First Day of School

Monday was my first day at SLP in Jung-Gu, Ulsan. I am working predominantly with kindergarteners and some elementary classes. Before school, Matt and I went out for breakfast at a cafe called A Twosome Place. We got chicken omelet sandwiches and americanos. For only 5,000/person, it wasn’t a bad meal.

Then, at around 10 AM, a young man from the school came to pick me up (although regularly I have to be at work by 9:15). He didn’t speak much English, but was listening to Elton John during the car ride. When we arrived at school, I was surprised to see how nice it was inside. Apparently, it is only about a year old, so everything is brand new. I was shown to the office where I met three of my Korean co-teachers and given my training schedule.

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are the heavier days and Tuesday and Thursday are the lighter ones. I spent most of the day with Laci, the teacher I am replacing. She went over the curriculum/books for all the classes and I got to observe her in the classroom and take notes. What’s most exciting is that I get to teach the art classes!

At long last, I get to use my degree. Kind of.

At noon, we serve our homeroom classes lunch and eat with them. It’s a really nice perk to get free lunch at school. We had rice, seaweed soup, little sausage patties, marinated tofu, and kimchi. Everything was really good. After lunch, the kids generally get the rest of the period to play.

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In the afternoon, the elementary students come in. It happened to be a testing day, so I sat in the classroom while Laci administered the tests. This happens once a month. There wasn’t a lot to take notes on, so I just observed from the back of the room. The last classes end at 6:05 each day, so we can go home as soon as we finish.

I also found out very last minute that I wold not be getting a ride back to the hotel, and would be responsible for taxi rides to and from school for the rest of the week. Frustrating. However, the school will be reimbursing me, so that’s fine. Once I got back to the room, Matt and I went out for dinner. We found a little restaurant downtown and ordered donkkaseu (Korean style fried pork cutlet) and galbitang (beef short rib soup). Dinner only cost us 12,000 won and everything was really delicious.

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The Train to Ulsan

On Friday, Matt and I checked out of our Airbnb at 11 AM and headed over to Seoul Station to take the KTX train down to Ulsan. Our tickets cost 53,000 won (around $50) and the ride was only 2.5 hours, as opposed to the 6+ hours it would have been had we taken the bus.

The KTX is very modern and reminiscent of an airplane inside. There are neatly dressed stewardesses as well as a snack cart you can buy treats from. As the train started heading south, we realized that it had snowed quite a bit outside of Seoul. I generally really dislike the snow, but it was very nice to look at through the window. Overall, the ride was very comfortable and relaxing.

When Matt and I arrived at the Ulsan Station, we were supposed to meet one of my school’s directors at the exit. A man came up to us, asked if I was Tia, and gestured for us to follow him. We waited near the taxis until a mini van pulled up. We put our luggage in the trunk and hopped in. The man who met us at the exit explained that we would be staying in a hotel downtown until November 30. Surprise!

The hotel (Ulsan City Hotel) is a little far from the school which doesn’t make a lot of sense, but someone will be picking me up and taking me to work this week. So that’s nice.

After we got settled, Matt and I decided to explore Samsandong (new downtown). We were a little hungry and ended up going to one of my favorite restaurants for dinner: Shabu Hyang. If you’ve never had shabu before, you have to try it!

Shabu is basically a hot pot dish that you cook at your table. We ordered the basic set which comes with rolled slices of frozen beef, rice paper, and an assortment of vegetables including cabbage, bok choy, carrot, cucumber, and bean sprouts, as well as others. You also get several dipping sauces, noodles, and rice with pumpkin and egg to cook at the end. All that food cost 34,000 (about $30) won for two people.

With full bellies, we proceeded to have drinks at both Sticky Fingers and Cima Bar, two of my favorite bars in Ulsan. It was a really nice evening and it was great to start to show Matt around.

A Stopover in Seoul Part 2

Thursday happened to be Thanksgiving, and there was so much to be thankful for!

Thankful the opportunity to be back in Korea, and so thankful to be able to share it with Matt.

We decided to do some sightseeing since this would be our only full day in Seoul. Our first stop was Changdeokgung Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Palace was constructed in the 15th century and was used throughout the Joseon Dynasty. The site was beautiful. Despite the cold, we walked around in awe thinking about what life would have been like within the walls. Admission was 3,000 won (roughly $3), but if you show up in hanbok (traditional Korean dress) you can enter for free.

After, we took a walk towards Insadong, where you can find many traditional arts and crafts. It is one of my favorite neighborhoods; there are so many cute shops and hidden alleyways. We stopped for some odeng (fishcake on a stick served with steaming broth) as well as twigim mandu (fried dumplings with pork and glass noodles). We walked down the main street until we came across Ssamziegil, a collection of shops connected by a spiral walkway. In the basement, there are artist studios where you can make your own crafts and at the very top, you can visit the Sky Garden. Matt and I also took a rest at the Ddong Cafe (Poop Cafe) for some tea. There were handmade pillows shaped like poop and hot lattes and food items were served in toilet shaped cups and bowls.

Then, we took a walk to Bukchon Hanok Village, a traditional village with cultural centers, guesthouses, and restaurants. We stopped for some roasted sweet potatoes and more hot broth. So perfect to warm you up on a cold day.

The icing on the cake was our Thanksgiving dinner. I found out that my friend Rachel from college has been studying in Seoul, so we decided to meet up. It was so nice to see a familiar face so far from home. While there wasn’t any turkey and stuffing, we had lots of tasty samgyeupsal (pork belly bbq) since I had been playing it up to Matt for weeks. Everything was delicious! After, we explored Hongdae (the area around Hongik University) and ended up going for a drink at a local bar.

All in all, it was an excellent day.

How did you spend your Thanksgiving? What are some of your favorite traditions?

A Stopover in Seoul Part 1

After flying for 15 hours from Newark to Hong Kong, enduring an 8 hour layover, and then flying another 3.5 hours, Matt and I finally made it to South Korea! We deplaned, went through customs, and claimed our baggage (which was on a different carousel than the one we were originally told). After taking the AREX to Seoul Station, we went to check into our Airbnb.

While the apartment was very conveniently located, we had a bit of trouble finding it. Additionally, neither of us could connect to WIFI in order to contact our host. After lugging our luggage around in the cold, I finally stopped two college boys in the hopes they could help us – and help us they did. These kids didn’t speak a word of English, but they went above and beyond to make sure we found the apartment. One was on his phone translating back and forth, and the other literally ran up and down the streets searching for the right spot. They stayed with us for close to 25 minutes, until the one kid ran back, gesturing excitedly that he found it. The address we were given was totally different than the one on the building, but we were so relieved to be able to rest.

It was a tiny, modest apartment, but it was impeccably clean and cozy. Our host left a handwritten note and some small sweets. A lovely little touch. After dropping our bags, we took a walk around the neighborhood and ended up getting some convenience store food for dinner. I got a steak burger and Matt got a garlic burger. We also got some soju and beer, of course. It was very nice to get some food in our bellies and climb into bed after 24+ hours of traveling. We played around with the smart TV in the room, and went to sleep.

Do you want to get $40 off your first trip when you sign up with Airnb? Use my link here!

WE ARE MOVING TO SOUTH KOREA!

As you can probably tell from the title, Matt and I have some big news. We’re moving to South Korea!

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I recently accepted an offer to teach English to kindergarten/elementary school students in Ulsan (near the southeast coast). We will be leaving on November 21 and spending two days in Seoul before heading to our new city. Well, new for Matt – I lived there two years ago.

For those of you who didn’t know, I taught English from 2015 to 2016 in the same city. Although I did not have the most ideal experience at my job, I thoroughly enjoyed the lifestyle I had in Korea. Now that the opportunity has presented itself, I am very excited to be going back and even more excited to be sharing this experience with Matt now.

We are very much looking forward to sharing our adventures with you (especially the ones involving food).

Have you been to Korea before? What are some things you’d like us to blog about?

Cooking at Home: Korean Style Lettuce Wraps

Sometimes, I seriously crave Korean food. When I lived there, I obviously got to eat it anytime I wanted. It was so much fun being able to go out and try new things with friends. I especially loved how communal dining in Korea was. At most restaurants, the food was cooked right at the table and you usually cooked part of not all of your meal yourself.

I’m really happy that I’ve introduced Matt to Korean cuisine because now he always wants to cook it!

Last night, we decided to make Korean style lettuce wraps. For protein, we used chicken and cooked it in a dak galbi inspired sauce. Dak galbi is a spicy stir fried chicken dish featuring flavors like gochujang, gochugaru, soy sauce, curry powder, garlic, and ginger. It definitely had a kick to it, but it was delicious! The traditional dish also includes sweet potato, carrot, cabbage, and rice cakes. (If you’re interested, there’s a recipe here.)

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Matt also makes his own kimchi (cabbage and cucumber). The cabbage kind is not my favorite, but I always enjoy the cucumber. He also made pickled Korean radish, spicy bean sprouts, sauteed mushrooms, chives, and shiso (we didn’t have Perilla leaves, which are typical in Korean cuisine). For the wraps, we used red lettuce. Matt and I had so much fun mixing and matching all the veggies in our wraps to see which flavor combinations worked the best. It was probably the most authentic Korean dinner he’s made to date.

Have you ever made Korean food at home? What’s your favorite dish?

Our YouTube Channel is Live!

Hey guys! We just wanted to let you know that our YouTube channel is officially live.

We’ve uploaded not one, but two videos, and you can find them right here. Please like and subscribe.

Let us know what you think and we can’t wait to start uploading more videos.

What are some things you’d like to see on our channel?