Sunday, June 30, 2013

Seongjong, Who Knew?

We've lived here for over a year and a half, including one entire summer, and have never gone to Seongjong beach. I've always knew it existed and many times last summer (and a few this) we received many invites and had opportunities to head that way but never did. The reason being it's so far from us here in Minam. It's eight subway stops, transfer to a different line, another seven or eight stops then a 10 minute
 taxi ride as opposed to the eight stops, transfer, two stops and a five minute walk to Gwangalli beach, where we usually go. All in all it was about a 20 minute longer endeavor to get ourselves to the sand...but completely and totally worth it.

There were a few going away parties and a birthday party all happening at the same time this weekend and all at Seongjong so we decided to finally make our way out there to see what all the fuss is about. Turns out all the fuss is completely justified in every way. You may remember some previous posts mentioning Korea's severe litter problem? Well, the beach is no exception. I don't know how they go about swimming in their own garbage and not blink an eye, but that's the case so we just live with it. 

Arriving at Seongjong I immediately notice how clean everything is. The water, the sand, all of it. The beach is slightly smaller but there are way less people and it's just Heaven so far. There are no tall buildings blocking sunlight, only small little surf huts, some coffee shops and a few restaurants. It has a feeling of Folly Beach, South Carolina in a way, just Koreanized and without the palms. 

Upon closer inspection, I see that the ocean is dead clear. It doesn't have the same turquoise hues as say, Thailand or something, but it's crystal clear and while swimming out past the point of touching the bottom, I could still see my feet over five feet below paddling me along. The water is still a bit chilly but every weekend it has been getting warmer and warmer. 

It was a perfect, hot beach day and I can't wait to get back there. No longer will I complain how far Seongjong is because the 45 minutes it took will be worth it the rest of the summer. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Air Con Fake Out

It turns out that the day we had air conditioning in my office was a fluke. It was a one day event. Perhaps it was a hotter than average day. Perhaps someone accidentally elbowed the main switch and we got lucky. Perhaps some foreigner-hating Korean teacher knows how hot I am and decided to totally fake me out. Whatever the reasoning for my one day of comfort last week, I was informed yesterday after much complaining and asking whyyyyyyy!?! that it's "school policy" that the air conditioning isn't turned on until July 1st.

This isn't Wisconsin or Northern China you loons! It's been getting over 80 degrees for weeks! We actually NEED the air conditioning before July here in Busan!

I have one more week of melting before these energy saving lunatics turn on some cool air for my office and all classrooms. The hallways will remain sweltering ovens but at least there is some respite in the rooms. One. More. Week.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

New Thursday Teacher

Once a week another foreign teacher comes in to Nammun to divvy up some classes because there are too many. Usually that day is Wednesday and recently our Wednesday teacher quit. I posted some ads on Koreabridge to no avail. Solution? Move some classes around, change the day we need an extra teacher to Thursday and voila! Al is the new teacher! He usually works from 2-10 but now he gets to come in with me from 1-6:30 and then we have the rest of the evening to do whatever we please, unlike the other days of the week. He's been there two Thursdays now and apart from the smaller kids (he prefers older ones) he likes it. I'm sure he likes getting off at 6:30 more than the kids. 

Last week we walked outside to a bunch of the 6th graders playing baseball, to Al's great elation. He immediately jumped into the dirt, said, "I'm playing" and they happily let him join in. 

It's really nice getting to work with him once a week and have the evening open. He usually gets home at 10, we eat something small and head to bed. Not much fun. Although moving back to America next year is really daunting, the idea of having some normal working hours and a normal life is somewhat appealing. We'll take this for now!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Air Con Heaven

It's amazing what a week will do when it comes to the weather. As I've mentioned before, the weather here is very consistent. Gradual warm up, gradual cool down, with no erratic temperature ups or downs in between. When I wrote my last post (about a week ago) it was hanging around the mid 70s. Fast forward a week and it's hitting 80 every day with the "feels like" temperature escalating to near 90 some days. What my phone doesn't say is that the "feels like" inside my school is nearing a boiling point.

Koreans are weird when it comes to heating and air conditioning. This topic is another blog post entirely (and some things I've written about in the past, like their aversion to insulation) so I'll spare the details for now, but let's just say that they won't turn on either until it's absolutely necessary. The heating and air conditioning is controlled by some main operating system. Each classroom can turn it on and off and control the temperature, yes, but to save energy it's automatically switched off at about 5pm. But that's if it's even on at all. The heating is usually functioning from November-mid March and the air con from June-September. The months in between when it's off contain a few weeks that are extremely comfortable, while the rest you just freeze to death or broil like a steak. My after-school program ends at 6:35 in the evening, meaning that my last two classes do not have heat or air con. (I actually have to wear my gloves in class in the winter because it's so cold). I remember a time last winter, maybe around November, when the heat still hadn't been switched on for our office, the Vice Principal (who is new, viciously mean and who hates our English program) told us, "You don't need heat" while I'm hovering over the steam coming from my cup of coffee to keep warm. I don't think it was turned on for another few weeks. (absolutely necessary)

All that to say that despite the stuffy, baking conditions I've been dealing with the past few weeks, they've only now allowed the air con to be switched on. It's worked in a handful of my classrooms for a few days but only yesterday did I finally walk from the sweltering hallway into a pleasantly cool office...and proceeded to exclaim, "AHHHHHH AIRCON!!!!" while the Koreans laughed because they probably weren't even hot to begin with.

Now begins the struggle of hot teacher vs.cold students.

"Teacher! Cold!" "Teacher! Air con off!" "Teacheerrrrrrrrr!!!"

Sorry kids. Teacher is dying of heat stroke while trying to teach you what a past participle is. Deal with it.

Lots of strong thunderstorms heading this way tonight. I haven't heard a good storm in a while, I hope it's a doozy and doesn't fizzle out like they always seem to do. We don't get many here and it's one thing I miss about summers at home, a good storm. It's starting to cloud up pretty good, we'll see.

Off to school!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Travel Companions

It's getting hooooot. That means my school is also converting into its annual oven, slowly cooking us all like rotisserie chickens. The air conditioners still haven't been switched on by the main office, which means there is little relief from the heat in the middle of the day. The temperatures truly aren't bad outside - mid 70s - but it's always about 10 degrees hotter in that school. Knowing that it only gets worse from here isn't a very comforting thought, but I'd still rather take sweating to absolute death in the summer than being in that igloo it becomes in the winter. At least now I can have a pee without having to pull my pants down in a -10 degree tile bathroom.

Beach season is now in full swing and we're all pretty thankful to just be able to get out and sit on the sand all day. It's a little different this year, with faces missing and new faces in place of those, but we've still got a good clan of friends happening. Three very good friends whom I've known for a solid year have recently left, dwindling the "original" crew down to very few. Out of the 15-20 of us who would hang out constantly last summer, less than 10 remain, including myself and Al. We were getting down to the minimum so we all decided that we better start accepting applications for new friends (jk). A few of our friends last summer would flit back and forth between our group and another, and since a lot of the other group's numbers have also left we've sort of combined into one now, along with some newbies just arriving. Our friend Brittany brought her new coworkers Gina and Landon (a couple from Texas) around to meet everyone and told me that Gina and I would get along swimmingly. She was right, and Al and Landon hit it off also. The four of us immediately got on really well and now...we have India companions!

They were looking into places to go for their summer vacation knowing full well they wanted to get out of Korea for a week. It turns out they have the same week off as Al and I so we toyed around with them coming along to India with us. They originally wanted a pristine, palm fringed beach but unfortunately, a lot of SE Asia, along with those awesome beaches, are being drenched by the monsoon this time of year so their selection was limited. After weighing all their options they decided that India, in fact, sounds fabulous, and officially booked their flights yesterday. Al and I haven't travelled with other people since we went to Laos so I'm really excited, especially since this will be their first jaunt into the land of tuk tuks, chicken buses and all around a kind of chaotic beauty you can't find anywhere but in this part of the world. And India is the kind of exotic that I don't think any of us have ever experienced and now we get to see it together.

So far, the general plan is to spend a few nights up in the hills and jungles of Thekkady and hang out with the elephants:

We're totally doing this

We'll spend a night cruising the backwaters of Alleppey in a two bedroom houseboat:

Relaxation at its best

Then we'll spend our last night in Alleppey town where we can hit the beach or visit the markets:

Preeeetty stoked. Kerala (where we're headed) is also renowned for the Ayurveda massage treatments which Gina and I are definitely jumping right into. Although it's monsoon season and the weather might not be the greatest, from what I've read it'll rain a few hours every day then clear off. People also say it's the most beautiful time to visit southern India because the rains make everything so lush and green. Fine with me, I'll just load up on OFF! so I don't get Malaria and pray for a little sunshine. 

47 days and counting!

(all images found online, not mine)