Seoul –> Tokyo –> Calgary –> MSP

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{Minneapolis, Wisconsin, Korea – all my homes this year}

Well its official! I made it HOME and have been getting semi settled since departing Korea. My departure from Korea was completely hectic and tiring. I was offered a great job back home and hadn’t mentioned in my blog (or to anyone for that matter) that I was departing Korea because I was planning to surprise my boyfriend while he was visiting his family in Canada. I didn’t want to risk ruining the surprise! He didn’t think I was coming home until the end of August, so to say he was surprised when I walked through his front door in Calgary is an understatement.

Keeping it a secret was the worst part. It was so hard – especially after having to say goodbye to my students, co workers, and friends while not being able to talk to him about it. The school year had ended so I took a 5 hour bus ride to the Incheon airport only to find out my flight was full and I wasn’t able to get on (a good friend of ours works for Delta and I was just going to use his companion pass). I ended up lugging all of my luggage to a nearby hostel, The Yellow Submarine, where I booked a one way flight to Calgary for the next morning. It ended up working out OK! One last night in Seoul full of cheap Korean beer, new friends, and two Kimbap rolls. I was completely exhausted by the end of the night and ended up passing out in my hostel bed in a Cass coma. I woke up around 6AM and headed back to the airport where I boarded my flight to Tokyo. I hadn’t made it to Japan while I had been living in Korea so even though I was in the airport for a 5 hour layover it was nice to get a small taste of their culture through Pocky sticks, Asahi and sushi. Soon I boarded my flight to Calgary via Air Canada. I somehow managed to be the only passenger on the plane with no one sitting in the seats next to them. I was so happy. I curled up after a few complimentary Molson’s (that tasted like heaven after MONTHS of not having anything like it) and slept almost the entire 13 hour plane ride sprawled out among the seats. Upon descent I was so overwhelmed with emotion I started to cry. I couldn’t believe in about 30 minutes I would be able to hug Parker! We had talked about that moment for so long and it was finally time.

It only took me about 20 minutes to get through immigration and get my bags. Parkers sister, Kirstin, was patiently waiting at the international arrival gate and I was so glad to see her! I may or may not have said hello (IN ENGLISH!) to everyone I passed on the way out of the airport. I could finally fully communicate again. Kir had told Parker she was going to go pick up her friend Ann and would be right back. He was impatient because it was also the Calgary Stampede (world’s largest boozefes.. I mean Rodeo) so he wanted to get down to the grounds to watch the Rodeo. It was about 11:30AM when we arrived to his house and he was sitting on the couch. Kir walked in before me and said, “Well… Ann couldn’t come to the rodeo but I found someone else to come” then I walked in! WAVES of emotion I will probably never feel again in my life came over me. Parker was in complete shock. The first thing he said to me was, “do you have to go back?!”. Lots of hugs were exchanged and we were all SO incredibly happy. Before I knew it I was in my cowgirl hat sipping on a Budweiser watching some bull riding. Hello culture shock…..! The next 24 hours were a complete blur but pretty sure I was the happiest girl in North America.

We spent 10 days in Calgary. A few days at the rodeo catching up with Parkers family and friends and a few of the days were spent in Waterton, Alberta, part of Waterton National Park that borders Glacier National Park. It was SO beautiful (pics below). We camped in the mountains for a few days while I drank every kind of beer imaginable and binged on pizza, hamburgers, and fish fry. We saw a few bears (grizzly and black), some deer, and took a dip in the glacier water. The trip couldn’t have been more perfect. A peaceful trip in the middle of the mountains was much appreciated after being packed in my 15 story small apartment with the sound of vehicles and drunk Korean men outside my window every night. Without Korea I wouldn’t have appreciated my time in the mountains as much as I had. Korea will always hold a special place in my heart and I wouldn’t change the experience for anything. I’m still handing people things with two hands, saying ‘neh’ instead of ‘yes’, and drunkenly speaking broken Korean on the weekends. Am I happy to be back home with Parker, friends and family? You betcha. Do I miss my Korean friends, students and co workers? I definitely do… but there truly is no place like home!

Parker and I flew to Minneapolis together, went to a Twins game, and I started my new job a few days following. I’ve been getting settled, seeing my friends and family (including my sister, who is expecting), and enjoying every second of life currently. Without Korea I believe I wouldn’t have been given this wonderful position nor would I have met so many great people along the way. With that being said I encourage everyone to go live abroad 🙂 Its do-able (and so worth it) even if you are in a long- distance serious relationship…plus it really makes you appreciate the little things that may have been taken for granted before.

Enjoy 🙂

P1020104{Pizza party with my 3rd graders}

P1020112{My favorite class on the last day}

P1020094{Going away party from my co workers}

IMG_6284{Last Korean coffee before I get on my plane!}

IMG_6309{SURPRISE!! First hug on North American soil in 10 months!}

IMG_6421{Still in shock}

IMG_6304{Heading to the rodeo.. together!}

IMG_6295{Enjoying my company at the Rodeo :))

IMG_6393{My favorite cowboys in Pink}

IMG_6336{Kirstin, Jimmy and I at Wildhorse Saloon}

IMG_6342{These boots.}

IMG_6371{Missed my McDuck!}

IMG_6558{We got tickets to Nelly (yes, country grammar Nelly) — waiting for him to come on stage!}

IMG_6556{Road trip to Waterton! Prince of Wales Hotel}

IMG_6554{Pints in the mountain}

IMG_6557{The hotel was so beautiful. Tea time everyday at noon}

IMG_6503{Love this view – and this guy}

IMG_6555{Enjoying some tea and the unreal view}

IMG_6553{hi!}

IMG_6505{Setting up our tent}

P1020168{Our home for a few days}

P1020195{Mama Griz}

P1020205{Definitely not in Korea anymore!}

P1020246{Black bears galore)

P1020218{Actual town of Waterton}

IMG_6552{Splashing around – cuz I can! Love these boots}

P1020230{Skipping rocks in Waterton}

IMG_6551{Happy as a clam}

IMG_6580{Home sweet Minneapolis. Sunday afternoon Twins game!}

IMG_6581{Annnd we’re home!}

I really enjoyed blogging while I was abroad. Since I have a few more trips coming up this year I’m going to try and keep my blog going. Happy to be home!! Friends and fam — lets finally grab a drink! xo

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Thanks KKOOM!

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A few months ago I got word from an organization by the name of KKOOM (Korean kids and Orphanage Outreach Mission) that they had decided to accept my volunteer-led project and fund 500,000 Korean Won for English materials to the orphanage I volunteer at. I was so excited after I opened my email to see that message I didn’t know what to do with myself. The past few months were full of planning, prepping, and shopping!

All classes at the orphanage are now equipped with English books and workbooks, materials like crayons, pencils, and paper, as well as mini white boards to write English words or practice sentences, and many English games. My work at the orphanage has by far been the most rewarding experience while I was living in Korea and saying goodbye to the little ones was no easy task!

KKOOM had decided to publish my volunteer-led project and you can see the published post as well as pics and my narrative report here:

http://kkoom.org/english-at-gyeongaewon-orphanage-volunteer-led-project-report-by-jessie-mcshane/

If you are living in Korea, or anywhere for that matter, and have an orphanage near by I encourage you to get involved! I’ve put together a start up job description for anyone that wants to initiate a English Coordinator position in their area. If you’d like it feel free to get ahold of me via my blog and i’d love to email you a copy!

Enjoy! 🙂

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비금도 Island.

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{heart beach}
This weekend six of us packed our bags and decided to head to Bigeum-do Island. Bigeum-do is part of the Dadohae Maritime National Park and is the first and leading production center of sun-dried salt in Korea, which is its main source of income. The island is comprised of many small villages and two large sand beaches. One in particular, Hanuneom Beach, resembles the shape of a heart. We decided we wanted to see Hanuneom Beach and once we reached our destination the 2 hour ferry ride, 30 minute bus ride, and 15 minute cab ride all seemed well worth it. The beach was tucked away between small mountains and rocky shores. When we first arrived there was fog and mist coming from the sea and we were the only ones on the entire beach, a sight i’m sure no photo will truly be able to capture (I tried though! See photos below). We spent a few hours on the beach chatting, eating, and relaxing in the sun. We all dozed off to the sound of the water on the shoreline and woke up to many crabs digging their holes up and down the beach. We would see their bug eyes pop out of the sand then continue on with their digging. It was such a nice relaxing afternoon.

Around 4pm our friends Min-sul and Chang-suk arrived to the beach with their vehicle. The whole reason we decided to go to Bigeum-do was because Min-sul invited us to his families cottage on the island. Min-sul and Chang-suk have really become great friends to us and helped me personally learn a lot about the Korean lifestyle. I was more than excited to take him up on his offer and spend the weekend in a traditional Korean home on one of the islands near Mokpo. His cottage was about 15 minutes from the beach and the small town its in is known for its spinach. We were told its where ‘Popeye’ originated from. Minsuls place was really nice. Spacious and homey. We decided to use a charcoal grill and have dinner outside that night. We honestly could not have asked for a more perfect setting. The guys grilled beef and pork for some traditional Korean BBQ and Minsuls mom packed us a bunch of great Korean side dishes. Dinner lasted late into the night continuing into the early hours of the morning. We woke up and had traditional Korean breakfast (rice, kimchi, side dishes, ramen) before packing up and heading back to the ferry. I would have to say Bigeum-do was my favorite Korean experience thus far — big thanks to Minsul and Chang-suk!

Enjoy! 🙂

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{Our first view}

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{fog and barnacles}

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{Another salt in my hair opp}

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{Perfect harmony}

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{The salt fields}

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{sand beds}

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{Lunch on the beach}

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{Minsul grilling away!}

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{Almost ready for dinner}

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{Happy, healthy, thirsty}

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{Gambe!}

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{Just your average Korean brek}

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{I love you, Korea. But I’ll always be an eggs/hash browns for breakfast kind of girl}

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{Getting ready to board the ferry back to Mokpo}

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{Enjoying the ride}

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{el capitan}

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{Wasting time talking about titanic/dolphin sighting}

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{My fave guys!}

Bigeum-do is such a great island! If you’re in Korea and reading this I highly recommend going. There is a bigger beach on the island you would easily be able to camp on. Great weekend away and short ferry ride from the ferry terminal in the ‘po. Hope everyone has a great week! Missing friends and fam from across the world!}

Happy Birthday Buddha

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{Getting judged in Busan}

Summer is going too quick! I’ve completely slacked on my blogging and have so much to post about. Awhile back it was Buddha’s birthday celebration which for us meant NO WORK FRIDAY!!! Three day weekends in the summer time are scarce in Korea so when you have one, you definitely take advantage of it! We decided to take advantage of the long weekend by traveling to Busan, South Korea. Busan is the second largest city in South Korea (next to Seoul) and is known for having Korea’s largest beach. Our friend Dan has a vehicle and offered to drive a few of us which we happily agreed upon. I haven’t cruised around in a vehicle for 9 months — so for me it was a huge luxury!

I woke up at 7AM Friday morning and went to meet Alyssa, Pat, Dan, and another Dan all heading to Haeundae Beach in Busan. The car ride itself provided hours of entertainment and it was nice to check out Koreas countryside along the way. It was about a 4 hour car ride with no wrong turns (shout out to Dan) and once we arrived we immediately found a place to stay, threw on our swimsuits, and went to get margaritas and Mexican food at Fuzzy Navel, a Mexican restaurant. Mexican food is hard to find where I live in Korea so we took advantage of the fact that we had access to it for the whole weekend. Fuzzy Navel was right near the beach so there were people (foreigners) everywhere. It was nice constantly being surrounded by people that spoke English. Many of the foreigners came from Seoul where there is a larger foreign base. In Mokpo I could go weeks without seeing another foreigner if I really wanted/tried. I’ve really learned a lot about the Korean culture being that i’m constantly surrounded by only them. Its a great learning environment but traveling to Busan was a nice break back to what felt like a piece of ‘home’ (i.e. blackout foreigners everywhere). It made me appreciate the little things I would normally take for granted like hearing conversations I could actually understand and breakfast with forks and hash browns.

We spent the entire weekend relaxing on the beach, drinking, eating, and repeating. I did some shopping and on our last night we decided to try eel from the seafood market since Busan is known for its eel —  I’d eat it again.

From no shirt briefings to late night taco truck eats it was such a great weekend! Busan was so beautiful and I hope to be back sometime to check out more of the city.

Enjoy 🙂

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{The best Margs at Fuzzy Navel}

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{so good}

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{Could’ve probably sat here all day}

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{Beach Bums}

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{Busan is known for its Eel — dinner one night!}

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{Busan lights at night}

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{hi.}

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{Western brekky. Happy foreigners}

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{YUM.}

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{Sunday sea stroll}

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{take me back}

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{Perfect end to a great weekend}

June has been full of sun, friends, meckju, and weekends away! I’ll try and update my blog before Christmas 😉 Hope everyone has a great 4th!! Missing friends and fam from across the world.

Oedaldo Island

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{Waking up to the Yellow Sea}

One great thing about living near the sea in the southern part of South Korea is all of the easily accessible islands we can take ferries to. A few weekends ago some friends and I packed our tents and sleeping bags and took a weekend camping trip to Oedaldo Island. Oedaldo was about a 5,000 WON ($5 USD) round trip,  45 minute ferry ride from the Mokpo ferry terminal station. It is referred to as love island and has two beaches. We were able to walk around the entire island in about 20 minutes sighting only a few homes and a random water park. Apparently once tourist season hits the island is one of Korea’s most popular weekend destinations because of the water park and sea salt pool but we decided to go when it wasn’t tourist season so we had the entire beach (opposite side from the water park) to ourselves. It was so nice!

Once the ferry docked, and because we all had never been to this island before, we were unsure which way to go. Alyssas boyfriend Pat pretty much organized the entire thing with help from Alyssa (shout out to you guys for a memorable weekend). We decided to walk towards what looked like a nice beach that could be used for camping. Once we got there we put all of our things down and decided that if this was where we were supposed to camp we would need to do some cleaning. The beach was a mess from everything that washed up and as mentioned it isn’t tourist season yet so they haven’t cleaned the beaches. Thankfully the washed up wood and various other items worked well for our beach fire we had later in the night.

After we all got our tents set up we spent the late afternoon/evening chatting, laughing, and reminiscing. We grilled beef on a portable grill and had a nice Korean BBQ to go with our maekju (beer) and makgeolli (rice wine). Pat brought his Ukelele and played around sunset and then we started a fire. At one point in the night a Korean man that lived on the island came to the beach and sold Pat some fireworks, he also stuck around to tip back a few. It was a great day ending with beautiful stars and some celebratory fireworks that were set off. I woke up next to Amy in our tent and opened the door (ok it was already open because we had too much to drink the night before and forgot to close it when we went to bed) to see a beautiful morning view of the Yellow Sea. Nothing better than waking up to sunshine and the sound of waves about 20 feet from your tent. We packed everything up and headed back to Mokpo in the afternoon. One weekend with great friends i’ll never forgot thanks to Korea and the amazing islands it has to offer!

Enjoy 🙂

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{Posted up and ready to relax}

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{Taking advantage of being the only people on the beach}

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{Good friends & great mems}

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{Pan-o-rama}

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{Salt in the air, salt in my hair}

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{Good eats}

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{Korean beach BBQ and Tiger beer}IMG_5428

{My ultimate happiness here in Korea!}

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{Time issss what I got}

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{Almost complete sundown!}

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{Firework man that loved to drink copious amounts of maekju}

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{Peace & blessings}

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{Still feeling thankful for this weekend}

I’m hoping to take a few more islands trips in the next couple of weeks because, for me, they are some of the most memorable  weekends in Korea! I’m happy to announce its FINALLLYYYY summer back home!! No more snow 🙂 I hope you’re all enjoying summer shandys and life on the lake. Missing friends and fam from across the world!!! xo

Baseball and Chicken

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{Sporting my new (Parker’s new) hat before the game!}

Last weekend a group of us decided to head to Gwangju (a bigger city about an hour away) and attend a Korean baseball game. The Kia Tigers were playing the Samsung Lions and it was a great new experience. Although I knew I wasn’t going to get my usual ‘dome dog’ (now target field dog) or sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame, I was still excited to experience a top sporting event in the country i’ve been living in and was really impressed with the Korean fan base at the game. I rode up to the game with Min-sul and Chang-suk, two Korean friends, and we met up with Alyssa, Pat and 10 other foreign and Korean people at the Gwangju Mudeung Baseball Stadium. The stadium is probably about double the size of the Saint Paul Saints stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota if you’ve ever been there. I’m sure you could easily compare the size to any minor league field in the states. The field opened in 1965 and can currently seat 12,500. We were lucky enough to get tickets to a sold out game and sat right near third base-line.

As mentioned I wasn’t expecting to get a hotdog at the game, but I also wasn’t expecting to get a humongous box of fried chicken either. What baseball hotdogs are to Americans, fried chicken is to Koreans. Every person had a box of fried chicken they indulged in while watching 9 innings of intense ball. The couple next to me left at one point and came back with a huge bowl of ramen, and you can bring anything and everything you wanted into the game. I saw whole families with coolers of food and drinks, foreigners drinking soju or makgeolli (rice wine) straight from the bottle, and many many cans of beer. There is a mini stop right in the stadium selling cans of beer for 2,500 a pop.. which is about 2 USD. You can also buy those long yellow looking things in the photo I posted (above). They are visually appealing when being waved through the air all around the stadium throughout the game. Fans can hit them together during a cheer or home run and it makes for an unforgettable atmosphere.

The Kia Tigers ended up winning! We were lucky enough to see first baseman Hee-seop Choi who previously played for the Chicago Cubs back in 2002 hit a few home runs. The entire stadium was on their feet almost the whole game cheering and chanting. They take so much pride in their baseball teams. Some of the people we were with even got into chanting the left outfielders name at one point while he was warming up and he threw his ball to us. One of the other foreigners, Paul, caught it and gave it to a little Korean boy sitting in front of us. By the smile on his face i’m sure it made his day!

After the game we went to a restaurant for a few beers and conversation before I caught the midnight bus back to Mokpo. The game was a great experience and i’m glad I got the opportunity to go to one while I was here. I know I will probably think of the baseball game in Gwangju the next time I head to Miller Park or Target Field – and miss eating fried chicken with chopsticks and drinking beer for a buck.

Enjoy 🙂

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{Two views of the field}

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{Starting to fill up}

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{The National Anthem}

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{Chan-ran enjoying her fried chicken with sticks. Pat enjoying the game!}

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{Chang-suk getting really into things}

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{Sooo……}

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{Happy fans}

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{Happy about the win}

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{Perfect end to a great night!}

Hope you have a great weekend back home! I would like to report that I am happy the snow has melted and spring has sprung but my parents informed me that we got 6 inches of snow in my backyard this morning… on May 2nd! Yikes. Hoping you all get your fix of outdoor patios and peddle pubs in the near future! Missing friends and fam from across the world! xo

Korean Festivals

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{Cherry blossoms on my walk home from work}

It’s Spring in Korea which can only mean two things. 1) cherry blossoms and 2) the start of any and every festival you can imagine (especially cherry blossom festivals). Koreans LOVE festivals and if they can find reason to create or attend a festival they will. The town I teach in is known for their onions and octopus, so twice a year they have two different festivals to celebrate each of those things. Mokpo, the city I live in, is known for its Yudalsan festival. Yudalsan is a popular mountain in my city. I hike it every weekend and there are always people – young and old – climbing up and down the mountain. Sometimes I see older Korean couples decked out in their hiking gear complete with poles and intense hiking shoes while other times I’ve seen younger Korean women hike it in heels. Some people bring snacks or beer to consume at the top while others pack fresh fruit and healthy drinks. Last weekend I was hiking it and saw people climbing it.. literally.  Full mountain climbing gear (ropes, helmets, etc..) and everything. I posted the picture below and caught myself saying “of course.. only in Korea….” as I passed them. Yudalsan is only 228 meters high, hardly a mountain for actual climbing.

Because Mokpo’s claim to fame for festivals is the Yudalsan festival Alyssa, Pat, and I decided to go a few weekends ago (sorry im a little behind on my blogging). We got there and walked around, taking in beautiful flowers and not so beautiful 8 foot clowns making balloon animals for kids. We then made our way to the best part about festivals… the FOOD! Overpriced Pajeon (korean vegetable/seafood pancake) and Magkoli (rice wine) were calling our names and on a Sunday afternoon we couldn’t ask for anything more. We managed to find an open table among the sea of Koreans wandering around so we posted up on little stools and ordered our Korean-like pancake and rice wine. Our friends Jen, Paul, and one other couple met up with us and we all relaxed in the sun and enjoyed the afternoon…. probably a little too much i’d say. I ended up getting home and passing out for an hour due to all of the rice wine. I should have know.. anything with the word ‘wine’ in it is always asking for trouble and consumption in copious amounts on my end! WHOOPS.

The Cherry Blossoms in Korea are truly beautiful and it seems as though they take over the entire country. Many couples get together and hold hands while admiring the cherry blossoms and spring together. I cant help but enjoy them more than I normally would the past few weeks. With all of the negative news regarding the North and then the recent acts in Boston it’s refreshing to see some beauty in this world despite what has and is going on elsewhere.

Speaking of the situation with the North… I believe things have calmed down and everyone is relaxing a little more. In light of our relations with the North and media coverage in the West my good friend Pat made this video to portray everyday life in South Korea. He documented his life for exactly one week and compiled all of the videos together into one 4 minute movie. Check it out if you’ve got a few minutes. You wont be disappointed.. PLUS you can see some of my city!

Enjoy 🙂

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{statue at the base of Yudalsan}

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{Casual mountain scaling}

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{Cherry blossoms and my city!}

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{They fire off this cannon almost every weekend, I’m still unsure as to why}

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{Rice wine and good company}

I hope you all are having a great week so far! Since spring has sprung there is a lot more going on in Korea and a lot more to post about.. so i’ll be posting a lot more frequently! Missing friends and fam from across the world! Hoping you’re staying warm with the mid spring blizzards? that keep occurring…. those two words should never be in the same sentence. xo