A Travellerspoint blog

2 Weeks til Xmas!!!

And 2 weeks until Vietnam

semi-overcast 5 °C

Well its December 9th, so of course, Xmas party season has begun. Our first will be in about 2 hours, when we are going round to Nicky's to decorate her tree and have mulled wine before going to the foreigner's pub quiz. I am already listening to Xmas music and I have put up my tree. You know me - I love xmas and I have to put up my decorations as soon as I can afford to in December.

It is a bit strange though, knowing that I won't be home for xmas. I have spent xmas away from my family before, but that was when I was when I was in a relationship and staying with my partner's family. So it was still a family xmas. But I have never spent xmas on the other side of the world before. I think everyone's feeling quite homesick, thinking about their families and a traditional xmas. This is the main reason why so many of us have arranged to go on holiday for the week, so we can distract ourselves and kind of pretend xmas isn't really happening. I will be in Ho Chi Minh, where I plan a day of drinking and decadence in 30 degree heat.

Anyway, because we're away for xmas, we're planning lots of xmassy things to do for the next 2 weeks. We're having a xmas party, with the closest thing we can manage to a xmas dinner, and probably some secret santa gifts. We're also having a work xmas night out, where we're all going bowling and doing another secret santa. Unfortunately, work nights out can never be spontaneous in anyway, and we have already been allocated bowling partners, foreign staff with korean staff. So instead of being on a team with my friends, I am on a team with a male member of the Korean staff, that I do not really get on with, and who has a fairly low level of english. I'm not particularly looking forward to that part of the night now. At least I was lucky in who i got in the secret santa. If I had got one of the the Korean men for that, I wouldn't have a clue what to get them.

I'm listening to 'White Christmas' and I cannot wait for it to snow here. But I keep hearing conflicting stories about whether it snows properly here or not. It certainly gets cold enough, but I've been told that it doesn't settle for long in the city. I'll probably have to go to one of the national parks to see proper snow.

Posted by claire14 07:04 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Christmas Preparations

...And my first Korean snow

sunny -3 °C

Hello All

Just 3 weeks til Christmas... and until I go to Vietnam. Winter has fully arrived now and it is damn cold! We had our coldest days yet at the weekend, just 2 degrees here in Jeonju on Saturday, and there was even some light snow! It didn't settle but I expect we'll be getting a lot more over the next couple of months. Then on Sunday I went to Seoul with Nicky and a new teacher called Zoe, and being 3 hours north of Jeonju, it was about 3 degrees colder. I ended up buying the first pair of ear muffs I have owned since primary school, just to try and keep my ears warm.
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We'd gone to Seoul so that Nicky would finish off her christmas shopping and Zoe could have her first look around Seoul. We went to a trendy, arty place called Insadong, which is full of art galleries and souvenir shops selling traditional arts and crafts. There is a cool traditional style restaurant there which looks like it has been designed for hobbits, because it crams about 4 levels into the space normally used for 2, so its ceilings are only 5ft high! Its lovely though and it does some great food. We also went to a lovely little Indian cafe, once we'd got too cold to continue shopping. We also looked around an arty shopping centre/art gallery that had a huge Andy Warhol exihibition on. It was a really nice day.
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I also went to Seoul the week before that. We went up on the Saturday to do some sightseeing and christmas shopping, and then in the evening we went to go and see a musical called Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The play started as a cabaret drag act about a rock n roll singing, east German transsexual. It then became a huge off-broadway musical, and then a award-winning movie. I had seen the movie a few years ago and loved it, so when I saw the play advertised in Seoul back in October, I suggest we all go to see it. Everyone was keen, so we got one of the Korean teachers, Liz, to book us some tickets and 10 of us headed to Seoul.
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Now, two of our group, American couple, Kyle and Sarah, had seen Hedwig before and were big fans. So they decided to dress up in drag for the show. Unfortunately (or fortunately) they didn't have anywhere to get ready apart from the toilets at Hyewha underground station. The Koreans wandering through the station could quite believe what they were seeing, and after 5 minutes, there was a sizable crowd stood watching as Sarah applied Kyle's make up.
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Posted by claire14 23:56 Archived in South Korea Tagged events Comments (0)

Happy Pepero Day!!

Korea - The only country I have ever been to that has a national day for a biscuit!

overcast 8 °C

Happy Pepero Day! I didn't even know what Pepero were until last week, when all of my students got very excited about the national day of the pepero on Saturday 11th. I tried explaining about Armistice day to some of them, but they weren't too interested.

Basically a pepero is a kind of stick-shaped biscuit that is either filled with or dipped in chocolate. But because they are stick-shaped, and because if you hold two together, they look like the number 11, November 11th has become the national day to give and receive these biscuits. Apparently this constitutes a national day here in Korea and not a marketing ploy as it would back home.

I received Pepero gifts from many of my students and even made myself a very popular teacher by giving a box of Pepero to one class as a prize for an activity they were doing.

In discussing Pepero day with some of my friends I also learnt about Black Day. This has to be my least favourite national day so far. Everyone who is single has to wear black for the day as if they are in mourning!! Apparently its in the spring sometime and I was wondering if it was just an unusual way of celebrating valentine's day, but its not. This is how crazy the whole marriage thing is over here - its a national tragedy if you are over 21 and not married. God forbid, if you are a young woman who wants to have a career and see a bit of the world before you settle down! More on that subject another time, I think...

Posted by claire14 09:28 Archived in South Korea Tagged events Comments (0)

Drama at EG

Looking forward to Christmas on a Beach

overcast 8 °C

Hi all,

I know its been a while since I updated everyone with what has been happening here. This is mostly because I have been too tired during the week and too busy on the weekends to write anything. Believe it or not, teaching has actually become quite stressful. Well, let me rephrase that - the actual teaching is fine and I still really enjoy it. But its all the paper work and preparation that goes with it.

All of which has become much worse since one of our teachers was fired 2 weeks ago. This, of course, means that all of her classes have been shared between the rest of us, giving us more preparation work and fewer free periods to do it in. This is the first job I've had in which I come to work an hour early most days! Hopefully, when the replacement teacher arrives in a couple of weeks, some of the pressure will be taken off everyone else, but in the mean time we're all very busy. Here's a run down of the stuff I have to do at work.

Preparation:
Every class has to have very specific preparation done. For example, reading classes have to have vocabulary tests and comprehension photocopied and you have to have read and made notes on the lesson's reading. Listening classes are the most awkward because you have to photocopy the script pages you are studying (i.e. Mulan and Digimon!), then each script page also needs a wordlist to go with it, with all the new vocabulary on it, and then there is also a test to do. At the moment I have to do 3 pages of script and 3 wordlists each lesson, plus 2 pages of tests. Which means a hell of a lot of photocopying. And when you consider that there are 7 foreign teachers and 4 korean staff all sharing one, extremely temperamental photocopier, you can start to understand why it takes more than the allocated one hour to prepare 5-6 classes each day.

Marking:
The marking isn't usually too bad, because we are meant to hand in all of our students' work to be marked by a part-time admin worker. However, after the last one left recently, a replacement was found, but she disappeared after 3 days and hasn't been seen since. So we are having to do a lot of our own marking. This means a 2 tests for every reading lesson, one for each listening class, and essays for writing classes.

Monthly Tests:
At the end of each month, all students are given an exam to test what they have learnt that month. At the moment, the schedules are a bit out of sync though, so middle school students are having their exams halfway through the month and elementary school students are having theirs at the end of the month. And we have to write these tests and mark them. So as soon as you have finished marking the middle school tests, you are writing the elementary ones.

These three are just the basic parts of the paperwork and admin that goes with the job. On top of this, there are extra evening classes put on that people get roped into doing, Saturday classes and tests, extra marking for entrance tests etc etc. The only good thing about it, is that you get paid overtime for most of it.

Anyway, the reason I am mentioning all this is that I am very excited tonight because after all this work, I have just booked my xmas holiday to Vietnam!! We are flying out to Ho Chi Minh on December 23rd and spending three days there. Then - and this is the really exciting part - we are spending three days on an island south of Ho Chi Minh, which you can get to by Russian military helicopter!!!!! There is a small plane that can take you too, but I am really excited by the helicopter :)

The island archipelago we are going to is called Con Dao, and we're staying on Con Son Island (look it up on google!) - 80% of which is a national park, with sea turtles nesting on the beach, dolphins and Dugongs (which are like manatees apparently). We're gonna spend our three days sunbathing and snorkelling around coral reefs. Well, as long as the weather is good! And considering it will be approaching -10C in Jeonju by the end of December, I will be looking forward to some warm weather. The weather has finally turned here and it looks beautiful with all the red and gold leaves, but I have had a cold for 4 days now.

So - that should bring you up to date. Its 2am now and I need some sleep. Goodnight!

Posted by claire14 08:40 Archived in South Korea Tagged luxury_travel Comments (0)

The Lost Saturday

Halloween Hangover Hell in Jeonju

overcast 21 °C

It's 11.15pm, Sunday evening and I feel like I should only be halfway through my weekend. This is entirely my fault as I spent all of yesterday in bed with the worst hangover I have had since I got here, and missed a halloween party as a result. I wound up staying in with a friend and eating lots of ice cream and watching Empire Records. It was a lot like being 15 again.

Friday night was fun though. We stupidly began playing a drinking game called 'Never Have I Ever' - basically truth or dare with drinking. So there is lots of information suitable for blackmailing people with around at the moment.

This week's great news is that I have booked my tickets for my xmas holiday.... to Vietnam!! We fly out to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the south, on 23rd December and back again on the 30th. I have already bought my Lonely Planet guide and have been planning all the things I want to see. I am a little bit concerned though - although we made reservations with an english-speaking travel agent, we don't have to pay until 2 weeks before we go. We clarified this several times and the agent assured us it was fine. So in theory our flights are reserved although we are yet to pay a penny. Its costing us 750,000W for the flight - about £420. Which isn't as cheap as I'd hoped, but trying to book it on the internet was proving to be a real nightmare. However, the accommodation in Vietnam should be cheap. We should be able to get a budget hotel for less than $25 a night. We are thinking about spending our first night in luxury though -so we might book a posh hotel somewhere.

I've had a really lazy day today. I got up at 11am and went to JRs, a bar, for a cooked breakfast, where I chatted to everyone who had been to the halloween party the night before. Half the boys still had black eyeliner and nail varnish on, which was amusing. After breakfast - consisting of weird mini sausages, french toast (which I don't like, so I gave it to my friend Jim) and the oddest looking hash browns I have ever seen - Nicky and I went home to do some cleaning and emailing with the plan of going to the cinema that afternoon. We met up at 3pm and got a taxi to Lotte Department Store. Lotte is a huge store that has 9 floors, with a cinema taking up the 7/8 floors. However, my one experience of going to Lotte had previously been in my first week, when I wanted to buy some summer clothes. I was followed around by hyper-efficient sales clerks the whole time and it freaked me out, so i haven't been back since. This time the sales clerks were not the problem, but the lifts were. Nicky is somewhat claustrophobic and this apparently not a problem for Koreans, as they crammed as many people as physically possible into the lift as we went up the 7 floors to the cinema.

We finally got to the top, only to find out that they were showing only 2 english films, DOA and The Devil Wears Prada, and neither were the film we'd been planning on seeing. So we picked another film, though neither were hugely appealing, and went to the counter, where it said our film was on at half four. But when we tried to buy tickets, we were told that it had in fact finished at 2pm. So we gave up on that and decided we would go for a coffee and then go to a dvdbang. However, it took us another 15 mins to get back to the ground floor because every lift was full.

We eventually left and went for a coffee in a bar called Mango, which is very trendy, with comfy sofas and a Spanish owner (its incredibly odd listening to the Korean staff speaking Spanish!). We text our friends who said they'd come and join us for a coffee and maybe a dvd and waited for them. In the mean time we sat and read our Vietnam guides and planned the things we wanted to see. A good hour later, we got a message saying that half our friends had already gone to a dvdbang without us! I was not very impressed at this point, as they knew I wanted to go to a dvdbang, and was a bit annoyed that they hadn't invited Nicky and I. Instead, we arranged to meet another friend for dinner downtown, but he wasn't ready yet. So where did we go? Firstly, for a burger in the korean equivalent of McDonalds. Then, to another posh coffee shop, this time in Gaeksa - the downtown shopping area. James arrived a bit later and we headed off for dinner - you guessed it - Vietnamese! I had chilli rice topped with pork, and it was delicious, but easily the spiciest meal i have had since getting to Korean. Which is odd, considering the koreans claim that Korean food is too spicy for westerners, but i have yet to eat any Korean food that spicy.

After dinner, the plan was to finally go to a dvdbang, but then we heard that some other friends, who'd been away for the weekend, wanted to join us. So we had to wait for their bus to get in. And where did we go? Another posh coffee shop. Our third that day. We eventually got to a dvdbang at about 8.30pm, where we watched Donnie Darko - a film I have seen several times. However, I love it, and most of the others hadn't seen it, so I didn't mind. It was a good day - but just a bit too much faffing around for my liking! A good example of a fairly typical sunday at the moment though - I've spent the last three sundays in coffee shops. And they do make amazing iced cafe mochas with loads of whipped cream here :)

Posted by claire14 05:12 Archived in South Korea Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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