Sunday, September 29, 2013

My first visitor in Korea

Last week I got my first visitor during my time in South Korea.  The one and only Jordon Holmes came out during some time off from work and stayed for a week.  Now this is no easy task, just a quick 14-hour flight.  Luckily there is now a direct flight from Dallas to Seoul, which makes the travel that much easier.

We had a great time while he was here.  But as we usually do in these situations, I spent months looking forward to his visit only to feel like it went by really quickly.  I was very fortunate that his trip coincided with a major holiday here in Korea, Chuseok.  So I only had to work one full day while he was here.  I was able to meet him at the airport when he came in, and within the train ride from Incheon to Bucheon he got to have his first cool experience.  An elderly Korean man sitting next to him grabbed his leg, and in near-perfect English said, "Welcome to Korea."  The people here really are about as kind as I've ever met.  And they genuinely care that we enjoy their country.

I did my best to show him around Seoul and my city, Bucheon.  We visited Gyeongbokgung, a Korean palace, and a traditional Korean neighborhood called Insadong on the first full day.  Actually, on my very first day in Korea back in February, I did the exact same thing (see more here).  It was a cool thing for me to see him enjoying it all and definitely brought back a lot of memories for me.

The next day was Chuseok so we were limited in our adventures due to most places being closed.  So we got together with Dawn, Tamara,  Jamie, Micah, Michelle and Ross to eat together and spend some quality time.  We found a western-style bar that was open that night as well.

On Friday we spent most of the day resting before we went to Jamsil Stadium to catch a game between the Doosan Bears and LG Twins.  The coolest thing about this game was that Jamsil is the home stadium for both teams so the crowd was huge and very divided. That plus it being the home stretch of the regular season and both teams fighting to save their playoff spots equals huge and loud crowds.  They sold about 5,000 standing room only seats to the game, so even the aisles were crowded with 2 people sitting on just about every step.  We got lucky and got one of the last good spots in the very back of the stadium.  Two floor mats, snacks and some beers were enough for us.

The crowd was loud

And there were a lot of people

On the weekend we played screen golf and disc golf.  Yes, we found a disc golf course in Korea.  Now it only had 3 baskets up and there was no set holes, but that didn't stop us. We made up our own course and played for a few hours.  I hadn't thrown a disc in over 7 months, and Jordon has really just started playing in the last 7 months, so it was our first time ever to play together.  Screen golf is huge, no let me correct that, HUGE in Korea. There's one in my building, one in the building next to me, one in the building a block down, and you get the idea.  

Look at that form!

"I'll bet you a hundred bucks you slice it into the woods." -Al Czervik

The view from the first 'tee box'

Pretty decent baskets

On Monday I had to work the entire day so Jordon used that time to visit one of my classes, get some souvenir shopping done and rest before his trek back to Dallas on Tuesday.  Overall it was a great time.  We ate an insane amount of Korean food, all of which Jordon appeared to like (He's already found and gone to a traditional Korean restaurant in Dallas).  It made me want to have everyone from the States come over to visit.  So seriously, ever wanted to visit Asia?  Mi casa su casa.   

Monday, September 9, 2013

Suamgol (수암골) Village in Cheongju

I spent the weekend visiting some friends of mine in Cheongju, which is about a two hour drive from my home in Bucheon.  Micah and Michelle are headed back to the states, which is really good for them, and really bad for us here in Korea.  They've become very close friends of mine and I know we'll be friends for life.  I understand their situation, but inside I'm throwing a pity party.  

So my new friend and I went down to Cheongju on Saturday, which was a first for a couple of different reasons.  Big news here folks....I got to drive a car in Korea for the first time!  It had been almost seven months since I drove a car, so this was a bit of a big deal for me. Luckily for me, Jennifer was feeling tired so she asked her copilot to step in and take over.  

When we got there on Saturday, we had a chance to visit Suamgol Village.  It was previously a very rundown neighborhood which was surely destined for being replaced by an updated apartment building.  But some artists stepped in and provided a way for the neighborhood to attract some attention and more importantly, preservation.  

The view of Cheongju from Suamgol

Overall, it was a great weekend.  It was my first road trip with Jennifer.  I got to spend some good time with Micah and Michelle before they abandon me.  I got to catch up with my good friends Deborah and Cathal.  The weather was terrific.  We had a trip to the noraebang.  And did I mention I got to drive?!?  

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Halfway through my first contract

Tomorrow morning I will begin a new term teaching English in South Korea.  It will be the 4th of the 6 that I am contracted to teach in a year with my current language institute.  It's hard to believe I've been here for half a year already.  It's even harder to believe I haven't seen my family or friends in over 6 months.  For some of my friends in Colorado it's been over 10 months.

I still remember waking up at 3:30am on February 13 to head to the airport in Dallas. Truthfully I think I slept about 20 minutes that night.  My mind was racing with excitement, doubt, nervousness, expectations, fear and questions.  As Big Chiz drove me to DFW, my twitter feed was filled with reports that N. Korea had successfully tested a nuclear weapon. That did nothing to help settle my concerns.

With that said, I can't believe how fortunate I've been living here in the second biggest metropolitan area in the world.  I have learned a tremendous amount about life outside of the American bubble.  I have learned an immense amount about myself.  I have met and befriended some amazing people, both native Koreans and other foreigners teaching here.  I feel like my experience has far exceeded anything I could have expected before I came.

Here is a picture dump that highlights my time here so far....

Korean Palace Guards

Korean Palace - Gyeongbokgung

Picture taken in February

Same location, taken in May 

Namsan Tower at sunset

View of Seoul from Namsan

My first basketball game in Korea

My first class in Korea, still one of my favorites

My apartment building

My school's building

My first KBO game

Typical scene in my junior classes

Reenactment of a royal ceremony at a Palace

First visit to the Korean countryside

My first Korean wedding

One of many nights out with friends

A common scene

Hanging in Itaewon with the besties

And their men, in their usual buffoonery

I'm really excited about what the next six months will bring into my life.  I know the time will fly by, just like the first six months did.  In two weeks, I'll have my first visitor from the States, Mr. Jordon Holmes himself.  I'll also be taking a few international trips in the next six months.  More than likely, I'll be signing another contract to teach another year here in Korea.  If I'm having this much fun, how could I leave?