Wednesday, September 29

If you ask, they will assemble it. :)

So, with Chuseok also came the start of fall.  This is the fastest I've ever experienced a season change.  Seriously when we left for Seoul on Tuesday - it was burning up and by the time I got home on Friday - it was very cool. I've worn long sleeves, and pants ever since.  I have a cold :( complete with the sniffles and my right nostril boycotting air flow - AND I realized that my apartment needs to feel like home, now that I won't be out and about as much.  So the cold, wood floors, and the suitcases serving as a footboard - needed to go.  Maybe it was being away from my apartment for a week that made me want to give my apartment a little extra TLC.  Because, somehow over the course of the last 2 months - my 4 room, I'm taller than my fridge and "no shower" booth shower has turned into home. :)

 So, I went shopping! I went to Emart on a quest for a rug  and a nightstand.  I'm getting a little tired of the doctor's office lighting in my place - and the first step is something to put a lamp on.  So I found a rug pretty quickly - and in the middle of Emart on the 1st floor they had a nightstand - simple, 2 shelf - white, so it would match my headboard.  It caught my eye, but I'm a shopper, so the hunt continued.  I looked,  but didn't find anything that competed with the 8,800 won (less then $9 US dollars) 2 shelfed bookcase/nightstand - SOOOO... I asked for help - by gesturing :) I conveyed to the EMart employee that I wanted the bookshelf, so she handed me a box.  My face must have fallen - because the idea of putting something together with a screwdriver in the states ISN'T appealing - LET ALONE instructions + a screwdriver + pieces + directions in a foreign language - I wasn't thrilled.  So I gestured - asking can I just have the one that is put together?  The floor model.  By this point, we'd been joined by another Emart employee, a much younger male who I was hoping would speak English - but he didn't.  So the woman got on her cell phone, talked for a while - and said come back in 15 minutes.  So, I did :) AND the bookshelf/nightstand was put together - and put in my cart with the box. haha :) so...I hopped in a taxi with my new rug and my new FULLY assembled nightstand.  :) SUCCESS!!

Note the rug ACTUALLY matches the cough beautiful/cough TACKY sunflower on my wall! :)

 Thoroughly enjoying my nightstand! :)


My Walk to School! :) Ocheon, Pohang City, South Korea

So, I guess now that I've been here for a while, I should give you some idea of where the heck I'm living, and what a normal day looks like in South Korea. I live in Ocheon in Pohang City.  Pohang (pronounced Po-"hung" not "hang" like I made the mistake of calling it at first) :) is a coastal city of around 500,000 people. It's location on the southeast coast of the peninsula has made it possible to become a major city of international trade in Korea. The largest company in the city is a powerful steel company called POSCO.

As far as tourism goes, Pohang also has a famous annual fireworks festival and a half-dozen beaches. Probably the most well-known tourist site, however, is a statue of an enormous stone hand rising out of the water at Homigot Tourist Park. The city is also a great place for delicious seafood.

I live in Ocheon, which is about 15 minutes away by taxi from downtown.  I live on the same street as my school, in a somewhat rural area.  Here's what my walk to school looks like...Enjoy!

 View overlooking residences from my laundry room/kitchen.  Note the guard tower, as we have a Republic of Korea Army base near our building, as well as the Pohang airport. 
 View from the front step of my apartment building.  Even though those look like condo buildings you might seen in Destin :) they are apartments.  I can't get enough of the mountain views! I've never lived so close to mountains and the beach!! <3 it!
 My street the direction I walk towards school. 
 A kindergarden I pass walking to my "hagwan" which is a private after school English academy. Who wouldn't want to go to Kindergarden here - this looks like a castle playground! haha
 Powerful Pohang! :) gotta love the Pride!
 again! :)
 Trampoline playground - who needs slides and tire swings when you can just jump your heart out!? :)
 Our "hagwan" BB English - 2nd floor - educating 100+ kids daily. 
 Yep, that's me! :) "Come learn English with a REAL American!!" I just saw that I'm on the side of our school's bus too - local celeb status = official.
 street view
 "Do Your Best" universal positive self talk.
I don't know if it's because I have so much free time or what, but I cannot get enough of the beautiful scenery!

And there you have it, a day in the life of an Expat teaching English! :)

Tuesday, September 28

"Honor" Fear and a new twist on "Southern" Hospitality

So when I was in Seoul, we went to a HUGE bookstore - which was welcomed because I have a ton of spare time on my hands AND a good selection of English books is hard to come by! So, after about 45 minutes, I'd finally chosen 3 books I wanted to buy.  I walked up to the checkout, and was digging for my wallet - which was NO WHERE to be found. :( I left the books at the counter - and proceeded to go through a bookstore triple the size of Joseph Beth/Davis Kidd in Lexington + with thousands of people in it - and look for my wallet.  I retraced my steps, but honestly wasn't sure I'd lost it here -since we'd been so many places.  I'd just been to the ATM that day to get enough cash for the rest of the trip - about 100,000 won (like $85.00US dollars).  So my wallet had my cash in it, my ATM card, and my address card.

My director just stopped by, taught me a llittle Korean and she let me know that MY WALLET WAS FOUND - and the person who found it - called my director James b/c his name was on the address card - to let James know he'd found my wallet - and would return it WITH my ATM card WITH the cash!!!!!!!!!!!!! :) can you believe that!?!?! That would never happen in NASHVILLE, let alone in Seoul, SOUTH KOREA! :) A friend of mine told me that Koreans have a code of honor that causes them to be fearful of what may happen/ karma if they take things that are not theirs.  So thankful and really impressed that I'm getting my wallet back. I'm a lucky lucky girl, and my faith was officially restored in human nature! :) 

Another fun story - yesterday I went exploring Ocheon, the town that I live in - and b/c it was September 25th (a day ending in a 5) there was an open market - so I walked around there for a few hours.  On my way home, I was beginning to get hungry - I'd walked to my apartment and decided I really didn't want to eat the Ramen I'd bought.  So, I turned back around and passed a restaurant that was very lively - it wasn't big but there were about 8 Koreans in having a fun time.  I looked in, but kept walking b/c I couldn't tell if it was a house or restaurant.  But, an older gentleman scurried out and said "hey, come here" so I did.  He invited me in and said "coca cola and kimchi" haha :) I said sure and smiled at everyone in the room and tried to muster an anyong haseyo (hello in korean) long story short they fed me :) Despite the language barrier, I enjoyed a meal with about 6-8 people that I couldn't speak to - but a smile and laughs go a long way! :) They danced, and shared Korean music with me, and Mr. Kim even gave me his phone # and said I could stop by any time.

And I thought people were friendly in Tennessee! :)

Love always, Em

Seoul has Soul! :) Chuseok Holiday!

Just wanted to send a quick hello - I CANNOT believe a) it's been 3 plus weeks since I last posted and b) that I've almost been here for 2 months!! Time flies when you're having fun.  I always wondered why people never kept up with blogs and now I know!

So I spent Chuseok holiday in Seoul!  Which for those who aren't familiar with South Korea geography (like I wasn't before I lived here) Seoul has a population of almost 11 million and is the capital of South Korea, about 4 hours northwest of where I live. What a GREAT experience - such a cultural immersion for my mind AND for my taste buds.  I finally got a taste of something other than Korean food (kimchi, white rice, noodles, etc) and Lotteria (a Korean McDonald's chain).

We stayed in a hostel called The Yellow Submarine. I'm not sure if you're familiar with hostels or not, but they're basically economical accomodations for travelers/backpackers.  It's like a dorm style place to stay for cheap.  Our hostel was 2 floors had about 6 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms.  In the bedrooms, there were bunk beds - ours happened to be a 6 person co-ed room.  In that room, there were Virgina and Jarrod the 2 folks I was traveling with.  Virginia is from Seattle and Jarrod is from Australia.  The other 3 were from Germany.  We met folks from the States, more from Germany, one from Taiwan, 2 from Ireland, the UK, everywhere! It was such a great experience to meet all the people AND there is something about travelers that makes them THE most laid back and friendly people in the world.  So refreshing to hear their stories.  Ruth, from Ireland just re-signed for a 2nd year to teach in Osaka, Japan.  Another girl in our room is Korean, but was adopted by a German family and actually just met her biological family for the first time over Thanksgiving.  One of the hostel workers was a 20 old named Zander from the Nederlands (I think) - haha :) we laughed b/c I shared with him that I'm dutch too! but such a blast and that was just the sleeping quarters! p.s. it was only $17.00 a night complete with breakfast, warm showers, comfy bed, and internet!!

Our first night in Seoul we ate at a Korean restaurant that served Sam Kip Sa (which is like a fondu type/grill in the middle of the table - cook your own meat and wrap it in sesame leaves) then we went to  TGIFriday's for desert and drinks!!  I read in the paper yesterday that Seoul had THE most rain it's had in a day in 102 years the day we arrived.Korea Times News Article about Floods haha :) what are the chances? The subways were actually flooded in Seoul - on our stop too, so that was interesting.  I was walking around bare footed b/c my flip flops were TOO slippery to walk on AND I hadn't brought an umbrella :)  But it was an adventure and we got more than a few good laughs. :)

First full day we went shopping in Dongdaemun for some Western stores - including H&M, Forever 21, etc! I didn't buy too much - but I did find a really cute outfit for Sadie (the world's cutest dog)

- a Korean dress! aka Sadie's hanbok (her very own Korean traditional dress worn on special holidays!)

that night we went out for Mexican food in Itaewon which is the Western part of Seoul - complete with a Nashville style pub.  The next full day we dove back into Korean culture with a trip to a palace,

 Palace Website

the artsy area of Seoul,

and ended the day at an Indian restaurant - mm I love curry and nan!

 and the last day we went to the DMZ, topped off with lunch at California Pizza Kitchen! :)

 Ribbons in support of Reunification of Korea - such sad history :(
 Jarrod and Zander with one of the DMZ Soldiers
 View into North Korea

One thing I've noticed about the pace of my traveling - it's such a relaxed pace.  Even though we were on vacation, it wasn't like we were visiting for only a week.  I'm here for a year and even though I've already been here for 7 weeks - it's such a nice feeling to live close by and not feel rushed to jam pack everything into one trip.  There's plenty of time - we saw a lot of things in Seoul, but I also know, that I can come back anytime I want over the next year.  I came back home (Pohang) on Friday and have relaxed the whole weekend.

Amazed daily :)

xoxo from the ROK


Monday, September 6

Tonic's Birthday and Taebek Adventure

My friend Tonic (who you'll see in many of these pictures) celebrated her birthday this weekend.

 In honor, we had celebrated Friday night at the beach! Then there was a Birdcage <the movie with Robin Williams> (drag queen party at Tilt, a Western bar here in SK)

Then on Saturday met at the bus station at noon and looked at a map of Korea, and chose a place to take a day trip to! Well the one day trip turned into a 2 day trip that was an absolute blast! Here are pictures of Taebaek (Tay-beck), the city we explored, the parks, and pictures of our 8.8km hike up the 3rd tallest mountain in Korea. Needless to say, the view at the top was breathtaking! :) but the hike up was exhausting - it was straight up most of the way! and we were in FLIP FLOPS! haha fun times though.

♥  from South Korea!

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