Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Under the Thai Sun

So the past week has gone so quickly cause we've been so busy! After Elena and DJ arrived on Wednesday, we were going non stop. Thursday we took a trip to the Korean Folk Village in my city, a beautifl place with lots of old buildings, cool performances. I went in the winter once, but it was much prettier in the summer!! Thursday PM we headed into Seoul to find DJ's hotel, and then Elena and I walked around for a bit in Itaewon, a busy foreigner part of Seoul. Friday DJ went to the DMZ, and Elena came to school with me. My kids were so excited to meet her! For the past month or so I've been telling them that my sister is coming. When I wasnt in school on Thursday they were very concerned, but when Elena came they were super excited. She gave them all little bracelets that are popular back in the US right now, and they all told her how beautiful she is, and they were all "happy and excited" because "teacher's siser is here." It was so cute.
Friday night we had a going away dinner for Renee, at Shabu Shabu, and Elena got to cmoe with. Sat was a busy day in Seoul, and was pretty decent weather luckily. We went to the Korean War museum, had lunch in Itaewon, walked through a really pretty olderarea of Seoul and stopped at a tea shop for some drinks, and then in the evening we took the cable car up to the top of Namsan Tower, where we got a view of the entire city of Seoul. It was cool because we went up when it was still light, but it got dark so we got to see it iat night too. Then we said bye to DJ and went back to Dongbaek...started packing for Thailand and fell fast asleep!

We left my aparrment around 430 on sunday morning to catch the airport bus, Sunday was a full day of flying. First to Shanghai, then Bangkok, then finally Phuket. Poor Elena!! I'm used to it, but she's not the biggest fan of airports. Finally we arrived to Phuket, got in a taxi, and arrived to our hostel. Our first hostel was sooo cool....very laid back and the workers were so nice.

The next morning we woke up for a spa package!! Two and a half hours of was amazing. We got facials at the end too, and some deliious tea and cookies!! Definitely worth the money, more expensive than a normal Thai massage, but probably half the price of what you would pay for such a service back home!!

That afternoon my two friends Ryan and Renee were flying into Phuket, and would be meeting us at the hostel. We met up with them, and took off immediately for elephant trekking!! It was honestly a bit of a let down, we paid way too much for a trek through the "jungle", that was really nothing more than a dirt road up a mountain and about five minutes in the jungle. And it was completely pouring the whole time!! But, we did get to see some amazing views of Phuket.

That night we went out for some dinner...first of many amazing meals! Then we hung out in our hostel for the night.

Tuesday we took a ferry to Koh Phi Phi, another island two hours away by ferry. Definitely my favorite part of the whole trip! We stayed at an absolutely amazing resort for only one night...but it was totally worth it!! Bungalows with flowers everywhere, an amazing pool, good restaurants and a breathtaking private beach!! (If the tide was in...) Tues afternoon we hung out by the pool, had some fancy dinner, then listened to a band play for about two hours. It was great! Then Wednesday was sooo beautiful, clear skies and warm, and we hung out by the beach all day until our ferry left back to Phuket. The resort was called Phi Phi Island Village Resort and Spa or soething like that....definitely a possibility for a honeymoon!!

Wed we stayed on another beach in Phuket, at another great hostel. We went out to eat , then the next day we took a speedboat to another island only 15 minutes away. We payed less than 30 dollars for the boat trip, which included lunch, snorkelling (even though the water was too cloudy to see much!) and the boat of course. Not a bad deal and we got to hang out on another beach! We also went parasailing!! It was super short, and I actually didn't like it very much, cause at one point they dip you in the water for a second, but for some reason with me i was kinda dragged along for a few seconds...(not too exciting, especially when you can see the jellyfish from way above!!) But I would do it again if it were longer!!

Thursday night we had dinner at our hostel, they have an amazing restaurant, (our bill, which included four full meals and three beers totaled less than 30 awesome!!) then Elena and I went for a walk down the road. We got "Dr. Fish" pedicures, something I had done in Korea already, but you stick your feet in these tubs and little fish come and "suck away the dead skin". Not sure if it really works, but its fun nonetheless! Then we got an amazing Thai pancake on our way home, which was pretty similar to a crepe, except crispier and more delicious!!

Later Ryan, Renee and I went out to check out the famous Bangla Road in Phuket, the biggest night life spot. And nightlife we got!! People everywhere, trying to get you to come to their bars, shows, fighting matches, etc. It was insane! We ended up going to this hugggge bar that was like lots of little bars in one, and ran into a guy we met at our first hostel, who took us to a night club. It was a lot of fun, but I don't think I could have handled it for more than one night! When we had had enough, we got some Subway (mmmm) and took a tuk tuk (a little taxi, but kinda and open air thing) back to our hostel.

Friday we had a few hours to kill before we went to the airport to go back to Bangkok, so we hung out at Kata beach. It was another amazaingly beautiful beach...and I wish we had longer to stay there!! Then we got in a taxi and said goodbye to Phuket, then flew to Bangkok for our last night and day!

Our hostel in Bangkok was great too, and after we checked in we headed out to find some food...only to realize, we had no idea where to go, and even after asking people, we were unsuccessful in our food hunt. So, tired and hungry, we went back to our hostel and ate there.

The next day, Saturday, was a loooong day. Our flight didnt lieave until 1am on Sunday morning, so we had all day to explore Bangkok. We went to the Grand Palace, saw the reclining Buddah, huge!! had a great lunch, explored the worlds biggest market (over 15000 stalls!) and then headed to Siam, the central area of Bangkok, where apparently there had been a lot of the protests. We just wanted to check it out, and didn't stay long...then it was back to the hostel to get our things, grab a taxi, and head to the airport!!

It was an amazing, albeit fast, trip. I'm sure I'll go back one day to explore it more!! I've been soo tired this whole week...and this weekend is going to be used to catch up on sleep and cleaning!! I've also got a huge decision to school asked me to extend my contract for another year, and I told them I'd let them know by Monday. If this is the case, I would be coming home for two months in Jan and Feb!! And would get a huge apartment, like with a living room, separate bedroom, and a balcony!! Hmmm....decisions, decisions!! Keep me in your thoughts, and hope you all are doing well!!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mudfest and Joyous reunions!!

Last weekend was mudfest in Boryeong, a city on the coast of Korea. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but mannnnn was it fun! We arrived around noon, checked into our hotel, and set out for-a festival of mud. I'm talking mud slides, mud wrestling, mud obstacle courses, anything mud related you could ever imagine! There was a large group of us from Dongbaek, and we had a blast getting muddy, washing off in the ocean, then gettin muddy again. It was great. A bunch of people went out that nite too, but I was dead asleep by about 8pm. The next morning was beautiful, and we went back to the festival for a few hours of sun before heading back home. i came home with about 100 cuts, scrapes, bruises and broken nails (not to mention the mud that is still coming out of my nose!) but it was by far one of my best weekends in Korea thus far!

After Mudfest, the next two days went slowly as I awaited the arrival of Elena and DJ, I never thought the day would come! But alas, here they are, passed out in my house at 9pm on Wed nite... I got to the airport about an hour early, and was so anxious that I almost drove myself crazy...but then there they were, walking through the gate! Of course I burst into tears at the sight of my beautiful baby sister, and hugged them both to death. We boarded a bus back to Dongbaek, dropped some stuff off, then Elena and I took a walk around the lake park and then met some friends for dinner. DJ was out the minute we opened my door, but what else is to be expected after a 14 hour flight? I'm sure they'll both be wide awake at 4am tomorrow, but I'll make em stay in bed until at least eight! We have a lot of fun things planned for the next few days, and then it's off to Thailand!

I hope everyone else is as extremely happy as I am at this moment in time...nothing like a little piece of home to warm the heart!! Updates after Thailand!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

June fun

The next week after Busan was tough....boy was it tough. I came home from work every night and went straight to bed. The following weekend was low key, I stayed in Dongbaek and went to my swing dancing lessons (I had missed two in a row, so it was super hard to catch up!! Still fun however). But...I haven't been back since. I decided since summer is so busy, literally every weekend we're out doing something, and since I will miss several Sats the month of July, that I was gonna hold off on lessons until the fall. So once summer fun dies down, I hope to start back up!

The month of June flewwww by. A girl at our school, Miranda, was getting ready to leave, so we took a day to hang out with her in Seoul. She loves owls, and who woulda thunk it, but theres an owl museum in Seoul! Haha,not much more than a one room collection of the "crazy owl lady"'s knick knacks, but it was interesting.

The third weekend in June I went to the east coast with two friends, to visit another friend who will be leaving this weekend. Dustin, Molly, and Luke. Molly is my oldest friend in Dongbaek! I met her the day after I arrived at a local restaurant. She figured I wouldn't be traveling over winter break, and as her sister was coming to visit, she invited me to tag along and sight see. Dustin, works with Molly, and introduced me to the church I go to (although, haven't been in about a month!!) and Luke, is the boyfriend of Molly's friend back home in Indiana, who came to visit over winter break too. It was fun getting together with them!! Gangwando is a province on the east coast, right between beach and mountains! We arrived in the day, went to a local festival (basically kinda like a flea market, with some cooler things), hung out on the beach for a while, went to a seaside restaurant for some fish, then explored the nightlife. There is a nice sized foreigner population there, and I met some beautiful Brazilian soccer players!! Swoon...of course I woo-ed them with my Portuguese...(man that skill comes in handy!!) The next am we headed back to Dongbaek early, and I went out with Molly to meet a girl who used to work with Molly, but now lives in Seoul, Liz. We were craving burgers, (I eat way more burgers here than back home!!). Got our fix, then I headed back home to relax before Monday.

Drinking agua de coco at the festival...reminds me of Brazil!!

Here's the girls at the beach:

The next weekend was low key, hung out with some people that are getting ready to leave for home. This past weekend was the fourth of July!! I did-nothing. On Friday night I had the misfortune of losing my purse, camara, ipod and wallet included, so the weekend was spent sulking in my own self pity. However, everything's okay now, luckily I had my passport at home, and all new id's and cards are being issued. Live and learn!!

Tonight I'm going to the Korea release of the new Twilight movie, Eclipse, tomorrow night there's talk of dalk galbi (chicken with vegetables, cooked on the table in front of you, and delicious) and some noreabang (karaokee, in a private room. wayyyy more fun than youcould imagine!)

Oh! I forgot to mention, last week, a bunch of us went to a jim-jil-bang. It's like a spa/sauna, and they're sooo common here. You pay 7000 won (about 7 bucks) they give you scrub like clothes to wear, and you can go hang out in the various saunas, eat food, watch TV, exercise, get scrubs, massages, nails done, soak in the public baths (separate for men and women). Basically anything you want! You can sleep in most too, they're open 24 hours. You don't get much more than a mat on the floor, but its a super cheap way to sleep if you're out in Seoul or somewhere else and don't want to take a taxi home or pay for a hotel!! I went into the public baths, I was a little weary at first, cause I mean you're straight up naked, but it was actually super fun!! Liberating I guess, haha. And its so common here in Korea, but I think so many people back home would be weirded out by it like I was at first. I'll definitely go back, I'm sure several times!

Sat night we are having a potluck dinner, I'm going to make mom's spinach and feta salad. Sunday I HAVE to go to church, seeing as how I haven't gone like 5 weeks, and if I don't go I'll miss until August!! Next weekend is mudfest, (yes, a festival of mud. You go and play and roll around in it then go wash off in the ocean then go back for more mud). Four days later, ELENA AND DJ ARRIVE!! I can't wait. I'm so excited to see them!! Then on the 25th Elena, Ryan, Renee and I head for Thailand...everything is booked and now we just gotta wait for the day to arrive!! By the time we get back it will be Aug 1...seriously, where does the time go?

My kiddies...amaze me every day. When they first started in January (and then when more arrived in March) only 9 out of the 20 could read. Now, there are TWO that can't. TWO!! And one is super close, the other may take a while, but I'm patient...two students have dropped out :( always a sad day, but it actually happens pretty often in the private schools. They were both excellent students, and I miss them...hopefully they're doing just as well wherever they are now!!

One kid who is just improving so much is Philip. The kid didn't speak a word of English in January, couldn't write or identify a single letter, and was a little trouble maker. Now, his handwriting is damn near perfect (arite, well legible at least), he knows most of the letters, and learns a new word literally every day. Today he was talking about foods he likes/doesn't like, told me his mommy gave him a new power rangers toy, and hardly ever speaks Korean in class anymore. He's the furthest from reading, and is still a little troublemaker, but I AM SO PROUD OF HIM!!
They're my little babies...and as much as they drive me crazy sometimes, they make me laugh more often, and I love them to death. One girl in my 7 year class also won first place today in the spelling bee...way to go Brenda!! Another one a story telling contest a few months back out of all the kindergartners, they're so smart!!

Arite well I think you're all caught up now!! I'll post again after Mudfest, and then I'm sure after Thailand!! Hope everyone is doing well, whatever part of the world you may be in!!!

To catch you all up...

sooooo sorry for the delay in posts!! it takes me a while to get motivated to sit down and bear with me here, its gonna be a long one!!

I last left off mid May. The end of May was the celebration of Buddah's bday...we went into Seoul one day for the lantern festival. Basically a huge parade of floats all made from lanterns!! It was absolutely gorgegous...

The next weekend we headed to Busan, a city on the southern coast of Korea. My friend, Ryan's mother Gigi, was here visiting for a few weeks, so she, Ryan, another friend Renee and I took the trip down together. It was beautiful the first day...then rained the whole next two days!! After a mad dash to the ticket counter to board the train on the way there, we were on our way. The first nite we had dinner near the beach, hung out on the sand for awhile, hit a casino (where, strangely enough, only foreigners are allowed to go. Koreans can't gamble). Then us three girls hit the town, getting back to our hotel at six after hanging out on the beach all nite. The next day we headed to a beautiful temple on the rocks, right near the water. It was beautiful and all decked out for Buddah's bday.

Me on the beach

Buddah's rockin' temple

We were having a tough time finding a taxi back, and after waiting around in the rain for about half an hour, a man who spoke very little English offered to drive us (leave his friends!) to a taxi stand. Thanks Han!! Gam sa hap ni da!!

That evening, we ventured in the rain to find a restaurant that we'd been trying desperately to eat at previous two days, but every time we went it was either full or "tired" because of the busy night before. Nothing special, just a mexican place, but we were craving it. We knew of three other locations, so we went out to find them...found one!! But nope, they didn't serve food, but, the man who worked at the one we had visited earlier in the day, recognized us, asked "Do you want tacos?" (trick question????) and told us he was headed to the other location that did serve tacos, and he would drive us there. Our second random ride of the day. Thanks Jerome!! (yes, the Korean's man name was Jerome). We got our taco fixes, then stayed at the bar to dance and watch the awesome fire shows the bartenders put on.

The next morning, after getting in at six again, we went out for some coffee, and headed to the fish market. Basically...what it sounds like. A market full of live fish!! It was pretty interesting, and you can buy live fish there and cook it on the second floor, but none of us were really brave enough to try it. So we got some awesome burgers at the place we went to the first nite, then started our trek back to Dongbaek. It was a short, wet, but awesomely fun trip filled with lots of laughs, rain, good food and coffee. Can't wait to go back at the end of the summer for some beach time!

Im gonna end this one here, then start another about the month of June. Enjoy!