The Day the Fireworks Were Canceled

I’ve been attending a lot of festivals recently.  Before I even came to Korea, I knew about Busan’s annual fireworks festival, which is one of the best.  I was super excited and planned on going for months.  Finally, the date rolled around and I went.  Of course, that same day, we had some torrential rain and it was canceled.  I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.

Found him.

That doesn’t mean I wasted a day in Busan! Emily, Andy, and I visited Shinsegae Centum City, the largest department store in the world.  It was tremendous… 14 floors, including a golf course, a park, a movie theater, an ice rink, a spa, a wax museum, tons of restaurants and shops, and more.  The basement even has a replica of the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

We were there for a bit of shopping, but afterwards we had a some lunch (next to the ice rink, naturally).  While wandering around, we realized we could do a package deal on Madame Tussaud’s and the Busan Aquarium – both places I’d never been.  We decided to go for it!

Andy and one of his neighbors

Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum was a bit small, but I was surprised by how lifelike most of the replicas were.  A few were pretty poor, but these were rare.  Being Korea, everything was made into the biggest photo op possible, including props such as wigs, hats, boas, microphones, etc.

Group shot!

Next stop: Busan Aquarium in Haeundae.  This aquarium is right next to the sea, and it was crazy to see how massive the waves were due to the storm.  We ducked inside for cover and explored.  The best part was the underwater tunnel, where you could see sharks and other creatures swimming overhead.  Busan also offers scuba diving in the shark tank, something I am considering!

hermit crab in a clear shell

Since the festival was canceled, we caught KTX back to Daegu and ended the night downtown.  It was fun to see everyone’s Halloween costumes, although it’s not huge in Korea like it is back home.  All in all, a good (but wet) day.

Will this be me?
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Chuseok Vacation – Kyoto, Japan

Every fall, Korea observes its annual harvest holiday, Chuseok.  During Chuseok (추석), Koreans leave the cities and return to their ancestral hometowns.  In many ways, it is similar to American Thanksgiving (without the turkey!).

Unfortunately Chuseok fell on a Sunday this year (so much for the three-day holiday…), but we still managed to take a trip.  Andy and I choose Kyoto, Japan.

This post is very picture-heavy.  If you’re interested in seeing my photos, click the following link.

Andy at a ramen shop
conveyor belt sushi – this one is tuna
at Fushimi Inari, a Shinto shrine famous for its thousands of orange gates
5-story wooden pagoda at Toji Temple
maiko (apprentice geisha) outside of Gion Square, a well-known theater in the neighborhood
sukiyaki (Japanese hotpot with meat and vegetables) at an izakaya (Japanese pub)
Tenryuji, Temple of the Heavenly Dragon
Andy in the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Salmon roe (fish eggs) for sale at Nishiki Market

The trip was super fast 🙁 although it might have been a blessing in disguise, because Japan is certainly the most expensive country I’ve ever visited.  Even more than Switzerland in my opinion, although some people might disagree…

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Andy’s Family’s Visit

Last month, Andy’s family came to Daegu.  Unfortunately, so did Typhoon Sanba – yet we managed to find some things to do.

First, there was a baseball game.

Samsung Lions (Daegu) vs. Lotte Giants (Busan)
Go Lions!!

Then we tried makgeolli and shabu shabu.  Yum!

During the storm, we ducked into an arcade for good old-fashioned fun.

The Champion

We feasted on duck-in-pumpkin… (Andy and I will find any opportunity to do so!)

at Goya in Igok-dong

And finally, we explored Apsan, one of Daegu’s protecting mountains.

I can see my house from here!

Andy and his family also explored Busan while I had to work.  Their trip definitely flew by!! It was really great to see some familiar faces.  Also fun to see Korea from a newbie’s eye – we might still be fairly new ourselves but it’s so easy to become accustomed to the oddities of Korean culture.

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Typhoon: Sanba

Typhoon Sanba hit South Korea earlier this week.  It was hailed as a Super Typhoon, Category 5, but by the time it descended onto Daegu it was little more than a strong tropical storm.  Other parts of Korea were not so fortunate, but living in an inland valley does have its perks.

Whatever the classification, the storm still meant lots and lots of rain.  Here are some shots I took (with my new Nikon 3100 – a birthday gift from Andy!!) during and after Sanba.

Downtown

Downtown

The stage downtown

Ominous clouds over 2.28 Memorial Park

Finally, some sun!

View of downtown Daegu after the storm

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Freaky Food: Beondegi Round 2

About 3 months, Andy and I faced one of our fears… eating bugs! Beondegi are super popular snacks at Korean events or even sold in stores, similar to popcorn or nuts.  I remember very clearly my distaste for this snack… but Andy wasn’t convinced.  A second round was in order.  Watch the verdict below.

Don’t forget my original post on beondegi!

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A letter I received at work

Last week, Sae-hee, one of my first-grade students, surprised me with a package.  Inside said package was a bounty of candy (including gummy frogs) and two letters.  It came from her sister, Sae-yeon, a third-grade student I had had several months ago but who no longer attends my academy.  It turns out she is now attending Moon Kkang, a franchised academy in Korea.

The candy is long gone, but the letters remain.  Check out this cuteness (transcripts below):

Letter one (adorable mistakes intact):

to. Ashely teacher
teacher hi    how are you today?
Oh! I’m Sae-yeon  I’m missing you
teacher I want to go to kimyongjin English academy
because
This academy is very fun
and Ashely teacher is pretty and andy teacher 
is handsome
and I go to moonkkang English academy. But
moonkkang is very boring
and teacher I am very enviable Because your
pretty
and I think your rich or andy teacher is rich
teacher it’s my cell phone number
010.xxxx.xxxx Sometimes call me please
and My younger sister is    go to kimyongjin
you know Sae-hee?
If you want to send letter then
letter is give to Sae-hee then Sae-hee give letter
and can you give cell phone number??
Bye I Love you
Letter two:
Moonkkang Level is 3
My mom said if
you Level up then
you can go kimyongjin
academy
so I study English
hard
How cute is that?? Not sure why she thinks Andy and I are so rich! And no, I haven’t given out my cell phone number… although all Korean teachers do hand out that information.  The teacher/student relationship in Korea is very different than in America.  Teachers see students more often than their own parents do, so it makes sense.
Also you might note my name was misspelled Ashely… this is my biggest pet peeve in Korea and even my coworkers are guilty of it.  Although to be fair, I probably couldn’t spell many of their names.  I think it comes from the Korean pronunciation of 애슐리 which is Eh-Shool-Li.  Drives me bonkers!
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Thailand: First leg of the trip

I recently went on an incredible trip to Thailand.  It would be way too long and wordy to properly explain here, so I’ll break it up into a few parts and share some photos.

The first day was spent mostly traveling (Daegu-> Shanghai -> Bangkok).  Less than eight hours after touchdown, Andy and I had a connecting flight to Phuket and then a ferry to Ko Phi Phi.  Needless to say, we were very tired!

Ko Phi Phi was absolutely beautiful.  It’s a tiny, touristy island located in the Andaman Sea.  It’s so small that there are no roads on the island, and so everyone travels by bicycle or push-cart.  To get to a different part of the island, it’s better to charter a longtail boat.  We got dropped off at the pier in Tonsai Village, but wanted a quieter locale.  100B (~$3) will get you to Hat Yao, Long Beach, which was perfect.

Longtail boats docked at the beach at Tonsai Village, Ko Phi Phi Don
Our bungalow! Paradise Pearl Resort, Hat Yao, Ko Phi Phi Don
Buddhist spirit house in Tonsai Village, Ko Phi Phi Don
Breakfast on Hat Yao, overlooking Ko Phi Phi Leh, the smaller sister island

As much as we loved Ko Phi Phi, we decided to check out Ko Lanta for the next few days.  My cousin and several friends raved about this quiet island, and for good reason.  After just one night, we boarded the ferry to Ko Lanta, which you can read about here.

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Market Day

On Wednesday, my school had a Market Day.  Many schools have their own version, and I think my hagwon did a great job! Instead of classes, all of the students (grades 1-6) were given fake money (depending on how many points they’ve earned all semester) and were able to buy stationery and food.  Stationery is serious business here in Korea… they go nuts for it! So it was definitely appropriate.

What you see when you exit the elevator – Market Day!
Welcome to the KYJ Party!

I manned the stationery/cookie table, while Andy handled drinks and cotton candy.  Yes, my school rented a cotton candy machine just for this occasion.  Yu Jin and Min Young cooked mandu (Korean dumplings) and ddeokbokki (rice cakes in spicy sauce with cabbage, garlic, and fish cakes).  They also sold corn dogs, which Koreans call hot dogs.  It was definitely a Korean kids’ feast!

Working in the stationery shop
Making cotton candy
One of my students, Min Hoon, absolutely destroying his cotton candy
Our ddeokbokki – delicious!

After the party ended, we stayed late to help clean and set everything up for tomorrow.  We ordered mul nyeangmyeon (물 냉면) for dinner, which is one of my favorite dishes.  A great summer food, nyeangmyeon is a cold dish of buckwheat noodles.  Mul nyeangmyeon is served in the icy broth (mul means water in Korean).  A refreshing end to a long day.

Mul nyeangmyeon

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Rosetta Stone

Right now it’s only 57 days until I leave for Korea… so I’ve really been upping my Korean language learning.  Andy and I received Rosetta Stone for the holidays and so we’ve been using that.  It’s AMAZING.

About 3 months ago, I asked around to see what people thought of Rosetta Stone for Korean… and to be honest, people were totally hating on it.  Major complaints included that it waited too long to teach practical phrases, instead highlighting the importance of phrases like “the boy is under the soccer ball.”  I can see that is in fact the case, but what I didn’t realize was this: Rosetta Stone is fun.  Really fun! It shows you images and never translates what you’re learning, so you learn by observing.

I figure I have some time to learn some of the less relevant phrases, since I won’t even be moving for 2 months.  Any language software that makes learning enjoyable gets a good grade in my book.  Even Andy couldn’t wait to make an account and jump in after seeing me using it.

Since this isn’t wholly comprehensive, I hope to use Rosetta Stone alongside Mango Languages, youtube lessons, and some of the many online Korean-learning websites.  Who knew learning Korean could be this entertaining?

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Inch By Inch

So a lot of small things have happened in the past week… we got our visa permission numbers which means we will get our visas very soon! Just have to go to the Korean Embassy in DC and go through an interview process.  Apparently this isn’t extremely formal but I’ll probably overprepare anyway.  I’m excited to have a second visa in my passport (currently have one for Spain)– makes me feel like a real world traveler! Ultimate goal: need extra pages.  We’ll probably do that this week.

Second thing – Beth emailed me a few details on our apartment.  We’re going to have one in the same complex as them, which is great.  It’ll be nice to have someone close by who knows the ropes… I’m afraid of small tasks such as using a washing machine since it’s all in Korean! We’re going to have a three bedroom apartment with a balcony.  I’ve been brainstorming uses for the two extra bedrooms.  Sure, we could go the normal route and each have an office or something, but we could also have a giant ballpit.  Only time will tell (read: Andy will put his foot down).

Once we get our visas, Mr. Kim is going to buy our plane tickets.  I can’t believe we’re getting closer and closer to our departure (92 days!).  It doesn’t feel quite real yet, but I know it will soon.  Then there will be the biggest challenge of all… packing…

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