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.