New school year once again here in Seoul.
This is my first year to have a class of my very own!! No more subject teacher bull and I’m the only foreigner that teaches them!
So this year I got my favorite age: 6-1. I like this age, they’re easy to mold to your style. We are currently learning our ABCs and so far so good. Every week we have two letters we make a little craft for. Here’s what we have so far….
Ah, this randomly popped up one day after posting. WordPress usually gives some kind of random inspiration to bloggers, like a muse or excessive drinking. This title caught my eye. “What travel lessons have you learned the hard way?” Let me put this out there and say I am in no way a globe trotter. I have been to my share of strange, different, and exotic places but I haven’t been everywhere. But in my time overseas and a few self-planned trips I can say mistake were made….
# 5. No Faffing About: On the way to Sokcho, Chad and I were almost left behind during a routine pit-stop in the lovely countryside of middle-of-nowhere Korea. Luckily, Chad and I can run fast. However much time the bus drive says you have, just take a piss and hurry back. Whatever you want to buy, or do, or look at, forget it, just pee and hop back on the bus.
#4. On the Map: maps, most are for free, we have them on smart phones and GPS and navigation systems. There are all kinds of neat and niffy way to access a map nowadays. Don’t waste your vacation time lost- look at a map! Everywhere I go, I bring a map or get one at the local tourist information center. If you don’t want to look touristy, cause you’re just too cool for that, check your map in a private location, like a bathroom. Just check it. Most places in Korea (if you look pretty lost and are staring at a map) some kind Korean, will an urge to practice English, will ask you if you need help. You never know, you can make a friend!
#3. Sail the 7 Seas with me, just find your own way: don’t book trips for friends. It’s been a few times now that I’ve planned and booked a trip and was a kind and handy travel agent for my friends. But unlike a travel agent I didn’t get paid and got the shaft. Then I’m left to pay the bill and make the recalculations. (Ya know like reckoning the price on sharing a condo with 5 instead of 6.) If you want to travel with friends, that’s find and it’s a great idea to travel with others, but have everyone book their own way and meet up later.
#2. 867-5309!!! This may seem simple but make sure you have the address and phone of the hotel or hostel or where ever you are staying. Lots of things ask for this. Customs want to know it, some random forms at the airport want it and it’s good to have it on hand if you get lost. (Also try to have it in English and it that country’s language/alphabet.) Even if you know the location and everything- just in case! I knew exactly where our hotel was from the subway station, unfortunately, I forgot which subway station and the name of them hotel once we arrived in Tokyo. It wasn’t until I was staring at a neighborhood map that it click, we were at the WRONG subway station…. This may seem like a no-brainer but simple things just confuse and scary me.
#1. Ah, take the Cash in hand: This may seem strange to some, and I’m sure some people will say I’m all wrong about this one, but trust me when I say, keep cash on you. Not a lot, and always enough to get a train, or bus, or cab, back to the airport, ferry or whatever that brings you home. The morning we were headed back from Tokyo we had spent all our cash, not wanting to carry a bunch of yen back to Seoul. “I’ll just use my card” I thought. Except in Tokyo the only ATM’s that have any English options require you to withdraw a minimum of 10,000 yen which, at the time, was roughly 100 USD. We had just under 100 bucks in my home account, because the night before I used my card to buy dinner. We were stuck with the crippling fear of no way to buy a train ticket to get back to the airport. We were stuck in Tokyo! We had Korean won and even a 50 US dollar bill in my wallet but no Japanese yen. Luckily, the other train company in that station opened at 6:00 AM and Chad was able to scrap enough Japanese to buy two tickets to the airport. This train company had a ticket booth that took card. Thank God for the JR line (Japan Railways Group.)
So these are my top 5 tips for travelers. Bon voyage!!
Right on line 4 it was very easy to get to from my location in Donam-dong. You need more than just a day to see everything it has to offer, and repeat visits are a grand idea if you want to get away from the city and see all it has to offer.
We spend our time at the zoo. The zoo was pretty cool, lots of animals and each area themed and decorated. We didn’t even get to see everything because it was getting late.
Here are some of my favorites:
Day 2: We walked around Dongdaemun and did some shopping. Then we walked from Dongdaemun to Jonggak Station along the Cheonggyecheon Stream. If you know the subway route it’s about 3 subway stops on line 1 the dark blue line. It was a long but fun walk. We saw this grandfather walking with his grandson teaching him about the fish in the stream. The kid was no more than 2 or 3 years old. I actually could understand what he was saying. It was a very sweet little moment. We took a couple of pictures and enjoyed the scenery. The stream is a beautiful oasis in this urban jungle.
Then we met up with Jamie and went to Myeongdong. At Myeongdong we visited the Myeongdong Cathedral and lit a couple of candles. Its Neo-Gothic architecture is something to admire. Kyle met us for a late lunch and then we went to see Nanta. Nanta is amazing even if you’ve see it before.
Tomorrow is another adventure, stay tuned!!
So next Friday my mama is coming to visit Seoul!! I’m SO excited and I want to show her everything!!!! But I haven’t even seen everything or even half of the things to see and do in Seoul. To those that currently or have lived/visited Seoul what was your favorite place? And where should we take Mama?
And here is a random picture to get the mind working…
So I have a couple of friends that are coming to Korea this year and I realized I never made my list of “What to Bring to Korea.” Truthfully Chad and I packed pretty simple and light because in reality we have bought a lot of stuff here, from a Samsung HDTV to Pokémon figurines.
So here is my list of things to bring for those worried about space, weight and necessity.
This is the primary thing to pack because nudity is only acceptable in the Jjimjilbang. Working for a school they have dress requirements and you should check your school’s to see what the dress code is. At our schools men need: ties, dress shirts, slacks, dress shoes and polos.
Ladies need: dress shoes, skirts, dresses, sweaters, hose/leggings, slacks, and blouses.
And it all depends on your style and comfort.
Also bring at least one formal/semi-formal outfit (like a suit for men and nice business dress or outfit for women) Most schools have important events that are big photo-ops for the school, as a foreigner your job is to look great in those pictures.
Good shoes to walk in: my first day here I got lost and walked for about two hours in a new pair of dress flats. My first meeting with my new boss I asked her for some band-aids. I felt like a horse’s ass. So good walking shoe, very important you will do some major walking and standing.
If you are a larger bra-size or shoe size bring enough bras and shoes for the season you arrive in Korea. You can always have stuff shipped to you or you can go shopping once the seasons start to change.
laptop: it will be your best friend at times and for awhile the only way to connect with other people.
iPod/MP3 player: If you have one bring it, but if not you can buy one here.
camera: You’ll want to take pictures of your students, of your place and that random drunk Korean changing pants on the sideway. If you have one bring it, if not you can buy one here.
video games/DVD/Blu-Ray: Bring your handhelds (Nintendo DS, PSP, whatever you have bring it) We also brought our PS3 and Wii. But for those Wii and XBOX360 owners you’ll have to get a power converter because of voltage differences in Korea can fry your console. But limit your game selection because if you’re in Seoul, you can find most new games you want in Yongsan Electronics District. Same goes for your DVDs/BlueRays bring the ones you can’t live without but for the most part you can download or rent movies. But watch out for region locks.
**Leave your hairdryers, curling irons, straighteners, teapots, coffee makers and other electronics and appliances at home because you’ll run into voltage and adapter plug problems. You can get all of these things in Korea and cuter ones, I’m in the market for a Hello Kitty hairdryer myself.
For your apartment:
Fitted sheets- at least one fitted sheet set for your place. Most beds provided are twin or double/full size. Ask your school what size of bed they provide. It was a pain in the ass running around looking for an affordable fitted sheet. I spend over 10 bucks on a fitted sheet/pillow set that would have cost 4 bucks back home. They double the price here when it comes to bedding.
Towel- one of the first things you want to do once you get here is take a shower after traveling all day. Some places your school may house you temporarily (like a love motel) don’t have body size towels provided. The last thing you wanna do is run around looking for a proper size towel or dry off with a hand towel.
Blanket- most schools provide you with a blanket but if you have a favorite one to snuggle in or even better a SNUGGIE then bring it.
Deodorant- the hardest and most over priced thing that Westerners use that Koreans do not is deodorant. It’s used here as more of a perfume so it’s priced like perfume. Bring a years supply, don’t negotiate this and think ‘oh I’ll just have mom send me some’ because as soon as you run out you’re gonna be like “OH SHIT I’m all out and it’s 98 degrees Fahrenheit outside!!”
Toiletries- to last till pay day, so bring your favorite soap/body-wash, shampoo, conditioner, perfume/cologne, facial cleansers, and make-up. But if you shop around you will develop your own favorite brands for these things that you can find at places like Olive Young, Etude House, It’s Skin, Tony Moly and there’s about 5 more bath and body product stores in Korea.
Toothpaste- They have lots of brands of toothpaste here and most likely you’ll get some in a giant package for the holidays but I really don’t care for Korean toothpaste. It’s just not minty enough… So bring some tubes of your favorite and mine too while you’re at it. 😉
Chapstick– I’m a huge Chapstick user and my favorite kind is Chapstick Moisturizer and that’s the ONE kind I can’t find in Korea. They have cherry, original, spearmint, and for men but no Moisturizer. Also Chapstick here is around 3 bucks a tube vs the 99 cents you pay back home. So stock up on your favorite kind. But they do have Burt’s Bees, Nivea and several other brands of lip balms.
Vick’s Vapor Rub- I found Vick’s in Itaewon for 5,000 won for a little tub. So if you like using Vick’s when you get sick (and Chad really does) be sure to pack at least one.
Midol-for the ladies, if you use Midol back home for any regular basic it’s good to bring at least a few bottles. I haven’t been able to find a Korean equivalent but then again I haven’t tried that hard to search for some.
Food and Food Related Items:
You’re coming to South Korea not North Korea so there is plenty of food. But somethings that are over-priced or not easy to find you might want to bring some
Season Salt, Garlic Salt (not powder they have that here), gravy mix, mac and cheese, and a couple of your other favorite spices. But don’t bring too much because it start to weigh you down. We brought a cansiter or Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, and Cavender’s Greek Seasoning.
Money– it makes the world go around. Be sure to bring enough to last you before your first paycheck which may not be for 6 weeks! Also budget in spending mistakes, going out with new found friends and co-workers and things you might need for your apartment. I’d say around 600-1000 buck will be pretty good.
Bank account info of course you need your passport and visa and other documents but don’t forget your bank account info for international money transfers. That may seem like a given but I thought it was important enough to put on the list.
Okie that’s all. For the most part you’ll find what you need in Korea. South Korea isn’t a 3rd world country. In fact it’s one of the world’s fastest grown and most competitive countries in the world so finding the comforts of home all over. It might be harder if you are outside of the Seoul area. So in that case if you are teaching in a smaller city or town you might bring what you can now and have things shipped to you. Korea has amazing postal service, it’s fast, reliable and cheap! For those who want more ideas check out these blogs:
I hate how they spell theatre. Oh well, lost in translation I guess…. It was so cool to go to The National Theater of Korea. And it’s on Namsan Mountain. That is my favorite place in Seoul. It’s so peaceful and beautiful there. Even the air is fresher there. There are several different theatres there. There is the main hall named “Hae” that’s a proscenium stage and seats 1,563. Then there is the small hall called “Dal” that is also proscenium and seats 427 and is home of the Changgeuk company. Then there is the KB Haneul Youth Theater which seats 732 is the very first domed theatre for the youth in Korea. Lastly there is the “Byeol” Studio theatre that seats about 100. There is also a museum for the performing arts too. Can’t wait to go see more theatre there!!