My First Company Dinner

It had been a month since I started working and finally…I had been asked to attend a school staff dinner at my main school- my very first!

I figured it’d be on a pay-as-you-go basis but instead I had to pay a flat rate of 90,000 won for the whole year. I figured it was fair since they said that’s originally the price for half a year, but since I go to two schools they reduced the price.

So once it hit 4:30 pm, I packed up and then walked to the restaurant with my fellow teachers. We went to a little shabu shabu restaurant less than 10 minutes away. It’s kind of a buffet style restaurant so I loaded my plate with a few appetizers before sitting down at the table. Thankfully, the vice principal and principal sat at another table. If I sat with them I think I would be too intimidated to do anything ahahaha.

So, how shabu shabu works is that you grab as many vegetable you like, mostly leafy greens, cabbage, and mushrooms, and put it in a large pot in the middle of the table that already has a broth in a roiling boil.  You then order how much and what kind of meat you want. Then you can make yourself a summer roll using rice paper and filling it with whatever you please. The teachers around me started putting the vegetables and meat into the soup before telling everyone to help themselves so I started digging in once I saw everyone else had a bite since you know…I was the youngest at that table.

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My VP then ordered some beer, to which nearly every teacher at my table politely declined, for which I am grateful since I try not to drink. They ordered soda instead and were shocked when I told them I don’t drink soda either XD.

The teachers around me then started a casual conversation, which revolved around childcare and being a mother- a topic I can’t really contribute much to. As such, I just sat there in silence listening to them talk about how they think daughters would take care of their mothers when they’re older rather than their sons, which then led to a further discussion on each of their children. I just continued to listen in and nod my head occasionally.

The conversation then shifted somehow and led to one teacher telling me not to eat the snacks people bring to school because I’d get fat. Nice talk >_>.

Once we were done eating, some teachers brought fruit for everyone to share and I  gorged myself on oranges…I love fruit, particularly oranges. When I noticed no one else was eating them after a while I nearly finished the plate!

We got up after the 2 hour mark and I was thankful we were leaving. As I made my way to the exit, a familiar face popped out from behind the corner…and I saw the teachers from my girl’s middle school! It took my brain a bit to process what was happening before I broke into a wide smile and bowed before the vice principal and principal. What a coincidence to run into them at this restaurant!

Anyways, after that we parted ways. The principal happened to be heading in the same direction so I walked in awkward silence with her until we neared the school. I gave a polite bow and goodbye before heading to the metro station and she went back to school.

Overall, the dinner was a lot more casual than I imagined. I envisioned drunk coworkers and people trying to force me to drink and then dragging me to karaoke, but luckily it really was just a company dinner.

I’ve had another dinner with the teachers from my girl’s middle school, and we went to another shabu shabu place. It was pretty much the same, (except the surprise of pink water?!) with them talking about topics I couldn’t contribute much to, and just sitting silently while devouring all the food.

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How are your company dinners? Did you enjoy them? Let me know in the comments section below~! 😉

 

Fun in Nampo-dong! And Korea Jjimjimbangs!

Last weekend, I met up with some friends from orientation at Nampo. We met in front of the Krispy Kreme inside the Gwangbok Lotte Department Store. We looked around, but didn’t buy much since you know…department stores in Korea are uber pricey. We did eat chicken and shop at the Uniqlo where I bought 2 cute bell-sleeved shirts, which would be great for work! We looked around the underground shopping area next and I bought a long sweater for like 5000 won. It’s awesome XD

We went to the Jagalchi Fish Market next. It’s Korea’s largest fish market! And, it literally had everything. Octopus, shellfish, fish- anything and everything. The first floor generally has a lot of live seafood on sale and the second floor has dried foods and restaurants. I bought some squid legs to munch on at home and then we all sat down so I could order some live octopus! Well, it’s dead now, but the legs are still moving after it’s served. This was the #1 dish I wanted to try in Korea and finally…the time had come.

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It tasted about how I thought it would. A bit slimy but crunchy, tastes like the sea and like octopus. The lady was super nice and gave us a lot at a discount! Only 20,000 won instead of the usual 30,000. She also gave us a few fish stew after my friend ordered some makkeoli and raw fish. We also got a few side dishes too. One of my friends was a bit terrified of the live octopus but she gathered up enough courage to try a small piece that stopped moving.

After that, we walked around a bit to digest before heading to the jjimjilbang, or the Korean sauna! We went to Songdo Haesoopia, which is pretty close to Nampo. You can get there by bus but we carpooled a taxi there instead.

As with any Korean spa, you take off you shoes and store them in a locker. To stay overnight we paid 12,000 won, which is a great price compared to $40 at the Spa World for 12 hours in the US. You get a uniform for the sauna and can change in the locker room. Don’t forget to take your respective elevators! Men and women have different elevators. The women’s elevators don’t stop at the men’s locker rooms an vice versa. Once you the locker room, BAM! Naked people. Everywhere. Now, if you’re Korean-American like me, you’re (well, at least me) used to this. I’ve been to a common Korean bath area before, and when I go to the gym, it’s the same. Although, I admit that at the gym it’s usually only the Asians who walk around buck naked. White people, I’ve noticed, change in the bathroom.

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Anyways, we changed into our spa outfits and I made everyone sheep ears, which is a must-do at the Korean sauna. We ordered a few drinks and snacks before trying out some of the rooms. There are a variety of rooms, such as the salt room, oxygen room, black rock room (I don’t know the actual name of this room. It was just full of small, black rocks), and more. The black rock room was my favorite. It was a nice, hot temperature and I could stay in there for a while! After trying out some rooms, we ordered jjimjilbang eggs and some shikhye (rice punch). So tasty!

After that, we tried the baths. My non-Korean friends were extremely hesitant to start, but eventually we all, well…we all got to know each other a little better if you know what i mean 😉

The baths were all saltwater baths with some herbs mixed in. You have to shower before entering, so we did. I reaaalllyy needed a nice, hot soak after a long week and this gave me exactly what I needed. There is an area that’s like a jet propulsion out of the wall, and it felt like a nice shoulder massage to me while to others it was just painful!

Forewarning: If you go to Songdo Haesoopia, take an extra towel and all of your toiletries. They do not offer free shampoo/conditioner/body wash. You also only get 2 towels. Men get unlimited which is unfair. I paid a total of 1,900 won for shampoo/conditioner/body wash. After washing up, I bought some milk before we all headed back upstairs to get some sleep.

Another forewarning: Save a spot. It’s hard to find a spot to sleep in. Luckily, we found the women’s sleeping area and grabbed a few blankets before settling down.

Last forewarning: It’s hot. Well, duh, yeah, it’s a sauna. But the sleeping area and general area are all very warm, much warmer than room temperature, and on top of that the floor is heated. I felt so hot I couldn’t get proper sleep. I think I woke up nearly every 15 minutes because I was so uncomfortably hot, not to mention that hard floors aren’t exactly luxurious sleeping material. Also, people are still talking, children still running around, and as a bonus: people snore. Loudly. So if you decide to sleep at Haesoopia, be prepared for this. At the Spa World in America, I slept like a baby. They have mats on top of the hard floors and the general area is at room temperature. Songdo Haesoopia was a disturbing realization that I liked Spa World better to sleep in even if it was pricier. The sauna and baths were better at Haesoopia though.

Overall, Songdo Haesoopia: Loved the sauna and baths, but would never sleep there again!

When we woke up the next morning, we explored the Seomyun area. We went underground and looked around after we had some street food. For lunch we had chicken again and watched Logan at the theater before parting ways.

Overall, I had a great weekend. This weekend we plan on hitting Gwangali beach, so please look forward to my next post!

Orientation Cont’d! And Field Trip Time!

I’ll discuss days 3-4 of orientation in this post, which includes lots of classes and of course, a field trip to Haeundae beach and the UNMCK.

Day 3 was just filled with straight up lectures ranging from TEFL in the elementary classroom, storytelling, the history of Hangul, and cooperative learning. They were all very informative and helped reinforce the teaching skills I learned in grad school. It was also rainy all day and downright gloomy. I didn’t go out that night because I was too tired and wanted to update this blog. I did, however, explore the convenience store in the basement level of the dorm and bought myself some snacks for the bus tomorrow as well as a travel card and umbrella.

Now on to the exciting topic: the field trip!!!!

Our first stop was the APEC House, which is where the G20 summit meeting was held. After that was Haeundae beach. Luckily, the weather was bright and sunny and the beach view was absolutely stunning. We had about 1.5 hours of free time so a couple of friends and I decided to try and go shopping. We couldn’t find anything for a while but finally stumbled upon a nice little shopping street. We went inside a Daiso (Like a Dollar Tree) and splurged (well, at least I did!) on some cute stuff.

After that was lunch at BEXCO. I had gomtang/곰탕 and it was delicious. I wiped my bowls clean!

We went to the UNMCK (United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Korea) afterwards. We watched a short video and were allowed to roam the grounds as we pleased. There was a guided tour a bit later, but it was optional so my friends and I decided to just wait near the area where we watched the video. But I do have a small warning for you guys here: Be polite. I get that everyone is excited that they’re in Korea and with a group of new friends, but this is a cemetery. Don’t speak/laugh loudly in a disrespectful manner. Also, my friend told me that two girls who sat next to her during the video were all like, “OMG Can we like, not watch this?” …..Seriously? Why are you even here? This is not your country. This is Korea. You know, the place you’re going to live in for the next year or so? Maybe you should, I dunno, take the time to honor its history and culture? But like seriously? WHY. ARE. YOU. HERE. If you want to come to Korea to look around, come during your vacation. EPIK is meant for people who go to Korea to work. Not play. Get it straight.

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Once we got back to BUFS, we had free time for the rest of the day. It’s technically called, “networking” but it’s actually just free time. My friends and I headed to the Busan University area by subway and did some shopping, which was uber fun. We ate a lot of street food, such as oden and spicy rice cakes/떡뽁기. I then bought some essentials like shampoo/conditioner and also some cosmetics from Etude House. We took a taxi back and I ended up leaving my bag of Etude House goods in the taxi T-T Worth about $50 and I’ll never see them again sigh. So another warning! There is a driver profile in the taxi. Take a pic or memo of it so that if something like this happens, you’re prepared. One of my friends also left her name tag and room key (which costs 50,000 won to replace!) in a shop! Luckily, the shop owner called EPIK since there were phone numbers on the back of the name tag. We went out the next day during lunch to retrieve it, thank goodness! So lesson of the day: Don’t be an ignorant jerk in Korea, but do remember to keep your belongings with you! And have fun! You’re mainly here to work, but enjoy it. Just not, you know, in a bad way.

Official Start of Orientation

So, Day 1 of orientation will be hectic…well let me rephrase: every day of orientation will be hectic. You’re surrounded by people nearly 24-7 and for introverts like me, I need some me time in order to recharge my social skills, so be prepared to keep your “ON” switch powered for a while.

What I describe about the rest of orientation is just what I experience. I was in class 1 so my schedule can be different from what you may experience. Anyways, I was pleasantly surprised to wake up and find that breakfast was a western meal. There were eggs, potatoes, and even pancakes! After breakfast was class time, where I met the rest of the people in my group. We had introductions, a brief overview of the program, a very short Korean quiz to determine our placement in our Survival Korean class, and then a campus tour.

After that was lunch and then the welcoming ceremony at Mano Hall. We got to see some of our coordinators (well, I did) speak and see the officials of EPIK. After that was a Tae Kwon Do demonstration, which was absolutely stellar. It consisted of mostly a group of men breaking boards and some fruit with their kicks but it almost seemed like they could pull off the impossible. It even felt extra immersive at times because splinters of the board and fruit would fly about and even reach the audience!

After that was a lecture on Korean history. Well, Korea has a history of well over 5000 years so the lecturer had to squeeze what he could into less than 2 hours. It was interesting to hear and I learned a few things that even I wasn’t aware of, such as the fact that the first Korean to win an Olympic medal won it during the Japanese occupation. You’ll hear more about this from the lecturer 😉

 

After that was the welcoming dinner. Word of forewarning: don’t take too much food from the start of the line. There are so many delicious dishes and you’ll want to try a bit of everything, so make sure not to take too much like I did! I still ate everything but I was stuffed! Some interesting dishes they had included raw beef/yukhoe/육회, but they also had dishes I was familiar with, such as fried shrimp/새우튀김, sushi, and more.  After that I went out for some bingsoo, which is Korean shaved ice and is the yummiest dessert in existence. I shared the strawberry one and we devoured it all in like 5 minutes haha. I know I said I ate a lot of dinner, but I have a separate stomach for dessert 😛

Day 2 consisted of the health exam. Since I was in class 1, we went first so I was glad I didn’t really have to wait. You just get your height, weight, vision, blood pressure, hearing, blood, urine, and chest x-ray tested. You’re not allowed to eat/drink the night before the exam so be prepared to be hungry. You do get a snack and water once it’s over, but a lot of people, including me, were completely famished. Also, don’t forget to take the 50000 won to the exam or you’ll have to wait in line all over again!

We had nothing else planned for the morning so I slept until lunchtime. It was nice <3. After that were a few more lectures, one being about rules/regulations and the other about TEFL in Korea. The rules/regulations lecture was more a briefing about the logistical aspect of EPIK, like what your pension pay is, information about the residency form, and more. I found it extremely helpful and had almost all of the questions I had answered. The TEFL in Korea lecture was a brief overview about what it’s like to teach TEFL in Korea. It concluded with the lecturer giving a lesson entirely in Korean to give us a feel of what it’s like to be a Korean student learning a language they cannot completely comprehend. I, however, understood it all and ended up feeling a little bored.

After that was dinner and then Survival Korean class. I was placed in the advanced room in which we’re not allowed to use English. We spent the time introducing ourselves by drawing our hobbies, age, where we’re from, etc on a sheet of paper and presenting it to the class…all in Korean, of course :D. I had a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to my next class.

I went out again that night for some more bingsoo. I had coffee bingsoo (pics above!) this time and I think I liked it better than the strawberry one!

Information of the next few days of orientation will be up soon!

Arrival in Busan and the Checking into Orientation

I meant to write sooner but not only am I tired, but the internet connection here isn’t exactly reliable, which I’ll discuss in a bit.

I took the KTX to Busan from Seoul station and it took about 3 hours. It was pretty nice inside because it had a space for me to store my big suitcase and room overhead to store some carry-on luggage too. Also, just a heads up…KTX is not a bullet train. Those are Japanese and the KTX is just a Korean train line.

Anyways, I met up with another EPIK member and I helped him get a taxi to the orientation site once we arrived at the station in Busan. I was a bit worried about finding a taxi, but once you exit the station, there are some taxi drivers waiting to just escort you to a cab right away. I made sure to have the address of the orientation site on hand to show the driver and he took me there right away after stowing away my luggage. I was also very amused during the ride because many people in Busan, as well as in many other areas, have thick accents. I had a bit of trouble understanding the driver at first, but he was very friendly. And of course, he asked me how old I was and if I was married…which is natural in Korea haha.

Also, just an FYI: if you take a taxi to the orientation site, make sure that the driver drops you off in front of the dorms. I have the driver the dorm address but he dropped me off at a random spot in the university and I was left asking passerby where I was. Luckily, I found my way through the campus.

Another FYI: when you’re packing, separate your items so that everything you’d need for orientation is in one bag, and everything you don’t need immediately in the other. This is because the dorms are small and you will have to leave any unneeded luggage in a separate but secure building. If you forget an item in your suitcase that you need, you can always ask a staff member though.

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Anyways, Busan University of Foreign Studies is a beautiful campus. It’s located in the mountains and has an incredible view, especially so on clear, sunny days. The only downside is that because it’s on a mountain you have to climb up and down everything. Not to mention all the stairs. And let me tell you: my legs and glutes are super sore. But, at least it’s a nice way to get in a work out! I’ll have buns of steel by the end of the week at this rate lol.

Once you arrive and finish checking in, you’re allowed free time for the rest of the day until dinner. All meals are buffet style so you’ll want to go to the cafeteria early to beat the rush. There are no other events planned for the rest of the day so I went with some people to a cafe and had some froyo at a cute cafe called A Twosome Place. To find it, turn left once you reach the main gates of the BUFS campus. I find that the left side has more to look at than the right, but I didn’t go too far so who knows what you might find if you go further?

Be prepared to feel like a high schooler once you arrive. You’re shuttled to and fro from lecture to meals. They also emphasize the many rules and regulations and you sometimes feel like the staff members don’t trust you to act like an adult. It’s understandable though because we represent not only our countries but the EPIK program as well. So to be on the safe side: just don’t do anything stupid.

The dorm rooms are a decent size and you will share a room with another person of the same sex. There are 2 beds, 2 desks, 2 chairs, 2 closets, and 1 shared bathroom. The bathroom has a shower, but no bathtub and as is common in most Korean bathrooms, the shower is connected to the rest of the bathroom. There’s no shower curtain or door or anything so the water gets all over the floor. As such, I recommend bringing a pair of flip flops or sandals you can use in the bathroom because you may or may not want to use the pair that come with the room…

The dorm has wifi, but only at the 1st floor lobby. Otherwise you’ll have to use a LAN cable to connect to the ethernet in your room. You’ll be given this when you check in (along with a few other goodies like a thermal mug, calendar, muffins, and more!).

The dorm also has a laundry room, indoor gym, and convenience store at the basement level of the dorm building. I cannot begin to express my joy of discovering that the laundry rooms here have DRYERS. Do all your laundry that you can while you’re here because it’s highly likely that this is the last time you’ll have access to a dryer while you’re here in Korea! It’s also cheap: a total of 2,500 won for 1 round of washing, drying, and some detergent and a dryer sheet.

I feel that I’ve been so blessed on my journey so far. I was able to enter this program, had no one sit next to me on the plane, met relatives who helped me with my monetary needs, and now I have no roommate. Her name tag is on my door but no one showed up and it’s the end of the 2nd official day so I guess something happened. It’s nice because I can shower when I want and talk with my parents in my room freely, but it does feel a bit empty by myself here..I’ll go into further detail about the actual start of orientation in another post, so look forward to it! 😉

Chinese Food…in Korea

I know what you’re thinking. If I’m in Korea, I should eat Korean food, right? Well, think back to your favorite modern Korean drama in which people order a certain popular noodle dish called Jjajangmyun/짜장면, which is basically just black bean noodles. Jjajangmyun is originally a Chinese dish and many Koreans eat Chinese food/중식 regularly.

So, today my uncle took me to a famous Chinese restaurant in Gasan-dong/가산동 called Sam-Pal/삼팔, which means 3-8. Not sure why, but when do we ever really fully know the reasoning behind shop names?

Finding the restaurant was a bit difficult but eventually I met up with some other relatives when I arrived and was told that this restaurant serves authentic Chinese food that isn’t served anywhere else in Korea. My relatives ordered all the food, leaving me surprised with just how many dishes kept coming out. I wanted to take more pictures but with 9 of us eating at the same time, it was a bit difficult to do so.

Some of the things I ate included lamb skewers/양꼬치 (couldn’t take a picture of this fast enough!), and of course, jjajangmyun. There are a few dishes I don’t know the name of but they were interesting and delicious nonetheless. The top left picture was pork and tofu wraps (the square thingies), and I have no idea what the top right is. I just know that you wrapped the spicy meat in the white bun. The middle left is deep fried pieces of egg and was rather interesting. It’s super sticky and you have to dip it in the small bowl of water because it’s so hot. I’d never had it before so I was very amused. The middle right is abalone stir fry/전복 and it was really good. I’ve have abalone in America before, but the freshness is off the charts here in Korea. The bottom picture is eggplant stir fry/가지, deep-fried pieces of chicken, and the spicy seafood soup/짬뽕.

I was actually really surprised with how tasty all the dishes were. I’ve had “Chinese” food in Korean restaurants before in America, but this restaurant’s dishes tasted quite different even though they’re the same thing. The seafood soup was a lot spicier and richer, the abalone more tender and not as chewy, and the deep fried eggs were crunchy and sweet.

And of course, we downed it all with some Chinese beer. For an after-dinner activity, we went to karaoke/노래방 of course lol.

Overall, I’m super stuffed and I would highly recommend this place…if you can find it XD