Monday, April 29, 2013

Running like the Energizer Bunny

Fast forward two weeks and it's time for race number 2 - this time upping the ante a bit and going for the half marathon.  Honestly i'm not sure what I was thinking but I guess it is something that has always been in the back of my mind - on my bucket list. Especially after surrounding myself with runners - like my friend Peter from La Crosse who ran multiple marathons and always told me "just train, you'll get better at running and it'll be easy. I didn't believe him at the time seeing as I was lucky to run two miles, let alone 13.  I did find my love for exercise at La Crosse but running and I continued to have a love hate relationship. Come Junior year another friend of mine, Jeremy, once again spiked my interest in running but I didn't seriously considered doing a marathon - sure I toyed with the idea but never got much further than that.  Jump ahead a few more years, find me living in Korea, this time friends with Charles who also told me "oh they're easy, you can do it".  I again shook it off and continued with my light jogs and yoga - but then one day the energizer bunny must have been hiding in my shoes because I could just keep going. Okay so back to the point...I did it, my first half-marathon is done and in the books, success. 

But you have to keep reading for the story behind it 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Racing in Korea

As I briefly mentioned in a recent post I've finally found my running niche ~~ I really do think it has something to do with all the beautiful rice fields I have at my disposal, or the Kpop might have something to do with it to, although my friends believe I run on Soju fuel. Now that I've written a terribly incorrect run-on sentence (yes, i'm an English teacher) let's get to the point.  

A few weeks ago I ran my first race here in Korea, The Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Marathon [경주 벗꽃 마라톤] with my friend Charles.  Seeing as it was only preparation for more to come [keep reading] I opted to run the 10k, leaving Charles to take care of the rest (well the half course anyway).  
Let the games begin

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Finishing Strong

Just like that and it was time to pack our bags and head back to Buksam. Although there was plenty of the island left to see I was happy to be going home where I could sleep in my own bed, eat fruit and cereal for breakfast, and not have people constantly taking my picture (okay, that didn't really bother me all that much). After another delicious breakfast and a bit of chaos packing and organizing the students we were on our way. Our final destination for the trip was 성산일출봉 [Seongsan sunrise peak] which is apparently a huge tourist destination on the island, especially for the Chines tourist. We reached an area which actually just looked like the side of the road, but as we walked towards the shore I realized why we had stopped - the views were spectacular. A few hundred Kodak moments later we were back on the bus, heading towards Seongsan. We drove for maybe 10 minutes before parking again and being told it was time to walk. You should've heard the complaints coming from the students. You would've thought they were being told they had to climb Everest. 

A bit cloudy but still beautiful ~ 성산 일출봉

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

And the Fun Goes On

After the previous nights excitement and now two nights of fitful sleep, waking on Wednesday morning was admittedly a bit difficult.  I decided to forego breakfast (much to the dismay of my roommates),  giving me more time to get ready and enjoy some peace and quiet.  I knew i'd make it through the day after seeing the surplus of snacks the day before, so I passed on the morning kimchi. We were out the door again by 8 and ready for another day of fun throughout the island. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Next K-Pop Star

Remember way back when, oh maybe a year ago, when I raved about how awesome my school's festival was.  Little did I know I was in for a similar treat on this trip - although it was listed as "recreation" on our schedule I soon found out that meant freaking awesome dancing and entertainment. As we ate dinner I noticed DJ's setting up the room next store...strobe lights, spotlights, speakers, etc. so I knew this was going to be good. When it was time to start I chose a spot right at the front of the room, while the rest of the teachers drifted to the back, again I'm basically a student. I wanted to get some quality pictures and videos so I could brag about my students to friends and family. The MC started with some games, basically enduing embarrassment upon the chosen few who had to dance in front of everyone (or maybe not embarrassing - them seemed to be enjoying it).  


Friday, April 12, 2013

Touring the Island

Tuesday morning came way too fast with a wake up call blasting through the PA system - music included.  Breakfast was being served at 7am and I knew if I didn't go people would question what was wrong - why aren't you eating. As much as I give myself credit for adapting to the culture here, Kimchi at 7am is still not okay with me.  I shuffled through the line and chose some of the milder options - bean sprouts, fish cake and soup - it entertained me that there were leftover french fries from the previous nights dinner also up for grabs. 

Before long we were out the door and loading up the buses for a day of adventure. I was given a schedule before we left (all in Korean) but per usual our plans had changed - same destinations but all out of order. Thankfully that didn't matter much to me, I was just along for the ride. Our first stop was a beautiful coastal walk at a place I can't remember (or was never told) the name of.  Basically it was time to hear the students complaining that their legs were tired and it was too hot ~ not a good sign for the rest of the trip. Aside from the beautiful views and walking we took numerous pictures, the boys were hilarious (and gullible) as I got them believing my boyfriend was back in Buksam at my house while I was on this trip. I'm hoping these guys continue to talk to me back in the school setting because they were a blast to spend time with in Jeju ~ their true colors were definitely showing. 
This may be my new fan club 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Field Trippin'

So as I've mentioned multiple times, my school is awesome - I love the students, my co-teachers are helpful (most of the time) and my administration adores me. Last week I had the privilege to accompany the second grade students on their annual trip to Jeju-do, also known as the "Island of the Gods" and a popular tourist destination for Koreans and foreigners alike. Many teachers told me it wouldn't  be fun because I was touring with the students and wouldn't be able to see what I wanted on the island - okay fair enough, but let's consider the following: 1) I wouldn't have to come to school or teach for those four days 2) I'm going to Jeju (regardless of what I see the islands beautiful) 3) I get time to bond with the 2nd graders outside of the classroom and 4) Did I mention the principal wasn't making me pay?  - um yeah i'm not complaining.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sick in Korea

It's slightly amazing that I haven't written a blog post on this paradox yet, but I suppose I can chalk it up to the fact that I rarely get sick - knock on wood. Also, when I do get sick i'm not one to go rushing off to the doctor, I tend to live by the lost of rest, water and healthy food prescription. But now that i've been through the entire process I figure i'd break it down for you: sick in Korea - step by step:

Step 1: Get sick
Okay this doesn't really need it's own "step" but I thought i'd mention some of the common ways people wind up feeling like death.  Most likely is that you work in an Elementary school with hundreds of grimy little children - thankfully that is not me. Or maybe you just have a terrible immune system - again not me. Another likely possibility is that you've been to a party during cold season and played beer pong or passed around some delicious drink with your friends - okay i'm sure that's been me. But this time i'm chalking it up to the marathon field trip I took through Jeju last week with 250 high school students, strong winds, and little to no sleep.  Oh and follow that up with a school wide hike through the yellow dust sodden mountain on Friday, yeah Saturday my bed was my best friend. 

Step 2: Pretend everything is okay 
Usually when I wake up feeling like shit I drop an alka seltzer in a glass (thanks dad) chug it down, take a few extra naps and am feeling 100% by day 2 or 3. Hence why I never wrote this post - 2 steps is kinda boring.  But this time my cold didn't want to let go so on to step 3 we go...

Step 3: Be told numerous times how terrible you look
Monday Tuesday morning came (we had off Monday for the schools, birthday - another perk of teaching in Korea)  and it was time to go to school, oh great just in time my eyes decided to be puffy and swollen with a little red. My first thought had nothing to do with my own health but rather the comments I knew were coming from my staff. Although I haven't been terribly sick at school before I have been tired - and boy do Koreans like to comment on it.  The morning wasn't too bad with only a few "you look tired" but then as everyone was centered around the food table in our office Anna says "Stephanie, why does your face look so terrible today" I could do nothing but just laugh and shrug my shoulders. If I were new to Korea i'd be insulted but I'm used to it - in a way this is them showing concern, somehow it just doesn't translate very affectionately.  On the plus side though, I was sent home from school early yesterday so I could get some rest!

Step 4: Get ridiculed for not having been to the doctor yet
So once my co-workers discovered that I looked like s#!% yesterday the next question was, of course, "have you been to the Hospital?" First I should explain - any clinic or doctors office is referred to as the hospital here, so the question isn't as ludicrous as it first sounds.  Nevertheless, if you thought Americans rushed off to the doctor for any small cough, hiccup or fart; well you should see the Koreans. So of course seeing that it had been at least a day since i'd felt sick and I hadn't yet seen the doctor people thought I was crazy.  Also, there's really no acceptable answer to the "why" question.

Step 5: Suck it up and go to the doctor 
When I woke up with my right eye plasted shut I knew it was going to be an interesting day.  Surprisingly some of my co-teachers told me I looked better (maybe they forgot their glasses), but the "teacher tired" "why are you sick" "oooh red eye" "are you okay?" comments continued throughout the day - along with my growing headache.  So by the time my last class was over I decided it was time to pay a visit to the doctor. This is where the story gets the US to see a doctor you need to call and make an appointment, if you're lucky you can get something the same day and if you're really lucky  you won't have to wait for more than a half an hour in the waiting room. Not in Korea - I walked down the block to the nearest clinic, handed my insurance card and ID to the receptionist, sat in the waiting room for maybe 5 minutes and then was called into the doctors office.  Now maybe they do a little more background work and small talk with the Koreans but given our communication barrier the doctor cut straight to the point - where does it hurt, how long, okay let me take a look (eyes, throat and temperature).  Next thing I know i'm released back to the receptionist where I pay a measly 3,000 won (~$3) and am handed my prescription.

Step 6: Drop by the Pharmacy
Down the stairs, out the door and around the corner, i'm in the pharmacy where I proceed to hand over my mystery slip (it's in Korean, who knows what the doctor ordered) to the pharmacist.  Another brief wait before i'm handed my bag of goodies, pay another paltry 3,000 won, and am on my way.  So this is the REALLY fun part - the drugs. I've had friends tell me about it before but this is actually my first experience with the Korean mixed bag of cold medicine - literally I have no idea what the doctor gave me. I was simply told 3x a day, for 3 days - which was also written on the bag and really not that hard to figure out.

Baggies of drugs, legit 
Step 7: Wonder why you didn't just go to the doctor in the first place 
Okay so if you followed that post at all it's pretty apparent why Koreans go rushing off to the doctor at the fist sign of symptoms... It's quick, easy, painless, cheap, efficient..need I throw out more adjectives?
I guess i'm a little premature in writing this as I've only taken my first medicine cocktail so I can't really vouch for the effectiveness of the drugs, but as for the doctors visit A+ Korea, you win.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Happy Birthday Loudine!!

With the second school year under way it was back to focusing on friends and fun - and just in time because two weeks ago called for Birthday celebrations.  Loudine's Birthday was on Friday so after school we got dolled up and hit the town. We started with dinner at May cafe in Gumi which is super cute, I'll definitely be making a return visit.  This was actually my second time here but the first was only for coffee with one of my teachers so I didn't get to see how good the food was.  I usually avoid the "Italian" restaurants in Korea because they tend to be overpriced and not that great but I think i've found a new gem in Gumi. The food was good, decent wine and all at a great price! 
The angels (as our friend Crazy likes to call us)