Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Getting Screwed Over? Need Legal Help? Don't Worry, It Happens to the Best of Us

Sure, I probably have the most ideal working and living situation in Korea. I like my bosses, I love my kids, I like my neighbourhood, I live in a nice apartment- much bigger than the average English teacher's apartment and I make a good chunk of cash every month, thanks to resigning with my school and getting a raise. I've made a great bunch of close friends and I have a pretty cool boyfriend and although I have been upset with Korea at times, it never lasts very long and I'm still having a good time after a year and two months in the country.

Yes, my situation is great, and yours probably will be too. This just isn't to say that everyone is going to have a magical time in Korea. Bosses will fire you a month before your contract ends, your school might close down (as is what happened to Patrick) and your boss will continue to owe you thousands of dollars after 8 months, you might end up being unlawfully evicted from your apartment, or maybe someone around your neighbourhood has been making unwanted sexual advances toward you. Who knows. Korea is totally safe but there is an exception to every rule.

Sufficiently freaked out? Good! Now here's the better part- there are people in Korea to help you bust the bad guys (or gals) who might make your experience less-than-ideal. It's called the "Suwon Migrant Community Service" and they offer everything from Korean lessons to free legal advice to medical check ups. Got in a barfight with a Korean? In jail? Call these guys and maybe they'll be your only hope (just kidding... or am I? Lesson: don't get into barfights with Koreans... not that I know this from personal experience or anything...). Getting harassed by your employer? Is your employer not holding up their end of the deal? These guys will help you get what your contract says you signed on to get.

Here's Their Website: http://www.suwonmcs.com/

Here's Their Phone Number: 031-223-0075

You are not alone in the world. That is all.

* Please note: if you are being a douche and just hate your life in Korea and hate your boss for making you get off your lazy ass and actually work for once, do not call these guys. Get a life.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Going Peaunuts

My kids really... like, really loved learning about elephants. In fact, they all now want to be elephants when they grow up. Which may or may not be a little better than the boys all wanting to be robots and the girls wanting to be princesses.

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Prepare Yourself.

If you recall my last few rugby experiences, you will agree that I am not the sportiest of ladies- yes? Me too.

So why the hell did I join a touch rugby team?

Actually, there were numerous reasons I was attracted to join this particluar team. Time for a list!

1. It is an all girls team, but also an all girls team made up of girls who have (for the most part) never played the game.
2. My friends created it after tiring of hearing all of our guy friends (and Grace) talk about rugby nonstop. It got boring just listening.
3. Our team is the girliest touch rugby team, possibly in the history of the game. We like sparkles and puppies. And lip gloss. And shoes. Our uniforms are tie dyed.
4. I needed the exercise.

So, my lady friends and I trained for about three weeks, learned the gist of the game and then participated in an international touch tournament in Seoul where we played against really good teams. We tried our best, but against these girls your best is not good enough. However; if they were ever planning on giving out "cutest outfit" awards or "most sunshiney attitude" awards we would have definitely cleaned up. Here are some pics:

While the real rugby players watched, I wolfed down an egg mcmuffin and hash brown for breakfast. It's not my fault that our hotel was on top of a McDonald's, ok?

And Rachael just couldn't imagine getting through her day of sports without some Starbucks. So we enjoy the comforts of home.

During the games, the guys tend to get really intense (angry). They spend a lot of time "discussing things" but by the end of the game they are still best friends. That's the nice thing about boys.

Coolest shirt ever. Go Dani.

My nails needed some pizazz before the game, so I painted them pink of course!

Our beautiful team of sparkly princesses.

My running shoes. Duh.

After we lost all our games (and I got a black eye) we had some free beer and wine and cheered on our guys, who made it through to the next round!

Jeremy and this guy from a Korean team had a dance off before the game, natch.

And we continued to drink and shout encouragement...

Then the guys won the plate! Again!

And Pat got, like, five tri's or something awesome like that.

And here are the Stormers and the Sunshiners! BFFAA.

And in true Suwon style we made our way to the wine tent.

And we celebrated Grace and Rachael's birthday! Happy birthday!

It was raining and we were all pretty soaked.

After the tournie we went to Scrooge's in Itaewon for the awards ceremony and a free dinner. It was yummy. The guys got a trophy!

And promptly used it to drink beer. The end.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Chuseok in Jeju-do

Wow, I have literally been working on this post since September. Procrastinate much? Patrick and I went to Jeju-do for Chusok with our friends Allison and Jeremy. It was pretty awesome, even though it was typhoon season (and one was creeping our way while we were there).

The main city on the semi-tropical island is Jeju-si, or Jeju City. It's located on the north coast and also happens to be where our ferry from the mainland city of Mokpo dropped us off. It was a nice ferry, too! There was a jjimjilbang and noraebang and a nice restaurant and the scenery wasn't bad, either. Chusok is a notoriously busy time to be travelling in Korea; there was literally bumper to bumper traffic from Suwon to Mokpo, turning a 4 hour journey by bus into a 7.5 hour journey. I personally didn't mind how long it took us to get there as long as I didn't have to set foot on a plane. I'm irrational like that.

Jeju-si was cool. We stayed there our second night on the island and as it was the holiday, the streets were eerily empty. We were hard pressed to find an open restaurant, but had no problem find a hotel room anywhere. We were content; even during the bad weather.

On the south coast is the "city" of Seogwipo. This is arguable the nicer side of the island with many beautiful coastal scenes, waterfalls, botanical gardens and lots of palm trees (and lots of people trying to sell you things). While we thought the waterfalls were nice, the real highlight of the trip was our trek up Songsan Ilchulbong- a massive, extinct volcano crater completely covered in green vines. It was quite an interesting sight and a fun but easy hike up about a gazillion flights of stairs. This is located on the east coast of Jeju; very close to Udo Island which I didn't get to go to, but wanted to check out. Apparently it has a beautiful white sand beach.

This waterfall, or popo in Korean, is located at the end of a beautiful walk through a delicious smelling botanical garden.

I spent a lot of time taking pictures. So, apparently, did Patrick.

On our way to the second popo which falls over an oceanside cliff. Nice vista, no?

Jeju is famous for it's "Old Women Divers". These women dive for shellfish and other seafood when the ocean is calm and sell their catch right there on the shore. Those are some brave old ladies right there.

Posing in front of the popo in absolutely freezing water. Crystal clear, gorgeous, freezing water.

Koreans think the water is good for their bodies. I guess water is generally good for our bodies. But you know what I mean.

Here's Pat with the popo!

The angry Japan Sea... it is the Japan Sea, right?

We went to check out one of the largest lava tubes in the world. My brother would have been in geological heaven. Lava tubes are what they sound like... tubes whose walls are made of lava. Yawn.

Patrick (looking totally impressed) and me (looking shiny) in the lava tube. It was so cold in there.

Since it was a holiday, cabs were hard to come by. We started to walk to the nearest bus stop but a nice man picked us up on the way and drove us the rest of the way. Such kindness.

Walls of black volcanic stone help separate the different fields.

I saw some pretty berries near Songsan Ilchulbong. Anyone know what these are?

It was Chusok AND Gay Pride week in Jeju when we were there. I wish. That would have been fun. I'm not sure what the story is with the coloured flags.

At the base of Songsan Ilchulbong (I make it sound so huge; honestly, it took 20 minutes to climb). Koreans like to climb it veeeery early in the morning so they can watch the sun rise. I wish we thought of that!

A view of the village at the base of the crater.

Getting further up... almost at the top...

And we made it! As you can see, the top was quite busy.

View from the top.

The other view from the top.

The vines covering the crater.

Me and Pat at the top of the crater. I'm saying crater too much in my mind and it is losing all meaning. I hate it when that happens.

The slow descent down the stairs! We saw a big, scary spider.

We decided to go all the way down to the shore to see the women divers.

And of course I stuck my feet in the lovely warm water. In closing, I would highly recommend Jeju-do. Just go in the summer or something.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Happy Chuseok!

This has been my second Chuseok in Korea and, as always, we go all out at Maple Bear! My kids got all dressed up in their hanboks, we played traditional Korean games and we talked about what families in Korea do for Chuseok. The top three ways to celebrate?

1. Play games. Preferably computer or nintendo, but if these are not available then the more traditional Korean Chuseok games- Unori, for example, where you throw sticks up in the air try to be the first to make it around the game board (that's the jist, I think).

2. Go to your Grandmother's house. This is totally accurate. The Friday before Chuseok you can pretty much count on bumper-to-bumper traffic from one end of the country to the other. There is a mass exodus of the entire city of Seoul as the 30 million inhabitants go back to the countryside where many of them are from to spend time eating and socializing with their entire family. My married Korean girlfriends tend to not look forward to this as much as their husbands. Why? "Because I have to cook all day long," my teaching partner, Jessica says.

3. Make songpyeon! This is a favourite for parents and children alike. If you, for some reason, have been reading my blog for awhile, maybe you remember my songpyeon experience last year, where I made the chewy Chuseok treat with my kinders. It was great! You start with warm rice dough (precooked), make a bite sized ball of dough, flatten it out a bit, and fill it with all sorts of stuff. Most popular fillings? Bean paste (sweet beans), honey, sesame seeds, raisins and nuts. We are, after all, celebrating the harvest season.

Here are some pics of my second Chuseok experience at Maple Bear:

Pretty Sally in her pretty hanbok.

Miss Jessica, explaining the concept of "Unori" to the kids.

Me and the hanbok'd maidens.

Jessica and the hanbok'd fellas.

Afternoon kindergarten- Sally, Rachel and Seri.

If you read this blog you will know about my "favourite picking" policy as a teacher. As long as the other kids never find out, no problem right? Right Eric?

The maybe not-so-traditional game of "get the ring around the pylon".

We made Korean style hackey sacks. They were the best part of our Chuseok celebration.

Toby in his hanbok. He likes to cuddle.

Bright Kim showing off his Chuseok baby picture to his friends. He was quite a fat little baby.

So how did I spend my holidays...? Nothing major, just visited the super cool, semi tropical, volcanic island of Jeju off the south coast. More on that later. Happy Chuseok!