It’s gone really quickly, but its at that point where another month has flown by and it’s time to write about the month that was October 2009!
SPEAKING TESTS & OTHER SCHOOL UPDATES:
Well to start with a couple of those ‘classic moments’ where the students have said something very funny while being completely unaware they had done it! First it was one of my older students in my WW1-5 class who when asked what her favourite sea creature was during the speaking test replied “fish”. It wasn’t one of the options that we had in class but I though that’s good, she is thinking about it, so I then asked her “why fish?” to which she replied “delicious” - I have to say I did laugh but I managed to control myself quite well!
Another one of those moments was when Peter in my kindergarten class told me very seriously to “goes your guys”. Thankfully I managed to work out what he was trying to say was “close your eyes” as he wanted to hide under the desk from me! Bless - he was so determined!
One piece of good news at school this month was that Sunny got through the application stage for the international school she wants to go to - she is at her interview as I am writing this which is 3 days long. She won’t find out if she has been successful until the middle of November, so fingers crossed!
Another good thing is that the new book I bought for my Zenith class is going down very well. It’s really good fun and much more interesting than the actual Zenith book that we have now finished. We all sit around one big table and basically talk for the full lesson, with a few exercises etc mixed in. I think it makes this now my favourite class of all to teach!
I got a slightly unexpected 3 day week (and hence a 4 day weekend) in early October because of Chuseok which is a big holiday here in Korea. As it fell on speaking test week it also meant that I got a proper weekend on top of my 2 days I had planned to write up the numerous reports as a result of the speaking tests!
I also got some unexpected gifts - one of my students Sunny (who is the girl I teach on a one-to-one basis) gave me gifts of rice cakes and oranges and Jong Sool also presented me with a gift as I was leaving school on the Wednesday evening of a green tea Swiss roll - it was actually was quite nice even though it looked a little disturbing as it was very green! It was very nice of them!
On Chuseok weekend I went to Gyeongbokgung palace to see the changing of the guards and also to the COEX mall to have a proper look around while it was quiet - I have written about these in separate sections below.
GYEONGBOKGUNG PALACE - CHANGING OF THE GUARDS:
I had planned on going to do a tour around Gyeongbokgung palace on Chuseok weekend, but I had some other things I needed to do in Seoul and it also turns out that Thursdays are more expensive than other days, so I just went to see the changing of the guards ceremony.
The outside of the palace is very beautiful and the designs of the palace very detailed. The backdrop of Bukhansan National Park and the mountains made it even more stunning.
The changing of the guards ceremony was quite impressive and very colourful. The guards wore really bright uniforms and carried traditional weapons. There was also a band that played as the guards were arriving and departing from the palace entrance.
UPDATE ON GWANGHWAMUN PLAZA:
After watching the changing of the guards ceremony at Gyeongbokgung palace I walked to Kyobo bookstore and therefore through Gwanghwamun plaza. This is the park area I visited a while back with Jong Sool and his family when they took me out for the day in Seoul.
The area is still not quite finished but it has still be added to a bit since I was last there. The flower garden has grown and is really very beautiful. They have also added seating areas along the sides of the garden to sit and relax and a few slightly odd decorative pieces (it‘s the only way I can think to describe them!).
They have also added a large number of differently painted Haetae’s, including one painted as superman - I thought these were great and fun to have a look around. I included quite a few photo’s of different ones in my October 2009 photo album!
The fountain was also popular this time, despite the slightly cooler weather. Rather amusingly, most people were stood around watching the older lady, dressed in a full length yellow (bright) rain coat and matching wellies, dance around in the fountain having a great time - good on her!! Very funny though!!
I decided to make a trip back to the COEX mall to have a proper look around while it was relatively quiet on Chuseok weekend.
My first stop was TGI Friday’s for lunch - it was no where near as good as back home, but it wasn’t bad and made a nice change.
After lunch I had a good walk round the mall, which is really big, and found slightly disappointingly that the majority of the shops seemed to be clothing and similar. I did, however, find a couple of really nice ’souvenir’ shops that sold some interesting things and I got a few Christmas presents from there to send back home.
I also found another book shop. I have found that the book stores sell some interesting things other than books, so I went in to have a look around for some interesting gifts to send home and picked up another couple of Christmas presents to send back, which I was quite pleased with!
CHRISTMAS SHOPPING & INSA-DONG:
I had a very successful trip to Insa-dong to do my Christmas shopping. I went with a list if things I wanted but also intending to have a good look around to see what there was.
I had great fun looking at all the stalls out in the street and even wandering into a few of the shops that looked interesting. The people on the stalls were also very helpful, most speaking some English - enough to communicate what was needed anyway. I have been to Insa-dong a few times already, but this was the first time I really spent some time having a good look around, mostly because the weather is now much cooler (thankfully!).
Anyway, I ended up buying a few extra’s to what I had on my original list, but nothing is very expensive so that didn’t matter - I just couldn’t resist!
The other Sunday I took a trip to E-Mart, mostly because I was a little annoyed at the lack of some basic items in my local supermarket at times. I took a taxi there - something I had not been brave enough to do after last time, but this time thankfully I was able to communicate quite well with the taxi driver - I didn’t need to write anything down either!
E-Mart was quite impressive - it’s massive! It’s really a bit like a department store with one whole floor for food! Such a difference to the tiny (in comparison) supermarket here in Deokjeong!
I also stocked up on some ingredients to make some yummy dishes from the packet mixes my parents were nice enough to send me, which have made for some delicious meals this month (even if I do say so myself!).
Yesterday I took a trip to the post office, armed with all my wrapped Christmas presents to send home. I thought it could be very difficult to communicate what I wanted to do with the people in the post office, but thankfully it wasn’t - I seem to have mastered the art of asking one word questions and gesturing!!
I also thought it could be very expensive, but again I was pleasantly surprised - it cost me about 25 pounds to send home one box (not big but not small either) and 5 envelopes, all to different addresses. Now I just have to wait and see if they actually get to where they are supposed to, so fingers crossed!
THE DAY I CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN:
Ok, I didn’t quite climb the whole mountain, but it was pretty close!
I was taken out for the day by Jong Sool, Sarah and Jin Sun to go to one of the many mountains nearby.
We left at 7:30am (!!!!!) arriving about 9am when it was already really busy.
The mountains were beautiful - the autumn colours of the trees were stunning reds and yellows which made it the perfect time of year to climb one of these mountain. There was also a river, with some small waterfalls, running along the pathway up the mountain which added to the scenery.
Koreans love to climb mountains! I have been told this, but I guess I didn’t quite realise just how much until I saw how many others were climbing the same mountain as us! And, that was on the way up - as we headed back down the mountain people were literally queuing up the mountain. It was quite amusing, but equally made it rather difficult to actually get back down to the car!
After reaching the bottom we walked to the lake which also had a small fairground and a number of sculptures nearby. I walked round some of these interesting (I think this is the best word to use!) sculptures for a while with Jin Sun, both of us equally confused by some of them, and then we headed off for some lunch.
We stopped off at a place just off the road home for lunch where we were met at the car and taken to out own private eating room. The room also came complete with its own karaoke machine, although thankfully we didn’t use it (however, the people next door seemed to be enjoying using theirs!).
We took our shoes off as we entered this little hut and inside sat on cushions on a heated floor which was quite uncomfortable after a while as I’m not used to sitting on the floor like that for any length of time! We had beef for lunch cooked on the BBQ in the middle of the table and accompanied by the usual large number of side dishes. It was delicious and an interesting experience, so all in all a good day.
The last day at school before Halloween we had a couple of small Halloween parties instead of 2 of the classes. The first of these was with the Fantasy 1 - 5 class who had all come dressed up which was very sweet. We played a spelling game and then they all had an arm wrestling competition.
This second party followed the same format, this time with Junior 1 - 2, 1 - 6 and 2 - 3 combined together and the kids for some reason this time had not dressed up, but it was still a bit of fun.
The rest of the day was the same as normal, but it made for an interesting and slightly different Friday!