Sunday, May 10, 2009

Goodbye Kimchi, Hello World!

I finished up in Korea last Thursday after 16 of the best months of my life. It was really sad to say goodbye to Korea and I will miss my friends and my students sooooo much, but I`m really excited for the travel that lies ahead!

My blogging slackness in Korea was somewhat shameful, I know... but now that I`m on the road again, I`ve have started a new blog with my travel buddy, Claire, which we hope to update with some semblance of regularity.

Follow us as we blow a years worth of hard-earned cash on our Asian adventure through Japan, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Nepal and India. We`re hoping that our savings will last us for 5 or 6 months... we`ll see how that goes...

Anyway, check out our new blog at

Monday, January 19, 2009

사랑해요 Korea - Happy anniversary!

So today marks my one year anniversary with South Korea. 365 days. No, wait, 366 days (2008 was a leap year after all). I know I keep saying this, but I cannot believe how fast time has flown. Seriously! How has it already been a year! What a year it has been... 사랑해요 한국 !! (I love you, Korea!!)

I'm sitting here on my bed in my itty-bitty apartment where I can see everything I own without even having to turn my head (just a slight movement of the eyes just about does it), I'm sipping on some bad Korean rice wine, my foster-dog, Elvis, is snoring on my feet and I'm watching my favourite Korean boy-band on TV... I love it all and can't help but think how sad I'll be to leave this place when the time comes.

Technically, I'm supposed to be out of the country today, but I've known for a while now that I wouldn't be ready to leave just yet... so I've extended my contract to the end of April - which, coincidentally (or not coincidentally at all), is when Claire finishes up too. Our post-Korea plans are to spend 5 or 6 months traveling around Asia - Japan, China, India, Nepal, Cambodia and Laos. We've partied a lot of our money away here, but we've also managed to save enough to ensure ourselves a fairly a decent trip - whoot whoot whoot! It's my hope that traveling will take the edge off leaving Korea, but as excited as I am about hitting the road and seeing the sights, I really do get a lump in my throat when I think of what I'm leaving behind... Far and beyond, the two things that will be the hardest to leave are my wonderful friends....absolutely amazing, hilarious, unforgettable people that they are, and, of course, my students... some of the cutest kids I've ever had the pleasure of yelling at/reducing to tears.

(for some tear-free pictures of their Christmas pageant extraordinaire, see

Anyway, in no apparent order, here are a few pics (read 'many') from the last couple of months... I'm sure you can see why I'm finding it so hard to leave.

NYE, Cheonggyechon, Seoul... Our first attempt at a human pyramid...

Our second, and much more impressive pyramid... I'm surprised this didn't make the national news given the 7 million photos taken of it by onlookers. 

NYE Cheonggycheon, Seoul

NYE - the police were oddly keen to get into photos

NYE - this policeman kindly held my beer while I fished my camera out of my bag... and I think he's probably 12.

NYE - two very excited and cold Aussies 
(it was minus 15 or something horrible and we were outside!)

Fun times at Monkey Beach, Seoul... the cocktails come in buckets

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree

This, my friends, is Kimchi, the Korean national dish. The reason it looks like a botched brain surgery is because I made it myself!

I found these little monsters hiding in the cupboard scoffing down cookies

The awesome foursome at Jesse's farewell :(

Yes, my Korean experience is a little more complete, having developed a massive crush on a Korean celebrity.... Meet T.O.P (singer/songwriter/rapper for Korea's most popular band 'BigBang') and my #1 crush. My crush started off as a bit of a joke after seeing BigBang live at a Korean music award ceremony, but has actually developed into a small obsession... (I'm going to marry him.  He just doesn't know it yet).  
There is a long list of reasons why I love TOP, but if I had to narrow it down to two (which I don't, but I will) it would have to be that (a) he's a dream boat, and (b) he is the only Korean male I've ever heard with a voice deeper than mine. sigh.
(yes, I know... I've been in Korea too long - seriously... one of the other band members who I also like is called G. Dragon... i know it's lame, but i just can't help but love them!)

Speaking of crushes, please meet my 6-year-old fiance, Sean.  He proposed to me a while back and of course, I said yes.  He's the sweetest, smartest little thing ever... and given that he came up with this pose on his own accord, I think he could be following the footsteps of TOP!

Ern, this would be me on Christmas day, sporting the goodies that Claire gave me - scarf, face mask (i'm always complaining my nose and lips are freezing), a hello kitty and some BigBang paraphernalia.
Having a ball on NYE in Cheonggyechon, Seoul

Claire and I at the Grand Mint Music Festival, Seoul...
Another highly photographed event - apparently no one has ever seen shoulder rides at a concert before.

After making Kimchi, we were "forced" into dressing in Hanbok and being photographed... surprise! mine didn't fit!

Meet another little man in my life... Elvis.  Claire and I have temporary joint custody over the little man while arrangements are made for him to be reunited with his mummy in the UK.  This pic is from a fundraising night at NowBar for Jorge, Elvis' daddy, who sadly passed away in October.  R.I.P. Jorge 

Little Elvis already has his black belt in Taekwando!!

Jesse, Claire and I drinking from zip-lock bags at the Grand Mint Festival, Seoul... back when it was warm.

We cooked up one of the finest Christmas lunches the NowBar has ever seen!  
Thank you Janine for organizing!

Makin' Kimchi.
I did warn you these were in no particular order...

I'm having too  much fun to leave....

Monday, November 24, 2008

The ramblings of Chester

In the last month, I've been asking my 9 to 11 year old students to complete a writing task on a range of different issues every week.  Up until now their writing tasks in class have consisted of answering  questions in pretty basic, single sentences. And for the most part, they're pretty good at it.  Given their skills in these previous writing tasks, I was intrigued to see what they would produce when asked to write a paragraph or short essay... and then I received this little diddy from a boy called Chester...

 Let me explain Chester a little first.  Chester is adorable.  He often wears matching outfits... which look remarkably like pajamas.  Last week, for example, he was wearing a light blue terry-toweling cookie monster tracksuit... he's 11.  Chester has a little crush on me and always manages to maneuver his chair to the point where he's sitting flush against me... he constantly 'drops' things so he can lean over me to pick them up and sometimes he just flat out tries to play footsies with me or hold my hand.  Chester is my number one offender when it comes to 'Konglish' (Korean-English)...  if he were to read the sentence "I like going to the movies"  he would say it like "I-uh like-uh to-uh going-uh to-uh the-uh movie-uh".  Chester is a smart kid who has been learning English for YEARS, but just can't seem to grasp the grammatical structure of the language in the same way his class mates (or my 6 year old kinder kids) can.

The topic this week was: "Write about times when you were sick or you had health problems.  Give some ideas on how to keep healthy."  Here is what Chester came up with...

"The nosebleed, don't lean back and two fingers on nose and a sunburn, Put some lotion on it, and Don't your hot going. a sore shoulder, Put hot towel and Don't fix the hands.  an insect bite, Don't scratch it and going hospital.  I'm ideas is nosebleed spoon on your nose and sunburn idea in your paper is not sunburn and insect bite idea you put the rad color paper bees is don't like rad."  


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

So... It's been a while

Yes, it's been forever - but you can't blame a girl for having fun and neglecting her blog... right??  Time continues to fly past me at the speed of light - can you believe that next week marks my 10 month anniversary with Korea?!? (Me and Korea, we're thinking of buying matching T-shirts and phone accessories to mark the occasion... maybe well get a few sticker photos made too...)  

Anyway, I thought rather than spend years trying to make a million posts to get things up to date, I'd just add some links to my facebook photo albums... after that's done I promise to make a concerted effort to blog more often - which should be a little more manageable now that the weather is distinctly more winter-like.

Not surprisingly, my blogging slackness coincided with two things; 1) Claire arrived in Korea and 2) the weather warmed up to a point where weekends away upped in frequency, so first up I'll start with some links to albums from said weekends away.  

I guess the best place to start is way back in... well actually, I can't remember if it was May or June.... but we'll kick off with an impromptu weekend away in Yeoju with Claire, James and John.

Next up, was one of my favourite weekends to date - The Boreyong Mud Festival where group of 10 of us spent a crazy July weekend at Daechon beach covering ourselves with 'therapeutic' mud and generally just running amok... who knew mud could be so much fun??

A week or two after the mud festival I was lucky enough to get a week long visit form my lovely sister Cathy and her Gyles.  It was SO awesome to see them and equally as cool to be able to share my life here with someone from home - at least now someone will know who/what/where I'm talking about when I get back, plus now they won't be able to tease me and say I was really in a mental asylum for a year or something...

The day after Cath'n'Gyles left Korea, my summer holidays started (typical right?)... oh and by vacation, I mean 4 days and a weekend off work... bullshit excuse for the word 'holiday' if you ask me, but something was definitely better than nothing, and Claire and I took the opportunity to beach-bum on the north of the east coast of Korea in a great little place called Sokcho.  The beach rest was welcomed with open arms, and when the weather turned on us (as it is known to do in the middle of rainy season), we took the opportunity to check out the beautiful Mt. Serok - we didn't actually see much from the top due to some crazy cloud cover, but it was pretty all the same...

Korean thanksgiving (Chuseok) fell early in September this year, and Claire, Jeff and I decided to take advantage of the one public holiday where the whole of Korea WASN'T heading to Jeju Island, by heading to... yup - Jeju Island!  Jeju has been likened to a lot of places ranging from Hawaii, Australia, Disney Land and just straight up Paradise... I think that the last two give the most apt description of Jeju -(you may understand the Disney Land part when you look at the first few photos... at times it was a bit bizarro). It was a great long weekend - even if the rain did spoil our hopes of another 4 days of beach bumming.  Instead of tanning we went to the circus, rode funny bikes, looked at waterfalls and bypassed security so that we could climb Mt. Halla in flip-flops (it's Korea's tallest mountain I'll have you know)...   

The most recent and last long weekend before Christmas was at the start of October - our lovely school gave us 4 days while everyone else got 3 (whoot whoot!) so my travel buddy, Claire, and I decided to check another few places off our list of things to see.  This time we headed South East to the country's 3rd largest city, Daegu.  There we perused the traditional herbal medicine market, and some other smelly markets and hung out with old men and random wild animals in a community park.  Then we made our way to the ancient Silla era city of Gyeongju.  This place is stunning and should be on every must-see list in Korea... we spent days strolling around ancient tombs, serene ponds and beautiful temples. Check out the photos to see for yourselves.

That wraps up the weekends away - and if you weren't already starting to get the picture as to why it's been so long between entries... well you just should be.  I'll leave you with another few links to a few other facebook albums I put up (Mama, Pa and Dad, I hope you know this link business is almost entirely for your benefit as you are just about the only people I know that don't have a facebook account...) Anyway, here is a link to some pics of the kiddies at school - little angel-faced monsters that they are...

This one showcases the latest installments in the world of EngRish...

And last but not least, the extravaganza that was Halloween - first for the kids, then for the grown-ups (if you can't figure out what Claire and I went as, we are dressed as our kindergarten children - complete with our school backpacks and all)...

Well, that brings me pretty much up-to-date with life in the dong of Youngtong... I'll try and keep on top of things a little better from now on... but just remember that I said try and not promise. xx

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Way back in Busan.

In what seems to be my somewhat unsuccessful and never-ending quest to keep this blog updated, I'm rewinding back to May when a few mates and I  decided to spend a long-weekend in the south-eastern city of Busan.  Busan is the second biggest city in Korea and is strikingly different to what I have seen Seoul and it's surrounds.  For starters, it's on the coast (but sadly,  it was much too cold to swim that weekend - booo), and it is not nearly as modern or affluent as most of Seoul appears to be.  The people in Busan are renown for being incredibly friendly - and certainly lived up to that reputation when we were there... anyway, the point is that Busan and Seoul are totally different- and very fun.

In our mighty wisdom, we decided to take a night bus from our local inter-city bus terminal in Suwon... and in even mightier wisdom, we thought it was a good idea to include alcohol in this plan.... so we met at the Now bar for a few pre-drinks, then headed to the bus station armed with bottles of soju for our 1.30 am departure.  Note to self and anyone who cares to listen - don't liquor up before a 5 hour  bus ride... particularly when the bus doesn't have a toilet.

After a sleepless bus ride (due to mild motion/alcohol seedy-ness and an extreme exercise in bladder control) we arrived in Busan around 6 am.... What does one do in Busan at 6 am when one is hung-over and severely sleep deprived?? Yes, one goes to the fish market... 

Among an array of interesting sea creatures, we found these... I have no idea what they are, but I know what the look like!!  Worse still,  they squirm around in the buckets - gross, gross, gross.
A street of dried fish stalls - if only you could capture the smell in photos...

After our little tour of ye-olde-stinky-fish-market we headed to Gwangalli beach to find a hotel for the weekend.  After walking around attempting to secure a cheap room (and consequently discovering that our combined Korean skills were incredibly poor), we settle on this little number....

Yah, it's what's known as a 'Love' motel... not quite as dodgy as it sounds (although I do believe it is possible to rent rooms by the hour), but a good option for a cheap, secure and relatively comfy hotel option in Korea.  The above picture features Claire, sporting the 'Hers' bathrobe on the frightfully fluffy pink bed we were to share for the weekend....
We decided to skip a much needed nap in our new digs and headed to the Busan Aquarium instead (it was raining on and off all day - plus we were apparently really into fish that day...) After a wild ride on the aquarium's 3D extravaganza, we check out the famous Haeundae beach - which proved to be bitterly cold and windy so we headed back to the motel to freshen up before heading out for dinner and a night on the town... the next morning when we made it back to our motel again it was 8am - marking 48 hours without a wink of sleep.... shouldda been a barocca ad if you ask me.
Day #2 we dragged our weary bodies up the Busan tower - the views were purdy.  We also checked out the infamous Texas street (home to hookers, hustlers, dodgy folk and sexy-bars aplenty) and then onto dinner before stumbling across a soju hof (a soju bar of sorts).  This place was awesome!  It was huge an we were the only foreigners in the whole place - which made us quite the novelty  for the local patrons.  

Over the course of the night we were lucky enough to witness 3 or 4 Korean birthday parties with the special twist that only this particular soju hof seems to offer... basically it goes like this; birthday girl is presented with a cake. bartenders perform some impressive bottle-twirling with the grand finale involving a heavily shaken bottle of champagne.  Bottle is opened and champagne goes everywhere.  Girl is instructed to down a glass of champagne - if she does, she is given the bottle to drink at her leisure, if she refuses, the entire bottle is poured on her head.  Sheer hilarity (particularly as the Korean girls are incredibly, erm, attentive to their appearance).

Arriving back at Gwangalli beach about half an hour early for sun-rise, we killed some time with a few little pieces of merchandise we purchased from the fire-works stalls set up along the beach (yes - legal and yes - street vendors at 5 am... it's just the Korean way).
Matchy-matchy... my love for trying to capture couple's outfits will never cease.

Our last day was taken up with hung-over attempts to find an adequately greasy breakfast before heading back to the bus station to catch our toilet-less bus home.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering who 'we' was... this is us - Claire, me, Jesse and Dean - "The Busan 4".

Great weekend away.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Santa is my best friend

In my never-ending quest to perfect my teaching style (or at least to stop the kids from jumping on the desks during my classes), I've been running a series of tests in behavioural control techniques.  Recent trials include "cross teacher face" (often coupled with "hands on hips stance"), "everybody hands on heads", "clap, clap, clap", "pencils DOWN!" the old "threeeee.... twooo.... oooone", "silent treatment", sticker bribes, "the baby chair" and just flat out yelling.  

The success-failure rate of these techniques vary greatly due to a high number of random variables (time of day, weather, sugar intake, severity of teachers hangover etc etc).  The temporary nature of success yielded from the above trials left me searching for more effective techniques, so I decided that it was time to get creative (and maybe even a little bit mean). I am pleased to announce the discovery of one technique with a much higher success rate than previous attempts... it goes a little something like this:  Kids are being bad.  After unsuccessfully trying to quiet them, leave the room.  Return with mobile phone.  Pretend to dial a number- this usually distracts at least one or two of the rascals from their naughtiness.... but this is all you need for the trick to be effective. When the one or two are watching you, say loudly into the phone "Hello?  Police? Hi, this is Amy Teacher. Yes, Erin/Lewis/Nick (insert name) is being very naughty in class today..." To this the kids generally shit themselves and stop the bad behaviour instantly.  

This worked in my favour for a few weeks, but then I had to mix it up a bit to keep them on their toes... my new phone conversation starts like this: "Hello?  Santa?...."  You've never seen kids sit down and shut up so quickly - it's brilliant.  The kids now believe that Santa is my good friend - I told them that we met in Australia a few years back while he was taking a much needed beach holiday post-christmas present deliveries.  We hung out on the beach and I showed him around Melbourne.  We've been great friends ever since.  Santa has also allowed me to put little video cameras in the fire-sprinkler system in our classrooms so he can always see who is being naughty and who is being nice.  Santa is my best friend.

Anyway, I figured it was time for an update on school life... 

Mr. Lee (the owner/director of my school) and Bunny (my supervisor). 
With bosses like these, it's little wonder why the kids are so crazy... 

My Korean co-workers and all 'round great bunch-o-gals: Cindy, Winnie, Receptionist (no one seems to know her name but the kids call her 'the desk teacher'), Reina, Lailla and Janice.

Candy and the coolest shades to hit Youngtong, en route to the Seoul Grand Park Zoo.
Kenny, demonstrating the ever popular Korean min-love heart symbol, at the zoo (full size heart symbol involves arms over your head...much like the 'M' of YMCA dance). 
(FYI. I named Kenny after Kenny from the movie 'Kenny').
Lynne and Amy Teacher's "funny fish eye", at the zoo.

Learning about traffic safety at the Suwon Police Academy.  I was a little shocked that they let un-licensed  5 year olds operate this heavy machinery... they were un-attached cars that worked up a reasonable speed... there was an accelerator peddle and a kill-switch... no seat-belts or restraints to speak of.  Thankfully all limbs were saved.


Jongha - one of the naughtier, but more amusing kinder boys.  
One day Jongha came into the classroom and said to me: "Amy Teacher, you're a good catch!" "Erm... nice of you to say Jongha...", to which he replied by grabbing his chin and yelling "Ooooooh baby!" - one can only wonder where his father (who apparently taught him this) learnt English...

The power-house of Tug-o-war.

Sooo cute.


The courtyard outside our school was converted into a flea market for the afternoon.  The kids were given fake money (purchased with real money by their parents) and set free to buy a range of used toys, books and clothes donated by their families... Who could've known that balloons and hand-held wind-mills could be the cause of the 2008 Youngtong Kinder Riots??

Erin (the little monster) in her special party dress... 
Erin is the clumsiest, most awkward child on the face of the planet... I love her. I find her resemblance to Princess Fiona from Shrek is also quite striking.  I may also mention that she was caught smuggling a book from the flea market book stall - the concept of exchanging goods for coupons was apparently too much to comprehend at the time... that or she was saving all her coupons for fairy-floss.

The boys of Moon Class... as you can see, the control I exert over these children is nothing short of amazing.
Ocean class hit the E.C.C. veggie patch.  Cherry tomatoes for EVERYONE!
P.S. The other day, mid-phonics lesson, one of the boys in Ocean class, Jacky, raised his hand to ask a question (a small blessing as they normally just scream "teacher teacher teacher teacher!!" at me when they want something).  Anyway, so a very serious faced little Jacky says "Teacher, I have a question"
"Yes, Jacky?"
"Are you a boy?"
"No, Jacky. I'm a girl."
I'm so glad that my gender has been unclear to this kid for the last 5 months...

Candy, Julie and Moon Young of Sun class... being their adorable little selves.
Sometimes I sing to them when they're colouring in - partly to teach them some songs and words... partly to keep them occupied so they don't run around the room screaming. Apparently there are some songs these little tykes really don't like (eg. 'In the jungle' and 'I'm a little tea-pot'), so when they're bad I bust out one of these numbers to annoy them.  Recently, however, they've started retaliating with a little singing of their own - or rather they stand up and chant "SING NO! SING NO! SING NO!" until I'm laughing so hard I have to stop singing.  Crafty little buggers.
This is my Sun Class boyfriend, Moon Young.  He has the most adorably squishy cheeks in the world.  He's been known to smuggle whole cherry tomatoes in his cheeks for up to 40 minutes before anyone noticed - which should give some indication of the amount of chub in those chops.
William and his Lion mask.  William is the newest member of Sun class and the crappest colour-inner I've ever seen.  He's adorable though - even if his displays of affection do involve very hard pinches and squeezes.
Me 'n' the Sun Class Lions. Rrrroooaaarrr.
 Three of my favourite afternoon class girls, Lina, Sally and Amy, sitting on the air conditioning vents to make their dresses puff up like princesses... then complain that their legs are cold for a solid 10 minutes after.  They do look cute though.

Finally, I wanted to show you a sight I see on a regular basis:

You may be thinking "what does this have to do with kids?".  My answer to this, is nothing, however, it is a position that most of my students will undoubtedly be very familiar with by the time they're 25....  The Korean penchant for passing out on stairs really is baffling.

Until next time.