Monday, June 7, 2010

Buddha's Day, Teacher's Day, and Soccer

As our time in Korea draws to a close, Leslie and I have been trying hard to experience as much of this country as possible before we leave in July.

A few weeks ago was Buddha's Birthday, and Korea being a traditionally Buddhist country, pulled out all the stops to celebrate. Large portions of the city were covered with brightly colored lotus lanterns that were illuminated at night. There were parades, fireworks, and an entire street downtown was blocked off and used as a festival area. There was traditional dancing, food, and music. Leslie and I made some traditional prayer bracelets, but Leslie's kept breaking. (Bad Karma?) Mine held up just fine. We also tried our hand at traditional watercolor painting, but this time Leslie came out on top, as anyone who knows my artistic skills could already have predicted. The Korean instructor didn't even spend time helping me, but simply gave me the paint and wooden block and never returned. I think she knew I was a lost cause from the beginning.

It was great to experience some traditional Korean culture. It is something that is often difficult to do in the ever modernizing, late night partying Seoul.

Besides Buddha's Birthday, Korea has this other amazing holiday called Teacher's Day, a holiday that I would have probably conveniently forgotten about until this year. Due to a overly generous Teacher's Day present, Leslie and I were fortunate to able to attend a World Cup exhibition match between Korea and Ecuador, at Seoul's historic World Cup Stadium.

The game was wild, filled with 65,000 half drunk Korean fans. Sitting next to us were three grandmothers all yelling and eating a seemingly endless supply of candy. One of them got so excited about a play that she jumped out of her seat and her shoe flew into the row below us. Now you may think that we might have been concerned about our personal safety with shoes flying everywhere and all, but thankfully the authorities had surrounded the entire Stadium with a ring of police officers, in case these sugar-crazed grandmas got out of control.

Our time in Korea has gone by quickly and we only have about six weeks left in our teaching contract. We made what should be our last run to Costco a few days ago, which was quite a milestone for us. It shows how close we are to leaving. Thank God for Costco, that's all I have to say! It really has been a lifesaver, and its hot dogs are just as delicious as back home.

Well, that's the news from Seoul at the moment. Hopefully we will post some picture soon.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


To our surprise, we are still finding neighborhoods of Seoul we have yet to explore. The area we explored this past weekend is called Samcheong-dong. Without a doubt this is by far my favorite area of Seoul. It doesn't resemble the rest of Seoul in the slightest. The streets are smaller, full of independent coffee shops, restaurants, and clothing stores. It is considered the luxury area of Seoul, which is easy to see why with all of the Mercedes, BMWs, Lexus, and Volkswagen cars driving around. We've been told that getting a foreign car into Korea is extremely expensive, hence the reason 99% of cars on the road are Hongdae or Kia.

Even though we didn't shop, walking around, enjoying the flowers and people watching was enjoyable enough. We ate lunch at a restaurant that served Singaporean food, which consisted of fried noodles (somewhat similar to Phad Thai) and spring rolls. It was tasty and relatively cheap compared to the other restaurants in the area. After eating lunch we got a coffee at a place called "The Coffee Factory." Ian enjoyed an iced milk tea latte, whereas I got an iced green tea latte. For some reason regular coffee lattes in Korea are rather strong, so we often order different drink options. The coffee shop was in a great area of people watching, so we sat and enjoyed our drinks while watching the young Seoulites.

We ended the day with making our way to the Yongsan Electronics Market. We bought the 3rd season of Sopranos and the 1st season of Entourage for a cheap 12,000 Won, which is around $10! Those purchases would have easily cost us $40 in the states.

I hope everyone is getting as good of weather as we are in Seoul!


We finally took our week vacation and might I say it was wonderful! Since we only had a week we decided it would be best to choose one area and to stay there the entire time. After weeks of contemplation, we decided to take a beach vacation to Boracay, Philippines.

Getting to Boracay was no easy task. Our first flight was from Seoul to Beijing. We then had to stay in the Beijing airport for about 6 hours waiting for our flight to Manila. We eventually made it to Manila around 1 am. Unfortunately, our flight to Boracay didn't leave until 6:30 am. Not sure if the airport would let us check in that early, we decided it was worth the attempt. To our surprise, the Manila Domestic airport was packed with people. Literally, we have never seen so many people at an airport so early in the morning. For some reason Filipinos choose 3 am as the average departing time when traveling. The airport also had several eateries and convenience stores, so we were definitely able to keep ourselves occupied for the four hour wait.

In order to actually get to the island of Boracay, you first fly to the city of Cataclan and then take a boat to Boracay. Fortunately, our hotel had set up a pick up service for us. So getting from the airport to the boat and then finally to our hotel was very easy. Once we arrived to our hotel we collapsed with exhaustion!

After a short afternoon nap we decided to check out the main beach, called White Beach. White Beach is about a mile and a half long of unbelievably soft sand. The water is the clearest I've ever seen and is the color of breathtaking turquoise. So, after a quick lunch we immediately jumped into the warm waters of Boracay! Very few things get better than swimming in some of the clearest and warmest water in the world.

Within that week we enjoyed a few different beaches on the island, took a snorkeling and boat tour around the island, and enjoyed the cable t.v. in the hotel!

Towards the end of the trip Ian and I got a stomach bug either from something we ate or water, which caused us to spend a little more time in the hotel then expected, but we were just happy to be taking a break from CDI. Fortunately, our trip to Boracay gave us the rest we needed to finish our last 10 weeks at CDI and in Seoul.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Myeongdong and Gwangju

We believe we have finally survived the Korean winter. The temperatures are actually staying above the 40's and the trees are starting to sprout. We've been told that Spring comes and goes quickly, so to enjoy it while it lasts.

Two weekends ago Ian and I explored a new area of Seoul called Myeondong. It took us by surprise because it's appearance did not resemble the rest of Seoul. It contains multiple streets of updated shops, restaurants, and actual department stores. It was also cut off to most car traffic, so we didn't have to worry about the weaving motorcyclists. Before exploring , Ian did some research on the best noodle houses in Korea, and apparently there's one right in the heart of Myeongdong. We were able to find it rather quickly because of the line of people waiting outside and the smell of garlic incorporated in the air. Since the line is continually long, the restaurant employees get you in and out fast. You immediately pay when you sit down and once your food arrives, you are expected to eat, not socialize. The noodles were hand pulled and covered in a pork broth with garlic, ground beef and dumplings. It was delicious! The only bad part was that it ruined our breath for at least two days.

After eating our soup we made our way down the meandering streets. Needing to calm the garlic taste in our mouth, we decided to have dessert. Fortunately, we quickly found soft serve ice cream. However, this is not the dinky soft serve you get at McDonalds, these were at least 10 inches tall of creamy chocolate and vanilla ice cream. They were quite delicious. After stuffing ourselves beyond belief we shopped some more and eventually made the trek back to the apartment.

This past weekend we decided it was time to visit our friends Eric and Dana, who are now teaching in Gwangju. After an exhausting 50+hour work week we trudged ourselves and some clothes to the train station. Fortunately, the train was very quiet and relaxing. So, after eating salami sandwiches and Pringles, we listened to music and relaxed for the entire three hour ride there. Definitely one of the most relaxing train rides I have ever taken!

Once we arrived, Eric and Dana showed us around a shopping district in Gwangju. We got some drinks and ttoekpoki (deep fried food items covered in a Korean chili sauce). The next day was spent taking a bus to the nearest mountain range. We attempted a small hike, but stopped early because Ian was feeling under the weather. So, we made it back into town, walked around the shopping district, went bowling, and ended the night with some delicious Korean BBQ. All in all it was a great trip. It was nice to see Eric and Dana and to see an area outside of Seoul.

Tonight, Ian and I are working the late shift and then coming home to eat home cooked vegetable coconut curry! Hopefully it's as tasty as it smells.

Sorry for the delay in posts. Becoming Head Instructors has literally taken over any free time we may have. But, I think we are slowly learning how to strategize our work and free time. Hopefully our posts will be more frequent. Pictures will also be posted soon!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Long Time No Post

Okay, so we haven't posted in like 3 weeks, but we do have an excuse. Since becoming head instructors Leslie and I have been working about 11 hour days (including class prep) and we just haven't had the energy to post, but we are back on the wagon now!

We are now about 1.5 weeks into the new term and things have been busier than ever. Our classes have been good, but they are giving us some challenges as well. Leslie has been teaching a TOEFL test preparation course, which is a lot of work and can be quite complex. I am teaching an advanced grammar class, and have found that explaining English grammar rules, that at times I don't even truly understand, is no small undertaking. My first day of class was met with more than a few befuddled and mildly panicked expressions from students. But practice makes perfect right? Right.

This term I am also teaching a couple students with moderate mental illnesses, which has been both rewarding and frustrating. It is great to see them succeeding, but it also make class less beneficial for other students.

On our limited free time we have been trying to explore Seoul a little more. With the Olympic fever that has swept this small nation due to the success of Yu-Na Kim and other Korean athletes, we decided to check out Seoul's Olympic Park. Seoul hosted the Summer Olympics in 1988, and created a huge park on the city's eastside where many of competitions took place. It reminded me a bit of New York's Central Park, as it is a big chunk of grass and trees surround on all sides by high rises. The only difference was that the border of the park was sprinkled with stadiums catering to the various Olympic sports. The park also contained pieces of an earthen defense wall dating from 300 A.D. We weren't sure if the wall was real or simply a modern reconstruction (like most "historical" sites in Korea), but we let our imaginations take hold and hoped for the best.

The other big news around hear is that we are taking our week vacation in the middle of April. From April 17th to the 25th, Leslie and I are headed out of cold, polluted Seoul to the beautiful and fresh Philippines, where hopefully the majority of our activity will involve sand, water, good books, and 50 cent beer. We are going to spend a week on the island of Boracay, and maybe poke around Manila for a day or so. We are incredibly excited and are already counting down the days!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Our deepest apologizes for failing to maintain the blog over the past couple of weeks. We have been really busy starting the next term as Head Instructors and teaching new class. Excuses aside, we promise we will get a post up by this weekend.

Thanks for your patience!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Gearing Up

Things are gearing up over here to be sure! In less than two weeks Leslie and I will officially be head instructors at our school, however the responsibilities of our new positions are already upon us.

This last week we had the unfortunate mission of returning to "Hell," more commonly referred to as CDI Training Center, a place Leslie and I vowed to never return if at all possible, due to our less than positive experience there 7 months ago. We were headed there for CDI Head Instructor Training, which thankfully was only 3 hours instead of a full week. After we overcame the initial nausea and panic upon entering the building, the training turned out to be not nearly as bad as we predicted. We actually learned a lot useful information, like how to deal with various instructor personalities, strategies for creating effective workshops, and the best ways to tell bad teachers that they are doing a crappy job. Overall, it was much less mind-numbing, exhausting, and sterile than our original training.

Over the next two weeks Leslie and I will each go to two more workshops. We both have to go learn about a new test-taking course CDI is implementing this term. Also, Leslie will be teaching a TOEFL Test preparation class next term, and needs to go to a workshop for that. I will most likely be teaching a speaking presentation and debate class that also requires me to attend a workshop. We have heard that these workshops are of limited value, and the best thing to do is just smile and nod until they let you out. However, our first workshop was a pleasant surprise so we're hoping the trend continues.

There is breaking news on the food front as well. The latest excitement stems from the discovery of a California Pizza Kitchen in Seoul, which we are hoping to try soon. We also learned of a spot that apparently serves "legit" Mexican food. Our quest on this culinary manner has repeated been filled with great hoped followed by utter despair. Let's hope this time things turn out differently....

Finally, our friends Eric and Dana are coming to Korea on Tuesday for a teaching gig down in Gwangju, a city about 2-3 hours south of Seoul. They will be working in the public school system. We are looking forward to having them here and going down for some visits. We have heard Gwangju is really nice and have been wanting to see more of the country once the weather warms up. We are hoping their training goes a bit more smoothly than ours did.

That's all the news for now. Leslie and I have to hold our own workshops in about two weeks, plus train some of our newbie teachers. We'll let you know how it goes.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace
Seoul's biggest palace and its historic seat of government.



Korean Corn Dog

Korean Corn Dog
Notice how much batter there is around the hot dog

Tom's Tacos

Tom's Tacos
Minus sour cream we can get everything to make tacos!

The Completed Apartment

The Completed Apartment