“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”

It’s been a while. Sorry! Lemme tell you why…

The weekend of my birthday in February my beloved Canadians, Art & Kat, were traded in for new models from the US. Luckily the newbies are an awesome couple from Chico, Brook & Michael, a friend from Chico, Kristen, and a new girl from Arizona, Kelly. All are really fun and I am glad to have a new crowd even if it meant my favorite Wangsimni peeps had to leave. The following weekend my Chico buddy, Mopar, came out because he is a baller and works as a contractor doing whatever mechtronic engineering is. Luckily they required his expertise in Korea so he could expense account all the fun stuff we did for a weekend!

The Korean school year began at the beginning of March and I now have 5 little rugrats running around the school. They are all Korean 5 year olds which means they will have their 4th western birthdays this year. I was excited to get to name a few of them! We have already bonded and enjoy cooking classes on Tuesdays, hugs and kisses, crying for no reason, winning the cutest class contest, random doggy piles, sucking thumbs, covering the teacher in stickers, and terrorizing the playroom. This is my life.

L-R: Ace, Ashley, Isaac, Jordan, Ella

St. Patty’s day snuck up on us and we had to run to the underground subway malls to try to find enough green outfits for 3 days of celebrating. No one was sure how Korea would celebrate the fact that there are no snakes in Ireland, but it ended up being an amazing event! The night of the 17th, a few of us headed to the Irish pubs around the city. We had to go to several before deciding all of them would be packed to 150% capacity. We did a jig with a few Irish teachers we met and had an unofficial graffiti party. That weekend was the actual festival in Cheonggyecheon along the river. It was almost entirely foreign teachers and a few military, but Guinness sponsored free give-aways like t-shirts, pints of Guinness, piggy banks, face painting, and Polaroid pictures. There was even a parade, green balloons, and green beer. I had a great day from the very early morning breakfast party at my place until late night with all the girls from school. St. Patty’s in Korea- Who knew?

Around St. Patty’s day, my afternoon kids who are about 10 started talking about how the “yellow dust” would be coming soon. WTF is that?  Turns out, 2 days later we found out. Yellow dust is when the sand from the desert on the coast of China blows across the Yellow Sea (now we know where it got its name) and clouds the air over Korea. It was pretty much the grossest and ugliest day ever, but so far there has only been the one day.

In March I discovered I love paintball. Except when you get hit in the face. Don’t worry, I still finished the game 🙂

I spent a weekend down south at Soryoungdo Island off Tong Young hiking UP and down and UP and down across the whole island and hours of jagged rocks. There were many parts where we had to use ropes to walk up the steep parts or scale down the rough ones. I was pretty sure if the steep cliffs and rocks didn’t kill me, my sore muscles would. The question of the day was, “Is THIS the last peak??” The trip was organized by a hiking group but my group of friends for the weekend was Me, Annie, Caitlin (yes, another), Kerri, Tad, and Matt. We stuck together and stopped for beautiful pictures and makkoli along the way.

Finally after about 6 hours we found the town at the end where we were supposed to catch the ferry. Turned out it wasn’t the right town and we learned the hard way that it’s not possible to hitchhike in Korea. When we got to the right town, the group was waiting for us and one of the Korean girls had just bought some live octopus. Of course I tried it, even though the little legs were still wiggling around. With the sauce it tasted pretty good but the leg stuck on my cheek and the top of my tooth for a bit before I had to force it down. It wasn’t bad but was till probably a one time deal…

The bus stopped at a Jimjibang on the way back to the pension so we could all relax and clean up. I’d been meaning to get to one since I discovered the hot springs in Japan. A Jimjibang is the modern day version of what I imagine the Roman bath houses were like. You pay $4- $15 for entrance, a towel, and a comfy rented uniform and then you have full access to a giant room full of different temperature large bath pools. Of course there are different sections for men and women since everyone wanders around naked, but there is a common room full of giant, comfy couches and TVs that you wear the uniform in. Since Jimjibangs are open 24/7, lots of people use them as places to crash when they are out of town since no one cares if you sleep in the common rooms. Back in the giant hot tub room, you can pay a scary old Korean woman about $7 to scrub your entire body free of dead skin. And I mean entire body. This was my first, but definitely not last Jimjibang since I hear there is a really nice one down the street from my house.

The weekend after we almost died on the Jagged Ridge Hike, Annie, Brandon, Hannah and I decided to head back down south to Golgosa because Annie had randomly stumbled on the best temple in the world to do our Buddhist Temple Stay at. Temple Stays are really common in Korea and almost every foreigner tries it at least one weekend. It is a way for the temples to make some money and let others experience their faith, and we get to learn about other cultures, religions, and cool stuff like bowing and making prayer beads. We decided we also wanted to learn some martial arts and Annie found the only temple in the world that practices an ancient art called Sunmudo. It’s pretty badass, check it out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7Bqz4hUdSU&feature=related

Our host monk for the weekend was actually a cute French guy who left France 8 years ago to come practice Sunmudo here, and he was awesome. The whole experience was pretty wild. We weren’t supposed to speak to anyone or acknowledge Brandon (or males in general) the whole time. When you eat at a temple, you take only the food your body needs for nourishment- no more or less- and you are to eat every grain of rice. During our traditional meal with the monks, there were bowls for rice, veggies, soup, water, and we were forced to eat kimchi. At the end, the monk came through to fill your bowl with water for cleaning so if you had any uneaten food or dirty parts left and they made you drink it!

Another interesting part was being woken up by the monks with their cowbell and chants at 4am so we wouldn’t be late for our 108 bows and hours of meditation. Meditation is an interesting experience. It gets a lot of hype for being glamorous, but it’s actually pretty difficult to be alone with your thoughts in an uncomfortable sitting position trying to clear your head. You find your thoughts turning to anything from to-do lists to, “crap, I’m supposed to be not thinking about anything, but this is a thought right now!”  After an intense morning where I made sure to throw in a few words to JC, we had a little free time to explore the temple before more Sunmudo training that continued to kick out butts and impress us. The small temple was home to a several hundred year old Buddha carved into the stone on the side of a hill. It was Easter Sunday and we thought it was awesome that the protective roof shone a cross onto Buddha’s chest.

There are many more tales to tell, so I promise another update very soon! I miss you all like crazy! ❤

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