Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Budgets, Goals and Still Having Fun

It is no secret that I love adventure, I do wish that I would learn to document it more. Yes, I do through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but that only does so much. I can’t really tell the full story of life like I could if I were to blog as much as I plan in my head,
I spend hours and hours reading blogs and articles on traveling, growing up and reasons why not to “grow up”. Each time I read these I come up with things I want to write. This never goes any further than my brain.
I started this blog as a way to share my year in Korea, well that year turned out to be two years. My daily routine with work hasn’t changed. I have good days and not so good days. My students are absolutely amazing and little sweethearts. I look forward to seeing them each day. Hours and hours of practice for the county English completion paid off and my school won first place out of 13 other elementary schools! Weekends have changed from last year, I tend to stay in more, only going out about once every three weeks. But this is due to the major budget I put myself on, I set a goal for what I wanted to save by August and with that I’ve learned what it really takes to stick to a daily budget.
Having a ton of free time has given me a lot of time to think. I look on Facebook and see so many people I graduated high school with getting married and having kids. My friends from college are starting careers and enjoying the company of one another. While I am sitting alone in my tiny, one room apartment in South Korea, then I snap out of that and realize I am doing exactly what I want to do and what many others dream of doing.
I packed up after college, moved 7,000 miles away and started teaching English.
*Side note: I didn’t major in Education in college because I’ve never really liked kids. Guess I ate those words*
I was the girl that only worked my senior year in high school, my parents gave me allowance, paid for my apartment, phone, car and college. So needless to say they were very unsure of my idea to up and leave. But now here I am living totally on my own. I have to pay for my phone, bills, food, travel, vacation or weekends out. I can’t call my Daddy to ask if he can give me my allowance a week early, I have had to learn the value of a dollar, or shall I say Won (Korean Currency). I’ve learned to say no to impulse shopping adventures because I knew how badly I wanted to hop on a plane and go somewhere for the next long weekend I have off of work.
During 2013 I have vacationed in Thailand, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. I also went home for 2 weeks during my summer break. After adding up how much I spent on airfare it is a little sickening. But then I think about all of the wonderful experiences I had in all of these places. Learning my lesson to use sunscreen in Thailand, visiting ancient Angkor Wat in Cambodia, seeing the traveling duck in HK, making the impulse decision to go to Macau for the day and visiting the Taipei 101 building, I wouldn’t trade any of these adventures. On each of these trips my friends and I had to set a budget and goals for what we wanted to see and do. Each of these memories is a reminder that I really don’t need whatever scarf or pair of shoes I like because those things are just materialistic. Travel memories are something that last forever. It is a true gift that keeps on giving. You will share memories for years to come with friends and family.
In mid January I will be taking a two week vacation to Vietnam (Hanoi and Saigon) and back to Cambodia. I am very excited to see all of the Vietnam War history and experience the wonderful Vietnamese food. After being in Cambodia (January 2013) for a week I knew that I must go back when I had another chance. Seeing the sunrise over Angkor Wat is like a religious experience. The beauty and nature all come into one to make the soul feel good and refreshed. There is so much more of that area I want to explore this year. Also, Khmer food is out of this world. I loved the food in Italy, but Khmer food takes the number one spot for me. So if you are in Siem Reap the last week of January you will be able to find me stuffing my face at any little local restaurant.
2013 has been a year for the books. I have learned more about myself, while at the same time learning I am not sure with what I want to do with my life. I have gotten closer to friends, felt like I have grown more distant to friends back home and had to say good-bye to a few dear friends here in Korea. Korea is a revolving door in the foreigner community; people are in and out every 6 months. You will meet great people and then they have to leave in a few months, you will become so close to people and then they decide not to stay for a 2nd year and then there are those who seem to never leave. Living here you experience things that you never thought you would, you are friends with people who are totally opposite of you, different race, religion and political party. You let your guard down and think outside of the box of what kind of people you want to date. While still in the back of your mind you know exactly what that check-list has on it.
2014 will be a huge year for me. I will be back in the US in late August, actually just a few days before college football starts. I can’t wait for football!! I will have to job search (before returning home), I will need to move to a new town and start a new life. This is all more terrifying to me than it was to think about moving to Korea. Yes, you read that correctly, I am more frightened to move to a new town in my own country than I was to move to a country where I could only say ‘Hello’. While at the same time I am very anxious to start a new journey. I do know that I don’t want to end up in the 9-5 work pace that many fall into and never get out of. I still need adventure and excitement. My ideal job would be one that allows me to work with the public, be sociable, use the life skills I’ve gained here in Korea and gives me a chance to take great trips abroad at least twice a year. Now the hard job will be to find a job that fits this. Good luck, right!
My hope for 2014 is to find out more about myself through travel and experiences. Hopefully I will get my blogs out of my head and on here.

Thank you all who have made 2013 so wonderful and memorable!! 

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Year one quickly ends and year two begins!!

Needless to say it has been a very long time since my last post. During that time I took a long weekend trip to Hong Kong that was much needed with one of my friends here. While we were there we took two “Big Bus” tours. They are double deck, British styled, buses that tour the area. We did a tour of Kowloon and one of Central Island. I never would have imagined how much of a business area HK was. It made NYC look like a joke. Because Hong Kong is full of skyscraper that are on the side of lush green mountains overlooking beautiful Victoria Harbor. Luckily, while we were there it just so happened to have the big, yellow traveling duck in the harbor. So that was pretty cool to see it, as it had been traveling around the world for the past few years. A month or so prior to our trip the duck has suffered a hole and died for a few days until it could be repaired. It left HK a couple days after we did. Also, during out time in HK the duck wasn’t the only well known face. It wasn’t until the day we returned that the Edward Snowden news broke. Yes, we were there while he was.
While there we met up with one off Vee’s college a friend that is from there. She took us around one night to the street markets, restaurants and to Lan Kwai Fong. LKF is known for the bars and after business cocktails.
While having 2 full days already in HK we decided why not go to Macau for the next day since it was only an hour fairy ride away. Macau is said to be the Las Vegas of the East. While we didn’t see as much nightlife venues as Vegas may have it still had hotels like the MGM and Wynn. Vee and I did a little gambling and then went into the older part of town.

Macau was once a Portuguese colony. So the buildings have a more European style to them. Quiet different to be surrounded by European style but it be full of Asians touring. See as Macau only has a population of 500,000 they depend on gambling tourism a great deal. I am glad we went there for the day to check it out for future reference and to have yet another stamp in my passport. :) 
As that quick trip ended we were down to the final weeks of out 1st year and the end of an era for many of our friends in Korea. The final weeks of the summer were spent in Daegu and one weekend at the big Boryeong Mud Festival. 

continuing tomorrow.. time to go home soon!

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Bearcats take over Daegu for the night!!

Most of my blog readers are from the Lander University community or know that Lander is how I got so involved in the Korea. In the summer of 2011 I was part of the first student delegation to visit Korea and the universities that Lander has agreements with. When I left Korea after those 5 weeks I knew I would return one day. The past two summers Lander has sent a delegation to China and Korea. I think those students have a special place in their hearts for Asia just as I did after my summer experience.
This years delegation just returned home after being in China and Korea. While in Korea they spent a couple of days in Daegu at Yeongnam University. As most of you know I live an hour outside of downtown Daegu. So last Friday (May 24) I went to meet up with the group at the YU campus. My heart was racing as I made my way out of the subway to be greeted by them. One of my good friends, Emily Ashley, was part of the group along with Jeff Constant, Director of Office of International Programs. It felt so good to have people from home in my new home. We spent a few hours at the YU student festival enjoying catching up and meeting the others that I did not know well. I am not the only Lander face here in the Far East right now. Eric Newman (Lander student) is studying at Yeongnam University and also teaching with the TaLK program. TaLK is what I would describe as the child of EPIK. They teach after school classes (15 hours a week) and half the pay. It is normally for students taking a semester of classes here in Korea. After spending time at the festival Eric and I decided it was time to take a few of the group members out in downtown Daegu for their last night in Korea.
It was so heart-warming to have friends here and get to show them what Korea is really like beyond the tourist side. While talking with the group I know most of them are considering studying here, doing their Masters here or coming here to teach after graduating. I know they will go back to Lander and share their experiences just as I did and encourage a whole new group of Bearcats to branch out and come to the East!!
I loved, loved, loved having friends here for the night!! Dont be a stranger, hop on a plane (for 14 hours) and come here!!!! It is worth it!! If you are not up for that I will see yall in August for 2 weeks!

a new semester... that took over half of it to update...

Ok, so it has been an extremely long time since I updated all of you on Korea. The snow has melted, we are now begging to turn on the air conditioning in our classrooms and we are itching for summer break.
So a quick update on my school life. My old co-teacher (that I co-taught 6th grade with and was NOT my favorite) was not replaced. I now teach grades 1, 2, 3 and 5 on my own. Grades 3 and 5 homeroom teachers stay in the classroom to help control but do not help with lesson. Grades 1 and 2 it is just me and the wild things. My great co-teacher that I am beyond thankful for is still here. I co-teach grades 4 and 6 with her. I am still teaching 21 classes a week. This semester seems to be a lot busier though. I have started actually learning the names of my students, mainly their Korean names too. Go me!!
             As I said above my co-teacher is amazing. She is great to work with but most importantly she is great on a personal level. For 3 weeks I had a very bad cold (upper respiratory infection and tonsillitis). She took me to the doctor twice and covered for me at school so I would not have to take days off. After rounds of antibiotics, shots and rest I was finally back to me.

             With winter finally disappearing we can now actually enjoy the evenings and weekends. During the winter the sun would set around 5:30, which barely left enough time to do anything productive in town after school. Now the sun is setting after 7:30. So that leaves me time to go running and to yoga. And still make it home in the last few minutes of light. As beautiful as the fall was in Korea the spring is providing just as much beauty. In April the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. They were gorgeous. The path a run by the river was covered with the trees. Talk about a beautiful run!! The spring weather also has provided us with entertainment on the water. One weekend my friends and I decided to join a team and participate in a Whale boat race. The boats were made for an 18-20 person team. The race was held in Ulsan and was a fundraiser for a womens shelter. Our team was a complete joke in the first race but the 2nd race we dominated. Another weekend my group of friends and I went paragliding. Yes, we basically ran off the side of a cliff and hoped for the best. It was great, but scary as everything. My stomach was in knots after we finally landed. I would do it again for sure.
     We recently had a festival here in Seongju. It was for the yellow melons (Chamae). It was the best festival I have been to here. it was a 4 day long event. Tons of food vendors, activities for kids, entertainment and even water bounce things in the river. It was a great weekend here in my melon valley.

             I suppose the most exciting news in the last couple of months is that I AM RESIGNING!!!! Yes, that is correct. I have decided my time in Korea is not going to end just yet. I will be here until August 2014!!! I will be visiting home this August for 2 weeks. That is after paying for a plane ticket that made my bank account go into depression! But I am very excited and anxious to see my family again!!

             But before I go home I will be going to Hong Kong for a long weekend (June 6-9). A friend and I kind of did it on a whim. We have Thursday off but are taking Friday to take advantage of having a chance to go. I am pumped to visit another country and experience what it has to offer. I know it will be a great get away.

Monday, 4 March 2013

6 Months Down and Still Grateful

I have finally hit the 6 month mark here in Korea. I have completed half a year of teaching, living abroad and learning about myself. A new crop of EPIK teachers have started their contracts so we (August intake) are no longer the new kids. It feels nice to not be the newbies, its like being a sophomore in college. But yet sophomores in college think they know everything because they have one year under their belt. But it is not like that in Korea, because no matter how long you are here you can never predict Korea. It is forever changing and the land of the word Maybe.
This time last year I was a senior at Lander University. I was attempting to survive my 2 months of classes and finding myself confused with what I wanted to do when I Grew Up. There was one thing that really stood out to me and kept coming back to me as I pondered through options. EPIK, English Program in Korea, was the continuous option that kept popping up like it was a Facebook notification. I continued to research EPIK and the pros and cons. As I talked to my parents, friends and professors about it, it was clear to me. I was meant to live outside of the US and spread my wings.
All of the pros outweighed the cons. So I started the long and grueling process of applying. Between getting letters of recommendation (thanks once again Dr. Park and Dr, Ball), and FBI background check, a Skype interview, essays and numerous of other documents notarized and apostilled I almost gave up. During one of my tough days during this process I was in Dr. Balls (President of Lander) office getting documents, he could tell that I was flustered; he looked at me and said, You have to work for what want. Those words were never truer than in the EPIK process.
After 4 months of applying and taking online TEFL certification I finally received the email that I had waited for all summer. I was offered a contract to teach in the Gyeongbuk Province in South Korea. The day finally came where I knew what I would be doing for the next year of my life. All of my uneasy feelings went out the window, but yet now it was even more uneasy feelings. These feelings were the thoughts of living in a foreign country, not knowing the language, having to make new friends and support myself. With all of these emotions flowing inside of me it was still one of the happiest and proudest moments in my life. I got this opportunity because I worked for it.
When I received my contract I had less than a month to move out of my apartment in Greenwood that I had lived in for 2 and a half years. On moving day as I locked the door for the last time and drove out of 138 Grace Street I bawled like a baby. I cried more that day then I did the day I flew to Korea. It all became real at that moment. I was no longer in college (granted I graduated 3 months prior), it was becoming reality that I was really growing up. The morning I flew out to Korea my dad drove me to the airport. I could tell it broke his heart as he left me at the security check point. But all of my family knew this is what I really wanted to do and gave me the support that I needed.
So there I was in Incheon airport surrounded by strangers. Little did I know one of my new friends would live in my town, another would become one of my closest friends and the others I would make tons of memories with. The day I was picked up from orientation by my co-teachers was scary and exciting, I had no clue what to expect. I just hoped for the best and prepared for the worst. Luckily it all went smoothly. I was placed in Seongju in an elementary school with 550 kids. The first semester was challenging. Figuring out what worked and what didnt, learning my co-teachers personalities and learning how to deal with stressful Mondays. No matter how bad my day was, I always had a reason to smile. Seeing kids outside of school always brightened my evenings.
Yes, I will admit it is not the easiest living 7,000 miles away from home and being one of nine native English speakers in my town. But I tell myself each day that I would have tough days if I had a 9-5 job in the US. They may actually be tougher and more stressful. Because at 4:30 I can walk out and not worry about it until 8:30 the next morning. Being away from home you just learn to deal with things on your own. I know when I decide to return to the US and start my career there I will be very prepared for the most unusual situations and be able to run with it and not think twice.
Now for the main reason in my blog, Why choose EPIK? the question is Why not? There are great benefits. You have a year long guaranteed job, good pay and easy to save, vacations time, insurance and the chance to make an impact on young minds and encourage them to learn English. What do you have to lose by applying? Absolutely nothing; take a shot, think outside of the box and spread your wings. Like a famous quote says, Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. This is so true, you find out what you are really like and what you really want in life when your life completely changes.
To students and everyone at Lander University, I owe my EPIK experience to the Office of International Programs. If it were not for them I would have never considered teaching English. Even though Lander is a small school it gave me confidence and support. My family supported me in the fact that I was ready to live away for a year. My friends couldnt believe it but knew that I could do it. Heres to a new school year (Korea starts in March, a new class schedule, a few new students and another 6 months of fun in Korea!!!
I encourage anyone with a college education to apply for EPIK. Applications for the August intake will be up soon. For more information on EPIK go to www.epik.go.kr

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

My First Big Girl Vacation -- Thailand and Cambodia

So I have been back from vacation for over 2 weeks now. Yes, I am just getting to my blog. I got back in on a Sunday morning and Monday hit hard getting back into the work routine and then it kept getting pushed lower and lower on the to do list.
On January 18th, Kiwi (Laura from New Zealand) and I caught a train to Seoul to fly out to Phuket Thailand. The flight to Phuket was five and a half hours. Arriving a little after midnight we found a taxi and headed to out hotel. The hotel was super nice and a great staff. Day 1 in Phuket we walked around and decided to go to a lady boy cabaret show that evening. Thailand is famous for lady boys, and let me tell you, you could not tell that these performers were not female.    Day 2 was supposed to be spent going to Phi Phi and other small islands, unfortunately the pick up service had our room number wrong so we missed the bus. Luckily we got an early start on the day and headed to the beach. Being on the beach around 830, we were one of a few out there that early. The day was spent relaxing and people watching. After being out there for what we thought was a good and safe amount of time we headed in to take a nap. After getting back to our room we realized just how brutal the Thai sun is. We were both sunburned like no other. Having a olive complexion and tanning very easily I figured it would be tan by the morning. Boy was I wrong; it was the sunburn that seemed to never go away.
It actually kept us inside the next day, making this day 2 of missing our boat tour. Finally on the 4th day in Phuket we made it to the boat tour. It was an all day tour going to about 5 different locations. The first was to Monkey Island. All of the monkeys were so adorable. Some people had fruit to feed them or drinks to give them. We then went snorkeling off another set of islands. For lunch we docked at Phi Phi and had lunch at a hotel restaurant. After lunch the boat took us to the area in which the movie “The Beach” was filmed. This was a beautiful place. I wish we could have had more than 30 minutes there, but still happy to have gotten that much time but with us being so sunburned so badly it was not as fun as it could have been but still a great day.
In order to get to Bangkok we had to take a 12-hour bus ride through the Thailand country side. It wasn’t as long a grueling as we imagined. I slept most of the way. Granted it was s double decker bus and super nice. After arriving we got a cab to Khaosan Road where our hostel was we were out and the search started. We eventually found it. Since I went to Bangkok this past summer I let Kiwi pick whatever she wanted to do, as I’ve been to the palace and other of the high lights. The first day we took a boat ride on the river and called it a day. That evening we met up with Andrew. Andrew graduated from Lander also. He teaches at a university in Bangkok and also taught with me at the English camp in Bangkok. It was great to have a familiar face around and share a few buckets. Saturday Kiwi and I went to the Etowah museum. This museum has a huge structure of a 3-headed elephant. It was incredible. We had to call it an early night that night in order to catch the 5:55 AM train to Cambodia.

We left our hostel around 4:45 because we were unsure how long of a taxi ride it would be to the train station, luckily it was less then 10 minutes. the train ride was around five and a half hours through the Thai country side. It was rather depressing seeing old villages and very little life. When we made it to the last stop of the train we got a tuk-tuk to the border. There we had to go through immigration and then cross over to get out visa and our passports scanned. Finally after 3 and a half hours we were making our way by bus (2.5 hours) to Siem Reap.

Siem Reap was my favorite of all of the places that we traveled to. It is home to Angkor Wat, the largest Hindu temple complex and the largest religious monument in the world. It was build by King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century. We were picked up by out tuk-tuk driver just before 5 AM so we could go and watch the sun rise, as this is the most popular thing to do at Angkor Wat. It was an over cast morning but still a beautiful and calming experience. As much as I hate to admit it I did not know much about Cambodia before we decided to go there. Now that I am back and surfing the internet it seems that every travel site I read Angkor Wat is at the top of the list. The Wat is build with a moat around it. For it to be so old it is still a breath taking structure. Angkor Wat is not the only temple in this area. After sunrise we made our wat to a few other different ones. After a while they all started looking the same but still had their own unique style. My favorite was the one that had many faces carved all over the structures. We spent over 8 hours out there that day. Taking a short break to take a vegetarian cooking class at a local restaurant.

The 2nd day in Siem Reap was spent walking around the market and enjoying local life. The market was huge with tons and tons of touristy things to buy and local foods and spices. I took a little time out to enjoy a fish massage. This basically consist of putting your feet and legs up to mid calf in a fish tank and letting the fish eat dead skin off of you. At first it is a bit painful but then it feels good. Part of the reason I fell in love with Cambodia was the food. Never in my life have I had such flavorsome food. Yes, Italian food is known to be some of the finest in the world but Khmer food is out of this world. Every dish I had was different. The spices used are perfect and bring out the most amazing flavors. The food isn’t spicy or bland. It is just perfect. All of it was very healthy and non-fattening, so many fresh veggies used and very little frying if any. Siem Reap has a great street called “Pub-Street.” This is where the nightlife happens, great food and of course great drink deals. Who could turn down 50 cents beer and buy one-get one cocktails (cocktails costing less than $3).

As much as I hated to see our time in the fun city end it was time to take another long bus ride (5 hours) to the capital city of Phnom Penh. Riding there put me in a very sad mood. The houses and villages we rode through were so sad. The best way to give you an idea is to imagine the worst living conditions and multiplying it by three. But yet when our large bus was riding down the dirt roads the kids and adults all were waving and smiling to us. It goes to show you can have the bare minimum and still be the happiest person on Earth.

Once we arrived in Phnom Penh w got a tuk-tuk to our hotel. Keep in mind I booked all of the hotels on Trip Advisor and was very unsure of how each place would turn out. We had luck with all of them. But the one in Phnom Penh was by far the best. Located right on the river and one black from the Palace. So it was in the heart of the city. Unfortunately we were there during the time of the cremation ceremony of the former king so during the day many streets were blocked and shops/restaurants closed until late afternoon.

The first day we visited the Killing Fields. I have been to Hiroshima, Pearl Harbor and the beaches of Normandy, but this is by far the most depressing place I have ever visited. to know that in 1975 the Khmer Rouge decide that they wanted to get rid of everyone that had an education, money, good jobs and many more non sense reasons was just heart breaking. It did not matter how old or young, male, female or babies everyone that they thought was a threat was killed. It is estimated that 2.2 million were killed between 1975-1979 by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. The place we visited, Choeng Ek, was 15 kilometers outside of the city. There were 129 mass graves here and a total of 20,000 were killed here. Before being shipped here they were held prisoner at “S-21”. It was a former high school but the Rouge used it as head quarters an a torture center. At Choeng Ek we saw the mass graves, skeletal remains and clothing remains. The hardest part of the tour was seeing the tree that was used to smash baby’s heads against before they were thrown into the mass graves. After the sad tour at the killing fields we went on the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide. This was “S-21.” Here we saw the cells that prisoners lived in and wall after wall of the pictures of the prisoners as they were taken in. after a few rooms I couldn’t take it anymore. It was just so sad a heart breaking seeing elderly and children (of all ages babies included) and knowing what they went through.
To know that many of the people we saw as we were walking around the town of Phnom Penh were survivors of this horrible era in Cambodia’s history was heartbreaking. Having their life and family ripped away from them and being tortured for 4 years and not knowing if they would ever see their family again had to be pure Hell. On a lighter note the country of Cambodia is very friendly. They use US currency over their own. I would say that 95% of the people we interacted with in the two cities we visited spoke perfect English. Even little kids, age 5, trying to sell you things on the streets spoke great English. It amazed me because I have trouble getting my students to even tell me how their weekend was. But as someone said when it becomes an essential tool for survival you will do anything. That is true because other wise they could not make money off of tourist if English was not sure a widely spoken language. But prior to the Khmer Rouge taken over the other language spoken and taught in schools was French. But now English is more widely spoken.

Visiting Cambodia taught me a lot. I am so thankful for what I have in my life, to be from a country that is stable and to have the opportunity to visit other places to see exactly how lucky I am. I do want to visit Cambodia one day again to see the progress that it has made. It is still mind blowing knowing how much progress the larger cities have made in the last 33 years since the fall of the Khmer Rouge.

Traveling is a great way to broaden your horizons and make you think outside of the box. I cannot wait for my next adventure wherever that may be. I am nowhere near ready to settle down.

Now it is time for two more weeks of desk warming. The next semester starts the first Monday of March. I will have one new co-teacher, which I am very excited about. Hoping a new school year brings even more great memories with my students and friends.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Birthday, Christmas, New Year... and everything in between

 Wow it has been an extremely long time since my last blog entry. It is not because I have not thought about it, it just takes a lot of time to sit down and put all of my thoughts together. I am still continuing to absolutely love my life here in Korea. In the last, well more than a few weeks, I have celebrated my 23rd birthday, celebrated Christmas, finished one semester of teaching and brought in the new year.

I could not have asked for a better birthday here in Korea. I celebrated it for a solid week since it was on a Wednesday (December 5th), I couldn’t pick a certain weekend to celebrate so my friends and I did both. The weekend prior to my birthday a few of us went to Daegu and did the normal routine for Daegu. We met up with two of our British guy friends. One has the same birthday as I do. On my actual birthday I went to Daegu for dinner and stayed with a friend. That night we had our first snow of the winter, I was really excited little did I know I would be sick of it in a few shorts days. On Friday the plan was for all of us girls to meet the British/South African guys in Seoul to celebrate the two birthdays.  We all woke up to a massive snow on Friday morning. So getting to Seoul was a long and slow process. But luckily we all made it and had the most amazing time ever. I can honestly say I will never forget my 23rd birthday because of all the greatness that Seoul brings.

That one snow was the first of 4 straight weeks with snow on Friday. Yes, it snowed everyday Friday for 4 straight weeks. And when I say snow I mean like 4-7 inches. Snow doesn’t play around in Korea.

The weekend prior to Christmas my large group of friends that I hung out with every weekend at the beginning of my time all gathered in Yeongdeuk at Micah’s for Christmas. We all brought a dish. I cooked cheese grits. It was a hit; many people had not ever had the privilege of having grits. Such a shame. It was great having everyone back together for a family style Christmas. It felt like we were all home for the weekend from college because Micah and his roommate to such good care of us. We got in late Friday morning because of the snow slowing travel down. Waking up really late to a home cooked breakfast and a day full of pj’s and eventually the dinner. It was a much needed relaxing weekend.

On actual Christmas Eve I went to Gumi to meet up with friends. We went to dinner at Seoga&Cook and then on to Corona to meet up with a couple others. It was a very different Christmas Eve and Christmas Day but was nothing less than wonderful.

My family sent me a ton of boxes full of presidents for my birthday and Christmas. It was very different opening them but yet it was joyous because I knew how much thought they put into the gifts, especially the ones with Reece cups, Ranch and warm clothes. My favorite gifts were LL Bean duck boots and flannel shirts. Never thought that would be what I would ask for but yes, I did. Much appreciate too!

For New Year’s the girls and I went to Busan. As normal we met up with a couple of the guys and brought in the New Year. It was a fun, crazy night. Never would have dreamed last year that I would be in Busan SK bringing in 2013. But I am so thankful that I got to and with the beautiful friends that I got to with.

Now on to school news. The semester has basically ended. It ended the Friday after Christmas. The students have off all of January. But yet most schools have English camp, luckily mine does not. So for the past 2 weeks I have been coming to school to “desk warm.” With EPIK I only get 10 vacation days off. So I have to come and take up space until my vacation begins. Unfortunately my school computer will not turn on, the other computers in my office won’t either. So I have been bringing my laptop everyday with shows and movies downloaded to watch. It is still crazy cold here, and my office is even colder. The heat doesn’t work well so it takes until afternoon for it to be bearable. Snow is still on the ground outside, the sun shines for doesn’t make it any warmer. It can be a bit depressing because it is freezing cold when I leave school. I just want to get home a quickly as possible and not leave until the next morning. I am so ready for spring weather. I can’t wait to go running. It is even too cold to go walking here for exercise. But, yes I still love this beautiful country. That is as long as I am somewhere with good heat.

When the students return in February and I under the impression that they come for 2 weeks then have Lunar New Year off for another two weeks. But I will have to come during that time too. But who really knows. One thing that is certain is on Saturday, January 19th, Kiwi (Laura from New Zealand) and I eave for a two-week vacation to Thailand and Cambodia. We will be going to Phuket and Bangkok and then on to Siem Reap and Phnom Pehn. Even though I have already been to Bangkok I am still excited to see Phuket. It is supposed to be one of the most gorgeous places in the world. Bangkok will be great again since it will not be as hot. High 80’s predicted. I could not be more excited to pour swear after having to wear 4 layers of clothes everyday since November. I don’t know much about Cambodia, but that just means more to learn and take in.  This is the first trip I have ever taken that I am paying for on my own. I feel so accomplished and proud to know It is because of what I did that got me there.

Hope everyone back home had a great Christmas and New Year’s!!
I will have a great blog entry with lots of pictures after my vacation… ahhh I am too excited to wear Norts, tshirts and Chocos!!!

Until next time from the land of rice, kimchi and too much snow!!!