Archive for the ‘South Korea’ Category

Lessons Learned

I’ve been trying to keep track of the different lessons I’ve learned while being here.

  • Language has the ability to both make you feel totally at home and completely alone.
  • There’s nothing better than saying hello to friends or family and nothing worse than saying goodbye.
  • Charades is more than a game. It’s a life skill.
  • Getting lost is half the fun.
  • I love teaching.
  • Kids are more or less the same world over.
  • I’m incredibly lucky to be Canadian. You will never know how much you love your country unless you leave it.
  • Traveling is good for my soul.
  • I like being alone but love being with my friends and family. There’s no way I could do this trip by myself. I’m too neurotic.
  • It’s the simple things in life that you miss from home – like knowing your way around the grocery store or hopping in your car to go for a drive.
  • Home sickness is terrible.
  • A package from home is incredible.
  • Logic is my friend.
  • I like being from and living in a small town.
  • English is unnecessarily complicated. There’s no need for a language to be this difficult.
  • Having English as your native language is a serious advantage that I never realized.
  • Pictures of friends doing everyday things are more valuable than pictures of new places.
  • Food should be enjoyed, but you can eat just about anything and survive. This includes dried squid and butterfly larvae.
  • PEI is beautiful. Really, really, beautiful.
  • There are some people who come into your life and instantly you know you were meant to be friends.

I’m sure there are many more things I’ll realize that I’ve learned after I get home or during the next few months of traveling but for now, I think I’ve done quite well.

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Our time in Korea is very quickly drawing to a close and next week Jacob and I set out on what will definitely be one of the highlights of our lives. We are going to be spending the next 4 months traveling through China, South-East Asia, India and Australia.

We’ve spent the better part of the last year and a half talking about and planning this trip. This is more or less the reason we came to Korea. Ever since we came up with the idea to do this we’ve been adding and subtracting cities or countries, trying to decide where to go, what to see and do, and how much of it we can afford. We still don’t have a definite plan, but we never really wanted one. We do however have a rough outline of where we’ll be going, what we’ll be doing and how long we’ll be staying. Here it is:

  • China: We’ll fly to Beijing on August 17th from Seoul. We’re planning to spend about three and a half weeks in China and Hong Kong. We’re hoping to go to Beijing, Datong, Pingyao, Xi’an, Nanjing, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Shanghai and finish up in Hong Kong. Some highlights include the Great Wall, Terracotta Warriors, Panda Bears, Expo 2010 and maybe some horse races in Hong Kong. We’ll be traveling by train throughout the whole country.
  • Vietnam: Hopefully somewhere around the 13th of September we’ll be crossing the border into Vietnam where we’ll be spending the next 2-3 weeks. We plan on working our way down the east coast of Vietnam through cities like Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang and HCMC. We also plan on taking some side trips to HaLong Bay and the Mekong Delta. Vietnam will also see our first break when we plan to stay put for a few days on a what looks to be a little piece of heaven at Jungle Beach Resort
  • Cambodia: We’ll be spending just under a week in Cambodia split between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Angkor Wat will definitely be a highlight.
  • Thailand: For 2 weeks during the  middle October we should be in Thailand although, we still haven’t completely decided on this part of the trip. We’ll definitely be spending sometime in Bangkok, and then possibly a trip to the northern part of the country to Chiang Mai for some jungle trekking or spending more time in the south on the beaches. It will depend on how we feel and how the political situation in Bangkok and surrounding areas is looking while we’re there.
  • Malaysia: Also a little up in the air as we’ve heard some mixed things on Malaysia. Right now we’re planning on spending about a week and half visiting some islands on the east coast and the Taman Negara National Park. We’ll be visiting Kuala Lumpur for at least a couple of days before we fly out.
  • India: We fly to Kolkata on October 30th (that’s provided we can get our visas somewhere along the way). We’ll make our way west across the country through Darjeeling, Varanasi, Agra, Jaipur, Jaisalmer and ending in Delhi. The Taj Mahal and Bengal Tigers at the Sunderban Tiger Reserve are definitely on the list. A camel trip through the desert might not be so bad either.
  • Bali (Indonesia): We fly from Delhi to Bali on the 19th of November. We’ll be spending 5 days relaxing on a beach somewhere on the island trying to catch our breath from the last 3 weeks in India.
  • Australia: On November 25th we fly from Bali to Perth then onto Melbourne. We’re renting a camper van in the land down under and slowly making our way up the East coast through Sydney, Brisbane and ending off in the Great Barrier Reef. Next we’ll be heading inland to Ayers Rock in Uluru before heading South and back West to Perth.
  • Singapore: December 19th we fly to Singapore where we’ll spend a few days before heading back to Korea on December 23rd.

For a visual here is a google map of the potential route:

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Every once in a while you’ll stumble across the rare gem that is the English Speaking Korean (ESK). Fortunately to keep things interesting there are a few kinds of ESKs.

  1. “The soju gives me confidence ESK”. This will happen almost every time we go out to a bar or restaurant in the evening. We will inevitably be approached by one or more Koreans  who want to try out their English skills. Most times they only know a few catch phrases: Hello, Nice to meet you, Where are you from are, are quite popular. The odd time they will sit down at the table and invite their friends. It’s always entertaining and usually we get some free stuff out of it.
  2. “The I think I know a lot more English than I do ESK” These are the most difficult of the ESKs because you usually get stuck talking to this person who really doesn’t know enough to carry on a decent conversation. Most of the time you have no idea what they are talking about. The smile and nod is a good coping technique.
  3. “The surprising ESK.” These are awesome and occur every so often. It’s always such a welcome surprise to find out that this person you’ve been struggling to communicate with actually knows English. It has happened with our friend at Pizza Etang, at the pharmacy near our school, in taxis and as Johann can definitely attest to, the Apple store in Busan.
  4. “The true ESK”. And sometimes, if you are really lucky you’ll stumble upon a Korean who really speaks English. I’m talking about someone you can have a real conversation with. Someone you can call if you are having problems or can translate instructions for you. We’ve been very fortunate by meeting quite a few of these. Unless you’ve lived in a foreign country with a different language you have no idea how valuable these people are and how much we appreciate them. Gimban Man (Hur Nam Il), Joy, Yooseup, Ellie, Amy, Kelly, Jino and Gloria to name a few.

Living in a country where the language is so foreign from our own, there’s always something very comforting in getting any English spoken to us or the chance to speak any English. So to all the ESKs, thanks, you have no idea how much we enjoy it.

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Couple’s Wear

A very popular fashion trend in Korea is ‘couple’s wear’. You’ll see it in most stores where clothing will come in both a man’s and women’s version. This is particularly popular at the airport for honeymooners, at the movie theatre for dates and in shopping areas on the weekend. It’s so popular that friends of ours have made it into a game, similar to punch-buggie. See couples wear and punch your friend. There are varying degrees of couples wear, sometimes it’s just a t-shirt but the really serious ones are wearing identical clothes down to the shoes. While visiting the Busan airport, we did some reconnaissance and were able to get the following pictures. Can you spot the couples?

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Fan Death

It’s been hot for the past month or two in Korea. And I mean REALLY hot. It’s never below about 29-30 degrees in our apartment and that’s with the air conditioner running. It easily gets to 35+ humidity everyday and would rarely drop below 30 even at night. This has lead us to rely on the air conditioner and the fan to get through the days and nights of heat. So far we’ve been quite lucky and haven’t had any problems with fan death. All of our friends still seem to be kicking and we haven’t heard of any incidents in the news. Keep your fingers crossed for us for our last few days in Korea.

For those of you who don’t know what fan death is, the following is from Wikipedia.

Fan death is a putative phenomenon, generally accepted only in South Korea, in which an electric fan left running overnight in a closed room can cause the death of those inside. Fans sold in Korea are equipped with a timer switch that turns them off after a set number of minutes, which users are frequently urged to set when going to sleep with a fan on.[1]

The specifics behind belief in the myth of fan-death often offer several explanations for the precise mechanism by which the fan kills.

  • That an electric fan creates a vortex, which sucks the oxygen from the enclosed and sealed room and creates a partial vacuum inside.
  • That an electric fan chops up all the oxygen particles in the air leaving none to breathe.
  • The fan uses up the oxygen in the room and creates fatal levels of carbon dioxide.
  • That if the fan is put directly in front of the face of the sleeping person, it will suck all the air away, preventing one from breathing.
  • That fans contribute to hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature.[2] As the metabolism slows down at night, one becomes more sensitive to temperature, and thus supposedly more prone to hypothermia. If the fan is left on all night in a sealed and enclosed room, believers in fan death suppose that it will lower the temperature of the room to the point that it can cause hypothermia.
  • That fans directly on the body deprives “skin-breathing,” leading to suffocation.
Electric fans sold in Korea are equipped with a “timer knob” switch, which turns them off after a set number of minutes: perceived as a life-saving function, particularly essential for bed-time use.

Fan death is frequently cited when police detectives are unable to determine cause of death.

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I was asked the other day about Korean music, so I feel like it’s about time I get this post finished. Korean music is probably one of the things I will remember most about my time here. K-Pop is everywhere, you’ll find it blaring from cell phone shops, in a cafe, the grocery store or in the traditional markets. Not only is it everywhere, but everyone loves and knows it, especially the inevitable choreographed dance that goes along with the song.

K-Pop is that kind of music that ends up getting in your head and you just can’t get it out. The biggest ‘problem’ though is that usually only the chorus is in English so you’ll find yourself singing along to words that you don’t understand and can barely pronounce or you just end up repeating the same words over and over again.

I’m going to miss the K-Pop. It’s always good for dancing and usually pretty catchy. Here are some samples for you to enjoy!

This was really popular when we first arrived. Jacob made up his own words to the song.Chocolate Love

No look at K-Pop would be complete without including G-Dragon, he sings Heartbreaker.

Zanelle, this one is for you.

This song is currently one of our favourites.

My all time personal favourite and the song that made us famous at a local bar: Sorry Sorry by Super Junior

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Eviction Notice

Apparently it’s just about time for us to pack our bags and leave Korea. The Korean government was kind enough to send me this notice yesterday.

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There are some new (and long over due) photos on the photo page. Enjoy!

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