Tag Archive: English teacher in Korea


Thursday, October 28:  I teach at Byeokjin Elementary School in Seongju two days a week, on Wednesdays and Thursdays.  I love teaching at Byeokjin more than at my other school, Chojeon Elementary School, because a number of the Korean teachers here speak excellent English; two of them end up becoming close friends.  I enjoy a heated and air-conditioned classroom, which I don’t have at Chojeon.  I am generally left alone to do my lesson planning and I genuinely like most of the teachers here, except for Mr. O.

I teach grades 1, 2, 5 & 6, something I have never done in my life.  My earlier teaching experiences were with high school students in the United States.

Seongju County (Seongju-gun) is a county in North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea. This largely agricultural area is located immediately west of Daegu (Wikipedia: Seongju County).

Here are a few pictures of the drive through Seongju, Gyeongsangbukdo, which is the main region for growing the chamoe melon; in this area, 70% of the production is harvested. The estimated annual production of Seongju chamoe melon is 134,500 tons worth KRW 350 billion in sales (USD$ 296,595,034). The chamoe melon has been growing in Seongju province, where there is favorable weather and rich and fruitful soil, for almost 50 years.  (Fresh Plaza: Korean chamoe melon attracts more Japanese consumers)

Welcome to Seongju

Welcome to Seongju

Almost every piece of flat land in Seongju is covered in vinyl greenhouses for growing the chamoe melon.

vinyl greenhouses for the yellow melon

vinyl greenhouses for the yellow melon

Byeokjin is a very small town in the rural county and the school is typical of most Korean elementary schools.   This school only has about 60 students in total.

Byeokjin Elementary School

Byeokjin Elementary School

Byeokjin Elementary School

Byeokjin Elementary School

The boy students are quite lively and goofy; they love to dance and play football and all kinds of sports.

some of my students do a dance for me. :-)

some of my students do a dance for me. 🙂

I teach Kim Dong Hee’s first grade class once a week.  She has assigned them all animal names, which I think is quite adorable (see doggies and zebras and sharks, oh my!).

Kim Dong Hee's first grade class

Kim Dong Hee’s first grade class

Mr. O has only seven second graders.  I teach them once a week as well.

Mr. O's 2nd grade class

Mr. O’s 2nd grade class

The third and fourth grade classes are taught by Julie Moon, an excellent Korean English teacher.

Julie Moon, my friend and Korean English teacher for 3rd and 4th grades at Byeokjin

Julie Moon, my friend and Korean English teacher for 3rd and 4th grades at Byeokjin

Here is my 5th grade class.  The teacher, Young, is such a tiny Korean young woman, she almost looks like a student herself.

my 5th grade class at Byeokjin.  The teacher is on the far right bending down

my 5th grade class at Byeokjin. The teacher is on the far right bending down

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my 5th grade class at Byeokjin

My 6th grade class is quite smart and lively.  Overall, my students at Byeokjin Elementary have a higher level of English-speaking ability than my Chojeon students.

my 6th graders at Byeokjin

my 6th graders at Byeokjin

My days at Byeokjin are quite enjoyable and a lot less stressful overall than my days at Chojeon.  Chojeon is a larger school, with maybe 150 students. In addition, my commute from Daegu to Byeokjin is shorter (only 1 1/2 hours each way), whereas on the nights coming home from Chojeon, I have a 2 hour commute because of cumbersome and poorly-coordinated bus schedules.

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Tuesday, August 31: August 31 marks the halfway point for my time in Korea. I have survived 6 months!  🙂 I have six more months to go until my contract ends on February 28, 2011. Here, I look backward and forward, to what the last 6 months have brought and to what the next 6 months might bring.

At this time last year, I was working as a poorly paid intern at Management Systems International (MSI), commuting a nightmarish 1 1/2 hours each way. Our offices were on 13 boats in a marina in downtown Washington, D.C. and as an intern, my work there was under-challenging, to say the least.  I had started working there in March, 2009, and this date (August 31) also marked 6 months there.  These first 6 months at MSI felt like an eternity. I worked there until the end of December; luckily my last 4 months there were more challenging as I worked on a big contract evaluating all of USAID’s trade projects around the world for their effectiveness in actually improving trade.  It was one of the few contracts at MSI that involved research, which I loved.  So the last 4 months went quickly.  But finally, I left MSI as it was evident that, for some reason, they were never going to offer me a full-time position.

the boat at msi where i worked from march-august 2009

the boat at MSI where i worked from March-August 2009

I really wanted to live and work abroad.  Though Korea wouldn’t have been my first choice, it was the only country that didn’t require any teaching experience or the TEFL or that you be certified in your home country.  This is why I came to Korea, to get the experience of living abroad, to get the one year of teaching experience and to complete my TEFL while I was here.  I always looked at this as a stepping stone to get to where I really want to go: to the Middle East (or now possibly Turkey).

Overall my life in Korea is a fascinating, challenging, and sometimes difficult and lonely, experience.   Teaching elementary children is not particularly exciting, but the kids are thrilled to have a foreigner in their midst and I’m happy to be the subject of their enthusiasm.  They’re full of energy and sweet and crazy.  But.  Trying to figure out a way to actually teach them to speak English, that is more of the challenge.  It’s frustrating because the children have no place to practice their English except with me, in one or two 40-minute sessions a week.  Outside of school, neither their parents nor their friends speak English.  There are so few foreigners in southern Korea that they still see us as alien creatures.  My friend Kathy thinks that one of the reasons the Korean government imports all of us native English teachers is so people in Korea will get used to seeing foreigners.  As Korea is not much of a tourist destination and it is cut off physically from the rest of the world, it is a good way to have foreigners in their midst.  I have no idea if this is true; this is just her theory.  But it makes sense.

chojeon elementary school ~ august 30 ~ crepe myrtles in bloom

chojeon elementary school ~ august 30 ~ crepe myrtles in bloom

In the six months I’ve been here, I’ve struggled to adapt to a culture that in many ways is vastly different from my own, and in other ways is eerily similar.  It’s different in the way the people are.  When I happen upon the few Koreans who speak some English, I find them very friendly.  They’ll do anything for you; they’ll invite you to their homes, to dinner, to church.  But for the vast majority who don’t speak English, they don’t make any attempt at eye contact or any kind of approach at all.  I live near Keimyung University, where college students roam the streets until all hours.  I know these kids have only recently graduated from a public school system that has taught them English for at least 15 years, yet they all claim to know no English.  If I stop on the street and ask someone for directions or if I have any question, they wave me off, say, No English!  They are afraid to speak it because they never get a chance to practice.  I understand this perfectly, since I have studied a number of foreign languages and am afraid to speak any of them.  But it makes a foreigner’s life here difficult…and lonely.

julie & coffee-j, my korean co-teachers

julie & coffee-j, my korean co-teachers

Granted, much of this is my own fault for not making more of an attempt to learn Korean.  I should do this, and I do intend to work harder at it in the next 6 months.

There are a lot of differences that I find difficult to ignore.  Koreans don’t believe in standing in line.  They will shove their way into any place, metro, stairs, ticket offices, toilets, ignoring any semblance of a queue.  There are rarely trash cans evident, so people just toss their trash on the street.  People spit.  Young couples wear matching shirts, sometimes whole matching outfits.  Ajumas are always glaring at you or even yelling at you for reasons you can’t understand.  People, children and adults alike, touch the hair on your head or the hair on your arms;  they will comment on your appearance as if you asked for their opinion.  Recently one of Anna’s co-teachers asked her if she brushes her hair in the mornings.  Anna, who was taken aback, said yes she does.  The co-teacher went on to say, because it looks like in the afternoons, your hair is brushed, but in the mornings it doesn’t.  Korean people eat roots and condiments as if they are real dishes.  They believe every dish has some kind of health benefit.  They believe they are the only country in the world with 4 distinct seasons. They love beef and pork with all the fat still on it (some people love this but I don’t!).  They drive on sidewalks.  They wear sleeves that don’t attach to anything.  They get decked out in elaborate hiking gear to walk in the mountains.  They don’t wear bathing suits at the beach but instead wear a full regalia of clothing, including hats, long sleeves, unattached sleeves, and shoes.  The list could go on forever…..

a buddhist temple in seoul

a buddhist temple in seoul

Oddly, Korea is somehow not so different from America too.  People drive their modern cars (usually Hyundais) down their modern highways to their regular jobs.  They go to church on Sunday or to their Buddhist temples (although I haven’t met many Buddhists).  They love their families and take their kids to the beach, to the huge water parks, or to E-mart for groceries.  They care deeply about their children’s education.  It’s weird, sometimes I forget briefly that I’m even in a foreign country!

So, in a nutshell, here’s what I’ve done my first 6 months.  I’ve explored Daegu. I’ve traveled to Pohang, Busan, Gyeongju, Andong, & Seoul.  I traveled outside of Korea to Turkey.  I’ve connected with some really great foreigners here in Daegu who also teach English in Seongju.  I have two very close Korean girlfriends.  I’ve studied Arabic. I’ve worked on my TEFL.  I am learning, by trial and error, how to teach English as a second language to Korean children.  I have started writing, which is one of my favorite things.  I have been to DVD bangs, noraebangs, and eaten a LOT of Korean food.  I have learned how it feels to be a foreigner; I know now how disoriented and scared and overwhelmed immigrants in America must feel.  I know how it must feel to come to America speaking only Spanish, and not bother to learn English because you have a community of people from your own culture who can speak to you in Spanish; outside of that community, you can get by with what little English you know.  I know what it feels like to be in the minority.

standing near the top of the andong dam in may

standing near the top of the andong dam in may

I’ve learned how to be alone with myself.  That’s probably one of the most important things I’ve learned here.  As one of the few older English teachers, in world populated by mostly 20- to 30-something teachers, I am the odd girl out.  I no longer feel like going out partying until all hours of the night.  I’m just no longer into that.  I love hanging out, drinking beer and playing games with my more mature younger friends.  I’ve learned I love being alone and even traveling alone.  I get caught up in writing stuff for myself that not many other people read.  But, it’s important to me all the same.

me at the folk museum in seoul

me at the folk museum in seoul

Finally, how will the next 6 months go?  I have no idea.  I will continue writing as much as possible.  I will finish my TEFL.  I will continue to explore Korea on weekends.  I will visit China in a couple of weeks and hopefully Vietnam & Cambodia over winter break.  I will try to meet my best friend Jayne in India for two weeks on my way home to the U.S. in March, and possibly stop in Turkey again as well.  I will continue to go to church and I will do a Buddhist temple stay or two. I will try to go hiking in Korea’s endless array of mountains, filled with temples and Buddha statues and many other unknown treasures.

I am losing hope of finding any romance here in Korea, but I will keep my heart open, just in case.  And I will continue to read my books, filling my head with crazy notions that will guide my life into places unexpected and surprising.

Saturday, August 14:  This evening, a gang of us went to see the Samsung Lions vs. the Daejeon Eagles at the baseball stadium in Daegu.  The night was hot and sultry, one of the most miserable nights since I’ve been in Korea.

Heading to see the Samsung Lions

Heading to see the Samsung Lions

We sat in the stands with the other Koreans, clothes sticking to our bodies, sweat soaking our hair and faces.  I never have cared anything for baseball, but the experience was a fascinating cultural grab-bag; I always love people-watching and seeing baseball Korean style was different, for sure. Especially the fans.  Anna, Seth, Kathy, Maurice, Suzanne, Carly, Shihwan and Shin were all in attendance.  I took a few pictures, and then my camera battery died (so irritating!). Maurice had our pastor’s camera, which I used to snap a bunch of photos.

field of Korean dreams

field of Korean dreams

Anna, Kathy and me in front, with Suzanne and Carly behind

Anna, Kathy and me in front, with Shin, Shihwan, Suzanne, Carly & Maurice behind

Suzanne, Carly and Maurice

Suzanne, Carly and Maurice

Shin and Shihwan

Shin and Shihwan

in the stands at a Korean baseball game

in the stands at a Korean baseball game

Shihwan, me and Maurice

Shihwan, me and Maurice

Alas, no hot dogs at this ball game.  I ordered a take-out of mandu, or Korean dumplings, which I ate in the stands with chopsticks.  Not exactly the baseball game fare I’m used to.  It mattered not; I love mandu!  Some of us also ordered fried chicken, which the Koreans have in recent years taken a great liking to (along with pizza and pasta).

Chicken, anyone?

Chicken, anyone?

The game gets very exciting towards the end and the Korean fans become very boisterous!

Korean fans

Korean fans

Korean baseball fans

Korean baseball fans

the Samsung Lion mascot

the Samsung Lion mascot

Anna, me and Carly with the field behind

Anna, me and Carly with the field behind

me, Carly and Anna with some balloon palm trees

me, Carly and Anna with some balloon palm trees

Even though the evening is sweltering, we still manage to have a good time experiencing a bit of the Korean baseball world. 🙂

Wednesday, July 21: Today I leave for Turkey.  It will be a long trip.  Mr. O told me yesterday afternoon that the principal at Byeokjin said I could take the day off today!! Then the guy from customs called from Incheon and told me I could pick up my package at the airport today for a steep customs duty of 72,000 won!!  Since I have the day off, I’ll take a bus to Incheon at 1:00, get there at 5:20, pick up the box, then wait around at the airport till my flight leaves at 11:55 pm!  Last night, Kathy was so sweet and picked up my bus ticket for me at Dongdaegu… I would have had to do that myself if she hadn’t done this.  I owe her so much for this favor, which took a big burden off of me!  Anyway, today it no longer feels like things are conspiring against me in my trip. 🙂

Tuesday, July 20: Why is it that when you’re getting ready to travel it seems everything is conspiring against you?  It’s just like the process of buying a house; people who have gone through purchasing a home say they feel like they will never go to closing.  Today, I was expecting a package from home which contained a debit card to replace mine that has expired.  The box also had some things I really needed for vacation that I wasn’t able to find here in Korea.  The package didn’t come because they held it up in customs in the Incheon Airport in Seoul.  I have had three other packages from home (none of which was urgent) and they have never held one up before!  I will be in Seoul at Incheon tomorrow, but the place is not right at the airport and I will be pressed for time.  So the package and I will pass each other going in opposite directions tomorrow!   In addition, I worked hard to prepare for all my summer camps so I would be ready upon my return home to dive right in; suddenly today one of my co-teachers told me one of the lesson plans (which I was told had to be a 40-minute plan) should be 3 hours long!!  So now, when I return, I will be stressed right away trying to complete two more lesson plans.  Then my friend Jayne writes me from England to tell me that Turkish airplane companies are going bankrupt and stranded Brits are having to pay double to get out.  Why, why, why?  Ok, this is where I need to learn to BREATHE ^o^……

We went to Sydney to celebrate Ben’s birthday tonight, but I left early because I ate too much cake and felt incredibly fat!!

Lillian & Ben at Ben's birthday celebration at Sydney St.

Lillian & Ben at Ben’s birthday celebration at Sydney St.

Xee, me, Seth & Anna at Ben's b-day

Xee, me, Seth & Anna at Ben’s b-day

Seth & Anna at Ben's birthday party

Seth & Anna at Ben’s birthday party

Monday, July 19: Winding down the first semester at school.  Today was my last official day of classes.  I played Jeopardy and Hangman with the kids:-)

Sunday, July 18: For the first time since I’ve been in Korea, I was able to talk by Skype to my friend Ed from the State Department back home.   He’s a foreign service officer and is applying now for his next post abroad.  We share a love of foreign lands, and a common experience at the State Department ~ I was in charge of the UN delegation to the 2007 Middle East Peace Conference in Annapolis (& he was in charge of the Africa delegation) …. We so wanted to share a bottle of wine, but as it was midday for me, I couldn’t imbibe…  I had to pack for my trip:-)

Saturday, July 17: I went with Kathy to Sugar Joe’s, a laid-back bar near Kyungbook University’s North Gate, where we chatted and  listed to live music by Akooztik Coxwell.  I’m so happy to have found this place, recommended by Kate, an English teacher at the university, who I met while having my hair straightened at Frigo.

Friday, July 16: Chojeon Elementary students went on a field trip to SpaValley, a huge theme spa with a water park, bade pool, hot spring, & steam room.  The place was inundated with screaming and squealing kids.  The teachers were relegated to the cafeteria, but I basked for an hour in the hot tub and sauna.  Later we went to the Daegu National Museum, where the kids did all kinds of hands-on activities.  Meanwhile, since I had no duties, I finished my excellent book, The Piano Teacher, and dreamed of Hong Kong!

on the bus to SpaValley ~ the Chojeon 4th graders

on the bus to SpaValley ~ the Chojeon 4th graders

this little girl brought a whole suitcase of snacks

this little girl brought a whole suitcase of snacks

My 4th grade students

My 4th grade students

the back-of-the-bus gang

the back-of-the-bus gang

Heading into the Daegu National Museum with one of my co-teachers

Heading into the Daegu National Museum with one of my co-teachers

me in the entrance to the Daegu National Museum

me in the entrance to the Daegu National Museum

Thursday, July 15: ~~This afternoon was one of my loveliest here in Korea.  My friend Julie, who is my Korean English co-teacher at both of my schools, took me to her hometown of Wegwan for samgye tang, a ginseng chicken soup: a game hen-size chicken, stuffed with jujube (Asian date) garlic, persimmon, and glutinous rice.  Julie says it’s an “oriental medicine soup” and is often eaten in summer to lessen the effects of the heat.  Before dinner, she insisted on stopping at her local hospital so I could get physical therapy on my knee (since I hurt it recently at yoga!!).  We waited about 10 minutes, I paid about $3.50, and then had an hour of various heat treatments, suction cups, and exercise, which, miraculously made my knee feel a lot better. 🙂  Most amazing was how I felt the whole time with Julie.  She is so easy-going and so sweet.  She made me feel pampered, peaceful and thankful.  I so cherish her friendship and kindness!

Julie Moon and her son at dinner

Julie Moon and her son at dinner

samgye tang ~ yummy:-)

samgye tang ~ yummy:-)

~~Mr. O and I no longer speak to each other during our 45 minute commute.  I guess this silent treatment came about after I cut him off the 3rd time he tried to tell me how the men eat very spicy dog meat in summer for “stamina.”  Possibly it was after I cut him off when he tried for the 2nd time to have another excrutiatingly painful conversation about Lehman Brothers.  Anyway, it’s funny b/c I wished that he would just stop speaking.  Now he has, but it’s not an amiable silence.  This morning, he started a little passive-aggressive behavior, putting on a very loud English language cassette tape that might help him improve his English.  I suppose he was hoping conversations with me might help him.  Listening to this English tape, I now know where he got the expression he uses constantly with me: “Have you got it?”

Wednesday, July 14: I take my shower in the dreaded Korean style sink-shower: a portable shower head over the sink.  The water drains partially into the sink and the overflow into a hole in the floor.  Oh how I miss my baths!!

the Korean style sink-shower in my bathroom

the Korean style sink-shower in my bathroom

Tuesday, July 13: In U.S. schools, teachers are never to touch students.  Here, that rule is a little murky…  In fact, the children seem to have no concept of personal space.  Today, in the 10 minute break between classes, about 9-10 3rd graders crowded around my desk, telling me their Korean names and asking me to repeat them, & teaching me Korean words for classroom objects.  They cheered and clapped whenever I got it right. I can’t believe they were trying to teach me their names, which I still don’t know after nearly 5 months!!  Why can’t they just use ONE name?? Even in the U.S., I would never remember someone’s 1st, middle and last name!! ~ Meanwhile some of the 10 were playing with my hair, rubbing my arms, and touching my clothes.  I’m always taken aback by this…I feel like I should push them away and say Don’t touch!  As a Westerner, to me it’s very strange.  But is it to them?  It seems like a natural part of their culture.  I kind of wish we weren’t so uptight about this kind of thing in the U.S.  All over Korea, you see on the streets girls holding hands, boys holding hands.  Hmmm… don’t know quite what to make of this….

Monday, July 12: A night at Sydney St. Pub to celebrate Kathy D’s mother’s birthday.  Her mom bought a bunch of visors to take back home to her friends.  Reminds me of the countless “ajuma parmas” (old ladies with dyed-black hair and permanents) I see on the streets ~ they wear these atrocious visors, as do the middle-aged women.  Yikes!  It’s scary 🙂

Kathy, Seth, Patrick, me, and the birthday girl, Kathy's mom at Sydney St.

Kathy, Seth, Patrick, me, and the birthday girl, Kathy’s mom at Sydney St.

Anna and me

Anna and me

Kathy's mother and Kathy

Kathy’s mother and Kathy

Sunday, July 11: At Agape Church, where I have become a regular, my friend Maurice, a Kenyan theological student, encouraged me to fill out a membership card.  I did.  Little did I know I would have to stand and be introduced later in the service.  The choir sang a welcome song to me, hands outstretched & palms open.  Wow!!  In the sermon, the preacher encouraged us to have a “heart of evangelism;”  for an example of how lost souls need the gospel in their lives, he told the story of a person who cut her tongue with scissors.  Very upsetting…. According to an Economist article dated July 8, 2010: “The never-ending push for achievement [in Korea], however, also has a dark side: depression is a serious problem, and the recorded suicide rate—around 22 per 100,000 people—is the highest in the OECD.”  I see this push for achievement evident in the schools, where students spend countless hours in study….sadly kids can’t be kids in Korea. 😦

Saturday, July 10: A fruitless day of shopping in Daegu.  I am continually amazed at the ugliest array of clothing on the planet.  The salespeople stay on you like flies on fruitcake.  They have no concept of “I’m just looking!”

Friday, July 9: Coffee J told me about Jesa, a type of family reunion in honor of dead ancestors.  The entire family meets once a year in memory of the death of a grandparent.  This celebration can apply to as many as 5 generations ~ that’s a lot of family reunions (!!);  it’s an assured way for the family to keep in close contact. I like this – something like the Day of the Dead in Mexico.  We need something like this in the US!

Thursday, July 8: While walking to Sydney St. for a couple of beers, I was almost run over by a guy on a motorcycle driving on the sidewalk, as they always do.  He had a stack of business cards in one hand and was flicking them onto the pavement as he careened along.  Everyday, the shopkeepers must come out and sweep up all the business cards that have been strewn on the street by countless motorcycle-riding advertisers.  I wonder if anyone ever goes along the street and thinks: Wow! I must pick up one of these business cards so I can do business at this place!!

Wednesday, July 7: At the street crossing, I am yelled at by one of the ajumas who stands there every morning with a flag, giving pedestrians the okay to cross the street (…as if the walk signal isn’t enough!)  These ajumas wear yellow sashes, huge ugly visors or hats, masks, long sleeves, and gloves even in the heat of summer.  She yelled at me in Korean because at the Keimyung Gate I never wait for the walk signal and just cross.  There’s NEVER any traffic at that hour going into the university!!  I just ignored her.

A self-appointed police "ajuma parma" at the Keimyung University East Gate

A self-appointed police “ajuma parma” at the Keimyung University East Gate

Tuesday, July 6: My Korean English co-teacher, Julie, and I split up the third grade class we have on Tuesdays because there are 29 of them and they are a bunch of hooligans!!  However, we found that when the teacher split the class in two, she happened to put all the rowdiest kids in one group and the best-behaved kids in the other.  We have now dubbed the two groups: “OH MY GOD!” and “OH MY GOOD!”

Monday, July 5: At yoga tonight, the instructor has us doing an extensive array of kneeling exercises.  I can feel my knee crack, but do I heed the sound? No…. and now I think I may have set myself back by months on the healing of my knee!  And this right before my vacation to Turkey…..

Sunday, July 4: Ben makes tacos and Seth, Anna, Xee, and I go to Duryu Park for a 4th of July picnic.  Then we go to Camp Walker in Daegu to watch some pretty pathetic fireworks.  Anna and I both comment that there are some rough-looking dudes on the army base and Seth says it’s the first time in Korea he’s felt like someone might pick a fight with him.  ~ Earlier in the day, I went to the hospital to visit Kathy and had to make my way through throngs of hospital-gown-clad patients walking aboEditut outdoors dragging along their urine and IV bags; some were smoking!  I felt like I was in the midst of a bunch of hospital escapees…. 🙂

Xee, Seth, Ben and me at Duryu Park, 4th of July

Xee, Seth, Ben and me at Duryu Park, 4th of July

Coronas on 4th of July

Coronas on 4th of July

Xee, me and Anna at Duryu Park

Xee, me and Anna at Duryu Park

Duryu Park

Duryu Park

Ben and Anna

Ben and Anna

Xee at Camp Walker

Xee at Camp Walker

Fireworks at Camp Walker

Fireworks at Camp Walker

The fireworks at Camp Walker, an army base in Daegu

The fireworks at Camp Walker, an army base in Daegu

Saturday, July 3: My first haircut in Korea.  It took me about 2 hours to find a hair stylist who was recommended to me.  When I found him, he told me I could come back at 3:30 (it was 1:00).  I found another place I heard did hair-straightening, Frigo, so I figured I could get my hair straightened and then go back to the 1st guy for the haircut.  I spent the next 4 hours having my hair straightened, then I went ahead and had them cut it (since I missed the first appointment).  The whole process cost me 65,000 Won, or about $58!

Friday, July 2: At Chojeon Elementary, there is only one throne-type toilet, and it happens to be in the men’s bathroom.  I use it unabashedly.  When Coffee J first asked me why I used the men’s room, I said because women are built to sit.  Men stand; this toilet should be in the women’s room!!  Now, none of the adults say anything, but when the kids see me go in there, they love to pound on the door and run away; sometimes they turn the light off from outside, leaving me in the dark!  I don’t care… I steadfastly continue to do what I must do:-)  I will only use the ubiquitous squat toilets when there is no other choice and I am absolutely desperate!!

This evening we meet at Seth and Anna’s house for dinner and a Bible study.

Anna, Seth, Maurice, me and ??

Anna, Seth, Maurice, me and ??

me, Anna and ??

me, Anna and ??

Thursday, July 1: Kim, the Korean 1st grade teacher at Byeokjin, today tells me that she wants to take me to her favorite hair stylist to have my hair cut.  This hairstylist will apparently recommend the best cut for my hair and face. Then she mentions she notices that I never wear makeup.  (I do!) This is so typical for Koreans to comment about your appearance, even if it’s derogatory.

Friday, May 28:   Today, I venture out on over an hour-long train ride to Daegu Arboretum.  When I finally arrive, I enjoy a long walk around the grounds, taking pictures of the lovely greenery.

Daegu Arboretum was built on a sanitary landfill. It is home to more than 1,000 species of plants including giant cacti, flowers, medicinal herbs, and trees. In addition, the facility regularly holds ecology experience programs for students and young children. Meanwhile, Daegu Arboretum has been recognized as an excellent model of ecosystem restoration (Visit Korea: Daegu Arboretum).

at Daegu Arboretum

at Daegu Arboretum

at Daegu Arboretum

at Daegu Arboretum

at Daegu Arboretum

at Daegu Arboretum

at Daegu Arboretum

at Daegu Arboretum

at Daegu Arboretum

at Daegu Arboretum

me at Daegu Arboretum

me at Daegu Arboretum

heart-shaped leaves at at Daegu Arboretum

heart-shaped leaves at Daegu Arboretum

at Daegu Arboretum

at Daegu Arboretum

pond at Daegu Arboretum

pond at Daegu Arboretum

pond at Daegu Arboretum

pond at Daegu Arboretum

pond at Daegu Arboretum

pond at Daegu Arboretum

at Daegu Arboretum

at Daegu Arboretum

After my long trek to and around the Arboretum, I make my way slowly back my apartment near Keimyung University, where I’m too exhausted to do anything the rest of the day.

Wednesday, May 12: One day I was walking down the street near my apartment and an older Korean man caught my eye.  He pointed to my hair and shook his head, then he made a gesture with his hands: he formed a cup with one hand and then he dipped his other fingers into the cup.  Then he wiped his fingers on his hair.  The gesture obviously meant he thought I needed to dye my hair black, like most Koreans do.  He had a kind of disgusted look on his face; he was not at all happy that I was walking around his streets with my whitish hair so indecently exposed!

I refused to take this insult lightly.  I shook my head vehemently and said “NO!” accompanied by the Korean style NO gesture, which is crossing my forearms in the shape of an “X.”  I then said, “I LOVE (making the sign of a heart with my fingers) my hair (pointing to my hair)!” And then I promptly turned my back on him and walked away.

Wow!

OMG, she has white hair, a big nose and fat arms!!

OMG, she has white hair, a big nose and fat arms!!

The attitude toward age in this country is infuriating.  My experience has been that basically if you are over 25, you are considered old.  I have two young Korean lady friends in their late 20s who truly believe they are old because they are no longer in university.  And, heaven forbid, they are not married!  I find this attitude really irritating.

Clara and Naree..."over the hill" in their late 20s!!

Clara and Naree…”over the hill” in their late 20s!!

One day I was in the carpool, sitting in my designated backseat, with Mr. O in front.  He said, “Mrs. Cathy (as he always says), do you find that you have problems with memory at your age?”  I said, “No, Mr. O, I don’t have any problems with my memory.  Besides, I am NOT old!”  He said, “I have seen your papers and I know your age.”  I said, “Mr. O, I am NOT old!”

Another day, Mr. O said, “Mrs. Cathy (keep in mind, Mr. O is older than me in body and MUCH older than me in spirit!), do you color your hair?” I said, “No, Mr. O.  I don’t believe in coloring my hair.” He said, “Well we Koreans people, we color our hair because we think it makes us look younger.”  I said, “No, Mr. O, coloring your hair black does not make you look younger!  It actually makes you look older.  Because when you get older, your skin changes and black hair does not look good against aging skin.” This I truly believe, because up until 5 years ago, I myself colored my own hair dark brown.  When I finally removed all the dye and went natural, people came out of nowhere to compliment me on how much younger I looked!

Another day I was hiking up to Gatbawi, the Buddha with the flat hat, and an older Korean man pointed to my hair and said something nasty to his wife in Korean.  I could tell it was nasty because of the perturbed expression on his face.  Again, I think he was really disturbed about my hair!

Then there are my students, some of whom are rude beyond belief.  I have one student in particular in the 4th grade.  Every day, she wears the same pair of knit pants with wide black and gray stripes.  They look like jailbird pants.  One day I wore a ribbed knit tank under a cardigan.  She grabbed the bottom of my tank and asked in Korean if I was wearing my underwear.  Coffee J laughed about this as he translated it for me.  I actually found this rude of him — that he found it funny and translated it so lightly, without reprimanding the girl.  I said, “No, this is a tank top, not underwear!” Of course, the girl couldn’t understand me.  But what I really felt like saying was, “No, this is not underwear, but are those your jailbird pajamas that you wear every day?? Do you ever wash them??  Why are you here?  Did you escape from prison today?”

Little Miss Jailbird and the Pig Farmer's daughter

Little Miss Jailbird and the Pig Farmer’s daughter

I went on a field trip and sat beside another girl in the same 4th grade class.  Funny thing is, this girl’s father is a pig farmer.  She pointed at my nose and made a funny gesture on her own nose, touching her nose and then lifting her finger in an arch away from her nose.  I wasn’t sure what she was trying to say, so I asked Coffee J what she meant.  He said she thinks I have a big nose.

Later in this same day, Miss Jailbird Pajamas pointed at my nose and made the same type of gesture.  Again, Coffee J translated this to mean she thinks I have a big nose.  Do I have a big nose?  Do I have a PIG nose?? How has this insult escaped me my entire life??  I have been insulted for things I know to be true before, but this?  Maybe people have been dying to tell me this my whole life but have kept it all bottled up inside.  Maybe this insult to my nose has been gnawing at people’s insides, churning and burning away!!

I’m not the only one who has gotten the big nose gesture.  Anna Schuett said she was walking down the street one day and some kid came up to her, pointed at her nose, and started making pig noises.

Finally, Miss Jailbird also had a comment about my arms.  Granted, my arms are my least favorite part of my body.  I wish they were thin and graceful, but alas, I have the German body!  So, the first day I wear a short sleeve shirt, little Miss Jailbird comes up to me, puts her hands around my arms and then expands them, showing me she thinks they are fat!!  OMG!  How can I shut this girl up???

OK, OK, I admit my arms are chubby...

OK, OK, I admit my arms are chubby…

Sunday, May 9:  In the morning, B & I slept in and then took off by bus to see Dosan Seowan, a Confucian school founded by Korea’s foremost Confucian scholar, Yi Toe-gye, whose portrait is on the front of the 1,000 won bill.  The complex is set on terraces and the architecture is classical Confucian style.  The best thing about this place is its setting.  It’s perched on the side of a mountain with a river below; it’s so beautiful 🙂  This was my favorite place in Andong… so peaceful and lovely….

the walkway to Dosan Seowan

the walkway to Dosan Seowan

the river around Dosan Seowan

the river around Dosan Seowan

me at Dosan Seowan

me at Dosan Seowan

The mountain cliff to the east of Dosan Seowan is Cheonyeondae, borrowed from the Book of Odes; it means “a kite flies high in the sky and fish play around in the pond.”  The cliff to the west of Dosan Seowan is Unyeongdae, quoted from a passage from Jujas poem, Gwanseoyugam “light, cloud and shadow turn and turn together.”  The combined name of the two cliffs, Cheongwangunyeongdae, is a place of nature constructed “to awake the profound meaning of nature and to speculate on the mysterious truth of nature.”

Dosan Seowan

Dosan Seowan

Dosan Seowon

Dosan Seowan

Dosan Seowan

Dosan Seowan

Dosan Seowan

a monkey in a tree

a monkey in a tree

flowers on the grounds

flowers on the grounds

Dosan Seowan

Dosan Seowan

B at Dosan Seowan

B at Dosan Seowan

Dosan Seowan

Dosan Seowan

Dosan Seowan

Dosan Seowan

Dosan Seowan

Dosan Seowan

Dosan Seowan

Dosan Seowan

Finally, B had enough and decided to return home.  We returned to Andong, where she gathered her bags and took off for her home.  I, however, was determined to see the Jebiwon Buddha.  So I took another bus to this far-flung place.

Back in Andong

Back in Andong

A huge rock sculpture Buddha, the Jebiwon Buddha is believed to be a representation of the Amita Buddha.  Below the Buddha is the tiny temple Yeonmi-sa.  Jebiwon was disappointing in one way because I thought I’d have to hike deep into the woods to see it; instead it sits really close to the roadside and next to a flat park with no shade!  Since you can see it from the road, it could be just a drive-by.

walking up the steps to the Jebiwon Buddha

walking up the steps to the Jebiwon Buddha

the Jebiwon Buddha

the Jebiwon Buddha

Jebiwon Buddha

Jebiwon Buddha

The Jebiwon Buddha

The Jebiwon Buddha

Looking up at the Jebiwon Buddha

Looking up at the Jebiwon Buddha

However, when you walk up the stairs and past the little temple, the Jebiwon Buddha looms high on your right and another huge boulder is to the left.  In between is a good-sized cubicle where Buddhists can pray and make offerings to the Buddha.  Between these boulders it’s very cool, a lovely quiet respite from the heat!

walkway to the Jebiwon Buddha

walkway to the Jebiwon Buddha

a little sculpture along the walkway

a little sculpture along the walkway

the prayer grotto below the Buddha

the prayer grotto below the Buddha

the prayer grotto

the prayer grotto

I also sat in the little temple and tried to meditate for about 20 minutes (of course I’m never any good at that…); the temple was so cool and serene.  I loved it up close to the heart of this Jebiwon Buddha!!

the bell at Yeonmi-sa

the bell at Yeonmi-sa

Yeonmi-sa

Yeonmi-sa

Yeonmi-sa

Yeonmi-sa

lanterns strung up at Yeonmi-sa

lanterns strung up at Yeonmi-sa

walking back to Yeonmi-sa

walking back to Yeonmi-sa

Yeonmi-sa

Yeonmi-sa

Inside Yeonmi-sa

Inside Yeonmi-sa

the ceiling full of lanterns at Yeonmi-sa

the ceiling full of lanterns at Yeonmi-sa

I am realizing in my travels that all I need to make me happy is a cool breeze, a lovely setting, some nice music, and something unusual to look at.  I’m very easily pleased:-)

It takes me quite a long time to find a ride back to Andong from the Jebiwon Buddha because it’s quite off the beaten path.  I wait a long time by the road, trying to make some kind of sense out of the bus schedule, but I can’t decipher it; nor does any bus show up.  Finally a nice Irish couple who is wandering around offers me a ride back to Andong.  That’s good luck for me because, otherwise, I might still be there today. 🙂

 

Friday, April 30:  Today, the fourth and fifth grade classes at Chojeon Elementary School go on a field trip to Daejeon to visit the National Science Museum.

The National Science Museum is a museum which studies and exhibits scientific materials. At its center is the Astronomical Hall, which is the largest dome in Korea. From here you can vividly see the phenomenon of the celestial sphere and the human development of space.  It re-creates a night sky.

the kids line up at Chojeon Elementary School

the kids line up at Chojeon Elementary School

one of my favorite little students

one of my favorite little students

There are exhibits featuring about 4,000 items based on nature and natural science at the Permanent Exhibit Hall. There are also exhibit halls featuring Korean nature, weapons, and folk musical instruments. You can see the stages of collecting energy from nature, and its use in transportation. Outside the Hall is Cheomseongdae, a weather evaluating machine from the Goryeo period; models of plant-eating dinosaurs; and a steam engine. The exhibits help to easily understand the theories of science, and the wonders of nature (Official Site of Korea Tourism: National Science Museum).

the National Science Museum in Daejeon

the National Science Museum in Daejeon

Mr. Son

Mr. Son, the 5th grade teacher at Chojeon

the two 4th grade teachers: Coffee J on the right.

the two 4th grade teachers: Coffee J on the right.

4th and 5th graders

4th and 5th graders

Mr. Son on the right

Mr. Son on the right

the National Science Museum

the National Science Museum

me with some of my students

me with some of my students

the ubiquitous peace sign

the ubiquitous peace sign

fun-loving boys

fun-loving boys

more cute boys

more cute boys

and some of the girls

and some of the girls

inside the Science Museum.  The human body unveiled....

inside the Science Museum. The human body unveiled….

muscles of the human body

muscles of the human body

a human on a bicycle

a human on a bicycle

... and another cut in half

… and another cut in half

a bubble show

a bubble show

more bubbles

more bubbles

tiny bubbles

tiny bubbles

and big bubbles

and big bubbles

Monday, March 15: I teach at two elementary schools in rural Seongju County, but I live in the city of Daegu. So… each day I have about an hour commute each way to work; luckily I’m able to carpool with some of my fellow teachers.  Otherwise, I’d have a horribly inconvenient trip by city bus and then by rural bus which could take me 1 1/2 hours and 10,000 Korean won/day.  The teachers offered me the option of carpooling with them during my first week.  I think it may have been a temporary offer, but now, much to their dismay, they are stuck with me; I’m like the guest they can’t quite shake, the visitor who is overstaying her welcome.   I’m playing dumb as long as I can….

Welcome to Seongju

Welcome to Seongju

Carpool #1 to Chojeon Elementary (M, T, F): I ride to work three days a week with three funny guys: my co-teacher Coffee-J, Mr. Yun, the PE and head teacher, and Mr. Sun, the 5th grade teacher.  During the entire drive, they talk together animatedly in Korean, laughing, making hand gestures, cracking crazy jokes; it’s high jinx.  Despite the fact that I can’t understand a word they’re saying, I find myself laughing along as if I understand their jokes.  I want to belong to their little group, but clearly I don’t.  Being the only woman and having very limited Korean speaking abilities, I mainly stay quietly amused in the back seat.

Coffee J, Mr. Yun, and Mr. Sun

Coffee J, Mr. Yun, and Mr. Sun at Chojeon Elementary School

I don’t know quite what to do with myself.  Some days, I simply fall asleep when my mind wanders off into an imaginary land where Englishy is spoken….inside my own head. (Koreans add “y” to the end of many English words: Englishy, lunchy, clothies, etc.) Sometimes I pull out my Korean flashcards and mutter words incorrectly to myself until one of them overhears me and corrects my pronunciation. (Odee, Yogi, Chogi – Where? Here. There.)  Other days, I stare absently out the window at the miles of vinyl houses where the yellow melon is grown. Other days I just can’t keep quiet and I start yapping to Coffee-J in English, probably taxing the poor guy’s mind first thing in the morning.  When I do that, of course, Mr. Sun and Mr. Yun become the outsiders, as they can speak very limited Englishy.  I don’t like to do this too much as it disrupts their camaraderie and may get me ousted from the carpool.  That’s something I DO NOT want to happen.

This past Friday afternoon, Coffee J and I got behind a slow-moving vehicle and he impatiently tried to get around.  He said, “What do you call this, this slow-moving car?” I said, “Hmm… I guess you’d say he’s pokey.” He said “porky? like the food?” I said, “No, p-o-k-e-y, pokey. Not a food!  You’d probably call him a slowpoke.” He said, “Oh, ok, a slow-pokey! That’s funny!” Then he kept saying that word all the way home.  “Oh, another slow-pokey. Haha!”

Tuesday, March 16: Carpool #2 to Byeokjin Elementary (W, Th) : My other carpool is with Mr. O, the 2nd grade teacher at my other school.  He is also my “manager” at Byeokjin.  I was excited before I met him because Coffee J said Mr. O has a Ph.D. in English.  However, Mr. O speaks very limited Englishy!!  As a matter of fact, hardly anyone at Byeokjin speaks Englishy; I honestly have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing at that school!!  Apparently Mr. O got his Ph.D. in English many years ago and, like many who study foreign languages, learned to read and write but not to speak.

Mr. O

Mr. O

The first day Mr. O picked me up, Coffee J met us in his car at the pick up spot.  Coffee J and Mr. O got out of their respective cars and Coffee J introduced me to Mr. O.  I promptly got in the front seat of Mr. O’s car, but first I had to move his briefcase, his phone, and his jacket to the back seat.  It happened to be snowing that day, and Mr. O drove very nervously and slowly to Byeokjin.  I could tell he was quite on edge, between the snow, trying to speak to me in his very poor Englishy, and having a strange woman in the car with him.

On Friday, I was back in my regular carpool with the Chojeon guys.  Coffee J’s phone rang and there was a very loud voice on the other end.  Coffee J held the phone away from his ear and then thrust his phone into the air so everyone in the carpool could hear what the other party was saying.  The three guys were laughing their heads off, but I was clueless as usual. After he hung up the phone, Coffee J said, “That was Mr. O.  He called to say that the next time you ride with him, he wants you to sit in the back seat. He can’t concentrate with you in the front seat and he feels very nervous!”

What???

The next day, I dutifully got into Mr. O’s back seat when he picked me up.  I figured since he wanted me to sit in the back seat (despite the fact that a perfectly good front seat was available!!) that I could just mind my own business in the back seat.  I planned to busily occupy myself putting phone numbers into my new Korean phone, looking over my lesson plans, reading emails on my blackberry.

Surprisingly, Mr. O talked to me non-stop.  He told me a story that went something like this: “I don’t like autumn.  It remembers me of my girlfriend in college.  She was rich and liked to eat (some kind of food I didn’t understand). She was the brother of my wife.  OK? You understand?”  There was some other stuff about the girlfriend eating a lot of some kind of food.  I tried so hard to understand what he was trying to tell me.  Did the girlfriend get fat eating all that food?  Did she leave him or did he leave her because she got fat?  Did he meet his wife through his girlfriend’s brother??

Vinyl houses for growing the yellow melon

Vinyl houses for growing the yellow melon

a typical rainy winter day waiting for the carpool on the main road from Daegu to Seongju

a typical rainy winter day waiting for the carpool on the main road from Daegu to Seongju

I patiently tried to process his convoluted tale.  Then Mr. O said, “By the way, I talked to Mr. Kim (Coffee J) and he told me you are a lot of fun, that you like to drink alcohol and soju.  So one night, I want to drink alcohol with you!”  Huh???  Now that’s an experience I can’t wait for:-)

Monday, March 29: Today, I’m informed by Coffee-J that our carpool is going out for dinner and drinks tonight after work.  This seems to always be the way things work in Korea.  No one asks if you might have other engagements; they simply announce some plan and expect you to follow along.  Usually, because I’m a foreigner and hardly anyone speaks English, I’m always the last to know.

Tonight we go out to a Korean restaurant in Daegu and eat bulgogi.   On this outing, it’s just the Chojeon car pool teachers; Mr. O is not included.

Mr. Yun and Coffee-J, making a toast with soju

Mr. Yun and Coffee-J, making a toast with soju

Bulgogi is made from thin slices of sirloin or other prime cuts of beef.  Before cooking, the meat is marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, pepper and other ingredients such as scallions, garlic, onions or mushrooms.

Bulgogi is traditionally grilled, but pan cooking has become popular as well. Whole cloves of garlic, sliced onions and chopped green peppers are often grilled or fried with the meat.  This dish is sometimes served with a side of lettuce, which is used to wrap a slice of cooked meat, often along with a dab of ssamjang (a thick spicy sauce made of soy bean paste, a red chili condiment, sesame oil, garlic, green onions, and optionally brown sugar), or other side dishes, and then eaten together. (Wikipedia: Bulgogi)

Mr. Yun, Coffee-J, me and Mr. Sun at our bulgogi dinner

Mr. Yun, Coffee-J, me and Mr. Sun at our bulgogi dinner

As always at any Korean gathering, the meal is accompanied by huge amounts of beer and soju, a distilled South Korean beverage traditionally made from rice.  It tastes similar to vodka but sweeter (Wikipedia: Soju).  There are always some bottles of Fanta also floating around.

Me and Mr. Sun

Me and Mr. Sun making a toast with soju

In short order, with all the soju and beer going around, everyone is quite drunk.  We laugh a lot and I feel like these carpooling co-teachers of mine are becoming good friends.

Mr. Sun and I have a race to see who can drink our soup the fastest

Mr. Sun and I have a race to see who can drink our soup the fastest

Mr. Yun doesn't speak a word of English, but he's always a jolly fellow

Mr. Yun doesn’t speak a word of English, but he’s always a jolly fellow

After dinner, we go to noraebang, where we all have a grand time belting out songs, both Korean and English.  Crazy times!!

me, probably singing Hotel California, always my song of choice! :-)

me, probably singing Hotel California, always my song of choice! 🙂

me and Mr. Yun singing in the noraebang

me and Mr. Yun singing in the noraebang

Tuesday, April 27: Today, I’m informed once again that we’re having a carpool party, this time including Mr. O from Byeokjin Elementary.  After work, we head to a restaurant between Seongju and Daegu.  As always, the meal includes a lot of beer and soju and as always, there are lots of laughs and high jinx.  This is typical Korean culture that I experienced too many times to count!

Coffee-J's face always turns bright red when he drinks

Coffee-J’s face always turns bright red when he drinks

me holding a bottle of soju

me holding a bottle of soju

Coffee-J with chopstick teeth

Coffee-J with chopstick teeth

the typical Korean pose with the V-sign

the typical Korean pose with the V-sign

Take one down and pass it around, 99 bottles of soju on the wall :-)

Take one down and pass it around, 99 bottles of soju on the wall 🙂

a pose with bottles of beer and soju

a pose with bottles of beer and soju

Saturday, April 24:  Today, Kathy and I ventured to Busan (pronounced by Koreans as Pusan), Korea’s second largest city after Seoul (3.6 million people) and the 5th largest port city in the world.

Busan on the map

Busan on the map

We drove in Kathy’s Matiz directly to Haeundae Beach, where we lounged on the beach for a couple of hours, chatting and watching people and looking out at Suyeong Bay and the East Sea.  It was too cool for bathing suits, so we wore jeans and sweaters. It was quite lovely there, bounded by hills at both ends that reminded me of pictures I’ve seen of the Amalfi Coast.

Haeundae Beach in Busan

Haeundae Beach in Busan

me on Haeundae Beach in Busan, South Korea

me on Haeundae Beach in Busan, South Korea

me on Haeundae Beach in April

me on Haeundae Beach in April

We stopped at the Fuzzy Navel, where we had drinks and  chimichangas and burritos on the patio with a bunch of other Westerners.  We hung out a while longer at the beach and then took a pleasant walk through Dongbaek Park at the south end of the beach.  The best thing about this park was the greenery, the shade and a really cool rope bridge that made me feel like Indiana Jones!!

Dongbaek Park

Dongbaek Park

Indiana Cathy on the rope bridge

Indiana Cathy on the rope bridge

Kathy and Koreans on the rope bridge

Kathy and Koreans on the rope bridge

me in Dongbaek Park

me in Dongbaek Park

the path along the coast at Dongbaek Park

the path along the coast at Dongbaek Park

In the evening, we ate very spicy Indian food at an Indian restaurant (the first I’ve found in Korea!) and then went to the Paradise Casino Busan, where only foreigners are admitted.  Kathy likes to play blackjack….I only stayed a short time as I get bored with such stuff. I went alone back to our very basic hotel, the Lord Beach!

Sunday, April 25:  Sunday morning,  we explored the GoEun Museum of Photography which featured an exhibit by Korean Photographer Kim Ki-chan.  Black and white photos of Korean life in the past were primarily featured.  My favorite photo was a father pulling a large safe or something on a cart; his little girl is strapped to the huge metal object.  To me, it captures something of Korean life, a melding of tradition and modernity, and the strong family ties that are pervasive in Korean life.

My favorite photo in the exhibit

My favorite photo in the exhibit

Kathy at the photography exhibit

Kathy at the photography exhibit

me with one of the amazing Korean black & white photos

me with one of the amazing Korean black & white photos

Korean children keeping cool

Korean children keeping cool

We walked back to our hotel through the Korean market.  We could see various Korean greens, bonsai, fruits such as oranges, apples & berries, fish swimming in plastic tubs and a white fluffy dog.

berries and oranges and other fruits in the Korean market

berries and oranges and other fruits in the Korean market

Bonsai

Bonsai

Various korean vegetables

Various korean vegetables

Korean greens

Korean greens

fish for sale

fish for sale

a shopkeeper's white fluffy dog

a shopkeeper’s white fluffy dog

The thing I loved the most in Busan was Donghae Yonggung-Sa, a temple set on the rocky coast.  For some reason it was totally packed, possibly some Buddhist holiday we didn’t know about; though usually crowds like that would detract from a place’s appeal, I didn’t find it offensive.  I actually thought the crowd added to its pilgrimage ambience.

On our way down to the temple, we stopped in an artist’s studio to check out some paintings.  We found the artist’s workspace but not an artist in sight.

artist's studio

artist’s studio

paints

paints

The entrance is lined with large carved stone zodiac figures and the steps leading to the temple are lined with stone lanterns.  It’s such a pleasant setting all around, set on a rocky coast overlooking the East Sea with a pine-covered hillside behind it.  Buddha and bodhisattva statues abound and a huge pot-bellied smiling Buddha sits near the top.

me with one of many sculptures lining the path to Donghae Yonggung-Sa

me with one of many sculptures lining the path to Donghae Yonggung-Sa

sculptures on the way to Donghae Yonggung-Sa

sculptures on the way to Donghae Yonggung-Sa

pagoda on the way to Donghae Yonggung-Sa

pagoda on the way to Donghae Yonggung-Sa

me and a golden lion

me and a golden lion

stone lanterns on the pathway

stone lanterns on the pathway

Donghae Yonggung-Sa Temple

Donghae Yonggung-Sa Temple

the rocky promontory at Donghae Yonggung-Sa

the rocky promontory at Donghae Yonggung-Sa

Donghae Yonggung-Sa

Donghae Yonggung-Sa

a temple at Donghae Yonggung-Sa

a temple at Donghae Yonggung-Sa

Gold seated Buddha

Gold seated Buddha

Me at Donghae Yonggung-Sa

Me at Donghae Yonggung-Sa

As we were walking back down from the top, we saw what looked like a monk with long white hair down to his waist.  he was so funky looking, we decided we had to follow him and get a picture.  Kathy took my camera and ran ahead of him; she got a great shot of him with me looking over his shoulder.  It’s such a funny picture because we have the same color of hair!!  Later, when I showed Coffee J the picture Kathy had taken, he laughed and said he thought the guy was a “faux monk.”  Leave it to Coffee J to make some off-the-wall comment!

The "faux monk" with some unidentified white-haired girl behind

The “faux monk” with some unidentified white-haired girl behind

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