Travel Bug

February 20, 2010

Through Garry's eye...

(L)The mummified monk on Koh Samui, Thailand.
(R)From the viewpoint on Koh Samui island tour!

(L) Cakes at Baskin Robbins, Daegu.
(R) Mia playing 'Yut', at Seollal Festival, Seokjeok.

(L) The first pie that met high standards, Koh Samui, Thailand.
(R)Family Mart, all the way in Thailand!

(L) Tashy waiting impatiently for her dinner!
(R)Petrol, Thai style.

(L) At the bus stop heading back to Bangkok.
(R) On Koh Samui, Thailand.

(L) The fast-food of Thailand.
(R) Waterfall on Koh Samui.

Celebrating 설날 (Seollal)- The Lunar New Year!

Our peaceful Saturday morning was interrupted by a cellphone call, on the other end of the line, the slurred voice of my co-teacher Jinhee. 

"Garry come and play Korean games today!"
Garry, after a long moment of silence "uhhhh...what kind of games?"
"(avoiding the question, as per) Garry, come to the post office by 11 (it was 10.30) and play Korean games".

Always curious about what Korean families do when they aren't working or studying, we arrived just in time! 
After walking through an archway of pink balloons (wedding material, but seem to pop up at any celebration here!) we had just a few seconds to greet the teachers from my school, and their children. Men between the ages of 18 and 65 were apparently excused from this community celebration...Or perhaps they just had more important things to attend to (namely, Golf). Mrs Lee, Mrs Rhee, Mrs Park and Jinhee were all there, and all giving advice on how to play this game we had caught a glimpse of.

The Seollal Festival setup!

Leaving the topic for a moment, a few weekends ago coming home from Daegu Station, we were approached by an old Korean man. Unluckily, Matt (a British friend of ours) was wearing his Lakers cap (purchased in an attempt to humor the American gangstas here). The man approached us as we were finding seats to wait for our train, and starting rambling in Korean. Thinking he wanted our seats, or to get past, we moved out of the way. This did nothing to deter him, so we sat down and tried to ignore him. Impossible as he then started kicking Matt in the leg. Garry and Matt tried to ask him what the problem before Matt left to continue his phone conversation. The man followed Matt all around the station before he eventually returned, old man in tow, now yelling. The hat had long been removed and hidden away!
After a good 10 minutes of abuse we couldn't comprehend a young Korean man and a train station representative attempted to settle the man...The gist of the abuse was that he was, a) drunk (at 3 in the afternoon), b) did not enjoy the presence of foreigners at all in his country, and c) most likely a pathetic and angry old man.
While we have had drunks demand money etc before, this was by far the most aggressive and embarrassing show of racism for the three of us, and the Korean people sitting around us.
It left me thinking about the causes of racism, the mass prejudice and the reputation given to a huge majority of foreigners here as a result of a few... 

It upset me and made me rethink what we were doing here, dislike and distrust of foreigners is not at all uncommon in Korea. After the multi-culturalism of New Zealand society, the homogeneity here comes as a shock.
I was reassured by the warm welcome we were given at the Seollal festival! A number of community elders rushed over to shake our hands and give a few words of encouragement (regarding our work at the schools). 

Jun Young showing Gaz how it's done.

Me, playing with a 7 year old :)

We were given game cards (to keep score on) and sent of for round one of the knock-out tournament, of a game we still had no idea how to play! The game involved 2 players, taking turns to throw 4 sticks (two sided) onto a large circle. The way the sticks landed determined how many points you got, the combination decided whether you got another (each player had 4 stones that he/she had to move around a board to the middle before winning) stone on the board, knocked the other players off and so on...I won one, and then battled against an old man for a second stamp! He narrowly beat me and, smiling for the first time in our intense game, said "you die".
Garry faced off with one of my students (and his very eager and vocal mum) and was convincingly beaten!

Jinhee, Chae Eun and Chae Yean, with thei new mop.

While the game is purely luck and 50-50 chances, the ajumas (older women) took it so seriously! Only they were allowed to touch their stones, they shook and arranged the sticks, as if directing them...and when the raffle (best part of the day) numbers were drawn they crowded around the front of the crowd, squealing with joy at the prize of a sack of rice... The prizes were amazing- bikes, rice, blankets, weed sprayers, a fridge, a kimchi fridge...We went home empty handed, despite desperately wanting bikes! Jinhee won a 'magic mop' and Mrs Rhee scored 2 bags of rice! The community and family atmosphere soothed any prior judgments and gave me a feeling of belonging.

Chae Eun, demonstrating why she's my favourite!

February 15, 2010

Daegyo Elementary

Dressing up with Garry's wardrobe!

Hey Seong and Kyung Jin learning about directions the hardway!
My classroom at Daegyo Elementary
Lee Seok and Ji Young witht their town map!

Mia Teacher.

Classroom life is crazy!
I will most likely never ever want children after this year!
But there are some very cute and hilarious times at school!

* On learning about what we want to be when we grow up...

Me: "Hun Seo, what do you want to be when you grow up"

Hun Seo: "Sem, I want to be a soldier!"

Me: "You're six, get a grip!"

*On teaching the older children manners!

To ask for something in Korean, as in "i'd like the scissors please", they use "Juseyo"- this translates into "give me"...and as a result i have at least 30 children telling me to give them this and that! After a few days of this and much annoyance at how rude it sounds to me, I attempted to correct them!

Do yoon: "teacher give me paper"

Me: "not give me, rude! Say can i have..."

Do yoon: "okay, teacher can i have you?"

co-teacher: (in hysterics) Mia Mia tell Garry!


There are ups and downs to teaching, as with any job!
When a 5 year old masters the alphabet and phonics after only a week of class, when one of your students graduates- and you are painfully aware of the hammering their below average English is going to take in Middle School, and when students who already spend far too long studying manage to turn out amazing homework...
every little achievement for them makes it a much more valuable experience for you!

February 4, 2010


Gaz and I at the Fullmoon party on Ko Phangan.
A Haad Salad sunset.
At a monkey-coconut show on Ko Samui :(
Crazy kids at the fullmoon.
Haad Salad by day.
Gaz ringing the bells at Wat Saket for luck.
Tash and Sam's shooting star.
At Reggae Bar (the place where dreams come true) before the party.
Gaz's first (decent) pie in 6 months.
On the island tour of Samui, overlooking Bo Phut.
At Wat Saket (up a few hundred stairs) overlooking Bangkok.
A fine example of Thai architecture at the Grand Palace.
Inside the Grand Palace complex.

The impressive Rama Road Bridge, the view from our lodgings.

Bargains, Buckets and Beaches!

Jan 22nd- Feb 2nd 2010
Bangkok, Ko Samui, Ko Phangan.

Gaz and I have just returned to Korea from 2 weeks in Thailand.
We spent 4 days in Bangkok visiting temples, shopping and testing the nightlife, 2 days on Ko Samui, and 5 on Ko Phangan for some sun and the well-known fullmoon party!

While in Bangkok we stayed right on the banks of the Chao Praya River, and in view of the rather stunning Rama Rd Bridge. While terming the accomodation a hotel leaves much to the imagination, the location left little to be desired...especially with the discovery of one talented Pad Thai chef and a large collection of puppies to amuse myself with!

Day trips around the city took us to Chatuchak (also known as the Weekend Markets), these are the largest in Thailand and one of the largest in the world covering a not so shabby 27 acres! That is, 27 acres of shoppers heaven! Despite many males aversions to shopping, Gaz was easily persuaded and came out with more purchases than me!

We headed to Patpong with Sam and Tash later that night to take a look at whether the infamous Ping Pong shows were more than just talk...definately more than a rumor! The question I would like answered is how on earth were such unique talents discovered???

Before leaving Bangkok we also visited our share of Wats, where the token "seen one, seen them all" is challenged.

Tripping down to the islands in the Gulf of Thailand (the opposite coast to Phuket) required a 12 hour and rather hellish bus ride, waiting at a bus stop at 5am, another bus ride and a completed, you are delivered safely to the island of Ko Samui! Beautiful, but very touristy and built up. We spent a night here, found Gaz's first decent pie- at $10, and took an island tour to see what they could offer, aside from the cuisine and beautiful beaches! Monkey shows, and rocks in the shape of a penis hardly made the cut...

After a night on Samui it was on to Phangan, an hours boat ride away to settle in to some serious beaching, eating and energy reservation for fullmoon night! We stayed on the north of the island, away from the hustle and bustle of Haad Rin (home of fullmoon party, Magic Mountain and many a bucket stall) at a cove called Haad Salad. Deservedly known as one of the islands more serene beaches and the scene of impressive sunsets!

Fullmoon night was something words cannot describe, and i won't attempt...I will say this-
I have never seen so many people committed to partying!
Bars and stages all down the beach had music blaring..nothing like the sound of trance, pop and DnB mingling. Stalls everywhere advertised various types of buckets (*see photo!). People offered to paint you, for a mere 500 baht ($20). Partiers of the male kind failed to make it to the bathroom, and choose the sea to urinate in. Pissing in unison takes on a new form. See for your self, We will be going back!