Tuesday, September 28, 2010


AMAZING!! This was just one of those trips where you go into it without much planned and not really knowing what to expect.. and EVERYTHING just works out perfectly!!! The trip was fcking awesome! So me and Kimball met up and headed to the airport together wednesday afternoon.. we dont screw up on the trains getting there (so far so good) and arrive at the airport without any problems. A small feat itself considering that navigating this country where you dont understand anyone/anything and no one understands you can get pretty tricky.. so anyway we get to the airport and board this funny little plane with murals painted on the walls of little animals.. AND during the flight the flight attendants auctioned off (i think thats what it was.. but again kinda hard to tell cause i couldnt understand anything she was saying) what i think were free tickets for another flight! The flight attendants stood up and held two tickets in her hand, and then all the Koreans raised their hands and threw out different numbers. After a few rounds of this the attendants gave the tickets to one of the passengers who looked pretty excited! HAAAHAHA Whatever happened it was pretty hysterical to me and Kimball. So anyway after about an hour we land on Jeju (Jeju is an island off the south of Korea.. think Korean Hawaii). And we catch a bus that takes us about an hour to the south of the island where we were staying and we find out hotel no problem. So far so good! So we shower and change and meet up with Wolfish and some people he was traveling with for dinner. We didnt even plan to stay near them but.. it just worked out :)! So yah we all get dinner and then go to some bar and get drinks and hang out for a while before headin home to pass out.
We awake the next day to this:

This was the view from right outside our hotel.. not bad!! haahaha It was hot and sunny and fuking awesome! We were a little nervous about the weather because the forecast said there was a chance of rain.. but it was BEAUTIFUL! So we grab some breakfast at the coffee shop next to our hotel.. find out how to get to the beach and hop in a cab and go! We roll up to the beach at the same exact time Wolfish and crew was which was convenient cause we didnt even plan it.. 
So here it is.. Jungmoon Beach: 

No Maegans Bay.. but not too shabby. Me and Kimball REALLY wanted to surf.. but the waves were too small which was kinda disappointing but wateva. The beach was hysterical.. we get there and there are all of these signs that say 'no swimming.. beach closed after August' We didnt understand why because it was hot and sunny.. and there were plenty of westerners in the water.. but no Koreans! Koreans are so funny sometimes.. they think that because it is September it is all of the sudden not beach weather.. so they refuse to go in the water. But it was great for us.. it was so not crowded! So we chilled in the water for a bit and hung out. We met some more people that we knew were in Jeju.. one person we met was Wolfish's friend Dan.. more about him later. 
After relaxing on the beach for a bit me and Kimball decided we wanted to go ATVing.. so we did. We got some Korean to write down a place that we could go ATVing.. hopped in a cab and went. That shit was pretty sweet. Heres a pic of Kimball and me in our badass gear/masks. ATVing was really fun!! We went on this pretty intense course through jungle right by the ocean and it was just really cool. After ATVing we went back towards our hotel and checked out this waterfall. On the way to the waterfall we stopped and got a snack.. chicken kebob (which was tasty) BUT the girl selling the kebob also was selling what we have been told was cocoons.. ive seen them a bunch of times and they always kinda grossed me out.. but right after we got our kebob some korean came and ordered a big cup of these cocoons.. the lady selling them noticed me and Kimball staring and offered to let us try one.. she described it as 'between bug and butterfly' haahaha (also GROSS) so Kimball tried one.. and then i felt pressured to so i tried it too.. sure enough it was nasty. I feel no need to try those things again. This is what they look like by the way .. they are just as gross as they look.. i honestly felt sick for a few 
seconds after i ate them.. but ANYWAY we continue on to the waterfall and see so many couples in 'couple shirts.' I guess instead of kissing in public, Koreans wear hysterical matching outfits (.... @Dori???) 

SOOOO FUNNNYY!!! Me and kimball took more pictures of the couples then the waterfall (which you can notice in the back of the couple with the rainbow sweatshirts AND matching red sox hat). After some good laughs at the Koreans we headed back to the hotel to shower and change for dinner. Kimball and I grab dinner #1 at some random restaurant we found.. it was dec.. and then went and met up with wolfish and crew which now included Jack.. who is an english teacher living on Jeju and bought a motorcycle from Dan (who was introduced earlier). So Jack, as a local, brings everyone to this awesome chicken wing spot (our dinner #2). The wings were great.. REAL spicy. And they gave us plastic gloves to eat them with which i thought was pretty brilliant. 
So dinner #2 was great.. chicken wings and beer with some good people. It was at dinner that Jack told us that his hobbies on Jeju include spear fishing.. and that if we wanted to he would take us all tomorrow! SWEET! After dinner we headed back to Jacks apt and chilled and drank on his roof for a while.. and then when it got too cold we headed into his room. In his room, he had this 'hot sauce' that was CLEARLY not meant to be tasted straight.. notice the warning on the label.. 

Well the combination of the alcohol and peer pressure led most of us to try it on our tongue.. NOT A GOOD IDEA!! THAT SHIT BURNED!!! AHHH it was one of the most unpleasant things i have ever tasted/experiences.. it burned in my mouth for legit 20+ minutes.. so so stupid of us! But whatever.. now i can say that i did it :)
After chillin at Jacks for a while Kimball and I peaced back to our hotel.. we woke up the next morning.. and hit up Jack to see about the spearfishing.. Weeeellll it turned out that not only were we going spearfishing.. these dudes at the dive shop next to Jacks apt were taking us all out on a boat to some island to spearfish for the entire afternoon!!! SO COOL!!!! We were all real stoked. So we get all wet-suited up and hop on this boat that takes us to this pandoraesque island. Heres the whole crew.Yah.. it WAS pretty bad ass. So we all spear fish for the afternoon. To those who arent familiar with spearfishing.. its pretty much snorkeling (which itself was pretty spectacular) with a huge spear that you kinda hurl at fish that look big enough to eat. It took me a little while but i caught one! Most of us ended up catching something (Kimball ended up catching like 6 haaha) But at the end of the day we had a decent catch! After a few hours of fishing and chilling on the island.. we headed back to shore. Heres a pic of the sweet sunset from the island before we headed back. It really was an AWESOME AWESOME afternoon.. So we headed back.. showered up and went back to the dive shop where Jack and his buddy were cleaning/cooking the fish so we could eat it for dinner! So it was Jack's buddy Weston that was helping us clean/cook the fish.. after talking with Weston for a bit i found out he went to KU.. and played frisbee.. and knows Joey, Justin, Abe and Usem!!! WHAT A SMALL WORLD!!! Its crazy the random connections you have with people.. and how you get connected to them.. So Me -->Weston was I was in Jeju.. met up with wolfish.. who was with his friend dan.. who sold his motorcycle to jack.. who took us spearfishing.. who called his friend Weston to help us cook and clean the fish!!! SO RANDOM!!! And awesome! Weston was a cool dude.. and he is livin large in Jeju! He has like his own 3 bedroom house and is really enjoying his time there. Its so cool traveling and meeting all these people.. i really really enjoy it. But anyway.. Weston cooked up the fish and they were delicious! Then the Koreans at the dive shop took the remains o the fish and cooked up this really good fish stew with rice.. which was great also! Koreans are SO hospitable! Those dudes at the dive shop really hooked it up for us.. it was a great meal and it was free :) WHAT A DAY! Kimball and I headed home earlyish cause we had plans to hike the tallest mtn in korea the next morning..
We get up early the next day cause we were told we need to be at a certain point up the mountain by 1230 or we werent allowed to go higher (or something like that). But of course we slept later then we were planning and ended up having to book it up the mountain.. And this mountain is BIG! It was like 9 kilometers up and 9 kilometers down (about 10 miles roundtrip.. i think) But it was HARD! It took a legit 7 hours! We started hiking at 10 AM and didnt finish until 5 PM. Im in decent shape and i was dying towards the end of up.. But we did it and it was awesome! Maybe the coolest part was that towards the top of the mountain we were literally above the clouds. Here are a few other pics from the hike too.. it was pretty spectacular. And my legs are still sore! 

After the hike we travelled to Jeju City to stay the night because that is where our ferry was leaving from early the next morning. We went to this weird sex themed sculpture garden which was kinda funny and kinda just made me miss Dori.. Kimball and I were probably the only non-couples there together. We were told that place was a 'must see'.. it wasnt. The next morning we got on the ferry which was SO BUMPY for the first hour and half.. i had to take some korean motion sickness stuff cause i thought i was gonna get sick.. but then it calmed down.. then we had lunch with some friends from the ferry in the city of Mokpo while we killed time waiting for our train home.. then we got on the train and another 4 hours later we were back in suwon! 1 hour flight down.. and 12 hours of traveling to get back.. flying was definitely the right move. Overall AMAZING AMAZING trip.. i got to do everything that i wanted and everything worked out SO well!!! :) And now i leave for this orientation tomorrow and so im done with school for the week! My fantasy teams went 1-1 again this week.. both were real close! And when i get back form orientation NBA PRESEASON STARTS!! YES! I cant wait for that.. fantasy bball is starting soon!!! AHHHHH SOOOO EXCITED! AND DORI BOOKED HER FLIGHT TO COME VISIT!!! Shes coming for 3+ weeks for her/my winter break :)!!! CANT WAIT! Aight.. sorry its so long.. thanks again for reading!!! Oh yah, i FINALLY got a cell phone today! My number us 010-2298-4452. HIT ME UP FROM SKYPE/GTEXT!!! 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More Korea

So im not sure if I mentioned in my last entry that i teach at a christian high school. When Joseph first told me that i was teaching at a christian high school when i arrived i was a little worried.. but its not nearly as bad as i was fearing it could be. I think i mentioned that there is a HUGE drinking culture in Korea, but not as much at my school.. which i guess means that i wont be getting wasted and going to nori bangs (ill get into more about those later) with my co workers like some other english teachers but whatever. There is a short prayer every morning before school starts.. but i dont have to participate so it doesnt really bother me. My coworkers being christian (and some pretty devout christians) has led to some interesting conversations.. I am the first jew that any have them have ever met and it seems like in Korea there arent the same taboos surrounding topics like religion that there are in America. At lunch a few weeks ago this other teacher (who seems to have taken a particular liking to me) sits down and starts to ask me what i think about... jesus! WTF?! I dont want to offend him so i try and explain that in Judiasm jesus is not the messiah but is just a respected teacher.. and so then he goes on to ask me what i think about the coming of the messiah! Not quite discussing fantasy sports (which i would much prefer!!!) .. so i go on and try to explain about doing mitsvahs and stuff.. overall REALLY hard to explain because 1. Not a topic ive honestly given much thought.. 2. I have an pretty good idea of what judiasm says about it but am not totally sure and 3. he doesnt understand half of the stuff that i am saying! I try and explain things and he just gives me this blank stare and Joseph has to translate. And then he tries to reply in this broken english that makes no sense.. and i dont wanna be talking about this stuff over lunch anyway! The conversation ended with the other teacher mumbling something about some scientist recently proving (or not proving.. i couldnt understand!) that god created the universe and hes like 'what do you think about that?' and i was just like 'uuhhh.. tough question.. i dunno.' And thus endith my lunchtime theology discussion.
But Joseph and some other teachers have asked me some other questions about Judiasm that have kinda caught me off guard.. cause most of the time they come out of no where and would otherwise be kinda offensive haaha. Like the other day i was driving with joseph and out of the blue he asks me if its true that even though the jews are small in number.. they control the government! And control hollywood! Im like.. uhhh not quite. And then hes like but isnt Steven Spielberg and Larry King jewish? haaha So i tell him yes.. but that doesnt mean jews control hollywood!  Its funny cause he asks these questions so nonchalantly, and he really is just honestly curios but they're just questions that im not quite expecting!! Also, I was showing him a picture of Dori the other day and he asks me if she is jewish.. and i say yes.. and he looks at me confused and says something like 'but she has blond hair' haaaaa So i go on and explain that not ALL jews have dark features.. and that some stereotypes about jews, while maybe having SOME truth to them.. are never a rule and are often exaggerated (like all stereotypes). I think its kinda cool being the first jew that all of these Koreans have met.. i like dispelling the stereotypes that they have and teaching about my culture.
Annnyyywwaayyy last weekend me and some friends went to a nori bang (or however its spelled) which is a karaoke room. Koreans LOVE THAT SHIT! Im beginning to understand why.. we had all drank a bunch before we went in.. and we of course brought like 5 bottles of soju with us and drank and sang our hearts out until like 4AM. With everyones lowered inhibitions it was a pretty fun and hysterical time. Here's a pic of me and Kimball rocking out!
So what else.. I got my hair cut the other day! That shit was AWESOME! I was kinda skeptical of getting it cut in this place where i was sure no one would understand me.. but i brought in a picture of me with the haircut i was hoping for.. and kinda mimed a buzzing motion while pointing at the hair buzzer thing and she got the idea. Its funny how practiced i am getting at trying to explain myself without talking :). Anyway, the hair cut was amazing! No one has ever paid so much attention to detail on a buzz before and it was just great. So she buzzed it and trimmed ANY stray hairs.. and made sure it was even like 10 times.. and shampood it.. massaged it... and blow dried it.. it felt like it was a $30 haircut from some fancy salon and turned out great! And.. the best part.. it was less than 8 dollars! Im gonna get my hair cut like every 2 weeks.. i LOVE when they shampoo and massage my head and ill keep my shit fresh! I love how cheap this place is! All the students loved my haircut by the way.. all day i kept getting 'ooooo teacha nate! Hair cut! so good!' haaha teaching here is SUCH a confidence boost :) Another funny thing that happened in school the other day was a group of girl students came up to me and were giggling and when i said hello they put their hands over their face (koreans get shy easily haaha) and then one of them reached out her hand and gave me a handful of some korean chips.. and then they ran away giggling haahah. I feel like there is something that i just have to laugh at that happens every single day.
The other day me and Kimball checked out the fortress in Suwon. Again, not sure if i mentioned this but Suwon used to be a walled city.. it has since expanded a lot but the wall is still here. And there is some cool stuff inside the fortress too. So me and kimball went to check it out last saturday.. which also happened to be yom kippur so i was fasting.. which didnt make the hike up the walls and all the walking around easy! But it was fine.. the fortress was pretty cool.. it all felt SO asian (which i guess it to be expected). Some parts felt like i was in crouching tiger hidden dragon haaha Here are some pics:  

So yah.. that was pretty cool. Even though i got to be pretty starving by the end it was sweet. After exploring the walls/fortress me and kimball got some Korean fried chicken!! Such a traditional break fast! Surprisingly.. they LOVE that here.. We went to this restaurant that Kimballs co teacher took him too and it was hysterical.. one of like 5 other very similar fried chicken places all in a row.. one thing i am learning about Korea is they LOVE to have the same stuff in the same place.. fried chicken, cell phones, clothes.. so yah it was a cool afternoon of exploring.
Other things i am realizing about being here is that things that you THINK would be very simply.. rarely are.. like seeing a movie. So me and kimball first tried to catch a movie after the fortress and fried chicken. We went to the theater and THOUGHT we bought tickets for the 10ish show that we told them.. well we get to the theater and it turns out that she gave us the wrong ticket.. then we go and try and talk to her and get it corrected and it turns out the movie we thought we wanted to see wasnt even in english! So then we just decided to try and return the tickets.. BAD IDEA! We tried to explain we wanted or money back.. and she SEEMED to understand and we walked away feeling like the charge on the cc would be canceled.. only to see the next day that it wasnt.. shocker. So the next day we thought wed try our luck at another movie.. we thought we were so smart and figured out (with the help of a few friendly koreans) how to purchase the ticket at an automated machine.. we were going to see Despicable Me ( :)@Dori@Melanie ) and we sit down in the theater and are getting excited for it cause that movie is so funny and of course it starts and THEY ARE SPEAKING KOREAN! UUGGGHHH maybe we just werent meant to see a movie! So we get up.. find some korean guy that is working there that speaks a bit of english and he helps us exchange the ticket for the only english movie showing, resident evil, which we were interested in seeing anyway. So then we got dinner and killed a little more time till the movie and FINALLY succeeded in seeing and enjoying the movie in korea! 
Its so funny going out in public here too cause it seems like everywhere i go, me or someone i am with gets recognized by one of their students.. or gets attention just for being american. When me and kimball were walking around the fortress, some completely random old korean guy came up to us and started mumbling something in really broken english and wanted to shake our hands.. he actually really wanted to have a conversation, which is difficult because he couldnt understand us/we couldnt understand him, so after shaking hands we continued walking.. but this guy was SO excited to see/touch us! And Kimball ran into some students the other day who giggled and were like 'hello! nice to meet you' Which is funny cause these korean kids ALWAYS say 'nice to meet you'.. i dont think they understand that nice to meet you DOES NOT = hello. And we were in the elevator the other day with a student of mine and she says hello.. and i try and make small talk a little and she gets so shy and covers her face with her hands and giggled.. which was pretty funny cause we still had another minute left in the elevator together. Another one of the many random little funny things that happen here every day.

Then i only had school on monday and now am on break for the week! Im going to the Korean island of Jeju tomorrow and im really excited! Its like the Korean Hawaii! And then next week i only have two days of school before this orientation thing.. and then i get back and its already october 4th! WOW! AND the NBA preseason starts then!! CANT WAIT! Also, my fantasy football teams went 1-1 this week.. watup CP/pollock!! Vikings get your shit together!! AND GO TWINS!!!! Im meeting up with a bunch of people from wisco tonight for dinner/drinks/maybe go out in Suwon tonight which will be fun.. And yah.. i guess thats it for now. THANKS FOR READING!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Welcome to Korea!!

Sorry it has taken me so long to get this started! And this first post is really long cause i have a lot of catching up to do.. But anyway, if you didn't know, I am currently living in Suwon (a suburb of Seoul), South Korea teaching english for the year! I've been here for about 3 weeks now and am really starting to enjoy myself.
Fist arriving here was SO CRAZY! I came with a group of about 50 other kids from wisconsin and we all flew over together after a brief orientation at a hotel in Chicago the day before.. so we are all excited together in Chicago and on the plane.. and then we arrive in Korea and get picked up by our co teacher (the person who we teach class with/ is pretty much responsible for us while we are here) and separated from anything that we have ever known or is familiar to us. My co teacher's name is Dai-Hyun (like hyundai but switched) or his english name which I also call him is Joseph. Joseph is the fucking man! Hes kinda quiet and doesnt really like to go out or drink like some other co teachers do.. but as far as helping me with things that i need and teaching, i could not have asked for a better guy. Any time i need ANYTHING he is so on top of it which a lot of co teachers arent. And he is great to teach with.. a lot of other co teachers just sit in the classroom and let the native speaker do all the teaching, but Joseph likes to be involved and so me and him pretty much split the teaching load 50/50.. which is real nice so I only have to teach half the time and the other half i can just chill at my desk and relax while Joseph handles the class. The teaching here is REAL easy anyway.. having experience working with kids at camp definitely has made it easier to be patient with the Korean students. And i only have 4 classes a day with 3 off periods and an hour for lunch which is way more then enough time to prepare my 1 lesson plan that i need to each week. Plus, i've found/people have told me about a ton of resources for teaching english that make lesson planning so much easier. When i am not teaching i can pretty much do whatever i want on my computer which is pretty sweet. So yah.. teaching is not bad and Joseph is great. And everyone at the school treats me like a celebrity!! All of the kids love me and tell me how i am so handsome and sexy (both the guys and girls).. its a pretty nice ego boost. And everyone bows to me which i am kinda enjoying. And all of the teachers tell me how they like me which is nice.. but honestly kinda annoying at times when they keep trying to talk to me and they dont understand anything i am saying and i dont understand anything that they are saying.. but i guess better then them not liking me. But its funny I can not walk anywhere around the school without some kid trying to say hello or yelling my name! I am mostly called 'Nate teacha' or 'teacha nate' which i think is kinda funny.
Anyway, i get picked up by Joseph and he brings me to my apt. My place is pretty small.. just a room with a bed, small table, small closet, shelves.. a porch like room where i have my washing machine.. a small kitchen and a bathroom. The place is small but i like it. I really dont need much space and my place is cozy. The first few days here were really overwhelming.. my apt really have internet.. i could pick up on some random wireless sometimes.. but that shotty signal was almost as frustrating as not being able to get any internet at all.. i had no phone.. no way of contacting my friends i came over with.. i was in this reallllyyyyyyy strange place where no one understands me and it was kinda hard.. the first few days there were moments that i was pretty homesick missing my life back in madison, my family and Dori.. but as i got settled things have really started to get better.
I am happy to say that i think i have about as good of a situation that i could ask for in Korea.. my city, Suwon is great! There are some cool restaurants and bars and some pretty lively areas to chill around at night. I live around the corner from my school and a short walk to a train station that can take me all over the region.. there is a crew of about 7 people from wisconsin that live within like 15 min of me which is great! A lot of people that i came with are not close to anyone that they know.. and i am close to a group which is really nice and has made adjusting to life here so much easier. The Suwon crew gets dinner/drinks a few nights a week and it is always a good time. Food/drinks here are SO cheap.. we can usually get a huge delicious korean meal (korean food is pretty great by the way) and a few drinks for around 10 dollars.. and sometimes even cheaper. The weekdays here are usually really nice.. school is easy.. then after school ill work out on some days (i joined a gym here which is always a funny experience to go to), then meet up for dinner/drinks on most nights with some of the people that also live with in suwon.. enjoy the meal with friends, have a few drinks.. and then come home around 10 and go to sleep for school the next day. Its a pretty nice life.. VERY low stress.. very easy AND we are getting paid!!
The first weekend here me and like 30+ of the other wisco kids that i came over with all stayed at a hostel in seoul together. That was a pretty good time.. it was great to be around english speaking people. We stayed in a pretty cool area of seoul and explored the city a bit and went out at night. Last weekend was fun too.. friday night we just chilled around in Suwon and went to a few bars. And then Saturday we went into seoul for dinner (tacos!) and went to this reallllllyyyy cool hookah bar that had a live band. The hookah bar also had a handful of drums that they said any of the guests can use!! I CANT WAIT to go back to that place and play with the drums! I really miss the drum circles we used to do in madison.. after the hookah bar we went and drank on the street for a while (which is perfectly legal and VERY cheap). Soju, the korean alcohol, costs like 1 dollar for a small bottle and the korean beer, which is not good but is tolerable, is cheap too. So we were trying to find a place to chill and drink before we went to a bar or club and we met these american guys who were playing guitar for money. One thing that is really cool about being here is that i feel like i have an instant connection with any other non-korean that i meet.. its cool cause pretty much  every non-korean here is either teaching english or in the army. Its really easy to get along with other teachers cause everyone here is doing pretty much the same stuff.. for similar reasons.. and having similar experiences so its really easy to start conversations and you can relate to people easily. So after meeting up with some more friends and chilling drinking for a little bit we went to this hysterical club with koreans dressed up in chef costumes.. but they kept feeding  us free drinks so we stayed! It was a pretty fun night and at the end we just took a cab back to suwon (took like half hour and was only like 10 a person) and passed out. The next day i went to cotsco! Yes, they have costcos here and my american membership works! Thanks mom!! Costco was pretty funny too.. it was PACKED! All the koreans were there stocking up on stuff for chousouk (korean thanksgiving) that is happening next week. I got a ton of food and it was nice to be in a somewhat familiar feeling place. And because of chousouk, i only have school monday next week and so me and kimbal are going to the island of Jeju (Korean Hawaii)! Im pretty pumped.. and then i found out that the week that i get back i have an orientation from wed-friday which i miss school for! I also heard the orientation is just a way to meet and get drunk with the other foreign teachers in your areas.. im definitely looking forward to it. So i only have to teach 4 days over the next almost 3 weeks!! See, i told you this job was pretty easy!! Another note on that, today the kids all have national testing so no class.. so ive been sitting on my computer for the entire day and havent had to teach anything! Not too bad..
So yah.. overall Korea is pretty fun.. and i havent even gotten my cellphone yet (which i will hopefully get right when i get back from chousouk)! I am getting settled and starting to really enjoy my time here. I do miss Madison and my life there.. but this is getting pretty cool.. i am kinda enjoying being a 'real' person with normal person hours..  And I really miss Dori, but weve been e-mailing and videochatting a good amount which has made it a little easier.. she is so great! and Kimbal who i chill with almost ever day is in a similar situation as me with having a girl at home so its really good to have him to talk to and relate to about that stuff. And ive been able to skype with my family pretty regularly which has been REALLY nice.. and ive been able to text through gmail for free which is pretty sweet too. Give me your numbers so i can text you/skype call you!!! Aight i guess thats about it for now from korea. Im glad that i got all of that out of the way so i can now more focus on the hysterical shit that happens pretty much every day here. More to come soon.. THANKS FOR READING!!!