Why I Haven’t Been Blogging

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I last updated. It’s been about 3 months! So, what happened? In short, my life just got crazy busy and I haven’t had the time, energy, or (honestly) the desire to write any blog posts. If you want more details, continue reading!

An EPIK Surprise

Back in maybe December or January my vice principal notified me that a nearby school was looking for my school to share me–the native English speaker–with them. My education district in Busan only has 3 or 4 middle school native English teachers, and I happened to be the closest one. He asked how I felt and I kind of made an “ehhh” face and said, “I’ll do whatever you tell me to do.” His answer was “no”. The topic came up again a few times over the next month but each time everyone said they didn’t want to share me with a second school.

Because my school shrank in numbers between the two school years, we lost 3 classes. Therefore, I lost three teaching hours. In the eyes of the education office, I had plenty of time to spare. My school came up with a plan where I would teach the 1st graders twice a week to increase my hours and make me too busy to go to a second school. Well, it didn’t work.

Exactly 1 week before the start of the new school year, after a whole month of desk warming and preparing lesson plans for my new schedule, a letter arrived from the Office of Education informing me that I would indeed be teaching at two schools now. No one saw that coming. I was pissedContinue reading

Useful Links and Apps for Foreigners in Korea

I have put together a list of websites and apps that I use in Korea and Busan. App links go to iTunes. If you want Android versions, you can google them yourself ^.^

Communication

Kakao Talk (App) (Desktop): Koreans don’t text, they Kakao. Free texting, free calling, free video chatting. The emoticons are also fun (though many you do need to pay for).

Naver Dictionary (App): A dictionary/translator for single words or short phrases. For long translations people use Google Translate (though most often it is just jibberish).

Continue reading

Q&A

Firstly: Whoa. When I saw my blog views last night I couldn’t believe it! Thank you all so much for viewing my blog and enjoying it! It makes me so happy that many of you found it so useful.

Anyways, I got a few e-mails last night from you guys (thanks so much!) and one of them contained some really good questions! I decided to do a little Q&A post answering them because I think maybe others also have the same questions. The person who asked these questions is going to Busan, so some of the answers are directly about Busan. However you can assume things are similar in the other big cities.

Q: Are there areas where Koreans and expats hang out together?

Language exchanges are a good start. I just put up a post about my favorite language exchange group, MokTalk. There are others around the city as well.

There are many bars and clubs around the city that both Koreans and foreigners hang out at. I’m the worst person to be talking about this. You will hear the phrase “round two” a lot in Korea. After going to dinner with friends, Koreans always suggest “round two”. Round two is usually a bar or suljib (Korean bar).  My kind of round two, on the other hand, is cake and coffee at a coffee shop!!

Anyways, here is the little that I do know. KSU (Kyungsung University), PNU (Pusan National University), Seomyeon, Gwangalli, and Haeundae are the areas where you can find a lot of foreigners and Koreans mixing. Thursday Party is one popular bar that has branches in all of these areas. KSU and Seomyeon have many popular clubs.

Obviously anywhere you go there will be Koreans. If your group is having a great time, they might ask to join!

Continue reading

MokTalk: Language Exchange in Busan

*Update 4/6/16: MokTalk has moved to a bigger cafe! Check out the updated info below!

While I was studying in Seoul, I participated in two language exchanges. These were both one-on-one, but they were a huge factor in me learning Korean well and becoming more confident in the language. I also met two really amazing people and our “meetings” turned into just opportunities to hang out with a friend, and also practice language. I knew when I returned to Korea that I wanted to participate in more language exchanges.

I have been to two different language exchange meetings in Busan, but MokTalk is my favorite. I’ve been attending MokTalk since I first arrived in Busan, and it was only last night that I realized the meaning of the name. I feel very stupid that it has taken me this long. 목요일 (mok.yo.il) means “Thursday” in Korean. So, mok + talk = Thursday Talk.

Even if you don’t attend MokTalk, there are other language exchange meetings around the city that might be closer to you. I know there is one in Seomyeon and another in PNU. I really recommend language exchange meetings, even if you don’t want to learn another language! They are a great way to meet people! Before attending MokTalk, I didn’t know anyone in Busan. Now, I have an amazing group of friends!

Moktalk

When: Thursdays. 7-9pm

Where: SEA Space Cafe near Kyeongseong University.

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Fee: Order coffee, tea, juice, etc when you walk in. Prices are ~3,500-5,500won. Give the receipt to one of the MokTalk organizers.

Join: Check out MokTalk’s Facebook page for all the latest information about the meetings.

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When you arrive to the meeting, you should order a drink and bring the receipt to a MokTalk organizer. All the MokTalk organizers are super friendly, wonderful people. You will be asked to make a name tag and shown to a seat. People show up at differrent times, so it starts off with everyone at one table, but it eventually grows to a few tables in the cafe. From 7:00-8:00 everyone is speaking primarily English. There is no set topic or guide, you are free to talk about whatever you want with your table.

At 8:00 you are asked to change tables, so that you are able to meet and talk with different people. At this time they also set up language tables based on the native speakers of different languages that show up. At this time I move to the Korean table where there are other foreigners learning Korean. A few native Korean speakers also join the Korean table as well.

At 9:00 the meeting ends and some move on to round two at a nearby bar. Because I don’t live nearby, I usually don’t participate in round two. I’ve gone a few times when I didn’t have school the next day and it’s been really fun both times.

Some language exchange meetings have the “speed-dating” vibe or are just too loud. MokTalk has a more friendly atmosphere and you can actually hear people when they are speaking.

(Credit: both photos are from the MokTalk Facebook page)

Packing for Korea

I’m throwing this post up super quick. I really wanted to get this up fast because I know a lot of you have started preparing to pack!!

Winter camp is kicking my butt and I’m a lot busier than I thought I would be. Therefore, I don’t have time to read though this really carefully. I’m sure there are a million spelling/grammar errors, possibly some sentences unfinished or out of place because I wrote this post maybe two weeks ago and just added a few things.Don’t judge me for this mess of a post hahaha! I’m sure I also forgot a bunch of important things. Please comment and I will add them!

Suitcases

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I brought a 3-piece luggage set that was a gift from my aunt and uncle. On the plane I brought the smallest suitcase (for anything valuable and my computer) plus a backpack (for anything I would be needing on the plane). The two larger suitcases were checked in. Inside my largest case, the Vera Bradly weekender bag was packed with all my bath/medicine related items, that way the bag wasn’t taking up wasted space. This bag is also lined, so if anything spilled it wouldn’t ruin the bag or leak out onto any clothes.

Something not pictured was the Lewis N. Clark luggage strap. I strapped together my two smallest bags so going through the airport, hotel, orientation dorm building was super easy. I now use the luggage strap to tie the Vera Bradly bag to whatever luggage I’m using when I travel with less baggage. It’s really useful. Continue reading

Closing Out 2015

How is 2015 over already? I know everyone says that at the end of every year, but it really feels this way for me more than any other year. The Korean school schedule is quite different from the school schedule in America. Both countries begin the school year at different times, and of course both countries celebrate different holidays. Even the importance of shared holidays are weighed differently.  At this time of the year in America, students and teachers are on vacation from Christmas Eve until the day after New Year’s Day. The start of this vacation always signaled the end of the year for me. Korean schools do not have this vacation. Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are off, but we work and go to school between them. I did not even realize that today was New Year’s Eve until one of those Facebook Memories with a photo from New Year’s Eve two years ago showed up.

I decided to remind myself that today is the last day of 2015 by looking back at the year. (Plus I was in the mood to blog!) Continue reading

Blog Post Requests

 

I know the new wave of EPIKers are starting to prepare for moving to Korea. I’m sure you all have lots of questions and I want to answer them! Please comment below with any questions or potential blog post ideas that you are interested in!

❤ Natasha

Korean School Lunches

As an EPIK teacher you are entitled to lunch at school everyday. It is not free, but it is very cheap at about 3,000won per meal. You can opt-out of these lunches if you don’t like them.

I decided to give school lunches a try for a while before deciding if I wanted to continue or opt-out. After a few trial weeks I decided to continue with the school lunch because they are pretty good! The food isn’t always amazing, but we all know I’m super lazy and there’s no way I’m waking up extra early to make lunch when the school lunch is perfectly fine!

I spoke to one coteacher about the preparation of school lunch. Unlike most public schools in America that just heat up frozen nuggets, she said that Korean cafeteria staff make all the school lunches.  I’m sure there are a few things that are frozen and heated up, but as far as I can tell most of our food is freshly made and prepared by the cafeteria staff. Continue reading

Chuseok in Ulsan

Ok! I am finally going to update about my Chuseok holiday weekend! Better late than never right?!

What is Chuseok?

Chuseok is often compared to Thanksgiving. Both are celebrations of harvest. While Americans give thanks for all the good things in our lives, Koreans give thanks to their ancestors  and preform ancestral rites ceremonies.

Chuseok is on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, so every year the date changes. This year Chuseok was September 27th. The holiday is actually celebrated for 3 days–the day before, the day of, and the day after–and are considered “red days”, meaning no one goes to school or work. This year the three days fell on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. We were also given Tuesday as a red day, called a Holiday Makeup Day. The explanation I was given for this was because the holiday fell during the weekend when people already don’t work. So, we all had a 4-day holiday weekend! Continue reading

New Apartment!

I have some amazing news: 1 week ago I moved into a new apartment!

Confused?  The apartment I was living in when I arrived in Busan had mold because of a leak somewhere in the building. The landlord didn’t really care or bother to make an effort to fix it. I would clean the mold, but every time it rained heavily the wall would get moist and the mold would return. There were even a couple days were I could hear the water dripping inside the wall! >.< I got sick with bronchitis and pharyngitis back in the middle of October and could not get over it for. When I was still sick and coughing weeks and weeks later, my school decided to move me. Actually, my coteacher’s had been trying to get me to move for a few weeks. But me being me, I stupidly felt bad about moving out and kept saying “No, it’s OK.” My co-teachers, principal, vice-principal, and the school office manager are amazing people. I am so lucky that they care about me so much and help me as much as they do!

My new apartment in a high-rise building which is slightly closer to my school. Instead of taking both the train and a bus, I now only need to take the bus to school. That alone has been really nice! It is still really close to the Pusan National University area (PNU) that I can walk there in about 15 minutes and still visit all my favorite cafes, shops, and restaurants.

The apartment itself is really nice. I believe the building is only a year or two old, so everything is in really great condition.

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View of the main room.

As you can see my room is pretty large!! …And also quite empty at the moment. Continue reading