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Monday, May 28, 2012

Bangkok

Hello friends! I'm happy to be drafting this post in sunny Thailand! After a long day of travelling, I made it safely to Bangkok and to my hostel. Before I left I was really anxious and nervous about travelling alone for the first time but there was definitely no reason for it! Now that I'm confident, I can do it again.

Anyway, back to Bangkok. I was not drawn to Thai people at all upon my arrival. My first impression was not a good one. I think Korean people are rude but they're like Miss Manners compared to Thai people. Rather than making a line to board the plane, Thais formed a mosh pit. Also, even though I'm an ESL teacher and understanding broken English is my job, I can't decipher what most Thais are saying. They sound like a deaf person talking. No offence to deaf people or Thais! It probably isn't good karma but my impression of them is quite hilarious. 

The taxi ride to my hostel was fun... The driver had no idea where he was going even though I showed him the address twice. At one point he stopped the car to walk around the next corner to see if it was there. It was. I asked how much and he said 370 baht. I gave him 500 and expected my change. He gave me 50 baht. (If you're any good at math you know that 500-370 does not equal 50.) I demanded more so he took the 50 back and gave me 200. 500-370 does not equal 200 either but I decided not to fight it since it was in my favor.

After a night's rest in my lovely hostel, I was ready to explore the city. I met a nice German fellow at breakfast so he and I decided to sight see together. Well it was more like walk around the entire city and get lost for most of the day. It was still fun though. And I felt more cultured since I was amongst the city folk. We saw some Buddahs and temples. Took a nice boat ride on the river. It was just like a bus, only it was a boat! Too cool! We also went to the Grand Palace. Where, in fact, women must have their knees and shoulders covered and men must wear long pants. I had to purchase some extra clothing but it was okay. I would have bought it for a souvenir anyway. 

We finally made it back to the hostel, sunburnt as all get out. After showers and a rest we set off to Kho San Road for dinner and drinks. Dinner was AMAZING and I got a nice buzz going on. I finished off the evening back at the hostel with some other new friends I had made.

This morning I started the day with a nice breakfast. Then I was determined to get a Thai massage. Luckily one of my new friends knew where to find one and helped me out. I've had a few massages at home but this one was a little different. There were a lot of cushion/beds all around the room, some occupied by customers. The masseuse led me to a curtained area and followed me in. With a giant smile and deaf voice she said, "Take off your clothes," keeping eye contact the whole time, and stays in the area, waiting for me to undress in front of her. No problem. The next part almost had me dying with laughter. As I'm taking off my shirt she says, "I take off too. He he he." Luckily she had another shirt on! The massage was wonderful and well worth the $5 I spent on it.

Then I was back to Kho San Road to look around and do a little shopping. Once my money was nearly depleted, I stopped for a fresh fruit smoothie. Yum! Now I'm just relaxing at the hostel, trying to decide what to do next... 

Tomorrow Ashton and I will be off to Phuket for the rest of our time here. So, that's all for now!

PS: I'll post pictures later when I'm home!

Canals of Bangkok

Is it a bus? Is it a boat? YES!

Kimchi!

Tall Buddha; 40 meters high

First taste of street food: Som tam

Taking the bus-boat with the locals

Grand Palace pose

Sleeping Buddha

Khoa San Road

Delicious fruit smoothie stand


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Daegu

Until recently, I'd only gone to Daegu for day trips. This spring that changed and it will definitely be a city I'll go back to. Both trips, a few weeks apart, included the exact same festivities with different friends.

April 7:

Two very good friends, Emily and Leigh, and I went to Daegu to go zip-lining. There's a really cool eco-friendly park that has a ropes course with about 12 obstacles and 3 zip lines, all suspended high in the air. It was my first attempt at anything like it and it was awesome. I'm not typically afraid of heights but there were a few times when I was a little freaked out.



After we were finished it was time to head downtown to find a hotel. Boy was that a challenge. First, it took forever to get a taxi. The lady at the convenient store insisted that we take the bus, even though we insisted that we want to take a taxi (and asked her to please call for one). We eventually flagged one by ourselves. Then all the hotels in a three block radius were booked. So we walked to another side of the downtown area to get one. $40, no bed. But it was our only option besides staying out all night.

We went for a delicious Mexican dinner and were soon ready to boogie! My absolute favorite thing about Daegu is the bag drinks you can get. There are several little "drink shops" that sell them. Think bigger Capri Sun with alcohol. And you can choose any kind of drink you want for $5!





We also got to see a new sight never to be seen (by us) in Korea. Military MPs were actually arresting US soldiers for curfew violations. Emily was so curious that she approached the arresting officers to ask questions. She was asked to step away...

The night was full of fun, laughter, dancing and a late night snack: Turkish kebabs that taste great during the day but even better at 4 a.m. The fun quickly ended when we realized we were lost. I had no clue where we were at all day, so I definitely had no sense of direction after who knows how many drinks. Even worse, we didn't even know the name of our hotel. Three drunk people trying to trace our steps but ironically could barely step straight. We did find our hotel finally and slept soundly. Until the owner woke us up early.

May 5:

This time the trip to Daegu was Girl's Weekend! Three other friends and I left all the boys at home for a weekend of fun. We started this trip with a delicious western meal. Then we decided it was a good idea to find a hotel right away rather later to avoid what happened last time. We got a hotel. Score. It was very comparable to the Dirty 30 in Busan in every way.

Next we were back to Herb Hillz to zip line. Because of a stupid injury, I didn't go this time. Neither did Christie, who is deathly afraid of heights. We had a few beers while waiting for Nicci and Emily. Once they were finished we wandered around the park a little. Took some pictures, looked in the shops. We spotted something fantastic on our way in and decided to check it out once again. Kind of like a Zorb (here's a link if you don't know what it is) but different. Fact: We only saw children partaking in this activity. Fact: That didn't stop us!



Four grown women sat among the the younger participants waiting for our turns. You had to crawl into the giant, clear, inflatable beach ball then they blew it up and rolled you into the pool. We had a blast. And a splash zone of like ten feet on every side of the pool. It was a challenge to walk so we mostly just rolled and did somersaults. [Quick side note... I had no idea that's how you spell that word. I always assumed it was summersault... Wrong. That was my spelling lesson for the day. Thanks, Google.]




We finally made it to the restaurant by like 11 p.m. It was, afterall, Cinco de Mayo so Mexican food was a must. I distinctly remember telling all passerby, "My people are free!" Dinner was less than impressive this time around but we made fun of it anyways.

The rest of our night included a meet-up with one of my business students who was in tow! And, of course, some friendly chats with the MPs. This time we offered to buy them drinks. They politely refused.




Wrapped up the trip with a trip to Costco the next day for some cheese, lunch meat and tampons! The only three things you really need in life.

Daegu: I'll be back soon!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Oh Ricky...

This is a little excerpt from Ricky's diary this week. He wrote about the movie we saw together and then this is the part where the two boys went to the bookstore.

"I arrived on the first floor and oh ooooo... My poop is coming out soon but when I arrived at the bathroom, my gosh! The toilet is locked so I waited for five minutes. People came out so I could poop. I'm so lucky today!"

(This was, of course, edited by me prior to posting.)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Gyeongju

This lovely city needed two visits this spring! Once was with students and their families, the second was with my Pohang family (slash really great friends) for some great sight-seeing.

March 31:

Ricky (I've posted a few diary entries of his) invited me to Gyeongju with his mom, neighbor (also my student) and her brother and mother and their public school teacher (who happens to be a good friend of mine) to check out the trick art museum there. It's an art museum of sorts, where the paintings are designed for you to be a part of. So you get photos of these awesome 3-D looking pieces of artwork with you in them. We had a lot of fun!

After looking at all the art we rode this 4-D action ride twice. Then headed to a restaurant for a delicious lunch. Next was Bomun Lake for a chilly boat ride. We got snacks then went to another little place to get some more group photos. It was a really fun day and I genuinely enjoy spending time with my students outside of school even if it requires that I wake up insanely early on the weekends.


Us and our lovely students.

Don't want to drown!

The lovely mothers.



One of my favorites of Sarah.

Ricky was a good sport!


April 14:

A few weeks later I went back to Gyeongju to look at the beautiful Cherry Blossom trees. The city is filled with hundreds of these trees that bloom every April but only keep their pretty blossoms for a few weeks and then they're gone. I missed it last year so this trip was a must do for 2012.

The night before, after several drinks, my friends and I agreed to ride there with a Korean acquaintance in his van. The next morning after only a few hours of sleep, the idea didn't sound as good as it had the night before when we agreed to meet at noon. At 2:30 we all finally show up, ready for the outing. The ride there was... well, kind of miserable. Twelve people in the twelve person van on winding roads...

Once we got there and had our picnic lunch we all felt a bit better. The views were gorgeous and my friends had a blast acting like children riding go-karts.

We didn't make it home until almost 10 p.m. but the day was fun and well worth it.


The crew.

Our delicious picnic.

We held up traffic for at least five minutes but this shot was well worth it!

Teacher's Day

I promise, I'll get to my Spring posts but I have to take a moment to brag about a few students.

It sounds a little weird but I have two students (neighbors) who often invite me to outings. Last month we went to Gyeongju for a day of fun. Yesterday we saw Avengers in 3D! It was a fantastic movie!

It was me, my two students (Ricky and Sarah), Sarah's brother and each of their moms. They took me to a delicious lunch and then we went window shopping. Ricky's mom bought me a fantastic new pair of shoes!

You see, tomorrow is Teacher's Day! Ricky's mom also gave me a cute blanket.

I'm so lucky to have great students!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Life of Luxury

It just took one post to get me out of my writer's block. I have at least three posts waiting for pictures (I'll get to it later).

Today was a lovely, interesting day spent in the sunny (but chilly) Pohang. I had to pick up my scooter as it was in the shop. Now that it's fixed and I know what happened, I'm willing to open up. I had a minor, but chilling accident. Last Sunday I started it, there hadn't been any problems that I was aware of. Right away the accelerator locked and it just started flying. Within a matter of seconds the Beaver and I were horizontal on the pavement, in front of a car that was luckily stopped. I was so shaken up but quickly picked it up and got to the sidewalk. My leg was bleeding from multiple places but luckily I had my helmet on (I always wear it!) and it protected me when my head hit the road. Obviously I wasn't going to drive it home so I locked it back up and tried to spot clean my wounds as best I could before I got in a taxi. A nice couple stopped to make sure I was ok and got my phone number to check on me I guess. They didn't speak English but an old man on a bicycle asked in broken English if I needed to go to the hospital: "You. Go health cen-tuhhh?"

Fifty thousand won later (about $50), The Beav had a new carburetor. The mechanic told me (in broken English of course) that it did the same thing to him. She runs like new now! I'm so thankful to have her back. I thought I'd be terrified to ride again but actually missed it. I now depend on my scooter as my main mode of transportation. As my friend Emily says, and it's so true, with driving a scooter it's not a matter of if you're going to get into an accident, it's just when and how severe the accident is. I'm fortunate I wasn't hurt besides a few flesh wounds.

After that, Emily and I went to the "fancy" department store in town. Our main reason for going was to eat a Turkish kebab. It was more Korean than Turkish but served it's purpose of nourishment. Then we decided to browse. It was like a taste of home inside a real mall. It was wonderful. We tested couches and massage chairs, cameras, sampled juices and tried on the make-ups and perfumes. Our visit ended with a break on the top floor to check out the view of the beach and a complimentary cup of disappointingly disgusting sweet rice drink.

Since the wine selection there was too pricey for my budget, I stopped at the more affordable department store, E-Mart, on the way home. I had a moment of panic when I looked at my normal shelf for my regular purchase of G7 Merlot. It wasn't there. I almost panicked but luckily it was right around the corner, with quadruple the stock. Fantastic. And the lovely wine lady told me, "Cheeee-leh win-uh. Big Sale!" I'm a sucker for a sale and the wine she pointed out was over half off and conveniently the same price as my G7. I threw a couple bottles in my cart and was then offered to sample some sweet wine. Perhaps it was because I jokingly asked in broken Korean if I could test the new wine I was going to try, but I'm a sucker for wine samples too so I gladly obliged. I felt at home in E-Mart winery, swirling and sniffing the not-so-delicious liquid in the classy paper Dixie cup. Had the fruit samples been nearby I would have never left the place.

Now, wine and groceries in hand, I'm off to Emily's. We're going to try our hand at home made hummus (spoken with a Middle Easter guttural accent). In the distance I can hear, "[Korean Korean] or-in-gee," from the old man selling oranges in the street. Even though I frequently get frustrated with Korea, today I'm a fan.

And before I forget, here's a shout out to my wonderful mother and all the other mothers out there. Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Busan

My girlfriends and I had such a blast in Busan together for Chinese New Year that we planned early in the year to go back for St. Patrick's Day in March. I spent the last green holiday there as well and had a blast. One of the most memorable experiences from that trip over a year ago was The Dirty 30. I still talk about that place. Our new favorite crash pad, WOW Motel blows Dirty 30 out of the water! Each room is equipped with a huge bathtub to accommodate multiple people and king size beds to sleep all the guests in your party. (WOW should hire me for their PR!)

Enough about WOW. While we did sleep there, we didn't actually spend much time in that location. Since the local Irish Pub, Wolfhound, got packed early last year, we prepared ourselves this time around and got there early. Really early. Doors opened at noon so we were there at noon. No, not really. We decked ourselves out in our greenest garb (I referred to myself as Lady Leprechaun most of the night) and didn't arrive until 1:30. Since St. Patrick's Day is obviously a drinking holiday, we prepared to drink all day, thus, required some substance in our stomachs first. Luckily, Wolfhound has great food and we got there early enough to get good service and green beer!

We had a blast and I considered it a highly successful drinking holiday. Hopefully St. Patrick's Day in America can compete.

Let's play catch up

Wow... It's been a while, folks. I've had several new addictions in my life that have kept me away from you. I often think of a great post, but then I get swept away by Draw Something, my Kindle or nursing my many wounds... I have a new Kindle and absolutely love it. I've finished the Hunger Games series. One word: Amazing. I don't typically get lured in by popular book series (ie The Twilight series... not a fan of vampires unless it's in True Blood form) but after a little nudge by my friend Emily, who loaned me her Kindle to fall in love with before mine arrived, and it's been bliss every since. (Although I'm going to rant for a minute... I ordered a case on ebay - from a seller in HONG KONG - the same day I ordered my Kindle. My Kindle had free shipping - ie slow - to my mom's house in America, then she kept it for a week and shipped it to me in South Korea. A little geography lesson, America is much farther than Hong Kong. Anyways, six weeks and at least six books later, I'm still waiting on my case. I've emailed the seller countless times and they assure me it's coming. I don't know if I should request a refund and buy another or just keep waiting. My patience is drawing thin and would like a case before my Trip to Thailand. Advice anyone?)

Oh, I'm going to Thailand! May 26th through June 3rd! A friend from America is meeting me there for some R&R and fun in the sun! This trip with Ashton has been in the works nearly since I set foot in Korea. I'm so excited that it's finally happening!

As for my wounds... I've had several blunders the past few weeks and my right leg has suffered dearly. I'll have scars up and down my limb for a while but they'll just be a lifetime reminder of how amazing my time in Asia has been. Kind of like the scar down my left leg reminds me that it wasn't a good idea to face plant down concrete stairs at a frat house in college.

Work has been a bit more challenging than usual. My school lost one Korean teacher but failed to hire a new one so I've been doubling as the foreign teacher and Korean teacher for a few classes. My school treats me so well so I'm more than willing to help out wherever needed. My boss irks me a little though because he knew the teacher was leaving well over two months prior. Oh well. If there's one thing that Korea has taught me, it's that you always have to roll with the punches.

Since my last post a long time ago so much more has happened. A lot of weekends have been spent out of town to various cities in the country. Some cities multiple times within the two month span. I suppose the best way to organize the next several posts is by cities. Hope you have time to read!