Tuesday, September 25, 2012

That time I tried to fly...

Run, he tells me. Just keep running till you can't anymore. Okay, sounds straightforward enough. We run; it's hard. I can feel the pull of the wing (parachute) but do as told...we reach the end...my feet leave the ground and I wait to feel the wind through my hair and the rush of flying. We lift a bit, then I'm running down the mountain. Through bushes and trees...this cannot be right?!? It wasn't. We were crashing and went tumbling a couple of meters down the mountain before managing to stop ourselves. We're tangled and shaky  and thankfully okay. We hang on for what feels like ages before some staff come down to help us back up. I have bits of trees and dead leaves all up my shirt, which is now ripped...I'm scared and embarrassed and cut and bruised but I still cannot wait to try again.

Forgive the dramatic introduction but I just couldn't resist ;) This past weekend a group of 9 Jecheonians and myself went off to Danyang to try our hands at paragliding before it gets too cold. We were really lucky and arrived on the most beautiful day! We were taken up to the top of the mountain via a van with open back, where 4 of us sat trying not to fall off. Once at the top, the view was amazing and there was little time to sit around and contemplate what we were actually doing. The guy taking our money tried to rip us off but thankfully we had Angela there to help us and  we paid our \80 000 and were being hooked up before we could say "I'm scared of heights".

On the way up

View from the top

Estelle and I were the first to go; she made it look effortless and was in the air in no time. As the introduction suggests, mine did not go according to plan. It was a really scary feeling...falling and knowing that if we didn't stop, we would be at the bottom of the mountain with who knows what injuries in no time. It was kind of surreal and so many thoughts were going through my mind: what are the others thinking - they're probably laughing cos this is kinda funny...crap these are new pants and I hope I don't rip them...oh that hurt...we need to stop before we end up on that road...
But we did stop and I wasn't badly hurt, just a black and blue leg and shoulder and some scratches on my arm. There was no contemplation of not going again - I really wanted to. Once back at the top, I had my friends there to help me and calm me and then they were sent flying. I was second last to go and this time around they had 2 men helping me run. I still don't know what actually happened; I think it was a combination of things. This type of thing apparently never happens. Hey, at least I gave my pilot some impromptu training!

The actual flight was incredible!! That feeling of flying is second to none and although it was only 5 minutes, I felt it was well worth everything I'd been through. My guide was so nice and he made a real effort to make sure I enjoyed myself. Landing was as easy as pie and I now have a video to record my flight. A smart person would try and edit it before I post it but I'm not that smart. So here it is. Forgive the shakiness and sound and everything. Only watch it if you're interested and stop watching after I land and give a peace sign with my pilot - it gets really motion sickness-y after that ;) But it's a cool record of the flight. Enjoy :)  (OK the video isn't loading so will need to try at home)

So that was paragliding - would totally do it again and don't let my experience stop you. It takes a 'special' person to crash if you know what I mean ;)

Take off attempt #1

Looking like a pack horse

Fighting! We made it. My good sport of a pilot and me

After some lunch in Danyang, we were headed back to Jecheon to prepare for Will's 25th Masked Birthday Party! What a fun night that was! Estelle hosted us on her roof, and bar a rude so-and-so who at 20:15 (so late for a Saturday right?) came and told us to shut it all down, the party was a great success. Estelle and Meabh made the MOST delicious food, and we pigged out on that, dessert goodies and home made cocktails. Everyone had to wear a mask (and by everyone I mean the girls and a handful of guys) and it felt like a normal party back home. Except we were drinking soju. It was time for Rock and Roll, a local bar, after that where we spent the rest of the evening downing lemon drops and dancing to Gangnam Style. Was a super evening.

Some pics of the night...

Pretty masked ladies

Some of the delicious food

Gangnam Style 

Birthday Boy!

Su and Myself
A huge thank you to Estelle and Meabh for all their hard work that night!!

I think that's the last of the adventure sports I'll be doing in Korea. May try my hand at skiing and tobogganing during Winter but that's tame...right?

This upcoming weekend is a long one for us, thanks to 추석 (Chuseok - Korean thanksgiving) which gives us 5 days of beautiful weekend!! I'm going to Jeju island with some friends and cannot wait. Will be climbing some old volcanoes, seeing waterfalls and beaches and chilling out to the max. Yes - be jealous ;)

Life in Korea is pretty sweet at the moment. My kids are generally a ball and the weather has cooled down quite a bit which is heavenly. My landlord has actually decided to start putting my underfloor heating on at night which is less than ideal. But it shows - Winter is coming! Temperatures are currently ranging from around 18 degrees at night (sometimes colder out here by my schools) and reaching 23-26 degrees during the day. It's great.

So that is all folks. Just a follow up on my last post about Psy and Gangnam Style - I heard on the news the other morning that it has now made a Guinness Record for 'Most liked video on Youtube', which was previously held by LMFAO 'Party Rock'. So go Psy.

Have a happy Wednesday everyone!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

It's catchy 'cos it's Kpop

My feelings about Kpop

Over the past few weeks, I've been noticing countless posts from friends back home about South Korean 'Pop Sensation' Psy and his hit, "Gangnam Style". It had to make me smile because I really never expected my friends back home to be listening to the same songs on the radio that I am. So I decided I would do a little post about Kpop!

Kpop is ridiculously catchy. You may not understand a word of what is being said, but you cannot help bob your heard to the tune. And the music videos are something else. Kpop (an abbreviation of Korean Pop - duh) can be described as the sugary, over-the-top 'electropop' that is so popular with South Korean youth. It blasts from stores and high school cellphones and every child will know the corresponding dance moves to the current Kpop hit. I played Roly Poly by T-ARA to my 3rd and 4th grade class in Summer Camp and had them all dancing along with video like they taught those girls the moves themselves. It's huge here. Kpop stars are the Justin Biebers of Korea and people are drawn to them.

The singers and groups themselves have tried to go mainstream as of late, with bands like Wonder Girls, 2PM, Beast, Kara and now Psy featuring in the US media and on international music charts. One way I think they try to appeal to a more 'Western' market is their use of English catch phrases. Almost every Kpop song has an English title or English word/phrase that features in the chorus. It may just be Psy's use of Gangnam "style" and "heeeeeeeey, sexy lady" or 2PMs use of "put your hands up" but no matter how little you understand of the rest of the song, you can sing along to that one line and therefore feel connected to it. I could spew a whole lot of facts about Kpop to you now (which I've read on the ever-reliable Wikipedia) but this post is really just to give a brief intro to the music and post a few of my favourite songs ;)

Before I post you some of my Kpop gems, let me explain Gangnam style to you briefly. Psy has been around for ages but this is the first song of his that's hit so big abroad and  many Korean people do not understand why a guy who's line is "dress classy, dance cheesy" has made it so big when there are numerous other, more well put together bands that have not caught that wave yet. I think it's because the song is so dam cheesy and catchy, who doesn't love it! And that dance - come now. Gangnam is an area in Seoul, the capital of Korea, much like New York. It's a little more of an affluent and trendy place and the term 'Gangnam style' refers to the lavish lifestyle those in Gangnam lead. "Oppa" in Korean literally means "a male who is older than the female" but can also refer to a boyfriend - and so basically the song is about a boyfriend with lavish style. Maybe. Cos really that's all I understand. Thought I'd try help those less informed than even me to understand a bit more about what they're jamming to.

But enough about that - here are some of my favourite Kpop songs/videos.

This is Big Bang and their hit, "Wow, Fantastic Baby". One of my best - please notice the totally over-the-top make up, dancing and everything.

Next, here's 2PM with "Hands up", making it here purely because it was the first Kpop video I ever saw. And the boys are cute.

Now for some girls. Here's Girls Generation, one of the more popular girl bands, with "Twinkle". Cue typical Korean girl cuteness.

And lastly, here's Kara with the incredibly catchy "Step".

If this interests you, try searching for other bands and artists such as Beast, f(x), B.A.P, GD & TOP (a particularly cool video - 'Knock Out') and Super Junior.

I cannot lie - the Kpop bug has bitten me. You've just gotta chill out and enjoy the craziness of it all. Maybe it'll get you hooked too.

Have a lovely weekend!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Playing Catch Up

Hi all

What a beautiful day it is in Jecheon today. Sun is shining but the force of the Summer heat has faded; there's a cool breeze and the surrounding areas are bright with the contrasting greens of trees, rice paddies and bursts of red apple orchards. Puts you in a good mood :)

I thought I would play catch up a bit and share some of what's been going on lately. Things in general are good. Something about getting half way just helps everything click into place. School this term has been going smoothly - other than trying to get back into a routine, I cannot really complain. The 6th graders are slowly getting to the point where they want nothing to do with Elementary School and are ready to move on, but sorry for them, they still need to sit through English. It's tough on both parties. But I really feel like I'm at the best point I've been at in my relationship with (most of) my students. We joke around and I make a fool of myself - much to their endless delight. And my little 1st and 2nd grade girls - bless their little souls - have taken to hugging me. It's the highlight of every day! Both schools are preparing for Sports Days so classes are a bit mixed up, and I'm pretty sure there's an Orchestra event coming up too.

We've had newbies come to Jecheon - yay! The August intake teachers from EPIK and TALK started arriving about a month ago and it's been really great getting to meet new people and hear all their stories. We have people from New Zealand, Australia, the States and South Africa. The foreigner population seems to have swelled a bit and it's been really nice seeing more Western faces around! We've also managed to meet some lovely Korean girls who are just the sweetest, and has finally made me feel more at home here. They pointed out that they find Koreans in Jecheon to be a little more closed off to foreigners and they decided to try and change that. It's interesting as I also felt that way but wasn't sure if it was just me. We're hopefully being taken to a cultural festival on Seoul on Sunday which should be amazing!

I went to my first Baseball game on Saturday! We've been meaning to go for ages but finally just booked a day, making sure we got a game in before the season ends.

Leanne, Nicola, Adam, myself and Jane at the Baseball
We went to Daegu to see the game - it was the Samsung Lions (Daegu's home team) versus the Doosun Bears. Besides the most obnoxious American men you could hope to encounter not shutting up behind us and none of us really knowing what was going, it was a great time ;) The shopping in Daegu was great - we went to an underground market in Jungangno (red subway line) which had a lot of what we've seen before but in a concentrated area. I am now the proud owner of a Polaroid camera - think it will be perfect for documenting my travels and allowing me to take pictures of people and places and immediately writing the story down with the picture.

I also went Bungee jumping about 2 weeks ago. My goodness. I have always said I will never bungee...give me paragliding and sky diving any day but not a bungee. Well, I somehow got all big talk and before I knew it, we were headed to Cheongpung Lake to do the big swing and bungee. It was Will, Kevin, Nicola, Corey (one of the newbies) and myself. The big swing was scary but a lot of fun. The bungee was terrifying. I was second last to go, and when I got to the edge to jump I just couldn't move. So I asked the nice man if he would push me and he kindly obliged. It's a feeling I cannot describe. Truly breathtaking and such a rush, but not something I will jump at doing again (excuse the pun..ha..ha..).

Nics tried to film the jump but I took too long, so I got this picture instead :)

Other things on the agenda in the next few weeks, before Winter starts to affect us, include: Paragliding on the 22nd, Jeju island for Chuseok, a trip to Busan with Nics, Everland and the DMZ. We also need to start stocking up on Winter survival clothes as I hear it can be brutal!

I've decided that I am definitely not renewing my contact next year. This is a really hard opportunity to give up, and I know I'm going to miss it immensely but I feel a year is enough to have given me what I needed from this experience, and I really want to be in Africa. I'm currently looking at volunteering in Kenya for around 3 months next year so watch this space!! (On that note: if anyone has any advice about good volunteer programs, do share).

I think I've said all there is to say for now. I'm glad I got to write a bit of a general update - it's been too long.

Happy Tuesday people of the interwebs - may it be quick and painless.