Thursday, January 13, 2011

Belated Holiday-ish

Christmas and the New Year came and went. Despite the task having been looming over my head for weeks, I simply cannot get myself to write much about either one. Not because there isn't much to say, but just because some things are better left unsaid. I do feel like I should at least post a couple pictures before I start traveling and the potential for a holiday post disappears... forever.

Christmas was spent with friends Shannon, Jeff and Jake down south in Daegu. We acted Christmassy and jumped off Woobang Tower. Yea, seriously. If you are interested in reading more about the Tower Jump (an amazing experience, I will say), check out Shannon's entry about the experience.

Aw, our little South Korea family  <3

Adrenaline rush!!!

And what would a new year be without some resolutions? Here are mine for the year 2011:

  • To be more vulnerable. To love with my whole heart, to be seen, to practice gratitude and joy, to do things without any guarantee, and to believe that I am enough. Inspired by "Researcher Story Teller," Brene Brown. My resolution had already been to be more vulnerable and then I watched her video and my struggle became easier to put into words. 
  • Accepting my own flaws. I think this helps in accepting others flaws and sometimes I have a difficult time doing both. 
  • Saying those things that aren't easy to say. I don't know exactly what it is that holds me back from sharing positive thoughts/feeling about/for a person or something they have done. It's like formulating the words seems too difficult, the comment not important, the thought somehow embarrassing (back to the vulnerability thing), etc. Something is holding it back. This past year, though, I read a quote (and I can't remember for the life of me how it went or who said it) about how those things that go unsaid are usually the things that would mean the most to another. It resonated with me and so this is a resolution.
  • Being more specific in making observations. "I like ________ because ________" instead of "I like ________" or even worse, "Good Job!" This is more-so a work-related resolution because I've found this habit to be more difficult with ESL students than when working in the states. It can also be relevant to life outside of work.
  • Ask more questions. Especially when being submersed in a new country, asking questions is important and I could absolutely do a lot more of it. It's flattering to others and educational for me. 
  • Learn/Practice Korean. Not much to say here except that I need to make this a major priority. 
  • Journal privately. I love the blog world and even though mine has been  feeling like a little home lately, there is nothing that should replace the expression of my deepest and most personal thoughts on paper. 

So there we have it, my resolutions for all to see. Guess I should probably stick to them  ;)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Weekend happenings: Cat Attic Cafe, Gwanakson, Hwayang-dong

Holy cow, tomorrow is Monday. The much needed weekend came and went (too fast) and was quite action packed. I'm trying my hardest to not solely live for the weekends because I should enjoy all days to the fullest, but I've reached that point that comes every winter. The one where, whether a student or employee, I badly need a break to clear my mind and then re-focus. Fortunately, mine is just around the corner.

Friday, Maria and Liu, two friends I met hiking, and myself visited a cat cafe called Cat Attic Cafe, located in Myeongdong, Seoul. Before even stepping foot in South Korea, I had read about these cafes where cats roam while guests sip a hot cup of joe. I wouldn't say they are the reason I traveled to Korea, but they played a pretty big part in my decision. OK, not really, but seriously, what's better than cats + coffee?

I was amazed to see they had a Bengal, a hybrid from the cross of your regular house cat and an Asian Leopard. These cats are beautiful and I've wanted to adopt one for quite some time. How great it was to finally meet one for the first time.  It was the most playful of the bunch!

This could be an alien, a human, or a cat. Hmm?

Maria and Liu

Getting to the Cat Attic is quite simple. Hop off the subway at Myeongdong on line 4 and take exit 6. Walk down the main strip for about 4 blocks and you will (or probably already have) spot the infamous person in a Garfield suit. Turn left, and the Cat Attic is to the left on the 6th floor. Maria and I got a little lost at first, but someone wanting to help us quickly knew what we were looking for after a simple "Meow?"

Saturday was to be my hike up Namhansanseong with Climbing Korea, but unfortunately, the 3-subway transfer adventure getting to the meeting spot proved too difficult after forgetting my directions at home. I somehow wound up at Konkuk University Station and realized: "Wow, I'm 10 minutes late and probably over an hour away." I gave up and, since it was a snowy morning, decided to explore Hwayang-dong, Gwangjin-gu outside of the station. It was still early, so the walk was quiet and peaceful. I'm not sure many foreigners exist in this area, because those that were out were all Korean and appeared nothing short of surprised to see me.

I needed a hiking fix and had finally invested in some crampons that I wanted to test, so I decided to venture away from Climbing Korea and try the Incheon to Seoul bike Hike Explore and More! MeetUp group. They were hosting a Sunday hike up Gwanakson (관악산), located in Seoul. A lot of Climbing Korea friends joined too, so it was a good mix of old and new friends.

The hike couldn't have been better. The sky was a bright shade of blue and snow blanketed the mountain, both contributing to distinctive human shadows that followed us throughout. We made it to the temple at the top before 1PM, which meant we received a free bibimbop lunch. When the sun started setting, it reflected off the buildings of Seoul, lighting up the city for us to enjoy from the mountain. Pa-jeon (파전), Jokbal/pigs feet (족발), and Makguli (막걸리) made for the perfect dinner and end to the hike. Makguli is a rice wine and since it is made of rice with more pro-bacteria than yogurt, is considered a main dish at dinner time and ever referred to as a food. Can't complain there!

Finally, a new camera :)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A rose for teacher (선생님).

Paper rose from a student.

Will (hopefully) buy a new camera today.

Baegun Lake (백운 호수)

Yesterday, one of my co-teachers and I visited Baegun Lake (백운 호수), which is in Anyang's neighbor city, Uiwang. It's man-made and was originally built for the irrigation of Mt. Baegun and Mt. Morak. Now, it primarily serves as a commercial hot-spot with restaurants (a good portion being western) surrounding its entirety.
The ice and snow atop were very pretty, but, to be honest, I wasn't too impressed with the lake. It's surrounded by a wire fence, which almost completely detracts from the experience. The area is very developed and you just don't get the calming effect that accompanies natural lakes, or even man-made lakes in natural areas.
What I did appreciate was dinner and this cute little bamboo bowl containing rice that came with it.

Still using my cellphone camera...sigh...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Self-portrait of a Wyvern Lover.

Never have I witnessed self portraits not be a success in either an ESL or non-ESL classroom. Bottom line, students love drawing themselves and they appreciate exploring who they are, so the silhouette and "I am..." poem combo was a hit with my 4th grade winter camp. Using the overhead projector, the teachers traced the student silhouettes projected on white paper. Students then wrote their poems (after review of some key phases and vocabulary...nice time to talk about personality characteristics). Students could also partner and draw one another, but we simply didn't have time. I still remember the silhouette activity I did as a 5th grader. I remember thinking how neat it was that it was my actual shadow on paper. And then the "I am..." poem is something that stood out in one of my favorite graduate courses: Multicultural Education.

Enjoy :)

My cellphone camera was accidentally on negative setting. Fyi, a Wyvern is a dragon/lizard/snake and apparently awesome.

: D / :] / :->

"Diiiiiing dong, diiiiing dong." The sound of my intercom sounded loudly this evening and was then followed by a quick melody. I still don't quite understand the system. I turned on the camera that shows a view of outside my door, but nobody was there. So, I opened the door and still, there was no one. At the same time a man on the intercom was yelling "Yeob-sae-yo (telephone hello)!" So I responded and somehow understood that there was a package downstairs for me. I guess a simple ding-dong means someone at the door and, if followed by a melody, means they are downstairs. Regardless, they can talk to me in my room from downstairs... hm.

 Anyway, I get downstairs and spot two large packages sitting on the counter: one from my mom, brother and cats and one from my friend/wife, Amy. I signed for them and then bolted. I guess I thought they would combust if I didn't open them within minutes because I did exactly that. Not a single piece of wrapping paper was salvageable, which is too bad because they were all so neatly wrapped. I was just WAY too excited to take my time.
Forgive the shitty quality of photos, my camera is a goner and I'm temporarily resorting to my cellphone camera.

Box #1- Love from Amy.

She kind of knows me ;)

They are as tasty as they look.

Last year we were together for New Years in person and this year it was via
skype. She sent me memories; the best part of the package :D

Package #2- Love from my mom, brother and cats- Mario and Luigi.

My cats live with my mom for 4 months and they suddenly acquire her

<3 <3 <3

Not bad brother, not bad at all.

BIRT'S BEES!!! And of course there was the underwear I requested. I
can't get myself to shop for it when being constantly watched.

Pre-New Year, there were these tasties from my friend, Tony.
And don't even say they are gross.

Being here in Korea makes me miss my family and friends, yes. But it also makes me appreciate them 10X more. It's absolutely true what they say: Distance makes the heart grow fonder. I'll admit, I shed a few tears when opening my gifts, but only tears of happiness. I miss and love these people so much :)


Saturday, January 1, 2011

A quiet Anyang morning.

I usually hike on Saturdays, but I took this one off. Lately I've been feeling like I need to slow down and get a grasp on things. I'm always going, going, going, so an uneventful Saturday was exactly what I needed.

I took an early walk and was surprised to hear, well, nothing. The neighborhood was abnormally silent and calm. I could walk an entire block without walking past someone, which is usually very rare. I appreciated staying close to home and I appreciated having absolutely no plans. 

I noticed some new signs at the street underpasses. My co-teacher had told me that subway stations are to be used as shelters in the case of an emergency. Ie. An attack from the north. It appears the underpasses will serve the same purpose. Good to know because this one is right outside my building!