Sunday, November 30, 2008

Changing of the times

It is funny i have had a very eventful last little while and yet i am not sure what to write about. It is really beginning to feel like home here now. I still feel like a foreigner but i know the island and feel it is a part of me and i a part of it. Last week i lucked out and had a super slack week. Tuesday i called in sick and took the day off to relax and get some stuff done that really needed doing. I wondered about town, bought a jacket, did my banking, sat at a coffee shop and indulged in a mocha and a fashion magazine. It was awesome and it was well deserved. Then wed, we had to go to this conference which ended up being incredibly boring but it was a day of not teaching and my co-teacher and i think alike so we spent the whole time reading books and drawing. Then on thursday, the gr.5's were writing exams so i only had to teach one class and the rest of the time i hung out in the library and read and worked on the computer. In fact when i finally had to teach on friday, i almost forgot what teaching was all about. God knows what will happen after my winter vacation.

My weekend was very nice and relaxing, well sort of. It began after school on friday when i went to kuk sool won for my belt. YES, i am now officially a yellow belt. The test went well but was very nerve racking. My master who is usually so laid back spent the whole time sitting and staring at us as we each stood in front of the class with our fellow belt members and performed the forms and techniques for our belt. Fortunately it went by really well and afterwards we went out for dinner for Galbi (bbq). I got to eat rice and onion and garlic wrapped in a lettuce leaf, it was actually quite delicious. After watching others eat we all left and after being such a good girl the weekend before i was craving some fun. So we tracked down Graeme who was out with his school at our local nightclub called Roma. They were a riot, they kept on feeding us beer and pulling each other out to the dance floor. Slowly more of us foreigners showed up attempting to get in on the table that they had paid for. By the time there were seven of us the school decided to take of and we stayed until the bar as sick of our antics and the fact we had not paid for a table and tod us we could not longer dance. That marked the long line of random bars, noraebangs and hostess bars we went to or tried to get into. At the end of the night we ended up drinking on the roof in the freezing cold at 5am. It was a well-earned night.

The next day i woke up late and laid around until the beckoning sun pulled me out of my bed and i called up Caitriona. We ended up having a delightfully girly day. We went out for sushi for lunch and then wondered aimlessly going into random shops and cafes buying a few things, including some sweet red converse and drinking hot chocolate. The day was completed with a visit from our friends laurie and landis and laurie's sister who was visiting from the states. We all went to Kwanghee's tea house which he has recently enhanced by adding a wood burning stove and so we all curled up with a cup of tea and talked about life on jeju and obama's recent victory (laurie's sister lives in DC). Mmmmm and we ate delicious seafood porridge, which the island is reknowned for. The porridge is sort of like rice pudding but not sweet and with vegetables and seafood in it. It is delicious.

Sunday was equally as blissful. I awoke early and bellydanced in my room for an hour. Then i met up with graeme and caitriona and we hoped on our scooters and went to Jungmun, the tourist resort town about 20 mins from Seogwipo. First we went to Cheonjeyeon falls, which are spectacular and are actually apart of a myth where it is written that fairies from heaven descend to these falls to wash and sing music. They were spectacular, i can understand why fairies would choose to spend time there. After that we went to the botanical gardens which were quite interesting, rather small compared to some gardens i have been to but interesting. The cactus garden was really well done and so was the flower garden. Finally we went to the most amazing little tea and meditation house. I love kwanghee's but this is unbelieveable. It looks like a house from latin america or the mediterannean with a square white washed structure, but the edges and corners being curved. The inside has curved frames on all the doors and windows. There is a big wood burning stove and they only serve traditional tea and veg sandwiches. It is like heaven to me.

That is all i have to say about that right now. It was a very good week. Only three more weeks until winter vacation and only five until i am on a sunny beach in vietnam :)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Shaking to keep warm in the snow

Well there has ben a serious turn in the weather here on my little sub-tropical island. Makes one wonder what exactly the definition of subtropical is. I definitely did not expect it to mean snow in mid november. Granted this is better than back in Canada but that is not why i moved here. Fortunately being on the south side of the island means it didn't actually snow here but on mt Halla and the north side of the island. It even came as a suprise to the locals, all of my co-teachers say that it usually doesn't snow until december or january. It would be a nice little treat to have it snow and be refreshingly cold, if there was central heating. But as it stands very few places have this. At the schools only the classrooms are heated so the rest of the building is freezing and as i do not have a classroom this means i am freezing most of the time, huddled in a ball in the computer lab. Fortunately my apartment is well insulated so it isn't too bad. But when it is cold the floor heating only actually seems to help if you are on the floor. So i wrap myslef in warm blankets and jump around my apartment when it does get really cold.

This week has not been all bad though, in fact it has been quite spectacular. I got an awesome opportunity to dance in a huge auditorium for the 2nd annual jeju foreign language festival. It was held on friday and was a pretty good little festival. Granted geting a day off teaching is always really nice. On top of that we also got to represent the countries we come from and teach the kids about them. There were booths for Canada, the US, Australia and new zealand. Each exhibited stuff about that country, trivia, games, food, etc. The kids loved it and it seemed like there was always a huge line up outside each tent. I was lucky enough to not have to be outside at a booth though as i vounteered to perform. The auditorium is really nice and probably fits 500 to 1000 people. All through out the day foreign teachers were performing their various talents and in between korean students performed different english plays they had produced.

I got to perform in the afternoon at 3:10pm. Despite having a few weeks to prepare a routine i decided to go for a more spur of the moment dance. I chose one song for my belly dance and then my friend Jason so graciously played a traditional korean buddhist drum for a hula hoop dance. It went so well, i was a little nervous but not too bad. It is amazing how teaching has helped me release alot of my fears of standing up on front of people. As far as i could tell the Korean students took it well and the govt officials loved it. I think it was a real treat for them as it is not everyday they get to see a scantily clad white girl shake it in front of them. In fact i am sure it was a first for many of them. I can't wait to get the video. I will post it as soon as i get it. The whole experience has reminded me how much i love dance and how i am really missing it here.

My mission this week is to find an outlet for this desire.
And on a very happy note there are only 4 weeks left until winter break and i am buying my ticket to vietnam this week. HOORAY WARM WEATHER!!!!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Couchsurfing and mainlanders continued

If you can believe it i actually have more to talk about. In a mere three days of visitors i did more than i have in the past month. But don't fear it is only one more day i shall tell you about. After our wet and wild day, Karen and i were pleased to arise to a slightly less wet day. After all we were supposed to go horseback riding and Master Oh said no riding if it was raining. So we tried to convince him it wasn't "really" raining out, but you can not fool a master and he said "no, but he would take us to the mongolian horse show". Naturally this does sound possibly way cooler than going on horseback, well at least if you are going to a place that is going to let you walk around in circles and so after a little debating we decided to go. Now a day with Master Oh is not a normal day we soon found out.

We met him and rob at the dojang to find out that master oh had to go to a funeral and rob was going to go and get taped by a woman in jeju-si and in there somewhere we were going to the horse show. So we piled into the van and set off on a very round about way to the show. We arrived just in time for the 10:50 show and we hurried in as master oh took off to his funeral. The show was friggin wicked. It is quite a large troupe of mongolian gypsys. There must of been about 15-20 of them, ranging from teenage boys to young men to young women and one middle aged man. The proceed to dazzle us with their horse controlling powers and incredible balance. The best part would probably be the horse acrobatics done to really insanely fast techno music from the 90's or perhaps the radical hairdos worn by the young men (imagine a mullet with bangs, except the part where the hair was supposed to be short was completely shaved off, i know WOW). We left the arena just as Master Oh was pulling up. He had been to the funeral said hi given some money and come to meet us. He informed us at this time that the woman who does the injury taping was busy and so we began to drive around randomly to different ranches saying hello to Master Oh's friends. This turned out to be to our advantage as we got to go horseback riding after all. Of course as previously mentioned it was a beginners place with very lazy horses that only went in a circle but it was still a hoot and probably nice for Karen's first time riding.

After our random visits Master Oh said he would be going to the archery club. What good luck Karen has, literally all of the things she wanted to do which you would think would not happen in the rain did happen; go-karting, horseback riding, archery. So we were taken to the kuk sool archery club and we got to play with the bows and not shoot any arrows. Well we got to shoot one it was attached to a rope so you could pull it back in. Now this kind of archery is not like any other i have ever done. The asian arrows are far longer than the ones we use, therefore it takes way more strength to pull this massive bow string back. It is an incredible arm work out.

Now our day did not end here. We returned home and got dressed and i took Karen to the big city. We went to Bagdad and ate delicious (as always) indian food and then we met up with some friends and went to the dome. Neither karen or annie had ever been to such a place as the dome. It really is unlike any other bar i have been in (outside of korea) and this time the roof opened. Despite the generally terrible music this place is just awesome. The people are hilarious, Koreans love to drink and dance (when they have been drinking). The bar that night was filled with Ajummas (middle aged women) and boy did they enjoy us they were trying to grind with us and i had one woman who kept on trying to hump my leg like a dog. It was a riot. There was even an old man, i'm talking 70 something, on the dance floor dancing with us. Oh i am never disappointed when i go to the dome.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Couchsurfing and mainlanders

I was blessed recently with a week filled with visitors from the mainland. Some of you may not like sharing your space, even your bed with other people, let alone perfect strangers. But i find it a great way to learn about other people and yourself. Now i am not talking about sleeping around here for all of you who have their minds in the gutters. My visitors of late were amusingly both Canadian one being from Calgary, even.

Lisa, from Calgary, is living on the mainland volunteering at a alternative school. Now if they paid for this position i would be leaving jeju immediately. This is the coolest school i have ever heard of. The kids run themselves, they get to decide what they want to do and what they want to learn. It is all based on Buddhist principles, there is even a temple at the school and they spend thursdays with the head monk. I am definitely jealous. My second visitor was Karen, from Toronto, who i had met at the EPIK orientation in Seoul. We are planning a trip to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos together.

So what is it that i did with these ladies you ask? Well where to begin, Lisa seems a good place as she came first. We awoke late to the rain pouring down and realized the scooter we had rented her would not be used. After some breakfast of coffee and sandwiches, we decided to do the most lgical rain day thing, go to museums. So we hoped on a bus to jungmun and wandered into the Sound island museum. This museum would be better referred to as a music museum, but as James poited out this morning that is a very broad category. The museum consited of three main sections. The first being mainly about Edison and his musically related inventions like the gramophone, but it also hada section on pianos. The second part was about by far the best, it consisted of a hallway and a large room filled with instruments just waitin to be played. They was most definitely well used as you could tell by the sagging skins on the drums and the chipped paint. The last part was a series of large scale diarammas, beginning with music from around the world and leading into a bizarre wonderland of little statues on turning platforms surrounded by shimmering fabric and artificial vegetation.

After the sound island museum we grabbed a cab to the African museum to vsit my Sengalese friends who perform tradtional music there. We made it just in time to catch their second perfrmance of the day which was entracing as always. After we went and explored the museum which is a very iteresting collection. I did not realize but it is actually an Art museum specifically. The first floor was filed with incredible photography taken around Africa. The second floor had various artifacts from masks and head pieces to chairs and sculptures. I think my favourites were the incredibly voluptous female scultures, so strong and yet so soft. The final floor is entirely devoted to the museum store where they sell statues, masks, furniture, jewellery and even some stuffed scotty dogs and mexican dishes (interesting blend i know). By this time we had to head to Jeju-si so i could pick up Karen from the airport and Lisa could continue her adventure with Anj in the big city.

We woke the next morning to more rain and had to adjust our plans slightly. But luckily even though it was raining it was still warm out. So we put on some suitable rain gear and hoped on the bus, venturing out to the eastern part of the island. Our first stop was go-kartingm, a rather interesting request on Karen's behalf but boy was it fun. They dressed us in bright yellow rain suits and cute pastel helmets with stars on them. We sped around the track getting splashed everytime we went flying over a puddle ad as we raced i kept on thinking the track was getting wetter and could not quite understand how our driving around was doing this? Were we spreading the water out? When we finally were flagged down to stop i realized it had actually begun to rain again but i could not tell the difference between being splashed from below or from above. After we dried off, we hoped on the bus again and continued east to the Hanyeo museum. This was another museum filled with little diarammas this time depicting the life of a Hanyeo (woman diver). These women are amazing and you can see why the women on this island are so strong and respected. The Hanyeo dress in dive suits (in the past only thick cotton shorts and tops) and they dive into the ocean to with only a net and spear to collect seaweed and abalone (clam like shellfish that contains pearls). Some women can go down 20 metres and hold their breath for over 2 mins. Alas not many women want to do this today and Hanyeo now are very old. By this time we were getting hungry and a little sick of the rain, so we hoped on yet another bus and continued on to Manjangul caves. I knew they were a way from the highway, but i was not sure how far. So for safe sake we went to the nearest townand stopped at a gas station and wasked them to call a cab. But as we waited for our cab a middle aged man (the owner i believe) offered us a ride "servicus su" (on the house). It was the sweetest thing. Strangely we both had to sit in the back as if we were small children, but we did not mind. Sometimes Koreans can be the sweetest people ever.

We reached the caves just as the rain was starting again. Perfect timing to go underground and explore. As we were buying tickets i think i saw the greatest sign i have seen yet in korea. It was a picture of a huge high heel show with a slash through it. Now you would think it would seem obvious to not wear high heels while walking through lava tubes, but alas Korean women love their fashion and i was quite suprised to see so many women wearing heels down there. The caves themselves were spectacular, they are some of the largest in the world and the way lava solidifies it seems as if it was still liquid. You can see every little detail in it. The caves were very cold and damp with random droplets of water falling from the roof. It was a truly magical place. After the caves we were finally dry again but it was cold and dark, so we hoped on the bus. Which we cut literally as it was about to drive by the turn off for the caves. The journey home was close to 2 hrs and when we finally arrived we were so pleased to be back. We didn't even make it out that night. We just watched a movie and took it easy.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Samhain in Korea

Halloween began for me on the friday two weeks before halloween, when i taught my gr. 6s at Seogwi Jungang their first halloween lesson. It was so much fun and far more related to english culture than language. I showed them the nightmare before christmas intro and then went over monster vocab and then we created monsters. It was awesome to see what some of the kids came up with. Some of them were so bloody and evil. As the lessons progressed i started to gear them towards the units they were working on. The gr. 5s built haunted houses as they were working on a chapter on rooms in the house. The gr. 6s started studyiong what do you want to do? so we went over action verbs related to halloween and created a comic strip. The piece de resistance was the haunted house i made in what is supposed to be my classromm but has ben under renos since i started. It was so sweet. I built some tunnels they had to climb through and a graveyard and had a dead body (well half a dead body). I also did the good old peeled grapes for eyeballs and spaghetti for brains. The final touch was covering the windows in the monsters haunted houses and comics the kids had created, in order to darken the room.

I dressed up for both my schools, on tuesday for my rural school and on halloween for my main school. I created an awesome zombie biker costume with a bit of pirate and a hint of tank girl in it. It was of course inspired by THE SEOGI PIRATES. My kids loved it. They were totally freaked out and thought it was hilarious. I even made one of my gr. 6 boys cry. I did not actually witness it but when i heard i had to laugh. Of course things got a little nuts when the kids realized i had candy and was giving it to them freely, well if they said trick or treat. By the end of the day almost everything was trashed and i was exhausted but boy was it good.

After school i went home and cooked and got ready while watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It revived my spirits and i was looking forward to going and scring random Koreans on the street. The Koreans had an interesting reaction to us. The adults would mainly look once and then ignore us, barely showing the slightest sign of shock. I was very impressed with how good they were. The children were either scared or stared and point or asked for candy. Once we made it to city hall in jeju-si we got many more amusing reactions from the drunken Koreans wondering the streets. They all accepted the candy i offered them without even thinking about it. Which i thought was an interesting example of how trusting Koreans can be. They don't seem to have that same ingrained fear that consumes us in the West. I do wonder what gees through their minds as those crazy weiguks wander past dressed in slutty, bloody, grotesque, mutant robotic costumes.

The party at Blue Agave was kicking once we finally found it, which took quite a while. There were some wicked costumes; graeme dressed as a robot and one first prize, another guy dressed as a transformer and got second prize. Myself, autumn girl, the paper bag princess all tied for third place and received a bottle of cass beer. There were also some really good couple costumes; mummies, bottles of soju. I dont even know what time i ended up leaving after drinking a whole lot. But i ended up going to a Genny and Jeff's house (who i hadn't met yet) with Jason who is an a musician who has been teaching here for three years. We attempted to watch halloween but i don't remember any of it. In fact i don't remember anything until Jeff informed us it was after 1 in the afternoon and we should probably get up. Genny made us delicious pancakes and foul korean flavoured coffee. That and a few ibuprofens helped take the edge off of my aching head. It was an awesome halloween.