Sunday, October 24, 2010

Geumsansa Temple Stay

So, I just returned from a two day, one night stay at Geumsansa Buddhist Temple. It was something that I had heard of and had wanted to do since I got here and I am glad that I can cross it off my Korean bucket list. The trip started off a little rocky with both me and Kimball arriving late to the bus that was to take our group to the Temple. We both hopped in cabs thinking that it would be quicker than the subway but traffic was HORRIBLE! The ride should have taken like 40 minutes but ended up taking almost two hours!! So our group had to wait for us for a bit but we eventually made it.. WHEW! By the way, we went on the trip through this organization in Korea called 'Adventure Korea' that organizes all kids of trips for foreigners.. it was highly recommended and ended up not disappointing at al. So we finally make it to the bus and embark on the 4ish hour ride to the temple. The ride wasnt so bad.. There were a  lot of cool people going on the Temple Stay with us so conversation + napping made the ride go by quickly.
We arrive at the temple and first the give us our monastic robes (which were AWESOME!). Honestly getting to walk around in these things for the two days almost made the trip worth it right there. After we got our gear, we had some time to explore the temple grounds. Here'e me and Kimball in our robes in the temple courtyard.  We were laughing at all of us in our Monk robes.. with our Nikes on haahaha. So anyway, after exploring the temple a bit, we all gathered in some room to learn how to bow.  Here's our Master Monk (who was HYSTERICAL by the way) teaching us how to bow correctly.

After we learned how to bow we had Lotus Lantern making time. Heres me and some friends working on our lanterns and me with my finished lantern. I enjoyed making the lanterns a lot!
Next we had dinner (which was not very good) followed by some buddhist bell ringing (kinda fun) and then a short prayer service. The prayer service was pretty interesting.. there were like 6 monks all chanting and all of us in a room bowing repeatedly to a bunch of Buddha statues.. I had never really done anything quite like it before and it was definitely an experience i will remember.. 

After our prayer session, we had tea and Q and A with our monk. People asked all the questions that you would think that they would ask (why did u become a Monk, do you ever have second thoughts, are you happy, how did your family react.. etc) and the Monk did a pretty good job answering. The monk didnt speak any english so he spoke to us through a translator. I mentioned it before but our monk was HILARIOUS! He was always smiling and giggling and trying to make little jokes and fit almost perfectly the stereotype of a happy-go-lucky monk. Following the Q and A we got ready for bed to try and get a little sleep before the 3 AM morning prayer!! 

So after a short nap, we all woke up for the morning prayer.. We all gathered in the same prayer room that we had the service the night before.. what we DIDNT know.. was that the morning prayer consisted of bowing 108 times! ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHT TIMES! Man that KILLED your knees!! The number 108 has something to do with 36 (something representing your body/mind) X 3 (for your past, present, and future sins). After what seemed like forever, we finally finished our bows (at around 4). Then we had some free time before some meditation in a dark room laying down (nap time) and then breakfast. Breakfast was just not that good. The food at the temple was not very tasty at all and the breakfast was no exception. I was the designated rice server for our side of the room and heres me serving rice to the monk (see how happy he looks?!). And here is our breakfast.. rice, some korean side dishes, and some bean curd soup.. a pretty typical korean breakfast. We were encouraged by the monk to 'eat slow and enjoy'.. and breakfast took like an hour. When breakfast was FINALLY finished.. we had some more nap time (which was amazing). 

It was raining when we woke up which was kinda a bummer cause i think we were supposed to go on some walk which we ended up not doing.. but anyway when we woke up we had buddhist bead necklace making. The way we made the necklaces was place one bead on the string for every bow we did.. and of course there were 108 beads.. meaning we were supposed to do 108 bows again! BUT they gave us a little break and said one bow for 3 beads would be alright too.. and 36 bows was much more doable than another 108! So we made our necklaces which was kinda fun.. and then just kinda bummed around the temple for another hour or so before we left to go home. 

Overall the trip was cool.. it was really interesting to experience what it is like to be a monk for a few days.. but i would have personally liked to learn more about the religion. I am very glad that i did it, and now dont really feel the need to do it again! So that was my buddhist temple stay :)

Other things this week.. i had my fantasy basketball draft!! I took a sick day from school on thursday cause my draft was wed night america time and that was the only way that i could make it. It was VERY worth it and i am pretty happy with my team!! CANT WAIT for the season to start in a few days. Ive been more seriously looking into planning Dori and my trip to cambodia/thailand. Its pretty fun.. there are so many amazing 3/4 star hotels for SO CHEAP (like 20-40 dollars a night) and there are some 5 star (literally nicest hotels i have ever seen) for less than 100!! Its going to be SO FUN! Its hard to not get too far ahead of myself when thinking about/planning the trip.. when im looking at stuff sometimes it feels like its coming up so soon.. when in reality its still a good 2 months away.. by the way I have been in Korea for almost exactly 2 months now which is CRAZY! On one hand it feels like ive been here forever and on the other hand i cant believe that it has already been two months! 

Well i think thats about it for now.. hope all is well at home!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Global Gathering, Live Octopus, Lotte World, BADGERS!

So quite a bit has happened in the past week and a half or so.. Starting with Seoul Global Gathering music festival!! Last weekend a bunch of friends and I attended this music festival in Seoul. It was pretty sweet. All of our friends met before hand at this fireworks show right on the Han River.. getting there was ridiculous! IT WAS SO CROWDED! Literally we were PACKED into the subway! SO uncomfortable/many asians!!! It was a time like this that you really realize that there are 24 MILLION people in the Seoul area.. and it seemed like they all were going to the same fireworks show! This is the crazy crowded subway.. and here Kimball in a crowd of people rushing out of the station..

After we got off the subway we met our friends at the park where the fireworks were going on.. and stayed for like 10 minutes because we realized we needed to leave if we wanted to make it to the show on time. Justice was playing first and we wanted to see them.. i never really listened to them that much aside from that song 'D.A.N.C.E.' but other people were pretty excited which got me pretty excited regardless. So we all go back on the subway and end up having to walk something like two miles to the show because that was as close as we could get to the festival grounds and cabs refused to drive us (for some reason). But the walk wasnt so bad because we all got a bunch of beer and soju. So FINALLY we get to the concert and it was pretty wild. We saw Justice, Fatboy Slim, and Armin Van Buren. I never really listened to those guys that much but it was a pretty ragin party with everyone dancing and having a good time.

The next week at school was midterms.. which meant that I did not teach AT ALL and just sat at my desk until around noon when school got out and the teachers went to teacher lunches. On monday all of the teachers in my grade went to lunch at the seafood place. There was some really good/fresh sashimi (which was delicious) and other random fish that i did not recognize. Lunch was going good and was pretty uneventful until they brought out a tray of still squirming octopus tentacles!! AHHH!!! I had heard that they eat live octopus (or very freshly killed.. and freshly killed octopus tentacles STILL SQUIRM!) but had yet to encounter it.. until today. I, of course, had to try it (even though i was honestly kinda freaked out by it.. seeing that stuff squirming on the plate did not look very appetizing!) But i ate it and it wasnt SO bad.. i definitely dont feel the need to eat it again though. I had also heard at these teacher lunches/dinner the koreans would try and feed me shots.. i didnt think this applied to my school because i thought all the teachers were christian and didnt drink.. well they do. Some of them at least. Not Joseph or the teachers i was originally sitting with, but by the end of the meal a bunch of the other teachers had come over and gave me shots and it was (kinda) fun. It was fun to drink with them.. but that still didnt quite bridge the language barrier. The rest of the week was easy.. tues and wed i went out to more teachers lunches (no drinking this time) and they were nice cause it was free and the food was pretty good.. but its hard to sit for a whole lunch with these people who really dont understand me and i dont understand. Everyone TRIES to be nice and talk to me.. but they really dont speak much english and the conversations dont get too far.. most of the lunches i end up sitting quietly eating while the other teachers chat in Korean.. The lunches were ok but i was very glad on thursday when we just went home and there was no teacher lunch. Also, on Thursday night my cousin Adam (who is also teaching in Korea) had organized some open mic hip hop event in Seoul and I was going to play guitar for a part of it while he beat boxed and his other friend rapped. I was pretty nervous/excited for it. So that night me and some friends went into Seoul (Itaewan) for the show. It ended up being pretty cool.. not what i was expecting but really fun. It ended up being a few other musicians and me jamming while these other guys rapped over it. All the other musicians were SO good and i was just trying to keep up.. but at least i didnt embarrass myself (i think)! Here's me on stage

So i played on stage with them for a while.. and then took a seat and enjoyed some more of the acts before heading home.. (it WAS a school night!) It was a really cool experience and hopefully ill be able to get involved with it again.

Friday though i went to Lotte World! Here is me with Joseph (on my left) and other random teacher that wanted to be in the picture. And me, Joseph, and some girl students who wanted to be in a picture with us. Lotte world is some indoor and outdoor Korean theme park. The kids pretty much get the day off after mid-terms and one of their options was go to Lotte World. Even though the teachers went.. we drove separately and didnt have to supervise the kids at all (NICE!). In the morning we went on a few rides.. nothing too exciting (even thought Joseph would SCREAM on all of them haahahah) and then we had lunch and explored some Korean Exhibit (actually really interesting) for the afternoon before heading home. It was a pretty fun day.. but again, it gets kinda hard being the ONLY one who natively speaks english and being surrounded by people who dont speak your language.. i just am left with a lot of time to my thoughts which is fine but kinda wears on you after 8 hours of it! It was an alright day but i was definitely ready to get out of there.

Friday night a bunch of us went out in Seoul for Zoes birthday.. pretty wild night  (like most nights in seoul). Saturday me and some friends tried again (unsuccessfully) to see a movie around Suwon! We get there and they sell us tickets to one of the two 'english' movies.. and we sit down in the theater and the movie is in FRENCH! AHHH!!!! SO ANNOYING! At least they didnt give us a hard time giving us a refund.. still really annoying! Sometimes Korea can be real frustrating.. that night was one of those times!

Sunday though was AWESOME! A whole bunch of us from wisco met at this bar that was replaying the game in the afternoon AND serving american breakfast! So we all got there.. got some awesome breakfast (eggs bennedict and hash browns) and pretty much drank the entire day while watching Wisconsin beat #1 ranked OSU!!! It was really really awesome and we all had a great time. We all talked about how being with all these wisconsin fans and day drinking made us feel like we were back in college again.. and also miss madison SO much! It was fun watching the game from Korea.. but we all would have much rather been in madison (where ALL of our friends were visiting!) Jeremy hung out with some of my friends that were visiting Madison.. made me wish i was there SO much!!! It was still nice to get a little taste of being back in college though.. P.S. Hurry up acceptance letter for melanie!!!

And now i have my first normal week of teaching in 4 weeks! The past four weeks i have only really taught 3 days!! And i got paid for it!!! Im honestly happy to get back to my normal schedule again. This weekend were talking about maybe doing the DMZ which would be really sweet.. or maybe a buddhist temple stay. ALSO last week me and Dori booked our trip while she visits over winter break to go to Cambodia and Thailand!!! YYYEEEEESSSS!!!!! Its gonna be so awesome and will be so fun and exciting to plan further.. but for now we at least have our plane tickets!!! AND this week i have my fantasy bball draft.. I CANT WAIT! Itll be great to get back in touch with all those guys AND will be a great time waster during all of my free time at school. Well thats about it for now.. hope all is well at home!

Thanks for reading

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Orientation and some other good stuff

So since my last post I have had a pretty nice week(ish). Last wed-friday I attended an orientation which was pretty cool. I only had to go to school Monday and Tuesday.. and the orientation was a great way to meet other English teachers living in my area and get a few good teaching/Korea tips. We were staying at this retreat hotel place and during the day we had some speakers and classes and then at night we all hung out at the convenience store drinking and getting to know each other. Overall it was fine, albeit a little boring at times, but it was cool only to have a two day school week.
Friday night after orientation I grabbed dinner with some friends (some new that we met at orientation) and then we bar hopped around Suwon. I went home earlyish cause I had to go into school sat morning for the staff picture (LAME). So sat morning i drag myself out of bed before 8 and put my suit on and head to school for the picture. One thing that made it a bit better was the TON of compliments i received! They really do love me at my school.. and Koreans are so funny because they are super modest and are heavy on giving out compliments but often refuse compliments given to themselves.. multiple teachers came up to me and complimented how 'so handsome' i looked and when i complimented them they replied 'no.. not as good as you!' I wasnt gonna argue with them.. HA This place is a ridiculous ego boost. After the staff picture, I needed to get my individual picture taken for the school year book as well (i guess the other teachers already had theirs taken) so in front of most of the staff i had my own little photo shoot! Pretty hysterical.. i could hear all the teachers commenting about it in Korean.
Later that day i met up with a few friends and went into insedong which is a  neighborhood of Seoul. It was a cool place and has lots of traditional shops and street vendors. (If i had pictures i would post them) So we got dinner and walked around and then just headed home and called it a night. I was exhausted from having to get up so early and my friends were tired as well.
Sunday was great! I joined and played on an ultimate frisbee team! The park we play at is on the bank of the Han river in seoul and was really scenic. The game was a lot of fun too and i met some really cool people. It was great to be playing sports outside.. i havent really done that since ive been here.. Definitely made me miss James Madison park.
After the game me and some of the other players ate at this 'western' restaurant which was great! I got a bbq quicken sandwich with cheese and peppers and onions and it was pretty fantastic. Dont get me wrong, i LOVE korean food, but it was also great to switch it up a little bit.
This week at school has been a pretty big joke. My kids have speaking tests and i am the one grading them. So for class i just sit in a room and the kids come in one at a time and answer two questions and i grade them. REAL easy but a little boring. BUT out of my 12 classes, i see 7 of them twice a week.. and the 2nd time that i see each class this week they have a study hall so i dont even need to go! So today, for example, i had one class in the morning.. and now have been/will enjoy a solid 7 hours on my computer in the office. AND next week the kids have midterms so i dont need to do ANYTHING! Literally i am going to sit at my desk for 8 hours a day on my computer. AND i just found out that on friday the kids are going to some amusement park which i will be going to also! Im sure that is going to be hysterical! SO over the course of 4 weeks.. with chousouk break, orientation, speaking tests and then midterms.. i will have taught a TOTAL of 3 days of school! WHAT A JOKE! AND i am getting paid!! Not too bad..
Also, they are really starting to like me at my school. I brought gifts for some of the teachers/principals at my school from my trip to Jeju (koreans love gifts) and I really think they are paying off. My principal the other day gave me a nice ballpoint pen! And the head teacher, my korean 'mom' yesterday gave me a HUGE bag of fruit! TONS of grapes, apples, and what she called pears (but really looked like giant apples). Pretty sweet! And the kids are still hysterical. Yesterday i left school with Joseph a little early cause we had to run to the bank.. and when we were walking out all of the kids were outside because they were having a fire drill.. as we walked out.. literally past all of the students in the school, no less than HUNDREDS (yes plural) of kids were yelling out to me as i was leaving 'HI NATE' 'NATE!' 'WHERE YOU GOING NATE' 'TEACHA NATE' 'NATE HI!' "NATE NATE NATE"!!!! I legit felt like a celebrity walking down the red carpet.. it was hard not to smile :).
I am finally meeting up with my cousin Adam tonight for dinner in Seoul which will be nice.. and this weekend i am going to some Seoul Global Gatherings music festival.. im REAL excited for that. And i am staying busy during all of my free time at school researching fantasy sports and Dori and my's trip to Cambodia/Thailand over winter break! (IM SO EXCITED!) If anyone has any tips/recommendations for cambodia or thailand please let me know! With all of the exciting sports stuff going on in MN (MOSS IS BACK! TWINS PLAYOFFS) I do wish that i was closer/more able to be a part of it.. and hearing how much Jeremy is loving madison makes me miss that too.. Jeremy/Melanie have an AWESOME weekend with gab! I wish i could be there!! BUT i am feeling more and more comfortable in Korean culture/society which is nice.. Hope all is well with everyone.