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Archive for August, 2010

You know those awesome days, filled with good friends, good conversations and laughing so hard you cry, I’ve just had one of those weekends .  It was nothing short of brilliant.

We started the day on Saturday at Soswaewon Garden, paddling in stream to cool off from the intense humidity. 

We were then heading to a little out of the way tea house that Karla had been taken to by one of her coworkers.  Its about a half a mile from the garden.  We set up off the road and were coming up to a blind bend that had cars speeding around it.  At which point Karla pointed out some little roads through the rice paddies on the opposite side of the road and suggested we might be able to walk along them to get to the same place, it seemed like a really good idea, so off we set. 

We very quickly reached the end of the road and a stream we would need to cross to get to where we wanted to be.  I took one look at it and thought “no way!” but we walked along the bank to see if there was anywhere to cross.  The stream was flowing pretty fast, and the water was cloudy so you couldn’t see the bottom to know either how deep it was or what you were going to be standing on.  There was no way I was going to cross it!  As Emily and Karla walked into the water Charlotte was stood next to me wavering, and I turned to her and said something like “everything I’ve ever learnt about out door activities tells me we shouldn’t cross this here.”  The words had barely left my mouth when we heard a screech and saw Emily on her stomach legs behind her floating toward Karla.  We both just burst out laughing…little use we were!  As Karla caught Emily, Emily stretched her arm out, the one that was holding her handbag, and water poured into her bag, it was one of the most comical thing I’ve ever seen!

With a little help from Karla she made it onto a big rock platform in the middle of the stream, thank god she managed to laugh, I wouldn’t have been in anything like such good humor!  On the rock she continued to be an unintentional (I think!) comic genius.  She crouched down and took things out of her bag one by one, checking to see if her i-shuffle and i-phone worked – one did, one didn’t, at which point Charlotte and I very briefly stopped laughing.  She then stood up and emptied out an entire bag full of water, well, that was enough to have us laughing again, but then she took out her tin of mints, which was also full of water poured it out and proceeded to eat one.  By this point I had tears blurring my vision, and Charlotte was about to pee her pants!

We decided it was by far the best idea to find a different route across.  That meant Emily coming back across the half of the river she had already crossed (Karla was still standing mid stream), she was only slightly more successful at staying on her feet second time around! 

With all of us safely back on one side, we set off to find another route.  This time deciding to walk along the side of a rice paddy to an aquaduct that we could walk along to cross a smaller stream, to head across another rice paddy and back onto the road.  I set off in front and we made it through the first paddy with no incident, climbed into the aquaduct with slight squeals as feet sank into the silty bottom, and walked to the end of the aquaduct.  It had looked to be at the edge of the field but we decided we couldn’t really get across the field from that point.  There had been space though to walk along the edge of the field just by the stream, so heading a few meters back to where the duct had just crossed the stream we climbed out.  Or rather Charlotte climbed out, followed by Emily who climbed out and promptly fell in the grass, all I could see was her head poking out.  Well, that was it, I was in stitches again!  Again she pulled herself up and carried on.  Then, as we were crossing a central path through the field poor Emily’s flipflop broke, I couldn’t contain myself and started laughing again, thankfully Karla was much more use and set about fixing it.  Charlotte, who had already reached the road, shouted back “Whats wrong?” as I shouted the answer she was off giggling again. 

We eventually made it to the tea house, a very quaint little place, with the cutest tea service and hand made and embroidered modesty covers.  The modesty covers are a little bigger than a hand towel and are given to girls to cover their legs when sitting on the floor in skirts.  Since Emily was still wringing wet I’m sure it maybe helped to keep her warm in the air conditioning!

 After a pleasant hour drinking tea the owner of the tea house ordered us a taxi and we set off for a town famous for its Galbi.  The taxi driver was so funny and sweet, I think he was completely fascinated by the three woeguks in the back of his taxi……especially the very pretty Charlotte!  He’d be chatting away to Emily, and keep looking at us in his rear view mirror, any time eye contact was made resulted in laughter.  He told Emily as we were about to get out that we had just made his day!

The Galbi we had was amazing.  Ordinarily when I’ve had it it’s been strips of meat that you cook yourself at the table, but this came to us in the form of ready cooked meat patties.  They were so tasty.

It was then back to Gwangju and to a very nice coffee shop that had both one of the most adorable little tea for one sets I’ve ever seen, and the best toilet sign I’ve seen in Korea.  A couple of intense games of Jenga resulted in Charlottes quote of the week “My crotch just got invaded by wood!”  We looked at each other and burst out laughing for the hundredth time that day, before then explaining to Emily the double entendre, which made her both blush and join in with the giggling like school girls!

Jasmine tea, with a little candle to keep it warm - delicious.

Teapot and teapot holder, so cute, so Korean!

Where's the toilet?

After a spot of retail therapy we decided to end the day in style with good conversation over a bottle of wine and some cheese and biscuits in my favourite chilled out bar in Gwangju.

Ethnic Bar

Looking a little bit special in our Korean safety gear!

Our plans for Sunday, and heading down to one of the beaches on the south coast, fell at the first hurdle when we woke up to a big thunderstorm on Sunday morning.  Not wanting to stay home though I suggested meeting for lunch and going ice skating.  When we met Emily was wearing a skirt!  When I asked if she was skating she replied yes and that she wasn’t stupid, she’d bought pants.  Well, her pants turned out to be shorts!  I mean this is the nicest possible way…….she is a complete nutter!!  After a couple of hours on the ice, one bad fall for Wendy that resulted in her sitting out, and dozens of bad falls for Emily, which she just bounced up from, we returned our skates.  By this time, a combination of scratches from Saturdays escapades and lots of bare skin on ice falls, Emily’s poor legs were bloodied, scratched and bruised…….shes one tough cookie for such a little lady!

After more coffee and more Jenga, I left the girls and finally made it to one of the running clubs Sunday night meet ups.  I’d been a little unsure how I’d cope after an afternoon of ice skating, but I loved it.  I really do need to run with other people to push me to keep going.  We ran along a really nice stretch of path full of Koreans doing their Sunday exercise, most of whom would wave and say hello as we passed, it was lovely.  A quick dinner with the guys after the run and then time for home, where I promptly fell onto the bed and asleep.  Its exhausting having so much fun!!!

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One of the kids in one of my lessons never stops talking, so yesterday I decided to challenge him and his three classmates.  If they won the challenge I’d give them candy, if they lost they would have to bring me candy!  The challenge was simple, for the last  10 minutes they could only speak English.  I say it was simple because they were just practising asking and answering questions that we have spent the last couple of weeks studying.  With a couple of minutes to go the chatterbox couldn’t contain himself any longer, and out came Korean.  The candy was coming my way!

Although it wasn’t a complete success yesterday it did make a huge difference.  So I decided to repeat the challenge with some of my classes today, only this time rather than candy I told them I’ d buy them ice cream if they could make it through the whole lesson without speaking any Korean.  It was brilliant, they were more focused and attentive than they’ve ever been!  I’m quite relieved to say that, though some of the classes came close, none of them actually managed it….it could have ended up costing me a fortune!

I was quite surprised that as the kids walked out they were all saying “teacher we want ice cream, do the same next lesson!”  I don’t want to get into the habit of it being every lesson just incase they start being successful, but I think I’ve just hit on my monthly challenge…..

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Thinking Forwards

I’ve been doing quite a lot of thinking recently about my long term plans. 

For a while now I’ve known that I don’t see myself settling outside of the UK permanently, but at the same time I haven’t really known what I’d go back and do.  I’ll never go back into management, especially not in the leisure sector – spending time being stressed out by things that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of life – no way! If the last three years have taught me anything its that life’s too short for that crap!  But then what else am I trained for.  I don’t want to work in an office, I think, in fact I’m sure, that I would really like the routine to start with, but given a month or two, and knowing that it wasn’t just a filler between travels I’d get unbelievably bored, demotivated, and fed-up.

So, what to do?  Working on the assumption that, financially, I probably need to spend another year after this one working abroad I started looking at courses that interested me that I could do by distance learning.  I then started looking at what jobs could come from the courses.  I’ve never known what I wanted to do for a job, nothings really jumped out at me and said “this is what you want to do!”  I have more of an idea these days, I know I want to work with kids, but I don’t think I really want to teach back in the UK.   

In linking from course to course, and then possible job to possible job I think I’ve actually stumbled upon my dream job – Play Therapist.  According to the information I found it “is a way of helping children express their feelings and deal with their emotional problems, using play as the main communication tool.” It combines the things I enjoy the most, working with kids, helping people, psychology and sociology.  It sounds perfect, now I just need to figure out how I’m going to make it happen……

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Ingredients: 

1 Regular Julie 

An Island 

Some Friends 

A Cultural City 

2 Beautiful National Parks 

Some Temples 

Several Ladders 

A Snake 

A Dash of Adrenalin 

Large Quantities of Sunshine 

 

Method: 

Transport Julie to an Island with friends, mix with blue sky, sunshine, a sandy beach, and sea the temperature of baby’s bathwater.  Stir in a bike ride and the occasional bottle of Soju.  Leave to marinade for 36 hours.

Remove friends from the mix and transfer, the now relaxed, and slightly pink Julie to a city of culture.  Mix, for not more than 12 hours (to avoid knocking the chilled-outness out by excessive city exposure) with museums and traditional crafts.

Move to an area of outstanding natural beauty to rest for the night.  Rise early to avoid spoiling in the heat and add in a temple, surrounded by a surreal clap of stacked rocks, and some incense to give the feeling of butterflies awakening in the stomach.

Transfer to a second area of natural beauty, and leave to rest with movies and air-conditioning, to prevent dehydration from 40degree heat.

Rise early and hike for 8 hours to create a happy knackered state.  Be sure to throw in some vertigo inducing ladders to give a true jelly leg effect, and a big brown snake on the path for a shot of adrenalin.

For the penultimate stage add ice cream while (slightly bruised and bloodied feet) are soaking in a stream being nibbled by fish.

For the perfect finish leave the now chilled out, relaxed, and knackered Julie to soak in a bath while sipping Jamersons Irish Whiskey!  

Seonyudo Island

Hanok housing, Jeonju.

"Horse-ear Mountains", Maisan Provincial Park.

Stone stacks at Tapsa, Maisan Provincial Park. There are around 100 of the stacks, all free standing, no adhesive holding them together, the work of one monk - Yi Kap-myong (1860-1957)

The 'Village' I stayed in on the outskirts of Naejangsan National Park.

Naejangsan National Park; one of many stunning views from the circular ridge.

Happy feet!

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