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Wander & enjoy the diversity...it feeds your soul “What is more miraculous than the moment?” Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh

Life in Sokcho!

SOUTH KOREA | Thursday, 16 October 2008 | Views [4298] | Comments [3]

Kelsey's elementary school

Kelsey's elementary school

10/1/08  - - Ptld to Sokcho, South Korea – I’m here to see Kelsey!

It’s Tuesday, Oct 14th (13 days since I arrived), as I sit at Kelsey’s desk in her cute apt, overlooking a beautiful, sunny day & a several acre rice & vegetable – a mostly cabbage (for spicy hot ‘kimchee’) garden, with high-rise apts in the background, while listening to music from the movie “Shall We Dance” and sipping coffee with real cream!  Kelsey left several hours ago for her elementary school where she teaches 2 days a week.  She also teaches 3 days a week at a middle school that is within a 15 min bus ride & 10 min walk.   

I am excited to have the use of my computer back.  Yesterday, a ‘computer tech’ guy came to the apt to help me get on the Internet – it took only 5 minutes, but required logging in to a Korean website with a code…so NICE to have my computer back!  I had been using Kelsey’s, but this is really convenient!!!

This afternoon, I’ll walk to Kels’ school so that we can both go to a hot springs resort: ‘Waterpia’ (http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_6.jsp?gotoPage=2&cid=570946) & soak in the hot springs spa pools!  YEAH!!!  This week it’s discounted, so more affordable than the standard $33/day.  

Although I hear of the massive financial crisis that has hit the US & world markets & dropped my retirement fund by 26%, I am thoroughly enjoying “being in the moment” with Kels, her co-teachers, & her adorable students!  

I am however, also more aware, as one always is when traveling, that most of the world does not live as lavishly as America.  Here, I try to follow Kelsey’s example of shutting off or unplugging all electrical appliances when not using, turning off the hot water heater when not showering, turning off the gas valve when not cooking, drying clothes on a rack (no dryers), adding layers (instead of turning on the Korean floor heat) when cold & walking or taking the bus/taxi instead of driving.  

I am also becoming more comfortable being ‘away’ from the comforts of my own house, city, & language.  Although it was uncomfortable trying to find my way around yesterday ALONE for the first time, in a fairly large city - where I can’t read the street signs, maps have errors, most do not speak enough English to ask directions, there are no addresses – just ‘names’ of buildings, & this city is laid out on a curve around their fishing harbor.  Kelsey thinks the city is easy to manage, but…I have been following her around the first week – now she gives me assignments every day: 1) go to Sokcho beach, 2) go to Expo center – near E-mart shopping (like Fred Meyer, for those in Portland), 3) walk to her Elementary school, 4) take a bus/taxi to her middle school, 5) go to convenience store, etc.  I have managed 3 of these tasks so far!!!

I have learned 4 words: Hello, Yes, No, Thank you!  My pronunciations are still not that good, but if I say it quickly, I hope they won’t notice!

The flights went well…Air Canada (GREAT airlines with good food, your own movies, & plug-ins for a computer) from Ptld to Vancouver, then Seoul Incheon International airport where Kels met me.  We had a hamburger & salad at the airport - she had been craving a burger.  That night we stayed at Kels’ favorite hotel so we could bus it the next day.  What usually is a 4hr trip to Sokcho turned into 6 hrs because of heavy traffic due to a Friday holiday…the 2nd bus was only 1 hr & we finally got to her apt…only a…what…3-day trip from Ptld…but Korea is ahead of Ptld by 16 hours…so, not bad!

Friends – meals
Within a half-hour of setting down my 4 suitcases/bags, we walked to her friends apt - Catherine, Matthew, & almost 2yo Liam.   Matt’s parents had been here for a week & were leaving the next day, so we had an absolutely delicious dinner of salmon, white sauce, spaghetti, salad, & fresh homemade bread!  NICE people & GREAT dinner!  But bed felt really good!  AND on the bed was a card & chocolates from Kirst – she is always so thoughtful…from far-away India, she works her magic & thoughtfulness (w Kels’ help).  Sat/Sun was get-to-know-Sokcho area!  Walking, shopping, unpacking & Kels treated me to a treated me to a typical Korean meal w many side dishes.  Pretty good!

More invitations from co-teachers – - A great benefit of being Kelsey’s mom is that because she has so many friends - we are invited out for meals…a lot!  Tues. night we went out with Kelsey’s English elementary co-teacher  and several other teachers for “Dakgolbi” – marinated chicken stir-fry with lots of side dishes - a favorite of mine now.  The next night we went out with 3 other teachers.  It was good – especially the soup, rice, & vegetables.  The next night we were supposed to go to the Chocolate House to make chocolates, but the owner (a teacher’s husband) was preparing for the weekend festival.  

Elementary & middle school – visiting 22 classes & hundreds of students!
Last week was high-intensity – meeting Korean teachers, Korean English co-teachers, other foreign teachers, hundreds of students and participating in Kelsey’s 22 classes.  It was fun being introduced & being part of her English classes.  Kels introduced me, then I told them a little bit about where I was from, my favorite hobby, gardening - a new word for them.  Kels, her co-teacher, & I would also ask each other questions throughout (listening practice) & then students practiced introducing themselves & their favorite hobby - – usually “watching movies, TV, sleeping, eating, playing video games,” but occasionally playing piano.  The students’ next activity was discussing Korean culture, food, & places to see, so they could make recommendations to me – great practice for them!  Usually classes were divided into 6 teams, so whoever participated & made the most points got candy or stickers – they love that!

Each day we ate the school lunch with the students & other teachers – some dishes were as expected – plain rice, fish, a miso type of soup, seaweed, kimchee, and once - even a half an egg-salad sandwich…but my challenge continues to be eating with metal chopsticks!  I haven’t exactly mastered that yet.

One of the surprising events of the week was when the middle school Principal & VP came to visit one of our classrooms & took pictures with their cell phones.  They also talked about what Kelsey & I were doing in the classroom to a conference of other principals.  Then they had a ‘media’ student videotape another one of our classes AND invited us to lunch – which will be tomorrow!!!  YIKES!!  Hopefully, we can think of simple things to talk about so the Korean English teacher can successfully translate – the VP & Principal don’t speak English.   Kels’ Korean is quite good, but…

One of the students’ (& adults) favorite questions is to ask how old you are, so Kelsey taught them that it is not usually done in America, but if you want to ask, it would be more polite to say, “Excuse me, how old are you?”  It was GREAT for my self-esteem to hear “Ahhhhhh, you look sooooo young” when I told them I was 59 or that “Today, I am 60!”  I know guessing ages (especially in different cultures) is not easy, so it was fun to hear & pretend for a moment….ahhh, the gifts of traveling!!!

On Friday, my 60th birthday, Kels took me to the 5-star Hotel Maremons (http://www.asiarooms.com/south_korea/sokcho/hotel_maremons.html) for a special Italian buffet.  It was on the top floor, private area with a leather chairs & a couch where we overlooked the ocean – sooooo NICE!!!   There were wonderful salads, many hot entrees with a variety of fish, salmon, pasta, cream & veg sauces, & delicious cr of mushroom soup!  The dessert buffet was good too – some things I had never seen – fruit with spines, but fun to try everything!   Also, Chuck had secretly packed away cards & gifts – THANKS!  And Bobbie had sent pictures, gifts & many, many cards – the ‘perfect’ one was in there - the Obama card!  Thanks Bobbie!  Nice touch! ☺

After walking around Expo park & the beginnings of the “Hot springs spa Festival” that night, we went back to Kel’s apt & had a bit of “raspberry wine” – a gift from her co-teacher & one of those special chocolates!  What a special birthday…with my daughter… in Korea…eating & drinking delicious food…beautiful weather --- although I miss Chuck & Kirsten, we ‘Skype’ & talk regularly!!  Kirst – got your Indian card with your beautiful watercolor drawing – you are quite the artist!  THANKS so much!

Oriental Medicine
The other thing I tried last week was treatment at an Oriental Medicine Clinic where Kelsey goes.  I told them my legs hurt (you know my ‘old’ legs with the varicose veins), so first they placed glass suction cups over my knees & lower legs – it hurt quite a bit so I had to tell them to stop - I am now black & blue!  Then they did the acupuncture – nice & relaxing, then injected bee venom into my legs – YIKES!!!  So far – I like the acupuncture, but don’t believe my legs are any better???  Maybe 2 times is not enough to judge??

More meals, socializing…and exercising!
Sat (10/11) Kels & I were invited to another teacher’s house – beautiful big apt –rather like a NY high-rise!  Her lunch was delicious & with the other 2 teachers we had so much fun - particularly because Kelsey can translate & speak enough Korean for a fun interchange!  Afterwards we went to Kelsey’s foreign English teachers mtg where we saw demos of & participated in different English teaching games– GREAT ideas that I might use too!  

On the way home, we picked up Kelsey’s favorite “sweet potato” pizza – really good!  Had a nice quiet evening watching a movie!  Sunday we looked for bike rentals around the lake…nothing, so we walked the 4 miles & then walked around the festival again!  One thing I can always count on when walking anywhere with Kelsey – she is ALWAYS greeted by warm energetic smiles & hellos!  Even I now get greeted with “HI Ann!” – especially if I am around either of her schools!   Korea is quite a friendly country!  I can understand why Kelsey loves it here & why she is in her 3rd year of teaching.

This Thursday, the 16th, I am going back to the middle school for more of their school festival – music & dance and on Friday, I get to go on a ‘field trip’ to the museum & see Korean drama!!  YEAH!! So much fun – especially to see how much the students LOVE Kelsey.  Just this minute, Kelsey called to see if I could come to observe her elementary co-teacher as she practices for her “demo” class – all teachers have to do this about once a year.  Well – I’m off!   

Thurs, Oct 16th

Wow!!  So much happens here in such a short time!  Kelsey said October is a busy month, particularly in Sokcho, as it is a resort city where Koreans flock to see the fall colors and Mt Seorak, so besides the school festivals, there are different festivals at the beach every weekend.   

Amazing Waterpark!
Because of the current discounts, on Tues afternoon, Kels & I went to the water park, “Waterpia” after school on Tues.  It is the most FABULOUS water park I have ever seen!  Most water parks in the US seem to be built mostly for children.  This one is mostly built for adults.  It has many, many various hot pools of various shapes, sizes, temperatures – both inside & outside with the views of the mountains & foliage, etc.  We just kept walking from pool to pool trying them all out!  They have various levels of intensity of jets for all parts of the body, so whatever you need massaged – they have it!  I could have stayed for days!!!  A favorite for the kids is the wave pool – looks just like the ocean.  

After one is done with the massage jets, swimming, etc, the men/women go their separate ways – get naked…& lounge in pools, bathe, sauna, & scrub up!  Different for me, but…I could get used to this!

On Wed, I met Kelsey at her middle school, where the Head Teacher, with the Principal, drove us to a Korean restaurant that’s famous for traditional Korean food served to Kings or Royalty!  The VP & Principal said they wanted to honor all the English teachers (there were 4 others) & Kels & I for co-teaching last week.  The food was very good & I tried my best to eat with chopsticks – but they gave me a fork anyway!

Afterwards, we watched the students challenge each other in various outside games like bowling with pop bottles, tug-og-war, timed jumping, etc.  Following that, Kels & I went to the Immigration Office to update her new passport & go out for Chinese food – THANKS Kirst – this was your treat! It was VERY good & I have just made our dinner with the leftovers!   

This afternoon, I am meeting Kels at the elementary school & we will go to the cultural center where the middle school continues their school festival with demonstrations of their music & dance.   YEAH!  I LOVE this!  

Fri, Oct 17th – Field trip with the middle school to a museum & drama!

Sat, Oct 18th – Hiking with friends in Seorak Mtn + eating sushi

Tags: beaches, elementary & middle school students, festivals




Wow!!! Sounds like you're having an amazing time! Wish I could be there to experience all of these fun activities, meet Kelsey's students and go to Waterpia! I want to spend the day at a waterpark/spa! Do you two every sleep? It sounds like you are going non-stop! Glad you're getting lots of good food---hope the Chinese dinner was good! So happy too that the card arrived---hurray for the postal system! Wish I was there and can't wait to see some pictures. Have a FABULOUS time.

  Sista K Oct 16, 2008 8:54 PM


THANKS Kirst! Wish you could be here too!!! We would love to introduce you to some GREAT Korean food! LOVE you, mom

  mom Oct 17, 2008 8:42 AM


I'm with Kirsten--DO you two sleep at all?! What an amazing number of people you have met and activities you have done. What a cool thing that the school videotaped you and Kelsey. How are your legs now? Have you had more treatments and have they helped? I admire your going to the waterpark. I have not put on a bathing suit for so long--yes, it's embarrassment about my legs mostly. I love your being in the moment. I have been working on that and find it encouraging to read of your thoughts and openness. Keep it up!! Vivian

  Vivian Childs Oct 19, 2008 1:26 AM

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