Seoraksan National Park


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Asia » South Korea » Gangwon-do » Sokcho
February 27th 2009
Published: March 9th 2009
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Hello everyone!!

Another month, another entry! So, February is an interesting time of transition for the school system here. On the second week of February, school commenced again and then a week and a half later it was finished and spring break started. Many English classes were canceled, and I started to forget I was a teacher (I kid). Just before the spring break I found out that my new co-teacher was an amazing teacher from Jangsu (the school I went to on Fridays). I was so excited because I knew her and she is a fantastic teacher and wonderful person. She also happens to have very good English, which is even more amazing because she has never lived in an English speaking country. I also found out that my original co-teacher was leaving the school. This made me quite sad. I really liked her and I feel like we didn’t get enough time together. I know I will see her again but it won’t be the same. There was a teachers’ dinner on the Monday of the spring vacation to say goodbye to all the teachers leaving. Thirteen teachers in all left our school, about half of all the teachers. The dinner was hilarious. Everyone was in a very festive mood. I happened to sit next to the principle during the dinner, which really put my Korean dinner etiquette to the test. After the dinner all the teachers headed to a Noreabong (Korean Karaoke), another hilarious event. I was forced to sing, so I picked a Korean song with English in it and sang it with a friend of mine. It was pretty scary, considering I didn’t really know the song. Then, after Noreabong, we headed to a coffee place with a couple of the teachers and indulged in some ice cream, and then I said my goodbyes to the leaving teachers.

The next day Jonathan and I had to attend a meeting in Chunan, a town about an hour away. No one knew what the meeting was for, even the head of the English department in the office of education didn’t know, so we had no idea what to expect. It turns out the meeting was with the Governor of this province to discuss any suggestions we had for the Native English Teaching program. Boy, I wish we were told that. The meeting was only an hour and some important things were brought up. I sort of felt like it was a disorganized union meeting. It was very interesting nonetheless and the governor was a delightful man who really listened to the teachers concerns.

We were really luck to get the next couple days off so we decided to take a trip. It is/was that awkward time of year where winter is ending but spring hasn’t started. We thought it would be best to head north to a famous national park in Korea, Seoraksan, and soak up the last bit of winter there. I wanted to get an early start since I knew we would be taking 2 buses, so in good fashion we left at noon, not as early as I would have liked but realistic. We told the woman at the ticket counter that we wanted to go to Sokcho (the city closest to Seoraksan) and she looked surprised and said we had to go to a different bus terminal in Seoul. So we said okay and then realized the bus didn’t leave for an hour. So we kicked around until then. While on the bus I was reading our guidebook and it said that buses leave for Sokcho every 3 hours from Tong bus terminal and every 30 mins from Seoul Express Bus Terminal. Guess what terminal we were heading to? Luckily the bus to Sokcho was leaving an hour and a half after we arrived instead of 3 hours. To pass the time we had an unexpected expensive dinner while we waited. That’s what you get for not asking the price and just pointing to a picture that looks good. So after a total of nine travel hours we finally arrived in the far north province of Gangwon-do. We grabbed a taxi, ended up having a small hotel mishap, and eventually ended up in a motel right outside the national park.

The next morning we went to the national park tourist center and asked a nice Korean man a lot of questions. The hike we wanted to take would have been ten hours so we had to figure out a new route. We asked about hot springs in the area and after about twenty minutes, and to the nice man’s relief, we left to get some breakfast. We walked up to the most expensive hotel in the vicinity and found a beautiful western style restaurant. The hotel itself was stunning. It reminded me of the Shining hotel: creepy, I know, but putting aside the murders, the hotel was quite nice. It also reminded me of the Shining because it was the off-season so no one was there. No one.

After breakfast we headed up to Seoraksan. The park was really beautiful. The mountains still had snow on the tops and it had a majestic feeling. We decided to do a hike up to Ulsanbawi, a mountain with a very unique rock face; it looked quite fake actually. On the way we met another foreigner (we tend to stick out) and he joined us for the rest of the hike. He had been in Korea for 6 years and was about to start a graduate theology program at a university in Seoul. He made for great conversation. The last hour up the mountain seemed to be straight up and although there were stairs in parts, it was very treacherous. It felt like we were climbing a ladder up a mountain. There was one section that if you fell or lost your footing that would be it for you because there was no ledge to help you out. It also didn’t help that the stairs were wet from snow and some even had ice on them. Once we reached the top there was actually a Korean man selling souvenirs. You would have to be really fit to take a job like that because the hike up and back down is four hours in total, and I doubt he is paid for that time.

That night we took a taxi to a place called Waterpia, a very large water park. They had a section called water spa and the water used was from a hot spring nearby, so this was a huge draw for us. The water spa section was truly unique. They used fake mountains and had hot water falls pouring into hot tubs; the hot tubs had chairs in them and jets shooting out to massage you. There was a sauna that had a big window to view a forest and they even had a couples hot tub section. It was outdoors and the stairs were all covered in hot water to keep you warm. All the hot water created large amounts of steam, and in combination with the night sky and natural scenery, it created one spectacular site. I felt quite rich. There was also a giant lazy river in the middle that floated through two different buildings offering different types of pools and sites.

We decided that we weren’t quite finished with Seoraksan so we headed back there the next day. This time around was a little harder considering I was in a bit of pain from the 4 hour hike, and from thinking I wasn’t going to make it down the stairs the day before. I feel like I get in a lot of scary hikes up mountains for someone who doesn’t like heights. Strange. I thought we would take a nice leisurely stroll to a waterfall (Biryeong falls). Who would have thought the waterfall would be up the side of a mountain? Nonetheless it was a beautiful walk and a very pretty waterfall at the end; we also managed to avoid all the crowds somehow and passed large groups on the way back. Then we took a gondola ride up to another mountain, Jipseonbong, which provided a very different view than the one the day before and with none of the effort! We forced ourselves
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That's us waiving
to take one more small hike at the top and I am really glad we did because it was another spectacular view. Nature is the best.

That night we headed back to Seoul to stay the night there. It was much better breaking the drive up in two days but Seoul can really take a lot out of you: like any big city, it moves pretty fast. Am I becoming a country bumpkin? Oh dear. We decided to break our vow and stayed in English town in Seoul. It was the least exciting place we have been to in Seoul but the food selection was very eclectic which was quite nice. We heard there was a bar there called the Rocky Mountain bar (guess what food they served? Canadian). Our friend from Seoraksan said they served poutine - this was pretty much the only reason we went to the area ahah… that and the English bookstore. We went to the bar at 1:00 on a Saturday and of course they were only serving breakfast until 3:00, so there was no poutine for steph ☹. We left and ended up having a better alternative, french cuisine. We enjoyed two thick soups with fresh French bread, Masheta (delicious).

This week the new school year started and my whole schedule changed. It is actually a nice fresh start. I feel much more confident as a teacher and teaching with my new co- teacher is wonderful so far. I am teaching grades 3, 4, 5, 6 and the kindergarten kids! I actually have to teach the kindergartens alone and there are about 25 of them! For the first classes we were assessing their English level to make groups that include all the levels so they can help one another. We have also let them pick an English name from lists we created; we decided to do two lists, one of normal names and the other with character names like superman and wolverine. The most popular name so far is Obama. The students seem to like them. We are hoping it will motivate them. All the girls tend to like the normal names, while the boys love the character names. I am already noticing a big difference with having the students in groups with all different levels. I am starting to feel like time is passing to quickly here. Well, I think that’s it for now. I am counting down the weeks until mommy Peters arrives!!!! I cannot wait to see her pretty face and show her around. It is very exciting! A big shout out to Air Canada for the amazing flight deal we got.

I miss all of you like crazy!! Cheers!!! Until next time……



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