Friday, 28 November 2014

A Month in Photos: October

Always reward yourself with macarons.
For those that don't follow me on Instagram, you may have been unaware that I took part in the FMS Photo A Day challenge. For those who don't know what that is (I'm assuming most of you) it's where you take a photo for each day of the month, with each day having its own prompt to shape your photo taking.

It's nothing official or special, but I kind of wanted to share it because I've never managed to complete a 30-day challenge before, and I feel like a took a lot of photos that I'm proud of, so I want to share them here.

1: A is for Aladdin Leggings
2: B is for '발리'. Hurry hurry.
3: C is for camera.
4: D is for Daelim Museum
5: E is for Everland

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Actual and Post-Birthday Treats

So, to continue my boastful tirade of "look how wonderful my birthday was!", I'm writing this post. When I got home, after keeping things pretty secret (I didn't want much of a fuss) Nick presented me with a surprise birthday cake which was all kinds of airy cream and chocolate.

The strawberries on top were a sweet bonus, because I'd been growing a little strawberry plant for the past few weeks, and after finally getting it to sprout by placing it in the vanished.

Either my Korean is terrible or nobody reads notes asking you to please kindly not steal my tiny little strawberry that could stand on a 50p piece. But either way, I was a little devastated and Nick convinced me it'd gone to bulk up and become part of my birthday celebrations. Dark.

Birthday cakes are pretty easy to find here for very reasonable prices and they're all far superior to the dry, cloying things you tend to pick up in supermarkets back home. They also have the added bonus of coming with candles, matches, and a little knife so you can celebrate anywhere and everywhere. Super cute.

We also joined Ziggy for samgyeopsal in the gogijip (it's literally called "Bupyeong Meat House") behind our apartment and found out that it's not only a great price but also really delicious! After gorging ourselves on pork and beef, we went to get some bubble tea and generally hang out for fun times. Thank you to you both~

Sunday, 23 November 2014

부산 | Busan (Part 3)

One more shot of that fantastic wallpaper.
Final post for Busan! After the fireworks show, we had the majority of a day to do whatever we wanted, so we took a trip to Haedong Yonggungsa (해동 용궁사) which is an old Buddhist temple by the sea.

We took the subway to a place where we could hop onto a bus that would take us to the temple. Unfortunately, it was a weekend and the temple is a pretty big tourist trap, so the bus was packed.

A flattering attempt at showing you how full this bus is. Hi Erin.
By 'full' I mean most people were standing ear to elbow, with more people being squeezed on at every consecutive stop. After a while, you couldn't get on at the front so the driver began letting people in through the exit door. Nobody was getting off, because we were all going to the same place, save for one poor person who had the joy of grabbing a seat early on...but then had to try and squeeze through the press in order to get off.

I can tell you, we went round a reasonably tight corner and I'm amazed we didn't capsize.

We arrived safely, and after a slightly harrowing walk up a hill that for most other people was reasonably easy, we arrived at a sort of bustling marketplace crammed amongst some trees. There were people shouting and waving things in every direction, as well as traffic wardens, tourists, as well as the omnipresent pushy ajummas.

We didn't have all the time in the world to hang about shopping for trinkets, but we did pause to appreciate the 12 anthropomorphic statues of the animals of the zodiac, all lined up in various kinds of hanbok and armour. There were also a couple of skittish, grumpy cats lurking about, presumably disgruntled at their lack of representation in the astronomical committee of pseudo-deistic animals. (Try saying that 5 times fast)

Much to our amusement there was also this incredible shrine to "traffic safety"
We joined a worryingly long queue for the entrance and admired the little worship shrines dotted here and there for rather specific purposes such as "giving birth to a boy" and "exceptional results in school exams" while we waited.

Friday, 21 November 2014

부산 | Busan (Part 2)

Picking the best spot on the roof.
So in the last post I left off with us freshening up and having naps before the main event. Cool? Cool.

First of all, I'd like to share with you the slightly-creepy, incredibly-amazing joy that is a little Korean hotel/hostel/motel:

That wallpaper, man.
It looks like they went to various DIY stores, grabbed as many samples as they could, and went to town. Every wall, ceiling, and room are dressed up like this. It's so good. Apparently quite a lot of older Korean hotels are like this.

We went to find a place to eat, and the seafront was already heaving several hours before the show was due to start. Police cordoned off the pavement but people were still spilling out onto the road (which, for the most part, seemed to be closed off) to dart in and out of the stores and visit street food vendors that were dotted all the way along the beach.

We managed to find a place that seemed to specialise in tea and bingsu which sounded great, considering it was unusually warm. I think it was a chain store but it really felt quite homely, and the huge concertina windows had been thrown open to let in the breeze. Most of the chairs and tables were arranged around this window so we could sit and people-watch comfortably.

5 berry bingsu and an apricot tea that tasted kind of alcoholic.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

부산 | Busan (Part 1)

Above: A beautiful sight from the Mysteron Display Team.

Towards the end of October, Nick and I went on a trip to another part of South Korea, something we haven't done so far other than visiting Gangwha and Seoul.

We went to Busan with Erin and Morgan, by way of a WINK (When IN Korea) tour, which involved catching a bus at about 9pm on a Friday straight after school and driving overnight. The map at the top is what I sent to Sammy when we were paused in Daejeon, already a few hours into our journey.

Aside from my usual travel problems (most legs suffer on a long coach ride, let alone my lanky limbs) the ride went smoothly enough. We did have a worrying moment where we were pulled over by a police car, which it turns out was for something like going a bit too fast in the bus lane. There was also the time when we pulled away from a service station and had a phone call from someone wondering where the coach was. At 2am. In the middle of nowhere. Terrifying for them, but really weird considering we saw two different people do a headcount and they'd had a seating partner! Look out for your bros, even if they are a stranger! Who knows what would have happened if she hadn't had a phone.

Anyway, we arrived unscathed at about 5am, and while some people went into a hostel to sleep for a few hours we roughed it on the beach, enjoying the fact that we could actually see STARS for the first time in about 5 months. The main bridge was all lit up and there were some interesting things going on in preparation for the big fireworks display later that evening (which is what we'd travelled down to see), so we watched that for a while and got excited for the main event.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Pre-Birthday Treats

In the ongoing series that is "My Birthday Celebrations", I will tell you about the weekend beforehand, where we went out for Korean BBQ (understandably the best thing ever and so my favourite thing to eat in Korea)

Nick and I went with Erin and Morgan and we basically had a bit of a food adventure around Hongdae. After a rather large amount of BBQ, and possibly the best I've had so far at this point in time, we headed off in search of something sweet. We grabbed some fruit Mochi, which I failed to take a photo of because we were too busy devouring it, but it was so soft and velvety and the filling of a chunk of fruit was far preferable to the usual red bean paste.

Then we decided to get something to drink, whereupon we were introduced to O'sulloc, the land of tea, tea and more tea. Everything is tea and nothing hurts.

I ordered a rather exotic sounding Tangerine tea that I think used various ingredients from the lush mystery island of Jeju. (I say mystery because I know barely anything about it other than it has Olles and it's very gorgeous)

The waitress placed the little lid on top, saying "Wait. 3 minutes. Enjoy happily."
And enjoy happily I did! It was great tea, with wonderful presentation, and a couple of little biscuits on the side that I am fairly sure were flavoured with tea. They might even have been traditional Korean tea biscuits in a bundle similar to that of the tea set we bought at the guesthouse in Fukuoka. They certainly go with herbal teas a lot better than a Rich Tea ;p

We also grabbed some (second) dessert. Nick had the Green Tea tiramisu on the left, and I had the monstrosity on the right. I'm pretty sure it was just called "roll cake" and there were a lot of interesting-sounding flavours but of course I had to go for the one that was simply named "black".

It looked like a car tyre full of ectoplasm, and when I tasted it...I was confused. The texture was really nice, but very different to what I was expecting. The green tea filling was just as expected, just the right amount of bitterness, but I couldn't work out what "black" was.

Turns out it was just very dark chocolate, hahaha. It was great!

We also got a little art card with each of our orders and I'll definitely be back for more tea!

Friday, 14 November 2014

The Strongest Man in Incheon

So, after Orientation week, we ended up hanging out with some of the people we'd met, and made the most of the fact that we had the majority of a Friday off of school. (For me, that meant going to the bank and finally replacing my lost bank card, oops.)

We decided to go to Wolmi and take in the cool sea breeze and go on some rides. But of course, forgetting that we are cursed so that any time we do this the rain is heavier than any other time of the week, month or year.

Needless to say, we ended up totally soaked to the skin, and totally unprepared. Cue all the 아줌마 and 아저씨 shaking their heads and laughing at the crazy foreigners.

I'm doing a rain dance to beg the weather gods to JAM THEIR HYPE
We realised that we're like the BBC's dream team for a minority representation sitcom.

Twist potatoes and fried-things-on-sticks galore! I know it seems like I eat nothing but junk food, but I assure you... you're, uh, probably right. Haha.

(You're not right, thank you very much. But healthy food is far less interesting to blog about ;p)

We went on the Viking whereupon a Korean man shouted at us through the tannoy and laughed at our horrified screams, I can only assume if he was asking when we wanted to die and "AAAAAGH!" in Korean means "Higher and faster, please!!"

I don't know if the ride was made better or worse by the fact we were the only people on board, haha.

We wandered on into the arcade and played all sorts of games, mainly Tekken whereupon I whupped a lot of butts, and one of those strength-test games. This is where the weird title of this blog post comes from, by the way. Our friend Justin managed to get the high score, as well as 2nd and 3rd, so he was duly dubbed "The Strongest Man in Incheon". For the record, I briefly held 3rd position.

Upon reflection, we're really bad at selfies.
Party at our place!

Monday, 10 November 2014

EPIK Orientation

Timeframe context: Late September.
So this is a story all about how our lives got flip-turned upside-down, because we had about 3 days notice that the orientation week we'd been told we wouldn't have to attend was now happening and mandatory.

I'll be honest, we were pretty stressed, and annoyed. A week or two advanced notice would have been nice. I had my Open Class that week, and Nick was meant to be helping out with his school's sports day, so we were both pretty bummed (and I was scared I'd have to replan my class that I'd been working on for months now.)

Not to mention sharing a dorm when we have our own comfy apartment 45 mins away.
Not to mention orientation is meant to be for newbies. We'd been in Korea for 5 months, we didn't need to learn what a Korean school is like, and how to say "annyeong haseyo".

Not to mention we weren't in the mood to end up as glorified mentors to all the other inevitable newbies that would want to know everything about anything.

Bitterness and sulking aside, we went along, signed in, and...ended up having quite a bit of fun by going to lunch with Nick's roommate and one of their next-door neigbours. We found out they'd been here a while too (first clue).

Photo of some great people. And me. ;p
It turned out that, actually, a lot of the people there had been here at least a month (which made sense, considering the new intake had arrived at least a month or so prior) and the lectures we went to were at the very least vaguely aware of this and adjusted their talks to accommodate for us. Mood lifting.

Dongdaemun at night!
The first night we ended up with a few hours spare in the evening so we went for a walk with some actual newbies, who were very fun to talk to and I hope we managed to get them realistically excited for the coming year, haha.

We sat and talked for quite a few hours before heading back and preparing for the next day.
Did I mention I lucked out with my roommate? Yessss.
Did I mention the showers were very...Korean? Noooooo.

We were in a government dorm building, which was a bit old and...not mosquito-proof, but hey free accomms. The only problem really is that I forgot to pack a towel and Korean towels are...hand-sized. Not great for making a dash to the bathroom. So I would end up getting undressed IN the shower and hanging them strategically.

Friday, 7 November 2014


Due to my non-chronological, nonsensical posting order, you probably all know by now that I have one of these little beauties. It's a Fujifilm Instax and its basically fulfilling all my young hipster ideals of photos that print out instantly and develop magically before your eyes.

It was an early birthday present from Nick and it's become my little project to take it on special days out and really think about when I'm going to take that ONE photo of the day. It's nice to get back to grips with "the value of a frame" and focus on quality rather than quantity, and it's helped me cut back on my incessant snap snap snap that's all too common nowadays with digital photography.

I'm by no means great, but each photo I take with this camera has so much more meaning, as well as increasing quality on a much steeper curve than my digital photos have. I actually have to think and concentrate because damn that film is expensive.

I bought some Shavet pens, which are like a thick paint/gel pen, so I can write and draw on them in all sorts of cute colours and remember what I was doing, on what day, and with whom. There's just something so much more personal about doodling all over a photo and really personalising it that I'm really enjoying. I'm sure I'll look at these a lot more than the thousands of photos I have sitting on hard drives at home.

I bought a little Instax photo album and there's just enough pockets to use up all the film Nick bought me, and it should take me a while to fill it. I'm excited to reach the end and see what adventures I've been on!

Now, all of this stuff was taking up an awful lot of space and was generally really messy to have floating around on tables or in whatever bag I happen to be using, so I went out and bought a cheap little bag specifically for holding my Instax kit. I got this wonderful bright yellow beauty in the underground market for 10,000원 and it's almost perfect!

Because of all this yellow I seem to have amassed, I called the camera Sunny, because I'm the sort of weird person that gives proper names to inanimate objects. Here's to 50+ little adventures in the future!

Monday, 3 November 2014

에버랜드 | Everland

Happy Birthday!
Another testament to how far behind I am with these posts, I went to Everland with Nick and Kiegan (Korvianites, woo!) for her birthday weekend. On October 5th.

Everland is one of South Korea's few theme parks (understandable, considering there's not much space to be wasting on rollercoasters) but it's decently sized and looks the part. Apparently it's better than Lotte World, but I guess I'll just have to go there to compare ;p

Anyway, we had an exciting journey via the subway, including the very new chunk of light rail line that I think was built specifically to make it a bit easier to access Everland and that stretch of the country.

Driving the trainnnn~
The weather was great and we actually saved an awful lot of money thanks to the fabled "Native Teacher" discount that we weren't 100% sure existed. It was a bit of a mission finding the right place to go and then filling in all the paperwork (all in Korean, because I'm assuming it's not a common thing for them to talk about or have papers printed for) But lo, we presented our papers and the lady behind the desk issued us 3 wonderfully discounted entry passes.

Starting small, we first went on a log flume so that we could dry off as the day went on, so obviously no pictures but it was kind of scary. We apparently 'got air' on the last drop (because they're boats, not on a rail or anything) but I was too busy screaming to notice, I assume.

We then took it easy on what I think was a kids ride, whereupon we initially complained that it was too slow and cutesy...

But apparently that was just the beginning and it ended up really quite alarmingly fast.

"look terrified, it's more fun"

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