Monday, 30 March 2015

Nathan's Treat

When we met up with our friend Nathan (a few posts back) we arranged to meet up for food and drinks, because our schedules very rarely allow for us to hang out together.

So, on the Friday, we headed out into Seoul after school and dug in. Nathan directed us through some quieter parts of Hongdae to what turned out to be an incredible bossam restaurant not too far from the You Are Here cafe. It's one of those places that looks very small, homely, and impenetrable for foreigners, but serves incredible food like your Nan would make. (At least, my Nan. If she'd been brought up Korean, I suppose.)

Nathan kindly (not sure that's the right word. "Irresponsibly" is probably better) taught us how to make and drink somaek a portmanteau of the Korean words soju and maekju, "vodka" and beer respectively. (Still not sure how to classify soju. Rice wine? Spirits? Death/Happiness in a green bottle?)  You can guess what you do with the two drinks.

All of my photos from this trip out are taken from Nick because I think my phone must have died before I had a chance to take any pictures. That or I was genuinely just too busy eating.

Anyway, Nathan showed us a few techniques that can be used for optimum amalgamation of the two drinks, which usually involve being violent and dangerous with your metal chopsticks.

We ended up in Wolhyang for a second round, for some makgeolli tasting and some of their fun and delicious food. Nathan wanted to talk a bit longer than our train allowed, so he paid for us to take a taxi (so nice!). Why didn't Cinderella think of that? I'm glad taxis are a lot cheaper here than at home, otherwise I'd feel really guilty! We finished up with ice cream from a convenience store nearby and ended up having a bit of a laugh with the poor young guy having to man the graveyard shift in a quiet part of Hongdae on his own.

Ahhh, too much laughing. It's good~

Friday, 27 March 2015

Hourly Comics Day

Hourly Comics Day usually comes and goes without me doing much more than maybe entertaining the thought of drawing some hourlies. If I'm lucky I'll pick up a pencil and sketch out the first hour of my day, then forget to do any more until the events of the day have vanished into the ether that is my poor memory.

So the fact that I actually managed to finish an entire day's worth of comics really made me quite happy. I didn't do the full 24, though. I know I'm sleeping for a fair few of them, which doesn't exactly make for thrilling panel work, but I've seen people just carry on documenting the next few waking hours to make up a full 24. Maybe next time.

In an extra feat of showing-off-ness, this comic includes writing in 3 different languages and scripts.

Anyway, you can click on the photos to see the minuscule writing in something a bit less painful, if you so wish.

Without much further adieu, I present to you: A Day in the Life of (a Really Sleepy) Guest English Teacher in South Korea

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

경복궁 | Gyeongbokgung

Ever on the hunt for interesting, cultural places to go, we felt that Gyeongbokgung was a good way to go. Easy enough to get to, and pretty impressive visually, we headed over to take a look.

Again, it was freezing cold, so much so that large parts of the bodies of water dotted around the palace grounds had thin sheets of ice dotted around, and the ground was frosty. But the sky was crystal clear and the sun was shining, so once again it was a really good trip out.

I'd already taken a lot of photos of the palace itself, so I'll just post a few.
The cold prevented us from lingering very long, and the kimchi house was locked up (presumably because of the weather or season) so we kept moving and left to get a look at the Statue of King Sejong and a brief visit to the museum underneath, with the pretense of warming up my numb feet.

Monday, 23 March 2015

남산 (다시!) | Namsan (again!)

No, I'm not! Rude.
So, Mike came back from Hong Kong, and Nick's brother Jon also joined us for a few days. Having guests is really hectic but great because it means we usually actually put some effort into doing something interesting ;p

We discussed for a while the sort of thing we'd like to do as a nice, gentle introduction to Korea, considering Jon had just come off a long-haul flight mere hours beforehand.

A photo posted by Jon Desmond (@jeanpauldemon) on

As a joke, I suggested we climb Namsan and get a good look at the entirety of Seoul but guess what we ended up doing?


We took the cable car up, as it's cold and easier to walk down than it is to climb up.
I've never taken the cable car before, but it was really quick and easy to use, and really fun!

Same as last time, we managed to arrive just as there was a performance setting up. The performers put on a display of fighting techniques using old Korean weapons, cutting up bamboo and set practice drills, all to dramatic music. Afterwards, you can get a photo with them.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Seoul Food | 백반 Baekban

Because I don't post about food enough (ha), I thought I'd share with you the incredible dinner my head co-teacher treated me and Nick to sometime back in late January. I'm not sure if this would really be called 'baekban' but I'm also not sure what it's actually called, so until I find out, this is the placeholder name I'll be using.

I read two different meanings for baekban, "hundred side dishes" and "cooked white rice". Either way, it's pretty accurate.

This is a more traditional Korean-style meal, with loads and loads of little dishes scattered around for everyone to pick and choose from. It's absolutely ridiculous and a lot of fun. Usually most places just wheel in a trolley and rapidly throw bowls into empty spaces with skill and accuracy, but this place took a different and presumably more time-efficient method.

They wheel in a second table-top and it slots on over the existing one. In one fell swoop, all of the food is on and ready and you don't have to worry about spilling stuff on a customer in the rush.

It was super nice and we got to have some quality time with our busy co-teachers and coworkers, even if it was only for a little while. ^^

Friday, 20 March 2015

월미도 | Wolmido: Why Does it Always Rain On Me

We've been to Wolmido a few times now. And for some reason, it's rained pretty much every. Single. Time. Regardless of time of day or season, or the recent weather surrounding it. It's like our own little slice of England on the coast of Incheon. I don't understand.

We wanted to take Mike to Wolmi, as it's always quite unusual and fun, and quite different to home. There's also the 'model village' park that we like to go to. I don't know if it has a proper name, but it's basically lots of little examples of Korean architecture and replicas of historical buildings all in one place. It's really lovely! When the rain holds off.

We managed to have a look around before we got too swamped, but the sandy area around my favourite bit, the hanok displays, had turned to mud and I wasn't willing to ruin my already poor choice of footwear. So we wandered back onto the tarmac and headed towards a building I'd always seen signposted but never actually visited.

I can't remember the  exact name, and I can't actually seem to find any evidence of its existence online either, but it's definitely a real place. Something like the Incheon Food and Culture Centre. Anyway, we wandered in to see what would happen, and at the very least hoping for some respite from the rain.

It actually ended up being incredibly fun!

Thursday, 19 March 2015

덕수궁 | Deoksugung

Creepy, cold and deserted school rooms. My life for about a month.
After our return from Tokyo, it was straight back into school. School terms run at a different schedule to home, with the new school year coinciding more with the Lunar New Year (March) rather than harvest seasons (September). This meant that, although my contract required me to be in school, I didn't actually have any classes, especially as I'd already done all of my winter 'camps' (optional extra English classes that run for a week or so during the holiday period) before our trip to Japan.

This meant I was doing the dreaded "deskwarming" that you hear a lot of native English teachers here talking about, if not complaining. Most other teachers don't have to come in, as they run on a different contract, so usually the school is almost completely empty. A lot of schools used to let their teachers take the day off during this time, to save electricity and heating that's kind of wasteful for one person (if they have the central heating turned on at all, sometimes it's not. Hellish!). Unfortunately at orientation we were told that a few people had complained that their friend got time off and not the rules were changed and generally you now have to stay as deemed by your contract. Sigh. This is why we can't have nice things.

Anyway. It's not as mind-numbingly boring as people make it out to be. I wrapped myself in pyjama bottoms and blankets and caught up on some TV shows, drew some pictures, read books and comics, wrote blog posts, and studied my Korean in a nice, quiet room. As an introvert it wasn't really much different to how I spend my time at home, except the chair was a little bit less comfortable.

This was a little frustrating though, partly because I was thinking of all the travelling I could be doing in that time, but also because we'd brought a guest back from Japan that I felt like we should have been entertaining. Not that they were unable to explore on their own, but South Korea can be a bit intimidating for a first-timer, especially as we don't live that close to the main tourist attractions in Seoul, so the journey can be a little more difficult.

We ended up searching for things that can be done in the evening other than eating and drinking, because usually by the time we get to Seoul if we leave school bang on the ring of the bell, it's still about 6pm. One of the things we found was Deoksugung, a palace near Seoul City Hall.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

東京 | Tokyo (7) - The Last Day

Found this set after scouring Japan these past 3 trips. Just after buying a slightly-less-cool one.
Our last day was a bit of a weird one, because we knew we'd be ending it early in order to go grab our luggage and head to the airport for a less-than-comfortable sleep in the waiting room.

We ended up not risking doing anything too major, and just went back to Akihabara to spend the last of our yen and play some last few games.

My mantra for this place: I do not need any more plush toys. Repeat.
I could never live in Tokyo because I'd always be painfully poor and would probably die in an avalanche of anime memorabilia crammed dangerously into my cheap little 4-tatami bedsit (that I can't even afford because of my terrible spending habit). Oh well. Go out doing what you love, eh.

I wanted this so badly.
You can buy room interiors for your figurines and the displays are incredible.
Learning from experience, we got to Akihabara at a decent time and found it as busy and hectic as we'd been expecting the first time around. It probably helped that it was a weekend.

Girls cosplaying as an Idol group, quite possibly selling something.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

東京 | Tokyo (6) - TOKYO DISNEY

First of all, let's just make it clear that I love Disney. Okay? Okay.
Facts and rumours about it's inherent evilness aside, I can't shake my undying love for this huge, adorable brand.

So the fact that we went to Tokyo Disneyland should come as no surprise to you, really.
Especially considering Ann-Marie had never been to one before. Yes, this was a plan set in stone since the early days of our planning for this holiday.

This part of Tokyo is also home to Tokyo DisneySea, a more ride-based park.
After some queuing snafus, we made it in, and I'm pretty much ready to run off and frolic, never to be seen again.

There's not really much to say other than recountings of the rides we went on and cute things we saw, so I'll spare you and keep this post fairly light.

Monday, 16 March 2015

東京 | Tokyo (5) - Imperial Palace, & Tokyo Tower

So, if you've been wonderful and reading all the previous Japan posts, you might have noticed my constant mentions of how glorious the weather had been. Warm, sunny, inviting and generally really pleasant to be out and about in.

Enter day 5.

Rain. And lots of it.

I'm not even sure where it came from (the sky, hurr) considering the absolute clarity of the sky the day before, but oh well. At first it was only drizzling so we thought we'd take a chance and head to the Imperial Palace for a look around, but by the time we got there it had worsened to the point where we were worried about the contents of our bags (expensive cameras ahoy!) and our shoes were starting to get...sloshy. I wouldn't have minded, but half of us had come without umbrellas and they weren't exactly big.

Sparrow friends, hiding from the rain.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Happy New Year!

I finally bought AC:NL on NYE and partied like an animal. In my pyjamas.
UPDATE: Again, this is another post that was just languishing in my drafts. Bad Bloggers of the Internet Unite!

New Year's Day was a holiday! Woo! was also cold and we were tired (what with it being just another random holiday in the middle of our working week) so we just stayed indoors and played with our new Korean Pokemon cards!

It's pretty fun because the rules are very simple (more simple than Yu-Gi-Oh! which I love, but it drains me a lot more mentally) and we try to do as much of it as possible in Korean (emphasis on try).

I was really worried at first, because with this game there are various effects and things that you use to your advantage, and obviously we don't know enough Korean for that.

What we quickly learned, however, is that it's like 60% Konglish (English written in Korean style) which makes it a bit easier to guess at what's going on. The rest is easy, because in the bottom corner of all the cards is a serial number. Thanks to the magic of the internet, we can search up this code and just find all of the information in English. Imagine doing that 15 years ago. Wow.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Post-Christmas Rush

UPDATE: I've just found this tucked away in my drafts more than a month after I'd written it. I don't know why I never posted it!

It feels like I haven't posted anything in ages, but I've realised that actually it's only been about 2 weeks so now I a) don't feel bad but also b) am quite horrified at how quickly time feels like it's going by. It's been a busy 2-3 weeks though, so I hope you'll let me off.

So, the weekend after Christmas we finally had a chance to meet up with our Orientation friends. What cruelty is this, giving us friends then making them live in all different corners of the country?

We met up with Cherie, who had to come via Seoul anyway, and got on the train to Hongseong. What we didn't realise, is that Hongseong is actually REALLY FAR AWAY. Also, the fact that we'd be buying proper train tickets, not paying with our subway cards. (Maybe everyone else knew this, but I didn't, haha)

The result was us buying tickets for a train that was ages away, and not getting reserved seats because a) it's the super busy winter period on a weekend and b) we didn't think it'd be that long of a journey. Oops. (I seem to be really enjoying lettered lists today, sorry)

2 or 3 hours later, and several hours late, we finally reached Justin's place (after an exciting, frosty walk in possibly the most remote place I've been to in Korea so far, although that's not saying much)

We ate food and tried to make gummy bear soju (red was great, green...not so much), and mug cakes (which we ended up being too full to eat) and generally made the most of the toasty ondol. We ended up staying the night and heading back very early the next morning before the sun was even up.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

東京 | Tokyo (4) - Mt Fuji and Squeenix

The early night beforehand had been because of our planned activity for day 4: Visiting Mt Fuji. We got up bright and early (ish) to head down to Shinjuku Bus Terminal, where the internet had assured me we could hop onto a bus to the Fujisan area, no reservations needed.

Thankfully, while the bus terminal itself was a little hard to find, the internet delivered, and we managed to secure tickets and comfortably doze our way through the couple of hours it took to get there. Ann-Marie and I were given designated seats in the "Woman Only" section of the coach. Interesting.

We were so lucky with the weather, the sky was as clear and sunny as anything.
 After a few attempts at trying to focus on the time-wasters we'd brought with us (alas, for some reason no book or games console could hold my attention or consciousness for more than maybe 10 mins) I nodded awake, looked out the window and saw:

It was so big. Far bigger than I'd imagined it would be. It almost looked like the backdrop to a stage production. The curtains that a group of tourists had gone around closing earlier because of the sun were now being anxiously flung open lest they lose a chance to snap a few pics. Ta, loves.

It's almost comically large.

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