Tuesday, October 29, 2013

School Days and Seoul Ways

The plan for Wednesday was for the three of us to get up early and have Joonwoo drop us at the bus terminal before heading to work himself.  That was the plan at least, upon waking up I realized that I really was not up for a trip to Gyeongju. I though tagging along wouldn't be too bad, I could skip the temple (seriously they're all looking pretty similar these days) and then join in for some afternoon bike riding and finish the day with dinner with some of my Gyeongju friends. But then I found out my friends were busy and I realized I was dead tired, instead I left my brother and Katie detailed instructions on how to survive on their own, made my way home and slept for another 3 hours :) it was lovely.  I met them back at the bus station that evening and it turns out they did just fine on their own.  Joonwoo must have liked us because he canceled the plans he had with a friend and joined us for dinner instead, Gamjatang yummmmm.  That night we took it easy, showered, set up a nice floor bed for those two in my shoebox of an apartment and prepared for school the next day. 

Group picture with class 1-3

Beau and Katie just happened to be lucky enough to join me at school on Thursday, one of my busiest days.  I have six classes, including the 8th period which means we'd be there until 5:20pm, not ideal but at least they'd have the opportunity to meet many students.  The morning started early with class 2-8 who, per usual, weren't very talkative.  Since they weren't eager to ask many questions we resorted to a game of pictionary with my brother, Katie and myself each representing a team.  Thankfully they were into the game, especially once they decided that it was our turn to draw, I'd previously avoided this torture when playing i'm not an artist but i'm glad to say I survived.  We had a small break after our first class so I decided to parade my visitors around school and let the students attack.  They were greeted with the normal shrieks, laughter and shy "hello's" as we walked through the hallways, with many female students remembering my brother from last year. 

I had one more class, 2-4, before lunch and thankfully they were a bit more enthusiastic, or maybe I was just more away and able to prompt them on the discussion.  We filled the entire class period with free talking allowing the students to ask questions of the three of us and also saved some time for Katie to share pictures of her family and life back in Milwaukee.  Another short break, brief tour of my school and it was time for lunch, always a highlight of the day. Unfortunately lunch wasn't one of my favorites but Beau and Katie seemed to enjoy it none the less.  After we finished it was time for the students to file in which presented one of the highlights of the day.  As we waited near the lunch room I was explaining to Katie that she had to meet some of my 3rd grade students (my boys) whom I explained were similar to the F4 (you'd have to watch dramas) of Buksam High school.  Literally as the words came out of my mouth the boys strolled down the stairs as if they owned the school, each with their own unique style (fashionable sweaters/hoodies) added to their school uniform, which obviously sent me and Katie into a fit of laughter.

The rest of lunch was spent with more gawking, pointing, laughing and some actually talking between my students, brother and Katie.  A few third grade girls asked my brother to help them with their studies for their flight attendant test by reading through the script they have to memorize.  This of course sent many into laughter and amazement as the girls admired my brothers voice.  Actually throughout the day both Beau and Katie were told what good voices they have, which led us all to wonder what is a bad voice? 진화 one of my favorite third grade boys even took it upon himself to ask my brother for my hand in marriage, hey kids can dream can't they? After an hour of fun it was back to the classroom, or so I thought, but after about 20 minutes of waiting soon realized my co-workers must not be coming to class today (I teach an English discussion class for some of the teachers interested in practicing).  The rest of the afternoon was filled with enthusiastic classes which made a good impression on my visitors and definitely helped the time fly.

Class 2-6, too many class clowns to count
Final class, 2-5 always helping me to end on a high note
The school day ended with two of my co-teachers 이혜진 and 김지숙 treating us to dinner and coffee. We felt a bit like they were doing it just to be nice and tried to explain they really didn't have to but Anna [이혜진] insisted they really did want to spend the time with us, sometimes it's hard to tell.  We went to a new restaurant near school, which happens to be owned by my vice principal's brother in-law, to try some Sundae Gukbap.  The dinner came with mixed reviews but I don't think any of us were starving so it was probably for the better that it wasn't something amazing we wanted to stuff ourselves with.  The highlight of the evening (for me at least) was when Anna found out that I was planning to send Beau and Katie on their way to Seoul the next day and join them later in the evening after school.  "Oh no, we can have someone cover your afternoon class activity, I think you need to go with them at lunch time. It is your second year you should ask for more!" ~ Anna  So yeah, my school not only let me have the three days of mid-terms off but also allowed me to leave early on Friday so that I could head up to Seoul early with Katie and Beau, score

Had to get at least one action backpacker pic
Once we got to Seoul we headed straight for the hostel to drop our bags and then back to the subway to make our way to Hongdae to check out the Trickeye museum. They now have an added bonus of an ice museum, okay seriously why would that be fun no one enjoys being fun, but since it was included in the price of the ticket I popped in for a few minutes.  I was kind of tired so I don't think I really optimized my time in the museum, definitely didn't take as many pictures as I could have but it was still cool.  I hope Beau and Katie thought it was worth it and got some good pictures out of the deal.  

After the museum we explored the Hongdae area, tons of shopping, restaurants and bars so it's definitely one of the must see nightlight areas of Seoul.  It was nearing the end of the week and Beau had yet to have any Mandu so I was in search of that and I accomplished yet another travel request.  We enjoyed our dinner of Mandu with some drinks at the Hongdae playground, a popular area for doing just what we were, live music included. Beau's fried Pete now lives in Seoul so when he finished work that night (he works at a Hagwon = late hours) we met up with him in Namdaemun for some street cart drinking and snacking.  He was a big hit with the ajummas who crowded around to feel his muscles, probably the highlight of my night. It didn't get much crazier than that though because we were planning to get up early for some hiking outside of Seoul.

Come here - feel this! 
The next morning alarms were ringing at 7 with some of us up and moving much faster than others, seriously Beau is not a morning person. We met Pete a few subway stops away from where our hostel was and then made our way to the mountain base. We had no idea but apparently there was some festival going on at the mountain that day because there were hundreds of people, seriously hikers everywhere.  I began to regret the hike, thinking i'd be battling ajummas the entire way up but thankfully most of them were only there for the events at the bottom, before long we were alone on the mountain.  Pete somewhat challenged me to keep up with him which I thought wouldn't be too bad after my experience on Jirisan, but I think Pete might actually be part mountain goat. I kept a decent pace and we lost the rest of our group along the way but this was by no means an easy hike. We paused at the temple to wait for the others and catch our breath, oh and enjoy the awesome views.

After our short break, and hearing from Loudine that she was dying of blistering heels and that we should go ahead without her we decided to continue along.  I felt like I was in a bit of a race as we crawled our way up the mountain but before long we were at our next meeting point and decided the flat rock face would be a good stopping point for a snack, Kimbap brunch? sounds good to me.

Shots like these remind me why hiking is awesome 
After decending the mountain we treated our selves to some 개박 막걸리 [Awesome makeoli] before getting the subway home to shower (well some of us, I don't sweat...) and preparing for the rest of our day.  Unfortunately the day before Katie had forgotten her camera on the bus we took from Gumi, but being Korea she was lucky to have it found and waiting for her at the bus terminal.  I accompanied her to retrieve it while the others continued to get ready, eventually all of us meeting at 광장시장 one of the oldest traditional markets in Seoul. Our only intent here was eating, if your'e familiar with Anthony Bourdain it was similar to a scene out of his show, food stall to food stall sampling the local favorites:

빈대턱 Bindaetteok (mung bean pancake)
떡볶이 Ddeokbokki (spicy rice cake)
Once again we were full and ready to continue on with our day, seems this is a theme of the trip, walk/hike until you starving and then gorge yourself.  Pete had originally planned to have us check out the traditional village near Apsan station but we all decided we were tired of walking and up for some random exploration and drinking.  We made our way to Insadong but not without a few mishaps along the way; first Pete (and his phone) should not be trusted with directions, public bathrooms in Seoul are no good. Pete thought he found gold with the conveniently located toilet pictured below but as you can see, it was not very enjoyable. 
It smells!!!!
Insadong is one of the most traditional areas of Seoul, fun fact for the day: all of the store fronts have their names written in Hangul whereas throughout most of Korea you would find this in English (thanks for the info Pete).  There's a few main attractions in Insadong, one of which being the 'corn ice cream' which Beau fell victim to. Basically it's a big hood shaped ice cream cone made of corn which provides for great laughs as people walk around sucking on them, yeah you're mind went there.  We also made  a stop at the 'mall' of shops in Insadong (another first for me) where we made a few purchases and people watched.  I think by this point in the night we were really just killing time until we were hungry for dinner (the long awaited Korean BBQ) but I was rather enjoying our stroll through these traditional streets of Seoul, a much appreciated change form Hongdae or Itaewon.

Don't look too happy, kids.
We finally made our way to the famed Galbi restaurant that it seemed we had been hearing about all day.  Pete and I took care of the ordering and we were soon blessed with lots of pork, beef and of course some liquid libations to wash it all down.  At dinner I realized why I've come to love meat so much in Korea and it's because they know how to cook a pig, seriously USA take a lesson from these people. After dinner it was back to the streets where we followed Pete on a random goose chase to a beer pong bar that seemed to not exist. The other finally tired of walking so we all attempted to get in a cab only to be told we were not allowed to squeeze. Pete and I sent the others on their way planning to be right behind them in the next taxi.  Instead our determination kicked in and we went back in search of the beer pong bar (literally that's what it was called). A few hours later Pete and I found ourselves ending our third beer pong game while the others were winding down a noraebang session.  Fun was had by all it's just a shame we separated for the tail end of it.  

Soju and meat!! Huzzah
Where are we going!?
I can't speak for everyone but it's safe to say I throughly enjoyed my time with my brother and Kaite and am glad they had the opportunity to come visit before I move on from my life in Korea. It was a whirlwind of a week but i'm glad they were able to squeeze in so much, see a lot of amazing places and most importantly meet many of the wonderful people that make my life here so great.

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