Monday, September 23, 2013

The Reed Family Comes to Korea!

My darling family arrived to Korea on Wednesday! Late at night. Much past my bedtime. But I waited and waited for them outside with my little sign welcoming them to Korea!

On Thursday, I forced them to come see all my kiddos at school. If you don't already know, or maybe you forgot, I teach a half an hour class of 30 5 year olds (American age, 3 or 4), then two half hour classes of 30 7 year olds (American 5 or 6). Then I have a short 20 minute break and then go teach an hour and a half of 20 of those 7 year olds. After that, I teach 2 hours of 3rd graders. I think my mom had a good time. I think my sister also had a good time (I forced her to sing some songs she knew with us) and my 3rd graders fell in LOVE with her...not just one of the boys, but one of the girls. The next day they were bragging about how they "snuck" pictures of "Jessica Teacher" when she was on the elevator. She totally knew. You're not that sneaky, guys. Anyways, we did some fun songs, made some pirate hats and eye patches (totally related to the theme) and hand some nice question and answer sessions from my 3rd graders. For dinner I took my family to Korean BBQ. They greatly enjoyed it and the drinks were on the house because I frequent that place waaaay too much. Yikes. Exposed my parents to soju. Quite a joy as well.

Friday-Sunday you can read about in the previous blog.

Monday night I went and met up with my family with Brigitte. I believe Brigitte took them to see the fish market and a temple during the day. When I got off work I met up with them and we went to dinner then ventured to Namsan Tower which is a mini Space Needle. We took the gondola to the top and when we got there the actual tower was closed :( But the view of the city was absolutely gorgeous! And there's this thing where couples come up there and place a lock on the fence somewhere. You're supposed to come back years later and find it and see if your wishes and hopes and dreams have come true or something like that. Thousands of locks. So crazy! We ventured back down and back home for the night.

Tuesday my family did the city bus tour. They got to see more things in Korea than I have probably seen. They went to the war memorial and saw the palace and such. Not really sure. When I got off work, I went and met up with them for dinner. Then we just relaxed in the hotel room and watched  a movie. Nice family bonding time.

Wednesday we got up and I wanted to do some cafes like a cat cafe, dog cafe, sheep cafe, and a cafe where the fish eat your feet. So we ventured to Myeongdong and found that the cat cafe was closed so we went to the fish eat your feet cafe. We did that and that was the most bizarre thing I have ever done. The whole thing was only 20 minutes but I couldn't keep my feet in for more than 5 seconds for the first 10 minutes. The feeling was so weird. It tickled SO bad. I was literally screaming. Someone probably thought I was dying. Once I kind of got used to the feeling, it just felt like my feet had fallen asleep and they just nom nom away on your dead skin. After that, we went back to Insadong, which my family had briefly seen the day before and wanted to see again. We did a little souvenir shopping there and then tried the cat cafe again. Still closed. So we went back to Gangnam and found one a block from their hotel. We only had a short time because we had to go catch a baseball game, but we got to see the little kitties in the cafe. For my sister, probably not that big a deal since she saw hers like a week ago, but for me and especially Brig, we were like, whoa KITTIES!

Then we went to a Korean baseball game. Maybe you've read my other blog about Korean baseball, but going to a game is NOTHING like what you experience in America. Cheerleaders, loud's like what you'd expect at a college football game. But what was cute was that the cheerleaders were wearing mini Hanbok (traditional Korean clothes) for the first few innings. I thought it was adorable, but then naturally as the innings went on, they had many a wardrobe change.

To end the night, Brigitte and I took my sister to one of my favorite bars, Bunker. There were very few people there because of Chuseok, but we still had a good time! We played some Jenga and this one game where you stick some sticks in the side of this barrel and when the head pops out you lose. Fun times indeed!

Thursday was actual Chuseok and for this day, we headed to the Han River. We wandered for a while trying to find the bike rental place. We finally found it but then decided to go on a boat tour. Found out when we got on the boat that it was more a fun tour type thing for kids, not so much a river tour. But we got to see the city from the river and some adorable kids and some creepy mascot things. When we got off the boat, we found the bike rental place and rode down the river the other direction. Jess and I tried out a tandem...not that easy, not that easy. REALLY hard actually, until you get the hang of it. We probably almost crashed like 5 times.

Friday was Everland day! Everland is a theme park in Korea. We heard that during Chuseok, there would be significantly less people there so we thought we'd try it out. There was also a foreigner discount so instead of paying 45 bucks, we only paid 25. We rode a GIANT viking ship. Biggest one I've ever seen, and highest I've ever seen one go. That was fun. Then we did a upside downy roller coaster, that was fun, waited for probably half an hour for that one (not bad). Then we thought we'd go to Safari Land which is what all my kids RAVE about. It's like THE reason to go to Everland, apparently. However the line for that was like 2 hours long, so we passed on that one. We waited like half an hour for a water rafty type ride. Typical Korea, they have tarps to cover you and they squeegee off the seats. Pretty fun. My mom got drenched (only one). Then we hit the animal section. Saw some animals in very confined spaces when they should have much more room than they had. A little depressing and made me glad we didn't go on the safari because that may have been even more depressing. Last was the T Express. Hugest and most bestest roller coaster of my life. Although we waited in line for an hour and a half, it was worth the wait because it was epicly awesome.  We decided to call it a day after that because we're getting too old for all this waiting around.

Saturday we had a laid back day. My daddy made eggs and bacon for breakfast! SO YUMMY. Then we went to the Suwon Fortress. Our original plan was to ride the train up to the top, but that was sold out until 4 and it was noon so we voted against that and just wandered around until 130 when we got to do some arrow shooting. This was my second time doing and I actually hit the board for half of them, as opposed to last time when I hit the board zero times. When we got home, we walked around cafe street a bit, then headed to Brigittes home area called Suji. We had some dinner and soju there, played a little darts, and then my family experienced Koreas Norebang. This is karaoke, but in a small room with just the people you're with. Pretty awesome because you can choose any songs you want and you're usually quite comfortable with said people since they're generally your friends.

Sunday morning dark and early, I walked my parents to the bus stop, said byebye, and sent them on their long journey home.

Overall, I had a great time with them and saw a lot of touristy things I probably wouldn't have done if they hadn't visited and I do believe they had a splendid time as well.

They made it. 

First Korean BBQ

I tried was ok. 

Photo Bomb


Namsan Tower

Locks for days

fish eating my dead skin. So tickly. 

Cat Cafe

My new kitten friend. 

Korean Baseball

Balloon headband. All day son, all day. Ticket to the tour boat. No joke. 

Giant viking ship

Mom and dad shoot some arrows. 

So does Jess

Norebang, Korean Karaoke. 

Jeju-do Vacay

Our Jeju Journey began on Friday. Our flight was leaving from Gimpo at 12:20. So we thought we'd catch the shuttle around 9. We figured an hour on the shuttle, and we would then be approximately 2 hours early to this airport. So we get to the shuttle stop, and the bus doesn't come for like 45 minutes. Then we get stuck in LOTS of traffic. Who knew there would be so much traffic on a random Friday mid-morning. But there was. Brigitte and I start figuring out what we're going to do if we miss our flight because it's now about 11:30 and we're still sitting in traffic (quite a stressful time for my poor mother). Fortunately, we arrive at the airport, run to check in, and the guy says to be to the terminal before 11:50. I look at my watch only to see that it's 11:45 and we haven't gone through security yet. The good news about Gimpo airport is that it's tiny. We get through security in about 5 minutes and run to the terminal. TIME TO SPARE. My family had time to pee. We filled up our water bottles. Psh, what were we even worried about. Brigitte and I maintain that that's what we intended to happen the whole time!

We get to Jeju after a short 1 hour flight and find our hotel. Unload, take a breather, and then decide to walk towards the water. We could see it, but it was probably a kilometer away. We got to the bottom of the hill and saw a nice little place that said "coffee and beer" and decided it's in our best interest to stop on in there. The guy there was REALLY nice and spoke wonderful English. He recommended us some places to eat and we made our way to the beach. After a quick dip for my parents and sister, and some feet dipping for me and Brig, we decided to make a journey to find some kind of food. The struggle here was that my mom is vegetarian (although she still eats fish) and I prefer not to eat fish. Fortunately we struck gold and found a place that served both fish and pork. Come to find out half way through our meal that the pork is the black haired pork, famous on Jeju, and to prove that you're eating the pork, they leave the hairs in the meat that is cooking on the grill in front of you. Brigitte's mental breakdown about the hair alerted the cooking attendant to ever so gracefully cut the hairy part off. The meat itself was quite good. Glad I tried a Jeju delicacy. We then stalked up on groceries from the local 7-11 and headed back to the hotel for some rest. 

This might be a good place to add that we stayed in a typical pension, where we sleep on the floor. No beds. This was quite surprising and alarming to my parents. 

The next day (Saturday) we arranged to pay a flat fee for a taxi to take us around the island all day to all the places we wanted to see. 

Our first stop was the "popular" beach, whose name I forget. It was pouring all morning but stopped just in time for us to get to the beach! YAY! We didn't swim, but we walked around a bit and enjoyed the sights. 

Our next couple of stops were two of the waterfalls on Jeju. both were very pretty. The second one is the only waterfall that flows fresh water into salt water. Pretty cool I guess. Very pretty to see a waterfall on the edge of the ocean. 

Then we headed to a couple of craters. The first was a huge "hike" where we climbed up a TON of stairs (I think my sister counted 707 or something like that). The view from the top was gorgeous. Out one side, you could see the ocean, out the other side was the city and the tallest mountain in Korea, Hallasan. The second crater was significantly less cool. It was really just a big hole in the ground. 

Our last stop was to the famous (or if you're my mother, infamous) Jeju Love Land (don't worry mom, I won't post the pictures). But to paint a picture of what this place includes, imagine a park, filled with phallic things.  This park originally started as university art project. Then it gradually got added to and became a nice place for couples to visit to (according to the guidebook) "get inspiration" or to "become educated." Side note: Jeju is a pretty big honeymoon destination for Koreans because it's called the "Hawaii of Korea" as it has nice beaches and nice weather. Anyways, my parents opted out of this visit but Brigitte and Jessica and I had a grand old time walking around the park. I'm pretty sure Korea is the only place in the world to make a park of such things. 

The last day we had in Jeju we decided to go to Hallim Park which is a park with a little bit of everything Jeju has to offer. Our first stop was the lava tubes, which is pretty much what it sounds like, a tube made from lava. There were 3 tunnels so that was pretty neato. Then we walked through the botanical garden and the bird sanctuary. Last we stopped by the mini folk village, got some lunch, and then headed to the beach. We ended the day just hanging out on the beach and swimming. We had to head up to the hotel around 3 to begin the process of catching our flight home, which was flawless (totally on time!). 

That was our greater Jeju experience. Quite fun. I'm glad I was able to go in my time here!

First Beach

First waterfall

Second waterfall that flows into salt water. 

First crater. So green!

The inside/view beyond the crater

View from the other side...Hallasan in the background

Crater number 2. That light green stuff down there is the bottom. Significantly less cool. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Pirate's Life

This weekend, Sara and I embarked on a pirate journey. We left Seoul on Friday night at about 11 pm and arrived at port at 5 am. This meant sleeping on the bus. Not easy. AND it meant we were forced to stay on the bus and sleep, or sleep outside when we arrived at port at 5 am until we could get on the boat at 9 am. Rough night, all in all about 3 hours of sleep. Then we got on the boat and took off on our pirating adventure. I'll give you some highlights from the trip, but not all the details because some things, well, ya just don't need to know about.

1. We had a makgeolli boat come and meet us and deliver us like 60 something bottles of makgeolli for the boat. That was pretty fantastic.
2. We went to an island that had dinosaurs on it at one point and you could see the dino tracks in the rocks.
3. We sailed around and jumped in the water.
4. We docked for the night on a different island than normal because of the typhoon headed towards Japan. It was making the waters a bit rougher than expected.
5. We went to try and explore and find another beach, failed. Whatever, still an adventure.
6. We bbqed delicious meat for dinner with our new friends.
7. There were games played that were quite enjoyable and help you get to know new people really quickly.
8. There were a couple rap battles.....although it was a bit of a fail on a couple of the battlers parts. But still humorous and entertaining none the less.
9. The next day we set sail again.
10. Swam some more
11. I got a LOT of sun this weekend.

I think this weekend was potentially the most fun I've had on a weekend in Korea. It's hard to say, because I've had many fantastic weekends. But this was definitely a cherry topper to the summer and to my trip in Korea. I met many new people, bonded with some old friends, and just had an overall grand ole time!

This is my darling friend, Sara, and her cat pillow. 

We had the option of sleeping in a tent on the cement, or on the boat, we went for boat. 

New friendsies. 

Yummy bbq dinner and soju. 

The Koreana

Dino print!