A Travellerspoint blog

Merry Christmas!!

Christmas, Sports, Halloween, Birthdays and kids

sunny 6 °C

Merry Christmas!!!

Merry Christmas Everyone! I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. My Christmas was great. It was tough to be away from home but I had great friends to spend a nice relaxing Christmas weekend with. My friend Anuska hosted a Christmas Eve dinner for all of our friends, I am still not sure how we all fit in the apartment but we did, and we had a great night.

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Here is my promised update on the children who I am spending most of my time with while here in Korea. We have gone on numerous field trips, celebrated many birthdays and holidays, and as much as they can drive me nuts I love these kids so much. It is weird so soon after finishing school, no one is giving me tests anymore and I am now the one giving them, I must say I much prefer the giving then the receiving. While it is tough to be thrown into teaching with very little training it is a great way to learn, you very quickly realize what works and doesn’t work in the classroom.

Christmas Party

Without snow and cold weather I wasn’t really feeling the Christmas spirit this past week until we had our Christmas party with the kids. They don’t really celebrate Christmas like we do at home, it seems to be more of a holiday spent with friends or significant others. Even though most kids don’t celebrate Christmas at home they were all super excited to have an ECC Christmas, a lot of my kids thought actual Christmas fell on the day of the party. It was so much fun to see their excitement throughout the day. We decorated Christmas cakes, which was fun but resulted in me being absolutely covered in frosting. Afterwards we all put on some Christmas performances and the kids got to meet Santa. It was a really fun day and definitely got me in the Christmas mood.

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Sports Day

Sports day was so much fun. A bunch of the ECC schools got together and participated in competitions and games. The parents came as well, which was nice because I had never met or seen many of my student’s parents. There was a lot of competitiveness, which I have learned is pretty normal with the Korean children. After seeing the parents compete at sports day I quickly saw where they developed their competitive nature. We spent a couple weeks before learning some dances to perform on sports day, I have never learned so many ridiculous dances in such a short period of time, but it was a lot of fun. It was so great to see the kids having so much fun… and being kids, which is something there isn’t a lot of time for here in Korea.

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Halloween

Halloween is another holiday that isn’t really celebrated in Korea. Since it is seen as an English holiday here, most English schools have a Halloween party. A lot of the kids were dressed up as scream, wizards, and witches, which was not surprising since it is impossible to find a costume here. My friends and I resorted to making our own the night before Halloween. It was fun to see the kids dressed up they looked super cute.

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Birthday Party

Birthday party is a monthly event at ECC. Everyone gets together in the playroom where the children who had a birthday during the month stand at the front telling everyone what they want to be when they are older (the answer is always a cook) then they receive gifts from all of their classmates and everyone puts on a little show for them. Each class has to learn a song and dance to perform. It is pretty cute to watch all the kids dance, though I feel like a stage mom from toddlers and tiaras standing in the background doing the dance so they don’t forget the steps. The site won't let me upload videos right now, but once it does I will post some of the dances I have taught my kids.

Here are a few things I have learned from my kids…

1. a teacher makes an awesome jungle gym
2. the number two should NEVER look like a backwards six
3. making the number four look like a flag is completely unacceptable
4. the number eight is not a snowman (needless to say in my first month of work I quickly had to change the way I wrote half of my numbers)
5. having no shame makes you a better teacher
6. because I said so is a reason
7. stickers can get children to do anything you want and candy gets it done faster
8. the quiet game is a game… and it works!

I absolutely love teaching and I wish all of you could come here and meet my friends and my students. Month four in Korea has just begun and I am sure it will be just as great as the first three. I have booked a trip to China for Lunar New Years with five of my friends, it is going to be amazing! I hope you all have a wonderful New Years. I miss every one a lot!

Steph xoxo

Posted by stephyg 03:44 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Loving Korea

Fireworks and hiking

sunny 18 °C

Ann young ha seh yo!

I can’t believe it has been a month since I have updated my blog… in fact I can’t believe I have been in Korea longer then a month. This adventure is going by so fast, between teaching, hiking, and partying, I am having the best experience of my life and it will be over before I know it. It has been a rather eventful month and I should have been updating more often, so I figured I would have an entry about school life and one about my life outside of school.

I have always loved fireworks, so naturally I was all for going to see the Busan fireworks. I was told that the crowds would be nuts, so after a long sports day with our students we trekked over to Gwangalli beach. We found a nice seat close to the front at about 4:30pm, which left only three and a half hours to wait. It was crazy to see how the spaces around us started to fill up so quickly, with people finding a way to squeeze into the smallest areas. With food and good company the time seemed to pass fast, at one point I figured I would attempt to find a bathroom before the show started, after standing up I soon realized this simple task might be impossible. There were seas of people making it so that I couldn’t see any sand, sidewalks, or streets. I tried to make my way through the crowd but I soon gave up and headed back to my seat. Once the fireworks started I was in awe, they were amazing and nothing like any fireworks I had ever seen. There were even fireworks that looked like birds and they flew in the air for a couple minutes. I have attached a video of the fireworks it is definitely worth watching.

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I have recently started hiking which I absolutely love. It is such an easy activity to do since there are mountains everywhere! My first hiking experience was on Jangsan a mountain that I am able to see from my apartment building. My friend and I were almost celebrities on this hike, I don’t think we saw any other foreigners on the mountain and people were staring, smiling, and saying hello all the time. We also had lots of little kids asking us where we were from. It was a nice hike though there are many path options, which was rather confusing at times. At one point we came up to this particular fork in the road.

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With our options being a clear do not enter X sign and a warning of possible land mines, we were very torn on which choice was the right one, since heading back down the mountain was clearly not an option. After stopping a Korean and asking “which safe?” We got the response of “same” so we decided to take our chances with the landmines. Needless to say we survived and had a great time. Towards the end of our hike we came across a temple. It was the first one I had seen since coming to Korea, it was especially great to be there because there were hardly any other people and the people that were there were praying inside. It was such an experience to hear and watch them pray, and the temple itself was absolutely gorgeous. Here are some photos of our hike and the temple.

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The following weekend we decided to hike Geumjeonsan Mountain, where Beomeosa temple is located. This was a much tougher hike since we were climbing rocks most of the way up, but the view at the top made it all worthwhile. This is a nice mountain to hike because of the 17 kilometers of fortress wall that surrounds it. The fortress was wall was created after the Japanese (1592) and Chinese invasions (1636), which was when they realized the need for national defense especially against attacks from the sea. It was originally destroyed during the Japanese Occupation (1910-1945) but they began to restore it in 1972. The North gate, pictured below, and where we started our hike, was originally built in 1808. It was cool to walk threw the gates and on a wall that has so much history. At the temple we walked through a gate where there we four beautiful statues. Apparently these are the guardians of the temple, and the creatures that look like they belong in Harry Potter are demons cowering. After making it to the bottom we decided we would go up the other side of the mountain, while this was a more leisurely walk, after five hours we were all ready to be done. Towards the bottom of the mountain we found some bows and arrows, my aim was a little off but it was fun.

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Miss you all
Xoxo

Posted by stephyg 16:00 Archived in South Korea Comments (2)

Stephanie Teacher

Germs, raw fish, and peanuts

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I survived my first few weeks of teaching! I wasn’t sure this would happen during my first day, but the week went by fast and I love my students. Though I have been sick all weekend and I am pretty sure it is because I am spending way too much time with germy kids.
I am now officially known as Stephanie Teacher! I spend my mornings with two different kindy classes. My first class consists of three 3 and 4 year olds, Flora, Ace, and Annie.

Annie, Ace & Flora
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They are super cute, and really smart. I was pretty surprised by the amount of English they speak, read and write. They are definitely more advanced then Canadian kids who are this age. It probably has something to do with them being at school for 6 hours a day. While they are cute it can be difficult to get kids this young to sit still and listen. Flora almost had me going crazy by lunch on my first day, she is cute but she definitely has a mind of her own. I hear she likes to break in new teachers, and she is doing just that.

My next morning class has six 5 and 6 year olds. They are great kids. I am teaching them, grammar, phonics, reading, math, and science. On top of that, every month we have a sort of joint birthday party for everyone who had a birthday that month. Every class must have a dance to perform in front of the school for the party, right now I am teaching these kids a dance from the Muppets, it should be interesting to say the least.

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I must say, after these first couple weeks of teaching I have now decided that my favorite person that ever lived is the person that invented stickers. Who knew that stickers could be such a great way to bribe small children, it’s amazing.

My afternoon classes consist of little kids who know very little English and older kids aged seven to about thirteen. They are great kids and I like teaching them, though it is hard to keep them focused since they are in school all the time. Older kids in Korea go to public school all day then they come to our English school, and a lot of the time they go to other schools after ours. So I don’t blame them for their lack of attention.

This past week we went on a field trip with all of the kindy kids. We went peanut picking. It was super fun and the kids really enjoyed it. I found it interesting that when I worked with kids in Canada I wasn’t allowed to eat peanuts near kids, but in Korea we pick them. I guess they don’t have crazy peanut allergies here.
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Yesterday I fought through my sickness and made my way to the Jagalchi fish market with some coworkers and a friend from Ottawa.
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Me, Jennifer, Nichole, Lena, Sarah

All I have to say is that I was happy that I was not sick with anything stomach related because the smell walking into the fish market was overwhelming. It was definitely an experience though, watching the Adjumas (old ladies) trying to stop the crabs from walking away, and the fish cut open drying out on wooden hangers. The outside market seemed to be where people could buy fish to bring home, the inside market is where you pick your lunch. I of course was wearing flip flops which was a terrible idea, it was pretty much impossible to walk through the market, I simply skated through the market holding my friends hand while Koreans pointed, laughed, and said random things in Korean. Apparently they don’t see people wear flip flops to the market very often. After walking around we were hungry so we set out to find our lunch. We decided on octopus, and the fishes pictured below.
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It was kind of sad to pick our lunch while it was still swimming, but it was delicious! All of the fish was raw, including the octopus. Though the octopus was the only one that was still moving while we ate it. Here is a video of our lunch waiting to be eaten...

It was so weird; the octopus was squirming around on my chopsticks, it made not playing with your food an impossible task. Here is a before and after shot of Sarah and I eating octopus. Notice the excitement before hand and the shock/disgust after the first few bites.

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Before

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After

Anyways that is all for now. I had my doctor’s visit over a week ago now so I should be getting my alien card soon, and with an alien card I can get Internet so I will be able to update more often.

Miss you all
Steph xoxo

Posted by stephyg 00:48 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Seoul

Training in Seoul

sunny

It has been a long couple of days what with traveling to Seoul so shortly after arriving in Busan. Originally I wasn't too keen on finding my way to Seoul by myself, since I was pretty much handed a train ticket, and a subway map, and was left to figure out the rest on my own. While there were some difficult situations that arose, I overall had an amazing time!
My first impression of Seoul was not too great, it was actually that first time I have felt really upset since I got here. I got off the train relieved that I made it to Seoul, it was at this point that I had to find the subway station, and if I could speak Korean this would have been simple, but my small vocabulary of thank you, good bye, and soup were not helpful in this situation. While searching outside for the station, I had a nice little encounter with a homeless man who would not leave me alone despite saying no and walking away. He kept grabbing my arms and wouldn't let me go, an english lady told him to stop but he didn't seem to care what she thought so he continued to harass me, later grabbing my neck. Needless to say I was a little shocked by this, but I was on a mission so I continued on my way. A nice Korean military man saw me looking lost and confused and he helped me buy some tickets and did his best to explain the subway system. It is actually pretty amazing how two people who cannot speak many similar words can interact with extremely basic English and lots of pointing and hand movements. I don't think it is easy to imagine without being thrown into a place where your weakest form of communication is speech, therefore forcing you to be creative. I eventually made it to training, an hour and a half late, but in one piece.
The teaching training program (TTP) was pretty good. it was a lot of in class learning, Since my school is pretty structured in what we have to teach the kids, this course explains all of our material to us and we have to do a class practicum. The program will be helpful, but the greatest part was the people I met. New teachers from all of the YBM schools attended the training. The people were what really made the last couple of days. We spent a lot of our free time bar hoping and hanging out, it was a great way to experience my short time in Seoul. During one of our drinking nights I learnt that Korean convenience stores (GS25) make for amazing bars. You can actually just sit outside at patio tables drinking. A bottle of beer or soju is about $1 at the GS25, making for a cheap night.
Surprise, surprise, YBM put me in a love motel while I was in Seoul. Thankfully it was much cleaner and I had some TTP friends staying there as well. Though it was a super nice hotel, the fact that you can rent the room by the hour really disturbed me, the owner wouldn't even let us leave our bags there, he said we had to check out every morning so that he could rent it out during the day, lovely. Since not sleeping was not an option I took precautionary measure to not directly touch anything, and when I did I always had purell handy.
Here are some pictures from my time in Seoul, there arent too many because of how much time was spent in the class, but I will definitely be going back for a TTP reunion.

Most of the TTP Gang
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Me, Lisa, & Carly
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I think Hyundai should bring these trucks to Canada!

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Seoul!
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Street Crabs!
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Cool bar in Seoul
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Anyways that is all for now. Things are crazy here and it is hard to get to a computer especially now that I have my own place that doesn't have the internet. I will try to update again soon with more pictures.

Miss everyone lots!
Steph xoxo

Posted by stephyg 08:19 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

First few days...

First impressions of Korea

sunny
View Korea on stephyg's travel map.

As I sit here on the train listening to train music (which consists of let it be on repeat) and watching people bow as they enter and leave the train car, I can't believe I am actually here in Korea... by myself.

It has been an eventful couple of days over here! People are so friendly and helpful. My first Korean friend is a guy I met on the plane ride from Toronto to Korea, he was born and raised in Busan but later moved to Toronto, he was extremely helpful in telling me things I should know before getting to Korea. He also went out of his way to help me get my bags and find where I needed to go in the Seoul airport to catch my next flight. I later met a man on the bus ride to my school who told me all about his job and life in Korea, I soon realized that as a foreigner I attract Koreans because they love to practice their English, which is okay by me since I love to hear about Korea from those who know it best.

When I arrived at my school my supervisor seemed so excited to see me which was a nice feeling, they then took me out to lunch where I had my first Korean meal, it was delicious! I was required to shadow the guy I am repleacing for the entire day, it was pretty brutal since I hadnt slept much on the plane and it was pretty late for me. The people I work with seem really nice and the kids are adorable. The kids are pretty funny because when they see a new teacher they all stare and point and call their friends over to see, sometimes it makes you feel like you are in an aquariam when you are in the classroom and 4 or 5 children you have never met are simply pointing at you. I will write more about my kids and classes once I know them better.

Once my day was finally over I was taken to see my apartment, it is really nice but unfortunitely ther is another teacher living there until Friday so I had to stay in the Seoul Spa Hotel near the beach... seemed nice enough. Wow was I shocked upon entiring the place, it looked like something out of a horror film. I decided to bite my tongue and just go with it since I didn't want to be rude, but the room was gross and everything seemed really dirty. I definitely did not see sleep in my near future. Not long after being in the room my bosses daughter started screaming something out in Korean, when we ran over to see what the problem was we were just in time to see a ginormous cockroach scurry across the bathroom floor. Anyone who knows me knows that I draw the line at bugs. At this point I told her there was no way I was staying here and I am pretty sure she thought I was a crazy Canadian, but I didn't care. I simply made my way to my friend Alex's place where I am staying until I get my place. I later discovered this so called Spa Hotel, is also known as a love motel, they are all over Korea... I will let you draw your own conclusions from the name.

I later went to dinner with some coworkers where we had Korean BBQ, this is where they bring you raw meat and you cook it yourself right on your table, they also provide you with a million unlimited side dishes, like kimchi. At a lot of the restaurants I have been to you have to take your shoes off at the door and then sit on small mats on the floor, it makes the meal a little more interesting but it gets super uncomfortable for most foreigners who aren't used to sitting with their legs crossed for long periods of time.

Transportation in Korea has proven to be quite the task. This is probably been the most interesting/difficult thing I have done, though I am sure that taking the Seoul subway will be eventful. Anyways taxi drivers speak absolutely no english. While it is clear that I am a foreigner and that my Korean skills are non existent, they all continuously talk to me when I am in the cab, I simply reply with " I don't understand Korean, sorry" they clearly don't understand because they just continue their one way conversation.
The cab driver I was with the other night had no idea where he was going even though he assured me he did as I got in the cab... he had to stop 4 times to ask for help finding the apartment, and what should have been a 15min cab ride turned in to 1hr. Needless to say I am just happy I made it home at all. The cab driver this morning kept saying things and laughing histarically, at one point he made a hand motion like he was slitting his throat, he laughed so I joined in... it was awkward. He also kept repeating Canada good, Korea bad. I kept replying with Korea good, but he very strongly disagreed.

Not only have I been in a number of taxis, but I have also gone on a few scooter rides, this has allowed me to quickly learn the Korean rules of the road:
1. Helmets on scooters are not necessary
2. Scooters don't have to follow any street rules
3. Cars are allowed to turn right on a red
4. Cars are allowed to turn left on a red
5. Past a certain time it seems as though it is even acceptable to go straight on a red

The bars in Korea are great! All the bars I have been to so far have been mainly for foreigners. It is a great place to go to meet lots of people who are doing the same thing I am. Strangly enough I have met a lot of people from Ontario, there are a lot of Americans as well. A big difference between Canadian and Korean bars are that the alcohol is really cheap, and beer is really good, it seems to be what we drink the most of, with a little soju thrown into the mix. Soju is their "hard" alcohol, while it is only like 18% or something, it is dangerous like Tequila. I have yet to drink an excessive amount, but I hear the hangovers are brutal. These bars also stay open super late, I am told that they stay open till about 6:00am or later but I have yet to stay late enough to see one close.

Anyways, I will have a lot more to write about after I leave Seoul, and for those people bugging me for pictures, I should have some posted by the end of the week. I miss everyone lots!

xoxo
Steph

Posted by stephyg 02:31 Archived in South Korea Comments (1)

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