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Friday, 28 November 2014

Top 10 Cultural Differences (Thus Far)

I have officially been in Korea for over a month. Wow! So crazy. Although it's a fairly short period of time, the amount of cultural differences I have experienced so far is astounding! I definitely did my fair share of research on Korean culture before arriving here, however being PHYSICALLY immersed in this culture cannot compare. I've been trying to keep track of these experiences for my own benefit, and also to share with you folks. My memo pad on my phone is now pretty full with these little notes, so I think it's about time I share them.

Disclaimer: I am still in the early stages of learning and experiencing Korean culture. I am no expert here. These are examples that have personally stood out to me so far!

1. Selfie Sticks
For those who don't know, a selfie stick is a plastic (i think) pole that holds your phone or camera further away from you while taking a picture of yourself. This allows the phone/camera to capture more scenery than what you would usually get by just holding it with your arm. These are abundant in South Korea, especially in more touristy areas. Selfie sticks are just another new and normal technology here, and people are not shy to whip out these 10 foot poles. I'm curious to know if one day they will gain popularity and acceptance in Canada.

P.S. In case you were wondering, yes I do have a selfie stick. It was waiting for me on my desk at work one day. (Sometimes people come in to school and try to sell you things, and if you listen in on their presentation you usually get something for free. This was one of those times.) I was ecstatic.

My new selfie stick. Collapsible, extendable, and so portable. 


2. Public Display of Appearance (PDA- get it)

Selfie sticks are a great segue into my next point, which I have coined Public Display of Appearance. South Korea is very focused on appearance, as many countries are! However it expresses itself a bit differently in South Korea. Apparently, South Korea is the plastic surgery capital of the WORLD, with 1/5 women having had plastic surgery, compared to 1/20 in the United States. (Don't forget to take population size into consideration, too!) These are facts. What I mean by PDA specifically is (mostly) women fixing/applying their makeup in public. At my workplace, almost all the women have a mirror that is permanently fixed to their desk (and students, too!). And most of them, a makeup bag in their desk. I had a conversation with my co-teacher about this, which I thought was quite interesting. Women back home are more shy and embarrassed about applying makeup in public, and therefore if we do need to "touch up" we usually do so in the bathroom. In my opinion, I think this has to do with makeup having a bit of a negative connotation. We need to distance ourselves as far away as we can from the actual process of applying makeup, therefore applying in the bathroom, hidden away from others. However in Korea, this is not the case. Which, I think is great! Makeup, no makeup, public, private, it's all gravy.

3. Heated Toilet Seats

Do I really have to elaborate? The title says it all. But seriously, it's so great. They aren't everywhere, but they are in a lot of places, like my school and many restaurants/hotels. Having heated toilet seats in a FREEZING school is a definite plus, which brings me to my next point....

4. FREEZING SCHOOLS!

Ok, so my school is freezing. Not just because we haven't turned the heat on yet (I'm not sure if that day will even happen), but because the doors and windows stay open at all times. This is not exclusive to my school. From my conversations with friends and other teachers here, this seems to be commonplace. I am still confused by this. If we just closed the doors and windows....it would be warmer? And it's not like all the other teachers are not cold, they are cold too! (Side note: YES South Korea does get very cold! Right now it averages between 7 and 13 degrees Celsius). I swear it feels colder though.....

I've noticed many of my fellow teachers wear winter vests on top of their outfits, perhaps I should invest in one?

5. HEATED FLOORS!

Yup, heated toilet seats AND heated floors. Well, heated floors in my apartment, not school. I've only had to turn the heat on a few times, but let me tell ya, it's so great. The heating is in the plumbing which is in the floors, which is why the floors get heated. Yeehaw.

6. Toilet Paper

Toilet paper is used for more than just going to the bathroom here in South Korea! I noticed this on my first day of work when I was handed a roll of toilet paper by my co-teacher while sitting at my desk. At first I was confused. Was this my own personal roll of toilet paper that I take with me to the bathroom? (Side note: at my high school that I am only at once a week, you have to take toilet paper from the office before going to the bathroom. There is no toilet paper in there. I found out the hard way).

Despite my confusion, I gladly accepted the roll of toilet paper and put in on my desk. My co-teacher later asked me something along the lines of, "do you use toilet paper for many things in Canada too?" Maybe she could sense my confusion earlier that day. We then had an interesting conversation about toilet paper! Here in Korea it is used for Kleenex, napkins, etc. However back home you generally see Kleenex boxes, and stuff like that, but toilet paper makes so much more sense. Less garbage! Speaking of toilet paper, when it is used for it's main purpose in South Korea (going to the bathroom), it is not flushed. It is disposed of in an (open) garbage bin that is in every bathroom. I still have a hard time remembering this. And when I do remember, well....sometimes I still flush it.

My lovely toilet paper roll

7. Alcohol/Drinking

I could dedicate an entire post to this, but I will try to keep it brief. Alcohol is a staple in most meals, especially mekju (beer) and soju (Korean rice vodka). And yes, you can even defy all rules of mixing different types of alcohol since one of the most popular drinks is somek: beer and soju. So = soju, Mek = mekju. One thing that stands out the most to me, is where alcohol is consumed. Aka everywhere. We had a teacher volleyball tournament at the school (around 3:oopm, students still in school). There was food at this event, and lots of alcohol. On the stage in the gym, the tables were just lined with food, soju and beer bottles. This was definitely a sight that you would not see at home (at least not while the students are still at school, right?!). Another big thing that stands out to me is the pouring etiquette. Some examples:

    1. Never pour your own drink. You always pour other peoples, and then they will pour yours right after. 
    2. Empty cups do not exist. If you see someone with an empty cup, fill it!
    3. When pouring: have the person you are pouring for hold their cup with both bands. Then, hold the bottle with both hands, and pour. Sometimes, instead of using two hands, you can place the hand that is not directly on the bottle near your elbow, or under the opposite side of your chest. (Side note: A general rule in Korea is to give and receive things with two hands. Money at the store, passing papers to coworkers etc.).

                                  

8. Driving

My first driving experience in Korea (that wasn't a bus) was getting into a taxi after our bus had arrived in Gwangju. It was probably the scariest drive of my whole life, and I don't think it had to do with how delirious I was from all the hours of travel. This was fitting, since it seemed to set the tone for what driving is normally like in Korea. For all my Canadians/Ottawatians out there, it is basically 10 times worse than Quebec driving (excuse the stereotype, I am sorry). There is minimal signalling, and when it is done, sometimes they just turn on their 4 ways instead. Sometimes, a red light is more of a suggestion. Texting and driving is not hidden, it is made blatantly obvious. HONKING! So much honking, people drive with their hand half on the horn ready to go at all times.

They are of course accustomed to this way of driving, so in reality it is pretty safe I guess. However this foreigner is still getting used to things. One positive aspect of driving is that drunk driving is also largely frowned upon here (however I'm sure it still happens here, as it still does back home, and probably anywhere). Korea also has a service where someone will come pick up your car and drive you home. It is WIDELY used here. We definitely have this back home, but I don't think it is used as frequently.

9. Food 

I had eaten Korean BBQ a few times back home, but that obviously doesn't fully prepare you for living in Korea and eating Korean food everyday. But, let me just say, the food is so good sometimes it still feels crazy that "this is what they eat" on a regular basis. Especially the school lunches. It honestly feels like you are eating at a Korean restaurant everyday! There is always the standard rice and kimchi, of course. There is also always a soup, that changes everyday, as well as a main meat dish, and another vegetable type side dish. Sometimes there will be fruit, or a dessert, or both! There is definitely a lot of different foods in Korea that we are not used to back home, but I can't really think of anything I've eaten so far that I wouldn't eat again. I probably go out to dinner once or twice a week, and I am always impressed by how delicious it is, and how cheap. From my experience with groceries so far (which is still a struggle), I honestly think it's probably cheaper to eat out than buy groceries. I was definitely surprised by this!

Side Note/Most Bizarre Food experience so far: All the teachers were out for dinner, and one of my coworkers places something on my plate. Her English is not the best, so she tells me "wait, wait" and then makes an exploding sound with her hands and voice. I was confused by this, but nodded my head along and "waited". A couple minutes later she says that now I can eat it. Reluctantly, I pop it in my mouth. It was the strangest thing. It was chewy at first, but then I bit down on something very hard that almost felt like a rock. And then it happened. It had literally exploded in my mouth, with some sort of liquid coming out of whatever I had just bit down on. The taste was kind of unpleasant,almost like chlorine. It was then explained to me that I had to "wait" because if I ate it right away, it would have been too hot and the liquid inside would have hurt. Alright! They told me the name of it in Korean, but I cannot remember. However, I somehow managed to capture it in a picture. Ok, do you see the closest plate with the chopsticks on it? Right below the chopsticks, there is a small beige circular object.....that's it. If anyone can shed some light on what this is, that would be great!

Mystery food- center and closest to the front


*UPDATE*: It has now come to my knowledge that the "thing" I ate was a sea squirt, a type of sea pineapple, known as meongge in Korea. Quite fitting!


10. Generosity

Since arriving to Korea, the number one thing that stands out to me is the generosity of the Korean people and the huge aspect of sharing that is embedded in their culture. At work, we get spoiled. There is always food or fruit around that someone brings in. As soon as it arrives and if you haven't had a chance to get up and eat it yet, you can guarantee that one of your coworkers is on their way to bring you one, or calling you over "Laura! Laura!". For my co-teachers birthday, I picked her up a few things, and one of them was this mug filled with candy. The first thing she did after she opened it was ask, "Can I share with everybody?". She then went around the Teacher's Room and handed everybody a piece of candy. I thought this was the sweetest thing. On my first day of Elementary school, my Principal handed me a bag filled with 5 persimmons. He apparently owns a persimmon farm! I was so grateful. P.S it is now my new favourite fruit. But sadly they are slowly going out of season :(


A cooked Korean sweet potato I was handed at work. I was confused as to how I was supposed to eat it at first, but I just followed everyone's lead: pealed the skin off and ate in like an ice cream cone!



The Home Ec class sharing there food. This happened 3 times last week! Everyday was something different. All the teachers gather around the table and share. Notice the spaghetti at the top! They usually make something "Western", like sandwiches too.


You will also get handed food in the most unexpected places from kindest people. For example, a lady turning around in her seat on the bus and handing you a clementine, or getting handed a yogurt at the bank. The people of Korea, especially my wonderful co-workers have made me feel so at home in this country. Even though there is a big language barrier, there is undeniable bond and connection I feel with these people.

And there you have it. The Top 10 Cultural Differences I have experienced thus far. Many of these of surface level, and I know I will only continue to learn about the people and the culture on a deeper level.

-L2K

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Celebrating the Small Victories

It's funny how living in a foreign country can change your perspective on your accomplishments. Back home, buying groceries or successfully taking a cab back to your house is a mundane task that probably deserves zero recognition. However when you are immersed in a new culture, these small tasks become huge accomplishments. Simply put: living in a different culture requires you to re-learn all these things we take for granted, almost like you are a small child again who needs the help of an experienced adult (my amazing co-teacher!). Today, was a day filled with many small victories. This made me reflect on my previous small victories since arriving in Korea. Now, it's time to brag!

1. Getting My Glasses Fixed

After a week of walking around with glasses that kept falling off my face because they became loose after an intense group hug, I knew I had to do something about it. This was in the back of my mind the whole week, but I had yet to plan out how I would make this happen. It happened on one of my walks around the neighbourhood, where I stumbled across a glasses store- which are abundant here! To be honest, I walked by 2 or 3 before I had the guts to actually go into one. I walked in, greeted the shop owner with annyeonghaseyo and proceeded to show him how loose my glasses were. He had an "ah-ha!" type reaction, and whisked away my glasses to a back room, only to come back 2 minutes later and have them perfectly snug again. I gave him the two thumbs up to indicate a good job, and then whipped out my Korean phrasebook to ask "how much is it?", which I now know is igo ol-ma-ye-yo. (In Canada, something like this would generally be free of charge, however I did not want to assume). As soon as I said it, he started to rapidly shake is head back in forth and put his arms in an X formation, indication no, free of charge. I left with a huge smile and a kamsahamnida to the shop owner.

2. Signing Up For A Gym Membership

I knew I would need to find a gym eventually. I started to look at the foreigner Facebook group for my city, but all the gyms seemed to be in a different area. So, I asked my co-teacher if she knew of any gyms in my neighbourhood. I was prepared to bus to another area, since I assumed there would be none close by. HOWEVER, it turns out, there is a gym about a 15 minute walk away from my house. So, today my co-teacher printed me off a map (in Korean), and I decided to head down there right after work since it looked close to where I get dropped off. After 15 minutes of searching, I finally found it!! I walked in, and was immediately impressed by the huge swimming pool. I say my usual Korean greetings, and somehow manage to speak to someone who speaks a little bit of English. I ask for "gym membership? sign up?" and she understands. She directs me to the price list by month, and I agree to a 3 month membership. But first, I wanted to see the other facilities. We somehow manage to understand each other, and she guides me upstairs to the big fitness room (machines, free weights, etc). Looked very similar to a Western gym! Except for those stations where you put a big elastic on your butt, legs, etc., and it "jiggles" all the fat away. That was new! There were also lots of sauna rooms, since they are very popular in Korea. So, I paid the 3 month fee directly from my *new* Korean debit card, she took my picture for the membership, showed me how to check in (the last 4 digits of my *new* Korean phone number), and that was it! I was on my way.

Ok, so I won't list all my small victories for you. But these are the two that I am most proud of so far. I am excited and anxious to keep learning about Korean culture, especially the language.

I think it's important to take any ounce of courage or bravery you feel, and just run with it. There is so much fear that holds us back in this world, and I think it's time that I (and others out there), start using this to propel ourselves forward. I was definitely scared to come to Korea, but realizing this was a good fear (with the help of my friends and family- big shout out) helped me get my paperwork together, and ultimately get on that plane. On that note- I am so glad I am here. These small victories were moments of small courage that transformed into something much bigger. I am so excited for the many more to come!

-L2K

Friday, 14 November 2014

New Home Starting to Feel Like Home!

Even though I've been in Korea for over 3 weeks, I only moved in to my apartment about 9 days ago. Since then it has been a constant cycle of organizing/buying more stuff/making more of a mess. I am relieved and happy to finally say that I think I am all settled in! Now that my home is no longer embarrassing, it's time to show it off!


 Bed/window/wardrobe/desk


Closet! Hey look Mom and Dad, everything fits!


A little shrine to Korea I've got going on- 2 plants, bamboo, cute/scary Korean doll. Also featured: books.

Spotted: miniature ironing board.

TV & Drawers featuring mini Christmas tree. Still have not figured out how to work the TV or if I even have cable. Maybe one day I'll figure it out!

The "still a disaster/can't find a home for anything" side of the room. The suitcases are a pain, but I'm used to them by now. Plus they are being used as extra storage!


Fridge & Sliding room separating doors.

Fruit Bowl & Coffeemaker. Essential.

Kitchen!

And last but not least, the famous bathroom! One stop shop folks. Shower, sink, laundry and toilet all in one room. It was definitely weird at first, but I'm getting used to it! The sandals are a must.

Well, that's all for now! I have so many ideas for future blog posts I can't wait to share with you all. Slowly coming together through jotting notes down on my phone's memo pad. 

It's currently 10:50 on Friday night here in Korea, and after talking a nice walk through the neighbourhood, stopping by the dollar store, cleaning up the apartment, and making this blog post, I think I will soon call it a night. Happy weekend! 

- L2K

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

First Weekend In My New City

My first weekend here in this new city I call home was spent exploring. On Saturday, my lovely co-teacher took me for a hike at Yudalsan Mountain, about a 5 minute drive from my apartment. It's not the biggest mountain, but you definitely work up a sweat! Once you make it to the top, you can see the gorgeous view of the entire city. There's a lot more to see than just the view from the top. Along the way there is a greenhouse filled with gorgeous Chinese plants, a pathway made of special stones on which you to walk barefoot to have "healthy feet", according to ancient medicine (similar to yoga balls for your feet). There is also one temple and several other beautiful buildings and statues. I brought my camera with me, however once I got there I realized I had not put the memory card back in the camera. Nevertheless, I still managed to snap a few pictures with my phone.




She then took me to her favourite traditional Korean restaurant, where you eat sitting on the floor. It was delicious! There is always so much food that comes with your order, it's hard to finish everything. 

On Sunday I met up with a friend from orientation who also lives in Mokpo. We explored a neighbourhood in Mokpo called Hadang, the newest area of Mokpo, with many restaurants and coffee shops along the water. We also managed to find the Gatbawi rocks- which resemble two hooded monks; a father and a son, legend has it.



The rest of the weekend was spent organizing and cleaning my apartment. This is still a work in progress. Pictures to come once this daunting task is complete.

Love to all.

-Laura in Korea


Oh ya, I'm here to teach!

After leaving orientation and heading for my new home in Mokpo, my co-teacher and I ran several errands before we were able to call it a night. Immigration office, school visit to meet the Principal and Vice Principal, HomePlus for some essentials, and bussing to and from school from my apartment (so I knew how to get to school the next day). We also stopped at a beautiful spot for some coffee to meet two other people who work at the school in administration.


View from lunch 

My first day at school (Wednesday) I didn't have any real classes to teach, which was a nice break. I spent the day lesson planning, and you know, Internet stuff. This was all in between saying "Hello!" countless times to all the students curious about the new foreign teacher. Wednesdays are also the volleyball day at school. Not just my school, but I think almost every school (almost) in Korea. It is HUGE here. So, since I was given the warning beforehand, I left my apartment that morning with my small gym bag in hand, hoping the gym outfit I had chosen was appropriate enough. Even though a long sleeve shirt and yoga capri pants are about as conservative as you get (this is my anxiety speaking). But what if they didn't change for volleyball?? What if they think yoga pants are very risqué?? These were all thoughts that crossed my mind. So, once 6th period came along, I was relieved to see other female teachers changing into gym clothes, although some did stay in their work clothes. It was also a relief to know I had gone the right path with the long sleeves and pants, since the other Korean teachers were also wearing long sleeves and pants. Except, not yoga style. But that was minor. 


Side Note: For those who aren't aware, Korean style is very different than Western style. Women rarely show any of their chest. And I don't mean, cleavage, just that regular skin beneath your neck, for lack of a better description. Most ladies' tops have very high necks, if they aren't turtle necks already. Showing this area is seen as a bit taboo in Korea, however showing a lot of leg is not. I've noticed many females wearing dresses or skirts that in Canada we would definitely deem as way too short. This makes for confusing fashion choices for us foreigners, especially in the workplace. But, I've learned to observe what they wear, take mental notes, and do as they do.


Ok: back to volleyball. Even though this was only my first day at school, first time meeting everyone, and can only speak 4 essential sentences in Korean, volleyball was so fun. The majority of the time I literally had no idea what they were saying, but I didn't need to know. I could still laugh, clap, say "nice!" at a good shot. Honestly, I don't have the right words to say how I felt. At one point I felt quite emotional. I had just met these people and despite the language barrier, we were having so much fun and they were so welcoming. Needless to say, I left my first day of school feeling pretty good.



My Middle School

Thursdays I'm usually at a high school, so this day was also spent lesson planning for the next week. Friday, was my first day at my elementary school, and they have my heart already. They are so sweet, energetic and welcoming. My biggest class is 8 kids. Yes, EIGHT kids. This is so wonderful. My co-teacher for elementary is also so great. She is very curious about the English language, so a lot of our conversations are spent discussing English and all the different colloquialisms. This is interesting to me, as a lot of the expressions we use literally do not make sense, since they are very figurative in nature. Sometimes it's challenging trying to explain these things, but it puts a new perspective on things, since they are things I have either a) never noticed or b) taken for granted in this complicated English language.

Next week I still do not have a full teaching schedule, since High Schoolers are still writing exams, and the Grade 3 Middle School students (Grade 9 Canadian equivalent) are writing their high school entrance exams. So yes, I am teaching all levels. Grade 3 Elementary all the way up the Grade 12 (we call it High School 3 here in Korea). It definitely wont be easy, but I am up for the challenge!

I will post about school again soon once I have had a full week of REAL teaching (November 17th-21st).


Until then,


- Laura in Korea

Orientation Video

For those of you who need something more visually stimulating than the words and lack of pictures below, here is an awesome video made during our orientation.



- Laura in Korea

Monday, 10 November 2014

Planes, Trains & A Great Big Foreigner Bubble

Just over 2 weeks since I've landed in the beautiful country of South Korea. Time has flown by, but the plane ride seems so far from here. Even though I've only been here for two weeks, so much has happened during this time, that I can't help but be overly excited for what the rest of this year will bring. Let's break down these past 2 weeks, shall we?

Plane Ride

Feels like ages ago. After packing, unpacking, and repeating this process several times, me, my 70 pound and 50 pound suitcase were off to the airport. *Cue standard airport check in routine, with a nice little overweight baggage charge on top* (I deserved it). This was proceeded by one last Canadian "meal": a bagel B.E.L.T from Timmies and an iced cap. Savouring every last bite and enjoying the rest of my time with my parents before I made the big flight. Big shout out to my parents for being so supportive and excited for me and my new adventure, and holding it together until after I left. 

It definitely felt strange going through security and waiting at the gate by myself. I use the term strange loosely, as it was the best type of strange you could possibly feel. Independence, wanderlust, freedom. Once they called my row to board the plane, I had that "oh my god I'm actually doing this" moment. I think I actually may have had a little bit of the wobbly leg syndrome.

The flight from Ottawa to Toronto was short and sweet, and I had a whole row to myself! (If only it was the 16 hour flight, and not the 45 minute one). Upon arriving at the Toronto airport, I knew I had to make my way to Terminal 3. Of course, I just followed the well directed signs. Little did I know that the Toronto airport was so massive that I had to take a train to get there. Needless to say I was slightly confused when the signs ended, and I was left in front of this "train" station. "Ohhh they want me to get ON the train. Got it". This was then confirmed by a lovely flight attendant who was also waiting for the train. Once off this mysterious train and heading towards Terminal 3, I passed 2 David's Tea stores. It took SO much restraint not to go in, but I knew I should probably go catch my plane, even though I had about a 2 hour layover (thanks, punctuality). This was quite difficult, especially since I didn't bring any of my David's teas with me. Once I got to the gate, I managed to meet up with a fellow teacher also participating in the same orientation as me. As it was both of our first times teaching in Korea, this was very comforting.  

Korean Air was very impressive! Each seat had a little care package waiting for us. Included was a blanket, pillow, slippers, mini toothbrush and toothpaste and headphones. (I later found out we weren't allowed to take the big soft purple blanket off the plane. Disappointment). I watched 22 Jump Street and The Fault in Our Stars on the plane. All I have to say is thank goodness I was watching The Fault In Our Stars when they had the lights dimmed on the plane. Talk about TEARS. Can't say I'm surprised, since everyone warned me I would ball my eyes out. Whewwwww. Oh, and the meals were great!

Once we landed, we were greeted by a lovely representative from the agency that had been helping us through this whole process. She was able to tell us how to take the bus from the airport to the hotel, and answer any questions we had. Once another teacher's flight got in, the three of us made our way to the bus and were en route to Gwangju. The 4 hour bus ride was probably the most tiresome part of the trip, as we were all pretty exhausted by this point. Once our bus got to the terminal, we took a cab to our hotel. I had the best shower, met my new (and awesome) roommate for the next 10 days, and was off for a deep slumber.

Orientation

Orientation was an excellent way to start this adventure. It definitely helped ease the transition of entering a new country and culture, and was a great way to meet other people in the same boat. The 26 of us Native English Teachers were all from different parts of the world; The United States, England, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and of course, Canada. It was so great meeting people from all over. Although we were all Native English Speakers, there were many differences (and similarities) between us (other than the accents). This made for interesting conversation, and I think by mid-week I had developed a combination accent (or using lingo) from all of our home countries. This was also confirmed and supported by others. Geez, I still sounds like a Psyc major.

For the 8 full days of orientation, the 26 of us were put up in a nice hotel, where we were fed 3 full meals a day (for free!). Talk about luxury. After our Western/Korean fusion breakfast, our "work" day officially commenced. From 9-5 we participated in different lectures and presentations, ranging from from teaching practices, games, and all aspects of Korean culture. Learning about the culture was by far my favourite part. We learned about social customs (bowing, pouring, etc.), Korea's unique history, the written language, Korean traditional music and even K-Pop! We also participated in a traditional Korean wedding wearing Hanboks and had a cooking class, where we made dalk bokkeum tang, and the vegetarians made kimbap.


View from breakfast every morning (6th floor, Shin Yan Park Hotel)

Dalk Bokkeum Tang

Since our days technically ended at 5 o'clock, we were free to do as we pleased during the evening. Our first full day there, we went for a hike on Mudeungsan Mountain, which was right behind our hotel. It was quite beautiful!



Another one of these nights consisted of purchasing Hite (a Korean beer) and Makkoli (Korean rice wine) from a Mini-Stop and drinking it on the steps of a street corner (such classy foreigners, I know). But hey, when in Korea.....drink in the streets cause they don't legally enforce it. Just kidding. This is literally the opposite of what they told us to do in orientation, but ya know, life happens. This was proceeded by barhopping to approximately who knows how many bars (3 or 4 maybe?), with a stop at norebang for some good ol' karaoke.



Although Halloween is still not as popular in South Korea as it is in other countries, us foreigners still managed to scrounge a costume together (and actually look quite decent). After a pre-drink involving large quantities of soju (Korean rice vodka- a bottle is cheaper than Coca-Cola) and Korean beer, we made our way to our first stop of the evening, the First Alleyway, where drinking games ensued. Shortly after, we made our way to German Bar- one of the more popular foreigner bars in town. The night ended with a treacherous hunt for pizza. Since all of the restaurants/street food had closed by then, we settled for a microwavable pizza for the 7-11. Gross? Absolutely. But this definitely payed off in the morning, where I was virtually hangover free. A great way to start our field trip the next day!



The morning of the field trip was spent at a traditional Korean music centre, where we learned Arirang, a Korean folk song on the traditional Korean drums. Just next door, was an intangible cultural heritage museum that we also visited. After a nice hearty Korean lunch in the middle of nowhere, we made our way to the Damyang Bamboo Forest. Wandering around the forest in the fresh air was quite refreshing. Or maybe that was the bamboo ice cream that was purchased......Well, either way it was very enjoyable!

Spotted: mass amounts of Korean hikers decked out in their extensive hiking gear wanting to get a picture with the foreigners, and lots of stylish babies. 








The last night of orientation came to a close with one final group trip to the norebang- always a good time. The next morning was the big day. The day that we make our way out of the foreigner bubble, and into the real world! We had a closing ceremony with all the co-teachers and supervisors. One by one, we had to get up and say our name, where we are from, what school we're teaching at, and nice to meet you, all in Korean. It was a little nerve wracking beforehand, but I think it went well. After, I was greeted by my lovely co-teacher, who has been such a great help so far. I would definitely be a little lost without her guidance! And just like that, we were off to Mokpo, my home for the next year.