Thursday, November 25, 2010

3rd Thanksgiving in the ROK

My third Turkey Day away from home was also my first day at my new job here in Korea. It was an experience, for sure.

This morning, I waited outside in the cold for an hour, because the poor guy they sent from my school to pick me up couldn't find the place. I didn't want to go inside, lest he should drive by and not see me. So I waited. And it was freezing. Then traffic was epic going back into Seoul, and it took us two solid hours to reach the school. God bless him, he had a can of coffee and a waffle for me to munch on in the car.

Once I finally got there, my day was filled with meeting kids, learning schedules, and observing classes. The schedule is similar to LCI, with Kindergarten in the morning and elementary in the afternoon. However, POLY switches classes every 40 minutes, during both times, and so I'll have two Kinder classes that I work with, rather than one. It also looks like I may be teaching a gym class, hahahaha.

The students were adorable, of course. I'm looking forward to getting to know them better. The first girl I met, Dorothy, was this tiny little thing I wanted to stick in my pocket, who made it her job to show me around the first floor. The school is split into two floors, with the bottom being 7 year olds and the top 6 year olds.

My co-workers, both foreign and Korean, are fantastic. Everyone is incredibly helpful and kind, and I'm excited about working with them.

They also invited me, as I mentioned before, to their Thanksgiving dinner tonight. The great thing about that, besides the dinner and the company, was that I got a sneak preview of where I'd be living. If we thought I'd lost weight before from walking everywhere, that will have been nothing compared to what will happen to me now. I live up what was described to me as a "treacherous hill," and that was no exaggeration. I'm a bit nervous for winter, and hope the snow is kept to a minimum this year.

These people really know how to keep the holiday traditional, even so far from home. Our spread was phenomenal:

I have to stay in a hotel tonight, as my apartment won't be vacated till tomorrow. It was suggested that I leave my big heavy bags at the school, so I brought just my carry-on and backpack. I was given a piece of paper with the hotel name, and caught a cab after dinner. I had no idea what to expect, and was pleasantly surprised to see that this hotel could be compared to a Comfort Suites. It's pretty fab, and I don't think I'll want to get out of bed in the morning :)

Even the toilet is fancy ;)

And just so you don't forget that there's a real person behind these posts, here's a fuzzy action shot of me, sitting here blogging:

Riveting, eh? :)

I wasn't feeling well after the dinner, so I stopped at the 7-11 and bought some water and a vitamin C drink. Now that you've been sufficiently updated, I'm going to hydrate and sleep. I've got another long day of learning ahead of me, so I need to be in tip-top shape!

PS - Epic weekend ahead, as well. Saturday is my "Welcome Back" party, and Sunday is Thanksgiving Dinner, part Two, with my dear Jukjeon friends.

Love you all!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Back in the ROK

So it's been a while. I'm a lazy little blogger.

In an effort to keep everything current and fresh, I'll skip the rest of my Guatemala trip, and the Netherlands, and focus your attention on the here and now. I couldn't find a job in the States, and so moved back to South Korea to teach and make lots of money again :)

This time, I'll be living in Seoul, about an hour and a half from where I used to live. I'm working for POLY School, which is a major school around here, and so my job should be pretty safe.

I arrived Sunday evening, and am staying in Jukjeon until Thursday morning, when my school will pick me up and move me and my 100+ lbs of luggage to my new home. I've been staying with the Dish, who you may remember from previous Korea posts.

It's been great being back in Jukjeon. I stopped by the Paris Baguette where I used to get an Iced Cafe Latte every morning, and the husband-and-wife owners remembered me! They were so excited to see me, they gave me a free can of Cafe Mocha :)

Of course, I couldn't be here in the town without visiting LCI. It was wonderful to see all of the Korean staff, but my main purpose was to see my babies. It was a huge surprise for them, and they loved it. I was thrilled about seeing them again, and just wanted to squeeze them till their little heads popped off :) Unfortunately, only 4 of my Kinders were there. Others had left LCI, or were taking a break from English. Still, those 4 were enough for me.

Sally, Laura, Sun Q, and Becky. I don't know if you can see, but Sun Q and Becky are both missing their two front teeth :)

I stuck around to see the later Elementary kids too... And was proud that I could still tell the twins, Sunny and Michelle, apart:

But the two I really wanted to see were Erica and Lina. When I left, I had been teaching just the two of them for 2.5 hours, three days a week. It was a great class, because we were able to go off on tangents and discuss girlie things while still getting our work done. These girls have a huge part of my heart.

Erica and Lina. Erica is the girl who e-mailed me, when I told her I was coming back to Korea, and said "Teacher, don't eat pizza before you fly, or the plane will fall out of the sky." She's hilarious. I told them I'd give them my number, once I have it, and we'd go to Everland :)

It's been really great to be back in Jukjeon (in my old apartment, even!) and to see what has changed and what is still surviving. However, I'm really looking forward to checking out my new neighborhood, my new co-workers, and my new apartment. It seems like, at the very least, my new co-workers will be great. They've already invited me, via the director, to an American Thanksgiving dinner at one of their apartments on Thursday. So I think I'll be very happy there :)

I promise to be a diligent poster now that I'm back in the land of silly signs and funny Englishee phrases :)

Love you all!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tikal Trip, Day 1

This weekend I went on a fantastic tour that culminated in a visit to Tikal, one of the largest Mayan cities in the world. But before we got there, we did a lot of other sight-seeing around Guatemala!

On Friday, I was waiting outside my Guate-house at 3:35 am. It was dark, and a little scary. Then a big stray dog stopped and stared me down for three minutes. Then he barked at me. Then he walked away. Then I peed my pants :) The bus showed up at 3:50. We picked up two other people (both from the Netherlands), Cindy and Jasper (pronounced "Yasper"). Then we were on our way!

I was really counting on finishing up on sleep in the bus. However, this was not like the Korean buses I am so used to sleeping on. This was the bumpiest road trip I've ever taken. Remember my comment about the tuc-tucs in Antigua? Imagine that, but for at least 4 hours at a time. Ouch.

However, Guatemala is an extremely beautiful country... this is a view from the highway (when we were essentially stopped because of a terrible accident... one of at least 5 terrible accidents we saw on the road):

We stopped at Quiriguá, which is a smaller group of Mayan ruins. The really special thing about this place (besides the beautiful jungle setting) is that it's home to the tallest stone monuments the Mayans ever created! From what I read on the stones, most of these were constructed around 750 A.D.

It was also home to one of the tallest trees I've ever seen in my life:

There was also a great plaza area:

Cindy taught me how to spy birds in the trees... And I saw my first real hummingbird! He buzzed around our heads, and the noise was amazing. His movements were like a cartoon... it was fantastic!

I also liked this lizard:

It was super hot in Quirigua, so I was kind of glad that we just had an hour there. Our next stop was a coastal town called Puerto Barrios, where we had to wait a while for our boat to leave. Apparently, rather than have a fixed schedule, the boat leaves when there are 20 people on it :)

That's our boat, front left:

Then we cruised on the Caribbean Sea (ok, a bay on the Caribbean) to a little town called Livingston. Imagine Jamaica, but in Spanish. Our hotel was right on the water:

We had a great fishy lunch at Happy Fish... I'm sure glad I got used to shrimp with heads (camarones con cabezas?) in Korea:

We then took a look at the beach:

Then... we were bored. There wasn't much to Livingston. So we sat on the pier and read/studied Spanish/worked on a crossword. Then later we decided to go back into town (read: the one street with restaurants and shops) for dinner. We found a quaint little hostel with a restaurant.... and the menu was THE EXACT SAME as Happy Fish!! It was hilarious - they even had the "Happy Fish Plate Special." It was explained to us that this is related to Guatemala's tourism policies, and is a way of keeping competition to a minimum so everyone can benefit from visitors.

The one thing this place had that Happy Fish didn't was this guy:

He seemed to be the owner. And was hilarious. And told us lots of silly jokes. And made my gin-tonics strong. And when a scary homeless man kept wanting to fist-bump us, he sat down and pretended to be my boyfriend. And then gave me a free gin-tonic. We all loved him. He was the highlight of Livingston for us.

After dinner, we all went to bed. And slept quite well, after waking up so ridiculously early :)

More on Day 2 tomorrow - But First! A bonus picture!

Jasper is quite tall. But this picture of him attempting to sleep in the bus makes him look like a GIANT (notice the space between head and knee). So I love it:

What do the Dutch feed their children?!?!

Love you all!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Losing a Bet, Winning an Afternoon...

So Pablo and I had a very intense bet about the movie Saw V. We bet a piece of pie about the distance the man and woman had to cut their arms in the saw-box. He won. So yesterday we went to Antigua for pie, travel booking, and more convent ruins.

First, we went to Cafe Condesa, which had excellent desserts and coffee. Here's Pablo with his giant tea and lemon pie:

And I had my first brownie a la mode in almost 2 years... Yum!

ps - the actual name of this in the menu was "La Revancha de Mayordomo" or "The Butler's Revenge." Ha!

This is the fountain in Cafe Condesa, similar to the one in El Parque Central:

Next we went to the travel agency so I could book a weekend trip to visit some Mayan ruins, cruise on the Rio Dulce and the Caribbean Bay, and sleep in the jungle :) Expect photos!
My itinerary:

Afterwards, we went to another old convent... Las Capuchinas, I believe. This was even more beautiful than the last one. And we took lots of silly pictures:

The garden was beautiful:

Apparently this building was (depending on who you ask) either the showers for the nuns or a form of punishment (think water torture) when they did something wrong:

I choose to believe it's a shower :)

Pablo, part monkey, shown here rocking the MegaDeth hand:

These were actually the tiny bedrooms:

They even had a couple of them done up so you could see what life was like for the nuns:

Pablo and I are very pious:

This is the fountain in the center of the main building:

This is a fountain that made me laugh:

I believe this is where they used to hold services... According to Pablo, they now hold fashion shows here:

All in all, it was a fantastic afternoon. Even though I lost the bet, I was happy to finally have some company to explore the city.

Love you all!

Friday, April 2, 2010

El Volcan Pacaya!

I just got back from my night on the volcano... It was amazing! I went with another student in my school - an Dutch man named Peet (I call him SoloPeet because every time he introduces himself in Spanish, he emphasizes that his name is just Peet.)

Here's SoloPeet and I ready to tackle the trail:

The hike was a bit tough with a huge, overstuffed backpack, but I made it without taking advantage of the dozens of "Horse Taxis" available up the trail :)

When we reached the top the view was fantastic. Here's the peak of the volcano - it looks farther away than it actually is:

Can you see the old lava directly in front? That's from a 2004 eruption!

We could also see el Volcan Agua (the one I can see from Antigua) from there:

We set up camp with the rented tents. I had to help SoloPeet because apparently he's not too experienced with tent-building. When I got around to mine, I learned that one of my tent poles didn't have the elastic string in the middle... so it was basically 10 pieces of tent pole... anyways, it made it MUCH more difficult to pitch my tent, but I rocked it! I was really proud :)

Then our guide, Leonel, set about starting a fire. It took a little time, my packing list, and SoloPeet's copy of his passport, but he got it going strong!

We stood around the fire for a while, eating sandwiches, having a beer, and waiting for all the other groups to leave the volcano so we could walk over and see some lava! The whole time we were there, we could hear the "boom boom" from the volcano, about every 20 minutes or so... When it got dark, we could see the fire at the top (sorry, terrible quality):

Finally, we walked over to see the big lava rivers flowing down the side of the volcano. It was like nothing I've ever seen before.

The sound was wild, too - it had this almost watery, but thicker sort of noise... just amazing.

Afterwards, we all went to bed. It got extremely cold, windy, and wet during the night, and I kept hearing things scampering around my tent. So I maybe got an hour or two of sleep :)

The next morning, Pacaya was still gorgeous:

After breaking camp, we were all set to hike up right next to the lava flow... unfortunately, I was in bad shape - Terrible cough, upset stomach, etc. - so I couldn't make it up the trail :( However, SoloPeet took my camera and got the pictures I couldn't!

Here I am watching them hike up:

SoloPeet did great capturing the lava!

I was sad to have missed being that close, but I still had one of the most incredible experiences of my life :)

The view of Volcan Agua on the way down was amazing, too:

By the time we finally got back to Antigua, we were POOPED! Then, because of the Holy Week Processions today, our bus had to drop us off on the outskirts of the city. I then had to walk clear to the other side in order to catch a tuc-tuc back to Jocotenango.

My view in the tuc-tuc:

Tired and filthy Emily ready for sleep and shower!

I hope you enjoyed reading about this as much as I enjoyed doing it! Love you all!