Monday, October 29, 2012

Mr Jo and Mrs Lee

Hi everyone!

I hope my friends in Korea are keeping warm...I swear my teachers think I'm crazy, wearing scarves and jackets already but damn, it's cold. This feels like South African Winter and it's only 'Autumn'. Needless to say I am actually beginning to really worry about Winter proper here. Blankets, tea, hot water bottles and anything warm and fluffy being sent my way would be much appreciated (this is not a hint, it's a cry for help).

I've been meaning to write this post for ages, so now that I have absolutely nothing to do at school, let's get to it! Coteachers in Korea are a huge part of your life here. Whether you like it or not, unless you come here speaking fluent Korean and know everything there is to know about your school etc etc, your coteacher is your life-line. Having said this, you never really know who you're going to get. There are young ones who will want to be friends and take you drinking on the weekends, calling you the next day to see if your hangover has killed you. There are older ones who will mother you and make sure you never want for anything. There are ones who speak fluent English and ones that speak none; ones who want to be your friend and ones who barely acknowledge you at school. There are certain things your coteachers HAVE to do for you - most of these are admin, school and apartment related tasks. There are other things, such as helping you find your way around, translating bus times or helping with things that are difficult to do without knowing Korean, that some coteachers will willingly do. You just don't know. I think it's important to be prepared for anything and accept the fact that you may possibly end up with a grumpy non-English speaking 50-something who resents having to 'baby' you. It happens. As we've learned time and time again here - be ready for anything.

I have two very different coteachers - Mrs Lee and Mr Jo. Mrs Lee is my 'real' coteacher in that she is at Hwadang, my main school, and she is in 'charge' of me. She does all the paperwork, clears all my leave, and is the person I go to if I need to know anything. She really is the one who people go through if they need to know anything about me. I teach my favourite and easiest class with her, my precious 4th graders, and she has a way of being stern and loving with them all in one. Her kids really respond to her. We've had a bit of an up-and-down year together: she can be incredibly kind and warm, and borders on 'coddling' me and underestimating me at times but she can be very uptight and controlling in other ways. At the moment, things are very good between us. She speaks very little English and the conversations we share are very limited - how was your weekend, what will you do this weekend, and anything school related (usually told to me 10 minutes after I need to know it). I find her to be a little insensitive to my position as a foreigner here and a bit reluctant to include me in things at school. My first encounter with her was when I was told to go and organise my ARC by myself. Having just arrived in a new country, with no idea how anything worked and knowing full well this was something coteachers were there to help with, it was a slap in the face. But she really pulled through for me when I complained about my internet. I just don't think she has any idea how hard it is to be here and not be able to communicate. She's never traveled and I find those teachers who have, can better understand how difficult it is to get around a place when you don't speak the language. I asked her once if she could help me at the post-office as I wanted to try and send a package home - she dropped me outside. When she's angry, she lets me know by ignoring me and dropping me further away from home than necessary.

There are times this year when I have been at my wits end and actually shed tears over the situation. However, I decided to get over myself and put myself in her position. She is really busy at school, it is intimidating to be put in charge of the English teacher when you speak very little English and bottom line - she didn't ask for this. One thing I hope other teachers in frustrating situations at least consider, is the fact that very often we do not know half of what our coteachers deal with and go through for us. It does not always justify everything but I've found that by being a little more understanding, we have a better relationship and I am a lot more independent for it (at least I'd like to think so). Now, we laugh together often, she is warm towards me and things are just happier. There really is nothing quite like a scorned or sulky coteacher (avoid avoid avoid). We had a good giggle in the car on Friday, as after telling her that Christmas in SA is hot and therefore we often swim on Christmas day, she suggested wearing a 'santa swimsuit'. Only a Korean woman could think of something like that :) I really do like Mrs Lee when she is on my side and hope things continue this way for the rest of the year.

Then there's Mr Jo. He isn't really even a coteacher. He's the guy who gives me a lift to and from school, so is the teacher at Baegun I spend the most time with. I don't actually know all that much about him...I would guess he's in his 40s and it doesn't sound like he's married or has kids - I've always been too embarrassed to ask. He's quite an intimidating teacher to the students although very warm and caring too (showing affection in the standard Korean way - patting the boys on the bum and playing with cheeks - sometimes still weird for me). He's also the manliest of all the male teachers I'm surrounded by. Mr Jo has just gotten a fancy new car (so happy, the seats now have heating - just in time for Winter!!) but before that, he'd pick me up and stick in a cassette for us to listen to. Often it was Dire Straits which I LOVED as it reminds me of my Dad. He makes a real effort to talk to me. He's asked countless questions about my family, my home, why I'm not black (true story kids) and about my experiences here. Although his English is basic, he isn't shy to pull out his phone and Google translate some words so he can get his point across (although lovely of him, this is often done while driving, which scares me a bit haha). We've spoken about music we like, and his taste is very similar to my Dad, enjoying Bryan Adams, Dire Straits, Eric Clapton and Metallica to name a few.

We get on really well and have never had any problems - he may or may not have traveled but I feel he is sensitive to my role as a foreigner here and has asked questions about what I find difficult here and as a foreign teacher etc. He is very quick to back me up at school - if my kids are giving me grief, I can tell him and he will "kill them"...his words, not mine. This is something I feel Mrs Lee lacks - I never really feel supported or included by her. Mr Jo seems to worry about me a lot; he never leaves school on time and I often have to sit around for up to 40 minutes for us to leave which stresses him out and he's taken to stopping on the way home to get us coffee. He always apologises if he's early/late/hasn't cleaned his desk when I come in to teach or if I have a desk warming or 'dull' day as he calls it. He refuses to take money for petrol and drops me off at my doorstep, even though it means negotiating very narrow and awkward roads. Speaking of his driving - this guy is a pro. He actually asked me the other day if his driving "gives me fear" but I really feel safe with him even when he's whipping around town and trying to take all the short cuts (it means we leave later in the mornings so I aint complaining). I just think Mr Jo is a cool kid.

Both of these teachers are very different but I have grown so fond of them. I really hope to be able to command a classroom like either of them someday. I feel it's important to blog about them not just for me to share but also to try and encourage an open mind when it comes to your coteachers. I of all people understand being frustrated and fed up and wishing for a 'young, fun' coteacher but we need to give them a break, accept that they were lumped with us as much as we were stuck with them and try to understand where they come from. It isn't always easy and sometimes there's no silver lining ..but if you've got to be interacting with this person (people) all year - you might as well make the most of it I say. Treat them well and generally they'll return the favour.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Finding our zen

Sometimes, it's good to get away and clear your mind. And what better way to do that than a temple stay! The Provincial Office of Education (POE) in Chungbuk sent out emails  a few weeks ago asking if anyone would want to join on a sponsored temple stay trip. I singed up immediately as it's been something I wanted to do before I leave - and this trip would be free! I won't lie...once I knew I was definitely going and looked at the schedule, I started to regret deciding to go. Who wants to spend their much needed weekend waking up at 3am and doing 108 bows? I did apparently. So with a bit of foot dragging, I woke up on Saturday morning, not really knowing what was lying ahead of me. Awesomeness is what was.

We all (80 odd EPIK teachers) had to meet at the Office of Education by 9:40 on Saturday morning to load onto buses to Songnisan National Park - Boeun. I had been before (read that post here) but this time was different, given we were actually staying at the temple. Jecheon is 2 hours from Cheongju, so we caught the 7:00 (on a SATURDAY) bus and made it to Cheonju in time. It was another 1 hour bus ride to Songnisan, and then a 20 minute walk to the temple. Was great to see people from Orientation and catch up a bit, as we hardly ever get a chance to see everyone! Songnisan at this time of the year is beautiful. Well actually all of Korea in Autumn is beautiful. The leaves are changing, making the landscape full of vibrant reds, oranges, yellows and greens. We were greeted at the temple by our lovely host - this woman was just amazing  So happy, kind, gentle. Guess everything you expect a monk/nun to be like. Her English was great and she had a Korean Military guy there to help translate too, making it easy to communicate. We dropped our bags off at the main hall and were taken for lunch - buffet style, where we had to be careful what we dished up as there was a no-waste policy (completely understandable). I liked it this way because it meant we could eat what and how much we wanted. The food over the weekend was actually pretty good. Vegetarian, rice with different toppings which made a bimimbap vibe, soups...there was pajeon and watermelon one meal. All in all, quite delicious. We were also expected to clean our bowls and utensils till spotless, which made me think of school camps!

After lunch we changed into our gray 'Aladdin' pants and waist coats, or as we were told - our fake monk clothes. They may have looked ridiculous but were actually pretty comfortable.
Cos this looks so zen *eye roll*
We then were taken on a tour of the grounds, having the different buildings, shrines and 'national treasures' explained to us which was quite interesting. I forget when exactly, but we were also taught the proper way to bow, explaining how 2 hands held together in front of you signals you come in peace. There is so much that I learned this weekend, but I can't remember it all right now. One of the most interesting things for me, which I already knew a bit about, was the fact that Buddhists do not worship, or bow down, to Buddha. They see him as a great teacher who reached Enlightenment, the 'goal' I guess of Buddhism but they do not see him as a god and therefore are not worshiping him. The bowing is to your true self, in order to clear your mind and focus on the ills of this world and our role in it all. This is really oversimplified and maybe wrong, but it's how I understood it.

We were then taken on a hike up to a peak over looking the whole temple and surrounding areas. It was beautiful up there!!!

At the top
We sat for a while, chatting and taking in the views. Eventually, we were asked to be quiet for meditation...this was one of the highlights for me. We sat in silence, for around 15 minutes I think, and I was able to completely relax. We heard some Buddhist chanting in the background, the sounds from the temple below and just nature all around us. It sounds silly but really, it's the most 'zen' I've ever felt. From there it was back down for room placements and dinner. We were told to meet at the big drum for the evening chanting ceremony around 6. This was awesome - we stood and watched the monks beat the drum, the big bell, and go through all the rituals of evening meditation and chanting. We were taken to the main temple after this, where 3 huge golden Buddhas stood and where the monks go for chanting and meditation. None of us really knew what we were doing, so was a tad bit awkward, but we followed the lead of the monks, bowing when we had to and looking around nervously when we didn't. The inside of the temple is so pretty, with very intricate designs all over the wood. I spent most of the time just taking it all in.
Beating the drum

After that we went back to the main hall for lotus flower making - this was fun and carefree, with jokes made about how 'original' our different creations were.

Nolo, Cola and me with our finished lanterns 
We then took candles and our flowers and walked around the temple in silence, before being led into the main hall for evening meditation. Here we sat in the dark, and tried to clear our minds. We were told to tell ourselves "I love you", "I'm sorry" and "Thank you" - the same with our loved ones. We then lay down and were taken through a relaxation ritual, before bed. It was only 8.30pm and most of us were a little concerned about how we could ever fall asleep so early. But the meditation helped, as well as the fact that we had to remain in silence until the next morning. Sleep was achieved, at least a little bit was, before our VERY early 3am start.

With sleep still on our faces, it was up and to the temple at 3.30, for morning chanting and meditation. Cue bowing, meditation/sleeping, and early morning grumpiness. We didn't stay in the temple long, but were taken back to the main hall for our own zen meditation. I found this hard. Not only was I tired, sleepy, and therefore restless, but my posture is apparently atrocious, and sitting with a straight back and crossed legs felt like torture. I couldn't believe how calm and very 'zen' our guides looked...I just couldn't keep still! Funniest moment was hearing a faint snore from somewhere/someone - whoever it was, I don't blame you!!! Once we came to, it was time for the 108 bows. I was dreading this part as it sounds very difficult but actually, it was great. Let me try, as simply as I can, explain the reason for the 108 bows.

The bowing is all about prostration - you prostrate yourself in order to purify that which we do wrong in this world, to recommit yourself to the principles of Buddhism and for me it was really just about trying to focus on our role in this world, apologizing for what we do wrong and being thankful for all that we have. Buddhists believe that this act of prostration cleanses you. What I really enjoyed or found helpful, was that we listened to a CD of an American Monk while doing it, and every time we bowed, he explained why we were doing it. He took us through the '108 Delusions' of the mind...things like being sorry for thinking we are right, sorry for taking our parents for granted, praying for world peace and the end of all disease etc. For me, this whole process really just helped me focus on what I can improve on as a person living in a very connected world. A lot of what was said really spoke to me, and I think it's important to acknowledge what we do wrong each day, but not dwell on it either, which I think is the point here. Say sorry, prostrate yourself, and be free of it. Like I said, this is really oversimplified and maybe I misinterpreted it all but this is what I took from it. 108 bows went much quicker than I was expecting  but was happy to be done with it. I know we went on a walk through the forest too - but cannot remember when exactly this was (it was early, okay).

We then ate breakfast, and given the choice between taking a rest or going on another walk, I took rest ;) Was honestly the most life changing nap ever, and felt much more alive after that. It was back to the main hall where we chilled a lot and had the head monk at the temple come and briefly address us (this is all before 8am). They really have a very calming way about them. We had Q&A time with him and our nun, which was very interesting, allowing us to try and understand Buddhism better. I love that it is a religion that is all inclusive; with no one god, it allows for all beliefs to come together and take from it what we can. I can understand why Buddhists choose to live the life they do...the best way to describe it in my eyes is with what Gandhi said: Live simply so that others may simply live. There is nothing I really agree with more than that.

We sat down to a traditional tea ceremony, where we were taught how to pour and drink the tea, and it was all just very relaxed. When asked about heaven, the nun (I really wish I could remember her name) said something along the lines of 'look at us here, laughing, enjoying each others company - this is heaven on earth'. A beautiful way to think of it.

Cue lunch, and the trek back to the buses, and we were on our way home. Honestly, I took way more out of the weekend than I ever expected to, and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. I came home feeling relaxed despite the early morning, and am really happy I was given the opportunity to learn more about such a fascinating religion. It should be noted here, as I know a lot of people back home are probably wondering, that just because I went on this experience  does not mean I'm becoming a Buddhist. That's not what it's about. I feel I can take a lot from their teachings, and in today's world, we need to be teaching openness and tolerance, and emphasising our roles as consumers and this is where I think some Buddhist principles can be really helpful.  You don't need to be put in a box and defined as 'either this' 'or that' - at least I don't. And this weekend was about learning more and having a truly Korean experience, which is what I'm here for!

There were plenty cameramen around us, and lots of pictures were taken. Shame, I don't think the small town knew what had hit them with all 80 of us walking down the street.
There was a clip about the weekend on the Korean news, which you can see here.

So all in all, I had a wonderful weekend temple experience, and would really recommend you try it. The one in Boeun is especially beautiful but they are all over Korea! I'm glad I went, and learned above all that sometimes, our assumptions and expectations need to be ignored.

Happy Tuesday everyone!
Peace and love

Thursday, October 11, 2012

It is what it is

I was trying to come up with a catchy title but was having no inspiration so really, it is what it is.

This blog has become something I look forward to writing each week, and although I'm not 100% sure if I'm doing what I set out to do in the beginning, it's nice to share my stories and therapeutic to vent sometimes. This is a venting post. It's been a bit of an up and down week. Monday was a wonderful school picnic day with my students, but the rest of the week has been, for lack of a better word and because I've been in Korea too long, so-so. I've been thinking of my role as a teacher here quite a bit this week and it's lead me to become quite frustrated.

In the beginning of the year, at orientation, we were told about desk-warming. Oh it sounded so amazing...all the time you want to sit and watch movies and serf the internet. Bliss. But as we were warned, I soon discovered that in fact, desk warming can be mind numbing. I don't have sound at my main school so series watching is not an option for me. I try as hard as I can to be productive while I'm here but really, there is only so much you can do when you spend at least half your school week in front of a computer. It didn't seem so bad in the beginning...I had just enough down time to make it enjoyable. But this second semester has felt different. To be completely honest, I feel totally useless. My students have just left for the English Contest being held in Jecheon today, and although I asked to please go with, I wasn't invited to go along. Other teachers are able to negotiate these kinds of situations and maybe I could have juggled my class around. Instead, I sit at my desk, doing nothing but thinking. The fact that I was hardly involved in the preparations for the contest seemed odd to me too - why am I being paid all this money to sit at my desk?

I guess I'm just trying to decide what kind of role I have here. All the GET's have different experiences but I'm sure I'm not the only who feels this way. I really just wish I had a teacher who I could sit down and talk about all these things with but unfortunately, my coteacher is sweet but not very interested in discussing anything with me. She can't understand what I say half the time. It's hard to be in a situation where for 95% of any weekday, I have little idea what is going on around me. I'm talked about, in front of my face. I'm pointed at, I hear bits of conversations that I know have to do with my classes but I'm rarely filled in on what's going on. I prepare for classes that are cancelled; I have a 5th grade class that gets cancelled at least once a week but then have to answer to the teacher who wants me to "hurry up" because the students are behind. I feel like I'm in the wrong because I don't know whether anyone has been informed that it is in fact the 5th grade teacher who cancels, not me. I have gotten used to this and in general it doesn't affect me...guess it's just been one of those weeks.

The other thing I've been struggling with is how I'm treated here. My schools are very kind to me; they accept me and include me where they can (this is a different point to my above mentioned lack of information regarding actual class time) but I don't know if I feel like an adult. How can I explain this...Sometimes I feel like I am babied. I'm dropped off here and picked up there, with teachers always worrying about how "Bronin" is getting home if my usual lifts are busy. They make me stand in the lines with the kids and sometimes I feel like a student, not a teacher. There are times I really appreciate it and feel really cared for, but sometimes I just feel like I've been given all this independence by moving to a foreign country...but I actually have little real independence with anything school related. I am young, this is their culture, I accept and embrace it. But it does make me wonder how well I'm finding my feet in this world as an 'adult'.

I guess you can tell from my schizo sounding post that it's just been 'one of those weeks' where the language barrier gets me down and I feel really isolated. It's not always like this and there will be a time when I am SO thankful for no classes. But today, I want a glass of wine with my parents and want to be able to hear them tell me I'm capable and doing a good job, even though I feel completely out of place. But I can't do that - so I will blog. It's therapeutic, so bear with me ;)

What do you do in a situation where you feel helpless to change anything? You deal with it. I love my kids (even the naughty ones, when I'm not the one trying to control them) and love teaching. I'm trying to decide what to do next year when I get home, and a PGCE is on the cards but I have no idea what actual teaching will feel like. Here I may have control over my classes, but everything else is in everyone else's hands. I'm anticipating the moment when all the teachers wake up to the fact that my classes are behind, because maybe cancelling English for soccer practice is NOT the most productive decision. But that's somehow my problem. The communication barrier here is my biggest struggle and most weeks it's easy to shrug it off with a simple 'oh Korea'. But lately I just wish I had a true voice here and was more than the young white South African girl who teaches English.

Is it my fault? Am I doing something wrong? Well that's what I'm trying to figure out really. Maybe writing it down and getting feedback will help me figure this all out.
Until then, we keep on keeping on because that's what we do best! ^^

Monday, October 8, 2012


For those who are not familiar with Korean, this post is about Chuseok - Korean thanksgiving! I went with 6 friends to the island paradise of Jeju for 5 blissful days and thought I would share!

It really was an awesome little break and I was happy to get to see more of Jeju. I would recommend going there to everyone - make the trip. The beaches are beautiful, the people are friendly and there is SO much to do. Jeju-do, I love you!!

Day 1

We only arrived on Jeju at around 20:00 Saturday evening. It was easy to catch a cab to our hostel for the night - Greenday. It's one of the nicest hostels I've stayed at in Korea and home to the cutest, fattest, big-eyed cat ever. We dropped our bags and went straight out to find food. We ended up at a little place selling bulgogi and sweet and sour pork (which we decided on). Was an average meal, the highlight being me (of all people, come now :P) being told to shut up by the staff. Well, her words were more like...*points at me* "you, go down". At least I think she said something like that. We left in search of beer and back at the hostel sat down to a game of mafia, a group favourite. The hostel has a no-noise policy after 11 so we packed it up and got an early-ish night.


Day 2

On the Sunday we woke up and made a nice breakfast of eggs on toast - a little treat for someone who hasn't had a normal breakfast in a while (too lazy to cook in the mornings haha). Esti and Kevin went to pick up our rental car for the weekend (I believe it took Esti's alter-ego, Svetlana, to finally get that right) and by the time they got back we were packed back up and ready to explore. Having our own car gave us the freedom to travel where ever we liked and not worry about luggage, and between you and me, I think Kevin orchestrated this all just so he could drive again ;) Hey, we weren't complaining! We put some road trip tunes in (trying to decide on a play list proved difficult...Will's exclamations of "I'm putting my foot down now" went unanswered :P) and went in search of Love Land. Although I had been before, I went again for pure amusement. It took longer than expected to get there, and after wondering through the world of penises and awkward statues, we were all ready for lunch.

The African Love statue. Cos you know, that's how we roll in the Ap-ri-ca.
Cue another long and windy journey (the motion sickness reached sky high levels for some) and after a bit of a search we decided to eat at a little place overlooking the ocean. We had pork noodles and pajeon, coffee and ice cream and then went off to find out hostel. We were spending 2 nights in Seogwipo which is where Mt Hallasan is located and one of the bigger cities. We found the Hiking Inn with relative ease and were happy to be able to walk around a bit. Hiking Inn was a bit of a dive...out of all the hostels I've stayed in, this one was one of the least impressive but we had our own bathroom which was nice and the roof top was amazing! Stunning views, a really cool place to hang out.
Some of us wanted to check out the Cheonjiyeon Waterfall before it got dark so set off there and took in the natural beauty all around us. We relaxed and had some coffee before stocking up on supplies for day 3 - Hallasan. That night we ordered some chicken and ate up on the roof, keen for an early night ahead of the big hike the next day. It's funny how entertaining 'eye spy with my little eye' can be.

The view from Hiking Inn roof

Day 3

I have decided to throw away my hiking boots so as to never be temped to hike again. Okay no I'm joking and being totally over dramatic.

Day 3 saw us waking up early to make the journey to Mt Hallasan, Korea's highest peak and Jeju's famous volcano. I was apprehensive to say the least. Those of you following my journey here and those who know me understand that hiking in Korea has been a bit of a love/hate thing for me. Love the feeling of being at the top, love coming down, love the feeling of accomplishment and stiff limbs after but hate the process of getting up. Halla was no different. I am beyond chuffed to say I made it all 9.6 km up and 9.6km back down. Can I get a hells yeah. The hike itself wasn't all that difficult; the worst for me were the steps to the top...they seemed to go on forever. I think it was just the length of the hike that made it seem so tough. I struggle to keep myself motivated, and because I'm so slow and fall behind so quickly, I go through a pretty weird thought process whereby I argue with myself the whole way up. "what are you doing? why did you think you could do this? you should turn around now while there is still hope. you'll never make it. yes you will, you can do it. kill me now. nearly there" - these are some of them. As you can see, most are negative, no matter how hard I try to stay positive. And so the way up is not a fun time for me. But we made it, and it was worth it. We sat at the top, drinking in the views, watching some deer on the mountain and having 'snicker sandwiches' made by Cola: bread with peanut butter and nutella. The best has to be the guy who silently came to sit just up from us, and either he didn't see us or didn't realise his own strength but he proceeded to let out the biggest fart ever. We were all so surprised we just burst out laughing and when he noticed, he laughed and apologised before quietly making his exit. Oh Korea.

The way down was much easier and quicker and on jelly legs, we all made it down. It was back into the car and off to get wine and breakfast supplies before we could get home and enjoy hot showers. We went and had dinner at a quaint little place by the sea, but I think we were all too tired to really be enthusiastic. We went back to the hostel to eat a tub of ice cream (don't give us judgey eyes - we deserved it ;) ) before crashing into bed. It was a good day and the aching muscles were worth the experience and sense of achievement. Mt Halla - dominated.

At the summit! FIGHTING!
View from the top

Crater lake at the summit. Photo credit to Su ^^
Day 4

A bit of a late start this morning to give our limbs time to stretch. We cooked bacon and eggs at the hostel before leaving on a mission to U-do Island. Our plan was to rent ATVs and explore the island. Oh haha, but Korea can laugh at out plans. It was easy to catch the 15min ferry to U-do, and the round trip only cost around \5000. Once we got there, we realised, too late, that EVERYONE had the same idea as us and rushed to the ATV places to find that no, we weren't going to do that. First off, it was so busy that there were no quads left to even hire. Secondly,  the staff were all incredibly rude to us and uninterested in even acknowledging us. Thirdly,  you need an international drivers licence to drive one - that was news. A note to anyone attempting this: we think that if you were to be there on a quiet day they might be a little more lax on the licence thing, but there were so many people there that they certainly did not need our business. Disappointment was on all of our faces and despite our best efforts, nothing was working. But we were there and decided to make the most of it. The energetic Esti, Kevin and Nicola hired bikes and set off exploring, while Su, Will, Meabh and myself went for a walk looking for coffee. Instead, we found an amazing beach and delicious burgers. Like these burgers were the best I've had in Korea and pretty high up there with best ever. So that was a win! After our burgers we walked onto the only white beach in Korea - made entirely of shells and choral. It was one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen, with crystal clear water that made you really feel like you were in paradise.

Love love

Me with the 'sand' - Su's photo
We spent way too short lapping up the sun and sea before we had to catch our ferry back. I could have sat on that beach for ages. But we wanted to make it to another beach for sunset so off we went, a bit disappointed that we didn't get to ATV but happy we went nonetheless. It really is a lovely island to visit.

One of the highlights of the ferry was when a Korean man sauntered up to us and looked at Kevin, saying something along the lines of "You, you look like Korean, but you speak English. How about that?". It was just unexpected and funny and is one of the main reasons I love Korea so much.

We made it to Hamdeok beach, about 20 minutes outside of Jeju-si, in time to get some snacks and wine ready for the sunset. It was a great way to end the weekend. We watched a couple doing some kind of yoga/who-knows-what in the ocean and it was just an awesome island vibe.

Note the yoga pose
After that we went in search of Black Pork, which Jeju is very famous for and we were not let down. It was a delicious meal over Hallasan soju with awesome company. It was a race to get the car back to the rental place, and after some tipsy shenanigans by Cola and Meabh, it was back to Greenday Hostel and straight into another game of Mafia. This time we had some people who were also staying at the hostel join us, making it much more entertaining. Only a Korean guy can suggest playing rock, paper, scissors to decide on who the mafia is. What a way to end the holiday!

Day 5

After having to wrestle the fat cat for my pillow half the night, we all woke up a little groggy and sad to be leaving :( The weekends always go so quickly and this one had been planned for and anticipated since April, making it fly by that much quicker. We were up and at the airport for our 9.50 flight home. Once back in Seoul, we had a 4 hour wait for our train, and made the most of it by having a delicious meal at Wolfhound - the fish n chips and soup were a welcome distraction from the thought that Jeju was over and done. Will and I also decided that the amount we say 'oh, Korea' pretty much gives those words profanity-status (does that even make sense?). Eg: Oh for Korea's sake!!! Or, alternatively, oh Korea off you twat ;) ㅋㅋㅋ

All in all, we had an amazing few days away. I would jump at the chance to go to Jeju again as I still don't feel like I've seen everything. A HUGE thank you to Kevin for driving us around - I would not like to be responsible for having to negotiate the Korean drivers and roads!

Kevin Driver
Sadly, it was the last weekend away we'll get to spend with the awesome couple known as Weabh, before they head out on their next adventure. Wishing you both the very best for when you leave. Thanks for the memories guys!