Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Seoul-ful Thanksgiving

Haha, puns are fun! And so is delicious turkey dinner!

So we decided to shell out the money (40,000 won per person, about $30 USD) and attend the first annual Big Rock Tavern Thanksgiving Dinner buffet on Saturday in Seoul. Honestly not expecting much but craving this taste of home, the decision was not a hard one. Especially since, after doing a quick survey of our Korean teaching partners at school, we discovered that Koreans don't eat turkey. So our chances of attaining this wonderful fowl were quite limited outside of this particular time of year. We were expecting some dry turkey, instant mashed potatoes, and some other poor excuse for stuffing and pumpkin pie. What we got was very good, juicy turkey, roast beef that literally melted in your mouth no chewing required, real mashed potatoes, real sweet potatoes, HOMEMADE stuffing (my mom doesn't even make that! I'm used to the 'StoveTop' variety), a lovely vegetable medley, homemade cornbread, very good pumpkin pie, warm apple cobbler, and lots of GRAVY BABY! And to top it off, they were replaying the NFL games from Thanksgiving Day. Not too shabby. Now, the tavern did not quite time the cooking of the turkeys correctly and there was some considerable waiting involved about half way through the feast, for which the owner compensated by giving out some FREE BEER! Free beer? Why not?
So all in all, it was the great taste of home we wanted and the evening was full of giving thanks and baring your Seoul. Ok, that was lame, I'm done with the puns now...promise.

Yeah! Carve that turkey baby!

Happy and in a food-induced coma...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

How to Ride a Bicycle in Korea

This idea for a post may not be original but hopefully I can at least make it entertaining with a tiny bit of useful information. We have been here since September and have been riding our bikes to school and on the weekends for recreational purposes for about 2.5 months. Being that Suwon is quite flat, it has been a pleasure. If you rule out the unnecessarily brutal winds of the past few weeks I would say that we love riding here. Of course, there are some things to get used to while riding your bike in Korea....
  1. DON'T ASSUME ANYTHING! The adage is that assuming will make an ass out of you...assuming while riding your bike in Korea might just kill you. Do not assume that the car creeping along won't speed up and clip you if you try to pass in front of it. Do not assume that the pedestrian walking towards you, who has clearly seen you for the past 15 seconds, won't rapidly change their walking direction to cross your path (kind of like a deer.) Do not assume that cars, trucks, motorbikes, or anything will not just randomly make a U-turn. And never, ever assume you have the right-of-way. 99.99% of the don't.
  2. Ride Assertively. Just like when you learned to drive a car.... If you are too aggressive you will cause an accident. If you are too passive and defensive, you will cause an accident. Here, if you are too aggressive, you die. If you are too passive, it will take 1 hour to ride 5 blocks. While you should not assume anything (see above), it is safe to say that drivers will accommodate you as long as they see you well in advance. Many times it can be safer to ride on the side of the road.
  3. Watch out for children. I know Korea's birthrate is one of the lowest in the world, but they are everywhere. They are most prevalent while you are speeding around a corner.
  4. Follow the locals. While riding your bike in Korea, you will encounter seemingly impassible construction sites. In North America, these work sites would be roped, taped, and barrier-ed off from the public with a dozen or so lazy government employees standing around to make sure you don't come close. In Korea, the construction workers are always...doing construction it seems, imagine that. It is up to the public to find their own way around. This is often not as hard as it sounds. Follow the old man riding beside you or the lady hiking in 4-inch heels. They will know what to do. It may take a little off-roading but that never hurt anyone.
  5. Beware the pollution...nuff said. Breathe through your nose.
  6. Finally, RIDE! It is very pleasurable riding bicycles here. The land is flat and the roads and sidewalks are normally very accommodating. The cool fall has been quite nice and it is great exercise. Koreans are a very warm people and will normally help you in any way they can.
Of course, we need bicycle pictures... I don't think we have any biking pictures in Korea so I will put a few from Barcelona and Amsterdam...

*update - could not find the bicycle pictures from I'll give you pictures of Ernesto "Che" Guevara and a fat lady instead. Cool? I thought so.

Monday, November 17, 2008

We do spend time with people our own age too, I swear

Yes, the school where we teach in Suwon is called Maple Bear. And yes, it is just as Canadian as it sounds. Actually, a Canadian franchise, and our particular school is owned by Koreans. At any rate, if our friendly Northern neighbors weren't so nice we would be having a 'not-happy' time here. In full disclosure, our joining the school has made the staff almost half American half Canadian (not that there is a difference anyway).
Moving on, I have noticed that most ex-pat teachers here, no matter the nationality, share a common interest in adventure, helping others, and going out and having an unreasonably good time. While we all may have different reasons for making the leap from the comfort of 'home', most of us understand that your time working abroad, like life itself, is what you make of it. Attitude dictates your level of fun and the quality of your experiences. The trick is to get out of your comfort zone and see where that takes you. This ties in nicely to the general theme of this silly blog. Go out, wander if you will, and experience something that seems crazy to you....TRAVEL! You won't be sorry.
Here are just a few random pics (more on the way) of some cool peeps and friends here....except for the sexual harassment panda. I'm not sure how that got there...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Allow me to introduce our children...all 40 of them

When we accepted jobs in Korea to teach kindergarten, we knew exactly what we were getting into. I mean, given our professional backgrounds, Jeremy in business, technical recruiting, and sales, and Allison with international security and intelligence (CIA stuff), OF COURSE we were TOTALLY prepared!
Actually, teaching has gone about 100x better than either of us could have hoped. We get to play games, do crafts and activities, and sing songs for 6 hours per day. Not too shabby. About 90-95% of the time the kids are quite well behaved and fun, and it would not be inaccurate to say that we do indeed enjoy it. The school we work for, Maple Bear Yeongtong in Suwon, is also pretty sweet. They send us on field trips and always have some fun things planned for the kids. Yesterday we took a trip to Seoul to see an English language children's play called 'Shadow Thief.' The kids thought it was an absolute riot. Makes our job easier.... Below are pictures of the field trip, our Halloween party, our 'sports day', and a few randoms. FYI, sometimes they understand the 'smile' thing, sometimes not. GOOD TIMES!

Sunday, November 9, 2008


OH MY GOD....COOL RANCH DORITOS! We've been in Suwon, South Korea for about 3 months and have managed to get by on mostly local food (with a few snacks and sweets from home) and it's been absolutely delicious. Galbi (marinated, barbequed pork), samgyeopsal (barbequed pork from a different part of the pig....kind of like very thick pieces of bacon), and su-galbi (barbequed beef) are some of our favorites along with shabu shabu (beef, noodles, mushrooms and veggies cooked in a hot pot) and dok galbi (chicken, cabbage, spinach and chili paste cooked in a pot in the middle of the table) round out the best food we've had here. Eating in Korea is very social, with large groups eating off of a communal grill/pot in the center of the table with a never-ending array of side dishes and bottomless bottles of soju (a slightly less potent version of vodka which Koreans drink like water). We've also had great pizza, Subway, delicious Indian food, McDonald's, and KFC but I don't know that I've tasted anything as good as the bag of Cool Ranch Doritos we just inhaled. We finally found a Foreigner Grocery Store (one small room with three shelves...) in Seoul that had the most random assortment of Western food products you can imagine. We found ranch dressing (unheard of in Korea), Velveeta Shells and Cheese, Swanson's Chicken Broth, Twizzlers, Cherry Coke, Pop Tarts, Quaker Instant Oatmeal, Wheat Thins, and all kinds of other goodies that we've been denied for three months. It was like being in heaven. Until I asked how much the Shells and Cheese were and was informed "$7!" I bought it anyway. Along with Doritos, Twizzlers and a Rice Krispy Treat! I blew $27 on those few things and don't even care! In all seriousness though, the local food and drinks are sooo good here that we've hardly missed the more familiar brands of home. It was just a really nice surprise in Itaewon today to find that stuff and we had to splurge.
Food ramblings aside, welcome to our travel blog. We've been traveling for about 4 years now and have been to Costa Rica, the Bahamas, Canada, England, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Ireland, the Czech Republic, the Canary Islands, Egypt, Jordan and Korea. Over Christmas we have a trip planned to Hong Kong, Macau, Beijing, and Harbin, China to visit their annual Ice Festival. Our idea with this blog is to share some of our travel stories, offer some tips that we've learned on our trips (some the hard way!), and encourage anyone who reads this to never feel like they CAN'T travel somewhere. So many of our friends have told us, "Wow I wish I could go there someday," or "I would really love to do that." We're not really doing anything extraordinary to make our travels happen. We've just decided to make traveling a priority in our lives and plan and save accordingly. I hope you enjoy some our of stories and experiences; we'll make sure to keep everyone updated from South Korea and around Asia as we get there!