Sunday, 31 May 2015

Beaches, Beer, & Buddha's Birthday in Busan

This past weekend was the celebration of Buddha's Birthday, meaning- a long weekend for us teachers! This time I decided it was time to explore South Korea's second biggest city- Busan.


We were Busan bound bright and early that morning. After hopping off of our express bus, we jumped right into the next mode of transportation- subway. No better way to truly experience a city and feel like a local! One successful subway ride later and we were off to check in to our hostel. We stayed at the Dplanspace Guesthouse in the Haeundae District, a bustling area right on the beach. This was a brand new guesthouse, and offered very clean and spacious accommodations. Would definitely recommend it to anyone travelling to Busan! After dropping off our luggage, we started our search for some food to satisfy our grumbly bellies. We ended up at Sharky's, a well known Bar & Grill in Busan. I ordered the Veggie Burrito along with a Belgium Wit craft beer, and let's just say it was a great decision. Potentially one of the best Western/Mexican meals I've had since coming to Korea, and I think my friends and their stomachs would also agree!

Veggie Burrito, Beers, & Avocado Cheeseburger (Sharky's)

Graffiti on the street our Guesthouse was on

After our satisfying meals we headed to the Busan Aquarium, right on Haeundae Beach. It was a bit pricey (\25,000), however it was pretty cool to check out!

Next on our list- Gamcheon Village! This place immediately captures your attention with the colourful homes, strategically staggered into the towering hills overlooking the harbour, the zigzagging alleyways leading to who knows where. It immediately reminds me of a place I've only seen pictures of- Greece. "Korea's Santorini", I later found out was it's nickname- for good reason. Perhaps even more fascinating, is the unique history behind this neighbourhood. From what I've learned, this was an area where refugees of the Korean war would settle; making it one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Busan. It wasn't until a redevelopment project in 2010 that really gained attention to this place, making it an art and cultural village that now attracts people from all over. We had a great time simply exploring wherever the road or alley would take us, stopping to take pictures and eat street food along the way.

We then ended the day by going out for clam and eel BBQ dinner. A delicious meal accompanied by (almost) equally delicious beer and soju. 


A more relaxed day spent wandering the streets of Haeundae, eating good food and drinking strong coffee. By late afternoon however, somehow the coffees turned into margaritas.....

Ate lunch at a delicious Turkish/Indian restaurant featuring hummus (hallelujah!) and curry, followed by some personalized nachos to go along with our margaritas at the Fuzzy Navel. We ended what was left of daylight by hanging down by Haeundae beach, drinking Korean beer and listening to a combination of different live street music.

A Sunday, and last full day well spent!

Cheers to you, Busan! I'll be back.


Monday, 11 May 2015

Happy 6 Months, Korea!

April 26th- the day I reached my six month anniversary of being in Korea. Also known as the midpoint of my contract.

I have lived, learned, and experienced an immeasurable amount during these past six months, yet I also feel as though there is still so much exploring to do. Boundless.

I am thrilled about this new spring season upon us and what the months ahead will bring. Since it's been a while since my last post, I figured I would do a general update of what I've been up to lately!

1. April Showers Bring......April Flowers?

Korea continues to surprise me with the unique beauty each season brings. Cherry blossom season has come and gone (far too quickly- only lasts about 2 weeks), but there are still plenty of flowers and signs of new plant life around to enjoy.

Cherry Blossoms in Yeongam, South Korea

Daisies across from my apartment

2. My Experience With Korean Hospitals

I've had the pleasure of visiting two Korean hospitals within the past 3 weeks. Korea doesn't really have walk in clinics here, so when you are sick, you simply go to the hospital. I've been thoroughly impressed each time. The first time I went alone, the second time with the help of my co-teacher. No appointment necessary, you simply walk in and you can see a doctor almost right away. The first time was about a half hour wait since it was a Saturday, but the second time I was seen immediately. And this isn't the emergency wing! I am covered under the National Health Insurance plan, which covers 50% of my expenses. Yesterday, the cost of seeing a doctor plus x-rays was around \8,000- roughly $8. My medication was another $8. Seeing a doctor, x-rays, and antibiotics all for under $20? Not bad! I feel very fortunate to be living in a country with more than adequate healthcare for reasonable prices.

3. Bronchitis

You may be wondering, why the two hospital visits? Well, long story short, I've had a bad cold for over 3 weeks now. After personally deeming it more than simply a common cold, it was time for a hospital visit. It was there that the doctor concluded acute bronchitis and whipped me up some antibiotics.

4. Mould

Well now, why the bronchitis?! It may have to do with this patch of mould that has been growing on my ceiling. After asking my landlord to fix it, he came in with a glue stick in one hand, and a scrap piece of wallpaper in the other. And yes, he glued wallpaper over the mould! A funny solution for a serious problem, indeed. I am currently doing my best to try to remedy this situation, which I hope is sooner rather than later.

5. Volunteering

Orphanages are quite prevalent here in Korea for many reasons (adoption regulation, abortion laws, and huge social taboos, to name a few). There is a group of English teachers who volunteer once a week at the local orphanage in our city. I recently joined this group, and I think it was one of the best decisions I've made since being here! Every Thursday from 7:00PM-8:00PM, we go and play English games with them. There are around 10 kids, so we usually split them into boy and girl groups. I, am with the boys! They are the most crazy, hilarious and fun loving boys. Despite being a different nationality and speaking a different language, so much of their behaviour reminds me of my brother back home, whom I deeply miss (Hi Marco!) As soon as we arrive, they are either A- hiding and getting ready to scare us, or B- have already gone crazy and are jumping up and down on one leg while screaming "Kangaroo Pizza!" They also seem genuinely interested in English, which is an added bonus. Many of them have Korean-English dictionaries and are always rummaging through them. On top of getting to interact with this great group of kids each week, I have also met some amazing friends through this experience! For those reading this who are already in Korea or thinking of taking of coming to Korea, I strongly recommend asking around and seeing how you can get involved! There is most likely an orphanage in or around your city.

Playing Bingo. They go crazy for it!

Throwing some magnetic darts!

6. Field Trip

A couple weeks ago I also got the privilege to go on my first field trip! This was extra special since I'm usually at my travel (High School) on Thursdays, but my main school (Middle School) asked if I could join them! All three grades of middle school packed on to three buses, school provided snacks in hand. We then drove to Jido to start our day with a hike- which the kids absolutely loathed. Meanwhile Teacher Laura is providing entertaining motivational speeches to any kid who will listen (or simply understand). Next was Jeung-do, a beautiful Island about half an hour from Jido. The teachers had the privilege of eating a delicious lunch at Treasure Island- a giant wooden shaped boat restaurant with a gorgeous view. The kids, well...they ate their parent-packed lunch outside.

The restaurant, Treasure Island

The delicious side dishes, banchan (반찬) that are served with every meal. They will always vary in quality and quantity, but these were extra tasty!

And there you have it. A very random, brief, yet also lengthy update of what has been going on over here in Korealand. Not featured above: last week we were lucky enough to have a five day weekend! I ventured to Seoul for the second time, where we rented bikes along the Han River, went to a Korean punk rock show, and attended a craft beer festival. It was quite the weekend! Two weeks from now we have yet another long weekend (three days) for Buddhas Birthday, and I will be heading to Busan! Excited to explore this big city by the sea. 

Until next post,