Cherry Blossoms

Asia, Busan

I adore cherry blossoms. I always have. I’m not even going to pretend that they weren’t part of the reason I wanted to move to Korea.

Spring arrived with a beautiful burst of cherry blossoms all over our town. There is a Japanese word to describe the act of viewing flowers, particularly cherry blossoms. They call it hanami. I wonder if there is a career in this and where I could sign up…

In the town next to ours, Jinhae, there is a wonderful cherry blossom festival every year. However, it is usually absolutely packed with people. I wasn’t particularly keen on anyone coming between me and my precious cherry blossoms and so we decided to go ridiculously early one morning before work.

Bleary eyed and shivering we made our way to Starbucks for some coffee before boarding the bus to Jinhae. Our plan was successful! When we first arrived it was totally deserted.

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I felt like a little kid running from spot to spot. I had no idea where to look first. Maybe I’m not cut out for a life of hanami

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As I woke up that morning and snuggled deeper into my warm duvet I seriously considered going another day, but I’m so glad I dragged my lazy bum out of bed and went. It is a day I’ll never forget.

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The walkway, which is covered in cherry blossoms, is interspersed with bridges that lead over the river and stairs that drop below. After walking a way along the path we took some old stone stairs that led us to the river and spent some time looking up at the cherry blossoms.

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Troll faces are absolutely mandatory when standing under an old bridge.

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As the icy wind swirled around us it brought with it cherry blossom petals.

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We left the river and took a stroll down the street just as the food vendors were beginning to set up.


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After a magical time at the river we took a taxi to another beautiful hanami spot in Jinhae, an old train track. By this time of the morning there were quite a few people there, but we didn’t mind.

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We made it snow cherry blossom petals for a while before just relaxing on a swing and absorbing everything around us.

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What a perfect and unforgettable morning.

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Haedong Yonggung Temple, Busan

Busan, South Korea

After a morning at the beach we were quite hungry. We stopped off for a bit of lunch before visiting Haedong Yonggung Temple.

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We found a western restaurant quite easily and ordered burgers and some drinks. It was so good! It felt like it had been ages since we had that type of food. Sitting there, eating our burgers and chatting about home it was easy to forget we were in Korea.

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I was so full but we walked past a cafe that made ice-cream using liquid nitrogen and I remembered that there is always space for dessert. I ordered a combination of chocolate and salt and it was amaaaaazing. The salt sounds a bit weird, but it was really subtle and went so well with the chocolate.

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We got totally lost trying to find the temple and the signposts weren’t much help.

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By the time we found Haedong Yonggung Temple it was late afternoon but well worth the walk.

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Although there were a lot of people visiting the temple and traditional music could be heard all around, it was somehow still peaceful.

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We passed through a tunnel and walked down about 100 steps before arriving at the main temple.

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We stopped at a wishing well and I almost got a coin in but just just missed.

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I loved the colors and design of the temple. Everything is so intricate and vibrant.

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All along the path out of the temple are the 12 Chinese zodiac signs. Peter is the year of the rabbit which isn’t bad. Mine is terrible; I’m the year of the chicken. I tried to swap for a dragon but apparently ‘that’s not how it works’.

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We caught a glimpse of the beautiful full moon as we headed back into the city for some shopping.

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I had such a wonderful day and I’m so grateful to live near this beautiful city.

Haeundae Beach, Busan

Busan, South Korea

Last weekend we spent Saturday exploring Busan. It’s taken me a while to get this post up because I’ve managed to get Bronchitis. Sigh. I can’t wait to share all of the pictures with you.

We left home just before 9 and managed to miss our bus. So, after a quick stop at Starbucks to kill some time we caught the next one into the city. It takes about 50 minutes to get into Busan from Yongwon and about 20 minutes of that time is spent on the underground.

It was a beautiful, chilly day.

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We were initially going to go to a temple we had read about, but, after seeing signs pointing towards Haeundae Beach we decided to stop there first.

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There is such a mix of architecture and atmospheres in the city center. From the narrow, bustling side streets to the tall and elegant skyscrapers. Busan really has a bit of everything.

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It was a bit difficult to be thrilled by the beach after having just spent 2 weeks in Thailand but it was still beautiful. There is just something about standing on the beach in winter with the cold wind whipping around your face and the rumble of the ocean that just feels so raw and refreshing.

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We spotted a walkway running along the coast and decided to check it out.

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The walkway wound up and around the coast giving us spectacular views of the bay.

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This mermaid statue is based on the Korean version of ‘The Little Mermaid’.

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The walkway provides a stunning contrast with the vast sea on one side and a forest on the other.

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Towards the end of the walk we reached a lighthouse with a viewpoint. This allowed us to look over the city of Busan and enjoy it from afar.

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After spending a bit of time there we headed back into the city in search of lunch.

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Next up: Haedong Yonggung Temple

My First Day

Busan, South Korea

After a few days of orientation we started officially teaching on Monday. I woke up to a beautiful sunny day and spent some time at home relaxing, having breakfast and getting ready. I had a bit longer than usual so I had some fun with my make-up.

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We stepped out into the sunshine and took a walk to get some coffee. It’s the start of spring which means cherry blossom season. Yay! Starbucks is celebrating too.

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We usually get picked up just before 12 by one of the admin staff at the school (she’s lovely!) but on Monday they sent one of the school buses for us.

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We were whisked off to school and quickly had lunch before going upstairs to our staff faculty room and settling in to do some lesson prep.

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I spent some time doing our lesson plans for the rest of the week and some admin until our first lesson at 3pm. The bell rung to signal the start of class and I set off with a few butterflies but mostly just excitement. I couldn’t wait to meet the kids and have some fun.

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The kids were super excited and the lessons flew by. Everything was quite chaotic but I loved it. We stopped at 5.30pm for dinner.

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I have had lunch and dinner at the school everyday since we have arrived and mostly they’re really good, but every now and then there is something that I just can’t do. On Monday there was seaweed soup. Eek. I think it’s the texture that gets me.

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They also had something called rice cakes. It kind of like rice dough stuffed with a sesame seed and brown sugar paste. They’re delicious (mashisoyo)!

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I went back upstairs for my last two lessons of the day (usually my grade 3-6 and 7-10 classes) and watched the sun dip below the horizon as I taught.

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I finished my last lesson at 8pm and had a vanilla latte and a snack while I did some work until 9pm.

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I had such a wonderful first day. Everyone is so nice to us and the kids are amazing. They’re cute, funny, crazy, loud and sweet. I got home by about 9.30pm and dropped into bed exhausted but really happy.

A Glimpse of Yongwon

Busan, South Korea

I’m sorry it has been so quiet here this week! It took us a few days to settle in and organize our internet as well as unpack and figure out our way around. Basically it has been crazy, but the good kind of crazy. I thought I would take a little break from the Thailand posts so that you can see what we have been up to in Korea.

We arrived on Tuesday and as soon as we landed we had such a good feeling! We just felt content and peaceful. That sounds weird right? I can’t explain it. We were picked up by one of the staff and got drive straight to the school. We were super impressed. The school is beautiful and so modern. We had a few hours of training before being taken to our apartment which we immediately loved (post to follow soon, promise). The next few days were a blur of training, lesson plans, cold weather, bright city lights, coffee, shopping and sleep.

We had our first free day on Saturday and after doing a few errands in the morning we spent the afternoon relaxing before going out for dinner with the other foreign teachers. There are 3 other foreign teachers and they are so nice.

We live in a town called Yongwon (it’s west of Busan). It’s beautiful and although Koreans consider it to be quite rural or ‘out in the country’ we think its perfect.

We had decided to meet up outside our apartment and walked into the city center in search of a pizza place. We have had Korean food all week and just felt like something familiar.

It was about -6 and raining so we bundled up and set out.

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We ended up at this cute little restaurant:

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We ordered some food to share as well as a glass of water each

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The food was really good! But when our water arrived this is how it was served:

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One glass. three straws. to share. So funny!

We spent ages chatting about our home countries, Korea and all sorts of things before deciding it was time to brave the cold again.

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We popped in at our fellow teachers’ apartment block for drinks. I tried some rice wine but I didn’t enjoy it. The others seemed to like to so maybe its an acquired taste. Time flew by while we chatted and before long it was time to leave.

Peter has gotten the rugby to stream here and there was a game at midnight he wanted to catch. We stepped back out into the dark and walked the 200 meters to our apartment.

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So far we are really happy here. It is overwhelming at times, but I think that’s only normal. We start teaching tomorrow and can’t wait to meet our kids. Everyone has been very welcoming and looked after us so well. This was just a tiny glimpse into a night here and I promise to update everyone soon.

Questions?

Busan, South Korea

Since announcing to all our friends and family that we are moving to Korea we have had a loooot of questions. I thought it might be helpful to answer some of the ones we have heard a lot:

Q: Where exactly will you be staying?

A: We will be staying in a little town called Songjeong-dong. It is about 50 minutes outside of Busan.

Q: Where will you be working?

A: We will both be working at a school named Segero Christian International School. The school is about 10 minutes away from Songjeong-dong. It is a relatively new school, they were established last year. The school is a non-profit organisation.

Q: What are the working hours like?

A: We will both be working from 12pm to 9pm, which will be a bit of an adjustment, but I’m actually looking forward to it. It will be great having mornings off to explore.

Q: What age will you be teaching?

A: We actually aren’t too sure yet, but we we did get told that it would be the older kids.

Q: How much time off do you have?

A: Not all that much! Well, at least compared to South Africa. Korean schools have two weeks of holiday a year, one week in winter and one week in summer. Korea also has about fifteen public holidays a year.

Q: Did you go through an agency?

A: Yes, we actually applied to and worked a little with quite a number of agencies, but we ended up with Adventure Teaching. They are wonderful and I would definitely recommend them.

Q: When are you leaving?

A: We need to be in Korea for training by the 21 of February. We would really like to go to Thailand before we start, but this all depends on how long our work visa takes. If we get it back in time we would like to leave around the 12th of February.

Q: What is the weather like there?

A: Quite extreme actually. Busan is a little more temperate the Seoul, but the average winter temperature during the day is about 8 degrees Celsius, which usually falls to about 0 degrees during the evening. In summer Busan is about 27 degrees and very humid.

Q: How much will you be able to travel?

A: Hopefully quite a lot, we are aiming to visit one country a month while we are there. There are quite a few places, such as Beijing, that are close by and perfect to visit on the weekends.

Q: What is the food like?

A: Obviously quite different. It’s much cheaper to eat out there than it is to cook at home. Korea is famous for it’s kimchi, a mixture of fermented of pickled vegetables (mostly cabbage). Other staple foods include rice, juk (a porridge made from grain), stews, beef, chicken and pork. We are excited to try it!

…and my personal favourite…

Q:“You’re moving to Korea? Cool! North or South?”

A: Really? South. Definitely South.

We are moving to Korea!

Busan, South Korea

We have decided to move to Korea! After months of trying to figure out where we are in life and what on earth we were going to do in 2015, we have decided to take some time to travel the world. For now, the plan is to travel Asia in 2015, Europe in 2016 and the US in 2017.

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We have recently accepted jobs teaching English at a school in South Korea, a little outside of Busan. We went through a wonderful agency, Adventure Teaching. They were by far the most professional and helpful. Within a week they had set up an interview for us at a Christian International school. The school offered us both jobs and we start at the end of February. We have signed a year long contract.

Busan skyline

Busan skyline

Busan city

Busan city

View from Busan Waterfront

View from Busan Waterfront

The school is about 10 minutes away from the little town we will be staying in and they have provided a furnished apartment for us.

Cherry blossoms outside of Busan

Cherry blossoms outside of Busan

A Korean temple

A Korean temple

There is so so much we are looking forward to! Right now we are in the middle of applying for our work visas. If everything goes well all of our documents will be sent to Korea tomorrow morning.

This is just a quick little post to keep everyone updated with what is happening. We are super excited about this! Keep checking this blog for more updates.