Jisan Forest Resort

Fueled by a desire to escape the monotony of Hanam life, and also to not have any regrets about not going, Danny and I accepted T and A’s invitation to go skiing this weekend, so we all – S included – met for dinner at the local BBQ and rushed to Gangnam to catch the free shutte bus that would take us to the resort. Forty-five minutes later, we were there. We all stayed in a pension on the backstreets of nowhere behind the place (which basically entails sleeping on the heated floor). Because we wanted the early pass the escape the crowds, we set out alarm for 5am and were out of there by half past, trying to find breakfast. Sadly the main food court wasn’t open because Koreans are notorious late-risers, so we ended up scraping together a convenience store lunch, then killing enough time to buy tickets. A and I decided to do the 7am-11:30am pass, whilst everyone else opted to finish at 1:30. Honeastly, thank god we decided to go early because the slopes were much emptier, thus must less people to witness the hilarity of us learning to ski.

To be fair, though, Danny and I did eventually get the hang of it, which was surprising. I really did think I would spend a majority of the time on my ass. Taylor taught us the basics (PIZZA SLICE!) and A and S were snowboarding, so it was a leap of faith going down that first hill. Also the baby slope wasn’t even open at that point so we had to use the ext level.

I can see why people get really into the whole thing. Once you go down the slope without doing yourself any damage, and with the basic ability to turn and stop and whatnot, it becomes quite exhilarating. For the first time I can see the appeal of a skiing holiday. By the end Danny and I were on the intermediate slope. We all regrouped for coffee at 9:30, then A and I left them to it at 11:30 and we went for lunch. Once everyone had found one another, we still had a few hours to kill before the bus, so we moved from place to place trying to get warm, finally settling down with a beer (smart) to play a wipe-out drinking game, before it turned 17:30.

The ride back was fine. We were all exhausted. We ended up all having dinner at a cheap buffet in Cheonho and the rest of the evening is history. When all is said and done, and even though I ache today like I’ve never ached before, I had a wonderful experience and I’m really glad I went. Sometimes it’s about getting out of your comfort zone and actually saying yes to something, even when it would be much simpler to say no. So, yeah, I can knock skiing off my bucket list!

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Dance, Pikachus, Dance

November is slowly becoming December, and autumn is slowly turning into winter. The leaves, which are a beautiful amalgamation of red and orange, will soon disappear and the trees will be as skeletal as the buildings. The neon lights of Seoul will make it look less lonely, but out here in the edges of Hanam, even in my moderately populated, semi-cosmopolitan suburb, the waters outside my window are stilling, the streets are emptying, and the darkness is looming. Families no longer sit outside the line of chicken and hof places by the E-mart. The kids still drive those remote control cars, and some parents are braving the weather for the sake of leaving their cramped apartments, but only in the afternoon, and only on the weekend. Coffee shops  are even more tempting than before. Connie told me that Chenon is closing at the end of the month as the sisters who run it after moving to Busan to be with their parents and open a coffee shop there, which has saddened me greatly. It was the place to go in Hanam for us waygookin: they had the nicest coffee, the best atmosphere, and they were lovely, lovely people.

When the air isn’t filled with smog, it’s crisp and clear, the kind of air that chills you to the bone. It’s time for coats, beanies and aegyo mittens, and street vendors are now selling long-roasting sweet potatoes, red bean fish breads, and sweet, syrupy hotteoks. It’s goodbye to bingsu and naengmyeon and hello to jiggaes and guks.

On Thursday, Danny and i went to watch Interstellar at the Lotte Cinema in Cheonho, which was unusually crowded until we realised all of the seniors were sitting their college entrance exams and it’s such a big deal here that they give the rest of the school the day off. After a customary post-film Starbucks, we braved Insadong because he hadn’t been and there we had a lovely kimchi jiggae, but it was that cold and we were that underprepared we left early, forgetting the lanterns, and huddled up in our apartment and played The Sims 4. On Friday, we went out for Elena’s birthday at an Indian restaurant called Ganges in Itaewon. It was nice, even if the portions were small and overpriced. Strangely, they didn’t have at least half the menu: out of a long list of drinks they could only make rum and coke. I don’t miss or crave Indian food so I won’t be going back. Myself, Danny, Connie and Reza split the bill as a birthday gift. Naturally we headed to Geckos and taxied it home by 2am.

On Saturday, Danny and I headed to Dongdaemun to see the Pikachu parade. It was crowded, over-hyped, and we only had a birds-eye view of about five of them. The inside event was even more crowded; the line for the store was out of the building, so we left rather quickly and stopped off for lunch at Cheonho. That evening Taylor, Alison and Stephen invited us to local bar for a couple of drinks, so we stopped by. Now it’s Sunday and I’ve never felt lazier.

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Giant duck Anyone?

I love Thursdays. It might be a random day to gush over, but I have this day off every week and Danny and I usually spend it wandering around a new area, eating lunch, grabbing coffee, that kind of thing. Today we ventured to Hongdae, which wasn’t a new place to us, but we walked around it unimpeded by the weekend crowds. I took him to Isaac’s Toast, which he loved. It’s a sandwich like you’ve never had before, trust me. I can’t even explain it. But I’ll try. Firstly, it’s dirt cheap. Secondly, it’s sweetened bread. Thirdly, I’m eighty percent sure that whatever meat substance they use isn’t quite right, but it’s so damn delicious that I would spend that hour of travelling whatever day of the week. For lunch it was between that and a mandu place we wanted to try, but since we were having the worst caffeine withdrawal headache I think we’ve ever experienced, we figured it best to head to a place I knew how to get to. Honestly, I don’t know what happened. We’re clearly addicted to our morning coffee and can’t venture outside without it.

After that, we had a leisurely stroll around the area. I do love it there. I think I’m a student at heart, always. Since a big part of our motivation for Hongdae was the You Are Here (which I wrote about previously on its opening day), we settled there, ordered a couple of americanos, and sat upstairs on the balcony. It was all very autumnal.

We did have tentative plans to visit the Hard Rock Cafe which just opened at the new Jamsil shopping centre, and we did head there to see the giant duck floating in Seokchon lake, but we ended up in a ramen place instead and then going to Gong Cha.

It was nice to get out of the apartment for a while and see something else. Hermitting away for most of winter is an inevitability, so these adventures must be cherished.

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First Day (or night, or whatever time zone I’m in)

Talk about being thrown in the deep end! After another night of not sleeping, I caught a rather lovely shower and headed out to find the school half an hour early. Now you’re probably thinking that’s a bit excessive considering I supposedly live a minute away, but my sense of direction is appalling; case in point, I did struggle and panic, but I did make it in one piece eventually.

Breakdown of what I’ve learnt thus far:

I have around 8 classes a day. This can differ so that I have a free period, or I have a double lesson. First off is ‘cycle time’: the children arrive, eat a yogurt, and me and the Korean co-teacher I’m paired with supervise that particular class. It’s like ‘tutor’ (if you’re English) or ‘homeroom’ (if you’re American). They’re 7 years old and absolutely adorable. After that, I was put in charge of my first class – a double period (40 minutes) with the 6 year olds. To be fair they were perfectly lovely also but I had no idea what I was supposed to be teaching them so I did spend a good 15 minutes flailing until someone came to tell me today wasn’t really a teaching day so I could just play with them. I wish I’d known that 20 minutes sooner because I’m pretty sure my authority went straight out the window. Apparently I start properly on Monday.  Then I had the other group of 7 year olds – forgive me they’re all blurring together in my head right now – and then an hour lunch. I sat and ate with them, which was cute. All the teachers sit on the tiny chairs and dish out the food from bowls in the middle of the table. I attempted chopsticks, but I wouldn’t like to elaborate.  After that I had a free period and Sue showed me how to work the computer, which is all in hangul. She wrote translations out for me but time will tell whether I’ll get the hang of it. I am going to try and read it though!

 Then my ‘circle time’ class were mine to supervise, and I was able to bestow sweets and chocolate upon them; honestly I’m pretty sure their bribing and negotiating is how prison works on the inside. Another thing: rather adorably the kids are obsessed with the film Frozen and all I’ve heard all day is the Korean version of Let It Go. 

Funnily enough the place I went to for dinner was playing the full soundtrack. Just like the rest of the world (and myself), they’re obsessed with the film! I did walk out of the first place because I couldn’t read the menu and I couldn’t even point to a picture. Whoops. The place I ended up was nice and cheap; I just pointed to something I didn’t know, which turned out to be rice and chicken with chilli sauce. The accompanying drink was awful, though. It only cost 4,700 won! 

I basically helped build a lot of lego and sang praises to very cute children who couldn’t understand a word I was saying all day. 

Since then I’ve done a little bit of food shopping in three separate places – I keep discovering somewhere once I’ve already been somewhere else. FYI I started writing this post yesterday but my laptop died and my adapter had bust thanks to my hairdresser, so this is the updated version, or the Second Day. I slept in, even though I feel worse for doing so, and planned to take a bus to cheonho street which I hear is supposed to be cool, but whilst I was waiting for the bus I spotted the e-mart. All this time I thought I’d have trouble finding it and it turns out I can see it from my window. Two hours later I leave with about four items. It was giving me headache having to decipher all the hangul. Then I had to go back because I forget to buy another adapter. 

Anyway, I’m home now, waiting to go out to dinner and a make a fool of myself, so I’ll end it here.