Hanok Village in pictures

On a return trip to the Hanok Village we managed to visit some of the well-known places we didn’t get to last time and finally taste Jeonju’s famous Bibimbap. And it wasn’t too crowded either. 

We started off just outside the Hanok Village at Pungammun Gate and Jeondong Cathederal. Pungammun Gate used to be part of Jeonju's city wall and was built in 1768. At a plaza just near Pungammun Gate, there was a tribute to the Sewol ferry disaster. Yellow ribbons and decorated life jackets were on display. There were some haunting messages written on the jackets blaming the crew for killing the children. Jeondong 

Cathedral was one of the first  cathedrals to be built in Korea and has a somewhat European style. A sweet old man saw us hanging around the cathedral and offered to take our photo. He managed to take about 20 photos all with his finger over the corner.

Outside Gyeonggijeon, a shrine area full of beautful buildings and trees.

We loved this little shop-Mohair Shop (http://www.mohairshop.co.kr). It sells all sorts of teddy bears and teddy bear making kits. We bought 2 and have loved sewing up our little animals. 

"Happiness". Shops and stalls in the Village sell all sorts of trinkets and fans.

A very old convenience store.

Walking up to Omokdae, the view point above the Hanok Village. 

On the hilltop there is a resting place (note all the shoes) and once again an outdoor gym (just incase you thought about gyming while you were touring the village).

We wondered out of the Hanok Village to a very old, quaint, hillside village. I'm not sure what it is called but it wound its way up the hill and many of the walls were painted with all sorts of murals (more to come in a blogpost on this later).

We ended our day with some of Jeonju's famous Bibimbap. After trying some of the many snacks for sale in the village, we weren't too hungry so we only ordered 1 portion of food. And look at all that food!! Bibimbap is traditionally a mixture of vegetables served on a bed of rice in a stone bowel and topped with some meat and a fried egg. There are now many different variations. As you can see, our meal is surrounded by all sorts of side dishes, from crab to tofu and kimchi. This is common in Korea and best of all, they are FREE!

School Days

So, we have been in Korea for just over a month and we are getting very used to teaching and dealing with children. Next weekend we will go to Seoul for an EBY training day so I’m sure we will learn some teaching tips there.

Most children are absolute sweethearts and such a pleasure but a few are an absolute nightmare, so frustrating and make us want to scream. These tend to be teenage boys who aren’t interested in spending their time after school learning English. I have got better at handling them and generally have to control them by whacking them over the head with a book or pinching them (I was inspired by the Korean teachers here). I only do this with the older boys. The younger ones can also be challenging as they try to hide under the table when you teach and when you ask them to repeat an English word, the scream their lungs out. They are only studying phonics at the moment so they are still very new to English. With these students I just try keep calm and get through as much as I can. Dean has some interesting younger students who seem to be a bit “special”. They don’t let him see their work, go near them and they like to try hug and touch him (maybe because he is hairy?!). Dean’s method of discipline is making them write lines (I sometimes do this too, I don’t have too many discipline problems except for a few boys). This works for some of the older kids but definitely not for the younger ones. If you give a young kid lines, they suddenly all want paper and want to write out things, defeats the point a bit! We teach kids from 8 years to 16 years. I’m not sure which ages I prefer. Middle school students are sometimes very easy to teach because they can talk and enjoy interacting with you but some of the middle school students are so frustrating. It is like trying to suck blood from a stone when you teach them.

One of my favourite classes-they love to try speak English and we end up playing hangman every lesson.

The teaching itself is not very challenging. There is a set method for how we go about our teaching. This is followed by all the EBY franchises and does not leave much space for creativity and freedom. Sometimes this can be nice (because you don’t have to think) but other times a bit boring. To be honest, I don’t think the whole method how the students learn English is that great. It based a lot on memorizing and not understanding. The kids have to memorize long passages for speaking tests but ask them a question on the story and they normally have no clue unless they have learnt the answer. Dean and I are both trying to get our students to understand more and think instead of memorizing everything.

One of my classes working.

One of Dean's classes.

An example of the kind of thing we might teach a class (a younger class).

One of the pros to being a teacher is all the sweets and treats the students give us. Korean kids eat a STACK of sweets. We have been giving many different things from Churros to lollipops. I normally get given some kind of treat every day (me more than Dean ;) ). One little girl, Jessica, (who is so cute) brings me these weird Korean snacks every single Friday. In my opinion they are horrible (the kids are always eating them) but I don’t have the heart not take them so I graciously accept. I think by the end of the year I will have acquired a cupboard full of them.

Jessica and the weird snacks she brings me. I don't even know what they are made out of.

Another thing that we have learnt while teaching is that we have to watch our accents (and British spelling). Obviously Koreans learn American English and so they often find the way we say things wrong or funny. We end up having to say things with American accents (which I think is awkward). These are mainly words with the "a" sound like tomato, pass, grass etc. One boy gets angry with me when I say his name, "Grant", in my normal South African way. He doesn't realize I am talking to him unless I say his name with an American accent. The same goes for a girl Julie who corrects me every time and gets exhausted telling me how wrong I am! 

These girls are so sweet. The one in the stripy top is Julie :) 

A strange obsession in Korea is the Disney movie “Frozen”. It is a major craze right now and there is Frozen merchandise EVERYWHERE. Our teachers have “Let it Go” ringtones and we often hear our students (girls and boys) singing “Let it Go” or “Do you want to build a snowman?”. It really is very sweet. I have also been told a MILLION times that I look like Elsa .“Teacha, you Elsa.” This is the most bizarre thing because I bear no resemblance, go figure!

Kids can be wonderful and say some bizarre things. I need to try remember them or write them down. A few of the funny happenings in class:

  • When we started teaching, our favourite thing was to ask the students which country they thought we were from. They started with the obvious USA and Canada then moved onto places like Spain, Greece, Ukraine and even Kazakhstan. The always went on for ages naming all the countries they knew until one of them would say “Africa” (definitely not a country, but anyway). So I’d say yes I was from Africa, but where? And the only places they would come up with were Libya, Nigeria and Egypt. We would eventually have to say South Africa and only some of the students knew it (probably from the world cup).
  • “Teacha, your eyes moon”. My eyes might be “big” like a full moon but then their eyes are like a slither of moon. Dean had a similar experience when a boy said “Teacha, big eyes, big nose” to which he replied “You thiiiin eyes, small nose”. This lead to the rest of the class laughing and calling the boy Pikachu!
  • Last week I was using flash cards that had pictures of various people and children and I would show the students a card and they would have to make up a sentence like “He is my dad”, “She is my sister”, “He is my friend” etc. They definitely were a bit confused when a picture of a black man popped up and they all very proudly shouted “He is AFRICA”. I just couldn’t help laughing and didn’t even try to explain and correct them.
  • My one class of 11 year olds are very morbid and are completely obsessed with death and killing. On many occasions when teaching them various things and asking for examples I get some disturbing answers. When teaching them “Can I/can you” and “Must” their examples were “Can I kill Alex?”, “Can you die?” , “Can I eat Joanne?’, “I must Kill Dannie”, “Scott must die”, the list was endless. Just yesterday I was asking them where Scott was because he was late, to which a Dannie seriously replied “Scott die, Alex kill Scott.”
  • In another class we were looking at a various pictures and the students were saying what each picture was. When a picture of a robber carrying a sack came up and I asked them “what is he?”, one boy answered “he is Santa Claus’s grandfather.”

Children always make your day interesting and you never know what to expect!

Hiking in Jeonju

A drizzly Sunday morning inspired us to get out and explore some of the nearby hiking trails. Hiking, being a firm favorite among Koreans, we bumped into many avid hikers. Some who even offered us a drink of their very strange flavored water. The hiking trails are about a 20 minute walk from our apartment and there are many different trails that snake all over the hills. To our surprise, shortly after starting the walk, we came across a beautiful Buddhist temple and shrine. There were monks walking around too. There were also a couple of outdoor gyms scattered around the walk where a few locals were doing push ups, pull ups and other exercise. A great idea I think! Another strange/clever thing we saw, was a "high pressure air drying station". Basically there are hoses which blow high pressure air and you can use it to get rid of the dirt on your shoes and clothes. The hiking was really steep, but it wasn't too far to the top. We were rewarded with some amazing views. Definitely a place to visit more than once, and maybe even at night because some of the paths have lights.

After a very steep and sweaty walk we reached this Buddhist temple.

I love these paintings and engravings on the side.

Just look at all those tall buildings. One of them is ours in the faaar distance.

Again, now you can really see what I mean when I say there are tall buildings everywhere!

Just incase you need to know the time while you're walking!

One of the gyms (note the guy doing push ups back there)

View of Jeonju at the top.

Many more trails to be explored. Looking into the mountains from the top.

At the top-not very high!

Butterfly that was following us around.

Deokjin Park, Cat Cafe, Jeonju Zoo

Deokjin Park is famous for its bed of lotus flowers that cover half of the huge pond in the park. It is also the representative park of Jeonju. It is not a very touristy place and is mainly filled with locals enjoying the park and having picnics. We paid it a visit on a Saturday afternoon. There was a lovely atmosphere in the park with lots of children running around happily. Kids are always everywhere in Jeonju, I think it is because they need to escape their apartments and don’t have the luxury of their own gardens at home. We strolled around the park, taking pictures of the lotus flowers and walked across the suspension bridge in the middle of the pond. There are also some little wooden bridges where you can walk across the lotus section and enjoy the views from the pagodas. Unfortunately the light was not that great for taking photos, being all overcast and bright, so I think we will have to return to the park one morning in July when the lotuses are in full bloom and get some good shots. 

Some funny statues in the park.

Some ladies enjoying sitting in the pagoda.

Dean checking out a lambourgini

Silk worm pupae for sale (eeew and it STINKS).

Some poor children doing homework in the park.

Opposite Deokjin Park, much to our delight, is a cat café (this may have been a contributing factor why we were so eager to go to the area). The café is not very obvious (on the third floor) and you probably wouldn’t notice it was there unless you knew about it. Luckily one of our teachers had checked on Naver because we couldn’t find anything on Google. We were both in need of some animal contact so the cat café was just what we needed. Now, these kinds of cafes are very popular in Korea. You get dog cafes, cat cafes, sheep cafes, hello kitty cafes just to mention a few. We plan to visit a lot of these (though they are mainly in Seoul). But the Jeonju cat café was a great place to start. We wondered in to the café where we swopped our shoes for slippers and sanitized our hands. Basically at these cafes you just order a drink and get to play with cats and watch them have fun. This was a well done café as the cats were in good condition, seemed very happy with life and were very friendly. It is a bit of a cat’s paradise with scratch posts, toys, heaters and overhead running tracks everywhere. I can’t wait to visit some other cafes and it will definitely be high up on my list when I go to Seoul. 

Feeding the cats some treats (check the cool slippers)

Cats paradise. There are about 15 cats at the cafe.

Just chilling.

Some very well behaved cats!

What a beautiful cat just relaxing on our table.

Our last stop of the day was Jeonju Zoo. We were on the bus and thought “why not?” I had never been to a zoo as I think they are depressing places but we decided to give it a try. The Jeonju Zoo was no different. The actual grounds of the zoo were beautiful and they were filled with families and again stacks of kids (it only costs 1300won to get in). But unfortunately, the animals all looked miserable, pacing in their small cement cages, and it broke our hearts. We felt so sorry for majestic animals like tigers, wolves, leopards etc in such tiny and unnatural cages. I guess that when the people here live in small, cement boxes, they may think it is fine for animals too.

The zoo didn't warrant many pictures except these of the beautiful flowers.

Apartment Living

So as I mentioned before, basically everyone in Korea lives in very tall apartment buildings. Apartment blocks are clustered together everywhere and the average height is about 15 floors. Dean and I live in a 15 story building and our apartment is on the 4th floor. When moving to Korea we had very low expectations of what our apartment would be like. After much blog reading we expected we would be living in a tiny studio apartment with barely any space to move, a shower over the loo and a kitchen in our bedroom/livingroom. However, we are so lucky!!! We have a large spacious apartment with a separate kitchen and living room, 2 bedrooms and a bathroom with a bath!! We couldn't have asked for better, seriously! So without further ado, here is a tour of our place :) 

View out the back door of our apartment. The far, tall buildings are where our schools are. 

Our kitchen/dining room (we did not choose lovely table cloth)

Koreans love their wall paper. As you can see, all our cupboards are papered differently.

Our lounge with a flat screen TV too. 

Our spare room (for anyone who wants to visit us). Currently our walk in closet.

Koreans use very strange/unusual linen. We were limited for choice here with hawain type flowers.

Great! We have a bath (not common), and our shower doesn't drench the place too much!

Laundry room/balcony.

View from the laundry room/balcony (not very exciting).

Outside look of our building, taken on a Friday market day.

Guemsansa Buddhist Temple

Our director is so great!! During the week she gave us a list of some things we may want to do in Jeonju and asked us to choose one and we could go with her and her family on the weekend. We decided to pick the nearby Buddhist Temple Guemsansa because we wanted to see what the surrounding area of Jeonju was like and get a bit into the mountains. We started off our outing with some lunch at a very fancy Italian restaurant in Jeonju. We had a 4 course meal and it was delicious. Although Joanna and her family can’t speak English that well, it is very fun to talk to them and compare our cultures. Joanna’s daughter is actually in one of my classes and her son is only just learning English at kindergarten. Her husband can’t speak any English but knows the odd word.

After lunch we headed to Guemsansa Buddhist Temple. Guemsansa means “Golden Mountain Temple”. Guemsansa is in the slopes of the Moaksan Mountains (in the Moaksan Provincial Park) and is about 40 minutes out of Jeonju. The mountain scenery was beautiful. In the national park there were many people starting the hiking trails and relaxing, having picnics. Koreans are the most kitted out hikers I have ever seen. Considering that hiking is their national past time, these hikers looked so professional in their special colourful hiking clothes and carrying hiking poles. The Guemsansa Temple is extremely old and was first established in 599AD. There are male and female Buddhist monks living at the temple and we saw a few walking around in grey robes. You can even do a temple stay at Guemsansa, which we may consider in the future. We spent the afternoon wondering around and looking at the temples. The architecture is so beautiful. Unfortunately you aren’t allowed to take photos inside the temple but the one temple houses the largest indoor Buddha statue in the world, 11.82m and 2 Buddhas on either side of 8.8m tall! We had a really great day with Joanna and her family and we were so happy to spend time with them. We definitely want to head back to Moaksan Provincial Park sometime and explore some hiking trails. I think we should visit again in Autumn because everything will look stunning with the changing colours of the leaves.

Us with Joanna and Henry in front of a man made waterfall.

Walking up to Guemsansa.

The entrance to Guemsansa.

Maitreya Hall that houses the 3 huge Buddhas.

In front of Maitreya Hall.

Yukgak Tachung Soktap, one of the old treasures, was built between 918-1392.

In front of one of the halls. You can see the gold Buddhas in the background and a lady praying.

Joanna and I. Note the height difference.

Buddhist lanterns.

Lighting candles and making wishes.

With Henry and Rachel. 

First week of EBY Talking Club

Monday morning finally came around. Dean and I were pretty nervous because we didn’t really know what to expect. Seeming though we actually took this job on a whim without having received a signed contract from the director and not fully knowing what our responsibilities would be, we had our fingers crossed. Our director Joanna fetched us on Monday afternoon and took us to our schools. Dean’s school is about a 10 minute walk from our apartment and mine is just past his, about a 15 minute walk.

Dean's school. You can see the EBY Talking Club sign. 

Walk to school, up the hill. 

My school, you can see the EBY Talking Club sign on the side. 

Walk to my school. Luckily some shade!!

Both schools are the same Talking Club franchise, have the same director and run with the same system. Joanna showed us around the schools and explained briefly how the system works. We rotate around the 4 classrooms everyday so each day we teach a new group of students. It is quite refreshing to see different students everyday. It’s also good for the students because they all need as much exposure to speaking English as possible. The Talking Club ‘system’ was a bit complicated to get our heads around but we seem to have worked it out now. Our first week has been great. For me it mainly involved doing introductions and showing the kids a slide show about Cape Town, my home and my family. Most children have never heard of South Africa and they were in awe by all the pictures. After showing them pictures of my house and garden I was met by many gasps and “teacha, are you rich?” questions. Everyone here lives in taaaall apartments and apparently only like the CEOs of Samsung and Hyundai have swimming pools at their houses. Needless to say, all the kids want to come to South Africa!

The entrance to my school. Dean's looks the same.

Inside the school. It is quite small with only 4 small classrooms and a teachers office.

I get to wear these cool slippers when I get to work. Dean got started on teaching on day 2. His teachers are very keen and explained the whole system to him. Lucky for me because then he could tell me all about it. There are 3 Korean teachers at each school. Their English is ok and sometimes it can be difficult to get across what you are trying to say. It seems crazy because they are English teachers but they all seem to be able to teach grammar just fine.

Our hours are pretty great. We have to be at school at 1:20pm to start teaching at 2pm and we finish at 8pm. This is much less hours than typical hagwon (Korean ‘after school’ program) jobs which generally finish at 10pm and we still get paid the average salary. We also do minimal lesson planning and arriving at school at 1:20pm gives us plenty of time to prepare for the day. I've heard new teachers can spend up to 6hour preparing for each day so I’m pleased about this.

Another thing we did in our first week was visit the hospital for our health check. You need to have a health check within 30days of entering the country so that you can apply for your Alien Registration Card (which allows you to stay in the country). Joanna took us to one of the main hospitals in Jeonju one morning, Jesus Hospital. I was the BUSIEST hospital I have ever seen, people everywhere walking around in gowns. No wonder people in Korea live so long if they are always at the hospital getting checks. We had the most rigorous health check either one of us had ever had. And it was so efficient, all taking about an hour. The check involved: chest scan, blood test, ear test, eye test, urine test, blood pressure, height, weight etc, mouth examination. Joanna paid for both our tests, 100 000 Won (R1000), which was very kind of her. Directors do not normally pay for it. She is such a kind lady and has so far given us so many gifts and treats. We are so lucky to have such a great director.

With Joanna at Dunkin Donuts after the hospital :) All in all, the first week was enjoyable and we feel very lucky to have an awesome director and nice schools. I am looking forward to next week to start some proper teaching and get into a routine. 

First weekend-visiting the Hanok Village

Having the long weekend after we arrived was perfect to allow us to recuperate after our trip and get over the jet lag. We were also able to start getting our apartment organized by making a few trips to Home Plus. There was hardly any storage space in our apartment so we managed to make a plan with some portable hanging rails.

Walking around our neighbourhood:

On Saturday we decided to explore and take a trip to Jeonju’s famous Hanok Village. It was relatively easy making our way there because we could just show the taxi driver our translation page Joanna had given us and off we went. The Hanok Village is very famous in Korea and attracts lots of tourists and locals. The village is full of traditional Korean houses, very old buildings and shrines and lots of tearooms and food stalls. We didn’t particularly have a plan for when we arrived, we just planned on wondering around. As the village is a very big tourist attraction, we expected to see a few foreigners. Not the case. I think we saw one Westerner there and I think about 3 the whole weekend. We are slowly realizing seeing Westerners is very rare. The village was really crowded, I think maybe because it was a long weekend. We didn’t get to see as much of it as we wanted and we definitely need to go back to see the Jeondong Cathedral, calligraphy museum, the Gyeonggijeon shrine and the Confucian academy. The crowds and the fact that NO ONE (well basically) speaks English was quite overwhelming. But it was a good start to looking into the Korean culture and seeing how our new life was going to be.

Around the Hanok Village:

I couldn't resist, I had to buy a fan, Koreans don't seem to notice it is BOILING!! (and the hat was a desperate purchase from Home Plus to avoid sunburn)

Trying some of the snacks! These are rice cakey type things and are filled with ice cream and topped with strawberries. Delish!!

This little boy, whose name was "Friendly", came up to us and gave us 2 chocolates. Korean children choose their English names (sometimes bizarre ones) so I guess his name suited him.

So crowded!!

Having an "iced beer".

This cute little kid was having a great time.

After visiting the Hanok village we spent the rest of the weekend spring cleaning our apartment and preparing for our first week of our new teaching job.

Arriving in Korea!

So, I have finally gotten around to starting a blog, one week in. It seems to be much more complicated and technical than I thought. Now that I have managed to change the language from Korean, things should hopefully be easier!

We arrived in Korea about 21 hours after leaving Cape Town. We were extremely glad to get off the aeroplane at Incheon airport but it meant another 4 hour bus drive to Jeonju. It wasn’t half bad as the bus had reclining seats and some Korean cooking TV for entertainment. After a very quick pitsop (Korean’s are very timely people, 15 minutes means 15 minutes!!) at a very busy intercity bus terminal, we had had our first taste of the Korean culture.
When we finally arrived in Jeonju, (at 11:00pm) we were met by our school director Joanna. She was jumping up and down and waving when we got off the bus, she was clearly very excited to see us. She took us to our apartment and picked up some groceries along the way (Yes, the shops seem to be open all night). Before she left us to pass out, Joanna explained to us a few things about the apartment and gave us some Korean translations so that we could get around easily. Our timing arriving in Korea was perfect because the day after we arrived (Friday, 6th June) was Memorial Day which meant we had a long weekend to get settled and not have to worry about work until Monday!