Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ugly Sweaters, White Elephants, and Hope

The Christmas season is fully upon us.
Here in Seoul that statement rings true just as loudly as anywhere else in the world.
Subway stops are decked out in lights and garland.
Massive trees don plazas and storefront windows.
Mariah Carey and Justin Bieber can be heard belting out from local stores.
And what Christmas season is complete without an ugly sweater party!

This past Friday night, my friends Emma, Rich, and Rob rented out a bar in northern Seoul for the festivities. About 30 people showed up, most of them sporting hideously ugly sweaters. Another fun and entertaining part of the night was the White Elephant Gift Exchange. A popular event in the United States that was properly introduced to the British, Canadian, and Irish folk in attendance. That was a huge success. Everyone that participated ended up with very entertaining and somewhat practical gifts. I took home a huge bag of restaurant starters (they remind me of very very very airy and edible Styrofoam packing peanuts) and a spoon/chopstick set. Other memorable gifts included a Hello Kitty toilet seat, wind-up, light-up Lego man, various Korean alcoholic drinks, and a Rudolph replica constructed out of 5 bottles of Cass beer (complete with antlers and a red nose!).

Since I've gotten to Seoul, I've been wanting to do some sort of volunteer work to get me out into the community and meet others here in the area that have the same interest. One such opportunity presented itself on Saturday. Emma (the other person in the snowman jumper (aka sweater) above) and I met up with our friends Sam and Rachel at the House of Hope. This is a home that has activities and social opportunities for mental challenged children and adults. We spent the afternoon helping them set up for their end of the year volunteer awards banquet. In the process, I was able to meet various people from all walks of life and look forward to getting even more involved with this group.

Following my day of volunteering, I headed out to Bucheon, which is a "suburb" of Seoul and hung out with my friend Tennille and some of her co-workers form the Hagwon that she works with. It was great meeting some more new faces and being able to hang out with her and do some catch up. All in all it was a fantastic weekend spent with great friends, new faces, and some Christmas cheer!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Subway Etiquette

I'm not a big fan of people who use blogs as a ranting post to air their dislikes and annoyances. However, today I am going to take on that role (kind of).

I have been here in Seoul for almost 4 months now and have been enjoying my experience. This is an amazing, happening, bustling city with lots of opportunities and things to do. My job at school is going so well (just finished finals week) and I've made tons of friendships that will last well beyond this experience. If there is one thing that I still dread everyday (and no it's not getting up while the sun is still not shining) it's braving the subway. Don't get me wrong, the public transportation has its perks (I'll get to those later), but also it's downfalls.

Here's my pros and cons list regarding the Seoul subway (cons first so I can end this post on a positive, upbeat note!)

Con #1: The Morning Commute
Refer to the subway map below (yes, the Seoul metro system is gigantic!)

I live on the Green Line (Line #2). It is the only line that is a loop and intersects with every other subway line in Seoul. This makes it one of the most popular and most used subway lines in the city. As you can see from the map, I live 3 stops away from school. I live at Seoul National University and work near Bangbae Station. Easy, 10 minute ride, right? Not so much.

The morning tends to be a nightmare more often than not. This is what the ideal subway train ride looks like:

Plenty of room, some seats are available, personal bubble still in tact. This is what my morning commute is like (I took this picture as I entered the subway earlier this week):

Jam packed with people. No personal space. People pushing and shoving just to get on the train when the next one is literally 30 seconds behind. I've been elbowed, shoved, felt up, and more more often on these trains in the morning than I ever have my entire life. One morning, I was elbowed in the groin not once, but twice by a seemingly sweet, little Korean women while simultaneously being felt up from behind by another gentlemen. It was quite the experience.

But nothing really tops this one. One morning I got on the subway, with my brave "You can do this" face on. As the weather turns colder here in Seoul, people are starting to come down with colds and the face masks are becoming more and more popular. As I entered the subway, I was stuck in the unfortunate position of facing the person standing in front of me. This tends to be a very awkward ride, especially if you are about the same height (which we were). I tried my best to avoid eye contact and focused on my Words with Friends game I was engrossed with on my phone. That's when I heard it.

You know that inhaling sound people make right before they sneeze? Yeah, that sound. Having no way to actually avoid the blast zone, I managed to turn my face just in time to avoid swallowing the incoming spittle and God knows what else. Since I couldn't block the attack, there was also no way that I could remove the remains from my face, as my right arm was pinned to my side by the three people smashed into me. I was also unable to use my left hand due to the awkward angle that my left hand was now in as I moved to avoid the blast. Needless to say, I had to spend the next 10 minutes with someone else's germs and possible diseases on my face before I finally wriggled my way free of the subway. Definitely the worst experience so far.

Con #2: Salesmen
Now I understand that people need to make a living, but shuffling onto an already crowded subway to sell people slip on shoes is a bit annoying. Between their microphones and in ability to make a sale, I half feel bad, half can't wait for them to move to the next car.

Con #3: Evangelist
Along the same lines as the salesmen, I don't really want to spend my subway ride listening to someone preach the Gospel. I'm a believer, I'm good to go.

Con #4: Nightly Commute
If it sounds like the morning commute is horrendous, then the nightly commute is just as brutal as well. The peak hours in the morning last from 7:30 until 9:00. Nightly peak hours encompass 6:00 until 7:30 pm. This is also prime time for going out to eat and meeting friends. This means that I become subjected to more crowded, pushy Koreans. Things kind of settle down around the 8:00 hour, but then pick right back up from 9:00 until the subways close around 11:30...which leads me to my last con...

Con #5: Lack of 24 hour service
Apparently the subways, taxis, and government have a deal that when the subways stop running (even on the weekends), taxis have the right to up their prices and charge even more than normal. The five hours that the subways stop running can make a night out a bit inconvenient. If you want to catch the last train home, you have to cut your night short at around 11:30. Since most nights tend to last until 2 or later, that's always a bummer when that's the option that is taken. The other dilemma becomes how lase does one want to stay out. Making it until 5:30 in the morning is not impossible, but it leads to a wasted day of recovery and drowsiness. If the subways ran 24 hours a day, these delimmas and issues could be avoided.

Now that I have rambled and complained enough for 4 different posts, I am going to give the reason why I really do enjoy the subway and what it has to offer.

Pro #1: Punctuality
During my travels around the world, I have been on many subways. I have used many forms of public transportation. Seoul's subway system is by far one of, if not, the most punctual and on time. Trains run every 2-4 minutes (more often during peak hours, especially on line #2). It's great to know that if you happen to just miss a train, another one is just right behind.

Pro #2: Safety videos
On the more up-to-date trains, there are video boards that tell the upcoming stops, what side of the train the doors will open, and what stops are coming up. While this information is scrolling along the bottom of the screen, there is always an interesting video of some sort playing above it. My absolute favorite ones are the safety videos. Let's just say that if someone with a smoke bomb comes onto the subway and sets it off, I am fully equipped with the necessary knowledge of how to properly find and put on a gas mask and safely escape the situation. It also helps that the acting in the videos is super cheesy and way over the top.

Pro #3: Cleanliness
This subway system here in Seoul is by far the cleanest one I have ever seen. Here is an example of what the subway stations look like:
There is very little trash (despite the lack to trash receptacles on the platform). The safety doors prevent anyone from trying to jump in front of a train or do anything else stupid. There is normally ample room to stand and wait for the train, even when it feels like half of Seoul is trying to get on the same train as you are. There have been some subways that I have been in where there has been loads of graffiti and heaps of garbage everywhere. It's a welcome site to not have to sidestep piles of waste while trying to navigate the busy subway platforms.

Pro #4: Ease of use
Despite it's ominous size and downright enormity, the subway here is very easy to use and navigate. All of the stops are announced over the loud speaker in Korean, English, and I believe Japanese (or maybe Chinese). This makes it easy to know your stop even on the trains that are not as high tech and lack video screens/boards. All of the platforms are adequately labeled. Transfer stations have massive signs that lead you directly in the right direction without any major confusion. Multiple other subway systems around the world are just massive, jumbled masses of incoherent signs and jargon. While the subway may not always be the quickest form of transportation here, it is easy to use and master.

Pro #5: Feeling like a big city kid!
Most of my life, I have felt more of a connection to the big city, not the small town setting that I grew up. Being here and living in Seoul has finally given me the chance to experience big city life and all that it has to offer. Part of that offering includes public transport. I'm really enjoying that I don't have to worry about a car, trying to find parking, maintenance fees, or battling traffic. While there may be some downfalls and negative aspects to the mode of transportation that I use daily, at the end of the day, it's the feeling of finally being a big city kid that makes it all worth it!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Thankfullness

With this being my first Thanksgiving away from my family and friends back in Iowa and the United States, I have been able to experience one of my favorite holidays in a completely different way.

Thursday night, I went out to eat in Itaewon (the international district here in Seoul) and enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving style buffet. The Thanksgiving spread included most of the traditional dishes: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. Also included were oysters, smoked salmon, steak, chicken, apple pie, rolls, and salad. It was a delicious meal that definitely fulfilled my Thanksgiving hankering for this year. Granted, I did miss the corn, homemade chicken and noodles, and German chocolate cake that comes with my Thanksgiving feasts back home, but it all worked out.

Of the 8 of us that went to this meal, only 3 of us were actually from America. 4 of the others were from Britain and and other person was from Canada. The British folk were enjoying their first Thanksgiving meal and were extremely pleased and left stuffed and feeling sleepy. It was a fantastic way to spend the holiday. The next morning I was able to Skype with my parents, and the rest of my dad's family, which was a great time (even if my brother and cousins did insist on eating their Thanksgiving cuisine in front of me).

To finish up this post, here is a list of some of the many things that I'm thankful for this year.

1. The many friends that I have met while here in Seoul from all over the world (Canada, England, Ireland, Australia, etc.) and America

2. My co-teachers and the staff at Seoul High School for all of their support and help in making me comfortable during these past three months

3. Public transportation - it has been a nice blessing to not have a car to worry about (even those times that I am smashed onto the subways at 7:30 in the morning with about 100 other Koreans)
4. Korean socks - I am still amazed at the different styles/designs that my students wear while in my class (including Starbucks, Kakao Talk (a Korean text messaging application), Simpsons, Angry Birds, and others)
5. Korean holidays - I have never had so many random days off during a school year in my entire life and it has been very nice! Finals, midterms, Chuseok, school anniversaries, festival days, testing days - you name it, there's probably a day off for it here in Korea

My time here in Korea so far has been an awesome experience and I can't wait for the upcoming months. Here's what I have to look forward to:

- The end of the semester (which means not having to teach for the majority of the month of December)
- Winter English camps (I am super excited for these actually! 3 weeks, small classes, fun materials)
- Christmas parties (complete with ugly sweaters, eggnog, and jolly good times!)
- New Year's celebrations, Korean style (not quite sure what to expect, but I'm stoked to find out)
- Possible trip to Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, or the Philippines in January (still pending)
- 2 week trip to Thailand and Cambodia in February (riding elephants, laying on the beach, island hopping = best vacation EVER!)
- Start of a brand new school year in March with new kids and new experiences awaiting me

Hope everyone had a glorious Thanksgiving holiday and are refreshed as the end of the school year/calendar year approaches!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Tandem = Two

The weather is starting to turn cold here in Seoul. So before it got too miserable to be outside, Emma, Andy, Katie and I decided to take advantage of one of the last warm and enjoyable days and spend some time down by the Han River that runs through the middle of Seoul.

We made our way down to the river and scouted out a bike rental place. There were two different options to choose from: single, regular bikes or tandem bikes for two. Having never had the opportunity to ride a tandem, I instantly was drawn to this option. Emma and Katie shared my enthusiasm; however, Andy was hesitant as he apparently struggles with his own two wheels. After being outvoted, Andy finally succumbed to the majority and went along with the tandem decision. Let the adventure begin...

Andy and I shared a bike, while Emma and Katie took another one. It took a good 5 minutes for Andy and I to get the hang of balancing both of our weights and peddling in time. However, even once we got the hang of things, our bike decided to have a mind of its own as it started going through various gears at inopportune times. For example, while peddling up a nice little incline, the sputtering of the peddles/chains caused us to walk our bike up the rest of the hill while other Korean bikers zoomed past us.

Andy and I having a rough time getting started

Finally got the hang of things!

Emma and Katie ready to go!

And they're off!

Since we only had the bikes for an hour, we had to turn around at some point and head back to the bike shop. We decided to switch partners, so I rode back with Katie, while Andy accompanied Emma back to the shop. It was an awesome leisurely ride back along the river. Granted as the sun started to go down, so did the temperature, making us happy that we decided to turn back when we did.

Heading back to the shop

The sun setting over the Han River

Following our bike ride, we headed to find a restaurant to enjoy some food and re-energize ourselves from the cold. We ended up eating at a traditional Korean restaurant that served this amazing Korean dumpling soup. The dumplings were filled with meat, green onions, and some other vegetables. It hit the spot and rejuvenated us for our last adventure of the night, the Seoul Lantern Festival.

Full of soup and warmed to the bone, we headed back out into the cold, hopped on the subway and made our way to northern Seoul to Cheonggyecheon, a man-made stream that flows in the middle of Seoul. Set up in the river were hundreds of various lanterns. There were traditional Korean lanterns that told stories about Korea's past, represented the various animals of the Chinese calendar, and depicted various famous leaders from Korea's history. Also included in the display were famous sites from around the world (including the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Statue of Liberty) and some superheroes (including Superman and Batman). All in all, despite the cold and loads of people (probably close to 1 million or so) it was a great experience.

(Side note - this was actually the second time that I had seen the lanterns, as I had visited the festival a couple of weeks earlier with my friends Travis, Megan, Steve, Mitch, and Katie Power. It was just as impressive the second time around.)

After taking in all of the lanterns that we could before losing feeling in our bodies, we decided to head to a coffee shop to warm up, get a nice steaming cup of joe, and chill out for a while. We found a place near the river, headed in, and warmed up around some coffee and conversation.

Tandems, dumplings, and lanterns...the recipe for a successful day.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Quarter of a Century Never Felt so Good!

As many of you know, I turned 25 last Tuesday (November 1) and am now officially a quarter of a century young! I am now able to legally rent a car in the US! Woo hoo!

I spent the majority of my birthday at school with my lovely sophomore students. I had four classes that day and the first two of were having parties for good behavior. As my fourth period class (class 102) rolled into the room, I was showing Friends on the screen (as I always do during passing time). The bell rang and my co-teacher still hadn't shown up (which was very odd because he is always early and never late). He finally strolled into class about 5 minutes after the bell carrying a blue box. Immediately, one of the students leaped out of his seat and turned all of the lights off. My co-teacher, Mr. Go, came to the front of the room with the blue box and opened it. This is what was inside...

A delicious, chocolate birthday cake! Mr. Go proceeded to put candles in the cake and light them. The entire class than sang me "Happy Birthday" in both English and Korean and I blew out my candles. I was so taken aback and appreciative of this gesture! Plus the cake was absolutely delicious!

After class, some of my other co-teachers treated me out to lunch at a restaurant near our school. On Monday, one of the teachers approached me and told me that they were planning on taking me out to lunch. But she also said that she wasn't sure I was going to like the menu, which had me a little worried. We ended up eating at a restaurant that served fish, vegetables, sprouts, and a really tasty soup, along with the staple of every Korean meal - rice. I actually really enjoyed the meal, but apparently my teachers didn't think I ate enough as they bought me a sandwich on the way back to school.

When we arrived at school, I was surprised with the following...

With two of the other English teachers and my cake! 
Yes...another cake! This one had fruit on top and was as equally delicious as the first one. My co-teachers lit some candles and the entire office sang me Happy Birthday again. One of the vice-principals gave me some nice thick, wool socks for the winter, which was a welcomed gift. That night, I went out to eat with my friends Megan, Travis, and Steve. We went to a restaurant called Oktoberfest and had a great time celebrating.

Since my birthday was during the week, I wasn't able to actually celebrate with all of my friends until the weekend. I had been telling people that I didn't want to plan what we did and was open to suggestions. My friend Rich suggested that we go check out the horse races that happen pretty much every weekend at the race track in southern Seoul. Since I had never been to a live horse race before, I was all for it!

So Saturday, about 15 of us met at the horse track for an afternoon of racing and (hopefully) winning! The betting was surprisingly easy and while I didn't win any money, I had a great time and hope to head back there sometime soon!

The horse track from the outside

Posing with my first two bets...EVER!

...and their off!...

Koreans take this seriously!

View of the homestretch of the track

Once we had had our fulfillment of horse racing and losing money, we headed to Sinchon, an area of Seoul right next Hongdae, for some dinner and drinks. The restaurant/bar that we ended up at is called Yalebar and they have tables set up so people can place beer pong and flip cup, along with an assortment of board games. We have been here a couple of times before and have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, so we ventured back for another round of merriment. Yalebar once again did not let us down, as we once again had a great time.

Following our time at Yalebar, we headed over to Hongdae to support our friend Joel who was DJing at a Club Exit. Along the way, my friend Emma purchased a pair of bright pink Happy Birthday glasses that I was of course obligated to wear for the rest of the night. I also met a Korean who's English name is Owen and who's birthday is November 2nd! Needless to say, we became instant friends.

Sporting my new glasses

Cheersing with my new friend Owen

It was a great birthday celebration and I couldn't have done without everyone that came out! Here's to another great 25 years!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I'm On A Spook-tacular Boat!

This post and the following one are both long overdue...but I have some free time so here we go...

Halloween is huge in America.
Kids dress up, go door to door, get candy, and are hyper for the following 24 hours as the sugar surges through their veins and small bodies.

Here in Korea, Halloween is not all. The only people that really go all out are the foreigners. Westerners from all over the world living in Korea come together to continue the celebration of Halloween in their homelands that they are missing out on. I was able to participate in one such celebration.

About 3 weeks before Halloween, my friends Megan, Travis, Mitch, and I started discussing what we were wanting to be. Now costume attaining here in Korea is much more difficult than back home. There are no Goodwill's or secondhand stores to raid to find that perfect article or accessory that will send your costume over the top. So we had to try and be resourceful. All of the ideas that we came up with originally were too difficult to achieve with our limited budget and resources. We finally decided that we were going to try and pull off the Lion King. This idea was inspired by one of the costumes that I constructed for Camp Adventure training a couple of years ago when I was Zazu...

Megan was going to be Scar, Travis called Rafiki, and Mitch would make the perfect Timon. So we set to doing some research and found a secondhand store chain here in Seoul with multiple stores all over the city. We went to go check it out one weekend, only to be extremely disappointed with their "selection." So that dashed our hopes to pull of the Lion King. But we were not out of options just yet.

We headed to another part of Seoul and went to a costume shop that had a small selection of props, masks, wigs, and other accessories. However, they did not have any complete costumes. There were bits and pieces of things, but nothing really complete. So after staring at this minimal selection for about 45 minutes, we started to feel hopeless. Halloween was only one week away and we had no ideas. Enter random mouse hat...

Travis just happened to pick up this random mouse head hat and put it on as a bit of a joke. Megan got super excited and suggested that her, Trav, and myself go as the Three Blind Mice! Problem solved! Perfection! Halloween was saved. We proceeded to but these hats and a white cane (for the blind part) and headed out of that store with our heads held high and a new sense of excitement for Halloween.

Mitch decided to be fan death. For those that do not know what this is, there's a superstition here in Korea that if you leave a fan on over night, you will die because the fan will suck all of the oxygen out of the air. You will then die in your sleep from CO2 poisoning. To avoid this, all fans in Korea have a timer on them so that they do not run for the entire night. A little weird, I know, but it made for the perfect costume for Mitch.

So now that we had our costume, we had to figure out what we were going to do to properly celebrate one of the best holidays during the year. My friend Tennille had told me about a boat cruise that her and some of her friends from her Hagwon (private Korean school) were going on. We checked it out and decided to do it as well. Turns out 800 other westerners liked the idea as well.

The day of the cruise, I met up with Trav, Meg, and Mitch and we all got ready. It was quite the experience riding the subway with our costumes on - Trav, Meg, and I dressed like mice and Mitch with his face painted all white with "blood" stains all over. We got some pretty awesome looks and managed to scare a few Koreans in the process. One family and their kids were so enthralled with our outfits that they actually missed their stop!

Once at the meeting point, we signed in, met up with a bunch of other people also attending the cruise, then jumped on a bus. The cruise was taking place off of Incheon, about an hour and a half bus ride away from the middle of Seoul. Once we got to the docks, we waited for about 30 minutes before the party boat arrived. It was four stories, complete with two dance floors, two large mingling areas, and plenty of room to enjoy the night!

The cruise lasted for three hours and was worth every minute! Once on the boat, we were treated to some free food, cheap drinks, pumping jams, and socializing! The costumes were pretty entertaining and some were down right genius considering the supplies (or lack their of) that we had to work with. Below are some pictures of the Three Blind Mice and others.

After the boat, we took the buses back to Hongdae (a popular party district in Seoul) and spent the rest of the night enjoying the sights and sounds of Halloween in Seoul. All in all it was a great night and probably one of my favorite Halloween experiences to date!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sokcho Serenity

This post is a bit overdue...

The first weekend of October (October 1-3) ended up being a national holiday here in Korea. The 3rd is known as Foundation Day and is celebrated as the day that South Korea was founded. Basically, one of my co-teachers explained it this way:

"The heavens opened up and there was Korea."
Simple. Well put. No questions needed.

So Sam, Rachel, Andy, Emma, Katie, and I decided to take advantage of this new found freedom and get out of Seoul.

Destination: Sokcho City
Location: East coast of South Korea
Highlights: seeing nature again, hiking Mt. Seorkasan, being on a beach in October

We left Seoul Saturday morning by bus. The 2 1/2 hour ride ended up taking 5 due to the large amounts of traffic also fleeing the city for the break. We ended up in Sokcho around 2 pm, hailed a taxi, and headed off to our resort. The place that we stayed at was a little ways outside of town and very nice. It was basically the size of an apartment back in the states (a small, efficiency size apartment), but we all agreed that we would take this place over our own apartments in Seoul. There were four different rooms, but no beds. We soon discovered that we would all be sleeping on the floor on sleeping mats. This definitely made the decision of who would be gettting the floor TONS easier!

After checking in, we went in search of food and ended up back in town on a street that was lined with food options. As we got out of the cab, we all noticed the same phenomenon: silence. We were standing in the middle of a city and there was not a living soul in sight. No cars. No dogs. No people. Just us, the buildings around us, and silence. It was really nice. I hadn't really noticed how immune I have become to the noise in Seoul until this trip. Makes me appreciate growing up on a farm in Iowa a bit more.

Lunch! Delicious combination of chicken, rice cakes, and veggies! Yum!
Lunch was fantastic! Once we had all gorged on the delicious concoction pictured above, we headed back to our hostel to nap, regroup, and figure out our plan of action for the rest of the weekend. We ended up staying in the resort until about 7:30/8:00 pm, and then headed back down to the city center to grab some food and social time. The two places that we ended up wining and dining at were a lot of fun and we had a really good time just sitting around talking and chatting it up. Upon our arrival back to the resort, we discovered that there was a bowling alley. So of course, what else are you going to do at 1 am but bowl a few games! I ended up winning both games (there must be something about South Korea because I never bowl very well in the United States).

On Sunday, we headed to Mt. Seorkasan. This mountain is one of the largest in all of South Korea and is home to one of the best national parks as well. The bus ride there took F-O-R-E-V-E-R!!!! There was so much traffic and construction that a 20 minute bus ride ended up being about 1 hour 15 minute bus ride. Once we got to the mountain we figured out where all of the people in town were at: they were all on the mountain! We decided that we wanted to do a bit of hiking, along with the cable car to the top of one of the peaks. We ended up getting tickets for 5:45 pm. We got our tickets at 1:30 pm, so we had plenty of time to do some exploring and hiking. See the below pictures for what we saw:

View of Mt. Seorkasan before we started hiking

Big Buddha statue...what national park is complete without it?

Temple along the way to the below rock

Giant rock formation at the top that people were repelling down
Sunset with Sokcho in the distance
Following our hike/cable car ride, we headed back into town, grabbed some food and then headed back to our resort. The next morning, before heading home, we decided to check out the beach. Now there was a beach nearby our resort that thought we were headed to. However, our cab driver decided to take us like 15 minutes away instead. We really couldn't communicate, which always makes things more difficult. We ended up a really nice beach along the coast. The sun was out, the weather was gorgeous, and the sand felt amazing in between my toes.

Namsan Beach, on the East Sea

Standing on a beach in it!
We ended up making it back to the bus terminal in plenty of time to catch our bus home. The bus ride home took about as long as it did to get to Sokcho due to the insane amounts of traffic we encountered. We arrived back to Seoul around 5:30. I then met up with my friend Steve and his friend from Canada visiting him for the next month, Jay. We grabbed some food and I headed home, crashing as soon as my head hit the pillow.

All in all, it was a great weekend. Getting out of Seoul for some time was needed and it was great to see nature and green again. The concrete jungle of the city can be a bit suffocating at times. This weekend I am joining about 20 other people as we are going to get together to celebrate 4 birthdays by taking a river cruise on the Han River, then heading to Itaewon for some grub and drinks. It shall be an eventful and fun night!

Until next time...