What a winter. January and February

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April 8th 2009
Published: April 8th 2009
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So there I was thinking that I had absolutely nothing to write cause its been winter and I keep saying I haven’t been up to much, next thing I look at all the photos I have managed to accumulate and I think perhaps slack is the best word to describe my lack of blog entry! Wow where has the time gone, it’s already a week into April, complete madness. I’m sorry if this turns into an a flurry of new inserts all at once resulting in an epic read but here begins the first part of my report back on life in the Republic over the last 4 month!

Wow six months in and my time here hasn’t seised to be interesting. I arrived back from a brilliant holiday from a ramshackle 3rd world country with great weather to my small apartment in a massive concrete jungle, below 0 temperatures and the thought of teaching pre-schoolers (AKA Kindies) 1st thing the following day….shock to the system would be an understatement. After hauling myself out of bed I arrived at school and managed to get myself back into routine. I think what was keeping me motivated was the though of Lunar
Gearing upGearing upGearing up

The girls gearing up for thei 1st boarding attempt!
New Year and the impending long weekend which couples this celebration, a welcome blessing.

Lunar New Year here is as big a holiday here as it is in China (only minus a couple 1000 floats, dancing dragons and street partying people). In Korea Lunar New Year is a very family orientated holiday and based on lots of tradition. It was really lovely, when on the Thursday before the holiday all the children got down to making Mandu (Similart to Wontons) at school, they all dressed in their traditional Hunboks and it was an altogether festive occasion. (I sadly lost all my photos from the mandu making day ). Mandu along with Dak (these rice meal sausages) are traditionally eaten over this time.

Interestingly Lunar New Year here, is possibly the only time in the year that South Koreans actually don’t work, its very weird to see a country that is buzzing virtually 24/7 and that has super markets open till mid-night become so quiet over this time (baring entertainment venues that is). All the books and reviews warn that going away to any attractive destination, particularly ski resorts, during this time would be madness but on the contrary
Ready to hit the slopeReady to hit the slopeReady to hit the slope

Liz, who's done it a couple of times, excited to get going
Koreans were visiting their families allowing westerners such as myself the pleasure of a nice snow boarding trip minus the crowds!

The beginning part of the long weekend started out fairly quietly since Saturday would be spent hitting the Vavaldi Ski resort slopes for a bit of snowboarding fun! We were expecting to be fighting crowds but we arrived to a fairly quiet resort, much to our delight. After a good hour and a half of kitting up (Hiring kit and attempting to get the hired kit to co-ordinate takes some time) we finally got the lot of us onto the ski lifts and to the top of the beginner slope to see what we were dealing with. Lucky for me getting up on the board was like riding a bike so my falling leaf was put into action fairly quickly. It was all together a fun morning reminding myself just how much of a work out my quads and butt were going to get during the day. The day at the slopes was just wonderful, we even had a little snow fall while we were out which made the experience so much better for me since the two
Half way downHalf way downHalf way down

Catching a glimps of the girls half way down the slope while we were ready for round two of the falling leaf.
occasions I’ve been at a ski resort, prior to this, only had snow machine engineered snow fall!

I think the highlight of the whole experience for me was having a night pass to the slopes. There is nothing more stunning than the ski slopes at night and they are so quiet that you virtually have the slopes to yourself and the view up the ski lifts with the eerie lighting and the seer whiteness of the snow is just magnificent. While I managed to spend the entire time perfecting my falling leaf (too afraid I would catch a wrong edge and hence making no progress on my toe edge and my turn) I had the most brilliant day and by 10pm my body was absolutely exhausted and ready to head home and sleep!

My extremely stiff body woke up on Sunday with the best feeling in the world, no work the next day. I did however need to get myself in order for a night of celebrating since it was Justine’s birthday. Yet again another fun night on the town was had, in none other than the streets and pubs of Itaewon, surprise surprise. It was a super night where I spent most of the night meeting and greeting fellow Africans. Wow the tally of varying African country’s representation here in the ROK is astounding, I even met one guy from Burkina Fasso who wouldn’t let me take a photos because he claimed he was a super star in his own country yeh right haha, classic!

After much late night fun and randomness Justine, her sister Michelle and I decided that the Hamilton Jimjilbang bang would be the haven for the night. It was lots of fun, we had the whole place to ourselves just about (the couple of Ajumas that were there were all asleep) so we had both saunas and all the baths to ourselves. Justine and I even braved the 72 degree sauna, lasted about 3 minutes, since it was impossible to breath. After a good while in the saunas and baths we though it best to get some shut eye but not before we got some water and changed into our steamy Jimjilbang yellow kit that is….why I mention the water specifically is cause there is a big fridge with all kinds of drinks in, usually (ie in normal hours) you take a drink, they scan the code and it registers on your key number an when you leave you just pay for anything you have had, only at 5:30am there is no one manning the desk….we so we though. I tell you the Jimjilbang Ajuma has super sonic senses, we didn’t even know she was there until we opened that fridge and took out a couple of waters (with the intention of scanning them when everyone was awake later) next thing you know she appeared out of nowhere, having been asleep on the floor behind the desk the entire time unbeknown to us. I think she was highly unamused at the sight of by us and Im not sure who was more perturbed, her being woken up at that hour by three random blond westerners with their hands in her drinks fridge or us suddenly having a grumpy Ajuma pop her head up bearing the evil eye!

Two late nights in a row calls for a much needed sleep in, although on the Hamilton floor, which is heated to a nice and sweaty 30 degrees, this proves interesting. None the less we did not complain since it’s a safe and cheep spot to sleep for the night. We finally arose at some crazy hour around lunch time and decided we best make the most of our last day of holiday. We had a little lunch and the headed to Insa-dong. Now I have been to Insa-dong before but the previous time I was there it was a rather rainy day and fairly quite, a far cry from what it was like on that Monday. In fact it was brilliant, the streets were filled with people and the whole place was alive with raucous street vendors drawing attention to their crafts, among these traditional tea biscuit making. It was a lovely day walking in and out of all the different shops and getting a real sense of traditional Korean curios on sale! All in all a brilliant Lunar New Year!

Naturally Tuesday back at school after a long weekend is challenging but it was great arriving at school to the completion of the new Kindergarten on the second floor of our building. Construction had begun in December and in true Korean style the place was ready for business on the 1st weekend back in February. The new school level is just
Ski lift ridingSki lift ridingSki lift riding

Andrea and I making our way back onto the slopes after a liyttle snow fall.
beautiful and the nicest part is the big playroom. I was most excited to get my very hyperactive kindies out of their classrooms for a little fun and games. With a renewed sense of energy and excitement since I now had a big room to use as my classroom, I devised a whole bunch of games to get these kindies off their chairs and up to releasing some much need energy. I found a whole stack of very cool picture cards and Mike had donated his big wad of press-stick to me (a substance that is foreign to Korea, they use sticky take to stick things making it impossible to stick things normally) so I proceeded to stick the cards all over the playroom. The class of 20 odd kids would arrive, I divided them into two teams and I called out one of the pictures and the two kids in the front of the team had to run, find the picture, take it off the wall and bring it back to me and the 1st one back with the card got a point. Fairly simple game…so I thought, what I wasn’t taking into account was the fact that these
Round of IntermediatRound of IntermediatRound of Intermediat

Mike, Liz and I after our 1st round of the intermediate slope...
kids sit cooped up in a class from 9am - 6pm and do not go outside to run around so when they have the odd opportunity they just go crazy and become so boisterous, its like watching caged animals be set free, complete mayhem.

Miraculously the 1st two classes somehow managed to go off without major incidence, only the minor scuffle between two overly competitive kindies. The kids and I were having so much fun and the morning was flying by….until the 3rd class arrived, that is. It was down to the wire, 5 minutes left of class and the scores were even and there were only enough stickers for half the class (stickers here are worth more than gold) so one team has to win! Little Sam, 6, small for his age, quiet in nature, wears glasses vs Lisa, 6, rough and buxom….on your marks, get set, bring me the crocodile….next thing bang! A dramatic collision between tiny Sam and Lisa so fired up to win the title for their respective teams they they missed the picture and found each others heads instead.

Now I’m not going to lie, initially I was down playing the whole thing,
Vivaldi ParkVivaldi ParkVivaldi Park

a pretty sight
the kids here cry at the drop of the hat given that they aren’t used to being outside rough and tumbling like kids back home and to her credit Lisa picked herself up and walked off like nothing had happened, so on approaching Sam who was holding his eye and sobbing like no tomorrow I though I was dealing with the usual, cry when you get a tiny scratch, scenario…boy was I wrong! Once I managed to get Sam to stop sobbing and move his hand I saw the poor kid was sporting a massive blue eye and Lisa had Sam’s glasses frame imprinted on her forehead. what a disaster, the Korean Kindie teachers were most irate at the thought of having to provide an explain to Sam and Lisa’s moms (The kids were promptly whisked off to be lathered in what appeared to be some Korean ointment in hopes of reducing signs of the blow before home time)….I felt as though I had punched the poor kid the way they were going on. All fun and games till the kid looked like the victim of child abuse by western English teacher. That put a rather abrupt end to my
The gangThe gangThe gang

a break for dinner before the night session
grandiose running around games, much to my dismay.

Along with blue eyed Kindie kids, a coupe of school orientation days and farewells I found myself exploring the streets of Incheon’s Wolmido area once again. One of my New Years resolutions was to try and meet some new people. While on rout to Seoul one night in January I struck up a conversation with a couple of guys on the train, one of which lives in Wolmido. It was quite nice, the one Thursday night the three of us met up for some dinner in China town and then headed up to the koppie to see the war memorial by night. It was so lovely by night and James suggested it was just as lovely by day so that Saturday I found myself back in Wolmido doing a little exploring of my own. After walking around the memorial and looking out onto the harbor I ventured back down the hill to have a look around China Town. China town was teaming with interesting and scrumptious treats one of which was a yummy oven baked pie which a naturally had to sample.

With a full belly I then made my
The gandThe gandThe gand

A break before the night session
way to the Yeonan peer to have a look around the fish market. What a place, completely unreal to see a fresh fish market like that with all kinds of ocean delicacies on offer. I came away without any encounter with the raw “live” octopus delicacy (might have to go back for that ;-))but it was a great visit nonetheless. I can’t wait to get back to Wolmido now that spring is in the air. Another fabulous day of exploring al be it on a pretty cold one!

It would seem that the fish market marked the end of January and February and apparently the worst of the winter, yay!!

Additional photos below
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The gangThe gang
The gang

some needing 40 winks in in order to make it through the next couple of hours of boarding
Red faced and ready Red faced and ready
Red faced and ready

ready for more falling leaf perfecting

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