Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A new beginning...

The end of my Korean Adventure

So this will be the last post on Adventures in Korea. I really feel this chapter in my life has ended and a completely new chapter has begun.

When I first moved to Korea in 2004, I was young, perhaps a little naive and Korea was new and exciting. The language and culture seemed far too difficult to grasp and I was enthralled by the idea of living abroad. The fact that I had a trillion dollars worth of student loans to pay off was just an easy excuse to move to a country that was so far away and so interesting.
I am so lucky to have had my first taste of Korea while living in Ulsan.
Despite the fact that it's air quality boarders on toxic, it is a beautiful city and is home to some of the most down-to-earth weaguks (foreigners) I have ever met.
The foreigner community in Ulsan is by far the best organized, the most social and the most inclusive of all. There was always plenty to do and usually that involved drinking (as most of you can tell from the photos). The beaches and mountains that surrounded the city, dotted with their temples, just added to the experience.
My first school, Oh Sung Sik, was a good experience for me. As the only foreigner it wasn't always easy to feel part of the community, but my co-workers always made a big effort by inviting me out for drinks, or dinner and dropping by my apartment for coffee or a game of 'go stop'. I was never alone.
The friends I made in Ulsan are some of the best friends I have made in my lifetime. It is a time in my life that I will never forget.

When I returned to Korea the second time, I was so happy to be surrounded by my co-workers and beautiful students who carried me through a really tough time in my life. After losing my father less then 2 months earlier, some people thought I returned too early, but I knew it was the right time for me. Living in Jukjeon was a very different experience then Ulsan. It was definitely easier living closer to Seoul and the culture and language barriers faced in the south seemed to be fewer.
Although I had moved to the land of high-rises and skies filled with more smog then I thought possible, I had a lot of great memories, both with my co-workers and students.

When I decided to leave my job to go travelling it was wonderful to have the support of those around me. Those 4 months completely changed my life. Not only for the fact that I met Jon, but also for the fact that my outlook on life changed. Through the experiences I had and the incredible people I met, I was able to let go of a lot and truly start my life again.
Returning to Boston Campus this past winter was not a mistake. I am glad I had the experience and had the chance to teach some incredible students.
Jon and I had time to develop our relationship and realize how much we wanted to be together. I am really grateful for the last 8 months.

I am not sad about leaving Korea. In fact it feels like it was the perfect time in my life to leave. However, I am sad about not having the chance to say good bye properly to my co-workers and students, whom were so incredible and made me smile every day.
I will never forget the last 3 years and the people I met and those people who touched my life.

Korea will always be a special place for me, and although I have no plans to return, there will always be a small piece of me that never really left.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Some big news

Hey everyone

Many of you already know, while others will be finding out for the first time....

I have left Korea and moved to England to live with Jon.

We decided a few months ago that living apart just wasn't worth it and it made sense for me to come to England. So this past weekend I packed up my things and boarded a plane bound for London.
It has been hard to keep this quiet and I am sorry for not being able to tell everyone sooner. I chose not to tell my employer until I had already left, since often quitting a job in Korea is very messy. I just couldn't risk my boss finding out before I left the country.

I arrived in England yesterday and already feel happier then I have in my entire life. Jon is incredible and has made a huge effort to make me feel at home immediately. England is beautiful, cooler and much much cleaner then Korea - I am wondering why I didn't move sooner. We are so in love and just so happy to be together finally. It is going to be an exciting new chapter in both of our lives.

Our plan is for me to get a job for now and then eventually go back to school so I can teach in England(hopefully this winter). But for the next couple of days, I am just going to get unpacked, explore my new town and sleep off my jetlag.

I am living with Jon in his house in a small town about 40 minutes outside of London. It is very old and very beautiful. There will definately be some culture shock happening over the next few days and weeks.

For those of you in Canada...Jon and I are coming home for Thanksgiving from October 5-13. We will be in Toronto, Peterborough, Ottawa and Montreal...and I would love to see as many of you as I can. Send me an email and we can start planning. For those of you in other parts of the country and world, you will just have to wait a little longer.

Thanks to everyone for your support and I promise to keep you updated and post some photos very soon.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Our trip to the Philippines

So, we have returned from our long awaited trip (reunion) in the Philippines.
I have tried really hard to condense what we did, so I regret there is a lot I am leaving out, but I am sure you will enjoy it just the same.
Despite travelling during one of the worst monsoon seasons in recent Asian history, we were lucky enough to enjoy great weather for our week in the Philippines and we had a fabulous time, as I am sure you can imagine. I arrived on the Saturday night to Cebu city just one day ahead of Jon (who had a lot further to travel). My hotel apparently misplaced my reservation and failed to meet me at the airport, so after a lengthy wait and a very short van ride I arrived at my hotel just after 1am and quickly fell asleep. I awoke to the sounds of roosters crowing and the hot sunshine pouring through my window. Since Jon wasn't arriving until late afternoon on Sunday I decided to tour around downtown Cebu. Unfortunately, there is not a lot to see. I went to Magellan's cross - which is a large cross commemorating one of Cebu's premier explorers who not only found the island, but later died on it (due to some dispute with a local chief). I also went to see one of Cebu's most famous Churches and even stayed for the mass, despite the crowds and hot, extra sweaty weather.
I met Jon at the airport late in the afternoon (yeah!!! It was so good to see each other after over 2 months of being apart) and we made our way to the sea (since our resort that we booked also failed to meet us at the airport - despite their confirmation....yes I too was seeing a trend). We arranged a 'taxi' to take us to what we thought was a port, but in actuality was a small town with some boats floating a few hundred meters out in the sea.
Even though we were far from convinced this is where we were suppose to be, we met a lady who offered us a ride on her boat to our island (for a not too small fee). Because the tide was very low, we had to walk out to the boat to board. We knew our adventure was definitely beginning.
We arrived at our resort and were dropped off at the end of a long jetty. There appeared to be no one around, so we walked down the jetty towards our resort. When we arrived at the office, the man was so surprised to see us. Apparently he had not received our reservation from their head office. He told us we were the only guests staying on the island. It was clear he was as surprised as we were. For the next 2 days we relaxed in the peace and quiet, snorkeled with some incredible fish, swam in the ocean, star gazed from a sandbar, dined at a table set for 2 along the ocean and kayaked to a near by island. Our room was on stilts sitting just over the ocean and each morning we could sit and watch the fish swim through the coral in the shallow waters that surrounded us. It was paradise.
Although we were sad to leave our own private island, we were excited to be travelling north through the country (through typical South Asian villages and hills covered in jungle) to an island off the north west coast called Banatayan. After a long day of travelling on a small pump boat, a local bus, a large ferry and a motorcycle (Jon, me, our large backpacks and some Philippino guy who promised to drive us to a nice resort all squeezed onto one bike) we made it to a lovely stretch of beach in a small town called Santa Fay.
We stayed for 2 nights and spent our days swimming and biking around the island.
The morning we planned to depart, we awoke to a large storm passing by. Luckily by the time our small pump boat arrived to pick us up, the storm had passed and we enjoyed a relaxing ...minus the very very loud motor....3 hour boat ride towards Malapascua Island (just off the northern tip of Cebu Island). We rode past loads of fishermen along the way and even saw flying fish - which look a lot like birds (very interesting).
We arrived onto Malapascua island to discover the resort we booked was not quite what we expected (there was no beach - just a rocky cliff, and the cabins were surrounded by what looked a lot like a construction site). Luckily we found a wonderful resort not too far away and booked in for our last 3 nights. The island is very small and has no actual roads, only small footpaths and dirt paths for motorbikes. Our days were full with swimming, snorkeling and exploring the island on foot (which took us over 6 hours). The people were very friendly and it was so much fun to get a real sense of life on a small island.
On Sunday we left Malapascua for our long boat and bus ride back to Cebu city to catch our flights. Just as every other day, there was so much to see along our day-long trip back to the city. We finished our day with some Vietnamese food and a few beers before heading to the airport for our separate flights home.
I have to admit, this was one of my favorite vacations!!
Not only did Jon and I get to travel around some amazing islands, we also got to spend every day together....which is something new for us. I had fun every day we were together and never stopped smiling ( well almost...on our hike around Malapascua I cut my feet on some rocks and I admit stopped smiling for a couple hours). Thanks to Jon for making my vacation so incredible!
Enjoy the photos below and please check back for updates early next week - I guarantee there will be something very interesting for you to read!!

Downtown Cebu city

An ominous sky over Cebu city

The very long jetty at Nalusuan Island Resort
Yellow boats , Nalusuan Island Resort

Jon in his snorkel gear

A sea turtle in the sanctuary at Nalusuan Island Resort

A rainbow just outside our room, Nalusuan Island
Room with a view

Jon and me after our afternoon kayak

Our private island paradise (almost), Nalusuan Island

Jon and I looking for a hotel on Bantayan Island
Biking around Bantayan Island

Getting ready for our day of bike
Jon and me outside our resort, Bantayan Island

Jon and me on our way to snorkel near Malapascua island.

View of Malapascua Island during our hike

Just a few of the hundreds of fishing boats
Heading back to Cebu for our flight home

Thursday, July 19, 2007

There are absolutely no good excuses as to why my blog has not been updated for over a month...pure procrastination.
Over the last month, the monsoon has arrived bringing days of solid rain and the odd day of sunshine. Last weekend I went to a Mud festival in Boryeong - see photos below.
Anyways, hang on and I promise there will be lots of juicy things to read about soon.
Next week Jon and I are off to the Philippines for our long awaited vacation. It has been 2 months since he was last here in Korea and we are both in serious need of a holiday (together).
Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Seodaemun Prison

Today I visited Seodaemun Prison in Seoul with Kathryn, Angie, Matt and Jenn. It was definately a somber event, but very educational. Seodaemun Prison Was erected in 1908 to house those who were captured by the Japanese in their fight to free Korea from Japan's oppression. There were many tributes, exhibits and photographs dipicting not only the struggle these people were flighting for, but also the suffering and torture they experienced within the walls of Seodaemun Prison. A very moving afternoon and definately one I won't soon forget.

The map of Seodaemun Prison, Seoul

Watch tower, Seodaemun Prison
View of the prison grounds and mountain in the distance, Seodaemun Prison
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View of Seodaemun Prison

Me standing outside of the front gate of Seodaemun Prison

One of the many prison corridors at Seodaemun Prison

View just outside the Execution Hall, Seodaemun prison
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After our tour of Seodaemun prison, we headed to Insadong for a yummy Indian meal...yeah for Thalis!! Even if this one didn't cost 25 rupees was divine and worth every won)

Me grinning like a kid in a candy store...thali thali thali!!

Me, Kathryne and Angie at the Indian restaurant

Jen and Matt were happy about the food too!
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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Kids and their silly t-shirts

Just because this made me laugh so hard yesterday when I saw it....thanks to my student Ashley who was so patient (be it also confused) as I showed her and her t-shirt off to the other teachers and then proceeded to snap a few photos of her - I always love a 'pretty and easy' girl who is also a good sport.

Note: photos courtesy of Kathryn's camera phone (thanks Kat)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Chungang Park

Just a few photos I wanted to add from my Sunday at the park. The weather is hot now and my apartment has been converted into a stinky sauna laugh, but I'm not joking. The smells of burnt oil and sea creatures from the fish restaurant that opened beside my window seem to be wafting into my apartment daily. Combined that with the increasing heat and humidity and you get my smelly sauna (formally known as Colleen's place). In an attempt to get some fresh air I hopped on a bus and found myself in a beautiful little park just 20 minutes away from my home. It was perfect...sitting under some trees (doing the half sun/half shade thing), reading a great book (bought in India and left on the shelf until now), watching the ducks and fountains and taking the occasional 5 minute nap was a great way to spend my sunny Sunday afternoon. Anyways, here's some photos for you to carouse through. Enjoy

What a nice place to relax

Chungang ParkMap
Fountains galore!! This was the biggest one!

It's a white duck with an orange beak!!! Just like in the story books!
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