Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hwaseong Fortress & Other Stuff

Random Korean Fact (the rest of the world should pay attention to this because it's a GREAT system): Parking (and driving for that matter) is a little haphazard in Korea. So, on the bottom corner of the wind shield, all cars have their mobile numbers posted. If they park their car and end up blocking someone, they just give you a quick call and you come move your car, done deal. So simple, yet so effective.

Almost 2 weeks ago I spent both Saturday and Sunday visiting the city of Suwon, the capital of Gyeonggi-do, the province I live in. It is just a few subway stops away from me, and has a LOT more to offer than little Osan. The main goal was to see the Hwaseong Palace & Fortress. I met JiHye, the music teacher from my school for a great sushi lunch and then we headed to the palace. I took my first solo subway ride because JiHye lives closer than me to Suwon and felt very accomplished to have hopped on and off the right train without complications. The palace was built in the late 18th century and stretched over a large area in the middle of central Suwon. It is surrounded by a fortress wall that looks exactly like a mini version of the Great Wall of China. We walked all around the palace grounds, took pictures (JiHye brought her Polaroid again!) and spent a lot of time dodging groups of school children. In Korea, students go to school on Saturdays, its awful, but luckily it's not part of my contract. I love JiHye, she is really shy with very broken english but she gives off great vibes. She is just comfortable to be around and has the sweetest, most gentle face. After our walk we headed for a quick coffee and then back home.

The next day I went back to Suwon with Gezina, and walked the wall. It is about 6 kilometers and starts off up a mountain and has spectacular views. It was a really sunny day and Koreans love to hike, so it was bustling with families and foreigners alike. After a long afternoon of walking around Gezina and I headed to grab some eats and then back to Osan.

This past weekend I was somewhat grounded to my apartment. There were some fun things going on (like a French wine and cheese market in Seoul), but I had work to do. In what I am learning is typical Korean fashion, my co-teacher sprung on me Thursday, that I had to hand in 23 lesson plans for Winter Camp by Monday morning. The school lets out for winter holidays at the end of the month. Aside from my 4 wks vacation, I am contracted to be at school everyday. So when regular classes aren't in session I run winter/spring/summer english camps for students. They sound pretty breezy, the only challenge is I am teaching grades 1 & 2 (I teach 3 - 6 usually) who don't start learning english in regular school till grade 3. I have no Korean teacher in the class with me during camp and am teaching kids with little to no english comprehension. It's going to be interesting. All those endless nights of charades back home are finally going to pay off!

So I spent most of the weekend writing lesson plans. I have no clue whether they will work or not, trial and error. I managed to slip out for dinner on Saturday night with a few people to an Indian restaurant. The decor was great and so was the company, the food was good, but not so much Indian. More of a quasi Korean Indian. I was expecting kimchi, because it seems sacrilegious not to eat it at each meal, but it surprisingly never appeared. We did have a bizarre assortment of meats on our table and the tandoori was pretty much teriyaki sauce. A, for effort though.

On Sunday I was getting cabin fever and met up with Gezina for a nice exploration adventure of Osan. There is a small river that winds through the city and we followed that for a while, found a beautiful park with amazing statues and art pieces scattered through it, and then eventually moseyed back to the core. It was the perfect breath of fresh air that I needed.

This week has been a quiet one. I hooked up my MagicJack and spoke to a few people from home which lit up my nights, but I have been a little worse for wares in the morning, so I need to cut these calls short and target more sleeping hours.

Wednesday I was back near Suwon for a (useless! pointless! waste of time!) english teacher's meeting and Gezina and I ended up just browsing around the shopping wall and going out for dinner. She is not a huge fan of Korean so we went for Kitalian, Korea's version of Italian food. Again, no kimchi, but not quite up to the calibre of Italian food I am used to eating.

It's the weekend again and I'm really looking forward to it. Friday I am meeting some people locally and heading to Wa Bar, which I haven't been to yet, but seems like the main foreigner's watering hole. Saturday I am headed into Seoul for an amazing looking event called SuperSketch. An artists collaboration with visual art and live music, in Hongdae, a part of Seoul haven't been to yet. I am a little apprehensive about plans cause I am just tagging on with others, but the subway closes at midnight and I have no way to get home. It seems there are a few options, partying all night till the subway opens at 6 again, sleeping at a jimjilbang, or crashing in a DVD bang (literally rooms you can rent to watch movies in). None of these seem really appealing after a night out of drinking, but I am trying to go with the flow and see where I end up. So hopefully in the next blog I will have some great stories about my night out in Seoul.

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