Thursday, December 30, 2010

A week of snow.

That's right, an entire week of snow! Where I'm from, it might snow two or three times/winter and at temperatures barely reaching freezing level. the snow will melt after an hour or two, but not before school is canceled for the day. I miss the school cancellation part, but I love the snow being a semi-permanent attribute of Anyang's winter. Kids throughout the city love it too. Adults, not so much...they can't quite understand my excitement.

After the ultimate snowball fight, my students and I built snowmen.

Mt. Dobong (도봉산): cool cats.

Once upon a time (two weeks ago, to be exact), I hiked Mount Dobong, located off Dobongsan Station, line 1 and 7 in Seoul. I meant to blog about the adventure long ago, but find it difficult to put into words the invigorating sense of being I get when climbing the mountains here, this one included. So, I just put it off and put it off, until now. I'll keep the words to a minimal, for your sake and mine. (*^_^)/

Friday, the morning after my holiday party, I woke up at about 6am to my alarm and thought, "Hell no am I going hiking." That, of course, was just tired, grumpy, just woke up after a night of drinking hot buttered rum Lana. After about 15 minutes of laying in bed, I was psyched and ready to get a move on. The subway ride took about 1.5 hours and, careful not to break my hiking trip tardiness trend, I was late. Luckily, so were about 5 others, some much later than myself!

First giant rock of a very rocky trail. .

The first part of the journey was cake. Then, we entered the "no trail" zone and it gradually grew more difficult.

Korea's "Smokey the Bear"

Pregnant on peak 1/3. Must be something special about the mountain. 

Borrowed cramp-ons from my friend, David. Not sure the higher parts would have been possible without. THANK YOU!

Oh just some cats peering off the highest big deal.

Bird feeder. Had about 10 birds eating out of the palms of his hands...

Tried a new dish at dinner-time. Wish I could remember the name. ???

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Winter Camp: The tale of the the oozing Canapé

A lot of people strongly dislike winter camp, but I love it. I'm lucky enough to be at a school that is allowing myself and one of my co-teachers a lot of freedom in planning. With a small class that we get to see every day, this means a whole lot of fun. Planning/preparation was intense to say the least, but it was more than worth it to see the students as excited as they have been thus far.

What is winter camp you ask? School is out and it is now officially winter break here in South Korea. Winter camp is a little something extra, often for students falling behind in English class. They come to school for 3.5 hours/day for a week and participate in (for my camp), daily story line activities. Ex. cooks at the schools restaurant, the organizers of a garage sale, etc. It being only 3.5 hours long and everything having already been planned and prepared means I am working half days for two weeks. Perfect! Because I have some winter break planning to attend to... Departing for...drum roll...

Chiang Mai, Thailand on the 14th of January. Compare Chiang Mai's 85 F and sunny to Anyang's current 13-26 F and snowy and you might understand my excitement. For two weeks, I will be volunteering at an orphanage with Friends for Asia. Of course, there will also be some zip-lining, climbing, exploring, traveling, and massaging throughout and afterward.

The Tale of the Oozing Canapé, brought to you by my 3rd grade students:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dongzhi (동지)

Dongzhi is the 22nd solar term of the traditional east Asian calendar. It also marks the winter solstice. It usually begins on December 22nd (today) and when it does, many Koreans feast on Patjuk (팥죽), a soupy mixture made of red beans and containing little balls that feel and taste like rice cakes (not the American sort, but the chewy kind in Korea). Patjuk is believed to rid oneself of bad luck in the new year. In traditional Korean folklore, the color red is symbolic of positive energy that overcomes its negative counterpart. 

Every December 22nd, my school serves the entree and this year, I was here to participate. The flavor was like nothing I had ever experienced. The sweetness made it difficult to believe it even came from a bean. After the first bite, I was tempted to dismiss it completely. I kept eating, though...and soon enough, I loved it. 

So here's to good luck in the next year and longer days from here on out (moon, I love you, but hate your appearance when I've only just stepped out of work). 

Coex - Red bean porridge 팥죽

A Lunar Bike Ride.

Happy winter! Not only is today winter solstice, but there was also a total eclipse of the moon. How cool is that? Being in South Korea, it started at about 4:40pm (the exact minute I get off work). Unfortunately, the moon was not yet visible at that time. Still, I was dead set on at least catching the end. I waited and waited and finally, it got dark. I rode my bike to the Anyang River where, YES, I caught it. It was amazingly stunning and for about 30 minutes of listening to the river water flow and looking up into the sky, I forgot about just how horrible the day had been. Negative thoughts...all...just...faded...away.....

I love this bridge because the colors change from pink to blue to green. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Do do do do, do do do do...

Lights and some homemade decorations.
About two or three weeks ago, I spotted my first trace of Christmas in South Korea. It was at the bottom floor of E-mart and in the form of a mini, single aisle Christmas decoration and card section. The whole commercial aspect of the holidays generally bothers me, so the cheesy cards, fake trees,  and plastic ornaments were unimpressive. I did, however, score a string of Christmas lights. And to choose the correct color (they all look clear until lit), I had a semi coherent, very short Korean exchange with an employee. The same lady now smiles at me every time we meet. Anyway, besides the lights, the only other part of the section I enjoy is a musical tree that plays "Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle bells lock...Jingle bells sing and jingle bells ling." The song is just too stinkin' cute. I now find myself stopping to listen all too often.

Since the appearance of the musical tree and it's surroundings, I had been waiting for something to ignite that holiday spirit of mine. I made cards for those in the U.S. and in my heart. That helped, but still, something was missing. On Friday, that holiday emptiness started to fill when I woke up to a beautiful winter wonderland and then, that night, hosted a holiday party. I've met a lot of special people here in Korea and a great majority of them were in attendance. While not being near friends and family from home right now is pretty dang difficult, this was certainly uplifting.

A wintery walk to school.

In Korea, umbrellas come out the second flakes start to fall. 
Just a little further down the path, concerned students covered m with theirs.

Winter Wonderlands do not equal snow/no school days. :/

One student packaged some snow in a container and brought it to class. Funny thing is, it probably stayed cold.

I made hot buttered rum for the holiday party. Quite tasty, if I do say so myself.

White elephant gifts.

Kai-bai-bo (rock, paper, scissors) for the T-Money pass.

So content with the Hello Kitty pencils.

Belated birthday cake.

Perfect game for the perfect party.
The tune in my head.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


The level of cuteness and comedy that I encounter on a daily basis is almost unbearable.

Exploring the morning ice. 

Preposition Frosty. "The lion is behind the snowman!" AH

Yes, that is blood and heads for breakfast. 

Jet pack and space travel. Lucky kid. 

All in one day. I just wish the moon's appearance could come after I get off work. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dynamic Eco Adventure: Zip-lining in Moongyeong, Kyongsang

As a semi-newbie in South Korea, people are always telling me how everything is, works, will be, was, etc. (generally without being asked and in assumption that I couldn't possibly already know). Anyway, many told me that it would get cold, like really cold. Not that I didn't believe it, I just ignored the voices. I needed to experience it myself and now that it is -14 C, I understand. Geeesh! Somehow, someway, though, I'm getting used to it. I'm trying as hard as possible to resist hibernation.

This past weekend I traveled to Moongyeong in Kyongsang province for some zip-lining. Myself and 45 fellow MeetUp-ers loaded a chartered bus early in the morning and about 4 hours later, arrived at Dynamic Eco Adventure, Zipline.  We split up into 4 groups that departed for the courses in increments of 20 minutes. My groups name: TEAM AWESOME and dangerous. I might be a tad bit bias, but I think we were the coolest ;)

When it was our groups turn to head up the mountain, we loaded into the back of a truck and hit the road. The ride to the start was an adventure in itself. Icy roads and steep cliffs were a frightening combination. The though of zip-lining had yet to scare me, but I must admit, butterflies filled my stomach as the top of the mountain approached. Then, the truck stopped and suddenly, I wondered what in the world I was thinking in signing up for the trip. We unloaded and the instructor began with the overview in Korean. Luckily, we had an English+Korean speaker with us to translate. The rules were pretty basic, but at the time seemed like too much to remember.

To determine who would zipline first, we were to spin a wooded wheel. If you were to land at a certain place, you'd be the lucky candidate. Simple as that. When the time to spin arrived, all went silent as each of us looked around to check for hands in the air. In hopes of alleviating the awkward moment, I raised my hand and at that very moment, so did my friend, Faraz. But the all too kind instructor was quick to say: "Ladies first!" So, I spun and was safe with the result. And so, the guide moved the wheel to the unluckiest of positions. How could I argue with the language barrier? I thank him now.

At the top of the wooden staircase AKA the launch pad, I took a deep breath. The only thing I could do to continue was draw an absolute blank in my mind. So I did. I counted to 3 and ran down three stairs and about 3 feet of flat platform and then, WHAM, I was flying over trees. Every Team AWESOME and dangerous member experienced a teensy bit of fear at first, but we all let go after that first plunge.

Throughout the rest of the 8 courses, the guide had three phrases for me: 1. "You are a Doberman!" 2. "You are superwoman!" 3. "You are hell!" OK, he barely spoke English, but pulled these statements out of his pocket. I wasn't sure if they were positive or negative, but I was certainly impressed.

Gift that made my evening. From Jillian :) Thank you!
Flying and viewing trees from above were not the only splendors of the trip. Also, as with all MeetUp trips, I made new friends and became closer with older ones. It was grand. Oh, AND, I think the guide's statements were positive because at the end, I won a set of pencils. It was never clear why, but they were made solely of paper and lead. SCORE!

I could probably go on for much longer about the end details and gloriousness that accompanies the people in this group, but I'll stop because I have some dancing with my Ipod, wooden floor, and socks (new from my lovely, Jill Peer) to get back to.

Ah hey, blue sky!

Beauty everywhere. 

Team AWESOME and dangerous shadows. 

Dynamic Eco-Adventure from Lana Wright on Vimeo.

As usual, I miss you mom :D