Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Leaving Korea

It's been 6 months, a great adventure full of new experiences and friends and I'm ready to pursue what I love most... Horses. I have missed them dearly. My plan is to take my BHS (British Horse Society) Exams which I have been putting off. I need the education and Certs to back up my experience, most legit horse jobs require BHS. So fingers crossed I can look back on this year and know I made the right decision.

I'm gonna miss Korea, even though Korea & I have a love/hate relationship. Mostly I'm gonna miss Shane who will be here until November and then coming to Ireland for a short European adventure with me before he heads home to Texas for Thanksgiving, which he is already extremely excited for!

I don't want this to be a sad post! I want to reflect on my great adventure with Shane, know I'm gonna see him again very soon and look forward to MANY MORE adventures with him, which no doubt we'll have!!!

A slight rip off from Ashley's Blog but I feel the same so here goes:

Things I WONT miss about Korea:

Hagwon life

The communication fails

Language Barrier

The nasty beer

The price of cheese

Scary Adjumas

The smell of fish everywhere

The smell of sewerage everywhere


Everything is last minute & mandatory

Being sick after eating anything

People parking wherever they feel like


The noisy cats from the cat castle
Living & breathing in TIGHT Asian spaces
The lack of horses

Things I WILL miss about Korea:

SHANE (but I'll see him soon enough..wohoo)

The cute kids I teach

Shabu-Shabu (Favorite meal here)

Cheap drinks

Cheap food

Cheap health care

Cheap everything

Crazy cab drivers

There are No traffic laws

There is No copyright laws

There is No open container laws

How safe it is here

Riding bikes by the river

The transport systems

Twilight & wine nights with Kelly & Kelsey, the Cullen Sisters

Songs & the Irish girls & Co.

The Ridge

Maybe I'll be back someday. Not to teach.

But to once again experience the crazy culture it has to offer.

Bye Korea!!!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Woah Beefy Koreans!!!

Yesterday, Shane & myself attended a Bodybuilding tournament in Gwangju. One of our instructors/friends at our gym was competing. It was ridiculous. Beef Beef Beefy Beefcakes!
They were like an ARMY of muscle!

Nice panties boys!

There was a half time show that I know Aine would really enjoy as she is the 'Spinning QUEEN', also... Mam you might pick up a few cool moves for your spin class at Westwood! ha!
(See Video below!)

This is our friend 'Jay' doing his thing... beefy!
(Video below!)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sinji-Do Beach Trip

Last weekend, ten of us... Shane, Justin, Caitlin, Matt, Ashley, Kelly, Kelsey, Jesse, Lucas and me went on a beach trip to Sinji-Do beach. We got a 2 hour bus ride to Wando which is on the south-west coast of Korea and then a local bus over a bridge to Sinji-Do Island (Follow the link for a map). From the beach you can see some of the thousands of Islands that dot the Korean coast line. It was a really pretty view! Saturday was a little overcast but still nice enough for shorts and hanging out on the beach.

Myself & Kelsey enjoying the sun chairs

We stayed in a Minbak which is basically a room which you can share with a bunch of people and they provide sleeping pads and blankets. Ours actually provided a bed and a small kitchen area. It also had a great view of the beach and there were a few small local stores dotted along the boardwalk to buy beer, supplies and of course fireworks. ha!
View from the Minbak

Beach of dead bodies

Korea apparently has a strict beach season of June to August, so the beach was mostly bare. There were a few families hanging out and a few groups of Koreans having relay races.
We grilled on Saturday night, which consisted of sausages and buns, veggies, dips and chips. Then we shot off some fireworks.
On Sunday, the sun was out. Justin cooked us all toast and scrambled egg breakfast sandwiches and then we all lathered up on sun lotion, packed our belongings and headed down the beach to set up camp for the day.

The Boys - Shane, Matt, Justin

Shanes flying catch

Ashleys Korean Beach Pose
Some beach reading - Caitlin & Kelly

We attracted 3 Italians who hung out with us on the beach and another Canadian guy, not to mention the random Koreans that came over to get their picture taken with us. Later that day we headed back to Gwangju, just in time for a pizza dinner with Shane. Great Weekend!!!

My adventure in Korea is nearly over, only a week & a half to go.

Gonna miss my Shane...again. x

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jimjilbang - The Naked Truth

For my Birthday... Ashley, Caitlin & Kaisa brought me to the Korean Jimjilbang which is the naked hot-tub & sauna spa. A tad arkward at first, it ended up being a great way to nurse my Sunday hang-over. Once you excepted the nakedness, it was perfect, so relaxing and refreshing.

The Jimjilbang is such a huge cultural thing in Korea. Mothers, Daughters, Aunts, Grandmas, old, young and ladies of all sizes partake in this spa. It all begins where you pay approx. 5,000 Won ($4/3Euro), you are given your locker key, two towels and off you go, into the unknown.

You head into the locker room where there are little concession stands, you can buy all sorts of body scrubbers, snacks and different random toiletries. The when you reach your locker, you strip down, you may as well forget trying to cover yourself up, as the towels you are given are tiny.

Then you take your toiletries and head for the shower area. You must scrub before you enter any sauna or hot-tub. Korean ladies of all sizes are hanging out, scrubbing each other, scrubbing their children and socialising, all naked, all very comfortable in their surroundings. If you were on your own, no doubt they'd offer to scrub your back for you. They gave us the odd glance, no more than when I'm walking down the streets in Korea. I felt like they gave us less notice in the Jimjilbang which was a relief, we were just more naked bodies hanging out. If took a little while to get used to the idea.

As soon as your clean, your ready for the baths. You may choose from several different baths of different temperatures and types. There is a green tea bath and I've heard of Jade baths and charcoal baths. Some are freezing cold, some are scalding hot, some have power jets and others have fountains. You can also visit the sauna and steam rooms where the ladies all sit on the hot floors chatting to each other. You can also order a large bowl of ice coffee to share with your group. Perfect!

If you want a massage, mud mask, full body scrub or hot stone treatment, you can pay extra Won for this. The ladies giving the massages in the back look scary. They put you on a bed, straddle you and then pummel every part of your body. I did not partake in such torture, although I was tempted.

You can spent hours here and in most Jimjilbangs there is a room with a heated floor that provides blankets and sleeping pads where you can spent the night for no extra charge. Amazing!

I don't have pictures for obvious reasons... and yes, where there is a ladies Jimjilbang, there is always a guys equivalent next door.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Special Lockers @ E-Mart

So even though I've been here 6 months & I've shopped in E-Mart weekly, I've only just noticed the special lockers by the door. There is a line of lockers where you can put your bag while you shop (which I've used) BUT as you get to the end there are "special lockers" with transparent doors and airholes. With closer inspection they have pictures of puppies on them and some Korean writing.

Dog Lockers for when your shopping!!!

I could just imagine Americans trying to shove their labradors in the tiny lockers if Walmart had them! haha!

Tigers Korean Wedding

My experience of a Korean Wedding KICKS everything elses ass I've seen in Korea. It was by far the most cultural shocking event I've attended!
It was Tigers Wedding, he works at my school. Yup...that's his English name. Aaaand I named him... haha! Seriously... He was wearing a Golf shirt when he asked for an English name, we couldn't remember or pronounce his Korean one, so I immediately though "Tiger Woods", although no matter how many times I correct him... he's positive I named him after the animal and growls and paws at me DAILY!!!

I don't even know where to start to explain this Wedding and I know I'll never do it justice... it was a "you had to be there" sort of experience, but I'll do my best!
So Koreans get married in a Wedding Convention Center or a "Wedding Factory" as we called it. There is several rooms with several Weddings all happening simultaneously, AND Weddings back to back in each of these rooms, one after the other. They just pump them through every hour. Everyone from all the separate Weddings congregate in the large hallway connecting the rooms waiting their turn. The groom and family are hanging out there too but the Brides have their own special poka-dot decorated small room, where they sit for pictures. The Wedding guests line up outside these rooms to go in and congratulate and take pictures with the Bride.

Tiger was a General in the Army so he had some Soldiers as an escort for him, lining the aisle the Bride and Groom walked down... with SWORDS!

(Check out the fake smoke above)

The Mothers (wearing Korean Traditional Hanbuk Clothing) were escorted in first by these girls I can only describe as air stewards dressed in pink and black. (below)

Then the Soldiers did their march and positioned themselves with their swords making an arch for the Groom to enter alone and then the Brides entrance with her Father. When Tiger walked in... they played some "Eye of the Tiger" pumping background music for his entrance and the Bride had something similar but more of an electronic beat. Strange!

The once they were at the stage/alter (I don't even know what you would call it) the Korean man/Priest??? waffled on in Korean for a while, while fog machines blew out fake smoke every now and then... giving the illusion that the Bride and Groom were standing on a cloud. Tacky and jaw-dropping!

Then some Korean guy sang them a love song, followed by a ten minute slide show of the couple, all professional taken pictures, all pretty much the same. All of this must have been part of their wedding package.

At this point the Bride was balling crying (I would have been too!). Then the Soldiers returned for their exit walk, which began with the Wedding March anthem and quickly changed to an electronic version which trailed off... As a planned joke, each of the Soldiers would put their swords in front of the newly wed couple as they walked back down the aisle and made them do a task so they could pass...The Wedding guest were all laughing! They made tiger do push-ups, they had to hug and then Tiger had to speak into her boobs??? Seriously!!! The Bride is still crying hysterically at this point.

To top if all off.... WE.. as in the foreign teachers, there was probably 10 of us invited, were in the Wedding photos. I don't think any of us even knew Tigers Wife's name?!!!

In the audience for this Wedding... people were answering their phones, kids were playing their Nintendo, people were asleep and I even saw one man attend in a pair of sweat pants.

Following the Theatre performance/Wedding, we were handed meal tickets where we went to a huge Buffet dining hall along with all the guest of all the other Weddings taking place that day and found a table to sit down and eat!

It was the craziest, most impersonal Wedding I've ever attended.
Korea YOU WIN!

Baseball Game.:.Gwangju Kia Tigers

On Sunday I attended my first ever Baseball game. I was told there are a few differences between Asian baseball games and the rest of the World. Firstly, in America they check your bags and you can't bring alcohol into the stadium. In Asia we arrived with bags full of beer and a lot of the Koreans had huge boxes of fried chicken to snack on (when the fry chicken, they fry the WHOLE chopped up chicken... necks, feet...etc! Gross!). Secondly, they told me that Baseball games aren't generally as packed, we had to stand because the stadium was teeming with people. Apparently there's no fire codes in Korea so they just keep selling endless tickets and letting more and more people squash in.

I perceived Baseball as more of a social event rather than a sporting event, despite peoples best efforts to explain what was happening on the field, I hadn't a clue... and didn't really care, I was busy hanging out with everyone, enjoying a beer (well that's an over-statement, Korea's beer is crappy!) and taking in the sun. I think I'd like to experience my next game... post-Asia.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Rock Climbing at Gurye.:.Trip1&2

This was our second trip to Gurye (pronounced Goo-Ray). We hopped on an hour bus from Gwangju, then a 10 minute cab ride which dropped us off at the side of a mountain. After a 10 minute hike in, we reached a rocky area, a narrow valley of two mountains where we were enclosed in rock walls, it is beautiful. On our first trip there was Myself, Shane, Ashley and Matt. The boys were rock climbing and Myself and Ashley had a few beers, listened to music, read books (I finished book 3 'Eclipse' of the twilight Saga!), Ashley did some stitching, I did some writing, we sizzled in the hot sun and then we had as Ashley called it "a mini Epic" where we got lost on the side of a steep mountain when we attempted a hike in sandals.

The boys checking out the surrounding climbs

Matt "Gushing the Nar"

Ashley stitching

The view from the top of the mountain, prior to getting lost & sliding down on our asses. Mini Epic!

Ashley doing some hardcore bouldering trying to impress the boys with her skills, although I think they are more interested in their next climb.

On our second trip there was Myself, Shane, Matt, Justin, Kaisa, Kihyun and Lucas. This time I attacked one climb, darting up the rocks like a professional, yeah right! I "Gushed the Nar" as Matt calls it, in his rock climbing terms. Matt, who headed both trips to Gurye has just got a job as a rock climbing guide on Cat Ba Island, Ha Long bay, Vietnam. Ashley will be accompanying him as the local English teacher, friend of the monkeys, Island bum and beer drinker. With 3 weeks 'till they leave, Matt has already begun to grow his Island man, rough beard, so he can fit in with the local Island bums of Vietnam.

Trip2: Justin, Shane & Matt doing some major "spotting" for Charlie. Yes... they are joking.

Here's some shots of me climbing, compliments of Justin :)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Hampyeong Butterfly Festival

On Sunday the 3rd of May... Myself, Shane, Justin, Joey & his wife Chloe went to the 11th Annual Butterfly Festival in Hampyeong. The weather was HOT and HUMID and as usual, since we're in Asia.. it was packed with people. The whole town had a year-round Butterfly theme, check out the side of their mountain.

Justin, Joey & Shane in front of the Festivals mascots.

During the whole day we saw more dead butterfly exhibits than live ones and many other strange cultural happenings.

I bumped into two kids I teach who were there with their family, obviously a perfect photo opportunity for their Mother!

Look... an Ajuma (Older Korean Lady) ladybug!!

Shane & Myself in the LIVE Butterfly exhibit. There was also bees, frogs, crabs, fish and crazy looking water beetles on show... why not... the more the merrier! Shane loves Butterflies. haha!

There was also a fun park where we went on the Viking Ship! Poor Chloe was terrified! haha! Here's Myself, Justin & Chloe going for a gallop. This is the closest I've come to a horse in South Korea. haha! Sad Day :(

We sat underneath these sweet "flower trees" for a few minutes of shade, where we watched loads of Korean kids run through water fountains, and then one little boy ran right over to us and peed about a foot away on the grass... A little Korean old man nearly fell off a step laughing at the little boy peeing.

Another activity to get involved in: These kids (below) are in a mud pond searching for mud fish. The mud fish are leech looking creatures. Nasty. They could buy special buckets to bring them home in when they caught a ton of them. I'm pretty sure I know what they were having for dinner that night! Gross!

The next activity we passed was an enclosed field where the kids had to run around catching piglets and rabbits. PETA could have shut this place down for sure! If they caught an animal, they had to carry it back to the pen to collect their prize... which was none other than a bag of rice!

Last but not least there was a 'Cow & Milk' activity... you went around and had to do several tasks, for each task you received a stamp and with a full book of stamps you got to make your own ice-cream and then collect a prize of a pencil, or if you are Shane... beg the girl for the cow pencil sharpener! The tasks included, answering questions about milk, which we didn't understand cause it was all in Korea, they were nice and gave us stamps anyway... then you had to bottle feed a calf, then feed hay to some cows and then milk a cow.

All in all... it was a rather strange and wonderful day, with another look into Korea's Culture. It was a great day to be outside.

Ooh I forgot to mention, I got picked out twice to do interviews for a Newspaper and for the Korean News Channel. They just asked me where I was from and what I thought about the Festival. I'm Famous... In Korea. haha!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Work Sports Day

So my School Avalon, our sister school Avalon Kumho Campus and Shane's School Reading Town had their staff Sports Day. These three schools are run by the same management, a husband and wife. On a mandatory Saturday, we were picked up by buses at 8am, probably in and around 100 staff. We made sure to get kitted out in sweatbands, sweet hats and wigs. On the bus they fed us DODGY breakfast, "toast" as they call it (toasted sandwich with egg, cheese, shredded cabbage & spicy sauce) and then brought us to hike a VERY steep mountain. Apparently in Korea, this sort of physical activity is known as staff bonding time. Each campus had their own color T-shirts which we had to wear. I'd say 30% of the staff bailed after a five minute attempt at the hike, at the top they counted how many of each color shirt had made it. After millions of photo ops where all the Koreans made their usual peace sign with their fingers, we headed back for the buses to see what torture was next.

After some stopping and starting of the buses, a few u-turns and a lot of indecision as to where we should go, they opted for a large school hall because the weather turned for the worst. We ate a Japanese lunch on the floor and then began our sports day.
Sports day consisted of a balloon popping game, balloon popping race, dodge ball, jump rope and taboo. It was a strange and hilarious day, full of new cultural experiences and we even got to learn a new set of rules for dodge ball. Yay! ha ha!