west, but for a foreigner living in Korea...such things seem to be a rarity. I am now living within close proximity of the Olympic Park with the World Peace Gates as entrance (please see the included links for photos) and within minutes of all local ammenities. How wonderfully fantastic.
So, anyone who may have worried about me over here in worries. I am doing fabulously.
I still find it difficult to get used to some things that are everyday occurences here. When I first started,the second day in, we left school at 1pm to go on a hike...all the teachers piled onto a Greyhound type bus and off we went to the climb the mountain. Pfffttt...I need not have worried about my serious lack of fitness. After a nice little journey to the local mountain (What we would call a large hill back home) we arrived perhaps half way up and were then told to go our separate ways and to meet up for dinner at little group of teachers decided that it was coffee time. So we wandered about for maybe 10 mins looking for a cafe (not difficult since the entire area was covered in restaurants and cafes) where we sat for the next 3 hours waiting for dinner! All in all a rough and tumble experience. HA! However, at dinner time we were all gathered (say 70 odd teachers) in a tiny little restaurant to have Samgyopseul (A kind of bacon style grilled pork) all of us sitting knee to knee when I was abruptly called to the front of the assembled teachers and handed a mic. Well...with my resounding "Annyong Hasseyo" (Hello!) out of the way I was told with little ceremony to speak English to the group. But, what pray tell, was I supposed to say to a bunch of people, most of whom don't speak English? Well....I was told to tell them how happy I was to be here and that I was looking forward to Happy days ahead...etc. How very mortifying and terrible for all that. Truly I should know better, afterall, that happens anywhere you go.
Not three days later I came in to work and was told rather frantically that I had 10 mins to prepare a speech for the principal to say on the school speaker system and prepare something for myself to say! OMG!!! Are you joking?? This is my response of course! And no, no joke in site. I was then ushered into a tiny little studio filled with 6 graders all pointing and saying Hi and Hello...The speaker system was not where I was to give my address but rather live on TV broadcast to everyone in school. Ha...rather hurriedly I jotted down some notes of what I could possibly say...Thanks for having me, thank you for that loverly introduction...what a wonderful school...blah blah blah...I got to watch myself on TV as I spoke too! Really the highlight of my day.
There are always these little things that must be endured in order to function over here...somewhat amusing anyways.
I have moved past that, waiting for the next surprise around the next corner.
I also, for the first time since my first sojourn abroad, have been forced to bow to local custom and have had to use a squatting toilet. I can tell you firsthand that while millions of Koreans use this little beauty daily, I will never get used to it nor prefer over a standard toilet...I am quite sure that a nasty disease is around the corner for me!!! I really just don't understand their possible use or preference over a basic toilet? I mean seriously??? But, such as it is...even I, with my miraculous bladder, cannot hold it for 8 hours everyday!
Well, that is how things stand at the moment. I am happy to be back and enjoying myself immensely.
Of course, I miss everyone at home and wish you all could experience just a little of the joy I experience here.
I will try my very hardest to update this blog on a more regular basis. Please feel free to leave your thoughts, comments, concerns, and/or opinions!
Take care all,


PS. Please note that the photos to accompany this blog can be found on facebook at the links here:

Monday, August 14, 2006

I am such a slacker!

I have spent the last couple of months exploring and enjoying life, and that is my excuse for the lack of writing. Well that and I am a total slacker.
In any case, as my memory is pure pooh pooh, I have no idea what to write, what to leave out...AAACCCKKK!! and so the cycle continues. So, I will just forge ahead and try and muddle through the murk. The most extraordinary event that occured of consequence was the world cup. Perhaps word of the events here in Korea made it to that end of the world? Perhaps not. In any event, though Korea had little chance of making it very far, the fans (better known as the Red Devils) were out in full force and with a vengeance. The first game, which due to time difference was at 4am, was attended by thousands of fans. Employers actually changed shifts and had their own showings of the games so that employees wouldn't come in to work inebriated. There were public venues across the country, in which thousands of fans would be found sitting, lying, standing...whatever position they could get in order to see the jumbo screens.Here in Ulsan, being awakened by a roar from a massive crowd blocks away at 5am was disconcerting to say the least, but when I finally went to Seoul to experience the only heard about frenzy I realised the intensity of the fanaticism. I have experienced Calgary in the 88' Stanley Cup (when they ACTUALLY won) and Scotland in the World Cup (the Tartan Army is world renowned for its fanatacism) and heard and saw the Red Mile. I have to say, unequivically, that the Red Devils blow that completely out of the water. Josh and I headed downtown at about 3am(when I arrived in Seoul) and with an hour to go before the game people were in a frenzy. People had been camped out in front of the 3 jumbo screens since 10 that morning. So, in a space about the size of the Saddledome, probably close to 500,000 people crowded and jostled for space to cheer on the team. The truly bizarre bit was literally a sea of red. I was hard pressed to find a single person not wearing red or the Korean flag. I have to say, watching the sun rise to the chants of "Taehan minguk" was something, I for one, will never forget.






After world cup things quieted down to a dull roar. Everyone started to prepare for the "changma" and as it was to be my first experience with typhoon season, I did my own preparing. Umbrella's were bought, footwear decided, and research done to discover how this funky season would truly affect me. I found tips about how to get through without the usual case of nasty funghi foot or having all my clothes mold. Though it took a few efforts to finally figure out why it was that directly after washing my clothes they smelt like they had been rotting in muck for 6 weeks. So, typhoon season came, and for the first time I experienced driving rain coming at me from every angle but unable to cover up because the heat was unbearable. So for like 18 days straight I was in a constant state of sopping wet heat. Interesting to say the least. I was told though, that this typhoon was the worst that Korea had endured in a very long time. OF COURSE!!! PFFT. The extraordinary thing was the flooding that occured. I live only a block from the major river here and witnessed some serious flooding...below are some pics that I took...note the sky, it looked like that for a very long time. Seoul suffered quite a bit more than most other places, but the small out of the way provinces were actually cut off from the rest of Korea and about 30 people were lost. But, eventually that came and went too!




Below are some of the wild flowers that began to bloom with the coming of the typhoon season. It is something else to see miles of these "wildflowers" on every street and walkway.





Josh and I have spent most of our weekends touring about trying to take in as many sites as we can, including many museums and art galleries. Those will have to wait till the next entry however, as this one is already overflowing...but just a few more pics and such. We went to the beach one slightly chilly day, but we lucked out by managing to get some nice pics and see the lighthouse etc. Rachael (she is working for EMI-a hogwan owned by my boss's exwife) and I went up to Ulgi park one fine day as well. With Rachael we managed to catch the infamous woman divers at their business and I got a couple snapshots of them. Those women are fit indeed and truly work hard, diving for the food which they then serve up hot to willing customers. Exchanging divesuit for apron in moments. They have outdoor resteraunts set up along the beach for the tourists who are hungry after a long hike to enjoy. So, included below are pics of me, Rachael, and Josh at Ulgi park...







So, with that long winded entry, I will end it here. There is of course more to come...much more unfortunately. And so, it will take some time for it to be written. Damn my slacking. but so it is.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

and more photos....

Rows and rows of the yellow flowers that bloom in early spring...right outside my door.

The only Starbucks in the world where the name isn't in English...

A palace in central Seoul...An ancient waterfountain with new running taps...
Palace guardians

A sculpture park in Busan that was really impressive...sculptures from around the world. I have included my absolute favorite.

Me at Cheunggyechung (a river that runs straight through the city), a massive renovation that turned a shanty town into an environmentally friendly leisure spot.
An example of the hundreds of lanterns in a parade in honour of Buddha's birthday.

And the last pics are of the trip to Deokdusong palace in central Seoul...same as the one before.

Monday, May 08, 2006

It has been so long

Yeah, yeah, yeah...

I know it has been ever so long, and I have gotten a hint or two to get on it and post another blog, I have just been busy experiencing and enjoying my life here.
Well as much as I can anyways. It seems to be a case of a love/hate relationship with this country and its people. I am still at odds as to whether or not MY hogwan is the exception to the rule here. The director is the strangest man I have ever met, and the list of things that I am enduring here as a consequence seems to grow daily. If it wasn't for the fact that I made a choice to enjoy my life away from the hogwan, I most certainly would have packed it in ages ago.
Can you believe it? It has been 7months now! 7MONTHS! Holy crap and a pile 'o' poo! I have come to realise that I will never really leave Calgary, it seems to follow me round whereever I go. Glasgow was a British version of Calgary and now Ulsan is the Korean version. ACK!
Which brings me to my latest news, spending time in Seoul! Which I absolutely love by the way. What a wonderful city. I think most of my problem is that I really am a city girl and enjoy a place that doesn't really shut down more that one that does...Seoul seems to have something happening or something to do is green and old and really quite beautiful. Why? OH Why? I always seem to make the oddest choices. But, with that in mind, my newest plan is to stay on for another year but this time in Seoul or thereabouts.
I feel armed and and equipped with knowledge. I can see why so many stay on for another year. It really is a learning experience for the first 7 months, and then suddenly it becomes quite easy and clear. I know that with the experience I have thus far, my time in Korea can be so much more rewarding the second time round.
Well...I suppose I should really get on to what has been going on with me the last month or so.
My last post was before I had gone to Busan, or anything like that. April, Dean and I ended up going to Busan one day, it was a bit eye opening as far as my living situation goes. Busan is quite lovely and has much more to do than Ulsan. It has Starbucks and all that! Over here that is just brilliant, let me tell you! I never thought I would be so happy to see it! But well, there it is...I can admit it. There is a lovely beach with a fantastic view. We had a pretty wonderful Vietnamese dinner as well. All in all, it made me realise how little Ulsan has and how much I want out of the small hick town I live in. Hahahaha...ok, it isn't quite like that, but really!
I have been really trying to get out and sketch, photograph, and explore. I have managed to see some amazing and astonishing things. There are lovely temples and palaces, ruins etc. And just the regular sites, backroads and all that.

I managed to catch an exhibition of Leonardo Da Vinci...really wasn't mind you, but it turned out to be rather interesting. It was similar to a documentary type thing in two parts. The first was about Anne Frank and the Holocaust, basically some prints of the public records, books, photos etc...quite moving really. Then it kind of merged into a Leonardo Da Vinci documentary type thing. There were massive silkscreens of many of his works and then reproductions of his inventions...It was all very confusing but intriguing nonetheless. As I was wandering about taking pictures I was approached by a Korean woman with passable English, asking me what I thought of the show. Then I met the "artist"...her husband. It was really quite interesting...he was telling me about his concept (something about how DaVinci's work is still so instrumental and really one of the most commercially used) he had a bunch of the pop art that was reproduced using Da Vinci's images etc...and was reproducing it himself...I think there was some correlation between that and his emphasis on the inventions...though I still don't get the relationship with Anne Frank.

The night ended with Starbucks...oh what a treat!
Since then (that was some time ago now), I have been back to Busan and to Seoul. So I will just include some of my favorite photos...

The first bunch of photos are Busan

The next set are of an officials residence in Ulsan from several hundred years ago...people come here to play the popular chess type game and is quite a lovely oasis in the midst of Ulsan city.

There is photos of sunset on top of a "mountain" (more like a big hill really) that boast some ruins of some palace.
A photo of the man that got on the bus to Busan so that he could try and sell something...dunno what really.

Lanterns set up for Buddha's birthday. They were everywhere...and really quite beautiful