Buddha's birthday...

Trip Start Dec 11, 2008
Trip End Dec 13, 2009

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Thankfully I had a couple of days to recover after my brothers left, due to the holding period at work. I still had to go in, but I didn't have any lessons to teach, so we were able to enjoy extended coffee breaks at Starbucks and a lovely little bagel cafe. We wanted to make the most of the relaxed pace, as it will soon change when Julianna departs...

In Japan, people literally become depressed when the cherry blossom begins to fall from the trees, but thankfully in Korea there is another colourful display that follows shortly after. The lead up to Buddha's birthday is marked by thousands of lanterns being erected both along the streets, and at the temples. As it was a gorgeous morning on Tuesday, I headed to Bongeunsa temple which is renowned for its abundance of bright lanterns. It was a delight to walk around and see so many colours, especially as it was peaceful with most people being at work.

Likewise, I travelled to Jogyesa temple on Thursday morning to see their lanterns, and it was intriguing to watch a couple of hundred Koreans praying in front of the bronze Buddha statue. Afterwards, I went for a stroll and covered quite a bit of ground, walking from the tourist stalls of Insadong down to the department stores of Myeong dong. I really enjoy getting out and about before work, as the excitement I feel when travelling returns, albeit for a short period of time, but these small jaunts are enough to fulfill my desires until the end of my contract.

Hew and me met up with some of the other teachers on Friday night and enjoyed a few beers at a bar in Nowon - it's nice to keep in touch with them. I remember having a conversation with a couple of the Canadians about famous people from their homeland, and we came up with a half decent list, with notable exceptions including Celine Dion and Chad Kroeger!

To my delight, particularly as it's usually my busiest day, the following Tuesday was Children's Day which meant a day off. This year is terrible for public holidays as the majority of them fall on weekends, but this was a most welcome exception. It was a stunning day with the temperature already in the mid-twenties in May, and I began it with a shopping spree in Namdaemun and Myeong dong - I was following my brothers' lead! I then met up with Eun ju, and we walked to Deoksugung Palace near City Hall which was home to some pretty flowers...and lots of people! It was nice to just relax for a while and watch the world go by, and see the occasional child stare in disbelief at seeing a foreigner...

With just a few days until the weekend, the main issue at work was with the students' recent level test results - they weren't as good as expected. To be fair, the Korean head teachers were fine with us about it, although we had to have a couple of meetings to discuss the matter. There's no doubt that the students are improving as we mark their essays every week, and hear their speaking in class, but at the end of the day the TOEFL test is aimed at people a lot older than them so they can't conquer it overnight. Korean mothers are notoriously impatient though, and so there's definitely more pressure at an academy rather than a public school.
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