Monday, 26 October 2015

Six Things I've Learned During My First Year in Korea

Cheers to one year in the land of kimchi! Happy Anniversary, Korea. I've learned a lot from you, so let's break it down into 6 nicely organized bullets.

1. A Whole New Alphabet

Sometimes this still blows my mind when I think about it too much. The fact that I've learned, practiced, and implemented a whole new letter system into my daily life?! Crazy. Something (I hope) I will never forget. 

In all honesty, half the time I don't know what I'm reading, since my vocabulary is still growing. However, knowing the written language facilitates the acquisition of the Korean language in general, and definitely eases some stress in daily life. For example, making sure you are getting on the right bus, reading the school timetable, etc. It is especially useful when it comes to food, since Korean actually borrows many words from English. For example, on a menu, if you read "치즈 피자", it phonetically reads as chee-jeuh pee-ja. AKA...........cheese pizza! There is no "z" sound in the Korean alphabet, so the Korean-ization of some English words takes some getting used to. Along with putting on a Korean accent while using English words!

2. Navigating a New Transportation System

Learning the alphabet and Korean language is also super useful when it comes to the transportation system. Whether it's directing a taxi driver to my apartment, busing to a different city, taking the subway in Seoul, or booking bus tickets on the smart phone application. These once stressful and anxiety filled experiences are all second nature to me now. This makes life, especially weekends (which are supposed to be fun filled, duh) much more enjoyable and stress free. 


3. Feeling Comfortable Eating Alone 

Not only feeling comfortable, but straight up enjoying it! Before leaving Korea, the thought of eating in a restaurant by myself would have scared the shit out of me. Since cooking and grocery shopping were big adjustments for me when I first got here, I ate out a lot. I still probably do this (maybe) once a week. Kimbap, bibimbap, kimchi stew, ALL THE KOREAN FOOD! Eating out in Korea (Korean food, for the most part) is very cheap and pretty healthy.

Just watch those sodium levels and refined carbs! *Rice overload*

4. Teaching Isn't My Forever Job

Teaching was always a "maybe" career route for me back home in Canada. Although I really do enjoy teaching in Korea, I now know it's not my forever job; not here nor back home! I know the experience back home would be totally different, however I still feel confident in saying it's not the career for me. In fact, I don't think I want one career for the rest of my life at all. But more on living micro lives and multiple passions later......

Nevertheless, I will still continue to enjoy my teaching here in Korea for the next year :)

5. English is HARD

Never have I ever, until coming to Korea, felt so lucky and grateful to have English as my first language. It is HARD. Learning it is hard. Teaching it is hard. It's a confusing language with so many exceptions. 

English connects the world, and opens up so many windows and doors. To be able to speak it as a first language is truly a blessing and a privilege. The simple fact that I was born in an English speaking country, is what allowed me the opportunity of teaching in Korea in the first place.

6. My Parents Freakin' Rock 

Well I guess I already knew that........but let me explain why it makes my list, OK?! Well, firstly, that they supported and encouraged me to pursue travelling and teaching in Korea in the to begin with. Then again, when I decided to stay for a another year. I've never had to question their support. It is so natural in our relationship that I sometimes take it for granted. So, thank you.

Teaching in Korea, or even living abroad for that matter, is not for everyone. And whether this is due to nature versus nurture, as always, is up for debate. Although I of course miss my parents, I am thankful that they have raised me to have the confidence and autonomy to embark on an adventure such as this.


Needless to say, I've learned a lot more than these 6 simple points above. About myself, the world around me, the culture I'm living in, and so on. Perhaps I'll continue to make these sort of posts in the future, since the list is always growing!

And on that note, for those who don't know yet, I will be staying another year here in Korea! Excited to say I'll be coming home for a visit during winter vacation, and also thrilled that my awesome travel buddy- my Dad, will be accompanying me on the way back to Korea for a visit!

Let the learning & adventure continue!

- L2K

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Happy Chuseok! Celebrating Korean Thanksgiving in Picturesque Piagol

Last weekend was the celebration of Chuseok, essentially the equivalent of Thanksgiving here in Korea. For us teachers, that meant a 4 day weekend! We took full advantage of this and headed for Piagol Valley in Jiri Mountain for some good ol' fashioned fall camping. Campfires, cool nights, and crisp air. And to top it all off, we were the ONLY people at this campsite. We had the beautiful place all to ourselves! An awesome way to bring the camping season to a close, and welcome the new fall season upon us.

We found out about this spot through my friend's Korean co-worker, who was generous enough to drive us out there- about 30 minutes outside of Gurye. On top of taking the time out of their busy Chuseok weekend to drive 5 crazy foreigners to their campsite, her and her husband had also packed us a bunch of homemade Korean food. Loads of rice, pajeon (Korean pancakes), kim (roasted seaweed), and of course.....kimchi! And here we thought we were going to live off ramen noodles for the weekend. Although I've been here for almost a year now, the generosity of Koreans still amazes me. We were all so blown away and appreciative of this gesture.

After unloading all of our camping gear and goodies, it was time to set up camp!


Nestled right into the mountains 

Since we were the only ones here, we designated this pagoda as our cooking and eating area!

A huge benefit to this campsite was having the little shop that you can see in the left corner. The man who works there was on an on-call basis, so whenever we needed to stock up on water, beer, or soju, we simply gave him a ring! This saved the hassle of us having to stock up and worry about keeping beer things cold. 

In Korea, whenever you purchase a lot of something you will sometimes get what is called "service" (or as the Koreans say "ser-vice-uh"). It's basically something they will throw in for free with your purchase. The ser-vice-uh we received at this campsite was above and beyond. They provided us with ice, frozen water bottles, a huge ice bucket to keep our drinks cold, roasted seaweed, and they even installed a little lamp in pagoda for our nighttime drinking card games. Amazing! Again, Korean hospitality. 

After setting up camp, it was time to explore. There was a beautiful river/creek right by our campsite, where we spent time skipping rocks, building inukshuks, and going for a little dip. 

Time to relax by the fire after our mini exploration! First place we were allowed to have a campfire in Korea.

After a very hard sleep that night (beach camping spoiled us), the next day was filled with more exploring, hiking, and swimming. A perfect day! 

Where our hiking trail ended, a mountain top watering hole began!

Stumbled across this swing!

Don't forget the beer when searching for a watering hole!

Day coming to an End. Taking in all the beauty!

The next day, it was time to take down our tents and pack our bags. 3 days, 2 nights spent in picturesque Piagol, and another camping adventure under our belts. Great company, lush green mountains and endless exploration possibilities. My first Chuseok, well spent!

Almost year later, and I'm still blown away by the beauty Korea has to offer. I can't wait for the month ahead where I will get to experience a Korean autumn to the fullest, since arriving late October last year cut the fall season a bit short. 

On that note......for those who don't know, I have renewed my contract and will be staying another year here in Korea. I have learned and experienced an immeasurable amount this past year, which I will be dedicating a full blog post to in the near future. Needless to say I am thrilled for this adventure to continue!

Thank you Piagol, you were beautiful. Until next year, Chuseok!

- L2K