Chili Pepper Bridge

Chili Pepper Bridge

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy New Year!

Ok so time for another long overdue update.  I keep trying to remind myself to write on here, but the longer i put it off the easier it is to keep putting it off, and then the thought of writing two months worth of news makes be want to procrastinate even more but.... ok finally I am sitting down and doing this, haha.

So its been while.  I finished my last day of the regular semester classes on December 22nd.  The last two weeks of school were a lot of fun because I basically just taught Christmas stuff and made decorations with the students.  We sang Christmas Carols and made paper snowflakes, and I gave out candy canes to everyone.  The next semester starts March 1st of next year and all my students will move one grade up.  It will be interesting to see them in their new classes (and to have fresh 1st graders right out of kindergarten...)

After, the last day of school I still had two weeks of English camps to teach before my vacation time started.  The first week I taught at a different school where one of the EPIK teachers works and the second week I taught at my school and an EPIK teacher came out to help us.  The English camps are a lot of fun because, since it not an actual school class you can do more fun activities.  I had one in depth lesson on Pyeongchang Tourism where we learned about all the things to do in Pyeongchang and then I had the kids make brochures advertising their favorite things to do and for my other lessons we made chocolate chip cookies and played review games.  The last day of camp was on January 6th.  We had some fun quiz games and did an auction with fake money the students had earned throughout the week.  After that I was free for a month!

 The 3rd (soon to be 4th) grades on the last day of school with Candy Canes in their mouths.

The 4th (soon to be 5th) grade boys getting their faces in there.

Before school was out though, our province had a training/cultural trip for all the TaLK Scholars in the Gangwon-do area.  We spent 3 days at the DMZ peace village.  Some of the time we had lectures on teaching and stuff like that but we did a lot of cool stuff also.  We went to the DMZ and got to go into tunnels that the North Koreans had dug to try and invade the South.  Of course we couldn't go all the way though, haha.  The tunnels are sealed in the middle by three concrete barriers.  But we got to go in and ride on this mine cart type thing, because the tunnel was only about 4 feet tall.  Were weren't allowed to take pictures inside but I got a few of the entrance.

After the DMZ experience we went to an art museum and a natural history museum.  We got to look at the works of several famous Korean artists and also at many ancient artifacts from the stone and iron ages that were found in Korea.  There was one painter (I cant remember his name) that only painted with his hands (so no brushes or anything) and his work was amazing.  The paint was so think that that picture was literally popping out at you.  And there was another artist who's style was to start with a black sheet, and then put 7 to 12 layers of different colors on top of each other.  Then when he wanted a part of the picture to be a certain color, he took a chisel and chipped away the top layers until he reached the color he wanted.

One of the very interesting things that stuck with me from this trip was the fact that the DMZ is actually one of Korea's most preserved wildlife refuges.  Mainly due to the fact no no people can go there, so the animals are  truly (at least on that narrow strip) free of human interaction.  It houses several endangered species and many of Korea's  notable animals.  I remember our guide said, "In Korea the people cannot move freely, but every year the fish in the river go back and forth from the North to the South."  It was really cool to see how in touch with nature he was.  The one big problem with the wildlife refuge however is that there are still hundreds of thousands of land mines scattered all over the area, and from time to time animals will step on them and be maimed or killed.  The area itself however is beautiful and it was interesting to finally be that close to the heart of the Korean conflict.  Within just a few miles of North Korea.  If you saw a bird flying, chances are it was in the North earlier that day.  It was truly amazing.

 Some North Korean Brandy.  No, we didn't drink it, it was in a glass case.

 Me at the South Korean entrance to Tunnel 4, running from North to South Korea.

 Area around the tunnel entrance.  Over the mountains on the left side is North Korea.

                              Some ancient Tombs at the History Museum.

                                                  A Christmas Tree in the city of Inje.

So now I am on my winter vacation.  After January 6th I was finished with class and had several weeks off.  The first two weeks or so I spent in Jinbu, putting my YongPyong season pass to good use.  I did a a lot of snowboarding those first two weeks.  Also, I made several new Korean friends in town (which is good because at this point all the foreigners had left, making be the only westerner in the whole town).  One guy is a local bar owner and is only 2 or 3 years older than me (its always hard to tell in Korean age) and another one owns a Sushi restaurant in town (both good people too know).  They are both interested in improving their English so we hang out and they practice Enlglish and I attempt Korean.  I also met a woman who lives in Jinbu who is the Hagwon (private English academy)  teacher in the town of Jangpyeong (the same town I teach in!).  After talking for a while we realized we have many of the same students!  They will attend my class at the public school and then go to her class at the private academy right after.  She is good to talk to too, because since she is an English teacher her English is very good, which is rare out int he Korean country side.

This past week I was going a little Jinbu stir crazy, so I decided to hop on a bus and visit my friend who lives in Gwangju.  Gwanju is Korea's 6th largest city and is know for being the center of Korea's art scene, but mainly I just needed some city time.  Also, Gwangju is pretty far south so when I working its too far for me to go for just one weekend.  Its about 5 and a half hours each way on buses.  So I figured I'd take the opportunity of my time of to make the trek down.  Once in Gwangju I had my friend show me around.  I really wanted to do things that I couldn't do in Jinbu and take advantage of the large Expat community in Gwangju.  One night I had a delicious bean rice and pork burrito!  It was so good, and it even came with fresh salsa and sour cream.  Another night we went to an Indian Restaurant called First Nepal and got several curries.  That's probably my only real complaint about living in the country, is that if I want anything other than Korean food (well we do have a pizza place and fried chicken) I have to travel.  Don't get me wrong, I love Korean food, but every once in a while you need a hamburger, or some Indian food, or some fish and chips, and the bigger cities have all those options, simply because they have larger expat communities.  But anyways, I got my fix so I'm happy!

So now today is the Lunar New Year (don't call it Chinese new year out here, people get mad) and I am now officially 26 in Korean age (in Korean age you are 1 the day you are born, and then get one year older on the Lunar New Year).  I spent the day snowboarding and it was awesome.  The Lunar New Year is a great time to go because since all the Koreans are doing family things, the mountain is pretty much empty.  I didn't wait in a single lift line today.  And now I writing this extremely long but much needed update.

My actual Birth day is coming up in a few days.  25 years old!  A quarter century!  I am having a little get together out here and several people are coming to celebrate  with me.  We will go hang out at the Trout Festival, do some ice fishing, sledding and eat lots of food and then spend the night out on the town.  It's nice because me and Kevin finally get to show off our apartment (which is the bigger by far than anyone else's in the TaLK program) and show people our little slice of Korea.  Well anyways I do believe I'm all caught up now.  I will try and remind myself to update more often.  see ya!

No comments:

Post a Comment