Itaewon is known for its western style of food and clothing and therefore is very popular with foreigners, known as Waygooks here in Korea. We decided to have a walk around and look for any food places that we fancied eating at. Paul had seen a sign for Mexican food, and we both were on the hunt to find some. We came across a little Mexican restaurant called ‘Los Amigos’. The food was freshly cooked by a mexican man (well spanish speaking at least) and it tasted fresh with a tasty, not too hot, spice. The frozen lime margaritas were zesty and refreshing; exactly what we needed after a hard day sightseeing.
On Saturday Paul and I decided, that as we had a non eventful day on Friday, that we should go do something. We went to Seoul on the subway, using our new bank cards to pay for everything. However, this was not the case for Paul as his card did not work on any transportation, which meant having to queue up only for the subway for a ticket. Which when you buy a ticket, it’s a card and you pay a 500 won (about 29p) deposit. After your journey, you put your travel card into a machine where you get your deposit back.
The subway is very well organised, and I wasn’t expecting it to be as clean as it was - probably because I only have the London underground to compare it to. However the subway stations have no characteristics like some of London’s stations, like Baker Street’s for example. The Subway map is also in English, which helps very much when trying to work out what station you need to get off at, there is also a handy app for the Korean subway’s called ‘Jihachul’.
We were heading towards Changdeokgung Palace, which was only a few minutes away from the subway station we got off at. We went for lunch in a small traditional Korean café, Paul had bibimbap (rice and vegetables with an egg) and I had stir-fried pork with rice which was succulent, warm and filling. Both of these meals together cost under £7.
It was Buddha’s birthday on the Friday (17th May 2013) and we got this as a holiday, which meant that the kids left early on the Thursday. The weather was sunny but had a nice breeze to it and so I spent my day reading on the balcony of the flat, as well as trying to sort out my blog. After a while I decided to take a little walk just to get out for a bit. I took my book with me and a bottle of water. I just went round the building of SNET and came across the gardens where a wedding was being held. I actually wanted to sit and read in this garden but as I was rather underdressed I would’ve stuck out. So I then took a little hike to see a good shaded place to sit in the woods.
At the end of the day on Tuesday, Paul and I got our alien registration cards (ARC). This meant we could go open a bank account, which we done on the Thursday during our lunch break. We went to the KB bank, and spoke to a woman that had amazing English and helped us through the paper work. We set up our cards so they would also work on the buses and on the subway (like an oyster card, except you can use it all over South Korea). This meant no more guess work on how much buses would cost! Whilst Paul and I were waiting for our bank cards, we got complimentary popcorn and some yakult which we were told to keep helping ourselves to. Which we did, and so Thursday for lunch I had 3 bags of popcorn and 2 yakults!
Silla Tomb - Central Gyeonju
On Saturday morning, Paul and I got up early and got ready for a little break (as we had a long weekend). We took the bus into Seoul and then got the KTX (fastest train in the world!) to Gyeongju. When we found our hostel, called ‘Hanjin’ we were greeted by a friendly woman who spoke amazing English! She showed us to our room and then told us that when we are ready to go explore, she will tell us where the main attractions were. We get ourselves organised and the woman points out attractions on the map and helps us with what buses we need and where to get food etc. Once we knew where we we’re going, Paul and I set off to go get lunch and visit some King’s tombs. These tombs are just massive hills, built during the Silla period, between the 4th and 5th century. One of the tombs (Cheonmachong) was open to visitors. We saw how they built these amazing tombs, and what the Kings were buried with - gold crowns, jewellery etc.
We then visited the oldest astrological observatory in the Far East (Cheomseongdae) built in the 7th century. It was too hot walking around, so we sat in Gaerim forest where I saw a chipmunk!
We walked to the National Museum, which had relics from the area. It had artefacts from Anapji pond, which was and still is a pleasure garden, in the 10th century the Silla buildings burned down and the relics were only found in 1975 when the pond was undergoing repair work. These artefacts are found in this museum, along with statues of Buddha’s and artwork.
Cooking the kids pancakes!
My first week consisted of me teaching broadcasting, in the morning, and cooking in the afternoon. In broadcasting the students learnt about the news, and conducted an interview in the ‘SNET studio’. Cooking was very straight forward; I made the students hoddeok (a Korean pancake), I was expecting it to taste better, however the students really enjoyed it. I made one group mix the pancake themselves- total disaster as they made the mixture runny and sticky...So I told them tough luck and cooked the disgusting looking pancake, which apparently tasted great. After Friday, I was glad the week was over, I was so tired and bored of the two lessons I had been teaching all week.
On Friday night, Paul and I got invited out by some colleagues to go for an Indian meal. There were about 11 of us, including David (who is Korean and works with us at SNET) and 3 university students. The university students needed to interview foreigners for a school project, which David helped set it up. As a thank you, the middle school students bought us some dunkin’ donuts which we had back at the flat. This was my first time trying dunkin’ donuts, and I wasn’t very impressed. Then I found out that Korea doesn’t make any sweet things well. The cakes look amazing, but taste of nothing.
Friday evening, we got invited to go see Iron Man 3 at the cinema with some friends We planned to eat before the show, but went to get our tickets before it sold out. The Koreans seem to be obsessed with having to take a ticket and then waiting for your number to be called rather than queuing. After that, we ate at a western restaurant/pub called ‘Travellers’. Paul and I both had a burger (veggie burger for Paul) with fries and onion rings. It was nice to have some greasy food, as all that is offered in the cafeteria is healthy food, like rice with some spicy meat and gimchi; which the Korean’s eat with every meal- it’s either cabbage or radish, salted, seasoned and then pickled with spices. It’s quite yummy; but it tastes much better when it has been barbequed.
So after we have eaten, we all felt stuffed! But that didn't stop some of us buying popcorn, which apparently they have all kinds of flavours including caramel and onion...We then got into a lift to go to our screen.
Now if you have ever seen Iron Man, you will know that some of the lines are just hilarious. Whilst we’re laughing at these funny lines, the Koreans are just lost in translation (as it had Korean subtitles). This in its self was quite funny.
Monday was our first full day working, I didn’t realise but the school is part of a scheme for elementary schools around the Seongnam area to come for a week to learn intensive English. So Monday morning it decided to hammer down with rain, and we had to go greet the students off of the bus outside...luckily we had umbrellas. We then walked them to an auditorium and all the teachers said hello, what country they are from and their favourite, movie/ colour/ flower etc. We all have teacher names, I chose ‘Cherry’ as I couldn’t think of anything typically English and Paul went for ‘Wayne Rooney’. The kids were all like ‘Really, Wayne Rooney?’ He was like a celebrity around the school, all the kids just shouting 'Wayne Rooney' when he passed. It was hilarious!
We got assigned what class we will be following for the week, my class was called ‘Kind’ (but they were anything but kind, as they kept fighting) and Pauls was ‘Fantastic’ (which every teacher said how bad they were). We had some challenging kids; they couldn't speak or write much English at all. They got red stickers if they did well in class, and a blue stickers if they did not. We got told to draw round the blue stickers as the students just peel them off.
On Tuesday morning we sat and observed lessons, and in the afternoon we went to Immigration with Chan. She drove us to Seoul, which took about an hour. Chan sorted everything out for us, and she got us a ticket with a number on and we waited until our number was called. This part was just getting our fingerprints on immigration's system for our alien registration card (ARC). When we get this we can open a bank account and even get a phone!
The rest of the week we sat and observed all the different lessons, just waiting for Friday afternoon when the kids went home! Yey! All for it to start again on Monday!
Paul and I both had to do a mock lesson in front of Ashley, which was just to give constructive feedback and also help give us ideas on what to do in lessons which I found really helpful. I’m really looking forward to teaching, however the classes I’m teaching next week are; ‘Broadcasting Studio’ where the students create an interview, which there is a news room for them to do it in. I also have to teach ‘Cooking’ where we make hoddeok, which is a Korean pancake, and we put cinnamon and chocolate chip cookies with it. I still have to try this pancake, so I can’t wait to eat some!
I woke up feeling really hungry, and as Paul had all the food that I wanted to eat in his room, I had to go wake him up. However it was 10am in the morning and I thought he would be up. I knocked, but no answer so I left it a while and read. I then attempted to knock again and finally he opened the door, half asleep. He came out to make brunch with me (poached eggs on toast). We decided to go hiking up the mountain, which is just outside our apartment block. I realised walking up the mountain is a lot of effort, so finally when we rested I looked at the view - So pretty! I saw some magpies, and some orangey coloured magpies, a weird bug, lots of spiders and loads of blossom.