Thursday, May 19, 2011


My trip to Beijing was AMAZING!! I really had an incredible time! I was a little nervous heading into the trip because it was my first experience travelling alone, but everything worked out perfectly and was just great.

First, Beijing is such a cool city!! It was sooooo different from Korea. Korea is really modern and feels like an advanced city, whereas Beijing still has a really old/traditional feel to it. Beijing is a HUGE city (like 15-20 million people) but it doesnt feel like the sprawling metropolis of Seoul. It kinda felt like a really big, small city (if that makes sense). There are still traditional Chinese Hutongs (alleys) all over the city which were so cool to explore. Some of my favorite memories from my trip were just exploring the Hutongs near the hostel and observing the people in them. People spoke about as much english as they do in korea (barely any) and i forgot how difficult the language barrier can be and made me appreciate the very little Korea that i do know.

So I arrived in Beijing Tuesday afternoon and actually had a bit of trouble finding my hostel.. the directions i printed off were not very good.. and nobody spoke english (of course) but i eventually found my way and that was the only blip in an otherwise perfect vacation/trip.

When i got to the hostel (which apparently was the 2nd rated hostel in all of Asia!!) i checked into my room (which i had to myself for the first few nights) and met this Australian guy who had been living/hiking in Nepal for the past 6 weeks. We grabbed some dinner and decided to check out this Kung Fu show (#whynot). It took forever to get there cause the traffic in Beijing is absolutely miserable but the show itself was nice. The show was about this Kung Fu master who told his story. It was pretty cool and had some amazing acrobatics and fighting. After the play, on our walk home, i ran into these other guys from my hostel and decided to join them for a drink. Then it was back to the hostel to sleep.

The next day we woke up, had a leisurely breakfast and then me, the australian guy from the night before, and this German guy i met, tom (i ended up doing a lot of things with tom the rest of my trip), went to check out Tiennaman Square and the Forbidden City. Tiennaman Square was pretty cool.. tons of tourists and some hillarious Chinese propaganda videos that are always playing haaha. And then the Forbidden City was pretty cool too. Honestly, after being in Asia for almost 9 months ive gotten kinda jaded by some of the temples and asian history stuff. It IS really cool.. but is also pretty similar to other stuff that ive seen in Korea or SE Asia. The Forbiden City was pretty huge though.. and also packed with tourists and chinese people trying to scam you one way or another.

That night i got dinner with Tom and a friend of his who was studying abroad in Beijing. We got some peking duck which was pretty good. And then we went out to some bars/clubs in an area near her university. It was a nice night.

We slept in and kinda bummed around the hostel for the morning and then met up with a friend of a friend who showed us around the University that he was studying at. Later that night we checked out the Olympic Village which was pretty sweet and then tried to get to sleep earlyish cause we were goin to the great wall the next day!!

There was a bus that picked us up from the hostel at 6 AM to take us to the great wall. We decided to go to the part of the wall that was farther away, less touristy and a bit more of a strenuous hike. The bus took like 3 or 4 hours to get there and then we were free to explore for 4 hours before grabbing lunch and the bus back. The Great Wall was SO AWESOME!! It was every bit as amazing as i thought it would be! And it was cool because it was not crowded at all so at times we were the only ones on a section of the wall. It was just crazy to see how vast it was. Parts were also pretty difficult to hike.. soooooo many steps! Tom had some ipod speakers that he brought so we walked around and explored while listening to music. Really really really awesome. So we explored as much of the wall as we could in our time there with sporadic breaks to chill beside the wall and enjoy the Chinese countryside. When our time was up we hiked back down and had a great lunch and then passed out for the bus ride back to Beijing. The wall really was everything i was hoping it to be and i am so glad that i was able to see it. That was one of the things on my Asia bucket list for my experience here and im glad that i was able to cross it off!

We were exhausted when we got back and just chilled around the hostel and watched a movie and had a relaxing night.

The next day was my last day in Beijing :( but it was a good one. We rented bikes which was such a great move! Beijing is a very bike friendly city with really wide bike lanes on every road. So we biked to the Temple of Heaven which was this pretty cool park with a bunch of shrines and stuff. The temple/park was pretty enjoyable but even better was just biking around the city. It was a beautiful day and it was awesome to get to see the city by bike.

After the Temple of Heaven we went over to the Pearl marker which was HILARIOUS!! While no one in Beijing seemed to speak english, it was funny how all of the old Chinese ladies who were trying to sell you stuff spoke perfect english! I was warned before i went that you REALLY need to bargain with them because they start their prices ridiculously high. And the ladies were SO PUSHY!! They would literally scream at you 'COME LOOK AT MY SCARVES!!!,' 'LOOK AT MY SHIRTS!!' and would actually grab you and try and pull you into their stalls!! It was definitely an experience. And bargaining with them was great. They would try and sell you something at a price.. and then you would come back saying you would pay 1/10 of what they said.. and they would make a face and tell you you were crazy. But then you would walk away and they would just keep lowering and lowering until the decided price was close to 1/10 of what they were originally asking!! I got some pretty good gifts for people and a nice carved Chinese chess set for me :) We left the market and had another enjoyable bike ride back to the hostel and had a nice dinner and relaxing last night.

These guys from Oxford who were attending a robotics conference in Shanghai and came to Beijing for a few days arrived at the hostel that night. We ended up chilling with them and drinking and playing some cards for the evening. They were pretty cool and were all so smart. It was really interesting to talk with them and hear about the stuff they were doing. One thing that was so cool about this hostel and i guess most hostels is that everyone there has such a cool and unique story. That night, the group that was playing cards consisted of English/American/German Oxford Graduates, a German who was backpacking around Asia (Tom) and an American who was teaching English in South Korea. It was a pretty diverse group that all had their own interesting and very different experiences to talk about. Then the next day i just went to the airport and flew back to Seoul.

Again, i was a bit nervous about my first time travelling alone but after my experience i would absolutely recommend it. It forces you to meet people and you do meet such interesting people! This trip also reignited my passion for travel and got me even more excited for my trip in the fall. After being in Korea for so long, it doenst even feel like i am travelling here or doing something out of the ordinary. Leaving for a few days was a great refresher and has made me re-appreciate things that i had begun to take for granted here in Korea.

And im going to Busan this weekend for a Frisbee tournament which im really excited for, and then i cant believe its almost June!! Its crazy to think that i am closing in on having only 1/4 left of my time in Korea and less than 2 months of actual teaching left! I am so excited to be done with the teaching bit.. recently i have been getting really sick of this job and am excited for whatever i do next. But its so crazy to think that i am beginning the 'home stretch'.. ive been here so long and for so long felt like i would be here forever.. all now of the sudden i am approaching the end. Theres still a lot that i have to look forward to here and when the time comes i will be ready to leave. This has been quite the experience, to say the least. Anyway, im excited to check out Busan and ill write another blog once i am back!

All the best,

Here are links to my pictures from the trip:

Catching up on the spring

I’m on my way to Beijing right now and thought id update on what ive been up to the past monthish. Overall everything is good and time has been FLYING! School the past month or so has been the biggest joke ever. Ive had one wee where I gave a test and then just read during class while they were testing; one week where they had self study before their midterms. I didn’t even have to supervise while they were studying so I just sat at my desk alllllllll week. Honestly while that week was super easy, all of the sitting at my desk gets to me.. it gets SO BORING! The news and stumbleupon and tv shows can only enterain you for so long before you start to go crazy; and then a third week where the kids took midterms and then I just sat at my desk for the mornings and got to go home or out to lunch at noon. This job is the biggest joke and its hard to believe how much money the Korean government spends on us to do nothing half of the time at school.

One afternoon after midterms my coteacher invited me to lunch and then over to see his apartment. He took me to a shabu shabu (you dip thin slices of beef into a hot and spicy broth to cook and then eat) place which was pretty good and then we went for a walk/hike around this mountain that he lives by. When we finished we went back to his apartment and it was hilarious! First his apartment is almost completely empty (he lives alone). He has about 4 decent sized rooms and none of them have anything in them!! Then he showed me pictures of him from high school and college and of him doing hapkido (some Korean martial arts) which was also so funny. I also convinced him to give me a nun-chuck (yes, he as nun-chucks or however you spell them) demonstration in one of his empty rooms HAAA!!! We finished off the afternoon my Joseph playing and singing some traditional Korean song on guitar. It all was hysterical and also nice to see how/where joseph lives. I really have a great coteacher and am very thankful for all that he has done and helped me with.

During Passover me and a few of my friends went to a seder at an army base that isn’t too far from where I live. That was quite the experience as well. From the moment you walk through the gates onto the base it is like you step back into America. English signs… American restaurants… American architecture.. and all americans. It was interesting cause I went onto the base for Rosh Hashana a few weeks into my time in Korea and was not nearly as taken aback by how American everything was. I honestly felt culture shocked. The seder was nice also.. it was super chill with a few military families who were all very friendly. The jewish stuff was nice too.. when youre in SUCH a different place little bits of familiarity are really appreciated and feel really nice and comforting. Throughout the seder I kept feeling like I was back in America.. the whole thing was definitely an experience.

I went to a soccer and baseball game a few weeks ago. The soccer game was great. The Koreans were going nuts the whole time and some of them were waving Che Guevara (??) flags at the game haaahaha! And the baseball game was awesome and hilarious too.. the Koreans were singing the entire game and there are cheerleaders constantly trying to interact with the crowd and get the crowd involved. All of the games are BYO anything you want so everyone was getting wasted and bringing in pizzas and any other sort of food you could imagine.

My Aunt Jill and cousin Carrie are currently visiting Korea (I have a cousin who is teaching in Korea as well) and I had a really nice weekend with them. On Saturday we did a lot of walking around Seoul and had some nice meals and some nice chatting. Then on Sunday I met them for dinner and some more walking and talking. It was really nice to see them. Again, in such a different place, any semblance of home and things that remind you of it is really nice.

Well I think that’s about it. Im pretty excited for my trip to Beijing! I am traveling by myself and this is the first time I have done something like this which is pretty exciting. Ill write all about it once I am back.