Juggling July..and Now August.

Ok, so July was a little crazy. I got caught up in all of the fun and excitement of it being summer that I completely forgot to update my blog. But really, where did the time go?

The first week of July included celebrating Canada Day AND the Fourth of July at Sam Ryan’s, a bar in Suwon. I indulged in some good old Canadian Club, Moosehead and poutine on Tuesday night (O Canada!), followed by a Root Beer float, plenty of Jack and coke and some shots (‘MURRICA!) on Friday evening. samryans

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The first weekend in July, I finally ended up seeing a Korean baseball game at Jamsil stadium with some friends. It was really fun and so much more lively than the Jays games at home. Koreans REALLY get into their baseball games. It was loud (there were even cheerleaders), plenty of drinks to be had and it happened to be a gorgeous day. We only paid about 15,000 won at the gate and got seated in the blue section. The game started at 5 pm and carried on for about 3-4 hours. By the end of it, we were all tired from the heat and day drinking, so we headed back to Suwon. It was a fun way to spend a Saturday evening.

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If my memory serves me correctly, that same weekend (on Sunday), Michelle and I went on a little yachting cruise around the Han River. I had come across the group trip on the Living in Korea Facebook group. The event itself was free with an extra 12,000 won cost for the pizza dinner afterwards. It was nice! I wouldn’t exactly have called the boat we were on a yacht but it was still enjoyable, and we got to meet some cool people. Our driver was also really friendly and even let us all take turns steering.

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The following weekend, Michelle and I ventured to Building 63. We had both been wanting to check it out for some time now. We bought a ticket for about 30,000 won, which allowed us access to three different attractions. We went to observatory, the wax museum and the aquarium. The wax museum was small but it actually exceeded my expectations. The aquarium wasn’t big at all but it was still entertaining. Unfortunately, it was a rainy day so the view of Seoul wasn’t that clear when we got to the top. Regardless, it was a good way to spend a rainy day.

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Next up – Mudfest! Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like – a big, messy party. This festival marked its 17th year this time around. I was excited to be part of it and be able to add it to the list of things I had done in Korea. It has been said that this special mud is good for your skin. I have no idea how true that is, but I sure got my dose of it that weekend.

The foreigner bar in Suwon called The Big Chill ran an event in which they set up a bus to the Boryeon Mud Festival during the weekend of the 19th. We all departed from The Big Chill at around 8:30 am and arrived in Boryeong at around 11:30 am. We didn’t waste any time getting the party started on the bus. Drinks were in full effect. By the time we got there, everyone was anxious to suit up in their swimwear and get to the mud zone. There were a few activities taking place outside of the mud zone but the good, messy, fun-filled stuff was in a separate area in which you had to pay for. The entire group was willing to shell out the 10,000 won for the day pass but unfortunately, they sold out! Ridiculous. We watched as everyone inside the gated area participated in mud wrestling and obstacle courses. That’s when Nicole and I decided to say screw it and crawl under the fence. We made it in, but realized we were in the kids area. A security guard stopped us and asked us where our wristbands were. Uh oh. Like any smart individual, we used the foreigner card — “OPSOYO!” He wasn’t buying it and told us we needed to exit the area. Nicole scurried away and I pretended to follow the guard to the exit. Suddenly an arm pulled me into a line and we were masked by the crowd. Needless to say, the two of us got CRAZY muddy and had an awesome time! So worth sneaking in for. That night, we watched fireworks and then hit the sack. The next morning, before we left, we enjoyed some lunch and time on the beach. I was too scared to bring my phone or camera near the mud but luckily Brendan captured some great shots!

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The last weekend of July, I rented out an apartment style pension in Sokcho to celebrate my 25th birthday with the girls. I have really wanted to check out Sokcho for a while now. I had heard its beaches were awesome and that it was completely different than other areas of South Korea. Let me just say that Sokcho exceeded my expectations and I was very satisfied with my birthday weekend getaway. I rented a room at HJ House. It was clean, spacious and very comfortable. I had a Korean teacher help me book bus tickets for the six of us. We departed from Seoul’s Express Bus Terminal at 10 am and arrived in Sokcho for 1 pm. It was perfect timing because right as we got there, the clouds parted and the sun made an appearance! We quickly changed into our bathing suits, grabbed drinks and proceeded to the beach. The beach was awesome for Korean beach standards. The water clear and clean. We were all surprised. The waves were pretty intense so they had roped off an area where people could “swim.” When we tried to go past the rope, the lifeguards would get a little whistle happy. The water was a bit cool anyway, so we enjoyed the tan time until around 7 pm.

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That evening, we had a pretty less than impressive meal. We definitely chose the wrong restaurant because we were served gizzards and chicken wings that could have easily passed for dragon flies. We thought our night was going downhill until we met a group of Korean guys that invited us to their pension to drink with them. On any other given night and in any other country, we would have all refused this offer; however, with the night spiraling downwards after dinner and the rain starting up again, desperation kicked in and we agreed to join them. It ended up being one of the best nights I’ve had in Korea thus far. They were so much fun to hang out with! They cooked a big pot of ramen for us, provided us with beer and soju and we ended up playing card games with them until 3 am! We all got to try the “tasty,” traditional Korean snack food too, called Beondegi (silkworm pupae). When in Korea, right!?

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The next morning, we woke up, grabbed some breakfast and went straight to the beach. Our bus home was at 4 pm which left us with plenty of time to soak up the sun. Again, we were lucky enough to have awesome weather.

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By 3:30 pm, we were checked out of HJ House and on our way to grab the bus back to Suwon. It was a relaxing weekend, spent by the beach – which was exactly what I was anticipating.

That brings me to the first week of August. From August 2nd to the 10th, I spent time in Japan! It was an AMAZING trip, but I will have to save that post for next time, so stay tuned!

Among other news – 10 more days until I leave Korea!!! It’s unreal how quickly a year has passed. I’m happy to be heading home but I’m also very sad to be leaving all of my little kindergarten babies. The fact that I will never see them again breaks my heart. However, Korea will always remain as a chapter of my life, where all of the memories will serve as a reminder of the new experiences I had while immersed in Korean culture. This past week, I have just been trying to get myself organized. I’ve been cleaning up my apartment, eliminating junk and packing a bit. It’s all a bit stressful actually. I can’t wait to be finished packing. Nevertheless, I am excited to be making a pit stop in Washington/ Virginia Beach before heading home on September 7th. When I return to Whitby, I will be on the hunt for a new job and I guess we’ll see what the future holds.

Well, that’s enough of an update for now. I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer!

New Crib, New Classes and Seoul’s French District!

The weekend before last, I moved out of my cube and into a new building across the street from work. Although the move was hectic and exhausting, I’m happy to be in a new environment. My apartment is spacious and very bright. I have a real kitchen now, so cooking is much easier. It only takes me 5 minutes to get to work in the morning and I have an enclosed shower stall. Woo! Here are some photos:

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I also received 8 new classes. So last week was kind of a disaster. I had a lot of lesson and monthly plans to make and had (still have) quite a few names to remember. This new semester encompasses a lot more work than my previous one, so I’m just trying to get accustomed to all of the changes. Nevertheless, my students are full of energy and have a ton of personality.

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This past weekend, Michelle and I ventured into Seoul’s French District, otherwise referred to as Seorae Village in the Gangnam district. I had heard a lot about this area, as it caters to quite a few French expats in Korea. The reason for its popularity began with the opening of an international French school in 1985. Since then, it has attracted many foreigners due to its abundance of quaint cafes, restaurants and its infamous French bakery, Paris Croissant. Although this is not an overly huge area to explore, it is definitely worth the visit, if not just for the bakery alone, for the Macaroni and Cheese at Shy Bana. Michelle, Sarah and I walked into Paris Croissant and were like kids in a candy shop. There were pastries, tarts, cupcakes macarons, chocolate, freshly baked pies, cakes and bread. They even have a restaurant serving brunch on the second floor! It was awesome. I ended up buying some carrot cake (which was super tasty), spinach bread, a stuffed olive crescent roll (surprisingly good) and some foccacia bread. It’s not cheap but I can assure you, it’s worth every penny spent. A couple steps away from Paris Croissant was Shy Bana. Apparently, there are a few locations around Seoul but this was the first one I had heard of since arriving in Korea. It received good reviews online, so we decided to check it out. Judging by its outer appearance, it didn’t look too fancy. However, it promised to deliver “American soul food.” Had I not heard anything about it on the internet, I probably would have passed this place up. We were pleasantly surprised. We ordered their Mac and Cheese set which came with a cornbread and butter biscuit basket, a coleslaw/corn salad and a decent portion of their original Mac and Cheese. We also ordered their popular Jambalaya and lastly, their Pork with apple sauce, potatoes and beans dish. All three of them were good. Not to mention, the portions were generous. We took home leftovers. I’ll be back for the Mac and Cheese for sure.

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After finishing up there, we headed back to the Express Bus Terminal subway stop. We spotted two thrift stores underground. One was fairly small but had a bunch of women’s tops/sweaters and pants for $2-3. The second place called Vin Prime was really big and very busy. They had so many items, it took a while to go through all of the racks. Fortunately, I managed to find a GAP jean jacket for $12, which I can’t wait to wear in the Spring/Summer. The great thing about Koreans is that they take really good care of their clothing. I don’t know if that’s attributed to so few of them using dryers, but I’m not complaining!

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That about sums up the last couple of weekends! I’ll be back soon. Enjoy the rest of your week! 🙂