Saturday, October 30, 2010

Jebibong Mountain, Chungcheongbuk-do

Hands down, today was my best day in South Korea thus far. I recently joined the "Climbing in Korea" meet up group and went on my first trip with them today. Everything about the day was perfect- the hiking, the environment, the people, the final ferry ride, dinner, and of course, karaoke on the bus ride home. The hike was intense, but at every resting point, I felt elated. Also, I should emphasize just how great the people were. Imagine a mixture of Korea natives and foreigners of all different ages and personalities sharing stories, food, and laughs (constant) on a mountain and a river surrounded by autumn oranges, reds, and yellows. Pretty nifty, right? As different as everyone was, we all shared a love for the nature surrounding us and a sense of comradery that I simply cannot adequately explain.

jebibong Mountain Hike, Chungcheongbuk-do, South Korea from Lana Wright on Vimeo.

Jebibong Mountain Hike, Chungcheongbuk-do, South Korea- From the top from Lana Wright on Vimeo.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Miso: Original Korean Musical

Long week. Staying in. Eating some kimchi and drinking a beer. Stumbling. Listening to Ray LaMantagne and thinking about people from home. Was definitely in need of a relaxing, me-night. Tomorrow, I am traveling to Jebibong Mountain in Chungcheongbukdo (South Korea's central province) with a MeetUp group for some hiking. Everything I've read has said the area is absolutely amazing during the fall season.

Yesterday, my co-teacher and I had quite the day. After classes, we visited a nearby school for an "open class," or lesson that is open to the public/other teachers. The co-teaching team was inspirational. Their students were having fun, learning English, and performing way above average. This was particularly impressive, as the school is located in a lower income area and performing much higher than my wealthier students. As with in the U.S., schools located in lower income neighborhoods of South Korea receive extra funding. The difference, though, is that low-income schools in the U.S. are still performing much lower than their wealthier counterparts.

Every time I try to pinpoint the issue in our school system (not to say they don't exist in the South Korean school system), I wind up with a giant headache because of how complex both the system and its issues are. One thing that I will not argue against, though, is the need for teachers to be held accountable for being good teachers. And no, I don't mean by students' test scores. That is the lazy method and has, not surprisingly, proven ineffective. Why not have open classrooms in the U.S., where teachers are critiqued based on their actual teaching and have the critique be in the form of valuable feedback by others actually in their profession (not the puppet-holders)? Sigh...

Anyway, after the open class, we visited Insa-dong Cultural District in Seoul, which was amazing. Basically it was hand-made, local jewelry heaven. Not only did we buy pretty jewelry, but we made it too! But not before eating the tastiest tofu meal I've had in my entire life. Jung-gu, Seoul was then our last stop, where we watched, "Miso," the musical. It was the perfect way to end the night. The loud rhythm of the traditional music made me feel alive.

Beautiful love story, “Miso”
A story where a young couple in Chosun Dynasty meets and falls in love with the background of Korea’s beautiful four seasons, spring, summer, fall and winter.  On one snowy day in winter, Seolhee (meaning snowy girl) who is as pure as snow bumps into a man. Their encounter evolves into love as warm as spring breeze after cold winter days and they spend a great time which seemingly lasts forever.  Unexpected parting gives them a chance to ensure their true love.  They dream of fantastic and romantic love, promise their everlasting love and throw a party. In “Miso”, one woman’s love story is expressed through Korea’s traditional melody and dance. You can experience the beauty and excellence of Korea’s unique traditional culture such as Korean dancing, Korean instrumental performance, Korean traditional percussion quartet and Pansori (a traditional Korean narrative song). 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Seoul Zoo: Let the Good Times Roll

Today the teachers at my school went out on a little "get out of the school and bond" adventure, something most public schools in South Korea partake in. All teachers headed to Seoul Grand Park and myself, my main co-teacher and part of the 4th grade team took on the zoo. I don't exactly like zoos unless they are of the rehabilitation/save/protect sort and I'm about 150% this one is not, but the teachers wanted this and you know, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. 

We had a blast and I learned that a good majority of Koreans LOVE taking photos, so we took a ton.
After our adventure, the teachers all met for a feast of about five different duck dishes. Talk about tasty. Mah-shee-ddah!

Seoul Grand Park- Seoul Zoo from Lana Wright on Vimeo.

When I got home, I took my nightly bike ride along the Anyangcheon River, but this time went the opposite direction. Surprise, I discovered some beautiful fountains!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Broth no a bear?

I cried on my way to work this morning. No, not because I'm sad, but because last night the weather literally dropped 25 degrees. At about 8am it was 36 degrees F and according to, felt like 29 degrees F. And this was not just any 36 degrees F, but with strong winds forcing a constant clenched jaw and waterfall snot and tears. Nearby school, I walked up to a crosswalk and encountered the vice principal of my school. It's really difficult for the two of us to communicate because of the language barrier, but he kindly took my hand and rubbed it with his. This may sound strange to some, but it was purely a kind gesture and reassured me that I am appreciated at the school. 
South Korea is known for having four distinct seasons, meaning, unlike the Pacific NW's 2 weeks of summer, 2 weeks of fall, etc...and so on tango dance, the weather will switch in a day and stay that way. But every native I've talked to is surprised that it has switched this early, so whether or not it will stay, I am uncertain. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining because I can already tell that fall around these parts is going to be absolutely breathtaking.
And lucky for me, I will be enjoying every last bit of it on my new bike. A new friend in the area decided that she no longer wanted hers and so she sold it to me. SCORE! and thank you, Jenna :) Since I've gotten it, I've been riding along the Anyangcheon River every day, usually at night. The wind in my face, city lights on the water, trail separate from cars, and the perfect combination of hills that provide me with that funny feeling in my stomach combine to make me feel free as a bird (cheesy, but serious!). I love work, but afterward I feel exhausted. Biking creates this separation from work and my personal life, like during and after biking, is my time and teacher-Lana has been shutoff. I love the re-energized feeling and it certainly doesn't hurt that Anyang is an extremely bike friendly city. 

Eye candy for your enjoyment: 

Met a friend from orientation in Myeongdong, Seoul for some shopping. The early me enjoyed a cup of joe. Stronger than most, but still not strong enough.
And we had these tasty treats. If you know their name, please share. I forgot, but must have another. 

Call me Chef Lana because I made eggs, tiny eggs and they are more difficult than large ones...

First time in Suwon. Please notice the female hand in the male back pocket. 

Dean, cheesecake, kiwi smoothie, coffee, and zebra print seats. 
Full moon two nights ago. 

That brick building on the left, that would be my school. 

I wouldn't dare end this post without more English t-shirts.  

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sundae Adventure

Sundae- pig intestine stuffed with blood clot, noodles
and vegetables served with liver and lung. Also pictured
is Duk Bok Ki. 
I can now check off my third item from the top seven exotic dishes for foreigners because tonight I ate Sundae (순대). No, not an ice cream sundae, but pig intestine stuffed with animal blood clot, noodles, and vegetables. My Sundae dish was mixed with pig liver and pig lung with Duk Bok Ki on the side. It was more appetizing than it sounds, trust me. 

My friend that works at the neighborhood coffee shop and that is a Korea native (also the same friend that introduced me to beondaegi or silkworm larva) took me to the older, original downtown neighborhood of Anyang, Manan Gu. Dongan Gu, which resides toward the east of Anyang and is the newer, wealthier downtown neighborhood is where I live. I love both neighborhoods for different reasons. 

My neighborhood has smaller, somewhat traditional feeling outdoor markets, but they are nothing compared to Chungang Market, or Central Market, which we explored after our lovely meal. The labyrinth-like outdoor, but covered market could be the destination for the next skittles commercial. You have your red apples, yellow bananas, green lettuce, orange tangerines, purple grapes and then also scarves, sweaters, furniture, and prepared food all demonstrating just how beautiful the colors appear when mixed. I settled on some delicious apples.

Chungang or Central Market in Manan gu, Anyang, South Korea

After getting home, my friend texts me, "Be careful princess, that is a poison apple." Despite his English being rocky and my Korean being far from conversation level, we are still able to share some pretty comedic moments. Working as hard as we must for the other to understand makes the laughing response that much more satisfying. One of my goals coming to Korea has been to improve my ability to maintain friendships, something I felt I very much struggled with at home. So far, I think I'm making some pretty decent progress. 


Today I heard a group of my 5th graders teasing one another in English. Top insults:
  • "Her name is...." in reference to someone that is a boy and vise versa. 
  • "She/He is my grandmother/grandfather." 
  • "She/He is my baby." 
I could not help but crack up. In fact, I couldn't stop my laughing and had to move away so that I was not supporting their bickering/sluggish work progress. But seriously, at least they were using English in English class. Quite creative if you ask me...

And then I read shirts such as this on a daily basis; shirts that the students nor the teachers understand. Just me. How on earth am I supposed to keep my composure? 

4th grader. 
I've added the tag "English Shirts" because I'm certain I must start documenting these on a regular basis. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


"R/L (rolled sound) ANA, LANA!" as I exit the school gates. I look back and three of my students are eagerly trying to get my attention despite my head phones being on. 

I say, "Hey girls! Hope you have a great evening!"

One girl responds, "I LOVE YOU!" with 100% sincerity. 

And I shout, "I LOVE YOU TOOOO!" 

"I'm glad!" as she smiles in the midst of her most perfectly awesome mushroom hair-cut. 

Little moments such as this are what get me through my home-sickness.

What does not help is making the post office lady upset for not knowing enough Korean, so I shall go be trendy and study Korean at the coffee shop (yes, it's a fad in Korea too).

They sell the shirt globally.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Anyang Market: Scarves, squash, and oranges.

Today I'm feeling much better after a very sickly weekend. Mondays are always rough because I can never seem to wake my brain up in time for my body's arrival at school, but it caught up soon enough. Mondays can also be difficult because I have three 6th grade periods. Quite frankly, 6th graders are not always easy to motivate, but when we reach success, it is also the most rewarding out of all grade levels.Today happened to be a day where I was able to excite them with a pretty nifty speaking/bingo activity. What caught me off guard, though, wasn't that the 6th graders were enthusiastic for once, but that in the midst of everyone going gung-ho over trying to be the first winner, one student approached me and began sharing his aspirations to travel to America. As we continued talking, it was clear to me that his decision was anything but a childish fantasy- he will travel to America. When I was in 6th grade, I didn't even know where South Korea was and here I am now. I guess the point that I am trying to make is that so many of my students and even adults that I have encountered here in Korea are on a straight-lined path, there goal being visible to them from the starting point. It amazes me. I can't really say if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but just that it's different from what I see the America. Certainly it is respectable to make goals reality with the amount of hard work that I see surrounding me.

After a good end to the school day, I later found myself at the traditional Anyang Market, one of my favorite places in Anyang. Even before the beautiful scarves and ripe oranges that I have been craving since my arrival, my favorite sighting was the giant pumpkin-looking squash. With fall here, I'm seriously wanting to be on a pumkin patch. The one on Sauvies Island would be just perfect. But I'm pretty sure these squash will be the closest that I will get

Friday, October 15, 2010

Just another lemon tree.

Just one of "those days" that I think all expats in Korea experience. Blah, blah, you know...TGIF.

Outside the window @ school. I need some of this Vitamin D.

This video was used in a lesson today and I love it. I know it is pretty commonly used, but it was my first time seeing it today. Great for South Korea's Grade 5 "What are you doing?"
Hiking this weekend FOR SURE.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Beautiful Store

The Beautiful Store
Weeks ago, one of the first people I met in Anyang told me about a secondhand store called The Beautiful Store.  Having quickly realized that the majority in Koreans are less than enthused about the idea of used clothing,  I was surprised. This could be completely off base and no where did I officially read this, but through the grape vine, I have heard it has something to do with a traditional belief regarding the previous owner continuing to "haunt" the article of clothing. I guess I wouldn't care for that either. Anyway, the news of a secondhand store in the land where they are spares excited me and so my friend wrote down the name of the store in both English and Korean for me.

After school today, I suddenly had the urge to visit. I had not a clue where the store was located (being the case with most new places since Google map is in Korean), so I hopped in a cab conveniently sitting outside my building and pointed to the name written in Korean characters. The driver laughed to his friend (another cab driver out front) and then we were off. About 15 minutes later and about 15 minutes of fearing for my life in one of the most terrifying cab rides of my life, I arrived at a tall brick building. After accidentally walking into the donation center and being told to head upstairs to the second floor, I made it inside the store. And it was, indeed, beautiful. I purchased two dressy jackets and a skirt for 10,000won (~9 USD), but had the place not closed 15 minutes after my arrival, I would have purchased much more. 

 I like the bag. 
The clothing, though, is not the greatest part about the store. Instead, its the foundation in which is lies. Proceeds from the sale of donated goods go toward numerous projects that support the community, citizens of the third world, emergency relief funding, etc.

From their brochure:

There is nothing in the world which exists alone. Humans, humans and nature, cities and countries, all the nations and peoples, and numerous communities are in need of, and linked to each other. There is nothing in our ecosystem free from a relationship with everything else.

For anyone in Korea in search of secondhand stores or and opportunity for volunteer work, by all means, I recommend The Beautiful Store. It sounds like they also host an expat garage sale, and sponsor a design company with the goal of sustainability in mind. HOORAY!

And a cute little red-eyed bugger just for you.
After school sun lit up only my Portland photo.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Really, a month?

Today marks the day that I have officially been in South Korea for one month. When I'm experiencing something new it feels like just yesterday that I arrived, but then when I am proudly and comfortably teaching one of my 24 classes, navigating the subway (I actually gave subway directions this weekend), or easily scarfing down familiar Korean dishes with perfectly placed chop sticks in hand, it feels like I've been here much longer.

There are few things about the country and its culture that I am not head over heels in love with. One thing that I just can't seem to dismiss, though, are the intense group stares that I sometimes receive from the older population. Specifically, when I am walking down a familiar walking/bike path on my way to and from school, groups of literally 5+ older women lock eyes on me, not flinching nor changing their facial expressions, until I am out of site. I smile, nothing. I wave, nothing. I certainly cannot begin to understand the reasoning behind such actions, legitimate or not, but do know that it is far too much to handle early in the morning or after an entire day teaching. Any other time, patience can persevere.

So when I stumbled upon the 1000 Awesome Things Blog, a blog dedicated to documenting the moments that brighten out days, and read number 399, "Discovering a Shortcut Home," I grew inspired. Sure, the lure of the walking/biking path's trees, benches, street stands, and children on their way to school is enticing, but the stares...they were enough for me to set out in search for a new track. And what do you know, I found one via sidewalks and it is, indeed, shorter and I, indeed, get to cut through a parking lot (something the blog glorifies), which makes it feel even better. The walking/bike path and I will reunite very soon, I'm sure, but as of now, we are on a temporary break.

In other news, I finally purchased a rice cooker or Cuckoo. Operating it was a little difficult because all buttons are in Korean, but tonight I managed to successfully prepare some rice for dinner! It was a much needed treat after having a cold hot dog for lunch, the first school lunch that I have disliked and the first school lunch that has been even remotely "Western." The disappointment was a surprise to me since just yesterday, students told me that they had not liked the lunch, but they were excited for the food the next day. Guess I'm still just eager to indulge myself in mainly Korean food.

And I'm pretty sure I can eat as much of it as I want because next week I start yoga and a fellow Anyang resident has offered to sell me their bike that they no longer ride. SCORE! Everyday I think to myself: "I wish I had a bike, so that I could..." and now I will hopefully be able to say: "Now that I have a bike, I can..." :)

Beautiful Marigolds outside my school remind mm of home.
Happy autumn. The leaves here are beginning to change.   

Monday, October 11, 2010

Eye Candy

Twas an action packed weekend. Rather than ranting, I'll let the videos do the talking.

Ahn nyeong from Anyang, South Korea from Lana Wright on Vimeo.

International Firework Show, Seoul, South Korea from Lana Wright on Vimeo.

Cub Scouts of Anyang, South Korea from Lana Wright on Vimeo.

P.S. I think I'm starting to sweat the scent of kimchi. Not that I mind, just saying...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Korean Pogs

Between classes, my students are always playing the most interesting of games. I usually try to play and usually lose. What I found today, though, was by far the best game-find: Korean Pogs or as it is called in Korea, Dak-ji. 
Pogs and Dakji are almost exactly alike except for two major differences. First, there are no slammers in the game of Dak-ji, only regular pieces and second, there are points assigned to each Dak-ji piece. I did not have time to join a game today, but I will soon and I am CERTAIN that this is a game that I will win. I was a Pog master in my early years. It's too bad Pogs have been forgotten in the U.S.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dreaming Korea

Lately, a large portion of my dreams take place in South Korea. It doesn't seem all that weird considering this is the place I see and experience on a daily basis, but it came as quite the shocker to me. The best thing would be if the language of my dreams was Korean, but that just isn't possible quite yet. Although, I did begin learning the Hangul consonants and vowels today.

I wont type too much because I'd prefer to simply post visuals of all that has been happening. It's certainly been a busy past couple weeks. Not photographed:
  • Learning the game "Rock, scissors, paper," from students (same game, but slightly tweeked) + My students are totally opening up to me and so, we are all able to have a little fun while learning. In return I taught them high five, pound, explosion. They love it.
  • Students beginning to recognize and talk to me outside of school throughout the city + Enough said.
  • The bowing throughout the hallways disappearing and turning into "Lana, teacher, Lana!" :) + The bowing is very respectful, but it always feels like an end to the encounter.When they call me name, they are ready to talk. In the hallway is where I get to have casual conversations with them and really get to know who they are.
  • Finding a place to purchase books written in English and discovering the book "Immortal Unicorn,"S. Beagle compiled by Peter + If you are looking for used books in English in Anyang, you can find them at Beomgye station. Sure they are mostly romance novels, but if you looks close enough, you will find something good. There must be better places for books, but I have not yet found them.
  • Witnessing a man on the sidewalk that had been hit on his bike by a car - I stepped out of school and heard the yelling and the crash. After walking a block away from school, there the man way laying on the sidewalk. Just as I walked up, an ambulance arrived. Some of my nearby students hardly seemed phased and said that this happens all the time. I guess I'm not surprised because the driving situation around here is anything but safe.
  • Being smooched (without consent) by native men on two different occasions - I don't think either of the incidents were dangerous, but it was definitely a wake up call. I feel really safe where I am, but I think I need to make sure that I am still setting boundaries when talking to strangers. And perhaps stay away from those that have drank to much soju.
  • Being added to the Cool Messenger (similar to AIM) list at my school + Made me feel accepted.
  • Learning to ride the subway + Now I can go ANYWHERE
  • EATING tasty foods +
  • Getting the computer back up and running +++ 
OK, so I typed a lot. Time for some pictures:

Ate Vietnamese food for dinner one night in
Pyeongchong. The Pho was absolutely amazing.

Came across the Anyang Festival. Here a young
girl sticking money to a donation board. Clever technique! 

At the festival, my friend Jake and I were offered a chance to try on
some traditional Korean clothing. We also signed something in Korean,
so I wouldn't be surprised if we spot ourselves on a bus somewhere...

Took a trip to Myeong-dong, Seoul in search of computer parts.
Can'twait to return for some shopping.

Also traveled to Yongsan, Seoul to explore the 9 story electronics i-Mall
and eat some lunch.

There was a yoga extravaganza taking place in the area. Wish I could
be a part.

Last night of the Anyang Festival- a whole lot of good music
and dancing.

That, of course, ended with fireworks.

Out with the new friend.

I asked him to surprise me with a new food and he ordered us
Beondegi (silkworm pupae). Even the Native Koreans that
I share this story with cringe, but it really was not bad.

I don't think there is such thing as a boring night in Beomgye.
When do people sleep?

Dear PC Bangs, Thanks for the assistance when my laptop was
out of service, but to be honest, I ABSOLUTELY DESPISE YOU.
FYI, Microsoft Word > World of Warcraft.

Sometimes when I am high above ground level in building,
I creep. This guy caught me. Oops!