Monday, September 30, 2013

"The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences."

Grapes, apples and beef, oh my! Festivals a plenty have resumed!

The grape festival was a small yet delightful one.  I began with several samples of wine, grapes, juices, and jams! Yum! Who doesn't love free samples!? There were many fun activities for the kids, but one for both kids, but one for both kids and adults that I partook in was the grape stomping!
Oh man! I have always wanted to squish, squash, and smoosh grapes! It was so entertaining! They blasted music the whole time, had fog blasters, and even held a few dance contests!

I circled the festival a few times, indulging in some treats, watching the humorous cute kid activities, and just people watching in general.

The following weekend the long awaited Red Festival happened in my town! I have literally been looking forward to this since I moved here, and needless to say I was one stoked girl! As I've mentioned before my town is known for its apples and beef and this was their time to showcase it! Also, it was held in my most favorite spot in town!

It was quite impressive! For such a small town, the festival was huge! First, obviously there was a lot of beef and a lot of apples. They had an enormous tent with individual grills on each table to BBQ the beef right there on the spot. It was the most scrumptious of smells while walking past it! There were rows of tents with boxes, crates, and tables bursting with bright red apples. Now, I walked up and down this area a few times savoring as many apple slices as possible. Let me tell you! These are some crisp, sweet, mouth-watering, and quite tasty apples! How wonderful!
As usual, there were several kids' craft tables, and games. There were fair-type rides, paddle boats on the lake, music, and an abundance of food. There were a couple different animal attractions for looking or petting, as well as showcases of various fruits and vegetables grown locally on display.

The whole atmosphere was so festive and jolly; just walking around made me smile! The weather couldn't have been more perfect and it was so fantastic to just be able to hop on my bike to get there, not having to think about taking multiple buses! It was quite a magnificent weekend!
bought them at the festival! Yum!

Monday, September 23, 2013

"No matter where or why you travel, there is always something wonderfully new to be found"

I had the privilege to partake in a 4-day/3 night trip with an academy that provides this opportunity to both foreign teachers and high/university Korean students. There was a total of 36 teachers selected from towns and cities all over my province.

Day 1: We began our journey at the crack of dawn Saturday morning and took the bus for about 6 hours to the city of Samcheok in the north east of the country. First, we stopped for lunch and had the always delicious, bibimbap. We began our trip with an opening ceremony, where we were divided into our groups/roommates, were informed about the academy, the programs, and were presented information about our schedules, duties, etc. Following that, we took a tour around the museum, and were told about history ad interesting stories about this area. There were maps, photographs, and other exhibits displaying information about the surrounding city and its role in history.  Departing the museum, we stopped at a pavilion that served as the meeting place for the sending off parties of the great generals, such as Isabu. A brief summary about this guy "he was a 4th generation descendant of King Naemul of Shilla. He captured the Usanguk (Ulleungdo and Dokdo). At the time it was just an independent tribal nation by the seas. Because of its peoples' aggressiveness and fierceness, they were not easy to defeat. Therefore, Isabu came up with a wise tactic. He made wooden lions, arranged them on his vessels, and proceeded to Usanguk. Then, he said, "If you don't surrender, I'll release these hungry lions and have them eat you." As a result, the people of Usanguk surrendered obediently and promised to pay taxes to Shilla every year."
We went to one more historical location, right on the sea, with a significiant statue and story, then went to dinner. Galbitang, a beef soup I've only had a few times, provided a delectable end to the day. We arrived to our hotel, where we all camped out on the floor Korean style, and had a delightful evening of story-telling with the new roomies

Day 2: Started bright and early and
had the chance to gaze out at the sunrise coming up over the East Sea right next to our hotel.  We bussed straight to the ferry that would take us to Ulleungdo Island. It was a 3 1/2 hour ride and I passed the time by getting lost in a book. There were no places to hang out outside of the boat sadly, so we all basically just spread out around the boat napping, reading, etc. As we approached the island we eagerly observed the beauty awaiting us, with its turquoise waters, and pirate cove port.

Once we disembarked, it was lunch time! We had a Korean buffet style meal, and a bit of free time after to mosey around the port area and stock up on some snacks. We dropped our luggage off at our pension, and began our journey around the island.

As we cruised along the coastal road we made our first stop at a special "turtle rock". Literally every rock, mountain, or tree had some kind of shape or animal. It was entertaining to hear all the tales and legends.
We went to a place with a lookout to climb and after I sipped on some of the most amazing pumpkin juice ever! We had some time to sit out on the beach and soak up the sun and take in the dazzling blue sea.

This island is known for pumpkins so we stopped by a small goody shop where we sampled some pumpkin bread and candy. That evening we went to a museum about Dokdo filled with old maps, documents, debates and stories about this somewhat controversial territory. We then went to a delicious dinner of a spicy pork dish and headed back to our pension.
view from the pension! :)

Day 3: This morning we left for Dokdo. After an hour and 40 min ride we docked at the islet. We took some group photos, of course, and had a bit of time to capture the panorama of rocks and sea.

We returned to Ulleungdo and walked around a lion park/gallery covered with wooden statues and carvings relating back to the tale of the wooden lions. There were also various glass sculptures, and other types of art. We left for dinner of Samgyetang, a soup with a chicken stuffed with rice, in a broth of ginseng, ginger, garlic, and dried fruit seeds.  It's traditionally served in the summer because of its nutrients used to replace those lost during the hot days. After dinner we returned to the hotel where we had stayed in the first night.

Day 4: Following breakfast of another savory soup, we went to see the largest patrol boat of the Korean Coast Guard. We watched a brief video about the Coast Guard and were first shown the bridge, which was fascinating with all the screens, controls, buttons, gauges, and dials. It was thrilling to be where all the action happens! We were escorted around the other parts of the boat learning about the various duties and functions of different things. Following the tour, we walked over to a building nearby to give our final presentation with our groups regarding the trip; what we learned etc. Then we piled onto the bus and cruised back to Jeonju. I am so thankful I had the opportunity to participate in this trip. I learned an immense amount of history and information, got to interact with other teachers from my province, and visited these captivating islands. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

"To travel is to live"

A recap of the rest of summer! Bear with me, it's a bit long, but I'm trying to catch up!

The week before the Jeju excursion I had a fantastically entertaining time at an overnight middle school camp. It was three days in the middle of nowhere with four of my fellow foreign English teachers along with their Korean co-teachers and a few other teachers. It was such a enjoyable time working and hanging out with them. The middle school students were amusing to work with at the very least. Always having worked with elementary age students I was a bit apprehensive going in. However, after we were separated into our teams and I had my little group, It felt comfortable and we had a blast! Mostly, the atmosphere was that of a "typical" camp instead of an English educational-type camp. Each teacher was individually responsible for developing their own lesson as well as participating in all the other teachers' lessons. There were a variety of activities such as singing and dancing to pop songs, belly dancing, making tie dye shirts, doing yoga, paintball, etc. It was a wonderful 3 days filled with awesome people, fun times, delicious food, and unforgettable memories!

After returning from Jeju, I partook in an English camp for 2 weeks at my school. The first week I was by myself and did an Under the sea/Finding Nemo themed camp. I had a lot of fun with it, and especially enjoyed working completely on my own. I loved making all the ocean crafts with the kids, especially the sea creature activities; teaching them tons of new vocabulary, and of course watching some Nemo! Since my camp was finished by about noon, me and my friend Emily had the afternoons to hang out. For a few days that week I took her around Jeonju showing the sights such as the shopping/pedestrian street, the Hanok (traditional house village), the college area, etc. I also introduced her to several local treats and dishes as well!

That weekend we went to Gyeongju which I visited back in April because I knew she would love all the history there. As I mentioned in a previous poast it's known as the "Rome of Korea." It was interesting to see it at a different time of year, experience it by walking instead of on a bike, and to share the sights with her.
 The following week I had English camp with my co-teacher and another teacher who comes to school to assist with after school classes. We did mostly lessons related to picture books and reading, but had other fun times doing English related activities and games including playing with water guns, decorating tote bags, and making the delicious ice flake dessert I love so much, patbingsu! We had a national holiday one day that week, so Emily and I went to a nearby city Namwon (where I went for the love story festival).
The following weekend we went to the 2nd largest Korean city of Busan, located at the southeast tip of the country. I had taken 5 days for my Jeju trip so I used my other 3 vacation days to make it an extra long weekend!  Having only been there once back for the sand festival so there were still many new sights for me to see as well! The first evening we arrived, we had dinner and we then strolled around the area near our hostel. It was a really happening place with tons of restaurants, bars, cafes, street food stalls, and bright lights everywhere! We had some super yummy churros with four different kinds of flavored fillings inside. So heavenly...
The next morning we went to Jalgalchi Market, the largest seafood market in Korea. There were octopi, eels, and squids squiggling all around. There were fish of all shapes and sizes, and even places to eat raw ones on the spot. 
It was such a lively place to roam around. Across the street was a popular square with some street food stalls where I discovered what will now become one of my favorite new treats, as far as I know it's only found in Busan, sadly. :(
 That afternoon we went to the closest beach, not the prettiest one there, but still enjoyed some time in the sand and water while taking in the surrounding city view.

they passed out bags near the end of the game
That night we went to a baseball game! It was fun and a really cool experience watching an American game in another country. It was extremely entertaining to witness the crowds' chants, dances, cheers, and just the overall atmosphere of  the game!
The following day we first went to Haeundae Beach for just a quick look around. I wanted her to see the craziness of the most popular/crowded beach in the country along with the main street of the area.

After stopping by there we went to a lovely temple by the sea. In Korea most temples are tucked away in the mountains, so this is an uncommon sight. This particular temple was first built in 1376, by a great Buddhist teacher.  It consisted of a three-story pagoda, the great seawater Buddhist goddess, the main sanctuary, a shrine, and underground cave with sacred water.
 Leaving there we ventured back to the beach. This one was gorgeous with Caribbean clear-blue waters. I was so stoked by this stunning view and was grateful to have some relaxing time there! Savored some delicious ice cream, soaked up some sun, and cooled off in the calm water.
 Later we headed to the largest store in the world, Shinsegae, which I had visited on my previous trip. For dinner we sampled from the enormous food court, checked out the cool features on the different floors, and eventually returned to the beach we went to the first day and marveled at the colorful bridge and city lights.
Emily and I left the next morning to go home. However, the morning after that we headed out for Seoul. Once we unloaded our bags at our hostel, I took her to the foreign district for lunch at an Indian buffet. We then went on a mad search for this fish pedicure place I had read about a month or so earlier. After 2 attempts at locations that weren't there anymore (fun to see new areas of Seoul though), we finally made it!! Oh man! What an experience!! It felt so bizarre and proved a bit of a challenge for my ticklish feet at times, but definitely totally awesome! 
 The next day we went to a palace I hadn't visited yet, Gyeongbokgung Palace. Gyeongbok means "greatly blessed by heaven" and gung means "palace." It was first constructed in 1395, after being burned and abandoned for about 3 centuries during the Japanese invasion.  It was rebuilt in the late 1800s, and is considered both the largest and primary palace of the "Five Grand Palaces" built during the Joseon Dynasty. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by Imperial Japan during the early 20th century and has now been restored to its original structure.
We also went to the National Folk Museum, which was within the palace grounds, which was really interesting! We then walked around the streets near the Hanok Village that were lined with cute cafes and shops, then wandered through the village for a bit.
After stopping at the popular souvenir street,we made our way over to Namdaemun Market, the largest traditional market in the country.  Roaming around there we discovered an underground market which was for the imported goods. This was my favorite part! Oh my goodness! It had an incredible amount of foreign/American products, along with samples at every station. We ate our way around there a couple times! Wow so good! Not far from there was Namsan Park. We rode an outdoor elevator that goes about halfway up (didn't want to do the cable car to the top), but still had a somewhat decent view.
 That pretty much sums up the Seoul highlights. The following morning we journeyed to the airport where Emily made the lengthy trip back home to North Carolina and me to my home in Jangsu. Summer was now officially over. It was a crazy, busy, wonderful, delicious, gorgeous, exhausting, marvelous, extraordinary, exciting, and most definitely an unforgettable one!