Friday, March 17, 2017

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Field Trip for Big Kids

Last week I came across the Seoul Study Group , a discussion group that seeks to inform itself on global issues. It meets once a month, and luck had it they were focusing their discussion this month on issues related to organic agriculture in Korea. We were a group of over 20 students and two professors: Layne Hartsell (school of global studies at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul) and Dean of Liberal Arts and Chul-Kyoo Kim (Vice dean of Liberal Arts at Korea University) who facilitated the day's discussion.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010


This weekend I made a very important visit to the House of Sharing, located in Gwanju City about an hour Southeast of Seoul. The House of Sharing is one of those destinations that every visitor to Korea should take the time to see. It is a museum of living history, an eye-opening lesson in human rights, and awing activism. In encyclopedic terms, the House of Sharing is a residence and museum for survivors of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery over the course of the Asia-Pacific War (1931-1945).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


In keeping with my New Year's Resolution to become better involved with my Korean community, I finally fulfilled one of my long-held ambitions to participate in the WWOOF program. WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. The program began in England in 1971 in the aims of providing London-dwellers with the opportunity to get involved in the organic farming activities in the countryside. The program became increasingly popular and is now an international phenomenon.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I was feeling a little grumpy Wednesday morning about having to go to work a little over three hours early without any change in pay, but my kindie kids quickly melted that bad mood with minutes like they always do. We were going on our first field trip of the year, to the National Folk Museum of Korea and the National Children's Museum, both situated at Gyeongbokgung (Gyeongbok Palace) in the Jongno area of Seoul (an area known for its many traditional sites and maintained dedication to Korean culture.)



Sunday, January 24, 2010

Following my second resolution, getting more involved with my community, I spent hours on the Internet, looking up clubs and volunteer work I could participate in. I came up with several answers.





Saturday, January 23, 2010

This is an example of a typical Sunday... AFTER payday:


After waking up without setting an alarm, I get dressed and head to the subway to travel 40 minutes and meet friends in Gangnam (the official ritzy area of Seoul). In short walk we arrive at the Big Rock. This pub is popular among foreigners for its quality imported Canadian beer on tap, many TV screens tuned to a football or hockey game back home, and has a relaxed atmosphere, but that's not quite why we are there. On the weekends it also has a superb western-style brunch buffet, and buffet have become my new hobby. I was too busy eating the food to take a picture, but next time I will make more of an effort.

As it turns out, I had been walking underneath a Korean gym twice a day for the last six months on my way to the subway and back. I finally spotted it one night from a taxi on the other side of the road while scanning the tall buildings for 헬 스 (hail-suh -> health) and 피트니스 (pi-tuh-ni-suh -> fitness). I ran in and got a phone number, and had one of my Korean coworkers call the next day. It was perfect, $100 for three months, open 6am-midnight, and a minute or so walk from my house, depending on the traffic light.


Friday, January 22, 2010

A Korean Wedding

My kindergarten co-teacher, Hena got married in January, and as one does in Korea, invited all the entire workplace with nice card invitations that she placed at each of our desks a month prior to the ceremony. It was to take place a wedding hall about an hour's commute to the East of the city. Many of the foreign teachers were going, as it was our first opportunity to see a Korean wedding first hand. Our boss and most of the other Korean kindergarten teachers also came.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Korean jeopardy question:
We'll take Hongdae for 50 points: BauHaus, where you can love and be loved for 5,000 won


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Yesterday, Seoul had its heaviest snowstorm in several decades. Here is a full article by the Korea Herald. Apparently the 25.2cm (roughly 10") was the most snowfall they have had here in here in 41 years, and the second biggest storm since they started recording snowfall back in 1937. To me it looked just like a normal snow storm, but here it wreaked complete havoc on transportation.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year's in Korea was quite similar to New Year´s at home, except for the fact I was in a very big city celebrating with some new friends and strangers. Champagne was involved and we spent a good part of the night in an Irish pub, and that's all I'll say about that!


What I did want to talk about was New Year's resolutions. I've never taken them seriously before, and never understood the logic. Why wait until the New Year to do something when you can start tomorrow? But this year I decided to give it a go:

Resolution #1: Get back into shape! Eating lots of white rice, sitting in chairs all day, having drinks on the weekends, all this adds up to noticeable pounds after a few months! I made up my mind to get myself a gym membership and go every weekday morning before work and to change my eating habits, eating less rice, more fruit, and incorporating healthy snacks to munch on over the course of the day.

Resolution #2: Get involved with my community. I'd like to be more than just a young person that comes to Korea to teach and play. I want to do something a bit more meaningful, that allows me to try some new things and meet some different kinds of people. In the beginning of January I started pouring through websites related to community service and clubs in the Seoul area.

Resolution #3: Continue learning as much Korean and things about Korea as I can. Its very easy to get used to where you are, and get so involved with your day-to-day living that you forget to appreciate your surroundings. My goal is to keep studying Korean continuously this year, and to try and do something culturally interesting or city-exploring every other weekend.

Monday, December 28, 2009

So what is Christmas in Korea? Whatever you want to make of it, essentially. Unfortunately, I lost my "big" vacation, due to the closing of my school during our swine flu outbreak. So instead of having both Christmas Eve and Christmas Eve Day off, I only got the latter. (Same will apply to New Years as well).

Sunday, December 27, 2009

I haven't talked too much about culture differences in Korea. Here are a few things that pop into mind:

  • Out and about: Prepare to be pushed. Seoul is crowded. The sidewalks, stores, subways, u-name-it are always full of people going in all different directions. Add to this fact that Koreans' idea of the personal bubble space is much smaller than in the US/Canada, and you have the result: guaranteed physical contact. To a foreigner, this can seem rude, because it feels like you are getting bumped, pushed, shoved, and jostled from all sides by people who don't seem to notice you or apologize for the seemingly avoidable bumps. This can be quite aggravating on a bad day, but it is something you simply must get over if you don't want to be in a bad mood all the time.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's that time of year again, and yes, it comes to Korea too. I have been singing Christmas songs with my kindergarteners and engaging them in detailed discussions about Santa Claus with my elementary-age students. Familiar pop Christmas songs are being pumped out of store speakers at full volume, and plastic Christmas trees are popping up like dandelions everywhere you look.

Doh! Losing bags in Taxis


So I made one brilliant move last week, which was leaving my purse in a taxi. This happened after a big shopping adventure at our local Costco (it was pay day, so we splurged). My coworker and I were rushing to get everything out of the car so the taxi driver could leave, and it was dark and I guess I couldn't see my black bag in the shadows where I left it. Gone.

In the end I didn't lose too many important things, my cellphone and wallet were luckily both in my jacket, so I didn't need to call a million financial institutions. This being Seoul, home to a zillion different taxi companies, if you don't know which one you got in to, its nearly impossible to track down. Word to the wise, always take a mental note of the taxi company you get into, and always ask for a receipt, even when you pay in cash. Cab receipts have not only the name of the company, but also the cab driver's phone number so if you lose something, you can contact him directly.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Happy 빼빼로 Day!

Today is November 11th, or 11/11 and here in Korea we are saying "Happy 빼빼로 Day" to each other.
What? Happy Pepero Day?

This is essentially Korean Valentine's day. 11/11 looks a lot like four pepero (pocky sticks), and so on this holiday children and young couples exchanges boxes of pepero. Teachers are also recepients of the below boxes. Some of my coworkers were so lavishly showered with pepero that they were trying to give it away. I receive a manageable amount of chocolate covered pretzels that I was sufficiently able to find a good place for ;)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

It is time I write a post about the swine flu frenzy here. In fact, part of the reason I have been able to catch up on my blog is because my school has closed its doors, from Wednesday until next Monday in reaction to the swine flu epidemic.

My last blog post was October 5th, and here I am on November 5th writing my next one. No, I didn't fall off the face of the Earth, actually, au contraire, I signed up for Intensive Korean lessons, everyday, Monday-Friday from 9-10:50AM before work. They took place about an hour's subway ride from work, which had me waking up usually around 6:30AM. Since I don't get off work until 7:30, and usually dinner and interneting consumes a few hours, plus studying means that I have been burning the wick at both ends so to speak.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sasha and I made plans to meet up Sunday morning to climb Bukhansan mountain, which is in the North-East outskirts of Seoul city. It took me an hour and a half subway ride to get there, and I was not alone. Car after car, subway after subway became increasingly packed with middle-aged Koreans dressed head-to-toe in very professional (and colorful) hiking gear. It felt like I was at a volunteer photoshoot for some major hiking gear company like the Northface or EMS.

Deoksugung Palace

Thursday, my first day of Chuseok vacation, I went exploring. Originally on the search of a cultural theater that used to do special drum performances, I stumbled across this gate:


"Happy Chew-sock what?" Let me fill you in: Chuseok is essentially Korean Thanksgiving: a celebration of the harvest, celebrated every year according to the lunar calendar, near the Autumn Equinox. Just like holidays that you are familiar with, the holiday is centered around food, though not exactly turkey and gravy and pumpkin pie.

After doing the mass freeze at the COEX mall, Saeko and I met up with my other old roomate Sasha (two former roomates with me in Seoul: how lucky am I!!!) and we went to check out the aquarium, only a five minutes walk away. The highlights included seals, sharks (accompanied with an underwater tunnel through their water), penguins, a two-headed turtle, bats, and funky modern art involving fish. Pictures say it best so here you go:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

For those of you who have never heard of a Flash Mob, or Mass Freeze, whose popularity is often credited to Improv Everywhere , let me fill you in. First, a Flash Mob is when a large group of people come together suddenly in a crowded place, do a synchronized unusual action for short period of time, and then quickly leave the scene, all the while staying 'in character.' Lately the popular manifestation of this is Mass Freeze, in which as large a group of people converge at a crowded location and at a specified time, freeze in the middle of whatever they were doing: drinking coffee, talking on the phone, scratching their head, picking up something they dropped, ect. They stay frozen for exactly 5 minutes, and then they all unfreeze simultaneously continue whatever they were doing as if nothing had happened.

Under recommendation of a work colleague, Thursday night after work Saeko and I sprinted to Itaewon in search of the Green Turtle. I was told that the owner, Michel, was a flamboyant hairdresser, who had a good taste in style and spoke fluent English.

Back in January 2005, I was a freshman at Bishop's University in Québec. I signed up for a double dorm room, and shared it with a girl named Saeko Ochiai, from Tokyo. She quickly became one of my best friends, becoming very much like an older sister for me. I had to say goodbye to her when she left Canada a year later, but we kept in pretty good contact with skype. As I planned for what to do after school, Saeko was a big supporter of my application for JET in Japan, and later, teaching in Korea. When I told her I had secured a job and would be a mere 3 hour's flight from her, she immediately made plans to come visit me.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

As Sasha was walking me from her place back to the subway stop one night, we had an amazing discovery: there is a Un Lion d'Or in Seoul! It is located near exit 3 of Jamsil subway station. May there be golden lions where ever you go...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Last week Sasha proposed that we check out a pro-baseball game this weekend. Having never been to a pro-anything game and never personally been a lover of baseball, I didn't really understand why she was so keen on doing this, but I went along with it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

500 points to whoever has the best interpretation of this poster:


Sasha and I came across it in a subway station. Click on the picture to see it enlarged, and post your answer in comments for this post.

Korea has revolutionized my idea of hot lunches. I remember school lunches from elementary school through high school back in NH...spaghetti, shepherds pie, cheeseburger, chicken nuggets, tacos, french toast. These were usually accompanied by milk (though juice and soda was readily available) and there was always some sort of dessert, like fruit out of a can, a chocolate chip cookie, a churro, or fruit crisp.

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