My time is dwindling quickly here in South Korea and I am trying to do everything before I leave, a big one on my list being North Korea, or the DMZ (DeMilitarized Zone). Some friends and I booked the tour with the USO specifically so we could go to the JSA (Joint Security Area, you know how the military love their acronyms) which is where South Korea, North Korean and American troops occupy and have been in a tense stand off for over 50 years. We got to see North Korea up close, stand in the room which is half in the South and half in the North and experience one side of the story (apparently when the North gives tours of the area, they have a different version, weird.) It was a day that words cannot do justice, something you must see for yourself to fully understand, so I won’t try here.. but some pictures to give you an idea.

For me, what really hit home was that North Korean people are the same as their southern relatives, all kimchi eating, soju drinking, Hanguel speaking Koreans. Yet there is so much hatred between the two, they are no longer one race of people and this is an interesting yet sad fact about the peninsula. “You are human, and I am human.”

Can’t we just all get along?

The best tourist attraction in Korea!
They explained the reason for standing facing the wall, but I don’t remember it, either way it is kinda funny..
Gaurding the door to North Korea, I was so tempted to try and go through it, just so that I could get attacked by a soldier and have a good story!

I’m standing in South Korea, taking a picture of North Korea.
North Korean village, we were told it is basically like a movie set with lots of nice buildings, but no one living there, pretty creepy.
Bridge of No Return
Wish I could have taken a better picture of the DPRK and its beautiful scenery, but  shoot past this line and a guard will  delete the photo.
Next Holiday??
The subway that goes nowhere…
North Korean beer is so much better than Cass…

For Eric’s last weekend I planned all sorts of “romantic” things to do, Koreans are really into that, couples doing certain things that are considered “couple-y” and I figure when in Korea… Being a little strapped on cash this month (trying to save for our travels and paying off my eye surgery finally!) we made it a fun weekend on a budget, which included the Seoul Zoo at Seoul Grand Park, lunch in Chuncheon for the famous Dalk Galbi, and ziplining to Nami Island.

I am big animal lover (only serial killer’s aren’t in my opinion) and think zoo’s are a tad sad, those poor animals taken from their home and caged against their will, its just not fair. People can be so cruel. But I love them so any chance to see some monkey’s, I am there. Seoul Grand Park is the home to the zoo and Seoul Land plus lots of land for lakes, picnicking and bike riding. It is close to my home and I am looking forward to spending more sunny afternoons there this summer. The zoo is okay, a little upsetting for me at times but pretty and most of the animals seemed to be treated well. I was concerned that many of the people were feeding chips and such to the animals which is terrible for them and depressing to watch them beg for. Also the lions were on a grassy field with about 20 males all growling loudly and fighting with each other. The Korean’s love their drama so it was a hit, but I had to walk away. It is unnatural for so many males should not be living in close quarters like that and I think they were going mad. Regardless, it is only 3,000 krw to get in and we mostly enjoyed our day watching and playing with the animals.

poor monkey😦

The next morning we woke up early (we were out the door by 9 am which was both shocking and difficult on a Sunday) and took the subway to Chuncheon, a city in Gangwon, northeast of Seoul. It is a city known as the home of Dalk Galbi, a delicious spicy chicken dish, and our favorite Korean food. We took the subway all the way there (about 1.5 hours on the Jungang line from Sangbong to Chuncheon) and landed at the Chuncheon station ready for a feast! The tourist information booth right outside the station has great English speaking, helpful people, including maps and guides in English, free of charge! They helped us figure out where to get the famous 닭갈비 and advised us to where Nami Island was (not at that station like I read online). We overindulged at one of the many restaurants offering the specialty (literally there is a street called Myeongdong Dalk Galbi street, the difficult part is picking one.)

YUM!!

We watched the beautiful scenery from the train as we headed a few stops back towards Seoul, getting off at Gapyeong. A short cab ride to the port and we were at the entrance to the Republic of Namisaru (apparently it is not technically South Korea or something so they have this fake immigration area, it was very bizarre.) We chose to skip “immigration” and try the zip wire to Nami Island. It was a bit of a wait but the manager spoke great English and explained it was the longest zip wire in Asia at 3,083 feet long and all the products were from a company in Utah. It was 38,000 krw and was a beautiful and unique way to get to an island, much more exciting than the ferry.

I love flying!

Once back on solid ground, we walked around to see all the sights and feel the “romance” we were promised. It was beautiful but very crowded and expensive. The line was so long to rent a bike that we gave up and took a nap next to the water instead, my dream of riding a double bicycle with Eric crushed😦 We enjoyed a lovely, lazy afternoon of people watching, wandering, and being out of the city. A day very welcome for this country girl at heart ♥

All in all, it was a romantic weekend, just like planned, and I think a great way to send Eric off from this breathtaking country.

One of several mother/child naked statues on the island

Best matching shirts I have seen in Korea!

pure romance ♥

Sunset on Nami Island – 남이섬

How-to teach in South Korea

Thought I would give a few pointers for people that stumble on my blog looking to move to South Korea and teach English. Remember, this is just my opinion and just one way to do it, there are endless possibilities of ways to teach and live here, do your research and figure out what’s best for you!

  • Public School: I work at a public school. The government run organization for South Korea is EPIK (English Programs in Korea) and for specifically Seoul SMOE (Seoul Metropolitian Office of Education). This is who employs me, I am a employee of the South Korea government. (EEK!) This means I work in a public elementary school. I had no control over where in Seoul I would be living, although I did get to give my choices of what kind of school, my first choice was elementary(but some people did not get their first choice, everything here is situational). There are also countless private schools (aka Hagwons) which pay more but you work more hours and have less vacation time but I can’t tell you from experience what it is like working for these places, look it up, there are a lot of mixed reveiws.
  • Contract: My contract is a one year contract (Aug. 2010-Aug.2011) and I teach 22 hours a week (with 18 planning time in my 40hr. work week). I have 21 paid vacation days plus national holidays and sick days. I had to go to orientation when I first arrived here and then they took me to meet my new co-teacher who showed me my school and new apartment, which they provide (I am south of the river so it is nothing special. I have friends who hit the jackpot though.) I also received a flight here and will be reimbursed for my flight back. On top of that you get a bonus for completing your contract and if you resign your contract for another year, you will get more bonuses. You are also given government health insurance (catch up already, USA!) As you can see it is a pretty good deal and there is no where else in the world you can teach English and have it this sweet.
  • Applying and using a recruiter: Usually you work with a recruiter to find a job here. It makes the process much easier (and it is in NO way simple, you will only get a job here if you really put the work in!) as the Korean government requires a lot of documents to ensure a job. I worked with Korvia and would recommend emailing them, it will make your life a lot easier. You will need a degree, no criminal record, usually a TEFL these days, letters of recommendation, official college transcripts and all this will need to have official stamp from your home country called an apostille, it can be a pain in the ass to get all this together, trust me, it’s not as easy as it sounds.
  • Coteaching: In a public school you will teach with a co teacher. This is not for everyone. Every school is different and I have never met two public school teachers with the same co teaching situation. Some work 50/50 with their co teacher in the classroom. Others do all the work and their co teacher sits in the back and sleeps. Some native English teachers have 10 co teachers. I have one. Your situation will be unique but just remember you are not a normal teacher here, you cannot legally be in a classroom by yourself (unless you teach in a private school, which is a totally different teaching environment.) Your coworkers can make or break the job for some people. Just remember it’s only a year of your life, but can you deal with it?
  • Training: Working with a public school you will be required to attend an orientation training either when you first arrive in Korea (like me), or sometime during your contract if you missed that one (I have friends who had to go to one 6 months into their contract). You are pretty much bottle fed how to survive and teach in Korea without ever seeing “real” Korea, knowing what grade you will be teaching or where you will be living. It can be a frustrating but fulfilling week where you will mostly network and meet many of your friends in Korea. Great for someone who has never taught or been in Korea before, yet still tedious and mundane by the 3th day.
  • Living in Korea: I live is Seoul but there are many opportunities to live in other cities or more rural parts of the country, you just have to do your research and be pretty adventurous. Seoul is a fabulous city with interesting people, tons to do (whether it be volunteering, arts, sports, nightlife, culture) and is very foreigner friendly. I love the hustle and bustle of the city, the subway is very efficient (albeit crowded and annoying some days), and there is always something new to do, new people to meet. The culture is very different from Western culture but you have many comforts from home and it is not as foreign as one may initially think. Itaewon (the foreigner area in Seoul where the US army base is located) is annoying at first but you learn to love the diversity of the food and people there and it can make living abroad an easier transition for first timers. Immersing yourself in a new culture is an exciting and liberating experience and you will learn so much about Korean ways and tons about yourself.   (And if all that didn’t convince you, check out this list of 50 reasons why Seoul is the best city in the world. You’ll be on the next plane over! )
All in all, It is a really good gig to have even if you just do it for one year and then duck back into normalcy. I enjoy life, live well, love my job and am getting to travel. There are up’s and down’s to it of course, but such is life, right? It is perfect for recent grads who are not ready for the normal 9-5 and are looking for an adventure. If you have any specific questions I would be more than happy to help as much as I can, leave a comment or email me and I will get back to you🙂 Good luck starting your new adventure!
Also, check out this great article from the other do it while your young about how to find a job in South Korea.

Turns out there is lots to do here in Korea as well. So while I am stationary here, I still feel like I am seeing lots. Long weekend spent in Seoul, trying to save for our big adventure.

This is an annual parade and festival held in downtown Seoul to celebrate Buddha’s birthday. I had been excited about it for months and it did not disappoint.

We also hiked to N’Seoul Tower and put our own lock with the millions already decorating the fences. We just walked from the festival to the tower, things are much closer in real life than than seem on the subway.

Just a couple things that filled my 6 day weekend:)

Buddha’s Birthday Parade and Festival 

Lanterns at Jogyesa Temple

Some lanterns a nice monk gave us🙂

 Tibetan Monks

  We got to get dressed up in traditional Korean clothing called Hanbok 한복 which they wear in weddings. It was a lot of fun!

— Cheonggyecheon

Locks at N’Seoul Tower. We put our own lock there too ‎♥

N’Seoul Tower


Still here at my little desk, grading papers and teaching classes. Dreaming about far away lands and exotic people but surrounded by the 9-5 lifestyle. I hate it. Someone telling me what to do,  where to go, when to go there.  It is just not for me.

Bought my one way ticket to Hanoi, Vietnam and am counting the days (104 to be exact) until I have two months of freedom – exploring, swimming, relaxing, enjoying, LIVING! Will be traveling south in Vietnam, to Cambodia, and then onwards to Thailand where I will be searching for a job as an English Teacher, hopefully in the North, near Chiang Mai, if I have my way. It is going to my first adventure like such and I have been planning endlessly by reading my  Southeast Asia on a Shoestring Lonely planet guide, checking out travelfish.com for great tips and reading countless blogs about how to get the most out of your backpacking experience. I just need to buy my backpack and get rid of all the shit I have aquired here in Korea and I’m gone. Seriously, it can’t come soon enough.

I love Seoul, don’t get me wrong. But it is too much like what I have always known and I am ready for the unknown. At least I think I am.

More updates about fun times in Seoul as they come. Also check out my (more up to date) blog onedayillflyaway.com

xo Ellie

Depends on the day I suppose.

Anyways,  took the KTX from Seoul station to Busan Station after school one Thursday and made it to our hotel about 11:30. We took the fast train there and it was quick and painless, worth the 55,000 krw.  The subway closes earlier than in Seoul so we had to take a taxi to our hotel, the Elysee Hotel, booked on Hostelbookers.com. It was a great Love motel that was cheaper than booking a hostel private room and came with wayyy more! We had our own hot tub and steam shower in the bathroom, a big flatscreen TV and computer in the room with a large bed and all the amenities one could need! They even had a big bottle of shampoo and body wash in the shower. Korean hotels are pretty nifty because they really leave you everything you might need so you don’t have to bring them from home, including hairspray, above mentioned shampoo, bathrobes, and other toiletries. They even through in a “FREE” movie for our veiwing pleasure.. turns out korean softcore porn is lame though…

Best part is the hotel looks like a Midevil Times Castle!

Good place to stay in Busan though if your looking for a cheap, nice hotel that is in a good location! We could easily walk to Nampo shopping and eating district, Busan Tower and Jagalchi fish market.

We tried to fit as much as possible into our short 3 days in Busan and I think we got a good taste of the southern culture. The food tasted different than Seoul, I did not enjoy the BBQ as much, although that could be because we ate at a 24 hour BBQ place at 1 in the morning after too many naked Long Island Ice teas at a jazz class club overlooking the bay.

Obviously we went to Haeundae Beach, the most popular beach in Busan, walked along the beach and had coffee in a cafe (how Korean of us, wow!) It was beautiful and there were not many people there unlike the summer months when the sand is covered in umbrella mushrooms with thousands of Koreans hiding from the sun underneath. It was windy and cold in early March so we headed inside to the Busan Aquarium (18,000 per person, not 15,000 like I had read on some sites). I had never been to an aquarium so I was like a little kid putting my head right up to the glass and squealing with excitement over the sharks and seaweed sea horses! It was a really great experience and we got to see them feed the penguins and sharks (The sharks there were the most docile things I have ever seen, I think my friends cat is meaner than all these sharks put together!)  There is an amazing underwater tunnel that surrounds the shark tank and it is a great ending to the ocean animal filled fun!

After Haeundae we wanted a different vibe so we took the subway (which BTW runs on a different subway card system than Seoul and we could not recharge our TMONEY cards there! It was also more expensive for short distances than Seoul) to Gwangalli Beach with its picture-esqe veiw of the bridge all lit up with different color lights at night. We found a snazzy jazz bar called Luna Bass on the 8th floor with a great view of the bay, bridge and city lights. After enjoying 2+ adult beverages we then preceded to buy fireworks from a vendor on the street (who understood the word fire and sneakily went to the secret back door for his stash) and light themoff on the beach. No appendages were lost thank goodness and the night was would have been memorable, had I not drank so many beers on the subway! I really recommend this beach area [Get off at  Gwangan Station – subway line no. 2, exit 3 or 5) and walk 5 minutes.]

We only made it to one temple in Busan (meaning we will have to go back eventually, there is so much more I want to see!) but it was very beautiful and out of the city a bit so it could satisfy our nature cravings as well. Beomeosa Temple is the most famous temple in Busan and had many beautiful buildings, statues, shines and temples. It was under construction while we were there, but still open, and we got to enter all temples that we wanted to. A lovely Korean gentleman took it upon himself to be our tour guide, he spoke wonderful English and we learned a lot about the history of the temple and what certain things meant. A short walk up from the temple is a semi hidden gem with several temples where monks were chanting surrounded by hundreds of depictions of Buddha.  It was by far the most beautiful area of the temple so make sure you don’t miss it! You can learn more about this temple at this guys blog, he gives a lot of history and more detailed information than I could even try!

———-This is where our camera died😦

That evening we went out looking for a good sushi restaurant (and a good time) in Kyungsung and Pukyong Nat’l University area (line 2). Finally we decided on some food and had some drinks at a couple bars in the area, Almost Famous (very cool people there!), ol’55 and Vinyl Underground. Cool places to chill and listen to live music with a cool crowd. Busan Haps – this is a really cool website and magazine for all the cool things going down in Busan, check it out!

The final day we checked out the area around our hotel, Busan Tower and the international fish market, Korea’s biggest. The tower and surrounding park had a beautiful veiw of the harbor and it was a beautiful day! We enjoyed watching the Korean children playing and laughing at Korean picture taking habits:) The fish market was well, fishy. Nice to see but we didn’t spend too much time there. There were many people, lots of yelling and LOTS of seafood, every imaginable kind. Check out the buffet on the 6th floor, looks amazing, but make sure you get there before 3 when it closes for lunch:/

Took the slower KTX home which was half the price and double the time, but it was nice to relax, listen to the pod, read and take a little nap. Bring some snacks and you have a nice little ride through the Korean countryside!

Enjoy Busan, South Korea a big city by the ocean with a small town feel!

** Editor’s Note: We were unfortunately in Busan the weekend of the horrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Much too close for our comforts but we had no idea anything had even happened until we saw something on TV at a restaurant. My heart goes out to those lives lost and people affected by this tragedy and its after effects. Wish there was more I could do than just send money being so close here in SK, but the Japanese are a strong culture and will overcome this hardship. Peace be with you Japan **

Heading down south for some warmer weather and a little sand in my toes this weekend, gotta take advantage of those 3 day weekends when they come! Will update soon with pictures and information about our trip…

Live well.

Seoul is a frozen ball of kimchi these days so my friends and I tried to take advantage of this never-ending winter and head up to the mountains and some snow. To celebrate one birthday and have one good last weekend with another who was leaving about 10 foreigners headed up to the biggest resort in South Korea, YongPyeong Resort located in Daegwallyeong-myeon, Pyeongchang, Gangwon-do, about 3.5 hours from Seoul. We took the city bus from Seoul to nearby town  and then rode the free  bus that comes every half hour to the resort.

We stayed at the resort’s Youth Hostel which was 70,000 a night for a room that could sleep 4 western people, 6 Koreans (they said it, not me) but we had 5 guys in one and they seemed pretty comfortable. They provide bedding for the floor and the ondol keeps you nice and toasty. Very clean room, shared bathrooms and close to ski slopes, restaurants and bowling!

Check out the Dragon Strike Bowling Alley in the basement of the tower condominium. Good times to be had! Also the sauna is nice (and they give you coupons for 50% off at the hostel!) but not a traditional jjimjilbang, only the hot baths and steam room.

I can’t ski because of a bad knee but others went and had a great time! It is a bit expensive but apparently worth it as there are many different kinds of runs, a board park and a cable car that takes you up to the top and you can go down several runs for hours! We took the cable car to the top (12,000krw) which was a 15 min ride one way and an amazing view from the top! I am pretty sure we could see the Pacific Ocean in the distance.



View from the top

a run at Yeongpyeong resort

Board park at Yeongpyeong Resort

cable car to top

Also, since I wanted to have a little fun on the snow, I went sledding with all the little kids in the designated sledding area. It was 20,000 for unlimited times, 15,000 for 5 times and 5,000 for one run down the hill. I almost sprung for the unlimited but was glad I chose the 5 run pass after waiting in line for too long and having the guy tell me I couldn’t go on my belly. Safety first. But still a fun time for someone who can’t ride on those ski contraptions!

riding up the sledding escalator:)

at the bottom!

They also have a great website in English that will explain more about what they offer, how to get there and where to stay. You don’t have to ski to enjoy the mountains and snow around Seoul!

cable car

Too cute!

 

Check out the rest of the pictures from the trip that my friend took here or here although they mostly include copious amounts of wine so don’t judge:) [Will be getting my new camera soon, thank god, too many memories lost!]

What a great weekend of shopping, dancing, brunching and volunteering!

If you live in Seoul you have to check out the Seoul Folk Flea Market [directions: exit 9 of Sinseol-dong Subway Station (line 1/2, stop 126) and walk straight for about 100 metres. The market is open 7 days a week from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. It is closed on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month. ] There are a ton of hidden gems tucked away in this market ranging from antiques to purses and even some porn dvds. Definitely worth a visit. Will be doing a lot of “flea marketing” in the coming warmer months and will let you know the best ones!

Also, if you haven’t been to Butterfinger Pancakes in Gangnam you are wasting your life away. Great breakfast, long wait, endless coffee – doesn’t get more American diner than that, except for the fact its in super trendy Gangnam. [It’s across the street from American Apparel and next to BK out exit 6] Go forth and eat bacon!

On Sunday I topped off my weekend at a homeless shelter with the group PLUR (Peace, love, unity and respect) to help work in the the soup kitchen. While I  just washed hundreds of spoons and chopsticks it still felt good to be helping out the greater good.  The group goes there every Sunday and does lots of other volunteering activites as well. Check out their facebook for more info!

Lots to do in Seoul, every weekend is a new adventure! This week I only have to sit at my desk until noon so I will be exploring some of the defrosting city in the afternoon. Nothing like a little spring sun to put me in a good mood!

Check out my recommendations and stories from our winter vacation to the Philippines under the travel tab: Philippines.

Also check out some pictures under the pictures category!