October 2, 2012

A post on leaving Korea

I think back to my first few days, weeks, and months in Korea, and it seems like it happened a lifetime ago. When I moved to Daegu, I had taken a huge risk and was rewarded with the ultimate gift - change. I fell in love with the temples, the beautiful countryside, the ease of city life. At times it was a struggle, but I was truly happy for a great deal of it.

Somehow, though, the negative parts started piling up. I didn't appreciate the drinking culture that allowed crimes to be dismissed or ignored (link). I struggled with watching friends, some as close as family, leave to return to their home countries. Life abroad is not easy.

Eventually, though, I became comfortable, complacent, happy enough, For me, this is a sign of a stagnant life. The challenge of living abroad no longer loomed over me, energized me to make the most of every weekend, or pushed me to try new things. I started considering other options, and eventually began applying for jobs outside of Korea.

And I was lucky for it, reaching the application deadline just in time. I was accepted into the 19th Class of AmeriCorps NCCC. I spoke to my boss, who was understanding, gracious, and supportive. We set an end date, and I prepared my heart to leave Korea.

Korea is the first place I was a legitimate adult - I moved straight after college graduation. It is the place I learned about myself and my own culture. I wouldn't trade my two years there for anything. Experiencing myself - my thoughts, actions, and decisions - in a new, completely different setting gave me a new outlook on life, a new perspective on the person I want to be, and a new set of tools to cope with people from all over the world.

If you're reading this blog because you are considering moving, traveling, teaching, studying, working, whatever-ing abroad: stop second guessing and go. There is no better time to start a great adventure than today.

For those interested in teaching in Korea, I suggest finding a handful of recruiters. They are paid by the school, so contact a ton of them and only sign a contract with the school that best suits you. Don't like bad recruiters convince you to take a less than stellar contract. Make sure your contract has at least 2 weeks of vacation, pays into the pension plan, promises insurance and severance pay. Only agree to a school willing to pay for your flights in and out. Make sure its written fairly and you feel comfortable, because you are only given so many rights under an E-2 visa. Get on facebook and find a group set in the city of the school - ask around, because foreigners are all in it together.

August 13, 2012

Kayaking and Beaching

For summer break, I went on a lot of adventures, such as vertical caving, rock climbing, kayaking, and sailing. It was a great end to my time in Korea. 

This is Namhae, which I have always loved, you can see it in the spring here. Mike, Eoin, and I went back there to go kayaking in the ocean. The area is around these smaller islands, and you can watch the waves crash into their rocky shores... it was really beautiful, especially for someone like me, who love rocks. I didn't bring my camera into the boat, though so these are all taken from shore.

For more info, check out their super helpful site! dumotown.com or call 010-8500-5863

We went to Busan's Gwangalli beach, which was unsurprisingly crowded. Korean beaches in August are really packed, but it was nice to lay out (under an umbrella, per Korean culture). 

The last day of break we went sailing with Pat. I wish I had taken some pictures of that adventure, but let me just say it is awesome. If you want to rent a dinghy to sail (one or two people boats), go to Dadaepo beach and walk over to the very far left. It cost us 20,000 for three hours, including life vests and wet suits. They did not offer to help set it up at all, though, so make sure you know what you're doing!

August 12, 2012

Vertical Caving in Danyang!

You may remember a post about Danyang, a city farther north known for its numerous caves and beautiful national park, Sobaeksan. I went to Gosu dong-gul and got some beautiful pictures in a show cave - one open to the public with nice walkways and railings. I loved it. BUT, it wasn't a challenge. My friends Pat and Michael invited me to do some hardcore vertical caving and I had to accept. It was an adventure!

Michael standing over the opening to the cave, about to go down and set the rope. He is wearing a harness with the rope secured though a device that allows him to rappel down at his own speed. As he goes down, he needs to pay attention to the rocks. The cave entrance twists and turns, and at certain points the rope will rub against sharp rocks - a safety hazard. Michael will attach rope guards, or fabric to protect the rope, at those points. 

At the top of the cave, Pat makes sure everything is going well. From the entrance to the starting cavern, it is about 10 stories underground, so there is a lot of yelling and listening carefully to make sure Michael doesn't run into any problems or need any additional gear. 

A couple of hours later, we are all in the cave! Initially I didn't realize how blurry the pictures were, but once we did, we started using all of our head lamps to focus light for the pictures. They will be more crisp in some instances because of that. Bear in mind that this is not a lit cave, the only source of light at all is on our helmets. 

Michael led the way, I stayed safe in the middle, and Pat followed in the rear. This kept me safe from potential serial killers or falling down a hole into a cavern. It is a bit freaky thinking about how far underground we were and how badly things could go. 

Pat is crawling on his arms here, but a few moments ago he was on his stomach-  see the stalactites? We had to be extra careful to protect the integrity of the cave, since its features were in pristine condition. This meant crawling, face in the sticky clay in the smallest parts of the cave. Gross, but all worth it to allow the next caver the chance to see such an amazing sight. 

A special thanks to Pat, who provided all of the gear, from the helmets and harnesses to the jackets and over-sized jeans. Not only did it make the trip possible, it also saved me hours of cleaning. He's a good friend.

Some rooms were really tall or big, others were tiny. 

As the quality of the pictures improves, I made the images larger. If you want to see beautiful, pristine images of a cave nearby, please look at my post with pictures from the show cave, here. They have lights installed and they turned out more true to color and clear. Of course it is in less pristine condition and less awesome.

Would you want to crawl through this tiny, dark opening? Its a bit intimidating! 

To get out of the cave, we had to use two ascenders attached to the rope. This is basically a handle that the rope goes through, then one is hooked up to the harness, while the other is hooked up to a foot loop. You put your weight into your harness and slide the ascender hooked to your foot loop up, then stand and put your weight in your feet. Next, slide the ascender hooked to your harness up. This process repeats over and over. I counted the first two hundred moves, but wasn't even out of the main cavern. Needless to say, its a workout! 

Vertical caving is easily in my top ten experiences in Korea. I couldn't recommend it enough if you have the proper equipment and an experienced guide to help you safely explore a cave. 

Rock Climbing in Korea

Since I last posted about climbing, I have done quite a bit of it. Don't get me wrong, I still don't know what I am doing. I scamper up the rock, and hope I don't bust my knees or face up too badly. I often make it to the top, albeit after falling once or twice. I've tried climbing in a gym, which is all of the struggles of climbing without the freedom to pick your own holds or the beautiful scenery to make it worth it. Not my thing. But, outdoor climbing is enjoyable. I think I've gotten a little better, though I really should consider things like technique and building muscles to improve. Maybe I will take a class on it at some point, but for the moment I am enjoying meandering around on some rocks. 

We took Mara out for her first climbing experience at An Nam in Busan. She did really well!

I've also learned out to belay, which is vital. 

This is in Yeoung Yeoung on Palgong Mountain in Daegu. It is set up with lights so you can climb at night. 

Back at An Nam!

It is really getting too hot to climb now, but I hope to go at least once more before heading out of Korea! 

July 27, 2012

Screen Golf

In the world of concrete jungles and jutting mountains, there is little space for a full on golf course. Sure, there are some famous and beautiful courses in Korea, but those are not perfectly located right between your neighborhood market and subway. Screen golf is a whole different story though! They are buildings with large rooms, a giant screen/projector combo, and a sensor to read the movement of clubs and balls. It is pretty cheap - under ten a person in my experience. Each of the rooms has a couch or two, and they also sell snack foods and drinks, so you can make a party of it. 

Mike, Mara, and I decided to go one night and check it out. While I wouldn't say any of us could become pro golfers (some of us may get too frustrated by hole 6 to play again, hah), it is a "Korea" experience I recommend anyone try once!

There is a five or ten minute practice session. You can practice swing and then watch the screen, it will record a video and play it back.  

I spent a lot of time doing this. Moving the ball over trying to line it up. When the ball is in the right place, the logo will light up on the sensor - the black rectangle to the right. Of course for driving you can use the tee, where the ball is automatically placed. 

Look at my pro golfing outfit. Its important to look good when you play. 

There was also a lot of this. Golf is hard.I suggest asking the attendant to set it to beginner, because it lets you cheat a bit, by avoiding some sand traps or giving your drive extra distance. 

Not very much of this, though Mara and Mike did better than I!

 The price list is pictured above. You can play 9 or 18 holes. To find it, look for a building with a golfer featured, they are all over Daegu. Golfzon is a popular chain. The one I went to was by Daegu Bank Station. Go out exit 3, walk to the major street. Turn right, and you will see a 7-11 and Tours Le Jours. Walk down about 5 or 10 minutes and you will see it on your right. 

July 24, 2012

ChildU in the Summertime

I've been neglecting my blog lately. Since I have been writing for the Daegu city government blog and Daegu Compass (the English magazine), I really have not done a good job of updating. 

To see the articles for the Daegu government blog, look here: http://globaldaegu.blogspot.kr/
I've posted about Manbulsa, Seomun's fabric market, Gatbawi, and Herb Hillz. I'll be posting at least three more articles for them before I go. If you haven't, check it out, the layout is really well done, and the blog has tons of other information for anyone traveling in or around Daegu!  

To see the articles I have written for Daegu Compass, look here: http://www.daegucompass.com/
I've recently published about my shark dive (in the July 2012 issue), and my trip to Japan (in the August 2012 issue). Expect a blog post or three on the Japan trip soon! 

My school has a gym teacher come in once a week and do physical fitness with the kids. He's always got new and interesting games for them to play, and they look forward to it every week. Sometimes, the games are a little intense - like tug-of-war on pavers! I was a little worried, but they all survived. 

Kindergarteners are not great at hiding their emotions. 

We did face painting for Children's Day a while back. I really have gotten better at it the longer I've been working with children. 

My director on the left, and manager on the right. 

We took a field trip to a park with a butterfly exhibit. 

These are the oldest students, Korean age 7. They are getting better and better at English, and can read very well now. 

Ann, my co worker is pointing out types of plants. 

Estel, another co worker, is ensuring the kids don't kill the butterflies. 

They are a cute bunch of kids!