Ganhyeon (간현)-Camping, Climbing, and Music

So this is actually a trip we took one of our first few weekends here before I had started my blog, but I wanted to include it since it was our first trip somewhere and we had so much fun!

Josh really wanted to go on a climbing trip and I decided to come with since the area would also be a place we could camp and such.  He made some friends in the Korea climbing facebook group and we met up with them at the bus station in Wonju, which is about an hour and a half to two hours by bus from Yeongwol.  From Wonju, Ganhyeon (간현) is about 20 minutes by car and since there were a few of us we opted for a taxi and split the fare.  Taxis in Korea are pretty cheap too!

When we arrived at the gate to Ganhyeon, which ended up being a big, beautiful park with a creek running through, Josh and I prepared to pay the 2,000 won (about $2 or a little less) to camp.  The person at the gate taking payment then told us it would be 20,000.  We were pretty confused but through some translation from our friend (who has been here for quite a few years and speaks pretty good Korean) we found out that there was going to be a music festival complete with overnight camping in Ganhyeon that weekend.  Awesome!  We got our tickets and headed through the park to find a place to set up our tent in order to reserve our spot.  The park was super busy.  Ganhyeon is pretty big with hiking trails, camping, restaurants, eating and washing areas, a creek with a small beach, and a crag for climbing.  There were Koreans everywhere setting up their own tents and enjoying meals together.  Josh and I headed to where our friends recommended we camp to set up our tent and it ended up being right by the stage for the festival.  We had no idea what the festival was going to be like but we were happy that we stumbled upon the chance to attend.  Some pictures from the first day there:

Our tent set up early in the day...Gotta beat the crowds

Our tent set up early in the day…Gotta beat the crowds

One of Josh's first climbs.

One of Josh’s first climbs.

Ganhyeon

One of many bridges connecting the two sides of Ganhyeon.

One of many bridges connecting the two sides of Ganhyeon.

<3

View of the crag with the creek.

View of the crag with the creek.

Hanging out at Ganhyeon...

Hanging out at Ganhyeon…

After a day of climbing and hanging out we went back to our tent and music festival preparations were in full swing.  Stage set up, food tents, and other campers (including a lot of motorcyclists?) were gathering in our camping area.  With our tickets we got a wristband and found out (thanks to the very kind ticket taker that spoke English!) that the price of our tickets included some barbecue.  We got some grilled meat and sat down to enjoy ourselves….before we knew it the man in charge of the food operations (or at least, this little food booth) was offering us beer, soju, and more meat.  We gratefully accepted.  As we were drinking, we noticed a lot of people eating some kind of soup that looked delicious, but we did not know if it was included with the “barbecue” in the ticket or if it was separate.  When you live in a country where you don’t speak the language, trying to figure out such matters transforms from a small, menial task into a much bigger, daunting task.  Eventually Josh went up and figured things out for us and we were served a huge bowl of soup to share.  It was red (usually means spicy!) and had potatoes, onions, and some kind of…meat..?  To this day we have no idea what it was, but after learning some more Korean foods we both think it was pig/pork spine/bone soup (Gamjatang?).  Regardless it was delicious!

Korean food!  Pork bone/spine soup, a plate of onion and peppers in a spicy sauce, and in the bowl that you can't see is kimbap (Korean version of sushi).

Korean food! Pork bone/spine soup, a plate of onion and peppers in a spicy sauce, and in the bowl that you can’t see is kimbap (Korean version of sushi). Also in the photo is Cider (in the cans) which is Korean sprite.  The green bottle is soju, Korean rice liquor.  One of these bottles costs about $2 depending where you get it.  Unless you try to drink the same liquors you drink at home, alcohol is very cheap here!

After the food manager brought us a second bowl of soup, some other Koreans came over to talk to the foreigners (us).  They brought food with them from their own stand for us to try, all of which was delicious.  With their broken Korean they tried to have a conversation with us and soon invited us to their food stand and would not take no for an answer!  When I motioned to them that I wanted to at least finish our soup (as not to be rude to the other guy) or clean it up I was told that they would “show me how it works in Korea” and that someone else would take care of it and I was not to worry.  The two men brought us over to their stand and served us fruit salad with another soup that tasted very much like chicken vegetable or something along those lines.  It was great.  The two men ended up being brothers and the directors of the whole music festival.  It made sense why they were so passionate about showing us a good time!  Then the directors introduced us to the “vice president” of Wonju, but I really don’t think he is the vice president of Wonju.  Most likely he has some government position but I think the phrase “vice president” was a result of poor translation.  They eventually just left us to go about their business, but we didn’t mind because we were enjoying what seemed like VIP seating–a table and chairs right near one of two bonfires to keep warm with a great view of the stage.  We finished our evening enjoying the music and people watching (which is extremely entertaining in Korea/a foreign country–just wait until I write a post about our Chuseok camping trip!)  The festival was to feature indie music, and there was a very wide variety of indie music.  Bands, rock, pop, and a cappella are just a few of the genres we heard.  All of the artists were very talented.

Music.  Lots of peace signs and candles...very cool atmosphere.

Music. Lots of peace signs and candles…very cool atmosphere.

Out of focus, but nonetheless a picture of yours truly :)

Out of focus, but nonetheless a picture of yours truly 🙂

More music

More music.  Behind the stage and all around the venue  there were paintings and other pieces of art hanging which I think were for sale.  We even met one of the artists.

Hahaha, they had a few of these around so we had to take some pictures!

Hahaha, they had a few of these around so we had to take some pictures!

DSC_0424

Eventually we went to bed and rested up for the next morning.  We hung out and Josh did some more climbing.  We ended the day getting THAI FOOD!!!! with some of our new friends.  Josh and I both have been so homesick for some Thai food.  Of course there is plenty of Thai food in Korea but none in or very near our town.  Here are some pictures from the last day climbing:

Josh and a few of our friends on a multi-pitch climb.  He's the highest up with no shirt.

Josh and a few of our friends on a multi-pitch climb. He’s the highest up with no shirt.

Shot of the same climb but a little zoomed out!

Shot of the same climb but a little zoomed out!

Almost to the top!

Almost to the top!

A very zoomed out shot of Josh climbing---gives you some perspective on how high he is!

A very zoomed out shot of Josh climbing—gives you some perspective on how high he is!

FInally reached the top! :)

FInally reached the top! 🙂

Picture taken the last time Josh visited Ganhyeon, by a Korean photographer who kindly emailed him the pictures a few days ago.

Picture taken the last time Josh visited Ganhyeon, by a Korean photographer who kindly emailed him the pictures a few days ago.

Advertisements

Midterms Week and Fun School Activities

So last week my students were taking mid-terms, which meant half-days for me and some other school festivities!  Not to mention teaching next to no classes the week before (students have to study/review/prepare) and absolutely none the week of, and we also had a national holiday on Thursday so there was no school!

 

Monday and Tuesday were half-days and I got to go home at 12:30 after a morning of “desk warming”, or just plain downtime at my computer.  I try to lesson plan but sometimes looking at powerpoint or googling ideas for that long makes my eyes bleed so I just read the news, take Korean lessons online, or work on other things.  On Monday my main co-teacher took me out to lunch which was really nice of her.  We went for Chinese food, or at least the Korean-ized Chinese food.  According to my CT (co-teacher) there are two main noodle dishes that Koreans order when they get Chinese.  After doing some google-work to remember the names, they are called 자장면, or jajangmyeon, and 짬뽕, or jjamppong.  I don’t really know any Korean swear words yet but I was warned that sometimes these words, when said with an incorrect accent, can come out as bad words.  Better be careful!

Jajangmyeon is a noodle dish with a black bean sauce and seafood (sometimes switched out or in addition to pork or chicken).  Usually includes zucchini or a similar vegetable as well.  Its flavor is pretty light.

Korean_black_bean_noodle_dish-Jaengban_Jajangmyeon-01

Jajangmyeon. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

My CT suggested, or pretty much told me, that I have the jajangmyeon noodles because they are “bland” and she thinks the other noodles would be too spicy for me.  Of course I said yes and went along with it.  It was pretty good, except I don’t like much seafood but the plate was so huge that it wasn’t very noticeable that I didn’t eat most of the seafood.  

Jjamppong , which my CT got for herself, is a spicy noodle soup with onion and certainly some chili or chili oil judging on the color and spice level.  Thinking back, I should have asked her to try some!

JJamppong.  The red color shows that this noodle dish is spicy!  Photo from www.yelp.com.

JJamppong. The red color shows that this noodle dish is spicy! Photo from http://www.yelp.com.

 

Anyway, our lunch together was nice.  My CT seems to genuinely enjoy talking to me about everything, from daily life to dreams for the future to our cultural differences.  I usually feel I can be pretty open and honest with her as well, but I always try to make it clear that anything I find difficult here (life-wise and teaching-wise especially) I recognize as being a cultural difference that I accept.  She helps give me some insight on life and culture here, and she just eats up everything I tell her about American and western life!

 

The rest of midterms week was full of other activities–teacher sports day and a school hiking day!  Wednesday after our half day the teachers met in the gym and we were put on teams to compete in 3 games:

  • shoe-throwing (or what I would call shoe-flinging).  You have to put a rubber shoe on your foot, which is apparently what all of the shoes were made of after the Korean war when Korea’s economy was still on the road to improving, and throw it with your foot to make it inside of a circle about half a basketball court away.  Hilarity ensued.  Some teachers really got them all over the place but it was really fun.  I made one out of two in the circle.
  • jump-rope– not just any old jumping rope here.  Nope.  We used one giant rope and had ten people (five rows of two) jump the rope at the same time.  After a few practice rounds my team took second place (4 jumps? or 5?) out of three teams.
  • volleyball mostly the male teachers did the work and the female teachers stood in the back as each time was required to have 2 to 3 females playing at any given time. Reminded me of a high school gym class!

And this whole time they had snacks: grapes (which are different in Korea, and the Koreans LOVE LOVE LOVE THEM!), trail mix, water, soda, and beer.  Yes, beer. The teaching and drinking culture is pretty different here.  You wouldn’t dream of seeing alcohol at a school function in the States!

 

On Thursday we had off of school and on Friday instead of having classes we did a school hike in the morning which was over pretty early as well.  We set off with the students for about an hour or so long hike, pretty easy, but unfortunately didn’t give us any nice views.  As we came back down the students and teachers spread out in a park at the bottom with platforms and seats and had a little picnic lunch.  I’m not sure what the students had but the teachers were provided with kimbap, which is like sushi but the fish isn’t raw.  The other teachers I sat with (all women–usually it seems that men sit with men and women sit with women for lunch)  also brought coffee, apples, nuts, and some other fruit that I don’t even know how to describe and I had never seen before.  But it was all delicious and really enjoyable even though I just sat there and ate while everyone spoke to each other in Korean.  None of the teachers speak much English with the exception of my co-teachers and the Japanese teacher, who each time we speak says a little more in English and surprises me.  She often takes me under her wing when my co-teachers aren’t with me.

 

Overall, the activities that went along with midterms week were really fun cultural experiences for me.  The teachers help me feel welcome, even those who can’t verbally communicate with me very well.  Plus it was really fun to participate in teachers sports day and see some of the teachers let loose, laugh, and have a good time.  I’m very fortunate to have been placed in a school with friendly teachers and students that help make me feel like part of the community here. 🙂

Schools in South Korea and My First Week

So now that I told you all about finally getting here I thought I’d talk about my first week living and teaching in Yeongwol, South Korea.

First some general/background info on my school and schools in Korea in general….

For my first few days at school, I just sat at my desk to “plan” and get ready.  In Korea, instead of teachers having their own classrooms they work and prepare for class in an office.  Some schools have a few offices full of teachers.  My school has one really big room with a bunch of little desk/cubicles that we work at, each with a computer and some drawers.  The vice principal also has a nice big desk in this room.  However, the principal gets his own cushy office that he rarely leaves, complete with leather chairs and couches, etc.  Anyway, when class time comes, the teacher goes to the students’ classroom.  Each student has a homeroom and they have every class with this homeroom.  They have their own classroom and this is where the teacher comes to teach, except for special classes like art and English.  My school has an “English lab” where English class is held at the far end of the building because apparently class gets loud.  So it’s technically like I have my own classroom, but I usually spend my free time at my desk in the office.  I was supposed to have a few days before I started teaching to hang out in the office, but one of my co-teachers asked me to start a day early.  I said yes because I didn’t want them to think I was unprepared or didn’t want to work.

I have four co-teachers that I work with, one of them being my main co-teacher who helps me with any problems I have in getting settled (help set up bank account, register for Alien Registration Card, or ARC, which is my Korean ID, etc.).  Each class I have only sees me once a week and spends the rest of the week in English class with only their co-teacher.  Each co-teacher is different and gives me different degrees of independence in regards to planning and teaching the class.  For the most part, co-teachers are responsible for discipline and some of them ask to see or approve my lesson plans ahead of time.  Although I’ve only been teaching here a short time I do feel that it’s a little overbearing having someone looking over my shoulder to approve things, especially while I’m still trying to find my groove and figure out what exactly to do with my students (there is no curriculum or textbook for me).  I know that it just takes some time to figure out but sometimes with someone looking over my shoulder it feels like I don’t really have the space to figure things out.  But then again, some of the teachers tell me to just play games!  So if they don’t take it seriously, I shouldn’t stress out or take it too seriously either.  The classes are split into two categories, vocational and academic.  Vocational classes are students that (most likely) won’t be attending university but instead will take up a trade or already have a job out of high school.  Vocational classes are less motivated and have less English knowledge.  The academic classes know more English and are more motivated, as they are headed to university and need to know English for an entrance exam.    The students work very hard in their classes, or at the very least they put in a lot of time at school.  The day starts at 8:30 AM and most students usually stay in school until 10 or 11 PM.  AFTER leaving school that late, some go to private academies, called hagwons, until 12 AM or later.  Maybe they even study more at home once they leave the hagwon, or even wake up early before school to study.  Let’s just say that students sleeping in class is extremely common here and students often say that their schools are like prisons!

So there’s some general background info.  Now to my actual teaching experience that first week!

For my first week of classes, I did a self-introduction powerpoint for my students with pictures of me, where I live, my family, and my hobbies along with some information about the United States.  After I let them ask me anything and everything.  Most of the questions were focused on beauty and physical appearance, which are big things here in Korea.  Combine that with an all-girls school and you’ll get some crazy questions!  Such as…

  • Do you have a boyfriend?
  • How old are you?
  • Is your hair real?
  • How much do you weigh/how tall are you?
  • What are your beauty secrets?  What skin products do you use? (Makes me giggle…I feel like I’ve always had issues with my skin and now these kids are asking my advice haha!)
  • When did you get married?  How did your husband propose? (Another LOL moment–Josh and I didn’t exactly do things the traditional route, and all of these girls have a fairy tale image of what these experiences are like in the western world!)
  • Have you had plastic surgery?  (Korea is the number one country for plastic surgery–some of my students have already had it on their eyes to give them a double-eyelid! Most common are eye surgeries and nose jobs to make the nose longer and thinner.  Business Insider did a good article on this topic–find it here!)

The students all ranted and raved (and continue to do so) about my looks–they love my big eyes, my “small face” (another common compliment here), and my thin body and they let me know it all the time.  They even tell me, “Teacher, so pretty!” on days that I feel pretty crappy.  So it’s nice to be worshipped like a celebrity! haha.  It was a long week of answering questions, some pretty personal but I didn’t mind because I appreciate their curiosity plus their questions and reactions were pretty entertaining for me.  The last two EPIK (English Program in Korea) teachers they had were males, so it must be exciting to have  a Western girl around.

Sometimes I am surprised by my students and how different they are from American high school students.  I hate to use this expression, and wish I could find another word, but sometimes they seem more immature here.  I think some of that has to do with the lack of independence they have–spending all day every day in school, can’t get their drivers license until 19 years old, etc. These high school girls often giggle with shyness the way a middle schooler in the States would, even when it comes to speaking out loud in class with the classmates they spend all day every day with. When they see me in the hallway or walking around town, they say hi, giggle, and run away.  It’s quite comical.

With my first week of introductions behind me, I then started planning for some actual classes.  This is somewhat challenging for the vocational classes between figuring out their skill level and finding what will motivate them.  However, I enjoy preparing and teaching the academic classes because the material can be more challenging and open-ended, where we have some real life discussions and creativity going on.  Overall, I’m enjoying the job and it’s pretty easy.

Not much happened our first week outside of class–mostly getting settled in our cute little apartment and buying things that we needed.  Here are some pictures of our first week and our town, Yeongwol:

 

Our first home-cooked meal in our new apartment :)

Our first home-cooked meal in our new apartment 🙂

Some small mountains and the Donggang River (동강) going through Yeongwol.

Some small mountains and the Donggang River (동강) going through Yeongwol.

A bridge connecting the two sides of town split up by the Donggang River.

A bridge connecting the two sides of town split up by the Donggang River.

Action shot of Josh skipping some stones!

Action shot of Josh skipping some stones!

Beautiful clouds and scenery!

Beautiful clouds and scenery!

Some boys (maybe around 9 or 10 years old) came down next to me to play in the river.  One gave me an enthusiastic "Hello!  My name is (insert Korean name here that I can't remember)!"  But the others kind of ignored me. haha

Some boys (maybe around 9 or 10 years old) came down next to me to play in the river. One gave me an enthusiastic “Hello! My name is (insert Korean name here that I can’t remember)!” But the others kind of ignored me. haha

A collection of their shoes and bags of snacks from the convenience store while the boys splashed around!

A collection of their shoes and bags of snacks from the convenience store while the boys splashed around!

Nice views all around.

Nice views all around.

Sky and clouds are beautiful!  I love the fresh air that we have in Gangwon-do compared to the rest of Korea.

Sky and clouds are beautiful! I love the fresh air that we have in Gangwon-do compared to the rest of Korea.

A few of the bridges in town.

A few of the bridges in town.

People going about their business with a nice natural background.

People going about their business with a nice natural background.

A part of Yeongwol on the other side of the river from me, nestled between hills and small mountains.

A part of Yeongwol on the other side of the river from me, nestled between hills and small mountains.

 

Thanks for tuning in everyone 🙂  This coming week I’ll blog some about a few of the trips we have taken–climbing/surprise music festival and spending our Chuseok vacation time hiking and climbing in Seoraksan National Park.