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Kyoto

On one of my last weekends in Busan I decided to step out of the country. I really don’t know when I’ll head over to Asia again and I needed to strike this one city off my bucket list before I left.
Kyoto has been on my list of places to go for almost ten years. One of my best friends went on an exchange to Japan in the tenth grade and they had went on a field trip to Kyoto. When I opened the email and saw Kinkakuji I knew I had to go. It was one of first times a picture took my breath away… So I decided to treat myself to a trip to Osaka.

fb_img_1451365380797.jpgI had a long weekend at the beginning of October so I took a few days to myself and then flew out of Gimhae in the afternoon on Saturday. Each flight with Air Busan required me to board the plane by staircase, and there’s something glamorous about that for some reason, no matter who is shoving you… I loved flying Air Busan because the staff was friendly, the snacks were good, and the flights were painless. Immigration getting in to Osaka was easy too. I was feeling good getting into KIX. I decided to take a risk with WiFi this time going to Osaka.

Now usually when I go to Japan I rent a WiFi router from SoftBank. I have had no issues with it and it’s fairly inexpensive. Since I was only going to be there two days, I decided to try one of the free WiFi apps they advertised in the terminal. This was a blessing and a curse. Blessing: I didn’t spend $40 on a router, nor did I have a temporary charge of $400 on my card (they do this for security purposes). It also allowed me to enjoy being alone and the sights and sounds of a beautiful place. Why did I enjoy it so much?? The curse: it rarely worked. It was as if I had to stand in one foot and hop up and down to keep a signal. It didn’t cost me anything but it also did not benefit me too much. I was okay on my own but if you need a constant connection, you should not use the app TravelJapan Free WiFi. Yes it was free but it was not convenient in Osaka or Kyoto. Maybe it’d be better in Tokyo but I really had a hard time. Luckily I planned ahead and wrote down the important directions.

My hotel in Osaka was sort of traditional. It was a hostel type building but I slept on a tatami floor. I had a tiny room to myself, perfect for me, and it was quiet and relatively clean. It was kind of old, but the staff was really friendly and helpful. I stayed in a place called Backpackers Hotel Toyo. It has a great location in Osaka, only 2-3 stops from the Dotonbori/Namba area and also located near Shin-Imamiya station on the JR Line. The hotel was super close to the Dobutsuen-mae subway station. Lots of conbinis around and I even saw people with Donki bags but I didn’t have enough time to scour my area of town.

After finding my hotel, I dropped all my stuff off and headed back out. fb_img_1451365415554.jpgTaking an afternoon flight only allowed me a few hours in Osaka, but I made the most of them. I left my hotel just before 8pm and was in Namba, lost and confused, just after 8:15. After wandering around and shopping, I found my way to the familiar Shinsaibashi area. I grabbed a few tsum tsums for my collection (limited edition Halloween ones!!) and then spent far too much money at Donki. I can’t say enough good things about Donki. It’s my favourite store in Japan.

After I was all shopped out, I headed back to my hotel not before stopping at Family mart. Japan is obsessed with Halloween and I was excited to grab a bunch of goodies while I was there. I tried lots of pumpkin flavoured things… It had started to rain so I hurried back to my hotel and settled in for the night.

Conbini food in Japan is amazing and I was so happy be reunited with my ebi mayo rolls. Mmmm.

fb_img_1451365386668.jpgNext post I’ll detail my day trip to Kyoto, which was amazing in itself. Chicken hearts, creepy foxes, little lizards, and the Golden temple await you!

Thanks for your patience and happy new year!!! I hope your holidays were amazing and please look forward to some new posts for the new year!

Until next time,
B

 

Here’s a Kyoto teaser pic…fb_img_1451365465476.jpg

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Time flies when you’re eating everything

20151104_102526.jpgI can’t believe it has already been a month since I left Korea. It seems like just yesterday I was rushing to the airport after cramming everything in to a cardboard box and mailing the things I couldn’t get into my overweight suitcases home. It was such an overwhelming and emotional day, and I just remember chit chatting and talking with the American border guards, happy to be able to talk to everyone. It was such an exciting time. It’s been so weird coming home and expecting things to be different but things have been shockingly similar. It’s so weird being home but at the same time it’s comforting. Like putting on an old sweater that still fits perfectly but you know is past it’s prime.20151104_193207.jpg

I hopped back into the job I left last year, so in some ways it feels like the
last year of my life did not even happen. But of course it did, and I’m
reminded of Korea almost daily still. There are lots of things I don’t miss, and lots of things I do, and of course I’ve had moments of reverse culture shock, so to speak… One of the main things that sticks out is how small everything is. I was so used to the shelter provided by all the tall buildings in Korea. Everything is so small and short and spaced out here. The tall buildings at home are fewer and far between.20151105_165544.jpg I am not used to seeing the sky so clearly every day! I miss looking out at the mountains on my way to work every day, and my lovely little walk through the park. Small things like that. I miss that so much!

I love my drive to work every day, it goes by so quickly and I missed being in a car (without paying for it, haha). It’s been super convenient being at home as my boyfriend, Andrew, has got his own car since I’ve been gone! I love the little road trips we’ve been going on. It’s changed a lot of things, making me feel almost grown up completely… even if I don’t really think I should be a grown up. I still feel weird about being home sometimes because I had prepared myself for things to be different and in some respects they were, but in many they weren’t.

It was really odd for me to come home first because a: I was riding in the car with Andrew for the first time with him driving (on a highway! in his car!) and b: the place I had called home before leaving for Korea did not exist anymore. My mom moved while I was gone and I had made arrangements to live with my boyfriend. We’ve been together for a long time and it is the next logical step. Our first month of co-habitation seems to be going well. It was just weird for me to go home to a place that didn’t really feel like home yet. It took me at least two or three months for my apartment in Korea to really feel like home… this place is a little easier to adjust to but I feel like I’m missing things!  It’s gonna take a bit of time to get completely comfortable but I’m getting there.

I really miss the transit in Busan. I miss being able to hop on the subway and zone out. I did not miss the city bus here, which has increased its fare to $2.75 a ride, and always has an odd smell. The subway was quick, easy, and I usually never had to worry about small talk on my commutes. I also really miss my students a lot. I’ve been talking to a few of them on Kakao Talk but it’s not the same! I’m sad I won’t see any of them, probably ever again :(. I also miss a lot of the foods. Mostly pumpkin pajeon if I’m being honest, and also being able to get a delicious lunch for under $5.

Food here is amazing, I’ve almost made it through my entire list of wants from when I was in Korea, but it’s so expensive! I had a meal with my friends one night and I spent four times the cost of a meal in Korea. I didn’t even get any drinks with that…. I miss the low costs of Korea (food wise) but I also love being able to fold up my freshly dried clothes, sit in a huge lovely bathtub, and bake anything I want!teacher

What’s next for me though? I still don’t know. I feel like I keep repeating

that but I also have an idea of what I want. Andrew and I are at an
interesting point in our lives. We’re in between a lot of things, and I think that this could be a great opportunity for growth. I think I might be moving soon, and if I want to continue to teach or work in the ESL field, I know I have to do that. I also want to travel more! But that will have to wait until I get some more money saved, and get into a better paying job.

img_20151106_174228.jpgFor now, I’m content to hang out with some good people, eat delicious food, and spend the holidays at home. I’m so happy to be home for Christmas, and I’m loving all the holiday things everywhere. I do miss the lovely tree in Nampo though, so if you’re in Busan please go and see the lights for me! 🙂  My next post will be a well overdue travel post! Look forward to it!!

Until next time,
B.20141130_174447.jpg

 

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Why I was happy with a hagwon.

wpid-img_20150923_142530.jpgI began writing this post two months ago after a weekend away with some EPIK teachers. One of the girls, who I really admire and like, made a comment that made me really think about the reputation academies in Korea have and how all the fears I had before working at one were unfounded. I thought this would be a helpful post for anyone looking to come to Korea to teach, and may have been rejected by EPIK or wanting to avoid the public school route all together. Both public and private schools have their pros and cons, I’m just going to write about my experience and what I’ve learned over my last year in Korea.

A hagwon is an academy is Korean. Academies are after school schools where kids go to do extra studying on top of their already busy schedules. Hagwons have notoriously bad reputations in Korea because most of them put business before education. Hagwons are not regulated, they’re owned and operated independently from the metropolitan government. They have their own rules and can be kind of intimidating, but they can also be really rewarding.

Hagwons can be a crapshoot, even after all the years of teachers being forced to deal with 11th month firings, and lack of pension or healthcare. Recently a group of hagwon teachers got together and SUED their academy for poor standards: no vacation, no pension, no healthcare. The only reason schools in Korea get away with this is because people let them! They take job offers at schools offering the bare minimum of things: 3 month-long internship periods, no pension, no healthcare, no access to a current teacher. If no one says anything, they’ll continue to do it!

If the school is offering you a contract look for these main things: salary clearly stated, teaching hours clearly stated (no more than 30 hours or you could be killing yourself, it’s a lot of work), vacation days (usually 10 plus the 10 red days -national holidays), round trip or one-way flight (this seems to be the new trend a one-way flight but there are still some schools offering round-trip airfare), and the two biggies the LEGAL biggies: NATIONAL PENSION – which your academy HAS to pay into by law if you are a full-time teacher, and NATIONAL HEALTHCARE – also has to be paid into, legally. DO NOT take an extra $100-$500 a month and not get healthcare or pension. To be contracted as anything other than a full-time or part-time teacher on your E-2 visa is ILLEGAL! If you’re not getting healthcare or pension your school is breaking the law by filing you as an Independent Contractor. The last, and probably the most important is access to the current teacher. If the school refuses to let you talk to them that’s a HUGE red flag. The current teacher knows the ins and outs of the school. Talk to them before signing anything.

Now, scary stuff aside hagwons can be great. Shop around! As a newly graduated person with a B.A you’re going to have pick of the litter, if you’re patient. I had to wait quite a bit before finding my job. It took months. I had a few offers, and I nearly signed a contract, but I did some more research and found the academy I almost signed with failed to pay severance or even pay their teachers on time. Thank god for the internet because I found an old teacher on Twitter of all places. Had I not found her I would probably be writing a different story right now. The important thing is to have standards. All jobs have the same offerings but find one that caters to your hours, and has a good rep with their current teachers. Don’t jump on the first offer you get because likely, it’s not going to be the best.

I get really offended when people say things like “You couldn’t pay me enough to work in a hagwon.” or “all hagwons care about is money.” This stuff is TRUE for most places but my school was AMAZING. I have to be 100% honest I got very, very lucky. I had an amazing boss, super friendly coworkers, and mostly great kids. Of course there were kids I wanted to banish to the hallway for an eternity, but I had flexibility in my classes, I got to sing songs and do dances for kids, and even watch movies with my kids! We had a great curriculum that approached English in a way that was inviting. It was so much fun and super rewarding. When I listened to my friends talk about their EPIK schools and even other academies I felt pretty lucky.

Here’s some anecdotes and comparisons I made about my experience and the EPIK experiences I heard about:

  • EPIK class sizes are about 35-40 kids PER class. You see them once a week. My classes maxed out at 12 kids and I saw almost all of them 2 times a week. Smaller classes are so much easier to handle, especially for a first time teacher.
  • EPIK teachers seem lonely: one foreigner in school, your co-teachers aren’t always friendly. This is the case for most people. My school had one other foreign teacher and my Korean co-teachers did not hesitate to ask me questions, chat about kids, or invite me to dinner.  Even having one other foreigner was great because you had someone to chat with when you needed it. Contrary to popular belief being the only foreigner teacher at an academy is not a bad thing, nor does it mean your school is poor, some schools are just smaller than others.
  • Sometimes you have to teach at 1-4 schools a week with EPIK, transportation not provided. This means you could have to bus to different places during a single day. No thanks. I had a 5 minute door-to-door commute from my apartment to school. Some teachers got a bonus for working additional schools but the bonuses barely cover the monthly transit.
  • An academy allows you to get closer with students: learn their Korean and English names, and you can spend one on one time with them. I spent hours with my students joking around with them, etc. I could even see them outside of class and say hello. When you teach an ENTIRE public school it’s hard to remember each face and name. When you teach a smaller portion of a school at an academy you can make better connections with your students.
  • When there’s a problem with your apartment sometimes nothing happens. And your apartment (EPIK or academy) can be really crappy depending on how many teachers have used it before you. When I had a problem in my apartment my director had it fixed within the week I asked. I never had any issues. It really does vary school to school though.
  • Vacations: EPIK is WAY better for vacations. I think you get the majority of August off and the majority of January. At an academy the most you’ll get is 5 days in winter and 5 days in summer. If you have a good school. I am jealous of the EPIK vacation time. Second only to the university vacation time (like 10 weeks!!)
  • Bonuses: maybe $100 more, if that, plus your settlement bonus from EPIK. You’ll get more there but not much more than you would at an academy.
  • EPIK has the cushioning that is safe, but it’s not where you’ll make the most money, EPIK is a long-standing program with a good reputation so it’s more secure than most academies but some academies have been around for many years. My academy, though unknown to most foreigners, is pretty famous in Busan and has been around for 16 years.
  • If you want to make more money in EPIK you have to be working in a rural area which sucks most of the time. Being the only foreigner in a small town can be draining on the most confident of person. EPIK in a rural area can be super rewarding but also really difficult. Not for the weak hearted that’s for sure.
  • From what’s been going around the internet: the EPIK program is on the way out. This program was not meant to last. Each year there are more and more schools cut from the program due to lack of funding. It’s sad really.
  • Recently I’ve seen that the EPIK program is really discriminatory against tattoos. From a thread on reddit, several new applicants to EPIK were rejected right away and the one common factor: they all had tattoos. Or they all were crap at writing an essay, the jury is still out.

I just want to get my opinion out there! I’m not bitter that I got rejected from EPIK. I  was sad when I first found out, but also happy I got to work at my school. My school was wonderful and I could not have asked for a better first place to teach at! I think there are a lot of misconceptions about hagwons/hakwons/academies in Korea and before working at one myself I had my own reservations. Take your time, ask questions, and don’t feel rushed into anything. If it doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t.  Check out Facebook for groups like: hagwon blacklist (bad schools in Korea), and Teachers in Korea. It’s full of people who have done the jobs you want to do. Trust your instincts and ask others for help!

Sorry for my lack of posting, I’m still adjusting to life in Canada again. I’ll have some more posts up soon! Thanks for your patience, I love you guys!

Until next time,
B.

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Home.

This post is a few weeks in the making. I had three posts up for my anniversary weekend, I should have staggered them so that I had some content going up while my life was going crazy. If you haven’t guessed from the title: I’m home. I’m home in Canada and I’m happy as a clam…ada. Now let’s talk about this in one of my favourite blogging styles; story time!

I’m home after a whirlwind year in Korea. For a time I was sure it was not going to be my last, but now I’m not too sure. I’ve met some amazing people during my time in Korea and I’ll always be thankful for them.

The last week of October rushed by. I had a quick beginning of the week, explaining to my classes it would be one of the last times they saw me, then introducing the new teacher to each and every class, and basically training her in two days. Not to mention two of those days were the school Halloween parties! SO much fun but not the common teaching time. Not nearly enough time but we had to deal with what we had… Which included a crash course in all things Academy on Friday evening. I talked until I couldn’t talk anymore and then we went out for drinks and more conversation. I hope my replacement, Ros, does great in Hwamyeong. I loved it a lot and I loved my school. I shed some tears when I left and my coworkers were so kind (cake and presents, like my birthday!!!). It was really hard to leave them, but this is what I have to do…

My final weekend in Busan was great. It was Halloween! Alice and I had dakgalbi at the best place in Busan, and then we met up with Megan and Oliver in Seomyeon for some soju at the Penis Bar. I would’ve felt incompletely doing anything else on my last weekend, to be honest. Then we finished off the night with some noraebang and snacks. It was a great evening! Until, of course, the taxi driver called me fat and told me I needed to diet. Man. I thought I could have a super happy last weekend but of course, someone had to ruin it… At least I tried to not let it bother me too much, and I still enjoyed my last few days in Busan.

I met up with some friends on Sunday evening and had a delicious BBQ dinner, followed by an amazing chocolate bingsu from Sulbing, the perfect final meal in Korea. Thankfully it wasn’t my last because Gillian, Megan and I had a delicious lunch at The Agit on Monday morning. I was happy to see all the people I cared about in Korea, and the byes were tough but I know it won’t be the last time I see most of them. I’ll be looking forward to my trips to California and New Zealand, so you guys better be ready to put me up ;). More on that stuff in a later post but for now, you guys know who you are, I love you and appreciate you and miss you lots! See you soon!

I packed everything up, had a bunch of stuff thrown out by the cleaning lady, but my apartment was sparkling and ready for the new teacher to move in. I shipped one more box home, and said bye to my coworkers one last time, and then we were off to the airport. My director made some funny jokes, thanked me for my work, and helped me to the check in desk. I was flying out of Gimhae Airport, which is super small, but since it was an international flight I still got there 3 hours early.

Of course, I was too early. The check in desk did not even open until 4:50pm, and I was there over an hour early. My flight was at 7:05pm, so I had a lot of waiting to do. I made friends with a girl in line, and we passed the time quickly. A few hundred dollars in overweight/extra baggage fees later, I was waiting at my gate. My trip home was starting and I couldn’t have been more excited. Until I realized my phone was not where I thought it was. I emptied my backpack, and dug through my carry on before realizing my phone was nowhere to be found. Distressed, I approached the Asiana staff member that was helping with our flight. She instantly took me over to the service desk where they had a staff member take me around the entire airport to search for my phone. I was treated so nicely and taken through security in a flash, and we finally found my phone waiting for me at the service desk. I shed a few thankful tears and gave the girls who helped me some chocolate for their help. I sat back down, one hour of waiting passed due to my phone emergency, and waited for my boarding time.

The flight from Busan to Guangzhou was only 3 hours, was had a simple meal and it was a quiet old plane.They only showed one movie but it was dubbed entirely in Chinese with Korean subtitles. I tucked into a new book and the flight flew by (no pun intended). We handed in Guangzhou and hopped on a humid stuffy bus to the terminal. After going through some extreme security I found my gate in the bowels of the airport… What’s next is my writing during the time in Guangzhou. I was a bit emotional but grabbing my pen and notebook helped me deal with it. Here’s what I wrote:

This is easily the worst airport I’ve ever been in. Worse than the shitty construction-riddled LAX with no signs… I found my gate in the musty bowels of the airport. It hasn’t been updated since the 80’s, or at least that’s how it appears, and it smells that way too. It’s honestly just the lower gates (A1-6) because the upper gates are all brightly lit and around nice smelling foods and coffee shops. But of course, a 15 hour International flight to JFK airport deserves to be boarded in the worst area. Maybe I’m just eager to get home, I’m writing this down while sitting in the dim light of the terminal. I was trying to psyche myself up for the trip so I could think about all the things in my near future… Here’s what I came up with:

Home is…
-Catching up with friends after not seeing them for ~1 year
-Eating familiar foods at familiar places
-Baking!
-Taking a nice long bath (without other naked women, but I still love you jimjilbangs)
-Buying clothing that fits
-Smiling at people and having them smile back
-Trusting others. (I tried to give someone in Korea the 400w they needed for a drink at Starbucks -they were holding up a line about 5 people- and she wouldn’t take it. Swallow your pride and accept the 40 cents. I just wanted you to stop wasting everyone’s time because you didn’t bring any cash with you)
-Watching TGIT with my momma
-Slower wifi
-Good morning kisses 😀
-Chats with my every talking niece
-Chapman’s ice cream
-PEROGIES!
-Running into people you know (and sometimes mutually avoid).
-People who know you unlike anyone else
-People eager to hear all the details of your life in another country.

I may or may not have found nirvana in the airport: an abandoned desk area where I can stretch out, put my feet up, and colour my adult colouring book…

It was a great hour and a half wait for the boarding to be called. No one bothered me (after the yelling Chinese couple left) and I was alone and so so happy. If I end up back there, for whatever reason, I know where I’m waiting out my boarding time. The 15 hour China Southern flight actually went without a hitch and with a few hours of sleep. I watched a movie or two, finished a book, and overall had a good flight. The in-flight entertainment on the China Southern Flight was one of the best systems I’ve ever used. Touch screen, lots of movies and other things, it was awesome! The 15 hour flight flew by and before I knew it, I was chitchatting with the border guards in NYC and then boarding my flight to Toronto. The plane from NYC to Toronto was hilarious in comparison to the giant plane I flew on from China to NYC. It was a quick flight, less than an hour, and before I knew it I was reunited with my family. Many hugs and breakfast later, I was settling in nicely to my new home.

I’m home now, meeting with some friends during the week before I start back at work next week. I love retail and I’m excited to get back to it before I buckle down and look for a job in my field. So what does me being home mean about my blog? Well, I’m still here. I’m going to be here as long as I have an audience, and as long as I enjoy doing this.

Bear with me, I’m going to keep traveling and find the dynamicness in every city I end up in.

Until next time,
B.

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Studio Ghibli Art event at the Busan Museum of Art

wpid-img_20151008_154950.jpgThis post has a plain title just so it is easily found via google. There’s little to no information on this event happening in Busan right now, so I’m hoping that someone else can see this and check it out!

I’ve been pretty lucky since coming to Korea because I’ve got to seen not one, but two, different Studio Ghibli art events. These events are basically non-existent outside of Asia so I feel pretty #blessed. Studio Ghibli is an amazing animation studio based in Japan. They release stunning 2D animation movies every few years and I’ve fallen in love with them more than once. One of their most famous directors is Hayao Miyazaki. He has won countless awards for his animations and whenever they’re released there is always some Oscar buzz surrounding them. I have seen several of the movies Studio Ghibli has released, but there are many I still need to see!

This post will discuss the art event currently going on at the Busan Museum of Art (until November 29th!!) with a small comparison to the Studio Ghibli art event that happened in Seoul earlier this year. wpid-img_20151008_155119.jpg

The Busan Museum of Art is a beautiful building located very close to the stop on the green line in Busan. The stop is just called “Busan Museum of Art” so it’s really easy to get to. The museum is about 5 minutes from the station and also super close to BEXCO and Centum City department store. The Studio Ghibili Art event was $12 for admission, and it was happily advertised on the light posts, a huge banner outside the museum, and all over the ticket office. The only reason I found out about it was because I had seen a quick ad in the subway station one day before work. I hadn’t seen any other posters until I got to the museum. I had a friend google in hangul so I could find out more information. I made my way down there one Thursday afternoon, an unusual day off for me. The museum is located really close to Haeundae beach, so really far away from my area of town, haha. I made my way to the museum after hopping off the subway and found the ticket office. Totoro brightly greeted me and I handed my money over. The admission was $12, or 12,000w. I made my way to the second floor, barely looking at the small guide I was handed.

wpid-img_20151008_155259.jpgThe exhibit was at the top of the stairs, and I could see the gift shop. Before going in the gift shop, I decided to look at the guide. There were 9 or so sections of the exhibit, ranging from different movies, an outline of the history, the directors, the museum in Japan, and other things. And of course, it ended in the gift shop.The guide was pretty helpful and it also showed me that cellphones and pictures were not allowed. This was pretty different compared to the event in Seoul, where pictures were basically encouraged.

wpid-img_20151008_155437.jpgThe art event consisted of many things. Lots of original sketches and plans, water-colour sketches, physical examples of some of the doors and windows they used in the movies, and my favourite: the full-scale models. They had artwork and displays from basically every Studio Ghibli movie. If you’re a fan of the movies, or just animation art in general, you’d enjoy it. I loved the model of the Teahouse from Spirited Away, it lit up and made sounds… it was stunning. I stared at it for a good 15 minutes, inspected every part of it… I was fascinated. As well, the model of the mine shaft from Castle in the Sky had many little peeky holes and openings that were really cool to see. Also the house from Ponyo was really cool. They even had little pieces of furniture in it. So sweet…

The guides in the exhibit were really helpful to me, they asked if I wanted an English language guide recording, or they’d point out something I might have missed. I was really happy about that. There were many staff working, perhaps to make sure people weren’t taking pictures or what have you. Of course the entire exhibit was in Korean (the writeups and explanations) but I had no issues going without the audio guide.

wpid-img_20151008_195949.jpgThe atmosphere of the exhibit was really chilled out. I was able to go right up to the sketches and look at all the details, there weren’t too many people there. It was nice and quiet and I think it was the best time for me to go to really enjoy it. I took my time and it took me over an hour to explore the whole thing. I think it was completely worth the money. if you’re expecting to be able to take pictures with the character or see big sized models, you’ll be disappointed. The exhibit at Yongsan in Seoul was amazing and I really enjoyed it, but I think I enjoyed the exhibit in Busan more. By watching any Ghibli movie people can see how much detail goes into the animations. The exhibit was great because it was so amazing to see all the little details up close. As a long time Ghibli fan, I really pleased.

One part I rushed through was the section on the Ghibli museum. I’m still a little bitter that I didn’t get to go when I was in Tokyo… It was sold out.. wahhh… I’ll have to go back in the future of course. It looks amazing and I really want to go back one day! The final portion of the exhibit was a little interactive. You could make a little house and stamp it with wpid-img_20151008_171627.jpgdifferent things. I made a few little houses and made my way into the gift shop.

The prices were a little crazy but I did buy a few things for myself and a few people at home. If you’re in Busan right now, or anywhere in Korea and are a Studio Ghibli fan, you should make your way down to Busan. The Studio Ghibli art event will be on until the end of November (the 29th) this year. It makes for a great activity alone or in a group. The Busan Museum of Art is closed every Monday but open daily from 10am – 8pm.

wpid-img_20151008_171654.jpgThe museum also has a super cool sculpture garden and many other cool exhibitions going on right now!

Here’s some more info if you need it!
Ghibli in Busan

Until next time!
B.

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One Year!

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Probably one of my all time favourite photos I’ve taken in Korea.

It’s officially been one year since I arrived in Korea, one year since I made my first post detailing my lovely adventure to Korea… And in a few short days (count ’em: 9!) I’ll be making the journey back, and I’m sure that’ll be a story in itself… I just hope it goes quickly.

My time in Korea has literally FLOWN by. I don’t think I’ve ever had a year in my life go by so quickly and I’m so excited for what’s next… and to be honest I really have no idea what is. When I look back on my posts I think about how long ago everything was, but also how I can remember the details of it all. I’m thankful for my brain sometimes because I can remember the specifics of a lot of things. Sometimes it works against me of course, but when I have those vivid memories that people often forget I feel really lucky.

I really do treasure the times I’ve had here, and the people I’ve met. I have to say this was one of the best years of my life, and it was, truly! There were some dark times, some wonderful times, and plenty of in-between times. I’ve got to know a lot about a country I grew to love (and also to resent at times, to be honest) and to meet some new and wonderful people who I hope will be a part of my life for years to come.

This is just a quick post to say thank you all for sticking by me, reading my thoughts, and sharing your stories with me. I appreciate any comments I get, online or other forms (like real life, wow!). And I love sharing my stories with you. And honestly, I see blogging as something fun for me. I tell people who trash talk blogging that I do it for myself, and it’s true. I honestly write these posts as a journal that I share with whomever wants to read it. When you start blogging looking for views, or sponsorship, or trying to be an expert on something you have no idea about.. that’s what I think gives blogging and bloggers a bad name… but if that’s what makes you happy, let that flag fly.

And as long as it makes me happy, I’m going to let this blogging flag fly as high as it can…

Okay that got incredibly cheesy incredibly quick so I’m going to cut myself off. I’m off to celebrate Alice’s birthday with fireworks, lots of laughs, and hopefully some pumpkin pajeon. I hope you enjoy this impromptu anniversary weekend (yes there will be another post tomorrow!).

Until next time,
B.

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Shoot ’em up – Gangwondo for the weekend

wpid-20151003_211254.jpgI always keep my eye on the events posted by the travel groups in  Korea. They’re really helpful sometimes and give people the opportunity to do things a little bit easier. I’ve went on two trips with WINK tours (which I don’t recommend because the owner is a dick but the trips I went on were fun) and now two trips with Enjoy Korea. I had saw the event posted called “K-pop, Caves, Coasters, and Shooting” and it seemed like a random mix of things. I like k-pop, I like roller coasters, I’d never shot a gun and I don’t really like caves but whatever, why not? I had put going to a k-pop concert on my Korea bucket list and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. My friend Alice and I booked the trip and made our wpid-img_20151003_143527.jpgway out to Gangwondo with our trip leader Rachel and the rest of the Busan group early Saturday morning.

The trip from Busan to Gangwondo was pretty long, about 5 hours in the bus. We were lucky and had little to no traffic but Alice had some pretty wicked bus sickness so she was very happy when we were finally up at the resort. We stayed at the every popular High 1 ski resort. This place will be the home for the Pyeongchang Olympics in 2018 (in fact this was the reason for the concert). I should have prepared for the cold weather! It was fine in Busan but Gangwondo is way up at the top of Korea. It was pretty chilly up there, especially at night during the concert. Before the concert we were allowed to go on the Alpine roller coaster. This is a single track roller coaster cart that you control the speed of. Well, they say wpid-img_20151003_150555.jpgyou control the speed of it but you basically have to go fast the whole time as to not hold up the ride. It was so much fun. The ski lift ride up to the top of the Athena run was picturesque. The area is surrounded by mountains and it was stunning. I found myself marveling in the beauty of it, Korea really is a beautiful country but that idea can get kind of lost when you live in a big city area. The trees had started to change so you could see some nice fall colours. The ride was awesome and a lot of fun. When we finally made it to the coaster we had to wait a bit to ride but it was so worth it. I screamed my whole way down (because what’s the point of a roller coaster if not to scream?) and genuinely enjoyed myself. Alice and I grabbed some cheese bokki and then made our way to our hotel room.

wpid-img_20151003_145340.jpgThe room situations on the tour trips can be a bit upsetting at times. You all pay the same amount and some people get the better end of the bargain. In this case, Alice and I did. We were the first to our hotel room that we’d share with 6 other people and we claimed the only actual bed in the room. Pension style rooms usually have one or two beds and then a heated floor sleeping area with mats and pillows. We had 7 girls in the room and 1 guy who was dating one of the girls. Alice and I took the bed, exclaiming how happy we were about having a bed instead of sleeping on the floor, the couple took the couches (pushinwpid-img_20151003_182730.jpgg them together to make a makeshift bed), and the remaining girls (who were very lovely and friendly) all had to sleep on the floor mats. It kind of sucked but all in all our room was really nice. We had a full kitchen and a dining set area, and a TV. The sleeping area Alice and I had also had an ensuite bathroom. It was comfortable enough for us, but I felt bad for the girls who had to sleep on the floor. After we all got settled in, ate some food, and got ready, we were off to the concert! The concert was held in the parking area of the resort so the ride was super short, but it was freezing out. I put on the thickest shirt but even that wasn’t enough. I hugged myself for the majority of the concert and also danced around a lot.
Now K-Pop concerts are weird. That’s my impression of them at least. We all had assigned seats and we were in chairwpid-img_20151003_191942.jpgs and we weren’t allowed to get up and dance around like I would at any other concert. I still danced in my seat, stood up to get a few pictures, but the environment wasn’t as enjoyable as it could have been. I would have been happy to dance the night away and it would have kept me a lot warmer too. The lineup for the concert was pretty awesome and I felt pretty lucky that I got to see some big K-pop artists. I was most happy about EXID (who performed first!), Shinee (which made Hannah very jealous), VIXX (my friend Vava loves them!), BTS, GOT7, and CLC. They had a lot of other performers too and even a local band play (they wpid-20151003_192648.jpgwere also good!). It was a good night overall and we ended it with some delicious pork bbq in the small town of Gohan. We were overcharged for our taxi as we headed back to the resort (he doubled the fare because he didn’t want to go up the mountain) and then we all fell into bed.

Sunday morning was a semi-early start, Alice and I stayed in bed until 10 and then rushed to get out of the room and meet everyone at the bus at 10:30. We made our way to our first stop: clay pigeon shooting. At least, that’s how they advertised it. We really shot some bright orange discs. This was my first time shooting a gun and it was a HUGE shotgun. My arms hurt from the kickback for days afterwards BUT I did hit the target twice. It was really fun, kind of expensive if you wanted more rounds ($10 for 5 more) but it was a fun experience! Everyone was really safe and the guys that worked there were patient and helpful with us. I had a pretty good experience, my guy wasn’t very vocalwpid-img_20151004_132545.jpg but I did get the target twice so I think that I was pretty successful.

Our next stop was the nearby Gosu Caves. We grabbed some lunch (donkatsu and pajeon) and then headed into the cave. I had a horrible time, I felt super anxious, there was a TON of climbing stairs and crawling through narrow spaces, I was having a hard
time. One of my new trip buddies, Nadine, and I left the group early and headed back to poke around the shops in the area. I thought the cave was interesting but there was too much climbing and it made me feel too nervous being inside of it. I’m not usually claustrophobic but it sure felt like it then.

After our cave trip we made our way back to the bus and back to Busan. Again the trip was about 5 hours, but we were back around 7pm. I fell asleep a few times on the bus, thankfully, so it went pretty quick.

All in all, I had a fun time on the trip with Enjoy Korea. There were some pretty annoying girls who thought they were entitled to perks not all of us were, but they were besides the point. It was a fun, random weekend and I’m glad I got to do a bunch of stuff I hadn’t before. Enjoy Korea is a good tour group and they try to keep to their schedules and entertain people in ways Wink didn’t. We watched a bunch of 30 Rock episodes and Drunk History on the bus trip so it made the time go by pretty fast. If I was staying in Korea I’d probably go on more trips with Enjoy Korea. And honestly if I do come back to Korea, I’ll probably look for a job in Gangwon-do. The area is beautiful and I had previously went up there for the ice fishing festival. It was just a nice wpid-img_20151004_104605.jpgbeautiful countryside place…

I’ve got a few more posts coming up soon, including my reflections and some other stuff! Look forward to it! 🙂

Until next time,
B.

Ps. Ailee is amazingly talented and rocked her whole set from a chair with her broken leg…Shinee were cute and gave us a great finale.

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