Back to school and the weather turns

Trip Start Jun 29, 2006
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Trip End Jun 26, 2007


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Friday, September 8, 2006

This update is definitely overdue. It's been three weeks since I last posted and plenty has been going on.

Tuesday August 15 was a holiday and I spent it with Yuran and four other Koreans. She had gone on a blind date with one of the fellas and the other three folks were his friends. We met in the morning and rode out into the countryside to Yangsan (where I did my temple stay last year at Tongdosa). We spent a few awesome hours at the amusement park called Tongdo Fantasia. There were quite a few decent rides and a very fun roller coaster. We also went "snow sledding" which is hard to imagine sans snow. It was extremely hot that day, the kind of heat and humidity that meant everyone was sweating like crazy. Sledding down an astro-turf covered hill with sprinklers running sounded like fun. Of course, less than 10 minutes after we got pretty wet and headed for the carousel it started to rain. We're talking sudden summer thundershower. We huddled around the rides and opted to ride the elevated bikes. Then it was inside for a 3-D dinosaur movie where the power went out. After that we opted to head back into Ulsan (of course we waited for the next bus for over an hour). We had some dinner in Mugeodong, I got to see Kang fresh off the plane from America, and then we met up with one more Korean and went out for drinks. Ohhh it was a fun night filled with lots of games.

I've continued to meet with Youngin in the mornings at the University to help her study for tests. For the most part we've been working on speaking for the SEPT test. James and I had dinner with Rachel and Ruby one night. I went to Tombstone with some of the Koreans and Melissa (it was a quiet night) and we took Melissa for her first noraebang. I had my first meeting with Winnie and Hera. I had Italian food (well as close as the Koreans will serve it) with Kang and Yuran. On August 24 all the Elite employees got together for a farewell dinner. James (my roommate when I arrived) left on Saturday the 26th. However, not before the "last supper" and a late, late night at Tombstone. After the dinner we headed into Mugeodong with our coworkers for some noraebang (at our director's suggestion). However, it turned out that it would just be myself, James, Ruby, Rachel, and her boyfriend. Long story short, Ruby and Rachel ditched us and James and I stayed at Tombstone playing games and having a jolly good time until 5 in the morning. Rolling in at 5:30 when you have to work later that day is a riot.

I spent the next morning preparing (moving rooms, cleaning, doing laundry, organizing) for my new roommate. In the evening I went to an infrared charcoal sauna with Melissa, Youngin and family, and visiting Jamaican-born statistics professor from Auburn University, Mr. Howard Clayton. It was an amazing experience! Apparently we were the first foreigners to visit the sauna. Having an older black man with us was definitely took some of the attention off Melissa and myself. For those of you that are unfamilar with this sauna style, I will explain. It is a charcoal factory of sorts. There are eight mud domes, and at any given time half are for the burning of wood for charcoal. The other four are open for use as saunas, with four degrees of heat. When the wood is burned it emits infrared, which is still present afterwards. So you are being heated by infrared waves, not steam like a traditional sauna. It is highly effective for making you sweat -- I've never oozed so much. We liked the lowest heat, and the second wasn't too bad. We vowed to make it through one minute at the third level and we actually managed two whole minutes! The biggest issue was that you felt like you were roasting wherever you touched the ground... either your bottom or your feet (and we had socks on!!). We also had amazing samgyupsal cooked over "fresh" charcoal. Some of the Korean ladies in one of the saunas also taught us how to make the very popular sauna hats out of our towels. I arrived back at my apartment just as my new roommate was waking up from a nap. His name is Stephen Rea and he's a 23 year old Maine native. He received his masters in social science - anthropology from University of Chicago, spent one year teaching English in Prague, and lived for four months in Morocco. He likes to cook and had never stepped foot in Asia before arriving for this job. We seem to be perfect as roommates - we like a lot of the same things, like to keep the place reasonably tidy/clean, get along, and seem to have a good idea about the space issue encounted when living with anothe person.

I was invited to a wedding on Sunday, but I woke up to find that it was pouring rain. I opted out. Stephen and I met with Winnie and Hera on Sunday night and we visited an English bookstore. As it turns out, it is the same bookstore our academy orders its books from. They have some great books, some tapes, and even a few games. Stephen got off to a great start cooking Korean food on Monday by making a fabulous spicy squid dish (I helped!) followed by chicken on Tuesday, and a "Korean seafood primavera" on Wednesday. It was Rachel's birthday on Thursday so we had sweet potato cake at work! All the elementary school students went back to school on Thursday as well. I met with Youngin on Saturday to study. We ended up going for some noraebang with her friend to kill some time before meeting with others for dinner. We went out - to celebrate Hyunggun's return to Korea (from his year in Alabama) and to say goodbye to Sugeun (who left today to return to Portland). We took Stephen for his first noraebang experience (yes, that means I went for noraebang twice in one night). He sings rap so that was different and I had myself an 80's night with Tears for Fears and Journey. I met Youngin again on Sunday and then walked downtown to meet Winnie and Hera. Afterwards I ended up walking from Hyundai department store to Okdong... I was walking for 45 minutes. It felt good, until I got to my final bus stop and I realized how much my feet were going to kill me. It was worth it though.

This past week has been pretty decent. Since Youngin has classes again we didn't meet Mon-Thurs. I took full advantage of the freedom and slept in every morning. In the past week and a half I also read two books: The Davinci Code (I couldn't put it down) and The Bourne Supremacy. There is a definite change in the kids this week - the older students are much more tired and less excited. Many of the younger students have more attitude and are grumpier... not to mention their energy is at a high. The teachers had a welcome dinner for Stephen last night... the same place mine was at, only this time we had a different style pork and duck! Tasty. Fridays at our academy are always game day and today I let some of my students have it easy and play Twister. I've never done it with them yet because James tended to be using it. However I had a couple of classes doing colors so I figured it was actually productive. I worked most of the classes this week giving them tests. Stephen and I both found out that even though we have classes done with books, we still need to use them for another month or so. That's a lot of review so we're trying to figure out what the kids remember. Our schedule changed a bit with school back in session. I lost one day with my most advanced class, gained a new free talking student, started a new class (at the very lowest level - a challenge for me!), will start another new class, and regained my first 30 minutes of free time. Overall the changes are good. The biggest and most exciting change is the weather. This week we had one day that didn't get above 70. Everyone's wearing long sleeves and long pants now (well, I'm still grooving in t-shirts). It definitely seems like the start of school couldn't be better correlated to the weather. The weather we're having now is like the typical summer weather in Seattle, so I'm in my element.

Brandon (my friend whom I met last year in the AIP program) from Alabama will arrive in Ulsan to begin his one year teaching stint on Sunday. It should be a fairly quiet weekend, which is nice. I've got a nice little six day holiday coming up the first week of October. I don't know if I want to travel, since just about every Korean will be. I will definitely stay within Korea... possibly make two small trips. I will hopefully have a traditional Korean Thanksgiving (Chuseok) dinner as well.
Exciting possibilities.

Don't forget, all my photos are posted at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jessicahitch/. Even when I don't update with stories, I tend to be much better about uploading photos often.
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