4th grade overnight field trip to Gongju – Buyeo

Field trips are great.  They can be exhausting for students and teachers alike but its a welcome reprieve from the classroom and an exciting opportunity to see a different side of each other.  Last week we embarked on a 3 hour bus trip to Gongju for my first overnight field trip as a teacher.  Each of 4-36 student classes had 2 tour guides, an English teacher and Korean counterpart to chaperone.

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After arriving and eating lunch we stopped at historic sites and Korean bounced off my ears in a complete lack of understanding the significance of the region.  At least it was a gorgeous fall day!

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Next up was a series of museums and a revitalized Korean palace where I took out my camera.  I was excited to snap some potential panoramas to play with on a recently downloaded editing program.  Click away for some stunning panoramas shots of Baekje’s history UNESCO palace.


Baekje Palace Panorama

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Night hiking Inwangsan

Inwangsan, the destination for Seoul Hiking Group’s latest night hike, boasts one of the best views in all of Seoul!  From the top you can see Gyeongbukgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace and the Blue House (president’s house).  We met at Dongnimnum station and were immediately greeted by a crescent moon!


Hiking to the top went smoothly.  We followed an ancient wall taking frequent breaks to take in the view below!

_DSC2172 _DSC2185Nearing the top we saw frequent “No Photos” signs with regular guard towers.  This view was overlooking the president’s house after all!  I was able to secretly snap a few of the cityscape below.  The massive shadowed square with a few temple like structures is Gyeongbukgung Palace.  Behind it, Changdeokgung’s massive shadow sits adjacent to my new apartment!_DSC2199 _DSC2202 _DSC2207

The walk down brought us through a wonderful wooded path.  This quick hike only took about 2 hours so most of us decided to grab a 7-11 beer before parting ways.  Brian and I decided to walk home from there and were rewarded with some amazing night shots of Seoul’s famous palaces!

Gyeongbukgung Palace main gate

Gyeongbukgung Palace main gate

Gyeongbukgung Palace main gate

Gyeongbukgung Palace main gate


Gyeongbukgung Palace main gate

Gyeongbukgung Palace main gate

Gyeongbukgung Palace main gate

Gyeongbukgung Palace main gate

Changdeokgung Palace main gate

Changdeokgung Palace main gate

Changdeokgung Palace main gate

Changdeokgung Palace main gate

Seoul at night

Seoul at night


4th grade field trip to Namsan, Chyeonggyecheon & Gyeongbokgung

Friday I had the pleasure of going on my first field trip at my new school.  The 4th grade had a great time on our Seoul tour stopping at 3 famous places.  Namsan is a mountain in the middle of the city, Chyeonggyecheon is a stream running through Seoul near city hall and Gyeongbokgung is one of the royal palaces.  I’ve been to all 3 before but it was a unique experience taking 150 kids with us and I loved seeing all of them during the day in full Spring bloom!

Our tour guide chatted away in Korean the whole day and I’m sure my students learned a lot but I was glad I had my camera to keep me busy.  I hope you enjoy these pictures from an awesome field trip with the cutest and best 4th grade ever!


Even though the pollution has been pretty bad the last few days we got some great views at the top of the North Seoul Tower!

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Two months that flew by

I can’t believe I’m already into my third month here in Seoul!  It feels like only yesterday that I was sitting at Forte’s pizzeria eating my favorite two slices, Bacon Chicken Ranch and Caeser Chicken Salad pizza.  Man those would be delicious right now.  I mean the food here is out of this world; both in tastes and “creativity?” but in many ways it doesn’t compare to what we have back home.

I’ve tried creepy meals and dined with new friends, sang my heart out at 3am in a Noraebong, danced until the subway started running again at 5:30am, hiked to 4 different peaks in Bukhansan National Park, visited Buddhist temples and 3 Royal PalacesI fenced my heart out and beat up a bunch of Koreans, enjoyed my brother’s visit with hikes, great food and learned about the Korean war while crossing into the DMZ.  The list goes on and on.  Its all been a great 2 months and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

I’m already feeling like I’m going to stay on for at least a 2nd year although I am pretty certain I want to find an international school instead of a hagwon.  We’ll see what happens with my new administration in the next few weeks; so far I met the new director and she can speak English at least ten times better than Mrs. Yi; she also seems to be much more knowledgeable about what an ESL classroom really needs like oh I don’t know, phonics?

My apartment is mostly set up but I am still looking for a few things.  I’m hopeful that today’s paycheck will arrive  before I leave for the day so I can start scouring what the expats are leaving behind on craigslist as they leave this lovely country.  I figured out how to use a “dehydration” cycle on my washing machine that cuts down drying time from 3 days on the rack to about a day and started cooking my own meals too!

So far I mostly just eat cereal for breakfast & make omelets.  I’ve got some frozen dumplings & bulgogi burgers that I’ll throw together with ramen.  I’ve learned how to make a few Korean dishes by teaching Cooking class in school and will start expanding my palate at home.

My after school classes are going well.  Clinic on Mondays just got a new student so I’ve gotta revamp the lessons a little; my Tues/Thurs book club finished their 4th book and I’m helping them with their writing and studying techniques before we start Judy Blume’s Fudge-a-Mania & Doublefudge.  Its a little odd that I asked for more advanced books in September and was given 2 easier Magic School Bus chapter books for October and then jumped 3 grade levels to the fudge series for November.  It’ll be way more challenging but I think they are up for it!

My Wed/Fri clinic is a lot of fun.  I’ve got 2 K-7 kids who are really enjoying the lessons we do and they are actually excited about getting homework!  We do a lot of conversation and just started talking about comparative adjectives.  My “shy” student is coming out of her shell as she realizes she has a better grasp of English grammar than my “bossy” student who keeps trying to cheat at phonics hangman.  All in all I really enjoy all my students I just wish I didn’t have to teach 2 hours everyday after a full day of Kindergarten.

Speaking of the full day Kindergarten they are reading & writing better already!  We put up a sight word wall, a phonics wall and have been working on creating our own sentences rather than just copying from the board.  They love centers which I do 3x a week and even my girl who is ran away from me in the beginning of the year will laugh and smile with me.

I still have so much to explore around Seoul and about Korean culture.  I’m planning on heading to the east coast this weekend to go hiking in Seoraksan National Park in the last few days of fall foliage.  I am excited to try the winter sports out here as it gets colder and still need to find a gym & jingabong (Korean Bath House).  I start my language exchange classes in the next few weeks and am excited to be able have more Korean than simply being able to order a meal!

I can’t wait to start traveling around the region and taking weekend trips outside of the city too.  Japan & Hong Kong sound like they are affordable & worth taking a weekend to and I just started planning a longer trip into Vietnam.  I was accepted into the beta for a crowd funding travel website, http://www.Trevolta.com, and am putting together a team to try and get a sponsored tour of the amazing country, including Son Doong Cave.  I’m looking forward to my trip to Boracay for New Years and joined another website called http://www.Couchsurfing.com to connect with like minded travel enthusiasts who will help me experience life like a local wherever I go.

Thanks for following my journey these past few months.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the updates and I will certainly keep them coming!  Keep reading, commenting and enjoying as I keep living, learning, traveling & teaching.

An evening at Doeksugung Palace

Ben and I decided to visit Doeksugung Palace after I got out of work one evening.  This would be our 3rd of the 5 Grand Palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty.  The palace stays open until about 9pm so Ben met me at the subway near my school and we were off to the City  Hall subway stop.  The palace is easy to find and has a nominal fee of ₩1000 to enter.  The gates are an impressive set of 3 massive double doors; if you get there late enough you might be able to see them closed, although they are usually open to allow visitors in and out.

D71_1468The path past the gates has tree cover and a peaceful aura about it while the brilliance of the city peers over the walls.  There are a handful of signs describing the histories of the palace buildings being built as recently as the 1900’s before you quickly arrive at the pavilion in front of the throne room.  Another massive gate stands guard over a concrete courtyard that leads up to an intricately designed throne room.  The decor of Doeksugung was very similar to what I found at Gyeongbukgung and Changdeokgung but with a night sky the experience feels entirely different.  I imagined patrolling these grounds as a night watchmen listening as much as watching for creeping Japanese ninjas.  We snapped a few pictures and played with the shadows before continuing to explore.





D71_1427Most of the buildings here are designed and decorated with traditional Korean decor but there are a few with a modern flair.  Seokjojeon is a Western style building used by King Gojong as a sleeping quarters and audience hall.  It was added to the palace by British architect G.R. Harding in 1910 with 19th century neoclassical style and Corinthian columns.  The colorful fountain out front provides a stark contrast to the glowing skyscrapers surrounding the area.

D71_1434Continuing our tour of Doeksugung we encountered another elaborate bell and a small forested area winding through gates and smaller buildings.  A secluded open air pavilion provided a golden glimmer to the pathway shining off its delicate displays carved into the outer colonnade.




The glow of the city continued to astound us and provide a backdrop that teleported us through time.  Ben stopped and set up his tripod for a long exposure of the gargoyles atop the nearest structure.  The black night sky turned blue as he let more light in; capturing the splendid coloration that was all too common at these royal palaces.


D71_1464 We made our way back out of the castle leaving just before 9.  It only took about an hour and a half to tour the entire grounds which was a perfect excursion for a work night.  Back on the street we noticed a police line, perhaps here to protect Doeksugung or the glamorous glass city hall situated behind the old stone center of town.  With one more long exposure he captured the buzz that surrounds Seoul in all hours of the night.