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Around the World in 22 Days.

Last week I reached my last 60 days of my teaching contract in Korea. Nicole and I have had a blast so far this year and we’re looking forward to teaching in Korea for another upcoming year. We’ve looked into several programs and decided to pursue a few programs in the southern provinces of South Korea. If all goes according to plan we’ll be teaching in Korean public school starting in mid August, and hopefully living together. We should know more around June. That gives both of us about 1.5 months of vacation between our two contracts ending and then starting up again.

Since we’re in charge of booking our own flights back to the United States, Nicole and I decided to plan a mini trip around the world on our way home visiting a few places that we’ve both been interested in and that are vaguely on our way back to America. My contract ends after Nicole’s so we’re going to wait until my contract ends at the end of June to begin our trip. I finish my contract Monday night. After work Nicole and I will pack up the last of our stuff and take a bus to Incheon airport.

All of these pages will link to my travel entries from my trip as I write them so stay tuned.

First Stop India

Taj Mahal

Our first stop will be New Delhi, India. We’re going to fly to out from Korea Tuesday morning and spend a week in India traveling around New Delhi. We’re looking forward to seeing lots of interesting temples and markets in India. We will also be visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra.

Next Up Germany

Neuschwanstein

The next stop on our trip is in Munich, Germany. I visited Germany a few years ago, but Nicole’s never been and she told me she was really interested in visiting. In Munich we’ll see famous beer halls and churches. We’ll also travel outside the city to see castles like Neuschwanstein.

After a few days, Nicole and I are taking a night train and checking out one of Germany’s most historic cities and also home to Germany’s capital: Berlin. We’ll hang out in Berlin for a few days and see the sites before taking a plane across Europe to…

Iceland

iceland

From Berlin, we’re traveling to Reykjavik, Iceland. Iceland is home to some incredible natural beauty. We’re going to see everything from lava caves, to geysers, and hot springs. Since Iceland is so far north, and we’re visiting in Summer, the sun will be up almost 24/7. The sun only sets for about five hours each night. Days last from 4am to 11pm and because “night” is so short, it never really gets dark. Those five hours of “sunset” really equate to about 3 hours of dawn/dusk and maybe an hour or two of true night.

Good Ole US of A

mt rushmore

Our final stop on the trip, before we return to our hometowns in Florida, will be in Boston. I’m going to spend the weekend in Boston visiting my friends Adam and Ali as well as my mom’s side of the family for a much deserved mini-reunion.

Cherry Blossom Festival

Jinhae Cherry Blossoms

Nicole and I visited a local cherry blossom festival in nearby Jinhae. The trip was through a local Korean tour guide named Pedro, its his adopted English name. He was the same tour guide we used for our second snowboarding adventure a month or two earlier.

Getting to Jinhae

Jinhae Cherry BlossomsWe met across from the bus terminal in Gwangju and hopped aboard the bus Pedro had rented for the day. He usually just uses his van, but he booked a big trip this time so he rented a full size bus. The trip out to Jinhae was about 3 hours and we arrived a little after noon. Driving through Jinhae, the streets were packed with Koreans eager to witness the majestic beauty of blooming cherry blossoms.

 

 

 

The City of Jinhae

The city was familiar with cherry blossom crowd management and setup Our Shuttle in Jinhaea temporary parking lot at the naval base just outside of town. Our bus dropped us off here and we took a $2 shuttle bus into the actual city. Central Jinhae is laid out like a bicycle wheel with a park in the center and many spokes reaching out in various directions. The central park was hosting a singing competition/music revue.  Nicole and I made a note to come back for it, but we had bigger plans for now.

 

 

 

Environment Eco-park Riverside

We walked straight through town and headed North to walk along a beautiful river and get some photos of blossoms over the river.

365 Steps of Mt. Jaehwang-san

365 steps of Mt. Jaehwang-sanLater we made our way to the 365 steps of Mt. Jaehwang-san. The steps were surprisingly manageable and only took a few minutes to climb.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watching the Korean Naval BandKorean Naval Band

After out steps we were pretty beat. So we headed over to the local stadium to see the Korean Naval Band perform. Their drumline was really impressive to see. Somehow I lost the picture for it.

 

 

A Seoul Love Motel with a Pool

This past weekend Nicole and I visited Seoul. We traveled to our usual hangouts: Itaewon, Oktoberfest, and Praha. I won’t reexplain everything we did. However, if you’re interested in any of those places, check out my last trip to Seoul for my birthday.

A Room With A Pool

For Nicole and I, motels end up being cheaper than staying in a hostel and they’re usually really nice. Many of them even give you toothbrushes, facemasks, individual packets of instant coffee, and maybe a little bottle or two of orange juice. The one we stayed at this weekend really took the cake.

Itaewon to Sinchon

Itaewon to Sinchon

We took the subway to Sinchon near Hongik University in Seoul. Sinchon is the Love Motel district in Seoul. Its probably known for other things, like its Parkour Park, and a Smoothie King, but we mostly just stay there for the night and then leave.

We found a love motel called Hotel Jade a few minutes walk from the subway station and asked for a room. They took out a laminated card with a list of all of their rooms. Lots of love motels have themed rooms. Some of them are plant themed, some have pool tables, or Spongebob pictures. Its really a crap shoot what any one particular love motel will offer. [divider_flat]

Nicole and I looked over the laminated page. Most of the rooms were just a general color theme and relatively uninspiring, that’s when Nicole and I noticed the suites at the bottom of the page. The fanciest suite included a pool, in the room. Not a pool to share, but your own personal pool. The best part? The room was only about $176 a night. Nicole and I booked it and took the stairs down to the basement level, because of course you can’t have a pool in your room if its above other floors.

The room was two stories. On the first story, that the entrance leads into, is a bedroom and bathroom area with a king size bed, glass shower, massive TV (I’d guess 55″), and of course a desk with a desktop PC. I’m not sure why, but all love motels that I’ve ever stayed in have included them.

Love Motel with Pool

From the main floor, a staircase leads downstairs to the pool and a small wooden deck with some lounge chairs and a few towels. This room was awesome, but the water was freezing, like Arctic Ocean freezing. Since we paid for the room already, and it had its own pool, Nicole and I decided we would be doing ourselves a disservice if we didn’t at least swim a bit. We did a few laps in the pool before getting out. If you do decide to stay in the pool room, I definitely recommend staying there during the summer time.

Thailand Day Nine: Returing home to Gwangju, South Korea

This concludes my journey to Thailand for Lunar New Year. Its been a blast I’ve seen temples, ancient cities, monkeys, Grand Palaces, and shopped at markets. For anyone looking for a fun and inexpensive trip in Asia, I’d recommend visiting Thailand.

A Cab to the Airport

Nicole and I wanted to save some money and we both had a long day of travel ahead of us so we booked an early flight home. This meant waking up at 4am and getting a cab to the airport. The cab was only 3 dollars for a 20 minutes trip across town, talk about cheap. We tipped him another dollar for the early cab ride and for getting us there so quickly. Inside the airport we breezed through check-in and walked to our gate with plenty of time. It was surprising the number of people who were at the airport at 5am, but it wasn’t overly crowded.

Leaving on a Jet Plane

The flight was smooth and the movies were pretty much the same as when we left with only a few changes. Both Nicole and I were incredibly exhausted so we slept for most of the trip anyways.

We landed in Incheon International Airport about 5 hours later at 1pm Korea time. It felt surreal returning to Incheon Airport. During our Japan trip we flew in and out of Busan so this was our first flight through Incheon after arriving in Korea.

Inchen Introspection

I think #psy is on my #flight., It was interesting to compare the experience arriving this time with our first arrival to Korea 8 months before. This time Nicole and I were traveling together and we knew how to get a bus to Gwangju, what the buses would be like, and how to get a cab from the bus station to my apartment. We knew all the little details and what to expect in Korea.

The first time I arrived in Korea, I was alone. It was my first time flying to Korea and I had no idea what to expect. I had some many thoughts.

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  • What would the airport be like?
  • How would Korea compare with America?
  • Would it be easy to communicate with other people?

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[box type=”info”]Short Answers to all these questions: Korea is a developed country with nice airports and many English speakers. You have nothing to worry about.[/box]

Arriving in Incheon all over again brought all of these comparisons back to me and it was funny to think about how concerned I was then compared with how calm I was now. To anyone thinking about coming to Korea to teach English. I say do your research and find a good job, then go for it. Teaching in Korea is a blast and its given me a lot of time to travel and grow as a person. I highly recommend the experience.

Incheon to Gwangju, South Korea

The first time I arrived in Korea I was alone and unsure of which bus to take or how to get to Gwangju.

[box type=”info”]There are two Gwangjus: one is just south of Seoul and a very short/cheap bus ride. The other one is in South South Korea and a much longer more expensive bus ride. [/box]

#korea here I come!!, This time Nicole and I were traveling together and it was nice to have her as company on a 5 hours bus ride across the Korean Peninsula. When we finally arrived in Gwangju at the bus terminal, we hailed a cab back to my apartment and dropped off our heavy bags before grabbing a pizza from Dominos just up the road.

Like I said, Korea is a developed country where globalization has, for better or worse, reached its monopolous hand and sprinkled the seeds of international business all over Korea.

There are parts of home here in Korea like fast food and international clothing stores. However there are also parts of Korea that are completely alien and unique like temples, Noribangs, and Jinjabongs. Nicole and I try to strike a balance of the two every time we travel or do anything really.

[divider_flat]This concludes the Lunar New Year trip. If you want to read the previous days. Here they are, Day OneTwoThreeFourFiveSixSeven, and Eight.

 

A Day in the Life

I don’t know if anyone wonders what I get up to between weekend adventures or not, but I figured I’d post on the matter since living in Korea is not all weekend adventures and fun and games. I do have a real job and I work about 8.5 hours a day (1-9:40pm) although I do get to play during a large part of that time.

Breakfast

Most days Nicole and I get up around 9:30 and make breakfast at my apartment or hers. Lately I’ve been making us a lot of eggs in a nest (the breakfast V makes in V for Vendetta).

[toggle title_open=”Don’t Learn to Make Bird’s in a Nest” title_closed=”Learn to Make Bird’s in a Nest” hide=”yes” border=”yes” style=”default” excerpt_length=”0″ read_more_text=”Read More” read_less_text=”Read Less” include_excerpt_html=”no”][ordered_list style=”decimal”]

Cut a hole the diameter of a tennis ball in a piece of bread

Grease a pan and set the stove to low heat

Place your bread on the stove and crack an egg in the center

Let it sit for a few minutes then flip and wait a few more minutes

Enjoy

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Some days Nicole makes pancakes. I have a french press and one of us usually makes coffee for both of us. Nicole has to go in to work before me so she usually leaves for work and I update my blog or read the news until I have to leave for work around 12:30pm.

Walking to Work

My work is a 15-20 minute walk from my apartment. I put on a podcast or I listen to music and walk through the quiet streets to my work. The walk is nice. I walk past little marts and aparment buildings, hair salons and local restaurants. Because I start work midday, I rarely see anyone else on the street. Occasionally a group of school children will pass me and one person will shout “HELLO” and I’ll say “Hello” back to them.

Its nice. I’ve spent almost 9 months waking up naturally without an alarm. I just get up when I please, aside from the occasional weekend adventure which requires an early bus.

I arrive at work at 1pm and most days I just sit at my desk and prepare for class or grade papers. My earliest class is not until 2:50 and some days my first class is not until 5pm. This gives me more than enough time.

Coffee or Lunch

Classroom preparation takes anywhere from a few minutes per class to maybe 20 minutes on the high end if I prepare a custom worksheet or lesson. Some days I go to get coffee at a nearby coffee shop. Other days I meet Nicole during her break and we have lunch together.

Kimchi Roll

Fancy Kimbap roll

My hagwon, a Korean word for after school academy, is located in an office building. There are several coffee shops along the road: Mango Six, Tom and Tom, Starbucks, Angel-In-Us, and Holly’s. There are also various small restaurants like Pho Bay, kimbap places, Bap Burger (they sell rice burgers), Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, Baskin Robbins, Steff Hotdog, and Roti Boy.

After lunch or I finish planning my lessons, its usually time to start teaching. My classes are either 2:50-9:40 with a few breaks in between or they are 5-9:40 with a 5 minute break every 45 minutes.

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Dinner

Piles of Kimchi

Piles of Kimchi

On my latest break, usually 4-5pm, I go upstairs to the company cafeteria on the roof. It looks like two shipping containers welded together. Inside an old Korean lady makes food for us. Every month we pay 40,000KRW or roughly $38 for a month’s worth of dinners. It ends up being a great deal. There are usually several buffet style trays with food that you can put on a plate for yourself. Everyday we have white rice, kimchi, kimchi radish, and some sort of soup. The other food options are more varied. Sometimes its more western food like fried eggs or ham. Other days the foods are more traditionally Korean like fermented raw octopus, quail eggs, mandoo, or squid in a spicy red sauce.[divider_flat]

Classes

holloween mummy

I teach both middle school and elementary school. My first 6 class time slots are elementary school, while my last 2 classes are 70 minutes and middle school. My classes are anywhere from 1 student to 15 students. My elementary classes are usually on the smaller side. I have more elementary classes that are 1-8 students. Most of my middle school classes are close to the 15 student class limit.

Aside from some low level classes like sight words or phonics, most of my classes are either writing or speaking. We spend the class learning about a particular subject like careers, sports, family members, or foods. If its speaking class we’ll practice using vocabulary or explaining our opinion using reasons and examples. If its writing class we’ll construct an essay using the vocabulary and grammar that we learned about in the lesson.

Closing Time and Second Dinner

Because I have so much planning time before classes, I usually go home shortly after my last class. I’ll either walk/bike to my apartment or I’ll take a $3 cab ride to Nicole’s apartment. The two of us will make a second, usually smaller, dinner, because the last time we both ate was probably 5 hours ago and we’re super hungry. Sometimes we’ll go downtown to eat a late dinner if we don’t feel like cooking after a long day of teaching.

Thoughts

I really enjoy my schedule. Sometimes I wish I had fewer classes, or more of a break to separate out my different classes between the day, but when I stop and look at my schedule I realize that I’m really fortunate. I get to wake up naturally and make a nice breakfast. I get to listen to music or podcasts and walk to work. I have plenty of time to prepare for my classes and get coffee or lunch. Most of my classes are pretty small and the students are much better behaved than what I remember from my middle school in the U.S.

I don’t have to deal with traffic. I don’t have giant 35+ student classes. I work at a big enough hagwon that I know the business will not disappear one day. I’m always paid on time and I don’t have to work Saturdays or Sundays.