Saturday, August 28, 2010

Almost finished!

I decided it'd be a good day to blog.  It's raining, has been for the last couple days. And not just a little sprinkle or shower, no this is a serious torrential downpour. So I figured I'll just stay inside and pack for home.  Packing of course gets extremely old after a while so I needed a break and have chose blogging as a nice diversion.

Much has happened since I last blogged.  Mostly importantly, my mom and dad visited me here in Korea! It was a wonderful two weeks that seemed to be over in a blink of an eye, sadly.  I had a really great time with them here and sort of enjoyed having roommates. :-) We did all of the sight seeing things here in Seoul and even took a trip to Jeju Island which is just south of the Korean peninsula. (OOOH now some thunder and lightning - liking this storm) Anyway, we ate lots of good food, had some laughs, they met my coworkers/friends, went biking, took a trip to the DMZ (North Korea!), and just really enjoyed spending some quality time together after a year of me living away from home. The last couple weeks have gone quickly.  Work is.. .work I guess. Many new faces in the office, making work a very different place.

As of this moment, I have 2 days of work left. Monday and Tuesday, finishing out the month of August. It is definitely what I'll say is a bittersweet feeling. I really love and will miss my students. They are really great kids and such a blast to teach.  I also love the country. Korea is a great place to live, amazing food, great public transportation, SO much to see and do every weekend, great friends. However, I have been away from the USA for 14 months.  I need to head back for some much needed rest.  Change of pace.  I have no regrets about my time in Korea; in fact as a common saying here goes, "never say never about Korea" - this is a popular saying by people leaving Korea, i.e. " Oh, I'll never come back to Korea" or "I'll never work this job again" , etc, etc.  but for me never is really the last word I'd use. Mike and I could both see ourselves back here, if our lives go that direction.  The independence that goes with this lifestyle is something I won't find living in my parent's house.

As for our immediate plans, Mike and I will begin a month-long SE Asia trip, which I have been too busy with  cleaning, packing, and just tying up loose ends at work to really realize, starts THIS coming Thursday.  We depart Seoul Thursday September 2nd to Beijing.  We plan to head to Vietnam next on September 8th, traveling from north to south (Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh)... next a bus around September 18th, over the border to Cambodia (Phnom Penh and Siem Reap- Angkor Wat).  On September 24, we fly to Malaysia where we will make our way to a Malaysian Island, (the Perhentians) known for true relaxation as well as great diving/snorkeling.  CANNOT wait for that leg of the trip. Last stop is Hong Kong, where we happened to be visiting during a time of a festival. from Hong Kong we head back to Seoul for 2 nights, seeing friends, grabbing suitcases. and then I will be on a flight back to Minnesota on October 5th.

Well, I guess this has been a long enough break from packing and the rain looks like it could be letting up soon. This could very well be my last blog entry from Korea. It has been a crazy, exciting, fun-filled year or 14 months and I couldn't have asked for a better experience!

Here are some pictures to leave you with...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

life waits for no one

Many decisions have been made, plans finalized in the last week or two.  Here is my 2-3 month outlook.  Still counting down each and every day (30!) until Mom and Dad get here for my summer vacation.  we have made plans to go to Jeju-do (Jeju Island) Jeju is considered the "Hawaii" of Korea.  It is an island that is directly south below the peninsula.  I really cannot wait to show them my life here, including such joys as meeting my kinder kids, eating at my favorite foods/restaurants, experiencing my ability to speak a little Korean (VERY litttle - or in korean - chogum) and actually read it no matter if I know what I am saying or not, and seeing the beauty in this country. Another countdown going is 70.  There are 70 days until the end of my contract (meaning the last day of work) and 71 days until Asia tour 2010 starts with Mike.  We plan to visit China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. VERY EXCITED.  definitely plan to hit up the beaches. much relaxing will be had. And the last countdown that has begun is.... my return to the United States! I have a flight booked to Minneapolis landing on October 5th :-) 104 days and counting...

I am writing this about 2 weeks shy of my 1 year anniversary of arriving here. And I guess I've been feeling just the slightest bit sentimental.  I'm sure it's because the group of people I came with are all leaving, leaving me behind. I will be there for all the new teachers to arrive, I will be on my SECOND! year of teaching. WOW. never thought I would be here, where I'm at now. I have enjoyed every step of the way and really am going to miss my friends/co workers when they leave.  The experience we had together was special and unique in its own messed up, crazy, fun, wild, and hectic way. Hence the title of this post.  As I have learned about life thus far through high school and onto college and now behind, it continues without you NO MATTER WHAT - your classes, your students, your mess of a desk, your good AND of course bad days - ALL left behind you. However, the memories you have created and made in your past will be with you forever and will help mold you as a person, shaping your life, while the future holds so many new, exciting memories to be had.

Friday, May 28, 2010

just some jibber jabber

So, this blog post is really only to say I am the WORST blogger ever, and that I really want to have time to blog and share my adventure but there really is only so much time in a day and if you did my job, you'd know that anytime away from work is precious and should be spent doing something fun and exciting, like something you would write about in a blog... hmm. ok, so that leaves little time for blogging and that is where I am currently at. spending my free time doing things away from my computer.  isn't that what life is supposed to be like?

p.s. I WILL blog soon. PROMISE.

here is a rundown on my life and adventures, written in short phrases and sentences.

enjoying my new kiddies, watching them grow and improve has been exciting and rewarding, enjoyed the 2 weeks of cherry blossoms blooming around Seoul, moved to a bigger and better apartment - LOVE it, I have a real shower (this IS a big deal), catching as many korean baseball games as I can, I live about a 10 minute walk from a stadium - home to the Nexen Heroes - woooo Heroes!, 3 field trips with the kiddos (a science museum, a toy land sort of place, and the play Cats (in Korean made for children - I personally got no enjoyment out of it), children's day (WOO = day off of work, kids celebrating being kids, best day EVER!), teacher's day - got ridiculous amounts of gifts, had a field day with the kids (tug o war, running race, etc - go team blue), new co workers, new bosses (soon), working 11 hours a day - still, hasnt changed, buddha's birthday = another day off work!, temples decorated with millllllllllllions of lanterns, lotus lantern festival/parade - very cool!, trip to Taiwan with Mike, counting the days until my lovely parents arrive (July!), extended my contract until end of August, possible war in my neck of the woods?,  planning a trip around Asia (Sept - Oct), possibly home early Oct ?? :-)

So that is my life in a very quick, unedited, off the cuff paragraph, with many errors and run-ons BUT I have decided its better than NO post at all. TAKE IT or LEAVE IT people, take it or leave it. I'm signing out, it's late, birthday party at work tomorrow ( this means screaming children and insanity) oh and report cards are due tomorrow (is it bad I haven't started? ;-)  missing everyone and missing MN. now wanting to leave you with one picture BUT struggling to decide which one will be a good ending note to this ramble of a message....

Foul ball I caught at a Nexen Heroes game... an American hit it! :) wooo

Sunday, March 21, 2010

and A Hello to rocketships??

So, as I talked about in my last post, I said goodbye to the old kindies, the "nuts" and hello to new kiddies.
This year the kindergarten classes are named after spaceships. Don't ask.  I am now the homeroom teacher of the Atlantis class and after lunch I teach Apollo. Hilarious. Anyway, I thought I would talk about my new kids and classes.  So I have two new groups of kindergartners as well as new afternoon, elementary aged kids. I am teaching a first grade class, two different levels of third grade, and a fifth grade class. Oh and I am teaching science too. Innnnteresting I know.
I have been teaching Atlantis/Apollo since March 2nd and all is going very well. They are such sweet children and very good listeners. I have nothing negative to say. There are no discipline problems and that is such a miracle.
We went on our very first field trip together last Friday to a science museum.  They were very well behaved and seemed to have fun.  Here are some pictures.
First row: Cindy, June, David, Diane
Second Row: Lucy, Jeo, Wani (hidden), Wendy 
Third Row: Henry, Chloe, JungYun, Katy 
On the bus to the museum 

A couple Apollo kids, Patrick and Bailey

Something hanging from the ceiling at the science museum

The kids pointing at something in the space-like room, probably this big planet shaped thing in the middle 

JungYun doing an experiment

More Apollo kids
 L to R: Trixie, Alice, Daniel, Sunny, Aaron, John 
Doing an experiment

Atalantis kiddies, another experiment 
Wani, Chloe, Henry 

Of course I had to have a little fun too! 
Co-worker Catherine and me 

Official group pic of Atlantis! 

A Goodbye to the "Nuts"

Hello All!
Since I am behind in blogging about my life, this post is sort of what we call old news.  The end of February marked the end the school year here in Korea.  It was time for the little kindergarteners I had been teaching since July to graduate. My homeroom class was called the Chestnuts and my afternoon kindergarten was called the Pistachios. So it truly is a goodbye to the "Nuts." It is weird having them graduate. We were in such a routine with each other because I had been with them since my very first day in Korea. It was sad to say goodbye, I guess it's probably the closest thing I felt to having my OWN kids, as weird or creepy as that sounds.  It was just another example of how life is continually moving and changing no matter how much you don't want it to.  They were wonderful kids to have for my first teaching experience and I wouldn't change it for the world.  For kindergarten graduation, we had a ceremony at a location away from our school.  It was an auditorium with a stage for the kids to walk around and receive their graduation certificates.  Of course, all the parents came, cameras in hand.  I gave a quick little speech about my class (we graduated over 100 students!) and the kids got their "diplomas", snapped some pictures (forgot to mention - they were wearing caps and gowns!), and then the kids had practiced a song to sing. We had 9 kindergarten classes, 3 classes sang a different song together. My class sang, "First Grade, First Grade" sung to the tune of "New York, New York"  - You know, "We want to be a part of it, first grade, first grade" The Chestnuts truly are wonderful singers, as they showed me throughout this year at such event like the Christmas concert, or daily in the classroom.
I will miss those kids, though I am pretty lucky.  I get to see most of them EVERYDAY still because they are now in 1st grade. Some went to a different POLY school, one that you had to test high to get into, but out of my 24 kids, about 14 still go to my school. They are great - They are the first class to come after our hour prep time and many of them come early. When I am prepping for the afternoon classes, I will go to make copies at the copy machine and it is almost impossible to do so without running into one of my old students wanting to say hi. I love it.  I teach a first grade class (not their level though) and my Chestnuts and Pistachios wait for me outside my classroom door just to say a quick hello and give me a hug.  So, I guess it's like they never left? :-) Though, they look older, crazy how that happens.  (I sound like a mom when I say that). Along with my kinders graduating, I got all new classes and the other grades moved up.  I will talk about my new students and classes in my next post.
Here are some pictures from graduation!

Yoon and Helen... the Pistachio class "item" 
I still get to see these two everyday. :) 

Hera and HyunSeung - Chestnuts

Waiting to get started... check out those peace signs! 
Lina, Katherine, Joshua, Jacob, Jina

This is the entire Pistachio class

And the whole Chestnut class

Some close ups after the ceremony
This is Emily and Katherine, oh and of course Emily Catherine too! :) 

And of course Sunny! Who moved away to a different part of Seoul :-( 
Love that girl 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Land of Smiles - NO, not Korea

It is official. I am a BAD blogger. 
BUT as promised in my last post, I would update you on the "recent" happenings in my life away from the United States. I say "recent" because it was almost 2 months ago I was in Thailand celebrating Christmas/New Year.  

Here is the breakdown of the week spent out of Seoul. 
We left on Christmas Day, just as the snow started to fall.  As stated in other posts, this Christmas did not seem like Christmas for many reasons. But as we pull out of Incheon Airport, I could see the white flurries starting up, giving Seoul a white Christmas. Spending Christmas in 90 degree weather is not typical for me and my Minnesota blood, though it was quite enjoyable.  

The popular backpacker's road right by our hotel... there is a tuk-tuk on the right!

We (Mike, and 3 of my co workers) got into Bangkok late on Christmas night to a humid night.  We got to our hotel for the evening and headed to bed.  Next day, we started out Bangkok adventure with a ride in a tuk-tuk.  They are like taxis, but you can bargain with them for desirable fares. Also, they are a little more exciting than taxis given that they are essentially motorbikes with an area for passengers on the back, with open sides. Our tuk-tuk took us to the river where we took a river boat tour.  It was very interesting to travel by longboat, seeing parts of Bangkok that we would have missed had we not taken the ride.  This very first experience was one of many where I noticed just how friendly the Thai people are.  As we sped along the canals, passing people bathing in the water or just looking out from the banks, many would smile and wave at us. It was as if we were their long lost friends speeding by in our long boat. During the trip, if I made eye contact with any Thai person, anywhere, they would immediately smile.  This is so different than my Seoul experience.  Here, if I caught eyes with anyone, the last thing they would do is smile.  They are so busy in their own lives to acknowledge my presence, let alone smile at me.  The most I get here in Seoul is the incessant stare, which I have JUST about gotten used to.  Just this week though, I caught a younger guy staring at me, and just to clarify when I say staring, I mean not in a friendly, curious way. I mean more in a scrutinizing way.  I was just fed up with it, maybe just having one of those days which I so often seem to have here, and I said WHAT?! and shrugged my shoulders to him.  Yep, no response to it. So long story short, I really extremely enjoyed the Thai people's friendliness.  They made me feel welcome in all situations.  No wonder it's called the land of smiles.  
The whole group on the long boat trip, WOO I got us all in with a self-vacay! 
A bridge over the river
An example of the houses located RIGHT on the river that we went by 

After our boat trip, we tuk-tuked around a little more, visiting different temples and landmarks around Bangkok. We really had no agenda and just let the tuk-tuk drivers suggest places for us to see. Another note to make about my experience in addition to the smiles is the amount of English spoken.  I know that Thailand has a lot of tourists visit the country so that could very well be the reason for the great amounts of English around the city but I could not get over how well the average Thai person could speak English. From my personal experience here in Seoul, this is not like what I have seen in Seoul.  Often when shopping here, I find myself stuck in the language barrier and this sometimes discourages me from looking at things or trying things on. However, when in Thailand, everyone was so inviting with their wonderful smiles AND English skills that I found myself looking at everything and actually talking with the people selling things.  I really do love Thailand and would love to return for so many reasons. 
Just one of many pictures of the king and queen around town - taken out the back of the tuk-tuk
The first temple we visited... the only rain we saw all trip as well 
Typical sight in Bangkok... yes that is two adults and two children sandwiched in there, adults with helmets, children without of course
The BIG Buddha
The Good Luck Buddha... we saw MANY Buddhas.. 
Bangkok, The Grand Palace at night 

The next day in Bangkok, we headed to the Grand Palace, the reclining Buddha, and Wat Arun.  These three locations are all very popular and famous tourist destinations as well as must see's in the capital city.  This day was extremely hot, but we had to wear modest clothing, covering our shoulders and legs so we could be let into the palace.  The palace was beautiful and very ornate.  It is amazing the work that has gone into creating such extraordinary structures. 
The Grand Palace daytime

Me at the Palace

Pics from the Palace 
The Reclining Buddha 

Buddha! Oh Jesus, I love you and I love Buddha too!

Wat Arun
The view after climbing up
The people who climbed to the top! Missed you Mike! 
Prayer flags @ the top
Had to throw one self-vacay pic in the mix

After our two days exploring Bangkok, we hopped a plane to Phuket, then took a bus for about 1.5-2 hours to an island called Koh Kho Khao.  It was remote and very private and as you can imagine, relaxing! The resort we stayed at was amazing.  Good food, great beach, nice staff, gorgeous rooms. 

On our first day on the island, we signed up for a couple of tours through the resort later in the week.  The first tour we took was a snorkeling one. We went out in a boat to an area where we could snorkel and see fish around a reef area. It was very fun and we saw many fish. On the same tour, we were taken to a "deserted" island which was a large spot of sand really.  There were many hermit crabs on this island and many tried to sneak into my bag to come home with me. We relaxed for a bit and were taken back to our resort where we spent the rest of the day laying in the sun, developing our bronze tans. 
On our island... the boat we took to get there. 

Hermit crab heaven!
Truly deserted.
Hello Crabby!
Enjoying paradise with M Demps

The second tour we went on, (this was probably the highlight of the trip for me) was riding elephants!! We were able to ride the elephants, 2 people per elephant, through the jungle to a waterfall, took some pictures there and hopped,literally, back onto our "ride".  We each took turns riding on the elephant's neck.  I found this to be quite difficult and thought I was going to fall many times.  However, I think my little friend realized I was a bit unsteady and he continually would lock his ears back as to hold me on in a way.  I was thankful for that! Riding the elephant in shorts was NOT the most comfortable.  His body was covered in short, stiff hairs that poked a bit, just a bit of chafing occurred.  Though, it was all worth it. The next part of the trip was a relaxing canoe ride down a river.  It was beautiful! It reminded me a bit of Montana as well as Costa Rica.  Costa Rica more for the greenness, the trees and Montana for the mountainous landforms surrounding the river.  Not to mentioned, we didn't have to paddle ourselves. :) 

Hello Babar! :)
They were so cute!

Waiting for our elephants to come get us...

Through the river and into the jungle we go..
The waterfall the elephants took us to see

Mike and I, Mike is riding on the neck

Giving Babar some snacks after carrying Mike and I's big butts around


the view before the canoe ride
Relaxing down the river in the canoe 
The pretty scenery 

The last part of this particular tour was to the Monkey Temple. Here were monkeys literally EVERYWHERE. We stopped on our way there to buy bananas and peanuts from some old ladies on the side of the road.  We were able to feed the monkeys and they would grab the peanuts RIGHT from our hands. At one point, I had my hand held out with an offering of peanuts and the little monkey decided it to be good idea to take a seat in my hand.  It was cute and definitely an experience I won't forget. 
Yummy Bananas!

We're having a moment here.. he's holding my hand and gazing into my eyes

Baby Monkey

The Monkey Fam hanging out in the trees 

The last highlight of the trip was of course New Year's Eve.  Our hotel had a party with buffet dinner, shows, and games.  We took part in all of the games we possibly could and had a blast, winning many good prizes, and by good prizes I mean Chang.  Chang is one of popular Thai beers. :-) We were also able to buy some low grade fireworks, silly string, and party poppers to help celebrate. 
The New Year's Dinner/Show set up 

Our Dinner Table

The full moon through the palm trees 

The boys playing one of the silly games
knock the beer cans over with the zucchini tied to your waist
Then they had us girls play the game up on stage! 
definitely provided the entertainment

Each person was given a paper lantern to light and send up into the night, sending their worries far, far away for the new year.  It was a beautiful sight watching the lanterns rise high over the sea, until they were so far away they looked like little lights in the distance.  
One of the paper lanterns

Everyone on the beach, letting their lanterns go

Goodbye worries!

The entire trip was amazing and Thailand now has a special spot in my heart.  It has been place on my list of places to return to sometime in life. I have nothing but good things to say about my experience there. 
Hope your enjoyed the pictures. 
Here are a few last ones of the beach and beautiful sunsets. 
The view one way down the beach 

View the other way

lounging on the beach 

The beach at the resort

A bird in a tree

Beautiful sunset... current screensaver on my computer