Monday, March 30, 2009


Saturday feels like such a blur to me, everything happened so quickly. Our tour bus arrived in Paju which almost felt like an amusement park because it had some rides (like the one where the boat goes from side to side and some other small types like that) and also had outdoor food vendors. We had about 15-20 minutes to eat and explore the small area that we were in which had the "freedom bridge" which I took a picture of but do not completely understand the meaning of. We were then hustled into a big bus which took multiple tour groups into the heavily guarded area. 

We drove into the civilian controlled zone where all of our passports were checked against a piece of paper where we wrote our names, passport numbers, and nationalities by a South Korean soldier. It was at the entrance to the CCZ (civilian controlled zone) where there were lots of soldiers and all cars had to stop before they could enter. I was surprised however that there was never a single time that I had to pass through a metal detector, and my purse was never checked. Being that it is so guarded, I thought for sure that i would have to go through at least one of these things. 

Most of the places that we went we were not allowed to take photos of. If they caught you trying to take a photo they would take your camera away. We went down into the 3rd tunnel which was made by the North Koreans trying to invade South Korea, but it was discovered just in time. Apparently North Korea was trying to say that they were just digging for coal, but there is no coal in the area which they say proves that this wasn't for mining coal. We were also told that the dynamite holes in the walls pointing in the south korean direction shows that it was North Korea that built the tunnel. To get down to the tunnel, you have to go down this steep cement i think path (11% incline)  and then you get to the tunnel which is very short. We had to wear helmets, and everyone else had to duck most of the way, including poor Patrick who had to duck the entire way, except for me. There was one time my head didnt clear and had i not been wearing the helmet, i would have! Yay for being short :). The only time that we were technically in the DMZ was at the very end of the tunnel. The part of the tunnel that extends from North Korea is completely blocked off by 3 barricades so that nobody can pass from one country to the next. On the way back, the climb up the passage was very difficult. I read somewhere that it is about 230 feet that you have to climb up that 11% incline which is definitely a work out, although a soldier passed us and he was definitely running up it. Everyone else found it tough but nowhere near impossible. 

We also went to an observatory where for 500 won (28 cents!) you could look into binoculars (like the kind you find atop towers for tourists) and look into the DMZ and into North Korea. Unfortunately there was a line well behind the binoculars of where you could take photos from. This was so that you couldnt take pictures of the DMZ, just of North Korea. They are VERY sensitive about what you take photos of. I had been to Israel and on army bases there and I thought I knew what strict was, but even on the Israeli army base we were actually allowed to take some photographs. 

We also went to the northern most train station in South Korea. It was just created in 2002, and it was made in hopes of being able to connect the two Koreas when the time comes. Three trains come to the train station every day from Seoul but that is as far as it goes. The plan is when the peninsula unifies, there will be a train that goes from Seoul to Pyongyang (capital of north korea). There was a lot of talk of hopes of a unification between the two countries, however it seems impossible at the moment. 

We were not able to go anywhere else unfortunately during the tour. I think stuff was blocked off with the ongoing North Korean threat. we did learn a lot about Korea during the trip all of which I did not know before.

At the end, we were taken to this beautiful amethyst wholesaler near Seoul. They get the amethyst from the Korean country. I was not planning on buying anything, however I found this beautiful ring that they had which cost only $38 after all the deductions. I am absolutely in love with this ring and it is exactly the kind of ring that I love. 

Okay that was my day Saturday. Now picture time!

^ My ring which I just adore.
^ Picture taken into North Korea. 
^ Taken at the Dorasan Station. 
^ Walked a lot around Seoul on Sunday with Yi Sul. Never expected I would find somewhere like this! It was just a cute little residential section of Seoul. 

^ Seoul!
^ Guard at Dorasan. We were allowed to stand next to him and have our picture taken with him but I decided against it. 
^Freedom bridge
^City Hall in Seoul

^ My wonderful youth hostel in Seoul. Gives new meaning to "Follow the yellow brick road" huh :D 

Back from Seoul...

Seoul was lots of things wrapped up into one. I had an amazing time, but it was also rough at the same time. Just a warning, long post ahead.

Friday we had breakfast at our hosts house at 820am and then left for the bus at 840am where we made it with 2 minutes to spare. The bus took us to Mokpo where we then had to take a taxi from the bus station to the train station (unfortunately not within walking distance). We were about an hour early, but there was no way for us to get there any later without missing the 1110am train. We walked around Mokpo a bit to an area I had never been to before, where there were lots of little shops that we walked into. 

During the train ride into Seoul, Yi Sul recommended that I not come with her to the hospital, but I just hang out myself and then we can meet up after her blood test, and I asked her where her hospital was, it turns out its far away from the center of Seoul and close to where her apartment is, so I just suggested that I explore Seoul for the day while she goes to the hospital instead of having to figure out a meeting place, and that way i wouldnt be stressed about getting somewhere at a certain time and knowing where to go, etc, etc, so she at that point seemed fine with this. 

I had a great time on Friday by myself. I went to City Hall (nothing really around there but it was a beautiful day) and then to Seoul Station which are two pretty big stations in the area. From Seoul Station I could see the Seoul Tower which is near to where my hostel was, so I decided that since I had nothing better to do, that I would try to make my way walking to the hostel. I was much farther away than I thought, but once again it was a fantastic day outside, and I made it to the hostel at like 515pm. I went to my room, put my bag into the locker, and read for a bit, before deciding to figure out what to do for dinner. At first I was going to just find something in the area of the hostel, but then I figured out why not go to Itaewon, this street that is completely international, with food and clothing from areas all over the world, and the people that go there outnumber the Koreans by a landslide. I went to Itaewon and was not disappointed. It was really nice to be around completely English speakers. All the food signs were in English, everyone was speaking English or other languages that were not Korean, it was just a very nice place. I finally settled on this place called Krazee Burgers which is apparently a chain where I ordered a chicken caesar salad...something that I cannot find anywhere near where i am staying. it was probably the best chicken caesar salad i have ever had...but a part of that was probably because i had not had one in so long and was craving it. 

I went back to the hostel, and met this woman staying in my room (i stayed in a dorm style room, which is only about $16 a night!) who is from Singapore. We talked for a while about Singapore and Boston, and then I talked about how the last time I was in the room there was a girl from Thailand there that I got along with really well and the woman told me that she was going to be there that night! She had been in another part of Korea but came back for a few days before going back home and she was staying at the hostel again!

I ended up going to sleep around 11pm without seeing her, but I woke up at around 3:30am, sneezing a lot, really congested, and unable to fall back asleep. I finally fell asleep at like 4:30am, and woke up at 830am. The girl (i still dont know her name!) was awake and she was really happy to see me so we talked for a bit and then said our goodbyes.

Checked out of the hostel, got my key deposit back (15000 won in cash that you have to pay that you get back when you turn in your key) and took the subway to Kira's friends' hotel. I walked into the Renaissance Hotel and was scared because I had never met the people I would be going to the Korean Demilitarized zone with, but when I walked in a guy walked up to me and asked if I was looking for him and said his name was Patrick. We went up to his hotel room where I met his wife Jessica, a girl my sister had gone to one of her many schools with. I left my tote bag in their room, and we took a cab from the hotel to where the tour was picking us up. It turned out we were the only 3 people on the tour which was really nice. Our guide spoke English really well which was nice. It turned out once we got to the DMZ we would be leaving our bus and getting onto a big bus as sanctioned by the UN where others would be joining us. 

Okay you know what ill just save the talk about the DMZ for my next post. But everything was great and I had a lot of fun with Jessica and Patrick! we ended up going to dinner at this korean BBQ place and had lots of beef and fun times. It was one of the best meals i have had in a long time! During the tour we found out that the cherry blossom festival is in mid april in seoul and Jessica will be back from Hong Kong then so she invited me to come back out to Seoul april 18th and stay in her hotel room since her husband left yesterday and we could go see the festival to which i readily agreed. We got along really well and I had a great time with them! I am excited to have another chance to go back up to Seoul. 

After grabbing my tote bag from their hotel room at 8pm, I got my phone which I had by accident left in the tote and saw I had missed calls and texts from Yi Sul. I had told her i would call her between 8 and 9 when we were done but apparently she decided to call me a lot anyways. We met up at a subway station, and immediately started talking about how the weekend had been. this somehow ended up turning into a fight between us that lasted the next 2 days. Apparently by me trying not to inconvenience her on Friday, she took that as an insult or something and was angry at me for "only thinking about yourself, and never about me." Never mind that because of her i had to stay in a hostel last minute and was trying to save her money by not making her come back into the city and then back out to her apartment.... 

Apparently my snoring caused her to only get 1-2 hours of sleep that night and so she was really crabby the next day (she lives in literally a 1 room apartment ... they cook and eat and sleep in the same room...only a bathroom is separate). We walked around to these different areas of Seoul that were beautiful, and I took lots of pictures, but the tension was palpable between us. She was angry at me for lots of reasons, and I was angry at her which I was trying to understand as cultural differences. For the entire week we had been saying we would eat dinner at a pasta restaurant since I wanted it so badly, and then at around 515pm Sunday we were walking towards the restaurant and 10 minutes before she had said "we're going to the spaghetti restaurant, right?" and to which i had said yes. but 10 minutes later as we are walking she goes "actually my friends wanted to meet me for dinner later..." to which i was completely stunned. she had not been talking on the phone or texting...and it had been discussed a LOT that sundays dinner was gonna be spaghetti...and then i made a comment about how i was really looking forward to the spaghetti dinner to which she once again said how i was only thinking about myself never about her since she hadn't seen her friends in like 2 months...and she called someone and talked for a couple minutes to them during which i was trying to tell her that if she would point me in the direction of the restaurant she could go meet with her friends and we would meet back up later..but she said no...she had already cancelled with her friends. 

I really do not understand her and i am trying to...I really am. It's not like we were together the entire weekend. she had all saturday and then all friday as well...but shes mad at me for not wanting to cancel dinner AS WE WERE WALKING TO THE RESTAURANT??? i don't know sometimes i wonder if its a cultural thing or just an Yi Sul thing. I have found everyone else in the country to be very kind and considerate and helpful. 

I hope things get better between the two of us, but she keeps lying to me about stuff (i will explain in a different post) and cancelling plans last minute and making me pay for hotel rooms when she says i can stay at her apartment for free... ugh its just all hard. 

I gotta go prepare my lesson plan for todays classes even though i am completely exhausted oh and still sick...i have been taking sudafed but i think tonight before sleep ill try benadryl. 

Thursday, March 26, 2009

last posting before Seoul i swear!

I realized that I forgot to mention where we went this morning. Apparently there was some anniversary of a church in Gangjin that my hosts were going to, so me, Yi Sul, and the other teacher who now lives in my old room came along and walked around the little city while they went to the church function. We visited the house of a famous poet named Yeongrang (that was his pen name) which was absolutely stunning so here are some pictures for you to enjoy. Spring is here!

^ A cherry blossom tree was just starting to bloom. I believe that this was my first live look at a cherry blossom. I cannot wait to see more!
^ The poets house with Yi Sul and Hyeim in front. Didn't mean for them to be in the picture but it was the best one that i took unfortunately. 
^ One of the trees starting to bloom.
^ A little road near where the poet lived. We wandered down this road before realizing we went the wrong way, but it was pretty. 
^ Bamboo! Or at least thats what they say it is.... i looked it up online and bamboo looked a little different but whatever if that was bamboo that is so cool! 

once again staying at a youth hostel

Well for a second time in a row i will be staying at the seoul youth hostel for at least part of my weekend in Seoul. I am getting really frustrated because this is the second time that i was told i could stay at yi sul's apartment, but now apparently on friday night her sister is having a birthday party in the apartment, so I cannot sleep there. 2 weekends ago, Yi Sul was supposed to come up to  Seoul with Matias and I, but she cancelled last minute forcing me to stay the entire weekend at the Youth Hostel. 

Having to pay for accomodations is getting really frustrating. as much as a youth hostel is cheap, its a cost that id ont want to have to pay for considering im going with someone who lives in Seoul. 

Saturday, i am going with one of Kira's friends who is in Seoul for a month and her husband to the demilitarized zone. It will be nice to be amongst americans..the first time in almost a month that this is the case. 

I'm really trying to stay calm and not get angry...but there are a lot of frustrations and misunderstandings just based on language and culture difference. My roommate seems to think that this is just me learning about Korea...and not them learning about America. I have mentioned a few times how things are different than home and explained it, and apparently she doesnt want to hear about how things work at home, that i just need to accept the Korean way immediately. 

it's going to be a long 2 months if it keeps up as it is.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

some things are just too uncomfortable

I understand that part of the whole experience is trying new things and learning about a different culture etc, but there are just some things that i am not willing to do. For instance, I am not willing to eat Dog meat. I know that the previous volunteer was taken to a place where they ate dog meat soup. i really hope i am not asked to do this so that i don't have to request not to go. 

Another thing is something that just happened today. My host parents sent Yi Sul an e-mailing, asking her to write a paper/essay for their oldest daughter that is in high school in English. Yi Sul then asked me to help her translate/write the paper. I did this a week or two ago and it was already uncomfortable enough but I figured it was one essay and I was told it was "not important" etc. this time though, i find out that the daughter did not even write the essay in Korean...Yi Sul was given the subject and asked to write the paper for her. I feel bad saying no and saying I am not comfortable writing this paper for the daughter, but I just don't feel like its appropriate for a native English speaker to write a paper for someone. I have met her daughter a few times, and she barely knows any English. I understand it's hard to write a paper in a different language, but its something you need to try to do. I even said that if SHE tried to write it in english i would help to correct it, but apparently Yi Sul is willing to do it on her own. 

I just had to get that off my chest. i hope I am doing the right thing in not helping to write this paper. There are just some times you have to stand by what you believe in and this is one of those times. 


conjunction junction whats your function?

Every day there are like 5+ websites that i go to... okay... probably more like 8-10 but that's okay. One of them is this website that is actually like 6ish that has pictures with funny captions about cats, dogs, celebrities, news, etc. One of the pages though is a "nostalgic page" where they post things from like the 80s and 90s which is really cool. I looked at it today, and it had "School house rock" and I was like oh wow I remember being played these to learn about conjunctions and how bills become laws in america, etc. I played the first one about conjunctions and it immediately hit me, this would be a great way to reinforce what I had been teaching my middle school students about the different part of speech! 

that link is the one for conjunctions. 

I don't think ill be able to do it in today's class because i need to figure out if we can play it in the room i use or if we need to use another classroom to use a projector/big television but next week on Monday hopefully i will be able to play it for them. 

Yay for fun ideas!


pictures of my room since it was asked of me to post :) 

^ Bathroom/shower. The box to the top is where the gas/something is that when you turn the faucet to hot it lights up with flames in that box to heat the water. 
^ My bedding is on the floor, Yi sul's is on the chair. on the floor the orange-ish whatever looking thing is what i sleep on .... its folded up because its long and takes up the entire room. the brown whatever that is inside is the blanket. i sleep on the two pillows to the right hand side. the floor looks like its wood... but its not. its fake :) 
^ Computer desk. my laundry is underneath the desk. yi sul's study area is on the left side...she has a lamp thats a lot like the one that my sophomore year of high school roommate left when she left school....makes sense considering shes korean. you can see when i sit at the computer im right by the door to the room (sliding door with frosted windows)
^ The left hand side has the wardrobe which is where i keep my suitcase. in front of it is a place where we can hang clothing and towels and such. in the middle of the picture is our own little vanity with a mirror. to the right is the door leading to our bathroom. 
^ Farther out view where you can see my computer chair, the bathroom door, vanity, and my sleeping mat corner. its a small room for 2 people sleeping on the floor. also no drawers or anything which makes things difficult. 

Monday, March 23, 2009

i never want to be a middle school teacher...

If this experience has taught me anything, it is that I never want to be a middle school teacher/junior high school teacher. I have so much respect for all my teachers now and how frustrating it is to look into someone's eyes and tell that they don't care...but I especially have respect for my 6-8th grade teachers. In high school at least, more kids care about what they are being taught because of the push for college and wanting to get good grades to be able to get into a good college. The middle school students don't have that drive yet. 

Elementary school is also easy to teach because I can play the cute little games with them to help them remember words like hangman, and pictionary. I used hangman with my 5-9 year olds, and pictionary with the 11-13 year olds. 

The past couple of classes at the middle school I have been teaching the parts of speech. Grammar is actually something that they are interested in here. my class at the middle school is about 24 kids, and its hard to keep them all interested. It's going to be a struggle to figure out how to teach them in an effective way. I am thinking of finding some worksheets online for them to practice on and not do it as homework but as in class work instead. 

This weekend i am going to Seoul again. I am hoping to go to this place in Seoul called Itaewon. It's a very international section of Seoul so it should be fun to see. apparently foreigners outnumber the Koreans there :) i also have to figure out where else in seoul that i want to see. 

i found out this weekend that I might be able to go to this amusement park near Seoul called everland. Here is the link. It would be as a chaperone for the middle school but still...amusement park!!! 


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dae han min guk!

I just watched Korea slaughter Venezuala 10-2, meaning that Korea is going to be in the finals on Sunday night Boston time, Monday Morning here against the winner of the Japan-USA game. How amazing would it be for it to be a Korea-USA World Baseball Classic finals?! I would have no idea who to root for, and in the end would be happy either way, although based on where I am right now I guess I would have to root for Korea. I really hope Japan doesn't win though, because Korea has played Japan 3 times already this year. Also Dice-K (a pitcher for the red sox) is pitching tomorrow against the US, which should be interesting to watch.

There are a lot of baseball fans in Korea especially where I live including my host father, so it's a lot of fun to watch here! If Korea wins it all, when I go to Seoul next weekend I will probably buy a Korea jersey :) I might anyways since they have gone so far!! It's really cool to be IN korea with this happening.

I didn't realize that Sundays were sleep-in days for me here. Last Sunday I was in Seoul, and the weekend before that it was a sleep in, but I thought it was just that one day that they wouldnt be there for breakfast. It's nice knowing that every Sunday I don't have to wake up at 7:40am.

Apparently tonight I will be able to sleep in my room, although we still can't use the bathroom. To go to the bathroom, I have to walk outside and go down to the first floor and use the bathroom there, and to shower I have to go to our hosts house. I cannot wait to be able to use our own bathroom again. It has also been hard not to be able to settle down anywhere. My first room was nice, but I knew that about a week and a half into my stay we would be switching rooms, and then right as I was getting used to the new room and where stuff went there, we had to pack everything up, and leave most of our stuff in one room while we slept in another. I will be happy to finally be able to settle in one room.

Bike riding yesterday in Mokpo was fun, Samonim (host mother) and Yi Sul rode a tandem bike while I rode on own. It was a cloudy day and windy, but still felt so good to be back on a bicycle again!

No plans for the rest of the day, tomorrow the week starts again which I am looking forward to, because the teaching has become pretty fun. The kids are really cute, and I can already start to see some progress in their english, especially in their confidence in using it. I even saw the 5 year old try to teach his 3 year old sister some english!! So cute. Pictures of Mokpo later when I can get back onto the main PC i use.


oh and dae han min guk is a cheer for Korea...almost like go korea that they chant at sports games, etc.
picture time!
^ Had a hamburger for the first time in Korea. I definitely prefer american hamburgers. the beef tasted... i dont know how to explain it but yeah definitely not something i wish i could have more of in korea.
^ The lotte which extends even farther to the left. It's like a combined grocery store, costco (there are samples of the food for you to try all over) and target because you can buy books, electronics, clothing, etc as well! There are 2 stories plus a parking garage IN the building. 
^ The movie theatre like 2 minutes walking from the lotte. 

^Not only could you ride bikes in Mokpo, but you could rent rollerblades, and little kids cars to ride, etc. Mokpo is in the background. 

Saturday, March 21, 2009

shower stuff

Well yesterday at breakfast it was kind of explained that they were going to fix the shower in my new room because the water was not really draining. They said it would be done by 3 to 4 pm so I was like cool. We left our hosts house and went back to our room, where I talked to some friends since breakfast time - lunch time seems to be the only time we have in common, and then yi sul asked me to move all our blankets to the room over from ours which led to some confusion for me. Turns out, everything in our room that was out had to be moved to the room next to ours. The desk had to be covered with a paper type of thing and yeah. It took a while to get everything out of the room. This was because they were using something that would create a lot of dust so all our stuff that was out would get this horrible dust on it.

Then it turned out that even though the bathroom would be done at 4 and we could walk into the room, we wouldnt be able to sleep there til Sunday. They were also doing allll the bathrooms upstairs (all 3) meaning we couldnt use any of the bathrooms in the center and couldnt sleep in the rooms with the bathroom, leaving just one room for us to sleep in until Sunday, the room that I teach the middle schoolers in. There is a couch which Yi Sul is sleeping in, and also a little bit of floor space for me.

This also means I cannot use the computer in our room until Sunday because the dust is still in the air meaning the paper stuff used to cover it will be taped down until then. Currently I am using the teachers computer downstairs in the center.

I really hope that the water will drain with all the inconvience that has happened. Apparently now the tiles are kinda tilted down towards the drain so that we wont have to like push the water towards the drain for 10 minutes after a shower so that the bathroom isnt filled with water (it still is wet on the floor just not standing water). This will be nice if it works. I still havent figured out the fine art of putting on pants in the bathroom without getting them wet since the entire floor is wet. Apparently you have to roll up the pants and do this whole kind of dance to keep them dry. Gotta love Korea and their showers.

Today we're going into Mokpo as the host parents heard that I love to bike, so we're going to this park where we can rent bikes and go biking around the part. im excited! Our host parents have 2 bikes that we can borrow for going around the town, but I guess we have to rent them when we go to Mokpo. I'm not as nervous as I would normally be about borrowing a bike because I am average height in Korea (believe me, its fantastic to look at someone in the eye without always having to look up at people!) so the bikes will be already set for someone of shorter height. yay!

Oh and breakfast today was like the best breafast ever. Rice, little pieces of beef, and mini hot dogs!!! Heaven!!!!!!!!!

Classes are going well. I found these 15 little books that are perfect for the upper elementary school kids as they have one sentence per page and it introduces words like "put" and "get" and "want" in a way that I can teach the words and then read the book to them. They really enjoyed it.

That's it for now....I'll try to take pictures if i can of the bike riding in mokpo although i don't know if i'll be able to or not.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009


The past couple of days have been pretty hard without Matias. There were many times when everyone around us was speaking Korean with no translating that we would just look at each other and have our own conversation or joke about something. There have been many times that I have wanted to turn to him to say something and then realized he wasn't there anymore. It is really hard to be in a country where the language is so completely opposite than yours. We don't have similar roots or similar words. Had I been in France or Spain or anywhere similar, it would be easier to understand what everyone was talking about without even needing to know the language simply because they are related languages. 

My host parents are really sweet though and know that I love beef, and they said yesterday during breakfast that for lunch we would go out to this town about an hour away to our west and go to a famous place to eat beef! First we stopped off at this place that is famous for its green tea, and 4 of us walked around the grounds. It was simply beautiful! 

Unfortunately, I thought that the beef restaurant was located here, so I would get to taste the green tea then, but we went into the car at which point it was too late to go try some tea (it costs money to go in). Oh well. From there we headed to this area that had a flea market (apparently it happens every Tuesday). Parts were similar to an American flea market, but then you'd walk into a section of it, and people were sitting on the ground selling items on the floor. It was pretty sad to see. I didn't buy anything, but it was fun to look around. While some of us were wandering around the outdoor flea market, our hosts were buying the beef at this one shop. 

^ Easy to tell what was sold! :) But then we walked across a small street inside the flea market and went into this restaurant. They had...little grills I guess that you put the raw meat onto and cook yourself. It was 8 of us that went together, and they had two of the little grills (i wouldnt call it exactly a grill.... it had a flame underneath and you put the meat on this platter thing above the flame just dont know the proper name) and so one person from each side put the beef on the platter and turned it at the right time. The pieces of beef were really small so no knifes or anything were required just chopsticks. On the other end of the table, they apparently were eating pieces of raw beef in the beginning. I was invited to have a piece, but I said no. Growing up in America with all the warnings about not cooking beef enough it was hard to imagine eating raw beef. Ji Sul said that since the beef was so fresh it was okay... but I think they just don't understand salmonella. 

In about an hour i am teaching english again at the middle school. I have set up lesson plans for all the groups i am teaching today. I am writing everything for each class in this journal that i have. Since I am teaching 5 different groups its important to write down what im doing for each class so that I will remember. 

^ Funny shirt from the flea market :)


Monday, March 16, 2009

Back in Usuyeong

Coming back from Seoul was easy, but when I arrived in Mokpo there was nobody waiting for me. Every time we went places we were dropped off and picked up, and I was not told otherwise, so I thought that it would be the same. I waited about 30 minutes thinking we were just missing each other, and then i got a call from Yi Sul asking where I was. After a little conversation I discovered I was supposed to get back to Usuyeong on my own. I grabbed a taxi and handed the phone to the taxi driver so that Ji Sul could explain how to get to Usuyeong. Taxi fare was $25 for the 30 minute drive. Not bad! Oh and they don't tip in Korea (not on food, nothing!). 

I got back, switched clothes, and we went to the middle school. It is STRANGE to have the kids sitting at desks with me in the front. I was really nervous and it was a rough first day because i had no idea what to do or how good their english was. Turns out it is 22 kids in the class ranging from 7th grade to 9th grade. We gave them common American names (names like David, etc), and taught them about the discrepancy between Korean ages and American ages, and also asking how they are. They learn really quickly which was good. 

We came back in time for dinner which was soup, and then it was time to teach the first group of middle schoolers. It turns out the "A group" is 3 kids... but they can't go at the B group time because they have something else. I taught them stuff about baseball, some of which they knew, most of which they didn't. The thing that got them most excited was seeing my ipod touch. I took it out to show them the American national anthem which i had downloaded, but they couldnt believe how exciting my ipod was! It was really funny. Their vocabulary is pretty good when discussing electronics.. just nothing else :) 

^ Me and Matias about to get onto the train to Seoul... it was his goodbye to Yi Sul (center right) and Samonim.

^ Seoul Tower .. my first glimpse!
^ Mmmmm starbucks!
^ Matias' last night we went to a place for Karaoke. it was fun!

Well I am back in Usuyeong. Saying goodbye to Matias was extremely difficult. I had a lot of fun with his mom, mom's boyfriend and him. It's hard to explain how Matias and I became so close in just the 12 days we spent together, but there's a bond thats created when you throw two people together in a country where nobody speaks your language. We were constantly talking to each other while the others were talking in Korean. But anyways we had a lot of fun together, and the 10+ weeks i have left are going to be extremely difficult without him around. 

Bye Matias!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Seoul is some kind of wonderful!!!

Wow, I think I am kinda in love with Seoul right now. I wish I was closer to here than where I volunteer right now, because Seoul really is my kind of city. Seoul reminds me a LOT of Boston. It's not the grid kind like New York City or some of the others, its a LOT like Boston where streets curve a lot, its hard to tell where you are sometimes, but then when you least expect it you have a majestic view of the city, and you enter this little part of the city which is just amazing.

Matias and I left on the 11:10 train from Mokpo to Seoul. He had to say goodbye to everyone at the center because he wasn't coming back which was really sad. Yi Sul had to hold back tears. The train ride was really quick. When I was going from Seoul to Mokpo, it felt like the train took 10 hours. Every like 20 minutes it felt like I was in a worse and poorer place, and I wondered how much worse it could get, and I wondered what I was getting myself into. Part of the reason why it felt like 10 hours was because I had just been traveling for so long, that it just added onto the time of traveling. This time though, Matias and I played cards, and talked for the entire trip. It felt like 20 minutes when we arrived.

Matias and I parted from there, he was headed to see his mom and mom's boyfriend who were at the hotel after a long flight, and I had stuff I needed to do in Seoul. We agreed to meet up tomorrow at the Seoul tower which is very close to my hostel. It took me a long time to figure out the metro system. It's very similar to Bostons with the different colored lines, but you have to pay based on what stop you're going to, and trying to figure out where I was, and where I wanted to go and which train to go on took a long time. In the end though, I got on the right train which I was really proud of. After a little bit of getting lost time (... this always happens to me i just kinda plan it into the schedule now) I found what I was looking for.. the US Embassy. After circling around (its a huge building) I found the main entrance, only to be told by one of the guards that today was a national holiday, meaning it was closed. Huh? I still have yet to figure out what this so called holiday was. Anyways, I was going there so I could get some english maps of the city, and get help trying to get to where I was going. So much for that plan.

After that and not even knowing where the nearest metro stop was, I kinda just started to walk around Seoul, figuring that eventually I would run into a station. The metro stations really aren't obvious at least to a non-Korean speaker. Also, on major road intersections, there arent crosswalks, there are little underground things, which kinda look like the entrance to a metro station, and the first time i went down the steps into one, i thought thats what it was until I figured out I was just going down, under the road, and back up the other side of the road (There are 4+ exits that you can take depending on which side of which street you want to be on). Finally I went down one thinking I was just gonna end up on the other side when I discovered that lo and behold, I was at a metro stop! yay! I was also on the line to get to the youth hostel, so i figured that was a sign to not try to find any other location and just head towards the hostel. So I did. On the train ride, Matias had explained to me that I would look for the hotel Astoria, go a bit past that, take a left go up the hill and under the bridge and that the hostel would be there. Had it not been for his help, I would have gotten lost! But I did not, and after walking up the hill (its a steep hill and its not a short distance) I finally arrived at the Youth Hostel.

The woman working at the front spoke pretty much perfect english (although its just been 1.5 weeks since I arrived, pretty much any english speaking sounds perfect to me because of how little everyone at the center speaks if any) and explained everything to me. I went upstairs, found my room (im in a bottom bunk in a room with 7 other beds although they might not all be full), put my stuff in the locker provided, and decided to head for Dinner.

Oh and I forgot to mention... the first thing I did when I arrived in Seoul today? Discovered a Starbucks and had a mocha frap there (they didnt have my ice tea lemonade but still!) and a blueberry muffin. I must say, their blueberry muffin put anyone else's to shame. It had been warmed up, and was AMAZING. So back to dinner. I decided to head back to the main road and turn left instead of right, and what do I see like as soon as I turn left? AN OUTBACK STEAKHOUSE. Would I go anywhere else? NO. Had the most AMAZING steak and baked potato and diet coke before heading back to the youth hostel where I am now.

OUTBACK STEAKHOUSE!!!!! It was just the icing on the cake for me! Tomorrow I am going with Matias and his mom and mom's boyfriend on this tour of the city... its a 10,000 won bus that you can get on and off of at your leisure whenever you want during the day (thats like $6-$7!) and stops at all the touristy places. Should be a lot of fun.

I took a picture of the Outback Steakhouse sign, and my dish so ill upload them when i return to Usuyeong. Off to my bunk where I'm going to listen to music and read the new Jodi Picoult book I bought for $10 on the kindle for the ipod touch (its a free app! thanks dad!!!).

I love Seoul, I love Seoul, I LOVE SEOUL!


Friday, March 13, 2009

it's genius i tell you!

I have been struggling for a week now trying to come up with a way to teach the middle schoolers english in a way that might get it to stick. it really seems like nothing that has been tried has worked. english for them is a struggle, which is understandable considering just how different the two languages are. I am also finding it difficult because the middle schoolers that come to this center are all guys except for 1 female and all 13-14 years old. I was really fighting myself trying to come up with ideas on what to do, and couldn't come up with anything. I have always been full of ideas for the elementary school students because they are young and love the little games and gimicks. Learning for them is still fun, and they are attentive and easy to teach for the most part. I was just sitting reading a book today, when an idea popped into my head, and I knew that it JUST might work.

What do the 14 year old boys and I have in common? A love of sports. They especially love basketball and ... BASEBALL. Which is what got me thinking. The point of this experience isn't just to teach them English. It's also to teach them about the culture of where we live, etc. Well, at first I was just thinking of things like basic geography, politics, and other boring things, but why not teach them about American SPORTS. All these thoughts culminated in this:

I can teach them all the different sports terms, especially in baseball, including the names of all the positions, balls and strikes (they actually do know ball and strike!), strike out, pitching terms, etc. Then it occured to me that the BASEBALL season starts in April!!! I am going to teach them all the different teams in the MLB, and then have them PICK ONE. And since I will be teaching TWO middle school groups at the center, i can have one group pick from the American League, and one group pick from the National League. We can set up standings, and have a little contest. It's going to take a lot of work, but it also enables me to follow the baseball season and consider it a part of work stuff :)

If anyone has any more ideas to add to this, it would be welcome, but I really like this idea! Of course I will teach them other english too, but i can build it around sports as well (when it gets warmer we can play a baseball game, and teach them tenses like i am running to first base and then i ran to first base... etc)!

Okay feedback welcome just dont dash my hope i really really really think its good.....


Seoul tomorrow!!!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mokpo today

Today my host parents (Moksanim and Samonim), Yi Sul, Matias and I went into Mokpo, a nearby city that i went to earlier this week to go to the lotte (its a grocery store, but its more like a target mixed with a grocery store and a costco because it has clothing, electronics, groceries, and samples that you can try!). Moksanim had some business to attend to there, and matias and samonim went to the public bathroom (its a sauna) but Ji Sul gets rashes from them so i decided to go with her around mokpo. we wanted to see a movie, but when we arrived at the cinema (its huge! .. over 6 stories) the only movies we could see were the unborn and Dragonball evolution (which i just wikipedia'd and it turns out it actually comes out in april in the US ha!). we decided to walk around mokpo and did that for a bit before we went back to the lotte and i bought some pens and we hung out at this fast food restaurant in the lotte. i got a lemonade and mozzerella sticks which were good!

We then went out to lunch (its very common to go out to eat ... happens probably every other day) at this place that nobody will believe i ate at. It was all seafood. i had crab and octopus (well a leg... and it took like 2+ minutes to finish chewing it... its tough) and shrimp. I'll eat it since i have to here, but not something im crazy about. its always good to try new foods though.
we came back from mokpo, and discovered that they are installing a shower in Matias' room! well it had a shower head, but no hot water thing so it was just cold water that came out. today they are in the process of putting in the hot water heater (i guess its like a gas heater... you turn it on and flames appear inside the box!)!! when matias leaves, yi sul and i are getting his room, so yeah we will have a shower in our room instead of having to walk down the hall to the shower in the office. Poor Matias.

In class today with the elementary school kids we worked more on the different clothing items and they are really getting it! I took some pictures of the drawings that we made to show the kids what they were. There is only one girl who really is having difficulty with this. I have worked with her twice now when we went into small groups, and I can't figure out how to help her anymore, so i talked to yi sul and matias who said that they think this is actually the first time she has ever learned english. she is very attentive in the class and is always looking straight at me and following my lead which is great. i hope we'll be able to get through to her soon!

^ Matius by our white board before the elementary school class. We were writing down all the different vocab we had been working on the past few days.

^ one of Matias' drawings with my labels on the drawing as to what everything is. it helps them to understand the terms to see it written and drawn on the board. Notice the t-shirt has "Boston" on it. It was Matias' idea he didn't even tell me he was doing it!!! I swear!!! I nearly died.

^ This is the shower attached to Matias' room. The box is where I guess the gas/whatever is that turns on the flames inside of it. It's pretty nifty but kinda weird to shower in the bathroom like that. The toilet is just off to the side out of camera range but yeah. Oh and notice the shoes right inside the bathroom door... we wear those whenever we go into the bathroom. its because the floor is always wet since the shower is right there with no boundary. Definitely something to get used to.

I have more pictures to put on, but I am now on Yi Sul's laptop and all my pictures are on the big PC in Matias' room so when i get back on that computer ill put on more.

Oh and this weekend im going into Seoul with Matias and touring the city with him and his parents. It should be fun!


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wow...past couple of days

Yesterday was such a high for me. A few days ago, Matius Yi Sul and I taught the elementary school kids go fish. They love that game! They had to ask "do you have a _____" and then respond with "yes i do have a ______" or "no i do not have a ______, go fish!" Sometimes the end part of that was left off, but they were really understanding it. Then yesterday surprised the three of us immensely. There is this 5 year old boy who is the brother of Che that i mentioned earlier. He is the youngest in the class by a few years, and I thought it would be hardest to teach him. Yesterday though without any aid from anyone he would say the entire line of yes or no. Everyone else would either just say yes/no and go fish, or would finish the sentence with help. Yi Sul and i looked at each other with amazement! We were so happy that he grasped the lesson so completely.

Today Matius and I were hanging out in his room and he decided to go for a walk so Yi Sul and i went with him. This "walk" turned into a huge hike! First we went all around the town to a part of the town I had not seen before with the wealthier houses. then we went by this farm, and then we started to go off the road we were walking on, and Yi sul and i followed. we proceeded to hike a LOT up this mountain-y thing. It wasn't a cleared path or anything and it was STEEP with no footholds most of the time. But then after a lot of sweat and cuts on our body we ended up at this fortress that overlooks our town. The view from there was GORGEOUS. Following are some pictures from today.

^ The fortress we hiked to.

The big white building is actually right across the road from where i am staying.

^ What a view!

This is like a 10 minute walk from where i live but still my town! Im so lucky.

OH and i found a new favourite food and it costs $0.33 !!!!!!!!!! (that is 500 won) Yes... that is right. 33 cents. It's called hotteok and yeah. I could have it every day.

Oh god... its loaded with sugar of course which is why its so good and unhealthy so yeah guess i wont be eating it every day but YUMMMMMMMMMM. the article cant even begin to describe the yummyness. ill take a picture the next time i get it.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009


^ Jindo bridge... its a ... 10-15 minute walk from where i am staying.

^ Once or twice a year the water parts in Jindo allowing for a strip of land to show. It is a huge tourist attraction. To the right is the photo i took at the location.

^ Ji Sul my friend/fellow volunteer with a cute puppy! It's a Jindo dog.

^ View at Jindo.

^ Ji Sul, my korean friend/fellow volunteer

On the train ride from Seoul to Mokpo, we passed a Costco! I felt like I was at home and took it as a good omen :) Probably the last american thing i would see...

^ Actual dinosaur track in Usuyeong!

Monday, March 9, 2009


Today at around 3:00 pm, I was told that our host mother Samonim (Samonim is not actually her name... i guess its like a title of respect) was going to Haenam (which is about 20 minutes away by car) and we could come with her if we wanted. It turned out, that her elder son needed new glasses, so we all along with her sons best friend and another community member went into this large van. During the car ride, Samonim told us that we were going to eat at a pizza restaurant in Haenam! I was so excited.

The pizza was also really good! So far at least with the people I have been with, the person that pays will actually order the food when you walk into the restaurant at the front. Everyone gets the same thing. Pizza in South Korea is pretty similar, except that they don't have individual toppings that you can order on the pizza. They just have a "common pizza" with various style crust or size that you can order. The common pizza has probably 3-4 toppings on it. Inside the crust that we got was a sweet potato filling... it was .. interesting. probably not something that i would ever order myself again but it was good to try. The rest of the pizza was really good though! That's probably though because I am craving western style food so anything at that point would have been good!

I got my schedule for from now on, which is really good. Pretty much this week I'm sitting back, and Matias is teaching this week (his last week) and then next week Ji Sul and I take over. It's a really busy schedule during the times that I am teaching, but you will also notice the last of any classes before a certain time. Yeah. it's definitely the life :)

4:20 pm - 5:20 pm - go to the Middle School in town and teach English to the kids
5:30pm - 6:00 pm - dinner
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm - Middle School 'A' class

Tuesday -
4:20 - 5:00 pm - Low level elementary school class
5:00 - 5:40 pm - Upper level elementary school class
5:40 - 6:30 pm - dinner
6:30 - 7:30 pm - Middle School 'B' class

Wednesday -
3:40 - 4:40 pm - go to the middle school in town and teach english to the kids
5:00 - 5:40 pm - high level elementary school class
6:00 - 7:00pm - Middle School 'A' class

4:20 - 5:00 pm - Low level elemetary school class
5:00 - 5:40 pm - Upper level elementary school class
6:30 - 7:30 pm - Middle School 'B' class

Friday -
4:20 - 5:00 - Low level elementary school class
5:00 - 5:40 - Upper level elementary school class

Mmmmm yeah I think i like my schedule :) Only thing though is that I do have to be at breakfast every morning at 8:30 am so its not like i get a big sleep in or anything :) But I can pretty much go to breakfast in my pajamas and then come back, go back to sleep and change later. Yeah. I don't mind it at ALL. :)


Saturday, March 7, 2009

another post!

Today Yi Sul, Mattias and I went to Jindo Island. We left at 10am after breakfast and were driven by Mr. Kim who is one of the adults in the .. community for lack of a better word. There are a group of adults who all go to the center I work at almost every day. He helps to cook the meals there, and other stuff like that. He also has an absolutely adorable little daughter named Chey-Ui who is 3 years old. Her mother died a couple years ago of stomach cancer. But yeah Mr. Kim, Chey and the three of us went to Jindo Island. First we went to this place with the most amazing view. It was really high up and had a great view of the area. Then we went to this little town on the island which was the home of a famous painter. Yi Sul, Mattias and I walked around a little bit and saw some of the paintings that were there. Then we all met back up a bit later and went to the bigger town of Jindo (the name of the main town is also the name of the island) and had lunch where we all had bi-bim bap! It was REALLLY spicey.

After lunch we were driven to a few more areas with some great views, followed by this one place on the island where once a year the sea parts... and this strip of land appears to one of the islands. The Koreans call it the miracle of the sea. There was a whole legend around it. But yeah it happens every year in May SOOOO if it happens before I leave we are going to go! Well I took some pictures of what it looks like when its just all water. I'm really looking forward to seeing it part! Apparently its a HUGE tourist attraction when it happens. oh no! i just went online to try to find more information on this event to better explain it on the blog, and it looks like it actually happens twice a year, once in february and once in june? if so looks like i wont be able to see it :( Here is a link about it though.

I have been taking a lot of great photos, but unfortunately i left the cable to read the camera card at home..but next weekend im gonna go to seoul and buy another one so that ill be able to upload photos. i dont wanna wait 3 months until i can show everyone pictures!


Friday, March 6, 2009

more update!

Yay I'm able to be online more meaning more updates. Yi Sul, my Korean friend who translates everything for me has her laptop here and is connected to the internet, meaning I don't have to bother the guy living in the next room over especially if he's asleep to use the computer in his room. It's also an old PC and hard to type on so yeah its nicer to use Yi Sul's laptop.

Okay so for more of an update on what exactly I will be doing here since I know more now that I am here. I will be teaching english/american culture to a class of middle school students, two groups of elementary school students, and then once a week going to the middle school in town and teaching an English class during the day. I have seen two of the classes at the after school program im in, and they are very informal. We are allowed to use the internet, show them movies, play games, etc. anything to get them actively using English, hearing English, etc. The classes seem to be about an hour long... and its hard especially in the elementary school age to get them to use English and learn it for an hour. Games end up being played a lot.

They also barely know any English. It's going to be a real challenge. Yi Sul is very good at getting the kids who are rambunctious at best to sit down and pay attention. She also broke up a fight amongst two of the older kids. I asked her about it, and she said it is because in the Korean culture you automatically have respect for those that are older than you, and since they all speak Korean, they have even more respect for her and will listen to what she says. This is VERY useful. She's going to be of great help in teaching the kids English.

The thing I am most nervous about is teaching English at the actual middle school. It's a more formal environment but the good thing about that is that they will pay attention in the class. At the after school program they really just want to get out their energy and I don't blame them. They were just in school for many hours... and the last thing that you want to do after school is sit through more classes. I don't know when exactly I start teaching at the middle school. They said that the schedule has not been planned out yet, but that they will tell me this coming week. Yi Sul and I are going to make a test for the middle school students to take when we first start so that we can see exactly what level we are at. Then we can go from there to see what to teach them.

There are a lot of cultural differences that I have noticed between Korea and America. A few of them I knew, a lot of them that I didn't. From going to high school with a lot of Korean students, I knew that they bow to everyone when you see them. Whenever I walk into a room with anyone (besides Yi Sul) I bow to them and say hello. I am starting to feel more comfortable saying it in Korean, so I think next week I will start saying that (ahn young ha se oh) or just ahn young to the kids.

Also, shoes come off before you enter anywhere. Even if its raining you stop before you walk through a door, take off your shoes, and walk in. The house where my host parents live as soon as you walk into the door they actually have this little cement square that you can stop and take off your shoes at and leave them there. then the actual flooring of the room starts and you are in the family room.

Showers are also really interesting at least where I am. I asked Yi Sul and she said that this is not how it is everywhere in Korea. Pretty much in the bathroom is just a shower head (you hold it with your hands). No tub or curtain or anything. There is a drain behind the sink so yeah you just kinda shower in the middle of the bathroom. The floor of the bathroom is constantly wet, so there are actually shoes in every bathroom made for being in the bathroom.

Food is also very different. Rice and soup is served with absolutely every meal. Breakfast is usually fish of some kind, kimchi, and sometimes leftovers from previous meals. The soup today was too spicey for me, and the host mother actually warned Yi Sul that it would be too hot for me. It was very kind of her to warn me. I tried it just to see, but indeed it was far too spicy.

Tomorrow we are going to Jindo Island which is the third largest island in Korea. It apparently has some really beautiful sights. I will definitely take a lot of pictures. A week from tomorrow (Saturday) is Mattius (the other volunteers)'s last day of volunteering, and we are all going to go up to Seoul (his parents are actually flying out for a week to South Korea when he is done and exploring it themselves) where Yi Sul actually goes to school and she is going to show us around.

That is it for now. I'm happy to be able to update more so that you guys can hear what is going on, although not much is happening just a lot of observing for now before the actual work begins. I'm really happy to be doing this. It is SUCH an experience and one that I will probably never have again. The people are all really nice here and friendly and inviting.


please work this time

Yesterday i wrote a really long post only to have it go away and a pop-up in Korean tell me why... which of course i didnt understand.

cant write much right now as im on the computer in the room in which someone is asleep and its a really loud keyboard but just wanted to update saying things are going well and im really enjoying my time.

tomorrow im going to this place called Jindo Island... supposedly beautiful views. Next weekend we are going up to seoul for the weekend!

thats it for now sorry for the lack of updates but i promise this will change!


Thursday, March 5, 2009


... testing 1-2-3

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Boston weather

Boston weather is completely messing with my travel plans. We are forecasted to get 10-15 inches of snow between late Sunday night and mid-day Monday. My flight leaves Logan at 6:10 am on Monday morning. Uhm yeah. Once I discovered this, we tried contacting United, but we would have to pay $2000 to schedule me for a different flight unless there is a waiver by the airline saying that from what I gather people can change their flight due to bad weather and not have to pay anything. Best case scenario has United posting a waiver for my flight, and then I would go on a flight to San Francisco tomorrow instead of Monday, and then catching my same fight to Seoul on Tuesday.

Luckily, I have a brother in law and sister in law (my sister's husbands brother and his wife) that live around 20 minutes away from the airport. If I end up having to arrive in San Francisco a day early, I am going to call them and ask if I can stay at their place instead of having to pay for a hotel. 

Please everyone cross your fingers for me that I can get out on time and make my connection in San Francisco. Good luck to everyone in Massachusetts with the incoming snow storm!