“Long time no see”

As my students and other teachers love to say to me when we see each other intermittently during vacation, “long time no see!”.  I haven’t blogged since New Year’s because we have been so incredibly busy!  Planning and going on two vacations and taking care of our new cat, Oliver, has been super time consuming but this week I’m getting back into the swing of things.  We took a two week trip to Thailand and another shorter trip to the Philippines which was rather spur of the moment, but still great as we got to celebrate our anniversary on an island.  I will be posting about these two trips soon as we are sorting through tons of photos and it takes time, but I wanted to write a short post now and share some winter pictures I have handy from Yeongwol.

During the winter, many towns hold a winter festival and Yeongwol is no different.  This year, the winter festival lasted a few weeks long, at least.  Yeongwol is perfect for the winter festival because the Donggang River goes right through town, allowing for the water to be dammed for ice fishing and sliding around on ice on these little sled things.  Not sure what they are called or how to explain it really, but it’s like a mini sled with blades on the ice and you use sticks to push yourself around.  When Dannie and I went with her students for winter camp we tried it and it was actually super fun!  There’s also a big hill leading down to the river on which they built up snow for children to snow tube down.  Besides all this, there are snow statues, food stands, and other random activities to participate in.  Josh and I enjoyed walking around for a day soaking in this part of Korean culture and then I returned for the middle school winter camp.  Here are some pictures for you to enjoy:

 

Ice fishing on the Donggang River.

Ice fishing on the Donggang River.

Cute dog we saw everywhere!  Parents encouraged their children to pet him but most were a little scared.  Not many people own bigger dogs like this in Korea.

Cute dog we saw everywhere! Parents encouraged their children to pet him but most were a little scared. Not many people own bigger dogs like this in Korea.

There was an arm wrestling contest that Josh joined!  They gave us some coupons for food from the vendors.  We got some spicy fried chicken!

There was an arm wrestling contest that Josh joined! They gave us some coupons for food from the vendors. We got some spicy fried chicken!

Some kind of game for children--they have to hold these pads together, throw them in the air, and depending on what side they land on, it means something or gives a certain amount of points?  Not too sure, and it was hard to pick up what it all meant from watching.  But super cute!

Some kind of game for children–they have to hold these pads together, throw them in the air, and depending on what side they land on, it means something or gives a certain amount of points? Not too sure, and it was hard to pick up what it all meant from watching. But super cute!

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You can leave notes at this little hut.

You can leave notes at this little hut.

Made this bridge from mud and branches...Felt a little weak at some points but it stood the test of time, for the duration of the festival at least.

Made this bridge from mud and branches…Felt a little weak at some points but it stood the test of time, for the duration of the festival at least.

Ride a tube attached to a snowmobile in circles a few times!

Ride a tube attached to a snowmobile in circles a few times!

This little girl needed a lot of encouragement to ride her snow tube down the hill.

This little girl needed a lot of encouragement to ride her snow tube down the hill.

Ready...set...

Ready…set…

Go!!!

Go!!!

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Holding on for dear life.

Holding on for dear life.

Even the adults were having fun!

Even the adults were having fun!

Some older men who wanted their pictures taken.  They were funny!

Some older men who wanted their pictures taken. They were funny!

View of ice fishing and one of the bridges over the river.

View of ice fishing and one of the bridges over the river.

Parasailers landing near the river!

Parasailers landing near the river!

Choo chooooo!!

Choo chooooo!!

Icefishing.  Doesn't look like he's having fun...

Icefishing. Doesn’t look like he’s having fun…

Catch a fish with your bare hands!

Catch a fish with your bare hands!

Woo!! Caught one!

Woo!! Caught one!

Ice fishing.  Lots of sitting and waiting.

Ice fishing. Lots of sitting and waiting.

Creepy snow sculpture.

Creepy snow sculpture.

 

I promise that I will have pictures posted on Facebook and in a blog this coming week of our Thailand and Philippines trip!  I just really wanted to post these before winter was over, and we have so many pictures to go through from our trips!  But they will be worth the wait 🙂

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Happy 2014 from South Korea!

Hello world….It’s been awhile since I’ve written!  Nothing too crazy has been happening, we’ve been staying in town to save money for our vacation, and it’s been cold so I have been hibernating.  But we did get a cat!  His name is Oliver, rescued from the streets of Incheon (near Seoul) by our friend Adrian.  The poor thing has been sick, can’t seem to get a break between adjusting to being brought in and now having an allergic reaction to his food, but hopefully we are just about over the hump!  We will for sure be bringing him home with us and to wherever else the wind blows us the next few years.  He is super loving and cuddly.  Oliver and Josh definitely have a bromance going on.

Keeping clean!

Keeping clean!

Oliver had to get a cone.  He fought and took it off quite a few times but once we enforced it he just kept it on and sulked in the corner.

Oliver had to get a cone. He fought and took it off quite a few times but once we enforced it he just kept it on and sulked in the corner.

One of our favorite pictures of him.  Looks so regal!

One of our favorite pictures of him. Looks so regal!

Bros for life.

Bros for life.

Although we’ve been staying at home, we did go somewhere new for New Year’s Eve.  Apparently in Korea, it is a thing to watch the first sunrise of the new year.  Koreans and foreigners alike flock to beaches and mountains to see it.  After watching the first sunrise of 2014 myself, I’ve decided I would love to make this a tradition of my own for the future.  Josh and I joined a few friends from orientation in Gangneung, a beach city on the east coast of Korea but still in our province of Gangwon-do, for their sunrise festival.

After a train and taxi ride, we arrived in Gangneung in time for a late dinner and purchasing our drinks for the night.   We headed to the beach where there were some night festivities going on.  Music, food stands, fires, fireworks, and paper lanterns were all present.  Anyone who wanted could purchase Roman candles to set off, which scared me quite a bit to be honest.  But of course we did a few of those too.  Josh and I also set off our own paper lantern, which was so cool!  I’ve always wanted to make one and what better time.  We were able to write or draw something on it as well.  I don’t remember what we wrote but on one side I drew a cat.  The first time we tried to launch it was a disaster…The people working the stand fired it up for us and tried to help hold it to catch the hot air, but it was sooo windy so the fire ended up burning holes in it!  They gladly gave us a second one and shared in our joy when we finally got it off.  I wish we had pictures, not that they would do it justice, of everyone’s paper lanterns launching off into the night sky.  It was so beautiful.

Soon after, the countdown to the new year began with cheers all around.  We popped a bottle of champagne and watched the firework show.  It was pretty impressive, especially because they were going off very close to us and therefore appeared huge in the sky.   The rest of the night was uneventful; we unsuccessfully searched for a place to stay and then got some food, during which some of us fell asleep in the restaurant.  I would have gladly slept on the beach had it not been so cold.  Eventually, after a long night, the time came to watch the sunset.  Now, I have attempted to watch the sunrise from a beach many times at the Jersey shore, but every time I tried I either couldn’t get up early enough or I got up and it was cloudy.  Something always went wrong.  So technically, this was my first time watching a sunrise from a beach and it was great!

It was still somewhat dark but crowds were already accumulating on the beach.  Soon the first light in the sky came, then it turned all sorts of beautiful colors.  After waiting a little longer, the oooohs and aaaahs from the crowd revealed that the sun was beginning to peek out from the sea.  The sunrise was beautiful!  All of the Koreans were taking selfies with it and Josh was trying to get some good shots (thankfully, because now I have a picture or two to share with you all) but I was perfectly content to just stand and watch, taking the moment in.

Right at the start of the sunrise.  If you look closely,  you can see some paper lanterns floating about.

Right at the start of the sunrise. If you look closely, you can see some paper lanterns floating about.

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Looks pretty, but if you've seen a sunrise before you know that pictures don't do it justice!

Looks pretty, but if you’ve seen a sunrise before you know that pictures don’t do it justice!

I couldn’t stop thinking how incredible it was that I was here, in Korea, watching the first sunrise of 2014 and being some of the first people in the world to see said sunrise.  I am living a life experience many people only dream about.  Working and living in Asia, watching the new sunrise, setting off paper lanterns with wishes and hopes for the new year…These are the moments and memories I imagined myself making when I applied for this job.  And here I am!  I’m pretty young and therefore I’ve spent most of my life in school without the freedom to go off and complete everything on my bucket list, but now that I’m in the real world and I’ve already achieved one of my goals it feels pretty good.  It also makes doing it again, in another country, seem that much easier.  At this time in 2013, I was still deciding on this seemingly far off idea of living in Korea that I had had in my head since the beginning of 2012.  Josh and I were still discussing it at length, researching, daydreaming, talking about getting married (and then getting married).  And now here we are, happily married and living in Korea, albeit in the smallest living space we’ll probably EVER share, but we’ve had a lot of laughs because of it. (One positive to a small place means easy cleaning.  I can clean the whole floor in our apartment with just a dustpan and brush!)  I even have my first “official” teaching job (though it is a walk in the park compared to a “real” teaching job at home!).  All in all, I’m very happy and thankful for where I have taken myself so far in life.  I’m not sure what 2014 has in store for me, or whether we’ll even stay in Korea.  But I know 2014 will be a continuation of new and fun experiences together and what more could I ask for?

So with that, I thought maybe I’d share some of my resolutions with you all.  Mostly things I’m working on with myself all of the time, but why not make them resolutions at the beginning of a new year.

1. Facebook less.  I’ve wanted to get rid of Facebook for a while now, but being away from home, friends, and family with whom I communicate via Facebook on a daily basis makes it difficult.  As much as Facebook helps me keep in touch, sometimes I just get tired of the BS, hearing too many people’s opinions, or maybe I get depressed because I actually realize how stupid the human race is.  Haha.  I also think Facebook is, like most of today’s technology, part of a technological compulsion that we all have.  Always wanting to check it, etc. similar to having a smart phone.  I think causes stress that we don’t even know we have.

And so, this new year I will (try to) Facebook less and read more, and take more of my online-time to improve my Spanish and take some online courses (though not for credit, just to give myself something to do, plus they are relevant to my field).

2. Eat less candy. I’ve always had a sweet tooth.  It’s improved through self discipline but sometimes I still make some impulsive runs to the gas station for candy.  When summer’s here hopefully I can substitute more fruit!

3. Take better advantage of my location–travel and experience more. (And in turn, blog more!)

4. Continue to be more physically active (does not mean going to the gym) I hate going to the gym, and I hate the cold so my physical activity suffers during the winter.  But once spring comes around I’ll be back to hiking, dabbling in rock climbing, hopefully doing some yoga independently, and just being outside in general.

Thanks for reading….stay tuned!  I have another entry to write this week with pictures of a small winter festival in Yeongwol.  Then, my next entry will likely be a review of our trip to Thailand!  We leave the 18th and come back February 4th.  We’ve already made some solid plans and couldn’t be more excited!  Besides a lovely vacation, we are also using the opportunity to scope the place out as our next destination 🙂

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!

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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.