Sunday, November 30, 2008


The other day it started snowing for the first proper time here in Gurae. But the snow only reached half way down the mountains, the temperature was too warm on the ground and it started melting. Well this is what it looked like on the way to and at school.

Then yesterday (being Saturday), I decided I’d go to Yeongwol and explore it. I started out my apartment door and looked outside the landing window, as I usually do, I saw that it was raining, only ever so slightly. So up I went back to my apartment and grabbed my umbrella before making my way to the bus terminal. Walking up the slight incline I noticed that the mountain peaks were more blurred than usual for this amount of rain. That’s when I realized that it was still snowing up there and then turning to rain down here.. that didn’t last long though. Before I knew it the snow was making its way down to ground level and some flakes as big as a ten cent piece! Not only that but the wind had picked up too, sometimes it would blow fiercely sending snow right through my jeans (not being covered by the umbrella), and yet at other times it would blow soft and delicately until the snow drifted up under my umbrella.

I decided to revel in it for a while, since it is still such a novelty for me. I stood there in full force of the wind with the snow blowing directly at me. It was bloody freezing. When it would make contact with exposed flesh (in this case my face), it would instantly melt turn into an icy droplet. But where it didn’t make contact with skin it would just stay there in all its glory. The frosty wind forced me to close my eyes, and in that the snow would come to rest, unmelting, on my beard and lashes. This was one of the strangest feelings I’ve ever experienced! It took me the whole bus trip to Yeongwol to figure out why and how it felt so strange. The snow on my lashes felt a little like that feeling you get just before you sneeze, coupled with having butterflies in your stomach, the buzz of 10 energy drinks; all the while a cool chill running down your spine. I think that’s the closest I can describe it to.

Anyway, so I went to Yeongwol and met with a guy named Greg, an ex-lawyer from Sydney. We had a coffee at the warm coffee shop there and then he showed me around the city. It’s a lot smaller than Hongcheon, but still had the essentials! Then we split up and I did some shopping before catching the bus back home. The weather yesterday was all over the place, a mixture of rain, snow, heavy snow, and throughout the sun would come out and then the clouds come back and then a bright blue sky would appear! I went and sat by the river during one of the sunny periods for a while and then got on the bus.

Then today (Sunday) I was going to go and check out another town close to here called Taebaek (the Beef capital of Korea). Then I watched a movie and lost motivation to go out in the cold.. and decided to test the limits of my new oven. I cooked a traditional Sunday Roast from scratch and it didn’t let me down! The oven has a rotisserie inside which you skewer the chicken on and let it spin. I was unsure about how long to cook it, but after two hours the drumstick fell off onto the tray on its own accord.. it was perfectly succulent. It made a bit of a mess, but here’s the finished product!
I think I'll need to invest in some oven cleaner..
mmm Lunch!
I roasted the whole chook, potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic (for gravy), carrots, sweet potato, and onions.
It rocked! I put a little bowl of water in the oven while it was cooking and it kept the chicken moist and didn't dry out. Also I coated the vege's with Olive oil, salt, pepper, and parsley dressing.. they came out suprisingly sweet!
Ok thats all for November! I think the English teacher crew in Yeongwol might be having a Christmas do on the 25th, I can't wait!! :-D

Thursday, November 27, 2008

7. Mini-oven Debut..

There really hasn't been all that much happening since the trip to Donghae. I bought a new oven over the internet and it was here in 2days time!! Only they stored it at school and forgot to tell me about it. So tonight I sit and write this with the delectable smells of pizza drifting around my apartment, more about that later.

Recently someone said to me that it’s the time of year where the squirrels run around and store their nuts for winter, and Korean’s make Kimchi. As I was sitting waiting for the bus at Nokjeon one day I snapped this.. This was about half of one shops’ harvest for the winter. From here they strip away all the outer leaves and then scrutinizingly wash each one by hand and stack them up to dry. After that they marinade it in a spicy sauce type thing and stack them in huge barrels. They used to be stored underground but you can find them beside every house here now. ‘Tis the season to make Kimchi falalalala la la la la..

And, my brand spankin' new Mini-oven!

Now for tonight’s experiment.. the pizza! It came out pretty well actually. Cheese here is expensive as! I bought a 250gram pack of grated cheese for just under $5. Like I said before, it made the apartment smell awesome and it tasted alright.. but it was nothing to write home about. Well… actually that’s kinda what I’m.. ahh forget it! Pictures!!


Like I said, nothing all that worth mentioning.. Hoping to go to Yeongwol tomorrow night, that should be fun if I make it..

Night Night!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

6. Men.. cook? HA!

Ahhh what a day! Today we went to one of the teachers’ wedding! Well not one actually, since this is a really small school they don’t mind having couples come and teach. So the Special Ed and an Admin Officer got hitched today, it was great!

To start from the very beginning.. two of the other staff members came and picked me up from my apartment at 930am and then we were off to Donghae, which is a coastal town a little south of Sokcho (its on the East coast). I’ll put up the pictures tomorrow as I really couldn’t be bothered at the moment.

So off we went on the two hour drive to Donghae, which was quite scenic actually! (oh my good I’ve just noticed that my skin is drying out!). I got to know the others a lot better - there was the Chief of the Cafeteria, who I call Nuna (older sister) and also a Kindy teacher. They’re both of the ‘younger’ crowd at the school so we get on pretty well! The Kindy teacher told me that at first she thought me to be intimidating and that’s why she didn’t talk to be much.. but now it’s different and she can see me as a different person. So I reintroduced myself as this ‘different person’.

Anyway, we got there and it was held at the Hilton Donghae. The place was done up really nicely and the wedding was to start at noon. I asked how long the wedding goes for and I couldn’t believe the answer until I saw it happen. It all finished in just under 20mins. The whole ceremony!!! All the guests went up to the restaurant and had a fine meal and then it was time to go. We left at around 2pm, after eating from an awesome buffet. Since we were at the seaside the Vice Principle (whom I was hitching a ride home with) suggested that we go to have a look-see at the sea. The market was unbelievable! They had live fish everywhere and main strip where all the freshest stuff was caught and kept in these buckets full of cascading water. WARNING, one of the pictures is a little disturbing to the average sea-creature-loving person.. I’ll give ample warning when posting it though.

Well anyway, the deal is that you pick the fish, squid, sea-slugs, eel, stingray, or whatever you want and they put it in a bag for you and you take it to the end of the main strip where you ask them to clean it and fillet it into whatever cut you want. They usually do it for a dollar or two. One of the teachers I was with got seven squid and three or four sea-slugs. The fish monger told us that if we came the day before it’d be $10 for two squid, but since the ship came in today; we can now get seven squid for the same price. They cleaned it and cut it up into nice and small pieces and then put them into a sealed Styrofoam container for us to take back.

Then began the long journey home. When we were nearly there the vice principle invited me to his place to see what our ‘catch’ tasted like. I, of course, said yes. So off we went to his place right next to the school (all the teacher live RIGHT next to the school in government housing because its such a remote location) and we downed a lot of Soju. One thing I didn’t think about though was how Korean men were going to cook seafood. Over here the men know next to nothing about cooking and that’s how they like it. Well, I should have figured it out myself.. they weren’t. “But Shiv, if you cook it you lose the real taste of the cuttlefish”. So it was that we sat there for the next couple of hours getting drunk and eating raw squid and sea-slug. It wasn’t too bad though (I just hope I feel the same way in the morning).

And that bring me home by taxi pretty drunk at 630pm. Yaay. I made some chicken curry last night so I finished that off and came to listen to some music. Now though, its time for bed. Good night all, I hope you’re all taking care of yourselves over there!
EDIT: Ok pics are up..
Principle with the Beautiful bride:
Cake Cutting weapon of choice:
The Bride (Special Ed teacher) and the Groom (admin) whom I call Hyoung (meaning brother):
They had BUBBLES!! :D
Principle was put in place of the Priest..
One of three Mr Gwon's with his gorgeous daughter:
The Bride and Groom Bow to their parents and the others' parents:
My new life ambition: NEVER let him live this down!!!
Parents, but the Grooms father has passed away so another member of the family stepped in:
I found this so cute.. the way he was feeding her with chopsticks was adorable!! Oh this is at the Hilton buffet lunch!
Dried stingray anyone?
Everything is fresssshhh!
WARNING! If you fell in love with flipper, then DO NOT open this.. you wont like it.
So you pick out whatever you want from this wide selection at the waterfront:
And then you take it here to get cleaned up:
Expert precision ("Ink? What ink??"):
Preparing for another night out in the sea! See those lights, they're super bright and attract the squid up into the nets!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

5. Ice Ice Baby..

Well what an uneventful couple of days.. well not really but anyway. Currently I’ve been diagnosed with Tonsillitis, I took the day off work on Friday letting myself recover and dope up on prescription meds. Today was much of the same.. staying at home and watching movies and keeping warm. I’ve been invited to a wedding of two of the staff from Gurae Elementary tomorrow, it’s in a town called Donghae and it’ll be near the coast!

Ok so a few days ago (Wednesday) it suddenly turned really cold, the temp recorded that morning was -11 degrees Celsius! This is kind of what it looked like that day and on Thursday.

A couple of weeks ago the mountains turned from curvy to fuzzy. All the leaves fell off the trees (except the pine of course) and the outline sort of looked like this:
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This is the river that runs down our valley (can you see where the river is flowing and where it goes underneath the ice?):
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Here is our school pond and a ‘pot plant’ of the grass that grows in swamps..
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Then on Thursday we went to the doctors. Linda, my co-teacher who understands the most English has taken to caring for me through and through. She’s very kind and keeps on asking about my condition. I tell her to stop worrying about me and her reply is always that I’m so young (younger than her little brother) and that I’m in a foreign country and that I’m all alone so she has to worry! By the way, her brother is thirty years old. I guess she thinks of him as still being her little brother and thinking me even younger she gets worried. Anyway, getting to the point, she’s the fifth grade teacher (with three students) and her husband, Youngmin is the fourth grade teacher (with two students); it happened to be Youngmin’s birthday after we visited the doctors in Taebaek, we went out and had a seafood dinner! After dinner we did some shopping at the E-Mart there and then came back to my place for some tea and cake. They have two daughters but the younger one lives with her grandmother about two hours away because she needs 24hr attention (being so young). This one though, she is so addictively adorable!
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After that night I took the next day off work to recover and the vice principle and chief of administration came to my place to see if I’ll be ok. I’ve asked for two extra quilts and also a heater, and they came in and examined my sheets and stuff and I think they may have made a decision. Anyway they left and I was left alone to my warm room and movies (there’s a movie called The Visitor, check it out!). That brings me to today during which I also watched more movies, finished my book and went to the restaurant for lunch. For dinner though I attempted “Momma-style” chicken curry. Either I’m losing my memory, or it came out unexpectedly good! Almost like she used to make it, the only two differences were the rice (they don’t have long-grain here) and the Masala is slightly different too. But other than that, I thought it came out ok..
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Ok well thats all for today.. I should have some pics of the wedding tomorrow or Monday (unless something stops me from going..)! Bye!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

4. Hows the weather?

I write to you today in at least two layers of clothing. Including two pairs of socks, long johns, jeans, t-shirt, jacket, and beanie.. I'd have my snow gloves on too but then I wouldn't be able to type!
If you haven't got the point.. its bloody cold up here!!!! I was informed today that all my classes after lunch had been cancelled because we're going to a Book Festival, and another place where the kids would perform their Okorina. The temp at midday was -3 celcius!!!! So after lunch (which happened to be curried vege's for me) we were off to Yeongwol. The kids were great and I can't believe how musically talented they are over here! Knowing how to read sheet music is a common thing over here.. it still amazes me how some are able to look at the sheet music and be able to hum the melody! Anyway, we had a great time and then just before we came back here I asked to stop over and get some supplies for me. The teachers all laugh at my inability to 'cope' with the cold here.. I don't think I show it all that much though. I mean I've only been caught a few times sitting in the sun or in front of a heater after being outside.

Oh and because we're in a valley, the wind here never ceases!! It just keeps blowing, and its not uncommon to see mini twisters in the playground.. but still sooooo freezing! Inevitably, I've caught a cold here and am on heavy medication to soothe it (thanks Pixie!!!). Anyway, without further ado, may I introduce my new best friends:

Yes, what you see there are snow gloves, my brand new beanie (complete with pompom), and thermal undies.. I'd like to thank my momma, who signed up on eBay, for the long-johns! These things are unbelievable! It's the first time I've had to wear longjohns and they rock! They keep sooo warm!!!
Lastly, we played a game in Nokjeon with the first and second graders the other week. It's where the class sits in a circle and then I ask them to draw a head, and pass it on, then draw a body, pass it on, draw acccessories, pass it on etc. Then they have to tell me a story about it. Well one littly didn't want to play and was intent on drawing his own picture all throughout. So I let him be, and at the end of the class he came and presented me with this masterpiece:
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If your wondering, the words say something like "Yongwoluh Sonsengnim" meaning English Teacher. Ok, I'm going to go and sleep soon seeing as I really need to get over this cold, and I don't want my fingers to fall off.

Friday, November 7, 2008

3. The Kids at Gurae!


Well this morning I slept through my alarm, only because I put the stupid cell on silent the day before! So there was a mad rush to get into the shower and get to the bus stop before the bus left me behind and I'd have to walk in 5 degree weather for half an hour! Luckily I was there on time.. yaay! :-D The bus trip is another thing.. these kids come on the bus and say hello to the bus driver while boarding (Anyoung-ha-say-yo). The thing is though, the younger they are the more formal their bow is.. For example the sixth graders bow their heads, where as the kindergarteners fold their arms at their waist and bow almost until their heads are the same level as their knees! It’s the cutest thing to see, especially since the little ones are wearing these big snow jackets that almost envelope them all over! The bus driver seems to know everyone; he waves at the middle/high school students walking to school, he waves at random people on the street, waving if they’re younger and bowing if they’re older. This place has such a community feel to it, everyone seems to know everyone else and is on good terms, but I guess they have to be don’t they? I mean living in such a small village, each other is all they have!

Ok, so some of you wanted to know what types of things I teach here. Here are some ESL games that I play with the children during my lessons (all six of them, the other 13 are where I assist only).

Spelling Game:
~~Separate the classroom board into two or more equal parts by drawing rows and columns. The students will spell words in the rows. In the columns above write team names. (You can create more rows and columns depending on the number of teams.(tip- more than four rows is not advisable).
~~Give each team a board marker or chalk depending on the nature of your boards. Make an equal line up of first relay runners of each team.
~~The teacher then says a word s/he wants the students to spell. Each runner runs to the board and writes the beginning letter of the word. He/she runs back to team members and hands the chalk or board marker to the next runner in the team. Each team takes turns writing a single letter until the word is completely spelled.
~~The first team to finish spelling the word correctly scores a point or gets some form of praise.

Fly Swatter Game
· The teacher spreads of cards all over the classroom or sticks them on the walls.
· Then the teacher makes a sentence using one of the words.
· Students have to run to the word or card and hit it with their fly swatters.
· To get the necessary reward or praise, the students must say the word they hit with the fly swatters. For higher levels teachers can describe the word instead.
And there are heaps more but they take too long to explain and this entry would be too big after it.

Oh, another huge thing here is Singing. The students absolutely love to sing so the Education Board has taken advantage of that fact and now incorporate singing and chanting throughout their English learning course. As most of you know, I can’t sing. So I tell the teachers that first up so they can handle that part of it.. but the students get really excited, even the boys. Especially when we put them in teams and see which can “out-sing” the other! Here is an example of the stuff these poor kids have to memorize (remember this is in the curriculum!):

Yeah I know.. Some of them are ok, but others are reaalllly bad. But they do it all the same, we can’t really change the curriculum anyway. It fun too.. once I heard this kid say: “My mother is in the Chicken”.

Oh and for today’s little story as promised in the last entry. Simon is Korean born and raised in America, he loves to drink and go out and party. He’s been put in Hongcheon, though I think he’d prefer Seoul. But getting to the point, once when I was still living in Hongcheon we all went out to celebrate something and got a bit tipsy. Stumbling from the bar to the Naurebang (karaoke place), Simon turns to me and says: “Hey Sharad your Indian right?”
“Yep”, I said thinking that the next thing he’ll say is ‘I love butter chicken’.
“Oh ok”, he says and leaves it be.
“Why?”, I asked, wanting to know why he didn’t talk about Indian food like most people here do. But Simon remained silent for a couple of minutes with a distant look on his face, so I decided to let him be. Maybe he didn’t remember asking the question..

Just before we got to the Naurebang, Simon puts a firm hand on my shoulder, looks me deep in the eyes and starts singing. At first I was laughing, thinking its some sort of joke, but then I started to understand the words he was singing. He was singing, quite loudly: “Tum Paas Aaye Yoon Muskaraye Tumne Na Jaane Kya Sapne Dikhaye. Ab To Mera Dil Jaage Na Sota Hai Kya Karoon Haye Kuchh Kuchh Hota Hai..”

All of a sudden it hit me that the others couldn’t understand what he was saying but I could. I stood there in silent awe of this bizarre spectacle. Here I was in Hongcheon, a city that a good 99% of the worlds population had never heard of, and this Korean guy was singing me a love song in my own language! I was speechless, breath-taken even! It was the strangest feeling in the world, teaching only English for so long and learning Korean as I went along; but here I was listening to my mother tongue, it was amazing! I listened to him finish most of the song (he couldn’t remember the rest) and then gave him a big hug and went into the Naurebang to drink more beer. Just like a dream; the next morning I had forgotten all about it.
Ok, only three classes today. Only one of those are mine, which I'm secretly looking forward to. Its the Grade 1 and 2, they're always so curious and ask all kinds of questions. But they can't understand a thing that I say so we just play ABC Games which is hilarious!! Bye for now and keep smiling!!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

2. Randomidity

[Just some random ramblings of last night’s bout of homesickness. Yes before you ask, I did make a little clip of pictures I found on the net..]

I sit here tonight wallowing in homesickness. Someone once said "I'd rather be home forever than homesick for a day", and at times like these I can really understand what that person meant.

And thus my mind wonders to all the great truths of Australia. The sheer honesty of the land, the acceptance of all races and cultures (ok so I may be a little bit blinded at the moment), for the most part. The true Aussie Battler, and yet we all are the same there. Most of all though, we are free and that is what many take for granted. I remember thinking while I was in India that I needed to get back home because I hated seeing the poverty and the hardship of everyday life there, but then after a while I learned to turn away from it.. I chose not to see any of it because there just wasn't any point in feeling helpless. I made myself immune to the suffering and pain; though always I was eased with the knowledge that I held an Australian Passport. Fact such as these, the average Aussie doesn't need to think about, doesn't need to see, and most likely such thoughts will only cross our minds momentarily while watching National Geographic or a World Vision commercial.

Think back though, think back to all the great Australian words that were written so long ago. From those who still remember what it was like in the 'old days' of uncertainty. We were not always like this.. free to do as we please, how we please. Able to say any thing we want and go where we wanted. If not for those before us we would have been living totally different lives. Here is a song many Aussies will know, It’s called “I am Australian” and was written by a guy named Bruce Woodley of The Seekers:

As for today’s little story.. A couple of weeks ago in Nokjeon Elementary School, I was walking up the stairs with the sixth grade teacher (Mrs Ham), and being new to the whole “wearing slippers at school thing” coupled with the “assume all stairways are symmetrical” thing, I tripped over. What happened next had me laughing so hard I had to force myself to stop before we got to her class. As I tripped and caught the railing to stop me from falling ALL the way down the stairs, Mrs. Ham see’s me and shouts: “OH! BE QUIET!!” Of course what she meant to say was “OH! Be careful” but since she tells her class to be Quite a lot more than Careful she got them mixed up. We were both giggling throughout her 40 minute class.. her from embarrassment, and me.. well, you know when you laugh so hard that it hurts and then you forget what you were laughing about but can’t stop.. well that was me. Since the kids knew something was up; the mood of the class became cheery and jovial. It was one of the most amusing classes I’ve had.

And that's all for today.. Next time I'll tell you about the amazing thing Simon did while I was in Hongcheon still. I must have forgotten to write it before, but now this post will remind me! Bye for now!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

1. Field Trip!

Welcome to November!!!
Yesterday and Thursday we were on a school excursion! We went to a traditional folk village with a huge amount of colourful trees, it seems like we went at the perfect time of year too. If you've ever seen Lord of the Rings, and remember the place of the Elves called Rivendale.. well this was exactly like it, except of course there was an Asian spin on it. The leaves of gold and red and multiple shades of orange were constantly falling like rain.. not once did I look around and not see the leaf shower.. Here are some pictures of the Korean Folk Village near Seoul:

Next we went to the Nam June Paik Art Centre which is the gallery of Video Art; Nam June Paik was the guy who first utilized video as a form of art. After spending about an hour there, we were off to Everland to see the night show! Now Everland is the Korean Disney Land, and just as I was about to take my first shots of it, my battery ran out. Yeah.. I know. So I’ve got no pictures of Everland.. I guess that’s another thing you’ll have to come and see for yourself :D

The night show was great though! There was a parade at 8pm where they have these huge floats full of neon and Christmas lights. All the power to the streets were shut off and between the floats there were people also dressed in different coloured lights! A lot of them were foreigners too.. some of them on roller-skates and others dressed up as gigantic carp, always smiling and waving! It was like a dream land, just what you’d expect from a children’s theme park except of course there was an Asian spin on it.

We slept at a Golf Resort that night, if sleep is what you’d call it. The teachers all sat together and drank Soju and beer with fried chicken and noodles until about 1:00am. Then we went to bed and woke bright and early at seven. I was the first up (not having drank all that much) and had a shower while the others sat moaning and groaning. This was the second day of our Everland trip.. we went there and it was raining and cold.. I had to wear four layers (including two jumpers) and was still cold! I think I’m gonna love this place in Winter. We ended up getting home at 4:30pm, and I was lucky enough to be dropped off right outside my apartment. I got in and made a strong, sweet cup of hot tea, sat on my couch and watched Heroes.

This morning I decided I should really clean the place up a bit.. Pav’s coming over in January and after much discussion between Me and MyLazySelf we decided that it couldn’t wait that long. So I hauled out the vacuum and did my washing and etc etc. Then I made some Halwa! I’m happy to report that it turned out perfectly! Just like my momma makes it! The semolina here is a bit different but that’s to be expected.. it wasn’t all that different though.. I was quite proud of it.. Having finally made something worthwhile from home! Here’s a pic:

And that brings us to now.. I’m taking it easy this weekend. My plan is to have no plans! It’s going pretty well for me so far, I’m thinking about watching The Pursuit of Happyness next..

Until I have something more interesting to report.. Aniyekesayo!