Monday, December 20, 2010

Skating at city Hall

On Sunday after my race I went skating at City Hall. Lots of people, lots of crappy rental skates, lots of children and uncoordinated adults falling all over the place, and lots of fun!

It was a warm afternoon, and there were Christmas lights everywhere and k-pop music blasting from the speakers.

We did a few laps, did a bit of people watching, and took lots of pictures. I'm getting more in the Christmas spirit! We finished the day off with some deliciousss Indian food.

Side note: I am writing this on Monday. After that race and skate my legs are killing me. This is good material for a New Years resolution!

I really did it! (10km in under 1 hour): Hangang Marathon

We were supposed to be dressed as santa. Oops
I finally pushed my lazy butt over the finish line in under an hour. This is no major feat, I know. The friends I race with always finish sub 55mins, while I sputter in as the crowd thins towards the end of the run, race after race...after race.....after race.

I haven't really been training, nor eating better these last few weeks. So I would officially like to attribute this momentous occasion to Christmas Cheer!

I have 5 short days left before I go home for the holidays to see family, friends, and loved ones, and had been given a boost of motivation bbm-ing back to Canada on the subway ride over to the run. So much to look forward to! Must. Run. Fast!

The weather was lovely and I had a running buddy pushing me to keep going towards the end. The final time? 59:57. Ha!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Finally got Sick: First Experiences with the Korean Medical System

I got my first bad cold in Korea. It started with a super bad swollen gland on the left side of my neck.. not a sore throat. To be honest it really felt like strep throat. With less than 2 weeks before I fly home for the holidays I decided it was better to be safe than sorry, and trudged down to the International Clinic (aka English doctor's office) in Itaewon.

I called in and was given an appointment immediately. Already impressed.

In the doctor's office, I arrived a bit early and was admitted immediately. They took my insurance card and information. Doctor gave me a strep test.

Even a dummy like me can't screw this up!
While I was sitting in his office I noticed a brochure for "live-blood analysis" for W130,000($114CDN) . It is something that family members have done in Toronto through a naturopath, with helpful follow up analysis and impressive results. Korea has the cheapest medical care I have ever seen, so I threw that into the mix. They said no problem, and took my blood.

After the nurse did all the testing, they told me to wait outside, read a magazine or relax for about 10 minutes while they ran the test. The had a testing lab IN the doctor's office.

Strep- negatory. Just me being whiny over a bacterial infection. The doctor prescribed me some antibiotics in cool individually-sealed doses and I was on my way.

Unfortunately while I was paying on the way out the receptionist informed me that my insurance had been cancelled ( I paid too late, my bad... This is since been resolved). I pictured some nightmarish medical expense that would be impossible to pay. The actual amount? For the doctor's fee, lab testing, and live-blood analysis, my total came to W170,000. Considering W130,000 of it was from live-blood analysis, I was impressed!

So that is my take on the Korean medical system. Impressive. There is a reason they have a special designated "medical tourism" industry. It's quick, cheap, and safe. Hooray!

The most dangerous discovery: Jeggings

So after a quick google search I realize that these are super popular already, but still. The other day I discovered jeggings. Aka mix between jeans and leggings. Aka jeans with elastic waistband, or leggings that look more like pants. It's the best of both worlds, and only cost ₩7,000 at Forever21. That is less than 7$. These could easily replace my obsession with wearing sweatpants, while still gaining mild acceptance with peers. YESSSSSS


So meg and I went to the ultra famous Korean theater show NANTA. It appeals to foreigners because there is no speaking. Just yelling, singing, and drumming, and melodramatic movements. Sort of like a blue-man group equivalent. The story is set in a Korean kitchen, for a group of chef's who must prepare the food for a wedding. And the use real food! Lettuce flying, knives chopping carrots, and juggling cucumbers.

The show came to around $45 for the balcony seats. It was funny, though the humor was pretty slapstick. I give it 5.5 Lstan thumbs up (can you tell I'm into rating things now).

Friday, December 10, 2010

A busy couple of weeks!

Tea in Insadong
This past week has been loaded with FUN. Meg left on Monday, after exploring all over Seoul. We visited palaces, restaurants, the flea-market-like-malls of Dongdaemun, and the traditional shopping streets of Insadong. We went to tea shops, and the world-famous musical Nanta.

Since then I have been shopping for Christmas presents in Myeongdong, started up bootcamp classes at Studio-X Fitness in Haebangchon (still limping from it 3 days later!), got roped into a speed dating fundraiser for the Seoul Women's Rugby team, and finally made it out on a Friday night to see friends.

Today I am going shopping for cheap glasses, then to SantaCon to gather with hundreds of others dressed as Santa Claus, and then to a tacky Christmas sweater party tonight!

I would stay to write more about everything I have been doing; though you'll have to wait until the end of the weekend. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a Santa costume to buy!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Hello Kitty Cafe

A few days ago Meg and I were walking around Hongdae, a buzzing clubbing and shopping district surrounded by Universities, and therefore, cool hip Koreans. Then we stumbled upon this: The Hello Kitty cafe. A glowing mecca for all things pink, cute, and girly (aka not me)

First step in: Lots of pink, lots of Hello Kitty. Cakes look delicious to we decide to get some. 

Hello Kitty: Cheese cake, hot chocolate, chocolate cake edition!

Scoped out some great seats sitting in Hello Kitty shaped chairs

In the bathroom. The toilet was also Hello Kitty, but I thought it would be weird to take a picture

Meg enjoying her Hello Kitty hot chocolate

Traditional Oriental Medicine: Acupuncture and Cupping

Today Meg and I went to a clinic to get some acupuncture and cupping done.  

Going into it, I didn't really know what to expect.

When we arrived at the office, there was little English spoken. I had made the appointment the previous day with the help of a Korean coworker who was able to translate. The doctor asked various questions about where I was injured or in pain, how long I had felt it, and other general questions about my health. 

I'm not actually injured, but I said I have had some skin problems since I arrived in Korea, my back was sometimes tense, and my hip flexors hurt (after running 10km races without training before hand-- totally my fault, I know). She seemed interested in treating the hip flexors, so I went with it.
Lots of needles!

For Meg, I reported that she had back pain stemming from a childhood injury of flying off a swing and landing back-first. This story is true.

Upon arrival, we walked into the herbal smelling office and were taken into a room with two small beds behind curtains. Meg lay on her stomach and I lay on my back. In came a tray full of needles.

The doctor put 12 needles in my legs; two running down my hip flexor, and 2 on each side of my knee. Every time she flicked the needle in, I could definitely feel something twitch in my leg that was extending beyond where the site of the needle was. It is hard to explain, but the sensation was like a dull electricity shooting through (what I assume) was the tendon running down my leg, followed by relaxation.. but only in that tendon. They left those in for about 10 minutes with a heat lamp over my body, and then came in and removed them. One must have struck a nerve or something, because my leg seized up as soon as she took it out of my hip. A strange sensation to say the least.

Next was the sucking machine. Four little rubber cups were put on my legs and a machine would increase the suction and decrease every few seconds. It sounded like it was breathing, and felt like an animal was sucking on my legs. It kind of tickled. Kept those on for about 10 minutes.

Next was the cupping. The doctor came in and heated each cup and stuck them onto my legs. Probably close to 15~20 in all. This was probably the most painful, as those little glass cups made a strong suction onto my legs! Those stayed on for about 10 minutes. 

She finished by giving quick injections into my leg of a "herbal muscle relaxant"... too quickly for me to inquire what a "herbal muscle relaxant" was. Ahh well.

A coworker forewarned me about all of these things before the appointment, and explained that if the skin turns black after cupping, it means you are injured/unhealthy/sick. I am proud to say that after cupping, my legs were no different looking than before. Meg, on the other hand, had quite the opposite. She was left with big purple circles where each of the cups had been; some worse than others. Her back looks like it is covered in polka dots, actually. Quite funny, and for the past few days you can still see three dots on her shoulders through any shirt she is wearing. 

Overall I give the experience 6 Lstan thumbs up.

It was relaxing under the heat lamps, smelled nice in there, and felt...interesting. I didn't feel any better or worse after the appointment, though my muscles felt pretty weak for the rest of the morning. It set me back  $14 for the hour.

Maybe next time I get an actual injury I will consider getting acupuncture again. Until then, I'll just stick with massage.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Korea Attack: Yeonpyeong Island Shelled By North Korea Nov.23, 2010

Yesterday I was doing my daily checking-facebook-between-classes and I noticed that many status updates from other teachers in Korea were links about North Korea attacking an Island near the disputed border between North and South Korea.

I've included the story from Huffington Post below, and will try to give the general mood in Seoul. My coworkers seem unfazed, and my boss seems dismissive of the attack. When I asked her if she was nervous, she explained that this sort of thing happens every few years, and it is just North Korea trying to get some attention. 

Everything was business as usual for the day, though by the time I found out at 4pm yesterday, I had only one class to go and was antsy to get home and read more news.

The Canadian Embassy sent out a message stating that they have not issued any advisories for Canadians.

So, as much as the news sources back in North America may be throwing around some pretty scary words, things seem to be back to normal today.

Keep sending good thoughts to the Koreas, though!

Today's violence, which saw dozens of shells rain down on their homes and set more than 60 buildings on fire, is the most serious act of aggression against civilians from Pyongyang since the bombing of Korean Air flight 858 in 1987. It was the first artillery strike on South Korean soil since 1953.
All over the news yesterday
As plumes of black smoke billowed from the coastline of the island, South Korea moved onto its highest peacetime emergency footing, returning fire on North Korea and scrambling F-16 fighter jets to the scene.
Yeonpyeong Island, which spans just three square miles and was once claimed by North Korea in the 1970s, has always been a point of tension because of its location near the Northern Limit Line, the sea border between the two countries.
Around 1,600 people live on the island, mostly fishermen drawn by the rich surrounding waters, as well as a garrison of 1,000 South Korean sailors.
The residents are used to acts of North Korean aggression. In June, North Korea responded to joint military drills by the United States and South Korea in the Yellow Sea by firing 130 artillery shells towards Yeonpyeong Island. However, only ten of these actually cross the Northern Limit Line and none caused any damage, landing in the sea.
Note: Incheon is where the International Airport is located
Today's attack also appears to have been in response to military exercises in the vicinity. "We were carrying out naval, air force and army training exercises and they seem to have opened fire in objection," a military official told YTN, a South Korean television station.
The attack came as Stephen Bosworth, the United States envoy on North Korea, departed from Seoul for Beijing. Mr Bosworth is attempting to find a consensus to restart the six-party talks between China, South Korea, Russia, Japan, the United States and North Korea on the rogue state's denuclearisation.
It also comes as North Korea prepares for a change of leader, with Kim Jong-un, the third son of Kim Jong-il, widely expected to take over from his 68-year-old father. Analysts have noted that the last handover of power in North Korea was also accompanied by a series of aggressive acts intended to strengthen the new leader's relationship with the army. An internal power struggle in North Korea, between hardliners and reformists, is also thought to be underway, and could have sparked military action.
The attack, coupled with the unveiling over the weekend of a new light water nuclear reactor, equipped with a startlingly accomplished array of centrifuges, underlines North Korea's continuing intransigence in the face of international pressure on it to disarm and cooperate in a peace process.
Eight years ago, the Second Battle of Yeonpyeong saw 13 North Korean sailors and four South Korean sailors killed as gunboats traded fire across the Northern Limit Line. The 85mm guns fired by the North Korean ships were loud enough to rattle the windows of residents on the island, according to news reports. Three years before than, a further 30 sailors died in the first battle of Yeonpyeong.
Picture of Yeonpyeong Island
Aware of the precarious situation of the island, South Korea maintains one of its newest class of "patrol killer" guided-missile ships, designed for close-range naval skirmishes, nearby.
Meanwhile, the island itself is equipped with 19 fully-stocked bomb shelters, into which panicked residents fled today. Lined with tank traps and trenches, it is permanently ready for war, and residents conduct monthly air raid drills and keep gas masks in their homes.
South Korea has often speculated that the North will attack Yeonpyeong in order to strengthen its hand in any negotiations with the West.
Today's attack, however, coming after the sinking of the South Korean Cheonan warship with the loss of 46 sailors, may tip the tensions between the two countries over the edge. However, there are few immediate military responses available to the South. The North Korean gun posts which opened fire today are well-entrenched, and difficult to attack.

Dinner with Jan

On Friday I went for dinner with my cousin Jan and his girlfriend at his place.

He had invited several other people to dinner, including a friend of his, Junsu, who also happens to be one of the members of famous K-pop group 2PM (see their wikipedia page). During dinner, he put a photo up on twitter of the group, which had pages and pages of comments within minutes!

I don't really know anything about k-pop, but it was a pretty cool night!

Harry Potter.. I have to wait another month for this?!

This past Thursday, it seemed like everyone I know went out for the opening of the final Harry Potter movie. 

The movie doesn't come out here for another month... it's killing me!!!

Ads in the subway

Seoul Peace Marathon Nov 21, 2010

Last weekend I ran another 10km race, this time in Olympic Stadium. Around 10,000 people ran. It was a lot of fun!

Our group-(back row) Julia, Andrew, Carly, Steph, Kari (front row) Renee, Me

Picnic afterwards on the field in Olympic Stadium
My time this week was 1:00:39.92 .. I stopped to use the bathroom mid race, so I'm gonna go ahead and say that I managed to finish in under and hour! WOOHOO!

The winner ran in 35 minutes..

Friday, November 19, 2010

I finally tricked some students into liking me..

Diana and Sophia

Got my picture in a concert blog!

A couple months ago I went to a Global Gathering-- Fatboy Slim/Justice/Armin Van Buurin all day concert. The shows were a lot of fun, and of course, we wore our animal onsies!

Scroll down to picture 38- its a picture of me and Renee!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chonggyecheon Stream- Seoul Lantern Festival

I forgot to write about this before, but is definitely worth mentioning. On the Monday before Sarah left, we decided to head down to Chonggyecheon Stream in the heart of downtown Seoul to check out the Seoul Lantern Festival.

Scores of artists from around the world contributed and displayed their works along the stream. It coincided with Seoul hosting the G20 so I think it was meant to also be a proud display of all Seoul has to offer, and a major tourist draw for the week.

Luckily, we went late after work on a Monday when it wasn't busy, and so could avoid the large crowds that had been flocking to see the event.

The lanterns were great, but what is more interesting to me is the story behind Chonggyecheon Stream. Before its opening in 2005, this downtown core area only contained an elevated highway and dilapidated machine shops. In 2003 the mayor of Seoul commissioned the massive urban renewal project on the site of an old stream that flowed before rapid post-war economic development required it to be covered by the highway. It cost $900 million to make, but has since become a popular location for both Koreans and tourists to see the reintroduction of nature to the city, and beautiful design.

Chongyyecheon before and after

Sarah and Laura in front of the Brazilian"Christ the Redeemer" lantern 

Lantern Festival at night taking forms such as traditional dancers, exotic animals, and iconic landmarks
Sarah on the stream

Monday, November 15, 2010

Seoul Sports Marathon November 14th, 2010

On Sunday I ran a 10km race in the Seoul Marathon. It was along the river at the old World Cup Stadium on a cold but sunny and beautiful clear day in Seoul. This was probably the biggest race I have run in yet; events included 5km, 10km, half marathon, and full marathon distance.

My final time was 1:02:31. Definitely room for improvement, but at least I know what I can achieve with little or no training! (My legs were unhappy with this)

 One of my fellow runners, Carli, sent over some pictures from the day. Enjoy!
After the race they had a tent giving out free tofu stew with soy sauce, and mokoli (a fermented rice wine) . Needless to say, we stuck around drinking mokoli for a few hours after the race :)
The group waiting at the finish line (minus one who was running the half)

Next race is next Sunday. I'm hoping to break 1 hour! 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Student drew this picture of me in class.. not bad!

My door lock broke

I arrived home at 1am on Thursday night after a birthday dinner... and my key card was busted. The unlock flashed green, but then it wouldn't move the bolt in the door. I tried maybe 3 dozen times and then decided to attempt getting help from the limited-english front desk. 

This is the picture I took after 20 minutes of watching this dude fiddling with my door doing the exact same thing I had tried for the previous 15 minutes. The master key that fit in the slot below the door snapped while he was trying to turn it.

He soon called a maintenance guy from downstairs (old man, looked like he had been woken up by the call and was not pleased) who just got down to business. He slammed the door with a hammer, waking everyone else on the floor up. Eventually he jimmied the door open!!! I gave him one of my spare boxes of Pepero (빼빼로) for his troubles, and went to bed. 

Happy Pepero Day!!!

While most of North America knows November 11th as a time to remember those who bravely fought for our country, things are a bit different here.

South Korea has unofficially adopted Pepero (빼빼로) Day. Pepero is a cookie stick, dipped in
chocolate syrup, manufactured by Lotte Confectionary (The Lotte brand is basically the high-end Walmart of S. Korea). Rumor has it, a few years ago people started giving gifts of Pepero sticks on 11/11 because it looks like four sticks lined up. Now it has begun a massive Pepero buying frenzy (extra large pepero sticks, pepero boxes shaped like a heart, pepero gift boxes, etc) around this time each year. Sort of like a Valentines Day, except only one company stands to profit!

Every year, 55% of the annual Pepero sales are made for this November 11th "holiday". While the company denies starting the annual event, it DEFINITELY promotes it.

I have no complaints. Arriving at school, I immediately received two boxes of Pepero, one box of ferro rocher chocolates, and a cookie/chocolate from my students.

So from me to you, Happy Pepero Day!

Bye bye Sarah~

She left on a jet plane...

But she'll be back again!

Next visitor arrives at the end of November.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Halloween Party

On October 29 my school held its semi-annual "Market day" and halloween party. Each month, students are given "talking club dollars" depending on how well they do their homework, how many classes they take, etc. These kids have been saving their dollars now for almost 6 months. Some kids had managed to save up to 100 "talking club dollars",  usually getting between 6 to 12 dollars a month.

On this day each room transforms into an activity, marketplace, or game. It kind of reminds me of the carnival day we had at our high school!

This party had a games room run by Sarah and me, a face painting room, a Twister room (playing the hand/foot to color game), a candy market room, a cotton candy room, a marketplace room (buying pencils, toys, etc) and a magic show room.

The day was exhausting but a big success! Plus, seeing the kids in their halloween costumes was pretty hilarious considering they only bought them for this party!
Sarah and Laura setting up our game room- pin the tail/nose on the cat/witch

Sky, Sarah, Laura Teacher

Annica, Michelle, Jessica, Jessica's sister

Minds being blown by the halloween magician

Alice, Mary, Annie

Talking Club coworkers (and boss, white shirt back row)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Halloween in Korea

Happy Halloween!

On halloween night we headed out to Hongdae, an area of Seoul that encompasses many clubs and bars, as well as the student-ghetto for several Korean universities.

We gathered in a park with hundreds of other halloween-ers and had a great time seeing some of the other costumes people had come up with.
Getting choked by a Korean clown on stilts

Darts with Richard, Wes, and Sarah

Met up with my cousin Jan and his girlfriend, 심정

Sunday, October 31, 2010

My First Visitor! Sarah in Korea

On October 23 I had my first visitor arrive in Korea.
She will be here until November 8 (With a big celebration for her birthday on November 5! woohoo!)

My friend Sarah has been travelling the world these past few months. She arrived to me having visited Spain, Morocco, Portugal, Germany, and then is continuing on from Korea to travel to Hong Kong, Japan, and back to Spain. Wow!

It's been the perfect opportunity to see the touristy side of Seoul that I kind of skipped when I first arrived here. So far we've visited various neighborhoods in Seoul, Gyeongbokgung palace, Seoul Tower, and eaten at many Korean restaurants!

Here is a picture at the palace. We were supposed to get a free guided tour, but we were late (naturally) and missed it. Wandering around cluelessly, I noticed a sign saying "free dress-up"... YES

Monday, October 4, 2010

Energizer Night Race 2010 with Adidas

The course (run through a zoo)
On Saturday night I hopped on a subway bound for Seoul Grand Park, where the Energizer Night Race 2010 was being held. This 5km race was held in the dark. Your race kit came with a reflective running shirt, a reflective bib, and a headlamp. The course ran through a zoo at night and, due to inclement weather, in the rain. It was AWESOME. Apparently we ran by wolves, and bears, but the only animals I saw were goats :(
The race also reminded me how out of shape I was.  As soon as I crossed the finish line, the chip on my shoe registered my time, when then automatically got sent via text message to my cell phone (again, AWESOME) telling me that my finish time was 37 minutes. Oops!
Me wish my headlamp, poncho, reflective bib, and "participation medal"
I decided from that point that the only way to continue to feel the need to run was to keep entering in more races so I have something to train towards. The next race it looks like I'm signing up for is over Halloween (10km), and then one in mid November (10km). It's time for me to get back in shape!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Temple Vegetarian Cooking class at O'ngo Food Communications

On Saturday I trotted off to a cooking class for vegetarians. I was very excited and a little nervous because a) I love to eat, but b) I can't cook. Like nadda. Toast, pasta, microwaves are where its at for me.

Watching the cooking demonstration from an expert

Grating some potato for the pancakes

Tada!! The finished product
Things we made (From left to right): Soybean Paste Stew in homemade vegetable stock. Potato Pancakes with Dipping Sauce. Shitake mushroom and Kelp Jorim. Nutritious Stone Pot Rice.

  1. Vegetable Stock
    • Water 3C
    • Kelp 2pieces dried (4inchx 4inch)
    • Shitake mushroom, dried 2each
    • turnip 60g(2oz)
    • Carrot 20g(.7oz)
    • Spicy green pepper 1 each
    • Spicy red pepper 1 each
        1. Clean the kelp with a damp towel
        2. put all the ingredients in a pot and bring to boil
        3. when it has a light brown color, take the kelp out. put aside for side dish.
        4. after 5 min take the mushrooms out. keep the mushrooms for side dish.
        5. strain the stock
  2. Soybean Paste Stew
    • Temple style stock (we just made it) 2C
    • Tofu 50g
    • Zucchini 30g
    • potato 1/2 each
    • enoki mushroom 20g
    • soybean paste 1/2tbsp
        1. Wash all ingredients and cut the vegetables and tofu into bite size pieces
        2. bring to boil the stock and put in potato first. After put in soybean paste and other ingredients
        3. cook your soup until vegetables are done
        4. put the enoki mushroom on top
  3. Shitake Mushroom and Kelp Jorim
    • Shitake mushroom and kelp (used for vegetable stock)
    • Sauce:
      • soy sauce 1 1/2tbsp
      • sugar 1tsp
      • sesame oil 1tsp
      • sesame seed, crushed 1tsp
        1. Slice shitake mushroom and kelp
        2. make sauce and set aside
        3. stir fry the mushrooms and kelp
        4. put the sauce in the pot and reduce until vegetables are well coated
  4. Potato Pancake
    • Potato 100g
    • Flour 1tbsp
    • sesame seeds 1/2tsp
    • pinch of salt
    • Dipping Sauce
      • soy sauce 1tbsp
      • vinegar 1/2 tbsp
      • pinch of chili powder
        1. Grate the potatoes into the bowl
        2. mix with flour and sesame seeds
        3. season with salt
        4. pan-fry with vegetable oil
        5. serve with dipping sauce
It was absolutely DELICIOUS, and I think I will try to make it again soon. You should try it, too. YUM!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Seoraksan National Park

Took a bus from Seoul (can you find it?) to Seoraksan  (top right)
On Sunday September 19th we took a day trip to Seoraksan National park. Here's a little blurb on it that I pulled off of google. Seoraksan is the third highest mountain in South Korea (and apparently the most beautiful in autumn). We decided to climb up Ulsanbawi (울산바위), which I think was one of the easier climbs, which took us just over 2 hours to get up.

Ulsanbawi (울산바위) is a rock formation in the Seoraksan national park. The shape of Ulsanbawi is unique in the area. To reach the rocks you need to follow a hiking path and climb over 800 steps (it's actually 888 steps according to locals). On the way there, there are two temples and a spherical rock (Heundeulbawi, 흔들바위) which is located on top of a larger rock.
Me with a GIANT Buddah

As you can imagine, 888 Steps does feel as bad as it sounds

Made it to the top! Too bad none of the leaves have changed colour just yet.