Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas Cheer

So as I've said previously (I'm pretty sure I said it in my blog and not just to some of you here and there) I haven't found myself in much of the holiday spirits when it came to Halloween and Thanksgiving. I was beginning to fear the same would be true of Christmas since I'll be in the Philippines and all that. Then one Sunday, I made my way to emart, just to pick up some frosted flakes and yogurt, and I stumbled upon a 7 dollar 90 cm Christmas tree! I found this to be very strange since you can buy like a 8 inch p.o.s. 4 stand cardboard tree for like 15 bucks and a huge one is like 80. Even small inbetween ones run for like 30. This one I found was 7! So naturally, I bought it, bought a few ornaments, and went on my merry (Christmas) way. As soon as I got home, I decided I needed to set it up at that very moment, while listening to Christmas music. Very joyous things. And pretty much from that moment on, everything remotely Christmasy makes me beyond giddy.

Example 1: writing lesson plans for the week before Christmas break. Generally, writing lesson plans sucks. This time, it was extremely fun because everything, for all 4 of my classes, is Christmas related! HOORAY!

Example 2: The malls and plazas are decorated to the max with lights and awesomeness.

Example 3: The classrooms around school have been decorating slowly but surely and today, when there were very few people in the school and many of the hall lights were off, all the classrooms had a little string of lights that were glowing and flashing either on a tree, or decoration or something the kids made. It made me go awwwww.

Example 4: Finally wearing my Christmas sweater today.

Example 5: It snowed like 3 inches today! There's nothing like the first snow. There's also nothing like seeing 2 of my coworkers, who've never seen snow before, light up (and even cry) when seeing and experiencing their first snow. They got to experience their first snowball fight. They "got to" help the bus drivers shovel the driveway (yes, they really really wanted to help them shovel). And they got to slip and fall and experience the difficulty than can be walking in the snow.

Hooray for christmas spirit! I'd show you my tree but it's not exactly ready to be placed on the internet quite yet.

Soccer Game

My co-worker, Ellen, and I had the opportunity to go to a soccer game a couple weekends ago. It was this special expat game where we only had to pay 12,000 won to get in and with the ticket, we got a hot dog and beer. I was REALLY excited for the hot dog. Unfortunately, it was a cold dog. However there was a very large container of beer to go with it, so I was alright with what I was given.

There were very  many exciting things about this soccer game that I would like to share with you.
1. It was at the world cup stadium. This place was HUGE. Seoul hosted the world cup in 2002 where Brazil beat Germany and South Korea came in 4th to Turkey.
2. There are cheerleaders for soccer. From what I've been told, every sport in Korea has cheerleaders. Soccer is certainly one of them. That was cool and kinda weird.
3. The fans were REALLY excited about this game, as I'm sure they are about every game. That was cool to see because you usually see that in most countries, but I wasn't sure what to expect of Korea.
4. I heard something about the number 1 team playing the number 2 team. I'm not sure if our team was one or two, and I'm not sure if this was the first or last game of the season. I'm also not really even sure where the other team was from. I'm pretty sure they were from Seoul as well, but then again, I never really know what's going on when it comes to things in Korea.
5. They had these really cool fan things that you hit instead of hitting your hands and it makes a sound that sounds like a clap but its really just paper hitting against itself. Quite convenient if you're wearing gloves because it's so cold out. Or if you only have one hand because you can just hit it on the chair in front of you.

The Fans

And their flags

Anyways, the soccer game was fun and not too freezing! Good little experiment and I got to see a new touristy type thing!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thanksgiving in Korea

To sum up Thanksgiving in Korea very quickly; I ate apple pie.

I wanted to eat Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday like we would back home with my coworkers so I would not be alone, and still be enjoying a meal with people, even though the prospects for Thanksgiving dinner itself on Thursday in Seoul were pretty slim. Brigitte and I had plans to have Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday with some new friends in Itaewon, but I still  needed to do something on Thursday. One of my coworkers talked to a fairly Americanized chain called Gekos and even though their English was very broken, they said something about a Thanksgiving Special. We thought we'd take our chances and go there to get some sort of Thanksgivingy dinner, and if not, we'd at least have dinner together.

When we got there there, we asked the waitress and she said " pie" and we said "Ok, we'll take the whole pie" even though there were only 2 of us sitting there at the time. She was very very confused and really didn't want to give us the whole pie. Later she came back and said "Only have 3 pie" so we said "Ok, we will take the 3 pieces of pie." We ordered our dinner, had our drinks and apple pie, and I, for one, was just as STUFFED as I would have been on Thanksgiving, even without the turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes.

The even more unfortunate news was news I received at 6 am from Brigitte Saturday morning "I definitely have food poisoning." Well. No Thanksgiving dinner for us. Oh well.

Oh and I got to skype my family on Friday morning (which was actually Thanksgiving day back home) so overall, all was well.

Surprisingly I didn't feel like I missed out too much. As I was just telling Ali today, it often seems like dream, like the holidays aren't really happening. It's kind of like being home is what makes the holiday, and since I'm not there, it doesn't really matter. I see all that as a good thing, too, because it would kinda suck to be sitting around in Korea missing home and not having a good time, ya know?

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Burned Eyeball and Other Stories

Today is the day I got burned in the eyeball. Korean barbecue is delicious, don't get me wrong. However it can splatter sometimes. Today we actually had a fairly unsplattery barbecue, until one flew into my eyeball. It hurt real bad. Fortunately, I'm not blind or anything now, so we can move on with other stories : )

As I've settled more into a routine, I've only done a few touristy things lately. One of those things includes the Seoul Lantern Festival. There is a small river (almost more like a creek) that runs through downtown Seoul. People set up big glowing lanterns on this creek on platforms and tons of people come and wait in a very long line to walk along the river and look at them. When we went, we decided it was in our best interest to not wait in the super long line, but walk almost as close to the lanterns above on the street level and get a sort of birds eye view. It was pretty cool, but I was much less impressed than I was with the one we went to in Jinju. Getting there was quite an adventure. I was told by Ben, my head teacher, that I should take the 8100 bus until after the big tunnel. First I had to find Brigitte in her phonelessness (I assumed she would come near my house because that's where the bus picked us up when really she took my words to mean the subway station which I quickly realized and hurried to meet her there). Then we walked back to my house, waited for the bus, and got on the bus. By the time we were riding the bus, it was dark out. This means I never really knew if we were in a tunnel or not. Our other main Seoul knowledge person, whom we were meeting up with, had a dead phone. Finally we contacted her through her boyfriend and decided to get off the bus after the river, assuming that would mean we were fairly close. We got in a cab and quickly realized that we were not as close as we thought, and SOMEHOW communicated to the taxi driver that we wanted to go to eljio somethin yuk number 1. He understood and took us there, and we eventually found our other friends. Happy day!

My other most recent adventure was to the Suwon Fortress called Hwaseong Fortress. We walked around half of it (it's VERY long) before it got dark after getting kicked out of a cab for sneaking in 5 people instead of only 4 (the cabby didn't even notice until like 15 minutes into the cab drive, then scolded us a LOT for tricking him). The coolest part was the archery lessons they have set up. Every half hour you can pay 2,000 won for 10 arrows and they will teach you how to shoot them.  Naturally we had no idea what he was saying, but it was still fun! Overall the fortress was pretty cool and I'd probably go back again to do the other half.

As far as an update on my normal, everyday life goes; I took a trip to the Suwon Immigration office and got my ARC stuff rolling which means either this week or next week I'll finally have my ARC which means I can get a bank card and a phone and have a normal life! HOORAY! This trip was pretty intense because you get there at 830, before it's open, and wait in a line of people, then old ladies push you to get their number. The funny thing was, no one was paying attention to the lady who was dinging numbers so she got to 12 and I was ready to be helped! The sad part was she wouldn't take my papers because my health check wasn't in an envelope. Good thing my boss was just a phone call away to save the day. The craziest part of this trip, though, was the old man (Chinese maybe?) who was SO pissed they skipped his number he started going off on this poor worker lady. Everyone in the immigration office went silent as hes stomping his foot and waving his came and screaming and this woman. Finally a male worker came over, pulled him to the side, and took the rest of the beating. That's one of the crazy things about Korean culture (and apparently other Asian cultures) is that you have to take a verbal beating from your elders, you're not allowed to tell them to be quiet or say they're rude or even walk away, even if they're completely out of line. One time Brigitte saw a young man get pretty much beat up by an old man with his umbrella on the subway because he spilled something (which admittedly is a pretty big no-no, but really?). Brigitte also sat through a verbally intense conversation at work where the mom of some kid was going off on another kid for an hour! Must be rough.

In other news, I have a new bed situation. I traveled an hour and a half to Itaewon to get a memory foam mattress pad, comforter, 2 memory foam pillows, sheets and duvet covers for 50,000 won (that's a really good deal!) The journey back was quite intense, however. I spent 2 hours on the subway, carried an extremely heavy mattress pad in the rain, but made a few friends along the way. One was a younger Korean man who was very interested in helping me carry it through two transfers (how nice of him, really) and wanted my name to add me on FB (he can't find me cuz that hasn't happened). The next 2 were older gentlemen that were like "Ummmm, what do you have in there??" keeping in mind it was a 2 foot in diameter, 4 feet wide, HEAVY mattress pad rolled up in a sheet. My response: "Umm, a mattress." The last was a younger Korean man right before I was going to go outside. He carried my mattress pad, and then waited in the taxi line with me with his friend holding it up off the ground because if they set it down it would get wet WHILE holding an umbrella for me and him! What nice nice people we find in Korea. All that to say I finally feel like my apartment is becoming my home. I bought the much needed shelf, decorated it, filled it, rearranged my room, I have a bed I love, a space heater, and finally found something sticky enough to keep pictures on the wall. Since my apartment has changed so much, I'm going to put up a new picture! Yay!
 New view from the door.

Same same but new bed parts! Like the comforter and pillows. Oh and don't forget a space heater.

Aw my decorations are so cute. Today I told my second graders that I built a shelf and decorated my wall and they were like "Melissa Teacha? Why? Do you like it?" and I was like "Yes, it's fun." They were in shock!

Friday, November 2, 2012

New School, New Home

Home update first:

Last Sunday I finally moved into my permanent apartment! Although I'm still living in a small studio apartment, it is a mansion compared to my temporary living, not to mention, I live here alone so its really not like I need a whole lot of space. I live in an area called Cafe Street which is awesome because it is filled with shops, restaurants of many different food genres, bars, and (you guessed it) cafes! This is a great area to live in and I couldn't be more excited about my location. The downside to this apartment is the storage space. There is not much room at all and if you know how many clothes I brought to Korea, not to mention the ones I've gained since being here, you will understand my struggle. See the picture below to get a better idea.

I am currently in the process of making this studio into my home, a place I want to come home to. And if you know me at all, you know this starts with my bed! The beds in Korea are uncomfortably firm. My first purchase was a comforter to put UNDER my fitted sheet to act as some sort of buffer between me and my very very firm mattress. After searching craigslist and a trip on Sunday that will take approximately 3 hours total on the subway, I will have acquired a mattress topper, pillow, comforter, and sheets from a kind couple for only 50,000 W (please imagine me carrying all of these things back on the subway). I'm so excited to have a bed that I truly adore because that is one of the most important things to me. You might be thinking to yourself that 50,000 won is kind of a lot for those things, right? If I have learned anything in my recent search for bedtime comfort, it is that a set of sheets alone in this country go for about 60,000. And if you want to find some cheap plastic drawers that you could get at Target for 10-15 dollars, it's not possible. Try 30 ish dollars in Korea. INSANE. Hence the reason I have yet to buy the plastic drawers to put in my little closet. It's probably cheaper to buy a real dresser and keep it outside of my closet. On that note, I'm also trying to figure out how to arrange my room. My friends gave me a few suggestions but I think my biggest issue is with this little round pink table that currently holds my computer and internet box and nothing more. I need a bigger square table and then I will feel at ease with the space it takes up as opposed to this round table that seemingly takes up a lot of space, yet does not hold much.

As far as decorating is concerned, I'm having serious issues with sticking my pictures on my wall. Round one was scotch tape versus wall paper. Wall paper won as almost all of my 30-or-so pictures fell off the wall in the middle of the night. Round two was double sided thick stick foamish stuff versus wallpaper. We're gunna call that one a tie because during the night, only 6 pictures fell off and while I was gone at school, only 3 more fell off. However this is not going to cut it, I need more strength in my wall stick ons. As for cleaning my apartment, I was introduced to a cool sponge thing but it did not suit my cleaning needs like a few Clorox wipes would do.

All of these new-found Korean quirks aside, I was very blessed to have been left with many things in my apartment, saving me much strife. These things included 2 comforters, 3 pillow cases, 1 pillow, a fitted sheet, some frozen meat, jam, spaghetti, ramen, dishes, a pot, a pan, a water filter, a table, a couple garbage cans, some wine glasses, kleenex, toilet paper, shampoo (even though I already have 3 large bottles), salt, pepper, olive oil, sugar, a cutting board, many cooking utensils, dish soap, laundry detergent and fabric softener! Feelin pretty good.

The bed and unpacked bag. The view from my door.

My bathroom. Love the toilet seat that doesn't fit. 

A big shower though!

Small room with a washer.

This picture doesn't do the Cafe Street justice. 

This is all the closet space I have. Hmmm...I see a problem. 

School Update:

My coworkers are fantastic. We're currently working on getting ourselves to the Phillipines for Christmas vacation. The goals were as follows: 1) be warm. 2) very few to no children around. 3) beach. 4) cocktails. I think our goals have been accomplished although a few of us are still in the tedious process of making our flight reservations (this is very difficult when you don't have your ARC or a bank card and their website makes it near impossible to book online).

The school itself is fantastic as well as the kids. They are adorable and do the craziest things that mostly make me laugh but sometimes make me wanna say "really bro?" or "come at me bro!" or "seriously???" or "do that again, I dare you" or "get off the ground, he barely touched you, I saw it!" I often have to remind myself that they're 7. This is how they act. That being said, there are still some things that they would NEVER get away with in the states and it drives me a liiiiiitle crazy, but what can I do, really? The thing is, those few kids that drive me absolutely insane for 50 minutes straight will come up to me while I'm not their teacher and give me a big hug and say in their adorable little voices "Helloooo Melissa Teachaaa!" And I'm like "HA! You don't hate me, you just like to make my life difficult while I'm supposed to be teaching you important things!" and give them a nice squeeze right back.

Today and tomorrow (yes I'm working on Saturday) is Mother's Day at the school. This means that half of the kids came in today with their moms and the other half come in tomorrow with their moms. The mom gets to sit and be apart of the kids class, which also means our boss has been stressed to the max for us to make a good impression on the moms (they do fund their child's education, after all). Talk about needing to have high energy! It was very interesting, however, to see how the kids are with their moms right there behind them. I think all of my co-teachers felt the same when we realized that all of a sudden, our kids that never say a single word during class knew the answer to everything, the ones that are usually crazy outa control were perfect little angles, and the kids who are usually the go to kid to get the answer you're looking for wouldn't say a single word even when you told them exactly what to say. Very interesting dynamics and I'm sure many more surprises tomorrow!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Today's Cultural Experience

I had the grand opportunity to go to the doctor today. Have no fear, it was just a health check which I needed in order to get my ARC. I was lucky enough to have a fully functioning Korean with me who knew the drill and knew exactly what I needed to do and when, although his English is not very good. Not to mention, this Korean is a bus driver for my school. On one of my first days at the school, I was informed that the bus drivers are much more than bus drivers; they pretty much do everything around the school, not to mention most of them have engineering degrees (go figure). To name a few things they do: drive buses, drive me to the doctor, clean around the school, paint the school, get the persimmons out of the tree with a broom, help me move my luggage from apartment A to apartment B, the list goes on.

Anyways, he drove me to the doctor, I had my chest x-rayed, my weight and height checked (which was actually pretty cool because it was this automatic thing that slides down until it hits you in the head and then it records it and goes back up), sight, sound, blood test, urine test, the usual. The hospital itself was actually buzzing with a lot of people, but they put people through so quick it's AMAZING! I waited for 20 minutes to get my x-ray (which was apparently a mistake because the first lady I talked to came running over and was like "they still haven't seen you????" and then talked to the lady and then came to me and was like "ok you're next"...she was a little put off by it). Once I had my x-ray, the rest of the things happened within a half an hour. I even talked to a doctor in that time, of course all he asked me was "do you have any diseases?" and "are you taking any medication?" Easy enough.

Tonight I had an ajumma (Korean for old can look it up and you get many different definitions about the age, but it is used to reference those ladies around this country that push and shove because they are old and have the right to do so) teach me how to eat ramen and rice. Keep in mind, I have had plenty of ramen on my own before, even ramen and rice (up on the mountain), but she felt like taking me under her wing. I also feel like she had a camera because I, ever so quietly, snuck into the kitchen and then 2 minutes later she popped up and was trying to feed me rice, some meat, and kimchi. I took the rice, brought my ramen packet, and then she proceeded to cook it for me. I was just gunna put some hot water in a bowl and bring it to my room. Not the case anymore... I was sitting at the kitchen table waiting for water to boil while she tells me something about Gangnam and that she has a house there or something. So the ramen is finally ready. She pours it into my bowl and I start to eat it with a spoon. She rushes over, grabs the spoon from my hand, shows me that I should hold the spoon with my right hand, use heavy metal chopsticks with my LEFT hand and pick up the dangling noodles and put them on the spoon, then she blows on it, and feeds it to me, like a small small child. I smile and nod as she's shoving noodles and rice into my mouth, quickly take the spoon and chopsticks from her, decide it is in my best interest to hold the spoon in my left hand pick up the danglers with my right hand. She finally leaves the room and I'm thanking God. Then she comes back, laughing, and hands me a fork. Thank you dear lady. Thank you.

Now let's talk about probably one of my most idiotic moments I think I've ever experienced in my life. I must preface this with the layout of my apartment. I get out of the elevator, walk down a corridor and there are glass doors. Most of the time the doors are open and I can walk in, go down the hallway and unlock my door to my room. However if the glass doors are closed, the landlord showed me how to wave my card outside in the first hallway and I'll hear a beepbeepbeep and the door will unlock. However he did not show me/tell me how to get out from the inside. Previously this had not been a problem because the door was always open when I wanted to leave. Last night, I decided to leave when the door was closed, so I walk up to it and push on it (the door says push, so that's not my blonde moment) and it doesn't move. I look around hoping nobody saw, and then in a fluster walk back to my room. I decide to give it another go thinking "maybe I didn't push hard enough" and "I should look around for something to wave my card by on the inside." I go up to the door again, first putting my shoes in their cubby, realizing that I might legitimately wait by the door till someone comes in or out, and then I push on the door really hard. It still doesn't move. I look for somewhere I can wave my card by. I see no where. I see a little black button next to the door that says "push" so I push it, hear a weird noise, but nothing happens (keeping in mind that many "automatic" doors in Korea have a little push button and then they slide open...pretty cool, also relevant). So I end up standing by my cubby, pretending to text, and within the minute someone comes in and I slip out. It's quite alright if you're laughing at me right now because I laughed out loud at myself multiple times throughout the night whenever I thought about it.

Today I go to leave for school, and the door is shut. I try the button again, I try waving my card by an internet box (that's right, I was trying it all), and fortunately within the minute someone walks in again and I sneak out, laughing at myself again because I STILL don't know how to get out of my apartment.

Here is the best part. I'm telling my head teacher this story today as we're sorting and filing things while I'm "training" and his suggestion was "maybe there is a button somewhere you push." My response: "There totally is! I tried it and it didn't work!" His response...."maybe you have to push the button AND the door...." FREAKING GENIUS! Now, I have yet to try it, but as soon as he suggested it, I thought about that clicky sound the door made when I pushed that button...I'm quite positive that was the door unlocking. Stupid me was waiting for the door to move all by itself like the automatic doors do when you push the "push" button.

Here is the even better part. Although nobody saw me in the flesh, CCTV has their eyes everywhere and I'm sure they, as well as whoever was watching on the supposed apartment cameras that my ajumma had her eyes on, got a KICK out of this stupid American girl pushing a locked door multiple times, then finding the push button, pushing it, and then JUST STANDING THERE. Freakin idiot.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Recent Happenings

Friday, Amanda and I hiked Bukhansan. This was a much shorter hike than Daecheongbong (only 3 hours) and at the top we could see all of Seoul. It was a much different view but really awesome as well. I think the coolest part about hiking around right now is the fact that all of the leaves are changing and it makes for a very pretty fall. You don’t get to see that in the city, but you get to see it when you get out and up just a little bit, it’s awesome.

This weekend I went to the floating lantern festival in Jinju with Brigitte, Scott, Michael, and Danielle. We walked around the fortress and saw lots of different lanterns not lit up during the day both in the fortress and around the town and in the water, but it was even cooler once it got dark out! Everything was glowing and bright. Unfortunately, my camera is not so great, so I will have to post pictures stolen from Brigitte when she gets done editing them and such. I have a few non-glowing though for your perusing enjoyment.

In other news, I am starting my job this week. Originally, I was supposed to move in next weekend and start next Monday. However they wanted to see if I was interested in starting early, and I am running out of things to do for now, so I said sure.  

Today I spent some time with my director and the principal (his wife) of my school, looking at 3 different housing options for my 2-3 week temporary living. The first was what they call a “love motel.” In the Korean culture, you live with your parents until you are married. Therefore, if you want to have sex with someone, you go to a love motel and rent it by the hour or night or whatever. Naturally, I was a little sketched out by this place, not to mention it had no fridge or laundry or anywhere to cook. Option number 2 was a bit further away, but a much nicer place with a loft bed and small area with a desk and some drawers behind it. It was the biggest of the 3. The third place is a 15-20 minute walk from where Brigitte and Michael live, it is by a small, cute area where there are a bunch of restaurants and coffee shops (including the Mexican restaurant that the DYB people frequent), and it is right in the area where the other teachers from my school live. Although it is approximately the size of a shoebox, I find that it is the most convenient location wise and I can handle shoebox living for 2 weeks. The owners/landlords are very nice, although I had a very hard time figuring out the payment situation. At first I thought he was telling me I needed to pay him 430,000, which I don’t even have, and then I found out that that was the rent but that my director already paid that, all I had to pay was the 20,000 key deposit that I get back in 3 weeks. Phew was that the most challenging conversation of my life. It literally took me texting my director to figure out what the heck my landlord was talking about.

The reason I’m in temporary housing is because I ease my way into the classroom with the teacher who is currently teaching the class. Since she is currently teaching the class, she is still also currently living in her apartment. In 2 weeks time, I will fully take over her class and her apartment. This is good for multiple reasons, including not being thrown into the classroom with no understanding of what was currently in place, seeing my apartment before I move in and telling the previous inhabitant what I want to keep and not keep, and hopefully gain an understanding of where I’m living.

I also got to visit my school for the first time today. I got a really quick run through so my head is still kind of twirling but essentially we teach from 1030-3 with an hour lunch break and then have planning time from 3-4 which is when the elementary kids show up. In the morning, we co-teach a Kinder class, or multiple, either 40 minutes or 2 hours depending on which class, and then from 4-6 we have our own class that is in the 1st through 4th grade range. Tomorrow I shadow the full day and get a better orientation of what is expected of me. 

Adventures with Amanda

Sunday Amanda and I decided to take a trip over to Sokcho and see Sorakson National Park. We got to Sokcho, walked along the beach then started making our way south a bit to try and find this beach called Sunrise Park where we could supposedly camp for free. Well we finally stopped (as it was getting dark) at an info center and then decided to keep walking. As we kept walking, we found that it was dark out, we were walking along an interstate, headed towards nothingness. We finally decided to catch a bus back to Sokcho and as we passed the place we got our info about where we thought we were, we realized that that was Sunrise park. We also decided there was nowhere to camp there.

After dealing with figuring out the bus fare for 10 minutes with the bus driver telling 2 old Korean women how much we owed him and them trying to communicate it to us, we finally ended up back in Sokcho where we made a decision to head up towards Sorakson so we could start our hike in the morning. We hopped on a bus going back the direction we just came from (since Sunrise Park is where the bus turns to go up the hill) and landed ourselves in a hostel (a very nice one at that)! We decided to hike Ulsanbawi in the morning first, which is known for having 808 metal stairs to get to the top of this giant rock and was about a 4km hike. We also had to hike 2km from our hostel just to get to the national park. That was a very fun hike with a very rewarding view of the ocean and Sokcho as well as the rest of the national park. There were lots of schools on the hike that day and we made many friends in the 12-16 year old girl category. Some were scared of speaking English to us and literally ran away, and others embraced it and like to practice and find out where we were from. When we got to the top, they were very excited to see us there and offered us many congratulations. They were adorable. We also saw this 4-5 year old girl climbing all those stairs and her mom was all about her daughter having her picture taken with us at the top (apparently we’re kinda famous?) so I snapped a picture of her too. This also gives you an idea of the age range of people climbing all of these stairs (4-70)! We hung out at the top for a little bit and some lady gave us some sort of delicious nut. I wasn't really sure how to eat it until she showed me, but it was quite yummy.
 If you push this boulder it will rock side to side. 
 808 stairs

 These are the ghetto old stairs people used to have to climb.

 general age range...4-80
The nuts I ate that were yummy.

We hiked back down (of course making more friends along the way) and then grabbed some food. Amanda was explaining to me that Koreans don’t like to be uncomfortable, and they will do what they can to make themselves comfortable. With this in mind, you must realize there were many places to get food and water along the way (and by food I mean you could have bibimbop made for you right there on the mountain). All we brought for our journey were 2 apples, a can of tuna, a box of crackers, a small can of peanuts, and some rice ball things.

After our lunch and 8km of hiking we had already, done, we started our 9 km trek up Deachongbong, one of the top 3 biggest in Korea (its actual standing is currently in debate by a few friends). As we hiked up, many people were coming down. Lots were giving us their greetings, others stared at Amanda and I because we were in tank tops and she was wearing shorts (it was HOT going up but they seemed to think we were freezing), and still other being like “You’re climbing Daechongbong? Today? Really?” YES! Yes we are. We were originally planning on camping somewhere along the way, for we had seen there were marked “shelters” in the guidebook and figured we could camp by one. Little did we know you need reservations to stay at said “shelters” (remember Koreans don’t like being uncomfortable). As we were approaching the second shelter, we were told that it was full and that we were going to have to camp outside. This would have been fine had Amanda brought a sleeping bag. Instead we had 1 blanket, 1 sleeping pad, 1 sleeping bag, and 1 tent. Her intent was to wear the blanket and wrap herself in the tent so as to avoid freezing to death. We finally arrived at the shelter and a couple had us sit at their table with them. We cracked open our tuna and everyone laughed their little heads off and then were like “what are you going to eat that with?” We had planned on scooping it with our crackers, but that was not ok with them so we used chopsticks. As we were enjoying our dinner of tuna and crackers, the first people we had met a little earlier on said there was room for us in the kitchen with them to sleep, so Amanda went and checked it out and decided that would be much better than sleeping outside. We left our elderly couple and headed inside where we found a model for traditional clothing and her husband, and a group of 5 men who were climbers, 2 of which were also monks. The one who spoke English the best informed us that he had lead a 2 pitch 12.d trad on sight that day (to the climbers out there, that is INSANE, to non climbers 2 pitches means 2 rope lengths, 12.d means 100 degree angle with nothing to hold onto, trad means you place your own gear which makes it harder and scarier, and on sight means he had never seen anyone climb it before). Not to mention they were all in their late 30’s or older, including one man who has been teaching climbing for 40 years who we aged at around 60. We sat down in the kitchen with them at 7, and had to pretend we were cooking until 9 when the kitchen was closed, otherwise people would kick us out and try and take over our space to cook instead of them. 9 rolled around, we all snuggled up, and the chorus of snoring began. Not only was it only 9 and we had just had coffee to warm us up, but there were 9 of us in an 8x12 kitchen. We were smooshed. All in all, I probably got 45 minutes of sleep. We woke up at about 430, ate breakfast of ramen and rice (thanks to our climbing friends) and started on to our summit by 530.

 This is where we slept.

 Sunrise. 1 hour of sleep.
 We did it!

Our original goal was to see the sunrise from the top of the mountain, but we realized about half an hour into our hike that that wasn't an option. We did still get to see the sunrise from an amazing point on our hike and then continue to the top. There was a time when I didn't think I was going to finish because of the amount of exhaustion and struggle I felt, fortunately, the last 1.2 km were probably the easiest. It was absolutely gorgeous from the top and I’m so glad we finished the summit (1708 m).

On our hike down, we made some Korean friends that helped us with the bus schedule to our next destination and taught us some Korean words (although I don’t really remember what they were). I have also decided that my first, or maybe second, big investment is going to be taking Korean because it is absolutely driving me crazy to stare blankly into someone’s eyes and have NO idea what they’re saying to me.

That night, we arrived in Andong with the intentions of going to a traditional village, the mask museum, the paper making museum, and the soju museum. We stayed in a jjimjilbang, which is essentially a spa where you can also sleep on the floor. There also happens to be a lot of nakedness there which was a little frightening, however I've never been to a spa in the US so I don’t have much to compare it to.
The traditional village was really awesome. I don’t really know how to explain it so I’ll post some pictures below.
 The rice patties
 Really cool village
 These people are picking peanuts...who knew they grew underground.
 There they are.
 Really cool cliff by this village.
 There's the village and rice patties

We didn't end up making it to the mask museum, mostly because we decided we saw plenty of masks in the traditional village, nor did we make it to the soju museum, mostly because we were exhausted. We did however make it to the paper making “museum” which actually just turned out to be a demonstration. I’m not sure if they often do these sorts of demonstrations but we joined up with a university class and they let us partake in the process as well. We got to make our own paper!
 First you scoop it.
Then you shake it.
Then you press it.
Then you dry it. and that's pretty much it. 

To sum it up; travelling with Amanda equates to quite an adventure, but it sure does make for a good story.