Thursday, March 31, 2011

DMZ Trip - March 13, 2011

"The Danga Zone Crew" boarded the bus at the Hamilton in Itaewon.  The drive to our first stop, Imjingak Resort, didn't take long at all, maybe an hour and a half at the most.  Seoul is dangerously close to the Korean DMZ (Demilitarized Zone).

I couldn't help it...I just had to take a picture.

This is a cargo train from the Korean War.  The train conductor is still alive.

A memorial to loved ones who either died in the Korean War  or are currently living in North Korea.
Having a little fun.

Our second stop was the Third North Korean Infiltration Tunnel discovered by South Korea in 1978.  This tunnel was discovered only 27 miles from Seoul.  It can accommodate 30,000 North Korean soldiers for an attack on Seoul.  So far only four out of a possible 20+ tunnels have been discovered.
The DMZ Theater.
Model of the DMZ.

A diagram of the Third N. Korean Infiltration Tunnel discovered by S. Korea.
"The Danga Zone Crew"

Our third stop was the Dora Observatory where we could catch a glimpse of North Korea through binoculars.
Taking a peek at North Korea.
We weren't allowed to take pictures past this line.
Everyone tried to zoom in with their cameras.  Unfortunately the weather was not in our favor.  This was my best shot.
Our fourth stop was Dorasan Station, which is not in use.  North Korea closed the border crossing in December of 2008.  

Our final stop of the tour was a market in Taesong-Dong, which is "the only authorized village in the UNC portion of the DMZ" and the safest in all of Korea.

This was my purchase: North Korean beer and soju.
There will be another trip since this one in particular did not take us to the Joint Security Area at Panmunjeom, where the cease fire agreement was signed in 1953.

Monday, March 21, 2011

One Month

Which is how long I've been here in South Korea.  I still find it hard to believe that I'm actually here and I'm not sure when, or if, I'll ever get used to it.  It seems as if it was just yesterday when I made the decision to go on this adventure, which was sometime during the summer, and that I blinked my eyes in Atlanta and ended up here.  Sometimes I think I'm in a dream, especially since I have problems remembering the day of the week and time.

I have left some great people back home in Atlanta.  There were a few of them who made my last few months back home extra special and they know who they are.  I'm just happy that the internet exists, which makes it easier to keep in touch with people back home.  The internet makes a huge contribution to my "sanity" while living in this foreign land.  Of course, this thought still runs through my head and probably will for the rest of my stay: "Did I make the right decision?".  A new one seems to have popped up: "What am I doing?".  This is normal.  There are quite a few who also have these thoughts.  Do we ever truly know what we're doing?

Although I've only been here a month...I've met some great people, been on a DMZ trip and Jindo Island trip (stay tuned for these posts), and I get to see my brother in person while I'm here.  This, if any of you know, is something I wasn't able to do for quite a while.  He taught in South Korea for a year, came back home for about a month or so, went on a six month trip through Central America, then left again this past December to teach in South Korea after returning home again for about two months.  However, I did make a ten day trip in July to hang out with him in Nicaragua.  But that's beside the point.  I seem to have gone off on a tangent...

Never mind, it wasn't a tangent.  My former coworkers back in Atlanta were probably shocked, excited and grateful that I finally decided to take a trip to Nicaragua during the summer since I had racked up 100+ PTO (Paid Time Off) hours over three years.  I rarely took any days off from work.  When I think back on that I wonder "Why?!".  I know...I was falling into"Zombie" mode and realized that I had to escape.  Taking that vacation during the summer cleared away the fogginess and made me realize that I needed to do something different.  I no longer wanted to spend most of my time in a slightly padded cell.

And that is how I ended up here in Seoul, South Korea teaching English to Korean Kindergarteners for a year.

I want to thank everyone who is supporting, and believes, in me.  And also for understanding why I'm doing this...I'm still trying to understand it myself.  I love all of you!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Pansy Class

That's right, Pansy Class.  Think about twenty 3-4 year olds.  I teach Phonics to Korean Kindergarteners.  Talk about a challenge, but I'm up for it.  They are absolutely adorable.  "Teacher, teacher!"  This will definitely be a learning experience.  

My classroom.



School lunch.

The students' parents like to send the teachers pastries, and sometimes pizza.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Seoul Weekends

It's easy to stay out until 6:30-7 in the morning here in Seoul.  So far I've only stayed out that late a few times, but I haven't been here long.  I predict many more nights of partying until the break of dawn.  Unlike back home, the joints here stay open past 2am.  With pubs, bars, clubs and norebangs (Korean singing rooms), you'll never fall short of having a good time with your friends.

Welcome to Itaewon, Hongdae and Gangnam.  Itaewon is the multicultural community, Hongdae is the university  district and Gangnam is considered the business district.  Out of the three, my co-workers/friends and I have frequented Itaewon the most since I've stepped foot in Seoul.  The cab ride  may take around 5 minutes, but we can definitely walk to Itaewon from where my apartment is located.

Get ready for a ton of pics!


Making new friends.

Farewell to Eamon (on the far right).
This was a 6:30-7am outing.

Farewell to Andrew (in the pink hat).

Walking to Itaewon.

This was a 4am outing.


And another 6:30-7am outing.

Woody acting a fool.


En route to Gangnam. 

The wine buffet kicked my butt.