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Thursday, 14 January 2016

2016: Looking Forward

Since my last post was taking a look back on 2015, I figured HEY why not make a second post, looking forward to 2016?!

2016 is already off to a great start, since we are currently on winter vacation until March in Korea! Well, almost.....

My vacation hasn't technically started yet. I had two weeks of successful English Camp, and now this week, here I sit warming my desk, patiently waiting for my vacation to start. Us Native English Teachers are only allowed a certain number of vacation days per year. So when you're not on vacation, you have to be at work from 9-5. With no students. Or other teachers. Only some administration staff and the principal or vice principal. In a cold school. Ok, it's not as bad as it sounds. I'm getting paid to surf the internet, write blog posts, and plan some trips. Lucky me! I should almost be more productive.....

Needless to say, that gives me lots of time to think of the year ahead and what I want to accomplish. Hopefully writing down some of these goals in a public space will help inspire me to accomplish them!

Some of these aren't necessarily goals, rather things already planned and am excited for!

KOREA

1. Visit Jeju (February 13th-16th)
2. Be a great tour guide for my Dad when he visits Korea (February 7-20)
3. Participate in a Temple Stay
4. Visit Boseong Green Tea Fields

TRAVEL 

5. Visit Home (January 18th-February 7th)
6. Visit Japan (February 20th)
7. Eat at a Michelin Star restaurant in Japan
8. Try Couchsurfing

FITNESS 

9. Run a 5K race in Korea (March 27th) & 10K later in the year
10. Maintain a consistent yoga practice (and get my feet to touch my head in scorpion)
11. Finish Kayla Itsines BBG workout plan
12. Buy a fitness tracker and actually use it

GENERAL  

13. Start a general travel blog, not specific to Korea
14. Get serious about blogging, at least one post every two weeks
15. Read at least 1 book a month
16. Continue to save & send money home

Isn't it interesting that once you write out your goals, you realize what your passions are, and what you care about? Travel, Fitness, Cooking/Food, Writing are my biggest passions right now, my biggest priorities.

Canada..................see you SO soon! I could have made an entire post dedicated to what I want to do while at home, so I kept it short to simply "visit home". This includes skating on the canal and outdoor rink, skiing, eating ALL the food (that could also be a list of it's own), seeing all my friends & family, and many more.

Cheers to 2016! You are already off to an impressive start.

- Laura

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

2015 Recap & Look Back

2015. The year I discovered mangosteen, and finally made it a habit to wash my face every night. OK, and maybe a few more things.

14 days in to the New Year and I think it's finally sunk in at what a year 2015 really was. I arrived in Korea in October 2014, so 2015 was the first year where I truly spent the whole year in Korea (despite some travelling outside the country along the way). I lived in Korea for all of 2015. My entire year was based around this country. A country that not too long ago, was still foreign to me. And now I call it home.

Although mangosteen and washing my face are two great feats, let's take a further look at my most favourite memories, or simply things I am proud of, from 2015. In no particular order, here they are.

1. Hiking Wolchusan Mountain


When I first found out I would be teaching in the province of Jeollanamdo, I researched, and researched, and researched. That's what I do. Research things until I am fulfilled. (Am I ever??!) Out of all the natural wonders in this province, Wolchulsan was the first one that really spoke to me, and I thought "I have to go there". Maybe it was the rocky cliff faces, or the unique cloud bridge. I'm not sure what took me so long, but after being here for almost a year already- I finally did it! A refreshing, and fulfilling fall hike that I got to share with a good friend.



2. Volunteering At The Orphanage


In March 2015, I started volunteering at the Illo (city outside of Mokpo) orphanage every Thursday. These kids put a smile on your face the minute you walk through the door. Besides having fun with them while teaching them some English, along the way, I also became close with the other volunteers. Although I knew them before, volunteering at the Orphanage really brought us together, and now they are my closest friends here in Korea. And for that, I am so thankful!




3. Island Hopping in the Philippines


Like I said before, I lived in Korea for all of 2015. But being here also granted me amazing opportunities to travel to other countries, for which I am so grateful! The Philippines is an amazing country filled with beautiful beaches and kind locals. The highlight of my ten days spent there was definitely island hopping in El Nido, with me and my four friends. The local guide knew all the right spots, and all the right times to go to avoid overcrowding. The guide and the "captain" of the boat also cooked us a fresh, delicious lunch, consisting of grilled fish, pork, veggies, fresh tomatoes and onions, and rice.



4. Trekking With Elephants in Thailand


One of my favourite memories of my time spent in Thailand was spent here, at the Elephant Nature Park, a conservation and rehabilitation centre for elephants. We fed them, bathed them, trekked through the jungle with them,. It was all so surreal, being so close to these gentle giants!



5. Living in My Own Private Bamboo Hut for Two Days


This place. Simply magical! The scenery, the people, the air. It was all breathtaking. A place I will never forget.


6. Kicking Food Poisoning's Butt

I got food poisoning the SECOND day of my 21 day vacation period. My first case of food poisoning EVER. The worst of it (zero food, and trying to locate a toilet every couple minutes) lasted three full days, and then some of it (I won't give you specifics...) continued into the Philippines. Regardless, I'm proud that still made the most out of my time and said a big f-you to food poisoning!

6. Conquering 2 Open Classes

Part of being a teacher here in Korea means opening your class once a semester, so other teachers (and principal, VP), can come in. They observe, then critique you and give feedback. I put a lot of hard work in to these classes, and it paid off. During the class, I had the other teachers (including the Principal) smiling, laughing, and thoroughly enjoying watching the kids learn through my methods. I received only positive feedback, and I was (and still am) very proud.


7. DMZ Tour

Taking a peak from afar into North Korea was surreal. The tour was a great way to learn the history of the country that I (for now) call home.

Freedom Bridge


8. Making Camping A Priority

I've always loved camping, but it's never been a priority, or at the top of my to-do list. It's such a great way to see a country, and I'm so glad I made it a priority this past camping season.



Hadong


I'm proud of my 2015 year. These are eight things among a myriad of others. I moved apartments, continued learning Korean, and always tried to keep an open mind (especially when it came to food...). I also got scammed in Bangkok, had to say some difficult goodbyes to fellow English teacher friends, and also got told I have eleven cavities. But hey! It's all part of the experience, for better or for worse.

To say I learned a lot is an understatement. I'm excited to continue learning, and see what this year has to offer. Bring it on 2016!

-L2K

Sunday, 3 January 2016

6 Little Things I Love About Korea

My last post was Six Things That Grind My Gears About Living in South Korea. Not meant to be negative, but just six things that simply annoy me. As there are things that bug me, there are of course many things that I love about living here. Many of these things, are little things. But when I first came to Korea, these little things weren't so little. They were new, different, exciting, and groundbreaking. Now, they have become such a normal part of my daily life, that I barely notice or appreciate them anymore. Today I want to take a step back, and appreciate them as much as I did when I first got here.

1. Keypad Apartment Locks

So simple, but SO convenient. No worrying about "did I lock the door", or "I forgot my keys". I definitely take this for granted most of the time! Just enter the 4 digit code on your way in, and it locks automatically on your way out! I thought I'd miss carrying around a set of keys here, but no. Keypad locks for the win!

Not my photo, although my lock looks almost identical. And weirdly the girl in the reflection kinda looks like me....


2. Cheap Alcohol

I don't drink often, but when I do, I'm definitely picking up a $1.50 bottle of soju, or a couple $1 beers! I am not looking forward to heading back to Canadian prices.

1,200 won for a 350mL bottle of soju (20%)


3. Alcohol Availability/Freedom

On the same note as above......being able to buy alcohol at any convenience store, and drinking it, basically anywhere you want. Outside of convenience stores, on a train, in a park, you name it!

The convenience stores here even have little patio tables and chairs set up outside, where you can usually find some elderly Korean men crushing some beers.

Or, on the steps!

4. School Lunches

Because it literally feels like you are eating at a Korean restaurant every day! Big portions, usually semi-healthy, and always delicious.


5. How to Get A Server's Attention

You know how back home, to get a servers attention at a restaurant, you have to wait for "the right moment" or until you make eye contact? In Korea, you have two options that put this awkward dance to shame. First, the majority of the restaurants will have a button on the table, which you simply press to notify the server you need them. Awesome! Second, if a restaurant doesn't have this button, or if you simply prefer more "human interaction", you can just yell "jogiyo", and add a little wave. This basically means "excuse me", and they will come right over to help you! And this is considered polite!

Two awesome ways that make life in restaurants much easier. Especially in a foreign country!

6. Convenience Store Food

And by food, I don't mean chips, cookies, or other snacks. I mean real food (well.....maybe almost). Like rice, veggies, and meat combined in a delicious triangle formation, known in Korean as samgak-kimbap, or what us foreigners call "a kimbap triangle". Regular kimbap (which you can also get at convenience stores) comes in a roll formation. It's almost like sushi, but no raw meat. It's such a unique, simple, cheap on-the-go snack. And it's so fun to eat!





And there you have it! 6 little things I love about Korea. I'll miss these things once I'm home in just under 2 weeks! Canada, see you soon!

-L2K