Thursday, July 12, 2012

Summer Vacation!

I am on the home stretch! One more week of classes, 2 days of summer camp, and then I am off to Southeast Asia for 24 days! This week and next week at school we are watching Remember the Titans, a movie based on a true story about a high school integrating during the 1970's. My students love the movie, and I think that being such a monolistic society, watching a movie like this can really help the students with acceptance of other peoples. For summer camp, I am teaching the students to make green smoothies, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I can't wait to see what they think about putting spinach in a smoothie, but I know it will be a hit.

The day after camp, I am off to the airport. I fly out of Seoul at 5pm and arrive in Kuala Lampur, Maylasia at midnight on the 25th. I will stay 1 night there before quickly returning to the airport by noon the next day. I then fly to a neigboring island of Borneo Malaysia, the island shares itself between 3 countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei) and is the 3rd largest island in the world. I will spend 11 nights in the Sabah region in the Northeast. I haven't exactly decided what I will do yet but I know I want to visit the Orangutang Sanctuary and do a jungle trek. Borneo's forests are being cleared for palm plantations and many of the animals there are endangered. Unfortunately the remainder of their forests continue to dwindle, which is one of the reasons I want to visit. I am worried that in the future, the island will consist of only palm plantations and scarce wildlife. Borneo is also home to the largest mountain in the Malay Archipelago, Mount Kinabalu. This mountain can be hiked in a single day but usually travelers stay the night and hike for 2 days. I really want to hike the Mtn, but it is a 7hour bus ride from where I am staying in Sandakan. So my plan for that is currently up in the air. Here is a map of Borneo so you can see where I am going. Borneo has many islands such as Turtle Island, but unfortunately it is booked all through the summer, there are no vacancies. So I am thinking most of my time will be spent in the jungle and on the Kinabalu river.

Next I am off on another adventure. I leave Borneo on August 6th and head back to Kuala Lampur for a 5 hour layover before heading to Bali, Indonesia! I have a couple layovers in KL airport because I am flying a low cost carrier airline, AirAsia. I arrive in Bali very late at night and will be picked up by my homestay family who will take me to the town of Ubud. I will spend 4 to 5 nights there. Ubud is known as the heart of Bali. I plan on doing a bike tour, eating amazing Balinese food, and relaxing after all of the jungle madness in Borneo. After Ubud, I will go to the Legian/Kuta area in the South. I have read many opinions on this area, you either love it or you hate it. I plan on taking a cooking class, surfing, and getting a much needed tan at the beach. I will spend 3-4 nights before leaving Bali on the morning of August 15th. Here is a map of Bali~

Finally I will fly to Singapore and spend 1 night and 2 days exploring the city and pickin up some much needed foreign items that I can't find in Korea. I head back to Korea on the morning of August 17th at 5am so I plan on pulling an all nighter and just heading to the airport on the last subway at 1am. You can see Singapore on the first map I posted at the Southern tip of the Malaysian Penninsula.
So there you have it! 23 nights/24 days in Southeast Asia! I will update my blog during my vacation as much as possible. After summer vacation, I will only have 6 months left in Korea and then it is back home to America. I can't wait!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Signing my life away!

It is decided! I will be staying in Korea until March of 2013. After that I will make the journey back to Washington to see my family for awhile before deciding on my next adventure. I am not quite sure how I feel about staying longer, but I do have a great job and wonderful coworkers. Being in Korea is starting to feel comfortable and the idea of packing up sounds daunting. The good thing is that after I sign this 6 month contract I will have to leave and won't be able to sign again. This is good news because I will have to go home!! Which I am excited for.

I purchased my ticket for summer vacation. I will be spending 11 days in Bali, 11 days in Sandakan Borneo, and 2 nights in Singapore. I am currently planning the trip but it is a bit overwhelming. I can't wait for the moment I can swing in a hammock on the beach. I am going to Dokdo this week. Thursday - Saturday with 52 other foreign teachers. If you don't know about Dokdo it is a small rock Island between Korea and Japan. Korea and Japan like to fight over it. So we will be spending most of the weekend being brainwashed by lectures about the international conflicts associated with Dokdo. I already know what to expect so I am assuming it won't be too bad. I am just looking forward to the free trip and the extra time off work. Plus even though I think it is silly to fight over a rock, Korean people are especially passionate about this issue and I can appreciate that. So overall I am excited to go and see the beautiful ocean, ride the ferry, and spend some time with my friends.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air...

Spring is finally here, the cherry blossoms are blooming and the sun is shining. Besides having some plant/ yellow dust allergies, these past few weeks have been a blessing. It is amazing how much a little sunshine can boost your spirits. This past weekend a few friends and I made the 2.5 hour train journey to Busan (a city located on the southern coast). It was windy, but beautiful. Once we walked out of the subway station we took off toward the beach. I hadn't realized how much I truly missed the ocean. Living in Washington, I have been spoiled with being a short drive away from bustling waves and fresh air. But in Korea, getting a breath of fresh air could mean having to hike to the top of a mountain or having to travel hours to the ocean. The traveling was worth it let me tell you...

After putting our feet in the sand we decided to head to Yongungsa, a temple located on a rocky coast 20 minutes away by bus. This temple was breathtaking and a true treasure in Korea. Many people were visiting it and it was quite crowded. Sadly the temple was under some type of construction, so my pictures not great. After spending a couple hours we headed back to the city.

We found a love motel a few blocks from the beach. You might be wondering what a 'love motel' is...well in Korea most men and women live with their families until they are married. This could mean that they are still at home in their 30's or later. This doesn't offer much privacy and in a still conservative society, having your girlfriend or boyfriend over for the night isn't usually a possibility. So for about $40 bucks a night you can rent a room and no one has to know about it! Foreigners usually use these cheap motels for crashing in other cities on the weekend and they are very useful. The only thing is that sometimes they may turn you down if you try to check in before the evening, they like to get the hourly rate on their rooms. Thankfully we had no problem finding a cheap motel this weekend and there was plenty of room for us to crash on a pile of blankets. This type of room (with no beds) is traditional Korean style called 'Ondol' meaning radiant floor heating. Basically you sleep on a mat on the floor and stay warm from the heat...most homes here are heated this way as well. The only problem was that it is no longer winter and the floor heat was on blast. I think I almost died of heat stroke and woke up in a overheated confused state. Sadly we couldn't figure out how to turn it off...thankfully we had air con.

Before returning home for the evening we went out to hear some live music at The Vinyl Underground. It was nice because the live music scene in Korea, especially in my city of Gumi is almost unheard of. Sometimes you get lucky with the local bar doing an open mic night but that isn't often.

On our last day I chilled at the beach and got some sun. I would love to live in Busan on the weekends, its a great city with so many possibilities. Now I am back at school for the week. Wednesday is voting day so NO SCHOOL! Yay! I am going to go hiking at Geumosan right behind my house, I believe it is about a 4 hour hike roundtrip. Very excited to spend more time outdoors and get some exercise in!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spring hasn't sprung!

I just started a new semester and school year at my middle and high school. The new 1st year students' faces are cheerful and excited to meet me. I am giving them 1 month until their excitement wears off and the difficulty of high school sets in for them (studying in a class room until 10-11pm at night). Poor kids. Life has been refreshingly nice lately. I went home for 3 weeks in January and then came back to Korea and received an extra 3 weeks of vacation (no desk warming!)

I spent one of those weeks at Emmanuel Children's Home, a place I have been volunteering at. I stayed for a week in a homestay program with 5 other foreigners. It was by far the best part of my life in Korea. During the week we taught English classes to the staff and children as well as made Kimbap, played soccer and visited a local temple Jijiksa. I spent at least an hour each day in the baby room visiting my favorite little boy Kim Ki Hyun. Being involved at Emmanuel makes me feel fullfilled, something that often lacks in my school life. Don't get me wrong, I have an amazing job...I love the kids at my school, but they are forced to study their little lives away and sometimes they can be quiet, tired, and uninterested. The children's faces light up at Emmanuel when they see me. After the stay program when the volunteers were leaving they all saw us off screaming, "Don't go!" I couldn't help but cry...even though I knew I would be back to visit the next weekend, I knew it would be different just visiting than living there. I hope to return in the summer to do another stay program. As for now I am trying to stay as involved as possible, visiting whenever I can.


It is still freezing outside, but I am hoping spring is just around the corner. I went for a hike with a few friends up to Geumosan behind my house. The waterfall was a frozen piece of ice! But the hike was nice and I hope it warms up soon so I can do some more hiking around Korea. Since living in Korea I haven't explored as much as I should. This spring I want to go to more festivals, and see areas of Korea that I haven't been too. I hope to go camping too! I am missing the outdoors life of Washington~

This weekend I will go to Seoul for St. Pattys day and have some microbrews at a foreigner owned pub called Craftworks. In order to find a handcrafted beer one must travel to far places in Korea, unless you are the type that settles for their subpar tasteless lagers. I am beyond ecstatic to have a tasty brew.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Challenges in the classroom

So as much as I love my new job at Hyun-il Middle and High School, I have been dealing with some challenges which at times have been a real battle. Today is Tuesday and my most difficult day at school. I walked into work this morning telling myself it was going to be a good day, and praying that my students would listen and participate. Sadly it was not the case.

Let me recap quickly...I have 10 classes in middle school and 10 in high school. I have 6 co-teachers in total. High school is awesome and the students participate for the most part. My middle school classes on the other hand never cease to amaze me with their lack of interest and sleeping through anything capabilities. On Tuesdays I have my 3 most difficult classes with a co-teacher that rarely shows up and when she does show....well she might as well not have come. I get little to no help with translating or discipline. Today she told me, "Savannah you shouldn't worry about the students being loud and rude, just keep teaching." This is not acceptable to me so today I decided to write her a letter in which I will make her feel that she is needed and beneficial in my classroom. Although I feel that getting a replacement co-teacher would be the best option, I think thats not a possibility. Therefore I have to work with what I have got, hopefully I can make her feel important enough to get her to come to class and actually help me to improve it.

So as you can see my day didn't go so well. All three of my classes with this co-teacher were a joke. She came to the first class we had together but the students still misbehaved horribly. Then she didn't come to the other two classes. This makes life for me and the students even more difficult because sometimes the students need a little help with translating. The main problem is that I can't even get the students to be quiet for 1 minute to give them instructions for a game. They are constantly up running around, throwing paper at each-other, bullying one another, and yelling while others are speaking. I got extremely angry during 2 of the classes today, sending two students to the hall and having to yell pretty loudly and bang on the chalk board to try to get their attention. I don't like being mean, but I think I may have been a little too nice from the beginning and therefore the students see no consequences for their actions.

So after watching youtube videos all night on discipline in the classroom and how to effectively teach I have come to the conclusion that I need to try another approach. I also think that the students are not bad children, but maybe their level is low and therefore they are acting out or they have no motivation to do well because they do not receive a grade in my class. I have decided not to take the anger approach but rather implement some rules and consequences that I should have started in the beginning. I want the students to feel motivated and have fun. I found an awesome website called which discusses what to do when students misbehave. The only problem is that it is so difficult when the students don't speak much English. I know that if I spoke Korean or if my co-teacher would help me to effectively teach and lay down ground rules my classes could be so much more effective. All I can hope is that my co-teacher reads the letter and is willing to put in the effort. I really try to focus on the few good students who want to learn in the class but it is so hard when they can't even hear me speak because everyone is so loud. I hope this gets better soon, I find it very disheartening to try so hard and still have constant issues with these classes. Hoping for the best~

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Another year in Korea

It has been far too long since I have updated my blog. Since my last post about China so many events have happened that I can't discuss them all in detail. Basically, here is a quick rundown of the last 7 months. In May I had the chance to go to Taiwan, I traveled there by myself. It was amazing! Taiwanese are lovely and caring people. I spent my week there in the far south in a small town called Kenting. This place had an amazing feel, relaxed and beachy vibe. I stayed at a hostel called Afei for half of the time, although not the most comfortable I highly recommend staying here. You can rent surf boards and motorbikes and the people who run the place are amazing. There are always people hanging around locals and foreigners alike, who are up for anything! I met a girl named Moe who was visiting from Japan, we ended up visiting many places together. It was nice making a new friend.

After returning from Taiwan I was very unhappy being back in Korea. For about a month I was having hard time being at work. The Intstitute was hard enough to deal with on a daily basis, but after being on vacation I didn't want to be there at all. I was thankful to have a few close friends/coworkers (Ellen and Nia) who were always there to boost my spirits.

I used my summer vacation to return to Washington for 3 weeks in July. It was the best thing I could have done for myself. I had decided a month before in June that I would stay in Korea for another year, so my trip home really refueled me. I felt better emotionally and mentally about coming back to Korea.

After deciding to renew my contract and returning to Korea from visiting home, I wasn't sure if I should leave the Institute or transfer. I didn't know what to do at first, I really wanted to stay in Andong. I kept going back and forth....'maybe I want to stay at the Institute...but then someone would tell me..'Savannah, don't do are not happy there!' I knew that I couldn't stay there if I wanted to keep myself healthy. Even though I was at a point where I could handle work, I knew that I really wanted to be in a real classroom. It was really hard for me to step outside my comfort zone and decide to leave. When a my friend and her boyfriend decided to leave Korea for good, I jumped at the chance to take his job in Gumi city. I knew his situation and the fact that he loved his job at the middle and high school. It was a big difference from teaching elementary kids (which I love) and online teaching...but I had to go for it!  So sadly, I had to say goodbye to my good friends Ellen and Eddie, but I have benefited greatly from moving to his job. I currently really like Gumi, this is my second week of school. My coworkers are amazing!

Oh yes, and before moving to Gumi I used my renewal vacation of 2 weeks to go to Thailand!~ I went with my friend Jill from home....the trip was great. I loved Thailand and plan to go back someday. We saw elephants, monkeys, beautiful beaches, and I drank so many mango smoothies. The only thing is that I got the worst food poisoning of all time that started the day we left. I barely remember my 5 hour layover in China...I was so out of it. The food poisoning lasted for two weeks!!

When I came back to Korea I only had 5 working days left at the Institute before coming to Gumi! It was such a relief to know that I had made the right choice in leaving Andong and moving to Gumi and I felt at peace with my decision during that last week at the Institute. I packed up all my stuff (way toooo much stuff) and hired a truck to move it all to Gumi. Ellen came with me to Gumi in my moving truck and I was happy to spend her last weekend in Korea together. Ellen and Eddie left for Bali and their big backpacking trip around Southeast Asia...before relocating in New Zealand. I am hoping I can make it there before they move again!

Well basically that is a wrap up of my life the last 7  months. I really like my new job at Hyun-Il. My new apartment is way bigger than my last although there are no kitchen counters. That makes thing a little difficult. I live right behind the train station so I can travel around Korea much faster. There are many foreigners in my building so I have already made some new friends.  This weekend I may be going to a film festival in Busan, it has been a year since I have been to that city. I am currently feeling good about my next 11 months in Korea....the only thing is I wish the exchange rate would get better so I can send some money home!!!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

My trip to China, and other wonderful things!

Wow, I have so much to catch up on! At the end of January I went to Beijing, China for 1 week with 3 of my friends. Ellen and I went to Seoul earlier in the day so we could go to Itaewon (the Westernized part of Seoul) to get some yummy food and hit up an English bookstore called What the Book. So after a 3 hour bus ride we arrived in Seoul and took the subway to Itaewon. We went to a small restaurant called Petra, thanks to a suggestion from my friend Alana. Anyway, the place was super cheap and amazing. I got a falafel wrap with vegetables and tsatsiki sauce. It is really nice to go to Seoul every once in a while and get different food. In Andong, where I live...there are not very many options. Although today I went to an Italian-ish restaurant with my friend Jinsuk and got seafood carbonara and it was actually not bad. I will never understand why their garlic bread is sweet though.

So after going to Petra we went to What the Book and browsed around for about an hour and a half. I swear I could spend all day in a bookstore its kind of a problem. This bookstore is also nice because it has a lot of used books as well. So me and Ellen took forever trying to figure out what books we were going to buy...I just settled on one so I didn't have to lug even more stuff to China with me. We then made a trip to Starbucks which is a necessity when going to a bigger city, they don't have one in Andong. Mmmmm...peppermint white chocolate mocha! After that we hopped on the Subway for 1 hour to Incheon, where the airport is located.

We stayed the night in Incheon at a hotel so we could catch our flight the next morning. Our flight to China was only 1.5 hours so we got there by noon. We then took the subway all the way from the airport to our hotel in downtown Beijing (about 1/2 hour). Our hotel was directly next to the subway station which was nice. Sadly when we got to the hotel they had lost or never received mine and David's we had to sit in the lobby for 3 hours until they figured it out. Once we finally got to our room, it was pretty nice and I was thankful that everything worked out.

The next morning we woke up at 8am to meet our tour guide for The Forbidden City, The Summer Palace, The Temple of Heaven, a silk factory and  a pearl factory. It was a very long day but everything was amazing. We also had a very good Chinese meal with lots of vegetables...I think it may have been the best meal since I have been to Asia. There was this one dish with scrambled eggs and mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Most of our time in Beijing was spent walking around and checking out the city. I spent a lot of time in grocery stores because there was so much American food. I found a grocery store that reminded me of my Food Co-op back home, lets just say Ellen and I were in HEAVEN. I was able to pick up many things to bring back to Korea such as beans and lentils that I cannot find here. Clothing is also very cheap in China so of course I had to go shopping. I went to a park on Chinese New Year where they were having a HUGE festival with thousands of people. There were vendors everywhere selling all different kinds of food and everything rabbit because it is the year of the rabbit. I am talking rabbit masks, rabbit socks, food shaped like rabbits....rabbit craziness. I found a vendor that was selling beautiful scarfs for the equivalant of $3.50 I bought about 10 of them!!!

A few days into our trip we planned to go to The Great Wall. We had to wake up at 6am to catch our shuttle. We went with other people, one girl who was a teacher in Korea as well, such a small world. We were so smushed in the shuttle it wasn't the most comfortable ride. We sat like sardines for about 3 hours, and when we arrived the wait was well worth it. We hiked for about 1.5 hours up because we stopped to take so many pictures, and 45 minutes back. We didn't spend that much time there, but it was beautiful and the highlight of my trip to China. There were barely any people there so we had the whole wall to ourself it seemed like. The view was beyond breath taking...and it was hard to take it all in. It wasn't until the next day that I had registered in my mind where I had just been. I never thought that I would see The Great Wall in my lifetime. Overall my trip to China was wonderful. The people are caring and welcoming, just like in Korea. I am sooooo happy I was blessed with the opportunity to go.

 Our delicious meal, and the yummy egg dish.
      Stretching Silk at the Silk Shop

The Temple of Heaven

America: written in Chinese by a cute little man with a water paintbrush on the sidewalk.

Me, Eddie, Ellen, & David on The Great Wall

The Great Wall

The Forbidden City

Roots Reggae Bar ~ So thankful for live music!!

At Ditan Park on Chinese New Year

A fruit called Boboboboeeee or something like that, delicious.

Ellen and I with our aloe and coconut drinks from the grocery store.

The year of the RABBIT!

Just enjoying a Tsingtao with David, fun night!

Being in Korea has allowed me to experience other cultures, and is giving me the opportunity to travel.  I leave for Taiwan on May 5, 2011 for 5 days. I am ecstatic, and cannot wait to go surfing and lounge around on the beach all day. Also I will be coming home from  June 29- July 17th. Can't wait to see all of my wonderful friends and family especially during the best time of the year in Washington, SUMMER!!!!